Marking the Moments

I sit here a little in awe.  A year ago, I didn’t see this coming.  All I knew was that God had revealed quite clearly to me that somewhere in 2019 he would bring the man he wanted for me into my life.  I fought him at first.  It seemed selfish to really focus in on my personal life in that way for whatever reason.  But with a sigh, I submitted to Him and put bridal imagery all over my vision board for 2019.

Now, here I sit.  It’s my wedding day.  And I am in awe of all that has transpired this year, all the miraculous ways God showed up and moved pieces perfectly into place for this very moment.  I feel His joy for me today.  I feel His presence.  I feel His rich blessing and tender mercy and yes, even parental pride.  He is celebrating with me today, and I am celebrating with Him.

The man I am marrying is amazing in so many ways. I feel like God is showing off every time I see a new way we’re so perfect for each other.  It’s easy.  It’s fun, and he’s running after God as hard as I am.  My eyes well with joyful tears as I write this.

But why I share this, why I write this for you today, is because I want you to believe.  I want you to realize God has miracles of beauty and joy available for each of us.  Out of the ashes of hurt and heartache, He brings redemption and joy.  Out of a place of feeling lost and hopeless, He brings purpose and vision.  He has victories in store for you, amazing victories that will take your breath away.  Victories that may come when you least expect it, or when you’ve about given up on finding that breakthrough.  As you keep praying and keep pressing on in faith, those clouds will dissipate and joy will flood into your very soul.

When these moments happen, both big and small, mark them.  Do something that reminds you that God showed up for you.  It can be a moment, a special dinner, a card, a journal–anything really.  But mark that celebratory moment with God, thanking him for his gentle mercies.  Then when the next tunnel in life comes your way (because we all know they will come), you have your touchstones, your memories and badges of glory of how God has blessed and been faithful to you before.  He will have your back again.  Claim His promises and cling to them, using scriptures that speak into the goodness of his nature to infuse you with faith.  “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us a glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

So today I mark a moment, a profound god-given moment in my life that will change it forever.  And I am reminded of how amazing the Father we serve is.  How much his heart is to bless us–to bless you!  May all of our faith grow through the journey.

Searching for Significance

I have always wanted to have significance from the time I was young.  As a child, I used to put a blanket on, cape style, and hold a spoon in my hand like a scepter, pretending to be Miss America as I waved to my adoring fans.  My free time would occasionally consist of playing “office” where I would hire and fire people, write pretend checks and sit at a desk trying to feel important.  I would rehearse my Oscar speech and thank all my young friends in the neighborhood for their early influence on me.  I must have been convincing because afterwards they would say with solemn sincerity, “Don’t forget me when you’re famous.”

Why did I play that way?  I guess the list could be long.  But at the end of the day, I think each of us want to have a sense of power and significance.  We want to know our lives matter, that what we do with our limited time here on earth has made an impact.

What the grown-up version of me has come to understand is that the search for significance in what we do is an illusion, a temporary fix that doesn’t fully satisfy the soul.  It tends to come with a constant demand for what’s new and next.  Now, I don’t care so much about what I’ve achieved.  Yay, I have a list of atta-girls.  Don’t we all in one form or another?  But my list interests me far less than the difference I can make in someone else’s life.  I love getting to give someone the right word at the right time, the hug they didn’t know they needed until they received it, or the wisdom and insight to take that next step forward on their life’s journey.  I love empowering others to faithfully step into all that God has called them to be.  That brings me deep joy.

Still, even blessing others isn’t the truest source of my significance.  Think of the synonyms surrounding that word “significant.”  Words like powerful, compelling, momentous, important, rich, eloquent, weighty, and having meaning.  I find all of these things and more naturally flow out of my relationship with God.  See, my significance comes from knowing the creator of the universe chose me.  He didn’t have to.  It’s not like heaven and hell were picking sides one day and somehow God got the short end of the stick and had to take me on his team.  I was his first choice, his number one draft pick, the one person he most wanted to have on his side.  And the amazing thing is so are you.  He feels that way about each one of us.  How profound is that?!  It’s hard to feel like you don’t matter in light of the fact that Jesus literally gave his life to save you.  Not just everyone, but you.  Specifically YOU.

And the more we step into who God crafted each of us to uniquely be, not comparing ourselves to others but embracing the lane he placed us in, the more significant we begin to feel.  I don’t need to have this huge impact.  I just need to be who God has called me to be, and God will do the rest.  Ironically, the more I embrace this attitude, the greater my impact becomes.  It’s like the more I learn to be God’s conduit and the less I make it about myself, the more he is able to move and flow.

Nowadays, I don’t dream of making a big splash in this world.  Whether I do or don’t doesn’t really matter.  What I do dream of is walking closely with God, growing in my ability to discern his voice and grow in his wisdom, and to live out my life as only I can because there is only one me.  No one else can run the lane God has placed me in except me.  I am Plan A for my life and the people around me.  There is no Plan B.  The same is true for you.  That’s where my significance comes from.  That’s where my worth comes clearly into view.  And if you’re willing, that’s where you will find yours, too.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  Are you ever tempted to feel like you don’t matter?  Like you have no worth?  Do those feelings come from what you perceive to be a lack of achievement or influence?  In those moments, remember your significance before the Lord.  He reminds us of our value through the prophet Isaiah: “I took you and choose you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you.  I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.  So do not fear, for I am with you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (41:8-10).

Replace the lie that you don’t matter with his truth–you are incredibly significant to God.  He has plans to make an impact through you in the lane he’s placed you in, whether it’s with your husband, your kids, your co-workers, your friends, your book club or your spiritual community. What you do is significant to God and he finds you worthy.  And that’s something to smile about!

PRAYER Lord, thank you that I find true significance and meaning for my life in you.  All I need to do is look around me and see that the world’s ways don’t work.  You have destined me as your child to live a life that is full of joy and peace, not one that is fractured or ineffective.  When I start to get sucked into thinking it’s all up to me and what I do, help me to remember your sovereignty.  When I begin comparing myself with others instead of remembering that before the cross we are all the same, remind me of your truth.  Would you empower me today to remember how much I am cherished by you.  Thank you for a love that is so sweet, so powerful and deep, it literally transforms me from the inside out.  May I experience more and more of you within me.  Amen.  

BARB LOWNSBURY is an author, entrepreneur, and single mother of three.  She serves as the Executive Director for The Dented Fender ministry.  Follow Barb and The Dented Fender community on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Take Back Your Holidays

Take Back Your Holidays

Nothing like the holidays to make you question your own sanity.  Why did I overspend?  In fact, why do I always over spend?  Why can’t I ever have a “normal” Christmas without all the drama?  Add to the mix running yourself ragged, trying to find that perfect something, earn that holiday bonus, shine at the office Christmas party or make that perfect meal—ugh!  This is not the stuff Christmas dreams are made of.

This Christmas, change your reality.  Let go of the Hallmark Christmas story you have running in your head and embrace what really matters:  LOVE.

“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14).

Love should be the secret sauce in all we do, but especially at Christmas time.  We all know what Christmas is really about: Jesus.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 is famous for a reason.  So why do we lose that focus?

This year, I’ve made the decision that every dollar I spend, every task I do, every meal I make, every cranky, challenging person I come into contact with (yes, that includes other drivers and family members) will come from a place of love.  For God didn’t just love the world, he loved me, despite my mess and brokenness.  And it wasn’t just a token gift.  It was a transformative one!  He came to give me true freedom.  Freedom from debt. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from perfection.  Freedom from the judgement I deserve, replaced by a grace I can’t deplete.  My response is to choose to give this love, this deep well of grace, to those around me.  That’s the reason for the season.  That’s what Christmas is all about.

Jesus didn’t just give us second chances.  He gave us a love that is unshakeable, a faith that never waivers, and a destiny that is mighty.  This Christmas, I choose to live like it.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT What gets in the way of embracing Jesus’ love for you during the holiday season? Verbalize it out loud or write it down.  Be clear with yourself before God about what your challenges are.  Consider lifting them up in prayer to him and asking him to not only strengthen you in these areas, but to heal you and allow you to overcome them in his mighty name.  Remember, the Bible tells us “God does not want us to be shy with his gifts, but to bold and loving and disciplined” (2 Timothy 1:7).  Be bold.  Take your holiday season back to a place of worship in whatever way God shows you.  The outcome will be joy.

PRAYER Papa God, thank you for the gift that is Jesus Christ.  There is so much to be learned from how you sent him to us, an infant born in the humblest of circumstances, yet who literally changed the world forever.  Would you help me this Christmas to make a difference in my world today?  Would you empower me to love when it’s challenging, to give from the heart regardless of how it’s received, and do the tasks that most embrace what you’ve called me to?  Thank you that you’ve promised me a disciplined spirit that flows from a loving gratitude from all you’ve done for me.  Let me remember that at the end of the day, it’s all about a cross and the incredible love you continue to shower on me through Jesus because of it.  How amazing!  How incredible is your love!  Thank you, Papa.  Let my life reflect that love today and always.  Amen.

BARB LOWNSBURY is an author, entrepreneur, and single mother of three.  She serves as the Executive Director for The Dented Fender ministry.  Follow Barb and The Dented Fender community on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Pivotal Moments

By JENNY SEYLAR

I finally feel like I am turning the corner in my grief, yet it is a slow rotation around the bend. While attending high school and college, I participated in the marching band. In both bands there was street and field marching. Street marching was fairly simple if I attended to the row and column to which I was assigned. I just had to glance left, right, and forward so that I would keep myself in line with the rest of the musicians around me.

The challenge in street marching, however, is when the band must turn the corner. To successfully navigate the turn, the band closes ranks, bunching up the lines, and then each row enters the pivot point for the turn. The pivot point is the place where the person on the inside of the turn stands. This person has the responsibility of marking time in one place while slowly rotating their body ninety degrees. The rest of the line, from pivot to the end of the row, each take larger and larger steps, with the end person stepping the full length of their stride. Eventually the row makes the turn and then resumes the marching gate on the new street. From the vantage point of the pivot, the person gets a view of the new terrain up ahead.

As I navigate my grief, I discover that I am the pivot person. I am slowly turning the corner, leaving behind the past and looking ahead to the new landscape that is my life. It’s a snail’s pace of a turn. I have yet to complete the pivot and step into the new stride that I am confident awaits me. I am nearly there, and am eagerly awaiting the opportunities that lie just ahead. I know there will be new responsibilities, relationships, and landscapes to explore.

From the vantage point of my pivot, I cannot see too far ahead, and that is okay. God only shows me a glimpse every now and then. There are doors up ahead; some are open and others are closed. When I reach them I will look inside and see if they are the ones in which I am to go. In the meantime, my role is to trust the future that God has in store for me. God will send people into my life that will guide me in this new realm, and I will journey with them for a time.

In this pivotal moment of entering into my future, it is unsettling to be going so slowly. Yet I know that the pace of my progress is all a part of the healing growth that is the journey of grief. To rush this journey is to mess up the important work that is happening in the present moment. Were I to jump too quickly into new things that I am not ready for, it would leave me too vulnerable and exposed, and I would likely be skipping critical parts of my healing. So instead I will seek to have faith in the pace God has for my life. The wisdom of Proverbs 16:9 speaks volumes to me: “People plan their path, but the Lord secures their steps.”

As a person who likes to control my environment, it is difficult to let go and let God guide and secure my steps. Still, I am trying to do so. I spend my quiet time with God each day so that I don’t miss out on what God is offering me. All around me God is sending signs and reminders of the direction that I should go, and I am seeking to be in tune with them. When I get out of step or move too quickly to what’s ahead, God gently nudges me, reminding me to put my trust in the plan God has for my life.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  To trust in God’s plan is to surrender my own plans. This is no small task some days. Dear one, what do you need to offer to God so that your life aligns with God’s agenda? How often do you sit quietly with God so that you may move in a direction that will provide you with the “Lord’s secure steps?” Take a moment right now to see where you are in your relationship with God. Does God feel distant from you or do you feel God’s presence with you right now? This is a pivotal moment for you, because you may choose to continue to be distant from God OR you can choose to invite God into all aspects of your life. God wants to be an integral part of YOUR plans, and God will guide you into YOUR future.

PRAYER  Creator God, I thank You for the wonders of creation and of my life. In the face of hardship, You show up and provide comfort and guidance. Forgive me, Lord when I seek to make my own way, forgetting how You have always had my best interests at heart. My life is changing as I grow and heal from the traumas of my life. Help me to not rush the healing work that You are doing in me. I praise You, God, in all things. Amen.

ABOUT JENNY SEYLAR

Jenny Seylar is a woman with a deep faith in Jesus Christ who serves in ministry at a United Methodist Church in Iowa. As a pastor and youth director, she is passionate about walking with all ages as they journey in their faith. She believes in creating authentic relationships in order to walk alongside folks wherever they are in their faith journey.

In 2017, Jenny’s husband of 28 years unexpectedly died while on a training bicycle ride. In the aftermath, Jenny and her 3 grown kids, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, have sought ways to find joy in the everyday miracles that make up this life. You can read more about Jenny Seylar and her ministry at www.lovelylane.org or her blog “Journey From Despair to Hope” at https://journeyandstrength.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/through-the-lens-of-grief/

Fragrance of Thanks Giving

Fragrance of Thanks Giving

by Karisa Moore

“MMM. You smell like coffee,” my son said after I returned from a local coffee shop. I pick up the scent because I spend a lot of time there. Similarly, my daughter picks up the scent of horses and anything else that moves because she loves animals.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I am supposed to have His spiritual fragrance, and thanksgiving is a part of the formula. My circumstances are complicated and constant, but God is faithful to give abundant life in all I experience. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (NIV). I see God’s hand so clearly on each of my circumstances, and thankfulness helps me to record those victories, remember them rightly. and share Christ with others.

Thankfulness is remembering the truth about who I am and whose I am. I study and express thankfulness through poetry and as I thought of thanksgiving, this is what emerged.

Fragrance of Thanksgiving

Breathe in the fragrance of thanksgiving.
An intentional scent plugged into living. Remind
Stale troubles they do not remain. Fill home
with the scent of hope.

I am getting to know God’s character as I study scripture, and I trust what he is doing and believe he reveals truth through us. At the end of a battle, the victor is doused with sweet fragrances. My fragrance should be Christ because he is the source of my victories. I have had many. To claim victory I have to remember His faithfulness:

  • He chose me when I was broken and in sin
  • Delivered me from despair
  • Equipped me with scripture to fight the devil’s schemes
  • Made me a prayer warrior
  • Caused me to delight in others
  • Gave me friendships to strengthen and support me
  • Gave me a desire to share his love
  • Crushed the enemy’s attempts to destroy me through abuse and fear!!!
  • Defeated the grave long before I had to place my son in it
  • God loves me forever and my salvation is secure

God has anointed me with the truth that life has value, no matter how hard that life is. May that be the sweet fragrance you smell on me, and may it be the fragrance that envelopes you.  Life has value and God loves you.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  Breathe deeply. What current fragrances do you smell?  Your spirit gives off a fragrance as well, to family, coworkers, and strangers. Are your words lifting others up? Do you have a thankful heart? Create a list of things you are thankful for. What does the fragrance of Christ smells like? If not, here is a scripture you can start with: Ephesians 5

PRAYER Today I allow you, Father, to wash away my sorrow. Lord, infuse me with the scent of understanding your ways. Discipline my brokenness. May my life become a beautiful fragrance of glory in the midst of a world filled with the dank scent of despair. Amen

KARISA MOORE is a writer, speaker, and hope warrior for those battling depression. As a survivor of suicide, Karisa saw the need for a raw, passionate, and Christ-centered voice in the depression conversation. She began blogging Turning the Page on Suicide in 2014, after the suicide of her teenage son. Her followers include church leaders, those actively struggling with depression, and fellow grievers. Utilizing her skills as a devotional writer, gift for conversing with readers through poetry, and scriptural insights into the darkness of despair, she listens, encourages, and challenges her readers to find hope amidst depression.

Every story is worth writing!

Follow her at:
http://www.turningthepageonsuicide.org
Twitter: @moore_karisa
Facebook: Karisa Lynn Moore

Bittersweet Joy

Bittersweet Joy

By JENNY SEYLAR

With my phone at the ready, I am excitedly awaiting the birth of my second grandchild. Preparation for the big event is much more subdued for the grandparents than for the parents. Yet, I still have a few things to do so that the little one will have a safe place to be when not being passed from adoring family member to another (which at first will likely not even happen). So I find myself dusting off the cherry wood cradle. This was lovingly made by my husband more than twenty five years ago for the arrival of this grandchild’s daddy. While cleaning the smooth wood there is a catch in my throat, and I realize that the joy of baby’s arrival is also bittersweet. I am preparing for the fifth child to sleep in this cradle (our three children and now the second grandchild) since its creation so long ago when my husband and I were just starting our life together.

When baby’s big sister arrived 2 years ago, my husband and I drank in the joy of the blessed event. We could hardly grasp the pure joy of being grandparents. Scattered around the house are pictures in frames of grandpa holding his first grandchild. It marked for us the jubilant passage into the next phase of life, and we were celebrating well! It was a mere six weeks later that my husband died, and I was left to parent and grandparent alone. This grandparenting gig is awesome; it’s just that I miss doing it with my life partner, now more than ever. The joy that permeates so much of life is often bittersweet when shrouded in grief.

The resurgence of my grief hits hard in these times of momentous life events. The sorrow comes upon me as if I am a wave on the sea, violently crashing into the rocky shoreline. Then I am dragged back out to sea, only to have it repeat again and again. Being slammed with grief these two years later takes its toll on me. I must learn once more to cope under this new siege, and I cry out to Christ for comfort and peace. In these moments, Christ speaks to my heart, reminding me that calmer seas are coming soon.

The trouble is, I sometimes forget to cry out to the Lord, seeking instead to try to go it alone. I realize I am not so different from the disciples who think all hope is lost when the boat they are in is being tossed about in a storm. The disciples believed that because Jesus was asleep, that He didn’t care what happened to them.

‘They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, rescue us! We’re going to drown!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you people of weak faith?” Then he got up and gave orders to the winds and the lake, and there was a great calm.’ (Matthew 8: 24-26, CEB)
Just like the disciples, I too eventually call out to Jesus saying, “Rescue me!” When I am drowning in my sorrow and trying to work through it on my own volition, Jesus responds saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

Yet, Christ does not leave it there. Instead, Jesus rebukes the waves of my grief, and I am much better able to withstand the hardship and get through it. Sheltered in His love and care, the grief subsides a bit.

The resurgences that are my grief seem to be getting farther and farther apart, and the duration is less. Yet I did not get to this point on my own. I have been doing the hard work that is grief. Sitting with the Lord in my daily quiet time includes a bit of grief work. I have surrounded myself with people who lift my spirits. And, I have been gentle with myself, allowing housework to slide a bit, and finding time for those things that bring me joy.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
Dear one, what waves of sorrow and hardship are pounding on you? Do you repeatedly try to handle it on your own? It’s not too late to call on the One who calms the waves and brings comfort to your struggling heart. Merely call out His name and allow the gentle water of Christ’s calm touch to bring you peace. He will not take away the hard things you are dealing with, but Christ will walk with you. I have found that to be true time and time again, especially when my grief disrupts the tranquility of my life.

LET US PRAY
Holy Lord, thank You for coming alongside me when I call out to You for help. Some days it seems like all I do is cry to You. I am so glad that You never leave me stranded, even as I am tossing and turning on a turbulent sea. Guide me to calmer waters where I can catch my breath and step once again into the challenges I am facing. In these times of bittersweet joy, allow my heart and mind to cling to the joy so I don’t miss out on gifts of this life. Amen.

ABOUT JENNY SEYLAR

Jenny Seylar is a woman with a deep faith in Jesus Christ who serves in ministry in Iowa. As a pastor and chaplain, she is passionate about walking with all ages as they journey in their faith. She believes in creating authentic relationships in order to walk alongside folks wherever they are in their faith journey.

In 2017, Jenny’s husband of 28 years unexpectedly died while on a training bicycle ride. In the aftermath, Jenny and her 3 grown kids, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters, have sought ways to find joy in the everyday miracles that make up this life. You can read more about Jenny Seylar at her blog “Journey From Despair to Hope” at https://journeyandstrength.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/through-the-lens-of-grief/