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?

The Whisper From Within

I pulled my hair back into my usual low messy bun, removed my sunglasses, and peered into the opening of the cave. My hands tightly held my treasured designer sunglasses that hid tired eyes on my busiest days. I remembered the day I bought them and the false sense of accomplishment I felt wearing them. I wanted to rid myself of all of that and so I quickly tossed them into the tall grass behind me.

I stood staring into the never-ending darkness. I took a deep breath and stepped inside. A light sweeping breeze tickled my skin. I heard the whisper, the whisper from within, calling me to continue. It was the same whisper telling me to leave behind my fierce independent ways. It assured me perfection is a weak and fragile state. It reminded me real strength lies in the mess. It lies in being content with your mess and with your limitations.

I was frightened, yet determined. I thought of the steps that led me there. I was in my early twenties. The noise of busyness, the layers of self-made sludge, the wounds of days past had drowned out the whisper. I wanted nothing more than to listen and embrace it once again. I was never meant to live that life. I was meant to live my life. So, one day I stopped. I just stopped, pretty much dropped, and couldn’t move any further into the life I created. A life I worked so hard at maintaining the image of perfection and self-sufficiency. It was then I saw brave was not nonstop trying and doing and living the “good” life. Brave was standing where I was that moment. Brave was stepping inside my own cave.

I took another deep breath and didn’t look back. It felt like the first few moments after jumping into a pool. There was a shocking cold that quickly transformed into a refreshment for my weary soul. My eyes adapted and light appeared. The outside noises soon diminished. I began shoveling through the sludge. I came across my wounds, some I healed and some I simply acknowledged. There was nothing else between me and the whisper from within. It was like a long lost friend I hadn’t seen in years. We embraced and cried and fell right back into the old rhythm of things. I fell back inline and freed myself from the pressures of this world.

There are times, will always be times, I wander outside the bounds of my life. I find my way back to my cave, I do the work all over again. I know that life isn’t real, it isn’t sincere, it isn’t mine. It is built on pressure and duty and pushing past limitations I was never meant to push past. No one is made to do it all, to try it all, to go and go and go until you drown out the voice from within. So just stop and go inside your cave. You won’t regret it. I haven’t.

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, as well. My mind is too weak. 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 up like no other. It is because of this I am led through the Holy Spirit’s power to never stop striving to love as He loves me.

From a Manger to a Cross

fullsizeoutput_e.jpegI apologize to anyone who read my post last year…or other similar ones, but things lay heavy on me and what else am I to do?  I feel there is more depth this year than last and am wondering next year if it is possible to transcend further into whatever it is you’d call it that I feel post-Christmas.

Life starts shifting back to normal. My kids are exhausted. My house is a disaster.  I’m exhausted as well.  I’m a bit of an introvert.  I absolutely love people, I love to be around people. I also need and crave calm and quiet at times.  I need both.  I need time to reflect and get lost in my own mind. When there are many things I need to get done, like before Christmas, it sucks my energy.  I become a bit recluse trying to do what needs to be done.  Plus, this year I was sick and couldn’t rest trying to get it all done. I feel like I need to buy a t-shirt that says, “Sorry, I really do like you, but I’m peopled out.”

I am looking at the heaps of gifts scattered throughout our house and tell myself I’ll organize it later.  I feel grateful for my family and for my husband’s family.  We both have pretty low drama and intact families, at least compared to the norm.  My kids are shown love and it is almost too normal for them to have the best of everything. I do my best to show them how blessed they are for all these things. We give back and I allow the boys to to be a part of choosing where and how we do so.

Obviously, I want to have my good life. Who wouldn’t?  I feel blessed and I thank God for all we have.  But, I feel a pulling inside me that just keeps growing.  When did it start?  I think it has always been there my entire life. It is just that sometimes I feel it to the point it physically hurts. I see what I have and I see what others don’t have and it makes me sad. The older I get the more I see and feel it.

Lately, I don’t think it is enough to just recognize it.  It isn’t enough to donate clothes and old toys.  It isn’t enough to donate money, goats, and so on to the poor.  It just doesn’t feel like I’m dong enough.  No, I’m not going to give up all we have to go wander the streets with my family to make myself feel better.  I truly don’t know what I feel like I should be doing.  I’m in this praying, waiting, praying stage.  I’m practicing what I preach to others.  Give it to God and wait on His answer.

I sit here staring out my window and reflect on the life of Jesus. It began in manger, a feeding trough. It ended on a cross, Him literally nailed to it. Everything in between the two was not a life fit for a king. Yet He is the King of Kings. Through the world’s eyes, no one would ask for such a life. He was not rich or powerful. He lived a life full of sacrifice. I think about sin and how we easily can sin on a daily basis. There are sins we fight daily and it takes great sacrifice not to succumb to at times. Think of all the sacrifices He made to live a sinless life. We know He was tempted. Yet He chose a path we could never.  We are too weak to live a life such as His.

We rely on grace and many times take it for granted.  We chew on the bread and sip the wine.  We know what a blessing and gift it is to partake in. Yet most times, at least to a certain extent, Monday morning comes around and we fall right back into worldly thinking.  We may read the Word and try to teach our kids the best we can. We send our prayers.  We serve in the church. But, we don’t love our neighbors as we should and we surely don’t spread the gospel as we should.  We don’t step out of our comfort to live the life God is calling us to.

The crazy part is God loves us despite all of this!  

We know this because He sent His son to live a life we could never live and to die a horrible death to save us from ourselves. We are saved because of our King who began His life in a manger and ended it on a cross. He lived that life and here I am living my easy peasy one…and it doesn’t quite seem right.

These Two Faces

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If you ask why I do certain things, then just look at these two faces. If you ask why I don’t do certain things, then just look at these two faces. Becoming a parent has made me more selfless than ever before. It has brought out a side of me I never knew existed. Parts of me that had lain dormant since my own childhood have reemerged. These two have brought me more life and joy than I can ever describe.

When either of them tell me I am the best mom ever, I know without a doubt they actually believe it. That is why I will never stop trying to live up to those words. Yes, I forgive myself when I mess up. I use those as teachable moments to let them know to forgive themselves as well when they mess up. I brush off my mistake and try try again. It is all a part of the deep love I have for them.

If anything, I pray my kids will look back on their childhood and know I never gave up on them…

As of late, we have gotten swept up in the busyness of life. It shows it every detail of our family life. I think we all realized it last week, even my four-year-old. This past Friday, Matt took Oliver up to his family’s cabin for the night. I decided to have a date night with Luke. It seriously could not have come at a better time. We all needed it. It was a reminder of how much we need to do that more often.

So it is with life. We must stop and take breaks before life gets the best of us. I tell my kids that all the time. They don’t totally get it yet, but hopefully they will one day.

Anyway, these two faces are why I have more peace in life. God gave me them to open my eyes to what life is suppose to be about. Guess what? Life is not about me. It isn’t about you, either. It is not about winning an argument. It is not about outwitting someone. It is definitely not about competing or one-upping anyone.

Life is about loving God. It is about the love you hold for others. It is about what happens as a result of the love you hold. Ain’t nobody got time for anything else…at least I know I don’t. (Yes, I know ain’t is not a word.)

The Light in the Darkness

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Last night my nephew stayed the night.  We let the boys stay up a bit past their bedtimes so we can catch lightening bugs.  As they were running around, I realized it had been a while since I had been outside in the dark. With young kids we cling to the light––we close up shop for the day. Oh my, it was a beautiful night and I was in awe of the dark cloudy sky. A much needed light glimmered through and around me.

I walked around our yard and watched the boys.  I remembered the joys of my own childhood. I pictured my young self standing still and waiting for the small flickering of light. I felt the sneaking up, the holding up of one palm, and then the taking of the other hand to quickly trap the lightening bug. My favorite part was the release. Sometimes they would immediately fly off and other times they would linger for a few seconds.  I would not move until I once again saw their flickering of light in the darkness. Then I was off to find the next flickering of light. I never had any doubt that I would find another.

I began to think of the pain in this world, of the darkness the pain brings. The sun always goes down and the darkness always finds its way. My natural instinct as a parent is to wrap my arms around my kids and pull them close to me.  I want to cover their eyes and shield them from the darkness of this world. I love my children and want to protect them. I can’t though.

Instead of always trying to shield them, I need to show them how to stand in the darkness by always looking to God. One day they will have to stand in the darkness and I will not be able to shield them. I will not be able to shield them. (I have to say it once more.) I will not be able to shield them. What I can do is continue to equip them by:

  • Teaching them the Word.
  • Praying with them
  • Praying for them.
  • Leading by example.  
  • Pointing out the light in the darkness, even if it is just a flicker.  
  • Being their light when I can.
  • Allowing them to be my light when they can.  
  • Trusting God and God’s path for them.
  • Praising, loving, and striving to be more like Christ with them…the only unwavering light in this dark world.

 

The ripples we cause.

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Yesterday my boys were arguing, which has become the new norm here. “Life would be much easier if everyone did things just the way I prefer” mentality has been running rampant in this house. Lecturing hasn’t worked and even discipline has been pretty ineffective.

So, I was desperate…

We were at a park and decided to walk by the water and then go on the trails. I thought maybe the water would have a calming effect on them like it does me. I glanced down and saw some gravel.  I had a silly idea and decided to go with it.

“Hey boys, pick up some rocks and let’s go by the water for a minute.”

They happily picked up as many as their hands could hold.  We knelt down by the water and I took a deep breath.  I explained to them how our words and our actions have the ability to impact others.  I told them to watch as I threw a rock in.  “See the ripples? Now take one rock and pretend it is a mean word or action.  Those ripples can impact a lot of people, can’t they?” Their eyes got big.  I was actually surprised it worked.  So I went on.

“Now, take another rock and pretend it is a nice word or action.  They cause ripples too!” Luke grabbed a rock and said, “This is an I love you rock.”  He watched the ripples.  Oliver did the same. They practiced other nice words and actions and we talked about the impact each could cause.

Today when they got into another argument, all I had to say was, “What kind of ripples are you causing?”

Next time we go to the park I’m sure they will want to throw more rocks in the water.  I pray it becomes a thing and they will be reminded each time they see water. Maybe even one day they will have the same moment with their own kids.  I can almost hear their grown up voices saying to their children, “What kind of ripples are you causing?”