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

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

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

Holes Made Whole

I just returned from an extended trip to the home country. I had four glorious weeks at H O M E in Montana.

One would think that in all of that beauty and serenity, that words would have come to me like a firehose but that is not what happened. Since returning to the desert, the words still have not been there. So weird for someone th at is constantly thinking and pondering and wondering and seemingly has a lot to say-sometimes too much to say.

While I was reading Bible scriptures and trying to get back in the groove today, I was thinking about the feeling of home and all that it was and all that it is. I was thinking about where God has me in this moment and season and seriously wondering why I could not feel Him. As if He has gone anywhere.

Maybe I was so focused on praying about my daughter’s return to health from having contracted COVID-19 that there was no room for any other words.

Part of the issue is that I am still recovering and reflecting on all that I was able to see, do and experience while at home with family in the places I love most. The other part, I suddenly realized, is that He is not gone away but my heart and soul are so at peace that I am not sure what to do with myself.

I know that He has filled so many holes in my heart over the years and that He has and will continue to do so. I just realized today that He was doing just that while I was on my little adventure. I was so filled up in His presence and surrounded by His glory that the holes were made whole. Even if for just a little moment in time, I was completely at peace and totally in a place of calm and serenity.

As a recovering codependent that tends to thrive in chaos, find chaos and create chaos when things become too calm (i.e. too close to making room for feelings and vulnerability) I am not looking for chaos but definitely not settled in calmness. So weird how that little itchy spot still tends to itch without me even realizing it. No surprise to Him, I am sure.

John 3:17 says this: “Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

No truer words apply for this day. No greater hope for what that scripture means for the one day that He returns or even for tomorrow.

The words are coming, He continues to fill the holes and make me whole, and I am full of gratitude and hope even when I don’t understand.

So how are the holes in your heart? Are you feeling them or are you filling them? What are you filling them with?

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.