Peaceful Tides

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Recently, my husband and I made a day trip to the beach. It had been too long, and a lot of loss had occurred in our lives since our last visit. I can tell you that getting my feet on the sand and back in the water was long overdue! The beach has always been a place of solace and comfort for me. It is where I feel most connected to myself, to nature, and to the One who created it all. I feel God’s Spirit all around, and He speaks to my heart in ways that bring new perspectives and realizations. It is where He soothes my broken heart or wraps His arms around me in my grief or trouble. I can stand there for hours just listening to the sound of the waves as they tumble onto the beach around me. We all have places like this, places that touch our hearts and still our souls long enough for the noise of this world to fade into the background so that we can hear or see what we NEED to hear or see.

This life can be so complicated and layered. There is so much going on around us all the time. It is a frenetic pace and, if we aren’t careful, everything within us takes on that pace and the chaos that comes with it. We get so used to the noise of living that we forget how to actually live. The endless distractions or things clamoring for our attention manage to absorb our time and energy. It becomes the “norm,” and we don’t even recognize it anymore. We have endless and continual information rushing at us like an unstoppable tidal wave of distractions, tearing up everything in its path. As people of faith, we can get so caught up in trying to keep up with the pace and then we wonder why we struggle to feel connected to our Father. I can’t help but think of how He tells us, “Be still and know that I am God” (Isaiah 46:10). If I want to truly know Him and be confident in who He is and how He moves, then I must become still.

Being still is not an easy thing to do these days. Not only do we struggle for time in our schedules to do so but becoming still actually stirs movement in other ways. As a child of God, it is almost impossible to sit quietly for very long before we start to reflect, and when we reflect, our spirits turn to the One who created us, redeemed us, and lives within us.  We hear the still, small voice within and sometimes it reveals things we need to change. Other times, it reveals truths we couldn’t see or hear in the cacophony of our daily lives.  Noise can drown out so much, and as our world continues to become faster and faster, it is so incredibly important to slow down so that we can truly hear, see, and feel those profound things that He desires for us to understand.

Standing on the sand recently, with the waves lapping around my feet, I found myself back in that old familiar place. I found the stillness in every fiber of my being and the world began to make sense again. I’m not saying that situations in my life suddenly changed, or griefs I’ve had were suddenly gone, but rather that my perspective lifted higher, and I could breathe again.  I love to stand and see what is revealed as the waves recede back into the sea. Beautiful shells or rocks appear, and they shimmer in the sunlight as it dances across their surface. Incredible sea creatures, different and colorful, stretch out into the warmth around them and provide a glimpse into the intricacies of God’s creation and the depth of his unending creativity. I don’t think twice about the fact the waves are constantly rolling back into the sea because there is beauty in what lies upon the sand as a result, things I may have never seen otherwise.  These moments center me, and it wasn’t until after we returned home that something struck a chord in my heart so strongly that it reverberated through my mind. 

There are times in life, certainly in mine, where I feel God’s presence all around me. Sometimes it comes through time spent in nature, with family, or in the embrace of a friend; sometimes it comes while standing with other believers, praising Him in song or sitting together as His family, spending time together with Him. But there are also times when it seems like maybe He’s not as near or that I have somehow lost my ability to hear Him, yet He has promised that He never leaves nor forsakes us. He is still with us as an endless sea of love that does not disappear, but rather ebbs and flows around us. There is a beautiful rhythm in the way He moves in our lives, sometimes seemingly nearer than others, but if we spend our entire life being so focused on watching the waves recede, we will never turn our vision to what is revealed when they do so. We will miss some of the very things our Father is trying to show us. He doesn’t recede to abandon; He recedes to reveal!

I am constantly amazed at how He speaks to us as His children. He finds ways to meet each one of us where we are, in whatever place we find ourselves at any given point in time. He knows exactly the language to speak that will open my heart, my ears, and my eyes so that I can find peace and understanding – not in having the answers, but in knowing that HE does. Those “languages” could be in images or scenes that come to mind, an impression of His voice within, the laughter and love of family or friends, or countless other things through which He speaks to us but make no mistake about this: If you are His child, He is speaking to you and your heart. The best way to hear Him is to be still and listen.

Whether you find yourself in times of sunshine or rain, abundance or want, joy or grief, remember you are never alone. Your Father, the One who loves you most and sacrificed Himself to make a way so that He could be with you again forever, is with you always. He knows exactly where you are and how to reach you…and He will never let you go.

Blessings!

Love Goes Further

Valentine’s Day is upon us once again, and everywhere you look, you see reminders of love and romance, of couples and togetherness. I was never much for celebrating the day in the traditional sense, as it is also my birthday. My mom, for as long as I can remember, mostly just glossed over the holiday because to her, the day I was born was more important. 55 years ago today, she didn’t even realize it was Valentine’s Day.  I had been born at 6:35 am and it wasn’t until my dad showed up later with flowers and candy that she realized the significance of the holiday.  She kept the heart in which the candy came and later put my baby clothes in it. I still have it today. Love has a way of lingering in the most unusual ways and symbols sometimes.

Today, after almost eight months since Mom passed, I decided it was time to start reclaiming an area of my home. It had been my room of peace for years, as I would write or paint, pray or study God’s word, or sometimes just sit in silence and breathe. When Mom moved in, I wanted her to have the best spot in the house, so I gladly moved my things and created a blended feel in the other bedroom that would work to some degree for those much-needed respites. I absolutely loved that Mom loved her room so much, and she would often tell me how peaceful and comfortable it was for her. It warmed my heart to have seen her enjoy her surroundings even though she was heartbroken to be living away from Dad for the first time in their 64 years together. After she passed, her room has been a source of comfort for me. I had spent countless hours in there with her, talking with her, laughing with her, and later on, caring for her most basic needs.  Even in her absence, I could still feel her presence somehow. I could sit on the foot of her bed and pray or talk to her as if she was still sitting there with me.  It was sometimes so beautiful, yet sometimes so painful to do so.

I’ve heard love described as the rational commitment to the well-being of another, and I have written often about the true nature of love many times in the past. Love goes far beyond the commercialized version of itself. Love walks in the hard places and the tough times. 1 Corinthians chapter 13 explains to us that “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  When I read those verses, I don’t see all the touchy-feely aspects of the holiday we know today.  I see something that is hard to maintain at times. I see something that puts others first and readily forgives. I see something that is honest and hopeful even in the face of adversity. I see it not just in celebrating the sunshine in life but trudging through the dark and difficult places along the way. Love is a gift that goes much further than anything we can imagine. It allows us to stand strong even when we may be at our weakest.

My heart has been telling me for the past few days it was time to start transitioning things between Mom’s room and my “beach room” of peace. I just told a friend this morning that I felt the desire to do so but just wasn’t sure yet if it was time.  I spoke for quite a while with my husband about how I was feeling and the overwhelming sense that changing anything meant I was erasing some part of my precious mom. I know that may sound silly to some, but the thought of transitioning things around brought feelings of guilt, as though I was selfish to disrupt things. I felt anxiety about losing the sameness of that space and that somehow, I would start to forget things I didn’t want to forget.  His rational mind in a moment of my shaken one was such a blessed gift, and after we talked, I truly felt in my heart it was time to start working on the shift. I was actually excited to be moving things around and transferring the feel of one room to the other and had only the bed left to move, and then it hit me.  It felt like everything just stopped, and I was completely frozen for a moment, then the tears poured from my eyes. God had been doing so much in my life over the past week, revealing so much and putting so many pieces of myself back together. The joy I felt was pulling me onward, and I felt great peace and growth, yet in a moment shorter than a breath, I was lying across my mom’s bed suddenly drained of my physical and emotional strength. I felt like a failure for not being able to power through the last piece of what I was doing after God had provided such clarity and strength for me recently. Then I remembered, love goes further, even when we can’t.  Why?  Because God IS love. 

Our Heavenly Father loves us beyond comprehension. His love reached so far that it took Him to a cross to die for me and you, all because He wanted to make a way of redemption where we would be able to live with Him forever. His mercy and grace know no bounds, and He continually restores my strength and peace over and over again. Not once has He failed to fulfill His promises or keep His word, and it is Him that I find strength. His love continually goes further. He reaches out to us beyond our failures or our distress. He reaches to us beyond our doubts or fears at times. His hand is constantly reaching for us, to hold us up when we are weak or to direct us on our path when we are strong. He pulls at our hearts to recognize Him even when our vision is clouded by our tears. His love relentlessly goes further than our circumstances or the feelings with which we may struggle at times! In His word, we consistently see that it is everlasting, unfailing, generous, and sacrificial.  

As the world’s definition of love swirls around us on this holiday, let us turn our eyes upon the One who loved us before we even drew a breath. As His children, He told us to love each other as He has loved us. It isn’t just in the unclouded days that we find God’s love, but so often it shows up in the cold, rainy storms of life and wraps itself around us.  God’s loving embrace can be found in our spirits and our hearts, but sometimes it is in the hug from a loved one or in the words of wisdom and comfort from a trusted friend. Sometimes it simply finds us when a gust of wind knocks us to our knees for just a moment, as it did for me tonight. So let us step back and see love for not what it is, but WHO it is.  When we do that, we cannot help but love Him back.  As the song says, “You died for me, now I’m living for you. Lord, it’s the least I can do.”

Blessings and Happy Valentine’s Day!

  • How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 36:7
  • “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10
  • “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are! “  1 John 3:1
  • “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

The Little Blue Sock

shutterstock_65088625.jpgOver 70 years ago, my mom was just a sweet, little 5-yr old girl living in a small town in California.  She’d been hearing her friends talk about Santa Clause in December, and how if you hang a stocking on your fireplace, Santa Clause would fill it with candy and toys if you had been good.  My grandparents weren’t raised with the standard traditions of Christmas being all that important, but my mom certainly didn’t know it.  Mom didn’t have a stocking, nor had she ever heard of Santa Clause.  They didn’t even have a fireplace in their small house, but on that Christmas Eve she took one of her light blue socks and taped it to her door in hopes that Santa would show up. On Christmas morning, she got up, excited to see what she had received.  She ran to where the sock was hanging and it was still there…untouched and empty.  Her little heart was crushed and she thought maybe she wasn’t good enough, or maybe her friends had lied to her. 

After Christmas, Mom took a ride with her dad (my “Pop” that I adored), and he asked her if she liked what she had gotten for Christmas.  It was then then she told him about the sock.  As they talked, eventually the subject of the Easter Bunny came up and Mom asked Pop, “Do you think the bunny will leave me candy if I have a basket?”  Pop replied, “I think he will.”  That Easter season, Mom put out her basket, and when she woke up the next morning, her basket contained a package of Heath bars.  Her heart knew, even at that young age, that Pop made sure she wasn’t disappointed again.

img_4890-edit.jpgFast forward to Christmas in our family this year.  My mom is now living with my husband and I, and my Dad is living in a memory care facility.  This is our first Christmas on this new journey, and it has brought many logistical and emotional changes.  I’ve woken up at my parents’ house for Christmas my entire life.  Even as adults, we spent the night with them.   This year, I woke up with my husband in our house, the one we now all share together.  It felt strange not packing up on Christmas Eve to go to my parents’ house for the night.  I knew my Christmas morning would feel different too.  Mom, for the past 30 years or so, woke us all up at 5:00 am by loudly playing The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole.  It’s impossible for me to hear the opening of that song without memories of those mornings flooding my mind.  Our traditions have now been changed not by choice, but by our circumstances.

Traditions, no matter how strong, are always vulnerable to life circumstances or personalities of those who’ve been a part of them.  Some things in life can’t be exactly the same, but they can still be beautiful.  It all depends on whether or not we are willing to open our hearts to new experiences or are able to let go of past ones we wish we could keep forever.  Believe it or not, we have the ability to adjust and adapt in ways we never thought possible. As a matter of fact, some of our greatest revelations are the things we see when we are forced into searching for new ways of doing things.  It is easy to get comfortable and go on auto-pilot when it comes to certain aspects of life.  Familiarity can bring great comfort, but it can also cause you to not even consider what else might be just as (or even more) amazing.

mom blue sockSo, this year, in the midst of the glaring changes to the early part of my Christmas morning, I decided to do something different. I thought about my 5-year old mother and took a light blue sock, filled it with a little toy, a few pieces of candy, and yes, a Heath bar.  I taped it very quietly to the door of my mom’s room and started playing The Christmas Song on my phone that I had laid against her doorway.  As I stood hiding in the morning darkness, listening for the sound of Mom taking that sock off the door, I couldn’t help but think about how there are always opportunities for creating beautiful moments, no matter if they’ve been going on for generations, or whether it’s the very first time it’s happened.  I peeked around the corner of my mom’s room and said, “Merry Christmas.”  There sat my mom on the edge of her bed, laughing and crying at the same time.  So, we sat on the bed together in the faint glow of daybreak, reminiscing about her childhood, “Pop,” our family, and how anything can be redeemed, even if it takes 70 years.  It was my greatest gift this year.

Christmas Day may be behind us, but the gifts that remain are those experiences we shared with family and friends, or even others along the way.  It is the opening of our hearts, listening to each other and loving each other through the difficult times that reminds us we are not alone.  In life, as with Christmas, we need to look for the beauty outside our traditions as well as within them.  Sometimes it is through the changes we didn’t expect in life that we find the changes that make life more beautiful.

Live with your heart open, and when you get the chance along the way, always take time to fill someone else’s little blue sock.

Blessings!

Mothering Is More Than You Think

shutterstock_600936479Mother’s Day is once again upon us, and with it comes all sorts of emotions for all kinds of people.  Some are celebrating their wonderful moms, while others are mourning the loss of their mother, and still others may be cringing at the memory of a mother who wasn’t there for them.  Some women are relishing their own role as a mother, while others are just trying to make it through a day that reminds them only of the void that comes with never having been able to have children of their own, or worse, having lost one to miscarriages or other tragedies.  My point is this day can be beautiful and wonderful, or it could bring heartache and pain, and no matter where you or I fall on that spectrum, we all have to walk through this day somehow.

Family is such an important part of our society.  Our families shape us and often mold us into the adults we become.  If we are blessed to have been raised in a family where love and faith were a continual thread, it is easy to forget that there are those who have not shared our same experiences.  While we might have great memories upon which to reflect, there are others who are doing everything they can to not remember their own.   Such is the complicated nature of family relationships, and such is the complicated nature for so many women when it comes to motherhood.

Most of you know that my husband, and I were not able to have children of our own.  We looked into all the other possibilities, but none of them worked out for us.   Over time, the grief of our situation shifted and morphed, as it does with any other type of grief.  Not only that, but this year is the first Mother’s Day my husband and I have shared where one of our mother’s is no longer with us.  My mother-in-law was an amazing woman who never met a stranger or gave up on anyone.  She loved unconditionally and losing her has changed the palette of feelings that we share individually and as a family at this time of year.

IMG_0469This year, in spite of all of life’s challenges and the complications that can come with this day for so many women (and men), there is something different on my heart and mind. This year, I am thanking God not only for my own godly mother who raised me in deep love and faith, or the children in my life that I’ve had the opportunity to influence in one way or another, but I am also thanking God for the three children my husband and I sponsor through Compassion International.  It’s been a number of years now, and although it took a while to become comfortable with our communications back and forth, we have settled into beautiful relationships with three children who live across the world from us.  We have watched them grow, and have been blessed to be able to support, encourage and be connected to these kids and their families, and I am unspeakably grateful as I reflect on it today.

Mother’s Day is a day that we set aside to honor first our own mothers, and then all mothers.  As Prince Harry recently said after the birth of his first child, “How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension!”   What women go through to bring new human beings into this world really IS beyond comprehension to those of us who have not experienced it, male or female!  That being said, it takes far more to make a true “mother” than just giving birth.  It involves a deep and lasting love, a sacrificial love that seeks the well-being of her children first, even when it demands more than she thinks she can give.  It is about understanding the responsibility you have to raise and nurture the human beings God has entrusted to your care.  It is about being there.  It’s putting your phone down and listening to them.  It involves so much more, but you get my point.

shutterstock_723877837When you consider what it truly means to “mother” another human being, you are able to step back and see a broader group of women than you might have before.  All the characteristics, traits and actions that make a woman a true mother, are the same ones that make us all mothers to the world around us.  I’m not discounting mothers in any way, in fact, I am doing the exact opposite.  I am elevating the aspects of mothers that we all celebrate on this day each year.  We celebrate the love and care.  We celebrate the sacrifices.  We celebrate these amazing women who took their jobs seriously and refused to give up even when their children may have disappointed them or caused them pain.  These are the things we celebrate, and as people of faith, THIS is how we are supposed to love the world!

I mentioned earlier about the children my husband and I have sponsored for a number of years.  Although I did not give birth to them, nor are we raising them, I love them with all my heart and feel a great responsibility toward them.  My heart desires the very best for them.   I cheer their accomplishments and share in their difficulties and sorrows.  I worry when I hear of events going on in their countries, cities or villages.  They are embedded into my heart, and I am so grateful to have yet another area to channel that mothering gene God put in my heart.   I have found Compassion International to be an incredible organization with which to partner, and I could not be more blessed to have three beautiful children to love and care for as a result of their efforts.

shutterstock_1257354151So on this Mother’s Day, by all means, honor your mother and the other women in your lives that are worthy of that honor.  Thank God for all the women who mothered you throughout the course of your life.  Honor them by doing the same for others around you.  Don’t reserve your nurturing just for your children, but also for those children without mothers, and for adults who are wounded and hurting.  Over and over again, Jesus tells us to love one another.  He tells us that everyone is our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37).  He tells us to go the extra mile when we don’t have to do so (Matt 5:41).  He tells us to love our enemies (Matt 4:43-48).  Jesus made it perfectly clear that we are commanded to love!  He told us,“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”(John 13:34-35)

Reach out to this world full of struggling people.  Nurture them, love them, and never be afraid of getting your hands dirty.  After all, isn’t that what mothering is all about?

Happy Mother’s Day and blessings to you all!

Compassion International – Sponsor a child

Love Or Just Celebrating It?

Here we are on Valentine’s Day 2019, a day on which many people celebrate love, but what exactly does that mean?  Is it a day where people truly step back and think about what love is, or is the focus on what they get or what kind of display of affection their significant others do for them?  I remember working for a company that announced over the loudspeaker the names of everyone who had received a delivery during the previous 30 minutes.  It went on all day long!  Over the years it began to feel almost like a contest of how many times your name would be announced, as if it was some indicator of how much you were loved by others.  What started as an easy way to organize deliveries for a people within a large company became a source of pain for so many people whose names weren’t called multiple times or maybe not called at all.  My point is, what should we celebrate when we think of love?  We should celebrate the traits of what it means to truly love others.  1 Corinthians 13 tell us the true nature of love:

img_6962“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

We like to quote those verses or turn them into wall hangings, but so often they become exactly what they shouldn’t – decoration.  The more we look at things, the easier it is to stop seeing them.  It is easy to get caught up in the trap of saying the right things, but not living them.  It’s easy to get lost in our own desires or how others aren’t acting or reacting like we think they should.  Once we start down that road, it leads nowhere positive.  Look at the beginning of that same passage of scripture:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

 We like to jump to the section that so beautifully describes the nature of love, but skip over the first few verses that tell us we can be the most eloquent, gifted, generous person on the planet, but if we do not have love, then we are NOTHING!  Let that sink in for a moment.  (I’ll wait…)  It’s quite a statement of what happens when we get so focused on ourselves and start thinking everyone else is wrong or are doing things wrong.  We start expecting things and then get upset when we don’t get them.  It is one of the many reasons why Valentine’s Day has become such a commercialized day of supposed romance.  Society keeps trying to define for us what love looks like, and we just keep absorbing that view.  We need to stop.  We need to get back to truly loving each other, and we need to do it every day, not just on Valentine’s Day.

shutterstock_65540413In a time when we are more divided than ever in so many realms, it is good to remember what Jesus tells us in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.”  We should look different, act different and BE different.  That doesn’t seem so tough when you think about loving those who love you and treat you well, but when you consider loving the people who have mistreated you, judged or slandered you or a host of other things, it can be a daunting thing to undertake.  It isn’t easy to love the unlovable or those who mistreat us, but I just keep thinking about how much Jesus loved us – even while we were (or are) unlovable.  Philippians 2:5, it tells us, “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.”  Yeah, there is a LOT that could be said about that, but when it comes to love, we are to view love the way He viewed love.  And yes, we are to love even those who mistreat us.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be mature and complete, as your heavenly Father is mature and complete. (Matthew 5:43-48)  Being mature or complete is a tall order, but if we are to follow in the steps of our Father, we have to be willing to set aside our pride and love genuinely.

shutterstock_114296290So on this day of love, I will leave you with this: Let us go out into this world with love and kindness.  Let us stop being so quick to judge each other and instead pray for each other and lift up those around us.  Don’t try to pull the weeds in someone else’s garden, but rather cultivate what you want to grow in yours.  Love in ways that far exceed your words, even if those around you do not do the same.  Love in spite of your expectations.  Love in the midst of pain.  Love when you are on top of the world, or when it is crashing down around you.  Love completely, not for what you get but for what you can give.  We did nothing to deserve God’s incredible love and He did not reserve it for only the “worthy.”  He loved every single one of us in spite of ourselves.  Love because you have been loved.  Bless because you have been blessed.  Forgive because you have been forgiven.  And remember just because God made it that simple; He never said it would be easy.

Blessings and love to you and yours!