How Arabella and I Made a Beautiful Altar

You know how they built altars in the Old Testament to commemorate and remember significant moments in the stories of their lives? 
 
I kind of feel like my eldest daughter and I have one now, and I’m ridiculously grateful.

As long as Moses held up his hands, Israel prevailed;

but when he lowered them, Amalek prevailed.

When Moses’ hands grew heavy, they took a stone and

put it under him, and he sat on it. Then Aaron and Hur

held his hands up, one on each side, so that his hands

remained steady until the sun went down. …

And Moses built an altar and named it

The LORD Is My Banner.

 

Exodus 17:11-12, 15

 

My sweet Arabella started violin a couple of years ago. I didn’t have a great track record of being a consistent parent when it came to helping my kids learn musical instruments. 
 
As it turns out, violin is apparently one of those instruments where the basic requirement is: 
 

Show up. 

Show up today. 

Show up tomorrow. 

Just keep showing up.

 
At first, because we didn’t keep showing up, things were rocky. We’d gain momentum, and then lose it. She’d get close to gaining a skill, but then kind of falter.
 
All that rockiness led to days where she wanted to quit. And I wanted to quit. And it felt like probably the world would be a better place if we did quit.
 
But something deep in my soul was saying “Not yet. Just keep showing up.”
 
Would you believe that once we started consistently showing up, everything changed?
 
It wasn’t overnight – but day by day, line by line, you might even say note by note, she began to gain skills and proficiency, and her improvement has made her teacher (and her family) very proud.
 
Reflecting on this, I see myself, and the desire in me to avoid the doing of the things, when the things which must be done are hard things.
 
When things are hard, I get overwhelmed, and I want to quit.
 
Maybe you can relate, dear one?
 
But our decision to press in and overcome the hardship of learning the violin has given us a thing I never expected: a stack of memorial stones, that have become a beautiful altar.
 
(And I kid you not, just as I read the words I just typed, the thought has just now dawned on me that part of the beauty of all this is the meaning of Arabella’s name: beautiful altar.)
 
When Arabella struggles with a hard Math worksheet, I can encourage her. “It’s just like the violin, you play the song one note at a time. You do this work one problem at a time. You can do really hard things! Just keep showing up!”
 
And when I struggle because the work I feel called to seems hard to me, I can remind myself: “You aren’t supposed to have it all perfect right here, right now. There is powerful in faithfulness. Just keep showing up.”
 
So I’d love to ask you – is there something you need to be encouraged to keep showing up for in your life right now? Do you need to keep showing up by opening the Word in the morning? By continuing to grow or heal a difficult relationship one conversation at a time?
 
It may not all look perfect overnight. Sometimes the answer to our prayers is God giving us the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other – to keep showing up.

P.S. Could you use some weekly encouragement to help you walk in a deeper relationship with Jesus?
I
‘d love to invite you to sign up for my weekly email (at the link below).

 

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!

How to Fight the Mental Swirl Parties

Sometimes, when I try to look too far into the future and I can’t see what’s coming next, I can get anxious. (The example of having a kid with an MRI scheduled for next month comes to mind…)
 
I get into these anxious circles of trying to decide what I’ll decide to decide. So my mind will start thinking something like this:
 
“If X happens, then I’ll Y, but if A happens, then I’ll B. But gosh, what if C happens… would it be better to D or E?”

…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,

who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,

despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand

of the throne of God.

 

Hebrews 12:2

 

But once my brain is finished rehearsing contingency plans for each possible future reality, I don’t actually feel any better than I did before.
 
I just feel like I’ve spent a lot of time worrying… and I still don’t really have an outcome to cling to.
 
If I’m laying awake at night and my mind is spinning through all these possible realities, there’s usually only one thing that solves the problem.
 

I can only stop the mental swirl if I change my focus to Jesus.

 
If my mind is like a bicycle wheel, spinning through these series of thoughts, worries and plans based on things that haven’t happened yet, turning to Jesus is like putting a stick between the stokes. He makes the spinning stop.
 
One of the most powerful things about taking our eyes off our own circumstances and putting them on Jesus is that we remember how He has been faithful before, and it helps our hearts to start trusting He will be faithful again.
 
So I just begin praying, in my heart, “Jesus, I’m scared about this possible future reality. But I know you already know about it. I trust You. I trust You are good. I trust You can work all things together for my good. Please remember me. Help my anxious heart find peace.”
 
(And if as soon as I finish praying the swirl starts up again, I go right back to praying, or I try to recite scriptures I’ve memorized in my mind until I fall asleep.)
 
Is there anything you’re letting your mind swirl around this week, dear one?
 
Let prayer put a stick between the spokes of that spinning wheel. Bring it all to Jesus. The big and the small. The good, the bad and the ugly. You are welcome and you are beloved. Fix your eyes on the author and finisher of your faith… because He is truly committed to finishing the good work He’s begun in you.

P.S. Did you hear what I made for you? I created a new resource called Guided Sacred Space. It’s a series of Scriptures with prompts for prayer that are meant to invite you into a quiet moment with God, perhaps differently from how you normally meet Him, or perhaps for the first time if you’re new to spending time with God. I hope this resource serves you well and welcome your feedback!

 

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!

Part Homeschool Mom, Part Screech Owl

It was a rough morning at the Collie house. 

I was frustrated. I felt like I was raising my voice too often, and I felt like I was goading everyone to do every. single. thing. they needed to do.

When I asked a-kid-who-shall-remain-nameless to do a tiny twenty second task for the thirdtime, I may have sounded part Mama bear, part screech owl. 

Yes, I’m just that classy.

For the bread of God is he who comes down
from heaven and gives life to the world.

 

John 6:33

 

Last week we discussed something Jesus consistently did in conversations that involved disagreements:

Jesus asked great questions.

I hope you tried it this week – asking a question does so much to help the person across from you let down their guard instead of putting it up. Questions build bridges while hasty responses burn them. 

Questions also lead into another skill we can practice to help find middle ground in the middle of our disagreements.

See, when I think back to why I wanted to screech and throw large objects after that long ago rough morning at the Collie house (okay, it was this morning) I realized I could encapsulate all my frustrations inside a four word statement:

I didn’t feel heard.

I wanted someone (well, everyone, actually) to listen.

And once we’ve started the journey of asking questions and trying to build bridges, we can follow in the footsteps of Jesus in another way:

Jesus really listened. (And still listens.)

Jesus listened to the ruler who came and worshiped Him, saying “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” {See Matthew 9}

He listened to the woman at the well as she asked her questions. And when she changed the subject, He still found a beautiful way to share the truth. {See John 4}

He listened to the heartache of the man at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus asked if he wanted to be well and he said, “I have no one to help me when the pool is stirred up!!!” {See John 5}

And He listens to me, and to you, dear one.

Do you believe God listens to you?

We believe in a God that hears all our prayers, right? We know we don’t know everything – we know we don’t have it all right – but He doesn’t immediately correct us. 

With time, His kindness leads us to a better understanding of His goodness, His world, and our place in it.

What if we extended that same grace to each other – and tried to practice that a bit more this week? What if we used our two ears twice as much as our one mouth, and helped the people around us feel heard? 

Dear one, it’s impossible that no offenses will come. Until this world is made perfect and we know even as we are known, we are not going to see eye to eye on everything. 

We can build bridges for truth to cross if we’re willing to set aside the desire to “say our piece” and instead seize the opportunity to listen with peace.

This week let’s add to the practice of good questions the practice of listening to the answers, and trying to really hear the heart of the person across from us.

You might just save someone from going screech owl and throwing things. 

P.S. Did you hear what I made for you? I created a new resource called Guided Sacred Space. It’s a series of Scriptures with prompts for prayer that are meant to invite you into a quiet moment with God, perhaps differently from how you normally meet Him, or perhaps for the first time if you’re new to spending time with God. I hope this resource serves you well and welcome your feedback!

 

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!

Enough…enough…ENOUGH!

This morning the kids and I were singing a few worship songs together to start our school day. Don’t picture it in your mind as an angelic scene: often it’s more like me singing, hoping the kids will join me. Sometimes they do but sometimes they’re also reading Dog Man.

The song returned again and again to two phrases:

I will be content in every circumstance…

And

You are Jireh, You are enough.

We sang the word “enough’ so many times, it did that weird thing words do sometimes where you look at them for so long they don’t seem like they’re spelled right or make sense anymore.

Enough.

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.

 

Psalm 141:3

 

Instead of flipping open our devotional for the day, I decided to flip to Philippians 4 (try saying that three times fast) to think about these words Paul wrote.

The ones that are familiar are the ones we like to say just before we do something big, like talk in front of a large group of people or run a race or enter a boxing ring.

Ya know, sporty stuff.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

But Paul seems to have something else in mind. Notice the verses that precede that famous one: 

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. [And then comes the clincher:] I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

It seems like Paul’s talking less about hitting home runs and scoring goals, and more about actually finding a way to be content in God — who is enough — in every circumstance.

I wonder: is finding contentment in every circumstance way more challenging than home runs and high scores?

That Hebrew name for God — Jehovah Jireh — is a name that means God will provide. It’s just found once in Scripture, when Abraham doesn’t sacrifice his son, Isaac, because God provides a ram instead.

And I imagine it takes believing in Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides the sacrifice, to find contentment in every circumstance.

When the situation seems dire…
When the ends don’t look like they’re going to meet…
When you’ve found a way into something you’re not sure you can find a way out of.

Or maybe even just:

When your kids are frustrating you so much you want to scream…
You don’t think your spouse will ever quit hurting himself…
Or you forgot to get dinner out of the freezer, you just got home and it’s 7:00 pm on a school night.

Paul has found a secret that he wants to share with the Philippians, and I want to share it with you:

God is enough. He gives enough.

He is enough when we’re at the end of our rope, the end of our day, pulling the last straw at the bottom of the ninth.

He is enough, even when we’ve made bad choices and we turn to Him and say, “I’ve messed it all up! I’m sorry! Please help! Please come!”

He is enough for every circumstance we’ll ever face. He will show up enough. He will give enough. It will be in enough time. We will have enough because He is enough. He is all-sufficient, and everything we need.

Precious friend, I’m not sure what you’re facing today. But I’d love to encourage you to think on this one truth this week:

You are loved by a God who provides enough.

He loves you enough to come for you. He loves you enough to forgive you. He loves you enough to die for you.

When the world feels not-enough, and you feel like you’re not-enough, don’t have enough, can’t ever be enough, rest in the God who is enough, and has more than enough for you.

P.S. Did you hear what I made for you? I created a new resource called Guided Sacred Space. It’s a series of Scriptures with prompts for prayer that are meant to invite you into a quiet moment with God, perhaps differently from how you normally meet Him, or perhaps for the first time if you’re new to spending time with God. I hope this resource serves you well and welcome your feedback!

 

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!

Eight Things This Pandemic Can Teach Us

The prayer went a bit like this:

“Lord, my heart continues to live in a swirl in these pandemical days. I wrestle with my own decisions. I wrestle with others’ opinions. I long for these days to be done but trust You can use them for my good and your glory.”

And that was enough to pull me in to start asking the obvious next question:

How does God use something like this for our good and His glory?

Three of my favorite words for hard moments — hearkening back to a time when I had to clean up the mess of a sick kid in the night — are “Teach Me, Jesus.

And this was a moment for asking: Teach Me, Jesus. What can you teach me here?

And y’all. The list was pretty long. 

Definitely long enough to share. So I will.

But first, do you remember that beautiful promise from Romans 8:28? “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purposes.” 

Let’s ask that question together: 

What could He have in mind for you and me right now?  

I asked “What Can I learn Here?” and the answers came quickly: 

1. To tame my tongue

2. To walk in humility (especially with regard to our certainty that we understand all the things)

3. To think carefully/not follow the crowd but search Scripture, pray, and make choices accordingly

4. To learn how to love people who think differently from me

5. To recognize the devices of the enemy at work and avoid his traps

6. To improve my kind communication skills

7. To inspire more prayer

8. To encourage the consistent effort of listening to the Holy Spirit

I scribbled those words down and sat back to look at them. It amazed me to think: if we are willing to lean into it, God can use these strange and uncomfortable circumstances so powerfully in our lives.

But it will require us leaning into it.

It will require humility.

It will require a willingness to forge our own paths forward, leaning into the study of Scripture, attending to our own ways.

Put another way, it will require us to stay in our own lane, and swim our own race.

I marveled as well to think — nearly all 8 of those areas relate to our ability to communicate. With one another. With an understanding of what Scripture wants to communicate to us. With a heart to hear the communication of the Holy Spirit. To communicate love to those around us — even when we disagree.

So what about you, dear one? Could God use this pandemic for your good and His glory, too?

Will you lean into what He might want to walk you through?

When you arrive at a moment where it’s all feeling too pandemical and just plain “too much,” I’d love to encourage you to pray those same three words: “Teach Me Jesus.”

You might be surprised to find out just how much He has to say — and how He can use this tough season to shape your soul in ways you never could’ve imagined.

P.S. Did you notice how many of those areas relate to communication? If you’d like a weekly dash of communication encouragement, I’d love to welcome you to sign up for my newsletter! 

P.P.S. In case you didn’t, know, we’re celebrating the two year anniversary of our son’s brain aneurism today! If you’d like to join us in Raising a Hallelujah and watching the story yourself, the link to the 700 Club is at this spot, too:

 

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!

Grace Always Looks Good on You

Things got a little contentiously edgy at the Collie house recently.

Itchy. Irritable. It’s hard to find the right words but I think you know what I’m talking about.

We had a getaway road trip planned for just after the homeschool community year wrapped up… and then we had to cancel it because it involved a lot of hiking and I think maybe I mentioned a certain five-year-old has a broken ankle?

So Plan B became Plans B, C, and D. And then D got cancelled, because the boot still couldn’t come off… so we rolled with B, C and I don’t know E or F. 

The adventure turned into a vacation/staycation/vacation/staycation/vacation… three separate small trips happening with a day or two at home in between. 

Yep, we might be crazy.

When we got home from the first marvelous week of the staycation/vacation lineup, tensions seemed to be a little high. 

For example…

The contention of who got to ride in which seats in the car simmered close to boiling.

Someone wanted to be the only one to go pick up the dog, and refused to go since someone else was going.

And?

Someone’s half-finished drawing got slightly wet in a bookbag, and life as we knew it was over.

We sat down for lunch and began to try to process what was causing all the hullabaloo, and we finally acknowledged some elephants in the room: Everyone had a lot of excitement for several days. Everyone had a good bit less than their usual amount of sleep for several days.

Basically? Everyone was dang tired.

Sometimes when we have the least grace to give, we’re asked to give the most.

The Hero Hubs and I acknowledged that everyone was probably tired after a long week. We made some gentle requests about how our kiddos could show their appreciation for our efforts at planning a fun and special week for them. 

In a way, I think we mostly just talked about the elephant in the room, and covered it in a blanket of grace. 

Different translations of Psalm 103 change the word ‘pities’ to the word ‘has compassion.’ Either way – what a gift it is that God has compassion on us, takes pity on us, and remembers that we are dust. He remembers we’re fragile and flawed, and likely to fail.

Sometimes we need to be reminded: we’re all dust.

The gift we can give to each other, as we handle conflict and contentious edginess, is to do the same thing: remember that the person in front of us is fragile and flawed, and dust. Acknowledge the elephants in the room – human realities like tiredness, homesickness, or loneliness. 

Pull on a thick blanket of grace.

So, darling friend, as you’re interacting with your co-workers, or family, or friends this week, do you think you could practice seeing them the way the Father sees them… which is also the way the Father sees you? 

He sees our frame: fragile and flawed, yes. But He sees us as worthy of pity and compassion, too. 

Isn’t it incredible: Grace was always God’s Plan A for you and me?

P.S. If you missed our family’s miracle story on the 700 Club a few weeks ago, you can still watch it, AND grab the Crisis ebook I created out of a heart to share a little slice of what we learned in that hard place with others going through hard places. Both links are right here: https://www.carolinecollie.com/links/

A New eBook For You! 

I 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. It’ll help you communicate with God and the people around you to help you walk through tough seasons.

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!