Staring Down the Giant

 

beware_of_dog_sign_on_wooden_fence_yard_sign-002

…”Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you…” Deuteronomy 1:29-30

Every morning, the same feeling of dread washes over me. I have to pass a house that has a terrifying German Shepherd stalking its backyard. I am a huge animal lover, but we’re talking about a giant, beastly creature with long white teeth and incessant barking that reverberates in my chest. He lives behind a 6-foot privacy fence, but that doesn’t stop him from intimidating all who walk by.

Every time I pass his property, he jumps up and down barking with his head, full of snarling teeth, bobbing, running back and forth along the fence. I feel one day he may jump just high enough to clear the fence and come after me.

Each time I approach the house, I feel my blood pressure rise. Even if I’m talking on the phone or jamming to my favorite tunes, in the back of my mind I am hoping this isn’t the day he jumps the fence; hoping the fence gate is shut – and locked. Hoping this won’t be the day…as I read the “Beware of dog” sign posted nearby.

Recently, I turned the street corner with my dog and was distracted by something that had caught my eye. I looked forward and staring back at me was this beast – standing in the middle of the road, staring me down. With four legs braced, neck stretched forward and head bent low, his eyes locked onto mine.

I froze in my step and lost my breath.

There was nowhere to go. I know better than to run the other way. I’m not into playing chase, me being the fetching toy. I was stuck in the middle of this lonely road, just my dog, this beast, and me.

I had to walk past it. I puffed up my posture and squared my jaw. Holding my head high, with palms sweating, I prayed – hard. As my dog and I got closer it didn’t budge, not an inch. Visions flashed in my mind of this beast attacking my dog who is no match for him; visions of me getting tangled up in her leash and being caught in the middle of the two dogs; visions of it coming straight for me, and this dog stands as tall as me (easy) on his hind legs. I felt faint.

Walking slowly toward it, I prayed more and more and more.

Just as I approached it, the dog’s owner appeared from his garage. Nervous relief swept over me, and I felt a cold chill run down my spine as I passed by this beast. He called the dog inside and it reluctantly followed, but it never took its eyes off of me. I don’t think I drew a breath until I hit the next block.

Life is like this sometimes. We’re just doing our daily thing and wham! out of nowhere stands our Goliath. Like my fear of the beast getting loose, our worst nightmare comes true before our very eyes. A bad medical report, the pink slip of unemployment, a spouse packs up and leaves, a prodigal child disappears, death of family and friends, physical and psychological threats to us, our family, our country and there we are standing alone, staring at Goliath. It’s real. You can see it, hear it, and feel its presence.

Running the other way doesn’t make Goliath any less real. We must approach it.

What changed for me in that moment was the beast’s owner making himself visible. Instantly, he was the one in control of the situation because he controls the beast.

As a believer, we are not left to fend for ourselves in this big, scary world. We have God who fights for us, Jesus who intercedes for us, and the Holy Spirit who encourages and comforts us. We are never alone.

Bad things happen to everyone, but nothing happens without it passing through the Father’s hands first whether we understand it in this lifetime or eternity. If we live, may we live for the sake of Christ’s salvation. If we suffer, may it not be in vain, but be a testimony to others that God alone is enough and Jesus is worth it. After all, He believes we are worth the suffering He endured. If we die, may it not be for nothing, but somehow God will get the glory through it so others would come to know Him as their one true God.

Believers don’t get a pass on the bad stuff. We endure illness, unemployment, broken hearts, loss, and betrayal. We suffer, get angry, wrestle with forgiveness, feel lost, get frustrated, and question the future. But, God is right there, every step, talking us down from our ledges. He is our sanity in this insane world. Christ is hope. Courage. Joy. The Holy Spirit is right there to remind us of times that God was faithful to us, even when we were unfaithful to Him.

What’s your Goliath today? If you’re staring it down by yourself, ask God to come to you through the saving grace of Christ. Let Him go before you. Whether or not He calls off the dogs, you will not be alone.

No matter how big our Goliaths are, God is bigger. He is stronger and His strength in us is enough to stare down our giants.

God is always fighting for us. Sometimes He battles our giants for us. Other times He calls us onto the battlefield with Him where we overcome – not only our giants – but our own fears and weaknesses as well. And that, friend, is a double victory.

With God, we can look past the Goliath standing in front of us and focus on our hope in Christ.

<<CLICK HERE for this blog’s Tunes page for a great song to see hope, not Goliath, in life’s scariest moments.>>

 

* photo credit

 

 

 

Say something, God

Say something, I’m giving up on you.

The first words of this song pierce my heart. This extended rendition, a remix by WorshipMob of the original song by Ian Axel (A great Big World), is a beautiful exchange between God and person.

I cannot give up on God because we cannot be separated, but lately I find myself praying, crying, pleading with Him to, SAY SOMETHING!!

Like a frightened child, I need reassurance that He’s right here with me. I need to feel the touch of His hand, the warmth of His presence. I need Him to sit with me in the silence. Speak to me when I lose my words. Cry with me. Bear this pain with me. Remind me He will never leave me. Remind me that He understands, He’s been there.

I need Him to hold me.

This is a season of life when I sit empty and tired. Despair whispers into my ear that hope lost and fear has won.

What I thought I understood about this world we live in has been turned upside down. The table I sit at, my life, has been flipped over and things that used to sit neatly stacked on my table lie scattered all over the floor. I don’t know how to begin to pick them up, and if I did, where I would put them. I sit silently and stare at it all. It’s all I have the energy to do and dare not assume I know anything about any of it.

So I sit in silence. No long prayers. No long speeches. No ideas or answers. No fight left in me. I sit and wait for the Father to come to me.

Like a child who has tried her hardest to color a beautiful picture, only to stop and look at it with all its mistakes, she drops her crayons and looks away from the picture. Folding her arms, she bows her head and cries in frustration.

God, come.

This music video brings to the surface a conversation hidden deep in my heart. So thankful for those who had the creative insight to produce the real, raw exchange between God and us.

Click here for the music video. May it reach you today.

photo credit

DYM’s blog posted the lyrics:

“Say Something”

(Original Lyrics/Cry To God)

Say something, I’m giving up on you

I’ll be the one, if you want me to
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on youAnd I am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at allAnd I will stumble and fall
I’m still learning to love
Just starting to crawlSay something, I’m giving up on you
I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on youAnd I will swallow my pride
You’re the one that I love
And I’m saying goodbyeSay something, I’m giving up on you
And I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
And anywhere I would’ve followed you (Oh-oh-oh-oh)
Say something, I’m giving up on youSay something, I’m giving up on you
Say something…
(Worship Mob’s addition/God’s Response)
I have been watching you child,
Still learning to love, starting to crawl.
And I am waiting here now,
will you open your heart, I’ve been here all along.
You say Im not giving up on you,
You say Im still running after you.
Everywhere I have been there with you.
Child I will never give up on you.
You say Im not giving up on you,
You say Im still running after you.
Everywhere I have been there with you.
Child I will never give up on you.
Child I have given my given my heart to you.
Child I will never give up on you.

The prayer I’m tempted to take back

 

Copyrighted photos for Real Deep Stuff - Page 207

While preparing to travel abroad for mission work this summer, one day I felt particularly daring and prayed a prayer I will never forget…

Lord, I don’t want to be comfortable or safe, I just want to be equipped.

Since then, I have eaten those words a hundred times.

Oh I was sincere alright. So sincere that God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, heard me and accepted the challenge. I had no idea what I had done.

You see, this prayer didn’t stop with mission work. He has carried it over into every facet of my life! While millions of Christians around the globe spend their quiet time in the mornings reading Scripture, meditating on his Word, writing prayer lists, reading thought-provoking devotions, writing thought-provoking devotions, sitting in reverent silence, worshiping in song, snuggled up in their comfy chair or nestled on the subway or somewhere in between, my quiet time was anything but quiet.

My mind was about to explode. With my heart beating out of my chest in stress and distress, I could no more sit quietly than I could have sang a worship song. So much angst swelled up in me that the taste of bitter adrenaline filled my mouth as sweat poured down the back of my neck. I had a morning chat with God and it went something like this (all caps intended) –

WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?!?!? EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. THIS HAPPENS YOU DISAPPEAR! WHY AM I LEFT TO DEFEND, AND FEND FOR, MYSELF? 

AREN’T YOU SUPPOSED TO BE MY GOOD FATHER? I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE! BOTH OF MY FATHERS QUIT AND WALKED OUT ON ME DECADES AGO! I THOUGHT YOU HAD MY BACK!

WHERE ARE YOU? WHY DON’T YOU MOVE. ACT. SAY SOMETHING WHEN THIS HAPPENS!!! WHY AM I LEFT ALONE IN THIS!

(With shoulders tight and nostrils flared…)

I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE! EVERY TIME THIS HAPPENS, YOU JUST STAND BY SILENTLY! I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE! WHERE ARE YOU!

That was my prayer time. I was fuming mad at God and was screaming so loud in my head I can’t believe people nearby couldn’t hear me. My jaw was clenched shut and gave me a headache. I ended my prayer time madder than when it began.

Later, all that stress and anxiety and anger welled up again when the situation returned. This time, I didn’t have the fight in me.

Through hot, salty tears I prayed with head hung low in despair – with a broken, bruised and bleeding heart –

Why God? Why are you letting this happen over and over? I’m not strong enough to handle this.

His response, You wanted to be equipped, not comfortable or safe. 

Well yeah, but come on!

Didn’t you want to be equipped? Isn’t this what you prayed for?

Yeah, but why do I have to do it alone?

You’re not alone. 

I don’t have the strength. 

Yes you do. Philippians 4:13. It’s Christ’s strength in you.

But where are you in those dreadful moments? I don’t hear you. See you. Nothing. I call to you, but I get silence.

I’m not silent. I’m just not working in the ways you want me to. You asked to be equipped. What you want is for me to fix the problem when frankly it may be you who I am concentrating my work on in the moment..to equip and all.

Then God reminded me of how far we’ve come together. Things that used to break me don’t anymore. What used to send me to tears doesn’t anymore.

My emotional stamina, if you will, has been greatly strengthened one giant-slaying victory at a time.

This time it was about spiritual stamina.

When the enemy is foaming at the mouth, spewing lies and taunting me. When he plays dirty and takes no prisoners. When he knows exactly which buttons to push and which weaknesses to press his heel into and knows precisely which tangible mediums to work through, how do I respond?

Do I fold into a lump on the floor and give up? Do I give in? Do I run away?

This time. This day was different. Where before I responded in those ways, this time I closed my eyes and recalled Scripture. All that came out was something like, God is good all the time. He knows. He sees. He saves. He is Truth and is who I am going to listen to.

I may not have fought back with tangible means, but I picked up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and fought back with all my his might.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The battle was gruesome. Raw. Emotionally bloody. The enemy took aim at me and released the hounds of fear, incompetence, failure and discouragement. I am here to say he was defeated.

Exhausted, I tend my wounds and ask God to heal those that need the touch of the Master Surgeon. But I am in tact. Stronger. And I am finally starting to get it.

God heard my original prayer forsaking comfort and safety in his name, if only I would be equipped for his work. I have learned this prayer is not for the faint of heart, of which I have been countless times.

He is answering me through tough training. Brutal battles. Yet he is also giving me eyes to see exactly where he was in those moments. He makes sure to point out his hand in the fight, just to reassure me that I am not alone.

I can’t deny his works. He is right. He is there in every moment. Every. Single. Moment.

I am learning what I thought I already knew – God will not only get the victory, but he wants me to share in it so I am strengthened by him and through him and because of him.

With that strength he is equipping, yet it is anything but comfortable or safe.

What salvation looks like

As we walk through this Holy Week and approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, my thoughts stay on Christ and His sacrifice for us. Recently, I saw two videos I cannot get out of my heart. I watched them a few times, but couldn’t wrap my head around why I was so drawn to them.

One night, out of nowhere, I had an epiphany. These two videos are a visual picture of what Christ has done in my life.

Click here and select “Fiona’s story” (top right video in the library) and “Miley’s story” (top left video in the library – also the cover story) and watch these two short, 3.5 & 4 minute videos – warning, they are not what you may expect.

When they found Fiona, she was living in a pile of garbage in an abandoned building. Blind. Terrified. Helpless. Voiceless. Paralyzed in her circumstance. Miley was also living in garbage – literally, a garbage dump. Sick. Hurting. Weak. Dazed.

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. Psalm 18:4-6

In each story, the rescuers were gentle and approached with care. They understood these dogs were in crisis and what they needed was immediate help. For one dog, it was food. For the other, it was being shaved and bathed to escape the unrelenting flea infestation. Both needed medical help.

Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Psalm 31:2 

In both cases, the rescuer went to where they were. These rescuers didn’t wait for Miley and Fiona to find them, they went looking for these precious dogs. They weren’t afraid or disgusted at where they found them. Their hearts were moved to help.

The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Psalm 116:5-6

One thing about Miley’s story that reminds me so much of God, our Redeemer, is that when Miley knew nothing else but to return to the filthy pillow among the heap of garbage, her rescuer, realizing what she was doing, kindly said, “No, no, no, no we’re not sitting down again.” He cared enough about her to know that the life she had known was not good for her. In fact, it was dangerous and led to imminent death. He knew that if she sat back down, returning to her life, it may be the last time she would ever get up.

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:2-5

His compassion for Miley was heard in his expressions about her condition.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

He offered her food from his hand. He wasn’t afraid to touch her and let her touch him.

 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8

This rescuer personally led her out of her circumstance. He walked her out of one life and into another, better one, waiting – a life that she didn’t even know existed.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3

He didn’t mind getting messy – not him or his nice, clean car. He welcomed her into his car, and watching her circle and settle, my heart skipped a beat as it had been so long since she felt something so soft. Clean. Safe.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

 He got her the help she needed.

Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. Psalm 10;17

He understood Miley was exhausted in every way, and needed time to heal and rest. She could do so knowing she was finally safe. She could let her guard down and heal.

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He who watches over you will not slumber nor sleep; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:2-3,8

He continued to feed her and care for her while she healed.

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

The rescuer had earned her trust and forever gratitude and Miley came to a place where she could show him just how much he came to mean to her.

My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I whom you have delivered. Psalm 71:23

As her strength grew and wounds mended, the trust she gained from the relationship with her rescuer gave her confidence to comfort another dog in crisis. These two became quick friends – finding comfort and friendship birthed out of two dogs who were once alone, now bonded forever.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

For Fiona, when they realized she was blind, they let her smell them. They, also, were not too clean or too proud to go to the hard places to rescue her. Fiona sat speechless, helpless, as they reassured her by gently petting her head.

I remain 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

She was terrified. Panicked. She wanted to run away, but had nowhere to go and no sight to lead her there. The only solution was to scoop her up in their arms and carry her – away from her sightless prison of garbage and a malnutrition-ravaged world. The only world she knew.

…I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

 They took her into their space, not caring about the fleas and whatever else could soil their clean bathroom.

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms. Our God is a God who saves! The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death. Psalm 68:19-20

They carefully shaved her matted, dirty, flea-ridden fur coat and gave her a bath that she visibly enjoyed. She was clean. So clean that who knew this grey dog was actually white!

He gives a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 64:3 

They got her the medical help she needed and she received sight back in one eye!  Just imagine seeing again. And, seeing a world she didn’t know existed. Beautiful. Loving. Safe.

The LORD gives sight to the blind. Psalm 146:8

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

The footage of her riding home from the vet’s looking out the window makes my heart overflow. A car ride with her rescuer. The sunlight shining on her skin and in her eyes.  Imagine what she must have been thinking. Feeling.

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 116:7-9

Her rescuer fed her by hand. Not afraid or too good to touch and be touched by Fiona. They gave her a safe place to sleep. Heal. Rest.

I lie down and sleep; I awake again, because the LORD sustains me. Psalm 3:5 

Watching her run, pounce and play was so cool. Moreover, watching her rest in her rescuer’s arms, leaning against his chest in total peace and contentment, there’s nothing else like it.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. Psalm 62:5-6

She was adopted! Never again homeless. Never again alone. Never again hungry or thirsty.

(Jesus said) Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:8-9

Combine these two stories and you’ve just watched my story of Christ’s salvation and God’s grace. As images of these dogs’ stories flash through my mind, I am reminded of where God found me and how He rescued me. I feel His mercy, love and compassion all over again. I feel His strong arms and determined heart to not abandon me. I feel His desire to call me His daughter.

All of this was only made possible through the sacrifice Christ gave for us and our sins on the cross. These dogs were victims for sure and endured terrible circumstances under life’s plight. I can relate. If your story looks like mine, where God found me was at the cost of other people’s decisions and choices, as well as being caught in the middle of circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

However, all people are guilty of sin and I came to a place where I had to own mine. Even one sin is enough for eternal separation from God. Not because God is an angry, invisible entity that sits and waits to smite us in our wrong-doing with lightning bolts and curses – getting some sick and sadistic pleasure out of watching us toil and suffer, but because He is holy. Holiness cannot share space with sin. There is a great divide between God and us, and that divide is our sin. We need a Savior.

If you can relate to Miley or Fiona, and you want to be rescued, God is looking for you. In fact, He already knows exactly where you are. He is there with you and His hand is reaching out to you. Will you take it?

Through accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can be reconciled to God once and for all. Talk to God – right where you are. Whatever your life looks like. He’s not afraid to get messy. We don’t need to clean up before approaching Him. His arms are strong enough to carry you. He knows the way to life. He is life. He will never abandon you. He loves you forever and always.

Talk to God. Tell Him what’s going on. Tell Him who you believe (if you truly believe) Christ is – Savior and Lord, God’s only Son who died on a cross and rose again so we can live forever with God. Tell Him you’re sorry for the sins you’ve done. Make intentional effort to stop doing them. However, try as we might, we will all continue to sin because we’re not perfect. But God’s grace and forgiveness is a never-ending well from which we can draw from for the rest of our lives when we seek Him. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Commit your life to God and accept Christ’s free gift of salvation. Tell Him in your own words. He’s listening.

This Easter, Miley and Fiona are beautiful visual reminders of the lengths God will go to rescue us. Christ went so far as to take on our sin for us, suffer unspeakable torture, and be heartbroken over feeling forsaken by God – all so we won’t ever have to.

Easter is so much richer than chocolate bunnies. It is so much more beautiful than colored eggs or tulips or dainty little dresses with skirts that twirl freely in circles. Easter is so much deeper than the celebration of Spring as our culture has embraced.

It is the celebration that Christ, in fact, suffered and died for us, and then rose again to prove every single last word, deed and prophecy is 100% true. He lives today and is preparing rooms in His Father’s house for all who believe.

I hope to see you there.

Questions? Feel free to ask. Questions are good. God isn’t afraid, intimidated, angered or annoyed by them. After all, He IS the answer.

“…But while (his son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

 

 

 

The Lunch Date

I was a mess!  Stinky.  Sweaty.  Stressed out.  Family was coming to visit, and there was so much to do to get our house ready for them.

Clutter drives me crazy, but it seems Monday through Friday it is an unwelcome visitor that just doesn’t know when to leave.

Overwhelmed by the amount of work, I couldn’t even make a to-do list (which I love, and have been known to put finished tasks on the list after-the-fact just so I could feel the satisfaction of crossing them off!) because it all made my head spin.  Our family had not found our groove for the new school year; my son’s birthday party was that weekend (an entirely separate to-do list!); and four precious family members were literally en route to our house.

Our extended family doesn’t care what our house looks like, thus I was only going to this much trouble in part for them.  I had surgery just a few weeks before, and I was set on convincing myself, and proving to everyone else, this wasn’t going to stop the normal flow of our lives no matter the toll it took on me.

My heart pounded to the rhythm of the dishwasher, while I blankly stared at the clothes swirling around in the washing machine – as if my icy glare would make the washer work any faster.  Just when I thought it was somewhat manageable to get it all done, I turned around and caught a glimpse of our dirty, stinky dog.  She has this ritual of what we call “moling” in the grass when we walk her.  She doesn’t walk.  She puts her head down, muzzle to the ground, and sticks out her tongue.  Then she takes off on her extendable leash and runs as fast as she can (throwing my back out once and costing me a few trips to the chiropractor, thank you very much) so she can lap up the morning dew off of the grass.  Needless to say, she comes home wet and dirty with leaves and tiny sticks stuck in her fur.  She’s one happy dog.  But she was gross!

So into the laundry sink she went for a rapid home-spa, which with all her drama surrounding bath time I ended up as wet as she was.

Yep.  Stinky.  Sweaty from hauling the vacuum up and down stairs, cleaning floors, dusting, primping pillows, making beds, running errands, etc.  Basically, I was trying to make our home look like no one lived there – which is impossible with five people and one crazy dog – and an African Pygmy Hedgehog to boot.  It definitely couldn’t look like we were in the throws of a new school year, which reeks havoc in all of our lives trying to buy the “right” school supplies on the 10th trip to the store that week.  Not to mention the impending birthday party or the fact that I was down an arm due to the shoulder surgery.

It was quite a feat to haul that vacuum all over creation one-handed, while trying to clean using my less-dominant hand.  Comical to say the least.  But, the real showstopper was when I looked out the window and saw the grass needed mowing.  Yes, one-handed.

There I was, zipping around in circles till dizzy, trying to control a mower that is lightening fast with my weaker arm.  It was challenging to say the least, but I conquered the mower and the grass eventually, though the grass looked like it had been mowed blindfolded.  Oh well.

I looked down at my watch, for the millionth time that morning, and saw it was 11:55am.  Oh no!  In five little minutes I had to be at a friend’s house for lunch.  Really?  Like this?  No way.

I scrambled for my cell phone to tell her I couldn’t come, but as I dialed her number I realized she had already made it – given I was supposed to be there by then.  What to do?

The house wasn’t done.  The food for guests wasn’t planned.  I had more errands to run and company would be on our doorstep in a matter of a few hours.  Not to mention the fact I had dog hair and grass stuck to me.  Dirt and sweat coated my arms and legs.  A baseball cap hid my atrocious hair underneath.  I smelled like a mix of earth, wet dog and baby shampoo.  No make up.  No energy. No time for lunch.  No time to chat.  No guts to say no.

Slipping out of my nasty yard shoes and into flip flops (at the time I thought they were a better choice so as to not leave a trail of grass in my friend’s home) I trudged down to her house not daring to look up at cars passing me by.

At her door, I took a deep, embarrassing breath and knocked.  Two little, angelic faces – about knee and waist height – appeared in the window.  Their shining smiles were only outdone by the excitement their dog showed as he pounced over them to get to the window.

My friend opened the door, and her eyes grew big when she saw me.  I said hello with a sheepish grin.  I was a sight to behold and we both knew it.  Thankfully, she is not a fair-weathered friend.  She is real.  Down-to-earth.  Gracious.  Funny.  Kind.  I couldn’t have shown up to just anyone’s house like this, but I knew she desired my company more than my choice of clothes.

We walked into the kitchen and my feet froze as I gasped!  There before my exhausted body was the most beautiful sight.  Lunch for two.  Real dishes.  Water goblets.  Shiny silverware.  Homemade chicken salad sandwiches with a beautiful spinach salad with strawberries and nuts.  Nestled in the bay window of her kitchen was the most welcoming table I had ever seen.  It was just for her and me.

Her young children, having already eaten, still tried to scam the strawberries off of the plates, but I just laughed.

I found my breath, blinked, and told her that #1, she went to way too much trouble, and #2, now I felt doubly bad for showing up in my humbled guise.

She reassured me it didn’t matter, and because I knew she meant it I knew I could stay and be comfortable.  I pulled out the gorgeous wooden chair with a delicate fabric overlay, and my weary bones sank into the cushioned seat.  She asked a blessing for our food, and I tried not to inhale even the plate as I had skipped breakfast in the name of time.

Nourishment and good conversation hydrated my wilted soul, and before I knew it we were chatting and laughing as the sun’s rays laced the windows and table.  It was truly a scene out of a book.

I was so glad I didn’t cancel on her at the last minute.  Although my watch screamed at me all day that I was late late late; and my shoulder was grumpy and telling me I was overdoing it; and the to-do list taunted and teased me; I needed this time with my friend – even though I had no idea I did.  Our time together was good to the last berry and giggle.  I left feeling stronger and with a tremendous sense of peace that people are more important than to-do lists.  Time with my friend was like a cold glass of water; a nap on rainy day; the smile of a loved one.  It was just what I needed.  Had I been too proud to go because of how I looked and smelled, I would have missed all of the sweet blessings that came out of our time together – both everything she had planned and our spontaneous conversations.

I walked home thinking about how often I cancel on God when He wants to meet with me.  He has planned something extraordinary for us each and every day, but because of being too busy, too tired, too distracted, or too proud (not wanting Him to see me in my sinful estate), I miss the fellowship, intimacy, joy, laughter, healing, company and teaching He has so lovingly designed for our lives.  We miss the peace and strength that comes from drawing from the Living Water, Christ (John 4:13), who is also the Bread of Life (John 6:35).  I have missed so much goodness that comes from spending time with our Abba Father, Creator, Redeemer, Restorer because I considered other tasks more time sensitive or more important that day.  Or, I knew my sin and didn’t want to come to Him all mucky like I was that day with my friend. Later, God, once I’m all cleaned up.  But later never comes.

We can get so wrapped up in our own little worlds, we miss the bigger plan – our destiny – that may lie just around the corner revealed in a conversation with God.  We spin our wheels on things that don’t make an eternal difference.  We stress and strain over tasks that most people never even notice – much less comment on.

That lunch was one of the most precious times I’ve ever spent with a friend.  She invited me and asked me to bring nothing.  She welcomed me in her home despite how dirty I was, and treated me like a queen for no reason at all except that she loves me and wanted to show me so.  It was nothing I deserved or expected, it was a gift given freely.

That is exactly what God does for us.  He plans, prepares and invites us to His table.  He actually wants us to come with empty hands so He can fill them with blessings like joy, peace, encouragement and strength.  He wants nothing from us except to be in communion with us.  To be part of our day, involved in our stuff, so He can bear the burden and share the load.  He wants to show His love for us, but too often I’ve left Him sitting at a table for one.

It was that lunch date that changed my thinking about spending time with God.  It revealed the pride that holds me back.  The mis-prioritizing of tasks that leaves my head spinning and stomach churning.  The giant hole in my heart that aches until the only One who can fill it, pours His living water into it and fills my soul.

Even though I’ve been walking with God for a long time, I need to be reminded that I can make things unnecessarily complicated between Him and me.  The game of hide-and-seek is all me.  He’s not hiding from me at all.  Rather, He’s waiting for me and for you.  Waiting for us to come, just as we are, and respond to the invitation.  To relationship with Him over our own special table for two.  He sits and waits eternally patient on His children, because He will never leave.  He can’t because He cannot break His own oath to Himself – even when we cancel on our end.

Meeting with Him is not about checking yet another obligation off the to-do list.  It’s about responding to an invitation, just like my friend’s, and coming with open hands and hungry hearts.  He just wants to be with us.  Every day.  The table is set.  He is waiting to listen and to speak.  To laugh and cry with us.  To dream and plan with us.  To discipline and disciple us.  To challenge and to hold us.

Will you join Him?

It’s All Good

I wrote the other day that I’ve had surgery recently.  Not to add insult to injury, but while my life has been temporarily upheveled, I decided to take care of some skin issues resulting from years of sun damage as a child because I figured I’d be home and out of public eye.  So in addition to my temporary disability, I now look horrible.  It’s one of those processes that gets worse before getting better.  I told the doctor, I’m just that vain enough to not want to go out in public until this is done.  Dignity is worth something, right?  It was the perfect plan to execute my makeover and no one would be the wiser.  I’d just show up in public one day with radiant skin and two legs that work just fine.  I’d make a subtle, yet grand, entrance like I’m some Hollywood star.  Ha!

On the morning after the skin procedure, my phone rang unexpectedly.  I must admit, with the surgery and life still blazing a trail at 100mph, I can’t keep everything straight.  Perhaps the anesthesia is still working its way out of me.  I don’t know.  I do know I’m fuzzy on details of the day.  When the phone rang, it was a precious mom from our Moms in Prayer group (I have only met these women once) saying she couldn’t find my house as she was en route for our prayer time.  I sat stunned.  I knew it was today, but in the midst of trying to get 3 kids out the door, 2 of them still finishing homework and one needing to be early to school, I just lost a grip on the day’s calendar.

I gave her directions to my home, knowing she was right around the corner, hung up and took a look around.  With Fall here, leaves are continually trekked into our house.  I usually vacuum several times a week to keep them out, but I can’t vacuum right now.  Opened birthday presents were on the fireplace, laundry was strewn about, and clutter was everywhere.

My family is trying hard to keep the ball rolling here, but with several unexpected things that seem to pop up every day, I know everyone is doing all they can. They are great helpers, but there is only 24 hours in a day – minus sleep.

I hobbled around the house in the few seconds I had to pick everything up.  There was just no way.  It was what it was.

Then there is me.  I’m a mess!  I really didn’t want anyone seeing me like this.  In fact, at the time the doorbell rang, I couldn’t remember if I had brushed my hair, much less had any make-up on.  Earlier, I chose an old, faded t-shirt to wear because of the high neckline to cover the skin procedure, and because of my surgical boot, I chose shorts that, although they are fairly new, the inside seam unraveled after the first wash, so there’s a big hole in my pants.  Not to mention my shoes.  One gigantic surgical boot and one brown sandal.  The doctor said I need to even out the height of the boot so my back doesn’t suffer from walking at two levels, so the only shoe that works is this old brown sandal (that in no way matched my shirts and shorts).

I met not one woman, but three ladies at the door and invited them in.  Welcome to my chaos! I said with a laugh.  I was SO embarrassed.

I’m not pretentious, nor do I feel I need to impress anyone.  But, at least let my house be clean when people come over.  At least let me have washed my face and put on decent clothes.

They were extremely gracious – even when one mom went into my kitchen and saw both sinks full of dirty dishes and some unknown sticky substance on the counter after the daily brigade of breakfasts and lunchboxes flew through like a tornado.

I just couldn’t get over being embarrassed.  Do I really care that much? I asked myself.  But, I never thought I did.  Why is this bothering me?  

Martha Stewart I am not.  We are a crazy house of 5 extroverts who use every square inch of its space.  Creative juices flow, and usually so does something my kids want to try to bake or a science experiment, or a string of our dog’s toys that makes it look like a preschooler lives here.

Mess.  This day, my house was a mess.  I was a mess. There was nothing I could do.

God met me in that moment and reminded me of something He told me a while back.  He said, This school year will be a year of healing for you.  But…it begins with brokenness.

He wasn’t kidding.  A broken foot it is.  At least, that all I thought He was talking about.

I didn’t realize that there may be other areas of my life that need to broken to be healed.  My foot needed to be broken so the problem could be fixed.  So does my heart.

God’s ways are different from mine, but His ways are right – every time.

This particular morning showed me that I want to be accepted and approved by people more than I should.  This was the first time these ladies were meeting at my home, to accommodate my surgery recovery, and it drove me nuts that I couldn’t create an atmosphere (or image) that everything is semi-perfect.

It’s not!  Life is not perfect!  The only bell and whistle I could do was light a cinnamon candle.  Whoopie.

I had to accept the fact that I look like a wreck, because physically I am one right now.  How humbling!

God brought me from a place of panic that they were on their way, to humility over what my house and myself looked like, to a place where I could see what was most important -prayer with other Christian moms for our kids and their schools.

To live like we are created in the image of God, we make choices to reflect Him in our words and deeds.  This requires a lot of dying to self.  Approval is an issue I’ve struggled with my whole life.  Every time God works with me on this, I feel His fingerprint on specific situations as a gentle reminder that He is not cruel or uncaring, aloof or oblivious.  He is acutely aware of our frailties and weaknesses, and He desires for each of us a life of victory.

Living in strength and victory means we are wise enough to discern a situation and respond (not react) to it according to what pleases God, not ourselves.  We can trust this process, because God promised He is working all thing good for His children.  It’s a precious circle of love.  When we break out of the circle and go our own way, we forfeit the blessing of having His workmanship revealed in our circumstance.

For me, I could barely concentrate on what we were praying about because of the state of my house and my body.  It really wasn’t pride, as much as it was me wanting these women’s approval that I am at least acceptable.

Truly, it’s only God’s acceptance that I need to crave.  When I have it from Him, I am full and satisfied.  Everything else is gravy.  When I fill my tank with people’s acceptance, I am constantly having to refill it because people, frankly, let each other down.  We don’t perform to each other’s expectations.  We love conditionally.  We forgive when we feel like it.  And we are selfish.  When we seek God’s favor first, He has freedom in our lives to set us up for success in other areas – like bringing good friends into our lives.  Friends who will come to us to pray, when we can’t go to them.

That morning was so uncomfortable for me.  But, the lesson I learned in it made me more pliable in the Potter’s hand.  A huge benefit to me was that I could scrap the embarrassment over my house and my body and welcome others into our home who have since brought us meals, and I’ve felt comfortable inviting them to sit and chat.  Even yesterday, a friend from church brought us dinner, and as we sat in the family room talking, 3 loads of laundry stared at us from the sofa just feet away.  Underwear and all!  I chose to embrace God’s acceptance of me and enjoy my visit with a dear friend who took the time to come see me.  I told her with a laugh, For a couple of weeks, this stuff really doesn’t matter.  It’ll get done eventually.

Also, I breached my own vow of solitude to attend my son’s football game yesterday.  I look like I have a plague, but who cares!  My son was playing football and my friends were going to be there.  Those two things were way more important to me.  Yes, I looked like a sports diva sitting in a chair with an overhead canopy AND an umbrella fastened to the chair to avoid all sun, and had another chair in front of me to prop my boot leg on.  I said to my friend, I wasn’t sure I was going to come, but I knew ya’ll would love me regardless of how I look.  She replied, Of course we do!  I wanted to show my son, the one who made the love note for me (in the photo above) and left it on my laptop as a surprise, that he was more important than my internal issues…because he is.

Today, between the endless, monotonous hours of icing and elevating my foot, I will shed more of my embarrassment as my family meets two of our favorite families for frozen yogurt to celebrate two birthdays between all of us. I love these families so much, and I know they love me back.  I can feel free to show up just like I am because they are family to us.  I wouldn’t miss the laughter, fun and memories we make every time we are together just so I can stay home and save face (literally!).  No way.  Life is too short.  People are too precious.  We have some very special girls who need to be sung Happy Birthday.  Memories are just waiting to be made. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  I’ll even let myself be in the pictures…how about that!  This is largely in part to an incredible bog post I read recently by Allison Tate on the subject of having moms photographed despite ourselves. 🙂 Take a look! click here.

Yes.  This whole experience has taught me a lesson I didn’t know I needed to learn.  When we fully release ourselves to God, even the secret places, untapped possibilities await.  Whatever we’re holding onto, whatever holds us back, whatever holds us down, let’s release it.  Then, with open hands and an eager heart, we are prepared to receive the abundant blessings God wants to give us.  And that, friends, is healing for the body and soul.

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.