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.

06/15/15
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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.”

 

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

12/31/14

A Reflection of 40

A mirror never lies. It’s only distortion is that you see yourself slightly different than others see you, because you see your reflection, others see as you are, not your reflection.  Every misplaced piece of hair, every wrinkle and line, the mirror shows it all.  When I look in the mirror I see my age creeping its way into the laugh lines, and crows feet around my eyes. I see a face that was once plump and soft at a tender twenty years old, that face is now altered significantly. No,  the mirror doesn’t lie. It conceals nothing, nothing except maybe the soul.

It is true when they say everything starts falling apart when you’re forty. I’ve seen my doctor more this year than in five years combined I think. From the beginning of January right after turning forty until this very last day of 2014, as I get ready for yet another appointment, I can attest to things in and on my body falling apart, hurting, tweaking, creaking and aches and pains on parts I didn’t know I had.  My mind says “sure you can play football on the asphalt with your students,” until I fall, bruise my entire right side and limp for a week! My body isn’t what it used to be.

As I reflect on this past year of being forty, I have become far more intrigued though with what has happened in my soul than how my face and body have changed and aged.  As I approached turning forty at this time last year, I was reluctant. My thirties had been delightful in many ways. I didn’t want to let that go. Now, having nearly finished this year of forty and reflecting on the journey that God has taken me on, I wouldn’t trade it for anything! Yet, these past three hundred plus days have been some of    the most challenging days in all my life.

Turning forty started out with a  question…”Will you follow Me? Will you trust Me no matter what?”  My whole life long I’ve had trust issues, for reasons that may never make their way to the page. I’ve trusted  God in some areas of my life, but this question was bigger than that. He was asking will I trust Him with everything, with every part of my life? Having been a “believer” most of my life, the answer was a “yes, but…..”.  I can say I’m a believer, I can go through all the motions of churchy-ness, and serving, but following is trusting one small step at a time. Trusting is laying it at His feet, and seeing the proof over and over again. It’s coming to the place of understanding that He sees the bigger picture. He knows what He’s doing. It’s  learning that when I’m believing that anything outside of His will could possibly be better for me, then I’m believing a lie, believing that His ways aren’t good enough for me. He asked me again….”Will you follow Me? Will you trust Me?” And with a silent nodding yes to my maker the journey of forty began. On faith, trusting Him, I took His hand into the unknown where I have absolutely NO control.

After taking a step in trust, He began to teach me that being a follower doesn’t mean happiness. I can hear all kinds of uproar right now, but hang on. Most of my upbringing and early Christian teachings were founded on the idea that if you do all that God has commanded, if you live the way He wants you to, do the right things, you’ll reap happiness in the end, because He will be more than happy to bless your efforts. Smack the cymbal of the Gong Show someone please, because THAT is SO not what He says in His word. Nowhere did He promise me a life of happiness, of unending emotional, physical and material blessing and bliss. No where! Yet I have believed this lie my entire Christian walk! (Sorry I’m a little angry about the lie right now.) Somewhere I was conditioned to think that as a follower I was entitled to get my way, and be happy all the time. Instead this year, He’s taught me the truth.

I learned (am still learning) that following Him is suffering. Following Him is dying. Dying to myself, my desires, my wants, my needs, my happiness, my dreams, my wishes of bliss. Following Him is letting go of all I’ve ever wanted and laying myself at the foot of His cross. Why? Because He redeemed me there and I’m no longer my own. To redeem, one definition I read is the “buying back of something lost.”  So if I’m going to believe enough to accept His forgiveness and pardon from hell, then I must believe enough to give Him all of me, inside and out. I must lay all of me down, and follow where He leads me whether I understand it or not. Whether it makes sense to me or not.  Whether it feels good or not. Whether my dreams come true or not. Whether it leads to happiness or NOT!

Now some of you may be thinking I’ve lost my mind and that surely Jesus wants us to be happy. Let us look at the definition of happy and happiness, shall we? Webster’s dictionary defines happy as “feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.” and happiness is defined as “the state of being happy : an experience that makes you happy.”  Read them again. The key words that pop out to me are pleasure, enjoyment, life situation, experience. Those are NOT lasting emotions, because those are ever changing things. My life situation can and will change from minute to minute, so will my experiences, they will be both good and bad. And so there ebbs and flows my ability to be happy. Ahhh….but here’s the clincher. Here’s the part that won me over this year. While I may not live in an everlasting state of emotional happiness, I can in any kind of suffering or heartache have JOY! He DID promise me JOY! What’s the difference you ask? Give me a second and I’ll clarify.

Let me go back to the suffering for just a minute. I talked about dying to my needs and selfish desires; That following Christ means to suffer. This year was an internal suffering and dying to self that I have never known. This year I lost count of the nights I spent crying out to Him in loneliness, pain and heartache. The uprooting of selfish desires does NOT feel good, but it is necessary to follow Him. That is why He says to His his disciples, (to all followers),  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 (ESV).  For me this translates to a conversation in my head that goes something like this, “Becky, I know what you want, what you long for and dream about. I know the holes in your heart. I know the pain and the loneliness. But lay that here at my feet daughter. Anything you could possibly dream that you’d want will not compare to what I have waiting for you when you follow me.”  Ok so it’s more of a monologue on His part and less a conversation, but that’s what He’s teaching me. That is also why He says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39. And this then brings me back to JOY.

Joy by definition is similar in layman’s terms to happiness. But in Biblical terms it is so much more! Joy in its purest, truest sense is not something based on fleeting experience or circumstance. But real joy, the one I’ve learned about this year is something that happens in the midst of suffering that can allow you to smile at adversity. This joy is only found in His presence, which is where I’ve spent a great deal of my time this year. If I have to die to self I don’t want to do it alone, I can’t do it alone. And so in my nights of dying to self and crying and letting go, came the joy of His presence. He has proven Himself to be right there with me in the midst of whatever I have faced this year. Joy, unspeakable joy comes in His presence, NOT from an experience or situation. Scripture says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11(ESV)  and “For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.” Psalm 21:6 (ESV)…how about this one, “For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” Psalm 63:7 (ESV) But perhaps one of my most favorites is this one…”Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy! Psalm 126:5 (ESV).  True joy which I have now known with my Redeemer is hard to describe unless you’ve lived it for yourself. It doesn’t exist in my striving to make myself happy, it only exists in His presence, where I have completely died to myself.

Learning to love as He loves has been the last part of this year’s journey. I posted a blog back in June titled Under the Knife, which spoke specifically about the moment of Christ’s “surgery” on my heart. That moment in time has changed my view on what love is, forever. Love is not about me. It is not about my happiness, it is not about emotion or feeling. Love is not about what I’m going to get out of it. Love is often doing what I don’t feel like doing and many times NOT doing what I feel like doing. Love IS sacrifice. Love IS suffering. Love IS putting the other person’s needs before your own. Love IS looking past faults and imperfections to find the beauty of which God’s hand created in others. Love IS a whole lot of things I knew nothing about and I’ve never lived out before this year. (Read Under the Knife-June post to find out more about what I learned about what love IS.) 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 in speaking of what love is and what love does has never been more real to me than this year. It reads, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”  His love for us never fails. If I am alive in Him, then my love for others need not fail either.

As I reflect on being forty I can see how He’s been intertwining these things in my life this year through different means, relationships and so forth. But each of them, trust, joy in suffering and learning to love His way have made their mark on my heart and have changed this soul forever. Forty was hard, but God is faithful in all things.

 

12/20/14

Mary- A Life Surrendered

They were betrothed. They had plans. Their families had plans. It would be a beautiful marriage, because I believe Mary and Joseph were in love.
Then the Angel of the Lord came with words that Mary, young pure Mary has found favor in the sight of God. The Angel tells her of God’s plan and what the Holy Spirit will do.
I’m sure she had questions, lots of questions, more than what she voiced. Perhaps her head was spinning, swirling, as if she were in a dream, wondering if the angel were real.
“Could God really be choosing me? What will my parents say? Will Joseph believe me?” There was so much at risk. Her wedding! And she couldn’t even know how people would talk when Jesus was grown when he did not become the king people expected; The king who was supposed to save them from Rome. How he would be referred to as “the son of Mary”.

Christmas would not exist without lives willing to surrender. I suppose Mary could have opposed, turned, right then and there from God. But she didn’t. Despite her questions and longing for the desires of her heart to be realized in marrying Joseph she didn’t turn away. Surely the desires of her flesh were as real as any young woman’s…to be loved and trusted by her beloved, to have her parents approval, to keep her family honor in tact, to be respected by those in her community, and to have a beautiful Hebrew wedding. And that may have been only the beginning of her desires. I can’t get inside Mary’s head, but if I were a young girl again, pure, knowing I had the love of a good man, my desires would be that of those mentioned and I’m sure I wouldn’t want anything to stand in the way. Mary desired good things. These were all things that would honor God, yet that was not HIS plan. Could she surrender and give up her desires for what God wanted? Was God going to be enough?

She said, “yes” to God. When God approached Mary through the angel, she had a choice to make. We are all like Mary. God is asking something of us. He first longs for us to follow Him, to make our hearts a comfortable home for Him, where He may dwell to lead and guide us and show us how to love. But we must be willing like Mary to surrender. Then, along our journey at any given moment God may ask of us more than we may be willing to do or give, but the question is do we trust Him?  Do I trust him? That is how we take Christmas with us everyday. Will we trust Him with hearts of uninhibited, childlike faith? Will we allow Him to use us to further his Kingdom purpose just like Mary did over 2000 years ago? Denying our desires, and surrendering to His will and giving up dreams?

So often obeying God, surrendering our will and desires to His ways does not make sense to us, and we wrestle day after day. Not that we are robotic in our obedience to Him either. He gave us thoughts and feelings and even room for doubt and question. Yet when we examine God’s history, His faithfulness in the lives of the saints gone before us, and even in our own lives we’ll find His ways are always right and good and perfect. In the end, He will not disappoint.

Mary gave up her dreams for God’s will. She risked Joseph not taking her at all until the angel spoke to him, but then she gave up a traditional wedding to be “married quietly” by her Joseph. No celebration, but a somber perhaps confusing union for all. Not knowing the outcome, Mary wholeheartedly surrendered, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.”
But I have this very strong conviction, that when the long journey to Bethlehem was over, and a lowly place was found to lay her head, that when the sweat and tears and pain of birth were over and she finally held her precious baby boy in her arms, none of what she had longed for mattered. What her parents believed did not matter. What society would say did not matter, her reputation did not matter. Losing a traditional wedding did not matter. She held that perfect, little baby so tenderly to her heart, she held the SON OF GOD, with her faithful Joseph by her side. Then, in that moment, NOTHING ELSE MATTERED! In the end for us, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS except that we follow after Him with our whole heart.
God help me to take the surrendering truths of Christmas with me everyday by bringing me to the place where nothing else matters to me but surrendering to you, because your ways are perfect. Even when I don’t understand, even when everything I desire seems right and good in your eyes; God may I deny myself and follow you, to do your will and be like Mary and bask in the joy of life with you and life in you.

10/13/14

Making the Grade

I graded. All. Day. Long. I sat in the hunter green padded kitchen chair for at least six hours if not more, grading stacks of papers trying to close out the first quarter of the school year. Reports cards are due. I was happy doing my work, don’t get me wrong. I love my job more than words can express, but sitting in one spot for so long I knew I’d go nuts another minute longer.

Inspired by a friend, I decided to go for a run. Just what this sedentary body needed. I didn’t know how my body would respond. It was a trying week physically. This past Thursday I had memory loss and thought for a moment I was twenty again. I was on the asphalt playground with my 6th grade class playing football. With a jumping reach for a pass, I missed and the entire right side of my body planted into the asphalt. It was one of those moments you’re either going to laugh or cry. I laughed, got up and continued with the game. As the hours of the day passed and my students moved on to other classes, my body stiffened and by day’s end I limped to my car.

Now, Sunday, and walking much better with a bruised knee and sore hip and shoulder I wasn’t sure my body would be up for this run, but I went anyway. Parking at the Armagosa trail head, I decided I really am crazy. This is a rocky dirt trail that climbs up the hills on the side of Black Mountain. Another kind of grade awaits me. Yep, I’m nuts!

I walked fifty yards downhill, fast paced to warm up, and then off I went.  Changing quickly the path turns uphill. It is not a super steep grade at first, but then it climbs…up… with switchbacks, bends and turns.  My legs burned, as with each step I dodged rocks and holes. I pushed myself further up wanting to know what I was made of now after all the ailments, and injuries. Shockingly, I sailed up this hill. My lungs filled deep with air. I felt as though something were tethered to me ahead of me pulling me up further and further. I reached a peak, one of my favorite places to perch, and then went down the other side careful as not to eat the dirt while running down hill, (it’s happened before). Another hundred yards and then I head back the direction of the car but this time off the trail and onto some dirt that had been graded out of the mountain side for a housing development years ago. Only a slight down hill grade and much smoother footing, I picked up my pace. The car was getting closer and closer parked on the road but I wasn’t done. Now on the street one hundred yards from the car I did an about face and sprinted back up hill. I opened up sprinting fifty yards then jogging back. Sprint uphill, jog back, repeat. After three or four of these I decided it best not to press my luck though I felt I could do it all night long. With a swift walk downhill, I cooled down with a ten minute walk, still reeling with delight like a giddy school girl in love.

Some may think I’m crazy, but only runners will understand the “high” that comes from a running workout. I caught my breath enough to whisper out a “thank you Jesus.” I’m in awe of what my body is accomplishing right now. It was about a fifteen to twenty minute non-stop, rigorous mile and a half run. That is slow to some, very slow. But I am on cloud nine! I made the grade.  I pushed.  A month ago I didn’t even know if I would be able to run anymore, ever. I am thankful, so grateful for another chance to do what lifts my spirit and inspires my mind and soul and gives glory to my Creator if only with a whisper of thanks and praise.

Epilogue- It was the most intense of my runs yet this month, so much so I coughed all the way home in the car. I needed air and the inhaler was at home. After two quick puffs and an open airway, I celebrated my run with three slices of my favorite pizza and a long drink of water!

 

 

10/7/14

Rock in my Shoe

Warmth. A little warmer than I would have liked for this afternoon’s run. But I feel good, I’m going.
I warmed up with a fast paced walk then began a slow run…with a rock in my shoe. I was going to stop and get it out, but decided to leave it in there and see how long it would take to annoy me. Why would I do that?
It tossed its way under my foot, to the heel then the ball, and the arch. Bouncing around it did annoy me, but the music was loud and my body moved unusually quicker with each step. Before long I forgot about the rock, or pebble or whatever it was. So focused on my breathing, my pace, the fact that I was actually running, breaking a sweat, the rock became insignificant.
As I slowed finally to cool down at a walking pace I didn’t feel the rock any more. Had it bounced out? To do that, it must have been just a little pebble! At home I took my shoe off and shook. Nothing was there.
The rock in my shoe…how it is like life’s boulders. They annoy, they take us by surprise, the move around and make us uncomfortable. I want to live my life like I was on this run today. To be so focused on my Help, my Hope, my Salvation. So focused on the One who loves me most. I want it to be that all the boulders in my life become insignificant. Holy Spirit bring the realization to my heart and mind that whatever temporal boulders and rocks are in my “shoes” will not compare to the joy that waits for me in Your eternal glory, especially because then, they will all disappear! “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”-2 Corinthians 4:17.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”– Romans 8:18

I was with you in the valley
And up upon that hill
So take just one more step in front of you
For I am with you still, you still
And you’re not alone
Shine on Shine on – “Shine On”- Needtobreathe

 

09/27/14

Trust Calling

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I ran. Maybe only 100 meters on the dusty desert dirt road, but still I ran. I probably shouldn’t have just yet, with my old running shoes worn with miles. I didn’t even stretch. But this week I’d been given the green light that I could start running again after three and a half long years. Something in my soul has been missing. Today, a small start.
The fragrance of the green desert sage brush after yesterday’s rain beckoned me farther down the dirt road. Grossly out of breath, I cut off the road to climb a hill. Stepping over rock and baby cactus I now find myself  perched once again to see immaculate views of the valley I call home. I’m not sure why I like being up so high, maybe because I’m short, and it’s nice to have the vantage views now and again. Or maybe it’s because on the inside I’m searching for the bigger picture…a new perspective. Trying to get a glimpse of the things in life I don’t understand. But even here perched up on this hill, the gusty wind is about to blow me over. It’s a broader, grander view but not without it’s struggles.
So I may never understand certain things…I get it Lord. But sitting here in the quietness of soul I’ll rest. I’ll try once again to submit. I’ll learn one day to trust you.
“Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5