Saturday, June 4, 2016

It's June

I had a complete post ready to share today, but to be honest, I don't have peace on posting it so I'm not.

June is a wonderful, full, sometimes hard, crazy month. At the beginning is our mito beginning anniversary. June 2. 18 years ago - that's when everything began with Andrew's first seizure. As I reflected on that day this week, I still have pictures in my mind I wish I could erase. But I know I never will. And more importantly, I know that we are victors in that battle. Some might not think so considering both boys are gone, but nothing about mito disease prevented my boys from finding their own personal faith in Jesus Christ and living a life that glorified God. Nor did our marriage crumble or family fall apart. We are the victors. God sustained and we conquered.

Almost immediately after comes our wedding anniversary. 
Yay Us! 28 years today! So much for which to be thankful. 

The 4th also is my Dad's birthday and we are fortunate to have him here with us this year. 
So much to celebrate this day!

And then tomorrow is the Memorial Walkathon for Peter, supporting his beloved Bennett Blazers adaptive sports program. We'll spend the day among friends who remember and also love our son.

Shortly thereafter, school will end. 
And then we'll traverse Father's Day gently as we head off on a Bucket List vacation!

Yes, June will be a whirlwind month.

So please extend grace as I have no idea how the writing will go.
For now, thanks for letting me share, 
for celebrating God's faithfulness with me, 
and for letting life be what it is at the moment.

Happy June!
Hugs and prayers,
juli

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Who We Are

This past Wednesday, Peter would have graduated high school if life had allowed a more expected path.  As I sat there watching the live streamed event, I tried to picture what Peter would have been like as he crossed that stage and received his diploma.

I could picture Jeff’s nose and my chin, his darkened hair and moustache for sure. I could picture his broad shoulders and muscular arms. But what surprised me, was that I could not picture him without his wheelchair.

That bothered me at first, but then I realized why it was necessary. Peter’s wheelchair and the life that went with it was critical in his becoming the incredible young man that he was and is. It taught Peter how to smile in spite of circumstances, to persevere regardless of struggle, to celebrate every moment…. It forged his character within and shaped his faith and perspective about life.

To try to imagine Peter, or Andrew, who they would be if they were never sick and had a “normal” life is truly a fantastical exercise. Those people don’t exist. The traits that we love about our boys came with a price, but resulted in a beautiful life. I realized to take away Peter’s chair, was to take away who He was.

I remember driving Peter home from therapy one day in his younger years. He complained about having to take his zillions of vitamins and medicines and the related struggles in his life. My response to him has continued to guide me as well.

We all have something, Peter. Everyone has something. Some children don’t have enough food to eat. Or they don’t have a bed to sleep in. Or their parents don’t really love them and want to spend time with them. Every single person has something in their life to deal with. Yours is your vitamins.

So many times God has brought those words back to my attention. It helps me not compare and gives me perspective to push through. And though it might not look like it’s true at times, there are always layers of people’s lives that I cannot see. I also see how everyone’s issues can be a good thing. They become tools for God to use to shape us, to draw us to Himself, and to develop us into the person we are. To take those things away from us is to make us lesser people.


So whatever you face today, my friend, can I encourage you? Can you find the means to say thanks for that challenge that looms large in your life? Can you stop seeing it as an oppressor and instead see it as a tool in God’s hand? From that perspective the challenge loses its power over you. 

Journey on with the truth, the understanding, that it’s God who’s in control.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

My Free Will

The wording of my devotions caught my attention this morning. It made me reflect on the importance of free will, of choice, and how God encompasses that into our relationship.

First, in my Jesus Calling, I read the statement “refusing to worry.”  It caught my attention as the thought whispered through of what that meant.

     I have a choice.

Then I was reading in Romans 6. It discusses how once redeemed by Christ, we are no longer enslaved to sin, but now free under grace, enslaved instead to righteousness.  When I got to verse 12, again the wording jumped out…

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.

Let not” again implies – I have a choice.

As I pondered this I realized, I’m still human living in a fallen world. But I now have the power of Christ and help of the Holy Spirit within. Temptations still rise, learned behaviors might still be my norms, the fallen world in which I live will still present opportunities of choice into my life.

But the Spirit now convicts and shows there’s a better way. I am free now to choose my response rather than be controlled by the circumstances around and desired within. I can literally refuse to worry, to allow anxious thoughts to consume my mind. I can choose my actions, leaning on God rather than false comforts and idols.

But I. Must. Choose.

I remember Jesus asking people as he walked the earth, “Do you want to get well?” We have a choice.

Once we accept Christ, we are God’s, a new creation, sealed and fully His. But will we choose to walk in that newness of life? Will we purpose to surrender, to recognize lifestyle habits and patterns of thought that need to be changed? Christ has done the work, but will we choose to live in it?

Romans 6:16-18 states

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

We must choose to accept God’s free gift of grace.
We must choose to align our behaviors and thoughts to God’s perspective.
We must choose.

The enemy doesn’t want us to think there’s a choice. He doesn’t want us to realize there’s another way, a better way, than that which we see in this world, that which we’ve always known. But God has made a way. He has given us His Word so we can know it, see it, study it, and renew our mind with it. He has provided the power – we must make the choice.

I don’t want to ignore the power of the cross. I don’t want to shun that which Jesus paid so much in order to provide. I want to accept what He’s provided and walk in it, intentionally making my choice.

If I don’t choose, I am choosing.

What will be your choice?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Under the Surface

Forgive my tardiness with this post and a rather long absence from writing. To be honest I’ve struggled to think about what to write because the one thing heavy on my heart is something I was trying to avoid.

I realized something this month. When you are struggling in one area, it usually causes struggle to spread to many other areas as well. The emotional charge that you feel from the struggle always rests, simmering, stewing just under the surface. And the slightest trigger creates a fissure that allows the pressure to surface, often manifesting into smaller issues with inappropriate force.

For me, it’s grief.
May is proving a hard month.

Mother’s Day often brings a measure of challenge and this year was no different. Yet our beach escape usually is enough to get me out of the area and thus out of my funk.

But this year, there’s another layer. And it lasts all month.
Graduation.
This would have been Peter’s senior year.

Like so many of our friends, like the 9 other families on the street, we should be planning parties, supporting dreams of the future, celebrating with pride a successful end to youth. The pains of change should be cushioned with joy, with hope of adventures ahead, dreams to see come into reality, life to be lived and shared and experienced together.

I know the reality that Peter does experience is sooo much more than any of that, better than I can even imagine. I know that he has graduated into an incredible life where hopes have surrendered to reality, dreams of health and life and faith are no longer dreams. I love that for him! 

But my reality of life without him, right now, at this moment, hurts.
That’s the only way to say it.
It hurts.

I’m so happy and excited for my many friends, for Peter’s friends, for the celebrations going on around us. Please don’t misunderstand me. But with joy, when there’s grief, comes pain.

So this keeps simmering under the surface. And little things, moments I usually can handle without issue, this month allow that pain to surface. Retirements feel like loss. Changes feel like ends. Supporting others drains more when you need support yourself.

I don’t share this asking anything from you.
I share this for you to learn from my experience.

What if we remembered this truth? – that one is less able to handle strains when under pressure. What if, when we see one inappropriately respond in situations, instead of reacting, we considered maybe something else is going on? What if, when we explode for what seems no reason, we paused and looked within to identify the cause? What if, when we know one weary in the long term, we took steps to encourage before eruptions transpired or indicated a need? Could we help someone traverse the struggle before it got out of hand?

If you know someone struggling, might you pray about how to support and encourage that friend? Could you offer a listening ear? Provide a moment of affirmation and encouragement? How can you journey alongside a hurting soul?

If you are the one struggling, may I encourage you to reach out to a friend? Schedule time for you to just rest in God’s grace. In times like this, sometimes I just need to find a beautiful place, where I can see God’s power and creativity living before me, and just be still in His presence. I have to be diligent to take care of myself. And I have to give grace when I catch myself leaning on idols…. When I turn to emotional eating, I stop once I recognize it but don’t beat myself up over it. I simply stop, and understand, and give grace.

I don’t know what you need. But know it’s OK to run to God to get it.

When we hurt, God hurts. He catches our tears. He knows this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. He cares. And He often uses other’s human arms to be His own.

So I pray for you this day. That God will prove enough to see you through, moment by moment, step by step, until joy returns, the sun again shines, and one day He makes everything right.

Till then, keep breathing my friend.
Be still and be His.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Indescribable

There are some days when words simply fail me. How do you express the goodness of God, His beauty, His lavish love that has totally overwhelmed you? This is today. 

All I can do is bow in worship. 

So I share this worship song with you, for reflection and praise. Simply click on the title of the song. 

May you too be overwhelmed by God's goodness, His grace, and His lavish love for you.

Indescribable 


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Growing Pains

This week at my Women’s Bible study, we had a really good, convicting conversation about gossip. Our Ephesians study challenged us to define it, consider its effects, and discuss our struggle with it. I shared with my group about an incident that had just happened earlier that day and I had chosen not to stop the conversation or walk away.  I wanted to know what this person was saying, even though I knew it could possibly not be true and/or change by the time events played out. Ugh!

Fast forward to the end of the week and a new scenario. (I promise they do all connect by the end) I faced a challenge at work important enough to cause some anxiety. But I purposed to practice what my counselor has been saying – instead of rehearsing everything that could happen or I could say, to choose to trust God to provide the words I would need at the time.

A few grace-given, well timed conversations prior to this meeting allowed me to conduct some last minute preparation which was exactly what I needed for the meeting. It went great and I learned a lot both about the area we discussed and the faithfulness of God. We truly can trust God to equip us for that which He calls us! I’m slowly learning to trust that truth.

But….(Don’t you love, or maybe hate, that word?)
Fast forward to later that afternoon. While conversing with a co-worker, I ended up repeating the information, that gossip that I’d heard earlier in the week. I debated back and forth about sharing, but then caved on the justification that I could trust this person and it did kinda impact our jobs. As the conversation continued, my coworker proceeded to share some other things as well along with the comment, “I hadn’t told you this yet because I didn’t want you to think I was lesser of a person, but since you just shared all of that…”

OUCH!
Talk about conviction!

One of the questions in our Ephesians study was why gossip is wrong. That day I saw two significant reasons:

1) I caused another person to sin. This broke my heart. Gossip breeds gossip. What kind of witness am I offering to my co-workers when I make choices that encourages them to make those same wrong choices? Gossip is wrong because it is connected to lying, telling things that we heard but don’t know for sure is true. How does this benefit anyone?

2) As I wrestled through my justifications and the Holy Spirit’s conviction that afternoon, God brought me back to my morning meeting and its resulting lesson. (Told you they would eventually connect J) God promises to equip us for that which we’re called. Gossip is a lack of trust. It’s a refusal to trust God’s timing for us to know something. I wanted to hear and share the information because I wanted insight into what might happen in the future. But it doesn’t really help me to know anything because a. the future isn’t now and b. things very likely might change between now and then! Instead, I need to trust God to continue to provide the information I need when I need it.  He’s faithful like that! He has proven so again and again within this new job.

Thankfully my gossip was insignificant and caused no significant harm. But it was still wrong! I share all of this to challenge us to let God into every little nook and cranny of our lives. I struggled for hours trying to justify myself, not wanting to call this sin a sin. But that’s what it was. Plain. And. Simple.

Peace finally came when I bent my knee and asked for forgiveness, accepted God’s grace, and prayed for the strength to live a better witness.
Growing isn’t easy. But it’s good.


I don’t know where your struggle lies, my friend. Maybe it’s gossip, maybe it’s unforgiveness, maybe an addiction, maybe something else. But know at the heart of every sin is a choice to trust God. Will we trust His provision, His being enough, His control, His goodness? I pray God will whisper within and as He promised, the equipping He provides will be exactly what you need this day. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Walking with your Mouth

Lately God’s challenged me to step out and initiate. I’m not standing on the street corner evangelizing, but I’m weaving my faith into my daily conversation more - and at times, being intentional to ask a few questions to see if individuals will jump into a conversation and go a little deeper.

The result?

For one, I’ve developed a couple of mentoring relationships where newer or not-yet believers have found a safe place to ask questions and receive encouragement. One of them is starting to attend church. The other has started the process of rearranging her schedule so she can attend our women’s Bible study in the fall.

Another result happened this week when another co-worker joined a weekly prayer time in which I participate at work. I still don’t know if she’ll join us regularly, but it was awesome to have her come.

I’m also hosting a dinner soon with 5 other friends with the sole intention of talking about where we are in our faith and lives at the moment. Within this group there will be all levels of believers with the hope being that we can see our unity in Christ and encourage each other in whatever stage our walks are at the moment.

I share all of this simply to illustrate a change God is doing in me.

So often we think we have to push and pound and focus on “saving the lost.” But discipleship focuses on growth, not just giving people tickets into heaven. That growth has many stages and takes place both in the process of recognizing one’s need for Christ as well as after believing in Christ and learning to align your life to His.

The important part is being intentional to make room for a spiritual focus within your conversation. So many people fear saying anything at risk of offending. I know because that was me! There have been times in my life I’ve been pushy, judgmental and condescending. There’s been other times when I’ve refused to say anything. I’ve done it wrong from both extremes.

But I’ve come to realize my role is to provide opportunity. I speak truth in my comments about life that reflect my faith. I don’t hide it, but I also don’t flaunt it or try to force it on others. I let people simply realize it is a part of me.

But then, when the conversation and relationship allows, I ask a question that centers on spiritual matters. The depth depends on the person and the level of our relationship. It is intended to be light so that the other person can take us deeper if they choose.

If the person doesn’t and backs off, then I do too. It’s God’s job to draw them to Himself. I simply keep myself available.

But if someone presses into the conversation, I go as deep as they lead. That’s what happened with my two friends. They wanted to go deep, so I followed their lead. As I answer questions, I can share truth because they are seeking instead of me pushing.

How many times do we miss the opportunity to walk with others as they investigate faith because we are simply too scared, fearful to offend?

Once I realized my role, to simply offer opportunity, and let God do His role of drawing people, convicting people, and saving people, being willing to walk with my mouth, to step out with words, became much less scary… and easier!

So I would encourage you as well to look for opportunity. Be intentional to live your faith for you. There’s no need to force it on anyone. That’s contrary to God’s character and not how we saw Jesus live His life.

And then be willing to ask a question once in a while. You’ll see people decline your invitation in how they respond. But you might also see people accept the invitation and press in, interested to converse and explore their relationship with God.

It’s a new experience this year. But it’s fun. It’s exciting. And it’s important. 
It’s what I want my life to be about.