Friday, March 23, 2018

Proceed with Caution

This awesome and grand adventure God has me on takes my breath away for many reasons.  For the first few months of this year I have been throwing myself down every path God presents me with.  I've been digging in the dirt of my day to find the hidden gems and clues of His mercy and grace.  I have joyfully danced in the rain, snow, mud and waterfalls of the landscape of my life with my Best Friend.  It has been a beautiful love song and I have enjoyed it immensely but every journey eventually plays an underscore of ominous music that clues you in to the dangers that are probably behind the next clump of foliage.  You tense up and inch forward with extra caution.  Or at least that's what I found myself doing today.  Here's how gracious our God is, I noticed.  

Background music in adventure flicks, and any movie or dramatic showcasing, is a tool that the storyteller uses to clue the audience in to what they want you to feel.  Have you ever tried to watch a movie without the background music....totally different experience.  Most of us don't even notice that a score is playing throughout the movie but we still feel it's effects.  Music is a part of God's creation and is certainly a fitting allegory for the mood we approach our lives with.  I'm musically inclined and vehemently oppose people who say musicals are dumb because no one ever breaks out into song in real life.....yes I do....and so does my husband....and several relatives and friends.  I live life out loud!  Or, that's how I see my best self.  

I was doing my Bible Studies today and was loving the adventure.  I was studying Job and pondering Eph 4:29 ESV 
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear"  
I was thinking about questions and the pursuit of wisdom.  About a God who created all things from science to fashion.  That nothing is outside of  His purview.  The Study then took me to James 3:13a NIV.

"Who is wise and understanding among you?" 

The verses that follow James 3:13 give a lot to ponder and take note of.  Are you catching the journey that God took me on?  Do you hear the background music?  I hope so, because this is where the music starts to take a subtle change.  It's not a big change, just a little one.  While pondering all of this, the study challenged me to talk to God about the areas of talent, wisdom, skill and knowledge He entrusted me with.  We all know it's easier to see someone else's gifting than it is to see our own.  Think about it.  What are the areas God has gifted you?  It took me a bit and I struggled to write the list.  I've mentioned on the blog before that I think of myself as a Jill of all trades which certainly gives me pause when thinking of my talents.  The study then directed us to thank God for those areas and then have the courage to ask Him to grow those areas.

This is where the music takes a definite turn in the direction its only been hinting at up until now.  The music speeds up the heart with the hint of danger around the next bend.  I felt the change as surely as if Indiana Jones was poised to switch that golden statue for a bag of sand.  


Nothing on the journey so far would indicate that danger was ahead.  There was nothing on the jungle path of my life that should induce fear...but that's what I felt.  So I got down on my knees and prayed.  This moment still has me a little shook so I hope you'll forgive me if this isn't as polished as I would normally strive for.  I've talked before about the realization that I had hardened my heart to stop feeling the pain of the end of our adoption journey.  God has been working on exchanging that heart of stone for a heart of flesh.  Part of that journey was remembering that this subject is always going to be a little sensitive but that doesn't mean I should guard it like an injury.  What brought me to my knees was the realization that I have been taking action this year based on where I believe God is directing me to and preparing me for.  The last time I struck out on a course of action with this kind of abandon and with the absolute certainty that I was doing what God asked me to do, was for adoption.  Someday soon I need to share my story in that regard but for now I hope you will understand that this is an area of tremendous hurt.  It is a healed hurt, because my God is good, but the reason I am on a treasure hunt this year is because God is teaching me how to ask questions and how to hope again.  

That moment of asking God to bless an area of gifting, of giving Him the fragile hope that I was on the right path, forced me to notice how similar this path felt to that grand story arch that lead to such heartache in my life.  

Part of searching for God in your everyday is going to bring you to your knees as you search for Him.  Part is going to bring you to your knees because you've found Him.

Fellow sojourners, I'm going to try and explain what God showed me in this moment.  

So imagine with me that we're walking along a narrow path through a jungle scene.  Eyes are gazing around under sweating brows looking for clues that we're on the right path.  Someone notices something peeking from underneath a stand of vines and so we begin pulling the growth away to find a standing stone carved with complex symbols.  The excitement of our group bursts forth in happy laughter as we think about what this standing stone means, not just to our journey, but in the truth it can communicate.  As we make our way through the symbols we begin to have a growing sense of unease.  The direction it is telling us to take feels similar to a path we have taken before.  That realization crashes down with the full weight of fear.  This is just like the path we took before.  The one that ended in disaster.  We look wildly around us only to find confirmation.  The signs, the symbols, they are the same.  How could we not have noticed it before!  What if this ends the same way?  We started this journey in faith, believing that we could follow the Guide no matter where He led.  We were sure that we had heard Him this time, that this was the path.  What if we're wrong again?  Could we....could I, survive?      

Big hurts from our past can cause big doubts.  God has been teaching me that it's okay to ask questions.  To ask Him, why.  My biggest questions right now, the ones affecting my journey still today, are ...

Did I hear from you in 2001?  

Did you tell me to pursue adoption only to remove the possibility or did I miss hear you?  

If I was so sure then, and was wrong, how do I know you've spoken to me now?

These are big, hard questions.  While God has been abundant in giving me His peace as I've learned to walk in the life He's given me, these questions loom.  Do you have questions that loom?  Do they cast a shadow on your journey and cause you to jump in fear?  Have you even noticed those questions are there?  We all have things that give us a knee jerk reaction but for most of my life I laughed that jump off as me just being startled.  Get back on the path and keep marching, JD.  Nothing to worry about here.  

I can't do that any more.  I'm looking for God in my every day.  I'm in training to notice where He's moving, who He is and how to recognize Him.  For me, those big, hard questions are a part of that training.  If I don't recognize the shift in background music, I'll be reacting to something I'm not even aware of.  I'll be nervous and edgy as I proceed with caution down the path.  I'll be tense with fear as I live in the belief that disaster is going to fall upon me at any moment.  

So I paused, on my knees, my head to the ground, as tears streamed down my face.  I presented my fear and questions to a good and gracious God, and waited.  I let the hurt be.  

It's been a few hours now of trying to collect my thoughts, letting the ache flair in my chest and thanking God.  Thanking God for letting me notice the change in background music.  For showing me the source of some of my persistent fears along this path.  It's like seeing a looming figure in your dark bedroom at night and then realizing it's your clothes on the back of a chair.  The looming shape that spiked my fear, now has form.  I know it's there and I know what it is.  For now, the questions remain, but I can proceed without fear because I know my God better now.  I am pursuing Him and no path He takes me down will ever be in vain.  While my natural inclination is to protect myself from hurt, that is never God's inclination.  His inclination is for my good and His glory.  Knowing my fear allows me to confront it and step beyond it.  To choose to step out boldly in my adventure.  

What fears have you let loom in the background of your story?  What nameless dread have you let startle you into reacting, into overreacting?  What have you let fear dictate about what you believe?  Let's be brave.  Let's look at those doubts and fears and recognize the real shape of them.  

Don't be afraid.  You're not alone.  Not even with your questions. 

Jeremiah 33:3 NIV
"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."

This weeks linkups:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Bushwacking, Backtracking and Bumbling

Life is not lived in a straight line.  While I have had a few moments in life that felt like I was walking on a well made trail, I've had many more that felt like I was hacking my way through brambles and tumbling down sharp hillsides screaming "as you wish".  Smooth trail or bush choked path, none are straight.  They follow the lay of the land and generally curve to avoid the impassable or dangerous.  We expect it while we're hiking, rock climbing or trail meandering.  Paths curve, the best route must be considered and thought out and sometimes you have to climb down to find the way up.      

I've been feeling that way recently.  Slightly lost, unsure and trying to convince myself that this couldn't possibly be the right way to go.    Life sometimes feels like that.  We are staring at a crossroads, unsure if which path to take.  So we pick a direction only to find pitfalls, quicksand and maybe some ROUS's.  Emotionally, these set backs or challenges feel like failure.  So we turn around and trudge back to the crossroads feeling defeated and disheartened.  It can paralyze us into curling up in the middle of the crossroads and stop moving to avoid making the wrong decision.  I've been doing the new Beth Moore Study "The Quest" which has been right where God wants me right now.  He knew that the adventure He has me on was going to come with a lot of curves but Beth Moore's study reminded me that Quests are full of question marks and that the very nature of their shape reminds us that the path will curve unexpectedly and require some leaps of faith to get to the point.  

Sometimes we have no choice but to scale the cliffs of insanity or brave the fire swamp. Sometimes we will stroll leisurely down a well trod path.  All paths will curve and most will fork.  Just don't freeze in fear of the unknown.  So what if that last fork didn't get you where you wanted to go.  You have a choice in how you view that truncated path.  Did you make the wrong choice or was the dead end part of the adventure?  God is always teaching us something.  No matter what your adventure brings you, you can think of it like an important plot twist. It's where God teaches the hero (that's you) something important.  So whether you use that to shrug off the feelings of failure and defeat or whether you use it to search your circumstances for the hidden gems and pieces of the puzzle, you can choose how you see the dead ends, pitfalls and strategic retreats.

Treasure maps are often full of loops, roundabouts and arcs before you reach the "X" which marks the spot.  Why do we forget that will be true in our own adventure.  If my hiking path bends and dips and forks, then why wouldn't my life's journey?  So, what are you going to see as an adventure today instead of a mistake?

Link ups this week:

Friday, March 9, 2018

God Holds my Purpose

For the last few months, as God has asked me to rest and as He's given me hints that He's preparing me for something, I've been thinking about my purpose.  I've been thinking about it because the enemy and my own rebellious flesh have been whispering doubts to me.  Who are you?  What could you possibly offer? What are you even for?  You have no purpose!  

Doubts are poisonous little things.  They worm their way into your thinking and deep into your heart and from there your actions and words flow.  

You act under the assumption that your doubt is based in truth.

I don't know about you but for me my doubts, upon examination, tend to be broad.  They're broad because being specific wouldn't allow my mind to blanket attach "proof".  See, you failed that one time, so you're a failure.  See, you haven't done anything meaningful with your life.

Big questions like "Who are you?" and "What is your Purpose in life?" are the wrong kind of question.  They can be answered but only with the broad type of  answer that the questions demands.  Who am I?  A daughter of the King.  Who am I? Loved by a God who calls me by name.  What is my purpose? To go and make disciples.  What is my purpose? To glorify God.

If I'm being honest, I find those kinds of answers wholly unsatisfying when I'm in the grip of doubt.  They feel like Sunday School answers.  Empty and flat.  Something learned by rote.  They are absolutely true and I know they are, but it feels so inadequate and small.  So, how do you combat that feeling?  How do you find God, real and present, in your journey when doubts are being spit at you like jungle darts from the shadows?

You investigate of course!  At least that's what I've been doing.  I ask God a lot of questions.  It's just in my nature to want to understand and I have been delighted to discover that asking God questions does not mean I question His holiness or sovereignty.  I have been even more delighted to discover that He hears me and answers!  

Doubt settles easily on our shoulders and causes them to droop and hunch in defeat.  It feels so much easier to give up than to fight and fight is exactly what you have to do!  Fight out of the bog and mire.  Fight to push aside the lies and accept the truth.  To believe despite our doubt.

As I was reading Scripture this past week I discovered two amazing verses that I had never noticed or thought of in light of doubt and purpose.  

Matthew 28:17 New International Version (NIV)

17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

Did you catch that?  The disciples are gazing at the transformed and resurrected face of Jesus the Christ, their Messiah, and still some of them doubted.  He was caught up to heaven before their very eyes and they stood staring at the clouds until angels came and asked them what they were looking at.  God doesn't condemn us for our doubt.  He knows we will have them.  He does encourage us to choose instead to believe.  

Here's the best part!  Doubt doesn't change the outcome because it's not us who is attaining our purpose or earning our value.  Who I am does not change.  I am a servant of God.  In that knowledge, doubt has less power over me.  If I can't "do it wrong" or "mess it up" (no matter what "it" is) then I don't have to doubt myself.  It now becomes a question of if I believe God will do it.  I can tell you I trust God WAY more than I trust myself.  The scripture is full of reminders that God NEVER fails to accomplish what He says He will do.  

So how does that help me in my search for purpose?  Oh my friends, the lover of our souls is very good!  After God delighted me with the reminder that even those who walked with Him sometimes had doubts, He brought me to a passage in a translation I don't normally read. 

Psalm 57:2 English Standard Version (ESV)

2  I cry out to God Most High,

    to God who fulfills his purpose for me. 

I can tell you this verse hit me like a hallelujah chorus!  God fulfills His purpose for me!  The NIV uses the world "vindicates" in the place of "fulfills his purpose".  Strong's Concordance  tells me that the word means completes or come to an end upon.  It is a beautiful assurance that It is not me but God who accomplishes, who completes, who fulfills.  In light of the doubt that has hung upon my shoulders I see that word "vindicates" as a direct smack in the face of my doubt.  "Oh, you think JD doesn't have anything of value to say? *SMACK* Well I do!"  "You think JD doesn't have any real purpose? *Smack* Well I do!"  It's not that God believes that I can do it, no.  He knows He can do it!  

It feels like freedom, shrugging off the weight of doubt.  

Not only do I have a purpose, God will make sure that it is accomplished.  Do you need some freedom from your doubt?  Know that whatever is being whispered by your doubt can be fought with examination and truth.  Figure out the root of the lie and replace it with truth.  It takes practice, and it certainly isn't a cure all for the rest of your life, but knowing what is happening and how to combat it can mean the difference between winning the battle and being defeated before you even begin.  

 Linkups I'm participating in!  Check them out!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Watch for traps

I’m an action comedy kind of girl.  When I watch a movie I want it to thrill and delight me.  Luckily, my hubby is the same way.  Our favorite is the Princess Bride and I’m sorry but we can’t be friends if you don’t agree.  ;)  I was thinking about some of my favorite films recently and thinking about the fact that the hero always seems to have some inexplicable immunity or special skill that just so happens to meet the requirements of any given situation until the story needs to give the sidekick something to do.  Have you ever noticed that? 

Life doesn’t work like that!

In fact, it's the exact opposite.  The pitfalls and traps in life that cause us to trip up, fall down and spin about are insidious.  Unlike an action movie where the hero encounters generic traps in which they are naturally skilled, our traps are specifically tailored to our weaknesses.   

The traps are so specifically tailored that I often feel that I will never be able to overcome the pitfall.  I think we can all admit that there are some weaknesses we have struggled with our entire lives.  If God is growing and changing us, why am I still struggling with a specific area of sin?  Why does that trap always seem to work?  

It may be because God is not General Akbar yelling from His throne “IT’S A TRAP!”  Or does He?  Maybe He does yell from His throne that it’s a trap.  So often we are drowning God’s voice out with other things so we can’t hear His warnings. 

Maybe it's because God is trying to make us aware of our shortcomings so we can learn to overcome them.  I often find that I'm unaware of an issue until someone or something points it out to me.  

No matter what God ordained reason for the trap, I know why I fall for them.  I get caught in these traps because my hand is reaching out for something it shouldn't.  I don't know about you but the traps I seem to fall for are not subtle once you notice they are always there.  

The third Indiana Jones film is my favorite (I know, not a popular choice) but one of the reasons why I love this film is the theme of focus.  Good guys and bad guys alike are after the "holy grail" but their intent and motivations are different.  After being told the grail can't go past the seal, the femme fatale takes it past the seal.  Consequences ensue.  The hero saves her from falling only to have her pull herself out of his grasp as she tries to reach for the grail.  This leads to his fall, which is halted by his father.  Now stay with me here.  This is our moment.  While hanging there, the hero takes his eyes off his father and onto the grail.  He almost makes the same mistake the femme fatale made.  The grail isn't a bad thing.  Most of the things that cause us to fall into traps aren't.  It's taking our eyes off God the Father for any reason.  Sometimes it's because He's holding on to us to prevent a fall.  Sometimes it's because anything less than God is an idol.  We pull ourselves out of the grip of a God who is leading us by his strong right arm to grasp hold of something else.  Whether that thing is good or bad the point is that it is just a thing.  It's a creation, not the creator.  

So what are you reaching for today?  Is it your Savior or something else?

Linking up with: #freshmarketfriday, #destinationinspiration, #faithnfriends

Friday, February 23, 2018

When the Joy Fades

Something hit me this week.  I almost forgot I was living an adventure.  It's so easy to do in the midst of the every day but in that moment I recognized I didn’t have as intimate a relationship with God as I had been experiencing.  If you’ve been following my blog you know I was on a high of epic proportions.  I was having such an amazing time of intimacy with the Lord I was giddy with joy and it was intoxicating.  In that state I asked God if I was not obeying His direction to clear my schedule of tasks and just rest in Him.  In response I delayed one of my Bible Studies and two of the others canceled their meetings for the week due to weather.  I thought to myself, this is a direct reflection of how much God loves me.  He cleared my schedule,  I didn’t have too.   I found myself in the glorious place where I had no Bible study homework for a whole week!  Then one of my studies canceled again and I walked into that next week without opening God’s Word at all.  I had forgotten Him, let my mind wander to amusements to occupy my mind and mundane tasks.  I no longer was full of joy, exuberant with energy as I went on the treasure hunt to find God.  I can feel the difference to my very core and the loss was...profound.  That time of intimacy is over...for now. 

It seems so innocent now.  God gave me a gift which I loved and cherished and then let that gift take my eyes off of my Savior.  I slide away because I wasn’t spending time with God.  Was it a sin to take a break from so many Bible Studies, no.  Was it a sin to make that gift an idol that replaced my God, yes.  I knew that time of intimacy with my Savior would come to an end some day and God had already planted the seed to create a reminder of that time.  My mother used to tell me when I came back from summer camp all jazzed up and on fire for the Lord that not all of life was a mountain top experience.  (Mine were literal and figurative) We will have troubles, we will pass through valley’s and we will have the treacherous climbs up and down those breathtaking peaks.  Our lives are a series of different seasons.  They flow and ebb and change. 

The treacherous climbs and dark valleys are part of the journey.  God doesn’t sit us on the mountaintops forever because we won’t grow.  What I learned during my time of intimacy with God will bolster me on the road ahead and give me the foundation which God will test and try as He sets it firmly in my soul.  He will hammer and shove and shimmy that stone until it is level.  

I know I’ll get back to that time of intimacy.  I know God will continue to teach me.  Preparing my soul for the next climb up to the mountain top where I will once again gaze lovingly and uninhibited at my Lord’s face.  I hope it’s soon.  I miss that giddy sensation but I know eventually that “feeling” would become an idol as well.  If you haven’t been feeling as close to God lately, search for why.  Is it because you have forgotten Him in the midst of your everyday, is it because there is a blockage, is it because God is trying to teach you He is still present and you just have to trust and believe?  Start searching for Him again.  You will find Him and every new discovery will bring you closer to recognizing Him in your every day.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Temper Tantrums

I was thinking about how rebellious we are as a species.  No matter how young or old, we all have moments where we have temper tantrums.  It came up as I was talking with a friend about health and the little ways we sabotage ourselves.

I myself am quite the stubborn lamb.  As a sufferer from chronic health issues I have tried almost all the things.  I have tried to politely smile and thank well meaning acquaintances who ask if I've tried A, B or C.  I have tried to shake off the comments about my health problems being my fault.  I have tried enough mainstream and alternative medicines to "fix" my issues that I've developed a bit of a problem.  I will only give any new "cure" a month.  Some of the suggested fixes are quite unpleasant and for me having a set end date was part of my mental defense for giving solution "x" every chance to work.  I would do everything they asked of me....for a month.  And when it didn't work, because let's face it, nothing had yet, I wouldn't be surprised and I wouldn't have invested hope falsely.

Sometimes what health professionals ask of us sounds so ridiculous.  At least it does to me.  I honestly believe (and therefore act out) that what they're asking of me couldn't possibly make a difference. This is apparently not uncommon.  The training my friend is going through to become a therapist is asking some great questions of her.  She was stuck on a particular one when we met for tea and so she asked me my opinion.

"What do you say to a client who is clearly not doing the work at home that you have assigned"

I understand the question from the clients side and after talking it through, she realized she did too.  We all have things that raise our hackles and set our stubborn feet.  We all, at every age and type, have little temper tantrums when we say in the privacy of our own minds, "Well, I'll show you!"   It's counter productive in the extreme and doesn't help anybody.

There are many ways that my stubborn streak has caused me harm.  My health being one of the biggest areas it has effected.  In order to prove to the therapist and "everybody else" that I'm not lazy, lying or faking it, I do everything they tell me even when it is painful and causing more health issues.  I don't talk about it.  They didn't want to hear me when I told them it won't work, then fine.  I'll show them!  Sometimes I completely ignore health workers advice because it sounds so far-fetched.  Like eating at specific times of the could that possibly be the reason I'm not losing weight?!?

The real problem is that I have already decided that it's not going to work.  That belief effects the outcome.  It makes it more likely that I will not comply with what is being asked of me, either through omission or through stubborn belligerence.  It is ultimately a waste of my time and whichever health practitioner I am currently seeing.

Entering into any activity should always be done with eyes wide open.  Being on the lookout for red flags and warning signs is always wise.  We should be searching for God in the everyday and that means even the things we consider mundane.  It is always walking forward, searching actively....never with neck outstretched, heals dug in, weight shifting to our rumps.  Your stubbornness will never take you where you want to go.  It will only keep you where you are.

If where you're walking isn't working, then change your course, don't fight to stay where you are.

Jeremiah 7:24 ESV 

But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Secrets Revealed

Some time ago I vaguely hinted that I had been asked to participate in a secret project that I was very excited about.  It's about time I revealed it to all of you for two reasons....

  1. It's in print and available for purchase.
  2. It's launched a new season in my life.

What is "IT" you ask?  Good question.  

Introducing Overcomer, a Journal of Hope for Women who Hurt.

Kim has said this project was a God thing and it was.  Even the bits I got to contribute came from a heart prayerfully asking God what He wanted me to say.  I was blessed and excited to be a part of it and I am so happy to be able to share it with all of you.  Whether you need a place to work through your story of trauma or you know someone who needs it, I can personally recommend this book.  

My friend Kim is an amazing author but more than that she is an amazing woman of God.  Before I knew she was an amazing author she spoke God's truth into my new marriage and into my walk with Christ and she is one of dearest people to my heart.  I would encourage you to visit her website for many reasons, including her other books, but also for the information she shares about fighting human trafficking and struggling with chronic illness.  
(You can find her website here

Getting to contribute to this work has sparked a new desire to write.  You may have noticed an increase in the regularity of my posts.  I couldn't have had a better launching pad than this book.  So wait with me and see what the Lord does!  Let the Adventure begin because Overcoming obstacles is all part of the grand quest!