Heaven Working Backwards, and Childlike Faith

She squeezes a delicate flower between chubby fingers, and with a beaming smile and a twinkle in her eye, she declares:

“Look, Mama! I got a flower for you!”

Nevermind that the flower has come from a plant we painstakingly placed in our flower bed on hands and knees over the weekend. Nevermind us watering, and tending to it with care.

She has found a gift, and she is proud to give it.

I tend to think my life, my work, and how I fill my days, are of the utmost importance. I can have a self-inflated view of the value of my work.

Everything inside of me doesn’t want to admit this, and wants to scream: No, you’re fine! You don’t have an overinflated view at all!

But when I consider the way I can get so terribly flustered with a long to-do list and a short amount of time, the way I can get frustrated with my own children because this homeschool lesson just has to be done or these chores just have to get finished… I see in myself the belief that these things really are – um, rather a big deal. To me.

When my daughter brought me a flower, and felt so proud of her efforts, bringing me something I planted and watered, I felt like I was seeing a glimpse of my life and efforts in light of the vast and incredible, eternal love of God. 

What can I offer the God who created everything? 

Only the joyful return of what He has given me.

But maybe I need reminding that this is all I can do – and maybe it’s a gift to recognize it in this way. 

If we become like children, then we see that whether we are the CEOs of Amazon or the street sweepers of small town America, humility will help us to see: it is all temporary. 

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis describes a dream which was a glimpse of Hell and of Heaven. And in the dream, to help him understand what he was seeing he met a favorite author of his, George Macdonald, who was already in heaven.

Lewis was struck by his struggle to understand how the life we now lead on Earth fits into the eternal. Macdonald explains to Lewis:

“Ye cannot in your present state understand eternity… But ye can get some likeness of it if ye say that both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. Not only this valley but all their earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved. Not only twilight in that town, but all their life on Earth too, will then be seen by the damed to have been Hell. This is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing Heaven, once attained will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say, ‘Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin.”

Yes – that was a lot to unpack and I hope you’ll come back and read it again. 

But consider the possibility! Once we have the perspective of eternity, when we are as we were created to be, in union with the Father and in heaven, we will know what we now only glimpse in a mirror dimly: 

This world was just a tiny glimpse, a flash in the pan, a speck in the curtain on the edge of the stage of eternity. 

The souls we touch with the time we have matter immensely. But we are children – and we ought not to think more highly of our efforts than we ought. 

We can only look for ways to bring beauty to our Father. We can only pluck flowers from His garden and joyfully deliver them to Him.

Perhaps becoming like a child will mean I take myself considerably less seriously… and take the words and the will of my Father considerably more.

As you face this day, this month, this hard place, this struggle, this hardship – hold onto the Truth that Heaven can work backward, and that someday even these dark-colored strands will be part of the beautiful tapestry the Father is weaving with your life.

Knowing this, you can give it all, friend. The hurt and the hope. The gifts and talents. The smiles and the grief. Everyone and everything. Give it all to God.

And when it’s all said and done, like a child, you’ll be able to say:

“Look, Father! I found this for You! I did this for You! I gave that cup of cold water, that gift, big or small, those years of service, that friendly smile, this flower I found in Your garden! It is all to You and for You!”

A New eBook For You! 

I JUST created a new resource to serve folks facing hard seasons of life, called It Won’t Feel Like This Forever: Brave Your Crisis With Wisdom and Faith. I’ve already had such lovely responses to it!

I’m praying these words will be a gift to many in dark places. If you’re walking a hard road right now, or you know someone who is, I’d love for you to grab this free ebook. It is mercifully short, but holds some hard-fought-for wisdom and practical advice in the form of 5 Simple Tips to help you find the Light in Dark Places. Click the link below and I’ll shoot it to your inbox lickety-split!

 

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for your love and support!

Lessons on the Soul From My Brother’s Dog

My brother has a big, handsome, rather laid-back dog. 

Duke’s been known to lie down in the middle of a busy Atlanta street, because, well, it was hot, he’d been walking for a while, and he just needed a quick breather.

My favorite of his nicknames, besides “Sir Duke of Buckhead” is Big Sleepy.

If you’ve ever watched an anxious human trying to take a not-so-hurried dog for a walk, you might be getting a decent picture of what our souls are feeling like these days.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a book called Get Your Life Back by John Eldredge. It is water to a weary soul – and offers help for those of us who are feeling frenzied but just can’t put our finger the reason.

One of the ideas that really struck me as I read this book was that the door of our souls opens from the inside. That Jesus stands at the door and knocks, and we choose (or don’t) to let him in. 

Maybe you’ve heard it said before: 

Everyone has about as much of God as they really want. 

God is available and eager to meet us where we are, to help us to find our way into the vine, abiding and in union with Him.

But perhaps a big part of our struggle is that we are forcing ourselves to run at such a hurried pace, we’re leaving our souls behind. 

We aren’t grieving when things hurt.
We aren’t processing situations that have impacted what we think or believe.
We aren’t listening to what our souls are saying about our lives.

Could this be why some people wake up one day and say, “I’m just not sure I believe anymore?” Because their soul was too-hurt-to-care six months ago – and they’ve just been numbly going through the motions, ignoring it all this time? 

Years ago, the Hero Hubs and I tried to adopt and live by a simple axiom:

Hurry hurts.

And, even now, I recognize that hurry is the default state my patterns and personality want to drive me toward. 

Can you relate? Do you:

+ Think about what else you can do with your time while you brush your teeth? 

+ Find yourself struggling to fully listen to someone in conversation without also looking at something else, or checking email, or eagerly planning what you will say next?

+ Constantly look for creative ways to multi-task and squeeze 26 hours of work out of a 24 hour day?

Dallas Willard wrote, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

And when I find in myself the urge to fuss at a child instead of processing a choice together, nine times out of ten, the clock is ticking for me. We need to leave in 20 minutes. Or I need to start dinner in half an hour. 

We have to get through this now, because this is the time I’ve allowed.

Now here’s a crazy thought:

What if God created a beautiful world like this, with a million shades of green and a new sky every morning, because He wanted us to enjoy it?

What if His plan is for us to do the work He created us to do, but also, to enjoy Him, in His creation? As the Westminster Catechism put it, what if our chief end really is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever?

What do you think, darling friend? Could your life use a change of pace? Does your soul need some time to taste and see that the Lord is good?

Does the idea of trying to answer that question fill you with dread because you don’t feel like you’ve got time for it? 

Bingo.

We have to take time, friends. The next Zoom call can wait. The world will keep on turning without you. 

But you cannot rightly discern what to do with this one precious life of yours, if you’re too busy spinning wheels to actually observe what you are doing with this one precious life of yours.

Take some time out, friend. And take it as soon as you can. 

Get outside. Slow down. Look at the sky. Remember what it feels like to rub your fingers along the veins of a leaf.

Go for a long walk. And while I don’t want you to lie down on any busy city streets, still, I’d say let’s all take it a little more like Duke. Don’t rush yourself into a frenzy to do the next, and next and next thing.

Live this moment to the fullest. And then you can move on to the next.

A New eBook For You! 

I JUST created a new resource to serve folks facing hard seasons of life, called It Won’t Feel Like This Forever: Brave Your Crisis With Wisdom and Faith. I’ve already had such lovely responses to it!

I’m praying these words will be a gift to many in dark places. If you’re walking a hard road right now, or you know someone who is, I’d love for you to grab this free ebook. It is mercifully short, but holds some hard-fought-for wisdom and practical advice in the form of 5 Simple Tips to help you find the Light in Dark Places. Click the link below and I’ll shoot it to your inbox lickety-split!

 

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for your love and support!

I See You. I See You. I See You.

I sat in the dealership with my hands crossed over the purse in my lap, willing myself not to burst into tears.

It was time to sell the boat.

When my Dad passed away, my first inheritance was a messy and complicated estate – mountains of work to do with no definitive records. It was nothing short of arduous.

He bought a boat when we moved back to North Carolina – so excited to take his first grandchild out on the river, so looking forward to taking the water-route down to the ocean for the weekend.

It wasn’t a particularly special vessel – but it represented all these hopes and moments cut short, and all the things that weren’t going to be, because he was gone.

I crossed my legs the other way, and a song came on the radio, and I knew I had to get out of there as quickly as I could.

Did you know Bono wrote a song about his Dad after he died

Being a U2 fan, I knew it well. Bono crooned over the radio:

“Listen to me now… I need to let you know…
You don’t have to go it alone….

And it’s you when I look in the mirror, 
And it’s you when I don’t pick up the phone…

Sometimes you can’t make it, on your own.”

Those lyrics wouldn’t have meant anything to the sales guy standing at the door, or the guy behind the desk – but they spoke to my soul.

That song on the radio, at that moment was a whisper from my Father in heaven: I see you.

Sometimes I think life gets so challenging, so frustrating, so hard we just need to be reminded God sees us. 

He really sees. And He really cares.

When Hagar ran away from Sarah, so rejected and filled with despair, her situation seemed completely hopeless. But God cared so much He sent an Angel to give her the courage to carry on.  

He let her know she was seen, and He let her know He had a plan.

If we can quiet our hearts a little, in our hardest places we can hear God’s whisper: You are seen, and I have a plan.

He may not tell us all that He has in mind. He may not tell us how He is going to bring about His promises. But He invites us to trust Him, to know that He is sovereign and good.

In the years that followed, I continued the journey of settling my Dad’s estate, and learned more about my inheritance in the kingdom of God, and the love of my Heavenly Father, than I ever could’ve imagined He would teach me in those hard days. 

What once felt like such a heavy, heavy burden, I look back on as a treasure, a gift.

Let’s keep carrying our burdens to Jesus, friends. Let’s accept that invitation we talked about to walk freely and lightly, knowing we are seen, and He has a plan.

At the moment it may seem so hard, and so heavy. But darling friend, you are seen. God is always in the business of taking suffering and sorrow, and transforming them into deep peace and great joy.

Keep walking with Him.

A New eBook For You! 

I JUST created a new resource to serve folks facing hard seasons of life, called It Won’t Feel Like This Forever: Brave Your Crisis With Wisdom and Faith. I’m praying these words will be a gift to many in dark places. If you’re walking through a hard road right now, or you know someone who is, I’d love for you to grab this free ebook. It is mercifully short, but holds some hard-fought-for wisdom and practical advice in the form of 5 Simple Tips to help you find the Light in Dark Places. Click the link below and I’ll shoot it to your inbox lickety-split!

 

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for your love and support!

Blake’s Story

What began as a typical Sunday afternoon at the swimming pool ended with our world turned upside down. Our eight-year-old, Blake, came to us with a headache that quickly escalated from “my head hurts” to our precious boy clutching the sides of his head and weeping, “I’m gonna die!” 

We rushed to the ER and doctors discovered a severe intracranial hemmorhage — Blake’s brain was full of blood. He was eventually diagnosed with an Arterioventricular Malformation, or AVM, for short. This tiny tangle of vessels had ruptured, causing significant bleeding which drained into his ventricles. 

In the days that followed, we held our breath as Blake underwent surgery to stop the bleeding, and then was placed in a medically-induced coma to allow the excess blood to slowly drain and the swelling to reduce. 

We’re a family of faith, and from the first moment in the ER, we began asking friends to pray for our boy to survive. Our community supported us so beautifully, and prayed so fervently for Blake. There were very, very discouraging diagnoses, and very dark nights of the soul, but after 23 days in the Pediatric ICU, Blake was discharged to Pediatric Inpatient Rehabilitation, where for another 25 days his healing journey continued as he re-learned to walk, talk, eat, and use his left side (among other things!) 

We were overwhelmingly blessed by the incredible care Blake received (and truly, our whole family received). We have never been through something so hard, and yet somehow felt so, so held.

I’ve been writing for over a decade, and writing became both a source of quiet and peace in the midst of our hardest season, and a way to share what we were going through with our friends and family (and eventually even strangers around the world) who joined in prayer for Blake. Every evening, I shared an update on what was happening during Blake’s hospital stay — except for one night where we received very, very difficult news, which we decided to share with our families first.

After that very dark night of the soul, we found joy in the morning, as Blake gave his first thumbs-up, and we began to see signs that there was the very real possibility he would be okay.

After the hardest 48 days of our lives, it was a joy like no other to drive home from the hospital with our son. We were given a gift we don’t deserve, and we will never stop being grateful.

 

We’re grateful to report that Blake is a happy, healthy, growing ten-year-old at present. While he has experienced some visual field loss as a result of the aneurism, his recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. He is living the life of a typical ten-year-old, and loves playing with his brother and sisters, reading goofy books, drawing, and laughing. A lot.

There is so much more of this story to tell — so many unexpected places where God showed up. An angel in the form of a nurse practitioner changed our lives forever, so many hospital staff members and friends carried us through this fiery trial — we look back and smile with so much gratitude at a special custodian kneeling by Blake’s bed to pray for him.

I’ve written a screenplay to tell the story because it truly does feel more like a movie than an actual story from everyday life. (If you’re a screenwriting agent, please get in touch!)

If you’d like more of the behind-the-scenes of our life while Blake was in the hospital, these blog posts will give you a taste of those hard days:

Faith Like a Ketchup Packet

How to Keep Your Eyes Above the Waves (Even in the ICU)

Piecing Together Who’s Behind the Curtain When Affliction is on the Stage

 

Dear friend, if you are experiencing a crisis of your own, I’d love to welcome you to click the button below to receive the ebook I created, It Won’t Feel Like this Forever,  to encourage you through your own hard place. We didn’t handle the fight of our lives perfectly, but we did learn a lot in the battle, and I’d love to share what we learned. I believe you’ll find a deep sense of hope and very practical help in this free book. Whatever story you’re living right now, I believe God can work it out for good, so hold tightly to Him, and stay in the story. It Won’t Feel Like this Forever.

Masks. Vaccines. Church. Opinions.

“I’m working in healthcare right now and people can be very mean and hateful.”

“I’m frustrated with my church.”

“My friend will not stop lashing out at me with her opinions because she doesn’t think I should be homeschooling.”

“After losing a loved one to COVID, I think she feels hurt personally that they’re not wearing masks. As if they don’t see what she has been through.”

“They decided not to get vaccinated and now I don’t know what to do. I’m so upset. I thought we were on the same page.”

“She said if we weren’t going to church but going to the grocery store right now we were telling our kids what’s really important. But people wear masks at the grocery store!”

Want to take a wild guess what all these statements have in common?

I received each of them. This week.

Welcome to the year of our Lord 2021. Where we are all stuck in a continual wheel of Catch-22s. We are hurting. We are tired. We are tense. And we are contentious

We cannot hold opinions that will satisfy everyone. 

Politics. Masks. Vaccines. Isolation and integration. 

Can somebody make the train stop… we all want to get off, right?

In his recent book, Get Your Life Back, John Eldredge offers practical tips for re-centering ourselves in Christ. With the constant barrage of notifications, social media and news flashes, combined with the ‘contentiousness’ of the hour we’re living in, I think these practices are NEEDED and worth exploring.

One helpful practice: a simple one minute pause. In those sixty seconds, we pray “Jesus, I give everyone and everything to you.” We continue praying until we feel we are truly giving things to God. We can name specific things, situations we are frustrated about, people we are worried about. 

In our cars, in our kitchens, in our own hearts, anywhere, we can re-center ourselves. 

This is a practice of benevolent detachment. We love. We care. But we cannot carry these burdens on our shoulders. We remind ourselves:

There is a God. He sees. We are all in His capable hands.

Along with reading Get Your Life Back and practicing the One-Minute Pause (there’s an app!) I’d like to add just a few recommendations that might help smooth out rough paths as you continue walking forward in these days of great turmoil.

I. Carefully consider whether your opinion is wanted in a particular situation.

This requires a great deal of humility. We highly value our own opinions because, well, they’re ours. But if they are not asked for, they sometimes do more harm than good. 

If you’re not sure, take a pause and check in with the Holy Spirit. Do you feel a sense of peace? Or do you feel like the words about to exit your mouth are “fighting words?” If your adrenaline is pumping and your blood pressure is racing, you are probably not speaking from a place of peace. 

Unless the building is on fire, maybe it’s not as urgent as it feels to speak up.

II. Practice Bringing People to Jesus.

We often have to remind ourselves that we cannot care about everything and everyone all the time. Only God can. Our world has just one Savior, and His Name is Jesus. 

When we find ourselves in a situation where everything in us is screaming because we do care, and because we want to express our opinion out of care, but we are not sure it is wanted, we would do well to give everyone and everything to Jesus. Wherever you are, you can change the posture of your heart to say, “Lord, I bring you the person right in front of me. I want them to know You more. I want them to hear from You.”

If someone is offering their opinion, and it is frustrating you, or even hurting you, remember that everyone is living in this tense moment. Everyone has experienced challenges of one kind or another during this pandemic. Before you respond to their opinions, reposition your heart. Try to bring yourself, and your friend, to Jesus.

III. Faithfulness Looks Different for Different People.

I’m quoting myself on this one: Your faithfulness and my faithfulness will sometimes look different. But that does not mean we are not both being faithful. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls.” {Rom. 14:4} 

As we continue to navigate the uncharted territory of 2021, we would do well to remember that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. We’re better off assuming everyone is doing the best they know how to do, than sitting in judgement over our brothers and sisters because we have different opinions and are making different choices.

Jesus invites us to walk through this life “freely and lightly.” {Matthew 11:30, The Message} We can only walk freely and lightly if we will lay the burdens we are carrying on His capable shoulders. 

So slow down today, friends. You are probably carrying a weight you don’t have to carry. Before you move on with your day, take a pause and ask what you need to lay down. 

Then?

 

Give everyone and everything to Jesus.

A Book Worth Your Time

If you are feeling overwhelmed by entertainment, dogged by your phone, or frazzled by a fast pace, I highly recommend John Eldredge’s book, Get Your Life Back. I’m only halfway through but am already experiencing the benefits of putting the practices he teaches to work. {You can click this (affiliate) link to find it on Amazon here.)

_______

P.S. I’m still working behind the scenes on a fresh Bible Study for you! I’m excited to share more soon! Sign up for my weekly love note and you’ll be the first to know when it’s ready. Perhaps you could start thinking of a friend who could join you on the journey?

P.P.S. I’m so glad the recipe party/meal planner has been a blessing to so many of you! PLEASE tell a friend! And if you haven’t yet, click the link below to grab it for yourself!

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for your love and support!