Sunday, 25 February 2018

What I Need To Remember When My Shoulders Ache

The dark, heavy clouds hang low, trying their utmost to block out the rays of life-giving sun.

The spiny, gnarled branches of broken trees claw at me like bony fingers digging and scraping at any remaining hope.

Brokenness. Life struggling to break through. The evidence is all around.

I live in a post-disaster zone.

Most days I’m fine. I hold my head up and keep moving on step-by-purposeful step.

But other days I feel it. The pressing down… the throbbing soreness…

But it’s not because of the environment.

Yes, I suppose that contributes. Perhaps it heightens my senses… makes me more aware of the broken, disfigured world we live in… and more in tune to the hurt all around me.

You see, everywhere I look there's always something there to remind me.

People are struggling. Life is hard.

There’s the obvious. The diagnoses… the senseless violence… the families torn apart. The raw, exposed sore of pain out in the open. The stories too hard to hear.

But there’s also another pain… an oppressive ache… the one that no one shouts from the rooftops, but if you keep your ear to the ground, you’ll feel it.

The deep, gnawing heartache of living in a world that was never intended to be this way.

Everyone is carrying a heavy burden.

That’s when my shoulders start to ache.

I get quiet and retreat inside. Looking for answers.

I feel their burdens. I feel their hopelessness… their never-ending search for peace and happiness.

I feel the guilt.

I need to pray more, I scold myself.

There’s just so much need.

The knots tighten.

I sit quietly under the dark cloud.

And then…

The light breaks through. As it always does.
"Thank God my God is a Big God."
The truth brings me clarity.

Yes, He can handle it all. The burdens may be numerous, but He is able and willing to lift them all.

As I sit there with Him. He reassures me. He sees it all. He knows it all. And He cares.

Words are not needed. We commune in silence.

I lay the burdens on his shoulders. He picks them up and carries each one.

Sometimes, I whisper a name. Instantly, He knows who I’m talking about. He knows just what they need.

He listens. He acts. 

And I rest… rest my head on His shoulders as His personal and powerful promises pour over me.

The darkness… the brokenness will not win.

I must remember this.

When my heart bleeds and my shoulders ache from burdens brought on by living in the already but not yet…  striving to survive in the tumultuous times of a world gone bad… I must remember…

My shoulders will never be big enough to carry this world’s burdens… my prayers will always feel like just a drop in the bucket… I will never be able to do enough… but my God can.

He has promised to lift the burdens that I can’t carry.

So, I’m holding Him to His promise. I’m handing them over to Him. He is a big God. Not only is He able, but He longs to help us.

Wouldn’t you join me in handing over your shoulder-aching baggage?

I feel the tension ease away. Don’t you?

Peace begins to trickle in. My God’s got this.



'And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. ' (Revelation 21:4)

Monday, 5 February 2018

How to Find Peace When Life Feels Abnormal

Abnormal. That was my answer.

The word, though awkward and uncomfortable, had slipped easily off my tongue.

It was the word that Fear had been whispering to me (sometimes even screaming at me) for the past several years.

Fear. It seems like he’s always there lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on me.

At times he jumps out at me suddenly and knocks me right off my feet, as he screams that ‘spine-chilling’ word – abnormal. Other times he sneaks up on me, stealthy and cunning, until we are walking hand in hand and then he whispers poison in my ears.

Abnormal. Yep, Fear reminds me, that pretty much sums up my life in recent times.

It was the way life felt when I lost my dad a couple of years ago. Yes, he’s was older and we kind of knew where his sickness was heading, but not having my dad around was hard to get used to. That gaping hole, the sadness and grief on repeat - abnormal.

Then just over a year later, fear and panic give way to searing pain, when my youngest brother could not be found. A seasoned seaman lost at sea – abnormal. A young man gone so soon – abnormal. Life without him… without my dad… abnormal.

Then there were the botched plans that further threw me off my ‘normal’, but a few months ago when I emerged from my refuge and observed the devastation left by Hurricane Irma, I waved a final goodbye to ‘normal’.  

I had become familiar with abnormal.

So, when the question was asked on our way back from dropping my first born off at his new college apartment… a trip that Fear had invited himself along on, it was no surprise that ‘abnormal’ bobbed quickly to the surface. It’s not the kind of word that’s easy to keep down.

The question - a ‘brainsparker’ chosen at random by my daughter to stimulate a thought provoking conversation - ‘State the problem in one word’.

My ready answer – ‘Abnormal’.

What is your answer?

I thought it curious how the question assumes that a problem exists. But then again, in this life there usually is one. A problem – something that bumps into you, and pulls the ‘normal’ right out from under you.

What about you? Has abnormal become a way of life for you? Does the very word conjure up fear? Have you given up on finding your new ‘normal’?

Well, my friend, I’m now in my latest phase of abnormal. There have been more phases than I care to count.  But rather than fight it, I’m learning how to befriend it.

And it’s for one simple reason.

It is within the abnormal, that I find my ‘Normal’.

You see, as I look back at all my ‘abnormal’ phases I see a pattern emerge.

I see a common thread woven through those times… the times when I lost my dad and my brother, when my well-laid plans were derailed, when I was displaced from my damaged home, when I dropped my son off almost a year earlier than expected, yes throughout all these ‘abnormal’ times, one true ‘Normal’ shines through.

It’s in the gentle whisper that shatters my fear. Every time. A ‘still, small voice’ that soothes my weary, anxious soul with three simple words – ‘I am here’.

It’s in the comfort and hope I find when I retreat to a quiet place to be with Him – my God and Father - and when He reminds me of His love, His faithfulness and His sovereignty.

It’s in the assurance that He will never change…that His love lasts forever and that no matter what He will always be by my side.

It’s a ‘normal’ I see easier when life feels abnormal.

And the amazing paradox of it all… my God is not ‘normal’. Not even in the slightest.

He is not average or regular or usual. He is above all. Period. (Psalm 97:9) And He can do exceedingly above all things that we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He is, I guess we can say, SUPER-NORMAL; although the word doesn’t quite stretch high enough for Him.

So, no matter how ‘abnormal’ life may feel, or what Fear screams at me, I remember that my super-normal God promises me that His presence, His power, His protection and provision will always be ‘normal’ for me.

When Fear tries to draw me in, inviting me to hide in the shadows with him, I can refuse to cower and stand in the light of my ‘Normal’.

And when Fear jumps across my path screaming – ‘Abnormal!’ –  encouraging me to run or fight – to strive with all my might to put things back right – I can stand in the armour of my ‘Normal’ and remember Who fights for me.

It’s the 'Normal' I cling to which leads me to a peace that I can’t explain. A peace that’s not normal… a peace that carries me through my ‘abnormal’.

Today, I'm praying that same peace for you no matter what the problem may be.



Sharing this post at a new-to-me link up - Glimpses Link Up today. 

Thursday, 4 January 2018

How To Break Free When Your Strength Becomes Your Enemy

It sure is sweet; isn’t it?

That thing called ‘strength’.

As a matter of fact, it may be the most sought after, most admired, most coveted trait in the 21st century woman.

We all want to be strong! And why not?

A strong woman gets the job done.

She has a clear vision of what she wants and a detailed plan on how to get it.

She pushes on, no matter the obstacles stacked against her.

She may be scared, but she is brave.

Life may knock her down, but she gets back up, brushes off and becomes stronger still.

She is fierce in her loyalty and in the way, she protects those she loves.

You’ve seen her. You know her. Perhaps she’s you.

She appears in control, self-sufficient, independent.

She seldom needs help.

And therein lies the problem.

Sometimes, our strength becomes our enemy.

I come from a long line of strong women, and I see the many benefits.

But I also see the pitfalls.

The unwillingness, almost inability to ask for help or to accept an offer of help.

The disdain for weakness… in ourselves and in others.

The pride that links arms with ‘strength’ and takes you for a walk.

A long, slow walk… to a place you shouldn’t be.

And it’s not just us.

The Mr. Hyde of ‘strength’ has infected our whole society.

I see it in our young people, whose youth and vitality, convince them that they are invincible.

I see it in our men, who desperately desire to display strength at all times; a burden they are not called to bear. To them I beg the question – ‘How Strong Do You Need to Be?

Maybe, it’s time to pause. Time to take a good look at our strength and examine its role in our lives. Is it a virtue or a vice?

Does our strength shine the spotlight on us and our successes? Does it keep us from asking for or receiving help? Are others intimidated by it? Does it keep us from being vulnerable… from showing our weaknesses and embracing community?

Perhaps we need to dig deeper… take the cloak off strength. Expose the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sides of it. Detect when the enemy of our souls is using it as one of his most clever ploys.

For sometimes, you see, we become so enamored by our own strength, so intoxicated by its appeal that we miss accepting the help we need the most. Miss saying yes to an offer of help we can find nowhere else.

The help we can never provide for ourselves.

Perhaps that isn’t you. You haven’t fallen for its trickery. Your strength hasn’t hindered you… hasn’t stopped you from saying yes to our Savior… from receiving God’s offer of salvation… from being saved from your sins and put back in right relationship with God.

But, nonetheless, there it stands… (your strength)... the elephant in the room… the main thing that blocks you from reaching out to Him… from relying on His strength… that continually presses in on you trying to convince you… that you are enough.

Yes, my friend, when your strength impedes your personal relationship with your heavenly Father, it becomes your enemy.

And then…

Then it is time to break free.

Time to shake off your strength… to embrace your weakness and endue His strength. To accept that there is a God, and you are not Him. To allow your weakness to shine the spotlight on Christ’s power.

To be free to be weak.

May we find the courage to do so in the verses that follow.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace. Psalm 29:11

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Psalm 28: 7-8

The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:19

So, my friend, whether you are standing in trepidation or optimism at the start of this New Year, my prayer is simple… that we may find our strength in the Lord moving from strength to strength and trusting Him with our weaknesses. (Psalm 84: 5&7)



p.s. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the benefits and pitfalls of 'strength'. 


Also, sharing this post today on #ChasingCommunity and #DreamTogether linkups.

Monday, 18 December 2017

He's Right There; Do You See Him?

Sometimes we live in a fog we don’t even know exists. 

It’s like we’re seeing, but not really. 

Whether it’s the fog of busyness, distraction, ambition, fear, perspective, or our own self-made purpose, sometimes we fail to see with our whole being. It’s as if the scales have not fallen fully from our eyes, the connection between 'eye seeing' and 'soul seeing' has not yet been made, and we miss it… miss the Glory being proclaimed in the midst of our chaos… miss the Truth that is unchanging yet life-changing. 

This Glory, this Truth, this Miracle becomes an 'unwelcome fellow traveler' until we finally see… but, oh, the joy, the peace that is ours once we 'see'.

I’m sharing with you my favorite excerpt from The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. As we join the story, Shasta is all alone, feeling rather sorry for himself for all the misfortunes he has experienced; he is caught up in a fog – a real and spiritual one – until he finally sees.

My prayer for us all is that we all see like Shasta saw and respond like he did.

And being very tired and having nothing inside him, he felt so sorry for himself that the tears rolled down his cheeks. 
What put a stop to all this was a sudden fright. Shasta discovered that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing. And the Thing (or Person) was going so quietly that he could hardly hear any footfalls. What he could hear was breathing. His invisible companion seemed to breathe on a very large scale, and Shasta got the impression that it was a very large creature. And he had come to notice this breathing so gradually that he had really no idea how long it had been there. It was a horrible shock. 
It darted into his mind that he had heard long ago that there were giants in these Northern countries. He bit his lip in terror. But now that he really had something to cry about, he stopped crying. 
The Thing (unless it was a Person) went on beside him so very quietly that Shasta began to hope he had only imagined it. But just as he was becoming quite sure of it, there suddenly came a deep, rich sigh out of the darkness beside him. That couldn't be imagination! Anyway, he had felt the hot breath of that sigh on his chilly left hand.If the horse had been any good - or if he had known how to get any good out of the horse - he would have risked everything on a breakaway and a wild gallop. But he knew he couldn't make that horse gallop. So he went on at a walking pace and the unseen companion walked and breathed beside him. At last he could bear it no longer. 
"Who are you?" he said, scarcely above a whisper. 
"One who has waited long for you to speak," said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep. 
"Are you- are you a giant?" asked Shasta. 
"You might call me a giant," said the Large Voice. "But I am not like the creatures you call giants." 
"I can't see you at all," said Shasta, after staring very hard. Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, "You're not - not something dead, are you? Oh please - please do go away. What harm have I ever done you? Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!" Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. "There," it said, "that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows." 
Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat. 
"I do not call you unfortunate," said the Large Voice. 
"Don't you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?" said Shasta. 
"There was only one lion," said the Voice. 
"What on earth do you mean? I've just told you there were at least two the first night, and-" 
"There was only one: but he was swift of foot." 
"How do you know?" 
"I was the lion." And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. "I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you." 
"Then it was you who wounded Aravis?" 
"It was I" 
"But what for?" 
"Child," said the Voice, "I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own." 
"Who are you?" asked Shasta. 
"Myself," said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again "Myself", loud and clear and gay: and then the third time "Myself", whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all round you as if the leaves rustled with it. 
Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost. But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too. 
The mist was turning from black to grey and from grey to white. This must have begun to happen some time ago, but while he had been talking to the Thing he had not been noticing anything else. Now, the whiteness around him became a shining whiteness; his eyes began to blink. Somewhere ahead he could hear birds singing. He knew the night was over at last. He could see the mane and ears and head of his horse quite easily now. A golden light fell on them from the left. He thought it was the sun. 
He turned and saw, pacing beside him, taller than the horse, a Lion. The horse did not seem to be afraid of it or else could not see it. It was from the Lion that the light came. No one ever saw anything more terrible or beautiful. 
Luckily Shasta had lived all his life too far south in Calormen to have heard the tales that were whispered in Tashbaan about a dreadful Narnian demon that appeared in the form of a lion. And of course he knew none of the true stories about Aslan, the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-over-the-sea, the King above all High Kings in Narnia. But after one glance at the Lion's face he slipped out of the saddle and fell at its feet. He couldn't say anything but then he didn't want to say anything, and he knew he needn't say anything. 
The High King above all kings stooped towards him. Its mane, and some strange and solemn perfume that hung about the mane, was all round him. It touched his forehead with its tongue. He lifted his face and their eyes met. Then instantly the pale brightness of the mist and the fiery brightness of the Lion rolled themselves together into a swirling glory and gathered themselves up and disappeared. He was alone with the horse on a grassy hillside under a blue sky. And there were birds singing.

Praying that we'll all have that 'seeing' encounter and truly hear the birds singing.



"Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.  And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”  But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.  I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.  Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5: 1-5

Thursday, 7 December 2017

How To Find Joy When Your Heart Isn't Quiet

Silence can be complicated.

There’s the silence of fear accompanied only by the clippity-clop of your galloping heart.

There’s the eerie silence that is heard in the dead center of a fierce storm.

But then, there’s the other silence.

The one that is found as a mom gazes into the eyes of her newborn baby… or when lovers linger long in each other’s eyes.

Yep, silence is tricky. Sometimes a friend, sometimes a foe.

And sometimes just on the surface.

You know that kind. The one that sparkles and shines while proudly stating that all is well with you.

The one that others see, that sometimes even you believe is real.

But deep down in your heart, it is not quiet. The truth screams to you – ‘this silence is just a farce’.

Discomfited by the disharmony, your spirit longs for more… for when there’s no quiet within, no matter how calm and bright it looks on the outside, you can’t be content… happy… free of cares… joyous… you get the point.

Joy. My one word for 2017.

This year as I trudged along amidst the ups and downs, I tried to focus on joy… an even keeled joy that remains through tears and smiles. By God’s grace, I came to realize that that kind of joy comes only by surrender… by forgetting who I am and bowing down before the King of this world.

But the silence of surrender is not always quiet.

Sometimes, it is accompanied by striving… an unrest that says, ‘I’m still not sure I can trust you’… a desire to hold onto control... a not fully letting go type of surrender. Perhaps in some way a failure to fully grasp the peace that was offered that first Christmas. 

A few years ago, I broke with tradition and put up a white Christmas tree. I’ve never been a fan of white Christmas trees, but that year I felt drawn to one. The colour - a sign of surrender -  was symbolic to me. All decked out in apple green and turquoise with pastel lights my tree twinkled and glowed beautifully. To crown it all, I printed out, coloured and pasted on my walls… the words… 'peace', 'joy', 'hope' and 'love'. It was perfect, and despite gentle prodding from my husband, those words remained on my walls for years.  

As I lived out my messy life, my eyes would be drawn to those words, ever-present reminders of the fruits of surrender.  

But just a couple months ago, following Hurricane Irma when I found the pieces of those same words strewn across my ravaged home, I wondered - how quiet is my surrender. Will I accept good and not 'bad' from my father? Or will I be at ease, content even when.

As I held the ragged scraps of paper, the tears streamed down my face, and I pondered those four words and their inextricable link.  Could I experience this joy, hope, peace and love in the silence of my night? Am I like a child weaned from my mother trusting God to provide as He sees fit? Is my spirit quieted and calmed despite the turmoil around? Am I able to enjoy God’s gifts even in the mess?

That last one – joy in the unrest - has been a challenge for me.

But I’m learning, dear friends, about the link between quiet and joy. About the quiet that shatters my silence... strips away my need for control... and shushes the noisiness of my doubts. About the quiet that wraps me in the assurance of a Love that knows no bounds... a deep, personal love beautifully displayed in my Saviour's humble birth, His sacrificial death  in my place, and His unending desire for my good. 

The kind of quiet that seeps deep within and hushes my restless heart.  

Those words jump off the wall and into my heart… 

The striving  stops.

Peace flows, hope abounds, love is shared and joy spills over.

The even keeled joy that I longed for… the one that remains even when the tears are falling… the one that starts at Christmas and lasts the whole year long… the one that is rooted in love and intertwined with hope and peace. The one that makes silence your friend, because deep down in your heart you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it is well with your soul.


My prayer for you, dear friend, is that in the midst of your silent night... you'll look up and see the God who knows our imperfect, noisy surrender, our shaky desire to bow down, and still showers us with His love. That you'll allow His love to break into your silence, quiet the unrest within and spill over as joy. 

A joy that lasts the whole year through.



Somewhere in Your Silent Night by Casting Crowns

Thanks Aimee; it's such an honour to be featured on your site.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Are You Thankful For Your Scars?

Those stubborn spots. They just wouldn’t go. 

I had tried a soft damp cloth and had wiped hard. And then with only slight reservation, I had whipped out the sponge, and using the rough side had scrubbed as vigorously as I could, but still they persisted. As a last resort, I had scraped at them with my fingernails. It was an all-out pursuit to recapture the original unscathed beauty. But it was not to be. 

The storm had passed, and the scars were there. Not to be removed, no matter how hard I tried.

As I sat there with my damaged planner in hand, noticing the scratches that I had made in my attempt to restore it, I remembered why I had chosen it and even more why I had rescued it from the rubble of my home. 

I have always loved planners, but could never justify the expensive ones that I left mostly unused. This one was different, simple and inexpensive with no frills or thrills, yet pretty and functional. There was no pressure to use it or impending guilt if I left it unused, just a welcoming invitation penned in gold across its soft delicate cover. 

Despite the storm damage, those same words were still clearly visible amid the spots and scratches and once again held my attention.

Let love guide your heart,
Let GOD lead the way

Now, as I meditated on those words, my mind swirled and whirled with thoughts of scars and their untapped beauty. I thought about all the ways we collect scars and the extreme measures we often go through to rid ourselves of them.  And I thought about the Love that never leaves our side.

Have you ever been wind-blasted? If you’ve been through any 'storms' in this life, you know you don’t come through untouched. 

Following the passage of Hurricane Irma, the walls and floors in my home were covered with debris - broken banisters, planks of galvalume, splintered tree branches and upturned furniture. But beyond that obvious top layer that could be raked and cleared was a more insidious layer splatter-painted on the walls. Stuck right on. Leaves and other debris. A constant reminder of the force of wind that had pummeled us. A deep-set layer that is not easy to clean.

Isn’t it like that in our lives? With the deep layer of scars splatter-painted on our hearts caused by numerous 'storms'.  It is this layer… the one we wish was not there… the one we hope no one sees… the one we can’t clean ourselves… it is this layer that makes us painfully aware of our need for a Saviour. A Saviour who sees the scars… the deep crusty layers… yet loves and accepts us as flawless.

So, as I look at my bruised planner, still beautiful and useful, I’m reminded of my scars -the ones caused by mistakes made, and plans gone askew, by loss lived out and fears unchallenged, and I see their beauty despite the pain.  You see, these scars of mine pull my gaze back to my Saviour, the One who pulled me out of the rubble and saw beauty in me. The One who wiped me clean… a clean I feel already but not yet. The One who showers me with His 'all-consuming, heart-pursuing, Grace-extending, never-ending love'. A Love that surrounds me no matter what I’m going through, where I’ve been, or which scar I’m trying to scrub away.

This week as we list out what we are thankful for, I pray that we don’t forget our scars, for as much as they keep us dependent on our Saviour’s love and faithfulness, they are still beautiful and useful.