When Fear Shows Up

Purple flower
Purple flower

 “It is much easier to be brave if you do not know everything.  And so your mama does not know everything. Neither do I.  We know only what we need to know.”  Number The Stars by Lois Lowry.

On a cold November morning, the silence of the morning enveloped me in its warm embrace.  The sun not yet roused, coffee mug warming my hands, Bible laid open on my lap.  The ponderings drifting in and out of my thoughts.

Then God.

One of those ponderings pricked something, so I began to write.  Ideas, bullet points, notes, thoughts.  So began Seeking Christmas.

I tucked that scratch sheet of paper in my Bible and slid it back on the shelf.  That little prick in my heart never went away.  Little by little God revealed each step for me.  Yet He never showed me the full picture.  He only showed me what I needed to know at the time.

I thought I was writing this book for my own family.

Then God.  

To be painfully honest there were many times I was hoping for a way out.  I questioned if this was really what God was calling me to.  Maybe He wasn’t and I was following my own dream, not His plan.  Maybe I would see closed-door after closed-door and that would be my answer.  At least I could say I tried.

Then God.

He did close door after door.  Then another would open.  Just when I thought I had found my dead-end, He showed me where to move.

Now 4 years later, I’m moving so far outside of my comfort zone it scares me to death quite honestly.  Had God revealed to me that cold November morning what I would be doing right now, I don’t know that I would have ever picked up another pen.

God doesn’t reveal the whole picture to us because He knows we can’t handle it.

Fear can become crippling.  It can choke us.  It can blind us.  It can cause us to see Goliath looming over us and not see the power of the stones in our own hand.  It can cause us to see the giant Midianite army against our mere 300  and forget He’s given us a trumpet and water pitcher.

Then God.

He’s whispering.  He’s cheering us on.  He’s begging us to trust Him.  He’s asking us to leave our pride and fear behind and walk with Him.  Over and over again, His Word reminds us to “Fear not.”

I am on the verge of launching my first book- moving into unknown territory.  Literally clinging to Christ because I feel the mountain of unknowns and to-dos may very well crumble and bury me.

The only thing to counter fear is prayer.

So I prayed “God just let me see You and not all the mess of details and to-dos.  Let me just see You and focus on You.”

And then I ran.  I ran hard and fast wanting to sweat the doubt and fear right out of my body.   My thoughts were a swirling sea of questions without answers.

1 mile of my run is a cornfield on my right.  A sea of corn.  It all looks the same.  My feet pounded hard on the pavement, my eyes were on the corn.  Usually my eyes are down, scouting for snakes.  Today, my eyes were up.  Looking at the corn-for anything other than corn.

Then God.

It stood out, brilliant purple, yet it was small.  Easily it could be missed.  Two purple flowers on a vine wrapped all the way up the stalk.

Aww, God.  Yes, You are right here.  In the sea of swirling fears, doubts, and questions, You remain.  Quietly You are there.  You could easily be missed if we aren’t looking through the mess of all the same to find the One thing that stands out.

Psalm 56:3  “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.”

………Thank you for all the prayers as the book release nears.   Be on the watch for my new website soon to launch and the official release of Seeking Christmas.  Lots of fun stuff planned for the weeks ahead!………..

A Dream That Never Ends

Sky

“It was a place he used to play and be happy in; quite secret, no one knew he was there; and safe, because he had everything his own way; pleasant, because there were no unhappy endings.  In the real world just about everything had an unhappy ending or tripped him up somehow, but there, there were no endings at all-dreams don’t end-one piles on another-dreams just drift, like a picture or a view with mist over it, and then, in the mist, another picture taking shape-always one putting the other out-never an end.”

My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara

Hope.  We have a hope that extends beyond this world.  It’s a dream that won’t end.

Revelation 21:4-8

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.  He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son….” 

My boys paint vivid pictures of what Heaven will be like.  And I remind them of

1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV

However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”[a]
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—”

The Rejected Gift

Bible

“Send a Bible to someone,”  our pastor challenged the congregation.   The name that immediately came to mind was the name of one of my son’s friends.  This friend holds a special place in our hearts, and Jacob  wanted to send his friend a Bible like his own for the last year.  Naturally, this is who we should send one to.

I jotted a little note on the bulletin and discreetly slid it into Jacob’s lap.  “Who can you think of that we can send a Bible to?”

With zero hesitation, he wrote back, “Your friend that doesn’t believe in God.”

Interesting.  The name in my mind was a “safe” name.  There would be no conflict.  No fear of rejection.  For I know and love his mom and knew the gift would be cherished.  The name God placed on my son’s heart- a bit riskier.

I immediately knew who he was referring to.  She is a friend who God most interestingly brought into my life.  From the beginning of our friendship, I knew God brought her into my life for a reason.  I just didn’t know why.  Then one conversation 2 years into our friendship revealed to me she did not believe in God.  In fact she told me that she believed she was in control of her own destiny.  I shared the exchange with my son because I knew that he would pray for her to come to know the Lord.

Sitting in the pew that morning, I felt God speaking to me through my 8-year-old.  This happens frequently.

That week we purchased Bibles, wrapped them up, shipped them off, and prayed.  Just as we expected, my son’s friend was overjoyed to receive his gift.  However, my friend had a completely opposite reaction.  She was inflamed, furious, and deeply offended.  When her email came through my inbox, my son was sitting with me.  I read the email, sat momentarily stunned, read her words again, then looked at my son.

In that moment I realized the awesomeness of God.  Yet again.  His ability to weave together so many facets of our lives in a single exchange.  In a single moment.  A friend in need of a Savior.  A child in need of witnessing the impact of an offensive gospel preached.  A child in need of learning the eternal impact of praying for the lost, praying for softened hearts, and the need for christians to show love to everyone.

I responded to my friend a loving message telling her that my gift was out of love and I had no intentions of upsetting her, that I cared for her and wanted to share the gift that had forever changed my life.  For good.

Then I turned back to my 8-year-old, in all his innocence.  A mind and heart that loves God deeply.  A mind that doesn’t understand how anyone could believe otherwise.  I shared with my boy the reaction of my friend and my response back to her.

“Mom, I don’t understand.  Why wouldn’t you explain to her that the Bible says that if she doesn’t accept Jesus as her Savior, she won’t go to Heaven?”

“Because she doesn’t believe the Bible is true.  And since she doesn’t believe the Bible, I can’t use the Bible to persuade her.  At this point we can only pray for her and show her unconditional love.”  I continued sharing with him that the gospel is offensive.  Yet we can’t allow that to stop us from sharing it.  We have to be more concerned for their eternal security and more concerned with pleasing God than pleasing man.

He walked away confused.  Not understanding how anyone could not believe something that was so real, so alive, and so active in His own life.

The following day my son came home from a long day at school.  A day that left him spent.  With teary eyes and wavering voice he said, “We prayed at school today for your friend who doesn’t believe in God.”

I laid the mail on the counter and slowly turned to face him.  Here he was tired and frustrated from a day that had not shown him kindness, yet his heart still weighed heavily for what was most important.  Swallowing hard, I met his eyes.  “Did you?  What did you say?”

“When our teacher asked if anyone had a prayer request, I said ‘Yes, my mom sent a Bible to a friend who doesn’t believe in God.  Her friend got mad at her.  And I want to pray that she would come to accept Jesus.’ “

And that is what it’s all about.  Showing God’s love, sharing God’s love, and praying.

Though our gifts may be rejected, though they may reject the Gift, His gift will always remain. Waiting to be accepted.

How to Remember So We Can Forget

Remembering

I kept my hands at 10 and 2, focusing hard on the road ahead.  They can work out their own bickering.  I will focus on the road; let them deal with their own issues.

“I’m not Andrew today. I’m Dudey,” he piped in adding to the banter flying across the back seats.  Glancing at my rearview mirror, I matched his twinkling eyes.  “And I’m not Mommy.  I’m Rudy.”

Nose scrunched upwards, his baby blues squinted closed that ever-present twinkle.  “He-he-he,” a little whisper escaped.

“And Jacob isn’t Jacob.  He’s….Pooty,” I added hoping to distract the others from their arguing.

“Hey!  I’m not Pooty.  I’m not playing along anyway,”  Jacob chuckled.  “Besides, that is Zachary’s name.”

I’d forgotten.  How had I forgotten that?  It was only 4 or 5 years ago.

“Awwww!  Yes!  Pooty!!  Zachary, remember when Jacob nicknamed you Pooty?”

His eyes darted right as he gazed at the trees whizzing by. “Yes,” he said softly, sweetly.

Remembering.  It can stop us in our tracks.  It can change the moment completely.

“Zachary, what did you call Jacob?”  I knew it.  I wondered if they did.

Jacob wasted no time.  “Bubba!”

“Aw, yes.  Bubba.  Zachary, I remember you standing on the sidelines of Jacob’s soccer games screaming, ‘Go Bubba!!!  Go Bubba!!’ ”

They all 3 began laughing.  Then Jacob said, “I love him.  Gosh, I love him.”

In an instant we were all taken back to a time of beloved, treasured memories.  Going back took us out of the current moment, which was filled with disagreement and strife.  We were transported to a time of encouragement and were reminded of how much we loved each other.  The boys never finished their argument that day.  Remembering had changed their perspective.

Sometimes remembering can help us forget.  Remembering the past can help us forget the discomfort of the present.

I recently led a bible study at my home on One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  In one of the sessions she reminded us how the Israelites told stories to their children.  She said something like, “Remembering is an act of thanksgiving.  Gratitude is the memory of God’s heart.  It shapes our trust in God’s heart.”

When I find myself in the valley, I love to look back on my prayer journal to remember the times on the mountain.  To remember the countless ways He shows me His goodness, mercy, love, and faithfulness.  When I remember the infinite ways He works in my life, my perspective of the moment can change in an instant.

Psalm 103:1-2 “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”

Approaching the slow zone to meet with God

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The mental checklist threatened to ruin the pace I was determined to set for the last week of summer. Slow.  In the town I live in, the speed limit is 35 wherever you go.  We are pretty good at slow here. We are forced into slow.

The mind is a fierce fighter. 

As christian music softly filled the silence of the car, we meandered towards home.

When Jacob spoke, his words hushed my internal conflict instantly.  “Mom, I love to watch people solving problems.  Or when they are in a situation and they have to find a way out.  I love to watch how they figure out their problems.”

I will miss these conversations.  The ones that occur at spontaneous and random moments.  The ones we have at 8:30, 11:00, whenever a thought occurs.  The ones that make summertime a bittersweet season.

“That’s neat.  Like what kind of problems do you mean?”

“Well, like that man right there,”  he pointed to the cross walk.  A man I see in our town no matter the time of day or night.  A man I have felt burdened to pray for for the last year.  A man who looks to be recovering from a stroke and is always out walking.

Nothing is random in life.

Jacob continued, “I feel like we should always be praying for people with problems.   You know people who need help.”

My body felt as though it had taken a plunge into a refreshing spring on a scorching summer’s day.  The underwater silence.  The peace.  The outside world is silenced and everything no one else can see is alive, vibrant…..REAL.  You resurface and your lungs feel they may explode and you know you can’t retell it.  They need to see it for themselves.

Hands gripping the steering wheel, I resurfaced.  “Jacob, I’ve never shared this with you, but that man you are pointing to is someone I’ve been praying for for the last year.  I’ve told Daddy about him and a few friends.  I don’t know why God has placed him on my heart.  But the fact that you just felt the urge to pray for him is like hearing God speak to me through you.”

A moment ticked by.

“Mom!  Did you just hear what the radio said???”

“What?”

“They just said, ‘We need to remember to pray for those in need.  Those who need our prayers.”

“Well, then we must pray right now.  God is clearly speaking to us.”

I prayed.  And I thanked God that He is a God that still speaks to us.  That He is a God that cares deeply and passionately for His people.  That He cares enough to intersect our to do lists, school supply labeling, house-cleaning days.  And I prayed that my boys would KNOW that they serve a REAL God.  And we prayed for a man we don’t know, who God has put in our paths.

As we neared our house, I said to the boys, “There will come a time you will have conversations with people who do not believe in God.  They don’t believe in the Bible.  Because they don’t believe in the Bible, you can’t say that you believe in God because the Bible tells you so.  You can tell them you know God is real because you have seen Him in the most real ways imaginable.  And you can share exactly how God has worked in your life.  Then let God do the work from there.”

Later that morning, I heard Zachary retelling Steve how God talked to us in the car.

One of my favorite songs reminds me that “God’s not dead.  He’s surely alive.”

Oh the sweet gift of the Lord to give a gift like that on a day I was desperate to hear from Him in a noisy world.

The gift of a normally annoying speed limit that forced me to SLOW DOWN.

God is in everything.  But He is magnified in the slow.

Go slow this week.  Hunt for Him.  Seek Him out.  Make the most of every moment.  They are fleeting.  The slow allows you to linger a bit longer.

 

 

 

Book Release & A Little Christmas Quiz

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Do you……

  • Find your anxiety level rising as Christmas approaches
  • Feel the commercialization overshadows what really matters
  • Wish you could simplify Christmas
  • Feel the hectic pace and busyness makes advent devotions impossible
  • Desire to capture the true magic
  • Long to create memories & traditions with depth & meaning
  • Wish there was a devotion for today’s busy family
  • Want more than just a devotion
  • Want an experience
  • Want to address all of the above AND complete half of your gift list

If you answered yes to the above, you will be excited to know my first book is being released this month!

title

When We Need A Do-Over

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Glancing at my watch as I exited the banquet hall, I knew I needed to hurry home.  Exhaustion prevailed.  3 full days of a conference wiped me out.

Despite my best intentions, the magnetic pull of the dessert table triumphed.  Just a quick nibble from the turtle cheesecake, and I’d be on my way.

A glance to my left derailed that plan.  My favorite author, Lysa Terkeurst, sat at a table only steps away.   Not a soul in line yet.  As if riding on one of those moving airport sidewalks, my body glided straight over to her table.

Clearly, my mind lingered a little too long at the dessert table.  Mouth opened.  Words spilled out.  Her kind eyes engaged mine.  The words wouldn’t stop tumbling forth.

“Hi, Lysa…….I loved your sessions….blah, blah, blah…..I loved your book Who Holds The Key To Your Heart…..life-changing, blah, blah, blah……more blah, blah, blah.”  Stop talking!!!  Seriously, what are you saying right now?  You are sounding like a rambling idiot.  Someone put me out of my misery.  Can she see my hands shaking?   This is RIDICULOUS!  

My mouth and mind simply refused to cooperate.  She graciously engaged in my nonsense babble, proving to be exactly who I expected her to be. Her eye contact said, “I care what you are saying.”

As I half-jogged to my car, all I could hear in my head was, “What a waste of an opportunity.  Seriously, Renee?  That’s all you got?  For someone who has written books that impacted your life, you said that?!!”

I wanted to hit rewind.  I wanted a do-over.

I wanted to confidently approach Lysa and say, “Thank you for being obedient in your calling as a writer and speaker.  Your words have greatly impacted my life.  Every time I read one of your books or your devotions, I feel as if I’m reading about myself.”

But I wouldn’t get that do-over.  And I couldn’t stop beating myself up.  My cheeks burned as I drove home. The tape played over and over and over and over again.

I couldn’t hit rewind, but I sure knew how to hit replay.

Have you ever felt like that?  Like you just wish you could have a do-over.  Say it right.  Do it right.

On any given day I find myself in a mess of sin.  Why did I do that?  Why didn’t I do that?  Why did they do that to me?  Why do I want to say that to them?  The tapes play or replay far too often.  We heap guilt on ourselves and regret our actions.  In our hearts we know that forgiveness for sins is available through Christ.  We know it.  But do we live it?

How many times have I entered into conflict with a friend or loved one and rehashed the scenario in my mind a hundred different ways?  How many times have I messed up with my kids and allowed the guilt to cover me rather than determining to seek forgiveness and ask God for help?  How many times have I hurt someone, and allowed my pride to dominate humility causing anxiety and guilt to reign in my heart?

What if I hit the pause button instead?

Pause and pray:  God please intervene like only You can.  Give me a humble heart that seeks reconciliation.  Lord, my feelings are so hurt.  Heal my wounds and help me move out of this place.  Lord- I messed up.  Please forgive me.  Help me to live under your forgiveness rather than my guilt.

The enemy loves to hit replay for us.  God loves to play a new tape.  One that whispers this:

Lamentations 3:22-24 “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

He is faithful.  His mercies are new every single day.  God gives do-overs.  His mercies never come to an end.

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