The Over-Answerer

Solutions are revealed through noise, and hidden in the slow silence of subtlety.

“Lo, you can’t cheer in flats.” I harped.

“UUUGGGHHHH!!!!” She exasperated as she stomped off to change her shoes.

“Mom…” My oldest began…and then I really can’t tell you what she said after that. It was too long and drawn out, and I didn’t have the capacity to digest it as I popped my coffee out of the microwave and corralled her little sister to the door.

“Brianne, honey,” I quipped,”get in the car.”

Poor thing, she’s just me.

I’m an excessive talker, over-answerer, and I’m missing that “stop talking no one is listening anymore” radar. God has encouraged me so much, it in turn just oozes out of me. Let the encouraged, encourage. However, I get so excited that I’m not always the best at slowing my thought train down to tune in to other voices.

Face freezing and my girls yelling, “C’MON MOM! YOU’RE TOO SLOW,” I checked them in at mini-cheer and then parked by the lake to walk the pier. Ear buds in to drown out the peace, I forced myself to walk at an uncomfortable pace against a brutal north wind.

Somehow the stillness of the sun sparkling off the ice, devoid of other living things out to brave the chill, breaks through the tingling of my itchy hat to uncover a secret space where I can hear God. I’m obedient in my rush to meet with Him everyday because I’m very aware of my need to stop talking. And even if your struggle to be silent isn’t as intense as mine, He waits in the stillness of the dawn to over-answer the day’s quandaries. Who doesn’t want a head start before the gun goes off?

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3 Revelations I’ve gained by letting God’s Word drown out mine in the secret space.

1. It’s not by chance. Do you ever feel like you’re being followed around by a reality TV crew? All of the sudden, you seem to be tuned into different people that are saying and writing and speaking and singing about the same things, at the same time in your life when you are looking for answers to that very notion. That collaborative coincidence is evidence of our very personal God. I don’t put YAX on my boots and trek out onto the ice because it’s boring out there…

Give Him the first part of your day, and you’ll see what I mean. Even if it’s only 5 minutes..and there’s an app for that, too.

 But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.“-Romans 3:26(MSG)

image2. Perfection is overrated and already reserved.  Since it can never be attained by anyone else, let it be the first thing you cross off your daily to-do list and start seeking attainable joy.

A struggle lies behind every smiling selfie and perfectly posed portrait. I don’t want my funky faces rolling through the facebook newsfeed any more than my kids want me circulating theirs to their Dad and the rest of the family and all of their friends’ parents.  I’m too aggravated to fumble with my phone in the heat of those moments, and the kids run away in a blur.

Every joyful moment is the product of a struggle. The answer to prayer…blessing from God. I cry out in angst beyond the lens, and He never fails to over-answer.

 “But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:21-24(MSG)

My life is not the only testimony to those verses. Flip through the album, but ask me for the story. My college degree looks awesome in my bookcase now, but it was absent the day of graduation. My family is amazing, but this isn’t my first marriage and my kids are not perfect. I gossip and envy and lose my cool with the people that love me, and way too often add Cabernet and dark chocolate to aid the indigestion.

The struggle with self-doubt is real…but my heart is His.

Maybe I should try posting pictures of blurred children running away from me so that we can all bond together. #blessedmess  

3. Look up and Look out.

I am living proof that God aggressively pursues those whom He has called.

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“Who is like you?” Moses stated in Exodus 15:11. Can’t you just picture the awe and hear the whisper of hope and faith in his voice? “Who is like you?” That’s how I feel about Jesus.
Every day a faithful friend, He pulls me out of my coffee coma and through my mess to the feet of His Father. God left a reminder to the Israelites of the Manna He faithfully fed to them every day for 40 years. (Exodus 16:32)

Jesus is ours.

“God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.“-Romans 3:25-26(MSG)

 He supply’s my whole portion in the first few minutes of the day, speaking through my child’s ramblings and the still of frozen water. Through an Elevation sermon in my ear buds or an eagle on the ice. But I won’t hear or see anything if I don’t tune in and look up. I am joyful because I seek to be.

Walking with the wind pushing me back, the snow wisping across the iced over River, I felt my pace quickening. I felt like I was walking pretty fast until the snow blasted by alongside me with a gusty blow. I heard God say to me clearly, “YOU’RE TOO SLOW.”

“OK, OK” I laughed.

imageWhen my daughters go through spurts of arguing about every thing all of the time, I’m quick to remind them that family comes first and sisters are forever friends.  They typically glare at each other, disgusted mid-argument that they are stuck together for life without choice. But, the seed inevitably always sprouts a root, and the moments bursting with sisterly love triumph over the squabbles.

Many mornings, I attempt rush by my Father at full speed with my own agenda in tow. Perhaps that’s why He reveals the wind. Or, leaves a rock balanced a-top the ice in one season and sunk to the bottom in the next. He certainly knows how yank me out of my whirring thoughts. Walking with the wind reminded me Who was at my side …right now  …and one day at a time. Family first.

  “Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

He will aggressively pursue you…more than you ask.image

Happy First Five Morning Minutes…

Megs

“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5

Stay encouraged!

The Eagle and The Ice

“How do I help my kid do a cartwheel?” These are the things that I Google while my butt conforms to the stiff waiting room chair at the dance studio. “The hardest part is overcoming the fear of falling in order to take that first leap forward,” said a sweet personal trainer via YouTube.

“I almost got it, today, Mom!” Brianne exclaimed, floating out on a cloud of accomplishment. “I just have to land on my feet, now!”

Isn’t that what makes a cartwheel a cartwheel? The landing? Lacking the heart to dampen her demeanor, I harbored that thought between my own ears as I flipped through my old motivational “coach” file for some sage inspiration. Visualization made the most sense, so I sequestered that subject through a surge of giggles at bedtime.

“Before you go to bed every night, close your eyes and picture yourself doing cartwheels…” I launched, “…picture yourself landing on your feet, and then picture your teacher being so proud, and the other girls cheering you on.”

“I can’t make myself picture myself…I don’t know how to do that,” she stated, “I can only see myself falling.”

It takes effort to intentionally direct our thoughts, but in order to achieve any task, it has to exist accomplished in our minds. To let the distance coach out for a moment, “To achieve, ya gotta believe.”

Take the time to quiet your mind so that God’s message doesn’t get lost in the static.

The devil would love for the “I can’t” reel to keep playing in your mind, and it’s hard to shut him down when we “haven’t” yet. God gives us the ability to imagine the uncharted to lend us a vision of His goal.

Easier said than done. There’s a lot of static…mixed signals…off days…

“WWWWAAAAAAA….Good Morning!” I managed to giggle out as I recovered from being scared half to death. A runner strode off down the pier, gliding along the  edge next to the freshly frozen layer a-top the river, and I was extremely jealous. Hillsong praising God in my ears, I determined to look onward and upward and walk on instead of letting my thoughts drift to my injured Achilles, and perpetually onto wallowing over the ninth month sans running from there.

And as I looked up and off in the distance toward the edge of the pier, I saw something swoop up and over the lighthouse…cruise the surface of the ice, and then careen back up into the air with one flap of an enormous wingspan. That’s why the normal flock of birds had cut their cackling coffee hour short. The grand bald eagle was out to hunt. I’d never seen him out there before.

Jaw dropped and smiling at the sight of his enormity, I fumbled as my frozen joints failed me in unzipping my pocket for my phone. “Have a nice day!” I waved as the runner passed by me on his way back to shore, and I wondered if he’d taken the time to notice the white feathers against the dim winter horizon. I de-gloved my hands to swipe open my camera app …but when I looked up, he was gone.

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I knew God had meant to encourage me in response to my request for a light to pierce through the fog of this season of doubt and fear. But wondered over the significance of the eagle’s sudden absence. A Word from my thoughts popped in over my ear buds.

“The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.” Romans 14:22a

Some things are just meant to be between me and God. Anyone else might think I’m batty for making such a big deal over a bird. But me and God know why.

I craned my neck at the lighthouse a few times on my way back to shore, but the eagle still wasn’t there. I predictably pondered the significance of it over my typical inspiration drawn from the picturesque, lake-life setting. Irritated not to snap a digital reminder, I tried to associate God’s message to a memory. I flipped through thoughts of the sparkly gold eagle Christmas ornament I’d gotten in honor of my alumni status as an Ashland University Eagle, and onto memories of Tuffy our Eagle mascot.

My mind whirred to a stop as I pictured a picture. My favorite picture. With some of my imagefavorite people. That’s my Kate, on the right, whom God granted an instrumental part in Jesus winning my heart. It was there, on that campus, during that workout, at that field, that my life changed forever. I stopped running as abruptly as Elsa hit’s the ice at the end of Frozen when her sister Ana freezes solid. On my knees in rocky seas, I rescinded the helm to Jesus, who trimmed out hull so that I could take the waves on at the right angle. I’ve believed in Christ everyday of my life, but I knew that something significant was lit in that moment.

God brings the memory of light to life in face of impending death.

Like an eagle amidst the ice, dousing the doubt that threatened to put a dream to death. Don’t doubt the moment Jesus took the helm. And if you do, ask God to confirm it. He is faithful, and He will. But don’t miss it.

The Message version of Roman’s 14:22-23 puts it this way:
“Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe-some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them- then you know your out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.”

It’s in the moments of doubt and anticipated failure that we need to look inward to God in prayer, and watch outward for Him to answer. God unveils His encouragement through His creation.

The next time your doubt tries to debilitate your ability to visualize God’s affirmation of His call on your life, try these methods to calm your madness:

1. When in doubt, stop and think. Look up and out for God. Step out of your situation and into His creation. Exodus 13:21-22 tells of a pillar of cloud send to guide the Israelites out of Egypt. That pillar of cloud never left them. Read Chapter 13 sometime for the whole story, but the part that fascinates me, is that in the famous scene where Moses parted the Red Sea, the angel of the Lord and the pillar of cloud moved behind the people.(v.19) God reveals Himself through His creation. I look for God in the sky, and He meets me there.

2. Pray out your confusion, hurt, and frustration in authenticity to God; He WILL swoop down. Stay in His Word so your mind doesn’t get stagnant. He will find you there often with a Word of encouragement. You might find direction from a friend…maybe you have a Kate, too. Above all, when you are unsure, be sure to remain in His love. John 15:9

3. Line up all you see with all He is. As you seek Him, His voice will become audible to your heart.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”            Isaiah 43:1b

We are His creation, and God uses the five senses that He instilled in us to allow us to experience the majesty He created for us.

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Winter is cold, but it sure is cool.

In the stark void of warmth, the light that permeates is brighter than the summer sun when reflected off the sparkle of snow. Don’t let a seven degree morning hold you back from witnessing the encouragement God has folded into the day for you. And don’t let doubt debilitate your ability to visualize the landing. It’s the difference between life and death.

Happy Living,

Megs

Stay encouraged!

The Birthdays.

IMG_7673One of my best girlfriends has a knack for remembering everyone’s birthday.  Has for years.  She’ll not only remember her friends birthdays, but their kids, too! I’m really lucky if I get my second daughter’s birthday and my wedding anniversary straight!  I don’t know what kind of steal trap you have for a brain, Christy, but you’ve inspired me to get my sh*&# together this year…I even bought a planner…and every time I write another birthday in it I think of you.  The thirties are great for friendships, aren’t they?  If you’ve done anything right at all…if you’ve experienced any little bit of life… and especially if you’ve produced little lives of your own…you have undoubtedly collected a group of girlfriends that you would die without…and frequently about pee laughing (mostly because of those little lives we created…for more reason than one…) with over crap we would have been mortified to share out loud a decade earlier.

Since I made a resolution to remember everyone’s birthday, I decided to drag my daughters into the mix, too.  Because kids that are 4 and 6 need to learn the value of making a New Year’s resolution, right?  Of course they do.  So, my little planner is filled with family and friends and my daughter’s friend’s birthdays.  I now realize that my kin might aim to be “friends with everybody” just like their mommy…how cute, right.  (It’s adorable…especially since stamps are so cheap right now.)

“See, Brianne…it’s somebody else’s birthday a few times each week…just from the people that are connected to our lives,” I explained.  “Isn’t that cool?”

“Where’s my birthday in there?” she responded.  “And I can have my birthday party at Skateworld this year, right?!?!?!”

Well, baby steps on the “let’s learn that everyday doesn’t revolve around me” lesson.  Guess we have all year to cement that one into their tiny little brains.

This New Year, I have a lot of resolutions.  Resolutions to get in shape, lead a healthier life, be a better mom…tons of self improvements that, realistically, I know may or may not cause immediate or lasting change.  But the hope of each new year, and each new…or refreshed…resolution, is an overall goal of being better and continuing accrue a little more wisdom with each passing year.

The difference in my resolve for 2015 is who I make these resolutions for.  Lots of times we resolve to better ourselves for the people in our lives.  For those around us, we try to be better people, so that we can soak up some positive feedback.  Addicting, isn’t it?  That positive feedback?

Well, maybe I just speak for me, but I somehow doubt it.  The biggest resolution is the one at the root of them all.  Who am I doing this for?  And what’s it going to do to and for me in the long run?  What am I changing…and why?

My oldest daughter’s resolution is only to suck her thumb at night.  Appropriate, since she’ll be seven in a few months.  But really…she just wants us to stop nagging her about it.  Can’t say I blame her.  That’s pretty good motivation to make a change.

My four year old’s resolution is not to yell at mommy…or stomp…or kick…or throw things.   Again…appropriate.  However halfway into day one she caved and kicked me in the mouth.  I mean, how dare I turn the TV off after four Barbie movies in a row….

To resolve to be better you have to know you are.  We’re all given a certain talent set from above.  Unless those attributes made unique to each of us are celebrated and expounded upon to the greatest out of our human capacity…then no amount of resolve is going to satisfy us.  Sometimes a little focus on what you’ve excelled at over the past year is a more accurate compass than picking yourself a part.

My oldest daughter, Brianne, has revealed to us all over the last year two major breakthroughs in her personality.  One, that she’ll never give up.  No matter how many times she falls on the ice or crashes on roller skates, she’ll always get up with a big smile and carry on.  That kind of resiliance is a gift.  Celebrate that one in 2015, I say!  Second…she ran downstairs on Christmas morning to find a tree full of presents Santa left her, and the first thing she wanted to do is give her Papa the present she picked out for him at the Secret Santa shop at school.  Precious.  Celebrate that spirit of generosity in 2015..and expound upon it!

Lauren, my yougest daughter, has asked to be called by her “real” name from now on.

“Call me by my real name, mom.” she said at bedtime one night.

“OK, Lo Lo Bear…I’ll call you Lauren,” I agreed.

“No, Mom. My real name is Lo Lo,” she corrected.  “You call me Lo Lo.”

Kid walks to the beat of her own drum…quite litterally…and it’s a very bouncy drum.  Celebrate that self assuredness at such at young age.  Rock that in 2015.

IMG_7674God Bless in 2015!  I hope my little Lo doesn’t whip as many things at me as last year, and I wish my oldest the best on thumb sucking.  Changing is hard, but that also means it’s most likely worth it.

Happy New Year!

Megs

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Stay encouraged!