Ever feel like you are trying to move forward, but every step you take causes you to slide back two more steps?
Life has felt a bit like that lately.
During the time my husband was a youth pastor in Chicago, we took a beach trip to the Indiana Dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan. Another youth leader and I grabbed chairs and bags and started to follow the youth to the water. But we ended up taking a different path that led us over the dunes rather than around. As we walked down a hill of sand and realized that we would have to go up the other side, we knew that we were in trouble. We were loaded down with gear, the sun was shining hot and we had a long way to go.
I often think of that trek when I go through something difficult, because it was the most arduous journey I have ever been on. We were sliding backwards with every step we took and it was exhausting.
I feel exhausted right now in my life. Everything feels hard. How do you keep going when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere?
That day at the beach ended up being a lovely time with a special group of youth. The water was perfect, the laughter was catching, the beauty of the lake was inspiring. Twenty years later and I have the privilege of seeing those same youth getting married, having babies, serving the Lord. It’s a delight.
But when we were trying to get up that hill, I felt like we were never going to make it.
We kept going, not because we had the strength to make it, but because we knew what awaited us.
I’m exhausted, my feet keep sliding backwards, I feel at times like I’m not going to make it. Yet I keep putting one foot in front of the other, because I know that what God has for me on the other side of this hill will be worth it.
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
One of my favorite things is to open a new journal and see all of the blank pages. It’s a beautiful thing to consider the endless possibilities. But another favorite thing is looking back through old journals and reading of God’s faithfulness in my life.
He is the Author of my story.
Confession- I have not enjoyed the last chapter of my life.
But as a new chapter begins, I can see the work that God was doing in my life through great difficulty. I read my journals and discover that I was clinging to scripture more desperately than I ever have. The closeness of my Lord was ever present.
Music became a lifeline for me. God used songs at crucial moments to encourage my heart and keep me going.
One of my best discoveries was the group “Rivers and Robots”. The lead singer, Jonathan Ogden, recorded several worship sessions throughout 2020 and I listened to them over and over while I read scripture and journaled. One of the songs is based on a favorite verse of mine from Hebrews- “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (12:2) Here are some of the lyrics from the song “Author/Perfecter” by Rivers and Robots.
You are writing the perfect story
turning ashes into beauty
turning songs of sorrow into songs of joy again
You’re revealing your endless glory
Leading us in the way of mercy
Taking broken lives and making everything new again.
A new chapter in my life is beginning and I am thankful that my Author is writing beauty and joy into it. He is taking the difficulties and showing me His glory and mercy.
I might not always like the story that God is writing in my life, but one thing I know for sure. I trust him completely. He is a good Father and his steadfast love continues to sustain me and lead me forward.
There are blank pages before me, but the Author already knows the end of the story. And it is beautiful.
Who would have thought a year ago that this question- to mask or not to mask- would be at the forefront of our minds?
At the beginning of the pandemic, I would leave the grocery store in tears. It was so painful to see everyone in masks, to not be able to smile at others, to see the fear and the distancing. But over time, I began to see the kindness in others who creatively sought to reach out to others in love despite the challenges our country and world has faced.
What I don’t understand is how this question has resulted in such strong opinions that friendships have been ruined, churches have been divided, neighbors have turned against neighbor. This should not be!
In the fall, it became clear that when my Mama called to say her final goodbye, this time it was actually true. I was grieving and heartbroken, but also trying to make decisions that would honor my Mother and meet the expectations of my state mandates. I was shocked and hurt by the responses of well meaning friends who berated me for not visiting my Mom one last time. They did not ask the reasons first, but jumped to conclusions. This ultimately added more heartbreak and grief to a time that was already full of devastation.
We had been asked to cover our noses and mouths for a little while to show love to others, but what has actually happened is that people have covered their ears. We have become a culture that has stopped listening to others. If you disagree, you are written off. If your opinion doesn’t line up with mine, I get to insult, demean, and berate you to everyone else.
Speaking to the Christians here- how is this Biblical? Maybe your opinion is the right one, but once you cross the line of gossip and slander, you are no longer representing Christ to a world that so desperately needs him. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t challenge what we consider to be unfair and controlling laws. But HOW we do this is very telling. Luke 6:45 says, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” This should challenge each one of us, because we all have heart issues. Have you used this time to look seriously at yours?
I think what we are discovering is that the fault lines were already there; they just weren’t noticeable because we weren’t shaken. Now we have been shaken and we all need to take a hard look at our own lives. Have we allowed our differences in opinion to divide us from others, to form “us” vs. “them” camps?
Respectful disagreement is an integral part of a healthy society, but we have lost the respectful aspect of this. Now we are justified in being mean because it has become a societal norm.
My conclusion is this: to mask or not to mask is not really the question we need to be asking. What we need to be asking is are we willing to listen and love others even when they have opposing opinions?
I’m not going to tell you that I think you should wear a mask or that you are justified in not wearing a mask. But what I will say is I think we all need to more quickly listen and be slower to speak. And I think we need to refocus our hearts and seek to love others as Jesus has demonstrated love.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
Today our family is celebrating our husband and father, the man who was born on the only day of the year that is a command.
We love him quite a lot. His passion and his steadfastness are two of our favorite qualities that we see in him. He loves our family so well and has remained resolute to his call through a very difficult year.
We were reading in Nehemiah this morning and came across this verse in chapter 8. “They read from the book, from the Law of God clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” (verse 8, ESV). If we were to flip back the pages of time, I would tell you that this was one of the first qualities I noticed in Dave and one of the first things that caused my heart to be drawn to his. Dave has the ability to read complex passages of scripture, study the context and share the meaning in an easily understandable way. Now that I have known him for twenty-five years, I can tell you that this is a God given ability. I am so thankful for my husband’s faithfulness in seeking the Lord to instruct him first.
He is passionate about the Word of God and holding fast to truth.
Yesterday, I received a text from my husband during astronomy class. The timing was perfect because he was texting to let me know that SpaceX was about to do a test launch of their Starship SN10. Daye Academy and Legacy High held a spontaneous assembly to watch the attempt which was aborted at the last moment. Two and a half hours later, we were able to watch the launch together as a family and celebrate the first successful landing of the Starship. We watch rocket launches and all space related exploration with an exhilaration that others have for sports related events.
He is passionate about space exploration.
The shower in our kids’ bathroom started leaking through our ceiling several weeks ago. Gushing might be a better descriptive word of this situation! Dave ended up gutting the bathroom and determining what work needs to be done. Whenever we have any house related issue, he does extensive research to teach himself how to solve the problem. And then he works until it is completed.
He is passionate about problem solving.
I wrote in my “Plodding Along” post from yesterday that it has been a difficult year for ministry families. Our family was not exempt from difficulty. In fact, Dave would tell you that this has been the hardest year of ministry for us in our twenty-four years of ministry. We begged God to release us from ministry, because there were times when the attacks were too much. But God did not release us and I watched as my husband continued to remain faithful.
He is steadfast in seeking and following the will of God.
There were several things that stood out to me when I started falling in love with Dave. One was his ability to explain scripture. Another was his guitar playing. I first heard him play guitar at an open house event on his dorm room floor. I was amazed and realized that I could listen to him play for hours. I have been incredibly blessed by his talent all of these years.
He is passionate about guitar and he is steadfast in playing to honor the Lord.
It is appropriate that my husband was born on March 4th, because he has been marching forth in all that God calls him to do for as long as I have known him. I am grateful for his passion and his steadfastness. So today we celebrate our husband and father, our pastor and friend.
Happy birthday, husband mine!