Stop the Race. Look Up.

A nature loving mom with nature loving children means a homeschool brimming with nature projects.

Some simple peanut garlands hanging just outside our back door provide nourishment for the squirrels and much entertainment as we watch the animals bustle around gathering the nuts.

My soft-hearted, nature loving daughter can’t stand to leave the peanut garlands in an area where the squirrels have to work for it. She attempts to give them a challenge but usually within minutes she’s lowering one of the tasty treats to an area where the squirrels can have a heyday with it.

It’s like watching a nature documentary right outside our door. We watch as two squirrels fight over the peanuts. Who can get there first? Who’s quicker? Who’s stronger? Who is more nimble? Who can find the best hiding place for their peanut?

Their movements are fast. Frantic. My heart begins to race just watching them in their haste. And then I remember. As I watch one of the squirrels dash across the yard my eyes raise a bit and I remember the peanut garlands my daughter has yet to move still hanging from the trellis. Just above these frantic squirrels heads, peacefully resting there, are two long garlands of peanuts. The squirrels race around in their stress, capturing their prized peanuts. greed overcoming them. All the while an abundance of what they treasure hangs just above their heads.

Do they know? If they did know, would they rest a little? Would they slow down and enjoy the process a little more? Would they be more apt to share with the other squirrels in the yard?


Oh, do I ever see myself in these squirrels. The way I get so wrapped up in my own needs and the needs of my family. The way I bustle about in a frantic pace when I act as if our lives depend on my ability to move fast. The way I so quickly forget my Provider. The One that meets my needs for each day. The way I forget to look up and remember the Giver of great gifts, holds in abundance everything I need, ready for me just when I need it.

Can we all just slow down a bit today? Can we stop the race we find ourselves in and instead look up and remember the One that knows our true needs?

Just as the squirrels in our yard rush about completely unaware of the blessings hanging just above their heads, we too, rush about, missing the blessings and the provisions the Lord has for us.

But, if we’d just slow down. Stop. Look up. Commune with the Creator and stop the race. 

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

 

 

The Cross Bears All

cross in prayer closet

One of my daughters painted this cross for my prayer closet years ago. At first it was a sweet addition amongst the other pictures and prayers on my wall. But as time has gone on, my faith has developed, and God has made so much sense of things in my prayer closet, this cross has become a focal point for me.

Each morning I spend time just gazing upon this cross. A 10-year-old’s representation of the forgiveness of the Savior. Many times I’ve stared in wonder as I thought about Jesus on the cross. The sins that must have flashed through His mind as He hung on the cross. Not just any sins, but mine. My sins hung up there on that cross holding Him down, punishing Him, bearing my burden.

After sorrowfully and then joyfully looking at that cross and receiving His forgiveness day after day, why did I still carry a burden? Why did I still carry shame?
Not all of what I carried was my fault. Not all of what felt like a burden on my shoulders was mine to seek forgiveness for. Not all of what Jesus sacrificed for me was my own doing. But, yet, I carried it. 

Some of the sin and shame I continued to carry around were iniquities done to me. Why is it that as children we tend to think everything is about us and everything is our fault? When that becomes a pattern for a child, as it did for me, the load becomes unbearable. It feels impossible to get rid of.

You see, when I sin, I can take responsibility for it. I can confess, seek forgiveness, turn away from my sin and seek a different way. But, when I am sinned against, it feels harder to let go of. It feels more out of my control. It feels like I need to wait on the sinner to confess, seek forgiveness and turn from their ways. But even if those things don’t happen, there is an answer. I don’t have to carry the burden myself. The answer is the cross.

Not only does Jesus want to carry the burden of the sin I have committed but He wants to carry the burden of the sins committed against me.

I no longer have to carry the offenses committed against me. I no longer have to figure them out. I no longer have to walk in shame. I no longer have to own it as my own.

So although the burdens I was carrying and allowing to weigh me down were not mine to carry, they were mine to let go of and trust Jesus to carry. It was my responsibility to trust Jesus to heal me, fill in the gaping holes left from the offenses committed against me, and walk in the freedom He hung on the cross to give me.

Dear One, His freedom is for you. His forgiveness is for you. His love is for you. Yes, you! Can you let go today? Can you allow Him to fill in the wounds left by another? I am praying for you. Jesus longs to intercede for you. May it be so!

1 Peter 2:24-25, He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

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Walking with Jesus Through Suffering

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

Studying Hebrews this morning, thinking about the significance and greatness of Jesus. Jesus, greater than the angels. Jesus, worthy of my praise. Jesus, the one who sympathizes with my weakness.

My mind flashes to the ache in my foot where the doctor skillfully and so carefully used the scalpel to remove the worrisome skin. My foot, pierced. My flesh, wounded. My blood, exposed.

I walk with the reminder of my suffering. Each step sends an ache through my pierced foot.

My Jesus takes each painful step with me. Tempted, tried, suffered. His own feet pierced through. His hands nailed to the cross. His side pierced through allowing the blood to drain out.

My Jesus, pierced.

His pain, His suffering, His sacrifice, so that I can read the words, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” and know that He walks with me in all of my suffering.

I walk with confidence in His love for me. I walk with confidence in His purpose for my pain. I walk with confidence in knowing that I do not walk alone.

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Formula for Courage

image of the cross mexicoInspired by Psalm 28. Thank you, David, for sharing your heart!

I praise you, Lord.

I tell of your goodness and power.

I speak words of love and adoration aloud.

I bring to You my needs.

I petition You and You lean in to hear me.

You hear me and You strengthen me.

You empower me and You protect me.

Trust wells up in my heart and praise breaks forth from my mouth.

I gladly sing of your goodness.

Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.

Psalm 28:6-7

Women of Peace

I wrote this many years ago after my Great Grandma passed away. I wrote it as a way to remember the love and respect between my Great Grandma and Grandma and to remember the faith they helped instill in me. Today is March 12th, my Grandma Betty’s birthday. She is celebrating in heaven. 

“Momma, why don’t you come over here and rest your legs for a while?” Grandma asks as she scoots past the rounded counter’s edge.

“I just need to get these rolls in the hot oven, dear. I’m fine.” As my Great Grandma leans her head towards mine she add, “She’s always fussing over me,” and then she smiles a slow smile.

“Oh, momma, I’m not fussing. I just think you must be tired and ready to rest by now.”

My thoughts stay focused on these two amazing women I have been blessed to spend time with, but instead of listening to them I begin to marvel over them. As I look at Great Grandma, I see her eyes behind her thick glasses looking closely at the dough she is forming into perfect shapes. “She’s not tired,” I think to myself. After all she had rested her eyes for a few minutes in the comforts of her recliner, which almost envelops her small frame. The time she had spent in the warm sun in the garden, combined with the efforts of her body had caused her to feel fatigued. But, she would not admit that to anyone, especially her daughter. Great Grandma looked forward to the time she had each day, albeit short, to spend in the yard.

“It’s a battle,” she’d say, “trying to keep up with those pesky weeds. Do you know that last month when I spent a week in the hospital, my hydrangea plant was eaten by slugs!” She’d try to say it in a gruff voice, but the kindness inside of her would get the best of her and she would chuckle at the end of the sentence.

“Ma, they’re just plants! We just don’t seem to have the time to keep up with what the good Lord has blessed us with. That yard is a jungle!” Grandma knew the importance the yard held in her mother’s heart, but she also loved her momma so much. Much of their bickering was due to Grandma trying to protect Great Grandma from overdoing it, and Great Grandma stubbornly continuing in her ways. The doctor had suggested Great Grandma begin to take it easy in the yard. She chose to ignore that advice from the doctor, but Grandma had listened closely and taken notes as to what would help her mother continue out her long, full life.

I let my thoughts drift back to the sunny kitchen where an enjoyable feast was being prepared for me, the so-called guest of honor. With feet planted firmly on the ground, arms outstretched, Great Grandma twists the knob to the perfect baking temperature. The sunlight from the nearby window shines awkwardly on the timer so that when she goes to twist the knob she has to gently turn her head to the side to avoid the glare. She sniffs the mild scent of unbaked bread dough and continues her chore.

Finally, Great Grandma is finished in the kitchen. Deliberately placing a hand smoothed by warm dishwater, on the edge of the counter, she steadies herself, and then continues to use the counter as a guide as she makes her way to the living room. She doesn’t say anything, doesn’t admit that it is time to rest, but she settles into the large recliner. Grandma is quiet and offers a relieved smile, as Great Grandma slumps into the chair. Grandma has lived with her mother’s stubbornness for a lifetime and learned the importance of allowing her the freedom of taking care of herself whenever possible.

At least once when I am with my Grandma and Great Grandma, I gaze at them with amazement and wonder. In my mind I formulate a list of all that I love about these women. The very best part of being with them is listening to their stories. Now that they are both comfortable in their cozy living room, I know the stories will begin to be told. Years had gone by when I didn’t appreciate their stories and the wisdom I could glean from them. But God knew the day would come when my heart would open up and I would see that listening to the wise women would change my life. Along with so many life lessons, I am learning about true contentment from my Grandma and Great Grandma. Though many of their stories told contain hardship, they are always told in the context of hope. One of their stories may begin by sounding like a story of loss, but midway through I will begin to see that it is really about strength to persevere and faith that God is in control.

Second to listening to their stories, is listening to them talk to each other. Speaking with genuine kindness just seems the natural way to speak for this mother and daughter. They truly respect each other and it shows in every aspect of their relationship.

Through these women, God taught me about love. Love so full that just being in the room with them I am able to catch what overflows. When I am with them I feel like a parched sponge, hanging on to each spoken and unspoken feeling, hoping to be saturated with love.

As individuals, each woman is amazing. Great Grandma has fully lived 93 years of life on this earth. She has lived through wars, marriage, childbirth, many moves, a serious car accident, grandchildren and great children’s births and countless surgeries. Great Grandma has learned how to hope, love, have faith, patience and true humility. She seems to always have a story brewing of one of her experiences. It wasn’t until I had entered into my 20’s, that I was able to appreciate all that her stories did for my soul. I finally began to notice that if I went to see Great Grandma with something negative consuming my mind, I would leave wondering what had ever troubled me. Her stories always gave me a different perspective and helped me to feel thankful for my life. Now, rather than escaping the conversation and heading to the dirty dishes that waited in the kitchen, I could follow her back to her chair just to listen. Until recently, Great Grandma had been able to tell long tales, with all of the parts connecting to form a lesson I need to learn. She has grown quieter recently. There are more frequent pauses. When I am searching for the next light topic to talk about, Great Grandma will amaze us all by thinking deeper and saying, “We are so lucky!” She keeps our conversation headed in the right direction, focused on the wonder of life. Great Grandma is a woman full of peace.

My Grandma, being equally as wonderful, is someone I have always admired. “Your grandmother is beautiful,” my friends would always say, commenting even further after spending time with her. She is outwardly lovely, and inwardly splendid. On the outside my Grandma has the most soft, delicate hands I’ve ever felt. Feeling her hands is like touching a velvety, summer rose petal. Often when we come together after not seeing each other for a while, she will grasp my hands and I will be taken back to when I was a little girl. I was fascinated with those hands. Those hands could gently french braid my hair. They could pull strong weeds from the yard. They could lightly brush away a tear on my cheek. Her hands could push the lawnmower around a steep, hilly yard. My grandma has hands filled with a balance of love and strength. On the inside she is all that she is on the outside combined with a joyful heart and a keen mind. She has endured both good and bad in her life, and chooses, like her mother, to focus on the good. Grandma must have learned a lesson from her mother about life, because she exuberates peace.

My grandma and great grandma have lived together, just the two of them, for about 9 years now. With each year, a new strength is added to their bond. Their partnership in this world seems to grow more established through each circumstance they face. The faith they have come to trust enables them for each coming day. All of what makes up these women is shown with each minute I spend with them. My grandma and Great Grandma are extraordinary women who have changed my life and fill me with a most precious gift, a peacefulness that I will always cherish.

Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

Isaiah 46:4

Looking Up

I am downcast when I look to myself

I am lost when I look to myself

I am defeated when I look to myself

Oh, but when I look to You…

You are my Shepherd

You are my Maker

You are my Truth

When I look down, I see myself

I see my faults, my needs, my weakness, my inabilities

I look to the sky

I need to tilt my head, my gaze, my mind upward toward the heavens

The treetops, the clouds, the sky all remind me of You

My Shepherd, my fulfilling Creator, my Sovereign Truth

cross and skyflowers and skypalm tree in windpalm treessky above ruinssky at beachsky at pyramidssun on water

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3

A Perfect Heart

When I seek mercy and justice

When I offer mercy and justice

When I receive Your mercy and justice

My heart is renewed

My heart is cleansed

My heart is healed

When I seek Your way

When I offer Your love

When I receive Your Spirit

I behave as a woman following You

I love as a whole person

I give from a complete vessel

When you come to me, oh Lord

When you walk with me, oh Lord

When your Spirit fills me, oh Lord

I am set free

I am made alive

I will walk with a perfect heart

I will sing of mercy and justice; to you, oh Lord, I will sing praises. I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will you come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. Psalm 101:1-2