What the Chaos Teaches Us About the Creator

A few weeks ago we had one of those rains where it seems like the whole sky opens up. Trees bent under the weight of it. Birds scurried to find shelter.

Every living creature seemed to realize the need to stay dry except my dog, who I inadvertently left out while running errands. She just laid there sopping wet, hanging her face when I remembered to let her inside.

She had a huge covered porch where she could stay covered, but she chose to take a cold shower.

Afternoon came and the rain stopped but the storm clouds stayed. I drove to the bus stop and was struck by the scene around me.

Trees and flowers and glowed against a backdrop of stormy sky, their leaves all sparkling and wet. It was beautiful.

The dark clouds provided a canvas that illuminated creation. Living, thriving. Not in spite of the storm, but because of it.

It reminded me of situations I’m facing now and the lives of dear friends. Storms are everywhere, and yet life goes on.

I ache for those who fill my conversations and enter my prayers. I curse the devil and wish he’d go away, never to threaten those I hold close.

And then I see my dog laying there in the rain. I see the God’s creation flickering in the storm.

I know his greatness is not limited by these clouds, these distortions to my vision.

Sometimes instead of evading the storm, we have to let it drench us.

We have to let it hit us with all the life lessons, the cold, and even the pain. We can grieve for what’s stripped away from us in the hard rain and we can yell when we don’t understand it, but we have to let it do its work.

And when we do, our roots grow deep. They aren’t ripped up by the tide rushing around us, but are held tightly by promises that surpass all the temporary things of this world.

Christ’s hope doesn’t equal the absence of chaos. It’s found right there in the thick of it. In the tears, the sleepless nights and the questions.

It’s then that we hear him whispering, “Come to me.”

Don’t wait until you have it all figured out and your life is perfect. Come to me in your mess. Come to when when you’re weary and burdened.

And when we do, we find he brings beauty right there in the middle of our storm. He doesn’t wait until the clouds pass and the sun breaks through. His Light shines in the darkness.

His glory isn’t hidden in the chaos. As we draw near, it’s illuminated because of it.

 

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Why the World Needs Your Voice and No One Else’s Will Do

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I saw the look of frustration on my son’s face. We were leaving his classmate’s birthday party and he tried to get her attention, but his voice was drowned by the noise of the skating rink.

After he called her name several times with no response, he gave up.

“It’s loud in here, buddy,” I said, trying to reassure him.

And it was. I could hardly wait to get outside into the sunshine after two hours of musty air, loud bass and sticky floors. But I knew he felt a little defeated.

For better or worse, he’s inherited my quiet demeanor and his voice doesn’t always project. When he has something to say, he’s intentional about it, but his words sometimes get lost on those with a short attention span.

I can relate in more ways than one. All it takes is a few minutes on social media for me to feel overwhelmed by the influx of voices.

“What do I have to say?” I ask myself. “No one is going to miss my words.”

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at PurposefulFaith.com about why the world needs your unique voice in a world that’s loud. You can read the rest of my post here.

The Question Every Dreamer Asks: God, Should I Continue?

the-question-every-dreamer-asks

I didn’t want the open the email. The subject line said it all.

“Thank you…”

After a few years pursuing this writing stuff, I knew what those two words meant.

“Thank you but no thank you.”

“Thank you but this doesn’t meet our needs at this time.”

“Thank you, and please try again.”

My finger hovered over the delete button before sending the words off into cyber space oblivion. I opened the Word document for an article I was finishing and the cursor blinked, mocking me.

Why do you continue with this craziness? It’s not going anywhere. You’re wasting your time.

I slammed the laptop shut and busied myself with chores. At least I could do something right. After an hour the laundry was done, the dishes were put away and I was ready to pick up my youngest from school. And I was on time, a tiny miracle all by itself.

But I still couldn’t get the nagging voices of doubt out of my head. I knew instead of mulling over the situation and getting nowhere, I should bring it before God.

Do I continue to pursue this dream, God? Is this something you want?

the-question-every-dreamer-asks-god-do-you

I was deathly afraid the answer would be “no,” but I asked anyway. I needed to know, one way or the other.

Sometimes when we come face to face with our fears, God speaks to us through a friend. Other times it’s through a song or a sermon.

The ways He speaks are as limitless as He is, but he’s always trying to reach our hearts.

On this particular day, He spoke to me through a story. And this storyteller loves stories.

It takes place during the years of the Old Testament when Samuel led the Israelites, and they’re facing an intimidating enemy who won’t stop pursuing them: the Philistines. In a moment of desperation Samuel cries out to God, and God delivers the Israelites from battle. (1 Samuel 7:9)

While this victory was impressive all by itself, God doesn’t stop there. Scripture tells us that for the the rest of Samuel’s reign, God suppresses the Philistines and there is peace.

To celebrate their victory, Samuel doesn’t just praise God and thank Him. He doesn’t count his blessings and move on. He builds a memorial.

He builds an altar to the Lord and names it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12)

As I read over this testimony of God’s faithfulness, I knew what God was asking me to do.

Stop focusing on the mountain in front of you and look at what I’ve brought you through.

We often get so focused on the obstacles, the next hurdle or project that we forget how far we’ve come. We forget to celebrate. We forget to slow down and take stock of the blessings God has poured into our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I need to stop obsessing over roadblocks and start building altars. More reminders that even when the cards seem stacked against me, God is faithful.

If I could attain each goal on my own, I wouldn’t need God. I wouldn’t need faith. And God wouldn’t get the glory, which is why I went down this crazy path in the first place.

Friend, the next time God brings you through a battle, remember to stop and take notice. Then, create a reminder. Build an altar, write it in your journal, or mark the date on your calendar. Do whatever it takes to commit it to memory.

The next trial will surely come, but we can face it with sureness of God’s power.

When we remember what God helped us overcome, the mountain in front of us goes from threatening to surmountable.

 

GIVEAWAY:

Congrats to Elaine Tomasello! You are the winner of last week’s giveaway and will be receiving a smart power bank and Hope & Joy mirror keychain! I will be contacting you soon to get your shipping info. Thanks for reading!

The Wordsmiths’ Cafe: Edition 2

wordsmiths' cafe edition 2

When the Cursor Won’t Stop Cursing You

If we write, chances are we’ve been there. We sit down at our laptops to put that piece together, and stare at the blank screen. Then we stare some more. The cursor blinks at us mockingly and the more it blinks, the harder it becomes to put words on the page.

First let me say this is normal. There is nothing wrong with you when writer’s block comes. It’s an unwelcome part of the process.

As Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly, and sometimes it’s like drilling rock and blasting it out with charges.”

And he’s right. There is no rule. But there are a few things that have helped me when the blank screen stares me in the face.

The next time the cursor mocks you, here are a few tips to try:

  1. Get away from your computer. Most writers I know type directly into their computer, although I do know a few who hand write their stuff and then transfer it over. But here’s the thing. Your blank computer screen will not fuel your creative juices. Get up, go for a walk, play with the dog, or whatever. Just do something else. Take a notepad or your phone if it had a notes/ idea app. When the words come to you, record them in the moment. You’ll be surprised what some movement can do for your creativity.
  1. Read something. (other than your own blog) Pick up a book, magazine, or novel and dig in. Good writers read, and they usually read more than they write. While you don’t want to copy what someone else has written, you will find inspiration or perhaps a new angle on a topic you’ve been thinking about.
  1. People watch. Observe nature. Take in your surroundings. And by your surroundings, I don’t mean your blank computer screen. Get and do life. Pay attention to the birds flying outside your window. Listen to your kids’ conversation. Trust me, there’s plenty of fodder there. (but exercise caution there, as your kids will one day read what you write, if they’re not already) Eavesdrop on a conversation at the mall. There is inspiration all around you. Sometimes we just have to stop hurrying from one place to another long enough to notice it.

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  1. Journal. It’s amazing how the words will flow when we’re not worried about sharing them with anyone. I once heard someone say we should journal more than we blog or write for an audience and I have to say, although I don’t always practice this, I agree. While we may not share those thoughts written in private with anyone but God, they will provide a jumping board for later writing. They will replenish our soul and allow the Spirit to work.
  1. Start with a story. This tip comes from a writer and speaker I’ve come to respect over the years, Lysa TerKeurst. If you’re still stumped about what to write, tell a story. We all have stories to be shared. Tell your readers one, whether it’s your own or something you heard, and go from there. See where the Spirit leads and ask yourself what life lessons can be applied from the story you share. The possibilities are endless.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. If you’re still hitting a roadblock, take some time off to recharge your batteries, but set a time when you will return so you’re not tempted to procrastinate.

Be yourself. You are the only “you” this world will ever have, and faking it won’t get you anywhere. It will only exhaust you and make you want to quit.

God has given you a voice, a story to share, and a desire to write. If he’s called you to do it, he will equip you. So let’s push forward with confidence.

 

*To read edition 1 of the Wordsmiths’ Cafe, click here.

*The Wordsmiths’ Cafe is part of the Ladder to Rooftop Blogging Academy. For more info, click here.

When You Think You’ve Missed the Boat

When You Think You've Missed the Boat

Last night I talked to a friend who told me she turned off Messenger notifications on her phone. After I asked about a message I’d sent several weeks ago, she realized it had gotten buried under piles of other messages and she’d never seen it.

I completely understood. If she’s anything like me, she’s familiar with the epidemic of “now.”

I have severe anxiety over that little “1” which shows up on your phone. And since the notification is showing now, I have to respond now and have an answer now. Sometimes I’m not even sure how to respond, but I figure if I type something they’ll at least see those little dots moving…

Those dots mean you’re thinking, right? Or do they mean you’re typing? In any case, they mean a response is coming and that you haven’t forgotten about the urgent message which needs an immediate response.

Or does it?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about priorities. And many of the things I consider a priority should be nowhere near the top of my list. Like those little “1”s that show up on my phone and drive me crazy.

I get so wrapped up in the “now,” I forget there is also a “later.” I forget this season is not the season for every project, pursuit or endeavor. I forget how God-given dreams don’t have an expiration date.

A couple of years ago, I sensed God calling me to go on a grand adventure with Him. I knew he wanted me to write and share with others, to step out of my comfort zone and walk with Him into unknown waters.

Every step along the journey has been beautiful. Even the missteps where I’ve fallen and needed grace to stand have molded and shaped me into the woman I am today.

But you know what? Not every piece of the grander vision is meant to be attained right now.

Sometimes, God gives us a glimpse of the future to give us endurance in the present. (Tweet that!)

did you miss the boat?

He desires to keep us moving forward. He wants to let us know our labor is not in vain, and that he has plans and promises which stretch further than our imagination can take us.

But now is not the only season. And everything can’t be accomplished in one day. So why do I stress myself out, thinking I’ve missed the invisible boat?

We’ve all heard the saying. “Don’t miss the boat.”

We think this boat holds all of our hopes and dreams, and sets sail for some far off land, never to be seen again if we’re not on it.

Let me get a little southern here and tell you something. It’s hogwash. It’s a made up figment of some person’s imagination, and it serves no purpose other than to cause anxiety over God’s timing, which can’t be controlled.

Paul says it right here in Romans:

For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Romans 11:29 NIV

God did not call you, purpose you and place his gifts within you to simply throw them away. He who called you is more than able to see his plans through. And what do we do? Take the next step of obedience. Not ten steps or twenty, but the next one.

If the mistakes of humanity could revoke God’s plan, He would not be sovereign. (Tweet that!)

So take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and wave farewell to the invisible boat. If you were meant to be on it, you would be.

 

Linking up with these communities: #LiveFreeThursday, #ThankfulThursdays, #IntentionalTuesday

Where Do We Find Hope When Darkness Overwhelms?

where do we find hope

I’ve never witnessed someone cross through the thin veil which separates this life from the next. When I listen to others describe it, I’m always filled with awe.

What was it like? Did angels lead the way into the Light which never fades? Was there hesitation or was it impossible to resist the pull of a place with no tears, shame or regret?

When tragedy hits, the questions abound. And there is an ache for a world where suffering and evil don’t knock us off our feet. A longing for a place we can’t see yet, but fills us with a hope that carries us when the load crushes.

This week, our community suffered a great loss. A family is grieving for little girl whose life on this earth was too short.

And as the questions play on repeat, I’m reminded how little I know.

I don’t know why some prayers for healing are answered and some aren’t.

I don’t know why one child suffers and another is saved by medicine or the supernatural.

I don’t know why girls are left motherless at an age when a mother’s touch is like air in the lungs.

I know little, and although I’m being transformed, perhaps that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Perhaps in some ways, knowledge does not equate with power.

We live in a world fallen far from the Eden where we once enjoyed complete, unblemished communion with God. And we have knowledge of more than God ever intended.

We know good from evil. And to be honest, sometimes that knowledge levels us, doesn’t it? Our heightened awareness of the darkness around us leaves us searching for something sure, unwavering and true.

clouds and trees

When trouble and hardship come, we often forget where our anchor lies. I know I do. And the other day, as I sat swaying and flipping through my Bible, my eyes landed on 1 Peter.

Peter is writing to a church who is discouraged. They are being persecuted and ridiculed for their faith, and they need encouragement.

As I read through the first chapter, one word jumped off the page: living.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you…

 1 Peter 1:3-4 NIV (emphasis mine)

It was a single word I’d passed over time and time again, but it struck me in a way that left my eyes wet and my hands trembling as I ran my finger over the black and white.

We hope because Jesus is more than black and white in a book. The blood that courses through our veins filled his.

We hope because he left his place in heaven and chose to become dusty and dirty with us, walking with the afflicted and the poor. And then he took the darkness which threatens to consume us on himself.

All of it.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 Matthew 27:26 NIV

We don’t ever have to ask the haunting question Jesus screamed on the cross. When we rail against the hurt and the unknown, we can rest assured that he when he said, “It is finished,” he meant it.

This hope is living because he is living. Living to intercede. Living to comfort in the moments when life overwhelms.

He breathes life in the gap between this life and the next. He breathes life in the unknown. He is there.

And when the questions don’t stop or the answers don’t come, his grace still fills the empty spaces.

 

Linking up with these communities: #LiveFreeThursday

Don’t Give Up

Don't Give Up

A few days ago, I took a trip back to middle school. Not in the literal sense, but in my head. I was surrounded by sticky floors, kids racing around on bright wheels, and 80’s music.

We were at the neighborhood skating rink.

It was my oldest son’s first time on skates and for thirty minutes he spent as much time on the floor as he did on his feet. Within an hour, he was ready to leave.

“It’s hard, Mama,” he complained, giving me his best tone of defeat and stepping off the big rink.

I knew it was. I could see he was trying. But I also knew if he kept going and allowed his body to adapt to feet on wheels, he would love it.

“I know it’s hard, buddy. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to give up.”

He skated slowly back over to the small rink, struggled over the lip of outer edge, and made another lap. Then another, and another.

When an hour passed and it was time to leave, he was hot and sweaty, but he didn’t want to go.

“Can we come back again next week, Mama?”

I smiled and told him we’d be back soon.

In the short time it took this local business to blast some of my favorite flashback tunes, my son went from frustrated and defeated to proud and ready for more. He went from complaining to celebrating. And all it took was a little push.

You can do this. Keep going. Don’t give up.

The situation reminded me of a conversation I had with God as I walked our dogs on a cold, star-filled night. I told him I was tired. There were areas in my life where I was ready to quit, and I needed wisdom and guidance.

Sometimes, when I pray these prayers, I believe somehow God is going to make everything better and the situation will miraculously change. Occasionally, it does. But often, God’s response is the same as mine was to my son.

You can do this. Keep going. Don’t give up.

I once heard someone say there is nothing in life worth having that doesn’t require a fight. A struggle of some sort. An inner decision where we say no matter what, we’re going to keep at it.

The apostle Paul tells us,

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12 NIV

Deep down, I know I have to keep fighting. I look at everything in life I hold most dear: faith, marriage, kids, ministry, writing and relationships. None of them are easy. There are seasons of joy, doubt, and suffering.

But when those moments of clarity come, I see how God uses each one to refine, to grow us, and mature us into beautiful reflections of his glory. Even when I don’t feel his presence, he carries me through those moments of weakness.

The struggle isn’t a signal to stop, but a sign keep going.

Can I come alongside you and tell you a few things today?

God sees your work. He sees your effort and each step you take toward him.

He knows your struggle. He is there with you and will help you, just like I helped my son in those moments when his feet faltered.

He’s a good father. He isn’t up there, looking down his nose or pointing his finger at you. He longs for you to come to him with your struggles, your worries and disappointments.

His Spirit will help you. Keep going. Don’t give up.

 

*Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #IntentionalTuesday, #TellHisStory