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Friday, April 27, 2018

What Happens After The Story Is Over



I love a good story. Actually, I love stories in general. I'm the kind of person who can watch pretty much any movie and have very few complaints. I entertain easily. I laugh readily. I cry unashamedly. I'm a sentimental schmuck. But the funnier or sappier the story, the better. I'll watch and re-watch the Grey's Anatomy episode where Mark dies over and over and over and cry every time, even though I know it's about to happen. Give me the cheesiest of chick flicks. I'll still love it, probably.

If you know me, you know I also love telling stories--kid stories or husband stories that have a twist of cringe worthy humor, which basically all of mine do, because such is my life. I love to hear people laugh with me and at my stories, because it's always a good thing when people that think your life is as ridiculous as it is, can laugh along with you.

I've made a habit of being a story teller. If they will encourage you or challenge you or simply make you chuckle to yourself, then I've done my job. I believe stories are influential. I believe they can captivate even the coldest of hearts and soften them. They can make the saddest of people, laugh, if even for just a moment.

I wrote a blog post a few years or so ago, called "I Am Not Broken." I wrote it because I was seeing a trend in Christian culture. A trend where we sing about our brokenness. A trend where we write about our messes. A trend where we put our struggle on display to prove to the world that we are authentic and relatable. We need to tell our story...Because we too are broken and bound. Huh? Wha??---It bothered me because the very reason Jesus came to this earth, was to heal the brokenhearted, to set the captives free. Why does it come so easily for us to put our weakness and brokenness on display? After everything Jesus did to give save us, free us, loose us, and heal us and put us back together from our fallen state- it seems a little unfair.
Is it possible to tell a story of who we were, who maybe we sometimes still feel like and still boldly voice who we KNOW we are now in Christ? I think it is. And it's a compelling one. A story that brings a dead, sad, broken, sick, lost person back to life and makes them whole. Paul said 'For when I am weak, then I am strong.' That's our story. That's way better than telling people to 'Come to Jesus. You can be just like me. I'm still damaged and a mess, but yes, I am so blessed."

Stories are good. But sometimes we become too dependent on a good story to make Jesus feel real to us. I was talking to a friend a while back and she was really excited about a women's event at her church, in which she loved the girl speaking because she was real and honest and she could relate to her stories. I pondered over that concept for a few weeks, honestly. The idea that the Gospel could only be good news if the person sharing the gospel could entertain us first with a good story we could relate to? Could the promises of God, the hope of the Gospel and the message of Jesus be valuable in and of itself? Is it possible that spending time with Jesus-- just you and Him---could breathe life into His words more than any person's story could ever hope to?

I know so.

I am a story teller by nature. I thrive on vivid descriptions and funny anecdotes. I am inspired and motivated when they are told with enthusiasm. I am hopeful when they are told with conviction. I may even believe them if  the person telling them sounds intellectual and like they've done their research--(no Netflix documentary, I'm not pointing at you.) I love hearing them. I love telling them. Jesus even told them to help people understand.
But I don't want to just be stirred emotionally by someone's story, as exceptional as it may be. Because their good story neither has the authority, nor power to change my life.

What happens after the story is over?

Friends, the Word of God is alive. It needs nothing to back it up. The closer you are to Jesus, the less you will need an illustration or an incentive for the gospel to be real to You. My challenge to you is to spend time Him. Get to know Him. Just you & Him, alone in a room with His Word, prayer and worship. Let His story become real to you, just as it is.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Nostalgia


A fit of nostalgia. Is that what they call it? I don't know. 

I tried googling the phrase and I couldn't really find it. But I swear it's a thing. And I've been having one. I made a playlist of songs that remind me of when I was in high school. Because those really are the best songs, aren't they? No matter what decade you were a kid or teenager in, the music that represents the era of your youth will always be the best. 

My dad thinks everyone loves 50s & 60s music. Well, I don't mind them Dad. But they aren't my fave or anything. I'm more of an 80s, early 90's girl when it comes to my musical (genius) playlist.
It's not necessarily because the music is that much better (though I could argue that with comparing it to a lot of today's music). But it brings back memories and feelings of a time where you didn't even get that it would be over before you know it. You didn't even realize you should have appreciated the simplicity of it. You just lived in that moment.

And maybe this is just me, but when you are young, everything seems larger than life. The fun stuff like the concerts and crushes are at the pinnacle of excitement. The hard stuff like break ups and mess ups seemed like they would be the end of us. 
Everything, whether bad or good, was big and impassioned. 
And you unwittingly longed for freedom and adulthood, not knowing that one day when you reached it, a concert would be like...Meh... A roller coaster would be... Blechhh! And crushes and first kisses would be traded for commitment to love for better... or for worse. 

I literally have been walking the track at my gym these past few weeks with tears streaming down face as I listened to the songs and the memories would come flooding in. The opportunities passed. The friendships lost. That sort of euphoric, blissful moment in time has been traded for a really good and comfortable, but a really familiar life. 
And it's not that I want my youth back, but rather I wish I could tell my younger self to protect this season of life. Love it. Love the people in it. Learn from your mistakes. Because it's such a short short time. It's not as bad as you think. But this isn't the best it's going to get either. 

I love where life has brought me. I love all that God has entrusted me with in this season. I love the relationships I have. And I love that I've grown up enough to know how to intentionally contribute to my life. I know to stop and breathe in the memories of my children. I know how to treasure the people I consider my friends. I know that there will be really sad and hard moments, so I need to embrace the joyful laughter amidst the chaos. 

I know that if I want adventure to go beyond waking the kids up late for school, getting frazzled & sweaty, and cleaning up messes of chocolate milk off the floor, I have to pursue it. 

And that is where I think these past few weeks have brought me. 
As I've listened to my songs and felt the emotion through each lyric and melody. I've asked the Lord what can I learn in this short trip down memory lane? Why am I here reliving these moments right now? It's not really just so I can live in my past, but more so I can learn how to better cultivate my future. I don't want to wake up in 20 years, telling myself the same thing over again. I don't want to kick myself for not loving my kids better, not going on adventures with them, not spending time sowing into my friendships or relationships with my family, not walking out my purpose and calling.

As I've taken this journey, I realize how little I have changed. I am still very much the same girl I was as a teenager. I am interested in the same things. I still gravitate to the same style of clothing and music. Not a lot has changed that make up my persona. But I've grown. And that I am grateful for. I can still be me, but I know how to navigate the important things a lot better. 

Though I may regret not preserving the small things in my youth, I don't think that it's an unusual thing. Most of us probably didn't realize how quickly it would pass and how drastically life would change. Most of us probably wish we could tell our younger selves, hang on to these moments, remember them, but don't get stuck in them. I think that is just a part of growing up. Knowing that when we were 'growing up' we'd be somewhat unaware of it all.

So what happens next?
I think just taking each day and making it big, but also pausing in and appreciating the small. Life can't get mundane if we stop often enough to acknowledge what we have... or if we live big enough to have something to remember and talk about to our grandkids.
So that is what I plan on doing. Living life on purpose. Each day. Each moment. I may forget occasionally, amidst a teenage eye roll or toddler tantrum. But I pray that I always come back to be reminded that this life I've been given is an adventure. It's up to me to get in the car and speed it up and slow it down.




Thursday, February 16, 2017

Living The Bitter (less) Sweet Life / when you've been hurt



Life is good. I could end right there. It's good.

Life has been good for me for awhile now. I've gone in and out of troubling scenarios with my kids or my health, but by the grace of God, I survive. I gain wisdom, understanding and strength. I'm way stronger now than I've ever been.  Not physically, but that's an whole other topic. But I know who I am and what I want more than I ever have. And I know who to go to when life seems off kilter.

Seems being the key word. Because the word "seems" usually parallels to the word "feels." And we know that what we feel in a moment or in a season may not necessarily be truth. Although, I do validate feelings, because they are real. You can't tell someone to not feel hurt or sad if they are hurt or sad, but the question is 'where do we go or what do we do with those feelings?' Is it possible to move on?

I wanted to share something that the Lord spoke to me recently that has helped me a ton to move on and live in freedom and really love people. I'm mean for real. Love them. It's super simple, yet chock full of wisdom.

Last summer, I was feeling yuck. I can't really put my finger on it. But I was feeling sort of hurt, offended,  and just overall sad. People were making me sad and it seemed as though I was living a life of being either let down or full on abandoned by people. It's sort of the unfortunate nature of the beast when you are a preacher's kid. And I just got used to it. People leave or people talk, and you hear about it. And if you let it, it can take a little piece of your heart every-single-time. And I was feeling weary and worn down of living the past 30 years this way. It can be rough. I was honestly just tired of smiling and hugging people or liking everyone's facebook status in my very best attempts to 'walk in love.' I was doing a pretty good job of pretending I was okay. I was letting it roll of me 'like water off a duck's back' as they say. Yet inside, I was one big Blahhhhhh! Ho-hum. Wah-wah.

I was taking a walk, talking to the Lord about it one day. I didn't want to try so hard to walk in love. I really didn't. I was tired of making the effort to love. What I really wanted was to genuinely love people. Friends, enemies, frenemies and naysayers. I really just wanted to be genuine when I prayed for people. I really just wanted to hug people and not feel burdened on the inside with bitterness or sadness. And I was honest with the Lord about it. I told him like it is and how I felt. Because really, who wants to live like that? It's a crummy way to go through life. And God is cool like that because he listens. And He tells YOU like it is back.

The weird thing is, I didn't even realize I was holding on to any bitterness. I honestly thought because I was doing my best to smile and walk in love, that this was enough. My very best effort to walk in love was equivalent to forgiveness, no? As I was talking to the Lord about it, He said "Why don't you forgive them?" Wait, what? But God, I liked their facebook status. I smiled at them at church. I hugged them. I waved when I saw them at the grocery store. I did my very best, didn't I?

To even try to walk in love in our own strength, in particular when we've been hurt, will never be enough to move on or feel happy or content on the inside. It's a nice try and your heart probably is in the right place when you go on pretending as if all is okay for the sake of your 'love walk.' But if you truly want to feel free to love, it starts with forgiveness.
By that I mean, speak it. Say it out loud. God, I forgive 'so-n-so" and I release any bitterness and all hurt I have felt because of him/her. I want to love that person like you love them, with your love. I thank you for going to the cross for me, I thank you for forgiving me and because of that I can and will let go of any hurt or  pain because of what they did or said and I will let go of any resentment I've harbored ...and I give it all to you.

I hate to say it, but I had lists. Things I didn't even realize were hurting me still. And I went through them one by one. People I loved, people I didn't care for all that much, anyone and everyone. I remembered situations I had let slide. I remembered things said that made me cringe and my stomach sink. The tears rolled. But I gave every last bit of it to the Lord and I forgave 'em all. And wouldn't you  know it, my heart is free. It's free from all the yuck. The sad feels. The irritable feels. The frustration. And I can love people authentically now.
If a new situation occur or things get said that make me want to crawl back into the hole of contempt, I remember what God said to me... "Why don't you forgive them?'

I told you, Simple...yet profound. And liberating. Stop trying so hard. Just forgive them. And love will be easy.

I want to challenge you now. If you are thinking of a person or people that you've tried hard with. You've smiled. You've hugged. You've let it roll off you, in sort of a pretense of walking in love. Maybe you forgot to give it to the Lord. Maybe you forgot to actually forgive them. Maybe, like me, you need to ask God for his forgiveness for hanging on to it and trying to do it all in your own strength. Do it now. Say it out loud.
God, I forgive them. I want to love them like you love them. I want to walk in freedom from hurt and bitterness. I give it all to you and from this point on I can smile and hug  and love with sincerity. I don't have to pretend any more.








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