Morning after Morning…One Step at a Time

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This morning I was reading through Luke 1.  A section from Zechariah’s (the father of John the Baptist) prayer at the end of the chapter caught my eye.

“Because of our God’s merciful compassion,
the Dawn from on high will visit us
to shine on those who live in darkness
and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1: 78-79 HCSB

The Dawn from on high will visit us.  

I love how the Holman translation uses the word Dawn to describe Jesus, the Hope of the world, coming down to earth. The King James version says “dayspring” and Eugene Peterson’s, The Message, gives us this beautiful picture:

“Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,

Shining on those in the darkness,
 those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
 down the path of peace.” Luke 1: 78-79 Message

I can’t read these verses and not be filled with a sense of hope.  Sunrises, the beginning of fresh starts and new chapters will often come wrapped up in a bow of joyful anticipation.

I realized, after pausing to think about these words, dawn, dayspring, and sunrise, that I named my last blog post:  “Joining the Sunrise Search Party” and a portion of lyrics from the song I shared at end of that post came to mind.

“Light glorious light I will go where You shine. Break the dawn, crack the skies, make the way bright before me.”

Lord, I want my eyes to always be looking for the sunrise, Your Sunrise. I want to see it, receive it, and trust in it.  I want to walk in the light that illuminates Your path.  And when life and situations seem hopelessIy bleak, I want to remember, Your Sunrise came for us. I want join hands with others along the path and walk the long road together, one foot a time.  I want to shift our gaze (which can so easily gravitate towards faithlessness)  back to the incredible beauty stretched across the horizon pointing and directing our feet back home…morning after morning.

Joining the Sunrise Search Party

fishing

A Sunrise Prayer

Lord, You promise that if we seek You with all our hearts then we will find You.

I believe You.

Today, help me to be as persistent in this quest for You as I would be if I misplaced my phone or my eyeglasses. Help me to keep the eyes of my heart open. Help me to be willing to look for Your presence even in the most unexpected places.  

Surprise me, Lord! top online slots real money

Let my heart choose to take this journey day after day, searching for You like hidden treasure.

As new mercies rise with this morning sun, let me rise too, eager to join in the quest again.

more of Your beauty
more of Your grace
more of You.  

Thanksgiving Day 2001

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This morning during my quiet time I took some time to count my blessings.

Thanksgiving Day 2001-  I took my last drink of alcohol on that day.  Thinking back, I had no clue that day, fifteen years ago, would be my last day. I had been battling the addiction of using alcohol to escape and numb for a long time. And, over time, it became my master. It dictated my every thought and my every move. I had tried, on several occasions, to stop drinking, to cut back, to drink like a “normal” person,  but each attempt always ended the same way, drinking again in excess.

I could relate to Paul’s tormenting words in Romans 7:21 “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”

It was a vicious, unending cycle. It was a prison sentence I just couldn’t seem to ever get released from. It tormented me from the moment I opened my eyes in the morning until the moment I took my next drink.

However, the one thing that had changed in my life was this desire to run back to the Lord each and every time I failed. I had acknowledged to the Lord earlier that same year that I had no desire to stop drinking. During one of my conversations (an argument, actually) with the Lord I told Him this:  “Lord, you know I don’t want to stop drinking. Please change my heart. Make my desire not to drink, make my desire for You stronger than my desire to drink.”   Over the course of the next several months, this became my mantra.  Each time the drink won I fell to my knees and lifted these words up to Him again. And again. And again. “Lord, change my heart. Make my desire not to drink stronger than my desire to drink.”

I was the persistent widow (Luke 18) who had finally decided to not take no for an answer.  And when I woke up that particular Friday morning after Thanksgiving, something was different.  I was exhausted. I was too weak to climb back onto the hamster wheel of insanity I had been stuck on for years. I remember saying, “Lord, I give up. I am so tired.” And an amazing thing happened. It was like the Lord responded, “Eileen, those were the words I’ve been waiting to hear.”

And, at that moment, I experienced the most incredible peace I have ever had. That morning was different from all the other mornings. I had a strength inside of me and calm inside of me that I had never known. It was like the Lord had reached down into the pit I had been trapped in for years and grabbed hold of my hand. This time I wasn’t going to let go. For the first time in the process, I was depending on His strength and not my own. He was fighting the battle for me. The months to come were by no means easy, but I had a BIG GOD fighting on my behalf.

Early in recovery, I remember shaking my head at the Lord in disbelief. Of all the “boring” times during the year I could have been getting sober, Lord, and you choose during Christmas and New Years. I thought about that this morning and was grateful all over again for God’s timing.

You were showing off, Lord.  You showed me in those months just HOW BIG YOU ARE. Temptation was all around, but Your grace and Your redemption won.  

The story of Lazarus came to mind as I was thinking of God’s perfect timing.

“Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. “So when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.”  John 11

He intentionally delayed Lazarus’s healing. He waited until all hope seemed lost before he came to Lazarus.  Why?  Because we serve a God who wants us to know, without any doubt, who deserves all the glory and all the honor and all the praise.

King Jesus!

We just don’t know when or how God will choose to raise a life up from the dead.

 

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The Journey Through a “First”

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It hits me every few days that I am living in the midst of another “first”. This is the first Thanksgiving and Christmas with both my parents gone. My soul seems to be going through a quiet sadness about this new reality too. There’s this underlying, “can’t quite put my finger on, can’t quite articulate” grief going on.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that losing my dad a couple of months ago has been a different journey than when I lost my mom 25 years ago. I know there are many reasons for this too. I was young when my mom died. My mom and I saw each other every day. We laughed together, sang together, and snuggled on the couch together. She was not only my mom but a best friend to me, a shy, introverted, awkward teenage girl.

Grieving the loss of my dad has been a completely different experience. We never had the ideal daddy/daughter relationship. I never actually remember hearing him say the words “I love you” until I was an adult. We didn’t truly begin to grow closer until after my mom died. Yet, through the years, despite being a challenging man to understand, I loved him. As an adult, I also lived across the country from him. I spoke to him on the phone nearly everyday but I only saw him face to face once or twice a year. My dad also spent the last 4 years of his life bedridden. His passing was, in many ways, a blessing. usa online bingo bonus

A couple of weeks ago, my husband shared with me how the 24 hour Christmas station was already playing on the radio.  I’ve periodically switched over to the station to listen to a few tunes while driving.  I’ve noticed how, this year, a couple of the songs remind me of my dad.  “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Christmas Song”, “Sliver Bells” and “White Christmas” are the songs I remember my dad liking.

It’s interesting but, as far back as I can remember, each one of those tunes tends to usher in more sadness than happiness. Not sure why but they do.  And yet, I enjoy hearing these songs despite the melancholy that washes over me when I hear them. This morning I had this thought: part of this journey requires me to walk through the melancholy too. There are gifts tucked away in the sad too.

The gift of remembering His promise that this is not my home.
The gift of remembering His faithfulness that even though sad is some times part of the journey it is not how the story will end.
The gift of remembering to love and treasure the beautiful people still in my life today.
The gift of remembering that this life is a gift (the happy and the sad) and gifts don’t stay wrapped up. We unwrap the gift and share that gift with others.

A Zippy Community

grief

Strength in numbers

I’ve been thinking about this ever since going zip-lining for the first time last weekend.  My son and husband had tried it a couple of years ago and ever since then we’ve been wanting to go as a family.  A year or so ago I was informed that ziplining feels nothing like a roller coaster. My interest in trying it increased once I heard this information too.  I like the idea of gliding through the air but I hate the yucky stomach feeling I get while on a coaster. roulette software download

Last week, as I was planning a weekend family getaway, I signed us up to do a 4 zip line session.

When we arrived for our scheduled time, there were five other folks scheduled in the same tour with us. Our zip tour guides helped us put on our gear and then we all piled into an old beat up bus to make the 10 minute bumpy ride up to the first zipline. Several of us had never been zipping and our preparation time as a group was filled with nervous laughter and light hearted joking. I think I appreciated this “bonding” time with the group almost as much as the actual zip activity. I love how a group, even a group of strangers, can come together and quickly become a source of encouragement and bravery for one another. There was this unspoken camaraderie centered around a common goal.

As we made our way up the hill, I thought about this scene from the movie “We Bought A Zoo”

“You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage…”

To make a long story a little “zippier”, I loved our time gliding through the air. I did each zip with a mixture of fear and excitement.  And, by the end of the 4 zip tour, our entire group even agreed to sign up for one additional zip line, one that wasn’t originally part of our tour package.

“The Intimidator” is a 1/2 mile long zip and, at its highest, 300 feet in the air. We zipped down the hill at an average speed of 50 miles per hour. Exhilarating!

I found this fun video of the ride if you want to check it out.

Wonder and Curiosity

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The other day I made a quick trip to Walmart at 6:00am in the morning.  I needed a few things for the day/weekend and wanted to avoid the school and work traffic.  After loading up my shopping cart and swiping my debit card at the self checkout counter, a wave of gratitude washed over me as I proceeded to leave the store. real time roulette

Lord, please let me never forget the blessing and privilege of knowing I have enough.  I never want to take for granted those seasons when life is overflowing with “enough.”

In this season, we have money to pay the bills. I have a job. My husband has a job. We have a house to live in. We have cars to drive. We have our health. It’s far too easy to forget the beauty and grace of “enough.”

As I walked to my car, two words came to mind: wonder and curiosity.

In seasons of plenty, I can sometimes forget to be grateful. This is why living in an ongoing state of wonder and curiosity is important.

Wonder and awe at how God breathed beauty back into a hopeless and broken life . real cash slot machines

Wonder and awe at how God has this incredible ability to redeem. His healing work is a constant reminder that nothing is ever too gone, too lost, or too broken.

Wonder and awe at how God showers down His enough in the midst of our not enoughs.

Wonder and awe at how my one tiny life is not insignificant to Him. In a universe made up of many many creations, my life matters to Him…each and every single life matters to Him.

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Curiosity   

I am committed to asking this question on a regular basis: Lord, what more are you capable of doing? Regardless of our circumstances, regardless of how bleak a situation might seem, what more can you do, Lord?  A great quote from Margaret Feinberg comes to mind. “Remain suspicious that God is up to something good.” rival casinos that accept us players

When we live in a state of curiosity then our hearts become receptive. As we flip the pages of this life, we begin to recognize and embrace more of His grace, more of His faithfulness and more of His mercy. We learn and grow when we choose to live or lives chronically curious.  

As I was writing the thought above, the scene of a little kid’s birthday party came to mind.  I love how children huddle around the friend who is opening the gift. Young kids don’t stand at a distance when their friend is unwrapping a present. No, they hover around their friend and wait with expectation.

Could it be that our life is designed to be lived the same way?  We huddle close to our Creator and look on with joyful anticipation. What are you capable of doing, Lord?  How BIG are you, Lord?  What beauty do You want me to recognize today, Lord? 

This faith journey requires that I live my life with child-like wonder and curiosity.

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Another thing happened as I left Walmart the other morning. I suddenly remembered a brief section of a dream I had the night before. I was talking to someone (not sure who) and they mentioned to me they had never seen a cardinal before.

Really? It was hard for me to imagine never catching a glimpse of this beautiful, stunning red bird.

However, as we sat there talking, not one but two cardinals came into view. A female and male sat on a fence in the distance. This stranger in my dream finally caught a glimpse of beauty he/she had never experienced before.

This snippet from my dream prompted this thought.
Sometimes beauty we have never laid eyes on before will fly into our dreary worlds.
And sometimes, as we curiously watch and wait, that beauty will exceed our expectations.

 

“Lord my God, You have done many things—
Your wonderful works and Your plans for us;
none can compare with You.
If I were to report and speak of them,
they are more than can be told. ” Psalm 40:5

Marching into Freedom

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Yesterday I was having coffee with a new friend.  The topic of recovery came up, an area we both share a common passion. When she asked me to share a little bit more of my story, I told her how I had been sober for… sloto cash casino bonus

I had to pause and think about it. Was I celebrating 14 years or 15 years? Oh, that’s right, 15 years.

******

“I will call upon the Lord
For he alone is strong enough to save
Rise your shackles are no more
For Jesus Christ
Has broken every chain” virtual card games

Last night at church, as we sung these words and this beautiful songthat conversation from earlier in the day came to mind again. Wow, Lord, I couldn’t remember exactly how many years. 

As I stood there last night singing the words above, my early days in recovery flashed across my mind. Lord, it’s beautiful to get to a place in life where I actually have to pause briefly in order to recall how long it’s been. At the beginning of this journey, I was well aware of every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month, and every year.  

These words I sing, Lord, are not just words. You’ve proved Yourself faithful over and over.  roulette highest limits

God is bigger than___________.

Fifteen years ago, my pastor at the time encouraged us to finish the above statement and to believe what we wrote. He challenged us to respond and to live as if the answer we put in that blank was true for our stories and our situations too.

That was the beginning of a wild ride. I watched as God showed up in my situation…ready to fight for me and with me. When I filled in that blank, I signed up for the hardest journey of my life. But it also turned out to be the most rewarding journey of my life too. 

The joy of His strength far outweighed the painful steps forward.  

The words that David wrote in Psalm 18  about being armed with the Lord’s strength during battle time were true in my story too.  

It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure. (v 32)

I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
I crushed them so that they could not rise;
they fell beneath my feet.
You armed me with strength for battle;
you humbled my adversaries before me.
You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
and I destroyed my foes. (verses 37-40) 

I don’t know what Enemy you might be up against today.  But my prayer is that you dare to believe and fully trust the King who marches out ahead of you. Grab hold of your marching orders and follow Him.

The Last Two Miles

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-standing-rock-image22042119What a fantastic run this morning. I was determined to go 8 miles and I knew that it was going to be tempting to stop at 6 miles because I would see my car. My legs were tired but my heart was determined, so I made a u-turn and did 2 more. top online ranked casino

So many beautiful things happened during the last 2 miles and to think I would have missed them if I had stopped. I won’t share them all now but I will share this: At around mile 4, I ran by a man who was running in the opposite direction and we gave each other the polite running nod. Then, I saw this same guy as I was running mile 8. He was coming towards me on the same side of the road. As he passed me, he lifted his arm in the air for a high-five. I happily slapped his hand and let out a “Woohoo!” I love runners. Giving high-fives to total strangers is completely acceptable behavior.

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I shared those thoughts on Facebook yesterday.  That moment, of giving a high-five to another runner, was the perfect ending to a great run.

Shortly after I started running my normal route yesterday, I noticed an empty discarded travel size wine bottle on the side of the road. Sightings such as that instantly trigger my gratitude button. I am so grateful little bottles of wine are no longer a part of my life. The days when I would dig through my purse to gather up enough bills and/or change to purchase a couple of those (easily concealable) bottles are long gone. Those days when I was held captive by drinking thoughts and drinking desires are no more. I am free. Thank you, Lord!

As I ran this same stretch of road on my way back towards my car, these words were playing in my ears…

“You break unbreakable chains, walls fall at the sound of Your name, the lost are found, the old is new, You do impossible things, impossible things.” (Impossible Things, Ben Honeycutt)

And, as I made a u-turn on tired, determined legs I heard these words…

“I may be weak, but Your Spirit’s strong in me. My flesh may fail but my God You never will.” (Give Me Faith, Elevation)

And then, a few minutes later,  I spot two deer walking slowly out of the trees and crossing the road in front of me. A third deer appears out of the trees too, but instead of crossing the road he stands there and watches me.  As I run by him, he continues to follow me with his eyes. I notice as I pass him that he is standing just on the opposite side of the road from where the empty wine bottle is discarded.

How fitting, Lord. The broken on one side. The victorious on the other.  real money slots mobile

Two verses of scripture wrapped themselves around my heart during those last two miles of my run.

My heart says this about You
“You are to seek My face.”
Lord, I will seek Your face. Psalm 27:8

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer
and sets me securely on the heights. Psalm 18:33

And then, I heard these words played in my ears…

“All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust.”  (Beautiful Things, Gungor)

Perhaps this moment is only significant and beautiful to me. Because that’s how our Savior operates. He enters our moments and speaks and interacts with us on a personal level. Like Nathanael sitting under the fig tree before Phillip invited him to come meet Jesus, our Creator intimately knows us and each of our stories. (John 1:43-50)

As I crossed the “finish line” yesterday morning This is Amazing Grace was playing. The same song that has followed me chapter after chapter, season after season, mile after mile.
“This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King of Glory”

the miracle of it all

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My son, Sean, is officially a teenager today. As I was making my coffee this morning, I had one of those “unreal feeling” moments.  When did I become a mom of a teenager?  

I was thinking about the moments, months, and years prior to becoming a mom, prior to that Monday morning 13 years ago when I was standing by the bathroom sink talking to my husband about the plan for the day. I’d had a rough night and my husband wasn’t sure whether or not he should leave me at home and go to work. Sean was not officially due to arrive for 5 more days, but we weren’t so sure he was going to wait that long. Should my husband go into work? Should I call my doctor and try to get my weekly baby check appointment moved up to today instead of Tuesday?

And then, right in the middle of all the questions, our answer showed up. My water broke. We collected our hospital bags and made the 30 minute drive into town.  We were going to meet our son…today!

This morning, I’ve decided again, that I never want to forget about the miracle of it all.  Not just the miracle of being a mom but the miracle of everything else. The miracle of how broken roads will often lead to some place so beautiful. I never want to forget how, at that season in my life, I was standing right in the middle of a miracle.

The stubborn choices I had fearfully made over the years, the painful consequences, the love and discipline from a Savior who refused to give up on me or stop pursuing me, the breaking of chains, the spacious places, the breathing room, the second chances, the amazing grace…

I think back on all of it again this morning. I inhale the grace and breathe out the gratitude.  I don’t deserve this beauty, Lord. None of it. Thank you. 

Today, I am thankful for the miracle of it all.

Start a Fire

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“What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked.

 Jesus replied, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the One He has sent.” John 6: 28-29

Believing carries more weight than doing and performing. In fact, belief is the only “must be present ingredient” to tapping into the works of God. 

Belief is the catalyst.

Belief strikes the match that ignites the flame.

In order to believe something or someone there has got be a level of trust and faith. And in order to have trust and faith our lives must collide and engage with that something or someone.  And if we truly believe in that something or someone, it will become evident in our lives.

I spend a lot of time going back and rereading John 6 where Jesus tells his disciples that He is the bread of life.  My faith rests on this being true. If this is not true then my faith and trust in Jesus is futile. 

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8

“I bless God every chance I get;
my lungs expand with his praise.

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 I live and breathe God;
if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy:

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Join me in spreading the news;
together let’s get the word out.

 God met me more than halfway,
he freed me from my anxious fears.

 Look at him; give him your warmest smile.
Never hide your feelings from him.

When I was desperate, I called out,
and God got me out of a tight spot.

God’s angel sets up a circle
of protection around us while we pray.

 Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.

 Worship God if you want the best;
worship opens doors to all his goodness.”
Psalm 34 1-9 Message