Tag Archives: faith

Christmas in July

It’s been a while. It’s been a time. It’s been a season. I have found myself many times simply at a loss for words. More moments of the day than not, my heart beats faster than I ever knew it could. Sometimes it scares me just how quickly it beats. But I’ve come to the conclusion it means: I’m still kicking.

This morning started early. Most of the time, I feel like I’m constantly racing from one second to the next. I don’t want to let anyone down and am not really in a place to ‘slow’ any part of my life down right now. I feel like I’m constantly in a state of inhale (not even sure the last time I actually exhaled). When I do exhale, it’s intentional. I’ve had to remind myself, breathe out.

With the season of life I’m in, I talk to God a lot. Recently, I’ve caught myself talking to Him even more. There’s a lot going on. And this morning on my drive to work, wasn’t any different. As I finish my little chat, I continue playing the Eagles Greatest Hits CD.

Somehow, I find myself thinking about fall and how it’s my favorite season and that I can’t wait for the last 3 months of the year. The feel of that time of year: crisp, colors, comfort, warmth, snuggles, joy, love, bright; always creates an excitement within and I am like a ‘kid at Christmas’.

Just as I’m finishing my ‘I can’t wait for’ thoughts, I hear the keys of the beginning of a very distinct Eagles Christmas tune and then, “Bells will be ringing…” a smile immediately forms. The irony isn’t lost on me. He wanted to spread a little cheer this morning. I graciously accepted.

And I couldn’t resist sharing. So here’s a little holiday cheer for anyone else that may need a little Christmas in July today.

Eagles – Please Come Home For Christmas (youtube link to song)

 

Secondary Grace

As I wrap up this season of giving & receiving, I find myself contemplating my favorite little ‘P’ word, Perspective. It wasn’t but a couple of years ago that word never passed my lips without my infamous eye roll (I was told quite recently ago, I’d perfected the eye roll. I snidely responded it was good to know your strengths, finishing with a smirk and my roll; I’m sure leaving a lasting impression). Perspective…’a particular attitude’…I remember in college learning that perception is reality, though reality is rarely perception. That’s a scary thought. Does anyone have a grasp on what’s real then?

I know what’s real to me and you know what’s real to you. How can two people experience the exact same thing having two completely different perspectives. Therefore creating two different realities. What, in all of that, is actually real? I’ve experienced this firsthand: living same life experiences with someone and having two completely different realities. Our perspectives were devastatingly opposite. Not an easy feat, and we lost.

I thought Christmas might be hard this year, considering the loss. Surprisingly, I’ve had a good season. Quite the opposite of hard actually, I’ve been told (a couple of times) I have a glow about me. I was also asked “How did you get so strong?” the other day. Crazy, it’s all a matter of perspective. Truth is, my life is an utter mess right now. And don’t you dare ask about my future plans. You’re likely to get an eye roll (I have no damn idea). Future = murky, so don’t ask. But in all this ugly mess, I realized the other day what it is I feel, joy. Yes, in all that chaos you just read, while living the epitome of ‘I don’t have a damn clue what’s happening in my life’ and in the midst of experiencing a huge life disappointment, I feel joy.

In all of this, there is gratefulness in my heart. Each day I notice things, usually little things. It’s those little things that make me smile. They keep me grateful. And I’ve found as long as I keep grateful in my heart, it’s hard not to feel joy. Even in dark, difficult, nasty moments (and I have plenty of those too) because I keep grateful & joy close by, dark, difficult & nasty find it hard to stay around for very long. Perspective. It’s the light switch in life. There are really only two choices with perspective. On or off.

One of my favorite gifts this year is a mantra bracelet given to me by the one who is the right to my left. This woman brings sincerity and sarcasm to my tribe. And I adore every ounce of her compassionate soul. After all life has decided to throw my way over the last 6 years, she nailed it. My perspective: She believed she could, so she did1225161835_hdr222

And I do. Everyday. It’s a choice. And Dark still visits. I welcome him. Invite him in for a spell, sit with him, embrace him, but then I tell him when he’s overstayed his welcome. There is no easy in any of this. It’s all very, very tough.

After finishing Christmas with my most favorite human to ever exist, I went and saw Collateral Beauty. Let me tell you now, if you haven’t seen it yet (believe it only opened a week ago so not sure why you haven’t seen it yet), but you absolutely MUST see it as soon as you can get your rear end in a movie theater seat. There are so many layers to the story. And without ruining much, three of the most important characters play roles in our everyday lives: Love, Time & Death. Life is the most exquisite tragedy of all time. We will all experience joys and sorrows along the way. The ultimate definition of bittersweet. And how you feel it, experience it, and live it is all a matter of your perspective.

So…are you on or are you off? It usually doesn’t happen in a grand, defining moment. It’s after-the-fact, like a slow awakening. It’s in the little things. The collateral beauty, many times the less obvious, a secondary grace. The things that are undoubtedly harder to see in the tragic moments, but they’re also undeniably difficult to un-see once you begin to realize them…

Grace was given for us and to us. Secondary grace is what we choose to give ourselves. And you’re worth it. Know it. Believe it. Do it. And ‘Keep Pounding’ doesn’t hurt either 😉

A Snowy Job

I happened across chapter 6 in the book of Job today. From the beginning, I relate to the words. From misery outweighing all the sands of the sea to not having the strength to endure – believe I’ve said I need a strength that is not my own a time or two recently – to feeling deceived by those closest to you. “…when it is swollen with ice and melting snow.” I stop dead in my tracks or snow tracks, perhaps.

I feel the need to sit and gather my thoughts. I pop open my computer and as I begin to let my thoughts trickle out, the lyric of a song playing in the background catches my ear, “to hear sleigh bells in the snow”. My skin prickles. I go back to finish Job chapter 6. He continues to speak to me: “But when the hot weather arrives, the water disappears.” and the travelers become disappointed and their hopes are ‘dashed’ because they were counting on the water. Job talks about his ‘friends’ criticisms being more than just hard to hear honest words. Does that make them ‘right’ and him ‘wrong’?  He’s not sinless, but he has the right values and actions – he turns to God.

“Kindness is like snow, beautifying everything it covers.” One of my favorite verses my 6 year old and I quote is Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and loving to each other…”. It’s typically the daily reminder he receives as he hops out of the car for school each morning. Compassion and empathy towards others and especially those hurting does so much for the human soul – both the giver and receiver.

I’ve talked about my tribe so much recently. I absolutely adore them. They have kind hearts, fierce minds and brave spirits. They, well, this:tribe

All. Day. ❤

So today marks 6 years. Six years since the best man I’ve ever known left this earth early. I got up this morning, surprisingly in good spirits. I selected my outfit and was off to start my day. It was during my car ride I did some reflecting. My dad had a larger than life personality so when that is gone suddenly from your life one day, never to return again – well it makes for a tough life adjustment.

As I was recalling his life and his death, I understand I may not fully get the ‘whys’ of him leaving so early, but the life lessons he’s taught me even in death have been priceless. It was then I realized what I was wearing…collagemaker_20161128_133101_resized

Another snowy moment. Another snowy message. Another snowy lesson. “When snow falls, nature listens.” And I do too. It’s hard to stop imagining life the way we think it should be and let God do work. Job goes through trials and comes out triumphant. Much to learn about faith and perseverance from ole Job – hear those sleigh bells in the snow, if you will.

“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.” Time to slay – or ‘sleigh’ 😉

IBD Alone

I hate winter. It’s dead. It’s cold. It’s hard. My emotions always seem to follow suit. Especially after the holidays, which seem to have a comfort & joy sensation. This January has been a tougher one. Not only do I just hate winter, but I’ve been dealing with my IBD and I feel alone. Utterly alone.

When you have an IBD, you often feel misunderstood. On the outside, I look ‘normal’. I ‘look’ healthy. On the inside, I hurt. I am scared. And I’m tired of fighting. Many times I have felt judged, and sometimes by those who have felt like they should be closest to me. I don’t ‘look’ like I should feel fatigued, they think I’m lazy. I don’t ‘look’ like I’m ‘sick’, I shouldn’t have backed out of that commitment. This IBD, especially when it is active as mine is, is no joke. You feel like things are out of control and there’s nothing you can do about it. You feel as though you’re constantly letting someone down. People do end up backing away. They no longer reach out to you about getting together or even seeing how you are. They don’t understand. This is a daily, lifelong, chronic battle. Each day could bear something different than the last. I pray for the day I could possibly go into remission and this 5+ year battle comes to a close, even if just for a while. Maybe then the feeling of isolation will somewhat dissipate. I can actually be everyone’s standard of ‘normal’ again…

Through this battle, I have done some life and self examination. The feeling ‘alone’ always pops up. Quietly, inwardly alone (and that’s hard on the soul). Especially, when I have felt overly exposed by Him. I’m sure it would surprise many that I battle this ‘alone’ insecurity (I can come off fairly social), but the insecurity is almost always there. Sometimes it’s covered up pretty well and even I overlook it, but it’s usually not gone for long before it’s there again.

It’s my exposed ugly place that He’s had me working on. It’s been my focus for quite some time now. I’ve made strides and feel somewhat more content, but when there are setbacks it’s hard not to focus on that and keep moving forward. One setback does not define you. I pray this Psalm (a lot) 16:8 when I feel ‘alone’ creeping back in, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.”

Over the last year, I’ve been trying to learn how to see the ‘blessings in disguise’ – those life lessons from this journey I’m on. One of the biggest blessings is I cherish the good days all that much more. My smile is brighter. My laugh is heartier. My energy soars. I know the good days are truly something special and worth every ounce to fully live in them. I don’t take them for granted. Another thing I’ve learned is I love a little harder. My love is fierce for those who stay closest to me. We are not promised tomorrow. Through this challenge I pray daily that God continues to reveal moments of wisdom. I need them.

So winter stinks. But there is one thing that winter is not – it is not ugly. Oddly, I find such beauty in the nature of winter. It’s flat out stunning sometimes. It can do things no other season can. It can sparkle with ice. It can bring a crispness to lungs when inhaled. It can drop white beauty from the sky. And when the sun shines on a cold winter day it seems to shine so much brighter. I try to remember this when it feels like ‘winter’ sneaks into my life no matter what the actual season may be. Beauty is there, in the broken-ness. I am not alone. One day, whether in this life or the next, I will make peace with this and all its ‘blessings’ will be revealed. But I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t admit that I will continue to pray with steadfast hope that it will happen while I’m still here on this side of heaven 😉

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Okay, so now what?

Earlier this week, I voiced out loud a prayer that’s been brewing in my heart. Something that had started troubling my peace. In a group devotion the question posed for discussion was “Do you feel a tug at your heart to live completely with God, but are still uncertain about pursuing it? Explain.”

I felt this tug a few years ago. I dragged my feet for a bit and felt much like the child trying to yank the hand I was holding in another direction until one day, I took the plunge. I believed in God, but have struggled centering ‘my’ life around His plans instead of my own. This plunge was scary. It had no safety net. At times I was sure I felt the air being sucked right out of my lungs.

To fully live with God means letting go of a lot. I had to let go of my life expectations, my life plans, my feelings, and at the same time be willing to examine who I am as a person and let him expose some ugly things. I’m still not perfect, but I am more me than I have been in a really long time (if ever). I have more of a simple peace in life than I thought possible. As a human, I don’t fully ‘like’ the circumstances I went through to get where I am, but I cannot deny I am much happier here.

All of that is great. Okay, so now what? I’ve taken the plunge. I’ve followed God’s direction and some pretty amazing things have happened, but what now? Where do I go from here? I took the leap (off the cliff), landed on my feet, planted my feet, but am unsure where or how to grow from here. It’s kind of dark and quiet in this place. Sometimes I feel like I’m in an abyss and I can hear my echo, “Heeellloooooooo???”

I think of my favorite four-letter word <insert eye roll>, wait. So, I voiced my prayer out loud to my friends. It pretty much went, “Now what?” I think I needed some reassurance that I’m supposed to be waiting. I got the physical votes of assurance from my girlfriends, but the real reassurance came over the next couple of days.

I was wrapping up my daily task for the devotion homework the next day and there was that question <insert snarky-ness> again about ‘a tug of the heart’ for us to answer by ourselves in our quiet time. Heaving a sigh, I wrote that I currently felt in limbo, unsure what comes next. I shut my study and moved on.

I had decided to embark on a personal bible verse-a-day for December. It is definitely geared for the season, but the first line of the verse hit me like a ton of bricks considering what I had written two seconds earlier for my ‘tug’ answer, “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign.” Isaiah 7:14. I could almost feel the Lord’s snarky-ness as I re-read the verse “All right then”. I continued reading and the last verse felt reassuring too, “Then the Lord will bring things on you, your nation, and your family unlike anything…” Isaiah 7:17.

I closed my eyes and listened. My heart said, ‘Patience, child.’ My eyes bolted open. He hasn’t left me alone in this dark, albeit peaceful, place. It’s just time to be quiet right now. Put one foot in front of the other, if you will. He simply wants me to honor the space between no longer and not yet. I shed some tears of thanks for the reassurance my heart needed. And in response, the very next verse I spied as I dove back into the world, was on social media, Isaiah 55:11 “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” Amen. I hear you, Lord. Thank you for clarifying any last little shred of doubt, it was you telling me to be patient.

The next day’s verse-a-day proved further conviction. I typically read around (before and after) to get a bigger picture of the verses I’m given to read. Isaiah 9:2 affirmed my answer from the day before, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness a light will shine.” And the first portion of verse 4, “For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.” He’s not going to leave me here in the still darkness forever. I will know what’s next when it’s time to know.

As I’m letting all of this resonate and thinking about the clarity I’m feeling about patience, the song in the background on the ‘Sounds of the Season’ channel catches my attention. It’s by Dan Wilson and the song is titled, “What a Year for a New Year”. A beautiful summation of the answer to my prayer. The next thing will come. The next new year. Patience.

Don’t get me wrong, life is pretty happy- peaceful. Not much ruffles the feathers. It’s pleasant. But internally I have felt this question stirring, “What should I do now?” I do not believe we’re meant to live a stagnant life. It would stink. I believe we’re meant to grow and evolve. However, I’m also realizing that sometimes God calls us, but then puts us in these quiet, still places. It can be a time for reflection. I find I work on my flaws more when I’m still. You can heal some broken places. It’s like the cocoon- the transition between the caterpillar and the butterfly. Or the season of winter- the transition between a completed purpose (fall) and new life (spring). It’s in the quiet, dark places that some of the greatest work is done.

Today there is no further ‘answer’. No further conviction to have patience. He’s made His point. I believe, He knows it’s been received. And I don’t find “What now?” as the center of my unsettled prayer anymore. I feel at peace with that…So, what now? Well, I wait.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1PxqT6IUEo (link to song)

Lyrics to What a Year for a New Year by Dan Wilson

What a year for a new year
We need it like we needed life I guess
Last one left us lying in a mess
What a year for a new year

What a night for a sunrise
And we thought the dark would never end
Reaching out to try to find a friend
What a night for a sunrise
Sunrise

What a day for new day
And our star shines like a miracle
And our world is almost beautiful again
What a day for a new day
New day

What a year for a new year

What a night for a sunrise
And we thought the dark would never end
Reaching out to try to find a friend
What a night for a sunrise
Sunrise

Soon we’ll be lying in our beds
And new dreams will fill our heads
And the old ones will be ended
Hope we’ll forget about this place
Let it go without a trace
Wipe the teardrops from our faces
Oh! What a year for a new year!

Consider the Ravens

A black mass, they twist and swirl and swoop down, then back up. Their formation is astounding. I find myself mesmerized and slightly terrified at the same time. It’s become a tell-tale marker of cooler times coming. They start forming in October when reds, yellows, oranges, browns, pumpkins, emptying fields and floating leaves create one last splendor for the eyes and soul. It’s as if the year is giving one final burst of life before relinquishing itself of earthly duties and going into hibernation.

Just a bit ago, I found myself carefully watching this mass of blackbirds as they swooped across the field. There’s something intriguing about their movement. It brings a new meaning to ‘birds of a feather flock together’. I first noticed the birds do this back in college. I was working outside as an after school counselor and I remember feeling slightly as though I were in an Alfred Hitchcock film.

Where it can be disturbing on many levels and rather perfect for the spooky time of year, I do find myself curious and the next thing I knew I was Googling…apparently, this is a common phenomenon, especially for winter. The birds create a super flock for protection, food gathering and communication purposes. I began humming “Consider the Ravens” by Dustin Kensrue (lyrics below). Next I was on YouTube…

This song, introduced to me a couple of years ago, immediately became a favorite. It was presented to me with the bible verse: Luke 12:24 “Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!” Currently, the devotion I’m reading speaks about letting God be our fulfillment, our satisfaction. Not people, nor possession, nor position. Verse 23 says, “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” And verse 25 states, “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?” Time should be coveted and spent wisely. Why do we live so wastefully? My favorite line in the song is “So Father give me faith, providence and grace.” #amen I would much rather live that way. God’s got us. #trust

I won’t deny – it’s so much easier said than done. Resting in God is tough. #anyoneelsestubborn ?? But it brings a great peace. My faith journey has been dark like a swirling mass of crazy blackbirds and it’s been bright like their captivating motions and formations amazing swoops conquering leaps and bounds. What I’m finding now is it’s more like their purpose – a super flock working together, trusting and protecting. And I am finding peace even in those dark, swirling moments ❤

I will leave you with my morning devotion verse that has popped out at me all day long: “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

Always remain in a soul search and along your journey, wherever you may be at the moment, don’t forget to consider the ravens.

I’ve got bills to pay

Taxman on my tail
Just keep prayin’ that
The check’s in the mail

There are times it seems
When everything’s lost
And I’m moaning, I’m tossed
And I see..

Between the river and the ravens I’m fed
Between oblivion and the blazes I’m led
So father give me faith, providence and grace
Between the river and ravens I’m fed
Sweet deliver, oh you lift up my head
And lead me in your way

I’ve grown sick and tired
Of trying to stand still
I’ve learned to let the wind
Pull me where it will

Throw myself into
The will of the wait
I can never be great
’til we’re free

Between the river and the ravens I’m fed
Between oblivion and the blazes I’m led
So father give me faith, providence and grace
Between the river and ravens I’m fed
Sweet deliver, oh you lift up my head
And lead me in your way

Although I’m walking through
The valley of the shadow of death
Evils all around
It’s coming from the right and the left

Trust that I will see
The glory above
Oh, your banner of love
Flies over me

Between the river and the ravens I’m fed
Between oblivion and the blazes I’m led
So father give me faith, providence and grace
Between the river and ravens I’m fed
Sweet deliver, oh you lift up my head
And lead me in your way