When Words Mean More

2017. For me, it has come in like a hushed whisper and continued like a gentle breeze. Life has been quiet and peaceful the past few weeks. I've found myself with time to be still...time to take inventory...time to evaluate and think about what really matters. I've prayed a lot. I've spent quality time with my family. I've had time to sit and read without feeling hurried. It has been absolutely wonderful and so very refreshing, but at the same time...

...very unsettling!

Doesn't that sound ridiculous?! How can such a refreshing time be so unsettling?

It can be unsettling when you haven't known true rest for a very, very long time.  It can be unsettling when you start to feel that life with an absence of busyness means God has side-lined you and said, "Thanks for the effort, darlin', but you're done now." Honestly, that's how I was starting to feel until one day I decided to sit with the Lord and ask Him about this season.

"Lord, what are You up to here? My life is so very quiet and uneventful. Have I done something wrong?"

His answer was a passage of scripture I have read hundreds and hundreds of times. The words danced lovingly off the pages of my Bible and settled into my heart like a fresh-fallen snow. I read a love letter from the only One who understands just what turmoil I have faced the last few years. This battered heart has needed some rest and so these words were a soothing, healing balm...

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love with follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

What words of love! Wow...a season of restoration after a long, weary battle. A Shepherd who takes care of me, providing all of my needs. Even more, a Shepherd who sees beyond the physical into the spiritual, knowing that green pastures and quiet waters are what's needed most. It is HE who restores my soul! He makes me lie down. He takes me into quiet places. He gently leads me this way, calming every fear and quieting my heart. Even if I be taken through the "valley of the shadow of death," it's ok, for there I will still know that it is He who walks with me...guiding me, disciplining me, comforting me. Though there be critics and naysayers and those who wound and hurt, He still lovingly prepares a table of good in front of me. He knows my heart. The other "voices" don't matter to Him. He anoints my head. Knowing how undeserving I am, I am humbly aware that my cup overflows. I am overwhelmed that my Shepherd would take notice of me and love me to such depths. My heart rejoices, knowing that this kind of goodness and this amazing love will be with me...pursuing me....all the days of my life. To dwell with Him, in His house forever, will one day be my souls deepest delight!!

Reading Psalm 23 changed everything. I'll never read it the same again. It means more having walked through some of the most difficult days of my life.

I'm finally on the other side and here in this season, my Father says rest...heal...be still...trust.

Instead of questioning, I'll gladly obey.


photo credit: Jayembee69 A view from East Worldham via photopin (license)


Chasing Christmas

December is overwhelming. I started off the month with a speaking engagement followed by back-to-back parties at our house. I was so sure life would slow down for us then. I would be able to merely relax for the rest of the month, enjoying all the wonder of the season.

But, I have been chasing Christmas since Dec 1st.

My disappointment came to a head when I was frantically cleaning up one day, realizing my kids had played a game of paper airplanes, flying their creations from high above in our loft area straight down to our foyer. Bending over to pick up one of the airplanes, I realized it had landed in front of my grandmother's china cabinet and I paused there.

Running my hand over the worn corners, I thought of her. I imagined coming in out of the cold into her very warm gas-heated home, slamming her creaky door behind me. I thought of her Christmas tree smothered from top to bottom in silver, stringy icicles. When I was a child, she'd let me throw those onto it in handfuls and never say a word. I thought of how, every Christmas, I would plunder through her old 8-track tapes to find a treasure..."Christmas with the Chipmunks". Alvin, Simon, and Theodore would belt out Christmas classics and I would dance and laugh and sing right along with them. I thought about that old piece of furniture and how along with her china, it once held hundreds of black and white photos. She would sit with me for hours, going through each one, telling me about family members. The most treasured ones were of my grandfather who left for Heaven when I was just 4 years old. He was the one I wanted to hear about the most.

Flooded with memories, I opened every drawer, every single drawer, trying desperately to capture a certain smell that hits me sometimes when I open them. You see, it's the smell of my childhood...the smell of warmth and love and happiness...and yes, even Christmases gone by. I've been so busy, I needed to feel that and hold onto that brief connection to the past...even if just for a moment.

But I couldn't find it. With a tear trickling down my face, staring into the den at my own Christmas tree, I mourned my loss of a peaceful, warm and fuzzy Christmas. Maybe this year I was not going to "feel" Christmas and just about as quickly as that thought crossed my mind, so did another...

Christmas is not a feeling at all.

The movies tell us it is. The commercials do as well. Every Hallmark movie with every sappy, happy ending that we swoon over is fake and while we love it for transporting us to "good feelings" we also fall for the lie that our life must match up to be worthwhile, especially this time of year! We end up believing that Christmas IS in fact all about warm, fuzzy feelings and sweet tender moments and joyous, happy children whose eyes twinkle with delight. If that doesn't happen...if this picture inside our head escapes us...then we are conned into being let down.

But, can I ask you, how in the world can we ever be let down over the most wondrous gift ever given...the gift of our Emmanuel...our "God with us" who stepped out of Heaven to live among us?

His awesome birth IS our focus, whether we have all the sappy feelings or not!

And, speaking of Jesus, can we just focus on his mom for a minute, here?

There's a verse in Luke that says, "but Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." As a mom, I have always connected to those words. Practically every mother who has ever lived has stared into the face of her child and wondered who they might become, dreaming of their bright future. Even more so, Mary, who had been visited by an angel and told of her baby's holy purpose! And yet, I think of her also at the foot of the cross a mere 33 years later, watching her beloved child die the most gruesome death imaginable. On that day, her feelings most certainly would not have matched the joyous moment when Jesus' birth was foretold. And, I'm guessing that Mary may have continued to ponder the great mystery of it all, for it is a great mystery! Wasn't her child supposed to become the King?

It is safe to say, God's ways and our ways do not match up and very often, do not make sense. There are truths we know in our hearts that we do not feel, but abide by because we believe. We are called as His children to obey, to be faithful, and to carry on, NOT because we "feel it", but because we believe it!!

And so I am determined to not just let my feelings off the hook this Christmas, but to kick them to the curb! I choose to celebrate Christ and Christ alone...not the presents, not the family time, not the decorations, not the memories of Christmases past, not the Christmas-y feelings in any way, shape, or form....no, I choose to celebrate the birth of a Savior who came to die so that I might live!

He is all the reason I need to realize that this is, in fact, a very merry Christmas, no matter how I feel. 


Anything Changes Everything

I like to sleep and sleep likes me. Once I'm out, I'm usually out for the night, and waking me is about like waking the dead. Mornings generally bring on a kind of sleep-induced hangover, causing me to need to slowly ease into my day (something my husband teases me about endlessly). I have been this way for as long as I can remember.

For this reason, if I ever suddenly jolt out of a deep sleep and am wide awake in the middle of the night, I suspect that it has to be the Lord. After praying for whoever He brings to mind, I might fall back to sleep, but if the Lord is really trying to get my attention, well...sleep is over! In those times, I get up, grab my Bible, pray, and try to listen to that "still, small voice". It never fails. He always has something important to say.

Last year, He had something important to say. It was just before 5am, and sure enough, I was aroused out of a deep sleep. Being that it was our last day on vacation, I honestly tried hard to ignore the urgency thinking I needed the extra rest for packing up and heading home, but the sense that I needed to get up was very strong. I put on some clothes, tiptoed out of the room, and was quiet as a mouse as I opened the beach house door.

I had never seen the sunrise over the ocean, so I figured if I was up, I would go spend time with the Lord on the beach. This particular morning, it seems, God had both a sunrise and a word that He didn't want me to miss.

I had no idea what time the sun would actually come up.  Using the flashlight on my cell phone, I made my way down the little path out to the ocean. I was somewhat leery walking through the bushes and the shadows, but I reached the boardwalk soon enough.

Stopping to take a few pictures of the moon and stars in the faint light, I noticed a bench overlooking the ocean, so I sat down and slowly took in the salty air. I savored the cool breeze, thinking about how hot it would be in just a few hours. Looking around, I realized quickly that I was all alone. It was just me, the Lord, and the sound of the ocean waves rolling in. I knew right away that this was, indeed, a divine appointment.

There are only a handful of times in my life that I can say I have sensed such an undeniable, weighty, and overwhelming presence of the Lord. In the stillness of that moment, it sat heavy on me, blanketing me in the most amazing peace. It's almost like God was waiting for me on the beach that morning. It was surprising, unexpected, and caught me completely off guard, in the very best way possible.

Sitting in awe and reverence, I didn't say a word, but I felt both completely known and completely loved all at the same time. I also felt extremely vulnerable. Before I knew it, a slow trickle of tears cascaded down each cheek. Emotions from somewhere down deep soon turned into sobs that I couldn't control. It was evident that I had been carrying a burden for far too long, because it gushed out of me as the Lord's presence scratched the surface of a painful wound. That morning, alone on the beach, I couldn't hide behind busyness or distraction or complacency. He had removed all of those. He stripped away my every defense, engulfed me in His love, and feeling completely safe.... I..... let ..... go.

You see, for a few years, I had been fighting to fit in...to feel like I belonged in a place that was way too big and way too cold. The saying "bloom where you're planted" had played over and over in my mind, so, like a good soldier, I marched on. I kept my nose to the grindstone, knowing that God saw my motives and that He would honor them. Yet, every act of bravery to put myself out there ended in failure and I had basically thrown in the towel. I had not fit in from the moment I arrived, and I never would. It was one of the most utterly confusing times in my life and honestly, I was starting to doubt that the Lord had taken notice of any of it. In fact, it seemed like it was open season on me in many areas of my life. I felt like I was dying on the inside and no one knew it.

But God.

The One who woke me up and arranged one of the most beautiful moments of my entire life...He saw it all. And He cared. Deeply. Until that moment on the beach, I don't think I knew how much.

I held nothing back. All of the pain, confusion, and hurt came out. I confessed that I felt like one gigantic disappointment and then I prayed what I now understand is a very dangerous prayer. I told God, with every ounce of sincerity in me, that I surrendered to anything...anything that I needed to do...anything that I needed to say...anything that needed to be moved, switched up, laid down, let go, given away, or completely removed from my life...I was ready, for anything.


As I sat quietly before the Lord after that, inhaling and exhaling, having poured out my heart to Him for quite a long time, I witnessed the most glorious sunrise I had ever seen! I started crying all over again, thanking Him repeatedly for such a magnificent sight. In the stillness, I felt like the Lord gently spoke these words to me, words I wrote down so that I would never forget them. I share them here, because maybe, just maybe, one of you needs to hear them as well...........

"You're a dreamer and that's no mistake. You feel deeply by design...just like I designed the sunrise you saw today. My love is powerful and constant. It's like the waves that change the shape of the shoreline according to My will. It is my masterpiece. So are you. It's okay not to fit in. It's okay to rest and not know the next step. It's okay to not 'feel' used by me. I make no mistakes. To say you are a disappointment would be to say that I have made a mistake. I make no mistakes. My love for you is powerful and constant. It will change you. Let it. Daily."

That morning, a different woman walked off the beach. My burdens were lifted. I had been profoundly changed in the presence of God.

Six weeks later, our world started to turn upside down in many ways, and while I can't tell you it was easy, I can tell you this...it was worth it!! My prayer of "anything" changed EVERYTHING. God literally moved us to a new city, put us in a new church, moved us into a new house, and even gave us a new-to-us vehicle. Nothing is the same, but all of it is better than we could have ever imagined! My life is far removed from every thought, feeling, or concern that I had that morning on the beach and I will be forever grateful that God woke me up.


My prayer for you today is this...that you would get alone with God and pour out your heart to Him like never before. Maybe He broke through the noise and distraction in my life that morning and woke me up so that He could, on this day, wake you up! He loves you!! You are not a mistake. You are not a disappointment. You are His masterpiece!!! And if you're brave enough to pray a dangerous prayer of surrender....to say to Him, "anything"...I promise, He will be faithful to come through on your behalf, both for your good and for His glory! Anything changes everything!!