Day 21: Second chances…

31dayssquareaddressIt was pretty audacious of me to assume I could waltz into the blogosphere and just write for 31 days.  I make brash assumptions like that frequently.  Sometimes it works out.  Sometimes I crash and burn.

I feel a little scorched right now.

I’m a week behind and everything in me screams “QUIT.  Just quit.  You were never going to finish anyway.  You really never finish what you start.  You don’t plan things out well enough.  It doesn’t matter.  No one will even notice….”

Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only person who hears that voice.  Am I?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

The voice of insecurity is designed to keep up living in lack.  Never trusting we are who God says we are and that He is, too.  Lysa TerKuerst says it this way in ‘The Best Yes’:  “Whether we feel insecure and limited–or we feel secure because we intentionally limit ourselves by staying in only those places where we feel naturally secure–either way, we are stunting possible growth.”  

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Stunting possible growth.  Wow.  Not the place I want to be.  No more lack, thankyouverymuch.

Thank goodness we serve a God of second chances.  And third chances.  And fourth……well, you get it.

We need to get intentional about putting truth into our minds and hearts and getting the trash out.  When we are saturated in the word, full to overflowing, there’s just no room for lies and nonsense the enemy would like to speak into our delicate souls.  That’s when we win and start taking back what was ours all along.

Second chances.  He’s really good that way.

I don’t know what your do-over is today.  It may be small like mine….I’m going to finish strong even if it takes longer.  Maybe for you it’s a huge thing.  What I do know is this:  God is there.  In the beauty and the sorrow.  In the inspired writing you do and in the messy breakfast table and towel strewn bathrooms.  He’s there.  Reaching out to you, for the second, third, nine hundredth time….

It’s a new day.  You have a new chance.  Take it.  Live it.  Go.

“Sow for yourselves righteousness,

reap the fruit of unfailing love,

and break up your unplowed ground;

for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes

and showers you with righteousness.”

~~Hosea 10:12

This post is written in conjunction with the #Write31days Challenge and linked up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday crew here and Nester Smith’s friends here.

Day 15: Doing life

31dayssquareaddressSo life.  It’s a funny thing.  As I think back over my life, especially the early years as a young wife and then mother, I wonder how I survived.  Especially the mom thing.  Shew.  It still amazes me that you have a baby and the doctors and nurses clean her up and send you on your way without a single clue in the world.

Talk about real life.  Taking that baby home is about as real as it gets.

At that time, I was really wrapped up in being essentially the perfect wife and mother.  I don’t mean that I tried to uphold the Proverbs 31 standard of a godly woman.  No.  I was striving for perfect.  As if that might heal me.

I was constantly knocking myself out to try and attain some imaginary standard.  Obviously I wanted to do right by my husband and baby daughter.  But I was a bit obsessive about it at times.

I may or may not have kept a spreadsheet of every calorie my daughter ingested as she began solid foods.

A spreadsheet, people!

Now look, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a spreadsheet of your kiddo’s food intake if that’s your thing.  But anyone who knows me well knows that spreadsheets make me break out in hives and lists give me a stomachache.  My brain isn’t organized to think in those terms….which I know is upsetting to those with logical thought processes, but yeah, it doesn’t work for me.

It got to the place where I realized life was slowly killing me.  It wasn’t a joyful life well-lived.  It felt more like a life sentence. And not in a good way.

And that’s when I got on my face and gave it over to Jesus.  Because as we all find out eventually, we simply can’t do it all on our own.  And that’s what I was trying to do.  Life on my own.   Kind of near Jesus, but not WITH Jesus.

The beauty of His promise is that he calls us to open ourselves up to him.  Fully. Completely.  Because he wants to do life with us.  Through us.  In us.

And that opens us up to just be ourselves in His presence.

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In many ways these babies saved my lives…..they taught me so much about Jesus in ways I never expected.  We do life together in pretty amazing ways.  And I’ve given up on perfection, choosing to just embrace my imperfectness, knowing Jesus has got it.  I can just relax and be who He’s always wanted me to be.

This post is written in conjunction with the #Write31days Challenge and linked up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday crew here and Nester Smith’s friends here.

Day 12: Rest. Just rest.

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It’s been some day.  It started around midnight when I realized I had left my iPad in the shopping cart at Hobby Lobby.  What I wanted to do was purchase yarn to make a dress for my niece.  Instead, I left my iPad behind for the next lucky user of my shopping cart.

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and stared at the ceiling for hours, falling asleep roughly around 6:45.

My alarm went off at 6:50.

My girls fought the entire way to church.

Thank goodness for worship.

My girls noisily sang the entire way home from church.

I thought I had all the ingredients I needed to host guests for dinner but I didn’t.

I’ve been all out of sorts for weeks.  New job.  New co-workers.  New church family.  New choir.  New friends.  And even in all the good things, even in following God’s call in our lives, there’s a cost.  And that’s not always easy.  The cost is what can keep us from doing those things God would have us do.  Because the cost can be painful.  It is usually hard.

The cost of doing what is right can, at times, not seem worthwhile.

And so today, on this Sabbath, I needed to make a decision.  Rest our burn out.

This week, as I listened to a Proverbs31 Online Bible Study conference call, author and life coach Lisa J. Allen said something that really resonated with me.

“Sometimes,” she said, “the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.”

I had all I could deal with today, after weeks of emotional upheaval and the daily grind of life.  I needed to reset my heart.  So I put aside the fact that I had family visiting in a short time and just gave myself grace and took a nap.  An honest to goodness hour there I closed my door, shut out even my family and just rested.

And I thought on this.  This morning in worship, Pastor Doug shared something that really spoke to my heart.  He suggested that there are times in our lives when we feel like escaping.  And when those times come, there are many paths we can choose. But rather than acting rashly, what if we choose to be still?  Just be still and rest for a moment.  And then what if we were to imagine Jesus–yoked to us; beside us?  What we if were to chose to lay our burdens down and to not only learn FROM Him but to learn OF Him?

What if?  What if we rested in those moments of overwhelm?  And rather than trying to solve our own hurt and pain and loneliness and disappointment, what if we gave it over and rested in knowing he took it, and handled it and brought us peace. What if we just came to Him, messy as we are, and just rested in His presence?  What if we did?

This post is written in conjunction with the #Write31days Challenge and linked up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday crew here and Nester Smith’s friends here.

Day 8: Say

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The words come to me often. Song lyrics.  John Mayer croons, “Say what you wanna say….say what you wanna say.”

I think of my daughters.  So much of their lives are lived with unfiltered speech.  If they think it, they feel it.  If they feel it, they feel entitled to say it.  Sometimes, the words they say are designed to cut the other sister to the quick.  They know each others’ triggers and they delight at pushing the buttons, it seems.

Other times, it’s not the words exactly.  It’s not what you say, but how you say it.  Passive aggressive.  Riding the edge of what is okay to say.  And what is not.

And really, how and what we say, choosing to say it the right way or the wrong way, that’s something we all struggle with, isn’t it?

My kids frustrate me and suddenly I find myself being snarky to my husband over something that is nothing at all.

The driver in front of me does something dumb and I call him an unpleasant name.  He doesn’t hear it but my daughters sure do.

Someone I respect at church hurts my feelings and I choose our words from a place of hurt, so they may know exactly how their words cut me to the quick.

But that’s not Jesus’s way, is it?  That’s not what He has in store for Jesus girls.  He must increase and I must decrease.  In every aspect of my life.  More of Him and less of me.  And in this case, I’m called to choose what I say carefully.  My words should reflect His words.

I’m preaching to myself here because this is not easy for me.  Maybe you feel the same?

Say what you wanna say?  No way.  Say what’s best or say nothing at all.  You never know what a difference that might make in someone’s life.  Especially your own.

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This post is written in conjunction with the #Write31days Challenge and linked up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday crew here and Nester Smith’s friends here.

He knows me

31dayssquareaddressIn my quiet time this morning, I took five minutes and just poured over a verse or two of scripture.  Life is chaotic and busy and my head is noisy.  Even when I’m supposed to be still.  I tend to feel that Im doing something wrong if I’m not pounding through several chapters of scripture every day.  More is better, right?

As if, God, Himself, gave us one and only list of how to do it ….the Holy Expectation of Bible Study….to be a good Jesus girl you must read from the Old Testament, the New Testament, a chapter of Proverbs and a couple Psalms every day.

We might make up our own expectations but He doesn’t do that.  He hasn’t set up those rules.

So I’ve been slowing down and pondering one verse of scripture today.  And this is it:

“My sheep listen to my voice, I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27

So often I focus on my part of this verse.  The listening part.  And in that I can get wrapped up in how I might listen wrong.  Or mishear.  Or not hear anything at all.

But today, what spoke to my heart was this…..”I know them…”

Ahhh.  He knows me.  The God of the universe, the Shepherd of my soul knows me.  He knows me.  Me.

Drink that in and understand that wherever you are, whether it’s in trial or joy, whether you’ve got dirty dishes stacked up in your sink and you forgot to run the overfull dishwasher and there is laundry strewn on your couch and the beds aren’t made…..He knows you.  He sees your need.  He wants to meet you right where you are.  If you’ll slow down and let Him.

Jesus is a gentleman.  He calls.  But we often forget to listen.

He knows you.  Listen to His voice.  It’s there.  Only slow down long enough, breathe that tender mercy into your soul rather than jamming another chore in there, and listen.  And then follow.

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This post is written in conjunction with the #Write31days Challenge and linked up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday crew here and Nester Smith’s friends here.

Day 5: I’m stuck…or am I?

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This morning, as our pastor began to bring us his message during worship these words flashed on the screen:

We all sin.

It took my breath away.  Not because I didn’t know it was true.  Oh, trust me.  I did.  But my heart nearly leaped out of my chest because I was sure I knew where this was going.

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Condemnation.  Try harder.  Do better.  Be more.  You’re not enough.  Do it all over.  I’ve heard that message of hell and brimstone a million times.

But no.  No, Pastor Pete reminded us that we were living in a grace place.  One where we no longer have to build a life stuck in sin but pretending as if we weren’t.  Where we no longer have to go to great lenghts to try to convince ourselves that being good and being happy is enough in our lives.

Because it’s not.  And you and I both know that.

We can keep trying to live our lives as though we can jam enough good things into place to cobble together some sort of life here.

Or.  We can focus on eternity.  One where there is repentance and redemption.  One where we can stop, right now, right this minute, right where we are in whatever it is that is nearly killing us, and we can do a complete 180.  We can circle right back around to Jesus.  We can embrace the call and plan he has for us.

Sure, we can stay stuck in the quicksand of sin and the trap of lies the world tells us.

But why?

“Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit.”  Ezekiel 18:31

There is grace, bleeding through right beside you.  Closer than a breath.  Closer than a song.  Closer than you can imagine.

Don’t remain stuck in sin and lies and unbelief.  Turn around.  Turn around and let grace lead you home.

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This post is written in conjunction with the #Write31days Challenge and linked up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday crew here and Nester Smith’s friends here.

Day 3: A New Voice

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Confession time again.

That voice in my head is very unkind.  You know the one I mean.  I know you do.  You have it too, I’ll bet.

It’s that voice makes big lists of my shortfalls and categorizes my sins.  And while we’re at it, might as well see how my mess stacks up with what I perceive your list looks like.

It tells me I’m not good enough.  Or smart enough.  Not talented enough.  I don’t wear the right size.  Or keep my house properly.  My children aren’t well behaved enough and that is a reflection on the sort of mother I am.  It tells me I don’t pray enough or study enough.  I don’t balance things in my life enough.

Do you see a theme here?  Never.enough.

Funny thing.  It seems that I’m always looking at my own blooper reel while looking at my sister’s highlight clips.  Her best days as opposed to my worst.  As if there’s a competition.  And if I allow it, that ugly voice will dominate my days and control my life. It tells me all the ways I do not measure up, as if this is the gospel truth.

But here’s the thing.  I measure up not because of anything I do.  Ha.  More like in spite of what I do.  Because I mess up a lot.  Like 100 times before lunch.  No, it’s not on my power. I’m enough because of Jesus’s redeeming work on the cross.  There’s no competition.  Only the filter of grace.

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He sings a song of love to me daily, calling out to remind me of who I am in Him.

The hearing is up to me.

Listen to the new voice.  There is peace.

This post is written in conjunction with the #Write31days Challenge and linked up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday crew here and Nester Smith’s friends here.

Day 2: The View

31dayssquareaddressWherever we go, I tend to take my trusty camera with me.  Or at the very least, I’m not afraid to whip out my phone and use that camera instead.  Now that my daughters are no longer babies and not so apt to pose or allow pictures without a fuss, I find myself looking more and more at the world around me and enjoying the view.

Looking outside, rather than being so much in my head.

And as I look at the scenery, the majesty which God has created, it often takes my breath away.  And it causes me to think on God Almighty.  On the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf.

How do I view the abundant life I’ve been given?

So often, when a difficult season presents itself, we can hyper-focus on the immediacy of that situation.  Of the needs it presents.  How it makes us feel.  And that can cause us to spiral to a place we were never meant to be.  I know that has so often been true for me.

Someone says something to you and you being to inspect the ways it has wounded you.  And you begin to assign intentions and motives that someone never said.  And the more we focus on that, the more hurt we feel.  And we think about what we could have said.  And what we shoudl have said.

ANd so rarely are those things what Jesus would like us to say.  *sigh*

In those moments, I have to reign myself in.  In the difficult times.  Both the small ones and the big ones.  ANd I have to decide.  Who is God *really* in my life.  What’s the big picture?

Are these trials bigger than God?  When we hyper-focus, it sure seems like it.  But if I can step back and really set my eyes on the God of the universe, suddenly the view changes.  Oh, the situation didn’t change, but my view certainly does.  Take out the hurt.  Take out the emotion.  Stop assigning blame and motive and value things of this world simply don’t have.

Take a look at the view.  Who is God to me?

My dear Abba, who tends my hurts.

Sweet refuge in the middle of life’s storms.

Like no one I’ve ever known.

Marvelous mystery, He is.  And I am so glad.  Because that’s a God I can invest in.

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This post is written in conjunction with the 31 Days Writing Challenge and linked up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday crew here and Nester Smith’s friends here.

Day 1: Who moved?

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Confession time.

There are days or even seasons in which I feel really close to God.  I hear Him clearly.  I see His hand all around me.  I just have this sense of His leading.

Today is not one of those days.

It’s been a long week, full of unexpected busy-ness.  When I have a full calendar, I can usually adapt to that fairly well, but when unexpected things creep in, it’s something else entirely.  I start forgetting things.  Sometimes I’m so busy, I forget to meet up with God.  It’s never intentional.  But with this Jesus girl, it happens.  *blush*

And in those moments, He becomes a bit distant to me.  And I wonder.  When did God move?  Why did He move?

In her new book, “The Best Yes”, Lysa TerKuerst reminds us that living with an overwhelmed schedule will cause us “to ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.”  And it doesn’t take long for this to happen.

Can you relate to that?  It’s amazing how quickly life gets away from us and how fast it seems that God moves from us.  But God is unchanging.  He didn’t go anywhere.  If anyone moved, it was me.  I moved into a place where I let the demands of life come first, promising God that I’d sit with him later.  Or I slam through a few quick prayer requests in the pick-up line at the high school.  Or quickly glance at my Bible app in the orthodontist’s waiting room.

When that sort of thing is happening, it’s for sure a sign that there was movement.  But it was me.

I moved.  And I didn’t move to a good place.

The Word reminds us of many attributes of God, not the least of which are His benefits, found in Psalm 103.

He forgives my sin.

Heals my diseases.

Redeems my life from the pit.

Crowns me with love and compassion.

Satisfies my desires with Good things.

And renews my youth like the eagle’s.

Did God move during this season of busy and rush and doing and running?  No.  He didn’t move.  But we drift quickly when we lose focus.  So press in, dear friends.  The road is a long one, but praise be, it’s a marathon and not a sprint.

Pace yourself.  Give yourself grace and keep moving nearer to His abundance.

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This post is written in conjunction with the 31 Days Writing Challenge and linked up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday crew here and Nester Smith’s friends here.

I’m in!

Goodness knows I have a lot to say.  Too much, usually.  Just ask my daughters.

What I seem to lack, however, is good old-fashioned discipline.  I like to fly by the seat of my pants.  But in this case, I think some routine is in order.

So.  *gulp*  I’m taking Kate Motaung and The Nester up on their writing challenges.  As outlined  by Kate (Five Minute Friday) here and by Myquillyn Smith (aka The Nester) here, the object of this challenge is to get some words from our brains and out over the interwebs every day for a month.  A whole month.

Shew.

Did you follow all that?  Probably not.  At any rate, beginning on October 1, I’ll be writing daily which I know has you on the absolute edge of your seats!  Yay for that.  There will be some five minute posts, and some more thought out posts but yeah, every day.  And what will I be writing about?  Glad you asked…..

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Stay tuned, gentle reader.  It’s going to be a wild ride!