A little piece of sun

“I haven’t seen the sun in…” (Typed in my best Kid Rock voice.) I live in Ohio. In winter in Ohio, the skies are nothing but gray. Gloomy gray. Drab, hopeless, discouraging, gloomy gray. I’m completely convinced that the ever-present gray hanging over my head has an impact on my mood and my outlook. So…since I can’t jump on a plane and head somewhere sunny, I thought I would just post one of my favorite pictures from my 50th birthday trip to Napa Valley. It makes me smile. I can feel the sun on my skin and taste the full red wine when I look at this memory.

If you are somewhere sunny right now, do not take that for granted. If you are stuck under skies of gray and gloom, enjoy a piece of my sunshine. Much love!

Napa Valley, California
November, 2020

Small group – Big love

I have always been a bit of a loner. Don’t get me wrong, I love people. I love relationships. I love friendships. But I have never been one to have a lot of close friends throughout life. There have been seasons when this has really troubled me. I would wonder if there was something wrong with me…and that’s why people didn’t really want to be my friend. I would question myself and think that maybe I was a burden to people – that I took more than I gave. The older I get as I look back, I have begun to realize that I have been the “problem” all along. I have been the reason that I have not let a lot of people in.

I have a lot of “stuff” that I have carried around with me for a very long time. I don’t share it with many people for fear that they will not like me, or I will scare them off. I think that I have been afraid that if people really knew the real me – deep down – the me with all the fears and worries. With all the needs and emotions. With all the sadness and mess, that they just wouldn’t feel like the return on the investment of a friendship with me would be enough. I guess I just thought that it was too much to let people see that I’m just a mess.

Here’s the thing though, I have found a group of like-minded, amazing people who haven’t run away just yet! What started as a group of strangers coming togethers as a Small Group from church, has turned into something so much more to me. We came together – most of us having never met – and began to share life. We shared our ups and downs. We shared our highs and lows. We prayed for great things and through losses. We have studied and laughed and cried. And now I call this group of people friends. We may not talk every day (or snapchat) but I know that we are in each other’s thoughts and prayers. I know that we are friends. I have opened myself up to them and I have shared my mess – and they stuck around!

I am so thankful for the model of community that God has provided for us in His word. I am beyond thankful for a community of believers who talk and listen and pray. I am so very grateful to have a circle of people who know me and love me still. I am so excited to continue on this journey with our small group and to continue to grow closer to them as we all grow closer to God.

Just Jesus

I feel like I need to say something. Writing is how I process the world around me – and wow do I need to do some serious processing. I have sat down at my computer at least 8 times in the last 24 hours to share and express my feelings. And each time I completely deleted the nonsense that I had typed. I just can’t even come close to finding any words to make sense of what is happening. Can anyone make sense of any of it?

This is no way meant to be any type of political post. I am not one to share my viewpoints on politics – not because I don’t have any…but because quite often I can’t aptly express my viewpoints. (And because I hate confrontation and arguing and it seems that for many adults these days, that’s all they know. Gone are the days of healthy, productive debates.)

No, this post is not about me trying to decipher where we have ended up as a country – as human beings. This is about me just processing all that is going on inside of my head and heart. Y’all I am heartbroken. I am sad for our country and I am sad for our citizens. I am sad that I have to look into the eyes of a room full of 9 year olds and try to explain why grown adults behave in such horrid ways. I am sad that my adult children are completely disillusioned by our world, when they should be beyond excited and full of promise for the lives they are beginning.

I look at pictures (I did NOT watch the news broadcasts at all – I just couldn’t) – images of hate and anger between human beings – between fellow Americans, and I am sad. I know that I keep repeating that word, but I cannot find another way to share my heart. I hurt for all of the hate in the world.

Y’all – we need Jesus. Just Jesus. We need to love like he loved. We need to be His hands and feet in the midst of all the brokenness. We should be sharing His good news with people who are in such desperate need. And here’s the thing… we need to stop seeing SIDES – this group, that group, them, us, red, blue, black, white – and start seeing people. Jesus died for us ALL. He loves us all. Those climbing the walls and breaking the glass. Those defending building from intruders. Those inside conducting the business of the country. And yes, those spewing evil and hate in the crowds. HE LOVES US ALL.

We need to learn to love like Him.

Dry bones

Worship music is one way that I deeply connect with God. Time spent worshipping in song brings me so close to His presence. And it can break out anywhere. There have been so many instances when I was driving to school and worshipping in my car and tears just stream down my face (I’m the sure the drivers around me thought I was a lunatic). Music has always been a huge part of my life. As a small child I can remember Friday night devotionals with my family when we would sing songs from the red hymnal. I have memories of my daddy strumming the guitar and singing “Take me home, country roads…” My mom would sit down at the piano and play beautiful hymns and songs. All of my siblings play one or more instruments. Music is a part of my being.

For several years, I was very much involved with worship teams at church. And led worship at street ministry events. Worship music consumed me. I felt so alive when leading others in worship. I truly thought that I had found my “gift” and I loved using it to worship and glorify God. It has been a long time since I have been a part of a worship team – and I miss it. Don’t get me wrong – I still worship in song each and every day…and during church. But I miss being a part of it in a more “formal” way. It’s been on my heart a lot lately, but I just don’t see it being a part of my life anymore.

This morning I read Ezekiel 37. As God led Ezekiel through the desolate valley of dry bones that were scattered everywhere, He asked Ezekiel “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” (v 3). God asked him. God knew the answer…God knows all. I love how God works this way. He could have just told Ezekiel that those dry bones could become living things again, but he didn’t. He wanted Ezekiel to discover and speak it himself. He wanted Ezekiel to recognize God’s power to bring all things back to life – and speak it aloud. Then God told Ezekiel to speak the the dry bones – to speak life into them.

In my mind and heart, being part of a worship team – my music in general – those are my dry bones. It was a season in my life that has just passed, and while it was amazing and made me so happy, it is just gone. But God can make dry bones live again. Here’s the thing though…I think that God wants ME to speak over those dry bones if I truly believe that they can live. He is asking me to have enough faith in His power to speak over what I thought was dead. God is asking me “Can these bones live again?”

And He already knows the answer.

My heart’s desire

This house is still and quiet this morning as I sip coffee and reflect on the last two weeks that I have had at home. No schedule. No running. No emails or grading or lesson plans. Just time. Time to play six games of Yahtzee in a row. Time to spend entire days in my craft room creating. Time to try new recipes and to organize – well everything. Time to sit and be still and pray and listen. Shame on me for not taking enough time to do that when life is at full speed. I’m angry with myself for all of the wasted time that I could have spent with God, drawing closer to Him. I’m disappointed that I have been able to convince myself that there are just “not enough hours in the day.”

I am not one to make resolutions this time of year. Mostly because I rarely stick to them, and then I feel bad about myself for not being able to be consistent…so I just avoid it. That’s not to say that I don’t set goals for myself, but setting them at the beginning of the year feels like too much pressure for me. However, this year…it is much more than a goal or resolution that I am setting for myself. It is a prayer. My prayer is that drawing closer to God and spending time with in each quiet morning will become the desire of my heart. To pursue God whether through reading His word, or through worship, podcasts, sermons, prayer…all of these…daily. My prayer is for God to open my eyes to all that He has to teach me each day – each moment – of this new year.

And to enjoy every last moment of this last day of my break.

Wonder

I woke early yesterday morning, not my normal early, but Christmas break early. The sky was still for the most part dark, and the house was quiet. As I crossed the room heading toward the bathroom, I caught site of the outside and the beautiful blanket of snow that covered everything in the backyard. In that instant, my excitement was childlike. I was transported back to snowy mornings as a young girl and the wonder of a white-covered world. In that instant, my adult worries and responsibilities ceased to exist and I took in every bit of the morning’s beauty. In that instant, all of the struggles and disappointments of 2020 were blanketed by this white wonderland. It was as if God knew that I needed this little bit of peace on the last day of a troubling year…and I just had to take the time to appreciate it and soak it in.

As we head into a new year, may we all stop and look at the world in wonder from time to time. May we enjoy the small, still moments of the morning, before the world is awake. May we see God’s hand in each day and never take for granted how amazing life can truly be. And may we view the world with childlike excitement and awe.

Put on Love

Anybody else struggle each morning deciding what to wear? Standing in the closet and staring at the same clothes has become part of my morning ritual. Not sure if I think the choices will be different from one morning to the next….like some magical closet fairy will come in and replace my old boring choices with new, exciting ones overnight! Making a decision about what to put on in the morning is just one of thousands of choices we have to make in any given day. One of the most important ones, though, is the choice to love.

We have five children. Our oldest is engaged to be married in a few months – and while we still guide him and coach him through life, he is out living his life and making his own choices. Our oldest daughter will be 20 soon, and is pretty much in the same boat. She goes to school full time and works, and the way that we parent her has shifted to more of a guiding role. Our youngest three – all girls – are still very much in the need-to-be-parented stage. Two of the three are teenagers. And let me just say that they are very good at it. Some mornings, I get an eye roll before I have even spoken. We love all of our children unfailingly and unconditionally. But some days…well some days, they are hard to like. Some days their words can hurt. Some days their lack of words can hurt. These are the days that require us to put on love.

“Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” Colossians 3: 14. Paul doesn’t simply tell us to love. He knows that sometimes loving others must be an active, conscious choice that we make. And sometimes, that choice is hard. Sometimes that choice feels impossible. This is why he instructs us to put love on. To make the decision to love another – even when the alternative choice might be easier. God has been working on my heart in a big way when it comes to this kind of love. Specifically when it comes to raising our teenage girls. Putting on love means that I don’t always have to “win” the argument. I don’t always have to have the last word in a situation. For me it means that I humble myself and put on love – even when I am hurt. God is showing me how to love them through all of the spats and hormones and moods – to make the choice to love even when it feels so hard.

Here’s the thing, I cannot love like this on my own. This ability to put on love, in spite of what I might be feeling in the moment, comes from above. Jesus was the perfect example of this kind of love. He is my pattern and He is my strength when I just can’t do it on my own. The choice is mine, but the love comes from Him.

“He’s the artist and the potter…”

Last night, I let myself get super aggravated and frustrated about a situation. Nothing wrong with that – we all have feelings and emotions. How I attempted to handle my hurt and anger, however, is the problem. I ranted and cried and allowed my emotions to be hijacked by this one thing! And then I came down to my office and vomited it all into a blog post. To be published this morning. On Christmas Eve. Although I knew all the negativity of the post was coming from this situation, I convinced myself that I needed to post it. I justified it because I have always claimed I want my blog to be authentic and not just a highlight reel of my life. That’s how I rationalized the ugly spewing of hurt into a Christmas Eve blog post.

This morning, I woke to the kindness of a hot cup of coffee waiting for me on my nightstand! I proceeded to come down to my office and opened up my morning devotional. Yep – a devotional about kindness and how we treat others. Okay God, I’m listening. Through my study time and subsequent prayer time, God performed a serious heart check on me. The line in my devotional that I’m certain I needed to hear today was “...take those thoughts captive. You can turn down the grumbles and turn up the grace. Speak these words aloud – even a whisper will do – while you hold that person in your heart. ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit'” Rather than moan and groan and grumble about the way in which I was hurt, I am to capture those thoughts and pray for the person who hurt me. Hold them in my heart even! And here’s the thing, there is not room in my heart for bitterness AND people for whom I am praying. Not to mention the fact that MY bitterness about the thing was not affecting this other person, it was only tainting me!

Thank you Jesus for opening my ears and my heart this morning and allowing me to hear from you. I am taking the negative thoughts captive, praying about the situation and saying a prayer of peace and grace for the other person. I am so thankful that God continues to work on me – every day. As the line from one of my favorite worship songs says…”He’s the artist and the potter, I’m the canvas and the clay.”

A new creation

One of my favorite things about Christmas break – having two weeks off of school, is the time to come down to my craft room and just spend time creating. This guilt free time spent doing what makes me happy is a rejuvenating force for my spirit.

This morning I grabbed some wood shims, a gift bag, some wax stain and some mod podge. I had a idea of what I was trying to do, but not being the most creative or artistic person, I wasn’t sure I could bring my idea to fruition. And while the end product is by no means perfect (but really, what is perfect anyway? perfect to whom?), it is mine, and I love it. And what I love the most about it is that it came from items that were nothing special. By themselves, they were just ordinary, every day items. But with a little spark of an idea, some time and some work, they came together as something new and beautiful.

Before

This really got me thinking about the work that God is doing in me. I don’t think I’m anything special. I’m pretty ordinary, without many gifts. BUT…God sees the end product. He is the artist and creator, and I am the raw materials. With some time and work (on my part), He can spark something completely new and beautiful in me. And while I may not be beautiful to others, I am in my creator’s eyes. He made me. He loves me. He sees so much in me that I can’t even see myself.

After