Live Today

Are you living today?

Like really breathing in the free air and chasing down life, living?

How many days have you felt yourself simply going through the motions of work, motherhood, faith, marriage, relationships, everything? You wake up to play the game. You are making all of the same moves that you know have worked over and over to get you to the next square, and that is what you are content to do. That is the play it safe to stay alive move. And then you get to go to sleep just to wake up and do it all over again.

Is that living?

You’re just moving from start to the next designated square. You’re just flipping over the lies on the cards that the world deals you. You’re banking on choices you make in your own wisdom, and them coming up broke or headed back to start over. People call you a failure. You just can’t catch a break. But you keep playing the game anyway.

Is that really living, friend, if you’re never taking the leap of faith it takes to get yourself off of the board into a life that was created just for you?

Haven’t we all believed the lie that giving in to God means that we are giving up ourselves and missing out on all life has to offer? Maybe you still do? But I want to let you in on a little secret. A secret that shouldn’t even be a secret, friends. We should be shouting this Good News at the top of our lungs! THERE IS A BETTER LIFE IN CHRIST! You can really live today if you die to yourself! There I said it! It’s our choice if we are or we aren’t living the life we could be living. We get to choose and I choose to live today!

I’ve decided that I don’t want to play this game anymore. I want to jump off of the board into the open arms of the Father because in Him is where life truly begins.

He’s standing there for you too. You can live too. You can live today free from your past shame and free from your sin. You can live today with peace in the midst of suffering and with the joy of the Lord as your strength.

Our days are already numbered, and death is certain for us all. But we get to decide how we live the life we have, and I want you to know that it doesn’t matter when we die when we choose to live.

Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

1 Kings 2:3 And observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.

Proverbs 3:1-4 My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

God wants us to live life and to live it fully and freely. But we cannot do that without him.

I choose to live today. I choose life on earth and glorious life eternal with my savior. Will you live today?

A Better Word

I don’t know about you, but I need a better word in so many sentences. As I type words on pages writing this book, even though they are my own thoughts and memories and rhymes, they sometimes feel awkward and unworthy of being read by someone who just might have a better word.

I want to say the right thing so strongly that sometimes I just don’t say anything at all for fear that there might be a better word. This then means that I don’t have the words to say I’m sorry to my friend who lost her baby. I don’t have the words to encourage my mother in law who has chemo coursing through her veins. I don’t have the words to comfort my friend who just wants to be a mother, the friend who’s heart is broken, or the friend who lost a job. For lack of a better word, I just don’t say my most vulnerable and real words, and pray God’s will over their lives and situations instead.

And while that’s still a careful way to handle my words, my friends and family don’t need careful words. They need a better word. They need the truth.

So I ask God, will you give me a better word right now? Because You Are The Word, Lord.

My words will never be enough to calm fears, mend hearts, or fill cups of life. They’re not supposed to be. But maybe instead of always trying to SPEAK a better word, I should LISTEN to a better word from my Heavenly Father. Maybe I need a better word in my heart and on my lips that doesn’t intercede for Jesus, but brings people to Him and not me.

In 1 Kings chapter 13 King Jeroboam didn’t like the words the man of God spoke over the alter at Bethel. Sometimes words from others set us off right? But as he stretched his hand out, crying “Seize him!” His hand began to shrivel up! Oops. Maybe he thought he knew the way, like we often do, but maybe someone had a better word. Maybe the man of God had a word from God.

Verse 6 says,

“Then the king said to the man of God, “Intercede with the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” So the man of God interceded with the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before.” 1 Kings 13:6

The man of God spoke to the Lord on the kings behalf and the king’s hand became good as new. The king saw the truth in a better word and the Lord’s power showed through.

A better word can restore life. A better word can lead others to the one true word. Instead of worrying that you don’t have the right words, trust the Lord for a better word.

Fall Things

September and October has been a blur of homeschool, homework, and harvest, but it has also been two months of learning, growing, and leaning into my Savior with thankfulness.

First Fall Thing, homeschool is hard. Never did I ever think I’d be homeschooling, let alone homeschooling while working a full-time job and finishing an English degree, but here we are. Here we are and I am thankful! I get to watch Charlie learn to read and write and I absolutely can’t believe how blessed I am for this time with her. Everyday is not routine. We don’t do fancy curriculum or organized learning, and we both have thrown our fair share of fits as we figure out our own learning rhythm. But everyday we get this precious time l to push ourselves and we do it together.

Second Fall Thing, I am five cute little weeks away from my English degree. Going back to school has been a struggle…it’d been seven years since I’d taken a college class and it showed. But, showing my kids and myself that I can make time for family while still going after what God has called me to do has made every 300 page novel and every research paper worth the effort. It has been a true test of discipline, faith, and endurance, but my why is even more clear.

Third Fall Thing, this harvest season I hauled more loads to the elevator than I ever have in a fall, and I learned how to hook and unhook from the wagon and head cart all by myself. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it really is to me. Usually I have a few good meltdowns and cry my way through the last few days of farming because I just want my life back. But this fall I had a change of heart and a change of attitude. I realized that this is my life, this is a blessing to share this time with my family in the field, and this is right where God is growing me.

Over the last two months running on little sleep and needing to complete what seemed like a million things on my list, the phrase “God provides” was written all over my life. God provided time for homeschool in the midst of hurried morning rides to the field, God provided wait time in the field for pages of research papers to be written and novels to be read, God provided a lesson in loving where I am, God provided time for laundry, dishes, workouts, and podcasts that were scripted just for me, and most importantly God provided in ways that told me I was His and that I was seen.

So maybe the last few months have been a blur for you too and you’re ready to just coast through until the end of the year. But I encourage you to keep pressing play everyday. Buckle up and keep driving forward even though you just want a break. Because Fall Things have shown me that God provides for me in the midst of meltdowns and in the middle of cornfields too. God has provided for me and He can still provide for you.

Hey Words

Hey words I can’t carry you around anymore, you’re getting too heavy.

I need to dump you all out on this paper words but I don’t know if I’m ready.

You words can say things so many ways now and still be misunderstood.

And I think that if I could just hold you in a little bit longer words then everything will turn out good.

Maybe I could just put you down words, one at a time.

I won’t worry about making you pretty words, and maybe I won’t even rhyme.

Maybe words you won’t be witty.

Maybe words you won’t be grand.

But maybe words you just need to be nitty gritty.

Maybe then words people will understand.

They might see words that we have stories that don’t all read the same.

They might see words that we look a lot like each other but that none of us go by the same name.

I hope words that since we’ve all kind of been held back, that we might slow down to really read words and maybe cut each other some slack.

Can we give grace words and make more room?

Can we put ourselves in their place words so that redeemed lives can grow out of this and bloom?

Because the new normal doesn’t have to stay words, we can decide what we want to do.

But we have to come together words if we want the best world for me and you.

Goodnight, Mister Man

Sunset so pretty mama,

says my little man nodding his head.

It’s beautiful baby, I say to him,

now let’s go to bed.

We run and chase upstairs

to brush our teeth and snuggle again.

It’s so hard to put him down sometimes.

I just keep singing his song

and breathing him in.

He’s growing so big now

and getting harder for me to carry.

But I’ll hold my arms out to him always,

be right there even when it’s scary.

We say our prayers now,

his little heart learning.

Now go to sleep my mister man,

I’ll see you in the morning.

Don’t shut door, he says

so I leave it open just so.

We say goodnight again as I go downstairs,

and soon to sleep he’ll go.

I can’t believe I get to love this boy,

with his smiling dimple face.

I thank God for what joy he brings,

and for giving his mama unending grace.

Airboats & Anxiety

Not much has changed for me during this unsettling time and I know I’m one of the lucky ones. But what this time has shown me is the power of fear and the sovereignty of God.

We took an airboat ride in Florida recently and I felt fear pretty much the whole ride. You know the feeling when you’re pushed to what you think is your limit? Like we really can’t go any faster than this on our side can we? We aren’t really going over that huge mound of mud are we? And then yes, we can! Yes we are! And hey look, we are fine and it’s actually kind of insane and fun at the same time! That’s what an airboat ride feels like. But do you know why we could do those crazy awesome things on that ride? Because the captain was driving the boat and we were not. Because when I was clenching my teeth and my babies, preparing for the worst, the captain never stopped driving the boat.

I wasn’t in control of that boat, and I hated that. We aren’t in control of this pandemic and we hate that. We may all go over on our sides so far we think we’re never coming back upright. We may go through messy muddy bumps in the weeks to come. But the captain is still driving the boat.

I didn’t know what I was getting into going on that airboat, but it turned out to be an incredible ride. And even though this virus wasn’t what we asked for, maybe our captain is taking us through this to lead us to somewhere better than we’ve ever been.

Isaiah 41:10

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Hurry Up and Slow Down!

Have you ever responded to someone or something out of anger? Out of emotion? Out of bitterness? Have you ever said something that you didn’t really mean, but only felt at the time? Have you ever hurt someone because you hurt?

My sermon on Sunday was from James as he was talking to the twelve tribes about listening and doing.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

James 1:19-21 NIV

Sometimes as I read stories from the Bible I feel far from them because they were so long ago, but you know what? These people struggled with the same things we struggle with today. These people threw fits of rage, lashed out at others, shut down, and wrecked lives and relationships all because they responded without truly hearing what someone else was saying.

As I think about the instances in my life when I’ve been quick to respond with humanness instead of prayerfully constructed answers or actions, it ain’t pretty. In fact, it’s true ugliness that I often regret as soon as it’s all spilled out.

The common denominator in each of my own fits is that I wasn’t really listening. I was in such a hurry to respond that I didn’t slow down to listen. I didn’t take the time to understand what the other person was saying, feeling, or dealing with because I was too wrapped up in my own fear, hurt, or selfishness.

People can be broken. They can say things that bring us down, but we don’t have to fall apart. People can be awful. They can be cruel and say things to intentionally set us off, but we don’t have to blow up. As James said, it’s not worth it. In fact, it’s evil and produces nothing good.

So instead let’s start to…

Listen.

Breathe.

Pray.

Respond with grace and truth instead of wrath and emotion.

Just hurry up and slow down.

When less of me feels like the best of me.

Do more things that make you feel like you.

Making something out of white space is what we all crave isn’t it? To put a little bit of ourselves into something that was nothing and then watch it come alive.

But what I’ve realized about myself is that too often I compare my picture to someone else’s, and think I’d better stick to a color by number so it all turns out right.

But even then, I am never able to stay inside those lines. I love the obscurity of smudges and drips and colors running into each other, and that’s sort of just how life goes for me.

It’s really hard to stand out, stand up, and be who God’s called me to be when it doesn’t look like what everyone else is doing. But, I’m learning that I can do it, and it feels painfully right, and it feels like me.

And I think the more we feel like we are where God’s called us to be, the less like other people we will look. Maybe as we get closer to where God’s called us to be, we will look a little odd, misunderstood, and full of something people just can’t put their finger on. Maybe if I keep doing the things God’s called me to do then I’ll look less like you, less like them, and hopefully even less like me. Maybe I’ll look just a tiny bit like Him.

I love what Paul says while chained in prison:

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:20-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Paul was different. He stepped outside the lines and talked about his God’s love that was so deep, no one could believe it. The people sent him to prison for preaching the gospel, yet he still rejoiced and witnessed in his chains because God was good!

I don’t want to be afraid or ashamed of my difference anymore. I’m praying to have the courage to live a life that is not about me, but about glorifying the only one who can save us all. And maybe that’s weird. Maybe that’s obscure. Maybe that doesn’t fit into the lines we’ve all drawn around ourselves. But friends, we weren’t ever meant to stay in the lines.

So if you’re teetering, with one foot in and one foot out over the blank space, will you take that step with me? Will you give up control and conformity to see what God has for you? Maybe it will be hard. Maybe it will be terrifying. And maybe we will end up in prison (kidding…probably kidding)! But maybe when we get out of our lines, we will see that less of you and less of me looks more like God using the best of you and the best of me to set us all free.

Cut It Out

img_6643

Cut. It. Out.

So we have been back for a few weeks now from a week long “vacation.”  I say that and laugh but still wince a little bit because it was actually just a really ugly test in our survival skill sets. But we made it! Isn’t it funny how we think things are going to go a certain way and then they don’t at all. And then what do we do? Well some of us can just go with the flow and that’s really great, but I am not some of us. I am an Enneagram 3 wing 2 and I like order. So when things fall apart, I pout. I snap at the tiniest things. I shut down. I get jealous. I get bitter. And I don’t think I need to go on because I think you get it, I am just not keen on things that don’t go like I think they should.

But something happened to me on this trip. I had a real moment with God in the most awkward way. I was selfishly trying to squeeze in time to get a sun tan and read my book because that’s what I wanted. Coming home with a tan and half finished fiction novels was all I envisioned for his trip, and now I was angry because the most unreal things kept happening, keeping me from my goal.

But finally I’d made it to the lido deck on the cruise ship and found a chair in perfect line with the sun. And you know what happened? I couldn’t get my darn swimsuit coverup off! It wouldn’t go over my head and it wouldn’t go over my tush and I was stuck. Ok, so it didn’t go on quite so easy either, but we made it so I didn’t imagine being in the state I was currently in. I was way stuck and super embarrassed, but still determined to get a tan. I went back down to my room to figure this out without an audience. Apparently the strings on the side of the coverup were not actually adjustable, but thanks be to a Tinkle razor, they could easily be cut, freeing me from the awful thing. I looked in the bathroom mirror and could not believe I just had to cut myself out of a swimsuit coverup with my mustache razor. And then I looked at myself a little longer. It was in that humiliating moment that God said,

“Cut it out!! Stop giving so much power to things outside of your control!”

There was nothing I could do about my poor dad getting sick on the trip and having to fly home early. There was nothing I could do about both the kids getting sick and not being able to sleep at night. But even though there was nothing I could do, I still felt jipped and even responsible for what had happened. And that’s when I realized I’d let devilish lies creep in and I was starting to believe them.

Why didn’t I bring more medicine for the kids? I’m a bad mom.

Why didn’t I do this? I was wrong.

Why didn’t I do that? I am a bad person.

Now I can’t relax. Now I can’t rest.

Those were the lies I gave power to, and they spoke over the rest of my vacation.

Because I let them.

Now that I’m back to reality and the everyday grind, I can’t let that continue. I’m not saying I’m going to push through every bad day now wearing the full armor of God because I’m human and I’m going to fail. But I do not want to cut myself out of another swimsuit cover up because I’m too caught up in my own agenda to realize I’m going to get stuck.

Things are going to happen that throw us off. Things are going to happen that hurt our hearts and break our spirits. And sometimes there will not be a thing we can do about it. But it’s in those moments that we have a choice. Will we jump in the pit of lies and get stuck in our coverups, or will we heed the warning signs that something is not quite right and that we need adjustable straps?

I know now that I need to adjust. I need an adjustable heart that can be molded and shaped by my experiences, but that relies on God to hold me together. I don’t want to believe the lies anymore. I have to cut them out.

Does anyone else need to cut it out?

Snow Emotional Trees

0d108bcd-ef63-4c2e-8ed6-4428995749e8

 

Snow falls silent, marshmallow hemlocks bear the weight. Tears slide down faces, hearts bursting open. The wind picks up and drifts emotions of breathing lives until the walls are high and the paths are all narrow and jagged. The snow seems content to fall silent and sometimes devastatingly still. Yet, the trees stand ready with wild ragged limbs, just longing to be filled.

 

The trees stand in waiting and let the flakes build up on top of each other. The flakes are but miniscule, why give them trouble when they fall? We can make room for all of these life things, say the trees. We have nothing to hide. We can carry the load that life brings; let none be set to the side. Yes, we will love hard when life stings, always and forever with heavy branch arms open wide.

 

Because the snow doesn’t ask where it may sit, and emotions, neither do they. Snow just falls wherever it hits, and emotions will shift on you day after day. There is no question of reason. No rhythm you might be able to time. And still the tree will shift to carry every emotion and season. Telling each one of them, I’ve got you, you’re going to be fine.

 

I settle in my corner of the couch now and just watch the snow fall. I ask the sky, are the flakes really going anywhere but down? Are they missing their call? Because I don’t want to miss what’s ahead for me. I don’t want to be the snow piling emotions on others. Gosh, I just want to be the tree. I want to make things better than how I found them. Let everyone with a story come and be told. I want to usher in understanding, and never condemn. I want give hope without commanding. To tell others be heard, be seen, be bold.

 

I’d tell them it’s okay to feel the snow all cold in your hands. It’s okay to feel things and let them melt in your palms; catch them on your tongue even and swallow them down. Feel them inside and sort them out. Because once you know the things that you know, you can catch others on their way down. And when you know what you know, because you dealt with how you felt, then you can be a rescuer in the midst of doubt.

 

And isn’t that why we’re all here anyway? Because God’s son gave his life for us on a tree on a Friday? He didn’t cower or hide from the spitting skies, he didn’t call Heaven’s angels down when accused of ugly lies. He let God’s will take over so we could be free. He died arms open wide and rose again so the truth we would see. And now that I know what I know, I just want to tell everybody. No, I can’t settle for being the snow, I just want to be the tree.