fullsizeoutput_700

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?

fullsizeoutput_700

Encountering The King In The Courtyard

The last week I have been sweetly reminded how God often uses His people to manifest his presence. Three times, to be exact, I have been swaddled by His embrace through encounters or conversations with a friend. Sometimes these unexpected blessings play out in a way that it is undeniable whose pen strokes scripted the story.

I am resharing this for anyone struggling today. Whether it be fear, physical or emotional pain, anxiety, depression or anything else that renders you feeling alone, this is for you. Sometimes God sends His children, and sometimes His creatures to articulate and authenticate His affections.

May you feel the security of the shady shelter of His wing today! You are loved.

Does your faith need a cool drink of refreshing water?  Read along.

I see our Lord everywhere; in people, in children, in my dog, (yes, my dog), and especially in nature.  Some people raise their eyebrows at this concept, but when Jesus Christ saturates your life you cannot help but view life shaded in a reflection of Him.

I will never forget last Thursday when one of my more memorable encounters with My King happened in a courtyard at Covenant Counseling Center.  I had finished a session with my counselor, but earlier in our time together I was describing a story a friend told me about when she was a little girl.  She explained that her daddy would kneel every night and pray before she and her sister went to bed.  The two sisters would fight to be the one who got to get under him as he was kneeling in prayer.  The story was so precious and touched me so much that the imagery I formulated will forever be imprinted in my mind and on my heart.  It was a story that reminded me of a verse that is very special to me. Psalm 91:4 ~ He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings.  His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

I was telling my counselor how this verse has been layered over me time and again the last couple years.  Little did I know that just a short time later, that very verse would come to life right before my eyes.

I finished my session and walked out to a crisp, sunny, beautiful day.  I had an urge to be outside, so I drove home, got my reading materials and came back to the same location to sit in the peaceful and inviting small courtyard in front of the building.  One thing I love about that courtyard is it appears like an umbrella of trees, so it feels secluded and safe. While I was sitting on the bench, I was praying and again reflecting on many verses in addition to Psalm 91:4.

I was there about an hour when my peace was interrupted by an onslaught of noise in one of the trees just to my left.  A majestic, red tail hawk landed on a sturdy branch, and he had an army of crows, after him.  Crows are loud, and they are relentless predators.

I suddenly froze and was unable to think or react quickly because I could not believe what was evolving.  In that quiet place Psalm 91:4 was beautifully played out in the nature that surrounded me.  I was in awe of my faithful and loving Father, who goes to creative lengths to express His presence and love.  Let me explain.

After studying the battalion of crows charging at the hawk for several minutes, I noticed the hawk was using his wings as a deflector and shield of protection.  I eventually maneuvered myself into a location that I could see the hawk was protecting something under his wing.  Time and time again crow after crow would dive at the hawk, and the hawk would bat his wing to deflect the attack.  I watched this go on for over 15 minutes. The hawk was protecting a baby and was doing so with such commanding diligence, strength, and care.  The crows were not giving up easily, but neither was the hawk.  He was resolute.  Despite the continuous assaults, the hawk shielded that vulnerable baby.

The other thing that impacted me was the stability of the hawk; as he was hit over and over again using his wing for defense.  Some of the attacks were aggressive enough that he would bobble or slightly lose his balance.  Every single time, however, he would regain his footing, readjust and return to an anchored stance on the branch.  He never moved from the same spot the entire time even though he would stumble at times.  He never flew away in an attempt to flea from fear.  He never gave up, and he was the lone one standing in the end!

When we are under the shelter of our Lord Jesus, we are a lot like that hawk. Attacks come, fear assaults us and enemies persecute us.  We may lose our balance; we may have to readjust, and we may be shaken, but we are never shattered because our anchor is under the wings of a King, who is our armor and protection.  He will not be moved.  When our foundation is solid in Him, we may falter, and need adjustments at times, but we can withstand life’s storms still returning to a stable stance.

I was also reminded of Revelation 5:6 that day. ~ Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders.

Jesus suffered throughout his life.  Many attacks were forged against him and He was eventually crucified.  Sometimes life can leave us feeling battered, bruised, betrayed and cut up as if we, too have been slain.  The key to the verse in Revelation is the Lamb, though he looked as if he had been slaughtered, He was still standing.

Life is hard, but when His feathers are our garments and His wings our refuge, there will be times we are disturbed, but never defeated because the Promiser keeper says He is our sure foundation.

 

fullsizeoutput_700

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.❤️

fullsizeoutput_700

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.

fullsizeoutput_700

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.

fullsizeoutput_700

Foreign Yet Familiar

There is a recurrent, intense longing inside me for something or somewhere that remains insatiable. I cannot name it, draw it or explain it, but it pierces my heart to its deepest depths. It is like a refreshing drink of water to my dehydrated soul. It is there in the beauty of a photograph. It swaddles me in the emotion of a poignant movie. It dazzles me within the lyrics of a song. It is in the elegance of a sunset or sunrise salutation. It captivates my attention within the feelings of distant but divine memories. It is in the grace of a landscape and the dew of morning break. In everything beautiful, seemingly perfect and even among the presence of pain it strums the most tender and precious notes of my soul. It mesmerizes me in my laughter and comforts me in my tears. It seduces me like the silver lining that peaks after a pruning rain. It is the essence of my most coveted desires. It is always with me, rising and setting like the sun, shining like the beauty of the moon. I know this for sure; it is a person I have never seen, a place I have never been or a thing I have never fully known, yet, it holds a foreign familiarity woven into the very fabric of my soul.

 
fullsizeoutput_700

Broken Relationships

Broken relationships. They are a painful reality. For some, it is a daily ache that shackles our every step, and for others, it is an ache that shouts and settles throughout time. Universally, however, the holidays seem to ignite and amplify the grief that resides in the hearts and minds of those carrying the cross of someone living in the world but lost from our lives.

Sometimes reconciliation is not possible. Maybe you have hurt someone, and despite your repentance and request for forgiveness, it was refused. Know this; we are only responsible for what we can control, an apology, but not an acceptance.

Sometimes reconciliation is not achievable because the pathology of the relationship is too unhealthy. The loss is still painful, nevertheless. I get it.

Although being reconciled is implausible, relinquishing resentment, retaliation, and further ruin is not. I realize and know that takes time. Often, a lot of time. A lot of prayers. A lot of dying to self and surrendering to the Savior. We cannot make ourselves forget, but we can pray ourselves to forgive. The two things are not the same. Forgiveness does not always look like an active relationship, but it can manifest as an intentional release of the toxicity that grows from the root of resentment.

In some scenarios, forgiveness is not a one-time event.

For some, it takes a daily recommitment. It is painful. I know.

There are other times that forgiveness is possible, but pride convinces us that we are justified staying stuck. It is then easy to find ourselves reasoning, “I cannot do it.” What that statement means is, I will not do it. Forgiveness of tender transgressions requires sacrifice. It demands a figurative death that feels real.

The antidote for my stubborn pride is always the cross.

I can try and run from its reality. I can try to deny its ramifications, but I have not found a comfortable place to hide.

The truth is, I am a sinner who was in desperate need of the greatest act of forgiveness history has ever known. It did require a literal death. It did require bloodshed. It demanded far more than my flesh can comprehend, but Jesus did it anyway. Like a lamb led to the slaughter He was my substitute, and He never articulated a word. No complaints. No poor me. No. Whining.

This holiday season friend, if you are in the league of the unforgiven, have asked for forgiveness from a well-intentioned place and were denied, I am sorry and pray that you find peace. I know the anguish will always be present to some degree, but remember pain is the best tutor, and it’s redemptive purposes are infinite.

And you, dear friend, if you are on the other side of the fence, carrying the weight of unforgiveness, that I sympathetically recognize is not a one size fits all scenario, I pray that your heart would soften because I wish freedom for you.

Sometimes the very things we are trying to escape, we cling to.

Holding on to the pain can oddly feel comforting. It is a counterfeit comforter. I know you must have been intensely wounded. About now you may be thinking; you just have no clue. No, I do not pretend to understand, but I have experienced a lot.

One thing I do know for sure, life is so very short. Once someone is gone, what was not spoken cannot be undone. Sometimes there are no second chances. No do-overs. If you possess the power to release someone, not necessarily reunite with them, I am praying for you. It is so very hard. I. Know.

I am not writing to you because I have gotten anything right. I am writing to you because I have gotten just about everything wrong and I am processing my realities, too.

This Thanksgiving may we all acknowledge the sadness of what is not, and then shift our hearts towards the abundance of what is.

You are loved. All of you.♥️

fullsizeoutput_700

Sanctification


Sanctification is my constant companion. She moves me to surrender. She both slays and satisfies me. At times sanctification guts me. She greets and meets with me like a passage in the Psalms, crying out in pain and concluding in praise. Nevertheless, because I know her, and Who she comes from, I am at peace saying to her, It is well with me.

fullsizeoutput_700

God’s Silence Does Not Equal Stagnation


Recently I was in a beautiful place surrounded by the sights and sounds of God’s creation.  My children and husband were with me, and we drove up to a beautiful beach that had an area lined by ocean rocks as if to create a safe, swimming hole for would be snorkelers.  I did not feel like getting in the water this particular morning, but my kids wanted to try snorkeling.  It was their first time, and they were curious to see what they would find living just below the surface of the emerald blue water.

I found a shady spot on a hill with a peaceful picnic table that looked down over the majestic beach.  I could not bring myself to leave the refuge of the picnic table, so I assured my children I would watch them from above and they could go ahead and snorkel. I watched as one child put on her equipment and swam off strong and smooth like a fish in its natural habitat. Then I sat and watched as my son, who has dyspraxia, struggled to get the mask, snorkel, and fins on.  It felt like an eternity of him trying over and over again and not succeeding.

Eventually, he began putting his head in the water and trying to coordinate all the necessary steps to swim and breathe. He would lower his head into the water a minute and then come up for air, never mastering the required motor coordination skills needed to put it all together, the skills that just come naturally to most of us. My heart was bleeding as I watched. Tears filled my eyes telling the story of my hurt for him as they trickled down my face. I was rooting and praying for him but painfully witnessed him fail over and over again. I wanted to rescue him. Running to him and helping felt like the loving and natural thing to do, but I knew delivering him from his struggle was the worst thing I could do because he would quit trying and rely on me.  Fixing the situation for my son would stunt his learning and crucial growth skills he needs to function in life.  As much as I wanted to intervene, as heart-wrenching as it was to watch, I had to sit and silently pray for him and watch over him from above the water.

It occurred to me at that moment that this was such a picture of our walks with our Father.  He looks down on us from above and often sees us struggling, sometimes drowning. In our estimation, it feels as if he is ambivalent to our struggles and suffering.

God seems silent, but His silence does not equate to stagnation.

Just as I was watching over my child, He is looking down and watching us, His children.  Our Heavenly Father is supporting us and working outcomes that are for our ultimate good.  Many times, though, He does not provide an immediate and noticeable rescue or His relief looks like more struggle and pain to us.  We don’t have the whole picture.  We feel like we are drowning, but God is there.  His heart must hurt as a Father like mine did as a mother watching his children struggle, but He knows just what we need.

Sometimes no rescue is the best rescue.

As we drove away from that beautiful place this thought occurred to me, my child didn’t fail.  Sure, he did if it I measured it by what I saw, but in God’s economy, the only failure is the one you didn’t trust Him in.  Be encouraged, friends!  God is looking down on you.  He sees you, and He has you.  When it feels like He is letting you drown, remember this, “All that is given is necessary.  All that is withheld was not.” ~Timothy Keller

You are loved.❤️

fullsizeoutput_700

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.❤️