Mountain Making

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Alaska experiences an estimated 1,000 earthquakes EVERY month.😮 Can you imagine? If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s the earth shaking! You’d think that being a California native would de-sensitize my fear of earth shakes, but I’ve never quite gotten comfortable with sudden movement beneath my feet. As a zumba instructor, shaking is what I do, but I prefer to shake on solid ground. If the earth is going to move, these dancing feet are making a dash to duck and cover! 😉

Though I fear the earth movement, I’m in awe of the beauty it’s trembling can create. If you’ve been to Alaska you know what I’m talking about. The mountain peaks are gloriously majestic, soaring high above the ocean tides, capped in ice, followed by vast hillsides exploding in hues of green, full of lush foliage and wildlife. It truly is a sight not only to be seen, but experienced. I can tell you all about it, but words are feeble at giving experience. There is a Grand Canyon of difference between knowledge and knowing.

Upon our arrival to Alaska a few weeks ago, I thought, “how lucky are these people that get to call this place their home?” But after hearing the reality of their rock and rolling hills, I thought,”Forget about it! You can keep your paradise!” I’ll take solid ground, thank you very much….that’s a laughable notion while residing in California.😜

But I’ll miss out on the beauty. Alaska’s beauty is experienced at a cost. Great beauty can come from great trials….mountain making is messy. The earth’s movement, and momentary madness, is what creates miracles and mountain tops. You can’t have one without the other. I remember something about compressing tectonic plates from geology class; not my favorite class, but the subject matter caught my attention given my predisposition to loathing earth quakes. The compression of the plates is what causes the earth to move upward in some places, causing mountains to ascend. (Or at least it’s something like that….if you are science savvy, forgive my elementary explanation.😉)

It got me thinking….I think life is a series of earth shaking experiences. Jesus makes it clear that in this life we will have troubles….BUT…take heart…He has overcome the world. We can choose to roll with the tremors, while our faith is compressed, and ascend to great heights spiritually, or we can crumble under pressure. In either case, we can’t control the shaking.

When I think about many of our modern day “Heroes of the faith”, those that inspire us to live more for Jesus, their successes (the mountaintops) were developed by persevering through trials. Patsy Claremont, Marilyn Meberg, Joni Tada, Francis Chan, Greg Laurie, Rick and Kay Warren…they didn’t get mountain sized faith without overcoming some massive, monumental, life shaking circumstances. While I admire each of them, if I’m honest, I’d like to have their faith, minus all their pain. Can I have the mountain peaks without the tremors please? Nope. Life doesn’t get to be all smooth sailing, because God’s not interested in my comfy, boring, life. He’s creating a beautiful landscape from each of our lives, one that will either point to Him for generations, or be a flat, dried up desert.

I’ve spent much of my life trying to navigate the sudden jolts life can bring, hoping to avoid them altogether, but they are inevitable. We have about as much control over earth movement as we do the trials we will face in life. There is no stopping it, avoiding it, or escaping…sometimes you’ve just got to roll with it and learn to find your joy in all the uncertain shaking. Hold on and wait for the beauty that follows. He brings beauty from the ashes of our lives.

I got some earth trembling news a couple months ago. A mass on my right kidney has started growing for the first time in the three years we’ve been monitoring it. Boom. All of a sudden, my faith became jostled by the reality of this life. Life is fragile. It’s ever changing and all that is certain is death and taxes….not really!!😜 Even taxes will one day end! (I hear the Hallelujah Chorus when I think of that glorious ending. Lol)

There’s really only one thing, or person rather, that never changes, and that is our God. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. His love never fails and He has overcome the sting of death. Ya know why? Because He loves us. His death and resurrection, sealed the deal, so our future is secure. It’s rock solid, in fact. There is no shaking that truth. It.just.is. And to that I say, “Hallelujah” and “Amen”! My future is secure in this life and for all eternity.

I don’t know the outcome yet of this menacing mass. I had a biopsy this past week…another earth moving experience that I hoped to avoid, but was unavoidable. While I wait for the results, I’m not going to lie, I’ve lost some sleep. I’ve contemplated my life and what feels like the impending end. Of course, it’s likely I would just lose a kidney. But the mind has a way of racing toward worst case scenarios if we let it.😳The fears are kind of silly really. I mean worst case scenario is being with God in heaven for all eternity….not bad!

The usual fears have come in crashing waves. One minute I feel victorious riding this massive trial like a skilled, secure, surfer and in the next moment I feel crushed by the tide of terror at what it all means, picturing my kids and husband dealing with the tidal wave of grief. That one gets me. It feels suffocating and I can hardly take it in, but then, I don’t have to because….my God has overcome the grave.

I can take heart and have faith in what I hope for and faith in what I do not yet see. My hope is not in my own life, but in the life, death and resurrection of my Jesus. He has said He will never leave me and never forsake me….and He has done the same for my sweet family…and He has done the same for you too. Do you know Him?

This is serious friends. Eternity is not to be taken lightly. At some point we are all going to deal with the end of this life and the reality of what lies ahead. I hope you know Jesus. He is the solid rock upon which you and I can stand, even in the fiercest of earth shattering storms. He is the One and only that can save you, not only can, but LONGS to save you. He is THE Savior.

The trials that shake us to the core, can make our faith soar on wings like eagles, soaring from the mountain peaks. I want to soar and more importantly, I want my kids and husband too. I’m clinging to my Savior as my life faces another jolt of reality. As I face the twists, turns and bumps that are inevitably ahead, whether near or far, I can be sure of one thing….He has overcome. May my days reflect His ways and create a beautiful landscape with mountain peaks that point to my Savior….the Rock upon which I stand. All praise and honor to Him forevermore! We can do all things through Him that gives us strength!🙌

***I wrote this blog weeks ago, but wasn’t able to take the time to post it until now. This past Tuesday, also my husbands birthday😄, I was informed that the tumor is benign! What a blessed day!! My hubby said it was the best birthday gift he’s ever been given. We praised God together…but we would have praised Him either way! He is good even when our circumstances aren’t. Praise Him in the pain, the joy, the fear, the anger, the anxiety, the waiting…let everything that has breath praise His name! Praising Him will give you strength to overcome and mountain peaks will begin to take shape as your faith is compressed. Press on friends! We can do all things through Him that gives us strength!💪🙌😄***

Hebrews 11:1~Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Ephesians 2:20~“built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
Psalm 27:14~“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”
‭‭Isaiah 61:3~ and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment
of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

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Stubbed Hearts

There’s nothing quite like a stubbed toe. It can bring out the inner sailor mouth in any of us. You can be in a hurry, just minding your own business, trying to get things done, when….BAM….your poor unsuspecting toe hits the corner of the wall, the leg of a chair, or a bed frame. Ouch! 😵

The pain can be searing and you think your toe might just fall off. Actually, you kind of hope it does  just so the pain will alleviate. My initial instinct is to kick the object of my pain again, because,  it hurt me!😉  Then your whole body goes on temporary  lock down until the pain subsides.   It seems certain that the toe has been crushed,  given the intensity of the the pain, but it’s most often just bruised, and will heal over time.

There is no thinking clearly or communicating with grace in these moments. Just intense, overwhelming pain. How can something so small, cause so much anguish? I surrendered my inner sailor mouth years ago, when I became a Jesus follower, so I’ve had to create new vinacular for moments like this. If you hear me say “crumb bucket”…it’s serious! 😜 (Occasionally the pirate in me will still escape, though, if the conditions are just right…or maybe just wrong. 😉).

But there’s something far worse than a stubbed toe, even more painful, and that is a stubbed heart.

A couple weeks ago my husband and I experienced the trauma of a stubbed heart once again.   We were on the recieving end of hurtful words, accusations, and blame….followed by what feels like complete rejection from a few people we have called friends.  So painful!  It happens in life. We know in this life we will have troubles, but there are occasions, when like an unexpected stubbed toe, it seemingly comes out of nowhere, hitting you by surprise and knocking the air from your lungs. It feels more like the shattering of our hearts into pieces. It can cause that sinking feeling, out of complete disbelief, in a free fall of hurt, and initially it feels as though the heart might just give out altogether.  Life becomes temporarily on lock down, for my mind and heart feel high jacked by hurt; an unwelcome intruder.  There is no shaking off this pain and nothing but time and clinging to God’s gracious hand will lessen the ache. Kicking the source of my pain won’t fix it, though I have to admit, I’ve visilualized that a time or two…or three or four. 😉  We have to deal with our stubbed hearts, but we won’t die from them,  contrary to my feelings.

Ever felt accused and betrayed by people you care about?  We’ve experienced this kind of pain more than I’d like to remember.   I doubt I’m alone in this, given that even our Savior,  Jesus, experienced the heartache of interrogation, accusation, rejection,  and ultimately, condemnation from the religious “elite”, and yet, Jesus was and IS perfect. Even His closest friends  failed Him, as He prepared for His painstaking journey to the cross.  Remember Peter? He denied knowing Jesus to protect himself.  Or how about the two “sons of Zebedee”? They fell asleep instead of praying like Jesus had asked. Jesus was literally sweating drops of blood, and they couldn’t even pray?? How unbelievable! How wrong! How selfish!! How HUMAN….

Then there’s the obvious…Judas.  With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Yes, Jesus understands being let down by people, being labeled, rejected and accused. I wonder if the emotional lashes that He acquired were as painful as the physical lashes? Sometimes it seems that heartaches are intolerable.  When my heart feels teetering on fragile, torn strings, my Jesus, He holds my heart so tenderly, until I’m completely tethered to Him. It is at this point I’m reminded that “if God is for me, who can be against me?” Oh to be loved by Him! He restores my soul to wellness and peace.

Stubbing my toe can cause me to jump up and down with tears in  my eyes….grabbing the wounded little piggy in hopes it will cease its torment. A stubbed heart can illicit similar kinds of reactions. My inclination is to throw a tantrum of teenage size, throwing accusations back, pleading my case, while covering my heart so as to safeguard it from further injury. But then, Jesus…..

He reminds me of His response when accused. His was often silent, for no justification was necessary from Almighty God. When insults and accusations were lashed upon Him in His final days on earth, His words were few with the occasional, “yep that’s who I Am”, or “yep, that’s what you said about me.” (Pardon my paraphrase😉). No denials, just acceptance, for He knew their hearts and minds.  There was no rationalizing with them. A heart determined to find flaw will inevitably find it.  Besides its so much easier to see the mistakes in others; then we don’t have to look within.  Jesus knew His calling in life was ultimately in His death for all of humanity and so He went quietly, willingly.  He modeled surrender and sacrifice.  Ouch!

The truth is Jesus WAS the King of the Jews (as they mocked), the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is, in fact, only guilty of being who He said He is. But you know what? At the end of the day, I am guilty. Guilty of all kinds of imperfections, some intentional, some not…..and so are you.  But God knows our hearts. He alone knows our every thought and intention.  With that knowledge I can sing “It is Well with my soul.”

I’m taking my stubbed heart to Jesus and asking Him to soothe the pain, and to help me move forward in spite of the hurt. It’s easy to get stuck in the throbbing aftermath of accusations and rejection.  We can be consumed by it, debilitating us from God’s purpose and plan for our lives. It clouds the mind, and lingers like a fog, that effects our focus and ability to find joy.  Fog can be dangerous. We can lose our way, or rather, His way, if we aren’t careful.  I know I’ve lost my way if I’m more concerned about what people might think about me/us than what God thinks.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my 40ish 😉 years of life: stubbed hearts won’t kill you, but they can propel you toward the arms of Jesus. His loving, grace-filled, forgiving, perfect, patient, humble, gentle, comforting arms will enable us to rest in the storms, trust in the uncertainty, forgive the unforgiveable, offer grace to the most ungracious, and love until our last breath. If heartache is what it takes to trust Jesus more, then bring on the pain! There’s nothing like knowing Jesus and being known by Him.  He loves us in ALL of our imperfections. ❤️

In coping with heartache, I’ve opted for silence and prayer. I’ve written letters to our “friend” and those entertaining negative perceptions about us, and I’ve kept them: usually a good idea after a stubbed heart. God can handle our “crumb bucket” moments, but people usually can’t.  Feelings can be controlled through the power of the Holy Spirit. I will refuse to villainise those that have hurt us, because God’s grace is as sufficient for them as it is for us.  Thank you Jesus!

I’ve cried and cried, and then cried a lot more, releasing the pain, but also allowing myself to feel it. Ignoring our pain just saves it for later and it ends up spewing out on innocent bystanders….usually those we love the most. After buckets of tears and sometimes through them, I praised God. I mean like hands fully extended, heart fully exposed, with passion and assurance, praised His name. In my bathroom. In my bedroom. In my kitchen. In my car. Anywhere and everywhere I’ve been praising Him, because He is good! He is not responsible for my hurt but He will use it to His good and for my growth. When I praise Him, my heart feels lighter, taking the hurt away, even if only temporarily.

Aches and pain seem to return at night. Why is that? What is it about bedtime that brings out every hurtful thought, worry and anxiety? 😳  The enemy seems to delight in the darkness, so we must engage The Light. I’ve opened up my bible when dark thoughts tried to creep in.  I’ve paused to pray, read articles that are helpful for our situation, and looked for ways to reach out to others. A few nights ago I was wrestling with my hurt, so I baked pound cake for some new friends and took it to their home. It got me thinking forward instead of dwelling on the pain and sitting in misery. What could have been a night of basking in my sorrows, became an evening of friendly conversation and the smell of coconut pound cake….the smell alone helped distract my weary heart.😉

Are you feeling hurt, accused and misunderstood this week? Remember it’s just a stubbed heart.  It won’t kill you but it can make you stronger in Him. This momentary pain won’t last forever, but God’s grace will. In the scope of eternity, this is a tiny, itty bitty, owie….your heart is stubbed, not shattered. He will work this to His good, even if you can’t see how right now. Have faith for what you can’t yet see. The fog is going to lift at some point and it will all become clear. With tears and the Son comes a beautiful rainbow!🌈🙌

Know this, Jesus is empathizing with you. He’s felt the sting of accusation, speculation and condemnation of others. Take your wounded heart to Him. He understands.

Be prayerful. Be patient. Get to praising. Press into Jesus for His power, and bake pound cake for friends…😉 He’s got a plan and a purpose for our pain. 🙌  We can do all things through Him!

Matt. 27:12~When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.

Psalm 34:18~The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Hebrews 11:1~Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

John 16:33~”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Romans 8:1-2Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Phil.4:19~And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:31~What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Matt.11:29~Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Posture Pain Relief

What brings you comfort? My “go to” is usually bread or frozen yogurt. When my day has been overwhelming and their are no easy answers, you will often find me at the Yogurt Mill drive-thru. A good frosty dose of sugar or a buttery baguette gives temporary relief from my angst, and yet it doesn’t bring lasting peace or perspective. There isn’t a yogurt cup big enough to drown my sorrows in. There is only one source for what my heart truly craves and that is Jesus.

People throughout the ages have turned to all kinds of idols seeking comfort, some more harmful than others. Zechariah 10:2 says, “The idols speak deceit, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain.” Idols give us a sense of comfort, but it is empty comfort that won’t last. They lie to us about what we really need, which is to maintain a posture of surrender to Jesus. The pain that draws us to our own personal idols is the very pain God wants to use to draw us to Himself.

My daughter, Meghan, has been having pain in her neck. I took her to the doctor yesterday seeking advice as we’ve discovered the bone at the top of her vertebrae is actually pertruding unnaturally. The doctors advice was for Meghan to work on her posture. She is often hunched over her computer for school work or playing the piano and that posture is causing her pain. Its actually uncomfortable for her to sit straight and takes focused effort for her to do so. Meghan will have to be intentional in sitting up straight, pushing her shoulders back and keeping her chin lifted to help alleviate her discomfort. We need to do the same thing spiritually; change our posture to one of kneeling in prayer or arms raised in surrender to God’s will, not our own. It doesn’t feel natural because it isn’t. We are prone to wanting and doing things our own way, but it just causes us more pain in the end. The pain we encounter causes alarm sensors in our spirit to seek out comfort, leading us to idols, or Jesus. Rather than seeking out temporary comfort in the arms of another, at the end of a bottle, in the pursuit of more money, with the purchase of more stuff, or binging on junk food….ask God to meet the hunger in your soul.

How is your posture toward God right now? Are you seeking His will, or yours? Ask Him to give you His perspective about the emotional pain or struggle you are having. So often we think we know the answer, which usually entails others having to change, when in reality, God sees it much differently. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. We are selfish by nature and our idols are often ourselves. Our selfishness can lead to bad spiritual posture, weighing us down and luring us to look within, rather than looking to Jesus. Seek Jesus and you will find Him…and He will give you what you truly need. Maintain a posture of prayer and praise. It’s the best remedy for your pain, worry, anxiety, heartache, hopes, dreams, longings….Are you listening? You can do all things through Him!🙏💪

Jer.29:13~You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Isaiah 55:8~For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
Psalm 119:76~May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.
2 Cor. 1:4,6~God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things.”