Refuge



Yet another snow storm strikes. Everyone I know is sick of snow, shoveling and poor road conditions. When I’m out in a storm, I just want to get home. There is something about home that calls to me when I’m away. That calling multiplies when storms hit. I want to get to where I’m safe, warm and protected. It’s my place of refuge, but it’s just a building.

Refuge is a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble. It is something I seek in when storms hit. I want shelter and safety. It can be a building, but I can’t take it with me. I have to go out. I have to leave my place of comfort and safety. I have another source of refuge that never leaves me. I want that sense of comfort no matter where I am or what I face. God is that source of refuge that I can seek at any time.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1-3 NIV).

You, God, are my refuge and strength. You are where I run when Iife is hard. You are where I turn for comfort. You are the source of peace in my heart. You are the calm in my storms. You are always with me even in the midst of life’s turbulence.

As I seek to restore my heart and calm anxieties, You are with me. As I face difficult memories from my childhood, You bring me comfort. As I explore the choices of a young girl trying to make sense of the senseless, You push away the fear.

Why would You hold me up when I want to crumble to the floor? Why do You wipe the tears off my face? Why do you bring strength when I feel so weak? Why, because You always keep your promises. You want me to share those promises with others. You want to be everyone’s refuge in the storm.

Where do you go in a storm? How has God been a refuge for you? Share your story here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

I Believe in You

I hear the bedroom door open. I hear the deep rumble of his voice. My heart starts to pound. I want to run in and rescue. I try to calm myself down, but the feeling of weight on my chest continues to grow. My logical brain knows that I am safe and that everything is okay. My body, however, is responding to what it thinks is an imminent threat. My body is in a state of fear and wants to run. I know that hearing actual words and not just the tone of voice helps, so I mute the TV. I hear, “I believe in you, I believe in you.

In 20 plus years of marriage, I have never been given a reason to think that someone would get hurt. Thankfull, my wonderful hubby understands that this fear and anxiety comes from a little girl within me who would hear that tone of voice and know it meant someone was going to get hurt.

When I heard him say, “I believe in you, ” I began to cry. The disconnect between my cognitive/logical brain and my body’s visceral response has finally become too much to fix on my own. Not only was my husband telling my son, “I believe in you,” but I also heard it as God saying, “I believe in you.”

“One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered. (Hebrews 12:17 MSG.)

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9 NIV).

As God has been encouraging me to deal with these fears, I have held on to scripures like these. God promises to clean out this historical junk and He promises to be with me every step of the way. Taking these steps have come with reluctance, fear, and anxiousness. Deep inside is this little light filled with hope. A light that knows what God can and will do for his beloved. I have often said that there is nothing special about me and yet He brings me through these challenges everytime without fail. I have hope that this time will be the same.

Do you need to hear God say, “I believe in you?” Listen carefully, He is.

What are you facing that God is bringing you through? How is he molding your heart? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

A New Path


I was headed down a path. It seemed like the right path to be on. It was predictable. I didn’t like everything on the path, but it felt normal. I got used to moments of anxiety and fear. They didn’t happen very often, but they were there. I needed a new path.

I, of course, thought I could fix myself. I tried different techniques from EFT (tapping) to meditation to calm the fears, to feel safe. They helped. Acute anxiety and fear would diminish, but a low level of anxiety and fear became ever present. It became more easily triggered. A mere tone of voice could put me over the edge into panic.

Why would I panic? What was it about a tone of voice? It had nothing to do with the present moment. It had to do with my childhood and a dad who could be very angry, excessivly angry. The little girl who witnessed that level of anger has heightened fight, flight or freeze system.

God’s been reminding me that I don’t have to do this alone, and that I could be rid of this faster with help. I’m not good at asking for help. It’s even harder to admit I need help. It’s easy to direct others to proper care, yet I still resist it for myself. Even sharing this here has been a wrestling match. God reminds me there is healing in sharing, there is healing in a new path.

28-29 Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire! (Hebrews 12:28-29 MSG).

This is the scripture God brought me to when this journey started. He is not an indifferent bystander. He cares about my fears and anxiety. He wants me to feel safe. He has brought me to a new treatment/therapy. It’s time for me to get back to work on me. It is hard. I didn’t want to be in this place again. But, I know He keeps His promises! I know the joy and freedom that comes from doing the work. I so look forward to feeling restored again. I am ready to embrace a new path.

Trusting God can be a difficult leap for some of us. Sometimes He asks us to engage in something that feels too hard. Emotional wellbeing effects every aspect of our lives and He is committed to helping us clean our inner house. I’m reminded how hard it is to take the leap and humbled to share it with others. Here I go again :0)

What are you ignoring within yourself? Is God calling you to an inner house cleaning? Are you struggling to say yes to the work? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Never Alone

We all want to go where everybody knows our names. We want to feel loved and cared for. We want to know we matter to others. There are so many times in life when we feel alone, or that no one understands our pain. The truth is we are never alone. 

It’s easy for the stresses in life to leave us feeling isolated and alone even with people around us. When this happens to me, I tend to pull away rather than reach out. I tend to retreat into my head making to do lists and fixing all the problems around me. I don’t speak them out loud. Sometimes they come out sideways at my kids and hubby. Sometimes I let small fractions of what I’m feeling out just enough to keep the pressure under control.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121: 1-8 NIV).

This scripture grounds me. It reminds me that God is with me even when I try to isololate myself. God is with me when I retreat into my thoughts. He reminds me that I am never alone. He watches over me and is my shade. He even reminds me that keeping it in and isolating myslef is not a healthy way to handle the stress.

There is comfort in knowing He’s there even when I feel alone. There is comfort in knowing that He is paving a way through the stress. There is comfort in knowing that when I retreat, He pulls me forward. I am never alone.

What do you do when you feel alone, stressed and wanting to retreat? Where does your comfort come from? Do you know that you are never alone? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Deceived

The weather has packed quite a punch these last couple of weeks in Minnesota. We have gone from record breaking cold temperatures to accumulating about 10 inches of snow over a couple of days. Traveling on the roads has been treacherous and not advised. It’s easy to be deceived. However, a girl cannot miss a haircut appointment.

I headed out after a six inch dumping of snow ready to be patient and go slow. My rig handles winter roads pretty well, so I was confident of a safe arrival to my destination 12 miles from my house. Part of the journey was on a divided highway. I gingerly took the exit and slowly accelerated. I was impressed with the road conditions. They were remarkably clear. I was certain I was on dry pavement. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I came up on a large truck that had spun 180 degrees into the ditch. Even though I wasn’t traveling at a high speed, I took my foot off the gas. All I could think was, “How did that happen?” As I was coasting, I could tell I was gaining on the car in front of me. While there was still plenty of room, I gently tapped my breaks to slow down further. The antilock system instantly kicked in and the vehicle started to shift slightly, side to side. Holy crud, I was on glare ice.

I have been driving on crummy winter roads for decades and never have I been so deceived. My heart was pounding as I continued to gain on the car in front of me. Due to a car in the left lane, I had to tap my breaks one more time before being able to move over and coast past the car I had been approaching.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvationand the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Galatians 6: 10-18 NIV).

We never know when life is going to throw us icy roads. We need the proper tools and preparation to handle it just as keeping the armor of God allows me to have the tools to be prepared to navigate life, to see deception, and have hope in the face of all things.

It is easy to be deceived. How do you stay prepared? What kind of armor do you use? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Frozen

Minnesota has recently experienced a deep freeze. We are used to cold and snow in the winter, but we have achieved new extremes. As I write this it is -25 degrees, and when you factor in the windchill it feels like -51. That is an absurd level of cold. Schools have been cancelled for today and tomorrow. Business have closed, and even mail service is cancelled for tomorrow. Time has frozen.

Earlier two fawns made their way into the backyard sniffing around for fallen crab apples in the snow. Days like this, when everything comes to a halt, gives me time and space to reflect and what matters most. We have acquired four additional teenage boys for the night which brings strange noises and much laughter. Hubby and I have had time to just sit together. Even though the need to get work done is still there, the pace is slower. Time has frozen.

Most days, time moves at lightening speed. Work, school, church, more work fill the days leaving me to wonder where to fit in family and friends. Where do I put what is most important in life? How do I get it off the bottom of the “to do” list? Why is it even on the “to do” list? How do I focus on what God wants me to focus on? I needed today to remind me of this scripture, of what is most important. Time has frozen.

7-11 Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes! (1 Peter 4:7-11 MSG).

It took the world around me to literally freeze and suspend time into slow motion to think through what love looks like in my life. It took suspended time to remember love is cultivated by being together in intentional ways. How do I keep this at the center when time leaves this suspended state and returns to its frantic pace? Keeping prayer and devotion time at the top of the list always works for me. Allowing God to order my days rather than the “to do” list never fails. God’s bright presence becomes evident in everything. Communing with those I love takes place without effort. Being frozen has recommitted me to time with God each day to be able to do what matters most.

How do you stay focused on what matters most? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Decision Time

Some decisions come easily others take significant contemplation and investigation. I have been shopping for carpet recently. It was my husband’s idea, but once he pushed go, I was off and running. I love redecorating a room in the house. The problem is we have different ideas on what is appealing and what the budget should be.

We went shopping together, once. We didn’t agree on anything. In his wisdom, he decided I could make the call on the look of the carpet. I had found one that I thought accommodated what each of us liked. We had the space measured, and then the quote came in. I had grossly underestimated the square footage needed to cover the space. There went the budget.

It was decision time. My husband was ready to put everything on the back burner stating, “We don’t have to do this right now.” While there is truth in that, I was now excited for the change. Anybody who has been to our house knows how badly we need new carpet. So, I did some further research. Learned more about carpet, and found an acceptable alternative to my first choice. It’s 50% closer to the original budget, and closer to my husbands first choice in style. I’m feeling like this is a good compromise. He hasn’t decided, yet.

I always take tough decisions to God. I pray and wait for the peace that comes when I know its decision time. My heart becomes calm and knows what it right. As I struggle with patience waiting for my husband to decide, I also struggle with patience with God when the answer doesn’t come as quickly as I would like.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17 ESV)

When I don’t have that sense of peace, I wait for God to bring a clear answer. Often waiting for clear guidence isn’t difficult. When months or years begin to pass waiting becomes a challenge. I want to push my way through. I want to trust that His timing is perfect. Then I go back to wanting the decision now. Sometimes, I even throw out ultimatums to God. In the end, I wait for pure, gentle, peace that comes from Him.

I’m not waiting for peace on the carpet just hubby’s okay, but there are other significant decisions that I am waiting for that peace before making the leap. One of those is over two years in the waiting. I still push, but in the end I wait.

What do you do when it’s decision time?  How do you know what is the right decision? Do you experience that sense of peace? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Values

I was reading Dare to Lead  by Brene Brown and she described this values exercise. She took a list of values that was three columns on a page. Words like kindness, generosity, love, respect, and accountablilty filled the page. According to Brown to really know what you value, you had to get down to two primary values. This sounded hard but worthwhile.

I was teaching a leadership class at the time, so it was perfect for us to do together. I gave them each the list, and instructed them to highlight their top values, but no more than 10. They could also right in anything they felt was missing from the list. Once we had our top values, I said we had to narrow it down to two. Any more than that and we aren’t leading from our values. I was doing it with them except I had been pondering the list for a week wrestling with those values.

One student wanted two for work and two for family. I said no. We each had to come up with two that would be our primary values to lead out of for the coming year. They were frustrated and challenged, but together we got there.

I landed on wellbeing and dignity. I chose wellbeing because it encompasses a sense of wholeness in body, mind, and spirit. It includes everything from physical health to relational health. If I am whole and taking care of my wellbeing, I am a better person to others. I handle stress and conflict with God at the center rather than me at the center.

I chose dignity because I always want others to know their value. I want to be aware of how I interact with those whom I don’t know personally. I want to examine biases and judgements through the eyes of Christ.

17 Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. 18 You who are servants, be good servants to your masters – not just to good masters, but also to bad ones.19 What counts is that you put up with it for God’s sake when you’re treated badly for no good reason. 20 There’s no particular virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you’re treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God. 21 This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. (1 Peter 2: 17-21 MSG).

There is nothing perfect about the values I have chosen to lead out of for the year. Setting these values as my priority for the year is what matters. It allows me to focus on aspects of the life of Christ that I want to grow in.

What values are you leading out of this year? How are they focusing you on Christ? Share your values here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Breaking Dishes & Freedom

Broken-Plate

In honor of the 6 year anniversary of this blog, I am reposting the the post from year one that continues to be the most read post every year. Thank you God for your continued faithfulness to this blog-6 years running.

Breaking dishes…just one or an entire kitchen’s worth; at some point all of us have been angry or frustrated to the point of wanting to throw something. Admit it. It’s true. I know I have wanted break things. Maybe it was an injustice or deep wound that kept resurfacing that brought it on. I know what you are thinking, “I can’t go around breaking dishes, I’d have to clean up the mess,” or “that’s not a proper way to deal with anger,” or “it won’t change anything.”  But, in our hearts, we think it would feel good to cut loose and shatter a plate… or three.

This topic came up one night with a group I facilitate for women who are victims of sexual abuse and assault. These women wanted to break some dishes!  It is easy to see how these deep wounds can bring about extreme anger to the point of wanting to throw something.  They didn’t just want to throw something but they wanted to see it shatter.  Anger and pain had been building for years and they saw this as a way to let it out.

What these courageous women really wanted was freedom, freedom from the pain, anger, and resentment that had been building rather than diminishing over time. Freedom begins by understanding what is at the core of the pain.  Once we know what is at the core such as fear, shame, or unworthiness then we can declare our freedom in Christ and allow Him to enter in and set us free.

 1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1 NIV).

So, what would breaking dishes get us really? Freedom. Huh? Yep, that’s right, freedom. Oh we broke dishes, but with a twist. One night I surprised them with a box full of old dishes and a tarp. As we stood in front of the brick wall outside the church, I told them this was a celebration.  I told them that for each plate they broke they had to declare what part of their life was now free through Christ.  The shattering pieces represented what they had broken free from in their life.  They shattered the enemy, shame, fear, unworthiness and so much more.  When that first plate hit the wall there was an overwhelming wave of release followed by cheers and tears of joy. It was a Holy Spirit moment. Yes, it was symbolic, but God met us there as they declared their freedom and shattered their yokes to slavery.

It is His desire to set us all free; free from the dirt we carry like shame and unworthiness. It is available to all of us. So, invite God to join you as you declare your freedom and go break some dishes. What does God want to release in you? What new freedom are you declaring? Share it here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

Significance

Photo by Dana Bartheld

Significance, a word I heard several months ago, and has been stirring around in my heart since. It is something I want, however it means so much more to me today than it did as a young adult. In my younger days, significance was about the right job, position, authority, responsibility. It was about power over others. It was about others seeing me as someone significant. Now its meaning is very different.

When I look at scripture and the life Jesus lead, significance changes. Jesus shows me that it comes through a deep and personal sense of meaning and commitment to others. It begins with that sense of meaning that comes through a relationship with God. Then, it becomes about strengthening relationships with others. It becomes about being present with others in their mess. It becomes about showing up for others when they need you but can’t ask for it.

Significance becomes small. It is seeing others as more than myself. It is being willing to serve in insignificant ways to build others up. It’s doing the laundry, cleaning the bathroom or running the vacuum for someone else. It’s holding the door, a kind word and a reassuring smile. It’s reminding others of their value.

Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, (Philipians 2:2-5 ESV).

But in humility count others as more significant than myself; that is where I will find significance. It comes from a sense of deep contentment through Christ. I want a sense of significance in my life. I need to adjust my purpose to the small things that bring value to those around me. This will come through focusing on others and focusing on God.

How do you define significance? Is it something you are looking for? What are you doing to create significance within yourself or others? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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