I’m not Complaining

snapped tree

The truth is…

There are too many thoughts rolling around in my head to make anything fully coherent

The truth is…

I’m watching the things I’ve worked so hard to build crumble around me

Knowing still, it will all be okay and we will rebuild

We will be better than before

I live in hope

I am an optimist

My glass is half full always

Still I wonder, why does it never seem to be full?

Maybe that’s just life

Maybe the trials of this present time aren’t worthy to be compared with the joy to come

Maybe light and love trump darkness every time

Still I watch in helplessness

Water dripping from my broken roof

Drywall sagging and stained

The beauty of a home remodeled in need of restoration again

Irma was a punk

It hasn’t been fun

I haven’t complained…at least not really

A call from others pulls my husband away to make another roof blue in the aftermath of the storm

It temporarily stops their further damage but mine remains

As so often is the case, we are last on the list of our priorities

So we wait

Dinner cooks in the pan near the spot where the water pours

My kitchen a wet, sopping, disaster zone

My living room in disarray as the furniture sits in foreign places avoiding the inevitable spill

Why is it still raining?

Why does the sight of the trees fallen and dead all around my yard bring me sadness?

We are alive

We are whole

We are grateful

Still my patience runs thin

Oh how spoiled I’ve been

Oh how I long to be more than I am

To be who I was made to be

To leave behind the mundane and steadily place my hands to the plow and sow

But here I sit in a kitchen cooking dinner and maybe that’s enough

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The Squeeze

Skinny Girl Squeeze beginning

All I can seem to think about the last few days is what it is to be squeezed. Maybe you can relate. You know that feeling when the walls, the ceiling, the air above, and the floor beneath you, seem to be closing in. It’s that sensation of not knowing if you’ll make it out…not knowing if that elusive light at the end of the tunnel will bring warmth to your face. It is the season of the uncertainty, the uneasiness of tight places, the wondering in the wandering.

When my husband and I were on our honeymoon, we spent some time among the rocks and trees in the Northern Alabama. The wonderful man from whom we’d rented the cabin we stayed in took us out on his land one afternoon to explore, hike, and get lost in the majesty of it all. In the spirit of adventure he talked us into going through a few tight places where the rocks barely gave access. First, we wriggled our way through what he called, “Fat man’s squeeze”. It was a little tricky for my husband to maneuver, but my scrawny frame didn’t object so much.

A little further down the path, we came to an opening in the rocks that he informed us was “skinny girl’s squeeze”. He didn’t fit so he’d never been that way, but one gentlemen who worked for him had made it through and told of the gorgeous view from the other side. Maybe the wonder and majesty of the journey had awakened a bravery and sense of adventure in me that had been dormant for a while, but I thought, “I’m a skinny girl…bring it!” and decided to give it a shot.

Everything was fine until about halfway through. The walls of stone around me had narrowed a bit and I wasn’t sure if I was as skinny as I thought I was. Size zero or not, it was getting tight in there. Then my shoe got stuck. By this time, my feet had to be turned sideways, as if I was ready to plié my way through. There was no room to turn in any way. In an effort to free my foot from its prison, I leaned a bit toward the end of the crevice until I was almost lying down. I heard my guide from behind yelling for me not to lie down or I’d never make it. They wouldn’t be able to go in after me either and help wasn’t a possibility. I HAD to keep going, upright; there was no other option.

I’m not quite sure how I did it, but I eventually got free and made it to the other side, an inch and wiggle at a time. It was beautiful there. There was something magical about knowing I was one of very few who’d been where I was standing. I felt alive in a new way standing there in the open, knowing I’d made it through the squeeze. I drank in the beauty surrounded by stone that had kept so many out. There, in the openness, where the sun shone free, I was a conqueror, a warrior who’d fought through the obstacles and made it to freedom.

Lately, I’ve been in a place that reminds me of the rock. I’ve been squeezed, hard-pressed on every side as scripture describes it. I know now, just as I did then, that God will never put me somewhere without providing a way out. There is a light on the other side. But, I have to keep moving forward to reach it. If I lie down, I’ll end up stuck. Even when my feet seem wedged into the rock, there’s a rock that’s higher than I that is faithful to bring me to freedom if I just keep on standing. I have to keep moving forward, there is no other option. He, my guide and comfort, is faithful, and He calls to me words of instruction and encouragement even when I’m beginning to panic.

On the other side, there is a beauty I’ve never known. On the other side, I am stronger. On the other side, the sun is shining and I am wiser and more prepared for the next obstacle. I will never forget the squeeze. I will always keep moving forward. The other side is so worth the journey.

squeeze

Peace Out!

peace

“Praise the Lord!  I will praise the Lord with my whole heart.” Psalm 111:1

“Life’s full of tough choices isn’t it?” Ursula in The Little Mermaid

Let’s be real…life can be hard! We live in a culture that seems to chant the mantra, “Whatever makes you happy must be right.” Where did we get the idea that we were meant to be happy all of the time? It’s an unrealistic expectation to put on ourselves. Life will hit us with all kinds of tough stuff. Job loss, divorce, sickness, pain, relational drama, car accidents, stress, the list is long. The reality is that the good stuff is often born in our response to the bad stuff. We have a choice to respond in faith or in fear.

When we allow circumstance to drive us, we end up fractured. We kick and scream against the pain. We worry. We lose sight of the light in what appears to be overwhelming darkness. We forget that the light doesn’t ever stop shining even when it is blocked by the storm. Even when we can’t see it well, the sun is still shining. Our trust and faith should allow us to find it regardless of the current view.

I choose to live my life from a whole heart. I choose not to allow circumstance to dictate my joy and my compass. I don’t have to be happy, but I can choose to be whole. I WILL praise the Lord with my WHOLE heart. My heart is full even when my world seems empty. My heart is whole though the world seems broken all because I choose to believe in a God who sees me, who loves me, and who makes a way for me when there seems to be no way. He has always provided and He won’t stop now.

If life hits hard today, just keep moving. Realign your focus and choose to praise when you feel like panicking. Adjust your eyes to find the light. You have the choice. Peace isn’t the absence of trouble. Peace is the knowledge that trouble doesn’t win, doesn’t define us, doesn’t get to control us. Peace is found in praise and trust. Peace out everyone!

The Greatest of these is Love

Though Angels’ tongues could escape my lips and sentiment sweet should flow

When grace extends my patience thin

When arms become empty, hearts heavy, feet ready for escape, eyes drifting, head aching, song quiet, candles huffed to cooled wax, all seems lost around me, I remember. 

Greater love has no man than he who lays down his life for a friend. 

Perfect love casts out fear

Love suffers long and is kind

Love thinks no evil, bears all things, believes all things. 

Love never fails. 

Love is not about what I can get. 

For love, I empty myself 

I give all

I prefer another

I am fulfilled 

Love

Refocusing

  
Blurs are often ended with the bluntness of a break. A single straw that interrupts the momentum long enough for sanity to creep in and remind me that I am more than this. 

In the quest for perfection, I lost sight of the adventure. In the race towards better, I steadily slipped into worse. In the pursuit of holiness, I forgot to trust in grace. Somewhere in between it all, I stopped breathing. I lost myself when I quit looking. 

Today, I’m thankful for the straw. Small fractals of light that shine through offense, wake me from my hypnotism. Freedom often comes when I least expect it. Thank you straw man! Lord, please block my path when I get stuck on auto-pilot. 

Give me some Sweetness!

honeycomb

Proverbs 16:24 “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Words are powerful! They bring sweetness or mayhem, joy or pain. Our words can uplift and encourage or knock down and well, discourage. (Deep huh?)

I was thinking about this scripture today. A bee wanders around from flower to flower, collecting from beauty, working diligently to find sweet nectar and, at the same time, serving to pollinate the area. Then it brings what’s was gathered back to the hive and uses it to make honey. I’ve oversimplified the process of course, but I couldn’t help but think about what that looks like for us.

We encounter words everywhere. Some from our own mouths, some from media, some from the lips of others. I think it’s our responsibility to dig through them for nectar. We don’t have to internalize or accept everything we hear. We can choose the Philippians 4:8 route and think on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely and of good report. We can find the virtue, the things worthy of praise, the good reports. This isn’t the ostrich mentality where we choose to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the bad. It is living intentionally and making a decision to change our perspective.

Years ago, a single word became my mantra in the faith. “Focus!” I realized that I had the power to take my thoughts captive and focus on The Lord in all things. I would have to remind myself throughout the day by repeating it to myself, “focus, focus, focus”. At times it can be hard to see Him or hear Him over the noise. The ever-constant barrage of busy can steal from the things that matter. Suddenly, the to-do list pushes our quiet moments off into the abyss and we are left reeling by the time our heads hit the pillow.

Even there at the end of the day, our minds can go a mile a minute planning for tomorrow or beating us up for whatever we messed up or didn’t finish today. Therein is the moment of decision. We can dig deep in those moments for the nectar. We can find the good. We can cast off the things that bring us down and remember who we are and how we are loved. Then when tomorrow comes, as we dig deep for the marrow of life, we can’t help but spread that joy to others. It’s a side-effect of the intentional life. We pollinate the world with the light of truth and the goodness of God’s love. We speak life and peace to the tormented. We bring hope to those who struggle. Never diminishing the severity of sorrows, but offering comfort and healing in the midst of them.

We’ve been taught a lie. So often the contemporary, American church teaches that we shouldn’t suffer, that life should be lived wearing rose-colored glasses and never admitted that things are tough. This is totally contrary to scripture and, quite frankly, insulting to those who are suffering. We’ve believed if we only had more faith, if we were better, things would be okay. It’s just not true. The Bible says that we WILL suffer for Christ’s name sake.

Try telling Paul, who was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and (my personal favorite) bitten by a viper (AAGHHH!), that Christians shouldn’t ever suffer. The difference is that Paul made a decision to glory in his sufferings that the power of Christ might rest upon him. (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul was a diligent bee. He found the nectar and made honey despite circumstances few can imagine enduring.

I think what the world needs to see in us is perspective. We are deeper than our situations. We serve a God who is always faithful no matter what it may look like or feel like at the time. We have the power to choose to believe it or be overtaken. Dig deep and find the good. It’s in there, like a hidden treasure waiting to be recovered. And in it, we find our sustenance.

I Had an Unplanned Pregnancy and I Gave My Baby Away

I was 18 years old and had a brief crisis of faith. I’d been raised in church and had served God faithfully the majority of my life. Life is still “life” and sometimes hits us with curve balls we don’t expect. It just so happened for me that all those curve balls knocked me flat. I found myself suffering from a broken heart and things just weren’t working out as I’d planned. I vividly remember the day I told The Lord “I’ve served you my whole life and done everything right and look where it’s gotten me. From now on, I’m doing the opposite.” I’d decided to go the other way and try to find happiness on my own. It wasn’t my finest moment.

A couple of months later, I’d lost my virginity to a man I barely knew and found myself staring at a line on a stick. My friend and I examined it again and again.

“I think that’s a line.”

“Do you see a line?”

“It’s very faint does that mean anything?”

“Maybe it’s a mistake.”

“Surely my period will come any day.”

It didn’t.

A couple of weeks past, and I took another test, and it was DEFINITELY a line. I was pregnant.

Timing could not have been worse! I’d been kicked out of my parents house and was living with friends. Actually, I slept on the floor in my best friend’s bedroom. I’d planned on going to a Christian college to study music but seriously doubted they’d accept me now that I was an unwed mother. I worked at Wal-Mart and didn’t exactly have a grand salary. The “father” didn’t want anything to do with being involved. He already had a child for whom he was paying child support and he made it clear that he had no intention of paying for another child.

I had never known fear and hopelessness like I did then. There was no way I could tell my parents. So I hid it. Only my closest friends and my boyfriend knew what was going on. So I decided to run.

What I saw as an opportunity presented itself in another state so I moved. My best friend moved with me and we kept the secret to ourselves. I broke up with the boyfriend and didn’t even tell him where I was going. I would have nightmares of him coming after me, showing up in the middle of the night to take care of the problem and get rid of both me and my baby. The only thing I knew was that I needed to make a good life for my child.

I ended up working at Wendy’s making $4.75 per hour. When I told my boss about the pregnancy, she cut my hours. Things went from bad to worse, until one night I found myself in a puddle on the living room floor of my apartment crying out to God. I decided to come back home. I was 8 months pregnant, and I moved back in with mommy. Something I swore I’d never do.

My mother was a godly woman and she showed me grace instead of condemnation. She welcomed me home like the prodigal, arms open and willing to help. Not everyone was so supportive. I received a lot of negative reactions as well from people who were supposed to love me and that was heartbreaking. It’s funny how some sins are looked at differently than others. People who had admittedly had promiscuous pasts looked down on me as if I were a leper. It drastically changed my perspective on how to love others and I strive to show others unconditional love now regardless of the messes they find themselves in, but I digress.

God took my ashes and made beauty. I looked into the eyes of my daughter for the first time that summer. I found a love I never knew existed. She was my world. Raising her alone would be hard. I worked hard! I enrolled in college and took on a full-time class load while working full-time and mothering full-time. It wasn’t easy but it was SO worth it. The truth is that God is faithful. He knew exactly what my wayward, aching heart needed to draw me back to him. He gave me exactly what was best for me, my precious girl. She changed me in more ways than I can list. I have never regretted having her. I’ve never thought I messed up my life. Sure it changed my plans a bit but ultimately, it just brought me new plans.

A few weeks ago, I walked my girl down the aisle in my backyard on her wedding day and gave her away to a wonderful man. She was brightness embodied, the most beautiful bride I’d ever seen. She has grown to become everything I could have hoped for and more. A high school graduate, now a wife and a college student, she’s beginning her own life. She’s serving the Lord.

I know firsthand the fear and confusion surrounding an unplanned pregnancy. I know the anxiousness of wondering how on earth you could ever provide for a child when you can barely provide for yourself. I know aloneness and what it’s like to be in a bad relationship or be carrying a child whose other parent wants nothing to do with you. I lived it. I’m not here to pass judgment on “choices”. But I want to offer this, often what we feel is the end is really the beginning. Sometimes the “bad” things we go through are really God’s perfect plan to bring us to something better and propel us towards his purpose.

I hear so many debates these days about abortion. I am fundamentally opposed to abortion but I understand the emotions that would draw someone to a place of such desperation. It breaks my heart. Some rant about “rights” as though they are talking about getting highlights or changing dentists. We spout overpopulation arguments or talk about how no one should bring a child into a situation where the parent can’t provide for it. That would be unloving so elimination is a somehow more humane decision. We could be advocating to prevent unwanted pregnancy in the first place rather than using abortion as a means of birth control, but somehow such arguments are deemed hateful and unrealistic. I’m often appalled by the callousness of the human heart when it comes to this topic.

So rather than argue about those things, I offer you this, my experience. I chose to have my baby and it was the best decision I ever made. What felt at the time to be overwhelming and impossible turned out to be such amazing grace! God knows what we need better than we do. He proves it all the time. My girl was the best gift he could have given me. I want to encourage you to look beyond your circumstance whatever it may be and find the hope that is hiding in it. It’s there somewhere even when you have to dig for it. And when it comes to abortion, don’t forget that you’re talking about more than ideology. You’re talking babies and mothers and fear, hopelessness, desperation, anxiousness, and the desire to do the right thing for everyone in the face of the most monumental situation. Don’t forget to be kind! But never negate the possibility that there is a purpose for that child and that it might just be the miracle you’ve been hoping for.

I chose life and I got to give away beauty to the world. You’re welcome!

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Image by Kaitey Brawley Photography

Image by Kaity Brawley Photography