The waste places…

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For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. Isaiah 51:3 ESV

Ruined. Just ruined. That’s how my house felt. My husband decided it was time to scrape the popcorn texture from our ceiling. As I choked on the white powdery dust, wiped off kitchen countertops, vacuumed and swept only to vacuum and sweep some more – I grumbled anything but nice words under my breath.

If you have ever embarked on such an endeavor you know the massive explosion of dust it can cause. I just knew I would find filth in every nook and cranny for the next few months, and honestly, I probably will. But for the most part my house is back in good working condition, I survived it all, and I really am glad to have a nice new popcorn free ceiling. But in the middle of it all, I was anything but happy. In fact, I was so overwhelmed I had to leave to get a coffee and comfort myself.

And although coffee, especially a good white chocolate peppermint mocha, provides me with a great deal of comfort, it is just temporary. I came home to more dust that needed to be cleaned up. The mess remained, and I couldn’t really relax until the waste had disappeared. And maybe that’s why a small phrase tucked right in the middle of Isaiah 51:3 hit me so hard…

He comforts our waste places.

Our waste places. The white nasty dust that throws itself around our lives, refuses to settle, and causes us nothing but grief and pain. These are the places He comforts. Not the new. Not the cleaned up and pretty after product.  The nasty in the middle of it all waste places.

And I wonder what your waste places are? Because we all have them. In fact, our brains often specialize in creating waste places. Places where we tell ourselves we are worthless, things will never get better, there is nothing we can do about it, no one cares, we are unloveable, we are not enough, and the pain will never end.

Sometimes these thoughts run so deep we have images to go with them. We literally envision ourselves alone in the middle of a field, or squashed under circumstances. Maybe we see ourselves as that broken and abused little girl, or that little boy who saw his daddy hurt his mom and couldn’t do anything to stop it.

And I want to remind you of something. God doesn’t just comfort these places, He makes them new. Where you once heard voices screaming or even squashed silent muffled cries, the sound of praise and rejoicing can be heard once again. Where innocence and beauty were ripped out by their roots, where the water refused to fall, the ground can be fertile again.

HE MAKES ALL THINGS NEW. ALL. THINGS. NEW.

But it doesn’t come easy. It’s a fight. And even when we throw in all the fight we have, sometimes it just takes time. The waste places are stubborn, and selfish. They like themselves and don’t really want to be transformed. But God is greater. With His power, what was once the wilderness will soon be Eden. It’s true.

So what are your waste places? What do you see in your mind when those old unwelcome visitors come knocking at your door? Maybe it’s time to let God do some scraping. To purposefully call a new voice and a new image to mind where the old once existed. To let God comfort and mend the breaks, but then rewire-reframe-remodel. Because what was once waste-FULL can be, will be, and is on it’s way to being wonder-FULL.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving from my hot mess to yours…

There’s all kinds of Thanksgiving posts. Fluffy ones, sappy ones, ones that make you rethink all you have been through and are going through…and then there is this one. The random weird one. Nothing profound and nothing amazing. Just real life, lived by real people.

For me, the things I am most thankful for are often the things that cause me the most grief. I grieve over them, and worry about them because I care about them. And so maybe in that I – we – can also be thankful for the things we aren’t so certain about. Maybe we can realize good comes along with bad, and big red bows really ought to be left out of it all, because what we are truly thankful for usually comes with a hot mess. And that’s not just okay, it’s awesome. Messes keep us busy, and when it comes right down to it, they keep us sane.

So here it is, my messy, no so prefect thankfulness list.

1. A husband who makes inappropriate, but hilarious comments, like ALL the time. Who once ran around the block at Halloween dressed as whitey tighty man. Who can ALWAYS make me laugh, but also let me cry. I love you Kevin, and I’m so thankful to have you in my life.

Kevin

me n kev

2. My son, Ryan, who didn’t fall to far from his daddy’s crazy-funny tree. If you didn’t know, he’s got some special battles to fight. His IQ score labels him intellectually disabled – but as if that could EVER hold his awesomeness back. He rocks the saxophone and rules the basketball court, and even when I get phone calls from the school that make me wonder if he even has a brain – I love him dearly – and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ryan sax ryan

3. My drama princess, Lauren. Yesterday she ran through the house screaming about who knows what – the girl knows how to rock a mood swing. And I love her for it. Because she is passionate, about everything. She’s not without her battles too, they have seemed to come at her right and left lately – but the girl handles it in stride. And I’m honored to say I’m her mom.

lauren lauren1

4. My mom and mama Jean who know how crazy busy I have been and have totally kicked butt taking care of the Thanksgiving prep and turkey cooking this week. Without them around we would be like going to Furr’s or something. I love you. Thanks for always being amazing.

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5. Bella, my corgi, who does this…I mean what more could you ask for?

bella

6. My friends who catch me on a tough day and send me monkey pics like this. You know who you are…and I know for certain I would never ever want to do life without you.

monkey monkey 2

 

7. And I saved the best for last. God. Ya’ll I’m a mess, and I don’t hide it. A big one. And for whatever reason God continues to bless me, love me, care for me, give me unwavering hope, and never give up on me. I don’t even know how to say how thankful I am. This song has been on my repeat list this Thanksgiving, and I think it says it best. I’m just so dang thankful for the cross.

 

 

So what are you thankful for? Both the pretty and the messy…because it’s all good. In fact it’s all great.

Happy Thanksgiving from my hot mess of a family to yours!

We can’t always get in the fire with them, but He can, and that’s more than enough…

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The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is one of my all time favorites. I adore the peace that comes from knowing even if I get thrown into the fire, God will be there with me. And life has felt like fire lately. I have been working incredibly hard to grow a private practice while working full time in a school district, in addition to my most important duties as a mom and a wife. Lately, the mom role has weighed especially heavy. It’s been rough.

My kids are amazing. They are. In so many ways, AMAZING! But they are in the fire. And although I know God is in there with them, it’s all I can do not to run in and try to rescue them myself. So badly I want to take it away from them. Any difficulty they experience – I would give my life a thousand times over to rescue them.

But here’s the thing, that’s not my role.

If I run into the fire to rescue them, I will burn up. Because it’s who I am…I am a human. My flesh is not designed to endure the fire. But Jesus is not man – He is God – and He endures the flames just fine.

I see Jesus with them, I really do. I see evidence of Him walking with them – over and over and over again. I see Him holding up his hand, looking at me, and saying “relax mamma, I got this.”

And I know He does. But it’s not easy. Because I have been in the fire, knowing Jesus is with me, but the fire is HOT none the less. And as a mamma we want to fight the battles for our kids. When they are small, we often can. But there comes a point we have to step back and choose to see them fight it with Jesus for themselves. And that is hard and painful and weird and challenging – and rewarding – incredibly rewarding.

Because of Jesus your kiddos will be okay. Your pre-teen will make it through her spells of emotionally charged craziness just fine. Your teen will slip up and do some crazy a** sh** and Jesus will be there to pick up the pieces. No mistake is too great as long as we learn from it. There’s nothing going on with them that is greater than the greatness of God. And because of that we can pray, love, watch, and even be still – knowing we can’t jump in the fire – but Jesus can. And He’s pretty dang good.

Visitors knock…unwanted…but we will not be shaken…

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photo credit: Valerie Weiners and print available at www.valerieweinersart.com

So I heard somebody say one time, “you can’t control who knocks at the door, but you can control how long you entertain them.” And for the most part, it’s true. We can let visitors in…not let them in…sit down and have coffee with them…or tell them we are busy and it’s time for them to go home. But there’s really nothing, short of a restraining order or a fence, to keep them from knocking.

And the same with our thoughts…

It would be cool if we could put up an “awesomeness” fence. Only amazingly wonderful thoughts would be allowed to pass through, and all the negative junk would be filtered out. But I have found no such “awesomeness” fence, and I’m betting you haven’t either…so for now, all kinds of thoughts will continue to knock. Thoughts from the past, worries about the future, judgements about the present…things rational and irrational…they all have the power to knock away.

So what do we do? There’s some power in evaluating the validity of the thought and then correcting it to a more rational way of thinking. For example, if I am telling myself I am unloveable, I will remind myself of all the reasons I might be worth loving and the people who love me. It works for me sometimes, and it works for some people most of the time.  I like to try it as a first line defense, but often it ends in me beating myself up for having a weird irrational thought in the first place.

knock…knock…knock…

So what if we try to distract ourselves from the thought? Just let the knocking go on and on and on and busy ourselves with something else, hoping it will go away. But the visitor rarely leaves. Knocking just gets loader and loader until it overrides everything else and demands your attention. At that point you’ve made the thought angry and once you let it in the door, well it runs a muck and has a hay day!

And so here is what I have found works best for me, and maybe it will work for you…

I let the thought in the door, look at it, and just let it be what it is without judging. In fact, I try to have compassion. I notice where it came from, and chances are, it traveled a rough journey and came from a pretty difficult place. I appreciate the thought, because sometimes it’s hurting, and hurt just needs to be allowed to hurt. I don’t make it bigger, or smaller…I just let it be the size that it is…and then comes the fun part…

I choose to realize that just because a visitor is in my house (mind), I don’t have to drop the rest of my life and focus on it completely. I can pay attention to the present moment – the life that exists all around me outside the corridors of my mind.

If I am drinking coffee, I can notice the warmth of the cup on my hand or take in the fullness of it’s smell. If I am walking my dog, I can choose to notice the leaves or the feeling of the wind against my skin, or even the feeling of my feet as they hit the pavement. Because there is so much more we can attend to than our thoughts…we don’t have to shove them out the door…but we don’t have to let them run the show either…

Example…the thought I am unloveable might come knocking. My past reaction would be to cry, sulk, and tell myself all the reasons I shouldn’t have that thought and how jacked up I am because I can’t get it to go away.

But I have a choice.

Instead, when the visitor knocks, I can let it in, notice it, and simultaneously notice the present moment. Like the feeling of my daughter snuggling with me on the couch and the warmth of the fuzzy blanket. I can start talking to her and really focus on what she is saying. And then the best part happens, unlovable seems to shrink without me trying to push it away, and I feel loved without even trying (and the best part is, because I got out of my head and into the reality in front of me, my daughter feels loved and valued too).

So you can’t control who knocks. You know Biblical truth. You know what God says about you. You know your positive truths. But sometimes the junk comes to visit anyway. And maybe that is just okay. But we don’t have to let it stay. We can get out of our minds and focus on the reality in front of us, and the more space we give to the present, the mental ick will melt away.

And speaking of engaging with the present moment…why not let yourself engage with this truth for just a few moments…

 

 

 

because there is only one place confidence remains stable…

imageConfidence is my super hero outfit. I feel like it should have a gigantic “C” emblem and all kinds of special features. I put it on daily and suddenly every decision I make will be perfect and right, as long as I keep wearing confidence, right? Or is it right?

It disturbed me at first to have this thought, but here it is anyways. I do not have confidence in my own abilities. Scary thought, right? It sounds really self defeating, but hang with me. Because here’s the thing. Even with all the confidence in the world, we still run the risk of making mistakes.

Like it or not.

No matter how hard we try, how much we study, how long we stew, or how much wisdom we seek. There will be a time and a place where we will make the wrong call. And that’s just freaking impossible for me to accept unless I believe at the very core of my innermost being that I/we are not in charge – but God is.

He has to be sovereign. We have to believe that His power is greater than our biggest weakness. Because if we don’t, why have faith in the first place?

I believe He is bigger than myself. And because I believe He is bigger than myself, I know when I fail – God can and will pick up where I left off. He leaves nothing undone. His timing may not look like mine, but in the end, He always wins. Always.

So I don’t like messing up. I don’t. And I’m betting you don’t either. And we have this unreasonable expectation that we shouldn’t, or won’t mess up, or that if we do, all the negative things we once believed about ourselves now have evidence of truth.

But mistakes are bound to happen sooner or later, especially in the line of work I do. Not one of us can predict or perform with 100% accuracy 100% of the time, no matter how hard we try. And so there are two options.

Stop trying, because we might fail, and help no one…or put our whole heart into every step we take and rest at the end of the day knowing we did the best we could with what we had at the time. That is all. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And so this relationship with confidence, at least for me, seems based off reciprocity. We wear it the best we can and it gives us encouragement and authority. We dance back and forth, holding hands and moving in the direction we both feel is right. But at the end of the day, I personally make the choice to lay it down. Because as awesome as confidence is, it must bear witness to the throne of a King who is higher and greater. And so I lay it down trusting God will fill its empty shell with power before I suit up again tomorrow. Because the big “C” is just a letter of the alphabet imprinted on my chest unless God charges it full of things that are way beyond me.

So I have no confidence in myself. Because I have confidence in Christ. And Christ is in me. And as long as we are operating together, I can let the King be King and follow His lead. And I am okay with that. Flesh will fail and trials will come. I will fall. But the one who my confidence rests in will pick me back up and mend the pieces that were shattered. He is King. And even on my worst day, that’s more than okay with me.

Blessed in the process…

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And so ya, sometimes I stop praying because I’m so darn frustrated. It seems like if prayer was going to work, things should have changed by now. So I get tired. And defeated. And I stop asking.

Then we went to church today and it was about the story of Cain and Abel. He spoke of how God blessed Abel’s offering, but all I could think about was one thing…

Ya, so God blessed his offering but Abel still ended up dead…and not just a natural death…he was murdered by his brother! 

Abel brought His best to God. His very best offering, but evil still came.

And so I sat in church a little miffed and dumbfounded.

Why would I even consider bringing you my best, God, if I’m just going to end up slaughtered under the hands of my enemies anyways? Why?

Because watching a few painful portions of my life continue to endure, despite my best efforts to help or control, has been brutal.  I was ready to be done with this season months ago. So I have withdrawn my best from God. Maybe not financially, but I’ve withdrawn portions of my spirit out of what I claim to be self preservation – if I don’t get my hopes up in prayer it’s easier to accept things as they are – but in reality it’s just bitterness and anger based on an outcome I don’t want or refuse to understand.

And so the girl who refuses to give her best offering robs herself of the blessing, and also stands risk of being overtaken by the evil one. And that’s just not okay.

These things I feel robbed of and angry over were never promised to me in the first place. They are God’s to manage, not mine. And Satan tells me God has ruined something, or doesn’t want the best, and stacks card after card creating distance from the only One that can give me any semblance of peace, rest, or understanding in the midst of it all. I find myself feeling robbed of the purpose in the pain and the blessing from the sorrow. And I’ve decided this is just not okay.

My lack of expectation from the One who wants to bless me has created distance. I have closed up my hands and folded them over like an angry 2 year old that is displeased with the speediness or service. I want it my way or nothing. But maybe it’s time to open my hands again.

Because there is evil in the world. And I know this. And it’s okay because Christ has overcome the world. And there is blessing. It may be followed up by tremendous pain, but if I never open my hands or bring God my best, I will never receive the blessing. And I don’t want to miss it. Nor do I want to miss the thousands of prayerful opportunities I have to tell Him what I think I want just because I’m afraid He won’t provide. Maybe He will, and maybe He won’t. But if I open my hands, regardless of the outcome, my family and I will be blessed in the process.