Hope

Being Upheld and Holding Up

We made it! We saw the end of a difficult year and now we turn the page for the next chapter.

I have never been the “what’s my word of the year” person or been super big on sitting down and writing down a list of goals, but I do take the time to reflect, review and look forward to a fresh page. 

As I am reflecting, talking with God and thinking about what has happened and what has yet to happen, I hear Him telling me, “Take forward with you all the good, and the bad, because without one there isn’t the other.”

The recovering instant-gratification girl would really like to be able to button up the crazy 2020 chapter with a pretty little bow, but the living-in-the-moment girl knows that’s pretty much not remotely possible. 

I hear Him whisper, “I have upheld you. I have strengthened you” and I KNOW that to be true. So, when I think of being upheld and how I am holding up and how we are collectively holding up I can not only think of what I personally have faced in the last 12 months, but so many other people I know as well. Not one person I know has had a stellar year, but we have all had opportunity and reason to take some stellar lessons with us into the next one. 

How have I been strengthened? How have you been strengthened? Through trouble and hardship; mourning and loss; and division and drama. I think I am familiar with that territory. He has a great track record of holding me up, strengthening me through the stretching of faith muscles and trust muscles, and I have held up just fine. It was not painless, but it was an exercise in what to hold on to and what to let go of. 

My relationship with God is stronger. It’s being held up. My relationship with my siblings is stronger. Those relationships are being held up. My connection with my dad is stronger, and it was held up through the strain his children are experiencing facing a horrible set of circumstances with our mother-his ex wife. My relationship with my mom, the person that hurt me the most, loved me the worst, and did the very best she could do at the time is stronger. He is holding it up and I am being held through every challenging piece of the story while the book comes closer to the ending. 

My reflection is this: what do I want to carry with me, and what do I want to leave behind? I tell you, I don’t think I can leave one piece of it behind. Since He has a great way of using all things for His glory and our good, I don’t think we can just spit out the things and pieces that leave a bad taste in our mouths. Instead, we take it all forward. Without the bad, there cannot be the good. Without darkness, nobody can see the light. 

The situations, circumstances, changes and losses of this last year will always serve a bigger purpose if we let them. I will take forward the moments of hard; the times that isolation became too heavy; and the days that felt like they were years long because there was a limit placed on what we could do, where we could go and what we could do. The extra bonus complications that the pandemic brought also brought out creativity. I had to get creative many times over in how I was going to afford another special memory for my mom or with my mom. I did not always like it or see it as a great opportunity, and I bitched, moaned and complained. But being held up, helped up and held onto by my God meant that I would soon see the blessings even in the many bummers once again. I still saw 365 sunrises and sunsets. I still had love and loss and all in betweens. I had major milestone high moments and some really ugly low moments. I had a lot of BIG feelings and I didn’t hide from them. I had a lot of opinions and still managed to do what I could to keep my mouth shut in wisdom and grace. 

As a reminder for you and I, He will strengthen us. None of us truly can get through our lives without Him being the good God that He is. His strength to carry us out of, over, and through the things He knew were coming is all we have to get us through the hardest of days. 

When this period of history is written in the books, I hope that we can reflect on all the good in it. Many times before in our history, in our personal lives we have gone through dark things (addictions, divorces, child loss, death, etc.) and He has given us wisdom, peace, recovery and growth beyond our understanding. I am confident that He will continue to do the exact same thing with all of this and whatever comes next. 

So, thank you 2020 for all that you have taught us. Thank you Jesus for what you have upheld us through. Truly. We have all experienced more love for our neighbor; more creativity in difficult times; more compassion for those with less resources, less family or those that don’t even know that they belong to You as Your children; and we have all experienced the loss, rebuilding and value of community and basic human decency. 

Welcome 2021, we are stronger than whatever silliness you have to throw us, we are being upheld by the One true God and we are not just ready to hold up but to level up. 

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

Authentic Friendships Part 3-A Game Plan

It is crazy to me, that most of us don’t really understand deep, authentic friendships until much later in life. We think we are grown up, and have it all figured out, and then we find out we don’t. Am I right? 

To kind of put a wrap on this three-part series, I wanted to share some ideas on how to choose to trust by choosing to trust. We have to move our feet. There has to be a game plan or an action plan. We cannot just talk about it, pray for it and dream about it. When God gives us the opportunities, we have to take that next step. 

It’s pretty commonly known that women are wired with deep emotional capabilities. That’s how we were created anyway. God made us that way and then something caused us to hide. Whether it was Adam and Eve, or more on top of that down the road through experiences and circumstances we all tend to hide a little bit even in our truest, most safe friendships. 

It is also pretty commonly known that we struggle with insecurity based on comparison and snapshots of someone else’s “great life” that we don’t seem to have, or maybe it is insecurity based on wounds from another person who hurt us in some way

No matter how the hurt originally happened we can choose to change, heal, grow, and kick Satan in the teeth. 

Shannon Swenson

This is a list of the 5 practices to experience change, when it comes to learning to trust God and others with our whole, glorious, messy selves. 

  1. Choose. Choose to change! Drown out the voices in our heads that tell us we cannot or go against the truth of what God has to say and take every thought captive. 

 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

  1. Connect. Choose to connect. Start serving somewhere, sign up for a Bible study with women, create a Bible study group for women, or meet for coffee.
  2. Confess. Choose to confess. Open up about how weird it feels and share maybe just a little bit from the deepest, most vulnerable part of your soul with a friend that you want to know better or maybe choose to go to a Celebrate Recovery meeting and get into an open share. If you are feeling really, bold (i.e. vulnerable) then go ahead and confess some of that sin and shame you are carrying around. Go ahead and talk about why you absolutely love to spend time with your closest people, but really need to have time to yourself, too. Go ahead and share with someone that you may not say yes, but it sure is nice to be included or invited anyway. It is perfectly okay, as a grown adult-ish woman to say things that help the little girl inside of you be brave!

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

  1. Commit. Choose to commit. Choose to keep repeating these steps towards change. Keep choosing to commit to yourself that you are going to walk into a community as part of God’s will and plan for your life and that you are going to stop slamming the door on those opportunities. 
  2. Change. Commit to change. While you are at it, go ahead and commit to the fact that God rarely makes it a straight path in learning to trust Him and others. It’s a dance that probably looks a lot like the cha-cha. It is not uncommon for it to be one step forward, and three steps back but commit to the change and commit to being changed from the inside out. 

Maybe it is old news to some of you reading this, but maybe we all need a reminder or a check-up once in a while. Okay, we do. We just do. Okay? Maybe this is something you really want to start praying about and you are ready to jump without that parachute we talked about in part 1 of this series and you are willing to trust the One who will catch us every time we fall.