Surviving the Valley; Hurricane Days & Dusty Road Nights

It’s been a long, hot, dusty road. I’ve missed you all and the truth is, I’ve missed me! What do you do when you find yourself living a tough road? You travel the road.

In the summer of 2018, I was reading a great book by Graham Cooke, “Qualities of a Spiritual Warrior.” Kicked. My. Butt. Ouch! I was also listening to a lot of Graham’s teachings. Somewhere in there I heard him say, “when you find yourself in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death, this is not the time for a pity party. Instead, keep walking, one foot in front of the other, until you walk out the other end.” I grabbed onto that saying like my life depended on it.

The past year has consisted of all things parental. My parents are aging and an accident last summer for my mom, changed all our lives. We moved them to our town. Not easy. We sold their house. Not fun. We’ve attempted to encourage them as they came to grips with leaving their independent life behind and learned to depend on us. Again, not easy.

A year has passed. I love having my parents nearby. Prior to this, I spent 40+ years away from my childhood home and family. I am now here to help; to transport, make appointments, oversee their health issues, take care of their finances, and attempt to soothe them in times of turmoil at all these changes. I’ve realized that losing one’s independence is like nothing else in our lives. Hard. Humiliating. All encompassing. Nothing is as it was. Nothing.

If you’ve wondered why I haven’t been writing, this is it. I’ve experienced doubt, angst, joy, sorrow, love, and countless other emotions over this past year. I’ve felt extreme highs…and sorrowful lows, at having my parents here, in an assisted living facility, ten minutes from our home. And for all my own feelings, my parents’ have had a bucket load of their own. Some days I am their comforter. Some days I’m their demon, forcing them to face things and decisions they’d much rather avoid. It has felt like a hurricane has blown through our lives, leaving chaos and disorder in its wake.

The Lord recently reminded me that writing has always been my comfort. From my days as a young girl forward, I’ve always written. Mostly about my feelings. I’ve come to realize that all those days spent spilling my feelings onto a page were in fact a healthy release of frustrations and doubts, helping me cope with the long, dusty roads of my past.

My heart is hoping for some time to spend writing again. Soon. I’m reminded of a verse in Habakkuk 2:1-3 (NASB77). “I will stand on my guard post And station myself on the rampart; And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, And how I may reply when I am reproved. Then the LORD answered me and said, ” Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal, and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.”

The vision is for a time, not yet come, but it will not fail. God has not forsaken you or me. His Word of life will not fail. Do you find yourself, like me, on a long, dusty road of life? Are you making your way through hurricane debris? Please be encouraged. God is here, right now, right next to us. Do not succumb to the “pity parties” the enemy intends to swamp us with. Instead, keep walking. One. Step. At. A. Time. One day, in the not so distant future, you will see the dawning of a new day. O glorious day, when we realize we’ve walked out of the valley and into His glorious Light!

Travel mercies my friends. The “more” of God is waiting to unfold. Ask Him to revive your weary soul. And don’t forget to look up! He’s still smiling down on us all.

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See You in My Dreams

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I had a dream last night. Most nights I dream but this one was a little different in that when I woke, I noticed the dream. I didn’t do it quite fast enough because I lost a couple of the details as I went about getting going. But, then I remembered the dream and I actually spoke as much of it as I could remember out loud. Speaking it out loud, I knew, would help cement some of its details into my memory so I could “chew” on it a bit.

I’ve been reading a great book about the spiritual realms and the author is very encouraging about writing down your dreams upon waking (in the middle of the night or otherwise). It is only in this deliberate, and perhaps obedient, act that your dreams can come alive for you. He likens dreams to one of the ways that God speaks to us, speaking to us from His spiritual realm in coded messages that create such 3-dimensional movies for us! It’s a rather wonderful thought.

As I’ve read, I’ve wondered, could this be true? I’ve always had a hard time remembering my dreams, a trait I chalked off as “oh well, I guess I’m just one of those people who can’t remember their dreams.” This author suggests otherwise. He stated that dreams are a communication tool God uses to speak to us while we sleep, in that restful place, perhaps one of the only times we aren’t so distracted by the things and pressures of this world. I’ve become intrigued. What if my Father in heaven is indeed attempting to speak with me, to share prophetic information about my future, to help me understand a part of my life that I’m having difficulty with?

In his instruction, the author suggested writing down as much of the your dream as you can remember. Keep a dream journal. Oh gosh, there’s that journal thing again! I’m presented with the thought and I have in fact journaled in the past however, I’m not consistent in my journaling. A dream journal. Could it be true that in my obediently writing down my dream remembrances, God will speak to me? Not sure why, but this morning as I prepared to go to Easter services, I was impressed to write down what I remembered about this dream.

I have this cute little spiral-bound book that I recently purchased on one more of my attempts to begin journaling. There are exactly two entries in it. Two! I’ve had the book for a few months. Sad fact, those two entries. Oh well, I’ll not allow my past dictate my future, so off I went, digging through this pile and that, looking for the journal so I could record the dream. Confound it! That book seemed to have disappeared for a few minutes but I pressed on in the hunt. Fifteen minutes later, I found it.

I wrote out all I could remember of the dream. I stared at the page. “OK, Lord, there it is, just as you’ve impressed me to do. Every detail I could remember. Is there something here you want me to know? What does it mean? Lord, I want to know if you’re attempting to speak to me through this dream so would you please reveal yourself in this remembrance?” It was time to get going or I would be late for church, so I left it on my table and left for church services.

I shared my dream with a friend after church services. I shared it only as a piece of information, not really expecting to get an answer from her. When I was done, she stopped for a moment. I knew she was thinking about what I’d just shared and quite unexpectedly, she rambled off what she thought the dream meant. I was kind of awed; her interpretation held a lot of merit, a number of things that could be true. I know enough about such things to know I now needed to take it before the Lord for confirmation or negation. (Please dear reader, always take what others say to you, whether in prophetic words, dream interpretation, words of wisdom, etc., before our Father and wait! Don’t just jump to believe what someone else may say; they are not God! We deserve to know whether this word/interpretation is true to our Father’s heart or not and believe me, He will confirm or deny it if you’ll wait before Him!).

So, I’m in the waiting now, waiting for Papa in heaven to reveal to me whether there is truth in my friends’ words or not. I’d like to note that my friend is quite responsible in her sharing. She knows that it is her responsibility to share what she hears from Papa, if He tells her to go forward, and it is my responsibility to weigh her words to see if they line up with God’s intended message to my heart through this dream.

What about you? Do you dream? Do you know how to interpret your dreams? Share with me what you’ve learned about this because I’m clearly in the beginning mode.

Dreams. I believe they are more than “movies” running through our subconscious. I’m believing that dreams are a way that our Father in heaven desires to speak to us – personal parables, if you will – and He hopes we’ll get interested enough for Him to begin a wonderful “conversation” with us through our travels and adventures in dreams. If we’ll get serious to write down what we remember, I believe He’s going to begin to reveal more and more to me through my dreams. Who knows? Perhaps this is the gateway to more…visions, trances, and so on from our heavenly Father. He did it for his disciple, John. Why not me? Why not you?

Blessings on you and me as we dream – and as we listen through our dreams. God is talking…are you listening?

My Manifesto

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Writing has been a love of mine since I was a little girl. My first attempt at writing was a version of a mystery I’d read and loved. Shortly thereafter I learned what the word  plagiarism meant. So much for that story.

I wrote often growing up, mostly about what was bothering me on any given day. Those words are long gone, something I’ve regretted. I didn’t learn about proper journaling for many years and I must admit, I’m not very good at journaling every day.

I was brought up in a home where God was talked about. I didn’t much question my belief in there being a God, I just believed. Until late in my twenties. Then I questioned Him a lot.

Coincidentally, at the same time, I realized a few things about myself:

  1. All the decisions I’d made about my life once I left home ended poorly.  I was not the independent soul I longed to be,
  2. I needed help,
  3. I didn’t know where to go for that help,
  4. So I went looking for a church to find answers.

It took a little bit of doing but I eventually found a church I felt I belonged in. Different from the one I grew up in, this church began filling a hole I hadn’t realized was there. Over the course of a few years I realized I was loved and I had purpose. God loves me and He gave me a purpose. Whew! That took a lot to get out on paper!

Purpose in God needs tending because truth takes time. In some instances (ah-hem! Did I say that?) truth can take a very long time to sink in. But, loving Jesus Christ taught me that He’s not impatient and He’s quite willing to hang around with me, waiting for me to understand His love, purpose, and sheer determination to help me get it. Yep, it took time, but I finally got it.

Writing, and a few other creative inclinations I love, was a part of me because that is the way He created me to be. Listening happens to fall into that list of things I do well. Having empathy for hurting people was yet another quality I was given. Finally, after listening to others most of my adult life, as they poured out frustrations, hurts, pains and dilemmas, I began playing with the idea that I had also been given the creative ability to make sense out of people’s lives. Did I believe that right off?  No. Not so easy to think you may have been given a talent to put others at ease even when you’re having trouble doing that for yourself.

I’ve heard the saying that God doesn’t make junk. It was easy to discount for a long time. But when you love to write, you love to listen and help problem-solve, and especially when others tell you they feel better having spent time with you, I ever-so-slowly began to wonder if it could be true.

It has only taken approximately forty years to begin to trust in all this. God has honored my attempts to keep learning about Him and how not to lean on my own understanding. I think I’m making headway and this is what I’ve learned:

  1. I am a writer,
  2. I am a listener and a problem-solver,
  3. I am creative,
  4. And I love to encourage others.

Therefore, this blog is to Just Encourage!

It’s Not About Me…But It Is!

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The opening line of “Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren says, and if you know it, say it with me here, “It’s not about me”!  Nope, it’s not.  It’s about a multitude of other people and other things…and yet, curiously, it is about me.

God made each of us as a unique human being.  He knew us long before we came about.

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]. Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

Read that over slowly.  God had a plan for you when He thought about you.  You entered into His plan for you when you received Him into your life as your savior.  The plan comes about by faith — in the One you invite to come live inside yourself.  That’s some heavy plan.

But how can this be, you might ask? “I didn’t ask to be born,” you say. No, you didn’t. But nonetheless, you were thought about and there was a plan in place, just waiting for you to come onto the scene.

And that right there is how things get all screwed up with us. That coming onto the scene thing! We don’t ask to come here, to live this life and yet here we are. Some of us are thrown into horrific circumstances. Some of us have a fairly decent life. But I’ll tell you one thing I’ve learned over the years, walking with Christ. The more folks I get to meet along this journey of life, the less I hear that shocks me anymore. I’ve heard it all.

child-594519_1280There are those whose lives were so wrecked, they ran away from home and lived on the streets at 13 years of age. Those who suffered at the hands of abusive parents and lived through unthinkable things that shouldn’t happen to a rock! There have been cutters, alcoholics, drug addicts, murderers and rapists. Those who lied beyond reason, those who quit speaking, those who can barely make it through the day. There are those so wrecked by war that life took on colors so foreign to the rest of us that we just didn’t understand. And those who gave up on life because it was easier than going on one more day.

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What does this all have to do with “it’s not about me”? Well, it’s all about us, those folks who were injured early in life and those injured later in life. God had a plan for each and every one of us. Did His plan call for these atrocities that we’ve all had to deal with? No! God’s plan doesn’t include such things, but I’ve learned that there are few Pollyanna’s in this life. You see, we’ve all been injured in one way or another. And beyond all those injuries, those sad times, those hard places, God had and still has a plan. Honest!

God knew the things we would all suffer through. If He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent as the Bible tells us He is then none of this comes as a surprise to Him. He knew all along that we would suffer – and yet He still had a plan. His plan, as it turns out, is quite ingenious. You see He knew that the enemy of our lives would bring about hard times, some very hard times, and that the enemy would whisper into our ears that if there was a God, then none of this should happen. Oh yes, God was quite familiar with the tactics of Satan. He is the epitome of a bully. If he can get you to believe that God allowed all these things to happen to you, then you won’t be very excited about allowing God into your life. And that’s Satan’s plan!

But God had a better and bigger plan. He knew all that would occur in each of our lives. He planned for it and He planned the way of escape.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)

If you are reading this today, you are living proof of my hypothesis! You lived through the horror, the dishonor, the hurts, the abuse. You are still here. You made it!  It was God’s plan all along. And now, if you will let Him, He’ll show you the full power of the way of escape.

I’ve had my share of stuff, things I never in a million years thought would happen to me. But they did. There were times I didn’t think I’d survive. But I did. And do you know what? Those exact hurts, burdens and sorrows became my way through. They became my defining moments. I’m now stronger because of the hurts. I’m wiser now because God showed me the way through. Not only did He show me the way through, He pulled me through!  And it has become my distinct privilege now to share my journey with others who are suffering and trying to find their way through. No, it’s not about me, and yet, it has everything to do with me and my journey. It’s the brilliant plan! Use those scarred by Satan to show the next ones in the crucible the way of escape! Absolutely brilliant!

person-110303_1280If you find yourself in the middle of a jam, look around you. You are not the only hurting person (even though this is one of the prime lies of Satan) and chances are, there’s someone who’s been through a similar situation already in your life. Reach out to them. There is a way of escape and it usually looks like another person who knows exactly what you’re going through! It is one of the most confounding truths of life. It’s not about me…and yet it is, as I share my story and grab another’s hand to show them the way through. Brilliant God, just brilliant!

And Then There Was That Tree

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A few days ago I wrote about Extravagant Dad.  In it I remembered what it’s like to walk in nature and explore God’s amazing creation.  There is just so much to savor when you are outside.  Today I took a walk with my dog, taking advantage of a bit of warmer weather here in the northwest.  The dog ran forward and back, dashing among the standing tumbleweeds and brush, attempting to stick her nose under the neighbor’s electric fence so she could get a better look at those confounded cows.  Curious of each others presence a yearling came running close to the fence as well and they had a good long look at each other.  Had I not called Sophie back, I’m sure she would have wriggled under the wire and joined in the yearling’s frolics out there in the dairy fields.

Walking made me remember I had mentioned that our extravagant Dad gave us access to all He gave Adam and Eve.  He created us for relationship and so, in giving us our adoption papers upon salvation, we are redeemed into the inheritance of God’s wonder and grace, and Papa God wants nothing more than to spend some time with us.

I allowed my mind to take a walk in what I imagine the garden may have looked like.  I see something a bit like the photograph above.  Wandering through lush vegetation I could almost see God strolling along through masses of green, chatting with His beloved children.  Perhaps they decided to name certain bushes and trees along their walk, asking Papa what he thought of it all.  Do you suppose God, Adam and Eve might have played hide and seek together?  Now that thought makes me giggle at the fun of it.

I imagine that one evening though when, as they strolled along, they came upon a site.  There, as the brush fell away and the sun began to set on the day, they rounded a curve in the path, and came upon it.  The tree.  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Lord spoke to them., “Of this tree, you shall not eat.”  Have you ever spent much time thinking about why the Lord would give such instruction in this lush place?  I didn’t, I just knew what Adam and Eve were told.  “You can eat everything here, all the fruit of the trees and bushes, but of this particular tree you cannot eat.”
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I’m no Bible scholar but I’ll tell you what I think.  I believe that the children of God were told not to eat of this tree, so that there might be a choice.  This was the defining moment between God and His creation, these two new children of His that He loved so dearly.  If He simply placed them in the garden and told them they could eat anything there, then there was no choice involved.  They would simply be His little darlings, kept in a wonderful place, provided with everything they needed to exist.

No, I believe this was the choosing point.  This was the difference between having children who would come to Him, purposefully to have a relationship with Him and those who only lived off His provision.  We, as children of God, have to make a choice in order to make this relationship work.  It must be our heart’s desire to follow after Him.  Anything else results in a dictatorship.  No, God knew He had to turn His children free in the garden and see what they would do with this freedom they possessed.  The results are self-evident.

I’ve pondered that one a few times.  While I wished in the earlier days of my life the choice were not so, so final, I have come to understand the great wisdom in His act.  I didn’t really want to come to Christ in my early twenties because I saw this relationship as one I would be required to give up a lot of things I quite frankly didn’t want to give up.  By the time I reached my late twenties, all had changed.  I had lived according to my desires, learning that I wasn’t a very good steward of my life and I cried out to Him to come and be my Lord.  As the days rolled into years, and the years into decades, I’ve come to understand the value in choosing between what I want and what He wants.  There is value in His precepts because oh my, He’s God!  What I wanted was plain and simply the lusts of my flesh.

I am so grateful to my Lord for giving me a choice.  Have you considered the results of your choices lately?  Is there something you’ve continued to choose but the results are a bit confounding?  Or perhaps you simply don’t want to budge on a certain point in your life.  All I can ask is, “how is that working out for you?”  Are you getting the results you want?  If not, it might be time to either choose or to change.  Either way, the Lord is waiting for you.  He loves you no less than He loved His original children, Adam and Eve.  He simply had to leave you to choose.

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If you’ve reached that point in your life where you are unhappy with the results of your own choosing and you want to come into relationship with God, you can make that decision here and now.  All you need do is ask Him into your life by saying this prayer:

Lord, I want to make a change today.  I realize I’m a sinner and I’ve made wrong choices.  I don’t want to walk the rest of my days without you.  I know now that you, Jesus, are my Savior.  I know you went to the cross to pay the price of my sins and you were raised again — all for me.  Lord, I ask you to come to me today, come live in my heart.  I believe in you and I need you to be the Lord of my life.  I ask this in the mighty name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Welcome friend!  I encourage you now to seek out another believer and tell them about your decision.  Don’t keep this a secret!  It’s wonderful news.  I also encourage you to find a strong, Bible-based church and join in.  It might be difficult at first, but you’ll catch on.  I pray the peace of God, which passes all understanding, to enfold you now so that you know you have made the right choice.  It’s a glorious choice you’ve made!

Let the Past be the Past!

New things are coming.  I’m getting really excited about 2015.  If you follow the many prophetic voices around the world, the word is that 2015 will be a year of battles won, restoration from battles lost, and that signs and wonders will reappear.  These are no small matters to consider.  Personally I’m looking forward to a year of realizing all three areas.

We all have pasts.  Buried in our pasts are dreams that have died and the disillusions that came about as a result of those losses.  There is one particular dream of mine that almost died completely this past spring.  After most of my lifetime spent on pursuing (albeit slowly, ever so slowly) one particular dream, I came very close to laying it down completely this year.  My logic was simple; after all these years the dream was nothing more than an illusion.  If it were going to happen, surely it would have after 60-odd years.  I was perfectly willing to let it go.  There just comes the day when you’re tired of nursing the dream along and nothing much was happening.  “Maybe I’ve just been fooling myself,” “what is wrong with my will power Lord?”, and other such thoughts brought me to the edge of the decision.  And, just as I was ready to thrust the dream into oblivion, God intervened.  He showed me that my dream was truly part of who He made me to be and that He had others waiting in the wings, needing to receive the gifting He implanted in me.  He let me know He would end up using someone else if I really didn’t want to go forward, but if I still wanted to pursue the dream, He was behind me.  Humbling that one was!

So I’ve committed to long term classes in 2015 as a student in two arenas.  Part of me is terrified but the other part is ecstatic.  Being a student again requires time, discipline, and effort.  I tend to try to fool myself into believing I don’t have time.  That’s a lie.  The discipline and effort parts?  Well, those scare me the most.  As I look back, the effort kicks in and discipline follows – for a short time.  Then when the unplanned distraction or unavoidable pop up in my life, the discipline crumbles and the effort just can’t muster picking it up again.  That’s been the pattern.  I’m pressing into the Lord in earnest this time around.  He’s helped me in the past accomplish things I didn’t think I could and felt I had no “willpower” to pull off.  It’s time to go there again, realizing that my strengths lie in Him and, just as I posted the other day about stepping over the fence, it’s time I get on with this.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

Is this stirring something in you?  I don’t particularly like New Years resolutions and I’m not considering my plans as such.  This is something else.  This is a stirring in my spirit to follow Him.  To cry out to Him when I feel weak and to give Him praise when I go forward in a straight line.  I will press in to the One who has been molding me all these years, whose plans are for me not against me, and who amazingly still believes in me after all these years.

Anyone up for the adventure?

 

 

Step Over the Fence

Today a friend called. She was struggling with fear and hoped I might have something to say about the subject. Yes, I had something to say. Fear is a monster, brought about by our own false notions. I love what Dr. Henry Cloud has to say about the matter:

“Make sure you scare yourself today by stepping out of your comfort zone somewhere.  Life only gets bigger by walking through fear.  Fear is a fence.”

Fear is a fence. Does that say it all or what? If allowed, fear rules us. It confines us. Strips us. Stops us. And I believe that is exactly what the enemy of our lives had in mind when he created fear. Fear has this incredible strength to stop us dead in our tracks.

I’ve had a lot of fears in my life. Some were actually quite silly but they stopped me nonetheless from doing or accomplishing various things. I’ll never forget the sage wisdom of a counselor in my life many years ago. My problem concerned a job I was working in at the time. This job, while fulfilling at first, became my nemesis. I allowed it to eat me up inside because I didn’t know how to handle the stress of the job. And after doing it to the very best of my abilities at the time, I wanted a change. But, I didn’t know how to make a change.

I sought out and went to this counselor. Saw him exactly one time. I told him the dilemma.

“So what do you want to do about this?” he asked.

“I want to quit the job.”

“And so why don’t you?”

“I’m afraid to. I’m afraid of disappointing my boss and leaving her with the mess of finding someone else to do the job. I’m afraid of disappointing my parents and family because they’ve been so proud of me for my accomplishments in this job. I’m afraid of disappointing my husband,” and my voice dropped off.

He looked at me. “So if you quit your job, what would be the worst thing that could happen?”

“Well, I wouldn’t work there anymore,” I replied.

“And what’s the worst thing that can happen after that?”

“I wouldn’t have the money from working there?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s true. Can you think of anything else?”

“Um, no, that’s pretty much it,” I replied.

“So, if you quit and these things happened, would you die?”

I was shocked by his question. What kind of a nincompoop did he think I was? “No of course I wouldn’t die!” I stated.

“Then what’s the problem?” he asked.

And that was it. The crux of the problem. I was allowing fear and probably a bit of pride to stop me from doing what I wanted to do. Of course the financial ramifications were something that would have to be worked out between me and my husband, but we had already talked it over and I knew we’d get through that part. Fear was stopping me. Fear had indeed fenced me in as Dr. Cloud so eloquently stated.

The reality became clear. Fear was nothing but a thought that I had given permission to mess with me, a notion I wrongfully gave too much power to and it was smothering me. And it was that thought, that lost power of mine that gave the enemy permission to torment me with this job. I’ve never forgotten this lesson in my life.

Remember truth. Fear is a thought. Fear is not from God. God loves me and He wants the very best for me. He says it over and over, in countless ways throughout the Bible. God is for me, not against me. When I allow fear to rule, I’m trapped within the confines of the thought. Frozen, unable to move. Fenced in.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Step over the fence and see what happens. Will you die? More than likely not and you might just find the freedom you’ve been looking for. Brilliant! What’s the worst thing that might happen? Power…to live a life full of all the possibilities!