What have been some of your turning points? When did you experience a moment and you knew life was changing? Even in the very middle of these events you recognize the significance.
We have had one of these turning points this week. The end of an era is upon us. Our baby girl is growing up. We knew it was bound to happen it just seemed like a giant step toward “grown-up.”
Elizabeth Jane just announced to me that she had really gotten too old for her blanket.
For a few years I have been expecting this time to come. Honestly, as of late, I had started to think she may not ever want to get rid of it. Every time I would wash it I would think that soft pink blanket would come out of the machine in pieces.
Mary Taylor was 10 when Elizabeth Jane was born. I made the blanket for Mary Taylor and she kept it on the foot of her bed. Mary Taylor wanted the new baby to have her blanket. There is really no telling how much time Elizabeth Jane has spent with the blanket. As a baby we swaddled her in it. As a toddler she drug it a thousand miles. It was a bit like a princess with a long, soft, pink train flowing behind her everywhere she went. The last few years it has lived in her bed or with her as she was waking up.
Every single night she has slept with that blanket.
When she announced to me the time had come her mind was completely made up. Some dear friends just had a baby girl and I wondered if she was thinking about giving it to their baby. She was not even considering it.
She said, “Mom, I have really gotten too old for the blanket. I want you to take it and put it up in my baby box in your closet.”
End of subject. No tears. Not one more thought.
So I washed it for the last time and placed it on top of our dresser. Isn’t that funny. I did not want to put it up in the closet just yet. Just a few more looks. I may rub it myself a few more times. It is a little hard to type with these tears in my eyes.
At the very same time that I am sad, I am also really impressed with this sassy young lady. Elizabeth Jane had thought this through. She realized she was growing up and was OK with it.
She is truly brave.
I wonder about the areas I need to be brave like she is. Are there places in my life were I have held on to something that I really need to let go of?
What am I finding my security in (short of the Lord)?
- a full or moderately full bank account
- a great doctor’s appointment
- knowing the cabinet is full of groceries (or stockpiles)
- being a certain weight on the scale
- having the “right” people around or on my friend list
- a big pretty house
This list could go on and on. One person’s security may be totally different than another person’s. What pushes my insecurity button may not be an issue for you at all.
Do not misunderstand. It is not that these things are inherently bad. In fact they can all be good things. Caring about finances is wise. Feeding our families is important. Taking care of our health is smart. Having friends and a home are precious. It is when these things become our personal “security blanket” that we have to check our hearts.
Maybe like Elizabeth Jane, it is time to take a long honest look. She knew she did not need that blanket anymore. She knew there really was not security there.
So I am going to hug the blanket close, and put it in closet in the baby box. While I am there (it is one of the few quiet places around here) I am going to take a honest look at what I find security in. I am hoping that I find that I place my security in God, who truly is our only source of real security.
Have you ever been truly moved by a song? Great song writers who pen stories of real life are my very favorite. Ben Rector is one of those men. His song “30,000 Feet” touches my heart deeply. The character of the song has been in and out of cities singing and performing to the point that they “all just seem the same”. That is until one night he meets an older man on a plane. He and this man exchange stories and it’s a bit surprising to find how similar their stories are. The chorus reveals these similarities when both men find themselves saying almost the very same things about their lives.
When I first heard this song I just cried and cried, because it is so true. As Ben sang his song it was as if flashes of life went through my mind.
- The good and the bad.
- My Love that I treasure.
- The places that we have seen that we NEVER would have thought we would see.
- The many ways that I have gotten what I need.
To be truly honest some of the places we have been were amazing and some of those places stunk. But each one of them yielded amazing fruit.
We just do not want to stay in the past. When we live our lives looking backward it is hard to walk forward well.
The bottom line is that God has been so good to us. We really do “always end up getting what we need.” At some point I am anticipating living a life where I expect to get what I need instead of stressing that I might not.
I can hear some of you saying right now, “But Betsy, look at this time in my life…I did not get what I needed.” Really? If you needed it and you did not get it would you be here today?
There is another part of the song that I love as well. It reminds me that the perspective we have in this life is very important!
When we are in the hard places and life is overwhelming, we need a higher perspective. We need the Lord to help us get above what we are seeing to be able to see a bigger picture.
So in the midst of the hard times of life we can recall where we have come from as well as Whose we are. We have all come through places “we never thought we would see.” Already we have seen Him bring us through many challenging places. He is faithful. Our good Dad desires for us to come to Him. We can lean into Him and get His perspective at anytime…day or night.
Encouraging each other is a great way to get a fresh perspective. Yesterday I got to sit with a dear friend and talk about stories. She shared about hard times she had recently walked through. She felt guilty because she thought she was “taking up our time” by sharing. Honestly, I was so encouraged! She is staying the path in the midst of storms. In sharing the lessons she learned, my heart found faith and hope.
Being willing to share our stories is so vitally important. It is not that we always make the right choices at the right time. In fact, not one person does that well all the time. We need to learn from where we falter and what recognize what our buttons are that get pushed. This are learning opportunities.
Haven’t we all “been better” and “been worse” at different times in our lives? We have “walked into hard times” and chances are we will walk into them again. But it is the “walking out the other side” that grows us and refines us. In spite of the struggle in the midst of hard, we can come out better than we started.
The most encouraging part of my friend’s story was how she left anger and bitterness behind with the junk of the story. In the purification she recognized that kindness, respect and honor were the way to make a difference. She could have drug the anger, bitterness and resentment around like a ball and chain, but she laid them down. She is going to be part of a solution! This world changer is going to make a difference in lives because of the decisions she has made.
Living from a healthy perspective means choosing to step out of the victim role and into the role we have been created to be in. Each and everyone of us can be powerful We all can be part of a solution. In the midst of hate we can love. Where there is drama we can walk in peace. When there is disunity we can be conduits of unification.
When it is hard and we need encouragement it’s time to circle up the horses. Pull in and find a dear friend to sit with who is not just going to tell you what you want to hear but who loves you and wants the very best for you. Be willing to ask for help is also important. Just like Ben Rector’s song, sometime all we need to get above the problems to see life in a whole new light.
We can be a part of solutions. We can make a difference!
Some days are just purely melodic. When we step back and look at the whole of the day we can see the Grand Orchestra coming together. We relish the beautiful music.
You accomplish your goals.
A long term project is competed.
The kids are getting along without your help.
That song you love comes on the radio.
The boss loves you and is so thankful for you.
Your cup of coffee never gets cold.
But some days sound more like those minutes before the orchestra begins. Everyone playing their own instrument but no one is playing together. As they listen only to their own pitch their sound mixes with with sounds of each musician doing the very same thing. It is offensive. What comes out of the orchestra pit is rough and messy.
The goals never even make the radar.
Even short term projects are left undone.
The kids wake up bickering and you can’t seem to help.
THAT song is playing and you can not get away from it.
The boss has you with one foot out the door.
The coffee is cold by the time you get the first sip. For some reason we sometimes think that all days should sound like the London Symphony. All notes should be perfect and all instruments should be used to their greatest potential.
It takes the months and years of painstaking practice to hone an ability capable of playing in a fine orchestra. Those performers were once kids screeching out note by terrible note as they learned their instrument. Their pieces were awkward and only parents could love the sounds.
So why do we expect ourselves (or our children) to play like master musicians? In some areas we are newbies. We are toddlers learning to walk, in spite of our age. Maybe we could begin to be kinder to ourselves, choosing to have the grace for ourselves that we have for others. We might need to get a fresh perspective on our position in the orchestra.
This hard day may be the tuning.
We may need to listen only to our instrument.
The notes will not ever be right if we do not take the time to properly tune.
So if this day has been messy and awkward just cut yourself some slack.
It is ok. It really is.
Some days are not perfect. Some are. Embrace them and enjoy. Live fully in them and let those notes resonate all the way though you. But if they are less than prefect, live there too. Instead of resisting the foul notes just lean into them. Remember those are the days in which there is a lot to learn. Listen to your heart (or your kids hearts) and tune.
The adjustments made on those hard days can be the very ones that were the most needed. Let’s begin to have grace for ourselves as we learn and grow. Fine tuning takes time and patience.
Remember you are not alone. The Conductor is an expert and He is more than happy to help!
A few weeks ago I stopped short in a post. I asked a question and left it hanging.
I started a conversation about how the lens we look at God thru can distort our thoughts about him. Fear and worry, as well as a myriad of other things, can get in between us and the Lord. I proposed there is a better option. That option is the one we are going to look at today.
What if we traded our fear, wounds and insecurity lens in for Jesus lens.
If we looked at the Father through the life of Jesus Christ, how would that impact the way we view the Father.
We are told that Jesus is the “exact representation” of the Father. (Hebrews 1:3) It does not say “similar” it says “exact.” If we see Jesus we are not seeing something like God, we are seeing God. He IS God. So, if we see Jesus, we see the Father. Those characteristics demonstrated in the life of the Jesus are there because Jesus came to let us see our Father.
Jesus only did what He saw His Father doing (John 5:19) and He did not speak on His own but only what the Father directed him to say. (John 12: 49)
So let’s break that down. The love and care that Jesus shared with all those He came in contact with…that was all God.
Stopping for the hurting and wounded…the Father.
The woman caught in adultery and the creative solution…our good Dad.
The frustration toward the religious leaders taking advantage of believers in the temple…again, God.
Often times we have believed that Jesus was a truly nice guy. But God? Harsh and distant may be closer to the truth.
So why did Jesus come? God’s greatest desire was to make a way for us to be in a relationship with him (like Adam and Eve had in the Garden). Sin keeps us from God. Our sin causes wall between us and the Lord. But even if Jesus just dealt with our sin problems, why would we want to draw near to God if these misconceptions were all we knew about Him? We need new lens with which to view the Father.
One of the main reasons that Jesus came was so we could really begin to know who our Father REALLY is. He came to show us, in flesh, how loved we are by our Father. Thankfully, He wants to offer us a healthy framework or foundation with which we can truly walk into a relationship with our Good Dad.
The first step is considering the life of Jesus. Does what we see in the life of Jesus mesh with what we believe about God the Father. When we hit a snag we can stop and think about that for awhile. Asking some questions to discern why we think one thing about Jesus and another about the Father would be a good first step. Identifying inconsistencies will help us take a fresh new look at God. Praying into the struggles we notice and asking God to teach us more about Himself is a another excellent opportunity for growth.
Relationships are valuable and a relationship with God is paramount. If you have always felt like He was distant this is a place to start. The truth is we are invited to be his children (Romans 8:16) and we are called his friends (John 15:15).
You are invited to walk WITH God. He dearly loves you. You are so loved that He put on flesh and came to live among us. (John 1:14) That is just how important you are!
I have an encouraging word for you.
Since the time my oldest sister was in the play “The Miracle Worker” I have been fascinated with the life of Helen Keller. As I was reading a child’s library book about her life with our youngest daughter, a brand new aspect of Helen’s life came into focus. Her life exemplified something that arrested my attention.
Her voice had been stolen through sickness. Literally.
She had NO voice.
To learn to speak she held one hand on another person’s mouth to learn to lip read. She would feel the vibrations of their voice combined with the movement of their mouth. Anne Sullivan, Helen’s teacher, would spell the words being spoken to Helen, in her other hand. Eventually, Helen would touch her own lips and imitate what she felt from the speaking person’s mouth. She learned to speak. She was so determined to push past her obstacles that she would not stop.
Absolutely amazing. But that is not all!
She worked to have a voice…and she used it.
Helen Keller used her voice (she had worked so hard for) to make a difference. In the book, Helen’s Big World, it says, “Many people did not like her ideas. To Helen, words brought freedom. She would not be silent.”
I cried. I am crying now. She did not care what others thought about her voice. Helen said what the world needed to hear. She cared enough about the world that she dared to speak. She was determined to make a difference. .
Helen became a world traveler. She met all kinds of people. Despite her inability to see and hear, the cries of the hurting still reached her. Helen Keller had every “right” on this earth to do nothing.
She could have played the impossibility card.
But she refused to remain locked in her isolation.
Helen rose above the obstacles.
To Helen, learning was a privilege. She spent every waking moment trying to educate herself so that she could connect with the world. Once she was able to communicate she became a world changer.
Helen herself said, “I love my country. But my love for America is not blind. Perhaps I am more conscious of her faults because I love her so deeply.” She spoke against the war and child labor. She spoke for worker’s unions, the right for women to vote and civil rights. She spoke on behalf of people with disabilities and on behalf of children.
Grumbling and complaining about her hard life was not an option. She did not vomit in anger, she spoke with love and conviction. She diligently worked toward solutions.
I feel empowered! If Helen Keller jumped the hurdles created by being blind and mute, who am I to be silent?
I have a voice and I see the challenges.
I hear the cries of injustice.
You have a voice as well. Maybe you do not feel like you do. Has your voice been stolen? Did you learn that you should be seen and not heard? In all honestly, have you felt like no one would want to hear what you have to say?
Just think about Helen Keller. She could have used every one of these excuses and more. But she did not excuse herself, she qualified herself. Helen refused to let other people’s opinions impact her actions.
You and I can decide to make a difference. Let’s throw off the limitations that have bound us and “run the race with endurance that is set before us.” (Heb. 12:1) If the road seems too long, stop and consider the ridiculously challenging obstacles Helen had to face when she was learning to speak. She was not just an amazingly gifted woman, she was determined. She did not give up. When you think you can not take another step, step one more time. Step once more. Just keep the goal in mind and keep stepping.
We “can do all things through Christ who strengthens” us. (Phil. 4:13) We have within us all that we need, even though we sometimes have a hard time believing it. No matter how big our challenges are Jesus is the great leveler. Got a wall, He can scale it. Standing at a valley, He can span the divide. If we look at the challenges and compare them to ourselves we may pale in comparison. But look at them in light of Jesus and no obstacle can even come close.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying this is easy. We need endurance. Helen Keller did not learn to communicate in a few days or weeks. And if you asked her I am certain she would have said it was an arduous endeavor. But with each step she took she stepped out of her isolation and into the life of a world changer.
Coming out of the darkness and into the light is absolutely worth it.
Who is God? But with this question comes a problem. We have to evaluate HOW we see God.
Some of us have been taught that God is a harsh, judgmental, angry dad. Maybe we think God is an uninterested and distant being who really has much better things to think about than you and your little problem.
These views could not be further from the truth.
In the Bible Belt a lot of us say that, “God is good!” And a resounding response is “All the time, and all the time God is good.”
But do we really mean it? Do we really believe it in our deep down “knower”?
We all wear filtering glasses. These glasses cause us to view God through this lens. So, could what we believe about God be skewed, due to our skewed lens?
What is on the lens of your glasses? Maybe you have these words written across your lens:
Our wounds effect how we see God. Physical pain in our body can effect our thought patterns and we make decisions we would never make otherwise. If we are wounded spiritually or emotionally we tend to act the same way. Our wounds can distort the truth of who God is. The tenderness of our wounds can cause us to pull away from God and other people as we seek to self-protect.
Our experiences can cause us to make judgements. We may decide God didn’t take care of us. We can look at other peoples’ lives and think that God didn’t take very good care of them either. Why should we trust Him when we think that we have already seen Him NOT take care of us and others?
Some of us have been taught that God is harsh and angry from other people who think that is the truth. Maybe we met God through people who used guilt and condemnation to cause us to make a decision. If all we have ever heard is that God is angry or disinterested in us, then how would we ever think anything else?
Many people are afraid they have to sacrifice in order to become a believer. Often people are scared of what others might think of them. Some would rather settle for the status quo instead of going against the flow.
The list could go on and on. Our glasses could have hundreds of different lens of negative things that distort our view of our loving Dad.
I propose a better option…
(You can check out that option at Bringing It Into Focus )
Have you ever looked back and connected dots that you had never seen before? Have you ever looked back, wincing at adversity that you dealt with in the past, only to see something that God used for great good. This week, stories I have heard many times over just jumped off the page at me for the first time. I was reading over my grandfather’s memoirs this week and tears filled my eyes.
I saw something I have never seen. Part of our stories are very similar.
Grandaddy had a mean Algebra teacher. He was totally humiliated and embarrassed in front of the entire class. The teacher was condescending and hurtful to the point my grandfather wanted to quit school altogether. After recovering from this horrible experience Grandaddy vowed that he would become a teacher who would bring out the best in students. My grandfather lived in the basement of a church and cleaned that church in order to be able to go to college to become a teacher.
Today I realized that the same thing happened to me, but in college. I had a professor who did not like me. No matter what I did, I could not please him. I finally asked for a meeting. This professor, bless him, proceeded to tell me that I had no chance of passing because I would not be a good teacher. Humiliated really does not even describe how hurtful it was. But like my grandfather, I decided that very day that I would be a teacher, a teacher who encourages students and builds them up instead of tear them down. I dropped the class and reworked my entire schedule. I had to work on my Master’s in order to become a teacher.
So am left wondering how does adversity play a role in our stories?
Do we allow the passions we have to participate in our decisions?
Would I have become a teacher had that incident not happened? Probably so. But I am certain I would not have known the passion I had for teaching until I was challenged about it.
Often, just on the other side of our greatest challenges are our calling. Our passions can be a road sign pointing to our giftedness. For example, if you become enraged by some particular issue maybe you have what it takes to make a difference in that very area.
Grandaddy taught for decades. He became a principal and eventually the superintendent. He had a heart for his students and watched for the most challenging ones. There are stories of children who did not have food or clothes and the the measures he went to in order to honor them, as well as help them, are astounding. Coaching them as well as encouraging them, he cared about all aspects of their lives. He loved his teachers and did all that he could to help them as well. So many lives are better because he perservered. In spite of the challenges of going through that horrible year, a man grew that made an indelible impact on this world through his teaching.
So what are your challenges? What subjects or situations cause you to become the most passionate?Could it be that the challenges before you are the ones could be used for greater good? May we rise above the mountain of adversity the we come against. We will impact lives more that we could ever realize.
Have you ever been scared? I mean really scared? This weekend I was scared.
My husband and I were given a trip, from our dear friends, to get away for our birthdays. Two plane tickets were part of the gift. What a blessing! What none of us knew was that our flight would be in a very small plane. This was going to be an adventure. Little did I know I was headed for a battle with fear.
Our flight to St. Louis was fairly pleasant. We hit one air pocket that led me to pray out loud for the entire group of 8 (including the two pilots) and after that it was smooth sailing. We made a friend on the flight who was more scared than I was and she really appreciated the prayer. Thankfully our landing was exceptional. I was so relieved and so thankful. We headed into the city and had a really fun time.
Occasionally a bit of fear about our returning flight would pop into my thoughts and I would kick it to the curb and refocus. Not a big deal at all.
Honestly, I was scared most of the time. From the time I was a child until about 10 years ago, I lived in fear. In fact, listing them would be impossible because there were so many. Even as an adult I would check every crook and crevice to make sure that we were safe. I would wake my dear husband up over and over and over because I had “heard something in the house.” It was a miserable way to live.
Then the Great Shift happened. To put into words, I think I began to know God as bigger. I began to realize that God is real and that he not only cares about my life but that He choses to be apart of it. I am never alone and the King of Angel Armies is with me.
The night things had changes happened to be when we actually had a prowler on our street. Neighbors were looking and watching and one of my greatest fears was practically knocking at the door. It was the middle of the night and there was not real resolution that I could see. The song “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” came to mind. It was not a song that I sang a lot and was not on my playlist. However, I stood at my window and sang the song to myself.
Surprisingly enough I laid down in the bed and went fast asleep. I have not been the same again.
THEN we boarded the plane to head back home. The pilot announced we would have a bumpy flight before we ever took off. I immediately began refuting those words–aloud. I just knew that that flight was going to be smooth.
Guess what? It was the roughest, bumpiest flight I have ever been on (including one broken down African plane that looked like it flew in World War II). I prayed with a fervor. My whole body shook in fear and my husband said he needed prayer because I squeezed his fingers so hard.
I was down right afraid. But this time I leaned into the Lord. About mid-flight we settled down to a smoother flight and Taylor pried my fingers off his hand.
As I relaxed I began to watch the river. I began to write notes about rivers.
Rivers bring life and provide life.
They transport goods and necessities.
Rivers nourish the land for the crops.
The water is fun and provide entertainment.
They provide sustenance and beauty.
People come to rivers,
build near rivers,
plant near rivers,
and play in rivers.
Rivers are mighty and powerful.
I remembered the Bible says, “Whoever believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:8 This river that I was seeing was a picture of what is flowing through us as believers. Amazing!
And I would like to say the descent was better, the clouds parted and we floated effortless to the runway. But we did not. We bumped and jumped around all the way down. In fact, the descent was worse than the ascent. But my thoughts had a new focus. I was considering the river that flows through us. It changed my prayers. I actually became aware of other scared people on board and began to pray for them as well.
Because of Whose we are, we Christians are like that river. We bring life and provide life. In fact we bring things that people want and need. We nourish. We are fun. Sustenance and beauty come through us. People come to us. We are mighty and powerful.
Thinking back, it is not surprising that these thoughts changed my prayers. God became bigger and our flight became smaller. It did not become more pleasant a flight–but my perspective changed.
I do not desire to return to a life of fear. Life with God brings freedom. If anything is standing in our way, be it fear or insecurity (the blank is endless) we need to think about the river that is flowing through us.
There is a great children’s song that says, “I have a river of life flowing out of me. Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. Opens prison doors and sets the captives free. I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me.”
Our lives can and do make a difference. When we walk in our identity we can begin to fly in freedom!