Living Water Flows

Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Let It Go

Life goes sour. I don’t know why it happens, but in some season or another, we will find ourselves in the middle of a storm larger than we could have ever imagined. We were even assured of it by Jesus himself when he said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33). And one thing of which I can assure you is that when trouble strikes and you are beginning to be consumed by worry, someone will inevitably try to strike down your worries with five oh-so-calming words: “Let go and let God.”

As always, cliches are not meant to harm and are simply people’s way of putting words to feelings that really and truly cannot be expressed. They are generally not helpful and most often leave the recipient feeling pretty close to clocking the deliverer right upside the head (well…at least that’s the case when the recipient is, well, me…). However, people just want to help; when they can’t, they fail to exercise a filter on their words and end up saying something in an effort to feel like they’ve done something constructive in a situation that they have no tools to repair.

Let go and let God. It’s not a bad saying. It’s just not helpful or practical (nor does it make grammatical sense!). Inspiring? Maybe. But to the majority of the general population, it is not helpful. Why? The answer is simple.

We always get to know our babysitters.

Say what?

Do you have any children? Pets? A house? These are common things we will leave under the care of others. If you go out of town, you may find someone to watch over the house and take care of your pets. Maybe you board your dog while you’re away. If you have little ones and you plan on leaving the house without them…you’re going to get a babysitter. And when you’re away, you’ll think about your pint-sized loved ones often, wondering how they’re doing, if they miss you, if the babysitter is dealing okay. It’s just a fact–you will worry about your kids when they are under the care of anyone other than you. But you would worry about your children exponentially more if they were being taken care of by a complete stranger. That’s why we don’t leave our children under the care of strangers. How in the world are we supposed to confidently trust a person we have never met with our most precious responsibilites? We aren’t. We’re basically leaving our children’s safety up to chance because we didn’t take the time to do our research.

What happens when you tell someone to “Let go and let God”, then? It can go a few different ways. For a very select few, they’ll take the statement as a reminder to trust the sovereign Lord. Some others may be inspired to have positive thoughts and will have a bit more strength to get through the day. However, an unfortunate amount of others will receive the cliche…and it will mean absolutely nothing. Why? The answer is the same: We always get to know our babysitters.

I cannot let go of my worries about my children if I am not confident in the person in charge of their care. I will worry. Period. And I cannot be confident in a person’s ability to care for my kids if I do not get to know them. The same is true of trusting God with our worries–we cannot let go of our worries and “let God” if we do not have confident trust in Him. And we cannot have trust in a God we do not know.

Period.

Sure, we can tell a person over and over that God is good, God is sovereign, God loves us, God will never leave or forsake us, etc., etc., etc. But until they taste and see for themselves that He is good, there is no way they will ever, ever be able to leave their worries at His feet.

So maybe we should throw away “let go and let God” and replace it with a question that is much more difficult to ask but would lead to much more peace in one’s soul: Do you know God? No, the words won’t fix their problem that moment, but growing in the knowledge of who God is will take them to a place where letting go and “letting God” actually means something.

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Engage

It’s another Sunday morning at church. The band (or pianist, or organist, or guitarist, or worship leader…) takes their place. The music starts. You are invited into worship.

What now?

The topic of “how to worship” has been tossed around for centuries. Some churches are told they are too energetic and loud, while some are ridiculed for being lifeless and lackluster. There are accusations from just about every angle that nit-pick the specific ways through which people worship. If you are a student of the Bible, it is apparent to you that there are certain actions and postures that reflect worship. I’m not here to list them or tell you what to do or not to do (though I highly recommend everyone to take the time to learn what God desires from our worship). What I will do is ask you this question:

Are you engaged?

I’m not asking if you are participating in worship. I’m asking if you, however you’re “doing” worship, are engaged. Sure, you show up and sing along with the leaders. You might even clap a bit or raise your hands during an emotional or reverent moment. But are you fully engaged? Are you awake, aware, alert, present, connected, and involved? Not sure? Check yourself through the filter of the greatest commandment, shared with us by Jesus…

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

Love and worship are not exactly identical in meaning, however one way we express our love to God is through our worship. So, are you engaged? When you find yourself in a moment of worship, be it at church or anywhere else, are all three of these parts of you involved? Let’s break it down…

  1. Worshiping with your heartAre you emotionally checked-in? This doesn’t at all mean that if worship doesn’t bring you to tears, you are not worshiping God. Not at all! But, it is extremely important for the emotional part of us to be engaged in worship. Think of it like this: I tell my husband and daughter “I love you” every day. There is more than one way to express that phrase, but if I say it with absolutely no feeling behind it…do you think they will actually believe that I love them? Highly unlikely. Now, pull God into the picture. God, the all-knowing, all-seeing One…He will not mistake our empty words for love. He knows what is in our hearts, and that is what He is after. Read these familiar words and ask yourself if being emotionally engaged during worship might matter: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” I Corinthians 13:1-2
  2. Worshiping with your soulAre you spiritually checked-in? When we sing the name of Jesus and use words to recount God’s marvelous attributes, something should be stirred in us. We often pray for the day that “every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11 paraphrase), yet we habitually lack any response to His name ourselves. So I ask you…what stirs in your spirit during worship? Anything? I wonder what would happen if we all took some time prior to worship to echo this prayer of David, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12)
  3. Worshiping with your mindAre you intellectually checked-in? Have you ever taken off on a trip to the grocery store, found yourself pulling into a parking space thinking, Um…how did I get here? I don’t even remember anything past pulling out of my driveway!? So much of what we do on a daily basis is a result of our brains being fine-tuned machines that can take care of actions without our conscious minds being even slightly engaged. It’s a tad scary to think about, but very cool nonethless. That leads me to my next question… Have you ever found yourself praying or worshiping and thought to yourself, Um…what did I just say? We have the privilege of learning catchy worship tunes with simple melodies, easy rhymes, and strong dynamics, then singing them over and over again. It makes sense, since the God we worship doesn’t change and if we’re worshiping in truth, our words may at times be repetitive. But does the intellectual mind have any place in worship? Heck yes, it does! How aware are we of the words that are coming out of our mouths? Just because a song uses big, holy-sounding words does not make the lyrics biblical, just as an emotional build in a song does not necessarily mean that the glory of God has fallen on your congregation. We have got to be aware of the words we are singing and crying out to God. Here are a couple of reasons why:
  • We need to be sure that our words are full of truth. There are quite a few worship songs out there that were written with good intentions, but lack biblical truth. While it is partially your worship leader’s responsibility to guide your congregation in truth-filled worship, it would be foolish for any of us to follow blindly and not check things out on our own. This is something Pastor Bill does often in his preaching. He’ll present things, but many times will challenge us to check them out for ourselves.
  • We need to understand the words we’re saying. “Revelation Song” by Jennie Lee Riddle is a very popular worship song among churches today. The melody is beautiful, it is emotionally engaging, and the lyrics have some pretty complex moments. I was talking with a friend (who is involved in worship ministry) a while back about this topic, that we often sing things blindly, and this particular song came up. I said something along the lines of, “How often do people sing ‘Revelation Song’ without even knowing what it means?” She responded by humbly saying, “I have to admit…I’m not even sure I know what it means.” I don’t say this to fault her in any way (I have her permission to share our conversation), but merely to point out how easy it is for us to disengage because a song is pretty, yet complex. There are many times in which I am baffled by the meaning of a song (or many things in life itself!). But if I am to worship with my mind engaged, it is my responsibility to find out what it means, from where it originated, if it has a biblical foundation, and all of that. It’s our responsibility. We don’t have to know everything, but we do need to seek answers when we have questions instead of simply regurgitating words that sound pretty and make us feel good. How much more beautiful will our worship be to God when we actually connect with the words we are saying to Him?
  • We need to be sure that we are not making false assumptions based on emotion. We talked earlier about it being important for us to be emotionally checked-in during worship. A lot of times, this is an easy one for people. The danger comes when we get so wrapped up in the emotion of the moment (usually brought on by song dynamics, lighting, etc.) that we make assumptions about what God is saying and doing. This goes hand-in-hand with the first reason we should be connected intellectually during worship–as emotional beings, we can very easily ignore what is actually being said or done simply because the moment feels good or intense. Because a moment is emotional does not make it wrong, but we need to be sure that our minds are just as active as our hearts in an effort to remain true to honest worship. The heart and mind balance each other out so well. God gave them both to us, so we need to use them to keep ourselves in check.

In order to offer our whole selves to God in worship, we have to be engaged. Chances are, each one of us is struggling to connect with God in one of these ways. Our first step is to humbly come before Him, express our desire to love Him fully, and ask Him to show us how and empower us to do so. I challenge you to pray that way today, tomorrow, and every time you enter into a time of worship. Remember, it’s not merely about what you do, but about your heart being humbled before Him.

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17)

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A Balance With Grace

As a worship leader in today’s entertainment culture, I am consistently battling this inner war between the inner desire to face-down worship the sovereign, good, and righteous God who has adopted me as His own and the necessity of performance. Performance…a necessity? I know–it has always seemed counterintuitive to me, too–hence the battle. But as I read and study other worship leaders, I have begun to understand the place that performance must take and that it does not completely diminish my personal worship. Though music is an important tool many of us use, our worship is not limited to the melodies we make to celebrate the Gospel or bring praise and honor to His name. I have had to remind myself many times that we are called to live lives of sacrifice, and that is our true worship to Him. Our music is one small avenue of worship, and as a worship leader it is my job to convey to the Church that the words I am singing are also the words I am believing. I have to communicate in a way that reaches everyone from front-and-center to the back corners of the auditorium. Doing that without performing is impossible.

All right…so my head gets that. It really does. But my heart still fights this battle every single time I serve, and every single time I worship from the auditorium seats as someone else leads. If we are performing in any way, will people know that our worship is genuine? Will it be pleasing to God that we are also trying to inspire others while offering our worship to Him? A few days ago, these thoughts were finally stopped dead in their tracks. It didn’t happen by reading an article written by a popular worship leader or by hearing a sermon from a well-known pastor. I didn’t learn this from constructive criticism or hear a prophetic word from God.

I learned it from Grace.

This past weekend, Dayspring had the extreme pleasure of being led in worship for the first time by our Middle School Worship Team. I’ve heard from others that they are really great, and I’ve witnessed each one of them performing individually, but this was my first time hearing them play as a band. As I was watching them get set up, I thought, Oh, aren’t they so cute? They must be so nervous! I bet this will be a nice little show. Now…how long until lunch? (Don’t totally judge me here, I’m pregnant and this baby doesn’t care how inconvenient it is when his hunger rears its ugly head!) Anyway…

Once the band was in place, the colorful lights beamed down to show us their faces. A spotlight sent its glare down to the lead singer, a girl who must be inches shy of five feet tall. Guitar in hand, she stepped forward to the microphone, beamed the biggest grin I’ve ever seen, and with heartfelt gusto, she invited us to stand and sing praises to God because she truly believes “the best is yet to come!” Everyone got excited and stood to their feet to clap along with the fast, steady beat. Then she opened her mouth to sing, and the mature voice of a seasoned performer came belting out. She looked as if she had been doing this for years, standing center stage, sharing her thoughts and talents with the rest of the world. My heart was beaming with pride as I thought of the impact this moment was having on her, as well as the rest of us in the room. By this time, the tears were already streaming down my cheeks and I couldn’t utter a single word, not to mention one that was on-pitch!

But that wasn’t the moment I got it, the moment that I truly understood the beautiful integration of a worship leader’s worship and performance. When 13-year-old Grace was standing there in the dark, waiting for the lights to illuminate the stage and set her free, I could still manage to see the look on her face. Despite the nervousness that was surely coursing through her body, she stood poised for the coming moment, communicating to me that what she had to offer as a musician was merely a gift that she was giving back to the Lord, not just something she had to manufacture for the approval of the audience. That seemingly uneventful moment spoke more to my soul than any note played or word sung. But it didn’t stop there…

When the lights came up, Grace spoke with such clarity and conviction, inviting us to sing the song with her, lyrics that she honestly believed. And when she sang with her unique and confident voice, she didn’t stop communicating. Her body moved with purpose, her smile beamed from one person to the next, her eyes never stayed in one place for long. She constantly and consistently invited and inspired us to join her in bringing joy to the Father as we celebrated our freedom that was won through His Son. And though she and the rest of the band deserved a standing ovation for their musical quality, and the whole room erupted in “whoops” and deafening applause, the front-lady of this band did not step forward and take a bow as many performers would. She took a step back from her microphone and just smiled along with the rest of her teammates. Though, for the most part, this band was playing as a way of displaying the talent that is alive in Dayspring’s youth ministry, Grace never communicated that that was the reason she was there.

We all could learn a few things from watching this girl embrace her role as a worship leader and performer. From the moment she stepped foot on the stage, I knew why she was there…and she never let me forget it. She never demanded attention, but boy did she ever command that stage! She has helped me to really grasp how to balance these two extremes: with confidence, boldness, conviction, and most importantly…grace.

(**Quentin, Marie, and Grace have every reason to be proud of themselves, and I hope they are. Each one of them did a phenomenal job and I was impressed with the improvements that I have seen each of them make on their individual instruments. To see them embrace such a big stage was wonderful! I could write much about each of them, but as a worship leader, Grace’s role was very significant to me.**)

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When Is He Good?

I’ve had the privilege of witnessing a lot of good things in others’ lives lately, not to mention experiencing my own share of good stuff. It always feels great to have the right stuff happening, doesn’t it? In the midst of all of the blessings, I’ve heard one phrase coming from source after source:

God is good!

He is, isn’t He? The God who formed the universe and all that is in it with His own words cares enough about us to meet our needs, grant our hearts’ desires, and keep us safe. He has never left us and will never forsake us. He is good.

But something has been nagging at my heart lately, begging me to take God out of the pretty, bow-tied box we’ve all placed Him in. Every time I hear those true words, the reminder that our God is good, I can’t help but question what we’re really meaning. Are we really standing in awe of His unlearned, uncreated goodness…or are we just pumped that things worked out the “right” way? On the surface, we’d all probably like to think that we’re nurturing a heart of gratitude for who God is. But what makes me question our motives for proclaiming His goodness is this simple thing: we most often fail to even mention this same unchanging aspect of God’s character when things turn sour.

I’m not suggesting that we organize parades and parties to celebrate bad things or disappointments. Though James challenges us to consider it joy when we encounter rough patches (James 1:2), I’m not sure this is what he meant. But have we come to a place where we can say, without a doubt, that God is good even when life isn’t? When life is seemingly falling apart at the seams, can we muster the faith to say outloud and unwaveringly that God is good?

Take the example of Job, for instance. This man, counted blameless by God, experienced grief like none other when he lost all of his livestock, servants, home, and even his children. Needless to say, his life as he had known it had been torn down around him. And this was his response in Job 1:21:

“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
    and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
    and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!

He didn’t ignore his feelings or pretend that everything was just fine. But, at the end of the day, he gave glory to God simply because He was God.

I will reiterate–I don’t know that God desires for us to deny our emotion and pretend as if we’re happy because He is good, yet the worst has happened to us. However, in spite of the horrible things that happen to and around us in this world, God can be worshiped as the truly good God that He is because His being never changes (James 1:17). He is good when your husband gets a much-deserved promotion at work, and He is good when you lose your job. He is good when your child takes her first steps, and He is good when you suffer devastating complications during pregnancy.

The things that happen in this life, whether exciting or disastrous do not determine God’s goodness. When we grasp this truth, our faith and worship will never be the same. He is good!

**I often say “we” in this post for two reasons: this is something I am personally working through; and it is something I see in others. With that being said, I am not aiming this post at any one particular person. “We” is completely general.**

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What’s Up With That?: Part II

After yesterday’s post, I was hit with something incredibly humbling. Let’s take a look at Matthew 18:15-17 again…

“If your brother sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church, Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or corrupt tax collector.”

I’ve read this passage at least a hundred times throughout my life, either as a reminder to myself or to encourage someone else on how to handle offenses. But it’s simply amazing to me how the Holy Spirit can bring to life something brand new from within the words on those beautiful pages.

Even though the first part of Jesus’ instruction regarding confrontation shows us the right way to confront those who have wronged us, and we have the promise that He will never leave us in those moments…I’ve always felt a little bit liberated after reading the last line. “Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or corrupt tax collector.” Remember…at that time, these two groups of people were especially low.

“So, Jesus… You’re saying that if I try all of this stuff and it doesn’t work, I can treat this jerk as the scum of the earth? Perfect! That’s what I wanted to do all along. I guess I’ll just follow what you told me, and if he turns around, then great. Otherwise, I’ll be fine in the end because I can just turn my back on him and be done with him.”

Then this came to mind…

One of the things that ticked off the Pharisees more than anything about Jesus was his habit of spending time with “the least of these.” Does the name Zacchaeus ring a bell? When Jesus went to his home for dinner, people claimed that Jesus had gone to the house of a “notorious sinner”, a corrupt tax collector. He went and spent time with this man, despite his track record of robbing those in his town. And in the end, because of being humbled by the presence of Jesus in his home, Zacchaeus repented and Jesus declared salvation in that place. That is how Jesus treated pagans and corrupt tax collectors. Do you think He meant something different when He called us to do the same?

So no…the end of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18 doesn’t free us of the responsibility of doing the right thing. It requires more of us. The whole passage has us move in an unrelenting way: go and confront; take someone else, and go and confront; take it to the church, and go and confront. And in the end, if that person’s heart is not won over to repentance, then keep on loving that person. Treat them like pagans and corrupt tax collectors, just as Jesus did. After all, that relentless pursuit of a life fully changed… isn’t that what He did and continues to do for us? We were all blemished by our sin against Him, yet the beauty of the Gospel is that He didn’t leave us to rot in our transgressions though we deserved it. No, brothers and sisters. We’re saved by that amazing grace.

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What’s Up With That?

We live in the age of offense, don’t we? Someone is always feeling wronged or slighted or, dare I say, bullied. Depending on our upbringing, we’re taught extreme responses: fight back or ignore the offender. Despite the fact that most parents these days would not teach children to fight back, we do it more often than we think. Culturally, we have this passive-aggressive tendency to confront in a vague manner, attacking the offender without really pointing them out. Or we point them out, only to leave no room for the other side to be heard and much room for everyone else’s opinions to be changed.

Is this right? Who does this help? What does it accomplish?

Nothing.

If you’re at all familiar with Scripture, you’ve most likely heard Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18:

“If your brother sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church, Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or corrupt tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17

Hmm… Do we usually do this? HA! Of course not. That’s why feelings continue to be hurt and relationships become forever severed. We have this nasty habit of starting this whole process backwards. If someone hurts us or ticks us off to no end, we first feel the need to publicly shame them. We want to make sure that everyone knows how badly we have been wronged and by whom. Sure, we may not “take the case to the church”, but by golly we do take it to Facebook/Twitter/blogs, don’t we? And in doing so, we, and a whole bunch of other people, get terrible ideas of who the offender is and will begin to treat him or her as the scum of the earth.

I’ll ask again, who does this help? What does this accomplish? I’ll say it again…it hurts more feelings and severs relationships. Don’t believe me? Read what happens to Noah:

“After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard. One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers. Then Shem and Japheth took a robe, held it over their shoulders, and backed into the tent to cover their father. As they did this, they looked th other way so they would not see him naked.

“When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done. The he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham: ‘May Canaan be cursed! May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.’

“Then Noah said, ‘May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed, and may Canaan be his servant. May God expand the territory of Japheth! May Japheth share the prosperity of Shem, and my Canaan be his servant.'” Genesis 9:20-27

Yikes!

This paints the perfect picture of what not to do. If someone does something wrong, our first instinct should not be to make their mistake public. What if every mistake you made was blasted out into the open so all could see your embarrassment and brokenness? But that’s just what Ham did. He exposed has father’s weakness to people who had no rhyme or reason to know it…and he was cursed. The relationship, present and future, had been damaged within the whole family.

Back to Jesus’ instruction… Here’s the process:

  1. Go in private. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. No, we don’t like to do it. But we have to grasp the importance of this! And it’s really quite simple, if only we’d put it into practice. Simply approach the person who “did you wrong” and calmly say, “Hey, so-and-so…What you said/did hurt me, and now it’s come between us. What’s up with that?”
  2. Take someone with you. THEN, if the person still acts like a jerk and won’t own up to their mistake, take a few people with you who will also lovingly confront them. Yes, lovingly. This is not your opportunity to gang up on them until they break. It’s a chance for the offender to come to repentance. If your goal is anything other than that, step back, take a deep breath, and count to ten.
  3. Take it to the church. Not to a billboard (ie. Facebook), but to a group of people who know and love the person. This will not only provide yet another chance for the offender to repent, but will also give you an opportunity for a new and fresh perspective. By this time, your blood may be boiling at his or her indifference, so a group of folks who will lovingly bring you back to reality and to God’s grace will do you some good.
  4. Turn away from them. This is a last-ditch effort. Don’t let this be the first thing you do. And especially do not change the opinions of others so they will do the same. If you have been wronged, don’t seek to make your offender a public enemy.

This whole thing is about loving your offender enough to want them to be in right-standing with God and with you. It’s not about being right or “taking the high road”. This is love. Laying down your comfort and loving someone else enough to do the hard thing.

One last moment of begging… Please stop doing this on social media. It doesn’t resolve anything and it causes much, much more harm than good.

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CPR

“The tongue has the power of life or death…” Proverbs 18:21a

I could spend a whole blog post talking about the ways in which we destroy ourselves and each other with words, but I think that if we’re honest with ourselves, we already know the destructive behaviors. We either recognize them and choose to change, or we recognize them and choose to continue being the self-centered jerks that we are. Simple as that🙂

With it being November, the month that holds Thanksgiving, you don’t have to look far on Facebook to find many folks listing their gratitude on a daily basis. I love that for thirty days of the year, people can make it a priority to be “outloud” about giving thanks for some of life’s biggest and smallest gifts. I’m usually one who sends out a list every other day or so, but being the anti-bandwagon gal I am, I’ve decided not to participate in sharing daily. I know…it’s weird.

It’s refreshing to witness people using grateful, encouraging, others-centered words. Being thankful for other people forces us to think outside of ourselves and identify characteristics in others that are unique to them and a gift to the rest of the world. But I can’t help but wonder…what would happen if we would actually begin to speak these words? What if we spoke words of gratitude directly to these people in our lives who bless us so much?

I’m a huge fan of sending cards and emails, and I’m not suggesting that we stop doing that altogether. But can you imagine the look on a loved one’s face when you choose to stand face-to-face and utter words of encouragement and thankfulness right to them? Their hearts will swell! That one moment, those few words, will give life.

Let’s do it🙂

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Rhinestones and Alligator Repellant

It’s probably bad that I forgot what today was until I saw the date posted on The Today Show this morning. Heck, my best friend has the day marked on her calendar so she can be sure to reach out to me…and year after year, it seems to fall off my radar. When the month turns after September 30th and I see the “O” word, my heart skips a beat, but then it jumps right back into rhythm and I keep moving forward. On October 22, 2005, it skipped at least a hundred beats and took over a year to get back in sync with the rest of the living world.

It’s been eight years since Mom passed away. In the first few months of grief, I never believed the feeling I have now would even exist–the feeling of being okay. Back then, the feeling was misery/torment/desperation/loneliness/disorientation, all wrapped up in one–pure death in the deepest parts of my soul. Thinking about the days closely surrounding her death, from the funeral to quiet, sob-filled moments alone, can take me to that same place. After seeing the date plastered on TV this morning, I went there. I stayed there for two seconds, tears welled, my throat closed, and I started to die again. Two seconds. I could have dwelled for two minutes or the whole day, but I reminded myself of the feeling I have almost every other day now. I’m okay.

I still miss her. I don’t think that goes away. But the grief no longer consumes me. I can watch movies that portray death without having an anxiety attack. I can smell vanilla without wanting to leave the room for fear of breaking out into uncontrollable sobs. Today, I saw a man eating her favorite candy. A few years ago, I would have lost it. Today I just chuckled to myself and smiled. Remembering Mom no longer means thinking of her death, but being grateful for her life.

Since there’s no way to convey my gratitude directly to her, do you mind if I share a few things with you? Here goes…

  • Thanks, Mom, for marrying my wonderful Dad. It is together that I witnessed your love for each other. The love looked different before and after you parted ways, but it was there. It is through him that I have two amazing sisters that I never would have met otherwise, and with him that you gave me another incredible sister to share life with. Thank you.
  • Thank you for being committed to raising us at home. Some of this came as a result of your health issues, but I know that it was also your desire. By being home, you gave us security and first-hand love for which I am very grateful.
  • Thank you for volunteering in my school. Your presence gave value to what I was learning and doing. So many of my friends have memories of you being there, and we still laugh about your line dancing lessons🙂
  • Thank you for investing time, money, and support in all of my dance classes, plays, choirs, and performances. I remember many, many late nights of watching you sew extra rhinestones on costumes! I may not have always (if ever) expressed my gratitude, but it was there. Some mothers don’t want to be involved, but you did. You were proud, and that provided for me such an example of how to support Lucy as she pursues the things she loves.
  • Thank you for showing me what it means to care for others. Your heart was big, always wanting to solve problems and help others. Your awareness of the needs around you taught me how to be mindful and think outside myself.
  • Thank you for the thin pancakes🙂 Anyone who was friends with me growing up knows what I’m talking about! I have the recipe, but still can’t make them like you did.
  • Thank you for not giving up on me while I was a teenager. I was such a brat. I don’t know how or why I didn’t see it then, but I’m sorry for causing you so much grief. We each had our share of responsibility in our arguments, but I’m personally sorry for my disrespect.
  • Thank you for knowing so many people. Dad always joked about how you never knew a stranger and would walk away from a group of new people and know everyone’s birthday and shoe size! Those people were your friends during your life, but they were a big part of the support the rest of us needed when you left. The amount of wonderful people with whom I was reunited at your funeral is astounding. I have not cried writing this whole thing until now. Man…you knew and touched so many people. You were so loving and so loved🙂
  • Thank you for the laughs we shared. You were such a goofball! Some of my greatest memories with my friends involve you.
  • Thank you for letting me make my own mistakes. I know there were times when you would have rather protected me from the pain you knew was on the horizon…but you let me move forward and were there to help me when I fell.
  • Thank you for our last conversation. I hold it so dear to my heart. It was the day before I was to leave for a trip to Louisiana. I had just experienced the consequences of a mistake, and I felt so miserable. You let me cry and be confused and let it all out, and you gave me comforting words to soothe my soul. And then…you made me laugh with the last words I remember hearing you say: “Don’t forget your alligator repellant!” Thank you for giving me something memorable to hold on to. Nothing could ever allow me to forget that last conversation. Thank you.
  • Thank you for being you. Like every person, there are qualities that can be seen as good and bad; but they all work together to make us beautiful people. And that’s what you were. You made an imprint on this world and an impact on all who knew and loved you.

It’s been eight years, but I’m okay. Why? Because I have so many good things to remember. The tragedy of Mom’s death is only a small part of her life story. So I’ll keep holding on to the good.

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What Are You Waiting For?

What are you waiting for?

Something.

I guarantee it.

In both seasons of lacking and abundance, we’re all waiting for something. Are you waiting for a break? A restored relationship? A raise? A child? A new home? A fresh start? There are two things I know: You are waiting for something and there is a reason it hasn’t happened yet.

Then there’s something I don’t know: I don’t know why it hasn’t happened.

I don’t know if you’re not ready or if it’s just not time in God’s life-story for you. Maybe the waiting is part of the process of refining your character and pushing you toward holiness. It could be that there is something better than you could imagine on the other side of the situation. Or maybe…just maybe…it just isn’t going to happen.

Are you okay with that? Am I?

Probably not. But we can be. If we trust that God, in His sovereignty, is Lord over every part of the universe, we should be.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

We don’t know the rhyme or reason behind the waiting, but we can be okay with that. Why? Because the Creator does. He knows. His thoughts, ways, abilities, reasons…they’re far beyond our comprehension. He sees us waiting, and He knows what’s next.

So let’s just keep waiting…

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I Need Thee Every Hour

I need Thee every hour…

Every hour.

In the morning when I rise, I need You to lift me from bed. To give me new mercies.

I need You to sustain me from breath to breath.

Every hour, I need Thee.

In a season of blessing, I need You. I need a reminder that every good and perfect gift comes from You, my Father–Creator of the universe.

I need You in those moments of self-sufficiency. To show me that I am clothed, nourished, and sheltered only by You.

I need Thee every hour.

When You have set a fiery furnace before me, I need You. Meet me there. Fight the battles with me. I need You.

I need You when my words and actions fall short of what You’ve called me to. I am but dust. I need You.

Every hour, Lord.

In a quiet moment, when my heart focuses only on the things I lack, I need You. In Your grace, forgive me for selfishness and turn my mind to what I can give.

I need You to save me. When my will is to turn away, let Yours be done instead.

My life means nothing without Your presence.

I need You.

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