Monday, August 14, 2017

The Novel

In memoirs and biographies I have read that writers lead interesting, often solitary, lives. I've read accounts of authors who sit for hours and smile at blank pages as the hours tick by as if they were mere minutes. Writers must live in the real world but they flavor it with a hearty helping of fantasy. They are present yet absent; engaged yet disconnected.
This view of the writer's life is one I used to have only from afar but not anymore. Not since I became a writer. Well, not a published and printed "writer" but still a writer. I haven't sought the input of a literary agent for confirmation on that status. I haven't needed to. My writer's designation has been God-given, flowing from the thoughts He has pouring into my mind and nurturing my spirit. He has given me this duty to put a pen to paper and it is an honor to fulfill that call.

It has taken seven years for me to release my need to "be" something and someone according to the world and let being a writer be enough. It took the schooling of life and the experience of struggle to shape me into a writer. Patiently, God has been molding me for this position by teaching me how to listen, obey and follow. I've far from mastered the art of these principles but God is faithfully honing my writing skills, and, more importantly, honing my heart to be fixated on Him alone.

As God has been teaching me, pruning me and perfecting my writer's hand (a process that is destined to be life-long) He has entrusted me with little projects to work on along the way. It began with telling the story of Pippy and her training. Or, more accurately, my training. When I look back on the revelations experienced in those writings, the truths found in teaching a puppy how to sit, stay and refrain from peeing on the carpet, I see how God had a much bigger plan for Pippy and I than I ever imagined. He used my Pippy Love to train and discipline my heart, not just my Schnoodle puppy.

Over these seven years my writings have numbered into the thousands and an overwhelming number of them have been born out of sickness and illness. So many of my writings have been laments of physical anguish. My pain poured out on the page. Writing as been the avenue in which I've been able to best explain the unexplained and process the confusing. God has transformed writing into an act of spiritual renewal where I lay my burdens down and pick up His truth, His faithfulness and His promises.

Over the past seven years my hand has scribbled with ink in countless lined journals and written every thing from one-liners to entire (unpublished) devotional books. On my computer I've typed in the morning, in the evening and occasionally in the middle of the night. In writing I have exposed my heart and been witness to glorious glimpses of God's.
In all of this writing, over all of these years, I've explored writing in many forms but never fiction. The very thought of writing a novel has intimidated me. How does the novel writer ever come up with a thought that will capture a reader's attention for hundreds of pages and dozens of chapters? How does the author keep a consistent voice and weave story lines and character plots into one cohesive book? How do they remain dedicated to the process? How do they know where the novel is going to go? Do they know where the novel is going to go?
Overwhelmed by the thought of such a literary endeavor I never even contemplated writing a novel. Little did I know God would hand me a pen and tell me to get going on the task during year seven of my never-ending writer's education.

As I've heeded the command the most remarkable truths have been revealed as I've embarked on this writer's journey. More significant than the answers to my questions about writing a novel, God has been answering questions of my eternal spirit and heart. Questions about following Him, walking with Him and making it to the end of His story.

That is so like God, isn't it? He doesn't come right out and answer our questions with points A, B, and C. He gives us a task, a challenge, and promises to help us complete it. Meanwhile, in the completing of it, He assures us that all of our questions will all be answered in the end. We don't get the answers at the start. In fact, we usually begin with absolutely no idea where the story is going. The plot and course of our life's journey is revealed much the same way a novelist's story is revealed as they put pen to paper. Novel writing, like traveling through life with God, requires dedication, trust and faith to see the process through to the end.
God is writing a story with each of our lives and He has filled our pages with the unexpected. He's written for each of us a page-turner to keep us on our toes, captivated by the possibilities of what's to come next. Is a new character about to enter our plot? Is the scene about to transition into an entirely different place? Is there a climatic chapter up ahead or is the next chapter simple and sweet? Will there be a lull in the action or a predicament on the next page?
God doesn't give us hints. He likes surprise endings. He likes twists and turns. He likes to include the unexpected. He takes great pleasure in filling the pages of our stories with riveting tales that give testimony to His goodness and honor to His great name. 

When God is given the pen and entrusted with every line, we can rest assured that the plot is going to be riveting and the ending is going to be glorious. With God as the Author we need not know how we get to end. We can simply rest in the journey and let it unfold, page-by-page.
That's how novels are written, one page at a time, and that's how life's journey with God is written, too. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Happy National Bowling Day!

Happy National Bowling Day! How are you celebrating this special holiday? Throwing a few strikes at the local bowling alley? Sending pins up into the air like party balloons? Reminiscing about your history with gutters and your preference for bumpers?

I've chosen the last option and taken a trip down gutter ball memory lane. My bowling history is truly pathetic pathetic. In my youth I resorted to the squat and roll technique. I would approach the lane, kneel down and push the ball down the lane. Throwing the ball would have been an option had I not been so woefully inept at the concept. I couldn't throw the ball straight to save my life - or my score. I was a doomed gutter girl. Without the help of bumpers I was completely hopeless at getting a strike or even enough pins to maintain a credible score. My numbers were so pathetic they were ridiculous, not a serious player in the game. So when I bowled I took my turns with silliness and rolled in 50 points purely for fun.
Suffice it to say, I never became a very regular, or skilled, bowler. When I've bowled I've always needed bumpers to keep me out of the gutters and a lot of grace to let me stay in the game.

...Funny how things haven't changed much...

It has been years since I've stepped foot in a bowling alley, let alone attempted to take down a pin, but I'm still in need of bumpers to keep me out of gutters. I'm in need of merciful grace to keep me in the game, playing on God's glorious team to claim the ultimate prize.
Along this alley way of life there are gutters that lead straight to destruction, ruin and devastation. Much more than points are at stake. Now eternal life is on the line. The alley isn't a part of some silly game. This is the way to eternity.
I've made so many bad throws and pathetic pushes to get down my alley of life. I've taken throws without proper form or preparation and without the help of my bumper. On my own the ball always goes for the gutter. A few times its course has looked promising enough. It goes straight for a few feet but the fate of my ball - my plan, my agenda, my will, my way - always ends up right where my bowling balls did in the bowling alley. The gutter.
The truth is I am in more desperate need of bumpers now than I ever was in my occasional bowling days. I am in desperate need of God's bumpers that keep me out of life's gutters. I need God to put up His hedge of protection around me to keep me on track. Without His steady hand leading me I have no hope of a strike. Apart from God keeping me on the straight and narrow path I am doomed to end up in the gutter of defeat.

The good news is God provides bumpers. He has not set me in front of this slippery, slick alleyway and left me to take the pins down alone. He's come along to not just help me, but to guide me. He isn't just going to teach me how to throw the ball, He is going to protect it once it gets rolling. When I bowl with God He gives me the protection I need to make it safely to the end of the lane. His path comes with bumpers that keep me steady, stable and safe all the way to an eternal strike.
Now that's a holy-day I can celebrate.

Truth Wins

Another morning, another day for the Devil to tell his lies. Did you hear him like I did this morning, whispering such ugly slander and wicked deceit? ... This is hopeless... You're never going to overcome this... Uh, oh, you've slid back down the hill of progress again... God didn't answer that prayer and He's not going to...
Lies! Every word, complete and utter lies!
Who is the devil to say anything is hopeless? What would he know about hope? He wouldn't know hope even if it hit him in face.
And overcoming? The only overcoming he enjoys is when he comes over life with death. His type of "progress" leads right to a hellish grave - the very same place he'd like to send every heart broken prayer sent to God on high.

Dear Friend I hope you didn't listen to that serpent, that snake, that cunning, evil, deceitful, father of lies. I hope you didn't give him a moment of your ear because he's a liar. He knows not a single word of truth, let alone how to speak it.
The Devil knows nothing but dishonesty, destruction and defeat - they are his devastating trifecta.
The Devil is the teller of lies and the twister of truth. He's a faker and author of falsehoods. He is the deliverer of darkness, depression and doom - he is the devastating trifecta.
The Devil is the enemy. He stands in opposition to all that is good, beautiful, peaceful, restful, beneficial and eternal. He fights to tear down; never to build up. He tricks and loves to deceive. He takes pleasure in stealing, killing and destroying.
The Devil is pure evil. If a word is hateful or a thought is damaging you can be sure the Devil had his way in its making. If an act is hurtful or a deed is deadly, you can be sure the Devil is wearing a smile. He loves a good scene of destruction.

But God is the Father of Truth...
God is the Giver of Life...
God is the Author of Beauty...
God is the voice of love...
God is the Light who illuminates the darkness...
God is the King who claims victory over every enemy and sends evil into retreat...

This morning the Devil showed up with his trickery and vile words. But God showed up, too, and silenced the lips of liar. The truth of the Lord spoke and sent my enemy fleeting for the darkness and evil running for the hills.
The Lord our God has claimed the victory.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Praise Report

Every now and again God puts chains on my hands to keep them from writing. He freezes my fingers and presses pause on my mind so I can step back, raise my arms and just simply praise Him.
Right now in my life I am in one of those blessed times.

You may have noticed that lately my fingers haven't been hitting the keys to share stories, observations and lessons learned on life and faith. But don't worry, these fingers haven't given up. They've risen up in joyful, exuberant praise and gratitude to God.

So, naturally, you may be wondering, what have I been thanking God for? What praise has captured my hands and my heart?
Being alive.
Having breath in my lungs and a beat in my heart sustained by the very hand of God.
Having hope because I know and have full in confidence that God's plans are perfect and His ways are always good. The future that God has in store is so brilliant and glorious that it fills me with unspeakable joy and peace. And thanks, so much thanks.

In my Lyme journey the praise report continues. In just four months amazing victories have already been won in my body. The muscle spasms that plagued my daily life for years have been slashed in their frequency and intensity. My blood sugar swings are in retreat. The coming and going of the "claw foot" has disappeared entirely. The episodes of optic-neuropathy that taunted my vision are no longer having their cruel way with my eyes.
The war being fought in my body is being waged one life and death battle at a time. But praise be to God because life is winning every one. God is claiming every victory.

To all of my prayer warriors, thank you for going to battle with me. Thank you for taking up arms on the front lines and fighting alongside me. I am abundantly grateful and thankful for each of you and your support.

As challenging and trying as the last four months (and entire seven years of health warfare) have been, I am overcome with thanks because God has sustained me every step of the way. It is only by His power that I have survived and only by His power that I am right now, in this very moment being made well.  

Tonight friends I encourage you to pause and offer God your praise and your thanks. Praise Him for the journey. Praise Him for life. Praise God because the battle is already won and our Lord, Jesus Christ has claimed the victory!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Healing Poultice

Natural remedies have long been my medicine of choice. I regularly take homeopathic antibiotics instead of pharmaceuticals and apply essential oils instead of chemical creams. I believe in sweating out a fever and that most any skin ailment can be cured by either Manuka honey, Apple Cider Vinegar, Coconut Oil or all of the above combined.
Given my affinity for natural health sites and books on the subject I thought I was well versed, or at least semi-versed, in nearly every healing protocol. I thought wrong. It turns out my natural remedy arsenal has been missing a key component of the ancient medicine cabinet. The herbal poultice.
These incredible, and simple, compresses made of clay and herbs have been natural medicine stand-bys for centuries, known to heal practically every ailment from burns to hernias and everything in between. Hippocrates used them and so did my Great Grandma. Bottom line, if you have a problem, you need a poultice.
Given the rich and successful history of the poultice remedy I decided to employ the practice for my own stomach ailment. Each night I lay down in bed and affix to my stomach a sticky, slimy compress made of herbal powder, silver, water and various kinds of bark. With plastic wrap, an ace bandage and a silent prayer for healing, I secure my poultice and settle in for a night of internal repair.
The first few nights with my poultice were a struggle. The ace bandage poked me and the plastic wrap kept slipping out of place. I was up and down all night like a yo-yo, aggravated with my poultice. Annoyed at being woken up, I admit I even cursed the ancient poultice practice. This is so ridiculous - sleeping with clay on the stomach! How could this be healing me? Hippocrates can keep his poultice!
But each morning, as the sun has flooded my room with light, a renewed hope in the poultice has flooded my heart with hope. As strange as it is, I've come to cherish the sticky, slimy, clay poultice and not just because it has internal healing properties. I've become a believer and lover of the ancient poultice remedy because it draws me to an even greater, more powerful poultice - the one covering my heart. 
Jesus' Holy Spirit is the poultice that has healed my heart and gives me new life. I was damaged and broken, in need of repair and His love brought me eternal restoration. The hand of Jesus has been laid on me, healing wounds only He could ever see or touch. Because Christ's Spirit has saved me and dwells within me I am made eternally well, healed from the inside, out.
With a prayer in my heart and a poultice on my stomach, I am drawn back to the Great Physician who has made me new by breathing His life into my dead soul. In His medicine cabinet I have everything needed for healing, from a poultice for my damaged stomach to the everlasting, glorious redemption of my lost and failing soul.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A child's tale gone right

As youngsters growing up we hear the classic children's tales...and how they all went wrong.
One boy who cried wolf and all the town's people came running...but not for long. When he kept on crying wolf the people stopped caring and ceased their running to his aid.
Then there was a girl who went and broke into a bear's house. She tried out the bedroom mattresses and tasted every bowl the breakfast porridge...but not for long. When the furry home owners returned the young intruder went running away petrified and scared.
And then there were those couple of kids who traveled up a hill for a simple bucket of water... but not for long. The boy fell down and...well, you know how this story goes. The little girl went tumbling down after.

Why is it that every nursery rhyme ends in some sort of calamity? Even when the beginning is as sweet as a frolic through a forest or playful as skipping up a hill, the end is always bitter.
But not my story. Not my rhyme. No, this tale is destined for a much better ending.
No matter how dreadful the fate of my tale my appear today I know that my Author wrote a happy ending for my life's tale. I have an enduring hope in the final stanza of this rhyme because I know the story won't end in a calamity. This story ends in victory.

Because I trust the Author, I can rest in the assurance that I will not end up like the boy who cried wolf that no one came to save. God will always save me. He will always hear my cry and come running to my rescue.
Because I trust God with every line of my life, I am saved from being a real-life Goldilocks (with short hair), always searching and running scared. With God as my peace and protection, my story is free from fear and discontentment.
Because God is my stability and my firm foundation I know I am destined to going fall down like Jake or Jill. I might trip and stumble but God will never let me go tumbling away from His safety. He will continue carrying me even up hills, over mountains and through the deepest valleys. And God will keep my crown from breaking, too.

This world is God's nursery and my life is His real-life rhyme. I don't know how it ends and I don't need to. It is simply enough just to know it ends well. My life's story is destined to end perfectly because God never writes rhymes without hope. God is the exclusive Author of stories with bright and beautiful futures and tales with eternally happy endings.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Finding Puzzle Pieces

Healing is like putting together a puzzle with a million pieces and no picture on a box to follow. Just when you think you've gathered them all, that there couldn't possibly be another piece to add to the puzzle, another shows up. God presents a missing piece you didn't even know you were missing. He drops it into your lap and it takes you by such surprise. It isn't the size or shape of the puzzle piece that shocks you. It is the remarkable realization that you've been so long in missing such an important piece to your puzzle.
A thousand times on my journey to complete my own healing puzzle I've thought I had all of the pieces. I was sure that it was just the placement that was off. What more could I need to be whole? What more could my heart be missing? What more could my body be needing?
With my own eyes and without the precise picture on a box to follow, I've never been capable of seeing the missing pieces I need. Only God has been able to reveal them in His time and by His mysterious methods.
The discovery of a new puzzle piece is always exciting, invigorating and even humbling. It is exciting to be one step closer to a whole image of healing perfection and invigorating to hear from God. But it is humbling to see what massive puzzle pieces I've missed for so long. Pieces of forgiveness, joy and laughter. Pieces that would have brought me peace and other pieces that would have lifted burdens. Along this journey I've picked up precious pieces of my physical body's healing puzzle but the pieces I cherish most aren't the pieces that have helped put my body back together again. My most precious pieces are those that have healed my heart.
The pieces that would have transformed my eternal life are the pieces of salvation and mercy. They are the center pieces of God's grace and love. It's these everlasting pieces that have not only renewed my health here on earth but have put the puzzle of my eternal life together.
God's puzzle piece placement and timing is perfect. He delivers the pieces just when I need them, when I have the eyes to see them and the place in my heart to put them. My puzzle isn't complete just yet. This side of heaven it never will be but one thing I know for sure. The image at the end, on the other side of the gates of perfect healing, the image of complete restoration will be worth every moment spent collecting puzzle pieces along the way.

Monday, July 24, 2017



I wasn't born with an innate love of quiet and stillness. Case in point: Growing up my Dad nicknamed me "M.A." to be utilized in circumstances in which I was acting particularly rowdy. "M.A." stood for Maximum Annoyance. As you might imagine I wasn't fond of the not-so-endearing term but I was even less fond of being still or quiet.
Thankfully, as I matured, so did my behavior. I stayed loud and rambunctious but lost the maximum annoyance flare. By high school my "rambunctious" behavior had transformed into studying for tests and belting out musical productions on the stage and worship songs in church. I grew up but I didn't grow quiet or still, just a different, more agreeable, variety of noisy.
It wasn't until I became sick and weak that my voice began to quiet and my speed began to slow. I didn't take kindly to losing my rambunctious spirit. For years, nearly all seven years of my illness, I fought hard to keep the volume of my life as loud as possible and the pace as quick as I could manage. As I deteriorated physically that fight became an all-out battle with more losses than wins and more tears than celebrations.
When the frailty of my body finally forced me to surrender to the quiet life I threw fits. When I could no longer resist stillness I wailed like I was being tortured. If ever there was a time to don the nickname "M.A." those tantrums were the time.
It took becoming deathly sick and completely physically depleted to realize that stillness isn't a curse. The still, quiet life is actually a blessing.
Before my health became so compromised I thought a full life was defined as one bursting with adventure, excitement, experiences, going and doing. I was blind to the ill effects of needing to be surrounded by constant activity and incessant noise. I was unwilling to surrender to the silence. I didn't want to embrace the quiet.
But God works in mysterious ways. He has used my illness to open my eyes to see the precious blessings found only in quiet life. God has shown me a life of bliss in the stillness.
Despite my reluctance, God's pursuit of my surrender to the quiet life has been relentless. He has pulled me away from the world so that I can experience the serenity of His presence. God has revealed to me that my identity, contentment and fulfillment do not come from doing, accomplishing and experiencing. My worth and purpose are found in Christ. Peace, rest and joy are found in His quiet presence.
Whether ill or in full health, I have life to the fullest because I have my life hidden in the quiet, still and eternal life of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Just call me Wile E.

I'm thinking of changing my name. Wile E. sounds about right. Heaven knows I certainly feel a whole lot like that loony coyote cartoon character on a perpetual chase ending with a brick wall or anvil to the skull. The prey of my chase's pursuit is far more illusive than the coyote's feathered fowl and much trickier, too. The Road Runner's tricks are child's play compared to the feats performed by the object of my never-ending quest.
Health, the illusive prize I covet, has me chasing, running and pursuing it with all of the obsessive (and at times spastic) passion of Wile E. Coyote. I've tried to be level headed and learn from the foolish predator's mistakes. Avoid anvils. Look out for brick walls. Be careful of cliffs. Don't press big "DON'T PUSH HERE" buttons. But, alas, you know how thi story goes. The same place it did for Wile E. With a boulder falling from above, a river damn breaking open, lightening striking a nearby tree and an anvil falling from the clear blue sky - all at once.
Well, at least that's how it feels.
Right when I think I've finally found my prize - it's so close I can smell it, taste it and sometimes even see it - the earth drops out from underneath me. It's all a trick. Health escapes me faster than an animated road runner. Wellness evaporates into thin air.
The crushing reality of defeat takes me down every time in a cartoon like ending all too real to be comical. With a crash and a bang I end up under an anvil weighed down with hopelessness and despair. A brick wall knocks me face down into depression. The storm's thunder disrupts my confidence and the lightening pierces my peace.
But, just like Wile E. Coyote, I always end up back on two feet, standing and ready for the next round of the chase. No matter how hard and steep the fall, how heavy the blow or devastating the defeat the the show goes on. Another episode begins again the next day. My health series has yet to end at the anvil.
The explanation to Wile E. Coyote's death defying survival is simple. An author wrote his story that way.
The answer to my survival is precisely the same.
My author wrote my story this way. 
God, the author of my life's story, has kept the series of my life going through every season of health. His power has pulled me from pits of doom and sure death. God alone has put my feet on solid ground and bandaged my wounds. When I've been too weak to dig out of the boulders of sorrow that have nearly suffocated me, God has been the one to lift the burden and revive me with His eternal life. At the end of my every health episode He refreshes my spirit with springs of hope.
I don't know many more anvils have left to fall in my health series but I know who will be lifting the burden. I know how I'll end up back on my feet.
At the brick wall of my episode's defeat I know God will be there to meet me, restore me and revive me. Just like Wile E.

Look up...what do you see?

I look up and what do I see? 
God's promises surrounding me. 

I look to the leaves on the trees and in their gentle swaying my eye perceives a promise of peace.
I turn my gaze to the birds of the air and see God's glorious promise of protection and provision.

Everywhere I look God's promises are there. 
I see them written on street signs and stacked on store shelves, typed on billboards and delivered in the mail.
They pop up in places I would never expect to see them and reside in spaces I never thought to look.

Dear Friend, look around with me. What is it you see?
Check every nook and don't miss a single cranny. 
Look to the sky and glance to the ground. 
Do you see that all around you are promises of God's everlasting goodness? 
Do you see His everlasting covenant of eternal salvation and endless grace?

Whenever you look, wherever you look, look for God's promises because they are there.
They are everywhere. 

May we never stop looking for them.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Humpty Dumpty (Pippy Love Version)

Humpty Dumpty isn't the only one who has had a great fall. 
I've had plenty of falls without sitting on walls. 
I've fallen on my pride and fallen on my sin. 
I've fallen down in depression and fallen hard in despair. 
I've fallen apart from sadness and difficulty. 
I've fallen into doubt and hopeless defeat. 
I've fallen away from God... away from trusting Him....away from resting in Him...
away from peace in His everlasting and mighty arms. 
But without the help of horses or the might of men, 
the Lord my God always puts me back together again. 
From the brokenness of my sin to the cracks in my soul, 
God knits me back together always better than before. 
It is all my King's power and all my King's love that faithfully, 
graciously and tenderly always puts me back together again.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Honey lasts forever

I was eight year old when a hot and humid July and August turned into "The Summer of the Bees." The hive affixed to the door frame on the front of the house was a constant (and all-too close for comfort) buzz of activity. I did my best to play away from the hive and Mom did her best to remove the residence of the stinging intruders but they were a tough hive to crack. The front door became a danger zone. Apiphobiacs beware. 
I remember my first stinging encounter with that hive and its buzzing residents. I vividly recall shedding alligator tears while cursing all bees. How dare they interrupt my afternoon fun with a pain all-too similar to the injection of a doctor's needle. I never had been one to tolerate vaccinations with bravery or grace and my encounter with the bees was no different. I endured the pain with the help of baking soda, a Mother's comfort and, of course, an ice cream sundae. In time I recovered and by the end of the day I was back outside (by way of the back door) to play.
The Summer of the Bees passed and although I still avoid run-ins with hives, I'm no longer cursing bees or the pain they inflict. I've actually come to love bees. Stingers and all.
I've come to love bees because of what they provide and I'm not talking pain. I'm talking honey. Bees are honey masters. For all of the pain they are capable of inflicting, bees are no stranger to sweet. They are the only buzzing insect capable of making the sticky goodness that give Honey Bun's their name. Bees alone cultivate the liquid gold that supplies a touch of sweetness to freshly brewed cups of tea. They work wonders of pollination to transform nectar into a treasure. I love and appreciate bees because underneath their stinger, they create something incredibly sweet. On the other side of the pain they inflict is the honey they provide.
Bee's aren't the only provider of both stinging pain and gloriously sweet honey. God can deliver both, too. He is a master at bringing beauty out of ashes, restoration out of destruction and sweetness out of a sting. God transforms seasons of pain and difficulty into jars of honey overflowing with His love. He uses the sharp stings of sorrow and loss to produce the sweetness of gentleness, compassion, kindness and grace. God never allows a single stinging pain to penetrate the skin, heart, mind or soul without it producing something gloriously beautiful and eternally beneficial.
May I never try to avoid God's stinger because, although there will be pain, it will only last a moment but the honey will last forever.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

20/20 Vision

Go ahead. Take off your glasses. 

But I need them to see.

Not now you don't.
Take off your glasses. 

The command came with such authority I immediately heeded to its directive. As if my glasses had turned into a hot potato I pulled them off the bridge of my nose, scrunching the tips of my ears along the way in my haste to remove the lenses from my face.
I set my torturous shell frames on the night stand next to my bed and looked straight ahead at a world gone fuzzy. I'm never without my glasses or contacts. They are my security. They give me sight. Without my glasses I am hesitant, unsure of where to go, which way to turn and what danger could come next. I wouldn't dream of driving without my glasses. I barely even walk down the stairs without the help of a corrective lens. But with four words and one command I abandoned my glasses.
I put them on the table and blinked my eyes to adjust to the blurry sight of the room around me.
The bridge of my nose enjoyed being released from the burden of bearing a plastic frame and my ears agreed. Even more stunning than the physical relief was the relief that came washing over my soul. All at once I was overcome with an inexplicable freedom and a new hope that I can and will see clearly again.
God has faithfully restored my most important and eternal sight of the heart and His works of restoration aren't over yet. When I was blinded by my sin, living in a haze of rebellion, I put on a set of glasses that showed me a world I wanted to see and refused to look through God's eyes. But God broke me. He broke into my life and told me to take off my wayward glasses so that He could be my sight. I surrendered my glasses of sin but kept a second set, a set that demanded I have control, securely affixed to my life and heart.
I wonder how long God has been telling me to take off this set of glasses?How long have I been too stubborn to hear God's voice and too rigid to release my way? Too stuck on my own sight to give God control of my eyes?
I've been wearing physical glasses since I was twelve but I've been wearing a heart set on own way and my own control for twenty seven years. I've kept wearing lenses of determination that demand I have some grip on the direction and future of my life. I've been stubbornly trying to be my own vision.
All this time, all my life, God has been directing me take off my glasses. Abandon every last hold of control I have on my life, my future, my security, my comfort. Let it go. Risk being recklessly abandoned and utterly blind to the world so that I can be entirely reliant on Christ, dependent to God for more than my every step. Be dependent on God for my every sight.
I must give up on providing my own vision in order to live with God's 20/20 sight. I have to throw away the prescription lenses that I have had affixed to my very soul in order to have the life I want, the life perfectly united with Christ.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lacing up my sneakers

For months I have been on a running hiatus. By the end of last fall I had entirely abandoned the exercise on account of worsening health and little hope. Winter passed and I never touched my running shoes. When spring came I didn't even entertain the thought of attempting to take a run or even a snail's paced jog. Some days walking just felt like enough of a task and enough of a victory, too.
By the time this summer arrived I was thoroughly convinced my running days were over and the loss saddened me. Even the sight of posters advertising 5k races depressed me. I used to love running - the wind blowing through my hair, the breath in my lungs keeping time with the steady and strong beat in my heart. I loved feeling power in my tiny little legs and being propelled forward by the sheer will of movement. Running used to ignite in me the joy of overcoming and the perseverance to press on. But when this summer came I was too defeated to even look at my sneakers let alone lace them up and take a run. I surrendered to weakness without even giving strength a try.
Over the first two months of summer the crushing defeat I succumbed to began to seep into my soul. Slowly the hopelessness of my sneakerless feet took root in my spirit and let defeat have control. I willingly let weakness have the final say.
But, thank God, He wouldn't. God wouldn't let the story of my running days end in defeat. My Overcoming, Persevering, All-Powerful God wouldn't allow my jogging days to be conquered by hopelessness. He refused to give up on my frail spirit and saw past my frail legs. God, in all of His grace and unmerited mercy, gave me back my run.
It started out slowly and for the first half of a mile my breathing was terribly labored. I felt every pounding of the pavement against my right foot's tender bunion. The muscles in my left leg began to give a little tug and for a moment I worried that I'd have to give up but a little voice inside told me to keep going. I obeyed the voice and pushed through the pain.
As I looked up ahead I saw a hill coming into view and my heart sank. I had agreed to keep running through the pain but could I carry the pain up the hill? Defeat began to taunt my spirit and my pace slowed ever so slightly but then that little voice returned. Run faster. It seemed like the very opposite of the rational. Running faster and harder felt nearly impossible but the voice sounded confident and sure and so I obeyed. I surrendered to the commands of the little small voice and began to pick up my pace. I lifted my knees a bit higher and let my stride travel further with each step forward.
As I moved onward and up the hill my breathing deepened and became steadier. The run actually became easier. I felt stronger. I felt alive!
When I made it to the top of the hill sweat was pouring down my brow and a smile was written across my face. I didn't think the moment could be any more perfect until I saw what came next. A descent. On the other side of the hill, visible only form the peak of my own personal mountain, was a blissful journey back down.
The rest of my run was so easy and effortless that it felt like flying. I glided down the hill and finished my run invigorated with endorphins and the spirit of an over-comer.
I almost didn't take that run and I nearly quit before the hill but God was faithful. He always is. When I lace up my sneakers with faith and stride forward in Christ's strength, God always shows up to see me through to the end. No matter how steep the hill, tired my legs or defeated my heart, with God breathing life into my lungs and hope into my heart I can stride forward knowing that I will win the race.

Friday, July 7, 2017

To the one who went a different way

I thought you were the one. I was sure we were a match made in heaven - or at least as close a perfect match we could ever hope to find on earth. We loved the same things. We thought the same thoughts. We laughed at the same jokes and sang the same songs. We even dreamed with the same imaginative passion.
You and I could have fit together just right. You could have been the peanut butter. I could have been the jelly. But our perfect sandwich of love was never made. Turns out you and I were the match made in heaven that never made it to earth.  
If only we could could get the timing right. That's what I used to say. If I wouldn't have been with him and you hadn't been with her. If you hadn't been out there and I had, for once, just been here. But our lines, always running with the same beat, never ran in the same direction. You were always going one way while I was always going another; our lives only crossing for fleeting moments so sweet in their tenderness and yet so bitter in their goodbyes.
Oh, how I wish I could have pressed pause on those moments. If only the world could have stopped turning so love could have lingered. If only we could have slowed down long enough to see the stars in each other's eyes. If only we could have seen the perfection that was right there in front of us all along then maybe you wouldn't be my one that got away.
But with a eternal vow the book of what you and I could have been was slammed shut. Your "I do" marked for you a ceremonial beginning but did you know it was my silent end? Your forever became my never. Your love my loss.
Maybe we all have a "one that got away." You're mine. You were the perfect match that is matched with someone else. And I... well I've been here pinning for who I can't have, imagining a life I will never live and dreaming of your love I'll never share.
For years I have lived mourning the loss of what we could have been. It has been secretly breaking my heart and causing me pain but I've never dared to tell a single soul. You closed the book on you and I long ago but all this time I've been keeping my finger in the page, holding out the faintest hope for a different ending. Until now.
I am finally ready to close my book, too. I am ready to say my final farewell because I finally realize you weren't the one who got away. You were the one who had to go a different way.
I am finally ready to declare a happy ending to the story of you and I. What we didn't become is what we were never meant to be. Our lines crossed just as they should have, just as they were meant to, and not a moment longer. You and I were perfect the match for a precisely perfect time in life but not forever.
You had to be my one who went a different way so that each of our lives could one day have their very own perfect story book endings.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Freedom Rings

The Fourth of July is for lovers. Don't let Cupid fool you, Valentine's Day has nothing on Independence Day when it comes to expressing and celebrating love. If you need proof just take a look around during a fireworks display. Starry eyed couples are always holding hands and cuddling on picnic blanket. For love birds, fireworks ignite a free pass to embrace public displays of affection.  But the Independence Day love feast begins long before the sun goes down and the fireworks go off.
Family love begins at sunrise on the Fourth of July. Growing up I remember my whole family gathering together for morning breakfasts at the beach. Dozens of eggs and sizzling bacon were prepared over a charcoal fire to accompany freshly baked blueberry muffins and juicy watermelon slices. In the afternoons hours were spent hunting for beach glass, building sand castles and playing games of catch with a classic Velcro ball and paddles set.
Woven into the heart of Independence Day and its traditions are unity, togetherness and love - love of family, love of God and love of country.

Over the past six years as my health has declined so has my participation in the traditional Fourth of July celebrations. Gone are firework displays enjoyed in the arms of love and on a blanket of companionship.With illness as my mate I spend most every holiday, Fourth of July included, at home in bed by nine. Even the family breakfast picnics have become relics of my past. Thanks to my body's inability to regulate heat a day at the beach is now a sandy torture chamber. So while the rest of my family eats with their toes in the sand I stay home.
All of the observances that used to define my Fourth of July are gone and for years I've mourned the loss. For years I have cried over being alone in bed instead of snuggled up next to someone special for a dazzling fireworks display. I have fought against loneliness while my family has driven off to the beach for the annual July Fourth breakfast.
Sickness has taken away my Fourth of July traditions but it has not and cannot take away the true reason to celebrate on Independence Day. Love of Freedom.
This Independence Day I am celebrating because I am free. I am giving thanks because men and women have scarified their lives to protect my freedoms. I am celebrating the gift of this beautiful nation where I am free to worship boldly and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ without fear or shame.
On this July Fourth I rejoicing in the the true reason for Independence Day: the love, and the gift, of freedom.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Psalm of Sorts

The Spirit of Christ compels me to choose victory over defeat...
To decisively live full of joy instead of sorrow...
To constantly claim healing in spite of pain....To purposefully take captive the light of restoration and flee from the darkness of destruction.

The Word of the Lord instructs me to claim life over death...
To willingly surrender and let God take up my fight...
To acknowledge my weakness and choose Christ's strength...
To reach up from my lowest and grab hold of faith in His Highest.

The voice of God tells me to trust and not worry...
To step into His rest and lay down in His peace...
To find security in His comfort and contentment in His companionship...
To accept forgiveness by His grace and redemption by His mercy.

Although I do not always choose according to Christ's Spirit, He relentlessly pursues my heart...
Even when I do not boldly claim the Lord's everlasting life, He continues to offer salvation for my soul...
When I do not immediately heed the voice of God, He still speaks to my Spirit.

I do not always choose what I must, claim what I should and obey as I ought but God is always gracious to forgive...
Always eternal in patience....
Always everlasting in mercy...
Always abounding in endless love.

I am the Lords...
He has chosen and made me...
He has tethered me to His love and bound me to His heart...
And He won't let go.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Healing Currents

Every summer water safety advocates come out in full force to warn about the dangers of rip currents. Tragically, many ocean lovers have lost their lives due to the channelized currents of powerful flowing waters. The sandy shore need not be far away and the water need not be deep for a rip current to appear and. Rip tides show up in shallow waters to sweep their victims out into the deep.
All my life I've been aware of rip currents and the dangers they pose to ocean (and even lake) swimmers. On family vacations I used to read the beach signs issuing warnings and instructions on how to survive a rip current. In big, bold red type the signs said that swimmers should never fight to break free from a rip current's grip. The water is too strong and swimmers too weak to pull themselves from its powerful clutches. Instead swimmers should do precisely the opposite of what their natural reaction would be: relax.
From the swimmers perspective this is more easily said than done. Try relaxing as an unseen force is pulling you out into the middle of the ocean while you helplessly watch the land recede into the distance. Can you imagine being calm as the sight of the safe, sandy shore gets smaller and smaller? To remain at ease in such a situation requires that the swimmer deliberately and decisively relax. It won't happen naturally but it must happen to ultimately escape the tide's hold and survive to swim another day.
I've never been caught in a rip current but as I've stepped into uncharted oceans on my journey to regain my health I've been recalling the old warnings of beach trips gone by. As I've been wadding in the waters of treatments, taking copious amounts of Lyme killing antibiotics and loading my body with homeopathic medicines, I've found myself caught in healing currents. I've tried to stay out of them by remaining close to shore, careful to keep my hips above water, but I have been unable to avoid their pull. The healing currents come and sweep me out to sea with crushing fatigue, skin outbreaks, pounding headaches and utter exhaustion. I've watched as I've been carried away from the healthy shore and out into the unknown of the healing crisis seas.
When I was first swept away in the tide of the healing currents I fought it. I didn't want to see my progress float off into the distance and I didn't want to end up in a deeper part of the illness ocean. I kicked and tried to paddle my way out but it was hopeless. Every kick sent the security of wellness and vitality further off into the distance. My attempts to escape only resulted in more weakness, more panic and less hope of ever making it back to shore. It was in the midst of one such hopeless current that I recalled the signs at the beach. I closed my eyes and pictured the sign. Don't fight the current.
With vision of the Atlantic and the beach's sandy shore in my mind's eye I decided to embrace the rip current survivalist tactics. I choose to relax and wait for the current to release me. At first it was difficult. Naturally, I still wanted to kick and try to force my way out of the current but with my new motto in mind I started resisting those feelings. Instead of trying to force my way out of the current I welcomed the release of tension and to-do lists. I instructed myself to stop panicking and start picturing the serenity of floating in warm, peaceful waters.
What I discovered is that the rip current tactics work - at least when it comes to oceans of healing. To escape you have to let the current have its way, patiently trusting for it to release you. To survive you must trust that before you can be brought back to shore you must first be taken out into the deep. You have to feel the waters pull you in new directions before you can be released into pools of renewed restoration and well-being.
As I've been swept out into the sea of healing I've learned that healing doesn't happen at the shore line. It begins there but it doesn't end there. True healing, of both body and soul, happens in the transformative channels of the sea's currents. Everlasting restoration and renewal come when we relax into the mighty arms of God, trusting that He will carry us back to shore.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Streams in the Swamp

Dear Lovely One,
I've been listening to you. I have heard your prayers. You say that your heart has become stagnant, like a pool of swampy water. You say that the rushing river of spiritual renewal that used to refreshed you daily are not flowing like they used to. You cry because the raging waterway has slowed to a halt. You ask, "What happened to the current and why is it no longer flowing? The wind is no longer blowing? Why has the air has gone lifeless and dead?" In your thoughts you have wondered what happened to the movement of your heart's waters.
My Child, have you been concerned that you've been cut off from your river's Source? Have you been questioning if the Almighty Current will ever turn on again and flow new streams of abundant life into stagnant soul? My Beloved, don't you understand that the trouble isn't the Source?
You, my Dear, haven't been moving in my river. You haven't been active in my Spirit. You've been standing still in the river bed without making a move. I haven't even seen you trace your fingers across the water's surface and you certainly haven't been kicking up stream.
Remember how you used to pick up rocks from the sandy shores and skip them across the river's glassy surface? You used to love the rushing waters! I remember when you relished the opportunity to rejoice with joy in the satisfying streams of revitalizing water. But something has changed.
Dear, the change has not been in the Source of the water - I am the same today as I was yesterday and will be tomorrow. No, the change is not in the living water; the change is in you.
Your Source, my streams of abundant life, are still rushing with the currents of my grace and love. I am still all powerful. I am still able and willing to breath new life into the stale air of your dormant soul. But you, my Dear, need to move. Come back to the river and kick your legs with joy in the sacrificial waters of service. Pick up those rocks you used to love and skip them in acts of compassion into streams of my mercy. Spread out your arms and let your hands glisten the water's glassy surface with a heart full of generosity and grace.
My Darling, I promise that if you move in my grace and stir up the waters of your heart with sacrifice, you will be continually refreshed with the glorious rushing waters of renewal. As you move in my love you'll be washed clean of every mucky remnant of the swamp and filled with my freshest springs of abundant, eternal life.

Monday, June 26, 2017

A sure "yes"

Ask and it shall be given unto you.
Seek and ye shall find.
Knock and the door will be opened.

The words Jesus spoke in Matthew 7:7 are so familiar to me that I know them by heart. I can rattle off the passage without skipping a beat but when it comes to living the passage...well, that's another story.

Asking, seeking and knocking should be easy, shouldn't they? When I was a toddler I effortlessly mastered the art of all three. I could ask (read: demand) with the best of them. I willingly asked for anything I needed and everything I wanted. When it came to seeking I did so with eager determination. In my tender toddler years I never had trouble knocking and wasn't the least bit shy when producing repeated rhythmic beats against a wooden door.
Now that I'm older I've lost my boldness in asking and when it comes to seeking God, I am reluctant. Even when I do make it to God's Heavenly door I am hesitant to knock.
God's accessibility is not the barrier standing in the way of my asking, seeking or knocking. I know my Father is patiently awaiting my arrival, prepared to meet me at the door and give hear to my requests. What is keeping me from His door is fear of what might happen after I ask, seek and knock. More specifically, it is what might not happen that has silenced my asking, stopped my seeking and halted my knocking.
I hesitate to ask because I fear that God's answer might not be what I want to hear. My grown-up asks are big, unlike my childish toddler requests. The requests I have now are life transforming... To have full health... To be united with a man of God in marriage... To be a witness for Christ... To have internal damage from disease restored to perfection... requests so significant I've been paralyzed to bring them before God out of fear that He might not answer with a "yes." So to shield myself from the risk of disappointment I haven't asked for healing. To protect my heart against sadness I haven't knocked on the door and asked for companionship or love. 

But in Christ, what do I have to fear? Why should I be afraid to voice my requests to my all-loving and all-knowing God? What is there to fear in the perfect plan and will of God? Doesn't He know when "no" is best and "later" is better? Isn't asking God the surest way to get the right answer? Isn't seeking more of God the only treasure worth pursuing? Isn't knocking an act of belief and faith?
In suspending my asking I thought I was protecting my heart from disappointment when in reality it only alienated me from God. Purposefully refraining from actively seeking God separated me from the peace and fulfillment that is only found in His presence. Pulling my hand away from His door, refusing to knock, has kept my face out of the light and truth of life.

As well as I've known Matthew 7:7 in my head, I am just now knowing it in my heart. Matthew 7:7 isn't about approaching God like Santa Clause, hoping I make it on the nice list. Asking God isn't like going before a genie in a bottle and choosing carefully one magnificent request. Seeking God is certainly not about finding what I think I want.
Asking, seeking and knocking are all about nearness to God. Plain and simple. Pursuing God is never about the blessings I receive or the fulfillment of my worldly desires. Living in Matthew 7:7 faith is about relentlessly pursuing the presence and person of God.

Now that I am older, and hopefully wiser, I know that there is no need to fear God's response to my every request because His answer is not what I am truly seeking. With a heart united with Christ's, my ask will always be simply for more of God... and His answer will always be "yes." 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Gym Gazelle

I watched her glide across the treadmill at speeds so fast my feet couldn't comprehend it. Her run was effortless, as if she were simply a cloud floating through the sky. Like Bambi leaping through a fitness equipment forest.
Her run featured not one but two treadmills running side-by-side, both at dizzying paces. Without even a minute of warm-up she jumped onto the first treadmill. After a few minutes at 6.2 miles per hour the runner made her leap from treadmill one to treadmill two. Even at 7 miles per our she didn't look the least bit phased. Quite the opposite actually. The runner seemed to be relishing in the ease of the pace.
For the next twenty minutes the running goddess hopped from treadmill to treadmill. By the end of her performance I had nicknamed her the Gym Gazelle and was in complete awe. Not only had she run at draw-dropping speeds for miles, she did it while jumping between moving treadmills and without ever breaking a sweat!
Gym Gazelle jumped off her treadmill, grabbed her bag and went trotting out of the gym with a radiating glow of endorphins. As I watched her leave a case of gym jealousy set in. How did her legs do that? I wondered. I marveled at how her muscles could work so powerfully for miles without legs flaring or knees buckling. I asked myself how could she jump from side-to-side without falling? How did her lungs not fatigue and her eyes not go all blurry from the competition paced speed?
In the Gym Gazelle's beautiful run I saw the physicality I wish I had. I coveted her perfect form and smooth stride. I wanted the muscles in her legs, her strength and even her stability. I wanted the lungs and stamina that were propelling her forward. I wanted the body that could do what she could do.

As jealousy descended on me like a dark shadow, a glimmer of light shined through. Don't be jealous, be motivated. 

In that moment of revelation I realized that envying the Gym Gazelle would never increase my strength, speed or stamina. Coveting had no benefit for my body and certainly wasn't doing my heart any good. My jealousy only poisoned my spirit and sapped me of the desire to live fully in the body God has given me.
That simple revelation changed my attitude and heart. I suddenly saw the Gym Gazelle's performance in a whole new light. Envy disappeared as the Gym Gazelle was transformed into an image of the strength God can empower in the human body. Instead of her run producing pangs of jealousy her performance produced springs of inspiration. The Gym Gazelle was a gift of encouragement running on a treadmill and wink from God cheering me on to run (or walk) every mile of my race with His limitless strength and everlasting joy!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"In love"

I thought I've been "in love" before but now I'm not so sure. You see, I used to believe that love was about how you felt about a person and how that person felt about you. I believed the exchanging of "I love you"s was about mutual affection. I think I had it wrong.
Now I understand that I could never have truly been "in love" before because I didn't know what "in love" really meant. Being in love is not about feeling something for someone or experiencing some kind of special connection. Being in love isn't even about clicking or compatibility.
To truly be perfectly "in love" with someone is to feel the way Christ feels for them; to be "in love" the way Christ is in love with you and I.
In love is about the heart's desire to be sacrificial, giving and generous. To be "in love" is to love through hurts and extend forgiveness. To be "in love" is to be second. To be "in love" is to graciously love past annoying habits and irksome quirk. 
I used to think being "in love" was about the relationship - the hours spent talking, the exchanging of thoughtful gifts and the making of future plans. Now I see that was lust in love's clothing. I was in passion, in excitement, in fascination, in fun, in laughter, in connectedness....but I wasn't in love.  I couldn't have been because I didn't know what love was. I didn't know who love was.
In falling more deeply in love with Christ I am learning that I cannot know true love apart from His indwelling. I cannot love without being tethered to His love. I cannot be truly in love, the way God intended, until I know how to be truly in a united relationship of love and devotion with my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Today I love Christ with more passion than I did yesterday or the day before. I love Him more every day. That is true love; that is being truly in love. I know that now because I know love in Christ.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Life DIYer

I am, by nature, a do it yourself-er. Or, as you HGTVers would call it, a DIYer. Now, I'm not trying to claim that I'm the next Bob Villa. I'm not a DIYer in the "drywall the basement," "fix the exploding sink" kind of way. That would be helpful but I'll admit I'm not that kind of handy.
I'm what you might call a "Life DIYer." I enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishing tasks independently, all on my own. Much of my self-worth has been built on my self-reliance. I can navigate a map. I can cook my own meals. If the TV isn't turning on I'll monkey around with the buttons and plugs on my own or at least be the one to call the cable company to reset the box. If you have a problem I want to be the one to figure out the answer. That is, unless you give me your taxes. If you bring me your taxes I will tell you to file an extension. In high school and college I never was one for group projects. I didn't want to depend on the work of others. I wanted the entire responsibility all for myself.
I was born with a strong independent streak. Some might call it a stubborn independent streak and they may be right. I resist help even when it is offered in love and care. I turn down assistance even when it would aid in my endeavor. I used to think my independence didn't harm anyone else. If I choose to carry ten bags of heavy groceries in one load from the car to the kitchen counter my arms were the only arms being taxed. It made sense to me that if I willingly subjected myself to the unnecessary grocery load burden the only once I was hurting was me - and my arms. I reasoned that I was getting things done myself and my efficient, sometimes painful, way.
For years, even as my body became weaker and sicker, I maintained my independence. The simplest tasks, such as carrying Pippy up the slippery wooden steps, are infinitely tougher than they used to be or should be, but still I have refused help. Having placed such a high value on my self-reliance I have fought with ever ounce of my little being to be the Life DIYer I was before I became ill.
As severely as I've been chronically ill, I've been chronically stubborn, too. Neither one has done my body or my spirit any good. What's more, being chronically stubborn and refusing to allow others to help and assistant me when I'm weak and in need hasn't been a blessing for the one's offering the aid. I thought I was the one blessing them, sparing them the trouble when really I was robbing them of the opportunity to be a blessing. I
My body, and my spirit, have had to become tragically weak and fragile for me to see that I can't do life all on my own. I could ruse a little help from my friends and the people who love me. I should be grateful for their compassion and willingness to give.
Slowly but surely, this stubborn DIYer is learning that if God so supplies the offer of a loving soul I should be gracious enough to accept their act of sacrifice. If God so compels a person to be a giver I should humbly embrace their gift of love in action.
Being a DIYer is a great characteristic to embody when your lost by yourself and all you have is a map. Being a DIYer when your body is failing and you simply need someone to help you carry the dog up the steps is just plain stubborn.
As my body is made weaker my understanding of who I am in Christ is made stronger, instilling in me the true source of my self-worth. My value is not rooted in my ability to accomplish every task and Bob Villa Life DIY project on my own. My worth is in being a child of God. No matter how much help I may need or how fragile I become, I am a cherished and treasured prized daughter of the King.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer Reminicing

Do you remember summertime as a kid? I do and it was glorious. Mom would put out the sprinkler in the front yard where my friends and I would dart back and forth between the rotating streams of cold water. Barefoot and full of adventure I would climb the trees and dangle from branches. When I got older I traded in the tree for the backyard shed and declared myself "Queen of the World" from atop its shingled roof.
During the summer I could spend hours riding my bike up and down the street and all around the neighborhood. I relished the freedom to peddle my way over to my friend's houses and I never missed an opportunity to run after the ice cream truck. The day my taste buds discovered the Choco-Taco I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
Now that I'm older summers have changed and they don't declare "freedom" the way they used to. It's more than just the June release from school and a warm-weather increase in ice cream consumption that's changed. Everything about my summers are dramatically different.
Now during summers I can't spend as much time outdoors and certainly not in the heat of the day. My spastic muscles can't take it. I don't run through sprinkles or jump into pools of frigid waters. My body's thermostat doesn't tolerate that activity, either. I can't ride a bike like I did as a kid because my rear has lost all of its cushioning. And I can't eat ice cream - not unless I want a debilitating stomach ache.
I know it is possible to get winter blues, but is it possible to suffer from summer blues? I think it must be, because on some hot, beautiful and bright summer days I get a little melancholy when I remember summers the way they used to be, when I could embrace them and relish them in all of their sun-shiny glory. I'll admit that on some summer days the tune of my heart has hummed a gloomy, "I'll be so blue just thinking about you" instead of a cheery, "I want to soak up the sun."
At the heart of my summer blues is sadness at what used to be and what is now. I used to be healthy and well and the season of summer embodied that season of my life. From my perfectly golden tan to the strength in my legs to pedal my bicycle for hours, everything about summer was good and right, the way I thought it always would be. For years I have been singing the blues over the loss of summer but not today. Today I am singing a new summer song. A song of freedom.
Whether or not I ever lay on a beach again and soak up a golden tan, I will relish freedom. If I never bite into an ice cream cone again, I will savor freedom. Regardless of my body's thermostat or the stamina and strength in my legs, I will celebrate freedom.
I will sing about freedom from the chains of regrets. I will dance because I am free from the burden of worry and fear. I will smile for the freedom from loneliness and relish the freedom to enjoy silence. I will cherish the freedom to rest and choose the freedom to live in peace over anxiety. I will celebrate because I am free to embrace life and experience it with joy!
Without need a BBQ or a beach I will choose to rejoice in the true freedom of Christ and sing an everlasting song about the Savior who broke my chains of bondage so that I may live in a perpetual season of summer freedom.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The balloon watch continues....

For weeks I have been watching the deflated balloons stuck in my neighbor's tree. When I introduced you to this particular bundle of balloons I described to you my dreams and how God has been trapping them. Then I told you about the discovery that one of the balloons had dropped from the tree on the same day I found a deflated balloon lying on the ground. In that balloon I saw a dream reenter my life although the big reveal of which particular dream became a reality in that balloon drop is still to come.
A few days after one balloon dropped and turned up in the woods, another balloon went missing. This one hasn't turned up just yet. It was a red balloon so keep your eyes peeled and let me know if you see it hanging from a tree or laying in a forest.
So all that has been left in the tree is one balloon. A black balloon. For days the balloon's string has been tangled up in the tree limbs and its round shape has been in tact, floating up and down in the wind. Then a storm came and beat the last balloon to a pulp. It is practically unrecognizable. The balloon looks like a trash bag wrapped around bark. It isn't a pretty sight and it isn't the least bit festive. The balloon looks like decorations gone bad.
The latest development in my balloon dream sage is troubling. If that black balloon is a representation of my dreams what does that say for them? Are they as doomed as the tree's black balloon ravaged by the wind and punctured by pointy branches? Is that the fate of my dreams? To be confused as high-flying trash? To be unrecognizable as anything beautiful, celebratory and joyful?
The enemy wants me to lose hope in my dreams. The black balloon lingering in the tree is nearly taunting me with the temptation. Give up on them. Those balloons are doomed. Your future and the dreams you have for it are going to end up as good as trash. This is the enemy's goal. He wants to use darkness to overcome me and he'll use any means necessary. Even black balloons.
To keep my faith in my dreams and keep the hope in my balloons alive I must make the choose to trust God regardless of the color and condition of my balloons. Even when storms come and ravage them, I have to decide to believe that God is in control. When the balloons look like trash I have to claim the promise that God is in the business of restoration - even dream restoration. When balloons go missing, I must reaffirm my confidence in God's ability to rescue them and His timing to reveal them.
The enemy wants to use my black trash bag balloon dream to destroy my faith in God. He wants to shake my foundation and disturb my dream life. But what satan means for evil, God means for good. Instead of buying into the enemy's lies, I am recommitting to God's truth. He has my dreams. He is protecting them and they will come true. No scheme of the enemy can thwart my God. No storm of satan can destroy His plan. God has a future for me and it is full of beautiful, glorious, eternal dreams. My faith, trust and assurance is in God and the balloons He is holding up for me in Heaven.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

To the afflicted

Dear Afflicted One,
I received word that you are suffering. The report was not breaking news to me. I already knew you were in terrible physical distress. I knew because I've been watching. I have seen every hardship you've faced and every malady you've endured. Believe me when I tell you that not a single one of your aches or pains has gone unnoticed by me. I've been witness to them all but you already knew that much. It is not my presence that you've doubted, it is what I'm doing in your presence that troubles you.
My heart nearly broke when I read your words. "What kind of God would allow such suffering?" How could it be that you've walked with me so long, spent so much time in my company, and still doubt what kind of God I am? Have I not shown myself to be loving? Have I withheld from you any eternally good thing? Have I ever abandoned you, even at your very lowest?
Beloved, I am not here to guilt you into trusting me. I cannot coerce you to have faith. I can only reassure you of what is true. It is up to you to believe it.
The truth is this: there is a purpose in your pain. You are not an afflicted one for nothing. You have been divinely chosen. This life is my plan designed for you and you only.
I cannot reveal the whole plan to you just yet it but I can reveal to you the mission. It is to make you more like Jesus. That is the purpose of all of this. From the pain in your back to the loss of vision in your eyes to the emotional breakdowns and breakthroughs. The pain is all pointing in one direction: unification with Jesus.
Oh, I know what you're thinking. You don't feel united with Him while you are cursing your illness and crying out in agony. I know, I hear your words and they are not songs of praise. They are songs of the Psalms and laments of pain. But, take heart, dear Child because even the Psalmist finishes on a high note of praise to the Lord.
If ever you doubt that the pain you are feeling has a reason beyond the here and now, look to Jesus. He is my gift to you. He has saved you into this earthly affliction to deliver you from eternal affliction. He suffered and knew the most brutal pain but that wasn't the end of Jesus' story. He is here with me now, seated in perfection, free of even the tiniest ache and pain. He fulfilled His mission. His thorny crown of suffering was transformed into a radiant crown of glory.
Beloved, you have not received your final crown yet. Yours still has thorns but they are thorns for a purpose, part of a grander plan to be made more like Jesus.
So, to answer your question, that is the kind of God I am. The one and only God who saved you. God who sees your flaws, your sins and your transgressions and loves you anyways. Your Father God who loves you enough to save you and spend every minute of every hour with you. I am the God who designed you as a one of a kind, with a plan for your life that is unlike any other. God, the only one who will never abandon. I am your God who is readying you for eternity and polishing up your crown.
Dear Afflicted, I see more than just your every moment of suffering. I see the entire plan and the eternal purpose. I promise that if you trust me and put all of your faith in me one day you, too, will see the glorious, eternal purpose for your pain.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Take that Rosetta Stone

As a Freshman in high school I fulfilled my first year of language requirement by enrolling in French 101. Most students went Spanish but not me. I was always more keen on crepes than tacos and had dreams of Paris, not Madrid. French sounded romantic and, as an added bonus, the Eiffel tower made an appearance in more than one of my favorite chick flicks. Being the lover of love that I was and am, French was a perfect fit. Who knew, maybe I could become fluent and study for a semester of college in France? It didn't take but a moment for visions to shift from studying to a country filled young, handsome French speaking college boys. I've always been a hopeless romantic at heart.
It took about a month of French class for me to release I might need to formulate a new dream, one that didn't require language acquisition skills. I tried to learn French, I really did but it was a lost cause. I stunk at learning a second language. I was as hopeless a French student as I was hopeless a romantic.
To graduate high school I attempted to speak some stuttering, halting, very poorly structured form of the French language for two years. Call it the "Florence" style of French. Florence was my French name. See what I mean by being hopeless in French class? Not only could I barely speak a word of the language but I couldn't even pick a truly French name.
After I completed by required two years of a second language I gladly moved on to classes spoken entirely and exclusively in English and, to date, I have never had anyone walk up to me and ask for emergency services while speaking in French. Or Spanish for that matter. So as far as I can tell, language courses might be a waste of time, but that's for another post.
Despite my contentedness with my uni-lingual status, I've been convicted that maybe I do need to learn another language. I know what you're thinking, "Learn Spanish! It is so useful in today's marketplace!" Trust me, the language I'm set to learn is universally useful. In fact, this language is so vital to the marketplace it's a travesty it isn't a graduation requirement for high school. But that's for another post, too.
The language I am committed to learning is the language of love. And not just any fluffy, feel good, romantic comedy in front of the Eiffel Tower kind of love. I'm talking about the language of Christ's Love.
Christ's love language is the sweetest language ever spoken, always pleasing to the ear. When He speaks, grace rolls off of His tongue. His words of truth serenade the soul with forgiveness, mercy and rest.
Jesus Christ, Son of God, is love.
With the Lord's example as my guide and the Father himself as my teacher, I am committing myself to becoming fluent in the language of His perfect love. With visions of heaven, not Paris, I will study from the inerrant, unchanging Word of God. With dreams of eternity, not a semester abroad, I will call on the Holy Spirit for help and correction. Because Christ's Love is the language of eternity it is truly the only language I will ever need.
Why didn't they teach me that in high school?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Balloons the 3rd

Dreams represented as deflated balloons trapped in the limbs of trees is an odd life metaphor but it is the one God gave me so of course, it's the one that's stuck.

According to the archives of Pippy Love, my first balloon encounter occurred on February 7, 2017. On that special day a tangled mess of deflated balloons trapped in the limbs of a tree delivered a special message and a big thumbs up meant just for me: It's time to take up dreaming again.
And dreaming is precisely what I've been up to ever since. I reclaimed my dreams of old and even started forming new ones. Without skipping a beat, my past champion dreamer skill set returned as naturally as riding a bicycle
The very first dream to return was one that I had completely let go: my dream of full health. When I gave up all hope on that particular dream I didn't even turn around to watch it fly away. But then I caught a glimpse of the balloons in the tree and viola! The dream of full health returned.
Next came the dream of a full, vibrant life with a bright future. This dream had never died entirely but it was so close to breathing its last that it troubled me. I had to search for my dream's pulse. It was nearing its last breath but the balloons brought it back to life with a miraculous recovery. The moment my eyes caught the sight of the shiny balloons new life was breathed into my precious dream. In an  instant the dream came back to life and, I am happy to report, has been breathing strong and steady ever since.
Over the next few days and weeks that followed my first balloon encounter dreams came flooding back like a damn broke open. Dreams for love. Dreams of a career. Dreams of a ministry or two or three. I even began dreaming glorious thoughts of God healing my body with His mighty touch.
My dreams returned at all times of day and night. Before the balloons I had slept through the night rarely recalling a single dream but with the balloons came a blessedly disrupted REM sleep cycle. One night I envisioned myself in a grand ballgown, standing on a ship set out to sea. In another dream I saw a field of flowers so magnificent that only heaven's glory could rival the beauty of the scene.
As you can imagine, I've started looking bit more closely at trees, scanning the limbs for a stray dreams - I mean balloons - to claim as my own. And today I saw another one, although not like any other I'd ever seen. Today I saw a deflated balloon in the middle of a forest, laying among the sticks, dirt and moss of a wooded trail. I looked at that balloon and I knew it in an instant: that balloon is mine. The balloon had once been trapped in a tree but its time had come to break free from the limbs, and fall back down to earth. In the balloon I saw the fulfillment of a dream. I saw one of my balloons fall from the sky and gently fall back into my life.
But which dream was it?
I starred long and hard at the balloon trying to discern the particular dream that had once filled the air inside, the air that was now filling my lungs and my life. The balloon gave me no hints or clues. Even now, after pondering the balloon, its blue color and its wooded location, I have not a single indication of the dream it contained. The big reveal is still yet to come.

So, friends, mark this day down in your calendar: June 9, 2017, a special day in my history. It is the day the first of my balloon filled dreams reached its fulfillment. The first of many beautiful dreams to come.
Some day, maybe even some day soon, I know that I will be back at this keyboard sharing with you the ending of that particular balloon's story.  I promise to record the sweet, dreamy details of how the dream comes true.
And until then, stay tuned, because I know God isn't done showing up in dream filled balloons.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

In the tunnel

I've ended up in a tunnel. It is deep and dark and I have no idea how I'll ever get out. I can't see anything. Not a door, not an emergency exit, not a single blinking arrow and, sadly, no big red "call" button.
I have become obsessed with getting out of this tunnel. Everything in me screams, "escape this darkness." I want to break free. I want to live in the light.
At first I glance behind me and wonder if I should turn back. Maybe if I could go back to the beginning I could exit this tunnel the same way in which I entered but behind me is utter darkness. A black hole. I shutter at the thought of being on that stretch of the tunnel. I remember walking in that pitch black. I could see nothing, not even my hand in front of my face let alone an exit door.
But this part of the tunnel isn't  as dark. It can't be because here I can see my hand. It's outline is faint  but it is my hand and the sight of it has given me hope. If I can just keep moving forward, away from the blackness behind me, I can get more of this glorious light and if I can find more light then maybe I can find my way out.
I begin to move away from the darkness behind me. Slowly and carefully at first. My vision is still so limited I fear I could easily trip and fall so I am deliberate with my steps. I gently feel my way forward, seeing only the outline of what lies before me. But the outline is enough to keep me moving ahead.
Traveling towards the light is the only hope I have. Going back to the darkness would take me to a fate of sure doom but before me, following this light, I have hope for freedom.
I am still in this tunnel. I haven't made it to the exit yet but I am full of hope because the light in front of me is getting brighter. More and more details are coming into view. It is glorious just to think that there is something more to see than the outline of my hands.
The light up ahead is my hope. It is my purpose. Following the light is what keeps me from collapsing in this tunnel and giving up my search for an exit. So I will keep pursuing the light because one day it will set me free.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Springboard to Success

I know what you must think when you read my posts. "She sounds so depressed... She sounds sad and lonely... This poor girl is so full of sorrow... She must be utterly beaten down..."
I can't fault you for thinking any such thoughts. Before I became the writer of these posts and the voice telling these stories I would have shared the same thoughts as you. Before my body and spirit knew the feelings of illness and physical helplessness I would have reacted with feelings of sympathy and pity. I might have even taken it a step further in my mind and asked what kind of life God was giving the girl writing the posts? Why would God let someone suffer? Is there no healing and victory in such a life?
Before I became the girl writing these posts I would have confused her sadness with defeat but now I know better. Now I know the truth about sadness.
To be sad is to be down, but it isn't to be out. Sadness never needs to be the end of the story. If given the chance, a step into sadness can actually be the springboard for spiritual success.
Allow me to explain...

Before Jesus went to the cross He went to the garden and He prayed. In His prayer, knowing full well His death warrant was already out and His crucifixion was imminent, Jesus asked God to relieve Him of His upcoming duty to be murdered. If you think my blog posts are sad, imagine how utterly depressing God's prayer must have sounded! Commentators of the Bible refer to that particular prayer as "Agony in the Garden."
At the end of His prayer Jesus left His fate in God's hands. "Not my will but yours." (Matthew 26:36-45). And we know how the story goes. God's will was indeed for Jesus to die in order to be the Savior of sinners.
At the foot of the cross as Jesus died, witnesses wept. They displayed sadness because of their loss. They couldn't see anything but ultimate defeat.
But remember what I said about sadness? This is where we see it in action as a springboard for spiritual success.
Three days later the most glorious, magnificent, splendid springboard sent our Savior up from the grave. Talk about spiritual success! Jesus took the ultimate sadness of death and transformed it into the ultimate joy of eternal life. Jesus wrote the book on turning sadness into gladness. He took the cruelest, surest defeat on earth and turned it into the greatest victory this world will ever know.

If you read words of sadness and feel pangs of pity when you read these posts, double check to make sure you've reached the end because in the end, because of Jesus, there is always victory. He won the ultimate victory and shares it with me every time I seek His intervention in my struggles. When I seek His help, He takes my sadness and uses it to tend to my spirit.
I know sadness, depression and sorrow but that is never where my stories end. There is always success and it is found in my Savior. He always comes near to me in my sadness with a springboard to renew me with His Spirit. Because of Jesus, there is always life at the end of my story.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The girl in the picture

The girl in the picture wore a smile as bright as the sun and eyes that twinkled like stars. Her skin was touched with that flawless, end of summer glow. Her strong cheek bones were kissed with a rosy pink and a faint dusting of freckles. Her long, flowing hair framed her face in silky streaks of gleaming golden hues.
The girl in the picture was full of life and hope for the future. Her eyes glittered with dreams of adventure and excitement. Her big smile welcomed new experiences and dared to confront new challenges. Her zest for life leapt from the printed page.
The girl in the picture was so young and naive. She couldn't see failures or disappointments up ahead. Her eyes couldn't possibly imagine images of darkness or depression. Her smile didn't anticipate future pain and suffering.

The girl in the picture used to be me. I was the girl in the senior graduation picture looking ahead to a bright and exciting future. I was the girl who put her hopes in a fresh start away at college. I was the girl with big, vivid dreams. I was the girl who believed she could conquer anything and would.
I was the girl who couldn't predict a future of missed life milestones and dashed dreams. I was the girl who had no understanding of how deep the river of loneliness or trying the road marked with trials.
I was the girl who couldn't imagine sickness and disease and knew nothing of physical suffering or spiritual sorrow.

When I was that girl in the picture I didn't know the true magnitude of the goodness of God. I had yet to experience the depth of God's forgiveness and how truly extravagant His grace. I couldn't even begin to comprehend the Lord's mercy or how desperately I needed it. The girl I was in that picture didn't understand the definition of surrender or the freedom that comes from it. In that picture I was lost and didn't know I still needed to be found.

Nine years later I'm not the same smiling, glowing, starry-eyed senior I was in that picture. With the passage of time I have grown older and less naive, but I am still full of hope. On my journey of life I have become intimately acquainted with the pain of disappointment and the sorrow of suffering, but I still dream of a bright future. Over the years I have been marred by disease and illness, yet I continue to welcome new challenges and face new giants.

God has transformed me, the girl in the picture.
And He isn't finished yet.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

"I do"

At the alter of the Lord I pledged my heart and said "I do." 

It wasn't an "I do" planned months in advance. There were no "Save the Dates," guest lists or seating charts. I didn't wear white or carry a bouquet down an isle draped in petals. There was not a single note of music to accompany the ceremony. 

This "I do" came to pass organically, born out of pain and offered up through tears. 

At the foot of Christ's alter I said "I do" trust God with my future. With forever and always in view, I affirmed my devotion to the Lord and vowed to stay committed for eternity.
Before a heavenly host of witnesses I said "I do" to remaining faithful in every season of life and through every storm. 
"I do" to steadfastly believing in God's goodness whether I be in sorrow or filled with joy. 
"I do" to having unwavering faith in God's provision whether I be rich or poor.
"I do" to having full confidence in God's plan no matter how abundant the health or long, brutal and devastating the disease. 

With words offered in the midst of weeping I pledged to remain forever true to God. I reaffirmed the unity we share and recommitted my life to following His will. 

On the alter of devotion I laid down my plans and preconceived notions I had
for my life. I vowed to faithfully follow God into the future, wherever His path may lead.

In a dress dyed white in surrender, carrying a bouquet full of hopes, I met my Lord at the alter and said "I do" to loving Him forever, trusting Him completely and living for Him fully.