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!) Blake’s story was also featured on the 700 Club in April of 2021.

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!

How to Win Every Argument. Ever.

My heart was racing. I felt my body temperature rising like a flood tide. 

The conversation was rapidly changing into a big fat argument. 

In the heat of the battle, I had one goal: win.

In the midst of a heated conversation, when my blood pressure skyrockets and my hands start to shake, I find in my heart two competing voices.

One voice knows that the relationship matters most. 

The other (much louder) voice wants to be heard and to be right.

I don’t know about you, darling friend, but I am consistently amazed at my own sin. 

One minute life feels like a fresh spring day and the hills are alive with the sound of music. The next, I’m so mad I want to spit or cuss. Or throw something, hard, and then spit and cuss.

The devil can catch me in a trap of offense as quick as a hiccup. 

Remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, just before the verses above? 

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge … but do not have love, I am nothing.” {I Corinthians 13:2}

Wretch that I am, what can turn the selfish tide in my soul?
What can make me choose to go lower, and lower still, instead of fighting for the upper hand?
And – could this be related? What was God promising us when He said Love never fails?

After my most recent total failure, I discovered this paradox as I picked up the pieces and reconsidered it all:

If I enter an argument to win, I will always lose.

But if I enter an argument to love, I will always win.

Because ‘winning’ isn’t being the last man standing. Or the one with the right words. Or the one with the most logical opening statement and convincing supporting evidence. 

In the upside down Kingdom of Heaven, Christ leads us to triumph and victory when we go low 

When we show up to show love, we can show our Father’s heart, beating in us.

Our Savior humbly submitted to death on the cross, and God highly exalted Him. (Do you see that paradox again there? He went down to get lifted up.)

And He told us, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you…”

So how do we win? 

We win when we get low, and let love steal the show.

If we can walk away at the end of the day and say, “Father, I did my best to show your love,” then we can give thanks that God is giving us victory over our own selfishness and sin.

That is winning in the Kingdom of Love.

No matter the outcome. No matter the results.

This is how we win every argument: 

We get low, and we give love.

A Take-it-Deeper Challenge

Did any particular arguments come to mind while you read this? Consider taking a moment to share this post with someone with whom you had a big argument – it doesn’t matter if it was a week ago or a decade ago. Apologize for not showing up with love in the heat of the argument, and tell them you’re aiming to handle things differently next time.

_______

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!

Two Words to Solve All Your Problems

Can we please have a dog? When can we have a dog?

For years, one of our kids asked, on a very consistent basis, if our family could have a dog.

He discussed all the reasons it would be wonderful to have a dog. 
Every time he felt bored he pictured himself in the backyard with the dog.
When he argued with a sibling, his mind drifted to playing with his dog instead.

Yes, he would walk the dog! Yes, he would pick up the poop! Of course! Because the dog would solve all his problems!

When the timing finally seemed right, would you believe it, we got a dog.

He was absolutely overjoyed to hold our sweet little puppy while she slept in his arms. He was happy to wake up early and let her out, so delighted to play with her.

But – you know where this is going, don’t you? 

Boredom was still a thing. Arguments still happened.

The joy of the puppy wore off. 

 It seems obvious and short-sighted, when we see it from a child’s point of view. 

No, a dog is not going to solve all your problems kid! Keep dreaming!

But I wonder if sometimes we approach our problems with the same attitude:

If God would just ____________, then I could be happy.

And there are as many ways to fill in that blank as there are days in a millennium:

  • If we could just move into a house with more space, we wouldn’t be “on top of each other” and fight… and we would be happy.
  • If I could just find a job with a boss who doesn’t dump stuff on me at 4:45 every day…
  • If we could just move outta this neighborhood…town…state…
  • If the kids were back at school full time…
  • If we could just get through this dingaling pandemic, then we’d all be happy. (Said everybody, amen.)

Why was Paul able to be content in every circumstance – puppy or no puppy?

Contentment, like so many things, is fruit from the tree of Faith. When Jesus is our center, we can firmly grasp just how temporary our lives are. When we remember that all (yes, ALL) our circumstances are temporary – whether we are abased or abounding – we can feel grounded in the truth that we are still on our way to our true home. 

My soul needs reminding: Contentment doesn’t come with a better job, a bigger paycheck, or more square footage. It doesn’t look like a new car. It’s not a spouse who speaks to you exactly the way you want to be spoken to. And sadly, it doesn’t even look like a puppy.

What about you, darling friend? Is there something you’re facing at the moment that has you thinking “once ___ happens I’ll be happy?”

Note: Are some seasons of our lives are dang hard? YES! Keep hoping for God to bring you through! There are seasons of life where putting one foot in front of the other feels like a near-impossibility. Ask me how I know. 

But the Lord is with you in the valley, just like He’s with you on the mountain-top. And often, our greatest battles are fought in the valleys, and are the very reasons we are able to climb to those mountain tops when the time is right!

What if we pray for God to help us be faithful in this season? What if we offer to “stay in the fire until He’s ready to take us out?” 

It doesn’t have to be Christmas for Jesus to be the reason for the season you’re in.

If we can learn to “Give what He takes and take what He gives with a smile,”* then we’ve found the secret to contentment: a love that trusts that God is always, always good.

Whatever this is for you, this is not forever.

The secret that can solve all our problems can be described in one word: Contentment. And it can be found in one word: Jesus.

*Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light.

P.P.S. I’m so glad the meal planner has been a blessing to so many of you! Please tell a friend! Or 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!