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Doing Our Part

The antidote to the cries of an aching world is found within me because it is only my contributions that I control.

It is incredibly easy to live a life void of self-examination, paying little attention to my behaviors and motives, all while hyper-focusing on what I deem right or wrong in those around me.

Judgement.

It is insidious.

My soul is much better served working on me rather than worrying about them.

Blame temporarily feels good. It is a false place to surrender our pain, but never solve it.

The most significant piece of doing our part is found looking inside not outside of ourselves.

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Tears, Fears and Truth

In the late afternoon on the day Carter was born, a nurse came into my room and told me she needed to take him for an echocardiogram. The doctor that examined him earlier detected a heart murmur and they needed to investigate further.

I was scared and immediately broke down in tears. I didn’t want them to take my baby anywhere, especially somewhere that might bring bad news.

It had been a difficult pregnancy. It was an arduous delivery. There were a few moments of silence when he entered the world and my heart stopped, only to stutter again a few hours later.

My nurse was on the latter end of her career. Advanced in age, not much appeared to faze her. “Don’t cry,” she quipped. “Save your tears. You will need them later.” At the time, I thought how insensitive she was. I was young and naive.

When I was pregnant with Macey, we thought we would lose her several times. Then there was a point early on that I ended up in the ICU with a collapsed lung and a chest tube. I wondered if we would both be lost?

My pregnancies were so complicated that I remember crying out to God so often to please let my children be born so I would know they were safe. As I said before, I was so naive. I never knew I would shed so many tears. I have good kids. It isn’t that.

It is that the “good” things have become the hard things.

Kindergarten graduation. The transition from elementary school to junior high school, then to high school. Letting them go off in a car. Driving. Camps. One and two week-long camps with no communication. Empty nest staring me in the face. And for Heaven’s sake, I never knew there would be tears and trepidation just over sending them to school.

I was so naive back then, but in more ways than one.

The most important difference now is that I know I am not their Savior.

I know now that God is sovereign and understanding that and standing under it look very different.

I know now that nothing takes God by surprise.

I know that He has already assigned all of our days, ALL OF THEM, mine and my children.

I know now that I have very little control and forgetting that is costly to me and those I love.

I know now that battles are better fought in prayer than panic.

I know now that as long as I am breathing, as long as anyone is breathing, evil will exist and I will not understand it, but I am not called to figure it out rather trust without doubt. Easier said than done, but worth fighting for.

I know now that this world is not my home, not my family’s home, and because of our eternal destination hope and gratitude trump fear.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33

I am saying a few extra prayers for all you mamas tonight. You are loved.

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Burden Bearers

What is the most difficult thing in your life right now?

You don’t have to answer, but I trust most of you can immediately think of at least one thing.

A friend shared this painting with me yesterday. It hangs in the crisis center here in Birmingham. I love it so much. What does this work of art mean to me?

First, it reminds me of Psalm 91:4~He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings, you will find refuge. I love the beautiful picture and promise that verse portrays.

Second, it illustrates my divinely designed commission here on Earth, 2 Corinthians 1:4~He comforts us in all our troubles so that we may comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. That is my deepest desire apart from knowing Jesus more.

Lastly, this painting illustrates to me one of the faithful ways God does not forsake us is through His people. He seems to send just the right person or people in our most dire times of need to help shoulder the weight of our cross. Each feather on this lady’s back represents a person bearing an unimaginable burden.

This picture so poignantly characterizes what it looks like to allow a friend to meet us down in the dirt and debris of our desperation and pick us up so we may walk despite our weakness. Not everyone qualifies to hold our deepest hurts.

Do you have one friend that does? It does not take many. Not even two. If you have only one person who is interruptible, intentional and trustworthy, consider it a blessing from The Lord and thank Him.

As one of my favorite quotes says, “We are all just walking each other Home.” It is a sacred privilege to enter the presence of another person’s pain and allow The Lord to use you to speak light into their darkness and truth amidst their trauma.

May we be worthy burden bearers.

If you do not have one friend who serves in this way for you, let’s talk and pray for God to meet that need.

You are loved!♥️

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A Better Way Through

When circumstances overwhelm me, when self-pity, discouragement or sadness settle into my soul, after a reflective look within, I invariably find that I have forgotten a crucial component that predicates peace.

Belief.

Whatever it is for you today, that like a million, tiny paper cuts is tearing you up inside, are you believing in both God as a Person and God as a Promiser? I don’t forget the first but so easily the latter.

When we are actively clinging to both His Presence, and His pledges in the daily, and the difficult places of our lives, peaceful perseverance is possible.

Standing under truth may not always offer a way out, but a better way through.

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The Rock Of Empathy and Understanding

Have you been misunderstood, wronged, hurt, betrayed or falsely accused?  Everyone has at some point.

You know what is the most difficult thing for me to do, but the right and respectable thing, taking it to prayer rather than people? Bringing my hurt to The Father rather than Facebook, and to the Scriptures rather than my stories.

We all desire to be affirmed and understood, but when that desire becomes more about needing the validation of people than God,  I know I have a problem.

This is a great and convicting quote from Julie Sparkman’s book, Unhitching From The Crazy Train, co-written by Jennifer Phillips.  “When you are wronged, instead of pleading, “God, make this right!” you begin to pray, “Jesus,  You know what it feels like to be mocked, misunderstood, and falsely accused. I do long for You to make this right, but in the meantime, would You show me how to honor You as I bear up under injustice?  These Christlike prayers and attitudes come from the Scripture that is stored in your heart.”

I love this!

We have a Savior who suffered to know and identify with us in our affliction.  I am the first to forget to submit mine to Him, the Rock of empathy and understanding.  He is there for me and for you, friend.  Let’s not forget Him.

You are loved.

Unhitching From The Crazy Train is available at Lifeway and on Amazon 2/5/18. Also, you can order from newhopepublishers.com. 

www.restore-ministries.org

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Fishers of Men Not Means

Through earnest prayer, I have seen God change so many circumstances in my life and the lives of people I love. More importantly, I have seen him transform me so that I am not bound to begging for a different outcome but rather a divine income.

For many years I thought the purpose of prayer was to get something from God. Now I understand that the hope of prayer is to get God. Just God, more of Him and less of me. His desires become mine, not vice versa when I sincerely seek Him.

Praying does not require fancy language. God does not give credit for style. He is looking for surrender.

Prayer changes everything. The thing is, change just does not always mirror our desires.

I have heard a couple of renditions of this misconception the last week, “I don’t understand, He didn’t answer my prayers.” He did, friend. He just answered them His way, and we are not called to comprehend but to commit.

If you are a parent and you make decisions that are best for your children, you know sometimes they are hard, but they are also right. Our kids most often do not understand. Hard and holy go hand in hand, though, and it has been that way since the beginning.

God understands our difficulty because He, too, is a Father. He is a person to know not a commodity to control.

Prayer sometimes changes earthly directions, but most importantly it alters eternal destinations, and that is our primary commission.

We are fishers of men not means.

If I can pray for you today, please let me know. It is my privilege to petition the Prince of Peace on behalf of my friends.

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Remember The Wildflowers

A precious, little Cuban wildflower.

Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? ~Luke 12:27-28 (The Message)

Growing in grace teaches us that it is not the color of one’s skin, but the content of their soul that makes our world beautiful. Under all the facades, past all the tips and tricks to hide what we deem unsightly, God crafted a heart purposed to reflect the love of The Almighty.

Aging is a beautiful thing when we look beyond the ordinary markers to behold the extraordinary meanings.

Wrinkles are the troughs eroded by tears and settled by smiles. They map out our life right there in plain sight, telling the world of a life song threefold. Once a man, twice a child so the circle goes. And in the process of completion wisdom waltzes in and shares her instruction.

Bruises, and scars are signs of a life lived, loved and lost. They are medals of honor that portray the stories that sometimes made us laugh, and other times made us cry. Each one, a monument of rising to the mountaintop or descending into the valley. But we know life is both hard and holy.

Every year, a new number. A new season. A new calling. We all want to behold burning bush moments, but God. Sometimes He places us right in the midst of life’s mundane messes and asks us, live here. Make a difference here with all your scars and scrapes, not in the middle of momentous miracles and before millions of eyes, but among measureless mercies and man’s desperate cries.

Wherever you are friend, remember the wildflowers. You may be one dancing in the wind on a beautiful hillside for all the world to see, or maybe you are tucked into a safe corner disguised by many. Both coordinates are needed and necessary. Be about the business of Kingdom building. The harvest is plentiful in the majestic and the mundane. You were picked and planted to thrive right where you are by the Hands that molded the world. Thrive wildflower. Be alive.

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Prayer

It is prayer through things, not out of them that moves mountains. Sometimes my prayers are not answered the way I desire. When they are bound to my expectations, not my evolution the disappointment can lead to despair.

It is right and natural to pray for circumstances, especially difficult ones, to change. Jesus demonstrated that for us when He asked, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.” But we cannot miss what He says next, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Jesus was facing the most unimaginable circumstances, and He did ask for a different way, but ultimately His heart’s desire was the will of His Father not the way of His flesh.

It was not until I came to understand and trust the character of God and the location of my final destination that I could afford to pray with a boldness that says, Lord, here is my earnest plea, but it does not trump my longing for your eternal plan. My prayers shifted from being less about relief to more about refinement. If this cannot change, God, change me.

When I desire self-modification more than circumstantial transformation, my communion with The Father is lighter, and I am free to risk more because it is not about a particular outcome but a positive income. Praise seeps in when personal comfort steps out, and God is glorified. That is the objective of prayer. God’s glory. Not mine.

When we pray through the valley of suffering ourselves or with a friend, and we see God’s faithfulness and ever-present provisions in pain, it affords us patient perseverance because we know that He is good and His ways are sometimes hard, but always holy.

How can I pray for you today, friend?

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Daily Bread

The little girl took the bread and, crumb by crumb started eating it. I said to her, “Eat, eat the bread. You are hungry.” And the little one looked at me and said, “I am afraid. When the bread is finished, I will be hungry again.” (A story from the life of Mother Teresa).

This story not only pulls at my heart but rips it apart. Sadly, though, when I minimize God and maximize fear, I am living in poverty just like the afraid little girl. Fear tells us we cannot trust God for His provisions to be enough.

You do not have to be homeless and hungry to be impoverished.

When we do not feel secure, we live a small, static existence. God invites us to enjoy a free and bold way of living with Him because He alone is the grantor of our daily bread.

In what ways are you diminishing your life because you are afraid? The decision to grab the hand of freedom and live, love, leap, and lead is not a singular event, but one we sometimes have to make daily.  May I encourage you today to trade in your trepidation for trust and see where it takes you?

Father, I repent of all the ways I reduce my life as a means of managing my welfare.  I quickly forget that control does not equal comfort.  When I put myself in charge of daily bread, it is a recipe for an exhausted, empty heart.  Redirect me to surrender my unbelief back to You, my permanent Provider.