On falling and getting up

If I’m going to fall, can I please fall hard and hit my head?

Can there be concussion and bruising so I don’t look like a fool?

Can I rest in the “okay-ness” of my weakness?

If I do, do I have to wait for a diagnosis?

Fallen, in need of grace?

Can’t we just be human?

Wake up sleepers

Wake up church!

In the land of the living, an anchor holds

And we get to reveal it and show it to the masses

That’s enough

Love is enough

We can kick and claw and scream at the wind

We can cry behind closed doors

But we can’t stop reaching

For real love!

THAT is the anchor

Nails and thorns and mercy on a cross

And death giving way to victory

Who are you?

Who does He say I am?

Where is victory?

Can you see it today?

If not, look again.

It’s worth fighting for!

Time…in a bottle…or not…

Time is a funny thing.

It flies

It pauses

It groans for tomorrow

It longs for yesterday

It moves

In waves

While the world continues, as it seemingly stops for some

But it is.

Time is

And we grovel at it’s feet

And we wonder where the break pedal is

And we clasp onto what we can hold

And we long for bricks to put on top our children’s heads to stop the growth

All the while praying they will grow, healthy and strong, and prepared for tomorrow

I watch you grow and I beg for it to stop and continue while I sit like an Alanis Morissette lyric, contracting truths against each other.

And we grow and move

And live and have our being in the moment

Sweaters on backward and inside out and all

Until we feel the most of a new day

And breathe

Deep

Because today is wrapped in tomorrow and yesterday at once

And I am you and you are me together, bracing for the impact

Life is more than we see

Life is wrapped in the endless toil of a day well lived, and a tomorrow, begging for something

Whatever that may be

My tomorrow is different from yours

But it’s the same

The hand of God, making meaning, while we go

And that’s enough

At the end of the day, it’s enough

Forward motion makes for meaning

So RUN!

Then look at yesterday and today and smile

Knowing tomorrow is breath

And we’re all running

Listening Ears, Big Mouth

James 1:19-20

I have a hearing loss. I like to blame it on being a musician and years of in-ear monitors blasting a “click” (metronome) in my ears at volumes far louder than recommended because that sounds cooler than “I have a hearing loss”. The reality is, my dad had a significant hearing loss, my mother has hearing loss, my brother has hearing loss, and my daughter was born with a moderate hearing loss, so odds are, it runs in the family. Either way, listening with understanding can be difficult for me at times.

My husband often gets frustrated with me as I respond with confusion and “huh” more often than either of us would like. Or I think he’s saying something that isn’t even close to what he’s actually saying and react in a manner totally inappropriate to the reality before me. My kids have to repeat themselves time and time again which most likely drives them crazy. I long for the day when I can afford hearing aids so I don’t frustrate those closest to me so frequently. But for now…

I pray that my ears work a little better than my mouth. I hope to be the kind of person who really listens to what others are saying to me (even when I can’t hear them fully). I may not always understand their perspective and I may often disagree but that doesn’t negate the responsibility to listen. When we find ourselves so enamored with our own opinions that ours is the only viewpoint we can see, we might be guilty of this.

There is such a thing as fundamental truth. I do not subscribe to the notion that all things are relative and your truth is different than mine. Some things are black and white without a grey area to smudge and blur the dividing lines. Don’t misunderstand me.

Yet, how can we espouse the truth we hold so dear, and positively influence the life of another person, if we can’t take the time to sit in community with them and hear what they are saying? I think we will find that often times, the things we are getting so angry and upset about “the other side” saying, aren’t really what they are saying at all. We are so quick to polarize. We are so quick to speak before we hear.

I get myself in trouble all the time when I hear (or think I hear) someone say something to me but in my impairment, I think they are saying something completely bizarre and I couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s become a comedy of sorts with my kids because I will quote back to them what I heard which will be something completely off the wall like, “a band of monkeys invaded Pearl Harbor”, and they’ll laugh and tell me they actually said, “there are ants in the tree in the backyard”. Feel free to donate to that hearing aid fund :).

I think we all do that in life all the time. Maybe not literally like I do, but when we jump to conclusions about another person’s intentions, life experiences, perspectives. When we forget that, “Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one].” I Corinthians 13:7 AMP. Slow down and listen! And if you don’t understand, ask questions, and LISTEN to the answer. You might be surprised that your enemy isn’t really an enemy and even if they are, they might be won over with a small amount of kindness.

Our anger will never produce the righteousness of God. Our kindness and patience might shine the light of his glory and truth to generations. We will never win an argument we are fighting against ourselves, but we can learn to listen and speak out of the abundance of a life turned towards Jesus and the goodness of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, that may mean speaking a word of correction and a good dose of disagreement, but that doesn’t mean an angry tirade against the masses. Slow down!

I may not have physical hearing aids yet and my kids will still laugh at me when I think they are saying they want to “dance with piglets” instead of “have some Cheez-its”. But I hope my spiritual hearing aids are tuned to hear everything through the redemptive love of Jesus Christ and a desire to see him shine! Those are the messages I want my big mouth to shout to the ends of the earth.

This is My Story

I confess, if I were the author of my story, I might have written a few of the chapters differently.  I might have cleaned up some of the rough edges and plot lines. I might have skipped a trauma or two, or three, or a million and seven.

When I was seven or eight years old, I had an encounter with God. I’d been raised in church. I’d heard about him almost my entire life. I would have been able to tell you all about the Bible stories and the gospel. I sang hymns louder than anyone around me (anyone who knows me in person can attest to the fact that I sing louder than most). I knew of him. But that night I MET him.

I remember being surrounded by people in that little country church in Southern Ohio and it being just Jesus and me. I remember him softly speaking to my heart that he had a plan for my life. I remember knowing more than I’ve ever known anything (to this day) that he was real, he loved me, and I am his and he is mine. No matter what I’ve been through since, everything comes back to that one night when he called me his own.

What I’m realizing now, so many years later, is that I’ve spent most of my time trying to live up to the calling I felt that night. Every mistake I’ve made felt like the annihilation of everything for me. Every trauma felt like disqualification. I can’t say my life has been a rose-garden. From a ‘Christian-ese’ perspective, I probably should have been disqualified. I’ve had a baby out of wedlock. I’ve been divorced and remarried. I’ve made some grade-A messes throughout my life. How could he possibly still use me now?

But one thing remains, the redemptive love of God. I’ve never stopped asking him to pick me back up and help me to keep on walking. Sure, many times, I’ve tried to scoop myself up off the floor and fix everything broken in my life. Sure, many times, I’ve whined and cried to the heavens because a lot of my messes weren’t my own doing, and it just didn’t seem fair. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can say that.

Still, he didn’t call me because of my qualifications or my abilities. I wouldn’t have been the right choice. He called me by his mercy, knowing I would mess it all up a thousand times and keep coming back. Maybe the biggest part of my testimony is that through it all and despite of me, I still love him deeply. I feel everything deeply and I’m not afraid to be real. Maybe my weaknesses are part of why he chooses me. If his strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9) then I have spent a lifetime proving him strong. I’m like a weeble-wobble who keeps popping back up ready for battle no matter how many times I’ve been knocked down.

The past few years have been probably the hardest few years of my life. I’ve cried more and, honestly, lost my wobble more, in that season that anytime I can remember. It’s been ROUGH, y’all! But I’ve kept on fighting and getting up every morning, sometimes begrudgingly, lacing up my running shoes, and walking forward. Now, I’m seeing God answer prayers I wasn’t sure he would. I’m seeing him perfect, despite how weak I had been. I’m so incredibly grateful!

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:22-26

I feel like I’d reached the bottom of myself and all the striving and trying to be enough was finally able to give way to a profound and staggering desire for him. Suddenly, I want him to be glorified, not to prove myself worthy of him reaching out to me so many years ago, but because I feel the weight of his glory. I would have never thought I was making the focus about me. I would have denied it if you’d accused me of it. I wasn’t outwardly. I wasn’t making a show or doing good works and ministry to look good to others. I think I was, however, trying to look good to me. I thought I was a bad investment.

I’ve always prayed the Psalm I began this with. It’s been a mantra of mine for years. Yet now, I feel it to my bones!

My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.

Psalm 45:1

He has been so good and so faithful to me; I cannot help but tell of his goodness. I yield my life to be a pen in his capable hands. His story is being written on my heart and walked out by my feet. My heart is overflowing.

I know this isn’t the kind of thing I typically write here, but I pray that you who have been patient enough to read this so far, would realize that every step, even the rough and unsteady ones, will bring you closer if you just keep walking towards him. I pray that his love would so permeate your spirit, that you can’t help but write, create, sing, dance, whistle, whittle, play air-guitar, whatever it is that you do . Overflow! Don’t allow the scars of this life to rob you of the beauty he’s writing for you. Just keep walking. Every step is worth it if we are walking towards Jesus. He isn’t going to run away. He’s right there with you always!

Hope

If we don’t protect it, hope can feel like a balloon, filled to maximum capacity for a moment then let go to float into the air, sputtering, and flying unhindered.

Hope is so much more precious than this. I wish it were easy to tie the knot and seal it in all cozy and safe but even inflated balloons lose air over time.

There is only the constant application of pressure to save us. In the pressure, we stretch and hold firm to what we know. God is able. We are not alone! We can stretch farther than we think.

Don’t let gravity, the environmental circumstances of everyday, the pin-hole leaks in our defenses, deflate you. Keep your tank full! Let breath and air fill your lungs and your spirit. Lean in and believe.

Each breath is a moment in time lost once it’s accomplished. Steady your breathing. You can do hard things! And when it’s too much and you feel like you might burst, remember He is stronger than anything and He’s fighting with you and for you.

Breathe!

Optimism

I don’t want to be here. This place, my soul hates, this void of existence….but here I am. People talk from the outside about who I should be, who I am, the next moves I should make in this existence that is my life. What do they know?

This place is a place of pain, of heartache and grief. No one else knows the ache. Similar stories are of no relevance here. This moment is mine and I am alone in it.

So a word of advice from the depths of a bleeding soul…don’t say you understand. Don’t say it’s okay. Don’t try to minimize or trivialize. Just be there. A person with skin on who actually cares is all that’s required.

Grief takes many forms and actualizes for many reasons. You probably can’t fully understand so be someone to lean on. Empathy takes many forms. At the end of the day, we’re all different. We’ve had different histories, different struggles. What feels one way to you may feel entirely different to me.

Embrace the difference. Hold in your hand the willingness to not understand but care anyway. Humanity brings its own version of struggle and wholeness. Don’t try to assess mine based on yours. Just be there.

Tomorrow will be better and even if it’s not, life goes on. We grow. We learn. We change. Tonight I’m not settling. Tomorrow I may be a pool of self loathing. The next day, I might be a warrior. We are human.

God sees. He knows. He heals. He helps us grow. Don’t shirk from the hard things. Don’t minimize them in others. Be kind. Bring truth. Love without abandon. And just like that the world is a better place.

Sincerely, a broken hearted optimist.

Running Clothes

Escape

Bring me to the place where nothing else matters

Where all I need is you

Where nothing else satisfies

Make me hungry

I take my fill and want for more

I cannot exhaust the spring from which the water flows

I run toward the source of my comfort

I escape the need for comfort knowing peace is given at the hand of the maker

My meat is to do his will

Worn

I’ll bring to you the tattered rags of my righteousness

The frayed edges of my accomplishments

And watch you smile and tell me that you aren’t after my clothes

You are after my heart

You want to watch me run

So I will run hard and know that you are smiling

Your smile is all that matters

Heroes

I always thought my dad was a hero. I think a lot of us feel that way when we’re growing up. Fathers possess super powers to fix everything from squeaky hinges to teary moments and automotive mayhem. I still call my dad when the car is making a goofy noise and I’m worried. My husband will say something normal like “Take it to the mechanic.” and I’ll say something slightly irrational like, “I’ll call Dad and ask him.” As if Dad is going to be able to help from 1170 miles away over a phone. But my husband doesn’t have the same memories I have. I remember standing next to the open hood of the car watching Daddy fix everything so many times. I remember watching the car that should have been put out to pasture long ago still making its way down the interstate because of his powers.

I remember long summer days sitting by the lake reeling in fish. I remember pretending to fall asleep in the car just so he’d carry me inside late at night. I remember hearing him preach and then practicing my preaching skills to my congregation of stuffed squirrels and bunnies later that afternoon. I remember his smile in the audience while I sang a solo. I remember when he taught me how to play a “D” Chord on the guitar and trying SO hard to get my fingers to stretch far enough to play “G”. (I’ve got it down now by the way.)

My step-dad was equally heroic. When I wandered in the woods and encountered a rattlesnake or water moccasin, he would come save the day. He invested hours looking at boring shells and teaching me how to jump into a wave. He listened and laughed when I made up goofy jokes that didn’t deserve laughter. He put up with more than his share of tickle wars even though he hates to be tickled. We had fun. We laughed often and hard. We still do.

Many of us are blessed enough to have wonderful memories with our dads. Many of us are blessed to watch similar stories unfold between our husbands and our children. My husband is a hero. He nobly walks out his faith each day in front of our children. He works hard. He sacrifices time watching (and playing) golf to wrestle and laugh with our baby boy. He gives of himself and what is more heroic than that? I am blessed to be his wife. I am blessed by him as a father.

Still, even more heroic is the love of our Heavenly Father. He gave so that we can live. He gives abundantly. Grace and love flow freely from His hands, from His heart even when we don’t deserve it. Strength is defined in Him. Selflessness begins in Him. Life was and is breathed in Him.

Heroes give.

Today, I am thankful for the heroes in my life. The world is a better place because of heroes like you. Happy Father’s Day!

On Days When it Sinks in

You know that feeling when something hits you? I mean REALLY hits you! Those moments of clarity when something you’ve heard a million times suddenly is alive with meaning. I think of Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 6 when he says “I am undone”. The gravity of what God is doing or has done finally sinks in with all of the weight of glory it carries and I’m left “undone”.

look up

Today, I heard a rendition of the classic hymn “How Great thou Art” by Stuart K. Hine. I’ve sung this song countless times and still do break it out in a moment of impulse when leading worship. I KNOW this hymn. Yet today, as I heard the third verse, it grabbed me by the spirit and pulled me into a new state of awe at the wonder that is my God.

“And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross, My burden gladly bearing, He bled and died, To take away my sin”

I know you’ve heard it before. I know it seems simple.

I scarce can take it in…

There is a God. I’ve met him. He’s wonder beyond definition. He breathed the stars into being. He spoke and the earth took shape. His hands molded man. Every cell and system was imagined by him. Every hair on every head is numbered. No tear or smile escapes his gaze. The universe declares his praise with vastness we can’t fathom. Numbers don’t go high enough to measure him. Words, as much as we love them, can’t even begin to fully describe him.

Yet, he loves me though I’ve done nothing to earn acclaim. Though I am dust and water breathed to honor him and have failed so many times. Though I have turned away and forgotten time and time again. He sees me, a prized creation, a masterpiece.

His son not sparing…I scarce can take it in…

Turned

Turned

It pleased him to take my burdens, my shame, to reconcile me to himself. He considered it joy to bring me peace through his suffering. “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” Colossians 1:19-20

And now I stand…free…not by works of righteousness which I have done, but according to His mercy He saved me. (Titus 3:5) Every sin banished forever, taken away and remembered no more. Every mistake no more than a memory.

I scarce can take it in…

Every now and then, it hits you…those moments when you realize what the gospel really means. Those moments when I realize once more how great he truly is. I am undone.

Who are you?

Psalm 40

 

I heard someone say once that our stories define us. I couldn’t disagree more. Our stories contribute to our worldview. Our stories can impact or influence our actions and attitudes. They give us wisdom and sometimes strength. Sometimes we allow them to make us bitter. Still, only one thing can define us.

We are defined by the word of God and the one who created us. His thoughts about us outnumber the sands of the sea. He sees his children as whole, complete and captivating.

I choose to be defined by him and him alone.