Wednesday, July 31, 2013

But God is good

There is  a saying out there: "When it rains, it pours."
  Or "Tragedy happens in 3's"

It has poured this week. We haven't happened upon a third yet, but in a week's time, we have been through a pouring storm.
   But God is good.

We've been through the wringer. We've been stretched, pushed, pulled, and left exhausted with few resources left inside us.
  But God is good.

We've said goodbye to our dearly loved grandma, and on Friday, she will be buried. We are walking the path of grief once again.
   But God is good.

Left with no one to watch the kids, we endeavored into a new world and allowed them to stay at home alone while we went to work. The unexpected happened, our dog bit someone, police showed up, Michael and I sped home from work, and now we face a lot of unknown.
   But God is good.

 It is my tendency to worry; a struggle I've always battled. I can come up with scenarios in my mind even The Avengers or Superman haven't had to face in all the movies or comic books. (Ok, poor analogy perhaps, but the point is.....I worry way too much about impossible things sometimes).  I see what's happening around me, the chaos that keeps rolling on top of more chaos. The storm pouring down. And then I create a new "what if..."
   And then...
     And then...
        And then.....

I just keep thinking of more.

This time around, through this season of grief and sadness and exhaustion we face, I say: no more. I have walked the road of sadness far too many times in life the last few years. I have learned the truths in the hardest ways imaginable. And this time, I will not let that be my path. No more "and thens...."
   I replace those with
     But God is Good. 
          All the time.

It is sad to say goodbye to granny. But God is good. She had a great life. She is now with Him.
   We are exhausted with a few days of more exhausting traveling ahead. But God is good. He has given me strength through worse times-times of losing my mom, times of fighting for the good of our marriage, times of deep depression and anxiety. He will get me through this with renewed vigor somehow.
      The dog bite and the events that will follow with that in the next few weeks...well, that is another whole story and blog probably. too many unknowns. A lot of stressful fears with it all. But God is good. The kids handled it maturely. The police even said so. I feared being in trouble with the kids at home alone, but God is good. The police commended them.

I can't always find the good in the scenarios. But through all this week, of being pushed and pulled emotionally and physically, I have been reminded a few things.
 Stop. And pray. My tendency is to call someone or share right away. I need to stop and pray. Talk to the One who can fix it. Talk to the One who can calm me. And it makes all the difference in my response. I could have fallen apart on any of these scenarios (and perhaps I had my moments....) but overall, I had the whispering reminder of
   God is good. All the time. Every day. One day at a time. One scenario at a time.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A shining light

One of my all time favorite things about summer is lightning bugs. I've always loved those little guys.
I have great childhood memories of going out in the dark and catching the bugs in jars and then watching them light up. We'd always let them go by the end of the night, though.
   The lightning bug season is short, but my kids have picked up on my love for those little bugs. Last night we ran around the yard, looking like silly people, catching those bugs, watching them light up, and then flying away.

 That got me to thinking about how true it is of light v. dark.  When we were along the back fence, trying to catch the bugs, it was nearly impossible until they lit up. We couldn't see them flying around because they blended into the leaves and darkness. However, when their light shone, we ran to catch it. We run to the light.

A similar thought crossed my mind during my coffee shop renovations recently.
   The electricians put in around 4 new lights overhead, near my work areas. When I came in the Monday after they'd done it, I was amazed at the difference. I never knew how dark the area was until the extra light was put in.

Have you ever been in the dark? But not realized it until you "saw the light"?

When my mom died, I stayed in the dark for a while. I struggled through some dark days during that time. My depression grew so deep that I was consumed at times by the dark. The thing is, I never knew I was in the dark. I was totally blind to it.

Until one day, the light was bright and I realized how dark I'd been. The realization was a painful one, but what a beautiful thing to be in the light again. The journey to repairing  life born out of the midst of those dark times has not always been easy, but being in the light is a much more peaceful place.

In the dark, you fumble around to find your way. In the light, you can walk clearly and confidently.

In the dark, you can hide. In the light, you are seen.

In the dark, you don't know what's right ahead and it can be scary. In the light, though you may not know what's around the corner, you don't fear it because you can at least see clearly.

Darkness often =sin.   Light = God's truths.

In sin, you can't separate lies from truth. In obedience, truth is evident, even if not easy.
   In sin, hurts are born and destruction is created. In God's truths, healing and peace are found.
      In sin, selfishness is often what drives a persons decisions. In God's truths, dying to one's self drives a persons decisions.

I have a daily choice as to whether I will walk in darkness or light. I can BE darkness or I can BE light. Light is so much better and more clear- it breeds life into those around me and into my own day.
  Like chasing lightning bugs when they can't be totally seen, I may look like a crazy woman when I am chasing or being the light. But I don't care. I know that the light brings joy, just like that little lightning bug.

 So, one day at a time, one decision at a time, I choose the shining light. I choose God's truths.

 Does your light shine, drawing others to Him, as the lightning bugs does?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Youth and prayer

Sunday, 9 middle schoolers embarked on a mission trip to Tennessee.
   My daughter was one of them.

This phase of being a parent to a pre teen is a brand new learning experience for me. It is both beautiful and challenging. Exciting and scary. It is for sure a new journey for me as a mom, as much as it is a new journey for my daughter.

On Sunday,as she prepared to leave and as I was on the brink of an emotional meltdown (Yes, I was . Not my daughter, but me), she told me the same advice I give her: Just take deep breaths.

Who is the parent here???  It was one of those moments I can't say I'm proud of as a mom, but it happened nonetheless. And I think, if all us moms were honest, we all have moments like that.

But as we embark into this new phase, I am learning a lot. Things about me.
   Things about parenting.
      Things about coming together with my husband.
          Things about letting go.
               Things about prayer.
And much, much prayer is involved.

Last Wednesday, I had the privilege to work with the youth group at church for an evening. I got a taste of seeing what Elizabeth's new interactions will be.

Here are some highlights:
  - I was smacked in the face with a kickball (I'm fine. My pride maybe not so much)
  -I was soaked with a water balloon (with white shorts on, nonetheless! )
  - I ate pizza and chips and junk (And remembered I do not have the metabolism of a youth anymore)
  -I met kids from my daughters age to nearly college age.
  -I got to be in the midst of their lesson, which happened to be on prayer.

Although this new phase is challenging to me, I love it. I love that my growing daughter is now having adult"ish" conversations with me.
    I love that she is on a missions trip this week because her heart is truly to serve God.
       I love the energy that come from being around the youth.
             I love the lessons I am re-learning in my life as I walk my daughter through this.
                I love that the newness of this journey is bringing me and Michael closer in some aspects.

Nick, the youth pastor, does a great job with these kids. Wednesday he taught a lesson on prayer. Prayer is an action that, no matter how long you've known God, you can still grow and learn in this area. Funny, my daughter was the youngest in the room. And as I sat there, I realized I was the oldest in the room. (When did this happen?? !)  But age is not of importance in prayer. The heart is.  This year I have seen some pretty cool answers to prayer. But in the lesson on prayer Wednesday night, I was reminded that sometimes doubt can creep in and be a hinderance to our prayers.
   Doubt. Worry. The 2 are pretty similar sometimes. I will admit that I have prayed before for something and not really believed it could happen. That is doubt. It's not that I don't think God is capable. It is that the human side of me screams "impossible" and then the doubts take over.
   I worry a lot. It's a grand fault of mine. And when I worry, doubts creep in.
    But prayer can conquer that. Seeing answers can conquer that. Matthew tells us in God's word that we only need the faith of a mustard seed. Do you know how small a mustard seed is?  It's incredibly small....and that is all I need to have. I have seen miraculous answers to prayer, so why should I doubt?
     Fears create doubt.
        Hurt creates doubt.
           Thoughts create doubt.
              People create doubt.
 But God covers all that. And the amazing thing is that all I have to do is ask Him. To tell Him my doubts. And, if I allow my faith to be even as small as a mustard seed-
     Fear becomes excitement and anticipation.
         Hurt becomes healing.
            Thoughts are replaced with God's truths.
                And people....well, people and their opinions will always be there, but I can replace what they say with what God says. And allow what God says to be my guiding place, as it always should be.

Prayer is powerful. As I sat in the midst of youth last Wednesday, I am sure my mind was in a different place than theirs. How far God has brought me since I was their age. But some of those lessons are still the same.... And as we sent Elizabeth off on her trip Sunday, prayer has been a huge part of my week. And prayer is transforming.
 One day, even one prayer at a time.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Giver of Grace


That topic has penetrated my heart lately.

I've already blogged about it once, and yet I sit here again with it in my heart.

I believe that grace cannot be fully and wholeheartedly understood until it has had to have been experienced being given to you. 

I grew up in a very loving home. I grew up learning about grace. I understood what the term meant. I accepted God's grace as a very little girl. But because I grew up in a very loving home with a great environment, I didn't grasp the depth of grace until I grew older and experienced life. 

 When I was 13, I experienced for the first "real" time, what it meant to truly extend grace. I wasn't very good at doing it. I didn't realize how hard it could be to forgive when the heart has been wounded. Yet, then, at 13, I got a dose of what true forgiveness was. (Though it took me a long while to arrive there). 

However, I still hadn't had to have it extended to me in a real manner.

You could say I was the "goodie goodie" growing up. I followed curfew (maybe because I didn't really have one?? )
   I had good friends.
     I didn't experiment with the "bad" things.
       I didn't even go to the movie theater....

I was a goodie goodie, by many people's definition. 

But, as I grew older and on my own, I came to a place of needing grace to be extended to me. 
 I did not and have not always made the best decisions in life. Decisions which have led, at times, to needing grace. 
   We all need grace. 
    some situations just call for it more.

Some situations are public. Some are not. But regardless of the scenario, it doesn't matter. Grace is often a tough action for others to bestow.

Showing grace, or extending it, means that your heart has been wounded in some way by a person. Maybe something they said to you or about you.
   Maybe something they did that affected you.
      Maybe something they didn't do.

Grace....forgiveness....It is hard to give sometimes. 
   A hurtful action can cause a deep wound for a long time. 
      A hurtful word can do the same. 

When the world around me says it's ok to hold onto that hurt and anger, God says it is not.
   Anger and bitterness spill over onto everyone around me. 
     Anger and lack of grace cause the situation only to be worse. 
          Lack of forgiveness causes more pain inside. 

Extend Grace.  
    Grace brings peace.
       Grace brings joy.
           Grace brings restoration. To my heart. To those around me.  

Extend grace because there is One who died for it. And He is the One who matters. Jesus died to extend His grace to me. 
  I don't deserve it.
    I don't earn it.
but He gives it.
He gives it because He loves me.
   He gives it because He IS love. He IS grace.

And He asks me to do the same. He asks us all to.

I have had to do my share of asking for grace. It has been humbling and heartbreaking at times.
    But is is freeing and fulfilling every time. 

And extending grace is the same. It is not an easy task.
   But it is freeing and fulfilling.

Do you need grace today? It's there....waiting for you.

 Or do you need to extend the grace? The giver of grace will help you; you just have to ask.

I am not an expert on grace. i am not a speaker. I am not really even technically a writer. So you don't have to take my word on this topic. I can say I have had to give grace when I didn't feel like it and i have had to ask for grace when it was difficult for others to give it. 
 But don't take my word about grace. Take His.
     He is the expert.
        He IS the giver of grace.  And I am every day thankful for that.
 Because of His grace, I can live in freedom.
   Freedom from sin. Freedom from my past. Freedom from hurts and wounds. Freedom from anger and bitterness.  Total freedom.

Grace. One of the most difficult, yet most beautiful, actions we can bestow.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fear of drowning

I was 5 years old, and my family and I were on our way to Texas to visit my mom's parents, my grandma and pa.
   It was the first vacation I remember, and the excitement was so high in my little 5 year old energetic ways. It was December, Christmas, warm vacation destination and grandparents- could it get any better??
    One afternoon, we were out at their pool swimming. Seeing as  I was 5, a farm girl, and totally unexposed to swimming yet, I was excited about having a huge pool to swim in. We were all there, and I recall my older brother specifically going over to the hot tub and jumping into it (who does that??) Anyway, somehow, I decided I would copy him and do the same. It was small, after all. And not deep. And I viewed it as a kiddie pool. Somehow, I managed to jump into it when no one else was there. And I gasped for breath, I slashed the water, looking for anything to grab onto. I was drowning (or I thought I was). I was scared to death.  But someone came along and "rescued" me, and I left the pool alone the rest of the day.

From that point on in my life, I had a fear of the water. If you asked me what my worst fear was, it was drowning. Growing up, I avoided swimming in deep waters, I said no to large youth events involving lakes or waters where my feet wouldn't touch, and I was the nerd who wore the life jacket all the time.

 And then I fell in love with a Floridian. A man who loved the water and was completely confident in it, no matter the depth. We would go out to the beach, and I would hang onto him for dear life. And yet, with him, I was never afraid of the water. He kept me safe.  And eventually, he helped me overcome my deathly fear of water.

I do not have that same fear of drowning anymore. But I was thinking on this topic in light of my life dreams.
 Fear of Failure.
   Fear of lack of support.
    Fear of standing alone in a task.
      Fear of "no".

But, when I grasp onto God for dear life, just as I would on my husband in the water, I can find safety.
   I find confidence.
    I find support and a cheerleader.
      I find Him there, somehow gently urging me on. Sometimes through a friend. Sometimes through family. Sometimes, through a fellow blogger. (
     I find a "Go For It! You can do it!! " instead of a "no"

When I grasp onto God, I believe in myself and the dream becomes about what He wants me to do, not what I want to do. For the longest time, I dreamed of going back to school. I kept pursuing it. But that's the point. I pursued it. When I put it in His hands and grasped onto Him, He made it clear He had bigger dreams for me....for now.
       Dreams of Growing my mom's scholarship. This year, I am holding onto Him through prayer and pushing forward to reach that goal. It scares me to death, Just like drowning once did. It scares me that I might fail. But, If I don't try, if I don't reach out and hang onto Him and let Him carry me through the water, how will I ever know what He can accomplish? And so I dream. I dream big. And I pray hard. And I pursue the dream and I follow every lead. And sometimes, (always because of Him) someone comes to me and asks what they can do. And the dream grows. 10,000$ can do a lot in scholarship funding for a student, and i am dreaming we can do it. God can do it. this year we are praying and striving to raise $10,000 for that scholarship fund. That's 400 participants for the 5K. That's a phenomenal increase from last year. It scares me.  But from where did that dream come? I believe God.

       I dream to write. I dream that God will take my small life and allow it to unfold somehow through a book one day. And as I let go of school and other ideas I had, God has given me a larger platform to write. He has given me words, and they are words from Him. They are not my words. They are my experiences and my emotions, put out there like wearing the heart on the sleeve. Some criticize the vulnerability. Some say I could use my time better. And some tell me I shouldn't....
   but God says yes. And through that, He opens doors. It's a small baby step towards the dream of writing a book. A book of what?? I am still not clear on that, but I am pursuing nonetheless. (Did I really just share that for everyone to read? yikes!) However, all that being said in my pursuit of the dream to write, I also want to say that it is a dream and it may not be one to be accomplished today or this I will write and I will pray and I will wait on God's timing for that dream to unfold into a reality.

And so, as I dream, I have to remember my experience of the fear of drowning. I got over that fear, but it took time and it took getting into the water.
  Now, I have to get over my fears of failures or of the naysayers and sit silently and willingly before God and allow Him to move. And then JUMP! The water is deep, but He will catch me.

  What is your dream? And what is holding you back?  I've learned to ask that and grow through that process. Will you?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A little smile goes a long way


I love smiles. A smile is one of the first things I notice on someone. My dad has these beautiful lines around his eyes and mouth that crinkle up when he laughs or smiles. That is evidence of a lot of happiness. I am a woman who wants to see those same wrinkles on my face.

A little smile goes a long way.

I was having a rough morning. I do not often express that to others. Not because I am fake, but more so because I'm busy and sharing takes me time. I'm not a short story teller, if you hadn't noticed.  But yes, rough days do happen for me. Then she came in and ordered her drink. She said she was having a rough morning. I smiled and said "You're in the right spot. Coffee helps everything!". Then she laughed. Then I laughed. It was just what I needed. And she blessed my day.

  A smile is contagious. A little smile goes a long way.

Happiness. Joy. Smiles shine through in both, but the definitions are quite different.

Happiness comes and goes. Happiness stems from something exciting or pleasing.
  Joy stays. It may not always manifest itself, but it is always there.

"But the fruit of the spirit is joy...." Galations 5:22-23

Some days, a person's smile carries me. Many days, I get to pass a smile to others so that they can carry a smile outside  and pass it on. A little smile goes a long way.

I tell you again that it took me many long conversations, prayerful moments, tearful experiences and tough questions to realize that God can use me to make a difference. Me. A simple barista. But I am a barista with a smile. He can use a smile. He can use your smile. It's not about me. It's about God.
  I smile because of Him.

I have been asked at times "Why are you always so happy?"
     I will be the first to say that I have many pains in my heart. I carry more burdens than I will ever verbalize. I have walked through many difficult circumstances pushed into a small time window that has brought on more tears, heartache, icky decisions, restless nights and sorrowful prayers than I ever thought could happen in my life. But it is because I have experienced those moments that I can also sit here and say that He has given me true joy.
  I have JOY. True Joy. Jesus Joy. And that makes me happy. That makes me smile.
   He has taken those moments and turned them to smiles, peace, thoughtful decisions, true rest and a thankful heart. That puts a smile on my face which I can pass on to someone else, and hopefully it keeps on going. And hopefully my smile, there because of the beautiful things which God has done for me, gifts He has given, and experiences He's allowed, will be passed along to carry His joy to the next person. And then they can pass it on.

 It's not about me. It's about Him.

And a little smile goes a long way.

You never know what someone is going through today.
   You never know what frustration a person might be experiencing.
      You never know what burdens a person is carrying.

Words are not always necessary.
   A little smile goes a long way.

It has touched me countless moments. My mom often smiled more than she talked.
  Perhaps I should continue to learn from her and do the same thing.

A little smile goes a long way.

Carry someone a smile today. Maybe to your barista, or a cashier, or your spouse, or the person in line behind you.  A little smile really does go a long way.