Thanksday #96

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I’ve long neglected this space. Be started 14 months ago and has been my heartbeat (and rightfully so), but lately there has been a pull back to here — this place that’s just me, exploring and pondering and wondering — and I’ve found myself hopping back. Checking things out. Testing my fingers in these waters and enjoying the rush of cool and peace and home.

So I wrote something this week. And it felt awkward at first, and then familiar, and then like walking in the front door after a semester at college. This has always been, and always will be, the safe place I come home to.

There’s no place like home for the holidays, am I right?

As I typed out a status update on Facebook today, it brought to mind gratitude and thanksgiving and my heart again was pulled back here. After all, it is Thursday — Thanksday – and I got that wild urge to make me a thankful list.

(I also got that wild urge to forget to pick up my kids from school and just take off to The Big City for some shopping, but I thought this would be the more responsible thing to do.)

In no particular order, thankfuls for this week:

1. Christmas Blend Espresso Roast. It just might be what I look forward to the most every Christmas, but for some bizarre reason, they are only making half-pound bags right now, which makes me want to pull my hair out. Yes, I could just buy two, but I miss the big shiny bags with the fancy Christmas design. It doesn’t look as festive in an 8-oz size. (But it’s still delicious, don’t get me wrong.)

2. Pandora. All I play right now is my Frank Sinatra holidays station, and my car is a happy place full of the crooning of Frank, Ella, Dean, Sammy, Billie, Louie and others belting out Christmas favorites. My car is an even happier place when I’m be-bopping along with a Christmas Blend in my hand.

3. A Clean & Quiet House. I love being at home in the mornings, completely alone, in a house that’s decorated for Christmas and clean. Everything stays exactly where I leave it for those precious few hours, and there are no wrestling figures laying around, or shoes in my way, or crumbs trailing or PAW Patrol blaring. Sitting in peace and quiet and clean makes my heart so happy.

4. Mollie. Mollie is our three-year old Maltese we adopted at the beginning of the summer, and she is unquestionably the perfect dog for this family. She’s incredibly low-key, relaxed, chill, small, doesn’t shed, and the kids melt into puddles around her. Compared to Dogtastrophe of 2012 when psycho dog came into our lives briefly, not a day goes by that we don’t celebrate the chillness that is Molls. Even now, she’s just curled up into a ball on the white fuzzy blanket, and I can’t tell where she ends and the blanket begins. I love that. And I love my kids don’t walk around with high blood pressure and raised shoulders around her, unsure if she’ll snap or not. ‘Cuz not.

5. Breakfast Dates. For the first time in an embarrassing six months, Greg and I had a breakfast date this week. We used to do them weekly during the school year last year, but this year has been chaotic as I’ve done an extraordinary amount of traveling (which I am NOT complaining about and hey, Santa, bring me some more of that this year? Please and thanks.). But this week it made me remember with glee how much I love spending time with my husband. He is my most best BFF and honestly I’d rather hang out with him than anyone else on the planet. That was a fun omelet, and I’d like to do that again soon. (Please and thanks.)

6. The Dollar Store. Because wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and gift tags don’t come cheap, and I’m trying to save wherever possible.

7. Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Red Dahlia. This stuff is my jam. I can’t stand lipstick anymore, and lip stains don’t work for me. But this stuff right here? It rocks my face off. It’s soft and creamy and just enough color to make it actually look like I have lips (somehow, as I’ve gotten older, they are blending into the color of my skin. What the??). I forgot to grab my tube of this one day while we were at Disney World, and when I mentioned out loud I needed chapstick, my amazing sister-in-law pulled out hers and said I could borrow some. IT WAS THIS EXACT LIP BALM. I died with joy, and I fell in love with her more, as if that were even possible. (Burt’s has other colors too, but this is the best, IMHO.)

8. Phone Dates. I had a (long overdue) phone chat with one of my BFFs from the Wessside this week, and it made my heart burst wide open and tears flood from my eyes realizing how much I miss my people out there. It was so wonderful to hear her voice and catch up properly on life happenings. While Facebook is great for keeping tabs on everyone, nothing compares to voice-to-voice conversation and shared laughter to the point of happy tears. (Well actually, nothing compares to doing that in person, but this is the next best thing.)

9. Wrapping Gifts. It is a completely love-hate relationship, gift wrapping. I love to do it — it’s cathartic and fun and I can sort of zone out while I do it — but I’m also a bit of a perfectionist about it (thanks, Mom! I love tape!). I’m trying a new thing this year — wrapping as I go — hoping that doing a little bit each day will make wrapping all fun instead of stressful. Or, if my family wants to send gifts pre-wrapped this year, that’s great too! (Hint, ahem, cough, grin.)

10. The Best Yes. Over at Be, we were able to have a wonderful conversation with Lysa TerKeurst about her latest book, The Best Yes. (You can listen to it here.) The entire book (and our interview with her about it) is about giving yourself permission to make the best decisions for yourself and your life (with God’s guidance, of course) and gracing yourself to let out a NO from time to time. It’s a game-changer, this one. And as we embark into one of the busiest and stressful most wonderful times of the year, the timing of this message is impeccable. I’m giving myself permission to give only best yeses this Christmas as well as from now on, and I’m excited about it.

Well lookie there. I just completed my first Thanksday in 10 months. That felt nice.

What about you? What’re some things you’re thankful for this week? (Or have you been thankful for in the past 10 months?) Leave a comment and share the gratitude! And I’ll see you in another 10 months soon!

Enjoying the Getting to There

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We’ve been driving for more than five hours. The rain is falling in droves around us, and the kids are quietly playing, I am quietly reading, Greg’s mom is quietly doing crossword puzzles, and Greg and his dad are quietly listening to college football on the radio. (Well, as quiet as that can be.)

We’re road-tripping for a week-long trip to Disney World. All is well.

We’ve been to Disney before together – in fact, Paxton is exactly the age Jaana was on her first trip – and as we journey down the interstate going a hair faster than the speed limit says we should, I watch my boy in a deep sleep, mouth agape and breathing deeply. And then I watch him wake up suddenly, wide-eyed and rested. And then I watch him play the shark game (again) on the iPad.

I watch him, knowing where we’re headed – to Disney World! – and he knows that too…he knows where we’re going. But I watch him and realize he has no idea where we’re going. He doesn’t understand the joy he’ll find there, the magic he’ll feel, the overwhelming sense of happiness that’s about to envelop him for four entire days as we laugh and play and experience the wonder of this gift.

I watch him.

He’s happily sucking his fingers all the while holding his ratty, four-year-old Elmo and making a shark attack an innocent swimmer. He’s laughing at the jokes flying between his Daddy and Papa. He’s nodding his head in beat to the music, asking for snacks and another drink.

I watch him enjoying the journey.

He knows where we’re going, and even though he doesn’t fully know where we’re going, he’s enjoying the moment. Enjoying the journey. He’s not asking questions about how we’ll get in to the park or where we’ll eat or will Elmo get to ride Dumbo with him…he’s just being.

I watch him, and I’m completely and absolutely struck by how much I need to be like him.

We all know those times – the ones that are the majority, not the minority – where God doesn’t tell us where we’re headed and we blindly hold His hand, letting Him lead and guide and as He pulls us to the left to avoid the potholes and to the right to avoid the cliffs. We pepper Him with a thousand questions, a barrage of Where are we going? and How long before we get there? and I’m a little bit hungry and tired and bored. He doesn’t usually answer — just quietly gives our hand a reassuring little squeeze, which shuts us up for about half an hour, and we keep walking.

And then…

Then there are the times – the ones that are completely the minority and never, ever the majority – when He does tell us where we’re headed. You’re going to Disneyland! And we know it’s supposedly magical and we’re told it’s a once-in-a-lifetime type trip, and if He’s taking us there, it must be because He loves us so very, very much.

What sacred journeys those should be…the journeys where the blindfold is off and we are able to walk side-by-side Him – not being pulled behind – fingers entwined and knowing smiles exchanged as we stroll in His love, mercy and grace.

Except…

Except that I don’t walk with Him that way during those times. Do you? I don’t walk with Him as a friend, or lover, or daughter. Instead I hang back — I resist, I pull, I shuffle. I ask questions — again with the questions — but now they sound more like accusations: Why is it taking so long? and Why doesn’t anyone else know where I’m going? and What’s it going to be like when I get there? and This is really hard, should we just go back?

And I think God looks at me and is tempted to say,

Just get up here and walk with Me. Hold my hand and let’s enjoy the journey. It’s going to be worth it. SO WORTH IT. Don’t you realize to get anywhere amazing requires a little effort on the journey? Be it through the wilderness or through a tomb or through exile, it’s going to require some fortitude and perseverance. But where I’m taking you is going to be better than Disney Land — it’s the Promised Land. You are going to FREAK OUT when you see what’s waiting for you there…but for now, just enjoy the Getting to There. 

I watch him.

He’s only almost-five and he doesn’t complain that it’s taking so long, or that the car is bumpy, or that we have to stop again for someone to use the bathroom. He’s only almost-five and he just happily be-bops along, completely content because he’s safe and he trusts who’s taking us there and he’s surrounded by people who love him more than life itself.

I watch him, and I’m completely and absolutely struck by how much I need to be like him.

When God is Gentle, Even When He Shouldn’t Be

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I’m sharing over at Be Still Be Free today, in our new blog linkups! Hop on over to read and link up!

It was one of the darkest times of my life, and yet I drove there and parked the car and walked in the front door. It was our weekly prayer group. A motley crew of five to eight of us who would barge through the front door and drop everything a heap right there in the doorway — our junk, our sin, our issues and our unrealized dreams — and we’d slide into a chair and heave a sigh.

We were safe there. No questions ever asked, no judgments ever given. Just prayer and love and Jesus.

Always Jesus.

It was the always Jesus that drove my car there that night and it was the always Jesus that parked the car and it was the always Jesus that got me through the front door.

It was one of the darkest times of my life. Have I mentioned that? It’s always dark — almost pitch black — when you’re standing in the bottom of a very deep pit…even if it’s a pit of your own digging in which you almost gleefully, almost excitedly dive in head-first.

Dark. Very dark, indeed.

Sitting at the bottom of this pit I could see light, but it was faint and distant. I could see the difference between where I was and where I should be and tried clawing my way out day after day, but could never seem to get a firm footing. The dirt would crumple in my fingers and my toes would slide right back to the bottom.

I never shared about this pit with anyone. I lived in fear of what others would think of me…lived in defiance to the judgment I knew I deserved but hadn’t yet received. I memorized speeches justifying all of it and placing the blame everywhere except on me.

So I hid. I literally and figuratively hid. I still attended church and Bible Study and my little prayer group…but I hid in the back row, and hid behind odd clothing, and hid behind strange behaviors and speech.

And I thought I was doing a bang-up job with my hiding. I really did. I think I even convinced myself that I was fooling God.

Until that night. That night when always Jesus drove me and parked me and ushered me through the front door of prayer group.

During a silent prayer time, each of us huddled with our journals and Bibles and pens, eyes closed and just being still and listening to God, a note was passed over to me. It was from a girl who wasn’t a regular, who knew absolutely nothing about me or my pit.

I quietly opened the note . . . Click over to BE to finish reading!

When Desperation Drives You to Finally ASK

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EVIDENTLY, this is my personal website. As in, MINE. ALL MINE.

Yet I’ve been so utterly and completely focused on Be Still Be Free that I’ve let this poor little site wither like a grape. And now we’re past raisin stage and into full-on petrification.

And I know I pop in over here from time-to-time and declare no more! I’m back and I’m committed! And then the empty words ring hollow and leave a mighty echo.

[Echo…]

[Echo…]

I have no strategy, plan or even shred of determination to rectify this, sadly. But here I am again…popping in to declare I’m back! For now! And to let you know I’m sharing over at BE today as we wrap up our series Be Bold and Conquer.

Here’s a brief peek:

She was a guest speaker at our Bible Study…an elegant woman with empathetic eyes and graceful demeanor, and a southern accent that lilted words and softened the convictions that always came as she spoke the truth. Plainly.
She words were full of authority and grace, with understanding and yearning. I sat mesmerized and unable to blink as she shared about Jesus – her Jesus – and how He changed her. Utterly and completely changed her.
For the next several days I struggled to stand as my weary bones carried my heavy heart. As I’d shuffle along throughout each day, she’d appear in my thoughts, blowing across my mind like a refreshing breeze. I needed something…that much I knew – and one day I suddenly realized I needed her.
On an it’s-almost-fall morning, with a cup of coffee in my hands, I found her number and called her. I stumbled over my words until I could coherently state,
I need a mentor. I desperately and immediately need a mentor.
Okay, she replied with that southern lilt and graceful demeanor. Let’s meet for lunch and we’ll see what God says about this.
Over squash soufflé and sweet tea with extra ice, she told me she’d been praying and that God nodded Yes, you should mentor this lost and desperate girl (although maybe I imagined the last part). And we developed a schedule and a plan and a list of things I needed guidance with.
She left with a very, very long list.

To continue reading, just click here! And I’m looking forward to seeing you back here in oh, I dunno…maybe another three months or so?

In the meantime, I would LOVE to see you over at BE. It is my heartbeat and favorite place, and I think you’d really, really love it.

Love you, friends!

Loving Yourself Enough To Do The Scary Things

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The arena was jam-packed with women wearing their Sunday and Monday and Thursday and Saturday best. Their accessories matched their pocketbooks which matched their shoes which matched their Bible covers. An arena full of sopranos and altos and even a smattering of tenors harmonized during worship and their heads nodded during the lesson and their wallets poured out money during the love offering. Hands were raised in re-commitment to Jesus and tissues were dabbed across blurry eyes and when it was time to break it was as if there was one giant exhale in unison.

We strolled through the lobby deciding what to eat for lunch, my friend and I. We dodged women in their Tuesday and Friday best with their accessories that matched their shoes. Some were impatient with the lines at the food stands, some were frustrated with getting their pocketbooks (which matched their accessories) bumped. Some couldn’t believe there wasn’t enough lunch-time seating for all seven hundred million women jammed into the arena.

My friend and I grabbed lunch and searched for a place to sit among the bright patterns and matching Bible covers. As soon as we took our first bite, we saw him. He couldn’t have been more than 21 and he was dirty and his eyes were glazed and his shoes had holes and he appeared homeless. He walked the aimlessly amid the maze of nodded heads and tear-stained tissues trying to talk to the women, but was largely ignored or smiled at politely as they turned back to their conversation.

My friend and I looked at each other and I knew what she was thinking and she knew what I was thinking but we were both petrified of each other’s thoughts, afraid to say it out loud. I don’t remember who broke first, but the words rang loudly in our ears,

 “Should we pray for him?”

Click here to keep reading — I’m sharing over at my second home, Be Still Be Free today!

 

Loving Yourself and Cleaning House

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[tap, tap, tap]

Is this thing on?

Pardon me while I clean out the cobwebs over here. I mean, my gosh at the stale scent ova hee-ah.

I’ve neglected this place. I really, really have. I miss writing something fierce, but my creative cup is still getting filled over at my second love, Be Still Be Free. And yet I’ve been remiss in tying these two homes together consistently.

BUT NO MORE.

This week over at Be, we’re talking about loving yourself. We’re nearing the end of our series Be Loved and Live, and let me tell you — it’s been a huge blessing to me personally. If you want to start at the beginning and catch up, just click over to listen to each of the podcasts:

Next week we’ll explore what it looks like to truly Love Others. After that, we’re on to a whole new series that is 100% my heartbeat and passion:

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I hope you’ll hop over to check out the amazing things God is doing with Be Still Be Free, and I’ll do a better job of bridging these homes together.

In the meantime, I’ll be here opening all the windows and beating dust out of the rugs — and overall, just bringing this site back to life.

Be free today. Love y’all.

490 Planks

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I did it again.

I took my eyes off the mountain for just a minute and the pull of the valley brought me back low. The chaotic drama woke up a mama bear from hibernation, and though the situation had nothing to do with me at all, I threw my sword on the ground and was ready to fall on it with a mighty vengeance.

My heart lashed out and rehearsed a thousand scenarios of what I would say and how I would respond and countless minutes — maybe even hours — were spent in conversations that would never actually take place.

Time I should have spent praying was instead invested in scouring the Bible for verses that would provide justification to my cause…confirmation that my anger was righteous and “godly.”

In my frantic, passive-aggressive search for verses to ambiguously confront, I found The Verse. But it turned out it wasn’t a verse that applied to the situation…

…it was instead a verse God applied to me:

Don’t think you can decide on your own what is right and what is wrong. Respect the Eternal; turn and run from evil. (Prov 3:7)

#ouch

My head hung low in resignation as the conviction stung deep in my heart.

Am I ever going to get it right the first time?

Don’t ignore the wooden plank in your eye, while you criticize the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eyelashes. (Matt 7:4)

“But God,” I pleaded, “My frustration and disappointment are justified! True injustice happened. It’s not fair!” (I might have clenched my fists and stomped my feet, too…I can’t be sure.)

You must forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matt 18:22)

I despise this answer. I know in the depths of my heart it’s true, but still I fight it. I want restitution, I want payback. I want to shout and maybe even wield a pitchfork. Maybe.

When will I learn? When will I learn that God holds me just as accountable for my reactions as He holds those who were wrong? That I do not have permission to turn around and engage in the same behavior?

Growing in God is JUST SO HARD.

#whine

This little exchange with God happened just hours after prepping for an upcoming talk about climbing your mountain to gain clearer perspective…climbing in order to be transformed…to be closer to Jesus.

So He gently began reminding me of everything I had passionately rehearsed earlier…

  • That in the valley difficulties seem larger than life and insurmountable
  • That we have to get to the mountain to gain godly and holy perspective
  • That when we get proper perspective, we see that nothing in the valley is bigger or badder or tougher than God is

My head hung low in humility as repentance oozed from my heart.

And then I heaved a big sigh and started climbing my mountain.

I call to You from the end of the earth when my heart is weak. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2)

Getting to the top was everything I needed.

From the Rock, I can see past the immediacy of a frustrating situation.

From the Rock, I can see how these million little angry dots soften and melt into an entire glorious canvas, painted by a Master.

From the Rock, the shenanigans in the valley fall into the correct order of priority — under God.

From the Rock, I’m more concerned with getting 490 planks out of my eyes so I can enjoy the breathtaking view at the top. (click to tweet that)

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I’m so thankful that God loves me too much to let me remain stuck in a mentally destructive valley. I’m so grateful for His gentle reminders to look up and to see life through holy lenses and proper perspective.

And I’m so thrilled He doesn’t hold the planks in my own eyes against me…forgiving me much, much more than seventy times seven…every single time.