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.

My Summer Prayer

Today I sit at my computer and mentally prepare for the next 10 weeks. I LOVE having my kids at home, but I also have things that need done and I am accustomed to fitting them in with less children in tow. This means that I have to strike a balance between conquering my list and really enjoying the moment. This is totally doable. Many women have gone before me and owned their summers while keeping on top of work (be that housework or vocational work). I am blessed to work from home so I am doing both under one roof. For all the moms out there preparing for the adventures of summer, I give you my summer prayer. I looked at the prayer of Jabez and thought, what would it look like to ask God for an amazing summer?

 

jabez summer

Throughout this summer do not forget where your strength comes from. When the excitement of freedom wanes and boredom beckons your kids to whine, remember that this is an opportunity to strengthen their problem solving skills…and your patience. These days will be some of the best days of our lives. We will catch some of that now and realize it more fully later. Ask God for the most aware perspective you can handle in the moment. Ask boldly for the power of Holy Spirit to help you navigate the harder times. And don’t beat yourself up if you are longing for August in the middle of June. This parenting gig is not all roses, and we are not less holy if we have a string of days where we don’t jump out of bed with a smile on our face and pour milk for cereal like it was what we were created to do. I just hope that you know where you need to go when those days come. Take time to make sure you get in the Word. Spend time worshiping. This will lighten your heart in those moments. Pray and do spiritual warfare for those little ones in your life that are victim to the Enemy without even knowing it. We are not powerless to the season of less structure. We have great opportunity to rest, make memories, and see our kids in the moment.

The Cost of Truth

the cost of truth

I have this fresh perspective on my life. I am not sure how one achieves such a season. I would like to think I conjured it up in the hours I spend with God. I would like to think I have somehow earned it through holy behavior. But the truth of the matter is God has some perfect timing and now is when he is choosing to bring a wave of change in my heart. I have been asking for this for a while now, but I just wasn’t ready. I couldn’t tell you the exact thing that I needed in order to flip the switch. But nonetheless, I am here—in this space. I have cast fear aside and have been allowing my feet to go beyond the borders of my human possibilities. It is strangely comforting to know that I am totally dependent on the Creator. My success and failure in the world’s eyes is irrelevant. I am successful because I said yes.

This journey—a life lived in relationship with the Creator of the Universe—is so much deeper than I could have imagined when I was an innocent 10 year-old girl kneeling at the altar at church camp in the summer of ’94. I remember saying to God that he could have me. I was choosing him for my own. Up until then, I was riding on my parents’ religious coat tails. I had faith by family inheritance. Now I wanted my own connection with God. Even though I made my own declaration, I still followed the path set before me. I related to God the only ways I knew how—by way of religion. I went to church, I tithed 10% of all money that came my way, and I repented fervently of my terrible sins. I lived in a constant cycle of trying to clean up my act as a human to have a chance at an encounter with the Presence. I welcomed guilt and shame as part of the conviction package. I was so grateful to receive salvation that I worked every day as if it had to be earned anew. I was stricken with spiritual poverty. I had nothing to give because I was hoarding all I had to simply sustain my own righteousness.

Ten years later my world was blown to bits. My marriage of two years ended with adultery and church drama beyond my comprehension. I saw members of church staff turn their backs on me. I trusted people in God’s ministry and I was left to heal from the wounds, they inflicted, by myself. Although this is easily labeled as the hardest time in my life, I can say the timing to accept the responsibility of truth God had for me was, in fact, perfect.

It was in that season that I learned that all people are susceptible to sin. And if we are being honest, those in positions of influence for the Kingdom come under greater attack than we as onlookers can understand. I also learned that forgiveness is possible regardless of the offense. For forgiveness sets the offended free regardless of the offender’s remorse. These truths came at a great cost, but the lessons that I learned will benefit me for the rest of my life.

My perspective on God, and Christianity, changed in that hard season. I tore down the religious beams holding up my faith and beliefs. I started over.

When hard times hit, please press into what truths God has for you. He hides truth for us not from us. He has such beautiful timing and he wastes nothing. No hurt will ever go without truth. We can overlook it because we can only focus on our pain. We have free will to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to God’s part, or worse we can blame God for the bad. It is not in the nature of God to do bad things. I’m sorry if that upsets you, but he just isn’t wired for evil. We live in a fallen world and until we leave this planet, we will be doing battle with the Evil One. The choice we have is to either ask God for his truth in the situation or focus on the pain. He is eager to impart the payoff to your costly wound. No hurt is for nothing. Romans 8:28 assures us that, “God works all things to the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This doesn’t mean you will look back on a painful event with joy. You may never be glad that thing happened. But it does mean that he can redeem aspects of that event with his truth and his goodness. So that you can look back at an event and at least put some part of it in the good column. Again, this is a choice. He won’t force you to see good. He will, however, invite you to. He longs for you to embrace his goodness in this harsh world. Brokenness is often times God’s greatest hour. He floods into the cracks of your heart at your invitation and not a moment sooner. He pursues you with all his might to a point and waits with high anticipation for the go ahead to invade your heart and soul!

If you have wounds, please go after his truth in those moments in time. He can still redeem that situation and do miracles beyond your imagination. I cling to Ephesians 3:20 when I am hurt, scared, nervous, or really any time is a good time to declare this verse.


Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or

imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.


He transcends our human minds and hearts. He can do the impossible. He will work all things to good. We only need to ask and believe.

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

mothersday

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 2

letterstoBea

The letters didn’t start out to be the life line that they had become. The idea was born out of desperation when the girls were dealt the blow of separation the summer before their senior year. It had been a dream come true for Bea to be able to stay in one place for so long. Her Dad had decided to exit the military and take a civilian job after WWII. He took a job at the local gas company. He had been there for three years when her parents decided to move back to New York at the end of the summer to be closer to family. The news sent both girls into a state of depression. They had just one summer to make memories that would last a lifetime. By now Robbie and Bea were going steady and Bea felt like she would be leaving half her heart in Alabama―dividing the best of herself between her best friend and her best guy.

They spent the summer soaking in the fleeting moments of their youth and their union. They vowed at the end of the summer to keep in touch. College was just one year away and they had plans to attend the same one. If that plan worked the letters shared over the next year would only serve to keep them connected until they could be together again on campus the next fall. With that the first letter was sent from Maggie to Bea on September 14, 1948.

Dear Bea,                                                                                                                            September 14, 1948

I cannot believe I am sitting in Miss French’s class without you! I miss you so much!!! I hope you like your new school. Remember, no matter how bad it gets, you and I will be back to best friends by August of next year. I am already getting my application together for Vanderbilt. I know we can both get in! By the way I saw your brother the other day. He said he was going to come up to see you all for Christmas. I thought maybe I could talk my folks into letting me go with him and seeing you for a couple of days. It’s a long shot, but a girl can dream, right? I still can’t believe he didn’t go with you all. I guess being on his own this past year gave him the confidence to think he could make it on his own. Anyway, tell your folks I said hi. Let me know what your new school is like, okay?

Best Friends Forever and Ever,

Maggie

Nothing much to it, but it was the spark of something that they would keep on for decades to come. Even when they met up at Vanderbilt the following year. They shared a dorm and still left notes for each other. They spoke of the boys they liked, the classes they hated, and the functions they would attend. The three years seemed to fly by. After they graduated, they were hired on at Vanderbilt Hospital. Their adult life could begin! That first year after graduation was one they would never forget. Maggie and Bea were sharing an apartment and having the best time working and enjoying their grown-up lives when there was a knock at the door one sunny afternoon in May. Maggie answered the door and was shocked to see Robbie standing on the porch. She drew back, uncertain of how Bea would take this unannounced visit. Robbie and Bea had fallen apart in the middle of that first year that she moved back to New York. Many tear-stained letters came to Maggie’s mailbox over that winter. Bea had taken the breakup hard and was sure she was losing the love of her life. Since then, she had moved on and learned that love could come around more than once in a lifetime. She wasn’t currently seeing anyone, but Maggie wasn’t sure if this would be a good surprise.

Bea came around the corner to see who was at the door. She dropped the soda in her hand as she laid eyes on the boy-turned man who had stolen her heart. She fumbled around picking up the glass and slopping up the soda as she asked, “What are you doing here?”

He casually walked in wearing that same grin that always got to Bea. Maggie quietly slipped upstairs to give them privacy, but as she went to her bedroom she couldn’t help but hear his reply.

“I came to see you. I graduated college a couple of weeks ago and before I decide to call any one city my home, I thought I would stop in to see you. I wanted to find out if you were seeing anyone. I thought…maybe if you were free…well, you know, we could go get a bite to eat or something and…catch up.”

Maggie shut the door to her room and flopped on her bed. She had a lot of emotion flooding in at one time. She knew that Robbie still had a big piece of Bea’s heart. She wanted her to be happy, but she couldn’t stifle the feeling that her friendship would be threatened by this reunion. She grabbed a book and tried to get lost in the storyline, but soon there was a knock at her door. Bea popped her head in and told her that she was headed to the burger joint around the corner with Robbie. She didn’t invite Maggie to go along. She said she would see her later. Maggie knew this day would change everything at least a little. She saw Bea’s face when she saw Robbie standing in that doorway. A best friend could always see when the other was in love.

It seemed Robbie and Bea hadn’t lost a single day. They were as in love as they had been five years ago. By Christmas of that year they were engaged and planning a spring wedding. Robbie had taken a job as a journalist for the local paper just a few weeks after he came into town. It seemed that although her best friend would be moving out after the wedding, nothing much would change. They were still living in the same city.

April is a gorgeous month in Tennessee. The chapel was decorated by Mother Nature on the outside with the most fragrant cherry blossom trees anyone could imagine. The ceremony was simple and intimate. Only about 50 people were in attendance. All of Bea’s family had traveled in. Her oldest brother Charles and his wife and two children, and Jack still single and looking more handsome then Maggie had remembered. At the reception, Maggie found herself staring at Jack from across the banquet hall.

The last time she saw him was the week before she left for Vanderbilt. He was at Scoopie’s Ice Cream Parlor with a girl. She was pretty and the word around town was that they were pretty serious. Maggie remembered catching his eye that day. He looked at her a little longer than he should have since he was on a date. She would be lying if she said she had been disappointed. She had had a crush on Jack since she was in 4th grade, but between him was always going with some girl and being her best friend’s brother, Jack was always off limits in Maggie’s mind.

He caught her eye as she was glancing around the room while at the bar getting another Shirley Temple. He made his way over to her and his smile broadened when he realized she seemed pleased to see him too. He leaned against the bar and lightly touched her arm with his other hand.

“How have you been Maggs?” He said with a more familiar nickname than was warranted. She felt heat on her arm where his hand had been and butterflies in her stomach at his confidence in calling her Maggs. She was thankful that the glass in her hand was sweating as much as her palms were. She gripped both hands around it for a cooling effect.

“I’ve been good! How about you? I saw you didn’t bring a date…your girlfriend stay at home?” She was surprised by her own boldness. In her nervous state, she had lost a bit of her inner filter that would have labeled that question as presumptuous. But it was out there now, no taking it back. She stared down at her drink and stirred it nervously with her straw.

“I don’t have a girlfriend. Just living the bachelor’s life for now. Being single seems to fit my 60-hour work week and besides, if I had brought one, I wouldn’t be free to ask you to dance,” he said with the type of smooth tone that gives girls that light-headed feeling of being swept off their feet.

And it worked.

Maggie and Jack were inseparable the rest of the night. They danced till their feet hurt and talked until they had filled the gap of the last four years. She felt like she was living a dream. This boy of her childhood could easily become the man of her dreams.

 

(Part 1 Here)

Letters to Bea: Part 1

I am trying something new here. It may be a total flop and I am okay with that. The process of growing into a writer is both scary and uncharted for me. I have a small niche carved out in the devotional world (with 2 books on Amazon now), but I would like to dabble in the fiction world too. In order to do that and still keep all the plates spinning in the air, I thought I would share a fun short story with you. I have no idea where this story is going to go, but won’t it be fun to figure that out together? Now please note that this is all raw and sans editor. I am a writer, a creator of stories. The refinement process is a weak spot in my armor and I can only improve with time. So to all you grammar police out there, forgive me. I am a work in progress. Please enjoy some unrefined story telling, warts and all.

Without further ado, I bring you part one of Letters to Bea.


LTBpart1

Maggie sat at her desk with pen in hand. She stared down at the wrinkled appendages that had created so much in her lifetime. At 84, they were weathered and veiny. She had spent so many years up to her elbows in wet clay, shaping so many wonderful creations that all started out the same; a lump of cold, wet, grey clay. The end result was never fully envisioned in the beginning, but as each piece swirled around and around on the wheel, the specifics started becoming clear. She sat and reminisced in her mind about the joy that bloomed in her soul each time she put her hands on the blob in the middle of the wheel. She would slip wet hands on its silky surface and tune into its destiny. Like a figure appearing out of fog, the details would appear roughly and then with more precision with each passing minute.

This was her time with God too. She had heard him speak so clearly through her work. She herself felt like that clay in His hands. She felt loved and cared for as if He were shaping her with each trip around the sun. Her years were many now, but he was still shaping her. These days, she wondered when he would take her of the wheel of life and declare her a finished piece. She was tired and lonely. Her husband has been gone 5 years now and life still felt like it was lacking. She missed him so much at times she found herself crying in her daydreams and asking God to take her home. She wanted to be at the pearly gates with Jack to greet her. She spent hours it seemed each day fantasizing about their reunion. Why was she still here? What on Earth could God possibly have for her to do still in her advanced age?

She was still fairly active, she lived on her own and had a steady routine week in and week out, but her vitality was nothing compared to that of her prime. She fought the urge to be submerged in the days gone by. Remembering her entire life felt like a movie scrolled out across her mind. It seemed to happen a lot these days whenever she wrote to her best friend. They may live on opposite sides of the country, but that didn’t stop them from corresponding weekly. Sure they could call or FaceTime with each other (if there was a grandchild nearby to help), but there was something timeless about letters. There was something special about holding the same paper―a connection that the phone or other forms of technology just couldn’t give.

She put pen to paper and before she knew it, Maggie was back in time. It was September of 1940 when she met her best friend who would prove to be her greatest ally in this life. Beatrice, or Bea as she liked to be called, was everything that Maggie was not. She was brave, funny, and outgoing. I guess she had to be when she was always having to be the new kid. Bea was an Army Brat. Her dad was a veteran of World War 1 and had recently been stationed in their town. Bea came into third grade with high spirits and confidence to spare. Maggie, or Margaret as she was known in the days before Bea, was taken by her immediately.

Their friendship started over a game of marbles at recess. Margaret, Bea, and Robbie were all playing a rousing game that Robbie was winning by a long shot. He pointed his shooter, stuck his tongue out and shot his marble at the last two in the circle. His green shooter clacked against both marbles with professional precision. He scooped up his winnings and began putting them all in his pouch.

“Hey! You can’t do that. We didn’t say keepsies,” Margaret whined.

“Sure we did. Don’t you remember?” Robbie said slyly as he gave her a sheepish smile. Robbie knew that Margaret liked him and he was using that to his advantage.

“Now wait a minute,” Bea chimed in looking at Robbie, “We did not call keepsies. We only called ‘no quitsies,’ which was your idea. Now give her back her marbles!”

He knew full well that they didn’t call keepsies, but Margaret had a Devil’s Eye marble that Robbie had wanted to get his hands on since last school year. He had his chance now if dumb ol’ New Girl would just keep her mouth shut. Who did she think she was just waltzing in here and bossing him around? He stared her down for a minute trying to decide if he could bully his way into getting that marble. She stared back with a stone-cold expression. With two older brothers, Bea was not intimidated by this boy who she knew was trying to pull one over on her and this other girl. She glanced to her right to see Margaret looking down and fiddling with the four marbles she had won in the game. She was so small and mousy. Bea knew that if she didn’t stand up to this boy, this wet noodle of a girl would soon lose her entire marble collection.

Bea crossed her arms as if to emphasize her position in this standoff and gave a little harrumph to urge him to concede. It worked.

“Okay…Here you go, Mar-ga-RET” Robbie said with a defeated tone as he rolled his eyes. He tossed the marbles back to Margaret and she quietly put them in her pouch―never looking back up at him. Robbie walked away mumbling something about the new girl being a bossy britches.

Bea turned to Margaret and helped her put her marbles back in her pouch. As she scooped up her own she said, “You can’t let him bully you like that. He was trying to cheat you out of your best marbles.”

“I know, I just…well, he’s…I’ve known him a long time. He knows how to get under my skin, that’s all.”

“No one says you have to let him stay there. Next time, tell him to kiss off!”

Margaret blushed at the brash way she said that adult phrase with such mature air. It also made her giggle at the thought of telling Robbie Jones to kiss off. She looked up at Bea and asked, “So, what’s your name anyway?”

“Beatrice Elanor Wadell, but I like to be called Bea. And I already heard Robbie say your name is Margaret. Have you always gone by Mar-ga-RET?”

“Yeah…well, Margaret. Only Robbie says it like that. He knows it bugs me.”

“What about Maggie? It’s a nickname for Margaret and it fits you.”

With that a new identity was born for Margaret. She took to the nickname―and to Bea―like a moth to a flame. That day started the greatest of adventures for Maggie. She hoped that some of Bea’s tenacity would rub off on her. With Bea by her side, she could do almost anything!

Bea decided right then and there to be friends with Maggie for life. Moving around every few years had already gotten old at the tender age of 10. She knew that she was going to need a consistent ally if she was ever going to keep up this tough-girl act. Oh, sure on the outside she was confident and outgoing, but inside―each time they made a new city their home―her stomach did flips at the idea of having to be the new girl―again. At least this time, her new best friend had come along the first day of school. Maggie was desperate for a real friend, Bea could see that the moment she started playing marbles with her and that nasty boy, Robbie. She swore in her heart that she would protect Maggie from boys like that. Maggie needed someone like Bea in her life and Bea was all too happy to accommodate.

Humble Beginnings and Big Goals

humble beginnings

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”

Zechariah 4:10

When you are pursuing your dreams, the above words can be a great comfort. This verse among others drive home the point that overnight success is not the norm and that small beginnings are many times God’s way of grooming and refining you for greater things! Before I give the “but” to this idea, I want to highlight how important this is. God rarely gives someone charge over much before he is proven faithful over little. We need to honor the season that we are in and pursue what God has for us and wants to teach us in the moment. We cannot expect to build on our character and our experience without challenges and opportunities to live out what God is weaving into our hearts. Sometimes we get multiple tries at the same lesson. We start small and we may stay small―for longer than we would like. The question I have for you today is: Are you staying small because you are holding humble beginnings in both hands?

I have been thinking about this verse a lot lately. I began thinking about how solid and true it is to honor the season and stage you are in while you pursue bigger and “scarier” things. I saw it like this: You need to hold humble beginnings in one hand and big goals in the other. If you only hold humble beginnings (with both hands), you can fall prey to complacency. Your humble surroundings will become so comfortable that it is hard to branch out. You secure your place with wisdom like “do not despise humble beginnings…” and it keeps you so humble that you begin to despise lofty aspirations. This was never meant to be a piece of limiting wisdom. We need to hold these humble beginnings in their proper place. With respect as a wise beginning, not the final destination. If you are on a path to something greater, don’t get caught in the trap of humility. The Enemy can use it to ensnare you into believing that pursuing  bigger possibilities is prideful or egotistical. As long as your heart is right (which the Enemy knows nothing of) you can freely pursue your dreams to the fullest! So grab that humble beginning firmly in one hand.


 

The other hand needs to dig in and grasp the fact that we serve a big God! The God that is in charge of executing Ephesians 3:20:

“Now to the one who can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine according to the power that is working among us.”


 

We know that God, whom we love and serve, loves us infinitely more than we can comprehend. He gave us the Holy Spirit to indwell in us and work through us to accomplish the things placed in our heart from our inception. He cares about our heart’s desires. He cares about our passions and can work through all sorts of avenues to display his love to others. Your work, your passion is one of those avenues! When you partner with God on your life’s endeavors, he shows up. He often times starts us off small. He often grows us through adversity and blessings alike. We almost all start out small, but the ones who reach a higher potential are the ones who have humble beginnings in one hand and big goals in the other. They are content with their season, but not complacent. They respect where they are, but have faith for more.

The Kingdom is in an ever-expanding state. The heart of God is to grow you. We should always be pursuing growth in some form or fashion. Your rate of growth is as individual as your thumbprint. God knows what you can handle and he sees the future. I also have learned that success is not defined the same in the world as it is in the Kingdom of God. I want to be successful according to God, not the world. However, I never want to be stagnant. My growth rate is up to God, my decision to grow is mine and mine alone.

Humble beginnings, small steps, slow growth―all good things. They are not the only things. Include big goals, goals that scare you a little (or a lot). If you could see the ways and means of achieving every goal you have within your own power, what do you need God for? Dream past your own current ability. I have yet to regret doing just that.

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!

Transition: A Time to Anchor Yourself

anchorpalmerpost

It seems everywhere I go these days, I hear the women around me talk about a new season. They are all in transition from one phase of life to another. Some of the changes are small and some are huge.

I am part of a special group of women that meet on a Wednesday morning from after Labor Day to the end of May. It is such a wonderful group of women. We represent different churches, neighborhoods, seasons of life, and connections. Some home school, while others choose private or public school. We have women who have raised their children and others who are expecting. No two are alike in their situations. Yet, we all have a ravenous love for God and Holy Spirit’s role in our lives. We have a desperate desire to be extravagant lovers of people and Jesus. We are adamant about creating a safe place of worship and growth within the walls of the group. It is a slice of Heaven!

Today was our first day back and we flocked to the home of our sweet host as desert wanderers would flock to a well. The atmosphere was echoing with the sighs of our souls as we sought shelter among our sisters. As we all went around the room sharing our name and a little bio for the newcomers, a theme arose quickly. “I am in transition.” It was said both blatantly and vaguely. Some were quick to wave the flag of surrender to “doing it alone” and some where already grateful for the sisterhood the group has provided in the past and will continue to count on it for the future. I am humbled to be a part of such a remnant of women. I too am in transition and am seeking wisdom and prayer from my friends.

I have been in a season of raising babies and toddlers for the past 7 years and am on the doorstep of a new phase. My youngest turned 3 last week and I am seeing the last shreds of baby and toddler tendencies fall off our life like the remaining leaves on a November tree. Fast and forever. Obviously, I know there will be new leaves and new seasons and I look forward to all of that. But transition of any kind can be weathered more successfully if you anchor yourself in a few things that will always be relevant.


 

1. Daily time with God~ An easy answer, but how often do we forfeit this when life gets rough. It suffers and gets neglected in seasons of transition. However, Holy Spirit is waiting at the break of day to deliver PEACE and MERCY,  direction and comfort. Don’t pass up this supernatural dose of energy and love you get from being in the Presence every day…I am speaking to myself right now!

2. Community~ There is so much to be said for “doing life” with others. To know you are not alone. To know that others care for you. To have someone come alongside you and offer to help, pray, listen, etc. This is the most valuable (tangible) gift the Father gave us. Each other.

3. A Core Friend~ Unlike the group of friends I mention above, a core friend needs to know all the nitty gritty. They need to be a safe place to let it all hang out. If you do not have one of these people in your life, please make that a daily prayer until it happens. They will be key during a transition time.


 

These three tips will make a transition time easier in the long run. There will be hard times and heartache when you are growing and changing. God assures us there will be trials and tribulations. He also assures us that he has overcome it all! He will give you the tools you need to succeed (or simply survive) in this season. Anchor yourself in the gifts he has given you: Holy Spirit and other believers.