Seeds {to bloom}: Derailed

Experiencing the beauty of the mountains during this time of year is always a treat. The surprise of riding the train was a special thrill. We were primed for adventure, looking forward to what was around each bend.

There wasn’t much warning, just a bit of a grind and a little shake. Not until everything stopped did we know. The engine on our train had come off the tracks, derailed. That big, heavy, powerful engine lost it’s footing and, in a quick instant, became stranded and tipped.

Just like that.

Our plans changed, our view obscured, the day shifted.

And we waited, for what felt like a long time, with no news and no answers. We waited, bundled up, but shivering, in our open air car. We just had to wait and hope that movement would come again. That the conductor would have a plan.

And just like that we receive bad news and it feels like we are coming off the rails. In a split second, with no warning, our life shifts.

A loved child, who laughed yesterday, is gone.
A talented young person, with so much promise, loses hope.
A friend learns that her cancer is still a threat.
A phone call delivers a mortal blow.
A virus attacks.
A catastrophe strikes.

In an instant, life can come off the rails. We can feel stranded, lost, and cold. And we wait and wait and wait for the pain to stop, the fear to let go, for hope to move us.

It’s stunning to realize that we are just passengers and we aren’t the ones driving. Our control is so limited. And even when we feel off the track, there is the One who has the power to move us even if it seems like the wait is long.

My heart hurts for those whose lives have been grounded to a halt by that split second of derail. My prayer is for your waiting, that you would find comfort within Hope.

“I waited and waited and waited for God. At last He looked; finally He listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God.” Psalm 40:1-3

Seeds {to bloom}: Sunshine

After ongoing days of dreary, dark and wet, it becomes difficult to remember the warmth and beauty of sunshine.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been stuck, waiting and waiting for that glimmer. But the rain kept coming, creating soupy grass and growing puddles. For us, we were able to avoid disaster, but there are many in my state who now have ruined homes, soggy memories and are seeking refuge where they can find it. Everything can change so quickly.

How easy it is to forget. How quickly I lose sight of what’s coming, when I’m trapped in circumstance. My tunnel focus has trouble remembering hope and beauty when storms and gloom capture the attention. Often, the weight of “the now” feels like an anchor, keeping me fastened to sand.

I stepped onto my porch this morning, surprised to see the sun we’ve been missing peeking through my trees. It took me off guard, as strange as that sounds. I have been growing a little accustomed to feeling heavy with overcast and cold. And now, here’s this ray of warmth, bringing light, and capturing a new focus. Everything can change so quickly.

How swiftly I forget that my circumstances are so very temporary. No matter where we are in the dark, there will come a day when the sun shines again, even if that’s not here but experienced in eternity. And, perhaps, the little things I’ve held onto for warmth and comfort here can just as quickly get swept away.

Where’s your focus today? Is it the storm raging in or around you? Or are you finding hope in only temporary things? What is anchoring your soul?

“Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest.” Hebrews 6:18b-20.

Seeds {to bloom}: Fallen

There is a “grove” of massive pecan trees on our old property. They give lovely shade in the summer and produce a harvest every other fall. They look so strong. But they tend to snap off large branches in unpredictable ways. We’ve had a car crushed; a building disfigured; a fence maimed; landscaping wiped out. We have trained our kids to run, run as fast as they can, if they hear strange popping sounds because that means something might be coming down. And one of those would be deadly.

Recently, I came home to find a gigantic heavy limb stretched across my driveway. After the initial surprise, I felt the old rush of aggravation over the big fat jumble left to deal with.

Fallen. Fallen branches bring so much mess and headache and they’re useless. Separated, they can’t produce shade or harvest anymore, only fuel for a bonfire now.

When we are separated from God we are like a snapped limb, disconnected from the tree. Only a mess remains.

We do live in a fallen world, where danger and evil and death are realities. That all got started at a tree. We live everyday under the shadow of disconnect and the consequence of broken.

We, too, are fallen, a broken, jumbled-up wreckage when we seek autonomy from the source of Life. We can’t offer shade or harvest when we are not connected to Him. We can’t really live, only exist.

Yet, unlike my pecan trees, we have the hope of redemption, of a miracle. Of finding connection through a sacrifice made on another tree, the Cross where Jesus died to carry all my brokenness and allows for the connection I need to Live.

When we are connected to Him, we are free to grow and do what we were created to do. We benefit from His strength. And because of that, there are times when He prunes us back, cutting off anything that is stealing Life, halting growth or robbing purpose. Because He loves us, He takes care. But the connection is always worth the pruning.

Are you connected to the one who gives Life?

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.” John 15:5-6

“My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:1-2

Seeds {to bloom}: Stale

There’s no pleasure in stale. The texture, consistency, flavor, experience is all warped when something is stale.

When we expect different and wind up with disappointment, it can leave us feeling stale.

When we get into a rut and go on autopilot, no intention just doing by habit, it can make us stale.

When we begin to lose sight of blessings, only focused on the mundane, we see our life as stale.

When we forget the astounding grace, poured out richly and extravagantly upon us by God when He calls our name as His children, our existence becomes stale.

I’m making it real here today. There’s been a boredom cultivated by a flat functioning without flavor sometimes. Day in and day out can leech desires, strip zest, drain purpose, and leave behind stale.

It’s going to take some engaging out of autopilot, moving away from discontent, and pursuing real life in a true way. Even if that means pushing into some dark corners and working a little harder, a life with flavor and depth is worth the effort.

Are you feeling a bit stale? Going through the motions with no flavor? Maybe something needs to get checked. Time to get honest.

“So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands.”
2 Corinthians 8:10 (Msg)

Seeds {to bloom}: Safe?

In the midst of terror threats, world chaos, school dysfunctions, radical haters, racial tensions, abuse, natural disasters, sickness, pornography, accidents, disease, and texting-while-driving maniacs, it’s reasonable to feel unsafe.

My friend and I were pinging texts back and forth about that this morning as we solemnly joined the masses in remembering how we felt fourteen years ago, on that slow-motion-ringing-ears September 11th day. We surely didn’t feel safe then.

And yet, here we are, all these years later, that horror a fuzzy, although achy, memory we try not to dwell on.

But we are still faced with the every moment reality that danger presses in on all sides.

My definition of safety would shield me and the ones I love from all pain, harm, loss, sorrow, danger.

So are we ever really safe?

Not by my definition.

But. Is it possible to lose and suffer and still be safe? Safe with an other worldly definition. I believe there is a mystery of experiencing a supernatural sheltering in the middle of danger and in spite of great loss.

We are most definitely guaranteed to face pain as we move through life, but we can be equally assured of His provision and movement towards Hope if He, Jesus, is our shelter and eternity shapes perspective of our minutes. It really is a mystery, something only God can do, only He can produce.

Feeling unsafe, unsteady, in our dangerous world? Seek shelter in Him, the One who is preparing a place with no pain, no threats, no unknowns to fear.

“The Lord is my fort where I can enter and be safe; no one can follow me in and slay me. He is a rugged mountain where I hide; He is my Savior, a rock where none can reach me, and a tower of safety. He is my shield. He is like the strong horn of a mighty fighting bull. All I need to do is cry to him—oh, praise the Lord.” Psalm 18:2-3

Seeds {to bloom}: Out on a limb

Admittedly, there have been dark seasons where I believed that I was alone in my struggle. I focused on the bigness of a challenge and feared the worst, while “hoping” for the best {whatever that really means} while trying to do it by myself.

My nest has dangled from a branch.

Survival and fear are effective fuel to move through the days, but awful companions. And sometimes we women can isolate and get almost comfortable living that way, autonomous and efficient. It seems safer that way. But is it?

Today, of all things, my heart feels particularly swollen with gratitude as I spent a little time thinking of the women, really “sisters,” who’ve been a huge part of my life’s story.

Some pushed into my space and onto my branch, which wasn’t comfortable at times. Some spoke boldly, in grace, to my broken spots. Some spoke gently to my heart and sat with me in the darkness. Some have brought laughter to the mundane. Some have lived truth and given me courage to move. Some have been patient, waiting for my heart to feel safe. Some have been key parts in only a season. Some have endured much of my foolishness. Some have wounded. Some have left. Many have stayed. More will come.

All are important. All are gifts.

We were not created to live life alone. God’s design wired us for relationships and each one is unique. And needed.

Are you perched out on a limb, feeling lonely and only surviving? Have you invited people to share in your journey? Are you joining in someone else’s story?

Despite the risks that can come with caring and inviting, it is worth it. The rich story of lives intersecting is a gift from heaven, even when pain is involved.

Spend a few minutes thinking of the friends who’ve touched your life and thank the Lord for them. They are a gift.

“People who won’t settle down, wandering hither and yon, are like restless birds, flitting to and fro. Just as lotions and fragrance give delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” Proverbs 27:8-9

Seeds {to Bloom}: Enough

As they went around the table clicking off my child’s mistakes and inadequacies, my hands clutched tight. And my heart clutched tighter as it tumbled and picked up speed towards fury at a group who only sees a decimal point of this precious one. Have they already decided that he’s too much? Have they already determined that he’s not enough?
And that fire burned and simmered for hours as I thought of him and his wonderful gifts, his tender heart being stamped with wounding messages.
He’s too much.
He’s not enough.
Oh, if you had seen the ugly crying you would know it was not all well with my soul. In fact, my soul felt ripped to shreds.
When the personal pain that you’ve spent a lifetime wading through and healing from is seen now, again, reflected in those other brown eyes, it shreds with a powerful force…and I forgot Truth.
All the fears and lies of inadequacy, of failure, of disappointing over and over were deposited, once again, smack-dab on my chest with a weight I could not carry.
Too much.
Not enough.
I’m still processing this ripped up place, but I know that staying in the spot where I’m feeding the hurt, and denying Truth, will not equip my son for his own journey towards being well in his soul and growing in trust that Jesus is just right and always enough.
It’s hard knowing that our protection from disappointment is limited and soul-wellness isn’t the absence of trouble, pain, failure or weakness; Rather, it’s the miracle of grace we can have in the midst of being overwhelmed by our inadequacy.
I am being prompted to remember that my struggles didn’t disqualify me from a kingdom calling or exempt me from grace. In fact, they propelled me to Jesus. My prayer is that my child would know the same Hope and rely fully on Christ’s sufficiency, not his own.
How about you? Are you well in your soul?

Jesus is {more than} enough.

“But he said to me,’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9