Fighting the Waves

A few years ago, I tried to learn to surf, thinking it would give me something affordable and fun to do with my girls. So I took a few lessons and boldly set out to begin my new adventure. I’d only go on days with small waves, but judging their size from the shore was difficult for me. Even the smallest wave could toss me around with an unexpected force. I was naively unaware of these difficulties and overly optimistic of my ability. I learned very quickly how wrong I was. I’d jump on my board and paddle out, pulling myself over each wave as they lifted me up and down. Paddling always wore me out, but once I got past the break I knew I could rest a bit. There were some waves I couldn’t get over. They’d lift me up and throw me flat on my back with the board on top of me. I’d roll over and jump back on as quickly as possible. This happened several times before I finally figured out how to duck dive. Sometimes, I just got so tired, I’d let the waves take me back to the shore, utterly exhausted. But other times, I’d manage to get past the break, and I’d lay there for a minute, flat on my belly, my head on the board and my arms dangling in the water. It was so much work to get out there, I just had to rest. I found those moments to be very peaceful and beautiful.

It took many attempts, before I actually got up and rode a wave. Getting myself positioned on the board just right and pushing myself up was never easy. But eventually I rode a wave or two, just long enough to feel the thrill of the sport.  I did this for a good 2 years, before giving it up. I was never really consistent or any good, but I really enjoyed it, until I experienced something very uncomfortable. I had fallen many times before, but this day I fell and tumbled in the waves, like laundry in a dryer. I fought hard to get out of it, but as I swam up, my head hit the sand. I had no sense of direction and I panicked. I couldn’t hold my breath very long and I just kept tumbling. Then, I thought if I could just relax, my body would float up. So, with all my might, I went completely limp. I instantly reached the surface and gasped for air. I was done for the day.

Life can be a lot like surfing. We want to ride the waves, but we find ourselves fighting them, one by one, hoping to reach that break, long enough to see and feel peace, rest and beauty. We want to enjoy life, but instead, end up doing a lot of paddling.  We often feel exhausted, defeated and ready to quit. We take falls that often send us crashing to the ground with no sense of direction and we wonder if we’ll ever catch our breath or see the light of day.  We think we can fight our way out of trouble. But at some point, we realize that fighting only tires us more. And when we reach the end of ourselves, our own efforts and our last breath, our only choice is to fall limp in the arms of God and trust that He will lift us up.

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Do I Have an Olympic Spirit?

Over the past 17 days I’ve been watching the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. It’s been amazing to see how much of the olympic spirit surrounding these events, have become so contagious. My personal favorite is Gymnastics, but every event shares this same spirit and the elements of sacrifice, commitment, concentration, confidence & determination. The stories behind each competitor and their history of losses and successes, are so inspirational. Each one, possessing one or more of these elements that led them to their moment of truth.

As I watched Gabby Douglas on the balance beam competing for the all-around finals, one of the commentators said something that resonated in me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. They replayed her aerial on the balance beam in slow motion, zoomed in on her face and began to emphasize the importance of keeping her eyes on the beam in relation to landing with complete accuracy. If she looked anywhere else, to the right or to the left or let anything distract her, it could cause her to lose focus and miss that critical landing.

This was the shot.

Gabby Douglas 2012 OlympicsAs I watched and listened, something clicked in me. Much is the same in real life. I began a mental replay of critical events in my own life and realized how relevant this simple truth was, in relation to my “losses and landings”. They’ve all been greatly influenced by this truth and if I slow those moments down and zoom in on my thoughts, much is revealed to me about my focus.

Reaching any great goal will always require sacrifice, commitment and concentration. We must push beyond our limits, press past all the doubt and remain confident. Doubt can distract us and cause us to fall short of our very best. I can’t imagine those, like Jordyn Weiber, who spend their whole life training for that one moment and then the moment is gone. But how great it was to see her come back with determination and help her team win the gold. We all have the choice to either let our actions be led by our emotions or lead our emotions by our actions.

My life has been much like the olympics and more often than not, instead of focusing on God, I’ve focused on my circumstances and the “what if” factor.” What if I fall? What if I can’t? What if I lose?”  I’ve let problems around me and noise of doubt and worry distract me, only to miss my landing many times. I still do. I know where my focus ought to be, but is not and each time I fall, God says, “return to me and I will save you…fix your eyes and let your confidence be IN ME, and I will give you strength”. Adversity is the very thing that sharpens me and pushes me beyond my limits, past my fears until I have complete confidence in HIM, so all the glory is HIS and not mine. And as I stand to face whatever is before me, that’s my moment of truth when I must pause and ask myself…WHAT am I willing to sacrifice? WILL I be committed? WHAT will I concentrate on? WHO is my confidence in? HOW will I determine to finish? And WHERE is my focus?

And most importantly…WHAT spirit will I choose to have in me? The Olympic Spirit…or the HOLY SPIRIT?

Proverbs 4:25-27Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the path at your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or left; keep your foot from evil.”

Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

2 Corinthians 4: 8-9  “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Matthew 6:25-33 “Therefore, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about our body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? ….But seek first HIS kingdom and HIS righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

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A Close Look at Freedom and Independence

When I think of freedom, I think of all the times in my life when I broke away from something or someone who was inflicting or causing me pain. Obtaining that freedom was not easy and it usually came with a cost, but the joy that freedom brought was worth it all. I guess we wouldn’t call it freedom if it were easy to break the chains that held us hostage. And I’m quite sure we’ve all had a personal experience with being freed from someone or some kind of physical or emotional bondage.  We love freedom. We fight hard for it and celebrate it passionately, especially when we are the ones who paid the cost to personally accomplish it. But are we just as passionate and grateful when someone else has paid that cost?

What about Independence? Is that the same as Freedom? We celebrate the 4th of July and we call it Independence Day. Freedom and independence. As I think about these two things, I can’t get them out of my head. I’m struggling with whether or not independence is as worthy a cause as freedom. I guess I’ve always thought it was, but is it? Even as I write this, I am challenged to think in a way I haven’t thought before. Isn’t it a good thing to be independent? As a Mother, I encourage my children to be independent of me and do more on their own as they get older. This brings more freedom to me, as well as gives them freedom to grow.  I think that’s a good thing, right? But I don’t want them to strive to be so independent that they don’t ever need me. I suppose there is an amount of independence, that we consider to be healthy or unhealthy, just as we would about freedom. However, isn’t it true that freedom can come from the very act of dependence? Isn’t it also true that becoming too independent, can often lead to the cell of loneliness? If you’re not sure, keep reading.

Independence, by definition is “freedom from dependence”. Ok, I get it, but does it really free us to be self-sufficient, self-sustaining, self-reliant, self-etc.? Sounds like we’d just end up all alone. Is that really the kind of freedom I want? No way. Freedom, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the “absence of constraint”.  That sounds good to me. Who wants to be constrained?  But do I want a life without laws? No way.

So, here’s where I’m going with this. Freedom, (the kind that releases us from that which binds us), is good and worthy of its cost. I seek freedom of this kind. But too much, will lead to chaos. Independence, (the kind that encourages us to seek help when we need it and in turn, help when we are able), is rewarding and produces freedom. I seek independence of this kind. But too much will usually lead to bondage. So, why do so many of us try so hard to NOT need anyone? God made us to need each other. He didn’t design us to be alone or apart from Him. I need friends. I need my husband (a lot) and I know I need God (even more). God will give us the kind of freedom that is truly worth the cost of death and we don’t even have to pay the price. He’s already paid it. We can’t possibly understand just how great that cost was, but if we could, I bet our gratitude and our celebrations would never cease.

So, here’s the oxymoron of this whole point:  Christ died for our freedom. It’s offered to those who accept it, through His death and resurrection, BUT (here it is…) we cannot have it, unless we are completely and totally dependent on Him. Self-Nothing and God-Everything!

I’ll say it again…we can only obtain freedom through our very dependence on God.

Wow. I will celebrate Independence Day and I am so grateful to those who paid the heavy price to give our country the freedom we have, but I am even more grateful to God for the price He paid to give me eternal freedom and a life with Him forever. I chose dependence…on God alone.

“Apart from me, you can do nothing” John 15:5

“Two are better than one, because they have good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecc. 4:9-10

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

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How Clean are You?

When it comes to washing our hands, we might assume that most of us follow obvious standards, but what is obvious to some, might not be obvious to others and not everyone has the same standard. By what scale do we measure ‘clean’? We are so unaware of how filthy things really are all around us; things we come in contact with everyday, like grocery carts (which are rated worse than pubic restrooms), gym equipment, restaurant menus, door knobs, your shower curtain and the list goes on. We either don’t see it and deny its existence, or we know it’s there & we constantly scrub and sanitize to stay clean.

Maybe that’s how we think and respond for our inner cleanliness, as well. Our so-called “goodness”; matters of the heart; good vs. bad. But again, by what scale do we determine ‘good’; how good is good or how bad is bad? Our opinions and cultures can tip the scales greatly and we do what we think is right in our own eyes and judge others according to our personal standard. How can anyone know what is in the heart? Only God can judge the heart of man. (1 Samuel 16:7)

I have a friend, who is a surgeon and I consider him to be a ‘good’ person. We had a conversation about Heaven and how God might determine who He lets in. He asked, “what if you’re a good person your whole life, but do not believe in God? Would He not let you in? And what about God being loving & forgiving?” In the moment, all I could say was “Yes, He is a loving & forgiving God, but He is also a Holy God and we, being unclean, cannot enter into His presence, without first being made clean”. After he left, I thought more about his question and how I could better illustrate this answer. What I came up with, was the following illustration that I think he could easily relate to, as a Doctor. When he goes into surgery, I’m certain, he cannot enter in without first, washing his hands, putting on sterile gloves, scrubs and anything else to assure he was clean, according to hospital standards. If he, instead, just told the patient “I’m a good surgeon”, they’d probably say, “So what?!? You’re not clean!” So it is, with God and man.

We can never be clean enough to stand before a Holy God. We would have to be perfectly clean, spotless and blameless; know anyone? This is GOD’s standard and we all fall short. So, how do we become this clean? Certainly not by our own “self-scrubbing, good deeds”. The difference between external and internal cleanliness is that while we are responsible for the external, only God can clean the internal; the heart. No matter how good we think we are by externally ‘being a good person’. We can never be good enough or clean enough without God. Nor can we deny that we are unclean, by using a self-righteous scale to define ‘good, bad and really bad’, and then saying we are good, by comparison. We say, “I’m a good person, I help others, I don’t lie, steal or cheat..like that guy”. We become like those who cannot see the filth that is all around us and deny its existence. Or we justify ourselves and say “IF God is loving and forgiving, then…” ..then, what?? Going back to my illustration, should we allow the unclean Doctor in the operating room, just to prove we’re loving and forgiving? And if not, can he rightfully blame the one who does not let him in? Of course not! Neither should we blame God for our unclean hearts and our choice to reject Him.

We are not good, nor are we clean, simply by doing good deeds. At the heart level, we are all born into sin, until we choose the saving grace of Jesus. We can defend, deny, justify or downplay it all we want, but we are guilty and there is a penalty that must be paid. Freedom can only come when we admit our guilt and surrender. We are then given freedom. What?!? Admit guilt, surrender and then go free? Yes…the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has paid our debt in full. “For the penalty of sin is death; (a life sentence) but.. the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:23). The gift is our pardon..we are let go..forgiven..made CLEAN. It is a gift that is free to those who receive Him. We remain unclean until we believe & receive Him as our Lord and then we are washed and made eternally clean and ready to enter in to His presence.

Isaiah 1:18 “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow”.

Matt 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you”.

Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, leads to destruction”.

Matt. 7:13 “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it”.

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Praise Before Promise: My Mothers Day Story

MAY 2012

Mother’s Day is a very special day for me. Not just because I’m a Mom, but because I was told I never would be one. Several doctors said that I would most likely never conceive children, or something like this: “Is it possible? hmmm, maybe…but is it probable? No”. They encouraged me to let it go and not get my hopes up. Give up my hope?!? That’s all I had and I was never giving that up. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a Mom. I was the kid with the dolls and strollers; hugging, feeding and talking to my babies all the time. That desire only grew bigger as I grew older. So, when I was told I had several health issues that would prevent me from ever conceiving or even carrying a child, I was devastated, to say the least. But I wouldn’t listen or stop trying. I couldn’t accept the idea of not having children. It just wasn’t how I saw my life. It was a painful 3 years of infertility doctors, medications, charts, needles, surgeries, diets and many tears. I wish I could say that those years were filled with a steadfast faith in God and a positive attitude, but it wasn’t. It was, however, a journey that tested my faith, changed my attitude & drew me closer to God, the one who gives life and ultimately gave me my hearts desire.

I use to journal a lot, so I bought a journal to write in, specifically for that trial. It had a picture of footprints in the sand with the famous “footprints” poem written on the cover. It seemed appropriate for the cause, but little did I know how significant that journal would be at the end of my journey. I would write in it a few times a week and then maybe a few times a month. My entries were often unfiltered emotions and prayers, as well as sober documentation of the sequence of events, and the cycle of hope and disappointment, with every passing month. I’d write how I felt when I saw pregnant women and Mothers holding their babies. I’d cry out to God on those pages with all my roller-coaster feelings. Some days, I would humbly pray for patience and other days I would scream and cry, demanding answers. Any woman who has dealt with infertility knows the heavy burden of empty arms. In those three years, I went from being happy and social to depressed and withdrawn. But, it was also those three years that God began to teach me some very valuable life lessons: What it means to truly surrender my life, my will, and all my desires to Him, trusting that He knows what is best for me and is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than I could ever hope or imagine (Eph. 3:20). It was in that long walk through the dry desert, that I experienced God in a very real and intimate way. I felt His presence, heard His voice and saw the miracles unfold. It was the beginning of a lifelong lesson of walking in faith, of which I am a student of, even still.

It was April of the third year and I was at my lowest emotionally, but I still refused to give up the hope that I knew I had in Christ. I was nearing the end of the available pages left in my journal and I fought the negative thoughts that began to flood my head. “I’m gonna have to buy another stupid journal”. A few days had passed and I remember one night praying before going to sleep. I was so empty and tired. That was the night I had the most amazing dream. It was so real, that I was able to write it all down in my journal in detail when I awoke the next morning. In this dream, I had just washed up on a shore after being tossed by the wind and waves, almost drowning from a terrible storm. I got up and saw Jesus coming towards me as the dark sky turned so bright, I could hardly see. I felt peaceful and warm. Jesus took my hand and walked with me as we left footprints in the sand. He told me how much He loved me and that he felt my pain, saw my tears and heard my prayers. That was enough for me in that moment. I was so content. But after comforting me, He specifically instructed me to begin to give praise and celebrate, because I would conceive the following month. “Next month?!?” I asked. I turned to Him, but He was gone. “Did I hear that right?”. Just then I woke up. I wanted to go back to sleep so I could ask Him again, but I knew what I heard. As I laid there, the word “Rejoice” kept repeating in my head. I knew it was God. He was putting my faith to the test. If I really believed what He had just spoken, then wouldn’t my natural reaction be to Rejoice? I did believe, but I was afraid of being wrong. “What if I celebrate and it doesn’t happen and people think I’m crazy”? That was definitely not faith talking. I believed it to be true, so I decided that I was going to rejoice! Ironically, the first person I told was my Mother.

It was in that next month, on May 9th, 1999 (Mother’s Day) that I had my very last menstrual cycle and shortly thereafter, conceived my firstborn child. I didn’t know I was pregnant until a day before Father’s Day and my due date was Valentines Day. Coincidental? I think not. Soon after confirming the pregnancy, I opened my journal to write down my last & final entry.. and guess what? There was only one page left to write on, the very last page of the book. Oh, how sweet it was to see the loving confirmation that God’s timing is always perfect.

My story of infertility is now a cherished memory of God’s faithfulness, as I celebrate being a Mother of, not one, but two beautiful girls: Eliana Hope and Emmalia Grace. I now know why we are told to give glory when we go through trials of any kind. Because the testing of our faith will produce perseverance, character and hope. And HOPE will never disappoint us when it is in Christ Jesus (Rom.5:3-5). We will come face to face with pain and suffering, that’s just part of life. We can either give up hope or we can praise the God who gives us hope and a future. It’s our choice. We may or may not understand or know why, but this one thing I DO know…God is always faithful and His timing is always perfect.

The life of faith celebrates God’s faithfulness by giving Him praise before His promise comes.

“Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could ever hope or imagine…to HIM be the glory!” (Ephesians 3:20).

Happy Mothers Day!

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Life Promises Nothing…God Promises LIFE!

APRIL 2012 An EASTER POEM…

Life makes no promises, nor guarantees gain;
No glory in riches, power or fame.

No freedom from sadness, worry or fears;
pain or losses, heartaches or tears.

No gain for the righteous, nor justice for bad;
No rest for the weary or joy for the sad.

It offers no fountain to quench the soul;
Nor keep the young from growing old.

No promise of treasure, found by skill;
No trophy awarded with lasting thrill.

It plays favorites to no one, takes what it may;
Gives no lasting victory for a winning play.

No plans that promise to stay on course;
No absence of sorrow, regret or remorse.

No promise of loyal and lasting friends;
No love so perfect from beginning to end.

No great strength, money or goodwill;
That can breathe into the soul, a life fulfilled.

The only promise that life will give;
is the free choice, for whom we will live.

To live for ourselves, there is no reward;
But abundant life, who live for the Lord.

Life promises nothing of which we can cleave;
God promises life, for all who believe.

There’s only one hope, and only one friend,
There’s only one God who’ll stand in the end.

Though crucified, He conquered the grave;
Our sin forgiven, our debt has been paid.

The gift of life, fulfilled and set free,
Jesus Christ will give, to all who receive.

Ask and He will answer, seek and you will find;
Knock and the door will open; His promise to all mankind.

Happy Easter! May we remember His great love for us.

Romans 5:8 God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

John 15:13 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

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What’s in Your Garden?

SUNDAY, MARCH 25, 2012

What’s in Your Garden?

Springtime reminds me of when I was a kid and my Mom started a garden. I remember being excited about it, but I didn’t know anything about gardening. I was about to learn. Our house sat on almost an acre of land in a little town called Hadlock, Washington. The back yard was big and filled with lots of trees and bushes. The garden couldn’t be started without the help of my Dad first. The process seemed long and I wasn’t very patient, but I slowly learned that you can’t really have a good garden without patience. I watched as my Dad began preparing the space in the back yard. He cleared out all the weeds and set the boundaries for the garden and placed a wooden frame around it. It looked huge to me. You know how everything looks bigger, as a kid, than it does as an adult?  I began to get more eager to start planting, but the ground still wasn’t ready. My Dad had lots of work to do before we could plant anything. The hard labor was always my Dad’s job. He spent hours out there. He had to break up the old, hard ground, dig out all the bad dirt and then replace it with a special soil that was soft and filled with nutrients.  If he didn’t do this first, the hard ground would not allow anything to take root and grow. Then he began dividing up sections and forming rows, tilling the soil deep, so that it was fully mixed in. Each row would be labeled for identification of the different kinds of produce. There were areas that required shade from the heat and other areas that sat in full sun. I couldn’t believe all the planning and preparation involved.

Finally, after all the hard work was out of the way, we could begin the planting of seeds. My Mom had a seed for everything. Carrots, squash, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, peas, strawberries, melons, etc.  In each row, we planted a seed and spaced out just enough distance between each one until the row was filled and then stuck the label in the ground, so we’d know what we planted. When we were all done, we watered it. I thought to myself, “it’s done…now we wait”. I was wrong. Each day we had to give it attention. There was always work to be done. We had to give it a steady and consistent amount of water everyday so it wouldn’t dry out. We had to pull any weeds that would pop up, so they wouldn’t deplete the nutrients from the soil or take over the garden. We had to keep an eye out for insects or snails that would come and devour any growth. And then wait as the Sun would shine, proving the warmth it needed. It was a daily task that seemed to take forever before any real progress began. There were days I got tired of waiting, but I always knew the crop would eventually come. And it did! It was amazing. I could go pick carrots and strawberries and eat them straight from the ground. Anytime I was hungry, there was something ripe and ready to eat There was nothing better tasting than the food from that garden. Everything had more flavor and was sweeter than store-bought stuff. Anyone that’s ever had a garden knows that difference. It was rewarding year after year to watch the fruit of our labor grow. We lived there 5 years and then moved back to California. I have never had another garden since, mostly because I’m just too busy or the space never allowed for it. I miss it though and the memories and lessons learned from that garden are irreplacable.
As I get older and begin to look back at the years I’ve lived and all the years, hopefully, still left in me, I’m reminded of this garden and what it has taught me. Our lives are our own personal yard. The garden we grow becomes the food we eat and feed our children with. What we grow is determined by the seeds we plant and how much attention we give it. We can plant aimlessly  and sporadically, without any perimeters, planning or commitments and just see how it all turns out. But more than likely, it’ll end up a big mess and no crop worthy enough to eat.

Or, we can look to our Father in Heaven who lays out the foundation of our garden and ask Him to dig out the hardness of our heart, the guilt of our past and the doubts of our future and replace it with His Holy Spirit, giving us a new soft heart, removing the dirt from our past by His grace and forgiveness and giving  us shade, warmth and hope for a promising and fruitful future…an eternal garden of Eden. That’s the hardest part, that only God can do. We cannot begin to sow any seeds or grow anything good until he does all those things. And after that, we can’t just sit back and do nothing. We still have work to do, too. We have to section off areas of our lives, put God first and decide what to plant. Then label each row by setting aside time each day to read the Bible, pray,  fellowship and accountability with a church body and good teaching. We have to give our garden the daily attention that it needs, water it with the Word of God and let it take root in our mind and heart so we don’t dry out. We must always be aware of, and pull out, the little weeds of old habits that sneak in and deplete us or try to take over. We need to protect it from the distractions, business and excuses that come in to devour our faith and commitments, so we become fruitless. Lastly, we must be patient, trusting that His Son is watching over us, providing the warmth and shade we need and the promise of a sweet & fruitful crop in the end.
I’ve had many gardens in my life. Some, I would never want to eat from again and others that grew for a while, but I got lazy and failed to work hard at it, causing it to wither and die. I desire a life that is fruitful and always growing. I want to feed my children with the knowledge and truth that will nourish their souls so they’ll never be hungry. And it would be sweeter than any other garden, keeping them from eating the weeds of this fruitless generation that lacks God. I don’t ever want to be too busy or lack space in my life to grow a garden with God. Without God, It’s just a life full of weeds.
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Headed Home

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 2012

HEADED HOME

I’m a hairstylist and I’m often on my feet for a very long time. And at the end of my day, I can’t wait to get home. I’ll visualize my bed as I drive home and refuse stop anywhere pushing past all obstacles. My focus is HOME.  I love what I do, though. It’s fun, challenging and rewarding, but naturally I get tired at the end of the day, as anybody would. Sometimes, my days even feel like little races, where I start out strong and then slowly lose energy as I near the finish line.
I remember being on my High School track team and running the 100 meter hurdles. My classmates might remember how ridiculous I was.  Track was not my sport at all, but being 5’2″ and running the 100 meter hurdles was just plain silly. I knew I would never place, but I still wanted to challenge myself to something bigger than my preconceived limits. So after school, I would often set up 20 hurdles every 10 meters, totaling 200 meters instead of the traditional 10. Why? Because I thought if I conditioned myself for 20, then 10 might seem easier.  I was so worn out by the 20th hurdle, but determination was my ruler.  Although, this trick never made me faster, nor did it win me any races, I always crossed the finish line. I wasn’t running to win, but to finish.
We’re all in a race together; the race we call life. We run each and every day with our finish line marked somewhere ahead in an unknown distance. It could be a short dash for some and a marathon for others. We simply don’t know how long the race will be for each of us. We just run the best we can. I suppose it’s safe to say that we all get tired from time to time, especially when obstacles are put in our lane. We often view them as road blocks. It could be tempting to quit. But again, we must remember that these obstacles are merely part of the race. They are not meant to stop us, they are set in place for us to get past, leap over and poise ourselves confidently for the next one until the finish line is crossed. It is then, that we find rest.
Was I still tired after 10 hurdles? YEP!  We all get tired, no matter how hard we try to outsmart ourselves. Fatigue is the outcome of doing something hard; it isn’t a bad thing. It is merely a symptom that reveals to us that we need to find rest. And whether it’s work or play, weariness happens…to all of us. Thankfully, ‘rest’ is always waiting… mile after mile, hurdle after hurdle, there’s a finish line at the end of each day and a God who is always there to give us rest and lift us up.
Regardless of who we are, where we live or what we do, we’re all headed towards a final resting place. Where are you headed?  Rest can be found in many places, but none greater than from the one who gives rest to the weary. Home may be our focus, but our final finish line is at the end of our life when home is no longer a house, but an eternity. And whether or not we find rest for our soul, is determined by the race in which we run, our focus, and whether or not we cross the finish line.
*Matthew 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.
*11 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight and finished the race. I have kept the faith”.
*Isaiah 40:31 “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”
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Final Hour Faith

TUESDAY, JANUARY 31, 2012

Final Hour Faith

Have you ever been faced with a problem and not know it’s outcome or resolve until the very last hour?  The stress and anxiety associated with those events can be torment. But they are critical moments in our lives that define who we are and what we believe by how we respond in that last hour.
2011 brought a myriad of stressful events that could’ve easily broken me. All the way up to the final hour of 2011.  There was one particular issue that seemed to back me into, what I called, the “Red Sea”. My moment of truth. I felt like Moses with no where to go and the enemy (problem) was closing in fast.  I wondered how Moses must have felt. Overwhelmed? Frustrated? Doubtful? Fearful? Maybe, but what did he do in his final hour? And what did it say about the man he was and what he believed?
I pictured all of the Israelites standing there yelling at Moses for leading them to their death. (Exodus 14:12, They cried, “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”) This is such a perfect description of the human nature in the midst of crisis. To be fearful and angry. But as I read the story again, I understood the difference between Moses and the Israelites. They were looking back at their enemy and Moses wasn’t. He wasn’t distracted by the problem because he wasn’t looking at it. He was looking at God. (Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”) Wow. That’s Faith.
So here I was, still facing my red sea and I knew I had to stop looking at the problem and keep my eyes on God. To wait on Him. His answers are not always what I think or want but I know they are always better and always on time…His time. Sometimes I think God lets us fall on our back to get us to look up. He lets us get to our “red seas”, so we can witness His mighty hand do what we could never do and know that He is God. But how many times does He have to do it before we trust Him? I know I don’t have the faith that Moses had, but God said it only takes a “mustard-seed” size faith to move mountains. Faith in God, not ourselves. (John 15:5 “apart from me, you can do nothing).
So, I began to let go of my fear and thank Him for the resolve that was not yet evident and trust Him with whatever happened. I took my eyes off the problem and focused on God. I’m still working on this and I’m amazed at all that God does for me. All of yesterday’s worries are now memories. Today is a new day and tomorrow is a gift. I will face more obstacles, but do I really need Him to keep parting seas in order for me to trust Him with my life? I don’t want to just have a final hour faith… I want to have faith all the way through it. It’s a work in progress.
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A Character Challenge

MONDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2011

A Character Challenge

There’s not much that can get me upset and I’m pretty easy going, for the most part. I have the common factor of most females, but aside from the monthly emotional stuff, I’m very passive. Maybe to a fault. I can be too much of a people pleaser and for the sake of keeping peace, I often sacrifice my need for being heard or defending myself.  It’s not important to me because I know who I am.  I have passions and principles like most, although they may be different. I realize that my passion for living a life fully pleasing to the Lord may not be the same as someone else, but it is what sets my gauge for my principles. I aim to please God, not people. But being a people pleaser, I often miss my target.  I have suffered the consequences from worrying too much about what other people think or trying too hard to please someone other than God.  People expect way too much anyway, because in general, we are a selfish generation and good character is hard to come by.

Character is made, not born. It is established over time and tested much. We don’t always meet someone and know their character right away. Sometimes it’s obvious, but most of the time we learn their character as we form a relationship with them and base our opinions from our history and experience with them. The longer we know someone, the better our judgement becomes. I’ve been guilty of misjudging people, mostly because I didn’t take the necessary time or effort to listen.  I found myself questioning their motive and intentions. I couldn’t trust them. On the other hand, once I made the effort, I found it easier to decipher those who could be trusted and those who couldn’t. But it takes time and once you know that you can trust them, questioning their motive becomes obsolete. Like my husband, for instance. We will inevitably have our disagreements, but because I know him well enough to know his character, I can overlook his human error enough to see the good intentions of his heart. I trust him and he trusts me.
But have you ever been misjudged? Have you ever had your character challenged? It’s not a big deal if it’s challenged by someone that doesn’t know you very well, because you know they just don’t know you. But, there’s nothing worse than having your character challenged by someone who does know you and knows you well. It can feel like you have to prove yourself all over again. Do they not know you?  If they did, they wouldn’t question your intentions, right?
Nobody is perfect, I get that. I recognize this in myself and in others and I try to extend a great deal of grace before I assume or accuse.  And trusting people is not as easy as it once was, even when they are deserving of it.  I’m human and I know I fail, especially if I resort only on my own human effort. Human effort leads to human error every time, but human error leads to recognizing my need for Christ daily.  Why? Because Christ is perfect. And oddly enough, in all of His perfection, it was His character that was challenged most unfairly by men. I can vaguely comprehend how Christ must have felt when he was judged so unfairly, yet he did not defend Himself at all.  Instead, He kept his eyes on pleasing His Father in Heaven and not men, even unto death. Those who judged Him were those who never really knew Him or His character at all.
There is still an element of challenging God’s character, even today, when we ask “Why would God….?” or “How could He…?” or “Does He even care?”.  Instead of knowing His character so well that we trust Him in all circumstances, we question His actions and assume He’s trying to hurt us or that He doesn’t really care. That’s absurd!  I’m sure it doesn’t bother God much when people, who don’t really know Him, judge Him..that’s why He can say with compassion, “Father, forgive them…for they know not what they do”. But, how it must hurt Him when those who call Him Father, challenge His character with questions and accusations. Does He really need to prove Himself to us all over again? Do we really think He does not hear us when we call out to Him? Or that He doesn’t have our best interest in mind? Or that He doesn’t care?  If we know Him…we don’t ask, because we know the answers.
If we are misjudged by someone, we know we can follow His example and keep our eyes on God and not on man. But if we are misjudging God, maybe it’s because we don’t really know Him. If we know Him, we know we can trust Him and the longer we know Him, the better our judgment becomes and the less we question Him.
If we don’t know Him, He’s patiently waiting to know you and be known by you. (And it’s the greatest relationship you will ever have).
Merry Christmas…May we REALLY know the reason for the season.
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