Side Roads

As I left Virginia this afternoon, from the new year’s weekend spent with my love, I took a wrong turn. More accurately, I was on the phone with a friend (perhaps mildly distracted) when Google maps decided it would take me on the scenic route to the interstate- a three hour scenic route, to be exact. This “long cut” on January 1, 2018, provided me with lots of time to reflect on the day, and more importantly, to reflect on the events of the past year. Twenty seventeen has been a year full of challenges and surprises. I’d say most of us have experienced the same with this passing year. There have been instances which have pushed me to my limits, and others which have rained upon me like gentle blessings being sprinkled down by the Father Himself.

It has also proven to be a year of much reflection and questioning about God’s timing. Not doubting it, mind you, but just wondering WHY? I don’t think God minds when we question Him. I do believe He wants us to trust Him, but I feel certain He doesn’t mind us non-omniscient beings pondering the meaning to some of life’s questions. For example, I wonder why He allows certain things to come to us so easily, while other things seem so difficult? I wonder why He allows us to flop around in our own mistakes, and to waste so much time spinning our wheels outside the confines of the boundaries of His will for us? Why? Wouldn’t it just be easier for Him to give us the specific daily instructions we are to follow, and then we could cut out about 95% of the stress and chaos from the slings and arrows that can hit us from any direction and out of complete nowhere? Imagine a life without decision making. Every problem solved before it even happens. Knowing in advance the outcomes to each and every motion we take. Close your eyes for just a moment and imagine with me…what if every move we made was a perfectly-orchestrated step in the dance of each of our lives?

It was in my questioning that I felt I heard His quiet answer. It is in these uncertain challenges, these unforeseen circumstances, these SIDE ROADS, that we find our strength. It is when we are forced into making a decision- whether right or wrong- that we are made to stand in front of a cosmic mirror that reflects to us what we are truly made of. Better yet, WHO we are truly made of.

If you’re reading this right now, you’ve survived each and every challenge which has been put before you to this point. The same is true of me. Every hurt, every pain, every illness, every loss… we made it through, and we are still standing- hopefully stronger for it. God does allow us to have input in the choices we make daily. We may choose what we feel is right. Sometimes, we may choose what we hope is right. Other times, we may knowingly choose what we know to be wrong, or even choose to make no choice at all. Regardless, each choice has a specific and significant ripple effect through our lives. We generally have no idea in the moment how long that choice will ripple through our lives, but they do create a definite cause and effect relationship. There are choices I can pinpoint in my own life from many years back, which took mere seconds to make, that still ebb and flow through my life today. Not all of them bad. Not all of them good. But choices, nonetheless.

So, much like the side road I ventured down this cold, winter afternoon, I didn’t intentionally choose this route, but it still got me to my final destination. The truth is, in taking my side road I saw a lot of beauty I may not have otherwise had the chance to experience.

I’d like to encourage you today, on this day traditionally intentioned for resolution making and goal setting, to decide with me that this year instead of getting frustrated and disheartened by the side roads that life sets before us, instead of stepping back and away from what scares us; let’s meet these challenges with our heads held high, and with a renewed confidence in our Maker that He only has our best interests at heart. He can make beauty from ashes. He can meet us right here where we are, and will take each step moving forward with us. Then, even when we intentionally or unintentionally venture down a side road, we can rest in the assurance that we are never alone- not for one second of this marvelous journey through life.


Giving Thanks

I realized just tonight that I began blogging on this site on practically this exact day in 2009. Let me just say that WOW, the landscape of my life looks so different now than it did back then! I’m astounded at the changes and challenges that have occurred, but also at the overwhelming peace and perfection of the place I’ve found myself settled into today.

Who can predict from day to day where life is going to take them? How many of us can look back to even this time last year and see the absences and additions in our lives? Jobs, people, life… it ripples up and down like a slow-moving wave deep out in the middle of a vast ocean. We are all trying to navigate our ships out there, the ups and the downs, and to not allow a rough time to bring so much water into our ship that we drown. 

I’m thankful that I have a personal relationship with the Captain of my vessel. He is the One ultimately responsible for getting us to shore safely. Our job is to listen and follow His instruction. How comforting it is to know that I, in my limited wisdom of handing the ship, am not the one in charge. I have definite responsibilities during the voyage, but He is the guiding force. 

My thankfulness this season begins here… right here.  It is from this point that all other blessings and lessons are determined. 

My wish for each of you reading this is that you have a wonderful day of celebration with people you love. Take a quiet moment to hug everyone a little tighter knowing that this landscape may not look exactly the same next year. We are given these precious moments. They must not be minimized, or taken for granted.  I wish each of you a personal relationship with your Captain. It is through Him that you will have more to give thanks for than you ever imagined possible.

Abundant blessings to you all! Happy voyage!

Mother Still

Mother Still.

Running Ahead (stop watching the clock)

My 9:30 a.m. meeting today served as an unfortunate reminder of my seemingly-neverending divorce. Let’s just say that I didn’t hear everything I had hoped. Details are unnecessary other than pointing out the obvious- a year is a mighty long time to wait not to have even had a moment of face time with a judge. Okay, we roll on…

I left that office discouraged beyond belief. I’ve been tough, trying to keep holding my head up. It gets challenging when it seems each turn is met with an entirely new maze of questions and complications. My diet is usually rather poor on the days of such meetings because my stomach is in knots. I met today’s challenge with a grand total of 1 banana and 2 Diet Cokes in my system. Not much of a help, I know.

Always in the midst of my sadness it is comforting to me to know that I have strong, Christian, supportive friends and family I can turn to for advice and words of wisdom. The moment I sat in my car the emotional support chain of command began. What I love most about the people in my life is that instead of them hearing the news I shared and all of us lying around in a puddle of crying and whining and feeling sorry about our situation(s) and lamenting about the woes of life and how unfair life can be, they are all such encouragers and problem solvers. One of my sweetest friends (who secretly kinda hacks me off because he completely messes up my theory that all men are pigs- lol!) begins telling me that I need to immerse myself in the Word and listen to God, that He will tell me what I need to hear. I was encouraged to read Psalm 37. Which I did. It was perfection. Encouragement from my Heavenly Father and a reminder that He’s still here with me. Two of my girlfriends who have been with me through this entire portion of the ride allowed me to vent my frustration and immediately said, “So what’s the next step?” Mom and Jess did the same. During times I feel like crawling up into a bed and throwing a huge blanket over me and never coming out I’m so appreciative that I have people in my life who won’t allow me to do that. Well, they may allow it if I fussed long enough, but I can assure you it would be a short-lived pity party.

I have children home from school today and also ended up watching my two sweet nieces. There I was in my living room- empty belly in knots, two kids complaining about who is on the wii and who should get to watch a movie, Bible pulled out onto my lap turned to Psalm and I’m reading. I’m praying- out loud- claiming all the promises God has shared through His Word. He has plans for my future-

Jeremiah 29:11

New International Version (NIV)

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I started to feel better. Sometimes when we read Scripture it’s a reminder to us of truths we already know. I don’t have all my answers yet, but at least I have my starting point. I’d cleared my head somewhat and the heaviness in my chest was beginning to lift. My spirit and my mind were being massaged and now I wanted to do more. I needed to get out to the track. I’m in week number five of a 9-week program to help prepare non-runners for a 5K. The first five weeks have been hard, but not impossible. There have been times I’ve hurt and wanted to stop, but I’ve not let myself.

I tell my oldest niece that I’ll be at the track for 35 minutes. She knows to call me if anything is needed and I head out. It’s a little chilly here today, but at least it’s not raining. I’m happy to get out there. I have only exercised one day this week- as opposed to my required three- due to snow, rain, or sick children. This session with the track was long overdue. In week five of the program you begin running in 5-minute intervals. From the offset five minutes of running doesn’t sound like much. If you’re not a runner by nature I’d encourage you to try it. The first day I did it (after four weeks of building up to it, mind you) I literally stopped twice on the track fearing that I was about to get sick. I fought through it though and within the next two days the five minutes of running became less daunting. So, I plug in my headphones, turn on my ipod, start my C25K program app on my phone and take off for the warm up portion of the session. I enjoyed those minutes of walking and listening to some good music. I felt myself relaxing as I got more into the groove of things.

Then the unthinkable happened- when my app switched over to the first session of running it instructed me that I would be starting with an 8-minute run. HUH?! Eight minutes is almost TWICE what I had just taken three days to build up to without vomiting. Surely today of all days this stupid computer app could understand that my world is legally, mentally and emotionally in a tailspin and should take it easy on me. I mean right? My initial thought was that I’d just shut the program off and walk for as long as I felt like it. I wasn’t sure my body or mind would even allow me to consider pushing myself. Then an unexplainable wave of peace fell over me. Of course this is possible. I found one of my favorite songs on the ipod and I went to it. Only this time I made a few adjustments. I focused solely on my breathing and my foot falls. I counted slowly in my head the one-two-three-four rhythm of the music playing against the sounds of my feet on the pavement. I changed something else- something vitally important- I stopped watching the clock. Instead of watching each second countdown as I had during my 5-minute run session earlier in the week I turned my attention to the task at hand and stopped worrying about the time. I’m still breathing and I’m putting one foot down…then the other. Before I even realized it my eight minutes was over and I was still standing! Shocking. Not only was I able to conquer the eight minutes once today but twice. That silly 5K program suddenly became a mirror-image of the rest of my life and there was nothing that was going to prevent me from finishing.

Interesting that I have been told on a few occasions recently that perhaps it would be beneficial to me to stop trying to foresee and map out the entire rest of my future when what I need to be focusing on is the task at hand. Stop focusing on the time. Stop watching the clock. Maybe it’s true that when we look to far ahead we lose sight of all of the important structural and foundational areas we need to be grooming today for the success of our future tomorrow. I know the Lord expects a lot from me especially when I’m expecting a lot from Him. I’m committed to delighting myself in Him- finding my way back into His Word and staying there- because I want Him to give me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4). Today that desire is simply peace. I know it’s an attainable goal.


A Birthday Wish

With each new year comes a chance for new hope.  Some people fear the progression in age, but my wish is that you can see the beauty of the journey.  Each marker in our life represents 365 days of change, of promise, of regret, of laughter, of chaos, of memories, of humility, and of humbleness.  What we do with our year is inevitably (and sometimes fearfully) up to us.  Let this birthday be the beginning of a renewed life for you.  Live your days to the fullest.  Walk with your head held as high as it can reach.  Don’t allow the past to be a tool which pulls you further into despair, but instead allow it to be the compass from which you direct your life in moving forward. 

There is mighty power in promise.  This morning, this day is as full of promise as you allow it to be.  Don’t set limitations on your goals and desires.  Don’t fear the uncertain and the unknown.  You serve a God Who knows the plans He has made for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Take comfort in that knowledge.  Whatever those plans may be, you are not alone.

My wish is that this birthday is your best yet.  Enjoy your day.  May you be showered with all of the peace, love, and happiness that you deserve… that you need… that you want.  I am beyond thankful for you, my friend.  I am blessed and privileged that you are on this planet another year.  Happy birthday.

When Hope Is Fading

Last Christmas my mother gave me a ring.  It is a simple, sterling silver band with one word etched into it… “HOPE”.  Since the day I received the ring it has become one of my most prized possessions.

“Hope” is a word which has developed great significance to me in the last year.  Hebrews 11:1 says,  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Faith and hope are two words which have become intertwined for me.  I personally believe that in order to have one you must have the other.  I can have hope that I’ll win the lottery, but without faith it is meaningless.  Hope and faith must go hand in hand in order to achieve hope’s full potential.

When my mother presented me with my ring she quietly whispered, “Wear it for dad.”  I do.  I will never take it off.  I refuse to have faith in anything less.  This ring has developed new significance for me, though.  Hope is something I am clinging to for all aspects of my life.  I hope for a number of things in my life at this time.  Some easy to talk about.  Some not so much.  I do know beyond a doubt that I am on this planet serving a God Who is in the business of all things hopeful.  Without hope what do we have?

I have a dear friend Kelli who likes to remind me that “hope floats”.  I’ve told her that MY hope not only floats, but also does back flips and belly flops.  When things in life seem too much to bear my hope goes into overdrive.  If I serve a God Who can do anything why would I expect anything less?  I don’t.  Sure, having hope can be a risky thing.  You can be disappointed.  As Christians we are not guaranteed the fulfillment of each and everything for which we hope, but in everything that I read in Scripture it surely does tell you how to get there.  “Study to show thyself approved….”  “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much…”  There comes a great responsibility with having hope.  You must be diligently working toward becoming the person God intends you to be in order to reap the reward of your hope.  I want to be that person.

I spent the afternoon with my girlfriends today.  We, and our gaggle of children, spent the day swimming at a friend’s pool.  As I was laying out and listening to all of the laughter in the background, I began to stare at my ring.  I spun it around on my finger several times (as I often do as a little reminder) and noticed something.  The dark markings in my word “hope” have begun to fade, just a bit.  The tiniest portion of my “H” is beginning to vanish.  It was in this moment that I felt a tiny tinge of sadness.  I don’t want this ring to change.  I don’t want my hope to disappear.  Just then things took on a very literal meaning for me.  There is nothing that is going to lessen my hope.  No amount of enviroment or chlorine or wear and tear is going to diminish for one second the hope that I have inside of me.  Life is hard.  We were never promised that it wouldn’t be.  We have to cling to that which we know is permanent.  For me that is the strength and the promise that I have received from my Lord.  Am I always going to get the answers that I want?… not necessarily.  However, I firmly stand on the knowledge that if what I want is in direct proportion to the will of the Lord for my life then it shall be done.

There is amazing comfort in that thought.


*** I originally sat at my computer today with the intentions of writing a completely different blog with a completely different title.  I put my title,  “I Am Mother, Hear Me Roar!” at the top of my screen and then proceeded to type.  After I typed for a few minutes I stopped to read what I had so far and realized that my words had NOTHING to do with my title.  This was not the message I intended to share today, but I think God must have wanted me to go in another direction.  Fairly typical of my relationship with Him.  I’ve learned it’s always best to let Him take the lead…. so, in obedience…. here goes….***

Today in church our pastor gave a very interesting sermon.  He discussed with us that as Christians we do not all necessarily view God in the same way.  He explained that there are some Christians who feel that when they are in the midst of a struggle (of whatever nature) all they have to do is sit back and let God handle it. 

I realize upon first glance you may think to yourself, “Sure, I feel that way too.”  However, the point of the sermon was that although God IS in control of all of our circumstances, He expects us to have a participatory role in our lives.  Say, for example, you cut your finger rather deeply and it begins to bleed.  Are you going to simply say, “Oh, I’m not worried.  God will take care of it.” and then just stand there and continue to bleed all over your linoleum floor?  Or are you more likely to go to the medicine cabinet and pull out the Band-Aids?  We all have choices we have to make and actions which must be followed through.  We should not feel that we have been given the luxury of simply sitting still and letting our lives fall into place around us.  Christ did His work for us on the cross.  That was His calling, His “action” role fulfilled in completion.  It is up to us as Christians to live our lives in every sense of the word, not as passive players but as active participants.

When I was going through my difficult time last year (whole ‘nother blog, whole ‘nother time) I  was inundated with advice from well-meaning friends and family.  “Let go and let God” was the jist of much of my counsel.  I agree with this plan in theory.  I do think we are supposed to let God lead us and give us direction.  However, we have to be actively listening to be sure that we hear His message loud and clear, and then we must have the strength and determination to follow through with it. 

I remember waking up some mornings last fall and feeling like my head would literally explode with all the impending decisions which seemed to be bombarding me from every direction.  Difficult decisions in the sense that whatever choices I made would be life-altering for both me and my children.  Maybe a better word would be “excruciating”.  There were painful choices set before me and essentially I was being forced to decide which would do the least amount of damage.  It almost hurts my stomach to think about it still to this day.  I remember immersing myself in the Song of Psalm.  Just as David had I would cry out to God, “Where are you in all of this darkness?  I know I’ve made mistakes, but surely I don’t deserve THIS.” 

I wondered how I would know what it was that God wanted me to do.  Yeah, yeah, yeah- I know God is in control and I know He already knows what choices I’ll make, but I don’t.  How can I be certain beyond a doubt?  I mean, I knew what my heart felt, and I knew what my mind thought, and I knew what my friends and family believed, but how would I know it was coming from HIM?  I jokingly told my girlfriend Kelli that I would be so relieved if I could just wake up one day and see on my living room wall in God’s handwriting the detailed instructions for the rest of my life.  Whew!  Imagine knowing the perfect plan for you from A to Z.  Sure it would take some of the mystery out of life, but think of all the heartache and trauma you could avoid….but realistically friends, isn’t that the whole point?  We are put on this planet, in one perfectly ordained time and place, and our journey begins.  I believe our lives become exactly what we allow God through us to do with them.  That can be a wonderful thing or it can be detrimental.  If you chose to play a passive role in your life, perhaps making decisions on a whim and not really tuning in to the voice of our Father, you will most likely find yourself in a world of confusion.  Lost in a dark and lonely place.  However, if we make a conscious decision to actively live this life of ours and listen for instruction, submerging ourselves in His Word to help us better distinguish what is true from what is not- I believe THIS is the only way we will genuinely know His plan for our lives.

Some of you may be wondering what happened with me and all of the heart-wrenching decisions set before me.  Well, I promise to blog on this in more detail one day.  I have to be sure the time is right because I want the words to be from Him.  But today I can tell you this- in spite of being human, making some bad choices in life, and finding myself in an almost unbearable place… He delivered me from that darkness.  It was not an easy road, but I listened to Him.  Throughout my study in His Word, my prayer time, and the counsel of Godly friends- I heard His voice coming through loud and clear.  It was unmistakable.  I have more peace in my life at this moment than I have known in 30 years of Christianity. 

When your situation seems bleak and your mind races wondering in which direction you should turn, I would encourage you to do one thing- commit to living your life with purpose.  Don’t sit idly by and let life “happen” to you.  Do any and everything you can to ensure that your life is aligned with God’s plan for you.  If you’ve got garbage in your life- get rid of it.  If you have habits that need to be broken- break them.  If you are surrounding yourself with bad/negative influences- stop it.  Our journey is too short for us to act as though this is just practice for us.  This is the real thing, baby.  Make it count.

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