Identity Crisis Stage Right

I love to sing. It’s the one thing I’ve loved my whole life. Honestly, music is the only thing I can remember training for. I didn’t take classes to learn how to cook, clean, or be wife and mother. I had dreams, baby! By the time I was eight years old I knew I wanted to be the next Debby Boone or Amy Grant. I wanted people to feel what I felt when I sang their songs. I wanted to write songs that made people feel what I felt. I wanted to matter and to be known. I still do.

A couple times a month I get to sing with our Sunday morning worship team. It’s a blast to hang out with people who love music, truly enjoy expressing their love of God through music, and at the same time don’t take themselves too seriously. We always have a blast. Well, almost always.

About half-way into the rehearsal the other night I started feeling like I didn’t belong on the team. I was the oldest female singer on the platform standing with a few beautiful young women. Next to them I knew I stood out and not in a good way. We kept singing, listening to each other, trying to blend while my thoughts continued to drag my heart down.

You’re too old for this. You’re too fat for this. Your time is done. Find an ensemble for middle-aged menopausal women and be thankful you can still sing harmony. Quit trying to be something you’re not. Accept it and move on.

It was all I could do not to start bawling while we sang Oceans for what felt like the thousandth time. The words coming out of my mouth did not match what was in my heart. Instead I watched the clock on the back wall while coaching myself to hang in there a few minutes longer. As soon as it was over I put my microphone away, walked to my car and began a tearful drive home, unable to shake my thoughts. Before going to sleep I poured my heart out in a journal. I prayed. I couldn’t make the pain go away.

The thing is, I have studied God-given identity and worth and beauty. I have taught it. I have walked in it. So to find myself smack in the middle of a mid-life who-am-I kind of crisis on a Thursday night had me reeling a bit. This summer my oldest son graduated from high school. My role as a mother is changing. I’m looking at an empty nest in a few years. What will that mean for my marriage? Do I even know how to cook dinner for two people? These are real and serious concerns that keep me awake at night. It’s in this place that I feel the shame of not knowing how to be a woman at this age with these circumstances. I only know how to be what I have been.

I confessed my struggle to a friend via text because she specifically asked how she could be praying for me that day. (I love my creepy Jesus sister-friends more than they’ll ever know.) The pain and nasty thoughts stayed with me all weekend long. Even Sunday morning as I looked out into the sanctuary I wondered if anyone out there knew of a ensemble holding auditions for a middle-aged menopausal chick who sings more like a man every year. If I have mastered anything in my 44 years of living it is that I can do one thing while thinking about something completely different. I should have a signed framed certificate hanging on my wall for that alone! Universities hand out honorary degrees for much less worthy achievements. As soon as the service was over I booked it to the car not wanting to linger and chat with anyone. I was done.

The next day I thought about some things that had happened over the last week or so. First, I had shared with a friend that I want to record a song I wrote many years ago when my kids were little…even if they’re the only ones who ever hear it. I had forgotten all about that dream. I had also been asked to do some creative writing for our fall women’s conference at church that had to do with identity. Of course I helped with that! I knew the creative team was putting it all together.

Wait, what?

Suddenly the timing of my identity crisis seemed a little too coincidental. What if I was being harassed by Satan himself? I got mad. Because if he was doing this to me, he’s probably doing it to other women–especially the creative team working on the women’s conference which made me furious. Because I will become a sword wielding warrior princess on behalf of my sisters! DO! NOT! MESS! WITH! MY! SISTERS! But in order to fight for my sisters I have to fight for myself. I have to remember that I am a daughter of the King and NOBODY messes with His girls and gets away with it. I have to expose the lies of the enemy because that’s what they are. LIES. I get to offer grace to myself when I am drowning in shame. Because shame keeps me crouched in fear and there is zero fear in the perfect love of Jesus. He sees me. He knows me. He loves me as I am just as much as he loves who I am becoming.

Now that the shame and lies are exposed I can see the battle for what it is. The enemy wants to shut me down and shut me up. Guess what? I’m not going to allow him to do it because I have a God-given responsibility to the younger women to HOLD THE LINE and walk in freedom and truth. This generation needs me. I also need older women to impart wisdom into my life because I don’t know how to do this part. I need eyes and ears in my business. Lord have mercy, I need wisdom. It’s too easy to isolate and live a virtual existence. I can’t do it anymore.

Friends, you know I love social media more than the family dog. I do. I’m introverted enough that I could easily spend my days relating online and be perfectly content. But it’s a one way relationship. I was made for more and so were you. Who are you allowing to be eyes and ears in your life? Who do you know that’s a little further ahead in life that you would do well to allow them to show you how this thing is done? Pray and ask God to reveal a couple of people to you and then reach out to them. Take them to coffee or lunch or water. Whatever. Just reach out. It’s the first step to getting us out of our own heads and into truth. I’m committed to doing this too. (As I’m writing I’m thinking of the movie, War Room. Have you seen it? I think it’s time to watch that one again.)

Jesus, thank you for overcoming the evil one by your death and resurrection. Thank you for your perfect love that casts out fear and shame and covers us. Thank you for fighting for our hearts. Thank you for friends who fight for us when we’re beaten and bruised from the battle. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who reminds us of our identity and our inheritance in YOU. I pray that these words will shake the reader’s spirit awake and open their eyes to lies they are believing today. Set them free. May these words speak life and truth over their God-given identity in Jesus name. Amen.

Thank you for reading this. I know it was long. Please make sure you put it on a reading log or something for credit.

 

My Summer Stack

My husband is training for a half-marathon. This means he runs several times per week. (I do not run. Not even if I’m being chased by a T-Rex. I am laying down and letting that sucker have me for lunch.) It’s the middle of summer in Iowa which means it’s hot and humid. Any running has to be done early in the morning before he leaves for work or there will be no running, just dying. This means I get sent to bed at 9:30pm even though it’s not a school night and it’s summer break and I am a grown up. Because running is his drug.

In order to cope with my early bedtime and not become overly bitter, I have been reading more than usual. Books are my drug. Some teach, some inspire. A few challenge. Others draw me into a story and allow me to escape my own for a few minutes. It feels indulgent, but I am a grown-up and therefore allowed to do grown-up things. Especially during summer break. When it’s not even a school night.

Allow me to introduce you to some friends I made this summer.

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I enjoyed each and every one of these. In fact, I’m planning to jump into the Fast Metabolism Diet next week even though I read it a few weeks ago. It requires a serious commitment that I knew I couldn’t make until after getting through some important social events. Bridal showers and weddings are not conducive to healthy food choices. Unless you consider cake a healthy food choice. If you do, we’re probably good friends.

Sparkly Green Earrings was read AFTER I read Nobody’s Cuter Than You (Not pictured because it was a gift for a friend and I had to read it before I could give it to her. That’s the kind of friend I am.). Melanie Shankle is adorable. So many laugh out loud moments. My husband was super annoyed by my laughing during his House bingeing which made it even sweeter. I’m ordering The Antelope in the Living Room as soon as my husband gets paid because his race isn’t until September. Hold me.

Heart Made Whole was basically a crash cart for my heart. (House has made me a medical wizard. I’m available for 2nd opinions.) I filled many journal pages while reading this one. Kleenex is not optional. BUY THIS BOOK.

A Million Little Ways. Oh man. I adore Emily Freeman. This one is especially good for creative/artist types struggling to find their worth and all the messy struggle that comes with being made in the image of the One who knows us best. I passed it on to another creative/artist and am having a BLAST watching her create again.

What Alice Forgot was a HUGE risk for me because I had never read anything by this author. PLUS I sort of only read books by authors I’ve read before which makes it really hard to find new books to read. I know, I know. I am loyal to the core. I have trouble making new friends because I feel like my other friends are going to feel bad. But sometimes a girl has to branch out! I stood in the book aisle at Target and whispered, “Lord, help this  be a decent book…” Alice did not disappoint. I MADE A NEW FRIEND! It is important to celebrate the small things around here.

Moving Mountains. I love John Eldredge. I want him to be my pastor even though he’s not a pastor. This one is about prayer. It’s challenging me in a way that I’m not quite ready to write about yet. The last couple of years have been brutal and Jesus still loves me. That is all.

See Me. Oh Nick Sparks, please never ever stop writing. If you like him, you like him. If you don’t, you don’t. This one has a happy ending. Sometimes you need to know that with Nick. Or maybe that’s just my mom.

What have you been reading this summer? I’m ready for a new book and 9:30pm comes way too early when it’s not even a school night during summer break.

Thanks for stopping by.

P.S. I’ve missed you.

 

 

 

How I Met My Dad

Not every little girl can say she met her dad while her parents were dating, but I can.

My dad was 28 and directing an ‘Up With People’ choir when he met my 17 year old mother. This was long before there were reality shows about teen moms on MTV. My mom’s brother played in the band so she decided to tag along one night. That’s when she met the man who would completely change the course of her life.

He was smitten. I remember being told they saw each other a couple more times and was introduced to me. At first he thought she was babysitting. By the time she told him she was my mom, it was too late. He was in love with both of us and like any love story worth telling, the odds were stacked against them.

My dad was a Vietnam vet and a high valued target for a lot of good Christian girls from his church. He led songs at the small Pentecostal church he was raised in, and dating an unwed mother was NOT how the church leadership thought he should be conducting himself. To top it off, my mom was raised as a Mormon and their faiths were a huge problem for both of their families.

Instead of running from scandal, my dad stood up to his church leadership and continued to date my mom even though it meant he wouldn’t be allowed to lead songs in his church anymore. He endured the whispers behind his back from those whom he had respected deeply. Ultimately, he found another church that offered him grace and allowed him to continue to minister in his calling.

And along the way my mom saw a man who wouldn’t run from trouble, but would stand and fight for her and her baby even though it would cost him his reputation. Along the way she saw the love of Jesus in my dad and found Him to be irresistible. She fell in love with both of them and never looked back.

By no means is this the end of their story. Parents threatened to disown, and an elopement was inevitable. But most important, a disgraced young woman was given a second chance at redemption. A little girl was given a father. And the heavens roared in victory over the thwarted plan that the enemy had meant to devastate us.  

I have NEVER once had to question whether or not this man who I share zero DNA with loves me or not. Not once. He is a constant reminder of God’s grace and mercy in my life. He is the only earthly father I’ve ever known and I owe everything I am to his relentless love for our family.

Dad, if you happen to read this…I love you. I’m so thankful for you and how you let Jesus live through you. I want to be as brave as you have been. Your love for us changed everything. I am forever grateful.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

Love,

Your Little Girl

You Need Beauty

One son is away at church camp. The other son has driver’s ed in the mornings. My husband is at work. This means I’m home alone for THREE whole hours. I honestly cannot remember the last time that happened.

Still trying to remember.

Nope. No wonder I’m so giddy.

Instead of filling this time with chores, I’ve been trying to fill it with what I actually need. This means slowing down and thinking about what it is that I actually need. I know exactly what everyone else needs. For starters, they need clean socks. They need, they need, they need.

What do I need?

I say a little prayer while driving in the car where I practically live these days.

Lord, what do I need today?

You need beauty.

Ah, yes. Beauty. I know how peaceful I feel when I’m surrounded by beauty. I know I never get enough of it. I crave it and yet…it’s not exactly on my daily to do list.

John and Stasi Eldredge explain the need for beauty in their book Captivating:

Beauty is essential to God. No–that’s not putting it strongly enough. Beauty is the essence of God. Scripture says that the created world is filled with the glory of God (Isaiah 6:3) In what way? Primarily through its beauty.

Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Stop for a moment and let that sink in. We’re so used to evaluating everything (and everyone) by their usefulness that this thought will take a minute or two to begin to dawn on us. Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Which is to say, beauty is in and of itself a great and glorious good, something we need in large and daily doses (for our God has seen fit to arrange for this).

So I decide to go home and change into my walking shoes. The dog gets very excited whenever she sees my shoes because she thinks I’ll take her for a walk. I have let her down so many times, but today she is going to get her wish.

I take the dog leash off its hook as she thumps me with her thick tail. She is beside herself. The back of the SUV lifts and she leaps into the car like a young pup.

We back out of the driveway and head toward the county park. It’s beautiful there. As we get closer I start to wonder if it will be busy. My heart starts to race and I feel fear.

The last time I took the dog to the park for a walk without my husband it ended badly. A grandpa type man yelled at me and my children. He threw the f bomb around and threatened to get a gun. Because of my dog. Because of me. Because I couldn’t control her and he thought she was going to hurt his small dog. She would never. She’s just a big dumb lab. He was out of control angry and I was afraid. He even followed me in his car out of the park. I thought he was going to follow me home.

That was five years ago.

I park the car and look around. There are only a couple of people out in the field. This shouldn’t be that big of a deal so I open the back hatch and let Mocha out. She is so excited that she can barely stand still long enough to put the leash over her head, but I am afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mocha wants to sniff and explore and pee and I am holding on for dear life because I am afraid.

I look around and see no one. There are no bullies here.

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I bend over to remove the leash and set her free.

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She darts ahead and sniffs her chocolate heart out.

She is free to run ahead. I allow her some distance and then test her by calling her name. She comes running back to me. This is progress.

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She’s not the same dog she was five years ago. She’s mellowed a bit and I see that even as she runs ahead of me she stops to make sure I’m not far behind. She’s looking out for me too. Suddenly I’m not afraid. I’m able to look around and take in the beauty that Jesus wants me to see.

Everything is green. The ground is soaked from the storms. Birds soar and wildflowers sway. Frogs and insects sing their song. My lungs are breathing in the sweet fragrance in the air. It’s gorgeous. We follow the bend in the trail and come to a fallen tree. I have to decide whether to turn back or keep moving forward.

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I see that it’s possible to go around and I try not to think about the ticks hitching a ride in my hair as I go off the trail. Mocha is having the time of her life while I coach myself out loud. You can do this, Nic. Going off the trail is not the end of the world. That’s big news for a girl like me. Going off the trail is not really my style.

A few moments later I make my way around the tree and I’m back on the path. Mocha is still in the thicket sniffing out deer and God knows what else. I stop and notice above my head are red, white, and purple berries. I don’t know if they’re edible and I don’t care because I don’t eat fruit that doesn’t come from the grocery store. They are lovely.

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A few steps further the path becomes swampy and my feet are soaking wet. It dawns on me why we are the only ones at the park today.

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Still, there is beauty all around me.

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We allow things to grow here in the wild that we don’t allow to grow in our yard.

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My heart is pumping harder and there is mud on my calves from tromping through the soaked ground. It’s time to follow the path toward the car. I take a deep breath and thank the One who invited me back here to this place today. I thank him for beauty. I thank him for keeping the bullies away. I thank him for helping me around the obstacles on the path and for keeping an eye on me and those I love every single day.

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I’m not the woman I was five years ago.

I needed to come back to this place today to experience this beauty from the lover of my soul. The One who knows me best loves me most. It’s good to be loved.

Jesus, thank you for loving us enough to invite us to experience the beauty all around us. Thank you for calling us back to places marked by fear and regret to redeem us and set us free. Thank you for trusting us in these wide open spaces to hear your voice and come running back to your open arms time and time again. You are beautiful, Jesus. We love you.

 

When Mr. Steady Met Nurse Ratched

A few weeks ago I drove my husband to the emergency room. We didn’t leave the hospital for two and a half days. A few days later we went back for surgery. One moment he was fine, the next he was anything but fine.

My man has always been my rock. He is Mr. Steady. The truest friend. Old reliable. I’m the needy one in our relationship. He has stuck by me through major depression, chronic health issues, pms that would scare a badger, surgeries, and morning sickness that lasted 9 months–twice. On the rare occasion he manages to get sick I have to dig really deep to find enough compassion to nurture him. If he’s lucky he might get 24 hours to moan and groan about whatever ails him. After that I turn into Nurse Ratched. SUCK IT UP, BUDDY! GET OVER IT! He is one lucky man.

It turns out that Mr. Steady isn’t quite as invincible as I thought he was. A severe injury has left him pretty beat up and needy. The bruises are fading and the incision is healing, but we are a long way from being back to normal.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve been the perfect wife and nurse and that he’s been the perfect husband and patient, but this isn’t a Hallmark Channel movie. The truth is that this has left us both vulnerable and exposed to pain and I’m sure we have both responded in ways that would be better suited for an R rated war movie.

In all of those times I needed him to be my rock I don’t think it ever ocurred to me that my pain wasn’t just happening to me, it was happening to him too. Dang. Realizing that doesn’t automatically make me a better wife and nurse, but it sure does humble me in areas that are in need of some fresh humility. Dang.

I wish there was a magic pill we could take to make all of this go away overnight, but there isn’t. We are in this for the long haul. For better or for worse, we are in this together.

Your prayers have meant the world to us. Thank you.

Thanks for stopping by.

It’s Time to Grow

It’s been about a month since I quit a job I loved so that I could focus more on writing and put some order back into my not so orderly home. So far I am a complete failure at both of those things. Awesome.

I thought when I woke up the morning after my last day of work my mind would burst at the seams with enough creativity and wisdom to fill a best seller. That didn’t happen so I freaked out a bit because good grief, I QUIT MY JOB! And I loved my job! I quit my job to be a blob! Freaked. Exhaustion did not factor into my creative plan. I began to question everything and seriously considered changing my name, dying my hair black, and starting over as a waitress in Indiana. I told you I freaked out.

Decision making is not something I do very well. This is one of the many reasons why I don’t manage a Fortune 500 company. I’m also a highly intuitive feeler and lack the killer instinct. I love to encourage and support leaders with vision. It’s probably one of the reasons I’ve been a good assistant something in nearly every job I’ve ever had. A side-kick doesn’t usually carry the weight of decision making responsibility and I am usually perfectly content with that. So when I finally do get around to making some kind of monumental decision you can be sure I have prayed for nearly a year, lost sleep, eaten a pan of brownies, and cried buckets of tears over it. And it had better prove to be a really good decision with flawless outcomes or I’m going to beat myself with a mental baseball bat for rest of my pitiful life. Dang, this month has been painful.

I’ve been reading “The Best Yes –Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands” by Lysa TerKeurst. Have you ever read a book where you stumble upon an entire chapter written about you? This is one of those books. Her wise words about “Analysis Paralysis” offer some perspective and a whole lot of hope: “The fear of making a wrong decision shouldn’t strip the faith right out of our faith. The only way our faith will ever strengthen is for us to use it. We need to apply thought and prayer to our decisions and then trust God for the outcome. We need to set our sights on growing in faith, not shrinking back for fear of failure.”

So that’s about enough of the mental beating. I’m tired of agonizing over what my first blog post should be, and whether it will be good enough for anyone to read, or whether anyone will read it other than my mother. It’s time to get on with it.

Right or wrong, it’s time to grow.

P.S. Thanks for stopping by, Mom.

Gluten Free Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Because it’s my birthday and because it’s almost always better to give than receive, I’m giving you something really special today.

This is the carrot cake my husband and I dream about. This is the kind of cake that will make you invent special occasions just so you’ll have a good reason to make it. My mom made it for my birthday last year. Then she made three of them at Christmas time. THREE. The best part is that it’s gluten free but you would never know it. P.S. If you don’t need to be gluten free, just swap out the gfree flour for regular flour.

Happy birthday from me! Enjoy this one. Or two. Or three… (Scroll down to the bottom for a text only recipe)

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Pre-heat oven to 375°

In a large mixer, mix the eggs and sugar. Add oil and vanilla, mix together.
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups light olive oil or vegetable oil
2 tsp real vanilla extract (gluten free)

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In a separate bowl combine:
2 cups gluten free all purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
Whisk together then add to wet ingredients. Mix well.
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Add:
3 cups grated carrots (I used a food processor)
1/2-1 cup of chopped walnuts (optional, feel free to adjust more or less)
1 can (12-14oz) crushed pineapple, drained

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Carrots and pineapple. It’s practically a salad.

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Mix together and pour into 2  greased round (9 inch) pans OR 9 inch springform pan (I spray them with original Pam), for best results line bottom of pans with parchment paper (trace and cut).

Bake 45-55 minutes (the springform pan will take closer to 55) or until toothpick comes out clean.
*The trick to keeping this cake super moist is to watch the cake toward the end so it doesn’t over bake.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 Tablespoons softened butter
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

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Cream together using mixer and then try not to eat all of it before frosting the cake. 🙂

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When the cake has cooled take off the springform ring and invert the cake onto a plate or 10 inch cardboard cake circle.

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My frosting skills are not the greatest, but who cares? This cake ROCKS.

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Serve right away or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Gluten Free Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pre-heat oven to 375°

In a large mixer, mix the eggs and sugar. Add oil and vanilla, mix together.
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups light olive oil or vegetable oil
2 tsp real vanilla extract (gluten free)

In a separate bowl combine:
2 cups gluten free all purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
Whisk together, then add to wet ingredients. Mix well.

Add:
3 cups grated carrots
1/2-1 cup of chopped walnuts (optional, feel free to adjust more or less)
1 can (12-14oz) crushed pineapple, drained

Mix together and pour into 2  greased round (9 inch) pans OR 9 inch springform pan (I spray them with original Pam), for best results line bottom of pans with parchment paper (trace and cut).

Bake 45-55 minutes (the springform pan will take closer to 55) or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 Tablespoons softened butter
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Cream together using mixer and then try not to eat all of it before frosting the cake.

Do You Wanna Kill a Snowman?

It snowed. Again. And I’m sorry.

I remember those days like they were yesterday. Stuck inside a two bedroom apartment with two rowdy preschool aged boys, it wasn’t a snow day. It was a hostage crisis and I was the hostage.

“Mom! We wanna go outside! Please, mom! Take us outside!” Their demands were simple: Spend 15 minutes pulling on snow pants, boots, hopefully a matching pair of mittens, and a coat. Go outside for 5 minutes in the actual snow, then come back inside and spend 15 minutes taking it all off again, followed by not too hot cocoa and their favorite cookies. No big deal, right?

Maybe not for a 16 year old who got to sleep in. Not for a woman who hasn’t had a good night’s sleep for 3,247 days.

I remember well. I remember thinking how snow days were supposed to look. How we’d build a snowman and take pictures for the scrapbook. How we would build snow forts and take pictures for the scrapbook. How we would fill spray bottles with water and food coloring to color the snow. Or make snow ice cream. So we could take pictures for the scrapbook.

For me, it was always about creating memories for a life I wanted to live, but didn’t actually have the time or energy to live.

My boys are teenagers now. Nobody asked if they can go outside to build a snowman. Today my help was not needed to pull on snow pants and gloves. Yes! Instead, they had to suit up to shovel the driveway and sidewalks. We’ve come a long way. And you know what? I don’t regret not having “better” pictures for our scrapbook. I regret not embracing the time for what it truly was: Loud, crazy, chaotic, exhausting, messy, crusty, unstructured, and truly the longest days of my life. But they were mine and it’s not too late to own them.

It’s not too late.

Today I choose to embrace the life we are living, and as I do, grace warms us like the sun.

Rescue Mission Accomplished

She overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and the word of her testimony…(Revelation 12:11 NIV, emphasis mine)

This past year hasn’t been easy. Honestly, I’m not sure I know anyone who’s had it easy. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain and fatigue. Throw in some chronic disappointment and you have the recipe for chronic discouragement and depression. Yuck. You see, I really believed that all this junk would have cleared up by now…that God would have answered my prayers and taken it all away. Although I know He has heard me, He has not removed these uncomfortable circumstances from me.

This is my first post in three months. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I stopped trusting that I had anything worthwhile to say. I like to offer encouraging, hopeful, hang in there, don’t give up words. Those words are hard to offer when doubt, shame, anger, resentment, self-pity, and disgust are the words most readily available.

Last weekend I got to spend some time at a Captivating Advanced retreat in the beautiful Rocky Mountains in Colorado with John and Stasi Eldredge along with several members of the Ransomed Heart team. It wasn’t just a retreat, it was a rescue. If you have never been to one of their events, I strongly encourage you to do whatever it takes to get to one. I’m telling you, GO!!!

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So much healing took place in those mountains, but before sending us on our merry little way John Eldredge spent some time teaching about the reality of pain and suffering this side of heaven. He challenged us to let suffering expose and access our deepest wounds because they expose where our hopes are primarily set. Ouch. Personally, I’m not a big fan of being exposed in any way, but God would not send me home without giving me a chance to allow Him to deal with this area in my life. Too much is at stake.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:5 NIV

John warned us…”Don’t reject the comfort because you’re mad that it’s not the answer you want.”

Busted.

Near the end of the session I spent some time quietly reflecting with a pen in one hand and Kleenex in the other…

I heard Jesus asking me:

“What if the current physical affliction you’ve been experiencing doesn’t go away? What will you do? How does that affect how you feel about Me?

You must choose.

Choose the idea of a pain free life without Me and the lie that you can make it happen. Or you can choose to trust Me and let Me love you and comfort you as much as you need. Your need is great.

You’ve been believing a lie that you can’t be effective in your calling while you’re suffering. It’s a lie. It’s not true. It’s not even biblical.

You have to choose.

Fight through the pain and follow Me on this path that I have chosen for you right now. You won’t always have this pain or be tired. No. One day we will be face to face and it will all melt away. I’ll wipe away every single tear and you will be free.

You have to let go of trying to understand why and just trust that My love is enough. My grace is enough to carry you. I’ll give you what you need to flourish and produce rich fruit to be refreshing to many thirsty souls. There’s a world that needs you. Don’t sit out any longer. They’re playing your favorite song and I’m asking you to dance with Me. Let Me guide you and lead you. Let Me hold you. Let Me teach you new steps. Let go of the way you thought the plan should work out. Let it go. Release your fear, doubt, and pain to Me. Open your hands and your heart to Me. Let Me fill you. This is where your healing begins.”

And so today I choose to re-engage here in this space. Too much is at stake.

Thanks for stopping by.

I’m Not the Breast

Not long ago a friend came to me exhausted, overwhelmed, and ready to give up. She was physically, spiritually, and emotionally spent trying to balance her career with her role as a mother, wife, friend, and the kind of Christian she thought she needed to be.  The kind of Christian who says yes more than no because Christianity is about sacrifice. The kind of Christian who helps everyone even if it means sacrificing those closest to her.

I knew exactly how my friend was feeling because I had been there too. If I’m honest, I still find myself there far more often than I should.

We prayed and invited Jesus into our conversation and He reminded her of a situation in her past when she felt like she was feeling that day.

My friend told me about a time when she had small children and desperately wanted to help a needy younger mother from church. She believed that it was her Christian duty to make herself and her home available to the needy mother any time she needed. The needy mother wasn’t even all that nice to my friend, but she believed Jesus would want her to be available no matter what.

One day the needy mother dropped by with her baby and said, “I have to go somewhere today. Will you watch her for me?” My friend automatically said “Yeah…sure.” Without hesitating, the needy mother handed her baby over and left.

My friend stood in her small living room surrounded by her own small children, one of which was an infant who still needed to be nursed, wondering how she was going to care for all of these children. When the infant she was babysitting started to cry, she did what any babysitter would do. She looked for a bottle to feed the hungry baby, but her needy mother hadn’t left a bottle.  My friend had no way to contact the mother to let her know she had left behind a hungry baby. So she did the only thing she knew to do.

With tears streaming down her face, she held another woman’s baby up to her breast to offer the only thing she could. The baby fussed, not wanting to suck at this stranger’s breast. It wasn’t her mother, but after a few minutes of struggling, hunger and instinct latched on.  Nothing about this intimate moment was comfortable. Everything inside of my friend was screaming “NO! Make it stop!” 

Sometimes we say yes when everything inside is screaming “NO! Make it stop!” 

As I listened to my friend struggle through tears to tell me her story, I could see how the pattern had repeated itself over and over in her life. She wanted to be able to say yes without fear and know that if she said no that she was going to be OK. She needed to know that God would love her anyway and that God would take care of the person she told no. She wondered if she could be liked and accepted without saying yes to everyone.

We cried. We prayed, and in my spirit I heard the Lord prompt me to tell her,

“You’re not the breast. I AM.”

Even as the words were coming out of my mouth I wanted to laugh because they sounded so absurd. I don’t remember ever hearing a Sunday School lesson about God being the breast. What I do remember is being told over and over about how God (El Shaddai) is all sufficient, powerful, provider, healer, peace, faithful…that He is everything we could ever want or need.

There are many references to “breasts” in the Bible. These are usually the verses that get my husband’s attention. Hey, whatever it takes. After doing some ‘Names of God’ searching, I learned that the Hebrew word “shad” (Shaddai) signifies the One who mightily nourishes, satisfies, protects, and supplies His people. Isaiah 60:16 NIV God tells His people that “they will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts. Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” Isaiah 66:11-13 paints a similar picture. God is the one who sustains and comforts.

…to experience God’s sufficiency, we must realize our own insufficiency.–Nathan Stone

That day my friend needed to know it wasn’t up to her to be all sufficient. It wasn’t her job to fulfill everyone’s needs and solve their problems. My friend needed to be reminded that our God is everything we will ever need. He lacks nothing. He loves us. He’s already paid the ultimate sacrifice by sending Jesus to die for our sins. He wanted us to know that it was time to stop thinking we were the breast. We get to be part of how He provides from time to time, but it is all about Him. ALL OF THE TIME. He wants us to have the joy that comes from knowing we’re loved and that no one can take His love away from us.

This encounter with my friend was meant to encourage and strengthen her to let go of the guilt and shame she had been holding on to for so long. It was beautiful to watch Jesus set her free to love others more freely. I had no idea how it would affect me, but it has.

I’m not the breast.

It sounds silly, but saying those words (usually under my breath so my boys don’t think I’m crazier than they already do) when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders has saved me from a good crushing lately.

If this is something you’re struggling with, I pray that God will use it to free you too.

 

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