Monday, July 16, 2018

His Mercies Are New

God's mercies are new every morning. Lamentations 3 tells us so.

I've always thought needing new mercies every single day is a sign of spiritual weakness on my part.

When you hit bottom, you suddenly realize acknowledging your need for His mercies is the only chance you have for hope. 

My spiritual weakness is thinking I should perfect my Christianity before coming to Him instead of acknowledging my depravity while running to Him. 

My greatest and only need is to have His presence wholly present...every single day.

I can resist and sit in my own sorrow and filth, refusing to cry out to the One who can lead me out of the mire. Or, I can humble myself and admit my self-reliance needs to dissolve as I allow Him to fully operate in my life.

Scripture doesn't lie. Seeking and drawing are what He longs for us to do. I know from experience, life is so much better His way.

So I choose to seek Him. As I seek Him, I will find Him. (Matthew 7:7-8)

I choose to draw near. As I draw near, He does, too. (James 4:8)

My discouragement in myself and my weariness from life's hardships should not prevent me from meeting Him right where I am. They should be what propels me toward Him so that I can be the person He wants me to be.

He wants me to love mercy (Micah 6:8) so that I can be merciful to others. I can't show great mercy to others if I don't first learn to accept His great mercy. 

He wants me to love others with His genuine love (John 13:34). I can't love like He does until I willingly accept His great love for me. 

He wants me to encourage others in their times of pain with the same comfort He provides me during mine (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). I can't comfort others if I don't first choose to accept His comfort.

I'm beginning to understand what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians after he said he asked God to take away the "thorn" in his flesh three times:

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9‭-‬10)

I can now appreciate my weaknesses and adversities. If I bring all of my shortcomings to Him...if I draw closer during my trials, they will help me have a more intimate connection with my Creator, learn more about His character, and ultimately, become more like Him. 

Instead of pleading with God to take my flaws from me and quickly get me through trials, l now pray that He uses them to keep drawing me closer to Him so that His power can operate fully in my life. 

I don't need to function as a "broken" individual because I can't get it right. It's my brokenness that can perfect His work in my life. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Beauty For Ashes

When you feel like your sin will define you forever, trusting that He will make beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3) is difficult.

I grew up in Washington State. I saw the devastation of the eruption of Mount Saint Helen's only a few years later as a little girl. Ash everywhere. Fallen trees. Destruction. Death. 

Yet, there were shrubs and green leaves popping through the piles of ash.  

That image of life amid destruction has stayed in my mind for years whenever I heard that He will give you beauty for ashes.  It shouldn't be though.  He doesn't promise in Isaiah that He will create beauty in between ashes, He says He will REPLACE your ashes with beauty.  

There are people who come to Mount Saint Helen's and remove ash from the area. They then put it through a refining process and create these hand blown ornaments full of color and beauty.  If you were to see an ornament, you would not even realize the ash was in there.

That's what God wants to do for you.

Maybe you are in a situation where the pressures of poor choices made has created an explosion that threatens to choke the life out of you. Perhaps, remnants are still falling. Piles, still smoldering.  All you can see around you is loss. And you wonder how anything good can come out of so much hurt.

BUT you trust God. You know that His word is true. His promises, secure. 

He says to you, "Give me all this...leave none behind. This pain you feel right now is because you are being refined.  All the impurities are being taken away, sifted out and tossed.Your world may seem to be spinning out of control, but it's just Me, holding you and guiding you through the fire. Turning your destruction into a beauty to behold."

So that sin that you think will always represent weakness and shame, that sin will instead reflect His craftsmanship.  People will not even recognize your sin when they see you. Your mistakes will be refined in the fire and all that will remain of that pile of death is the beauty of His handiwork.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Fully Giving

Sometimes you need to just let go. Let go of the past and the things that hinder you from moving forward. Let go of the future and the things that worry you to the point of mental paralysis. Let go of the background noise in the present that distracts you from your priorities.  

Sometimes you need to have a "come to Jesus" moment and realize that the only "things" that matter are the truly important things. For me, that's my relationship with Christ. My marriage. My family. Wholesome and fulfilling relationships. Ministry.

Friends, we cannot fully live if we don't fully give. Fully give our desires to His control. Fully give ourselves to our marriage so that He can make us fully one in Him. Fully give our attention to our children. Fully give quality time to the relationships that God wants in our lives. Fully give ourselves over to God so that He can make us into all that He wants us to be for His purpose.

Fully giving is fully scary for those who feel vulnerable and exposed when they let down their guard. I'm not suggesting you lose yourself and give up your dreams or goals. You shouldn't become a doormat for people to wipe their emotional needs all over you.  

Fully give so that you can fully live...a full life of joy and contentment in Him. A full life of hardships and trials...and of mercy and grace. 

We get one chance to leave our mark in this leave His mark in other lives. Let's make it a great one. Where others see Him in us. Where those we love really know that we love them. Where the people we minister to see our hearts align with His.

Fully surrender so that you can live a live with arms wide open to whatever He has in store for you. 

Fully giving is fully living in Him.

I'm tired of being mediocre. Today, I choose more. Today, I choose to fully embrace Him.  Today, I choose to fully give all areas of my life to Him. Today, I choose to fully live.

"Scripture reassures us, "No one who trusts God like this - heart and soul - will ever regret it." - Romans 10:11

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Run To Him

"Her mommy was so happy to see me. It was like you were there!"

Sweet girl was speaking of her friend's mom who saw her on a field trip that I couldn't attend.

The declaration blessed my heart.  My girl had joy in her soul because someone saw her and made her feel valuable.  So much so that she felt her presence was as precious to this woman as it is to me.  That God would do that for her, makes me cry.  That He would do that for her in my absence, makes me sing praises to my King. 

Isn't that what we all long for?  To feel loved?  To understand we are valued?  To know that people are happy when we are near?

Do you complete daily tasks feeling lost and unseen?  Wander to and fro while wondering if anything has value?  Wrestle with to-do lists while refusing to rest?

All the while, He waits. 

His word promises that He rewards those who come to Him:

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  (James 4:8)

Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 90:1)

He defines your worth.  

He declares your value.  

He longs for your presence.  

As you lean in, He smiles and welcomes you into His dwelling place.

Don't over-complicate His truths. When you seek Him, you will find Him.

 Run to the One who will run to you.

Run into his presence like my boy chased down his favorite mouse in this video.  I like to think the excitement my little guy felt in his presence, is the excitement God feels when we desire to be with Him.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Christian Life Cycle

Groggy from a late night of basketball watching (aka: being a supportive wife during March Madness), I pick up my devotion book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.

"There is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control."

I stop reading. Those wise. The follow difficult.

How do we let go of the things we were once attached to deeply?  

How do we say, "God, this situation is yours, not mine?"

How do we let our hearts reject the rejection that we feel?

How do we let the constant reminders not be a source of pain?

How do we overcome a situation that has left our once rose-tainted glasses completely shattered as our vision blurs with tears?

I had the opportunity to be in a car by myself for a couple hours last night. As a mom of three littles, I can say that this rarely happens. Since I had just been in the van with all three children for the same amount of time, I was excited for the quiet and yet missing the noise all at the same time. 

Excited, yet missing.

Happy, yet melancholy.

A paradox of life really.

We can be in a season of great joy, yet in one of great pain. We can find ourselves grieving losses, yet celebrating arrivals. We can fear staying the same, yet still fear change. We can have growth in one area, yet experience failure in another.

For this girl who has realized that I do much better focusing on one task at a time than trying to do five things at once, this simultaneous myriad of emotions annoys me and can leave me feeling overwhelmed.

Here's the thing I'm learning: I become what I dwell on. 

I love to declutter my home regularly. If I ever need inspiration, I watch a few minutes of Hoarders and in no time I have bags of stuff to donate and get out of my house. It is so freeing dropping all the bags off, knowing that our "junk" will be someone else's treasure. 

Yet, how often do I actually declutter my mind? How often do I take all my thoughts to God and say, "Can You take these off my hands? Can my junk be turned into treasures for Your glory? Can You restore this situation into something beautiful? Can You help me sift through the thoughts that I just need to trash so that I can make more room for dwelling on You?"

I don't want to be a hoarder of emotions that are clogging up my thought life and preventing me from living an abundant, grace-filled life.  

Christian author Ann Voskamp tells of a conversation she had on an airplane with a rabbi:

"'You know how we all want more?' He holds up the full-to-the-top water bottle in front of me. 'Look at this. You can't have more unless you pour out. You can only receive more as you pour yourself out.'" 

So I'm pouring myself out to Him and letting the One who will never fail me, fill me. As I give Him my burdens, I am free to focus on His love. As His love fills me, I can pour it out to others for His glory. And, repeat.

It's a constant give and take, release and receive. It's the true cycle of the Christian life.

I continue reading my devotion and these words speak straight to this broken, yet whole heart:

"The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes: I am the same yesterday, today and forever. As you release more and more things into My care, remember that I never let go of your hand. Herein lies your security, which no one and no circumstance can take from you." 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

He Who Promises Is Faithful

Do you ever condemn yourself? 

Think you don't measure up?

Wonder if you are further away from God than you used to be?

Feel like because you fail daily, maybe He has turned from you?

Or, is that just me?

I had just had a conversation with my husband. "You're closer to God than you think."  

"Not possible." I said as I started to list my ever growing list of flaws.

A few minutes later - unaware of my discussion with her daddy - my girl wanted to show me the words she had just highlighted in her Bible.

Then this...

Sometimes, God needs to wake you up. Make you aware of His truth.

Never - this side of earth - will I arrive at the pinnacle of closeness to God. I'll always need to draw closer. Lean in. Press forward.

This I know though, His grace sustains. My guilt is large. His forgiveness, larger.  

His promises secure.  His redemption final.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Hope For Sale

Here's the thing about hope:  you can think it's lost.

You can ask me how I know. 

You can grow impatient in the waiting. Tired of the soul fighting.  Pained because of  battle wounds.  You feel forgotten.  Lost.  Helpless.  Hope vanquishes.  Once you feel hopeless in one area of your life, that hopelessness spreads.  It festers.  Chokes the living right out of you.

"To live without hope is to cease to live." -Fyodor Dostoevsky

Recently I was in my beloved Target.  The toddler was in need of new shoes.  He seemed to grow overnight and every pair at home no longer fit. So there he stood beside me in his worn out, too small shoes.  I was looking at shoes  while singing nursery rhymes to entertain him, and lost in thoughts of a morning conversation with a friend. "What if hope really is lost?" one of us asked.  We agreed, hope is never fully gone until the final breath is breathed.  Probably.

Right there in the shoe section, my boy decided to test his mommy.  He smiled first and then ran.  As I quickly grabbed his arm, I looked up.  Shoes that I had wanted to buy a few weeks before because of the cuteness factor were staring right at me.  Taunting me because this mama refuses to spend $24.99 on toddler shoes that won't fit in a couple months. Plus, it's been a week of unexpected expenses, so in an effort to support the man who supports us, unnecessary spending was not happening.

"Wook, Mama!  Wook at shoes!" He had spotted them, too.  "I want dose shoes!" 

I tried to get him to look at a less expensive pair.  He refused.  Sat down in defiance. 


I grabbed a pair for him to hold.  Anything to not cause a scene.  It was then I saw the glorious red tag covering the original price.  That tag that has convinced me to buy things I didn't need before because who doesn't love getting something that was $19.99 for $4.99?  I looked to see what the new cost was and almost laughed out loud.  Those $24.99 shoes were marked down to $7.48.  The two pair left hanging were not his size, but my boy was holding the pair that was. 

It's a good thing too, because he had already taken off his worn out shoes and I quickly realized he would walk no more without the new pair on his feet.

We walked around the rest of the store.  The toddler talking about his new shoes and grinning.  Me, grinning at my boy and thinking about my God.  He can take a silly pair of shoes and remind me of His goodness.  Of how He looks out for us.  He can gift me with the exact shoes we both liked for $17.00 less on the same week that we shelled out hundreds of dollars in repairs and suddenly hope springs eternal.  He reminds me that some things are worth the wait.  More special than if I choose to gratify a want right away.  

Sweet boy started to dance and sing:  

"I wike my shoes!  I wike my shoes!" 

His joy was contagious.  Strangers smiled. My heart soared. I almost texted my friend to tell her hope was on sale at Target for $7.48.

Some days hope feels lost.  Some days you find it in the shoe section at Target.  Truth is, ALL days His hope remains steady...even when we forget it's there.