Filtered


thR6RG5FG5Have you noticed how everything, and I mean everything, is filtered these days? Rarely do we take a picture any more without adding a filter to make it look better. And if I ever saw a celebrity in person I’d probably not recognize them because they’re all photo-shopped in the pictures I see of them.

So it makes me wonder, why we feel the need to filter our lives? Why do we want to try to improve on what God created us to be? Why do we need to change the appearance of our original selves? Are we really that unhappy with who we are? Don’t get wrong. I’m certainly not judging or saying I never use filters. You will not see a picture of me that doesn’t have a black & white filter! So, I am guilty of doing it too.

But back to my thought. People struggle with letting their real selves be seen and heard. People even filter what they say instead of just saying what they mean. Why is that?! I have some thoughts on why we feel the need to filter.

One reason is that we are fearful. We don’t want to say what we’re really feeling or show our real selves because we fear we will be rejected. I believe this is the greatest fear people face today. We are so afraid to show who we really are because we think people won’t accept the real us. That if they knew the truth about who we really are (our thoughts, feelings, struggles), then they would judge us and want nothing to do with us. So we use a filter.

thPNRJ9V7OSam Smith even said it when he accepted his Grammy Award the other night – he said “Before I made this record I was doing everything to try and get my music heard,” Smith said. “I tried to lose weight and I was making awful music. It was only until I started to be myself that the music started to flow and people started to listen.” Wow, why did he feel such pressure to be someone he wasn’t? Was it fear of rejection? Insecurities? And look at the outcomes when he simply decided to be who he was. No filters.

Another reason is control. We get a false sense of being in control when we can hide our true self. We long to be our own boss of our lives. To surrender seems weak. But the truth is there is power in surrendering to God and allowing Him to be in control. There is safety and security in His arms. We let ourselves believe that we’re in control of situations when we keep our real selves hidden. We convince ourselves that people can’t hurt us or control us as long as we remain in control. We keep a wall up and never let them into the inner sanctuary of our hearts where our real feelings and thoughts live. But it’s all a façade. It may appear on the outside that we’re in control but inside it leaves us feeling completely out of control. It’s just another filter that hides what is real.

thVC85JMWZThe final reason we filter our lives is because we think that if we can be someone else, we will be happy. We think that if we can be the person we are pretending to be then our lives will be happy. We believe that if we hide our real self long enough that eventually all the hurts, wounds, insecurities and mistakes will just go away. We think that who we really are will just disappear and people will believe we’re really the person we’re pretending to be. We’re deceived into thinking that if we can just make our real self disappear then all our problems will disappear too.

God sent Jesus to die on the cross and to set us free from everything that makes us not want to be the real us. He never intended for us to feel the need to hide from who He created us to be. We are not a mistake that needs to be filtered because God doesn’t make mistakes. He loves us and accepts us. Without filters. He may be the only person you can trust will your real self but you CAN trust Him. He will never reject you if you let down your guard and trust Him to see the real you. He longs for you to share your true feelings and thoughts with Him. There is nothing about you that He doesn’t already know. So why not just open up and be free to share the real you. No filter. There is peace and joy that comes with being who you were created to be. We need to stop hiding behind a filter. It just may be distorting what God meant for the world to see.

Advertisements

Nobody Likes a Bad Ending


IMG_1951I recently read the book Gone Girl. I could not put the book down no matter how hard I tried. I was consumed with the fast paced drama and the unexpected twists and turns. It was a page turner like no other until the LAST FOUR PAGES! I finished the book and then just sat there in disbelief. How could a book so good end so bad? I don’t think I’ve ever been angry over how a book ended. Disappointed maybe, but angry? I was so mad I vowed never to watch the movie. Ever. It’s been weeks since I finished that book and I’m still not over it. Why? Because I don’t like a bad ending.

The truth is that I am not alone. Nobody likes bad endings – unresolved conflicts, unforgiveness in relationships, broken marriages, failed pregnancies, unhealed hurts, heartbreaks and unanswered questions. We don’t like any of it. We long for everything to be wrapped up nice and tidy with a bow on it. We want everything to end on high note but all too often things just don’t end the way we want them to. So why is it that bad endings seem to bother us so very much?

We were never meant to be comfortable with a bad ending. God created us to long for the happy ending. We were designed to be dissatisfied with the undesirable, the unfinished and the unhappy endings of our lives. We are wired to yearn for all to be right in the world. That’s why people cheer when the underdog wins. That’s why we love to see the guy get the girl at the end of the movie – the one that he didn’t stand a chance with. That’s why we cry when we read stories of redemption, forgiveness and restoration. That’s why ‘Unbroken’ is a box office smash at the movies right now. We want to see others and ourselves overcome the seemingly impossible obstacles we face in life. We crave the happy ending.

159764a32101a639cb65dd81b01fe02fSo what does this mean for those of us in the midst of struggles. Those whose happy ending is nowhere in sight? We are to put our trust in the One who is the author of happy endings. God did not create us to suffer. However, we are sinners living in a sin-filled world where suffering exists. But our endings do not have go according to the enemy’s plan. Our endings can go according to God’s plan when we put our trust in Him. Does that mean that everything will turn out A-ok? Sometimes. But sometimes it simply means that we can have peace even when it all doesn’t turn out according to our plan. So how can we have peace when we’re in the middle of a bad ending? When we have faith that we haven’t reached the end of our story yet.

I love this quote from Rick Warren: “Not everything in life has a happy ending. But this life is not the end of the story.” The peace we find in the middle of our bad ending is knowing that it’s not the end. No matter how our story in this life ends, it’s not the final ending to our story. As Christians going through impossible circumstances, that is the best news we can hear right now. Our story doesn’t end with whatever hand we are dealt this side of heaven. Our story ends when we are called home to be with our Lord and Savior. And friends, our story ends well.

The Parent Trap


untitledRecently a dear friend asked me how to navigate through parenting a post high school child. We’ve all considered the terrible two’s and tumultuous three’s as the toughest years but those years are a walk in the park compared to parenting a young adult. We usually think about parenting in terms of discipline, teaching, providing for needs, guiding and imparting wisdom. But once they become a young adult the terms change. And that’s where things get tricky. Unfortunately they don’t come with instruction manuals and most of us are just winging it.

But as I thought about her question and about what would be involved, I realized that the hardest thing about parenting a young adult is probably not what most people would think. The hardest part has nothing to do with parenting at all. Many of us fall into the trap of thinking we still must provide all the normal things that go along with being a parent as long as they are living under our roof or they are dependent on us while attending college. But the reality is that this is the time our children must find their own direction in life. They must be making their own decisions and plans. They will make mistakes but we have to let them. The hardest thing I’ve had to do during this stage of parenting is to let go.

3eb8bdbd9f50f036839664c20d966b71God chooses us to be a supervisor for our children. As their supervisor we train them and teach them about life. We’re responsible for much of their plans, activities and schedule. Another trap we fall into is the trap of thinking that the plans that we have had for their lives will be the path they choose. We may provide direction and support for their God given talents and abilities, but that doesn’t mean they’ll choose the life that we’d hoped they would. I’m sure my parents never dreamed that I would join the US Navy and move to the other side of the country but that’s exactly what I chose to do. It’s not our job as parents to plan out our child’s life. And as a young adult, that’s the time they’re beginning to question what their future will look like, what career they’ll have, who they’ll marry, where they’ll live. We can provide advice when they ask, but what their future holds is ultimately up to them.

Our job as parents is to prepare our children for life. God chooses us to supervisor their childhood years but that is a temporary assignment. They are on loan to us until we return them to God so that He can lead them into the destiny for which He created them. And this is definitely the hardest part of being a parent.

il_570xN.331205967Eventually our children reach the point where they are promoted to work directly with the Master Builder. They no longer need a supervisor to oversee them. During this season we as parents can fall into the trap of holding on to our children when it’s time to let them go. We can hinder their independence and growth by still trying to play too big a role in their life. We must ride out this season from the sidelines and let them discover the path God is leading them to. Interfering will simply delay the inevitable and can cause them to distance themselves from us even more so than they would naturally during this time.

They are now adults and we must see them as such. We have helped them to grow their wings and now is the time to let them fly. The temporary pain of letting go is manageable when we remind ourselves that we are entrusting them into the into the hands of the One who created them and loves them even more than we do. It’s time for us to enjoy watching our young adult find their way and discover their life’s direction. And we can find comfort in knowing that the next season of our relationship with our children will be as friends and there is no greater point to reach in the life of a parent.

Consumed With (fill in the blank)


thWhat comes to mind when you see “consumed with _________.” Do you think you’re not consumed with anything? Think again because I bet you are. Did you know that consumed means to waste away or to use up, to devour? It’s not a positive concept, yet many of us are still consumed with something.

Consumed With Guilt

Have you ever felt so much guilt about something that you literally felt you were being eaten up by it? Like it was devouring you from the inside? I’ve known people who carried guilt with them for years. They’ve never forgiven themselves for the hurt they caused or the poor choices they’ve made. The guilt they carry becomes a weight that keeps them from experiencing any true joy because the guilt is a constant reminder that they are not worthy of that joy.

Consumed With Anger

Anger and hatred are partner emotions that take up space in our hearts and leave no room for peace. Those consumed by anger unleash their emotion on anyone who crosses their path but most often the target of their anger is someone or something that is far removed from the current situation. Resentment can build over time and evolve into anger and hatred toward a person or situation if left unaddressed and unresolved.

Wasting-Time-in-Social-MediaConsumed With Busyness

Many of us find ourselves consumed by activities and busyness that rob us of valuable time. We can simply pop onto social media for a quick check and lose an hour as we venture off on rabbit trails of pictures and posts that add no value to our day. We can get hooked on TV shows and build our schedules around them as we become engrossed in an activity that will ultimately not provide much benefit.

Consumed With Worry

Do you find your thoughts drifting to scenarios of situations that haven’t even occurred yet and may possibly never happen? Are you constantly anxious over things that have no certainty of taking place? Do your thoughts lean toward the negative side and do you find yourself assuming the worse will happen instead of thinking positively?

Consumed By Grace

Sometimes I still find myself consumed with one or more of the above. When I find myself feeling resentment toward someone or wasting time with TV shows or social media or catch myself thinking negative thoughts of worry and anxiety, I remind myself that, as a child of God, the only thing I need to be consumed by is His Grace.

The difference in the other things (anger, worry, busyness and guilt) is that they all require our participation. That’s why we use the word “with” when we refer to them. We allow ourselves to be consumed with them when we give them our focus and attention.

thNRLLX738But when we are consumed by the grace of God, we use the word “by” because it’s no longer about us and what we can do, but it is by His grace and what He’s already done for us. God’s grace is more than sufficient to overcome our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:19). His grace will fill the places in our heart and in our mind where we have allowed ourselves to be consumed with negative emotions.

What is consuming you today? What is causing you to slowly waste away on the inside? God knows what you’re going through. He knows your thoughts and your struggles. If you will trust Him to be your strength, He will begin to push out the negative emotions in your life and will replace them with the peace and joy you’ve been missing. Open your heart to be consumed by His grace and begin the journey toward the freedom that negative emotions have kept you from.

I Was Wrong


thYBQHQ7S5Have you ever noticed that there are not many people these days admitting when they are wrong? I see lots of  people in the news media pointing fingers and placing blame but rarely do I hear someone utter the words “I was wrong”.  Take for instance our government – have you ever seen so much name calling and accusations as we see between the political parties that are responsible for running our country?

And what about celebrities caught in scandals? They are masters at spinning their story to make it appear as if they are just an innocent victim of someone else’s wrong doing. Even when they do get caught completely red handed, their apologies are often half-hearted and insincere. Think Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton and Paula Deen.

th27YG3WKMThe problem with never accepting responsibility for your mistakes is that you can never receive forgiveness for something until you are first willing to admit that you were wrong. So you spend your life carrying around the guilt and shame of your wrongdoing because you are unwilling to take the blame for it. Placing the blame on someone else is the enemy’s way to keep us from the freedom of being forgiven.

God never intended for us to carry the burden of our sins and believe me, it is a burden! The weight of guilt can be overwhelming. That’s why God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we may be forgiven and set free from the burden of sin. But to receive that forgiveness and freedom we must first admit that we were wrong. If you’re blaming others, then it places the responsibility on them to seek forgiveness for something you’ve done. You can’t receive forgiveness if someone else is seeking it in your place so you continue to drag along the ball and chain of guilt.

thL00ECGNONobody causes us to sin. It’s our choice. So why is it so hard to say “I was wrong”? There are many reasons why we find it difficult – pride, shame, embarrassment, and selfishness to name a few. Sometimes we think it’s understood by the person we’ve hurt and that we shouldn’t have to admit our wrongdoing. Other times we think too much time has passed and it’s pointless. The reality is that until we humble ourselves, go to God to admit our sin, and seek His forgiveness, we will be trapped in the enemy’s snare of unforgiveness. The longer we wait, the heavier the weight we carry and the harder our hearts become.

So what’s keeping you from admitting you were wrong? Is it worth hanging onto? Is the burden of your unwillingness to admit your mistake weighing you down? Today is the day to be set free by taking responsibility of your choices, going to God and saying these words….I was wrong, please forgive me. It’s truly that easy to experience the freedom of forgiveness. 

 

You and What Army?


When I was in middle school a common response when someone threatened to “beat another person up” was – “oh yea? you and what army?” In other words – “if you think you’re gonna take me down you better bring an army along with you because you’re gonna need it.”

Last night our cat, Dakota, was sitting on our porch minding his own business when the neighborhood bully cat started to head in his direction.  From the window I saw Dakota crouching lower and lower hoping to be invisible to his approaching nemesis. As the bully cat quickened his pace, I dropped what I was doing and ran straight to the door. As soon as I opened the front door the bully cat stopped in his tracks. I told Dakota to come inside but he didn’t budge. I yelled at the cat thug to go back where he came from. He didn’t budge. I turned to my husband sitting on the couch and said “I think we’re fixin’ to have a problem.”

Suddenly Dakota realized he was not alone. He had an “army” of me, Dave and my son, Scott all standing behind him and looking on. He leaped from the porch and headed straight toward the bully cat. His new-found boldness came from knowing that we were there and that we would protect him. So he decided to take the offensive and run the cat thug out of his yard and away from his home. Even though Dakota was pretty much powerless on his own because he was smaller and doesn’t have his front claws to fight with, in the moment he knew he had the strength t0 battle, not because of his own power but because of the power of those who stood with him.

thFNW1G6IRAs Christians we don’t have to battle our enemy, the devil, alone. Against such a formidable foe, we are virtually powerless in our own strength. But when we have God and His army of angels to wage war on our behalf, we can battle with confidence knowing the victory has already been won. But too many times we cower in fear when we face the enemy because we think we have to fight on our own. If we’d only respond by trusting that God is in the battle with us then we would confidently go after the enemy and chase him out of our lives whenever he comes near.

If the enemy is coming at you and threatening to attack remember that there is army in heaven ready to wage war. All you need to do is use the power you have available to you through prayer and call upon the promises of God’s word. Have faith in knowing that if we will submit ourselves to God and resist the devil then he will flee (James 4:7) and the victory will be ours.

Battle On


th (6)At the time of Jesus’ death, it appeared to His followers that all hope was lost. Everything that they had banked on was now gone. What they had believed would be the answer to all their problems was now hanging on a cross. I’m sure they gathered in disbelief as all their expectations were laid to rest in a cavernous grave.

Many times we think all our hope is lost when we experience the death of what we thought was the answer to all our problems. We put our trust in how we think things should be. We know what God’s Word promises, but we make our own plans as to how and when those promises should be fulfilled. And when that doesn’t happen the way we think it should, we begin to believe that things will never change. Our answer when that feeling comes is to cling to the message of Easter. He is Risen and He will arise in the midst of our circumstances as He promised.

crossThe believers at the time of His death thought that Jesus was going to rule over all and that He would set up His kingdom on earth within their lifetime. When He died on the cross they could not possibly understand why everything that they had put their trust in had left them. I’m sure they questioned everything they had believed and had trusted in. I have no doubt that they felt that Jesus had failed them.

But then He arose when they least expected it. Their hope was renewed, their strength was restored and His grace was poured out upon them to finish the race He had set before them. It was not what they had anticipated and looked nothing like they had imagined. But there He was. The answer to their circumstances and the solution to their problems was standing before them. Their faith and their hope was resurrected. For some their victory was immediate when their eyes were opened to His love for them through His sacrifice on the cross for their sins. For some it may have taken time. And still for others, their victory over their circumstance, the end to their problem, the healing they sought was never seen in their lifetime. But for those still waiting, they never lost hope again because He had risen from the grave. Their eyes were opened to see the power of the Resurrection. He had not only risen from the grave, He had resurrected life in them to continue the fight until their day of victory.

thCAE831UPDon’t ever lose sight of the fact that your answer is hanging on the cross. What looked like all hope was lost to the followers of Jesus, was in fact the moment all hope was found. It was the only solution to the problem of sin. It was the sacrifice that saved them from an eternity separated from the One they loved and trusted in. In the moment they couldn’t see it. In this moment you may not see it. But He is your answer.

My prayer today is that the message of Easter will resurrect your hope and restore your strength to continue the fight. I pray that His grace will be sufficient to see you through to victory. And I pray that your eyes will be opened to the power of the Resurrection.

Now battle on Kingdom Warriors – the victory is ours!

Out of Focus


IMG_2933Have you ever gone back years later to visit a place where you played as a child? Did you notice that it wasn’t quite like you remembered it? Or worse, it was nothing like you remembered it as a child. Have you ever told your children stories of the enormous hill you went sledding on or the tree that you climbed that was bigger than any tree your child has ever seen? And then you take them to see the hill or the tree and suddenly you look like the biggest liar EVER. Well, it happened to me.

In that moment I wondered what in the world happened. How could the hill and the tree have gotten so much smaller? I looked at the hill with disbelief because the hill that I went sledding down at 10 years old was so much bigger than the hill that now stood before me. And the tree. I thought the tree that I used to climb with my friends was the biggest tree ever known to exist. And then there was the wall I used to walk on. My dad would hold my hand and walk alongside me. I felt so high up in the air and it was so scary. Yet when I drove by that wall many years later it was only 3 feet tall. Seriously?! It couldn’t be the same wall – the wall I walked on was towering up to the sky. But it was in fact the same wall, on the same street, in front of the same house my grandparents used to live in.

IMG_2930

It’s funny how when you look back sometimes, the things that you thought were so huge are not really as big as you thought they were. You have a picture in your mind that has been there for years but in that moment, they just don’t seem the same as you remember them.  The thing is, the size of the hill and the tree or the height of the wall didn’t change over time. What changed over the years was my perspective. I had changed. I had grown. The way I saw things and the perspective from which I saw them had changed. They had not changed, I was just seeing them with a different set of eyes.

How different could our lives be if we changed the way we look at things? What if instead of looking at the challenges of life with childlike eyes that viewed everything as so much bigger than us, we looked at them through mature eyes that see them as not so big after all?  How much easier would life be if we were able to look at our problems and think “That’s it? Wow, that’s nothing!”

IMG_2932What if, instead of being fearful of the enormity of what we face, we could see that in reality it’s nothing like we imagine it to be? What if we could see things in the moment as they really are and it not take years later to see our situations and circumstances as a small bump in the road instead of a huge obstacle that seems impossible to overcome? What if we could see the good in a situation now instead of focusing on the bad? What if it didn’t take a really long time to see that what is happening now may actually be a good thing instead of bad like we think it is? What if we could pick out the positives and discard the negatives now instead of years from now when we look back on this season?

Does this sound impossible? Difficult, yes. Impossible, no.  The reality is already there, we just have to learn to see it. The hill, the tree and the wall didn’t change. There were always the size they are now. But the way they appeared to me changed because my perspective changed. The same can be true for our circumstances. They may not change. But the way we see them can definitely change. If we begin to refocus our eyes on God and how big He is, then our problems suddenly begin to look smaller. Instead of saying “God, I have a big problem!” we should be saying “Problem, I have a big God!”.

th (5)God never promised that our lives would be problem free but He did promise us that He will be right there with us as we face our problems. Many times we fail to recognize when our perspective is out of focus. We become fearful, worried and obsessed with our problems because we are seeing them through childlike eyes. But we have tools available to us that can help us to refocus. When we spend time reading the bible, in prayer and quieting our busy minds in order to seek God’s presence, we find that our perspective begins to change. The problems we face begin to diminish and we begin to grow in our faith in Him. Before long our focus is restored and our perspective is renewed. It’s not easy to refocus, but it is possible (Phil. 4:13).

Has the way you see things gotten out of focus? Do the problems you face seem impossible to overcome?  It’s time to refocus on the One who has overcome it all (John 16:33). Don’t wait until years from now to see the truth. It’s time to see your situation for what it really is and not what it seems to be. Refocus.

Leave It To A Professional


thQQATP0ODHave you ever tried to fix something on your own only to find that you made a bigger mess of it than before you started? I have. I have fully replaced my yard twice because I over fertilized and under watered. Then there was the time I almost ended up divorced over wallpaper removal and replacement. Oh, and there was the time I thought I could fix a borrowed chainsaw. If only I’d just left it alone I wouldn’t have had to replace it with a brand new one. Some things are better off left to a professional, especially when it comes to people.

I used to get frustrated at people who refuse to believe the promises of God’s Word and walk in victory over their past and present battles. I’m not talking about the unchurched, non-believers who don’t know what the promises of God are. Or even Christians who believe in God and go to church on occasion. I’m talking about the born-again believer who knows God, who reads their bible, prays, serves in the church and is surrounded by fellow believers. No matter how many times they’ve heard the message, attended the small group, been prayed over, and encouraged – they refuse to accept who God says they are and continue to walk in shame, condemnation and insecurity because they believe the lies of the enemy and who he says they are. I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to believe who God says they are and to be free from the bondage that held them captive.

th3NQ7U036I could see that they were missing out on the peace and joy that God was waiting to pour out on them. The life they dreamed about and deserved was within reach if they’d just take hold of it. Why didn’t they simply trust God and His word? Maybe it was fear, feelings of unworthiness, too many lies in their head, too many deep rooted wrong beliefs that were too hard to overcome. My frustration came from the fact that no matter how hard I tried or how much encouragement I gave them – I couldn’t change them.

I came to realize it’s not that they didn’t want to believe it, they just hadn’t reached the point yet where they do believe. God showed me I needed to have a lot more grace with people. I also learned there is a fine line between wanting to be used by God and wanting to be God. Pride can prevent us from having grace and from allowing God the room in our lives to speak through us. I pray for God to use me as a vessel to speak hope to the hopeless yet when I have the opportunity to do so I battle against sharing my own thoughts and advice versus hearing from God what He wants to say to them. Knowing when to shut up and knowing when to let God speak up has long been my struggle. How can I be used by God to speak to those in need of direction without trying to be their Holy Spirit and trying to “fix” them?

thG2XYJKY5

The answer for them was the same for me. Instead of trying to fix our problems through our own strength and abilities, we need to trust Jesus. I need to trust Jesus. I need to always remember that God is God and I’m not. And even though I may have areas of my life that I’ve surrendered to Him and have victory over, I have other areas that I’m still struggling in. So, I’m no different from those who have yet to find their peace and victory. We’re all a work in progress. Who am I to gauge how far along someone should be on their journey or to get bothered because their roots run deeper and their battle rages stronger than mine?

I want to see God to heal the brokenhearted, restore the broken, bring hope to the hopeless and victory to the defeated. The peace I have when my frustrations rear their ugly head is that He is more than able. He did it in my life and He can do it in theirs. It’s not up to me to make someone believe that the promises of God are for them. But it is up to me to believe it for them when they can’t believe it for themselves. They may have given up for now but God hasn’t given up on them so neither am I. So until they believe it, I can stand in the gap and believe for them. Who in your life needs your grace and needs for you to believe for them until they believe for themselves?

When the Puzzle Pieces Come Together


thIRE44WN6I’m not much of a puzzle person. They seem like they would be fun to put together. But when I open the box and see all the pieces, I can’t envision the completed picture when all those pieces fit together. So I tend to give up before I even get started.

 

For the past 6 years God was putting together pieces of a puzzle in my life and I wasn’t even aware of it until it was completed. It all started when my family and I moved to Tennessee in 2007. We knew God was calling us there and we thought the reason was to take care of my grandmother. But six years later and with the puzzle complete I can see that there was so many more pieces that I didn’t recognize until the puzzle was completed.

 

Many times in our lives we can’t see how the challenges in our lives will fit together as part of God’s plan for us. We only see the individual pieces of our circumstances and fail to miss the big picture that He is creating. When we allow ourselves to focus on the chaos of all the pieces of the unformed puzzle, we miss the opportunity to trust God that He is putting all the pieces together according to His will for our lives. I spent most of the last 6 years focused on the individual pieces. I didn’t realize how God was putting it all together to form a beautiful picture of one of the most special seasons of my life.

 

Our move to Tennessee wasn’t an easy one. Florida was home. We had friends, church family, jobs and a wonderful home. We were excited to live near our family again but that’s where the excitement ended. But nevertheless, in December of 2007 we headed north – the first challenging piece of the puzzle.

 

We moved my 95 year old grandmother in with us almost immediately. It didn’t take long before all my preconceived expectations of having her live with us were shattered. Being a caretaker turned out to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done – the 2nd piece of the puzzle. And I spent much of my time fixated on this piece of the puzzle and wondering why God would place me in such an arduous position for so long.

 

And then there were the other responsibilities. I was also a wife, a mom, a church administrator, a small group leader, a children’s ministry teacher, the chief housekeeper and yard person, a friend, and a daughter to parents who no longer lived hours away but mere minutes. Balancing it all had become the 3rd piece of the puzzle and it was demanding much of my attention.

thQHNKGSZL

 

And then it happened. After almost 6 years there, I experienced a moment I can’t really explain, but I know was from God. One morning while getting ready for church, God revealed to me a beautiful completed puzzle. And in an instance He showed me all the precious puzzle pieces that I had missed along the way because I was too focused on the bigger, more difficult pieces that didn’t seem to fit into my plan. He showed me how the difficult pieces had to be part of the puzzle in order for all the others to fit into their place during this time in my life.

 

There were the people – I met some of the most incredible and courageous women I’ve ever had the privilege to know. The military wives I came to know during that time blessed me in ways they will never know. The fact that our paths crossed was no accident. It was a purposeful plan from God to reveal Himself to me through them. To be able to witness God work in and through them is a gift I will forever cherish.

 

There was our church – I’ve never served with people like the Godly men and women I served with at our church in Tennessee. I will be eternally grateful for the impact they had on me. I learned how to live out the command of loving God and loving others by their example. There truly isn’t a more dedicated and loving group of servant leaders on this planet. I am blessed for having had the opportunity to serve alongside them for that season.

 

There was my family – it  was a blessing to be able to live near my parents again. I was able to build on my relationship with them after many years of living several states away and to see my children develop a lifelong bond with them that had not previously existed. It was a precious experience that included creating memories we will never forget. I was also able to reconnect with family that I had not seen in years and introduce my children to family members they probably never would have had the chance to meet had we not moved there.

 

There were my friends – I have a new best friend that I wouldn’t have in my life had it not been for our time there. She is the best friend I’ve waited a lifetime for and was there to encourage me for 6 years while I was focused on my problem puzzle pieces instead of the big picture. And I was also able to reconnect with a childhood friend whose friendship proved to be one of the more precious puzzle pieces of them all. The two of them kept me encouraged and made me laugh during a time that could have easily consumed me.

 

There was my grandmother – what I thought was a struggle was simply a small piece of a much bigger puzzle. In seeing the worst of myself revealed through the frustrations of being a caretaker, I realized just how desperate I am for more of Jesus in my life. He showed His incredible love for me by moving me out of the comfort of my life in Florida to a place where He could show me the areas where I needed to be transformed more into His likeness. And it was through my grandmother that God showed me His compassion and His incredible love for those we may find to be not so loveable. To have her in our home and for my family to have that experience was invaluable.

 

thJXHSSNIWSo when the storms and challenges of life hit you, remember that they are only a small piece of an incredible puzzle that God is putting together in your life. Keep your focus on trusting Him and His ability in all things to work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). The pieces may seem like a chaotic mess but God will place them in the exact order to reveal a picture He created especially for you. And when that finished puzzle is revealed you will see God’s amazing love for you and know every piece was worth it no matter how difficult it was.