90 Seconds of Light: Let It Go

I received a text recently from someone close to me asking for prayer as they were giving up something they enjoyed. They felt the Lord nudging them that it was time to let it go. It was not going to be an easy goodbye and then there would be empty time to fill, not to mention the void it would leave. I quickly let them know that I was so happy they were taking this step of faith and would most assuredly be praying for them. The interesting thing is what they were letting go of didn’t seem like a big deal to me. I mean, as far as unhealthy addictions, this would not have even made the list in my book. But, to this person, it was not okay and it needed to go.

I am at an age where I no longer question when a person feels the need to give up something that in my estimation doesn’t seem like a real threat. I just nod my head and let them know that my heart and prayers will be with them. The days ahead for them won’t be easy.

It’s complicated.

Living out one’s faith is just not that cut and dry. There are things in scripture that are clear “no-no’s.” Things like adultery, lying and cheating. Those are the easy to spot sins that we know we should not be doing. They are not up for debate, just don’t do them.

But then there are the grey areas. You know, the areas that are not as specific, the ones that may be okay for you and not for me.   The areas where the lines seem blurred, and everyone’s lines are different. They are tough to explain and even tougher to let go of because by all rational standards, they really aren’t that bad.

And that is why I love how personal God gets with each of us.

He knows me so well. He knows what is good for me and what I should stay away from, run from even. With my personality I have to be careful not to put too much emphasis on what others think of me. I just want everyone to be happy and I want to be liked. And there is nothing wrong with that. But if I am left to my own devices, what seems innocent enough turns into something that could ruin my life or at the very least steal my joy. No one can make those around them happy, it’s a personal decision. The Lord has to remind me all the time to look to Him for my own happiness. He’ll take care of everyone else.

It’s a daily thing really.

There are certain things I have to do each day to keep my heart and mind focused on Him and if I don’t, it stifles our relationship. And there are some things that I just can’t do or say because He said no, and He knows what I can handle. I have to keep doing what he has asked, for my own good, even if no one around me understands. It isn’t about them, they don’t have to understand.

It’s between the Lord and me, it’s personal.

I’m praying as you read this the Lord will bring something to mind you know he’s been nudging you to walk away from.  It’s holding you back from what is best, from the next glorious thing that he has planned for you. Don’t think for a minute that the enemy of your soul is unaware of the mighty man or woman of God you could be if you allow Him to have full control in your heart and mind. He’ll stop at nothing to hold you back, even if it he has to use something that seems like no big deal.

Let it go.

Whatever it is, whatever grey area it lives in, however much you try to justify it, it is holding you back. Let it go. You may miss it, but as time and growth happens, you will see that freedom is worth the price. And just to make sure it sticks, find someone you trust and ask them to pray for you. You don’t have to divulge all the details if you aren’t comfortable with that, but let them know you need prayer because God is about to do a great work in you, and it’s going be tough.

And then get ready for the ride of your life.

Prayer: Father, we need you to set us free from the less obvious sin that weighs us down. The things that no one else may understand but us. Help us to be willing to lay it down and walk directly into your loving arms, you are waiting to uphold us and walk us to freedom. This life can be so confusing sometimes, so hard to decipher. But, your truth is clear and you will make it known to us if we will only listen. Teach us to really listen and then give us the courage to obey. Help us to take it one day, one moment at a time. You are all we need. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Scripture: “Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” Luke 11:28

 

Bonus: Just in case you’re wondering, yes, I have been humming “Let It Go” from Frozen the whole time I was writing this. You know you were thinking it.

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Sweet Young Love

I love weddings, I love engagements; I love anything that has to do with celebrating young love. My husband and I have prayed for our children and the person whom will one day steal their hearts since they were born. We’ve prayed for so many things, but this is so very important because it impacts every area of their lives. We’ve prayed that the person they marry will be faithful, kind, an encourager, committed, honest, and most of all be head over heels in love with Jesus. This person will have more influence than any other person in their life. It’s a big decision and they need to get it right.

Last weekend was a big one for my side of the family. Our niece got engaged. She is the first of the nieces and nephews on my side to get married. She is my sister’s youngest child and only daughter. To say we are over the moon is probably an understatement. This will be an exciting time for us. My own daughter noted, and I agree, that this came at a good time. We have been through so much with the loss of our precious mother, and this will bring us together. It will help to remind us that there is life yet to be lived, and Momma would’ve wanted that. This celebration will blow fresh wind through our sails and we need it.

The beginning of a new season.

A new chapter of life, a new name, a “new to you” home, new address, a new day. New hopes and dreams are born, but not in the terms of “me,” or “my” but “ours.” It really is a magical experience.   There are not too many little girls who don’t dream about the day they will get married. Pinterest has thousands of pins dedicated to the big day. Television shows are devoted entirely to the dress the bride will wear, cakes become works of art that are too beautiful to be eaten, white lights and yards of tool adorn churches and reception halls. These are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think about wedding bells getting ready to ring.

The day we say “I do.”

Do you remember yours? I still remember mine so clearly. I was so young and so naïve, but so excited to marry my best friend. No one told me how different BEING married was from GETTING married. So, I innocently walked down the aisle and said yes to a wonderful man. When I look back on the experience now, I am filled with thankfulness that this man I ended up with was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me. It might have gone so differently. But, we’ve made it. I’ve never made any bones about the fact that being married is tough, but I’m also the first to say that it is so worth it.

Last weekend my family made the trip down to my sister’s home in Florida to celebrate the engagement of her sweet girl. My family kind of reminds me of the family in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Yeah, you’re getting a better idea now. We think we have to celebrate everything together and no occasion is too small to celebrate. You can imagine what an event like this must mean to us, so we went down there in full form.

Cousins

I wonder if her fiancé really knows what he’s getting himself into marrying into this family.

It helps that my niece is adorable. Of course I would think this, but honestly she is. If you know her you’ll agree that she is a joy. When her face comes to mind, it will always have a smile on it, even in your imagination. She’s just bubbly happy.   And that happiness spills all over everyone she meets.

It’s just contagious.

It was with her in mind that we headed south. It’s not a long drive to their home, but it does make for a long weekend. We sped down there Saturday morning and headed back weary and fulfilled Sunday afternoon. We unpacked the vehicles and fell into bed. When I woke up this morning, all I could think was, “Seriously, how can it be morning already?” It felt as though I’d only slept a few minutes.

Let me explain.

We all knew that this man who won my niece’s heart was going to pop the question this weekend, but she was unaware. We planned and schemed and, Lord forgive, we lied to plan a surprise engagement party. My guilt ridden sister told me she was going to have to apologize profusely to her daughter and the Lord when this was over because she had told her so many falsehoods trying to keep the secret.  I told her I’m confident the Lord wouldn’t hold it against her.

I hope I am right. 😉

We arrived at her home and were immediately put to work. That is what family is for, right? We lit candles, washed dishes, carved watermelon, filled party favor bags and helped put the final pieces into place. The guests began to drift in and the painful wait for the newly engaged couple to arrive began. When at last they did, the small crowd began to clap and cheer. My niece’s smile was as bright as the sun and her groom to be was glowing as well.   Let me interrupt myself here and say how much I love to celebrate with others. I love to cheer on those around me and to be a part of their special moments. Days like these are forever burned into my heart.

Lexie  & Joseph

Young love is so sweet.

I could tell you that we danced the night away, but honestly, we cooked hamburgers and hot dogs and laughed our heads off with joy. I guess you could call our joyful expressions a dance of the heart. Then, of course, made wedding plans. We took lots of pictures and blew up social media. We declared our excitement to the world and the world did not disappoint. Lots of texts, comments, and well wishes were passed along to the soon to be bride and groom. And if it were even possible, the young love birds glowed even more.

Once we polished off the food and after the sun began to set, the guests began to trickle away. We were left with the closest of friends and family, it was then our hearts began to wrap around what was next. One of our young was leaving the nest. Spreading her wings to fly on her own and to make her own way. Why does that feel so sad? And how can I feel so much excitement and sadness all at one time?

Life can be so conflicting.

Throughout all of the declarations of love and hopes for tomorrow, I began to think about my own daughter and those like her. The ones who have not met their “Mr. Right” but are patiently waiting for him to ride up on a white horse and steal their hearts. How through time and ages young women have wanted to be swept off their feet and made to feel like a princess. Watching my niece radiate reminded me that it really is worth the wait.

Abbie & Lexie

He really will be worth it.

Real, true, pure love is worth waiting for. It’s the kind that will stand the test of time. Deep love that endures hardship and children, broken dreams and loss. The white horse will ride away and the princess crown will fade, but true love presses on. No matter how your love story started or what it looks like now, it’s how the story finishes that matters. Oh, I love nights like the one we had, but I love hearing stories about love that endured just as much.

So, hang in there young woman of faith, God has your knight in shining armor for you. Don’t give up and don’t settle for anything less. I’m confident that my niece would agree with me as she wears her excitement and joy like a banner for all to see. She waited for the one and God did not disappoint.

He won’t disappoint you either.

Oh, when the party was over we started the unpleasant but necessary job of cleaning up.   Then we stared at the ring and teased about hashtags and talked about wedding dresses. The guys stood around and swapped fishing stories and drove across town to return the borrowed tables and chairs. We helped put away food and hugged my sister goodnight. Left the party and promised to be readily available to help with the wedding.

Because that’s what a “Big Fat Greek” family is for, right?

 

Second Fiddle

As the story was recounted to me it was cold, very cold. It was early morning and he was in no mood to be running a race, especially one that felt like the Rocky Mountains. For a cross country runner from Alabama, the hills of Tennessee seemed very daunting. But, nevertheless there he stood, shivering from the cold, waiting for the start whistle. He felt like he had a pretty good chance to place in this 5k after assessing the competition. But, one never knows, some people will surprise you with their ability to run faster and harder than you think they could.

But, he was in no mood to care about any of that.

The whistle blew and the runners took off like horses out of a start gate. The first one hundred yards were straight downhill followed by a long uphill climb. It was brutal, and to think he was going to have to make two laps around this course made his stomach feel heavy. His breath blew back into his face like vapor as he sucked air hard in and out of his frozen lungs.   “Keep a good pace, keep a good pace.” The thought kept running through his mind. Slowly and steadily he passed one runner after another until he was holding a strong second place. First place was just in sight, he might be able to catch him. So he pushed himself harder, legs burning from the exertion.

He wasn’t going to give up.

It was the final turn, the one that would lead them to the finish line. One more turn, he had long since warmed up from the strain of running a long distance with such intensity. Only one more turn and one runner lie between him and being through. It was then that the unexpected happened.   The runner in front of him, the first place boy, didn’t make the final turn. He kept right on going, as though he was to do another lap around the course.

He had only a moment to decide what to do.

Without hesitation, he called out to number one, “hey, you need to turn.” It took extra energy to get the words out and he knew immediately they would cost him. But, it wouldn’t feel like a win if it happened because of a mistake.   The runner ahead quickly adjusted his error and made the turn.

Second place.

After hearing this, I had to ask myself, “What would I have done?”   First place was obtainable. After all, the first runner should have been paying attention. But, would letting the one in front of you take the wrong path when you know you could have prevented it have been the right thing to do? I have my opinions on this, I feel like second place may as well have been first in this case. Integrity won. You can’t put a medal around the winner of integrity, but you can celebrate the fact that when given only a split second to decide, doing the right thing came easily.

So, they sailed into the finish chute and stopped the painful cadence to walk and catch their breath. It was over and it was a respectable finish and a chance to do the right thing. We never know when these life tests are going to creep up on us. When it may feel like a grey area and whatever we choose to do would be acceptable, although one choice may clearly outshine the other.

Do we live at the edge of integrity? Of doing the right thing even if it costs us something?

I heard a short clip on the radio recently about humility. Something I know I could use more of but I hate the process of getting. He said something that stood out to me and I have carried it in my heart ever since.

“Don’t be afraid to play second fiddle.”

Now, having been a band student back in my high school years, I know all about playing the “second” part in a piece of music. It was never quite as fun as the “first” piece, but it certainly made for harmony in the music. And the harmony is what made it all so beautiful.   We need harmony. We need all the parts. First, second, third and so on. Some have to be willing to play second fiddle; to live their lives in harmony, not in first place.

One must be willing to give up the credit, when it is clearly deserved or to do the work someone else was supposed to do but didn’t, to be second fiddle, second in a race. What does humility look like in your life? Have you thought about that lately? That’s a hard subject for some of us to dive into. It’s tough to be humble with some folks. But, I realize more and more as I get older that the Lord really is my defender. He really will take care of me and I can rest in not getting the credit or the attention or being treated with kindness.

I can choose humility.

I can choose to do the right thing even if it costs me. And, ultimately, I am the real winner.

Second place never felt so right.

 

Colossians 3:12-14 “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (emphasis mine)

Ninety Seconds of Light: For This I Am Thankful

I have a lot on my heart tonight. So many thoughts spinning in my head. I stood in the kitchen and talked at length with my daughter about the book she has been reading and I felt like I was having a surreal moment. She was telling me how the book is teaching her about thankfulness and how it is directly linked to grace and joy. She pointed out passages in scripture that reinforce how being thankful directly affects our salvation and our outlook on life.

Thankfulness changes everything.

But as I listened to her share with me the valuable truths she was learning, all I could think was “thank you, Lord, for answering my prayers.” It is a beautiful thing to see your young adult daughter begin to really step out on her own in faith. To walk upon the waters of her own experiences and see that God does not disappoint.

You see, she hasn’t always made an easy path for herself. She has to learn things the hard way. Kind of like her momma. But, when she finally learns a lesson, it sticks. Her walk with the Lord has been one of questions and skepticism. Not because she doesn’t believe, but because she doesn’t just believe what she’s told, she has to figure it out for herself. It takes her time to think it through and it has to pass it through the filter of reason before she can embrace and believe with her heart.

That’s why when she was standing in the kitchen in front of me, hair spilling over her shoulders intently looking through her study book lying on the counter in front of her, I wanted to cry. Cry with joy, cry with relief, just cry. It has been a journey to watch her take baby steps and stumble and fall. But, praise the Lord, she keeps getting back up and trying again. I know it is because of prayer, my precious momma’s prayers, her father’s prayers and a host of others who have prayed for her over the years. She’s growing, learning and finding something deeper with Jesus all on her own.

That is my joy today.

Ironically, the one who is teaching me new passages about thankfulness tonight, is the one I am so thankful for. Who are you praying for? Do you have someone in your life in which you would like to see some growth? Someone you’ve prayed so hard for and need to see something happen? Don’t give up praying. God is working. He will answer.

As I am writing this I can hear my dad praying over my daughter, lifting up a word of thanks and hope for opportunities that lie ahead. There’s not a sweeter sound to this momma’s ears.

I am so thankful.

 

Prayer: Father, we pray so hard and so long for the people we love. We need to see change and improvement so that discouragement doesn’t consume our hearts. Give us the courage we need to keep praying and not to give up. Thank you for the prayers you’ve already answered, it fills our hearts with joy to see you at work. We love you and we need you every moment of every day. In Jesus name, Amen.

Scripture: “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” Psalm 50:23 NLT

“I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.” Psalm 34:1b NLT

Peace in the Middle

I’m definitely a “middle-ager.” Way past the “wonder years,” but not close to the “golden years.” I’ve heard them called the “sandwich years;” kids on one side and aging parents on the other. My mom has passed and my dad has hit the golden age of seventy. He is still very full of life and holds down a full time job. But, for some reason, I still feel the need to hear from him every day so I know he is okay. I have two kids away at college, and one who is finishing his junior year of high school. They all drive; they all have active social lives and they all keep me busy praying as they trek all over the southeastern United States.   Needless to say I am learning to trust in a way I never have before.

Yet, I still feel the weight of all the things around me that are completely out of my control.

This season of my life has been one of the most difficult I’ve ever known. I am constantly reminded just how fragile life is and how little say I have in what happens. I was headed out of town this weekend when it occurred to me how all over the place my family was going to be for those two days. One son in Nashville at a church competition, another in Birmingham at a college youth retreat and one in Mobile driving in heavy traffic to work across town. All this separation and traveling has been enough to make me seriously consider biting my fingernails.

We’re inundated with reasons to fret.

Last week a precious young lady in our community was driving home when she was struck and killed. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child. My heart just breaks for this family. A young teenager from our community was recently returned to her parents after she had been reported missing for several weeks. I don’t know all the details of her experience, but I know my heart stayed heavy for her family who was going through a living hell while she was gone. I can hardly turn on the news without seeing crime; either a murder or a house break-in or a tragic accident.

It’s enough to keep a heart unnerved all the time.

And that is just the “big” stuff. We are faced with potential smaller disasters constantly. There’s the possibility of a naive youth in an abusive relationship, or young eyes being exposed to explicit material on the internet, a teen trying alcohol and drugs for the first time, kids breaking the curfew, or repeated illness, and the list goes on. It is so hard to keep peace in my heart when the world is constantly spinning around me; throwing darts and dilemmas.

I was trying to explain the feeling of all this fear to my husband the other day and it sounded like I was babbling uncontrollably.   How do you explain it? I know how fear feels, but putting it into words is tough. I guess you could say it feels like the ground beneath me is unstable. Sometimes I even feel like it has me paralyzed, unable to think straight and rationally. There are so many things to worry about, so many potential tragedies that could happen each day.

The thought of it makes my stomach hurt.

I read wonderful quotes and I have crushes on people who rise above all of these potential threats to live full, seemingly fear-free lives. I want to be like them, they are my heroes. They give me hope that it is possible to live a day and not be gripped by your fears.

I have told you many times in our sharing together that I am on a quest to find peace. It is one of the toughest roads I’ve ever travelled. I understand now more than ever how I have no real control over the situations that come into my life.  No say in the circumstances that tomorrow holds. So I find myself praying harder and more often. I have an ongoing conversation with the Lord these days, I don’t even say amen anymore, it’s more like “I’ll be right back.”

He has been filling my senses with verses and stories of peace and hope, and now I have to do my part and INTENTIONALLY think on the good rather than the painful and bad. The mind is so hard to tame.   But, TODAY I am going to remember that God has this all under control.

Life is not a reckless happening of events but a plan that has been laid out for me and for you. I’m holding on tight to that TRUTH.

Well, better get going, I need to call my daddy and make sure he’s doing okay.

 

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 NIV

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 NLT