The Fearless (#jammed daily devo, day 138)

May #jammed: Growing Grace.

Day 138: Fear is weak.

“an immoral woman is a narrow well.” Proverbs 23:27

“Did you have fun?” I asked my daughter after she rode the tallest roller coaster she is image-138permitted to ride at her height.

“I closed my eyes the whole time,” she said, pale as a ghost.

It took her the entire summer to open her eyes for the entire ride. When she finally let herself see what was happening, it wasn’t as scary.

The verse from Proverbs today is not one I would have ever chosen to write on, had I not set out to cover the “thirty wise statements.”

Sometimes, when we face the things we are the most afraid of, they become a little less scary. This verse is about an immoral woman. Who wants to talk about that? That’s scary, because I can relate to her. Maybe in facing it with you, here today, the fear of my past mistakes will lose a little power over my life.

The end of my first marriage planted a seed of fear in me concerning what the Bible says about divorce, and what people say about divorced people. The fights in those two brief years were awful, and I ran into the next chapter of my life before closing the book. Divorce and adultery. All of the sudden I wasn’t good enough for the church I grew up in, and that made me question my faith and my worth.

My life today is a testament to God’s grace and blessing, not my good choices. Re-married ten years this summer, I know that a lot of the problems we have today are still remnants of consequences. But I have also experienced the forgiveness and healing of Jesus. Our blessed life is a result of His good grace. In dying on the cross for my poor choices, He lent me another chance at life.

Mistakes can’t be erased, only souls redeemed. When I watch bad things happen to good people, I know I deserve it over them. My mistakes are on the list of top Ten Commandments never to break. If you join me in that club, I want to encourage you today. Jesus isn’t keeping score, so throw the tally list of mistakes away …amplify His voice over all others …and grab onto His hand for dear life. He will pull us out of the well.

jammed-click-to-tweetFather, Praise You for redeeming us from our messes. Thank You for sending Jesus to die on the cross so that we can be redeemed and restored. Forgive us for letting fear take root in our hearts because we are afraid You won’t forgive us. Strengthen us to trust You. Help us to have faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 Get the conversation started by commenting below, and let’s encourage one another as we face life in 2017 armed with grace! 

#greatgrace17

Happy Restoring,

Megs

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The Land

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Witness is woven into everyone’s life, but not all have a natural appreciation for their “place.” Clevelanders have taking a beating for decades. For the state of their city and “the curse” on their teams. I am them.

“Against all odds…

I don’t now why we want to take the hardest road…

I don’t know why the Man above gives me the hardest road…

but the Man above doesn’t put you in situations that you can’t handle…

and I just kept that same positive attitude…

Instead of saying ‘why me…’

saying ‘this is what He wants me to do.”

-LeBron James, after winning the 2016 NBA Championship

This generation of Cavaliers basketball players capped off a legacy that began long before they started playing in the big leagues.  My feet froze watching Elway crush our football team. I watched the old stadium fall. I wondered if a lost $100 bill had fallen from a very tall pocket grabbing a bite at Whitey’s after a game at the Richfield Coliseum. I walked to “The Jake” after work many summer nights in run of the late 90’s.

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My most cherished sports memory isn’t the Brown’s rookie graveyard I put up in my front yard on Halloween. It’s not training camp in Berea every year, where the hope of every Browns fan is at it’s most realistic peek. Not the sense of a piece of home seeing people you knew “back then” in the same tailgate spot. Not post game victory walks or seeing concerts at my favorite fields. Not even a long awaited raise of a shiny gold trophy.

It’s my brother…

And his little-kid face…

…at the local restaurant in the burb we grew up in, taking off his unbent hat to have a couple CAVS write a little history into his heart. He’s the biggest Cleveland fan I know.

The energy. The camaraderie. The land.

When the homesick tendencies of dorm life set in, I clung to the conversations over commonalities. Fellow fans felt like family, and I began to realize that “home” wasn’t just teenage angst waiting to bust out and get out. “Home” was layered into my heart.  No matter where I reside, my heart beats to “Cleveland Rocks.”

The life of a Clevelander is built into the layers of adversity. As the seasons change, jobs get lost, the Browns get worse, and the trophy eludes …we remain. We hold on to hope. We welcome you home. We believe.

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“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

We’re all tempted to throw in the towel. When the environment that surrounds starts to crumble in around us, the tempting tendency is to run …quit …move. Tenacity is woven into tough spots. Stuttering human stamina indicates opportunity for God to move. Will we follow fight or flight, or sit and stay to see why?

Paul is comforting us in that we’re all tempted. Christ was tempted. To sin. To quit. To run. To move. It’s not in the want to waver that we fail, but in the actual running and moving. In the stillness of our hearts, we choose whether to soldier on …to trust Him at His word …to wait on why.

Witness is woven into every life. LeBron, and his faith that God won’t test him beyond what he can handle, represented an entire city that shares that mentality. Can’t give up. Won’t give up. We will stay and wait.

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I didn’t watch any games this year. Not until there were 10.6 seconds remaining. Bracing for the heartache of a city and another reel tacked on the highlights of our almost accomplishments. Fearing the faltering crack of one team under so much pressure. But, in my Northeast Ohio heart, I believed it could happen. Against all odds. That’s CLE life.

BELIEVELAND.

PERFECTWe believe in each other. Because, under fire, sometimes that’s all we’ve got. Just to glance up, grab the hand beside us, and soldier on. Keep going …hoping …cheering …willing.

It’s just a game in a world filled with so much injustice, hurt, and tragedy. Just a trophy coming to reside in a city on a quest to come back.  But weaved into the win are streets full of people from all walks of life… in the city where someone always knows someone you know… embracing the victory of hope fulfilled …in a city that’s come back.

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Thank you, Cleveland, for bringing out the best piece of humanity …love. For who we are, for our history, and for our “place.”

It’s my “place.” It’s our “place.” #allin

Happy Parade Day, Cleveland! Let the ticker tape fly!

Megs

 

 

 

The 5 Fights Before 9.

Fight the fall into fear, failure, and doubt by giving up guilt in exchange for grace; fetching forgiveness for faults.

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I have kids. If I want to entertain the notion of a “quiet” time before the chaos erupts, my alarm can only beep a maximum number of three times. In the dark of dawn, I silence the beep and gently shut my bedroom door so that my teeny tiny sleepyheads aren’t awoken by the tap of my toothbrush. Like 007, I swiftly breeze back out the door, shutting it to mute the snores echoing off the walls. I pad lightly down the stairs in my slippers, begging my bones not to crack until I reach the kitchen. My quiet little Keurig whirs on and steams my morning coffee, and I carefully stir the swirl of my fancy dark chocolate syrup and coconut milk with a plastic spoon to avoid cup clinks. Then, I meander to my place of morning bliss, steaming warmth hugging my hands.

I really do feel like I’ve accomplished a mission when I sit down at my desk…and crack open the Word for an instructional day-prep. Ah…the five minutes before the five fights before nine…are so glorious.

imageOnce the first piece of light cracks the dark open, little feet make passes down the stairs in competition for my lap. This particular morning, my daughters came down convinced that I did not have enough love to cuddle them both at the same time, and the jabbing began. Fight one…mom’s attention.
Morning cuddles met, they trudged back up the stairs to get dressed, and fight number two ensued…the headband.

“No, Lauren!” Her sister snapped.

“That’s my headband and your not wearing it today!!!”

“But it matches perfect…” Lauren wailed, and I could hear the snap back of the headband as it was forcefully removed from her head.

Making time back down the stairs to tattle, I pointed her directly back up, “I’m sorry, Lauren, it’s Brianne’s headband.” I hollered up the stairs over little sister’s stomping, “Brianne, you could have handled that a little nicer…”

Instead of tagging in to engage in the morning, I let my eyes remain glued to my screen, and ears peeled in awareness of the sharp murmured tones coming from the bathroom again. Even though I couldn’t make out he words, I knew Brianne was giving her sister an unnecessary lesson in sass, and taking a few elbow jabs in return.  image

“Lauren, I’m getting ready for work, you can’t come in here,” I heard my husband holler from our bathroom.

Toothbrush and hijacked toothpaste in hand, Lauren’s brisk steps flew across my desk and into the downstairs bathroom, peering over her shoulder and whipping the door closed before her older sister could catch her. Fight number three…tooth-brushing. “LAUREN…BRIANNE…” I commanded them both to my desk and then back upstairs to brush their teeth in their own toothpaste-globbed sink.

I drifted up and out of my sacred morning space of serenity to feed children breakfast and pack lunches. To buy me five minutes to get dressed without curiosity imploding in the kitchen, I dished out a practice math quiz and some sight words. Two minutes in, a math quiz emergency busted into my bathroom. Fight number four…even if dad did print out the answers to the math quiz by mistake…don’t bust in on mom in the bathroom to unveil the tragedy.

By the time it was time to leave for school, I mechanically shut down fight number five and all of its “my-winter-coat-is-too-hot-it-makes-me-too-sweaty-on-recess” grandeur before it could even grow legs.

“Brianne, here’s a tip,” I started, “anytime you ever ask me anything with that facial expression and that tone…it’s an automatic no…I don’t even know where you’re head’s at…”

I can see the look on her face still, the utter shock that she had been de-worded and denied before the first syllable passed her lips. Down went fight number five…I don’t want to wear my winter coat.

Seat-belts buckled to sound the final lap of the morning mile, with spelling word drills and hugs and smooches and cuddles and car dance parties, while they wait for their turn to hop out of my car and into the school hallway full of friends. My early morning prayers for their safety at school rushed to the top of my mind as I drove off, welled up, and wallowed in a sea of guilt for nagging them through the morning.

imageIt’s frustrating to lose fights with my feelings while the Bible is still sitting open on my desk. I’ve been making myself feel gullibly guilty for that lately…and for the general lack of measuring up to the state of “holy” that I feel I should be maturing to at this point in my life.

As I walked back into the quiet house, I noticed Brianne’s blanket lying on the floor underneath my desk. She’s had “Fuzzy Wuzzy” since the day she was born. Although she’s growing up and out of the blankly stage now, she still sleeps with it every night and drags it with her to snuggle in my lap each morning. This particular morning, she brought her little pink and purple princess Bible along with it…and a highlighter…and sticky notes. We both had so much fun as she asked me for verses and felt so accomplished as she found and highlighted them. In the chaos of fight number one, no one noticed “Fuzzy Wuzzy” had fallen to the floor.

She really is growing up…and picking up, His Word. Wow. Here I was putting myself imagethrough the guillotine of guilt, over things I can’t change about how we all are in the morning…and overlooking the grace of God to take my one small act of obedience and answer my own prayer with it.

“Please, let my daughters hear your call early in life.”

Seven years old, and her search has begun.

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the Saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19

“The eyes of your heart…” I looked up the verse at BibleGateway and clicked “Study This,” to discover through The Dictionary of Bible Themes that “eyes” are a much bigger anomaly than I had ever pondered before.

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Falling at the feet of Jesus with my faults is healthy, but getting up with the guilt and imagewalking off with it is not. From now on, I want to see the blanket dropped in the corner instead of the gasket I blew over fight number five. Through prayer and persistence, I choose to see a more positive perspective. Perhaps you’ll want to join me…and pass some peace around.

1. See what you want to see. Fight for the light. It’s everywhere. The sun comes up everyday, and streetlights dim-out even in overcast skies. Gaze at God’s creation. Glance at His Word. Start your day there. There’s something in this world that you would mourn over if lost…if your at a loss…start by saying, “Thank you” for whatever or whoever that is. Start to see…

“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” Psalm 19:7-8

2. Look for the Lesson. Watch for what God’s showing you.

“For it is by grace that you are saved through faith; it came not through your own striving but it is the gift of God. Not because of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

This is where a lot of people confuse religion and holiness. Holiness is pursing a change of heart inspired by a relationship with Jesus through God’s free gift of grace. The lessons are laced in His Word and our prayers. No one person can know your heart like you do and God does. You have to work holiness out with Him. Come to Him in authenticity, and look for Him to guide you personally. As you see Him, you’ll seek more.

3. Lift your eyes. Tilt your head back. Pray. Ask. Seek. God is faithful and good.

“The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help.” Psalm 34:15

He hears you, He’s with you… so talk to Him. Jesus is our lifeline to the Father, our gift of grace and forgiveness. I am learning that to pursue a life of holiness I also need to receive the gift of grace that was so freely shed in blood for me on the cross, and fetch the forgiveness that has been thrown up for me to grab.

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imageGive up the guilt. Replace it with grace. Take off your pretty shoes and wiggle your dirty toes. Be you and follow Him. He is faithful. Fight for Him.

Happy Fighting,

Megs

 

The Reindeer.

IMG_8669Evil will riddle anxious sorrow unless smacked with deep, healing love.

My daughters woke up one Saturday morning ending my journal time and proudly proclaiming a pajama day.  Both in their Christmas footie jammies, they vowed to eat chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and begged to watch “White Christmas.”  A touch early by some standards, but hard to say “no” to adorable little girls in Christmas footie pajamas.

“Mom,” my oldest pleaded, “can you PLEASE get the Christmas stuffed animals out?”

“PLEASE-PLEASE-PLEASE-PLEASE-PPPPLLLLEEEEAAAASSSSEEEE?!?!?!?!?!?!?”

Yes, they have such an obscene number of stuffed animals that we pack a portion away in an attempt to make room for them to sleep on their own beds. The “Christmas” stuffed animals remain out of sight…and out of mind…for the most part.  However, the longer my darling Brianne spends a part from her coveted Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the more anxiety she has about needing it immediately.  Call me a Saturday morning pushover; because I made them their pancakes and headed down to the crawlspace to dig out the reindeer.

IMG_8665Sweating, and muscles cramping from being curled up to reach far away small spaces in search of Holiday craziness… I stopped mid-search to ponder the sad reality that Paris was waking up to that same Saturday morning.

The same agony felt by countless souls scattered around the globe blindsided by the same unfathomable realms of evil. It seems to overwhelm every place once treasured safe.

I needed Christmas cheer that Saturday morning.  I needed that reindeer.

“Here it is!” I proudly proclaimed as I carried a giant red tote up the basement stairs and let it land in front of my girls.

“They’re all here!” they screeched.  “Rudolph!” my Brianne sighed as she hugged her old friend.

“The Grinch!!!”  her little sister gasped, as she ran up to find an appropriate outfit for her furry green buddy.IMG_8664

The last request filled with “White Christmas” playing in the background, my daughters snuggled up and checked out into the winter wonderland of yesteryear.

The nostalgia of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing “Snow” on a train ride stirred up feelings of joy as I pictured my Grams singing in her kitchen at Christmastime.  The beginning of the movie is set in wartime, with a scene of soldiers overseas.

It’s a different kind of war we’re fighting today.

It’s hard to picture what kind of scene we’ll be looking back upon generations from now.  Each one worse than the next.  The more unthinkable the conflict we deem unimaginable, coming to pass nonetheless.

In a world where my seven year old fears a “lock down” more than her school catching on fire.

I need a “White Christmas.”

IMG_8666Yes, it’s old fashioned.  I’m the annoying one who could listen to Christmas carols all year long, and cannot wait to sing them at a very high volume dancing in the kitchen or on the way to school with my kids.  There’s a note of hope and kindness in those songs….an unashamed proclamation of the hope that Jesus brought when he was born.  Visions of Santa Claus landing on the rooftop, the Grinch stealing presents, and a boy being left home alone.  I love it all.  Nonsensical as some of the holiday rush can be, there is always a lesson of truth hidden within yet we dare to unwrap it.

“What if I couldn’t find my sissy,” my daughters asked me after lock down drill day, tears streaming down their faces.

I can’t find the words to describe that moment.

My oldest daughter gets “belly aches” just thinking about it.  Their teachers eyes fill up with tears at the thought.  It’s a gut-punch as a mother.  A hopeless sense of innocence lost too soon.

I feel it, too, that ache for Jesus.  For Him to come down and replace everything that evil has crushed and tried to stomp out.

I need Christmas.  Yes, it’s important to give thanks in honor of our founding fathers.  But maybe, in this rapidly deteriorating world, it’s most important to give thanks to the God who inspired their trip across the ocean in the first place.  The one who’s very namesake appears in the name of the holiday.

The good I glean from the over-commercialism of Christmas is celebrating the gift of Christ to the world a little IMG_8650sooner.

More time for cheer.

More time to think of others.

More time to pack a shoe box.

More time for more people to hear about His birth.

Pass me a red cup.

If children are no longer encouraged to believe in magic, how will they ever know what God means to “have faith like a child?” (Matthew 18:3, Luke 18:17)  What sorrow to think many still do not realize they can cling to Him…

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“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and dives his spoil.”
Luke 11:21-22

Jesus IS stronger.

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
Luke 11:23

I’m WITH Him.

Hearts will be harder,” stated Beth Moore in referring to the natural direction our hearts will lend to if we don’t specifically aim otherwise.

Especially after lock down drill day.

Especially after Paris.

IMG_8662Some days I just want to cling to my children over sending them off to school.  I realize that clinging to Christ is the only way I am able to drive away after they jump out of the car…“strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10

Clinging to Jesus as the aches and sobs well up as I drive away.

Clinging to the dream my daughter and I crafted when she was two….to share a trip to Paris someday.IMG_8663

We’ll keep dreaming that dream…yes, we will.  And though I ache for Him some days in sorrow and in fear, I have the hope that He left on the cross to cling to.

I choose to keep a death grip on love.  I’m positive on purpose.  I study His Word for encouragement.

“And you know the way to where I am going.” John 14:4

He is joy.

And it can’t be stolen.

Not by another…not by terror.

“We are wise never to overestimate or underestimate Satan’s power. But even though we are no match for him, he is no match for God….God is biding His time until His kingdom calendar has been accomplished and all who will receive His salvation are redeemed….Jesus Christ is going to take back what Satan has stolen from us!”
– Beth Moore, Portraits of Devotion, Day 166

Oh, Come, all ye faithful…

Happy Holidays…no wait…Merry Christmas.

Megs

“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Hebrews 10: 22-25

 

 

 

 

The Broken Bunny

In an adventure to the craft store, my oldest daughter fell in love with a broken bunny.  Anxious to pick out a craft in preparation for what could be yet another snow day tomorrow, she and I both decided that a cute little cloth bunny would be the perfect guinea pig for us as we learn to sew.

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If only my three-year old were that easily sufficed.  She’s not.  I negotiate shopping trips on lollipops.  With dreams of being able to wander aimlessly with my toddler toting happily beside me throughout the store entertained by a sweet treat, I hand that first one over like it’s the absolute solution to all that is mayhem in shopping with toddlers.

Little Lo skipped happily around the store picking bouquets of fake flowers for me to smell. But before long, I started to catch that ornery glance through her static-attacked hair (that looked like it hadn’t been brushed in weeks….yet was just hours before.).  If only there was a lollipop that she could never finish…

Brianne played happily with her bunny as she toted it along to look at artificial flowers and buttons and thread.  She held up multiple fabric squares to the little stuffed creature, then decided that giraffe was a pattern that would fit it perfectly, along with another.  Then, I noticed that her precious bunny’s arm was only hanging on by a couple of loose threads.

“Brianne, that bunny’s arm is about to pop off,” I pointed out to her.  “Why don’t you put him back and pick out another one?” I suggested.  After being distracted briefly by my younger child’s temporary disappearance from my line of sight, I looked expectedly to Brianne to go switch out the bunny.

The look I received did not reflect that of the realistic, and quite logical, request that I had just made.  No-no, the look I got instead was one of heartbreak.

“Mom!  No!  I love this one!” she replied.

“Are you sure?” I plodded.  “Don’t you want to pick a bunny that’s not broken?”

After the third and fourth request, and then walking over to the bin of bunnies with her to pick another…hoping a visual would seal the deal…her eyes welled up with tears, and she said to me again,

“I’m already attached to this one,” and held her broken bunny tight….all the way to the checkout line.

That’s my Brianne.  To her, that bunny wasn’t broken, it needed to be rescued.  It was just as good as any other bunny.  It just needed some extra love and a little mending.  She is such a creative spirit, and no doubt sees that bunny as an empty canvas for all kinds of new outfits and adventures.

Wouldn’t the world be a more refreshing place if we all took each other at face value, without looking to see if there are ripped seams?  What a novel idea it would be to consider who might be hanging on by a couple of threads before we launch into our opinion on their shoes…their job…their kid…their life.

There are lots of days when I feel like more than just my arm is hanging on by a few loose threads.  When the chronic pain that I endure simply starts to eat me up.  There are many times that I am overcome with doubt about every possible area of my life.

Some days, I just feel like I’m under attack…

And on those days, sometimes after much wallowing on my part…God picks me up, gives me a hug, and says,

“I love this one….I’m already attached.”

Burdened by pain that I can’t explain, confused as all get out at which direction I should go next, feelings at times seemingly hurt beyond repair…life can be crushing sometimes.  I’ve trained my daughters to rally in those situations.  To let their emotions flow out of them, and then put the pieces back together through hugs and prayers.

As I sat in tears through one such moment yesterday, it was my daughters who came clamoring up the stairs and jumped on my bed, with hugs and “I love you’s,” and so much silliness that I eventually ended up in a pile of cuddles and laughter.  What a blessing it is, to be a mother.  Through all the doubt it entails, it’s so rewarding to be the recipient of a warm embrace like those we so often give out throughout the day.  It’s heavenly encouragement that we’ve done something right.

I think it really is that simple.  Like Brianne saw the potential for all kinds of magical things in her broken bunny, God already knows the abundant blessings that will unfold in our lives.

When our spirits are under attack, when we’re feeling like everything is unraveling before our eyes…like the pain is too much to bear, and the circumstances are too hard to understand…He is there, watching it all unfold as planned…

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.- Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

A giraffe print dress for a stuffed bunny.

Happy Sewing!

Megs