04/15/17

A Good Friday

A day of amazing grace, God’s glorious grace…that was today. This nature girl sought after treasures today with my mini-adventurers in the bountiful beauty of southern Utah.

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The drive itself lent to peace and calm as we sang along to our favorites. Arriving late morning in St. George we headed straight for our first destination…Snow Canyon State Park. Black lava boulders collided with bushels of deep green cedar with pops of sunny yellow wild blooms just opposite the fiery red bluffs.

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We hiked the petrified sand dunes but not without first finding Hannah’s favorite cedar tree from years past, fondly named “bushy”. She and tree seem to be growing at a similar rate through the years. Head to tree tip they stood nearly the same height yet again. Next the kids took off to rock climb a rugged cliff. I stood at the base as they navigated it together, until they were stuck and called for me. From the bottom it didn’t look so bad but mama climbed and quickly became petrified like the cliffs themselves, yet trying to calmly assist them the rest of the way up. We pushed each other figuratively and literally to the top.
It was such a symbolic moment of how many moments lately have been a push just to get through.

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After lunch we made our way northeast to the other side of St. George to Quail Creek Reservoir. It always takes a few stops to decide where you want to hang out for awhile, so after a quick stop at a shoreline that was murky, we found another spot. The only way down, thought the eight-year-old boy, was to slide down on his bottom…they enjoyed that immensely while I found another way, so as not to ruin my new yoga pants. 😉

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We hiked awhile and then found a spot worth our time. In our hiking I was excited to find that Utah also has a similar blooming beaver tail cactus, just as beautiful but a more thorny variety. We scrambled our way down the boulders to a rocky shore. They kicked off their shoes to dink their feet, while I sat in the tender, cool breeze that caressed my face and shoulders. Nearly in a doze with happiness of nature, my kids satisfied, and all the beauty surrounding me, I accepted this contentment despite all that seems to be amiss in my life. It was grace uninhibited, relentless grace from my Father.

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Thinking the day was over and we should start home we began to climb back up to our trusty steed. At the truck the kids convinced me in all their cuteness that I should drive another hour back to the other side of St. George to Pine Valley for their most favorite ice cream in all the planet. Pine Valley had been on our radar before the trip but a notice on their website said the state park was closed til May. The ice cream shop located just outside the state park could be closed too, but it was worth the drive to find out. To our delight the ice cream shop was open and we indulged ourselves, me having the tiniest ice cream cone we’ve ever seen!

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Back on the road now toward home, the day was full. Full of memories to last a lifetime and if they said “thank you mom for doing this today” once they said it ten times. All of our hearts were full. Somewhere south of Mesquite, Caleb decided the sunset was beautiful and wanted to capture it with the phone from the fast-moving car. He did a wonderful job and it was beautiful…all of it was beautiful. It was a good Good Friday indeed.

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03/25/17

Cry of the Quail

Quail make several calls or sounds. Today, a most distinct one stood out to me as the kids and I journeyed into the desert. One quail would call, the other would answer far off in the distance. The sound, was high in pitch and deep in meaning. I could liken it only to that of a beautiful cry. You know the ones I mean…when you just have to cry out to God so deeply, yet the release is so beautiful. And like the other quail, far beyond where my eyes could see, there was a response. An answer to the cry. God is so faithful to answer those who cry out to Him, for any reason. We cry for help, we cry because we are hurting, because the pain is so deep. We cry for answers and for wisdom, we cry for hope. God hears our cry. No matter how long we’ve been calling out, no matter how loudly…He is faithful to hear our cry, and in His perfect season He will answer.

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09/11/16
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Family Trees

Trees aren’t perfect. They have knots, sap, crooked trunks, branches missing, and some are just dying for lack of water and nutrients. Family trees are much the same. Some families are broken, cracked, and just plain dying. We may not have the family tree that boasts of wall-worthy ancestral pictures. We may not have the relationships that we hoped for and the fact is that we may never. At some point we have to learn to be alright with that, when we’ve done all that we can do.

We also need to know that our roots are not defined by the earthly family. Yes we were born into one, but what that family is or was to us does not define us. The Creator does. As the years go by I find myself more and more wanting to cultivate, nurture and feed the roots of my Spiritual family; That being first with God. He gave me life and breath. And to this day I breathe because of Him and no other. So it is my grateful privilege to give all my breath, life and energy back to Him.

Next, my Spiritual brothers and sisters require careful attention. More times than not, the body of believers has come through as family for me and I too must also be family to them. It is imperative we continuously remember we are rooted together in Him with love. We need each other. The body of Christ is family.

Every person walking and breathing on this planet has roots. Earthly roots and heavenly roots. When we’ve done all we can to help heal the earthly family tree and its roots but it will not revive, let us not grow forgetful of our Heavenly roots; our heavenly family. Multitudes of brothers and sisters around the world and in our local church body come together as family because of the blood of Jesus. Strangers in time become true sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers; because of Him, we are family. Not a perfect one, but a family just the same.

06/11/16

Gray, With Patches of Blue

The air is heavy with the fragrance of rain. The sky, mostly gray. Sunbeams shine down through the gray clouds as they slowly drift to the east, and patches of blue barely emerge with only a hint in the morning’s light.

The gray clouds, like the gray, dark times in life can feel heavy, and sometimes not hold beauty like a bright blue sky. However, when given a second look those gray clouds, and the gray times in life, offer a beauty like no other. If we can stop for just a moment and hear our Father’s voice saying, “I have you. This is no surprise to me. You are not alone. Take my hand and I will walk you through.”, then I believe the gray, dark times can be some of the most beautiful seasons in our lives. To know that the One who set the stars in the sky, who created all things, sees our brokenness and He is moved. He may not always change the circumstance to an outcome we desire, but we can rest assured that His design and will are perfect. That He is near. That He loves us. We can rest in knowing He is good and that what this broken world offers us as hurt God will make for our good and His glory.

Rejoice in knowing He is God of the gray and the blue skies. Hold on to the patches of blue in your dark times. They represent hope. Hope that brighter days are on the horizon and ultimately, hope that eternity promises never-ending skies of brilliant blue!

“The Lord is near the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

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01/13/16

One For the Books

It is not unlike me to take a look back and reflect on the previous year as I face another birthday. Last year at this time I was amidst a very difficult season in my life. Now that the year of forty-one has passed, flown by really, I sit in amazement of all that God did. I praise him for all that He saved me from. I fall to my knees when I think how many times He showered me with very tangible moments of His loving presence; Moments that will forever pale in comparison to any human interaction.

There were moments this past year that I could hardly breathe from the weight of all that I carried, yet my faithful Father again and again, bestowed mercy after new mercy each and every morning. There were many moments when no one in the whole world knew what I was dealing with or feeling. Not a single human soul. Yet God knew, and it was in those moments that I learned to lean on Him and trust Him in a way that I had never done before. He proved Himself trustworthy. More than that He proved Himself to be the Only One whom I can trust. He showed me that I am made to trust Him alone with all that I am. He showed me that in trusting Him I am free to love others with no strings attached. That I am to need people less and to love them more as I rely on Him for all my needs.

Sometimes our pain is self-inflicted, and sometimes its just life’s circumstances. Sometimes we make choices we deeply regret, but I am convinced that God does make beauty from ashes. However the pain was inflicted, He will restore. I am convinced that He is never done with us so long as we keep humbling ourselves to His gracious hand changing our hearts. I love God more now than I ever have before, but I had to walk a very dark and scary road to know that love. I would not for one second suggest we do things knowingly to test God’s love. But I will say that when we lose our way, when we think we have it all figured out and then wake up to our mess and realize we don’t, He will be there with loving arms wide open. He knows. He really does know all that we face and He sees beyond the tears and hurt to who He is shaping us to be.

I am in awe of God. I am in awe of how great He is not just for His great works, but for just who He is. That He shows His grace and mercy through loving brothers and sisters in Christ. I am in awe that He not only picks us up, dusts us off, polishes us up, but then still invites us to continue learning of Him. That He does not view our past when He sees us. He only sees the blood of His son. He sees what we were meant to be from the beginning and He continues to urge us on to become just that. This year goes down as one for the books. This year will be remembered for me as one of the most difficult, and most precious of all.

As I sit here tonight on the eve of forty-two, I start my second semester at Lincoln Christian University. This fall semester I took a couple theology courses and my eyes opened to a whole new world. (And they nearly fell out of my head from all the reading-Ha!) This spring I’m taking a world view class. As I read the pages of yet another couple of books, and learn of more ways to grow in Him, I’m ready to explode with excitement-what is He going to do with me now? I’m trusting. I’m surrendered. I’m waiting…I’m ready!

08/17/15

My Favorite Place on Earth

The cool wind whips through greyish-green shrubs as birds whistle their song in the distance. Far down in the meadow, cattle graze on sweet green grass, calling out their happiness with an occasional “moo”. Flies and bees buzz around my ears as wispy grey clouds float above me in the bluest of skies. The fragrant wild weeds with pink blossoms grace my senses, taking me deeper into this heaven on earth.
My heart is at home here. A precious refuge I have come so many times before-each time, my life being in a different place. I have wept here, rejoiced here, sat in awe of my Maker here, counted stars in the night sky here, played here, got stuck in the mud here, come here alone, come with ones I love. I have met God here. I could live here and I could die here.
Of all the majestic places in this great land that I have traveled to and seen, my heart is at home here-forever at home here in Grass Valley.

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06/15/15
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The Faith of Forgiveness

Forgiveness. Such a touchy word and even more, a tough word. When we hear it, we may think of  having to forgive someone, someone who has hurt us deeply. That can be a very tough part of life. We have to work through the pain and hurt, to give that person forgiveness which we think they may not deserve. This in and of itself is an act of faith. We must believe in and rely on God’s strength and remember His forgiveness toward us in order to extend forgiveness to them.

But there’s another instance when the act of faith must work with forgiveness…when we need to receive forgiveness. This faith, we exercise, is the faith used we first accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the One who paid the ultimate price on Calvary for us. That is a huge act of faith…believing He in fact died for us to cleanse us of unrighteousness as an unbeliever. But as we walk along in our journey with Him, that same faith gets exercised over and again, because we are being sanctified, continually made more like Him. We can seem to forget that this is not a one time act of faith.

When with what we may call the “little” things the Lord points out to us–  our flaws and short comings –we may have an easy time exercising that faith accepting His forgiveness. Those are the day to day things that he whispers in our ears. Those easily accepted convictions. But then there’s the “biggies”. The life altering mistakes, the ones that completely turn our lives upside down, the ones we really don’t want to admit.  Some people may have been affected by our faulty actions or maybe it is a deep secret kept, known only by God himself.  It is those to which we may struggle to accept His forgiveness. It is those mistakes that we cringe when we think of them, and we somehow cannot exercise the faith to believe He would forgive THAT! After all, I’m supposed to be a Christian, how can He forgive me of that?  You may have been there. I have been there. That place of absolute regret, where our minds play over and over again those regretful words or moments we cannot change or take back.  If we are to call ourselves Christ followers than we MUST, in faith accept His grace, mercy and forgiveness. Why? Because He says it is so.  Remember too,  we have an enemy, an accuser, who wants so badly to not only see us fall and fail, but who also wants to see us not accept God’s perfect hand of mercy and get back up again. Our enemy is relentless with our minds if we let him be there, and when we kick him out, he’ll quickly come back to haunt us once again if for a second we take our guard down.

So what do we do? What do we do as Christ followers to truly, deeply and intimately receive this amazing grace and forgiveness that Jesus has paid such an inconceivable price for? How do we let go of the guilt, regret and the shame of THAT “biggie”?  Here is what I believe must happen…

First, we must go back to the beginning…go back to where our journey started with Him. In our minds we need to go back to the moment when we first declared ourselves a Christ Follower, when we first committed ourselves to Him and believed that He in fact is the Son of God and that Jesus loved us so much, He paid the ultimate price. Taking ourselves back to this moment we need to realize that the grace of that moment is the same grace working in this moment. The same miraculous work of the Holy Spirit on the day I first believed is the same miraculous work that is taking place now, and it is the same miraculous work of the Holy Spirit that resurrected Jesus from the dead! There is life in forgiveness, and only death if we choose to wallow in our shame and regret.  God’s glory will not be found there.  1 Corinthians 6:14 “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” When we accept His forgiveness we are raised to life once again in Him–Eternal life in Him!

Second, we need to find our identity in Him….I am not what I have done nor am I defined by it.  Despite what others may believe or think about us or what they label us with, we are redeemed! I am HIS daughter, you are His child and He WILL finish what He has started in each of us as we accept His forgiveness.   Judgements may pour out on us through others’ actions, or in subtle glances and gestures, but our identity is found in Him. We need to listen ONLY to Our Father’s voice and who He says we are in Him.  1 John 3:1 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” And that is what we are!

Third, we need to decide…we need to choose. We may not feel worthy of His amazing forgiveness, but if we are in fact His sons and daughters, then we need to decide and choose to believe that He is speaking the truth to us whether it feels true or not. Whether is seems too good to be true, He has forgiven and is forgiving us, no matter what we have done! Just as others may judge us, who are WE to judge or deem ourselves not worthy of His forgiveness? He is the One who paid the price after all. It was His blood that was shed –not mine or yours!  Therefore we must believe that His forgiveness is real, that His word is true. That He wants to pick us up, cleansed and made new in His righteousness and move us on to greater things to bring Him glory! Philippians 1:6 “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Fourth, we need to stop measuring…stop comparing. There are no big sins or little sins. Sin is sin. Ultimately, sin is the rejection of God when you get to the heart of it. The works of the flesh are the byproduct of our rejecting God and His ways. Galations 5:19-21.  Someone once told me, “Sin is when we decide that God is no longer good and we begin to seek something else we think is better.”  Sound familiar? The Garden? Adam and Eve were deceived into thinking God was holding out on them and sought for something “better”.    We often measure sin by the results of the pain it causes or the consequences of our actions because indeed consequences vary. But in the end, sin is sin. If we reject what God has for us and seek anything else instead, we are sinning. We all fall short of the mark. Every single one of us. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,..” The Word and the Holy Spirit are to be our standard of measurement when we each look inside of our hearts. Instead of  judging ourselves as unworthy or justifying our actions in deceit, we need to accept what God HAS given to us as good. That He has plans to give us a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.)  When I “live” there, in the frame of mind that God has His best for me, abundant life is found.  I will be less and less likely to desire anything else but His good!

Lastly, we need to stay close to Him…abide in Our Father.  John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” To abide is to dwell or encamp with. As we combine all of the other steps into this one we will see peace come, and stay.  Staying close to Him, learning to abide in Him is where we will find our ultimate rest and the depth of His forgiveness. When we realize our Father’s outstretched arms never, ever close, no matter what we’ve done, we will find rest. He is so much bigger than anything we’ve done good or bad. His love for us does not change with the seasons or the weather. He is constant and continually pursuing our hearts. When we stay close, and I mean very close to Him we can begin to experience a deep abiding peace knowing we are loved just because we are His. Abiding in Him happens in many ways.

Prayer brings us close to Him. 1 Thessalonians says to “pray continually.” There is nothing that we can say to Our Father that will surprise Him or cause Him to reject us. Go to Him with thanksgiving, with your angst, with your worry, with your heartache, with your joy, with whatever you have. We should never cease to talk with our Father.

Staying close to Him also requires that we listen to Him. Abiding is not just our prayers going up, but also that we hear the Holy Spirit whispering to us. He will lead us and guide us…Psalm 25:15 “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” We are to acknowledge Him in everything we do and say.

Staying close to Him by knowing His word is also abiding. This is where we find our greatest source of comfort and where truth begins to root itself in our hearts. When the firery darts of the accuser come, and they will, we need to be ready to battle him with the truth of God’s Holy word. Know the Word. When we can recite the truth of God in scripture over and over again we can replace the judgements of others, and the voice of the enemy will too flee!

We have been created to bring God glory.  Everything ever created was meant to point back to and give glory to God. We as human beings created in His image have the ultimate capacity to bring Him glory by our life in Him. The faith of forgiveness brings Him that glory.  Sometimes it is in our good works that people are pointed toward Him. They see His love in us and long for that too. They see His goodness in us and want to know what it is about. But sometimes it is in our very rough places, in our biggest screw-ups that God speaks the loudest through us to reach others. When they see what He does with our brokenness, our selfishness, and our greatest weakness His glory shines forth. When others see God’s forgiveness at work in a reformed heart, in a reconciled relationship or a renewed life He will use even those darkest and most difficult moments to be glorified and draw hearts ever closer to Him. Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,  for those who are called according to his purpose.”

 

03/3/15

Following the Sun

The sun is always to our south. Even during the longest summer months of the year when the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest, it’s path is southerly in route. Why do I concern myself with this you ask? Well, as a child whose bedroom window faced north, I rarely, except in those summer months, received direct sunlight into my room. I saw daylight, but the sunlight, in all its beams of glory, only entered my room from June to August. I remember as I child, (not understanding why at the time), how I would sit at the southern part of our house in the direct sunlight.
I didn’t realize until later in life after my diagnosis, how deeply this lack of sunlight in my room affected me. Once I understood my anxiety and depression, and the need for direct sunlight and its great value of vitamin D, I began to purposefully follow the sun.

My house as it sits, faces west in the front and east in the rear. A multitude of windows face south. When I am not at work, it is not uncommon to find me sitting on the floor directly in the sunlight where it shines through the windows. The heat of it’s rays directly on my face, eyes closed, soaking it all in. It is feeding my soul. My body craves what it gives. And in the moments as the light moves across the floor, I follow it, moving with it until it is no longer there.
I find myself more alive in the sun. As it feeds the physiological and psychological parts of me, my spirit is lifted.

And so it is with following the Son. God’s only SON. As I sit in His presence with His love directly gazing on my face, my eyes closed, soaking it all in. He is feeding my soul. My soul craves what He gives. And in the moments as His light moves across my day, I follow Him, moving with Him….but He never “is no longer there”,….this Son is eternal. I find myself more alive in the Son. As I follow the Son, my spirit is lifted. I follow Him always, wherever He leads me, knowing that even in the darkest of nights, His light and goodness always prevail. I am following the Son, for my life depends on His light and His love!

Psalm 43:3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

02/28/15

A Smile in the Sunrise

Where does your first smile come from each day? I had never thought about it much until this morning. I was up very early with the start of sore throat, and could see through the window barely a hint of light in the sky. I could tell by how the dark gray clouds set atop the eastern mountains, that THIS was going to be an amazing sunrise. After laying back down for just a few minutes, and despite feeling tired, I went downstairs for the rocking chair. No, this is not something I do frequently but carrying the gliding rocker upstairs seemed the best idea, as to sit and behold the upcoming masterpiece, so I did! (I don’t recommend doing it either, but if you are home alone and want something done, just do it!)
I placed the chair at the perfect vantage point toward the sliding glass window, grabbed my phone and camera ready to take pictures and then watched… waited.
For several minutes a pale yellow sky held the backdrop of deep ominous clouds. But soon, it all began to change. As if He were painting me my own picture, God’s hand began to outline each cloud with bursts of pink then orange then bright yellow. Clouds higher in the sky held whispy pink shades melding into gray. Closer to the horizon He lit a fire behind the clouds and soon, sun beams shot through spaces in the clouds and blazed in the sky. The colors grew hotter and brighter until the sun itself peeked above the mountains and clouds, and there I found my first smile of this day!
I never took a single picture because I could not take my eyes away from His graceful and beautiful handiwork for one second. I sat, rocking in the chair and smiling at God. He is the only one who can make me smile this way. He does it often. Sometimes I’ll be staring out the window by the kitchen sink looking out at the mountains, and I’ll smile. It could be what I am seeing, or what I am hearing Him say to my heart, or both.
Does God make you smile? He wants to. He is, after all, our greatest joy! I am enormously blessed that He was the reason I first smiled today and that I found my smile in His sunrise.

02/23/15

Memorial Stones

When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Joshua 4:1-3

All throughout the old testament you will find the children of Israel partaking in memorials to remember the things God had done. The story above in Joshua is just one of many. There were feasts and sacrifices and offerings. Time and again The Lord instructed His people to partake in memorials of what He had done for them.

I’m challenged at this point in my life to begin to do the same. I recently was recounting my testimony to someone of how God delivered me from utter despair, and suicide. As I recalled the story I was deeply reminded of where I have been and where He has brought me. I suddenly became aware of how many other places along my life’s journey He moved in miraculous ways…and that He is doing miraculous things even now, that I cannot see.

Stop, recall, recount the times and many ways, my friends, of how Our Faithful God has come through for you! Begin to set up memorials for the things He has done. Be creative, write them down, frame it, draw a picture, express it in your own way. Let them be a reminder to you that He IS God, He IS still with you and He has not and will never leave you.

No matter what each of us face today, let us face it with the confidence of what God has already done, and that He is not done yet. He is still doing. Remember this day what the Lord Your God has done for YOU!

“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:39
Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. Psalm 66:5