Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I Will Also Dance

I am so thankful to be part of Bonnie Gray's launch team for her beautiful - inside and out - new book, Whispers of Rest. It just released yesterday!

I've been reading it for close to four weeks* and it's been like I imagine cups of water feel when handed to marathon runners. This devotional has been poetic, practical, and peaceful relief and refreshment on a daily basis during a time when I have desperately needed it.

Jesus has met me through these pages.

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In recent days, God has used Bonnie's words to remind me my hope is in Him. Not doctors or teenagers or myself or anyone else. My hope is in Christ and the Holy Spirit IN me and IN God's people. But even so, clinging to my God of Hope lately has felt like a tug-of-war with desperation and anxiety trying mighty hard to defeat me.

Monday this week I tried to count everything as JOY. Ten years ago I wrote a song called "Count It All Joy", and I dug it out so I could remember the words. What amazed me wasn't the song, but ALL of the songs. I found song after song after song after song I had written 3-10 years ago.

Where had my song gone?

I opened this Monday afternoon. Even the chocolate was preaching at me!
I was so sad to see how grief and stress and other problems in recent years had stolen my joy.

I woke up in the middle of the night and cried a bit. Then I woke up yesterday morning and read these words in Whispers of Rest:

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God whispered to me that it was time to PLAY. A couple of pages later, I read this:
"Dare to be renewed. Dare to play. Today. ... Make time to play. Be child-like. Laugh, waste some time, SING, dance, try something new. Renew your spirit with joy."
I cried again, but this time touched by the tenderness of the Holy Spirit. I downloaded a song I'd heard on the radio and made it my anthem for the day. I danced and sang in the morning. I exploded marshmallows in the microwave with the kids in the afternoon. I even took pictures of the dishes when I noticed the colors were all matching each other (and the tile and Bonnie's book!) last night.
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Ok, so I did have to add some red and purple and black and brown eventually. But the blues and whites and silvers made me smile. :) 
As I wake up today, the worries are threatening to steal my joy again. I'm choosing this time, however, to remember the things I'm worried about may be real and hard and confusing, but they are not the end of the story or the whole story. There is more to life than the difficulties and a good way to deflate my anxiety is to focus my attention on something else. To count my blessings and remember the Blesser.

I will still grieve when I need to grieve and work when I need to work. This marathon is far from over and I have to keep running this race. So, run I will.

But I will also dance.

(You've GOT to hear this song. Dance with me?)

In His Joy,

 *In order to participate in the Whispers of Rest Launch Team and write a review of the book (which I'll do in full once I've finished it in a few weeks), I was given an advance copy of the book. (Yippee!) Whispers of Rest is a 40 day devotional detox designed to help the reader hear God's voice and enter into His rest. It's now available everywhere books are sold! Check out Bonnie's website for more info and free downloads, and join us June 5 for a 6 week online book club

Monday, May 08, 2017

Planting Hope

Once a year, Lowell and I wander the garden section at Home Depot or OSH or a local nursery and choose a plant together. We come home and pick a spot for it in our yard and plant it in celebration of our marriage. It's a cherished anniversary tradition and a symbol of hope for the future.

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Sweetheart Cherry Tree - Planted April 2017 for our 21st anniversary

Passionfruit Vine - Planted April 2015 for our 19th anniversary
Maybe it's the farmer's blood running through my veins, but I see planting as an act of faith. We never know for certain if what we've planted will survive and thrive and bear fruit or not. We know some things die. Yet hope and faith say to keep digging and weeding and planting anyway.

Even if you don't know if you'll live in the house long enough to ever taste the fruit.

Even though it could die if it freezes in winter.

Even though dogs sometimes do dumb things and dig stuff up that you've just poured your sweat into.

It's still worth hoping and it's worth planting and dreaming. Especially with someone you love.

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Since we moved back from Peru, we've celebrated 3 anniversaries in Fresno. Last year, for our 20th anniversary we planted a Hot Chocolate Calla Lily with deep purple flowers. It was gorgeous. 

I was really bummed that it didn't come back up this year after the extra cold, wet winter we had. Even when the Easter lilies were already in full bloom, there was no sign of life from the Hot Chocolate Calla Lily - just an empty patch of dirt, twigs, and dried leaves where we planted it last year.

I sighed, accepted it just didn't make it, and moved on disappointed.

Until a couple of weeks ago when I noticed some little green spikes poking through the earth. It turns out our Hot Chocolate Calla Lily just sleeps longer than it's relatives and is very much alive after all.

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Have you given up hope on anything? Is there something God planted in your heart that grew for a while but now you can't find it or it seems to be dead? Have you left a dream behind because there doesn't seem to be a place for it in your here and now? Be encouraged that not everything that seems dead has died. Dreams and gifts and hearts sometimes have to lay dormant for a season. We wait and hope and trust and keep planting new seeds, but sometimes God breathes new life back into the old as well. 

Look for life today, friends. You just might find it where you've stopped expecting it. 

And whatever you do, plant some hope.

Dream new dreams. Say hello to someone new. Learn and read and smile and encourage and weed and exercise or study and work. Plant something! Change another diaper and teach that little one to tie their shoes. Invest in the future even when you don't know what may come of your efforts.

"So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up." ~ Galatians 6:9 (NET) 

Lord, open my eyes today to see what You're bringing to life - either after I thought it was dead or for the first time. Let me see the world through eyes of hope and expectancy. Help me to keep planting and tending Hope. In Jesus' Name and by Your Power and with overflowing Thankfulness, Amen.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Where there's a Will there's a Why

It's often said, "where there's a will, there's a way." I'd like to propose, however, that where there's a will, there's also a "why" and where there's a plan, there's also a PURPOSE.

I have a tendency to make plans and to-do lists like there's no tomorrow. (Really. I often feel like everything has to get done TODAY, even though that's rarely the case.) Even worse is how often I make plans without considering the purpose behind them. My motivation often comes from feeling like "I have to get X, Y, and Z done" rather than paying attention to WHY I want to get them done or why they need to be done (if indeed they do.)

At the end of 2016, I started noticing the word "Purpose" here, there and everywhere. It's turned into my word for 2017, and I'm hoping I'll learn to pay more attention to the purpose behind my plans and that I'll trust and rest in the Purpose behind God's Plans, as well.

Job 42:1-2 1" Then Job answered the Lord:
'I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted;"
I last posted on this blog in September '16 about starting a new teaching job. In the months that followed, I didn't take time for blogging because I was too busy learning how to be a teacher and a wife and mom all at once. At the end of school in December, however, my wise husband helped me realize we had come to a point as a family where something needed to be let go of in order to pursue better health for multiple members of our family. We couldn't keep going the way we were going. Changes needed to be made and or pursued.

So just before Christmas break, I turned in a letter of resignation and two amazingly supportive administrators sat with me while I told my students I wouldn't be coming back as their teacher after Christmas. We cried together and hugged each other and took comfort in knowing I'll still be around to say hello (since my boys are still there!), even though it isn't the same. (I can't believe how much I miss my students already! And yes, they will always be "mine".)

A few weeks before my resignation, God had spoken the word 'timing" to a friend of mine for me when we were praying together. Neither of us really knew what it meant, but I took it as a signal to keep trusting. When I finally (suddenly) realized I needed to quit, I hoped and prayed it meant He was in charge of the timing. I KNEW it was the right choice at that point, but hoped it also meant God had a teacher in the wings to take my spot before the kids came back from break. AND HE DID! The school was able to hire someone to take the class and he was there (with his decades of teaching experience!!!) on Monday this last week when they all went back. That was my biggest concern and I believe with all my heart God provided. I am so thankful.

So what now? I'm walking through the process of signing my daughter up to homeschool online for a semester, and getting ready to work part-time at my husband's non-profit while their preschool director is out on maternity leave. I'm trying to get caught up on all that was ignored around my house when I was teaching full-time. And I'm hoping I'll get to work on my book again! (Blogging semi-regularly might even happen again. We'll see!) I'm wondering what the purpose is in all this change and finding comfort in knowing God's purposes can't be thwarted (Job 42:1-2) and that His ways and thoughts and purposes and plans are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9). I'm confident there's a WHY behind His will and a PURPOSE in the middle of His plan. Even if I never get to know what it is, that's okay.

He says, "Trust Me."

And that's just what I plan on doing. On PURPOSE.