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.

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Grow With The No

I’ve never liked the word ‘no’. It seems to carry a measure of negativity and disapproval. ‘Yes’ feels approving, positive, uplifting and welcoming. I’ve joked about being the “Yes Woman” at church, since it easily falls from my lips when asked questions. Being that I’m a Pastor’s wife and a worship leader, people often come to me with questions. What is particularly comical about this is I usually don’t know the answer to what is being asked, but I enjoy saying yes, and so I do.๐Ÿ˜‰

But, I’ve learned and am still learning, that ‘No’ can be a healthier, faith based, peace-filled answer. ‘No’ protects our time, guards our hearts and can be God honoring. Sometimes a no can be useful for setting boundaries with family and friends. This can be particularly helpful around the holidays, when we need to say no to over committing or risk being burnt out for what is most important, saying yes to Jesus call on our lives.

Jesus said no, a lot. No, it wasn’t His time yet. His family and closest friends anxiously anticipated the moment of truth; when His glory would be revealed. No, He wouldn’t use violence to overthrow the Roman Empire. His kingdom would be lead by love. No, He couldn’t stay with His disciples any longer, for He had a greater call on His life. He knew His purpose and nothing would stop it from coming to fruition. Jesus was not about bringing us happiness, but holiness.

This morning I was reading in Luke 12 and Jesus warns about division we will face while on this earth. Yuck, I don’t like division. I much prefer unity, where everyone gets along, works together, and plays nice. Why can’t we all just get along, like an episode of Friends; where every issue is resolved in a 30 minute TV show? Jesus answers this simply, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? NO, I tell you, but division”. What? Another no? I thought Jesus is the Prince of Peace? Well yes, He is, but the peace He offers is internal, not always external.

Jesus comes into our hearts, when invited, and offers peace when there is chaos swirling around us in our lives. We don’t get to live in a perpetual Disneyland, where we live happily ever after all the time, but we can tap into the Prince of Peace, when everything and everyone around us seems out of whack. He is our peace that surpasses understanding, when the trials we face are anything but peace-filled. But experiencing His peace often starts with a NO.

No, we won’t always have peace in our relationships with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, if we are saying YES to Jesus. The very nature of following Him will lead us through troubled waters. It requires laying down our lives for His purpose and plans…that is going to rub people in your life like sand paper. Often, friends and family won’t even know why our faith annoys them, but it will. It’s going to cause friction and some pain; maybe a lot of pain. Don’t lose heart my friends, that sand paper is going to refine you into a finely crafted masterpiece for Jesus. How lovely and exquisite you will be to your Heavenly Father as He watches you persevere through the trials you face. He won’t just be a casual observer; He will be with you, carrying you when necessary.

Has God told you ‘no’ recently? You want peace in a relationship and He’s saying no. He’s doing a work in you and/or in them and you just can’t see it yet. Hold onto Jesus and trust Him to get you through the unknown. No, you can’t have that promotion or job, because God’s got grander plans for you. No, you won’t have the physical healing you desire, but He will give you spiritual strength and passion that will inspire many people to follow Jesus; making you a redwood tree among a field of ferns. Ferns are pretty, but they can’t withstand drought and they will never grow tall; there is no distinguishing between them. You’re going to stand out. Think of the remarkable view you will have, stretching to new heights, as you experience growth like that. The pain of the no will be worth it with immeasurable growth as you press into Jesus.

No, don’t settle for less than His best, not in relationships, not in your work, not in your heart, not in your life! Don’t lose heart with the ‘No’s’. Thank Him for what He is doing through the No….He’s got great plans! God is preparing you for what is right around the corner from that no. Grow with the no. You can do all things through Him!

Luke 12:51~”Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? NO, I tell you, but division”.
John 16:33~33ย โ€œI 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.โ€
Jer.29:11~For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Crazy Cushions

The waiting and wondering can rob our joy of oxygen. When our thoughts are in constant motion of playing out scenarios of which we have little control, it can leave us feeling drained. We change NOTHING by worrying, but worry can be an assertive invader.
It was such an incidental moment, but it struck me funny, and the laughter couldn’t be controlled. Yesterday, Randy was sitting on the couch, scrolling through his phone, when he accidentally dropped it, fitting perfectly between the cushion and arm rest. He tried to reach it but after several failed attempts he asked me to reach in and grab the phone, knowing my arms would fit. However, not even my long, skinny arms could free it. The phone was wedged. We were forced to remove all the cushions and pull out the sleeper sofa. Finally, after much effort and maneuvering, I was able to free the phone. We both commented on what a big ordeal it turned out to be for something so simple. That was only the beginning.

Randy tried to put the sleeper sofa back together, only it wouldn’t work. The cushions refused to cooperate. ๐Ÿ˜‰ He tried various placement of the odd shaped cushions, but none worked. They wouldn’t lay flat and kept falling to the floor. He would rearrange, stand back and realize, it still wasn’t right! It became amusing to watch him juggling pillows and cushions. To see them falling again and again nudged my funny bone. The more they fell, the more I laughed. Not just laughed, but side-splitting, breathless, squealing kind of laughter, that can’t me managed. Fortunately, my hubby has a good sense of humor and he enjoys my random outbursts. My laughter was contagious and before we knew it, we were both laughing hysterically, all because of some crazy cushions.๐Ÿ˜‰

To be clear, I wasn’t laughing at him, just the ridiculousness of the entire scene. Trust me, you would have laughed too. ๐Ÿ˜† Once the laughter slowed, it dawned on me that we were no longer fretting over the stress of the day. Our day had been preoccupied with concern and worry, but laughter had quieted the nervous tension. Now we were enjoying the moment…even the stubborn cushions. ๐Ÿ˜†

Laughter is such a gift. It’s a stress reliever like no other. It changes moods, relaxes tension, clears flooded minds and is like a breath of fresh air to an overwhelmed heart.

I’m quite certain that part of God working all things to the good is in moments like the wedged phone. We got to choose how we would respond to the inconvenience, and we chose laughter. What a gift we got to open.

Do you feel worn down, stressed out, and overwhelmed? Sometimes we can take life so seriously and it feels like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, but it isn’t! God has already overcome. We can rest in that fact. ย Our emotions can respond in direct opposition to that truth, as we let them run wild in cirlces. ย Take your thoughts captive, so they won’t steal your life away. ย We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow….or even today, so why waste it on worry? ย Eternity with Jesus is our guarantee.

When you start to feel weighed down by life, PRAY. Pray for perspective and ask God to take your burden and give you moments of relief, then look for gifts of laughter. Open them up and share it with others. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. You can do ALL things through Him!

Proverbs31:25~She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Luke 12:25~Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?
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.

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.

Hiccups & Sneezes

Hiccup, sneeze, hiccup, sneeze…this went on for the next 20 minutes. What is it about my husband getting the hiccups that makes me erupt with laughter? It only happens about once a year, but it’s like a special birthday present when it happens.๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ˜† The combo of hiccups and sneezes was more than I could handle. My sides ached and I couldn’t breathe from laughing so hard. Being desperate for relief from his current situation, he pulled into a McDonalds drive thru to order a drink, in hopes it would cause the hiccups to cease. Here’s where things got interesting…neither one of us could talk, I mean ZERO words could be enunciated between gasps of laughter, breathless, belly aching tremors, where no sound could escape. You can imagine the frustration for the person taking our order.๐Ÿ˜ณ What proceeded was such silliness that it still makes us laugh today. We kept trying to answer her question, but inevitably Randy would hiccup or sneeze, and it all started over again. We genuinely felt bad for the woman on the intercom, who was becoming increasingly frustrated, but we felt powerless by the laughter. It couldn’t be stopped!๐Ÿ˜† At some point he was able to recover just enough to respond with his drink order, but I was hopeless. I’m sure I looked a mess when we got to the window…more like I’d been crying than laughing, face red, still shaking with tremors as I painfully tried to stifle giggles. I felt so juvenile. I mean seriously, get it together! But, you know what? It was such a gift. I’m pretty sure God nudged our funny bones and allowed us to find humor that we were desperately needing.

It had been a tough season of ministry. We were hurting, but only us and God knew the full extent of our pain. Our times together had become problem solving, venting our frustrations, and praying for wisdom…it was quite dreary and way to serious. Joy seemed to elude us most days. We had just arrived in Florida for a conference and were hoping God would renew and restore us while there. God knows what we need, so in His divine wisdom he gave Randy hiccups AND sneezes that evening…a recipe for relief. (Well, it’s not for everyone, but it was for us.๐Ÿ˜‰) The atmosphere felt a lot lighter that night. We even began joking about some of the hard stuff we were dealing with. It was glorious relief in the midst of our desert season of drought and pain. It didn’t change our circumstances, but it was a reminder to not take everything so seriously. The weight of the world doesn’t rest on our shoulders. We laid our weights down that night and picked up His joy. It’s lighter and gives us the strength to press on.

Don’t miss the moment by fretting and fuming over what can’t be solved in the immediate. Pray. Start by thanking God for the myriad of blessings in your life…to numerous to count. Ask Him for wisdom, His perspective, and to meet your needs. Then, embrace the moment. Find the funny. It might cause a belly ache, but it soothes heart aches.

Is your life feeling a little dreary right now, maybe way to serious, burdened by the weight of the world? Lay your weights at His feet and trust Him to carry them. You don’t have to have it all figured out right in this moment, or even tomorrow…or next week! God sees the beginning and the end. He’s already got it all figured out. Pour out your pain to Jesus and ask Him to help you choose joy today. I’m praying He will nudge your funny bone. ๐Ÿ˜‰ You can do all things through Him!

Proverbs 31:35~She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Neh.8:10~This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Phil.4:6~Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Waiting

Seven.long.years. The struggles of infertility are agonizing. Those dreaded single pink lines when you’ve prayed ceaselessly for that extra line. Each time dreams felt shattered by the disappointment. I remember sinking into a rhythm of going to work, coming home, eating dinner with Randy, and then praying /crying in a corner of our house as I listened to “Be Still and Know” by Steven Curtiss Chapman. That cassette (yes I’m that old), was worn out. It seemed as though a heavy darkness was suffocating me. No joy, no peace, just pain…and silence.

While there is definitely a time to be still, I believe God had other instructions for me, if only I would have had ears to hear! If I could go back to that fearful, hopeless self, I would say, “This is the day the Lord has made. GET UP, rejoice, and be glad in it!” To many days were lost and I couldn’t see the blessings all around me. (You can imagine how much fun it was to be married to me๐Ÿ˜ณ). While we live and breathe on this earth God has great things in store for us! So, if you’re overwhelmed with grief and sadness, be still and know He’s God. Cry out your hopes and dreams…but then, GET UP and rejoice in the life you’ve been given!

Psalm 30:5~Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Psalm 118:24~This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!

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.”