Embracing Change……..

People asked me all the time, “Are you still writing?” and I looked at them with the answer, “Yes, but most of it’s tucked away because at least for now, it’s rather private.” 

Rather private” was the way I felt more and more. It was unusual for me to crave a small group of people on a Sunday morning over the usual large crowd, but some weeks found me in a small home church soaking up the solitude rather than my own church where I could worship extravagantly with a few hundred people.

I needed the quiet. My head knew it was okay, but my heart had a hard time catching up, because I knew I was called to something.

That call to something had led me to publish a few books and begin public speaking engagements. I thrived in it and my soul came alive because I was living out my calling. Then, a major crisis hit my life and I needed every moment to gather strength and wisdom just to get through.

That place was just as okay with God as the active places had been. Truth is, I was still active—but in other ways. Every day was spent earning money and taking care of my children. Days off were spent resting or rejuvenating.

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I learned to re-live what I had done for many years—be faithful in the moment, with no agenda other than loving God and others.

Because my children were home that day, I didn’t even go to our annual writer’s conference. Last year, I taught a workshop in it. This year, I resigned from the leadership team of it.

I had no extra energy to give, and they understood. But, was I okay with the quiet season?

I had always worked hard. Pushing myself was a life-style, a habit. I wanted to feel good about what the day accomplished. Then I had to learn to be okay in the stillness, because God was there, too, and He didn’t call me to make noise when He knew I needed the quiet.

Oh friends. We can gather satisfaction by living out our calling, but refuse to gain rest when God is calling us to stillness.

Every few weeks, I hiked mountains in silence, pondering life. Friends joined me who were okay with my season, and often, people messaged to share their own stories with me. The calling I had always known I had, continued.

Was I as okay walking women through their tragedies from a place of tears as I was from a place of accomplishment? Truth is, people need love more than they need to see accomplishment—and they just may feel safer walking a valley with you than feeling pulled to a mountain top by you.

I’m here to embrace each of my seasons and I’m sharing them with you so courage rises in your heart to do the same. I look back on my short life and realize this one thing—all good things rise out of faithfulness in small, every day matters.

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My books came out of embracing the urge to write. I was a mother of four small children, had no office, and no private space. Just a laptop (from a yard sale) and a heart saying yes to Jesus Christ. Just a few hands picking up my phone to jot notes down quickly when I couldn’t write immediately and there were words tumbling around my brain as I did the mom life.

The inspiration hit because I said yes to Jesus and listened in when He spoke. There was nothing big about it. Just many small acts of faithfulness for many years, then a “yes” when God let me know I’d turn it into a book.  

There was no striving to get somewhere or do something or be someone. Just a lifestyle of loving God and doing what He created me to be good at.

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The new season is another one of saying yes to God. Yes, I’m still writing because that’s what writers do. No, it’s not as glamorous and there’s a whole lot of pain in a story like mine. 

But in this quiet season, there is still that deep knowing that I’m loved by God, and I’m one of His favorites—as are each one of you, because God can divide His love, yet give each one of us ALL HIS LOVE.

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                                          Seasons change, but His love never will.

Embrace the quiet or the accomplishment because none of it matters as long as you’re embraced by CHRIST. 

Minimize Stuff, Maximize Christ

I shoved two more bags of “stuff” into the car with great satisfaction. There’s nothing as good as clearing the house of excess.

Minimalism is on an all time high. You get the look—crisp white walls with minimal décor and a few succulents gracing a shelf or two. Very different than the oldies look of stuff, stuff, and more stuff.

Just recently I turned old brown paneling into a crisp white wall—well, actually, a painter did–a  super kind one who didn’t charge me a penny for his labor. I sold old furniture and purchased new décor. The results were remarkable.

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I love minimizing.

Having less is great until we carry that over into kingdom living. In God’s kingdom, there is lavish excess and he wants us to tap into it, daily. But, it’s so easy to be frugal with our dedication to God.

Loving Jesus means abundance and passion, excess comfort in all circumstances, and care for every detail of our lives. And such a good God deserves maximum focus.

Americans often give Jesus just enough attention to “get into heaven”. But loving Jesus isn’t about getting to a place; it’s about knowing a person.

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When all you want to do is get to heaven, you’ll treat Jesus Christ like one of those lovely succulents on the shelf of your home, there to grace your atmosphere with His presence and make your life beautiful. But you won’t breathe deeply of the very essence of Christ as you go about your day and your heart won’t really vibe with the good news of being born again.

Words like “born again” will sound like foreign language. Who says that, nowadays?

You’ll feel like Nicodemus when he asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time in his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4, ESV)

Or, you’ll feel like I did today as I sat a little wearily in a large crowd, but warmth and excitement overtook my heart as the pastor spoke about really knowing Jesus.

Knowing Jesus is different than knowing how to be good. I know what it’s like to be a good girl, but have no peace. That’s because Jesus isn’t interested in my goodness; He’s interested in me seeing that I need His redemption.

I remember the day I realized that no one can be good enough for God, and I had this vile sin nature within me that even my outwardly good life couldn’t answer for. I went to Jesus Christ for his free gift of mercy, and found that the best day of my life came at the end of my own resources. I found mercy only when I realized I desperately needed mercy. 

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But I didn’t stop trying to be good enough for God. I had always, always, always tried to gain the approval of people by being good. And, I figured God would kick me to hell if I wasn’t good all the time. My efforts exhausted my heart, and  still I had little peace.

Then, Jesus showed me who he was. A beautiful, wonderful Savior who was more like a Father. An intimate Friend who was closer than a brother. A Lover who would love me unconditionally. Someone Who was always present, always available. Someone who wouldn’t rebuke me or point out my flaws unless it was met with equal mercy and forgiveness.

I fell in love with THAT PERSON, and there was nothing minimal about it.

I began to pray that God would maximize my love toward Him and all those He loves.

I want to be His hands, His feet, His heart in a world of brokenness and pain (of which I know much). 

I learned to have fun and live fully. I learned to laugh even when I was crying—because the joy of the Lord was my strength, and He gave me richly all things to enjoy. I learned that the key to living a sanctified life was being deeply in love with a sanctified Savior. 

You can’t be connect to Someone without becoming like that Someone.

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This is why, when others talk of church buildings, religion, and denominations, my mind draws a blank and my heart doesn’t resonate. Religion is nothing to me, but Jesus is everything. And sometimes, like He did, I find more love and grace with non-religious people than I do with those who line the pews of a stained glass church.

When they tell me, “I don’t know if I’m a Christian, but I do believe in God”, my heart (and sometimes my mouth) says, “Please make sure you know the person of Jesus Christ.” 

We can be minimalists with every THING, but not with every ONE. Jesus Christ is more than a sweet idea gracing our lives and making sure we get to a certain place; He’s a Person who wants to fill our lives and gift us with supernatural GRACE.

Peers, Praise, and People Pleasing…….

We’ve all heard it, “But Mom, every one else has them.”

How do you explain to your child that you really don’t care if everyone else gets the most expensive brand of clothing, and you won’t be buying those for her?

Public school can be cruel for girls wanting and needing affirmation. Not all of them can have perfect blonde hair, be a cheerleader, and wear Victoria’s Secret. And how to explain to my daughters that it’s perfectly okay, and they should reach out to lonely people on the fringes more than prance the halls with the hottest girls.

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As a thirty nine year old mother, I’ve been around the block a few times and I flat out don’t care about that shallow stuff. Sure, I love looking nice and having friends—but I don’t need name brand clothing and the most popular people to want to hang out with me.

The snap chats with shallow selfies weary me but they can grab our teen aged daughters with power that astonishes me. I’m not sure how under heaven vanity and shallow talk makes its rounds through thousands of followers, but it does, and can eat up hours of time.

Give me an authentic, real person any day. He or she can be eighty years old or ten years old, it doesn’t matter. Just let me see the real deal.

Perhaps that’s why I love tractors, barns, and mountains. Dirt and hay are the real deal. But, I also love Ulta, Bare Minerals, and LemonGrass Spa. Life can be a combination, like today when I ran around painting bathroom counter tops and smudged up walls before showering and having Starbucks with my sister.

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It’s not that we have to choose one type of person over the other; its that we get to choose all people in the name of love and humility.

It shouldn’t matter whether a person is popular or not, outwardly beautiful or not, what he or she does for work, or how many friends they have. Because get this—none of that matters to Jesus and He absolutely loves every single person on the planet long before they made any cultural advances or work status.

My sister who travels the world working in refugee camps, rescuing trafficked women, writing, and speaking is weary of the status platform people place her on. I see her face as she tells me of the friend who says, “I’m behind you now, and I won’t catch up.”

But what is there for her friend to “catch up” on? Absolutely nothing!

Jesus doesn’t operate with that mentality. He cares about whether or not we love Him.

You can’t catch up on how much you love Jesus because I don’t think that’s even a thing. Nothing else matters to God and it shouldn’t matter to you either. Because if you really love Jesus, you will put him first, obey him, surrender to him, trust him. He will cover you before and behind, lead you to all things good, and surround you with peace and purpose.

What more could a human want?

Get this, girls—we don’t need to be popular as much as we need to be prayerful.

We don’t need affirmation as much as we need to affirm our identity in Christ.

We don’t need human followers as much as we need to follow an eternal God.

It’s not fair to put anyone on a pedastool,” my sister says quietly. “It alienates people from each other.”

I nod my head. She’s right. It’s unfair to others, to ourselves, and it robs Jesus of his rightful place. Wasn’t it Him who said, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44, ESV)

Settle your heart, teen-aged girl who is tempted to lower her standard of worth to a pair of jeans or even worse, a pair of underwear. If others judge you for having or not having the best name brand piece, you may as well move on to deeper, more fulfilling friendships. Jesus wants your praise to come from Him, and he cares a whole lot more about whether or not you reach out to those he loves than whether or not you’re approved by a shallow group of girls who prance the halls together “looking great” in a certain peer group. 

And us adult ladies, let’s settle our hearts and quit putting so much stock in people. You’ll be disappointed and perhaps your faith will be shattered if the ones you praise, fall. No one is God and even the best of humans can fall.

Jesus cares more about whether or not they get back up again.

He cares about who they are focused on, what is most important to them.

Our culture is so opposed to God’s values that we really can’t focus on both. How can you truly love the poor while trying to measure up with the latest expensive item eyed by others who wish to “fit in”? 

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In the same way you can’t place your trust in people and in God. A person may fall but God will always stand. 

Let your child say, “But mom, every one else has them!” and simply remind her that value doesn’t come from a brand of clothing. Then show her true value by writing that check to your friends in Uganda while you purchase less expensive clothing for her.

Jesus always loves people. And the only thing He wants is for people to love Him back by loving others. Bless others more than impress others! 

Reality Versus Illusion

As I was driving along, staring at the mountains, I pondered this lovely daughter of mine in the passenger seat.

She hadn’t wanted to go to counseling, but I knew she needed to go. My brain was so full trying to figure out finances and kids, plus deal with my own pain, that I almost did the easy thing to let her avoid this, hiding her struggles in silent brooding.

It was easy to get sidetracked and start living and breathing as if the natural life was all that existed. Survival mode can do that to a soul. Eat what goes down, read what pops on a screen, and work the motions of life while struggling to inhale the air necessary to survive.

I glanced over at the truck next to me, then looked up at the mountains ahead as I wondered why it’s so easy to get swallowed up by the world. The reality is we are spiritual people in a human body but tend to live as though we are humans with splashes of spiritual experiences.

Our spirits live forever, momentarily in a human body that will soon fade away, and, in fact, get older each day as our minds often struggle to embrace the inevitable fading.

Sisters, we won’t be here forever. Forgetting God while remembering the universe and its inhabitants is the greatest illusion we could encounter. Yet, we are so human that we want what we can see, feel, taste, and touch only with our mortal eyes.

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Our mortal eyes were created by an Immortal, All-Seeing Eye which looks over the face of the whole earth to see whose heart is perfect toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

In the God realm, our empty, survival-mode lives are meant to be filled. But it takes faith. Real faith, which is described as the “evidence of things not seen.”

Get that—there is evidence, but it is unseen. There is life which is not understood by mere human experience. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

There is life beyond this life, and we forget God when we allow ourselves to be swallowed up with circumstances.

When we live as though people can ruin us, we forget that there’s a God greater than people–and He’s always victorious. His word is final and it is always good toward us.

Evil will not triumph over good. The very same God who will judge all evil in the end also has the final say for our souls right now. In his light, pain must be healed, broken must be made whole, and our souls must find peace. He can do nothing other than GOOD!

Right now, no matter what, we can live in a better reality when our souls are connected to the Ultimate Reality–Jesus Christ.

Toss aside the illusion that people, places, and things have the final say over our lives. Live in truth, and we will be free. A created being always finds its greatest meaning in its Creator!

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My daughter fell asleep on the way to her counseling appointment. She didn’t want to go, but she left that room worlds better than when she had entered. We didn’t talk about it as she wanted her privacy, but we bought donuts and realized again that there are better things for us to live for, focus on, and give our lives to.

Sisters, He is a healing God, your Savior, alive and well, never dead, and never silent. He, more than your circumstance, is your Reality!