Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I Thought I Knew What Love Looked Like

The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. John 14:21

"Most live life with love gone much unsaid." These narrated words from a new BBC series pricked my heart as I thought about all the years I withheld my love from my father; repressed my childhood affection from the one who walked away and yet returned with a repentant heart. We'd lost so much time play-acting our roles as father and daughter all those Saturdays of my youth, that when he returned in my college days, I didn't know what to do. Showing affection was awkward, at least, and risky. I allowed the fear of rejection to build an impenetrable fortress around my heart, keeping everyone at arm's length, especially my father.

We lived most of the rest of his life with love gone much unsaid until God took hold of my heart about nine years ago. That's when God pried open my soul and revealed to me my earthly father through His eyes. For the first time, I was able to accept him for who God created him to be and honor all his traits in me without shame. But it wasn't enough to only ponder these revelations alone. God challenged me to forgive my father face-to-face and to speak my love out loud to him (talk about fear and risk). It took me a long seven months of God working on me to gain the courage to face my father and risk it all, but I'm glad I did.
My earthly father passed over a year ago knowing how much I loved him and forgave him. We left no words unsaid, he and I. I thought his passing restored all lost love between us and ended my father journey, but recently God taught me differently. 

(I'm honored to tell the rest of the story on the {re}fresh blog, today. God's doing amazing things...)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Sensitive Child: Encourage their Strengths

I was the child who cried when people looked at me funny or laughed when I did something cute. I blushed at the very thought of speaking aloud or performing in front of a crowd. As a preschooler, I couldn't distinguish when people where making fun or admiring something I'd done. Maybe this sensitivity or shyness came from being a "mommy's girl" but alas, it was how I was wired.
Being naturally introverted, I people-watched and intently observed human behavior and interactions wherever I went. That meant I didn't speak much because I was busy watching from the outside. Being the third-party observer, I gained a sensitivity to my world and innate compassion for the underdogs in most situations (and still do to this day).
So, how did I process all that I observed? How did I come to interact more normally in an extroverted world? (Psssst...for the answers, follow me to the Christian Children's Authors blog. See you over there.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pillow Talk: Keeping Communication Lines Open

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 NIV
It started quite innocently when they were toddlers and fast became our nightly ritual. We'd split up between our son and daughter, alternating every other night, with books and then a cuddle before the lights went out. Inevitably, our children's bodies quieted, but their little minds raced with all the questions they'd stored up during their busy day. They'd ask questions like: Who made all the stars? Why can't we see the wind? How do fireflies glow?
Oh, they had great questions that allowed for some important pillow talk conversations and teachable moments!
(Bring your pillows and tip toe over to Christian Children's Authors blog for the rest of the story...)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cinderella...Not Just another Fairy Princess Story

Ella stood before her dying mother, frozen with fear. “I want to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer,” whispered her mother, “Have courage and be kind.” Choking back tears, Ella nodded and sealed the secret between them with one last hug.
Little did she know, but this little secret would see Ella through life’s toughest trials.
While we know Cinderella’s story well—the beloved daughter of an English merchant who, after the death of her mother, is forced to live with her abusive stepmother and selfish, spoiled, homely stepsisters until she finds Prince Charming—Disney turns us on our heels in the 2015 remake of this childhood favorite.

Yes, all of the original fairy tale stays intact with its magic and transforming powers, but goes beyond the “happily-ever-after” ending, leaving us with four key lessons:  (1) What you’re called is not your doing, (2) Kindness begets goodness, (3) Goodness begets “magic”. (4) Forgiveness precedes freedom.

Lesson One: Have courage - what you’re called is not your doing
Cinderella and Prince Charming first meet while riding on horseback in the woods. After exchanging niceties, the prince asks Cinderella, “What do they call you?” Embarrassed by the truth, Cinderella plays coy, “It doesn't matter what they call me.” And the prince, seeming to understand her secret, states, “I’m sure it’s none your doing.”

We all carry labels, you know, those names others slap on our backs that distort God’s image of who He created. What we're called is not our doing, not our true identity. God holds our true identity, our true name. Throughout the Bible, God renames His faithful ones to match His purpose for their lives, signifying the death of their old identity and the birth of their identity in Him.  For example: Abram (high father) to Abraham (father of many), Genesis 17:5,  Jacob (supplanter) to Israel (God contended), Genesis 32:28, and  Saul (prayed for) to Paul (small, humble), Acts 13:9. Living that transformed life, living by the name God intended for us rather than the labels by which others call us, takes enormous courage because we’re constantly bombarded with the lies.

(Slip over to {re}fresh for the rest of the story...)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Setting the All-Things-New into Motion

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2

Lent begins today. Forty days ahead to prepare our hearts for Resurrection Day. The day when Jesus overcame sin and death for us--the day the earth shook and the stone rolled away--the day Jesus set all-things-new-pattern into motion. 

So, how do I prepare my heart in these next forty days? I've thought on this a lot lately. How do I honor the sacrifice Jesus made--laying aside his deity, his life? What hard sacrifice can I offer Him? Not something temporal so that at the end of forty days I gorge myself with chocolate and potato chips, but rather, what old pattern does God want to shake out new so that I might transform more into His likeness? What would truly cause me to desire Him more?

For me, it starts with solace. Intentionally closing out the world long enough to be still and bask in God's presence, to actually shut my mouth and open my ears to His heart whispers. Not just once in forty days. Not just once a week, but at least once a day. That's easy on the slow, snowed-in days, but not on the hectic, scheduled, everyone-demanding-me days. Those days will take supernatural intervention and discipline. 

Next, it's words. Words move me more than any other form of communication. More than personal touch, quality time, acts of service,  or material gifts. When I read the written word, my heart and mind have time to synchronize. I can read and reread until my heart finally feels what my mind understands. I need to sacrifice time to read God's word and the words of His saints to fill my heart and mind with the Good News and to start the renewal process; to  transform my mind into His likeness; to put away the old ways of thinking, stop believing the lies my mind whispers and believe the Truth of how God sees me and those around me. 

Writing words is another way I plan to prepare my heart this Lenten season. As powerful as words are to read, writing down encouraging words I hear in God's heart whispers allows my eyes to see what God's saying. It allows me to remember, revisit, reread and encourage my heart over and over again. So, over the course of the next forty days, God's calling me back to journaling His private whispers.

A fellow writer, Karen Ehman, has another great writing idea on her blog today. She's challenged her readers to write one encouraging note to a different person every day. The power of words goes beyond our own hearts and can be used to honor, encourage and lift up those in our lives we hold dear, but somehow never take time to tell them just how much they mean to us. I can't promise 40 different notes, but I will consciously sit down and send out notes.

Finally, God is calling me back to my writing passion. It's been a hard sacrifice over the past ten months as we prepped and sold our home and then  moved and built onto our new home. What I thought would take only three months has now taken almost a year to complete. I knew writing would take a back seat, but it's now time to discipline myself again, with God's help, and move forward into the calling of encouraging the hearts of those who grace not only this space, but also those God's called me to write for so many years ago. It's time to write down God's words and complete the work.

Like Paul, let's not conform to this world any longer. Rather than giving up the temporal only to gorge ourselves with it again in a few short weeks, let's seek God for what He really wants to change in us. Let's let God renew our minds, start the -all-things-new process in us so that at the end of forty days we're closer to being transformed into Jesus' likeness. 

May God truly have is way in us all these next forty days!


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Jacob Moment

So Jacob was left alone,and a {wrestled with him till daybreak. 

There comes a time in our walk with Jesus, when our past catches up to the present. That past that we gulped down hard and packed away deep below the surface; the chapter that we thought we finally closed. But the funny thing is, if we don't resolve the past, it keeps challenging us to a wrestle in hopes of a resolution.

It was early spring and the New Hampshire mountains remained captive by winter’s frozen veil.

Lost in thought, I trudged my way up the newly formed snow path from my bunkhouse to the chapel, wondering if I’d made the right decision, because women’s retreats weren't “my thing.” Maybe it was all the fluff and foo-foo conversations that seemed to permeate every women’s retreat I’d attended before. I’d much rather bypass all those niceties and jump right into the hard stuff—the meaty conversations that changed your heart forever.

I waded through the thick molasses worship set and then poised myself to take copious notes of the speaker’s message, all-the-while praying, “Dear God, I showed up. Now speak! Make this retreat worth my effort, please?” Oh, boy. Did. He. Ever.

{Pssst...join me over at {re}fresh to see what God had to say...}

Monday, December 8, 2014

Heaven's Perspective: Retreat

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!" Mark 1:35-37

 When life comes at you like a freight train - full speed ahead - it's all you can do to hang on tight. There's barely time to think, no warning, no preparing or packing a bag - only time to react and latch onto whatever is in front of you until the train stops.

The unexpected happens all the time - life and death - but when they couple themselves together and come one after the other, our minds can't catch up with our hearts. In every crisis, whether good or bad, there's always stuff to be done - responsibilities and loose ends to tie up - for those holding up the arms of loved ones.

And when that freight train comes to a screeching halt - even for a brief moment - we find ourselves disheveled, speechless, utterly weary and maybe even a bit numb. We feel neither joy nor sorrow because we've been so busy caring for others that we pushed our own emotions aside. All we want is solace. Quiet. Retreat.

Isn't that exactly what Jesus felt? 

(Join me at Encouragement Cafe or Crosswalk for the rest of the story, won't you?)