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.

Good Endings

I love a good book, especially if it ends well. When I get swept up in the words of a novel, it seems I can hardly wait to find out how it will end, and yet, I hasten to finish it. I mean, when it’s over…it’s over! I can re-read it, but it’s not the same, since I already know the ending. There’s a bit of a let down when finishing a book that has captured my heart. I guess I’ve always struggled with endings. It’s a love/hate relationship.
We are nearing the end of a chapter in our lives this week. Well, it’s more like finishing a book in a volume of books. It’s our last week pastoring a church my husband and I planted eight years ago. I remember the day we moved to the city of Modesto so clearly. Sometimes it seems like yesterday, but it hasn’t always felt that way.
My initial feelings towards Modesto were, ummm….less than thrilling. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ๐Ÿ˜‰Yet, I knew we were called and I’ve always desired obedience to the Lord. We came to this city excited about what God might do, and terrified about what on earth we were getting ourselves into. We didn’t know a single soul here and we had benchmarks to meet in order to meet our basic necessities. My husband and I agreed we would hold it all with an open hand and trust God to bless it. If things didn’t work out, no shame in that, we would just pack it up and move on. So, we pressed on, seeking Him, meandering through this unknown journey, getting glimpses of God, as He revealed the story of this exhilarating chapter. (“Terrifying chapter” would better describe how I used to feel, but now as I look back at those early pages I see them more as an adventure ride. I’m so glad we hopped on and didn’t let fear hold us back!๐Ÿ˜„) Honestly, that first year, was harder than I ever could have imagined and also more thrilling than I can explain in a few sentences. To trust God weekly for His basic provision, was a nail biter, but my faith grew immeasurably as I witnessed miracles from living a life surrendered to Him, even when it hurts.

We cashed out 401k’s, sold one of our two cars, prayed tirelessly, reached out to every stranger, cried a lot (at least I did), adjusted to quiet holidays where the only people at the dinner table were the same people we saw every day….our party of five. Those were some lonely days. I eagerly anticipated the next chapter in those early pages, even praying that God would bring us back home, but God is infinitely smarter than I am and when we allow Him, He writes the most beautiful stories through the challenges of our lives. He’s a far better story teller than I could ever hope to be and so it’s best to let the author of life create our stories.

Over time God brought people to The Well that loved us like family. We saw many surrender their lives wholeheartedly to Jesus; an experience that makes the whole journey worth the pain. Life became full of meaning and loneliness subsided. God faithfully filled this chapter with people that will forever be in our hearts. We grew in numbers at the church, but more importantly, we grew in Jesus. Each milestone was so miraculous, we couldn’t possibly take the credit. Christ alone is the Cornerstone. The church became a beacon of light in our community, drawing people in need of hope and healing. While we are still far from perfect, grace abounds at The Well….most of the time. (There is no perfect. Thank goodness, or they wouldn’t let me attend.)๐Ÿ˜‰

This story has unfolded rapidly as I’ve watched our kids grow and thrive, both at church and at school. We’ve experienced the blessing of baptizing two of our kids at The Well, and all three of our children asked Jesus into their hearts during this chapter of life. Kids have a way of making time move at the speed of light. If only I could freeze time….sort of like you can when you put a good book down, forcing the ending to wait a little longer.

It’s Saturday night. Tomorrow morning will be the last time I wake up early to drive to that cute little church on the edge of town. It figures that tomorrow is “Spring forward”…if you know me, you know I’m allergic to mornings.๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿคง I usually dread when we lose an hour of sleep! Yet, it feels completely appropriate on our last Sunday at The Well. God’s going to catapult us all forward into our next chapters; no more dog earring those pages and saving them until later. It’s time to finish, so we can start anew.

Here’s what I know for sure; He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It won’t be easy, but it will be faith building, hope filled, and soul refining. God will do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine and the pages of our lives will be rich in His stories of grace, healing, restorative power and above all, His love.โค๏ธ
I can’t wait to read the beginning of the next book in the volume of our lives, but first, I will savor the ending of this one. I love a good ending.๐Ÿ™โค๏ธ๐Ÿ™Œ

Phil.1:3-11~3I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in Godโ€™s grace with me. 8God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christโ€”to the glory and praise of God.

Miracles and Madness

(This post was written last Sunday. I contemplated about whether or not I should share it, as it was more for myself, but felt lead to share it. Enjoy my Mommy madness.๐Ÿ˜‰)ย 

Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush; it can color any situation.” -Barbara Johnson

I’m feeling a little bluish today…with a shade of grey, and a swirling bunch of colors that start to look like a muddled mess. The kind of mess that happens when we mix to many colors at once and they become this ugly blob of brown/grey. Yes, it’s been a rough week. I listened to my husband preach today about what to do when having a “bad day” and honestly my insides were pouty and I had an overwhelming urge to stick out my tongue at him or roll my eyes, like a temperamental toddler. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚ Either that or burst into tears. My feelings are a little erratic this week, to say the least. Don’t worry, I resisted the urge, though no one would have seen me since I sit in the front row at church. Oh so tempting!

Moments like that reveal the condition of the canvas of my heart and mind. This heart and mind of mine is….well….tired.

It’s been a week of miracles and madness as I had to tend to my 3 sick children, a home I had to prepare for viewing to about 20 prospective tenants, a house in escrow with a mountain of paperwork and details to attend to, as we prepare,emotionally, for a big move…not to mention, meals to make, kids to tote around to doctors, school, sports, laundry, dishes…you know, Mom stuff. Add to that my own allergies, congestion and asthma; keeping me awake at night. I felt like I was managing the madness fairly well, but this week Momma slipped into overdrive and nearly burned out my internal engine.

I felt forced into overdrive as our youngest daughter had an allergic reaction to something. ย  We thought it was due to the antibiotic she was taking for her bronchitis, but now aren’t sure. She had hives ev-er-y-where. I’ve never seen such a rapid transformation to skin, but it was quick and awful, causing swelling over her ENTIRE body, hands, feet, cheeks, tummy…you name it, she was covered from head to toe. She saw the doctor three times last week and I called Kaiser so many times that I likely exasperated the nurses. When Benadryl, Zyrtec, ice packs, and cool showers don’t work…there’s just not much more to try. (Except showering in Cortisone, which I knew was not a good idea). I truly felt at the end of my rope last night when those pesky lumps, bumps, stinging red welts rose up once again. It was 10:00pm and I was already tapped out, but Mom’s don’t go down without a fight when their kids are sick, and so the war against hives ensued.

I’d love to tell you my attitude was steadfast in the Lord, but yesterday it was more like stomping my feet internally and demanding He fix my kid. I vasilated between tantrums and despair, wanting to raise my white flag of surrender and crawl back into bed. Yes, Pastor’s wives have temper tantrums…at least this one does, on occasion.๐Ÿ˜‰

On Thursday I soared with gratitude from Him answering my prayer and completely healing my daughter of all her stinging itchies, (It really was a miraculous healing, at least for that evening), and yesterday I sank to the depths of despair when those irritating welts returned, feeling helpless that I couldn’t help her. It’s a good thing faith isn’t feeling based!

So, I want to re-paint my attitude today, right now, and maybe help you re-paint yours. Miracles abound in each day, but I have to choose to see them as I reflect on God’s goodness. Here’s what I see today….God is good. He answered my prayers this week when Ashlyn was at her worst. God is good. We opened our bible while she was transforming into a swollen, red lobster right before my eyes and we read scripture together, reassuring us that God works all things for the good. (Can you believe her Jesus Calling devotional was about “Embracing Your Problems”? Ash and I had a good laugh about that last night. How do you embrace hives?๐Ÿ˜‚) God is good. We stayed up late into the night sharing stories and my introverted daughter talked my ear off. God is good. We got the hives under control about 1am this morning.๐Ÿ™Œ God is good. She woke up this morning without a single hive or bump. God is good. We went to church and had people hug on us and shower us in love. God is good. My husband came home earlier than usual to bring us lunch. (Pasta and bread…be still my beating heart!โค๏ธ๐Ÿžโค๏ธ). God is good. My kids are quietly watching a movie they ALL agreed upon…that is a miracle in itself!!๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜œ

God is so very good, in the miracles and in the madness. Some of His best work is done in the madness of our souls. He is good when people and circumstances aren’t. Even if Ashlyn had continued to have hives, He would still be good. He never changes and He sustains us, empowers us, and loves us, no matter how blue we feel or how out of balance our lives get. He helps us find balance, even amidst the storms, if we reach out to Him.

Each reminder of God’s goodness is like a stroke of brighter colors on the canvas of our hearts and minds. He’s adding brighter colors to my attitude today…hues of red, orange and yellow, that of a sunset. ๐ŸŒ… There is nothing quite like a sunset, especially by the blue of the ocean. It’s brilliant, calming, and peaceful; just like Jesus. I love how God takes my blue blobby mess and shapes it into something beautiful….but I must have eyes to see His creative masterpiece.

What’s your attitude painting today? Try giving Him the paint brush and ask Him to color your heart and mind with His goodness. We choose what we allow our minds to ruminate on. ย Think about His goodness. He makes all things beautiful in His time and in His way. We can do all things through Him!

Romans 8:28~And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 5:3-4~Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Phil.4:8~Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
Psalm 150:6~Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

A Little Faith…

“God does not require you to have great faith. You simply are to have faith in a great God.” – Bill Bright

Sept 10, 2001.(The night before our nations tragedy) Sleep escaped me. My heart ached as I prayed and cried out to God, seeking direction, though I knew what He was asking of me. He required that I stop all fertility treatments. There was no audible voice, but His presence was overwhelming as I prayed. In the morning I would tell the doctor (my 3rd fertility specialist) that we wouldn’t pursue further treatment. Her response was a tender one as she urged us to reconsider. Wouldn’t I always wonder if one more try would result in my “dream come true”? With faith that felt significantly smaller than a mustard seed I meekly told her, my God is bigger than medicine and I was putting my trust in Him alone. She hugged me and said she would call me in 6 months with phone numbers of adoption agencies, certain that pregnancy without intervention was impossible for us. I cried much of the way home. To say my faith felt small, is an understatement. My decision was no longer about feelings, it was about knowing. I knew God had plans for my life and they were good plans, with or without a baby. But, I had to let go…..
The doctor called me 6 months later and I got to share the amazing news…God had answered our prayers! The impossible had happened. I was pregnant! She assumed I had gone to another specialist. No, God was my specialist and He got the glory! ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™โค๏ธ Don’t be afraid to trust God even when your faith feels microscopic. Your faith doesn’t have to be big in order to follow God. What is God asking you to change or let go of? You can do it! It only takes a little faith….

Matt.17:20~He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”