Love Believes the Best

“Love believes the best.”

I recently heard a phrase that has stuck to me like glue: Love believes the best. Friends, we’re not doing this. And it’s hurting our relationships, hearts, minds, influence, even our bodies due to the stress of it all.

Being on Facebook these days constantly has me on the defense, tempted to go on the offense. I even have posts saved to my phone telling off half the people on my newsfeed. I’m just being honest. Because of the hurt I feel when I read so many awful things, I’m tempted to use my gift of words to spew hurt right back. I’m not saying that one day I won’t succumb to that temptation. Lord, guard my lips and fingers!!

No one listens to hot tempers. No progress is made in this way and, oftentimes, it is lost.

Thanks be to God, we can be filled with His compassion for those who hurt us. Wow, that’s difficult. But I’d rather be filled with compassion and love than these knots of offense, judgement and accusation.

May I remember that I am set free from having to set everyone else right.

It’s God’s job to convict and my job to pray. Yes, prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit through that prayer may guide us to difficult conversations with people with whom we disagree. But we will be much more equipped, respected, and heard if we first enter into a posture of humility, submission, and love.

No one listens to a person trying to put them in their place. No one.

Let’s engage in these difficult conversations in a better way. Difficult does not have to mean biting. Difficult does not have to mean accusatory. Difficult is actually loving. Disparaging words, resentment, pride, tempers, and even hate are easy. What’s difficult is love. But the most difficult things in life are often the most fruitful.

Love, no matter how difficult, is infinitely better for our hearts, minds, bodies, relationships, influence, and world. Can you imagine if we all believed that?

Love believes the best. Lord, convict us when we’re seeing the worst! LOVE BELIEVES THE BEST.

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God Hugs

Affection was no big thing with me. I’d push it away, ignore it, or mostly just pretend I didn’t need it. You know, in case no one wanted to offer me any. How sad the way my brain worked.

And then one day the man God gave me broke my shield. He never got tired of me or pushed me away. My self protection proved inadequate.

Thanks be to God, I began to trust.

I started to let the deeply affectionate way God made me finally shine through, little by little. Much to the surprise of those who knew me before, slowly I became a hugger.

At this period in time, I regret my former repression. I deeply miss human touch, to the point that I’m dreaming about it.

This seems like a sad post and, I’ll admit, I woke up sad. But here’s what I’m clinging to. Last night, I hugged. It may have been a dream but I choose to believe it was a gift from God.

Jesus hugged me last night through the arms of a friend. Maybe it was His way of saying, “Just hold on a little longer. We’ll make it through this together.”

God gave me Jason when I needed someone to push me to be the affectionate way I was created. He knows what I need and if I can’t have it while I’m awake, He’ll provide it in my sleep.

My heart is deeply aware of the lack many of us feel right now. I pray He gives you what you need.

I pray He hugs you in your dreams.

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Stayed On God

As we were leaving the doctor’s office, a woman was waiting outside the elevator. She asked if she could ride down with me because she doesn’t like to ride by herself. They currently only allow two people in the elevator at a time so Jason graciously waited to catch the next one while this woman and I rode down together. I stood up straight, took a deep breath, and tried not to think about the fact that, while I was her temporary security blanket, I had just left mine upstairs.

It had been hot in the office and, unfortunately, it was not a one-stick bloodwork day. Instead, it required a tiny needle in the hand sloooowwwwllly drawing blood by the vile. I tried not to make eye contact with it as it left my body. Trying to stay conscious, I repeated the mantra that it would all be okay as soon as I could lean on my husband. It seems I’m always trying to escape something for the security of another.

At that point, being strong for this frightened woman on the elevator seemed laughable to me. I wonder if she would have waited for someone different had she known how weak I truly am. I have a lot of trouble making myself go anywhere without Jason so, to me, she was the strong one being there alone. I’ve got news for her, if that elevator had gotten stuck, there would have been two hyperventilating women grasping at security blankets that had failed.

It’s weird that I can be strong to a point, when I believe I have to be. I give myself pep talks that say, “surely I can make it to x, y, z. Surely I could make it five more minutes without my husband.” And whenever there’s a crisis, “surely I can make it to the end.” But I push myself so hard I crash later, exhausted. My security in myself fails as well as my security in others.

I am disappointed. Why? Because I and other people let me down. My security is in the wrong place. But I wonder if, deep down, I’m afraid to put my security in God because I don’t want to be disappointed in Him. I’m afraid to fully trust God because He may let me down. What I really mean by that is, He may not do what I want Him to do.

The truth is, Jason can’t save me from anything God has allowed just like I couldn’t save the woman in the elevator from being trapped if it got stuck. Why is it so much easier to trust our security to earthly things rather than to God, who CAN do all things?

I’m not sure I have the answer but I think it has something to do with Satan’s lies. To put it plain and simple, I know God can but I’m afraid He won’t. I guess I still don’t fully trust that He knows what’s best for me, even if it’s not what I want. Satan loves this lack of trust. If we belong to God, the evil one can’t have our souls, but we can sure let him have our peace. I really hope recognizing this is the beginning of my scream in his ugly face, “NO MORE!” He doesn’t deserve anything God has gifted to His children. I want to stop letting him steal it! Are you with me?

As I think about security, the verse keeps repeating in my head, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you” (Isaiah 26:3). When I’m outside of my earth-bound security, my heart is not stayed on God. It is stayed on escape. “As soon as I escape this uncomfortable situation, I’ll be fine.” But God does not call us to a life of comfort. He has already given us security. All we have to do is accept it. All we have to do is stay our minds on Him. God over circumstances. We may not always be comfortable… but we will have peace. Perfect peace. I wonder what that’s like. Since Jesus offers it free for the taking, I intend to find out. Stay tuned…

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Through the Eyes of Wisdom

Flattened by the unending brutality of life. “Curse God and die,” says the wife of Job (Job 2:9).

I get her.

But if life has taken away all but God and I curse Him, then what? With Peter, I’m inclined to say, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68)

I run blurry-eyed, tripping over my own feet, falling at His.

Oh, what Wisdom invented lament and called us to it. I cry out.

I feel certain I could learn whatever it is I’m supposed to learn a little less harshly, but maybe arrogance like that is precisely why it’s not true.

I need some of that wisdom.

Thankfully, she’s available to those who ask. That’s a promise. I ask.

At my invitation, Wisdom sits next to me and softly questions, “Is life ALL bad?”

“No,” I reluctantly admit.

Wisdom pushes a bit more but is gentle about it. She takes my hand, prompting the unveiling of my eyes and a recounting of the good. Graciously, she says one, then I say one. Back and forth, we continue this rhythm of praise for the beauty in the rubble:

Mountains. Imagining them formed by God’s hands or by His footprint as He peruses His creation.

Fireflies. Sparkling bug behinds. Enough said.

The wind. Displaying the mystery that something can be unseen yet real and powerful.

Love. Always stronger than the suffering.

Words. Bursting with meaning. It’s breathtaking that God would entrust us with something so potentially building or shredding. Interesting that Wisdom should bring this up, knowing nothing more in need of her than words.

Sun rays. A picture of glory. Always included in my imagining of heaven.

With each item placed at God’s feet with gratitude, bitter tears start to turn sweet and the altar I’ve fallen on raises me higher. It appears less like rubble and more like an offering.

Wisdom smiles as I crawl onto the altar. She tilts my head to meet the eyes of my Savior. My calloused heart softens when I see His has taken the beatings with mine. The love in those eyes is the stuff of real-life fairy tales, but mostly the depth of One who’s walked the brutality of life before and chooses to do so again with me.

He knows.

Wisdom knows.

For the moment, I know.

All will be well someday.

There is no deeper love to be found than this.

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I Bleed Publicly

You may wonder why I bleed publicly. It’s not that I enjoy it. Oh my, no. Often I put it ‘out there’ and want desperately to clean it up before anyone sees. Sometimes, I try.

But that’s the point: so everyone sees. I actually shuddered typing that.

If there’s one thing I know about my life, I bleed publicly because I’m supposed to. I don’t know if everyone is, but I am. When God tells you to do something, you do it. It’s like “a fire shut up in my bones” (Jer 20:9). I couldn’t keep it to myself if I tried.

I did try. Many years, I tried. Many years I bled internally… and I’m still living with the destruction. Privacy was my goal, perfectionism my idol, control its ugly sister.

If I didn’t talk about it, it was under control. And, it was… until there was nowhere else to go. And then, oh, the hemorrhaging! I still haven’t recovered from it.

So, now I lay down my idols. I may feel vulnerable, but at least I feel lighter. There is much less pressure.

I bleed publicly so no one else has to die privately.

“Me too” are two of the most comforting words in life. It’s okay not to be okay. Look at me. I’m a mess, but I’m God’s beautiful mess.
You have permission to bleed too. I’m here with you. God’s here with us.

I bleed publicly because… well… maybe someday someone will reach over and stop it. That’s God’s job but I can’t resist the urge to try. When it feels too much, we all just need a little help sometimes… loving hands pressed to open wounds.

Thank you for your hands.

The flow probably won’t stop until we’re Home. Life has too many hurts. That’s okay. It has an awful lot of beauty too. Beauty in the healing, beauty in the fiery bones, beauty in the laying down, beauty in the hands, and beauty in the flow.

Oh, precious is the Flow.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”- 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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Letting Go to Embrace a New Song

When I was in high school I tried out for Vocal Ensemble, a small auditioned group that was the elite of our school choir world. When I looked at the list of people who made it into the group, my name was on it… but not in the right place. I had always been a soprano but the teacher had put my name under alto. I was so certain it was a mistake that I marched up to her and told her so. My jaw must have dropped when she said there was no mistake. It seems totally ridiculous to admit now but I went home and cried. You see, up until this point my experience was that teachers assigned students to the alto section because they couldn’t carry a tune. I doubt that was always the case, but it was what I had been led to believe. It was a belief I held firm, not knowing it was wrong until the day it applied to me. I was devastated. The one talent I thought I had was singing and here was a teacher telling me I wasn’t good enough. This seems so petty now but irrational beliefs often are. I was so wrapped up in my sadness and confusion that I couldn’t understand that this teacher was about to change my view of music altogether. She knew what I had yet to learn: altos needed to be strong singers in order to carry the harmony. I was about to discover a whole new and much more beautiful depth of singing. Thanks to someone who knew me better than I knew myself, I was about to fall head over heels in love with harmony. I was about to discover my true place.

As God reminded me of this story again, I realized something. I am STILL standing firm in a position that may not be mine to hold. Old habits die hard. I knew I was a soprano. Someone who knew better recognized that I was not… and it changed music for me in a special way forever. I know I am a healthy Social Worker. SomeONE who knows me better may know that I am not… and it may change me in a special way forever. Before you get all wound up and start defending my health and career, please know that I am not ruling out a bodily healing and a return to work. I’m just opening my mind and heart to other possibilities. Of course I don’t know if God is calling me to let go of more of my dreams… but I’m pretty sure He’d like me to start holding them a little more loosely.

Holding loosely brings a more mature perspective. I was stuck in the childish version of music while my teacher wanted to usher me into adulthood. She was changing my perspective of so many aspects of music. She was helping me learn the truth over and above what I had always known. Maybe I’m still stuck in the childish version of life and the ultimate Teacher wants to usher me into adulthood, giving me solid food instead of milk (1 Cor. 3:2). Maybe He wants to teach me a truth that will change me in the most beautiful of ways.

Holding loosely allows for broadened horizons. What I wouldn’t have been able to experience had I been a soprano all my life! I hope I’m writing in a way that doesn’t offend either voice because I understand now that each part is unique, beautiful, and unbelievably talented. I no longer believe what I believed then about music. That’s the beauty of growth. But here’s what I know about my experience. Embracing my alto-ness trained my ears to hear harmony and stretched me to learn something new. When I was a soprano, I wasn’t even listening to the other parts of the music because I didn’t think I had to. Being an alto allowed me to hear the true beauty of a song that includes more than just melody. Harmony almost never fails to give me chills now. What if I had missed that in my arrogance? Maybe I’m still being arrogant about life, holding onto the things that I want without consideration of what God wants. Maybe He’s trying to train and stretch me to hear and express something new. The thought of that lights my insides up with excitement. What goosebump-inducing beauty could He have in store?

I don’t think I’ve made it too much of a secret that the last few months of my life have been less than stellar. This week I let go of yet another thing I thought was surely mine to hold. I have grieved… hard. But as my musical past came back to me this morning I thought, what if? What if this letting go helps me embrace God’s perspective on my life? What if it opens my arms to possibilities I never imagined? What if it helps me discover a truth I’ve been missing all along? What if it guides me to hear and sing a more beautiful song? What if it leads me to my true place, a place I could never know while clinging to the one I think I should belong?

I want to hear the harmony of life. Not only that but I want to be a part of it. It’s a tremendous privilege to know we are a key part of God’s beautiful song. So, as much as it hurts to wonder how much more I have to lose before I can burst into that new song, I am going to do my best to keep an open heart. I want to lay down at Jesus’ feet the severely limiting beliefs I’ve held firm. Maybe God wants to change my view of life itself. I trust the One who knows me better than I know myself. I will grieve hard for my dreams and old perspectives while trying to completely embrace the new. I believe that as long as I follow my Teacher, I will watch my world open up bigger and brighter than I could ever imagine. God is inviting me into a deeper, more harmonious life. Will I run home in tears or will I take a deep breath, open my heart, and sing it back to Him?

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Closer, Not Better

Closer, not better. That phrase has been settling like a warm blanket over my head and heart.

I want better. God wants closer.

To be honest, I want closer. I want better too. Is there some reason I can’t have both? I wish I could stop asking those kinds of questions.

I’m not getting better, so I crawl a little closer.

I gave up the fight again. I think that’s okay. God never promised I would be able to handle this. It’s more than I have in me. But that’s not really true. The Holy Spirit is in me. 

For reasons not mine to understand, that doesn’t make me better, so I inch a bit closer.

Fight for me, God. In this moment I want nothing more than to come even closer to You. I don’t want anything to come between us, even the better.

I lay down the better, so You can pull me closer.

As I lie on the floor, my head in Your lap, the tears come again. Somehow I never lack the strength to cry.

You know me so well. You know I’m going to pick up the better again. Maybe I’ll leave it at Your feet longer this time. Maybe one day I’ll leave it there for good. 

In this place of surrender, I may not be better. But You’re closer.

That’s enough. I tell myself that’s enough.

You’re so close, I can almost hear Your heartbeat. I pray mine beats with Yours in more ways than one. I can almost see Your tears. You don’t like this any more than I do.

Somehow this time I can’t even get mad at You. All that comes is, “I love You.” And I do.

Because even though I’m not better, You’re closer.

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Narnia

Narnia: “An imaginary land of strange people and talking animals.” I’m not making that up. That’s how Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines it.
A year ago today, God gave us a gift. Narnia is our home. Of course, this Narnia is a real place. That’s not to say there hasn’t been a lot of imagining going on.
Strange people? Well, I don’t need to tell you that part’s probably true.
Talking animals? You’ll just have to judge for yourselves.
The name “Narnia” was given to our home because it looks like a magical place. There are so many nooks and alcoves. You walk in and it just keeps going where you think it should end. It makes you wonder what exactly might happen if you enter that wardrobe. I confess, I have yet to try.
Aslan proudly but humbly guards his land, graciously allowing delusional reign to June, Queen of the castle. He welcomes all.
But, back to the strange people.
Who knew we would need a magical home in which to weather the 2020 calamities? Aslan did.
Who knew the sun would rise and set over the mountains out the most breathtaking of windows? Aslan did.
Who knew countless purple flowers would spring up from the ground just for pure delight? Aslan did.
Who knew the only place to put the bed would angle it in just such a way that the cross is the first and last thing we see each day? Aslan did.
This house is an embodiment of God’s extravagance. I asked Him to show me how He loves me. And when God answers a prayer, He knows how to show off.
Houses are not always God’s heart on display. But I believe He knew my heart would understand the meaning of this gift. It’s a significance only He and I know in the intimacy of our love story. I feel special, loved, seen by the One who knows me better than I know myself.
I could not have dreamed it. I would not have allowed myself to dream it. God dreamed it for me.
Why He cares enough to dream when I can’t is beyond me… but this gift is a reminder, each of the many times I seem to need it, that He does.
He extravagantly does.
Happy Anniversary, Narnia. Thank You, God.

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Consider the Birds

I wonder what they think of me. I can’t believe I just said that. Did you see what I did? How embarrassing. What if they don’t understand my meaning? What if my words hurt someone? What if? What if? What if?

Go outside and watch a robin.

What if I never get better? What if my husband’s health breaks down? What if I lose Disability? What if our car breaks down? What if we lose this house?

Go outside and watch a robin.

Am I doing this right? My days are wasted. They have no purpose. Maybe I have no purpose…

Go outside and watch a robin.

Is simply existing enough? We’re meant to do more than survive, right? What about the days that’s all I have the strength to do? Is it enough? Am I enough?

Look out the window and watch a robin.

Robins don’t wonder if God will provide. He just does… and that is enough for them. It’s enough for me too.

Robins don’t wonder about their purpose. They just do robin things… and that is enough for them. If I’ve mustered up the strength to just do human things today, that’s enough for me too.

Maybe the real question is… Is God enough for me? He doesn’t give me any task He doesn’t strengthen me to do. Of course He is enough. I’d say there isn’t even a question, but then I look above at all the questions and realize, there is. But they all boil down to just one: Is God enough?

YES.

Will He provide? Yes.
Can He soothe any hurt I cause or receive? Yes.
Does He infuse my words with His power? If I let Him.
Did He create me? Yes.
Does He sustain me? Yes.

God is mighty, powerful, living, loving, compassionate, omnipotent, creative, saving, redeeming, wise, perfect.

He is enough.

We were meant to worship God. Did I do that today? It’s enough. I have a purpose. It’s enough.

I’m enough… because God is enough.

Robins don’t worry about hurting anyone. They don’t wonder if they are enough. They just do what they were put on this earth to do. They rest in the provision of their Creator. And that rest is worship.

So, I’ll do what I’m meant to do. I breathe. I praise God. I live. I rest. I love. I bring my offering: I let the words flow, take a ragged breath, click “publish”… and go outside to watch a robin.

“Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.”- Ezra 3:3

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”- Matthew 6:26

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Dams

I want to find the right words. How can I when I’m not even sure I know what’s in my heart?

It feels a little flooded in there.

I wish my words flowed easily… but dams don’t break evenly.

I built this dam for protection. I’m not even sure I knew I was doing it. It served me for awhile… or so I told myself.

But the protection of anything other than God is an illusion.

I built this dam so I could live. Life outside of it felt a bit too hard. I told myself I was living… but the truth is, I was dying.

Beaver dams encourage nourishment to come and stay awhile.

That’s not how human heart dams work. Eventually we starve for community and drown in unshed tears.

Isn’t it just like me to learn lessons in the most difficult way?

Dammed-up ponds are home, solace, refuge for beavers.

Thanks be to God, I don’t need any of those. He is my refuge. He leads me beside still waters.

I no longer need this dam. Truthfully, I never did. Sometimes lessons are learned in the strangest of ways.

So, I break…

Maybe I start by pulling out just one piece at a time… you know, to test the waters a little.

Water doesn’t musically glide out of a dam at first. Sometimes it spews with such force we think we may drown. We won’t.

Sometimes it trickles or drips so infrequently that we think maybe we’re drying up. We aren’t.

Sometimes it trips and spurts over leftover pieces of a dammed-up heart. I think that’s more than okay.

We may think we’re babbling… but doesn’t a brook with rocks breaking up the water sing more beautifully?

I have to believe that God enjoys words sloshing out of a ragged heart just as much as those pouring rhythmically out of a heart that long ago burst its walls.

Both are captivating music to his ears…

Both fill His heart with love…

And isn’t it pure lavishness that His overflowing love pours right back into us…

To nourish us…

To protect us…

To overflow us back into Him.

Flow on, little brook. Broken pieces of a heart never get in the way. And sometimes, if we listen really closely, we’ll hear what God hears…

An offering poured over the altar we built with the rubble of our dams.

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