Into the Light

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Do you feel like the things you have loved most in this life have been stolen from you?

Do you feel like parts of your soul have died from abuse and neglect?

Do you feel like there is destruction all around you?

Stolen happiness.  Dead dreams.  Destroyed relationships.

Yeah…I’ve felt like that, too.

Guess what, though?  There’s Hope.

There’s Life–full, abundant, Life.

In Jesus.

He doesn’t ask much.  He just wants you.  All of you.  Broken, battered, incomplete you.

That’s seriously all He wants.

In return, He will breathe His perfection into your weakness and His joy into your heartache.  He will shine His Light through the cracks in your heart.  He will bring healing.  Restoration.  Full, abundant life.

It’s time to move on, dear one.  The promise is there.  You’ve just got to claim it.  One step at a time:  Walk out of the darkness and into the Light.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  –Jesus, Book of John, 10:10

 

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Hold the Dam!

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“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”

Early in my marriage, I underlined this gem from Proverbs 17 and wrote “TRISTA!!” out in the margin.  I confess that I was often more interested in making myself heard than in truly resolving conflict.  As a matter of fact, I often created conflict just to make my point.  Looking back now, I wonder what in the world I was thinking.

To be honest, I wasn’t thinking at all.  I was feeling.  I was feeling unheard, unjustified and unloved.  My emotions railroaded what my mind knew to be true.  My husband loved me.  He did not think I was a moron.  His most fervent wish was not to ruin my life.  In truth, he was not my enemy.

But, boy!  It sure felt like it at times!

Recently, that same husband (the most patient man in the world) and I were walking through a nearby high school to attend a seminar.  As is often the case, the halls were lined with encouraging pep talk-type signs for the athletic and academic teams.  One of them said, “Don’t Think.  Just Feel.”

Wow.  Really?

Is this what we’re teaching the next generation?  Don’t use your reasoning powers.  Don’t think through the situation.  Don’t examine your options and make an informed decision.

Just let your emotions call the shots.  If you’re mad, act on it.  If you’re hurt, act on it.  If you don’t get your way and life feels unfair, act on it.  Immediately.  Forget the consequences and act like a three-year-old.  Totally go with your feelings.

Like I said before:  Wow.

The fact of the matter is that feelings can be incredibly deceiving.  We all know this…if we actually think about it.  Healthy emotions can be a thermometer in our lives, but they can never be a thermostat.  In other words, emotions may reveal how the experiences of our lives are affecting us, but how we respond to said experiences should never be predominantly determined by our emotions.

People often say that, out of all of the things they could wish for in this life, they wish their kids to be happy.  It may sound strange, but I guess I don’t really want that for my crew.  I personally can be up and down from happy thirteen times in any given day.  I want my kids to have something much deeper and more lasting than happiness–the joy and peace that come from living for Jesus Christ in spite of our circumstances.  I want them to respond to their emotions with thoughtfulness and wisdom.  I want them to be able to discern what is true and what is not.  I want them to think more than feel.

When I relied so heavily on my emotions all those years ago, I essentially nullified my own voice.  My husband, who reasons better than he emotes, was so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of my feelings that he eventually kind of shut down.  I breached so many dams on the soapbox of my emotions that, no matter how valid some of my points were, he learned to tune me out.  Looking back, I think I probably sounded a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wa-wah”.  Yeah, not what I had in mind.

When I finally started to reign it in and rule over my emotions, focusing on what was true and right, I had a steep hill to climb.  Not only did I have to re-train myself,  I had to re-train my husband.  It was my turn to be patient as I worked on re-building his trust in what I communicated to him.  It was a rough road.  And, the re-building took much, much longer than the breaching.  Yuck.  Maybe some of you have been there, too.

That same chapter in Proverbs tells us that he who covers over an offense promotes love.  In this life, I don’t want to be remembered as a dam-breacher.  As we’ve seen in the footage from hurricanes, a breached dam is a horrible tragedy with far-reaching consequences.  Instead, even if it means that I don’t feel like I’m heard, I want to leave the legacy of love.

 

 

Distractification

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Distractification.  This pretty much sums up my life these days.  My mind has been in overdrive, and I am continually trying to redirect my thoughts to whatever I actually need to be thinking about.  It’s been a losing battle.

(By the way, did you know that Charles Dickens made up words to more accurately convey his thoughts?  He also lived long enough to experience celebrity status from his writing.  Definite perk for him.)

I digress.  The point is that my mind has been so easily inundated with the mundane that I’ve had a tough time focusing on my true priorities.  I’ll be working outside in the yard, and a blog idea comes to mind.  I’ll basically be writing it in my head, re-working the language in my mind, kind of getting excited about it…until I notice that my zinnias are on their way out for the summer and I decide to cut one last beautiful bouquet to enjoy indoors.  By the time I make it into the house, bouquet in hand, I’ve lost the flow of whatever I was so looking forward to writing!

(If you want to save seeds from zinnias, all you need to do is cut off the blooms and allow them to fully dry.  Then, over a paper bag, gently rub the heads between your fingers until the seeds separate.  Label the bag so you don’t forget what’s in it and plant the seeds next June.)

Anyway, my focus is all wonky.  My mind is just too busy.

It occurs to me that I need to re-train my brain.  It feels like, at almost 43 years of age, I shouldn’t need a whole lot of re-training, but I am finding that this is just not the case.  I am regularly finding myself in need of re-training on skills and behaviors that should already be tucked safely in my life’s tool belt.

(I went to work on crocheting an unfinished granny square the other day and realized that I needed to get my directions out again.  I’d already crocheted a few dozen of those goofy things, yet, here I was, in need of a refresher.  Ugh!)

Anywho, I’m distracted.  Desperately.

During my quiet time this morning, I realized that I can’t really blame my crazy mental state on anyone but myself.  It is up to me to claim peace in my mind.  I read Colossians 3:2, which says, set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  This verse kind of makes what I think about seem like a choice, doesn’t it.  It almost sounds like I can choose what I noodle.  Huh.

I knew immediately what “earthly things” were, because they rule the roost in my noggin.  It’s all the stuff of life–commitments, concerns, calendars; the unchecked chaos of these things is what has been crowding my brain.  But, what were the “things above”?

In the quiet of the morning, I considered this question.  The first word that came to my mind was peace.

Peace.

I let it play over and over in my mind, actually feeling its presence, basking in its truth.

I then heard the word hope.  Thank You, Jesus, for hope.

Hope was followed by joy.  And joy was followed by mercy.

With the thought of mercy, my eyes filled with tears, and I thanked God for His mercy–the mercy that brings freedom to my life.  The mercy that allows my mind to bask in His peace, hope and joy.

The mercy that allows me to choose.

 

Evident Gentleness

I am not a gentle person by nature.  Many of my high school peers and even my youth sponsors from that season of life can attest to this.  I tend to be a bit of a bulldozer–both physically as well as verbally.  I wish that weren’t the case, but it is.  The last 20 years of yielding to the Holy Spirit in this area has definitely helped, but let’s just say it’s still not a sure bet.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t usually beat up on people any more.  (Although I did let loose on an unsuspecting man last Friday.  I think he’s fully recovered, though.)  I just say things in a not-so-gentle way.  And, if those words don’t actually come out of my mouth, they kind of come out in my attitude, which I think might be just as bad.  I once had a preacher tell me that he could tell what I was thinking from the pulpit.  This is very inconvenient at times…especially when I’m thinking about lunch.

I have a precious friend in the same boat.  She and I work really hard to not always say what we think…or to at least to say what we think in a kind, productive way IF it needs to be said at all.  She has remarked on more than one occasion that, after her husband (one of those naturally gentle types) or someone else kind of scolds her for not speaking gently–especially if she’s been practically biting her tongue until it bleeds–she wants to defend herself with, “If only you knew all of the things that I thought and did NOT say!!”.  I feel the say way.  If I’m gonna get dinged for not speaking gently, I want to get points for all of the times I edit my words for gentleness before they come out of my mouth!  This same friend also lamented that, even when she successfully filters her words, her expression gives her thoughts away.  She says she and I need face filters.  Too true.

Anyway, one of the easy ways I have learned to be gentler with my words is to just not speak them right away.  I had to walk away from my email last week before I responded to something someone said.  I went through my morning as usual, occasionally formulating a reply in my mind, until I came up with one that was respectful and true.  There are times I don’t do that and I wish I had.

Social media is the worst for this.  It is amazing how emotionally-charged some of those threads are.  I learned this the hard way in my first couple years of Facebook-dom.  The fact is that not many people really care about my opinion on social media, and I am not doing them any favors by posting it–especially on their thread.  It would almost be like a friend inviting me into her home and offering me a cup of coffee…and me pouring my coffee on her floor and leaving.

Facebook offers us a remarkable trust–a look into the thoughts and feelings of the people we call friends.  It gives us opportunity to pray specifically for them, reach out to them when we wouldn’t otherwise know they’re hurting and to better understand their perspective.  We don’t have to agree with them (and it’s sometimes best if we un-follow them), but we can still stand on common ground with them.  Whether they’re grade school friends, high school teammates, extended family, past co-workers or whoever, they’re people who have had a place in our lives and deserve our respect.

(Yes, there are those people who are toxic and crazy and who would love to drain the very lifeblood from our limbs.  These are the folks whom we can feel free to un-friend in order to be healthier.  However, we can still do so respectfully.)

Let your gentleness be evident to all.  This is what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:5.  Paul was not a gentle man.  He spoke harshly and sometimes acted harshly.  I bet he could’ve even used a face filter.  His gentleness came from knowing Jesus and submitting his natural tendencies to the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Many of us Christians are not very good at being gentle.  We’re either “gentle” to the point of weak-minded (which isn’t at all what Paul is talking about here) or we scream the Truth of Jesus Christ in such a harsh, abrasive and judgmental way that we turn people off to Who Jesus really was on this earth.  Jesus was gentle.  He was meek.  He had tremendous power/authority/integrity, and His very life proved it.  He lived in humility and meekness, serving the under-served.  He didn’t scream His point-of-view on the street corners.  He lived His point-of-view for decades before beginning to speak out.

I wonder what Jesus would’ve posted on Facebook.

As a Christian, my job is to be a light that draws others to Jesus–a warm, inviting light that represents safety and security.  My job is not to be a spotlight–harsh and painful and repelling.  Once people give their lives to Christ, He can shine the spotlight of His Holy Spirit on their sins as He is compelled to do.  Our job is to gently speak the Truth in love.  His job is change people’s lives.

It’s time to focus more on showing how God has changed us and less on what needs changed in others.

Life and Death on the Farm

Right now, we have fuzzy babies on the farm.  Not only is there Bitsy, the surprise that hatched in the hen coop a couple of weeks ago, but we also have 49 Cornish-x chicks and 10 turkey poults.  They are currently spending the cool nights in our garage.  My first task every morning is to feed and water the little ones.  It is a very gratifying job, because they are always completely thrilled to eat.  I can almost read see the gratitude in their fluffy little faces.

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This morning, I had the unfortunate task of disposing of a little one that died through the night.  Isaac noticed that it was puny the night before last, and we tried to nurse it back to health yesterday to no avail.  In the two weeks since the babies were delivered, this is the first one we’ve lost.  That’s a pretty good record so far; we hope it lasts.

After the garage babies are taken care of, I head to the barn to let Roscoe and the hens out for the day.  Bitsy now scratches out and about the pasture with her momma and two or three “aunties” that help keep her out of mischief.  (We hope it’s a her, but we don’t really know.)  This is also a good job for me, because these birds are always eager to get out and look for their breakfast.  We currently have a hen setting on a clutch of eggs, so this is a convenient time for me to check on her as well.  Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch, and I think we’re a third of the way through that cycle.

While at the barn, I check any traps that we’ve set.  Currently, this consists of a mouse trap that is catching something every time I set it.  This makes me happy.  With nearby pastures, fields and woods full of rodent food, I have a really hard time sharing the grain I’ve bought with mice.  One momma mouse can give birth to 40 pups a year.  Since I am not interested in determining the gender of my trap’s victims, I count every catch as being worth 20 points.  This week, I’ve scored 80 points.  And it’s only Wednesday!

We’ve not had trouble with predators in the barn so far this summer, so we haven’t had the live trap baited for a couple of months.  However, in the semi-darkness of the dawn, I saw something scurry under the barn on my way out this morning.  It was bigger than a mouse, so methinks the trap must be set tonight.  This is one of my least favorite responsibilities.  I don’t mind the setting of or even the catching of, but the dealing with whatever we catch is blechyness times a million for me.  Fortunately, my son is getting pretty good with his .22 rifle.  I think he’s ready to take over this less-than-desirable farm chore.   He shot and killed a raccoon that our dogs treed last month.  I really appreciate his willingness to pitch in and help in this area.

There is always life and death to deal with on our little farm.  Not all of what we do is pleasant, but it all has its place and its purpose in our days.  Even the death of the little chick can serve as a reminder to be grateful for the 49 chicks which we hope to grow into food for ourselves and for others.  I cannot say that I rejoice in the death of the chick (although I do kinda rejoice in the deaths of the mice), but I am thankful for the lessons I can learn in its passing.

With trapping of the mice, I am reminded that vigilance is necessary.  If we are careless with what we’ve been given, those resources may be taken from us.  The gifts with which we have been blessed today are not guaranteed to bless us tomorrow.  We must do our part to be wise and worthy stewards of God’s provisions–even when what needs to be done is far from pleasant.

 

Psalm 18

I read one of the neatest passages this morning. It encouraged me, and I hope it encourages you as well:

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.”

Feeling overwhelmed? Trapped? Closed in by life? Drowning in your own lousy choices?

God delights in you.

He DELIGHTS in you!

All you need to do is ask Him for help. The answer may not come exactly as you expect it, so be alert! Be patient! He WILL rescue you.

Don’t. Even. Start.

By listening to the story of yet another beautiful friend, I am reminded of how utterly devastating, discouraging and degrading pornography can be to a family. What may present itself as idle entertainment or harmless release is actually one of the most insidious and destructive activities available in today’s society.

Gentlemen…ladies…I beg you: Don’t. Even. Start. And, if you’ve already begun to feel its pull, get help. Immediately. Swallow your pride, disconnect your internet. Lay your cards on the table and get help. Set yourself up to succeed by finding some accountability (other than your spouse). Nothing truly good will come of pornography; I guarantee it.

You are worth more. And so is your family.