I’ve had a hard time finding words these days. Mostly because I have not made time or space for the words to come. Partly because the troubles of the world weigh heavy on my mind. And also because I have decisions I don’t want to make, open wounds, parenting teenager struggles, and overwhelming work. Not really the seeds for great writing when you’re in the middle of the mess.
It’s easier to avoid what needs to be done, to stay in the hard and uncomfortable because it is KNOWN. But sometimes you need to step forward in faith, to walk into the unknown, to know and remember that Jesus always goes before you. You will finally move forward when the pain of staying in the mess is greater than the pain of moving forward. I write those words, but I’m still not sure I’m there yet.
“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
So I sit in Psalms and Proverbs. I lament with David, but remember that God is always good, always just, always faithful.
“My spirit is weak within me, my heart is overcome with dismay. I remember the days of old. I meditate on all you have done. I reflect on the work of your hands.”
“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground.”
I read the wisdom of Solomon and pray for integrity, a teachable heart, a righteous mind, a soft answer, and wise words. Some days I feel so far from who I want to be as a wife, a parent, a friend, a part of the family of God. I have a hard time finding the level ground. I have a hard time finding the beauty. I have a hard time seeing the change and growth in my life. But I also know that God goes with me on the journey. He goes before me. He surrounds me. He walks beside me. I know that I am a work in progress. I know that I have not arrived. I know that I make mistakes. But that does not stop me from celebrating the right choices, the small victories. I come to Jesus with a broken and contrite heart.
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.”
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?