Rain Clouds and Rainbows

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I had the most beautiful, most vivid experience this week. Every month, my church joins with other churches in our area to pray for families, churches, and our community in strategic and relevant ways. Each church takes one day to pray for twenty-four hours in what we call One Church-One Day. ¹

On Wednesday morning, at 6:00 AM, my church’s prayer chain ended. Morning time is my favorite time with its quiet, peaceful sounds and the songs the birds and insects make. I walked out onto my deck to sit down to enjoy the morning with my coffee and my thoughts. About fifty people from my church family had been praying, one hour each, over the twenty-four hour period, and I love to think about all those people united in prayer.

The morning was dark gray with threatening storm clouds hung overhead. The air was still and there was no sound. No birds tweeting, no crickets chirping, no crows cawing. Just stillness and silence. I thought it strangely wonderful to have such silence after  twenty-hours of offering up words and petitions to God.

At almost exactly 6:30 AM, the silent morning was abruptly transformed into a rushing, loud crescendo as the heavens let loose and rain poured from the sky. It was almost as if all of our prayers, every single word uttered, had saturated the atmosphere, collecting in a great cloud, and God replied in the music of the rain- as if saying I hear you, every word I heard, and now I will hold your prayers safe in my hands and will respond in my timing for my perfect plan.

What a comforting thought! God the Provider- Yahweh Yireh- sending the rain to refresh the earth, support new growth, and wash things clean. I enjoyed the rhythmic raindrops on the roof and side of my house. And peace washed over me.

Fast forward through a busy day of homeschool preparations, housecleaning, kid-caring, errands, and cooking. The rain had stopped sometime during the day and the kids had been outside playing, enjoying the sun. I was in the middle of making dinner when I stopped to glance out the window. Misty, quiet rain was coming down but only one side of our yard. It was an odd sight, and I wondered how a rain cloud could be so precise.

My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of my name, “Mom, Mom, come quick!!!” It’s a rainbow!!! Mom, Mom!!” I ran out of the house to join them and looked up…across the sky, right over our house was a bright, beautiful, complete rainbow!! If it wasn’t for my daughter, I would have completely missed it. Its sight was an extravagant gift, one more reminder of God’s promises and His faithfulness. God sees, God hears, He responds, and He is faithful.

I wanted to share this story as an encouragement. The Bible tells us:

1.) God hears our prayers. He listens to our concerns, our petitions for loved ones and He wants us to tell Him our desires. God cares.  

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13

2.) God responds… sometimes not in the way we want, sometimes not in the way we think, but He always answers. And when it seems silent, keep praying, because He is still listening. In His timing, He will break through the silence.

“He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.” Psalm 91:15;

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Luke 11:9–10

3.) God uses others to remind us of His faithfulness and promises…and we all need reminders now and then. If you are reading this and do not have anyone who can remind you of such things or do not even know where to begin looking for God, find a local church. There are beautiful communities of Jesus-loving people who would love to tell you their stories of God’s faithfulness, pray with you and help you find Him right in your own neighborhood.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25

“They all joined together constantly in prayer,” Acts 1:14

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¹ Here is a helpful information and an amazing model of One-Church, One Day that we used. http://onehopenetwork.org/about/


But…Three Ways Little Words Affect our Relationships

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There’s a tiny three-letter word used in many conversations that’s been an instigator of doubt, helper of defensive attitudes, and distinguisher of joy in relationships. A casual little conjunction, called BUT

BUT in itself is not a bad word. It’s the context in which we use it and the statements we choose to combine it with that’s the issue. In homes, workplaces, and in churches, I hear BUT being used in three different ways. Three ways that cause discord between people and promotes negative thinking. With some thought before we speak and a simple replacement word, I believe we can bring about change.

When we replace BUT with AND, we shift our phrases to the positive. We create encouraging and constructive conversations that open dialogue and build up relationships. AND takes nothing away, it only adds.

BUT and Doubt…

Combine BUT with an “I’m sorry” or an “I love you,” and we’ve completely taken away the sincerity of the apology and have established conditions around love. When we say “I’m sorry, but you’re not perfect either” or “I love you, but next time_____,” we are instilling doubt and confusion into our relationships, often leaving the other person to question where they stand, where we stand, and over time, where the relationship stands. It is better to keep the “I’m sorry” and “I love you!” as self-contained, assured statements.

BUT shows up in other ways too. We give, receive and process words through a wide spectrum of emotions and levels of confidence. What we may think is a casual observation or a small statement of opinion can be so much more to the receiver. The BUT can inject doubt into their work, their passions, and their callings.

Some examples… “I like it, BUT it would be better if _____.” “You did a nice job, BUT next time_______.” Instead try saying: “I like it, AND I can see you worked hard on this.” “You did a nice job, AND I would love to hear more about your process.”

BUT and Defensiveness…

We give (and give) so much of our time and talents to people, to our work and the church. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a state of exhaustion. We start getting protective of our time and energies, sometimes thinking we already did our part, gave enough and have nothing more to give. OR God has reluctantly moved us to a new place or a new season and we are processing through those all the thoughts and emotions of letting go and moving forward. When someone approaches us for help or our opinions on something, there’s a threat to answer out of our exhaustion and emotions rather from of a place peace and the inner strength that comes with knowing God has a purpose and a plan.

Instead of saying…”I would love to help BUT I’m already working too much.” Try saying, “I would love to help, AND even though my schedule does not allow it right now, I can help you by thinking of people who might be able to ask.”

Instead of saying…”We did it that way for ages, BUT now_______.” Try, “We did that for ages, AND now we get to do ____________. ”

“Another change! BUT why? ” Try, “Another change! AND maybe there’s good reason for it. I’m going to find out…”

BUT and Distinguishing Joy…

Every day BUTS can distinguish innocent joy. They can overshadow the simplest praise. BUT feeds discontent and rapidly multiplies in conversations. It shows up in our attitudes and the way relate to each other.

Instead of saying… “That’s good, BUT this person/this program/this church does it better like this __________.” Try, “That’s good, AND praise the Lord for what he has done it here.”

Instead of saying…”Only five people showed up, BUT more people should have come.” Try, “Five people showed up AND they were the rights ones. Our small group enjoyed a lot of good conversations.”

There is absolutely a time and place to state opinions, evaluate and reevaluate. It must be done in an edifying, safe and trusting environment, if not the “buts” will continue to destroy relationships, breed distrust and all sincerity will be lost.

I sadly admit I have been both a speaker and receiver of many BUT phrases. I don’t beat myself up about what I might have said, instead I look toward changing what I will say. I think it’s important to remember that in our humanity we are not going to have perfect conversations all the time. It’s an awareness of our choice of words, and working toward using those words in a positive way. This awareness and practice will be beneficial not only to our family, our workplaces and our church bodies but also to us. Let’s start catching ourselves in mid-thought and in conversations, and challenging ourselves to be the change and positivity-promoter that our relationships need.


Quiet Reflections

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The quieter you become, the more you can hear. –Ram Dass

It couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to the day. The light breeze rippled over the surface of the lake creating a watercolor reflection of the peachy-blue, dusk lit skies. Gentle waves lapped up against the shore in a relaxing rhythm inviting me to slow my breath to its beat.  My family’s silhouettes bobbed up and down in a canoe as they paddled out toward the sunset. Echoes of their laughter bounced back to me with joy. I stood at the water’s edge to take it all in. The scene before me seemed like it was painted just for me. Painted with attention to detail and brushed with peace and love.

The rush to get to camp and the busyness of the day melted off every tense and tired muscle leaving puddles of unwanted, unnecessary stress on the shore. I felt lighter, freer. Peace quieted my mind and made space in my heart to hear. To hear is so much more difficult to do than to listen. At home, I listen to the noise of the world and responsibilities at high volume. But here, at camp, God had cleared my schedule and removed distractions. He quieted the noise and had my full attention. I was ready to receive and hear. And here are a few things I heard…

“Be still, know I am God.” Psalm 46:10

“Let me teach you and give you rest.” Matthew 11:28-29

“You are mine.”  1 John 3:1, 1 Peter 2:9

“I made you in my image, wonderfully and fearfully made, with a purpose.”  Psalm 139:14, Ephesians 2:10

“I delight in you.” Zephaniah 3:17

“I have great things planned for you and your family. “ Jeremiah 29:11

“Let me go first. You are not alone.” Deuteronomy 31:8

“Rest in the confidence of my faithfulness.”  Psalm 91:4

“Enjoy life and all I have given you.” John 10:10

And, “I love you. Abide in my love.” John 15:9, Jeremiah 31:3

God wants to paint a scene of peace and love just for you too. It might not be a lakeside sunset, but He KNOWS how best to get our individual attention with a pursuit of love, grace and mercy. God wants to help quiet our noisy hearts to embrace a quiet one, to move from half listening to wholeheartedly hearing.  So, be ready to be caught off guard (in a good way) and be ready to receive what He wants to you to hear.


“Don’t Weep”

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He was all she had left. Death had stolen her husband and now had taken her only son. It had robbed her of her family and her future, and left her in this hopeless, desperate position. What would she do? What could she do? A woman of her time had no ownership of anything, no control over decisions, and now she was alone. With a deeply troubled heart, she took a deep breath and continued walking along the dusty, crowded funeral procession, her cheeks stained by streams of tears.

At the city gates, the funeral procession was met by another large crowd. This crowd following and traveling with a great teacher and healer called Jesus. The crowd yielded to let the procession go by and one among the crowd waited and watched with loving eyes. He saw the grieving widow and knew. He knew every detail of her situation. Jesus always sees what others can’t and always knows what others don’t.

Deeply moved by compassion, Jesus went to the woman. Gracious and compassionate eyes met sorrowful and distressed ones. With care and gentleness, he spoke to her, “Don’t weep,” he said. Then he went to the open coffin, gently touched the side, and with the power and authority in all of heaven and earth, Jesus commanded the dead men to “Arise!” At the command of his words, the dead man sat up and began to speak. The crowd was stunned by awe and wonder, they glorified God as Jesus reunited the boy and his mother. Jesus miraculously restored a life, a family and futures at those city gates.

This is the Jesus I love and serve. My Jesus is full of compassion and power. He is watching, willing and wanting to bring restoration to our lives, relationships, and our futures too. His heart breaks for the hopeless, the mistreated, and the sorrowful. Jesus meets us right where we are, in the messiness of our situations, our pain, and our despair. Nothing surprises Him and no situation is too big or too hopeless for His touch. He has the power to turn weeping into wonder. Turn pain into praise. And turn fear into a faith. But we need to meet him and His gaze. Though it may be difficult and situations challenging, we need to keep stepping forward in faith, keep trusting Him as a Great Teacher, Great Healer, and Powerful Savior. A Savior that has the compassion to say “Don’t Weep” and the authority to say “Arise!” to bring life back to our most desperate and dead circumstances. So be encouraged, for nothing is impossible with God.

A Widow’s Son Raised to Life found in The Gospel of Luke 7:11-17


The Storm of Discouragement

The outlook seems bright and promising. Good things are happening, creativity is flowing, love and unity are fueling the hard work taking place, things are moving forward. And then… BOOM. A small complaint. A negative charge is added to the atmosphere.

It’s a little jolt, but you overcome it and keep on going. More hard work, more creativity, more love and passion poured out, more progress. Then BOOM… another jolt, a louder shock this time- a complaint with criticism. With a little more difficulty, you overcome that charge and AGAIN get back to work, back on the path, back to what you are called to do. You keep on going. Until…

BOOM- misunderstanding…

BOOM-more criticism…

BOOM-failure….

This time, you stop and start questioning yourself. Am I making a difference? Is this all worth it?

Unexpected news, rejection, repeated failure, misunderstanding, negativity, complaints and criticism. Little by little these things add to a threatening and dangerous storm of discouragement. And when this cloud of negative charge is unleashed, the resulting damage can be insecurity, isolation, and immobilization. Discouragement is a loss of perception that leads to a loss of joy.

At one point, we will all experience discouragement. Being a Christian does not make us immune from it. So, how can we fight against the perception of discouragement and prevent it from stealing the joy from day, stifling our passions, or causing us to lose our enthusiasm for our callings?

  1. Recognize and repeat the truth.

Satan is a master of deception and disguise. When things aren’t going his way, he feels threatened and will do everything in his power to do something about it. Not only does he whisper lies of fear, he also uses tools of discouragement. He wants the truth clouded by our perception. This makes it even more important, that we open our Bibles, immerse ourselves with the Truth, and let the Word of God cut through the discouragement and allow it to encourage us. We need to read and reread, tell and retell, until the Word shocks us back to life and move us forward in our calling.

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4

   2. Pray

Sometimes things will not make sense. There will be no reason for the reaction, the hurtful comments, and the misunderstood intentions, but you can react by bringing it to Jesus. Bring all it- your discouragement, your honest feelings, your weakness, your hurts, your repentance, and lay it at His feet. Let Him answer you with His loving kindness and receive His grace and peace. He wants to tell you that you are wonderfully and fearfully made and He has equipped you for every good work. Let him make you bold in His strength and power. And find your confidence in Him.

“On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul” Psalm 138:3

     3. Do not give up.

More than anything, Satan wants to see us back down, give up, and immobilized. That’s more the reason to get up, keep pushing forward, and embrace our callings. Going through difficult situations, especially negative ones, makes us stronger. Though they are often not pleasant, new boldness and power in Christ comes out of these times. God is always thinking about others, and you never know how what you are going through now will end up helping someone else in the future. Press on!

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NIV)

     4. Measure obedience rather than success you can see.

Keep your eyes on YOUR lane, your calling, not your neighbor’s. It is so easy to get distracted by what others are doing or by what others may be thinking or saying. You are not responsible for their thoughts or actions, only yours. Be obedient, trust that the Lord has a plan, and stay the course.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

      5. Be thankful.

Discouragement wants to steal your joy! So fight back with gratitude! Gratitude changes perspective. Recognizing the things we are grateful for takes a conscious effort. It might be difficult at first, but start small, make a list of everyday blessings, recall answered prayers, read stories of people who persisted and overcame adversity.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Philippians 4:4

      6. Be a catalyst of encouragement, not a carrier of discouragement.

Negativity is highly contagious and highly destructive. It creates a poor environment for growth and promotes isolation. Unfortunately, a negative word speaks louder than a positive word. A little comment here, a little complaint there. A little venting and a little dissatisfaction wouldn’t hurt anything or anyone, right? Wrong! Sadly, I know this because I have been on both sides of the negativity fence (the giving and receiving.) When words leave our lips they are power-filled and once they are said, we cannot take them back.

We need more people to be catalysts of encouragement. To be the voices against negativity. We need people to be brave enough to stop gossip, reroute a conversation going the wrong way, and speak life instead of death by combating with the Truth. When we encourage people, we let them know that they are not alone and we are cheering them on. More importantly, the Bible tells us that we are to spur each other and encourage each other so we can continue to do good deeds in Christ’s name.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24(NIV)

The fight against discouragement is a very real battle. One that doesn’t always fully resolve overnight with six steps. There is pain and hurt feelings to work though. But I truly believe if we bring it all to Jesus and we cover each other in prayers and with sincere encouragement, collectively we will be a force to reckon and we will be able to confidently walk in our callings in Jesus’ name.

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A Small Role in the Greatest Story

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Kings came to towns with proclamation and grand processions of their riches, power, and splendor. Yet, Jesus, the King of Kings, chose a donkey for his entry. A young, humble donkey, never ridden before, specifically chosen by Jesus (Mark 11:3). A donkey born for purpose- to work and serve a master. What an honor and task this young donkey was given, to carry the King, through a crowd of joyful people waving palm branches and praising the Lord. Jesus came through Jerusalem in a humble way, to proclaim peace and love, to serve, to seek and save the lost. Ultimately, Jesus came to give his life for the penalty of our sins so that we may be restored in right relationship with our Heavenly Father and so we can experience the forgiveness, freedom, and love that comes with trusting in Him.

The donkey had a small, specific role in the grand love story of Christ.  We have roles in His story too. As followers of Christ,  we are born with purpose, chosen specifically by Jesus to serve in His name. We are carriers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we are to deliver His message of hope and love through our words and actions. Yet, some of us are still tied to the post outside the door (Mark 11:4). Tied up by our fears, insecurities, doubts, and exhaustion. Tied with things holding us back from fully living, freely serving, and fervently loving.

Let me remind you, you have been chosen.

You have been chosen to be the mother or father of your children. You have been chosen to be a friend to another. You have been chosen to be in the right place, at the right time. You have been chosen to lead and love well. You have been chosen to feed and clothe the hungry. You have been chosen as an ambassador of peace and proclaimer of love. You have what it takes because He chose you and He believes in you!

This Passion Week, I am praying we rediscover the passion and purpose of our callings in our lives. I’m praying we refocus our gaze on Jesus, seek Him out, ask Him for help in all circumstances and free us from the things that keep us bound. On Sunday morning, I pray we will praise Him as a large crowd of  people who truly, deeply know what it means to be forgiven and loved. And I pray we will embrace our roles with fullness of joy and peace of heart knowing we have a role in His story.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16

Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26–29.

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11


Ten Years Later- A Letter To Myself

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Photo Credit: Capture NH

Dear Shanna,

I know this is overwhelming and scary. It seems like the hospital exercised poor judgement by allowing you to leave with a baby. Your baby! When those big, glass doors closed behind you, I know you were secretly hoping a nurse would come running after you and bring the two of you back to the “safety” of the maternity ward. But she didn’t come, did she? She sent you off with gentle reassurance and a complementary diaper bag stuffed with humongous maternity pads, a few teeny-tiny newborn diapers, the phone number for a lactation consultant, and a booklet called “A New Beginning.”

What an appropriate title! It feels like you’re starting life over. Any knowledge and educational degrees you’ve acquired over the last thirty years seem null and void. Things are very different than what you read in those books. Those books about what to expect when you are expecting and now you are expecting to have no idea what to expect.

I know you dream of easier days and nights full of quiet, continuous sleep and feel guilty about wishing the days away. I know it seems like time is ticking slowly by and it feels like you are stuck in the movie “Groundhog Day.” The one where Bill Murray finds himself trapped in a time warp and he keeps waking up to live the same day over and over again. Except in your time warp, the day revolves around a baby- Baby cries, pick up baby, soothe baby, check diaper, change diaper, feed baby (for like hours), baby sleeps, you should sleep, baby cries and repeat. Repeat over and over again, every 3 hours or on demand, for what seems like every future day.  I know you wonder if you will live life at some sort of a predictable, “normal” rhythm EVER again.

I know it feels like you have completely lost yourself and wonder if you will ever find yourself again. I know you’re anxious, hesitant and constantly questioning yourself as you weed through a tremendous amount of information and opinions and try to make a variety of good decisions on behalf of your sweet baby. Very kindhearted people with good intentions offer you advice but since you are so overtired, oversensitive, and overwhelmed you cannot appreciate their wisdom. Or maybe more than that, some of their advice makes you feel like you are doing it all wrong or even worse, it’s a reminder that you are not enough. And even though you are surrounded by people, I know you feel very alone.

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Photo Credit: Capture NH

Ten years later, I can tell you the hospital did not make a mistake. It may have been a rocky start at home adjusting to everything new but no mistake was made. God picked you to be your baby’s mother. He knows you can do it, gives you everything you need, and you can rest in that. Hold onto that truth and embrace it during the long days and nights. Repeat it constantly to yourself and especially when the hospital sends you home two more times, with two more babies.

Your life has started over but in a new and beautiful way. Those degrees you acquired in school will be used again but the type of degree you are working on now does not come from schoolwork but lifework. This is a never ending study in unconditional love. It requires time, patience, mistakes, forgiveness, grace, sacrifice and it changes everything. Through the lens of love, relationships and the world will look different. You will begin to understand the sacrifices your mom made for you and what it means to be loved by Jesus in a way that brings you to tears almost every time you think of it. And as far as the what to expect, you will never know what to expect because each day, each baby, brings new challenges and blessings. It’s a constant practice trying to be content and present in the very moment. Oh, and just when you think you have something figured out, it all will change. So, expect the unexpected and expect love.

The days will get easier, you will get more sleep and sleep is awesome. Easier is relative though. In some ways it will be easier and in others ways more difficult. The cliche is true! Time goes by quickly, much more quickly than you ever thought it could. One day, instead of wishing the days away, you’ll wish they would stay. (Maybe the trade off for sleep is fast moving time?) Your life will find a predictable rhythm again but every season will have a different rhythm. And you’ll love the changing rhythms because you do not like boring, and motherhood is far from boring.

About the anxiety and sad feelings, it was a good decision talking with the doctor. What you see as an extra burden now, God will heal through medicine and faith and use this in ways to empathize with other moms and others dealing anxiety and depression. You will always have the threat of doubts and fears but you will persevere and overcome them with confidence in His strength. You will need to work on your “perfectionist” tendencies though and embrace the imperfections and the mistakes because those will make you better not worse.

BTW, you are not enough. At least, not enough on your own. You need Jesus and community more than ever before. Let down the walls. Let others in. Ask for help. Don’t try to do life alone. One of the greatest communities you will find will be in a MOPS group. You’ll find friends, faith, and freedom there. MOPS will encourage and equip you to be the best mother, woman, and leader you can be. It will help you find purpose and give you opportunities to practice confidence in the next things that God is calling you to do.

Make time for family and friends. Embrace your church family and the women in it. Their lives and experiences, their stories shared with you, are gifts. Gifts worth more than any amount of money can ever buy. You will see the importance of their words when you are not so overtired and overwhelmed, and you will come to crave being taken care of by them, tucked under their wings, and covered by their prayers. Your heart will swell a thousand times over when your babies are welcomed into these communities and loved by your friends too because we are better together.

Shanna, you are doing a good job even when you think you are not. Take one moment at a time. Remember, the challenging moments are more valuable because they are richer in experience and make you stronger. And even though it’s good now, the best is yet to come. Motherhood is an amazing, special gift.

With Love,

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