Archives for posts with tag: trusting God

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So on this “Thankful Thursday” am thankful for a little ‘profile in courage’ of our own. This is Tala.  She does not like bridges.  Especially long bridges.  Even more so, very long swinging bridges where you can look under your four legs and see a stream flowing way down below. Nope, she doesn’t like bridges at all.

She made that clear in strong protest. I didn’t blame her.

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And once she belly-crawled to the steps, she did this again:

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So I called Hope and told her the situation because I was worried, way more worried than I let Hope know. With Tala’s strength and determination and the fact that there are dog-sized gaps between where the rope railing meets the wooden slats, well, I had this picture of us possibly making headline news on the Shelby Star for falling off the swinging bridge. Yes. Tala’s fearful reaction was making a literal ‘walk in the park’, so NOT….and frankly….dangerous!

But Hope gave good advice. It was this. “Mom, Tala doesn’t like to be left alone, so if you just go ahead, she’ll follow you.” So now we weren’t just talking about Tala’s courage, we were talking about my fear/courage.  Although I don’t have a fear of bridges, I do have a fear of a willful, scared dog flipping out on a bridge (figuratively AND literally) and me trying to come to its rescue.  So it took a step of courage for me to step ahead….but I did…and then….miracle of all miracles… (after a bit of wait time with me trying to act very nonchalant)…

 

…after I took a step.. so did she.  Phew.  Big exhale Phew.

So for the rest of the way, we walked really close, step by step, little by little until we made it to the end of the bridge. The bridge swayed a bit and there were moments of hesitation, but Tala persisted and walked close.

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It kind of felt like a long way, but long ways become shorter with each step and so pretty soon, we had gotten from point A to point B and had actually survived. I was so proud of little Tala’s courage.

Sometimes bridges are scary, not just for dogs. Bridges are transitions from one thing to another. To get from one side to the place where we want to go, well, sometimes it takes steps of faith on not-so-solid-ground where one must focus on that step and not set one’s sights on the other side of the bridge. Tala, this sweet and gentle natured dog, absolutely lost all composure and fought and laid down and refused to move forward when she looked at the L O N G bridge.  But the cool thing is, when she saw me go ahead, and looked at me, she was willing to take the first step onto that swinging bridge to follow me. Her fear of being left alone on the other side of the bridge was much greater than her fear of the bridge.

So it can be with transitions. Maybe sometimes we can do courageous things because of our fear of staying where we are and being left behind is greater than the fear of the challenge ahead. Better yet, we can trust the ones we’re with. Tala was fine as long as she stayed close. 

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After I crossed the bridge, I was thankful for the little venture and realized I want to be like Tala. I want to courageously move forward when the ground doesn’t look steady and feels scary. I know that I’m not alone…but I want to stay close to the One who is so worthy of my trust. Trust can look like a lot of things, but I think the deepest trust looks like courage to follow, step by step.

One of my favorite verses through the years has been Isaiah 52:12…It talks about how God goes before us and picks up the pieces behind… But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”  One of the beautiful things is that courage to walk through more difficult terrains often leads to amazing ventures, people, and experiences that would never happen had we let fear win. 

Just ask Tala :

 

So here’s to bridges and transitions. Here’s to having the courage to step on to them and the tenacity and trust to cross them. And here’s to choosing wisely Who we trust to go with us along the way.

Blessings~

Heather

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

 

“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.

Proverbs 3:5,6

 

 

Thankful Thursday

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I’ve been making bird feeders again.  “For today” feeders is what I like to call them.  And here’s why…  In the past year, the phrase “for today” has become one of my favorite, favorite phrases. I’ve always appreciated the saying of “One Day At a Time. This quickly became, “one moment at a time” when I was a young mom to more little ones than my arms could hold.  (Our third son was born when our oldest was 2…and by the time our oldest was 8 years old, well, he had 5 younger siblings…no twins…just a little visual for ya to see the necessity of the MOMENT thing.) There were so many needs for the moment. I needed grace for the minutes.  I loved the phrase, “grace for the moment” and repeated that to my heart too many times to count. And there was, grace, that is…and miracle of miracles, we survived and even had our sweet familial blips of total thriving. Thankful for all of it.

So that was then. Fast forward 20 some years and I still so hold on to the grace for the moment phrase and truth. But in the past year ‘for today’ has had deeper meaning for me. A year ago this month, my family had the privilege of four of us spending a week together at a center in Georgia.  Willingway works with those with alcohol and drug addictions.  I am the wife and mom of two people I adore who struggle in this area. Big struggle.  Big consequences. Big fears. Big losses.  I could lose a lifetime worrying, wringing my hands, planning for things that never even occur. Or bemoaning and becoming bitter over things that have.  But it’s a battle in which the victories and the losses come by the choices in the now,  the momentary choices  today. That’s something that I’m learning…and a little visual helped it sink it further.

In one of  our morning sessions at Willingway, a woman named Hope led our family group.  She reminded me so much of what my 22 year old Hope might be in 20 years. Both Hopes are unashamedly feisty, determined, compassionate, beautiful, and bold.  Hope, the counselor, gave a great little picture that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  She was talking about the need to live in the now. (For the full effect of this, I ask that you do try to visualize it, as it adds a dimension to the story, ha!) She stood up, and said this:  ” If we keep one foot in the past, worrying over regrets of what we did or didn’t do…” (and with this, she stepped her left foot to the far left…), “and then, add to that, that we worry about all the the things in the future that could or couldn’t happen tomorrow, next week, or in the years to come…” (and with that, she slid her right foot to the  far right and squatted a bit…), “then ALL we do is crap* all over today.”

Yep.  But she didn’t say “crap”.  And we laughed…and I teared up through my laughter because I so got it. I literally could’ve cried buckets at that moment because the realization of what she was saying was like a lightbulb to my heart. Yes.  We can lose today so easily. Especially when loved ones are struggling. Especially when we are struggling. I mean, we’d have to be crazy not to be consumed with worry over what has been or what will be, right…? Not necessarily… Because worry just makes things worse.  We so miss the moments in the now when we’ve got one foot in the past or one foot in the future…or both. Worry of what was or what will be eats up, consumes, the now. Life can get pretty full when we’re doing well, but when we add the chaos that addictions and wrong thinking to the whole mix (along with the dominoes that follow..), well, moments, days, weeks, years…can be eaten up in fear, worry, and a focus on loss…

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So, when I came home from the week in Georgia, I thought a lot about what Hope has said and so aptly demonstrated. I prayed and thanked God for today so many times. I thanked him for the big and the little and the hard and the good and the in between and tried to trust for today, for the moment.  It was Spring time and the birds were flitting and flying around..and added a whole new dimension to the lesson I so needed to live. I remembered what Jesus said about provision…and to consider… consider the birds of the air…  Consider…look at, think on. The verse says, “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”  Matthew 6:26.

I thought about daily need, daily seed, provision for today. Even in the midst of a lot of struggles through the years, I’ve seen God’s hand of provision more times than I can count… I’m so aware that He can open doors that we never even knew were there. He can provide in ways we never imagined, and He can bring people into our lives at just the right time who we’ve never even met.  So…that’s when I started making bird feeders…not that have seed for a week or a month or a season, but food for today.   At night or in the morning, out goes a handful of seed…

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and then…they come…

the quiet and serene…

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…the sassy…

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they come two by two..
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…and they come in all kinds of weather….

and when they come, they remind me that for today, I have what I need. For today, I can do what I need to do one step at a time. For today, I am thankful. I love how Jesus spoke to worry and said (still in Matthew 6) and said, “Let today’s own troubles be sufficient for today.” Yeah, there’s usually plenty to handle for today. And the great thing is, that it sure is a lot easier to handle when I’m not trying to conquer the past and the future at the same time.

Yeah, I can learn a thing or two from birds. And I am …learning that is. (Side note) As I’m writing this, the two mourning doves are on the deck, one in the feeder, and one underneath. They really seem to have this “for today thing down…always together, never in too big of a hurry, (unless I get up to take a photo of them, then they’ll fly and coo in a heartbeat!)  And I’ll spare them. But here’s a photo of them taken this morning.   Yeah, they seem to have the for today thing down. DSCN2976.jpg

Maybe one day, I will as well. But I’m not going to worry about that, right?  Because for today, for today, …there’s provision and grace for today.

Blessings,

Heather

(“For Today” feeders can be purchased at Gifted:Local Artisan Gift Shop and Supply or can be ordered via pm on Facebook )  I love doing special orders with a theme. Am happy to mail them as well.

Blessings for today ~

Heather

P.S. Gotta share a favorite song here…Live It Well <3.

“Live It Well” by Switchfoot

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6: 25-34

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Anxiety. If you listen, or scroll, or read for any amount of time these days, that word will most likely pop up pretty quickly. Worry, anxiety, depression…these are battles  of the mind and heart that so many face in their lives. About a month ago, I was dealing with a lot of worry about a current situation in our lives. I couldn’t see how things would play out and it was really eating at me from the inside. It was pretty all-consuming, and I was making bold attempts to not feed the worry (cause yep, as I’ve said ad nauseum, “What we feed grows…”), but I was having a tough time. Worry seemed to be winning. But then, then… I read this quote: “Faith is rest, because it believes the work is done.” (Dan Bailey).

I stopped.  Rest.  I’m not sure why it hit me so incredibly hard, but it did. I smiled big.  Faith, belief leads to rest.  Not just rest like a nap. Rest like a quieting of the heart’s hamster wheel of worry. Rest like an ability to be ‘all in’ in the moment we’re in because we’re not pondering what the future will hold. Rest like a holding out of our empty hands instead of wringing them in anxious waiting. Rest in the soul that allows me to go all out in the daily stuff of life. Rest that says, “You’ve got this” not to me, but to the One who really does. God has got this.

He knew what would come before I did. He knows what is to come. And He’s right there in the middle of it all. When we take those situations, heartaches, worries to Him and lay it down, we make room for Him to do what we can’t. When we trust Him with it all, it frees us up to be wholly devoted to Him in the big and little stuff of our daily lives.

We are much more present living life with the people in our midst, working hard, loving well and reaching those in our world, when we’re not so busy trying to keep the world spinning…or worrying about it not spinning.  So, “Faith is Rest”.  Trusting is Resting. That’s been my new ‘go-to’ when worry crops up. Trusting is resting. Trusting is resting.  When fears for my (adult) child crop up.  Trusting is resting.  When the uncertainty of future weighs on heart and mind. Trusting is resting. When my friend and her family were in a car accident yesterday and her neck was fractured. Tears were flowing, but my heart was knowing that God is in control and because of that I can trust Him with her and her family. Why?  Because trusting is resting. Trusting is resting. Trusting is resting. That’s what I spoke to my heart.  Truth. And Truth sets us free to rest in our hearts in situations that are difficult, trying, even terrifying.

If I believe God is who He says He is, I can trust Him with it all.  And the cool thing is?  He can use it all. For our good, For His Glory, He can use it all as we lay it at His feet. We put our spinning worlds down, and He, the Creator of All, can get our wobbly worlds back in sync.  When we put our worries into praying with faith, knowing that God can use it all, we put the reigns back in the hands of the One who Loves and Knows and sees beyond what we ever could. He’s a bit more adept at spinning the World than I am. That sun comes up every single solitary morning whether I see it (or worry about it!) or not. Just saying.

So, when worries crop up (daily, hourly, even momentarily!), am learning to speak truth to myself…to remind myself that I can trust God with it all.  Trusting is resting in His Sovereign Will, in His undying Love.  Trusting is Resting.

Blessings~

Heather

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose.”  

Romans 8:26-28

P.S. ( Always, right?  Sorry!)

Romans 8  I have  to include the link to whole chapter of Romans 8. It is so incredibly rich on any given day, but it is especially full when battling fears. No condemnation. He works all things for our good. He loves us. He has provided.  Yes, rich words and Truths indeed that can fill the heart that needs to remember who they trust and why they can rest.

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“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Matthew 6:26

autumnrainIn a little over a week, Autumn will officially become Winter. The leaves are leaving…a few are still hanging on, but most seem to be ending up in places like my sidewalk and yard and deck.  December has come and even though yesterday I was wearing flip flops, now I feel like I should be wearing a parka.  Seasons change, sometimes so quickly.

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Yes, things can change so quickly. I learned tonight that a woman who we used to go to church with has passed.  She was 69. I didn’t know her well at all, but what I did know was that every single time that I saw her, she made a point to smile  a welcoming smile and make my family and I feel invited.  She loved well. That was obvious.  And I’m sure that those who knew her will have a void, an empty space in their lives as the reality of her passing takes hold.  Her love and inviting spirit just filled people up to the brim.  She has left a legacy behind that is so real, but her passing definitely does leave a void.

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Sometimes voids are noticed right away and we can directly attach them to a specific occurrence or event, rather than one that has gradually been built over time.   These voids are the ones that cause our stomachs to rumble, hearts to beat a little faster, voices to scream, and tears to fall. These are the voids that emerge so quickly that we feel as though or worlds have immediately changed. Death. Divorce. Financial Loss. The list goes on and on.  Like a violent wind that sends  leaves flying and branches crashing down, these voids come in like a storm.

But sometimes voids go unnoticed and grow over time. Sometimes voids, those gut-level voids, go unnoticed. Like a slow seep, they gradually become bigger and bigger until we turn around one day and wonder why we’re feeling such a huge sense of emptiness.  The gradual voids of little disappointments, loss, and struggles, add up and chip away at our core, leaving space.  They are kind of like the hollow spaces and gaps underneath the ground that become sink holes later on. Often the source of enormous sink holes that swallow up everything in their path go unnoticed under the surface for a long time, and no one even knows they are there. Sometimes voids are like that.

Either way, voids are voids.  They just are.  And here’s a thought.  Better to have a void, than to have a filler that temporarily fills the space, but ends up creating a bigger void in the long run.

As the Fall turns to winter, the spaces between the trees becomes more visible.

silentsunday2  The voids created by leaves fallen are easily seen.  We know that the leaves were  once there, and that they will come again. We can remember the beauty of the emerging lime shades of Spring, deep greens of Summer, and the multicolored hues of Autumn.  But in this season, they are but a memory, or visible only in the browns that crunch under our feet.

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That gradual process  of beautiful colors which began in the Fall comes to an end until the trees are bare,with naked branches in the cold of winter.journey

It would be a ridiculous thought for someone to try to somehow dress up the barren branches with leaves.  I mean, we know that Spring will come, right?  And with Spring, will come the little teeny, tiny lime green sprouts. grow.jpg

And we know with totally certainty that the naked, bare and grey trees of winter are just in the natural order of things, right?  They are just one season of many. So of course, we wouldn’t try to fill those gaps, those voids, those spaces and empty places with something that was just a mere filler, a counterfeit, artificial filler that wouldn’t last, would we?

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Of course not.

But then again, maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what we do when we rush the order of things.  Maybe sometimes the voids in our lives are there for a reason….for a season. And if we try to cover them up or fill them in or pretend that somehow they are not supposed to be there and rush to fill the empty space, maybe we’re really missing out on the true beauty of the space between.  Maybe the space between can sometimes tell us a little something.  Maybe the ache, the longing can help us take some steps to change things up a bit in our lives.  Maybe voids kind of help us get us back to basics of what needs to be in that space in the first place.  They are an indicator of sorts.

Life is full, full, full of so much beauty.  But on the flip side, life is filled with so much loss. What we do to fill the aches, the voids in our lives during those times of life is like the rudder of the ship of our lives…it leads us. Forward?  In Circles?  Backward?  All of the above?  Yeah, our responses to voids leads us. Somewhere.the-ride-home

Jesus had 4o days in the desert.  Void of food. Void of interactions. Void of any benefits. It was  a time of prayer, resolve. He knew that His ministry was about to begin and that much would be required of Him.  Everything.  He was tempted at that time but would not give in to any counterfeit.  Satan tried.  Here’s bread.  Nope.  Here’s kingdoms. Nope.  Jesus was fully aware that anything filling up the empty space that was not of God would merely be a temporary fix that would only leave much greater voids later on. Jesus knew the value of letting God  use the void to draw Him in a closer relationship to Him.

So, no, we would never attempt to attach leaves to a barren tree. Never. That’s stupid. We know that Spring will come.  But how often in my life I’ve tried to put temporary fillers and fixes in that only make the void more apparent.   Voids that might just last for a season can become a way  of life, when filled with things that only create bigger vacuums. Diversions can all be a temporary fix to a need, but like the rudder on a ship, they lead me.  How often I’ve forgotten that sometimes things happen for a reason,…for a season.  Even if I don’t understand reasons why, I can know that things last for a time.

And another thought.  During those seasons of need, of void, …I’ve been learning in recent years, that a lot of things that happen just can’t or won’t be explained.  Oh people can try to say this and that and offer explanations, but sometimes questions of “Why?” just go unanswered. They just do.  And a whole lot of wasted time and energy can be wrapped up in trying to find an answer to the question why, when on this side of Heaven, a lot of answers just won’t be found or understood.  Lots of things are beyond our comprehension for sure, so like Elisabeth Elliot so often said, “In acceptance lies peace.”

Acceptance of seasons…that there are some things we can’t control, and acceptance of seasons…that some things just take time…is freeing. It’s saying that we don’t have to be it all. We don’t have to be the blooming tree in the season of winter because it’s a season. We can be right where we are and not have to look to the left or right feeling as though we gotta be in a different season. And we don’t have to put in fillers because we know the real deal is so much more valuable and fillers only create more voids.  And when there’s acceptance of where we are, maybe we have the eyes to see the beauty that IS, rather than the voids and what ISN’T.

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There’s beauty in every season when we have the eyes to see it.  Just a matter of accepting where we are and allowing God to fill the voids in His time.  Funny how needs can draw us to Him.  “His strength is made perfect in my weakness…”  Love that. Because it is.  And here’s an awesome visual.  Light.  Light that fills the spaces, gaps and voids.  FLOODS them, warms them, fills them.  I think that’s what the Lord wants to do in our lives. Fill us up to be poured out.  With light.  With Life.  With Love. With Truth. With Him. Maybe the ache, the season where there are voids and empty spaces are just merely opportunities to be filled to the brim with the power that only comes from Him.

I don’t know what ‘season’ you’re in. Maybe it’s Spring and things are full and awesome and beautiful. Or maybe  it’s summer and steady and fun and sweet.  Maybe it’s winter of Fall or a combination of all of it. But whatever the season, am hoping we can encourage each other with hope, accepting where we are, encouraging us to trust God with where He has us, and have faith to keep pressing on to know Him more no matter what lies behind, or what lies ahead.  Just a few thoughts as the season turns to Winter here and I choose to be thankful for what is…photo 4

…and trust that …Spring…Spring is coming.

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Blessings ~

Heather

P.S.  (You knew it was coming ,didn’t ya?So long winded…)  Just a little reminder that there are people walking through all sorts of seasons around us.  Maybe you have a ‘winter’ who needs a reminder that’s Spring is coming. Or maybe you’re in winter and need to give grace and vicariously enjoy the beauty experienced by the friend who’s in the midst of a ‘spring’.  Whatever the season, am thinking there’s grace that can connect us regardless and only add depth to the season we’re in as we remember past seasons, look forward to future seasons, and accept and make the most of the minute that we’re in… ❤

” So, let us know. Let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn. And He will come, He will come to us like the rain. Like the Spring Rain, watering the earth.”

Hosea 6:3

“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage;

Yes, wait for the LORD.”Psalm 27:14

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“For behold, the winter is past. The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.…”

Song of Solomon 2:11

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Heavy heart,

steady now

Watch and pray a little longer

Heavy heart

Ready now

When  you’re weak, He is stronger

He’s Stronger than the greatest chain

When all else fail, He remains

He’s greater than the deepest need

Bondage breaks when  Jesus frees

Steady heart

Study truth

Breathe the Words that you’ve been given

Ready heart

Stand renewed

Live the Life that He has given

Linger in the Word awhile

Stand renewed, breathe in and smile

Steadfast stand on what is true

What He says He will do

Beating Heart

Courageous stand

You’re not alone in the Battle

All is at His Command

Be not anxious or rattled

For He is faithful, He is true

What He promises He will do

Surrender to the path, His way

Trust Him with your life, your days

Heavy heart

Lift your voice

Sing a new song of praise

Lift your eyes

and…rejoice!

He is with  you always

Your worries as the grains of sand

All are sifted through His hand

What He allows, He will use

Cast your cares, He cares for you

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Heavy heart

Steady now

Be strong and courageous

Walk in faith

Walk in love

Forever, Sing of His greatness

Forever, sing His Praises.

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It was another beautiful Carolina sunset last night.  I was in the car with four of my children traveling back home after we had spent a fun time with their grandparents.  As the summer winds down, I’m so aware that there are very few days left of the long anticipated break that we’ve so enjoyed.  It’s the first time that almost all of my kids have been together in our home in over 4 years, and it’s been really sweet.  But in a few weeks, I know that this time will be coming to an end.  Three will be moving out to ‘do their thing’, and I’ll be going back to school to teach.

So, knowing that the time is limited, each day is precious. I find myself getting up earlier and earlier…as if I just don’t want to miss a minute of the day.  There are always a million details, and yet, I find myself resting a bit, observing, and enjoying the time with these ones here at our house.  If they ask me to do something, I do my best to go.  The to do list will get done.  But the time together won’t always be here, so time together is time well spent.  Even when it’s not easy…conversations that need to be had or discussions or working through things,…that’s movement toward the right thing cause it’s movement toward each other.  Thankful for relationships that are real. Not perfect.  Real, and full of hope and promise.

The sunset reminds me that the ending is coming.  I love the visual of knowing that after the sunsets, it will rise again.  With endings come beginnings.  Each one looks different, but each sunrise is a reminder that we get fresh starts and even if it’s not the same, it’s a gift, and we need to enjoy the time we have while we have it…whether it’s on the journey together, or apart….that sun is going to rise in the morning and set in the evening wherever we are, and pretty soon, ‘where we are’ will be in Wilmington, NC, Boone, NC, Myrtle Beach, NC, and ….Sweden.   But as I said, the sun will always rise in the morning and set in the evening except…except… for maybe in Alaska or….Sweden.  In Sweden, the sun might just set at 3:00 in the afternoon, but thank goodness for lights and candles and the fact that it will rise in the morning! (even if it does rise at 4 in the morning!)  Here’s to sunrises and sunsets wherever our paths may lead…and the letting go in wherever our children’s paths may lead.

Blessings~

Heather

Note*  This was written a few short weeks ago, and since that time, the kids have all transitioned out….one to Boone, one to Wilmington, and one, now…today…is en route to …Sweden. My house is a bit emptier…(but trust me, they’ve left behind plenty of clean up projects created in the flurry of packing and moving out!) Praying for joy in the journeys of these new beginnings and so very thankful for tearful endings, because it’s never easy to say goodbye to those we love… Trusting  God that He goes before them, and will pick up the pieces (and dry the tears) of those left behind.

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“Pray with your eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”

~Oswald Chambers

Yep.  This is a reminder to myself.

I hate to be a broken record, but here goes… we have lots of transitions going on in our home with one son going to college on the coast, one daughter moving to the mountains, and one son moving to Sweden…all within a 2 week window (which occurs simultaneously with me going back to teaching after a nice long summer.  In fact, three of those four things all happen between August 14th and 15th.) So, there are lots of details and checklists to be dealt with. In the midst of it all, we’ve seen lots of answered prayers and doors open and I’m thankful…I really am.  But today, I lost sight of the big, for the little.

With all of the good going on, I still found myself this morning just worrying, agitated, fretting…all the things that Psalm 37 (which I have been camping out in this week) says NOT to do, I was definitely doing.  Even though I so know better, I just couldn’t get out of this frustrated funk I was in. My to do list was growing instead of getting shorter, because it seemed that each attempt was met with more challenges, almost like clicking on a link on the computer and having it open up three more windows. I had done all I could with some things and was waiting on responses, so my hands were tied and my frustration was just growing.

I finally decided to run some errands so I could check some things off the list, and that’s when it just hit me…there were lots of inconveniences in the day for sure.  Lots.  But the bigger picture?  It made all of these small little things seem so minute. My little list of things bothering me is a reality, but so not significant in the big scheme of things.  The inconveniences are just part of life.  But how I handle them?  That isn’t insignificant or small.  It’s pretty big.  These little things shape and mold us… Again, gotta give a great Oswald Chambers quote.  He said, “The mount is not meant to teach us anything, it is meant to make us something.”  It’s as though these little things, the good and the bad and whether we handle them well or terribly,…they shape us, they grow us, they make us.  They are not just little insignificant things in our day…they lead us somewhere.

So here’s the thing regarding mountains and molehills.  Seeing mountains in the distance with wide open spaces and seeing how big and beautiful they are help us keep perspective.  Majestic huge mountains are a reminder to me of how big and beautiful God is.  He created mountains…can He not handle my little molehills? And molehills?  Molehills are kind of  symbolic for me of just feeding on worry.  Moles are rarely seen….they quietly burrow, causing destruction in their path.  If they aren’t dealt with in a matter of time, they can cause a great deal of damage. So it is with worry. Moles, are like me focusing on the worry, the agitations, the little things that I so can’t control. In the same way that driving up a long mountain road and then catching a view of the incredible skyline of rolling mountains is something I’d prefer to have as my view, looking down at the ground at the ground crumbling underneath me is not where I want my perspective to be. I’d prefer to see mountains instead of molehills in this analogy. (Oh, and you know, when someone is looking down at their feet, others tend to look down to see what they’re looking for…  I’d prefer to keep my chin up and eyes out with hopes that wherever my kids land, their focus is not on the molehills in their lives, but on the mountains. )

So, it was a day for me to hit the reset button on my little attitude flying around.  Thank goodness I did.  The rest of the day has been quite a bit better.  I’m trying to focus on God and His provision and things to be thankful for (and there are a thousand)…and praying through the rest. I remember the days of having daily pow-wows with my kids to help with ‘attitude adjustments’, and today, I definitely needed a pow-wow with myself.  Thankful for re-starts, new beginnings, and the fact that tomorrow, I get a chance to wake up and start again.  And tomorrow, after I read Psalm 37 for the 37th time this week, I think I’ll couple it with Oswald Chambers’ quote:  “Pray with your eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”

Blessings ~
Heather

Photo taken in Toluca, North Carolina…after a storm…July 26, 2015

fog lifting

You should have seen it.  It was really breathtaking how the fog was lifting and the trees were emerging as the  grayish-white gave way to pink in the morning sky. And maybe, just maybe, it was all the more breathtaking for me because I was so daggone out of breath anyway.

I was rushing through my morning and left my Bible sitting in the basket by my bed while I flitted and fluttered and rushed through my morning. I kissed loved ones good bye, bid them to have a good day, and tried to put on a face as I made my way out the door to a job that I love, but that involves a great deal of MORE flitting and fluttering and flying through moments and a great deal of mere ‘urgent’ busy work that pushes the most important to the wayside.

But the moments are precious and I don’t want to waste them in a world that demands so much (with a lot of hamster-wheel running futility, mind you).  Like a fog that covers and grays and dulls focus in a world where there is such a need for clarity, the busy-ness of life can make one moment just blend into another–unnoticed, lacking purpose, unremarkable.  And like a fog slowly overtaking a landscape, the days can be overtaken with a myriad of a million little things that cover and blend and fade, our lives can be dulled by the lack of direction and determination to make the moments count.

I used to be a bit of an idealist.  Used to.  Lots of loss and difficult experiences and circumstances later, I am just a believer in the Truth that I was created with Purpose, on purpose, by a Creator who has a plan.  A Perfect Plan.   Perfect.  And that plan may include  and allow a lot of things  which I never would have planned.  But let me tell you one thing, pain makes you remember that you’re alive. Difficulties make you pause and be deeply thankful for the joys, for sure. And bottom line, God uses the difficulties in life to sharpen, mold, and shape us.  Sharpen, mold, shape….define.

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  Like that beautiful landscape emerging from the fog that is being dispelled by the morning light, may we become increasingly aware of God’s incredible calling in our lives.  May that calling grant clarity of vision, purpose.

I love how when you look through an unfocused camera lens, as you twist and turn the lens, the image becomes clearer and clearer, and goes from being an unrecognizable mass of gray, to a sharp image with defined lines.  Focus makes all the difference.  I’m thinking that as we grow in our awareness and bathe our minds with the rich, all-transforming Word of God, that the fog lifts, what is unfocused becomes more defined, and what is dulled in our lives can be enlivened, enriched, and remarkable.  Not dull.  Remarkable. Not necessarily because we are remarkable, but because our part in God’s plan may very well be. But in order to play that part, to live that part, we need clarity of purpose, definition.

Purpose is not gray.  It is not dull. It is not like a fog that overtakes and consumes a landscape.  It is sharp, direct, clear.   Just like the word of God that is sharper than any two edged sword…purpose must be defined, focused, and a determined.   Not a  hazy gray, but a colorful clear.

So, in the morning, before the flitting and fluttering, I’m thinking the first part of the day needs to be that the Bible sitting in the basket by the bed is opened to help lift any lack of clarity or ‘fog’ in my spirit.  Yes, like that morning fog that slowly invades, may the things that would consume be overtaken by  the Light of Christ and the knowledge of His word.  I want to earnestly seek the One who knows the end of the story, and my little part in the here and now.  Focus makes all the difference.  Faith dispels the fog…or… at least chooses to walk through it knowing that in time, all will be revealed.  All. For again, like Paul says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Fully.  Until then, praying that the  “flitting” and “fluttering” in a haze give way to a focused determination and appreciation of the moments in my days…my colorful, purposeful, full-of-unplanned-moments days.

image

I found her nest in the garage the other day.  I was looking for something on a shelf in the garage, and found her intricately woven conglomeration of twigs, threads, leaves, feathers, and who knows what else.  I wondered what in the world this nest was doing in our garage, but then realized, the window that had been broken by a fast-traveling football was probably the way in which the mother bird found her way in. The sad thing is, that when the window was fixed, one mother bird was then kept out, away from her nest, her eggs, her masterpiece.

And what a masterpiece it was!  Like a neutrally-colored room with a brightly-colored accent wall, this little nest had threads of blue and red and purple all interwoven throughout the browns and grays of the natural setting.  It was loose in the middle, but wound tight on the bottom so as to have a strong foundation for laying the eggs which would soon be active baby birds. It was painstakingly made and was a soft resting place for the three little eggs which lay in the center.  The mother bird had worked hard physically and had finally laid her eggs, and all there was left to do was to wait.

But wait.  That mother bird didn’t know that the window would be fixed.  How could she have known?  She had chosen this place as an excellent shelter. She had done her part to build her beautiful nest, and had laid her eggs.  How could failure have come when she had done her part on  every single level?  I hate to think of what it must have been like for this mama bird to fly out of the garage one day, to return back to find that she could not reach her nest, her eggs, knowing all the while that her absence would cause their demise. I am almost certain that there was frantic fluttering and trying to find any angle to get into the garage, but it was a futile effort. She did what she could, but it was not enough, for there were other things outside of her control that sealed the fate of her unhatched baby birds.  But still, she did what she could.

So here’s the thing.  I am thinking there are a lot of “mama birds” out there who can relate on levels which far supersede the instinct which motivates a mother bird.  These “mama birds” built their homes with love and sweat and tenacity.  They tried to make good choices to provide for their little ones.  They worked and prayed and planned and laughed and loved and had incredibly high hopes and dreams for their “baby birds.” But….but there were things that no one could have ever  planned for that changed their path.  Like the fixed window that kept the mother bird from being able to get to her nest, there are obstacles in life that none of us could plan for.  Some are mere inconveniences to deal with and get over.  Some are huge obstacles which take years and years and years of blood, sweat, and tears to overcome. Some are self-inflicted and as a result come served with regret and remorse. Some occurrences are even so tragic that they take away the very existence of our precious baby birds that we were entrusted with, that we built our worlds around.

Our community grieved such a loss today.  A two-year old was critically hurt in a tragic accident.  Her parents were helping some friends to move, and somehow a piece of furniture fell on her.  She stayed alive for a day, but in the end, succumbed to the injuries.  The frantic fluttering of this young beautiful mother’s heart probably gave way to an ache that is deeper than can ever be described with words.  And that ache will remain. It just will. Joy will come, but the ache and joy will learn to walk hand in hand because loss is loss. It is a void, a deep cavern, an emptiness,  a space,  a vacuum to be filled. And where there is a  potential to be filled, there is a risk of emptiness.

One thing that I have learned to appreciate as I’ve gotten older is that endings are often beginnings. Endings often don’t look like we would have hoped, but without them, there would often be no beginnings.  The tragic ending of the precious 2 year old’s life was a beginning for other yet to be named young children on organ donor lists. How redemptive is that?  Life multiplied in death. Beautiful things indeed do rise from the pieces of broken dreams. In the midst of the incredibly intense pain of letting their child go, these parents chose to rise above and see beyond their own grief to the needs of others.  Their daughter’s life that had so incredibly blessed them, would now be a blessing to countless others.

Often it seems that the people who seem to be the most thankful, the most joyful, are those who have experienced deep loss in their lives.  They seem to appreciate the little things, the day. They are aware of how quickly things can change, so they live in the moment, and know that the precious things in their lives are a gift and not a given.  They remember, but move forward.

As I gathered up the nest and took it out of the garage, I wondered if it belonged to the same mother bird that had built a nest in the bushes next to the front porch.  I had so enjoyed watching these little birds and had even written about one encounter with one of them on this blog.  ( https://soletusknow.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/calm/) Even though I’ll never know the answer to that question, I think that I know that this mother bird wasn’t grounded.  Failure can be a stepping stone.  Failure is only failure when it stops there.  If we mother birds are to teach our children to rise up and be over comers instead of being overcome, well, we need to take that lesson to heart. But sometimes that can be a difficult task.

I thought I had built my  nest carefully.  I prayed. I loved. I trained. I held.  I laughed. I worked. I sweat, I bled, I cried. I danced, I sang, I played, I prayed. I taught.  I cherished and tried to nurture the ones entrusted to me.  As a mom, I have had many wonderful moments.  I have so many things to be thankful for, so much laughter, so many proud moments. My life is full. But my nest at times has been in shambles and my little birds have faced their failures.  I have faced my failures.  And in those times when there are obstacles that seem insurmountable, there is regret over what I had or had not done.  There have been times when futility screams so loudly that my heart feels like it’s going to beat out of my chest as I try to hold on to the hope that comes never in circumstance, but only in my Jesus. Jesus knows a thing or two about life overcoming death, hope rising out of despair, faith standing firm when the earth feels like it’s shaking. I’m entrusting my weathered nest (and fluttering heart) to him.

Picture a bird flying high, rising above the grass, the trees, to the clouds. Rising above adversity is like finally coming into a clearing after being in a forest of fog.  It is a gut-wrenching decision to keep pressing on, having faith, doing the ‘right thing’ when all logic and rationale says to throw in the towel. Faith can appear foolish.  Sometimes there’s just no reason to hope and it looks ridiculous to keep trying.  Just does.  But God.  But God. But God can do what I cannot.  But God.  But God calls me to trust in Him who I cannot see with all that I have been entrusted with what I can see.  But God   But God calls  me to ask, seek, and knock.  He calls me to surrender.  All.  To surrender all.  Funny, in surrendering what we cherish most, we are so deeply aware of what we cherish most.  Seems the gift becomes ours as we entrust our precious things, lives, loved ones to the God who cares for us.

If anyone has made it through to this point of my rambling, I applaud you.  I really don’t have a message to share…only sympathies with the ‘mama birds’ out there who have put themselves out there and find that things don’t look at all the way they thought they would. Redemption is one of my favorite words.  God can redeem anything.  Anything. He can redeem a situation.  He can redeem a lost soul.  He can redeem a family, and turn things around.  But there’s a shaking involved in that. There’s also a call to pray. Birds rely on instinct. But the needs of my baby birds go so much deeper than physical needs.  The needs of my children, my family, myself, cannot be filled by my will or tenacity or strength.  God’s power can reach what I could never touch. Prayer changes things.  Prayer changes us.  Prayer is key to seeing things in a different light. Prayer invites God to move in ways that I could never dream of doing.

Being a wife, a mom is messy.  And hard. And incredibly awesome.  It is full of expectations and hopes being fulfilled, and fears realized.  It is full of proud  moments and heartache. It is full of challenges and work and…hope.  The little ones in our care (or those grown who have left the nest) are part of our legacy, no matter how big or small.  Although life has it’s ‘defining moments’, I caution myself from letting moments define me.  My nest doesn’t define me.  My little birds don’t define me.  My proud moments, my moments of fear, my laughter, or my hard work- these ultimately don’t define me.  They can influence me and change me and cause me to respond, buy they don’t define me.  As I look back with some smiles and some regret at the walk I’ve had, it seems that my battle is to just take my little nest and lay it at the cross, knowing that God has a plan for me and mine and that I am merely to walk faithfully with the things I can control, and entrust Him with the things I cannot.

So, my ‘definition’, what defines me, is not the successes or the defeats in my life, my husband’s life, or my children’s lives that give emotional highs or lows. It is not the product of a beautiful nest, but the process of building it…the walk along the way. I’m thinking that at the end of my days, it will be not those monumental moments, but the long walk along the way that impacts those I love and becomes a “legacy” of sorts.  Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  To walk humbly with my God, come what may.  Come awards and accolades, come accidents and illness, my purpose is to walk humbly with my God.  Come joys and sorrows, come drama and stillness, my purpose is to walk humbly with my God, day by day. Come what may, no matter what may come, my purpose is to walk humbly with my God and entrust my little nest to Him and His care. My hope is not in a circumstance, for these change daily.  My hope is in an eternal God who knows the beginning and the end, and holds me and my little nest in His hands.

Fly on mama bird. It’s going to be okay…..

……”Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  Matthew 6:26

P.S.  It IS going to be okay…It’s “already alright”.  It is for those in Christ.  If you get a chance, check out the Yolanda Adams song “Already Alright’.  Also, Danny Gokey’s  “There’s Hope in Front of Me”.   Encouragement for those of us mama birds going through times of unraveling nests, ruffled feathers, clipped wings.

Keep Pressing On ~

Heather

(Hosea 6:3)

Oh, and one more thing. (I figured this  post is so long that one more thing won’t matter…and it’s probably the most important “thing”!)  The story of the little girl who passed away this past week?  Her name was Molly Justice. Our pastor shared with us today that her parents asked the pastor to boldly share the gospel of Christ, the hope of eternal life, with the m any people at her funeral. With arms raised (in worship and surrender) the parents of this precious baby girl relinquished their control and trusted God with the circumstance they never would have chosen.  But they accepted, and trusted God to move.  And as a result, many folks made their way to commit their lives to Christ at the funeral service.  This little girl?  Not only did her parents choose to donate her organs to save the lives an unnamed number of children, but her death brought about the spiritual salvation of a number of folks at the funeral. Somehow, hope is rising out of the death of this little girl and reaching countless people. Lives are being changed.  Not temporarily.  Eternally.  God knows what He’s doing, He’s allowing.  Ours is to walk justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God, trusting Him step by step by step.  Blessings, Heather   2Cor4

439

I could feel it building all day. I could feel it rising in me like a tide that is building and building and building, and before you know it, the calm sea turns into a torrent of crashing waves at high tide that overtake everything in its path.  I was in its path and it was overtaking me fast.

As I walked out of my classroom, sirens blared and an ambulance passed the school in a rush of sound and flashing lights. (That didn’t help for sure.) I felt my chest tighten and breathed a prayer for those who needed that ambulance.  But the very sound of sirens is one that I heard a few times too many last year for my own family and I still need to chase irrational fears away when I hear those sounds. Even with my vain attempts to breathe, it felt as though the tide had risen to  a point where I felt overtaken by a wave of pure irrational fear. I held my phone and started to text a friend to ask her to pray, and then, I just stopped.  No, I just needed to pray through all of this nonsense because there really was not one thing to fear…I needed to get myself together.  As I took my eyes off of my phone, the sirens slowly faded into the distance, and…
winterblues
I  finally looked up! White sunlight was streaming through a silhouette of a tree that has been standing, probably for longer than I’ve been alive.  Blue skies were filtered by white and gray clouds slowly moving off into the distance. The sky that was raining buckets this morning was now a beautiful mix of sunlight and clouds. The puddles that I had to dodge this morning had disappeared. A warm breeze blew, a welcome change from the cold winds of the day before. I don’t know, it just helped me stop for a minute and that’s all I needed.

A moment earlier, I had felt a wave of fear overtaking me.  I had no excuses for feeling this and was surprised by the intensity. But just as a huge wall of water is made up of millions of drops of water, this huge wall of fear originated in a myriad of so very many concerns or stressors that when put together, felt absolutely overwhelming. One drop plus another drop plus another drop eventually led to this great overwhelming wave of pure fear.

So here’s the thing. In a world where fears can wash over us like a wave, remember this principle: water…evaporates! Those little drops of water (financial stressors, relational tensions, work-related  stretched-too-thin sentiments,) evaporate.  One by one, in the light of the sun, water evaporates. And the ‘buckets’, the huge things (like a dear friend fighting the battle of her life against an invasive cancer, or  the heart-of-a-mom-and-wife longings that only God  knows, or the constant weights of too little too late work mentality,  well, they may take  a little more time to evaporate.  

I need to bring them into the Light, the Light of the Son.  One by one by one by one, drop by drop, bucket by bucket, I need to entrust the stuff of life to the One who can dry it up.  He wipes the tears from our eyes, and He can ‘evaporate’ the things that would overtake us. He can handle what I can’t.   Why did I feel like that wave was about to crash and overtake me?  I had let drop by drop add up, bucket after bucket, weight after weight until the cumulative effect ‘suddenly’ hit me.  I had reached my threshold and the wave was crashing down and that ominous feeling that comes with fear was starting to set in.  I am the wife of an alcoholic. I know chaos and rational fear.  (He has been sober for almost 2 years, thank God, but I will never forget the chaos.) I am the mom of six children.  I know being spent.  I am a teacher of students with special needs, I know the feeling of being stretched thin.  We all have our areas of knowing our need, where the drops add up little by little over time.

It wasn’t any one thing I was dealing with, it was a thousand little things that I had been carrying without even realizing it.  But grace is deeper and wider and stronger and larger than my abilities to cope or reason or work through. So between closing the door of my classroom and opening the door of my car, something had changed.  Circumstantially, nothing had changed.  But in my mind, my perspective, everything had changed.  I had taken my eyes off my feet and my phone and prayed, and it opened up my eyes to the world around me.

Funny, as I opened the car door, I found this earring.

angel

This wasn’t just any earring.  This was the earring that I had made for a dear friend of mine who is battling cancer, the dear friend that I visited yesterday who was candid and kind and brave enough to talk about funeral plans.  She’s hoping for the best and preparing for possibilities.  She’s open about fears.  She’s open about hope.  She’s candid with her trio singing friends that they (including me) maybe shouldn’t sing at the funeral because she really doesn’t need a blubbering mess up there.  She would cringe over that one.  And we laughed heartily over that one! But I found the earring.  It was a timely reminder of how we are so not alone in this world.  Not alone.  And I believe that there’s life beyond this world.  The earring was a reminder of that as well.

As I picked up the earring, I couldn’t help but smile and realize my ‘buckets’ are pretty small.  I’m thankful for this day, this moment.  So is my friend.  There’s hope, but it’s so not in this world. Each day is a gift.  The thing that I’m reminded of however, is that in order to see the beauty in the day there are a few things I need to do. Here are my lessons from the day.  First, I need look up.   Next, I need to bring the struggles to the Lord on a ‘drop by drop’ basis, not wait till the drops are like an enormous wave of accumulated struggles.  I need to cast my cares on Him knowing He cares for me so that the cares don’t become a huge weight or wave that overtakes me.  Last, I need to look around and be thankful for the beauty  that is right there in front of me in this moment.  Gratitude changes everything, because it changes the whole way I see things.

I love the verse that says, “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”  (Psalm 43:5) Downcast. Looking down so doesn’t help. And do you see the word ‘countenance’….He changes our countenance.  Our perspective.  The way we see and the way we are seen.  So, again, I’m reminded to get my eyes off my feet and the struggles of this moment and look up.

Those waves in life will come.  They will. But part of being prepared is looking to the horizon to see them coming.  Keeping my eyes on my feet is a sure way to get knocked over by an unexpected incoming wave. Part of walking/ (swimming ) by faith is knowing that we’ll face the wave head-on and we may get knocked down and go under for a bit, but we’ll resurface.  Waves come and go.  They just do.  This moment won’t last forever, but we can focus on Who and What does.  My God is eternal.  Eternal Life is knowing Him and starts now.  Nothing I do or don’t do can change that.  Neither can any incoming waves.  Not for me.  Not for my children.  Not for my dear friend facing funeral plans. His Presence is Present, now and NOTHING separates.

Well, this was another long-winded un-edited session of me processing things. Yes, very long-winded, I know, so that makes me even more appreciative of those who make it to the end and read through!   Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share the journey…even when it’s me venting and processing and just trying to walk by faith in a world that sometimes knocks me down.  But faith (mixed in with a bit of stubborn determined will!) always helps me get back up…as I look up.

Blessings~

Heather

Romans 8:38,39, “Neither death nor life nor anything….can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus…”

Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning”

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