Jesus—in the middle of it all

My dear friends @Hopewriters had a weeklong instagram writing challenge. I had great intentions and shared my writing on my blog and on Instagram four of the days, which is pretty good. So I decided to go back to the word prompts I missed, because word prompts help me think and help me focus.

Another thing that helps me in my writing is my middle of the month pause to reflect and pay attention to my #frontdoorview. (#frontwindowview) I snap a picture when it catches my eye, or when I realized it’s the middle of the month and I forgot. I take special notice of sunrises or sunsets, storms rolling in or bright blue, cloudless days. And in the month of May, I wish there was a way to better capture the few lilac bushes that hedge the yard. And I wish I could share the burst of lilac scent that catches me when I leave my house. And always I’m reminded of the goodness and faithfulness of my God.

We’ve been smack dab in the middle of a little bit of chaos. Life has thrown a few curve balls in the last year or so. There has been a lot of loss, some changes, heart work, relationship struggles, ups and downs in parenting, doubts, questions, pruning. And in the middle of it all, when I’m tempted to claim a crisis of faith, I can’t. I am constantly reminded that Jesus has the words of life and I go back to my favorite Psalms and remember how David prayed honest prayers and refocused and realigned his heart with the truth of God’s Word.

David’s relationships were a mess, his parenting was less than ideal, he made lots of mistakes as king. But always he turned to God. He confessed his sin, he focused on the goodness of God, he reminded himself that God was in control, he continually asked God for direction and next steps in his life.

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

Psalm‬ ‭25:4-5‬

So when I’m feeling overwhelmed in the middle of my week, the middle of parenting teenagers, the middle of the chaos of life, I ask God to lead me in truth, I pray for wisdom and for Him to direct my path. And I praise the God of my salvation.

#HopeWriterLife #amwriting #writeyourheartout #writingchallenge #faithwriters #juliesmonthlyspot #onceamonthspot #ministryofpayingattention #middle

Writing—A memorial of Words

I need to remember why it is I wanted to be a writer. I write to remember the good things God has done for me. I write to remember Scripture. I write to remember that God uses the good and the hard for His glory. I write to remember that I am not alone, and to remind you of the same.

Writing helps me refocus my thoughts, my emotions, my swirly whirly chaos. It reminds me that I’m supposed to live life in community. Writing reminds me that I’m supposed to be relying on God every day, every moment for every thing. He doesn’t want to be my emergency contact (I heard that on a podcast, but I can’t remember which one).

He isn’t just a contact on my phone that I reach out to when I need help. He is right beside me all the time, He goes before me, He walks beside me, He surrounds me. And I want to remember that He is with me. I want to rely on Him in every moment of my day, to be truly and fully aware of His presence in the daily, in the mundane, in the joy, in the tears.

It’s easy to remember God is with me when I’m outside surrounded by beauty of His creation, and the colors of all the flowers, and the flittering and singing of the birds remind me. It’s harder when I’m snapping at my teenagers, drowning in files at work, getting stuck in traffic, or have my plans interrupted.

These posts are essay cairns (a memorial of words instead of rocks) to myself and hopefully a witness to those who cross this path, that God is good, and God is truth and life, and there is always hope.

How have you experienced hope that helped you remember the goodness of God?

#HopeWriterLife #amwriting #writeyourheartout #writersofinstagram #writingchallenge #faithwriters #Hope #Remember #chasingoutthedark

In the middle of the messy story

The story is this… I thought I wanted to be a writer. I think I may still want to be a writer. But some days I can’t figure out what my story is, I can’t figure out why I want to share it, how, where, and when I want to share it. I can’t even figure out who needs to hear it.

When we tell our stories—humbly, authentically, with the intent to glorify God—it can encourage others. I always want my story to have a happy ending, I like it when it wraps up neatly with a bow. But tonight, I’m smack dab in the middle of messiness. And that’s not usually the best time to share. But here is what I do know.

Always, I want my story to remind myself, my kids, my circle of influence, that God is good, God is love, and God is in control . I know that when I have a breakdown, I can respond like David and go to the loving arms of my Father. Sometimes I ask Him, “How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever?”  Or “why do the heathen prosper?” Or “why is my soul cast down?”

And I ask these questions until He reminds me, that … “He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul” and I can experience peace because “You LORD, make me dwell in safety” and “He rescued me because He delights in me.”

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭13:5-6‬ ‭‬‬

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭16:11‬ ‭‬‬

What story are you telling? How do you combat the questions and doubts with truth? What encouraging truth in your story can you share with us today?

#HopeWriterLife #amwriting #writeyourheartout #writersofinstagram #writingchallenge #faithwriters #Psalms #JesusOnlyJesus

Speak truth, speak life, speak hope, speak Jesus.

We all have a voice. We’ve been given a circle of influence, our family, our community, our social media following, our church or neighborhood. How are we using our voice in that circle of influence? Are we speaking life into those with whom we come in contact? Are we using our voice for good or for evil? To build up or tear down? To encourage or cause harm?

I don’t think many would say they are intentional in being harsh and critical, in causing heaviness or anxiety to those around them, but out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What do your words, your actions, your social media posts promote?

Sometimes I go silent on my blog and social media because I don’t know what to say, I’m too busy to sort out thoughts, or I just need a break. But sometimes, it gets quiet because I’ve been taught—“if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Often it’s my heart that needs a readjustment, some hope, the truth of God’s Word, a good dose of Jesus.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” 
Proverbs‬ ‭12:25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The grass grows where it’s watered, the plants that are fed are the ones that prosper, and the thoughts you rehearse in your head are the ones that take root and grow and repeat. So when I feel the negativity taking over, when I find myself easily irritated by the little things, when I can’t seem to find the beauty in my everyday, I go back to the Psalms, I go back to the words of Jesus, I write the words of encouragement that I need to hear and I share it with others in hopes that I’m not the only one.

I plant my feet in the grass. I look at God’s creation. I beg Him to show me His daily presence. I give thanks for the wildflowers, I find beauty in the sunrises and sunsets, I marvel at the cardinals and bluebirds in my yard. I immerse myself in the Psalms and Proverbs, processing my emotions like David and seeking wisdom like Solomon. And then I use my voice to praise my Creator. I give thanks for the way He carries me. I believe and shout like Peter… “where else would I go? You, Jesus, have the words of Life.”

Speak truth, speak life, speak hope, speak Jesus.

How does being grounded in truth help you find your voice?

What good word can you share with others today?

#HopeWriterLife #Voice #JesusOnlyJesus #amwriting #writeyourheartout #writersofinstagram #writingchallenge #faithwriters #YourWordsMatter

Processing and Praising Jesus

I am a slow processor. Sometimes I overthink things, sometimes I avoid thinking on all the things, sometimes I’m just procrastinating. But one can only procrastinate for so long before the words just need to come out.

I’ve been reminded time and time again this week (and last week) that my God is a personal God, a personable God, and a Sovereign God. Salvation does not lead us to need to do more, but it is an opportunity for God to shower us with even more gifts. My relationship with God is not based on anything I do right, or wrong. It is based on His faithfulness, His righteousness, His goodness and mercy.

And while my life sure has not been perfect this week (hello, parenting teenagers… hello, selfishness… hello, over-scheduling… hello, anxiety), time and time again, Jesus shows up and shows off. It started with these random flowers in the middle of a pile of dead weeds in my yard, blooming way in advance of any of my purposefully planted daffodils, and completely different. Showing off in their tiny size and stunning, two-color display, just smiling at me. I don’t know where they came from, but they sure put a smile on my face and reminded me of my Creator, who loves me and gives me good gifts—He created all things and holds them together, even in a seemingly random way in my backyard.

When I look back on my week, I see the gifts in abundance and I am reminded of the importance of remembering and giving thanks. I’m thankful for a walk with a friend, for a view of the city, for trees in bloom in the valley, for a perfectly timed sunset, wild turkeys up close and personal, for homemade iced coffee drinks, for endless supply of books (libraries are a wonderful thing), for hugs from my kids, good conversations, hard conversations, loving correction from my other half, homemade pizza, fellowship with the body of Christ, the opportunity to pray on behalf of others’ needs, Jesus—always Jesus.

My friend encouraged me to “Stop and smell the flowers,” so I picked up a $4 bouquet at the grocery store. One of the great podcasts (#HumanHope with @loswhit) I listen to reminded me to “Lower the volume of life,” so I’ve chosen silence while driving more often these last few days.

And when I make space, and read God’s Word, and pay attention to the gifts around me, I give thanks. I give thanks for the the way God is gracious. And faithful. And holy. And just. And full of loving kindness. He gives His children many good things, we just need to keep our eyes open to see them.

So when I’m overwhelmed by my sin and by the sin of the world around me, I run to Jesus and I rest in His forgiveness. I look for the ways He shows up. I count my blessings. I repent. I accept His grace. And I shout His praises to those around me.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.

Psalm 119:132

#HopeWriterLife #SoulStruggle #amwriting #writeyourheartout #justwrite #JesusOnlyJesus #1000gifts #ChasingOutTheDark #TheMinistryofPayingAttention

Jesus Makes All Things Possible

Do you know what is possible with God? Stubborn people can be saved. Relationships can be restored. Healings happen. Blessings come in abundance. All things.

Psalm 103 reminds us that Jesus forgives my sins, heals my diseases, redeems my life from destruction, crowns me with loving kindness and tender mercies, satisfies my mouth with good things, renews my strength, executes righteousness and judgment for the oppressed.

Sometimes I just need to write that list out and personalize it for myself. Perhaps you need the reminder, too. Writing it with actual pen and paper settles it into our hearts and minds in real way. Writing out Scripture, writing out prayers is something that I’ve gotten away from in the busyness of this season. But I’ve been reminded.

Because that’s what God does. He lovingly, tenderly shelters us as a mother. He teaches us the same lesson over and over (Hello, Israelites and disciples). He shows up and shows off and shows me that He loves me personally. He created me intentionally. And He has a plan for my life (and it’s better than my plan).

This weekend was full of a variety of situations that didn’t fall under “my plan.” I didn’t respond well in most of those. I may have had a minor breakdown. If I’m being honest the whole past year has been quite the drift from my plan. But God is not surprised. And He uses all these things for His glory and for the good of those who love Him.

So as I look at this photo I snapped Sunday morning, with the intention of writing that day, I’m reminded that God brings beauty in the starkness of winter. The sun still shines. The sky is brilliant blue. The shadows and highlights display His creativity. That tall pine tree stands tall and firm. Even dead trees have an odd stark beauty about them.

I’m reminded that He gives me words when I take the time to sit still and listen and write. He gives me sunrises and sunsets. He gives me laughter with my kids and the hard conversations. He forgives my impatience and helps me seek forgiveness of others. He gave me a place of employment that talked me through my oven connections (I think I even learned something about flare union adapters and NPT threads). He gives me delicious take-out options on the days I live in my car. He provides neighbors willing to help and give me tea. Phone calls with friends, dark chocolate, coffee. Good books to read. Hot showers. Chiropractic care. Rest. And all of this is over and above the gift that is all I need.

Jesus. He makes all things possible. What do you need to ask God to show you today? What has God done for you that you need to acknowledge and give thanks for?

#HopeWriterLife #FiveMinuteFriday (on Tuesday) #fmfparty #writingprompt #writingcommunity #possible #JesusOnlyJesus #juliesmonthlyspot #onceamonthspot #frontdoorview

Take a walk and look for Jesus

I took a walk this evening. Same walk I took almost 5 months ago, when I tripped over a wrinkle in the sidewalk and bit the dust and broke my hand. It was dusk, probably not the wisest, but I put my phone away. I wore my actual sneakers. And I paid attention to the rise and fall of the sidewalk.

It’s good for me to walk again. Winter and busyness and life stress has not been kind to my eating or exercise habits. I needed to know that I can walk and it’s good for me. My hand has not returned to full strength. It still hurts when I cut too many veggies, write too many words, carry too many groceries, stir dinner soups for too long. And sometimes I’m afraid it will never be what it once was.

Sometimes, it’s the simple processing of hard moments, life-altering events, the “getting back on the bike” moments. Other times, it takes a bit more. Like when I think that exactly one year ago, I was having coffee with a friend, we talked about the virus buzz, we talked about church and Jesus, we talked about teenagers and parenting, we talked about friendship. I’m pretty sure that we did not talk about online church or wearing masks or virtual school. I miss coffee in actual coffee shops with friends.

And one year later, I think of all the things I miss, how desperate I feel to return back to life as it once was, and it’s easy to focus on the things lost, the events cancelled, the schooling struggles, the grief. But I’m thankful for the things I’ve learned and I know that God has given us much more than was taken away.

I don’t want to forget the gift of endless family dinners with teenagers, family hikes, whole weekends in pajamas, technology to keep us connected, summer outside gatherings, library curbside service, processing hard junk, being more aware of social injustice, studying Lamentations, focusing on the attributes of God, flexibility of virtual school, 4-H zoom opportunities, ordering take out, still going to work every day in a safe environment, taking the time to read more.

I’m thankful for the things I learned while my hand was broken and for seeing God’s faithfulness in the way He provides. I’m thankful for hope, because that is what this year most needs. I’m thankful for Jesus because as I lean on Him and rest in Him, I learn His goodness, His faithfulness, His sovereignty.

I stop on my walk (full stop) to take pictures of the twilight hour. I come back to the car and wait some more and write with heart full of gratitude that He is with me, He gives me words, He never leaves me or forsakes me, He is always reminding me of his everlasting love.

As you reflect on the last year, because we will all reflect in some way, look for ways to give God glory, look for all the things we can be thankful for, look for the helpers, look for the blessings. What are you thankful for as you look back on the last year? Where do you see Jesus?

HopeWriterLife #amwriting #faithwriter #writeyourheartout #writeitgirl #JesusOnlyJesus #alwaysJesus #brokenbones #takeawalk #givethanks #1000gifts #gratitude #hardeucharisteo

When the words won’t come

I wrote for 28 days straight in February. Some of those words came easy and some I really had to work for. I needed the challenge, the accountability to stick with it. I work best with specifics, guidelines, a plan. I loved the commitment to sitting down every night and plunking out a few words and thoughts about life, writing, hope, and always Jesus.

And then I ran out of words.

But God is faithful…

Life seemed overwhelming. I’ve been processing reminders of grief, pandemic anniversary emotions, teenager angst and hard conversations, regular life, and continued unknowns about the future. There were no word prompts to give me a starting point for the blank page. I struggled with the frustration that at the end of the day, at the end of the writing challenge, I am right back where I started. The things that I wanted to write about and process were not for publishing, and I haven’t quite figured out how to write just for me (journaling has never been my jam).

But better writing only comes through practice, through a devotion to the craft, even if it is just a hobby. To being okay with writing short essays and sloppy essays. To writing consistently even if it never sees the light of day. To never, never, never, never give up. To be who God created me to be.

My thoughts are all over the place. So I reign them in and remind myself that God remains faithful. Always faithful.

God has come to give us abundant life—in Him. My joy and contentment isn’t found in social media, my children’s life choices, being a published author, not even the weather(although sunny days sure do help). My abundant life is found in Jesus, only Jesus. Joy is found in living in communion with God and His Word, in living in community with the body of Christ, in giving glory and praise to the Creator of the universe, and in pointing others to Him.

When I’m reading God’s Word, those words will flow out in my writing so that I can encourage others. And the lesson here is for more than just writers. In anything you are called to do, it can only be improved by the time you spend with Jesus. So I remember His faithfulness and pay attention to the ways He continually draws me close to Him. And I read His Word. And I write. And I daily remind myself that He can be trusted with all the unknowns and He’s not finished with me yet. He’s not finished with YOU either.

#JesusonlyJesus #sunshine #Sonshine #HopeWriterLife #FindYourVoice #amwriting #writingcommunity #justwrite #writeyourheartout #writeitgirl #instawriter #faithwriter

We were Not Made to Hibernate

Multiple times over that last few months I have told friends that I would like to hibernate until May. January and February were kinda hard. The never ending snow caused me much anxiety, because even though I grew up in Buffalo, driving in snow is never something I look forward to. I felt cooped up and claustrophobic, even though home is where I most wanted to be. I dreaded everything but work (it’s nice to have a job you enjoy).

Because my hand is still tender from the break I gave it in the fall, there was no interest in walking outside, getting in my once-a-year-sledding, or even helping with the shoveling. Even if I could have met a friend for coffee, I couldn’t motivate myself to leave the house once I was home from work. I dreaded phone calls and zoom meetings more than usual. Even if I had wanted to bake sugary treats and comfort foods, my broken oven prevented that joy. I was basically going through the motions, picking up my feet for just the next step.

But guess what? The sun still shines, the snow has begun to melt. I wrote EVERY SINGLE DAY in February. There is already hope of spring. And God didn’t make us to hibernate. This year with the pandemic has been hard, because we are meant to live in community, to be active, to be outside in creation, to hug people, to share smiles and have conversation. Hibernation is not what we were created for.

It’s something I have to tell myself every single day. I was made for relationship. It’s not always easy. It takes effort. It takes sacrifice. It takes dying to self, because self would be fine to hibernate. It takes trusting Jesus and listening to his prompting. It takes looking for opportunity to connect with others.

Introvert or Extrovert? Do you love winter or hate it? Prefer crowds or one-on-one? Indoors or Outdoors? We are all different, but we need each other. So hibernate for a day if you need to, but then reach out and connect with someone. You were made for community.

#Write28Days #Hibernate #amwriting #writeitgirl #seasonalaffectdisorder #community

Persistent in Prayer

“And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”‭ Matthew‬ ‭15:22-28

This story of the Canaanite women has often intrigued me. I question why Jesus did not answer her at first, and I’m amazed at her courage to be so persistent and loud that the disciples wanted to send her away. The Canaanite woman came to Jesus with her needs. She cried for mercy, she worshipped him, and she listened to his response.

And then she said, “Truth, LORD.”

Where can you say, “Truth, Lord.” Are you listening to the direction He is giving you? Can you see His hand at work? Do you take Him at His word?

I often panic when things are uncertain or overwhelming. I sometimes give up hope when I don’t see the good in a situation or I can’t see how God is going to use it for His glory. I want to hibernate when things aren’t going my way. I complain when God’s timing is not my timing. But this woman came boldly before Christ. She stated her need. And she responded full of faith. “Truth, Lord.” She believed in the goodness of the Lord.

Is there a situation in your life where you are asking the Lord for mercy, for direction, for rescue and it seems like he is not answering a single word? Are you persistent in prayer? Do you believe that God hears and answers prayer? Are you worshipping? Can you see the truth the Lord has for you?

Don’t give up hope. Pray in faith, believing that God is working all things together for good to them who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Remember the faith of the Canaanite woman, and may Jesus say of you, too, “Great is your faith, be it done for you as you desire.”

#Write28Days #truthLord #persistent #HopeWriterLife #writeyourheartout #prayyourheartout #prayer #amwriting #writingchallenge