The struggle is real, but unnecessary...

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
The world and all its people belong to him.
For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths. Psalm 24:1-2 NLT

2011 was a particularly difficult year in my life. It was difficult for many reasons, some I have shared and some I have not. The birth of our fourth child, Chloe Grace, on March 2 was a welcome breath of fresh air at that time. My husband was recently unemployed, I was blessed to be able to take six weeks maternity leave from my job, and as we drove home from the hospital all I could do was look at her and weep. It should have been happy tears, but I remember the feeling in the pit of my heart. Like I could literally feel the weight of it in me. I was really terrified for the first time in my life I think. We had faced difficult circumstances before, but this, this setback for my husband, for our family, was unlike what we had experienced so far. I look back at myself in that moment in the backseat of our vehicle holding my sweet baby girl’s hand, telling Ryan how much I hoped for her and at the same time wondering how on earth we were going to move forward. I was overwhelmed and exhausted mentally, physically, and spiritually. Our life circumstances began to harden me and my grip tightened on what I thought I suddenly had to be in complete control of. I knew God was there, I did not believe He had abandoned us, but I wrestled more in that season with the ability to trust Him than I ever have. Extreme life change can send us into one of two directions: pity mode or panic mode. My choice was panic mode. From March 2011 to August 2012 as I watched my husband struggle with one not so great job after another, I sought advice from family, friends and colleagues, asked God for help and guidance occasionally, and with help eventually set us up to relocate to Springfield, Missouri to start over. I chose to put my strength and determination more in myself than in God. It was not a healthy balance, but it was my state of mind at the time. It didn’t take long after we settled into our new home, that I found myself breaking down and things we had not dealt with in our marriage started to come to a head. It started with me finding release at a women’s retreat, to finally acknowledge to myself, to God, to Ryan that I had been holding on too tightly to the control I thought I had. I had not trusted Ryan, and I had not trusted God. I didn’t want to, because what we had was broken and the hurt, the disappointment set in me a resolve to trust nobody but myself. The realization of it all hit me like a ton of bricks. If it weren’t for the love and support, the consistent accountability I had from close family and friends, I don’t know that my marriage and my family would have come through to this point of the journey as it has. God’s hand was upon me through it all, and every moment I was allowed to experience was because of His greater work taking place in me.

I was reminded today in my quiet time, that we have a God who knew us, laid out our lives and our great big purpose well before we came into existence. He knows us at our best and our worst, and He loves us the same. He sees us struggle and thrive through life, and He loves us the same. He knows the point at which we will turn away from Him, and the point at which we will return to Him. He loves us the same.

At the worst moment in that difficult season, when I could have chosen to give up, I heard the Lord whisper to me what I already knew:
“Ryan deserves the same grace and mercy I have extended to you. Your worst is no better than his worst. Your best is no better than his best. I love Him anyway. And so do you.”

Why do we struggle to trust God with what He already has? We can set a course in life for what we think is the best laid plan, but if we don’t start by acknowledging first He has control….He sets the pace….His way is better, wiser…..we will crash. The struggle is real, but completely unnecessary.
I’m learning day by day, I’m more likely to have questions than answers. I have it together some days more than others, but I’m constantly striving to set my course with His intention for me in mind.

I am so thankful I belong to Him. He is good, so good.


Forgive ... Release ... Freedom ...

Forgiveness. It does not come naturally to us as human beings. When we are hurt, our natural reaction is either to lash out and seek revenge or to withdraw and wallow in our wounded state. In my experience at least, these are the two most common reactions to being hurt.

I have been experiencing a challenging season in my life professionally, and as a result, I have been working through the process of being hurt and disappointed. I am a strong, independent and determined person and I have faced greater obstacles in my life compared to this particular situation, but it has been difficult for me to release it fully. I came to a point this morning, as I was doing my devotional time, considering my last days in this job and closing out physical files and my workstation, preparing for my transition to a brand new and wonderful work place ... I was still holding on to something. Because I felt, I was owed something. Know what I’m talking about? That whole reconciliation that occurs in the mind - our worst enemy is truly ourselves! - wondering when life is ever really going to be fair to us, when someone who has done something wrong to us doesn’t get what we think they deserve and hasn’t acknowledged the wrong they have done to us. Oh my goodness, it’s a nearly paralyzing experience we put ourselves through! It is absolutely unnecessary and a complete waste of our time and our emotions. I came upon this today and it helped me release and embrace on another level the ability to forgive.

‘Forgiveness is about release, releasing ourselves from those self-imposed limitations and self-defeating behavior patterns that tie us to the past in negative ways. Forgiveness is releasing our anger, fear, pain and resentment and opening our hearts to joy, peace and love. Yes, others may have done things that have hurt or harmed us, and they are responsible for those actions. But these individuals are not responsible for how we live the rest of our lives. We are responsible for that. How we respond to these past events and what we carry into our present and our future is entirely up to us and no one else. If we allow the past to negatively affect how we live the rest of our lives, the choices we make, our relationships and our behavior patterns, that is our choice and responsibility not that of the original offender.’

If you are struggling today to forgive someone or something, whatever that is for you - join me in taking the steps to fully releasing it to God’s perfect care.

Forgive ... release ... and live free!

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT

Nourishing the heart

Years ago, we experienced the joy of building and owning our first home in Spring Hill, Tennessee. One of the things I was most excited about was having a garden. I had visions of plants and flowers of several varieties, but I knew it would take time and effort I hadn’t put into this before because we had always lived in apartments up to that point. I had occasional potted plants, but nothing that gave me the opportunity to put down roots. I had learned from my parents experience keeping a garden growing up, so this was my chance to put my own interest and little bit of experience into action. I got all the tools, the soil, the seed, the nutrients to feed them, and the mulch to protect them during the winter months. I got into a rhythm pretty quickly and easily, and found I really loved it. I remember right before we moved away, how much I was going to miss that. I still look back at pictures I took of those flower beds and seeing how pretty they were, and how they grew, and wanting to be able to do that again one day. Are our hearts any different? I am doing a new Bible reading plan this year, and as I dig deeper into His Word, I find at times I cannot get enough of it and have read ahead some days. My soul, my heart, my mind, all need that spiritual nourishment, not unlike the needs of a plant as it begins to grow, settle into the soil, put down roots. What are we doing daily to be more spiritually nourished? How are we cultivating our gardens? Are we hungry for the Word, or have we become indifferent, stagnant, dormant?

We have a choice when we dive into the commitment to a life in Christ, to survive, or thrive. If we are not fully aware of our example to others, then we are not fully awake in our commitment to Christ.

Being full awake means we are starting by first spending time nourishing our spiritual beings with time in His Word, talking with the Father, talking with our community of believers and cultivating our hearts to be more like Christ. It takes a commitment to care for a garden, just as it takes a commitment to care for ourselves in Christ. We cannot expect to be more like Him, if we are not seeking after Him and choosing to know Him a little bit more every day. Roots will grow down deeply into the soil when the time and care is taken in cultivating a garden. It is no different for our hearts. I think it is worthwhile to consider how we begin, settle into a rhythm with Father God so that everything that follows in our connection with our community of believers flows seamlessly.

If some fail to do what God requires, it’s as if they forget the word as soon as they hear it. One minute they look in the mirror, and the next they forget who they are and what they look like. However, it is possible to open your eyes and take in the beautiful, perfect truth found in God’s law of liberty and live by it. If you pursue that path and actually do what God has commanded, then you will avoid the many distractions that lead to an amnesia of all true things and you will be blessed.
(James 1:23-25 The Voice translation)

Consider today what your garden may require. I’ve got some weeding to do in mine, so why don’t you join me? Let’s dig deeply into the soil, nourish our hearts in the Word.

my Ebenezer...

“…Thus far the Lord has helped us.”-1 Samuel 7:12 There are moments in my life when I look back and can see how God in His perfect yet my...