Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Shine On!

Chloe's Christmas Art - 2012
 
 "You are the light of the world--like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 
No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.
Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see,
so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."
Matthew 5:13-16
 
My news and social media feeds are breaking my heart in recent days.  The horror and harrowing tales haunting and taunting my already overwhelmed heart.  Between the rampant flu and sickness and the local headlines increasingly filled with senseless crimes, robberies, attempted kidnappings, all too close to our own front door - it's just enough, more than enough, to make you want to lock the doors, close the blinds and never leave home. 
 
Fear begins to creep in and consume, like the darkest of clouds, casting shadows over our tidings of comfort and joy. 
 
Just this morning (or rather, yesterday morning now that it's predawn hours), I'd been thinking we needed to stay on the lockdown to try to keep safe and well.  Yet as I write this, it's the middle of the night and I'm up keeping watch over a sick child. I'm reminded that we cannot run and hide from sickness any more than we can anything else that we fear or dread.
 
If the enemy can't wipe us out completely, he will settle for rendering us ineffective - and this is how it happens, when we ingest the evil and wickedness taking place in the world around us, through the pages of the news, the scrolling through our feeds. We retreat into the quiet places, desiring to construct a place of comfort, a place of safety.
 
We run and we hide and we believe the lies of the enemy that we are somehow in control of our lives, our safety and our comfort.  We allow fear to control us, to hinder us, and ultimately - to render us ineffective. 
 
Jesus knew.

This morning, through His word, He reminded me that He's not surprised by the world around us.  He's always known.
 
He knows still.
 
In Matthew 24, He is forettling the future - which is likely our present - when he said, "Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved."
 
The love of many will grow cold.  Some translations say the love of most.  And He's talking to us.  The believers.  He's warning us that because of the headlines, our social media feeds, the reality of what's happening in the world around us, it will be too much to bear.  Our souls will become disheartened, our hearts will become discouraged, and if we're not careful, if we're not vigilant - the very light within us will succumb to darkness and without it, we too will grow cold. 
 
But the one who stands firm until the end will be saved.  Until the end.  Because the end is coming you know.  One way or another.  For all of us.  When we remember that, we have no choice but to take hold of the only thing that can bring us comfort - the eternal perspective - that this life is not all that there is and ultimately, this world is not our home. 
 
When every part of our natural being longs to retreat into self-constructed barriers and our false sense of security, Jesus commands that we do the opposite. 
 
We stand firm. 
 
We shine on. 
 
We don't run and hide. We don't retreat.  We don't hole up in our homes and ride out the storms and battles raging outside our doorsteps.  We don't fear the increasing violence and wickedness, the sin and the sickness.  We equip ourselves with the armor He has given us, we pick up our swords and we run out into the world.  Why?  Because God so loved it... "He so loved the world that He gave His only son so that all who believe in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).  
 
He loves them and they don't even know it.  Horrific things happen and society cries out, "Where is God?" and here is our answer: "He's here.  He's alive.  He's inside of us."  We are His hands and His feet and we run to those hurting, we hold those who need comforting, we reveal the truth of His word to a lost and dying world that not all that happens to us is good, but God is good and He is for us. 
 
In these worst of times, we have to remember who we are and what we're here for: "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners..." Isaiah 61:1
 
We have to remember that in this world, we will have trouble... and tragedy, and heartache, and despair - but we are called to take heart and trust in the one who has already overcome the world (John 16:33)
 
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." 2 Tim 1:7
 
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10
 
We arm ourselves with the truth of His word, taking hold of our swords of the Spirit.  We unlock our doors, we go out into the streets, the dark and dangerous and dying world and we shine.

We shine on!
 
Shine On! 
 
Shine on, shine on
And let the others see
You've got your victory
Will you remember me
I was with you in the valley
And up upon that hill
So take just one more step in front of you
For I am with you still
Shine On lyrics - Need to Breathe

Monday, November 17, 2014

on life and love

"Grow old along with me.  The best is yet to be…"
~ Robert Browning 


Is it strange that it was through divorce I learned what love was?  

First through Christ, who relentlessly pursued me amidst the rubble of my sin-wrecked life.  In the dark and quiet recesses of the night, I could sense His presence and His calling, whispering into the dark and quiet recesses of my soul.  This was not the God I thought I knew; the one who I'd feared was so deeply disappointed, if not outright angry, with me; the one who  I was sure had cast me aside as useless, disgraced.  He revealed Himself to me as a loving Father, and it was - true to His word - His kindness and His goodness that literally led me to repentance (Romans 2:4).  The realization of His love, unconditional, overwhelmed my heart.  I learned and relearned what it meant to love - and to be loved.  

Secondly, and perhaps ironically, I learned a deeper love through my ex-spouse.  The one person who had right to treat me with disdain treated me with kindness.  The one person who had the right to speak terrible things to and about me, never spoke a harsh word.  He walked out the years following our divorce with such rock-solid integrity, never acting or reacting foolishly.  Even in the depths of his suffering, he endured with steadfast perseverance.  During those years, he wasn't relying on his on strength, but on Christ - and because of that, his actions spoke much louder than words ever could, revealing not only to me - but anyone who knew us - what it meant to love as Christ loves.  

"Love your wives just as Christ loved the church.  He gave up His life for her." 
~ Ephesians 5:25

He was simply a mirror reflecting the love of Christ.  He was patient and kind, never jealous or rude, never demanding his own way and never once did he hold onto my record of wrongs. 

"Love is patient and kind.  
Love is not jealous or boastful of proud or rude.  
It does not demand it's own way.
It is not irritable and keeps no record of wrong or being wronged."
1 Corinthians 13:4-5

In 2000, that portion of scripture had been read at our wedding ceremony - even though neither of us knew what love was at the time.  Not really.  Not real love.  Not the love of Christ in us and through us.  

Thirteen years later, we stood at the altar together again.  This time, knowing.  This time, with our two children standing next to us. After the ceremony, our youngest began to cry, small crocodile tears at first, then weeping.  We sat with him in the small room outside of the foyer.  

"I'm just so happy," he whispered.  

He had never known joy that brought tears until that moment.  

Real joy. 

Real love.

Because God has revealed His love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, He died for us.  (1 John 4:9)  And while I was still a sinner, He reached for me.  He called me by name.  He lifted me from the miry pit and set my feet upon the rock (Psalm 40) and He etched His word into my heart. 

"You will restore my life again and from the depths of the earth, lift me up." ~ Psalm 71:20 

All of this life is learning and relearning Christ's love for us.  

We are constantly learning and relearning to live and walk in His spirit, so that our lives may reflect the fruit of His spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
  
That we may show the world what love is, with the life He has given us.  


Monday, September 22, 2014

in all seasons

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you...
1 Thessalonians 5:18
 
It's the middle of the day and I'm sitting on my back patio sipping some coffee.  The dog is settled in near my feet, soaking in the sun, there's a gentle breeze is blowing in the trees.  It's the first day of fall and the weather is perfection and all the while, I'm silently pondering,

What is this life?!

Seriously. 

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was a single mama and a college student with barely a moment to breathe between work and school and home? 

There was a long, dark unending season of winter in my life and some days, it really does feel like yesterday. 
 
Somedays, it feels like another life altogether.   
 
And somedays, days like today, it just feels like I have developed some mild form of post-traumatic stress, where there's too much anxiousness to lay down in the sun like this dog and carelessly soak up the sun and feel the breeze on my face... for fear the sky may actually fall at any given moment now.

Hello, Chicken Little. 
 
Somedays I literally do not know how to live this life in this season.
 
Because, if I'm honest, all this peace and stability feels awfully scary to me. 
 
I learned so much during those years, those hard , dark seasons.  Those moments in my life when I was so utterly dependent on grace and mercy to get me through each day, at times, each moment.  Those nights spent praying and waiting for the sun to rise just so the darkness would end. 

I'm learning still - that I'm still just as desperate for His word and for His presence.  And I find myself asking the same questions, praying the same prayers, "Lord, what do I do?" 

And all these years, His answer hasn't changed - because His word has never changed. 

And through His word, He speaks.  Still.  Faithful as ever.  And He says things like:

Walk in the truth of my word.

I will lead you beside still waters. 

Be still and know that I am God. 

Give thanks in all things, and in all seasons.

I read His word and it is a soothing balm for my restless heart.  I can feel it quiet within me.  I can feel the warm sun, the breeze on my face.  I can feel. 
His presence. 

And I know, I live through this season the same way I did the darkest ones.  One day at a time, one moment at a time, knowing never once did I ever walk alone; never once did He leave me on my own. 

Learning how to praise Him on the mountaintop the same way I did in the valleys, fearlessly.

In all seasons.

Knowing that more scars and struggles are inevitable in this life, but learning, always learning and relearning, He is faithful.

God, you are faithful. 


Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far weve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us
 
Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much Youve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us
 
Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say
 
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful,
God, You are faithful

 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

big grace for small troubles


I was doing my routine morning sweep through the house when I came across two sheets of notebook paper on the coffee table this morning.  It was Parker's homework.  The pages he'd worked so diligently on just yesterday afternoon, and yet - somehow had forgotten the final step of placing them into his binder. 

My initial reaction was to glance at the clock.  7:25.  If I left at that moment, I might make it before first bell.  

But, as I've learned - time and time again - my initial reactions are not necessarily always the wisest ones.

I called my husband, voice of reason.  I'm so thankful to have a spouse whose instincts are not guided solely by emotions; who can feel the same pangs of parental empathy, but answer with an action based on wisdom; rather than reaction based on emotion.  

I still have much to learn about the difference between the two.  

{Hashtag life lessons}

When our babies are, well, actual babies - it's our instinct to shelter them from discomfort; self-inflicted and otherwise; to shield them from consequences.  But as they grow - and grow up - we have to learn when to allow them to make mistakes, to feel the weight of their own choices and at times, their own forgetfulness or carelessness.  

I knew this was one of those times.  And as trivial as some left-behind homework may seem, through teary eyes, I ran my fingers along the torn edges and felt a tremor along the edge of my heart.  

Right there, along the fault line, as deep and wide as the San Andreas.   

It's the dichotomy of our hearts: this desire for them to learn, to grow in stature and wisdoms and yet, this innate, opposition to hold them close.  

We never lose that instinct, but we learn along with them, how to quiet it.  How to be still.  

We learn and relearn to rely on our God for comfort.  In these smallest of disappointments.  So that our hearts are prepared for the inevitable bigger ones that we've yet to face.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in ALL our troubles, 
so that we can comfort those in ANY trouble 
with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.    
2 Cor 1:3-4 NIV

I love that this particular translation uses the words "all" and "any".  

love that His word tells us that there is no trouble too small to be unworthy of His comfort and that He cares about the smallest details of our lives.  When we rely on His comfort in all of our troubles, big and small, then we are able to extend that comfort to others - no matter how significant their trouble is.

As mamas, as parents, we ask for His comfort and He gives it graciously so that we may lavish it on our families, and our children, when they need it the most.

I want my kids to know this:  whatever trouble you're in, His grace is bigger.  His comfort doesn't discriminate.  It is there for the taking.

In all things.  In anything.

I stack the two sheets neatly on the table.  

Next to this.




Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Withered blooms & brittle branches



I have these petunias in hanging baskets in the front yard.  I've had them about six weeks and they're not dead yet. 
 
This is somewhat of a miracle, or at least - a measure of progress.  One of the two.   
 
Admittedly, I'm not very good at taking care of things.  I've often joked that everything I touch turns to broken and I'm often reminded of the fact that my being responsible for the lives of two little human beings is the most utterly ridiculous and humbling prospect.  

But thankfully, God who chooses and uses the foolish and the weak and for that, I am grateful. 
 
And so, I am learning.  Always.  How to care for that which He has entrusted me with; how to rely on His wisdom and His strength. 
 
In everything from parenting, to pruning petunias, I am learning. 
 
Every few days, I take the petunias down and sit with them in the front yard.  I delicately pick and prune each branch, removing the withered blooms, the broken and brittle branches. 
 
I've learned that if I let too much time go by, this task can become overwhelming - the stems become tangled and messy, so intertwined with the withered and dying stems...
 
They require this constant, daily pruning process to keep growing, to keep blooming...
 
And the same is true of our hearts.
 
Because if we aren't careful, if we aren't willing to allow ourselves and our hearts to be picked and prodded and pruned,

Those remnants of what was can clutter our hearts and slowly begin to choke out what is - and what is to be.
 
And this pruning - His holy and perfect pruning - comes through abiding. 
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, as I also abide in you.  
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me." ~ Jesus (John 15)
After the pruning the petunias, I water their soil and I mist their blooms.  I hang them back up and in the fullness of the sun and they spring back to life with renewed fervor.  The blooms multiply and become more abundant and beautiful than ever...
 
And the same is true of us. 
 
"I have come that you might have life and have it to the full."  Jesus (John 10:10)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Learning and Relearning His Heart





"It is in my failures that I truly learn the heart of God." ~ Spira Steyn
 
My sweet friend posted these words this morning and they resonated deep within my heart.  "This is why God made us friends," I tell her, "To share in this constant learning and relearning."

As I'm waking up from a period of spiritual slumber, I'm also learning or rather, relearning, how to live life at a slower, less distracted pace.  I'm learning to take in the moments again - and the lessons that come with them.  I'm reminded of what it's like to live a life "led by the Spirit" and in tune with the Spirit, so that I am aware of the promptings, the convinctions, the lessons... 
 
Yesterday, my daughter had a momentary lapse in good judgment.  She made an impulsive decision out of emotion and reacted poorly to a situation online.  My kids are eight and ten now, so lapses in judgment are a daily occurrence - they often act and react on emotional impulse, without thinking through the potential outcome or circumstances... or consequences
 
Some days, I'm not much different - despite the thirty years of life experience I have on them.  
 
So, for my daughter, there were consequences and technology restrictions and a heart-to-heart talk.  I shared with her how important it is that we guard our mouths - and our hearts - and how this is an impossible task in our own flesh, apart from Christ in us.  That our every failure in this realm is to reveal to us how very much we need His grace. 
 
If there's anything I want to teach them, it's to find the lesson in every failure and to learn what I've had to relearn more times that I can count now...  
 
Our flesh is no match for the wickedness of our hearts. 
 
Our hearts, our instincts, our gut reactions - will lead us astray every time.  Time and time again.  Jeremiah said it best when he said, "The heart is deceitful and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).  In a world that will attempt to convince them to follow their hearts, God's word implies that our hearts are bent towards destruction - both our own and those we leave wounded in our paths. 

Our only hope for a cured heart is a surrendered heart.
 
With those big brown tear-filled eyes, she looked up at me and whispered, "I'm scared." 
 
Even though the mistake had been revealed.  Even though the consequences had been discussed. 
 
What was there left to fear but her father's reaction?
 
Oh, isn't that just like us me?
 
"I know how it feels," I tell her. If there's anything I know, it's the familiar ache of failure, of having disappointed yourself - and your Father - and of fearing His reaction or worst, His rejection.  "You and me, kid, we're in this life thing together - you're learning and your mama is relearning. 
 
All of this life is a constant learning and relearning of God's heart for us. 

My heart tightened inside of my chest when I thought of all the times in the midst of my failures I'd ran from the Lord in fear instead of to Him for comfort.  All of the times - all through this life - that I never understood the depth of His love for us - or His heart for me.  His perfect love that casts out all fear (1 JN 4:18).

And I feel it afresh, how this child of mine is being both molded and mended by her relationship with her daddy.  How his love - and his reaction to her failures - will ultimately shape her view of her Heavenly Father. 
 
How holy compassion in the midst of consequences is crucial.  How the truth is crucial: 
Oh daughter, your Father doesn't expect you to be perfect.  He doesn't even desire your perfection, He just wants your heart.  His word tells us that a broken and contrite spirit, He will not despise.  When we make mistakes and poor choices, there are always, always consequences that we must endure - but it's for our good and never our harm.  So that we may grow and learn, we must constantly discover and rediscover how desperate we really are for grace.  Whether we are seven or thirty-seven or seventy-seven, in our flesh, we are broken and bent towards sin, but your Father's love for you is steadfast and faithful and there is nothing on this earth that could ever change that.  No matter what mistakes you have made or bad choices chosen, no matter what you have done or who you have been, your Father loves you will an unconditional love.  It grieves his heart when you sin, but He longs to be gracious towards you, for you are His beloved and you will always be.  When you are the most discouraged, disappointed and disheartened with yourself - that is the time to run to him, never from Him - and He will hold you in His arms and comfort you.  It is there we learn to abide.  It is there, you will find that His forgiveness is intertwined with His love for you and His heart for you - and it knows no limits.  It knows no end.  

I reassure my daughter that this is her Daddy's heart for her. 

And that this is God's heart for us.
 
 
The times that you're healing
And when your heart breaks
The times that you feel like you've fallen from grace

The times you're hurting
The times that you heal
The times you go hungry and are tempted to steal

In times of confusion
In chaos and pain
I'm there in your sorrow under the weight of your shame

I'm there through your heart-ache
I'm there in the storm
My love I will keep you by my power alone

I don't care where you've fallen or where you have been
I'll never forsake you
My love never ends
 
 

 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Clearing sky and a clearing heart


God has made a home in the heavens for the sun...It rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end.
Nothing can hide from its heat.
Psalm 19
 
 
It's been rainy for days now.  
 
Literally and somewhat figuratively.  

I sent a friend of mine a text this morning asking her, "Will we ever see the sun again?"

Sometimes you just need someone to tell you will. 
 
And so, when the last of today's storms passed over, I took a long walk, circling the sidewalks of the neighborhood.  It was still raining lightly and as the sky began to clear, it morphed into this paradox of a clearing storm and setting sun.  
 
Towards the west, the shifting rays through the mist created a rainbow, bright and vivid agains the pale gray sky - but to the East, was the view above: a fleeting glimpse of glorious light in between the darkness of the storm that had just passed and the darkness of the night that was still to come.     
 
And that's really a glimpse of redemption, isn't it?  This scandalous grace that rescues us, painted across the sky. 
 
The skies proclaim the work of His hands both in creation and in us.  He clears the skies - and our hearts - revealing His glory, even if only for a moment. 
 
It's long enough to remind us that the storms, both literal and figurative, do pass and though veiled by darkness momentarily, the sun is still there - shining into our darkness - even when we can't see it or feel it.
 
And so, we can embrace the darkness of night without fear,  knowing we will see the sun again - for by His grace, we can walk in the light of His presence (Psalm 89:15).
 
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
 Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.
Psalm 19
 
 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blurred vision and bruised hearts

"My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness."
So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ can work through me.
2 Corinthians 12:9


So there's this phenomenon in psychology known as "highway hypnosis". Most of us have experienced this: lost in thought along our daily travel, we find ourselves home - completely unaware of how, exactly, we got there. Oh, we know we drove ourselves, but if we try, we can remember very little of the drive itself, as if we'd traveled through a time warp, semiconscious.
Yea, traveling through this life's like that sometimes. . . 
I was talking to an old friend over dinner recently, one who has known me since the hay-days of our very early twenties.   She & I often laugh– and cringe – at old memories that we share, but the conversation always leads to where we are now, deep into our thirties.
 
Redeemed. Restored. Blessed.

Not perfect by any means, which is exactly what makes this gospel of grace so outright scandalous that it encites raucous laughter.  It's ridiculous, really. 

The the truth is, no one could deserve this life, this grace less than us - less than me.
 
We talked about my writing and how much I’ve written and yet, how much I haven’t lately, but how I’m trying –and yet, failing – and grasping for how to begin again, wondering where to start.

"Write right where you are," she said.  Which is what I've always done.  Or did, rather. 
 
Truth is, it was easier to write from deep within despair, I told her. I wrote through the struggle, in the midst of the storms. I wrote through my seasons of doubt, discouragement, chaos and confusion. I wrote through my darkest moments.
 
I wrote out of desperation when it was all I knew to do, when it was all that I could do.  I wrote because there was so much going on inside of me, I had to have a way to transfer some of it out. 
Then my life shifted. God did the unthinkable, this seemingly impossible thing.  He moved the pieces of my shattered life together again in spite of me and my repeated failings and flailing. In spite of all I had done and who I had been and who I still am - He proved Himself faithful over and over and over again. 
And so, I settled and resettled into this new/old life with my family and my home where we all live under this one roof instead of divided between two.  I took it all in and I took a long rest. 
Rest like how I imagine the prodigal son must have rested after returning home, after the celebration had ended.
But in some ways, the rest and the quiet and the peacefulness of it all lulled me into this spiritual comfort and complacency.  I was going through the motions of religious routine while my relationship with the Lord languished.  Amidst the safety and security and peace, a sense of self-sufficiency emerged.  The lack of struggle subtly diminished my dependence on Him, my desperation for His word and His presence. 
"Without the lens of His word, [my] world warps." ~ Ann Voskamp
And I'm reminded of this all over again - this warping, this slow bending  of the corners in our minds.  Our vision becomes blurred, our perspective altered. 
And after all, no one can walk straight with warped vision. 
The path beneath our feet begins to feel unsteady, but we realize we are the ones unsteady - with these unsteady eyes, this unsteady heart, this utter lack of desperation...
"And it’s the lack of a sense of desperation for God that is so deadly. If we don’t feel desperate for God, we don’t tend to cry out to him. Love for this present world sets in subtly, like a spiritual leprosy, damaging spiritual nerve endings so that we don’t feel the erosion and decay happening until it’s too late." - John Piper
And we fall.  Hard.

This blurred vision that leads to skinned knees and bruised hearts - we find ourselves where we began - face down in the dirt.  Desperate. 
Disheveled, disheartened and discouraged by the realization of how far we have not come - and frightened by how fast we can stumble and fall. 
 
And just like that, 
I am desperate all over again.  Desperate for daily dependance and learning over and over and over again that I cannot walk through this life, not through a single day, without His word guiding and guarding my steps - and my heart. 
 
You're Not
When I'm
Weary and exhausted
You're not.
When I'm
Confused and discouraged
You're not.
When I'm
Fickle and unfaithful
You're not.
When I'm
Doubtful and disheartened
You're not.
When I'm
Fearful and anxious
You're not.
When I'm
Short-sighted and fearful
You're not.
When I'm
Tired and about to quit
You're not.
When I'm
Lacking in hope and love
You're not.
When I'm
Shocked and surprised
You're not.
When I'm
Angrily withholding grace
You're not.
When I'm
Unfaithful to what I've promised
You're not.
When I'm
Selfish and disloyal
You're not.
Oh, Lord of
Faithfulness and grace
I am so thankful
That
In those moments
When I'm
Losing my way
You're not.


~ Paul David Tripp

Monday, June 2, 2014

sweet summertime and moments not missed


late morning time snuggles 6.2.14

"A whole life can be lost 
in minutes wasted, 
small moments missed."
@AnnVoskamp


There's a lot being said in the media regarding our generation's obsession with documenting life moments, and to be honest - I don't pay much attention to any of it.  

The truth is: photographers at heart have been doing this for decades.  We live to capture the moment, to find beauty and meaning in the ordinary and for some of us, it happens when we view life through our lenses.  It falls on us afresh when we look back at the image we've captured.  

There is something magical and mysterious about capturing a moment and holding it close, as if to warp and bend time into a pause. 

In this fast and fleeting life, I'm learning to slow down.  It's happening in bits and pieces, layers along the way. 

Leaving my job behind is proving to be somewhat of a paradox when it comes to time.  I know it will all shift and settle as more time goes by, but I can't help but think of the moments missed over the years and at the same time, revel in these new moments created; these moments that would've been missed that are now the moments I'm living in… 

The moments not missed. 


The moments I treasure far more now than I might have ever otherwise.  You know, had the course of my life ran more smoothly, these are the moments I might have taken for granted.  This life is one I might have taken for granted.  

And I'm learning that it's true what they say: that those hard times make the good times sweeter.  Those fiery flames of adversity, they really are a refining fire.  

Truly, there is such a thing as beauty from ashes.  

I've lived it and I'm living it still and I'm reminded of it daily.  I learned so much the hard way and these days, I'm constantly learning that I still have so much to learn… 

It's late-morning as I'm writing this.  That moment of late morning snuggles has passed.  That kid is playing quietly in the living room and truth be told, I haven't even seen the other one yet.  She's still sound asleep in her room. The only sounds are the faint hum of a lawn mower in the distance and the incessant ticking, not of a clock, but of these Dollar Tree hula girls the kids placed on the window sill; shaking in perfect unison.   


I take them all in.  These sights and sounds.  

And I'm thankful for these quiet moments at home.  

I'm learning to be thankful for even the missed moments, the broken places along the path that led to home; this place where my heart has always been - always longed to be. 

I'm thankful for this sweet summertime;   

and these moments not missed.  

"Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." - 1 Thess 5:16-18

Friday, May 23, 2014

That one time I used to write…


a pause in this morning's run 
to catch a glimpse of morning sun 
5.23.14

Remember that time I quit my job so I could write more?  Yea, that just happened.  Well, sort of.  I didn't really quit so that I could write more, I'm just hopeful that writing will be a natural extension of the time spent not at work.  Although life has seemingly, drastically decreased in speed since I began the process of "New Year eliminations", I'm hopeful that this new season will lend itself to longer pauses of living this life in the moment.  Of pausing, right in the middle of the race, to take in the glimpses all around us.  

And I'm hopefully that I'll write more.  Or at all.  

Again.  

I've been thinking about writing lately.  It usually happens during my morning runs.  It's the best time to think the thoughts and yet, seemingly the most inopportune time to actually collect and remember them.  

The come and go, fast and fleeting.  By the end of the run, the thoughts have deteriorated to thoughts of survival and things like the smell of the air conditioning in my car and the taste of orange-flavored Powerade Zero rehydrating my parched throat.   You know, the kind of things not entirely worth blogging about.

After such a long break from writing regularly, I keep thinking that I won't know where to begin, how to bridge the gap.  Sometimes, I think I'll wait until I have something really profound or beautiful to write about, but this morning the thought occurred to me that may never happen - or at least, may not happen soon, that maybe I need to stop waiting for it to happen and just do the thing I've always loved to do and just write about life, without cause or reason, just the way it is today.  

I wrote weekly over at Middle Places for a year - I thought this would help keep me in the habit of writing, but in ways, I think it burned me out.  I love those women and the community they have built and continue to build, but the knowing that I had to write seemed to drain some of the longing in me to write.  

The thing I loved became the thing I sort of dreaded.  Instead of finding my voice, it felt as though it was becoming more and more contrived and more trivial and so, I had to stop and give it a rest.  

I began this year with the intent to eliminate distractions in my life; to eliminate the trivial pursuits so that I could set my heart and my mind on the things that matter most.  
"This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: "Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength." Isaiah 30:15
And so, I've rested in the quietness during this season.  I've rested in His work of restoration in my family and spent moments in silent awe of what He has done.  

It's all a work in progress.  And it always will be.  But I'm so ready for this next season. 

And I'm ready to write again.  


 "I have decided that I will not let anything
that will ultimately mean nothing
keep me from that which will eventually mean everything."
~ Pastor Chris Hodges

Monday, January 13, 2014

Glimpses

a glimpse
 
Saturday morning had a dreary beginning.  After a week of arctic cold, moderate weather returned with rain, stringing together days of endless hues of gray.  You know, it's the kind of drizzly, dreadful monotony that seasonal depression is made of.  
 
Driving home from the gym that morning, I caught a glimpse of the parting sky - the first glimpse of radiant blue I'd seen in so long.  Within hours, all the clouds had dissipated and the sun was shining brightly.  The temperature rose up into the sixties and we headed to the park... along with throngs of others. 
 
It was a beautiful glimpse of the Spring that is to come right here in the middle of winter.
 
Today, the sky is gray again.  The rain is returning.  The temperatures are falling. 
 
We endure the gloom for the hope of the glory; the winter for the hope of the Spring. 
 
And in every season of our lives, no matter how dark or how desperate, He gives us glimpses of new seasons yet to come.  

If only we'll look for them. 

If only we will have the eyes to see.   
 
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year's Eliminations

 Cape Cod, MA
 
 "I have decided that I will not let anything
that will ultimately mean nothing
keep me from that which will eventually mean everything."
~ Pastor Chris Hodges

A New Year's post is always requisite, although I've never been one to post a list full of resolutions.  Intentions, sometimes.  Because, let's face it, the whole "resolve" thing always ends up a wash by mid-year. 
 
The truth is, I don't need more to-do's.  I need less. 
 
Much less.
 
So much less that my word and my theme for the New Year has become simply "simplify".
 
Last year was a whirlwind year for me. The beginning of this year has created time for me to catch my breath and really breathe in this new life He has given me.   

In that same vein, I love that our church begins each year with 21 days of prayer and fasting.  It is such a contrast to the craziness that often envelops our year ends.  It's become a time to be still and know (Psalm 46:10).
 
It's a time to retreat and I love it.

And so, rather than compile a list of resolutions to be tackled, I compiled a list of distractions to be eliminated.
 
I've reduced my hours in the office to part-time so that I can have precious time with my children in the afternoons. I've reduced my extra writing to occasional freelance only. I've slowly, methodically eliminated some of the excess things in my life, yes - even some of the good things, so that I can prioritize my life, my time, and my heart on the very best things.   
 
Social media was at the very top of the list to take a break or "fast" from for the 21 days: the mindless, incessant scrolling; this innate yet irritating need to document my every thought. 
 
The very first day, I found myself reaching for my phone more times than I can count, only to remember, I deleted the social media apps. 
 
There was nothing to look at.
 
Don't get me wrong - I know and have experienced so much of the good that can come of it, but I also know and have experienced the vacuum that sucks  hours and hours of your my life away. 
 
For. nothing. 
 
Elimination of distraction forces attention elsewhere - towards the things that really matter - towards the things that are real and tangible in the very moment. 
 
Towards the things that I referenced in my last post, the very things Jesus said were the most important:  loving God and loving people. 
 
Deciding to forgo distractions frees you for the pursuit of His presence. 
 
It's what I used to do here - on the pages of this blog.  I'd sit for long periods of time in silent prayer, reading His words, listening to His voice and then I'd take the time, undistracted, to peck out my own words - straight from my heart to the keyboard to the screen. 
 
I used to write.  A lot. 
 
And then I got distracted.  A lot. 
 
And so, I wrote only in fragments.  140 character or less in a tweet.  A status on Facebook.  Thoughts posted on a scrolling feed and lost forever.  A blog here and there, but for the most part - when I'd sit to write - to do the very thing I love - the one thing I feel as though I was made to do - I felt empty.  As though I'd given all my words away and lost any original thoughts of my own.  
 
At best, I was losing the ability to hear my own voice in the midst of so many others. At worst, I was losing my ability to hear His voice because of the distractions.
 
You know, it's the choosing - the deciding - to be the Mary in a Martha world - (one of my favorite books, by the way). 
 
It's the daily asking Him to give me a Mary heart - one that it is still and quiet.

We know the story - Martha had opened her home for Jesus and like so many of us, she'd likely wanted everything to be perfect.  Busying herself in the kitchen while Mary simply sat at His feet, soaking in His presence. 
 
Bring that story into our 2014 and I see myself in Martha so clearly.  Longing for His presence, inviting Him in, but I'm just so buys... maybe not so busy in the kitchen as a I am trying to take a perfect shot with my iPhone, to capture the moment just right - choosing the right filter and sharing to Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and Flicker... 
 
and all the while, the Lord is saying, "Just put the phone down for a minute.  Come and sit at my feet." 
 
"But the Lord said to her, My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Eliminate some of the things to focus on the one thing.
His presence. 

Who is like You Lord in all the earth?
Matchless love and beauty, endless worth
Nothing in this world can satisfy
'Cause Jesus You're the cup that won't run dry

Your presence is heaven to me

Treasure of my heart and of my soul
In my weakness you are merciful
Redeemer of my past and present wrongs
Holder of my future days to come

Your presence is heaven to me

All my days on earth I will await
The moment that I see You face to face
Nothing in this world can satisfy

'Cause Jesus You're the cup that won't run dry
You never run dry

Your presence is heaven to me
~ Israel Houghton Lyrics