Uncategorized

The Battle for Your Everything

When I decided to follow Jesus, I had no idea that what that meant was not only would I have a life full of new and different and abundance, but I would also have a target on my back because Satan is not thrilled that I am not on his team.

I think, if I am being honest, that had I known all that has been revealed to me since then I may have been tempted to give in and give up right then. However, God is good about what He allows us to see and when He allows us to see it. 

What I know now, is that while God wants my whole heart and my whole everything, there is a battle for control over going on and if not being equipped for the battle, I would give up instead of show up. Before Jesus, the battle was all around me, but I hadn’t yet decided whose team I was signing with. 

I have recognized in the past few months, and especially over the last few weeks, that while I am bravely choosing to give Him my everything I am also being tempted to believe lies and being temporarily bombarded with the insanity of not living in each moment as it comes. 

Here are some of the things that I have thought about for just a brief moment that maybe you can relate to: 

  1. You don’t know enough to share what you know. 
  2. People will not understand how and why you use “I and me statements.” They will think you are arrogant and prideful, looking for validation and seeking approval.
  3. You are not going to accomplish anything in this venture. 

None of those words sound like they are speaking truth and life. None of those words sound like they are coming from our loving God. None of those words offer hope and freedom. 

It sounds like the lies and schemes of satan to distract me, make me afraid, and to shut my mouth. And I know, as much as he would like to believe he can use all of that to win the battle for my everything, that I serve and follow a totally victorious God who has already fought the battle for my everything and won. 

And so, here’s the truth that I am taking hold of in the battle for my everything. 

2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 

We know that we are in training and in the battle all at the same time. We know that there is an enemy after us, as Jesus followers, we have a target on our back. Believing the word of God takes effort. It takes trust. It takes time. It takes community. It takes training which requires self-control. It takes discipline to be His disciple. 

When the battle comes, as He promises it will, we have to choose the truth. We have to choose to believe that we are bold, powerful, self-disciplined and available to be used by God in order to become it. We know is is not our power, but His.

The battle for my everything is my all-in, sold out heart for Jesus and who He is in my life. The all-in of using gifts and talents to serve Him and share Him. The all-in of spending time with Him and His community. The all-in of loving people that are not yet in His community. The all-in of doing things that require courage and discomfort at the same time. 

So those little arrows that the enemy has been launching my way? I am protected by truth, and I am committed to giving Him my everything even when it’s hard, uncomfortable and way outside of my control. God used those very thoughts and turned them into training ground and preparation for what’s next. His power, love and discipline lives in each one of us. 

Think about it: Are you giving up or showing up?

Hope

A Little Bit Naughty and a Whole Lot of New

Am I the only one who is super grateful and glad that God has a great sense of humor and loves unconditionally? 

Have you ever thought about Him just looking at you laughing and shaking His head? Not in a mean way, in the way that a loving parent looks at their rambunctious and wild child and laughs with the unconditional love of the parent with the kiddo that is just slightly naughty? 

Maybe for some of us, it is hard to believe that we can really be the person we are and still be truly loved by God. I think about the sometimes inappropriate things that come out of my mouth or that pop into my head and thankfully don’t come out of my mouth and wonder how God could love a brat like me. 

Maybe it is hard for us to believe that we can be who we are, because there’s still a little bit of naughty combined with a whole lot of new in all of us. Maybe it is just really hard to understand the unconditional love of God. Maybe it’s an old belief system that says we have to be perfect to be loved so we tend to want to hide from Him. 

The word says we are made new, and we are. We have a new life in Him. That doesn’t mean perfection. It means we are made new and we are being made new. Now, this obviously isn’t free reign to continue to do and say things that go beyond a little naughty. 

I cannot say I am following Jesus and still do a lot of the things I did before I met Him. But what it does mean, is that I can be my whole, authentic self and admit that I am still a work in progress. You and I don’t have to be perfect to be loved. He paid the price for our imperfections.

I can be a little bit naughty and a whole lot new at the same time. The old is gone and the new has come. You and I can let go of our ideas of being perfect to be loved, because He proved that idea to be false a long, long time ago. He sees us and He knows us. He knows the whole person that we are; naughty and new and everything in between. 
We can celebrate that even in our imperfection, our naughtiness, and our inability to comprehend His unconditional love for us that He still does love us unconditionally. He has a sense of humor and is not surprised that we are the perfect mix of a little bit of naughty and a whole lot of new at the same time. It gives Him more to work with.

 

Hope, Keeping it Real

When Everything Stops and Doesn’t Stop All at Once

It’s been a while. It’s been a year and it has been five minutes and it has been a hellacious couple of weeks. In the middle of this, I sure hope you find some encouragement.

Labor Day 5:39-ish p.m. (September 7, 2020) my whole world as I knew it tipped upside down. The phone calls began. The searching began. The calm mixed with panic began. The expecting the worst and praying for the best began. 

What do you do when you find out that your mother is lost, delusional and doesn’t really want to cooperate in being located? You drive. Like a bat out of hell. You talk on the phone, text and break all the rules while you communicate with your sister and two different police dispatchers in two different towns. 

That night, everything I knew stopped and did not stop. Since then, it has been a nightmare and a blessing all mixed up in one. 

We just found out the hard way that my mom has dementia with behavioral disturbances. We just found out she knew something was going on and hid it from everyone. We just found out her financial condition, the condition of her home and health and her mind all at once. To say it has been an overwhelming experience is a total understatement. 

A few weeks before things really blew up, I had written her a letter. From the phone calls that I was getting from my sister and all of the things happening, it was clear that something was not right. It was there, and yet we were in denial. But I was not in denial about the fact that after 4.5 years of estrangement, I was now in a place that I needed my mom to know I loved her despite all that had happened between us. If the worst was happening, I did not want her to disappear from our lives feeling or thinking that I did not love, admire and forgive her over and over again. She received that letter, and she knew how I felt and received everything I needed to say to her and all that she needed to hear. What an awesome thing God did to allow that to happen at just the right time. No matter what happens now, she knows.

I have spent more time in my car and eating on the road than I have in my own home over the last two weeks. I have driven a minimum of 125 miles a day, moved her belongings, seen her face every single day, and talked to her multiple times a day in between. And the doctors. And the lawyers. And the family. And the friends. 

I have received the incredible blessing of love and support in hugs, gift cards, prayers, texts, phone calls and all sorts of ways. That family of friends that has been my lifeline is right with me holding me up. Holding us up. HE is holding us up. 

We have been told by one memory care home that they would love to have her, then decided against it in the same 24-hour period leaving us to scramble to find something else because she was soon to be discharged from where she was being taken care of. She clearly cannot fully take care of herself, and that stubborn, independent, adventurous part of her is still very much there but in a very delusional and unsafe way. I have a lot to say about the care she received before arriving at the place she will call home now. I have a lot to say about the lack of care and compassion and concern and the disgusting truth about some of what has been experienced. I have a lot of funny/not funny stories about what she has said and done mixed in with the terrifying facts and experiences and what-could-have-been as well. All of these things I will wait to tell you about if I ever do. All that matters right now is she is safe, that I have a whole new perspective on many things, and that I am so incredibly sad for the families that don’t have the same supports or information that ours currently does. 

I have learned how awesome the brain is and how memories get mixed up and what dementia looks like from the inside out so far. All of this, with my sister and best friend right next to me, and my brother just a phone call away. I have laughed, cried, grieved, mourned, been angry, and been detached all at once. Being all of these things all at one time is so freaking exhausting. 

But God. He has provided the exact amount of financial support that I need to have food and gas. He knew this was coming.  He has provided financial assistance to carry us through her first month of VERY expensive care while we jump through all of the hoops to get her situated. 

He has provided a safe place for her with LOVING people that understand the impact of dementia on families as well as the impact of the stupid effing pandemic that keeps us apart from each other. I have been able to settle her into her new home (mostly) and see her face-to-face without a window, for as long as we want to sit together, and they look the other way when she forgets that she cannot hug her kids right now. 

He knew it was coming because there are countless people in my life that have experienced or are experiencing this. We/I have support and people that have gone before to help answer questions. A lot of it. He knew what we would need far before we asked for it. 

I tell you what, if I told you all the ways that He has shown up you just would hardly believe it. But I do, because He has. 

So, I don’t apologize for not writing or creating. I have been merely surviving and waddling through each day the best I can. The best we can. This has been a team effort for sure. Some of you have been part of this and I don’t have words right now to tell you what that has meant. Thank you is not sufficient. 

My prayer requests are that we get to have our mom with us as long as possible; that my brother would get his butt on a plane and get down here before she does not know who he is; that the neurologists would have a clear answer and path for what happens next; and that the path would be wide and smooth for the paperwork and things that have to be put in place in order to provide her the best care possible in the months ahead. 

Everything stopped and didn’t stop all at once. Chances are the progression of the disease is going to move forward, not backward. Chances are this is going to be a long road for a long time. Chances are that mom will know that she is loved, cared for and pampered with pretty much whatever her heart desires along the way. 

Hope, Keeping it Real

The If/Then Equation

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear them from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Our Father God is a relational, loving God. This scripture is found in the Bible after the first temple in Jerusalem has been completed and King Solomon threw a week-long party. That party led to a walk of shame.

Perhaps what He is saying is that He doesn’t want a fancy building or our constant efforts (works) to impress, serve, or get close to Him. He wants our hearts. He wants our trust. He wants to hear from His children. 

He wants us to not call ourselves Christ followers but to be Christ followers. And notice that this scripture points out the if/then equation. Notice that He lines it out very simply.

If we humble ourselves (admit our need for the Savior), seek Him (crave His face, guidance and goodness), and repent (stop doing, saying, thinking and believing the things that lead to our own walks of shame) and call to Him THEN He promises to hear us, forgive us and heal our land.

That’s a sure deal. A sure bet. A guaranteed promise. 

Throughout the Bible, He tells us the recipe for a healthy life-a healthy land is to believe and receive. When He speaks about healthy land He is asking us to get right with Him, with others and to share His goodness with the people that don’t know Him. We have the opportunity to do His work alongside Him. 

We make that far more complicated through our limited understanding and the things that we have experienced or witnessed in the name of Christianity. Even at that, if we repent (the 5-dollar Bible word for turning from our old compulsive behaviors and actions)  He is dancing and celebrating simply hearing our words. 

Every promise and prophecy in the Bible has been fulfilled in and through Jesus. His timing may not be the same as ours, but He does what He says He will do. Every time.

We get things so out of order sometimes. We think we have to get our act together or be better or do better to experience the relentless and reckless love of God. That’s religion.

Jesus calls us into relationship just as we are. In and through Him, we will experience healing. In and through Him we will experience the fulfillment of the if/then equation. Humility isn’t the same as weakness. Humility is surrender and right-sized thinking. 

Thoughts for the day: How have you already experienced the if/then equation with Jesus? What do you need to stop doing? What do you need to start doing?

Prayer: Father God-thank You that you that You understand our tendency to do the wrong thing. Thank You that You fulfill every promise You ever make. Forgive me for making that so complicated. Help me to let go of the chains of shame and begin to hold up my end of the deal. I humbly admit my need for You today and every day. Amen

Keeping it Real

Permission without Pretending

The other day I said something to my person, my best friend, and it seemed inappropriate and random at the time, but it has really stuck with me for a few days.

I said, “If I stay pissed off and pretend I am mad, then it keeps the feelings of insecurity and all of that away so I am choosing to stay mad about it.” 

She laughed at me and with me, and then said to me, “I get it. I am on your team, and I am not going anywhere. If that’s what you need to do for yourself, then okay.” 

I am in a bit of a headspace right now where I am fighting feelings of insecurity and wanting to kick myself in the ass for risking vulnerability and not sure I can trust my own judgement while waiting on some sort of change or judgement or course-correction to come down. 

There are so many hard things happening around us. Good Lord, this is turning out to be the absolute longest year of my life. While so many awesome things have happened and are still happening, I am literally emotionally exhausted. I think we all are for one reason or another. 

I am going through the list of comparison, disillusionment, what-if, over-thinking and still somehow choosing to manage to get up and show up. I so badly want to make the best of a shitty situation and somehow keep living. Everything is so freaking complicated at this point and it is wearing me down. 

I do want to stay mad. But I have a rule about that. I tell myself that I am allowed to feel what I feel, rational or not, for a day. Maybe two. We can get happy in the same pants we got grumpy in. 

But this time, I am feeling like I just want to stay there. I want to stay guarded, stay walled up, stay protected and not risk anything other than finding out who is with me in the middle of this and who isn’t. And then, I don’t actually care because I can function in lone-ranger mode if I need to. Well, I do care and I don’t want to actually be in lone-ranger mode but I tell myself I do so I can feel better for a minute. 

In a time where nothing and everything makes sense, and it just seems like one plot-twist after another, I don’t want the plot twists that they always have been. I would rather avoid that. The reality is, that risking a different outcome takes a different approach and a bigger trust and confidence that it will all work out the way it is meant to. 

I want it to be certain. I am exhausted from uncertainty. I am exhausted from being in the middle of plot twist after plot twist after plot twist.

I still give myself permission to choose how I want to or need to respond. I am still choosing to do what I need to do to survive and am hopeful that choosing to survive will be turned back into choosing to thrive.

Joy Junkie

Be well! Get honest and real with that one or two people that you are not afraid to risk vulnerability with and hold nothing back. If we can manage that today, then we are moving in the right direction. Maybe it doesn’t look or feel like the next right thing, but I am telling you that we have to continue to give ourselves permission to be right where we are whether that is gloriously undignified and irrational or not. Eventually, one day at a time, we can move from there to the next right thing. 

Where you are, what you are feeling and what you are thinking right now is okay. It doesn’t mean it’s true or accurate but give yourself permission to go through that story of what you are telling yourself and then talk about it. Talk about it when it makes no sense, it isn’t pretty or appropriate or polished.  

The people that aren’t going anywhere can help you unbullshitify the story. 

Hope, Keeping it Real, Struggle Bus

Rising Above Rejection

I have been wrestling with some ideas and thoughts for a little while about rejection and how to rise above it. In the middle of that process, I have begun to recognize how easy it is to become more about routine than relational. 

I personally realize that some of the things I have done or been doing are taking me further away from the intended destination than I even recognized. When and where things have become so routine that I am further away from my purpose and contentment, and damn it if there is not a sense of people pleasing in the middle of it all. 

But God, as I know and understand Him, has continued to show me about rising above rejection. Even so, how things that have served me so well are now becoming routine and not reaching me as deeply as they once did. Having been one that has compromised self-worth, dignity and self-care for the sake of others while sick and deep in codependency I hoped that I would not do the same things again. In a sense, I think I am. I think I could be compromising and rejecting parts of myself that there is absolutely nothing wrong with but are hidden out of sight because I thought it was what I had to do in order to belong, in order to do what was right, honorable, Godly and approved of. Approved of by who is the question. 

For me, I am recognizing how I have compromised by continuing to do what I have always done at the cost of losing myself again. Not in the same ways that I would and did before recovery and before Jesus, but compromising just the same. 

I am fairly confident that God as I know Him says I am fully known and fully loved. In fact, I know that is true. I think deeply, pray, read, research and review from different angles quite frequently. I have to ask myself, and people that I trust to tell me the truth, if I am in denial at all or just a little bit or not at all just to be sure. We all know how easy it is to rationalize. 

For hell’s sake it makes me so freaking mad when I see the patterns that I thought were long broken sneaking in. I hate how my past tendencies to hide and not talk about what I am really thinking or feeling sneaks in there. It really frustrates this recovering perfectionist knowing that I know better, and yet find myself doing it again. Still. 

Friends, here’s the thing. We get to decide. We get to choose. We get to turn away from those old patterns again and again and again. We get to deepen our relationship with God as we understand Him and don’t need to do the same things over and over again just because it is routine or safe or comfortable. Nothing big happens when we hold back. 

So, as I become increasingly aware of just how individualized and special that relationship between He and I is, I would encourage you to fight to rise above rejection. Do the healing work, do the new things, and be not afraid to rise above rejection experienced in the past and experienced by our own doing and understanding. 

Just because it is safe and comfortable, doesn’t mean it is right. Thank God I have people to remind me of that from time to time. I don’t grow when I get too comfortable. And in a time where God keeps whispering, “Move, loved one.” I am beginning to see more of what that means. Honestly, He keeps telling me in many ways, and I am moving. I am moving ever so slowly towards what He has been trying to get me see in all arenas of my life, not just the ones that I thought.

How are you capitalizing on the time you are in, the time that you have to work at rising above rejection? Are you setting boundaries and/or letting go of things that have served their purpose and time? Are you ready to move into a new time of rising above rejection after finding that you have been invited and reminded to stop rejecting your whole self? 

Hope, Keeping it Real

Operating in the And Also

There’s a term, a thing, in psychology called black and white thinking. It also could be referred to as splitting or polarized thinking. 

If you have done recovery work, are doing recovery work and have ever experienced trauma maybe you can understand this idea of black and white thinking. It’s a life stealer if you ask me. I used to operate there regularly, and have learned to operate in the “and also” over the years. 

The polarized thinking that steals pieces of our lives, relationships, opportunities and memories maybe sounds like: 

  • It is or it isn’t there is not in between.
  • He is the best thing that ever happened to me or he is the devil incarnate there is no in between.
  • You always. 
  • You never.
  • It always….
  • It never….

That thought pattern keeps us from seeing the world as it is: complex and full of different shades of every color in between black and white. Right? It holds us in a place of extremes, and nobody likes to live at nor thrives best at one extreme or the other. It’s difficult to have much of a life or quality of life at those extremes. 

I have got to be on guard against slipping into that type of thinking as a regular way of functioning, coping (read NOT COPING) or facing the real issue. I can say that operating in the and also is a much healthier, fruitful, wise and hopeful way to live and think. God carefully reminds me, from time to time, that I have slipped or that even in the smallest ways I can and do respond in a black and white way instead of an and also way. How about you? 

There’s the big-time, big deal examples of seeing a hard circumstance as just bad, just hard and just impossible. The flip side? There’s the opportunity to see it as an and also scenario. It is bad, and I am also learning new things about myself. It is hard, and also easier with great people around me to love and support me. It is impossible for me to see the way through this and also it is not impossible for Him. 

In my own life, there’s a silly example of me not listening to any music other than Christian music that was created from the year 2012 forward. No, I am not kidding. I stopped listening because I was so offended that George Strait and Eric Church performed on an awards show together one year and I was mortified. So, I stopped listening. I also probably had it in my head, more honestly, that because I had turned my life over to Jesus that I could not listen to that kind of music. Seriously. I know, ridiculous. As it turns out, I have discovered that all new country music is not bad and also I might actually enjoy some of it. I have not thrown my faith out the window by listening to it and nobody got hurt in the process. 

My point is, friends, that I think that whether you believe in God or not; no matter who you choose to worship, there is always an opportunity to take a quick check and see what kind of thinking we have going on inside our heads. If we are moving away from the life-sapping defense mechanism of black and white and towards more of the and also thinking while learning to operate more in that space, then we are better for it. 

Learning to operate in the and also, thinking in the and also, and speaking that into my own heart and mind has gained me a much more colorful, happy, joyful, authentic life. How about you? 

Hope

The Pathway to Praise

Prayer and praise. The prescription for both ends of our human emotions. The antidote to struggle, worry and doubt is prayer. Not only prayer for God to solve the “problem” but also the grace and strength to bear it.  

James 5:13 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. NLT

Prayer is not complicated. It’s a conversation-a relational exchange between God and His kids. If you are a parent, maybe you can recall the tender moments of your baby’s firsts words and how you waited in anticipation to hear them for the first time. When the day came, you sang praises of joy to everyone you knew and even maybe people you didn’t. You told it on the mountain, posted it on social media and told the cashier in the check-out line at Target. 

Maybe you can recall how thrilled and excited you were for that communication that came, at first in a string of one or two words. Maybe in a language that only you, as the parent, could understand. 

Perhaps your baby is older now and the words, “Mom/Dad, I love you want I want to share some news with you” or “Mom/Dad, I am struggling and I need your advice.” are something that you have heard, or maybe you are waiting to hear? 

Imagine our Father’s heart when we ask Him and seek Him through prayer and petition. 

Prayer. Going to Him with any and all because He already knows. Returning to Him to sing songs of praise for the resolution, the answer and the revelation of His plan even when it looks or feels different than we anticipated. 

When we pray through whatever it is, we begin to see God’s will and, newsflash, sometimes His will is not the same as ours. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Just like when we hear our children’s voice, the words don’t always make sense or even matter. What matters is the heart and intent behind them. As a child or a young adult or even a more grown up child, think of the joy and twinkle of tears in your parents eye when you reach out to them with your words-just a simple relational connection. 

Human connection and relationships matter. The game goes for our communication and relationship with God. From Him all things flow. 

Prayer is the pathway to praise. Prayer is the pathway to firmly planted joy and gratitude. Praise is the pathway to sharing the Good News with a world that certainly needs it, and perhaps the pathway for someone else to come to meet, know and follow Jesus. 

He loves to hear from His kids. He knows our voices and wants us to know His. 

Is prayer your go-to first or your last resort? How can we pray for each other today. If you are bold and willing, post your prayer requests in the comments below and we can lift them up together. 

Hope, Keeping it Real

Makings of a Joy Junkie 2.0

When this whole thing started, I had written a cute little introduction about the who, what, where, why and how. That was like 9 months ago and I never posted it. I also did not get off my butt and do what God had asked me to do 9 months ago and I waited procrastinated. 

I re-read it and laughed. It was cute, it was real and it was honest. It also is not where I am right now. And that is perfectly okay. So here, we are with the 2.0 version as I actually thought about what I really want to convey. I still don’t fully know the why, but I do know the what behind it and so I am going with that because I have learned to be okay with that. Mostly. 

When I started my walk with Jesus, the real walk with Jesus, I was told that the best way to get out of my own head was to serve. As it turns out, the best way to get out of my own way is and will always be to serve. It brings me joy, it brings Him joy. That’s part of my why. 

Over the years, He had me doing things I NEVER would have chosen to do on my own. He had me serving in places I would have NEVER chosen to go. Truth is, He has been turning people upside down forever. That’s just who He is. 

Over the course of time, most of my addictions and/or compulsive behaviors have been replaced with more life-giving, healthy addictions and compulsions. The ones that are meant to help, not harm. In a sense, I am addicted to joy. His joy. That’s why I called it Joy Junkie. 

When I encounter Jesus it brings me joy EVERY SINGLE TIME. 

Long before I ever knew Jesus, I found a love for writing and sharing words through it. I was a journalist starting in high school, college and even beyond that for a few years. It was my first stop on the journey to my big dream of being an NFL broadcaster. Obviously He had different plans. 

I had the privilege of writing for our church’s daily devotional for a few years, and I have often wondered if that should be on a bigger scale. That was a whole lot of scary. But I finally decided that it is okay to try and it is okay to fail. So here we are. 

 I want to share good news for all people for all times through the gifts that I have been given. Simple as that. I also want to be inclusive of people that don’t have the same beliefs that I do. It’s okay that we don’t believe the same things. I respect our differences and maybe we can learn from each other in this. 

It is not complicated. What you need to know is this: I am real and raw. I may use language that some find offensive. I may say hard things that make you uncomfortable or make ME uncomfortable. I may share from a place of deep hurt or of radical healing. I promise to be as respectful and kind as I can be while sharing truth, humor and the occasional random subject matter. I may put into words what we all think but are not willing to say out loud. I may not put things into words that are better left between myself and God. I may or may not have a filter. 

I don’t yet fully know the why, but it is being revealed over time. Maybe you are asking why I chose to rewrite what I had already written. Well, the truth of the matter is that I recently read something written by someone that I don’t really know but that has inspired me and given me a little more courage than I had before. She wrote an entire post apologizing for not being where she was when she started, when she branded herself in a certain manner, and I realized that God was speaking to me in a million different ways through what she said and what she did. 

I don’t want to live with the gate closed, I want to live with the gate open. I don’t want to find myself apologizing for where I was, where I am and where He might take me next be that physically, spiritually or emotionally. I also don’t want to run thoughts through just the common filters of is this true, is this kind, is this helpful and all of that. I also want to do more filtering of: is this real? I am not necessarily talking about rational, I am talking about real. Like, the real me, all of me and unapologetically me. 

He uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things through His power and strength, and through our willingness to be used for His glory. That’s the real what. That’s part of my why.

Joy Junkie

Thanks for being part of the ride. My hope and prayer is that you are not staying where you are because you are afraid or unwilling to fail, fall and get back up again. We have all been there, maybe are there and will most likely be there again. 

 My prayer is that you feel hope, that you feel encouraged through raw and real, filtered and unfiltered, and everything in between. Even if not, my what is about being obedient and I am choosing to do that to the best of my ability.

Live loved today! If you like what you are reading, and care to share with others that might want to join in on the conversations, please feel free to share.

Hope

A Vision Check

There’s always an opportunity to find the blessing in the bummers. I say it a lot, I mean it a lot and I know it a lot but sometimes I have to repeat it over and over again until I believe it a lot. Even more than that, God has to keep reminding me a lot. 

I cannot say that I love this seemingly never-ending season we are all living in, but what I can say is that I love that the God I love and serve is reminding me again and again and still to keep digging, keep seeking and has continued to prove that He is rock steady in every struggle and is in this one, too. 

I wish we could stop talking about it. I wish we could stop living in it and I wish that it was just a temporary time of change. I hate that it is the new normal and it feels like there is nothing normal about it. And then, I see that it appears to be another time to recognize, remember and have our vision redirected. 

In a matter of hours today, He took me from a place of asking the what and why questions, to hearing Him say, “Seek and You shall find me.” to a message that almost brought me to my knees in gratitude. Well, actually it DID bring me to my knees.

Friends, we cannot grow tired of what He wants to teach us. It is not happening to us, but it is happening for us.

Joy Junkie

We have most likely seen the same story in our lives already. I know I have. The times when we were asking things like why does this person not love me like they said they would, why did you take that job away from me or what plan or purpose is there in this mess? Been there, done that, came out of that and have been restored from that. Right? Our hindsight vision is 20-20 and we can see clearly now the why and the what. 

I know we are weary. I know we are tired. I know we have more questions than answers. For some of us, we are questioning the validity of our own faith and allowing ourselves to be tempted to believe that our feelings are facts, that God has suddenly forgotten or forsaken us and maybe this season is full of way more challenges than just avoiding a virus. 

I know that our first draft stories about all of this are not likely to add up with what God has planned in the middle of this mess or any mess we have been brought through or what mess He will lead us through next. 

In our weakness and tendency to do or believe the wrong things, He is not done with writing the story. Maybe our vision is a little blurry, but I know that He makes blind people see. He made this blind person see once or twice or forty times before and He will do it again. 

There’s a picture of this miracle and truth in Mark 8. There’s so much power and so many lessons in the middle of this scripture. Read it and let it sink in. Don’t miss out on how relevant this miracle was then and how it is true today. 

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” (Mark 8:22-26 ESV)

On the days that we forget that we have felt His touch before, that our blindness was once restored and can be restored again; let’s remember that we have the tools for a vision check. We have people, we have the truth in His word and have first-hand knowledge of His power to restore us.

Our vision may be blurry, but His is not. He can see what we cannot see, He knows what we do not know and He has a plan and purpose for all the things in our lives. Check your vision, check in with your people, and watch Him clearly do His work in all of it. 

Hope, Keeping it Real

Is Good Enough Good Enough?

When you slow down enough to really think through, feel through, and pray through the circumstances of the season you’re in, the dreams about your future and take inventory of what the next right steps are God will meet you right in the middle. 

I know this is not a new concept for many of us, but sometimes we just forget, get out of practice or find ourselves just going through the motions. That’s how life works sometimes. 

Personally, I have been really fighting over so many things including the idea of being content and being fulfilled and how different those two things are. We can have one or the other and be just fine. But, my belief is that He came for us to have life and have it to the full not just in the ever after but also in the here and now. 

Those conversations we sometimes have with Him that start with the word why or what? There’s been a lot of those lately. How about you? Most of the time I am able to have my priorities and focus right and can say, “What do you want me to learn from this?” and sometimes I ask, “What is it that I am not seeing here?”. And boy, does He answer. 

I recently experienced a three-day series of totally and wholly designed by Him moments that left me so full of hope and so refocused, less afraid, less angry and more bold and excited. I heard some great leaders and pastors speak over the last 48 hours that God used to speak right into me in a way that was so desperately needed. He ALWAYS knows what we need and when we need it. 

The question on my mind beforehand to my own self was, “Are you content? Are you fulfilled?” and there was a lot of if-then-this mixed in with the answers. No shame in that game, people. But the question then comes, how good is good enough? 

I would argue that good enough is not good enough when He has so much more in store. I know He does and He always has. I am asking these questions, and God just poured into me the courage and boldness to answer truthfully. I can have both. Now, I am not talking about wanting more fulfillment or contentment in terms of material possessions, money, or any of that business. I am talking about contentment and fulfillment for my best life and the best version of my whole self I can be and in turn more able and free to share the source of true contentment and fulfillment from a full love tank. Do you know what I mean? 

Friends, I firmly believe that He wants more for us than we could ever ask for or understand, but at the same time, He loves his kids and wants to hear the desires of our heart. I was not asking for courage and boldness, I was asking the questions about what He wants for me and somehow that aligns with what I want for me. I want more than good enough. Good enough is not good enough. He answered my questions in the most unexpected ways which turned out to be exactly what I needed and when I needed it. 

Here’s the challenge for all of us today. Pray big questions. Ask big questions. Listen for those answers that come in unexpected ways and find the courage to believe that good enough is not good enough for the children of the King of Kings. His children are priceless in His eyes and Daddy will always give us what we need and when we need it.

He pours out His love lavishly, so good enough should not be good enough if it doesn’t mean contentment and fulfillment. Today, are you both content and fulfilled? If not, what needs to change?

Hope

There’s Beauty in the Breaking

When you and I remain curious about ourselves and our world through the eyes of our Creator we find healing and hope and beauty in the ashes. 

Jesus came to bless our lives and in blessing our lives and rebuilding our lives He tends to break things apart, disrupt and disturb to get our attention. He was doing it when He walked the earth, He is doing it now from His rightful place at the right-hand of God and He will do it again when He returns. 

How often do we forget and lose sight of the beauty in the breaking? We are ALL in the middle of it now. And it is so hard to see the purpose in the pain and uncertainty when we don’t keep our eyes focused on the One with the control and divine authority. 

Over the last several years of walking with Jesus, working an honest and thorough recovery program and being just overall generally curious about my tendency to do the wrong things I have seen the beauty in the breaking. If you have done any sort of 12-step work, then you know what I am talking about. The part in the journey when you take a fearless and moral inventory of your life? Painful. It can only be described as a breaking. 

He breaks us apart so we can be built back up. As painful, disturbing and disruptive as that is there is ALWAYS beauty on the other side of that if we choose to see it that way. 

Are you remaining curious in this season of opportunity? As much as the emotions can be overwhelming and the decisions to walk through it can be confusing, there is beauty in this breaking. For you and I, we get to choose who and what we focus on. 

I am remaining curious and in doing so, have discovered different pastors and sermons preaching the good news about how Jesus works miracles in the middle of the breaking. He has been doing it since the beginning of time, and long before He ever came on the scene humanly speaking. 

There’s a rising and revolution happening within me, within our world and He makes beautiful things out of the ashes, friends. I would invite and encourage you to not lose sight of the opportunity here. It’s dangerous to stay in a place of feeling all the feels and not be turning those things over to the One who has the authority and power to turn those broken thoughts and feelings into something for our good and His glory. 

We have an open invitation to be part of a revolution. To show the love of Jesus both in words and actions. To sharpen one another and to help others be blessed in the breaking. We may not see it right away, but our prayers don’t expire and in this season of disruption our hands are not tied. We may have to be more creative in how we connect and how we safely go about our lives these days, but His power and authority is not thwarted by the circumstances.

Isaiah 61:3 And provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

He will renew our strength and raise us up. Let’s not lose sight of the rising and revolution and the power of the resurrected Jesus in the middle of the breaking.