Confessions of 2016

James 5:16 says “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

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Did you ever read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Mix that with Pharell William’s song determined to be “Happy,” and the saving grace of the mix… “Say Amen” by Finding Favour  — and you’ll have a picture of my 2016.

My Confession: 2016 has been a wonderful, no good, frustrating, joyful, fabulous, overwhelming, love-filled, exhausting, fractious, and exhilarating year. I have cycled from fully and joyfully alive —  to exhausted resignation with mild depression — and back again. Sometimes with both all mixed together in a pot I called menopause (but the doctor said it wasn’t that).

Many times, I have called out to God both in thanksgiving and despair. Shamefully, at other times I have all but ignored Him, as I became swallowed up in temporal circumstances. The urgent and pressing.

Since we rang in 2016 from our tranquil porch at Alligator Point, I have participated in (personally or through close friends and family) many BIG, significant events.  They have included several broken bones;  numerous ER and hospital visits; countless joy-filled weddings (two of my own children); divorces; one office remodel, move then destructive fire; repeated vandalism and deception; a crazy election year; two new puppies; a hurricane targeting both houses; starting my new business; unemployment/ new employment; back to school; high risk births, serious parental illness; and family funerals — just to name a few.

In living and praying through the highs and lows, the scheduled and unscheduled events of 2016, I seemed to have put a lot of life on hold — on the back burner for a more convenient time, even though some I feel are at God’s leading.

  • despite aspirations to go to a writer’s conference and start a book, I have written only five blog posts
  • I sort of launched, then postponed starting my coaching business — until 2017 when the craziness would slow down
  • after doing so well the 2nd half of 2015, I let stress win the health battle in January 2016, and put off weight loss and cardio health until 2017
  • my “quiet time” became dismally distracted — reduced to at best “prayer without ceasing,” but without disciplined and real focused time alone with God
  • I set up my studio to paint more frequently, but rarely felt the creative spirit
  • I imagined but didn’t begin numerous projects… my to do list grew and alas is misplaced
  • my values and mission statement documents were literally lost in the chaos before any efforts  were made (and before I committed them to memory)

I’m sure I could continue listing circumstances and distractions — excuses and understandable delays and failures in reaching goals.  Possibly you can relate? We all have years that are just “one for the record books.”

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But where is the nugget of truth I need to carry forward to 2017? The circumstances — even natural disasters, family weddings or deaths — are not the core issues.

IMG_2988In a few days we will sit in the same beach rocking chairs, looking ahead to 2017. Again, I have no idea what’s in store. 2016 was truly a wendinger of a year… but maybe this is the new normal of mid-life empty nesters with aging parents and many adult children??? Despite all that’s unknown and out of my control, how can each day of 2017 be better? What can I learn? How can I grow? How can I please God?

I think the answer lies in #4 bullet on my unedited list processing the back burner spokes in my wheel of life. “My ‘quiet time’ became dismally distracted — reduced to at best “prayer without ceasing,” but without disciplined and real focused time alone with God.”

Heart of my confession: Lord, I have let other things — worthy, good and “bad”– steal my attention from You. Forgive my idolatry — which has lead to destruction. (Phil 3:19) All those other bullet points above are simply evidences of the consequential destruction when I forget my first love. img_3233

It’s so exciting and amazing that God forgives and offers His grace and mercy fresh each day! Not because I have “changed” or “been good,” but because of  Jesus! He is my atonement! Still —  true confession involves the overflowing response of repentance! Turning 180 degrees away from sin — back to God.

God not only wants but demands total devotion from His people. Complete allegiance. It is foolish to ultimately trust in myself or anything else in this life. Anyone or anything I love (or give my attention to) ahead of God puts me in danger, and should be considered an idol.

Matthew 10:37-35 says  “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” 

That stings. Especially for 2016.

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Those are not words the modern culture encourages us to embrace. Today’s world often calls us to worship family, achievement, recognition. Or to put it in words that sound more palatable to me and allow me to sin without feeling immediate guilt… I am encouraged and feel really good about myself when I’m seen as competent, self-reliant, poised, responsible — the one who can be counted on to “be there” for my friends and family.  When I’m the near “perfect” wife, mother, daughter, friend. Giving and serving — at home, at church and in my community.

Actually all those can be good things — but never when they come at the expense of my devotion to God. That’s what I let happen in much of 2016. It’s not that I forgot God or that He is always with me. It’s not that I stopped praying altogether or even that I quit trusting Him. I just didn’t make a lot of one-on-one time for being with Him.

I was overwhelmed by immediate needs and events, and God got squeezed out of His rightful spot in my life.  Nothing and no one deserves primacy in my life except God — Creator of every good thing. He needs to be my steering wheel — not just my fuel.

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I’m looking at my Christmas village — where I love creating a Hallmark-worthy little town. The North Pole has all sorts of colorful and fun factories producing bikes, gumdrops and other great things. My heart, left unchecked, is a similar factory — producing all sorts of enticing idols. Temporal things (meant to be good if kept in their secondary place of affection) that become idols of my flesh if I put them before God in any way.

I have loved other things more than God. I have given my first fruits of attention to good and worthy things before giving God my undivided, focused devotion.  At times to His exclusion.IMG_3000

2017 new year’s resolutions are days away. There is time to make plans to meet my goals. But my repentance can’t wait!

Starting THIS MOMENT God is my unrivaled #1 love again. My Sufficiency. My All in ALL… the One I will turn to for answers and guidance. The One I trust above all else…

And when I feel myself slipping (as I will do as long as I’m on earth), I pray I will catch myself earlier and more quickly. When the time I truly want to give to God is feeling rushed or second tier — I will see a problem. This is not an isolated occasion that calls for a reorganization of priorities… it’s idolatry. I’ll ask His forgiveness again, and return to Him as my first love, as often as necessary —  until He brings me home.IMG_2755

My prayer is that today and everyday God’s love for me overwhelms the circumstances of my life. That I allow my moments to be defined by The Good Book and the reality of God’s Truth in my life with Him. My favorite great hymns are a good playlist to live by!

  • “Great is Thy Faithfulness”
  • “Amazing Grace”
  • “It is Well”
  • “How Great Thou Art”
  • “My Life is In You, Lord”
  • “Blessed Assurance”

Your comments are so encouraging —  either in the comments section or through social media below. Thank you for “hearing” my confession, and for your prayers.  

 

 

 

 

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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