The Fireplace Room

The fire crackled and leapt over the faux logs.  The room was still and silent.  One of my favorite spots on Earth.

A day at the spa on a Wednesday in July was a first for me, but a good friend at work and I decided we were long overdue for a break from the frenzy at the office.  I felt tension begin to melt from the outset as I sat in the steam room and took deep breaths in the hot foggy silence.  Then we stretched out on oversized lounges in the fireplace room before our treatments with a cup of tea and a fuzzy blanket (because even though it’s 100 degrees in Houston, the fireplace room hovers around 68 degrees year round).

Yet even after our rest and the treatments began, I felt a heaviness.  My spine felt squeezed from phantom pressure.  My mind still raced.  Then, in the middle of my most relaxing treatment, I felt this overwhelming urge to burst out crying.  You hear that massage releases physical toxins from your body, but I’ve never heard about emotional toxins.

Still, I couldn’t get past the feeling that something I’d held on to was ready to release.  We finished a light lunch peppered with hilarious conversation, and returned to the fireplace room for a few more quiet moments.  I was transfixed by the fire.  There, in the center of the dim room, crackled bright flames framed by large ivory bricks and a heavy wooden mantle.  The “logs” lying along the grate held the exact same shape and form as they had when we arrived that morning.  The fire rose like orange liquid on all sides.

Everything came together.  I had been holding onto a lot.  You see, in addition to a fair amount of frenzy in my own life, a number of my friends have gone through some dark places in the past week or two.  Miscarriage.  Marriage on the brink.  Death of a best friend.  Teenager moving out.  Loss of a parent.  I had prayed with and for each of them but apparently had held onto the pain.  As if that would help them.

I started seeing that log as a visual for all of these burdens.  Instead of allowing my prayers to rise like the fire, and then trusting God to bring peace and comfort and understanding and clarity, I sat like that log and tried take on some of the pain in an unhelpful empathy exercise.  They didn’t know.  It didn’t help them one bit.  It only meant that in my own human confusion about why certain things happen, I failed to trust God has a plan and a purpose.

As I took each of those losses and burdens and released them to the only One who can do anything to help, I felt utterly relaxed.  I unwound immediately.  Pressure relieved.  Mind stilled.  Burden shared.

I also saw the other side of that fire analogy.  What if, when the fires of life assail us, we do not burn up?  We feel the heat.  We smell the fire.  But we trust that He is there, even in the biggest blaze, and we are not consumed.  I don’t know why the things that happened to ones I loved happened.  I may never know.  But I believe in a God that calls us precious and promises to keep the flames from setting us ablaze.

Whether you are in the fire, or carrying others heartbreaks from a fire, today may be the time to hand those burn-dens over.

But now, this is what the Lord says: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine… When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze… You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you…”  Isaiah 43

What Are You Afraid Of?

stormwords

What are you afraid of?

What is holding you back?

What turns your skin cold?

I have to tell you, I am scared to death.

I am scared of my dream failing.  I’m at least equally as scared that my dream might succeed.

I am scared of disobeying God.  I’m just about as scared of obedience given some of the things He is asking me to do.

I have generational fear.  It goes way back.  In fact, my fear is actually not as acute as the women who have gone before me.  Women of faith.  Yet women often paralyzed by fear.  But this is what I know in the deepest core of my being:

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in loveI John 4:16-18

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand Isaiah 41:10

Please join me over at God-sized Dreams today to read the rest of the story. 

When We Have To Stop Being Scared For Our Kids

kidssafeA dear friend of mine received words a few years ago I can’t wrap my head around, “Your daughter has cancer.”  They only found the tumor because her eye had begun to bulge.  She was four.

Over the course of a year, she trekked back and forth to Texas Children’s Hospital through overnight stays and treatment courses, until the tumor shrunk.  Now there’s just a shadow there.  A reminder, she tells me, to never forget to lean on God.

She has a ministry to families with children that receive a cancer diagnosis.  They don’t all have the same outcome.  I just saw a note on Facebook from one of the families she knows – a father sharing his story of how he’d been given another four years with his precious girl here on Earth.  He said, “At 8:47 this morning, she was ushered into the presence of Jesus…Our daughter had cancer.  But now she is with our God who is bigger.  Trust Him with us.”

I sat at the computer and cried.  Cried for their family.  Cried for all the families that are up tonight because of an overwhelming medical diagnosis leveled at one of their little ones.  Cried because I can’t imagine walking through that valley.

This daddy stood in the midst of His grief and asked people to believe God even in the middle of this darkness.  Because He believes there is a reason.  One he can’t understand and can’t know, but he believes in a God who is bigger than the pain and unfairness who has a plan.

I worry.  All the time.  About big things and little things, most of which will never happen.  Instead of trusting God, I allow myself to drown in fear over illness or dangers or the bad people in the world or negative messaging in the world or broken hearts or broken bones or whatever else could assail my children.

On the night this father received his daughter’s diagnosis, he shares what he read in Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling:

Entrust your loved ones to Me; release them into My protective care.  They are much safer with me than in your clinging hands.  If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one – as well as yourself…When you release your loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand.  As you entrust others into My care, I am free to shower blessings on them.  My Presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest.  The same Presence stays with you, as you relax and place your trust in Me. 

I don’t know how I would react when faced with the words my girlfriend, or this father, received.  But I do know we have to stop being scared for our kids.  We have to stop worrying over anything that could ever assail them.

A college friend of mine wrote she’d started praying differently for her girls.  Instead of praying every night that God would keep them safe, she prayed they would know Him.  She quoted hearing Jenn Hatmaker say, “Don’t be the reason your kids choose comfort and safety,” and went on to say she didn’t want to be the reason her kids decided to take a desk job rather than following a calling to Africa to work because she had instilled fear into them.  She closed, with, “Raise BRAVE kids.”

Oh there’s so much that could happen, friends.  Good or bad.  Earth-shattering or groundbreaking.  And it will happen, no matter what we do with our late night contemplations.  Maybe we can all step out together and pray for peace and trust that He will be there no matter what.

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. Nahum 1:7

So do not fear, for I am with you. Isaiah 41:10

Where Does Your Confidence Come From?

confidence

But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and has made the Lord his hope and confidence.  He is like a tree planted along a riverbank, with its roots reaching deep into the water—a tree not bothered by the heat nor worried by long months of drought. Its leaves stay green, and it goes right on producing all its luscious fruit.  Jeremiah 17:7-8 (L.B.)

It’s hot in Houston.

After a remarkably cold winter, it is downright hot now.  96 degrees as we swam yesterday afternoon.

And until the recent monsoon, we were in the midst of a serious drought too.  My husband’s ranch in South Texas is still in the thick of it.  The grass withers and dries up.  The cows struggle to find enough food.  The water evaporates.  There’s not a thing we can do about it.  The weather is completely out of our control.

So is life much of the time.  You and I can’t control the economy.  We have no power over the changes in political and public opinion.  We can’t stop a global war or a personal health crisis.  We can’t rewind the toppling of a world leader or our own failures.  We can’t make it rain water or rain money.

Yet, those are the places we most frequently place our confidence.  We place our confidence in politics or a promotion.  We put all our eggs in the relationship basket or in global reconciliation.  We count on money, jobs, family, health, success, freedom, and all sorts of other variables.

Then the drought comes.

The rug is pulled out from underneath us and our confidence is lost.  Our hope is shattered and we don’t know how to rebuild.

What if….

We put our confidence in the Lord and our hope in Him?

Jeremiah says we would be like a tree unaffected in the midst of a drought – one that “goes right on producing all its luscious fruit.”

Paul says, I have every right to have confidence in things of the flesh, but I consider it all loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing my Lord.  (Philippians 3)

I do it the wrong way too often.  I love the accolades and awards.  I am a big fan of new jobs and promotions and success in the eyes of my peers.  But when I rely on those things that change or disappoint or I fail to achieve, I see myself through a broken lens.  I don’t root my confidence in God, in the unchanging perspective of how He sees me, and my confidence disappears.

I’m learning to do it differently.

Because He has a plan and He knows what’s ahead and I will put my confidence in Him.

Where does your confidence come from? 

What if you could find a place where your confidence would be so rooted and your hope so constant that regardless of your drought-ridden circumstances you thrived?

You can.

For the Lord is the great God…
In his hand are the depths of the earth.
Psalm 95

Eyes Above the Waves – for God-sized Dreams

{Fashion Fridays returns next Friday, I’m writing as part of the Oceans series over at God-sized Dreams today.}

We know this:  We are called out on the ocean.

We are in charge of what happens next.

We’ve read about Peter.  How in the moment when he responds to Jesus, and keeps his eyes fixed on Him in the middle of the crashing waves, he can step out of the boat in faith.  To do something BIG.  Unimaginable.  Something no one in the boat, or on the shore, had seen before.  Peter walked on the water, with waves crashing into his ankles, because he kept his eyes fixed on the One who made it all possible.

The second he looked down he began to sink.

I am not beyond sinking.  I am confident that I will experience sinking every now and again (hopefully less frequently as my faith grows) until my life here is finished.  But those times I don’t sink happen only when I call upon His name and keep my eyes above the waves and fixed on Him.

There has been crazy wave-walking this year.  God has revealed dreams well beyond anything I could ask or imagine…

Continue reading over here at God-sized Dreams today.