Staring Down Instead of Looking Up

World events, politics, and Pokemon Go have been swirling around us the past couple of weeks, but our family has barely noticed. It’s hard to see life happening around you when you are fearfully intent on the ground.

We are in a season of loss — some deeply personal, some of it tangential. Accidents claiming promising lives too soon. Grieving spouses, parents, and children. Brave young friends battling fierce illness. Shoulders hunched and head down, we wait for the other shoe to drop.

We’ve been reminded in stunning fashion of life’s brevity and uncertainty.

The path we walk is like a loose, dry, gravel road. Every step feels unsure. Every movement unsteady. A careless step could send us skidding or take us down. A crack in the surface could cause the road’s foundation to crumble, and would we be able to stand?

Is more loss coming? Will it get closer to us? Could we survive similar devastation?

So in our fear, we stare down at the gravel beneath our feet and supervise every step. We question why things have happened. We doubt the impact of offering to help, somehow.

We pray and we hope against all hope that God hears our prayers. But we wonder why He didn’t send a miracle. And then we feel smaller – do our prayers even matter?

But left and right of that dusty road, God’s promises abound. Blooming flowers, evidence that life continues. Flowing streams and waterfalls, beauty given to us by a loving Creator. Powerful thunderstorms, showcasing His might.

Grace and peace for families, even when loved ones near their final breath. Kindness of strangers, reaching out to comfort the hurting and carry their load.

He is near. We are not alone.

The Bible contains much evidence of God’s love for His people — the most obvious being the gift of Jesus for mankind’s salvation. But there is more.

We are not saved and then He is done with us. Check! Done! We are saved and we become His. And He loves His children deeply and personally. Our day-to-day lives matter to Him, as do the joys and hurts we experience along the way.

When the Israelites were journeying through the wilderness under the leadership of Moses, God directed them to build the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle, not simply for His glory but so that He could dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8) He was already communicating with them through Moses, but now He would draw even nearer to them as they continued toward the promised land.

When Moses was aging (if that is what you’d call someone who is 120 years old), he announce Joshua as his successor. Joshua was taking over an arduous, daunting task, but Moses reminded him of God’s promise to stay with him and never depart — He will not leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:1-8)

This is a God that loves us. Personally. Deeply. In good times and in bad.

If you are hurting today, can I ask you to look up? To look around? Would you watch for signs of His presence?

You are not alone. He is near.

He Will Never Leave You copy

 

Advertisements

The Light Will Come

My grandfather suffered from macular degeneration, a condition that gradually deteriorated his retinas. Slowly worsening. Slowly dimming. Slowly distorting. His vision closing in over time.

My life can feel that way sometimes.

At first, I am feeling relaxed and free. I am connected to those I love. I know my purpose and I am confidently walking my path. Things are gliding along smoothly, until darkness begins to upset the balance.

Something as simple as reading the news or scrolling through posts and headlines in my social media feeds can impact my emotions for hours and even days.

That sunshiney space where I’m living begins to dim, overcast with the sin of the world and fear of what is to come. Tiny worries creep in from the periphery and my vision starts to cloud. Anxiety slowly closes in, my chest tightens, and things appear darker and darker. The weight of my worry can be crushing and I pray Jesus, come save us soon.

And then there is the inside out.

Sometimes my own mistakes and short-comings weigh on me, long after the action or word. My own sins, eating away at the good things God has granted me. My guilt and shame bleeding out, staining life’s treasures. I’m caught in despair and I pray please Lord Jesus, free me from my mess.

Please tell me you can relate.

My young daughter sometimes worries about heaven. She can’t imagine leaving the things precious to her in this earthly life. Our comfy home and her bright bedroom full of books. Her adoring grandparents and dear cousins. Her droopy but well-loved stuffed monkey.

And I get it. There is comfort and familiarity in this life we know. There are also soaring highs from the wonder and beauty of this world.

How lucky are we? How greatly God has blessed us with this world and all its beauty, light, and love. All this loveliness in a place that is nothing more than a stop on our journey.

So I understand her apprehension, but I am positioned toward a different vantage point – one offering a wider view. During my extra years on this earth, I’ve amassed a collection of experiences that happens to include more instances of hurt, brokenness, and pain. I’ve grown weary, watching as darkness obscures the light, and in some moments I can’t help but long for what is ahead.

God tells us though, that there is no cause for fear. Our present situations may feel dire, but rescue has already come. The world can seem scary, but He has overcome the world. The darkness can be suffocating and seem impenetrable, but He speaks light, and the darkness dissolves.

Just like that. Gone.

My heart finds peace knowing the light wins. God already conquered the darkness when He sent His son Jesus to free us from sin. The darkness we see is temporary and the light that is coming will be unlike anything we can imagine.

We can live in fear of the dark, or we can bravely raise our heads and lift our faces skyward, knowing the light will come.

TheLightWillCome_jpg

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”  Isaiah 60:1-3 NIV

Struggling with Enough

So let’s get something out of the way, shall we?

It is safe to write about food and travel. Most people love both.

Yet food and travel only make up somewhere between 28% and 53% of my life. (I am still finalizing the numbers.) So there is obviously more of me to share.

Yet, I have agonized, hesitated, and dreaded maintaining a more personal blog that is full of my actual thoughts. It is less likely that people will love those.

Publishing my own material means no one else has reviewed it. No one else has approved it. No one has validated me and told me that what I have to say is good enough or relatable to others.

I could put something out there that is poorly written! I could say something I’d later regret! I could write something not themed well to my other posts! In my world, these things are terrible!

Submitting my writing to others first and waiting for the subsequent head nod has been a cautious way for me to write.

And for a person who feels slightly uncomfortable when people praise me aloud in front of others, it turns out I need that affirmation to feel like I am enough. For a person who generally does what I want instead of always following the crowd, I do care what people think.

The first time I had an essay selected to be published on a blog with a large, established readership, my elation gave way to terror as my run date approached. I had written about my feelings and then been crazy enough to send them off for all the world to see. Certainly the editors had read the whole thing, right? They said it was fine, but now people would actually read it.

What if people I knew thought I was dramatic or weak? What if people I didn’t know quit reading after a sentence or two, finding the piece superficial or trite?

Instead of my worst fears being realized, though, something amazing happened. Women began commenting on the blog post, saying things like “me too” and “I needed to hear this.” I nearly cried. (I actually cried.)

I hadn’t intended to write for my own good, simply to air my feelings. I wanted to encourage. I wanted to offer the slight relief that kinship and hope can bring when the heart is hurting. That small breath that momentarily relaxes your whole body when you’re tense and feeling alone, and then suddenly you realize you are not alone. And for a couple of women, I had done just that.

This is my leap of faith. I am trusting that God can use me to say something of worth.

Blog_StrugglingWithEnough_JPG

“Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.” John 15:4 HCSB