March Madness: For When Your Life Feels Like a Buzzer-Beater (and You’re on the Losing Team)

 

NetSince the last time I posted:

~ My husband fell in our garage, severely spraining his ankle and breaking his foot

~ My mom-in-law was in a bad car accident fracturing her foot in six different places

~ I received emotionally distressing news related to my writing life

~ All three of my girls followed by Chris and me came down with chest colds that won’t go away

~ Two birthday parties for my little ones have been cancelled and rescheduled due to injuries and sickness

~ In addition to the cold I came down with a painful mastitis infection

~ Chris’s grandfather became seriously ill while traveling away from home

~ Our homeschooling schedule has been turned on its head

And yet…

~ There’s also this:

IMG_5648~ And this:

Blue Eye Belle~ And this:

Blue Moon Smile~ There’s the super-cool ice machine my husband’s business associate sent him to help with icing his foot

~ There’s medicine and immune boosters helping all of us heal

~ There’s a chance for me to grow as a writer and make my novel better

~ There’s our pastor friend who prayed over us

~ Family and friends who understand a change of plans and give us grace (times two)

~ A special guest speaker at my writing group and a wonderful evening with friends

~ Little girls that keep being golden despite their stuffy noses

~ Prayers for Grandpa and signs of improvement

IMG_5649~ The first glimpse of spring in Michigan

~ Supernatural pain relief for my mom-in-law after her recent surgery to repair her foot

~ My mom who has kept our clothes clean and our bellies full

They call this season March Madness and our March, so far, has been just that. We’ve been attacked emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It’s been one thing after another and at times my spirits have sunk pretty low.

But there’s also been a lot of good, a lot to celebrate and be thankful for. In the midst of the madness, in the midst of the storm, I’ve been reminded this week that we do have a choice.

~ We can choose to focus on the good or focus on the bad.

~ We can choose to keep our eyes on God or keep our eyes on all that’s going wrong.

~ We can choose to give our hearts away to Satan and his attacks or we can stand in the name of Jesus and fight to keep our hearts intact.

 Anyone can praise God when things are going great, when life is good and beautiful. I want to praise Him in the midst of the madness. As the popular lyrics of Matt Redman’s worship song says, “let me be singing when the evening comes…” * I want to be found signing at night regardless of the day.

My life, as of late, feels a bit like a buzzer-beater. It’s been fast! Dramatic! And crazy! And it feels like we keep coming up short, like we just keep losing. 

But with God nothing is ever lost. Anything and everything is always there, working together for good.

* 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin

For When It All Starts Coming Undone

Running ShoesA few weeks ago while shopping I heard Lady Antebellum’s country hit Run To You played throughout the store. I found myself singing along to this song I’ve always liked but never really thought about.

This world keeps spinning faster

Into a new disaster so I run to you

I run to you baby

And when it all starts coming undone

Baby you’re the only one I run to

I run to you” (Run To You chorus)

These words, this song, they made me think of Jesus. I love when a song does that.

I recently wrote a post about my struggle with anxiety and my compulsion for sugary treats and online shopping. After writing this post I realized it’s in times of stress and fatigue that these struggles become real to me.

Isn’t it always true? That you can turn up the heat and find out who and what you turn to.

I run to sugar and shopping.

I run to my husband.

I run to my friends.

But God? Jesus? I’m sad to say He’s not the first place go. In desperate moments of loss, hurt, or strife I cry to Him, of course I do. I beg Him for help, comfort, and rescue.

But in the day to day, in the worrisome hiccups and squabbles, it seems so much easier, so much more gratifying to pick up the phone and text my best friend. To eat a handful of M&Ms or buy those cute shoes.

But God wants more than my frantic pleas. He wants all of me, my whole heart. He wants me to run to Him when my kids are driving me crazy. When my husband and I can’t stop fighting. When I’m tired, discouraged, and stressed.

When this world spins fast and disaster strikes He wants to be my One, my Only.

So often in times of trouble we turn to the people and the things that can do nothing. All the while resisting the only One who can do anything and everything.

So what does running to Him look like? For me it looks like worship, and solace, and thanksgiving.

It’s a playlist of songs that take me right to the heart of His comfort, His favor, His love. It’s listening to this playlist while getting dressed or cooking dinner instead of other voices, other noise.

It’s prayers whispered in the heat of the moment. In those times I don’t feel like praying. It’s grabbing my prayer journal or taking a walk, a quiet moment just me and God.

It’s filling my heart with the good things He gives me. Scribbling down words of thanks, writing time, a cup of coffee with a good and godly friend. It’s treasure troves of scripture pinned throughout the house. A breath of fresh air from a book that inspires, a sticky-note glimpse of His truth.

And isn’t it also true? That any of these things can become idols, and any of our idols can become conduits of His love.

The difference is who and what we’re running too. 

When the heat turns up, turn to Him.

 Run to Him.

 Only Him.

 Just run.

Trading Thanksgiving for Thanks-living

Snow Tree

Happy “Snowvember” from Michigan!

From the cozy warmth of my living room I stared outside in amazement. November 18th and it was snowing. I mean really SNOWING!

Even as I write this I can hear a collective groan from my fellow Michiganders. But not me! As I sat and watched the season spit its first fat flakes, my heart pranced giddy.

I love the snow. I love the cold. I love the winters we get here in Michigan, full of icicles, mittens, rosy cheeks, roaring fires, and hot chocolate.

“The only reason you love the snow is because you don’t have to work in it like I do,” my husband said, already shivering to his core.

He has a point. I don’t have to work in the snow, as he does throughout the winter. On most days I don’t even have to leave our house if I don’t want to.

It’s true,” I said. “I live a privileged life.”

In the days that followed, as I remembered this conversation, the thought crossed my mind: When it comes to life in North America, by comparison, don’t we all live a privilege life?

Note: I did not say our lives are easy. Or comfortable. Or Pollyanna perfect.

Snow FlagBut when we look at our homes, our cars, our clothes, the food on our tables, and the water that runs through our pipes, what do we have to complain about?

Yet despite all I have been granted, I know I do an awful lot of complaining throughout my days. I may not complain about the snow but I still find my own list of annoyances to groan and gripe about.

I love the Thanksgiving holiday but there is one thing about this special day that irks me a little bit. The concept of thanksgiving is worthy of so much more than a single day. It’s more than grace around a table and the carving of a turkey. I love that our nation sets aside an entire day to celebrate our blessings and give thanks to God for all we have, but, really, shouldn’t thanksgiving be something we do each and every day and not just once a year?

I recently wrote a post about how we don’t have time to fight, but only time to love. I’m learning that the same is true of giving thanks. We haven’t been given this day, this time, this season, to complain it away, always wishing for something different, something more, (or less in the case of the snow.) Our days, this moment, this season is laden heavy with gifts, with blessings, and the only correct response is a heart, a tongue filled with thanks.

Snowy PumpkinBecause here’s the thing: All those things we complain about, the snow, the traffic, the annoying lady in line at the post office, were given to us, placed in our lives by the very hand of God. The same God that tells us throughout scripture to do everything without grumbling and complaining. The same God that tells us in ALL things give thanks.

Sweet friends, we don’t have time, or room, or reason in our lives to complain, only time to give thanks. Because what more is being thankful than saying “Yes,” to God? What more is being thankful than opening our hearts, our lives to him and all that he gives?

Thanksgiving can change a life. Thanksgiving can change everything.

Even in the snow. Even in the cold, and the hard, and all things harsh and biting, we can exchange our complaints for words of thanks. We can offer up our privileged lives with not just a day, a month, or a season but a lifetime of thanksgiving.

Won’t you join me?

What are you thankful for this day? In what ways can you replace complaints with thanks? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends. May it last a lifetime!

~ An updated post from the archives

Why We’re Never Too Far Gone

photo-2About a month ago my husband, Chris, and our daughter, Aletheia, went pear picking at my in-laws’ farm. Chris’ mom and dad have a beautiful pear tree in their front yard, and with Aletheia’s help, Chris managed to fill a Rubbermaid trashcan with hundreds of pears.

At first the pears were hard as rocks, but with the last warm days of fall, the pears began to soften. When the smell of ripened pear started to fill our garage, we knew it was time to roll up our sleeves and start canning.

My mom joined in the process, and for several hours on a perfect fall afternoon, we washed, peeled and canned the delicious fruit for use this fall and winter.

I wanted to peel, but Chris and my mom ganged up on me. Apparently, they informed me, I “lack skill with the blade,” and was therefore banished to the sink to rinse, wash and dry.

One by one I washed the pears and set them on a large wooden tray. At first it was easy work, but as I got deeper and deeper into the pail, more and more pears turned up spotted, molding, or altogether rotten.

I was able to salvage most of the pears by cutting away the spotted or moldy parts, but there were two or three, way down deep that were too far gone to save. I remember one in particular. Black with rot, it was soft, covered in mold and oozed with sticky juice. I didn’t want to touch it, let alone pick it up and throw it away. I avoided that one, rotten pear for as long as I could.

That’s when I realized, in a flash of truth, that this rotten pear was a picture of grace. Here, in rotten fruit: grace.

Scripture tells us that in comparison to God and His righteousness we are but filthy rags because of our sin. I looked at the pear and wondered, is this what my sin looks like to God? Rotten? Decrepit? Grotesque?

I mustered my courage and reached down deep for the pear. I grasped at the rottenness and thankfulness poured from my heart.

I am thankful that, unlike me, God is never afraid to touch the rotten spots he finds inside my heart. I am thankful that He is skilled with the blade. That He willingly stands over the sink, washing, cleansing, and cutting away the bruised and deeply rotten places where sin has left its mark. I am thankful that He sees something worth keeping and works to uncover that which is good.

With these thoughts in mind, I took one last look at the rotten pear. As I tossed it away, I realized that this too is a picture of grace: No matter how rotten or deep the sin, God never declares us too far gone.

~From the archives

10 Tips for Loving and Listing (and Giveaway)

Gifts GiveawayIn last week’s post I wrote about two books, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and Remember the Sweet Things by Ellen Greene, and how the practice of keeping lists has made a difference in my life and my marriage. (Recap Here)

After receiving all kinds of positive feedback I decided to follow-up with ten tips for keeping a list…AND a GIVEAWAY complete with everything you need to start a list(s) of your own. I hope you’ll enter to win (details below) and I hope you’ll be inspired.

The practice of loving and listing has changed my life forever. It is my hope and prayer that the same will be true for you.

10 Tips for Loving and Listing

No. 1: Focus on persistence instead of perfection

Let’s face it, no matter how intentional we aim to be life comes at us hard, and in the practice of loving and listing it’s easy to get distracted. The point isn’t perfection. The point is being persistent to keep the list going, to always start again, to not become discouraged when your rhythm gets broken. You will miss days. You will miss weeks. And that’s okay. Keep listing!

No. 2: It’s okay to start and stop…it’s not okay to quit

Similarly, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find that there are entire phases of life when your journal/list falls completely off the radar. And you know what? This is okay too. Again the point is not to stop. When a season flies by without any entries in your journal don’t give up. Cover it in grace and start again. Don’t try to fill in the time or season you missed. Start fresh and keep going.

No. 3: Leave your journal open or easily accessible

If your journal is where you can see it, it will be much easier to think about it throughout the day. Keeping mine on the corner of my dresser works well for me. As I pass by throughout the day I jot down lines when I have a minute or two. Keeping it handy also creates the opportunity for my husband to pick it up and read it. Doing this helps to keep both our hearts soft and engaged, our eyes open and focused on blessings.

No. 4: Keep notes on the go

When your journal isn’t available keep notes on the go. Stick a small notepad in your purse or use an app on your phone. Scribble down thoughts on your hand or put a dry erase board on your fridge to save your thoughts for later. As you’re able, add these notes to your journal.

No. 5: Make listing a family affair

The practice of loving and listing is a great habit to teach your kids and share with those you love. In our household we have a blessing tree. There are tons of ways to invite others into the fun of listing. Find a few that work for your family and see the difference it makes in your home.

No. 6: Include pictures and other keepsakes

No. 7: Use as a gift for a special occasion

Whenever a birthday or special occasion rolls around I love to fill cards for family and friends with a list of things I love about them or reasons why I’m thankful they’re in my life. Filling an entire journal for your spouse or a treasured love one is another way to create a meaningful gift. Be creative! Go crazy! There is no end to the joy this brings.

No. 8: Read and re-read your list

Periodically reading your list will both encourage you to keep it going and also remind you of special moments and blessings already recorded. Use it to ward off discouragement, doubt, depression, and division between you and your spouse.

No. 9: Record the mundane and seemingly insignificant

Sometimes thoughts come to mind that seem too trivial or insignificant to list but as your list grows you’ll find that these are the things that make your list worth keeping. These are the things that would otherwise go unnoticed, unremembered. Fill your list with the big and the small because life is lived in moments and all of them are worth noting.

No. 10: Record the good, the bad, and the ugly

No matter how much you practice the art of loving and listing there will always be things about life and about your spouse that hurt you, disappoint you, and drive you absolutely crazy. Make it a point to list these things too. Ann Voskamp calls this the ‘Beautiful Ugly.’ By giving thanks, by choosing to love even in the hard, the bad, the ugly, we are choosing grace. We’re choosing to keep our hearts wide open. This is profound. This is how a list starts to change a life.

Bottom Line: Marriage and joy are two things that are constantly under attack. Why not fight for them, protect them, anyway we can?

The books, the journals, the pages full are weapons in the battle. Fill up a journal and you just might find you’re filling up your life with lines of love and thanksgiving.

Sharper than any sword.

Included in this Giveaway:

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Remember the Sweet Things by Ellen Greene

~ PLUS ~

Two Journals to get you started

 

 

To enter, leave me a comment in the field below. The winner will be selected by random drawing and announced in next Wednesday’s post.

What are some things you love about your spouse?

What are you thankful for today?

What’s on your mind?

I’d love to hear from you…