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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A few things I’ve learned

I find myself sitting here drinking some coffee thinking about this year coming to an end and a new one beginning. I find myself reflecting on life this last year and what I hope to leave in 2017 and what I hope to take with me into 2018. I think about this time last year and how sick I was. I ended 2016 with a pretty bitter, angry and sad heart. Thankfully this year is ending differently for my heart. Here is some of what I have learned from 2017 and what I hope to take with me into 2018.

Even if not, God is still good…

I was very sick last year. Lots of money was spent on doctor visits, tests, imaging, blood work and prescription medications.  Nothing was helping. I pleaded with and begged God to take it all away. To let the medications work or to give the doctors an answer. I needed so desperately to feel like myself again. Being stuck in bed unable to do anything doesn’t work for a do-er like me, its torture. Still nothing helped. My husband and I were sent away to enjoy time together without any stress and enjoy the warm weather in hopes that my body might get a little break. Before we left my husband mentioned me going to see his mentors wife who is a holistic doctor. I declined as I was burnt out on doctors offices, tests, medications and honestly we didn’t have the funds to keep throwing at medical expenses. While we were in Phoenix I exchanged some words with God, most of which were not pleasant and I let him know just how angry I was with the lack of change and response to healing my body like I and many other people had been asking him to do. I wondered if God was there and if He heard me. Then that still small voice spoke and said, “I’m still here and I’m going to heal you but it looks different than you think. You see I am more concerned with your heart than your physical body so I am going to start there. As for the physical body go see the holistic Dr. (I will call her K).” So when we got home I decided it was time and my husband set up an appointment and within two weeks I was sitting in K’s office. She explained EVERYTHING that was going on with my body in a way that made sense and in a way all the other doctors never did. I walked out of her office hopeful for the first time in months. She gave me some supplements and suggested a few changes to my diet and honestly within 3 weeks I felt like a whole new woman.

I learned in that moment that even if God hadn’t healed my body that He was still God and He was still good. Sometimes the healing looks exactly like we thought it would but more often than not it looks different and it’s exactly what we needed it to look like.

Vulnerability is strength…

Vulnerability is not my strong suit. I am getting better, but I also have allowed myself some grace in knowing its going to take a minute to change an old habit. I have learned that the coping mechanisms that once kept me safe and helped me survive are not serving me the same purpose anymore and its time to change some things. During my season of sickness I had to learn to ask for help and be vulnerable enough to do that and to ask for help. That didn’t come easy for me. I have grown and have learned to ask for help when I need it but I am still not very good at sharing my heart. This fall some things happened in our marriage that forced me to be vulnerable with a few safe people. It reveled the importance not just for me, but for my husband to humble ourselves and find a few safe people to be raw and honest with. It’s actually the only way to make it through life without being eaten alive. Satan likes when we isolate, when we keep the darkness hidden, when we don’t humble ourselves and share our brokenness with others. Once things are exposed to the light, healing happens and Satan has no power. I still suck and fail often at the vulnerability piece but I am learning and practicing and 2018 will be a year I practice vulnerability!

Love in the most important thing…

Loving one another is really the most important thing. We are big on this in our house. We love one another with our words and with our actions. We own our mistakes and we ask for forgiveness when it’s needed. However that extends far beyond the four walls that make up our house. We practice loving and serving those who cross our path in whatever capacity that may look like. Sometimes it means we slow down in the grocery store to have a conversation with an elderly person. Sometimes it looks like lending an extra hand and help with grandparents. Sometimes it looks like handmaking peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and feeding the homeless. Sometimes it’s cleaning out the toy box and giving them to kids in need. And sometimes it looks like encouraging and speaking truth to those who cross our path. Whatever it looks like in that moment is irrelevant what matters the most is that we are loving those that God has placed in our path with the love we have from Christ.  We have had love lavished on us greatly this year whether through Christ alone or through those He has placed in our lives and we couldn’t have made it to where we are today if it wasn’t for that love, because love really is the most important thing.

Those are a few of the many things I have learned this year and there will be many more to come. I have begun to learn the importance of self care and because for me writing is part of the self care process you’ll be seeing a lot more writing from me in 2018!

I would love to hear what you have learned this past year…

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. 

Seasons

We are officially into the Fall season. The leaves are changing and the weather has begun to cool down. Fortunately for me I live in a place where I get to truly experience all 4 seasons.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this new season and the changes that come with it: colder weather, leaves changing, plants withering, etc.; but more than that the parallel seasons have to our own lives. We all experience different seasons of life and just like the changing seasons bring change so do our personal seasons bring about change.

I have found myself in a hard and challenging season as of late and so I am ready to welcome in a new changing season. It’s been a hard season. A waiting season. My season has been full of physical pain and exhaustion. Full of anxiety and fear of the unknown. I’ve been in and out of the doctor office, have had many labs drawn, injections had and new medications started. One positive test led to a specialist, which led to more tests and more waiting. The waiting season is the hardest season.

However, I have learned a few things in my waiting season.

I have learned a bit about grace. I have learned how to accept grace and extend grace, mostly extending and accepting grace within myself. I have learned that I cannot give to others what I haven’t already accepted for myself. So until I give myself grace, I cannot extend grace to others. There is grace in the moments I can’t be present, there is grace in the mound of laundry, there is grace in the nap taken, there is grace is the dirty dishes, there is grace in meal that didn’t get cooked. There is grace abounding. It is grace on top of grace already given. In that I have learned to both extend and accept grace.

I have learned about rest. What it really means to rest. Rest is not something that comes easy for us Americans and especially to mothers of young children. We are taught from a very young age that we should always be doing, always be moving. I have believed that lie. I have believed that if for one second I stopped to rest I had failed. During this season I’ve learned that it is in fact okay to rest, and that actually resting is necessary. Time management and knowing my boundaries has proven beneficial in a season requiring rest. I have to know my priorities and know my boundaries within my priorities and with that comes grace.

I have learned about humility. I am a strong-willed, independent, stubborn woman. I have been that way for as long as I can remember. With that also means I don’t ask for help. This season of life has left me with no other option than to humble myself and ask for help. On the days when the pain is so intense I have to ask my husband to help me get dressed, to open the jar, to cut the apple, etc.. I have had to lean on my sisters and ask for help. I have humbled myself enough to accept meals prepared by my sisters, so that I could use that little bit I had in me to focus on my husband and my children. Humility does not come easy for me, but I am learning that it really is the only way.

I have learned about marriage. I recently joked with my husband about how this is what they must have meant when they said, “in sickness and in health.” That was not a joke, it is truth. My husband has loved me so well through it all. He steps in when I need to step out. He loves me even when the house is a mess, he hasn’t had a home cooked meal in a week, the kids are all whacked out and I’m in his arms weeping. Marriage is a partnership. My husband carries a little extra weight on his strong shoulders these days and he does it without complaint. We have learned new ways of connecting intimately and deeply. And we have learned to love each other well and that is the most important thing.

I have learned a bit about surrender. Surrendering my ideas and visions for my life and instead just being in each moment/day. Surrendering my life and my health to God, knowing and trusting that He has a plan regardless of the test results. He is bigger than whatever is attacking my body.

I have learned to appreciate the good days and rest through the hard ones.

 

 

“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.