Best Days

best-daysI am writing this in my dark living room enjoying a quiet night with the soft glow from the Christmas tree lights.  My husband actually put our tree up this year and I have loved looking to see where he put my favorite ornaments. I have several but one of the gems for me is a stack of pancakes. It’s right in the front about halfway from the top and every time I look at the tree, I can’t help but see it first.

 

I bought it a few years ago because it takes me back to some very cherished memories. When our kids were growing up, we spent many family vacations camping.  One of our annual traditions was camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness with our small group families.  Even long after our group stopped meeting regularly, we still camped together once a year.

 

Camping is bike rides, camp fires, late nights, pancakes, bacon, homemade donuts and chili.  We played kick ball with all the kids, roasted marshmallows, ran 1/2 marathons, worked puzzles and played games. But mostly, we talked.  We spent time catching up with each other like we couldn’t do when we were attached to life and work at home.  We challenged each other and prayed for each other.  Those were the best days.

 

As I reflect on 2016 and anticipate 2017, one thing I’m reminded of is that I can appreciate the past and the relationships formed there but I can’t live there today.  I can appreciate traditions and memories but if I try to hold on too tight to those traditions and memories, I will miss the new ones waiting to be formed.

 

I’ve taken a few mornings this week to think about what I want for 2017, what I am asking God for in the New Year.  I want to focus on the present and what God is doing today. I want to do hard things, the things I’ve been putting off, the things that scare me.  I want to take time to talk to people when the moment arises, I want to be flexible.  I want to connect with people like I did in those best days sitting around the camp site. I want more best days.

 

Reminiscing about those favorite memories has been so good for me this Christmas. I find they are pointing me to all the possibilities ahead. What are you looking forward to in 2017?

“Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? 
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”
Isaiah 43:19

Sincerely

I didn’t have a sister growing up but I met mine when she walked into my hospital room after I gave birth to my son 24 years ago.  I was 24 years old and that was a defining moment in my life. Like when you need something but you don’t know what?  My need was answered that day before I even knew the depth of it.

 

lynn

Lynn and I were not related but we considered each other sisters.  We were 10 years minus 1 day apart and I’m not sure what made her pick me but I am forever thankful she did.  This October marks the 10-year anniversary of her death which has caused me to reflect more on our relationship and how much she influenced me.

 

Lynn taught me the importance of having other women in my corner. She was in my corner, even when she was smacking me upside the head.  She helped me learn how to mother my children and made me slow down and enjoy the moments. She invited me to go look for my new house in my new town two hours away when I wasn’t motivated to do anything. We did Bible studies together, picked strawberries, took our kids to every out of the way field trip in Florida, redecorated rooms and played scrabble in many laundry mats across the country.

 

Her friendship shaped me.  She helped me discover my gifts and talents and didn’t let our differences come between us.  Well, maybe that one time we got in a fight in the middle of Washington D.C! She was not perfect but there was a rhythm to our relationship that was noticeably different and full of grace.

 

When she died, our kids were in the teen/college years.  Now they are in the wedding/baby years. I remember panicking that she would miss the weddings and the babies and that was not ok.  She is missing a lot of moments that matter but I have great comfort that she is not missing any moments that are eternal.  She is one of those people who showed me the things of God I needed so desperately and pursued them beautifully.

 

chloeLynn would have become a grandmother this year. Her daughter Chloe and I spent a Sunday morning together a few weeks ago and I got to cuddle baby Emery Amelia.  It was a sweet gift and very emotional visit.  We laughed and cried and rehearsed that terrible day ten years ago. In the end we decided that we will be ok. While no one can ever replace her in our lives, we have each other and more who we learn from and pour into.  Our lives and other relationships are richer for having known her.

 

I am thankful for the women in my life that I can share the victories and challenges with.  The ones who will laugh and cry with me and most of all, tell me the hard truth in love when I need it. Who are those women in your life?

 

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.  Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy,…  And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”  Philippians 1:3-4,6

I Broke Up With Fear

How can I survive this world?  How can I face the day when the tragedy and terror is creeping in?  When the stories on my news feed are more frequent and closer to home?  How can I do everything right to keep myself safe and my kids safe?  What about my parents and others that I love?  What do I do when bad things happen?

 

When I was raising my kids, bad things happened.  They had accidents that could have had much more severe outcomes.  There were times that our safety was threatened.  My awareness for the pain in the world and possibility for pain in my life became more heightened.  Fear became a constant voice in my mind.

 

Fear was not only running around in my head, it had a grip on my heart.  It would wake me up after a beautiful day with my family and parade images in my mind that were not reality.  In turn, I would try to come up with new strategies and plans that would guarantee protection and peace.

 

Fear was a driver.  It drove me to arrange things and avoid things.  It had a front seat and would coach me through realities with “what if”.  I imagined that other people couldn’t see it because I hid it well.  I engaged enough to cover it.  I learned a language that promoted safety and masked itself as wisdom.  I could talk myself into believing I was not trying to control outcomes and sell that belief with “I know God is in control but I am helping”.  “I know God is my provider but I have a back up plan.”

 

This is the extreme of my struggle with fear.

 

The fruits of fear are insecurity, worry, anxiety, control, manipulation, anger, jealousy, competition and sabotage.

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There has to be a better way to live.

 

I came to terms with my fear.  The terms were:  I AM NOT LIVING WITH YOU ANYMORE.  Period. End of story.  I am not entertaining you. I am not planning for the worst thing to happen.  I am not giving up my peace anymore.

 

This became my pursuit.  A better way to live.  When fear would try to motivate my decisions, I would push through and take the risk.  Instead of letting it drive me crazy, I let it drive me to God.  When it would wake me up in the middle of the night, I would pray.

 

I realized that my peace would never come from trying to avoid pain.  I’ve been in pain.  I’ve experienced loss and grief.  I know I cannot plan and arrange my life well enough to have the security that silences fear.  There are things that are out of my control.  There are people who are out of my control.

 

I asked God to open my eyes so I could see where fear was a filter in me and he did.  The picture that comes to mind is a river with big boulders rerouting the water. Then rocks that are seen when the boulders are gone.  Then the stones that are scattered around that I can avoid if I’m looking.  At times, it’s a pebble in my shoe that causes me to adjust my gate until I pause what I’m doing and remove it.

 

This is my journey… freedom from fear. I trust you God, no matter what.

 

Bad things happen.  When I think about the pain people are experiencing, it is hard to imagine their depth of grief.  It takes my breath away.  I can’t go through my day without them on my mind.  It makes it hard to fully believe that I can trust God no matter what.  But I choose to.  I choose to say NO WAY and I’m breaking up with fear.

 

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves… and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”  Romans 8:28 The Message

 

Thank you God, that you open the eyes of the blind…. And that is me.

 

Jesus, be present.  Comfort us.  Heal wounds.  Bring hope and freedom.

I Got a Ticket

My family is experiencing some major fun growth this fall!  Two of my girls, Taylor and Katy are having babies 5 weeks apart, my daughter Taylor and her family moved in with Chris and I so they can renovate a new house, and my daughter Abby is getting married in a few months.

 

At the same time, I have 2 major projects at work getting ready to launch.  I was running from one thing to the next, changing roles and hats minute to minute.  My task lists were everywhere and emails were tough to keep up with.

 

Like many of you, I have become used to juggling crazy loads and function at full capacity.  It has been a great accomplishment to be able to handle a lot and somewhat manage my stress.  What I learned a few weeks ago, is that if I am at full capacity, I have nothing to draw from when life throws a curve ball.

 

I was preparing to leave for A Beautiful Weekend and Taylor mentioned that her 4 day-old baby, Reese had a fever.  When the ER triage nurse told us she would be staying in the hospital for 3 days minimum, we both started crying.  After lots of tears, I helped get them settled, packed my car and headed out to the ladies retreat.

 

I woke up the next morning at 5:45am and thought, “If I jump in the car right now, I can be at the hospital by 7, spend a few hours with my girls and be back in time for our team to arrive for the retreat set up.”  Everything went as planned until I got a speeding ticket on my way back to the beach.

 

Cue pity party.  Boy was I having one!  I was telling God that Reese was sick, people aren’t cooperating with my timeline, I’m juggling so much, and now I got a ticket! No fair! I was a mess.  I knew what I had to do that night at the retreat and was thinking,  “there is no way I can even put two sentences together.  I have nothing. “

 

My mind was racing, my thoughts were exaggerated and not going in a good direction…. And all of the sudden, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “You were speeding.”

 

Truth.  I was speeding.

 

Many times we cannot choose what is happening to us or how much is happening in our lives but we can choose how we handle it.  We cannot choose how someone else is acting or responding to us but we can choose how we handle it.  In that moment, when the Holy Spirit gave me a reality check, I knew I had a choice.  I could stay in my pity party or I could change my attitude.  I could stay stuck, or let God use it.

 

It’s amazing what God will use when you let him.  He knows what we need to hear and while I don’t believe God sent the guy to give me a ticket, He used it.

Thankful For Freedom

I was recently at a dinner meeting with some women who lead various ministries. Each person had a “Thankful” focus at their place setting to think about and share with the group.  As each of the 8 of us shared, it was amazing to hear the different things we are all thankful for.  My question was:

 

“What is something that has taken a long time to develop or come to pass that you are thankful for?”

 

I kept trying to come up with a very meaningful, profound answer.  I thought about my children… they take a lot of time to grow!  I thought about all the things I’ve experienced in my 46 years… relationships that I’ve had for a long time.  My attention kept coming back to one thing:  Freedom.

 

When I truly understand what God has done for me, rescued me from a dead end life and saved me from living in the fear the enemy had convinced me of, I am eternally grateful.  I think about the anger and control I was managing in the early years of parenting and I cringe.   I was so caught up in defending myself and protecting myself from getting hurt that I was hurting the ones I loved the most.

 

By God’s grace, I finally got sick and tired of myself and began to understand the enemy’s strategies against me.  He had me convinced I needed to manage my people and problems so I wouldn’t experience pain, rejection, discomfort or hurt.

 

So today, I am most thankful for Freedom.  I’m thankful that I don’t have to live like that anymore.  I believe what the Word of God says about me.  I can embrace what Jesus did for me on the cross when he defeated sin and death.  I can change.  I’m not hopeless!  I’m not stuck!

 

Don’t get the wrong impression that I’ve arrived!  The measure of freedom I have found continues to increase as I choose it every day.  In the past few months, God has revealed some ways I have been protecting and defending myself.  Ugh!  As challenging as it is to change, deep down, I don’t want to stay that way.

 

I am continuing my journey and doing the work of replacing the lies with the truth that He is my defender.  He is my protector.  He knows what I need and is working out His freedom in me as I surrender to Him.

 

I have some wins!  I have some understanding that trading the lies for the truth is worth it.  I have friends who have found freedom in areas I’m asking God to bring to me.  I don’t want to stay stuck in any way and I hope you don’t either.

 

 “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”  John 8:31-31

 

What is God Doing?

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
Don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
He’s the one who will keep you on track.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Chris and I had a conversation recently trying to make sense of a few situations going on.  There are things happening and we really don’t know how they will turn out.  The options are not necessarily bad ones but we just don’t know which scenario will be the outcome.

 

So, naturally, we just sit back and watch God work and wait for His answer and find ourselves completely at peace.  NOT!  Anyone else struggle with wanting to know what God’s doing and how things will turn out?  I mean, I will let God be in control as long as he gives me all the clues so I’m able to understand what He’s doing all along the way.  No surprises!

 

As Chris and I were having probably the 10th conversation about one particular thing, I pictured God looking at us saying, “Really??  You spend so much time, energy, brain space, words, etc trying to figure out what I’m doing.  You draw a conclusion and think you’ve nailed the answer and then you are at peace, for a moment.  What’s up with that??”  (Do you imagine God talking like that?)

 

It’s like we reason in our minds what’s coming and we park there and find our peace of mind in the fact that we think we’ve figured it out or figured God out. So during my prayer time, God put these questions in my mind:

 

Do you want to focus on trying to figure out and reason what I’m doing?

Or

Do you want to focus on being ready to respond to what I’m doing?

 

That got my attention!  I started thinking about what it means to focus on figuring out what God’s doing.  My conclusions are usually not accurate.  I’m preoccupied with what might happen, could happen, what I want to happen or don’t want to happen.  I’m never satisfied with my answer.  I might have peace in the moment but in the next, it’s gone and I’m turning the problem over in my mind again.  It’s the crazy cycle!

 

What does it mean to be ready to respond to what God is doing?  It’s about the present.  My time is spent learning about Him and His character.  I have the opportunity to respond to Him and others in every encounter in my day. My peace comes from knowing that no matter what happens, He is God and He is good.  He will work all these things together for His glory.  I can truly trust in Him.  That verse in proverbs really comes alive!

 

Trust God with all you heart… Don’t lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

 

Which best describes where your focus is right now?  Are your time and energy spent reasoning or responding?

 

My Favorite Thing About God

 

Have you ever thought about what you love most about God?  I have to admit that my answer probably changes depending on my circumstances.  I think about God’s character and what I know about Him but not really what my favorite thing about Him is.

 

I love to worship.  I connect best with God when I’m in worship and have come to crave it.  It could be in a church service, on a walk or in a quiet empty sanctuary.  I hear God most when I take a moment to listen during worship.  He has encouraged me, challenged me, strengthened me and reminded me of the Truth.

 

During a worship service in April, the worship leader asked us to take a few minutes and tell God what our favorite thing about Him is.  Instead of rehearsing my list of what I know about God, I prayed, “God, what is my favorite thing about you?”  The answer took my breath away.  “You love that I’m your biggest fan.”

 

I almost fell over or laughed out loud.  I would have never thought that on my own.  But you know what, He knows me better than I know myself and it’s true!  He is my biggest fan and in that moment when He spoke that into me, I knew it!  It’s kind of funny to me… It doesn’t really sound like it’s about God, it sounds like it’s about me.

 

Think about when you have been someone’s biggest fan or when people have been behind you cheering you on and keeping you focused.  It’s hard to imagine that God is a fan of ours without making it about us.  It’s not really about us at all though.  It’s about His character and knowing that His love doesn’t depend on us.  We don’t deserve it, we mess up, break promises, repeat sin, etc and He is still our fan.  He loves us unconditionally.  That’s challenging for me to wrap my head around.

 

When God spoke that into my heart “You love that I’m your biggest fan”, I knew that at some point, I had made a major shift in everything I believed.  I believe in His love for me.  I am at peace when things are good and when I’m struggling.

 

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Romans 8:31

 

What do you love most about God?