Big, yet simple

Trying to live big. Trying to live simply. Can we do it? For us, this is what it looks like the past few days. Me with a warm cup of creamy coffee. Jason with a glass of nice dry wine. Emma with a Gatorade, Glacier Freeze. Blankets and pillows loaded up. We drive west a few miles. It doesn’t take long until we find wide, open spaces. There’s no trees. No buildings to block our view. Just a vast expanse of blue sky at dusk. We park, facing west and watch the sunset. Good music coming from the speakers and we just be. We just are. We just observe.

Afterward, EK drives sitting in my lap. It takes a lot of convincing from us. She doesn’t dance near the fire. Mostly, she stands back and watches the flames. But she trusts us and we convince her that she will not be doing it alone. We are right here. We will always be right here. There is nothing to fear. The sunroof is open. Above us, a black abyss of stars. She’s a good driver and keeps us on the road. Music wafts upward and outward and inward to our souls. And we drive on dirt roads in the dark. Living big. Living simply.

Another day instead of blankets, pillows and drinks it’s two very excited wagging, panting dogs we load up. We drive East, it doesn’t take long until we find a small pond. The day is cool. We are wearing jeans and hoodies. The wind is strong and cold. The dogs are panting. Their tongues loll about. We stroll around the water. Ducks swim undisturbed. Clouds sail across the sky. Cows in the next field are curious. They come to the fence. They’re excited. The dogs are excited. Even J-Dub is excited. He walks right to the fence and sits with them reaching through the barbed wire. Their nostrils flare trying to get a better scent of him. They crowd into one another. The dogs whimper and prance wanting to take chase, but knowing better. Every creature is curious of the others. For a little while.

The dogs walk the water’s edge. Dipping their tongue as the walk. Their paws are muddy. Their legs are wet. They venture out further. Then without warning they sink up to their shoulders. EK finds it hilarious. So we all do. Laughter is contagious. We walk a bit more. It is quiet. It is just us. We are still, yet moving.

Afterwards, we have two tired, still panting, sopping wet, and now very smelly dogs to load back up until their next adventure. Everyone likes to go every once in a while. Living big. Living simply.

I sit on my patio in the morning. My coffee is full and hot. The sun is full and hot. It beats down on my face, legs, and arms. Spring is bursting. I only need to look around and observe. Cycles of life continue. The world has not stopped just because the people have. How little we are in control of. The sun does not rise at our command. The birds build nests, not because we say so, but because they know that’s what they were put here to do. The spider weaves his web every day, knowing he’ll have to make repairs. The flowers bloom. The cows calve. The gigantic pink full moon casts its healing light on our planet. We cannot stop it. We can not force it or make it cease. We think we have so much power, we think we are in control. We must only open our eyes to see how foolish we are.

I close mine. I breathe deeply. I feel my body relax. My thoughts slow. I am still. I just be. I just am. I hear the words come to me.

I am right here. I am always right here. There is nothing to fear. I smile. Is God a poet? Of course He is. He is in all things. He is all things. Big. So Big. Yet, so simple.

Finding Gratitude in Challenging Times

Many years ago, back when I had cable TV and I liked Oprah Winfrey, she had a guest on her show who first introduced me to the idea of a gratitude journal. I can’t remember why I jumped onboard with that, probably the guest said it would change my life and it did. I quickly found a nice little hardbound journal that was given to me as a college graduation gift (I did say it was many years ago) which remained blank, so I began each day to write down 3-5 things I was grateful for. My gratitude journal has been such a meaningful part of my sanity, growth, and getting me through difficult times, that I feel that the practice may benefit you as well.

We are certainly going through difficult times as humankind right now, and if you are feeling any amount of anxiety, worry, fear, or stress, I honestly believe getting a nice journal to begin this process of appreciation will help you get through it. And we will get through it. We ARE getting through it.

I have attempted to keep a gratitude journal throughout my life. Of course, my energy towards it wanes and surges, but I use it as one of my coping methods in the very hard times. I have filled up a few journals with basically lists of goodness in my life.

What has this accomplished for me?
1. It has forced me to look for the silver lining in the midst of the storms of life.
2. It makes me feel better. Instantly my mood improves. We cannot think of two things at once. We are either thinking of something good or something bad, but not both at the same time. Try it. You can only focus on one or the other.
3. It is a blessing to look back over the years and see how far I’ve come, and to remember special times and people.
4. It gets my mind off things I have no control over and helps me revisit how blessed I am.

When you first begin, it’s super easy. We all start with the  big things we can think of. Our family, our health, our religion, etc. And that’s fine. The more days you do it, it forces you to dig deep. You begin to live in a posture of appreciating.  Instead of thinking of general ideas, you begin to get very specific and will find that all day long,  you are appreciating your experiences and the people you are surrounded by.

When I look back over my old journals, I find a menagerie of things. For example, I am grateful that I am in control of my own feelings and thoughts. Or, I am grateful to have the ability to put together a meal without a recipe. For Ashlynn improving in her driving. When I look back into my very first Gratitude Journal in 1998, it says things like I am grateful for $50 my mom gave me to clean the house. Or, the job I applied for today. It is humbling and refreshing to read them all. For being able to visit my 6th grade Sunday school kids. In 2009, I wrote I am grateful for getting the bathroom redone. Free time to read and relax. Having money to tithe.

There are pages and pages filled and I could get lost retracing the steps of my life. But automatically I feel better. I mean right now. Finding those examples for you has caused me to realize how very blessed I am.

I encourage you to try this for yourself. Get yourself a nice journal, something that makes you smile. Journals always make me smile, anyone else? Set aside a time each day that you will write down 3-5 things to appreciate in your life. Do it for 30 days. Watch your life change!

In Philipians 4:8, we are told to think on the good things, y’all.  I would bet it is taught in all religions/spiritual circles in some form or fashion. What better way than to do so in a gratitude journal everyday? So go count your blessings, name them one by one. Leave me a comment if you plan on doing it or already do this. I would love to hear from you.

Here’s my 5 today if you need a tee off:
I am grateful:

  • For sitting outside and feeling the sun on my face and hearing the birdsong.
  • For healthy meals I can prepare and the abundance of food
  • For the promise of new beginnings as I watch spring unfold before my eyes
  • For the ability to work remotely.
  • For the bond of human connection.

 

 

Water-Walking in the Storm

 

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WHOOSH.
The sound of the wind being sucked from our sails. The rug being pulled from under our feet. The breath knocked from our lungs.

It happens. This life has a way of sometimes catching us off guard. Sometimes it’s when we’re rocking along, with everything going our way, and then WHOOSH. Or maybe it’s when things have just started to look up, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and then WHOOSH. That new job has come along, or that tax refund just hit the mailbox, or that relationship has blossomed into promise. Then WHOOSH. Without warning we’re blindsided.

Blindsided by the whoosh. The bad news. The unexpected turn of events. The loss of something we inevitably were taking for granted.  No one is immune from the storms and trials our existence on planet Earth delivers. If you are a human being and breathing air, you are going to feel the whoosh of life. It certainly doesn’t take anyone long for that realization to sink in. Storms come. They come in all sizes. From the small drizzle to the devastation of a tsunami.

I am a glass half full girl. I believe in hope. I see the Promise land. Deliverance from the desert. Rest for the weary. Rainbows after storms. Resurrection after death. Promises fulfilled.  We don’t have to stay stuck in our storms. One thing I know, storms are temporary.

My desire is to be a water-walker. I want to be like Peter, who when in the midst, (IN THE MIDST, not when facing it or after it was over, but in the smackdab middle) of his storm, put his eyes on Jesus and walked on water. While the waves beat and the wind howled and while his robe and beard blew in the gust and the water splashed upward and crashed into his face, while the rain stung his eyes, while all that was happening—  he kept his gaze on Jesus Christ and walked on the water toward him.

Are you going through a storm? A trial? Has the wind been sucked from your sails? Has the rug been pulled out from under your feet? Are you gasping for breath?

There’s only one thing to do.

Keep your eyes on Jesus. Do not focus on the problems. Focus on the provider. He will make a way when there seems to be no way.
What happened when Peter noticed the wind all around and put his focus on the storm? He began to sink. But immediately Jesus was there to save him. Our savior is here. Walking toward us in our storms. Take comfort in that.

Nothing catches him by surprise. Jesus doesn’t feel the Whoosh of life. Just as He knew the storm would come and he sent the disciples out  anyway, he also knew they would make it to the other side. He knows the storm that surrounds you. He sees you straining. He sees your toil. He is walking toward you, ready to assist you. He knows you will make it to the other side.

Look up. Lift your chin. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He who is the master of the storms. He who walks on water. He who braves all the storms and comes toward us when we are afraid.

He will rescue us when we cry out to him.

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. Psalm 107:19

 

 

 

 

His Eyes Are on the Lilacs, And I Know He Cares For Me!

We left the arid, drought drenched plains of the Texas panhandle at the beginning of 2013 and moved to the majestic mountains of New Mexico.

It was nothing short of a complete leap of faith. There was not a job bringing us here. There was very little family here to support us. It was a dream of J-Dub’s to live here and so we shut our eyes and leapt knowing that “the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest”. Amen? Whithersoever. Doesn’t the old KJV just say it good sometimes?

Beauty surrounds us here. Snow capped mountain tops, fields of flowers, tall pines, rolling streams, abundant wild life. That first spring of 2013 arrived and I was awed by the sight of the lilac bushes that surrounded our property.  And I do mean surrounded. They are monstrous bushes, standing well over 10 feet tall and lined up in a row, bumping into each other.  I was so anticipating the arrival of all these purple bursts of flowers, that I blogged about it here.  Yet, I was left disappointed when a late freeze blasted the buds. The next spring, once again, those tiny purple buds appeared and I held my breath only to be disappointed once again when Old Man Winter blew his icy breath on them.

Earlier this year, JDub and I made a very difficult decision that it would be the best fit for our family if we returned home. Yes, to that arid drought drenched Texas Panhandle. We must wait until school is finished, so this will be our last Spring time here. Of course, I started a list of things I would miss about this place. Of course on that list is all the things that make is so beautiful.

Right before Easter, the many lilac bushes once again showed their promise, but I didn’t hold my breath. We drove back to Texas for the Easter break and my last thoughts as we pulled out of the driveway and I gazed upon the massive bushes were, “oh well. If they do bloom, they’ll be spent by the time we return.” No faith. No faith at all on my part. Sometimes prior disappointments squash it, don’t they? We don’t want to be disappointed again. In people. In circumstances. Instead we prepare ourselves for it not to happen instead of looking toward it. Where is our hope? We replace our hope with “realism”.

But lo and behold, when we pulled back in several days later,  I was met with an awesome welcoming! Those purple (and one bush of white) lilacs were in bloom and greeting me. They were happy, I could tell it. Every blossom oozed happiness. I was overjoyed! I began laughing and whooping and clapping before I ever got out of the car.

The past several weeks the bushes have bloomed and bloomed. Their aromas have washed over me filling me with memories and pleasure. We have brought some inside and placed them in Mason jars.  Now, I’m sad to say they are at the end of their blooming season.

But I’m so glad I got to experience them, this last spring I have to live here.

It’s God you know. Of  course it is. He has a way of caring about what we care about, even little things like lilacs, which I dare to argue aren’t little things.

Now that I’m a parent, I kind of, sort of, in my very limited human capacity understand the graciousness of God a teeny tiny bit more. My little girl is the apple of my eye and I long to lavish things upon her. Just for her enjoyment. Just for the sheer reason that it will make her happy. And of course I’m reminded of Matthew 7:11 that tell us,

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

Isn’t that an awesome thing? All we have to do is ask and then believe. He knows what we need even before we ask. He wants to give to us. He is not one that holds back, in fact he GAVE his one and only son that whosoever believeth in Him shall have everlasting Life. John 3:16

He GAVE the ultimate gift. Our God is a gracious giver. He will give us what we need.

Phillipians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in Christ Jesus.

Why do we worry about our needs when we can call upon the God of the World, the Creator of all, the one who tells the lilacs when and where to bloom to help us?

Is there something you are consumed with? Are you worrying about a detail of this life?

Read again Matthew 25-32 and be reassured.  “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,  yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.

Friends, I am preaching to myself! Since deciding to move back to our hometown, J-Dub and I have experienced quite a few roadblocks. We have worried. We have fretted. We have doubted. I have wondered if God is going to come through. But I can tell you, when I think about my past and I think about the things He has done, and I read the promises from His word, I can affirmatively answer that Yes, he will come through. He has yet to let me down.

It’s the original work of Satan, to lie to us and to make us doubt God’s word. Recognize it as such. When Adam and Eve were in the garden, wasn’t that the words of the Serpent? He began with “Did God really say………” He planted enough doubt in Eve’s heart that she sinned.

Yet we are told that the promises of God are Yes and Amen. We are told that those who believe in Him will not be made ashamed. Look and see that the Lord is good. He will come through for you. He will come through for me.

So open your arms and receive my friends.

Be blessed!
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You Dance Over Me

I’m not sure what it was that woke me in the middle of the night.  The dream.  The fact that my left leg was asleep from stem to stern.  Or my big barking dog in the backyard.  Whatever it was, I was awake.

I wiggled my leg, feeling the pins and needles begin to subside; laid there deciding whether I should get up and shut up the dog and face a possible ax murderer staring back at me ( I always imagine the worst); all while I picked the pieces of my dream and put them in their place, making it all come together.  It was a Dad dream, my favorite kind, and so I savored the memory of him for just a while longer before I ventured outside to yell at the dog.

It turned out, there was no ax wielding maniac, probably just a skunk.  I returned to bed, but now I had a new problem.  I was awake at four in the morning.  Alone in my head.  My thoughts crowding and bumping into each other.

As a mom-in-the-trenches, there are two things I currently cherish in my life.
1)  My sleep
2) My alone time when I’m awake.

I debated them.  Should I try to go back to sleep?  Should I get up and write? (something I don’t have time for unless I’m awake and everyone else is asleep).  I want to sleep. I want to write.  I can’t do both at the same time.  Instead I did neither. I played Words with Friends, then I thought of my dream some more, which carried me to a real-life conversation I had with my sister a few hours previous.

She had mentioned a scripture that she was focusing on.  Zephaniah 3:17?  Or was it Zechariah 3:17?  Four in the morning memory isn’t so hot.  She said she had highlighted it for her Bible Study and had left her Bible opened on the table.  Later, she noticed that her daughter, who’s battling her own adolescent wars, had drawn a heart beside the highlighted scripture and had written her initials inside.  That image touched me.  The fact that an adolescent girl would pause to read that scripture, and that it was meaningful enough to her that she would make her own notations with her heart and initials.

I am unfamiliar with Zephaniah 3:17.

I got my phone and looked it up.
Zephaniah 3:17
NLT:  “For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you.  He is a mighty savior.  He will rejoice over you with great gladness.  With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will exult over you by singing a happy song.”

Then I read it in the NIV:
“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

I read them again and again, mulling over these words and considered the relevance to my niece and her struggles.

God is with you.
Lives among you.
Mighty Savior.
Rejoices.
Great delight.
With gladness.
Calm all your fears.
Rejoice over you with singing.
Happy song.

It paints a happy picture, doesn’t it?  It paints a loving picture.  It paints a picture of a God who is crazy about us.  One who cares.

Just then my little bed partner, Emma Kate, rolled into me.  Her skin was warm and toasty and her breathing was full of slumber.  I kissed the side of her head, and felt my heart bursting with love for her.

Those words echoed in my head:
Great delight
With gladness.
Calm all your fears.
Rejoice over you with singing.
Happy song.

We love because he first loved us.  He is our example of love.  We should strive to love like him.  Those words are of a Loving God.  And, just for an extra bonus, the words of an Old Testament God.  The mean one, you know?

You see, I have a problem with God.  Rather, I have a problem with my idea of God.   I try to fit him into a mold and relate to him in ways that I relate to others. I’m told God is loving.  I’m told He desires a relationship with us more than anything.  I’m told that he cares for us. But, sometimes I can’t help but see God as aloof, off in Heaven doing his own thing, his back turned to me, his ears barely hearing my pleas.  He’s busy.  He’s working.  He wants to be left alone.  Maybe he says, ‘In a minute.’  ‘Later.’  ‘I need to finish this first, then I’ll get to you’.  Or maybe he says, ‘Can I just have a few minutes to myself?  Geez, all I’m asking for is a little quiet time here.  To regroup.  Recharge. Is that too much to ask?’

Or wait.  No, that’s me.

You see, I think God relates to me the way I relate to my child. And others.

But he doesn’t.

My ways are not your ways.  My thoughts are not your thoughts.

We’re told here in Zeph. 3:17, that he delights in us.  Sings over us.  Rejoices.  Yagil.  That literally means he dances, skips, leaps.  He shouts over us with shouts of joy.

Whoa.

When was the last time you danced and sang over somebody?  Not with somebody.  Not for somebody’s entertainment.  But OVER somebody.  As much as we think we love, it’s no comparison to how he loves is it?

God does not have his back turned.  He’s not saying, “not now, later.”  He cares.  We are his children, and He is not weary with us.  He has shown up to live with us.  He has arrived.
Annnnnnd……He is full on dancing, singing, rejoicing, and loving us.

How awesome is our God?

I think that knowledge is worth getting up at 4 a.m. for.

In my book, anyway.