A Yes (wo)Man

Do you ever wonder if God is testing your “yes” to something? Do you question that by saying “yes” in blind trust of His calling you out of the boat He will call you somewhere you don’t want to go?

DSCN2505I jumped into a new study of Proverbs this week to find that I am seeing some of my favorite passages in a completely different way on my life. As I was looking over Proverbs 3:5-6 (which has long been a very favorite of mine to pray) Peter came to mind. More specifically Peter and the sea, the story you may have heard or read about in Matthew’s gospel account (You can read the entire passage here).

I put those two passages side by side and then hold them up to my life. I want the confidence of trusting Him with all of my heart, giving Him my yes. However the moment the seas get rough and fear sets in I find that leaning on my own understanding is what will pull me through-not acknowledging Him and His presence there before me.

Peter had just come from the mount where they fed five thousand men (only men were counted in the account, likening the number to upwards of 20K+ present). A miracle of grand proportions orchestrated through Christ. Right in front of him and yet when those storms kicked up as he stepped foot out of the boat, he wavered. His conscious dependence upon Christ in that moment faltered because of circumstance, because of environment. Fear shouted loud and grabbed at his feet…feet that moments before had the confidence as they looked ahead with Christ calling them to “come” to Him.

I don’t know about you, but I am willing to admit I am often Peter…gung-ho in my yes for Him in the moment. The elation and excitement have me amped in His truth but then the environment shifts slightly and fear starts whispering doubt and confusion. It is not in our comfort that we find the call of fear but in the moments of obedience. When we start to wain in our trust in Him and lean on our own is when trouble abounds, fear wins and ultimately we get swallowed up…shouting much like Peter did for the Lord to save him in his own unbelief of Him.

We use Him more as a safety net in those instances, in those moments of doubt in life, rather than fully trusting Him from the moment He says “Come” until we are embraced by Him. We choose to look at where our feet are going, the distractions of life all around us, and find that our footing isn’t as steadfast as we believed…because we do believe more in ourselves when fear trips us up than in Him. The very one who has done a good thing, fulfilled a promise He made to us just the day or moment before. But how easily we forget…we chalk it up to something else or simply choose to think it was our own doing.

But when I acknowledge Him in every bit of my ways, ways that I wouldn’t have orchestrated or imagined…and frankly ways that scare me, I find He is faithful and good at directing me on the path He has me on. He doesn’t have to catch me, as He has done and will continue to do, but He is with me empowering me to walk with Him in this. So that my yes is firm, true and good. It is worshipful to say yes, it is affirming and believing. It is trusting in Him with all of my heart and not wavering in that yes, despite the ocean, the wind, the fear or the doubt.

It’s easier said (or written) than it is done, but I am seeing that my yes carries weight when it’s given to Him and rested there. It’s not snatched back and mangled by my own preoccupations or fears but simply given firmly and followed without question. After all Peter did get out and start the journey, what’s keeping me from charting the course on towards Christ in my own life?

A Love Letter to My Friends

When I was little I could rattle off the names of my friends for a good four minutes. In high school I had friends that spanned across social circles and between the varying high schools in my city. Even into grad school in my mid-twenties I found that I had a multitude of friendships that criss-crossed the nation and life experiences. Now here I am in my mid 30s (yeah I had a birthday a few days back) and I am finding that those I call friends are narrow. Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of people across the globe whom I would define as friends but allow them to fit into this lens of acquaintance friendship rather than the close-knit friendships I have with several these days. I think when we are younger we are figuring out who we are and where we fit socially. I know for myself I discovered that having people in different social groups or even at different high schools to be friends with provided some different perspectives and experiences for me. I gleaned alot and allowed myself to figure where I fit and if I wanted to fit into a specific mold. In my teens, and even twenties, I wanted to learn so much I found I wasn’t really developing who I was or getting a definition of what life was for me. Lately though as I have taken some time to reflect on friendships, I have discovered it’s not about the quantity of friends I have that matters to me now but the quality friendships. I am more intentional about those I cultivate and those I allow into this sphere of life. I do believe community is key to living life, especially a life of faith. A common misconception by people is that a single woman has the time to have numerous friendships and keep them all in balance. I have to fess up to you all that’s not the case for the majority of us. For me I value a quality friendship that means time and intentionality. More recently I found that in the midst of a situation I had an inner circle of people that I knew would be there in support, encouragement, prayer and counsel. I knew they were genuine when they asked about me or how I was doing. It wasn’t for gossip (because there are those friendships that are purely one-way and feeding the drama monster, so beware) but for support. Sunday as I stood with a friend who is going through her own situation and prayed over her I couldn’t help but be thankful for that friendship. And the one who stood to my right, who I didn’t even know this time a year ago, that has been such a force of spiritual guidance and leadership over the last eight months. As I prayed for my friend, knowing she had stood in the gap for me over the last couple of months praying, I could not help but praise God for friendships such as these. Where we aren’t in competition with one another, we don’t cut one another down or seek to impress but merely stand shoulder to shoulder to do battle for them and pray down heaven’s healing for them. It’s those friendships that go beyond the margins of note of thanks…to the phone calls after a rough day at work to the celebration of a new season of life for one another. Over and over in the last few weeks I am reminded that friendships are forged in the fire of adversity, in grief and heartache. It’s those friends that turn into sisters and brothers, that go beyond the boundary line to fight a battle with you in the trenches because they value you and who you are, not what they can get from you or what you do for them. Never more have I seen Proverbs 17:17 lived out than in the last few months of my life, and I have to be so very thankful God placed each of these people from different life moments into my story for such a time as this.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. -Proverbs 17:17

I pray you have those people in your own life, those few that are quality friendships. The ones who will stand with you in battle and also keep you accountable in situations and relationships. While it may not look like much in number, they make up for in might, spirit and love.

Control Freak

Inherently we all like control, over something or someone. There’s a pull from within, at our very core, that seeks out control in our lives. You find those who say there is nothing in this life to control and then on the other end of the spectrum, those that say if you want anything in this life you have to gain control. We all fall along that spectrum somewhere, in some part of our lives (or even in all parts for many). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has some links to issues of control and managing of one’s life. Perfection is achieved through control, right?

For many of us, including me, control manifests out of a fear of the unknown. It also comes out of a desire for a certain, favorable outcome. Both, when pushed to the brink, have such negative effects on our lives and our relationships. We grasp and strain harder against the unknown factors, and fear whispering in our ear, to gain that one thing we want to come out right, that one relationship we want to work. We grip and hold tightly, we manage and micro-manage. We grow frustrated and confused, ultimately laying flat in exhaustion simply from pursuing after the things which we never had control of to begin with.

Recently I was reminded by a friend that we really have no control over things or people, the circumstances or what we are given to deal with. We simply can choose our response to them. We can choose our attitude and our effort in those things, and that is it.

At least I am finally coming to see that.

It took me quite a while, and much thrashing about with myself, to arrive at this place though. To figure out that the only thing I should and can control is my attitude and the effort I give to life, to relationships, to my work, to God. I have control over that entirely, regardless of others, their reactions, their own issues of control or other circumstances.

I don’t know where you are today, in what situations you find yourself in at work, in your marriage or lack thereof, in your relationships or with God. But I hope you are able to gain control over your attitude and your effort instead of trying to do that with others or situations. Because it’s fruitless, only causing harm and a ripple effect on all those you come into contact with (and possibly those you don’t). It’s a work, and a long work in progress at that. But let’s stop grasping for control outside of ourselves and instead gain it from within.

It’s Just the Dark, Before the Morning

Who we become and what we appreciate

come from our darkest days

Those words were scribbled at the top of the page. I recognize the writing as my own. There’s no date attached, seeming to remain timeless words of hope and strength. Suspended there above a story that I cherish dearly, only four short chapters but one full of grief, loss, bitterness, hope, and renewed joy.

I don’t see those last two in the midst of the first three. All I see is darkness and hurt, doubt and often times, fear. We fear the unknown when in the midst of our days that seem to be filled with more questions than answers. The questions, we feel like shouting at God, Who seems a bit too quiet for our liking.

Seeing those words scribbled at the top of the page remind me, in the midst, I am becoming who He means me to be. I am learning to appreciate things, people, situations and especially Him in a way I would not be able to do otherwise. While it’s easy to sit on this side of a dark day, as the sun fills the windows I know there will be days ahead that will make my heart ache for light.

DSCN0613Maybe that’s where you are on this Monday, aching for the breaking of the day. Know there is hope and joy in your story, the sun will break from this dark night and you will find yourself one hard step closer to who you are to become. If you are full of sun in your eyes and heart today, appreciate the place you are in and what it took to get you there. Because who we become and what we appreciate have come from those darkest of days.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5 (ESV)

Thoughts on Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day. I think in alot of ways we don’t honor the influence of our fathers in our lives. For some they didn’t have their father’s influence, or even presence, in their lives. As I was posting a photo of my dad and I on Facebook, as were many today, I couldn’t help but think about how he’s influenced me and who I am today.

How my Father saved my father

You see I am as stubborn as a mule, something my mother reminds me that I get from him. Another thing is my smart mouth. There’s also the tenacity to figure out something on my own, whether through trial and error or by seeking out additional knowledge. He is also a wildly independent provider, not seeking to rely upon others but forging ahead himself. He taught me what it meant to work for what you earned, even when you didn’t feel like it, even when it was hard and you really didn’t like it. It had to be done, so go and do it. He was thankful to have daughters, but I was every bit the tomboy I think he needed. We see war movies, talk about bluegrass, and find ways to work in his shop together.

While it wasn’t perfect, and nor is he, I know I am blessed to have a dad whose in my life and I can still call. He can tell with one word that something is wrong. I thought about that today as I called my dad after church-a weekly tradition I have with my parents. Dad always sounds surprised when he answers the house phone, even though they have caller ID. I think for a while I have taken that for granted, that my dad is always there when I call, always answering with his gruff shout of HELLO!

I thought about that today as I made that call because I knew a friend couldn’t call his dad today. I thought about all those Father’s Days my mom couldn’t call her dad because he passed twenty-plus years ago. I thought about my own dad who couldn’t drive out to see my grandfather, the second year without him on Father’s Day. Today I grieved a bit for my friend who lost his dad just a month ago, for my mom who lost her dad and my dad who lost his dad just two years ago…and I started thanking God I still have my dad this side of heaven. It’s pretty selfish to think that, but it’s also incredibly gratifying to not take those moments for granted…even when I get frustrated or irritated with his stubbornness or lectures on buying quality leg spindles for a table we are reconstructing.

I am grateful for the fathers who are present and influencing. The dads of friends who have been around and been a guiding force in their lives, as well as my own. I am so very thankful for my friends who are dads now, getting to see them raise up the next generation and do so very well at it. Most of all I am thankful for the time I have with my dad, knowing that he lives on in me in so many ways and yet I can still call him when I need him most.

Recently I was headed down a main road that leads to my workplace when I happened to see my almost two years ago ex-boyfriend. He was dropping off a delivery near my office building and I immediately was thinking of how to avoid him seeing me.

Then I wondered why. He was near my place of work, in fact directly across the street from my office. I broke up with him almost two years ago. I was simply headed back to the building after going to the County Clerk’s office. This was a by-chance moment that had completely caught me off guard.

But yet we find ourselves, us singles, in these moments sometimes and have to remind ourselves that this is most certainly our past and not our future. We have to forgive ourselves and the other person to in some instances, and remember the peace we have now rather than the issues that may trigger from seeing them.

For me I had to remind myself that forgiveness was given, and it still has to be given on those days when I remember what happened and what was said. It’s not about reliving the past but about learning from it, and that includes learning about myself and the relationship I chose to be an active part of for months. It’s choosing to forgive when the doubt creeps in or the loudness of unforgiveness wants to crowd out everything else.

It’s funny how those reminders find themselves weaving into our lives so unexpectedly. I used to believe it was a bit of temptation and torture. Now I view it as an opportunity to pursue grace, mercy and forgiveness again. To let it guide my heart and remind me that I am not living in a past tense, but a future present. So I can face the past, the good and bad, having learned about who I am. Thus allowing me to be a better me for the present life and continue to work on the future of who I desire to be.

Let those moments serve as a reminder for you too. That you are not your past, unless you haven’t learned from it. You are in your present and allow whatever you may harbor to be set out and forgiven. Push through the pain and allow peace to fill you now, instead of regret and bitterness. No matter what has happened to us, we have the choice of how it affects us now.

A Hearing Problem

I have a pretty steady routine during the work week. So much so that I find it bleeds into my weekends. My internal body clock is just set for some reason and I often don’t have to set an alarm on the weekends. I find I am waking between 4:30am and 5am on Saturdays and Sundays. Yes, I get up about that time each day during the week. As I have moved my running to the mornings this has been incredibly helpful to start my day off as often as I can with a run and get a glimpse of the sunrise.

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Even in this new routine of sorts, I find how comfortable it is to become lulled into a routine that when thrown off can cause the mind to go haywire. One routine I find I do far too often is have noise on, at all times. Even as I type in my office at home I have the tv on HGTV in the living room and the dishwasher running in the kitchen while the dryer runs upstairs. I love writing with noise, which is another reason I often work on it at Starbucks.

For many of us the noise becomes routine in our lives, which comes int eh form of busyness as well. We stay so busy and our lives get so loud we often don’t hear what is being said to us. The hurt in a voice, the text that is an SOS from a friend, the pain in a friend’s eyes. Even the voice of the Spirit gets drown out in the midst of our lives as we attempt to fit it all in, most often under the guise of “living life.”

I can get to a point very quickly where I let the noise speak to me more than I let Him. I don’t push pause on life, on the noise of the world, as I go about my day. Instead I notch up the radio, I pick another playlist, and I go on with my day simply because that’s my routine. My routine has allowed everything else in but in return pushed His voice, His words, out. It’s lent itself now to a bigger problem of my hearing, where I find myself seeking Him each day when I haven’t taken a moment to truly listen for Him in moments. I give Him a designated platform at a pre-determined time. If He doesn’t speak then I turn up the noise of my routine instead. Seeking answers elsewhere.

So I have a hearing problem…and it doesn’t come with old age but with choosing the distractions of this world and all the noises of life. Much like the noise-cancelling headphones my dad has for his hearing issues, I need to cancel out the noise of life more and more in order to listen for Him in every moment. I complain about His quiet and yet I don’t turn down life in order to truly listen for Him.

It means choosing quiet instead of a playlist. It means filling my time engaged in means which He can speak to me instead of turning on the television. It means getting comfortable with the solitude of no sound in order to be present and aware of Him speaking, breathing into every moment of my life. It means turning off life in order to live it for Him.

Hear instruction and be wise; do not neglect it.

Proverbs 8:33

Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

Proverbs 19:27