Sing, Man, Sing!

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This morning as I stepped on the path to walk to work, a man joined just a few yards ahead of me traveling in the same direction.  He started singing, and his voice was the full deep sound from an African-American man, strikingly beautiful as it rang into the ordinary of the day.  He sang at full volume letting the song reach wherever it could go.  I had to slightly change the direction of my path to stay right with him, quickening my steps to close the gap between us.  I wanted to be near him.

At times he would stop, and inside I cried out, “Sing, man, Sing!”.  He would start once more, and I would be struck again by the gift he was sharing though he was totally unaware.  He was simply going about his day doing his thing, and what he did gave life and changed ordinary to extraordinary for everyone around him.  Beautiful.

That’s the life to live.

Sing, man, sing!

Eyes Wide Open

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In 2005 I was a wife to John and mom to three little boys living in a town I loved.  Our days were routine and yet filled with good things like school schedules, baseball practice, neighborhood fun, friends, church.  Late in the year changes stirred, and a move across states into a little town I had only learned of months earlier surfaced.  It was random and unexpected, and although we absolutely did not want to leave our town, we knew God was leading.  Obedience would mean following Him.  God’s hand was evident.

If you look closely, you can probably still see my fingernail marks in the dirt from Texas leading to Kansas.  I moved, but I pretty much kicked the whole way.

Boxes were unpacked, boys started their new school, John settled into his new job, and we began asking the big question:  Why?

We began living with eyes and ears open noticing the answer came in everyday moments as life introduced us to all kinds of people and placed us in all kinds of new situations.  Stories formed, and we all became more bold realizing the ordinary could turn extraordinary in the blink of an eye simply by entering more fully into the people placed right before us.  We became more attentive to God who is dynamic, always moving working, creating, and stepped into what God had prepared ahead.

Life is interesting because of people, and adventure isn’t necessarily difficult.  Simple friendliness and life giving words can lead to some fun places.  I think people in general are just hungry and in need more than they appear.

We’ve moved again from that precious town, yet I pray our eyes stay open because stories happen no matter where you live.  God intently plants you in your place and time for a reason.  The other night I stood by a friend who was holding her box of Raisinettes while an unexpected scene stirred around us.  As we stood there processing our next move, she said, “Sometimes you just gotta pop open your box of candy and enjoy the story.”  I laughed and gave her a high-five agreeing the great adventure of life is the always unfolding God story, and it most definitely must be lived with eyes wide open.

Standing again

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I had been sitting on the ground with college girls for a while when it was time to get up and go do the next thing.  The “20 somethings” sprang to their feet with ease while my 47 year old self decided to, ummm….take my time (wink,wink).  In truth, my knees were locked as my legs tried to unfold, and my back was confused about being upright, thinking I should stay humped over a few more minutes.  It wasn’t a graceful flow to move after sitting on the ground for so long, but it was time, and I needed to stand.

I’m reliving the feeling as I make my move and begin writing again.   Bear with me.  It’s been a while, and it all feels a bit awkward.  

This blog is a collection of everyday moments God has used to catch my eye, get my attention, and teach me about His love, mercy, grace, truth.  Some moments have been light, like celebrating people I love.  Others have seemed like iron weights piled in my lap.  A moment agonizing prolonged season came where God held me in a wait for much longer than I ever felt necessary.  Writing was a way to process, sort, document, and share everything God was saying which was actually a lot for someone I felt was being way too silent.

Then it was time for me to be silent…….for real.

There are times to speak and times to be silent, both necessary.  I needed to be quiet for a while at the end of our wait to be still and know, to hear, to persevere, to cease trying to pour when I was so empty inside, to learn and walk in newness, and to be about a task.  Honestly, I’m more comfortable in silence especially living in this world of non-stop noise.  I’ve never liked excess, and speaking at times just seems like adding to the overflow.

But, I have something I need to stand and say:

God is good and beyond faithful.  

I wrote and wrote about waiting, and to end this journal in the wait would be the worst way to end a story……because a wait is never the end of a story.

There is always the other side.  And it is good.  So good.

Because that is who our God is.  He resurrects, gives life, expands your heart, and gives you the gift of new eyes and ears to love others deeply.  There is purpose in all.

Where are you?

Is anyone discouraged asking questions about God you never thought you would ask?  Yeah, I get it.

Let me cup your face and draw you close, my friend.  With all my being let me tell you this:  God is faithful.  He will lead; I’ll walk with you.   Truth is there is another side.  Stories don’t end with a wait. 

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” 

Isaiah 43:2-3

Truth

You Are Being Led

 {The following is a speech I gave to the students of Abilene Christian University.  This message was prayed over heavily and lived as well.  I had written the speech down for the technical people to follow to coordinate Power Point slides and thought I would share it again here in this space in case someone else needs to hear and be encouraged.}  

 

Today,  I want to confirm in you a truth……..

YOU ARE BEING LED.

Let me tell you why I want to speak this into you:  It’s because I am talking and listening to you, and I hear your questions daily.  You wonder about your major, your friendships, other relationships, the opportunities you are getting involved with or not, and the big one…….what happens after you leave this place (graduate)……where will you live?…..where will you work?……how is all of that going to happen?

YOU. ARE. BEING. LED.

I’m not making this up.

The Word, TRUTH, tells us so.

Scripture is alive and active and is full of stories of God leading His people…..not in the ways they presumed it would always be, but in higher ways that ooze of adventure and meaning.  This book of life also tells me in black and white that God leads and guides ME.  The older I get, the more I fall in love with God’s Word.  Don’t let anyone ever diminish to you what is on these sacred pages!  All is God breathed.  All is true.   All is to be used.  I testify that God’s Word breathes life.  

On the screens……

“The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.”

                       1    Thessalonians 5:24 

are some of my favorite verses……..

 “He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to His heart;  He gently leads those that have young.  

                                  Isaiah 40:11

ones I’ve clung to……..

 ”Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”  

                                 Isaiah 30:21

Some have been the reason for my next breath……..

 ”The gatekeeper opens this gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”  

                                   John 10:3

They are God’s Word to me………

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters….”  

                                 Psalm 23:2 

…….to you.

 “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.”

                            2 Corinthians 2:14

 

God leads.

Some of you are tracking with me right now because you are in a season where doors are flying open before you and wisdom keeps ushering you through.  To you I say “Bless you”.  Enjoy.  May you hang onto the confirmation you are receiving this day.   It’s good.

Today though I want to pointedly speak to those of you not feelin’ it because being led often feels like anything but open doors.

Sometimes it is closed doors.

For the right doors to open, some are going to have to close.  We would prefer them to close after the right one is already standing open and not be left in the dark, but why then would we need faith and trust?  Where would the opportunities be for growth, to lean on the Lord, to become stronger? We are told “we walk by faith and not by sight” meaning God is indeed leading and at times you are just not going to see it.  All may be dark to you, but all is light to God. You will be the one with the blindfold on.  God will not.  He sees everything.  Keep holding his hand.  He will lead you.

Sometimes a leading can feel more like a desert……like a wandering through a dry place.

The desert place is often a place of deferred hope….where there is a hungering, a thirst, a longing for something…..but our timing and God’s timing are just not matching.  God’s timing will trump your timing every. single. time.  You need to know that I am speaking today as one who knows this place well, for it has been my past two years.  Doors didn’t feel like they just closed, but abruptly without warning slammed over and over and over again leaving my family and I wandering.  There was a day in the last year I slammed my hand on a table and quoting the Israelites said, “Did the Lord bring us up to this place to die?!”.  Yes, I did.  It was one of those moments where the ugly in me came busting out……because I was tired.  Deserts make you tired, and I don’t know about you, but nothing makes the ugly in me come out faster than when I’m tired.    This same journal I’ve used to prepare for today, I used months ago to journal prayers….to let my heart spill.  I won’t read the prayers to you now, but let me summarize, “Dear Lord,…. What. In. The. World???”  I’m so thankful that God loves me all the time and lets me be the child to crawl up on his lap and give him what is going on inside me.  He wants me coming to Him…..especially when there’s ugly inside I need help with.

Let me tell you what starts happening, desert people.   You keep walking and trusting and little by little God starts revealing His plan…..because there is one.  A day will come……IT WILL COME……when clouds part, and you see a little patch of green grass, and you start to have flickerings of understanding.  Let me tell you, this part is fun!  He has often made me laugh because when He starts revealing, it has often been much greater than what my little mind was thinking.   Keep walking, desert people.  God is leading.

Sometimes being led feels like discipline.

It feels about as great as being whalloped on the side of the head (Yes, I know this one too)….not to condemn but to wake us up to the thief who is stealing life. God has much He wants to show and give you, but He needs you staying with Him.  When pouring over the scriptures about leading, I was reminded that God is not the only one who leads, but an evil one who is lurking, prowling, scheming, and devouring.  Pride, our speech, arrogance, sin, false teachers, and deceit are named as things that can lead us away.  I guess what I need to say to you today is more than “You are being led”, but more truthfully “You are being led……by something”.  You are not NOT being led.  Who or what are you following?   You will be the only one responsible, and it’s going to make a difference in the end.

Sometimes a leading can feel like a death.

Maybe it’s of a dream or an ideal……something you always thought would be that is not going to be.  Maybe living in this broken world has touched you in a way that has changed life forever.

Listen…..Jesus, too, cried, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?!”……..and death HAPPENED…….and a tomb was SEALEDDone.

But hear me……Our God, our Jesus conquered death and is alive, and this is the truest story ever told.  He is about resurrection even today!  Stick with Him!  He will lead you to the other side where there is healing, life, and redemption in abundance.  Jesus holds his pierced hands out to us even today and says, “Do you believe Me?”  ”How big will you believe Me?!”   Our culture will try to tell us what redemption will look like but they. do. not. know!!!   Only Jesus can bring life after death…….and true life after death is nothing short of glorious.

God leads.

 

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One day when I was in the thick of my desert time, I was driving, looking numbly out the window as questions flooded over me.  So much I didn’t understand, so much I couldn’t piece together, so much I just didn’t know.

That’s when I felt God’s voice to me:  “ABBY!!  Do you see the cross?!  Do you see me?!  I am always ahead of you.  Everything you are wondering about?…….I’m already there working it out for you just to walk in.  Your job is to stay in this car, stay on the road with me, and just keep driving.  I am leading you.

And so it is for you. 

I challenge you today:  Find someone who is in the Word, someone following the Lord, someone who interests you and is ahead of you in life and ask, “How has the Lord led you?”.  This place is full of testimonies.  Hear them and be encouraged.

Bless you all today.  May you know His voice so you can follow the one who loves and leads you.

 

 

Glory

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Glory…….my word for 2013.

A couple of years ago, I began a habit of praying and then listening for the Lord to give me a word for the year.  2011 taught me thanksgiving while 2012 focused my mind on trust (how interesting…….thanksgiving before trust).

Glory was the word for 2013.  I must admit I was pretty fired up when given the word.  The trust of 2012 was exhausting. I was ready to sit back in my easy chair, put my feet up, and have the Lord’s goodness pour over me.  Yes, I was ready to see the Lord’s glory!

I was in for a bit of a paradigm shift.

On this last day of 2013, I am reflecting and putting into words what I have learned this year about “Glory.

The year began with peaked ears for “Glory“.   John 15:8 was timely given to me on a little card which sat on my nightstand the rest of the year.  In the chapter subtitled “The Vine and the Branches“, the Word speaks this truth:

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  John 15:8

You see, glory can be about the sunrise surprising you when you wake or the miracle of new life sprouting in spring, all of which can be seen from your easy chair, but it is also about a work, one prepared in advance, an expectation to use talents and what has been given, to live as God desired, planned, and created.  We are to be a display of His handiwork……..which means His hands must first do a work in us…….and this is for His glory.

This year has been full of thanksgivings (Oh, mercy!  So many!), but it has been flat hard.  I’ve been tested and challenged in core beliefs.  I actually made a decision one November day to forget hope……only to have it be a failed experiment (Glory!).  I have been weak, have realized I needed to start calling some things “idols”, have had all kinds of ugly surface, and have thrown my face to the ground in repentance…..over and over again.  In all, I have been reminded that God always loves me (Glory!), has given His Son for me because I desperately need a Savior (Glory!), and uses fallen broken people in beautiful ways (Glory!).  I’ve been pruned, and it has felt more like discipline.

My mother was the first to teach me about pruning.  I remember being a child staring out my bedroom window at her wielding and manuevering the hedge trimmers over the shrubs just below.  She cut and chopped and thoughts that something just didn’t look right flooded my mind.  I ran outside to see green leaves scattered on the ground, awkward rounded branch forms where the full bushes once stood, and my mother smiling over her good work.  She has a knack for making everything she touches beautiful, but I knew she had lost her mind that day.  Her creation looked like a bare wreck.

I guess this is the way I feel ending 2013……like a bare branch form that once held green leaves.  My Father has been at work cutting in ways I understand and in some I don’t.  You don’t have much of a choice when it comes to pruning, you know.  Cuts get made without your opinion.  It becomes an exercise in release……in will, timing, function.  In the end, I am His handiwork and somehow I think He, like my mother that day, is smiling.  He knows what my mother also knew:

A new season is coming.

Life will come and the shape I am in is on purpose.  I have to believe this.  Fruit will bloom, and it will be to my Father’s glory.  It has been painfully clear to me it won’t be because of any of my efforts, and for this I am most thankful.

Glory.  God’s glory.

A word for 2014 has already been given to me this year…….handed to me as a Christmas present.  What is it?

NEW.

Oh,……..Glory!

Blessings on each of you as you  also enter a new season.  May you grow through new adventures and insights.  May you fill full of His love and splash the Lord’s goodness on those you touch.  The Lord will be good, because He just is.

John 15:1-9

The Vine and the Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.

 

Truth

 

 

Day 31 – Teach Us To Pray

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This month I’ve gathered what I’ve been learning, what has encouraged me and spoken life.  I’ve shared our season of waiting.

John and I have prayed much during this waiting time.  We’ve prayed for jobs, a home, schools, our boys, clarity, and guidance.  It has been the season we have desperately wanted over, and yet something else has been prayed too:

“Lord, please do not let us out of this waiting time until we’ve learned what you want us to learn!  Teach us!”

Our wait has not been just about physical things of this earth, it’s been about the eternal: hearts, minds, transformation, and we pray a move toward His glory.

We wait for the Lord, our souls wait.  In Him we trust for He is Father and God Almighty.  And as we wait, Lord, teach us how to pray.

Dear one, as you wait, may The Word be ever before you speaking life and truth.  May you have others surrounding you walking with you speaking what is true and wise.  May truth speak louder than any lie being whispered in your ear.  May you rest and have surprise joys along your way.  May your eyes see, ears hear, and give thanks.  May you know The Great I Am and feel Him carrying you.  His plan is coming for you.  Our God is faithful. Wait for Him…….and know you are not alone.

Isaiah 40:31
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Hebrews 10:23

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Truth

Day 30 – Waiting Without Sowing is Just Waiting

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There is a Law of the Harvest:

1.  You reap what you sow.

2.  You reap in kind what you sow.

3.  You reap in different seasons than when you sow.

4.  You reap more than you sow.

5.  We reap in proportion to what we sow.

6.  We reap the full harvest only if we persevere; the evil comes to harvest on it’s own.

7.  We can’t do anything about last year’s harvest, but we can do something about this year.  

It is law, and it cycles true year after year after year.

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It is possible to have a wait that does not produce harvest.  I can’t imagine how discouraging it would be to wait for nothing, but that is exactly what can happen if the sowing is neglected.  Waiting without sowing is just waiting.  Ugh.

But when there is sowing, harvest is sure to come.  Yes, a wait with dry seasons and rain  are a part of the law, but a harvest WILL come.  WHAT are you sowing?  Do you want more of what you are sowing right now?  Look out, because the harvest will be more than you sow.

Sow, Wait, Harvest.

It’s law.

Galatians 6:7-8

The Message (MSG)

7-8 Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

Truth

Day 29 – Commit

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Coming home from a vacation four years ago on a two way road in Alabama, we ended upside down when someone ran us off the road.  Our oldest was taken via care flight an hour away back to a Mobile hospital.  Mercy was great that day.  We were spared from what could have been.

Another trip was on our calendar for the weekend after “the big flip”.  It had been on the schedule for a long time and was important, but were we to go?  How would we go?  We did not even have a car.  Should we go?  We were healing from bumps and bruises, not to mention what was swirling in our minds.  It was more than we could think about, and in exhaustion said, “Lord, we have no idea what to do.  Whatever!  The decision to go or not to go is all yours!”.  And we meant exactly that.

Day after day that week we watched God walk us through healing, He provided a car, and gave clarity and strength to get on the road again.

Four years ago I experienced sitting upside down in a flipped car, but I also learned what it felt like to totally release……totally release…..a decision to the Lord.  Head knowledge moved to my heart.

“Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;”

Psalm 37: 5-7

When John came home from work at 10:00 the morning the wait began, details again swirled in my mind, and we were taken back to what we learned after the flip:

Release…….commit.

So that is what we did.

Each morning the week following we woke, prayed, and released:

“Lord, we commit to you when we need to move.”

“Lord, we commit to you where the boys need to start school.”

“Lord, we commit to you the details of selling our house.”

“Lord, we commit to you……..”

And we watched God clearly move us step by step, and His plan has been perfect taking care of details that weren’t yet on our radar.

God moved us fast that week, and now we wait.

We are still committing……..about jobs, where to live, a house, finances…….and even though we wait, we know He has this and is working.  Waiting is all a part of His plan.

“Lord, we commit to you………….”

Truth

Day 28 – Waiting…….with kids

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If you have raced with men on foot, and they  have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?  And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?

Jeremiah 12:5

When our oldest was three years old, he played soccer, and we ran with him holding his hand showing him which direction to run.  Since then, soccer has been replaced with football, and countless hours have been spent practicing, early mornings, late nights, and everything in between.  Coaches have drilled play after play for him to be ready for the game and what would come against him.  It has NOT been about just showing up on Friday night to see what would happen nor has it been about parents holding his hand to show which way to run.  We now sit in the stands and watch.

In the beginning of this wait our kids asked, “Dad, Mom, what about…………?”.  They learned quickly to recognize our blank faces and hear, “This is it, son.  THIS is what it is to walk by faith and not by sight.”  And we held their hands and started this run.

As a family we have stuck together tight in this season, and together we have prayed, poured into The Word, released our desires and submitted.  We have worshiped.  All emotions of a hard journey have been faced together.  Our sons have seen us encouraged and weary, hopeful and disappointed, patient and not so patient. We have asked for and been forgiven much because we have struggled along the way.  We have all waited on the Lord.  It has been living out “play after play” showing our kids how to “move down the field”, how to trust and let God lead, how to surrender our will and plan, and the number one rule is “HOLD ON TO GOD’S HAND!!!  DO NOT….. LET GO…. OF…. HIS…. HAND!!!!!”

A time is coming very soon when our boys will live life on their own, and we will be asked to sit in the stands and watch.  We don’t know what they will face; we know it will be hard because this life is.  We pray they will be ready.  This hard real life adventure we are living together while they are still in our care is a gift to John and me as parents and is our sons’ practice for how they will face challenges ahead. Someday John and I want to watch our boys and see they aren’t just racing wearily with men, but we want to see them strong and able to run with horses.  We want to see them walking confidently and securely through the thicket of the Jordan, not because of who they are but because they will know HOLD ON TO GOD’S HAND.  DO NOT…..LET GO…..OF….HIS…..HAND!

Run, boys. Run with horses.

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Truth