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.๐Ÿ˜ฎ 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! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.๐Ÿ˜œ

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.๐Ÿ˜‰)

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!!๐Ÿ˜œ 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.๐Ÿ˜ณThe 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!๐Ÿ™Œ

***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 birthday๐Ÿ˜„, 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!๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ˜„***

Hebrews 11:1~Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Ephesians 2:20~โ€œbuilt on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.โ€
Psalm 27:14~โ€œWait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.โ€
โ€ญโ€ญIsaiah 61:3~ย and provide for those who grieve in Zionโ€”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.

Here’s Your Sign

ROCKS. ย I saw a variety of these bright yellow signs throughout the canyon as we wound our way around narrow, steep roads. There was no other warning, just ROCKS. How funny. Clearly, there were large rocks along the steep canyon. Everyone could see that, so it seemed silly to boldly state what was already self evident, and yet there they were, one after the other. Thank you Captain Obvious.๐Ÿ˜‰

Immediately I thought of the phrase, “Here’s your sign.” Like, duh, there are giant boulders here, in case you couldn’t see them, hanging from the cliffs above. They may fall, causing you and your family to plummet from the cliffs edge down to the valley below, likely causing you to erupt in flames. ๐Ÿ”ฅ Survival is unlikely. Yes, that’s where my brain goes when I see ROCKS signs.๐Ÿ˜‰

What bothered me about the signs was that they focused on the obvious looming catastrophe without any alternative route. They kept me focused on what might happen, should the giant boulders decide to cascade down the mountain onto our mini van. Nothing about that repeated reminder left me feeling safe, secure and relaxed. The more I focused on the word ROCKS, the more I imagined them tumbling towards me. Some of us don’t need yellow, bold print signs to think about the scary trauma that could unfold…my imagination does that all by itself. It’s easy to see danger lurking around every corner, but way more fulfilling to keep our eyes focused on The Way, The Truth, and The Life. He is our One Way sign that guides us through tumultuous, turbulent, narrow roads of life. We don’t have to drive it alone. He’s with us through every nail biting, exhilarating moment.

Life lived out pursuing Jesus can feel like driving on the edge of steep cliffs with rock signs all around. We know Jesus encountered all kinds of rocks along His journey, usually in the form of people trying to block Him from His purpose, but nothing and no one can stop God from accomplishing His purpose and plans. No boulders, no road blocks, no falling rocks, NOTHING.

If we keep our eyes on the One Way, He will guide us through all the craziness this life has to offer and we will do so keeping our love, joy, hope and peace in tact, because, if He is for us who can be against us? Let me repeat that, if He is for us, who can be against us?!? Seriously, there are zero road blocks for Jesus. If He wants something for you, He will obliterate any obstacles in your way…like Wreck-It-Ralph, only bigger and better.๐Ÿ˜‰

As we keep our eyes focused on His way, we become reflectors of God’s grace, hope, and love to those around us. In a sense, we are walking signs for Jesus, either declaring His power and love at work in our lives, or just more rock signs, warning of impending doom and gloom. There is something powerful that happens when we reflect hope in what appears to be hopeless situations.

I have dear friends that experienced a giant boulder two years ago. Their daughter, Candice, went to be with Jesus after a long battle with cancer. It was a boulder so big, it took unimaginable strength and courage to navigate. She fought hard and reflected God in all she said and did, pointing to Jesus through her journey of pain. In response, her parents have done the same. They surrendered to Him, their driver in this life, and have allowed Him to take them along this difficult journey, trusting Him in their pain, and moving forward. They shine brighter for Jesus than most people I know, like giant reflectors of His love to others that are headed down that sharp turn toward the unknown. Such love, courage, and hope. Their deep commitment to follow Jesus through the steep cliffs of grief and loss, motivates me to travel well for Jesus.

I’ve had countless road blocks in my life, gone down dead ends, headed the wrong way, felt that rocks were falling and like frogger, I tried to escape peril along the journey, but God has never failed me. As I’ve learned to keep my eyes on Him, it’s become easier to navigate trials, and stay on task. I want His way to be my way.

Are you having trouble seeing God through the ROCKS signs of life? Maybe He is being diminished in your mind by perceived road blocks you see ahead. God has a purpose and a plan even through the pain and chaos. He works all things to the good as we trust in Him. Call out to Him. Invite Him in to your circumstance, and let Him drive the rest of the way. It may be that you’ve been headed down the wrong road and you’ve gotten lost, without knowing it. That’s ok, He is an excellent guide that longs to bring you back to His plan and purpose for your life. His signs are all around. May we have eyes to see and ears to hear Him calling. You’re going to make it. Don’t give up! Get back on course. Here’s your sign, ONE WAY. You can do all things through Him!

 

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

John 14:6~Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Deut. 31:6~Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Jer.29:11~For I know the plans I have for you,โ€ declares the Lord, โ€œplans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

What Ifs…

Hope was teetering on the edge and the cliff was steep. I feared if I lost my grip, it would never be regained. My heart clung to hope….

It had been 3 weeks since my body rebelled against my will. One evening I was leading a high intensity Zumba class and the next day my body felt as though there was an elephant on my back. Movements were heavy and labored. My head felt to heavy for my neck to support, forcing me to prop it up with pillows while sitting on the couch. There was strange tingling in my arms and up my neck, along with unmanageable exhaustion. For the first few days, I convinced myself I must have been exposed to a strange virus, but days grew into a week and beyond. By week two my doctor tried to diagnose me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome….but my gut said no. (This time my stubbornness paid off and I insisted on testing.)

Resisting an “easy” diagnosis, I was sent to a neurologist, a cardiologist, an ENT specialist, a physical therapist, had a multitude of blood tests done, CT scans with dye and without, and an MRI…yet, nothing was found. It was baffling. The “What If’s” became a lion trying to chase me off of my emotional cliff. What if….I don’t get better? What if….I can never care for my family again? What if…there is something REALLY wrong with me? What if…I can never sing or dance again? What if….I become a burden to family and friends? “What ifs” seem to come in bulk supply.

As I lay motionless in the tube, listening to the loud clanking and hammering of the MRI machine, I forced myself to take my “what ifs” to Jesus in prayer. Without making a sound or moving a muscle, I laid it all out before the Lord. My fear, my anguish, my lack of control, every worry, all of it. Almost immediately, song lyrics from “The Heart of Worship” filled my mind, overpowering the machine:

“When the music fades and all is stripped away and I simply come. Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart. I’ll bring you more than a song for a song in itself is not what you have required. You search much deeper within….your looking into my heart. I’m coming back to the heart of worship and its all about You, it’s ALL about you Jesus”.

Suddenly, I was worshipping, without spoken words, or motion, but with all my heart. It was a powerful worship experience. I felt as if I had exposed all my inadequacies and brokenness to the Lord and I could almost hear Him say, “it’s never been about what you can do for me. Your heart is all I’ve ever wanted.” To be so fully known and so completely loved quenched my fears and slayed my “what ifs”. The truth was if I could never help another person, sing another song, dance another dance, or even move a muscle, He loved me, period. I may have felt physically helpless, but I wasn’t hopeless. My hope was, and is in Him and He never lets go.

It would be several months before my body started to fully cooperate. The healing didn’t come all at once and to this day I have lingering effects of the injury they found. A tear was found in my cervical spine, which caused spinal fluid to leak onto my spinal chord, causing the bizarre symptoms. It forced me to make a couple minor lifestyle changes, but none of the major “what ifs” occurred. The bulk supply of worries was laid to rest.

Are you carrying a bulk supply of “what ifs” this week? Are you ruminating in fear and worry? Lay it all down at the cliffs edge and fall back into the arms of your loving Father. Life can take us to the edge of what we can handle on our own strength. We were never meant to be strong enough to carry it alone. Jesus is our ever present help in times of trouble. He came as the bridge to carry you across those “what ifs” and comfort you through the unknowns. You don’t have to know what tomorrow will bring, when you know the creator of tomorrow. He’s with you through the cliff hangers, the stormy seas, even in the claustrophobic hammering of an MRI machine. He can give you a peace that surpasses all understanding….all He wants is your heart.โค๏ธ He is with you…are you listening?

Phil.4:7~ And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 46:1~God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Psalm 19:14~May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Dive In

“We have no idea what God has planned for us just beyond our fear…”~ Patsy Claremont

Cue the Jaws music…I want to see a shark…no I don’t…yes I do…no I don’t…these were the thoughts swimming through my head as we snorkeled to the drop off. Randy was on a mission to help me achieve my goal, to swim with a shark. (Strange, I know.๐Ÿ˜†) Our stomaches scraped against the coral as we made our way over the reef and then….we experienced an underwater wonderland. It was whimsical. Supersize fish floated and swayed. Four large sea turtles swam by nearly colliding with us as we struggled against the current. The vast blue playground with brilliant colors, teaming life, filled my senses. It was both exhilarating and terrifying! We lasted only about 10 minutes before I succumbed to the grip of fear…the Jaws theme got to loud.๐Ÿ˜‰ But I wouldn’t trade those ten minutes for anything! We didn’t find any sharks that day, but in my pursuit to push beyond fear, I experienced the joy of new discovery.

Taking risks can lead to glorious adventures with Jesus. Every risk we’ve ever taken for God, has been preceded by great fear. It’s only in pushing past our fears that we experience the joy of new discovery and what it means to walk closely with Him. I don’t want to be restrained by fear! The beautiful thing is, fear has NO power over us unless we let it. Fear is an emotion, it doesn’t need to determine our actions. What’s keeping you from wading into the deep, taking those next steps into the unknown murky waters of life? It’s unnerving when we can’t see what lies ahead. Don’t forget, “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. (Heb.11:1) What fear is God challenging you to overcome? Dive in and discover all that He has in store for you. You can do ALL things through Him!!๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™Œ

Joshua 1:9~Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.โ€