daily life, God's goodness, paying attention, Uncategorized

Living Water vs. Stagnant Pools

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Awhile back we spent a beautiful day exploring one of our great Texas State parks. McKinney Falls has a diverse display of water, rock, forest, an wildflowers. We hiked, explored and marveled at God’s creation. We also took lots and lots of photos. We saw rushing waters cascading off the rocks and small pools within the mass of rock where water had collected and had no way out until it finally evaporates. The water at each of the falls shared some of the same characteristics. It was fast flowing, dangerous at points, rushing and swirling before crashing down into a clear and beautiful larger pool of water where children and adults played. The pooled water also had some shared characteristics. It was shallow, just a few inches deep. It was still. It was warmer as it remained in one place under the sun with no additional water being added.

Observing the different bodies of water got me to thinking about life and the direction it flows or doesn’t. While the rushing, flowing water undoubtably was somewhat dangerous and looked unpredictable, it actually was very predictable. After flowing over the falls, the water always lands in the clear, clean pool where it is calm once again. The shallow pools on the rock may look safe in their stillness, however, over time they grow stagnant and green with algae. They are no longer clean. They eventually dry up. The flowing water, while it looks out of control for a brief time is following a path. It’s journey leads to a new spot where it can continue to be useful. The stagnant water is no longer useful. While it looks safe when it first appears in the crater of the rock, time eventually reveals that the lack of movement causes it to become useless and something to avoid.

I hope I will never get over the wonder of God’s creation. Being out in nature, seeing his handiwork and attention to detail reminds me of his love and faithfulness. It’s such a gift and all we have to do is pay attention, open our eyes, and drink in His goodness.

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addiction, mental illness, Prayers

Unwelcome Companions

A jaw so clenched in sleep that I woke with an aching mouth. Racing heart and scattered thoughts of worry waiting for me to stir, my unwelcome companions for the day.  Tools of the enemy. They are uninvited. Who opened the door and let them in?

How often have I been lacking empathy for a loved one who suffers from anxiety that seems to come out of nowhere? It doesn’t make sense if it cannot be assigned a reason for occurring, right? And yet, am I not experiencing the same right now? As I cry out to God to bring peace and erase my fear and worry, I can’t help but wonder what hopelessness I would feel if I did not have the comfort of my Heavenly Father to turn to. How in the world could I  walk through the pain of wayward children, addiction, mental illness or any other trouble in this earthly life without  knowing that His love and compassion transcend my earthy pain and fear? A mother’s broken heart is no joke. It’s hard to imagine the despair of believing this earthly journey is all there is. Oh how I long for the day that He comes to take us to our Heavenly home!  This Earth is temporary. It is not my permanent home. I pray for guidance to fulfill my duties and purpose here as I long for the day to be taken home to my Savior.

Father God, you are greater, stronger, bigger, more powerful than my problems, struggles and fears. Today my problems and fears feel too big for me to face. I give them to you. Please help me not to believe or be seduced by feelings, but to believe and speak your truth. Pour your truth into me today. Fix my eyes and thoughts on you. I long for peace that only you can give. Peace no matter the storm, no matter the worry, no matter the uncertainty of this life. Peace that is deep and abiding.

I know that you have allowed these situations, this pain, these specific struggles into my life for a reason. I may not yet (or ever) understand the reason, but I acknowledge that you have purpose for this season of pain and heartache and that you can redeem this story and create something beautiful from the mess. Take my worries and my sorrow. Craft my pain and heartache into something that will bring glory to you. Release me from anxiety, fear and worry. Give me rest in you today.

 ~Amen

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.

Psalm 16:8 I know the Lord is always with me. He is at my right hand. I will always be secure.

daily life, Lists, Uncategorized

Lister for a Lifetime

I cannot remember a time that I did not keep multiple running lists and scribbled notes to myself.  When I was teaching, each year all my lists would go into a new fresh notebook beginning midsummer when I would begin the multitude of mental “school” lists. That notebook went EVERYWHERE with me and barely an hour could go without the notebook being added to or consulted. When the notebook filled, it would be stored in one specific, special place so that it could be called upon when needed while the new notebook was being broken in. Nothing fancy, pretty or delicate about these notebooks. They were workhorses from day one. Not only do I still have most of them, I dug one out from three years ago awhile back and found exactly the information I needed in the form of a list.

I have always been very satisfied with my system of listing. My lists have worked. They have never let me down. And then the Bullet Journal was born. Bullet journals are EVERYWHERE. I have seen tutorials about bullet journaling, Pinterest boards, special tools, stickers, writing utensils. Naturally, as a die hard jotter/list maker, I figured bullet journaling would be a perfect fit. My utilitarian lists would be even better! Now they would even be attractive in presentation! NOT EVEN CLOSE.  I have failed every which way possible with Bullet Journals. I HATE them. It’s just too much! I do not have the patience or the foresight to index, organize or embellish my notebook of lists. I cannot handle the pressure of making my list attractive! And color coding…..NOT HAPPENING. I cannot commit and remember what each color is for and then remember to actually USE the assigned color appropriately! Just thinking about it makes me feel a bit ragey.

What is most surprising about this is that it surprised me. I should have known from my past failures trying to figure out the best way to set up a Writer’s Notebook each year for my 5th grade class. It’s a commitment problem, really. I cannot commit to the organization component of a bullet journal. I cannot commit to having a set number of pages for a particular topic (trust me, I’ve tried and it leads to anger and bad words) and I cannot commit to the beautiful writing and doodles I have seen on the the Pinterest boards of committed bullet journalers. It’s too much pressure and it takes too much time. If I cannot dump my thoughts onto the list when they happen, they have a sneaky way of disappearing. Give me my plain spiral notebook full of blank pages and a good pen  and I’m good to go.

I feel it necessary to pause and say I have nothing against people who bullet journal. I am actually envious because it seems so much brighter, flashier and more exciting than plain old boring list making. I just can’t do it. I fail. And I am finally, after MANY attempts okay with this particular failure. It doesn’t jive with the way my brain works. I’m officially moving on and I’m taking my plain old vanilla notebook with me.

I was thinking about the function of lists in my life today (beyond reminding me what needs to be completed) and realized this is a way for me to bring order to chaos, to make sense of what doesn’t always make sense, and to keep record of what is important in different seasons of life and take inventory of current life as it is. I found myself doing just that as I was contemplating some change that may be heading our way. I cannot control what may or may not happen, but I can plan ahead (my list!) how I might best handle the situation. Whatever happens or doesn’t happen is in God’s hands and I am at peace with that. How I respond to it is in my hands and it brings me peace to think about my response in advance, and list the components of this situation that I CAN control.

My list is in my head for now. It doesn’t need to go into the notebook just yet. For now it is serving it’s purpose just fine, bringing calm to a mind that sometimes likes to travel down the rabbit hole of worst case scenarios. My list and my faith are working side by side in the days of waiting to see which direction God has planned for me and my family.

Uncategorized

Dusting off the Neglected Blog or I Became a Blogger Who Doesn’t Blog

Well Hello, Blogoshere! Long time, no see! Let’s wipe the dust off this thing and catch up a bit. I am painfully aware that I have published to my neglected blog space just seven times in total and I am faced with the sad reality of how quickly I became a blogger who doesn’t blog. For the sake of transparency, I will disclose that I have a somewhat long and notable history of beginning projects with great enthusiasm and then not seeing them through. But goodness, neglecting this blog in its wee infancy may be a record even for me. Sigh.

One could argue (ME-I am the one arguing) that it’s no big deal. After all, it’s not my job, no one is depending on me or even expecting me to send posts out into cyberspace. It’s not my personality to be oversharing (or even sharing much at all) about my life, so the very act of actually publishing is uncomfortable at best and somewhat painful at worst. I don’t get paid to do it, so it’s not a job. I don’t have a strong desire to do it, so it’s really not a hobby either. Is it something I tried and it just didn’t fit? I don’t think I have pursued and practiced long enough to answer that question.

What I do know is this, I have been dragging around a decent sized bag of guilt over my lack of blog posting. Why? I HAVE NO IDEA! Maybe it has a little to do with the fact I have written dozens of blog posts in my head. Sadly, they rarely make it to paper or computer for a full fleshing out. Man, are they good and thought-provoking as they roll around in my head though!

What is keeping me from getting those words out? Sitting long enough to wrestle out those words is a major hurdle. It’s the sitting part that is hard for me. And the writing part. And the seeing my words staring back at me part. And the not getting distracted by Every Single Thing within eyesight part.

Sitting is hard. Writing is hard. Focusing is Super Hard!

Oh, and I might have a tendency to be a bit lazy when faced with something hard or uncomfortable. It’s much easier to turn on Netflix, read someone else’s actual GOOD writing or take a nap.

Here’s the funny thing (or not so funny depending on how the call from the doctor goes next week)……an unexpected “procedure” on the sole of my foot has left me with two weeks with plenty of time to SIT while the healing takes place. Anyone who knows me, knows that two weeks of not running means it could get pretty ugly up in here (you may want to say a prayer for my dear husband…). Long walks with my husband and dog, hiking on the weekends and daily runs in solitude are my go to habits for a healthy and happy me. This is my exercise, my hobby, my stress relief, my “me” time and I am already anxious to get back to that normal. Having said that, those are all the very reasons why I am extremely motivated to take the necessary steps to ensure quick and full healing to the area. Hopefully, time off my feet in the short term will prevent time off my feet in the long term.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll start spending more time hanging out here.

Uncategorized

A Season of Quiet. Learning to Listen

 

There is so much quiet in my life right now. This is a season and will not always be the case. I believe God has placed me in this season of quiet so that I can better hear and see Him.  As difficult as it is, I want to lean into this season. To see His purpose and hear His message is my heart’s desire. I want to grow in Him. The intense work that is going on in my heart requires quiet and time.

I think back to another opportunity for a season of quiet when I didn’t lean in.  That time became a season of waste as I flitted from one thing to another to fill the void of open time.  It has been over ten years since that last opportunity to embrace a quiet season and I still regret wasting away that year by filling it with unnecessary noise and busyness. I sometimes wonder if my life now would be different if I had handled that precious opportunity with greater care and a heart open to the Lord’s leading.  I don’t want to make that mistake again.

Quiet is very uncomfortable for me.  Lack of busyness makes me question my purpose. Yet without quiet in my life how will I hear the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit?  I know there are going to be next steps for me to take in my journey here on Earth. I want them to be the right next steps, the steps led by a Heavenly Father who sees the whole picture. My view is obstructed and shortsighted.  I want to live by His view.

So I wait and listen with eager anticipation. I trust His plan.  His timing is best. I lean in to listen.  I wait and I pray that I will hear His words in this quiet space and that someday when I look back on this opportunity for growth and renewal that I will recognize it as a defining time in my walk with my Heavenly Father.

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.

My Story, Prayers, Uncategorized

Finding peace through prayer

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Elevated heart rate.

Tight chest.

Constricted throat.  

Dread of what new problem or heartache the day would bring.

All this and I had yet to open my eyes.  Another day of anxiety waking me before the sound of the alarm. Day after day of waking like this caused me to dread morning while I was yet asleep.   This terrible cycle eventually birthed a beautiful new habit that has changed me.

I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to him and he answered my prayer. ~Psalms 120:1 (NLT)

Somewhere in the mess, I gave up what I knew I had no control over and began praying before my eyes even opened.

Please Jesus, give me the strength to get through this day.

Protect my child from the attacks of the enemy.

Calm my anxious heart and racing mind.

Let me see your work in this day.

My desperate pleas would continue until the anxiety lifted or the alarm began to signal that it was time to face the day, anxiety or not.  There were many days my feet hit the ground and the anxiety and heavy heartedness lingered.  I continued my pleas throughout the day. Lift the anxiety and heaviness and turn my gaze toward You.  He did. Every single time.  It didn’t mean that those days were less problem filled, BUT there was peace in knowing that He already knew what the day held and I was not alone.

I know the Lord is always with me.  I will not be shaken for he is right beside me. ~Psalms 16:8 (NLT)

Cultivating the habit of going to the Lord in the face of the turmoil I was feeling before entering into the day set me free from the bondage of anger and dismay that I had experienced a little over a year prior.  The circumstances of the trial the previous year were different, but the anxiety and stress they evoked were the same.  Fear. Worry. Disappointment. Anger. A sense of losing all control. Dread of what was to come.  Throughout that experience, rather than giving it over to the Lord and asking Him to walk me through it, draw me closer, I let anger and panic take over instead. I woke every morning before the alarm with a knot in my stomach, heart racing, and  mind reeling with every possible way this disaster could become even more of a disaster.  I spent the better part of each day consumed by grief and anger, feeling frantic, sad, and sick to my stomach.  And guess what.  Every single worst case scenario that I could come up with came true and then some. It was all as bad or worse than I feared and I was facing it in a way that only caused more damage.  While my bitterness and anger did nothing to help fix the situation, it was destroying me.  The only control I had in the face of that trial was how I reacted to it, faced it, handled it. I couldn’t stop it or change it; however, I could have stopped to pray and changed the way I entered into those challenging, heartbreaking days.

I’m sure I prayed throughout that time for the situation to change, but I should have been praying for God to change me and how I was handling it. Giving it over to Him to handle and asking Him to walk me through it might have saved months of heartache and misery that I wallowed in.

The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.~Exodus 14:14 (NLT)

Fast forward to the more recent place of trouble I find myself in and the experience is so different. The problems are certainly not less significant.  In some ways they are bigger, more overwhelming.  I am so very thankful that I am different this time around. Because of Him.

Be still and  know that I am God.~Psalms 46:10a (NLT)

What a relief that HE IS GOD and I AM NOT!

What have I learned through this?  When I give my problems to Him, He shows up.  He gives peace.  He will supply what I need each day if I just ask for it.  The key is to ask for it.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

Notice these verses do not promise that your problems will go away.  They promise something far greater-PEACE that only He can give.  Experiencing peace in the midst of trouble is an amazing gift.  We live in a fallen, sinful world.  We all experience trying times.  We all struggle at times.  Periods of hardship in life are guaranteed.  BUT, we do not have to face them alone!  We CAN find blessing in the midst of the storm.  Expect to see God’s hand in your day and you will begin to see Him everywhere, making even the most difficult path bearable and even beautiful in Him.

The Lord himself will fight for you.  JUST STAY CALM~Exodus 14:14

Prayers, Running

Prayer Run

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Over the years, running has become a big part of who I am.  I have trained for races of various distances, developed and deepened friendships over miles shared, and pursued time goals that required dedication through months of strict, focused training.  I have also had the great privilege of coaching middle school, high school and adult runners in pursuit of their own recreational or racing goals.  I have learned much about myself and life in general through training my body and mind to go distances and paces that I previously thought were impossible for me.  Five to six days a week I head out to the trail and I come back tired, but refreshed.  My family would likely add, easier to live with as well.

Recently I broke from my normal routine and tried something different during my daily run.  Normally I listen to podcasts while I run. Podcasts have gotten me through some boring miles and miserable weather over the last few years.  They have also entertained and taught me some things along the way.  Lately, I have heard my own thoughts competing for listening time during those runs.  When I first started running I did so without any music or other media in my ears.  I ran like this for years and enjoyed the time to let my thoughts run free, work through challenges I was facing at home or work, sort through emotions and enjoy the sights and sounds around me.  My body has been sending me messages that it is time to set aside time goals and mileage pursuits and go back to this less distracted state of running.

A few months ago I tried to implement prayer walks into my normal routine.  Those eventually fell to the wayside.  As it turns out, I find walking terribly boring.  I do enjoy running though, so why not try a prayer run?  It was such a blessing!  I wasn’t rushed the way I sometimes feel when I am sitting on the couch to pray and have my quiet time.  My tolerance for sitting in one place is very short, so I often find myself rushing through prayer. Not an ideal way to communicate with my Heavenly Father!  The miles flew by as I prayed for each person in my family. During my run I could take the time to think about each person individually, give thanks for their uniqueness and pray for them in the way that I felt the Spirit leading instead of a generic ‘bless them, keep them safe’ prayer.  It was amazing!

Taking the time to give thanks for each person individually and specifically begins to change how I see that person and how I interact with them.  It also opens the door to reveal answered prayers of the past for each of them.

When I stop to give specific thanks for my husband I am reminded of how he is always so kind in his interactions with me.  Sure, we joke around and tease each other, but he almost never acts annoyed or short tempered toward me.  And it’s not because I’m easy to live with!!  He just treats me with love and kindness each and every day.  I am so thankful for that!! I definitely cannot say the same about myself~he is almost always the one I lash out at when I am frustrated or overwhelmed.  So in this case, I can be thankful for the sweet and kind spirit of my partner and repentant for my selfish actions of being short tempered with him and ask for help to change that human weakness. That kind of attentive prayer just does not happen for me while I am sitting on the couch.  It has to come while sweating and laboring through the miles.  I have also noticed a lot of listening comes along with the prayer run.  It is much more of a conversation with God rather than me bringing my list of requests.

As I began, I spent some time thinking about The Lord’s Prayer and how that is the model we have been given to follow in our prayer life. Beginning the conversation by acknowledging God and who He is has really changed the flavor of my prayers. It has taken the focus off of ME and MY wants and put it where it should be~on Him!

I am certainly not suggesting that you have to go out and run to have a richer, more fulfilling prayer life!  Just sharing a happy and successful convergence of two things that are important in my life. I enjoy running and my body needs the exercise, but it is also time consuming.  Putting my hobby to greater purpose is creating blessings in my life that I plan to continue exploring!

My Story, Uncategorized

What is my real story?

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I have known for awhile that I have a story to tell.  At first, I thought the point of my story was to show how God wrecked my comfortable life to lead me to a path of ultimate abundance in Him.  A story similar to that of the Israelites of reaching the Land of Canaan after wandering in the wilderness. It would be a beautiful story of experiencing some hardship, feeling discomfort for a season and then God setting everything back to normal (only better) and continuing on in my typical American pursuit of all things leading to a comfortable, easy life, which would now be made even better because of the season of hardship I had endured.  And since God is so awesome and moved us to Texas where everything is bigger (and better!), of course that would apply to my situation and my house and bank account would also be bigger.  That seemed like a fair trade off for the year I had endured.  I would share my experiences from the other side, the promised land.   I was just waiting to get to a comfortable place to say ‘Look what God has done!’  I was waiting to show how God brought me out of the hardship and provided blessings as a reward for getting through it.  It’s ridiculous, I know!  I hate reading what I just wrote, because it shows how greedy and prideful I have been.  Unfortunately, it takes getting the words written and actually seeing my thoughts to realize how ridiculous and selfish they are.  And I know I could clean this up and not even tell you the prideful, greedy, selfish part, but that would be even more prideful.  So here’s the truth, I don’t have it all figured out.  There are a lot of days that I feel mad or sad or disappointed that I had to give up my material comforts. Isn’t dealing with the heartache of mental illness, addiction, and wayward children enough?  Do I really have to struggle financially too??  There are many days that I wrestle with my attitude about it all. Sharing my story is not about how I did it all right.  It’s about how I still get it wrong much of the time, but I am seeking Him and He is good.  He is faithful. He is God. He has been with me through every hard step.

 

My story is about how He has met me IN the hardship and walked with me through my darkest days.  And He is still showing up every day.  I am done waiting to be in a comfortable spot to say Look what God has done!  I am saying it now, even in the hard places, especially in the hard places.  I’m not asking Him to remove the hard places anymore (most days).  I am asking Him to USE the hard places.  To use me and not let me waste the work He is doing in me by looking beyond right now.  Those hard places where all the pain, heartache and growth have and still are occurring….that is really the story I need to tell.  
Sharing the experience of lessons learned at my lowest points,  how He provided through the through the hardest days, how that is growing me.  That is where hope and comfort can be shared. That is the story I am here to tell.

Prayers, Uncategorized

He Already Knows

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Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord and He answered  me; He delivered me from all my fears.

Heavenly Father,

You knew that early morning call would come, ripping us out of bed with news we were not prepared for. Please help us to think clearly and speak with wisdom.

You knew that Plan A, which had been put into place a month ago would not be possible. Thank you for providing another option.

You knew that this situation would come about and that there would be nothing that we could do to prevent it, change it, or control the outcome. With open hands I give you my precious loves.  I know that you love them even more than I do.  I pray your protection around them.  Please send your mighty angels to protect them.

2 Corinthians 5:7 For we live by faith, not by sight.

You know what this day will hold. Please guide, protect, and hold all of us in the face of the unknown.

You know that I am not sure what to do next.  Please hold my hand and walk me through each hour and each new development of this situation.

Isaiah 40:29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.

You know that Satan is at work in this very moment using trickery and promises to cloud judgment. PLEASE open my dear ones eyes!  PLEASE let her see and make decisions from what is TRUE.  Please protect her even while she is blinded by the enemy.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who is promised is faithful.

You know that layers of difficulty and deceit are being added to this situation while I am still praying over it. PLEASE fix it Jesus! PLEASE work in spite of faulty human understanding. PLEASE give light in this darkness.

Psalm 45:17-18 The Lord is righteous in everything he does; He is filled with kindness.  The Lord is close to all who call on Him, yes to all who call on Him in truth.

You know that I am heartbroken and left without words.  May the Holy Spirit intercede for me.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

I thank you for your faithfulness.

I thank you that you are God and have power over the impossible.

I thank you that you can work a miracle in this.

I thank you that your love is beyond our understanding.

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.

Prayers, Uncategorized

Prayer of an anxious heart

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Heavenly Father, as this day unfolds please calm the anxiety in my heart. Thank you for this brand new day. I give it to you. And I place in your hands all the worries that are clouding my judgement and turning my focus away from you. I lift my eyes to you and look forward to seeing your work, your grace. Please provide peace in this glorious day no matter what circumstances unfold.

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.