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Purpose Amidst Imperfection 

Nestled amidst the sunrise of a fresh week and all the promise it holds is an ever faithful reminder of my inadequacy. I am presently, but peacefully aware that I got more wrong than right last week, and that will surely be my truth this week as well.

My keen sense of insufficiency poses a different purpose for me now, though. Growing in grace teaches me that it is no longer about striving for perfection only to be frustrated, but seeking purpose amidst my imperfection only to be furthered.

 It is an incongruent truth that on the other side of our failures is an intention designed for our prosperity. 

Understanding that falling down is not a shameful thing, but a sacred tool is the genesis of praise. Praise opens the door and welcomes gratitude right into our hearts.

When gratitude is our guest, we see through all the heavy right into the heart of the holy, and joy becomes a source of our strength. 

This week, friend, I pray you have eyes to see and ears to hear all the beauty that your brokenness beholds, and your heart will sing, it is good and it is well with my soul.
You are loved.❤️

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Shine More

 When the sadness of the world is shutting the doors of your heart, open them up more.

When persecution is preying on your joy, look for reasons to praise more.

When grief says the world will never be like before, gratify Jesus more.

When you want to give up, instead give more.

When there seems to be no love left, love more.

Evil only wins if we lose our light to the lust, lies, and lawlessness of the world. When you want to surrender shine more.

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I Will Try Again Tomorrow

Yea, it is the end of one of those hard days when you feel beaten, battered and bruised, sometimes literally. Your heart has been spun up and wrung out.  Emotions have swirled through your body like a tidal wave leaving you feeling washed out, weak and worn.  You have been fighting all day for this person, praying like the persistent widow for that situation, enduring physical pain necessary for healing, and filtering waves of grief and gratitude that amidst it all, curiously still co-mingle.

There is finally a lull of silence with the parting of the sun; your soul settles slightly, and you know you must choose to either concede or conquer the day’s chaos.  Then comes a gentle reminder that you aren’t in this alone.  He’s in the midst of your pain.  He is present with your people, and he is bigger than that situation.

At the end of days like this, I am so grateful that the Psalms are in the Bible.  Many days I am living them as sure as I am breathing; crying out for relief, reassurance, direction, strength and forgiveness.  Then, when the commotion begins to settle slightly I reach deep within to find despite it all gratitude, thanksgiving, worship, and redemption slowly start marching along to the beat of my broken heart.  I take a breath, and each one becomes a little deeper, a little deeper, and finally I enter a state of ailing rest, remembering that tomorrow, should she come, holds new mercies, strength, grace and fuel for the road ahead.

Today must be released to the past, and it is then when I hear the soft but resolute roar;

I will try again tomorrow!

And you friend must courageously commit also to engage again tomorrow with a fresh mind and hopeful heart!  You are loved.

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Dancing in the Darkness

 

It was one week ago today that we said see you later pop to my dad.  This is what was on my heart that day.

Today we honor my dad; not his finalization, but his freedom. The last twelve days have been a tornado of emotions. Last Saturday, the day my dad truly became alive, we were gathered at his side. There had been inadequate time for me to open my Bible the five preceding days. That day seemed as if it would be the same, little time.

Then, a lull happened and everything was quiet.  In hindsight, it was a unique calm, as if not of this world. One of those special moments we rarely recognize until they are written, gone from our grasp, but forever etched in our hearts.

Soft music was playing, and my mom was at my dad’s side.  I sat down behind her and opened my Bible. The verse I landed on was Isaiah 45:3 ~ And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness–secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the one who calls you by name.

It was when I was reflecting briefly on this verse that my dad took Jesus’s hand.  I have gone back daily since last Saturday to that same verse. In reflection, I realized it has been the truth of my travels here. These twelve days have been excruciating, and they have been extraordinary.

I know many of you are enduring dark seasons right now, too.  Sometimes they become so oppressive that our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds become clouded by the dust swirling around us.  When I view this world horizontally, it becomes too much to bear.  When my perspective is eternal, I find gratitude even in grievous places.

God has a way of depositing hidden treasures deep in our discouragement.

It is in the dim places that the growth laden, secret riches from God’s hand become undeniably accentuated.  I was not forsaken this week, and neither was anyone in my family.  We have been given some heavy and layered loads, but they were not void of the promise in Isaiah 43:5. Time and time again the Lord has revealed himself.  We do not drift in disillusionment alone.  When Jesus is our choreographer, it is possible for our souls to dance even in darkness.
He pads our paths with priceless pearls of peace that bring grace to our grief.  We must be watchful to see.

One of my biggest challenges is to abide freely in what is, rather than to shackle myself to what should be.  I cannot imagine that we are that different.  I pray this for us today, friends:

Father hold our hearts to a standard of hope within the haze of pervasive pain.  Let us speak the truth when we tremble.  Unite our hands in faith when we fear. Focus our eyes in the realm of the eternal and not the earthly.  Equip us to trust where You have us, not where we think we should be. Believing in You is the inviting part, trusting You with the devastations of our lives is the intentional part.  You know this of us, God.  Give us fountains of gratitude in our grief and grace for our journeys.  I praise you for knowing and loving us intimately enough to call us all by name.  Thank you for your enduring faithfulness.  Amen.

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Embracing Change

When our familiar becomes foreign, normal becomes new and usual becomes unknown; it feels as if a piece of our life is gone forever, and it is. Lost. It will never be as it was again. It is the dying of a part of us that is so deeply rooted and known that it is painful to imagine how life will look moving forward. It is a challenge to gently and fondly hold, and remember what was so that we may courageously embrace what is.

Overcoming the sting of circumstances we do not wish, nor would we choose does not mean we are happy. It does not mean we are complete, unbroken or perfect. It means we are at peace.

God tends to script our lives in such a way that eventually brings peace to our pain.

Peace does not evolve by chance. One must be available to the works of the Spirit to reap Its fruit. Looking when we do not see, believing when we do not understand, listening when we do not hear, and fighting for it all when we are weary. In the midst of staying faithful, little fountains of gratitude are born in the middle of all our grief. The light of gratitude ultimately overcomes the darkness of grief.

One secret to mastering this mystery is found in the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 26:3~You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You.

Embracing every big and little re-direction is part of life. Some are happy, and some are sad. One glorious day, though, everything we knew, and everything we lost will be familiar again. Nothing eternal is lost forever. If you are facing a new normal, God is extending His hand. Don’t lose hope friends!

For all my family, I love you all so much!

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Grace and Gratitude

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Last Thursday my son became ill with a severe intestinal bug. I have never seen him struggle with one so fierce. It has been days of cleaning up, changing sheets, throwing away sheets, scrubbing and sanitizing. Also in the adventure was a trip to the ER for IV hydration and medications. Poor guy has been through it. It was no fun for me either.

The first evening when he woke up, he and his bed covered with vomit, I kicked into mom mode. The cleanup was not fun. It encompassed a large span of space. Once I got that cleaned up, there was another bigger mess waiting for me to clean up, and so was the chorus of the next several days. One thing that keep surprisingly capturing my attention was the grace God was giving me in every moment of all the messes. Very briefly on several occasions I wanted to complain. Before the words could even take full root in my mind, much less form from my lips, I found myself praising God instead. I would say this is not the natural bend of my heart, but praising God has quickly become much more my default through no merit of my own, only His.

I was praising God for the opportunity to take care of my son. I was praising Him for the opportunity to clean up, wash and care for my son because just seven months earlier he nearly lost his life in a tragic accident.

When you stand in the shadow of death, you often discover the shelter of gratitude. The mundane in the midst of the messy become little fountains of joy that water your soul in parched places.

I felt the searing sting of near loss, and anything but gratitude naturally felt unnatural. Anything but gratitude felt dishonoring to the deep appreciation purposed from a place of such pain.

Suddenly I was grateful for:
Good mattress protectors, washing machines, latex gloves,
Lysol wipes, Lysol Neutra Air spray, adult pull ups, trash bags, beach towels, two sunny days, windows that open, laughter, lotion, candles, GRACE Oh precious GRACE
and last but not least all of my
sisters in Christ who were persistently sending me texts of prayer and encouragement.

I never before knew the wealth of gratitude ushered by grief. It sounds incongruent until it is your reality. I am very thankful for the beauty born for brokenness. I am very thankful for the surprising mercies of God’s grace. Thank you, Lord for allowing me to find the splendor wrapped in the struggle of the last six days.

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May I Never Forget You, 2014

As the sun sets on another year, I am thinking about the things, the hard things, that I would have never chosen in 2014, but they chose me. They brought much grief but were always accompanied by gratitude.

Our years are made of days, some ordinary and some extraordinary. Those days, the ordinary and the extraordinary, occasionally conquer but also create us. They sometimes shatter us but subsequently sharpen us. We experience triumphs, and we endure tragedies. Some days break us only to build us. Days can be messy but NOT without meaning. Refinement and restoration marry well with an available heart.

The self-reliant use tallies of good and bad days to calculate the success of their year. It is perspective and the pursuit of
meaning amidst days, broken and beautiful, that the surrendered use to measure theirs. May I always evaluate my years from a position of surrender.

2014 has felt like a year of wandering in the Psalms for me. I have been desperate, and I have been dependent. I have lamented and I have praised. The year cultivated both difficult and defining memories. It was pretty, and it was painful.

2014 was a reminder that the goal of life is not happiness, because it is not happiness that brokers comfortable homes; but joy outside of circumstances found in a Savior that breeds content hearts.

I am reflecting on all the fragments of 2014, the brutal and the beautiful, and placing them within the context of Romans 8:28 today.~And we know that God causes everything to work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

I see much purpose born from the pain of some of the challenges of 2014. I can find meaning in much of the messiness, but there are other situations, however, I am still waiting. I am aware as Deuteronomy 29:29 tells me, I may never understand. Some things are only to be know by The Lord.

There are circumstances that are unthinkable, unfair and how could God be working right from something so wrong? I am reminded that it is here that I must exercise extravagant faith, not in circumstances I see but in a creator I trust.

It is here, in the stuck places, I have to put away all the “whys” and rest in Who. I do not say this lightly because this is a difficult assignment, but God does not call us to simple, rather to surrender.

We can view life through cynical-glasses or Savior-glasses. It is a choice-a very crucial one. 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011… They all had obstacles that shook and shaped me; not to my final destination but towards my desired direction.

It has been those dreaded moments, the broken ones, that have rendered the sweetest fruit. So while some are saying so long 2014, I cannot wait to forget you; I am saying I hope I always remember you.

There is so much meaning born within the parameters of messy. Jesus, our Savior, was born in the most unclean of environments. Isn’t it beautiful how the sloppiest of circumstances can become sacred. (Luke 2) Isn’t it sweet how pain can usher so much purpose. Jesus was crucified and suffered a painful death with a purpose to secure the salvation of a sinner like me. (Isaiah 53:11)

Thank you 2014 for all the ways you have pruned and protected me. Thank you for all the sorrow that stretched me. Growth really is most fertile when planted in the soil of grief. Thank you for the tears of pain and the tears of joy. Thank you for the portraits of beauty and the scribbles of brokenness. Mostly 2014, thank you for forging me deeper into relationship with my Savior.

Welcome 2015. I know your landscape will be one indigenous of peaks and valleys. I also know it is my triumphs over your tribulations that are for my growth and God’s glory. What a blessing to enter a new year given the grace to understand that.

Happy New Year to all. May you be rich enough to embrace prosperity and rattled enough to experience your Savior.

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Your Need List

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A couple weeks ago, I woke up at 4 Am, as often happens. When I could not go back to sleep I was thumbing through my phone in the dark, and I hit something on Facebook. I don’t know what I pushed, but it took me to the post at the bottom. It was my last post of 2013. I had chills as I read it, and I have since gone back and read it several times in amazement. Thank you, Lord I did not know what was ahead of me, and thank you, Jesus that you did!

As December opens its doors today, I encourage you to begin thinking about all the things, the hard things that you would have never chosen in 2014, but you are now thankful they chose you. You might be surprised what you realize. I have several events, big ones, I would have never elected to endure.

In hindsight, they did hold a lot of grief, and some still do, but as I have learned, grief and gratitude are prone to intermingle. Where the two reside, it is your perspective which one will reign. Think about those unwanted intruders in the context of Romans 8:28~And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Here was my post on that last night of 2013:
It is after midnight, and I am up on the last day of 2013. I am reflecting on 2013, and this was on my mind: Often the trials we face are things we would have never chosen, but they are the journeys that we need to refine us. They are the means that build character, perseverance, wisdom and so much more. So as you look back over your past year, I hope you can view it through this lens and feel blessed! I heard this quote in church recently, and it impacted me. As I was looking over my journal tonight, (today), I read it again, and I love the truth contained in these words.
As you look back over this past year, there may be some things that were not on your want list, but they were on your need list.~Danny Wood, SMBC 12/22/13 Shades Mountain