What do a Fire, a Wedding and Glitter all have in Common?

I’m not sure where this one’s heading, folks! But I feel nudged to write, so here goes.

IMG_1560Yesterday, I started about 50 tasks, but made no progress. While “working” I also read, napped, talked on the phone,  played with the pups, and checked Facebook 8 times. The irony? I wrote web copy stating social media addiction as a specialty. Hmmm, might need to revisit my own triggers for that!

Why so antsy? I’m recovering. Life has been coming at me in double time. Curveballs — an endless barrage of the stuff that makes up our days. Some of it wonderful. Some, not so great. All without pause. I think God has been reinforcing two Truths  that are so well known, we can easily forget their magnitude:

  1. to trust God no matter what the circumstances, and
  2. to keep Him on the throne as my number one priority!

Pushing through life in the strength of my flesh, I needed a reminder. Busyness is no excuse for neglecting time with God, but we all cave sometimes under pressure. And He still loves us and works for our good. Maybe that’s why God allowed “life” to drive His plan home and give teeth to my faith before I launch my business. A business that only makes sense if He is central.

Early June, I was in Atlanta for an engagement party, when that party’s mother of the groom interrupted to say Rob had called me on HER cell. My heart sank. There had to be a problem… a big one.

IMG_2384The building we had moved our business into weeks before was next door to a building struck by lightning. The firemen let Rob through the barricade as he explained, “I own the building on the right… but I heard we’re ok.” When the deadpan reply is, “You’re gonna need to talk to the chief” you might have a BIGGER problem.

The fire had spread to our roof, and 550,000 gallons of water poured into our first floor space — 100% interior total. I kept telling myself this is “an act of God,” and He has a plan. All will be okay. Rob is a calm guy — even in the face of fire and devastation. I’m not always so steady, but one employee thought it was weird how cool and collected we were.

IMG_2399It wasn’t an act; we were consciously placing our faith in God. Trust was our only choice, as we added a major fire to our already full plates. But we weren’t without our moments. It was awful to go to the building. It was oppressively hot as they tried to dry out the framing, and the stench spoke to the devastation. Depression and overwhelm hovered nearby.

We looked for silver linings, but I was weary.  I didn’t have much energy for prayer  — beyond the typical ones that rise out of chaos and confusion. “Why? God, is there a message in this? We thought this business was your will? But it’s not going as we thought it would…”

IMG_2396I learned during a long and arduous 2008, that favorable outcomes are not an accurate indicator of whether you’re living in God’s will. His ways are not our ways. Things can look bad to our eyes, when all is going according to HIs plans. The building is still only protected by a tarp, but He is providing. We feel His peace.

Wedding time! I had to quickly shift gears for my son’s July celebration! It was a welcomed distraction; I’m thrilled with their marriage. But my energy was depleted, when I wanted to enjoy every moment. The joy of the Lord truly was my only strength — and it was probably a blessing I didn’t have any “fight” of my own left in me… as life kept happening.

IMG_2664 2The wedding weekend started with tux mishaps and wild storms. Two hours before dinner, I got another call…  the restaurant venue had a problem. There had been no power for 2.5 hours in a small area of downtown (also affecting the wedding hotel). The city estimated another 2 hours, despite crews working.  They were searching for another venue, but hadn’t found one.

By the grace of God, I wasn’t ruffled. We made the executive decision not to change venues. I would trust however they handled it — they didn’t need me to micromanage. Pizza could work if it had to. God had allowed the storm. All would be okay.

I only had time to text a few sisters and ask them to pray that we would have a rehearsal dinner — any kind.  I had to go to the church! I HAD to trust God had this…He had us, no matter what the outcome.  It helped that the laid back groom remained happy, as did “bridechilla.”

IMG_2761When we arrived the restaurant had miraculously cooled down, linens and flowers were on the tables, and they served the delicious original menu. Guests never knew there had been a crisis.  Shout out to amazing staff at The Edison: it was impossible to pull this off! I’m so thankful God always answers our prayers — and has a soft spot for wedding feasts!

Saturday morning was relaxed. I got my makeup and hair done with “the girls” then returned to my house to be with “my boys.” Such a special time — but it didn’t go as planned. The hairdresser finished my look with a flourish of sticky spray across my head, face and chest. I was bedazzled with glitter!

The mirror revealed not only was I “glitter mom,” but let’s just say the up do was not my style.  Flustered, but not falling apart, I went home thinking I probably needed to shower again. My boys didn’t disagree!

My sister and daughter-in-law-to-be came to the rescue (as did a groomsman with a mimosa). Bedazzled make-up was removed, and releasing my hair shook out most of the glitter that scotch tape hadn’t lifted. I washed my chest 4 times and voila — the show girl was gone, and the mother of the groom reappeared.

Everyone says most women would have flipped out. I AM most women! God’s grace and joy overwhelmed the problem, and allowed me to share the grace He has so generously shown me.

IMG_2731The slight confusion caused by the rain falling as everyone was entering the reception, only rattled me for a short while (admittedly, someone put a glass of champagne in my hand again). Nothing life threw at us could have dampened the joy of the night. It was perfect and oh so joyous, despite more than a few technical glitches along the way. God is good, all the time. So thankful I was too spent to assert my own agenda and compelled to trust Him through the weekend. Resting in Him is always the very BEST life.

I’ve almost completed two Christian Coaching courses, One serves to set up the legal, financial and technical structure of my business in a systematic way. I was on top of it… then came the fire, the wedding, the glitter and a myriad of untold circumstances.  I felt frantically behind as I worked yesterday. I hadn’t called the lawyer, accountant, web designer, etc. My perfect office was trashed — most destroyed room in our building — all except my paintings. Everything crashed to the floor, while they hung miraculously on the soaked walls like a rainbow.IMG_2698

I think God was lovingly molding me through the fire, wedding, glitter and all the other setbacks and crises. Reflecting and writing has calmed my countenance. Maybe I needed to praise God for His love, blessings, provisions and grace before moving forward. Today, I’ll tackle my task list again in earnest… after seeking Him in trust and surrender, and with so much gratitude and joy. Life just works better when my trust rests solely in Him — no matter what happens.

Creating a Fulfilling Life (Again) when You’re an Empty Nester

My beach porch is my sanctuary. God has met me here so many times… with dolphin shows, storms, gentle breezes, the artistry of a rainbow and the sunsets I so enjoy. Here I’ve received frequent guidance for life’s decisions (it’s where He told me to go to seminary). It’s where I’ve felt His love most deeply.IMG_0036

A few weeks ago some friends walked along the water with their dogs, and maybe it wasn’t the Holy Spirit, but I knew all at once, “It’s time.”

I looked over at Rob and said, “I think I’m ready for a dog.”

Not only has our nest emptied of children, but my home has reduced from an all time high of 3 dogs and two cats to a pet-less last year and a half. We thought we would be practical and wait 15 years or so to get a dog. You know, whenever life slows down and it’s more convenient… we travel a good bit and finally have no commitments or responsibilities at home. We’re foot-loose and fancy free to do whatever we want, whenever we want… but is that what life is really about?

IMG_2066Rob agreed and we quickly moved on to the bigger question: “One or two?” May I introduce Noah and Bristol?! :-)

It became clear to me in watching our friends, that despite all the reasons it doesn’t make sense, they live more fully and abundantly for going to the trouble to fit their furry friends into their lives.

Noah and Bristol are adorable and HIGH maintenance Springer Spaniels. Every reason we shouldn’t have gotten a dog has already come to pass in just one week… we planned a get away for our anniversary, only to realize after a few days — we can’t leave the dogs, yet! They are messy (one threw up in my 4-day-old car, day 1), slow us down, demand attention and need training. However, I am already in love and wouldn’t trade them for the world!

Dogs aren’t everyone’s thing; and this post isn’t about pets per se — or even particularly about midlife empty nesters (that’s just where I happen to be). It is about letting go of fear, convenience, practicality, cultural norms, maybe your pity party or regrets, tidiness, the past or whatever hinders you from MOVING FORWARD from your present “you are here” red dot and into the abundant future God has planned for you.

IMG_1441Life is full of twists and turns. I used to dread the unknown and the inevitable changes that ushered me there. God is teaching me not only to embrace changing seasons, but to relish them. To move forward confidently — not because I have all the answers or know how things will play out, but because my God is Sovereign, and He loves me.

He is worthy of my trust which allows me to live into His peace and abundance — whatever happens. I haven’t written many posts in 2016, because my goal is to share what God is doing and teaching me in my life. Well — I’ve been way too “in process” to put it out there in cyberspace.

Dogs aren’t the only recent change in my life. In the midst of loving my parents, planning two weddings, painting, writing and now the puppies, I am studying to be a certified Christian life coach — I’m starting a new coaching business this fall. Crazy, I know. Maybe even “dangerous.” But like Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, our God isn’t safe, but He is always good.

IMG_2136Sure the old trepidation sneaks in (it was even hard for me to publicly commit here to doing this)… but more importantly, I feel alive again. I have a hope and a future beyond being a full-time mom and homemaker  (beautiful roles from another season — from my past). I always dreamed and planned for school, for marriage, for children… and maybe even a distant “old-age.” But I never had a vision for this mid-life, empty nesting stage. Now I do. I’m even thinking Noah and Bristol might be service dogs… (dream BIG — whatever passion God places in your heart).

God is so graciously connecting the dots and guiding my way. Jeremiah 29:11-13 are some of my favorite verses: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

IMG_0756God gives us desires, gifts and a purpose. I was reminded in class that it’s our choice whether we use what He offers us or play it safe and just rock along. But it’s all irrevocably ours and He will hold us accountable one day. I don’t want to leave untapped that which He created me for and intends for me to use for His Glory. That’s why I can enter these exciting changes and all the surrounding unknowns in my life not only with confidence but with compelling gladness. I was made for this!

Outcomes aren’t all up 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 weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12 :9). And Philippians 4:19  promises, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

IMG_1557Proverbs 20:5 is my vision as I rely on prayer and the wisdom only God can supply for my coaching practice. “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” That insight will be supplied by God, if it’s His will that I do this. 

Because many have asked — coaching is different from counseling which valuably helps people cope with disruptive and painful problems from their past and heal what’s wrong in their lives to find stability.

IMG_2089Coaching looks forward. It’s a discovery process toward developing growth and potential. It’s more about building inherent strengths than overcoming. It’s not directive or about the coach’s expertise, but more about a partnership where the coach manages the journey by listening selflessly and asking skilled questions that guide another to set their own fulfilling agenda. Coaches help you think out of the box, and get “unstuck” or see a new vision that enhances life. Clients discover where they are and how to move from there to whatever and wherever God wants them to be. It’s the claim of John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That’s what we are made for — all of our days.

Henry David Thoreau ominously wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation…But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

IMG_1787As Christians we don’t need to share in this tragedy. Our God has a plan for each of His children (in every season of life) and calls us to cooperate with Him. Uniquely suited to our gifts, experiences and the desires He has placed in our hearts, the plans and purpose He has for us are assured. And they comprise our best life.  In Him we can find our confidence to embrace future change and movement with joy and thanksgiving. Sometimes we just need a little help from a friend.

Let’s bring on the puppies or whatever adventures, plans and passions He has for our tomorrows. JUST GO FOR IT!

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How to Rid yourself of Smoldering Discontent

IMG_3428We’re not so different from the wandering Hebrew people who wanted to return to slavery in Egypt — just after God miraculously rescued them. Familiarity feels safe and comfortable. Even more so when we enjoyed our yesterdays. We long to go back instead of trusting God today and into our future. We often let a smoldering discontent permeate our being.

Webster’s offers the following definitions

  • SMOLDERING: feeling a strong emotion but keeping it hidden
  • DISCONTENT: not pleased or satisfied 

I’m a midlife, empty nest mom… some might add in a midlIfe crisis? These middle years showcase a well-discussed season of change and transition. I’m writing from my current perspective, but my post could apply equally well to many others:  from someone just graduating college, to someone in their so-called “golden years,” or anyone facing change and transition.

Rob and I moved to a new town … when I was turning 48… after my nest emptied a 2nd time…  to start a new business… as we gutted our house.  I worked full time with him and tried to juggle relationships and the changing dynamics in our family sandwich (us in the middle of aging parents and launching “children”).

Let’s just say I was too crazy busy and distracted to know which way was up. God had blessed me with a marriage beyond my dreams, and that was enough for a while.

IMG_1556 After a few years, my recovery from unexpected surgery stopped me in my tracks. That’s when I started realizing our life wasn’t quite what I wanted. Little felt comfortable or familiar to me, so I assumed our life needed my attention to “fix” things. Get us back to what we had always dreamed life would be. That’s when discontent slithered in… and began smoldering.

I started worrying and scheming.  Why hadn’t we found the “right” church. We needed to develop friendships. Were we good parents … good children? Were we engaged enough in the community? Should we travel more? Serve better? Play tennis again? Why was it so hard to have quality time with God like I used to? Or exercise? Or read my book club books? Everything had previously fit into my life neatly like a puzzle. 5000 tiny pieces… it was chaotic and zany at times, but it all worked together. I was living the American dream – raising a family.  Now, I didn’t really have a relevant dream. Maybe if I just better organized the remaining pieces…

IMG_1067 (3)

Though I tried to ignore it, discontentment flavored even the best parts of my life.  I might be around another 30-50 years. Is life really about trying to reclaim a few shining moments of my past dreams? Or do I want to open my heart, mind and resources to the abundant life God promises me TODAY. And every day that I will surrender to Him in gratitude and trust.

IMG_1764The AHA moment came. So gently it had to be a divine message.  “Louise, I am doing something new.”

At first I said, “Great! I’ll get everything ready for you, God! I know the framework for a good life!”

I redoubled efforts to reclaim or recreate everything good from before and find ways to make it fit into our life today. Ever heard of the round hole and the square peg?

Again gently, but with clarity God said, “Stop. Stop your doing.”

Me: “Even the good and worthy stuff? That which you directed?”

God: “Stop doing life as you know it, in order to make room for Me and My plan.”

IMG_1507(This “conversation” isn’t real. It’s my attempt to communicate several years of devotions, Bible study, prayer and my responses as God led me. Transitions are often slow and comprised of many small, courageous moments of obedience.)

Me: “Ok. I’ll stop — well except for a couple things. Obligations that would be embarrassing to back out of early.”

Life felt selfish. Slow. Not very exciting, but I appreciated the rest. Then new circumstances kicked in, and I dropped out of even the last couple “old ways of doing things” — that’s when God spoke discipline and wisdom to me very personally.

God: “Let go of your determination to serve and to live your way, and follow me.”

Why did I think I knew what my life was “supposed” to look like? I memorized Proverbs 3:5-6 as a child, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

IMG_1772While rapidly moving forward, as life tends to do, I was constantly looking backwards for answers. Wanting to be where I once was or grasp what I thought I had missed out on. In the process, I was missing much of God’s best in the present. I was also putting myself at risk; I think Satan loves our stubborn discontentment. My way left little room for God to show me the new and abundant life He has for me NOW. The NEW plan for THIS TIME that He’s been working toward all along!

Imagine driving a car while steadily gazing in your rearview and side mirrors! It’s dangerous (I know from taking these pictures). Mirrors are only to glance back, to see if there is information that might help you as you move forward, giving utmost attention to the road ahead.

IMG_1781I realized I needed to confess my grip on the gifts from my yesterdays of active motherhood and a full house. Turn to Him and be grateful. Learn lessons. Cherish memories. Trust God, and let Him do a new thing in the spaces left by what is seasonally in my past. Live fully engaged in the present — where God is with me.

I believe an omnipotent God has been allowing and orchestrating all the events of my life to this day. He has an ongoing plan for me, and I only need to seek Him in order to discover what He has already prepared. He will give me all the resources I need to live abundantly for as long as He gives me breath. And then He will welcome me to heaven! He’ll do this for you too, if you’ll let Him.

Phillipians 4:19 promises us, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

IMG_3600God wants to heal the smoldering discontent — sin — in our lives, and transition us toward His gift of peace that passes understanding. To redefine and refocus our efforts to serve Him. To give us a new dream, uniquely suited to where He holds us today.

No matter how hopeless, lonely, scared, sick, tired, overwhelmed, depressed, obsolete, unworthy, broken, anxious, unsure or _____ (fill in with your own word) you may feel, God is with you.

“The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 143:18)

“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.” (Isaiah 43:2)

IMG_0155He has a plan that He wants you to joyfully join in with Him. God’s richest blessings to you, wherever life finds you. His promises are true for all seasons of life.

Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.”

Jeremiah 29:11 says trust Him always — and rejoice: “For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.”

And finally, one I take great hope in — Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

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