On the Verge of Discouragement

I think we’ve all been on the verge of tears before—that moment when you sense the tears are on their way, but they haven’t formed just yet.

But what about being on the verge of discouragement, when you sense that it’s close?

Let me explain what I’m learning:

I woke up feeling “off” today. My mind wandered to the things that upset me yesterday. And I started remembering the past and the times I’d been manipulated by others. Then some of the toxic relationships God has removed from my life came to mind. Throw in a lot of waiting, and BAM! I was on the verge of discouragement.

It’s like teetering. Which way will I go? Fall over into the muck of discouragement, or lean into God who is waiting to catch me?

The choice is mine. No one can make it for me.

I’ve fallen into discouragement before, and I can tell you it’s no fun. It can take days or even weeks to get “unstuck.” Thankfully, God picked me up and wiped the mud from my face every time.

But God doesn’t leave me (or you!) to deal with this teetering all on our own. His Holy Spirit nudges us to focus on Him. A friend may call to encourage us. We may “stumble” on a video about trusting God. We may even get a message from a co-worker about something good coming our way.

Here’s what I think: Satan roams through the earth, looking for someone to devour. One way he can devour is by filling our minds with consuming, discouraging thoughts, rendering us useless for God’s calling in our lives.

The enemy reminds us of our failures and past hurts, and he lies to us by telling us it’s going to happen again. So we build walls around our hearts to keep people out AND to stop ourselves from stepping out and making more mistakes.

These walls bring isolation. Now we’re dealing with discouragement and loneliness. It’s a double whammy.

Satan wants us to “roam” through our minds, SEARCHING for all the trash, so we’ll pick it up. When it’s right there in our hands, we’ll focus on it.

God, on the other hand, tells us in His Word to think about what’s lovely, pure, noble etc. (see Scripture below). He wants us to think about what’s praiseworthy. All of those things point to God! God wants our focus to be on Him and what He’s doing.

A cherished, intimate memory we have with God can keep us from falling into discouragement by keeping our minds fixed on Him.

So when we’re on the verge of discouragement and our minds are swaying, we have a choice to make:

We can either focus on Satan’s trash, all the littering in our minds, and call it a day. Later, crying ourselves to sleep.

Or…

We can cry out to God and say, “Yes, Lord. Pull me in closer to You! Help me to focus on You and all the good You’re doing in my life.”

Which will you choose, my friend?

Me?

No more teetering in the middle of this teeter-totter with one foot down and one foot up. I’m getting off of this thing.

I’m leaning into God, grabbing onto His hand, and giggling with anticipation for whatever He has in store for this day.

And I’m expecting JOY. Lots and lots of joy in His presence.

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’”

Job 1:7 NIV.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8 NIV.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Philippians 4:8 NIV.

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”

Psalm 145:3 NIV.

When Christmas Hurts

 

I remember standing in the cemetery at Grandpa’s funeral on a cold December day. The wind was bitter and my soul hurt beyond words. How could I possibly be joyful days later? My grandpa, the one who took me fishing, bike riding, and introduced me to church, was gone from my world.

Sometimes Christmas hurts. It seems like the whole world is celebrating while we feel completely removed. Alone.

There are times when relationships in our lives have been strained, even cease to exist, and we are reminded of it at Christmas when we reflect on the year that’s gone by.

Loneliness can strike harder than usual. It seems families and friends are gathering, and you’re alone in the corner while the whole world is celebrating.

It seems this way. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Christmas is personal. It’s between you and Jesus Christ. If you want to bring others into it, to love and share with them, that’s fine.

But my friend, don’t let the struggles of failed or strained relationships, the loss of someone you love, or even the looming darkness of loneliness steal the joy that is yours.

Joy is waiting for you because Jesus Christ is waiting for you to spend time with Him.

Remember when Jesus was visiting Martha and her sister Mary? (Luke 10:38-42.) Martha was distracted, worried, and upset about so many things that she failed to see her sister was fulfilling a greater need and desire of her heart.

Mary was spending time with Jesus. Sitting at His feet. Listening to Him.

It’s no wonder the enemy tries to distract and discourage so many during the Christmas season (sometimes with all the preparations just like Martha) as we reflect on Jesus. Satan will distract you with past hurts, current struggles, pain and loss. He will magnify it like holding a magnifying glass in the sunlight to destroy a bunch of ants.

Let God be magnified in your heart. Let Him swell and fill those hurting places. Give Him the room to stretch through every part of your life. And allow yourself the time to sit at the feet of your Savior. Allow moments of stillness and prayer to draw you closer to Him.

Perhaps you could step outside after your corner of the world has gone to sleep. Gaze upon the stars. Remember the mighty One who knows each one of those stars by name knows you. He knows everything about you. He knows why you’re struggling, who hurt you, who you’re missing. Remember, He sees every tear you cry.

There are painful times in all of our lives—we live in a fallen world. But don’t let them become the focus during this miraculous season.

Don’t give the enemy control of your focus. Don’t give him the magnifying glass so he can destroy this moment in your life.

Turn away from the enemy’s lies. Rebuke Satan out loud in the name of Jesus Christ. Use your voice and take authority over the enemy.

And let Jesus Christ be your focus.

Think about the light piercing the dark night when the angel appeared, when the heavenly multitude showed up praising God (Read Luke 2:8-20). Imagine how the earth must have trembled with joy at the appearance of the One who came to save. Can you feel the shaking in your own spirit? Can you imagine rushing as a shepherd, your heart pounding, your legs feeling numb as if you’re flying, to find the baby just like the angels proclaimed? What joy your heart would feel! To be a part of this. To be included in this moment in history.

You can have a moment like this right now. Reflect and think about it. Focus and pray and put yourself in the Scripture. Let that night encompass your heart in the miracle that is Jesus Christ. Let the light of that night break through the darkness of your suffering.

It is very personal.

Jesus left all of His majestic glory behind for you. He suffered greatly for you. He is coming back for you.

If you’re hurting and the burden is too heavy, sit with Jesus in prayer and give it to Him. Listen for the sweet voice of our Lord. Wait for the Comforter to bring you peace that makes no sense to your human reasoning but is exactly what your fragile heart needs.

He will be there for you. Cry out to Him. Whisper His name.

Jesus Christ. Savior. The One we celebrate at Christmas.

You can celebrate. Deeply. In your heart. With Jesus. Just the two of you.

What a special Christmas this can be for you.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 NIV.)

A Christmas Moment in October

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As the leaves are changing and the air is getting chilly here in small town USA, I’m thinking about Christmas.

Yes, that’s right. Christmas. Already. (Cue eye-rolling for those of you who still think I’m nuts.)

Maybe I’m a little biased. I did spend a good bit of this year writing and rewriting a Christmas novella (I JUST sent out the manuscript!!), so my brain has been on Christmas mode a lot. (And LOVING every second of it!) And thanks to my sweet hubby who relinquished part of his man cave, I now write in my own little Christmas corner of the world.

But I’m thinking we could all use a Christmas moment right about now. A moment where we step back from the darkness invading our world to immerse ourselves and bask in the presence of Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

You see with Jesus, He gives you rest. He gives you peace. He’s given you His Holy Spirit, so you are always connected to Him.

With Jesus, you never struggle alone. Darkness will not overtake you.

Of course you can play your favorite Christmas songs and movies. (I’m there with you!) You can start baking those cookies or making the dough and freezing it, so you’re ready when people start hollering at you from across the room that they need your chocolate covered marshmallow cookies. (Or maybe that’s just me!)

But there is more JOY in spending time with the One who came to save, the One who is coming again. There is joy and a calming stillness in His light that the world can’t touch.

Take a moment, my friend. Take a Christmas moment. Spend time with Jesus Christ. Call out to Him. Read His Word. And don’t let the world tarnish or steal that time from you.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” (John 8:12 NIV.)

Distraction

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I’ve finally emerged from the “hole” I’ve been in. I’m not talking about the claustrophobia-inducing crawl space I recently descended into to kill mold where I had to belly crawl and turn my head around backward (it felt like it!) to paint over those menacing monsters that were invading our helpless floorboards.

I’m talking about the hole of distraction. Actually, distractions are more like a swamp with all the slow-me-down squishes underfoot.

I know I’m not alone, hanging out in the quagmire of distraction. We’ve certainly got a lot of things tugging on us for our attention:  Covid-19, politics, masks vs. no masks, violence, shut-downs/cancellations, quarantining, fear, rioting, and wildfires. Just to name a few.

Throw in your own “stay-cation,” unusual family get-togethers (if any), summer DIY attempts, financial woes (lack of employment or decreased pay), and school worries (back in session or maybe it’s not or maybe it is but only online or partly online), and it’s enough to make your eyes jump around in your head wondering what to look at next.

It’s easy to get sidetracked or pulled in different directions with so much going on. It’s like you’re the only piece of candy left sitting in the street during the parade and a swarm of kids has spotted you.

But what about God? What happens to your relationship with Him when you’re so distracted by all that’s going on around you?

God speaks to you, to all of us, through His Word and His Holy Spirit. But when we’re distracted, we’re like a bunch of rubber-necking drivers so busy gawking out the window that we miss what He’s saying, and we wind up missing our turn.

We lose our way and before long, we run out of gas and start walking.

Hello, swamp.

It doesn’t take long for this murky place to zap us of our strength, peace, and joy—no one laughs when they’re knee-deep in the muck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing. And there is no peace when you feel far away from God.

But one of the great things about God is that it’s never too late to call out to Him and ask Him to help you get back on track. You don’t even have to belly crawl to get there. 🙂  If you humble yourself and ask Him for help, He will lift you up.

And you don’t have to have all of the answers, logically mapping out how to get from here to there. You don’t have to be “perfect” either. You don’t even need to have hiking boots to get out of the swamp and back to your relationship with Him. God will give you exactly what you need, and He will meet you right where you are.

You simply need to pull your life back from the greedy, candy-sticky fingers of Distraction, and give God your focus.

And while you’re at it, give Him all of you and watch and see what He does.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV.)

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6:6a emphasis my own, NIV.)

“Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” (James 4:10 MSG.)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6 NIV.)

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Moment in July

 

 

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As the blistering sun toasts our grass into a crispy brown, I’m thinking about Christmas.

Yes, that’s right. Christmas. In July. (Cue eye-rolling for those of you who think I’m nuts.)

Let me explain. I’m not thinking about the Christmas in July sale ads or even the Hallmark Christmas movies that are playing right now.

What I’m thinking is we could all use a Christmas moment.

A moment where we pull back from what’s going on in the world around us and focus in on a little miracle that wasn’t so little after all, changing our lives in a big way.

Jesus Christ. Our Savior. The Messiah. The One Who came to save us. The One Who’s coming back for us.

Of course, we can think about the smell of almond extract coming from the candy cane cookies baking in the oven (my daughter’s favorite). We can think about snuggling under a cozy blanket with a cup of hot cocoa while reading a Christmas book or watching a Hallmark Christmas movie. (Where’s the remote?!)

We can even think about snow, remembering how those delicate flakes reflect Christmas lights like wintry fireflies. Or the way the snow frosts the ground like a sugar cookie, those tiny flakes dazzling like sugar sprinkles in the moonlight.

We can remember Christmases where little feet in footy pajamas raced to the tree, sleepy eyes opening wide with anticipation and excitement. Or the first Christmas we wore wedding rings or just settled into a new house with hardly any furniture.

We can even remember final Christmases with someone we loved before we had to let go. Those painful moments replaced with joy when we remembered where they were going, Who they were going to be with, and the celebration they would experience like nothing we could even imagine.

And we can remember the moment when the true meaning of Christmas became real to us—when we began to understand the miracle that took place so long ago that still changes lives today.

The calendar may tell us Christmas is still months away. The temperature may be a scorching ninety-something and summer chores may be tugging on our shirt sleeves like impatient children. And it may be the season to toast marshmallows over a fire instead of plopping them into a mug of hot cocoa.

But Christmas is just a moment away. All we need to do is take the time to remember Jesus and be thankful.

And the joy that fills our hearts will undoubtedly spill out and into the world around us, reminding us all that when God brings great joy, He brings great hope.

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:10-11 NIV.)

 

(Photo from pexels.com.)

 

 

 

 

Amber’s Drawing

This is another fictional story to touch your life. I hope you enjoy it!

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Amber’s Drawing

Little Amber Melancholy was usually nothing like her name. She was the happiest child I’d ever seen in all my years of teaching elementary school. Not only did her hazel eyes resemble ballerinas twirling in morning sunbeams, but the rest of her sparkled like she was a walking gem reflecting some great light.

But one Monday morning, things were different for Amber. As my first-graders brought their giggles and chatter into the classroom along with the smell of exhaust fumes from the buses and the chill that clung to their coats, Amber brought a heaviness with her. She didn’t smile, keeping those dimples that framed her smile hidden, and she didn’t wave to me from her desk or offer me a hug like most mornings. Instead, she quietly slipped into her chair without a peep. Something was terribly wrong, and I wondered if it had to do with her grandpa. Amber’s mom had told me that the child’s grandpa was terminally ill.

While some of the children compared weekend stories in the back of the classroom as they hung up their coats and tucked away their lunch boxes in their cubbies, I took the opportunity to talk to her, stooping down at her desk.

“Good morning, Amber.”

Her chin sunk low, nearly touching her chest.

“Is everything okay? You seem sad.”

She didn’t budge.

“Is there anything I can do? Would you like to talk?”

She shrugged. “Mommy said they weren’t always like that. That they used to be just like me.”

“Who are you talking about, sweetheart?”

“The people in wheelchairs.”

I knew Amber’s mom was a nurse at the hospital, so I asked, “Are you talking about patients at the hospital?”

She shook her head. “No. The place where my grandpa lives now with all the other people that stay in wheelchairs and beds all the time. He had to move there yesterday.”

I sighed, realizing they’d probably taken him to a place to receive palliative care.

“Oh, sweetheart. I’m so sorry.”

As the other children took their seats, I whispered to her, “Can we talk more about it later?”

Again, she shrugged.

As I returned to my desk in the front of the classroom, I silently prayed that God would show me how I could help this sweet child with such a tender heart. So young to carry such a heaviness. Class hadn’t even started when I felt a nudge to change what I’d planned for their art project.

Okay, Lord. Lead the way.   

Later that day, the children were in the cafeteria while I was alone in the classroom. I took a stack of drawing paper from the cabinet beside my desk. I had originally planned to have the children make lions and lambs from the cardstock patterns to hang beside the large “March” in the hallway but knew that would have to wait. Today it seemed God had something else in mind.

The classroom filled up quickly and it took a moment to quiet everyone down.

“Okay, children. It’s time for an art project.”

Usually when I made this announcement, Amber was on the edge of her seat with her hand in the air, pleading to help pass out materials. But today she chewed on her fingernail as she stared at the floor.

I took the stack of paper and handed each student a piece. “I’m going to ask you to draw something special for me today, so please wait to begin until I’ve given you my directions. And you can use whatever you’d like: pencils, markers, or crayons.”

After everyone had their paper and all eyes were on me, I began.

“I’d like you to pretend you’re someone else, and I’d like you to draw what you would see if you were looking through their eyes. For example,” I said, picking up the lamb pattern and showing it to the class, “if you were a lamb, what would you see?”

“Lots of grass,” one child said.

“And dirt,” another shouted, “with worms!”

I smiled. “Probably. And if you’re looking through the eyes of an ant, would things look really big or really small to you?”

“Really big!” they shouted.

“That’s right. So whose eyes are you going to look through? It can be anyone. An animal. A person. When you decide, draw what they might see.”

This had been an idea I’d gotten for an art project last year when a student asked me if eagles thought we looked like bugs or rocks when they were up in the sky really, really high. I’d loved the idea and knew God had reminded me of it today. Only, I wasn’t exactly sure how it might help Amber.

I returned to my desk, giving the children time before making my rounds to encourage them, and realized some of them seemed a little bored with the idea. Thankfully, Amber was not one of them. She was busy drawing, her hand moving quickly as she switched back and forth between markers and crayons, her tongue sticking out slightly as she focused.

When a few had finished, I weaved my way through the rows of desks to have a look.

“Whose eyes am I looking through?” I asked Maize, noticing her drawing of what appeared to be a room with a purple blanket on the bed and dolls and boxes on the floor.

“Beanie’s eyes,” she said. “He’s the bunny I got when I got my ears pierced, and he waits on my bed when I’m at school.”

“That’s wonderful, Maize! I feel like I’m really looking through Beanie’s eyes while he’s sitting in your room. Good job.”

She beamed, the freckles stretching across the tops of her cheeks.

“What about your drawing, Trevor? Whose eyes am I looking through?” I was guessing a fish or some other water creature because of the blue waves and the other fish in the picture.

“A bird. He’s swooping down for his lunch.”

“Oh, very good! I can see he has a lot of fish to choose from. I wonder which one he’ll pick.”

He considered the idea and started adding more to his picture, perhaps to make one fish look more appetizing than the others.

As I made my way through the class, nodding and offering praises to my budding artists, I had circled back around and was at Amber’s desk. I didn’t see her drawing because she held it to her chest as if it were extremely private.

“Would you like to share your drawing with me?” I asked.

I expected her to shake her head or maybe shrug. I even wondered if I might see a few tears, but she did something that surprised me. She smiled. My sweet, tender-hearted Amber Melancholy smiled, those gorgeous dimples making their long-awaited appearance. I felt myself exhaling slowly without even realizing I’d been holding my breath.

She held out her drawing to me, and I studied it. She’d drawn an open gate in the foreground with a whole crowd of children running to it. They had messy hair, dirty knees, and great big smiles on their faces. Some were holding hands and others were, it appeared, sprinting straight to the gate.

Before I could ask, she said, “This is what it’s like to look through God’s eyes.”

I was shocked and without words.

“The people that are sick and hurt,” she said, pointing to their knees, “are still little kids to Him. They’re not old or hurt or anything. And they’re smiling really big because they see Him.” She paused, looking back at her own drawing. “You can’t see God in the picture because you’re looking through His eyes, but He’s smiling even bigger than they are because they’re home. And they’re not sick anymore.”

“It’s lovely, Amber,” I whispered.

Her hazel eyes danced in their own light. “Can I take it home? I need to show my grandpa so he’ll know God is waiting for him and he doesn’t have to be sad. He’s going to get out of bed and run.” She stopped and pointed to a child that was eagerly running in the drawing. “That’s him right there. He’s the fastest one.”

I knew Amber had a great light shining from within her, and I had no doubt that light was from the One who’d helped her to see through His eyes that her grandpa was going to be just fine.

And I thanked God because I knew Amber was going to be just fine, too.

 

Thank you for reading this short story.  I hope you enjoyed it!

Also, another great big “Thank you!” to one amazing editor, Julie Schultz, for allowing this story to be a part of The Outreacher. God bless you, Julie, for all you do to further His Kingdom!

If you’re interested in reading more short stories, please click here

 

(Photo from pexels.com.)

When You Hit a Brick Wall

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I was reminded of a Scripture after falling apart at my computer, crying and carrying on like a spoiled brat not getting her way. The words came to me like a whisper:

“If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!” (Proverbs 24:10 NIV.)

Ouch.

Let me explain: I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. It’s tucked so tenderly within my heart, and I know God put it there. It’s something I believe He’s called me to do, so I will keep writing as He keeps leading.

And yet, He’s put other things in my heart that I don’t want to waste: I love talking (big shocker there for anyone who’s spent five minutes with me!) and encouraging others, and I love to create graphic art; taking photographs at the lake with my hubby and hurrying home to upload the pic so I can add under that bold sunset sinking into the water, “God is faithful.”

So when I prayed and felt led to do something with those photographs, got all my legal ducks in a row, and tried to flip the “Open for Business” sign on my little ecommerce shop, I was crushed when nothing came together. All that work and nothing to show for it.

Of course I did what any struggling entrepreneur might do when she hits a brick wall: I cleaned the house. Nothing helps to brush aside frustration and disappointment like a sparkling toilet.

But what I learned this morning while spending time with God was that when something gets too hard (trying to get this business up and running) or the wait is too long (also known as being a writer), I try to pass the time by either finding a shortcut or getting involved in something else. I like the feeling of accomplishment, looking back at the day and feeling like I did something. Yes. Even if it’s a dust bunny free living room that will be swarming with them in a few hours. (I wish they’d stop having parties at our house!)

Sometimes it’s as if I’m not even wandering in the wilderness, waiting to see God’s miraculous move in my life, but hitting that brick wall wherever I turn; I can’t even wander.

I finally realized when this happens, God is hemming me in, pulling me back, drawing me closer. Not to stop things from happening but to help me regain the right perspective, the right focus. To keep my spiritual eyes locked onto what’s really important:

Him.

You and I may feel at times that we’re walled-in, and no matter what we do we can’t move forward. But if we will just learn (please help us, Lord) to breathe, relax, and trust that His plan is going to happen and will be so much better than anything we can force to come together, then we will have all the strength we need to stand, to wait, and to move forward when He calls.

And we’ll also have the grateful, joyful heart we need to truly appreciate His miracle when it happens, when He opens the right door in that wall of ours.

“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10c NLT.)

 “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” (Psalm 28:7 NLT.)

(Photo from Pexels.)

When God is Working On You

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I’ve been struggling this summer with various trials, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Health, finances, direction…whatever you’re dealing with, I pray this revised post brings you some clarity and peace as it did for me. (If you’d like to read the original post, click here.)

When you ask God for more of Him, sometimes things can get painful as He works on you, as He renovates you.

But it’s okay. God is in the renovation business.

He is like the silversmith that heats the silver, revealing the dross, those impurities in your heart, so He can scrape them off and toss them out of your life.

But before He removes them, He lets you see them. All of your bitterness and anger surface and sit there like ugly black chunks beside the bright, hot metal.  God allows you to get a good look at it, to really see it for what it is.

You get more and more uncomfortable the longer He allows it to stay. You want it gone.  You want God to hurry up and dispose of it because it’s painful to see.

And you can’t help but notice the striking contrast:  His blinding, powerful light against the darkness of your sin.

But again, you asked God to draw you closer to Him. This isn’t a task to simply point out your flaws but to point out your need for Him.  He’s the only One who can remove such agonizing and toxic things from your life.

He’s the only One who can prepare your heart for the blessings that are coming.

So you take a deep breath, acknowledge what you see and ask for forgiveness and for help. And then you let go.  You let go of the control. You let go of the situation. You lower your head because it’s all to much for you to handle. You just can’t. You’re too overwhelmed to fix anything, and you realize you shouldn’t be trying anyway.

It is God who is in the renovation business; taking the old, worn, and broken and making it new.

So you focus on Him. You imagine His mighty hand removing all the dross, all the poison, refining you.  Perhaps you hit your knees, completely falling apart knowing He is about to rebuild.  Or maybe you stand taller, tears streaming down your cheeks as you close your eyes and lift your face heavenward, knowing He is watching you… and smiling.

His renovation has brought you not only closer to Him but to a place of peace. You can let go. You don’t have to try to figure everything out. He’s got you. And He’s got this situation.

Which means you don’t have to let the stress of everything suffocate your joy.

You are free to walk even closer to God. It’s where He’s wanted you all along.

“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.” (Psalm 66:10 NIV.)

 

A Ride with God

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Are you waiting in line for the ride of a lifetime? I’m excited for you! (This is a shorter version of an older post. If you’d like to read the post in its entirety, click here. )

There’s nothing like waiting in line with some of your favorite friends for three hours to hop on an amusement park ride that will last approximately ninety seconds. You’re sporting your favorite sunglasses with a wad of money crammed in your front pocket, and you made sure to wear your comfortable sandals because you knew you were going to be standing in line for a long, long time.

It’s a great thing, really, and you don’t mind the long line because you’re with friends and you know you’re waiting for something thrilling, something that will probably take your breath away.

You’re not ignoring your friends, focusing solely on the twists of the ride or the screams of those ahead of you. And you’re not standing there with your arms crossed and a scowl on your face because the waiting is just killing you.

That’s what it’s like when you and I focus on what God is going to do for us and where He’s leading us instead of just being with Him and enjoying His presence.

Maybe we can spend the time in line reliving some favorite memories with Him, remembering one of His many rescues in our lives. Perhaps we can talk with Him about the ride, expressing our joy and anticipation, remembering to thank Him in advance; knowing He’s the Creator of the ride and it’s not only going to take our breath away but will leave us leaning in closer to Him as the air comes back fuller, deeper.

And when it’s our turn to hop on the ride and buckle our seat belts, we wouldn’t even think about not scooting over to make room for God to sit with us. We wouldn’t even think of not sharing this ride with Him, not wanting Him to be a part of it, of leaving Him to stand on the platform while we ride alone or with someone else.

We want God to be right there with us as we climb higher and higher and as the twists and turns leave us breathless. We want Him to be right there, holding our hand when the thrill shifts to fright. We want to laugh with Him and experience the view with Him.

Really, we can’t imagine riding this ride without Him.

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” (Psalm 16:11 NLT.)

 

 

Overwhelmed at Christmas

overwhelmed at Christmas2

With so much to do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at Christmas. There are parties to attend and host, baking and more baking, gifts to buy, wrap, and exchange, cards to deliver, and perhaps a little something God whispered to your heart like volunteering or helping someone who’s really struggling this time of year.

It can be a bit overwhelming.

Since visiting Walmart and our local mall yesterday, I know I’m not the only one. The overall feeling was “hurry” and the basic maneuvering of pushing a grocery cart was at breakneck speed, dodging others who were doing the same.

But let me tell you what God has done to help me slow down:

I sprayed myself in the face (with God’s help, I believe 🙂 ) with the sink sprayer while hurrying to clean up, the water also hitting my arm and landing in a puddle on the floor. I found the puddle after laughing, thanking God for the wake-up call, and turning to leave the moment behind; I left with an even bigger smile and a wet sock.

I watched deer playing in the backyard, chasing each other and circling around; their white tails wagging and waving at me as if to remind me to find joy in the moments all around me.

I “found” a bright and beautiful dandelion (my favorite!) on my walk…in December?! Of course I picked it and put in a glass on the windowsill.

Laughter, so much laughter and joy. Laughing at a silly reindeer hat and broken glasses with close friends, cracking up over eating bread (long story!) with some wonderful friends from church, and laughing with God as I remembered Him spraying me in the face (see above).

Our dear Pastor stopped what she was doing to hug me and breathe with me. It was as if God used her to wrap His arms around me to tell me to calm down and breathe.

I can’t tell you the number of times I looked into the eyes of children (those riding in grocery carts, walking through stores, and talking with me at McDonald’s) and saw the peace and love of God Himself.

And something God did to not only slow me down, but to remind me Who Christmas is about and to fix my eyes on Him:

He reminded me why Jesus came, and He led me back to the cross. (To go there with me, click here.)

God taught me being overwhelmed at Christmas is a very good thing, not when we’re overwhelmed by the world and its demands, but when we’re overwhelmed by Jesus Christ Himself.

I pray you and I are overwhelmed by Jesus Christ this Christmas.

Merry Christmas and blessings to you all!