Four Words – Underlined in Red

Hey friend – I see you out there struggling and I want you to know I’m struggling too.  I’ve typically experienced seasons of smooth sailing but now – right now – I’m out on the battlefield all day every day and the enemy is big.  These days my feet hit the floor and I’m not even wasting time with the coffee, I’m going straight for my armor because I don’t want to spend a second of my day not waging war. I know you get it, I know you understand and that’s why I wanted to share this with you.

Through this season, I’ve had a favorite verse.  Oh, I’ve studied plenty of others but there is one that has been my go to scripture every morning as I start my day and every evening as I end it.  In 2 Chronicles 20:6-9 you find Jehoshaphat having just learned that a vast army was coming against him and so he goes out in to the temple courtyard and begins to speak to God.  He’s reminding God of all that He has done before and all that He has promised His people.  This reminder isn’t to rattle God’s memory but more to remind Jehoshaphat of the God he serves and the God that he can trust.

So, I’ve camped out in that scripture for several months now to remind myself of what God has done before in my life and what He has promised me that He will continue to do. But one day last week, as I sat in the courtyard outside of my home reading those words back to God, my eyes drifted up to several verses before this. In 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 I had underlined several random words in red ink.  Words like alarmed, resolved, proclaimed and seek.  My eyes just settled on those four words and I let them sink in to my war weary spirit.  I can’t tell you when I underlined those words or what was going on at the time but I can tell you what those four words meant to me on that hot, sticky August morning last week.

Alarmed:  As I looked at that first word I was struck by the reality that often, as we face hard seasons, we are alarmed at our situations and circumstances.  In verse 3, Jehoshaphat was alarmed at the news that a vast army was approaching. He was alarmed!  Here’s the thing – and it’s a comforting thing – when we are alarmed by our circumstances, God is not!  Whatever is happening in our lives right now, this very minute, it is not a surprise to God.  He knew it was coming, he knows our story and we can trust Him with the outcome.  When we have that knowledge, we can move from being alarmed to simply trusting God.

Resolved:  Verse 3 goes on to say that even though Jehoshaphat was alarmed, he was resolved to inquire of the Lord.  So, when we face our situations we can be resolved to inquire of the Lord, we can be resolved to trust and not lose hope, we can resolve to press forward and lean in to the strength of our savior.  Resolved simply means being firmly determined to do something.  Maybe in your hard situation you can be resolved to not give up hope, resolved to not be afraid or ashamed, resolved to listen to God’s voice over all the other voices in your life.  Let’s be firmly determined to trust our Heavenly Father who loves us and wants what’s best for us.

Proclaimed:  In verse 3 Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast for all Judah and while I may not be able to proclaim a fast for all the land, I have been known to pray and fast myself.  But what this word said to me on that very day last week  is that I should be about the business of proclaiming God’s love; proclaiming God’s goodness, His mercy and provision and I certainly should be about the business of proclaiming that He will make good on His promises to me. I should be proclaiming His victory!

Seek:  Finally, Verse 4 says that the people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord.  As I looked at that red underlined word, I was reminded that I find my strength when I seek the Lord.  When I rise early to sit at His feet and seek His face and seek His wisdom for the next step I need to take.  When I go throughout my day, stopping to pray and seek His will; When I fall asleep at night chatting with Him, seeking his peace and presence so that I can rest. Walking in the valley, up on the mountain, through the dark and through the light just seeking His ways as my own.

So, friend whatever you are facing today, remember that you don’t face it alone.  Remember that you serve a big God and He doesn’t want you to be alarmed but rather resolved, seeking His face and proclaiming victory.  I hope that those four words, underlined in red, that jumped out at me will jump out at you too.  I hope that maybe in some small way they will encourage you and help you find rest as you fight your battles.   Put on your armor friend and keep moving forward.  Remember – the battle is already won!

 

100 Beautiful Days – Day 33

Day thirty-three –

When you find yourself in the middle of a hard season, it’s important to reach out and grab the tiniest moments of rest and joy that come your way.  Sometimes that looks like a nap, sometimes that looks like a bubble bath or relaxing with a book, it might be a new workout or maybe…it’s tennis.

I’ve done all of the above and recently it was tennis!

You see these days I find myself in the car A LOT.  I’m on the road three days a week driving to the Oklahoma City area and back.  I drop my daughter off to appointments and then I hunt down the quietest little coffee shop I can find, pull out the laptop and work.  It’s been a challenge, at times, to find balance and manage to stay on top of my workload but it has also been sweet to watch how God has orchestrated it all, allowing me to be present and available.

My youngest makes this trip with me and we often put away the homework and projects a little early and go in search of a pretty neighborhood to drive through, a fun place to eat or make a stop in our favorite place on earth – Hobby Lobby!

But recently, while we were waiting, we had the chance to spend our time watching a few of my daughter’s friends play tennis in the state tournament.  The sun was coming and going behind the clouds, there was a nice breeze and it was a perfect day to be outside.  Oh, there was work to be done, projects needing my attention and other places that I could have been, but in that moment, what the heart needed most was to sit beside my daughter in the spring air, support her friends and just breath!

I don’t know where you are in life right now friend.  Maybe you are in a challenging season where you feel pressed on every side or maybe not. But if you are, I encourage you to grab hold of the simple moments that you are given to slow down and breath.  If none come your way, then make them happen. Grab lunch with a friend, take a slow drive down the back roads home from work, or take a minute to sit in the sun.  Maybe you could grab your rain boots and go jump in some puddles. Hey – I’m a full-grown adult and I still jump in puddles (Hint – It’s way more fun with a friend).

Whatever comes your way today, look for the joy – the gifts that God gives us – right smack dab in the middle of the mess.  They are like a lifeline, so reach out and grab them.

Be joyful –

 

100 Beautiful Days – Day 32

Day thirty-two,

This morning, this very morning, as I was yawning and stretching and doing my best to get moving, I heard a sound.  This sound, was the sound of our Great Pyrenees dog, Remington, whimpering, whining and begging for attention.

Here’s the deal: our dog loves our neighbor and our neighbor loves our dog.  Every morning our neighbor hollers “hello” to Remington as he leaves for work and every afternoon he stops at the fence when he gets home and asks Remington how his day was.  It’s a pretty special bond and its one that means the world to me.

You see, when we moved in to town from the farm, I was so very afraid that our big dog would never stay inside our yard.  I was afraid he would get out, terrorize the neighborhood, chase people’s cats, dig in the neighbor’s flower beds, bark all night and get us kicked out of the addition.  So, I commenced to praying that God would give us good neighbors. Neighbors that would love dogs. Neighbors that would be patient and longsuffering.  Neighbors that would enjoy Remington.

Well, Remington has been a complete gentleman and hasn’t once tried to get out or terrorize anything at all and God came through big time in answering my prayer.  Not only does our neighbor love Remington and talk to him every day, but he also tosses him leftovers, shares food fresh off the grill, buys him dog treats, tosses him toys and occasionally takes him over to his yard to play. Can you say “best neighbor ever?”

So, this morning, as our neighbor was milling about in his garage, Remington could see him and desperately wanted his attention.   Apparently, our neighbor was preoccupied and out of his routine and Remington was not happy about it at all.  Finally, our good neighbor came over to the fence and called out to Remington.

“Remington – come here boy. How are you this morning Remington? Yes, I see you, I know you’re a good boy. I still love you.”

My goodness gracious! A smile instantly spread across my face and before I had even had my first cup of coffee there was joy in my journey.  I thought about that conversation between dog and neighbor several times throughout the day. You know, I think maybe we are like that a little bit with God too.  Sometimes we are down here just whimpering and whining and begging for God’s attention. We feel like he’s forgotten us or doesn’t notice us or even care about our needs.  But then, if we wait patiently he calls us in and reminds us that he sees us, that he loves us and that everything is going to be ok.

On this, Day 32 of 100 Beautiful Days, that’s just what I needed.  What does your heart need today?  Where can you be watching for that little something that brings a smile to your face?  Keep your eyes open and I’m sure you will find it!

100 Beautiful Days – Day 30

Day thirty –

The sun is just coming up. It was a late night, last night followed by an early morning.  There is a pile of laundry in a chair nearby that needs folding, another load in the dryer and one in the wash. The dishwasher needs to be started, the dogs need food and the morning workout isn’t going to tackle itself. There are plenty of things that I should be accomplishing right now but I’m just sitting here in my office chair being very, very thankful for…sticky notes.

Sticky notes keep me sane! I have them plastered on the wall near my desk, you can find them on my bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator and even in my car.  They remind me of projects I need to accomplish, bills that need to be paid and phone calls that I should make.  I post them with quotes that inspire me, names of those I’m praying for and I write my favorite verses on them and place them in strategic places where I can be reminded of God’s love.  I even have sticky notes inside my bible and in my purse that others have given me with words of kindness and affirmation.

They come in all colors, sizes and styles and I love them with my whole heart.  So today on Day 30 of 100 beautiful days I find joy in my journey with the sticky note.  It’s a simple thing but in a world of chaos and crazy, sticky notes bring order and help keep me on track.

Do you use sticky notes? If you don’t, you should!  Go straight away and buy some.  Write notes to yourself, draw a happy face, remind yourself to call a friend.  Find a color that makes you happy or find one with a design that makes you smile.  Jot down a note to a co-worker and stick it to their computer or leave a note to your spouse.  Use them to inspire, motivate, remind and organize.  The sticky note can handle it all and is up to the task.  Sticky note – we salute you.  Thank you for being you!!

100 Beautiful Days – Day 29

Day twenty-nine,

It’s been over a month since I’ve had the opportunity to focus on 100 Beautiful Days. Over the course of those weeks I’ve sat down multiple times and attempted to type out the next entry but each time I found myself staring at the blank page, the little black cursor flashing in my face, and the words just rambling around in my head but not making a lick of sense.  Each attempt resulted in me typing a few lines, backspacing, typing a few more, and finally shaking my head in frustration, closing the computer and walking away.

You see, sometimes, in the middle of something really good you have to push the pause button. Not stop, not delete, just pause. Life gets hard, it gets messy and priorities have to shift and change as life comes at you.  Life came at me a few weeks ago when we found ourselves walking through some difficult days with one member of our tribe.  Watching someone struggle is always difficult but when it is someone you love so very much, it makes it that much harder. When you feel helpless to make it better – that much worse!

Even though I haven’t had the time or the ability to adequately express words on a page, I’ve been paying attention to the joy in the middle of this journey and my heart has been taking notes. I’ve got a page in my phone filled with positives that I’ve witnessed over the past few weeks and little moments when, in the middle of the mess, I’ve felt God wrap his arms around me and remind me that he sees me, sees my family, loves us and has a plan.

What I wish that everyone could know is that a blessed life is not without hardship and hardships are not without blessings. When seasons of difficulty come your way the work that you’ve done with God in the days before kicks in. When you’ve sat at His feet in the good times, learning about His character, diving deep in to the nature that makes Him a good, good father, then during the hard days you can lean in to that knowledge and trust Him.  I tell people all the time, it’s not about feelings, it’s about knowledge. Knowledge doesn’t make it easy, but it does make it possible.

The darkness that we are walking through hasn’t lifted yet but when my eyes haven’t been able to see the light at the end of the tunnel God has sent a little flashlight to remind me he is on the journey with us. Just little moments that make you look up and say – wow God – thanks!

What difficulty are you walking through right now?  Are you remembering to find God in the middle or are you feeling like He has left you all alone?  Of the things I know, He promises to never leave us alone.  In the middle of your trial take note of the positives.  Grab a sheet of paper, make a note in your phone, keep sticky notes on a wall or mirror where you can see them.  Back those up with scripture and cling to God’s unfailing word.  Whatever works best for you…do that!  Do whatever it takes to remember He sees you, He loves you and He has a plan.

100 Beautiful Days – Day 28

Day twenty-eight,

Road trips – Day 28 of 100 Beautiful Days found me squeezed in a car like sardines, flying down the interstate with all my people minus one but plus one of someone else’s. Going on a journey is one of my favorite things and this day, this very day, we headed out on a journey.

We sang songs, played I’m Going on a Picnic, chowed down on take out Mexican food (maybe not a good idea) played Who Am I and stopped for countless bathroom breaks.  There has been rain, fog and a winter storm.

This morning started out tough.  The skies were gray, rain was falling and news came that another precious lady went home to be with the Lord.  February has been a hard month with four funerals in just a matter of weeks.  I have friends awaiting test results, other friends are walking with their parents on their final journey home and my own loved ones are fighting a few battles of their own. There has been a heaviness this month and it has often settled in my spirit and weighed on my heart.

As I’ve traveled down the road today, amidst the joy and the fun I’ve been contemplative and reflective. Life is such a gift and some place such little value on it while others have it ripped away too soon.  Some seem like they are on the fastest track possible to destruction while others work diligently to survive to no avail.

I will never have the answers to the why’s or how comes and if I think about it too much I just feel like stomping my feet and shaking my fist at the unfairness of it all.  But thankfully I know the one who numbers our days, who holds the answers and I can trust him with those details.  I also know that often the journey we find ourselves on is not the easiest or even because of the best circumstances.  Sometimes we find ourselves picking up the pieces, dusting ourselves off and starting again.  Sometimes we find ourselves helping someone else pick up the pieces and get back on their feet.

When this happens, and it will happen, I think it is pretty important to take a look around and count our blessings.  Be thankful for the people that are committed to this journey with us and count it all joy when we can lend a helping hand.  We should make the best of a bad situation, take nothing for granted and love as big as we possibly can. And in the middle of it all we should have fun, lots and lots of fun!

So tonight, as my road crew snuggles in to our hotel room tired from our travels, I’m looking around at them, reflecting back on the day, taking a long deep breath and being incredibly thankful. Thankful for the laughter, joy, good attitudes, laughter, good health, safe travels and oh, did I mention laughter? I’m counting my blessings, and just like that picnic game we played in the car, I’m naming them one by one.

We are all going on a journey, sometimes easy, sometimes hard, but we do get to decide what we take with us.  Attitude, Belief, Compassion, Dedication, Empathy…So, as you work your way through to the end of the alphabet, choose wisely what you take with you on this journey of life – it can make all the difference in the world.

100 Beautiful Days – Day 27

Day Twenty–Seven,

Sometimes in the middle of a freezing cold, pouring rain, dreary kind of day you catch a glimpse of something and it makes you smile.  Yesterday – as I was braving the cold to pick up groceries, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a big red and black bus parked in the shopping center near the local McDonalds.

Now, living in a college town, it isn’t unusual at all to see buses from schools across the state all around town.  They come here from miles away for academic events, choir and band competitions, sports camps and other contests, hosted at the college.

But on this dreary day, when I caught a glimpse of the red and black bus, I knew, even through the pouring rain, that it was my hometown people! I waited until I got in a place where I had a better view, did a quick glance over and sure enough it was.  A smile came across my face and my heart instantly filled with pride.

Now hear me on this, I’ve been out of high school for 30 years.  3-0! But still, no matter where I am, if I pass a hometown bus on the interstate or see it in a parking lot or end up at a local event where my hometown team is participating, my heart is happy and I can’t help but smile. I flash back to pep rallies, livestock shows, struggling through math, stinky hallways, choir competitions, being late for class, football games, homecoming parades and so much more.  It was a pretty simple time and my hometown was a pretty great place.

So on day twenty seven of 100 Beautiful Days, like a crazy lady, I circled back around, car full of groceries and all, and stealthily (or maybe creepily), found a way to snap a picture of that beautiful bus.  I’m sure the bus driver, sitting patiently in the driver’s seat waiting on the students to return from lunch, wanted to call the cops on this strange lady, but I was determined to capture the moment.

What simple thing brought joy to your heart today?  It doesn’t have to be something fancy or perfect or wonderful.  Just simple.  Like your hometown school bus parked at McDonalds.  Looking for the tiny moments throughout our day is what makes life beautiful. When they happen, notice them, capture them and hold on to them in your heart.