grateful amazement

finding wonder…everywhere.

When ‘I Can’t’ = Brave

Life can be hard.

That’s no surprise, is it?

I’m sure you can make your own list, write your own book, about just how hard it is.
Maybe it’s your childhood pain nipping at your heels.
Maybe it’s your marriage that’s bringing you to your knees.
Maybe it’s your work that’s emptying your heart.
Maybe it’s parenting that’s draining your spirit.
Maybe it’s all of the above.
All at once.

And, if you’re like me, maybe you’ve been toughing it out…grinning and bearing it…keeping quiet so your voice doesn’t rock the boat…doesn’t make waves…doesn’t ripple into a tsunami that threatens to crash your shores…

But, friend, can I be honest with you?
Like Shoot-It-Straight, From-the-Hip Honest?

Toughing it out…grinning and bearing it…keeping quiet…
Those things can cripple you if you insist on living from that place for too long.
‘Being strong’ can weaken the resolve of the best of us.
‘Keeping it together’ can rip the most pulled-together of us apart.
‘Swallowing your voice’ can choke the life out the heartiest of us.

Believe me.
I know.
I know, because that’s how I’ve lived most of my life.
Being tough…being strong…keeping it together (even if I was only being held together with spit and feathers and duct tape at times)…

All the while, thinking it was totally and completely up to me to make things okay, to make things work out, to be responsible for every. little. bit. of. it.

Does that sound familiar?
If it does, if your heart does a little flip at the thought that you are not alone in those feelings, I want to give you a Good News Flash today…

It’s okay to admit that you’re spent.
It’s okay to acknowledge you’re tired.
It’s okay to say ‘I can’t.

Because…and here’s the secret of it…it’s when we reach the end of ourselves…when we allow the crumbling walls to tumble down…when we let the spit and feathers and duct tape dry up and blow away and fall off…it’s then that we find strength that comes from letting the One who knew we were bluffing anyway take the reins and give our exhausted hearts rest.

When we are brave enough to say ‘I can’t’ and add it to looking up we can count on being rebuilt in ways that bring us to places of peace, campfires of comfort, savannahs of serenity.

So, sweet, brave, gutsy, strong, tired friend…look up and say ‘I can’t.’
When you do, I promise the One who answers will say, ‘Don’t worry, love. I can.’

{I am lucky to be linking up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee again. There’s so much love and hope and Good News from them – and all who link up along with me – to help you look up when ‘I can’t’ falls from your lips…do click through. You’ll be glad you did!}

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Puzzle-Box Trust : My Story

Trust.

Trust.

{About a month ago, I was given the incredible privilege of telling an 8-minute version of My Story to a beautiful group of women gathered for an annual Spring breakfast. I pray that by sharing it here, you will see Him and the stroke of His pen not only in my story, but in yours. Because we all have a story.}

For as long as I can remember, I lived a fear-based life. Partly due to how I’m hard-wired and partly due to growing up in a chaotic environment. (Thankfully, neither of those factors were a surprise to God!) Living from a place of fear has been at the root of many choices I’ve made in my life and some of those choices have had not-so-good consequences.

I believe that tendency to be fear-filled led to several health challenges for me. From 1999-2010, I was diagnosed and treated for endometriosis, a wonky case of autoimmune hypothyroidism, appendicitis, knee problems requiring double knee surgery, achalasia (the loss of nerves that control movement in the esophagus) that required testing and surgery at Mayo Clinic, and two separate cancer scares that required surgeries, but were thankfully benign. During those years, and all those issues, I worked hard to handle them and figure them out in my own ‘power’ and ‘knowledge.’ And you know what? I had some success and found some great medical professionals and learned a lot of things. But, through it all, I remained fearful…I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In the spring of 2010 – almost exactly four years ago – God began to shake my world. In ways that, had I been able to see them coming, I know I would have run the other way! Things were not going well in my marriage, some long-term friendships that had been precious to me ended abruptly, and in July of that year, they found cancer in my left breast during a routine mammogram. Aggressive cancer. The kind the pathologist used the word ‘bizarre’ to describe. I didn’t even know that was a considered a medical term!

After the struggles in my marriage and the loss of friendships that marked the first half of that year, you’d think I would’ve crumbled when the mammogram tech said, ‘I shouldn’t be telling you this, but there was something there I don’t think they’re going to like. You’ll probably get a call from your nurse practitioner who’ll probably want you see a surgeon.’ But I didn’t crumble. I was ready for that news. Not because I had felt a lump. Not because I ‘had a hunch.’ Not because of anything I did, or said, or was. I was ready because, as I was folding my clothes in the changing room just before that mammogram, God whispered to my heart, ‘They are going to find something, but you are going to be okay.’ Instead of being freaked out, I can honestly say that, in that moment, I felt peace. I believe that God whispered those words to me because He knew my tendency to fear. I believe He whispered those words to my heart because He knew I would need something to hang on to over the next weeks, months, and years.

I also believe that God stripped away some things prior to that diagnosis because He wanted to prove HIS sufficiency to me. Things like any sense of control I had over my health, in my marriage, in those friendships. I’m able to see how I had let those things become more important to my heart than my relationship with Him. That habit of doing things on my own, my need for control, my turning to those friends before I turned to Him. He wanted me to TRUST Him – first and foremost.

In late 2012, I was introduced to the concept of choosing a Word of The Year (versus making a list of New Year’s Resolutions). After serious deliberation, the word TRUST won out as my Word of The Year for 2013. I was hoping for a glamorous, exciting, fun, flashy word because TRUST was a scary word to me (maybe it is for you, too?)…it seemed big and foundational to so many things in my life. And it felt like the opposite of fear…I was used to fear…I was not used to the idea of TRUSTing. One of the things the Bible says about TRUST is in Proverbs 3:5-6 – ‘TRUST in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ I found there are a many times TRUST is mentioned in Scripture. And, while I didn’t journal or write on my blog about it as much as I would’ve liked, I can say without a doubt that I have been forever changed by that one word.

For me, TRUSTing God means whenever I feel anxious or am tempted to ‘borrow trouble’, I need to remind myself that He is TRUST-worthy and that things are unfolding exactly the way He has planned – even when the things He’s UNFOLDING sometimes feel like a piece of folded paper that’s been through the washer and dryer…you know, stuck together, seriously creased…and the it’s true that the UNFOLDING isn’t always comfortable. That’s not always easy for my heart to accept. Practicing the DISCIPLINE OF REMEMBERING also helps me to TRUST. Something I’ve taken from the story of the Israelites and how they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness is that it seems to me their rebellion and disobedience were the result of them not REMEMBERING…they didn’t REMEMBER Who God was, they didn’t REMEMBER who they were to Him, they didn’t REMEMBER what He’d done for them, they didn’t REMEMBER all He’d promised them. I know for a fact that I’ve found myself wandering in forgetfulness at different times in my life; and it is a frightening, unsettled, lonely place to be. So I work to REMEMBER. When I look back at difficult things that have happened, and REMEMBER how God worked things out, it reinforces the fact that I can TRUST Him. When I REMEMBER to use the lens TRUST offers me, it’s possible to see grief and losses in ways that don’t defeat me. As my girls are now growing up and moving away – to South Dakota, or Virginia, or New Zealand, or wherever in the world they venture – when I TRUST God with their safety and well-being, REMEMBERING that they are all really His to begin with, I can TRUST that He is much more capable than I at taking care of them.

As a stay-at-home-mom these past 23 years, I’ve come to understand that the TRUST I am able to place in God and His care and provision and protection of me and my family leads my heart closer to a place of CONTENTMENT. For me, TRUST is foundational to CONTENTMENT. Our family has never been ‘rich’ in ‘things’…and sometimes that’s been hard for me – especially as the girls reached middle school and brand names and schmancy make-up and salon haircuts became The Thing!

I have learned, slowly and over time, that there really is no CONTENTMENT found in things…or even in people (both break, fall apart, go missing, let me down…and not because they are bad or mean or ‘out to get me’, but because that is the nature of all of us created things…we are weak, easily distracted, tend to be self-focused…) CONTENTMENT, in my opinion, is found in TRUSTing God and Who He is and that He knows your name and your needs and your heart.

My struggle with CONTENTMENT happens most when I let myself get anxious. Being anxious is a signal to me that my TRUST is not where it should be. And I probably haven’t been REMEMBERING well. Believing that I am unworthy of good things can sometimes mar any CONTENTMENT I might feel…then I have to TRUST what I know: when Jesus sacrificed His life for me, I became worthy because of His worthiness and I can rest and TRUST in that.

When they were younger, I told my girls that only God has the cover to the puzzle box – the part of the box with the picture on it of how the completed puzzle will look. We each get a few pieces at once – and most of the time we’re stymied by the how oddly-shaped they are, convinced that they’ll never fit together right. We can’t make sense of them. But they make sense to God…we make sense to God, you and I…and the cool thing is, we get to decide when we’re going to TRUST Him and discover the CONTENTMENT comes from that. I am grateful that I am changed by all that’s happened in my life – on the outside and also on the inside – and I’m beyond grateful that God is using all the different, strange-looking pieces of the events He’s allowed in my life to complete The Puzzle of Me. He’s got the cover of my puzzle box – and yours, too – and we can TRUST Him.

{Linking up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee again this week, friends. Sure hope you have time to click through to find hope and strength in all the beautiful stories shared in those special spaces.}

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Press In To The Cross

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset‘The cross is the end of us and the beginning of new life.’ ~ Kermit Culver

When the words won’t come because they’re hiding in the dark, so deep that the ‘Ollie Ollie Oxen Free’ can’t be heard, press in to the Cross.

The One Who hung there – for you, for me, for everyone, for Once, and for It All – hears the words balled into a fist in your stomach, the words stuck in your throat, the words your mouth cannot form, the words your soul doesn’t even dare to whisper.

He hears.
He knows.
He understands.

Press in to the Cross, friend.

And let it leave its mark.

{Another Wednesday. Another lovely batch of encouragement over at Holley Gerth’s and Jennifer Dukes Lee’s spaces.}

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A Note for the Left-Outs, the Scapegoats, the You-Don’t-Belongs

 

you are enough

Dear bright, precious, priceless you,

I don’t know what happened, who was broken, and how they lived those limping lives that caused you to receive the message found embedded in your heart: You’re not enough.

I don’t know who disregarded your tender soul, what they said, and when they first slung the mud they hoped would stick to you instead of them as they told your spirit: You don’t belong.

I don’t know how it looked, what lies the resounding blame echoed in your ears, and why they thought is was okay to tell you: It’s all your fault.

To be honest, there is so much I don’t even begin to understand about how these horrific, hurtful, heart-rending things were allowed to happen, to injure beloved ones like you.

So much I cannot fathom when I try to grasp the pain and anguish and sickness that manifested itself in identifying, calling out, and castigating the innocent…all in weak, futile attempts to transfer their pain, their hurt onto one who didn’t deserve it…one who bore no responsibility for it…one who should be the recipient of their care, concern, and compassion…not their disgust, disregard, disinterest.

But, here is what I do know…what I am trying to believe for myself…and for all you fellow Too-Much/Not-Enough-ers out there:

You are seen.
You are loved.
You are okay.
You are not alone.
You are supported.
You are strong
You are known.
You are heard.
You are worth fighting for.
You are not responsible for them, those hurt people who hurt people.
You are responsible for you, for your reactions, for finding and walking in your truth.
And you have what it takes.
You really do.

Even on days when it feels like keeping your head above the crashing waves requires more strength than you possess.
Because it’s not about your strength alone.
It’s really not about your strength at all.

It’s about the strength of the One who sees, loves, approves, stands beside, supports, strengthens, knows, hears, and fights for you.
Lean into that truth today, you amazing, irreplaceable miracle.
Lean as hard into it as you need to in order to find a stable place to put your feet.

There is One Who knows the pain, the losses, the grieving, the confusion…knows it intimately.
And in that intimate knowing, He knows how to save, restore, renew, and refresh you.

Ultimately.
Perfectly.

Remember that when the garbage they try to toss your way causes you to question your self, your worth, your value, even your sanity.
And then, do the work it takes to grab onto the Truth of who and Whose you are…not who they try to make you believe you are.

Find rest in the fact that you are truly, madly, unendingly, wildly loved and cherished and treasured by the One Who Knows.
Find peace in the fact that you are deeply, intimately, perfectly known and accepted and approved by the One Who Sees.

In His crazy-beautiful love,
A fellow recovering Not-Enough

{It’s Wednesday, so that means the awesome privilege of linking up at Holley Gerth’s amazing space and Jennifer Dukes Lee’s awesome spot…please click through for more and more and more of all the good.}

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Look Down

Gratitude is the heart’s memory. ~ French Proverb

…and some days the heart needs more than a little push to remember.

Especially on those days when words won’t come because that punched-in-the-gut feeling won’t go away.

Those days are hard days.

The ones when even the snippet of a song that always sings your soul also makes you cry…and cry…and cry.

Days that bleed into each other because something, someone, some errant arrow has made your heart feel like it’s bleeding out.

On those days, friend, be brave.

Look for something that your heart can remember.

I’d say ‘Look up’ – but on days that string together like so much tangled scrap and thread, wound tight and twisted, in seemingly endless confusion, almost cutting off your circulation, it’s okay to let yourself look down…

Look down if you can’t look up.

It’s okay. Really. I promise.

Looking down when you can’t look up is not cowardice…it’s courage.

Because courage keeps looking – up or down, it does not matter…
Courage keeps trying to remember…keeps hoping – even when that hope is worn and threadbare and about to fall apart.

Courage takes those scraps and threads of minutes and hours and days and weaves them, tangled, into something beautiful…

Something the heart can remember.

Color. Pattern. Texture. Hope.

Things you see even when you’re only able to look down…things you see because you keep looking.

And when you keep looking, you will find Grace.
And Grace is gratitude.

Even on those hard days.

Especially on those hard, hard days.

And then, as if by magic, the heart – your heart – remembers.

Tangled Beauty

Tangled Beauty

{Linking up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee again this week, friends. I know you’ll find reasons to keep courageously looking when you click through to their sites and find the Grace woven through their words and the words of the other writers who’ve linked up.}

Coffee for Your Heart 
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