Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Don't Be Afraid To Fight Back

I don't mind if creatures and creepy-crawly things stay outside, where they are supposed to be. But when they invade my house, then I am ready to do battle. 

I've been fighting an army of ants. 

I noticed them trailing along my kitchen one night, heading for scones that were in a covered container. I threw out the scones, cleaned up the ants and thought that was the end of it.

But the next day there were more. Ants in my coffeemaker. Ants near the trash. Ants along the baseboards. Ants atop my cabinets. 

I decided to throw away the sugar in my counter canisters in case that was attracting them. But as I poured out the sugar into grocery bags I planned to carry to the trash, I failed to notice that the bags had holes in the bottom.

I looked down to see an army of ants following the call to charge toward the sugar that spilled from one end of my kitchen to the other.

No matter what I did, I couldn't stop the invasion.

As I stood there surveying the mess, I found it hard to believe I was afraid of ants {even though they far outnumbered me}.

I was afraid the ants were taking over my kitchen and I would never get rid of them.

I was afraid I would never get my kitchen back to enjoy a cup of coffee and a scone at the counter again. 

These ants were surprisingly disheartening.

So I retreated to my upstairs bedroom and shut the door on the ants below.

But isn’t that just how discouragement crawls up on us? 

We wake up one morning and find unexpectedly that we’re in a battle with some enemies who want to steal our joy, our peace and our perspective.

I think I’m handling the challenges of my life just fine when a sense of hopelessness suddenly invades my hopes or plans or dreams.

Some days I feel as if I’m in a battle against worry and uncertainty and cynicism. But I’m fighting back.

I’m equipped with all I need to stand against these adversaries. 

It takes firm faith and unflinching perseverance. Along with extraordinary patience and radical courage. 

These dream-fiends can bash and trounce and pummel what I know God has promised, but I refuse to let go of the hand that’s holding onto me.

These God-whispered dream journeys are not for the faint of heart. 

Opposition is to be expected. Risks are part of the itinerary. 

Safely arriving at the destination is not a certainty. There will be sacrifices and tears and exhilaration and rejoicing.

But that’s part of the allure.

Joining God on life’s journey is the true delight.

I know I have a choice. 

There’s a main highway up ahead where I have the option to travel with a lot of the conveniences I love and the comforts I crave. It's where I can cruise along at a moderate pace, not letting much of anything affect my very ordinary lifestyle.

Or I can head down the brambly-covered trail that God seems to be leading me toward. It looks a little precarious and I can't see around the next bend but yet there's a sense of exhilaration drawing me to it.

I think I can even catch a glimpse of something beautiful way off in the distance but I can’t quite figure out the way to get there. 

That way up ahead looks adventurous and I’m not a very daring girl, but I think it just might take me to places I’ve never imagined.

I wonder if I have the stamina to fight off the thorns and thickets that are probably ahead.

I wonder if I have the faith needed to forge ahead.

I wonder if my heart is strong and committed to keep going.

But I'm taking that perilous path because I’ve discovered that God has more plans in mind for me than just what he’s whispered to me right now. 

I have to follow him and trust his heart. I’ve already found him faithful so far. 

And that's what he's promised all of us, isn't it?

So I’m not letting an army of ants steal my peace and take over my kitchen. 

And I can’t allow the foes of discouragement, impossibilities and hopelessness to take over my heart either.

I’m going to turn on my coffeemaker, grab a scone and sit down at my kitchen counter tomorrow.

Because I’m waking up to fight another day and take the journey ahead. 

How about you?

I'm linking up with Holley Gerth at Coffee for your Heart. Click the image for more encouragement!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Trusting Your Heart to the One Who Knows It

Doorway to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's 1920s apartment in Paris.

I love a heartwarming front door that's adorned to welcome the season. 

But since it's still summer for a while in Florida {at least until Christmas}, my heart just isn't in it to hang an autumn wreath on my door yet. So I decided to go green.

I've been admiring boxwood wreaths since they look so fresh and elegant, but when I bought one and hung it on my door, it didn't look nearly as fabulous as I thought. 

I somehow forgot the fact that my door is also green so having a green wreath against a green-painted door just looked like my house was festooned in greenery {although very eco-friendly}.

But a few weeks later I noticed the leaves on my wreath were speckled with black mold. I’m not sure why I was so surprised since I ignored the recommendations to keep it inside, safe from heat and humidity. 

So when my ten-year-old nephew asked me if he could do chores for cash, I told him if he scrubbed my wreath free of the mold, I’d pay him $20. 

His eyes lit up and he started to scrub. Twenty minutes later he told me he didn’t think he would be able to remove all of it. Even though I joined him in the scrubbing effort, it was an impossible task. I had to throw away the wreath. 

{But being the good-hearted auntie that I am, I still paid my nephew for his effort.}

Last week, I bought my second boxwood wreath.

Except this time I’m going to take care of it and protect it a little better than I did the first one. I think it's worth it.

A friend and I were talking recently about guarding our hearts. We wondered exactly what it is our hearts need. We wondered how we can unselfishly give others what their hearts need. We wondered how we can know how to love our own hearts and love another's heart too. 

I think God can help us figure that out. Because I've been astonished how many times God knew just what my heart desperately needed and I've been wonderstruck that what my heart desires is important to him.

I've been reading a lot lately about how much our hearts matter to God. In scripture, God gives us a lot of words about our hearts. How to keep our hearts, what to fill our hearts with, who to set our hearts on. 

For most of my life, I thought I wanted my heart to be filled with all of life’s good things. Happiness and enjoyment, satisfaction and contentment, and peace and hope.

But I also wanted to keep my heart safe from life’s stings. I didn’t want my heart to feel disappointment or pain or fear, so I tried to build a fortress around it. 

I closed the door to my heart.

But this was a numbing way to live. I realized I couldn’t have it both ways. 

I couldn’t keep my heart closed off to what I wanted to avoid and still keep it open to receive life's delights. So I tried telling my heart some half-truths. 

I told my heart that I didn’t care that I wasn’t married because I preferred solitude over constant company. 

I told my heart that I liked staying safely at home so I didn't have to worry about traveling to new places. 

I told my heart that I was content with my life so I didn't need new adventures or have to take any risks.

So my barricaded heart and I settled down to years of status quo living. 

Until God started calling my name. {Not out loud, of course.} I wasn’t sure I heard him at first. Surely he wasn't talking to me? It seemed everywhere I turned the same questions appeared.

Did I want to experience God differently? 
Did I want to take some risks and be a part of what God wanted to show me? 
Did I want to trust God with my life instead of trying to control every event and outcome?

It took some time for me to answer. But God didn’t rush me. He patiently pursued me. 

I was used to reminding myself not to get my hopes up or not to delight in a new adventure because I was sure something would go wrong and I’d be disappointed later. 

But every so often, my fears would be unfounded.

When I traveled to Paris, I was able to cope with a few minor mishaps and still enjoy the adventure. 

When another hopeful relationship fizzled, I realized that I lived through that disappointment just fine and it inspired me to take a step of faith that I wouldn’t have taken without the experience.

When I started writing from a deeper place in my heart that I felt God nudging me toward, I found that I connected more because I let myself be known more. 

It started dawning on me that I could risk opening the door to my heart because I could trust God with my heart. 

That didn’t mean there wouldn’t be any pain or fear or disappointment. 

But with all of his strength and all of his power at work within me, he promised that I would have the courage to face it. 

When I give all of my heart to God, only then can I understand what it is that my heart truly desires. 

Our hearts – God’s and mine – will be yearning for the same things and I will at last, want what he wants.

That's why I hope with all of my heart, I love with all of my heart, and I believe with all of my heart. 

So I’ve had a change of heart.

My new boxwood wreath is hanging inside my house, against my white-framed mirror, over my mantel.  

{It didn't look all that great on my front door anyway.}

I intend to take care of it. Especially now that I’ve spent far more than I originally intended by purchasing two wreaths and paying my nephew’s wreath-cleaning bill. 

But I take heart.

Because I'm trusting that all that's fresh, vibrant, hopeful and beautiful find their way to my open heart.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Ps. 31:24

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for Your Heart and the Saturday Soiree Blog Party with Sarah Ann at Faith Along the Way. Click the images for more encouragement!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Living Above the Daily Grind

I stood in my friend Beth's kitchen watching the stove, waiting for the coffee to boil. Her husband was demonstrating the wonder of a vacuum coffee maker that coffee aficionados hold in high esteem. He said it was popular years ago and brews an exquisite cup of coffee.

As we waited for the coffee pot to heat, he explained that two round globes {that looked like they belonged in a science lab} are connected, one filled with water, the other with coffee. 

Apparently the water boils in the bottom pot and through some sort of java magic, it's pulled into the upper globe and then smoothly slides back down to the lower globe. 

It has something to do with heat and vapors. {And after watching it, I'm still not convinced it wasn't magic.} It was quite the gizmo. 

I can’t properly explain how it works {being a girl who loves words not science experiments}, but all I know is the coffee tasted rich and decadent. 

It just might have been one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had.

I thought about how the effort and the wait were worth it for us to enjoy an extraordinary cup of coffee. 

And I think that’s how God works in our lives. Especially when the heat gets turned up and some of our days demand more of us than we think we can manage.

Difficult days get me thinking that my circumstances define me more than the truth of what God believes about me. Hard days make me wonder what God is doing in my life.

It's hard to trust that God is working on my behalf because it's easier to give up hope. 

It's hard to persevere and wait for God's plans to unfold because it's easier to look for the next distraction that grabs my attention. 

It's hard to appreciate who God created me to be because it's easier to indulge in self-absorption and compare myself to others.

It's hard to listen to what God is asking me to do because it's easier to ignore his whispers and inclinations.

But when I see circumstances in my life get stirred up, I wonder what God is brewing. 

I want the courage to do the very thing that he is asking me to put the effort into because long ago I heard him whisper, "Step out and take a risk with me."

I want the difficult days to build my faith because I don't have all the answers. 

I want to decide that whatever comes my way, I will trust him.

And the hard part is living like I believe his promises, despite my fears and doubts. The promises that God is not tired of me. He is thinking about me today. He will give me the courage I need.

And God isn’t done with my story yet.

These are the truths my heart needs to hear. Especially on the hard days.

Holley Gerth, best-selling author and co-founder of the website incourage offers 52 encouraging truths to hold on to in her new book, What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days.

Reading these short chapters based on the Psalms is like sitting down with her over a cup of coffee and listening to her encouraging words fill up my heart. 

I’d love to have coffee with Holley. 

Just as a trusted friend would, she reminds me of God’s promises on the days that discourage my spirits and make me want to give up on what God has whispered to my heart. 

These beautiful promises from God, along with Holley's inspired words, fill the pages.

~When I feel like my life is at a standstill, God is preparing me.

~When I feel like I’m all alone, God is someone I can rely on.

~When I feel like I don't have anything to offer, God can use me to help others.

~When I feel like I’m not enough, God says I’m a delight not a disappointment.

~When I wish things had turned out differently, God’s ways are best for me.

This book is like having a year’s worth of Holley’s blog posts at my fingertips to encourage and inspire me. 

I think What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days is the perfect complement for my morning coffee to lift my heart above the daily grind. 

Even if my morning cup of coffee is just a regular joe kind of coffee. 

I'm certainly no barista and there's nothing magical or scientific about it, but my coffee is chock-full of perks to help me espresso myself during the day. {Did I really just type that?} 

All I know is without coffee in the morning, I'm in for a brewed awakening.

I am part of Revell Reads blogger review tour for What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days and I received a complimentary copy of the book, but my opinions are 100% my own.

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for Your Heart. Click here for more encouragement!