In His Time

Lately I've had a string of days where nothing has come easily. Actually I think I'm going on more like a month. Having five kids, 3 of which are special needs, our calendar is literally jam packed with appointments, therapy, games, school functions, church stuff, with times in between to eat, sleep, and bathe if we're lucky. I would say 2-3 days of each week is literally back to back items that are all super time-dependent.

Soooo, what better time for God to teach me to slow down and smell the roses right?!

For those who may not know, I'm a RN by vocation, a flight nurse more specifically (or at least I was until this whole writing, speaking, momming thing started a couple years ago), so my life as a whole has been defined by high-speed, high-energy, high-adrenaline. Its not overstating the matter to say that much of my adult life was consumed by life or death split second decisions.

Time matters, seconds count, plans going smoothly is paramount- and my A-to-B personality thrives within that structure.

Yet God has been teaching me more. Not that any of those kinds of things are bad, that kind of mindset can be super helpful and effective in fact... but He's been dragging my feet, usurping my plans, and downright challenging my patience literally non-stop lately.

You know that t-shirt that says, "You're testing the Jesus in me!" ? What happens when it's God doing that testing?

These last thirty days have been exhausting and trying to say the least. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, has gone easily. Nothing's gone according to plan. Everything on my schedule has had to be moved, sometimes multiple times. Much of what we do is dependent on other stuff or people doing what they need to; so one thing fails or is delayed and before you know it, the whole house of dominoes has fallen and you find yourself vaguely looking around for the hidden cameras wondering which "Totally Hidden" reality show you've inadvertently found yourself in.

Welcome to my life. Anybody relate?

Any yet God has been good time me and given me so much inexplicable patience. I've taken more deep breaths, given more smiles, rearranged more appointments, given more grace and mercy to people (and myself!) than I ever have in my life. I've been forced to slow down and smell the proverbial roses. After all, unlike my previous jobs, <almost> none of this stuff is life and death.

I admit it's been a total mind-set change for me. And I'm loving the aroma of seeing Him work in me through those undeserved smiles. The scent of His grace and mercy working in and through and towards me. It's been astoundingly peaceful despite what on paper looks life a mess.

More times than I can tell I've found myself humming the words to an old Psalty the Psalmbook song (totally dating myself here!)

In His time, In HIs time,
He makes all things beautiful
In his time

Lord please show me everyday
As you're teaching me your way
That you do just what you say
In your time

In Your time, in Your time
You make all things beautiful
In Your time

Lord my life to You I bring
May each song I have to sing
Be to You a lovely thing

In Your time.

I've been keenly aware in the last few years of my life that I have this sub-conscious timeline in my head of what I should be doing, where I should be going, what goals I should be meeting, etc. etc. etc. Yet His time is so very different from mine! And more poignantly, He will take care of HIS goals for me in HIS time... not mine.

Not mine.

Whether it be a mundane doctor's appointment that's a no-go or getting my first multi-book publishing contact (insert wink wink and lots of prayers here!) I can rest in knowing He is in control and He does, indeed make all His plans, all His people, all His creation- beautiful in His time.

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD . “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." NLT

Holding Hamsters, "Onions", and Grudges- Part Deux

So most of this is a reblog from my Easter post from last year. I was going to write a new one… until my beloved middle son (the same one as below!) pulled another ‘easter surprise’ for me a few days ago- and the feelings were so similar to this time last year that I figured I’d just add the story to this one (feel free to check out the original post here!). That boy sure knows how to show me Jesus… lol. But let’s start with what happened last year…

(April 2018) Over the Easter weekend a tremendous and long-awaiting event occurred at the Douglas house. Jake came to visit us for the weekend! My sons in particular had been looking forward to this time together since last fall when we heard that there was a chance he might come visit. Since then almost every weekend came the expected, "Is Jake coming this week?" So, after many months, the special visit arrived. We picked Jake up after school on Thursday, settled him in his cozy little room at the house while both boys busily made plans for the long, 4-day weekend. Before long, all 96 hours of the Easter weekend were lovingly and thoroughly planned for Jake and our family. Quite frankly the first 20 hours were spectacular. Jake fit in with the family wonderfully, participating in all the kid's activities, eating what we gave him, and generally being quite pleasant. Our visit was going swimmingly.

Until he disappeared.

Or rather, I should say, until my 4-year Jonah old let him out of his cage....

And just like that, Jake the hamster was gone. The class pet, the children's Kindergarten mascot, who I was ultimately in charge of keeping, well... alive.... was MIA.

Before I knew it, my generally low-key, tidy world (I write this with the caveat that I have 3 children under 6, a dog, and a cat <who's role in this story will soon become apparent>, so take "low-key" and "tidy" for what you will...) was turned upside down. Instead of making dinner, I made non-lethal hamster traps (Google it, it's a thing). Instead of cleaning my house, I searched my house. And quite frankly I was irate. I was furious. Not that the hamster was lost necessarily, I was angry that my son (who we had already caught messing with the cage multiple times) had disobeyed me once again. I was 1003% O.V.E.R. him!

Me, who is used to high energy, high adrenaline, high trauma work... was seeing RED at my son's defiance. I was fuming. I called my husband, telling him to prepare himself for my mood and <his> child when he got home. I prepared for a long night, praying for a miracle; reasoning that it was Good Friday after all and surely if Christ could take the sins of the world upon Himself than certainly He could find and restore a rodent back into his cage. (Yes, my prayer was actually and literally that I would wake up and find little Jake happily and safely back inside his quarters... I know, I know... one can never accuse me of thinking or praying small!)

Fast forward to Saturday morning and Jake was found. Actually our cat Fievel was the one who discovered him and brought him to me like a good cat should. I, rather, found more specifically pieces of him. All over my bathroom floor. #goodmorningtome

I would have been mad except I literally don't think my anger from the previous night could have gotten any higher. I was legitimately perhaps the angriest I'd ever been at one of my children. The fallout from his decision to defy me continued on and it was not lost on me how much of a headache this visit was turning out to be. It was totally lost on Jonah though- he seemed to not even remember how or when he had opened the cage, only that he had. And though very sorry to see the bits of Jake all over my tile floor, he clearly hadn't made the connection that it was his disobedience that caused the hamster's untimely death. It was infuriating that I couldn't make him understand, and though he is only 4, I found myself resenting the ensuing expense and time to find another flippin' rodent, the embarrassing text to the teacher about the situation, and generally living down what, for anyone else that's not in the situation, is a hysterical story (the humor was not lost on me.) I resented him for it. Jonah could do nothing to fix the situation or even help it... an acknowledgment of guilt would have been nice at least. I was still angry.

Until my husband told me what had happened the previous night at church.

While I was busy (read: frantically) searching the house, christian-cussing under my breath about spending Friday night looking for a missing hamster who wasn't even ours... my husband had taken Jonah to a Good Friday walk-through at our church. I'm pretty sure it was more to ensure the tot's safety from my wrath than for his spiritual sake, but nevertheless at the end of the walk-through, having learned all about what happened to Jesus before and during his crucifixion, there was an opportunity to nail sins or burdens on a life-sized cross. When Gabe ask Jonah if there were any sins he needed to tell Jesus about he apparently replied, "I lost Jake." And taking a way-too-big hammer with a fresh nail, he nailed that black piece of paper his daddy had written his little sin on to the cross.

Que: massive mom-regret and a wee bit of self-loathing...

I was hit with a tidal wave of conviction. 24 hours later and I hadn't forgiven him yet, I was still dealing with the fall-out of his sins and disobedience and I desperately wanted him to understand what he had done.

It doesn't matter Bethany.

He doesn't understand anymore than you do of what sins you've committed. He and you don't need to... that's for Me to deal with, just as you are for him.

He asked for forgiveness. I have forgiven him.

You need to as well.

Fast-forward to several days ago and Jonah hit again. I was out in the yard, bemoaning how much yard-work there was to do before the mowing could commence, when I discovered a random flower bulb laying in the yard. Hmm… that’s interesting I thought, wonder where that came from. I continued cleaning up sticks when another wayward bulb appeared in front of me… another.. and then another. I looked up from my work towards my flower bed to discover that every. single. bulb. had been yanked out. ALL of them. I mean the entirety of my beautiful spring bulbs had been unceremoniously dumped onto the ground. In this garden, around that tree, in the front beds…. A.L.L. of them.

I flipped. I didn’t yell, I didn’t scream, I simply fell to the ground crying hot angry tears. I was done. Capitol D O N E done.

Now let me take a step back. I love to garden. I’d do it a lot more often if I got the chance. But it’s not like a live and breathe flowers. But we had just taken in a new, medically-complex foster kid, a backlog of work and appointments had been piling up in the interim of our transitioning her to our house. My mom-schedule (as all are) is tighter than a toddler’s mouth trying to feed him green beans. I had no extra time to replant dozens and dozens and DOZENS of bulbs. (Did I mention he pulled every.single.one?? Cue that christian cussing again.) Something inside broke a little bit. The recent days of my life had been those kind where nothing comes easily and everything takes 15 times longer than it should.

This day had just reached the “you have GOT to be kidding me!” phase.

Somewhere in the blur I ascertained that Jonah and a friend had pulled them all thinking they were onions. Knowing that onions ‘would make the flower garden smelly’ they took it upon themselves to correct the impending oderous problem.. In the moment, somewhere in my mind’s eye I acknowledged that to be a relatively fair deal. They weren’t being malicious… just curious and impulsive little boys (also in my minds-eye… curiosity killed the cat… but I digress.) I didn’t have the strength to deal with it- so I did what all professional moms do- I left the situation to dad.

I didn’t go to bed mad that night. I went to bed down. I went to bed sorrowful that I couldn’t seem to catch up and now (like it matters) all my beautiful flowers that I was so looking forward to enjoying would miss this season (they may even miss next spring and the next… because let’s be honest, it’s not like i’m going to make the 5-year-old replant them and I certainly have no time to right now.) It wasn’t a big deal. In the grand spectrum of eternity it didn’t matter at all. But it was the proverbial straw for me that day. And I wept bitter tears of exhaustion, sorrow, and not a little bit of discouragement.

The next morning, my blue boy knew I was still depressed. So, he did what this child does best- he picked me a flower. A big, beautiful, yellow tulip plucked out of the yard as his peace offering. It soothed my soul to see his little eyes peering up at me and that huge smile on his face as he told me that “this will make you feel better mommy!”

God is good to us. Even when we’re behind and running to catch up. He’s sees our shortcomings, our sorrow, our mourning of even the smallest things like pulled up “onions”. I think He must smile down lovingly, perhaps with a slight Fatherly smirk now and again as His children try so desperately to ‘help'.

And for those times when we royally but innocently mess up, His arms and smile open wide. Much like mine were when I found out that my tulip was the only one in the entire yard that (had) remained….

Grinding It Out

I must admit, I’ve never been one to make New Years resolutions, and yet this year for some inexplicable reason I’ve made <several>. I’m happy to announce I’m quite resolved to keep them and have done well thus far. 8 days down, 357 to go right?!

Lately I’ve found myself encouraging quite a few young women in their walk. As the end of 2018 drug to a close, they came, one by one, bedraggled to my counsel. Each frustrated by their lack of discipline, the general angst of unmet and unfulfilled goals, and depressed at looking back over their year and having so little to show for it. There were a lot of woulda, coulda, shouldas to say the least.

I told them each in turn- sis, I get it.

For many the new year holds so much hope and dreams. We desperately want our resolutions to ‘stick’. We start so strong and motivated. And then, like so many of my dear girls, time slowly wears away our resolve. Our fiery determination dissolves bit by bit through a little laziness here or a little bit of compromising there. One thing leads to another and before you know it that twenty pounds we wanted to lose turns into twenty-five that needs to go. The desire to spend less screen time or more quality time with loved ones gets lost in work deadlines and a overly-full schedules. And the year closes too often with a page full of unmet aspirations and half-checked off resolutions.

It can be super discouraging.

Our walk with Christ has the potential to suffer a similar fate. The regular grind of taking up our cross is one of pure, unadulterated sacrifice. It’s the daily discipline of being in the Word, seeking the Lord at every turn, and constantly mitigating our flesh. It’s not glamorous and it’s certainly not easy... in fact it’s just plain hard pretty much all the time.

With such odds it is easy to get discouraged and feel as if all the striving and work is for nothing. Or the seemingly minuscule results are certainly not worth the gargantuan effort it takes to get them. The ‘grind’ of working out our faith can most certainly grind us emotionally and spiritually into despair.

And yet it doesn’t have to be so.

Each step of faith, every victory no matter how small, each decision to choose the Right path versus the easy one, every moment of disciplining our fleshly nature to the likeness of Christ is cheered in heaven. Our steps of faithfulness may be halted, or uneven. They may stop and start a hundred times over. But each one forward reverberates in the spiritual realm. And our Father cheers us on alongside the angels.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭9:24-27‬ ESV

Dear ones- holiness can also be found in the reverence and sacrifice of discipline. Even when we don’t feel like it, or don’t want to do it. When we are hopelessly stuck or feel like God has nothing new to share- still the grinding out of our daily walk of devotions, prayer, fellowship, being in the Bible- has such power. There may not be sparks, fire, thunder, or great new insight every time we open our Bibles or voices from heaven speaking over us in our prayers. Grind it out anyway.

This year, even now, it’s not too late to resolve to be disciplined in our faith. If there is no other resolution to make- that’s the one to put into practice. Each day, step by step, may your 2019 testify to the daily work of the Cross in your life. My prayer is that all of our lives of steady spiritual habits would only grow stronger with each day, week, and month- and ultimately we would find ourselves at the end of this year with the knowledge that we grinded it out well. It may not be pretty to look back on, it will not be easy, but oh what satisfaction!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Join me today, if you haven’t resolved to walk more faithfully yet this year, let us partner now to grind it out all year long. Together. United. Spurring each other on daily! Comment below with your faith resolutions for this year.

For Those Who Ache

For Those Who Ache

I imagine you feel like damaged goods. Like what little was there to start with is now irrevocably tarnished. So much so that you're not worthy of love or any goodness in life. People have started treating you differently- like your pain and wounds are just too much... too ugly... to big for them to handle. Right?
The pain goes too deep to root out the cause, the treatment to heal too scary to consider seriously. The worry and anxiety of such a burden that you carry is overwhelming and yet you are unwilling to put it down or even share the load.

You run. You hide. You numb. Picking your poison to flee from the pain and ache of all that has gone wrong.

And by now you’re convinced none of it matters anymore. You’re beyond help. Beyond attention. Beyond redemption.

Dear one- you need to hear that you are loved, treasured, precious, and accepted by so so many people. Your life, your sins, your wounds, all are worthy of notice, love, and healing. You are worthy of redemption. You are worth it. Even minute of struggle, every moment of regret, every bad memory, every hurt whether visible or invisible- is known by your Father in heaven and He longs to heal you.

You need to stop running from the pain and listening to the lies. You need to know that you have plans and a purpose in this life and this season of tremendous hurting will be redeemed by your Savior. The crazy thing is that He has already done it... but you need to accept the gift.

No longer numb- take your pain and agony, worries and anxieties to God. He is trustworthy and a safe shelter.

I am reminded as I write of a lyric from Oh Holy Night.

'The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.'

Sister, dear sister- hear me clearly- your night need not go on forever. Today is a new day, another morning to start anew. Take time now to make some choices- you need to put down the drugs, the drinks, the anger, whatever you're numbing the pain with- they're doing you no good and not stopping any pain in the end. You know this. They are the easy way out... until they're not. Rather take a step towards your Father and onto a road of supernatural and TOTAL healing. Healing that is complete and eternal. Healing that cannot be mimicked by anything or anyone this world will ever offer you.

“When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai, you are hidden in the strength of God Most High. He’s the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me, the only God for me, and my great confidence. He will rescue you from every hidden trap of the enemy, and he will protect you from false accusation and any deadly curse. His massive arms are wrapped around you, protecting you. You can run under his covering of majesty and hide. His arms of faithfulness are a shield keeping you from harm. You will never worry about an attack of demonic forces at night nor have to fear a spirit of darkness coming against you. Don’t fear a thing! Whether by night or by day, demonic danger will not trouble you, nor will the powers of evil launched against you. Even in a time of disaster, with thousands and thousands being killed, you will remain unscathed and unharmed. you will be a spectator as the wicked perish in judgment, for they will be paid back for what they have done! When we live our lives within the shadow of God Most High, our secret hiding place, we will always be shielded from harm. How then could evil prevail against us or disease infect us?
God sends angels with special orders to protect you wherever you go, defending you from all harm. If you walk into a trap, they’ll be there for you and keep you from stumbling. You’ll even walk unharmed among the fiercest powers of darkness, trampling every one of them beneath your feet! For here is what the Lord has spoken to me: “Because you have delighted in me as my great lover, I will greatly protect you. I will set you in a high place, safe and secure before my face. I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and feel my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I will be your glorious hero and give you a feast. You will be satisfied with a full life and with all that I do for you. For you will enjoy the fullness of my salvation!””
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭91 TPT

Find those God has placed in your life who know these dark paths well and who don't fear the monsters in the shadows. There are multitudes who have fought these fights and won glorious victories in Christ. Our testimonies should be a map of the roads we’ve walked. We will walk alongside you. You have many ready to fight with you. You are worth it!


Pause and Ponder

I wanted to catch a moment with just you, me, and a newborn baby this day. Just us. Together in a moment of time.

There are probably children playing in the background, wrapping paper bits scattered about, smells of Christmas dinner wafting here and there.

Or perhaps none of those- perhaps today is quiet or full of worry or sadness. Maybe an empty chair whispers of a loved one missing from it, maybe food is scarce, money short, or relationships strained.

It’s okay. We three can still be together for a bit.

Dear one, take a moment with me, whether happy or sad, whole or hurting- and let us pause life for just a minute or two. Like Clarence in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, I want to look back with you and ponder this day we call Christmas.

In this movie our somewhat hapless guardian angel is trying to earn his wings by helping a suicidal, broken, and stressed out man to see the good in his life- the impact his presence has made for others. Clarence does this by walking him back through a time that doesn’t include him- a time that has no knowledge or imprint of his existence.

Today I would ask you to meditate on something similar with me- but instead of yourself being the center of life, let us put the newborn babe there instead.

Can we for even a moment comprehend a life without the existence or imprint of this baby King?

Imagine a world without the Christ child- it surely looks different does it not? Suddenly all those lovely Christmas carols hold meaningless words, unmet promises, and heavenly lies hanging over an empty manger. A darkened world lays under a silent night that is just like any other. The thrill of hope remains a void in the world’s heart. The new and glorious morn harkens nothing of renewal or glory at all. In fact the morning after testifies to the same sin, death, destruction of it’s sister the day before. The world lays in sin and error pining... still. Forever.

Yes, surely without this tiny baby the world would be eternally lost. Pain and suffering would have no purpose. Loss and grief would find foothold in our hearts without any hope of the bitterness being healed. Sin running rampant and without answer. The hope of peace, the promise of heaven, Emmanuel incarnate... just... not there.

Ponder with me the impact the void of this Child would have in your own life. What paths of destruction might you still be on? What relationships still broken? What losses still deeply unhealed? What brokenness still manifest? What hopelessness for an eternity separated from our Creator!

Yes, truly without this baby we would have pasts with no redemption, presents without purpose, futures with no hope. Dear one, the significance of this occasion we celebrate and cherish cannot be overstated. Mary’s screams in childbirth still echo in eternity. The chasm that was bridged between heaven and earth as his little head breeched between her legs, in one instant, mended both time and space between God and man. The great fall now had a great Savior to soften the blow and ultimately catch the fallen.

So today, as our moment together draws to a close, let the words of Isaiah wash over you and bring you unabashed joy in the birth of our Savior.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭9:2-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Unlike the movie, this Christmas story is not a fairy-tale, it’s not a fantastic novel, it’s not a fable passed down through the centuries. This is Jehovah deigning to be Emmanuel. This is a new chapter in the history of creation that started the beginning of the end of the story... a story that we are characters in so many years later. A story that we are both saved in and get to aid in. A story of a world that was completely lost that found it’s Savior in the form of a tiny baby boy. And in that moment, the cosmos past, present, and future shifted forever. What a marvelous thing!

Living Intentionally Fearlessly Truthfully
Merry Christmas my friends!
~Bethany

#HolyBeautiful #BeHolyBeautiful #HolyBeautifulLife

Unwanted Silver Linings

Recently I was trying to encourage a dear co-worker of mine who had recently lost his younger brother to cancer. It was the first time I’d seen him since the funeral and I was doing my best to delicately love on him during the oh-so-awkward-after-the-funeral-but-before-reality-really-sets-in time. It’s a hard season right? Hard for the family, hard for those who come alongside them-

In this case, this young boy knew Jesus well, so there was more joy that sorrow to be had… and his family remaining on this side of heaven knew it. But even with the joy of hope for a reunion, the immediate grief and life-change of losing a loved one isn’t necessarily dampened. It’s still hard-

I found myself switching into my ‘nurse-mode’ midway through the conversation. Having been an ICU trauma nurse for many years, I’ve been at the death bed of more people than I care to count… it was, by far, the hardest part of my job. Yet the experiences have been invaluable to me in helping people see Jesus through even the very darkest of times. Losing a child, a spouse, a dad, a grandmother… none of these losses ever get easier. Loss is supposed to hurt. It’s an unfortunate by-product of Eve’s wayward decision way back in the Garden of Eden…. separation… loss… death. All these things are so very hard.

They’re hard because we aren’t designed for such things- not originally at least. Our hearts and souls were made for unity and union with one another (with God in particular). Originally our lives came with complete relationship and fellowship with God and each other. There was time. There was no end in sight. The horizons of humanity’s perspective were clear… pure sunshine all the way to the ends of the earth. But then came the fall of man and death, decay, separation. Storm clouds quickly blocked the endless view… and just like that- time now was tethered to the finite.

Talking through some of this with my friend, I did my best to give him permission to rest and even take some joy in the end that had come. For so many families who’s loved ones spend days, months, even years deteriorating into death, often the sense of relief when ‘it’s finally over’ can be palpable. Health workers see this all the time- the unexpected and seemingly ironic relief at the end can be almost as overwhelming as the grief that accompanies the loss. And that is okay. The confusing mix of emotions often turn into guilt for many though; the sigh of relief, the letting down of the defenses, the whole night of uninterrupted sleep, returning to ‘normal’ life and maybe even taking a vacation… in short, unwanted silver linings within the clouds appear. Strange as they are to behold, these kind of silver linings are okay to look at. I needed to tell my friend this… he needed to hear it. He needed someone to give him permission and know it wasn’t dishonoring or moving too fast.

God puts silver linings in our lives, often during the darkest of storms, to remind us that He’s still in control. That His sovereignty will still win the day. Even in death… especially in death.

Because what we need to know, what you who may be reading this needs to know… is that God has placed the ultimate silver lining in our lives.

Christ’s death was no less traumatic for his family and friends- the agonizing hours, the torture, the watching and waiting for Him to breathe His last. I imagine there was a collective sigh of relief when He did finally give up His spirit… if only in thanks that His suffering was over. I cannot imagine how hard those hours would have been. For those who truly thought Him the Messiah, I assume this Man’s death was unbearable… without hope, without peace, without purpose, without meaning. For those moments which turned into days after Jesus’s death, I imagine the darkness of the clouds that surrounded all of humanity were impenetrable.

But then…. LIGHT! Literally, physically, spiritually! Christ rose from the dead! By His death and resurrection we now have the ultimate silver lining. The silver lining that bridges the brokenness of our separation from God. The silver lining that restores our union with the Creator and cuts the tethers of time, releasing us back into the infinite.

We may not want Him. He’s okay to want though.

We may not see Him. He’s okay to look at.

We often refuse to acknowledge the silver lining in our lives. But dear one, He. is. there. A silver lining piercing over the darkest of clouds, the deepest of despair, into the depths of depression, shame, or guilt.

By His death… we can live.

And that, my friends, is a silver lining worth embracing!

Dear one, if you need to take hold of this silver lining, please do so! Jesus is waiting to show you life- better, abundant, full. Please go here to find out more!

Restless

What costly grace
That my life should be so transformed
Beyond that which is called comfortable!
My heart is so charged 
With a restlessness to serve You
And feel that rest
Which only laboring with You can give.
What consternation
That my life should be so full
And pressed about with demanding crowds!
My head is so challenged
With a restlessness to serve people
But not yet feeling that peace
Which comes from serving God and not man.
What confusion
That my life should be so harried
By priorities claiming my attention!
My heart is so consumed
By a restless passion for the needy
In conflict with the rest
That only the familiar bed can bring. What conflicting calls
That my life should be so circumscribed
By expectations exceeding any carnal capacities!
My compassion is so conscripted
By a multitude of hurting hearts
That restless distress wars with my weariness
Until I hear Your call to come away and rest.
What confounded chaos
That my life should so cease to be my own
In the household hubbub of castle values.
My heat of passion becomes constrained
By identifying with daily demands
Of restless childish things,
Until arrested by Your love.
What cacophony
That my puny life should be placed
So near the site of so much spiritual carnage!
My helmet still rings
From resistance to Darkness,
The Enemy of men's souls, When leading the weary to Your rest.
What cursed conformity
That my life should be so weak-willed
As to concede to the cowardly crowd!
My heart is so convoluted
In its denial and deceit, 
That restless pursuit of popular praise
Leaves me restless still.
What confident conquest
That my life should be so covenanted
As to be recaptured by Your power!
My holy hands become wholly Yours
As Sabbath rest and sacred yoke
Return me to the less traveled road,
The path of the Shepherd's rest.
What disquieting concentration
That my life should be suborned
By tortuous nostalgic caverns! My mind and heart restlessly cavort
In forests and fields of illusion
Until breathless they become captive
To the jealous Spirit of Truth.
What consummate conformity
That my life should be confronted
With "Babbler, Blasphemer, Beelzebub."
Such honor so fully Christ-like
Strikes me with mixed pleasure and peril
Until fruitful, flowing spiritual words
Attest to the Truth and rest His case.
What quiet counsel 
That my life should be thus counted
As discarded dung yet precious pearl!
My heavy heart is hardly cracked
From deep-set seeds of chapter and verse,
But, still, from it thrives the restless role
Of the servant, sinner, and saint.

Poem by my spiritual dad and mentor, David Heikkila ca. 1986

Ritual or Relational

Ugh, ugh, UGH! People can I just say that after what feels like a bazillion years of being a Christian and I still cannot seem to get this ‘daily devotional’ thing down. It’s not you, Lord… it’s me. There… I said it. I’m terrible at doing this particular part of the Christian walk well.

Now, don’t get me wrong- I do have my devo time, but I also have 4 littles (all under 6!). I do read my Word, but I also have <several> part-time jobs. It gets done, but geez! it never looks like I want it to.

I want my daily devotions to be different. I imagine everyone else on the planet has this lovely picturesque spot on a back porch, by a serene lake, watching the sun rise over the mountains in the background, sipping their perfectly temp’ed coffee, reading a well-worn Bible and journaling endlessly to God. Pinterest and Instagram make this seem attainable right? I long for those quiet moments… I want them so badly.

But reality is different from pictures- and while everyone else on the planet is sipping their lattes'- I’m getting in a chapter here and a paragraph there (dictated wholly by feeding and napping times), coffee (if I have time to brew any at all!) is cold (with no milk because I probably forgot to get some), I’m still in my pajamas (so maybe I have that in common with the above scenario), and there is no less that at least two children who need my attention. Later that night as I tumble into bed at God-knows-what-time I try to finish up my devos, do a bit of journaling (if I’m really lucky!). My Bible is well-worn… but mostly from crayon pictures and coffee stains, its taped on three sides with medical tape… filled between the pages with an inordinate amount of my kids’s church drawings and doodles. My scenery consists of my bed usually, exhausted (sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not), and I may or may not be still in my pajamas (the truth hurts people.) Though I try for better, more often than not, this is what my Jesus-time looks like.

I want more. I want better. I want to spend better time with Him- better interaction, better conversation. But more often than not, it just isn’t there.

Later in the night, it’s a guarantee that one or more of the kids comes upstairs and nestles in next to me. I asked my oldest one night why he was coming up and in his sleepy voice he said, “Because I just want to be with you Mommy.”

And just like that… I got it.

I don’t care that he’s sweaty and (usually) stinky (as boy’s tend to perpetually be!), I don’t care that he’s sleepy, I don’t care that it’s the middle of the night, I don’t care that we aren’t talking.

I just love that he’s come to be with me. The time doesn’t matter, nor does the place, or even how long he stays (often he’ll make his little way back down to his own bed). No, it only matters that we were together for a bit, that he chose and wanted to be with me for awhile.

Ugh. I just love that.

I guess God’s the same. He doesn’t care when I spend time with Him- only that I do. He doesn’t care what I’m wearing or if I’ve showered. He won’t notice if my coffee is cold (or even if I have coffee). He’s not looking at the scenery that I am- He’s too busy looking at me. Just like I will take any time alone with my kids that I can get, He craves whatever time I can give Him. No questions asked. He’s just happy to be with me.

I’m not a hassle to God, my presence is heartwarming to Him. Conversely He is never a hassle to me, and I need to stop looking at it like that. He’s no more hassle to me than I am to Him.

And that, my friends, is a very heartwarming thing. Maybe I’m doing this daily-devo thing just right. It may not be what the pictures look like, but it certainly is mine and I’m offering what I can. Thank you Lord for meeting me where I am, how I am, and loving me for who I am.

Counting Joy

Joy is an odd thing. It’s hard to get my head around this feeling at times because, as we all know, feelings are fickle. As humans are feelings are almost wholly dictated by circumstances- by what is happening to or around us. We are happy when things go well, proud of accomplishments, sad with loss, frustrated with adversity, angry with injustice. Our feelings, for better or worse, usually depend on our surroundings.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And yet, in this passage, Janes tells us to take joy in trials. It’s an odd encouragement, and not a little contrary to our natural instincts.

“Count it joy”.... choose joy, find joy; our brother is telling us to determine our feelings through resolution in our minds.... not BECAUSE of our circumstances but in SPITE of them. We have to look around, take in the atmosphere and decide how we’re going to feel about it. We can stop feeling recklessly and start choosing how we feel. We don’t need to be victims of uncontrolled emotions.

Yes, we can count hard trials as unfair, be offended, angry, frustrated- that’s certainly the natural tendency of our flesh. God has set us apart for something better however; we can count it joy that God has chosen to place us within a situation where He has plans to grow us.

Dear ones, every situation that is less than ideal is an opportunity to choose joy. To determine in our minds, intentionally, to FEEL joyful- regardless of what is happening. Better yet... BECAUSE of the trial. If we are to believe in the truth that in our weakness He is made strong, then we must also acknowledge that during these hardships His purposes are to magnify Himself through us.

We can’t do that mad. We can’t do that upset. We can’t do that bitter or resentful. We can’t do that with unforgiveness.

We can’t do that if we’re not counting these trials as joy.

The best part about this is that our Heavenly Father meets us within the storm. “...do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah‬ ‭8:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And just like that, we have supernatural strength in the midst of the mess. Joy of our Lord glorifies Him and strengthens us as well. We only need to determine in our hearts to feel it- to know it. And by knowing Him, we can always know joy... no matter what.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Dear ones may I leave you today with the dictionary’s definition of joy. Meditate on its wonderful implications when viewed through the lens of the Joy of the Lord.

1a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight. b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety. 
2 : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss. 
3 : a source or cause of delight. joy.

The Naked Truth

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
‭‭John‬ ‭17:15-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Truth and Lie meet one day. Lie says to the Truth, "It's a glorious day today!" Truth looks up to the skies suspicious of Lie's comment, but ultimately sighs... for the day was really beautiful.

They spend a lot of time together, Lie mimicking Truth's behavior and mannerisms. Lie was very much taken with Truth's garments, her countenance and grace. The two ultimately arrive beside a well. Lie tells Truth, "The water is very nice, let's take a bath!" Truth, once again suspicious, tests the water and discovers that it, indeed, is very nice. They undress and start bathing.

Suddenly Lie comes out of the water, puts on the clothes of Truth, and runs away. Alarmed and stunned, Truth comes out of the well and runs everywhere to find Lie and get her clothes back. Yet she cannot recover them, nor can she catch up with Lie- for Lie is quite fleeting and rapidly moves. Truth cannot stand the feel of Lie's clothing, they are old and rotted, unfit for the World's eyes. So Truth is left naked.

The World, seeing Truth naked, turns its gaze away with contempt and rage, rejecting her outright. No one comes to her aid because they don't like the discomfort of viewing her stark appearance or the irritation she brings by her presence. Truth is uncomfortable to the World. Poor Truth returns to the well and disappears from view, ashamed of her nakedness, cold and alone.

Since that long ago time, Lie travels around the world dressed as Truth, masquerading as light and rightness, morality, and integrity. And the world blindly accepts Lie as Truth. The World sees the outer appearance, dressed finely and attractively, unaware and careless of what actually lies beneath the clothing.

To this day Truth can be hard to find, she must be sought with intention, found with discretion, and recognized by her appearance. She is most often alone, sometimes afraid, but always in the Right. Her nakedness can be jarring for those who aren't prepared for it, but the beauty and quiet strength of naked Truth will always overcome the darkest of Lies. (Adapted from the legend of Truth and Falsehood.)

Dear ones, today I challenge you to look hard at your hearts and discern the lies that you have bought into. I pray that God would shine His light of Truth, uncomfortable is it may be to look at, on the facades that the Evil One would have you believe. Seek the Holy One through the appearances of mankind and look upon the face of what Truths are in your life. Look for Truth with intention and reject whatever facade of false ideas have taken root.

Today I want you all to step out in boldness and comment below with a lie that has entangled you and then replace that with Truth. Be bold and fearless!

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." Colossians 2:6-8 ESV

Jean_Léon_Gerome_1896_La_Vérité_sortant_du_puits.jpeg

Truth Coming Out Of Her Well

1896 painting by the French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme.