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Staying the Course in Spite of the Cramps

It's not just about pushing through,

Both of my children have birthdays this season and every year about this time I go back and recollect the memories of the labor pains it took to birth them. I find myself reminiscing about how big I was as I approached the impending due dates. How I felt, what I looked like, how I wasn’t sleeping…all of it. Even up to where I was and what I was doing when I realized that the contractions I had been feeling were actually going to stick and force my body to manipulate itself in such a way that a baby would come into our presence.

But those hours of labor.

Each child was different, but the common thread with both births were the contractions. Like the waves of the ocean that just keep coming, so did these pains. And once you’re in the midst of this beautiful process, there is no turning back.

And so you push through.

What an illustration of real life…sometimes, hard seasons will come and we will just have to keep going.

*Seasons we have placed ourselves in. One choice can oftentimes lead us down a road of difficulty.

*Seasons we have been placed into because of the actions of someone else.

*Seasons of sickness or tragedy where there is no one to blame at all.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”

Hebrews 12:1

Perseverance: noun per·se·ver·ance : the act or power of continuing to do something in spite of difficulties

Spiritually speaking…

Have you ever felt like a runner who takes off to run the most important race of your life and suddenly realize that your shoes are untied? Maybe people are elbowing you, jockeying for a better position on the track, throwing their sweat in your direction, causing you to slow down in order not to get knocked over. Your efforts to build your spiritual muscles result in cramps that scream for your immediate attention. You grow thirsty and need to move right or left in order to grab hold of the water offered to quench your thirst. You feel run down and sluggish in your spiritual growth and realize that some of your life choices leading up to the race are now weighing you down, beckoning for your attention. Your feet start to scream out that they are tired as blisters make their way to the surface. Anybody?

Consider this…

Are you trying to push through in your own power? Did you bring your old shoes to this race? Your own way of doing things? Maybe a former coach taught you some bad training habits in the past and you need to lay those down for a better way. Ask yourself if you are carrying around some bad choices. They’ll act like the added weight we strap around our ankles when we are trying to burn calories.

Hebrews 12:1 tells us that there is a race marked out for us. The trail is set and everything we need to finish well, we will find along the path. It’s up to us to throw off anything that could weigh us down and keep us from running our best race possible.

As we move forward in our christian walk, there will be days, and even seasons, that will leave us wondering how we’ll ever be able to stay the course.

We have to persevere.

Sometimes, it’s not just about pushing through, it’s about pushing through when we don’t want too.

We don’t like to talk about it. We don’t like admitting it. But there are times when we can feel tired and a little disgruntled on this journey of faith. This is not a trigger to fake an injury, take a detour or call a time out. It’s a call to dig deep. To push through. To glance at our teammates running alongside us and get inspired. It’s a time to think of the ones who have gone before us, that great cloud of witnesses, and allow their legacy to beckon us to keep going.

When things are tough, we strain ahead, despite how we feel. Like a runner who hits a wall during a marathon, we keep going. Like a woman in labor who can’t take the pain any longer, we keep pushing.

Perseverance is no joke, but what is gained both through and after the process is priceless.

Push on friend. The prize that awaits us at the end of this journey is worth it. Let’s examine our hearts and our surroundings and throw off what may be slowing us down. Then, staying focused on the finish line, let’s press on…together.

A STEP FURTHER…
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4

Blessings,

Kellie

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Resting Shouldn’t Be This Hard

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Driving home the other day from work, I could hardly keep my eyes open. The week was coming to an end and the days of an alarm clock buzzing in the dark were catching up with me. I contemplated whether I would come in and make myself a tall iced coffee…or stretch out across my bed.

I realized that the thought of lying down was causing me to have anxiety. What if I actually fall asleep and don’t start dinner at our regular time? What if my husband needs to talk with me about his day? What about the things that all women do when they get home after work?

Have you ever felt this way about getting rest?

Guilty.

Stressed.

Even weak.

Who will do the things if I don’t do the things?

Friends, I’m learning that we have to lay this down. This thinking that everything around us hinges on our doing. This thinking that we are the ones who need to make the lists and complete the tasks all on our own.

The Bible instructs us on how to do the things. The spirit of this book is love, a love that only a father has for his children. Good fathers put up guardrails for their offspring. They set boundaries. They know what’s on the other side of those fences and desire for us to stay away. They’re protective.

And inside of those rails, a good father creates a space of joy and satisfaction. Of security and freedom. Of work and of rest.

Jesus rested.

In Mark Chapter 6, Jesus beckons His disciples to come with Him to rest in between ministering to the masses. He knew that they would be of little use to Him if they were exhausted.

In Matthew 8, after ministering all day long, Jesus boarded a boat with His disciples. Even in the midst of a terrible storm, he slept. He knew the storm would come. He knew He would be needed. He chose to lie down.

A freshly rested soul is of better use than a fatigued spirit.

Christ is clear in His Word that we have to take time to rest. He designed us to need sleep. He gives us instruction on finding a rhythm of life that doesn’t exhaust us.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

You see, when we are rested, we’re better listeners.

When we are relaxed, we are better lovers of people.

When we are still, we are more approachable.

The things that really need to be done, will be done if we place our trust in Him. And we demonstrate our trust in Him by listening to our bodies and adjusting our schedules so that we can find rest. We go to bed a little earlier. We say “no” when we’re asked to do something in the midst of an already full schedule, even if taking a nap is part of our agenda. We delegate some of our day to day tasks to our children and spouse.

It can be done. Our Good Father wouldn’t instruct us to do something and not give us the ability to do it.

When we dig into His Word and learn about all of this, we will find rest. Mental rest. Physical rest. Emotional rest.

The question really becomes, do we trust Him?

I realized that the anxiousness I was feeling was more about pleasing others than taking care of myself…and I’m responsible for this. No one else knows how I really feel except for me and my heavenly Father.

Rest.

We are built to need it. God doesn’t want us to run ourselves into the ground to do His work, or anybody else’s. When we incorporate this into our routines, He will honor it.

And we will be better for it.

That rest I so desperately needed, I took it. At the end of the day, I had more attentive conversation with my husband and the dull headache I had been fighting had drifted away.

Rest.  May you make room for a little today.  You’ll be glad that you did.

Lord,

In the midst of this season of life, help me be aware of when I need to take this rest. Whether it’s a nap, an hour on a park bench alone to collect my thoughts, or even a day spent in pajamas with unwashed hair. You set the example that I need to be rested in order to do the work in which you’ve called me to do. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, employee, ministry leader, student…I want to live out these roles…well. I come to you now, as your Word says to do, seeking rest. Thank you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

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All In

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“So they pulled their boats up on shore,

left everything and

followed him.”

Luke 5:11

” Come on now, jump! One…two…three!”

As our son stood on the edge of the swimming pool, I did my best to coax him to jump in. He stood, watching the other children do what their swim teachers were instructing them to do.

They were laying on mini boards, kicking their legs. Some were practicing blowing bubbles in the water. They were laughing and splashing. He wanted so bad to please his teacher and his mama, but he was afraid to come all the way into the water.

“Try again. I’ll count to three, then you jump, and I’ll catch you!”

Our mommy and me swim lessons were off to a great start so far. I was going into my 9th month of pregnancy with my daughter and struggled to stay upright. If I could handle keeping my balance in an Olympic sized pool full of children, surely our son could at least come into the water. It’s not that he was resistant to pools, it’s that he didn’t have his water wings. He was simply afraid.

After a little more coaxing, he finally threw one leg out and leaned in. Only, he didn’t jump up and out. As soon as his momentum began to pull him to the water, he quickly twisted his body, and grabbed hold of the side of the pool.

He was in, he just wasn’t all in.

How often do we do this?

We want to go back to school or go after a new job but there’s no safety net.

Perhaps we have a dream that has been nagging at us for so long that it is beginning to seem impossible.

We want to lean in to our faith a little harder but we’re afraid of where that may lead.

We look down and stare at our toes, right on the edge of the line. We see the sweat drip from our brow down to our feet. In our peripheral vision, we see others who have taken the leap. They’re jumping and smiling and are in their element. They don’t even look back at the side of the pool anymore because the good stuff is found out in the deep.

Maybe we’ve taken a half leap into that next step, and we are suffering for it. Things don’t go as we think they should so we question what we are doing. We’re sore, feeling beat up as we stick our toe into our future, only to pull it back at the first hint of discomfort. We’re tired because we have half of our time spent on moving forward while our other half is spent in the comfortable.

This is when we have to make some decisions.

He is beckoning us to trust Him.

Completely.

He’s asking…”are you all in?”.

Am I?

Are we?

After a few of these leans into the water, his little fingertips began to feel raw from the concrete pool edge. He was getting winded as he would jump in and immediately swing his leg up on the edge to pull himself right back out. There was no fun in it. He wanted more.

Don’t we want more?

You know how this ends. Once he finally took a real, genuine leap into the pool, he realized there was nothing to fear. I was always within arm’s reach. His teacher kept his focus on her eyes as she instructed. He felt secure. Safe. He knew he could spread his arms and extend his legs and experience the freedom that a swimmer has. All without fear of sinking.

When Jesus called His disciples, they dropped what they were doing and followed the call. Luke 5 tells us that Simon, James and John literally pulled their boats out of the water, and left them behind. No looking back.

Christ gave His all for you and for me. He didn’t turn around and grab hold of the edge when his Father called him to lay down his life for us. He trusted that his Father’s plan was the perfect plan and He kept his eyes on Him while constantly moving forward.

Because Christ gave His all, I believe He calls us to do the same. An even exchange. When we experience unrest in our spiritual lives and have difficulty leaving the ledge, perhaps it’s because we want everything He has for us while we only hand him a portion of ourselves. It’s in handing him only pieces of ourselves that we can begin to feel pulled apart.

If Jesus is calling us out, we need to be all in.

That job.  That dream.  That life of faith.

Let’s leave the ledge. Leap out. Let go.

Even if we do it scared. We can’t go wrong. He won’t let us sink.

Lord,

Thank you that you love us right where we are, but that you love us too much to let us stay there. Help us to stay focused on you as you lead us to strengthen our faith and love you more. Help us to jump BIG and to be all in.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

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Remaining Hopeful When You Feel Helpless

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There is no greater fear than when it seems all hope is lost.

Have you ever felt this way? Hopeless?

John Maxwell has an acronym for hope…

Holding On, Praying Expectantly”

When we are holding on to hope, we are waiting…and waiting…and waiting…

That holding on part can be tough. I picture myself standing in a category 5 storm, holding on to a flag pole. White knuckling it with everything I have in me. Squinting my eyes in anticipation of flying debris coming towards me. Oftentimes, when we are in a storm, we lose hope because we can’t see the proverbial radar. It feels as if this cloud of hopelessness will never pass when in reality, we could be only a day away from a beautiful sunrise.

But why?

God allows us to feel helpless in order to draw us closer to Him. This is an invitation to lean in and grab, not just the promises found throughout the Bible, but God Himself. He wants all of us, whether we feel helpless or full of hope.

It’s in these seasons that we are holding on with everything w’ve got, we need to keep our eyes on the horizon, for that is where our sunrise will peak.

And we should expect it.

Christ loves us too much to keep us feeling hopeless. Helpless.

God orders our steps.

One of the stepping stones on the pathway to hope is to look back at what God has already done in and around you. Each step you’ve taken that has brought you to this moment in time is evidence that Christ hasn’t let you sink. This is your testimony.

Remember that season you couldn’t pay your bills and now in hindsight, you’re doing just fine.

Remember that season your baby was born with a health condition and now that child is thriving in college.

Remember that season you couldn’t find genuine friendship and now you have found a place in a local church with more friends than you ever thought possible.

Remember that season your child walked away from you in rebellion, and now he or she is your number one fan.

Remember that loved one who suffered through a horrible illness but the Lord called them to a perfect healing, to a place where you can see them again someday.

Remember…

What has your path looked like?

God gives us His word.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

Romans 15:4

We don’t like to endure hard places do we? But we’re told here, sometimes, we will have too.

Let’s remember that when we feel hopeless, we have a responsibility to stay in the Word, and to keep an attitude of remembrance for the things He has already done in our lives, and in the lives of those around us.

When we feel helpless, let’s be quick to recognize that there is hope. That our hope is found in Christ. And that our hope is found in what we’ve already seen Him do.

“We must remain hopeful even when we feel helpless.”

When the anxiety comes rolling in and another day passes without our visible situation changing, may Christ find us faithful in our effort to stay firmly gripped to Him. To His Word. And may the testimonies, stories from our past, keep us moving forward as we remember, with thanksgiving, who He is and how much He loves us.

For helplessness is only brought our way to point to our need for the only source of hope available. Jesus.

Lord,

Even when I feel helpless, I believe that you are working behind the scenes. Help me keep my gaze on your Word and to keep a heart of thanksgiving while you work on me and work this out. Thank you.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

If you’re having trouble crawling out of a pit of hopelessness, grab a pen and paper. Think back on your life and look to those moments where it seemed all hope was lost. Write down how you felt then, and what you learned in that trial. Pen a prayer of thanksgiving as you reflect on the positive outcomes from that season. Do this every day if necessary, continually thanking God that He is working in your current situation. Your situation may or may not change, but your outlook sure will.

Blessings,

Kellie

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We Are Better Together

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It’s easy to think that we are tough, independent women who can do it all on our own.

But, what happens when life takes a turn and we realize that we can’t do it alone?

I remember being pregnant with my first child and was so sick that I lost 10 pounds right off the bat. My energy was gone but I was trying to push through like every other mom seemed to. My pushing resulted in me nearly fainting and a co-worker having to strap me in my own car and drive me to the doctor. If she had not, I may have veered off the road driving myself in such a weakened state.

There was the time that my husband fell off of a roof and knocked himself out. By the end of the day we had people rushing to meet us at the hospital, taking my kids off of my hands and bringing in our dinner for the next few days.

There was the time that we were in the middle of moving from a home we spent 10 years in and I came down with an unexplainable lack of energy and motivation to get my house packed. My family and friends came over for a packing marathon while I took frequent breaks on my couch with more guilt than I could ever express. Turns out, I had full-blown flu.

There was the time that I quit my job on faith to stay home and raise my son after crying almost daily the first 10 months of his life while I went back to work. When a friend of ours heard me say that our income had just been cut nearly in half, he jumped in and offered for me to bring my baby twice a month to clean his house as a gift for his wife. He OVER paid me…just because.

I could go on and on.

Have you ever been offered help or a listening ear and refused simply on the basis that you didn’t want to appear “needy”? Has anyone ever tried to tidy up your kitchen while you were sick or offered to pick up your children from school when your schedule got out of hand or held out a little cash when you fell on hard times but you couldn’t bring yourself to let them help?

Is it pride? Is it fear of what others may think? Is it a feeling of unworthiness that you carry?

From the very beginning…of EVERYTHING…God himself was never alone. The Holy Spirit was there.

He went on to create Eve for Adam saying “It is not good for the man to be alone…” (Genesis 2:18)

Jesus sent his disciples out two by two.

The disciples instructed people everywhere that they went how to work and commune together.

Our Creator established the first family unit and then went on to mold the global church, both of which bring us together.

The idea that people need other people is from the maker of all. He wired us to need others.

Who are we to fight this? How does it work out for us when we separate ourselves or refuse a helping hand when it is offered? What have we gained?

These people who have come alongside my family over the years, we all have one thing in common. We’re part of The Church.

Are you tired of superficial short-lived friendships?  God has a plan for something better.

Finding a local, Bible believing church will put you shoulder to shoulder with family.  When we honor His mandate to keep meeting together, keeping Christ at the center, He will knock our socks off with friendships that are deep, meaningful and rich.

His thread is unbreakable and because of this…

“…A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”

We are better together.

Lord, help us to come together as your children. In love. Thank you for the gift of friendship that comes when we put you at the center. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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When Our Plans Get Interrupted

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Plans.

We make them. We keep them. We break them. We are informed of them. We look forward to them. We dread them.
I remember years ago making plans to go away to college and pursue a degree in education. Instead, God interrupted my plan with a man and a hard right turn. I landed a great job which led me to schooling in a completely different field which resulted in a great career.
More recently, my plans have been interrupted by way of a cancer diagnosis in my mom nearly two years ago. As my adult children were leaving home, my plans were to have more frequent shopping and lunch dates with my mother and take a trip or two to visit far away relatives. Instead, we spend time together at doctor’s appointments, crossing T’s and dotting I’s on a plethora of paperwork and relaxing on the back porch of her beautiful piece of land.
The way we spend our time together now…I’ll take it! But, it’s not what I thought we would be doing together had you asked me a couple of years ago.
In each of these times in my life I had a choice on how I would respond to the shifts and shoves.
The shift to change my career path so that I could be with my man sooner was easy.
The shove of making any time planned with my mom fenced in my doctor’s appointments and recovery times…not so much.
But, I still get to choose how I respond and my response is rooted in the One that I know loves me more than anyone else ever would or could.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

When our circumstances begin to shift or shove us, we won’t always understand in the moment the what or why. We may not even understand it when it’s all said and done. It’s times like these that we cling to our faith and trust that God knows what He is doing, and what He is allowing to come our way.
We cling to what we know.
We know that God is for us and not against us (Romans 8:31).
He has plans for us and they are good (Jeremiah 29:11).
He supplies all of our needs (Phillippians 4:19).

We know these things are true because He didn’t just speak these things with words, He actually did something to demonstrate His love for us. He allowed the one thing that was priceless in His eyes to act as payment for you and me. He used His son as a bridge to bring us over into fellowship with Him.

Do we think that He would give over His son and then let our circumstances just blow around in the wind?
No! He has way too much invested in us to just shrug His shoulders and sit back.
That addiction, that divorce, that unplanned move across country, that friend that dropped out of your life, that health issue you never saw coming, that unplanned pregnancy…the sudden windfall of financial blessing, the new job you were just offered, the debt that disappeared unexpectantly, the healing that took place in your body, the reconciliation you experienced with your wayward teen…you may have never seen any of this coming.
These weren’t necessarily in your plans.
As our scripture says, His ways are not our ways. If we will accept that, we will be able to not just deal with the shifts and shoves, but experience them, be fully present through them, and make them count for something.
When things aren’t going quite as we had planned, let’s loosen our grip and allow God to do His thing. Scary? Yes! But can we trust Him? You bet!
What about you? What is it that you may be missing out on because you’re working so hard to squint your eyes and turn your head just right in order for your own picture to come into focus? What is your response when you see your plans shift or get shoved in a different direction?
Sometimes handing God what we think is best results in Him handing back to us something even better.
My career change and young marriage sent me on a trajectory I could’ve never imagined for myself…and the conversations my mom and I have now are more intimate and deep than we would’ve ever had while antiquing and sipping latte’s.
He’s good ya’ll.
Let’s choose to trust Him when life gets interrupted. He just might blow our socks off if we will lean close and look for the blessings.

Kellie

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When Sitting Shoulder to Shoulder is All You Can Do

 

What do we say to someone who has suffered great loss?

How can we adequately express the deep sorrow that we feel for someone when they are in mourning?

I recently had the privilege of hearing someone speak at a Memorial Service and they said something like this…

“What if we all acted like sponges.  When those around us are hurting, we sit close and absorb some of their burdens for them”

That may not sound like a very welcoming invitation, but it has stuck with me.

God’s word says to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn”.

Merriam Webster says this…

Definition of mourn

intransitive verb

 1.  to feel or express grief or sorrow

 

I love that mourning is a verb.  A feeling that can be expressed and the expression doesn’t have to be with words.  We don’t even have to speak.

We can grieve over many things:

  • A marriage that is ending
  • A healthy body that has now been diagnosed with an illness
  • The loss of a dream
  • Failure of a business
  • Death of a loved one
  • A wayward child
  • A close friendship that is ending
  • A broken heart

 

Here’s where the sponge comes in.

When a loved one is hurting and we lean in and allow ourselves to feel what they feel, we become spongy…absorbent.

When someone is shedding tears we can slide right over and absorb some of that sorrow with them.  And when they are rejoicing we get to soak up some of that exhileration that they are feeling too.

What happens when a sponge takes on water?  It comes to life!

When we allow God to use us, He brings life into our bones.  Like a sponge that puffs out and becomes soft and pleasant to hold on to, we too become a soft place for others to lean in to and we are smack in the middle of where God is working.

This is one way that we help to carry one another’s burdens.

When we become spongy:

  1.  We help soak up some of the sadness in the lives of others and remove it so that they aren’t wading in it from the ankles to their knees, to their waist.
  2.   Like a sponge, we come to life.  As a dry, porous material crashes into wet tears of sorrow, we expand.  Our capacity to take on and take in grief and sadness grows as we become agents of God’s sustaining grace.

Many times when someone near us is going through something hard, it’s easy to become a little gun shy.  To back up and let someone else comfort them.  What would I say?  How can I help?

 

Just.  Show.  Up.

 

It’s okay to not have the right words or not have any words at all.  Slide along side that friend and wrap your arm around them.  Cry and snot and shake with them.  Hold their hand.  Serve them a glass of cold water.  Fold their laundry.  These are all verbs and they do not require words.

God’s word says…

God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort!”

Matthew 5:4 

Perhaps God wants to use you to help bring comfort to someone.

Your presence is enough.  It is a gift to those who need help absorbing all that has them wrecked.

A present.

We don’t ask people if they would like to receive a gift, we simply give it.

Don’t let your nerves keep you from moving on this.  If God has put someone on your heart who is grieving something, go to them.  Just show up.

Those are sacred tears they are shedding and you will have the privilege of soaking up some of that grief.  It will bring you to life.  It will bring nourishment to your bones and you will be glad you moved.

May we all strive to be more pourous.  More pliable.  Absorbers.

Agents of grace.

I’m working on this myself and praying that we all step out when necessary.

Challenge:  Is someone in your life grieving and you just don’t know what to do?  Invite them for a walk or take them a meal.  Watch what happens when we slide over close.

Blessings,

Kellie