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

Changing Perception with Gratitude

Perception: the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. Use your senses to be aware of your surroundings, your feelings, your community. God gave us senses to help us live this life to the fullest. They help us prepare for our next right thing. They remind us of moments, days, experiences.

When we take time to use our senses, it gives perspective to the situation around us. It gives us insight and understanding as we process where we are coming from and where we want to go. As we pay attention to our life, to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, our perception is what directs our next steps.

If I perceive I am not good enough to be a published author, I may be unwilling to put in the work to write daily and clarify my voice. However, if I hear to the words of encouragement from others, if I view comments and messages from readers, if I pay attention to the feelings I experience when I’ve completed my writing for the night, when I taste the satisfaction of a well-crafted sentence, this motivates me to keep going, to pick up the pen and work through another essay.

What is your perception of the life God has given you? Do you find joy and contentment in your job, your family, your church community? Do you perceive struggles as punishment or a gift from God to refine you to be more like Him? Gratitude fuels joy and contentment.

There are days that I feel very unthankful, my perception of the world around me is self-focused and negative. I’m running and rushing, and irritated when there is a wrinkle in MY plan. But when I take a deep breath and look up and out, then my perception of my circumstances change. In the chaos of Tuesdays when I run from work to dance and home and to dance again, and I eat dinner in the car (not every Tuesday… sometimes #myhusbandrocks and he does a taxi-run), I pause and see the gifts around me.

The magic of being a mom and finding missing items in random places. The beauty of street lights, deer in snow covered fields, drive thru pick up of prescriptions, the taste of soup for dinner in a travel mug, good conversations with the teenagers, the smell of fresh coffee (in yet another travel mug), a few minutes to type out some words, and to read a chapter of a book, the gift of groceries.

And always I return to the glory of giving thanks in all things. Changing my focus and perception of this gift of life I have been given and remembering that the world doesn’t revolve around me.

#Write28Days #1000gifts #gratitude #HopeWriterLife #writeyourheartout #amwriting #writingchallenge

Finding Creativity in the Winter Blues

Today, my creativity is all dried up. I’m seeing the world in dusty grays and faded whites, and the dreary weather matches my mood. I have good intentions in my writing challenge, in writing to find my voice. And then I procrastinate and scroll social media, I go do more laundry, I read the same paragraph three times in a book I want to read, I snack because I’m bored.


And none of it helps my creativity, none of it inspires me to write. So I stop and look out my front door view and take my monthly picture. A moment in time to pause and remember and reflect. And I stare at what looks like a black and white photo because the sky is so gray and I can’t find the sun—in my days or in my heart.

I know the season is just that—a season, and the sun WILL shine again, the clouds will give way to blue skies, and some of the trees will grow leaves again. The snow will melt, the grass will be lush and green, and the birds will perch in the branches of the tall pine tree. But part of the routine of taking a monthly photo is to be present in the moment, to appreciate the ups and downs, to find the creativity even in gray, even in the sadness.

Sometimes art is quiet and subtle. Sometimes beauty is barren tree silhouettes against a gloomy winter sky. We give thanks for the snow as we watch from our warm windows. We remember that even gray winter skies can be pretty. Creativity is the landscape of sloping hills, rocks, and trees.

When you don’t feel creative, it’s okay to read a lighthearted fiction when you can’t get through the philosophical non-fiction, or watch a movie with your kids. Creativity is remembering that God is with me when I can’t shake the blues, and every day is not wrapped up in a pretty bow. His mercies are new every morning, and sometimes the mornings feel as dark as the nights. But still He is holding me. 

Sometimes beauty is barren tree silhouettes against a gloomy winter sky. #write28days #creativity


#Write28Days #Creativity #FrontDoorView #onceamonthspot #juliesmonthlyspot #ministryofpayingattention #ministryofordinaryplaces #JesusOnlyJesus #winterblues #soulstruggle

Be awestruck by God

“Do not be awe struck by other people and try to copy them. Nobody can be you as efficiently as you can.”

Norman Vincent Peale

You were made for a reason. You are unique and you have something to offer the world that no one else can provide. God created you and placed you in this timeline surrounded by the people that need you most. Don’t try to live someone else’s life. 

It’s easy to be enamored by famous people, those who seem to have a fairy tale life, who have it all put together and have perceived success. We put athletes, actors, pastors, writers, other moms up on a pedestal, but it is important to remember that God created you for YOUR purpose and for your life.

Don’t be awestruck by people, be awestruck by a God who loves you unconditionally, who created you in His image, and gave you all the feelings and skills and even limitations to live a life to bring Him glory. Yes, He created you with what you need and gave you everything you need for life and godliness in His Word. He wants you to live an abundant life with the power of Holy Spirit living in you, not in your own strength but Christ in you.

Be awestruck by a God who never changes, and showers us with an abundance of beauty in creation, in nature, in the people that we live daily life with. Be awestruck by a God who heals, who sees, who is just and holy. And be awestruck by the gifts and talents He has given to you and use the opportunities He gives you to love others.

#Write28Days #HopeWriterLife #Awestruck #writeyourheartout #soulwrestle #JesusOnlyJesus

Five Minute Friday — Once

Starting is the hardest part. The blank screen, the blank page stares back at me and intimidates. My mind goes blank, too. But once I start typing, the words start coming, the ideas usually start flowing. I’ve quoted it before, and I’m sharing it again… “I hate writing—I love having written.”


What is it that you are struggling to start? What is it that intimidates you? Is there an art form you want to pursue? Music you want to perform? A poem you want to write? Or perhaps you want to apply for a new job; continue your education; join a sports team; or study a new book of the Bible. Can I suggest you just start?

Once.

Just try it once. And you may be surprised. It may be something you never want to do again, it may be something you can’t get enough of. Once in a while you find a gold mine, once in a while you crash and burn.

Sometimes my “once I sit down to write” happens too late at night to sound educated. Sometimes it gets interrupted by tattling teenagers, or needy ones. sometimes I write and I delete and I write again. And once in a while I write something that turns out really great (tonight is not that night).

What can you try once this weekend?

 I joined in with my friends at Five Minute Friday, some thing I used to do once upon a time and I’m working to do it “once” a week. Stop by and visit some other great writers here!

#Write28Days #Once #amwriting #FiveMinuteFriday