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Saturday, January 2, 2016

What Are Your 12 Stones?

Joshua 4:1-8
When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.’”
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel.  He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.  We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’  Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”
So the men did as Joshua had commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River, one for each tribe, just as the Lord had told Joshua. They carried them to the place where they camped for the night and constructed the memorial there.

Did you pick up on that? God commanded them to go back to the middle of the river – to revisit the test of faith – once they were already across it.

I don’t know what kind of year you’ve had. Yes, I see what you post on social media, but I recognize that it is only a skewed fraction of your reality. Many of you have endured the loss of a loved one, others have weathered a season of transition in which you had no choice but to move. Some have struggled with their marriage and other family relationships. Financial struggles, health scares, job stresses… I think it’s fair to say that in some way or another, there were struggles we each faced this year.

I find it audacious of our God to command the Israelite leaders to return to the middle of their “struggle” to retrieve an appropriate stone to make a memorial out of. Not just any stone along the banks would do. It had to be from the center of the very thing that could have killed them, had God not interviened. Obediently they went and gathered 12 stones; one for each tribe.

We may not operate in tribes in modern-day America, but we do operate in families. And, there happen to be 12 months in our year. I challenge you to sit and review all the ups and downs that have been dealt to you this year. Look at each month, one at a time. What lesson did you learn? What attribute of God did you come to understand more fully? The Israelites were told to go back – so that they would remember – so that their children and grandchildren would know.

In January, I learned so much about God’s timing. I was dealt more than a few disappointments. I struggled with selfishness and wanting things done my way, NOW. Thankfully, God’s timing proved once again to be the best. He saved me from what would have been a terrible situation! Just because He says “No” doesn’t mean it’s a “No” forever.

We are all precious in His sight. In February I was privileged to be able to teach cooking classes for teens at the Down Syndrome Foundation of Southeastern New Mexico. I learned far more than I ever taught them. So full of love and joy; so happy to give a hug or word of encouragement. The students I had brought so much light to my life and helped me see just how precious we all are in the eyes of our Father.

I spent much of the month of March doing extensive remodeling to my house; knocked out walls, laid tile, painted walls, refinished cabinets… I learned that transformation is easy, it just takes work. Are you willing and ready to become a better version of yourself? Grab a can of grace and a roller of faith and get on it!

My parents put in motion the most epic scheme in April, flying my best friend out from
New Jersey to spend a week with me. It feels good to help fill someone’s heart. Have you ever made someone so happy they cry? It’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it? With so much in our society constantly draining our hearts, it is a gift and blessing to be able to fill someone else with joy and hope.

The shovel and the spoon was a sermon I listened to in May by Louie Giglio. The lesson hasn’t left me yet. Major conflict, pain and tension was stirred during this month and the sermon was so very timely. Each of us are daily given the option to choose between a shovel and a spoon. With which object do you dish out grace? Especially when you’ve been wronged? I tend to find the spoon and sprinkle as little as possible upon the perpetrator. Yet, when I’m on the other end, I expect a shovel-load of grace dumped upon me. I’m so thankful that God has a dump truck of grace for me on a daily basis. It is the least I can do to choose to use a shovel each day.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney. With God, all things are possible. I saw mountains move during the month of June. Strongholds broken, restoration and hope breathed into death bringing a breath of life, visions take shape and immeasurable strength to endure.

I will never again say “It’s not fair,” unless I am talking about those kids. In July I was blessed to attend Director’s Training for Royal Family Kids Camp prior to launching New Mexico’s first RFK Camp. Abused and neglected foster children are given the opportunity to attend a week-long camp, free-of-charge, in hopes that they might create positive childhood memories. I have never wept so hard in my life, nor have I ever felt so incredibly selfish about the things I complain about. Many of these kids
had irrational fears, deep emotional issues, brokenness beyond compare, scars that told stories you never wanted to hear… and most had never had a birthday party or been given a gift ever in their life. Camp was one of the most profound experiences of 2015, and I will never be the same. Nor will I ever say, “It’s not fair” in regards to myself ever again.

August presented a new opportunity. Don’t quit was the recurring lesson. Many times I wanted to throw in the towel or come up with a way to get out. I am so thankful that God gave me the grace to hang in there. Unless God closes a door, He doesn’t usually want you to quit something He’s asked you to do.

In September I visited one of my favorite places, the Little Bear burn scar. Things grow better after a fire. Just a few years after the June 2012 fire, new life has taken it’s rightful place on the mountainside. It’s healthy and lush. As the mountain comes back to life, I notice how much more beautiful it is now than before the fire. When God allows things in your life to burn, it’s most likely that He’s making room for something better.

I’ve been adopted. In October, I attended the adoption ceremony of one of the children who came to Camp with us in July. The scriptures came alive as I witnessed first hand the life-saving gift of adoption. Hope for the future, a new name, a solidified identity… and to thing the God of the universe adopted me into HIS family.

My knight appeared this year and showed me that I am worth fighting for. He placed a ring 
on my finger in November and promised to always fight for me and alongside me. I’ve had many others prior to him fight only for themselves. For a while, I was convinced that I would never be worth it to anyone. How thankful I am! You are worth fighting for too… sometimes it’s easy to forget or talk yourself out of that truth. “I’ve been told, to pick up my sword and fight for love, little did I know that Love has won for me.” – WeDance by Bethel Music

The end of a thing is better than the beginning. Ecclesiastes 7:8. I pray this is always
true for each season I face. May the end always be sweeter than the beginning.
December closes the year and it has been even better than it began!

What are your 12 stones from the year? I dare you to trek back into the middle of
your trials and losses this year and pull something from it. Don’t trudge onward
with nothing to show for what you’ve endured.

We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you,
‘What do these stones mean?’  Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan
River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’

Look at what they were told to tell their children. One sentence of God’s faithfulness!
They could have dwelt on their time in the wilderness, or the fears and complexities
of crossing the river, or what Egypt was like. But they were told to focus on the
simplicity of God’s faithfulness to them.

When you look back at your river of 2015, I pray you will choose to select the stones
of God’s faithfulness, knowing that upon those very rocks, you could have died – but
you didn’t. Allow His promises, not your pain, to be what your children and
grandchildren know to be true.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They will SOAR high on wings like eagles…" Isaiah 40:31a

I feel as though I've been waiting... I've yet to see the eagle part. So high, so effortless, so majestic and regal. Eagles ride the wind, creating a visual treat for us observers below. Kind of intimidating? Waiting upon/ hoping in the Lord causes us to mount up just like those beautiful birds of prey. If you're soaring
in such a fashion, bless you! You're the one the rest of us are watching and marveling at. If you're like me, you might feel as though you're "mounting up" on wings like a penguin; the only air you're getting is when you fly over a snow mogul on your belly. 

"Eagle" comes from the Hebrew word, nesher, meaning "a tearer with the beak." They can live as long as 50+ years. (The record for a wild sparrow is 23 years.) God created these birds with a unique inner eyelid that allows them to see in extreme brightness and much farther than we can. When they mate - they mate for life, and the duo then shares equal responsibility for building the nest, caring for the young and gathering food. 

Eagles are mentioned over 30 times in the Bible, sometimes describing how God cares for His children [Exodus 19:4, Deuteronomy 32:11-12], and often describing metaphorically the growth of a Christian. 

If we wish to soar like the eagle, we must be willing to go through the molting process. While painful, it is necessary. It's true that some don't survive it, but those who do are stronger and more resilient than ever before. 

The eagle's survival is largely linked to its feathers. They rely on their plumage to identify, insulate, protect and fly. As time goes by, oil and dirt will coat the feathers of the eagle, causing them to fray and inhibit them from flying like they once did. Calcium builds up on their beak and talons causing them to dull, thus altering their ability to hunt and provide food. While they build their nests high on mountain ridges far away from danger, for an eagle to endure this process of molting, they descend to the valley; to a cleft of a rock or cliff; to a cave. 

Starting from the head down, the eagle will pull out up to two-thirds of all its feathers; removing the heavy, damaged ones and allowing room for new feathers to grow. Without its regal plumage, the eagle is rendered unable to fly. Returning to their youthful, eaglett-like appearance [Psalm 103:5], the bird can only hop around like a turkey. The process of shedding and regrowing can take five months. 

Obviously, this process makes the eagle incredibly vulnerable. Because of their weakened state, they make easy targets for predators and are less able to fight disease or combat stresses. Some experts report that in such a weakened state, the bird who can normally spot dinner up to three miles away, loses its ability to tear - drying out its eyes and drastically diminishing vision. After removing their damaged feathers, the eagle will take his calcified beak and bang it against the rocks, chipping it until the weight is removed - he now must allow it to regrow and sharpen. The same goes for his talons. 

Researchers have observed this rare event and noticed that in the weakened eagle's state, there was another eagle, always appearing older, who would bring food to the location of the molting one. The would scream as they circled over the site, alerting danger and shouting encouragement. De-feathered, de-clawed, and with a broken beak, unable to fly/hunt/provide the eagle then seeks out sunshine. The vitamins it soaks in from the warmth of the sun allow it to heal more quickly. 

To soar with the renewed strength of the eagle, we must be willing to endure this painful and tedious process called MOLTING.

Go to the Valley
Many of you have quickly discovered that being a Christian isn't always a mountaintop experience. Molting always takes place in the valley - the cave - the cleft of the rock. Sometimes due to pride or self-sufficiency, we are unaware of our desperate need to descend. We feel as though we are fine just the way we are and don't recognize our need to be pruned so that we might be strengthened. Humility is key to this process, surrendering our strength to His purposes. Becoming vulnerable. Be willing to go to the valley. 

What to Prune
During our molting process, we must be willing to let go of/pluck out of our lives the things that hinder us and weigh us down. Sometimes it's an obvious sin or temptation that inhibits our ability to soar. Other times, the thing we must be willing to surrender is our comfort zone - a relationship - a dream. Are you willing to remove whatever is holding you back and trust that God will make you better as a result? Although it's painful, will you pull it out?

It Hurts
This process isn't pleasant. It will be long. It will be painful. It will be lonely. At times, it will be scary. You will be completely aware of your vulnerability - of your "inadequacy." You will be defenseless to the predator, stripped of your former glory. Molting isn't for sissys. Sure, there are some who are content to be as they are, but if you desire to be stronger, better, more beautiful, healthier - then the pain is necessary. Paul speaks of such trial in Romans 8:18 and when he declares, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

Older Birds
More mature birds, the ones who've been-there-done-that-have-the-tee-shirt, are the ones who provide nourishment, warn of danger and convey encouragement. Seek out these old birds in your life. In your vulnerable state, draw on their victory. Allow them to help you. Consider what lessons you can learn from them and their time of molting in the valley. The Oldest, Wisest Bird of all is made stronger in your weakness. Allow Him to minister to you during this time. Note that the weak eagles didn't blame the strong one for their condition. They knew it was a necessary process they willingly entered into. When you're molting, don't blame The Bird for your condition. He is allowing what hinders you to be removed so that something new and better can grow in its place. He is shouting encouragement as He watches over you. Thankfully, He's never vulnerable or defenseless. Draw strength from spending time resting in The Son.

Renew Your Vision
As the old birds drop nourishment, the food makes the weak bird stronger. The nutrients help them regenerate more quickly. As a result, the tear ducts in their eyes begin to lubricate again. Vision is restored. After a period of darkness, I would imagine they look at things a bit differently than they ever did before. Maybe they appreciate things more. Maybe they see things they've never taken the time to notice. Maybe the draw in the tiny hand-drawn by God details of their mate. Don't allow the darkness to cloud your view of who God is, rather, allow it to sharpen your vision - realign your focus - renew your purpose - enhance your life. Celebrate the new vision (of life, ministry, testimony, family, etc.) God restores to you when the darkness is lifted from your eyes.

Soar High
You will be renewed. You will be restored. You will be greater and stronger than you've ever been in your life.  When you see with hindsight the end result, you will be in awe of God and forget the length and pain of the process. He always uses pain to reveal His strength and power in our lives (the life of Jesus was no exception.) While molting may take weeks, months or even years, rest assured that God is faithful and will complete the work He began in you. You won't be in the valley forever. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

If you feel like God is missing from your valley - consider the idea that He is circling over you in your vulnerable state, providing protection from danger and searching for ways to provide you nourishment that you can digest. He wants you to grow - to not settle for being the way you are - growth is a process and the process hurts. (Don't you remember those growing pains as a kid?)

I'm in the valley with you my friend. Do you feel ugly, ashamed, vulnerable, de-feathered? That's good… it means you're being pruned! I feel like a de-feathered chicken at the moment, but I trust God is doing a work in spite of it all. I wouldn't trade the end result for the world. 

I challenge you this week to look for God outside of your valley (with blurred vision, it may be harder to find Him), but I reckon He's above you - watching out for you as you endure this process. If you dare, don't pray that the process gets easier or is over quicker, but that you grow stronger, faster, better, more complete in Him. 

On wings like eagles,
You WILL Soar.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

In The Dungeon Of Doubt

I confess, there have been seasons when I've questioned God. I have empowered the Devil with my negative self-talk and the lies I entertain in my thoughts. For two weeks, a story in the Bible has shaken me. I've cried over it. I've yelled at the pages. I've pleaded with others for insight. I have researched long into the night. When my heart finally reached a place of humility and my spirit was teachable, God revealed a new universe of truth which I would like to share with you. 

If you have ever doubted God - questioned if you really knew Him - if you "got it right", you are in good company with John the Baptist. (You might dress funny and eat weird things too!) John was kin to Jesus. He prepared the way for His ministry. He baptized Jesus and saw the Spirit descend on Him like a dove. He wasn't a scratch-everyone-behind-the-ears kind of guy. He pointed out sin and required that it be dealt with. He crossed the line when he publicly spoke out against Herod Antipas. John's actions landed him in prison.

John was locked away in the prison at Machaerus. Mattew 4:12-13a tells us that 

"When he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea…" What? Did Jesus not care? One would think Jesus would go visit him, maybe giving John a word of encouragement. Certainly He would take John food. Jesus could spring him with one snap of His fingers! No. Jesus went the other way. Note, the fortress of Machaerus was located 15 miles southeast of the mouth of the Jordan River on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. Capernaum on the other hand, was located miles north on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. 

Jesus seriously left His kin - the guy who prepared the way for Him- in prison and up and went the other way. Have you felt like that before? Oh boy! I sure have. But, that's not all. John was in prison. Chained. Not fed unless someone brought him food. Rumor was that if you were in Herod's prison, you didn't see the light of day again. John knew he was likely awaiting execution. He was in the barren desert, alone.  Can you imagine the blistering heat? The windstorms? The hike up the hill for his disciples to bring him food. I wonder how often they actually came? 

Meanwhile, Jesus has set up His headquarters in Capernaum, a fishing village on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Needless to say, Jesus' view was a bit different than John's. 

(This is when I began yelling.) So, John is in prison, starving and awaiting death. Jesus went the opposite way and is sitting under a palm tree. Maybe your blood is beginning to boil. Where has He been in the midst of your trial? Do you feel as though you're rotting away and the Lord is no where to be found? Surely the all-knowing God is aware of your difficult circumstances. But, if He's aware, then why isn't He here; why doesn't He act on my behalf?

In Matthew 11, John sends word to Jesus by his disciples and asks, "Are you the one who is to come or should we look for someone else?" (v3) By this time, scholars estimate that John had been in prison for over a year and a half. His strength was wearing thin, his faith was tired, and the Devil had John trapped in a dungeon of doubt. 

John, being the last of the Old Testament prophets, expected a military-type king. One who would come set Israel free from the oppression of the Romans. He was ready for the new kingdom. As John's disciples brought word about Jesus' ministry- healing people, treasuring the trashed, eating with tax collectors and prostitutes, bringing rest to the weary and delivering powerful messages like the Sermon on the Mount… Jesus didn't look like the guy John thought would come. "If He really came to set the captives free, why am I still sitting in prison?"

Have you felt abandoned? John certainly was feeling that way. Not only had Jesus left him, it seemed as though the Devil himself had taken His place. John knew the scriptures back-forth-and-inside-out. I'm sure he tried to recall the promises and prophesies. The signs that were once crystal clear, now clear as mud. In the midst of doubt, it's impossible to think straight. 

John was aware of the deaths the prophets before him faced. I bet he could handle the idea of dying for justice and righteousness. I think it was the doubt that he was wrong about Jesus that pushed him to question. What if he prepared the way for the wrong one? What if he had been wrong and thus led others astray? What if his life and ministry was in vain? In the dark, dusty cell, you can almost feel the weight John carried with each and every passing question. We really can't blame him for asking. It wasn't so much a lack of faith as it was a lack of understanding of Jesus' eternal kingdom.

Jesus is gracious to John's disciples and doesn't rebuke anyone for the doubt-filled question. He was well-aware of John's hardships, sorrows and grief long before the boys showed up. Unshaken by the honest inquiry, Jesus continues doing what He came to do. John's disciples watch and listen, taking in the miracles and hope Jesus lavishes on the least of these. "Yes, please… encourage the captive, John, who is suffering on YOUR account, and tell him all the great things YOU'RE doing for everyone else!" That's what I thought…

But that's not what John understood. Jesus, moved with compassion for His friend, looked at the curious disciples and told them, "Tell John all that you've seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers and made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." A knowledgeable prophet, John would have recognized that Jesus was quoting the prophet Isaiah. Out of love for His friend, Jesus didn't include Isaiah's phrase "to proclaim liberty to the captives." Initially, I was incredibly frustrated by this. How can Jesus manipulate His own word like that? You and I both know, that's not the God we serve. I don't think Jesus left that little nugget out because He was sealing John's fate as a dead man, rather that He didn't want to cause further doubt. John was looking for more of a military king - one who would free all the captives in Israel. Little did he know that Jesus' purpose was so much more than that. He didn't come just to set the captives free in Israel, He came to set all people free from sin and eternal damnation. 

As John's disciples embark on their journey back to their weary friend in the desert, Jesus pays him an incredible tribute. "I tell you the truth, of all who ever lived, none is greater than John…" (v11) And Jesus says this right after John questioned who He was…. I want Jesus to say that about me - in spite of my fleshly doubts.

You, my friend, are in company with the greats. Even the strongest saints have experienced deep darkness, tortuous trial and gut-wrentching grief. Study the lives of Abraham, Moses, David and Paul. Jesus promised us that we would have trouble in this world - none of us is an exception!  

Do you feel that God has left you? As though He's heard of your trial and known of your suffering, yet walked the other way? Have you cried out to God, begging for rescue and it seems as though He's only sitting on His hands under a palm tree? Take another look. He's not sitting on His hands. The hands of Jesus have holes in them. Pierced for you. 

Jesus cried out too. He begged His father for another way. To spare the suffering. He experienced the true abandonment of His Father for a moment, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Yet, His momentary suffering produced eternal glory. Had Jesus not gone to the cross, we would be forever damned and He wouldn't know the joy His bride will one day bring. 

Psalm 23:3a, The Psalmist writes, "He restores my soul…" The promise is not that the Lord will restore your health, that friendship, the marriage, finances, career, etc. His promise is that He will restore your soul. It's the only eternal thing, thus it's the only thing that really matters. I pray you come to a place in humility to recognize that sometimes God says "No," but it's always for an eternal reason. Why would you let the Devil rob you of an eternal reward and keep you locked in the dungeon of doubt? 

Imagine John the Baptizer, now enjoying Heaven. Yes, he stayed in prison. Yes, he was beheaded. But, I don't imagine that John would change a single thing. Can you fathom his reward in Heaven?! God forgive us when recklessly trade earthly things for eternal ones! Don't sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the immediate. 

"What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way." Luke 6:22-23

You and I may feel frustrated - experience doubt - assume abandonment, but we don't know abandonment like Jesus does. He did it to give us abundant life. God always has purpose in the pain. You will be happy again. When you can look back with eternal perspective, I doubt you'd want to change a thing. This life is so menial and so fleeting - it is a speck in light of the glory of eternity. So, I'm sorry you're suffering now, but, one day I may be battling jealousy over your reward in heaven! Stay faithful. Hang on to what you know. Recognize the miracles and the way He's moving in the lives of others. Your day will come and perspective will change. 

These hands are active. These hands are marked with love for you. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

In the Meantime

Yes, it has been a while. Many of you have been asking why I've quit posting. To be completely honest, this season of my life has proven to be so challenging that I felt as though I would be a hypocrite to write something uplifting and spiritual. I have gone back and read previous blogs I've posted and just cried as God allowed them to speak to me thinking that there was no possible way I ever wrote it. This entire year has been one of closed doors and "No's." I cried in my moms arms a few days ago after another bit of bad news and said, "I just want to hear a 'YES' soon!" 

Facing trials from the time I was tiny, I have grown up hearing others talk about how strong I was or how, "nothing gets that girl down." This from well-meaning people who have never ceased to pray for or encourage me. Yet, it has created in me this idea that others expect me to be tough. Even after my engagement ended, I handled it like a tough girl would. Only a handful of people have ever seen me cry and for some odd reason, I take pride in that. 

That being said, it's been easier to disappear from social media and my blog rather than tell the world:
I am not that tough.

This week, a friend suggested a podcast that he felt might be uplifting. Turns out, the entire sermon series knocked me on my tail so hard that it caused this mask of super strength I wear to fall off. Aptly title, In The Meantime, the series touches on how to handle the seasons of anxiety. The seasons when you've clearly left Point A, but don't see Point B anywhere in sight. Where your past, present and future seem to be nothing more than a tangled ball of sticky yarn. 

In light of serious medical issues, the emotions of leaving my friends and loved ones across the country, and a general sense of purposelessness, there are many days where I have lost sight of the hope and promises of God and sink into depression. 

I have found such great comfort in the Psalms. So many times, David is able to express the anguish and desperation of his heart using the very words I can't seem to find. But, he wasn't the only one. Paul was there - he wrestled with the thorn in his flesh - he mentions learning to find contentment in the most bleak of circumstances. Moses was there. He spent 40 years "In the Meantime" pleading with God for forgiveness, favor and food. Ruth was there. She lost her husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law and opted to leave the world she knew clinging to the hope that something - maybe something - was better somewhere else. Esther was there; essentially kidnapped from her home waiting for one night with the king. 

I think we each have "In the Meantime" seasons, yet we don't like to talk about them. Why? 

I venture to give you a few reasons:

1. We ourselves are insecure. We wear a mask trying to pretend the hurt and frustration isn't there. If we ignore it long enough, everything might just smooth itself out and magically get better and no one has to know the struggle. Pride and self-sufficiency drive us to keep our needs to ourself. 

2. Social Media. It's a monster! I recently removed myself from all my social media feeds for a month. It was so refreshing! Try it - I dare you. Granted, your Facebook news feed is about as authentic as Keeping Up With the Kardashians or The Bachelor, but it still gets in our heads. Is anyone actually going to post a bad photo of themselves? NO! That selfie has probably been shot at least three times, has been edited and is now sporting a filter. Their wedding photos are adorable, but you know their marriage isn't perfect. Their baby is so cute and well-behaved, but can't you imagine the bedtime temper-tantrum followed by the 2am "I'm thirsty, Mommy"? Scroll through your feed. It's likely you know some of the stories and heartaches behind the photos. But, it's easy to compare, isn't it? When I made the decision to go off the grid for a month, it was vital. My world was changing yet again. If I saw another engagement announcement, wedding album or gender reveal party, I thought I was going to be sick. Somehow the photos of my friends instilled in me the idea that I was behind. I don't have my life together the way they do. I'm not as pretty, lovable, smart, independent… Unplugging was freeing and greatly diminished the lies I was believing about myself. My attitude and heart had a chance to regroup. Amazingly enough, true friends still found a way to get in touch with me! If you're in a "In the Meantime" season, unplug. I believe you'd be better able to hear God's status updates over your life. 

3. We don't trust others. The Bible is full of verses telling us to share one another's burdens. To lift one another up when one is down. To ask for prayer. But, we don't. I have certainly been guilty of wearing the "everything's ok" mask to church. It could be fear of judgement, concern of gossip, lack of trust or just a good stiff-arm that keeps our mask on. I can't imagine what His ministry would have been like if Jesus wasn't honest and transparent. What if Paul didn't need Timothy? What if Moses decided he could do it all by himself and cast Aaron aside? We are God's gift to one another. You and I were never meant to do this life alone. The whole point was that we would see our inability and Christ's ability - He sends us each other to help be that encouragement and support along the way. I know better than just about anyone how gut-wrentchingly painful it can be to lay down your mask and admit that you're not ok. Yet, the love and grace that flows through admission is palpable. Don't be afraid of the help God has sitting the pew right next to you. 

4. Backpedaling. So, you've finally confided a tiny bit in that friend and they stare back across the table from you with a blank expression, speechless. No words would make the situation better anyway, but you were hoping for a little something. Now the thoughts swirl in your mind. "Why on earth did I say anything to them anyway?" you ask yourself. Maybe it's for them. Revolutionary thought, I know. We tend to get really self-consumed during those "In the Meantime" seasons. Take a peek outside of your world that seems to be crumbling and consider their expression across the table. Maybe it's for her. Maybe he is watching you wage yet another trial and is astounded by your faith. I am exceedingly thankful that many of the Bible Greats faced such seasons. Their stories are what give us hope. Have you considered that maybe by simply sharing your story, you could be that for someone else? Our testimony is the key to victory

5. You're out of faith. If you've been "In the Meantime" for more than a few months, you're probably growing tired. When you're weary and struggling to fight one more day, it seems that the devil gets a microphone. His lies become louder and louder in our ear until he has us curled in the fetal position ready to quit. Consider his battle strategy. The devil's tactics are NEVER new. He knows exactly what will make you feel worthless, empty and defeated and he will repeat himself day after day. Do what you can to strap on the Armor of God. I am so thankful that the only task we are given once the armor is on is to simply stand. Nothing else. Stand. Just one more day. And when you're just plum out of faith and are desperately wondering where God's hand is, take heart in the promise that the Lord will fight for you.  Again, the command is simply to be still - be calm - chill out - take a deep breath. He never leaves. He is busy fighting for you. 

Having lived behind a mask for years, I need to recall each of these points daily. Please feel free to remind me! God has a purpose for the in between times. I am still in the thick of it and don't have a clue what He's up to or where He's headed with me, I just cling to the promises He's given in His word and wait for him to act on my behalf knowing that even in the silence, He is busy. Just because you find yourself in one of life's dark hallways, doesn't mean you need to pitch a tent there. Keep standing until you see the light and the door. I will try to do the same. In the Meantime… 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Being His Eyes

I've continued to face a series of challenges for the last few months. Many of you have noticed that I'm not posting as often as I normally do. To be perfectly honest, I'm tired. I feel depleted physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You've known me to always be the girl to put on a good face and be strong and power through any and every obstacle that may come. That's not where I'm at. 

I'm in the process of packing up my life in Pennsylvania to move back home. I will be in New Mexico with my family until we can get my pressing health issues sorted out. I've never been a fan of transition or change. Saying goodbye to friends and those who have become like family is not an easy thing to do. My house is sold and boxes are the only thing that now decorate the living room. Once again, I have no idea what God is doing or why. All I know is that He is good. All the time. 

Already tired and emotionally numb, one more thing was added to my plate this week. 

 Jackson puppy has been more than my best friend for the last eight years. He's traveled with me from NM, to TX, to PA and even New Jersey. He's licked more tears than one can imagine and is never more than three feet from my side. "Man's Best Friend" hardly does our relationship justice. More than once in the last few years, Jack has been all I've had - the only constant. 

I sat down to eat breakfast last week and saved the last bite of my waffle for my furry friend. I placed it in front of his nose. It took him a good ten seconds to find it. I thought it was odd, but didn't read into it. Maybe it was the lighting or he was just being super patient? 

As the week went on, I began to wonder what was happening. His behavior had changed, his demeanor, it was as if he couldn't see me. After watching him begin to run into walls, we went to the vet. She confirmed his eyesight was gone. In a matter of five days, Jackson became blind. While the cause still remains uncertain; he and I have both had to learn to adapt. 

Imagine the fear you'd have if you lost your sight in a matter of days. The vibrant world you once knew now a dark abyss. My heart has broken for him and I've cried trying to get him to walk through the doorway. Life has changed. 

The first couple days were hard. He panicked often and insisted on touching me at all times - even if that meant leaning on my legs as I tried to walk down the hall. He struggled to find his food and water and was fearful to go outside. His toy squirrel lie abandoned on the floor. My mind raced with what to do - how to get us to cope. Everything I read said to maintain consistency - don't move furniture or change his surroundings…. I wept as I read knowing a 2,000 mile cross-country road trip is only days away. How will he do it? Hotels, new smells, strange sounds, other pets. How will I do it? 

For the first time in a very long time, God tangibly broke through my heartbreak. "Heather, that's exactly how I want you to be. Watch Jack and learn." 

In the days that followed I watched my Jackie start to compensate. He and I began coming up with systems that work. I would talk softly to him before touching him. I would clap as I walked so he could follow the sound. His food and water dish became "home base" so when he's disoriented we have a landmark. When he's frightened and panting, I scoop him up and hold him tight until his breathing returns to normal. 

And that's how God wants us to be. 

Jack is 100% dependent on me. He relies on me for his food, water, vet care, love, play, attention, walks, potty breaks… When he lost sight, he didn't run away from me angry at the situation. He did the opposite and clung to me even closer. Now he's looking to me for peace, surety, safety and literal direction. It's like he knows that alone he would die. 

Have you lost your sight? You look around but all you see is black? I've been waiting for sight and direction for some time. God has seen fit right now to keep my eyes closed to what's happening. Maybe he's doing the same to you for your own protection. He's drawing
you closer - desiring to be even more to you than He already is. Don't panic or run into walls; it breaks His heart to watch you do that. Trust His voice and know that if He's leading you over the doorway, it's a safe step, even if you can't see it. His Word is your "home base" the one place you can return to and know where you are. If you begin to fear because you can't find Him, stop and listen for His clapping - He's near. Follow the sound. And if you need to just break down and cry because it's too much - too dark - too sudden - too scary. Let Him scoop you up and rock you. Don't run away from Him because you can't see and don't understand. Stay close. You're still His. 

And yes, while my lovely puppy has taught me this valuable lesson, my heart still hurts wishing there was something I could do to change this for him. Jackson has been incredible in the face of adversity. He still plunges ahead - insisting on his normal walk, regular tricks and treats, and demolishing the new toy I got him. He's the most loyal and faithful creature I've ever known on God's planet. He's showing me how to love life and make the most out of every situation. 

Being his eyes has taught me to see the world with my heart.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Just Standing

"...and after you have done everything, to stand." Ephesians 6:13

Many of you have asked why I haven't posted a blog in quite some time. I have been busy standing. 

Standing is about all I can do. 

The last few months have been especially challenging. Two years ago, my world fell apart, and lately I feel as though I've been watching a replay. My contract with the ministry has ended and after many months of looking, applying and interviewing, God has not allowed any doors for jobs to open here in Pennsylvania. No paycheck = no ability to pay my mortgage. The house I bought with my life's savings now has a 'For Sale' sign in the front yard. 

I'm beginning to understand why the Lord didn't allow a door to open for a job. I haven't felt well for quite some time and since February have seen multiple doctors to learn what is wrong. Having more lab work than my arms would like, we've discovered I have dangerously high levels of cortisol that have been sustained for possibly years. Signs and symptoms as well as doctor's opinions point to having Cushing's Disease which is basically a tumor on the pituitary gland that causes excess production of cortisol. We are seeking out medical teams as we move forward with what to do. 

At this point in time, I feel as though my job is just to rest and get well. Some days, a trip to the grocery store is all I can manage. Extreme weakness, fatigue and dizziness have become a daily way of life in the past couple months. 

The emotions of being jobless, sick and selling my home are compounded with being 2,000 miles from my family. And, while I can't wait to be closer to them, it comes at the cost of leaving my amazing Ohlson family here in PA. 

I have no great spiritual insight or metaphor for you today. No lesson to draw in all of this. No answers to "Why?" I know God will never leave me or forsake me, but never in my life has He been more silent. This season of difficulty certainly rivals the one I weathered two years ago. 

I am thankful though, that after we're given the Armor of God in Ephesians 6, our only command is to stand. We don't have to fight, to strategize; to brainstorm a plan, or rally support. No, all we are asked to do is stand. I'm trying. I am tired and there are days in which I feel as though I can't. Thats when I think of my dear friend, Lauren. The trial she's weathering with impeccable joy and grace far exceeds my own. So, I'm standing - in prayer - in faith - in hope that the promises of God will be proven true in my life. (And yours Lauren!)

Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement at this time. I am excited to watch God work all of this for His glory.