I recently saw a bumper sticker that made me laugh out loud.

images

Genius.

Yes, I don’t run.  I have hard time with it.  I like the idea of running…the cool shoes, the fancy workout clothes, the amazing body that probably comes with it, and the sticker you can put on the back of your car announcing the courageous distances you have conquered.

But I don’t run.  I have a hard time with it.  I have some pretty decent flip-flops and a new shirt that says, “namaste in bed.”  I am slowly beginning to accept the extra 15 lb. around my middle and now I can have a sticker on my car…0.0…and proud.

I am realizing this morning, that I also don’t like to run spiritual races.  I have a hard time with it.

This morning’s verse hit a nerve in my soul, like most morning verses these days:

Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

run

Bleh.  Run.  With endurance.

“With endurance” implies that the race will necessitate endurance.  Which means I probably will have a hard time with it.  This is not a promise for an easy, uplifting Sunday jog.  We are promised vigorous races that we have to “endure”.

Again.  Bleh.

My current house buying experience is asking me to endure changes, instability, lots of waiting, and unending unknowns.  As soon I think I see the finish line ahead of me, I realize I’m only entering a hillside and my vision has been deceived.  As the horizon line swells, the optical illusion is revealed and I watch the finish line disappear behind the mountain.  This race has tricked me, pricked me, and left me exhausted, barely able to catch my breath.

Do you remember the first time your mom or dad stood in the swimming pool and asked you, a trusting child, to jump off the edge into their arms?

As a mom, I now realize what was really happening in that water.  Often, my parent, or older sibling, slowly stepped back forcing me to swim further and longer than I ever expected.  And usually, I ended up a little upset, even if I just doggie-paddled half the length of the pool.

This is me and God right now.  I jumped.  He’s backing up.  And I’m finding my water-legs.  And I’m a little ticked off that now I’ve no option but to learn to swim.  I feel like the whole world is watching, (though I know this is the farthest thing from the truth).  And I feel like God is playing some kind of mean prank…just for laughs.

This season of “homelessness”, living with another family of 6, (two of which are toddlers who have made it their passion to NOT share and to tattle-tale on each other)…this season of multiple closing dates that come and go, all while storing our stuff in 4 places across the city…this season of school supply lists and uniform orders that have no place to be stored except for the front passenger’s seat of my car…this season of suitcases and the same two outfits for over 3 weeks now…this season has tossed me into the race without water, into the pool without a floaty.

I don’t run.  I have hard time with it.

But last night, the couple who has been so generous with us, sharing their home with us, “crazies”, sat down across from us and shared much more.  They shared encouragement from God’s word.  They talked through the decisions that lay before us.  They gave perspective, hope, and most precious of all, witness to God’s faithfulness and sovereignty.

Today’s verse hit a nerve in my soul.

I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, and therefore, I can lay aside all my weight and all my fear and all the doubts that are entangling me.  I am not alone.  And now, the word “endurance” doesn’t stick out and prick my heart quite as much.  It’s a little two letter-word that now catches my eye: “us“.

Let “us” run with endurance.  I don’t run.  I have a hard time with it.  But my wobbly legs and flailing arms are being supported and encouraged and I don’t feel alone.  We run.  We don’t have to have as hard a time with it.

And God stands at the finish line, encouraging me to push through, telling me, “look, you’re doing it!” And, though I’m still a little miffed at the process, I realize I’m finding my legs, my breath, my stroke, and my pace.  I don’t know when I will reach the finish line.  But I do know that struggling along the way will only produce good things, if I allow it.

There are benefits to running.  Cool outfits, slimmer waistlines, and stickers that bear witness to the lengths that have been endured.  Spiritual running is no different.

romans 5

 (Romans 5:3-5)

 

 

hiatus: a pause or a gap in a sequence, series, or process.

As this new year begins, I’m going on hiatus.

It’s not unusual during this time of year, to pause and reflect on the goals and resolutions we’ve set before us.  Many of us have made a routine of reestablishing priorities and healthy habits.  We’ve set aside time to make lists and action plans.

This break, however, takes pausing to a whole new level.  A hiatus takes a full leave of absence.  One disappears from the face of the planet while on hiatus, and the intention to plan forward to future goals isn’t necessarily reason for the departure.  In fact, by definition, a hiatus takes pause in the midst of something happening…It potentially stops something: a plan or a process.  Rather than planning for something, I’m taking a hiatus to pause something.

Social media gurus and bloggers would tell me that now is the worst time ever to hit the pause button on blogging.  I’ve received good traffic due to an article recently published in the winter issue of a magazine.  Recent speaking engagements and worship leading have brought interested ears to read and hear more.  Retreats are on the calendar and they will likely generate more online followers.  I’m waiting and hoping that a publishing company, one which has been passing my book around the office, will come to this site, be interested, and ultimately decide to pick me up as an author.

While on hiatus, visitors to the blog will see nothing new.  They will potentially stop following.  They will eventually forget about the blog’s existence.  Their interest will not be sustained.  (This plan is opposed to every Michael Hyatt article ever written.)

Now is a horrible time to take a hiatus.

Well…it’s horrible only if media traffic, publicity, and strategic online plans control my fate.

I have fallen victim to the lies that elevate these methods and strategies above God’s sovereignty.  In and of themselves, these aren’t bad things.  God has and will continue to use them for His purposes.  But, when all hope is set in them, it’s time to take control out of human hands, and back into the Father’s.  He has told me to let go, yet my fists clench a little tighter.  My trust in His provision and plan for me has been rocky at best, so this is not an easy leave.

Therefore, I am forcing a self-imposed hiatus.  If God has plans for me, He will have to work…not my computer screen, the words on the tips of my fingers, or masterful networking.  Quippy analogies and post series’ schedules won’t be able to contribute to His purpose.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

Proverbs 19:21

I will take myself out, so that He can be credited with anything and everything that happens, whether following my desires or not.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  I need to pause, create a gap, so that He can establish my next steps.  See, I have been busy creating my own dance moves…and apparently, they are only spinning me in circles.

He is greater.  Greater than the number of followers, retweets, or shares.  This is a terrifying act of trust.

In the time spent away from the blog, I will be praying, meditating on His word, and loving my family and home.  I will focus on all that has already been given to me–all the ways that He has already been faithful.  I will spend time praying for friends and family.  I will put dreams and goals for 2016 into Jesus’ hands, freeing mine up for service.  And all of this will remind me that God’s main concern is not my success or how He will use me…but rather His chief resolution is for my heart.  He wants my affection above all else.

And when I hear Him say, “return”,  I will.

I appreciate the encouragement and kind words many of you have shared regarding my writing and music.  I look forward to returning with a renewed heart and mind, excited to magnify the Lord with you.

 “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” 

Psalm 34:3

Yesterday morning, I dropped my two-year old off for preschool.  This is only his second week of school, and we have yet to make a full M/W/F three day week.  He is still adjusting to the new routine, and due to Labor Day there hasn’t been much consistency to help with the transition.  Today was the first time his class experienced chapel.  Rather than taking him directly to his room, on chapel days we go to the big auditorium first.  (Or after yesterday, I’d like to refer to it as the big-ominous-overwhelming-room-of-tears).

Seriously, I don’t know how these teachers do it.

My little guy was fine sitting in my lap during the fun song, short message, and repeat prayer.  It was the scary rainbow striped ribbon that flipped a switch in him.  At first, he headed over to join his class in line.  He grasped the brightly colored rainbow cord used to keep the line of children all together. He was hesitant at first, but complied simply because that’s what everyone else seemed to be doing.  Once the line started to move towards the exit doors, and his section of ribbon tugged, he looked back at me with complete terror in his eyes.

In short, what followed included, but was not limited to: screaming, tears, death grips, etc.

In a moment like that, all a seasoned parent can do is laugh.  They all do it–every kid has moments when separation anxiety overtakes them.

At some point, we all have to get by our line-buddy and take steps away from comfort toward the unknown.  It’s much, much harder the older I get, though the level of risk hasn’t changed.

As much as we try to plan and prepare, none of us knows what the future holds.  Even with great job security, or a firm family foundation, we cannot predict what lies ahead.  We were not given that breadth of vision sought by Eve in the Garden.  Humanity wanted it then, and we want it now…but the good Lord knows having the ability to see what lies outside the doors of our present circumstances will never be good for us.

We, like my son, have to learn to trust the rainbow that ties us all together.

(I know this is starting to sound a little pie-in-the-sky unicorns and rainbows, but hang with me…I will limit the glitter and butterflies.)

Any good Sunday-School-goer knows what a rainbow represents…God’s promise to Noah and the rest of creation.

“When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

Genesis 9:16

We must learn to grab hold of the promises of Jesus and trust that they will guide us to the next thing, out of the current scary and overwhelming circumstances.  It’s a preschool lesson that will produce a lifetime of confidence, peace, and joy.  It’s necessary to trust that what lies around the corner, even if equally scary and overwhelming, will be good for us and our maturation.

If we merely trust when we assume the hard stuff only leads to happiness, then we are still not completely trusting Him.

I looked at my son struggling to trust that rope and where it was leading.  He fearfully doubted his safety and well-being.  I knew his fears were unwarranted.  His teachers love him. Toys, snacks, and only good things were waiting for him on the other side of the hallway.  He probably had to learn to share yesterday, which most likely wasn’t fun, but will prove one day to be a valuable experience.  There’s a significantly good chance that he ran into a wall yesterday and got hurt.  (It’s kind of the platform he’s riding right now).  Even so, I had no doubt he would be loved and tended to.

Dare I say, ALL my fears are also unwarranted.  After all, God has made a covenant with me as well:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 Hebrews 13:5b

Trusting His promises and blindly grabbing hold of them as we are tugged down unknown paths into new territories takes practice.  Every two-year-old learns to trust the rainbow ribbon connection eventually, but only after consistently being put in situations that require them to join others and find their place in line.

Undoubtedly, we are all in a situation or circumstance that requires us to trust God and His promises.  Should we not take the opportunity and grab hold?  Though we feel alone, we are in reality with a multitude of others, shuffling our feet through life side by side.  Though we are scared, the truth is that our safety is not in question.  Though we feel overwhelmed and ready to cry, we have hope-filled promises running as a safety line right in front of our snotty noses.

I leave you with some promises.  Stand by my side and let’s cling to them together.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:20 

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

John 14:12-14

Day 25: intentions

I had good intentions of getting a lot done today, including adding something to Lent.  It didn’t happen…any of it.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15 


Day 26: insanity

Today I unintentionally added insanity to Lent:

My little raccoon dumped a bag of chili cheese Fritos on the master bathroom floor mat.  It looked like the Pyramid of Giza piled atop white Egyptian sand.

He stole his sister’s deodorant and hacked it into little pieces all over the upstairs bathroom.  Moisture-blocking deodorant, when ground into a fluffy bath mat, is very hard to clean.

He locked himself in the bathroom while I was making an important business call.  We don’t have a key.

He threw multiple toys over the banister…after I had just taken them upstairs to the toy room.

He removed and hid all the printer ink cartridges…as I was trying to print copies of music for Sunday.

He ninja-swiped open dirty diapers as I tried to change him.  I am so done with poop.

All of this was before 10:00 am.

I didn’t have time to add something inspirational today…(hello, reality…thanks for showing up uninvited.)

“Be gracious to me, O God, for man (boy) tramples on me; all day long an attacker (a toddler) oppresses me”  

Psalm 56:1


Day 27: coffee creamer

So, obviously the last couple of days have been ridiculous, but let’s be honest.  This is life for most people: crazy.  When asked how things are going, we all say it:  “Busy.”  “Crazy”  “insane.”  This is the norm for most of us, especially if we’ve got lots of responsibilities, whether it be tasks at work, or children at home, or a combination of the two.

Again, I got nothing done today.  I seemed to rush and rush, strive and toil, with little to nothing to show for it.  When I left to go pick up the kids from school, the house was still a mess, laundry still needed to be done, and I still hadn’t finished preparing for the bible study I was supposed to lead tonight.  We drove straight from school to church to meet up with Daddy for dinner.  During the bible study, the older kids were going to hang out in his office while he worked and Judah was going to the nursery.

When everything was finished for the night, I texted to see if they had already headed home.  I was surprised to hear that yes, they were already home because Gideon had thrown up.  My first thought was “oh, no! Not more sickness!”  Then, I heard the rest of the story.

Apparently, Gideon has a routine when he hangs out in Daddy’s office.  He goes to the staff coffee station and sneaks the little individual cups of coffee creamer.  Tonight, it seems as thought our 5-year-old with the early signs of addictive behavior, couldn’t stop himself from indulging.  He consumed enough cream to make himself sick…well, that and the starburst flavored slushy he got with dinner.  (It makes my stomach curdle just thinking about it.)

When he ‘fessed up to the deviant looting of coffee condiments, he said it was such creamy goodness that he couldn’t stop himself.  This from the child who at age two snuck a stick of butter from the fridge, pulled a chair up to the TV, and ate the butter like a Snickers.  (We are really going to have to keep an eye on this one.)  He obviously doesn’t know his own limits, or what’s good for him.

In the world of sweet things and buttery goodness, it’s very possible to add too much of a good thing.  Not so with Lent, or with God.  My crazy has needed an abundance of grace and He has more than enough to not only meet my level of need, but to surpass it.  His  mercy will never run out, and of His goodness I will never grow weary.  It’s impossible to have too much of Him.  When I allow myself to actually taste His goodness, even in the midst of crazy, all I want is more.  I can’t stop myself from indulging.

When I find myself growing weary and sick of life, unable to think of something spiritual to write about (as I did the past three days), it’s not because I’ve somehow had enough Jesus, or that He’s gone AWAL.  The reality is that I’ve not been opening my senses to taste the little morsels of goodness that He has individually packaged for me throughout the day.  I haven’t tasted.  I haven’t thanked.

Unfortunately for Gideon, God used the little 5-year old’s intolerance for copious creamer consumption to get my attention.  I thank Jesus for His grace.  He has loved me through the past half-week, despite my weakness and inconsistency.  He has loved me, even when I’m not feeling it.  He has remained faithful.

Over Lent, I’ve been adding and adding, and the days that I thought I wasn’t adding at all, grace was being added unto me.  I just didn’t recognize it.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  

2 Corinthians 12:9

 

Day 13: Prayer

After a day of following your child back and forth from the bathroom to the bed, any and all efforts are made to not have to repeat the itinerary over the next few days with all your other children.  Today, as I washed laundry and wiped down surfaces with bleach, I added a lot of prayer.  I asked others to pray.  I pleaded with God to protect the rest of us from this yucky little bug.

Then my husband came down with it.

God was faithful in answering my prayers…none of the other kids have caught the illness…(yet).  And I start to wonder, “Did I leave him out of my requests to God for health?”  And in this question, I’m somehow trying to understand and make sense of why he got sick.  Perhaps, God’s answer to my prayer isn’t at all dependent on if I get my request right.  I don’t think He answers only according to the exact words I use.  I think He answers the way He does for reasons I just don’t understand.  And I’ve got to learn to be okay with that.  I have to learn to trust.

So I added prayer.  And I will keep adding prayers…and Lysol.

 “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.”

Psalm 69:13


Day 14: Lysol

You thought I was joking… I added so much Lysol to the bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen today, that I think my lungs are disinfected.  As I add to Lent, the whole point is to remind me of all I have gained because of all that Jesus gave on the cross.  This deep burning feeling in my chest, while caused by inhaling potent and probably harmful chemical vapors, reminds me of the deep spiritual cleansing I receive through Jesus.

It is His death on the cross that wipes away my sins and purifies my every inch of being.  This doesn’t mean that I am perfect.  I daily bring my germy, nasty self to the foot of the cross and He covers me in the Lysol-like grace of His forgiveness.  When God looks at me, He sees Jesus in my place.  It’s completely undeserved, but He sees someone who was perfect and spotless…in my place!  This free gift was given to me on the cross as Jesus willfully took on all that my sickness of depravity deserves.  Each day, His death works it’s wonders, canceling out my sin and shame, making me clean and new.  Unlike Lysol, His blood kills 100% of my grime, there is not 1/100th of a sin that His sacrifice doesn’t cover.

What freedom!  What health!  What grace!  What a way to live!

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Psalm 51:7