A Significant Speck

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When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:3-4

I am at a crucial stage right now, I think – in regard to how I perceive myself. For a while I was standing at the crossroad, but now I think that I have started down the path I am supposed to take. I think so, at least.

I don’t know this path well – I am a little fearful and trepidatious. But that’s because I am only human. I’m a small human with a big God in my life though, so I know it will be okay.

This path is vast. It’s a bit foggy and misty right now, and there are many trees along the dirt road. There are no other people walking it with me, although at times, I can see others out there in the distance. I can’t tell if they are on a different part of the path, yet far away, or if they are on a completely different one. But I know they are there.

So for the most part, I am alone on this part of my journey. But not really alone. God IS with me. And that’s part of why I’m here.

  • He is teaching me that He is always with me, no matter what.
  • He is teaching me that He is all I truly need.
  • He is teaching me that even good things can be used by us to form our identity and sense of significance.
  • He is teaching me and it doesn’t always feel good. But He is faithful and will NOT leave my side.

This long and winding, dirt-floored, tree filled, foggy and misty, not bright, but not totally dark path makes me feel tiny. I’m but a speck on the road. There are no signs, no landmarks, no hints whatsoever of where it leads or if there’s even a final earthly destination.

This path is all about the journey that God has set out before me. It’s about walking it with HIM.

I did see a flower on the side of the road the other day. One, lone, white flower growing up out of a log that I sat on for a bit of rest. I stayed for hours and gazed upon that beautiful thing. It smelled good and was a small, bright light in the middle of all the gray and mundane.

I believe it was a gift. But I also believe that God doesn’t want there to be too many distractions on this journey. I am meant to embrace what it is to be tiny. I am meant to feel alone, but know that I’m not. I am meant to venture into the unknown with the One who does know all. I am meant to learn about what it is to be small, but significant because of HIM.

Sometimes, I learn about how tiny I am because I can’t escape it – there’s a lot in my life to cause me to feel humiliation right now, if I allow that in. But then I remember not to stay in that place – because I can “boast in my weaknesses” with His permission – and His “power will then rest on me.”

It’s because of this that I have been given the gift of that in the face of my humiliation – HIS GRACE.

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

I am also learning about how important it is to embrace how very small we are and how tiny this earthly life is by gazing upon His creation and our speck of a spot we take up in it. That kind of stuff really used to make me feel….insignificant. But I am learning now that it makes us see, all the more, the MIRACLE it is that HE created little ol’ us.

  • My smallness and my speck of a life is a gift.
  • I get to hide underneath His mighty arms.
  • But He sees me and He LOVES me.

The more tiny I feel in the face of the big stuff all around me –

God’s creation ~ the mountains and the oceans and the stars and the heavens and the universe and then….just me.

A vast path in an unknown and sometimes scary wilderness, upon which there are few other people at all and I really am just a tiny little speck venturing into….I don’t know what.

A chronic disease that is SO BIG that it reminds me every single second of how very fragile my body (and even my mind) really is and threatens to smother my soul too and makes me feel at times like I’ve disappeared ~

All of that and more it has caused me to have nothing but one choice: Disappear completely, or embrace it and ask God if He has a purpose in all of it.

He has answered me, and I am so grateful. I found the answers in His word. I find out more about what the answer is meant to do in my earthly life as I walk with Him every day.

Me. The speck that seems insignificant, but isn’t – because of Him.

With Him. The Author of all Creation – and the One who is writing this story too.

I have found joy in the midst of the things that make me unhappy, and most of that is because instead of fighting against this disappearing act, I am actually finding out more about what it means to have almost my ENTIRE EXISTENCE be about my relationship with Jesus.

  • No, I haven’t lost my family – thank you Lord!
  • No, I haven’t lost my home – thank you Lord!
  • No, I am not living in poverty – thank you Lord!

I haven’t lost it all. But I did have to give up SO VERY MUCH of what was still (even when I didn’t realize it) forming a lot of my “identity.”

  • The dream job that I loved.
  • Getting to be consistently involved in my church community (in person).
  • Jogging, hiking, going to fun get-togethers.
  • Shopping, doing lots of projects, being the life of the party.
  • Feeling GOOD IN MY OWN SKIN consistently – most of the time!
  • Having a sharp brain and a quick wit and never struggling to concentrate or focus.
  • Having choices – about which paths to take.

Many of those things are not bad things, friends. It’s okay if you are in a season in which the Lord has blessed you with them, and as long as you aren’t letting them take His place, it’s okay to embrace them and be thankful for them.

But for me, He is teaching me something right now and had to remove some stuff to cause that to happen. I’m a stubborn girl and I play tricks on myself sometimes. God knows that about me. I don’t think that I was trying to sin by any stretch of the imagination in loving it when I had those things in my life. I just know that the Lord wants to help me understand something that we can only understand as He allows certain things to be stripped away and takes away the crutches and distractions.

I’ll tell you now – it’s hard to realize that you really ARE just a speck, at first. It’s hard to embrace your smallness. It’s difficult beyond belief to make peace with how very tiny you are in the big God picture of things. But once we get to where we start to feel a peace about it – once we find that there is SIGNIFICANCE in being one of God’s tiny specks, and that HE is the One who is BIG, it is so freeing.

Chains have been broken. I knew that before, but I didn’t know  how to walk in it.

The battle has already been won, and God doesn’t need my help for that.

I am small, but the Lord still has plans for me. Even if no one ever sees them come to fruition but Him.

I still have so much to learn. As I said, I have only just fully realized what it’s like to move past just knowing what I know – that I am a small and tiny speck in the midst of God’s creation and the humiliating things in life that make us realize how small we are – to starting to LIVE it and walk it out with Him on the gray and vast path into the unknown.

But, He is with me. He is teaching me that my significance is not MINE. It is all about Him and how He loves me. It is all about the purpose HE has for ME to bring glory to HIM. It is about how He uses the smallest and most insignificant-seeming things to work out His will.

He doesn’t need me. But He still chooses me. I am a significant speck because Jesus truly loves me. He has numbered every hair on my head. (Luke 12:7) I matter to HIM.

I want for Him to matter to me more than I matter to myself. And that’s where I still have much to pray over and learn about.

  • That’s why I’m on this path.
  • That’s why God is teaching me about specks in the midst of His vast creation.
  • That’s why I am so grateful today, because at least I’m starting to feel a peace about it.

The smaller I get and the more the world around me starts to disappear, including my own mind and body, the more magnified He becomes in my view. And that is worth seeing and experiencing, even when it’s painful.

Because He is beyond lovely. He is vast and large, but not too Big to come down and walk by my side.

He is the whole point of it all. He came down for us – the significant specks that He created.

HE IS.

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11

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What People Living With Chronic Illnesses Think But are Sometimes Afraid To Say

 

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I’ve only lived with Fibromyalgia for just over three years now – at least, with the diagnosis of it. I will say one thing about that ~ knowing what had been ailing me for a lot longer than just the past three years did help. It helped to know I wasn’t crazy (totally) and just imagining it. But it had been lurking there – right under the surface – for a lot of years. It also is probably a BIG PART of the other stuff I have contended with in life – we just didn’t know what to attribute it all to before the diagnosis.

What did rear its ugly head early on in my life, however, has been depression and anxiety. Chronic. Life long. And I don’t like to talk about it sometimes, but it’s the truth and I have to be honest with you. I’ve lived with my own sort of depression (and anxiety)- mostly chemically/hormonally/biologically driven – for the better part of my life. I am fifty years old, by the way.  That’s a long time. Don’t feel sorry for me about it – there’s a point to this story that’s about something much bigger than that.

I know it for what it is – I no longer buy into the stuff that others, including myself used to tell me about that second part of things. I will say it over and over again until the day that I die – when it comes to depression or anxiety, there are two MAIN kinds. The kind that is about perspective, attitude, outlook, behaviors – (semi-controllable with life changes) and the kind that is chemically driven (not so much controllable). I have both, but mostly the second kind is what takes me over sometimes. Yes. The two can co-exist. Yes – it’s hard for those around us to see which one you can do something about and which one is beyond your control.

It’s the same way with Fibro and the way it manifests itself (mostly invisibly) in your life.

I’ve learned one thing throughout all of this – but it doesn’t mean that I’ve perfected living it out. Feeling like we have to hide it from the world is still VERY PERVASIVE in our society. And I get that. I do. It sucks, but I understand it. It’s all about not being able to understand something if  you don’t go through it yourself. We are only human.

So, here is a PARTIAL list of things that I suspect most people who are struggling with chronic illness, chronic pain, chronic depression or anxiety or a host of other chronic things that make them “different” than who they really are inside, would like to say.

I share this with the heart of letting you know, that although there are some of us that do not feel this way, many of those I have met that struggle with things like this DO feel this way. We may tell those in our near and dear circle these things, but often we don’t feel that you truly believe us. More often, you hear us, but it just doesn’t STICK, because life clutters stuff up, man. And we are SO BUSY managing our chronic-whatever, (IT’S A FULL TIME JOB), that things like this – things that need to be said over and over and over again in order to stick, well – they get lost.

So, here we go:

Most of us realize that life is not all about us. Most of us deal with a lot of guilt when we think about how much worse things could be and we find ourselves crying in our Cheerios about our own situation.

Most of us feel selfish for having to focus so dang much on ourselves. Yet, we don’t know what to do, because we HAVE TO think about our situation so much – especially if we have chronic pain. There’s no where to run and little distraction from something like that. At least, there’s none that is lasting for much longer than a small stretch at a time.

Most of us were not always this way – it may have always “been there”, but we used to be able to do more things, have more good days than bad, and be more focused on others. Our whole lives didn’t used to always revolve around our illness and managing it. You probably remember that too.

Most of us still remember what it was like before. And we are in the cycle of grief. We know that you are too.

Most of us know this is hard on you. We know that we know that we know. And we feel responsible, even though it’s not “our fault.”

Most of us know that you have your own problems – some of them big ones- too. We want to be there for you. We want you to know that we get it – that you matter to us.

Most of us feel we are alone to a certain extent. Even when you help us – even when we pray. We KNOW we are not alone, but we FEEL alone. A lot.

Most of us realize there is a fine and messy line between knowing when it’s time to fight and when it’s about growing in surrender. That is very hard to discern. Why wouldn’t it be even HARDER for YOU to discern when you aren’t living in this skin? We get that.

Most of us feel pressure to act/deal with/look at things the way that those closest to them would want for them to. We try to look up, but sometimes, we just can’t. Then we feel like we have let you down. Again.

Most of us know that you are doing the best that YOU can in the face of this. We actually appreciate all the grace you extend to us, but feel bad about it all at the same time. It’s easy to say “it’s okay” but sometimes, we can’t help but think we are nothing but a pain in your butt. It’s part of the deal, man. We need lots of reassurance.

Most of us still find ourselves just wanting to be understood and to be sure you know we understand you as best we can. We also realize that part of surrender is giving that all up. That is H-A-R-D.

Most of us would snap our fingers and move this out of our lives (and out of YOUR life) in a hot second if we could.

Most of us want to do more for you and have the center of our lives be ANYTHING other than managing this junk. We are sick of ourselves. And that makes us even more sick. Dig it, man.

Most of us feel lost, even when we press in to God. We are reeling, spinning, and doing our best to try or not try – depending upon where we are at. We aren’t comfortable living in our own skin – but we keep trying to keep perspective in the midst of the fog of it all. For us, for you. For everybody’s sake.

Most of us feel all the same pressures as “normal” people have, along with knowing we must dedicate a lot of hours to managing this crap – we feel like failures and losers, even when we know it isn’t true. We know we are not martyrs, and that there are starving children digging through dumpsters in the world. We don’t want to try to explain our illness and situation to you in order to make you feel we are “one-upping” your problems- rather, we find ourselves desiring SO DEEPLY to help you understand. Not just for our sakes, but for YOURS.

Most of us finally shut down and stop sharing our feelings because when we see that it can’t be understood and it doesn’t help much to explain, that’s what we feel we need  to do for everyone’s sake.

Most of us know it’s more about surrender than fighting. You can’t know that until you are living in our shoes. You just can’t. It may look like we are giving up, when we are “practicing” surrender. It’s a process, yo. We don’t know how to do it any better than the next guy would.

Most of us try 99 percent of the time to keep perspective and look at the upside. But we have days where we can’t see straight, even when we turn our eyes upward. We know it hurts you when we share with you on those dark days – and yet….we feel we need to speak to someone who loves us about all of it.

Most of us would give anything to jog again, have a clear head again, and be able to hold a convo with you that’s all about YOU and NOTHING about our illness.

Most of us know that our identity SHOULD NOT be defined by our illness, but that so much of our lives are spent managing it, that gets murky and muddy too.

Most of us know you miss the old us. Newsflash: We do too.

Finally, most of us know that the world does not revolve around us, and that this completely sucks for everyone involved in our lives. But we have to hang on to the fact that God has a purpose in everything – that He is teaching not only us through this ugly hot mess, but that He may be trying to teach others in our circle a few hard truths  as well.

We often laugh at ourselves, because in some ways, we feel like test subjects. We are reminded thousands of times a day of what failure looks like, and we have to WORK HARD to keep that in perspective and realize that what looks like failure (not being able to have any stamina, having to lay in our bed to protect our bodies and minds so that we can be productive for the 6  hours a day that we can, saying too much when we are in a very dark and unreasonable place mentally, crossing the line between managing our chronic condition and letting it define us and take us over), is just topical.

It’s what is inside our hearts that matters. Truly. It isn’t what impacts the world around us right away – all the junk likes to take on that role. But it IS what truly matters.

So, if you live with someone or around someone who struggles in these ways, please know that as much as we can, we get it. We don’t want to be a burden to you. But MOST OF US are fighting against completely shutting down to “protect” you.

Most of us want to be real with you, yet let you know that we are okay.

Most of us know that you miss us. That’s not lost on us. But please know, that although this has changed us on the outside into something that can seem MONSTROUS and UGLY the vast majority of the time – if you look a little deeper, you just may find that the inside is being transformed into something of beauty.

And we want to share THAT with you too. You see – we get to understand something now (so do you) and use that for the glory of God!

So I will leave you with this verse. If you ever feel lost, not sure what to do with your chronic friend or family member – not knowing whether you are helping or not…remember this one thing, if nothing else. It’s all worth it if we use this to comfort others in the name of Jesus.

It’s all worth it.

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

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Dear Fibro: I’ve Got News for You ~ I’m Beautifully Broken

I was recently challenged to write a letter to my Fibromyalgia – some of this you may have heard me already talk about on this blog, friends, so if it seems redundant to you, just know this is part of a challenge for a new support group I am privileged to be a part of now. But the idea is to acknowledge what you used to be and what Fibro stole from you all in the process. The ultimate thing that I wish to acknowledge, is that although sometimes I feel like Fibro has beaten me – it has not. You know, it went into a remission of sorts last summer and fall – it came back with a vengeance. God is greater than Fibro – I can be whole in spite of the holes it has punched in my life, my body and my mind. And it’s all because of Jesus, friends. He makes ALL THINGS NEW!

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Here is my letter:

Dear Fibro: I’ve Got News for You ~ I’m Beautifully Broken

I used to be “that girl.” You know – the one who was just chock full of energy, light, happiness, joy – the one who was always right there in the mix of it all cheering others on. I was a cheerleader ~ a coach ~ a leader of sorts. But always the kind of leader whose greater purpose in life was to lift others up. And the energy to do so was never ending.

I still am –DEEP within my soul.  It’s just changed now. Sometimes I feel really sad about it, but then I have to zoom back out and remember – I am being made into something new – something better than that girl that I once was. It just hurts in the process.

Just because you can’t jump and do cartwheels, doesn’t mean it changes the core of who you are. It can seem that way, but it’s a lie.

You see – things come upon us to wreak havoc in our lives-  they give us a run for our money, yo. That’s what you’ve done here, Fibro. You weren’t even invited, you know. You are a bad house guest. And not to be rude, but I have tried and tried to make things work out for you to be around, but you just keep on trashing the place.

NOT OKAY!!!!

So I have a few things to say to you. It’s time I tell you the truth of the matter. It may be hard to hear, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. You can handle it, right? (You are just sooooo strong, eh?)

You see – as I said –  you showed up uninvited in the first place. But because I try my best to have the most positive outlook  I can, I tried to make things work with you. Then, when it got tough, I talked to you about it all. You did not LISTEN. You just got worse. It’s as though no matter what I do to make things work out okay – you being here – you aren’t satisfied with that at all! You just want to keep creating drama and destruction everywhere. What’s left to destroy? I shouldn’t even ask that, I guess, because I KNOW that you will try to find something.

Let me tell you what my life was like before you showed up. My house was clean, man. It was sparkling and pretty and everything was in order. I wasn’t rich, by any stretch of the imagination – not in the way of material things. But I was rich in the fullness of life. I had my dream job – coaching a team of others in their personal and career growth and development. I was living out my greater purpose in every way – through work, and in my personal life. I was the person who “got things done” when no one else could seem to squeeze it into their schedule. AND I LIKED IT.

I was running/jogging 5-7 miles a day – the ONLY thing I asked for that was just for me – myself – my alone time. And I LOVED IT. I could run up mountains, hiking with my family, go to every event I was invited to, be in the middle of everything when there were noisy get-togethers and parties, TOTALLY focus on all that I was doing without losing track of anything and being able to REALLY ENGAGE with others.

I was that girl. And I liked her.

Then you came. You hit me like a ton of bricks.  I know that makes you smile, but wait for it. Like I said, I’ve got news for you!

First, the pain all over my body. No problem – I can deal with that. It sucks, but I have been through worse things than this. You wouldn’t even tell me your name at first – (sheesh, don’t you have any social graces at ALL?) but I knew you were someone who had a ton of issues and you weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I tried to work through it – your unwanted arrival – but you kept yelling at me and making it worse. Whatever! 

Then, my mind. You took it, man. You confused me and took away my focus. I couldn’t keep my dream job. I certainly couldn’t jog any more. And then, if that wasn’t bad enough, you even took my ability to sit in church and worship with my family away half the time or more. You made me hate crowds, and lights and noise – you  made me have an aversion to my favorite thing – PEOPLE. You stink! I DO NOT LIKE YOU.

But get this: I have figured one thing out after three unrelenting years of this. I may not be able to make you leave – I may not be able to control you – I may have to admit, if I’m being honest and truthful, that your presence has changed things and I can’t fix that. You know that I’ve tried. But I have NOT been defeated.

YOU. HAVE. NOT WON. I know you’ll keep on trying. But I have a far more powerful ally on my side.

You broke everything – from the inside out. You smashed it to pieces. Sometimes, I sit there and I look at the shards of glass all around me and I weep – I’ll admit it. And I know you like to laugh at me when I do that – I know (sick and sad).

But guess what? Inside – you know that weeping and that crying out honestly to the Lord that I do – you KNOW that means you haven’t fully won.

Because you can’t take away the Lord’s ability to make me whole. You just can’t.

Sometimes, I don’t know whether to step forward or not – even a little bit. I’m on to your scare tactics –  they aren’t lost on me at all! I know you like to paralyze me and lie to me and tell me that I have to sit still, curled up in a fetal position, lest I step on the shards of what I once was and get cut to pieces.

What’s a little blood, anyway?

Other times, you try to trick me and make me think that if I could just at least TRY to glue some of the glass back together into a semblance of a solid structure, that it will mean that I am whole again. But I can see the edges of ugly when I do that – and there are holes there. All the water I then try to fill inside the pieced-together structure just seeps right out. It just doesn’t work. Ain’t nobody got time for that anymore.

But I have finally reached the point where I’ve figured something out – it’s about surrender. And it’s about truly WINNING.

It’s not for me to fight the battle alone – the one against YOU, dear Fibro. It’s not for me to fill the hole in whole and do a messy job of it at that! It’s not for me to constantly fight, totally give up, or remain paralyzed all on my own. It’s about moving through all the murky and muddy and stew like states of existence that continue to change with my God who is NEVER CHANGING!

I don’t have to do this alone. And THAT is my secret weapon that you KNOW you cannot touch.

It is the love and support of my Savior – Jesus – and others, like through my support network – that you cannot take from me.

You can steal jobs- you can steal memories and concentration and focus- you can even rip me apart limb from limb and fill what’s left with shards of pain – but you cannot choose to fill that ONE HOLE INSIDE with yourself that keeps me from being whole. That is RESERVED. You are blocked. You know you can’t go in there as hard as you try.

Because Jesus is there. My  family and friends (the real ones) are there. Who I really AM is there. And it’s NOT YOURS.

I’m not going to say that I never go into a dark place because of  you – who wouldn’t? But I know enough now to know that I have to just move through it and that I don’t have to do it alone. And when I emerge from the darkness – after crying out to my Lord and Savior? He has filled that hole in whole with HIS light, HIS love, HIS power, and HIS strength.

And it makes me be able to go on, oh, ugly friend. It makes me be whole again.

With or without you, I am whole. And it’s all because of Jesus. Maybe “that girl” was never REALLY whole to begin with. That’s why I can still say I am grateful for the mess that has been created as a result of you. But you don’t get the credit. No….you don’t.

God is creating a beautiful mosaic out of the shards and fragments of my old self. He is making all things new in SPITE OF YOU, ugly Fibro friend. In spite of myself too. And that is wonderful.

There is beauty in the ugly – you didn’t know that, did you? And you can’t stop Him – I will no longer try to step into the shoes of being the artist and Creator of the masterpiece mosaic- Someone else is doing that. Someone ALL-POWERFUL AND DIVINE!

 It’s not my job. I know the world screams at us to the contrary – self-reliance, and all that bull. But I know better.

 I am just here to seek Him through it all – to seek others who go through suffering or other struggles such as myself. To think outside of myself as much as you try to get me to think only about me.

That fills the hole in whole. And you ain’t got nothin’ on that, friend.

I’m beautifully broken – and the fact that I am turning that brokenness over to the Author of all Creation, makes me more whole than I ever could have been before – when I was “that girl.”

And since I know that you will now get really, really angry – know this as well: during those times where all I can see is shattered glass, the Lord reminds me – even when it still doesn’t feel very good – of the truth. That truth is that He has already won the greatest battle of all – for our sakes. That truth is that this is not my story, but His! That truth is that those shards and fragments of what I used to be are being used by Him and HAVE A PURPOSE. That truth is that He is creating a mosaic out of my life so as to bring glory to Him and hopefully, draw others to Himself.

That truth is that He is NEVER changing. But, thanks be to HIM, He will always change our stories and make them His own if we let Him.

He will make a mosaic out of the shattered glass – and I just have to stop trying to put it back together to a semblance of what it once was. He knows better. He is meant to fill the hole in whole.

It may sting. I may not know how to take the next step without getting cut, even. But for this girl, I know that I have to STOP trying to glue everything back together and let the Author of all creation, My Savior, DO HIS WORK.

He is bigger than me. And He is most certainly creating something far more beautiful than the vase all these pieces of glass used to signify in my own little life. HE MAKES ALL THINGS NEW, FRIENDS!

And it’s all because of the blood of Jesus and His love for us that any of this can ever make any sense.

Thanks be to God.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

2 Corinthians 4:15-18
For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

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Encourage Radically

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People are just simply not gifted by God in all of the same ways; otherwise we’d be boring little robots. To some of us, it may come easy to be a “lifter-upper”, a cheerleader or an encouraging coach and motivator for others. While for others, offering encouragement can seem like rocket science or be an experience akin to pulling teeth without Novocain.

Like I said ~ we all have different gifts and talents ~ and every single one of them is important.

At the same time, we are all admonished (quite clearly) in scripture to find ways to be encouraging to others! Whether it seems to come “naturally” to us or not, this is something that the Lord asks of each and every one of us.

We all have the capacity to encourage ~ especially when we are seeking God in this worthy endeavor.

A step in the right direction can be small, but powerful ~ we can strive to at least try to not be the opposite of uplifting toward others.  It’s too easy to discourage, critique, or point out the negative side in things before we even think about our approach and the person who may be receiving it. And we certainly don’t have a lack of discouragement hitting us from every which way we turn on a pretty much daily basis.

I think that in order to combat the negative forces that bombard us all the time, and to be more like Jesus in how we treat one another, we must be seek Him and ask Him to help us to encourage others and be relentless about it! It’s a radical thought, I know.

R-A-D-I-C-A-L.

But it’s kind of a big deal. God’s word tells us so.

For those to whom it comes easy ~ being encouraging ~ sometimes we struggle with being active about it. We can get lazy, or seem at a loss about purposefully pursuing new ways to continue to lift others up. We can worry or do it for the wrong reasons; to please people only, rather than God. We can forget about striving to truly seek out what makes another person feel valued and cared for and loved, (while keeping it in line with scripture at the same time) rather than just sticking with what’s always worked for us or only offering up easy-to-use platitudes and blanket statements.

I’m guilty.

Radical encouragement isn’t marked by laziness or selfishness. It’s marked by seeking God’s heart and is NOT always within our comfort zone.

BUT! We are to encourage and love one another, friends – radical Jesus love – and this means to do so even when it’s hard.

And it will be hard sometimes.

This does not only apply to how we love and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, friends – but to everyone with whom we interact.

Everyone.

For those who “just aren’t empathetic” or don’t feel they are “built that way” – well, part of showing the Lord’s love and truth is to seek out ways to smile, share a kind word, offer our time, and treat others better than we even treat ourselves.

A huge part of what the Christian life really is, is going AGAINST much our “nature” to become more like Jesus. I can attest to this because I have been forced, as I seek His will, to go way out of my comfort zone more times than I can possibly count. Also, because I am in a constant spiritual battle in which I have to fall to my knees over and over again and ask Him to help me to slay all about self and fill me up with….More. Of. Him.

Yes, encouraging others is a serious thing. It is serious and important enough for the Lord to make mention of it in His word over and over again! It’s a major vehicle through which His love and truth can be channeled. We do best not to neglect this important truth and privilege of encouraging others in God’s truth and love.

I have found recently that I have – neglected this in some ways. I slipped back into the easy kind of encouragement that seems to come “naturally” to ME – rather than becoming the radical kind of encourager that truly brings glory to GOD and shines His love and His light radiantly without question.

That’s the kind that matters. I’m so glad that He gently reminded me.

We all have our own way that we can go about being encouraging in how we interact with people and friends and family and passers-by. People can encourage in multitudes of ways and with different styles – and that’s important.

God is creative and awesome like that! He made us different and did so in His mysterious and glorious ways.

None of us has ever perfected any of it anyway ~ a perfected process would again run the risk of being mundane, not radically Christ-like. No one is perfect except for Jesus Christ Himself.

Most of us have also failed at least once in our life with regard to this – this girl has failed time and time again, I can tell you! There’s just no doubt about that.

But with God’s  help – if we ask Him to make it the desire of our hearts to be an encouraging rather than a discouraging presence in the lives of those around us, He will give us HIS grace, HIS wisdom, HIS power, HIS truth and HIS love – He will give us a thirst for being encouraging and loving and motivating like we may have never had before.

He can quench that thirst better than we ever could for ourselves.

Let us seek to be encouraging rather than discouraging forces in others’ lives. Let us ask the Lord daily to show us how, provide the opportunities and not discount anything, big or small, or shove it aside when the chance to radically uplift someone is there!

It truly is a blessing to offer up a shoulder to cry on, flash a shared smile and a clap for someone,  participate in or incite a resounding “rah-rah” for a person’s joyful news, or make an investment of time in another that will never be forgotten.

It really is all-too-easy to be discouraging to another. The ugly and the dark drags people down day in and day out. It is much harder to be an encouraging witness of Jesus Christ and His love. But with God’s help and a true and fervent seeking-after-Him-and-abiding-in-Him-daily heart, He will spill right out of us and lift others up toward HIM.

It’s all for HIS glory, friends. And of late, He is pointing out to me, through my very own disappointments (large and small) and discouraging times, the very ways that I myself have forgotten or failed to love others well.

I am thankful ~ so very thankful ~ that each and every day He teaches me even more about what it means to be truly encouraging of other people and how this is an even greater witness of His love, His power, and His grace!

And yes – I’m even grateful for the fact that He often has to convict me and motivate me through my own let-downs or mistakes.

Hard lessons can be utterly precious treasures if we allow the Lord to use them for His glory. 🙂

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” Romans 15:12

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What If?

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What If?

…..We remembered that we are royalty because of Jesus AND we have many friends that are as well?

What If?
…..We wore our crowns every single day, not to be prideful in or about ourselves, but to celebrate – and to invite others who don’t know that they are even invited, man!
(Yes, we shall boast in Christ.)
What If?
…..We remembered – that when the enemy tries to confuse us and fool us, when that ugly one tries to drag us down and condemn us – simply to LOOK UP – and help others to do the same.
What If?
…..We remember that when we or others around us are so downtrodden, they may not be able to GET UP, but we can come alongside them, sit right down next to them, and help them to lift their eyes to Jesus.
What If?
…..Someone’s crown has fallen off – and we can see it. Are we going to pick it back up? Are we going to show up for that person, crown in hand – and help them to remember?
What If?
What If?
What If?
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
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Stormtrooper

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A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

I feel the anxiety rising up in the pit of my stomach. I try to run. I try to hide. Then I make my feeble attempts to move into a place of accepting it.

But the body fights – it fights for its rights.

All to no avail.

So I stop trying and just….exist. I just commit to exist in the midst of it. All expectations must be thrown out of the window – smashed. Except for one.

I won’t do this alone. I will NOT do it alone! And that’s not because of my own expectation, but because of a promise made by Christ Himself.

He will meet me here. He will draw near.

My heart is crying out along with every fiber of my body and being. Not only does my heart cry, but real tears stream down my face throughout these last 24 hours. How much longer? How much longer, God?

These are the times.  These are the times that make me realize that the DAILY pain I have ALL THE TIME with Fibro, is nothing compared to the stuff that jumps off the scale when there’s a weather situation or an illness on top of it all that exacerbates it. I can live with that stuff (the day to day aches and pains), and still offer something of myself to others; experience a good mood even though it is a wicked little thorn in my side that never leaves.

But THIS.

“Don’t you know, Jesus – don’t you know that THIS is where I draw the line? I have to deal with the daily crud of Fibro and I don’t like it, but I’ve been a good girl and I suck it up. I seek you in the midst of it all. But why do I have to deal with THIS on top of it all. It’s not fair.”

Jesus didn’t draw a line with regard to how much suffering HE was willing to endure, now did He?

Ha Ha. Silly little girl.

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

Practical paralyzation – just bad enough to make EVERY SECOND excruciating to get through, but not bad enough to be given a pass not to do life – work, tasks, chores. That little tidbit right there?  THAT is one of the WORST PARTS ABOUT FIBRO! Or – is it a blessing? Got me!

But then there’s this one too…..

Attacks from the ugly enemy.

“this is nothing compared to what Christ did for you. Why are you compaining? There are people out there suffering far worse than you. Why don’t you just pull yourself up from your bootstraps little girl and persevere for once? Geez. What a little baby.”

I long for rest. I want to run, but there’s no where to hide. It’s inside of me and I can’t get away from it, friends. I have no choice but to move through the pain. One ugly and long, drawn-out second at a time. Each hour seems like an entire day. Each day seems like a long, bad, drawn out week.

Where’s the end? Where’s the destination? Where’s the party, yo?

Vice grip, trapped in concrete. Unable to move to the left or the right. Even being still comes with its own level of crushing pain.

I want my mom! Oh yah – she’s in heaven with Jesus. I’m happy for her. I really am.

But what about ME!!!!

Are we at the peak yet? When will we move down the other side of this evil bell curve? I’m ready for the fall, because after its done, it spells a semblance of relief. Right?

We are going to get off the ride eventually, right?

Can Jesus just meet me here in the midst of it all? Do you think its possible that He would?

Will you, Lord? Will you bring me peace through the pain? Will you carry me through these excruciating moments, minutes, days in which this suffering wreaks havoc through my body? Will you massage my soul and my mind that is growing weary as I trudge through this? Will you pour Your grace out upon me – more of it, even though I am stamping my feet right about now?

A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

My heart is crying out along with every fiber of my body and being.

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

And a peace –

And a joy –

And a comfort provided by the only One who can offer it.

The Great Physician.

My Almighty Savior.

The One and Only Divine Healer of all our hurts, all our pain.

My Lord Jesus Christ – He shows up in the storm and through the rubble it leaves as we move through it. He clears the path.

And through this, I shall know Him better.

Through this ugly, His glory shall be made manifest.

This I know.

I look to YOU, Lord. I see you clearly even when my eyes are closed. I can see you when I am in the middle of the darkness, inside the tunnel when it seems there’s no way out. I can see you even on the roller coaster ride that is spinning my head and blurring my vision. I can see you, Lord!!!

And I know that YOU see me.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. …1 Peter 4: 12-19

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Paradoxical and Perfect Peace

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Should I even share and write about this right now? I really don’t know, friends. But something (someOne) is whispering inside (thank you, Holy Spirit) ~ and He tells me that I should.

Why? Because when we feel raw, if we can share with vulnerability, God does some magnificent work.

Magnificent God.

There are some very raw thoughts that run through my mind of late. These are the slings and arrows of the enemy. They are the attacks, relentless ones, that are coming at me constantly. They are also the work of the Lord inside my mind and heart – those things can hurt too, you know. No one ever promised the Christian walk would be a bed of roses.

“Follow Me”. ~ Jesus

Most of you have experienced the same kind of battles and tough refinement in certain seasons of your life. If you have read this blog for any period of time now, you know that mine (battles and growth in Christ) have been as pervasive as the illness that I carry around with me.

Some of those “thoughts”……

Why, every which way I turn, do I feel like I am alone when it comes to finding ways to improve my health? I know it isn’t true – but I still feel it. A lot.

Why? Why do I beat my own self up even more with self-condemnation and guilt when I feel a bit sad and sorry for myself sometimes that I have to contend with this beast of an illness? I know that I don’t operate through my daily living with an attitude of self-pity – I just have moments in which the grief overwhelms me. Shouldn’t that be okay? Yes. Yes it should. (or should it?)

Why? Why can’t I just focus on all of the beautiful blessings God has brought about in my own little life in spite of the ugly of this illness? Even the illness (suffering, I guess we could call it) has strengthened my faith. It has been a gift, in a way – as much as it is a royal pain to live with. This has truly been one of the most ironic and paradoxical things I have ever experienced, because it is not a one-time thing, rather a continual paradox that I live and walk and breathe in daily. And it hurts at the same time that it helps. I am weary.

Why? Why do I not find myself actually celebrating that more often? Why, more often than not, when I think on these things, I find myself knowing the good stuff to be true- but I don’t feel the good stuff? I know it’s not all about feelings. But I am ready for the cycle of grief to stopI am ready to move into full-on acceptance and out of the sadness stage. But God determines what I’m ready for, and when, friends. God determines that. Because He is God.

Be still and know that I am God.

So, even with all of these thoughts and all of this heart work going on, and as my cup seems to drain down to mere droplets physically, mentally and emotionally, Jesus fills it back up with more of Himself. I am alive – more than ever before – in the way it truly matters. My body may be crumbling, the vitality of good health may never return, but I am alive in Christ Jesus! This is the truth.

“I am the truth and the life.” ~ Jesus

But for now, I am still here on earth, so I get to deal with my sad and tattered daily baggage. It’s heavy baggage on the back, seeping into the heart and mind, and seemingly exacerbating my condition.  I’m ready to dump it, Lord. Problem is, something seems to fill it back up daily and I have the dump process to go over again the next day. Because I’m a sad little human.

But I am also a child of the One, True King!

“I Am.” ~ Jesus

I would like to be able to say I still hope for better health, but aside from my hope in the Lord that He can do anything if He wants to, I don’t hold out much hope for that. Sure. I will do all that I can to improve things – but I kind of feel like I’m in the place right now where I vacillate between just accepting stuff, which then turns into me feeling even worse physically – and simply fighting all the time – which causes conflicts, and pining away for things that I think will help me that may not. I find myself walking a fine and dangerous line between becoming content in my current circumstances, and simply giving up and throwing in the towel.

This is its own kind of battle, and probably the one that I am most weary of at this point.

I’m tired of this battle, friends.

I so badly want to be able to embrace my current circumstances in a way that would bring glory to God that I can taste it! Yet fear of giving up and not trying for better health attacks me. I start to believe that we are losing when I think this way. But often, God’s glory shines even more through what seems like loss and human failure.

To think that I need to do “better” in helping God to bring about His glory through my little circumstances has quite an arrogant ring to it, doesn’t it? God doesn’t need my help. He’s got all the right stuff.

“Trust in God – Trust also in me”. ~ Jesus

And, as weary of the battles that I find myself becoming, I’m also grateful for the victories that Christ brings about in the midst of this never-ending war.

It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.

And that’s a weird, yet glorious place in which to find yourself. It’s an ugly, yet beautiful thing. It’s a frustrating, yet peace-inducing experience. And all of  it goes on and on and on and on. It’s a place in which there is truly no control we can claim to have.

Yes. This is surrender, friends.

And do you know what else?  I think that there are so many things that make surrender so hard for us – we talk about them all the time. But one of them that I haven’t shared about much is one that resonates greatly for me today as I write this:

Perception and false expectations.

I can’t speak for you, but for me, I have always had some distorted version of what a person feels like after they surrender. See, that implies that although you appear to be losing the battle, at least you are D-O-N-E.

But you aren’t.  😦

What happens after you surrender can be more difficult that the battle was in some ways. It’s its own kind of weird and difficult. But thanks be to God that He knows what He is doing. He is in all of it!

Sovereign God.

Thanks be to God that He will never forsake us and He will get us through.

Thanks be to God that no matter how weary we may become with this perpetual battling and cycle after cycle of surrender, He will show up and He will take the baggage and give us a reprieve.

Thanks be to God that He will bring about His glory through our sufferings and failures as well as our victories. They all come from Him anyway.

They are His.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. ~ Jesus

Thank you for the reprieves, Lord. No one ever promised that I should get to have one, but I am sure glad that You deem them important in my life. Thank you for making all things beautiful and new. Thank you for being able to bring about YOUR glory, even in our weakness, our sin, or our ugly stuff.

And I will accept. I will accept what I don’t want to accept, because only YOU get to determine if it’s time for a new or different season for me regarding health.

You know me well enough to know that I will struggle with this surrender and acceptance thing again tomorrow – probably even later today. But I want you to know that I will always come back to surrender, even when I fight like a kicking and screaming brat at times.

And I will only be able to do so because of YOU.

Gracious God.

I know you will be there, Jesus. I know you are here. Will you help my friends know the same? If they don’t feel You near today, will You help them? Will you wrap Your loving arms around them?

  • So, yes. Today I feel raw and vulnerable. Maybe you do too.
  • Yes. Today I find tears of grief streaming down my face for the good health I used to experience, but never really appreciated fully.  Do you?
  • Yes. Today I find myself moving back and forth between sorrow, yet joy in the knowledge that God is doing great things through this thorn in my side – not just in me, but in others around me. Do you also, friend?

It’s about His will being done in our lives. We have to trust Him and surrender it ALL to Him. And we can cry out to Him when it’s hard for us. Because He understands.

Faithful God.

  • I want to hang on so badly to my own desires to have my health back. Do you?
  • I want to hang on to some idea of “happiness” that isn’t really what it’s supposed to always be about for us. Don’t you?
  • I want to hang on to false hope, if I’m really honest. Because I’m human. Because I’m sinful. And because it FEELS SO GOOD. How about you?
  • But I know – I know that my true hope lies in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Do you? 

I pray that all of my friends do – that you DO know this.

“I am the true vine.” ~ Jesus

Our true hope lies in eternity spent with Jesus Christ; where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more suffering. That doesn’t make it a lot easier in some ways to deal with our earthly sorrows, but it does make it better in the sense that this is the WORST IT WILL BE!!! (this earthly stuff we contend with).

It only goes “up” from here once we leave this earth – if we truly follow after Jesus and have accepted His gift of salvation.

To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Psalm 123:1

May you press deeply into the hope you find in Jesus, dear friend.  If you are struggling in any way today with surrender or sorrow, cry out to Him and look up and see Him in all His glory.

And may He give you PEACE.

 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying,“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”  Revelation 21: 1-5

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Sin: How I Know It is Our “Natural” Tendency

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Sin is a part of this earthly life – it is inevitable. But we don’t have to leave it at that.  God asks us NOT to accept that inevitability – quite the contrary.

Some people may find it hard to believe that we are born into sin. And some Christians may find it hard to believe that it’s still a part of our lives even after we have fully given ourselves over to Jesus. And then there are those who feel that Christians think they are now perfect and that because they have been saved from sin through Jesus, it means that they don’t struggle with it any more.

But I don’t. I don’t find it hard to believe at all.

Not any more.

Deeep down inside – we have all the makings of someone who WILL sin. It’s inevitable. And a lot of it has to do with the power of the flesh. The question is – do we accept that inevitability and simply embrace it? It’s a perfect excuse, after all.

  • This is just who I am….
  • Well, at least I’m being honest.
  • I’m going to be true to myself and focus on the good parts about me.

No, No, and N-O!

A lot has to do with the flesh and the things it will seek for its satisfaction. The desires of the flesh are strong. Sometimes, even stronger than we may realize.

Add in the layers of the workings of the mind, the heart, and all the twisty-turny-jumbled-up-type stuff that starts to complicate our inner workings as we walk through this world, and you have a perfect set up for sin.

I may have to accept that it is in my nature to sin, but I won’t accept it remaining there. It will be eradicated one way or another. But it’s best to ask the Lord to help us to deal with the ugly little monster. This is what is called sanctification. And it’s imperative to lay hold of this very important part of what God wants to do in us (daily) as true followers after Jesus Christ.

Pssst: Sanctification hurts. But so does sin. One ends in walking hand-in-hand with the Lord. The other is an empty and dark path laced with loneliness. Except for the devil. And he likes to pose as a fair-weather frenemy.

But people don’t like the word sin. We conjure up images of hell fire and brimstone, of people being judged and burned at the stake, of bullies who sit in judgement of others and their hearts and making decisions as to whether or not they are really saved.

And sometimes, those who shout “SINNER” are doing just that.

But I have learned what sin really is and what it really means. Sin is simply anything that falls short of the perfection of God. That’s most stuff, friends.

That’s most stuff.

None of us is perfect. None of us is God.

But here is what makes me really and truly know that sin is a part of human nature. It’s the fact that even if you have worked with the Lord to move away from a sin that had a grip on you at one time in your life, sometimes, you can pine away for the feeling that sin brought about for you.

Your mind can be tempted to glorify the good parts of that sin and even long for it lustfully.

We over-compartmentalize it and we discard the parts of it that made it sin in the first place and remember the “benefits” that it brought to us at one time.

And that is the work of the enemy, right there.

Here are some ways it happens to me at times, and I will share it the way the words and thoughts actually run through my crazy little head! Keep in mind, that these are things that ended up being sin in my own life – and maybe they aren’t causing sin in your own if you do some of them, K? Okay.

“Boy, oh boy – I sure am glad the Lord delivered me and saved me from alcohol. But, WOW, did that stuff ever WORK! It took the pain away – I wasn’t really getting drunk, per se…..just taking the edge off. I can see why people (including myself at one time) get stuck on that stuff. Too bad it can be so evil and take hold of a person like it does. If I am really truthful, I would say I wish I could  drink sometimes.

Man….I really wish I could just tell that person to take a flying leap of a high cliff. Maybe it would actually HELP them for someone like me to stand up to them and give them a taste (a hefty gulp) of their own medicine.

I hate that person inside right now – my heart is turning black right this very moment and I can feel it. They are being mean to me and I don’t care about all the other good stuff about them or their circumstances or about seeking to truly love them in the midst of all this. I just want them to be nice to me and if they won’t, I want to be angry and bitter. Period.

See? There is sin, and there is temptation to love and glorify parts of that sin. We don’t have to act upon those things, but if they are creeping across our thoughts and trying to edge into our hearts, we have to turn that stuff over to the Lord. If not, the temptations will take root and become sin manifest in our lives.

It’s inevitable.

But the most wonderful news of all is that we are saved from it all if we trust in Jesus as our Savior. He washes away our sin so we can live with Him for all eternity. He sacrificed everything for that.

We don’t have to sit and wallow in that shame any more. We don’t have to choose sin.

Does that mean the tendency to sin will be removed? No way, no how. But we don’t have to white knuckle it and fight it all alone.

We are doing battle while we walk this earth, friends. Sin has a grip, but we don’t have to walk in it and revel in it. But yes – we do still have to fight against it.’Cause the flesh still lives and breathes right now.

So, if you struggle with this in ways like I do, and Jesus is your Savior and Lord, know this:

  • He has washed away your sin in the eyes of the Father.
  • He has equipped you with the Holy Spirit to help you discern how to handle things until you go to live with Him for eternity and sin doesn’t threaten your flesh any longer.
  • Sin will still be a part of who you are, but with God’s help, you don’t have to walk in it.

And if we do sin? We can go to Him – the One who saves us from it all. We can go to the One who can wash us clean each and every day from the muck and mire. We can go to Him and thank Him for saving us from it all and ask Him to remove it from our path.

We can. He will.

God is in the business of taking what is “natural” on this earth and putting His divine stamp upon it. That trumps everything we call…..natural.

  • He saves us from eternity and He saves us from ourselves.
  • He is always here for us to help us fight against those natural (but very wrong) tendencies.

If we call upon Him he will come.

It is inevitable.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:19

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All the Way Yes

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If you knew that by being the way that you are ~ a deep thinker, someone who is highly empathetic, someone who cares to the point that sometimes they cross the line into worry or anxiety, would you have changed those things about yourself if you could have?

If by changing all of that you could have prevented this ugly illness (or depression, or whatever “consequence” you wish to list) from manifesting and taking tentacle-like root in your body would you have done it?

  • If given the chance to go back in time would you have made that trade?
  • Would you have become someone different if you’d been given the ability to do so to avoid the ugly that might ensue as a result of being the way that you are?
  • Would you  compromise who God made you to be inside to dodge the darts and arrows that would result from being that person?
  • Would you trade the growth, the refining, the deeper knowledge of God and who He is that came from being who He made you to be and turning yourself over to Him for daily molding to live a life of greater comfort, ease, and vitality?

This is the burning question that keeps showing up in the ticky tape of my thoughts ~ over and over again, of late. I can almost hear the sound of it (am I hearing voices now?) in the background pretty much with me ~ all the time.

“Should I have changed the way that I am early on…as a young child… so I wouldn’t be dealing this this Fibromyalgia right now? Is this somehow my own fault?”

And I think that’s because I NEED to be constantly reminded of this question and the answer which is…………………

Yes and No.

There are times that if you were to ask me this question ~ last night was most definitely one of those times ~ I would be VERY tempted to say flat-out yes. But it is really yes and no. Yes, I should have lost the parts of myself a long time ago that did not serve God, but self. But NO WAY would I change the good stuff that God made in me in order to avoid the consequences those things bring about.

Honestly, it’s just that sometimes I am soooo sick that I find myself wishing I could be someone who could say a full-on yes to that. But I know in my heart that I don’t truly mean it. I know in my heart that the thought of that is quite laughable.

It’s just so much harder to have it be yes and no. It would be so much easier to just have it be all the way yes, or all the way no!

I know in my heart that I am filled with things that God made in me, and yes…..some of those things may have contributed to my Fibromyalgia (amongst whatever all else is going on with my body) to rear its ugly head in a major way in my life eventually.

  • Being there for people in death and heartache – consistently – no matter how much it might hurt.That didn’t help my fight or flight issues.
  • Showing up each and every day for a child who struggles with special needs and all the emotion that goes along with that. That’s gonna take a toll on a highly empathetic individual.
  • Engaging the deep thinking and the soul searching and placing of self and ugly in the heart on the chopping block daily that comes as a result of searching to know God in a deeper and more meaningful way. Yah…that’s some intense stuff, folks.
  • And just the way my brain and heart flat-out work ~ let’s not forget about those little contributors to all of this.

The world will tell us a version of the truth that can be distorted, you know. It’s not very often the WHOLE truth. But some of what we are told is true as long as we don’t lose sight of God in the midst of it all.

That little list I made above? That stuff came out of the bad stuff. That is the beautiful stuff that God made out of the selfish stuff that has been there from the beginning. He truly does work all things together for our good if we allow Him to be our God.

Yes. That list is what God did as He chopped up the parts of me that weren’t supposed to be ruling and reigning in my life in order to make me more like Him.

Self-reliance is maybe the biggest thing about myself I WOULD change if I could that contributed greatly to this monster that has shown up in my life.

But God DID change that for me through all of this! God is STILL changing my tendency toward self-reliance. And it IS making me more like Him every single day. Maybe that war that I have been waging all my life – the one we are all taking part in – the war between self and surrender to the Almighty One – maybe it’s that war that has taken the greatest toll but that holds the greatest reward for us all at the same time.

I do believe in making changes that line up with what God has for us, friends.

I do believe we should try to take care of ourselves – because our body is His temple. We can try to eat more healthy food, avoid the stressors and things that bring about no good especially when we contend with an illness like I might have, and change the things about ourselves that do more harm than good in our lives.

I do believe there are times we continue to show up for others, but times where dusting off our feet and moving on is called for as well. And I believe the Holy Spirit can and will guide us when we encounter such times as those.

I do believe in utilizing the tools and resources that we have been provided with to help ourselves get through the hard stuff – the safe ones – The heating pad, the essential oils, some Tylenol, etc.

But ultimately, this illness has caused me to press in deeper to God’s bosom – to take shelter firmly beneath His wing. I find myself crying out for His comfort, His mercy, His companionship, His authority, and His truth and love in a more raw way now, if you will.

  • Nothing replaces that feeling of knowing that only HE can truly help us through something.
  • Nothing comes close to be able to describe what it’s like to meet Him in the midst of our suffering.
  • Nothing comes near to what we experience and how much richer we are when He shows up for us in a new way and reveals something magnificent about Himself that we never could see before.

Asking Him to tell us what to change about ourselves – and what to keep – well, that is something that we can do, you know. We are meant to be who God made us to be and the stuff that has crept in and tried to pretend it’s been there from the beginning is the stuff we have to allow Him to cut out and discard.

That’s what makes us more like Him – being pliable. Submitting. Being the clay.

Being more like Him doesn’t mean comfort, but it sure does mean blessings! Think about how Jesus was when He took His last breath on this earth. It wasn’t pretty and void of suffering by any stretch of the imagination.

But He didn’t leave this earth that way. He rose again after three days. He ascended to be with His Father in heaven. He lives! And He lives inside of us and is with us now.

Suffering does make us see Him in a new light, friends. And one day – one glorious day, all that suffering goes right out the window. Forevermore.

As we close our eyes to the pain and the ugly that our ailments, afflictions and sufferings reveal to us ~ we open them to our One True God.

The Almighty and Great Physician.

The Great I Am.

The Shepherd of our Souls.

He is the Potter Who is shaping our clay into a beautiful vessel!!!

So if you feel like a big lump of clay that has no form or purpose right about now – if you feel like you have lost direction, shape or meaning – if you feel like you have been ground up and left in the dust – turn it over to the One who promises to make it beautiful and right again.

Turn the lumps over. Let Him decide what to keep as part of his masterpiece and what to discard. Grieve if you need to for the discarded pieces – but turn to Him and allow Him to help you see the beauty of the creation He is making out of you.

And then…..you can give Him the answer to the real question ~ the one that really matters:

“if I could have allowed GOD to change me and mold me all along to be able to embrace any suffering that comes my way but be more like Him through it all, would I have done it?”

If your answer is “Yes, but it’s never too late”– well, then you are in a very good place, my friend.

It might hurt a little. But the rewards and the blessings that come as a result of it far outweigh any of that ugly stuff.

He has us in His mighty hands. Let us submit and allow God to be God. Let us say Yes day in and day out. Not yes and no, but simply….YES!

He most certainly has said “yes” all the way to us.

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The Itch I Cannot Scratch

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Those dudes in the scriptures? They were T-O-U-G-H peeps, my friends. The stuff they went through – endured – it’s truly beyond me.

Johah, Moses, Abraham, Job, David, the disciples and sooo many more! These dudes went through the ringer, man. I can’t even fathom it.

I get it: Some of them, at first, went through stuff without relying upon the Lord for help. But when they did turn to Him ~ when they did rely upon HIM, His power, His strength, they triumphed. Yes, even while suffering God can show us that because of Him, we have overcome.

That’s how our Savior does things. He pulls us up out of the broken pits of despair and suffering and works His wonders in and through those trials for the world to see. Glory be to God!

He doesn’t necessarily remove suffering, although we, small children that we are, like to think that a nice parent would do so.

Sometimes you have to allow your children to go through some stuff so they truly become stronger and learn and build character. All that good stuff, you know?

I laugh at myself of late, because I feel like I relate to Job. I laugh out loud because when it even goes through my little mind that I can relate to this dude and what he went through, it becomes crystal clear how small and weak I really am….ha ha. Why? Because what I am enduring right now is only a microscopic fraction of what Job actually went through in his time.

And if compared to the suffering that Christ endured? My trials cannot even be seen under a microscope!

Yes, I laugh.

And I cry.

I laugh and I cry because right now, along with the “normal” pain I carry with me all the time from the Fibro Monster, I am infected. Out of the blue (that’s what Fibro and CFS does – surprise!) my immune system started to shut down. Literally over night, my skin became inflamed and infected. It is now in my eyes (pinkeye), my face is covered in scabs (candida yeast) and I have fever blisters on my lips.

I cannot hug my kids or my husband. I can’t even kiss my puppy. I am itching all over and want to scratch my face off, but I can’t touch it. There is no escape. And it sucks rocks.

But…it’s really going to be okay. I’ve been here before. And I, unlike Job, have a doctor I can finally cave in and go to see today.

But when I think of Job, I often think only of how well he held up under adversity far greater than mine. I tend to walk in condemnation during such times because of that. I compare myself and my small faith as compared to men like these, and I come up quite short.

And then I realize later what I have done because God whispers to my heart – go and check a little deeper into the story, my daughter. Job was not so perfect in how he handled things either. He was human, like you. You can learn from him, yes. But also learn that he wasn’t pretending this was all fun and games and that’s not what I am trying to grow in you right now either.

I realize that Job, like me, at first accepted his plight with great dignity and minimal complaining…

The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21).

So very often, when I am under duress, I stop right there in Job’s story. And then I walk away thinking I am an ungrateful child. But when I check a little further and go a little deeper, I see that eventually, Job had his human moments too. He, much like David in the Psalms, cries out. He doesn’t pretend he is loving this situation at all. He even goes so far as to curse his life.

Yes, long before spilling their hearts out to the Lord, these men, like little old me, also went through phases of resentment, bitterness, self-pity, and even anger for all the calamities they were facing.

None of us is perfect when we have an itch we cannot scratch…

Why is light given to him who suffers? Why is life given to those who feel sad in their soul?  They wait for death, but there is none. They dig for it more than for hidden riches. They are filled with much joy and are glad, when they find the grave. Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and around whom God has built a wall?  For I cry inside myself in front of my food. My cries pour out like water.  What I was afraid of has come upon me. What filled me with fear has happened.  I am not at rest, and I am not quiet. I have no rest, but only trouble.” Job 3:20-26

There’s no pretending on Job’s part that this is a walk in the park, friends. The key is that he sees his infection, but doesn’t place blame on the Lord for it. He cries out to Him instead. He is honest in his anguish. And when we honestly share our burdens with the Lord, it is then that He can truly take them for us.

In His timing, of course.

So yes, this is why I laugh at myself, friends. This is also why I cry sometimes. Because I am like Job even though my infection doesn’t come close to comparing to all that he endured. And unlike Job, I allow the enemy to make me berate myself before I realize what is even happening.

But the good news is that like Job, I do not blame God for my suffering. Thanks be to God that He speaks to us and ministers to our hearts through His Word. Thanks be to the Lord that He can “work all things together for our good.”!

We go through these little processes when we are “suffering” don’t we? It is part of what the Lord uses to mold us and shape us and build our character. It is part of surrender. It is part of dying to self. We struggle to scratch and scratch and scratch. We struggle to satisfy and obtain our own peace and relief. We struggle to the point we can even sometimes forget for a moment and lash out and fight against the One who knows us and loves us the most.

Until we finally give up.

Through all the struggle Job endured, the struggle to understand what was going on was the very itch he couldn’t seem to scratch. Searching for the answers and looking TO GOD is what finally brought him relief of sorts. Trying to understand more about God versus his present situation was part of what strengthened his already-strong faith and character.

Job may have become angry with his situation for a while, but he never really cursed God. He did, indeed curse his situation and cry out a lot about it though. He stopped short of accusing God for the suffering that was inflicted upon him, even though he was angry and upset about his plight.

I think this is the kind of thing that God wants from us. He wants us to cry out honestly about our plight – to HIM. He doesn’t want us to pretend it’s all okay and show how tough we are.

Even through the suffering, Job did not blame the Lord…he even admits he came to know him and build his relationship with him in a new way…

My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Job 42:5

I am infected. I am not tough about it. But far greater than the infection I carry around upon my face right now, I am filled with the love of Jesus. And He saves me!

  • He scratches my itchy heart when it needs it.
  • He brings relief to my soul when I cannot get any from my physical and emotional ailments.
  • He has my heart in the palm of His mighty hand.
  • He brings me a greater peace than any itch-scratcher-reliever-thing ever could.

And it is all for HIS glory anyway. 

And oh, yah….

It’s not even about me.

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this” (Isaiah 48:10).

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Are You Homesick?

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Do you ever feel like you are homesick, but you can’t quite place your finger on just why that is? Do you, like me, forget sometimes that the pining away for that sense of home is kind of always right there with you even if you are with your earthly family, surrounded by loved ones, and nested in your little nook of the world that you reside in daily?

Are you lonely for home, dear friend?

Do you forget to remember why you are a little homesick, friend? Do you forget to remember, albeit momentarily, that this is not your true home and the reason you are having that feeling is because in your heart and your soul, you know this all too well?

  • You may be thankful for your earthly family and never want to leave them, yet feel conflicted because heaven just sounds so much better right about now. You kind of feel like you want to cut and run. Fast.
  • You may realize what your mission on this earth really is and embrace it with a disposition of gratefulness and even see it as a privilege, yet….you know in your heart it’s just not the good part of the deal. Jesus gets it.
  • You may know that you are still, in a way, just a child inside ~ a child of God who simply feels like they just want to go home and be reunited with their Father. You feel lost. But He is with you.
  • You might be the kid who feels like he has been invited to the party (party? really?) who really just doesn’t feel like attending and wants to stomp their feet, cry and yell, and scream “take me home NOW”. (It often seems like kind of a stinky party anyway). Parties are overrated.

Most certainly in these times, our eternal home sounds a whole lot better ~ and with good reason.

With good reason.

You see, although life is a gift, this earthly place in which we temporarily reside was never meant to be party-ville for any of us anyway. Yes, it’s filled with blessings and beauty, but also with heartache, grief beyond belief, and a consistent and relentless slinging of darts and arrows. It’s a mixed up stew of good and bad, of beauty and ugly, of elation and confusion and it’s hard to know at times what the baseline was that started the cooking process in the first place.

The stew can be comforting but confusing at the same time.

Yes, life is a gift, but not in the way we like it to be sometimes. We like bows and ribbons. We like pretty wrapping paper. We like fun and laughter and happiness. We don’t like it when a spoiled brat comes to OUR party and ruins it for us. Oh yah…but I’m that spoiled brat at the party sometimes. (You’d think then that I’d be a little bit more understanding.)

Jesus was when He walked the earth.

Jesus still IS.

It’s not our time to open all of our little presents, friends. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. The real and lasting gift comes from accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and allowing Him to live in and through us. That’s the only gift we really need anyway. The great news is that we don’t have to wait to open that one and it stays with us forever and ever!

We just don’t get all the other great stuff that will be part of our daily living once we enter our eternal home right now. That is reserved for when we step into eternity. And there are mansions and feasts awaiting us there. Whoo Hoo!!!

But there are other gifts to be thankful for in the meantime:

  • There’s the gift that comes in the sharing of the gospel and good news of Jesus Christ being spread throughout the world so that when the real party gets started ~ so that when the best present of all is opened ~ so that when we all sit down to celebrate and feast with Christ ~ we will have many permanent family members and fellow good party attendees alongside us as well! Now that’s a party!
  • There’s the gift of our family, our friends, our loved ones and the fact that the Lord lent them to us so that we aren’t quite as lonely while we wait to go home. We get to see them go through joyful times and comfort them through grief as well. We get to live out Jesus with them during all of these times. We get to do this life with them. We are in good company.
  • There’s even the gift of knowing Jesus better through our suffering, our trials, and our grief.  When He heals us ~ when He comforts us ~ when He lifts us up ~ these gifts just keep on giving. Because of the first gift that we got to open right away, we are filled up with Him. He never forsakes us.

I don’t know about you, dear fellow Christian friends, but for this girl, it’s easier to come to terms a bit more with my longing for my true home if I just fully embrace it in those moments that I am so very heartsick and quite simply, reach for Jesus.

If I fully wrap my heart, mind, feelings, thoughts, my very SOUL around the fact that this is an ongoing grief process, (we are dying to self daily) but there is still cause for celebration ~ well, then the grief starts to dissipate into a million little pieces.

Because of Him.

In these moments ~ these moments in which we long for our forever home with Jesus, these moments in which we find ourselves feeling so alien and out-of-place, so very sick down to the molecular level of being in a foreign land, so desiring with every fiber of our being to finally arrive at our eternal home and stay ~ forever ~ in these very moments, we can taste our true home inside our very hearts….because He is there.

Yes. It is in these precious seconds that we find ourselves actually being filled with the sense of home we need. It is when we are on our knees and telling our Savior that we want more of Him, that we want to be in His presence more, that we miss those who have gone home already without us ~ well, in those moment we have truly come as close to home as possible ~ until such day that we take our last breath and depart this earth.

It is in these very moments that we find and know our Jesus in new and special ways. It is then that we are not quite as lonely for home anymore. He lives in us.

Are you lonely for home today? Do you long for Jesus to come back and take us home with Him and allow us to leave this temporary life behind? Do you find yourself loving parts of this life here, but knowing it is all temporary and struggling to wrap your mind around how to live here when eternity will be so very much better? Cry out to Jesus, won’t you dear friend? Ask Him to fill you with His peace and joy, His comfort and wisdom. Remember His will is being done in and through you, even when many things that surround you feel like a party that’s just gone bad.

For now, our loving Savior has taken up residence in our hearts to help us as our physical bodies walk through a foster home of sorts. And He has prepared a place for us that we get to look forward to. Yet He has not left us alone in the meantime.

How great is our God!!!!

In the meantime, let’s allow Him to live in and through us every second of every day. Let’s be okay with longing for our true home but making the most of the time we have here so that our feast in heaven will be filled with many other beautiful children just like us. It’s what Jesus wants, you know.

He wants all of His children to join Him in eternity!

Let us cry out to our Savior in our loneliness.

Let us ask Him to heal our hearts when we are homesick and look to Him.

And let’s be filled with the wonder of home that Jesus brings to us right where we are at in spite of our earthly limitations.

He can do that, you know.

He will do that.

He has promised.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14:23

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The American Dream was one of my False Idols

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It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. Psalm 118:8

The American Dream ~ the chance to live life to the fullest, in freedom, peace, and strive for happiness and prosperity. The ability to work hard, take responsibility, and make something out of yourself, your life; in the face of obstacles and barriers.

All because of supposed “freedom” and “opportunity.”

And it’s a lie. I guess it has sort of always been a lie.

Here is a more formal “definition” of it. (I say definition loosely, because it could be re-defined at any given moment, just so ya know)….

The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.

There’s no question about it; we have more outward freedoms here in this country than we might have elsewhere. I’m not bashing that, although there might be room to think about that a little more in another post some day.

  • We can wear the clothing that we wish (most of the time).
  • We can decide where we wish to go grocery shopping.
  • We get to vote and actually think we sorta have a say in who will be elected to office.
  • We can attend church without hiding.

But is that really freedom?

I’ve come to see over the last several years that the American Dream was really, for me, just something of a nightmare that was in diguise all along.

And oh, what a beautiful nightmare it was for a while.

Several years ago, I stopped placing my trust in this country because I saw that Jesus is the only One in whom I should fully trust. I saw that the things we say we stand for aren’t really more than talk a lot of the time. They are, in fact, not indicative of what we stand for at all.

And I saw that we live in a bubble and the bubble, also is a lie a lot of the time.

I saw that I had still been placing some of my trust and hope in MAN.

No country, no set of ideals, no illusion of freedom is what makes us truly free.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners Isaiah 61:1

And friends ~ I didn’t fully understand just how brainwashed I really was. I didn’t truly get it – that loving and supporting my country and buying into this nightmare of a dream was a false idol of sorts all along.

It really had me duped. I was bought in all the way.

By the way ~ in the face of this realization, it does NOT mean that I don’t support our military. It does NOT mean that I am not grateful for the blessings I reap by living here. It just means what it means ~ that those things are nice, but they aren’t what I am supposed to be living for.

They are not what make me free. The truth is. And Christ alone is that truth.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:21-23

The enemy is the father of all lies; the master of deceit. He makes that which is ugly look sparkly and pretty. He distorts something from its true or original meaning and parades it all around and gives it new meaning – his, not God’s.

Just look at how the rainbow is being used right about now, friends. I’m sorry, but I have to point it out.

The rainbow is a symbol of God’s covenant with the earth. We’ve decided to use it to represent something to fit our own agenda. We’ve decided to use it to further what we like to call freedom and humanity and love. We’ve used our re-definition of what the rainbow symbolizes to fit our new definitions of all else we decided works better for ourselves.

And the cycle continues to pick up speed.

We can distort anything if we put our minds to it. And we can tie it up into a pretty little bow while we’re at it.

So although this is harsh, I’m not bashing everything about this entire country ~ I’m simply pointing out the truth about the state of man’s heart, particularly my own. It can be a dark place if we put on the sunglasses and drink the kool aid for momentary and fleeting satisfaction and false comfort.

It’s hard when we realize we have moved from appreciating something we have to believing in or buying into what it pretends to stand for – allowing it to be a fake substitute for the real thing.

We love our illusions.

I’m not happy about things that have been happening in our country for quite some time now. I’m not pretending they are new, either, although things seem to be happening at a higher rate of speed now and we are waving it around in an in-your-face kind of way. And that makes me sad.

But I am still thankful.

  • I am still grateful that God can use these things to open my eyes even more.
  • I am thankful that God can and does use all things for His perfect will and our good.
  • God can help me see just how blinded I was and even continue to be sometimes.
  • God can help me focus more through these harsh eye-opening realities.
  • God can help me dig deeper into my own little heart and realize where my idols are still taking up residence.
  • God can help me remember that people still need Jesus and regardless of how the enemy tries to take our eye off the ball, we CAN be light in a dark and needy world.

Oh, it’s painful to take the blinders off. If you’ve been in the dark about anything for a while, the light can hurt more than a little bit as your eyes adjust.

But light is a good thing. As long as it’s not the fake stuff.

Thank you, dear Jesus for helping me see what is really just a dream, what is truly real, and what nightmares parade around pretending to be beautiful dreams or fake realities.

Thank you for exposing the dark crevices inside of my own heart (again) and the falsities that I have been filling it with in place of YOU.(again)

Help me to remember, dear Jesus: Help me to remember we are still walking around in a bubble and there are real people in this world – here and elsewhere – living out their own antagonizing and terrorizing nightmares on a daily basis. Their nightmares are very real, quite tangible, and aren’t always wrapped up in bows to lull them to sleep. They are fighting just to survive.

All kinds of nightmares. All kinds of darkness. Your light, dear Jesus ~ You can save us from it all if we place our faith and trust in YOU.

Only YOU can save us.

  • Wake us up.
  • Take the fake pretend comforts away.
  • Startle us!
  • Help us to see what is real, even if it’s ugly.
  • Help us and fill us with YOUR strength, YOUR love.
  • Help us to DO something about it.
  • May Your light shine all the brighter through us in dark days.
  • And most of all ~ Help our eyes to focus on YOU.

YOU, dear Jesus. You are not a dream. You are our reality and you don’t re-define things to suit the flavor of the day.You love us just the same today as you did yesterday.

You, and only You reign SUPREME!!!!

And You hold us in your mighty hands and comfort us as we awaken from the nightmares.The nightmares do not hold us prisoner.

You give us true freedom. You give us Your peace. We belong to You.

Thank you for using all things to keep us awake and focused upon You.

May the idols come down and may we stand firm and tall in the love and truth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

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The Alien and the Candy Store

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Are ya ready for the understatement of the millennium? I don’t do conflict well.

Unfortunately, in that arena, the fact that I am a highly empathic person does not help me out much. You might think that it would, but yah – not so much. And it really doesn’t help that I have a health issue in which stress takes a HUGE toll. At least, not when conflicts get just plain ugly.

“Productive conflict” as I like to call it, well….. I’m pretty good with that stuff. It’s great when people are sitting down and calmly discussing their feelings, angst, hurts, desire to understand one another. It’s not-so-great when the teeth are showing and “understanding” one another is not in the center of the equation on everyone’s part.

Desire to strive for understanding one another and harmony ~ yah, that’s my thing.

Sometimes it’s my own sharp little teeth that are grinding and showing and making the conflict become “unproductive”. I can be like an alien trapped inside of a candy store, make no mistake about it!

Other times, I am the one seeing what’s really going on around us and feel quite helpless and alone ~ and that’s when the conflict starts to really take a toll on me. I then risk turning into that alien with fangs because fight or flight starts to take over. The monster in Annie comes out to play, and that’s a bad thing, my friends.

Does that happen with you?

I wrote a little while back about not being easily offended and what the Lord has to say about that. As Christians, we must know who we are IN CHRIST and try not to allow those little darts and arrows (that are constantly coming our way) to penetrate our hearts.

But we still get hurt sometimes. (And I am the Queen of that junk. Hence, why I wrote about it – it’s something I have to work on with the Lord because I STINK at it!)

So people like me? We forget to remember and get hurt and in turn, we hurt others right back.

We all do.

Most of the time it’s because of our sin nature – I say that matter of fact because well, it IS. It’s a matter of fact.

And sometimes it’s because we don’t have our full armor on. The Lord cautions us about that. He even lays out for us, piece by piece, what we need to wear today – EVERY day.

But we get cocky – sometimes we just feel like running light and free. When I do that, I almost ALWAYS get into trouble.

The armor is not meant to be an option. Sad, but true.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12

The schemes of the devil ~ let’s just say that it ain’t no joke, friends. I think sometimes that as Christians, we know that he is there, operating and up to no good, but we often overlook just how pervasive his trickery, planning and divisive little tactics really are.

I sense these forces all around us. Do you? Sometimes people think that I read into things too much or whatever you want to call it. Sometimes they may be right. But most of the time, I know what I know to be true. And when you sense something like this around you or others you love, it is unmistakable that ~ IT. IS. REAL.

By the way: The Lord says it’s real too – it’s all throughout the Word.

Check for yourself.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

So those of us who sense these things and do so more regularly or easily than others; well, we aren’t “crazy.” We are actually obeying the Lord to be ever-so-watchful of such things.

But we also have to be careful.

We have to be careful to put that full armor on and remember Who is MORE powerful, Who is MORE present, Who is KING.

Why? Because so often, fear can overtake us. And then we go into full combat gear mode. We try to add to the Lord’s armor something of our own. Some secret weapon that we think might enhance it and make it work even better.

NOT the case, friends. Not the case!

For me in particular, this happens when I allow what I sense or see around me that is “not good” to be magnified and begin to overwhelm me. Sometimes, I feel this need to have the whole “strength in numbers” thing going on. Not as a ganging up on others type of thing, but this NEED to understand what’s really happening – together.

Finding someone else to be there with me in the moment, to name it, talk about it for what it really is (what we are sensing and seeing creeping in) seems like a smart and intelligent  way to fight against it.

You know? To know we have a common enemy and fight IT together, instead of fighting one another?

We’re on to you, evil.

Yah….like that!

But that almost never happens in the moment. And that’s another one of the horrible one’s little schemes. (I can’t stand that devil, by the way)

The truth is, that only God can help us to combat that fear. Only God can help us in times of unproductive conflict. Only God can comfort us that He believes us when we sense the REAL evil around us and feel threatened and even cave into allowing it to permeate our own hearts and try to take over.

Only God.

So we have to KNOW Him. We have to spend time with the Lord in daily prayer, in His Word. We have to seek Him constantly – especially in times of turmoil.

Because it’s too easy to get swept up in emotions, hurts, offenses, and let the REALLY dangerous stuff take over – bitterness, anger, fear, self-pity, hatred, division, apathy – the list goes on.

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14

The armor will do us no good if our hearts are filled with ugly. It will only trap that darkness inside and make us feel stronger and thicker skinned.

Our hearts need to be soft and open to the One True God.

There is a time and a place for vulnerability in love with one another. And yes ~there is a time and a place to proceed with caution. But ALL the time, we must rely upon the LORD for our strength ~ for His wisdom to know what to do ~ and for His peace.

Evil will try to harm us and make us think it is going to get us. Most of the time, it will start right inside of our own hearts and work from the inside out. And yes, sometimes, we are under assault from the outside and it’s banging up our armor pretty darned good.

But if we are truly followers of Christ, we will wise up to what’s going on because the Holy Spirit will make it clear.

And then we’ll remember…………

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. Psalm 121:7

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

We are not alone. It’s just a matter of who we choose to keep company with ~ Jesus, or the aliens.

Let’s seek HIM ~ shall we?

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Evil Pretends to be King

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Each day, we check the news and something more shocking seems to have happened.

  • Something that grieves our hearts…
  • Something that rocks a family, a community, a country to the core…
  • Something that makes us stand in awe, jaws dropped to the floor, wondering…”how can this possibly be happening?”
  • Something….. more.

Something more evil than we can even wrap our minds around.

  • It breaks our hearts and tries to steal our peace, our love.
  • It incites fear, fighting, and tries to take our eye off the ball.

Evil, and the one behind it all prides itself on being a great magician ~ a master of deception.

And it has always been here.

Evil tries to masquerade as many things ~ anything but the pure dark and sick and twisted thing that it is. It doesn’t want you to see who the driving force behind it really is.

  • It tries to fake us out.
  • It tries to put us into fight or flight and keep us there.
  • Evil feeds on FEAR.

And fear breeds lots of even uglier things. It is a catalyst for all kinds of ugly..

But evil can NOT be allowed to be the winner.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

WE can not allow evil to take center stage, friends. Sure, it’s impossible to deny that it is here ~ I am certainly not talking about doing that. (That ~ causing us to simply look the other way ~ well, that’s another tricky tactic that is often used to cause apathy or compromising of our values ~ of love).

Yes. LOVE through the power of Jesus Christ is the true, most powerful thing we have in our arsenal against evil.

But even more importantly, we MUST remember Who is the One, True King!

He has not only always been here ~ He has always been and is!!!

HE IS.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The ONE TRUE KING!

Don’t blame God for “allowing” evil to be present on this earth, friend. Cry out to him instead.

Remember to assign blame where it is due. Then ask the Lord to fill you up with more of Him and His love, His comfort, His peace.

There’s a prince of this earth and his sad little name is “Satan.”

But over ALL the earth, over ALL the universe, over ALL eternity, there is only ONE TRUE KING.

He is coming back for us soon…

Soon and very soon!

And there shall be no more evil. There shall be no more tears. Every single knee shall bow to the One True King!

For those of us who have accepted Christ as our One true love and our One true King, we know this.

So yes….

  • Evil hurts us.
  • Evil causes grief, pain, and absolute outcry.
  • Evil takes temporary victories and tries to fake us into believing that it’s time to throw in the towel and surrender to it.

But let us remember the love of Christ. Let us remember who the King really is.

Let us remember we are royalty ~ Christ’s children.

And most of all: let us remember just Who has already won.

We are not the captives of evil. We have been captured by Jesus Christ, our Lord. And thanks be to HIM!

AMEN.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

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I Have Been Immersed Today (And I Will Rejoice!)

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I have been immersed today.

I have been immersed in self-pity. I have been immersed in Jesus joy at the same time.

I have been immersed in pain – true and deeeeep-below-the-muscles-all-over-kind-of pain. I have simultaneously been immersed in an inexplicable Jesus-kind-of comfort.

I have been immersed today.

I cannot sleep, so I write. I write about my immersion.

Today I have sharp and vivid memories – fond ones of times when I given the ability to jog all the time. Running for miles and miles and sweating all the toxins out – ending with a rush of endorphins that lasted the whole day long.

Immersed in the beauty of that memory.

Pounding out the stress – the aches. Pounding it out through the pain. Painful at first – probably for the first mile or so.

And then came the bliss. I was immersed in the bliss then ~ consistently.

I have been immersed in the memories of that physical euphoria today.

I have been immersed in the longing for it – the pining away for it.

The flesh is strong. The desire to satisfy it is even stronger.

And the tears came. They came fast and hard. And they are still here right now as I write and share my heart a bit.

I am immersed in tears today.

Oh how I miss days in which experiencing some initial pain – intentionally-embraced pain – held what seemed like a beautiful pay-off that was beyond worth it after each of those long and so-very-satisfying runs.

How I miss being able to work hard enough physically that I would get on that good sweat and feel….cleansed.

Now my body has to work in overdrive just to make it through the day. The pain from my Fibro is so intense some days that the days in which I feel nothing more than a generalized tightness of muscles (ALL OVER, I might add) seem like “good days.”

Will I ever run again?

And so I walk with Him. I walk with my Jesus as I cry like a baby and wish for something more – something different. I struggle and strain not to fall into a place of condemnation for not being content on days such as today. I turn it over minute by minute to my Lord and Savior – begging Him for conviction to replace condemnation where needed, and comfort to replace my sense of discontent and sadness.

He is cleansing me.

I am immersed today. Because I am toxic.

I am immersed in the knowing of my Lord and Savior and the need to know Him even better.

I am immersed in waves of self-pity and despair laced with the knowledge that I am blessed beyond belief all at the same time.

I wallow, I bask. I beg, I accept. I scream. I pray.

I ask for more.

I thank Him for what I have.

And I end this day immersed in prayer – praying for a deeper knowledge of Him and who He is – and the ability to see the fruit that He is producing in my life.

And while I feel I am withering and rotting in so very many ways, I know the truth. And it sets me free.

I have been immersed today. I have been immersed in relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And I shall rejoice. Because HE is never going to be a fading memory I have to pine away for – He will always be with me. And it keeps getting better and better every day.

I think I’ll “run” with that one!

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines….

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high hills.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

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Anew

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And the crushing of the heart – it is raw.

And the hurting of the feelings – they are fresh.

And the complaining and the mocking and the misunderstanding – all there…

Anew, anew, anew.

And the selfishness – replenished daily.

And the failure to understand – a formidable presence.

And the sneak attacks of the enemy – surprising.

Anew, anew, anew.

Relentless, pervasive, crushing, divisive.

Battling, raging, perplexing, isolating.

Ripping, smashing, slaying for whatever cause –

Anew, anew, anew.

And the blessings – they are awaiting.

And healing of the heart – is never-ending.

And the sanctification – His merciful cleansing.

Anew, anew, anew.

And the wisdom imparted through prayer.

And the peace – through self surrender.

And the love replacing the hatred.

Anew, anew, anew.

Perpetual, ever-present, molding, unifying.

Treaties, calming, understanding, risking.

Patching, rebuilding, healing for whatever cause –

His mercies and His love –

Anew, anew, anew.

It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

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When it Storms in May (and You were expecting Sunshine)

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So much in life and how it goes for us seems to depend upon our expectations, and our willingness to be flexible in that arena. I live in Colorado, and the weather here is, to say the least……..unpredictable. (smirk upon my face)

Sometimes I have a pretty bad attitude about it too. Just ask my husband. I often say I would rather live in a warmer climate (year round), possibly near an open body of water (beach and sand), and where I can know what to expect (overall) on a day-to-day basis. A girl can dream, right?

But I know ~ the grass is always just seeming greener when I think that way. Dreams are just dreams, after all. (sad face)

In all honesty, I am quite blessed to live in Colorado when it comes to weather. Most of the time, we have more sunshine days than many other places when you spread it out over a year’s time. Most of the time.

But this May has really been ugly. I haven’t enjoyed it at all, especially with this Fibro body I am walking around in now. I thought it was going to get sunny and warm again. We were teased with that a little bit, and I was getting excited, you know? But alas ~ then came the gloom and hail and dark and rain and wind and….the stuff I hate.

So, the expectations must be adjusted once again. I didn’t do a good job of being proactive about it this time, and my attitude started to decline along with how my body feels. I forgot to look for the ray of sunshine amidst the gloomy and the cloudy.

It’s there. That ray of light is always there. I just wasn’t looking up.

There’s also a bigger picture at play here other than what month of the year it happens to be and aside from what the fickle weather is doing. It’s about all of life, friends.

For me, I had thought that I was going to be in a place in life right about now where I would still be enjoying the awesome ability to run and jog and get on a good sweat and have endorphins from doing so running through my body 24/7. That’s not been the case since I was struck down with Fibromyalgia.

At one time, I actually thought that once I reached this age, I would be sitting back and enjoying time with my Mother (and best friend) on the weekends – having coffee – because she had planned to move here so she could spend more time in a state that she loved. She went to heaven though – so that didn’t happen.

I also thought I’d be enjoying the role of coaching others in my work and possibly even taking that to a higher level than I had experienced a few years back – helping people find ways to tap into their strengths and enjoy their work even more. But I had to step out of a leadership role due to all the stress in my life.

But out of all of those things – those things that the world might portray as dreams lost – out of them all, the Lord has brought so many blessings my way. He is so very faithful. And He can make beauty (sunshine) out of the ugly (storms).

He is more powerful than lightning…

He can comfort us and protect us even when hail seems to be raining down, never-ending.

He can keep us warm and dry even when it is wet and soggy all around us.

We have only to adjust our expectations.

We have only to turn it over to Him and allow His will to be made manifest – even when it’s the unexpected stuff and we wonder what He might be doing.

JESUS ~ He knows this.

He shows us that it is not about our own will, but that of the Lord’s.

He shows us that each day is a day in which we don’t have to know what to expect because God’s got this.

He shows us that we can ALWAYS look up ~ look up to the One and Only ~ the only One who knows, never changes. The only One we can always rely upon without fail.

So if you find yourself feeling disappointed, let down, sad, or kind of stuck, it’s okay. Your expectations may need to be adjusted, or you may be going through a grief of dastardly proportions that has nothing to do with expectations at all.

Either way, God’s got you in the palm of His hand. And He will carry you as His will is brought to fruition.

You are not alone, dear friend. And even in the middle of the storm, He always has something good in store for us.

Bow your heads today with me, friends.

And when you are finished?

Don’t forget to look UP.

Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights. Unlike them, He never changes or casts shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

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Yet Still Today

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A couple of months ago I hit a new low in regard to my health. It reached a place where I could not continue on the way things were and I had to go out on leave from work for about six or seven weeks. So these last weeks have been spent in rest and recuperation, nesting around my home, and moving through the days one at a time.

Blessings have come, yet my health is still a thorn in my side, friends. Yes, I am better in some ways, but the monster is always there ~ simply looming and waiting, teeth exposed and jaws flapping, eyes squinting and piercing and ugly mouth salivating ~ just always right there and waiting to chomp.

But Jesus is here too, and although the monster tries to give me a run for my money, it is simply no match for my Savior.

I am His.

Yet still today…………

  • Today I return to work, to a new and better work situation which is a blessing (a miracle, actually) yet I find myself in a strange place.
  • Today I am finding myself anxious when I know that I shouldn’t be.
  • Today I am wishing I could continue on the way I have been these past six weeks or so.
  • Today I am finding myself feeling discontent even before anything has changed or happened.
  • Today I am fearful and feeling guilty because that must mean I am not trusting in Him.
  • Today I am looking at what might be yanked away from me instead of seeing the blessing that the Lord has provided to make dealing with the ugly a little bit less ~ ugly.
  • Today I am already feeling guilty that I have all of these feelings.

What will this new season in life regarding my new work situation really mean for me and my family? Will I be able to do a good job without compromising my health? Can I let go of the expectations I have always had of myself to perform to the utmost of my ability and just simply do a GOOD job? Is that enough?

What if it doesn’t work out? What then?

I am His.

In so many ways I am a glass half full girl, while in others I am quite the opposite. I wish I could just pick one and be it, but that’s not the way it works for me. When I am the half empty kinda gal, I know I am simply trying to be honest and practical and realistic, yet I feel guilty for being less than positive about things. When I’m in half full mode, I feel great about looking at things as positively as possible, yet worry I am placing too much faith and hope in whether things turn out good or not.

It’s not about that and I know it.

It’s about trusting in Him no matter what things come, how things work out or don’t work out, and knowing without question that no matter what, He never changes.

Neither does this:

I am His.

So today I do not find myself looking at the glass one way or another. I find myself looking past the glass and unto Jesus, friends. I am reaching for His hand and trusting Him to pave the way for me. I am believing that He already has this covered and will reveal to me all that He has for us. I am hoping in Him and that He will help me to keep what truly matters at the top of my priority list.

That’s the part that is far more than half full. My cup runneth over.

Because…….

I am His.

Do you know that you are His no matter what happens to you? In the face of the unknown or difficulty or trials, do you know that Jesus never changes and is always by your side? Can you bring yourself to His feet and turn that thing over to Him even before you have your emotions straightened out? That’s the way it’s supposed to be anyway, friends ~ we can come to Him just as we are. It’s always been that way and remains that way ~

Yet still today.

LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. Psalm 23:5

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Hour by Hour

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God delivers. God saves. God makes all things new.

The residue from our family conflict is being replaced by new seeds ~ seeds of beauty to replace the ugly gunk. Seeds of growth that God plants, even in what seems to be a lifeless mass of junk that this girl would have chosen to discard ~ thinking it’s worthless.

They’re going to become beautiful flowers.

Because He makes all things new.

Healing has begun, but God doesn’t stop there. He uses every situation ~ every circumstance to make things new and better than before. He’s growing a garden ~ a divine one that surpasses what we can even imagine right now.

It’s hard though ~ hard when we are hot in the middle of the messy part. It’s hard to see what He is doing. We can believe (we have to or we are DEAD)…..but we want to see the results faster sometimes than they come. We get tired of just believing, and want the prize right away.

Seeds have to grow.

Today I am thankful that talking and heart sharing has been done. I am grateful that I know that the seeds of the newness of God have been planted. I see the flowers in my mind’s eye. I see them already.

Yet I find myself wondering ~ when will He plant those seeds regarding my health? I find myself wondering if there will ever be pretty flowers to smell in this part of the garden.

Chances are He already has planted them. I think maybe I have stopped fully believing.

  • I believe He is working all things together for my good.
  • I believe His strength is being made perfect through my weakness.
  • I believe He will make something new out of the old in my body.

I just don’t know what it’s going to look like yet. I don’t know that I will get to ever see and smell the pretty flowers.

And that makes me SAD.

Please don’t pity me, friends. I am not asking for that at all. I am simply a weary woman who is sharing what is in my heart and mind today.

I don’t know anything special or wise to share about all of this at this point….it hasn’t been given to me. No nugget of wisdom ~ no secret sauce ~ no enlightening answer as to how God gets us through such things.

It surpasses my knowledge ~ it surpasses my understanding.

I only know that He is not forsaking me. At this point, I only know that there’s something more He wants to grow in me regarding my belief.

It may not look pretty or smell good, but He is growing it. My faith is not strong in the way or area that He wants for it to be. I don’t know how I know this ~ I just do.

So for now, it’s truly hour by hour. For now, I cannot make plans that I know are likely to come to fruition.

For now, I don’t know what the next day holds, or even the next hour.

I only know I have to take it hour by hour ~ with Him.

What will the Lord help you to accomplish this hour? What if we stop worrying about whether we will meet all of our responsibilities in the hours to come and take it one hour at a time? What if we ask Him to meet us anew as we trudge, hope, pray to make it through just this hour? And when the hour arrives in which we don’t “make it” through? Is it really true that we didn’t make it? If He is with us, and we are seeking Him, is that not triumph?

I am so focused on my failures that I fail to see the triumph in what He is doing in and through me in those times. I fail to see that I am already walking through the garden with Him.

Hour by hour, He meets me and is making something new, friends. Some hours I am able to move, accomplish, finish, follow through. And some are filled with disappointment and fear of what may result as a consequence starts to threaten me.

This is when He meets me and tells me that He’s got this covered. I just don’t see it yet.

Seeds are being planted round the clock, friends. I can’t say it doesn’t hurt sometimes. I can’t say I am not impatient to see them grow. I can’t say I get tired of all the planting and want to see the end result more than focus upon the utter KNOWING that God’s work is being accomplished!

But I know that He is planting.

This hour, I know that He delivers ~ He plants ~ and He can grow beauty out of what seems worthless or even dead.

My prayer for us today is that we all forget, even if just for a while, about all that is old, broken or just not working right any more. May we forget it long enough to see that inside, we are being renewed. He is in the process of planting new seeds all the time.

Every hour He is making us new.

Let Him meet you today, friends. Let Him meet you this hour and the next one and the next.

And know that He is God.

Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

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This Is War

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There was a conflict in my home last night ~ a family conflict. It came on suddenly, and it grew, and grew and grew until it had a life of its own.

Words flew, confusion ensued, and emotions ran the show. I can tell you right now ~ it was not a show that I haven’t seen before, but I never signed up for a repeat performance.

You see, the enemy entered my house at some point and I didn’t see him coming. I don’t think any of us did.

I think it’s because he snuck into our hearts first. He came in through the back door.

This is what I was writing about the other day: This!

  • This is the ugly I want for God to show me when it’s coming.
  • This is the ugly I want to be on guard for, so I can avoid being caught unaware.
  • This is the ugly that the world tells us is unavoidable, so we get weary of looking for it and heading it off at the pass.

This is the ugly that is not beautiful in its own twisted way.

What is really sad is that we all have a full set of the best armor ~ It’s God’s armor. The sad part is that I can’t even say we weren’t armed…we just armed ourselves with the fake and cruddy stuff. We grabbed the armor of self ~ the glittery and really convenient kind. We grabbed what seemed like it was closest.

News Alert: It didn’t work. Fake stuff never does.

So today…today remorse is trying to win. Today condemnation is trying to win. Today the conflict and the life of its own that spun a web of fire and tried to burn things down has subsided, but the embers are still there ~ threatening to catch on fire again.

Today seems…..dark.

Today it is time for God’s water. It is time for God’s light in the midst of the darkness. Today it is time for God’s mercy and compassion and love. Today it is time to dump out the vestiges of remorse, bitterness, condemnation.

It’s going to hurt.

I am anxious today. I am anxious because everyone has to go their separate ways to do life and their individual responsibilities and we are all separated. I am anxious because there is talking and understanding to be done and we are unable to come together to do it.

I am holding on to the anxiety and struggling to turn it over to God.

But I am believing today, friends. I am believing that God can draw us together in spite of the physical separation.

I am believing.

I am believing that He knows each of our hearts and our desire to make things right.

I am believing.

I am believing that He can heal us and He doesn’t even need our help to do it.

I believe.

I believe He will use the space of separation to draw us together.

This morning, as I took two of my children to school, my son said “I realize I have anger issues and probably always will need God to help me with that.” All I could think was ~ “don’t we all?”

Anger is an ugly monster. So is selfishness.

And so is condemnation.

When we fail to stop in those moments to put on our armor, we give all of our energy to the match of ugly and evil that is trying to grow into an out-of-control bonfire.

I didn’t use my armor. Few of us involved in the ugly conflict did. We all have “anger issues.”

Today I am going to sharpen it and put it back on.

And I’m not going to forget to remember who my enemy really is.

This is war. And I know who is going to win.I need to stop forgetting to remember that. I need to remember that we are on the winning side.

No one ever said that war would be pretty. But there IS beauty in that kind of ugly.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33