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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.

 
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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.♥️

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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.

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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.❤️

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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! ❤️

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Our Scars Are Bountiful Stories

I have a scar on the left side of my chest where there once was a central line that nourished me when I was too ill to eat. I have a scar under my right arm in the upper rib area that is a reminder of a chest tube that once supported my collapsed lung from a procedure gone wrong. Both blemishes were the product of one pregnancy. I see those two scars every day, and for many years they were unattractive to me. What I have learned and love is now when I notice them I feel gratitude where I once knew grief because those blemishes are emblematic of life. My scars are the representatives of a broken story with a bountiful ending. If it were not for them, I would not have my daughter. I was reminiscing amidst the memories of my scar journey this morning, and as I was strolling through the story, I had a vivid visual of Jesus on the cross. There he was in my picture, nailed by evil and dawning scars that the world would deem unattractive; then this thought crossed my mind, Jesus’ scars also represented life. I am confident that He, too looks his scars, smiles and says if it were not for them, I would not have my daughter.

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Growth, Grace, Power

She was wronged.  She was misunderstood.  She was disliked and even disowned.  However, she no longer took her pain to the people, but The Promiser.  That is growth.  That is grace.  That is the power of Christ Jesus!  We already have victory, friends.  We no longer need to fight for it!  You are loved!

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Broken And Beautiful

I was standing at my kitchen sink crying and smiling this morning as I was washing my grandmother’s Spode, Christmas Rose, China that I now own. I noticed the sharp incongruence in my heart. There I stood, a broken heart full of broken pictures as the ballad of my soul played its hymn; this is not how it is supposed to be. But then there was an accompanying melody of, thank you, Jesus, for how it was. Imperfect moments, incomplete holidays accompanied by irreplaceable memories; both beauty and brokenness reigned there in the ordinary, yet extraordinary moment at my kitchen window.

This week, I have followed one of my favorite celebrities as she has ministered to the people of Haiti alongside Samaritan’s Purse. She has documented her trip in pictures. Many of her posts have contained the same observance or a similar variation. Her tag lines all lamented Haiti, so much poverty surrounded by so much beauty. Her pictures are oxymorons, and her perplexity of that juxtaposition is evident. Broken people and broken countries, but all encapsulated by beauty. It is not supposed to be this way, but it is.

As I sat in Christmas Eve service tonight and we sang Silent Night while lighting the candles, The Lord showed me a picture. For the dormant candles to be kindled, the light from our neighbor must remain upright and firm, while the one receiving the light must bend, lean and become vulnerable, to be ignited. At times we are the beacons, and at times we are the broken. We each have light to give and light to receive but the cycle cannot be sustained without both the shattering and the shining of souls.

The examples of the ever-present and unchanging reality of the marriage of beauty and brokenness are more pervasive than I can list. They are present in every moment and every memory, in our tears and our triumphs, our pain and passions, our struggles and our strengths. Where there is beauty, there will always be brokenness, and it was this way from the beginning.

I am so thankful that The Son of God, The King of the world was born in a dirty stable and laid in a messy manger. The Light of the world, God’s most perfect Gift, a Savior for the world entered this life, and surrounding His arrival was beauty and brokenness. Broken circumstances, broken parents, broken leaders, broken countries and broken plans were the backdrops that set the stage for the most beautiful bounty the world would ever know. It was all necessary to remind and comfort us when life is not as it is supposed to be in our hearts, that it is as it is meant to be in our Savior’s hands.

Many of you are experiencing the poverty of loss, illness and difficult circumstances this Christmas Eve. I pray you find strength from the life of a baby born into bankrupt surroundings, who suffered among both the sick and the “sufficient” so that He may bring the beauty of His perfect light to mingle among the broken parts of our lives. Jesus, may we all have eyes to see your grace flowing through our moments of grief, and may we be consoled, sustained and encouraged by the sweet fragrance that accompanies all of our fractured moments as we travel home.

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An Absolute, Not an Aspiration

7bd381d2f808be7d282e66205a0ee75fHeavenly Father, (blank), is so very hard. I do not understand why it has to be such a struggle, but I trust you know what you are doing and that it is for my gain and your glory. Please keep my heart and mind faithful to you and your promises as I walk this path. When I hit a bump as I travel, lift my eyes to see and tune my ears to hear you.

I know that thing that is cutting you up, keeping you unraveled and desperate for relief is exhausting you, friend. Fight to Remember today that your hope is not in the easing or extinguishment of that situation that the flesh so desires, but in A Savior who says I am on your side and in me your eternal hope is an absolute, not an aspiration. You are loved.