40 days of letting go and moving forward…

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A few weeks ago at lunch with friends, we were talking about Lent and what to “give up” for these days.  I thought about Lent, what it really means, where it originated, as we move towards the celebration of Easter, preparation for pressing in, closer to Him. I thought about my own constant need for His grace,  of simply wanting to know His presence more on a daily basis, not just during Lent, but through the whole year, every year. But I also thought about how much I seem to fall flat. Get stuck. And fail.

Admittedly, I’ve never been very good about giving stuff up, especially what I love. Guess that’s kind of the idea, so I gave it some deeper reflection…some of my favorites went through my mind…coffee, chocolate, facebook…then thought, why not let go of some of the things that I really “needed” to give up?

Like the hidden things – the stress, fear, lies we listen to, insecurities, struggles, weaknesses – which are all too familiar, yet seem to cling on and not let go easily.

I decided to go there these weeks ahead, letting go of the negative thoughts and attitudes, and moving forward with what I know is true.  In writing each day, I realize it’s a personal top 40 journaling series – 40 days of things I want to let go of, and ways I’m desiring to move forward.  It’s real, kind of vulnerable, sort of painful at times, to see the raw truths unfolded, but I know that’s where true freedom can come.  Maybe you’ll find yourself in some of these days, able to relate, praying it breathes encouragement your way, reminding you that you’re never alone.

Here is truth – each day we have a choice, with every thought, every action, every word – to either stay stuck in the same unhealthy patterns – or to move towards who we want to become.  My desire is simply to keep going, in the right direction.

Talking about it on my facebook page, every day, random thoughts along this journey, but hoping it might bring some encouragement your way.  You’ll find it each morning at 6ish, emphasis on the “ish.” :)  The posts are marked by the number of days we’re on, Days 1 – 40, and talking about topics such as these -

letting go of worry, moving forward in trust

letting go of fear, moving forward towards faith and believing God’s purposes are good

letting go of the hurry up mentality, moving forward towards rest in Him

letting go of distractions, moving forward in focusing on what’s most important

letting go of negativity, moving forward towards truth, choosing to see things as God does

and a lot more…

Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/DebbieWebbMcDaniel?ref=hl  if you have some moments to read and follow.

Would be grateful for you to join in and hear about what you’re journeying through too.

Pressing on towards more.  Hope you are too.

One thing I know…He makes all things new.

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thoughts on being still.

I took a long walk this morning in the pre-dawn glimmer.  Just to clear my mind.   Cluttered thoughts whirling, twirling since I opened my eyes, way too early.  I really just wanted to close them again, pull up the covers, and drift back into a dream, but knew such a gift was an impossibility. I was awake.  It was done.   Bombardment of a myriad of thoughts clamoring for attention, burdens pressing hard on my spirit, plaguing my mind, too many things to be contained in one heart. 

You may understand, all too well. 

Usually I run.  Today, I walked.  Long.  Took cues from my dog. Stopping a lot along the path…breathing in fresh, cool morning air…listening to sounds, birds, wind…noticing things around me that normally would never catch my attention.  Dogs are really very wise.  If only we would listen more to what they try to tell us.  Slow down.  Listen.  Look.  Breathe.

Thoughts swirled.  Conversations with Him.  Time passed.  Peace came.

for the weary one

So often in life we run.  We’re busy.  We’re pressed for time.  We rub shoulders every day with people who are desperate, hurting, lonely.  Sometimes we notice, but often we don’t.  We’re just too busy, preoccupied, or overwhelmed ourselves.  And to be quite honest, many days, “we” are those people, the desperate, the hurting, the lonely.  Just needing someone to notice.  To slow down.  To take time. 

Crazy world we live in, huh?

We desperately need joy-givers, hope-bringers, those in our lives who will help us remember what it is to breathe.in.grace.

We desperately need to BE those kinds of people for the ones who are starving.  For joy. For hope. For grace.

For many of us, running comes naturally – active, moving, stirring, going – it’s what we’re all about.    It’s the slowing down and stopping to listen and notice, that seems very, well, unnatural.

We’re rewarded for how much we accomplish, we live in a culture that praises movement, we tend to get impatient with those who are too slow about anything. 

Nothing wrong with running.  Or being active.  Except this one thing. 

We often never stop. 

We’re too busy to stop.  We even forget what it feels like.  So much so, that when we finally do, we feel like we’ve wasted time.  We feel guilty for being “lazy.”  Or we feel some sudden pressing need to check an electronic device, to see if someone needs us, or to make sure we haven’t missed something really important in those past few minutes that we tried to slow down.

Slowing down takes work.  Stopping and just breathing – takes practice.

Maybe that’s why God says it so clearly…

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Seems simple enough.   Yet often the hardest thing in the world.  

Be still and know, be still and know, be still and know that He is God.

Breathing in His grace today.  And slowing down…

 

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“Mom, did Jesus feel pain?”

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“Mom, did Jesus feel pain?”  I could see my son deep in thought, trying to process in his 11 yr. old mind, how anyone could, or would, endure such hurt – such intense suffering – on our behalf.  “I mean I know He died for us, on the cross, but did God protect Him from feeling the pain?”

His question was one that many of us have probably wondered ourselves.

I wanted to say yes.  I wanted to speak with comforting words, “of course, God shielded Him so it wouldn’t have to hurt so…very…much.”  But I couldn’t.  I didn’t.  I know the truth.

Doesn’t every parent long to protect their child?  Couldn’t God have taken the pain away?  Couldn’t there have been another way?  If Jesus was God, didn’t He possess some superhero type of strength – fortified to withstand any hurt?

Such huge love.  That He was willing to endure it all.  For us.

My son’s small hands held the nails.  My heart immediately went to Mary.  A mom.  I shared that in common with her.  Mom to a son.  We shared that in common too.  Human.  Yes, another thing that bonded our hearts – the weak humanity of life.

Mary – this mom destined to raise the very Son of God in our earthly world with one single purpose.  To die.  To take our place on the cross.  To be our sacrifice that we might live.  To save us, who cannot save ourselves.

She had watched her son build, they were a carpenter home, he had held many nails in life, hammered them deep into the wood. Did she know early on?  Did she know one such nail would pierce his hand?

I wondered if she wanted to hide him away.  Pretend that this deep awareness of Jesus’ purpose on earth was all some wild, made-up story.  Surely he was just her son.  Surely he would outlive her.  Could he not have great purpose on this earth, and yet still live? Did he have to die?  Did he have to suffer in this way?  Did she really have to let him go?

How did she carry such burden,” I thought.  “So great, so heavy a burden in life to know her son would die.”

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We gazed at the cross.  Big, wooden, heavy.  Our hands touched the beam.  It was hard to lift up.  “How did He carry this Mom?  It’s way too heavy.”  Thoughts whirled again in my mind, of a Savior, of a  son, of a mother, watching her precious one struggle under the weight of the cross, under the intensity of it all.

“I don’t think I could do it Mom,” he whispered to me, “I don’t think I could go through that pain.” Tears welled up in my eyes. I understood his heart.

I don’t think I could do what Mary did.  To raise a son, knowing that he would choose to take the weight of the world upon his very shoulders.  I’m so thankful that she raised him.  And so thankful that she let him go.

Her son died so that mine could live.  Her son died so that I could live.  Jesus was willing to die so that this world could live.

Letting go of my preconceived beliefs about the Easter story, and pressing in, to take a deeper look, at the cost, at the pain, at the suffering involved.  It’s not a flowery picture of fluff and stuff.

But it is the most powerful story ever told.  Picture of sacrifice.  Picture of grace.  Picture of love.  Lavish love.

letting go and moving forward…to know Him more.

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:15

The Cross

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33 Verses about Fear and Anxiety

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Some things we face in life are just plain tough.  And with all that is going on in the world today - violence, crime, international unrest, economic uncertainty, job loss, concern over the future of our children, family hardships, disease, world hunger, drug abuse, education costs - there actually IS a lot we could  potentially worry about. 

Fear…worry…anxiety.

But, ever notice that so much of what we worry about never even happens?  Fear can be so controlling over our lives.

I struggled with fear and worry for years.  Recently I’ve found that the things that once would have sent me down an anxious spiral, no longer have the same effect.  It didn’t happen quickly, but over time, through the years.  I read words.  Of life.  Of truth. Soaking them in.  Over and over.  Praying them out loud.  Until they became so familiar, they replaced the other things I battled against. There’s nothing magical about them, but there is power through them, because they’re God’s words.  Change happened. Anxious thoughts began to diminish.  Worry let go of its constant grip.  And though fear is sometimes still there, it no longer has control, it no longer holds me back.  His words are soothing to our soul, calming to our spirits, power to our days…there is hope there. 

It’s not always easy, but we must make a choice.  Choose NOT to allow fear and anxiety to control your life.  Guard your heart.  Focus your mind on what is truth in the midst of an uncertain world. We may be afraid but we can believe that God is with us. We may not be in control but we can trust the One who is. We may not know the future but we can know the God who does.

His word brings hope…peace…freedom.  He will cover you…you are never alone.

1.  “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

2.  “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  Psalm 56:3

3.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

4.  “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

5.  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  2 Timothy 1:7

6.  “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 love.”  1 John 4:18

7.  “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”  Psalm 94:19

8.  “But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”  Isaiah 43:1

9.  “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”  Proverbs 12:25

10. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

11. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

12. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34

13. “Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time.  Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:6-7

14. “Tell everyone who is discouraged, ‘Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue…” Isaiah 35:4

15. “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”  Luke 12:22-26

16. “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”  Psalm 27:1

17. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”  Psalm 55:22

18. “Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  Mark 6:50

19. “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

20. “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”  Isaiah 41:13-14

21. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46:1

22. “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?  The Lord is with me; he is my helper.”  Psalm 118:6-7

23. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”  Proverbs 29:25

24. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  Mark 4:39-40

25. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”  Psalm 34:7

26. “But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.”  1 Peter 3:14

27. “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.  He freed me from all my fears.”  Psalm 34:4

28. “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.”  Deuteronomy 3:22

29. “…Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.”  Revelation 1:17

30. “Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’”  Mark 5:36

31. “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”  Romans 8:38

32. “For the Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty savior.  He will take delight in you with gladness.  With his love, he will calm all your fears.  He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”  Zephaniah 3:17

33. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”…He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.  You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you…For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways…“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him…”  Psalm 91

And you know all that stuff on your mind? Give it to God and go to bed. Sleep in peace tonight, He knows what concerns you, He’s got you covered.

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“What Do I Say to My Kids?” 7 Things – Talking to Kids About Tragedy

Still seem to be searching for words…unable to wrap my mind around the senselessness of it all.
 
Along with many of you, I feel completely heart-broken, spirit-grieved over the very sad loss of this family in our neighborhood.
 
Quite sure that every mom in Cypress, and especially right here in Coles Crossing, hugged their own precious ones a little tighter this morning, and a lot longer.
 
Tried to carefully and wisely form words at breakfast, for 3 young hearts who needed to hear something from us, first, before they heard things at school.   Hardest thing in the world to find words to communicate, in kid format, something that seems so horrific in our own minds, and still desperately trying to protect young minds from knowing too much information.
 
Like me, their faces grew numb, I could see the “how, why, when” all at work in their minds…  Finally Noah, eyes cast down, said quietly, “Mom, he just told me at recess the other day, ‘hey Noah, I’m going to 8 yrs. old in 3 days.’”  I fought back tears as that nugget hit my heart.  Hard.  Heavy.  Cold.
 
Then the whisper came.  Quietly.  Softly.  Truth.  Spoken to a mama’s heart that hurt for 2 boys whose desks would sit empty at school, who would no longer run at recess, and play with friends, for the boy who would never turn 8.  The sudden awareness spoken deep down to my soul that these 2 precious boys were now safe. 
 
Forever.
 
“Dear one, they are safe, they are safe, they are safe with Me, and they still run…”
 
I gulped down the words, then said them out loud to 3 hearts that needed to know.
 
“They are safe with our Savior. We can’t understand everything. We can’t change what happened. But here on earth, and later in Heaven, where we’ll still run, we are always, always safe with our Savior.”
 
Like many of you, as a mom to 3 kids, my heart feels the weight of incredible heaviness for those affected by the family loss and tragedy today in Cypress.  Mom, Dad, 2 boys, all gone.  Murder-Suicide?  Questions still remain.  The why’s will probably never be answered completely this side of heaven.
 
And it’s often at these times when the “why” seems so hard to even begin to grasp…when our minds can’t quite wrap around such senseless acts…that I’m reminded of some of the most important things in life.  Hug your kids.  Tell your family how much you love them.  Thank God that you have today.
 

Something that many of us may struggle with in the aftermath of grief and tragedy is simply this, “so what do we tell our kids?”

Here’s a few things that may help give guidance:

1.  Turn off the news.  Be careful not to surround yourselves in media hype, be protective over how much your children hear from all the “outside noise” and over what you’re choosing to listen to.

2.   Be honest.  Don’t feel the need to cover truth in order to protect your kids, but be wise and careful with what and how many details your share.  Often kids just want to know “what happened,” they’re not really asking about all of the details surrounding the event.  Ask God for wisdom as you share.  Follow your kids lead as to what specifically they’re wanting to know.

3.  Go on with normalcy, as much as possible.  As tough as it may be while you work through your own grief, remain calm and secure with them.  Kids are such expert “readers” of our emotions, it’s OK to be sad, reflective – that’s honest.  But,  resist the urge to be overly anxious and fearful, and constantly talk about the story.  They take their cues from us as parents.

4.  Remind them that they are safe.  Remind them that even though we live in a world where, unfortunately, hard things sometimes happen, we can fully trust in the fact that God is always with us.  We are never outside His care.  We do not have to walk in fear.

5.  Validate their feelings and thoughts.  Listen to them.  You may not even want to talk about difficult things, but make sure you’ve given them some time to work it through.  Often for kids, just drawing a picture, writing some words, or being free to ask more questions as the days go by, brings healing and comfort.  Resist the urge to just quickly sweep things under the rug.  

6.   Remind your kids how incredibly important they are to you, and to God.  Hug them.  Tell them you love them.  Remind them that you are a strong family, that you are there for one another no matter what.

7.   Keep conversations open-ended.  Remember that, like many things in life,  having ongoing conversations are sometimes more important and meaningful over time than just one “big” conversation.  Don’t be afraid to talk about hard things.  Fear.  Death.  Eternity.  Heaven.  Open the doors for more discussions.  You don’t have to have all the answers, you don’t have to be a Bible scholar, it’s OK to say, “I’m not sure, but that’s such a great question, let’s search for the answer.”

I am constantly made aware in the midst of this crazy world in which we live, that we don’t have to walk in a spirit of fear, but with the very deep awareness that we live in a real world - where real suffering does exist.  And in the end, it will NOT win. 

Praying for God’s mercy to cover our community…our families…our friends. 

“God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18

 

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