Status Reckless

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:5 (NIV) 

It gets me every time.

I am always taken by surprise.

Six months later and I do not see the trend ending any time soon.

What do I do?

I hold hands and cups of coffee.

I run between healthcare staff and family and sit in the waiting room with children who are too young to witness the adults in their lives fall apart emotionally.

I speak prayers and I sit silently, tears being the only expression close to, though not quite, capable of communicating the storm of grief taking hold.

I witness the strength and heart of the staff with awe and their tears with reverence for what they voluntarily experience out of their love for the person, for each beautiful and individual life.

And I hope.

I know the expectations, I know the probable outcome, I understand that if I have been called in, whatever chance there may be is small, and not promised.

And I expect the unexpected.

It’s not a half hope. It is not a “but God could” hope. It is not a last ditch hope.

It is complete, all in, God can hope. It is reckless hope.

And I am always taken by surprise. Because that kind of hope, against every odd, never considers the other outcome, until it arrives.

My heart always stutters in shock, surprise crashing down like a tidal wave. As I reach up for protection, He is reaching out is assurance. And I can stand and be still on the inside while walking through it on the outside.

I can get tissues and chairs. I can speak with family and safeguard sacred moments. I can remain out of the way (at least attempt to) and be readily available. I can give hugs and provide space. I can listen to stories and honor a need for silence.

I can make it home after helping family and friends head to homes that are somehow emptier in a world that makes a little, or a lot, less sense.

And then the wave comes. It has to you know. I’m not in it alone. But it still has to come down.

And I let it all wash out. Every shard of hope on trial.

Of course the defense is prepared and truth reigns.

He heard my prayers. He began answering them immediately. And yes, He was victorious.

In His way and in His time. His ways and His thoughts both higher than mine. His love incomprehensibly complete.

No matter how it feels, His truth reigns.

Not that He is unfeeling. He understands, He knows and He’s holding on. He hasn’t let go- and He’s not going to.

I knew He could do it, I know He can still do it- whatever the situation may be. I believed and believe. I hoped and I hope.

And when the tears come and the hope feels it has turned into shards of broken glass that still small voice whispers,

Child, you are not wrong. 

as He wipes the tears away.

Because there is nothing impossible for our God. Nothing too hard. Nothing too big. Nothing too much. Or too little.

In a fallen world, horrible things happen that were not apart of God’s original plan. And with all of my schooling and study I cannot say for certain why God chooses to move and to stay His hand.

I hope in and I trust a Sovereign, Holy, Loving and Just God who did not create us to destroy us, but to give us a hope and a future, an eternal home.

A last thought.

I was wondering one evening, if this reckless hope would one day dissipate all together? I mean you hear stories of burnout. Of the last straw.

What would the consequences be of recklessly putting all of your heart in, all of the time?

Certainly, there was pain. I wondered, worried, if that chipping was slowly picking away at my hope filled heart. That one day a puncture would go too deep, that my hope would become less than “complete.”

Ironically, I worried that one day I would be less “taken by surprise.”

I had been in that black pit once, I have no desire or intention of going back. Not even the tiniest bit. I could sit down and rest, but there would be no back tracking. That, my heart couldn’t take.

My personal reflection was clearly not getting me anywhere so I took a minute and passed it on to the One whose thoughts are higher than my own. And I got a picture (further proof He understands me- and my appreciation for visual learning aids!)

I pictured my heart, the way I had been “imagining” it before- a chipping from the outside. But then it changed.

Duh. The chipping was not on the outside. It was on the inside.

The chipping may hurt, but growth usually does. Long story short, it was making my heart deeper- not smaller. Capable of holding more, not less.

Child, you are not wrong. 

His picture of immediate victory may vary from mine- but my hope has never been misplaced. He is working, and He is winning. Actually, He has already won.

I cannot see the big picture from down here. But I trust Him. Meanwhile, I pray friends that you will not fear recklessly hoping, always. Because you are not wrong.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13 (NIV)

 

God’s Gift

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.”

Isaiah 7:14

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace; and with his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:4-5

I love Christmas cards. I always have.

I have held onto every single one I’ve ever received, ever.

Including this one pictured above. This is a new card believe it or not. I received it from my Bible study leader a few weeks ago.

Of course, it looked a bit different when I first received it. It was perfect, actually.

Then one night the piece of tape displaying it failed me and in the time between it’s falling and my discovery- Reyna found it. (For those who do not know Reyna, she is a just turned 1, 86 pound, fluff ball/ puppy.)

And my beautiful card was crafted into a mess of confetti.

But as I disappointedly picked up the shredded pieces of my lovely card, I came across this final bit.

And I kid you not, I almost threw it away. To be honest I threw it away.

But as I turned away, I reached back and I picked it up, wanting to read the words one more time.

The whole time my world driven vision told me it was a piece of trash. Tarnished. Embarrassing. It would be absurd to hold on to it. Let alone put it back up. Forget the fact I had just grabbed it from my trash can, Lord help me if anyone ever found out.

But… that still small whisper. You know the Christmas story is a lot of things. And if we are honest, those things are tarnished and embarrassing.

Mary was pregnant before she was married- let’s talk about that reputation.

And then she gave birth in a barn. I’ve noticed that never caught on as a trend.

Yet… that story, that beloved and holy Christmas story, is beyond the definition of perfect.

There’s not a single word to fully express the magnitude and the glory of that tarnished and embarrassing story.

In fact, you could string a thousand words together, and just of clipped the iceburg.

We are a couple days past Christmas Day, and I hope yours was perfect. However, if it wasn’t perfect according to Hallmark standards (and I get it- I love Hallmark), I hope you can see that gifts, time and life aside- the victory of that day is never failing.

On a side note, I know many returned to work today, some worked Christmas Day, and those who are off are probably counting down the days subconsciously before they have to return.

Some may have balanced the checkbook today, did school work or cleaned the house.

My point is, as we move past Christmas Day, I pray we will remember to carry it with us.

It’s so hard when it feels as if so little has changed. The world acts as if all is as it has always been.

The angel spoke to Mary. Joseph had a dream. The shepherds heard the angels sing. The wise men saw the star. And the world… the world acted as if all was as it had always been.

As I was in town yesterday running some errands I felt I could see the world acting as if nothing had changed. The store lights, in contrast to Wednesday, were back on. (Never mind some stores did not bother to turn them off at all).

And it dawned on me. We try so hard to bind Christmas to one day. We make it a box, hand it over and say “get in,” forgetting that the reality of Christmas is beyond our comprehension, let alone our box making skills.

Christmas is the time we celebrate when Jesus stepped out of the box, and into the manger. And that celebration continues all year long. It’s a priceless gift freely given, and no sale price can cheapen or negate it. No deal can sweeten it. No amount of time can tarnish or lessen it.

It’s already everything, and then more than we can imagine. As we live in a world that acts as as if nothing is changed; we hear the angels sing, we see the star and we know- that everything has changed. We see it in the pile of dishes, the chaotic filling of email inboxes and in our chewed and torn Christmas cards.

❤️ Merry Christmas friends! My prayers and thoughts are with you all as we finish one year, one decade, and head into the next.

Tried & Trying

“Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

Psalm 37:24 

 I once had a mentor tell me that it took an average of 22 attempts for a person to quit smoking.

22 tries at briefly achieving and then falling off the wagon. 21 falls and 22 rises. And that is an average, which means some took less attempts… while others took more.

What strength is that to fall and fail and fall again, yet at some point reaching a period where you dust yourself off and you continue to try?

This fun fact was shared with me on Tuesday.

And then on Wednesday I received a “Last Day to Sign Up” email from a motivational group I follow- 90 Day Workout challenge.

I am not sure if I have reached or surpassed 22 attempts at regularly exercising, but I can tell you I feel I am definitely in the ballpark. And the sad thing is I love feeling healthy and having energy. I enjoy running, at the very least I enjoy hiking and doing things that generally require strength to a certain degree.

And it was just last week I was explaining to my sister that I did not like the gym. And I didn’t want to go to a gym.

But I do want to get into better shape. And with the MS, my doctor highly suggests that regular, healthy, daily exercise is beneficial and at times essential.

So the email arrives. 90 Day Challenge. At home workouts. Last Day to Sign Up.

Oh and Level 1…

Free.

So in a split decision on my lunch break- I signed up. Fully committed? I wanted to be. Think about it later and change my mind? Hopefully not.

The more I thought about it I could feel an outside thought whispering I was too busy, that it wasn’t fair to put this pressure on myself, why couldn’t I be happy with all I was already doing… However, the more I thought about it, the more I also remembered all the reasons I knew it was worth another try.

And through all the naysaying I could feel the small still voice that had encouraged me to sign up continue to get excited. Because what is better than reaching a goal?

Making a goal.

And what solidifies this goal today? What makes me want to write a post and share it on my online journal space, to let all who read know I am starting a 90 Day Workout Challenge?

Thursday morning when I was getting up and getting ready for work I wandered onto Facebook (I know, I know) – and the first thing I saw on my newsfeed- Run for the Soul, September 28th at the Columbus Zoo.

The same race I attempted to run in 2017, following my August diagnosis of MS.

The same race which encouraged me to take to the sidelines.

The same race that almost broke me.

Now the race’s victory was short lived and I made a fairly quick come back, running a race that October. And I have committed to fearlessly doing all the things, as well as I can, regardless, since. However…

I cannot help but draw a parallel between the timing of the challenge and the timing of the race. Call it coincidence. Call it me being unnecessarily dramatic or imaginative. Call it me having really loved my last t-shirt from that race (because I did and still do)…

But Attempt #22, here we come.

And my friends, I do not know what you have attempted time after time with temporary success, but please remember failure is only permanent when we fail to try- and to try again.

 

Living Legacies

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,”

Philippians 1:3

It is strange, the coexistence of love and grief.

To experience such pain, grounded in the purest joy.

The sound of your voice on a recording, a picture with your smile from a happier day…

My heart fills and is full as my stomach drops and feels sick beyond measure.

Sweet memories tinged with bitterness yet now more valuable than any treasure imaginable. Regardless of the pain, remembering you is one of my favorite things.

I believe there is a part of us that will never fully accept that you are gone. I believe there will always be a piece of us that is shocked at the sentiment that you are no longer here.

And I believe it is because deep down you are not gone- deep down our soul knows that this life is not the end and that one day we will be reunited- in a place with no more tears and no more death and no more goodbyes. In the core of our being we have the vaguest inclination of eternity and while we cannot fully grasp it and all its wonder- we know.

We know that this is just part of the journey home.

We all have been sent on our journey and will take different roads home. The duration of our journey may vary, some will take longer and some will arrive sooner- but we all seek the same destination.

And we will collect our souvenirs. Our experiences and blessings we have acquired on the trip, some welcome and unwelcome. More importantly though, we will leave some pieces of ourselves behind.

We will sow seeds and give from what has been given to us; our talents, gifts, words, hope… These things given freely are given in love. And seeds sown in love grow into legacies. Legacies of light, hope, compassion, care… all grounded in love.

And long after one is home, their legacy continues to grow- more often than not in ways unseen, too small to notice yet too large to measure- carried on by those they left to continue on their journey. The seeds they had planted beginning to take full affect as their loved ones seek to fill this world with as much love and joy as the sower afforded them.

Mom, we miss you. We were not, and still are not, ready for your journey to be over. How we wanted you to stay.

You are home, at the home, but it is not the home that we know- it is not the home we have shared.

We hear the echoes of your laughter in our memories and home videos though no longer in the room. We hear your comforting words of wisdom buried in our hearts but no longer on the other side of the phone. We see the physical evidence of the beautiful life you led here on your journey, though we no longer have your physical presence.

And it hurts, God, it hurts so bad.

But Mom, though it was too soon, it is universally acknowledged that generally one cannot have too much of a good thing. The reality is that given five more minutes… we would always want five more minutes. And you mom, you did not leave us with nothing, but with the greatest of somethings, your legacy. Your light. Your laughter. Your smile. Your heart. The seeds were sown and they took root and we remember.

As we prepare to celebrate you today I pray that we can carry your legacy proudly. That we can love and serve as you did. That when we finish our journeys and reach the final destination, we can look at our adventures and point at some of those moments and say “That, that I learned from my mom” and in which God will respond “I know and I knew. For I always have a reason.”

Though our earthly hearts cannot always fathom divine reasoning, I continuously thank God for you at every remembrance. There are days when the memories are harder to weather than others. Days when the grief saturates every memory and turns laughter into tears. However, behind those tears lies the greatest of joys, for those tears only exist because of what was once so wonderfully happy. Truly happy.

No, I wouldn’t change a thing. For the happiness of one moment with you far outweighs the unbearable pain of the days ahead without you. Always my heart remembering, that this is not the end just our final and temporary goodbye. And what is time compared to eternity?

Until then, we will walk our journeys, your legacy firmly rooted in our hearts and in the love you gave to us.

 

Step Out – Jump In

 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

Matthew 14:29 

Step Out Jump In.

If your best friend jumped off of a bridge, would you?

I remember hearing this question as my best friend and sisters and I were not often, but occasionally, in need of a wise and correcting lecture. Of course this question stemmed from the fact that we were generally all in the same boat, in an essence “we all had jumped in together” though one of us had assuredly gone first.

And then one day my best friend Jamie and I actually did jump off a bridge. (Into a lake. While camping. Not incredibly large. A ton of fun. Note though still a bit a ton of trouble when the Moms found out.)

It is one of my favorite and most treasured memories. Climbing up to the top, standing on the edge side by side and then that last look as we stepped off. We could have taken on the whole world, at least we felt we could see the whole world from way up top. A few nerves, but no fear, not when your best friend is at your side. The sun shining and that water. Having the courage to jump led to the greatest of personal triumphs at the time. (Before the Moms found out that is- but that is not the moral we are going to discuss today.)

The moral of the story today is that sometimes in life, when Jesus calls us to come, we may not be stepping out of the boat in faith- but jumping out- in faith.

I graduated from OSU with a duel bachelor’s in Animal Science and Agricultural Business  and was blessed with an incredible job. It was hard work and long hours. But on the daily I enjoyed the work I did, enough. The people were great and we had fun when we could.

But something was missing. After two years having discussed, debated and weighed the possibility I was feeling a call to completely change my entire career, and education. All of it. After all of those years, still paying the student loans. Changes that would entail;

A dramatic decrease in my income.

A dramatic undertaking in my schedule.

A dramatic change… period.

From Agriculture to Ministry.

Soooo I dragged my feet. I assured myself I had misunderstood- I had misunderstood the call to come. He wouldn’t call me. I am not… (insert varying and lengthy list here of faults and failings). And then I would second these thoughts by recognizing all of the impossibilities; bills, location, education, finances, time… did I mention bills?

It was a really great rebuttal. I must say. Defense lawyer status 10/10.

Blessedly, though, I lost the case.

After three years I finally jumped out of the boat.

I jumped, not stepped. When I attempted to step out of the boat, I generally hesitated. And that hesitation usually caused me to bring my foot back in, running through my 10/10 rebuttal until God would bring me back around again. No as I stood there the moment came when I realized I had to jump, leaving no opportunity to turn back. If I was going in I had to go all in, full commitment.

And all the things I knew would happen- happened.

Dramatic change in income. Dramatic undertaking in my schedule. Dramatic changes all around- the expected and the unexpected.

And I had never been happier. I had never felt more on track. I had never felt more productive. Chasing the call. Leaving fear behind for freedom. I was significantly poorer and significantly busier. But- I was also significantly less burdened and significantly happier. Not abandoning my responsibilities; yet not deafening the call.

And so I have continued to step out of the boat when called, jumping if needed. Sometimes the process still entails my attempts at a rebuttal, but I with so many past experiences, it does not take quite as long for me to accept that I may be the one he is actually calling. It can be scary, but scary I believe is often just the darker connotation of unknown possibility, opportunity and excitement. Reaching for the stars is not easy, but to try and fail is fulfilling in a way that to not try at all could ever be.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “You are never too old to set a new goal, or dream a new dream”. And seconded by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing…. I hope you live a life you’re proud of , and if you are not, I hope you have the courage to start over”.

That day on the bridge standing beside my best friend, I learned one of the greatest life lessons. I could of stood on that bridge forever (or at least until dinner time) and ran through hundreds of 10/10 rebuttals… but what possibility waited on the other side of the jump made all of them null. Stand on bridge vs. An adventure with my best friend? And the sooner I jumped, the sooner the adventure could begin.

I knew I wasn’t going in alone. Someone else was going to be there. And that someone… well I would have gone wherever the adventure took us, 100%. Today, Jamie and I’s adventures look a bit different- I look forward to the day we can compare notes. Meanwhile when I am called from time to time to jump, I know I am not called to jump alone.

Jesus will not call you to where he is not willing to be. The Creator of best friends- is your best friend- guarding your back, while being one step ahead…

But most importantly standing at your side turning to you with a smile and asking “Ready?”

 

The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

Story heard and shared by Charlie Musser and retyped by Brittany Shears.

There once was a father who had a son he loved dearly and who he took great joy in. While the father had intended to give his son the world, unfortunately the family’s flock had fallen in disarray due to the lies of their greatest rival. The father had created and nurtured the flock and though he did not need the flock he treasured them and sought to restore them.

Seeing his father’s grief the son volunteered to go out and help make the way for the flock to return to the father. Though the way came at great cost, the son succeeded in his mission and the way was made. The entire household rejoiced at such a victory. The flock was finally able to be restored and the son became known as the good shepherd.

Overtime though the son found some of the flock refused to finish crossing the path he had set, for they feared the creek they would have to cross. Although the grass was clearly greener and plentiful on the other side they stayed along the bank. Though only feet away, they remained lost in the rival’s territory.

The good shepherd was desperate. He walked along the flock calling them by name and encouraging them to cross. Some looked at him with hope in their eyes that was slowly diminished by their own fears and decision to stay safely along the bank. Others ignored him as they continued to do what they felt was best, eating the mediocre grass and staying a safe distance from the bank in complacency. And then there were those who were farthest from the bank living wildly and hostile towards the good shepherd when he approached. Regardless, none answered him.

He continued to walk through the flock hoping to find one who would brave the creek and enter into his father’s kingdom before darkness fell. Eventually he came across a newborn lamb. It looked up at the good shepherd and bleated in excitement of being alive and seeing this new friendly face. The good shepherd knelt down and as he pat his head he had an idea.

“Would you cross the creek my friend?” He asked the little lamb. The lamb looked up at the good shepherd a moment longer then bowed his head. The good shepherd knew the lamb could not cross on her own, but he could carry her. So he gathered the lamb and gently carried her to the bank of the creek. Quickly the mother of the lamb took notice and began to loudly protest drawing the attention of the others.

The good shepherd turned and reassuringly called “Follow me,” and he continued his journey across the creek into the greener pasture of his father’s kingdom. As the good shepherd gently laid the lamb down he turned to the sound of the mother jumping into the creek and crossing over. He smiled as she reached him and her lamb and rejoiced that she had made it home. As the good shepherd looked up he saw the father quickly crossing as well and behind him several others began to wade in and make their way.

By nightfall the entire flock had safely made it home into his father’s kingdom.

As the flock ran and jumped with joy in excitement for their new home the good shepherd noticed the mother sheep beside her lamb. The good shepherd walked over and sat beside the mother who eyed him curiously as he pat her head. “I am sorry to have had to put you through that. But I know what it is to suffer a great cost for a greater good. I realized that I would have to take one to the other side so the entire flock would follow. I know your separation was painful but I assure you, your little lamb has won a great victory for the kingdom- for now you, your lamb and the entire flock have entered into my father’s glory where there is no more sorrow and no more separation”.

Moral of the Story: Sometimes God will take one to the other side so the entire flock will follow.

 

To Christ Alone

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I am helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It does not change God- it changes me.”

C.S. Lewis

Prayer born of a rocky road;

Heavenly Father,

I thank you continuously for all you have done, do and are doing. I thank you for every day, even the hard and darker ones.

God I rejoice that even when I feel inadequate, worthless, broken, damaged- lost in my own sin and weakness and defeat- You still love me as much as ever. For your love is not dependent on how I feel or what I have done or left undone. Your love is steadfast and unchanging.

God should every other blessing you have bestowed fade away, your love alone is more than I could ever truly need, want and still infinitely more than I deserve.

Lord Jesus fill my heart with your Holy Spirit. Lord Jesus I pray for your strength for the day and wisdom for words. I pray for your healing and forgiveness. Lord Jesus mold me and create in me a heart after your own, help me to love people and this world as you do. Help me to love and follow you without fear and when afraid- still in spite of it.

God I pray continuously for my family and friends and all those who surround me and who are afar, known to me and unknown. God be with us, all of those who may be in the middle of a time which feels like this disastrous and empty end. Remind us- but You. In You we have eternal hope.

God You surpass every modern and worldly ability. You have called us to eternity and we live in that hope. Remind and convict our hearts of not only all you are but also a holy defiance against the enemy and all his schemes. Bring us through the difficult and dark times. As much as it hurts and as dark as it looks- You are the small light continuously ahead and at our side.

Carry us Lord Jesus and deliver us.

I place my whole heart in Your hands and entrust all I am and all I have to You.

In your Holy and Almighty and Loving and Wonderful name,

I love You and Amen.