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.

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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.

Behind the Scenes


thQZS2XXA1I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve told others “don’t focus on your situation. Keep your focus on God and trust Him to take care of everything even when you can’t see any changes occurring. He’s working behind the scenes in ways we can’t imagine. Just trust Him.”

Simple, right? Well, as they say, it’s easier said than done.

Recently we had our home for sale. We felt certain it would sell quickly  and the activity when we first listed the home confirmed to us that we’d have it sold in no time. The initial excitement quickly faded. People quit coming to look and no one was taking flyers from the “for sale” sign. And so it began. I started to doubt that it would ever sale even though I knew that we had prayed about it and we were certain that God had put in our hearts the desire to move. When there was activity I trusted God to work it all out. But as soon as the activity ceased, I began to doubt. I began to focus on what I could see (which wasn’t much at that point) and took my focus off of God.

thXZQCDBURHave you ever worked the curtains for a theater production? My son is an actor so as a stage mom, I’ve done my share of opening and closing the stage curtain. The job itself gives you an interesting vantage point. As you stand just offstage you have a unique view of what’s happening on both sides of the curtain. On one side you can see all the stagehands running around quickly and quietly backstage setting up the next scene and the actors hurriedly taking their places before the curtain begins to open. It’s ordered chaos as everyone works as fast as possible to make sure that everything is perfect when you begin to pull the rope.

th6UXI3G2COn the other side you can see the audience. They sit patiently and quietly waiting for the next scene to begin. They can’t see anything happening and they really have no idea everything that’s going on just beyond the curtain. But they trust that when that curtain opens, everything will happen just as the program they hold in their hand has promised it will. They can’t see what’s going on behind the scenes but they don’t sit in their seats thinking “we might as well go home because the play isn’t going to happen.” They know that even though they can’t see it, it will happen but only when everything that is going on behind the scenes has been perfectly set into its place.

Oh how I could have used that reminder when we were selling our house. When I couldn’t see anything happening I failed to remember that God had everything under control. That He was working behind the scenes, setting everything into place so that when the right moment came, the curtain would open and His perfect plan would be revealed.

thSOZHDE4YOne Sunday after church we were fixing lunch when someone rang the doorbell. I went to the door and there was a couple there. They asked if we would be willing to show them the house. The lady began to tell me that she had been looking at our house online for weeks. She had seen it as soon as it was listed and it was exactly what they’d been looking for. They hadn’t had a chance yet to come by in person because they lived out of town. She said she had looked at it online every day until that day and couldn’t wait to see it in person. Within three days of the showing, we had come to an agreement and they bought our house.

God was working behind the scenes. Even when I couldn’t see anything, He was at work orchestrating the sell of our home. I couldn’t see what was happening so I wrongly assumed that meant nothing was happening. I was focused on the lack of activity and my very limited ideas for a solution. I should have been focused on trusting God and believing that He can work things out in ways I could never imagine. It was a reminder (one of many in my life) that God is in control. Our job is not to figure out how things should happen or when. Our job is to trust Him and believe Him when He reveals a promise to us.

What has God promised you that, from your vantage point, doesn’t look like it’s going to happen? What is it that you have lost hope in? The problem may simply be that you lost focus – you’re eyes are focused on the situation and not on the One who is in control of it. Refocus and trust that there are things going on behind the scenes and when everything is in place, the curtain will open to reveal God’s perfect plan for you. 

 

Prisoner of War


thDU0YGLOPI’ve never known someone who was a prisoner of war – or so I thought. Toward the end of my grandmother’s life she began to experience the effects of dementia and she started to say things that didn’t make sense. One of the things she frequently mentioned was that she was being taken as a prisoner of war each night but that they would let her go in the morning. My family thought it was odd that she thought she was a prisoner of war since no one in our family is in the military and she didn’t have much contact with anyone or anything that would cause her to think thoughts that were related to being a prisoner of war.

But after several weeks of her sharing these thoughts with us, I began to see how she could see herself as being a prisoner of war. At 101 years of age my grandmother knew she was in the final season of her life. Death was imminent and she was extremely fearful of that fact. She had lived her whole life in fear of many things. In her mind, she was a prisoner to those fears and insecurities. And in reality she was a prisoner to the lies of the enemy.

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My grandmother, like many of us, fell into the trap of being imprisoned by the her thoughts, her fears and her insecurities. She was consumed with the lies that replayed in her mind over and over again that she wasn’t good enough, that she didn’t deserve happiness and that she was unloved. Although none of that was true, the audio of those lies had been replayed so many times in her mind over the years that it had become her reality. She had become a prisoner of the spiritual war that raged for her thoughts and what she believed.

Often we allow the negative thoughts and emotions to take priority in our minds and over time those thoughts begin to take deep root. They start to control how we think of ourselves, how we think others perceive us and how we respond to and treat others. Those thoughts can then begin to spill out of our heads through our mouths as we begin to speak negatively about ourselves and our situations. Instead of speaking life into our situations and relationships we condemn them to a death sentence through our negative words. We allow the enemy to define what we believe about ourselves and others and we become imprisoned by our own doing.

There is a war for your thoughts. There is a very real enemy who wishes to convince you that you are no good, no one loves you and you are incapable and undeserving of whatever it is you dream of for your life. It may be a particular profession, it may be the restoration of a broken relationship, it may be healing for a hurt within your heart or it may be forgiveness for your past. Whatever it is, you are a prisoner of war if you believe the lie that says you are unworthy and incapable.

th45NVTJIYThe good news is that it’s never to late to break free from that prison. God wants to set you free and He gave His one and only Son so that you may live a life free from the prison of your thoughts and your sins. Your identity is who Christ says you are, not the person the enemy tries to make you believe you are. The choice is yours – will you believe the truth of God’s word and who He says you are? Or will you continue to be held captive by the lies of who Satan says you are? It’s time to set your mind on Christ and take back control of your thoughts. Your life can be completely transformed simply by renewing your mind through the reading of God’s word and through the thoughts you allow to enter into your mind (Romans 12:2). Jesus Christ came to set the captives free. He came to set you free. The next step is up to you – surrender your thoughts and you WILL be set free.

iStruggle


144042Why do I feel the need to have it all together? Why do I think that at this point of my life everything should be perfect? For some reason I think that I’ve reached some magical point in life that I shouldn’t still be dealing with the same thoughts, struggles and behaviors. I believe that by now I should be able to somehow control it all better and keep a lid on it. But I don’t. My thoughts, my actions (or inactions), my behaviors – all are constant reminders that I’m still dealing with much of the same old stuff I always have. I don’t know why my expectations of myself exceed the reality I know exists. I know life means struggles.

I was the primary caretaker for my grandmother for five years. In those five years I daily, yes daily, woke up and prayed that that day would be different. That I would not get frustrated. That I would not feel resentment. That I would not wish that she would be more grateful for all that I was doing for her. That I would not feel sorry for myself for being in the situation I was in. That I would not get angry that I was the one taking care of her because nobody else was willing. That I would be able to control my responses to her mean comments. That I would not question God as to why He had put in the role of caring for such a difficult person. That I would not allow my grandmother to push my buttons and draw me into an argument with her. That I would not wish that she was no longer living with us. Every day. Not sometimes. Every day.

tattoo-quotes-about-life-struggles-i13I could not understand how I had all those thoughts and feelings as a Christian. I knew better. I should have had control over my thoughts and actions. I had reached that magical point, right? I’d been doing the “Christian thing” for 16 years. Surely by now I knew how to “act” like a Christian. Surely I could control myself. And therein lies my problem. So many times, even now after all these years, I’m still trying to run my life, my thoughts, and my actions. I still find myself trying to act like a Christian instead of being a follower of Christ. I go through the motions which, on the surface, look like I know what I’m doing. But inside I’m screaming “what am I doing?! Why do I keep thinking like this or behaving like that?!”

The answer is not a simple one. There’s no secret formula. There’s no magical point in life that we reach when it all comes together and reach Christian nirvana. Life is a struggle – always has been, always will be. So the question is not how can I stop struggling but how can I struggle less? The answer is through complete and total surrender. I know how I’m wired. I’m a bona-fide control freak. My struggle is to stop trying to be in control because who am I kidding? I’m not in control – God is. The biggest mistake I make is when I sometimes allow myself to think I’m in control. And I’m fooling myself if I think I can control my thoughts, my behaviors and my actions without the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s word. The answer is complete and total surrender and the way to do that is to spend time in the presence of my Lord and Savior through prayer and spending time reading my bible. That’s not to say it will ever be easy for me to give up trying to be in control but my daily prayer is no longer for God to help me control myself. My prayer is for God to be in control of everything.

thO965BW57The truth is the older I get and the more I do this Christian walk, the more I realize how desperate I am for Him and how quickly and completely out of control my life can get when I try to be in control. We all need Jesus. I need Jesus. Desperately. Completely. More than anything else. So, why do I struggle? Because God said I would in His word when He said “in this world you will have struggles.” But His promise to his disciples that followed His comment is His promise to me. And the good news is that Jesus is not done with me yet. He has fully redeemed me – my past, my present and my future. And every day that I spend in His presence, I am transformed more into His likeness and His character. I don’t have to let my struggles take over and consume me because He promises me that even in my struggles I can have peace in Him. I don’t have to struggle on my own to take over the problems I face in this life because He has overcome the world. (John 16:33). He has overcome my struggles.

Beyond the Crashing Waves


August 2013 1397On our recent vacation to Florida I was lying in my perfect beach chair, under a perfect beach umbrella, looking out at the perfect calm waters beyond the crashing waves and thinking “can it get any more perfect than this?!” and the answer was no, not at that moment. I was relaxing among sheer perfection and relishing every second of it. But the calm beyond the waves was calling my name and I had to get out there to see if it really was as peaceful as it appeared from my point of view. When I reached the water and began to make my way toward the peace I could see in the distance, my focus was interrupted by the waves that suddenly began hitting me with pounding consistency. The harder I tried to get toward the calm waters, the harder and faster the waves came at me. The distant calm seemed to be getting further away instead of closer. But I was not about to give up that easily.

I looked back at the perfect chair and perfect umbrella I’d left behind. I was so very tempted to just turn back and return to their ease and comfort. But when I looked back out over the crashing waves, the peaceful, still waters ahead once again called out to me.  I began to get frustrated because it seemed like for every bit of headway I made after a wave passed, the next wave just seemed to push me right back to where I’d just been. But then I glanced back again to the chair I’d left behind and realized I had made it a lot further out than I had thought. Even though it felt like I really wasn’t getting anywhere, my persistence was paying off. I looked forward to refocus on the destination and it was a lot closer than I had realized. Just a few more waves and I’d be there. And the further out I got toward the calmer waters, the less punch the waves seemed to have. They were losing their power to knock me backwards. Either my determination was making me stronger or the waves were getting weaker. Either way, I was re-energized for the final stretch.

waterThere was no real line that I crossed, I was just there. I looked around and realized that I was in the calm, peaceful waters that had been almost impossible to reach – but they hadn’t been because I was now right smack dab in the middle of them. There was a stillness out there that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. The laughter of the children playing close to shore was so distance I could barely hear it. I was so far out that when I looked back to the shore I was a little afraid for a moment because I was alone in the deep – and it was really, really deep. But it was the most peaceful place I had ever been and it was worth ever bit of energy, frustration and determination it had taken to get there.

Many times we see the peaceful waters in the distance from our current vantage point. We know it’s calling our name but some of us never leave the comforts of the here and now because we decide where we are is “good enough.” But God desires so much more for us than “good enough”. He wants to give us the very best but we get too lazy and too comfortable and decide to settle because His “very best” requires commitment and maybe a little hard work on our part.

water4Then there’s those of us who leave our place of comfort and venture out toward the deep but as soon as the crashing waves come at us we retreat back to where we came from. We decide the calm isn’t worth it and we determine to go right back where we were. Others make it further toward the peace of the calm waters. They fight the waves and keep pressing on in spite of the difficulties and challenges. But no matter how focused they were in the beginning, the waves become too much for them and they quickly forget the destination that lies ahead. They loose their focus and become consumed with the crashing waves that rob them of their energy, determination and ultimate goal. They begin to believe they can’t make it so they turn back and retreat to the starting point.

August 2013 1424My encouragement to you today is that no matter how hard the waves are crashing all around you, the still and peaceful waters of Christ are not out of reach. Stay focused. Be determined to reach the stillness of His presence knowing that He has so much more He wants to give to you – more of His love, more of His peace, more joy, more blessings than you could ever imagine or hope for. Take your eyes off the waves and look out to the calm that lies beyond the distractions and obstacles. It hasn’t gone anywhere and it’s not beyond your reach. Keep pushing back against the waves and every now and then take time to glance back so you can be reminded just how far you’ve come. The harder you fight and the more determined you are, the closer you’ll get and the waves will lose their punch. Then suddenly you’ll look around and realize that you don’t know when, or really even how it happened, but you entered into the stillness of the peaceful waters of Christ and it was all worth it. Just keep swimming.

Assessing the Danger


August 2013 1394On our recent vacation to Florida I was particularly aware of the warning flags that are posted on the beach. My children are older now and do not need me to be with them in the water or even at the beach with them at this point. Most days we all went together but sometimes they headed out earlier than their dad and myself. On those days I reminded them to pay attention to the warning flags so that they would know if the currents were strong that day or not. Having lived in Florida at one time, we are all too familiar with the dangers of rip tides so I wanted to ensure they were paying attention to the conditions and were well prepared.

My children are not trained to spot the dangers of the ocean. Neither are my husband and I as their parents. But what we learned on this vacation is that there are trained “spotters” who fly over the ocean each morning to assess the current and the threat level. They then pass on their assessment to the lifeguards and other personnel onshore who raise a particular color flag that represents the threat level as determined by the spotter.

August 2013 1384As untrained beachgoers, everything may look fine to us. The waves are crashing against the shore, the sun is shining, our sunscreen has been applied and we are ready to hit the water and have some fun in the surf and sand. We can be laughing and frolicking in the water completely unaware of the conditions that we are in. Our untrained eyes cannot spot the imminent danger of the currents. And without the warning from a trained and experienced individual, we could quickly find ourselves in danger.

As Christians we too need the training and experience of mature Christians to warn us when we may be facing imminent danger – danger that we may be completely unaware of. As a new believer I had much to learn about the dangers we face from our enemy, the devil. I was oblivious to the fact that he sets traps for us to draw us into temptation and away from the protection of our loving Father in heaven. I needed those who had been following Christ for much longer than me to disciple me and teach me how to spot the danger that was many times unseen by my untrained eyes. I needed trusted women in my life to show me when I was entering into relationships, behaviors or actions that might seem harmless on the surface but underneath could open the door to traps placed by a cunning and deceptive enemy who wanted nothing more than bring destruction upon my life whether through my marriage, my children, my finances or by any other means he could find.

August 2013 1424I needed those women in my life to assess my current situation by asking me tough questions like – Are you spending time in prayer and reading the bible? How is your marriage, your children, other relationships? Is there any sin in your life that you have not turned away from? Are there any unresolved hurts or unforgiveness in your heart?

I needed those women to challenge me so that I could grow in my faith and so that my life could be transformed and I would desire more of God and His ways and less of what I thought I wanted. I needed those women to encourage me when fear and doubt crept into my thoughts. I need those women to hold me accountable when I began to veer away from God’s plan for my life and headed back toward trying to do things my way. I needed them to pull me from my comfort zone as they stood by me in faith trusting God to lead me as I learned to surrender control of my life over to Him. I needed those women just like my family needed the spotters on vacation who kept us from danger.

August 2013 1389We were never created to live our Christian lives on our own. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit along with the wisdom of trusted, fellow believers to help disciple us as they teach us how to walk out our faith for life. We need spiritual family to encourage us and hold us accountable so that we may live a peace and joy filled life that God intends for us to. Do you have someone in your life who will warn you when you’re approaching dangerous waters? Do you have experienced, mature Christians who can spot the traps that have been laid for you and will teach you how to spot them for yourself? Do you have spiritual family that will walk alongside you as you seek God’s will for your life? If not I encourage you to get involved in serving at your local church or sign up for a small group bible study where you can meet those who can be your “spotter” because some day there will be someone who needs you to be a “spotter” for them.

Lessons From Remodeling: Lesson 3 – You’ve Got To Start Somewhere


scarlettMy final lesson learned through our recent remodeling project is one that I have struggled with the most. I find myself easily overwhelmed and add to that fact that I’m a self-professed procrastinator and my attitude can quickly become “eh, it’s just too much, I’ll do it later” and many times later never arrives. And it is that very mindset that caused me to take FOREVER to get started putting our new bed frame together.

My husband and I were in need of a new mattress and we made the decision to go for a king-size after sleeping on one during our vacation. The problem was that this meant we would also have to buy a king-size bed and we didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So we opted for purchasing a bed frame online knowing we would have to pick it up at the store and then put the bed together ourselves. Even though that isn’t my number one idea of a fun, I knew it would be worth the cost savings. Besides, the reviews were great and all the comments described how easy it was to put together so I surmised “seriously, how hard can it be?” We picked the bed up at the store and a guy helped my husband load it into our van. When we got home and had to unload 5 long, heavy boxes I felt that first twinge of “what have I gotten myself into?”

Several weeks passed before we made time to dig into the project of putting the bed together. We were going to lug the boxes upstairs before we realized we’d probably kill ourselves in the process so we decided to open them downstairs and bring the contents up through multiple trips. When we opened the first box I had that second wave of “what have I gotten myself into?” There were A LOT of parts in the first box but I thought to myself “surely the rest of the boxes don’t contain this many parts.” I couldn’t have been more wrong! I’ve never seen so many parts in my life! At that point I was headed toward full-blown overwhelmed mode.

June 24 2013 007After about an hour we had all the parts laid out on our bedroom floor. As I looked around at the seemingly endless piles of pieces and parts, I thought “no way, I’m done. This is too much!” I so wish I had taken a picture so everyone could see the chaos I saw in that moment. It was more than I could handle and I was ready to give up before I even got started. But thank goodness for my husband. He is so calm and so encouraging in those moments. He makes it possible to get things done when I’m feeling less than motivated. He got out the directions, looked them over and announced that we were ready to begin with step 1. Thankfully and with great wisdom he didn’t tell me at the time that is was an 84 step process and that was just for the items in box 1, not to mention boxes 2-5!

We began following the directions step by step. Slowly we saw some progress – it was a small amount of progress but progress nonetheless. In the moment I had my first twinge of “well, this isn’t so bad.” With some focus and determination we kept plugging away at the directions manual. Before I knew what had happened we were done with not only the first set of directions but the second one as well. The pile of parts was diminishing and the progress was becoming more evident. I began to feel that second wave of “hmmm, I think we can do this.”

Step by step we stayed the course and before long the parts were all gone (well, not all because we seemed to have what we hoped were extras!) and there was a new, king-size bed sitting in our bedroom where there had previously been a monstrous pile of pieces and parts. I felt like doing the Dora dance while singing “We did it, hooray!”

So, what did I learn from this “fun” project?

scarlett21. Don’t give up before you even get started – this is one of the enemy’s oldest tricks in the book. He wants us to believe that “it’s just too much, I can’t”. The truth is, you can’t. But God can. Quit focusing on what you can’t do and start trusting in what God’s word promises that He can do. Remember, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (Phil. 4:13).

2. You’ve got to start somewhere – your problems aren’t just going to disappear and things won’t magically get better. A wise friend once told me “work like it depends on you and have faith like it depends on God.” You do your part and trust God to do what only He can do. Your part may be seeking forgiveness from God for sinful actions or behaviors, taking your problem to God in prayer and trusting His will to be done, seeking Godly wisdom from a “seasoned” Christian, searching God’s word to seek answers to your particular situation, reconnecting with church and spiritual family if you’ve drifted away or making necessary changes in your life to remove unhealthy relationships and behaviors that are negative and harmful. The bottom line is if you don’t do anything, you’ll never see progress so get started on step one.

scarlett43. Don’t get overwhelmed with the big picture – start with baby steps. If you take small steps and stay focused, before you know it you’ll look up and see progress. And it’s that progress that will motivate you to keep taking those baby steps toward the ultimate goal. (see #2 for what some baby steps may be for you) God typically doesn’t show us the whole picture when He reveals something to us because He knows we probably couldn’t handle it. And if you’re like me, that defeatist attitude will paralyze you if you try to see the whole picture at once. Break it down into small steps of faith as you trust God to lead you each step of the way. Think Abraham – God didn’t reveal everything to him from the start. If He did, Abraham probably would have thought “not happening, that’s just too much!” The first command to him from God was simply “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1-20) He didn’t tell Abraham where he was going, how long it would take, what problems he would encounter along the way. He gave Abraham step 1 and we know he must’ve thought “ok, I can do that” because he obeyed God and left behind his country, his people and his father’s household – one step at a time.

scarlett34. Surround yourself with encouragers – if it wasn’t for my husband and my friends I might never get anything done much less get started. We need people in our lives that will speak positive words over us and will stand by us, hold us accountable and cheer us on each step of the way.

The answer to the age old question of “how do you eat an elephant?” is one bite at a time. So go ahead, take a baby step of faith, keep your focus and watch that elephant slowly but surely begin to disappear.

My prayer for you today is that no matter what your situation may be or no matter how bad things may seem, that God will bring peace to any overwhelming feelings you may have, your faith will empower you to trust God as you take the first baby step in a new direction and that you will be surrounded by others who will encourage you along the way toward your goal.

Lessons from Remodeling: Lesson 1 – The Longer You Wait the More It’s Going to Cost You


May 2013 023Recently our home was the site of a bathroom remodeling project that, not suprisingly, taught me some valuable life lessons. In this process I discovered that I do not do well with remodeling jobs as it most certainly was not fun but more a necessary evil to endure until it was completed.

The problems started not long after we moved into the home. We started to notice mold on the ceiling in the master bathroom. We didn’t think too much about it at first but after it spread we called a contractor to come take a look at it. He explained that the vent in the bathroom was not vented to the outside of the house and all the steam from the showers was going into the crawl space above the ceiling and the moisture settling on the ceiling was causing harmless yet unsitely surface mold.

duct tape5We now knew the source of the problem but it just wasn’t convenient and not within the budget to have it fully repaired at that time. So we tried cleaning the mold off, especially after it began to spread to the walls. That would work temporarily but the problem always came back. Then we tried to paint over it. Again, that was only a temporary cover up and the mold underneath soon began to reappear. It finally got to a point that it was so bad we just ignored it and decided we’d get it completely restored to a brand-new condition “some day”. Five years later our “some day” came along but not after there was several secondary problems that resulted from our decision to put off the repair of the initial problem in it’s early stages. We learned the hard way that the longer you put off addressing a problem, the more it’s going to cost you.

The same is true in our own lives.  Many times we recognize a problem in its initial stage and we choose to blow it off as no big deal. Perhaps it’s the flirtation with a co-worker we deem “innocent fun” and that we think nothing of, even though we’re married and so are they. Maybe it’s “borrowing” a few office supplies from the supply room at work that we justify because after all, we did work on that project last month from home a few times off the clock so the company “owes us”.  Or it could be the unforgiveness we have toward a parent or sibling that we no longer have relationship with because they did something to us that we consider very hurtful and they don’t deserve to be in our lives – especially since they never even apologized and still try to stir up drama through other family members.  Maybe it’s the “gut feeling” we get when we compromise our morals to fit in or because we give into temptation and cross a line we said we’d never cross. Our reasoning becomes “everyone else is doing it so it’s not a big deal, right?”

The problem is that those little problems, the small indiscretions, the momentary lapses in judgement, the choice to compromise just a little, becomes the very thing that leads you down the road to bigger problems with bigger consequences. The longer you put off addressing a problem, the more it’s going to cost you.  The more you allow yourself to justify the little things that you know in your heart are wrong btemporary fixut you do it anyway because it’s “no big deal” – the easier it becomes to justify bigger compromises. And the more you justify the bigger compromises the more numb you become to the feeling you have in the moment when you have to choose between right and wrong. And the bigger the compromise the bigger the consequences. You keep chipping away at your conscience until the line between right and wrong becomes so blurred that you wake up one day with a huge problem on your hands that will cost you more than you ever imagined possible.

You may think that little “problem” you have today is nothing, but that little problem, if ignored, can grow to a point that it consumes your thoughts and your focus as you attempt to keep it hidden. You may think it’s harmless but there is no such thing as harmless sin. The devil will most assuredly help you to justify that little sin because he knows where it will lead you. And he’s in no hurry to drag you into sin. He will sit back and patiently wait while you take baby steps away from God and toward your own selfish desires. He knows the longer you wait to address the problem, the bigger the consequences will be. And he knows that if the consequences get really big you may get to the point where you believe his lie that says “there’s no turning back now, you’ve gone too far.” The enemy of your soul wants you to believe that you are beyond repair.

new creationBut the truth is that no matter how bad your situation may look, no matter how deep into this thing you are, no matter how far you’ve gone – like our home repairs – it’s never to late to make everything just like new again. The first step is to make the decision that it’s time to do something about it and stop putting off addressing the very problem that got you into the situation you’re in. The next step is to go to the One who can can make all things new – Jesus. The bible promises in 2Corinthians 5:17 that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” You don’t have to stay in the darkness of sin. You can turn away from that sin and turn back toward God and seek His forgiveness which He promises to give if you’ll simply ask.

If you’re at the point where there’s that little something that you keep telling yourself is nothing, but deep down you know it is wrong – the time is now to repair it before it becomes a bigger problem and costs you more than it already has. There is no sin that will ever be worth it no matter how tempting it is. It’s never to late to turn to God and let Him fix everything but remember, the longer you wait the more it’s going to cost you.

Look Again


lost and found2Like most people, when I lose something I look for it. I start with the most likely places and keeping searching until I get to the not-so-likely places. And like most, if I don’t find it the first time, I go back to the beginning and start the search again – taking more time to look harder the second time in hopes that I may have missed it before.

Recently I was feeling particularly sorry for myself. It was an overcast, cold day and all I could see before me was a list of all the things I needed to and the small amount of time I had to do them in. All I could see was the commitments, the errands, the responsibilities, the desire for more time with God that doesn’t feel rushed or distracted and the desire for time for me. I tried to find something to be thankful for but in the moment of self-pity I couldn’t see anything.

And while I wallowed in my selfishness, God showed me what I had missed the first time I looked. I began to realize just how much I have to be grateful for and how very blessed I am. In that moment God didn’t stop me and say “suck it up, buttercup!” or “get over yourself and quit complaining!”. With all the love and grace I could stand, He simply turned down the volume of the negative thoughts in my mind and turned up the volume of the singing birds outside my window. I looked again at my circumstances and began to think of all the things I have to be thankful for. I saw the overwhelming love of God as He revealed one by one a list of blessings, answered prayers throughout my life, and simple moments like this one that typically go unnoticed but have the power to usher us into the presence of God if we’ll slow down long enough to allow it to.

refocus5Some of us may be going through difficult times – maybe we’re struggling financially, maybe we are barely able to make ends meet but at the end of the day most of us have a roof over our heads and food to eat because God is providing for our needs. Some may be dealing with marriage or relationship problems, health issues or family situations that are almost too much to bear. But whether you are having a bad moment, a bad day, a bad season or even a bad life – if you say there is nothing for you to be thankful for and there are no blessings in your life – God wants you to go back and look again. He wants you to refocus and look closely for what you may be missing because the noise in your head is distracting you from His goodness. Remove those thoughts from your mind and ask God to show you what you’ve been missing.

Do you find yourself looking at your life, your marriage, your circumstances and you can’t seem to find what you’re looking for? Do you feel alone and far from God? My encouragement to you is to look again – He’s right there waiting with open arms.

You’ve Reached Your Destination


gps 3I began this particular journey about 5 years ago. It began like most journeys God has sent me on with a little apprehension, a little uncertainty of what lie ahead, a little curiousity as to how long the journey would last and a lot of expectation as to what God would do through this new journey.

It wasn’t long into the journey that I realized this one was not going to be an easy one. In January 2008 we moved my grandmother in to live with us. She was 96 years old at the time and in remarkably good health. She was pretty self-sufficient and the change to our lifestyle was minimal. That all changed pretty rapidly. Her health remained good for her age, but her expectations increased a lot. At first it was not that big of a deal. After all, she was my grandmother who I love dearly and I wanted to make this final season of her life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. But the more and more that was required and expected of me, the more difficult the journey became.

I found myself becoming resentful toward what I began to see as unrealistic expectations. I struggled to continue the journey without an attitude, especially when I felt everything I did was not appreciated and was never enough. The more the journey impacted my lifestyle and my family, the more my resentment built.

destination 4I began to question God as to why He sent me on this journey. I wanted to know when it would end. Don’t judge – I’m just being honest because this is truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I wondered what lesson I could possibly be missing that God was trying to teach me. Oh, I knew the obvious ones – patience, serving others with no expectation of anything in return, doing all things as unto the Lord, obedience, praising God through the difficult times – but I just knew that there was something I was missing. I knew I was right where God wanted me to be, yet I became frustrated and defeated because I just couldn’t seem to change my attitude no matter how much I prayed about it.

God certainly encouraged me along the way with special encounters with complete strangers who had also been caregivers. Each time I experienced one of these chance meetings I walked away with a renewed resolve to stick it out until God showed me I had reached my destination and the journey was over. We also had opportunities to go on vacations over the past 5 years that allowed for a time of rest and rejuvenation to continue on. But in the past 6 months, more often than not, I found myself dealing with emotions that were not Christ-like and left me feeling ashamed.

Shortly after Christmas, Sissy (that’s what we call her) fell in her room. We took her to the hospital but they soon sent her home after finding no broken bones. She began having difficulty sleeping, was in constant pain and her health seemed to be declining. After a second fall, we decided together that it may be time for her to be in a place that would be better equipped and trained to care for her. I began to look at different facilities and prepare for the end of the journey.

I quickly found that moving Sissy into a long-term care facility was not going to be an option based on a lot of different variables. I surrended to the fact the journey was not over and in reality, there was no end in site. Once again I felt deflated because I thought I had reached the end of a difficult season only to realize it was not only going to continue, but was going to continue indefinitely.

destination 5I began to pray once again for God to give me the strength to continue on the journey He had set before me and to help me to have a Christ-like attitude in caring for Sissy. A few days later I was doing my typical routine of checking email/Facebook/Twitter when I came across a link to an article on Twitter. It was an interview with Amy Grant, a Christian recording artist, who was caring for her aging father. She talked about the challenges of being a caretaker and the abundance of emotions you experience. But then something she said “clicked” with me. She said there’s no map for this kind of journey but it may be the last lesson you learn from your loved one. My heart began to change and I stopped looking for what God was trying to teach me and began to focus on what I could learn from Sissy.

Within a few weeks God began to open doors for the journey to come to an end. Even though I clearly knew God was orchestrating everything that was happening and I saw that the opportunity was there for my prayers to be answered, for some reason I questioned if I really had reached my destination. I had gotton comfortable in my difficult situation and no matter how much I had longed for it to end, when God did open the door for that to happen, I did not immediately step through. It’s funny how sometimes the very thing we pray for, is the thing we hesitate to receive when God offers it. And when we hesitate, we miss out on the fullness of blessing found in His perfect timing.

gps2In my hesitation, I realized I felt like I had not completely “got it” and that I still needed more time for my heart and my attitude to be completely right. Then one day in Sissy’s room while I was kneeling down before her putting her socks on her feet, God whispered “I see your heart, the journey is over. You’ve reached your destination.”

On March 1st Sissy will be moving to a small, privately-owned assisted living home. She is looking forward to being somewhere offering around the clock  care and to meeting new friends. She knows the time is right for this next season of her life.

Are you on journey or in a season of difficulty that you wish would come to an end? Or perhaps God is bringing to an end a season you’ve been in – even a comfortable and good season yet you may sense that He’s telling you it’s time for it to come to an end? Don’t question the end of your journey, God just may be preparing you for your next great journey in life. Trust in His timing, you have now reached your destination.