Traditions

With the holidays in full swing, I have been thinking about traditions and the place of importance they often hold in our lives.  It made me stop and wonder why? There are holiday traditions I definitely look forward to and work hard to make happen, just the way I remember them. Beginning in November, I feel that twinge of anxiety, mixed with great anticipation about how Christmas “should be.” That last part, “how Christmas should be”, becoming my focus. It brings with it a whole lot of expectations, which often lead to feeling disappointed and let down, because things rarely go as planned, right? My tightly controlled ideas of how things will be, how people will act and the expectation that everyone feels the same excitement, rarely come to pass. Someone gets sick, finances are tight, the weather does not cooperate, kids grow up and don’t react the way they used to, it’s a no burn day, so the roaring, cheery fire doesn’t happen, cats destroy carefully wrapped packages and the list goes on and on of things that sneak or blast their way in to our well controlled plans for the perfect holiday.

I have expectations of yummy goodies baking all season in the kitchen, making my house smell festive; I imagine Christmas parties with good friends filling the house; I dream of evenings spent by a warm, cozy fire with my family, pets, hot drinks, movies and all the warm fuzzy togetherness we can stand; a night of hot cocoa, while driving around looking at festive Christmas lights with everyone loving every second of it, with not a fight to be had. This fantastic list goes on and on, of things that are wonderful and exciting and lovely, but not very realistic. These expectations leave NO wiggle room for life or messed up plans or teenagers who don’t want to drive around looking at houses with lights on them.

I asked myself why I get anxious, letdown or sad if things don’t play out the way I expected. What will it mean if none of these traditions I hold on to, with such a white knuckled intensity, come to pass?  Interestingly enough, the first thought that came to mind was “it won’t be safe.” Safety. I can see that. It makes sense in an odd sort of way. Feeling safe is something I have always craved. Remembering back to my childhood Christmases, everything felt predictable, controlled and orderly. It was safe. Secure. All wrapped up tightly. I knew what and who to expect, when and how to expect them.  It was all lovely and predictable. I’m certain that things didn’t go perfectly all of the time; plans were changed, people got sick and life disrupted, as it often does, but as a child, I don’t remember any of that. I remember feeling safe; protected and wrapped up in traditions, knowing that my family would be surrounding me, we would have festive meals and there would be baking and delicious smells; there would be the anticipation of Christmas Eve candle light services and carols and everyone smiling; there would be lights on our tree and evenings spent sitting in the glow of those lights. The anticipation of Santa and listening for reindeer filled my heart with joy and wonder and predictability. What great memories. I love them. There were things in my childhood that were not happy and safe. Christmas and traditions held such importance, because I knew that during the holidays, I would feel safe and things would be predictable and in control. I wonder if that holds some truth for all of us? Do traditions give us predictability, safety and the feeling of being in control in an otherwise unpredictable, uncontrollable life? Is that why there are such feelings of letdown and depression for some, come Dec. 26th?  Unmet expectations? Things not ending up as planned? People not behaving the way we had hoped?

Maybe this year will be different. Can I shift my focus to what is in front of me and embrace and enjoy it, allowing something new to become a great memory, instead of relying on what happened in the past to happen again? Can I celebrate Christmases past, yet open my heart to the here and now?  I want the season to be about gratefulness, focusing on what I have and the season of life I’m in; finding peace in that. I want the season to be more about Jesus and the joy of knowing how safe and loved I am. God came to Earth, in the flesh, to be part of my world, to bring me everlasting life. The King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, Almighty God, Warrior, Lover, Savior – He came for me. He came for you. How’s that for feeling safe! Come, let us adore Him!

Call Upon the Lord

Call Upon the Lord

The song Call upon the Lord by Elevation Worship has been on repeat for a few weeks now (lyrics below).  I cannot get enough of it. I play it over and over again. Its theme will never get old, out dated, or worn out. Call upon the Lord and He WILL rescue and save; He WILL bring peace and healing.

“We need no other hiding place. Our hope is safe within Your name.” This is so beautiful. When we are tired, worn out or weary, Jesus is our hiding place.  His covering blocks out the noise, chaos, fear and uncertainty that the world relentlessly shouts. In His presence, we don’t have to listen to it. Our hope for safety, to be rescued, for healing and restoration, for receiving forgiveness and offering it to others, is all safe with Jesus. He won’t crush our hope; He restores it.  He won’t dash or mock our dreams; He planted them inside us and expands them and opens doors that only He can; He doesn’t withhold and punish; He died in our place, so we could have life with Him forever.   The hope and faith that He hears me, sees me and knows me; every single situation, wound, heart break and victory, which fashioned me into who I am, kept me hanging on through some heavy trauma and pain I have experienced.  Knowing that what He began He WILL sustain; knowing that Jesus has a plan and purpose behind my wounds brings hope. Those wounds are now scars, because of His healing.  I’m not anonymous, forgotten or forsaken.  In fact, I am so deeply known that I am free! Jesus’ name heals.  He alone is strong enough to save. There is power in the name of Jesus.

At His name “every enemy will flee, as we declare Your victory!” Jesus is our victory. He defied death, defeated the enemy of our souls once and for all, and He offers life to all who call His name. He is right there next to you, as you read these words. He is the breath in your lungs, the beat of your heart. There is nothing about you He doesn’t already know. No secrets with Jesus. He sees you; He sees me. He alone breaks down every stronghold we erect to protect and wall ourselves away from pain. He knows why those walls were erected. He was there. He watched us build them. The pain you and I try to hide with our walls, break His heart. Your walls probably look different than mine. A wall could look like pride, arrogance, self-reliance, fear, needing to be right, promiscuity, coldness, being shut off from others, sarcasm, humor, obsession with our looks, weight and appearance, and the list could go on. Jesus knows better than we do, why we felt we needed those walls.  He waits to be invited into our lives. He is a gentleman.  He doesn’t force Himself. Jesus will meet every need we have, even that niggling, ever present pricking, that we don’t fully understand; He does. He is enough.

In my own life, I have experienced healing and restoration from things so broken and devastated, I honestly never thought any of it could be healed or restored. I heard Jesus speak to my spirit and say words so similar to these lyrics, “RISE! Your shackles are no more, for I (Jesus Christ) have broken every chain!” He has, He did and He continues to do it. I found freedom.  Those lyrics mean so much to me. I am not sure I can accurately describe the beauty of it, the freedom, the peace and safety that I feel way down deep. I’m not sure it is describable, honestly, because we have all walked different paths and experienced different wounds,  but let me assure you, once you let go and allow yourself to experience His healing, you will never be the same. Yes, you will come face to face with pain, disappointment and fear, because that is life on this planet. But know that Jesus is right there with you, as close as your next breath and will cover you with peace that passes all understanding, if you allow Him in. If you ask Him, He will give you wisdom and guidance to navigate everything life will throw at you.  He will take your ashes and give you beauty, He will give you joy for your sadness and change out that robe of heaviness for a light and lovely garment of praise. It really is supernatural, and guess what? It’s a gift!

I would be honored to hear your stories of Jesus’ saving, healing, shackle- breaking power in your life, if you would like to share.

“I will call upon the Lord, for He alone is strong enough to save….”

Call Upon the Lord by Elevation Worship

We need no other hiding place                        All of the heavens and the earth

Our hope is safe within your name                Announce the fullness of your worth

This we know, this we know                            This we know, this we know

You promise never to forsake                          And every enemy will flee

What you began you will sustain                    As we declare your victory

This we know, this we know                           This we know, this we know

I will call upon the Lord                                     I will call upon the Lord

For he alone is strong enough to save           For he alone is strong enough to save

Rise your shackles are no more                        Rise your shackles are no more

For Jesus Christ                                                      For Jesus Christ

Has broken every chain                                       Has broken every chain

Jesus’ name will break every stronghold

Freedom is ours when we call his name

Jesus’ name above every other

All hail the power of Jesus’ name

He is speaking. Can you hear Him?

Have you ever heard the comments, “God is closer than your next breath?”  or “God is always speaking to us?” Do you believe that? Have you heard that “still small voice” speaking to you?

As I sat outside on the patio this morning, my mind started wandering. It drifted through past conversations I’ve had with friends about this very thing. How does God speak to me, to you? Is He? How will I know if it’s God? I don’t know that I have the right answer, but I have a lot of thoughts about it and wanted to share what’s on my mind. I hope in the comments, you will share your thoughts and experiences as well, since we all have something to teach and something to learn.

There are those who have audibly heard the voice of God; an actual voice they heard with their physical ears. I’m not one of them. I would love to be, but I’m not; at least not yet. I believe that because our Creator made each of us in such unique and specific ways, we can’t say there is only ONE way to hear our Father’s voice.  We all interpret life and what we see, hear and feel very differently, according to our gifts, abilities, personalities and physical make up. It makes sense that we would sense our Creator’s voice in many varied ways.

Others in my circle of friends, hear His voice through very specific and detailed dreams and visions, where God is clearly showing them something important about life changes that are going to happen, the direction certain relationships are going, how they need to proceed in a certain area of their lives. I hear God this way, too. Not daily or even weekly; not in a consistent, regimented way, but He has spoken to me this way. When I was first dealing with the possibility of breast cancer, God gave me very detailed and specific dreams about it, so that I would know some of what was coming. He knows me so well, that He knew I would need this preparation; an advanced warning, so to speak.  It was a tremendous blessing to me and I am so grateful for the dreams He gave to me. It showed me that He is involved in every single thing that He filters through His hands and allows to touch my life. He knew cancer was going to be part of my story. He gave me some advance notice, because He knows how I operate. This is love.

Nature is one of the things in life that I love the most. I crave it. It is an essential part of my being, of my make –up. I feel the most alive and in touch with my Father when I am outdoors. My senses come alive and I am captivated and touched by all the sounds, scents, sensations. I have had my deepest times of communion with God, while outdoors in nature; whether it is the forest, a meadow, a trail I’m hiking, sitting on the beach or puttering in my own backyard. It isn’t an audible voice I hear, but it’s what I sense; like a spirit deep knowing that He is there and He is speaking. The brush of a gentle, playful breeze that cools my neck and ruffles my hair tells me that He cares, is always and ever-present. I hear Him speaking to me in the pounding surf and lapping waves; fear and wounding are drawn out and away in the swell of the waves as I pour out to Him all that is in my heart. The peace and awe that fall over me in the midst of the Redwoods; that glorious scent of pine, ancient growth and strength remind me of His power and creativity; that He has everything planned out that concerns me and mine; it isn’t necessarily safe and predictable, but it is good and right and promised. Sitting outside under the stars and the moon, I feel His majesty and His Lordship cover me like protective wings. He created what I see above me which is hard to comprehend, but He also created me and loves me. To me that feels so safe; I am protected and fiercely guarded. My Father’s eye is never off of me. His eye is never off of you.

Maybe you don’t believe that you have “heard” Him speak to you, but I challenge that. I really do. He speaks all the time to His creation.  Keep an open heart and open ears.  Slow down and allow yourself to hear Him. Ask Him how He wants to speak to you. I promise you He does. He has words for you and so much wisdom He desires to pour into you. But our Father God is a gentleman. He waits to be invited.  Will you let Him in?

Everything

This song by Lifehouse (lyrics below) has been running through my head for a couple of days. I find this song profoundly beautiful and deeply moving; almost to the point that I cannot explain it with words. When I listen to it, goosebumps rise up all over my skin and my spirit awakens and rises up; tears prick my eyes and my heart beats stronger and faster. This is a song I can put on repeat. The lyrics resonate with me so deeply, because I have experienced these emotions and responses to Jesus described in this amazing song. I desire to hear Him speak and long for His words; it is a deep need in my soul and when I do hear Him, peace fills me up; I rest and have the strength to keep walking and trusting Him.

There are several specific times in my life that I look back on and know, like I know, like I know, that it was ONLY Jesus that kept me going each day; only His presence, only Him holding me in His hands and letting me rest that literally kept me afloat. There were times that I didn’t know it was Him carrying me through the storm, until it was over, and frankly, wasn’t sure I wanted anything to do with Him.  Nevertheless, He saw through the pain and fear, right into my hurting heart and gently lifted me anyway. I’m His girl and He wasn’t letting go.

During my years of battling an aggressive form of breast cancer, He was the only hope I had to cling to and He never once failed me. Never once. The weeks and months that I don’t remember, because of a haze of medications used to keep me from the sickness of treatments, He was there and held me in His hands. I have scars, yes, but I’m proud of them. It reminds me of where I was and where He brought me. Survivor. Overcomer. Victorious.

During other dark times, He was the light that led me to a place of healing, peace and safety. Fully protected; never out of His sight. Thoughts of Him do take my breath away! He has stolen my heart and I’m not ashamed to say so.

Life has things in store for me and those I love that will be hard, painful and seem very unfair. I know this. However, I also know that Jesus has walked this suffering before me, He knows, He understands, He heals and He restores. He brings joy and peace into situations where there shouldn’t be any.

He is all I want, all I need. He is everything.

Everything

By Lifehouse

Find me here, and speak to me

I want to feel you, I need to hear you

You are the light that’s leading me to the place

Where I find peace again

You are the strength that keeps me walking

You are the hope that keeps me trusting

You are the life to my soul

You are my purpose

You’re everything

And how can I stand here with you

And not be moved by you

Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

You calm the storms and you give me rest

You hold me in your hands

You won’t let me fall

You steal my heart and you take my breath away

Would you take me in, take me deeper now

And how can I stand here with you and not be moved by you

Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

Cause you’re all I want, you’re all I need, you’re everything, everything…

Just a morning

Sunlight filters in through the blinds; the breeze is cool and refreshing through the slightly open bedroom window.

Shifting from dreamy sleep to wakefulness; content and peace filled. Thank you Lord for waking me up – I’m coming!

Cozy cat stirs and stretches; stomping on body parts still under the covers. Time to get up. He knows the routine well.

Scent of brewing coffee brings homey memories to mind; rich and earthy, there is safety in predictability.

Dogs wait politely, then bound outdoors enjoying freedom after a long, snug night. Noses to the ground on high alert; sniffing out the offending evening invaders; dew drops spot their muzzles; glinting as the sun peeks through tree tops.

Sounds of the morning!

Wind chimes sing softly and gently as the breeze tosses itself about; birds up since dawn cling to the feeders, calling and scolding and jostling for position. Bright reds and yellows, muted greys and black.

The gentle light of early morning gives way to something  stronger; fortifying, brighter, life giving.

Coffee and the Bible sit on the pine table; steam swirls and pages flutter; beckoning and calling.

My heart stirs. There are mysteries to unravel here; richness to take in and understanding waiting to be sought and known. Revelation, peace and contentment are what I seek; warmth, depth and life.

Who knows what will come as the day unfolds? Joy? Laughter? Tears? Fear? For now, I sit at my Daddy’s feet, listening to Him speak with all my senses; sipping the warm richness of my coffee. It’s just a morning; but it is my joy.

 

 

What do you want?

Recently I was watching a video for a Bible study I’m doing on the book of Hosea, by Jennifer Rothschild. In the video, she told us that what we long for most, is what we already have in Christ. I have been mulling this over and swirling it about in my brain for a few weeks now because it is such an eye opening, revolutionary statement. What I long for most I already have in Christ. I already have it. Stop and read those words again. Already have it.  It actually blows my mind. I have been asking myself some thought provoking questions over the last several weeks, such as “what is it that I deeply long for and what is it that I think I don’t have?” I believe the answers go far deeper than the physical wanting of food, water and clothing. This question is begging and pleading with us to go to a soul deep level. You know that place; where putting words to the emotion, the need, the longing is almost impossible; yet it is there, always there, and it is desperate to be heard. I believe this feeling was purposely put there by God to draw us to Him, to keep us continually seeking Him and calling out to Him because we know, on that soul deep, beyond words level, that we need Him desperately. We want beyond anything else to be known.  We may not be able to put words to it, but our souls know Him. Our souls long for Him and everything He provides.

What is it that you long for most and feel like you don’t have? Is it security? Do you feel safe? Is it to be heard and known and seen? Do you feel anonymous in a big, wide world? Do you want to know that you are loved unconditionally and looked upon with eyes that adore every single fiber of your being? Do you want to know that you have a purpose; that you are NOT an accident? Do you crave acceptance? Do you need to know that you have value and worth beyond your wildest imagination, in the eyes of your Daddy? Do you crave order and chaos in a world that is wildly out of order?

You have all of these things in Christ Jesus! You are safe and secure. He commands His angels to protect you wherever you go. Nothing touches you, His masterpiece, without it first being filtered through His scarred hands; hands that were scarred to seal you to Him, to make eternal life with Him possible! He sees you, hears you and knows your every thought, fear, joy, failure and victory. Zephaniah 3:17 tells you that “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” He rejoices over you! You are unconditionally loved, valued and accepted with a specific and unique purpose on your life that only you were created to fulfill. What time, tender care and attention God took, as you were created and the breath of life was breathed into your lungs. It is His breath in your lungs. You have a purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace and can bring order, calm and peace to every situation. In the midst of the greatest pain and confusion life throws at you, He is there in the midst of it, offering you His love, His peace and safety. His wisdom is available as is His peace, if you just ask Him. Talk to Him. He is your Daddy and best friend. The true lover of your soul. Think deep about what it is you think you don’t have, what it is you long for most, and then look to Jesus. Ask Him to show you that you have it. You have all that you need because He is more than enough. Peace and blessings, friends.