Sometimes We Don’t Outgrow Homesick

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I was given a gift of a trip to New York last weekend with my mom, sister, and niece. After an incredibly busy fall, I was longing for a break, a bit of an escape. New York is definitely not a place of rest. In fact, it’s the exact opposite for me. It’s vibrant, alive, electric and eclectic, bright, loud, full of variety, and an overload to the senses. All in all, it’s an exciting place to be.

No matter where I go, it doesn’t take long for me to feel homesick.

I was the kid at the sleepover that woke the sleeping parents begging them to call my mom at midnight to come get me. Somehow I would receive an invitation again, but the pattern would repeat. Each time I promised to be braver, stronger. I would lie in my friend’s bed staring at the ceiling- this ball of nerves tightly knotted in my stomach. I’d tell myself that everything was ok, just go to sleep. The longer I stared at the ceiling, the bigger the fear monster grew. I’d shoot out of the bed, run to my friend’s parents’ room, tap-tap-tap their sleeping shoulders, and whisper, “Can you please call my mom? I want to go home.”

I’d arrive home, jump into bed, and run my hands across the sheets that wrapped me in familiar. It’s not that I was scared of something bad happening. I knew no monsters were under my friend’s bed. I knew her parents were safe and loved me. I just longed for home when I wasn’t home.

I’m 38 years old, and I still long for home when I’m not home. Yet even when I’m home, I find I long for home still. A home that never ends. A home that fulfills every longing I could ever dream up. A home that never fails, never disappoints. A home that is never sick, never dies. A home from which joy flows effortlessly. A home where peace reigns.

6:05 am Friday morning my flight left Charlotte on its way to NYC. An hour and a half later we landed, and that slightly familiar twinge began to prick at my heart. The one that reminded me I wasn’t home. The one that longed to be home. I had an amazing time on my weekend away and wouldn’t change a second of it. But the entire time I was away, I had that feeling. The one that longed for home.

I called Steve to check on everyone and told him how much I missed home. “Renee, please enjoy this time away. Don’t focus so much on what’s going on at home, that you ruin your trip. Besides once you are home for 5 minutes, we will be driving you crazy again, so enjoy being away.”

I hung up with a chuckle in my heart. It’s true. Sometimes the space makes us long for home more. Sometimes the space is what we need to see what we treasure most.

Sometimes.

Even when I’m home with my husband and my boys, there is this subtle aching. This little voice that whispers to me about home. My true home.

It’s so easy for me to get caught up in life. Daily life. This family right here in front of me. We build our home, we build up our kids, we build our marriage, we build our 401K, we build our future.

More exciting than all that we build is what is being built for us. The home we will spend eternity in.

Investing in this earthly home is important. It’s necessary. Much of what we invest in here, is an investment towards our eternal home. Not a gaining of an eternal home, but a placing of our treasures into that home where we will spend forever.

Investing in my marriage, I’m placing my treasures into the home I’ll spend forever after death. Investing in the spiritual growth of my children, I’m placing treasures in the home I’ll spend forever after death. Investing in my 401K, it’s important, but it’ll burn. It’ll be eaten away and devoured. It won’t make it into the treasury of my eternal home.

When my van pulled into the driveway, my husband, boys, and the dog were all waiting to greet me. They rushed at me with arms opened wide. They showered me with hugs and kisses and told me of all the ways they missed me. They toured me through the house they spent hours cleaning.

Home. Home felt so good in that moment. The hours leading up to bed, I adjusted back to home. And it felt good. When my head hit the pillow, that little achy whisper began to speak. “This feels good. This is home for now. But just wait for the home I have in store for you.” That little ache reminded me that this home feels good, but there is a home that is beyond my wildest dreams. No mind has ever conceived what He has planned for us.

I long for that home.

As we enter the new year, it’s natural to set goals, make dreams, and set our sights on what we want. What I want most this year are eyes to see Him in my every moment. A heart that beats for Him with each second. Ears to hear His whispers over the noise. And a life that invests in my eternal home.

I want my life invested in treasures that don’t burn. Home. True home. True rest.

[box] Psalm 119:169-176 MSG “Let my cry come right into your presence, God; provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word. Give my request your personal attention, rescue me on the terms of your promise. Let praise cascade off my lips; after all, you’ve taught me the truth about life! And let your promises ring from my tongue; every order you’ve given is right. Put your hand out and steady me since I’ve chosen to live by your counsel. I’m homesick, God, for your salvation; I love it when you show yourself! Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well, use your decrees to put iron in my soul. And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me! I’ll recognize the sound of your voice.”[/box]

[box] Psalm 119:81 MSG “I’m homesick—longing for your salvation; I’m waiting for your word of hope.”[/box]

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A Backwards New Year’s Resolution

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I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I am not opposed to making healthy changes or setting goals. I just don’t want to wait for a certain day on the calendar to tell me that is the day to make a change.

More than anything I feel like the New Year can be one more way we have to try harder. One more way we look at what we did the year before and think, ‘That’s not good enough. This year I will work harder, try more, dig deeper, be happier.” I’m not saying we don’t need to evaluate our life and make changes. Of course, we do. We should always be learning, growing, and changing. However, what I find is that many of us are searching for the one thing we are missing. So we think, “This year I will try harder. I will find joy. I will find peace. I will…..”

Many times we end up trying too hard in our search for more of what we want more than anything in the world.

The try hard life is exhausting. The grace covered life revives the soul.

The try hard life reminds us of our failures. The grace covered life tells us ‘It is finished.’

Like every year, I will not be making a New Year’s Resolution. Actually, maybe I’m making a backwards resolution. As we kick off the start of a fresh year, I surrender to the try hard life. I raise my hands high. I open my hands to His daily grace.

All I want this year is more of Him. More of His moment by moment Presence. I want eyes wider to see Him in each moment He graces to me. I want to wear grace tinted glasses so in all the minutes that I encounter, I can’t help but see Him in it.

May I suggest you release yourself of the pressure to set a New Year’s Resolution this year? Instead open yourself to His grace. Surrender your will to His. Surrender your plans to His. Then get ready to experience the life you’ve never imagined in ways you can’t fathom. When He is in it, you can’t help but change. And the person He will grow you into, you could never achieve on your own.

So today, I am thankful for a fresh start. But this fresh start doesn’t only come once a year. It’s available every day. Every moment. All we have to do is raise our hands and surrender. Let go of trying harder. Let Him do the work.

My life verse

[box] “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10[/box]

[box] “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23[/box]

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How to survive when the to-do list is too long, plans fall apart, and life is too much

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Oh, friends, I had ideas and plans for what I wanted to write to you this week. Encouragement to still your heart in preparation for advent. You are always on my mind. I still hope to write those posts, but they won’t come today as I’d planned.

My plans. God is working with me on my plans. You see, I hold real tight to those plans and ideas. My hopes and dreams. They are good desires. Desires to make Him known.

I grab those plans, those desires, and clench them tight in my white-knuckled fist. Caressing my hand ever so gently, He begins to loosen my grip. One finger at a time. He could rip my hand open and snatch those plans right out of my sweaty palm. But He doesn’t. Because He is patient, loving, and kind.

I shared a little of how last week derailed us. Almost daily doctor visits with my middle son for unexplained knee swelling. Last Friday I was scheduled to talk to a MOPS group. Thursday was planned to be my day of preparation, yet Thursday had us on our knees asking God for healing and direction between racing back and forth to doctor offices. Thoughts of preparing for my talk went out the window. What a blessing, honestly.

I was forced to lean into Christ. Like a little girl leaning into her daddy, resting on him.

This week I’m trying to simply breathe. Just breathe. And catch up. Catch up on a week of life that was placed on pause. And it started happening again. The girl who was leaning into God only days earlier sat upright pulling her shoulders back, shaking out the wrinkles from her clothes. There is work to do. Plans to make. So much to do. So much depends on me doing it. My plans.

The plans and ideas found their home again in the palm of my hand. My fingers began to close one at a time. Slowly so I wouldn’t notice what was happening. Clenching those plans, plotting out the course. Before I realized what was happening, the plans were held securely against my chest. Until He began prying my fingers back gently, one by one.

I’m speaking again tomorrow. I’d planned a preparation for today. A day to catch up on housework and settle my mind and heart for tomorrow. And then my oldest son came home sick last night. Very sick. Plans derailed. I felt my fingers release the tension simultaneously. As my mind grumbled to God all the ways I couldn’t handle everything on my plate, He patiently listened as He always does. Then I began listing off all the ministry items that must get done. And how they were supposed to be done tomorrow. MY ONLY FREE DAY THIS WEEK, GOD, REMEMBER. It was as if I thought God would hear me better if my plans were holy in some way. See God I’m doing this for you. But you are giving me more than I can handle.

Sometimes no matter how slow we try to live life, no matter how intentional we try to be, life will dish out more than we can handle.

And I heard Him. Clear. Your whole life is ministry. Give me your plans.

Right where you are is your ministry. Right this very moment.

Standing over a toilet holding a wet rag to my son’s neck. That’s my ministry. Unloading the dishwasher while the rest of the house sleeps. That’s my ministry. Filling up water bottles and doling out vitamins. That’s my ministry. Stopping to pray for a friend. That’s my ministry.

Friends, it is hard sometimes to remember that right where He has us is where we are to fully be.

I passionately want to make Him known. But making Him known might not look so big moment by moment. Making Him known might look pretty insignificantly tiny. Making Him known might look like wiping a nose. Making Him known might look like cleaning a toilet bowl. Making Him known might look like lunch with a co-worker. Making Him known is the tone of voice I use with my husband. Making Him known is the look I shoot to my child. Making Him known is the biting of the tongue when sin threatens to whip the ones nearby. Making Him known comes in all shapes and sizes.

Ministry is where we are.

Ministry isn’t always doing. Ministry is sometimes being. Being present. Being available. Being built up by Him to be what and who He desires us to be.

Lord, let me not look past the ministry right beneath my feet. Let me not fail to see that part of my ministry is being who You created me to be.

I wish I could tell you that I learned this lesson and went happily about the mundane duties that tend to overwhelm a day and a life. But I didn’t. I fell apart. Again. And, friends, it was ugly. The ugliest it’s ever been. You can ask my husband if you don’t believe me. You can ask my children.

The enemy chuckled as he watched me attempt to do it all on my own. He watched me pack it all in waiting for the moment of combustion. You see at times I just want things to get better so I can move on. So I can get back to my plans, my agenda. But at times, God keeps me where I don’t want to be so He can work something out of me that doesn’t belong. He has me in places that hurt right now. Places that scare. Places that fatigue. Places of discomfort.

So today I surrender. I lean. Again. I exhale into His shoulder and bury my head.

He has plans for us, my friends. They may look different than the plans we hold in our hand. We likely can’t do it all on our own. So we lean.

When we lean into Him, He steadies us. He paces us. He fills us. He breathes life into what feels dead.

After one of the ugliest mornings of my life, I clung to my Bible, and I leaned into His word. And this is what He had for me today. Does he have this for you too?

Ephesians 3:16

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

I’m leaning so He can strengthen my inner being with the power of His Spirit.

Lean into Him today. Like a little girl leaning into her daddy. Just lean into Him. Place those plans in His hands and surrender it all. Any other way is just too exhausting. Trust me, I try. Lean into Him today.

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Don’t believe the lie that God won’t give us more than we can handle

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Our family has been under heavy attack over the last several weeks. We are tired, spent, and somewhat shaken. The enemy has used many tactics against us, and we are rallying right now. The enemy has attacked through health. We’ve been attacked through broken and hurting relationships. We’ve been attacked through daily choices. We’ve been attacked in our schedules and ministries. At times over the past few weeks, I’ve wanted to find a corner, ball up, cover my head, and wait for it to pass.

Stronger than the desire to escape is this desire to fight back.

Last week our son had his knee aspirated not once, but twice. The doctor laid him back on the bed and told him it would be alright. Zachary knew nothing about that needle was alright. I gripped his hands in mine and rested my forearms across his chest, blocking his view of the doctor, the nurses, the needles. His eyes took on a wildness I’ve never seen. His scream was terror I’ve never heard from him. I placed my lips on his wet forehead, kissing away the beads of sweat, whispering with a calm that came not from my own strength. It’s almost over. It’s almost over. 

Dear God, I can’t bear watching my son hurt this way. This pain is more than he can bear. Help him. 

Pulling back from his forehead, I looked into his eyes. My heart raced as I watched his eyes. His eyes turned to glass, he looked far beyond me. Though I held his face 3 inches from mine, he seemed to look miles beyond me. His eyes fluttered and rolled back, all the tension released from his body as I held him.

I swallowed panic and called his name repeatedly. “I feel like I’m falling asleep.” And his body limp lay in peace as they drained fluid from his knee and injected him with steroids. His body gave up the fight. Surrendered.

Lord, I give up the fight. I surrender to you. Fight for me, because I can’t fight on my own.

I often hear people say, “The Lord will not give you more than you can bear.” This is a lie. If he never gave us more than we could bear, why in Heaven’s name,  would he need to die on the cross for us? Why? If we can handle it all on our own, then we don’t need him. No, this is not true. We face more than we can bear. This life at times is more than we can bear.

The fear that kidnapped my son was more than he could bear. He could not handle the stress and trauma of that needle jabbed into his leg, sucking the fluid, feeling intensely the pull of the needle. No, he couldn’t bear it.

The enemy. Prowling like a lion. Seeking to steal, kill, and destroy. Oh, he wants us to believe God won’t give us more than we can handle. He loves when scripture is tossed around loosely in this way. He loves when God’s words are twisted and turned to suit his purposes.

1 Corinthians 10:13 

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

When I’m tempted to stop believing that God is on my side, He has provided a way out of my unbelief so I can endure this. When I’m tempted to believe this situation is hopeless, He has provided a way out of the temptation I face to give in to the apparent hopelessness.

He allows us to face what we can’t bear. He died on the cross and bore what we couldn’t bear. As nails bore into him, He took what we couldn’t take. He took away our sins. He made a way for us to spend eternity with him. He left us with power to face this life.

I asked my husband if we could just cancel our Thanksgiving plans. Stay home, recover. I don’t feel I have the energy to pack, to plan, to travel, then to come back and speak and carry out my ministry. We are on the brink of the advent season. My heart beats strong to encourage you to slow and seek Him this season. Yet I feel exhausted right now from the battles I’m facing with the enemy of our soul. My husband called me and said two words. Dig deep.

Friends, we have to dig deep. Deep calls to deep.

Psalm 42:7 

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

On the surface we can fight in our own strength. When we dig deep, we discover the power that lives in us. His Holy Spirit in each believer, giving power to fight the enemy.

Yes, this life will give us more than we can bear. He died and rose again so that He could leave us with the power to bear all things we can’t bear on our own. Let His waves and breakers sweep over you today. Allow Him to be the power you need to face what you can’t face.

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When I Want To Take Away My Child’s Pain

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A word, a sentence, a look is all it takes to arouse a fear lying dormant in the heart.

“Mom, I can’t bend at my knees. I think my leg is swelling up again.”

Fears in my heart rubbed the sleep from their eyes.

“I’m sure your knee isn’t swelling. You are probably a little sensitive to the possibility of it happening again.” I was convincing myself as much as my 9-year-old.

The following day he made mention of pain in his leg. We noticed a limp in his walk. Fears in my heart began to stretch their arms, preparing to come fully awake.

Easing himself into a chair, he placed his left leg out so I could raise the leg of his pants. The chattering of fear could be heard in the background. I talked back, telling fear that it was a different leg than last year. I talked back telling fear that this was a coincidence. I talked back telling fear to go back to sleep. He’s not welcome here.

Inching the leg of his pants up, I swallowed a gasp as my eyes took in the sight of his knee. Begging my eyes not to give away the fear now fully awake, I looked at Zachary. “I think it’s fine. It looks like it is a little swollen, but I’m sure it’s fine. We will keep watching it and pray it doesn’t swell like last time.”

One year ago we had a scare and a painful couple of weeks when his right leg became swollen, fluids drained, tests run, and finally no conclusions, but swelling gone. For a year the fear of a reoccurrence has slept in our hearts.

Now we are reliving the experience. This time in the left leg.

In my own heart, fear feeds on the unknowns and the what-if’s. In Zachary’s heart, fear feeds on the pain, the oversized needle, and the inability to do all the things he loves- running, jumping, and playing outside.

The mama heart in me wants to make everything right for my child. To take away every twinge of discomfort, every ounce of pain.

We pray, friends pray, family prays, teachers pray. I listen to his prayers. I hear the courage that wants to dominate, but I hear the fear that fights for its place. We ask God to take away the swelling. We ask God to bring back the normal function of his knee, his whole leg. We ask God to take away the pain.

As we lay our requests at the feet of Christ, my heart silently pleads with God. Please, God, grant us this. I want Zachary to see how you answer our prayers. I want him to see how you work on our behalf. I want Zachary to experience you.

And I hear His whispers back to me. I strain hard to hear. I freeze, making no movement to be sure I hear Him. I always answer prayers. I work all things for good for those called according to my purpose. My ways are not your ways. Trust me.

I argue with God in the privacy of my soul. No, God, really. I don’t want my child to hurt. I want to take away all his pains. I don’t want to watch him struggle. And more than anything I want him to grow in his faith. I want him to know you fully and trust you with everything he has.

Patiently, God listens to my moanings. He is my child. I love him even more than you do. I want the same things for him.

I see my shallow faith. I see my temptation to believe the lie that my child must get his way to believe God. That my child must have his prayer answered immediately the way I believe is best to believe in the God he’s placed his trust in. I feel the guilt in my heart growing.

It’s a struggle I face daily. Trying to be the Holy Spirit within my children. I’ve written about this struggle.  Thinking I know what is best for them. Wanting to guide them towards safety. Wanting to grow them into who I want them to be.

I want to take away the fears of my children. I want to take away pain. I want them to experience joy. I want them to trust God with all their heart.

But at times I want that so badly, that I try to get in the middle and do it my own way. I think I know best. I think that for my kids to fully trust God, that God must answer every prayer according to how I best see fit. I think for them to trust God, they must get the answers they want from Him.

God always brings me back to Him. To a place of seeing our most desperate need is not to get our own way, but to live out our lives His way.

Softly, He brings to mind many of the prayers He has answered in my own life. Many that He answered in ways I never would have anticipated. Many in ways I never asked. Some no’s, some yes’s, some maybe’s, some yes – but it looks different that you are picturing.

Zachary hobbled to the farmhouse table and eased himself onto the bench by the fire. The place where hearts are shared regularly. The place where stories are told and created. The place where the fire warms us, the food feeds us, and His Word nourishes us.

“Mom, I think I know one of the reasons God allows this to happen to my leg.”

I looked up to meet his eyes that spoke a tenderness commanding my attention.

“I think God allows this pain so I can help others. Now that I know what this is like, I can help others when they hurt.”

The gasp I swallowed out of fear earlier came to the surface. This time it didn’t come from the place of fear.

“Zachary, if I could take away your pain I would. If I could take it on myself, I would do it. But I can’t. God did that for us didn’t He? To save us, Jesus took on pain, shame, and death so that one day we could be with Him in glory.”

He reminds me again. His ways are not my ways. Sometimes He uses our pains and our struggles to create the person in us He wants us to be. Sometimes He uses our circumstances to grow the character needed to sustain what He sees ahead of us. Sometimes pain free isn’t the best place for us. Sometimes it’s there we are most aware of Him.

As a mom, I want to make life well for my kids. I want to take away what hurts them. Kiss the boo-boo away. Tuck them in tightly crowding out their fears. Sometimes, I want it so much I’m tempted to take away the place God wants us to be in that moment.

He sent His son to die on a cross for my sins. He knows the pain of a parent watching their child struggle. He knows that pain more than I can begin to fathom.

Yes, I can trust Him with my own child. After all, my child is His child, on loan to me for a time. My role isn’t to make life smooth and comfortable, removing the rocks along the path. My role is to encourage my child to keep his eyes focused on the One who leads him along the path laid out before him.

 

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Who Bears Your Burdens?

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As I sit in the quiet of the morning, I’m thankful I don’t bear the weight of the burdens I carry. This verse is timely for me, as the past few days and weeks have felt more than I can bear. How about you? Can you relate? What burdens your heart today? I pray you hear these words the Lord has for us and find comfort in the One who bears your burdens today.

Have a blessed weekend!

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Why Sometimes We Need To Stop Seeking A Greater Purpose

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The faint sounds of clapping swirled in and out with the wind. When the wind stilled, the air seemed to carry the slightest noise for miles. Still and calm for but a moment. In rhythmic fashion the wind came and went. Gliding in and out. Each time the sound of clapping returned, then stilled.

I looked up at the trees with leaves that seemed to punctuate the arrival of fall set against the blue gray sky. I watched as the leaves clapped the entrance and exit of the breeze.

Those trees stand tall and vibrant declaring the glory of the Lord. Showing off their changing colors. You can’t miss them. In that fleeting moment, the trees clapped as if to whisper praise to their Maker.

Sometimes our only purpose in a moment is to offer praise to our Maker.

In days those leaves will be a distant memory as they transition into late fall abandoning the trees that will stand tall and bare. Vibrance a memory. One moment they draw all eyes to them, and their purpose is so evident. Another moment, their purpose forgotten. But always a purpose remains. A purpose of praise.

Some seasons I itch for a greater purpose. Some seasons, days, or moments I fail to see how anything I do all day long makes a difference. Some days my purpose is magnified when my golden leaves clap His praise against the bright blue sky. Other days, my leaves have fallen, and I stand and wonder what purpose I serve. Sometimes I feel the weight of the dying limbs of failure and shame. Some seasons bring new growth and accentuate my life’s purposes.

Sometimes I simply spend too much time thinking about myself and looking for my purpose. Sometimes I simply need God to breeze through my leaves and stir up the praise. Sometimes my only purpose is to direct my mind off my purposes and usher in the praise.

Regardless of my season or state, the wind breathes praise. Leaves or no leaves, I clap His praise. Applause and praise to Him who created me and works in and through me to bring glory to Him.

The wind that whips through my soul grows quieter. It softly blows, and I hear the clapping. Praises for my King.

Psalm 145:10-11

All you have made will praise you, O Lord; your saints will extol you. They will tell of the glory of your kingdom.

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