grace in the valleys

Hard sucks, right? We don’t generally want hard. Well… we don’t want a hard that we don’t choose. We like the hard of a challenge we like because we know what the outcome is, we know what we’re working for…. until it gets too hard. Until that expected outcome we’re toiling for doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.  We run from the hard we don’t choose. We hate hard. I hate hard. I hate hard that makes me cry or is too big for me or is embarrassing. Humiliation, defeat, and frustration aren’t fun for me so I shy away from it. I fear not knowing what is going to happen. Or, I did. I did until the outcomes of the absolute hardest things I’ve ever experienced were greater than I thought possible.

Hard still makes me squirm but there is so much goodness in leaning into the Lord and enduring a hard valley experience we didn’t choose and wouldn’t choose if we had the option.

So thankful that the Lord is teaching me that he is good to me and showing me in many ways just how good he is in this season of my life. I’m a big believer in following your heart and figuring it out later. Obviously, there is some wisdom in waiting and plans and being pragmatic and logical in decision making but when the Lord leads you to something, it’s important to just go with it and leave all of the details to him. Looking back over the last few years, the Lord has been preparing and equipping me for now. Between this blog (which is a total God thing) to starting/joining Plexus (another God thing) – timing is perfect. This blog has seen many a dark day but also some really amazing, nothing but God blessings that have helped and blessed so many people. Plexus came into my life at the perfect time. It’s brought some amazing friends into my life, strengthened other friendships, grown me in so many ways, and is helping to provide for my family. When I joined last year I had  no idea that I would need the income to provide. But, the Lord did. Obedience and just jumping in when I had no experience and wasn’t sure about so many things has been a huge blessing to me.

Running from hard things, remaining uncomfortable in your comfort zones, and being still when the Lord is stirring your heart to do is harder than just stepping out on faith. That first step is scary and it’s hard in the middle but when we keep our eyes on the Lord we can “walk on water”. We can endure the storm. We can do what he’s called us to do. Boldly. Confidently. Passionately.

There is grace in the valleys of life. There is truth and so much goodness as we are going through with the Lord. There are times we are placed in the valley simply because that experience is what will honor the Lord the most. Not because of a choice we made, but for the glory of the Lord. For our maturation. For the blessing of others. The faith that valleys create open your mind to the possibilities of what the Lord can do and allow you to dream big. To allow the Lord to be bigger than you, than your limited scope of what’s possible.

Right now, I’m learning how good God is to me. I’m seeing his faithfulness and the provisions he is making for me, how he has strategically planned things for my good. And, looking forward to what’s to come because it will be good, y’all. It’s going to be so good.

Y’all, lean into the Lord. Consider that what is being presented to you could be exactly what the Lord uses to bless you and others. Priscilla Shirer says that generally whatever is scariest and whatever it is she doesn’t want to do the most, is likely what she needs to do. Just know that the Lord will carry and/or walk with you through whatever hard and scary thing drops on your doorstep.

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abide

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
John 15:4-9
how sweet is this promise?
Melt ya agitation, soften your heart, make you smile sweet.
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So, we all know that the life has been kinda rough for a while…….  between the infertility, adoption, the birth of my sweet precious and pretty babes to my divorce… life has pretty much handed it to me. And, for whatever reason the Lord has so sweetly allowed me to walk through all of that graciously (per y’all. lol) and I definitely recognize how strong and put together I am. It’s all the Lord. There is no way I could maintain the level of put togetherness, calm, peace, joy, the coveted amount of happy that quietly seeped into my world…. every thing you see is the grace of God. My kids happy, healthy, and clean – the Lord. My hair combed – Jesus. My amazing family – Christ’s hands and feet. The fact that I haven’t lost my mind & am as resilient as I am……… Jeeeeeeeesus. All of everything that has been is straight up because Jesus loves me and keeps his promises.

But, things are still hard, right? So we question and we wonder and become frustrated because this and that is not happening… and without these things I can’t take care of whatever is on the list that day..or has been on the list because it still isn’t taken care. So, we mull and we pray and we cry (well, I do) and work ourselves up instead of choosing to just abide and rest.

17 months
The smile: Jesus’ love
The t-shirt: Be Still Clothing
The kids: God’s grace

So, I’m working to piece life together again and it’s demanding. And, I feel whittled down and incapable of carrying this insane weight another step. The weight of the loneliness of single parenting. The weight of single parenting. The weight of being the head of a household (because who really wants to do that? lol. And, it’s something I absolutely believe is not a woman’s place….  so it’s heavy.). The weight of providing, the weight of being everything to two little gorgeous people who need so much when I don’t feel like I have enough or am enough.

Honestly, tired of the constant conflict of the exhaustion/embarrassment/frustration with the downturn, yet so grateful/humbled/expectant because all of the goodness of what is. 

I’m not one to believe that the Lord puts you through tests until you learn your lesson as pass it. I’m more of the belief that yes, while our choices can keep us on a hamster wheel, it’s the Lord’s sovereignty that brings us to certain places in life. And, unfortunately that can sometimes bring us to difficult times, but it’s in abiding and obedience that we’re able to endure the process of becoming more like him. Annnnd, then there are the times (like in John 9) when hard things happen just so that people can see exactly what the Lord is capable of doing. 

The funny thing is the word abide has two meanings, one specifically communicating hardship… one meaning means to accept and act in accordance with (read: obey, observe, follow) and the other means to unable to tolerate (read: to take, endure, to withstand)….. In different translations in the Bible, abide is replaced with remain, which means to stay. to persist. to last. to endure. to exist. to keep.
I’m no theologian but they all sound about right.june 2016the morning after Plexus Convention in Las Vegas. In ya face. :) 

Throughout the Bible, the Lord commands us to abide, rest, trust, hope, believe, endure.
Because he knows he’ll ask us to endure hard things, he wants to remain.
He wants us to persist. to last. to stay connected to him.

Why?
So that we glorify him.
So that we bear fruit.
So that we prove to be his followers.

And, that’s enough.
But, because our Lord is so good and kind towards us, when we obey and abide. When we tough it out and endure, he gives us good gifts. The big stuff we ask for. The little stuff we think we can handle.
The things our hearts long for.

When we allow the Lord to reign and rule.
When we allow ourselves to continue to be created into who the Lord wants us to be.
When we fight the feelings and believe the truth.
When we rest in his arms and allow his peace to cover us.

We will bear his fruit. 
We will glorify our God.
Our lives will point to our Savior. 

And, that is what this is all about.

Not sure about the fruit the Lord will produce in my life…
I know that there are some great big things that I’ve laid at the Lord’s feet
and I know how impossible it is without the Lord.
Yet, I trust his plan and his timing.

And, I want you to, too.
No matter how hard or difficult things are, so much joy is coming.
So much joy is here right now!
Life is hard, but it doesn’t suck everyday.
Learn to lean into the Lord when it’s hard & enjoy when it’s good all  while abiding joyfully on both days. 

On the days you need to cry, because you’re a human and not a robot, do it. Get it all out.
Listen to sweet truth like this, sing off key if you can’t find the notes like I do,
and lay your heart all his feet. 

When you’re done, wipe your tears, thank the Lord for loving you and get on with your day…
abiding in his love. 
abiding in his word.
trusting our sweet Lord.

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what I’ve learned about being happy

It’s a choice.

Plain and simple. And, just like any other emotion, we can choose to be happy despite what is going on around us. It doesn’t have to be this false and surface level plaster-a-smile-on-your-face-and-act-like-you’re-not-dying-on-the-inside type behavior. There are times life just seems to turn on us, right? We may feel like none of the work we are doing is reaping the benefits we expected, our plans aren’t panning out the way we expect them to, or we cannot find our passport for anything in the world and it’s bugging the mess out of us. Sometimes, it feels that there are so many things that aren’t going “right”, that simply being unable to find that passport or your favorite pair of shorts is enough to make you lose all faith and hope in the Lord & what you believe in…. because nothing just seems to be working out right and you feel forgotten about.

One thing I know is that while you can’t control what goes on around you or the decisions of others, you can control how we respond to our feelings. That was the hardest lesson for me to learn because I couldn’t separate a feeling from an emotional responses/behaviors. I feel hurt, so my emotional response is to be angry. I feel afraid and when I’m scared I talk a lot, try to plan  control what is going on, and I do just about everything I can to figure out what is going on. There is nothing wrong with feeling our feelings, but if we’re going to have healthy relationships, raise emotionally stable children, and function well through  life’s ups and down, we have to literally get a grip.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Galatians 5:22

There is freedom in knowing that you can be hurt without acting out in anger or vengeance. That if you’re embarrassed about a slip up at work or something that happened in front of a large crowd, you can respond with humility. You can have joy and peace in the middle of chaos. It’s possible. We can control our responses to our emotions….. as we as adults work hard to teach our children.

Choosing to  be joyful, loving, peaceful, enduring, kind, just plain old nice, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled takes lots of practice…….. at training your mind to focus on the Lord instead of your issue/s. Life can be hard ….. sometimes it seems so very unfair, but if it weren’t for a sovereign God who sees us and everything we go through knowing what good is awaiting us, there would be no reason to continuing fixing our eyes on our Lord & enduring whatever it is on his strength. Living in a disposition of gratefulness for what we have been given would be silly, just as being frustrated for what is going wrong would be purposeless as well, right? The fact that there is a plan encourages us to continue hoping for what is coming, allows us to want to go through the tough stuff with a bit more tenacity because we know that ‘all things work together for good for those who love the Lord’.

Now what I didn’t say is that this is easy. it’s not. Especially if you feel hard like I do….. But, what a benefit it has been to me!! When you realize that the poor responses is equivalent to a toddler tantrum & how unnecessary the outbursts are, it pretty much shamed me into doing better at controlling my responses & encouraged me to communicate & focus on what I felt and managing that than controlling/fuming/crying over what someone had done to me. (Ain’t nobody got time for that.) But, I do have time to work on those fruits of the spirit and loving in spite of.

 Learning how to control your emotions while not stonewalling, hardening your heart and becoming cold, or bitter can take some effort and it also helps prevent that hardening, too. Helps you to take things a loss less personal.  Giving into your emotions and having negative responses is one allowing someone else to control you but also shows that you haven’t truly forgiven and your heart still hurts a bit ….. possibly mixed in with a little denial. lol. Not knowing what it is that causing you to feel like this or respond like that are huge tale tail signs of denial or just not taking time to really process your emotions.

Either way, choose. Choose to find healing. Choose to get help. Choose to live your best days and be content in every and any circumstance.

My next book purchase will be What to Say When You Talk to Yourself…. I’ve had to work really hard at positive self talk and reprogramming my mind to see the best in myself and not condemn what needs some improvement.

….it has all for my good and His glory.
There’s nothing to be mad about. Disappointed, yes.
Angry and bitter, no.

Life’s about choices….. and, I’m choosing happy.

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