Thursday, April 9, 2015

Settling the Ridges

Psalm 65:9-13

You visit the earth and water it;
    you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
    you provide their grain,
    for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
    settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
    and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
    your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain,
    they shout and sing together for joy

There is something about poetry that stirs the depths of my soul. Putting words together in ways that ignite my often dull sensibilities. This is why I am drawn to Psalms and Isaiah. Both paint broad stroke pictures with eloquent words. Both pour out God's faithfulness and love toward his children.

These verses speak life. They give sight to truths that we can see with our eyes if we can manage to pry off the blinders and take it all in. 

The beginning of this chapter (which you should read, like yesterday) talks about God's salvation. It then morphs into this beautiful imagery of farmers planting and yielding their fruit. I especially love v 10. "You water it's furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth"

I often view the sharpening of our souls as a painful process, refining fire. This failure to see God's ability to move us and shape us gently, often leads to fear of just what sort of fire God will be walking us through next. Yet, in this verse, God's fire is rain and his refining is a gentle settling. 

This vision of a shower falling on a freshly sown field, the rain settling the hard, rigid places and providing the nourishment needed for the seedlings to break through and see the light of the sun. Doesn't that sound lovely? Isn't it so simple? God settles our hard places with his gentle rain. Allow that to sink in, don't let it drift in the shallows of your soul. 

Does God change us with the hard? Does he move in ways that challenge and stretch? Yes. A thousand times yes. But He is also a gentle rain giver who quietly softens our ridges and makes space for life to flourish. He is able to meet us and move us in the quiet spaces of life. Sometimes he will walk us through fire, but often I believe he takes us through healing rains, we just don't have eyes to see. 

How is God settling your ridges? Where is he meeting you in the quiet, simple places?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When Life Feels Like Sleep Walking

"Spirit of the Living God
come fall afresh on me,
come wake me from my sleep.
Blow through the caverns of my soul
pour in me, to overflow" Fall Afresh, Jeremy Riddle

What does one do when it feels as though walking through life has become walking in sleep? What happens when you are in a place of low hanging clouds and fog that just will not dissipate? When words fail to describe the dullness that has blanketed your senses and quieted the once blazing flame that ignited your spirit.

How do you shake the dust from your bones?

You keep going. One heavy foot in front of the other. Stepping through muck and mud, you keep moving.  Keep telling yourself truth, keep praying, keep doing.

I wholeheartedly believe that Satan uses the smog of life to snuff out our flames and throw us into a haze that clouds out the vision and passion we once had. The great threat to our faith is not only the "big" sins, but the little ones that add one on top of another until they have devoured our once bright light.

Those little lies that creep in, the ones that feel easier to believe than the truth. You are not enough. Are you sure Jesus said that? That was all in your head. Look how enlightened everyone is, are you sure He exists.

Slowly but surely, those lies grow into bigger and bigger lies that become our truth, After days or weeks or months, we wake up realizing that we don't know which way is up and the life we built around the Truth feels like a sham.

And we have to find our way back to Him.

A few weeks ago I was driving home from a friends house when I encountered the thickest fog I had ever seen. I was driving through a cloud, at night, on country roads that I knew, but not well. I began to pray: "Jesus, help us get home safe, please God let us get home safe." There was no safer option than to keep going, slowly but surely, toward home. The fog was relentless,  I could only see the lines on the road directly in front of my car, visibility was zero. We were enveloped. My fists clung tightly to the steering wheel as we headed straight, all while praising God that the road had few curves. As we approached the busy highway, I found that I could see lights, but even they were so thickly covered that they did little to illuminate the 4 lane highway stretched before me. I had to go, at some point I had to cross two lanes and go. It was the only way to safety. When it seemed there were few cars, I booked it out as quickly and cautiously as possible and began toward the light. As we approached the city, new fears became apparent. Now there were more cars, which meant more chances of accidents. So I prayed, "God, let them see us!" We kept moving.

As we entered the city, the fog remained but lifted to the degree that you could see enough to feel confident on the road. I entered the house, with my two children, thanking God that we were kept safe.

We were kept.

I have found myself having to fight, scared and broken, to find God. The only thing that has managed to get me to the city is to keep moving. It may have felt safer to stop and wait out the fog just as you would a storm, but where would that get you? Fog, true dense, earth swallowing, fog, is not easily moved. It wasn't until almost noon the next day that the sun had burned the fog away. You have to keep moving to get to the light. So we have to move, to trust Him, and go.

God is loving and he searches for his children, but we cannot be stagnant Christians, paralyzed by fear, doubt, and worry. We have to keep going, the fog will eventually burn off and clarity will return.

For me, this has looked like creating the habit of reading my bible every single day. To fill my mind with enough of God's truth that it had the ability to crowd out the lies that had taken up residence. It has meant praying and trusting God's "not yet." Because we are kept in the hands of the Almighty, do we really need to know everything? Can we not rest in knowing that we are His?

And we pray, we sing, we do whatever it takes to feel for the presence of God. The song I had at the beginning of this post is my prayer, often. God come, God fall afresh, wake me up, burn up this fog that has smudged my vision and blanketed my life. Wake me up from this dense sleepiness that has settled in my soul.

The fog will lift, and when it does I hope to be found standing firm in my faith, not run over by my fear.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bright Hope

We sang this hymnal tonight at our monthly team meeting at Church:

Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
 Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Simply a beautiful song, not only because of the depth of truth but the girl who sang has a voice that can shake a mountain. Singing truth like this, with power behind my often weak voice, brings me back to center. I feel the Holy Spirit show up and my soul is refreshed, dust shaken off.  So much of this song is relevant to me right now, really to all of us. However, one line stood out among the rest: “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”

Isn't that what we all need, all the time? Strength for today AND hope for tomorrow. Not just any hope, bright hope, a hope that illuminates and leads the way in a dark and broken world.  Lately, I have been struggling with both. I feel worn down, overwhelmed, and have been beating myself up for not having it all together. I have lost my strength in today and can’t seem to find hope for tomorrow. I’m stuck.

We all get stuck at times. Stuck in sin. Stuck in ruts. Stuck in habits and hang ups that pull us down. Stuck in the mud of lies that the enemy feeds us. Just stuck. I had an educator once tell me that a counselor’s role is to help people get “un-stuck” which I love the thought of. But what is one to do when they are a counselor and can’t seem to get un-stuck.

Search for Jesus.

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.”

We search because He is always waiting and He never changes. What grace that we have a God whose love for us is no shifting shadow; it remains our bright hope for tomorrow.

Tonight, Jesus reminded me in a variety of ways that he is present, he is with me, he has not abandoned me. Even when I can’t see my future, he holds it gently in his grasp. I feel hope rising up, and for the first time in awhile, it feels bright. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

A New Season

If anything is true of this life it is that change is inevitable. Seasons come and go. Some bright and warm like the summer sun, others cold and bitter like this past winter. Some are as still as a placid lake in fall, others abuzz with life and beauty as spring. Ever changing, always moving.

Seasons end. Always. Even in the midst of our pain and suffering, our confusion, or even our elation, they end and a new begins. Just as summer bursts into fall, our lives are in constant flux.

This is a new season. A new beginning and a new ending. A new chance to see the world through different glasses. It is bittersweet, it is lovely, it is chaotic, it is heartbreaking, heartwarming, and it is a challenge. It is new perspectives, new roles, and new identities.

I haven't spoken about it in social media much because it has been a hard transition. At first it felt like fall meeting winter, when that first cold snap hits and the reality of what lies ahead settles into your bones. However, God has had grace on me and has been showing me, ever so subtly, that this is where he wants me and it is not a failure, it is not a flaw, and He will bring good from this season. I can already see some of it, the good that can come when we release our plans to His hands and allow Him to move.

Going back to work means much for us. It means more financial peace and stability, it means moving into a career that I have longed for since the days of "counseling" my friends at the ripe old age of 10, it means facing ideological and theological terms of motherhood and wifedom that we have wrestled with. This idea that mothers aren't "full time" mothers if they don't stay home with their kids. The image I have built up in my mind of what a good wife and mother ought to do, ought to be.

You see, I have always pictured myself as a stay at home mom. Always. In all of our conversations leading up to children we always said I would stay home with the kids until they went back to school. I was determined, come hell or high water, to stay home and be the one to raise my kids. My mother didn't have that luxury and I was bent on making it happen. So we did. We sacrificed and strained and pulled and prayed. For almost two years my husband endured the financial burden of being sole provider, for two years he did all that he could to make it work. I don't know that he fully grasps the gratitude that I have for his hard work and selflessness. He has served and sacrificed for us in ways that many men would not be willing to do.

During the course of the two years I was home, God provided for us time and time again. Literally, provided money and resources that we needed. But as we began to look at the future we had to face the reality that if something didn't change, I would need to return to work. So we prayed and wept and prayed more that God would allow me to stay home, but that if that wasn't possible that God would make a way in the wilderness.

He did and He is. His way in the wilderness was a job and childcare that I trust and a new season of life for the Smiths. As I have made this transition it has been difficult and exhausting. Yet, I feel this sort of life and purpose again. This sort of fight that I had lost along the way. We have wandered a dry and weary land for months and we are beginning to see the oasis ahead and it is a beautiful vision to behold. I have much hope for this season and a lot of nervous excitement. As much as I feared this transition, there is good to be had from it.

By the grace of God, I'm moving forward in hope and full reliance on the One who establishes my steps. For this season I pray that we can find contentment in where God has placed us and a willingness to follow His lead. My career is not who I am, neither is my role of Mother, or Wife. I am many things to many people, but ultimately I am daughter to the King and there is rest to be had knowing that my Father loves me despite my insecurities.

A new adventure awaits, a new season with new life and new purpose.

Friday, July 18, 2014


As strange as it may sound, there is rest for my weary bones in scrubbing away scum from a dirty bathtub. The energy expended to clean away the dirt and stains strengthens arms to hold the weight of a stressful month. If I can scrub away the grey, if I can get it clean enough, the world will become a brighter place, one bathtub at a time.

But it returns, it always comes back. No sooner do you get the counter clean that a chocolate covered toddler hand reaches up and you are back to square one. 

That's life in a broken world isn't it? Trying hard to iron out our wrinkles and straighten our edges and the brokenness follows behind us making messes of things we once made clean. I feel it in my soul, this need to be clean, this desire to be good enough, to be enough. If I scrub hard enough, I can make myself clean, I can make things better. If I could just try harder I could be better, I could be enough. 

The divine mystery, that Jesus gives his grace freely and without reservation to the bruised people in a broken world. As my daughter's children's bible aptly says "they were lovely, because He loved them." 

Lovely, because He loved. Beloved. Important.  Enough. Not because of what we do, not because we can put on a facade of cleanliness and order in our lives. Clean only because He washes us in the rains of grace. 

I still scour and scrub and try. Its part of me, this need to be better. I'm learning. I am figuring out how to rest in his grace, to dance in the rain not cower in the storm. Because, who would give their life for someone not yet born, not yet even a thought in a mother's mind?

His ways are higher than ours. I want so badly to understand grace, and that is the problem. I don't know that we can fully grasp it, I don't know that God intended for us to be able to get it, to really get it. There is beauty in the mystery, a freedom to not have to know. To a weary soul there is respite in knowing Who loves you and fights on your behalf. Repose knowing you don't have to scour away the sin, that He has done it for you. 

But by the grace of God, I'm learning. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

You are Beautiful

Since having a daughter, I have learned that it matters if I think I am beautiful. It matters because it will influence how she sees herself.

Long long ago, when I was young, I began to lose sight of my beauty. It happens that way, doesn't it? The world shatters our once rose colored glasses. We learn through peers, or parents, or a stranger on the street that we are not pretty. Someone tells us we are ugly, and we believe them. The world says to be beautiful you must have blonde hair, blue eyes, and a symmetrical face with nary a blemish to be seen. Women must be rail thin, but with large enough assets, so to speak. We must have a thigh gap, big butt, and a collar bone defined. We must dress a certain way, walk a certain way, and heaven forbid we speak too soft or too loud.

You get the picture.

They say beauty comes from within, that the eye of the beholder is the deciding factor. Yet, the world screams at us that beauty is only an airbrush away. We aren't good enough on our own, even celebrities can't measure up to the prevailing standard. They must be photo-shopped beyond recognition to be deemed worthy of the front cover. Who can attain that sort of beauty? It's imaginary, made up fictional beauty that only exists on paper. A beauty created by contrast and saturation levels, by skimming and slimming of thighs and waists until little is left. A beauty that is seen in pictures and movies, but never in reality, never standing in front of you. Perfection, in terms of beauty, is a fantasy only to be seen in glossy magazines.

This past week it hit me like a train. Someone paid me a compliment on a picture of me and my son, a rarity because I usually hide behind the camera. She said I was gorgeous. I cringed.  Then it hit. That moment when your reality shifts, when you see the world from the perspective of your daughter. I want my daughter to know that she was created beautiful. She is beautiful because she is loved beyond measure by a God who knit her together, who found fit to give her her father's dimple and her mother's brownish blonde hair.

I always wanted my children to look like their father because he is the most handsome man I know. His smile has melted my heart since we were young and in love, walking the halls of a small christian high school. He says he sees me in her, I'm beginning to see it too. In seeing it, I am beginning to revisit all the ways I see myself.

When I look in the mirror, I see flaw after flaw and I work hard to hide them behind make up like smoke and mirrors. But, with age come wisdom and with motherhood comes perspective. My children are, by far, my most beautiful creations. I often stare at them in awesome wonder of what God has given us.

That's it.

Those moments of seeing my child's beauty, I see my own through my mother's eyes. I realize that I am worthy because I serve a God who sees me as such. I am beautiful because I was created unique. I don't have to live up to the standards of the world because this world is not my home.

I want my daughter to know that she is beautiful and I plan to remind her as often as possible. I want the girls I lead to believe me when I pay them a compliment, when I tell them they are beautiful just the way they are. To believe me when I tell them that beauty is far more than a pretty face. From today on, I want to model to them a woman who is confident in who God created her to be, flaws and all. I will never meet the world's standard of beauty.That's ok, I don't serve the world.

Ladies, when someone says you are beautiful, please believe them. You are loved beyond measure by a God who made you, who knit you together piece by piece. You are more than a body bound by time and weathered by age, you are a cherished daughter of Christ. You are beautiful.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

To the Moms

Unless you live under a rock, you probably realize that Mother's Day is swiftly approaching. For those of you reading this who may have forgotten, it is Sunday, call your mom!

But in all seriousness, since this blog tends to run along the more serious routes, I wanted to write a post to ALL the moms out there.

To the Momma who isn't yet a Mom. For whatever reason you are not a Mom yet but someday you plan to be. You have a mother's heart that loves to nurture and care for those around you. Thank you. Thank you for using your God-given gifts and abilities to love and nurture those closest to you. Whether it means making breakfast for your roommate, or watching other people's babies and loving on them as if they were your own, you matter.

To the Momma who has miscarried or lost a baby to still birth. First, my heart aches for you. I know you, I was you. Can I tell you something, you are a Mom in the truest sense of the word. You carried that sweet baby for 2 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months or even full term. The moment you saw those two pink lines you became a mother. You sacrificed your wants and needs for that precious gift growing inside of you. Then the walls crumbled and everything you did to protect that baby failed you. Even though you don't have a baby in your arms, you are as much of a mother as anyone else. You are not forgotten. Even if you haven't told a soul that you have loved and lost in a matter of weeks, you are not forgotten. Happy Mothers Day to you because you are a mom.

To the New Momma, whether you carried your baby or adopted, bless your heart I bet you're tired. I remember those days of feeling like I was constantly at my max, constantly nursing or changing or rocking. You are awesome. You are tired but you are awesome. Thank you for sacrificing your perfect abs and your wine for that sweet baby who needs you. Thank you for rocking that precious boy or girl at 3 am as you cry your eyes out either totally exhausted or totally in love. You are a good mom, you are doing the best you can and that is enough. Don't worry about what everyone else is doing, love your baby and follow those instincts God gave you and you will do great! As cliche as it is, it is true, enjoy these days, they go fast.

To the Momma of more than 1. Thank you for sacrificing yourself and your needs for your children. They will thank you some day, and if they don't I am thanking you for them. Thank you for giving yourself day in and day out, multiplying your attention to each of your children. Loving more than you ever thought you could love, giving more than you knew possible. You know the power of love more than anyone. You know how it grows and expands with each child you have. You are amazing. You made babies, you carried them in your body and birthed them into this world. No matter how few or how many children you have you know that all the late nights, all the bodily fluids, all the quarrels and quandaries, it's all worth it. Those smiles and laughs and every "lub you" makes all the hard days worth it.

To the Working Momma, you are a good momma. You are showing your kids how to follow their dreams and work hard. Whether you do it out of necessity or choice, you work hard each day so that you can provide for your kids. Quality time is far more important that quantity and I'm positive you know that better than most. Thank you for working day in and day out, working and then coming home to work some more. You are strong and your children will benefit from your diligence and strength.

To the Stay at Home Momma, thank you for working hard, harder than many. You sacrificed your career and probably much more than that for your children and that is a wonderful sacrifice to make. Thank you for working hard day in and day out with no end to your work day, no sick days, no vacation, and no personal days. Thank you for sweeping up cheerios, bandaging boo boos, and scrubbing lord-knows-what off the kitchen floor for the fifteenth time today. Your job is not glamorous, it doesn't pay well, but it is oh so special. You are an educator, a nurse, a maid, a cook, a counselor and so much more. You are doing a good job. You may not have quarterly reviews and pay raises to gauge your productivity, but you have living breathing beings who are being shaped into well rounded citizens. You are pouring yourself into the next generation and that is not a small task.

Thank you moms. No matter who you are, where you come from, whether you have 1 child or 10 you deserve a million thanks. You are valued, loved, and treasured. The things you do now will have a lasting impact because your children and your children's children will benefit from you. Paul shows us this in 2 Timothy 1:5 "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well." The faith of Timothy came from his grandmother and mother. That's you, you are someone's mother, and someday someone's grandmother and even if it doesn't seem like it now,  you are making a positive impact on your children that will ripple into the future. 

Thank you. You are an inspiration.