The Orchestrator of ALL things

Can I just be honest with you all for a moment? I often struggle to believe that God will use everything for good. I have read Romans 8:28 often and most times I have the same thought, “surely He doesn’t mean ALL things work together for good.” I must admit my faith can often times ebb and flow with the seasons of life and is unfortunately swayed by my emotions more often than I care to admit. I struggle with this and honestly would love to not be the “doubting Thomas” if you will. I long to have the unchanging and steadfast faith despite circumstances or feelings. I feel like I have begun to see that and I have begun to see just what God meant when He gave these words to Paul to share, “We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan” Romans 8:28, The Voice. I personally liked this translation because it says that God orchestrates everything to work towards something good and beautiful.

The word orchestrate means to- “arrange or manipulate, especially by means of clever or thorough planning or maneuvering… (Dictionary.com). I don’t know about you but I like knowing that my God cares deeply for me, so deeply that he will arrange the whole universe to make sure what is good and beautiful will always come to be.

I wrestled with this knowing there is a lot of evil in this world. I wonder how God can turn evil and ugly things into something beautiful and good. How can sexual assault, human trafficking, cancer, death, famine, war et cetera be good and beautiful? Those things in and of themselves are not beautiful and good but what God does with them can and will be if we accept His invitation.

I think about my own story. I am a product of teenage lust, of divorced parents, I experienced rape at the hands of two men, I struggle with depression, I battled a razor blade for many years. I had a child before I was married. I have experienced the pain of infidelity in marriage. I could continue but I think you get the picture. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows over here.

However I have seen God’s goodness and grace in the midst of all of those things and even in my day to day. You see God knew those things were going to be a part of my story and He knew that my freshmen year of high school would prove to be one of the hardest years I would have to make it through. He also knew that I would fall head over heals for a stupid boy and would follow him to youth group so that I could bump into some women who would forever change my life (and still do today). God orchestrated the entire universe so that I would be in the hallway of my high school at the exact same time as this really cute boy knowing I would follow him to church and run into the women God had already orchestrated to be there that night and the nights to follow because He knew those women would lead me to Himself.

To be honest until recently I wondered how on earth could God turn the years of rape into something good and beautiful. I battled with feeling used up, dirty and damaged. I disconnected emotionally from sex and from people in general. I battled the inner dialogue and honestly believed that here was no hope in that ever being redeemed. I battled through feeling angry that what was suppose to be a beautiful and intimate, was turned into something full of shame, fear and pain and by no choice of my own. Then this last fall God did His thing and He orchestrated the universe again to bring healing to that part of my life. You see my marriage was on the rocks. I was contemplating asking my husband to leave and was unsure that trust could ever be repaired. God knew the very night all the details would come pouring out and He planned even that. He also orchestrated the phone call I would make the next morning to share my pain and tears and orchestrated it so much so that the person I called was available for a long phone call (which is nearly impossible for either of us considering we have little ones running around). He did that knowing she would be the one who would ask the very question I needed to be asked to launch me into the healing God was about to take me through. He used a painful season of my marriage to bring me to a place of beauty and goodness. He not only made our marriage more beautiful and rich but He healed a part of my life that had felt broken and unrepairable. I got to see God do His thing and repair what was broke and turn it into something new and beautiful. I got to experience sex for the first time the way God intended sex to be and I got to do that with my beautiful husband. It was a joyous night and I wept tears.

I could look back on all the ugly things in my life and tell you of the ways God used them to make something beautiful and good out of them, but then you’d probably be reading a novel and not a blog post.

This week I was reminded of Romans 8:28 and how He is orchestrating everything toward something good and beautiful. I awoke one day this week and had been overcome with a yucky head cold. I was bummed out because that meant that I was going to have to skip out on a night with my girls. I had been looking forward to hearing my dear friend share about her struggle with anxiety and learn somethings from her. God orchestrated the very time and place I would be exposed to those germs knowing He would need me to be listening to the message the next night instead. The next night I intended to sit down and listen to my friends words and then of course it was a night my toddler fought me go to bed. Even still God orchestrated my toddler to be a bit wound up knowing He needed my kid to fall asleep at the exact moment He did- knowing I would be listening to my friend speak about anxiety in the exact moments I did – knowing that I would be so entranced in that, that I would miss screaming and sirens and gunshots happening right outside my window. He knew had I heard those things my mind would have gotten caught in the darkness and anxiety would have taken hold of me.

I am so thankful to have a God who loves me even when I am a doubting Thomas. A God who doesn’t create the dark and evil things of this world but knows they are there and uses them to create something good and beautiful for His glory. Evil is close, but God is closer still. I pen these words in hopes that when I begin to doubt that God will use ALL things, I can look back and see what He has done. I pen these words in hopes that they bring you hope and remind you that God is orchestrating everything toward something good and beautiful in your life. You may not see the beauty and the goodness right now, but one day you will.

To Him be the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan” Romans 8:28, The Voice.

I would love to hear some of your come and see what God has done moments, so if you’re willing leave a comment below!

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When God’s plans look different than ours…

Baby fever- it has been raging since our youngest was a few months old. He’s now three and a half. The fever hasn’t been constant but when it is there it is an intense desire. My husband and I never seem to be in the same place when it comes to wanting another baby. When he wants one I am content with two and when I want another he is content with two. Recently I went off birth control while I waited to see my OB/GYN for my annual appointment. While I was off of birth control we were both on the same page and we both wanted another baby. So we decided to give it a try. We decided if God wanted to use us to bring another life into being then we were up for the challenge. There were moments when there was pure excitement at the thought of having another baby and then there were moments of sheer terror, but we decided to trust God with whatever the outcome was. I spent a lot time praying that God would prepare my heart for whatever He had planned even if it looked different than my plan. He is a faithful God and He did a thing. Prior to the negative pregnancy test and the arrival of the inevitable period God whispered to me- He said, “My plans are different than your plans. You won’t be having another baby, but there is still joy to be experienced.” He said that to me after I had just shared with my husband and dear friend that if the period comes I have peace about only having two beautiful souls to raise, love and train.

I recently had some hard conversations in regards to my children and who they are. Those conversations and words spoken awakened my soul and I was overcome with thankfulness and joy. A joy I had been praying for, for quite a while. You see I had been struggling for a long time to find joy in the midst of motherhood and to be honest it was beginning to feel hopeless. Then through conversations and a negative pregnancy test I found joy. I feel refreshed and renewed. It’s a joy I know only comes from the Lord.

We have two beautiful children, but they are two highly energetic children. They never seem to slow down, even when they are sick. Sometimes the high energy can been too much for my husband and I, and most days we are left completely exhausted. For a long time I questioned why God would give me of all people two highly energetic kids. God has recently revealed some things to me:

1. It is a privilege to be their mother, a true gift. An honor.

2. Their energy is a gift to the world and God has plans for them and He needs their energy.

3. They were created in His image and their personalities are beautiful.

4. God chose me to parent them because He is using it to shape me.

I’ve recently taken a step back to observe each of them and celebrate them both for the unique and beautiful souls they are. I have been amazed at who they are and I wouldn’t change a thing about them. I have also realized just how different they are from one another.

I’ve learned that while they are both highly energetic it is because of different reasons. One craves human contact and connection and is filled up with it (the extrovert) and that overflow comes out in crazy bursts of energy. The other is a bit more introverted and doesn’t crave human contact quite as much, but their bursts of energy come with boredom and lack of structure. One child thrives on structure, the other prefers their days to be less structured. One likes to know how things work and is constantly taking things apart where as the other prefers that things just work with no effort on their part to make them work. One is shy, the other outgoing. One is very sensitive and an emotional soul who wears their heart on their sleeve, while the other is ruff and tough. One thrives on words of affirmation and gifts while the other thrives on quality time and physical touch. Both are givers and love to serve. Both love fiercely in their own unique ways. One hates saying goodbye, the other has no problem with goodbyes. Both are brilliant. Both love the Lord. Both are children of God. Both are going to grow up to do BIG things. Both are good kids.

While these are just a few of the things God has revealed recently I am celebrating and rejoicing in who they are and that God has been gracious enough to reveal those gifts to me so that I could be filled up and begin to view motherhood through a fresh pair of eyes. What a blessing. I am unworthy to be gifted the privilege of raising His children here on earth but I am grateful and do not take it for granted. I cannot wait to get to know them even more and watch them grow into the individuals God has created them to be.

So while as of right now there won’t be another minion running around our home I feel at peace and I am filled with joy. God is so good, even when His plans look different than ours.

A world without hate

My daughter was working on a project for the anti-defamation league for school. She had to create a work of art that for her represented  a world without hate. 

She wanted to start with something we say often, “the most important thing is that we love each other.” We talked about what that looks like. She talked about treating people the right way. She talked about being kind to one another. We gave her free range to create a representation of what a world full of love would look like to her. 

She created this:


We asked her to tell us about the pictures drawn on each heart. 

The pink one: Shane and I on the beach. 

The red one: was jus a picture of Shane and I. 

The silver one: was Shane and I in the desert.

The blue one: was Shane and I having a dinner date. 

My husband looked and me with a smile on his gorgeous face and said, “I love that her interpretation of what it looks like to love one another is us.”

I agreed and to be honest I love that too. I love it for several reasons. A few of those reasons being: 

It tells me that we are doing a good job of loving one another well. 

We are setting an example of what it looks like to love well and our kids will follow that lead. 

Our children will have a healthy view of love and marriage. 

Our children feel safe and loved because of the way we love not only each other but them. 

Anyone who knows mine and Shane’s story knows it is one of grace, redemption, forgiveness, hope and love. We had all odds against us in the beginning but we fought hard to get to wher we are today and to know our hard work is evident speaks volumes. 

Her assignment was to imagine a world without hate and create something to represent that. 

I am not an artist in the sense that I don’t draw so I won’t create a picture but I will use my words to share what I imagine a world without hate to look like. 

I imagaine a world where the most important thing is that we love one another. 

I imagine a world where we learn to put the needs of others before our own needs.

I imagine a world where we speak truth in love.

I imagine a world where we can disagree with one another and still remain kind. 

I imagine a world where we learn to value life over death. 

I imagine a world where we show and do the work. 

I imagine a world where we truly see one another and we can all take of the masks and be vulnerable.

I imagine a world where we value humans rather than devaluing them for our own desires. 

I imagine a world where we are free from slavery. 

I imagaine a world where we are free from racism. 

I imagine a world where we are free from hate and full of love.

We may never see this kind of world this side of Heaven a we live in a fallen and broken world. I cannot change or control people or this world, but I can control the way I love and I can continue to demonstrate that kind of love and live out my life without hate. 

What to you envision a world without hate to look like? How do you demonstrate love in a world full of hate? Join in and share what your world without hate looks like. I’d love to see pictures,  videos, written words etc from you. 

Winter

Winter. The coldest season. The darkest season. The sun shines less. It’s a lifeless season. The trees are bare, the grass is brown, the flowers withered and the birds no longer sing.
Lately I have found myself in a winter season. It’s cold and dark. It’s been lifeless and lonely. It’s been a season of questioning. A season of mourning. A season void of life.

Winter. The coldest season. The darkest season. The sun shines less. It’s a lifeless season. The trees are bare, the grass is brown, the flowers withered and the birds no longer sing.
Lately I have found myself in a winter season. It’s been frigid and dark. It’s been lifeless and lonely. It’s been a season of questioning. A season of mourning. A season void of life.

The other day my friend Lyndsey shared these words:

“Today is the winter solstice! What does this mean? Today has the shortest period of daylight AND it will be the longest night of the ENTIRE year. Why is this good news? Well, I’ll tell ya. This is the darkest night all year. BUT! It’s the darkest it’s gonna get. Every single day moving forward will include a bit more daylight and will be a little bit longer. The darkness never gets to last forever.”

These words came after I had just called to say ‘I love you’ to my grandma for the very last time. She was dying. It was a bitter cold day, as a snow storm was moving in. I listened to the sound of her moaning and the sound of the machine breathing for her and I wept.

I also lost my great grandma in the midst of winter. Her death was followed by the birth of my first-born. Within 5 days I had seen both death and new life.

The news of my grandma becoming suddenly ill and of her being in her final moments of life sent me to the depths of winter. It was frigid and dark. It was my winter solstice.

See it wasn’t even just her death that sent me there. It was my season of life. I have been in a winter season and I have loathed every moment of it. I am not one who has ever embraced the winter. I actually despise it. I am a sun shining, flip-flop wearing, outside playing kind of girl and well truthfully winter cramps that style.

The morning after my grandmother had passed. I awoke to a quiet house and looked out the window to see our first real snow storm of the winter season. My kids were away with family being loved on and my husband was at work. I laid there for a moment and breathed in the silence as I looked out the window to see the snow-covered world outside. It was a bitter cold day and for a moment I felt peace in the midst of winter. I felt hope. I saw a glimmer of light in the dark.

I am longing for spring and the new life the comes with spring, but until spring comes I am learning what it looks like to live in the winter season. I am being stretched, I am completely out of my comfort zone and I am have not enjoyed it thus far. However I am taking comfort in the words my friend Lyndsey shared and clinging to the truth that “the darkness never gets to last forever.”

 

 

 

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

-Galatians 6:2

We are called to sympathize with our sisters and assist them in all their weaknesses, grievances and trials. I was recently reminded of why this is so important. I sat with some of my sisters recently as we all shared our hearts. We were all weary travelers who were in need of someone to carry our luggage.

I am not one who readily and easily admits that her luggage has become a bit to heavy to carry alone. I become so accustomed to the extra weight that I often forget I am even carrying it. Thankfully I have a village of sisters who so faithfully remind me to lay down the burdens and who so willingly help me carry them. I am not sure how women who don’t have a village of sisters manage. Without my sisters I would be buried underneath the weight of the burdens I carry.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

-James 5:16

The sins and the burdens I carry feel to heavy and dark. I feel suffocated- like I am gasping for air and hanging on by my finger tips. Then I sit with my sisters for a moment and confess my sins and lay my burdens down and then in an instant the weight is gone and the darkness fades to light. And in the same moments my sisters are doing the same. I am not sure about you, but I am not one who will easily confess my sins and lay my burdens down. But there is something about doing it alongside my sisters. When they are willing to show up and be seen it makes it easier for me to do the same and when we ourselves are willing to show up and be seen we leave a little braver than when we came.

My village is: Life-changing. Beautiful. Raw. Honest. Full of light. Hope. Grace. Truth.

What does yours look like? If you don’t have sisters who come alongside you and pray for you and carry your burdens, then you better go find some.

Have Courage

“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.”

Mark Twain

“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.”

Mark Twain

Just recently I watched as my daughter exuded courage. She had been given a bike, this bike didn’t come with training wheels. We attempted to ride this bike once before and that ended in frustration all around. I had a squirming toddler in my arms and it made holding her stable on the bike nearly impossible.

Having a perfectionist, strong-willed daughter makes for a challenge all its own, but it makes for a bigger challenge when something is not mastered the first time. She is good at many things, she is wise beyond her years… but she is stubborn and determined. Since the first attempt at bike riding was an epic fail she was determined to never ride a bike without training wheels again.

Well the other day seemed like a good day to ride a bike. The weather was beautiful, the sun was shining and it was just one of those days you didn’t want to spend inside. Daddy was home this particular day so we decided to give bike riding another go. Emma huffed and puffed and threw a tantrum of epic portion. She was determined to never ride that bike again. She stormed all over the house with her arms crossed and yelled all about how her bike was “stupid” and she “was never riding the stupid bike.” Now in our home “stupid” is a word we don’t use and she is fully aware of that. She faced a consequence and then my husband and I pulled her close to us and talked with her.

We talked about how we have two choices in life– we can choose to always do the easy things or the hard things. Les Brown says it like this, we can do the easy things and have a hard life, or we can do the hard things and have an easy life. We went on to talk about how in life we have to do things that are hard, things that scare us, things we might not want to do and things we may not be any good at. It’s how we experience life. It’s what makes us who we are. We all have to do it. We talked about how its okay to feel afraid. It’s okay to not be perfect at the task or to even master it. We talked about how we don’t have to rely on our strength, but that we have the strength of Jesus Christ and because of that we can do all things. We shared moments when mommy, daddy and her baby brother had to do something hard. She agreed to give the bike a try as long as daddy promised he wouldn’t let her go.

So outside we went. She hopped on her back and after just a few minutes she asked her daddy to let her go. He did and she rode her bike. She only made it a few feet before she took her feet off the pedals and fell down, but she got right back up and did it again. She rode her bike for a long time that afternoon. She would repeat the falling down and getting up bit every few feet but she never gave up. She was determined. She was beaming with pride. The smile she wore across her beautiful face said it all. We celebrated and cheered her on. We filled her with praise and told her we were proud of her.

We got back home and asked her how she felt. Her response floored me. She said, “I’m happy that God gave me the strength to do it!” A few nights later at dinner she shared her most thankful, “That God gave me the strength to ride my bike.” She gets it. God is going to use that girl to help him move mountains. She humbled herself. She knew that accomplishment was not done on her own accord. She took a risk and she had courage.

Youthful Perspective

My daughter broke the silence. She wasn’t speaking to me per-say, she was just stating what she was seeing. From the back seat I hear her say, “wow that is such an amazingly, beautiful view.” To which I responded with, “yes, isn’t it so amazing to look out and see the snow-capped mountains in all their beauty?” She then said, “no mom, I was talking about those little dirt piles that look like mountains and have snow on them. They are so beautiful.”

“Those who look for beauty, find it.”

-Unknown

The other morning I was driving with my daughter and we had come to a red light. We had the most beautiful view of the snow-capped mountains right in front of us. Nothing was blocking that view. I sat in silence admiring the view and taking it all in. It’s so refreshing. It breathes life into my soul.

My daughter broke the silence. She wasn’t speaking to me per-say, she was just stating what she was seeing. From the back seat I hear her say, “wow that is such an amazingly, beautiful view.” To which I responded with, “yes, isn’t it so amazing to look out and see the snow-capped mountains in all their beauty?” She then said, “no mom, I was talking about those little dirt piles that look like mountains and have snow on them. They are so beautiful.”

Instantly my five year old is teaching me a lesson and reminding me of truth.

She reminded me of what was said in John 1 verse 3, that through Him all things were made. God created that very dirt. God created man from the dust of the ground. He created the snow and He told the snow when to fall and it obeyed and because of that it lay peacefully on the pile of dirt. Then I was reminded of what was said in Ecclesiastes 3 verse 11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” EVERYTHING is made beautiful. God made in that perfect moment a beautiful snow-capped pile of dirt in line with beautifully, majestic snow-capped mountains.

I wonder what our lives would look like if we decided to stop for a brief moment and look around at the beauty that surrounds us. Would we even notice? Would we stop and let that beauty breathe life into our souls? Would we thank God himself for the beautiful snow-capped pile of dirt, knowing He created that?

Not only was I reminded in that moment that EVERYTHING has been made beautiful in its time, but I was reminded about perspective. It really is all about our perspective. In that moment all I saw was what I wanted to see. The beautiful mountains in front of me. I didn’t want to look around and notice the piles of dirt or anything else that surrounded me in that moment.

Then I think about the things that happen in life. The crappy, painful things we all have to endure at one point or another as the cost of living in a fallen and broken world. I really have two choices in those moments. I can chose to only look at the mountain in front of me or I can open my eyes and see the beauty around me.

What would happen if in the face of ugly dirt piles we clung to the truth and clung to the promise that God will use EVERYTHING for His purpose? What if we looked evil square in the eye and spoke the words of  Genesis 50 verse 20, “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” How much more beautiful our lives would be if we simply looked at the piles of dirt and reminded ourselves that God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28) and He has made EVERYTHING beautiful in its time.

It’s easy to be consumed and narrow minded in the face of adversity. Let’s start being consumed more by God and less by ourselves and the things of this world. Let’s start opening our minds and seeing beauty in the snow-capped dirt piles rather than only the snow-capped mountains.