My Dear Stranger

Lying awake in the middle of the night, I think of my stranger. I wonder how he is doing. His words replay in my mind. Are you a praying person? Will you pray for me, a stranger? My name is Matthew. I looked for him after that day, but never did I see him again. My stranger is a part of me now. He changed me. He opened my eyes and I will forever be thankful to him for that.

Dear Matthew,

Little did I know the impact a stranger could have on my life. I almost didn’t walk Luke to school. He fell walking out to the garage and had a bit of a meltdown. It was an act of tough love. I knew he wasn’t as injured as he was acting. He was a dramatic three year old and I was a mother who wanted to run off some of the extra weight I had accumulated during the pregnancy of my second child. I put my baby in the jogging stroller and told Luke he was still going to walk to school. Luke’s “pain” quickly diminished and he returned to the boy who loved walking to school. That alone was enough to turn my day around.

Then there you were. Standing at the edge of the church’s parking lot with your head down. I noticed you right away. Why is this man just standing there? I almost didn’t cross the street at my usual spot. What is he doing? But then, I looked at you again. You looked sad, but gentle and composed as well. My motherly instinct felt no harm. There were people all around. I decided to cross. I glanced over at you once more before we started to walk toward Luke’s school. Our eyes met and then you spoke. Your request was simple, as was my response.

I told you I would pray for you. I did. I still pray for you. It is just, I didn’t exactly do it with love at first. Well, maybe my first prayer was sincere. Then I began to question you. I judged you for asking me, a stranger, to pray for you. I wondered what horrible thing you had done, I even checked the internet for missing kids in the area. But then, shame crept in. Not only for judging you, I felt ashamed for all the judging I had ever done.

I will never know why you asked me and I am okay with that. Actually, I am more than okay with that. I am thankful I do not know. Vagueness can have a way of making things more profound. Plus, it is never our job or right to determine who’s worthy of sincere prayers.

Since our encounter, whenever I feel the urge to judge someone, I see you. I feel your presence. I hear your words and I am humbled all over again. Because of you, I love more and deeper. I realize I need people, even strangers, to strengthen my faith and to show me the error in my ways. I will continue to pray for you. Thank you, my dear stranger.

Changing Tires.

tire-416189_1280Driving fast down an old dirt road, I kept glancing in the mirror at my kids in the backseat. Their eyes told me their discomfort was rising. My husband’s tension was evident by his firm grip on the wheel. The low tire pressure alert lit up on the dashboard. We just wanted to get to where we were going. We had too many things to do. We kept going.

Soon, we could feel the tire wouldn’t last much longer. We stopped at a gas station and filled it with more air. The old dirt road once again wore the tire down. I reached over for my husband’s arm. When his eyes met mine, we nodded without saying a word. We pulled over to the side of the road.

I told the kids to get out of the car. “But mom, we have things to do,” my oldest said.

“I know son, but we cannot keep driving on a tire that keeps losing air. It must be fixed. Everything else will have to wait,” I said as I pulled him close and kissed the top of his head.

My husband began working on the tire. I laid a blanket down in the grass and sat patiently with the boys. Instinctively, the boys quickly fell into the rhythm of waiting. At times, my husband took a break from his work and we simply existed together as a family. Time slowed down. With the slowing down, our vision cleared and our hearts began to beat as one.

Once the worn down tire was fixed, we realized the other tires needed work as well. Once the work was done, we climbed back in and continued on our journey. Feeling refreshed, renewed, and refocused, a sense of freedom and peace overcame us…

Today, we roll down our windows and breathe in the fresh air. There is strong admiration of the scenery and no sense of hurry. We turn down the road of 2018 feeling like a new shiny car that is full of hope, love, and excitement.

The love in a family makes it possible to endure a year like 2016. The love of God is what gives us the guidance to stop and be still––so we can gather the strength needed for the journey He intends for us. I thank you, God.

The end.

 

Freedom

rain.jpgScattered heavy raindrops began to fall from the sky as I played in a nearby tennis court with my friends during our brothers baseball game. Slowly, the sporadic rain turned into a steady rainfall. My friends and I lifted our arms high and tilted our heads back as we allowed the rain to land in our open mouths. I remember the laughter that flowed from us and the glances that bonded us in that moment. Time slowed and we were nothing else but free.

Sitting here thinking of that moment, I can almost feel the same freedom I felt that day. I believe if it were to start raining right now I would want to run outside and try to relive it. I wouldn’t actually do it though. Well, unless my kids were with me. I would feel like an idiot standing in the rain by myself.

We all yearn for freedom. Look at the world around you. People are always seeking and fighting for it. Or, they’re in pain because they can’t find it or simply don’t have the strength to fight for it. What I see are people clinging to the the wrong kind of freedom or things that are not freedom at all. They just think or hope it is. Because those freedoms are always in exchange for something else. I wonder if deep down they feel a void knowing it isn’t what they really need to be seeking. Those freedoms are only temporary, they are shallow puddles that will soon dry.

Like me standing in the rain. That free feeling ceased. My friends and I became bored and cold. I remember having no towel in the car and I couldn’t wait to get home to change into dry clothes. Dry socks never felt so good. The rain was a fleeting childhood freedom. Some of my best memories surround such freedoms. Childhood freedoms, although innocent and pure, will never give us what we need.

There is only one real freedom in this life and that is freedom in Christ. Many of us “adult” christians know this already. Yet, we hesitate like I do when the thought of playing in the rain crosses my mind. Why can’t we fully embrace this freedom? We’re all sinners, duh. I wonder though…what would happen if we started running and clinging to Him like a child, regardless of what sin was standing in the way? Childlike faith, I believe it’s called (wink wink).

Would we better sway people away from the false freedoms they are rooted in if they saw us clinging more to the truth our hearts hold so dear? I think about my kids and the type of faith I want them to carry throughout their lives. I picture them standing in the rain with their arms up high and heads tilted back because they know freedom, real freedom, never will cease.

Stepping Out

Today we have plans to spend the day at the pool, our favorite family hangout place as of this summer. The weather is not quite warm enough, but we may suffer through because the pool closes for the season after today. As I am waiting and hoping for the breeze to slow a bit so we can go, I sit on our deck and am quite enjoying the breeze. So, I cannot make up my mind if I love or hate it. Oh the fickleness of it all.

There is something in a warm breeze that pulls me in. A few minutes ago, I started thinking of love and life and the different ways each and every one of us sees and feels and lives. It is overwhelming, if you think of it, how different we all are. Yes, we all have common ground and I believe you can find common ground with anyone, if you let go of your judgements and preconceived ideas of people.

If you were to be able to see through someone else’s eyes, I bet you’d see world much more different than you could possibly imagine. I think of my two boys for example. Same parents, same opportunities, same many other things. They’re opposite in the ways they take on life. They give love differently. They receive love differently.

I love my boys and I know they love me, of course. They are amazing in their own ways. I cannot imagine my life without them. One, though, is harder to understand…harder to reach. He doesn’t talk about his feelings as the other does. The other is much more like me. We talk and think things through. We are very much in touch with ourselves. We don’t get through anything without talking and expressing our feelings. When he is mad, people need to listen to how he feels and almost magically his anger dissolves.

The other doesn’t want to talk, he is quite the opposite. He does better when people let him be to sort through it on his own. I feel as though it is his way of maintaining control. Maintaining control over his life gives him peace. He appears to be more dismissive toward people who feel the need to talk. So, expressing feelings towards him sometimes feels as though he doesn’t care. I know he does care. He has a huge heart. He just is different.

Why wouldn’t someone want to talk through their feelings? One boy thinks.

Why does someone need to talk through their feelings? The other thinks.

God made people to have their own unique strengths. Those strengths can make it hard for people to understand each other. That could be where where we screw up. I mean, we aren’t God and we shouldn’t think we hold so much power as to understanding where people come from all the time. Do we even have the right to? We need to start seeing that understanding is sometimes overrated. Maybe it’s in the not understanding where the true beauty lies. Because, that is when we step out of ourselves and into something bigger and more meaningful…unconditional love.

The end.

Raw

imageThe last year and a half has been rough on me. I haven’t wanted to fully admit it (even to myself) and I especially haven’t felt like discussing it. I don’t want to go into all the particulars that has caused this. Life is life and it isn’t always pleasant. For someone like myself, there is nothing harder than to watch bad things or bad times fall upon people I care about. I’m not saying this to prove I’m a good person, but I’d much rather have bad things happen to myself than to my peeps. That is the good and bad of the gift of mercy. I presume every gift has a weakness and Satan uses that weakness to try to tear us down.

Sometimes it is all the little instances that build rather than just one thing. A cousin commits suicide, an aunt overdoses and dies, an old friend dies, and the other instances I do not wish to share. My cousin left me hurting due to all the pain he endured and felt he couldn’t endure any longer. My aunt, where do I begin? I have fond memories of her wit and creativity. I also have painful memories of watching someone slowly destroy their life over many years. My old friend left me thinking of what more christians can and should do for those who live differently…those who have been dragged down, beaten, and have made poor choices because of this thing called life. Actually, everything from this past year and a half have left me thinking that.

My life has been rather “easy” compared to most. I know that and I am thankful. Maybe it has made it easier to have the faith I have. My struggles are insignificant compared to some and maybe that has made me “weaker”. I know some whom feel I haven’t truly lived. I must disagree. I believe we live through not just our own experiences, but through others as well. Our lives are connected and our lives have the power to alter the lives of others. Our lives are far from being isolated, that is a fact. Yes, I know no one else truly knows what it is like to live in thine own shoes, but that does not mean it doesn’t give insight and life to those around.

My somewhat easy life has left me raw and has left me stumbling. Last night, Matt and I had a conversation that I was yearning for and didn’t even realize I was. He thanked me for all the sacrifices I have made for our family and others. He told me he notices all I do. He said he doesn’t know how I do all I do. It made me weep uncontrollably. I did not know how much I needed to release. Those cleansing tears have left me feeling lighter today. Crazy what a few words from a loving husband can do for a person.

The Judgement Files-Exposed

Picture yourself standing in front of a crowd of people. They are your friends, family, and acquaintances. The lights dim and a spotlight begins to shine on you. A screen behind you begins to list every bad deed you have ever committed. It lists every bad thought, every bad word you have ever said, and every bad deed you have done. You are exposed.

Someone you’ve known your entire life stands up and says, “I can no longer be your friend.” She leaves. Others stand and leave with her.

Someone else says, “I will be your friend, but I will never look at you the same.” He sits back down.

The next person says, “You will have to prove your worth to me before I can forgive you.” He leaves. Others stand and leave with him.

One more person stands. She begins to walk down the aisle toward you. Once she is near, she reaches out for your hand. She yells out to the remaining people, “I have done just as many wrong things in my life. The only difference is that my sins…your sins have not been exposed. They are not on display for all to see.” She looks at you and says, “I love you. I forgive you. Now let’s go grab a bite to eat.”  You two leave and a few others follow.

THE END.

P.S. Which person do you want to be like?

What exactly is the good?

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As I sat waiting for Luke’s game to begin, I played with blades of grass at my feet. My mind was as calm as a glassy lake; there was not a wave nor a ripple in sight. But then my phone rang. It was my dad. He never calls me on the weekend, I thought as I answered my phone.

In one second my frame of mind shifted. The pain of this world, oh the pain. I wasn’t surprised by the news, yet each word stung. Sometimes it is the unsurprising news that hurts the most. I always hope people will respond or do differently than what I see coming. I much rather the stories of people overcoming life. The bad in life, that is. I love when people prevail.

It is a strength and a weakness that I strive to find the good in all things. The problem arises when the pain of this world is deeper than the seemingly good it can bring. I hate to see people give up on life. They throw in the towel and don’t look back, and they don’t look forward either. They remain stuck unable to move. Maybe that is why I need Romans 8:28, we all need Romans 8:28.

Wait.

What exactly does that even mean? I just talked about pain and giving up on life. Now I am encouraging a bible verse that talks about “in all things God works for the good”? Yes, I just said that and that.

Yesterday, after I wrote my blog post about this verse, I walked into my kitchen and there on my table were mason jars full of carnations. They’ve been sitting there for almost a week, but I saw them as if they just magically appeared.image I focused in on the pink ones. Romans 8:28 reminds me of my grandparents, it reminds me of my grandma’s death. Since the verse keeps popping up I have been thinking of her. Pink carnations were her favorite. They’ve been here in my house and yet it slipped my mind until that moment. As if that were not enough, I went to sit on my couch. My phone was in my hand because I was getting ready to clean and was going to put music on. (Who likes to clean without music?) I sat, thought about my grandma, pulled myself together, and then put Pandora on. I began to stand up when the song Homesick came on. It was the song they played at her funeral.

The tears flowed, I pictured my grandma’s face, and then peace came. My grandma was touched by the pain of this world, just like us all. Her pain is no more, though. She’s home. It got me thinking. That’s it, I’m homesick. We are all homesick. That is why it hurts so bad. We know we don’t belong here.

We are touched by our bad choices, other people’s bad choices, unexpected news, disease, death, and etc. We must remember our hope and truth lie in the fact that sin or anything that happens as a result cannot ruin God’s plan. His mind is set on our eternal salvation. His mind is set on bringing us home. That is why He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins. Stop and brew on that for a minute. That is powerful stuff. Nothing can stop His plan and nothing can stop His purpose of eternity.

The challenge lies not in my knowing this. It lies in my sharing this. It lies in you sharing this. How can we show people the good in God’s purpose? How can we show them that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not prevail?

This Thing Called Grace

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I think of the crushing weight that pressed on His beautiful soul. The beauty He held, I can never fully grasp. I try to comprehend. I close my eyes and picture the cross. I picture the events leading up. I skim over the hard parts. My body clenches at the very thought of trying to endure even one lashing. The driven nails are pulled out by my selfish need to fend off pain before it ever really begins.

The purpose of His dying was so I could be free from the yoke. Yet, there are times I forfeit the lightness that was so freely given to me. Why do I trample on my clean soul? Why do I worry, I fear, and I forget?  I hold a beautiful opened gift and I sometimes wrap it back up and tuck it away for a rainy day. Maybe not always, maybe not as much as I used to, maybe not as much as others…but enough to feel the chains that bind.

Now, here’s the thing that gets me every time. I do not need to shed any blood or endure any of what He did. I do not need to earn His love or His approval. All I need is faith. He sees me as me. Not as the world portrays me to be…not what I portray me to be either. He…loves…me.

Whenever I tuck this thing called grace away, he gently helps me unwrap it. He reminds me of my worth. He places His finger under my chin and lifts my head. It is because of this I am led to never stop striving to love as He loves me.

Never Apart

bible-1031288_1920The Word was once just a book.

It contained truth and knowledge.

It told me how to live and love.

It was something to study and put to practice.

And it was good.

But that all changed.

The words began to stir and come to life.

One by one they sharpened.

One by one they pierced my soul.

No longer did I want to depict the world’s eye view of it.

I saw the significance of the Law.

I saw the significance of the Gospel.

I saw how they can never be torn apart.

Because one without the other is simply not enough.

You can be doing it all right and still be wrong.

It is only with Him, not on our own, that we realize…

The Word shows His love.

It is grace bestowed upon us through His blood.

Without it, there is no salvation.

Without it, there is no freedom.

It is what opens our hearts to the law and changes us from within.

See, the Gospel without the Law is just a pile of words.

You or me without both are just a pile of flesh and bones.

It is the Law together with the Gospel that sets us apart from the world.

It is both.

We are Moana

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I must confess, the movie Moana ignited a bit of inspiration. There may have been a few times I pulled out my phone to take notes for this exact moment of sharing my thoughts with you. I’m laughing at myself, but at the same time I must embrace it. I think we can and should find inspiration wherever and however we can.

The day before, the subject of life journeys was planted during a bible study, so it was already somewhat on my mind. We discussed  Mary’s journey to be exact.  Yes, I know Christmas is over…but we are a group of busy moms who get behind from time to time. That is much the norm in the journey of motherhood.  Things never play out exactly as we have set out in our minds. There are more bumps and bruises than we ever thought possible.

Anyway, I enjoy making parallels between peoples lives. It allows me to feel connected. It helps me to see how even we really are. Although Moana is a fictional character in a fictional plot…the core of the story (not the entirety of it) is powerful and relatable in our ordinary lives.

The following may seem to be quite the stretch and in a way it is, but this is truly a glimpse into my over-thinking head and how it functions. No, this movie was not biblical. There are just parallels I decided to point out. Was there worldly thinking scattered throughout this movie?  Yes, of course there was. Just as there is worldly thinking scattered in my own mind. It wasn’t a Christian film. But despite that being obvious to most, I feel it actually is important to point this out. At the end of the day, I want you to know our power comes from God, not ourselves as the world will try to tell us. That point is by far more important than anything else I am about to say…

The water chose Moana to embark on a journey to save her people. God calls us to do the same. She felt a pull in her do be doing something more-something different than what her little world was telling her to. One time she went into the sea like she thought she should and it ended in disaster. It left her feeling lost and confused. It was because it wasn’t the right time, she needed to know more. She simply was not ready.

When the time was right, she knew it. She got into her boat and off she went. She felt brave, encouraged, and empowered. Then, things got messy. We all know how messy life gets, even when we are doing the right thing. Can I get an “Amen”?

Her boat flipped.  She got tired and scared.  She got angry and yelled at the water (just as we do to God). The water would gently pick her back up and placed her back on the boat when she went overboard. The water picked her back up…but did not make her journey easier.

Moana made it to Maui and was disappointed. He was not what she was expecting. He was not the hero she envisioned. How many times have we felt the same. Maui doubted the water and even asked why the water couldn’t bring the heart back itself. Many in this world ask the same sort of questions about God.

There was even a point where Moana tried giving the heart back to the water. She went back down and got it. The rough waters didn’t calm because she decided to carry on. Maui didn’t magically become easier to deal with. Why did she do it? Nothing could silence the voice inside her. Nothing can silence the voice inside any of us. Sometimes we need to work on how to hear it. Sometimes we choose to ignore it.

God will never force us to answer His call. It is out of His love for us that He doesn’t use force. It is hard to wrap our heads around it…I know. He doesn’t calm the waters of life. But He is always there with us. Always.

You see, I am Moana. We all are. We are called, in our own unique way, to restore the heart of the Lava Monsters who have had their hearts stolen by the world. One difference (and there are more) is that we are still on our journeys. Our happy ending is yet to come.