Late Bloomer

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 139:16, ESV

I’ve been called a fair number of things in my 29+ years.

Mostly good… some relatively not favorable… needless to say humans and humanity can be hard.

We try to categorize, label and define one another. Things with definitions are safer. We can understand what we can box and classify.

Now, before I dive too far into this specific conversation, I am going to table it for now and move on.

Because what I actually wish to share with you tonight, aside from the theological and spiritual implications of words and labels, is a story.

On July 26th a beloved family friend and honorary grandmother of the Shears clan went to her heavenly home.

You may be wondering why this blog is being posted on August 14th in comparison to the number of days that have passed between now and July 26th.

And I am going to be completely honest-

1. Because I cannot offer another explanation,

and 2. Because all the explanations fall short of providing an adequate reason regardless.

Throughout this past year I have stumbled and failed in my blog posts.

Can I tell you the number of moments and memories which have passed- dates, anniversaries, commemorations of those of loved ones who have passed, where I didn’t write a post?

It began in February with Jamie and Mom. It continued into March. I managed to communicate something near Easter. I wrote a book somewhere in between.

My desire to write never ceased, but you should know words continued and continue to evade me.

Even now, this post feels insufficient to the memory, love and incredible legacy of this one woman.

I could repeat a thousand stories a thousand times, reworking words and vocabulary- and yet it would still fail.

Words would be deleted. Whole posts would be erased. Weeks would begin to accumulate. (Exhibit A: My 2020 Blogging history).

I have spent the better part of 2020 frozen and hesitant, intimidated by what I could not communicate.

What I have learned through 2020- is that somethings are like that.

More importantly, it is not an inefficiency on my part that leaves them like that. But a supremacy on their part that leaves me like this.

The love, loss and legacy of a person is something we cannot harness with letters or box with words. Paragraphs will fail to encompass, whole texts will always come up short.

However, the lack of ability to encapsulate should not prevent us from the attempt to communicate. (I told you I’ve spent a great deal of time in a dictionary).

In summary, where my words will fail, I no longer take it as an immediate sign of my incompetence- but a witness, declaration if you will, of what is something/ someone far beyond our skill to demonstrate through language alone.

A beauty beyond comprehension.

A picture beyond imagination.

Grandma Charolette once saved me from some words that were not so kind. And to ensure I fully understood just how “okay” I actually was, later that day she sought me out and found me on my best friend’s room.

Taking my hand, Grandma Charlotte assured me that despite what others may say, there was no shame in being a “late bloomer.”

“You see,” she said, “a late blooming flower is never actually late, but blooms just when it is intended to.”

And while there was a bit more to that conversation, that bit of wise advice has followed and sustained me.

Every societal benchmark I appear to miss.

Every culturally derived timeline I seemingly reject.

Every prearranged checkbox I fail to mark.

Grandma Charlotte, a little over a week from her 95th birthday, was a million wonderful things to more people than we will ever be able to know.

Her incomprehensible legacy is reflected in the love she shared, still beating and being written in the lives of her children and equally wonderful family.

Her influence still flowing through the veins of those who were blessed in knowing her.

From the ice cream, to the laughter and the confidence- Grandma Charlotte left her mark in the world.

Several marks actually.

Mine being only one heart better for the time that will be forever cherished.

It doesn’t matter where you are in life friends. I am sure there is something you feel you’re “running late” on, a To Do on the To Do List that is overdue-

Which is why I want to leave you with this bit of wise advice:

Take heart friends, where you are is not a surprise to the one who has ordained each day of your existence- before your existence.

Breathe. You are right on time.

Be A Valentine

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

John 13:34

Happy Valentine’s Day Friends! ♥️

I absolutely adore Valentine’s Day- I always have.

Which to many is strange. Because in the traditional sense, I’ve always been single on Valentine’s Day.

I know, I know… but stick with me.

This is not a post to promote singleness or girl power- this is a post to tell you about one of my favorite love stories.

In other words- there’s this movie…

You may have watched it… though maybe not. My sisters and I checked it out of our church library about elementary age… on VHS.

The First Valentine – produced in 1989… viewed in our household circa 1997. (oh the nineties).

And yes, the movie reflects its age (and has my younger sister would tell you, some historical liberties as technically it is possible that two, if not three men named Valentinus were all executed on February 14th by the Roman Emperor). But the story it shares is life changing and the lesson timeless.

The story of Saint Valentine (at least one of them): A man who believed so much in the purpose and power and importance of love- he defied the ruling imperial power of the time, illegally marrying couples in the Roman Empire… not in the outskirts… but literally in and near Rome itself.

However, The First Valentine shows that this belief in love was not solely occupied by couples, but to humanity- regardless of age, ethnicity and disability- as our celebrated Saint gives the First Valentine to a young girl who is blind and therefore a societal outcast.

Like I said- possible historical liberties- but then again… anything is possible, and the legend prevails (check out the link below from History.com). 👩🏻‍💻

Summary, if nothing else I find the heart of the movie matches the hearts of the Saint(s) we celebrate today.

Saints martyred for their commitment to Love, sharing the Good News of Love revealed and to loving as Love loved.

Saints martyred for embracing and imparting Jesus.

Several years ago, I had a revelation, possibly from a seed which was planted by this 1990s, thirty minute-ish, movie (possibly available on Youtube).

Every Saint Valentine… every Saint Valentine we celebrate… was single…

… which means that the definition of a Valentine as I had understood it growing up- was not big enough.

Yes, you can be asked to be a Valentine- but you can also be a Valentine, voluntarily.

So today I want to ask you friends, to be a Valentine.

Love those around you. Babysit for the couple, send cards to your single friends letting them know you love them and tell the littles in your life how great they are. Smile at a stranger, hold the door open for a neighbor, pay for the car behind you in the fast food line and shower this world in every good thing- with every heartbeat. ♥️

I pray your day is filled with the knowledge and presence of a love that is ever present, uncompromising and completely encompassing. I pray that each of you recognize your value, which is priceless, and the importance of your existence which is celebrated in the heavens.

Your Father, Your Savior and Your Helper rejoice seeing you, no matter where you’re coming from. Their love for you is complete times eternity.

With all of those very important truths said- on a side note  History.com which I mentioned above- provides a great, concise, history of Valentines Day which I encourage anyone who is curious to check out.

And after watching The First Valentine I highly recommend rewatching Kate and Leopold on Netflix- because what couple is more charming than young Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman? 💁🏻‍♀️

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Fear of the Lord

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”

Psalm 111:10 

The fear of the Lord.

This statement was so hard for me to grasp, and even now in some moments my mind immediately recoils from the word fear.

I fought fear for years. Oftentimes I still find fear lurking behind the door. Thankfully I have over three-hundred scriptures to remind me (and it) that it has no place in my vocabulary.

But then… explain to me the phrase the “fear of the Lord.”

Recently I was faced with an interesting question- you know one of those questions that may be in the back of your head but its not important enough for you to disturb because you cringe at what unpacking and sorting it out may entail.

The discussion- who God is, or more specifically what God is;

Answer: Good, kind and love.

Anything else?

As I weighed these answers in my mind, other verses flickered through my mind.

God is good, God is kind and God is loving. He is steadfast and certain.

God is also just, holy and jealous.

He wants to be our number one, because we are His number one. No good thing comes to us apart from Him and yet- we are so prone to giving the credit to someone or something else.

The education, the title, the position, the clothes, the timing…

We think we know what’s best, all the while He’s trying to bring us towards His better.

The world pulls at us, offering gods with various faces. It calls us to pursue happiness and fulfillment through greed and self-satisfaction.

And just as we begin to realize that “god” is really not all that good… it throws another one in our face that just might be the missing link to what we’re looking for.

Of course God’s love which is complete and unflinching is jealous as He watches us get used and abused by the false gods of this world.

That is why he sent His only begotten son. Because He is holy. He is just. And he cannot compromise such perfect justice, for He cannot lie or change all that He is. But He is also love.

And love found a way.

Jesus posted the bail, became our lawyer and cleared all charges. All we have to do is accept His invitation. Tragically, many of us chose to stay in the cell.

Fear of the Lord.

A good, kind and loving God. A just, holy and jealous God.

“So,” my friend asked, “you fear being punished by God? Being judged?” in reference to my personal positions, actions or lack there of.

No.

The word slipped truthfully as I shook my head.

As I sat there and thought about sin; what I’ve done, what I didn’t do and what I would or would not do ever again… as I thought about repentance and the way my heart was convicted whenever I erred in one direction or another… as I thought about my loving Triune God… as the name Jesus echoed throughout my being- my heart swelling with joy at the thought of his name…

No, I don’t fear being punished or being judged by God.

No, I don’t fear being hurt by God.

I fear hurting God.

As you read through the dozens of verses that speak of the fear of the Lord you will notice that the attributes of the fear of the Lord lead to wisdom, protection and joy.

Every single one.

Overall I was a pretty good kid, if I can say so myself.

Was it because I hadn’t had the opportunity to misbehave? No.

Was it because I am absolutely perfect in every way? Lord knows, no, not at all. (Pretty sure I just heard a heavenly chuckle and an angel almost spit out their coffee sort of reaction.)

It was because I loved my parents, I still love my parents, and few things would have been more painful for me than to disappoint them, few things would have caused me more fear or dread. I love(d) them so much.

I love my Heavenly Father. I love my Savior. I love the Holy Spirit who indwells in me, knowing that I am not always the most hospitable vessel.

I do not try and follow the statues and read the verses because I am afraid of punishment.

I do it from a love so deep it cuts my heart to see the hurt in Their eyes when I betray their trust.

Every sin driving the nail in further.

The nail scarred hands helping me back up and carrying me whenever I’ve slipped so far.

Nail scarred hands reaching out and embracing me.

No, I do not fear what God would do. God is holy, just, good, kind, jealous and love.

No, I fear what I might do, what pain I might cause.

I wouldn’t purposefully hurt a loved one. Many of you probably agree.

So the question then is- why would we purposefully hurt the God who loves us so perfectly? Why does He seem to end up on just the other side of the line?

The fear of the Lord to me is grounded in our love for the Lord- rooted in His love for us. For our Lord is one “who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

So, take heart friends and live free of fear, remembering, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Email us at declarehopeministries@gmail.com or comment prayer requests and praise reports below. You are forever in our thoughts and prayers.

Stay tuned for some exciting 2020 news including a continuation of defining our “whys” and upcoming monthly giveaways to the credit of some of my very talented friends!! Also an inside look into what I have been up to this past Christmas break.

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

 

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.

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?”

 

Indivisible

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

John 17:20-23

 

Abraham Lincoln pleaded for it, Helen Keller proposed it and J.K. Rowling wrote about it. Gandhi believed in it, Henry Ford franchised it and Martin Luther King Jr. fought for it.

And Jesus, Jesus prayed for it.

Unity.

It is not something that many of us generally take into consideration but is absolutely essential in every relationship we have. Let alone in our general heart-ittude towards humanity.

Think about it- take a moment- what would you pray for if you knew it’d be your last prayer? At least your last prayer before everything fell apart. Possibly your last prayer on this side of heaven.

What would you pray for?

What do you think Jesus would pray for?

I can honestly confess when this question was first posed to me, my initial guess was wrong. And the answer hit my heart hard. Because while I may have been striving to love and serve and lead a life I felt fit in the guidelines- I could not recall ever taking unity specifically into consideration. I suppose I always assumed it was a byproduct of all the other things. Surely it would follow when I acted on those other principles.

I had never connected the dots that it was literally Jesus’ last prayer before he was arrested. He had fallen on the ground distraught not hours earlier, pleading with his Father, begging for his life; but not my will – let yours be done.

However that moment before it all began, before that hellacious day took place in order to achieve a heavenly victory Jesus didn’t pray for further strength. Although his eyes were probably still red from his earlier desperation, he didn’t call down the legion of angels on stand by. No concern on his own behalf passed his lips.

Unity.

Thanks to John we know the who, what and why in Jesus last prayer with his disciples.

Jesus prayed for believers then and believers to come.

          “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one”

He prayed for their unity.

“-so that they may be brought to complete unity”

So that all would know they are loved.

                “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

His greatest concern, his final plea to heaven – was for you and for me and for every believer to live in unity. To never feel alone. To know that they were loved. To know that they had a family always by their side and continuously on call. Highs and lows. Thick and thin.

And you want to know what made my heart practically stop?

What was it about this prayer that could be anymore astounding than it already was?

The revelation- that Jesus prayed this prayer, that he pleaded in full faith to the Father, that we would never feel alone….

Moments before he would experience the greatest depth of loneliness and desertion ever to be felt.

His friends would flee.

Every advocate would hide.

And His Father would turn away.

Wrecked.

As we celebrate Memorial Day and remember those who have given it all for all that we enjoy in the United States of America. As we remember those who believed in the good in this world and believed it was worth fighting for, even if the cost was their life- I hope we can all lean in a little closer.

Every year the division in our nation seems to be escalating. And as Lincoln stated, a house divided cannot stand. Aside from arguing, hurt feelings and high emotions not much is accomplished. Apart from the name calling and finger pointing we’ve spent more time in congressional “time outs” than in investing and supporting one another.

The point of this post is not to say who is right and who is wrong. I am not calling one out over the other. I am calling us together. My prayer is that of Jesus all those years ago.

Because those men and women didn’t fight for one over the other, they fought and fight for all. Basic human rights endowed by our creator.

Indivisible under God.

This Memorial Day lets redirect and realign, remembering those things which truly matter.

 

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.

At All Times

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Proverbs 17:17

It is a strange thing, trying to live a life I had never imagined without you.

My dreams, path and plans have changed so many times- and often drastically- (And I now have six degrees and counting to prove it 🤷🏻‍♀️😂)

But there was always consistencies sewn into the possibilities.

And you were one of them. No matter where I went, what I did or who I became in my mind’s eye- you were right beside me at all times.

Up until 8 years ago I never foresaw this. This was never an option.

8 years later. Has it really been that long?

Everywhere and everything. You can be found in the small and mundane to the unexpected and extraordinary. 

Missing you has become a constant. You were always pretty missable.

Unfortunately there is no distance we can physically travel to get to where you are on our own. Lord knows, if there was, I (and several others who love you) would be on my way if I wasn’t already there.

Random song lyrics or just some old favorites. Movies I know you would love. Stories I hear of and think you would enjoy. Every moment spent in our once favorite store. 

And yes, there are still moments when the missing you attempts to cast a shadow. Moments when thoughts attempt to form and whisper doubt and fear and confusion.

And yet… I did say that those moments attempted to cast a shadow because when the missing you reaches the brink of unbearable, I am reminded to look up, and to take in the view.

Yes, bud, we miss you more than words can express. Lord knows, I have made every effort to get it down on paper. 8 years of efforts. Not possible thus far, but I’ll keep trying.

But don’t worry. Because the missing you instead of leaving me hopeless and beaten and broken- leaves me in a state of wonder. Because in the past 8 years God has enabled you to do some remarkable and marvel worthy things. And while I have been privileged to witness or participate in some, I realize there are so many which I cannot see or have not been revealed.

Where the world told us there was a period, God put a coma. Your story is far from over and your legacy is still in the establishing. And in those moments of remembrance, I hear God whispering

At all times.

He never left. There was never a moment he didn’t love me. Or didn’t love you. Or didn’t love all who we loved. His love is not negated by circumstance. It does not rise or fall depending on our actions or situation.

He loves at all times. And since we love because he first loved us, our love doesn’t end either- at least not without our permission.

We can get angry or disappointed and decide to cast our love aside, but it can never be taken from us without us first conceding it. And even then, I do not believe it would ever be fully gone.

A friend loves at all times. 

Bud, I hope you know how much I love you. You are still my back up. You are still the one pushing me forward. You are the still the one telling me to go, fearlessly, and if not able to go fearlessly- to go with the confidence of your full backing.

As I look back I can remember how distance had never been a problem. Friendship is not defined by distance nor can it be overthrown by distance. And if it didn’t matter states away or 5 minutes away, why would it matter heavens away? Space and time- Love spans both and I have grown to believe grows larger in proportion.

Your words from then give me hope. The laughter I can recall gives me courage. The faces and stories I share with our family and friends kindle my resilience. God has called us to a holy defiance- against every bit of darkness, dismay and despair. In the words of Samwise Gamgee – I am reminded there is still good in this world and it is worth fighting for. And you my friend continuously lead the way, your light and legacy shining ever the brighter.

Growing up without you here remains difficult. But after 8 years I can no longer claim to have lived these 8 years without you. I’ve made mistakes and I’ll probably make more. I still am not entirely sure on where I am headed though I am confident in the direction… I believe. And you have been with me every step of the way. In every prayer, thought and hope.

Amid the emotions that come along with today there is a foundational sense of triumph because my friend eight years ago I never thought I’d make it to today. I couldn’t imagine finding joy and God and you in this world again. Defeated. But God, God had other plans. God has proclaimed victory over a battle I never dreamed could be fought. 8 years ago the enemy thought he’d won. He didn’t anticipate the uprising God had in store. In the middle of the pain and sorrow I cannot help but feel a laugh emerging (you know one of those possibly inappropriately timed ones) because while the battle is not over the war has already been won. Meanwhile I am going to wake every morning with two missions:

1. Praise God and be continuously awestruck at His awesomeness.

2. Ruin Satan’s day all the time.

If I had been asked 8 years ago I would have guessed I was Jonathan and you were David, assuming David was the stronger of the two. As I study and write I find my assumption would have been wrong my friend. Most of us know of David’s victories and his God anointed destiny. But God did so much, he gave David more than we ever thought to imagine. David had a best friend. And just like you in my life, that made all the difference.

And that will be my life’s work. Founded on God and his goodness. On the love he imparts to his children. And on a friendship crafted into the heart and soul. I will tell the story. I will say (and mostly write) the words. At all times.

We celebrate your life today, a life that continues to leave a light and is as vibrant today as it was 8 years ago. Cheers my friend, this adventure is far from over and from what I hear- the view is worth every valley.

♥️ Jean Bean

 

 

Standing In Confidence: Scars Part II

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:23

I am a people pleaser.

I attempt to avoid conflict at all costs and have an innate need or desire to “fix” it, whatever that may entail.

And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Most of us would agree that it falls very nicely and neatly into those concepts of “love your neighbor as yourself” and “the greatest shall be the least” and even “laying our lives down for our friends”.

People pleasing. Bible Study 101.

Except, no.

At first glance, the life of Jesus may seem like a “people pleasing” one. Give all the things away, take the detour, love unconditionally…

But when you dig deeper, when you stop for a second and actually take a really good look- you find that he was anything but a people pleaser.

The number of times he single-handedly in a matter of sentences defrauded everything the higher religious powers were preaching at the time is astounding. And while he was continuously compassionate to men and women from every walk of life, he never hesitated to bring up the hard issues and deliver absolute truth in love. And don’t forget the time he literally began to flip tables in the temple out of heartbreak for his father’s home.

No, upon further inspection- Jesus was far from a people pleaser. He was a God-the-Father pleaser. Everything he did, he did as the Father asked him to, no matter where it took him or what it looked like.

Plus- ironically the people around you often fare better when you strive to serve and love them God’s way verses their way.

Over the past few weeks with my graduation coming faster and along with it a new chapter full of first steps, a hundred different comments have filled my head.

Typically they go one of two ways- A “Congratulations” or a “Why?”.

Why…. and fill in the blanks. The way I have chosen to spend my time, my life choices and my future direction along with probably any other miscellanous topic you can think of has come into question.

Followed by a ‘but can you really’ remark.

And of course my answer is, well I really don’t know.

I don’t know how this will all play out. I have a plan, I’m on a path, but the truth is I am not quite sure I have pinpointed the destination. I have taken a few guesses.

Something I do know is that I have completely surrendered my life to His design, and He directs my steps. No matter where it takes me or what it looks like.

Another thing I know, is that I am far from the only one who faces these questions and the inner doubts which knock on the door trying to follow in after them. As I have spoken to others, I have become increasingly aware of the fact you will never make everyone happy.

I realize this is a lesson that has been around for a while. But its as if for the first time I am seeing it in color. Because the truth is, according to some of my friends who were directed to take a different road and made the choices I did not, they get the same questions. Slightly altered. But the same.

And all this, breaks my heart. We all in our own and unique God-given way bear his likeness. We are all created in his image. Yet not one of us is the same. We have been uniquely, lovingly and purposely created and crafted with specific gifts and talents and treasures.

Our mission?

Overcome the fear and the doubt and bravely utilize those gifts and talents to grow and prosper our Father’s kingdom. To use them in a way that invests and inspires the world around us.

No it is not easy. And the enemy will continuously try to tell you that you are doing it wrong.

“That’s not what everyone else does.”

“You are stupid to think you could possibly do this. Why would you even try?”

“Is this really where you thought you’d be in 10 years? Everyone else is so much farther ahead.”

Yup. Fear, doubt, shame.

But if you don’t take the risk, you deny yourself any chance at the ultimate prize. The joy of entering into your Father’s happiness, knowing you took what he gave you and did all you could with it. Even though there was no promise of return. Even though it was risky. Even though it may not have been perfect.

You jumped in full heartedly. Or at least let God push you in. While the enemy is shouting his lies on one side, God is whispering on the other.

I am with you. 

I believe in you.

I am proud of you.

The reality is Jesus is calling you to step out onto the water while others are telling you to not rock the boat.

Another reality is that we have a God who looks at us and sees every weak and hurting part. And He believes in us.

He believes in you.

And that revelation has given me a strength and a hope I had not known. He believes in me, and if my God believes in me, what can I not do? What can I not overcome?

Let’s be a people that celebrates the different unique and glorious callings God has initiated and created in all of us. Let’s be a people who stand by one another- holding each other up when it’s hard and cheering when another has reached a milestone towards their destination.

How beautiful and awe-inspiring it is when we look at our own unexpected road and see the twisting road of other’s journeys and realize it was never needless wandering but purposeful molding. How much love and care was put into His plans for every one of us? He rejoices to see the work begin. Let’s rejoice too- in a God capable of creating and compiling so many beautiful stories.

Don’t bury your treasure- be it gifts, talents, time- from a place of fear but invest it in a way so big it will leave the whole world marveling at such a risk- knowing that victory or failure is not defined by worldly standards but Godly standards. And knowing that regardless of victory or failure according to worldly standards God will meet you with a

“Well done, good and faithful child of mine, I knew you could and I am so proud. Welcome home.”

You may be wondering, “Okay, so what does people pleasing have to do with your graduation cap?” And I am so glad you asked. Let me explain.

Nothing really.

I was just really excited about it. Besides it perfectly summarizes this post:

  1. Let the Lord direct your steps.
  2. Be sure to thank and keep close those who believe in you.
  3. Do not hesitate to seek the Great Perhaps God has in store for you
  4. As followers of Jesus Christ our chapters will ALWAYS end with “To Be Continued…

The song I posted last week Scars by I Am They has a second verse which I felt fit and included below:

“Now I’m standing in confidence
With the strength of Your faithfulness
And I’m not who I was before
No, I don’t have to fear anymore

I am thankful for the Scars”