Comfortable with Uncomfortable

I remember sharing a thought with a friend once…I don’t think God wants us comfortable.

In the valley of comfortable is the land of complacency, stagnation, and indifference. I have been there more than a few times.

In Joshua chapter 7, after experiencing a great victory, the people face a defeat. Joshua laments, Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all-to deliver us into the land of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?

How does God answer him? Get up!!

How easy do we forget our victories when we are faced with challenges, defeats, and mountains??

I am not comfortable now. I am being stretched and challenged. More than once recently, I have felt God telling me to get up when I felt knocked down.

This morning, I can smile. I have had some challenging days, but I have sensed the Hand of God all over my life. Little things have caused me to step back and smile. Progress not perfection. Seeing my son interact in such caring ways with residents. Positive interactions with the staff and residents. Allowing myself to take feedback, reflect, and be willing to grow from it instead of internalizing and being defensive.

Sometimes in the midst of struggle, it can be hard to find the light in the desert.

The light is there. When we keep our eyes and thoughts fixed on God, it keeps our focus on where it should be. My friend, I don’t know what your life looks like, but if you are feeling uncomfortable…trust God to use your situation to stretch you and grow you closer to Him.

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Remnants of Me

“Do you want that old dictionary?”

My college age daughter was in the process of cleaning out her bedroom. As she uncovered her own pieces from her childhood memories, she stumbled upon this…

It is a worn, somewhat tattered dictionary. I remember purchasing it for a $1 at a department store, perhaps Montgomery Wards. I remember being so excited as a fourth grader. I was already writing at that age. I have been a lover of words for as long as I can remember.

As I flipped through that old dictionary, I found random words highlighted.

Why?

Secure? Indignant? Abrupt?

I searched within myself… trying to guess why out of all the words in the English language, I would have chosen those words.

Now, there is one thing you should know about me. I love highlighters. A lot. I highlight passages in my Bible, in books I am reading, my to do lists… basically, everything. 😁

But, as a young child, what would have possessed me to highlight such random words?

As I reflect on those words, these are my thoughts…life is abrupt…change comes often and with little warning. Even as a child, I had recognized that fact of life.

Secure…I like to feel safe and free from doubt or fear and unlikely to fail. As a child, I know I valued that. As an adult, I am venturing into different territory where I can accept my doubts yet push on and where I am learning to embrace my failures as opportunities to grow.

Indignant? I suppose I learned early on that life is not fair.

Words…I love them. It has been fun to find that old dictionary and to go through glimpses into my child brain.

I know God was already working in my life from that early age. Those words are reminders that He has our lives in the palm of His hand.

Despite the abrupt changes in life and the indignation I feel at things in the world, I can rest in the safety and security of His constant peace.

There’s nothing deep in these words, but I hope they touch you somewhere within yourself and remind you that God has been, is, and will be with you always.

Sometimes, wisdom is found in remnants of our childhood. What pieces of your childhood still speak to you now?

Freeze Warning

A snowflake icon pops up on my smartphone. A freeze warning. The warning is obviously in regards to sensitive vegetation and crops left unprotected.

I am choosing to take a different perspective on the freeze warning.

This is the final full day of our vacation. We have had two full busy days of hiking, exploring, shopping, and tourist stuff. They have been very good days and a nice way to reconnect on our 20th anniversary getaway.

Today, though, sans four wheel drive with steep mountain roads, we will heed the warning to freeze and stay inside.

Outside the cabin, the snow falls gently and lightly. Nature cares not that it is the second day of spring. The view is gray and hazy. We see trees blanketed in white, but the view of the distant mountain tops is obscured by this overhanging haze.

So, this is what a snow day feels like?

Days of my childhood come flooding back to me. I remember the excitement of hearing the announcement that school has closed. As an adult with a career in long term care, there are no snow days. Waking up to snow means taking a deep breath, hurrying in my morning routine, and praying for safety and protection from the elements as I prepare to make a sometimes treacherous drive into work.

Today’s snow day is a gift. I will gladly accept this freeze warning as an opportunity to be still. The majesty of the white splendor is breathtaking. Reading by the fireplace, journaling, card games and movies…there is no place I must go.

Yes, today is a welcomed reprieve from the busyness of everyday life which will all too soon beckon again.

Today is a day to relish in being still. Sometimes what seems like an annoyance (the snow on the last day of vacation) can be a blessing (a day to relax and be still) depending on our perspective.

Have you ever experienced a blessing in an unlikely experience?

Hiding

I have had an emotionally challenging week. I didn’t realize that I would struggle so much this week. The impact of everything and my emotional response blindsided me.

Let me back up a bit and fill in a few details…I lost a high school classmate and friend very unexpectedly in a car accident. I had a difficult interaction with someone this week. My daughter went back to college after winter break and I already know she will not be home for the summer. Long days at work equal exhaustion.

I slept in today on this Saturday morning. I rarely sleep in. My husband brought me coffee to bed and I am lingering for a bit before starting my day which affords me time to reflect.

My week has made me really think about this…how often do we hide behind masks? We smile. We tell the world we are fine. We push on through the challenges of our jobs and lives.

This is all great. Having a spirit that can persevere through whatever life brings is great. I call myself a fighter, and I am, but sometimes we need to take off those masks and stop hiding behind them.

Sometimes, we need to be transparent and vulnerable. Not with everyone. It feels risky to take off those masks. Some people honestly won’t care what is behind them. We want to protect our vulnerable self.

Prayer is so powerful. I believe God wants us to be real, definitely with Him. I encourage you to read the Psalms. So much raw emotion is poured out to God in those Psalms. I also believe God cares about us and wants us to feel the freedom to be vulnerable and transparent. I believe He places safe people in our lives. I had some very powerful conversations this week with safe people in my life. God takes care of us through the love of others.

I also have been reflecting on the ways others around me hide behind their own masks. I have seen two situations this week where people have broken down, the weight of hiding behind the masks suddenly too much. 

I encourage us all to….

1. Regularly read the Psalms and share our own raw emotions with God.

2. Pray for those safe people in our lives.

3. Just be kind… everyone has a story and some hide more behind masks than others.

Last night I heard this song … If We’re Honest by Francesca Battistelli. Sometimes, we just need to be real. 

It’s a new year. Let’s come out of hiding and strive to be better versions of ourselves and to love more genuinely.

What helps you when you feel like hiding?

Patient Endurance

It’s the time of year when many people become reflective. We look back at all we have accomplished, and we look forward to all that is ahead. 

I am one of those people. I have my words and my verses. This particular year started off with a family vacation to Florida which provided time for reflection. It was also filled with expectations, and the lessons when these expectations were not met. 

It was as though God was reminding me…you may have your agenda, but I have a greater purpose.

Sometimes, we are humbled.

Vacation provided multiple such moments…

* Since the rental car was in my name, I had to do all the driving and endure my children’s backseat driving. Usually, Dad does the driving. My husband and I switched our usual roles of driver and navigator.

* Legoland was definitely geared towards younger children, but we shared  laughter over my husband and son being stuck on a ride. We all enjoyed the ski show and a peaceful walk through Cypress Gardens. 

* The hood of our rental car was full of paint scratches after Legoland. I am grateful that we purchased the damage protection plan.

* The kindness of strangers was revealed during our airport experience.

 * Craving pizza, our GPS led us to a gas station where the windows were barred.  Needless to say, we traveled back to the hotel and ordered pizza.

Vacation is like that…the anticipation and the expectations sometimes don’t match the actual experiences. 

Nevertheless, we had a great time on vacation. I was reminded so many times to let go of my expectations and to be present and open to the moment. Joy is a choice.

Life is like this especially in the dawn of a new year. I look forward with expectancy to the year ahead but I will be careful to not let my own expectations and agenda get in the way of God’s greater purpose.

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised. Hebrews 10:36 NLT

The Moments…

Some things are almost certain as a mom of boys.

  1. You will at some point experience the excruciating pain of stepping barefoot on a Lego.
  2. You will find the most random of things in pants pockets when you do laundry.
  3. You will be caught off guard from an unexpected Nerf gun dart when you least expect it.
  4. You will hear yourself asking…did you put on deodorant… daily in those preteen and even into teen years.
  5. Boys do things to surprise you. Often.

As I sit here and linger for just a few more minutes enjoying the tree, I focus not on the fact that my son will awake in an hour asking where he left his shoes but rather on the moments from the weekend that make me go wow. 

My son went to the basement this weekend and brought up all the Christmas decorations without being asked. He just did it. He started decorating and patiently waited for me to finish what I was doing so I could help. Then, he cleaned up and took it all back downstairs.

His college age sister had to buy a car this weekend. They sat beside each other in the front as my husband and I sat in the back as we drove around to see Christmas lights. My husband leaned over and whispered to me, “Our children are getting along.” Our son later declared he was going to work really hard when he was old enough to get a job so he could buy a nice car like his sister.

My little chef made a double layer cake yesterday. He improvised. Our cake pans were two different sizes. Oops!

As I dropped off a dear 93 year old lady whom I take to church every Sunday, she hugged me tightly and told me to enjoy every moment with my children. “Don’t wish the moments away. Even the hard ones. They go by so quickly.”

As we head into the Christmas season, may we stay focused on the things that matter. Let’s not be so busy that we miss the special things our children do, the whisprered words of our spouses, the wisdom from dear friends, and the greatest Gift of the season…our Savior Jesus Christ.

Don’t wish the moments away, even the hard ones.

What are your favorite things about this time of year?

Sometimes, Grace isn’t so easy…

Maybe it’s the rainy day. Or maybe it’s because I am tired and haven’t been sleeping well.

Or maybe sometimes, grace isn’t so easy.

I am writing, reflecting on grace, but here I am right now in this moment finding myself wondering…why is this so hard?

Why is it so hard for me to accept the gift of grace from others? And even more so, why is it so hard for me to extend grace to myself?

I am quiet tonight. Reflective. 

Unexpected grace extended to me when really I wasn’t expecting it. It would have been easier for me to hear…you messed up, you made a mistake, how could you not….you get the idea.

It is so much more difficult for me to receive grace from others than it is for me to extend it.

And extending it to myself? Even more difficult.

It is easy to slip back into the performance perfection based expectations I hold of myself.

This often seems to happen to me as I am in the midst of something bigger than myself.

This morning, I read this: “Here is the great irony about opportunities. They usually come disguised as insurmountable problems.” Mark Batterson, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly the place to find grace. Even if it isn’t so easy.

Do you find it hard to accept grace?