All posts by BeLOVED

Restoration

Photo by A. Malanin (Unsplash)

Mother’s Day was yesterday. It is a holiday I’ve learned to make peace with.

My mother passed when I was 29, a prolonged battle with lung cancer, and my dreams of being a mom have been left unfulfilled.

The day, and the emotions it evokes, caused me to question my value – a small bruise in the center of my soul.

But over the years, I learned to honor the memory of my mother, bandage my bruise, and move forward.

At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself…

Early last week I received an unsolicited email from a woman attempting to promote a recent book release. Unlike most advertisements, the email was personally addressed to me. It was camouflaged as a prayer asking God to protect my children and to give me the strength and wisdom to be a good mother. The message included photographs of the author and her children.

 As I read the prayer, I was reminded of all those women that couldn’t have babies or those who have recently lost a child. And my usual easy-going, understanding nature shifted – well actually, I experienced a little righteous indignation.

Unlike sites I subscribe to, this email came into my home, unsolicited. I assume it went into the homes of other women unsolicited and unfortunately, the content did not consider the emotional or mental state of the receiver.

So, after talking with my husband and praying for a calmer more Christ-like approach, I responded to the sender. I gently painted a picture of how the writer’s words might affect women whose experiences don’t include a healthy baby. I suggested that in the future she consider shifting the tone of her text to fit mothers, mothers-to-be, want-to-be moms, and mother’s that mourn. I hit “Send” on the computer screen and sat motionless in my chair.

You have to understand how out of character this response is for me. I am a “Peacemaker” on the Enneagram scale and believe me I go to extreme lengths to keep my world as steady and peaceful as possible. I’m not a person that confronts others, especially total strangers that send uninvited emails. But I was moved by the potential impact this email intrusion could have on women actively grieving. I’ve walked alongside these women and the wounds can be deep and painful.

But while I was defending those who could be hurt by the writer’s insensitivity, something happened inside me. As I stood for them, I uncovered my hidden wound. It appeared as a nagging reminder that as a woman, I was not enough. Not enough to rescue my mother from her cancer and not enough to have a baby. And, just as quickly as I stood a little taller for the voiceless, I shrunk under the weight of my failings.

Until, I heard a nearly unperceivable whisper, a confirming nudge, from the Holy Spirit saying, “Good job daughter.” Between the time I pressed send and fell prey to Satan’s attack, God provided clarity, and immediately the nagging voice of conviction stopped. I straightened my stance, lifted my head, and courage replaced Satan’s accusations.

This Mother’s Day allowed me to see that bandaging bruises and moving on doesn’t allow for healing. Complete healing comes when the wound is exposed to the restorative hands of the Father. What Satan attempted to use to cause me to stumble, falling into a pool of self-pity and shame, God used to strengthen and change me.

Today, I want to thank the author for sending her email. It awakened me to a blind spot in my life and gave God a chance to work.

And ladies, He can do the same for you.

There is healing for the emotional pain of infertility or the loss of a child. There is restoration for the heartache of broken dreams, failed relationships, or unmet longings. There is hope for the unrelenting tape that attempts to convince you – you are not enough.

In His wisdom and with enduring love, He provides freedom from the bondage of our failings and gives us the courage to stand. He uses whatever is holding us hostage for His redemptive work – transforming us day-by-day into His image.  

This Mother’s Day was different, and to be honest, I think every day that follows has been changed.

Be Blessed, His BeLOVED,

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth, you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more.
- Psalm 71:20-21 (New Living Translation)

Do You Know Him? You Can Trust Him

Photo by Unsplash

Last Sunday was Easter. We woke early, dressed, grabbed a smoothie, and made our way to the 9:00 AM service.

The sanctuary was full, the youngest of the attendees squirming in their seats excited about the party that followed the service.

The message reminded me that Friday’s crucifixion was only a prelude to Saturday’s silence and Sunday’s miracle. It encouraged me not to be trapped by Friday’s disillusionment causing me to miss the wonder of Christ’s rebirth.

The Pastor went on to explain how this extraordinary act forms the foundation for our conversion – trust the God that brings life from death and offers transformative power for each day. 

We left the church, drove the 15 minutes home, and spent the rest of the day connecting with family and friends.

This morning I had a chance to revisit our Pastor’s sermon during my walk.

He had asked a challenging question, “Do you trust Him?” I think he was asking the question as a prompt for an alter call. But this morning, I took it as a nudge to evaluate my faith journey.

Over the past year, I have felt the invitation to examine my commitments and motivations. Is my faith pure, correctly focused, rightly dividing the motivations of my heart and my mind? Or, are my beliefs a product of tradition, how I choose to define myself (the good Christian girl)?

The walk took me up hills, along a riverbank, and down steep ravines. Each step offered a glimpse into my past, the ups and downs of God’s work, and my responses throughout my life. The reflection led to a single revelation. My faith is built on a wobbly platform steadied by my ability to control the circumstance. If my plans result in a quick fix, faith and trust grow. When my control, planning, and attempts to implement result in the need to wait, my trust sways like a tree standing unprotected facing gale-forced winds.

If I’m honest, my faith and trust in God are based on my ability to control. I think we both see the insanity of this reasoning.

The book of Hebrews offers this reminder about faith and trust,

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1

Faith is trusting God even when you can’t anticipate or understand the outcome. It is the belief that God’s got this and fully rest in Him regardless of the results. Faith is risky because you surrender everything to an invisible, untouchable, incomprehensible God.

However, the beauty of our faith is that God is someone we can know. We can understand His character, His love for us, and we can hold on to the truth during times when our human rational minds would drive us to try to do it ourselves or look for more tangible solutions, ones we can see and touch.

So, the question is do we know Him?

Do we know what the Bible says about our God? Do we believe the words that say Jesus died, and 3-days later walked out of a tomb? A tomb covered by a giant boulder and guarded by Roman soldiers.  Do we sense God’s presence in the quietness of our hearts, like a whisper in our souls, or the beauty of a sunrise? If we know Him, then we can trust Him.

Trust Him for the career change. Rest on Him when life goes sideways and we are left picking up the pieces along a dusty and dry path. We can believe Him when the dream dies, a loved one leaves, and all hope has escaped our grasp. If we know Jesus then we know He loves us – died to set us free.

I guess the questions that remain are ,

Do you know Him?

Do you trust Him?

He waits for you dear sister.

You are His BeLOVED.

Trust Him.

Be Blessed,


ENJOY:

No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus – YouTube Music

Biting Buds, Tossing Petals

Photo by Max – Unsplash

This weekend, I had an opportunity to spend the day in Eugene. The town is a 2.5-hour escape over the mountains offering a significant change in the seasons.

In Eugene, spring has sprung. And being the gardening enthusiast that I am, the trip provided an early indulgence – a short reprieve from the snow and the cold.

On this occasion, I spent time roaming through greenhouses, walking miles of river trails, and meandering through community gardens.

There were signs of new life all around – seedlings peeking through the warm soil, spring bulbs flaunting their bouquets, and trees carpeted in blossoms. Each encounter shouted, “It’s time to start planting!”

While walking through one of the gardens, I slowed my pace and settled on a moss-covered wooden bench under the canopy of apple trees. I watched the birds bounce between the ground, raised garden beds, and tree branches until I heard this unique cracking sound.

At first, it sounded like pruning shears cutting through bark but then I saw him, a chubby brown squirrel. He jumped from branch to branch, leaving behind a trail of apple blossom petals. He nestled into a cluster of blooms, picked each off the branch, chomped the base of the bud, and tossed the petals. He moved from one limb to the next until he completely decimated a section of the tree. The petals floated like pink and white confetti to the ground. 

I watched for a while, and as I watched him, he watched me – a paw full of flowers, he’d look at me, bite off the buds, look at me, make a funny squirrel squeal, drop the petals on the ground, and repeat.

I was curious why squirrels eat the buds but toss the petals. So, I asked an expert – the all-knowing Google and found an interesting response, well actually several but only one was helpful. Evidently, in spring the tree’s sugar accumulates in the buds. The squirrels are drawn to the smell of the sugar, devour the buds, and often damage the branches in their frenzied activity.

Interesting hypothesis, but it could be that this squirrel was just ornery.

I continued to watch for a few more minutes and then headed to my car. I walked through the raining confetti and climbed the brick steps used to bridge the garden with the parking lot. As I reached the car and slid behind the steering wheel, I took one final glance at that little brown squirrel. He flicked his tail, squealed as only a squirrel can, and took a bite off the end of another bud.

The rest of my day was spent in garden store bliss until it was time to grab a light dinner and drive the 2+ hours home.

Over the next few days, I thought about that little squirrel. His actions are the result of his DNA, instincts that help him survive. He’s not concerned about the devastation he causes – apple trees that for a season can’t bear fruit, branches broken from his careless actions. He is driven by the power of his desires, overpowered by his nature.

His behavior is an interesting reflection of our lives.

We are a people driven by our instincts, often oblivious to the havoc we wreak on others, consumed by the desire for power, obsessed by our wants, and frequently overpowered by sin. Yet, unlike the squirrel, we have a path available that leads away from our human natures.

Recently I had an interaction with my husband. I wanted him to see my point of view and agree with my perspective, put another way, I wanted to win the discussion. However, when he held firm to his beliefs, I retreated. Actually, it was more than a mere retreat, I ran back to a childhood that told me disagreement was a “gentle” rejection. Then I took that rejection and meandered through the garden of pride to pick up a little, “I don’t deserve to be treated this way.” And once I landed in the present, the Author of Lies whispered, “You don’t need to put up with this.”

The result of the exchange was broken branches, wounded feelings, and shame rained down like black confetti. There was a chasm where once a bridge joined our hearts.

Yet unlike that squirrel, controlled by his genetics, God offered me a different path, a trail that led to the foot of the cross. And while I stood defiant at its base, I recognized my actions were my head’s defense against my heart’s insecurities. It wasn’t about the righteousness of my perspective or the integrity of my reason, it was about my need to control, to wield my power.

As my husband and I discussed the sequence of events, we began to recognize the behavior, biting the buds, tossing the petals – protecting pride and discarding grace.  A squirrel in human form.

I wonder if you have ever been at the crossroads of fighting against your human nature and allowing God’s nature to take root? I think it is a place we will find ourselves revisiting throughout our lives. Thankfully, God offers a solution, found in the book of Psalms.

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow evil men’s advice, who do not hang around with sinners, scoffing at the things of God. But they delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow him more closely. They are like trees along a riverbank bearing luscious fruit each season without fail. Their leaves shall never wither, and all they do shall prosper.

-Psalm 1:1-3

The next time you start feeling that tug towards pride or a push towards self-righteousness, try to remember the lesson that little brown squirrel taught me, following our natural desires leads to destruction – biting the buds and tossing the petals.

You are God’s daughter, and He will give you the strength to overcome your instinctual and learned behaviors, and those unchecked emotions that do not align with His will for your life. He will be with you during all the broken branch moments in your life. You can trust and rest in Him.

You, daughter, are His BeLOVED.

Be blessed,

Life’s Grime and God’s Provision

Photographer Unknown

I don’t pay much attention to my bathroom shower. Don’t get me wrong, I routinely squeegee the glass and wipe down the small bamboo stool. But to be honest, that’s pretty much the extent of the attention I pay the space. After all, it gets a daily washing.

Last week, one of the lights over the bathroom sink went out. My husband replaced the bulb and what a difference light makes! That squeegeed, surface-cleaned shower took on a new appearance.

The seams between the floor and walls needed a little attention and the decorative glass inset was slightly lighter than when originally installed – amazing what lime deposits do to glass.

Bright light can help you see the truth. It changes your perspective.

The way we see the world and the choices we make, form the foundation of how we navigate life. Yet our daily experiences – encounters with our spouse, families, friends, navigating a global pandemic, enduring the world’s inequities – shine a spotlight on the character of our souls.

Have you noticed fear, anxiety, or anger creeping in?

Do you catch yourself blaming, shaming, or accusing?

What is the condition of your soul?

Perhaps, God has given us this time in history to help us pay attention to the grunge forming around the edges of our hearts, revealing minds discolored by our human natures. We each have a choice, become self–absorbed – wallowing in what we’ve lost, missed out on, or want – or stand firm in the gap of gentle-heartedness.

Over the past few years, I have watched people I care about struggle. Heck, I have struggled. But there is one characteristic that I noticed in those that successfully maneuver this endless battle to stay present and opened handed. They each remember they are not in control.

Control is the sludge that forms where our pride meets our self-reliance. It causes us to clench our fists, dig in our heels, and demand that the world spin according to our plans. The more we try to obtain it the more elusive it becomes. Until our focus and obsession to regulate all that surrounds us – gaining more victories, holding tighter to outcomes, piling up our conquests like performance trophies – drives us further away from who we longed to become.

So, how do we clean the dirt in our lives?

Jennifer Dukes Lee, in her Bible study It’s All Under Control, offers this,

“God wants you to enter right into his presence. There is no curtain. There is no veil. The only barriers between you and God…are the ones you put there yourself. God has invited you into an intimate relationship with him, a relationship “with sincere hearts fully trusting him.” Take the risk. Enter in. See God as a Father who desires intimacy with you, with your plans. Trust him with your life. Because of his character, because of his control… because of the cross.”

Entering into a relationship with the Father requires us to do three things.

First, we must know Him. Know his character by studying His Word, the Bible. Second, we must trust Him. Allowing what we’ve learned about Him to penetrate our hearts and guide our behaviors. And finally, surrender. Submit to His plans for our lives, giving up our need to control the outcomes or determine the direction.

Yet, surrendering to an unseen, untouchable God is difficult. It requires us to push past our understanding and lean fully on God’s truth. This intentional leaning is the foundation of our faith – Jesus dying to cover our sins. Once secure on this foundation, we can allow God’s truth to replace our incessant attempts to control. We can finally unfold our hands, releasing our need to determine the outcomes and exhale.   

In the Old Testament, the Prophet Isaiah wrote,

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

- Isaiah 40:28-31

Are you weary today from trying to fix the world, your family, or clean the grime creeping up the walls of your life? Do you feel like you cannot take another step, survive another disappointment, or endure another failure?

BeLOVED, you can trust your heavenly Father to give you strength for your weariness and power for weakness. He will shine a bright light showing you the direction you should go.

You can stop your striving and find rest.

He died to set you free.

You can trust Him.

Be Blessed,


ENJOY:

I Surrender – YouTube Music

RESOURCE:

If you are interested in reading more about getting control of your control, read Jennifer Dukes Lee’s book, It’s All Under Control – A journey of letting go, hanging on & finding a peace you almost forgot was possible.

What Does a Bad Haircut Have To Do With God?

Photo by M. Beron – Unsplash

I walked through the studio’s door; picture in hand, ready to be transformed. There is something about a cute cut to turn your day from gloom to glam. And today ladies, I could use a little glam.

I gave the stylist the photo and shared a little about what I was looking for. He was confident he could recreate it.

A warm shampoo followed by a relaxing scalp massage and into the chair.

We looked at the picture again, discussed his thoughts, landed on a final plan, and he got started.

I closed my eyes resting in the sound of the scissor’s snip, click, snip, and the soft buzz made from the clipper blades. I could see the image in my mind. I was so excited to see my reflection, face surrounded by chin-length curls.

My daydreaming was disrupted by the towel being pulled from around my neck. I felt the soft bristles of the brush touching my shoulders. “We’re all done!” My eyes popped open but to my disappointment, the chair was turned away from the mirror.

He looked at me and said, “OK are you ready?” So much drama for a simple bob cut. I responded, “Yes!” The chair whipped around and my reflection filled the mirror.

You can imagine my horror when the reality of my cut looked nothing like the picture – not even remotely like the picture. My glam moment disintegrated into gloominess.

I was bald – well nearly bald. And, I wasn’t happy!

What do you do when excited enthusiasm gives way to frustration and despair? Let me tell you ladies when it comes to hair, BALD, even nearly BALD, too short, not what you thought IS despair.

I took my infuriated attitude and plopped down in the car, slammed the door, and drove home. Along the way, I called a friend and explained what had just happened. I emphasized taking the picture, how we had discussed the plan even how I waited with great anticipation for the final reveal. For goodness’ sake, I yelled, “It’s a bob cut – how can you mess up a bob? Above the ears is not chin-length, it just isn’t.”

I finally slowed my rant long enough for my friend to slide in a thought.

“I wonder what the women fleeing the tyranny of war in Ukraine, or those facing cancer – truly bald from the ravages of chemo, or perhaps those on the street, not by design but due to uncontrollable circumstance, I wonder how they feel about a bad haircut?”

The air in the car was sucked out the open windows. My body felt limp in the seat and for the remainder of the drive, we both were silent. Nothing else needed to be said. As I pulled into the driveway, I whispered, “Bye.”  She responded, “Call when you want to talk.”

Her words caused something inside me to shift. Sometimes you need the hard truth, a radical shake to help you see yourself.

Faced with the reality of my pride and vanity, I stared in the mirror, beyond the superficial reflection, into that bruised part of my soul. Once there, I recognized that somehow, I had tied my appearance to my value. When my image shifted, that bad haircut, then I lost myself.

I wonder what shakes your foundation. What causes you to lose your way? What are you depending on for personal definition?

Mona Hanna in her book, The Nature of God offers this,

“So much can change in our lives: our circumstances, the way people treat us, our health, and even our feelings can constantly change. But God will never change.”

So, what does a bad haircut have to do with God?

I am beginning to believe that God uses our everyday ordinary lives to push us to the end of ourselves. The funny thing is God knew the haircut today was going to make me crazy. He knew I would call my friend, and fly out of control. God chose to work through her to bring an awakening.

But whether it is a bad haircut, a rude store clerk, an unexplainable illness, or a few profoundly challenging truths wrapped in a friend’s sweet voice, He gets our attention. He replaces our agenda, our pride, and the fears that drive us, with His acceptance and love – covering our old natures with His grace.

We are not defined by our appearance – a poor haircut, an unfortunate choice, or another failure. Our true beauty is a gift from our Creator. Our value is defined by the God that sacrificed everything to give us everlasting life. And our God, never changes.

Be Blessed His BeLOVED,

“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”
Romans 12:3 (NLT) 

ENJOY:

Dear God – YouTube Music

I Once Was …

Photo by Bing Photos

I once was proud, self-assured, and ready to demand the world take notice and listen. I pushed and pulled my way through classroom doors, up corporate ladders, and through barricaded boardrooms. I wanted to demonstrate my value, leave a mark, and walk taller than my mother and grandmother.

And then, I noticed a coldness creeping up my spine. I had achieved the career, built structures of importance, purchased the house and car, life was good. But coldness, crept closer to my heart leaving me wondering if all that climbing had benefitted anyone other than myself.

I once was arrogant, so full of my own knowledge and wisdom that no one could speak into my life or add clarity. I knew what to say and had all the words to say it just right. I knew how to influence and how to intimidate. I knew how to make all the right moves to capture attention, to conquer my world.

But life happens, people die, others leave, dreams fall apart and all that arrogance runs in the opposite direction. I was knocked to the ground; off the pedestal, I had meticulously built, left to pick up the pieces that were so badly damaged that I feared I would never be able to put them back together again.

I once was selfish; my hands clasped into proud fists, stuffed into my finely fitting jeans. They never opened to serve, never reached for the hurting, never rebelled against injustice. Life revolved around personal wants and needs – egotism is a disease that is difficult to self-diagnose and even harder to find a remedy.

Until consequence walked into my life. It walked right up to the front door, knocked, and once the door opened, pushed its way in. Slapped by consequence – the lost dream, the lost career, a lost love – your hands open and you learn to conquer the insidious self, reaching beyond your ego.

I once was broken, soul, mind, and heart all scattered on the floor. Small pieces clung to my bare feet as I moved from room to room. I carried the brokenness everywhere I traveled, depositing fragments, losing myself along the way.

But God…

He took the broken pieces and sacrificially put them back together again. His grace mending spirit, soul, and mind – fragments made whole.

I once was forgiven. All the pride, arrogance, selfishness – the brokenness I had scattered throughout my life and the pieces I collected from others, judged faultless.  I no longer had to carry the burdens of my past or work to reconcile the sins from today.

I once was…

But not anymore.

Today I am secure. Held firmly in my Father’s unconditional love, valued beyond recognition, safe eternally.

Be Blessed BeLOVED,

ENJOY:

When I Lost My Heart to You (Hallelujah) – YouTube Music

The Man in the Tree

Photo by K. Lyons

It’s interesting how nature imitates life.

This week a girlfriend and I went hiking on a local forest trail. It stretched under the shadows of tall pines and along a small stream.

We were absorbed in our conversation, until, we passed him.

On the edge of the trail was a man, tucked into the hollow of a tree. All we could see was head, shoulder, and arm. His head buried in the curve of his elbow, hair partially covering his weathered face, and his lips clenched forming a thin frown. His large muscular shoulder protruded from the stump. His left arm embraced the tree’s bark. It was difficult to tell if he was trying to brace himself from falling deeper into the hole or pushing to fully disappear.

It must have been so difficult to shove himself into the tree hollow, even harder to confront what kept him captive.

He was motionless. His eyes remained masked creating an awkward interaction. We couldn’t help but wonder how long he had been there, why, what it was going to take for him to move on?

We didn’t want to disturb him, so we backed up slowly, turned, and walked away.

I’ve thought about this man several times since the walk. He was stuck by his own doing, or the will of others, and based on his weathered appearance, he had been there awhile. Perhaps, he lost motivation, his confidence, or his strength to make a change. Nonetheless, he was firmly planted.

And this is where life so completely imitates nature.

I think as we travel through our lives, we can get stuck. Stuck along the paths to our dreams, the desert lands of our hopes, and in the storms of our regrets. We find ourselves taking refuge in the hollows of our minds – hiding, waiting.

People pass, family console, friends persuade but we hold tight to the edges of our self-imposed confinement. We back further into the darkness until we are no longer perceptible, no longer seen, and we wait.

The book of Genesis shares the story of the first man and woman. Created by God from dust and rib, they enjoyed intimacy with the Creator of the Universe. They were innocent, sinless.

Until

An act of disobedience left their naked bodies’ draped in shame and guilt. Closeness with their Father shattered; they searched for a place to hide. They found refuge concealed amongst the trees.

And once there, they waited.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

Genesis 3:8-10 New International Version (NIV)

Scripture goes on to share that God found Adam and Eve. I can imagine they were on hands and knees crouched at the base of a large tree. Their arms tightly wrapped around its bark, entwined in each other’s, eyes closed, lips forming a tight grimace.

Until

God appeared.

They opened one eye and then the next, looking directly into their Father’s eyes. And as they nervously exhaled and stood to face Him, they were reminded how their disobedience and sin had driven them to hide. The separation caused pain and fear to rise in Adam and Eve’s hearts and although there were significant consequences for their disobedience, God was merciful. He never stopped loving them.

When we fail, pull away, and hide it is always comforting to know, God never stops searching for us. He never stops offering mercy. He never stops loving us.

I went back to visit the man in the woods. I had questions I needed to ask him. I wanted to see if he had made any changes – retreating further into what held him captive or perhaps making some progress towards freedom.

But as I approached the clearing, I saw the tree laying on its side, the trunk cut into large pieces, the branches removed and neatly piled.  

Photographer Unknown – Bing Images

The man was gone.

On the walk back to the car, life, nature, and God’s words merged to remind me – we don’t have to hide, building a fortress to protect us from ourselves, life’s disappointments, and the consequences of our sins. We can be free, just like the man in the tree, just like Adam and Eve.

When we stand, look into our Father’s eyes, and accept his amazing sacrificial love –

We find mercy,

We experience grace,

We are free.

Be Blessed His BeLOVED,


ENJOY:

Take a few minutes to listen to this beautiful reminder of God’s love.

When I Lost My Heart to You (Hallelujah) – YouTube Music

HOPE

Photo provided by Bing Photos

At 6, Hope had experienced more change than people 4-times her age.

Now another move was waiting at the front door.

Today, the family would leave the security of walls and roof, a 2-bedroom apartment Hope shared with her mother, stepfather, and 11-year-old sister, to a metal frame supported by wheels, a 2000-something SUV.

Four people, a dog, and all their worldly possessions crammed into this nomad’s dwelling. There was no room to breathe, much less room to be a 6 year old.

Mom had lost her job at a local restaurant. The recent virus surge forced the doors to close for the final time. Her stepfather could not hold a job for more than a few months. Life was complicated for a man that had lost his will and way on broken streets and distant battlefields.

The SUV was a gift from a local charity. It was meant to help with the transition from apartment to shelter to permanent housing but now it was home, parked at the end of a dirt service road in a clearing west of town.

Hope was small for her age. Yet, something about her demanded your attention. Her grandmother described her as a rare soul – curious, surprisingly optimistic, and remarkably empathetic. She had boundless energy, a precocious 6-year-old,

Living in an SUV,

Fighting to be a child.

Hope settled into the monotony of the day’s routine. She was up with the sun, navigated the complications of no physical shower, toilette, clean clothes, or warm meals. She worked hard to stay focused at school but homelessness is a distraction and children can be so cruel at this age. She returned each night, nestled into the backseat of her temporary home, nose-to-knees with her sister, resting her head on torn upholstery encircled by the warm belly of the family dog.

Given all she had to cope with, Hope remained sympathetic – walking with dad to calm his anxious angry heart, holding her sister’s hands when the pain of isolation and fear of tomorrow made them shake uncontrollably. Snuggling with mom when the burden of being super-woman became more than any woman should carry.

Small and innocent, Hope brought possibility; she modeled courage to a family on the edge – a people struggling to survive.

At 6, Hope could not influence her parents’ decision to live in the wilderness. She could not exercise any power to improve her circumstance. Yet as adults, we often move from the protective walls of God to cardboard shelters of our creation. Our souls and hearts are homeless as we drift further away from the heart of God.

Once in the wilds, we seek a safe place that provides a reprieve from the daily internal struggles. But to our amazement, each time we think we’ve reached home, each time our souls find calm, and our fists loosen their worried grip, our gaze drifts back to the empty roads of our wants, our perceived needs, our goals, and priorities and the wandering, the yearning resumes.

It is a vicious cycle. We try to insulate ourselves by wrapping our lives in a patchwork blanket of shame and guilt. We hope it protects us from the cold reality that is the truth of our lives. We make fear and doubt our traveling companions and then wonder why we can’t escape the relentless pressure of not measuring up or fitting in. Once we have experienced these pressures for a while, we pull out the moving boxes and old paper bags, throw all we are into the bottom, and shove them into the recesses of our minds – a move that transports us away from our disappointments and the world’s judgments.

We leave the safety of God’s sanctuary, attempting to outrun our frustrations, the pain of obsession and addiction, our emotionally numbing behaviors, and frantic self-control until we reach the end of our abilities, and experience an overpowering impulse to succumb to the lies,

You are not worthy,

God does not care,

You. Are. Alone.

But just as Hope offers life to her struggling family, God’s hope offers life for our vagrant souls.

I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world. 

Ephesians 1:18-20 Good News Translation (GNT)

Hope shows up, sometimes indiscernible at first. But with a little encouragement and a small amount of courage, hope strengthens our faith. Faith, in turn, shifts our hearts and we become miraculously faith-filled. We are transformed.

Hope is a bright reminder, no matter how dark the night might become, how intense the day may feel, we can remain expectant – waiting on God to guide us back to His peace and rest.

Waiting on Him to lead us home.

“While our story may at present appear hopeless, often, later on, we can look back on history (His Story!) and discover God’s plan at work in our lives during that time.”

– Kathe Wunnenberg

Hope is the path we take to our eternal homes. Don’t be distracted by the wilderness, grasp hold, cling tight – God’s got you.

Be Blessed His BeLOVED,


ENJOY:

Evidence (Live) – YouTube Music

Welcome 2022!!!

Photo by R. Valobobhai – Unsplash

I hope you had an amazing Christmas and are ready to tackle the New Year.

I am excited about 2022. We were tested in 2020, challenged in 2021 but this year. This year, I am hopeful that it will cause me to lean hard on my Savior, draw closer to Him, and recognize He remains in control.

I don’t have any delusions that we will not continue to face difficult circumstances. We will be disappointed and there will be frustrations. However, I am hopeful that we can build on the foundation that the previous year’s provide. Use all that we have learned to continue to grow and mature – be transformed.

To this end, I will continue to write, post, and pray. God has given me words to share – thank you for taking the time to read them. He has prompted me to challenge you. Challenge how you think about yourself and what you think about Him.

I hope you will continue to read and please feel free to share your thoughts.

I am grateful for each of you, thank you, and may God bless you abundantly in 2022.

The Invitation

The candles on the kitchen island are lite. They make the house smell like cinnamon and clove. The tree is decorated. Outside lights are hung and the handmade manger graces the porch.

Gifts have been shipped; amazingly most have already reached their destinations. All that is left is baking for our neighbors – blueberry banana bread, cookies, and perhaps pumpkin scones.

My Christmas list has been checked, cross-checked, and nearly completed. And it is only December 12th!

I’m not bragging, well OK just a little, but I am pleased – just a little proud.

Each year I long for space during the Christmas season, an opportunity to slow down and focus on the object of our celebration. However, I typically run uncontrolled right up to Christmas Eve.

So, having the list nearly complete so early in the month is a big deal, nearing miracle proportions. Have I mentioned, I am proud?

Call me a slow learner, I’m in my early 60s and just starting to understand that Christmas was never meant to be a race. It was never about finding the perfect present, or giving the perfect present, or even receiving THE perfect present. It is not a contest – attempting to outdo the neighbor’s decorating skills, or holding the best party, or cramming as much as possible into an already overloaded schedule.

Christmas has always been a simple invitation.

2000 years ago a baby was born. He rested in a simple manger, surrounded by the animals that shared the stable stall. His parents were ordinary people – a carpenter and a teen mom. They recognized this was a special child, yet I am willing to bet they did not fully understand who this child would become. His full identity was yet to be discovered.

Thirty short years later, family and close friends surrounded this same child. This time the stable gave way to a hill. Instead of lying in a primitive manger, He hung on a hand-carved cross. This time life would slip away – “Father forgive them…” (Luke 23:34)

Christmas is an invitation. The Baby Jesus, turned living Savior, reached through eternity to offer a relationship, intimacy with God.

This Christmas, I will be taking time to sit at Jesus’ feet. My Bible will be open to the manger scene and I will follow angels and shepherds, disciples and Pharisees, a mother and close friends until we land at the base of Calvary. I will watch as our Savior is crucified and placed in a rock tomb. I will celebrate when the tomb is found empty and our King returns to heaven.

At Christmas, God reaches into our hearts and offers freedom from the brokenness and bitterness that we’ve accumulated in this life. He asks us to trust him, lean heavily on him, and accept his loving sacrifice.

I encourage you to accept this amazing invitation today. It will change your life for eternity.

Merry Christmas His BeLOVED,


“That is my prayer for you this Christmas – that you would experience the fullness of Christ; that you would know in your heart the outpouring of grace upon grace; that the glory of the only son from the Father would shine into your heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ; that you would be amazed that Christ can be so real to you.” – John Piper