grateful amazement

finding wonder…everywhere.

Living IN Hope

Lately, lots of things in my life have begun coming apart at the seams.

Some days, it’s seemed that there have been attacks on all fronts
…and I even texted these words to the Mister the other day: ‘I can’t even think about about hope. I have none…and I don’t have any fight left.’

And then I was gently reminded by a new friend that sometimes our most powerful testimony is when we bravely let it be known that we don’t have it All Figured Out.
That it’s okay to be honest about our struggles.
‘Because,’ she wisely said, ‘don’t we all struggle?’
When we are willing to dialogue about it, to show how we’re simply clinging to God’s promises in spite of our doubts, maybe we give others permission to speak, to admit, to do the same.

We can bravely practice living IN hope.

For me, living IN hope is a very different thing than living WITH hope.
Not that I think one is better than the other…or that one is right and one is wrong…I think there is a place for both IN and WITH.
I just think they are very different words.

Jesus’ words recorded in The Message version of John 15:4 say ‘Live IN me. Make your home IN me just as I do IN you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.’ [emphasis mine]

IN, to me, is different than WITH because IN is more INtimate.
It’s the difference between living IN relationship with someone versus living WITH them.
The difference between living as a family and living as roommates.

When I say I want to learn to live IN hope, I mean that I want to be intimate with it.
To be in close relationship with it.
To spend time getting to know it.
To live like someone who INhabits it.

And, IN all of that, there has to be a realistic approach to it.
Because, when we are IN relationship with someone – or someTHING like Hope – things are not always going to go smoothly.
Things about it may be hard to understand or grasp at times.
Things might not always feel so hope-full.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not living IN hope.
It might actually mean the opposite…because when we are living IN hope, we are grappling with Big Stuff.
I believe God uses that grappling, that wrestling, that stretching to produce in us strength to live IN the hope to which He’s called us.

In our grappling, we often wonder, ‘Where is there room for my grief? What do I do with my raging fears? How do I face what is unknown?’

We’ve likely all entertained these important questions…whether or not we’ve felt ‘allowed’ to acknowledge or express them.
They demand answers on some level.
It seems to me that when we allow ourselves to release the responsibility of being uber-positive and grant ourselves permission to feel ALL of our feelings – even the ones that don’t look or feel particularly hope-like – we are honoring the process God is using to refine and strengthen our faith, which in turn leads to living IN hope.

The purposes of the sufferings we each have faced are alluded to in Romans 5:3-5 when Paul assures us with these words: ‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’

I said to the Mister recently that I think hope can still be hope even if it has tears in its eyes.

John Piper exhorts, in his 2013 message Do Not Lose Heart, to ‘… take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.’’ That speaks so strongly to me of what it means, what it looks like, to live IN hope. Actually, in all that he says in this message, I never once hear him say that we should slap a smiley face on ANY of the hard things we find ourselves facing – whether that’s cancer or slander or death or some other thing that qualifies as an affliction – but that we ought to face them and sift them through the Truth found in God’s word…for it is then that we find them meaningFUL instead of meaningLESS.

Living IN hope looks like preaching to ourselves what we know is true even when our heart doesn’t always seem to get the memo right away.
Our hope will sometimes have tears in its eyes.
And, that’s okay.
As long as we’re committed to living IN hope, the One who collects our tears and records each one in His book knows how hard holding hope can be sometimes.

Being honest with ourselves and with our God and with those who love us is one of the most hope-full things we can do.
And, sometimes, that means giving voice – giving room – to the darker emotions we have.

I have found that a side benefit of being honest about my feelings is that it gives others permission to express their own pain, fear, worry, grieving, and even anger in a way that’s vulnerable and transparent and, ultimately, helpful.

CS Lewis’ quote has come to mean so much to me in my journey – and it speaks to this sharing of ALL of our feelings: ‘Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”’

When we live IN hope, there is a freedom that comes with it.
A freedom that makes the risk of sharing openly feel less fraught with danger.
We find ourselves saying, ‘What! You too?’
And what a gift. What a beautiful gift that is.

Living IN hope also looks like recognizing that God makes all things beautiful.
According to His definition, His timing, His plan.

When we live IN hope, we can help ourselves, and each other, to reframe our circumstances – no matter how confusing or painful or shattering they may be – and ask God for the eyes to see them as raw material for Him to take them and make something beautiful. This song really helps me get this message past my head and into my heart on days when all I feel like is a pile of dust that will surely be scattered by the next breeze that happens to blow:

Looking for, or even creating, beauty is a way for us to live IN hope.
And there are so many, many places and ways we can find it.
It’s like God knew that we’d need these reminders…reminders of His promises to redeem the lost, the broken, the taken, the busted, the battered, the bruised, the damaged, the diseased.
It is, however, our job to look for them.
It is even our job to help each other find them.
And what is beautiful to each of us may look different…in fact, I’m sure what speaks hope to each of is as unique as we are.
You know what? There is even beauty in that…in our differences.
Personally, I’m so grateful for things like music, books, nature, friends, prayer, celebrations, tears, art, even good food, movies, and good theater popcorn.
The beauty – and delight – in all of those things helps me to remember to practice living IN hope.

And, friends, it is a practice.
We’re not going to get it right every day in every situation.
I love what author Lysa TerKeurst says about a grace-filled way to view our sometimes stumbling way forward…she calls it imperfect progress.
Isn’t that freeing?
To view our bumbling, sometimes two-steps-forward-one-step-back limping along as progress? As imperfect as it is?

Living IN hope.
There is grace there.
There is honesty there.
There is peace there.
Because when we’re living IN hope, we’re really living IN Christ.
And, in Him, there is no fear, no lack, no condemnation.

{Linking up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee today, IN hope that you’ll click through and find the beauty and grace you need today.}

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Don’t Hold Your Breath

Sweet friend,

You with the tight shoulders…
You with the clenched jaw…
You with the fitful, too-short sleep…
You with the pit in your stomach…
You with the shallow breathing…

I can see your stress.
I can feel your worry.
I can understand your fear.
I can relate to your feeling hopeless.
I can imagine your overwhelm.

But…

…please relax.
…please release.
…please rest.
…please reframe.
…please respire.

Please don’t hold your breath.

I want to help you reclaim that phrase.
For too long it has meant the same as ‘Don’t get your hopes up.’

I want you to hear it instead as permission to fully live in the moment
…whatever the moment looks like.
I want you to hear it instead as permission to have hope, to dream, to embrace it all
…whatever all looks like.

Breath, my friend, is life.
So, breathing…fully, deeply breathing…is living.

And I want you to live.

God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!” ~Ezekiel 37:5,6 (The Message)

{Breathing deep with gratitude to be linking up with Holley Gerth today. Head on over to her site for more sweet encouragement.}

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To Not Be Wooden Fruit

Driving east on Main Street earlier this spring, I spotted a gorgeous bowl of wooden fruit in the grimy window of a thrift store.

I was rushing to make it to an appointment on time, so I wasn’t able to swing into the one open parking spot and bop in to take a closer look. But I made a deal with my thrift-store-lovin’ heart – if that bowl of fruit was still perched in the window the next time I passed, it’d be a sign…like the fruit itself was saying, ‘I’m supposed to be yours. Come and get me.’

In the bustle of the next few days, thoughts of running back downtown to see if ‘my’ fruit was waiting for me were all but forgotten. And, quite honestly, I don’t remember what made me think of that I had made that deal with myself…I just know that, when I found myself on the inside of that thrift store about a week later, looking out the dingy windows, it was with wooden fruit (and it’s matching bowl) in hand.

It was still there.
So it was meant to be, that fruit and me.

It lives now in the center of my bar-height dining room table, resting there in it’s softly burnished, time-worn glory.

There is a bunch of grapes, a banana, a small-ish pineapple, a pear, three apples, and something that looks a bit like a pomegranate. It looks beautiful, artfully nestled in its apostrophe-shaped bowl.

Beautiful…
…and completely lacking in nutritive value.

When that thought first came to me, it stopped me short.

I pray that no one will ever say that when they look at my life.

Even though that wooden fruit can’t be bruised…and I so easily can.
Even though that wooden fruit always looks good…and I so frequently don’t.
Even though that wooden fruit has its own special place…and I so often feel scattered.

My heart’s cry is that the things I choose to say, the words I plunk out on this keyboard, the art I attempt to make, the way I strive to love, the grace I so deeply try to walk in, the friendship I venture to offer feel soul-nourishing to all whose lives intersect with mine at any given time.

I pray that those I engage – in whatever way – will see that I am nestled into Someone everlasting.
That I do my best to abide in the One who handcrafted me for Right Here, Right Now.

I have a feeling that’s your prayer, too, friend.
To nestle in.
To abide.
To offer something real.
To not be wooden fruit.

Heavenly Father,
We praise You and thank You for the invitation to abide in you. We are so humbled to realize that You have uniquely handcrafted each one of us and that Your plans for us are good. Please, Lord, let everyone we meet today be able to see You in what we say and do. We ask that You keep us from being wooden fruit. Help us to be brave even when we might be bruised, look a mess, or feel completely scattered. Help us to offer to others the something real You so graciously offer each of us. It is in Jesus’ name we pray…Amen.

{Wednesdays are such sweet days here! It’s the day of the week I get to link up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee. It’s also the day you get to read more juicy, hope-filled, encouragement-rich words offered up by the other precious bloggers you’ll find when you click through! Enjoy!}

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Be Gentle

In the last seven days, my calendar was filled with things that would feel heavy and hard, when faced one at a time, edges laced with potential discord and disappointment, crumpled with unrecognized fear and worry, seared with the heat of strain and pain.

I don’t know how (or why) they were all dumped into what felt like one long stretch of One-Thing-After-Anothers.

I know I sure wouldn’t have chosen it to be the way it was.
But I don’t remember being consulted about the timing.

I could go into intricate, colorful detail of each item I tried to casually check off with the pencil that lives next to the planner on my desk as the days bled together, but the particulars are not the point. The fact is, it’s likely that your calendar has looked the same. Maybe not last week, but the week before. Or sometime last month. Or maybe it was last year.

And, after you survived it – that onslaught of difficult appointments to keep, difficult relationships to balance, difficult situations to navigate – you came up dazed and worn and more than a little weary, didn’t you?

You realized you were holding your breath only when your head started feeling light.
You became aware you were clenching your jaw only when your teeth started to hurt.
You knew you were tensing your neck and shoulders only when your muscles started cramping.

I know.
Because that was me.
All day today.

At first, I was confused…
Why the heck was I feeling so raw? So spent?
After all, I had made it through those perilous days.
Shouldn’t I be swept up in a sweet flood of relief and gratitude?
What was my problem?!

Before I got so far down the Road Of Self-Loathing that there was no turning back, I heard sweet comfort in the words of a friend.
Sweet comfort that turned me around and pointed me in the direction my spent soul and hurting heart needed to go.
Words that acted like a precious healing balm and turned me toward Hope.

‘Be gentle with yourself.’

Friend, when you find yourself dazed and confused after surviving something – or some things – difficult, remember those words given to me that I now give to you…

‘Be gentle with yourself.’

{One way you could be gentle with yourself today is to click through to Holley Gerth’s and Jennifer Dukes Lee’s places…reading their words, and the words of the brilliant writers who link up, will bless your weary heart. I’m sure of it.}

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Look Kindly

I go to yoga class Monday and Wednesday mornings.
I go to improve my overall well-being, beginning with my deep need for some kind of effective stress management.
I go, fully aware that I’ll never be pretzel-y enough to master some of the poses.
And, if I’m honest, sometimes I go even when it’s the last thing I want to do.

It’s always a pretty full class and the instructor is a big draw for each of us in attendance.
Her voice is kind, patient, gentle, and encouraging.
The lights are soft.
The music is soothing.
There are mats of various thickness to accommodate various needs and preferences.
There are bands and blocks and balls and straps for the sessions when those props are necessary.
And, there are…
Mirrors.
Lots and lots of mirrors.
Walls of them, actually.

I’m going to be frank.
Mirrors and I have not historically been friends.
I’m one of Those Girls who does her hair and makeup in the morning and then does her best to avoid any and all mirrors the rest of the day.

You can probably imagine, then, how I feel about ‘my spot’ at yoga ending up being the one closest to the wall of mirrors.
(Yes, in case you are wondering, it turns out there are ‘spots’ at yoga class just like there are ‘spots’ at church, school, workplace lunch areas, etc…occupy in a ‘spot’ that’s not ‘yours’ and you upset the Whole Order of the Universe. Laugh if you will, but, admit it, you know exactly what I’m talking about it.)

Being face-to-face with myself while holding poses that look so strong – and easy – in yoga magazines, dvds, and posters has proven harder for me than some of the actual poses themselves.

On good days, when I look at yours truly doing my best to balance in Tree, I see my strong legs, my square shoulders, my natural-hair-color hair, my bright eyes, my full lips and I think, ‘There you are, you Capable, Brave Girl. I see you. And I’m proud of you.’

On fair-to-middlin’ days, as my reflection and I are head-on in Airplane, I see my not-so-dainty-height and I think, ‘Huh. Okay. So you are REALLY TALL. Look how much taller you are than everyone else. But, remember, you’ve always said you like being tall.’

On rough days, though, when I look over my extended right arm while holding Warrior Two, I see my larger-than-I-want-it-to-be rear end and notice I look much thicker from the side than I thought, and I think, ‘Holy cow. Literally. You look like a cow. A very large one. How can the people who say they love you let you leave the house when you look like THIS?’

Harsh, right?
And maybe not totally uncommon?
To have tapes like that playing in one’s head?
Do you hear similar things bouncing around your head sometimes when faced the full-length version of yourself, too?

Take heart, friend.
I’m here to tell you that, as the number of times I’ve rolled out the mat in my spot at yoga has increased, the number of rough days has almost magically decreased.

I do not pretend to know how it happened.
I cannot pinpoint when the tide – and tone of the tapes in my head – turned.
I can only report that, after some time and some exposure to those mirrored walls, I have begun to look kindly.

To see myself with softer eyes.
To notice that offering myself truth and grace brings a gentleness to the set of my jaw that is…dare I say it?…actually attractive.
To whisper more Atta Girls than You Look Horribles to my heart.

This is all no small thing for one who was raised to believe that your appearance is the full measure of your worth…and that, no matter how hard you try, how thin you get, how well you wear your clothes and put on your makeup, it’ll never be Good Enough…you’ll never be Good Enough.

So, beloved, if you have tapes that play whenever you catch a glimpse of your beautiful reflection that try to convince you you’re anything less than a stunning, breath-taking miracle…practice looking kindly.

See yourself with softer eyes.
Offer yourself truth and grace.
Whisper lots and lots of Atta Girls to that tender heart of yours.

And be patient.
Because you’ll have to look OFTEN.
You may not be used to that.
You may be stomach-ache-uncomfortable at the very thought of it.

I’ve come to understand that learning to look kindly at yourself takes time.
I can say without question that it’s time well-spent.
And you’re worth it.

{I say it every week, and that’s because it’s true – I am SO blessed to be able to link up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee. If you haven’t taken the time to click thru these links, do it today. You’ll be so happy you did!}

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Dropping Shoes

 

Dropping Shoes

In my house, even with only one teenage girl still living at home, the act of someone dropping shoes wherever they land is a Very Real Thing. There are haphazard piles of shoes near the front door, the back door, as well as hastily-removed pairs near the kitchen island, dining room table, and on the bottom landing of the stairs. I think there’s even a pair in the backseat of my vehicle. I wonder if she even has any shoes that have actually made it into her room where they belong…?

Imagine, if you will, the Random Shoe Display that our home was when all four girls were living here! I have often ‘joked’ – with those Imma-Lose-My-Mind crazy eyes and that Pick-Those-Things-Up-Or-Someone’s-Gonna-Get-Hurt tone in my voice – that for years and years and years, our humble abode looked like a toy store that blew up next to a laundromat that blew up next to a library that blew up next to a shoe factory.

But, I digress…

All of these shoes spread over all these places has me thinking today.

My girls were (and still are) able to drop their shoes without fear or concern because they knew they would still be okay, they would still be loved…and they would still have a pair super-handy for whatever came up.

So, dropping shoes – wherever they landed – was not a big deal to them.*

One of the coping mechanisms that I took up early in life (and that I have carried with me all these years) was the thought that I could somehow ‘protect’ myself by adopting the stance of someone who was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Always mentally preparing myself for the worst case scenario. You know about that stance, don’t you? When things were going well, no chaos was running rampant, no storm clouds of turmoil were churning on the horizon, I found myself holding my breath…waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the bad thing to happen. For the worry to be fulfilled.

Sometimes, I’ve turned quite blue in the face, not breathing, waiting for the *thud*…all the while, trying to convince myself that I was being pragmatic, realistic, responsible even. Being prepared, and all, to paraphrase the scouting motto.

Well, today, I heard the *click* of a truth fall into place instead of the dropped-shoe *thud* my heart has learned to expect as I realized that what I was calling ‘pragmatic’ was really living in fear of hoping. (If only I had a dime – okay, maybe a quarter – for every time I’ve heard, and even said, ‘Don’t get your hopes up.’)

Today, friend, if you’ve found your own sweet self doing that breath-holding and head-tilting, leaning-in thing in order to hear the *thud* better, sooner, more clearly, I want you to think about this…

Maybe the other shoe will drop.
And, if it does, maybe all that means is it’s okay to go barefoot for a while.

*Note for Clarification: In all of this reframing of dropping shoes, I do want to state for the record that my desire for uncluttered entryways and stairwells remains intact. (Just in case any of my precious girls happen to read this someday. *smile)

{Getting the chance to link up with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Dukes Lee again today. I feel so blessed by both of those ladies and by all the sweet blogs I’ve gotten to visit via their link-ups. Go ahead and click through so you can see for yourself what I mean.}

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When The Week Gets Away From You

Peace...one step at a time.Since January, I have been disciplined and faithful in my participation in Holley Gerth’s Coffee for Your Heart link-up on Wednesdays – and a while back, I mustered up even more courage and began participating in Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory on Wednesdays, too.

Well, this week got away from me.

I’m not exactly sure how – and I’m not exactly sure the How is even relevant right now…though it may warrant some investigation later to make sure I’ve not allowed The Urgent to crowd out The Important. (Honestly, it probably won’t take much investigation. I have a feeling I already know the answer…but that’s an exploration for another day.)

As the days of this week have slipped by, a little too full and a little too quickly, I decided to give myself permission to be late in posting my weekly Wednesday post — making it more of a Friday post this time, I guess. Right? *wink

Along with giving myself that permission, there are two other things that have helped me let go of the pressure (and potential shame/self-loathing) of being late this week. Things I believe each of us can benefit from when Life Gets Crazy. When the week threatens to get away from us.

#1 – When Overwhelm overwhelms, take a big deep breath, find a calming thought, and remind yourself that, no matter how many things are on your To Do List, there is wisdom and gentleness in doing one thing at a time. Just do the next thing. When we take that gigantic List and break it into One Thing At A Time, we’re eating that proverbial elephant the only way possible, without making ourselves sick. One bite, one thing, at a time. There is a sense of peace that can come from that.

#2 – Even when the frantic pace of being behind is trying to suck the breath out of your lungs, making room for people can help you keep things in perspective and maybe in some semblance of balance. Whether that means an impromptu lunch (or coffee) with a friend, or an extended talk with your normally close-lipped teen, or even making time to be there for someone who’s in the middle of a big project of their own…whatever making room for people looks like for you, it’s a remarkable way to catch your breath. Even though it may feel counterintuitive to step away from all the frenetic activity that surrounds trying to get caught up on your Action Items, connecting, fellowshipping, being there with – and for – the people in your life are mysterious, miraculous, magical ways to keep your own Busy in a beautiful new context.

So, that’s how I’ve rolled this week – giving myself permission to be late, doing one thing at a time, and choosing to make room for people.

And you know what?

It worked.
There was a peace I felt that I’m not sure made a lick of sense to my List-Driven, Task-Oriented Brain.

But it sure made sense to my heart.

{Even though I’m late, I’m still giddy to be linking up with both Holley and Jennifer again. Pop on over sometime this weekend – no matter how behind you might feel on your own To Do List – it’ll be more-than-worth your time. I’m sure of it.}

Coffee for Your Heart 
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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!}

Coffee for Your Heart 
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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.}

Coffee for Your Heart 
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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.}

Coffee for Your Heart 
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