take heart, friend

This world is filled with trouble, the kind that starts in your heart and works its way out through worry and fear and disappointments. The kind where all families have left of their loved ones is a name on a memorial. And they lay tired hands on top of the letters and pause in the quiet to remember. For when you have so many words but not one thing to say, when you want to convince her everything will be fine even as you doubt it yourself, when you long for a soft bed and a bowl full of chocolate; for when the world has you backed into a corner, when you want nothing more than to be understood, when you wake in the morning overwhelmed with the weight of worry — take heart and know that you have a God who has overcome the world.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

Do you need an overcomer this Monday? Where are you looking for victory today?

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If you haven’t a copy of Grace for the Good Girl yet, head on over to Holley Gerth’s blog where she is giving some away!

on being stubborn

He asked me, What would be life-giving to you today? And it didn’t really matter what I said after that, because the question itself breathed life into me. But I answered anyway, and we packed up the kids and headed to the big park across town.

September smiled on us yesterday, getting brave against hot August with her breeze and her deep blue skies. I used to think nothing good happened in September, but then he chose September to propose all those many years ago and and now it is also the season where my words have finally been released. Enough good things have happened in September to help me change my mind about her.

There are other things happening, things that are invisible and difficult, things that are bringing us closer together even as we fall apart. When control drips through your hands like water, prayer becomes a lot less rote and a lot more desperate. I think that’s good.

When Jesus told the crowd that the work of God is to believe in the one he has sent, it seemed to be just the right words. But when you have to live it in the face of anxiety, fear, helplessness and lingering doubt, I want the work of God to be results. Activity. Answers. Action. Belief feels too small, too passive, too invisible, too impossible. And so we have to dig in our heels and hold fast to belief. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it’s counter-intuitive. Even when it all goes wrong. Stubborn isn’t always bad, you know. Sometimes it’s what saves our life.

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Scroll down to see if you are one of the winners of Grace for the Good Girl or a copy of Shaun Groves’ Third World Symphony.

for when things feel big

I saw it first, feathered out on the hot pavement of the parking lot. It was instinct to put my body between him and it. It never occurred to me that he, a four year old boy, may find a headless bird endlessly fascinating.

It takes a lot of work to keep my little world spinning. I want to keep them safe and happy and well. I want dots to connect and kids to feel secure and bows to be tied up. But sometimes the dots look more like squares, the kids feel insecure for no reason and you can’t even find any string, much less a bow.

When things feel big, I crave small.

And it makes me want to do something radical like pray without ceasing, like breathe in Jesus and breathe out belief. When I do that, I’m pulled into this moment, feet heavy upon only the ground where I stand. Not the hot pavement of tomorrow or the dry earth of yesterday. Just this day, this one. And nothing changes except everything. Because when I do this, God whispers into the depths of my invisible, I am the only big there is. I AM. Like magic tetris blocks, perspective drops into place. I have to choose smallness and when I do, I feel free.

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(Today I’m chatting it up about Grace for the Good Girl over at Karen Ehman’s place. Join us there?)

within us

Sometimes dinner is a microwaved chicken patty and love is a tent on a chair. And they get so much joy from those blanket forts in the corner that you hate to make them clean it up when the sun goes down. But they do and you know that tomorrow morning, they’ll get up and rebuild it better, even though tonight they cry and whine to keep it up forever.

I’ve been trying to zip up the world today, pulling the sides together with my knees and prying that tiny medal up, inch by maddening inch. I’ve made little progress. I’ve been sifting through my bag of faces, grasping for the ones labeled strong and responsible and organized. I can’t find even one. I’ve been hovering over my life from a helicopter, looking for fires to douse with right now! water.

Jesus didn’t hover over life from up high. He came down to gritty, sandy, soil earth to walk with us, among us, within us. And he offers himself as our water – the living kind – not to douse on our emergencies but to satisfy our souls in quietness and in strength.

And so if you wrote a book, and if you happened to get your first copy in the mail today, and if, as you held it in your hands, you felt yourself sucked back up into the helicopter, your eyes roaming about the landscape to find another fire to put out, another worry to tend to, another anxious heart to calm, remember Jesus. Remember that he pulls us gently back down into this day, this moment, this earth, this sand, these shoes. This day is the one he has made. And he has called it good.

for when you need an anchor

On Tuesday, I watched the sun set and on Wednesday morning, I saw it come back up again. It all runs together, the dark and the light and the rush and the steady. Life carries us along with the current and sometimes we lay back on our floats and drag limp hands through the cool, rush of water. But other times we flail and grasp for the banks digging our tiny fingers into dirt and rock, looking to hold onto something. Or Someone. May you see the hand that reaches strong into that current and may your tiny faith be the strength you need to reach up and grab hold, even as the water rushes out around you.

for when you feel behind

We live our lives in measurable minutes, looking to the clock, the paycheck, the success of others. I got the contract. I’m winning! She got 2 contracts. I lose. I got the good metabolism. I’m winning! I got bad skin. I lose. I have food, a home, my health: I win! I worry, I pout, I covet: I lose.

And the cycle circles frantic on the level of our soul. We only let it go on because we don’t realize it’s happening. It’s become normal, familiar, and automatic. For some, the motivation is to win. For others, it is simply not to lose. I know it’s simplified here, but isn’t it true? Perhaps the reason we feel behind is because we’re chasing the wrong goal.

Perfection. I have a job coming up this weekend, and I feel behind when it comes to mind. But I’m beginning to realize I’m not technically behind at all. It isn’t the type of job you can really work on beforehand. But the reason I feel behind is because I’m worried about the outcome. I’m worried I won’t do the job well, and so the worry fuels the frantic wheel. I’m trying to catch up to perfect.

Expectation. Even though I have read the books and the blog posts and listened to the conversations, I still feel shame when my house isn’t clean. I know I shouldn’t. I’ve gotten better. The voices don’t shout like they used to. But the whispers are there among the paper stacks and the dirty bathroom floor. Their taunting convinces me that I am behind and I need to catch up to clean.

Beauty. I chase beautiful on the treadmill three times a week. Sometimes more. Usually less. I’m not always thinking of it that way, there are days when I go for healthy reasons, soul-feeding reasons, right reasons. But when I feel behind, when the wheel is spinning anyway, there is one more thing to throw on it. I am behind and I long to catch up to beautiful.

We are tricked into believing that the only relief from feeling behind is to catch up. But this is war, and the enemy is an illusive and foggy expectation. How can you catch up to a vapor? How can you ever run next to perfect, look her in the eye, and pass her by? We can’t but we try, and in our rush to get there we drop all the things we hold dear in order to lighten the load. Art is the first to go. Then patience, faith, and peace are tossed into a heap on the grass beside the track. But instead of a lightness, heavy comes instead. The pavement turns to quicksand, our opponent all but disappears in front of us, the race feels a joke, and we bear the brunt of it.

Show me where it says you are supposed to do it all. Point to the truth words that say you are expected to catch up. I want to see. This disease needs a cure, and only a Healer can give it. The only Healer I know invites the weary and the heavy to come for rest.

Release every detail of the job to him, from the equipment to the schedule. Tell him, cry if you must, close your eyes and believe. Open those reluctant hands. Feel the wheel begin to slow beneath you. Consider true beauty. Dare yourself to let it be true for you. What if there is no behind? What if there is only right now, this moment? Would anything be different?

faithfulness by night | four

The gray, evening light spills down the back of my Goodwill chair. It has rained all day, Good Friday. The kids and I drove two hours slow from my parents house today. So many times we’ve made that trip. So many times we’ve come home safe again. The Man has been gone all week for work and when the phones rings, I see it’s him and he will be home soon, too. It’s easy to believe in the faithfulness of God on evenings like this, when the earth is green and wet out my window and the lights burn warm inside my house. My friend Heather comes to mind for the thousandth time tonight, a mama who today released her daughter Emma home to heaven.

There are no words to say, and I pray that in some miracle way, God will continue to weave his love and faithfulness into her story. And so this evening, with a keen awareness of invisible real and the mysterious movement from one life to the next, we know that the Lord has overcome the power of darkness, even in death. Remember his faithfulness by night.

 

love in the morning | four

Even though I’m a few days behind, I pick up Jesus Calling and smile when I see those first three words. They can be worn out and overused, tossed around cheap. But not here, not this. The God who whispered and out came the world, the God who breathed and out came life, this God has his eye on you. And he is well pleased. May you lean your weight heavy into the love of Jesus this morning. He has settled your past and he delights in leading you into the future. Lift up your head and see.

“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 8:38-39

Declare His love in the morning.

faithfulness by night | three

And in the evening, you look around and see home all over the place. The fruit bowl half-full on the quiet table, the bike left out in the yard, the quilt on your guest room bed, the mirror with you staring back. Your reflection hasn’t always felt like home, but it does today. And you know it’s because of a faithful God who knows stuff and loves people and holds all things together.

Remembering His faithfulness by night.

“He is my safe place and my tower of strength: he is my God, in whom is my hope.”
Psalm 91:2