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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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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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Shine Where You Are Planted

 

Uncertainty is one of the most significant barriers to a prolific life. There is a formidable enemy who loves to entangle our eyes and command our concern with questions such as, what if…?

In the presence of the unknown, and that would be every moment forward, it is easy to stumble into the mire of temporal thinking. The danger here is that we are rendered useless in the present because of our preoccupation with the worrisome possibilities of the future.

Lord Jesus, we often lug old crosses into the New Year, some shaded in a cloud of ambiguity. Help us to fix our senses on You, our unwavering Father, not an uncertain future. Give us the grace to be fruitful where we are right now, not where we think we need to be.
Comfortable, peaceful and problem-free are not prerequisites for productivity, as evidenced by the life of your Son. May we remember that and move forward with the perseverance that only comes from a dependant heart rooted in You.

Friend, I pray 2018 is a remarkable year for you, but this I know for sure, trials will come. There will inevitably be a voice telling you, “I cannot do anything until I get through this, (fill in the blank).”  If we live our lives listening to that lie, we will be shackled by stagnation.

We are just as valuable in the midst of our limping as we are running, sometimes even more.

Shine where you are planted and watch what grows not only inside of you but also around you.

I wish you an abundant New Year! I love you all.

 Photo: Havana, Cuba.

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A Pilar of Comfort

When Carter was in the intensive care unit in Oregon after his traumatic brain injury, he was struggling with pain and double vision. In the early morning hours after an arduous night, he asked me to come and lay beside him because he saw two of me and he would feel better if the real one was close to him. As I laid there, my heart ached because I could not take the pain away. I wanted to be his substitute but had to settle as his soother instead.

Friend, God must see you, His child, like I saw mine in those wrenching moments. He looks down and knows you are struggling, in pain and hurting. For reasons you do not understand, He cannot take the pain away, but He does desire for you to invite him to come and lay down beside you so that He may be a pillar of comforter and peace.

The love of God does not negate our suffering, but it gives us what we need to get through and beyond it.

I pray you welcome Him into your circumstances tonight and that His peace is perceivable in your weary heart and pacifying to your worn out hands.

Be watchful. His steadfast faithfulness manifests in many ways.

You are loved.❤️

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Come and See

Please, come and see.

The wise men came to see the baby, Jesus.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry scores of people, a blind man, a bleeding woman, a man seeking healing for his daughter, and multitudes more would come and see.

Countless came to see Him crucified.

After He defeated death, Mary came to the empty tomb, unknowing she was there to see Him.

Jesus himself invited the disciples to come and see where He was going.

This Christmas season we come and see all the lights.

We come and see all the shiny stores with a million gift options for every person.

We come and see all the parties and people dressed up to celebrate.

We come and see all the beautiful trees and decorations.

All of these are wonderful, and I love looking at them, but they are not the hope of Christmas.

We have gotten so far from the original intention of the season that it has also become about coming and seeing a lot of junk too. We rush, we hustle, we plan, we drive all over trying to locate that perfect gift while the deafening roar of a tight schedule is screaming hurry up you have to be somewhere. I am as guilty as anyone.

This Christmas I want to encourage us all, myself included, to come and see.

Come and see the elderly who are alone and shut in.

Come and see the orphans who have no stable place of belonging.

Come and see the sick, physically and mentally.

Come and see the hurting. The crying ones and the happy ones. Oh, the pain that a smile can mask!

Come and see the lonely and the poor.

Come and see the homeless, the hungry, the outcast.

Come and see the addict.

Come and see the widow, the divorced and the single mom or dad.

Come and see the grieving who have lost a parent, a grandparent, a sibling or a child.

Many who are hurting will not ask for help. Support manifests in many forms, but to come and see a soul; to genuinely recognize and gently touch the depths of their story is a gift that no amount of money can buy. It will transform two lives, theirs and yours.

Friends we were given eyes to see. Let us use them to see beyond all the distractions of what is alive and visible and into what is dying but viable.

This Christmas season may we all come and see, and in doing so be reminded that the center of Christmas is a Savior who came to see you and me, dying so that we could freely and without shame, condemnation or guilt come and see Him.

Come and See.

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The Best Thing

If you are a loved one are waiting in a hallway of uncertainty, bearing the weight of the unknown, I have a word for you that I pray brings encouragement.

I have been standing on shifting sand the last couple weeks stumbling in ambiguity and anxiety. It has been an all-out fight for me to remain the manager of my mind and keep my spirit in check with the peace of The Lord.

Health circumstances have forced me day after day to examine the authenticity of my theology. What set of beliefs am I operating out of not in fruitful times but fearful ones? I have been like a pendulum swinging back and forth as waves of victory and defeat have washed over me.

Last night in the midst of dark silence, God gave me the sweetest love note that has hushed my hastened heart.

D’Anna, what is the worst thing that can happen? Then, He so gently reminded me that the worst thing, should it be, is the best thing.

I often forget that. Heaven is our Home, and it is second to none.

Friend, if you or someone you treasure as dear are walking a dark road, please do not lose sight and fight to remember that as adopted children, what the world sighs at as dreadful, we can hold with maybe hurting, but absolutely hopeful hands. You are loved.

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Not Always Merry and Bright

I so wish for life to be like a Hallmark movie. Love and contentment always win. The ending is tidy, happy and sealed in a pretty package accentuated with a red bow on top. But it is television, and so far from the reality, we inhabit.

I think that is one of the allures of Hallmark movies. They provide a magical escape from the tender truths that are indigenous to what we have always falsely believed is the happiest time of the year.

Pain wears many faces and holds no prejudices. It does not adhere to our calendars or circumstances. Maybe the agony shows up in the loss of a job, marriage, a parent, a spouse or the incredible heartache that settles in when we hear someone has to bury their child.

Broken people, broken families, broken worlds; they may all present differently, but fractured hearts are inherent to us all. The holidays as merry and bright as they are for many, are equally melancholy and bleak for others.

Life is incongruent to my desire for everyone to be happy, but I have learned this piercing lesson: happiness is a circumstantial frailty, not a gospel actuality. Without the assurance of our eternal inheritance, we stand here today poor, hopeless and lost. But it does not have to be that way.

A 1700s French writer captured something very tragic, yet I think significant in his last words. “And so I leave this world, where the heart must either break or turn to lead.” ~ Nicolas Chamfort

Sometimes our greatest challenge as we go about living in this world that is remarkable one moment and ruthless the next is continuing to engage. It is so easy to check out, but we are called to check in. It is so simple to let our hearts turn to lead, but we are called to be light instead. Is any of this straightforward in our climate of death, destruction, hatred, and hostility of unparalleled proportions? No, it is not effortless, but it is essential.

Dear friends, I know many of you are facing unspeakable burdens. My heart aches for you and throbs with you. Right now pressing in may be asking too much. That is ok.

We, unfortunately, have to drink from the cup of hurt before we can be quenched by the hand of The Healer.

God never forsakes us, though. One way He manifests himself is through our community. I pray wherever you find yourself today, the love of those around you warms, even if just slightly, the weeping heart inside you. Your internal song may never be the same, but this I know, someday your soul will sing again.

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Poverty, My Greatest Blessing

I love old, beautiful churches, so it is no surprise I was drawn off the busy streets of downtown Chicago and through the front doors of Fourth Presbyterian Church this past Thursday morning. Inside I sat down to enjoy sacred shelter from the cold and the hustle and bustle of what was going on outside the majestic doors, although that was not my motive for going in. I walked into the church wanting to experience Jesus and expecting I would. I had no pre-conceived notions what that would look like, but imagine my surprise when I found what I was unknowingly seeking in the eyes and embodiment of a homeless person.

After a couple of minutes inside, I broke through my fascination with the beauty around me, and I noticed near the front of the church a handful of people sitting on both sides of the middle aisle. I quickly realized they were homeless. They had come in off the streets to warm up and rest. I sat silently in the back just observing. God began to make something evident to me. I wasn’t there to watch homeless people in a beautiful church. I was there to remember one of life’s wealthiest truths.

There in that reverent church, I felt drawn to engage, so I walked forward and sat down next to one of the men. I said, “hello.” His disposition was gentle and relaxed. He was soft-spoken. It was apparent that he and his friends were broken, impoverished, homeless, needy, unclean and dependent for every need.

His eyes. I will never forget them. They looked sad but settled. They were sunken yet soft, wrinkled while welcoming. The story they expressed was foreign yet familiar.

This man and his friends bore no weight of expectations beyond shelter and rest. No schedules were taunting them, and no plans or unmet duties were daunting them. They just came as they were, destitute, weary and worn.

I sat there in clean, warm clothes seemingly not lacking, yet oddly I knew that even though it looked like the homeless people had nothing, in a different way they had everything, the most important thing, I need every day. A fresh awareness of the poverty of my heart is my greatest blessing.

As I sat with this man, I asked God to make me more like him. That sounds crazy, right? Not at all. I want to enter into The Lord’s presence fully aware that I am poor, needy, lost and unclean without a Savior outside of myself. I want to come free of distracting thoughts about schedules, deadlines, and duties, and for the love, thinking about what I will eat next! I want to come as I am, not as I feel I should be. I want to come aware of what is but more focused on the hope of what will be. I want to come empty of myself because it is only then I can be filled by my Savior.

These people were an exposed and unfiltered expression of me. I can dress up in my best smile, clothing, and accessories, surround myself with desirable things and people, but underneath it, and right in the middle is an impoverished heart that cannot be dressed up. It is destitute, broken, frail and in desperate need of a Shepherd every day.

Just like the people I encountered, I am a homeless heart wandering around grasping for places of shelter and rest because this world is not my home and everyday-everyday-I feel the ramifications of my exile.

The good news is this, though, I do not wander without hope or direction when I remember it is my poverty, not my perfection, popularity or “power” that yokes me to the love of my Provider. Neither do you, friend. Neither do you.♥️

And, this was the hymnal song that was on the board.

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Tears

Large trees in snowy climates are designed to drop their branches when the weight of falling snow gets too heavy for them to bear. It is like a dance planned by a Director that is out of the trees control. The Choreographer knows exactly when the branches need to release pressure so they don’t break. Our tears are a lot like that, also. They are not on our timetable, and that can be both frustrating and sometimes awkward. Like the beautiful tree branches, though, we were designed by God in such a way to let go of building burdens so we may bend but not break. Isn’t it amazing that our Father was so attentive to every little detail, even the timing of our tears? He crafts exactly when they will fall so He will be there to capture them all. He is holding you amidst your burdens today, friends. He is the Creator and the Caretaker of every last tear. Rest in His arms today. You are loved.❤️

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Show Us Your Glory, Lord

As I was walking to the beach in hopes of catching a beautiful sunrise about an hour ago, I was singing these words from a song, show us, show us your glory, Lord. God showed off for me as He often does! This photograph, (totally raw and unedited), is evidence that every new ending and every new beginning, although sometimes painful, beholds great beauty. Be encouraged, dear friend. If you are confronting a difficult transition from old to new, there are better days ahead. Forgetting is often impossible, but choosing where to focus our attention and perspective is not. Tim Keller says everything given was necessary and everything withheld was not. The former things, realized and unrealized, have fashioned a wide portion of the person you are. Purpose is a predecessor of praise. Pursue the purpose in every ending and beginning knowing that grief and gratitude co-mingle in this life and peace, joy and hope within you will reside. Lord, help us remember your work never needs editing, even when we think it does! You are loved, friend! ❤️