The Beauty in our Flaws

I have a feeling that by the end of quarantine, people will be sick of the dreaded “zoom call”. What started out as a cool way to see people in real time no matter where they live, has become the only means of seeing those you used to spend time with in the flesh. Replacing all of our in-person interactions with a screen is not nearly as satisfying. I am filled up by being alone, but I am coming out of this season knowing I am not a recluse.

I was made for community and being in contact with other human beings. I am sure you are coming away from this with similar realizations about yourself. Maybe you have found being at home to be extra trying or the lack of close, social interaction to be particularly hard on your emotional/mental health. Despite what you think of it all or how it has impacted you, I hope you see that God is still working and moving. I am hopeful that when we come out of this, we will be different for the better. I can’t speak for our country or the population as a whole (I have asked God more than once if He would just let me in on how this particular chapter in our lives was going to end up…I’ll take His silence as it is better that I don’t know.), but I believe as individuals, we have a high percentage of coming out of this better connected to God. 

He has never and will never need to socially distance Himself. I don’t care if you just gave me an eye roll for flipping a secular term into spiritual concept, it’s true. He is closer than the air we breathe. We are the ones that put distance between His heart and ours. We run to things of this world to tell us who we are, what to do, when to act, and where to put our focus. The world feels incredibly loud right now, and the sheer volume is only matched by the number of splintered opinions flying around. Like pieces of straw in a tornado whipping around and doing destruction to our peace and safety. I have spoken to so many that feel like nothing is as it seems, everyone has an agenda, and no one knows who to trust. 

Ultimately, our trust isn’t in this world. Our government is flawed. Our healthcare is flawed. Our church is flawed. You are flawed. I am flawed. But this assurance that we are all flawed qualifies us as a candidate for Jesus’ ministry. In Luke 19:10, he says, 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (NIV)

The even better news is this is an individual call. You don’t have to wait for your President or Governor to release you to choose a life pursuing Jesus. We get to do that on our own. You don’t have to worry if your neighbor will approve, you get to decide this purely for yourself. 

Regardless of where you started when the world began coming unglued, you get to take time to make sure you’re anchored in the unchanging, ever-present power of the God of the Universe. 

For those barely holding on, can I speak some life over you?

We have access to the Holy Spirit and He can minister to your heart and bring you God’s peace.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid. You heard Me say, ‘I am going away, and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. (John 14:26-28 NIV)

You have a purpose.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13 NIV).

He has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, (2 Timothy 1:9 NIV)

He uses all things to good 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)

You are loved

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13 NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7-8 NIV)

I hope this encourages your heart and spurs you on to a deeper connection with the Father. He loves you and as I like to remind myself daily: Nothing surprises God. He has the whole world in His hands and those who put their trust in Him can know that in the end, we win. If you feel stretched too thin or depleted in energy because of the current events of this world, take time to unplug from those sources and saturate yourself in life-giving verses of the Bible and in worship songs that lift you up and shift your perspective.

The Beauty of an Exchange

Life looks different right now. We’ve all said or thought it over the last few weeks. This time in history will mark each of us in ways we can’t even imagine right now. Our rearview-mirror perspective will show us much more than our in-the-moment view ever can. I hope I can look back at my own life and know I did my best. My best to glorify God in the good and bad of a life pushed into a time where so much was decided for me and my dependence could only be found in Him and who He is for myself and my family.

As I write this, I am on the breakthrough side of a lesson that my heart needed to learn…again. If you read a piece I wrote not long ago called Leaving the Land of Self Protection, you know that I am a recovering self-protector. Trauma in my life has given me a stealthy skill of slipping into self-protection to weather difficult relationships and/or conflict. My word for 2019 was level-up and it played out in wild ways (isn’t that God?) most significantly was showing me there was an elevated way to operate when things got hard. Last year was the revealing and subsequent deliverance from having to live this way. Letting Jesus be my defender and protector is still new to me when I am hurting.

Over the last few days, I have felt the invitation to self-protect. I didn’t catch it right away, but now, I see the signs. I was numbing myself to feelings about anyone else. (If I don’t care, they can’t hurt me…) Also, doing whatever I wanted to feel cared for (under the slippery guise of self care). So indifference coupled with self indulgence are my big red flags that Self-Protection is creeping in.

**Quick note about these two actions: In health, I can put up good boundaries and practice self care. I am all for those actions. In the doing of both of those, I must be seeking the Father for guidance first or I can guarantee I do both from self protection. My biblical litmus is Seek ye first the Kingdom of God found in Matthew 6:33. When I seek Him first, His wisdom for boundaries or self care are good and life giving.

In the morning when I went downstairs to have quiet time, I felt my (fleshy) mind making a game plan on how to act today to preserve myself. This is when I had the full-blown ah-ha moment about the direction my behavior was taking. I sat with my coffee, journal, and worship music in my ears and I let it out. I started writing my most honest feelings. At the end I silently cried to God that I didn’t know what to do with these feelings, but I didn’t want to operate in old habits.

As I experienced all of this, it was in fact Good Friday. Just before Jesus gave up His spirit, and He declared “It is finished.” When He did this, He was ending the reign of terror that sin had on our lives. We get to put our sins to death because of His death. I am not destined to be a slave to Self Protection the rest of my life. I am 100% free from it in eternity, but I am also declaring victory over it in my remaining time here on Earth. My abundant life came at a price, and I will not forsake the cost because it is easier to live out old patterns.

Upon asking God, “what now?” I opened the YouVersion Bible app to participate in the reading plan my small group has been doing together. When I opened the app an ad for a three day reading plan greeted me. It was called Living Hope: A Countdown to Easter, and was designed to be read Good Friday through Easter Sunday. All I can say is the Holy Spirit prompted me to open it. I did and I was immediately blown away by the content! The devotion talked about being forsaken and listed three things to do when you feel that way. I don’t want to give it all away so please go the app and check it out for yourself, but that list confirmed that I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing. I was crying out to God with my honest words and a heart that knew there was a better way and yet felt drawn to old patterns. However, I was choosing worship and His word in the waiting to receive direction.

I finished day one of Living Hope and then turned to the reading plan that my small group was following and a line from that devotional jumped out at me too. It said, “The victory of Jesus is received where your trying ends.”

I realized my mind had been working to sift through all it knew about my old and new self to come to a conclusion as to what to do next. I was still trying to do this based on my own resources! This is when I stopped and reflected on how my showing up with open hands ready to receive something new is right where He wanted me. Now I am a visual person and the Holy Spirit has full access to my mind’s eye. So He showed me a picture of the poor widow mentioned in two of the Gospels. Here is what Mark 12:41-44 NIV says:

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

As I pictured her outstretched hands, poverty stricken and perhaps even dirty, but as humble as a pure-hearted child letting the two coins slide out of her hands to fully surrender herself to be cared for by God, I couldn’t help but see something new in this story.

God looks at the heart and in that moment Jesus looked at a woman who was all in. She knew where her hope was anchored and empty hands are free of false security in earthly resources. But more than that, He delights in watching us bring our “stuff” for the exchange. This action is an act of worship that declares that we know that He supercededs ANYTHING we could bring to the table. He delights in me coming to Him and spewing my very real feelings and honest longings. He knows it is for my benefit to unload on Him. In the unloading, I am emptying my hands to receive a priceless exchange.

With worship music in my ears and eyes closed I continued to see in my mind’s eye a simple scenario of my own hands dirty and ravaged, clutching sharp rocks. When I opened my hands, the jagged stones had words written on them. One said “brokenness” another “self-protection” and another “pride”. I flattened my hands and tilted them down to let the rocks slide to the ground and they landed right in front of the feet of Jesus. I was crying and sad, but He had the biggest smile on His face. He was overjoyed to see me surrender these burdens. To give everything I had to bring so He could exchange it all. He then extended His hand and touched mine, healing and cleansing them. Empty hands are a joy for Jesus to fill. The exchange has nothing to do with the value of the items brought, but everything to do with the heart of the one bringing them. The heart reveals when we are truly at the end of our own trying.

As we continue to wade through difficult times, how are you dealing with disappointment, fear, frustration, sadness, conflict, the unknown, etc.? Are you taking time to be truly honest with God about all of it? If you haven’t, I urge you dear reader, to spend time unloading on God. He is big enough to handle any and every emotion you have. His exchange is based on who He is, not what you bring.

Empathy Before Therapy

two young women sitting on grass hugging rear view

Life is messy. I don’t think there is anyone who has lived a full life, and upon reflection, found a life devoid of troubles—be they great or small. I would consider myself to be a positive person, but I can also be honest about the fact that my adulthood started in a rubble of broken dreams and a shattered heart. When I relive the details of that time in my life, I don’t writhe in pain or ugly cry through the play-by-play. I can tell the bad along with the ways in which God redeemed all that was stolen from me. I learned more about myself than I ever could have imagined at 20. I also had such sweet encounters with God that I know He was very near to me in my time of pain.

When a painful event has taken place, the initial shock seems to paralyze us. In the ground-zero moments of pain, we can almost see the things we “should” do, but they seem impossible. Pain hits like a bomb so close to us that our faculties are impaired. Like a real bomb hitting too close can impair a person’s vision or hearing, we freeze up and feel helpless. We want to both assess the damage, and curl up and try to disappear. When the news spreads to others they come to help. The help—although well intentioned—can invite in guilt that tells you that you’re not doing enough. As much as we all want to tell someone in pain what they “should” do, let’s be more focused on just being present. Pain overwhelms in the initial onslaught and it is okay to spend time surveying the myriad of emotions and simply being held by your Savior. He doesn’t expect you to “DO” anything. Let him comfort you. Let him use his kids to come alongside you and be a support system.

This morning, I was thinking about how Jesus helped those in pain. The first story that came to mind was Lazarus. When Jesus heard Lazarus was sick, he lingered for 2 extra days. I am certain that was in obedience to the Holy Spirit. He didn’t do anything without checking in with his Father. But if you remember in the story, when he arrived to heal Lazarus and found that he was dead, he wept. There is speculation as to why he wept. Most support the theory that he wept because he was affected by the intense emotions of the ones he loved. I tend to agree with this for the most part, but maybe not because I think he was overcome with compassion. I think Jesus would be at the top of a very short list of beings who could completely bring his emotions into submission if he wanted to. However, I believe Jesus knew one of the greatest callings that his life lived on Earth, was to demonstrate how to be like the Father. In this story I believe he is showing those of us who would read this long after his ascension that the first order of business when someone is in pain is to practice empathy not therapy. Jesus had full confidence in the outcome of this tragedy. He could have taken Mary by the shoulders and given her a little shake to snap her out of her grief and said, “Woman, I am here to bring him back to life! Stop your crying and have a little faith!” However, he stepped into her pain and shared her feelings.

Empathy by definition is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is messy and uncomfortable and at times feels like you are fueling the paralysis of pain. But Jesus himself valued this very important step in being a comfort to friends in pain. I know from experience that having someone come alongside me and validate my pain gives them a greater influence to speak life to me in the days and weeks that follow a tragic life bomb. Empathy opens the door to therapy.

All too often, in our desperate attempts to bring our friend to a better place we offer therapy first. I am guilty of this as a habitual fixer. I want to improve others’ situations and can hardly keep my opinions of how to do that to myself. Therapy is treatment intended to relieve or heal. This sounds like such a kind thing to do for a friend, but I am learning from Jesus that being there in shared feelings and validation is the first-aid salve their souls need most. Therapy is important and there is a time for it, but empathy supersedes the need to guide people out of their troubles.

Romans 12 has so many nuggets of wisdom. In verse 15, Paul tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. This section is all about love in action and that verse is lived out in how Jesus came alongside those who were mourning for Lazarus. I leave you with Romans 12:9-15. May you breathe in guidance from the Word on how to walk out our conviction to love one another. I pray that we can all be more like Jesus and less like Dr. Phill when our friends are hurting. I for one have lots of room for improvement.

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Summer is a Time to be in His Presence

 

summer is His Presence

Cindy is a talented writer and a fellow contributor to Inspired Mom’s Club. She has been gracious enough to provide wisdom to fellow moms who are in love with summer and all it brings, but struggle with balancing the flow of summer with the discipline of daily time with the Father. I took great comfort in this guest post as she gives me peace about the fact that my “quiet time” looks different in these three beautiful months of the year. I am looking at my time with God very differently now. Please enjoy this post and check out lifeunfolded.com for more from Cindy


 


 

As moms, we wait for it all school year long, the slowing of the separate schedules of our children, not being held to the time constraints of a ticking clock reminding us of the hours and minutes left in the day, pushing through with exasperation to the end when we finally hear it, the last school bell ringing loud the end of yet another school year. We let out our desperate sighs or should I say moans of relief with the realization it is finally here ………ahhhh summer!

Summer brings in a different kind of busy, one I treasure as a mom. I trade the stresses and multiple schedules of my children during the school year for more concentrated family time and connection, games, barbecues, travel, late nights and later mornings. It’s music to my ears! With that being said, there are some things such as fellowship with other moms in addition to staying connected in God’s word that seem to come to a standstill. The varying summer schedules don’t coincide with others within your fellowship group therefore causing a lull in your connection that you have come accustomed to over the school year with God. So how do you stay connected to God during the summer when your usual way of connecting is at a standstill and your life surrounded with loved ones every second of the day?

I would love to be able to give you a list of things you can do but if I’m being honest another list isn’t something I want to add to my summer schedule. I want to be able to break free from the lists that so easily ensnare me during the school year and just live in His presence. I want to break away from the same old routine and take Him with me where no clocks, timers, ding of a Facebook notification or whirl of the washing machine can distract me. Where is this place?

Summer brings a commonality to many of us as the majority of the things we do bring us to the great outdoors. I like to think of it as God’s way of calling me to get out and experience Him in the very midst of His creation!! What wonder and awe inspiring things He wants to reveal to you as you connect and commune with Him in nature! (with the exception of mosquitos and chiggers) Pay close attention as He desires to reveal something about himself that is new to you whether it is in the way your child plays at the pool or in summer games. Maybe He will capture your heart as you watch a breath-taking sunset or sunrise in the horizon. He may even speak to your heart as you do that dreaded impromptu camp-out you really don’t want to do but instead find yourself head over heels in love with Him again as you look longingly upon the beauty of the stars and hear the crickets and toads overwhelming your senses as He lulls you to sleep. The longing of a prayer spoken during the school year may come to realization as you focus on Him in creation and can clearly see and hear without all of life’s circumstances screaming at you, causing your heart to be overwhelmed with encouragement reminding you of His faithfulness. And maybe…just maybe all the family time you share whether it is with immediate or extended family will show you something new and exciting He is working on and growing in one or more members filling your heart with overflowing joy for them.

There are many ways to connect with God during the summer months and as you do, it has been my experience that He floods you with particular verses or brings to mind the ones you are wondering about and what they truly mean. His creation serves as a great reminder to who He is and that His word is alive and thriving among us just waiting for us to experience Him outside the normal places we set aside for Him. So put the lists away, they only serve as a distraction to what you don’t get done and try to control you all over again. Instead pick up the One who calls you to experience Him and desires to show you new and exciting things as He awaits your presence in His creation.

3 Ways to Keep your Emotions in Check

3waysemotions

It’s mine!!!!” Screeched my five year old daughter from the top of the stairs.

No it’s not! It’s mine! You took it from my floor!” My seven year old son bellowed back with rage.

The thunder of four feet spilling down the stairs as fast as possible and the volume of their passion assured me that I was about to become the judge in a case of stolen property (allegedly). My children were in a hot debate over the ownership of—wait for it—a nickel. Yes, five whole cents was causing this latest case of hysteria. I listened for what seemed like forever as they both pleaded their case—at the same time. Both so desperate to claim this nickel. Thankfully, I was in a peaceful place and I saw more humor than irritation in this particular spat. I mean, come on—it. is. a nickel! Five tiny cents.

By the time I gathered the circumstances surrounding the nickel in question, I was sure it belonged to my son. It was in his room and she had come in and found it, claiming finder’s keepers. Her mistake was to overlook the fact that it was in her brother’s room. (A sibling-bedroom clause if you will). Plain and simple: it wasn’t hers to take. She felt entitled to this money though since she found it. After handing down the verdict, she was a puddle of emotions. I had a hard time getting her to see the fairness of this particular situation. Her emotions had locked her perspective into only seeing what she thought was fair. I comforted her, but did not change my decision just because she couldn’t get on board. Her truth was that she deserved that nickel. Her truth was that she had a right to go into his room, and money left on the floor was fair game. Her truth felt 100% true to her. That doesn’t make it a Truth. But alas, she was certain of her position and although she gave back the nickel, she refused to accept that justice had prevailed.

How many times have your emotions been the heaviest deciding factor in your own perspective? They become this concrete foundation that hardens around your stance in a particular area. They reinforce your position. The longer they sit untouched the harder they are to change.

The story may seem silly as we all would clearly side with the brother in this scenario. But I have been guilty of this same thing. I have built my emotions around an idea and given myself support to feel a certain way. Emotions are a gift, but they can betray you if they are left to their own, selfish devices. Emotions are not interested in preserving truth. They are self preserving and seek to protect you. They welcome twisted truth if it will strengthen their case. Emotions have a way of distorting the truth to fit their agenda. Here are three ways to keep emotions in check.


1.) Be in the Presence.

Having Jesus in your heart is great! But you simply can’t put him in there and lock the door behind him. He is looking for a relationship. This means that you are actively going after encounters with the Creator of the Universe. When you accepted Jesus, he brought the Advocate—Holy Spirit—to reveal truth to you. As you seek him, you will hear his voice more and more. Spend time praying and quietly listening to hear the voice of God. His truth will never return void—it will betray your emotions from time to time.

2.) Be in community.

God gave us earthly relationships for a reason. In God’s word, he displays time and time again how having friends and safe people to go through stuff with makes all the difference in the world. Esther had Mordecai, David had Jonathan, Jesus and Peter, and Paul and Barnabas all had great friendships. Not perfect, but strong bonds that were essential in their personal growth. God wants us all to have deep friendships and one of the roles of a friend is to save you from drowning in your emotions. They deliver hard, heart-felt truth wrapped in the love they have for you.

3.) Wait it out.

Few decisions that are made strictly on emotions end up being good ones. When we have a choice to make, emotions flood in and can be strongly in one direction or maybe all over the place. If it is at all possible a cooling period should be had. This could be as quick as five minutes really. Most of the time we have a chance to think, pray, talk to a trusted friend before we have to act on big things. Time is an enemy to intense emotions. The type that flair up in an instant and demand action also burn out more quickly than others.


As a feeler myself, I am speaking to my own heart as much—if not more—than anyone else. My emotions are constantly vying for the top spot as commander in chief over all of Ashley’s actions and opinions. My spirit—that is connected to my Savior—should be the ruling party in this Earthly experience. However, I can’t let my guard down. The Enemy is always seeking to usurp the proper chain of command. Emotions need to submit to my spirit. Using these three tips will give your spirit strength to overcome the emotions.

I pray that you feel encouraged that you are not alone if you feel betrayed by your own emotions. Being a feeler comes with so many wonderful attributes! We just need to be aware of the pitfalls that come with our wiring.

Romans 8:13

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

When Mother’s Day Falls Flat

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I sit with dried tear paths down my cheeks and what I am sure is a startling look of make-up covering the blotchies that I have been genetically cursed with after an ugly cry. It is only 12:37 on Mother’s Day and I have had an epic meltdown that had been brewing since 6am.

Mother’s Day is a fantasy in which I envision the people in my life taking time (a whole day…maybe even the weekend) to acknowledge the things I have sacrificed for them. HA! Oh my, when I face my own expectations, I can’t even say it out loud with a straight face. The cost of this type of Mother’s Day is to grow and evict all of my children into the world and for them to marry and have children of their own. I am only now (as a mother myself) seeing the importance of this day. Thankfully, I still have my mother with me on this day and I get a chance to tell her, in person, how much I appreciate what she did for me in those hard, exhausting, and wonderful years that were the favorite years of all her life. But in return for getting the type of one-day celebration fitting for a Mom, I have to give up the daily kisses. The “hold me, Mama.” The sweet requests for another rendition of “Let it Go” before bed. The request for a date night or some special Mommy-Daughter time. Or the fact that my boy still lets me kiss him in public. I have to let go of the sweetness that drenches these really, really, hard years in order to have a chance at getting the type of day I envision.

Maybe getting a 6am wake-up call on the morning I so badly wanted to sleep in is part of the trade-off. Maybe I shouldn’t expect for these little people to see the importance of what I am doing for them here in the moment. Maybe I should simply be able to look up and fix my eyes on the One who gave—entrusted—these three beautiful souls to me. I can use this as a teachable moment for myself. People are not always going to appreciate you when you want or think they should. But God, he is always proud of you. Even in this moment as I go over and over the blowup that just happened downstairs, I know that God is not mad at me. He isn’t hung up on the fact that despite talking and praying with him continually for the past 6 hours, I lost it anyway. I had a meltdown in front of my kids and directed towards my husband. I screwed up. I had an opportunity to rise above the cruddy morning and turn it all around. I could have chosen the pass less traveled and pressed into the comforting words I was hearing from the Holy Spirit.

But I didn’t.

I hear them now. They are not filled with that lecturing tone of “I told you so.” They still carry the vibes of eternal love that transcends the heat of the moment. He says “Learn from this.You can do better next time. I am certain these kids are for you as much as you are for them. Trust the process.”

There is compassion in the mess ups when you keep your intimacy with God as a priority. I am here to say you will still make mistakes. Christianity is far from arrived perfection. But in these moments of despair and knowingly making mistakes, we have a lifeline. A hope that will not die as long as our relationship with God is alive.

So to those of you who had a less than stellar Mother’s Day, and your worst came out…you are not alone and God is still certain that you were meant to mother.

And to my family: I know the day did not turn out like anyone planned. I know it was not intentional on anyone’s part. I also know that I would rather have a thousand so-so Mother’s Days then to have one without you. I am blessed to be a part of the crazy family that God has placed me in. I love you all and feel loved in the everyday activities that we call our life. I am not perfect and show you my ugly more than I care to admit. Thank you for loving a Mama that wears her emotions on her sleeve (a little too much).

Letters to Bea: Part 3

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Maggie knew that her life would be different after Bea and Robbie got married. She would be living on her own for the first time―ever. She knew she would see Bea at work and on the occasional girl’s night, but she never imagined she would be juggling that with thoughts of Jack. After that wedding weekend Jack asked if he could writer her. They exchanged information and gave no promises. The letters that Maggie and Bea had exchanged a few years ago when they were living in different states seemed to keep flowing only now between Jack in Alabama and Maggie in Nashville. They came every Thursday. She got to where she would request 2nd shift on Thursday just so she would be home when the mail ran. The door on the mailbox barely shut before she was outside making a beeline for the street. In fact, the mailman began to simply open and shut the box, holding the treasured delivery in his hand, he would wait knowing she would be out in seconds.

“Hello Mr. Wells,” she said with a blushed smile on her face.

“Hello Miss Maggie. You got another letter from your fella.” He said with a knowing smile.

He gave her a wink as he said, “I remember being young and in love. My wife and I were just kids it seemed when I would write love letters to her back in WWI. Nothin’ made my heart soar more than when mail call included a letter from my Pearl. She wrote the best letters. I would read them a hundred times it seemed before the next one would come along. You sure seem sweet on this guy.”

Maggie blushed even more and stared down at her hands.

“Is it that obvious?” She asked hoping Jack felt the same way.

“Honey, you ‘bout the only woman I know who gets a letter on Thursday and has a new one ready to go out on Friday week in and week out for two whole months. Either you in love or you just like to write letters.” The expression on his face gave away which of the two he thought it was. He tipped his hat and gave a wave and continued on his route.

She burst through the front door and practically fell into the kitchen chair. She ripped open the letter and began to devour its every word:

 

Dear Maggs,

I hope this week has been good to you. I have a surprise for you! I am turning in my two-week notice at work. I plan to relocate to Nashville in three weeks. I wanted to just do it and surprise you, but I know how you like to plan. I know we never made any promises, but I think what we have could be something real special. I’m hoping that when I move up there, you and I could become official. I’d like to make you my girlfriend―that is, if you’ll have me?

This letter may be short but I think it is loaded with my hopes and dreams so I’ll say goodbye for now. I’ll call you on Monday and we can talk through the details.

-Jack

 

Maggie stared at the letter for minutes after she finished reading. Her fingers seemed to be frozen to the page. To say she was surprised was an understatement. This letter was life-changing. It also answered the question of how he felt about her. What he hadn’t said with words, he said with a grand gesture. Jack moving here could only mean he had fallen for her too.


 

Bea opened her door to the most flustered young woman she had ever seen! Maggie had started talking before the it was completely open.

“Your brother is moving―here! He is moving to Nashville. I cannot believe this is happening. I am, just…well. I…He is going to be here…in my town. He also said he wanted me to be his girlfriend. Did I mention that?”

All these words came tumbling out seemingly at the same time. The look on Bea’s face was one of excitement and confusion. “Slow down,” she said. “Jack is moving here? When?”

“Three weeks! He just handed in his notice on Tuesday. He said he would call on Monday night to talk through everything. I just can’t believe it!”

They hugged in excitement because Bea knew exactly what this meant. She spoke with her brother just last week about Maggie. She knew from that conversation that he was in love with her.  Not the kind of love he had fallen into before. This was the kind of love that had the potential to make Maggie and Bea sisters-in-law.

“Robbie and Jack talked last week about getting a job up here, but I didn’t realize it was going to happen so quickly! I kind of thought he was just making pleasant conversation with Robbie while I got the roast out of the oven. Oh I can’t wait to see this happen!” Bea said with tears in her eyes. She knew how happy this would make Maggie.

The conversation turned to their relationship and how much Maggie liked Jack and how long the next three weeks would seem. They planned a few double dates and giggled like two girls in high school fawning over their current crushes. Some things never change.

That summer and early fall were some of the most carefree days of Maggie’s life. Everything was falling into place. Jack bought a place down the street from Robbie and Bea. It was only five blocks from Maggie’s place. The four of them hung out most evenings and Maggie didn’t feel like the third wheel anymore. Sometimes she would pinch herself just to make certain this wasn’t a dream.

~~~

Thinking back that many years ago was both hard and wonderful. Nashville was the last city that Maggie and Bea had lived in together. They started their married lives there as Jack would ask Maggie to marry him that Christmas and they tied the knot in March of the following year. Life was so simple and easy back then. Four young people carving their way out in the world. If only it could stay that easy.


 

 

If you need to catch up:

Part 1

Part 2

Beauty from Wolfie Hair

Beauty from wolfie hair

I am convinced of this, that the one who began a good action among you will bring it to completion by the Day of the Messiah Jesus.
Philippians 1:6

Today I woke up with the worst hair in the history of clean, terrible hair. I half-dried it and went to bed knowing it would be a little…artistic the next day. I have natural wave which means my hair lives in a continuous state of no man’s land. The plus side is that I can help it into the land of the straight strands or the curly girlies fairly easily. However, this morning, I looked in the mirror and really wished that I had taken a picture and sent it to my dad. He always called my wild morning bed head “wolfie hair” when I was growing up. I think even he would agree today was one for the record books. The amount of volume my hair had made me look as though I had used an entire can of Aqua Net! I stared at my hair and tried to figure out what to do. I didn’t want to wet it and start over, but I wasn’t sure I could rebirth this mess from this point.

So many of us are at this very point in our lives. We were doing what we thought was the right thing, on the right path then BAM! we feel as if we have either miss stepped or the path has taken a turn that we just weren’t expecting. It is easy to at that moment look for a sign from God that what you are doing is good. The problem with that is you may be expecting God to show up in a specific way, but there is no guarantee that he will. God is not always going to affirm your steps―at least not in the same way. There will be times when you are on the right path and doing the right things, and suddenly it gets scary. The steps feel uncomfortable or the next steps seem unsure. Maturity in Christ will require you to navigate through these seasons apart from strong emotions from the Father (at times). When feelings rise up to challenge your direction the best thing to do is stop and seek God. This process should include praying AND worshipping God. These two connect you to God in ways that nothing else can! Through it all, the emotions that were rising to challenge your direction will either die down (bend the knee to the sprit man leading instead of the emotions) or they will link arms with the spirit man and he will begin to feel a need for shifting the course. Either way, you will see the next step more clearly.

Now this morning, I stared at myself in the mirror and the idea to curl the mop on top came to mind. I curled it and had one heck of a good hair day. That volume I gave myself through the night was just what those curls needed to be lively. I had fancy, curled hair today and so I decided to put the level 2 makeup on (you know, eye shadow and lipstick) in order to go with the hair. I felt great and quite amused that my hair could look so good knowing how bad it had looked before 7am.

Hair is not the end all be all, but how fun is it that God can use my wild, bad hair morning to show me that he makes beauty out of what we would call a mess!

Feeling the Shift: The Next Wave

feeling the shift-the next wave

Back in November, I shared that we were feeling a shift. We (my husband and I) began looking into alternative schooling for our kids. This journey is full of so much unknown and conflicting feelings! I almost envy those families who have a conviction about a particular educational path. Maybe it is the area I live in that has made this decision so intense. Here in central Indiana, I am blessed with the best of the best. We have a great public school system. My son is learning nearly at his highest capacity. He is in the class that will push him the most and he is succeeding. If we choose to leave the public school system for the private school sector, we have a list of top schools to choose from. He can get a private, Christian education that will challenge him no doubt. If we choose to homeschool, that community is thriving in our area as well. We can choose from lots of co-ops and enrichment classes around the city. There are lots of activities to ensure he is out and about. We really can’t go wrong no matter what general avenue we choose.

Then comes the other factor: what does God want?

I have been praying and seeking His will for this aspect of our life and I (confidently) get the sense that He is pleased no matter which one we choose. I actually believe that there is no wrong answer (in the general sense). He has grace for me and is capable of growing me regardless of where we finally land. I have asked and prayed. The solution that has come to my heart has filled me with peace and joy. I also think if I would have chosen differently based on a few other factors He would still be smiling and singing joy over me. I stopped and I asked—that is what I think He wanted most of all. To some this may seem daunting. Too many choices. God should have whittled it down for me, and I would have agreed with you just a few short years ago. Now I find it freeing. Freedom in Christ at this level is indescribable! There are many facets to this phrase. In this season, the freedom to choose the best option for us meant that because we brought it before the Father, we have the freedom to live out the choice that we make. He will be there. He will refine me in the choice. Even if my ultimate decision ends up being hard and we don’t repeat it in the future, I will not label it a mistake. I will be grateful that I had the chance to learn more about myself and my son.


Now some may ask at this time:

Have you made a decision?


I would answer that with, No. We have made a few small decisions in the bigger decision, but no definite plan is put in place. Honestly, I am enjoying the journey and feeling no rush to nail down each detail of next fall. I have time and I am doing research and talking to others in different camps. I am enjoying the insight and passion that people have for education of all forms. I am feeling more empowered that no matter how my children get the majority of their education, I can have more influence than I am having right now. I have always thought I would supplement their education, but the rigors of having three littles in four years caused that endeavor to take a back seat. This time of research and prayer has revived that desire in me! See, just the stopping and asking alone has brought so much benefit that even if nothing changes, I can say I have grown.

Coffee Break

lessons from a fast

It is fasting time at our church. We take the first three full weeks of the year and dedicate them to the Lord by fasting something and spending more time in prayer. The idea behind it is to quiet the flesh and realign ourselves with God. This gives way for us as individuals and as the Body to hear God’s heart for the year to come. In this time one might get a single word or a theme for the coming year. I find that if I don’t already have my word (I start asking in December) I get my word, a verse, and some pretty stellar ideas for the year to come. I also feel that I am closer to my Creator by the end. The lessons folded into the fasting time are priceless!

This year, I planned to do the full Daniel Fast. This is pretty restrictive and I am finding that it is too difficult to do with three young kids who would likely starve if I made them do it with me. (We are going to continue it, but make a slight modification next week). Being the cook in the family also adds a lot of stress when it comes to meal planning and cooking. The stress fell on me like a wet blanket just three days into the fast. Here is the thing: I woke to a two-hour delay this morning for my oldest who was returning to school for the first time since December 19th. It threw my day off a bit. I was stressed on top of being stressed. I had grand plans of writing the morning away, as well as praying and supporting my online women’s group. I felt heavy and struggled to see this day going well.

Then I heard the Spirit invite me to go have a cup of coffee.

What? I thought, no this is just a temptation. I am fasting coffee among other things. I shrugged it off and plowed through another hour at home trying to get things ready for me to go. But it stayed in the edges of my mind. By the time I was ready to go out the door, I felt it was truly an invitation from God. Here’s why:

He has been teaching me about human shortcomings. He is redeeming my past ideas that my successes and failures are the determining factor in the closeness of our relationship. As I weighed out the idea of having coffee, a thought slipped in and said, “If you have coffee, your writing will be fruitless.”

Honestly, that ultimatum was a big help in allowing me to see that the coffee was an invitation from Holy Spirit. See, that is not how Holy Spirit talks to any of us. He doesn’t try to pressure us into the good with fear tactics. He speaks life over us and our journey with God. Ultimatums are the Enemy’s style. He motivates with pressure and fear. He rushes us into decisions.

So here I sit having enjoyed this gift from the Father in the middle of a day that just isn’t going as planned. I drank that warm, delicious cup of coffee. I don’t feel guilt and shame. I feel His love. I feel adored and cherished. My performance of this fast is not about 0 errors or 100% success. Neither of those results guarantees closeness with the Father. I can succeed with perfection and grow no closer to God. If my whole focus is fulfilling my commitment, then I have missed the mark. My goal should be to put these things at the Fathers feet and yet not allow them to trip me up as I press into our growing relationship. I am not chucking the fast out the window. But today, He invited me to take a coffee break, and I took it joyfully.