Around the Corner

cornerAs I rounded the corner on my usual walking route through the neighborhood, my mind went directly to the disciples and the days leading up to Christ’s death. When I read through Luke 22, I read about the disciples shortcomings, their humanity, right there recorded in history.

Jesus’ disciples were incredible men of faith. Being used by the Lord, soaking up His teaching, and continuing to share the Gospel after Christ’s death. I am so incredibly thankful for their examples and the words they left us in the New Testament.

But, I am also thankful for their genuineness. I am thankful to be able to relate to their failures.

Sigh. That’s me, Lord. Whining, complaining, arguing, rejecting…sleeping when you are offering me love and instruction and about to work a miracle in my life. 

The disciples didn’t understand what was about to take place. Jesus had given them forewarnings, “In a little while, you will see me no more…”. But in their humanity, they didn’t fully understand. They saw their circumstances with their natural eyes. The disciples went about their days, arguing about who was the greatest, sleeping when Jesus was in anguish, and disowning and rejecting the Lord. They could have been standing with Him, learning from Him, serving Him, loving Him. They were entangled in their own lives. They were caught up  in what they saw around them.

I can only imagine the pain that followed for the disciples. As the hour came, and the land became dark, and Jesus took His final breath, Luke records about 3 hours of darkness. Continuing on my walk through the neighborhood, I swallow hard. The deep anguish of a sudden trial. The sting of pain. The overwhelming flood of heaviness.

They didn’t know. They didn’t know the pain would soon turn to rejoicing. They didn’t know what He was doing. They didn’t know what was around the corner.

Oh, Lord, it’s just like me. Caught up in my own life. Seeing my life with my natural eyes. Praying and waiting on what you are about to do. Not knowing what’s around the corner. Not living with the expectation that you are at work. 

But, when my eyes are focused on the One that does know what is around the corner, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, I can remember my place.  When my situation doesn’t change, or my trial is just beginning, or all seems dark, I can remember He sees around the corner. He knows the miracle coming.

Sunday is coming, complete with it’s life-giving resurrection.

Are you waiting? Are you stuck? Is your humanity getting in the way of what God is doing through you?

I think the disciples may have responded differently in the days leading up to Jesus’ death had they known what He knew. We can learn from them. We can stop our useless disagreements, our rejecting the truth, and our sleeping.

Now is the time! Lift your eyes. Lift your eyes from your circumstances. Lift your eyes from your pain.

Lift your eyes to your Creator. Lift your eyes to the One who loves you, the One who knows, the One who heals, the powerful One.

Lift your eyes to Jesus and know He sees what’s around the corner. 

corner steps

 

 

To Be Counted Among the Immovable

Will I let the moods of others dictate how I feel and act today?

This has been my guiding question over the last couple of weeks.

How does it work, to not be moved? Do I plaster a smile on my face? Go about my day as if nothing is happening around me? Humming peaceful songs under my breath as chaos erupts around me?

To not be moved. Not to be swayed. Not to fall away. Not to change course.

To accomplish that kind of stability, will I need to just have my head in the clouds, oblivious to what is happening around me?

No.

When I think about Jesus, that’s not what I imagine and that is not what I read in the pages of scripture.

He was real. He wasn’t floating around like a hovering angel, above the pain, needs and dysfunction around Him.

He saw the pain, the hurt, the need, and nothing kept Him from doing the will of the Father.

When people lacked belief. When people rejected Him. When people flogged and beat Him down. He didn’t stop doing the Father’s will. He continued in the trial set before Him. And, He continued to love those around Him. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.

His purpose didn’t change based on the actions, feelings, or behavior of those around Him.

He was not moved.

Jesus’ command to me and to you in John 13:34, is to love one another. Although I search for a footnote explaining the times when I am not required to love, it is not found. I am to love. I am to love and not to be moved to do otherwise.

No matter how those around me are behaving. Rejecting my words. Arguing. Acting in an unpleasant manner.

The call to love remains.

When Paul was about to face certain danger by traveling to Jerusalem, he told of his immovability. He would not be moved or led away from the calling Jesus placed on his life.

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24.

Oh, to be counted among the immovable. The saints in the Bible who remained firm in their call to love. Remained firm in their call to share the gospel. Remained firm in their devotion to Christ at all times.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer…Psalm 18:2

Today, I will not be moved.

I will not be moved by the behavior of those around me.

I will not be shaken.

I will not waiver from the path the Lord has for me.

I will not turn from love.

Today, I am not moved.

Not because of my strength.

Not because of my righteousness.

Today, I am not moved.

I am not moved because of His abundant love living in me.

I am not moved because of His unchanging ways.

I am not moved because of His Spirit powerfully filling me.tree

Waiting On Spring

In my home state of Washington, we have been waiting. We have endured more snow, rain, clouds, cold, gray, yuck than usual for our Pacific Northwest winter. We have been waiting for the change in season. Waiting for colors to reappear. Waiting to feel the sun warm our bodies. Waiting for more time in the fresh, warm outdoors. Waiting for freedom from our cozy couches covered with blankets.

All through this lengthy winter, the plants, shrubs, and trees have held life. My hydrangea plant held the dried brown leaves throughout most of the winter, until I finally pruned them off. But, even on the cold, damp days, when the old dead leaves barely hung on the branches, new life was surging deep within the plant.

Abundant life, just as Jesus promises to us.  John 10:10 says, The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. 

Abundance. Extremely plentiful. Oversufficient quantity or supply. Overflowing fullness.

A blogger I follow, Wilderness Joy, wrote the most beautiful words about abundance,

As we notice the way nature abounds with God’s goodness,
and overflows with the wealth of His provision,
we are reminded that He is working in us to bring about
the abundant fruits of His tender planting.

Recently I came across an old journal of mine from 6 years ago. I began reading it, eager for encouragement. The Lord has brought me so far in 6 years, surely I’d see evidence of growth.  As I began reading, my eagerness quickly faded. My eyes fell on words that could have been written yesterday, “Lord, fill my mouth with Your words. Help me to love my family the way you love.”

Oh, Lord, you have brought me through so much. My dependence on you, my faith in you, and my love for you is so much deeper than it was 6 years ago. How can my prayers be the same? For 6 years, my prayers regarding my words and my heart have been the same. 

Closing my eyes and focusing my heart on the Lord, I begin to think about the budding plants from my walk that morning. They hold abundant life from the Creator all during the biting storms of winter. There is no evidence of the abundance contained inside, but any scientist or gardener knows it is there.

During the 6 years that passed since I wrote in that old journal, many trials and triumphs have come.  Growth, pruning, and dying off have taken place. New ways have taken root, while old patterns have died off. Many stretches have gone by that look like winter. No evidence of any growth, change, or beauty. Downright discouragement and defeat have shown themselves.  But, the Creator was still and is still at work.

When I don’t see evidence of spring coming, it doesn’t mean it’s not coming. The growth is happening, where I cannot see it. Just because I cannot see or feel something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Just like the changing of the seasons, one day the new life, the new growth, just springs forth. A bright flower or a fresh leaf will open up and the evidence of what was happening all during the winter is now visible to all.

Although many of my prayers are still the same as they were 6 years ago, I imagine and actually hope some of them will always remain the same. I pray I always have the desire to speak and love the way Jesus did.

Thumbing through the old journal a little more, I see it. “Lord, please help me to live like you are near. “

I can remember the desperation. The distance. The discouragement. My desire to be closer to the Lord was there. I was right to be praying for it. But, I wasn’t experiencing it. I continued in the dark of winter. Putting one step in front of the other. Never fully turning my back, but not experiencing the beauty of growth.

That’s what I was longing to see in the journal. I longed to see evidence of how far the Lord has brought me. Yes, I am aware of the distance left to travel, but so incredibly grateful for the growth and beauty the Lord has created through the trials. The fruit is now there. The close relationship I desired is now there. The dependence I longed for. The trust I needed. It’s springing forth and giving beauty to my soul.

Dear one, is it dark where you are? Hopeless? Are you growing impatient as you wait for renewal? 

As you look for signs for change, dear one, do not lose heart. 

Take hold of these promises from God:

  • And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9
  • And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
  • Do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:12 

The Lord is with you. The abundance you seek is within you. It may not be visible, but spring is coming, dear one. Just hold on to the One who will never fail you. 

Father, thank you for your promises. Thank you for the budding growth you promise in your time. Thank you for never leaving us or forsaking us. Thank you for lovingly carrying us through the winter. Amen.

Finding Unity in the Trials

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4: 30-32

 

In Raising Your Spirited Child, author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, writes, “Throw out messages that divide you such as, she’s manipulating me, she’s testing me, she’s being defiant, she’s out of control.” 

I am guilty of listening to and focusing on my inner voice say these types of statements whenever my children are acting out.

Kurcinka discusses the importance of not pitting yourselves against each other in your mind. Act as a team. The divisive self-talk, criticizing my children in my mind causes bitterness. The underlying root of this negativity is bitterness.

This behavior, my acting out this negativity,  is grieving the Holy Spirit.

When I look at my child, listen to my child with the intent to listen, understand and sympathize, then I am acting as Christ does toward me with kindness, a tender heart and forgiveness. No longer am I grieving the Spirit, but rather I am teaming with the Spirit. The Spirit as the lead and me following. I am also teaming with my child, not working against her or viewing us as working against each other. We are partnering.

unity

With this renewed mind, I am filled with peace. No longer does my child’s behavior or my behavior feel out of control. And since out of control equates to hopeless, no longer does our situation feel hopeless.

No longer do I view our parent/child interactions as being apart from God.

I see His hand in our interactions.

I see Him allowing trials for our benefit.

The heightened emotions, the lacking skills, the quick outbursts, the rapidly shifting moods, the intensity, the exact temperament of my children…all part of God’s purpose and design to refine me.

Whether your children are adopted, as mine are, or they entered your family naturally, the Lord placed them there. His plan was for you to be their parent and them to be your child. You may experience a great mismatch in temperament, personality, style, and habits, but unity comes when we stop grieving the Spirit.

Oh, Lord, forgive me for my bitterness, anger, clamor, evil-speaking. Forgive me for grieving your Spirit. Thank you for your kindness, tender heart, and forgiveness. Lord, continue to soften our hearts to the refinement that comes from the trials you allow. Please bring refinement so we can better love one another, the way you love us. Amen.

color class pic

 

Journey to Acceptance

When I began blogging, I knew that I didn’t have an area of expertise. Some writers blog exclusively about topics such as parenting, homeschooling, or cooking. Some have had formal training on their topic or have spent years researching and gathering information about their area of expertise.

I stared at the message wordpress sent me last week saying, Congratutions on Publishing 50 Posts! 50 posts? I remember counting the first few, but how did it reach 50?

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Something about that message caused me to become reflective. Reflective about my purpose. Reflective about my goal. And, reflective about my future writing.

Six months ago, when I began Lisa Louise: Stories of Overcoming, I only knew I wanted to be Spirit-led. Each time I sit down to write, I do so because the Lord has put a message in me and it’s time to organize it into writing. I don’t feel I have an area of expertise, but rather a heart that is being cultivated by the Spirit.

In the 40 years leading up to my life as a blogger, I held on to many hurts and had many ideas of how I thought my life should be. The inner critic inside my head screamed loudly each chance I gave it.

Once I began blogging, it was like there was a new voice rising up in me. A much kinder, more creative, accepting voice. The inner critic still sneaks it’s slithery, condemning voice in, but the new voice is becoming louder, bolder, more frequent.

In a social gathering, you can bet I will be the one listening, nodding, taking in what others are saying. It’s unlikely you will hear my voice much at all. There are many reasons for this. I am an introvert with constant thoughts bouncing around in my mind. Also, I am an internal processor. My response to something that was said will often take hours or days to form. And, then there’s also that inner critic causing doubt and uncertainty.

With writing, I am finding my voice. The Lord gave me this outlet and it’s bringing about healing. It’s leading to a kinder inner and outer voice.

Do you walk around with words of doubt, fear,  or lies taking up space in your mind? That’s right where the enemy wants you. Listening to his sneaky, negative voice. Drowning out the Spirit. You will not be able to fully walk in His calling while listening to those lies.

Do you long to hear kind words being spoken in your mind? That is what the Lord wants for you. That  is how He speaks to you.

Here are a few ways in which writing is helping to tame my inner critic:

  1. Writing one or two sentences whenever I hear a sermon or read the Bible. The Lord tells us to be ready to share. How often have I left church, only able to say, “That was such a good message.” But, ask me what it was about it, and you would receive a blank stare. Writing a short summary about what I have learned or what I read helps to organize my thoughts and cement them in my brain.
  2. Keeping a journal. In my journal, I write approximately a paragraph about what the Lord is teaching me. It may have to do with my scripture reading, a book I am reading, or what He reveals to me through prayer, or through another person.
  3. Listing what I am grateful for. I write out 5 things I am grateful for each night. My family and I have also began a gratitude notebook which sits in a central location in our house. There is always a pen there (that’s the plan anyway!) and anyone at anytime can list something for which they are grateful. Want to replace negative thinking? Nothing is a quicker antidote for negative thinking than reading what your child lists in a gratitude notebook. Gratitude journal
  4. Keeping notes in the note section of my phone. I currently have 324 notes! Whew! As long as I have a title such as: Bible verses for the girls, book list, sermon notes, Netflix movie ideas, or verses about kindness, I can put in a keyword and search for my note. When I hear a beautiful song lyric or encouraging statement on an audiobook, I can quickly add it to my notes.

I don’t pretend to completely understand why writing aids in our growth and learning but I just know it is working for me. And, I feel it will help you.

In an article titled, Why Does Writing Make Us Smarter, The Huffington Post states that writing is beneficial because it is “Visual: Seeing what is on the paper in front of you.
Motor: Using your fine motor skills to actually put the pen to paper and form the letters to make the words. Cognitive: Remembering the shapes of the letters requires a different type of feedback from the brain.”

Dear one, what do you have to lose? Why not take one step today to create a kinder voice inside your head. Pick one of my ideas to implement in writing or create an idea of your own. Whatever you do, stick with it. Release yourself from the bondage of negativity and begin to accept yourself as you are…as God created you.

Ephesians 1:4, For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

What I Learned in February

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

A brief run down of what I learned this past month.

  1. GRACE! I learned that I have been keeping grace in a neat tidy box. I received a generous portion, an undeserved amount, a bountiful serving the moment I first believed. Jesus opened up the flood gates, poured into my heart, and filled me with His love and acceptance. This month while reading Galatians and Ephesians and just through living this life the Lord has given me, He has taught me that His grace is a fountain. It wasn’t just what allowed me into His kingdom the moment I first believed. His grace is a constant supply, covering me every minute of every day.
  2. Encouragement=Praise. While singing worship songs to the Lord this month at church one Sunday, the Lord revealed to me a truth while singing the word, praise. When I encourage my loved ones with my words of praise and thankfulness, I am offering praise to my Creator. When I speak out loud words of truth about their character, worth, and loveliness, and I share words of thankfulness, I am agreeing with the Lord about His work in creating them. Encouraging my family equals praising Him, the one who created them.
  3. Best tips to help kids with anxiety and fears from Growing Up Brave by Donna Pincus. Worry Bag: Child writes down worry thought on a piece of paper. Examines the thought for truth. Restructures the thought. Writes new thought on the back of the paper. Places paper in the bag. Interoceptive Exposure: child induces many of the physical feelings they experience when anxious, takes note of them and how the body responds. For example, running in place until her heart is beating quickly. The child will note that it only takes a matter of a minute or two for her heart rate to return to normal once she stops. Bravery ladder: taking steps toward overcoming a fear. Growing Up Brave book
  4. Continuous brew kombucha is easier and is allowing us to have more kombucha so my husband and I both can drink it. Also, kombucha gives my husband energy to exercise and clean out the garage…all this was done without drinking any coffee! How to make kombucha
  5. My 11 year old will drink healthy GREEN juice, IF she makes it herself and it’s ALL her idea! green-juice
  6. It is possible to completely change a very bad parenting habit that served “to get us by when it was needed” in just 2 days! Praise Jesus!

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Restoration

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. Galatians 6:1.

…restore him gently

While reading chapter 6 of Galatians, the first words draw me back over and over.

…restore him gently

My heart softens and peace fills me as I allow the words to fill my mind. This filling only happens when I am still and quiet before the Lord.

Restore: to bring back into existence; to bring back to a former, original or normal condition; to bring back to a state of health, soundness or vigor. 

Gently: kindly; gradually; not severe.

Paul was giving instruction to the Galatians who had strayed from their original teaching on faith. But, this morning, it was instruction for me. During my quiet, undistracted time in my prayer closet, something beautiful happens.  The Spirit opens up my mind to the truth.

The leading, guidance, correction…restoration I read about in the Lord’s Word, brings me back to the restoration of my heart.

My step-dad restores cars. The cars enter into the driveway, rusted, gutted, shells of past greatness. My mom sees the pile of metal approaching their lives and wonders what they have gotten themselves into. But, Jan, my step-dad envisions the masterpiece it will be. No wheels, little paint, no windows, no mirrors, no steering wheel, no seats. But, Jan is able to see the potential. He sees what it once was and is confident it will shine once more.

For months, Jan spends tireless hours, carefully modifying the chassis to accept the new style engine. Months are spent making the body structurally sound and preparing the body for the new paint. There are times when we go visit that we are not to enter the garage because it is set at just the right temperature for paint to dry or some other critical transformation to take place.

before-restoration

The instruction for gentle restoration to the Galatians is for every believer. We are to restore our brothers and sisters gently. Much like a fragile old car is to be brought back to life, this restoration brings life to the believer.

If you are like me, you may struggle with the gentle part. Especially in parenting.  I can point out the flaws…got that one down. I can teach the correct way…yep. I can discipline when the sin just continues over and over…uh huh. But, add in the gentle restoration? How Lord? Will they listen? Will it make an impact?

Rereading the verse once more, I am reminded of the Holy Spirit as my teacher, granting wisdom and understanding. Whenever I ask, “How”, the Spirit reminds me that I am not alone.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

The Lord graciously shows me how He “restores me gently” each morning when I come to Him.

I come to Him broken, rusty, and needing repair. I come to Him with a focused, quiet mind, I am open to His restoration. He lovingly shows me what He has for me that day.  Through His word, He reveals to me what needs cutting away or building up.

Just like my step-dad, so carefully and gently restoring his cars in just the right conditions, the Spirit works on restoring my heart in the quiet of my prayer closet…just the right conditions for growth.

Also, like the effective restoration of a car, one area is restored at a time. Jan doesn’t paint, install the seats, and rebuild the engine all in one day. And, the Spirit doesn’t overwhelm me with the restoration He has for me. He reveals one or maybe two areas that need restoring. Or, He may call to mind something He worked to restore months ago which needs attention once more. There are times, I mistakenly think an area of sin is behind me, just for it to creep up once more. Just like when the car engine once more needs rebuilding. It was working well last year, but now, alas, it needs attention once more.

I am so incredibly grateful for this gentle, loving restoration. It’s all for my good. He never leaves me the same. And, He never overwhelms me.

When I come seeking, gradually, the Spirit brings renewal.

after-restoration