Today is the Day!

Just so you know.  Just so you can hear this today.  Just so you have a little reminder on this chilly Thursday that makes you feel all warm and cozy inside.

You are loved.  You are chosen.  You are set apart to fill a part only you can play.

It may be in the lives of your husband.  It may be in the lives of your children.  It may be in the life of a complete stranger.  But, today you have a unique and wonderful role in God’s story, and tomorrow too, and the day after that, and every single day the sun rises in all of its beauty.

**Spoiler Alert: that’s been every day in the history of time**

img_5198I have felt like I am just a background player in the stories playing out around me.  I think most of us feel that way at some point.  I’m Clint’s wife.  Jaden’s mom.  Deb’s friend.  Kate’s sister.  Donna’s neighbor (and friend too).  Oh, and Kendra’s friend too (I’m a lucky girl).  Wes and Serena’s daughter.  Livi’s nurse.  Bella’s sparring partner (she’s a teenager girl and I’m her mom; it’s a realistic title).  So many titles.  And, they all feel like supporting roles in a someone else’s story.  And, they are, because we are called to be a support.

But, this morning when I woke up and a new day started; He chose me.  God picked me just like He has everyday since time started.  He loves me and choose me.  He put the whole redemption story in motion for me.   He loves me that much.  He loves you that much.  So, there is no way we are just background players.

It’s His story and we are chosen to be a part of it.  We are loved by the God who created the universe just to have us.  Just to have you.  Just to have me.

And, no matter who overlooks you, or who forgets your name, or who flat out rejects your heart changes His plan or His unfailing love for you.

So, I am going to choose happy  today because I am free, and chosen, and fully known, and fully loved by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords (by the way that is in a worship song…I think by Bethel or Elevation…no it’s Bethel!  The song is You Don’t Miss a Thing, click here if you want to hear it).  And, live today in the knowledge that you are loved!

 

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Aftermath

 

Something that has been playing over and over in my head the past week or so is a song sung by Hillsong Worship.  Here is the link if you want to listen, but these are the words that struck me:

Like a rushing wind
Jesus breathe within
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

Like a mighty storm
Stir within my soul
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

Take a minute and think about storms.

Think about the wind.

Thunder is loud and wind shakes the house.  Lightening makes the power go out and the rain drowns out all the noises we are used to hearing.  It is scary to be in the middle of a storm.

I do love a good storm.  I absolutely love watching the sky change color, and seeing the world in a new light as shadows are cast and clouds roll in.  Living in Michigan we get the extra privilege of watching storms roll in over the lake.  It’s amazing!  God’s creativity up close in an awesome display of power.  The wind has its way and nothing can stop it.

Trees down.  Roads blocked.  Power out.  All signs of great big and powerful storm.

We have 3 kids.  And every single one of them was afraid of storms at some point in their lives.  They probably still are; although 2 of 3 won’t admit it because they are big kids now! But, the third has no qualms about sharing her fears and running to us for refuge in the middle of the night.  She is quite comfortable throwing her hands up in the air, running to our room, and riding out the storm safe in our arms.

If we are being honest here; aren’t we all a just a little bit afraid of storms?

I think every single one us has prayed a prayer or sung songs about surrender.  We have all gone to the altar to give up ourselves.  But, have we really meant it?  Do we just say it/sing it and then go home and only let Him in part of the way?  Do we say to Jesus, “You can come in and have everything.  Oh, you wanted that too?  Maybe not yet; I want to keep this little part.  I will just keep this one little corner.  I will be in charge of this area and you can have EVERYTHING else.”  

I know I have.  I know I still do.

It’s really scary to give it all.  To lose control.  To lose yourself.  It’s just like a storm.

I do want all of me, and every part of my heart to be in line with His.  Fully surrendered, with every corner filled with His love and His spirit.  But, I can’t do it on my own.  It takes surrender.  It takes a storm.  A big and scary, knock the walls down, lose the power kind of storm.

I need the walls around my heart knocked down like the trees that fall in a thunderstorm.  My reliance has to be found in Jesus not in things, or people, or myself.  And, while the rain washes away what I saw as the only path in front of me I cling to Him.  My power can only come from a Savior who went to the grave and defeated death.  Any other power is not sustainable; especially when it’s from self-made connections that take me away from Him.

And, you know what?  It’s really scary!  No matter how much of big kid you are!

So, when I sing about surrender, and rushing winds, and storms I am really asking for Him to take away my hard and human heart.  I am asking to be consumed by Him; to let the rain fall and the storm wash away all of the parts of me that are not found in Him.  I am praying for a storm and a wind that sweeps away all of the things I have anchored down in my own strength.  I am admitting my fear of the storm.  I am admitting my need for the storm.  I am admitting my complete inability to weather it without Him.

But, when it’s all done; when the wind dies and the rain stops…it is gonna be something so beautiful.

Think about the aftermath of storm.  The fresh air.  The refreshed and vibrant colors of the trees, flowers, and grass.  The birds singing with complete abandon to their Creator.  The ground has it’s thirst quenched and there is an indescribable peace that lingers in the air.

I want to be found in the aftermath.  I want to be found in the knowledge that I am loved through the storm.  That I am chosen by the one who created the rain.  That the one who clings to me through the thunder and shelters me through the wind loves me so fiercely that I cannot be separated from Him.  That He wants all of me.  That He is willing to walk with me in my surrender, to hold me through the storm, and take me safely to the beauty of the aftermath.

So, I am going to choose happy today because His arms are wide open and waiting for me come running;  He is my refuge; I just need to be willing to admit my fear of the storm.

Baldheads, Bears, and The Bible

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Yep, that up there was in my devotions this morning!  While I have read about the young man falling asleep and to his death during a long winded sermon of Paul’s, I have somehow missed the first one..

Frankly, I am not sure how I have overlooked this…umm, how do I put it??? Interesting story in the life of Elisha:

It is 2 Kings 22:23-25.  In case you don’t want to drop what you are doing and look it up yourself:

 Another time, Elisha was on his way to Bethel and some little kids came out from the town and taunted him, “What’s up, old baldhead!  Out of our way, skinhead!”

Now, this portion of scripture is kind of funny on it’s own, but if you read on it gets a little more serious:

Elisha turned, took one look at them, and cursed them in the name of God.  Two bears charged out of the underbrush and knocked them about, ripping them limb from limb—forty-two children in all. 

So, yeah…

Ummmm,

I don’t know what to say about this one!

That version up there is from The Message; you can look it up in different versions (as I did) hoping I was missing something in translation, but nope!  It’s pretty much the same any way you read it.  Other versions are more specific about the fact that it was female bears who did the ripping of the limbs.  And, it seems the children stuck with the specific taunt of “baldhead” instead of adding the variety of “skinhead” that The Message uses.

Imagine having to tell this little ditty instead of Noah’s Ark or Moses parting the Red Sea in Sunday school and VBS!

This is going to be my theme of the summer!  Every time a fight breaks out, a complaint is made about the food in the pantry, and of course; whenever a name is called or a someone gets teased, I am going to use this as my go to!

“Stop teasing your brother; don’t make me call the bears!”

“Aren’t you glad you were born now, instead of when bears ate you for being a little jerk?!!”

  

I am going to choose happy this week and probably for the rest of the summer because this passage while quite confusing and very violent shows to me two things:

1).  I will never fully understand scripture.

2).  I’m pretty sure this is how Big Foot got his start…think about it; a man in an old, dirty cloak calling bears out of the bushes to take care of a band children who taunted bald men! It just evolved over the centuries; I am sure of it.

HAPPY SUMMER!

Feed, Bathe, Sleep, Repeat

imageSchool is almost done! This means I have an almost Sophomore, eighth grader, and seventh grader.  This makes me sad.  TIME PLEASE SLOW DOWN!  But, it also means that summer is here.  With this comes no more lunch packing, early morning fights, or homework.  It also means later morning and all day fighting.  Then again, it’s pool days, sunshine, and tons of unscheduled time; which I love…FYI.

I am amazed how each school year goes faster and faster.  You’d think I would see it coming…but, I don’t.  EVER.  And, I find myself pining away for the days when I couldn’t sit down, and I had to help everyone with everything all the time every minute of everyday.  Did I tell you how much I love unscheduled time?  This bi-polar rear-view mirror method of time reflection is not lost on me…

We are moving into a new phase as a family.

A phase with more independence and less hands on stuff. The phase that as a new parent you look ahead to and covet. You want it so bad you almost wish you could fast forward the nights (I mean you aren’t sleeping anyway) to get to the days where you can sit in quiet and eat a real lunch; not one that consists of stolen bites of mac and cheese when no one is looking. This new phase has a lot more car pooling, but the play dates actually require you to leave and have some time to yourself. Like, time you don’t have to pay someone for and it’s just really, REALLY, weird…

In this new phase there are days like yesterday.

My oldest stayed home from school sick, and instead of this meaning puke clean-up and having another human attached to my body while I worry about laundry piling up and how in the world am I gonna make dinner?! It meant I stayed home and read a book on the deck while he basically took care of himself.  I mean he needed me to get him medicine and tell him what to eat, but for the most part it was like a really wonderful and almost lazy day.  When did this change?  And, why in the world does it make me sad instead of making me jump for joy?

The other day, I was talking to my husband (yeah, we get to do that now too), and I realized we have no clue what we are doing!  When they were babies, you fed them, did what you could to keep them on a schedule, bathed them, and put them to bed.  Wake up and repeat.  With three babies in 3 1/2 years, we felt like an experts.

Feed, bathe, sleep, repeat.  Feed, bathe, sleep, repeat.

But with teens?  It feels like the blind leading the blind.  There is no routine.  There is no expert advice because no one has actually survived intact.  They are all unpredictable, hormonal time-bombs!  They are just waiting to explode all over your seemingly perfect and routine day!  And, in order to clean up the mess they make, you must surrender your sanity and promise to never tell the true story of what happened.  This is so people will keep having babies.imageOh, and they eat at all kinds of weird times and strange things too.  And, they are the most confusing things to talk to; one minute everything is fine and sunshine, and the next it’s tears and thunderstorms.

I remember thinking toddlers were impossible to reason with!

Try a teenager; they are basically just someone who SHOULD know better, but doesn’t, and expects you to agree with their insane reasoning about everything because they know EVERYTHING.

So…yeah, basically giant toddlers.  Maybe, I CAN figure this out; it’s just feed, bathe, sleep, repeat on a grander and hormone infused scale!imageAnd, now I am looking at all this TIME.  All of this before.

Time that has passed.  Time that’s passing.  And, even the time that’s in front of us.  I am looking at it, knowing that I am going wish for these days again.

Just like the early baby days and the chaotic sleepless nights.  I am going to wish for a slammed door in a quiet house, and an empty pantry because they ate everything; even the weird, old can of peaches and that odd looking box of mystery pasta.  Just like wiping snotty noses, bath time, and searching for a lost-can’t-sleep-without-it stuffed Elmo at bedtime.  I am going miss the fights over short shorts and who’s turn it is to clean the bathroom.

I am going to wish for these days back too.

The moral of my retrospective rambling is this : I don’t want get so caught up in feed, bathe, sleep, repeat that I miss the stuff between the commas.

I am going to choose happy this week because by realizing that we can’t see the beauty of our before until we are in the after.

And, if this “after” is more confusing than the first, at least I have teenagers with me now; they know everything, so I’m pretty sure I’ll make it.

Tall, Dark, and Scary

My friend has a daughter who is always climbing trees.  Like way up in the sky, give her mama a heart attack, kind of climbing trees.  She climbs up in those branches, and sits to look at the beauty around her while everything on the ground becomes small.  Sometimes she climbs alone.  Other times she brings along her dad.  I’m pretty sure she inherited this love for high places from him…anyway, my friend gets to have a double portion of anxiety as she watches her loves ascend the branches of any tall tree they can find!

Awhile ago, she posted a pic of them together, high in the branches of a pine tree.img_2391-1I couldn’t help but wonder (after having a mild heart attack myself), when was the last time I climbed a tree?  When did these beautiful, tall, green, and solid plants become tall, dark, and scary plants?  FYI: a tree IS considered a plant; I googled it just to make sure…

I used to be the same way; climbing to the tops of trees and sitting in the branches.  I would get to the point where I would feel the wind moving me while I sat.  Then, I  would move one branch higher (just to see if I could), before slowly backing my way down.  I would feel for solid branches with my feet, and then have adrenaline race through my veins because I would slip on my way back to the ground.  It was always an adventure.

We had a tree in the front yard of one of the houses I grew up in.  It wasn’t a tall tree.  It wasn’t a huge tree.  But, it had a cluster of branches that was just perfect for a scrawny 9 year old girl to sit in.  I was up there all the time.  Watching birds.  Seeing little critters run around the yard.  It was heaven to feel the cool breeze make its way through the branches on hot summer days.  It was quiet and peaceful.  My 9 year old mind told me it was closer to God too; especially after my brother died.   It was my spot.  It was my calm.  Everything around me looked smaller and seemed more manageable up in that tree.

So, when did I stop climbing trees?

When did you?IMG_0754.JPGI know things change as we grow into adults; even more when we become parents.  They do.  You can’t stop it.  You just roll with it as responsibilities increase and gravity pulls your feet to the ground.  All of the sudden, we’re plodding through our days watching our kids live life with the abandon we once had (insert The Lion King “Circle of Life” chorus here).

I don’t think our wild and risk-taking attitude disappears.  I agree that it changes.  Honestly, with that change, I think it gets buried.

We have to work and pay bills.  We are in charge of raising kids and making sure they grow.  We have spouses, and school, and sports, and church, and groceries, and birthdays, and yard work, and laundry, and cars, and cleaning, and the list that never ends.  All of the sudden, life isn’t about climbing trees, or rolling down hills, or riding your bike as fast as you can down the steepest hill you can find.  Nope, it’s about making it through to the end of the week.  It’s about getting to the end of month.  Just.  Finishing.  The.  Year.

A few months ago, I wrote about the women with the issue of blood and the risk she took when she waited just a second longer.  She could have been buried in all of the chaos and people following Jesus, but instead that step out of the crowd gave her freedom.  Her surrender resurrected her and brought life back to that wild and risk-taking attitude.

Day to day “stuff” is so heavy.  That list up there tethers us to the ground.  The checked off “to-do’s” bury us to the point where we feel like just taking a breath is an accomplishment.  That list we think of as solid ground…in reality, it’s quicksand.  Waiting to bury us and keep us from the adventure God has for us.  It wants to drown us and hardens our hearts to beauty around us.  What we see as solid ground makes the life He has envisioned for us seem scary, not worth the risk, and definitely out of our reach.

I challenge you today to reach up, grab those tree branches, and start climbing.

Climb higher into the love and grace He extends to us and watch every care get smaller and further away from our feet.

Sit in the branches of His safety and embrace the warmth that softens our hearts because we keep getting closer and closer to the Son.

Step off the well traveled road and confront the glorified busyness of life and work that distracts us from our real purpose.  Slow down and talk each other, instead of letting your heart get buried or hardened in this business that we have started calling “marriage.”

Stop to listen. Slow down and watch. But, never stop climbing.

We need to show our kids how to climb.  It’s ours to teach them how to leave the ground and embrace the life high in the branches of the tallest tree.  The place that from the ground seems scary and unstable.  But, in reality is safe in the arms of The One who would never let them fall.3943592bc96f0d10d100afe2708f3c5cI am going to choose happy on this seemingly routine Thursday, because even though I am just beginning to climb trees again, I am excited to see the view God has for me and mine.

Only Me

I made the mistake of uttering the words, out loud for all to hear; “I cannot remember the last time I was sick.  I mean really, really sick!  Like can’t get out of bed, no energy sick!  My immune system is like a tank!”

That was just dumb.  Like really, unbelievably stupid. IMG_2379.JPGAnd, now here I am almost 12days later still feeling unwell and tired, thinking I just cannot do this any longer!  Not to manufacture sympathy for myself, but the other day on the way to school, my youngest (bless her little heart) asked my husband if I was going to die?! Now, she does have a flair for the dramatic, but it does go to show you just how out of the routine my home has been in for the past two weeks.  That, and I sound like I am trying to expel one, or both of my lungs from my body…please pray with me that no one else catches this plague from me!

I just don’t think we would survive!  Now, who has the dramatic flair?!

Anyway, I thought I would share how I was once again reminded of a story that I have heard many times before, but never really paid it the attention it deserves (this seems to be my theme this year).

And, it isn’t the one you are thinking of; with the waving palm branches and crowds shouting “Hosanna.”

The one I remember, comes from Mark chapter 4.  Jesus has just shared the parable of the scattered seed, and He, along with the disciples, get in a boat to make their way to the other side of the lake.

Now, I know I am going to see this a little different than you probably read it; but, try to stay with me…

Jesus has just preached and healed.

He has given so much instruction to His disciples.

And, He is tired.

I see an exhausted man.  Going below deck to sleep, I picture him quite humanly, collapsing into the cot and immediately being lulled to sleep by the waves.  But instead of having peace, He is immediately woken up by the sound of the disciples completely freaking out!  Words like “you don’t care if we drown” and “is it nothing to you that we are going down” are being shouted to Him from above deck.

Really?!  Had these men learned NOTHING from what He had shown them, spoke to them, and lived before them these past few months?  

In my minds eye, I picture a very calm, irritated, and fully human Jesus come up on the deck.  With a whisper, He says, in the voice I use with my children (the one that is deceivingly quiet, but very attention getting), “Quiet, be still.”  Then, turns to the men, and in the same quiet and eery calm questions their faith.

The story goes on and they get to the other side, only to come upon a crazy man who lives in a cemetery.  He is so out of his mind that the people in his community don’t know what to do with him. They put him in a place where he can’t hurt anyone else because the inhabitants are dead.

This man was uncontrollable.  He hurts those he comes in contact with and he hurts himself.  But, when he sees Jesus heading his way he falls and worships.  The demon is cast out, then into the pigs, and again the crowds are amazed at Jesus power.  But, still afraid of Jesus and this power, they ask Him to leave.

And Jesus gets back in the boat and heads across the lake;  AGAIN.

As I said, I have read this story many times.  I have been shocked that disciples would be so faithless and the townspeople so afraid.  But, this time what stood out to me was that fact that Jesus faced the storm basically alone and crossed the lake only to save the madman.  He did nothing else in that town.  He went the lowliest outcast and made him whole.

Wow!  Just. Wow!  All of that headache and heartache for one man.

It makes me think of the times that I have been in the storm.  Where I have seen things in my life as overwhelming, and I just kind of sit and wait for it to pass.  Feeling just like those disciples and getting panicky that Jesus is indifferent to the fact that I may drown or go down with the boat.  That He is once again flabbergasted at my lack of faith or perspective.

The thing is…He isn’t.  

He is with me in the storm.

It makes me think of the times I am standing among the tombstones.  Where I have become so consumed with my hurt that I don’t care who gets hurt with me.  That the only safe place for me is in isolation.  Away from all I know and love, in some kind of self made protection.  That He is just too overwhelmed with me.  And, that I am just too much for Him.

The thing is…I’m not.

He is with me in the pain.

He is taking me to the other side of the lake through the waves and wind, to show me how He would cross a million stormy oceans just to be with me.  That it’s His voice the storms obey.

He is taking me from the tombstones.  Out of isolation, He shows me that His voice and His hands are what make me complete.  Only He can make me whole.

I am going to choose happy this week because every single place Jesus visited and was rejected, every single life He touched, every single frustration, pain, drop of blood and sweat, every table He turned in the temple, and every humiliation He suffered; He would do it all again.  Even if it was just for me, who is standing among the tombstones on the other side of the stormy lake.

 

His Girl Friday

It’s Friday!

Again!

My attitude toward Friday is like our little dog, Molly, who no matter what gets super excited to see the kids whenever they get home.  Everyday.  They come home every single day at the exact same time and she still acts like she has never been happier than when they walk through that door.  It’s one of those things that make you happy when you see it, no matter what kind of day you’ve had!

This day comes every week and still I am somehow surprised when it gets here.  Sometimes, it feels like it takes forever.  Sometimes, it seems like it just happened.  But, no matter how the week shapes up, I am still in awe at the excitement I feel when I wake up and realize it’s Friday!

It’s a time to break out of the routine of the week.  A time to be just a little bit more relaxed, and an excuse to put things off until Monday; not really, but really…IMG_2281The more I think about it, the more I think that God wants us to treat Him like we treat Fridays and look forward to the rest we have when we spend time with Him.  And, we don’t even have to wait until Friday!

We can find rest in Him every single day.

We are able to go before Him at any hour of any day and lay our problems at His feet.  We are able to praise and thank Him anytime we think of it!  Whenever we need a listening heart, He is available; it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is.  He is always waiting for us, wanting us, and loving when we come before Him.  Loving the opportunity to give us respite; to be our weekend.

I am going to choose happy this week (this Friday) because even though it happens every 7 days, Friday is always something to get excited about.  So, is the heart of our Creator.  His heart is available to us 24/7/365 (or 366 depending on the year).

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