Empty Handed

Empty Handed

Encouragement Inspiration

to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
~Isaiah 61:3

IMG_20160821_122753I went camping this weekend with two very dear friends. I know I am blessed when it comes to friends. So very, very blessed. I wrote about it in a post way back when, but I was reminded of it again this weekend. To be with people who love you just as you are is a priceless and unmatchable gift. To be with people who are willing to sing and dance with you when you reach the highest part of your hike*… well, that’s just icing on the cake.

These girls love me, and oh do they love God. So it is always great to get their ideas and feedback on life. To have their added wisdom and insight.

This weekend I was able to talk about an old issue that had recently popped back up in my life. Someone had hurt me, and it seemed like I still hadn’t fully forgiven them. Here I am, years later, and I was still upset. Still hurt. Still mad. And one of my lovely ladies asked me what would God give me, if I chose to forgive. And I had a mental stumbling block. Mostly I just don’t want people to think that they can negotiate with God. As in “If I do this good thing, then I can negotiate something worldly from God” kind of thinking. (I hope that makes sense, but I don’t want to camp out on this thought, so that’s all I will say.)

IMG_20160820_201921I was thinking about what she said, and what unforgiveness looks like. And in my mind I saw myself with my fists tightly clenched and pulled in close to my body. I realized that at times we might choose to cling tightly to fear, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. When we do this, our hands are full. We can’t grab on to things like peace, when we are holding so tightly to these other things. But when we start to say “I forgive” and “I trust You, Lord,” then we start to release fear, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. As we slowly unclench our hands, and we find our hands suddenly open and empty- when we stand empty handed before God, that is when He can start to put His Gifts into our hands, and we can start to receive the things He has planned for us.

I’m not saying forgiveness is easy, not by a long shot. Neither can you always do it the first time around (case in point: me). Sometimes it is an active process of letting go, an active process of returning our grievances to God a second, third, fourth (or more) time. An active process of choosing not to desire what might seem right or fair. It’s hard. Really hard. And it might even leave you feeling empty handed at times. But being empty handed before the one who spoke you into being- that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes that can be the beginning of everything.

May the Lord bless you to realize your own areas of unforgiveness. May the Lord help you to release the old feelings that you have clung to, and give you the strength and support you need to press on. May the Lord God bring healing and restoration to your hearts as you open up to Him about your struggles. May the Lord place into your open and empty hands His peace that surpasses all understanding. And may God bless you with friends who love you right where you are, who can speak life and truth into you life. In Jesus strong and mighty name, Amen.

~Lindsay

*Totally serious. I hang out with ladies who sing praise music on mountaintops. (Well, at least the biggest hill we can find in the vicinity)**

**We also play on jungle gyms and debate when middle age starts…? Is this the part where I hashtag a number in the 20-somethings and say 4eva?

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Carrots!

Carrots!

Inspiration

But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” ~Matthew 13:23

A long time ago, I saw a cute quote and wrote it in the cover of my bible.  I didn’t really think too much about it beyond that it was cute… I’ve grown a lot since then. And I’ve grown a lot of vegetables since then*.

Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I recently headed out to our garden (which could more accurately be called a glorified weed patch) and picked a carrot! Yes, you read that right: I grew a carrot!! You can’t even begin to understand my shock, joy, and childlike glee at picking a carrot! We have tried growing carrots for years. Our carrot success rate was… well, nothing edible. Carrots are apparently hard to grow. I could have done research, I suppose. But that stubborn gene in me, just kept insisting that I could put that tiny little seed in the ground and out would pop a carrot. This is not a highly successful gardening method. Well, new home, new soil, same seeds… and TA-DA! A Carrot!

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And I just held that carrot and stared at it (seriously, our neighbors are probably very concerned about me). Because FINALLY a carrot grew! And that Browning quote popped back into my mind. And then the idea of good soil, and Matthew 13 popped into mind. I remembered that tiny little seed, and looked at that fat carrot and was astounded. The glory of God really does fill the earth, it’s just we’re so busy we miss it! Daily we miss it! We go to the grocery store and pick up a bag of already washed and cut carrots, not knowing that they were tiny seeds at one point. Not seeing how they grow underground, hidden from view. This quote, or this idea, would probably mean nothing to me- except that I did grow the carrot. I did have failures, and I did try and try again. And then when it finally worked- it was ridiculous how exciting it was. It really was laughable how excited I was. But God is not calling us to be excited about just the really really big stuff, but to rejoice in the small, the everyday, the mundane.

The full quote is actually:

Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God. But only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit round and pluck blackberries. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

And of course the bigger connection here is the seeds we sew with our words and deeds. We were commissioned to go to the ends of the earth and tell the Good News. That is NOT an easy job, not by a long shot. And just like the parable of the sower**** in Matthew 13, some people are not ready for the Good News. But some people are so thirsty for Jesus, that it is worth the risk (I’m talking mostly to myself here).

And the excitement is contagious. So contagious that as I was rejoicing over my carrot, a little someone came behind me and started plucking carrots and beets- regardless of size- but even more excited than his mother. Because we want to be a part of that excitement, we want to share in the glory and awe, we want to see it and touch it. So I thought I would share my carrot enthusiasm with everyone and took some pictures of the little stubby carrots my kids** enthusiastically picked while I wasn’t looking- all in the hopes that it might encourage someone today.

Lord, you are truly awesome. Your creation is full of the truth about who you are. Help us to see you in our daily lives, to rejoice in who you are, and to share that excitement with others. I pray that you would prepare the hearts around us to receive you truth and love, and that you would embolden us to speak your truth and love. And thank you for carrots! Amen!

~Lindsay

*And I’ve grown even more weeds.

**And FYI- how do you type a blog with 2 children who want to spend time with you? You let them do your hair, of course. I think I have about 50+ bows on my head right now. Also, I got my hair brushed. Pretty sure I might be bald now. So no, you aren’t getting any pictures of that. Sorry. Use your imagination.***

***and as I typed that I heard a little snip. Yep. The little one found a pair of scissors. So this is really the end now.

****I had to come back and edit the post, because my hubby was kind enough to tell me I’d written “the parable of the sewer” instead of the “sower.” Feeling all kinds of embarrassment here.

cabbage is so monstrously big, and somehow beautiful! (Even when the tomato plants fall over on it)
cabbage is so monstrously big, and somehow beautiful! (Even when the tomato plants fall over on it)
The Journey

The Journey

Children Encouragement From the Authors

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story ~Psalm 107:2

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. Mostly in my own head. I mean, I could share my ideas with those around me… but they’re all under the age of 10. They don’t get my jokes, let alone my contemplative thoughts.

Well, that’s probably selling them short. So maybe I should share more with them… but that’s a blog post for another day.

In my last post, I mentioned that our youngest had started having seizures. So life’s been a little wild and chaotic for a bit. A little scary. A week or two before his first seizure, I actually said to my husband, “We got it really good.” And he nodded, we were driving somewhere and he was distracted. “No, really,” I continued. “We got it reaaaaally good. I don’t like those sermons where people warn you that hard times come to us all. And I don’t want to predict that over us, but I feel like we aren’t appreciating the everyday mundane. We don’t know how good we really have it, because it’s been so good for so long.”

And then yeah, stuff happened, and we were just thankful that we were still a family of five. The first seizure was awful. I had the thought that I might lose a child right before my eyes and there was nothing I could do about it.

So check out this little guy:

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You know where I found him? Right here:

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This is the headwaters of the Mississippi River. That little guy had been just hanging out in Lake Itasca- all in all a pretty calm lake. Life must have been a little mundane, but good. Then he somehow got through those rocks there. You can see them in the picture. Not a big deal for my kids who were climbing over them and getting soaked, heedless of their mother’s entreaties to keep their clothes dry. But for a little guy who fits in the palm of a child’s hand, those rocks must have been shocking compared to his life in Lake Itasca. And then I thought about what was ahead of him. He was going to keep floating down this river, towards the Gulf of Mexico. The realist in me thought he’d never make it. And another part of me wondered if I shouldn’t try and take him back to the lake and find a safe place for him, where he wouldn’t end up in the river again.

But as I sat and stared at that little guy, I began to think we had a little bit in common. I’d recently survived some rapids. Things have calmed down again for me, but I really don’t know what my future holds. I can’t even begin to imagine all that will happen. Sure I have plans for the future, but God has shown me time and again that my plans are small potatoes compared to his.

And then I remembered, again, the one thing that always calms me down. God is the same as he was yesterday, and as he will be tomorrow. He is good. His plans are good. He is merciful. And He does not give us more than we can handle.

So I put that little guy back in the river. Well, more accurately, I made a little boy put him back in the river. We were at the point where I foresaw that little guy coming home in someone’s pocket. So I did the mom thing where you use their middle name, and then I watched that little snail-thing lazily float away. And instead of sharing all my inner musings with my children, who probably would have been astounded, I laughed quietly at myself and returned to the age old tradition of mothers everywhere- nagging. Because who wants to drive home with a wet bum?

But all this to say, the journey is not always smooth or easy. But we are held in hands far stronger and wiser than that little boy’s. Wherever you are in the journey, you can trust in that.

Lord thank you that you see me, and you know me. You know right where I am at, and you know where I am going. You do not forsake us, but come after us time and again. Thank you for being so much better than I could ever imagine. Thank you that you are still in charge, even when it doesn’t seem possible. And I praise you for your wonderful creation- that mighty river that starts out so small and peaceful, that little snail I held in my hand, those wonderful babies you have given me. Thank you for all of that, and so much more. Everyday, more and more, help me to look around and to see your hand at work. In Jesus name, Amen!

~Lindsay

*I see that there are run-on sentences in this blog post. Don’t worry, I see it. But writing how I talk is really hard grammatically. I’m a math major. With a lot to say. Writing is hard. The end.

 

Where is the Blog?

Where is the Blog?

From the Authors

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.

IMG_20160530_201937794Where is the blog?

Keeping a blog going is hard work. Sometimes I feel like I’ve run out of ideas, and I have nothing to say. I don’t want to post a blog just to post a blog. Our hope has always been that these posts would be little bits of encouragement. I don’t intend to post something unless it holds some meaning for me. And recently blogging dropped in its priority, but also I couldn’t find the words. I tried to write, but it seemed forced and not exactly authentic. I didn’t like that feeling, hence no posts came. But I didn’t know how to get started again. So I’ll just be honest.

At the beginning of May, our youngest son started having seizures. Seizures are scary. When you aren’t expecting them, it’s even more terrifying. And whenever your child is hurting, that’s a terror that I cannot put into words. So we have had two months of doctor appointments and being on high-alert. Someone has to have their eyes on him at all times, until we can get things under control. That is stressful on top of scary. Not to mention the sleep we were lacking because we were unsure of what to do during the nights. Seizures are also scary because there isn’t always a clear reason as to why. As one doctor said, “The good news is there is no bad news,” (he meant no tumor or obvious brain damage), ” but the bad news is we don’t know the cause.”

So I was going through a new kind of emotional roller coaster these last few months. But I’ll tell you the one thing that always kept me grounded: The knowledge that God is the same as He was yesterday, and will be tomorrow. He is unchanging. That big BIG God who spoke the world into being, He’s still on his throne. He is unshakeable, unmovable. So when I felt like my world was falling apart, hearing those words- or even reminding myself that God is still God, allowed a peace to come in and settle over my heart.

Not saying it’s been easy. No, not at all. But there is peace in the middle of a storm. And we were sure lifted up in prayer, and I felt that.

So all this to say, I couldn’t write a blog post without sharing this- because to pretend like life was still okay and everything here was the same as always didn’t feel right. But at the same time, some kind of stoic-Norwegian and stubborn-German gene combination within me demands that I not share personal information like this, because it might be seen as seeking pity. And what a lie! We were made for community. I know that when we share our burdens and our hardships sometimes it lightens our load, sometimes our stories can encourage those who are going through similar trials. (Of course you can always fall off the other side of the horse, and be that person who shares every little misery with every person you meet… but there is a happy medium to be found… I’m still trying to get there.)

So now you know, where I’ve been. And let me tell you the good news- my little guy is doing fine. While seizures are scary to watch, they don’t usually have any long term or lasting effects. (Thank you, Jesus!) So he is still one tough little kid, who is running around with his big brother and sister. He’s learning more everyday, and running faster, and growing bigger. And, like in ALL things, God pulls good out of these situations*. We have a new appreciation for just an average day, we recognize what a blessing that is! When we have worried or wondered if what we are doing is the right thing, it seems like someone has come along or something has happened to give us peace or steer us in the right direction. I could go on and on, but this post has gotten long enough for now.

We are well! And we thank you for your prayers and concern.

Lord, I thank you so much for how you care for us. I thank you for the community of friends and family we have around us. I thank you that prayer is powerful and brings goodness to our lives and our hearts. I thank you that you know us, you hear us, you see us. Even when we feel lost, confused, or afraid, You are still there with us. I thank you for your Word that promises that you are pulling good out of the bad, that you are rearranging the pieces of our life into a beautiful pattern that we cannot begin to comprehend in this lifetime. I again proclaim that I trust You! In Jesus name, Amen!

~Lindsay

*And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

A Child’s Faith

A Child’s Faith

Children Encouragement

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” ~Mark 10:14-15

Who wouldn't want this ninja praying for them?
Who wouldn’t want this ninja praying for them?

Childlike faith. What is that even? I think as an adult it is too easy to forget what childlike anything is. Let alone childlike faith.

So a quick story for you. Recently an adult asked my son to pray for her. She had a pretty big prayer request. Kind of a more adult prayer request.* Not inappropriate or anything, but it was a serious issue. When I think of my children praying, I think of my youngest saying, “Thank you, God, for horsies, dolphins, ponies, and unicorns. Amen.” (Seriously, this is his daily prayer.) What I don’t think about them praying for is those deeper burdens that we face as adults. The kind of prayer requests that for some reason feel ‘heavy’ to me. Something in me wants to shield them from those things. From ‘adulthood.’ From life.

So, right after this friend shares her prayer request with my eldest, my three children and I pile into the car to leave. And before we’re even to the end of the driveway, my son says to me, “She wants us to pray for her.” He then proceeds to share the prayer request with the rest of us. And now all of my children and I know the burden that has fallen on this friend of ours. And I think, wow I don’t know that I would have told little children about that… But I don’t want to let this slip by, so I said, “Let’s make sure to pray for her right now!” And we did. Right there in the car on the way home, we prayed. The rest of the drive home is talking about prayer, how I like to pray right away if someone asks me to pray for them (mostly so I don’t forget**), how we can keep praying for that person, how God knows what this person is going through, how God answers all of our prayers (but not always how we planned), and some talk about the actual prayer request… It was one of those conversations with children where I was not sure how much of what I was saying was really being heard and understood. But we made a good attempt. I patted myself on the back. Job well done Mama!

Now to dinner. My husband asks my daughter to say the prayer at dinner. She thanks God for the food and then reiterates the prayer request. Which was when I realized, not job well done, Mama! I had already moved on, I had figured my kids had too. Meanwhile my husband’s eyes had popped wide open and he was giving me a confused and questioning look across the dinner table (clearly communicating through silent parent lingo: What in the world happened today?). When she finished praying my youngest piped up, he wanted to pray too. So he says, “Thank you, God, for horsies,dolphins, ponies and unicorns. And…” then he prays for this woman too. I’m eating dinner thinking how her simple prayer request has now been lifted up to God three times. How my kids were taking this friend’s prayer request more seriously than I was. How important it was to them that they had been asked to pray. They weren’t going to just let this issue slip their mind after one prayer. And it didn’t stop there! Since then my children have been adding her to their nightly prayers, and adding to the blessing they’re asking for her. It seems like each time they pray, they boldly ask for a little bit more. With simple faith in their God, they are asking for big things. As an adult, I’m thinking, “Is that even possible?” And suddenly I begin to understand what childlike faith is. It’s trusting God to be God. It’s trusting that He can do anything He wants to. It’s not worrying about the details and what is possible or even probable. It’s simple, and it’s beautiful.

Now back to the idea that a prayer request would feel ‘heavy’ to me. Just who in the world do I think I am!? I am not God. My job in a prayer request is not to solve the problem, or answer the prayer. My job is simply to light up a neon billboard and point it at that person (whom God is already looking at), and say, “Hey! Here! You are needed and wanted here! Come and be here!” That’s it. Seeing my children pray for this person, has really opened my eyes to how simple prayer requests can be. I just keep pointing God over to that person, and I wait for His answer. I don’t have to do anything. (Well… other than pray, of course.)

All this to say, don’t undersell your children!! Their prayers are just as effective (if not more so). Watching my kids pray for this woman, has been like water on dry land for my prayer life. If they can pray like that, believe like that, and keep coming to God with expectation, then I can too. And to this friend of ours who asked a young boy for prayer- you better buckle your seat belt and put on a helmet. God is coming for you in a B.I.G. way, Girly. I don’t know what He will do with all these prayers, but it is going to rock your world.

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Thank you, God, that you hear us. Thank you God for the reminder of what childlike faith can look like. You don’t need us to understand everything about this world. You don’t even need us to understand half of it. We just need to come to You with our needs and open our hearts to the work You are doing. I again ask for your blessing over this friend, and what she is going through. I ask that you would move in even mightier ways than we could ever imagine! And Lord, for all of us, help us to open up our hearts to you like children. Thank you for calling us your children. In Jesus name, Amen!

~Lindsay

*Just a small disclaimer here. For anonymity, I didn’t list the person or her prayer request. I don’t have permission to share it here. BUT it was not a topic that children couldn’t handle. Of course there are prayers that we don’t give to children. Topics that they aren’t emotionally ready for. But it is okay to let our kids know there is suffering in the world. It is okay to trust them with harder topics. I was totally fine with this friend sharing her struggles with my children. It was just that I would not have thought to share these kind of struggles with my children. Mostly because I would think ‘what can they do about it.’ And that is just the point- we cannot do anything. BUT GOD CAN.

**yes, yes, I’m a terrible option for your prayer requests. I forget.

 

 

I will say it again: Rejoice!

I will say it again: Rejoice!

From the Authors

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! ~Philippians 4:4

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. ~Romans 12:15

You know what I need to work on? Rejoicing. If I am going to be calling myself a Christian, then I should probably be looking like a real Christian. I’m not sure what you think a Christian looks like, but I don’t think there is a cookie cutter mold for every Christian. We aren’t supposed to look exactly alike- we are the Body of Christ, and we all have different gifts, and different purposes.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. ~1 Corinthians 12:12

TIMG_20140712_212754227hat being said, we don’t need to look exactly like our brother/sister in Christ. But we should be rejoicing. And we should be rejoicing with one another.

What is she talking about? Well, we had a family over for dinner. It was so much fun! The adults were chatting happily, and their three kids were running around with our three kids- everyone had a blast! Then it was time for the other family to go home. If you have young children, I don’t need to go into the details. Kids don’t want to part from one another, even if it is bath night and close to someone’s bedtime… So one way or another it was decided that the older boys could hang out a bit longer, and my husband would run Big Brother’s friend home when it was closer to the big-boy’s bed time.

IMG_20140712_212754227Aug 21 234My daughter was not happy. Her friend had gone home. And while she was prepping for bed, her big brother was running around and giggling with his buddy. Life is tough.

“What’s wrong?” I asked the pouting tooth brusher.
“Send him home!” She said through a mouth full of toothpaste bubbles.
“Send your brother’s friend home?” I asked.
An empathetic yes accompanied by a fierce pout was the response.
“How do you think your brother will feel about that?”
“Well, I don’t have my friend!”
“Yes, you don’t have your friend. But I asked you, how will your brother feel if we send his friend home?”
Silent pouting.
“And how do you think his friend will feel? It looks like they are both having fun, do you think our friend would be happy if I went outside and told him to go home?”
“Well next time just my friend gets to stay!”
“Hmmm…” I began washing the face that never fails to have remnants from every meal of the day somewhere on it, “And how would your brother and his friend feel if next time I said, ‘You can’t play together. Go home!’?”
“Well, it’s not fair!” was the over the shoulder response as I steered her towards her bedroom.
“You mean, it’s not equal? Do you think everything has to be equal all the time?”
A decisive nod. Because everyone thinks that everything would be okay, if only everything were equal.
So I reminded her of the time her brother had to come home with me while she got to stay and play with a friend. And the time she stayed with me so she got to have cookies, and her brother had none. I thought of a few other examples and then said, “Well, if everything is going to be equal, I suppose that you cannot have a friend over next time, because you’ve already had someone over twice. And also the next time we make cookies, you get none.”
This long litany of times where the unequal scale was tipped in her favor was met with quiet. So I slowly tucked her into bed.
“You know what I would love?” I said into the quiet. “I would love if our family could be happy when their brother or sister is happy. And not worry about who is more happy, or who has had more time with friends. I would love if we did not worry about everything being equal, but if we could be happy for each other. You just need to remember that happy times will come for you too.”

Now this is a hard and cumbersome talk to have with a five-year-old. But I suppose an optimistic parent hopes that these kind of talks will stick little by little. But what struck me was, later that evening, as I was tucking in Big Brother, I had almost the exact same conversation. The next day’s activities included something his sister really enjoyed, but he merely tolerated. So he said we shouldn’t go. I asked him how he thought that would make his sister feel? Then he said he should get to do something equally fun, because that would be what is fair. So I told him about the conversation I had just had with his sister who had to wave goodbye to her friend, while he got an extra half hour with his friend.

There was a quiet reflective moment. And then I said again, “I hope we can be a family who will choose to be happy for each other. If something goes well for someone, let’s choose to be happy for one another. Even if we feel like we didn’t get what we want. I would love if your joy could be my joy, and if my joy could be yours. I would like to share my joy with you.”

Tucking kids into bed is hard parenting. Seriously.

But it was good reflection for me too. This is jealousy. Jealousy is wanting what others have. It is missing out on sharing our joys. And I am just as guilty as my kids. I am just as likely to measure and assess what I deserve. And I am quick to notice if I am not getting as good of a deal as someone else. But that verse in Romans has been on my mind lately. Rejoice with those who rejoice. All Christians do not need to look exactly like each other. BUT, we do need to rejoice with each other. We should celebrate each other’s accomplishments, smile when someone else is having a good day- even if we are not. It’s not always easy to rejoice with others. We are very aware of the negative in our own lives, the ‘unfairness.’ We could easily choose bitterness and jealousy, that’s our human nature. BUT wouldn’t it be beautiful, wonderful, amazing, and so much better to be able to share in someone’s joy? If we let go of having to have everything equal, what would life look like then?

 Lord, forgive us for being jealous and bitter. Forgive us for thinking that if only things were equal, then we would be happy. That’s a lie. Happiness is knowing you, trusting you, and realizing that what we have is more than enough. I know that we can face truly hard times that make this hard to believe, but Lord, please reassure us now. Fill our hearts with the truth of your love. Bring peace and freedom to our lives, and help us to truly let go of our jealousies. I pray you would shine your light into these areas of our lives. And even more, I ask that we could learn to truly share in the joys of others. To rejoice with our friends and family, and especially to rejoice in who You are! In Jesus name, Amen.

~Lindsay

 

Mr. Magoo

Mr. Magoo

From the Authors

 keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
~Psalm 16:8

This is my Mr. Magoo. He just had a birthday, and decided to just open his birthday presents while no one was looking (first thing in the morning). And yes, we got him a shovel. It promises to be an interesting (and dirt filled) spring!
This is my Mr. Magoo. He just had a birthday, and decided to just open his birthday presents while no one was looking (first thing in the morning). And yes, we got him a shovel. It promises to be an interesting (and dirt filled) spring!

My littlest boy has discovered the joy of binoculars. He’s running around with them pressed up to his eyes… and he’s completely blind with them. The art of peering through binoculars is an acquired skill. It takes practice. Apparently lots of practice. My little guy keeps running into furniture and walls. He can’t see what’s right in front of him because he is “looking” through the binoculars. It’s so cute. So very cute. As a parent I am just in love with my little-Mr.-Magoo.

But once again, God whispers to me- that’s you. I’m so busy looking forward to the future, and to what is coming next, that I am missing this moment. And this is truly the only moment I have. I cannot relive the past, and I cannot live in the future. I need to be here, in the present. Or I’m going to miss all these adorable moments with my children. If I’m always looking to the future, I’m going to miss a lot.

Just be here. Just be here, in this moment. I keep whispering this phrase to myself. Slow down, and just be here.

Right now is a gift. This moment, this breath, my husband, these children, this life… it’s all a gift. Don’t miss the gift!

Thank you, Lord, for this moment. Help us to breath it in and focus our eyes on You. Help us to see the gifts you have given us this day. Help us not to worry about the future, and help us to reconcile our pasts. Let us grab hold of the things you have placed before us for this day, that we could accomplish your purposes today for your glory. In Jesus name, Amen.

~Lindsay

I was at a friend's house when this guy came to call...?
I was at a friend’s house when this guy came to call…?

 

What kind of love is this?

What kind of love is this?

From the Authors

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~1 Corinthians 13:4-7

We have a radio station in town that I listen to when we can get it. Some days we are just out of range. Some days we pick up the station no problem. I don’t understand the science of it, but I really like that radio station. I’m always checking to see if maybe today I will be able to hear them.*

So picture a woman driving, hearing a song that sounds like it could be her new favorite, and willing the radio station to pick it up. I can hear the tune, then I hear a little static, some more of the tune, and then a basketball announcer is interrupting the music, then I can hear some lyrics. The lyrics I heard this week were, “what love is.”

And it struck me. If I focused on God as I do on this radio station, life would probably be going a lot better. I mean, I was straining to hear the radio station. If, in our daily lives, through all the distractions, we keep our eyes on Christ… wouldn’t that be amazing? If we were willed ourselves to find more of God in the everyday, and strained to see His Goodness all around us- well, that would be pretty radical.

Even as I thought about that, those lyrics came back to me again, “what love is.” And of course, I knew the answer.

 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. ~John 15:13

IMG_20160220_102839145_HDR
my mom and baby girl

And I started thinking… have we been loving people like that? Have we, the Church, been loving people with a willingness to put their wellbeing before our own? Perhaps, in most relationships, that is asking too much of humans. But have we been putting the needs of others before the wants of ourselves? I’m going to go ahead and say no. At least I haven’t. And before you fall off the other side of the horse, I don’t think Jesus is calling us to a miserable life where we only do what other people want and never get to do what we want. No! Sometimes Jesus wants us to tell people no. Sometimes Jesus wants us to tell ourselves no. Sometimes we need discipline, correction, or those other unpleasant growing pains that make us into better people. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. If we are in God’s will, we have that fruit in our lives. We have joy. Not misery. JOY!

So this is what happens when I am alone for longer than five minutes in the car. It starts with radio surfing and ends with the random wonderings of a woman who has a moment to herself.

Anyway…

My questions for today come in two parts:

  1. Are you pursuing God throughout the day? Like with a radio, are we straining to hear His voice through the static and the distractions?
  2. And are you loving people unconditionally? Without asking that they fix themselves or do something for you, are you choosing to care for others right where they are at?**

I’m sorry to say that I can’t answer “Definitely yes!” But I am happy to say that God is not through with me- I am a work in progress! And thankfully His mercy is new every morning.

Lord, thank you that we are able to accept your gentle correction. That you are mindful of us, and speak to us, and lovingly correct us. Please turn our steps, again, back to the path You have laid out before us. Help us to choose You, to choose Your Ways. Increase the love in our hearts, and the joy in our lives. And do this for Your Glory. In Jesus name, Amen.

~Lindsay

*Yes, I’m weird. I try to listen to radio stations that are staticish.

**Again “love” is not what the media has portrayed it to be. It is not a license to do as you please to someone. It is not a ‘yes’ to anything you want. It does not make us slaves to someone else, it does not hurt us. If you want to know what love is, go back to the beginning of this post…

Rabbit’s Foot

Rabbit’s Foot

Encouragement From the Authors

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
     because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
~Isaiah 61:1-3

You want to talk about walking up a mountain the hard way...
You want to talk about walking up a mountain the hard way…

Here is something I have found to be true about God- He does not leave us alone. He will not leave us alone. He cannot seem to help reaching out to us. This might sound delightful, to have a God who cares so much about us that He will not leave us alone. If being alone is lonely and not fun, then having God in your corner is great! You’ve always got a friend! And it is great. God loves you, God wants to be with you- hallelujah!

The flip side of all this is… He is also a parent. And just like I can’t leave my children alone to try and discover the rights and wrongs of their actions, neither can God the Father leave me alone.

I heard this somewhere, and often repeat it:

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

Today I am talking about the fact that this can’t-leave-you-alone-God keeps working on me. I had some definite plans on what the next few years of my life would look like. They seemed sensical to me. And possibly they were on the easy-to-achieve side of things. But I really saw the future ahead all lined up nice and neat… but God, He had a different plan. You can find lots of “but God”s in the Bible. Lots. And if you think back, I’m sure you can find plenty in your life.

So I am (once again) thrust out of my comfort zone and into new and uncharted territory. I think of it as growing-pains. I worry that maybe I have a bit too much on my plate this time. I begin to think I might not have what it takes. But (even though it’s hard to really grasp that I am an adult*) I have some years behind me now. And when I look back at those years, time and time again I see that God really does bring the best out of every situation. Even when I’ve thought “WHAT IS GOD THINKING!!” When I trust in Him, and lean on His mercy and grace- that’s when I see really amazing fruit in my life. In my own strength I often stumble and fall, but His grace is unending and unfailing. All too often I treat God like a lucky charm- like those rabbit’s foots that were so popular back in elementary school. I keep thinking that if I pray just the right prayer, then everything will go my way. But that’s not what is best for me. God is not content with just the good, He wants the best for us. Our good plans (even our best plans) are peanuts compared to the awesome future God is planning for us.

We live in a forested area of snow and ice. So when you take a trip to the desert and go on a hike... the last thing you expect to find is beauty in God's creation. The desert is supposed to be dead, hot, and not fun to walk in. But in the dead of winter it's breathtaking and amazing. Proof that God is soooooo much more creative and brilliant than yours truly.
We live in a forested area of snow and ice. So when you take a trip to the desert and go on a hike… the last thing you expect to find is beauty in God’s creation. The desert is supposed to be dead, hot, and not fun to walk in. But in the dead of winter it’s breathtaking and amazing. Proof that God is soooooo much more creative and brilliant than yours truly.

If you are standing in one of those situations where everything seems upside down and backwards of what you were expecting. If you are (like me) waving a despondent goodbye to your plans for the future, I have good news for you! You can trust in Him who made you. Not to make light of the horrific things that can happen in life, but just to know- you have a God who cannot leave you alone. He will come after you again and again, He will bring fruit out of misery. Beauty out of ashes. Joy for mourning, and praise out of your despair. Somehow. Somehow He does that. It’s what makes him good, awesome, amazing. It’s what makes him God! You might not see that fruit for years, and if that’s the case I’m truly sorry. But maybe you can take a step back right now and begin to realize, “Oh… I see. He has a better plan. It’s better than my plan. This might be hard, but in the long run, I can see- this could be the making of me.”

So thank you, Lord! You do not leave us. You are working in our lives. You have plans we can’t even fathom. Plans to build us into the people you created us to be. Plans to bring Your Kingdom here to earth. Plans for good. Plans for hope. Plans for love! We are sorry that we cannot always trust in Your Plans. We are so sorry that we often fall to anxiety and fear. Renew our hearts to trust in You and to chase after You. In these times of confusion, sorrow, fear, and anxiety- help us to turn our faces fully towards You. I ask for friends and other believers who will come along side us and confirm the work that You are doing in us. Thank you Jesus! Amen.

~Lindsay

*I tend to think of adults as my parents’ generation. I forget to categorize myself in the adult group… just from time to time.

three saguaro cactuses?
three saguaro cactuses?
Found Ya

Found Ya

From the Authors

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ~John 8:12

A few weeks ago, I awoke in the middle of the night to see a bright circle of light coming through our bedroom window. It was super bright and shining right on my face. In a bit of a panic, I called to my husband. My groggy brain had one thought: who would be shining a flashlight through our window in the middle of the night!? Adrenaline kicking in, I sat up and began shaking my husband frantically… At about this time, I came to realize that it wasn’t a flashlight. It was the moon.*

I took a minute to verify that I was safe, that this was a moon shinning through the window (not a flashlight). Took another minute to look around our room, and see how everything was fully illuminated. Then I looked down at my husband who had been smacked and shaken… and he was snoring. And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if I could sleep through almost anything.** I slowly laid back down and stared at the brilliantly, shining moon.

It got me thinking (because the adrenaline wasn’t going to let me go back to sleep anytime soon) how far that light had to travel to get to my window and wake me up. That light came all the way from the sun, which was happily shinning on the other side of the earth. That light had to reach all the way around the earth and bounce off the moon just so it could make it to my bedroom window. I understand how this works scientifically and that it is happening all the time. Right now someone is looking at the moon and I’m sure they aren’t thinking it’s anything unusual or overly special. But seriously, that light had to come a really long way, around a pretty big obstacle, and then reflect off of the moon, and travel another considerably long distance to my bedroom window.***

I laid there thinking how neat light is. And then, of course, how Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” And it felt like God was using that moonlight to say, “Found ya!” You can’t get away from That Guy’s love! He will come any distance, around any obstacle, and more- just to find you. He will come down from heaven, take on the shape of a baby, live in this world, endure the cross, rise from the grave… God will do all that because He loves you.

So then… what are we worrying about!?!?

Paul sums it up for us:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~Romans 8:31-39; emphasis added

Wherever you are right now, God knows. He knows where you are and what you are doing. And right now, right where you are, whatever you are doing- He is loving you. You are His creation. You are precious, wanted, and loved.

We thank you, Lord, that we cannot escape this undeserved unconditional love. We thank you that while we face all sorts of trials in life, the one thing we can always count on is your love. We may not always understand your ways, or the reasons we face hardship. We may feel frightened, alone, angry- we might even despair at times. But through all of this, you are searching us out time and again just to whisper I love you. Help us to hear your voice in all of the noise that surrounds us. Help us to see your hands in all the business of this crazy world. Help us to feel your love and mercy even when we are at the end of our tether and wondering if we have anything left to give. Please fill us up again with Your good things. Fill us up with love and peace, with hope and joy. Help us to trust in the promises you have left us in Your Word. In Jesus name, Amen.

*Am I the only one who make ridiculous assumptions in the middle of the night? Assuming the moon is some creepy peeping tom with a flashlight? Assuming that the toilet backing up is an intruder with gastrointestinal problems? Also there is the water softener that every now and then convinces me the basement is on fire…

**In regards to my husband’s ability to continue sleeping, even if a marching band came through our house: 1. This is really not an exaggeration. But 2. While I am the one who always gets up for every little noise in the middle of the night. On the night the stop sign flew through our yard, I was the one who slept through the ordeal. It was my wonderful husband who got up and talked to the police in his pajamas. But this is a story for another day!

***This is where I feel like the seagull from the ‘Little Mermaid.’ When he grabs the crab around the neck and starts shaking him yelling, “Do you understand the words that are comin’ out of my mouth!?!” It’s such a simple idea that I can’t be sure I’m being understood…? Or I just have communication issues…