Category Archives: Faith

Truth To Cling To

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O Lord, You have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from Your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there Your hand shall lead me,
and Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the lights about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to You;
the nights is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with You.

For You formed my inward parts;
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your woks;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was not one.

How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake and I am still with You.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
See if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
———-
Thus says The Lord who made the earth,
The Lord who formed it to establish it –
The Lord is His Name:
Call to Me and I will answer you,
and tell you great and wondrous things you do not know.
———-
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 a hope and a future.
Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me,
and I will hear You.
You will seek Me and find Me
when you seek Me with all your heart.
———-
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, The Lord,
the Creator of the ends of the earth
does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
and to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
and vigorous men stumble and fall,
Yes those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength;
They will mount up with wings as eagles,
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not be faint.
———-
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Surely I will help you.
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
———-
Thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
and He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear for I have redeemed you;
I have called you.
You are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be set ablaze,
nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24
Jeremiah 33:2-3; 29:11-13
Isaiah 40:28-31; 41:10; 43:1-3a

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Filed under Bible Studies, Faith, God, Thoughts, Worship

Pray For Joanna

Some families touch you for a season, others impact you for a lifetime. For me, the Dennstaedts are the latter kind.

IMG_0610.JPG(Photo credit: Jensen Photography)

Throughout middle and high school, the Dennstaedts were like second family to me. Kevin and I were class mates, Brian was the big brother I never had, and Jenna and my sister were two peas-in-a-pod. Through the challenges surrounding my high school years, Miss Shirley and Mr John welcomed me into their hearts as their home became a frequent refuge. Truth be told, I’m not sure I could have made it through that season without their friendship, their love, their example and prayers. Time and distance has taken us all down different paths and to different states, yet their family remains dear to my heart.

Now its time to pour love, support and prayer back to them!

Kevin’s wife, Joanna, is a remarkable mother of 4, lacrosse coach, and all-around lovely woman. Hers is a life marked by faith and kindness. Just over a month ago, her world changed as a simple mole turned out to be malignant melanoma which metastasized to her lymph system. Today she’s under the knife for an aggressive groin lymph surgery – a procedure carrying significant consequences depending on what the surgeons find.

Would you please join me in praying for and supporting this family? I can attest firsthand that they have spent their lives loving Jesus and serving others well.

Pray for wisdom and skill for her surgeons.
Pray for peace to envelope Kevin and their four children as they wait for the surgery’s results.
Pray for strength and healing for Joanna as the recovery process is extensive.
And PLEASE pray that there would be No Evidence of Disease in Joanna. For complete healing.

I know from personal experience the tremendous support that can come via the blogosphere, from friends and strangers alike. Let’s surround this family with love as they walk cancer’s uncertain road.

You can follow their family’s journey at DennstaedtFamily.blogspot.com.

IMG_0609-0.JPG(Photo credit: Jensen Photography)

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Filed under Faith, Friends, Prayer Requests

Fog Of Failure

She set out to conquer her morning run.  Shoes laced, water bottle in hand, her body stretched and fueled. The familiar path brimmed with potential. 3…2…1… Run!

No stranger to the road, this experienced runner girded herself for the task ahead.  Hills.  Turns.  The mental struggle to keep going right before that euphoric “runner’s high”.  Nothing seemed to phase her focus and stride. She was ready!

But then the fog set in.

imageOut of nowhere dense clouds descended upon her path. Her surroundings faded like intricate stones beneath snow – all detail, all guiding markers lost in a blanket of white. She’d run this path so many times before undaunted through rain, wind, blinding sun, and fading light. But as the fog fell thick, her stride slowed to a timid stroll. All experience, all previous runs faded like her surroundings as her bearings blurred to gray. Though she could not hold the fog in her hands, its presence surrounded her to a stop.  Which path to take?  Which direction to run?  Where am I going?  Where am I now?!  Frozen.

Whether we’re runners or not, we’ve all faced this similar dilemma. Course set, skills honed, yet become wary of taking the next step ahead.

When the fog of failure falls, how quickly courage fades.

Perhaps its a familiar road. Perhaps its a new trail. Perhaps its a path long traveled, preparations years in the making. When failure rears its loathsome head, everything goes gray. The fog of failure can render us lost, afraid, immobile.

What if it happens again?
What if you fail?
Remember when they betrayed you? How can you trust again?
Don’t get your hopes up. Remember when…
Do you honestly think you’ll get it right this time?
You can’t. You can’t. You can’t.
Failure……

Failure immobilizes like a fog. But thanks be to God who shines in our darkness, who lights our path! (Psalm 119:105) Like a ship lost at sea, the Truth of God’s Word and character will give us our bearings, guiding us safely to our destination. It may be slow going for a time but we need not be frozen in the fog. He has given us mileposts, markings, lights to guide our way out through.

What if it happens again?
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8)
What if you fail?
“My grace is sufficient for all your needs for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:)
Remember when they betrayed you? How can you trust again?
“For there is a Friend (speaking of Jesus) who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
Don’t get your hopes up. Remember that past pain?
“”We rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Do you honestly think you’ll get it right this time?
“I lift my eyes to the hills from whence does my help come? My help comes from The Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121:1-3)
You can’t.
“For I am The Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.'” (Isaiah 41:13)
Failure.
“The Lord is my light and my salvations – whom shall I rfear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear, though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will life me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:1, 3, 5)

Failures fog will fall. Rather than freezing in fear, we can fix our eyes on the unchanging One who stands strong, His faithfulness sure as the coming dawn. The going may be slow but with our focus set on the Light that shines in the darkness (and the darkness CANNOT put it out), we can navigate through the fog back to clear skies and full strides.

Keep moving forward, Beloved. You are not forsaken.

You are not a failure.

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Filed under Faith, God, Running, Thoughts

Taking Stock

This week has taught me a simple yet profound truth: familiarity can blind.

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Twice a year, the NC State Fairgrounds fills with the gianormous Kids Exchange Consignment Sale. Thousands come to sell their used goods from kids clothing to computer systems, books to bikes, furniture to furbies. Run like clockwork, this huge sale brings an awesome opportunity for families to sell outgrown items and purchase others for a fraction of store costs.

I’ve attended this sale in years past but this time around, I decided it was time to purge our house of everything outgrown. As the gathering began, something caught me off guard to a stagering, humblingly degree.

In a culture of excess, I confess how easily I fall into the lie of lack. Comparisons, complaints, kids growing faster than my clothing budget. Without due diligence the slide into dissatisfaction grows slippery and steep. Like quicksand, the more I see, the more I want, the more others have, the more I feel I lack. Ugh. ‘Tis a dangerous cycle.

But as I sat amongst boxes and boxes and boxes of my children’s used clothes, reality reduced me to tears. I’ve been surrounded by this striking evidence of God’s tangible provision yet its familiarity blinded me. God has truly taken care of our family!

“My God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

What amazed me most was the sheer amount of clothes from the seasons when we had stepped out in faith, leaving a salaried/benefits job to start a business, when we had to completely trust God for every new student, new client, new child born. It was from the seasons of smallest income that the tallest piles of clothes stood.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

As I sorted this massive collection of clothes, memories overwhelmed me as the majority of items had been gifts. Memories of kind strangers, generous friends and unexpected finds flooded my mind. God truly had provided for our little family. He not only clothed my kids – He clothed them in style! This evidence of grace had sat unnoticed in my home for years. It wasn’t until I stopped to take stock of it all that I saw clearly.

God has been faithful.
God will remain faithful.
God can be trusted with the needs of today and tomorrow as I hold evidence of yesterday’s provision in grateful hands.

Familiarity blinds. Stop and take stock today of all He has already done, already provided, already shown Himself faithful and strong. You’ll be amazed by the treasure trove of blessings already in your grasp.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:25-33

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Filed under Comparison, Faith, Generosity, God, Motherhood, Struggles

Anchored

This may surprise you. It certainly surprised me. You’d think after nearly 5 years, the truth would have sunken in by now. But my eyes opened wide this week to new knowledge of myself, a perspective I’ve long yet unknowingly carried deep. Watching my children run strong and bubble over with laughter, it struck me as never before.

Eliana and Evan are growing up.
They’re alive!
And I’m.
Completely.
Shocked.

In an instant fear and wonderment collided as my children’s growth hit me afresh. As if scales had fallen from my eyes, I saw my children as the little man and young lady they’ve become and the babies they will never be again. Sounds odd, I know. But in awe I watched them converse like little adults, laugh at each other’s jokes and console their sibling’s occasional boo-boos. They’re growing up.

They’re still here.

Loss lingers long past its welcome, tucking itself down deep to rear its worrisome head when you’d least expect. Startling defenses, it stalls progress and silences hopes at their onset. Like the rolling tide, you may jump over the first big wave but if you don’t continue forward, the aftertide will quickly follow. You’ll still get wet. You’ll still feel its pull.

Loss leaves you changed. No matter if its death or disease or disappointment, loss is loss is loss. By His grace and faithfulness, God has bound broken heartstrings, cradled my woes and shone hope into darkened places of my soul. But I realized stark this week that the tides had continued to roll deep within long past its initial breakers. I never fully believed these days would come and had braced my inner depths for the assumed “worst” to follow.

Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I fear it
Prone to leave the God I love
Take my heart, Lord
Take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

As the tide of truth rolled in, realization reduced me to confession. Confession of walls built within from loss that in turn had inflicted loss – they had held me captive from fully enjoying each gift of today, from fully committing to daily now of my children, from dreaming of days to come.

Loss has marked me. Its tide will ebb and flow until my breath fails and pulse stills. BUT. Truth understood renders choice. Every fearful impulse, every braced breath, carries on its back the choice to succumb OR to offer it full to the only One with grace enough to make it through. Loss acknowledged can breed gratitude and faith-filled trust in the One who bore our griefs, who carried our sorrows to Calvary. Its a journey. A most humbling journey. But one worth traveling. As we offer our fears into trustworthy Hands with honest confession and resolve to see through grateful eyes, hope sinks down deep. Amidst the turbulent tides of this worrisome world, we can cling to our Anchor, firm and secure. Sure as the rising dawn, the hope found alone in Jesus will always hold fast and true.

My children grow before my eyes. I breathe deep in gratitude, trusting their tomorrows to the One who has renewed my hope today.

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Thank You, Jesus, for all You’ve redeemed. Thank You for loving every wounded place, for pursuing every fear-built wall with love strong enough to breech boulders. Thank You for grace to see beauty in ashen spaces, for joy in mourning’s place, for patience while we learn to trust You. Thank You for redeeming what You allow. Thank You for all my children. You have taught me much through them with lessons more in store. I am grateful.

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Filed under Eliana, Evan, Faith, God, Isaac, Motherhood, Struggles, Thoughts

Lessons From The Blueberry Patch

imageSummer finds me bent low often, stooped in search of something sweet. Tiny treasures hidden in foliage green. Gathering bites of blue has become a welcomed habit, gleaning far more than berries in a bowl. The yield of lessons has surprised me.

My mom, or Maima as my children call her, is an avid gardener. Since childhood, she has nurtured life and beauty all around her, creating lovely homes and providing for those within. Lining her backyard is a delicious hedge of blueberry bushes, three gleaning berries through June and three bearing fruit through the end of July. What a scrumptious sight! Her estimate of thousands of berries adorning the branches was no overstatement. Nearly a gallon-sized basket fills every few days with plump blues. Every year since their planting, these bushes have produced exponentially more berries than the year prior. Their first harvest was sparse, the berries somewhat sour. But rains came, Maima pruned and nurtured, God brought the growth.blueberry

While gathering today’s harvest, I sensed the Lord near. He who breathed life into creation, who began all things within a garden, dealt truth to me through my simple task: picking ripe blueberries. His voice came inaudibly, more as a stirring within, nudging my heart by truth reflected consistent in Scripture.

“You see,” I sensed Him say, “these bushes did not stop growing nor producing fruit based on comparison. They did not grow discouraged when their first berries weren’t just right. They simply kept doing what I created them to do: be fruitful. They’ve grown sweeter with time, more plentiful each passing year. Had they ceased to bear fruit, they would have been pruned, cut off, disposed of. But they bore down – against winds, through rain, enduring snow, standing against heat. They simply persevered.”

Another handful of dark delectable dropped into the bucket. I wedged through the densely fruitful branches, not wanting to miss a berry. Again He nudged.

“Do you see these? Shriveled and hard? They once were ripe, sweet and plump. But they were never harvested so their sweetness was wasted. Some remain stuck in place while others fall to the ground, slowly rotting away. Had the gardener come in time, they too could have been enjoyed.”

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A still breeze blew through the air and my soul, quieting all around.

“My child, you are this blueberry patch. I have planted you with intention, creating you with purpose. Your job is not to pull back based on a less-than-perfect outcome nor grow discouraged with early sparse harvests. Your job is to keep on, to grow deep roots, to do what I’ve created you for and trust the outcome to Me. Maturing comes with time. Be fruitful with what you’ve got now. It will grow sweeter, more plentiful as you endure.”

“My child, you are the gardener. Realizing the berries at their ripe potential keeps the bushes strong, feeds your family and provides enjoyment to those you share your harvest with. But when you neglect to gather what I have brought forth – your talents, your gifts, the opportunities I bring – then they shrivel like these hardened berries, once plump with potential now dropped to the ground. Don’t miss what I have for you nor neglect the harvest for fear of failure, of imperfection. If you never picked a berry from worrying that it may not be the sweetest, you’d miss out terribly and the bush would go to ruin.”

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“But oh my child, how great is My grace! Even those berries fallen to the ground can nourish the soil. Be not discouraged. Learn. Grow. Reap the harvest I have planted and TRUST ME with the outcome. I am the Great Gardener.”

Today I came to the blueberry patch to gather fruit but left with so much more. Oh how sweet the harvest!

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Filed under Faith, God, Lessons from the Garden, Patience, Thoughts

Blindsided

20140626-232500.jpgLife can jolt you sometimes. Jolt you so hard from your bearings that the world around seems spinning and you can barely catch your breath.

Perhaps its a diagnosis. A phone call. A freak accident. An unexpected complication. A conversation. A change of someone’s heart. A death.

Sometimes your journey from mountain high to valley low feels more like being blindsided with mactruck force that sends you tumbling with ferocious speed to the depths below. When the wind gets unalterablly knocked from you, when well-laid plans become nothing more than memories, when your life’s trajectory shifts forever by circumstances beyond your control, what do you do? How do you cope? How do you even breathe?

There is pain. There is heartache. At times even despair. My path has shifted unchangably multiple times throughout my life by things beyond my control. Family changes. Job changes. Deaths and diagnoses. Hopes dashed and dreams deferred. I’ve seen such shifts occur in the lives of loved ones and those known at a distance. The struggle is real! Questions, cries, tears when they can’t be held back any longer. What do we do with this?!

Breathe.

Cry with honesty and reverence to the God who is WITH YOU moment by moment of this awful, painful, terrifying mess you never asked for and prayed would never happen.

Breathe.

Beloved, even now – in the confusion, in the fear, in the pain – He holds you with love in His eyes and unfailing strength in His tender grip with desires for your good saturating His heart. God is the ultimate Author and sole Redeemer of things allowed through His sovreign hand. He is writing your story to stretch far wider and richer than anything you could have dreamed, drawing you to lean fully on Him because after all, He is the only One with strength enough to carry us through. He bestows significance on our stories.

Breathe.

I’ve seen God turn mourning into joy.
I’ve seen Him bring beauty, hope and blessing from barrenness.
I’ve seen God knit together the fractured, the demolished, the destitute into creations more beautiful and strong than anything they could have been if they had remained whole.
I’ve seen Him take diagnoses cloaked with despair and make them stories of strength and impact, taking small life plans and stretching one’s touch round the globe.
I’ve seen His love resurrect dead hearts.
I’ve seen His grace make formidable the weak.
I’ve seen His faithfulness mend the unmendable.
I’ve seen God breathe new life where all hope was lost.
I’ve seen Him turn blindsiding tragedies into awe-inspiring victories, tragectories, powerful testimonies.

Over and again since the beginning of time, God has been finding the lost things, the broken things, the dead things with a fervent, seeking love that names them precious, significant, His.

I know because I’ve not merely observed; I have tasted and seen firsthand that the Lord in fact is good.

Hang on, weary one. You are not forsaken. You are not forgotten. You are being held this very moment by the One who holds all things together. Breathe. Cry. And trust what is True: He who began a GOOD work in you WILL BE FAITHFUL to complete it.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:14

“As for you, you meant evil against me but God meant it for good…” Genesis 50:20

“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, ” It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3

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