Don’t give up on yourself

“Don’t Give Up On Yourself.”

One email heading in my mailbox yesterday.  Five little words. But, what a big punch.

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We all have dreams. We all have passions. It’s absolutely natural. In fact, it’s emotionally and spiritually healthy to have vision for the future. Dreams, goals and vision help us move from where we are to where we long to be.

It’s all good -until everything falls apart.

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Financial set backs. Health problems. Unexpected disasters. Sometimes it’s just stupid mistakes or unwise decisions that throw all our hopes and  dreams into a tailspin.

We figure the best thing to do is to crawl into a hole somewhere and just disappear. Give up. Go home. Never dream again.

This mindset may sound drastic, but when you travel down enough dead ends, it makes perfect sense.

But, it’s not.

At the very epicentre of disappointment and disaster is a door. A battered framework that waits for us to enter. It’s not exactly The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe kind of stuff. But, it’s a surrender of the heart  that leads to growth and change of a magnitude that may have never been possible before our lives flipped upside down.

By now you may think I’m one of those people who 

  • wears tin foil hats to keep aliens from reading my thoughts.
  • grows armpit hair specifically for the weaving of magic baskets.

Both are interesting concepts. But, not true in my case. And, it’s not just because I look terrible in hats or that I am a mess when it comes to small motor skill challenges. 

It’s just that I know all about dead end streets. I’ve seen fragments of my hopes and dreams waft away like bits of dandelion fluff on the wind. I wanted so badly just to give up-

to cry

and cry

and cry

until my eyes puffed up like inflatable swim rings, my nose crusted over and every surface in the house was piled high with sticky globs of kleenex.

I know. Dramatic.

But, we all process in our own way. We all slip and slide down to the bottom of despair in our own individual and not always elegant style. 

But, the bottom is the same no matter how you land.

And believe it or not, the hope is the same.

God is in the darkness as well as the light.

And He often works out His glory in us through our crash-and-burns even more powerfully than in our own carefully crafted plans.

Back to crusty noses and piles of kleenex. After the waves of 

anger,

frustration

and disappointment,

there comes a calm. It may be many things. Exhaustion. Resignation. Our bodies telling us its time to just stop and breathe.

This is a good time, a very good time to ask yourself one question.

This mess, this disaster, this complicated collapse of all that we depended upon- what does it make possible?

It’s a question I first read on the Michael Hyatt blog a couple years ago. Ever since, God has used that one question to challenge me again and again and again.

What does all this crazy stuff that has happened to you make possible? What door does it open for God to perform a miracle? What unwanted stuff does it reveal that needs to change for healing to happen?

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Don’t give up on yourself. God gives us dreams for a reason. Our job is to keep following those dreams with all that is within us. And when we hit a dead end, it’s God’s job to reshape, reposition and renew us by opening a new door.

When the dust clears, ask God – what does this make possible?

Death, Hell and the grave- who’s your daddy now?

My Dad was just like any other dad. A human being with an expiration date. A body that started winding down the moment he was born.

In fact, dad tested that expiration date two times before he died. He suffered two heart attacks.  During the second one his heart stopped completely.  Dad recalled looking down from the ceiling and wondering who the guy was on the gurney.

Then, dad slid away from the room. His spirit moved toward the most magnificent colours he had ever seen. Everything around him grew warm and vibrant. Dad knew he was coming into the presence of Jesus. Finally, my dad was heading home.

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But, he stopped. Then turned away.

“My kids still need me,” he said.

Suddenly, Dad gasped for breath. Pain washed over him as medical professionals worked to save his life.

It was not his time to go.

When Dad’s time came years later, he was ready.

All because of the Resurrection.

Without the Resurrection Jesus was just another man with great ideas. Without the Resurrection, the Bible was just another volume of philosophy. Without the resurrection, nothing really changed in endless cycle of pain and suffering.

That is why I celebrate the tearing and ripping of death, hell and the grave. The stone rolling away from an empty tomb. Two women running with joy through the morning light to spread the news.

He is risen.

Absolutely, without a doubt, my dad’s in heaven.

All because of the Resurrection.

 

Dancing in the streets (with or without pumpkins)-under the influence of truth

I’ve told you before, and I’ll tell you again (like right now, duh)

You and me, each one of us is an incredible act of creation,  endlessly complex, biological and physiological miracle. We are nothing less than stunning reminders of God’s love. Each one of us a beautiful jumble of emotion and thought and dreams and hopes and endless possibilities. 

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Think that’s pretty great news?

So why aren’t the lot of us flat out dancing in the streets? Why aren’t we doing all the crazy, meaningful things we were created to do? Why can’t we do the impossible like the kid trying to lift a too-heavy pumpkin over his head?

How did so many of us grow up to be so fearful, guarded and no fun to be around? 

It’s the lies.

Lies get us down. Make us blind. Angry. Pitiful. Ashamed of the very gifts we were given by our heavenly Father.

I know. I have been smacked down and flattened by so many lies I had to wear those cut out paper doll clothes for like three weeks. (just kidding, those things don’t come in my size lol!)

But, seriously, comments people make about me can stick like velcro. Conclusions I draw in moments of doubt can terrify.  Fears often cloud my vision and squeeze the joy right out of my heart. Not exactly a trip to Disneyland. 

Truth is –what we see doesn’t effect us as much as what we believe. Any crazy notion can rock our world as long as we think it is true.

Unfortunately, the unconditional love of almighty God ends up shimmering like a tree in the rain. In the raging storm of  doubt we aren’t sure if He ever there for us at all.

The good thing about God – He is truth.

His love is boundless. His mercy everlasting. His promises glorious and unbroken.

Yeah, I know, life is tough. We  get stressed out. Even freaked out. Let’s face it, sometimes we all just get just plain down and out.

I am telling you, there is another way to walk through the mess that life can be.

We can choose truth.  God’s truth.

How so?

  1. Know the truth. Learn it. Speak it. Get a hold of it first thing every day.
  2. Take out the trash. That’s right. Throw out the lies the minute they enter your head. Confront the lies you see around you with whats true, even if you just journal it down.
  3. Stand by what you know. Don’t let someone steal your truth with intimidation. Go ahead and celebrate it even if are alone. Don’t worry. Truth can stand on it’s own.
  4. Repeat number one over and over again.

Talk about it. Think about it. Even sing about it.

Trust me. God is truth. He will not us down.

Who knows?

We may end up dancing in the streets after all. 🙂

Smashing against the end of ourselves and other ways to fall apart

IMG_0723I’ve been thinking a lot about faith lately.

Don’t think I”m trying to be super spiritual. Fact is, hard times have forced me to it.

I usually just pray that trouble would fade away.  Problem solved. Life back to peachy-keen and mighty-fine. No rocking the boat, no upsetting the apple cart, no running blind in the dark.

But I have learned that, without struggles to remind us of who we are and what we need, we can end up with a severe case of spiritual dehydration. Our gratefulness can turn to pride and our compassion for other people crumble into dust.

Hard times push us until we smash against the end of ourselves. Force us to face our limitations. Embrace our need for God. Every day. All the time.

News Flash-

God is not out to destroy us. He loves us and wants to bless us. He hurts for us when we are in pain and He is present with us in our suffering.  

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Every. Single. Minute. Of. Every. Day.

Hard times make us hungry. Thirsty. Desperate for God.

Sure, I am first to admit that our struggles can break us into a million little pieces.

But, It changes our vision. Our faith. We begin to see deeply into the suffering of others. We can speak healing into their lives with a power that only comes from brokenness.

Going through troubles increases our faith. The more we need God the more we seek him.

When I was a little girl, I used to run around like crazy all day pestering everyone on the planet. By bedtime, I was ready to pass out on the bottom bunk bed. I didn’t really think about my parents much before I went to sleep. If they had gone out for the rest of the night I would not have even noticed. Sleep, that was what mattered.

But one nightmare could change everything. I’d wake up terrified and run straight to Mom and Dad’s room. I had to see them. To feel their hugs. Hear their groggy voices.

I had to know that they were REALLY there.

When we come to the end of ourselves and all the things we depend on to keep us safe, we need to know that God is REALLY there.

Finding that God in the middle of the night will increase your faith. Hands down.

Maybe you going through some difficult times right now. Maybe its made you pray like crazy or you swear like a sailor. Maybe you find it hard to get out of bed in the morning or you can’t sleep at night.

When you are overwhelmed, you may not be able to do all you think you should do. Give yourself space just to do what you can. Here are a few simple things that may help.

  1. Move your body even if you don’t feel like it. Ha! I’ve been goaded by my kids to show off some of my crazy dance moves when I just didn’t even feel like smiling Funny thing, by the end of the song I was actually having fun. Stress can make your mind run a mile a minute.  Getting out and walking, running or doing what ever you do to move can actually elevate your mood. It clears your head and helps your heart stay strong.
  2. Share with someone safe. Talk to someone whose love and acceptance you trust. Saying out loud what you are thinking can defuse some of your greatest fears. It’s a way to sort out your thoughts. And it gives true friends get a chance to show you the grace that has been there for you all along.
  3. Write down what gives you hope. If God gives you insight through meditation, a conversation or what ever, write it down. Don’t be afraid to go back and read it again when you are struggling. Hope is meant for hard times.
  4. Eat your veggies. Sounds a little silly. But, as a sugar junkie, I know what stress can do to the everyday diet. And an unhealthy diet can drag you down, make you feel hopeless on top of everything else that is going on.
  5. Try not to let your feelings mess with your mind. The worst thing about going through hard times are the emotional ups and downs. The same emotions that make you cry over a lost little puppy can downright lie to you about your circumstances.  Whether your actions brought you to this point or your response to your circumstances have been pretty nasty, God loves you and wants to show you grace. Accept it. Embrace it. Allow yourself to be ok with where you are.

Whew, writing this blog really cleared my head and helped me see more clearly what God is doing in my life and the life of my family.

God is good. Even in the dark. Especially in the dark.

Why?

Because there is nothing like reaching out when you can’t see a thing and finding the creator of the universe right beside you.

Have a blessed week! And if you feel like you just can’t hold onto God through all that is happening. Take heart! He is holding on to you!

God on Vacation- how to know when you don’t need Him anymore

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If you measure me in song years, I’m pretty old.

For example, I remember singing about death and dying and the glory of God from the time I could formulate a sentence. Every Sunday my siblings and I mumbled out lyrics such as

“I’ll fly away, oh glory, I’ll fly away…when I die, Hallelujah…”

while mom banged on the piano keys at the front of the church. That was my childhood set to music. Waiting for the world to end.

When we sang A Mighty Fortress is Our God, we sang

every

single

verse.

That meant singing stuff like

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,

No wonder I spent Sunday afternoon contemplating my mortality instead of riding my bike. Life was short. My existence OBVIOUSLY very fragile. And the eternal unknown right around the corner. 

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It wasn’t until I was older, that I gained perspective. Sure, life was fragile. But God was constant. He would never let us drift into nothingness or suffer alone. I could depend on him every single day, until my dying breath.

Was I finally becoming wiser?

Not so much.

After decades of depending on God, I became anxious.

No more take-my-life-and-let-it-be stuff. Even praise songs such as Ten Thousand Reasons or Good, Good Father didn’t move me.

I needed something more.

Like owning my own home.

As I hit middle age I felt guilty that I had not contributed enough to the family income so that we could own our own home. I began to explore “what if” like what if we had inherited a small down payment or had been at the right moment at the right time for some incredible deal.

I admit it. Owning a home became a symbol of security for me. The golden payoff. The end goal.

God could take a long, long vacation. Why? Because we wouldn’t need Him anymore.

Fact is, we still rent. We still have to depend on God day after day after day. But, is that so bad? Not owning a home? Facing challenges? Loss? Struggles?

I realize now that needing God is not a weakness as much as it is an opportunity to cling to him in childlike faith.

I guess that ‘s the bottom line.

There is NOTHING wrong with owning a home, getting married, having kids, a great career, dreaming that big dream and watching it come true. But, if it takes the place of God we are in trouble.

Big trouble.

God is the one who holds eternity in his hands. Our future. Our ever lasting home. Our job is to trust Him more and more each day. I love the way the song Oceans expresses our faith in God-

you call me out upon the waters,

the great alone where feet may fail

And there I find you in the mystery

In oceans deep

My faith will stand.

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Our deepest needs call us to deepest truths.  Our greatest desperation can begin a journey of discovery into the  mysteries of faith.

We will always need God. And He will always be there.

No matter what.

It’s not allergies, it’s Jesus

To be honest, I don’t trust music much. Sound tracks and radio play lists are the worst. They get you dancing along and then they hit you with some tune that rips your heart out.

Not cool.

I have places to go and people to see. I don’t want to live my life looking like I came straight from the wailing wall.

Worship music at church is the worst.  You can’t change the channel or turn down the volume. Sure, sticking your fingers in your ears and humming works but so does yelling “Not that sappy song” while unplugging the worship leader’s microphone.

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Not what people pleasers like me tend to do in public. 

So I listen, sniff a lot and pretend my allergies are shoving my  my sinuses out through my tear ducts.

Last Sunday morning I let my guard down. It was sort of a kid’s service, ok?  Skits. Fun songs. Great dance moves. No reason to burst into tears. 

Then, the worship team began to lead the kids in the song Jesus loves me. I thought it was the old version I had sung one million, billion, trillion times. (Yeah, that’s how many times I went to church as pastor’s kid.) 

Wrong. 

It was a different song written by Ben Glover, Chris Tomlin, Reuben Morgan.

One line of the song really got me. I mean, really, really got into my heart.

“Jesus loves me, He loves me, He is for me”

Suddenly, I felt like I did in grade school. Standing in the gym waiting for someone  to call my name. To want me on their team.

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Ha! Like it mattered in the great scheme of things.

Evidently it did because I could still feel my cheeks burn as I stood alone. Again. But, I lived with it. Still knew that Jesus loved me. As a kid I figured He loved everybody -in a group hug sort of a way.

I never thought

of Jesus being

for me.

Me.

Choosing me, specifically me

to be with him.

After church, I casually mentioned how I liked the song Jesus Loves me and my eyes started to well up like some kind of underground seepage.

It was weird.

Well, maybe not as weird as the unexplainable urge to run home from school and tell mom that I finally got chosen for a team. After all these years.

Thing is, I did get chosen. I just didn’t realize it then. Jesus gave his life for me. He loves me. He is for me.

And all those kids in my grade school P.E. class were wrong.

I do belong.

And so do you. Jesus, He loves you. He is for you.

Living the dream one moment at a time

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Another post? Two days in a row?

Ha! Even I’m surprised.

After a year or more of sporadic activity I wasn’t sure if I should even be posting at all.  I’ve been busy tutoring,  working on my learning specialist certificate and and keeping up with all things family.

Yeah, great excuses. 🙂

And, maybe it’s just common sense to focus on what is in front of me. I love tutoring, taking courses to learn new strategies, and, of course, I love interacting with my family as much as possible.

But, I have this thing about writing.

No it’s not creepy. More like euphoric. Or maybe it’s more like I have these moments when I feel so deeply, see what matters in life so clearly I just want to write it down. My head fills with words that shape and form to the hidden depth of everyday moments.

It’s my passion.

But, those words seldom get written down. Days and weeks and months go by without a letter formed because I’m waiting

  1. for the perfect moment when I have hours of nothing to do but write.
  2. for the perfect idea to come into my head so I can put it down on paper.
  3. for someone to encourage me and let me know that my writing is perfectly acceptable and I should do it.

Perfect.

As if I will ever be. That’s not me, not you, not anyone.

And that’s why I”m blogging two days in a row. I”m not perfect but I am passionate. And, I have to get capture the rhythm of everyday life in words.

I want to write. Imperfectly. Any time I can. No matter what other people think of me.

What about you? Maybe you’ve been hardwired to sing, dance, write computer code, run 5ks, paint, speak, garden, sketch, knit, landscape, build, tear down, listen deeply, cook creatively, or something I don’t know how to spell, pronounce or even wrap my head around.

Maybe you’ve done it before.

Maybe it’s something you’ve longed to do but never let your self even imagine what it would be like if you did.

I say that

  1. No matter what people think
  2. even if now is not the perfect time,
  3. or you feel you are not good enough

Do it.

The beauty is not just in the end result. It is in the process.

Today

  •  carve out
  • some time
  • even it’s just a moment or two

to begin to bring your dream to life.

 

In the words of the world’s most famous footwear-

Just do it 🙂