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As the sun rose on the first morning of this new year, in a quiet place, my heart held a word.
{Oh sweet Jesus, give me the words to share it as beautifully as you gave it.}

New years seem to highlight all we desire to change. We tend to seize the opportunity for a fresh start. And in the coming months, we struggle and strive (more often than not), often to no avail. We set out boldly, only to succumb to defeat. We crave clean-slates, second chances and fresh hope, but many times, end up deeper in despair.

Oh, it isn’t for lack of want.
No, sweet friend, I know too well the depth of desire for real change.

We desire the freedom to walk without the snares of life that seem to trip us up. We wrestle and wriggle and run from the places we struggle. It’s nothing new. We’ve been doing it for years. A good portion of us have already vowed that this is the year to lose the weight. Another portion of us have made the declaration of complete organization in the home. Still others speak words of resolution to stop using tobacco, overspending, to call mom more, yell at the kids less, and only eat out twice a month.

Most of us make it a couple of weeks, at best. Some of you may hammer it out…but few, very few of you are able to make a change on January 1st that sticks. So we spend the rest of the year in the rut we were in last year, and sometimes, the rut gets deeper and harder to get out of. But then, a new year comes…along with the feeling of hope. {I can do it this year. I can lose the weight. Be a better mom. Keep the laundry from spilling over the sides of the laundry basket, out the bathroom and into the hall…er, um, cough, cough…so I’ve heard that’s a struggle for some.}

And the cycle continues.

Oh, now don’t get me wrong. The desire for these things are real. We desperately want out of the ruts.
But in the middle of our desire for change, try as we may…we often fail.

Seems something is missing.
Something vital.

{Wholeness.}

We crave wholeness.
Wholeness is, at it’s root, freedom from strongholds.

Wholeness develops from a place of rest. Holy rest. Rest that comes from a ceasing of wrestling, wriggling and running (say that 3x’s fast!). Rest that comes from trusting that the One who allowed struggles and strongholds intends them for His glory AND your good.

{Psst…Sidebar: God doesn’t do something for His glory that isn’t for your good. What he allows, in His infinite wisdom may seem cruel, unjust or harsh, but is never, ever, random or without purpose. I believe that more than you know. One of the hardest, most painful seasons in our marriage was a miscarriage. I could weep over that little one now. I could not, for the life of me, understand WHY He would allow us to see a little life on a sonogram and then take it before we held it. Years later, after much time and healing, he has allowed countless conversations with younger women who are in the throes of similar pain. Will I hold that child in heaven someday? I fully believe, YES. And oh the joy that awaits me there! Do I understand now why that difficult season was allowed? To the best of my finite understanding, yes. All that to say, whatever it is that you are struggling with now is meant to bring Him glory AND good to you. I promise.}

Which brings me back to where we started.
New Year’s Resolutions.
Wholeness.

So, what if, instead of “resolutions”, we chose to focus on wholeness this year?
Where would we begin?

Jesus, sweet one.
Jesus.

Instead of loud proclamations and big words (Which I’ve been known to do on this silly blog..geez I’ve got a big mouth sometimes), what if we turned our attention to the only One who can really bring it about? Strongholds (anything that makes us feel overwhelmed, controlled or mastered) lose their power when we put Jesus in the middle. Take the WWR’s (wrestle/wriggle/run) places and put them at the foot of the Cross. A stronghold of fear doesn’t stand a chance in the face of the One who walked on water. A stronghold of self-control doesn’t stand a chance against the One who fasted 40 days and nights in the wilderness. The very same One who healed the blind man can heal you. The One that fed 5,000 can be trusted with your finances. It will take all the faith you have, but He won’t fail you.

If you choose to rest in Him and seek His wholeness this year, you won’t fail. I’m not implying that it won’t require active participation on your part, via prayer and studying the Word. But sister, I can tell you for certain that any area of your life you want to see changed forever must begin with Him. Oh dear one, as I would tell my own child – it is worth it! Giving up the reliance on ourselves to make changes and putting ourselves dab-smack at the foot of His holy robes will be the best, most rewarding change you could make! Sister in Christ, you are loved. He loves you more than you could possibly imagine. And He desires wholeness and freedom from strongholds for you. Trust Him with it, will you?

Ah yes, well, it is time for me to close….and, as always, I come to the end of a post the same way I do when it’s time to end a coffee-date with a friend. I’m awkward on a normal basis, so tying up the loose ends on a blog where I can’t see your face always leaves me a bit uncomfortable. Add in the retired school teacher in me, and I feel like I need to ramble on until I know for absolute sure you’ve got the message. So, to keep from more rambling, I leave you with a few homework questions. Nothing to turn in to me (grin), just things you might spend some time talking to the Lord about. I bet you will find the time quite worth it.

Blessings of wholeness and rest to you in this new year.
Much affection, Kristi

How are my New Year’s resolutions tied to my desire to be whole in You?
Where am I wrestling/wriggling/running?
What areas of my life do I need to give You control?
What portion of the Bible do you desire for me to study as we walk this year, Lord?
Would you give me a Bible verse to strengthen me?

Resolutions and Rest

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Aside

dead end alley

I heard Ne-No was a little hard on some of the Moms out there this week. Kids these days, I mean really. They will call you out, huh?!

{Truthfully, I’m still processing things about that post. It messed with me, even as I wrote it – mostly because I’m just as guilty as Ne-no’s mom – & I’m thankful the Lord opened my eyes to the issue. I hope you know it was just a creative way of expressing frustration with some parents using social media, without any consideration of the ones coming after us. It was not finger pointing toward anyone, and if anyone, a direct message to myself to really think before I put it out there. I feel a strong burden for protecting the younger generation, those who will never know life without social media.}

Speaking of the younger generation, can I just tell you what a delight it is to worship with and teach them each week at church? Good grief, they are such joy to me. I am continually amazed by their hearts for the Lord.

Yesterday was Sunday, simply a glorious first day of Autumn in our neck of the woods. As much as I love summer, and oh sister, do I love summer, I’m always thankful for that first crisp morning of fall.

Being Sunday, I taught those darling 4th & 5th graders during Sunday school time. I can tell you without a doubt, the Lord is raising up a mighty generation behind us. Those are some sharp cookies, people. They have a depth of understanding and a desire for His word that astounds me. The longer I teach these kids, the more I realize we need not underestimate this generation. They want the meat. They don’t just want the corny skits and coloring pages. These kids are facing challenges we did not face as young people. And I believe the Lord is equipping this generation with depth of insight to handle this broken world.

Ok, I digress.

So, yesterday I taught these (amazing) kids, and we were talking about having courage, and trusting God in the middle of a struggle. Referencing the passage from Numbers 13-14- Israel’s refusal to enter Canaan, the promised land – even though the Lord had told them with certainty it was theirs to possess. Although He had already told them it was theirs, they just had to go take it, they did not trust the Lord to really give it to them (they were afraid of the Canaanites, because they were bigger than the Israelites).

Wait a minute. Back up for a second, some of you may be lost…if you haven’t ever read this story…stop and do it now. Seriously, here’s the link. (We will wait for you. It is worth the five minutes, I promise, promise, promise!)

You back? Ok, good.

Do you know how many times I’ve been one of those stubborn Israelites, refusing to accept what God has promised in my life?

I spent too many years flailing. I hate that word, flailing. It just sounds weird when you say it out loud. And I wouldn’t use it, but it’s only appropriate in this case. I was that girl flailing around, drowning in two feet of water because I refused to stand up on the solid ground below my own feet.

Ever felt like that?

It’s a wonder John Lowe ever married me. Sister, I was some messed up when the Lord brought the two of us together. The Lord’s healing is whole, and complete, praise Jesus…but it took a long time for me to sense the healing work the Lord has done. I’m not proud of who I was, but I refuse to let the evil one shame me into thinking I’m not worthy of the forgiveness the Lord has mercifully given.  I love Luke 7:47, when Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven…”

Thank you, Jesus.

In our messedupness (yep, I just made up a word there), do we believe God for the courage to face challenges? Do we believe God for the power to heal our brokenness? Do we trust Him when He says our sins are forgiven?

I asked the kids yesterday, and I think it bears asking you today…In what area(s) of your life is the Lord asking you to trust Him right now? Do we trust the Lord to deliver that which He has already promised us?

I don’t know about you, but I trust Him more when I stop to remember the places He brought me out of. I heard a pastor say recently, “We would doubt less if we remembered more.”

Before we close, I’ve gotta share a place in scripture that reminds me of that quote…I don’t quote from The Message much, but I couldn’t resist how this particular passage reads….

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating. ~Colossians 1:13-14

Don’t you just love that?! I know, I know, you didn’t all come from physical dead-end alleys and dark dungeons (but you better believe there are some of us who did), yet there have been plenty of gut-wrenching, joy killing, life strangling issues He has rescued you and me from. Praise Jesus.

{Don’t even get me started on the “sins we were doomed to keep repeating.” That’ll just wreck my mascara totally, and I’ve gotta take Lucy the Wonderdog to the vet in a few minutes.}

Trust Him with whatever area of life you are needy, sister. He doesn’t mind needy. It’s where His glory shines the brightest.

He loves you so much.

~kristi

Dead End Alleys

Aside

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Dear Mom,

So, this may be a little awkward, but we’ve gotta talk.

Easy there…before you start jumping on the couch like Tom Cruise did on Oprah and hurt yourself…You’ve probably noticed I don’t talk to you much these days.

I don’t text you back, and I don’t call you enough. I know, I know, it “drives you crazy”. When we are together, I’m quiet. You always ask how my day was, but I don’t tell you (or better yet, I don’t tell you the truth).

See, Mom, here’s the deal.

I don’t trust you.

I know, that’s harsh.

{But I don’t.}

And I’m really not trying to be disrespectful here.

It’s just that I’ve realized that anything I tell you can (and most likely, will) end up on Facebook. Like the time I thought my English teacher was cute. Or when my stomach hurt, and you told 700 people you thought I was constipated.

Really?

Every time I share a picture with you, you filter the crap out of it and post it on “The Instagram” (why you add “The” to Instagram I’m still not sure).

And as if that isn’t bad enough, some of the kids at school started teasing me about the speech impediment I had as a child. How did they know about it?

Your blog.

Some punk found a link to it on your Facebook page and started reading the old blog entries…apparently you gave them a lot of material. They knew I sucked my thumb every night, even as a 4th grader, and I snuck into y’all’s bed when I got scared. Oh, and how about the time I wet my pants in 1st grade? I had even forgotten about that until they so kindly reminded me. Then there was the time I cried when I watched Finding Nemo. They had a field day with that one. They call me “Ne-no” in the locker room now (thanks to the speech impediment post).

There is no way it ever occurred to you that your blog posts would be read by adolescent kids on iPhones at a lunch table 10 years later.

But here we are. And now your sweet Ne-no’s whole childhood is lunch room fodder.

We discussed a word in Sunday school recently.

Discretion.

My teacher read the bible verse…

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. ~Proverbs 11:22

Mom, you are beautiful. I’ve always thought you were. I love that you take care of yourself, and that you dress like a lady. {Some of my friends’ moms dress like hookers. Please don’t go through some crisis and try that, ok? You’re cute like you are.}

But Mom, I’ve lost trust in you. I never know what you are going to share with other people.

Sometimes, I just want to be with you.

YOU.

Without the phone, the camera, The Instagram.

Moments just between you and me. Conversations that make me think. Memories not cheapened by “comments” and “likes”.

Do you think maybe we could get a cup of coffee and not tell everyone where we went? Could we laugh about a joke and not share it on Facebook? And sometimes, let’s take a selfie of you and me and…gasp!…just keep it to ourselves. Maybe you could set it as your home screen on your phone instead of your profile picture?

I need you in my life without feeling like I’m being exploited. I want to hear “I love you” from your mouth, not my Newsfeed. If you are proud of me, look me in the eyes and tell me. Don’t post some ridiculous sappy soliloquy and tag me in it. I need to be able to spill my day while you fix your amazing meatloaf and mashed potatoes without you posting a pic of the moment on The Instagram.

Have a little discretion, Mom.

I am learning how to navigate life by watching you. I need you to lead me with wisdom. And even when I roll my eyes, deep down, I want you to encourage me to live with integrity, draw healthy boundaries and teach me how to take care of myself. I want you to be a safe place I can come when I’m struggling, in the midst of figuring out who I am. I learn more from your quiet strength than any rant or blog post.

I love you Mom. Thanks for listening. And Mom, one more thing. I really meant the part about you being beautiful. The picture of the pig up at the top was Kristi’s idea, not mine.

Love, Ne-No

 

 

***Just a little creative writing this morning from the viewpoint of an adolescent (nothing I wrote was factual to my knowledge…any coincidences are just that.) Might we graciously consider our children before we post things on social media? Our words are public for all the world to see now, and in the future. -kristi

Dear Mom…

Aside

Hi guys!

I’m hopping on here for just a minute today. It’s been a little bit since I’ve posted, and I do hope your Thanksgiving was blessed. Ours was one I won’t forget for a long time.  It was different from our usual gathering, and has been something I’ve had to chew on. I love those we broke bread with. But this year, for a number of reasons, our table was smaller than usual. And, to just be blunt, I missed those who were not at the table. Family is something not to be taken lightly, y’all. Even though they drive us crazy sometimes. Grin.

So, with the absence of several faces from the table, I’ve been thinking about the dynamics of my family of origin. I’m not sure if anyone can relate, but our family is what one might call a bag of mixed nuts. Key word, nuts. Ha. We are so different, yet so similar…and frankly, there are times when we all want to simultaneously wring each other’s necks. Not mine of course…they all love me….ha! (Heaven don’t strike me now, I’m only kidding!) But in all seriousness, we come from some messed up lineage. And some really burdensome baggage. In an effort to be respectful, I won’t go into detail – but let’s just say, we’ve been putting the FUN in dyFUNction for years.

Then it all came together for me this morning. That darling, yellow-haired, 4-legged child of mine woke me up early. Dang I love that dog. Anyway, when I couldn’t go back to sleep, I turned on the coffee pot, and opened up the Word. Sometimes, it’s just good to sit a spell before the world starts spinning too fast.

I read the book of Jude this morning, and it really grabbed me. And not necessarily for the words. Jude tells us he is James’ brother….James….as in Jesus’ brother, James. Which would mean…he was Jesus’ brother also.

Huh.

We know James was Jesus’ bro. He was, by far, one of the greatest Jewish leaders after the Resurrection. But it is generally believed (by scholars much smarter than myself) that James didn’t accept Jesus as Messiah until after the Cross. And now here we have Jude.

Jude?

Nevermind that Mary must have had a mouthful trying to call those three in for dinner….”Jesus! James! Jude! Jenny! Jeremy! Jesse!” (Ok, I may have exaggerated a few extra names. You get my point.:) Don’t you know Mary had already been through enough? Angel visitations, virgin birth, running from a crazy king, hiding out in Egypt, and finally settling in at Nazareth to quietly (hopefully) raise a family and a few chickens. Then, 30 years later, after the dust has finally settled a little, and the ladies had quit talking about her (as much) at the local watering hole, Jesus’ ministry begins.

And here’s what got me thinking – I love that the Lord would allow a slice of Jesus’ earthly family to be included in the Holy Writ. And then I tried to imagine their family before the Cross.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it may have been strained.

Ya know, their oldest brother, the one who had been soooo perfect all his life, was suddenly garnering the attention of thousands. And performing miracles! What?! Put yourself in those younger kid’s sandals. They probably knew all about mom and dad’s strange beginning, but I just sense they didn’t have a grasp of what had reallllllly happened (I mean, would you?!). They weren’t there. And by the time they got to be adults, they just might have been tired of all the hoop-lah about JESUS. So it doesn’t surprise me that they couldn’t accept him during his time on Earth. They were fleshly, they were human. And they KNEW him. They knew his breath stunk when they woke up next to him on their mats. They saw him grow up. They knew he liked broccoli better than carrots. They. Knew. Him. Or they thought they did. And in their finite minds, there was no way that their stinky big brother was the Messiah.

Blessedly, Jude and James come around. They recognize, they bow. And to me, that’s one of the greatest proof’s of Christ’s deity. For the ones who knew him best, his family, to recognize him as Messiah. To come full circle to the Lord’s work here on earth.

Full circle.

Oh how I have prayed for that exact thing. To see a full circle come about in our family, that only Jesus could orchestrate.

I sat for a few minutes and wrapped all of this around this wee brain of mine. Our family has been through a difficult time lately. Not nearly as difficult as seeing my eldest brother being beaten and hung on a cross – but still, it’s been terribly strained.

I think the Lord allowed a glimpse of his family life to give us a little encouragement. Family can be hard, y’all. Some of you will not understand – you’ve got a tight knit, emotionally healthy, spiritually strong family. And for you, I implore you, fall face first before the Lord in thanksgiving. THAT, my dears, is a blessing from the throne.

And for those of you, like me, who have some baggage, some trials, some wounds, in the arena we call “family”, I give you this. I don’t know your story, I don’t know your exact hurt, but I am so sorry. There are wounds within my own life too profound, too intimate, to share in a public forum. Maybe yours are too. You too know the feeling of having the wind knocked out of your sails. And family hurts sting a little deeper than others, I think, because they are the ones who should love you the most.

I sat across the table from a family member for 2 1/2 hours this week, after a long period of separation. In His tender mercy, the Lord sat at the table with us. I believe it was because we both begged him to show up beforehand. And truthfully, it was hard to own up to my part of the problem. I am certain it was for her also. The flesh is a mean beast, for sure. But as the Lord would have it, we were able to talk. Honestly, and yet, fruitfully. We both admitted later, we wanted to puke on the way to meet each other. Grin. It was a time of reconciliation and forgiveness that has been needed for longer than I can remember. I’m still in awe of what the Lord did there. Forgiving those who have hurt you is not easy. In fact, wallowing in the bitterness can be easier at the time. And trust me (or just ask that darling husband of mine), I’ve wallowed. I’ve sulked, pouted, cried. But mark my words, choosing not to forgive someone will ultimately destroy you from the inside out.

Bitterness and joy can’t exist in the same place.

Wounds take time to heal properly. But the words, “I’m sorry” do more for the hurt than anything. If you owe someone those words, give them. They’re life-giving. If someone owes you those words, for lack of a better way to say it – be forgivable. In other words, don’t make it harder on them than it already is. Give them the grace they need to be able to put themselves out there. No one wants to apologize to the guy who will cram an “I told ya so” down their throats.

I took the liberty of imagining what the conversation with Jesus and his family looked like after the Resurrection. When the full circle moment came. The tenderness of what my mind’s eye holds is spectacular. I can almost feel the emotion James and Jude must have felt when their eyes were opened. There had to be hugs. Full frontal hugs,  (not those pseudo-manly bro slap/hugs) and whole-hearted, genuine slaps on the back. I just bet there were tears of joy, possibly mixed with a little regret of time lost. And I bet Jesus didn’t utter one sarcastic “I told ya so”.

Well, as it turns out, I’m just not short-winded. I don’t mean to be so chatty…it just happens. I must close. Lucy the Wonderdog has been giving me pleading looks of “TAKE ME FOR A WALK!” for 30 minutes now. So, you, get out there today. Ask the Lord for courage, extend a little more grace and mercy today. Especially to your family. Press in to the Lord, boldly ask for the full circle. Even if you can’t imagine it yet. It’s gonna be worth it.

Blessings,

kristi

Because we all need that full circle moment

Aside

“You’re different.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” I replied. As if that’s the first time I’ve ever been told that. Grin.

I sat in a meeting this morning, with a business associate I deeply respect. Topic of discussion: business strategy, financial goals, leveraging. On her end of the conversation were questions about how much, and how to get there. She asked about my goals, my objectives.

Good questions, no doubt.

Hard answers.

Let’s just say that I’m not a numbers kind of gal. I’m a “whatever the Lord puts in front of me” kinda gal. And that doesn’t merge easily into an Excel spreadsheet.

Recently, as I have transitioned from completely staying home with our children, into a somewhat part-time job as a realtor, I have begun to ask the question, “How much is enough?”

The world economy says more is better.

More money, more clothes, bigger house (I’ve got a front seat for that one), better car, designer furniture, bedding, housewares, jewelry…..I could go on and on. The world says to never be satisfied with where you are.

I feel dizzy just from typing the words.

Max Lucado, one of the great authors of our time, wrote a children’s book a few years ago (You are Mine, Crossway Books) about Wemmicks who collected boxes and balls…showing up one another with the more expensive, the more fancy…the more boxes and balls a Wemmick had, the better the other Wemmick’s thought he was. Pity was shown to those who couldn’t afford many boxes or balls. In the story, the main character Punchinello sells everything he has – his house, his bed – everything – so he can buy more boxes, more balls. In the end, he has more boxes and balls than he can carry – But he has given up everything to get them. The race up a mountain outside the Wemmick’s town punctuates the climax of the story, when Punchinello, full of boxes and balls, gets off track while running up the mountain, and winds up falling face first into the house of the Wemmick-maker.

Oh that we would all fall at the feet of the Maker.

Hear him whisper, “You are Mine, child.”

Tenderly, restore us.

Remind us.

It isn’t what you have. It isn’t how much. How big, how fancy.

It’s not worth it. It’s NOT worth it.

Repeat after me – IT’S NOT WORTH IT.

No matter what the world says.

We ended the meeting today on a good note. I enjoyed hearing my associate’s vision for the future. She is a beautiful woman, inside and out, with solid ideas for building a strong company.  She has the wisdom and grace to run the company. I am blessed by the giftings she has for business sense, and yet a strong connection for people, relationships. It was an honor as we spent the better part of an hour taking turns and talking through the growing pains of business. It’s a never-ending balancing act. No one really ever has it all together. And the more she listened, the more I believe she understood that my “business model” doesn’t exactly fit the world’s mold. And that’s ok.

I’m different.

Proverbs 16:8 “Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.”

Jeremiah 45:5 “As for you, do you seek great things for yourself?”

 
 

More. Different.