Sunday, November 2, 2014

Your Life Matters

Gosh, it's been a long while. Writing seems like something I avoid these days...or something I have avoided for months and months. Honestly, I think I needed to just go out and live, and my reflections on it all needed to be my very own reflections for a little while.

The writing bug is coming back though...the reading, the sifting, the intentionality of doing something that I believe God put inside of me is rising within.

I think for a year I replaced writing on a computer to unknown adults to writing hundreds of letters to known kiddos. I love sending notes to students and former students. I think my love for it (or need for it) comes from a few places within me.

1. I was 9 once. My mom had cancer and I was scared. I didn't know how it worked. I didn't know if she would die and how God was going to be real in all of that.
2. I've been divorced, and I have a son I've watched navigate that path...those tragic cards he was dealt. I witness, and at times, experience his pain.
3. I'm single, so I feel alone a lot. I desire to be seen, to be known, to love and be loved by someone in a way that differs from all others.

So, I write...I tell those kiddos WHO they are, that they MATTER to this world, that God is with them and will never leave them...

because with all I have traveled, whether hard or beautiful, God has been consistent, never changing, always true, always there, and everything about Him has panned out just as He says it will.

There are so many confusing messages out there, so many questions, hardships, disappointments, failings, and lies, and this 37 year old falls for them all the time, so as a reminder to myself and as an anthem to them, I write letters.

But for me, I think it's time to circle the wagons one more time and start sifting, reading, reflecting, and writing.

I just returned from the Storyline Conference. It's one of my all time favorites to attend. This was my third time to go. I've gone every 2 years. The conference has evolved over time, so I get the benefits of their new ways, new speakers, and new crowds, but I also get to hear some of the same stuff again as I have evolved, grown, changed, and seen the fruits of trusting God with the story of my life.

If I had to explain the conference in one sentence, I'd say it's about living intentionally, realizing/acknowledging your story matters to this world.

Trust God, trust what He's taught you, and GO LIVE for Him.

I think one of the main lessons I've taken over these last 6 years is you just have to move, you've gotta take that step, make a choice, and go with it.

He's given us the tools, His word, His presence, His guidance, and now we must start walking it out.

If we think about Jesus and His disciples, they lived and walked out the life with Him for 3 years. They rarely knew where they were going or why or what would happen along the way, but Jesus did...and they just followed Him.

Much of the time they got it wrong, said the wrong thing, were confused, doubted, were terrified, fell asleep, and scattered.

But Jesus remained. He kept inviting them along, talking as they went, teaching as they walked, and somehow, at the end of their time with Him, they witnessed His ultimate love for them...they had believed in who He was and walked out the time with Him, but until they lived the darkest time, thinking all was lost and nothing was what they had thought, did their worlds completely change.

Once Jesus proved His ultimate love, laid out His perfect plan, and overcame what is the darkest end for us all, those disciples took this world by storm, holding nothing back, not letting the greusomest of deaths deter them.

They knew their lives, their stories, mattered because they experienced and held the ultimate story of hope, they knew the deepest of truths, and had to share it with the world.

I refuse to believe Jesus came to experience all human suffering, die the ultimate death for my sin and yours, and conquer all that is evil for a people whose lives don't really matter.

Jesus didn't do all of that for a life to be lived safe, numb, for consuming and accumulating toys and human pleasures.

History has not played out the way it has played for a people whose lives don't matter. You mattered, I mattered so much that throughout time, the evils and vilest of times, the heartache and darkness, the death and destruction, God pursued, God thundered down, God created, grieved, and CAME. He set to love, to rescue, to redeem, to sacrifice Himself so that I may live, so you may live. 

If that doesn't tell me that my life matters, then I don't know what would.

But even if we think or have an inkling that our life matters, so often we can be paralyzed with "But what does God want me to do? What's His plan for my life?"

Well, since God didn't reveal His plan to any of the greats in the Bible, I don't think any of us should sit around thinking that He's going to miraculously give us a blueprint. That's not how it works. From the beginning of time, He's never revealed His anyone. So you and me, sitting in our homes in Texas, New York, California, or Japan...shouldn't think He's going to give us one either.

But, He has given us plenty to go on.

I have great plans for you!
If you search for Me with all your heart, you'll find me!
Love one another.
Build others up.
Pray without ceasing.
The truth will set you free.
Stay in My word.
Fix your eyes on Jesus.
Abide in Me.
Wait for the Lord.
Trust in Me.
Stay with God.
Do not fear.
Be strong.
Be courageous.
I will be with you!
Love mercy.
Do justice.
Walk humbly with God.
Be a living stone.
Tell others what Jesus has done for you.
Preach Christ crucified.
Live for Him
Live a life that ministers
Be gracious
Be gentle
Be honest
Be hospitable
Be alert and sober, putting on faith and love, wearing the hope of our salvation, appreciating those around us, letting peace rule us, encouraging, helping, and being patient. Hold fast to what is true and to what is good, Rejoice always, and KNOW, without a doubt,
that Faithful is He who calls us.

As I sat in Starbucks this weekend, for the first time in a long time, working on some notes from the
conference, basically doodling thoughts from 2 days, a lady leaned over and asked me what I did for a living.
"Are you working? Is what you're doing part of your job? Not that I was reading all it said, but I'm trying to figure out what to do with my life and I had to ask you what you did."

I told her I was doing a little bit of both...working and just living.

I had been grading papers, but now I was just processing some notes from a conference I had been at.

She still pressed me for what I did as a job.

As I told her about being a teacher, lighting up, saying it's the best job in the world, she said,

"So you always knew what you wanted to be?" with a little disappointment in her voice.

I assured her I didn't always know I wanted to be a teacher. I'd had many thoughts and directions, but God knew being a teacher was the perfect thing for me during this season of my life. He knew that for a myriad of reasons teaching was going to be one of the greatest joys in my life and that I could live out some of my gifts and experience some of His ultimate graces in my life.

She proceeded to tell me she had 2 daughters and loved art and design but just didn't know what God wanted her to do with her life. She'd been praying and asking but didn't know what to do.

I looked her in the eye, telling her I'd been there. I knew what she felt but instead of feeling paralyzed by not knowing, look at it from a different angle. God is giving you the FREEDOM to go out and make choices, to go and figure it out: To trust that He will be with you as you go, but He's asking you to go. What are your passions? Where are you leaning? Trust He'll be with you and go.

I went on to tell her I had just been grading compositions my 5th graders wrote. We spend over 2 weeks on them. We read, discover and take notes about the topic together. Then we read and take notes on our own. Then each student must organize their notes on another day. Then we outline those notes. I hold their hand each step of the way. It's laid out, it's full of directions with simple tasks. But then the day of writing arrives. They must take those 4 previous days of work and knowledge and begin to write...On their own.

They must stare at a blank paper and begin to tell the story from what they've learned over the past week.

Many are paralyzed.
So, I tell them two things, and this is what I'd tell you.

Start with what you know. Just start writing what you do know. Don't worry about making sense of it all, just start writing. Turn that white paper into something filled with what you've learned.

And second, I tell them I'm a fantastic editor, but I can only edit what you've written. You gotta give me something to edit. I won't write it for you, but after you begin, I'll guide it, rearrange, make corrections, give you better ideas, different ideas, and remind you of things you have learned but have forgotten to include.

I'm a great editor, their greatest tool when it comes to writing the paper, but I can't edit a blank page.

I think of God that way too sometimes. He's an incredible editor. He lets us live and choose based on what we know and what we've learned. He wants us to move in a direction our heart leads and then He'll come along and edit.

So, just take what you know, trust in what you know about God, and go take a step knowing that He's with you and He'll guide you, He'll edit, He'll protect and show, and even correct the mistakes in one form or another.

She smiled, thanked me, and I went back to doodling and thinking.

Over this last year, I firmly believe there were things I had to walk out. I didn't always know what I should do, what the right answer was, or even if I should be where I was...but I kept getting this prompting of "just be true to who you are and who you want to be and walk it out."

Twelve months later, a book couldn't contain the lessons I learned along the way. I wouldn't have learned them if I'd played it safe, stayed paralyzed and never trusted God that He'd be with me as a 37 year old woman with fears and hang ups and insecurities navigated life.

I witnessed God's grace, protection, lessons in the hard, and I saw myself grow, mature, rely on Him, and that making "mistakes" was ok and part of being human.

I'll end with this.

At the conference, one of my favorite caveats was when Don Miller was talking about how God did not create us to live in reaction but to be co-creators of a meaningful life...that God bonds with us when we do things. He wants to share experiences with us.

And the Bible is full of stories of people doing, living and experiencing a life where they had no idea what was coming next: getting to feed the 5000, crossing the Red Sea, walking on water, talking to a king, watching a brother die, sitting under a broom tree ready to die, having everything they had taken away, riding in an ark full of animals and a smell so foul as the entire earth gets swallowed by water, but they were trusting God and relying on Him as they took each step, that He would provide the ground when it was time for their foot to land.

Don went on to say, " I think God is up there saying, 'let's get into some trouble "we" can't get out of'."

And isn't that what the Bible and living a life of depth is full of...circumstances that require the hand of God to get us through?!

A meaningful life takes risk. It takes walking into an unknown, but remembering we're not empty handed. We're armed with God's word, God's promises, God's presence, and a grace so magical and unimaginable that He's just waiting for us to take Him up on it.

So reader, don't ever forget that YOU MATTER. You matter to God and you matter to His plan in this world.

His death did not come cheap, our redemption price was so high that only the God of the Universe could pay it, so let us go live knowing grace had a cost He saw worth paying, and He lavishes it on you and me because we matter to Him. 

"The accuser was overcome by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony and they didn't love their life even when faced with death." Revelation 12:11

In Him,

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Being Irreplaceable...

I haven't written in months. I'm not sure I know how to anymore...

When I woke this morning, I knew that I couldn't end the day without writing. I don't know why, but I feel like I will have walked away from something if I don't.

So, here I am.

Lord, here I am.

I awoke at 6:39 with thoughts of death. Not the scary kind...more the reminiscing kind.

I had one major thought amongst all the little ones. It was how much I would miss certain people if I were gone. Those I have and even those I hope for.

I immediately thought of a conversation my mom and I had before she died.

See, she knew her death was imminent. We had a handful of conversations about it...about life without her.

This particular one took place in my parents' living room, on the couch. She told me she was going to miss being my mom, that she hated how I wouldn't have one anymore, and she even worried that someone would replace her in that role someday.

I assured her that was impossible. Her role was filled, and she was irreplaceable.

I laid there, on my pillow, having the thoughts of how no matter what happens, life continues on, but our hearts long to be irreplaceable.

My deepest longing is to not only be known, but to be sought and cherished, to be longed for, and to be someone that can't be replaced.

I want to be someone's favorite.

I want to be someone's favorite.

And honestly, I'm not sure that's a terrific desire to have or even a healthy one. I do know it gets me stuck a whole lot in my life and even causes me to stare at this screen for an exhaustive amount of time not knowing what to write next.

As I continued to lay in my bed and think, I wondered why I was remembering those conversations with my mom and then it hit me...she died 6 years ago this coming Friday.

I can't remember if I told her that day on the couch how much I would miss her.

I really hope I did.

But, I'm afraid I couldn't really go there in my mind, and I so wanted to comfort her by not getting upset. But I hope she knew...losing her would leave a void in my life that impacts me daily.

She was one person I knew I was her favorite...daughter that is...but that was enough to be.

We are a "get over it" society and I am certainly a "get over it" kind of girl, but somedays one must stop, reminisce, and remember.

I remember her...her soft hands, her constant pursuit of me, her love for Cade, her easy laugh, her flautas and lasagna, her prayers, her driving, her inability to say "fifth", her endless list of friendships, her love of shopping and buying, and I remember how she made me feel special, valued, cherished, irreplaceable...I remember how I was her favorite.

I remember daily just how irreplaceable she really is.

It's a beautiful memory and I'm so grateful that God's grace is deep enough that I have that to remember, but I'm also deeply thankful for the gift of knowing one day, I will sit with her again.

In Him,

Saturday, April 19, 2014

How God used loneliness and fear to draw me back to Him.

These last two weeks have been filled with gut check moments for me. I'm not sure why, and I wish I could turn the clock back and not go through a few of the moments I've walked, but I know I can't, and I know it's all for something.

I have to believe that it's all for something.

Loneliness and fear are two of the most powerful forces I've come to know over the years. They can be paralyzing, gut wrenching, and life manipulating. Both have encompassed much of my last 2 weeks.

I've had to look both in the eye, and I have to admit, it's still up in the air on which one of us will flinch first.

What's unusual about the two is that fear draws me to God, but loneliness seems to drive a wedge between us.

These last 6 years without a mom and also being divorced has left a gaping hole in my desire for daily interaction with someone who knows me intimately. There is something quite powerful in intimate relationships. For a person to know the secrets of your soul, the hurts of your heart, the whispers of your dreams is special, and I absolutely believe is a gift from God's gracious hands.

I didn't really appreciate it or fully understand it until it was missing.

And most days, I hate it...I curse the fact that it's missing.

I hate desiring it or needing it or wishing to the depths of my being that I had it.

But one learns to navigate through it, to live within it, to keep walking and telling God on the days it hurts, that it hurts.

And then, a moment comes when you get a taste of that sort of friendship again and you start to truly realize how much you miss intimacy.

So, your heart opens up a bit, pieces that have lain dormant for a long time begin to awaken, and your heart beats a bit differently than before.

I didn't ever think I'd let myself walk down that road again. The path I took before was not a good one. It was full of pain and disappointment and an emptiness I don't ever want to feel again.

So when I found myself in a situation, looking down a road that could lead to something, I had to decide if it was worth the risk.

My loneliness had hit an all time high where my relationship with the Lord had suffered. It had become hard for me to even open my Bible. I talked to God all the time about it...talked at Him, but I couldn't read His word. Something about loneliness made me hurt in a way I couldn't reconcile, it had started making me angry at God. I knew there was a wedge between us, and I kept telling Him about it, but it stayed there.

There were times I would just take my Bible everywhere, in and out, back and forth, lay it next to me as I slept, but only opened it on Sunday mornings.

There were other times I just opened it and laid my head in it.
I couldn't read it.
I knew it wasn't going to tell me what I wanted to hear, but I knew I wanted God, needed God, but I just couldn't bring myself to listen to Him.

I read it at school, I spoke it over others, I looked up things I needed to know for a lesson or a friend, but never for me...never for just me and Him.

So, when a moment came when there was a chance for me to choose a road that might not be so lonely, I decided to take it.

In spite of fear, in spite of anxiety, in spite of all my memories, I chose to walk it.

And the most powerful lesson in all of it is I realized I didn't really know how lonely I really was until, for a short while, I wasn't lonely.

God made us creatures of community. He made us to be people who see and listen, who feel and grieve, who engage and press on, who encourage and love.

And for years, I didn't do any of that. My heart was numb, I kept it locked up, and my community was small and my intimacy with others was very limited.

And for 5 years now, God has worked on my heart, has shown me love in more ways than I could recount or write in a year of posts. He's shown me the incredibleness of friendship and vulnerability, of transparency and depth.

He breathed life into my heart and made it pump anew.

And as hard as loneliness is, I'm grateful God has turned my heart from one that was numb, into one that feels...and feels deeply.

I'm grateful I crave intimacy, that I desire a partner in life, that I truly believe life is better with family and people, friends and loved ones, a table filled with laughter and a heart full of love.

A friend of mine met me at Starbucks last night. As we talked and caught up on our lives and she shared some hard stuff she was dealing with, she asked me what I do when I feel like I just want to quit, when I'm weary, when I feel like things aren't going to change...

I told her, all I ever know to do is to take the step in front of me; to take that next step that you know you should take.

To get up, get dressed, and go do it.

In 5th grade we memorize Philippians 3 and a good chunk of 4, and perseverance and moving on and straining forward are key pieces in that text.

In any race, there are valleys and there are mountains that one must go through and go over, and the only one who makes it to the end is the one that keeps moving, keeps going, keeps taking that one step right in front of them, no matter it be the valley or the climb. They keep going.

In my loneliness, all I knew to do tonight was to come read, spend some time in God's word, and listen to His let His truth wash over me.

Yep, I've reopened His word. I started to listen again.

As my loneliness seems to place a wedge between us, fear drives me towards Him, and 2 weeks ago, I had the rug pulled out from under me (technically, it was the treadmill) and fear entered the picture in a mighty somehow, in God's mysterious and gracious way, He used both loneliness and fear to get me back to Him.

For nearly a week now, fear has driven me back into His word. God began reminding me that I was bought with a price, that the word of the Lord endures forever, that I've tasted the kindness of God and I'm precious in His sight. He's called me out of darkness and into HIs marvelous light. That he who believes in Him will not be disappointed, that Jesus died for me, once and for all, and to cast all my anxiety on Him, because He cares for me...and all that is written within this book is the true grace of God and I shall stand firm in it.

For two weeks I've doubted, questioned, cried, and begged thinking that loneliness and fear were going to grip my life and steal it of a joy I've been able to experience for many years now...

But tonight, in the secret place spent with Him, His goodness revealed that maybe, just maybe, they were just tough climbs I needed to take to find Him again, to be reminded that in His presence loneliness and fear begin to wash away.

"And we have joy in our troubles, knowing that troubles produce perseverance, and perseverance, produces character, and character produces hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of Christ has been poured out within our hearts." Romans 5:3-5

"So we have the prophetic attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your heart." 2 Peter 1:19

If you are lonely tonight, may you take that step closer to Him whose goodness is revealed in that secret place of His presence. (Psalm 31)

My prayers are for you.

In Him,

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Redefining Love

I count 7 items in my home that are mine. Seven pieces of furniture or appliances, etc... that I brought in from my prior life. Everything else I have been given.

All of it.

And my house isn’t some bachelor, college hodge-podge house. The items people gave me were legit: a washer and dryer, an incredible couch and these uber great leather chairs, my dining table, antique side tables, and much more...

Walking through my house each day, I am reminded about how much I have been given. That all I have, was and is a gift from people who know how to love on others.

I've always known I was loved, my parents made sure of it. But somewhere in my late teens to early thirties, my definition of love got really messed up...and much of it was my own doing.

Five years ago, I prayed, no I begged God, to give me another chance at love. That what I had experienced wouldn't be what I thought love was or wouldn't be the love I gave and understood and lived out.

I wanted my story of love to have a chance to be told differently.

I knew the pendulum had swung so far to one side, I begged God for Him to right it, to swing it back and rebalance it.

I wouldn't have ever thought it would take 5 years to do that...or I should say, I wished it would only take 5 days, but it didn't.

It's taken 5 years for me to somewhat, with mild confidence ;) say the pendulum is somewhat righted.

How did God do it?

He immediately brought in this incredibly tall, dark and handsome to settle the score...he told me I was beautiful and I was enough...that I was the greatest woman he'd ever met and the incredible rejection I had felt was now over. This tall, dark and handsome mended and reassembled my broken heart and we lived happily ever after...

Um, no.

No God didn't...

and I'm not bitter about it at all. Not. at. all.

Nope, God took a different approach. Go figure.

Coming out of divorce and feeling completely rejected and unloved, my definition of love was very much wrapped up in romantic love, spouse/friendship type love, which plays a huge part on a story of love, but it’s not the whole story...and God knew I needed the entire story of love retold in order for this one section to be righted once again.

God was intent on telling me the whole story.

God’s way to right this pendulum has been to use friends, parents, mentors, 216 ten year olds, a son, my job, traveling alone, heartache, disappointment, and even loneliness to teach me once again what love is.

He gave me what I needed, not what I wanted: nights alone, aching, crying, begging Him to take the loneliness away, to have nights so quiet, that then and only then, could I hear His answer...HIS answer to what love is.

His answer wasn't my tall, dark and handsome.

His answer was Himself. The One and Only who could speak into my heart and begin to mend it, over time, through His faithfulness and goodness, showing me mercy amongst pain, pain I needed to feel and see and understand.

I needed to learn and experience that He is love, and if I was going to get a grip once more in life and have a chance to live love out, then I had to see and know the Source, to feel His love, appreciate Hs love, to trust His love, and to be filled with His love.

Through time, I’ve witnessed love in ways God wanted me to see it, and get it, and do it.

He's brought incredible friends into our life that Cade and I can witness love amongst them, and theirs towards us. I can see marriages that are real and fun, and as I watch them,  it makes me less jaded, less cynical, and dare I say, even hopeful...

After Valentine's Day, a friend of mine was sharing how each year she tries not to build up the day in her mind, to remind herself  her husband and family share their love throughout the year and that's what matters (and it's VERY true - the love contained in that family is dreamy!) but she's always so disappointed in herself at how disappointed she is when the day comes to a close.

I told her I thought it was because for 364 days of the year, she lives the REAL deal. Her family does God's love all each other, in marriage, in parenting, in friendship...but for this one day, she buys the lie of the world, of culture, and that's all it is - a lie, so it leaves her disappointed.

The love the world touts and talks about and depicts is an illusion. The world hijacked love by creating an  empty and fake version; it created something that doesn't and can't exist. And I believe the emptiness she feels on Valentine's day is the disappointment most of us feel quite often because that's the love we've signed up for and live.

It's cheap, last minute and unintentional.

I love chocolate, but I don't eat it for the same reason, most women over a certain age don't. So, if buying a card that someone else wrote, a $10 box of chocolates I don't want and will throw away, and possibly some overpriced flowers from HEB on the way home is how the world says we show love to the most important people in our life, then that's a cheap, last minute, and unintentional way to live out love.

But, to go out and love on your hurting or grieving neighbor, to take a single mother's child shopping so he can give her something at Christmas time, to sit with your friend during chemo, to help carry the burden of a new widow, to snuggle up with your kiddos and laugh and read until midnight, to pray over them and for them as they are sad or nervous, to mow a single mom's yard every 2 weeks, and to take time and write a letter to a young man whose dad isn't there to usher in manhood with him, now that's love.

That's abundant, living and breathing love. That's the kind of love that turns boys into godly men and girls into godly women.

That's the kind of love that brings Jesus in and transforms...that love moves mountains, and that's the love God uses to redefine LOVE and usher in His HOPE.

God knew I needed five years for Him to tell me I was enough because I was His.
I needed to feel alone, deeply alone and heartbroken, in order for me to realize, I wasn't ever really alone because Jesus is always with me...really with me. Jesus would always show up, and each time He showed up, I discovered that I mattered. That He, the Maker of heaven and earth, valued and loved little ole me, and He believed I mattered.
Through five years, He's given me time, time to reformulate my definition of beautiful, to become less jaded or engrossed with what the world says is beauty.
Five years ago, when I begged God to give me another chance at love, if He’d have told me it would take five long years, I think I would have thrown in the towel. I wouldn’t have wanted to walk it out. I would have quit before I even started.

But now, looking back over these years...all I see is God’s hand working and holding and moving and carrying and loving...

He took something so incredibly broken and poisoned and gave it time to heal, to mend, to breathe, to rest, to catch up, to ask, to question, to grow, and to be moved.

So, wherever you are today, whatever your heart and mind believe or feel or are wounded by, because God is real and God is love...His HOPE sits right next to you in all of that.

He will lift you up.

He will walk you out.

And if you trust in Him, His time, His plan, and His love, then a life you never knew could exist FINDS YOU, and it's a gift undeserved and's God’s Grace.

May you seek it, may you bask in it, and may we all have no other desire but to share it.

In Him,

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Redefining Hope

I used to think hope was a four letter word. I vividly remember weeping, yelling at God to stop giving me hope because it was always dashed, it was only a mirage, and I had come to hate it.

For a long time, I believed hope was a curse...not a gift.

But the reality was, I didn't really know what hope was.

I had hijacked hope and turned it into something it wasn't meant to be.

For most of my life my hope for happiness, for marriage, for parenting, for working out all the details of my life rested on me. I constantly carried the burden of planning and designing and figuring and worrying about so much. And since I was so busy doing that, I not only missed out on living life, but I was settling on a mediocre life created out of the mind of a child, as well as basically setting the whole thing on fire; I was taking the role of director when I wasn't made to do that, nor equipped to do that, and in the end, I was lighting a match to my life and my hope didn't stand a chance.

See, my hope was in me. in people. circumstances. feeling secure and safe. wanting everything to work out just so.

And since my hope was in all of that, it was in brokenness. My hope was just a mirage.

It was doomed to be dashed.

I look at my life back then as a building engulfed in flames.

I had built the structure with my visions and dreams and misguided ideals...and my "hopes" were in all of that and now those hopes were the burning timbers.

My mom dying, and then me being engrossed in devastation and divorce, come March 2009, I sat in the embers of what's left after the firemen leave from putting out a 4 alarm fire.

I sat alone, in a heap of rubble. And as much as I hated where I was, I was also relieved to have had the fire put out. Something inside of me knew I had been chasing something that didn't exist. I was chasing an illusion that I kept calling hope, but it wasn't real. It wasn't there.

And I just sat in the smoke of my hope and life burned.

I can't help but wonder, if all those times I begged God to stop giving me hope...all that my hope was in had to first be burned before I could ever let go of it.

If I ever to was to have a chance at knowing what real HOPE was, I honestly believe my version had to play out, and I had to watch it burn.

I believe that because I've now experienced how God has answered that prayer of mine...that cry of my heart, the deep cry of wanting to live in hope.

Over these last 5 years, God has taught me that HOPE isn't a "four letter" word. In fact, I kind of think it's been His mission in my life to show me that I had hijacked hope, and He wanted it back.

He was taking it back; and He was going to redefine hope for me.

When I came to a pivotal moment in my life, when all I'd put my hope in had fallen, the greatest life lesson God has shown me is that if I put my hope in anything besides Him, it isn't hope.

Hope only exists when it is in Him.

Genuine Hope takes Jesus.

As I sat amongst the rubble, there was no joy, relationship, love, or peace. I hadn't experienced, I mean truly experienced, any of those in years. And I believe the reason is because all of those glorious gifts are contingent on HOPE, so putting our hope in Him and only Him is crucial to grasping all those treasures we long for, we're desperate for.

What's remarkable is that in the same moment of having all my hope dashed, was really the first moment in my life to clearly see genuine HOPE.

Through God's grace, at the bottom of my pit is where I knew my only way out and up was with God.

I saw HOPE, because amongst my destruction, all I saw was Him there with me.

I knew that I had nothing left.  I had spent 31 years putting hope in myself and I was on the floor weeping a life destitute, a life broken, a life burned.

Each day, I remember that picture. I remember what and where my brokenness gets me.

My life changed, my faith changed, and eventually, my definition of hope changed when all I had left to get me up off the floor was Jesus.

Before then, I had never grasped the simple fact that my task of being human was to live life.

What I did was orchestrate life...not live it. I needed to learn how to LIVE it.

Living takes trust; it takes an element of walking in an unknown. I'm not someone who can handle not knowing what's around the corner.  I'm too fearful to live amongst unknown. TRUSTING amongst unknown was a foreign concept. It was insanity to me.

Some of that fear was reasonable...I had circumstances in my life that fear was fed, but much of it, I chose or I didn't know what to do with because faith and trust and grace weren't  something I lived out.

But, through God's infinite grace, He walked me through the fire, pursued me in the rubble, and His constant goodness and mercy and faithfulness have continued to massage the fear and worry out and convince me to trust see that my hope is now in HIM.

It's a daily work, but He's faithful and unchanging, so He's quick to remind me that trusting Him, placing all my hope in Him is an integral part of freedom, of peace, of truly living.

And when one sets aside all that is within them to fix or mold or create and rests it all in the mighty hands of God, life starts taking a turn, it shifts into a realm that becomes a bit magical...remarkable...wondrous...and dare I say, hopeful.

One of my favorite verses for over 10 years now is in Romans 5. It always gave me hope that something would come from the mess I kept walking in...but I didn't really get it until I'd walked 10 years in it.

I think most of us strive to be people of character. We wish we'd have courage and be brave. We wish we'd truly love and be loved. We wish we'd be patient, merciful, and full of joy; to be known as a perseverer, an endurer, a believer, a hoper.

But, those treasured characteristics don't come easily, they aren't cheap, and they are only earned through the crap none of us want to experience; they come through blood, sweat, tears, heartache, grief, loneliness, sacrifice, and in walking through all of that, trusting in the hope that only God can give.

God's great mercy allows those to be found as we walk on a journey, a journey with Him through all that life brings.

"And not only this, but we also have joy in our troubles, knowing that troubles bring perseverance, perseverance brings character, and character brings hope; and hope does not disappoint us because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy SPirit who was given to us." Romans 5:3-5

In Him,