Where Shore Meets the Sea

I hold on to things. I’m by no means a hoarder, but I definitely still have “Babs”, the stuffed-dog I got when I was two. (And I definitely still sleep with her, my husband has accepted this.) I hold on to memories and love and pain all the same. Like stepping away from relationships. All of those years I held knuckle-white tight. And learning to be independent and who I am as this person God created. If we let them, people will shape us into a shadow of ourselves, and when they leave we can’t recognize our own reflections. Sometimes we have moments where we have to choose whether to remain stuck in the waiting for change to hopefully come or we have to take the leap to reach change now.

I get lost in my own mind sometimes and relive moments with my grandma, I still have her number saved in my phone as if I could call her whenever I want to. I get lost in her memory and her goodness and her love for Jesus. I wish she could see me loving Him, too, the way she always prayed I would. I remember the night she made her way to Heaven and I wasn’t sure how any of us would continue to live. How would we make it without her? But tomorrow came and we had to choose to move with it. I’m so thankful I finally chose to move with it.

We walked down the beach tonight and there was a young boy with his mother, and I think of my child. I think of the way his memory used to be shut away, too painful, always taunting by the enemy. And I think of the way God has redeemed it, so beautiful, so thankful I can talk about it. He would be big enough to run alone and play in the ocean and laugh and talk with me about who knows what. It hurts for a moment but I think of Heaven immediately and the setting sun behind us. And I smile. I’m full of joy in heart at the thought. How much greater is it all on his side of Heaven?

And a year ago I couldn’t face this. The pain of growth and releasing of hands and moving forward. But sometimes God works in our time, when it comes to matters of the heart. He doesn’t rush our wounds to heal and He doesn’t push us when we aren’t ready. Because He knows it’s not easy being us. He came down on earth as one of us. He knows life can be ugly and burdens can be heavy and this bed seems far too safe compared to the world outside of our window. He knows people die and fathers leave and relationships end. He knows results come back a devastatingly positive and the rain seems never-ending. And so he doesn’t push us, but encourages us, that yes, the pain in your heart may be overwhelming some days but there is a sunset over the ocean painted just for you that he doesn’t want you to miss. Just a sunset over the ocean that can help our feet to move forward, even if it’s just one small step at a time.

And what’s on the other side of moving forward has been so worth getting out of bed. So worth the releasing of hands. So worth all-in trusting Jesus. So I will leave my pains right here, where the shore meets the sea. I will let it wash away with each wave. Because although there is pain, God is still good, the sunset is still so beautiful, and Heaven is surely worth it all.

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It’s Okay to Stay

I thought by now maybe we’d be somewhere new. Somewhere broke down on the side of the road in the motor home we bought three years ago that’s now probably been sold a time or two since we sold it last fall. I’ve spent time wondering maybe if I didn’t miss some turns then maybe we’d be somewhere far from here by now. But we’re still here, in our hometown.

Sometimes you’re called away but sometimes you’re called to stay. Just stay. And when you’re gone from everything, all that you know, in a new town and new faces, new street signs and stop lights, it takes all that you have to be brave. Brave to step on the new sidewalk outside of your new house. Brave to re-memorize where the closest Tim Horton’s is on the corner (you pray to God there’s a Tim Horton’s). Brave to say hello to new faces. To start over again. And that’s always viewed as honorable. You’ve made it, right? Getting out of your hometown. But sometimes you’re asked to stay. Stay planted in the familiar. You don’t have to use that old GPS in the center counsel because you’ve drove down Michigan Avenue a million times or two since you were a kid. Seeing a familiar face every time you go to the store and it all feels like home. A different memory at every red light floods your mind as your car comes to a stop. When did it become such a bad thing to say you’ve lived here all your life? When did it get written in the rules that we have to leave in order to really have lived? Sometimes life’s missed when we’re so busy saving up for the next bus ticket out. 

Yes, it can be brave to leave, to start over where nobody knows your name, but it also takes courage when we are asked to stay. Invest love and life right where your roots are planted. In the familiar. In the faces who already know you. What you have done in your past and the mistakes you have made. It’s brave to to pick up and start again, right where you are. 

Sometimes we’re asked to pack up our things and invest in a new place. But sometimes we’re asked to just stay.

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Fear is a Liar

When was a time you felt most scared? What was it over? How much did you allow that fear to dictate your life? Did you triumph over it or are you still allowing fear to whisper lies to you in the dark?

Fear is a liar, and if we accept these lies we remain chained to it. I won’t forget the way these lies slowly crept into my mind. The fear of being honest about who I am and the path I have walked took over my life so much that I shut off and shut down. I believed that there was no way I could be honest about how I felt or that I could be my true self, because fear told me it was absolutely impossible. Fear told me that everything I’ve ever done in my past was too ugly, and too unforgivable, that no one would understand. Fear took away my self-worth. Fear took away my potential. Fear took away my voice. The enemy oppressed me with so much fear because he feared who I was created to be. His mission was to paralyze me in this fear, and I believed him when he said, “This is it. This is all God has for you.” A life of a shell of myself and that God could never use me because of my past. I believed fear when it said that I could not overcome. I believed fear when it said that healing is too hard, and that a life lived out for The Lord was not possible for me. I was listening to fears loud voice so much that it tuned out The Lords still, small voice telling me I am. I can. I will. Fear began to scream louder in my face the more God spoke gently to my heart. When fear told me I’m not worth fighting for, Yahweh said I’m worth dying for. When fear told me I can’t trust in God, El Roi said with Him I can move mountains. When fear told me I won’t overcome, El Shaddai said I will be victorious.

Fear is a liar and the enemy fights the worst fight to keep us there. When we are so captivated in fear then it’s hard for God to use us. When we eat the lies fear feeds us then everything God has for us is tainted. I challenge you right now, today, to take a fear in your life and call it out. Like a bully that’s been taunting you, stand up for yourself and push it back. You will see that it’s not as tough as it appears to be when you just take the first step. There is victory and light that comes from breaking the chain of fear and leaving it in the dark. God promises that we are, we can and we will.

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Handing Over the Keys to the Cellars of Our Souls

Every one of us walking on this earth have a few cobwebs in the corners of our souls. Maybe your mom once told you not to have any cookies before dinner but they were so enticing that you ate one anyway when she left the room. A cobweb forms. Maybe you told a “white lie” to your best friend because it feels easier than facing the truth. Another cobweb forms.

But maybe you have a cellar in the basement of your soul. It’s dead bolted and has a million and one locks just to ensure that no one gets in. Maybe it’s been there for so long that the cobwebs have become so thick. It’s even formed mildew so not even you want to touch it. The enemy guards that cellar with his strongest forces. He wants to make sure no light shines through. He wants that cellar in your soul to remain hopeless. Impossible to open. And he wants to continue to torment you with it.

He wants you to believe that if anyone knew what was locked inside then they would abandoned you. That they would disown you and be disgusted with you. He wants you to believe that you are the only one who has done what you’ve done or what has been done to you. That no one can relate, understand or help. Let me tell you that that is a lie from the deepest, fieriest pit of hell. Whatever has happened to you in this life, whatever is chained inside your cellar, there are over 7 billion people in this world, you are not the only one. It’s impossible. God says there is nothing new under the sun. Although it feels like it, you aren’t the first and you won’t be the last.

God didn’t create our bodies for cellars in our souls. We are not capable of keeping them there long enough without going crazy. Without forming some kind of destructive behavior. What is that one thing you’re holding on to that hinders you from reading your bible more? What is it that stops you from growing deeper in your faith? You may veer off course a little bit, and for some of us a lot a bit. You may have junk in your cellar that no one could have ever imagined. But God knows. No matter how well you believe you’ve fooled everyone else, God knows. He sees your cellar. Down to your deepest wound, and He mourns for you.

You may believe that nobody else in this world could ever know how you feel or how much your cellar has made you suffer, but God knows. And He wants to brush away the cobwebs. He wants you to hand over the lock and key and allow Him to free you. You might be thinking, “Well He’s God, why doesn’t He just take it from me and do it Himself?” He’s a gentle God. He’s a patient God. He’s a God who gave us free will to choose to remain under the weight of the enemy’s thumb or choose to bring it all to His feet and say, “Okay, Lord. I can’t carry this on my own anymore. I need a Savior. I need you to carry this for me.” And He will. And He already has when He had His only Son drink the cup of our sins and taste the bitterness of all the filth we have ever done. His son Jesus, the Savior of you and I, who carried it all and was nailed on the cross so we could be free to willingly choose to hand over the keys of our cellars to God, and let it all go.

Enough is enough, have you had enough? Are you ready to hand over the keys?

When you call on me, when you pray to Me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for Me you’ll find me. When you want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you home again, you can count on it.

Jeremiah 29

  

Beauty in Ashes

I was woken up by my sister last week to find out the Henry’s, who own our home and graciously allow us to live here, house burned down. I just felt pure devastation for them. They lost everything. Howard and Penny’s spirits are so good and are completely trusting The Lord. I felt so sick about it, though.

You know those moments in life that feel like they could make the saddest part of a tragic movie? I couldn’t help but think while I walked up the drive from my house to the Henry’s garage as the freezing rain pounded on my frizzy curls, that this is it, this would be the saddest part in a movie ever seen. A group of men talked in the garage so I waited until I caught Howard’s eye to approach him. I held back the tears as a peaceful wave of deep blue sea glanced over at me and a smile flooded his warm face. “There she is.” He smiled.

I told Howard we would move so they could stay in their home, so I was prepared to move out within a week. I trust Gods plan but I couldn’t help but feel selfish, too. I would miss it here so much. I would miss the country. I would miss seeing Howard and Penny spending time outside. I would miss this home. I had these plans to make a garden in the yard. To plant flowers outside the window. To pick asparagus across the street. And I felt selfish and bad for thinking of all I would miss when in their 80’s it was probably not in the Henry’s plans to lose the home they built 35 years ago and everything they owned in a fire. Sometimes we make these glorious plans in life and sometimes they fall through. But isn’t God always there to break our fall? He’s always there to catch us. His plans are always greater.

Something profound Howard said was they will build a new house in the same spot. Fire took away everything. Burned down every wall. Every door. Every possession. It’s gone. It’s ash. It has every reason to manifest hurt, pain and devastation in the same spot where there was once a home. But Gods plans are not what we expect at times. And they will rebuild. The way he said those words to me planted firm in my mind. Confident. So sure. Although the very home he built with his own hands is fallen ashes on a hill, God sees the bigger picture. And though every item they’ve ever owned has been lost, maybe at least one soul could be found in this. Maybe just one soul will see just how faithful God is in a seemingly finished situation. I walked up the drive today and the sun shined through the burned pillars and the birds still chirped and rested in their homes nearby, and God said it is long from finished.

After almost a week of being unsure of where the Henry’s will end up along with ourselves, and continually giving it to God and asking for His will, we are able to stay in our home. Thank God for providing a home for the Henry’s as they rebuild. There’s that word again. It sticks with me. It feels mighty as I say it to those who ask me what the Henry’s plans are. I’m not sure what their plans were but the Lords are to rebuild.

I looked up the definition for “rebuild“.

to repair
to strengthen

To strengthen. Through a fire God is able to strengthen their faith in Him. Through a fire others are able to witness their deep reliance in Him, and by that their own faith may be strengthened.

It reminds me of Job and how everything was taken from him. People who knew him might have felt devastated for him. They might have wondered how something like that could have happened to someone so faithful and good. No one would have blamed him for being mad at God. But he didn’t turn away. He poured everything he had left into him and he was strengthened more than ever before. Strengthened enough to rebuild. God was faithful to Job and He continues to be faithful to the Henry’s. He is always the same, never changing.

As Howard, Penny and their family prayed around the spot their old home once stood, a card was pulled from the ashes, that read “God is in control.” They plan to frame it and have it be the first item to go into their new home. Although it stings to lose what they lost, just like Penny says, they are just things, memories in their minds. We told her how sad it is to look out our back window and see a burned down home, and she laughed. “There you are complaining. How good are you with artwork? Put a plaster board in front of the window and paint something beautiful on it so that’s all you see. God brings good out of bad. We can only hope this will draw people to come to know Him. We recognize the loss but we recognize The Lord.

Don’t you want to reflect even just a small portion of their hope? I do. When all seems lost we can either stare out the back window, mourning over the ashes, feeling sorry for ourselves. Or we can put our hope in the one who has already mourned our loss long before we ever did. We can take a piece of plaster board over that window, paint a beautiful sunset and have faith that it will rise again. Because He promised it would rise again. And with that promise we can rebuild.

Lord, it’s gone. And gone is gone, so we move on.

-Penny Henry

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For I know the plans I have for you. I’ll show up and take care of you and bring you back home as promised. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out. Plans to take care of you – not abandoned you. Plans to give you the future you hoped for. When you call on Me, when you come and pray to Me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for Me, you’ll find Me. When you get serious about finding Me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back home, you can count on it.

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When Waking Up is Hard to Do.

Waking up isn’t easy when you don’t see a way out. There’s no way out of the hopelessness and depression you feel. Loneliness is just behind those covers and so you bury your face within them for just a few moments longer before the alarm clock goes off. You wonder what’s worth it. You wonder what’s worth standing out in the cold. What’s worth facing a world that continues to knock you down? Maybe you’ve lost a loved one and it’s still too hard to walk passed their picture hanging in the hallway. Maybe you’ve failed at something you’ve put so much effort into and you just can’t bare to try again. Maybe the bills are piling up and you don’t know what to do. Maybe there’s an addiction that keeps knocking at your door. Or someone has hurt you right down to the core and forgiveness seems so far away.

The snow falls and it gets hard to go out into the world. It gets hard when it looks dark out there. The snow falls hard but it melts away. The Earth doesn’t let the dark of the winter define it and so it makes beauty within the snowflakes. It always melts away and let’s new things bloom into life.

Whatever it may be that makes waking up hard to do, whatever burdens or failures that are pressing against you, they don’t define you. You can lay in bed until 3pm because it’s safe, because there you won’t fail. There you won’t walk passed that picture in the frame. There you won’t get hurt and you won’t feel the cold, brisk air burn your cheeks. But there you miss out on falling in love. You miss out on meeting someone new for the first time or helping someone who needs you. There, hiding in that bed, you are safe but you miss out. Put on your scarf and face the cold and make something of the day.

You can rejoice in the memories of your loved one and when the missing gets too heavy to carry you can lay it at Jesus’s feet. You can cry until snot drains from your nose but you can laugh hard until your belly aches and know that the world is still turning. A failed test doesn’t reflect a failed life. Just because you haven’t met “the one” doesn’t mean you have a terrible love life. Love is in helping an elderly woman find her dogs in the freezing, cold weather. Love is holding your newborn niece for the first time, staring at her in awe because you can’t believe God put this all together. Everything doesn’t always go as planned. Life isn’t always perfect. We can stay miserable or we can accept that we don’t always get the life we think we deserve. We aren’t perfect but we can accept that because He already has.

Waking up can be hard to do and things aren’t in our favor. We try our best and sometimes we fall down and it hurts. But sometimes we don’t. Sometimes it goes our way and we are waiting for something bad to happen because life just isn’t this good to us. Sometimes the stars align for us so we wait for a meteor to come crashing in but it never does. The stars align and our babies laugh and our cups overfloweth. We are just a week sober and that is enough to make us dance. We truly forgive and we forget why we were ever upset. We see someone in need so we give them all we have to offer and feel their overwhelming thankfulness in a hug. All because the chance of something good happening finally outweighed the bad that is keeping us in our safe beds. We faced the brisk, cold air on our cheeks for a chance that our stars might align, and eventually, without fail, they align. All because waking up was hard to do but we did it anyways. And for this, we rejoice.

  

 

Misery Has No Hold On Me

Your alarm goes off and you hit the snooze button, but today is different. You don’t fall back asleep for a half hour longer, risk running late and having to go 10 miles over the speed limit. You get out of bed (you might even make the bed) with a little pep in your step. “Today is going to be different.” You tell yourself. 

You make yourself what you believe will be the best pot of coffee you will ever make, and you smile at the rising sun and the way the light is beaming through your window. Usually you would push your cat away as she snuggles on your lap while you try to read the morning paper, but today is different. And the way your cat is purring over your now crinkled paper brings you back to being a small child. The way you would sit on your mothers lap as she read her favorite magazine. Her breath smelled like morning coffee as you lay your head on her chest and hear her heart beating. Yes, this is a memory of joy. 

Now you go outside, thermos in hand, and face the world. You’re singing to every song on the radio and you smile at strangers at the gas station. You give change to the homeless on the corner of the street and you don’t think twice about what they will do with the money. “Today misery will not overcome me.” You tell yourself. “Today I choose joy.” Because the routine of getting caught in rush hour has finally outrun itself and allowing others thoughts and opinions and allowing others problems affect you severely has run it’s toll. 

And even when your boss asks you, “Can’t you do better?” And even when your friends would rather not be by your side. Even when you can’t afford that beautiful coat I’m sure you deserve. Even when for once your spouse lovingly tells you “No.” Even when things just aren’t going your way. Yes, even when you aren’t treated with respect. And even when the entire universe feels as though it is laying all of itself on your shoulders. You choose to sing. You choose to skip through the grocery store with your small child. You choose to kiss your mate in public because you are shamelessly in love. 

When you spill your morning coffee all over your pants while you’re already running late you choose to laugh instead of cry. You choose to dance in church because you finally let the glory of The Lord permeate your entire soul. And instead of always venting about your problems you choose to put effort in changing them. You choose to be the best friend, mother, father, sister, brother, lover, that you could ever possibly be. Not because you want something in return but because today you decided to choose joy. You decided that no matter what disappointments came your way today you would choose to be happy. That you will not react out of anger. And today you choose to not let emotions control you. 

  You choose to seek wisdom and answers. You stop wondering why things aren’t in your favor or why you haven’t found a husband or wife yet. You stop worrying about money and you stop posting all of your dilemmas on Facebook. You break the bondage of misery because it has no hold on you. You have that choice. Yes, today you choose joy.