A note to my younger self.

If had a few words of wisdom to offer a younger me, what would they be?

I sit here with a smirk on my face knowing you will tuck this advice into your heart while turning to pave your own trail.   But no worries, you will spend plenty of time beating yourself in the head with it when things blow up in your face and you’re trying to pick up the mangled pieces of reality.

No hard feelings.  We are still working our way through this particular character flaw.

Just part of our charm.

Regarding people.  Just know they are broken too.  You won’t find your value in their approval.  Work hard to uncover the dreams you have buried deep in your heart. Understand that you will walk through periods of time when you can do no wrong. You will be surrounded by many. But also understand there will be moments when you must walk alone in the midst of choices deemed unpopular by the “in” crowd. This does not change your image, your value or your purpose in God’s plan. It just means you have been redirected from a path you either weren’t meant to take, or stay upon.  No big deal. Just keep your eyes on God.  He will take care of the destination.

Take the time to care for your body.  Exercise.  Value nutrition.  But don’t place too much value on what the scale says.  Don’t fear food.  Allow it to fuel your body. But don’t run to it for comfort.  Only God can offer the peace you so desire.

Say your feelings, don’t stuff them.

And no matter what they tell you, sugar is not evil.  God created it.  Just use it in moderation and you are good to go! Same applies to chocolate. And coffee.  But not onions.  Onions are still evil.

Value the people you are given in life.  Be intentional in building relationships.  You’re not super great at this.  You worry that you will be found lacking in some way.  You’re afraid to let others too close.  They might see something that will cause them to turn away or be disgusted.  I’m still not sure why that is.  I’m sure counseling would work it out, but seriously, who has the time.

Here’s what I know.  God’s power is made perfect in your weakness.  Allow your quirkiness to shine.  Embrace your sense of humor.  Allow those who cross your path to have a place in your life.  Allow them to see under the hood.  Because the truth is, they’re quirky too.  And when you allow yourself to love others with the same love you have been given by Christ, those awkward dispositions won’t be such a big deal.  You will begin to see the beauty of God’s most precious creation- His people.  You will embrace diversity. You will find the person is always more important than the problem threatening to cause division. Love covers a multitude of sins, but you can only love the people you take the time to know.

Let them love you, too!

Your marriage will have growing pains. And, since you married so young, you might have more than most.  Let them happen.  Grow.  Your guy is the best.  A bit of an adrenaline junky which keeps you on your toes.  Spoiler alert- He is still HOT!

Anger slowly.

Forgive quickly.

Perceive everything you have as a resource.  Your time.  Your talents.  Your money.  Your physical possessions.  Everything.  And use it all to the glory of God. Hold nothing back.

You know those days when you rush into church, hit the bathroom doors and take a deep breath of contentment, grateful that you are in the house of God.  Knowing you will experience his presence in moments.  Expectant to be refreshed and refilled for all the week ahead will bring.

This is how I envision heaven.

I hope to approach the throne of God with nothing but expectancy and the knowledge I have given everything I had to further his kingdom purpose.

Humbled to be used.

Exhausted from the journey.

Ready to enjoy the king in the fullness of his glory.

I’m sad to say we are still a long way from fulfillment of that dream. You’re still a work in progress.  I heard some great advice in church on Sunday.  Stay humble and stay hungry.  If there is nothing else you can take away, just do that.  Stay humble and stay hungry for God.  Just don’t stop.  So long as you wake up in the morning, keep going.

On the days you are feeling old, tired and used up?

Thank him anyway.

These days usually occur right before God performs his greatest works in your life.  Embrace the moment and lean into him for the strength & wisdom you need to persevere.

You won’t regret it.

Always remember your life is not a mistake.  Learn from every circumstance.  Embrace every opportunity.  Don’t spend too much time looking back. Love freely.  Give generously.

A couple of housekeeping items:

  • Rachel hates last minute move in’s.  Soften the blow with a grande skinny caramel macchiatto.
  • If your missing something, ask Madi.  This especially applies to shoes, electronic devices, car keys and your wedding ring.
  • Too much coffee before breakfast makes your heart race.
  • You need at least two hours after you first cup of coffee to be fully ready for people.
  • You’re a dog person.
  • You need to invite Jon & Aimee over for a cookout.  Soon.
  • When opting for sugar-free, go with caramel.

And, for emergency purposes, always be able to locate the nearest bathroom and Starbucks.

This blog links up to Suzie Eller’s #LiveFree Thursday!

 

 

 

 

 

Safety is not guaranteed on the observation trail

“Let’s start on the observation trail”, I suggest to my husband before he can complete his turn.  The backpacker trail sounds a bit risky and we have never hiked here.

I want to know what I’m getting into.

We pull up to a beautiful stone path trail complete with a sign to explain we should  finish the 3/4 mile trail in about 45 minutes.

A paved path with a timeline.  This is my kind of trail.

You see, I’m a girl who likes to live a buttoned up life.  After experiencing a long season of insecurity, I have worked hard to build a life guaranteeing stability for me and my family.  I find comfort and protection in knowing where I am going and how I am going to get there.

Then life has the odacity throw a foil in my carefully laid plans. Unexpected meetings.  Divine appointments.  I find myself in a panic trying to recoup and recover for lost time. Most days I check off every cherished detail on my list feeling like I am in a tailspin while simultaneously wondering if I accomplished anything valuable with my life.

What did I accomplish today? 

Can you relate?

As I approach the well paved path with my family,  I discover quickly this path is not as elementary as it first appeared.  I can take the clean- cut path but in doing so, I miss little adventure stops that can only be experienced by stepping off the paved trails and on to dirt foot paths which lead to some of the most spectacular views our state has to offer.

Garden of the Gods-1

My shaky legs navigate rock cliffs towering over the tallest trees in the forest. My breath is taken away by the majestic beauty surrounding us from every direction. The wind blows in my hair as I embrace my nervous energy in anticipation for what is next.

Garden of the Gods -2

No safety ropes.  No agenda.

No need for the well paved path.

As we complete the observation trail,  I find myself anxiously anticipating the backpackers trail. After all, when you have stood high above the forest, there is no need to worry about what lies within it.

Those who trust in themselves are fools but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.

Proverbs 28:26

Walking in wisdom does not mean staying on the well paved trail.  It means prayerfully discerning God’s will for the moment. Understanding my life is fully in his control even when my list of to do’s will more often remain undone in exchange for priorities he has deemed more important.

I can make the choice to remain on the well paved path.  Or, I can navigate the dirt foot trails leading to the spectacular view of life only found when placing my safety and security in his best purposes and plans for me.

Even when I haven’t planned for what is coming next.

You will be secure because there is hope.  You will look about you and take rest in your safety.

Job 11:18

 

What or whom do you place your safety?  Join the discussion at #LiveFree Thursday’s.

 

 

 

Anchoring in Christ allows me rest in the fury of the storm

They gaze in awe.  Is this for real?

Just moments before they launched the Dorothy into the tornado and watched in amazement as thousands of little computers whisk away.

The storm cloud suddenly shifts threatening their immediate safety.

After a life-preserving run through a nearby field, they find safety by chaining themselves to plumbing anchored deep into the ground just as the funnel cloud passes over them.   And for a moment, they allow themselves to rest in the storm until the cloud passes over, wreaking havoc along its chosen path.

It’s my favorite scene from the movie Twister.

After a lifetime of actively seeking resolution from a childhood event, the character, Dr. Jo Harding, rests in success of knowing her plan is working.  Soon she will have the data she needs to create a pre-warning system created to save lives of those who find themselves in the path of the storm.

Dare I say she begins to experience healing & resolution from years of pain in the midst of this storm?

Author Sheila Wray Gregoire suggests that allowing ourselves to feel pain is actually a key to the process of healing.  She states the physical feeling of pain, while not pleasant, will not kill us. It’s a necessary emotion to experience & process.

At the time I received this advice I too was in the midst of a storm.  I knew I could not walk in pain of my storm alone.  In the depths of emotion, I called out to Jesus and anchored myself to him.  Like the characters in Twister,  anchoring myself caused three things to happen.

I stopped running.

When I stopped running and just basked in his presence, I realized how much baggage I had gathered.  Years of bitter memories fought to reach the surface of my heart.  Issues I let slow boil until the pressure became too intense to keep shoved inside any longer.

I surrendered to the storm.

Anchored safely in Christ, I allowed myself to truly feel the depth of the emotions buried within me.  In moments I was most overwhelmed the still, small voice of God called to me, encouraging me to participate in the struggle.  Like a deep wound, healing had to establish within me.  The old and ugly had to fester to the surface so true recovery could begin.

My perception shifted.

I prayed. I journaled. I released memories and emotions as they surfaced. I committed to prompt resolution of the emotions which reigned freely for so long. I accepted accountability for my actions. I allowed Christ to shift my perspective and change my heart.

When I anchor my life in Christ, I can allow myself to experience the depth of the life.  I can feel the wind in my hair.  I can position myself to fend off oncoming danger.  I can see the first signs of light as the storm weakens.

I can experience the mighty power of God without fear of being overtaken by the waves.

Anchoring to Christ does not take away the storm.  Anchoring to Christ does not relieve the tension of living in a broken world. Anchoring to Christ does allow me to rest in the storm, even when there is work yet to finished.  Anchoring to Christ allows me freedom to move towards completion of God’s purpose for my life. Anchoring to Christ positions me for safety and keeps me from moving in a direction that could take me off path or place me in harm’s way.

Anchoring in Christ keeps me focused on my surroundings wisely judging each moment from a place of security as opposed to the storm clouds of my emotions.

I’m expecting God’s best.

“Are you okay mom?”

I smile and give a thumbs up as a tear slips from underneath my sunglasses. My little camper settles into the van ready for a week of fun, adventure and no parents!  I, on the other hand, am an anxious mess.  I have a queasy pit in my stomach.

It’s never easy to say goodbye.

I get into my car and head to work, thankful for the busy Monday ahead.  On my way, I pray for travel mercy.  I pray for peace for the little campers who will be away from home for the week.  I pray for the counselors who will be investing into the lives of these little ones.

We have done all we can to prepare her for a week without us.    I wrote the camp notes.  She has her ice cream cash. My husband packed her bags in day specific rolls.1607111_834186176657715_4690657683349455716_n

We even picked up a cocoa on the way to church.

But now it’s time to hand over the reigns.

I’m not so good at handing over the reigns.

“God, I need your peace in this moment of uncertainty.  I need the strength to trust you.  I feel so out of control.  I know in my head she is going to have a great time. I know in my head you are going to move in her heart this week. Lord, let this truth resonate in my heart.”

Immediately, this thought occurs to me. “You jump on this emotional roller coaster every time I ask you to step out of your comfort zone.” In writing.  In running. In allowing my kids out of my sight for a week to go to church camp, of all places. The emotions are messy yet I’m expecting God to show up in amazing ways.  The words come out choppy and rough but a life is touched.  The race is hard to run but there is the blessing of accomplishment and perseverance waiting at the finish line.

It’s hard to say goodbye but in a few short days she will be returning with a bag full of dirty laundry, new girlfriends and memories that will last a lifetime.11227954_10153492797423060_8715412038757468137_n

In the quiet of this week, I’m embracing the shift of dynamics in our home. It’s been a full 24 hours since I last called the dog Madi.

Progress, right?

I’m dumping the guilt of feeling like I, myself, am on a bit of a vacation.  She is our demanding one.  The girl who demands action and drama at every turn.  I’m enjoying the quiet laid back peace of my evenings knowing she is in the capable hands of her counselor and under the watchful eye of her heavenly father.

Besides, she has already assured me she will only miss her daddy and Zoe the diva wonder dog.

Little monkey.

I’m counting the days until she is home again and our world returns to normal.

I’m expecting God’s best.  Not only in her week, but in mine as well.

 

I gave you my old ugly heart. You returned it restored and new.

“Lord, it’s a mess.  You can’t possibly want it.”

I am standing in a crowded auditorium.  A prevailing churches conference.  A room full of ministry leaders.  Movers and shakers for the kingdom.

Do you ever just feel like you don’t quite belong?

Chris Tomlin is leading worship.  I mean, how cool is that?

The last two days, we have been poured into by names like Bill Hybels and David Ortberg.  I’m singing and connecting with God in an experience that is a bit out of my ordinary world.  I am compelled to lift my hands in worship.  And then, it happens.

I can feel the tangible touch of God on my hands.  He is silently telling me, “Return to me.”

You see, God knows that my outsides look pretty good, but my insides are another story all together.  I haven’t let him in yet.  I have been volunteering in kids ministry and learning things about his word that I have never heard while washing down tables and leading kids to their assigned classrooms.  But I haven’t let his word resonate yet.  I know he means it for them.  I just can’t believe it for me.

I want kingdom opportunities and when I see another succeeding, I don’t see that they are succeeding for God.  I just see that they are farther ahead in the race and I am bitten by a little green bug of jealousy. I long to be the center of attention.  There is an emptiness inside of me that demands it.  I just want my chance to prove that I, too, am worthwhile.

But in this moment, God is not asking me to prove anything.

He is just asking me to return to him.

So I did.

In those following weeks, I recommitted my life to God.  In my mind, I had always been a believer.  I was baptized as a baby.  I knew he was there.  But, I made the choice to be water baptized as an adult, not because I believe it will take me into the gates of heaven, but instead, to show outwardly what was happening to me inwardly. God was washing away the old and ugly to reveal something new & beautiful.

I immersed myself in his word daily.

I learned to pray in alignment with God’s will.  Not about my wish and want list, but about his purpose and balance for who he created me to be.

I connected to others through small group bible study.

One day, I was sitting in church observing a woman I greatly admired.  Her ministry was in the spotlight.  A strange, unfamiliar feeling came over me.  It was joy!  I was genuinely happy for the success she was bringing to the kingdom as a result of her work and effort.

I’ll admit that I was surprised by this new emotion.

I basked in it for a moment.  It was like trying on a pair of jeans that fit just right.  No way I was leaving it behind.  This is what a clean heart feels like.

To be totally honest with you, I’m still under construction.  This transformation of my heart will never be perfect this side of heaven.  I will always need to be wary of traps like comparison and inadequacy. But now I know how to fight back. I know how to keep my feet from slipping into bondage and brokenness.

Immerse myself, daily, in God’s word.

Pray often.

Stay connected to other believers for encouragement and motivation.

Do the work he has given me.  Own my share of the kingdom plan.

Through it all, lean into him and trust that he is hard at work in my heart and my life.

Know that each day is filled with new mercy.  I am, after all, human.

 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a right spirit within me.”

 

What I couldn’t see.

“You must have a daughter at home”, my customer says with a smirk on her face.  “Not every woman your age could pull off nail polish with sparkles.”

Foul!  I’m not that old.  Yet.

I remind myself to be nice.  This is your customer and her comment was probably the nicest thing she has ever said to you.  I smile and tell her about Chloe, my budding fashionista. To my surprise, she begins to share a little about her daughter.  She is in her latter years of high school and is entering the Coles County Fair pageant.

Color me surprised.

Here is what I know about this customer.

She is rude and surly.  Her hair is kept short and her most common attire is t-shirt, jeans and work boots.  Appropriate for the factory job she holds.  If she owns makeup, I would be surprised. Her factory works no less that 60 hour work weeks.  Again, beauty is not practical.

She is a single mom of a teenage daughter.

She still thinks I don’t know how to spell her name.

She is never happy about her bill.

She typically chooses me to complain too.

But today, something changes.  In that conversation, she asks, “Do y’all sell health insurance here?”  She proceeds to tell me that she has been suffering extreme hip pain for several years and her doctor is recommending hip replacement surgery as both hips are rubbing bone on bone.

Have I mention she is only in her early 40’s?

As I picked my jaw up off the desk, my entire perception of this surly woman has changed.  No wonder she is so grumpy.  She is in excruciating pain and likely does not have the resources to correct it. Even with health coverage, she would have to take substantial time off.  The recovery process?  Not fun and she’s raising a teenager.  At the time, I had no clue the stress that entails. I can’t imagine making it happen on a single parent income.

What I didn’t know, the things I didn’t take time to learn, colored my perception of a woman overwhelmed with life.  I wrote her off as grumpy and never tried to figure out why. But now that I know, I want to help.  I want to advocate for her.  I want to make a difference in her life.  Not because it’s my job, but because I know her story.

I didn’t dread her presence in the office any longer, even on her meanest days.

It’s  humbling to sit on your throne of judgment only to have God come in and say, “She too is my child.  I love her.” It changes everything.

Now, I guess I specialize in tough cases.  I know they have story.  I tell my kids to love those who are mean, even though it’s hard.  A bully is only one who is bullied, right?

Mean. Grumpy. Just plain ugly.  These actions come from a broken place in desperate need of God’s love and grace. A broken place in desperate need of your acceptance. However, you can’t reach those places when you don’t know the source of pain.

I saw her just a few weeks ago.  I greeted her with a cheerful hello and she said, “Do I know you?”  I drew the connection for her and she replied, “I bet you don’t even know my name.”

I replied, “I not only know your name, but I also know how to spell it.”