Into the Light

sunrise

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

 

Advertisements

Hold the Dam!

IMG_5460

“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.

 

 

Roadside Hay Baler

You may have passed us last night.  We were on the shoulder of an Indiana state road–old blue Chevy truck and a well-used red hay baler with a flat tire.

It was not our hay baler.  It belongs to our friend, Mark, and we were just borrowing it for a few days.  The last question I asked him before we pulled out of his drive was, “Mark, will you still like Dave if we break this thing?”  He smiled his ready smile and assured us that he would.

I probably should’ve gotten that in writing.

We’d been tooling down the highway, blinkers on, at a cautious 35-40 miles per hour.  We hit a bump, and a sheet of metal flew off of the baler and landed in the opposite lane.  Dave stopped as quickly as he could and ran back to get it.  Fortunately, motorists were paying attention and calamity was avoided.  Whew.  Unfortunately, Dave heard the tire hissing when we threw the sheet of metal in the bed of the truck.

We called our children first.  Due to the kind of long list of outdoor chores we’d left them to do, they did not answer the phone.  (My son assured me this morning that if we’d just let them watch a movie last night instead of mowing, feeding animals, etc., they would have been much more available to take our call.  I told him his observation was duly noted.)  Dave and I discussed calling some of our other neighbors, but we knew Mark was home and had an air tank, so we called him.  (Sorry, Mark.)

Dave and I discussed beef prices, upcoming auctions, his birthday lunch and a few other odds and ends as we sat on the side of the road.  I was acutely thankful for the folks who slowed down and went around us; it made a big difference in my personal peace of mind.  We also kind of chuckled about the shirtless guy who kept appearing at his front door window and peering out at us.  The beveled glass gave him a unique appearance at best.  I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking as he periodically materialized in the window.  I wonder if he had an air tank.

Mark got there as soon as he could, and we were glad.  Dusk was setting in, and there were no lights on the baler.  He aired up the tire, threw his tank in the bed and encouraged us to get moving, stopping as necessary to put in more air.

At our first opportunity, we turned off of the state road onto a country lane and bumped our way along toward home.  The potholes did the tire no favors, but we certainly felt it was a safer alternative to the highway.  We continued to stop to air it up as needed.

A couple of miles from home, the tank ran out of air.  Dave slowed down and tried to avoid bumps, but it was to no avail.  The goofy tire needed more air.  We called our oldest daughter, now in from mowing, and instructed her on filling and loading the air compressor.  She went to work on following orders.  We were about a quarter of a mile from our driveway at this point, and Dave wondered if he could pull up into the drive to at least get off of our narrow road.  He started to ease forward, and the tire fell apart, shredded.

By this time, it was almost totally dark.  Our neighbor, Adam, chose this time to step out of his barn.  Fortunately for us, he was wearing his superhero cape.  After a few moments of catching him up to speed on the situation, he had us back the baler into his driveway, brought out his heavy-duty jack and he and Dave were working to remove the tire.

Another blessing.

At this point, our daughter had appeared with the air compressor at this point, so I went with her up to the house and Dave soon followed.  We were home and the baler was safely boarded at Adam’s for the night.

What Dave and I thought would be about an hour together turned out to be more than two.  I don’t know that he or I would’ve chosen these exact circumstances for our date, but the time together was good.  We were reminded of how good people can be and how we can all make a difference in this world.  Our friend, Mark, and our neighbor, Adam, may not have set out to bless us yesterday, but when the opportunities arose, they did.  We are thankful.

I am also thankful that I didn’t allow myself to be consumed by all of the things I could’ve been doing if I had chosen to stay home.  For one thing, we wouldn’t have had to bother Mark.  Even then, though, I am learning that I need to take opportunities as they come.  Dave and I had lots of opportunity for uninterrupted conversation last night.  That’s a rare thing in my house.

Maybe once we get the tires replaced, the hay in the barn and the baler back to Mark, Dave and I can go out on a real date–one without temperamental equipment, speeding semis and creepy guys peering at us through the window.

Waiting for the Bell

Ringing, dinging, buzzing, singing.  We are a noisy bunch of folks these days.

It’s a wonder that we can focus on anything with all of the chirping, whistling, humming and vibrating that’s going on around us.  Most of us are answering our phones in the checkout lines, drive thru lanes, on date nights and even in church.  We’re pouring out our hearts in waiting rooms, school rooms, break rooms and even bathrooms.  (Puh-LEASE!)  We scramble to answer our phones while we’re driving, groping frantically through our purses and consoles.  We carefully position our phones on the steering wheel so that we can even text while speeding down the road at 60 miles per hour, seemingly forgetting that we cannot control everything.  We interrupt friends, ignore children, tune out spouses and neglect to thank the folks who hold open our doors, wave us ahead of them at the 4-way stop and bag our groceries.  Many of us even try to maintain two conversations at the same time, confusing a multitude of people around us.

And yet we keep on doing it.

What is wrong with us that we think we are so important?  What makes us live as though we truly believe that the world will stop spinning if we ignore the bells?  How can we justify putting other people in danger for the sake of a text?  How can what is happening on social media trump precious time spent with our children at the park or extended family on holidays or even our evenings with our spouses?

We’ve got some priority issues, folks.

The number of people who have liked our status does not determine our worth.

The continual chirping of our phones does not dictate how much we are needed.

The world will not spontaneously combust if we silence our phones while driving.

Unless the good Lord wills otherwise, the sun will still rise if we leave our phones on the kitchen counter through the night.  (We’d probably sleep better, too!)

We have got to discipline ourselves to tune out of some things for the sole purpose of tuning into the important things.  We have got to unplug from the little things so that we have the energy to plug into the big things.

We simply must recognize the difference between a distraction and a priority. 

When we choose to heed the chirp of our phones over the well-being of the people around us, we are allowing our legacy to be compromised.  We must be intentional about our investment in those we love if we want to have a positive lasting legacy.  Boundaries are a good thing.  It’s time to set some for ourselves.

 

Family Night

IMG_6249

I am married to a Marriage and Family Therapist.  Believe me, this has its drawbacks.  For one thing, he is almost always right.  This can be…unsettling…if I ever wanted him to bow to my unreasonable demands.  Fortunately, I don’t make unreasonable demands.

The other problem comes in that he knows the futility of arguing, and sometimes I just want to indulge in a good argument!  Selfish, really, that he won’t oblige me in this.

Other than that, though, the Counselor’s knowledge and passion for healthy families mostly comes in handy.  For instance, we are currently living with three teenagers.  In spite of the natural trials borne out of this season of life, these young people are relatively well-adjusted, highly capable and mostly pleasant (probably because they’ve grown up with free counseling).  The perspective of a godly man who has worked with people in resolving personal crises–as well as worked through a few crises of his own–is beneficial.

Fairly early in our parenting, Counselor Dave and I determined that we would guard our time together as a family.  We would control our schedules and not allow our schedules to control us.  Over the years, this has required us to make a number of healthy, family-building decisions, some much easier to make than others.   One of the fun, easy decisions we made, following Dave’s lead, was to institute a Family Night.

Initially, we prompted each child, then ages two, four and seven, to suggest a few outdoor and a few indoor things that they really liked to do here at home.  Their suggestions included things like building with Lincoln Logs, watching a family-friendly movie, playing Blind Man’s Bluff and baking cookies.  Dave and I added our own suggestions, and we put all of the ideas into a jar to be drawn out for Sunday Family Nights.

Now that the kids are older, we rotate through the family, each person getting to choose weather-appropriate activities for their turn.  I usually prepare a fun, informal supper, like nachos, burgers or tacos and we quit whatever projects we’re working on by about 5:30 each Sunday evening.  It is a rare exception that we are on the computer or even take a phone call or return a text once Family Night begins.  If a Family Night falls on Mother’s Day or a birthday, then the honored person gets to choose the activity–or sometimes everyone else chooses an extra-special activity for the honored person.

I confess that not everyone is always thrilled with the chosen activity for the night (including myself).  There have been driveway face-plants from bike rides, split lips from Pickle, complaints about Croquet, unending games of Monopoly, cries of “Not fair!” when Daddy vetoes a movie option in favor of an outdoor activity when the weather is nice.  Our Family Nights have not created a perfect family; however, they have created opportunity for intentional time together to build relationships.  Families are the foundation of every society.  If our society is broken, we are reaping the consequences of our families being broken.

Whatever you choose to do this Mother’s Day weekend, I encourage you to make it a family-building activity.  Invest in the people you love.  Guard your time.  Put away your phone.  Plug in to one another.  You may not have family in the area, and you may not have children, but you still have people around you that can be blessed by what you have to offer.  Maybe you know of a broken family that could use a little building.  Maybe now is the time to reach out.

 

Frostbite

IMG_6241

We had a very heavy frost, possibly an actual freeze, a couple of days ago.  We lost both our sweet and sour cherry crops as well as most of our peaches, which is pretty sad for our family.  Fortunately, we had not yet planted much in our garden that would result in total crop failure.

Our potatoes sustained some frostbite, so I spent some time this morning cutting back the dead, damaged leaves so that the healthy parts of the plant can keep on growing.  We had mulched them pretty heavily the day before the forecasted frost, but we hadn’t completely covered everything.  Our broccoli plants and sugar snap pea seedlings still look a little rough, but I think they’ll rebound okay, too.

One of the things I respect about gardening is the reality that I am really not in control.  There are often certain things I can do to protect my various endeavors, but there is always an element that is completely beyond my grasp.  In my opinion, this is a healthy, humbling realization.  No matter what resources I have at my disposal and what energies I invest in all that I hope to accomplish, my ability to control every aspect is an illusion.  In order to have peace of mind, I’ve got to be okay with that.  I have to know when to keep working and when to let go.

Relationships have the same limitations.  We can only do what we can do.  Love.  Forgive.  Pray.  Repent.  Not every relationship is going to work perfectly.  Not every season is going to be an easy one.  At some point, we’ve got to be okay with that if we want to maintain peace of mind.  We can only do what we can do, and then we can ask God’s grace to cover over our mistakes.  That’s where the peace comes in.  We do what God calls us to do.  We work on the dead, damaged places in our own hearts, giving room for God to grow the healthy places into something living and productive.  We also have to allow for others to work on their own lives…or not.  We must relinquish the illusion of control.

I confess that this is a difficult concept for me–one that I struggle to learn time after time.  I can only do what I can do.  Love. Forgive. Pray. Repent.  Fortunately, if I shift my focus to these things, there is always more than enough to keep me well-occupied.

 

 

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.