He Goes Before

“The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.” [Exodus 13:21]

I ran upstairs with a lump in my throat. Saying goodbye was never easy, but this time, the old farmhouse was even more empty than before.

Sibling number six had just gotten married, and her room was empty, still, lacking those two vibrant sisters of mine who always brightened my visits home. Living forty hours away from family made me wish everything stayed the same when I did get to come home.
But everything changes. Dad’s beard was more grey, mom’s hair a bit more white. And, they were talking of selling the home place.
Gone would be the old wooden gate my brother built for Mom before he passed away. I thought giving him up was change enough, but life keeps moving at such a pace I wonder how the heart can keep up.
Sooner or later, even Dad and Mom won’t be hearty, busy, healthy. And, sooner or later, they will be gone. That’s a change I dread more than most.
We’ve all gone from one large, happy nest to being scattered over the four corners of the earth, as we like to say. One sister leaves for Africa soon, the home she loves more than here. Another sister mothers six girls in Canada while another is about to give birth to her first born in South Dakota.
Two kids out of ten remain at home, and the place may soon be sold to another family of ten, just like we used to be. Life is a swirl, a flurry, and even my own darling kids are growing at an alarming rate.
I can’t hit “pause”. On anything. Not even my own wrinkles, age, or youth. The next birthday will come when it comes, just like the ones before, and the daughter will ask for shoes a few sizes larger than my own while she stands tall at my side.
This is freaky, scary business. Sometimes I want to bury my head under blankets while life speeds by. I mean, really, who ever thought I’d be thirty six years old with a twelve year old nearly as tall as her mama– and nowhere close to being done growing.
They eat, and they grow. That grocery cart in Costco holds enough to feed an army and I grow silent when I see the bill. With four in tow and an over loaded cart, I get plenty of stares.
I’m proud of walking town with a ring on my finger and four lovely kids around me. Life is good, and I’m blessed. But I still can’t hit pause. Soon, they will be teens, then be gone, and it will be my husband and I sitting in those chairs with greying hair and bones just a bit more brittle than before.
So why this dread of change?  Isn’t change what makes the world go round? Literally, the world as we know it would cease to exist if we all stayed young and the kids never left home.
Because if no one grew up and left the nest, no babies would be born. If no one grew old, the young would be left to navigate life alone.
If there was no death of the seed planted in the ground, there could be no birth of new plants springing up.
If leaves didn’t grow brown and fall to the earth, new leaves wouldn’t form in spring.
Life comes in stages, in phases, full of change, with nothing permanent. Even trials don’t last forever, though we think they will. And each season is just that– a season that will soon be over.
The mother drowning in school books will soon be left with a quiet house. And the mother with the quiet house need not fear that this phase of her life will prove less fruitful.
Fruitfulness is a choice, not the happen-stance of a certain phase of life. Fruitfulness comes when the heart is fixated on the Creator and just flat out making the most of each phase as it comes.
Let the kids be young, then let them grow. Let them surround you constantly, then let them leave more than you wish they would. Let yourself be “mama”, then “Mom” by some growing son who wishes to appear manly.
There is nothing to fear. Not even old age, empty house, or growing kids approaching teen years. “Perfect love casts out fear” [1John 4:18], and He’s come to bring abundant life that doesn’t end when one season flows into the next before you catch your breath.
You are born with purpose, created by a magnificent God, and you have no more say over your life than you did over your birth. He has a plan, a story to write, and He wants us to walk each one without turning away in mental avoidance. Each phase of life has His stamp of approval, His touch, His grace, His answers, and His deliverance.
We have only to hold His hand, and all of it becomes a story of grace, one more stroke of His brush over the canvas of our lives. He brushes beauty, He breathes grace when we fully live in each present He brings. Life no longer becomes an inevitable rush grasping us without mercy; it becomes a flow of grace, a story unfolded, a rest learned that will lead us straight to the end with both purpose and peace.
We have only to hold His hand, and follow. Only to find Him, walk with Him, delight in what He gives and thank Him from the depths of our hearts for it. We have only to worship, to be thankful, to rejoice in the place we have in His story.
Because it remains that, at the end of it all, it really is His story, not ours. And because He’s good, He wants to bless us at every turn of the road, not just some. We have only to find those blessings and really live them up.
Let the years unfold with all the changes they bring, because when the heart is set on Christ, more years mean more wisdom, and changes call for added dimensions of grace. The soul becomes rich, supple, amply supplied by tasting of it all. We need fear no passing years, need dread no change, because embracing it all means being embraced by Christ.
Let such a Love lead us straight on with uplifted eyes, right into change without a hint of fear because this life is meant to be power-filled by a powerful God, to be love-drenched by the Founder of Love, to be safely lived in Arms that know how to carry us right around the next turn of the road to our final destination.

Broken is Better than Brittle

In my mind’s eye, I see the earth baked hard and brown for the vast expanse of it. If rain were to fall, it would cause rivulets of water to stream unchecked right over the brittle surface, falling down and away in a crystal stream over the edge.
Brittle can’t absorb water like broken can. Break that earth, and it will absorb the water, softening its depths into soil made rich for seeds to grow.
Life broke me for awhile. I rather know what it’s like to want to bash my head into the wall to relieve the pain and pressure. I kinda know that feeling of wondering what it would be like if that semi headed my way on the highway just crashed into my car. Of asking God, “Why is she dying of cancer, and not me?”

 

 

 

 

 

I know how to conjure every possible way to avoid and eliminate the things causing pain. I know how to spend endless hours of tension trying to tell my heart everything’s OK—when I’m not OK.
Sometimes life brings the unexpected. The phone call comes, and your brother’s disappeared into eighty feet of foreign water. You think he’ll surely come walking along the bank, but he doesn’t, and after three days they pull his limp body out.
You bury him on the mountain side, and stare at his coffin. It refuses to open, forever. His phone rings and your mother needs to answer it and tell one more person that her son is gone—and he’s not coming back. The mountain side is wet, dark, and smelly, a blur of people until you climb into that long bus, head to a house you don’t know, hit the pillow, and ask for sleep.
Broken is what we were. Here, there was no place for avoidance, no way to pressure the heart into being OK. We accepted it.
Flying through the clouds toward US soil, I realized that my heart felt as soft as they appeared. No need to bash my head against the wall or spend nights trying to find a mental way out. I was no longer afraid of being broken. I just was.
Here, I learned that broken is OK. Broken is better than brittle. Broken means love gets to pour in and grace holds my hand. Broken means truth over takes denial, and truth always, always sets us free—even if the truth is that we’re so broken we don’t know a way out, or around, or over.
The broken end is the first and only way to a whole new beginning. This is why, my friends, we need never, ever be afraid of broken things. Saving grace delivers us not only from sin, but from those places we avoid, skirt around, or deny.

Saving grace helps us acknowledge the pain, then release the pain.

Your worst nightmare, though you don’t know how to walk through it, may well become your greatest avenue to wholeness. Embrace your broken places—Jesus will meet you there with the truth about your pain, and then, with the truth of your deliverance.

Ten Dollars Worth of Furniture!

I love creating beautiful out of ugly! And I think Chalk paint to be about the best invention ever.
 
 This summer, after purchasing our first home, I found an old, free hutch placed beside the road. I nearly left it there–and now, I’m so glad I didn’t! I want to show this process to anyone else who loves furniture, but never buys new because of the pocketbook.  

We wiped this piece down to rid it of excess dirt, removed drawer handles and door knobs, then gave it the first coat of inexpensive,Walmart-brand chalk paint {no need to pay for Annie Sloan’s}. It dries quickly, so by the time the first coat is complete, you can turn around and start the second. 

When the second coat is dry, take a piece of sandpaper and distress the edges and surface–as much or as little as you wish. Wipe off excess dust with a dry rag, then coat your entire piece with Polycrylic Protective Finish. If you prefer a duller look, choose the chalk paint wax instead, but I find it much less protective. 

 

Lay all your hardware on a piece of cardboard and cover them with metallic spray paint. They will look like new–and one can of that stuff will last forever. I used to purchase new nobs and handles–no longer!  
When all is said and done, you’ll have a beautiful, vintage piece of furniture to grace your room–and all for nearly nothing! Turn around and sell it if you wish, but I’m hanging on to mine:) 
 
Next, I found a coffee table for $10 at a yard sale. I did the same procedure on that one, then went to more yard sales to find decor. It’s so much fun to watch our home take shape while staying within our budget! 

For those of us who dislike our current furniture but don’t want to purchase new, it’s relatively easy to give that old headboard, dresser, or end table a make-over. You’ll be glad you did! 

~How Women Can Quit the Comparison Game~

          I smiled as I walked into my kitchen and watched her wipe my counter tops to a sheen.
Every dish was thoroughly rinsed and nearly clean before she even placed it into the dishwasher. And this morning she was at it before her coffee or shower was over. My kitchen had never seen a guest like it before.

She taught me how to perfect my coffee, how to create nutritious drinks as delicious as Starbucks. Plates were filled artistically, colorfully, and carefully. And my family soon grew to love her cooking while I urged her to create her own cookbook.

When I wake, on the other hand, the kitchen is the last place I want to be. I’m thinking of that painting project or yard clean-up, the writing inspiration, or getting laundry started. I’ll leave dishes for the kids to do, and quickly stir up a pot of oats for breakfast just because our bodies force us to think about food.

Many days I’m gulping bites down quickly while I’m running about the kitchen. Preparing meals must be done, but truth be told, it’s not what I’d love to focus on.

We laugh about it together. We’d make great room-mates because we balance each other out perfectly. I’d keep the house and yard spotless and she’d keep everyone in food and the kitchen in clean counter tops.

I was tempted to compare myself with her, especially when the kids raved over her meals while I let the fridge run emptier, cooking simple meals speedily so I’d have time to settle into our new home. But the beauty of it all was, we balanced each other, and when I really thought about it, I was content to be me.

Sara, who loves outdoor chores and summer nights carrying pallets over her head to a less conspicuous place.

Sara, who cooks large pots of food in a matter of minutes, then runs away and out to do other things.

Sara, who wakes in the morning excited to run outside before the world stirs.

I’m just me, plain and simple. And every day there are opportunities for comparison or contentment.

This morning I caught myself again. I was sitting in the back of the church, observing other girls’ hair and clothing. How can some people be that beautiful? Effortless class and radiant beauty always strikes me.

God nudged me as quickly as comparison thoughts judged me.

“Sara, jealousy is no longer a part of who you are. You are loved, safe, and held. You are OK.”

Breathe. It’s OK to breathe your own air.

Just yesterday I was crying in my husband’s arms because someone had criticized me, for what seemed like the hundredth time. This person seemed to love “fixing” me, no matter what I did or said, and the last words got to me as I doubled over in that inward fetal position of self-protection.

Somewhere along the way, I had gotten hurt and had spent many years feeling less than good enough. I found myself nervous, weighing words before I spoke them, cringing in wait for the next someone to notice where I went wrong. It was emotionally debilitating.

God began to show me that He had a word to speak over me. That before my visible questions of identity formed, He had His own unwavering statements while He formed me invisibly in my mother’s womb.

That, rather than find myself, I needed to find what God said about Himself and His thoughts and His creation—because I was part of what He made.

That my own hurts were not an excuse for insecurity or comparison, and that I was responsible for whether or not I continued to listen in on self hatred.

I was responsible. I had to choose. I had to take hold of life before death grabbed me once again.

I turned around at church today, and introduced myself to the prettiest girl there, with the loveliest family. Good grief, how can every single member of her family be that gorgeous, almost as if she stirred a beauty-gene potion into her soup pot each night?

I relax, and I smile. I reach into lives and hearts, then I do it again, and again, and again. It doesn’t matter anymore who is outwardly perfect or who is less beautiful. I look into souls as I want them to look into mine.

Here, I find complete peace, and here, I am content.

Here, I get to zone in on what God’s placed in my heart to do. I get to enjoy it, thrill over it, and cultivate it. Because God creates us purposefully to do the things He wants accomplished on this earth, and all we need to do is what we do best.

There’s a multitude of angels praising the One Savior.

There’s a heavenly host with no thought but to worship the Creator of the Universe.

But long ago, there was one who coveted the place of God and desired to be like God. Cast down from the heavenlies, he now waits about God’s creation, trying to convince them that they, too, should have more glory, more power, more attention.

Life is not so much about seeking to be noticed as it is about noticing and seeking God. When we seek the face of God, we are rewarded with the things of God, the heart of the Father, the passion He breathes into us that keeps us from apathy and dull living.

All the things of God come from gazing into the face of God, and you don’t need to wow people with anything; you just need to live Christ in everything.

When you give up your natural desires for status, God gives you a place of grace not to be compared or replaced by anything better. Whatever things you consider gain to yourself, you must cast them down as nothing so that Christ be replaced by nothing.

As Michael Tait says, “We are not called because we’re talented; we are talented because we are called.” -Newsboys 

See this, you are not loved or wanted because you’re good at something; you are loved and wanted because God is good at everything. He has business to accomplish, and He equips His people to accomplish it.

Reach out your hand, and share your heart. Be glad in the face of all beauty, for God loves His creation. Relax, and smile—others will be drawn to those like you, for they see in you what they know is true.

My friend and I love each other so dearly there is no room for jealousy. She’s happy that I know how to decorate well and I’m happy she loves to cook. If she ever creates her own cook book, I will be her greatest cheerleader.

    I want to be everyone’s cheerleader. All good comes from God, and calls for cheering on. Let the fallen angels remain in their state—as for me, I shall join the ranks around the throne who want nothing but to worship God and rejoice in all His goodness.