For Those Walking Down Roads of Uncertainty

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“Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home”
Home, Phillip Phillips

This song began to play yesterday as I ran around the streets in my neighborhood.  It brought back memories of fifteen months ago when I awoke one morning to those same words, that same song soothing my heart.  It was a few days before my husband, son, and I were scheduled to pack up a moving truck in North Carolina and relocate to Georgia. At that time we knew so little about the road stretched out in front of us.

Here were things we did know:

We knew we would be living in my brother in law’s basement until we found a place to live.
We knew that my mother-in-law was dying. It was just a matter of days. She would be leaving her home in Georgia and heading to her heavenly home.

Here were things we didn’t know:

We didn’t know we would end up making it back in time to say goodbye to my husband’s mom.
We didn’t know that, incredibly, in just 8 short weeks we would be unpacking our things and moving into our new house.

I look back on that journey and can see the Lord’s hand all over the details. It was a hard time, especially for my husband, but in the midst of it all, I (a chronic worrier)  experienced more peace than worry. I somehow knew it was all part of the bigger picture. In January of that same year, I had begun praying about One Word, a word that was constantly on my heart… inconvenience.  Looking back, I now know the Lord was preparing the way (and my heart) months before we found ourselves on that unfamiliar road.

Throughout that entire journey, I could see the heavenly breadcrumbs being dropped along the path. I’ve written about those moments, and many others, on this blog. As you might be able to guess, I don’t believe in coincidence. Every breadcrumb became nourishment and hope for a weary traveler.

Those breadcrumbs were a constant reminder to me that we weren’t venturing down those unfamiliar roads all alone.

And, indeed, He was making this place a home for us.

As I ran along yesterday, I thought about all the ways here is now home.
-Lost drivers in my neighborhood stop their car and ask me…me which roads will lead them to where they need to go. Yes, I do know where Scenic Circle is. I answer without hesitation.

-I have a church family and I greet at the doors on Sunday just like I did in North Carolina. I’ve made friends and I can connect with them during the week.  (Tonight I have  a “date” at Panera with a new friend.)

-I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know my neighbors and having a couple of them over for dinner.

-My husband painted our front porch last night…if that doesn’t shout HOME…I don’t know what does. ;)

Do you find yourself on an unfamiliar road today?  Take heart and hold on tight…He just might be leading you home.

When You Kinda Wish Your Love Language Was Physical Touch

ComeAlive

This morning I sat here pondering how it kind of stinks to be a writer whose love language is Words of Affirmation.  I think it would be easier to be a writer if my love language was Physical Touch.  Think about it for a second.  It really would be easier.  So many writers already struggle with fear of rejection each time they “ship” their words.  But, us writers, who are also afflicted with this particular love language? (I’m not sure what you’re envisioning right now but I’m envisioning a guy named Paul and a thorn.) It makes for a hard existence.

By the way, this is about the time in the post when you should be feeling compelled to comfort me with your words of affirmation. ;)

I’m bringing this up because, about month ago, I was  given the opportunity  to take the five love languages test again.  I was participating in a four-week study designed to give us tips on how to better communicate with the people in our lives. I took the test years ago and got the same results then too: Words of Affirmation was #1 Acts of Service #2.

I’ve been writing on my blog for over five years now and I have to say, if I had depended primarily on words of affirmation to keep going…I would have quit years ago.  Many days, those words don’t come. But, that’s okay. Over the years I’ve learned that when we love something, when we are passionate about something, we’ll continue to move forward even when there’s silence…especially when there’s silence.

We keep going because what we are doing is similar to breathing oxygen. We keep going because there’s something inside us, some force, that keeps driving us.

We inhale, we exhale.

We get out of bed and we put our jumbled thoughts and feelings into words.

I think this is also a good way to weed out the things in our lives that maybe we shouldn’t be spending so much time on. I’ve always loved this quote.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

This morning, I want to encourage anyone who might need this reminder today:  keep breathing in and out…even if you are currently walking through the valley of doubt and discouragement. Keep going. I know it’s hard sometimes. I know it’s quiet sometimes. But that thing in your life that makes you come alive?  That’s the unique contribution the world needs from you!

Stuart Smalley…just because it makes me laugh.

Lessons: Don’t Forget to Flip the Page

Old vintage books and cup with heart shape on wooden tableDeposit Photos

 

“I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.”

I’ve been thinking about this verse ever since reading it earlier this morning in Proverbs 24

Here’s the verse in context:

I went past the field of a sluggard,
    past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
 thorns had come up everywhere,
    the ground was covered with weeds,
    and the stone wall was in ruins.
I applied my heart to what I observed
    and learned a lesson from what I saw:
 A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
    and scarcity like an armed man. (Proverbs 24: 30-34)

The bigger lesson we are needing to remember from that entire story is sandwiched right there in the middle. “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.”

This morning I thought about how often in life we fail to do this.  We fail to engage our hearts.  We observe things. We might even make a quick ,unspoken judgement. We acknowledge the bad or good in what we just saw. But, sadly, that’s where we often choose to end the story.  We fail to take the next crucial step:  application or action.

I wonder how many times in my life I’ve stopped short?  How many times have I walked by a lesson and the only thing I did was say, “that’s bad” or “that’s beautiful.” I’m beginning to understand how much growth we miss out on when we fail to apply what we observe along the path of our own journeys.

Have you ever thought about how each and ever interaction we have, how each and every sight we witness has the potential to teach us something. The world we live in and the streets we travel down are indeed a classroom every second of every day.

Here’s my challenge for us today:  Next time we see something good or bad instead of simply observing and making a judgment, let’s fully engage our hearts.

“Lord, what am I supposed to learn from this?

Lord, I know my situation looks totally different but is there a lesson tucked away in this that you want me to apply?

Don’t let the story end prematurely.   Don’t close the book without discovering what that lesson might be.

Flip the page.

You just might be amazed by what you learn.

Is That a Jar of Mayonnaise Under Your Tree?

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I had a weird dream last night. I can only attribute it to the lengthy discussions I was part of last night at small group.  At church on Sunday, we’ve been looking at Proverbs.  The topic has focused around how making just a one degree shift can result in a huge change of course in our lives. Last week the message was about gaining clarity and the best way to go about discovering the wise paths to travel.

One suggestion last Sunday (and one we talked about extensively at small group last night) was the need to move from asking  “What’s wrong with it?  to “Where could it lead?”

Which leads to the crazy dream I had last night.

In my dream, I kept a jar of mayonnaise conveniently stored under the tree in my front yard. I was outside standing next to this jar of mayonnaise when my neighbors show up to get into their car.  Another strange point, my neighbor’s car was parked in the grass in my front yard. That detail didn’t seem the least bit odd to me.  As they walked over to get in their car, I commented to them…”I’m not sure why I keep my mayonnaise out here.”  They laughed and dismissed it like it was no big deal.

The dream ended with me thinking about why I felt the need to store my jar of mayonnaise under a tree in my front yard.

So let’s apply these questions to my dream.

What’s wrong with it?  Well, I guess the level of “wrongness” depends on whether or not the jar has already been opened.  If it’s unopened, and I was just letting the jar of mayonnaise get a few minutes of summertime Georgia sun then, yes, it’s still weird, but not as weird as storing an already open jar of mayonnaise outside.

Also, keeping a jar of mayonnaise outside might seem weird, but suppose I have no intentions on using it.  It’s just resting there. Then, it’s not as weird as it could be. Maybe, I’m using it like a lawn ornament, like one of those colorful pin wheels or garden balls folks place in their yards.  Maybe the dream me is trying to think progressively and attempting to start a new lawn ornament trend.

Where could it lead?  Now, this is a good question.  If the seal on that jar of mayonnaise is already broken and I plan on using it on my ham sandwich sometime in the future…then do I even need to tell you where that will lead?  (I’m thinking either a long toilet hugging session or a trip to the emergency room.)  Or, let’s think of a little happier, yet slightly less likely outcome. If the dream me has no plans on using the mayonnaise and my only motive is to start a new lawn ornament trend, then jars of mayonnaise might start cropping up all over the neighborhood.

So, in conclusion, if jars of mayonnaise start appearing in yards near you…you will now know where the brilliant idea first originated. ;)

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Putting jars of mayonnaise in front yard might lead to starting a new lawn ornament trend= bad, bad outcome.

Putting jars of mayonnaise in front yard and then using said mayonnaise on your ham sandwich might lead to trip to emergency room= bad, bad, BAD outcome.

Tip (Proverb) for today:  Storing your jar of mayonnaise under a tree in your front yard will most likely not lead any place good…best to keep it in the fridge.

 

A Letter To My Younger Self~ Link Up

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-computer-coffee-grass-image14646672Dreamstime

Yo, Younger Self, what up?!?

Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t start a letter to my younger self that way.  Unless, of course, I was trying way too hard to convince my younger self how cool I turned out.

Yep, this once clarinet toting, marching band member who used to hide in the school library at lunch time (before she met Kerry) because sitting alone at the cafeteria lunch table was a special kind of torture. Yep, that girl, is now cool enough to write a letter to her younger self using the word yo. Okay, maybe Older Self still struggles with not being very “cool.” :)

But, on a serious note, I would only write a letter to my younger self if I could be assured that any wisdom and any common sense I talked into that scared little girl wouldn’t alter the course of her life so much so that she wouldn’t end up where she is right now in life. Because, somehow, someway, God was able to take all the wrong turns and all the poor choices and turn them into something beautiful.

Dear Younger Self,

You are so scared right now. I know you want so much to control the things in your life. You want to make a list and simply check it off.

Meet guy ✓
Go to college ✓
Get good job ✓
Marry guy ✓

You want your life and your future to be set. You don’t want to worry about what’s hiding around the corner. And, this constant fear you have? It will grow even stronger when, at 18, you watch your mom pass away from breast cancer.

I wish I could tell you the fear goes away completely.  I wish I could tell you that with age comes courage.  I wish it was that easy. But, Child, it has nothing to do with age. Instead, it all comes back to learning to trust in an unseen God. You know the One? The One you watched your mom sing and write songs about. The One you will question and doubt. The One you will yell at because, how could a loving God really think “best for me” and “a good plan” could involve a mom dying so young?

It will all circle back to this, you know.

It will all come back to learning (some times painfully) that He really does love you, that He really does want to walk with you and wants to guide you down all the unknown paths that lie ahead.

He wants to offer you peace…oh, child, take it!
He wants to be your joy, oh, child, grab hold of it and dance!
He wants to give you hope, oh, child, live with it (roll around in it like it’s a pile of leaves!) and tell everyone you know about that hope!

I know (oh how I know) the temptation to settle for things in this life is strong. I know what a temptation it is to set aside who you are and try to be someone you were never meant to be.  But that path? It won’t bring you happiness.  It won’t bring you peace.

I encourage you today, right now…in the middle of all your fear, to make the one decision that will change everything:  Throw religion out the window. Get to know Jesus. Put your hand in His and continue to walk with Him down the scary, unknown road ahead.

This post is part of a link up for The High Calling Hop on over and leave a letter to your younger self too.

Typical Skies and Beating Hearts

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I took a picture of the sky last night.  I love how pretty the evening sky can be even when it lacks color.  Sometimes the vibrant, stunning colors aren’t necessary at all. Instead, it’s the varying shades and degrees of light and dark that seems to usher in the beauty.

This picture reminded me of life itself and how, everyday, we are invited to look beyond the normal and set our gaze on the remarkable-ness of it all.

As I sat here this morning, preparing to write, I had no idea what I was going to say.  I stared at the empty page for a moment and sipped my coffee. I watched in the quietness as the cursor blinked steadily on my screen. I realized how much it reminded me of a heartbeat.

Bump, bump. Bump, bump. Bump, Bump.

I also realized how each time I stopped typing, each time I paused to let my mind catch up to my fingers, the blinking would continue, life continued to beat right along.

This morning I thought about how our daily lives are the same way. We might pause to catch our breath. We might pull over on the side of the road to rest. We might study the map or look for a bright sign pointing us in a certain direction. We might even look up at the sky, hoping to see beautiful colors that take our breath away. Yet through it all, our heart continues to beat.

It beats through uncertainty. It beats through the storm.  It beats through the calm and the normal. And just like the sunset above, it’s the varying shades of light and dark that our hearts must travel through that seem to bring about the most beauty.

So often, it’s not the stunning sunset that gives life significance. No, it’s all the other stuff. It’s the typical night sky that lacks color. It’s the blinking cursor on an empty computer screen.

Bump, bump. Bump, bump. Bump, bump

Searching For Tomatoes When the Vine Looks Empty

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We went to visit my father in-law last weekend.  He insisted we take some tomatoes home with us.  His vines were overflowing and he couldn’t eat them fast enough.  The next day, as I looked at the tomatoes sitting on my counter, I suddenly remembered back when I was a little girl and my mom would often enjoy a toasted tomato sandwich during the summertime. For some reason, when I think of all the things I can do with a tomato, I always forget about this tasty option. I made myself a sandwich and enjoyed every bite.

Yesterday, my husband went to visit his dad again. Last night, he came home and placed another bag of fresh tomatoes on our kitchen counter. I know what I will be having for lunch again today.

*******************

While finishing up a time sensitive project for one of my clients, I had three missed calls from my dad in a span of 10 minutes.  I was about to hit redial when my phone rang again.

“Hey, Dad. How’s it going?”

“Not that great. I’m depressed. This place is really getting to me.”

(and I kicked myself for picking my client over my dad)

“Have they taken you outside today?” I asked.

“Yeah, got back in a little bit ago.”

“Where are you now?”

“Back in bed. Time passes quicker if I spend it sleeping.”

Ever since my dad had his stroke (two years ago this past May) we talk almost every day. We rarely have anything new to say to one other. And, sometimes, our five-minute “conversations” consist of dead space.

The time passes and, in the silence, I rack my brain in an effort to think of something more to give him. But the harvest is empty, the field of words and stories has been picked over and over.

Yet, I keep searching. I know he is hungry.

Maybe more fruit is hidden a little deeper in the vine, maybe there’s another piece buried further back.

*****************

Sometimes, I wish the words of encouragement could ripen and grow as quickly as tomatoes in the summertime. I wish that talking to my dad didn’t feel like a picked over field at the end of the season. I have grand expectations of encouraging him, but sometimes I feel so powerless to do so.

Today, Lord, when I talk to my dad, I pray for lots of tomatoes. I pray a harvest of encouraging words will fall from my lips. I pray I can help provide five minutes of nourishment to a weary traveler. 

Who needs to hear some words of encouragement from you this week?  

Five Minute Friday: TELL

It’s Friday. Yay!  I decided to join the Five Minute Friday community again this week. You can join in the fun HERE.

Prompt: TELL

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When I saw the word prompt this morning two thoughts came to mind.

Which should I tell? Which one should I share, Lord?

Both

“The hardest thing you may ever do is tell someone your real story. It may also be the most important thing you ever do”- Sue Markovitch

Your real story? You know what that means. don’t you?

That means the ugly parts. That means the dark parts we work so hard at keeping locked behind closed doors or tucked behind a smile or a laugh. That means the parts we hide behind the words, “I’m fine.”

But, acknowledging the dark?

It’s the only way to the light.

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But as for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
Psalm 71: 14-16

Whenever I read these verses, something inside me stirs with joy. My heart does cartwheels. It’s the message I sing from the rooftops now.  It’s the message of hope I want everyone to hear and experience in their own stories.

These verses are about a God who refuses to leave us all alone in the dark.  It’s about a God who is capable of taking our “real” and redeeming it into something ridiculously beautiful.

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Tell your story today.

Tell His story today.

Tell it so the darkness shakes and trembles at the sight of light and truth.

Tell it to offer hope to one person in desperate need of it.

Tell it so others know they are not alone.

Two Girls Talking at Sunset

 

You Have Doubts? That’s Okay

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I was out on my run last night and thinking about the controversy over Michael Gungor’s admission that he isn’t able to take the Genesis account literal. Apparently, he’s held this view for a long time now and people are just now hearing about it.

As I thought more about it, I could feel a blog post being written. Oh, Lord, I thought. I don’t want to write about this. People tend to hold strong convictions and get riled up when folks admit they have doubts or simply can’t accept when all of Scripture isn’t being read and interpreted a certain way. 

Yet, here I go writing about it. Can I tell you the truth? When I read certain sections of Scripture I have doubts too. If I was a cartoon character and I was being portrayed reading Scripture, there would often be this bubble over my head with big ? marks in the center of it as I read several portions of Scripture.

However, the longer I journey along, the more I’ve come to believe something about Jesus. I believe that He’s worth pursuing and chasing after despite my doubts…or maybe I should say, because of my doubts. I’ve come to believe that knowing Him, following Him, listening to Him, trusting in Him, is the direction I need to point my heart.  Not just when I’m feeling like “Peter the Rock” but also when I’m feeling like “Thomas the Doubter.”  Oh, and by the way, Peter the Rock got it wrong and crumbled a few times too.

There’s a great line in one of my favorite All Sons and Daughters song “Oh, How I Need You” that does a good job at putting into words this faith journey I am on.

Lord I find You in the seeking
Lord I find You in the doubt
And to know You is to love You
And to know so little else
I need You
Oh how I need You

I hate that people judge and condemn others who can’t (at this point in their journey and maybe never) interpret the Bible literally. Even after these folks who doubt have said that they do believe that “all scripture is God-breathed” and that they do believe Jesus is the Son of God and ultimately their Savior.

Rather than get angry over someones lack of faith or their admission to having doubts, I want to celebrate when someone chooses to keep on keeping on despite not having all the answers, despite their questions.

That to me shows incredible faith.

I think about all the people in the Bible who struggled with doubt, yet didn’t walk away. Instead, they simply chose to keep learning from their teacher, Jesus. I also think of the man who brought his demon possessed son to Jesus to be healed and humbly cried out: “I do believe! Help my unbelief!”

Geez, isn’t that all of us at some point along the road?

I didn’t know how to end this post, so I thought I would share one of my favorite Gungor songs.

I’ve tried to stand my ground
I’ve tried to understand
but I can’t seem to find my faith again

like water on the sand
or grasping at the wind
I keep on falling short

please be my strength
please be my strenth
I don’t have anymore
I don’t have anymore

I’m looking for a place
Where I can plant my faith
one thing I know for sure

I cannot create it
and I cannot sustain it
It’s Your love that’s keeping me

Please be my strength…

at my final breath
I hope that I can say
I’ve fought the good fight of faith

I pray your glory shine
in this doubting heart of mine
And all would know that You

You are my strength
You are my strength
You and You alone

Keep bringin me back home

Teachable Paths and Empty Vessels

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The challenge put out to us this week at church:  to remain teachable.

The pastor posed two questions part way through the message.

Do I have a teachable spirit?
What is God teaching me right now?

As I pondered the first question this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder if I were to quickly answer ‘yes’ that maybe it’s a sign that I’m not as teachable as I think I am. To me, that question is as tricky to answer as the “Are you a humble person?” question, because the moment we think we are then (perhaps) a portion of us really isn’t very humble. Having a teachable spirit requires humility.

I want to have a teachable spirit, but I think there are times when I deceive myself. I think of the verse in Jeremiah that says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” 

So, I guess my point is that I don’t think the first question is a one time “yes” answer. It can’t be. In order to have a teachable spirit we have to constantly be re-evaluating our hearts and our motives. It becomes an ongoing journey because things have a tendency to change so quickly. You can have a teachable spirit one moment and then the next moment your spirit becomes as closed as a clenched fist.

So my answer: I want to have a teachable spirit. Lord, teach me. Show me how to have a teachable spirit every hour of every day.

The second question. What is God teaching me right now?

I love this question. It’s a great ongoing question to ask ourselves. Answering it requires us to live attentively, with our eyes and hearts wide open. I was reminded of a post I wrote last year called When Your Story Has a Theme 

I love discovering the common lessons being woven through each experience we have.  Lately, it seems like I am supposed to be learning and remembering this: Who is capable of filling us and satisfying us completely?  

Let me take you on the breadcrumb journey as I retrace my steps these last couple of days…

On Friday, I joined the Five Minute Friday community.  The word prompt for the week was FILL. I wrote about my early days in sobriety and that first time I felt His Joy (and not alcohol) sustaining me again.  Instead of trying to rely on the temporary and fleeting, I was relying on Him.  He was able to quench my thirst in a way wine never could.

On Sunday, along with these two questions, the pastor kicked off the message with this thought:  We are empty vessels that have to be filled with something.

And, this morning, I read in my quiet time;  “Open yourself to My loving Presence, so that I may fill you with my fullness.”- Jesus Calling

One of the recommended reading verses was from John 6 when Jesus is talking about being the bread of life.  I decided to read the whole section.  Here are sections that stood out to me:

Jesus answered, “I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.” (26, 27)

I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again. (35)

 This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (50-51)

In conclusion, have a I completely figured out what I’m supposed to learn from everything God seems to be teaching me right now?  No.  But, I do see the common theme.

He alone fill us up.  Don’t be tempted to consume things that won’t last.  Focus on the Bread that is eternal.  

Today, I offer those questions for you to ponder this week too.

Do I have a teachable spirit?
What is God teaching me right now?