The path of a new year

New Year’s day seemed like the perfect time to take a hike. You know, fitness resolutions, take-more-time-to-experience life resolutions, all that jazz.

My husband and I went to a familiar park, but we decided to take a trail we’ve never blazed. This was an impromptu date, but we weren’t alone.

Just a short ways in, step-by-step, God began speaking encouragement over this new year. Receive it, friend.

Sometimes the path is uncomplicated and clearly marked.

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Sometimes it’s not.

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If I brought you to it, I’ll get you through it, under it or over it.

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I never promised the path would be easy. Keep walking even if you get dirty, really dirty.

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When the journey is effortless, remember me. It is my gift to you.

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Ask me when you don’t know which way to go. I will tell you.

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It’s possible I will bless either decision. I can do that. Include me.

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When you don’t know what’s around the corner, trust me and keep walking. I am with you.

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When life goes sideways, I’m still right here, walking with you. I haven’t left you.

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If the path seems exhaustively uphill, ask for my strength. I will give it to you. Just keep climbing.

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Sometimes I have a different plan than yours. Trust me. I know the best path for you.

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I am with you. Sojourners are also on the path. You are not alone.

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Leave your mark on the path…for my glory.

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I put people in your path for a reason. Some go before you to help blaze the trail…

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…others come behind you to follow it.

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Don’t be too proud to accept help. 

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You don’t always have to forge your own way.

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Follow my narrow path regardless of how narrow it gets.

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Sometimes you have to take a running leap of faith to stay on the path.

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When you’re between a rock and a hard place, my path will lead you through it.

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Look for my beauty along the path. It’s there to encourage you.

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In every season, follow me.

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Follow my path, but be smart about it. You don’t have to be the hero. I already am.

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A friend to walk with is a blessing from me.

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My children are rooted in me.

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The wind cannot blow over they who are grounded in me.

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 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

 

 

Rebuilding – lessons learned from change

In the past week, I’ve had two friends lose their fathers and one friend lose her mother. I’ve congratulated a dear friend on his engagement and received news of a friend’s health concerns. I’ve sent our oldest child to college, and feel like I’ve sent a dozen more young friends off to begin their freshmen years. Our other two teens prepare to change schools while my husband and I seek new employment options. So much change! Thought I’d repost this as an encouragement to all who are going through change… ~ Kristi

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Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ~ Matthew 10:29-31

A year ago, spring brought us the most delightful surprise. A pair of birds decided to make their love nest in the beams of our front porch. We watched them toil for days making everything perfect. Their nest was strong – and beautiful.

Bird's nest-001

Over time, tiny, extraordinary eggs appeared. We could not get close to them, because Papa and Mama birds would have none of it. This was private, and they were quite territorial over their precious little eggs.

Before we knew it, baby birds burst forth from their shells. Their sour, grumpy faces made us smile. They huddled together for safety and warmth. With eyes still shut, they were a lump of feathers and fuzz with bulging eye lids and pointed beaks. Truly, they had faces only a mother could love.

As they matured, we enjoyed their incessant chirping, which kept Mama and Papa quite busy trying to feed them. It reminded me of when our teenagers were babies and the constant attention they needed – so helpless and soft.

In no time at all, these baby birds quickly grew up, outgrew their nest…and flew away. It was time for their own journeys to begin.

???????????????????????????

I loved this small, beautiful nest. As far as nests go, these birds had a great flare for decorating. It hardly looked real it was so picturesque. I had plans to photograph it against the brilliant backdrop of the changing seasons and was so honored our front porch was chosen.

Months later, we had our home pressure washed. I gave instructions to leave the nest intact, even if it meant the wood and paint surrounding the nest stayed messy with splattered clay from the hard work of the birds.

The crew agreed to my request.

However, the man who came behind the crew to clean any missed spots of mold or dirt didn’t know about the nest – nor my desire to keep it.

Using his powerful pressure hose, he annihilated their love nest in a matter of seconds.

It was utterly and completely destroyed.

I stepped onto our front porch only to find small clumps of moss and pine straw lying wet and sad at my feet.

My heart broke.

DSC_3123

It was gone. The beautiful, nurtured nest was gone, and so was my hope to enjoy it every day.

Throughout the passing seasons, I looked up at the corner of pristine white walls and missed the splatter of mud and clay. I missed the fuzzy green moss and amber pine straw woven into a perfect circle.

It was something beautiful…and it was gone by way of a complete stranger.

A year passed since the pressure-washing incident. This spring, while working at my desk, I noticed more-than-usual activity outside my window. In addition to the many greedy squirrels that steal the birdseed from our “squirrel proof” bird feeders; the various songbirds birds that search our yard looking for hidden earthworms in their daily treasure-hunting; and the flocks of predatory ravens that descend in droves (and honestly freak me out a little as they stare bold-faced back at me as I pass them), I noticed one bird quietly perched upon our flagpole.

It wasn’t just any bird. It was a bird with a mouthful of gorgeous green moss larger than its head.

DSC_0048-001

It can’t be! I exclaimed to myself. I jumped up from my desk and hurried to the front door. Peering through the glass, I saw the makings of a new nest!

A huge smile swept across my face as I pressed my hands on the glass to get a closer look – careful to not be noticed.

Indeed, a new nest had been lovingly, painstaking crafted in the exact same hidden corner of our porch. One piece of moss and pine straw. One tuft of fur. One patch of mud and clay at a time.

???????????????

What could make this sight even more beautiful? A few days later – eggs!

bird nest 2014 with eggs-001What could be better than two eggs? Five eggs!

birds nest april 24 2014-003What could be sweeter than five new eggs? To see Mama herself guarding them, keeping them safe and warm under her protective wings and ever-watchful eye.

?????????????????????????????

Checking on the eggs one day, we were greeted with the sweetest surprise…new life!

IMG_2806-001

Days passed and all of the baby birds hatched. Faint chirping strengthened with each new sunrise. Tufts of fuzzy heads could barely be seen peeking out above the rim of the nest. Five little lives were growing.

IMG_2958-001

We are blessed to live in what feels like a bird sanctuary. There are more species of birds in our neck of the woods than I can name or count. Most of them are welcomed by our family. The ravens – not so much. The owl that has been known to sit outside our windows and hoot deep into the night is super cool. But, there is one particular bird that stalks the skies whose presence is daunting…our resident hawk. He’s not afraid of people and stared without blinking at me when I took this photograph only feet away from him.

?????????????????

He’s lived here for years. Once, in front of a neighboring family he swooped down, hooked its claws into their family pet – their beloved small dog – and carried him away never to be seen again.

I’m not a fan of this hawk based on that reason, and on our own experience…

My family was enjoying supper on our back porch on a hot, summer afternoon. Amid rich conversation and a lazy ceiling fan slowly spinning above, we heard rustling in the overgrown bushes just a few feet away. We didn’t think much of it because squirrels, chipmunks and other woodland creatures are constantly up to something. However, the rustling grew louder and limbs and leaves began to vigorously shake. This mystery had our attention.

From of the dark shadows of the thick brush shot out this large hawk – and it wasn’t alone. In its beak was a baby bird. The hawk darted right toward us before jetting up into the sky at the last second. The baby bird cried for help. The father and mother birds were hot on the hawk’s trail. They also shot out of the brush squeaking and squawking and flying in frantic circles around the hawk. With silent, majestic wings the hawk continued on its steady path – laser-focused on the destination and dead-set on sticking to the plan.

For the small songbirds, it was a losing battle. They tried to fight. They risked their lives. They did everything they knew to do for their baby.

My family and I sat in horror as we helplessly watched these tragic seconds unfold that seemed to last forever.

As the hawk soared away in victory, the songbirds gave up and flew back to their nest. The last sound of this drama, which is forever recorded in my ears, is that of one last call for help from the baby bird. Then there was silence, and our half-eaten supper abruptly ended as we had suddenly lost our appetites.

Walking in our neighborhood the other day, I was content listening to my favorite music and being with my own thoughts. Suddenly I saw something ahead of me drop to the ground. It had fallen out of the clear, blue sky (literally). Weird! How odd for something to fall in the middle of the road. I couldn’t make it out so I moved toward it.

Ahead of me about fifteen feet sat a quiet, lonely miniature nest.

IMG_2996

Where in the world did it come from? I looked up at our tree-lined street, but leafy branches nowhere near extended over the road. Only a vast, sapphire sky above filled every inch of eyesight. I was totally bewildered. That’s when I heard it. Caws from a nearby raven – and boy was it mad! The closer I got to the nest, the more it yelled at me. The raven had stolen this adorable nest and accidentally dropped mid-flight.

There was something about how helpless and vulnerable this tiny, dainty nest sat in the middle of the road that touched my heart. I thought about the bird that made it, and how it would respond to returning to the place where now only emptiness waits. As for the nest, it was only be a matter of time before a car unknowingly ran it over – or the pirating raven would swoop down to retrieve his booty. I was compelled to save it.

Carefully, I picked it up and placed in my bag and took it home. No, the raven would not enjoy its plundering spoils that day. It was on principle that I rescued this nest from the street… as well as from the thieving raven.

Yesterday, I stepped outside to get our mail. Instantly, I had this eerie sense I was being watched. Looking up, there before me stood an enormous turkey buzzard in our front yard! I had interrupted its lunch – a small, lifeless turtle. At some point in the morning, a car had proven to be faster than the turtle. The turkey buzzard was all too happy to help clean up. Eww. I grabbed my camera before it flew away.

DSC_0481

All the while, our beloved baby birds had hardly looked like birds at all. Alien in appearance, their pink, translucent skin sprouted static fuzz and a random feather. However, before we knew it their feathers filled in and everything came together. This nest was filled with restless, hungry birds – not so much babies anymore.

DSC_0019They now noticed my presence and with weak stares they chirped when I came near, mistaking me for their mom. I saw on their faces new journeys that would soon embark.

DSC_0014

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, they began to hop out of the nest and stand along the porch beams. We knew this would be the day they would leave us.

DSC_0106

On the same day, I stepped into our backyard and found a sweet surprise. A different bird was building a different nest. I stood and watched for a while and thought about these nests popping up in unexpected places on our property and what a joy they are to our family.

DSC_0453

Throughout these experiences with various birds, God is teaching me lessons about seasons and the changes that come with them:

1. There is a purpose for our lives. Starting at the beginning with the original love nest, we also were designed and crafted for a purpose (Psalm 138:8).

2. As diligently as Papa and Mama birds worked to create their nest, so our Heavenly Father is preparing us for the plans He has for us. He stays diligent and focused on the task until it is complete (Philippians 1:6).

3. Bad things happen to beautiful things. But no matter how bad, God can make anything beautiful again (Ephesians 3:20-21).

4. God is our Redeemer. What has been destroyed can be rebuilt by He who promises to never leave us (Job 19:25).

5. There is no death with God, only life through the power of Christ who overcame death. What has been taken away from us, opens opportunity for new life (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

6. God doesn’t forget about us. He sees. He knows. He cares. His work never ceases and He never grows weary (Psalm 121).

7. He sometimes allows the last thing we want to happen – to happen.  This does not change that He is good, even in the bad times. These are times that, despite unanswered questions and even prayers, we trust God that He is working and moving and is sovereign in the midst of they why’s (Proverbs 3:5-6).

8. As difficult as it can be to accept, sometimes a new season or purpose requires a new nest. Where once our old nest was right for a time and for its purpose, a new purpose may require a new nest (Hebrews 13:20-21).

9. God rebuilds our hearts to make room for His purposes. Just like the old nest was intended for those eggs and baby birds, a new nest holds new dreams and potential for a new season of growth (2 Corinthians 5:17).

10. God works in the same way and can use the same material in our lives for new purposes. What we think needs to be scrapped or re-designed, He can re-work it for the display of His splendor (Isaiah 61:1-3).

11. If we try to birth new dreams and plans out of an old heart, it won’t work. We can trust God to be gentle, even if life has been hard. He knows we are fragile. However, sometimes it’s in brokenness that we are made whole (Psalm 51:16-17).

12. Embrace the new season and let go of the old one. These birds came back to the same exact spot to do the same work, but for new babies. If we can’t release our dashed hopes, dreams and desires for what will no longer be, our hands will be too full of the past to filled with the future (Jeremiah 29:11).

13. It’s okay to mourn what is gone. There is a season of mourning and it is intended to help us heal so we can be strong for what is ahead (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

14. Embrace change. This one is so hard. It’s hard to believe anything could be as beautiful as what we had. If we trust God, however, He can make something beautifully new (Lamentations 3;22-23).

15. Don’t confuse letting go of the old with the old not being valuable. I often think of Job, and how in the end of his testing he was given new sons and daughter. For years I struggled with the idea that people can replace people. No. They can’t and that wasn’t God’s intent. Job’s children were gone, but  Job was still here. I believe God gave him new children – not to replace his past – but to redeem his future. If we live walking backwards, looking only at what we’ve lost, we cannot appreciate, or even recognize, what God is giving to us in the here & now. Jesus came to give us abundant life, and we can trust God that He will help us have that with the days we are left to live on this planet (John 10:10).

16. Let God get messy with our lives. May there be mud and clay from the Potter’s hands splattered all over us. This is a brilliant, magnificent sight. To the world His work in our lives may not look appealing (and some may try to help clean it up!), but He is diligently, purposefully crafting us so in the end we look more like His Son. There is nothing and no one more beautiful than our Savior (Isaiah 64:8).

17. When we let go of what was, and allow God to work something new in our lives, we can trust Him knowing that where His work is, His presence is. Like the baby birds, we can rest under the shelter and shadow of His wings (Psalm 91:4).

18. His watchful eye is always on those who love Him. He is seeking out His children who are desperate for encouragement, hope and a new filling of His joy to give them just what they need (2 Chronicles 16:9),

19. Good things. Beautiful things. Blessed things can be stolen from us. People. Memories. Holidays. Our sense of normal. Possessions. Homes. Cars. Trust. Safety. Security. Happiness. Traditions. Legacies. It can all be taken against our will in this broken world. God is the only One who can truly know and understand the depth of our loss. He is the only One who can truly pick up the pieces of our lives and give us hope for a future (Psalm 34:18).

20. Sometimes plans for our future unfolds in unexpected places. Like the hidden nest burrowed deep in my iron wall-planter, we sometimes can’t see a new opportunity until it’s fully ready to be seen. God can make a way both in the same place and in a new place. He can use the same materials or completely different ones to form our purpose. He can even bring a new plan by way of a totally different bird (Psalm 33:11).

Everyone has fresh or scarred hopes and lives that lay fallen on the side of the road of our journeys. Some lay barren, like an abandoned nest. Others, by our own doing or someone else’s, have been ruined when life was swept in the undertow of this broken world. Others were crushed, annihilated, destroyed, sabotaged, stolen or vandalized and it can feel like life is more than happy to pick at the broken pieces.

One thing is true. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. However, God uses time to help us to:

* Distance ourselves from the point of crisis.

* Allow hearts and minds and bodies to do what we were born to do, survive – and dare I even say thrive.

* Soften the sharp, jagged edges of the memories, flashbacks, and feelings.

* At the right time, begin to show the new work, the redemption, that can come out of unwelcome or unexpected change.

* Reveal a new perspective.

* Show us strength, both God’s and ours, that we didn’t know was possible.

* Allow opportunity for a new work, a new purpose to begin.

* Most importantly, although time doesn’t heal all wounds, it reveals the One who is our Healer, our Jehovah Rapha. Nothing, nothing, nothing is beyond His reach; too broken to fix; too complicated to be understood; or too hurt to be healed.

Change scares us. It’s not in our comfort zone and didn’t ask our permission to invade our lives. However, God can be found in change. His gifts can be found in change. Change does not have to kill, steal and destroy us. In fact, we can come out the other side stronger with His peace and joy in tact in our hearts until it spills over into the lives of others.

Just as these adorable baby Carolina Wrens sat day-after-day with mouths open to be fed, may we render ourselves open to God. May we wait for His redemptive plans with confident expectation; plans which are already at work so they can take on a life of their own and give us wings to soar. (Psalm 103:1-5).
IMG_3405

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them. ~Psalm 145:13-19

May God’s deepest blessings be yours today and always, Kristi

 

 

 

 

 

Rebuilding – lessons learned from change

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ~ Matthew 10:29-31

A year ago, spring brought us the most delightful surprise. A pair of birds decided to make their love nest in the beams of our front porch. We watched them toil for days making everything perfect. Their nest was strong – and beautiful.

Bird's nest-001

Over time, tiny, extraordinary eggs appeared. We could not get close to them, because Papa and Mama birds would have none of it. This was private, and they were quite territorial over their precious little eggs.

Before we knew it, baby birds burst forth from their shells. Their sour, grumpy faces made us smile. They huddled together for safety and warmth. With eyes still shut, they were a lump of feathers and fuzz with bulging eye lids and pointed beaks. Truly, they had faces only a mother could love.

As they matured, we enjoyed their incessant chirping, which kept Mama and Papa quite busy trying to feed them. It reminded me of when our teenagers were babies and the constant attention they needed – so helpless and soft.

In no time at all, these baby birds quickly grew up, outgrew their nest…and flew away. It was time for their own journeys to begin.

???????????????????????????

I loved this small, beautiful nest. As far as nests go, these birds had a great flare for decorating. It hardly looked real it was so picturesque. I had plans to photograph it against the brilliant backdrop of the changing seasons and was so honored our front porch was chosen.

Months later, we had our home pressure washed. I gave instructions to leave the nest intact, even if it meant the wood and paint surrounding the nest stayed messy with splattered clay from the hard work of the birds.

The crew agreed to my request.

However, the man who came behind the crew to clean any missed spots of mold or dirt didn’t know about the nest – nor my desire to keep it.

Using his powerful pressure hose, he annihilated their love nest in a matter of seconds.

It was utterly and completely destroyed.

I stepped onto our front porch only to find small clumps of moss and pine straw lying wet and sad at my feet.

My heart broke.

DSC_3123

It was gone. The beautiful, nurtured nest was gone, and so was my hope to enjoy it every day.

Throughout the passing seasons, I looked up at the corner of pristine white walls and missed the splatter of mud and clay. I missed the fuzzy green moss and amber pine straw woven into a perfect circle.

It was something beautiful…and it was gone by way of a complete stranger.

A year passed since the pressure-washing incident. This spring, while working at my desk, I noticed more-than-usual activity outside my window. In addition to the many greedy squirrels that steal the birdseed from our “squirrel proof” bird feeders; the various songbirds birds that search our yard looking for hidden earthworms in their daily treasure-hunting; and the flocks of predatory ravens that descend in droves (and honestly freak me out a little as they stare bold-faced back at me as I pass them), I noticed one bird quietly perched upon our flagpole.

It wasn’t just any bird. It was a bird with a mouthful of gorgeous green moss larger than its head.

DSC_0048-001

It can’t be! I exclaimed to myself. I jumped up from my desk and hurried to the front door. Peering through the glass, I saw the makings of a new nest!

A huge smile swept across my face as I pressed my hands on the glass to get a closer look – careful to not be noticed.

Indeed, a new nest had been lovingly, painstaking crafted in the exact same hidden corner of our porch. One piece of moss and pine straw. One tuft of fur. One patch of mud and clay at a time.

???????????????

What could make this sight even more beautiful? A few days later – eggs!

bird nest 2014 with eggs-001What could be better than two eggs? Five eggs!

birds nest april 24 2014-003What could be sweeter than five new eggs? To see Mama herself guarding them, keeping them safe and warm under her protective wings and ever-watchful eye.

?????????????????????????????

Checking on the eggs one day, we were greeted with the sweetest surprise…new life!

IMG_2806-001

Days passed and all of the baby birds hatched. Faint chirping strengthened with each new sunrise. Tufts of fuzzy heads could barely be seen peeking out above the rim of the nest. Five little lives were growing.

IMG_2958-001

We are blessed to live in what feels like a bird sanctuary. There are more species of birds in our neck of the woods than I can name or count. Most of them are welcomed by our family. The ravens – not so much. The owl that has been known to sit outside our windows and hoot deep into the night is super cool. But, there is one particular bird that stalks the skies whose presence is daunting…our resident hawk. He’s not afraid of people and stared without blinking at me when I took this photograph only feet away from him.

?????????????????

He’s lived here for years. Once, in front of a neighboring family he swooped down, hooked its claws into their family pet – their beloved small dog – and carried him away never to be seen again.

I’m not a fan of this hawk based on that reason, and on our own experience…

My family was enjoying supper on our back porch on a hot, summer afternoon. Amid rich conversation and a lazy ceiling fan slowly spinning above, we heard rustling in the overgrown bushes just a few feet away. We didn’t think much of it because squirrels, chipmunks and other woodland creatures are constantly up to something. However, the rustling grew louder and limbs and leaves began to vigorously shake. This mystery had our attention.

From of the dark shadows of the thick brush shot out this large hawk – and it wasn’t alone. In its beak was a baby bird. The hawk darted right toward us before jetting up into the sky at the last second. The baby bird cried for help. The father and mother birds were hot on the hawk’s trail. They also shot out of the brush squeaking and squawking and flying in frantic circles around the hawk. With silent, majestic wings the hawk continued on its steady path – laser-focused on the destination and dead-set on sticking to the plan.

For the small songbirds, it was a losing battle. They tried to fight. They risked their lives. They did everything they knew to do for their baby.

My family and I sat in horror as we helplessly watched these tragic seconds unfold that seemed to last forever.

As the hawk soared away in victory, the songbirds gave up and flew back to their nest. The last sound of this drama, which is forever recorded in my ears, is that of one last call for help from the baby bird. Then there was silence, and our half-eaten supper abruptly ended as we had suddenly lost our appetites.

Walking in our neighborhood the other day, I was content listening to my favorite music and being with my own thoughts. Suddenly I saw something ahead of me drop to the ground. It had fallen out of the clear, blue sky (literally). Weird! How odd for something to fall in the middle of the road. I couldn’t make it out so I moved toward it.

Ahead of me about fifteen feet sat a quiet, lonely miniature nest.

IMG_2996

Where in the world did it come from? I looked up at our tree-lined street, but leafy branches nowhere near extended over the road. Only a vast, sapphire sky above filled every inch of eyesight. I was totally bewildered. That’s when I heard it. Caws from a nearby raven – and boy was it mad! The closer I got to the nest, the more it yelled at me. The raven had stolen this adorable nest and accidentally dropped mid-flight.

There was something about how helpless and vulnerable this tiny, dainty nest sat in the middle of the road that touched my heart. I thought about the bird that made it, and how it would respond to returning to the place where now only emptiness waits. As for the nest, it was only be a matter of time before a car unknowingly ran it over – or the pirating raven would swoop down to retrieve his booty. I was compelled to save it.

Carefully, I picked it up and placed in my bag and took it home. No, the raven would not enjoy its plundering spoils that day. It was on principle that I rescued this nest from the street… as well as from the thieving raven.

Yesterday, I stepped outside to get our mail. Instantly, I had this eerie sense I was being watched. Looking up, there before me stood an enormous turkey buzzard in our front yard! I had interrupted its lunch – a small, lifeless turtle. At some point in the morning, a car had proven to be faster than the turtle. The turkey buzzard was all too happy to help clean up. Eww. I grabbed my camera before it flew away.

DSC_0481

All the while, our beloved baby birds had hardly looked like birds at all. Alien in appearance, their pink, translucent skin sprouted static fuzz and a random feather. However, before we knew it their feathers filled in and everything came together. This nest was filled with restless, hungry birds – not so much babies anymore.

DSC_0019They now noticed my presence and with weak stares they chirped when I came near, mistaking me for their mom. I saw on their faces new journeys that would soon embark.

DSC_0014

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, they began to hop out of the nest and stand along the porch beams. We knew this would be the day they would leave us.

DSC_0106

On the same day, I stepped into our backyard and found a sweet surprise. A different bird was building a different nest. I stood and watched for a while and thought about these nests popping up in unexpected places on our property and what a joy they are to our family.

DSC_0453

Throughout these experiences with various birds, God is teaching me lessons about seasons and the changes that come with them:

1. There is a purpose for our lives. Starting at the beginning with the original love nest, we also were designed and crafted for a purpose (Psalm 138:8).

2. As diligently as Papa and Mama birds worked to create their nest, so our Heavenly Father is preparing us for the plans He has for us. He stays diligent and focused on the task until it is complete (Philippians 1:6).

3. Bad things happen to beautiful things. But no matter how bad, God can make anything beautiful again (Ephesians 3:20-21).

4. God is our Redeemer. What has been destroyed can be rebuilt by He who promises to never leave us (Job 19:25).

5. There is no death with God, only life through the power of Christ who overcame death. What has been taken away from us, opens opportunity for new life (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

6. God doesn’t forget about us. He sees. He knows. He cares. His work never ceases and He never grows weary (Psalm 121).

7. He sometimes allows the last thing we want to happen – to happen.  This does not change that He is good, even in the bad times. These are times that, despite unanswered questions and even prayers, we trust God that He is working and moving and is sovereign in the midst of they why’s (Proverbs 3:5-6).

8. As difficult as it can be to accept, sometimes a new season or purpose requires a new nest. Where once our old nest was right for a time and for its purpose, a new purpose may require a new nest (Hebrews 13:20-21).

9. God rebuilds our hearts to make room for His purposes. Just like the old nest was intended for those eggs and baby birds, a new nest holds new dreams and potential for a new season of growth (2 Corinthians 5:17).

10. God works in the same way and can use the same material in our lives for new purposes. What we think needs to be scrapped or re-designed, He can re-work it for the display of His splendor (Isaiah 61:1-3).

11. If we try to birth new dreams and plans out of an old heart, it won’t work. We can trust God to be gentle, even if life has been hard. He knows we are fragile. However, sometimes it’s in brokenness that we are made whole (Psalm 51:16-17).

12. Embrace the new season and let go of the old one. These birds came back to the same exact spot to do the same work, but for new babies. If we can’t release our dashed hopes, dreams and desires for what will no longer be, our hands will be too full of the past to filled with the future (Jeremiah 29:11).

13. It’s okay to mourn what is gone. There is a season of mourning and it is intended to help us heal so we can be strong for what is ahead (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

14. Embrace change. This one is so hard. It’s hard to believe anything could be as beautiful as what we had. If we trust God, however, He can make something beautifully new (Lamentations 3;22-23).

15. Don’t confuse letting go of the old with the old not being valuable. I often think of Job, and how in the end of his testing he was given new sons and daughter. For years I struggled with the idea that people can replace people. No. They can’t and that wasn’t God’s intent. Job’s children were gone, but  Job was still here. I believe God gave him new children – not to replace his past – but to redeem his future. If we live walking backwards, looking only at what we’ve lost, we cannot appreciate, or even recognize, what God is giving to us in the here & now. Jesus came to give us abundant life, and we can trust God that He will help us have that with the days we are left to live on this planet (John 10:10).

16. Let God get messy with our lives. May there be mud and clay from the Potter’s hands splattered all over us. This is a brilliant, magnificent sight. To the world His work in our lives may not look appealing (and some may try to help clean it up!), but He is diligently, purposefully crafting us so in the end we look more like His Son. There is nothing and no one more beautiful than our Savior (Isaiah 64:8).

17. When we let go of what was, and allow God to work something new in our lives, we can trust Him knowing that where His work is, His presence is. Like the baby birds, we can rest under the shelter and shadow of His wings (Psalm 91:4).

18. His watchful eye is always on those who love Him. He is seeking out His children who are desperate for encouragement, hope and a new filling of His joy to give them just what they need (2 Chronicles 16:9),

19. Good things. Beautiful things. Blessed things can be stolen from us. People. Memories. Holidays. Our sense of normal. Possessions. Homes. Cars. Trust. Safety. Security. Happiness. Traditions. Legacies. It can all be taken against our will in this broken world. God is the only One who can truly know and understand the depth of our loss. He is the only One who can truly pick up the pieces of our lives and give us hope for a future (Psalm 34:18).

20. Sometimes plans for our future unfolds in unexpected places. Like the hidden nest burrowed deep in my iron wall-planter, we sometimes can’t see a new opportunity until it’s fully ready to be seen. God can make a way both in the same place and in a new place. He can use the same materials or completely different ones to form our purpose. He can even bring a new plan by way of a totally different bird (Psalm 33:11).

Everyone has fresh or scarred hopes and lives that lay fallen on the side of the road of our journeys. Some lay barren, like an abandoned nest. Others, by our own doing or someone else’s, have been ruined when life was swept in the undertow of this broken world. Others were crushed, annihilated, destroyed, sabotaged, stolen or vandalized and it can feel like life is more than happy to pick at the broken pieces.

One thing is true. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. However, God uses time to help us to:

* Distance ourselves from the point of crisis.

* Allow hearts and minds and bodies to do what we were born to do, survive – and dare I even say thrive.

* Soften the sharp, jagged edges of the memories, flashbacks, and feelings.

* At the right time, begin to show the new work, the redemption, that can come out of unwelcome or unexpected change.

* Reveal a new perspective.

* Show us strength, both God’s and ours, that we didn’t know was possible.

* Allow opportunity for a new work, a new purpose to begin.

* Most importantly, although time doesn’t heal all wounds, it reveals the One who is our Healer, our Jehovah Rapha. Nothing, nothing, nothing is beyond His reach; too broken to fix; too complicated to be understood; or too hurt to be healed.

Change scares us. It’s not in our comfort zone and didn’t ask our permission to invade our lives. However, God can be found in change. His gifts can be found in change. Change does not have to kill, steal and destroy us. In fact, we can come out the other side stronger with His peace and joy in tact in our hearts until it spills over into the lives of others.

Just as these adorable baby Carolina Wrens sat day-after-day with mouths open to be fed, may we render ourselves open to God. May we wait for His redemptive plans with confident expectation; plans which are already at work so they can take on a life of their own and give us wings to soar. (Psalm 103:1-5).
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The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them. ~Psalm 145:13-19

May God’s deepest blessings be yours today and always, Kristi

 

 

 

 

 

Runoff or Resource?

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. ~ Psalm 27: 13-14

Muck.  That’s what it looked like.  I happened upon a highway runoff reservoir today that looked disgusting.  It was a slimy, muddy pit of brownish water and green algae.  Surrounding it was dead grass, a few shoots of weeds several feet tall and caution tape secluding this eyesore from the rest of the world.  Really, it was gross and appeared as though there was no value in it expect to catch the junk that runs off the road.  A place I wouldn’t want to dip my pinky toe.

However, what stopped me in my tracks, and gave me cause to pause, was something smack in the middle of this mess.  There, among the dreary, dirty, wasteland was a gorgeous, spotless, pure-white egret.  This magnificent bird stood knee-high in nastiness, but it wasn’t repulsed. Rather, it slowly walked around in it – pausing to look at me.

After a moment, it turned its head away from me and drew his wings out like a solider draws his sword.  He fluffed his wings in the air with grace and confidence.  It was beautiful.

My eyes were fixated on the large, snow-colored bird strutting its feathered wings while its webbed feet stood firmly planted in the brown, algae-filled water.

Ripples.

That’s what those beautiful wings made in the mess.  Rings and rings echoing each other as they spread farther and farther across the lifeless water in slow, rhythmic motion.

I wasn’t sure why I was captivated with this sight until the Lord whispered to me, That’s Me.  When life gets messy, and there is nothing beautiful about it; when everywhere you look is draped in what seems to be hopeless turmoil, I am in the middle of it.  I give you grace and confidence to believe My hope that life has more purpose than to only catch the runoff.

I watched the egret for a while, pondering what I had heard.  The ripples of its wings symbolizes the many ways in which the hand of God works in us and through us to touch others.

Without the bird, that man-made collection pond was stagnant and smelly.  With the bird, it became a resource.  I want my life, no matter how messy, to have God’s resplendent grace and confidence stirring the stationary waters of my soul.  I want His hand to create ripples in my life that reflect His love and mercy.

No life is a waste.  No life is hopeless.  With God in the middle of it, doing His miraculous thing that He does so well, every soul can be blessed and be a blessing.

I needed that today.  It’s no coincidence that just an hour earlier He led me to read Psalm 27. Verses 13 & 14 are two of my favorite in the entire Bible.  God knows exactly where I am today, and He took time in running the universe to remind me of His Word, His faithfulness, and the effect He can have on a life – no matter what my eyes see.  He sees hope, promise and potential.

Lord, please step into the middle of my muck and grace me with Your power, unconditional love and faithfulness.  May it ripple from me to others.  Amen.

Sand and Water #1 Rest

Stand at the crossroads and lookask for the ancient paths,

ask where the good way is, and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls.

~ Jeremiah 6:16

I am sitting in what feels like a painting.  We’re at the beach, and it is lightly raining.  I’ve perched myself on the balcony of our rental, and as I write it’s hard to imagine this is real.  Quite comfortable on the large, swinging bench, my dog leans against me – head up, ears cocked, eyes alert – she is protecting the alpha female…me.  On the swing, I’ve got with me my Bible, my camera bag, a devotional, this blog and black raspberry sparkling ice.  The only thing missing from the big rocks in my jar is my family who are delightfully playing in the ocean – despite the rain.

Not a sound.  Just rain falling softly on tin roofs and palm fronds sleepily swaying in the wind.  A beach vacation certainly assumes time in the sun, but as much as we anticipate that, we need rest.  I’ve learned that in life, sometimes the rain has to fall to make us stop and rest.

We’ve vacationed so hard sometimes that we were exhausted when we returned home.  That was more of a trip than vacation.  This time is intended as a respite.  A reconnect.  A refreshing as we gear up for a busy school year.  Let the rain fall if it means I don’t feel the pressure to plan activities or bring out the exasperating person in me who feels the endless need to be everything to everyone.

The breeze is beautiful.  The scenery divine.  It’s all good.

Reminding myself it’s all good is why I am writing today.  I have said goodbye to one season of life and am anticipating a new one.  It brings a lot of change with it, and although no life is perfect, this new season has perfect timing.

I take yet another lesson from my dog.  She drove with us many hours and miles, never having a clue where we were going.  She was patient in the car though she didn’t understand the GPS or our may stops.  Once here, she just wanted to know where her food, water and bed were.  After that, she is content just to be with us no matter what we do.

We are each on a journey of our own.  Only God knows where we are going – and He controls the GPS.  Are we patient traveling along the long roads, in traffic, in rain, at night, when we’re tired, when we take an unexpected trip to urgent care en route, when we are bored and are really done with this part of the journey?

When God leads us to our appointed destination, are we content with the basics of trusting Him to provide for our needs – or do we automatically begin foraging for ourselves?  Do we have and exercise faith that He knows what we need and will help us?

Once we are convinced He has our best at heart, are we content to simply be with Him throughout the days, following Him without complaint regardless of where, when or for how long He walks the sandy shore?

Is His presence enough to satisfy us without asking, “Yeah, I know God, but what else are we going to do?”

Lots to think about as I look down at my dog who involuntarily sways back and forth to the rhythm of the swing.  She’s just happy to be with me.  I want that blissfulness with God rain or shine, beach or home, good days or bad, rough waters or smooth sailing.  That is the desire of my heart.

Psalm 139…Amish-Country Style

Psalm 139 has been my life Scripture.  While in Ukraine, I relied heavily on God’s message in this Psalm for courage and strength.  For instance, I don’t mind flying, but it’s not on my list of favorites by far.  When I fly, I always recite verses 9-10, and it helps me remember who is in control of the plane and the journey.  Or, when I walked 32 flights of stairs to visit with some precious Ukrainian people in their apartment because the building’s elevator was iffy, I heard verses 2-3 roll around in my mind.  God continues to speak to me through this collection of verses, so thought I would share this post again and hope it speaks to you, too! 🙂

This passage has shared mountain-top highs with me and pulled my soul out of the pit.  It is a joy to offer a visual perspective of David’s incredible, tender heart seen through the eyes of the Amish country.

Psalm 139: 1-18, 23-24

Oh LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit

and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out

and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in – behind and before;

you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.

When I awake, I am still with you.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

Living the Dream

There is an image I cannot erase from my mind.  Travel with me for a moment to Kenya.  At the end of the safari, my family rode in a gutted JEEP back toward civilization.  Our driver, an authentic Masai warrior, barrels over rough terrain, nearly missing zebras, antelope  and wildebeest.  The JEEP throws us around, like an amusement park simulator ride on massive steroids!

(Our wild drive across the Mara.  The dark dots are all kinds of wild animals traveling together)

I look behind me, and the rest of our crew is closing in on us in their JEEPs with their drivers.  It looked like a scene from Indiana Jones with 6 stripped down, dirty JEEPS blazing across the Mara leaving thick dust trails behind them.  Like stunt drivers performing a rehearsed routine, our Masai drivers were in a race to get their JEEP back to the main road first.  This was our amazing adventure for at least 2 hours.  It was the most freeing ride I’ve ever taken.  Wide open plains dotted with wild animals.  Full throttle.  Full sun.  Then…the most unexpected thing EVER happened.

(A sample of the open plain we traversed)

Music!  Music began to play.  Not just any music.  Our Masai warrior hits a switch, and amidst the loud, rushing wind and hair slapping me in the face, Justin Bieber’s song, “Baby” began to play.  What?  Our entire family busted out laughing and asked how in the WORLD did this warrior, who kills lions with his bare hands, get a hold of this music?  I commented that Bieber would probably never imagine his music being the backdrop for a crazy thrill ride across the Mara in Africa.

Our driver, donning his personal machete and gorgeous, exquisite Masai garb, told us that previous travelers turned him on to it.  After “Baby” was done, Jamaican island music rang out over the whistling wind.  Wrong landscape, but surely more fitting than American pop music. Again, a gift from previous travelers.  Bruce asked him how he was playing music in this old, gutted JEEP.  He explained that he had made a homemade iPod of sorts and hardwired it to the vehicle.  We were impressed with his ingenuity!

But, I digress.

As we embraced the rocky, grassy, unmarked plains of the Masai territory working our way back to Kipsigis country, in the far distance we saw the most unbelievable sight!  Every time I think about it I get chills.

Far off on the horizon, we saw a dark figure moving very fast.  Squinting my eyes, straining to see, I caught the glimpse of  a man.  Running.  Foot travel is the mode of transportation for most people in Kenya, but there wasn’t anything typical about this man.  He was wearing athletic shorts, a crisp, white tank top, white knee socks and running sneakers.  None of which had we seen anywhere in our time in Kenya.  Where had he come from, and where was he going?

We all gasped at the same time and said, Surely he is in training!  For the Olympics, perhaps?  We asked our Masai driver and he concurred.  He didn’t know the man, but said Olympic hopefuls do, in fact, train in this terrain.  Our jaws fell agape as we watched, mesmerized, at this mystery man’s grace and speed.  This man was the fastest runner I’ve ever personally seen with my own eyes.  And poise!  His long legs stretched out before and behind him, back straight, arms taut – he didn’t even seem real.

No one has bright, white clothes in the Mara.  They wear native attire.  No one has shoes and socks so brilliantly crisp we could easily spot them from a distance. They are barefoot.  Oh yes, he was training indeed.

And, think about where he was running!  Most runners I see run in the city, suburbs or on greenway trails.  This man was completely alone, running in the land of hungry lions, temperamental Cape buffalo, sly jaguars, wicked- fast cheetahs, territorial hippos, elusive rhinos, venomous snakes and audacious hyenas.  As much as that thought would make ME run like the wind (for my life!), I still could not have done what he did.  He had a goal and was training for a dream.

Did he realize he was living his dream?  How about us?  Are we?  Do we?

For this man, he was already living his dream.  At some point, he stopped his normal day’s work, put on his training outfit (perhaps sponsored by someone?), and took his first step.  That step led to more, quicker steps, and those led to miles and miles of lightening fast, all-out running – racing the wind and daring the company of wild beasts.

I have never seen anything so inspirational of the human spirit.  I’ve watched Dateline and 60 Minutes who produce shows based on the one in a million who beat all odds to compete in sports, music and fine arts.  But, those shows have an ending.  There is closure when the man or woman, child or adult proves they have accomplished their goals.  I never have I witnessed the dream in play.

This man’s race has not yet happened.  Does that make him less of a runner?  Or, does working hard every day – rain or shine, sick or healthy – running the Mara make him a runner?

The answer is obvious.  He is, in fact, a race runner right now.

For those of us who most likely will never train in the Mara, what are the dreams that stir our heart?  They are just as important as this man’s, but do we give them the same credit?

Or, do we choose to let the mundane monotony of life be our excuse for not suiting up (be it arming ourselves with a paintbrush, a pen, a camera, a tool, a musical instrument, or our voices) and accept our place on the sidelines?

God gives us dreams.  Dreams spur on hope, give us reason to fight against hardships and ignite purpose on our lives.  Once we have given those dreams to God, asking permission to pursue them in His timing and for His glory, what holds us back?

I think the biggest thing that holds us back is – us.  We feel our limitations.  We listen to the doubt inside us that reminds us of our inadequacies and past failures.  We measure ourselves against the world and believe that we have nothing to offer.  Surely we are not as good as the next man or woman or child.

This happened to me just recently.  I was trapped in a conversation with someone who made me feel really bad about myself.  The topic was photography.  I will spare you the long story, but suffice it to say I told him, in an effort to end the conversation and diffuse his temper, that I was not a real photographer.  When I said those words, a part of me died.  I totally sold myself out because of a man I barely knew.  I went home and sobbed to my husband that my entire history of photography, that began when I was 10 years old when, for my birthday, my great-grandmother put a 110 instamatic in my hands and instantly I found my voice to the world, was gone.  All of my work, albeit unpaid, was suddenly worthless.  Because I don’t have credentials behind my name, or awards on my bookshelves, or a paycheck to prove it – I sold my dream for the price of exiting a conversation.

I felt numb for a few days.  Perhaps, deep down, this is indeed how I felt about myself, and it took verbally cornering me to bring it out?  Or, perhaps, I reduced myself to the world’s standards and realized I didn’t measure up.  Or, perhaps still, I caved under the pressure and said something I didn’t really believe.

For me, I know it was the third choice. In the days following, God had to show me, in His own unique way, the truth of who I am.  He proverbially picked me up, brushed off my knees and wiped the tears from my eyes.  He showed me who I am in Him, and that person is someone who believes in her dreams and wants to enjoy every part of the journey, whether anyone else believes in me or not.

Ironically, not by coincidence, God recently put me in not one, but two situations where my being a photographer was validated by two separate people – on their own initiative, not mine.  I don’t even know these people.  God caused our paths to cross, and I believe it was to reinforce exactly what I felt about the race runner I saw in the Mara.  Because, what I felt about that man was that although he had not yet won the public affirmation for which he was training, he was absolutely a true runner in my opinion.  No doubt.

The same takeaway is for us.  Perhaps more than a single race to prove who wins; it is ignoring what others say about us; it is the numerous days, months and years of practice; it is the countless miles we run in our own way that validate our dreams.

I once ran a 5K cold.  My daughter was entered in the race, but when we got there, we were surprised to see hundreds of runners and hundreds of their family members and friends.  My daughter didn’t have a cell phone and wasn’t familiar with the trail.  All of her fellow group runners had already begun.  She was alone.  There was no way I was going to let my daughter disappear into a crowd of a sea of people and weave her way through 3+ miles of unfamiliar roads.  Spontaneously, I signed myself up, pinned a number to my shirt and off we went.  We ran the whole thing, but unlike her, I had not trained for it.  Did that race make me a runner?  No!  It made me a protective mother.

My point is, even some who show up for the race aren’t necessarily runners at heart.  Many people have many motives for why they do what they do.

It’s those of us who forge on, despite criticism, despite our own self-doubt, despite the rough travel and slim odds – who are truly living the dream.  The dream is the journey.

Are you living your dream today? 🙂