The Roller Coaster of Life

I spent a wonderful Mother’s Day at Cedar Point amusement park with my son. It has been a few years since I have been there. 

As we walked through the park, I enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells. We waited five minutes or less for each ride. I was so thrilled that I was able to ride the upside down rides without getting sick.

It also took me back a few years to a youth group trip to Cedar Point. Our youth leader did a devotional that day called…the roller coaster of life. I was a lot younger back then and as I reflect back to that moment, I agree…life is much like a roller coaster.

There are times of great highs and lows. We climb hills of anticipation and then things we have looked forward to are over so quickly. Sometimes, things we looked forward to aren’t as fun as we thought. Other times, we realize that things we were afraid of really aren’t so scary. We might find ourselves screaming one moment, then laughing the next. The twists and turns of life can take us upside down and right back up.

I was apprehensive about riding roller coasters, but I really wanted to have this time with my son. To my delight, my stomach didn’t get all queasy on the rides. I had been praying about this day because it was so important to me that we have this time together.

God cares about the big and little details of our lives. He wants to hear our hearts. He cares deeply about us and desires a relationship with us.

God has a plan for your life. Through the roller coaster of life, hold on tight and trust God on your journey.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9

What to do with Defeat

I hate it when life feels fine and then all of a sudden, it’s like that sturdy sense of stability falls out from under you. What exactly am I referring to?

Friday afternoon at work at 4:40…just when you think you might be able to leave by 5…things unravel.

Sigh…what do you do with that feeling of defeat? 

I don’t believe in coincidence. Rather, I believe firmly that God uses things and orchestrates events in our lives. This morning, my devotional was about those difficult times…do we pray for a way out or do we pray for way through?

Out and through are very different prepositions.  

I believe we do some of our best growing as we walk through challenging circumstances. When our eyes are on God and our heart open to His promises, He can do some amazing work in our lives.

So, what did I decide to do with my feeling of defeat? I chose to listen to the voice of truth. I cranked up my Christian playlist on the drive home, and once I was home, I hit the pavement for a soul refreshing, mind clearing run. I flooded my mind with His truth, prayed, and ran. 

I received some great insight during my run. The defeat will not defeat me. I will cling to His promises. 

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 

Traveling to or through

I spend hours on the road commuting to and from work. Since I drive interstates and the toll road, I see lots of trucks.  Trucks travel miles through towns, counties, and states on the road to a destination. 

As a kid, I was fortunate to grow up with parents who loved to travel. Although we flew occasionally, I actually preferred to do cross country road trips. We traveled miles, and I loved looking out the window at the passing scenery. Some vacations if we had time, we would stop at unplanned destinations as we passed through somewhere. Those were some of my favorite memories.

Are you traveling through or traveling to?
In life, we all go through struggles and challenging times on the way to a destination. Maybe this destination is a much hoped for new job, college courses to your degree, a relationship, the quest to buy a new home, or a million other things. While this journey may be painful, if we are paying attention, there are lessons to be learned as we go through the journey. 

Some of the most difficult moments in my life as I struggled through on my way to something greater have taught me the most amazing lessons. For example, the painful journey through my anxiety struggles these past few months have taught me coping strategies. The journey through has brought me to a greater sense of peace. 

Don’t miss the scenery as you pass through on the way to your destination. There are lessons to be learned along the way. If we look, we can always find something meaningful along the way. 

Wednesday Words

I have really enjoyed my little piece of quiet stillness in the mountains these past few days. I have enjoyed lazy mornings, time to relax and reflect, the beauty of nature, witnessing hope in healing from the fires, and time with those whom I love.

Simple moments matter. Sometimes, doing nothing is the something that you need most.

As I bid the mountains farewell, I want to share some great words with you that have been staring back at me each day here in this cabin retreat.

Have a great day. I challenge you to choose a phrase from the picture and live those words today. As for me? I will strive to listen to others with my whole heart.
Have a great Wednesday. Make the best of it!

Beauty from Ashes

The perfect vacation for me is a quiet escape to the mountains. As we spiraled a narrow winding road up the mountain to a cabin retreat, I breathed in the sense of rest I knew would be mine to cherish the next few days.

The area of the Great Smoky Mountains is near and dear to me. My parents first introduced me in my junior high school days, and I fell in love with the majesty of the mountains. I introduced my husband when we were dating, and he instantly fell in love with the area, too. Since we first said “I do” at a mountain chapel, we have made several trips to the area through the years.

This particular year, our hearts are saddened and joyed at the same time. Back in November, Gatlinburg suffered from a forest fire. As we drive through the area and see the remnants of the damage, I am reflective of beauty from ashes. 

On our peaceful horseback ride this afternoon, several blackened trees marked the sides of the trails. Driving through the town and adjacent roads, burned buildings still beckon to be repaired. A few former attractions and hotels remain closed. For the most part, though, Gatlinburg is alive and well. The area has rallied together since those horrific days and rebuilt beauty from the ashes.

I saw this on a hotel sign…”God bless Gatlinburg and America.” Another sign read simply “Mountain Strong.”
Isaiah 61:3 reads…To those who have sorrow in Zion, I will give a crown of beauty instead of ashes. I will give them the oil of joy instead of sorrow, and a spirit of praise instead of no hope. Then they will be called oaks that are right with God, planted by the Lord, that He may be honored. Isaiah 61:3 NLV

As I read this passage, Gatlinburg could easily be substituted for Zion when I think of the situation of the forest fire. In any situation that seems hopeless, God can make beauty from ashes. When we trust Him to transform the situation, hope replaces despair and all the Glory goes to Him.

Gatlinburg will always have a special place in my heart, and I am humbled by the reminder of God’s power to create beauty from ashes in all things.
#gatlinburgfires #greatsmokymountains

Confused Flowers and Brokenness

I’m in a bit of a slump. I’m not sure why or how I found myself here. I think I am simply tired and exhausted on so many levels.

Yesterday, it snowed in my neck of the woods. The spring flowers are confused after the unseasonably warm February days. As I looked at my neighbor’s slumped over yellow flowers blanketed by snow, I thought, that’s just about how I feel.

Broken. Defeated. Tired. Confused.

Like the flowers pushing forth and attempting to spread some sunshiney joy and then unexpectedly set back by a little snow… It feels a bit like, well, life. Things are going well, life happens, and then you feel defeated, discouraged, drained.

A passage from Psalms flashed through my mind as I snapped the picture of the flowers.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:17

And, just like that standing there shivering in my driveway looking at my neighbor’s pathetic flowers​, I was reminded that God welcomes our brokenness.

Perfectionism is not my purpose.
Sigh. How often I forget this and try to aim for something I can never attain. 

No wonder I am tired.

God honors our broken spirit. I find that a lot of the time, I overthink, I work too hard, I push myself too much.

The answer isn’t working harder. It is trusting God more. Listening. Accepting that I can only do so much in a day. It is learning to be okay with knowing that I will never make everyone happy. 

I try to pray during my commute into work. I pray that God will help me through whatever comes my way. He already knows what I will face. My response to it is my choice. 

My current situation? The slump I am in? I think I am tired. Life is filled with pressures and expectations. Sometimes, a snow storm can beat down the flowers, but that isn’t the end of the story or the end of my story.

God is working. We don’t see the details, but He is paving the way. 
But forget all that-it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a path through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19

God honors your broken spirit. There’s always hope for the spring.

The Illusion of Perfection

I fight the thoughts of perfection as chocolate smoothie falls onto my white top. I try to remind myself of how far I have come from the grips of anxiety, self doubt, and the second guessing. Those reminders can seem like mere whispers among the shouts of the world… You’re not good enough!!

As I listened to another woman’s fears and saw her tears earlier this week, I saw my own fears through her words. I was reminded that we are all broken people fighting a battle of some sort.

I attended another Casting Crowns concert this past weekend, and as I listened to the lyrics of the songs, I did reflect just how far I have come in just a few months since I heard them in concert in October. 

From their song God of All my Days…My seasons change, You stay the same.

Despite my circumstances and feelings, God is the constant in my life. When the anxieties of not being good enough creep up, God is constant. When the fears of failure knock at my heart, God is constant. He stays the same through all my changing seasons.

The illusion that everyone else has it together but me is just that…An illusion. I remember the first time I visited one of the other soccer mom’s homes. You couldn’t see her kitchen table. She had a stack of reading books by her bed. A huge stack. Her kitchen counters were filled with packages of food and a sink with dirty dishes. I remember sighing a huge sigh of relief inside…I wasn’t the only mom who didn’t have it all together. It really was OK.

I have been really reflective the past few weeks. Perhaps it is related to the passing of my dear 95 year old friend. Her life left such a legacy.

As I think about success and what it means, it is not about having it all together. How do I define success? What do I do well?

I would like to believe that I love people well. 

Instead of cleaning the stacked mail and clutter off the table last night, I spent some quality time with my son. He will remember that much longer than he will a clean table.

A few things to remind you mid-week…

Perfection is an illusion.

Success is defined individually by what matters most to us.

We are all broken people in need of each other.

God is constant. He never changes.