The Gifts We Miss in the Transition {Anchored Souls Series}

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Thank you to all the beautiful souls who joined us over the past few weeks for our Anchored Souls series. I loved seeing God stir and connect hearts in ways only He can. As we count down the final days until Christmas, I want to share with you how God moved in my heart as we faced a big transition of our own: the welcoming of our third child. In the midst of the sleepless nights and the healing, He showed up. He always does, when we’re willing to invite Him in.

The Gifts We Miss in the Transition

She entered this world screaming. Arms flailing, mouth open wide as the first taste of air entered her lungs, she grasped for something safe and familiar. The cold, metallic environment of the OR was no match for the warm cocoon she was pulled from, and she was mad.

She screamed for five minutes straight as the doctors prepared to close my incision. I laid on the operating table with my arms spread wide, waiting for them to bring her to me.

She quieted at the sound of my voice. I kissed her cheek and willed myself to lift my hands to her, but they were still numb and tingly. I kept my face turned toward her and took in the softness of her features, the curve of her nose and cheek until the nurse took her away.

I looked at the clock and watched the seconds tick while they sewed me up.

Later, as I lay in the hospital bed cradling my new daughter in my arms, the nurse told me her second night would be the worst. More crying. More fussiness. I remembered the sleepless nights with my boys and nodded.

In my groggy state, I thought about how we grow up but our behaviors don’t really change all that much, do they? I mean, we may not scream like a newborn but we all fight against the unfamiliar.

We long for the safe, warm cocoon we were torn from as infants, and when unexpected change comes, we struggle.

Over the next few weeks as I entered life with our third child, I became like my crying infant. My body was healing, but I fought those who tried to help me. We stayed home during the first few weeks to protect our newborn from germs, and I complained about the holiday celebrations we were missing.

Images of Christmas fun on Facebook invoked jealousy. Even when I was tired and running on fumes, I thought about how it was the first year I couldn’t make our annual trip to the tree farm.

One night as I sat in the rocker nursing our sweet daughter, I felt God whisper, “You’re missing it.”

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I didn’t even have to ask what he meant. I already knew. I breathed in the soft scent of her and felt my body relax and little. She smelled like Dreft and baby powder. Her hair felt like silk.

This was the last child I would birth. I could focus on what I was missing, but then I would miss her.

Her first smiles and coos. Those big eyes that looked up at me in the wee hours of the night.

When we fight through the transitions of life, we miss the blessing God is giving in the midst of it.

We miss the joy and the sweetness. We focus so much on what we’re missing that we don’t see the gift right in front of us.

As much as I hate to admit it, most holidays I’m struggling under the weight of other people’s expectations. The presents, the cards, the travel- it all adds up to someone’s hurt feelings or disappointment.

But this season God gave us a precious gift and said, “Here. Slow down. Stay in. This is all that matters.”

As the days pass and I watch our daughters features change like clockwork, I know he’s exactly right.

 

You Brought Me Here Why? {Anchored Souls Series}

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Today we welcome my sweet friend Bethany McIlrath to the blog. Bethany’s heart to seek the Lord in the midst of life’s struggles shines through her writing. She encourages me to look for his hand at work even when his plans are different from mine, and to keep trusting in the middle of chaos and heartache. Please give her a warm welcome today as she shares a story I know will inspire your heart.

You Brought Me Here Why?

I remember the excitement when the phone call came. “We just have to finalize it, but you can schedule that moving truck,” the Midwestern man’s voice exclaimed. Expectantly, we did.

We waited.

But the paperwork never arrived. Weeks later, the same voice apologized on the phone. Unforeseen circumstances arose. The position was cancelled. We’re weren’t moving to Iowa. We were moving though… we had to.

We waited.

Living out of suitcases at my in-laws’ house, we sought work.

We waited.

My husband showed me a job listing. It wasn’t what was expected. We knew one person in the whole region. But the Lord said yes with perfect clarity and abundant confirmation. One Skype interview and a phone offer later, we were scheduling another moving truck. This one was bound for the unknown of Minnesota.

With just two weeks to prepare and little in the bank, we signed a lease online with high hopes.

We’d waited.

The Lord had made the way. We believed it.

Then we pulled up to the apartment complex.

Singing paperwork, we discovered they changed the lease from what we original signed. Shrugging, the woman said “well, yes, it’s more expensive than you agreed to. But you just moved across the country. What can you do?” The deceit stung.

Our lease was cancelled. Tired of waiting, my prayer was “Lord, you brought us here. Why??”

In a new state, 24 hours distant from home, we drove to a storage unit. My in-laws helped us move all our stuff into a 6 foot cement hole. On that October day, the first snowfall drifted down. We stayed with a friend for a whole homeless week, searching frantically.

We waited.

The Lord provided a place to live within a chaotic week. But not a good job for me. We waited through church challenges, friendlessness, and open opposition at my part time job.

My prayer?

“Lord you brought us here. Why?”

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I wasn’t ungrateful. I’ve lived much worse.

But never had the Lord so clearly made a way where there was no way, only to bring me to something I couldn’t make sense of.

Exodus became more personal to me. We’d just left a harder chapter of life. We’d just faced promise after promise of newness, waiting until the Lord said “go.” He parted some unbelievable waters for us and led us through on dry land.

When we arrived, the land stayed metaphorically dry and literally frozen. Life felt parched and biting.

I spent much of my time grumbling like the Israelites in the desert: “now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death” (Exodus 16:3.)

God, in fact, had different purposes.

Since our Minnesota wilderness waiting season, the Lord has reminded me of the “whys” I was too discontent to notice then.

It was in our waiting we learned firsthand about how God gives peace when our circumstances are intimidating. We’ll never forget how He parted the way and the assurance we had, even as I grumbled, that He was with us and leading us.

We learned an awful lot about prayer. Our marriage grew immensely while knowing no one but each other. We met amazing people.

While in Minnesota, we were blessed by the Lord’s provision through miraculous financing, too-coincidental of timing, unexpected gifts, and even the car we are driving today. My husband and I had time with his best friend we never would have if we didn’t live close.

I also learned about the blessing of loneliness. I learned what it is to wake up to mundane circumstances and immediately turn to the Lord. It was in Minnesota God taught me to write my first manuscript and challenged me to read His whole Word for the first time.

It was there I began to make memories with the Lord. It was there I learned the sound of His voice.

I still pray that prayer though- just a little revised.

“Lord, you brought us here. You know why.”

I pray it even when our circumstances seem settled.

Because I know while we’re waiting on God, He’s always both bringing us out and drawing us in.


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A grateful recipient of salvation and hope in Christ, Bethany McIlrath can’t keep from writing His praise. She loves joining with others ii testifying about the Lord. Her reflections on God’s Word and character can be found at First and Second Blog and on Twitter or Facebook.

Where Do We Find Our Anchor During Life’s Changes? {Anchored Souls Series}

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I am a girl who thrives of consistency. When something happens to throw me out of my routine, I feel frazzled, like a dear in headlights.

But life has a way of tossing chaos our way, doesn’t it? Even when we’re not prepared. Even when we would rather stay inside the safe, comfy borders we’ve created for ourselves, change happens.

Sometimes it comes in the form of a move away from the town where we spent our entire lives growing up. Sometimes it’s a loss, a death or tragedy. Even when life’s turns should be joyful and full of hope, they often leave us feeling defeated, like we lost our anchor somehow.

So what do we do? Where can we find a secure place for our souls when nothing in life is consistent? Where do we place our trust when nothing we count on seems to last?

Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing these questions and having conversations right here on this blog about what to do when life overwhelms us with chaos and change. I will be welcoming some of my favorite writers and friends, and I would love for you to meet them and welcome them.

The question is not whether or not change will come. It will, whether we are prepared or not. Whether we welcome life’s shifts in seasons with open arms or bury our heads, they are inevitable.

So the question is whether we will thrive and grow or simply survive. Will we seek God and ask what he’s trying to teach us, or distance ourselves from Him?

Here are some of the beautiful writers who will be joining us over the next month. I hope you will visit their websites, show them some love, and enjoy their writing as much as I have.

November 22nd- Betsy de Cruz of Faith Spilling Over

November 29th- Leigh Ellen Eades of Raising an Arrow

December 1st- Bethany McIlrath of First and Second Blog

December 6th- Kristi Woods of KristiWoods.Net

December 8th- Tiffany Parry of Simply for One

December 13th- Katie Reid of KatieMReid.com

December 15th- Christy Mobley of Joying in the Journey

Looking forward to seeing you next week! I hope you will be encouraged and refreshed as we dig deep, have real conversations and talk about the challenges we all face.

Together, we can face life’s changes and upsets with renewed faith. But we have to be honest and authentic. Sharing the struggle is where it all begins.

 

When You Feel Like You’ve Lost Your Anchor, Remember This

One Thing to Remember During the Chaos of Change

The news that we would have to vacate our apartment came on a weekday while I was at work. At first, I was too shocked to even panic. I sat at my desk blinking in disbelief and then on the way home, it hit me.

My husband and I had moved cross-country a month earlier and were living in a temporary furnished apartment. Due to a mix-up about length of time we would need to stay, they had leased our place to someone else. Now we had until the following week to find a rental which would both allow pets and let us pay month-to-month while our previous home was still on the market.

The sheer weight of it all made it difficult to breathe. I knew finding the housing we needed during this time would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

When you make a life decision as monumental as leaving your childhood home and moving to a place where you know no one, you give it a lot of thought. You pray. You seek wise counsel from friends and family, and you pray some more.

We’d done all of these things and felt strong affirmation that God was leading us to make the move. So when trouble came, I questioned. Had we heard God wrong? Was all of this a huge mistake?

I longed for the familiarity of our couch, our bed and the soft glow of the lamp I used for late night reading. All of it was sitting on a cold concrete floor somewhere in storage.

But it wasn’t just the furnishings that were foreign to me. It was the culture. The people. I searched for a common ground but missed the slow drawl of my southern rooted friends. Now, after a month we were being uprooted yet again and my faith was faltering.

When you’re overwhelmed by the chaos of change, you have to hold on to the only One who is unchanging.

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You may feel as though you’ve lost your anchor and wonder if any of your surroundings will ever feel like home. The distance between you and your loved ones may feel like a chasm that cuts straight into you soul.

But can I tell you something? Our God doesn’t change.

His love for you is the same today as it was before you were a glint in your mother’s eye.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 NIV

As I kept making the commute to work each day after our instruction to vacate, I saw the splendor of the snow-capped mountains. I noticed the vibrant colors of the leaves as the seasons changed from summer to fall.

Somehow I knew the God who created all of this for us to enjoy was going to get us through this mess.

A few days later, my husband got a call from our realtor. Her boss owned a property in the area we desired to live and was willing to rent it month-to-month. Oh, and the dogs were welcome.

It wasn’t the house we’d later make our home. The paint was chipping, the floors were dingy and it needed a lot of TLC. But it offered exactly what we needed- a place where we could stay together.

In the midst of hard times, you find it’s the little things that matter the most. And our steady, unchanging God provides them all.

Trade the Old for God’s New: Leave It Behind Series {Plus a Giveaway}

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As we continue the Leave It Behind series, I am thrilled to introduce you to my friend, Tiffany Parry. I discovered Tiffany by chance in the blogging world, and was instantly drawn to the way she expressed herself through words. She made me feel as though I was right there with her as she explored deep and often difficult topics, and over the past year I’ve watched her grow and develop her gift. It is truly an honor to watch a woman pursue the goals and dreams God has placed in her heart, and Tiffany has done just that.

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A lover of words, Tiffany purposes to use hers to speak truth and encourage others that while life can be messy, God is greater. She welcomes you to follow along as she pursues God on her word-by-word journey through the mountains and valleys of faith at her blog, Simply for One.

Blog: simplyforone.net

Facebook: www.facebook.com/simplyforone

Twitter: @tiffparry

Trade the Old for God’s New

I rose to my feet in a place I’d stood hundreds of times before. Gripping the chair in front of me, I bowed my head and prayed I could make it through another day. The music came to life, the beat resounding in my chest. But it didn’t reach my heart.

A tear seeped to the corner of my eye and I discreetly wiped it away afraid to show any sign of weakness in this place. Lord, I’m not sure I can do this anymore.

“Love came down and rescued me.” The chorus carried through the sanctuary, but I couldn’t meet it with own worship. My words were stolen by sorrow.

I looked around the room at familiar faces, lives I held dear and others I was sure I would never understand. There was a distinct shift – a divide – as if I was watching through a plate glass window. The separation was tangible, a wall I could no longer scale.

One He was no longer asking me too. It’s time, God whispered to my heart.

“Love came down and set me free.” The clarity and certainty I had been wrestling for were delivered to me on the wings of a song. It was time to go.

For a year, God had been cutting heartstrings, one at a time, removing my attachment and redirecting my call. There was space to grieve, and question, and pray. There was grace upon grace as God cleared the path and gave me a broad place to walk.

He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.

Psalm 18:19 NIV

Sometimes God asks us to set aside the old in order to usher in the new. He calls us to leave behind that which we have held dear, and counted safe, in order to draw closer to Him. But, our sacrifice is wrapped in beautiful grace – we give up in order to gain.

God binds anguish with love – His Son is an expert at it.

There were days that stretched into weeks that made up that year where I stood knee deep in fear. Guilt mingled with determination as I juggled the next step. God wasn’t asking me to confess a sin. He didn’t want me to right a wrong.

He wanted me to follow Him – to leave a place behind.

He was rewriting our story; mine and my families. Out of pain and confusion He was bringing truth. He was asking us to trust Him and leave behind history, ministry, and memories. While I felt like I was fleeing, He reminded me that faith doesn’t set you running – it causes you to chase more of God.

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If you’re discontent where you are, if you’re struggling to make it fit, could it be because He’s moved ahead and you’ve stayed put? Are you clinging to past emotion, battling with the old excuses, fighting for a place you no longer belong? Are you calculating risk where you should be exercising faith? Are you holding tight what you ought to surrender?

God will wait. But we can’t stay where He isn’t. Sooner or later, we have to follow.

And we did. On a beautiful Easter morning, we welcomed brand new. With hope and relief in our rescue, we walked onto new ground. It wasn’t easy or simple – it was an act of obedience. A pursuit of truth – a pursuit of God. And He met us there, greeted us with confirmation, and seated us in beautiful expectation.

We found more of Him.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8 ESV

 

Photo 1 credit (text added): kendoman26 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo Credit – Girl in Field

*Linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday. Come join us and be inspired.

GIVEAWAY:

From my heart for more of God to yours, I’m excited to give away a copy of Chase Study by Jennie Allen – a faith challenging journey chasing after the heart of God…

Love,

Tiffany

“We rarely, in our busy lives, stop and see God, really see Him. We are so busy doing things for Him and for everyone else that we altogether miss Him. He wants us. As we chase after His heart together, we will explore the life of David. Whether you are running from God or working your tail off to please Him, David’s journey will challenge your view of God. He is invisible, and yet He is the only thing we can chase that won’t leave us feeling more empty.” Jennie Allen

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below. You can be entered a second time by sharing this post either on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Please let me know if you shared the post in your comment. I will announce the winner on Tuesday, June 9th.

When Your Soul is Restless

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The feeling swept in with the morning rain clouds, as I sat by the window drinking coffee. Restlessness.

There were no defining edges to it. I couldn’t quite grasp where the emotion came from. It was just there. And it consumed me.

I daydreamed about moving to another town. We’d lived here four years so it was time, right? There were plenty of good reasons to migrate further south.

Like my mom’s stroke last year. Being over five hundred miles away was not ideal, and my parents weren’t getting any younger.

And I won’t even dwell on the winters here. This southern girl learned how to use a snow shovel a few years ago and purchased a new set of all-season tires, but I’d prefer not to have to use either.

Yes, I change of location was exactly what we needed. Wasn’t it? I was sure my restless ache would stop when the scenery became white sand and Palmetto trees.

But as the sun set later that evening and I watched my boys soaking up the last daylight hours, I sensed God speak.

Look for the beauty. Right here. Right now.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at Kelly Balarie & Friends. You can read the rest of my post here.

 

*Linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday. Come join us and be inspired.

A Brave New World, or Not?

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“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

It is my natural instinct to fight against the new. To take a fight or flight response, trying to protect what is familiar. What is safe.

Today as I was waiting to get a haircut, I read an article in Time about the new Apple Watch. It said that Apple’s genius is not in the fact that they present new ideas, but that they revive old ones. They turn something that has failed in the past into something that becomes successful. Mainstream. The latest “have to have it” product. To the point where people forget about the old product all together.

Such is the case with the new Apple watch. And if it takes off the way they are predicting it will, social media will not just be part of our lives. It will be part of our bodies.

And to be honest, that scares me. My mind races to endless possibilities of what this entails.

Left to my own devices, my mind can do that from time to time. But you see, God doesn’t want me to live in fear of the new and the unknown. He wants to transform me.

He is making me new from the inside out.

So when my natural tendency is to turn to fight or flight, I instead flee into his loving arms. That’s where I find peace.

That’s where I realize that in the midst of the ever changing and the new and unpredictable, he remains the same.

He knows the beginning and the end because he’s already written the story. So when the world seems new and unsafe, I can find safety in Him. The Author and Finisher.

 

*Photo Credit

*This post was written for Five Minute Friday. A group of brave, bold, beautiful writers who free write for five minutes each Friday on one word. Today’s word was: new. Click the button below to learn more.

The Change Starts With Me

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Helpless. Devastated. Dark. That’s how I feel when I turn on the news lately. People are being persecuted around the globe for their faith. Iconic entertainers are taking their own lives. Poverty. Oppression. When will it end? When will a change come?

There is a song by a legendary pop star which says, “If you want to make the world a better place, then take a look at yourself and then make a change.” Take a look at yourself.

God has given me a sphere of influence right here. Right where I am. My children. My community. My friends and family. And most of all, myself. Certainly I can change myself? Yes, this I can do.

My attitude. My prayer life. My time spent with the One who can change the world with one breath.

The decisions I make today will affect tomorrow. And the day after. What choices are waiting to be made?

Let me approach each one with prayer. Because God has given me this one life.

Let me make a difference for Him.

 

*This post was written for Five Minute Friday. A beautiful group of bold writers who meet each Friday to free write for five minutes on one word. Today’s word was: change. Click the button below to learn more.

*Photo Source