Shattered

Shattered

We planned this move as a means to start over. Being 1000 miles away from all we knew was going to be our fresh start. The hurts from the past would be set aside and forgiven and we would move on…together. As I made the final arrangements to move myself and our two young children to meet him and start a new home and life together , I got the call. He wasn’t ready to make our marriage work and he would be coming home to finalize our divorce.

I was shattered.

It came as a text. They wouldn’t be needing my services any longer. As nice and cordial as the message was, it still stung. But when I got a similar message from another parent just a few days later, I was left empty. Even though children moving on is the “nature of the beast” of my business , I wasn’t expecting this to all hit at once and it hurt. To top things off, not only did I lose every penny of my income that week, so did my husband. How long could we keep food on our table and a roof over our heads with the little bit of savings we had? I knew it wouldn’t last long.

I was shattered.

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As I finished up Chapter 2 of “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way”, I was challenged to think about times in my life that felt shattered to the point of dust. “Shattered to dust”…those times that felt like an abrupt, scary, disappointing end to the comforts I once felt. The times that felt like I could never pick up the pieces and move on. Because, well, once something is shattered to the point of dust, it’s a smidge impossible to glue those teeny, tiny fragments back together and make anything good.

Unless, of course, you’re God!

In the book, Lysa brought to our attention how magnificent God is with dust. Give God a handful of dust and He can create a living, breathing human being. I mean, come on. Creating a person with such ease should give us great comfort when we hand Him the dust created from our obliterated circumstances!

But I know how much easier it feels in the moment to just scream at God and come short of demanding that He fix things just the way we think would be best. I’ve been there, done that….

LORD! Make him love me again! Get him on a one way plane back home where he’ll stay and we’ll live happily ever after with our two kids and one dog. He’ll be faithful to me forever and I’ll never look like the black sheep of the family because I was the only one with a failed marriage! God, only You can do this, so do it now!

But God had other plans for my dust!

LORD! WHY?!? You know we can’t live without an income. I can’t even believe You made this happen to us. Why would you give me a calling in my life and rip it away with nothing to fall back on?? I have no clue what to do next! So God , You better lead me very clearly to the next step because I feel blinded here!!!!

But God had plans for my dust!

Did you ever watch David Letterman’s late night talk show? He would often have a segment he called ” Stupid Human Tricks” where people would do little “tricks” they taught themselves. Silly little old idiosyncratic crazy things they could probably make money showing off in bars! When we try to tell God what to do , or worse yet, jump ahead of him and start doing these things all on our own, I imagine He looks down on us from heaven , shakes His head and gets a little giggle at our silly “stupid human tricks”! Because try as we may, we can never ever create anything as fabulous out of the dust of our cruddy circumstances as God can. But we have to hand our crud over to Him and let Him do His thing!

Because God’s way is simply better.

“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.  God’s Decree. For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.” … Isaiah 55:8-9 (The Message)

When I think back on these two times in my life when my circumstances felt crushed to dust, I can smile now knowing the truth of God’s declaration here. His ways ARE better! His thoughts for me ARE better! God took the dust of that broken marriage and did a new thing that never would’ve happened if I had stuck to my way of doing things and had not moved 1000 miles out of my comfort zone. God’s way gave me new confidence . His way showed me the rewards of obedience. His way showed me His heart and His great love for me. He drew me closer to Himself as He molded a new creation out of my dust. His way brought me new love, a new marriage with Him at the center and three sons I adore. God took the dust of our broken pay check and showed us how great His provision is, how perfect His timing is. He brought my husband a wonderful new career way closer to home. He brought me new children to love and care for. He showed me that even though I felt forsaken for a time, it was a lie. He never left our side or was ever unaware of what was happening.

He is simply good. He knows what to do when our lives are shattered to dust. My encouragement for you today if you are feeling shattered is to trust in His goodness , His love for you, and His timing in your situation. He knows what’s going on. He won’t take His eye off you. So mourn, mope, scream, do whatever you need to do to deal with the emotions but quickly shake off the dust. And let God create something new and magnificent with it.

If you have a story to share where God has turned your dust to glory, I’d love to hear it. I bet it would encourage someone else!

Oh but what God will do!!

From “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way” by Lysa Terkeurst


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The Pursuit of Perfection

The Pursuit of Perfection

As she strained to open her eyes , I wonder what she was thinking. Was she confused? Disoriented? Did she immediately know what was going on? Was she astounded by the love I’m sure she saw in the Eyes that gazed upon her first? She was created into a world without flaw. The beauty before her must have been breathtaking. Did she even realize that?

Luscious green gardens that grew magnificently regardless of her lack of knowledge in caring for them. Flowers she never had to water or plant for that matter. No bugs to eat away the leaves . The nearby river never overflowed nor did it show any signs of pollution. I bet the fish from this river tasted so amazing they didn’t need any Panko OR garlic! I can only imagine!

When her Creator took her to meet Adam for the first time, I wonder what she thought? I mean they were naked! Unless you are a nudist by nature, can you imagine how awkward that must’ve been!! Where did their eyes fall? Nothing was covered.

Nothing!!

In spite of this, they felt no shame. She wasn’t worried about cellulite or extra weight in her belly. He wasn’t concerned with his six pack or lack thereof and, if he had back hair, he simply didn’t care. They were just perfect.

EVERYTHING was perfect!

Until it wasn’t.

Enter the serpent and that oh so appealing tree with the fruit they just had to have a bite of. Suddenly they realized that knowing everything wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If the fruit was actually an apple, I wonder if a worm crawled out of it as Eve took that first bite and suddenly realized her toes were weird and she was jiggly in places she didn’t like to be jiggly! As she sought out the biggest fig leaf she could find to cover herself, I wonder if the perfectly lush grass under her feet all of a sudden had weeds poking through.

All that perfection. Gone with one moment of self indulgence.

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“The human heart was created in a context of the perfection of the Garden of Eden. But we don’t live there now. This is why our instincts keep firing off the lie that perfection is possible. We have pictures of perfection etched into the very DNA of our souls.”

“It’s Not Suppose to Be This Way” by Lysa Terkeurst

When I first heard Lysa Terkeurst talk about “life between the Gardens”, it was such a WOW!! moment for me. I had never thought of how our lives are book-ended with the perfection of the two gardens. God’s intention for us at creation was for us to live in His perfectly created world with no shame, guilt, anxiety, endless etc’s! And His intention for us at the end of this life on Planet Earth is the perfection of the New Heaven and the New Earth . Another garden riddled with perfection!

The time we spend between the two is a constant seeking for the perfect. I’m sure that looks different for each of us. What I deem perfect, someone else may declare sloppy. We search for the perfect in so many things…spouses, homes, vacations, food, friends, pictures of ourselves! Yes, my current Facebook profile picture is totally filtered!

See. This is exactly how I look!
I mean, this is how AirBrushed me looks with sparkly white teeth and a flawless complexion!

There’s not one thing wrong with seeking to do all things well. But in our pursuit of perfection, are we doing ourselves any favors? When we airbrush our profile pics , do we feel a stab of disappointment when we look in the mirror and there’s no AirBrush app to take out the coffee stains on our teeth before we head out for the day? Are we making ourselves and possibly all involved crazy seeking the illusion of perfection? Because, really? Is perfection truly even possible this side of heaven? The perfectly clean house is just gonna get dusty again and those amazing vacuum marks are gonna get walked on. The perfect vacation may get rained on. The perfect hair color is just going to turn gray again! That perfect friend is going to say something one day that hurts you to the core of your soul. And that perfection you worked so hard to achieve is going to vanish like a cloud of vapor.

When we seek perfection on our own, in our own power, we will never find it. We’ll be like dogs chasing our tails that we can never catch. But here in this life “between the gardens”, we have been given a Great Gift that will bring us that perfection we seek so savagely.

“And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” …Hebrews 5:9

What if we sought after Jesus as hard as we fight for the perfect anything else? What if we just surrendered our desires for perfection to Him and just admitted that we can do nothing with true perfection without His help, without His guidance, without His love?

He IS the perfection “between the gardens” that will fit into the heart shaped hole we keep trying to stuff a square shaped peg into! So if you are a self proclaimed Perfectionist currently making yourself nuts because perfection is hard, can I encourage you with this last thought? Release yourself today from the pressures of the illusion of perfection. Grab on tight to the perfect peace that is yours when you keep your mind on Jesus and trust in Him! Work hard and do your best but leave the perfection to the only One who can and who has ever achieved perfection!

You are loved by Him in all your glorious imperfectness!!

The Evolution of a Convo with The Man Upstairs

The Evolution of a Convo with The Man Upstairs

I once was a little Catholic girl who loved playing church on Sunday afternoons with my sister. A plain, ice cream cone…hold the ice cream…made fabulous communion wafers. I guess we’d take turns being the “priest” serving each other and saying the words we had long memorized. I’m sure we sang “Kumbaya” when we were done but I can’t be sure of that. I did love a little “hippy folk music” back in the day!

Me with my sisters and mom in the courtyard of our church. Circa The Flying Nun days!

I had a period where I longed to go to Catholic school. I think I liked their uniforms. I was also fascinated by The Flying Nun and pictured all the nun teachers being just like Sally Field. Wouldn’t that have been sweet? Besides, I was such a good girl I had no fear of big, mean nuns blasting my knuckles with their extra long rulers of torture. Sadly for me, the Catholic school thing never happened. I also had visions of becoming a nun but this little fantasy clashed loudly with my desire to have a large family one day. Fast forward many years and I now have 5 kids…the nun thing never happened either.

In spite of my fascination with all things Catholic and religious as a child, I really have no memories of praying a lot. If God and I ever had any convos during my younger days, they might have gone something like this…

Hello My sweet little Princess. I am God and I love You.”

“Ummm, now I lay me me down to sleep? God is great God is good?”

I had no clue how to pray unless I could read it from a book. Original words to pray never, ever came to me…ever.

I once was a young woman in my 20’s who still loved God , still enjoyed church…though I did go through a phase of trying life without God. That didn’t work out well for me, by the way. I stepped away from the Catholic church and planted myself firmly in a Methodist congregation. I took my young daughter to the nursery most every Sunday while I sang in the choir and played a mean hand bell. I went to Sunday school when I could get up and dressed in time. But you know how it is with young children. Mom gets dressed and ready. Then it’s baby’s turn. You feed her, bathe her and get her dressed. Right as you’re about to walk out the door, baby barfs all over you and herself. You change everyone’s  clothes but as you’re doing this,  baby gets that scrunchy red face that means only one thing. Then you smell it. And well….I was lucky to get to my place behind my C bell before I had to ring it!

In spite of how holy I was with all that church choir singing and bell ringing, praying was still not the most comfortable part of my day. When God and I had conversations back then, they might’ve gone something like this…

Hello again My precious Daughter. I’ve loved you since before you were born. Like an open book, I’ve watched you grow through all the stages of your life. I have prepared great things for you my Princess. When you call on Me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.”

“Ummm, Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come …and all that. Ummm, God bless my family and friends. Ummm, thank you for this day. Ummm and God, please don’t let that guy over there call on me to pray out loud!! I may burst into tears if he even looks my way! “

Breaking out of my memorized, rote prayers was still difficult. And scary. And the thought of praying in front of people like those Sunday school teachers made me want to hurl!

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I once  was a young woman somewhere in my 30’s, fed up with prayers written by someone else . Mesmerized by the beautiful words I would hear others pray, I was still mum with my own frilly, pretty, poetic prayer words. Why would anyone want to hear my prayers when that person over there prays so beautifully? So I guess I must practice. It might’ve sounded something like this…

Oh Father as You sitteth on Your holy throne in heaven, be pleased to look downeth upon us, thy faithful servants and bestow us with thy most holy of blessings. Let your love poureth out on us like rays of thy most holy sunshine. …”

“And who exactly is this? You don’t sound like yourself today Child. Don’t be tempted to role play before Me. Just be yourself. There is no formula or program or technique for getting what you want from Me. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Daddy you’re dealing with here and I know better than you what you need. Because I love you so much, you can pray very simply…in your own words. “

Really? But my words are so goofy sounding. And You! You are so awesome. I want my words to be right and intelligent and beautiful and meaningful…..”

Oh my sweet girl, they will be as long as they come from your heart and not the mouth of someone you deem more righteous in prayer! I want to hear from YOU! YOU!! Speak to me as if I’m you’re friend, because I am! “

Again, really? Have you heard me stumble through conversations with FRIENDS? You’re GOD!!  I guess I’ll try this because You , God, really are quite fabulous. I really do love You…ALOT! I’m so thankful for all You’ve done for me. I can’t imagine allowing my son to die for the sins of the world, yet that’s exactly what You did! For ME! Wow God! I’m humbled and amazed by You! Thank You for loving little old me in spite of everything. I trust You and believe You! In Jesus’ sweet, holy, and oh so precious name… So Daddy, how was that? Did I sound OK?”

Oh you precious thing! I do believe you’re starting to get it ! I love you so!”

Awww…I love You too!”

Journaling prayers has helped me feel more comfortable with using my own words when I pray!

Disclaimer: The words of God were not actual words I ever heard from God. But I did take some from The Message version of the bible.  And I took some from my own crazy head…this is what God sounds like to me

Dog Walkers, A Saxophone and Conversations Not My Own

I’m sitting here in a  city that I’ve never been to ,drinking coffee, ready  to write something amazing.  I know I’ll  be inspired to write great things because I’m not one bit distracted.   Just me and Jesus.    I don’t know anyone here so I won’t have to talk to anyone.    I don’t have any responsibilities but to sit here and think and pray and   let words fly from my fingers.   I’m in my little invisible shell where nothing and nobody can bother me.   I don’t even have to worry about my phone because it’s sitting next to me , a little black box with no power!   There’s NOT EVEN ANY WIFI HERE!!!    Will I survive this afternoon?!?  Somebody fan me before I pass out!!  

But Lawdybeeeeee.    The lake!  The ducks!  The dog walkers!   The saxophone music wafting into my ear space from somewhere! All the conversations happening around me!    There is SO much right here to look at and listen to.    I have fallen prey to the monster of distraction!   Even the things that should’ve brought a peaceful distraction-free afternoon have become preoccupations for me.

Distractions! Can we truly escape them, especially in this “always connected” space of time we live in?  In our own strength, chances are the pull towards the distractions will win.   We won’t get anything productive done.   We’ll make one time zapping decision after another.     Our ears will tune in to the conversations of 21 year old strangers nearby.  Not only do I know they’re all 21 , I also know most of their names (first and last), where they’re from and that 90% of all the people in their “plan” are hooking up. The only thing I didn’t learn from intently overhearing these yung-uns talking was what the “plan” was. I’m sure it was college stuff…the plan. I wonder if they’ll ever achieve their goals with all the shenanigans obviously going on amongst them!

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I was not trying to hear every word of these kids’ conversations. They were sitting so close, though. And not exactly whispering. And my phone was dead, remember? So I couldn’t turn on my favorite Christian music, pop in my ear buds and tune them out. Their words became the music in my ears and I. WAS. DISTRACTED !! (Btw, this photo isn’t of the shenanigan loving folks I had fallen audience to. My phone had died by then and I couldn’t get a real picture of them…not that I would take pictures of random strangers in a city not my own! The nerve!! )

FAST FORWARD TWO DAYS…..because I became too distracted to do another dog gone thing on that breezy coffee shop patio. As I look back on this moment of my weekend, I realize I learned something valuable about myself. Something I’ve known all along, honestly. Try as I may to do the important things. Try as I may to keep my eyes on the prize and my ear to the voice of God, I . GET. DISTRACTED. I’m not immune to any shape , form, or fashion of a “bunny trail” life throws in my path. When I allow these diversions to change my course for the day, they become the boss of me and my day is no longer my own.

Let me just throw this out here. If you are a believer like me, you likely grasp the fact that God has a plan for your life. A good and perfect and amazing plan even. But did you know that the enemy also has a plan for us?

“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

2 Corinthians 11:3

There is nothing that delights the devil more than to see us be totally and mind numbingly distracted from anything God has for us. He wants our actions and our thoughts to be so self absorbed and so far from a “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” that we barely even notice him at work. When I realize how little effort it takes to be sidetracked away from fun and easy things, how much more effort must the enemy put into leading us astray from the harder things God has for us? And by “harder”, I mean the more important things. Like feeding the hungry. Telling a friend about Jesus. Praying with someone who is hurting or sick. The things that will make a difference for the kingdom. You better believe that the sneaky snakey devil is gonna work overtime to make sure we feel inadequate or scared or unworthy to do such things. We’ll be reminded how cozy and quaint our little comfort zone is. And those things in and of themselves are enormous distractions

So Self? (Because I needed this reminder more than anyone!) Be aware! Sometimes it’s just cute dogs and soothing saxophone music that will serve to distract from the task at hand. Those things I’m totally aware of. But other times the distractions from the big, amazing God things may come completely from a different direction. I may not even see the distractions as distractions but more of a “Me doing Me” sorta thing.

So for Me and Everyone Else who has an ounce of desire to do things God’s way, here are some reminders of how to overcome these “my way is the best way ” distractions…

Abide in God. Keep Him close.

Let His word sink deeply into your soul.   Fill your mind with so many of His truths that there simply is no room for the lies of the distractions.

Don’t push Him to your backburner.   Keep Him in the forefront of your mind.   Wake up thanking Him for the breath in your lungs and the beating of your heart.    Talk to Him throughout the day.

Love Him more than you love your own way of doing anything.    There is power and confidence in that true love.   

I love how the Message phrases the “abide in Me” verses in 1John 2 . I will leave you with verses 24 and 25 and my prayer that you , too, can overcome the distractions in your life by staying with what you heard from the beginning.

“Stay with what you heard from the beginning, the original message. Let it sink in to your life. If what you heard from the beginning lives deeply in you, you will live deeply in both Son and Father. This is exactly what Christ promised: eternal life, real life!”