Risky Business

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Guys, I’m kinda freaking out.

In a little under 2 hours I will find out if I’ve won a coveted 1-on-1 appointment with a well-known publisher, in which case I’m pretty sure I will pee my pants.  A couple of weeks ago I took a “am-I-really-doing-this” risk.  Life was crazy with sick kids, travel plans, and the usual chaos that comes with raising three young boys.  It was pretty clear that submitting a piece for this radio writing contest was not in the cards, but still… I couldn’t get the competition out of my mind.

So with five days left in the voting process and one month behind all other contestants, I did it.  I prayed and asked Jesus to give me a story that lined up with the themed verses.  And in a matter of hours, my thoughts were flying faster than my fingers could transfer them to the computer.  I submitted my piece and handed the rest over to God because it would be a complete miracle if I got enough votes to make it to the second judging round.  Literally by the grace of Jesus, I made it!  Not only that, a huge community of support and love rallied behind me and brought me into second place all within the matter of days.  As I sat there watching the number of votes rise, I was completely humbled and shocked.  There were many reasons, but mostly I was awestruck that so many people had my back and actually believed in me…  even when I didn’t believe in myself.

To be honest, deciding to pursue writing was one of the best and worst decisions I’ve ever made.  Best: Because encouraging people and bringing them to Jesus is my passion.  Worst:  I would have to face my fear of rejection all the time, sometimes in public arenas.  It’s one thing to submit something and receive a “thanks but no thanks” email in private.  It’s a whole new level to showcase my rejection on the online stage.  So yes, I’m shaking my boots right now, but the fact that I’m not alone makes it doable as well as worth it.

Let’s be real, when we put ourselves out there it’s beyond scary.  I remember when I posted my first blog entry, wondering if anyone would even read it.  I didn’t know if it would make a difference, but I did know there was no turning back.  My words were displayed for all to see and for all to critique if they wished to do so.  I began to ask fellow authors to share their expertise with the publishing process.  Most told me to expect rejection, which was awesome news.  And so I took it up with God and asked Him if He really wanted me to do this… because I was cool skipping the hard “no’s.”  He never said rejection wouldn’t happen.  He never said I wouldn’t have to grow and learn and regrow.  And every time I continue to bring my doubts to Him He holds my hand in His and whispers I am with you even to the end of the age…

 

In each valley and on every mountaintop Jesus never fails to come through.  With steadfast grace and kindness, He guides me forward, even when it’s more comfortable to remain in the known places.  But chasing dreams was never meant to be safe.  It was never meant to be easy or smooth.  It takes an extreme amount of courage and the willingness to do whatever it takes to reach that God-given goal, including facing your insecurities and fears.  It’s really no coincidence that the themed verses for my story were all about FEAR and SHAME, my biggest foes.  I knew writing the story and submitting it would be a risk, one with a 75% chance of heartache.  But I knew there would be a 100% of regret if I didn’t take the chance.

All the great movies we rewatch over and over again involve the main character pushing through against all the odds.  They overcome and stand and prove to the world that we can walk in victory because our God has made us to shine!  I don’t know what the outcome is going to be in a few hours, but I know that this is part of the journey towards victory… victory over my people-pleasing.  Victory over my fear of rejection.  Victory over my doubts of self-worth.  Because God is in the business of making dreams come true, but He’s also in the business of transforming us in the process.  My stomach may be twisted in knots at the moment, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.  It’s the growing and the stretching and the trusting that helps us open our hearts more in confident expectation of God’s goodness.

I may not be a winner today, but I’m promised victory always.

So thank you for helping make this possible, Dear Reader.  I pray you choose to believe in yourself and in the power of Heaven’s Maker, the One who wants to make your desires come true too.  We can be the Dream Chasers and Life Changers.  We can be the ones who live with the “what now’s” instead of “what if’s.”  And we can always rely on the One who calls us towards our potential and passions because He’s made us for this moment, and He’s made us for His glory.

Even if we don’t believe we have what it takes, His faith in us never wavers.  He never doubts us, and trust me, my friend…  He never will.

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Springtime Tease

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It’s actually here.

The last ice blizzard has passed, the birds are out singing their songs, and the temps are finally on the rise.  It’s over a month late according to the calendar, but Spring has officially arrived.  And my kids (and fellow parents!) couldn’t be more ecstatic.

Every year us Midwesterners get excited when March arrives.  We start hoping for green trees and bright flowers.  Some of us actually start to wear shorts when it gets close to 60 degrees (you would too if you were use to wearing parkas).  But just when we think Spring is here to stay, Winter steps right back in and says, “Sucker!”  It’s really quite rude, especially since Winter has already called dibs on half the year.  This annoying game goes on for a few months, until finally Winter takes a bow and allows Spring to take its rightful place in the seasons.  But I tell you, that journey… the path towards sunshine and roses is nothing less than a TEASE.

And sometimes I think life feels that way.  Things start looking up, pieces fall into place, you finally move forward and then BAM!  Roadblock.

You have to break into the savings account AGAIN.

You get the diagnosis.

You hear the news from a friend.

You lose the job.

You have another fight.

You get the note from the teacher…

You feel discouraged, like you’ll never get a break.  And sometimes you never do.  There’s always something pulling in the opposite direction of where you want to go, attempting to stop you from reaching your goal.  And in those moments it’s so easy to give up, admit you are stuck and believe that this will always be your reality.  It’s so very easy, my friend.  I know because I am there myself.

Let me give you a snapshot of the last 7 days.  There are occasions when I think my mommy-ing is on point.  I give all the hugs and tickle the tummies and play with my boys.  I keep them fed and alive and all is basically well.  But this was soooooo not one of those weeks.  I was a complete wreck.  Severely jet-lagged and sleep-deprived, I came home to a house full of sick people who needed me more than ever.  I had no time to recover or breathe, and the amount of crazy demands and constant noise just added to my overwhelm.  I lost my filter and soon became a yelling zombie.  I even heard my soon-to-be 2 year old imitating my exasperated sighs in the other room, which is awesome.  Up to this point I thought I was getting better at handling stress and the raw emotions that came with it.  But once again, my kids and husband got the brunt of my burn out and it made me mad at myself… which again was awesome.

I felt like I was doing some weird dance, with my shifting feet going in all directions.  It wasn’t even a two steps forward, one step backward kind of thing.  I was just trying to keep my balance, and my tango was one step forward, one step back.  I turned my gaze towards Jesus and asked Him honestly…  Where’s the progress and the process?  Where’s the victory and power?  Because looking around all I saw was the standstill and I wondered what He was doing and where He was.

Now that I’ve come out on the other side I can say I’ve survived the week, but I can also say hindsight is my friend.  And it may be yours too, Dear Reader.  Sometimes when we are in the thick of the chaos we forget to look up.  We forget to ask God to give us His eyes… eyes that see the whole picture instead of a small frame.  It’s so easy to do and I do it daily, but life lived from eternity’s perspective helps provide peace in the midst of the pandemonium.  You can have one heck of a week and still have a good life.  You can have a horrible day and still know you are beloved and blessed.  Both are possible.  You can have some Winter and some Spring.

Because even with the changing seasons and the changing emotions and circumstances we experience every day, our God remains faithfully the same.  He is the only thing in this world that will never let you down or fail to come through.  His love is steadfast and His grace is abundant, which means His future for you will be full of good intentions and fulfilled desires.  He doesn’t tease our hearts or send mixed signals.  God doesn’t dangle our dreams and wishes in front of our face and then turn His back on His children.  His character can’t allow Him to be anything other than who He is:  A great God with great passion for you!  His promises are always YES and AMEN, which means His Word is something that can be trusted.  And do you know what His Word says about you and the path you are on right now?

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”  (Isaiah 54:10)

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23)

“… being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

These are good words, but they are even better promises.  God’s love for you is infinitely deep, which means the idea of Him leaving you is out of the question.  It’s not possible, even with our shifting feet and shaky emotions, nothing can separate us from the adoration of a loving Father.  And even when it seems like we aren’t moving and things are stagnant, we can know that our hearts are changing as we encounter and experience His compassion and care… which just so happens to be the BEST kind of progress there is.  😉

Honestly, I would be shocked if we got another snow storm in the month of May.  I’m like 99% sure it won’t happen.  But as I continue to experience the kind heart of God, I become more certain of His dependability and His devotion to you and to me.

Even on the rough days when I’m not confident in me, I am confident in Him…

And of all the things in this life, He will always be my One Sure Thing.  100%.

Loving Love…

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The other day I was reading through a friend’s thread on her Facebook post, and I noticed something I see all the time.  She had made this decision and was pushing head-first into it.  Everyone was pumped and they were encouraging her to do it… except one person.  This individual decided (bravely if you ask me…) to voice her opposite opinion.  She wasn’t judgmental or offensive or anything like that.  She just said she disagreed and explained why.  And the backlash that she received was INCREDIBLE.

It really got me thinking… she was a caring person expressing her disagreement because she truly wanted the best for her friend.  She was willing to go under fire for the sake of bringing something into the light because to her, it was worth it.  It took a lot of guts and she took a lot of hits, mainly focusing on how unloving she was being because she didn’t support my friend’s decision.

Maybe it’s a lot easier for me to notice this because I’m kind of this third party person in this instance, but I actually thought she was the absolute opposite.

I thought she was showing real LOVE.

Have you ever stopped to think about our society’s definition of love?  Have you ever stopped to think about your definition of love?  If not, maybe you should take this second and ponder it queitly in your heart.  Because it matters.  What we believe about love matters because it helps shape our perception of situations.  It helps us define what fits into the category of love and what doesn’t… what’s kind and what’s mean, what’s good and what’s bad.  It helps us pick our friends and our frenemies.  It changes how we see the world.

But here’s the thing, Dear Reader.  Sometimes our glasses need some tweaking.  Sometimes our glasses are tinted and tinged with past experiences and pain.  And sometimes I think we choose to focus solely on the fuzzy aspects of love, forgetting the balance the Bible brings when defining real love in all of its forms!

So I asked myself the question.

Self, what is real LOVE?  To which, my mind and heart replied…

Love is patient and kind.  It does not envy or boast.  It is not rude or prideful or self-seeking.  It is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs.  It does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.  It always protects and trusts and hopes.  It always perseveres.  Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

It’s the most classic, cliche section in the Bible that defines love.  And I think it is beautiful.  But I think we all like to be editors.  We like to pick and choose the aspects of love that are comfortable and nice, and we forget about the other not-so-welcomed characteristics.  We’ll take ‘patience’ and ‘kindness’, but leave ‘not delighting in evil’ at the door.  Coming from a person who is addicted to encouragement, I really wish someone else could show people the harder parts of love…  I’d be so good with that!

But is that real love?  Are we really expressing love to someone if we are afraid to share our hearts with them?  Yes, everything should be shared with grace, but we sometimes forget to include the truth, even when it’s needed the most.

I’m a married person.  That means I get to do all the married stuff, including having the tough conversations.  My husband and I were just talking the other day and I said, “Man babe, I’m sorry.  I used to be so much “gentler” with you.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, I used to not talk about some of the things that bothered me in our relationship and just brought them to God.  I didn’t want to hurt your feelings or offend you, so I just didn’t really say anything.  But now I just bring it all out in the open!”  He looked at me and did this little grin that I’ve come to expect just before he is about to point out something I am oblivious to…

“So you are apologizing for your own growth?”

“Well… no…  I mean… I don’t think am I?”

But I totally was.  You see, sweet friend, Jesus has helped me grow in ways I never thought was possible and part of that has to do with learning how to love like He does.  If He loves me, He won’t just sit there and encourage me if He knows I am doing something that is harmful to my health: mind, body and spirit.  He will gently show me His way and speak His truth over my heart and in His kindness I will turn towards Him.  That does not mean He will just let me walk forward into something that may hurt me because He doesn’t want to offend me.  He will let His voice be known.  And sometimes He uses the words of others’ in our lives to show us His Words of Life, even if we are uncomfortable with them.

Because that is what real love is.  It protects and rejoices with the truth and hopes for the best in our lives.  Love does not mean placating people and just telling them what they want to hear.  Could you imagine if nobody in your entire existence ever challenged you or pushed you towards a different perspective or point of view?  Could you imagine if no one dared to help you overcome that addiction or reach the potential they saw in you, even if you never saw it in yourself?  Could you imagine where you would be if nobody loved you the way Christ loves His beloved?  It would be boring if everyone just told you what you wanted to hear, but more so it would be sad.  Because you wouldn’t grow and you wouldn’t learn and I believe ultimately… you wouldn’t be fulfilled.

We all need to be loved just as we are, but we also need to loved into the person Jesus has made us to be.  I’m not perfect and nobody is, but we need the perfect love of God to transform our hearts and minds.  And that love is encouraging as well as edifying.

My friends, it’s really ok.

It’s ok to disagree and still be close friends.

It’s ok to show someone you care by telling them truth.

It’s ok to come alongside them in their struggles and ask them to come alongside you in return.

It’s ok to be an authentic, loving person who is comfortable with confronting as well as affirming.

All we need is Love.

So let’s make sure it’s the best kind.

Don’t Be a Not-You

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Okay so I’m pretty obsessed with these Not-You commercials.

If you haven’t had a chance to check one of them out, you should.  I think it’s creative and smart and really drives the point home.  Plus, it will most likely make you smile.  In fact, I’ll post one of them below for you to make it nice and simple 🙂  You’re welcome.

But in all seriousness, these commercials make me think.  Not about buying a house because yeah… MONEY!  But what really sticks out me is this idea of being a Not-You…

A Not-You is someone who may look like you.  You may have various similarities and many of the same likes, but no matter how many (or little) similarities you may have, the fact still remains that they cannot and never will be you.  

I think we humans are prone to many things in life.  There are a lot of positive tendencies, but unfortunately I think comparison and people-pleasing like to float to the top of the list.  We look at others and see what we wish we had.  We see who we wish we could be and what we wish our lives looked like.  And the ironic mystery of it all is the reality that they are doing the same thing when they look at you.  It’s true!  I can almost guarantee it.  It’s so much easier to see the positives in others while simultaneously beating ourselves up for not meeting the standards placed in front of us, whether that’s by ourselves or others.  It’s a game we can never win, and it’s a game that was never meant to be played.

When God made you He never said, “Well I’m going to make you exactly like her” or “This person definitely needs to be cloned so you can be her exact replica.”  Not even close!  He smiled and dreamed of you in His heart and thought of every detail.  He saw who you would become and gave you the potential to change the world all because of the specific gifts and personhood you posses!  He made you uniquely and wonderfully and beautifully in order to guarantee that no one else who has ever walked the face of this planet would be the same as you.  That’s a lot of time and energy and a whole bunch of love all being poured into the process of making YOU!

If we really stop and wrap our minds around the absolute care that went into creating each individual just as they are, we can be sure no one is ever a mistake.  No one is less than anyone else, and every one is worthy of the abundance God has for them.  You are meant to be you and only you.  You are meant to touch the lives of others in a specific way and live your life fully as only you can live it.  And every aspect of your being makes you separate from every one else, and that is a very good, good thing!

My friend, you were made to shine.  You were made to stick out for His goodness and glory.  You were born to be you, so don’t let anyone else try to conform you into their image.  The only person we are meant to look more like every day is Jesus, and that is because He is the definition of grace and truth.  His love is always the answer, and when others look at us, hopefully they will get a glimpse of Him.  But other than that, we need to stop trying to be someone we’re not.

We need to let go of the not-you’s and embrace the reality that we are perfectly made by the God of the Universe.  He doesn’t accidentally make masterpieces.  He made you with a purpose and He made you with divine passion.  And no one can take that away from you.

So please dear reader, don’t be a not-you.  This world needs you too much.

Go ahead.  Be all the YOU you can be!

Five Things Winter Has Taught Me

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We are in the thick of it…  It’s gloomy and cold and snowing at least once a week.

It’s winter in the Midwest, and each year my itch to relocate to a place made for palm trees grows exponentially.  According to my calculations, snow should be present for approximately three weeks.  Then it is no longer acceptable.  We can get through the “White Christmas” holiday fun, but once January hits, blizzards and ice need to get the (snow) boot!

And it was during one of my venting sessions with Jesus about Illinois weather, that I noticed something remarkable.  It had just snowed for the 1,000th time and the trees were outlined perfectly in a soft white frosting.  The sun shone at just the right angle and turned the landscape into a spectacle of shimmering glory.  As I drove past in my black minivan I couldn’t help, but think, “I might actually miss this…”

Because in reality, winter isn’t all bad.  Some people like living in these cold climates and  truly look forward to winter!  I seriously doubt I will ever be at that level because… flip flops.  But living with this season for over 30 years of my life has actually taught me a few things (Besides de-icing a car like a boss).  And I can prove it.

Here are the top five things I’ve learned from winter:

1.)  Beauty really can be anywhere.

We may not like everything (or most things) about our circumstances, but God has a way of shining His light into even the gloomiest of places.  Sometimes our perspectives are so fixated on the negative, we forget to keep our eyes open for the positive.  We forget to look for the good and the blessings and the unexpected.  Does that mean we can’t be honest about how we feel and how we are struggling?  Of course not.  But we can turn our eyes towards the One who can transform our minds and help us see His beauty right where we are.

2.)  Winter makes us thankful for the Spring!

Sometimes you realize how wonderful life is because you have come out victorious from the other side.  You’ve experienced the down and the gritty, and now you’ve lived to tell the tale.  The cold days of winter make sunny spring days and warm summer mornings that much sweeter.  God doesn’t long for His children to endure hardships… what parent does?!  But because we live in a world vastly different from the perfection of Eden, we will encounter the muck.  Yet, the gracious promises of Jesus point us towards His kind redemption, and as walk through our winter seasons, we will remember.  We will remember what is was like, and we will be all the more grateful for our spring.

3.)  Life is always changing…

A winter here in the Midwest can go from -20 degrees and icing to 50 degrees and sunshine all within the matter of 24 hours.  It’s pretty insane.  My closet is full of coats, ranging from parkas to light fall jackets.  It just goes to show that every day can be something different.  In an uncanny manner, winter has taught me to welcome unpredictability.  A blizzard may be coming, but it’s not the final chapter.  You never know what tomorrow may bring, and with God in control, a bright future can always be on the horizon.

4.)  It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

My kids are obsessed with the snow.  They will withstand the bundling and the triple-layering just to get out there and build a snowman for 10 minutes.  When they see the flakes peacefully falling, they always say, “Look Mama!  It’s so pretty!”  I’m dreading shoveling the driveway, they’re enjoying the simple delights.  Leave it to the kids to point out the obvious.  I’ve been adult-ing for so long, I’ve forgotten to place myself in their tiny shoes and embrace the small things that bring such happiness to others.  I may not think winter is amazing, but my kids can see this season from multiple perspectives.  And it’s time I start taking notice, especially when my eyes are unknowingly out of focus.

5.)  This season won’t last forever…

Unless you consciously choose to live in some arctic part of the world, the winter times will inevitably pass.  There are moments when we think we are stuck… when we think things are just meant to stay the same and there’s no way around it.  But seasons are just that… they are periods of time, however long or short, that morph into the next stage in life.  Even if we feel stagnant, we can trust that our God moves mountains and He is always moving on behalf of His children.  There’s an inspiring verse I like to cling to when I sense my spirit deflating.

“… But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?” (Romans 8:24)

It’s so encouraging to me because hope is all about trusting God for what lies ahead, not for what we already have.  It takes courage to choose hopefulness over hopelessness, but God has made it abundantly clear that as we wait on Him, we can do so with confident expectation of His goodness.  We know the heart of our Jesus is loving and His intentions are kind.  So even if it’s uncomfortable, we can place our dreams and desires in the safest place possible… in the hands of a great God.  His BEST will lead to our best days, and we get the crazy opportunity to witness miracles only He can do.

So yes… winter isn’t my favorite.  But it has taught me a lot.  And maybe if you are a tropical-loving human like myself, this list can give you some hope too.

Because trust me, dear friend.  His faithfulness will see us through.

Through this season and every season to come.

Take Courage

Oh my Lord, friend…

These lyrics speak to the soul, and personally encompass my life right now.  I’m just in the middle, in this unknown weird place that is so mysterious.  Something is happening, but I don’t know what, and my patience can often run thin.

Being in “The Waiting” of any season or situation is never easy.  Sometimes it seems like God has put His answers on hold, but just because we can’t see the change or the answers, it does not mean He is stalled…

God is always moving.  Even in the hard process of waiting…  And He promises His victory and faithfulness to see us through every time.

If your heart needs some encouragement, take a sec and stop what you are doing.  Just listen to these words and soak up this glorious music for 4 minutes.  Trust me, it will be worth it 🙂

Beautiful Minds Don’t Think Alike

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You guys, do you see this picture?! I mean, it’s pretty incredible.  The depth perception, the detail, the glorious landscape… And it was drawn by a 6 year old in three minutes.

I look at my oldest son and daily am amazed at how he sees the world.  He envisions things and copies the photograph in his mind onto a piece of paper with little effort.  It comes quickly and naturally to him, unlike his drawing-deprived mother.  Jesus blessed him with such an ability to draw, but He’s also blessed me with the ability to see inside the mind of my child… to get a small glimpse of his everyday reality and it is nothing short of beautiful.

Having a disability is never something anyone prays for.  Nobody wakes up and hopes they will have various struggles in life.  Sure, facing trials is part of being a human.  But we didn’t hope that our son would have Autism.  We walk a rocky and difficult road, one that requires an extra dose of strength and grace for our entire family.  But especially for him.  He takes life full-on and does it with such joy.  There are so many days I wish I was more courageous like my David.

As I gaze at my boy’s artwork, I see the light through the fog.  I see his passions and loves and interests.  I see his attentiveness and care, even when he generally struggles with focusing.  But most of all I see life, if only for a moment, through his eyes.  His unique eyes that will change the world.

God didn’t make clones.  He doesn’t want carbon copies.  He is obsessed with variety and diversity.  Why else would we have a new sunset each evening with a fresh morning dawn to follow?  He longs for all of us to experience our differences and share our perspectives with one another.  Each person has a different gift and viewpoint to offer, and all are equally important.  God delights in the details of His creations, and He wants us to teach each other and help each other see things through the lovely eyes of the beholder.  Because living in a world where everyone is thinking the same exact thing, and everyone is acting the same exact way is boring!  And, even more, it is so not what heaven will be like.

The Bible tells us that every tongue and nation and tribe with all of their various cultures and glory will come together to worship Him and express collective praise for who He is to us.  It will be a masterpiece, with all of our life illustrations coming together to show how magnificent the mind of our Creator really is.  It will be stunning… like nothing we’ve ever experienced before.  But heaven does not have to start in eternity… it can start now!

I beilieve we if we don’t share ourselves with the others, even if it’s messy (because it will be!) we will only be living out half of who we are.  Humans crave connection.  We cannot just survive on our own.  We need community, and we need to share life with one another.  That includes sharing our hearts and minds.  It may be scary or hard, but it is worth it.  Being you is worth it.

Everyone always tells me how beautiful my son’s eyes are, and trust me, they will take your breath away.  But behind those eyes will always lie a beautiful person with a beautiful soul and beautiful mind.

The same goes for my other boys.  And my husband and family and friends.  And the same goes for me and for you.

Be brave enough, my friend, to share your world with this world.

Life just wouldn’t be the same without it.

We need you and your perfectly beautiful mind.

A Thankful Forget-Me-Not

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Thanksgiving makes me sappy.

I mean, it’s not like I’m lacking on the emotion scale in the first place, but every November 20-something my heart softens a teeny bit more at the thought of all the blessings Jesus has given me.

Living in a country where I can write this freely without extreme oppression, on a shiny laptop from Apple, in a home that is warm and comfortable, where I don’t fear for my life or my health… all of this makes me richer than 90% of the world.  And I don’t just mean financially, although that is incredibly true as well.

I have a rich life, full of love and laughter and meaning.  I have rich relationships that have helped make me into the person I am today.  I have rich opportunities to reach others with kindness and give from the abundance that is mine.  But most of all, I have a God who defines LOVE and tells me even on my worst days that I am worthy of these blessings simply because I am His

Jesus opened my eyes to something in the midst of my annual sappiness yesterday.  I was talking to Him, listing off all of the things I was thankful for, some I’ve listed above, others I’ll list below:

“Thank you for husband.  He’s such a good man.”

“Thank you for my beautiful boys who make me a momma and make me a better person.”

“Thank you for my family and friends and…”  That’s when He interrupted me and said…

THANK ME FOR YOU.

I stopped and just stared blankly.  Did I mishear Him?  Thank God for me?  Did He really want me to add myself to my own grateful list?  Wasn’t that prideful or wrong or super strange…  I thought about it, and I honestly could not think of a time I thanked God for me and who I am.  Sure I would recite to Him who I was to Him… His child, the daughter of the King, precious and honored in His sight.  All good things that He is daily still trying to write on my heart.  But to actually thank God for ME… Yeah, no.  Never done that.

So I said it, even though it felt nothing less than awkward.

“Thank you God for me…”

SAY IT AGAIN, MY CHILD.

What?  Again?!  Once was weird enough, Jesus.

SAY IT AGAIN.

Okay…  “Thank you God for me.”

GOOD.  NOW AGAIN.

And He told me to repeat it and repeat it and repeat it until I actually began to hear what I was saying and digest the words fully.  It was like I was making up for lost time, focusing on forgotten gratefulness… for myself.

Even as I write this, I’m still mulling over that conversation.  Why was it so difficult for me to thank God for me?  I could list off literally 100 blessings without batting an eye, but bring me into the picture and I come to a stand still.  And if you’re nodding with me, I’m glad I’m not the only one.

As Christians and humans I think we can put on this false humility thing, where we don’t want to “puff ourselves up” and think too highly of ourselves.  Like thinking you are awesome is a bad thing, so you need to make sure you highlight your flaws.  But when push comes to ackward shove, God wants us to admit it.  He wants us to admit the fact that we really are amazing.

We are wonderful and perfectly made.  We are worthy of thanks and appreciation, especially from ourselves.  And it’s not because of anything we do in order prove it.  It’s because we are made by an awesome God who makes awesome creations.  He looks at us like we look at our own children, with a lovingly grateful heart.  And I’m coming to believe it does our good God a sad injustice to dull something that is meant to shine.

So on this November 20-something, starting this Thanksgiving, I want you to do something with me and for me, my friend.  I want you to dare to value yourself.  I want you to step into new territory and venture into thinking you are worth it.  You are worthy of being loved, and you are worthy of thankful recognition.  And even if it weirds you out like it did me, I want you to look in the mirror sometime today and repeat after me…

Thank you God, for ME.

Because I’m grateful for you, Dear Reader and all that makes you who you are.

This is one forget-me-not we can’t neglect.

Not today.  Not ever.  🙂

Happy Thanksgiving, my friend.

I Don’t Want to Miss You…

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“I don’t want to miss you.”

My little guy looks at me with his gorgeous baby blues, and I see the tears behind them. This is so hard for him, this going to school thing. Every morning it’s the same routine: The bus arrives, he starts to cry, we walk him to the door and gently help him on. I give him my best forced-mommy-smile, but this kid can tell when things aren’t real. And try as I might, I can’t make the ‘letting go’ an easy process. Because it’s just not. Saying goodbye to our people… to the ones who make life so precious and full, it’s a hard fact of life no one looks forward to, especially when the goodbyes come in multiples.

For some reason Jesus has led my family into this strange, unwanted season. It’s a season of farewells. A season of letting go and living with open hands. And at the very forefront of it all was my hardest goodbye. Almost two months to the date, I can still feel myself there. And I can still see her face…

August 27th, we’re at the airport checking in the six billion crates full of personal belongings needed for moving overseas. My cute nieces are playing in their stroller, unaware of the changes headed their way. I kiss their foreheads and feel their soft baby skin. Would they remember me two years from now? As my brother-in-law checks in the last bag, my heart begins to pound…

This was it. The long wait was finally over.

My entire family painfully anticipated this move for five years, secretly hoping it wouldn’t happen. We wanted them to pursue their dreams, but wished it didn’t mean living so incredibly far away, let alone on another continent.

Throughout my childhood and early adult years nobody lived farther than a few hours apart. Driving to get a much-needed hug was never out of the question. Graduations, showers, weddings, babies, birthdays, holidays… All of it was celebrated, each equally important. It wasn’t until I moved out of my home and started adult-ing that I realized my family was a rare breed. We did life in all-out love, we did it genuinely, and we did it together. That’s what made this loss so raw and real. We were grieving the loss of the familiar while reluctantly accepting the new normal. Part of my heart was leaving with her, and now it was my turn to say goodbye.

I looked at my sister, my first friend and best friend. Me being an emotional basket case, I knew I was going to lose it, and I did. We both did. In that airport full of suitcases and total strangers I cried some of the hardest tears I’ve ever cried. Somewhere in between the sobbing and hugging, I was barely able to squeeze out the words… “I’m going to miss you, Em.”

I looked back once as I walked away, that’s all I could do. I felt confusion and sadness and sudden frustration. I knew He was there, witnessing all the heartache and pain, but I didn’t understand why it had to be this way. Why did loving someone so much have to hurt this badly? And why did she have to go?

Through the hot tears I looked heavenward and pointed towards the Maker and Sustainer of all things. And I asked Him my question.

“Do You promise to work this for good, God?  Because You better believe I’m holding You to it.”

His answer was quick and tender, even though my words were short and cold.

Daughter, I never write unredeemed endings.

Never… Like not once? I stood still, listening to His voice as He replayed examples in my mind of His faithfulness throughout my life. I wanted to rebuttal, but I couldn’t. He had always come through for me no matter what. Maybe not in the ways I had expected, but He came through nonetheless. And something began to stir…

If endings usher in a new beginnings, and then this was mine. I could begin to rely on my Jesus in a new way, trusting Him to fill the void of sisterhood that was lost. He could redeem, and now I was choosing to believe He would. For me, for her, for us all. God’s redemption is a personal matter, and He extends that gift to all.

So let me just ask you right now, Dear Reader… How are you feeling? Is your spirit heavy like mine? Does your heart ache with the weight of the world?

Because God meets us in our pain, but He also reaches past it. Somehow by His grace He takes any situation, in any season, and calls forth beauty from the mess. He never leaves anything unfinished or broken, even if it seems impossible. I know it’s hard to see given the current circumstances, but God is in the business of making things new and that certainly includes your story. Nothing is wasted in His kingdom, especially the tears of His beloved. Your hurt matters to Him, and surely goodness will come from it.

My hardest goodbye hasn’t been redeemed yet, but it will. I’m not sure how, but I’m choosing to enter His Promised Land regardless. In this sacred place we rely on God’s ability to fulfill His promises and mend torn hearts. We live in hopeful expectation because redemption confidently reigns. Like the heroes of the Bible, as we journey forward in faith, God calls us strong and courageous and wonderfully brave. Bless it… Even more so on the hard days!

Remember, you are God’s child. He sees you and knows you. If ever you question His heart towards you or His desire to heal your pain, think about all He’s done to bring you home… He couldn’t stand to be apart from you. He couldn’t contain His love. And so He didn’t.

Sweet friend, YOU are His reason… With Him there is no farewell season.

He didn’t want to miss you.

Never could He leave you.

And know He never will.

To My Husband On Our Anniversary…

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I choose you.

It’s the anniversary of our wedding, Dear Husband.  Eight years in the making.  And with all the pretty fluff surrounding the idea of love, I wanted to let you know I get it.  And I know you do too.

Love isn’t a feeling.  Hollywood might want you to buy into this lie… literally.  But we have been at this marriage thing for far too long, we won’t fall into Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s trap once more (although they make a stinkin’ perfect couple!).

Feelings are nice, but in the end, love is a choice.  It’s a choice to see the other person the way God sees him or her.  It’s a choice to move forward towards hopeful expectation, leaving unmet expectations behind.  It’s a choice to believe God for bigger and better things that only His redemption can bring.

And on this day, I want to tell you what I’m choosing to believe.  Throughout the years and the tears and the laughs and the struggles, these are my truths.  These are our things… the heartbeat of our home.  Even when we mess up and are completely human, this is still my heart.  I will continue to I choose…

And first, I choose you. 

I choose you on the good days and the bad.

I choose you when we are joyful and when we are mad.

I choose you in health and the sickness too.

In wealth and in hardships, it’s definitley still you.

 

I choose you in grace and forgiveness and care.

I choose you in fights, when our hearts start to tear.

I choose you when things become dark and so bleak.

Your arms and your words are the comfort I seek.

 

I choose to encourage, even after we fall.

I choose to understand and answer your call.

I choose to support you when following your passions.

I choose not to talk, but listen with my actions.

 

I choose to love with God’s strength and His power.

I choose His reliance with each passing hour.

I choose His fullness instead of my own.

I choose His goodness that comes from the Throne.

 

I choose His promises over our fears.

I choose His timing for all of our years.

I choose His value, my vision for you.

I choose His purpose in seeing us through.

 

This is our life and this is our story.

This is our family in all of its glory.

It’s wild and crazy and beautiful and free.

It started with you and it started with me.

These three gorgeous babies

With eyes like fire,

Are gifts straight from Jesus,

Our hearts full desire.

 

It’s in no way easy, raising three little boys.

With lightsabers and love and a whole lot of noise.

All the dirt and destruction, now I don’t even bother.

What really matters is you as their Father.

 

We’ve chosen this journey, from beginning to end.

You’re my faithful love and very best friend.

I choose all you are

And everything you do.

I choose you each day

And I’m blessed you do too.

 

Love you, babe.