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.

Are you stuck?

I was.

I felt like I was stuck in a job that I hated. I applied to job after job and kept receiving rejections.

I was afraid to quit my job, take a leap of trust and go back to school to get my masters degree.

For two years, I feared what would happen if I quit my job. I cried. I felt defeated by the what ifs.

Finally, I listened to that nudge, that reassuring whisper telling me to trust, telling me that I would be taken care of, telling me that I would not fail.

I listened, and I trusted, and…

I jumped.

I was moving along in masters program, still holding onto the job “just in case” I couldn’t afford something until I could not physically work and complete my internship.

“Quit the job and trust,” I heard again. Softly, as a whisper to my soul.

I looked back over the year and a half that had passed since I originally took the initial leap. I saw everything that happened since the moment I started the program. I saw miracles, and finances, and peace that washed over me.

So… I quit the job.

I started working part-time, cringing every time I would open the envelope with the check inside. Hoping it would be enough. Somehow, it has been. Week after week receiving three times less than what I was making before, it has been enough. Miraculously, my finances haven’t been affected by a huge decrease in my income.

I only have ten weeks left in the program.

I have trusted God more in the past two years than I have over my lifetime.

I have had more peace than ever before.

I was stuck, until I trusted and was set free.

Are you stuck?

I heard a message about John 5 verse 7 recently. It is about a man who was paralyzed until Jesus told him to get up. Jesus healed the man and he was no longer paralyzed.

Is there something paralyzing you, or keeping you from doing what you believe you have been called to do?

Based on what God has done in my life, I urge you to trust Him. He will show up.

christfellowship.podbean.com

Traps

There is a path that is littered with traps. They are craftily and deviously placed on that path daily.

Imagine yourself waking up everyday with the ability to see that path, and all of its traps, clearly.

It would be so easy to choose the alternative path that is offered to you, the one that is paved with protection, refuge, and safety.

Now, imagine yourself as a young child holding hands with someone you trust. This person is looking out for you, making sure you don’t hurt yourself. As you walk along your protected path together, you jump in puddles, dance in the rain, stop to admire beautiful flowers, trees, and wildlife that trusts you enough to slow down to share the moment together.

As you get older, you decide to let go of the hand of the trusted person who is looking out for you, and you venture off of that protected path. You think that you can handle life on your own. You think that your way will be better.

You find yourself on a dark path that is unshielded and littered with traps.

You make so many bad choices because you can’t see the protected path anymore. You have lost sight of your trusted person. You think you have to continue on this path since that is the one that you chose.

Your breathing is heavy. You’re tired and hungry. The traps that you have fallen into have scarred your frail body. You want to give up.

Defeated, you sit in the dark between the trap you just barely freed yourself from, and the trap that is just inches away. You close your eyes and hope for your trusted person to return. You dream about jumping in puddles, dancing in the rain, and sharing moments with wildlife. As you drift off to sleep you feel a glimmer of peace.

As you sleep, you feel like you are being held by a pair of giant hands. Protecting, loving, gentle, peaceful hands that offer refuge.

You never want to wake up.

As you slowly open your eyes you see a light that is illuminating another path.

You have a renewed strength that allows you to gather up your frail, scarred body and move toward the new path.

You feel a hand slip into yours but you can’t see who it belongs to.

You start to run, hand in hand, toward the light, feeling alive again. Feeling strong. Feeling a renewed sense of peace.

You look over to your right and you see the path you were on before, littered with traps. You run faster toward the light.

As you move closer to the light, you hear the sound of waves rushing toward you. The waves reach you and wash over you. They heal all of the scars, giving you more strength to move forward.

You never let go of that loving hand.

You never stray from that shielded path.

Your renewed peace never leaves you.

Abandoned

I have a newfound love for abandoned buildings.

I wasn’t sure why, until this moment.

I am presently experiencing an overwhelming feeling of frustration toward people who seem very unloving.

As I cried out to God in this moment of frustration, I started to see their hearts.

They looked like old, rusty pipes that no longer carried fresh water.

They were empty and abandoned.

Some of them were wrapped in chains.

Others were bound by cobwebs and spiders that settled in.

I continued to pray as I walked by.

I heard them whispering nasty things about people.

I heard them speak out hopelessness over the youth that needed to be loved & encouraged.

I wanted to scream!!!

Instead, I prayed for the chains to be broken.

I prayed for their emptiness to be replaced with love.

I asked God to pour His love over these abandoned “buildings” so that the ugliness would stop.

I asked for their whispers that pierced hearts to be replaced with truth that heals.

I asked for their hopeless remarks to be replaced with miraculous hope.

I asked for peace to replace their bitterness.

I asked for their blind eyes to be opened to the resilience that our youth have within them.

I asked for their minds to be renewed.

As I prayed, my frustration became less intense.

God’s love for me quieted their whispers.

I saw His hands pick up the remnants and make them beautiful.

I saw the abandoned made new.

Crumbling rubble

Have you ever stumbled upon a passion that you were never aware of? Surprised by your own drive to advocate for something you knew nothing about before that moment?

About six months ago, I met someone who unknowingly made me aware of an issue that now affects me daily.

As soon as I realized how big the issue was, I felt inadequate to address it.

An assignment to create an advocacy plan intimidated me even more.

Advocacy is a way to be a voice, to make people aware of a change that needs to happen.

My journey to find that voice began.

The more I learned about the crumbling rubble that this person has to traverse daily, just to survive, my heart broke.

Instead of becoming discouraged, I allowed the sadness to fuel my passion to help.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the root of the biggest challenge was based on a misunderstanding.

Instead of providing this person with the tools she needed to overcome, the system offers her a vertical slip-n-slide.

She falls further and further behind the people around her who have everything they need.

She watches them excel while she is left to fail.

Her foundation became the hole that was dug for a basement, instead of solid ground.

The voice I found was trembling, yet strong.

It has the potential to change the foundation for her and many other people in her situation.

The advocacy plan started with providing clarity to the owners of the broken system.

I’m hopeful that the clarity will be the spark that sets her world on fire.

I’ll never give up on this journey that can turn her crumbled rubble into a smooth, beautiful path full of everything she needs to succeed.

Parenting

Disclaimer: This post does not include advice from a parent who thinks she has it all together!

I would describe parenting as a dance. As I move forward, my children either move back, or they step on my feet. Or, I step on their feet. Or, we both fall over and laugh hysterically.

When my first child was in my belly, I read all the books about what to eat and what not to eat when I was pregnant. How much to exercise, sleep, and work. I tried to follow the best advice in order to prepare for his arrival.

As most parents know, all of that information flies out the window when that bundle of joy cries for no apparent reason and the mystery scavenger hunt begins.

What is wrong? What am I doing wrong? How do I figure this out when I am exhausted and my patience is still asleep?

I was 25 years old when my first child was born and 30 years old when my fourth, and last, child was born. Needless to say, I was in survival mode most of the time. I have joked on several occasions about being thankful that I journaled and scrapbooked pictures and thoughts about those years because I don’t remember ANYTHING.

Shortly after my last child was born, I got divorced. So, the survival mode that I was already in kicked into overdrive.

Now, she is 15 and I am 45.

Back to parenting… the point I wanted to make today is that none of us really know what we are doing. We try stuff that we hope will work because it sounded so perfect in the books we read. But it doesn’t seem to work on OUR kids, because, well, they’re unique. And so are we.

So, we adjust, and then readjust, never really getting it right. And, that is OKAY!

I read this recently, and loved it: “God didn’t make perfect parents. He made mothers and fathers perfectly suited for the unique needs of their children” (Dave and Ann Wilson, in their new book titled, “No Perfect Parents”).

I love this because it gives parents the validation, affirmation, and freedom to just be themselves. Accept the fact that you aren’t perfect and you aren’t expected to be perfect. Embrace the fact that God knew you before He gave you your kids, He knows you now, and He even knows what you haven’t done yet. He chose you to be their parents anyway!

I believe that kids need us to just love them where they’re at, for who they are. We can dance with them, we can definitely try to figure them out, we can attempt to improve, and we can make changes when necessary. At the end of the day, they just need us to love them.

Part 3

In the book “The Pursuit of Happyness,” the author breaks up seasons of his life into chapters. I think about this often, whenever I laugh quietly to myself about whatever it is that’s happening in my life that warrants a next chapter. So, here we are. I am calling this post “Part 3” because I think I am in that in-between chapters period of my life. I’ll keep you posted on the next chapter as soon as I am made aware of when it is happening. That’s kind of how my life has gone… I know that I have graduated to the next season in the middle of it. The chaos blinds me until the spinning stops at the moments where I need to pay attention. Like the scenes in so many movies where the main character is standing still but the world is spinning around her. People she once knew, places she has been… like the last moments that happen before something big is about to fall before you, and your life flashes before your eyes. I feel like I am right there right now, watching everything in my past spin by, with glimpses of my future that are still blurry but are coming into focus with each new day. I keep seeing myself playing outside when I was about five years old. I loved catching frogs and making them my friends. I’d keep them for little while and then set them free. There was one I forgot about (and I don’t know if I’ll ever stop feeling guilty about that) but I buried his little bones out of respect. In a paper I wrote for school recently, I thought about how that little girl became me. She grew up and never lost her curiosity and sense of wonder. She never lost her quest to seek adventure, especially the getting lost part. There are other parts of me that are starting to make sense too… I had a dream once, a long time ago, when I was looking for answers about my purpose. In the dream I was standing in the doorway of a beautiful, white Victorian house, with pillars that lined the porch. The door was open as I was greeting someone (still unknown to me as I write this), and there were several little children around me holding on to my legs, pulling at my pants for attention. When I woke up, I thought it meant that I would own an orphanage someday. I placed the memory of that dream on the shelf of my high school bedroom closet. Fast-forward to a few weeks ago when I was driving home from my internship at the local middle school. That vision flashed back to me but this time it wasn’t a Victorian house and they weren’t little children. It was a middle school and the doorway was a school counseling office. In that moment of that flashback, I felt like I had arrived! Yes, tears flooded my eyes at the realization that I found my purpose. A few moments later I realized that the little children who were tugging on me in the dream were the students who are currently tugging on my heart. I want to help them find their purpose. I want to help them find out what motivates them to succeed. I want to show them that they were created uniquely and purposefully. I want them to see the hope that I see in them.