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. 

Keeping it Real

When patience is tested

I got up at least 6 times throughout the night last night and my cranky was at a level 4, but not quite defcon level 5.

It’s been like this every night for almost a week now. I don’t know that I remember how to have a newborn in the house again. But that drive kicks in and we do what we do because that’s what love does.

To be clear, I am not always appreciative of the opportunity to be tested in my patience or my grace. In fact, while getting my mom patient dressed this morning I may or may not have told her that I would suffocate her if she didn’t start sleeping at night. She knew I was kidding, but for the real, I am whooped.

I cannot help but see how God sees me again and again, doing the same dumb things that cause trouble or pain or rattle my peace. He keeps loving me when I keep Him up all night, I am sure.

And the next morning He wakes me up to continue to live and love loudly knowing that before nightfall my patience will be tested and I will also have the chance to love bigger. Like making a fancy breakfast for the one that keeps me up all night, He loves big and loves when I am exhausting because He so loves me and you as well.

He loves still. He loves despite and He loves because love does.

So, I invite you to reflect and share about the times you are exhausted and your peace has been rattled. Do you choose to love bigger and louder? How do you change the trajectory of your day and perspective when you’re whooped? Can you see yourself and others through the eyes of grace?

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, 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

Be Careful That You Don’t Fall

It blows my mind how God sends the exact things at the exact moment that we need to hear them, or at least He does that for me.

I was in the shower this morning having a conversation with Him about the status of things and passionately telling Him I just did not understand all of this and what the point is/was in drawing the recent months into what feels like forever. 

As I am having this conversation I heard Him speak to me inside my very soul asking me, “Dig deeper. What’s really underneath all of this?” I both love and hate it when you hear Him tell you something that you literally have uttered out loud to someone else a time or two. You know those times when a friend is feeling all sorts of out of shape and not quite sure what the actual problem is and you put on your best friend/sponsor/counselor/sister voice and make them really get honest with themselves? 

Seriously God? Well, okay then. I thought about that prompting and asked myself that very same question. What is underneath all of this? As it turns out, there’s a wee bit of fear of change, rejection and abandonment wrapped up into a nice little package of not wanting to have to adjust because adjusting is not what I really feel like doing right now. Do you know what I mean? Please tell me I am not alone in this. 

There is a scripture in the Bible that says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12) and you will never guess what came to mind today. 

The truth is that pretty much nobody is all excited about having to adjust when it isn’t in their game plan. I knew months ago that there was so much good that was going to come out of this reset, slowdown, crisis, or whatever you want to call it. There HAS BEEN GOOD. Truly, there has. 

The problem is, the longer it goes on the more difficult it is to see, and that brings me back to my point about not slipping and falling. Perhaps, that sneaky little bugger that wants to steal, kill and destroy has gotten a bit of a foothold inside your head or heart, too. He is not firmly planted, but when we start looking under what is underneath and recognize the traps he so craftily sets for each of us I see that the gray is getting gray and things are getting pretty slippery. 

When the underlying fears surface and the real truth is told or admitted then the gray cannot get any grayer and the slowdown can still be a good, good God thing that He will turn into so many things for His glory and our good. Let’s face it, none of us really like to admit what we really feel or think from time to time. It’s just not our human nature. We want to hide and that leads to the slippery slope we should go to any lengths to avoid. 

Your turn. Have you found yourself on the slippery slope? What have you not admitted to yourself, to God or someone you trust lately? I challenge you, as I challenge myself today, to not become complacent or afraid to passionately share with Him what you really think or feel. He is a big God and He can handle it. Be careful that you don’t fall.

Hope, Keeping it Real

The Things We Do

I have learned to laugh at myself and the ridiculous things I think and do. I can laugh at myself most of the time, especially when I see the silly patterns and ingrained tendencies within me that can either make me cry or laugh. The response is usually based on the day and how that day kicks off. 

There are funny (READ FUN FACT) things about me that are just silly, weird, awkward or a mix of all of the above. Things that I would be almost afraid to share with my best friends if I did not know that they all possess their own quirks, too. And we love God and other people and accept them for who they are and not as they should be. Right? 

For example: 

  1. When doing anything involving a checklist or project-I have to leave off at an even number. Let’s say I have a list of things to do at work. I won’t stop with 3, 5, or 7 things remaining. I complete them in even numbers. It bothers me to have an uneven number. 
  2. The volume setting on a device also has to be set at an even number. 
  3. When I am walking, I count steps in my head and, you guessed it, I cannot handle an uneven number.

See what I mean? Quirky. And then not so much. Maybe the connection between even numbers could be made to equality and justice and fair. I don’t know. Maybe that’s a stretch. But seeing people treated fairly, equitably and justly matters to me, too. I get a little bent out of shape over various shades of inequality and injustice. Who knows? I will have to wait to see what God has to see about that and that’s another conversation for another day.

My point is, laughing at my tendencies and odd little quirks make life so much sweeter than wrapping myself up in self-pity, self-loathing and general disdain at my whole self and identity. I am labeled as the daughter of the King of Kings and still human. My labels don’t identify me (at least not much anymore on most of the days) and so I can laugh and find humor in the silly things about me that don’t define me, but make me unique.

What labels have you placed on your pretty little head that you need to let go of? What areas of your life can you laugh about? What are the fun facts you want to share with the rest of us? This is a safe place and it’s okay to be who you are. 

Oh! In case you have forgotten, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14