Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Break in the Weather

I congratulated myself on arriving at my sister’s house ahead of the brewing thunderstorm. I was going out to dinner with her and my niece and nephew.

By the time we all headed to the garage the rain was coming down in a deluge. My sister said she’d just gotten her car washed and we’d take my brother-in-law’s car instead. 

Which was parked at the curb. 

So she said she’d pull up to the garage for us. 

My nephew motioned my sister to come closer but I wondered how she could see him through the rain. I imagined her telling my brother-in-law that she crashed his BMW into the garage because she didn’t want her car to get wet. 
{Dear sister, do you know it rains every afternoon in the summer in Florida? Your car will probably get wet tomorrow.} 

Finally my nephew made a run for it but my niece started to cry since there was now thunder and lightning. My sister got back out in the rain to run my niece to the car. I was soaked too as we all looked at each other.

“Well,” my sister said, backing out of the driveway as the rain poured down on the windshield. “I just can never figure out how to keep the windshield wipers going in this car. They seem to be on a permanent delay.”

Not being able to see our way through a storm sounded a little scary to me. 

But a little familiar too. 

Maybe like me, you’ve found yourself stuck in a stormy season of life, feeling delayed, confused and unable to see what’s ahead. Maybe you’re wrestling with a decision to make or a job to take. Maybe your kids are exhausting your energy or your health is challenging. 

Maybe you’re just hoping for a little break in the rain. 

God knows that we can’t travel the next part of our journey without a stop for rest and rejuvenation. 

In the Bible, even Elijah, Moses and the disciples needed a break to continue carrying out God’s purposes. An angel baked Elijah a loaf of bread, Moses discovered an oasis of 70 palm trees in the desert, and the disciples set sail in their boat in the opposite direction of the crowds.

I’d just settle for a sunny spot to take off my muddy galoshes and fold up my dripping umbrella to recoup my stamina for the next stage of my journey.

You too?

So when I least expected it, the rain let up and I saw the faint rosy rays of hope hiding behind the clouds. 

This heartening haven is where God reminded me that he sees me and hears my prayers. 

To the outsider, it may not seem worthy of such buoyancy, but my eyes view my story from the angle of the one who is living it.

Sometimes God takes the very ordinary and gift-wraps it for my heart’s understanding so there’s no mistaking that he tied the ribbon and delivered it just for me.

And that’s why I’m not sure I want this stormy season {that has lasted much longer than I thought} to end. 

Confusion, uncertainty and doubt are just the agents that usher me into his presence. 

Where he takes the questions I’m asking for what seems the thousandth time, and answers in a way that leaves me breathless, wanting more of him. 

I ask myself how could this make sense? But with instruction that seems strange and counterintuitive, I follow, and the skies lighten. 

The storms have cleared the way for this quiet space to hear his whisper. Where he cheers the heart and leads the rest of the way.
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. 
 -Ps. 107:29-30
As my sister drove our bedraggled and still damp selves home after dinner, there was a spectacular sunset painted in the sky.

She pulled my brother-in-law’s car safely back into the driveway and my niece Devon pointed our gazes skyward, “There’s a rainbow in the sky and it ends in our backyard.”

During our stormy seasons, may we wait hopefully for a break in the weather and watch expectantly for the promise of the rainbow.

For surely after the rain, the vision of what God has purposed for us will become clear. 

I'm keeping my eye on the skies. 

How about you?

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join us there for more posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Second Time Around

My eleven-year-old nephew is spending a week at summer camp for the second year in a row. He’s now the seasoned veteran, leading a crew of his friends who are first-time campers.

The day before he left, I asked him if his bag was packed. He said yep, he had the Vaseline all ready to go. 


“For pranks,” he said. “I didn’t know about them last year but this year I’ll be ready.”

It seems that along with tubing on the lake and building watercraft out of cardboard boxes, he discovered that the boys grease the doorknobs and handles of their cabins with Vaseline to play pranks on their counselors.

It made me think that the second time around makes all the difference. 

It’s where hesitation turns into confidence and experience ushers in wisdom. 

Not only at summer camp but it's true in my life too. {And yours?}

When the route I’m traveling in my life starts to look vaguely familiar, I realize that I’ve been here before. 

Instead of letting my discouraging thoughts work me into a worrying knot {like I usually do} I ask myself the question, am I offered a second chance to practice what I’ve learned since I’ve passed this way before?

Sometimes you have to build a history with God to harbor hope for your future.

When I choose to see every disappointment and difficulty, every delay and hope deferred as a faith-encounter to craft a living chronicle of confidence in him, it strengthens the strands of trust stretched around my heart. 

It’s this practice of changing the angle, looking at it from a new slant that can remake the old. 

My self-centric prayers have been turned inside out when my heart heard the words, “Will you pray for another to find me first? Before you pray for yourself?”

So I do it. Because I think it's the last thing God told me to do.

I keep praying. Even if I can’t see a difference. Even though I don’t think it makes any sense. Because just maybe, what if?

What if God is working behind the scenes and I don’t know it? 

What if, through these mysterious and powerful prayers, I can see the crest of his holy hill and sense the close-enough-to-touch wonder of God?

That’s where I found myself once again confronting my thoughts about what I really wanted in life long after I’d left them behind on the journey. 

I started unpacking those old dusty desires from the trunk they were buried in, shaking them out, seeing what still fit and what didn’t. 

A funny thing happened when I started poking around those old memories and dreams and hopes. 

I discovered that after all that time my desires were still alive, with a faintly beating heart.

I was so callous with them through the years as I packed them away like souvenirs from a long-ago trip. I wondered why God wanted me to consider them again.

Was he testing me? Taunting me? Why when I opened my heart to what he was showing me and I told him yes I was ready to embrace these old desires, did everything come to a dead-end stop and I found myself right back in a place I'd never wanted to revisit?  

Because God wanted me to consider him. Through the lens of my desires. 

And the only way to revive them was to start praying them back to life and trust their awakening to him.
Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. -Prov. 19:21

My sister sent me a photo of my nephew and his friends boarding the bus for camp. It was completely different from last year’s. 

Then he had sat on his duffel bag with a slightly worried expression on his face. But in this year’s photo he sat grinning, baseball cap on backwards, Vaseline safely tucked away in his bag.

I think the second time around makes all the difference. 

For middle-school campers playing pranks and for all of us who pray and desire and believe and hope.

What are you praying for?

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for Your Heart. Click the image for more posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When You Feel Out of Place

As soon as I arrived at the house where the backyard cookout was being held, I thought about turning around and heading back home. 

I watched a young couple with their kids get out of the car next to me. I fiddled with my sunglasses and flipped the visor mirror a few times, while I tried to decide if I should walk in with them or wait and go in afterward. 

I finally grabbed my bowl of potato salad and joined them.

It was my first time to attend a gathering of creative women entrepreneurs -- photographers, bloggers and small business owners -- I’d recently discovered online. I hadn’t met any of them in person yet but they invited me to a group cookout that included spouses and kids.

Even though I was excited to meet them, I told a friend I’d feel awkward going by myself and I thought I'd decline. 

She scolded me {in the nicest possible way} and said if I didn’t go I’d end up wondering what I might have missed.

So I RSVPd yes, and before I could change my mind I said I’d bring the potato salad. 

Going to gatherings alone where I don’t know a soul isn’t really my idea of a fun night. 

I much prefer friend-to-friend coffee or get-togethers over parties any day. I can make small talk just fine, but it takes a little work and it's more of an effort for me. 

But I’ve had some ideas lately — a few future dreams and plans that I’ve labeled as “someday” and tucked away — that have been surprising me at every corner. Where I didn't notice them before, it now seems as if I'm seeing versions of my ideas everywhere.

So I thought maybe I should pursue them instead. 

And it led me straight to this group called Pursuit. {You can check them out here.}

It’s a nationwide group of women that cultivate community and connect with each other about their creative pursuits. 

I was surprised to discover that there was a local group near me, and that’s how I found myself holding a bowl of potato salad at a family cookout where I didn’t know a soul. 

As I introduced myself, it seemed that everyone already knew each other as they paired off in groups to chat, holding babies and corralling kids. 

Everyone was young, married and wearing shorts, and I was the lone single girl {much older than they were} in black capris with sweat dripping down my back on the un-airconditioned sunporch. 

But I served myself a glass of iced tea and made my way around the room, making small talk, even though it was sometimes awkward and forced.

I talked decorating and dating websites with a newlywed couple who met online.

I chatted about the advantages of Florida’s beaches with a couple from Buffalo.

I gabbed about my fondness for Atlanta with a couple who recently left there.

I dished about photography and writing with three young moms working their own businesses. 

Have you ever felt so out of place that you knew this was the place that could spark the next step on your journey? 

I don't know about you, but when I refuse to shy away from a place that makes me uncomfortable, I feel a surge of character flowing through me that sure enough leads to hope. 

{Just as scripture says it will in Romans 5:3-4}

Maybe it’s just one brave step outside of your normal circle that ends up being a catalyst for jumping off that ledge someday into a great big adventure. 

Or it could be the refusal to listen to that voice that says ‘hey, you don’t fit in here,’ that spurs you onward to prove it wrong.

Continuing to hope and plan and have faith when it looks impossible could be the miracle waiting to happen that will eventually bring your dreams to life.  

And when finally you emerge from the season of shadows, doubts and uncertainty, just like a rainbow in the night sky after a Florida thunderstorm, you'll get a glimpse of your own promised land that God has already purposed for you.

I'm praying and believing that for you {and for me too}.

At the cookout as the families grilled burgers and hot dogs for the kids, I was ready to cool off in my car on the ride home. 

As I headed toward the door, I heard one of the husbands say, "Anybody want some potato salad?" 

Because it's certainly no picnic without the potato salad. 

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart and Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista. Join us there for more posts from my blogging friends!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Untangle the Knots and Unfurl the Ribbons

You might think that a day at the spa and a visit to the car repair shop sound like completely different experiences.

For me, one is a pleasurable pastime and the other is more like a disagreeable duty. {Maybe for you too?} 

But even though they're nothing alike, they both have the same effect. 

They bring out the worst in me. 

I always feel like I’m being taken for a ride when I have my car worked on and it seems as if there's always something to make me feel insecure and remind me that I have no idea what I'm doing {which of course, is very true}. 

Last week, the front desk attendant tells me that my oil change will be three times more than the last time I was there because, well, his computer will not allow me to have a less expensive one.

His computer? I’m dumbfounded. Could he explain this to me?

He says he can only give me the kind of oil the computer recommends for my car and he cannot enter the cheaper type of oil. 

It seems there's nothing I can do except wait for my Ritz-Carlton of oil changes.

Since the Ritz-Carlton was already on my mind, the very next day I decided to book myself a little relaxation at their spa, thanks to a gift card from my sister. 

I head to the for-spa-guests-only pool and the attendant greets me as I peruse the empty chairs. But as soon as I set my bag on one of them, he rushes over to tell me the empty chairs are reserved. 

I feel a little embarrassed and ask him where there is a free chair. He seems at a loss {even though the pool is full of empty chairs} and says he’ll have to go find one. 

He disappears while I stand waiting, imagining every eye upon me. I’m irritated, wondering why he didn’t inform me about the chairs as I entered.

And then I remembered. 

I think God just answered my prayers.

You see, I’ve been praying about my reactions and responses to situations that so often make me feel insecure and focus on myself. 

Even though I realize that some of my personality quirks can’t be changed completely, I want to be less sensitive, shrug things off more and feel embarrassed less. 

So I was eager to read Carey Scott's new book, Untangled, and hope for a little insight on the questions that have hung around my life for too long.

How can I be brave enough to try something new when my insecurities make me afraid I’ll look silly? 

How can I take steps of faith outside my comfort zone to do what I think God may have purposed for me when I worry I won't know what to do?

In her book, Carey shows us how God can loosen those knots of insecurity in our lives. 

She spotlights the areas where we tend to focus on ourselves and feel like we don’t measure up, from social media to real-life friendships to family relationships.

Just as a trusted friend would, Carey shares her irritation over an innocent suggestion of her husband’s, how she feels ashamed over a response to a situation without any good reason, and how something innocuous triggers her defensive feelings and she doesn’t know why.

She asks the question I’ve often asked myself. 

If I don’t even know why I feel this way, how am I supposed to fix myself? 

And here’s the answer I've been longing to hear. 

I can’t.

Only God can. 

He already knows about my insecurities and only he can unravel the lies I believe about myself that are tangled up in my self-worth. 

But Carey goes a step further and tells us how.

She shares her experience of the transforming work of God that we can invite into our lives when we give him access to our hearts. Letting him unravel those knots to experience the abundant life he purposed for us is part of this journey to freedom from them.

And I know it’s true. 

Because sometimes we grow braver and kinder in the process and sometimes a little unexpected help arrives. 

While I waited for my luxury oil change a man from my neighborhood walked in. As we chatted, I told him I was feeling a little out of my element. When I was summoned to the desk to review the estimate for additional repairs, he stepped in to provide advice and took on the role of my spokesman {which somehow worked wonders with the man at the autocrat-computer}. 

And toward the end of my day at the Ritz, a hotel manager strolled by and asked me how my day was. I paused for a minute.

I thought about giving my opinion on the pool-attendant who offended me along with some much-needed tips for his improvement, but instead I decided to give him some grace. 

I said I had a great day at the spa, thank you very much. 

And I realized that I actually did.

I think a couple of my tangled knots of insecurities just shook free in the ribbons of my adventures and experiences that God is gracefully tying together for me to live life more abundantly.

I’m part of Revell publisher’s blogger review tour for Untangled by Carey Scott. I received a complimentary copy of the book, but my opinions are completely my own.

I'm linking up with Holley Gerth at Coffee for your Heart. For more encouraging posts from my blogger friends, join me there!