Exercising Joy

I admit to not enjoying exercise. Every time I walk or do abs I have to have a conversation with myself that goes something like this:

Me: You’ll be glad you did it.
Me: Ok, I’ll do it.

So, when Me talks Me into it (and sometimes me doesn’t) I never fail to be glad I did. A sense of accomplishment, stress relief, better sleep, and that I actually did something I know to be beneficial. These are some of the win-wins.

x1f4aa.png.pagespeed.ic.qZG9DBXHxkPhysical exercise is a convenient metaphor for another type of exercise that hasn’t always come so easily. The exercise of joy. Huh? Isn’t joy something you either have or you don’t? As with our physical bodies, our joy muscles have to be worked.

Here are several I include in my regular joy workout that you may find helpful.

  • I am not any less or any more capable of joy than the next person.  Like it or not, we all have problems. I used to think certain people were gifted optimists and I was doomed to struggle with a negative outlook Right there I was declaring myself disadvantaged, so why even try Unknown. This is an equal playing field. Anyone can decide to participate.
  • Joy is something I choose. Imagine a wet cold day. Two people are walking with umbrellas to their destination. They both get soaked on the way by an annoying unthoughtful driver who pummels right through the “river” conveniently located next to the sidewalk they are on. One grumbles the rest of the day. The other sees it as a “good story” and an opportunity to make someone else laugh in the telling.  Point being, we are all going to get wet. When we do, can we turn a grumpy thing into a thing of joy?
  •  Life is not perfect. Get comfortable with that and life will be much more enjoyable. Much of the unhappiness in my life has stemmed from this;  it never measures up to the ideal I have been rehearsing.  It never will. Maybe it’s time to have a proverbial march and hold up my “death to ideals” sign.  Perhaps then I can live the life I actually have and stop comparing it to the ever elusive fantasy. I Long with a capital L for water. Beaches, white sand,  sound of the waves. No humidity, no noise and no dogs pooping on my white sand. Maybe a hammock and someone bringing me a margarita. This is my ideal. My perfect life. We all have our perfect lives in our mind. How about we just get comfortable with life not being perfect? Then we will be free to enjoy what is. By no means am I saying, live without dreams. Live with dreams and desires, but realize that sometimes it’s easy to live IN a dream and miss the moment.
  • Simple things. What can I do daily that celebrates life? I have 3 things I do every single day. 1. I open the blinds in my apartment first thing. 2. morning coffee 3.- afternoon coffee. P1030139Who says it has to be big stuff? If it’s small and it brings a smile (or a caffeine jolt) to my life, then it’s valuable.
  • Stop comparing.                                                                                                                                                  Unknown  They may appear to have the perfect family (I mean look at all those Facebook photos), but that’s called editing. You just don’t see their kids melting down and their spousal conflicts posted on every status update. Maybe people look at my updates and think, “gosh she is living the dream. Every time she posts a picture, she has a coffee cup in hand”. Hm…. maybe I AM living the dream.
  • Joy doesn’t come from getting everything you want. It comes from practicing gratitude for all you already have.  There are gifts every day if I so choose to see them. images It can be simple.  I’m not a millionaire, but I can truly say that practicing gratitude has made the ordinary into the spectacular. Therefore, I am rich indeed. How do I personally practice gratitude? I write down on strips of index cards all the little things. (I will read through them on December 31 to remember the gifts I received throughout the year).
  • Eternal perspective. If we think it’s all about getting every desire fulfilled in the here and now, I hate to break it to you, but life will be one long disappointment. How often do things ever turn out exactly as hoped for? The thing is, God has put eternity into every heart. And here we are in an imperfect world that guarantees sorrow and setbacks at some point– trying to squeeze all the goody into here and now. Sometimes when the ache for a perfect world void of suffering overtakes me I stop and realize that I was made for that. Heaven is real and one day every dream will be realized. images-1This helps me endure. I don’t escape by shutting out my earthly reality. I get busy living here and hopefully I bring a bit of goodness to others in the process.
  • Speaking of bringing goodness, did you know that it’s proven that our own joy is increased when we seek to bring joy to others? Let’s get really practical. Sharing a meal with a friend. Writing an encouraging text. Taking time to listen. Cleaning a toilet (hey, this is my life as a small business housekeeper).750cab498f0b666ad627a83937645a87 The ways to bring joy are limitless. The only thing required in all this is that you actually do it, not merely  fantasize yourself doing it =) An intentional life is a life lived well. Think of the many times you have been the recipient of an act of kindness. Get in the game of giving. You won’t regret it.

By the way, I should mention that this wasn’t written from my private ocean front condo. The closest ocean is, what, atleast 5 hours from here. I have struggled with depression the last year and so I’m an unlikely source to be handing out tips on joy. That’s the beauty of it. An imperfect girl, learning to enjoy her life and inviting other imperfect people to embrace theirs as well.

2016-Why I’m not flushing you down the toilet; the good and the hard intermingled

Many people seemed to be running to the finish line of 2016, glad to get it over with and begin again today, January 1st of 2017. The elections, the celebrity fatalities, and just a ‘hard’ year. “Glad that’s over with.”  Wake up with a new year and a new you.

Interestingly enough, today feels a lot like yesterday. It’s cold and cloudy and I’ll be drinking the same brand of Starbucks and still looking a lot like I did last year. A bit of grey and same weight around the muffin area.

I journalled for the first time today in 9 months. It made me laugh because the last entry I wrote was about how the doctor said my symptoms pointed to depression.

Depression. Wow, I certainly didn’t plan on that. 2016. And I definitely didn’t plan to struggle to the point of tears and deep pain. The pain of divorce hitting people I love.  Close friends getting married. I didn’t plan on struggling with the changes in our friendship. I certainly didn’t plan on being unexcited about life, going on medication, and feeling such lack of motivation to get out there and connect and meet people. I did try, honest, but sometimes friendships don’t click even if you desire it.

So, 2016, you certainly threw a curve ball.  I mean, could your timing be more off? Depression after finally having my own apartment and starting over in a new city? Come on!!! How inconvenient.

Surely I should flush you down the proverbial toilet and say “ha, done with you!” However, the unplanned events and life struggles also led to some pretty great things.

Cathi. My counselor. I took the needed step to start looking inward and talking about it. Instead of getting stuck in it. My first session she said to me, “I’m here to walk you through this.” Am I finished? Hardly. I’ve just begun. Am I still struggling with the issues previously mentioned? Very much! But I can say that I’m not alone. I took the first, very hard step toward health. I reached out.

Speaking of reaching out, I told a trusted few about the depression. Hours spent on FaceTime with my sister and sharing with friends actually helped. It helped me not to hide to the point of complete isolation. Yes, isolation has very much been the companion of 2016. But, not total isolation–thank God. Surprisingly, probably 4 out of 5 of those friends opened up their own stories of seasons where they battled depression. I never knew. Amazing how my vulnerability was the door to encouragement.

So, 2017, I look forward to you. I welcome you. You will bring struggles. But with it, surprises will come. Hopefully, friendship and connection will come as well. 2016, you aren’t evil and you didn’t ruin my life. I certainly don’t want to repeat you, but I also will not black list you and complain about your treacherous ways. For on the wings of your pain, you brought hope. And a new year.

 

Type A or B? Finding my peaceful pace

Hurriedness is like an epidemic.  The American culture esteems faster, impulsive, and driven.

I’m admittedly somewhere between types A and B. I can never keep up with the movers and shakers, yet I don’t find myself quite as chill as the average hippy. I basically like to take my time.  Decisions especially. I weigh out the options in all things. What groceries and couch cover to buy? Should I join e-harmony? (I have friends eager to pay for my membership if I would just give them the green light.)

Punctual for the most part.  A  commitment keeper, highly loyal, and my yes is yes.  I’m just not quick to say yes, that’s all.

So don’t rush me. I should probably apologize for the times I have at times pushed others into decisions –yet would probably bite back if the pressure was reciprocated.

Oh, for the happy medium between the two extremes. The longer I live, I realize my inner pace waivers between the expectations within myself and the expectations I imagine (keyword: imagine) others have placed on me . A no-win dilemma, because it’s impossible to please everybody all the time.

My personal wiring isn’t programmed to climb the ever elusive ladder. Yet,  the opposing Type B may judge me to be not free flowing enough to hang on the beach with the other B’s.

The irony is that when my outer pace is congruent with the inner one, I’m most productive. Not productive in a mechanical sense, but in the “me” sense. I’m most alive, creative, engaging—when my heart isn’t pressured, intimidated, or shamed into doing or being something that isn’t really aligned with my natural God-given rhythm.

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This is not a cop out for living, merely permission to remain in the rest that is possible for the children of God. Permission is my compass. Am I giving myself the freedom to run my race at a speed where I can enjoy the view around me, or am I running so fast that I forget why I’m running in the first place?  Ok, I hate running, so drinking coffee would be a better analogy. Am I downing the coffee while hurrying out the door? Or am I enjoying each sip?

Pressure and hurriedness can produce results for some. For me it produces stress, anxiety and gas in my colon (not to mention adrenal fatigue).

What it comes down to is that no one cares how fast I’m going or if I’m going in the right direction. We are all too preoccupied with stopping to capture the perfect “selfie” (with the perfect filter) to notice each other anyway.

So, what was it I was so pressured about again?

 

 

Wide-eyed wonder; what Patricia’s eyes can see

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Our stories carry a beauty and dignity worth pausing to share. Patricia’s has so impacted me these last few months, I am a ready writer compelled to tell it.

We met last summer at a dinner party, and then reconnected in December. The first time I came to her house, we drove to the closest restaurant open after 10 pm. Waffle House. Chatting late into the night, she was eager to describe growing up in the Philipines, employment overseas, her journey to America as an adult, and finding Jesus in the midst of it all. She was open and candid. Quick to admit her mistakes, but also exude gratitude for all the opportunities she had been handed. I realized I was in the midst of greatness disguised as an adorable nearly 5 foot Filipino lady.

I am so grateful she opened her home for me to stay on weekends while I attended a discipleship training school. Right from the get go, I was encouraged to make her home my home. Enjoy. Relax.

She sees me as a missionary and hopes I’m the first of more to be hosted. Her desire to serve the Lord with the blessings she has been given humbles me. I want more of this in my life. I wonder if she’s aware of how much Jesus already flows through her in the way she loves and honors others through hospitality and friendship.

We share a mutual craving of beauty. She opens the blinds on sunny days, and urges me to reduce my speed in the car when passing her favorite tree. On my birthday, we ventured to her favorite park. What feasts for the eyes as we took in the horizon (comfortably, from the bench) and rejoiced in the others there appreciating God’s gift of a beautiful day.

How lovely are your dwelling places…(Psalm 84:1, paraphrase)

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Patricia isn’t a glutton for beauty. She is satisfied only when she can partake and then offer it.

Recently, her joy has been unbounded by the changes brought on by Spring. “Liz, come and look!” Something else is in bloom. Delighting in the smallest of details, she puts a fresh comforter on the day bed–and then steps back to admire and enjoy her Spring decor.

Either bitterness or joy is produced from hardship. She has taken the path of joy. Because the suffering has been deep, the wells of joy seem to be dug deeper still. Upon meeting her, one would think her life has been a fairy tale.

Her current struggle is real. Many would have lost heart and hope if they were in her shoes. I asked her one day, “Miss Patricia, what is it that you desire? How do you want me to pray for you?” Her response was weighty, her eyes lit up with zeal. “I want to live! I want to enjoy!” Her passion to live in the face of this personal mountain awakens my soul for the same.  Wonder is evoked in me. The tiniest, seemingly insignificant things leave her awed. And she always shares her discoveries with me.  She doesn’t know the language of sarcasm or cynicism.  “Adult” sophistication has nothing in her. The innocence leaves me quieted, marking me with desire for childlikeness.

Hugs are offered readily. Laughs are spontaneous. I really really love her laugh. If it was a song, I’d leave it on repeat.

She is teaching me. Slow down. Enjoy the moment. It dances past and is gone.

“Wide-eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child. Staring at the beauty of our King. May we never lose our wonder.”

I’m not listening! Silencing the voice of accusation.

Never fails. On the brink of something good–something new—the accusations begin. It’s pretty amusing and predictable. In my history walking with God, I’ve noticed the pattern. I say “yes” and get ready to step in. Enter in the lying taunts.

In attempt to get me to run.

To hide.

To become intimidation’s slave.

To try to prove my innocence.

It’s subtle enough to stop me in my tracks and ponder the indictment. A total distraction. Never does he tell me I’m going to hell or that I don’t love God.  That would be too blatant. But it’s measured out in just the right proportions to make me feel a bit of shame and to hold back my voice. Tempting me to analyze the motives of my heart or question my sincerity.

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Last year, right before I spoke on the Father’s love, I had an accusation via email. The person accused me of hiding behind this whole “Father’s love thing”. She said it was a crutch. She thought she was being helpful to me, but I heard the enemy’s taunting behind her words. Funny enough, it produced the opposite effect. It confirmed that this “Father’s love thing” really is my life (she must have been listening) and not only is it a crutch.  I’d say it’s a full body cast holding my very frame together =) And then,

I heard the Lord say clearly to my heart:
Do not argue with the accuser. Silence him!

We are to submit to God and then RESIST the devil. Don’t entertain or attempt to argue with his lies. He is a master manipulator and we will eventually begin to agree with his lies over us, eroding our confidence in the blood of Jesus and his righteousness in us.

In the past few days there have been very precise attempts to get me to doubt God’s promises or even my own sincerity of heart.

I am running this race and refuse to quit! There’s a prize to be had so I am fixing my eyes on Jesus. I’m throwing off the weights the enemy would want to shoulder me with and trusting the lover of my soul.

For the blessing of the Father rides on the wings of accusation.

So how did it end up? After I was accused about my “crutch”? Well, Father was good and poured out his love on all those in the room. And I got to share about silencing the voice of the accuser. He doesn’t mean to, but our accuser ends up pointing out the area God is about to move in next. So, thank you very much for revealing where God is about to move—oh, and by the way– shut your mouth. I’m not listening!

 

Encouragement 101, Taught by a child

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I have become the student.

Kezara, my friend’s two-year-old daughter, has taught me some lessons I will forever be drawing from. This precious girl sees me through a lens of love that I can’t wrap my mind around. I haven’t tried to win her heart; I just have it. When I visit, she pours love out  on me. Sometimes, by taking hold of one of my legs and squeezing with all her might. One day she sat on my lap facing me. Staring into my eyes, she took her little hands and put one on each of my cheeks and then leaned forward and hugged me.  Then she sat back and repeated this several times.

Spotting me en route to the coffee pot first thing in the morning, she yells “Lizzy’s awake!” and I’m greeted with great enthusiasm. One particular morning I was in the bathroom, so she knocked until I let her know I was going potty. Then, I heard the pitter patter of running feet (hers) as she raced to the kitchen. She excitedly announced to her parents, “Lizzy’s going potty! Lizzy’s going potty!” Shouts of “hooraaaaaay!” (with a bit of laughter) ensued from my friends.

Her brilliant two-year-old mind was celebrating my success in potty training and she was not shy in doing so. If I made a smoothie for breakfast, she’d rejoice that Lizzy was making a smoothie. I started feeling pretty amazing about myself (ha ha) and wondered what else she would “catch” me doing and then celebrate it.

Father began to speak to me and teach me more of his nature, through the actions of a child.

The steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take.

This verse has taken on new life. Think about this: when children are small, every “step” towards growth is celebrated. A child’s first step, first laugh, first word…all of it is made a big deal of. Rightly so.

My Father is no different towards me. He sees every step I take. Every time I do something I’m afraid to do. Each moment I turn my heart to him. Every. Little. Step. In fact, not only does he see and affirm me continually, he doesn’t despise the areas I need to grow in.

We get older, but we never outgrow our need for encouragement. To be celebrated. To be told “I’m proud of you”. “I see your heart and it is beautiful.” “Good job”. “You’ve been sober for 60 days! I know that had to be hard.” “I see how you are contributing around the house, it matters and I appreciate it.” The examples are endless, but you get the idea.

At times I have viewed myself through shame and how far I still need to go, but he sees how far I’ve come. No need to hang my head. I can look at him, confident of his full approval and acceptance.

Those who look to him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame.

We don’t have to be ashamed when we look at him, because his eyes aren’t seeing our flaws. They are seeing our beauty.

These last couple weeks have so impacted me as I’ve pondered this. It’s affecting how I view others. Breaking perfectionism, so instead of focusing on what others haven’t done or should be doing, I’m LOOKING for ways to catch others doing something I can celebrate.

When I can celebrate my own little steps and know my Father is too, I surely have space in my heart to extend this reality to others.. Simple, but powerful.

For he knows we aren’t perfect. God is mindful of our frame. He has compassion on our humanity, mingled with plenty of affirmation. If we can only allow ourselves to see and then receive this.

I can’t wait to be with Kezara again. She sees clearly, and challenges me to the core. The Kingdom really does belong to the childlike. And as I wrap this post up I hear the Father (with Kezara’s voice) saying, “Lizzy wrote a post!” =)

 

Hope, the weapon in my hand

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I have a promise from the Father. Everything I walk through can become the weapon in my hand to release others into that same freedom. This is my joy and has been a compass for my heart when it needs navigating.

Recent events have found me gasping for hope, like someone gasps for air in a near drowning experience. Hopes “seem” to have been dashed. It has been a battle. And it’s not the first time. Life has its share of setbacks, disappointments and unfulfilled desires. Linger in that place too long, though, and hopelessness has a fertile ground to grow.

No! With great force my heart stands up against this intruder!

Isaiah 35 repeatedly speaks of water coming to replenish and refresh the dry places. Life from barrenness. In essence, hope coming out of brokenness. Hope can even create something out of our nothings.

And then it says “there (in the desert) the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God.”  IN THOSE VERY PLACES where we thirst God will reveal himself.

This is good news indeed for the waiting heart!

Next verse:

With THIS news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees.

Are you familiar with this battle? Are you needing to be strengthened in your spirit to not lose heart? You aren’t alone. We are in this together. We all need to be encouraged from time to time. That’s why I am writing this post for my own heart. I am prophesying life. I declare that my Father is trustworthy, despite my limited vision.

Hope, rise up! I know I will see God’s goodness. I already have, many many times. Shaking off unbelief and sorrow, I refuse to think that my current dilemmas have the last word. Or that he will not fulfill the promises he has given me. He is limitless and I belong in a kingdom where goodness and mercy will pursue me every day of my life.

I am taking a new grip.

I am standing on these shaky legs.

I take heart. I take courage. I take hold of hope.

Water is coming. He is coming.

 

Brothers

Spending time with Jesus and really needing a brother’s affirmation, I had a flashback of my own brother and his friend (who definitely treated me like his sister).

Nearly ten years ago I was interested in this guy who they thought was bad news. At first, I was uninterested. But he kept “pursuing” (insert *annoying) me until I started responding. Though slightly romantically involved, there was very little substance. All along, my brother and his friend Brian were saying “end it, now.” This really peeved me as I felt they were not trusting my judgement. One time I was chatting with this dude on the phone and Brian came into the room and jokingly pointed to his watch as if to say “you’ve been on the phone too long.” That made my blood boil. He later apologized and stated that his intentions were to protect me, not get in my business.  My own brother confronted me one morning and said that he and Brian were staying up at night praying for me. And I better end this relationship soon so they could start sleeping again. Wow! This is true “brothering” in action.

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my little brother and me, the best of playmates

After I recalled this story, many other examples of brothering were remembered. And ways my brothers (you) have enhanced my life. Here are just a few:

You say things to the point when I get lost in confusion.

You’ve spoken truth when I’ve gone down paths of deception.

You’ve told me I’m worth being pursued and even told me at times to flee unhealthy relationships. I wouldn’t have listened to a sister as readily, but when you’ve spoken? I listen.

You’ve been the brother I could call when my car died and I had a line of cars held up behind me. You found other guys to help me push the car to a nearby parking lot.

One day when you said “you look hot!” (this was my biological brother) I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Your words carry weight.

Pranks. You love to hide in closets and scare the heck out of me when I enter my room (thanks little bro). Or stand outside my window and make scary noises (Costa Rican brother in law). Your playful heart reminds me that you may be grown up but you are still a boy at heart. And I love this about you.

When you’ve listened to me and have had time for my heart, something in me expands.

When I called you in a panic because of a huge crisis, I remember you outside—pacing back and forth in intercession for me.

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with my big brother

You told me “you can’t wear that!” (biological brother) and I got really mad. But you didn’t want any guy lusting after your sister.

A bunch of us were hanging out while you made pancakes. You suddenly looked over at me with tears in your eyes and said “you are my sister.”

You drove me to my job one day when there was an ice storm and I was terrified of driving.

I didn’t know the depth of kindness men can display to women until I saw your example.

Much of my spiritual growth has taken place through the teachings and writings of my brothers.

God has used your prayers and your prophetic words to bring life and change in my heart.

When you took me out for dinner and we were only friends, you esteemed me and insisted on paying. You never asked me for anything in return. It was unthinkable in your eyes  for a woman to pay when a man takes her somewhere. The honor I felt–amazing.

You told me after I spoke up in a group setting, “never stop speaking. You have something to say.”

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On the Ferris Wheel with my brother in law. (Who treats me as the sister he never had =)

My heart is once again thankful to my brothers. All of you. Older, younger, and same age. I honor and esteem your place in the family. Your sisters haven’t always verbalized our gratitude, but hear me now. We cannot be who God created us to be if we’ve cut you out of the family. You are so important. Irreplaceable. And life without you would be dull indeed!

Thank you Jesus-the best brother of all–thank you for reminding me!

 

We are family: Thesingleside road trips it

There are road trips and then there are ROAD TRIPS.  This was the second. Three stops. Three families that really are family to me. With some surprises thrown in. Read on and enjoy the photos and videos!  (I have an announcement via video towards the last third  portion of this post!!!)

Stop # 1:

South Carolina with good friends Linda and David and their 3 children who I claim as my nieces and nephew.

 

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Coffeeshopping it with Linda and her gorgeous 2 year old.

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Keeping it chill with Aunt Lizzy’s shades

This was a fun few days with Linda. Her husband and son went on an overnight camping trip so it was just the girls for part of the time. Coffee. Heart time. And a full day of Duck Dynasty season 3. Getting in touch with our inner redneck and laughing our heads off in the process.

Last morning there, Aunt Lizzy watches the three kiddos (baby asleep and not photographed) so Mom and Dad can have a date.

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Don’t worry. It’s dry erase marker. My genius plan to occupy her while I blow-dried my hair.

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Are you guys preparing for the end of the world?

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Helpful (and adorable) little guy showing off that he just emptied the trash. Also, his idea to model with a toothbrush.

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In less than the minute it took to snap big brother’s photo, she decided to style her hair with a handful of my gel.

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Not super excited about getting her hair washed, but I tried to make it into a beauty salon.

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Beautiful mama (Linda) with me (her heart friend) after her morning date with hubby.

Linda is one of those friends that always speak truth. I’m thankful to have her voice speaking into my life. We laugh, we connect, and we challenge each other on deep levels. She is one of God’s most beautiful gifts. A sister.

 

In Greenville, SC: (road trip diversion)

Last night I spent at the Dayton’s house, I drove over to Greenville, SC for a few hours.  Connection time with some amazing people who live community with intentionality. (Check out http://www.fascinatedts.com). After a wonderful barbecue, we played whiffle ball the way I like it- no pressure or competition. Though my teammate,Daniel, kept score and was quite competitive (causing great laughter on both sides).

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Jesse points the way.

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Helping the little people.

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Main pitcher,Matt, for opposing team

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My team

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These people are so intentional about speaking life, that Jesse had us take turns encouraging our whiffle ball opponents. Quite humorous.

Tom and Jesse get hip-moving lessons from Karina. A fun time for all. (Of course I had to join in!)

Stop #2:

North Carolina with the Barton family (Gerry, Cathie and their 3 kids). I met this lovely family in 2008 in New Zealand where we did a three month Father Heart school. They truly are family to me.

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Lovely walk with Cathie.

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One of my photographers 

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I’d say he surpasses my tech skills.

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Even a foot massage? I am deeply loved.

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Duck attempts to steal my coffee. When I get around these kids, there’s no end to the creative flow.

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Bartons, Taylors (who also attended same NZ school) and Brown join up for dinner and family time.

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Truly.

While at stop #2, I made my big announcement to the Bartons and Taylors over a delicious meal.

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Brother bonding. Gerry and JT.

It’s always a family reunion when we get together. So much laughter, love, and a deep sense of home and belonging. I love these guys.

Stop #3:

Taylor home. We laughed, ate, and Dawn and I spent an afternoon walking down Main Street. Ofcourse, coffee and heart sharing were in order.

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Girl time would be incomplete with dropping by a coffee shop.

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Dawn spotted this on Jongo Java’s wall of local artists. It is now in my care.

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Coffee at Dawn and JT’s is not your ordinary experience. JT was a barista. And he still has standards.

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I drink coffee for your protection!

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At the library to find the movie “Hitch”. While trying to get the perfect selfie, a man walked by and said “you are beautiful”. The only downside is he was over 70. Girl, we HOT!

This was quite the road trip. I laughed hard. Played hard. Was reminded that family is one of Father’s most precious gifts. His family is big and extends to the four corners of the world. Hope you’ve enjoyed a sample from one of those corners.

What woke me up in the middle of the night: Finding freedom in the path of life

 

I awoke in the middle of the night, completely alert. Lying there, an overwhelming sense of jealousy flooded over me as I thought of a friend who had just entered into a relationship. Oddly, the feeling was external and not from within my heart. Next, I saw a picture in my mind’s eye. The Lord showed me two paths. I thought of the poem “The Road not Taken” by Robert Frost.  At that moment, He began to speak to my heart.

“These two roads look the same.  Let me tell you about the first.  This is the path of bitterness. When someone goes through a door you have been desiring to walk through, you will have the opportunity for bitterness to make it’s home in you. You can attempt to hide the fact that you are carrying offense. People may look at you and even tell you how humble you are to trust God and how proud they are of you for how you celebrate others’ joy. But don’t think you can nurse this and it won’t have results.  It will eat you like a cancer. Killing your heart, your dreams, joy, and even your ability to receive good things from me.

Watch out that no bitter root of unbelief rises up among you, for wherever it springs up, many are corrupted by its poison. (Hebrews 12:15b)

Liz, here’s the second path. This is a much more vulnerable path. Many avoid it because it costs something. This is the path of life. I cannot guarantee that it won’t hurt when you watch another enter into the promise you wait for. Everytime you feel that ache, don’t deny it. But give it to me. You will learn on this path how to celebrate the goodness of God in others’ lives. Therefore, increasing your own ability to receive every gift I offer you.”

I dared not move, because it was a sobering moment. Strangely, I felt like this warning was wrapped in kindness. God was loving me and revealed the trap that the enemy had laid out. This is a good Father who gives a “heads up” before the fact.

Few speak of bitterness, but many of us battle it more than we admit or even realize. A few indicators of bitterness festering inside (fun stuff here ;):

  1. a certain person or event evokes feelings of cynicism or offense
  2. an area of life is captive to unbelief
  3. when someone has good news, you want to roll your eyes or even avoid hearing about it
  4. loss of childlike wonder in any area, replaced by “let’s just get real”
  5. Where is my joy? Why is hope not vibrant in me?

We know the “big” sins but rarely think about infectious ones that kill our hearts.

Where does bitterness spring from?

Brokenness.

Here’s the reality. We will never be able to avoid pain. Just like a broken hand hurts. So do broken promises. Broken trust. Broken dreams. Broken hearts. In a world of broken things, there’s no avoiding this pain. Sorry.

You’ve entered into a broken situation. The heart starts hurting. Bitterness now tries to seize the day. How easy to take hold of it and enter into the lies that God is withholding something good or that He caused this pain.

Take heart! He always provides the alternative to bitterness. COMFORT!  I have experienced comfort many times. The Father has many ways of comforting our hearts. Just as there is a “promise” (more like a warning) attached to bitterness, so there is with comfort.  Look what the Lord can do with a comforted heart:

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2 Cor. 1:4)

How I’d love to never struggle with the temptation to be bitter. But I do! Some days it’s especially intense. This is why I wanted to bring this to the light. Let’s help each other in this battle. Fight for each other’s hearts. Refuse it’s poison masquerading as turkish delight.

Spit it out, don’t swallow it!

If this is something you’ve battled with (basically, if you’re human), let’s pray! We really can win this battle!

Father, I thank you that you do not withhold any good thing in my life. I trust your timing. I believe that I will see your goodness in the land of the living. As I wait on you, I do this with hope. I renounce (repent) of any agreement with bitterness that I’ve made.  By your Spirit, would you show me now any areas where I’ve been bound by bitterness (events, thought life, relationships,etc).  As I bring those to you, would you take them from me? Would you break the chains that have weighed my heart down? I surrender. I chose trust. I need you. I open my heart to receive from you right now. Pour your love into these broken places. Thank you for making everything beautiful in your time. I choose another way. Amen.