Picture Day

The windshield wipers squeaked and scraped across the windshield. Misting gray skies muted brilliant colors of the changing season. Wet blacktop swished in traffic, and dreariness attempted frame the day before it had barely begun. Slumped over, choppy breaths evidence of watery eyes, my passenger clutched a cuddly elephant. School picture day meant we would eventually frame 2020 and place it on the fireplace mantel. 

“What’s the matter?” I asked her. She simply shrugged and could not say. The cumulative effect of this year’s anxieties have worn her to the core. She feels beyond my reach, at times, a helpless feeling for a mom. This has been a year full of infinitely more things I cannot explain to her, definitively. Her eyes waver back and forth to me and we both wonder what tomorrow will bring and how we can possibly brace for what it will be like. I want so badly to tell her when this will all be over, that tomorrow won’t be worse, and we’ll all get through it …together. 

Under normal circumstances, parenthood illustrates our daily need for God. The author of Hebrews wrote, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he said down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”(Hebrews 1:3 NIV) The Greek Word for exact defines the instrument used for engraving or carving. 

Numbers, facts, and circumstances change daily in our lives. The author of Hebrews assures us exactly where Jesus is. Our Savior sits at the right hand of the Father. 

Unchanging truth comes from God alone. He knows the number of our days. Nothing changes it. God is the only One who can peer beyond what we see and experience in the present moment. His Truth, alone, is trustworthy and dependable. He is good, and makes good of all things. 

God is personal. Reframe the truth as such. His greatest expression of love for me was Jesus, who came to earth and died on the cross to save me from my sins …and through salvation in the Him the Holy Spirit lives in me and my soul lives eternally with Him. When our lives are built upon this Rock of truth and our faith is rooted in God’s love, we wade through the really hard things with Him.  

Why, then, is it still so hard for God’s Truth to make it past the lump in my throat today? I know Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, fighting for me. Why do I feel so powerless, my prayers seemingly ignored? Because the truth about the world we live in can be pretty grim.

The world’s unfairness isn’t just a fleeting feeling, it’s a magnified fact of life on this sin-soaked earth. There is real evil in the world, intended upon stealing, killing, and destroying us. Our enemy lies. When we feel we are surrounded by unfairness and evil, lies and manipulation …it’s because we are! It’s really hard, and it can make us feel hopeless and helpless to stop it or make things right. Especially when our kids are hurting and there’s nothing we can do to fix or ease the pain. 

Perspective is our rescue. Knowing what is true allows us to see through a different perspective. One of wisdom, peace, hope and love. Jesus is the way we keep moving …because when we can stand anymore …He carries us. 

Letting go is the hardest task in parenting. We ache to see our kids go through pain we wish we could prevent and steer them around. Imagine how God feels about us, when we are in pain, mistreated, hurt, manipulated, and taken advantage of? We have limited power on this earth to set things right, but He is limitless. God, though we don’t understand His purposes or His timing, is in control. We may be manipulated by media, but God is in control. We may be taken advantage of by corrupt leaders, but God is in control. We may not get answers to our prayers in the way and timing we want …but He does hear us …and He will answer. 

The reality of my 2020 is- I don’t know what time I’ll pick my daughter up from school today. But, no matter if it’s normal pick up time and I have her favorite snack and cuddly source of comfort waiting for her in the passenger seat, or a hug and spirit that will share in her heartache and tears, we will turn on the wipers …drive through the cold misty rain …and go home together. And I’m thankful for that …for together.

7 Proven Steps for Overcoming Resentment & Letting Go of Bitterness

“Apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NIV)

Hurt tempts us to comply with a variety of unreasonable emotions. We don’t aim to become bitter people in our relationships, but life happens. Scripture warns in Ephesians 4:26“In your anger, do not sin.” Bitterness is characterized by intense cynicism, antagonism or hostility. (dictionary.com) “Most of our bitterness and anger towards others is rooted in an inability to be profoundly amazed at Christ’s love for us in our sin.” (John Piper)  It interferes with forgiveness too and makes it hard to accept certain realities.

Resentment is the byproduct of bitterness and unchecked anger within relationships, most often marriage. Colossians 3:8 warns, “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Resentment can transform from a behavioral reaction to a personality trait. However, when Christ stitches our wounds together, the bleeding stops and peace is restored.

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The Smiley Faces

the-smiley-faces-pic-1“MOMMMMMM-A!!!”cried my wallowing six-year old, accompanied by her trademark stomp of dissatisfaction. “It’s doing MINUSES now …that’s too HARD….”

For days, exasperated sighs and incorrect buzzers had drifted from the kitchen counter at breakfast. But every once in a while, I would hear a jubilant yell:

“A smiley-face! I got a smiley face! I beat the teacher! Ha ha ha ha !”

It’s my hope that, somewhere in her small victory celebrations and the obsequious high-fives, the fact that she’s learning math trumps beating the “teacher” on the other side of our tablet.

The capricious people-pleaser innate to humanity seeks “the smiley-faces” from life’s the-smiey-faces-tweet-1audience. And when their approval alludes us, it can leave us feeling unworthy, unqualified, unloved, and all sorts of other “un” words. We can relieve our hearts of the burden to please others, when we start to see Him first.

1. Start

“I do not run like a man running aimlessly…”1 Cor 9:26

Paul is talking about the discipline he enforced upon his own life to serve Christ. (NIV Notes) When my life get’s hard, I tend to snap. When the side of my brain that signals I’ve earned the right to lose a little control trumps the logical side, I am libel to tell my kids to pick up there “s-word.” Or, ask them what in the “hocky-sticks” they are thinking. I might stomp up the stairs, roll my eyes at my husband, or cause my kids to flinch in fear. Anyone relate?

When the endurance of preparedness kicks in, the logical side of our brains replaces the-smiley-faces-pic-2lunacy with a pause. A moment, to just sit in the pocket of reaction and allow the memory to search out truth. If we read the truth of God’s Word day after day, it will remain alive and active to guide us on the fly.

Paul knew the cost and sacrifice of such discipline, but knew also it wasn’t aimless.

2. Stamina

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Cor. 9:24

“All the runners run” challenges me to lay down my efforts to succeed in exchange for consistency and discernment.

In a long-distance track event, I like to watch the runners who get boxed in after the lanes merge. Despite all of the preparation and experience the sport can offer, some of the best runners in the world still end up there. Against all odds, sometimes a runner jolts out of the pressure pocket like lightning …and sails back into the race. I love to root for those runners.

the-smiley-facesHave you found yourself boxed into places you’ve never wanted to be …places you prepared never to be? Let me encourage you from a place of commraderie. Human weakness will never go away, but neither will Jesus. Sometimes the only way to get the prize is to take a leap of faith. To reach out for His hand through the spikes clipping by, and let Him pull us back into the race when we’re ready to jolt.

3. Seek

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last forever.” 1 Cor. 9:25

Phil 3:14 explains that the winner of the race, in the time period Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, won money and a wreath of leaves. (NIV notes on Phil 3:14) We train awfully hard to earn promotions, win medals, buy houses, and take vacations. The incomparably majestic crowns in Heaven are going to make a free trip to Disney World equatable to a free Oreo cookie. Just one cookie. Without the milk.

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When I get to heaven, I want God to be proud of me… like a whole reward chart overflowing with smiley-faced stickers. He’ll always love me, but I want to have endured obedience in the pursuit of holiness. I want to break free from the pack and run down that straightaway praising His name as the tape breaks across my chest. I want to win. For Him. God doesn’t paint a whole picture of what that looks like for everyone. It’s as individual as each one of us. And His is the only approval we’re intended to rely on.

Happy Seeking,

Megs

 

 

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The Cubes (“Already Amazing,” by Holly Gerth, Book Review)

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Do you ever have those moments with your children where you deliver sage advice, and then feel immediately guilty because you fail to receive and apply the same principles to your own life? (I’m raising my own hand.)

imageHolly Gerth’s gift to sift through the cobwebs of applicable truth catered to the way God created the human psyche is remarkable. In her new, You’re Already Amazing Life Growth Guide, she introduced me to new bits of my own reflection.

This inventory check drifted into a crucial life-stretch. My house is quiet for hours at a time …for the first time …in eight years. My injured Achilles heal put an end to the first item on my “kids in school all day” bucket list marathon, so I shifted over to the second… write a book. I’d rather conquer the pain of marathon training than the doubt of exposing my unqualified thoughts for all to pick a part. Holly reminded me, re-grounded me, and urged me forward into who God created me to be …as if we’d known each other a lifetime. Now that’s a gift.
I feel more equipped with wisdom in my calling, confidence, and conversation. The kind of wisdom James illuminates in James 3:17:

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

1. Calling.

“Nothing is more powerful than simple obedience.” -Holley Gerth, You’re Already Amazing Life Growth Guide.

James 3:17 wisdom is not your average type of wisdom. It involves obedience to in order to imagereach fruition. The Dictionary of Bible Themes defines James 3:17 wisdom as “given by God alone,” and “resulting in right action.” 

Each session of the Life Growth Guide reset my thoughts to the right caliber of wisdom. It’s easy to get lost in misdirected thoughts, and reset to worldly statutes when my flesh aches. But James 3:17 wisdom requires a purposeful process of understanding who we are built to become before we rationalize anything to anyone. In order to be called we must be listening to the right voice of wisdom. The One that trumps all achievement here on earth.  James 3:17 wisdom requires the right wisdom to fill the space between my ears.

2.Confidence

“Expectations are laws we place on ourselves and each other…What’s God’s answer to those expectations, to those laws we create for ourselves or let others lay down for us? Grace.” Holley Gerth, You’re Already Amazing Life Growth Guide

imageIs there anything more aggravating that when our character is called into question? I feel constantly on guard of attack in episodes of doubt. James 3:17 character is “full of mercy.” The Dictionary of Bible Themes dictates that the James 3:17 believer’s character is “to be merciful.” 

A confident calling is no coincidence. God gives us big enough feet to fill our God-sized dreaming shoes, but we have to lace them up. To build confidence to be able to pursue the path God’s laid out for us, we need to set realistic expectations based on what God’s gifted us. The Life Growth Guide did wonders in unraveling who God made me to be. Who knew there was a process that could determine what you were meant to do by what you like to do. #amazing

There’s so many times I make it harder than it has to be. Correctly based confidence is a product of wisdom applied. I love the part in Exodus when Moses’ face is literally lit up after experiencing the presence of God. (Ex. 34:29,35) When we spend time with God in His Word, He will not only illuminate the truth (Matt 5:14), but I believe our flames start to flicker brighter, too. Holley takes such great care to walk through God’s Word as it pertains to unlocking the potential He laid within our framework. That’s what makes it shine so bright.

3.Conversation

“But simply having a full life and experiencing life to the full are two very different things…A purposeful existence never happens by accident. We mush choose it every single day.” -Holley Gerth, You’re Already Amazing Life Growth Guide

The “good fruit” in James 3:17, according to the Dictionary of Bible Themes, is an “image of the church’s mission: a fruitful plant in a fruitless world.”

At the heart of every calling is a confident conversation To testify Jesus as the only way to imagethe Father. That’s what Christianity is all about. That’s the compass of wisdom directing us out of meaningless doubt and conflict and into the mission of spreading the Gospel. It’s imperative to go through a process like which Holley brings us through, so that we can execute the mission we are here on earth to accomplish until God calls us home.

 “True wisdom will go on …to make peace in the world.” -Matthew Henry’s Commentary on James 3:17

I want so badly to grab control of my gifts and squish them into goal sized ice cubes. But frozen fortitude isn’t going to thaw any hearts. It’s an everyday process of sacrifice. Leviticus 1 is all about sacrifice…the specifics of it…it’s really kind of gross…makes me want to be a vegan. But God spoke to me about the type of sacrifice I’m meant to make daily. The cubes. Purified of any particles I may not even have noticed I added to the water.

Walk through this journey with Holley. It was as simple as starting with what I like to do. What am I good at? Who do I drift towards?  God lent His wisdom through her words, to restore old and establish new confidence in my calling. I believe God will help you, through her faithfulness in answering her own calling,to realize that “You’re Already Amazing.” #foreverthankful

Happy Growing…

Megs

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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