Thursday, March 31, 2011


I saw the hill in the distance, and gauged my strength and ability to run up it. Maybe I would just walk. Maybe I would take a route with a smaller hill. Instead, I set my eye on a tree close to the top and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I wasn't able to run up the whole thing, but that was ok. I kept moving in the right direction, and in that moment, it was all that mattered. Just keep moving. About halfway up, I wondered why I didn't take the easy way. About 3/4 of the way up, I turned and looked behind me and couldn't believe I had come so far.

You can see your hill in the distance. Maybe it isn't a real hill in a neighborhood with mail boxes and houses and trees lining it. Maybe it is unemployment. You feel like you've been on the uphill for long enough, and don't see any other way. Maybe your hill is a marriage, or a child, in crisis. Right now all you see is the hill, and it looks insurmountable.Maybe your hill is an illness that just doesn't quit. There are good days and bad days but the hill is always there. Maybe your hill is are just so doggone tired of doing life by yourself, even if you are surrounded by people. I know that will make sense to someone out there. Maybe you are a little weird, like me, and get excited about the hills, but still find yourself questioning "Why?" about halfway up.

I'm on a bit of a hill right now. Here's what I am thinking:
  • Whatever is happening today is somehow preparing me for tomorrow. God has a plan for it.
  • The hill might not be as big as I think.
  • How I handle the hill is more important than the hill itself.
  • Will I trust God to give me the direction and strength to keep climbing?
I know it's not much...but these are my thoughts, such as they are on a beautiful sunny day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Humbled, Again

Do you remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz when Toto pulls the curtain back revealing the "Great and Powerful Oz" and he turns out to be a short bald guy? I felt like the short bald guy today.

There is a song that has recently captured my heart called Times, by Tenth Avenue North. It is a beautiful exchange between someone afraid to face God because of what they have become, and Jesus singing back that His love is over, it's underneath, it's inside and it's in-between, reminding me He has always and will always be there. The song takes me back to the end of the "dark days" in my life, when I was sure that I had lost my chance at a relationship with Jesus, the days I attended church service up in the balcony hoping no one would notice someone like me.

Today, though, as I was listening to the song, the lyrics "I'm tired of defending what I've become, what have I become" just bonked me right over the head. The Holy Spirit stared me down and said, "Why do you think you have it all together now?" Lately, what I've become is someone who thinks they have it all figured out, and it is up to me to make it work. Sometimes I feel like I know just enough to be dangerous.

God is not random, though. I had this mini-revelation and repentance sitting in the parking lot waiting to go to Inspire U at Elmbrook. The stripping away of my know-it-all shell continued with the worship time, singing The Stand by Hillsong..."I'll stand with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe of the One who gave it all."
Singing that song, fresh on the heels of recognizing the slippery slope I was on, just about broke me. I gave control back, again, to the only One who should have it.

Yes, God gives gifts and promises, but not to show us how cool we are. He gives us these things to help us grow in relationship with Him, to allow us the privilege of serving Him more fully, but we should never make the mistake of worshiping the gift. Once again, today, I found myself crying out to Him, just lead me. Wherever it is, I will follow. The focus was taken back off me and placed squarely on God, who I am privileged to serve in whatever capacity He asks me to.

At the same time He humbled me today, He showed me that He is leading me. A woman sat next to me in a breakout session and asked me if I was one of the speakers today. I have no idea why she would have asked that, but I smiled with a twinkle in my eye that God put there, and said, "Not yet." It was like God said, "Yeah, I know you get a little full of yourself, but I can still use you. I haven't forgotten about you." So, I'll continue to stand with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe of the One who gave it all, I'll stand, my soul surrendered, and wait.

Once again, the curtain has been pulled back, the smoke and mirrors put away, and it is just me. I was reminded today of how small I am, but mostly, of how big God is. Totally in awe.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Puddles: Revisited

Hey there, fellow travellers! Life is just tricky sometimes, hey? Things come up that we don't anticipate, which is the story of my last couple weeks. A surprise root canal, school challenges, computer breakdowns, dog-chewing-my-glasses challenges, not to mention the things going on in the lives of people I has been a wild ride of late. I was reading through old blogs and this one seemed to speak to me. Maybe, if you are in an uphill climb, it will speak to you as well. Be blessed in your journey...we are all in this together.

Puddles on the Path

Going for a bike ride alone is a pleasure for me…to just be able to ride without being responsible for anyone else is a treat. I took off for a ride one mostly sunny day, and the trail I was on winds through some parks and fields, along a river, and is just generally nice. I had never taken the trail to its endpoint though, so I didn't know it would lead me through some woods, right through the spillover from some recent heavy rains. I don't know about you, but I'm not a fan of riding through woods by myself. I have seen one too many slasher movies not to wonder what is lurking in the sun-dappled shadows. At the point of the giant "puddle", which was close to a foot deep, I wondered if I was making a mistake. I managed to pedal through, however, and am now the proud owner of sneakers that are perfect for swamp fishing. Up ahead I could see sunlight breaking into the shadows, and knew that if I just pedaled steadily I would be ok. When I did come into the clearing, a beautiful and slightly daunting sight awaited me. The beautiful part was a rolling meadow with two sand hill cranes standing in it. I was close enough to them to hear their warning grunts not to come any closer. The daunting part was an uphill climb, and more woods. Curiosity got the better of me, so I headed up the hill and into the woods. It was as I was heading into these second woods that God began to speak.

Pedaling hard to get up that hill... I was not walking my bike in front of those cranes or anyone who might be watching… I was thinking about sticking to the path, and how it has lead me through places I didn't necessarily want to go, like dark woods and flooded paths.

The Lord gently reminded me that He is the leader and creator of our paths. Our "job" is to stay on it, to trust Him to lead us through the dark woods and the big puddles that sometimes make our shoes stink. We just need to keep pedaling, sometimes slower, sometimes standing up in the saddle with shaking legs, but keep pedaling, and He will lead us. I did not anticipate the small pond in the path, but God knew it was there. Likewise, we rarely anticipate the occurrences in life that will shake us to the core...the illness...the unemployment...the dramas that our kids go through...all these things that leave us wondering "How, Lord? How are we going to handle this?" The answer is always the same...stay on the path and keep pedaling.

Keep praying, even though your knees are shaking.

Keep reading the Word, even though you want to look around for a shortcut through the woods.

Keep listening for the still small voice to drown out the screaming in your head.

Stay on the path.

Jesus promised that in this world we would have trouble. But take heart, He said, because I have overcome the world. He has seen it all. He has conquered it all. And through His victory, we can stand victorious, no matter where the path leads. He has not left us alone. When you don't know the way, remember that Jesus is the Way. Follow Him, and He will lead you to higher ground. He will give you rest.

As I came through the final clearing on my ride, I came out on a summit of sorts. The view was amazing, the breeze gentle on my face, and I would never have experienced it if I had turned around when the path got tricky. As I stood taking a long drink from my water bottle, I thanked God for the chance to journey with Him, to see His hand at work, no matter where the path leads.

When your road gets long, and the way seems dark, and the shadows seem real, listen for the Voice that will lead you home. Let His word be a lamp to your feet, a light for your path. You are not alone.

Thoughts to Consider

• Where has your path lead you that you would not have gone on your own?

• What have been the blessings as you stood at the summit?

• What scares you about staying on the path that God might be leading you on?

Strength Builders

• He leads me in the way everlasting. ( Psalm 139:2)

• I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6)

• When He has brought out all His own (sheep), He goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow Him because they know His voice. (John 10:4)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Unsure but Undaunted

Today I got some challenging news that involves my youngest child. Apparently (said with slight sarcasm) I was supposed to fill out an application so he can attend the school his brother currently attends, even though I answered appropriately when asked on the original attendee's application that he would also be attending.

I did not fill out said application. There is not a spot at said school for said child. He is #32 on a waiting list. All of this is said with great frustration.

When mentioning all of this to another mom, she said that she never intended her child to be at the school where he currently is. The school where we met up and have formed a fast friendship. She said it was the best unintended blessing thus far. The whole school thing, not just meeting me, just to clarify.

So, yes, I'm irritated with myself.

Yes, I'm frustrated with the process.

And yes, I'm feeling responsible for messing up the family harmony and plans for next year.

But, in the midst of it all, I am looking for God and the blessings He intends to pour out through this. While I don't know what it will look like, I know that thinking I am in control of everything is really a farce. And God has called my bluff here. Time to rest in the goodnes of Adonai, Lord of Lord, Sovereign.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Treadmill Kind of Faith

"Run with endurance the race set before you, keeping your eyes on the Author and Perfector of your faith."
Hebrews 12:1-2

It is that time of year when I can start to take my show on the road...the running show, that is.

Ok. The jogging show.

The slow loping stagger show occasionally.

You get the point. For the sake of argument, from this point forward, I will use the word "run" to describe the somewhat loping, forward motion I engage in. If you could do me the courtesy of picturing me as graceful and lean, like a gazelle, I would really appreciate that...

Anyway, I can exercise outside again, instead of being trapped on a treadmill at the Y. Not that I don't enjoy that's just nice to feel the fresh air. I had forgotten how much harder it is to run outside, though, at least for me.

On the treadmill, I can set a speed and stick to it, or risk being flung against the windows behind me. When I am running outside, it is sheer determination that sets the pace. I either go too fast and burn out or too slow and wonder why I'm not just walking instead.

There is no wind in my face, pushing me backwards in some cases, in the stable environment of the cardio room. I don't get the fresh air headache on the treadmill.

I will never get run over by a small boy on a two-wheeler while running on the treadmill at the Y. (OK, that was my small boy and he didn't mean to...he was just riding in a circle around me...)

As I was running around Frame Park the other day, Justin leading the way on his bike, it took about 30 seconds of running to realize that it was going to be tougher than I thought. I had planned to circle the park twice, then let Justin play at the playground. My lungs were burning 1/4 way around the first time, and my legs felt thick and heavy. The wind was chillier than I thought it would be, and the seagulls were heckling me too...not the "communing with nature" experience I was looking for.

As I was plodding along, I started comparing the run to my walk as a Christian. There are some environments where it is just comes more naturally to do the right thing. Hanging out with my Yahweh Sisters, sisters in Christ, where we are all on the same page, I don't have to "work" so hard at honoring God in my thoughts and actions. Showing love in the gym at church on a Sunday morning comes easier than in the local Walmart parking lot where someone just stole "my" spot. It is much easier to engage in uplifting small talk with like-minded friends, than on the school playground where the topic of the day might be whoever isn't standing there. Being a Christ-follower is easier in certain environments, places that seem to facilitate those sort of interactions. I can freely offer to pray for someone in the hallway at church, sometimes right there even, than in the aisle at Pick-n-Save, which I hope doesn't make me the H word. It's not that I wouldn't want to, but I might scare people away, get labeled as some sort of religious zealot or something. Yup, definitely easier in certain settings.

But Christ hasn't asked us to stand around in our holy huddles praising Him all the time. He sent His disciples out into the surrounding countryside to spread the word and represent Him to those who were still far away. In Matthew 6, we are reminded to set our lamp on a stand, instead of putting it under a basket. What good is our faith, our salt, if we don't use it to season our lives and the world around us?

As I was running, (remember...picture me graceful...), I was thinking that if I stayed in sterile man-made environments, I would never hear the birds singing. I wouldn't get to smell the promise of spring on the breeze. I wouldn't get to feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I don't think I am willing to trade all of that just to keep my life easy. I have to be willing to run on the harder path, a place where I will need Him to mount me up on wings like an eagle, instead of being satisfied with just walking on my own strength.

On the path the other day, I set my sight on a bench about 1/4 mile in the distance as a place to switch to a walk. It wasn't the full distance around that I was hoping for initially, but it was respectable. As I got closer to my goal, the seagulls really laid in to me. They were screaming and circling, and in my head, I pictured them as Satan's minions. The closer we get to succeeding, the less the enemy likes it. We are rocking his world when we step out in faith and shouldn't let his taunting deter us. Just that thought alone was enough to drive me on, running right past that bench, to finish the second lap strong.

I don't want to live with a treadmill kind of faith. I want to be out there, shining my light in all environments, trusting Jesus to see me through when the going gets tough.

How about you? Will you run with me?

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Adonai. The beautiful name of God that refers to His Lordship and sovereignty. Adon means, “steward administrator, master, or Lord.” The addition of ai to adon intensifies or elevates its meaning, changing it to mean “the ultimate Lord, the Supreme Lord, or Lord of all.” The meaning of Adonai in the Hebrew language, God is Lord, clearly defines our role as servants of our Lord, the God with outright ownership of our life and all things in Heaven and Earth. I have written before about the names of God, but it was this one that enabled me to move forward in my life, in my healing, to leave the past in the past. It is this name that has allowed me to finally forgive those that I still held responsible for the things that happened as a kid. It is in knowing God as Adonai that sets me free.

In the Hebrew culture, a name is more than a name; it is an attribute of your personality. God’s covenant name is YWHW, commonly translated as Yahweh, the English translation being Jehovah. That is the name of God that He identifies Himself by. But, each time he encountered someone, He revealed an aspect of His personality which was then given a name. Much like you have a first name, but you might be a daughter, sister, daughter, mother, granddaughter, aunt, athlete, accountant…the same as it is for God. Because God is a God without beginning or end, with no limit to His goodness, there are a lot of names that He is recognized by.

Jehovah Nissi means the Lord is my Banner. When the nation of Israel would go into battle, they fought under the banner of His name. Often outnumbered by the opposition, Israel would be victorious only through the Lord. It was not unusual for God to put them at a distinct disadvantage so that they would know, without a doubt, that it was Him who delivered them.

Jehovah Rapha is the Lord who heals. I have known Him personally, as the wounds of my heart were cleaned, bandaged, and closed by His hand alone. Nothing I did could stop the hemorrhage of shame and guilt in my life until I let Him get close.

I have met Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides, many times. I know that the Bible tells us that God will provide what we need, but I have seen it and known it to be true in my own life. There was a week when I had one block of time to use for one of two purposes, prepare for a crafting party that would have made me a few dollars, or prepare for Bible study. I chose to prepare for the Bible study and cancelled the crafting party. The next day the phone rang with a chance to do a diaper study and make more money than the party would have yielded. The Lord who Provides showed Himself faithful. He has arranged babysitting opportunities at precisely the right time. He has allowed my husband to keep his job in uncertain times. But, if the job were taken away, I know that He would continue to provide a way for us to survive.

Adonai, though, is the name that makes the difference in my daily thoughts and actions. He is my Leader, my Lord, my Master, the One I surrender to. It is keeping this name before me, written on my heart, and on my body, that inspires obedience to His word, even when I would rather do something another way.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Deliverer

"But God is faithful; He will strengthen you and guard you from evil." 2 Thess. 3:3

I stood outside this morning, as I do almost every morning, with my dog while she does her business. This morning, I heard the melody of songbirds that I haven't heard since last summer, and was immediately brought back to the promise of warmer days. Full blown spring is my favorite time of year because it holds such hope. (I say 'full blown spring' because here in Wisconsin spring can bring blizzards.) Sometimes all it takes is a whisper of the past to transport us back, lost for a few moments in the reverie of what was.

Not all memories dredged up are sweet, however, and sometimes it doesn't take much to stir those up either. Certain scents, interactions, places, bring you back immediately to times you would just as soon never revisit. While I was content to stand on my patio this morning, my fluffy pink robe pulled tight against the chill,  dreaming of sunny days and green leaves shading my backyard, this week I was whisked back in my imagination to a dark time in my life... a time filled with fear, shame, and confusion. It happened unexpectedly; one minute I'm in the dentist chair getting a root canal, and the next, I am fighting back tears.  Something about the procedure took me back to third grade, being abused in a way I didn't understand. Rationally I knew I had nothing to fear, except the root canal..., but my mind was having  none of that. I had brought my ipod to listen to an Andy Stanley sermon and I could barely hear the words through the fog of everything I was feeling.

I made a conscious choice to call out to Jesus. I begged Him to come stand between me and the procedure, to be my Shield of protection from the ugly memories that were rolling over me. I needed to stand under the shelter of His wings, hide against the Rock in safety.

Sisters, He came.

His Presence flooded me, drowning out the present. I could listen to the sermon and not be aware of anything else. My Strong Tower became my Deliverer in that moment.

While I wouldn't have chosen it up front,I'm grateful for the experience, because it gave me a chance to see Jesus as Rescuer. When I go back on Tuesday for the follow up appointment, I will be ready. Not to be strong in my mind, but to be strong in my God. I can't say I'm looking forward to it, but I know that if the past invades my present again, I will not be there alone. And, because I know that God is already standing in all of my tomorrows, He has a plan in place. I just need to step into it.

I had to stand back and remember that God is not a God of circumstance. He did not remove me from the dentist chair, but He came to stand with me during that time.

Is there something going on for you, a hard time, a place that hurts, a circumstance that you would not like to be walking through, that you feel like you can't handle? May I gently suggest that even though you are in pain and praying for a different set of circumstances, that instead you focus on the God who has not left you alone.

Even if you don't feel Him, He is there.

Even though you are in a wilderness, you have not taken one step that He has not overseen.

And maybe, just maybe, He has led you there to show Himself faithful. I will pray for you, wherever you are, whoever you are, because God already knows you...I will pray that you cry out to Him in the midst of everything going on, so that He can be your Deliverer.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Master Gardener

If my mind was a garden, it would be a wildflower garden today. Definitely not a neatly planted field in tidy rows, tulips never touching the roses or the daisies. I feel like I have a lot of divine thoughts going on and I can't quite figure out how to organize them. Each thought beautiful and precious on its own, but hopelessly entangled with the one next to it.

I think my brain needs some breathing space.

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a season to everything, a time to plant, a time to bloom, a time to harvest, in gardening terms. I was reading in Leviticus 25 a couple of weeks ago and came across the schedule that God gave the nation of Israel for the planting of the fields. They were to plant their crop for six years and give the land a rest on the seventh year. The people cried to God, asking how they were to eat during the seventh year, and He promised that if they honored Him and followed His decree, they would be blessed by a crop of such bounty in the sixth year that it would last almost three full years. Imagine that?! Take a year off of planting the fields and be triply blessed? The math doesn't add up.

But, as the saying goes, God has His own economy.

Lately I feel like I am trying to plant in too many fields. I have hopes, dreams, and goals for myself, for ministries I am involved in, for my family and friends...all of these need the nurture and diligence that growing a garden requires. If you do not keep careful watch, the weeds will take over. I sometimes feel like it is up to me to keep all the balls in the air, and that is dangerous ground to be on. I pray for God's direction and guidance, to keep my focus clearly on Him, and to maintain a humble heart. (I'm really good at that last one...)

I think part of the reason that God wanted the fields left alone for one year was two-fold: one, to give the ground a rest so it could continue to yield a bountiful harvest, like farmers rotate their fields every few years. But more importantly, to remind the people that He was in charge of the harvest. Nothing they could do, outside of following God's will, would result in a triple harvest at the time they needed it. There is no way they could claim that blessing as their own doing.

So back to me and my extremely humble heart. If I stop working so hard trying to make everything work out perfectly, what would happen? Would the people starve? Would my dreams, the dreams God has placed on my heart, fail to come true? If I give a field of hope back to Him for a season, will it wither and die?

Or, like He promised the Israelites who followed His decree, will the yield be more than I could ask or imagine?

What if I only sowed into the fields He is directing me to and let Him be responsible for the harvest?

Lots to consider in this wildflower garden of mine.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Standing In the Gap

I stand in the doorway to the bedroom, staring at his back, as he stares at the tv, unaware of my presence. "Getting in the shower," I say, breaking his concentration on the constantly running scroll on the news channel. "8:30 service...?" I head to the bathroom, letting the question hang in the air, focusing my energy and my thoughts on the Only One who can change a heart and remind myself that I am not his Holy Spirit. I remind myself that he will be won over by an example of gentleness, not harping, and focus on the good things. I will stand in the gap, knowing that God is at work.

I listen to her voice cracking on the phone, the pit threatening to rise up and take her under yet again. Reality is a dish much like revenge, often served cold. I offer the only Hope I can give, not a change of circumstance but a change of perspective, knowing the difference that He will make in her heart if only she would open the door. I know there is a scripture out there about praying for someone before they were able to do it for themselves, and resolve to have faith for her. I will stand in the gap, knowing that God is at work.

I am standing in that place between belief and faith, between knowledge and application. I think that is the loneliest place of looking at the cure but refusing to take it. Not because it won't work, but because you don't think you need it. Not yet. "When does 'yet' come?" I ask softly in my head, not trusting my voice because it might come out like a scream.

He stood behind me for a long time...I ignored Him. I would like to pretend I didn't know He was there, but I knew. I just wasn't sure why He would want to hang out with someone like me. I will remember that I am not standing in the gap alone, that He is with me, waiting.


For as long as it takes.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Answered Prayers

Have you ever wanted something so bad but the decision wasn't yours alone to make? I realize that most decisions are like that since none of us inhabits our own planet, but some things really need to have buy-in from all parties. Like having should never set out to make a baby to "surprise" someone with. Trust me, I've done that one. Or selling a house while your spouse is out of town to buy the one down the street. True story...not mine.

Anyway, some decisions, no matter how passionately we feel, are not ours alone to make. When Connor was 2, I wanted to add to our family. The next oldest sibling was 11 and I wanted him to have someone closer in age to pick on and grow up with. My husband was already a little overwhelmed with the instant parenthood that came with marrying me, a mom with three kids, and the honeymoon surprise Connor. Life had hit him right between the eyes and the thought of adding another child was more than he could consider.

I was attending Starting Point, a class for new believers, and decided to challenge God a little. Not challenge in the "do this or else" sort of way, but just to challenge in the sense of letting him know the desire of my heart and leave it in His hands. I promised not to manipulate the situation or whine and beg, but just to pray.

About six weeks later I was standing in the bathroom, staring at the blue stick in disbelief. I was excited and nervous all at the same time, and ultimately peed on five blue sticks just to make sure. Not sure of the reaction this blessed news would receive, I savored it by myself for a couple of days.

I remember standing in the driveway, watching Rob cut the grass, feeling apprehensive about telling him, like I'd done something wrong. God spoke to me so clearly, reminding me that this was His plan for us and that we were in this together. He was giving me the desire of my heart.

I'd be lying if I said Rob was excited right away, but it didn't take long for anticipation to replace the fear. Justin is the spitting image of daddy, and the two share a special bond.

When I look at Justin, I see evidence of God's faithfulness. He is the fruit of the first decision that I left comletely up to God. There have been others since that didn't go the way I wanted them to, but that doesn't diminish God's faithfulness in my life, it just means that I wasn't seeing the plan through His eyes.

Today, March 5th, is the fifth birthday of my fifth child, my little answer to prayer. Happy Birthday, little buddy!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Don't Treat the Symptoms

Tis the season for sick kids. My son came home from school with a fever last week, and after taking care of him for a couple of days with no improvement, I took him to the doctor.

Double ear infection.

I was surprised to say the least...he never once complained that his ears were hurting. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic and we are on the road to recovery, because she made the diagnosis that I never suspected. That's why she is the doctor and I'm not, I suppose.

Let's transfer that to the Big Picture...our Great Physician. Oftentimes we present with symptoms that seem to signify one thing, but God sees it an entirely different way. In our own strength, we try to treat what we think is the issue, without digging any deeper, and we often make the situation worse.

Today, for example, I am edgy. I'm restless. I'm a little sad and a little lonely. On the surface, I was trying to think of someone to call for a lunch date, but no one that I thought of was available. I could go shopping. I actually have time and money in the same pile right now, but I know that isn't the answer. Instead, I sat at my kitchen table, eating chips and salsa, and read Philippians 4, because at the bottom of my edgy, restless, sad loneliness is anxiety. There are some things completely beyond my control that are on my mind. I suggested that someone else in a bad spot to read Philippians 4 and thought I should probably take my own advice.

Soup, salad, breadsticks, and light conversation would have distracted me for awhile, but not really helped in the long term. Only actively seeking the company of Jesus will have lasting effects. He promises rest for our souls when we are weary and anxious, to feed us with Living Water when we thirst, that He is the Bread of Life.

I think that Bread and Water make an excellent lunch.