Never stop LOOKING

I read a story recently where a promise was made to a group of people. The promise would give them something they longed for.

Some people gave up after a while. They stopped looking for it. Their eyes were fixed on the ground. Their world became hopeless.

Other people continued looking.

One day, the promise arrived. The people who never stopped looking were able to see it! They were transformed by it, and filled with its overwhelming love.

Unfortunately, those who stopped looking were unable to see it.

This story spoke volumes to my heart. There have been times when I have given up. I was impatient and my eyes were drawn to the ground. I missed out on great things because I stopped looking.

The promise in this story that I read recently still exists.

The only way to receive it and experience it and be transformed by it is to look for it. Call out for it. Draw close to it.

Never stop LOOKING

Tornado lamp

I have this lamp in my office that swirls little styrofoam pieces around in a circular motion like a tornado. As soon as the switch is turned on, the pieces start flying around inside. When the tornado forms, the pieces follow the path of the tornado.

The kids have named the lamp “chaos.”

Recently, I turned on my own chaos lamp by choosing the wrong path again. I felt the styrofoam pieces swirling down by my feet and I ignored them. I felt the pull of the tornado as it began to push me.

I kept going.

I stayed inside the chaos for two weeks, drowning out everything that told me to stop.

The tornado became stronger and stronger with each wrong choice that I made, until I felt stuck inside of chaos.

I heard a small voice inside my head telling me that the switch of the lamp could be turned off if I would just stop doing what I knew I shouldn’t be doing.

I ignored the voice and allowed the chaos to swirl.

The tornado was pushing me so fiercely that I felt like it was stealing my ability to breathe.

Relationships in my life were falling apart.

My peace was gone and I felt alone in a dark place.

I surrendered.

The switch of the lamp was turned off by something greater than myself as soon as I surrendered.

Drenched, and covered in styrofoam pieces, I busted out of the tornado lamp called chaos.

I asked for forgiveness and the pieces instantly fell off of my clothes.

I could breathe again.

There was a light shining on the path that I left, so I jumped back onto it.

It is smooth, peaceful, and covers me in love.

send me?

This was my prayer in early June. It was a question at that point, because I wasn’t sure that I meant it.

When I received an odd phone call from a place I didn’t apply to, it started to make sense. I declined and told them it was too far away.

Something inside of me nudged me to call them back and accept it. So, I called them back and set it up.

Go for it.

TRUST.

So, I went to the interview, laughing to myself about how far away it was. Wondering if I could really move there.

Again, I felt the nudge.

TRUST.

A few days later, I received a call with a request for a second interview.

They offered me the job at the end of the interview! I accepted!

I drove around the area, saw several horses (which I love) and I had an overwhelming feeling, an unexpected love for this new place.

As soon as I got home I started looking for a house online. I also called my agent to ask her some questions about selling my house.

Within a week I put an offer on a house in my new neighborhood, and I listed my house.

The following week my house was SOLD after being on the market for only TWO days!

My offer on the new house was accepted as well!

Everything happened so fast! Everything fell into place. I trusted, and it all worked out.

Two words I wasn’t sure that I meant when I prayed that day were taken seriously.

When everything started to fall in place, I confidently shouted “Send Me!” with tears running down my cheeks.

I also yelled, “I TRUST YOU!” as I began to comprehend all of the love that God poured out over me, with the undeniable evidence in the events that took place in just two weeks.

Without a doubt, this new place is where I am supposed to be.

I am excited beyond belief!

Send Me!

Unassailable

I passed a weeping willow tree on my way home from work today. It took me back to the huge, beautiful, towering weeping willow tree that stood by the water at the yellow house on the river.

I loved that tree! The branches, long and flowing, were always waving a warm welcome to me as I strutted my little five year old self down toward the dock. I remember thinking that it was protecting me from the “bad guys” when I was out on that dock catching bluegills.

I met another memory of the yellow house tonight when I showed up to bowl my second week on the summer league. The bowling alley manager filled the empty spot on my team with a man who is a regular at the alley. I knew something was off about him when he wouldn’t make eye contact with me so that I could introduce myself and say hello.

We started bowling and the memories started to creep their way in. He was angry. Really angry.

When he didn’t bowl a strike, he punched his fist into the table. As the night went on, his anger greatly increased.

It didn’t take long for his anger to trigger a response in my body that I was unaware of until it overtook my mind. I realized that I was shaking, and my heart was beating really fast. When my thoughts caught up with my body’s reaction, I felt an intense fear. I wanted to run.

When he picked up the chair a few inches off the ground and then slammed it back down, I had to walk away. I felt nauseous. I thought that chair was headed toward me.

The weeping willow tree wasn’t there to protect me from whatever this man was capable of doing.

I wanted to be unassailable, invulnerable, safe, and secure.

I wanted to be stronger than the trigger that took me back to the days of my youth when I feared someone close to me. Someone who was unpredictable. Someone who reminded me of a raging bull, especially when he was drunk.

I wanted to run back to the dock and go fishing with the weeping willow tree.

The hardest part about tonight was realizing that nothing could have shielded me from this experience. I had to go through it to grow from it. I wish it hadn’t happened, because it is not easy to face, but it taught me something about myself.

I am not completely healed.

I am ok with that.

I am proud of myself for mustering up enough courage to tell the bowling alley manager about the man’s behavior, my past, and how he was affecting my ability to take part in the league. The manager, full of compassion in his eyes, firmly stated that he would not be allowed back the following week.

He took the place of the weeping willow tree for a moment tonight.

As I drove home from the bowling alley with my window down, the breeze brought me peace. It reminded me that healing is a process, and that there is hope because of an unending love that pours down from heaven.

I am so thankful for the strength that I have been given as a gift. It allows me to get back up when I get knocked down, ready to face the next unexpected trigger.

I don’t think I will ever be unassailable, but I know that I am loved by the One who is.

Encouragement

At the beginning of time, wisdom was beside God, assisting with, rejoicing about, and delighted by creation (Proverbs 8:22, 31). I am not a theologian, I am merely in awe of the moments that were described here. Wisdom, in these passages, has historically been interpreted as Jesus. So, I picture Jesus there, with God, while the depths, the springs, the mountains, the hills, the earth, the fields, the first dust, the heavens, the skies, the sea and its boundaries were being created. I picture Jesus smiling, clapping, and encouraging God. Again, this is just how I have interpreted Proverbs 8:22-31.

A beautiful relationship between a Father and His Son.

I wonder, as I picture this, about time. Did Jesus know, in those majestic moments, that He would have to enter the earth and die? He must have known, since He is all-knowing. Yet, He assisted, rejoiced, and delighted anyway. He trusted His Father’s plan.

If you know me well, you know that I question EVERYTHING. I have questioned things to the point where I have been called “exhausting.” I defended myself by stating that I am just a curious person, but deep down I know that it stems from mistrust and skepticism. I am pretty sure I would have been the annoying little sister in those moments with my “but why’s?” along the way, every time something new was created. As I write these words I realize that the answer would simply be, “because I love you so much.”

Hearing the “I love you so much” would make me want to stand on that fresh, newly created mountaintop and shout that to the world. I would shout it right now, to this fallen world that has chosen to dismiss His love. This fallen world that Jesus died for even though He knew that so many would forget that sacrifice.

I am trying to wrap my head around that.

In this moment I am reminded of my own dismissal of God. I turned away from God for ten years! I set Him on the shelf even though I knew what He did for me.

Amazingly, and gracefully, He waited. He silently pursued me until my ears and heart opened up so that I could hear how loud His love for me was shouting for me to return to Him.

I ran into a hug that poured so much love into me that I’ll never be the same.

I am realizing, right now, that They knew about that moment when They were creating it all at the beginning of time. Yet, They created me anyway. They knew my choices, my waywardness, and my sins, yet… They created me anyway.

Because… They love me so much.

Tiny faces

Every time I close my eyes, I see them.

Their tiny faces are always at the front of my mind…

Their tiny faces appear every time I stare off into the distance as I sit at a red light, or when I close my eyes because the sadness feels so heavy, or when I search for answers to their questions, and the healing for their pain.

It feels like I am carrying their pain around on my back in the wilderness as I search for answers.

The world expects them to be whole.

The world is trying to force them into molds that suffocate them.

They want to be accepted and loved for who they are right now, in the midst of trudging through their storm.

They don’t understand why the world can’t see the loud, destructive storm that is tearing them apart inside.

It is so clear to them, and to those who love them, so why isn’t it clear to the ones who need to see it?

If their tiny hearts could speak I think they would yell, “CAN YOU MEET ME HERE, RIGHT WHERE I AM? THIS IS THE ONLY PLACE I AM ABLE TO BE… THE ONLY PLACE I CAN BREATHE.”

I knew it would be a difficult task.

I knew I’d feel their pain.

I did not know how often I’d see their tiny faces appear, and how heavy their pain would be.

All I can do is love them, meet them where they need me to meet them, and pray quietly to myself every time I see their tiny faces appear.

The perfect balance

I made a big mistake recently. When someone close to me asked me a question about God I gave the wrong answer.

I’ve been so torn about how to answer this particular question that I just blurted out what I felt like saying in that moment. I immediately wished I could take my words back but that was impossible.

The moment passed but God didn’t want me to let it go because my pastor spoke about the very same thing this past Sunday… the perfect balance between love and grace. https://www.facebook.com/orchardschurch/videos/226439696319417/ (message starts at 37:00).

I never thought about the fact that God sent Jonah to Nineveh because He loved the people of Nineveh. That part of the story flew right by me every time I heard it for the past 24 years! I guess the shock of someone being swallowed by a fish and being in the belly of the fish for 3 days clouded my view of the more important part of the story.

Realizing the depths of God’s love for the people of Nineveh was a revelation for me, and I reflected on my ability to see God’s love for people instead of the pending judgment for their sin.

God lovingly showed me that the answer I blurted out earlier this week lacked love and grace.

God sent Jonah to Nineveh out of love first, so that they could escape judgment.

God sent Jesus to us out of love, so that we could escape judgment.

God gracefully changed His mind about judging the people of Nineveh when they turned from their evil ways.

God gracefully changed His mind about judging us when we turn from our evil ways.

God had compassion on the people of Nineveh.

God has compassion on us.

I told this person close to me that if someone chooses a lifestyle that is outside of what is pleasing to God, then they will go to hell. I can’t believe I said that. I can’t believe I missed the opportunity to tell this person about how much love and grace God has for everyone.

I wish I would’ve said that God is compassionate, slow to anger, abundant in mercy (Jonah 4:2), and that He gives people opportunities to turn from their choices and turn to Him.

His love transforms people.

He is merciful.

I am reminded of the countless times that God has chosen to love me despite my choices.

God knew that I couldn’t choose the right path without His help, so he sent Jesus to die for me.

I am not usually one to create a New Year’s resolution, but this year I have decided that I need to.

I have decided that I would like to love people with God’s love and mercy in every situation.

I want to love others, and see others the way that God sees me.

Always.

The greatest gift

These words jumped out at me when I read them: “she pondered these things in her heart.”

In her heart? Not her mind? I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before… someone pondering something in their HEART.

I wondered what it meant to ponder something in your heart. Webster states it this way: “to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply.”

That made sense to me. She thought deeply about the baby that was placed inside her womb, miraculously.

I wonder if she pondered why she was chosen for the Gift?

I wonder if she pondered how she’d raise Him?

I wonder if she felt inadequate?

The baby in her womb was going to change her life, and the lives of everyone who believed in Him.

The baby was promised for many years, and she was about to give birth to Him!

I would’ve panicked and I might’ve asked God to choose someone else. I probably wouldn’t have believed that I could provide Him everything He needed to fulfill His calling.

Then I pondered, in my own heart, if I’ve provided my own children, (these four precious gifts I’ve been given), with everything they need to fulfill their calling.

I heard God lovingly whisper that it wasn’t up to Mary to do that, and it’s not up to me. Mothers, even single mothers, aren’t expected to do it all alone.

When mothers make room for someone else to help, and lift their children up to the God who knit them together, or lay them down at the foot of the cross… the baby who died for them will help them.

Jesus died because He wants to help. He died because He WANTS to love. His love is so gigantic that it burst out of that grave and is still spreading out over the world!

It took me several years, and several mistakes, to realize that I couldn’t raise my kids alone.

Once I looked up, when God did not give up on me, I realized that He is their Father. He is a Father that will provide everything they need. He planned it all out before He chose me to carry them in my womb!

I wonder if Mary knew that she wouldn’t have to do it all alone?

I wonder if she had the same peace that I experienced once I surrendered my ways to His?

The greatest gift isn’t under the tree.

The greatest gift is something that’s offered as you ponder Christmas in your heart.

A baby that became a man who loves you so much that he died for you. He died so that you would choose to live with Him and His Father in heaven forever! ♥️

He was there with me

The woman who was at the front of the room told me to close my eyes and allow a memory to return to my mind. A memory where I felt alone and scared.

My mind took me back to age 13. I was upstairs rocking a baby to sleep. I felt alone, scared, and confused. There were tears running down my cheeks.

The woman at the front of the room told me to keep my eyes closed and imagine Jesus there.

My mind returned to the upstairs rocking chair. I saw Jesus there, sitting on the crib rail. Hangin out with me. Smiling at me like a loving Father.

In that moment, a million memories flooded back to me. I wanted to see Him there with me when I was alone and scared.

He was there with me in the Trans Am when I was 5 years old.

He was there with me when I was begging to go home.

He was there with me when I hated myself and I was done doing life my way… all messed up.

He was there with me when I was 18, sobbing, and driving home in the rain with the windows down for four hours after my first heartbreak.

His arms were open when I ran to Him.

He was there with me when I walked down the aisle. For some reason that sentence was difficult to write.

He was there with me in that house where anger was the roof and bitterness lived in the walls.

He was there with me when I packed up my kids and left.

He was there with me when I felt defeated and didn’t think I could survive as a single mom.

He whispered to me that I could, and that I just had to hold onto Him.

He called me His beautiful daughter.

I finally felt like I belonged to someone who genuinely loved me.

He was there with me every time tears fell from my eyes.

I recently heard someone say that they’ve never met anyone who remained unchanged after experiencing agape love from God.

I believe that.

I believe I’ve experienced that.

He will always be here with me.

The exchange

She stood there, alone, weak.

She was surrounded by everything she wanted to be.

She saw the strength she longed for in everyone around her.

She had no idea how she could ever arrive where her heart longed to be.

She watched them, day after day, trying to figure out the source of their strength.

She determined that it was given to them, daily, but she didn’t know who the giver was.

Her weakness drove her to stop watching.

She stopped going to this place where everyone seemed so strong.

She was empty.

She curled up and wanted to disappear.

As she lay there, seemingly lifeless, she was startled as a man stood in front of her with his hand out, asking for her hand.

This man was a stranger whom she’d never met before, yet she knew she could trust him.

She placed her hand in his and they walked together, down a path that felt very familiar.

She saw her younger self, cold and alone in the back seat of a sports car. As she looked closer, she saw this man standing next to the car, protecting her.

They walked further and she saw herself as a teenager sitting in the dark, crying. The phone that had been thrown at her was still just inches away from her feet. This man was there, sitting next to her, wiping her tears away.

The next scene they watched took place in the house she lived in when she was married and her children were young. This man lifted her up off the floor when she felt completely defeated.

Time moved past them like a kaleidoscope as they walked through the next several years of her life.

She saw him reach down and pick her up out of a deep pit she saw no way out of.

She saw Him offer her a new heart and a renewed mind. She accepted both.

She felt forgiven and loved unconditionally.

She felt Him exchange her weakness for strength.

She returned to that place as a forgiven, loved, renewed, and strengthened woman.

She felt Him standing next to her.

She had everything she longed for.