In Discouragement, Consider Him

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12: 1-3

Every two weeks, I go through the same routine. Get up early. Wake up my youngest daughter. Pack a bag with some snacks and water. Load up some school work and something fun for Abby to do after completing school work. Head to an infusion center a few miles from my house to receive a life-saving medication, which is providing more dialysis-free/kidney transplant-free time for me. More about my life with aHUS here,  here and here.

Today was the day. Discouragement flooded in. Maybe it was because it was Wednesday and my usual Tuesday routine was disrupted due to a conflict at the infusion center. Maybe it was the sun beckoning me to be outside. Maybe it was my daughter’s groans expressing her complaints about getting up early with me. Maybe it was the bruise on my forearm from the previous IV. Or, maybe it was just the enemy’s tactic that morning to pull me down.

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What I know is that discouragement gets me to focus on none other than me. I am inward focused, thinking about, meditating on, and dwelling on my circumstances. Discouragement gets me stuck in my expectations and hopes and how things might have been. Discouragement leaves me thinking things like, “I don’t deserve this”.

But, the final sentence in the Hebrews passage above is verse 3 in which Paul instructs us to, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart“.

Consider: to think carefully about, regard with respect, pay attention to.

Paul in essence says, “Stop thinking about what is trapping you in sin. Keep running your race. Think about Jesus.”

Messages such as Hebrews 12: 1-3, always had me thinking something to myself along the lines of “think about Jesus and the torture and death He endured. Lisa, you can endure another needle poke, another day of fatigue, more trials, etc.”

I think there is some merit to that, comparing our circumstances to others who have gone through worse or are currently in a deep struggle.  When discouragement entrapped me today, something that helped in taking my eyes off myself was just that.

I remembered the patients in Australia who have a petition going to attempt to allow them to receive the medication I so easily receive. I remembered the friend fighting cancer with little strength to take care of her family. I saw the homeless couple in the parking lot rearranging their life’s belongings in their car. I focused on the friend with 3 foster children, pouring out her heart each day so the children can find healing. I thought about the lost, having no knowledge of the Loving Father they could find refuge in.

But, I am beginning to see the Hebrews passages in a different light. Rather than only comparing my suffering to Jesus’ suffering, I am beginning to see the magnitude of who He is.

The suffering He endured was for me.

The suffering He endured was necessary.

The suffering He endured met the requirement.

Jesus is better.

If you don’t know, dear one, Jesus is better. He is good. He is to be trusted. He is above all. He holds it all together. When you are in the midst of your trial, you must remember. You must consider. Jesus is better.

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Freedom

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I am so thankful for all the men and women in history and all of our current military people fighting for our freedom! I am thankful to be able to openly and safely attend church. I am thankful to be able to share my faith without fear. I am thankful for freedom!

Freedom

Once a slave to

Depression  Guilt  Disease  Sin

Saying yes to avoid disappointment

Carefully watching my words

Stifling who God made me to be

Allowing the enemy to have power over my life

Unruly emotions running wild

Something’s got to give

Something must change

Setting my mind on peace

Striving in my own power

Vowing to let go

Yet still consumed by me

Finally my surrender to the

Breaker of chains

Eraser of guilt

Lavisher of grace

Tamer of emotions

Slayer of the enemy

Lover of my soul

Giver of freedom

Dear one, you will find true freedom in only One. The One who loves you as you are. The One who created you for more. The One who sent His beloved Son so you could have freedom. The One who will lift your head and lighten your heart. Oh, you are loved and you were made for more. You were made to be FREE in who He made you to be!

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Choose What’s Better

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Even as I sit down to write this; this message from the Lord, the tasks beacon to me. The laundry on the couch peeks up at me. The crumbs on the counter are highlighted by the sun. The crooked picture on the wall torments me. The endless chores call, but Jesus is louder. Thank you, Lord, that your voice is louder.

Recently, while visiting at a loved one’s house, Jesus, Martha, and Mary became incredibly vivid in my mind. The familiar verse in Luke became a vision right before me.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary,who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 38-42

In the middle of wiping down the counters after preparing food, I hear the conversation slide over to a Spiritual topic. Hearing words such as forgiveness and Holy Spirit being spoken in the living room, I continue about my chore. Within seconds, the Lord intervenes and floods my mind with Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet while Martha busily tended to chores. In a flash, I was shown my choice: continue to serve in the kitchen or join in where Jesus was in the living room. Without any further hesitation, I dropped the towel I was holding and joined the conversation in the living room where Jesus was, where His Spirit was resting and waiting for me.

I am grieved considering how close I was to missing this blessed opportunity to speak of His goodness. I am saddened thinking of the many times I have likely chosen cleaning up over what is better.

But, I rejoice in the clear vision the Lord gave me that afternoon and the Spirit’s intervention prompting obedience.

Oh, Lord, you are so good. So very good.

Dear one, where in your home is the Lord calling you right now? Are there dirty dishes to clean or a child to pray with? Is there laundry to fold or a Bible passage to share with a friend? A lawn to mow or a neighbor needing a word of encouragement? Oh, dear one, choose what’s better!

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A House in the Trees

I’ve been reflecting on what it means to love. What it looks like, how it feels, and how to live it out. Nine months of journaling and blogging, focusing on God’s redemptive love for me and my family. Looking at the way Jesus loved and served and allowing the stripping away the Lord wants to do to open my heart to the life and the love He has for me.

And then all at once , He puts a complete stranger on my path to show how she’s living out Jesus’ command to love her neighbor.

“It’s a treehouse in Oregon,” my husband shares. “It sounds awesome,” he continues, turning the computer screen my way so I can see the images he has been examining for the last several minutes.

After I take a moment to catch up, I have to admit, the idea of bringing our girls to a treehouse for a couple of days and escaping our day to day routine, sounds adventurous and wonderful. I imagine leisurely naps among the trees, exciting excursions through the woods, and meaningful family connection time.
“Oh, but wait! Are there beds? What about a coffeemaker? Refrigerator? Oh, and a bathroom?” I blurt out my barrage of questions before any more daydreaming.

“Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.” My husband reassuringly answers.

“Okay, so we aren’t really roughing it. Let’s do it!”

The day of our adventure arrives. The car is loaded with games, snacks, cozy blankets, and comfortable clothes. We head to Tigard, Oregon for the “House in the Trees.”

Driving way too long in our cramped car with two talkative, energetic kids finally brings us to our destination. Stepping out of the car, we are engulfed in lush green vegetation.. Tall, full, leafy trees hanging overhead. And, then I see our home for the next couple of days. Our house in the trees is awaiting us with all it’s charm and character.

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Hearing a door creak behind us, I turn to see a lovely woman walking towards us. The rest of the family seems to scatter to explore our surroundings, while I have the pleasure of talking with our host, the stranger sent to illustrate love. Within what seems like seconds we were beyond talking traffic and weather and down to things that truly matter.

Her eyes spilled over with tears as she boldly and lovingly shared about her family and the community building the treehouse for her son when he was battling cancer. She shared about the trial they had gone through; the ups and downs and how it had forever changed them.

The masks I have been noticing so many of us wear, didn’t seem to exist for her. She openly shared her heart. (Laying Down Our Masks)

Not only that, but she and her family openly shared their home, their life. In a day and age where people have multiple locks, security systems and cameras, our host family leaves their door unlocked to allow their guests into their home. We could come and go as we needed. No guard up, keeping people away. No guard around their hearts or home.

Our weekend in the trees, alongside such a loving, gracious family has me thinking about Jesus; about His love, goodness, hospitality, and generosity.

Jesus longs for all those He invites to come. To come to Him unhindered. There is no guard up. He is safe. We can lay down our masks and walls and just go to Him when He calls. And, all are invited.

Just as our host didn’t only allow family to be their guest and enter their home, Jesus allows all to come to Him.

In Matthew 22, Jesus tells about a king hosting a banquet. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

Our treehouse host, the stranger exemplifying love for us, did just that. She gathered us at her home, shared her story of the Father’s love in her life, and distributed that love to us.

What about you? Are you sensing His call? In the quiet, are you drawn to Him? He’s drawn to you. The gracious host longs for you to enter His presence with confidence. He’s longing to lavish His love on you, to share life with you, and lead you in the ways you should go. 

Seed Among the Thorns

I cried out. I received salvation. And, I believed.

But, still so many thorns persisted.

The pesky, persistent thorns described in Matthew 13,

 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.  But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

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The thorns in my life choked out much of the seed that fell. Growth of the good was slow. It was shaded and undernourished due to the overgrowth of thorns. Little tiny roots took hold, but years and years of thorns reached tall. Their roots held firm, established.

Thorns of fear, depression, anxiety, anger, disease, selfishness, pride.

But, the gardener…

He continued to tend to His seed. There was no negligence on His part. Only love and care. He remained close by, filtering what came to me. Oh, He prunes so lovingly. He pulls away the thorns, little by little as I let them release.

With barren spots where the thorns were uprooted, the Sun can now shine on the seed, the good seed, with it’s little sprouts and thin roots growing deeper.

His fellow workers sowing more seed, teaching the truth, choking out more and more thorns.

The weeds the enemy scattered becoming smaller, withering away without anymore deceitful lies.

Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a little fruit emerges. It’s new, unexpected, beautiful. The root below was once thin, and is now strong, carrying life, victory, and the Kingdom through it’s cells, feeding the sprout.

The sprout reaches up to the Sun, while it shades out the thorns below. Now it’s the thorns that become thin and shriveled, while the fruit develops.

Because of the One who wore the crown of thorns, the enemy’s power in my life, the thorn bearer, now lies defeated.

 

Dear one, the Lord tends to us so lovingly, so patiently. Pruning, sowing, cultivating. His love is deep, nourishing, victorious. Let go of the old thorns and see the fruit He will bring into your life. 

 

 

No Longer an Orphan

Searching for identity

purpose

belonging

Overwhelming loneliness

Longing to be filled

Suffocating need to achieve

Carrying a heavy burden

Always striving

………………………………..

Hearing the whisper

Accepting the call

Reading the truth

      I am chosen

                  redeemed 

                  marked with a seal

                  heir of Christ

His workmanship

bought with His blood

filled with His fullness

                  adopted as His own

      No longer an orphan

freedom

New Patterns of Grace

Mother’s Day. An opportunity to remember the effort, love, and sacrifices my own mom made for me. A chance to be thankful for the brave birth mothers who helped make me a mother. A day to look on my children with love and awe and marvel at the reasons I am allowed to partake in this day.

me and the girls

Looking upon the year leading up to this day, reflecting on the changes, the growth, the disappointments, the trials, and the joy; my heart feels both heavy and lighter at the same time.

A day to reflect. How am I doing as a mother? The most important role I will ever fill. Am I still stuck in some of the patterns of the year before? Or, am I moving toward what the Lord has for me? Am I pushing past old destructive ways? Am I looking for patterns which lead to life for my family?

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These questions fill my mind and to be honest, they’ve been keeping me awake at night.

As moms, we are so hard on ourselves. Second guessing decisions. Replaying scenarios in our minds. Beating ourselves up for our shortcomings. Allowing guilt and sometimes even condemnation to steal our days. Comparing ourselves to others or to some ideal we hold in our mind. Seeing our children’s behavior as a reflection of our own failures.

These are patterns which lead to death for ourselves and our families.

The Lord is revealing a different way to me.

It begins with grace.

Grace: Favor or goodwill. A manifestation of favor. Mercy. Pardon. Unmerited favor and love of God. The influence or Spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Ahh..Just reading the word grace, followed by the definition is like a deep breath. My body loosens. My shoulders drop. My breathing slows.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2: 4-10

Oh those words, the Lord’s words to us, well up in me like an everlasting flowing river. A river of grace and mercy. His love for me was alive and well when I was dead in my trespasses. 

On your worst day. He loved you.

On my worst day. He loved me.

Am I loving that way? Am I loving my family when they behave well? Am I loving them when they are acting in an undesirable way?

Are my facial expressions conveying love and grace?

Is my tone showing love despite their behavior?

Are my words leading to life for my family regardless of how they are acting?

Through His grace and love pouring into me, He is showing me how to extend grace to my family. He is reminding me to be patient with myself. He is showing me when I just need to breathe. He is showing me how to love my children and care deeply for them, while still separating myself from their choices. He is opening my eyes to what a heartfelt apology can bring to my loved ones. He is lowering my shoulders and filling me with His breath, His grace, His love.

3 grace-filled statements for mom’s this Mother’s day, taken right from the Ephesians 2 verses above:

  1. We are no longer dead to our sin. We are made alive by Christ. I can breathe easier and become unstuck because He has freed me from my sin.
  2. We are saved by faith, not by our works. I am not saved based on anything I have done or anything I will do. I am saved based on who He is and what He has already done on the cross.
  3. We were created by God to the good works He prepared for us to do. No longer do I need to strive in my own power, my own wisdom and knowledge. He has gone before me and prepared the way.

This good, good news of the cross and His love and grace over me, frees me to rest. Rest in Him.

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Dear momma, find your rest in  Him. Allow Him to reveal His grace to you. Be filled with His unconditional love. Rest in His everlasting river of mercy. He loves you so much. This year, begin your new patterns of grace.