Hope, Keeping it Real

Never Too Late

I have not been able to prioritize writing over the last few months. Oh, I have had a lot on my mind and a lot to say, but this was never really meant to be a personal journal type of blog that only contained my recent season and current experience in the first place. So I did not write, and if I am honest, probably mostly because this was not how I intended to utilize this platform, but apparently God has a better idea of what is going on and needs to happen. 

Honestly, I kept hearing God telling me that He never wastes a hurt and that someone else may hear a piece of the story that will unlock a prison, release a chain or give them hope anyway. I ignored it, and the brutally honest truth is that I was having a hard time seeing the joy in the middle of this hellish experience. It’s in there, joy has always been there because He is there and here and everywhere; I just didn’t know how to find that piece for a bit. 

And then…..

Backstory and a quick one: My mother has finally come to terms with the fact that we are not going to win this battle and agreed to start hospice care. All of that was not in a pretty little bow, but we got there. It officially started a few days ago, and I have to tell you that I feel like the cavalry has arrived. It has, I tell you. The letdown of the adrenaline and pure grit that I have been operating on for the last several months is overwhelming in the best kind of way. Just a few days into this, and not all the moving pieces in place and I feel like a ton of bricks just got dropped on me emotionally, but the physical weight has also been left. It is odd and beautiful. It is sad and joyous. It is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Just another both/and scenario. 

Jesus told us this in so many ways, and it hit me hard in the last 24 hours that He has and is still with and for me. Just as He is with and for you through any and every.little.thing. Seriously, how do we become so unaware of that? The scripture puts it right out there plain as day. 

John 13:7-You don’t understand now what I am doing, but later you will understand.

Yesterday, I heard my mom talking to an old friend that practices a different religion than I do. They were talking about the rapture. For me, that means ‘second coming’ and so when the friend told my mom that they did not believe that was true and that it really wasn’t in the Bible anyway I about lost my mind. I heard mom say that it was in the Bible, it was in Revelations. (Super proud and wonderful moment there.) The friend says, “We think that the book of Revelations is mostly symbolic.” Okay, well duh. The friend says, “Jesus did not say it anyway.” My heart broke for this friend and it broke my heart even worse knowing that my mom may be tempted to believe that. The truth is, that Jesus tells us throughout the Bible that He is coming again, and that if we have given our lives to Him as our Lord and Savior we will see Him face to face. There was further conversation between the two about heaven, hell and purgatory and I was annoyed, somewhat triggered, and told my mom after they hung up that it was really cool that she knew what Jesus said through Revelations and that it was, in fact, throughout the Bible that He was and is going to return. I left it at that. 

At 2:30 this morning, it hit me. I was thinking, planning, not sleeping and figuring out how to utilize the team that God has placed around me to support me and our family during this time, and it hit me that my mom was not feeling at peace about things as to where she will graduate when this time is over with. How heartbreaking. Maybe somewhat normal to not be sure, but still heartbreaking.

 I know that she was saved when she was 7 or 8 years old. I have written proof of that in my possession and I know that we don’t earn that salvation and I truly don’t believe you can lose that. Once you are a YES girl, you are a Jesus girl. Period. 

And I was prompted again to help bring her peace, and when I caught on to what He was asking me and how He was reminding me that despite the trouble, He has overcome. Despite the short season of suffering and pain, there is a pain-free, unfathomable perfect home in Heaven waiting. I must have asked Him the question, “What do you want me to do here?” And with a big, fat heavenly, straight from God answer He told me. Help bring her peace. Honor her, and help her to understand. I think I know what He wants me to do, and He has provided me the words and wisdom; the people, and the opportunity to provide her assurance and peace that she will be meeting Jesus face-to-face and in her heart of hearts she knows the truth, and the truth will set her free. She has already asked so many things that would go against what the religion she follows is absolutely against and for me, there is no more real picture than knowing Jesus and the truth deep, deep in her heart. That brings me peace!

In a step of obedience, to be an instrument in the peace process, I made the phone call to a dear friend and brother. Before I even uttered the words that I was about to ask him, he said yes. I am not even kidding. As soon as I am able to have a conversation with her about how I sense that she is unsettled about what will happen when she graduates, where she is going and whether she has truly been saved or not I will. And then, I can make that phone call and that friend will come. He will stand in the gap, answer the questions, and help me to bring some peace and assurance that PRAISE GOD she will be seeing Jesus and she will be completely healed when that day comes. I am also at peace knowing we may not get that opportunity, but I am confident and at peace enough for her. She gets to meet Jesus soon.

All of this to tell us this: there is hope, there is a purpose to every painful circumstance and experience and there is a Jesus that is alive and well working on our behalf in the middle of absolutely everything who will continue to draw us back to Him again and again and again. We are called to be His hands and feet, serving others as He would do, and helping them know peace right up until the very end. While our family manages the balance of heartbreak and hope, I pray that you will find peace, make peace or choose to renew your relationship with His peace. It’s never too late to be used by God. 

And friends, there is so much more that I am realizing and experiencing about community, faith, heartache, hope and all the things in between. The unreal phone calls and conversations, the willingness of dear friends to pray with and for me; to laugh and snot cry; to mourn and celebrate; to listen to me swing from all in Jesus girl to all sorts of anxious and slightly inappropriate Jesus girl; has been an incredibly treasured gift. All unknown to me at various points, but never unknown to Him. 

Wishing you peace today and always and the courage to do the next right, hard, nearly impossible thing that He asks of you. 

Hope

Staying in the moment when I would rather not

It’s been awhile. It’s been a road. It’s been a challenging season with way too many things happening all at once that’s taking a heavy toll on me in every way possible.

But knowing that God isn’t surprised at all and that He will make all things right brings some comfort and peace sometimes. I am not yet angry with God. Honestly. It isn’t His doing that finds us with the reality of the end days or months of our mom’s life.

I AM angry though. I am fighting not being resentful of her because a good portion of this she did have control over and chose not to change habits or lifestyle. And then there’s the financial choices she made and didn’t which leaves us to figure out to not only pay for her basic needs but her cremation or services when the time comes. In my heart, I know that day is far more near than we would hope it to be, and at the same time I ask God to take her home.

When the anger and resentment comes I am reminded of “thou shall not judge” and have to look in the mirror.

And so, trying to live in one moment at a time is stupid hard when we also have to make decisions that are best for her when there’s so many if/then scenarios in play.

So, I keep praying. I keep trusting. I keep doing. I keep feeling. I keep struggling to accept the love, care, and offers of help in various forms. I forget how to love others and let others love me. I do.

What we are dealing with isn’t uncommon. It’s not any harder than what other families go through. There’s no chapter in the playbook that explains how to deal with making the best decisions possible during a deadly virus outbreak. There’s no chapter that adds in our very special set of family dynamics. There’s just not.

Mixed in with total hell is absolute joy and amazing grace. I have a lot to talk about and yet nothing to say. I’m exhausted and cannot sleep at the same time. I’m in the middle of both/and. We are in the middle of a storm and a miracle.

Whenever I start to wonder what the next day looks like let alone the next few months I am assured that He is already there.

Hope

Choosing to Believe

Step 2: We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 

“For it is God who works in you to will  and to act according to His good purpose.” Philippians 2:13

Today, as I am writing this, friends….no truer words could ever have been spoken. I am so grateful for the first-hand experiences of His power and love. I think we can easily become immune to that, or maybe so comfortable with it that it becomes comfortable and maybe even taken for granted. 

It is dangerous territory to get into a place of comfort. Living there for a minute, probably not a big deal. Staying there, however, can lead to complacency and denial and self-will from my perspective and experience. 

We all tend to want to do what is safe and comfortable. Safe and comfortable is not always wise. Safe and comfortable is not always the place of His will, but our own if we are honest. If I am honest.

What are you choosing to believe in your place of safe and comfortable? Safe and comfortable is a mindset that can either be Satan’s playground or God’s fertile ground. Amen.

Choosing to believe. Those words and that real-life experience and choice has hit me upside the head time and time again. Recently in a very powerful, tangible and real way. 

I fail to live up to my own standards before I open my eyes. Let’s be real, for most of us, before our day even starts we do, say, or think something that is stupid and not of Him. I don’t pretend to be perfect, and the reality is I choose to believe and accept that I am not. 

I also choose to believe that He knew that about all of us long before we ever came into this world. This not-so-safe and highly uncomfortable world. 

I am choosing to believe that none of us are as we should be not as an excuse to justify my weakness, but as an act of choosing to believe in a power greater than myself that will restore me to sanity and quickly, if I allow it.

I know that I choose to stay comfortable and find comfort in the wrong things easily, if I am not seeking God and His will for my life above all things. 

My challenge for myself, and to you, is to examine what you are choosing to believe. 

Do you find yourself in a place of safe and comfortable? Are you truly safe and comfortable, or are you in denial? Do you find yourself growing in faith and belief more when you are in the safe and comfortable place or when you are not? Who is your safety and comfort? Is it Him or someone/something else? 

Hope

Get up and Grow

Somebody besides me needs to know this today: He loves you. He really, really loves you.
 One of my very first life-verses years ago was this one in Romans that says “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rules, nor things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

I have experienced a lot of skinned knees in my lifetime so far. I am sure that there will be other times as well. What I know to be true is that on skinned knees I can still kneel at the foot of the cross.

Ever had one of those moments or days where you keep hearing cute little sayings, quotations, motivational thoughts and even scripture where you just go “yeah, yeah, yeah” and sort of blow it off? Me too. 

What about the days where you HEAR them and you go, “YES! YES! YES” and brace yourself for impact? It’s these moments that bring me to my knees and also invite me to get up and grow. 

 There was a time when my mistakes or choices defined me; where I took on the brunt of the pain and responsibility for other people’s mistakes or choices as well. Then Jesus, and recovery and intentional choosing to not get caught up in the shit show of lies bouncing around in my head happened.

I have a tendency to overcompensate for just about everything, if I am honest. That used to be a coping mechanism used to avoid rejection, to avoid feeling anything and to avoid vulnerability. So when the opportunity comes up, I still once in a while find myself holding myself super-super-accountable to the point of self-sabotage. And then, I hear myself and the words of encouragement I share with other people about saying things like, “When are you going to give yourself some grace in this?” or “When are you going to forgive yourself for this?” and I am reminded.

Failure is not final. Falling down is not a sentence. Grace wins if we allow it. It’s not wise to sweep things under the rug, but once it is out from under the rug there’s no reason to keep beating the dust out of the rug. 

I consider myself to be mostly self-aware and also humble enough to know the difference when God puts me in a place to remember that on skinned knees I can kneel at the foot of the cross and still choose to get up and grow. 

At first light this morning, God continued to pursue me relentlessly to a point of wanting to scream at Him to stop loving me. That’s absurd, but it is what I was thinking. Him lavishing you and I with love is all He wants to do. 

So, wherever you are today, let me remind you of one other thing that I have to remind myself way more often than I thought I would ever need to: Repairing the damage starts in our own heads and hearts. Making amends will help. Self-loathing will not. 

Get up and grow, people. He loves you. He really, really loves you. 

Hope

Affirmed

You just never know when life will throw a curveball your way and recently I took a big swing at one. I am not sure, yet if I hit it out of the park or it stayed infield, but I hit the ball. 

I found myself choosing to make a choice instead of outweighing every.single.possible.scenario and to remember that no matter what, He was with me. I talked about it with some of my favorite people and when I did, I felt Him. 

Now, let me just say that I knew that the choice I was making was complex and that it could very well turn out with me asking myself, “Well, how many times are you going to put your hand on a hot stove knowing you get burned.” Instead, I felt empowered to choose and fully aware of the consequences of making a choice either way. I also knew that it could lead to some judgment, shame and rejection. 

Before, I stepped to the plate I chose to reach out and talk about what I was thinking about. I not only talked about it, I prayed about it. And although God did not give me a clear go ahead, what He did give me was “I go with you and there is nothing you could ever do that would make me love you less.” Not permission, but affirmation that He has never walked away from me when I have completely struck out. 

I felt affirmed in His love for me despite my weakness and failures. 

And I chose and I did it. And then I ran through a checklist (mental, emotional, spiritual and physical) to ask myself questions. Nowhere in that checklist was, “Why did you do that? You  know better?” and nowhere in that was, “You should probably not tell anyone about this.” 

The beautiful thing is that I am not attached to shame for this choice or any of the other previous choices or any of the probable poor choices I will most likely make at some point in my life again. Am I proud? No. Am I full of shame and self-loathing? Also no. 

When you break free of shame, and instead feel convicted you tend to do the next right thing. I did that. I did not hide. I did not pretend I didn’t do it and I most certainly did not put myself into a shame cycle. I made a choice and now I choose to live with the outcome. I cannot claim victimhood when I am the one who chose to swing the bat. 

I talked about it with the same trusted friends. And you know what, once again affirmed. Not necessarily affirmed in the choice, but affirmed in not only His love for me but their love for me. Graciously speaking the truth in love and loving me where I am. That’s more affirmation than I could ever ask for or deserve. 

But God, He redeems. He loves. And He gives us the opportunity to recognize His hand in everything including the times when we choose something that is not necessarily what He wants for us. 

And although I will still choose to take this one day at a time, I am both humbled and affirmed that I need a Savior, will never live up to my own standards let alone His. Thank you Jesus for your redeeming grace and mercy! 

As much as I am going to fail, with Him, I cannot lose. We win or we learn. With Jesus, we cannot lose. I am affirmed in my choice to be my whole, real, messy self and not hide from the pieces of me that still need work. 

Be good to yourselves today!

Hope

Grace Over Grudge

I’ve been praying on and thinking a lot about forgiveness, my tongue, my thoughts and my actions when it all comes down to it. My own stuff. I have also had numerous conversations recently about the same things. 

Honestly, relationships are difficult but in times like today the difficulty level has been magnified. Admittedly, the issues existed long before THIS happened but for a lot of people it seems that the time has come to face the music. Even though I am not currently in a relationship, I still have time to reflect on my own past behavior and how even in just a normal everyday relationship (work, friendship, whatever) I still need to be aware of my own tendencies and conduct.

Our future destiny, as followers of Jesus, is determined by our present conduct. I want to be characterized by grace, not a grudge. How about you? I want to be characterized by grace for others and grace for myself when I did not and do not always do the right thing. How about you?

1 Peter 3:9 says this: Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were allied so that you may inherit a blessing.

In this scripture, Peter is really telling us to grow up and to not try to earn the blessing that happens when we do, but to instead receive it as our inheritance. It isn’t about the blessing, but the One who does the blessing. The One who extends endless grace time after time, and does not repay insult to Him with insult to us. Read this same scripture in The Message and it becomes plain as day. 

1 Peter 3:9 That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Insead, bless-that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing

Forgiveness is hard when we choose to hold a grudge. Restoration and reconciliation is nearly impossible when we don’t choose grace. Grace doesn’t say that what the other person has done to hurt me is okay. Grace says I will choose to see through eyes of compassion and tender-heartedness even when it hurts. Grace is what I want and expect others to give to me. How about you? 

Sometimes forgiveness happens in an instant supernatural moment, and sometimes it takes years and years and years to be able to forgive. He is right in the middle of both. 

I know I need to do intentional work to grow up in grace. I want to be known by grace, not a grudge.