Thursday’s Thread: ‘the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God’ and how it continues to redeem my life.

Has God ever knocked down a door or a wall trying to get to you?

Last night I was wrecked in worship…
Has that ever happened to you….where pieces of your past resurface as you’re singing out to God?

That was me just last night as a few of us gathered in the high school room at church to spend some time talking and worshipping together…I’m sure God’s been having some knock down fights in that room lately as He pursues students to abandon the things of this world and follow after Him.

I was taken back to a hard yet holy night when I was a young person as we sung the words of Cory Asbury’s song:
Reckless Love‘. 

It was the fall of 1984 my parents were much younger in their faith and I was still trying to figure it all out. They had been transitioning from a faith handed down to them from their parents to a faith of their own. And although I was being introduced to a new view of God it was still quite difficult for me to dismantle the one I had held in high regards for years. The one the church I had grown up in had taught me… that He was a God who peered at me through spectacles and quite honestly the one I seemed to be failing desperately.
I was lost in an endless cycle of displeasure with Him and I really didn’t know what to do with Him in my life!
Every time I confessed my failings He seemed to be keeping an eye on me from a distance and I seemed to be trying to desperately run from His sight.
His piercing eyes of judgment were too much for me!
I needed a place I could run and hide from all the shame and guilt of never being enough!

This was my sorry view of God when I tried to escape His convictions that seemed to be chasing me around in circles.
A friend of mine, not a good friend really it was just a friend from school who I seemed to hang out with whenever I needed to get lost which was happening more often than not these days. She had asked me to spend the night at her house where she was planning to throw a party. Her parents were leaving her alone for the weekend and she thought it was a good way to spend the time alone. So I asked permission from my parents to stay with her for the night of course not mentioning her plans to throw a party. Not very late into the night I heard a door knock and I answered it to find my parents standing on the other side…my worst night mare came to life. My two world’s were colliding. In my intoxicated state I immediately left my friend’s house and got into the back seat of my parent’s car and shamefully rode home. At our house I fell into the arms of my Mom and told her how sorry I was and asked her why they came looking for me that night. My parents told me they went for a ride and felt a leading to stop my friend’s house as they felt like something was wrong…

Last night…34 years later as we sung the words of ‘reckless love’ I recalled God’s love for me that night….

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it…There’s no wall You won’t kick down…Coming after me’.

The reality was that night God knew He had to send my parents chasing after me…He knew I needed Him to kick down the front door to our party for Him to rescue me from danger. I needed His reckless love to pull me away from the enemy’s plans for me….this is the ‘reckless love’ of God that taught me He loves me so much. 

That night was a pivotal moment in my faith…life was bruising and beating me up as I willfully allowed it to. I was chasing after something to stop the bleeding of my broken heart. I hadn’t found what would heal me so I just kept going to what numbed the pain and allowed me to forget for a moment the hurt that I felt inside…these are the places we can get lost in the cyclical spin of hopelessness…and that’s where God fought for me.

Sometimes we just want someone to come & find us because we’re lost in a game of hide & seek and we feel forgotten and unseen.
That’s where I was that night.
God knocking on the door that night was what my soul longed for, to be chased down in my brokenness…the place I was in was a hard place stuck in pain.
Yet God in His courageously and gracious love knew just what I needed.

Sometimes we can all feel like we are laying wide open exposed and ugly for the world to see but God has a way of bringing his white sheet of soft protection to us wrapping us up in His unending love and carrying us home. 

As I laid in the arms of my Mom that night, my Dad and her did what they knew was best. They told me that they wanted to pay for my brother, sister and I to go to a small Christian school they’d heard about in another town. Where we lived in Maine these kinds of schools were far and few and yet they wanted to give us this opportunity…
I felt God’s love encircling me that night as they planned a rescue for me.

‘When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me’

But walking away when the school year had just begun and my junior year of basketball had just started, was huge. The newspaper had just interviewed my coach that day and was already printing her predictions for the season; one of them being me. She had not only named me as an upcoming player to keep an eye on but as one of the team captains. I would be walking away from a piece of myself that gave me my identity.
As I laid there in bed that night though I knew it was the path I needed to break away from the destructive lifestyle I was living. I agreed to go to the school. I told my coach my plans and surprisingly she agreed it was just what my life needed….

‘When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me…’

Courage came into my life that night because Christ entered it!
You see when Christ came in for me it didn’t matter what school yard He found me in, it only mattered that I let myself be found!
He became the open door and open arms I so desperately needed…my safe place in His embrace. 

When our life is stuck in a hard place, God can come in and restore us.
And when life gets really hard and really stuck it’s His presence that transforms that place for us.

‘When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me’

For wherever God is…it is here where life begins.
Without Him our lives seem to be dying away but in His presence our lives get reborn. Because God is with us, in us and FOR us!

We find our lungs fill with air, our bodies get strengthened and our broken hearts find healing when Christ’s love finds us…God is a story-chaser and chases down every single one of us!

‘And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah…’
My story goes on…although I went to that small Christian school for my Junior year of High School. God gave me the courage to return my Senior year of school and go back to those I had allowed to lead me for far too long and become a leader for Him. Though my Senior year was a redeeming year and one that had many moments of triumph it wasn’t without hardship and difficulty too yet it was the one I lived for Christ more than I had ever lived any other years. And it was all because God came in that night to kick down a door that was keeping me imprisoned. And because He did that I am able to live a life knowing His reckless and undying love for me!

Maybe today you are like I was that night years ago… in a hard place of suffering of your own…wondering if you’re seen by any one at all…
going to great lengths to get yourself seen….posting pictures of yourself hoping for the ‘likes’ to put you on a chart of their own….
know sweet sister-
He sees you and is pursuing you!

Let yourself be found, dear one.
I can speak from experience until you let yourself be split wide open you’ll never really be found and find the healing you’re needing. 

There’s nothing He won’t tear down to get to us and there’s nothing that can keep you from His amazing love.

Believe me if I’ve not lived it I’ve seen it all…I’ve watched God take a broken heart busted up by murder get redeemed, I’ve seen arms so cut up in hope of disappearing find healing, I’ve watched women who took the life of their firstborn be given children to love again and I’ve seen marriages destroyed by one night stands find love again. Women who have sold their bodies find their true worth in Him and I’ve seen men so enraged with anger find a softening of their hearts by Him…There is nothing His love doesn’t have the power to restore and that includes you & me!

 

Go ahead sweet one, go toward His pleading pursuit and let Him show you the never-ending reckless love that He has for you!

Story trading is my passion…if you’d like to tell me a little bit about yourself and how God has/is pursuing you, share your story in the comments.
Or if you think my story will help someone you know share it with them and let’s change lives one story at a time!

Thursday’s Thread: How brokenness leads to healing

This past weekend as I was running my last few errands for my son’s graduation party. I went into a store to return a package of balloons I had decided I didn’t really need. I was going to exchange them for a single balloon. As the cashier explained to me I couldn’t return them I felt frustration rising in me. It was strange as I normally wouldn’t have thought a thing about it. But as I stood there with the plan I had walked in with suddenly falling apart I felt myself becoming angry.
In my mind I was telling myself….
Ruthann it’s $5 really?’.

As the conversation continued and I spoke to the manager trying to plead my case that I was unaware of their policy and couldn’t they grace me just this once. The manager responded short with me and as I stood dumbfounded at the register I didn’t know what to do….I know this probably sounds strange to most of you.
After all it was a package of balloons I didn’t really need but I wasn’t able to think past my dilemma. As I walked out of the store bothered….both at my response and with the store’s policy I glanced down at the shirt I was wearing,
it read ‘Love Dallas‘.
It’s one of our church’s key initiatives to love our city and community.
I knew I had terribly failed to show love as I voiced my irritation with the clerk and manager. I got into my car knowing I should go back into the store and apologize for my thoughtless words but I needed a plan. I was hoping my husband would talk me through it but as I opened the car door I realized he was on the phone and wasn’t available to help me process this.

You see grief shows up in all sorts of ways…
prior to dealing with my Mom’s death 3 years ago I had no idea grief can manifest itself as irritation. Differently than expected it doesn’t always surface in sadness and tears. This was true for me on that day. I had been grieving the days leading up to graduation. I was missing my parents and our sons who wouldn’t be with us. As I sat there a few minutes breathing and leaning into God I asked Him to help me. I headed back into the store and immediately apologized to the clerk who was both surprised at my response and gracious. I then asked to speak to her manager who met me up front. I also apologized to him and explained in greater detail how my grief was surfacing with my son’s graduation. I knew it was a big explanation but felt led to share it with him and  what happened next was amazing…

Sometimes our mistakes can overwhelm us with shame because we lose sight that God has greater work to do through our mistakes than our strengths!

As soon as I asked the manager for forgiveness and apologized for my insensitivity that he was probably tending to a lot more than my $5 return that morning, he softened and opened up that his good friend had just hung himself the night before. He shared his shock from it and how he was processing it all. He then offered to fill all of my balloons with helium for me…he wanted to make things right. He didn’t appear to be a believer through our conversation but I was assured deep within my soul that there was a greater thing happening than my frustrations surfacing. As I exited the store with the balloons in hand I walked out with a humbled heart. Yes although I didn’t do the right thing the first time God generously gave me another chance..a redeeming redo!

He gives broken marriages….splintered families….hurting people redo’s all the time and even gives grieving Mommas who lose it over balloons another chance to make things right!

We all need these opportunities of restoration and redemption….
Grace has a way of taking us back!
After all how can love leave us so busted up?
God takes all our messy sin and removes it from within us & redeems every part of it, leaving us washed clean.
My sin didn’t cease with that event that day either. No truth is I was tripping over myself all weekend, but God’s grace gives us the ability to walk back to Him every time for cleansing and a renewing of our hearts. God loves the process of restoring souls and mine’s been in a bit of a busted up mess lately.
I keep thinking I’ll wake up and be out of it all in the morning but it seems He has me walking through it these days to be able to sit with those who are feeling a bit broken themselves.
I keep thinking I’m supposed to find my way out but God keeps showing me the deeper way through it and how He’s using it.

Our suffering is often what ministers to others…from brokenness to brokenness there’s power in His healing care.
What seems to be unraveling us can actually heal…compassion is more than sharing a cup of tea with someone its meeting them in their pain and brokenness…. and who is better to do that but someone who is broken themselves.
Brokenness has a way of drawing us to brokenness doesn’t it?
We pause a little longer,
look deeper into hurting eyes caught in pain
and search further for those in need.
It’s when life is working well that we tend to skip over our hurting world and look past the needy hands outstretched around us.

This grief my heart’s been living through has been teaching me not to fear pain, to know there’s hope beyond it and to allow God to absorb what sometimes seems too great for my heart to bear.

Oh Dad,
sometimes I wonder how we will all go on without you….
how my life will run without kids underfoot asking me to pause and look at their creations…this Momma who’s known for more years than not what it means to give up and give past is finding a new way to walk and serve…
it’s not the who God is calling me to right now it’s the blessing He’s calling me to be.
When our life ceases here on earth,
it won’t be the people with titles and fame who fill our funeral pews
but the ones we’ve stopped and shared moments of togetherness with, those we’ve cared enough to break bread with.

So rather than concentrating on losses that seem to be stinging lately God is shifting my gaze and calling me to look into the faces of those living and breathing around me….He’s beckoning me to look around rather than looking toward the past.
Oh the ache is still there but there’s a day when that will all fade away,  a day when my life will see again those I’ve longed to see.
So for now my hope must live bravely loving to the end.

Our life is not about finding more peace to ease our pain I believe its found in the inconveniences of our days.
Our life is about being broken enough that grace can seep in and change us.
And as we go through this life-altering process God’s grace spills out all over those we get close enough to experience God’s all consuming love with.

Life hurts…because love does, but there’s nothing more beautiful than love shared.

And it’s in these seasons of brokenness that we allow to keep coming along that we will fall to our knees with our palms wide open and surrender ourselves to God’s healing…Oh if we could just live like this.always.and forever.
Never afraid of pain or loss again.
But we don’t get that not for now. Its on this side of heaven that people like me fall over and over again into the arms of God. And it’s inside His embrace for moments of time we escape the pain of the world, we are close enough to hear Him tell us He believes in us! It’s in His grasp we find hope….after the diagnosis seeps in and we absorb the reality of life without those we love…its in the seconds of these moments we feel all that we can and surrender our hurts to the One who can heal and carry us along.

Friends, our kids find Jesus in moments like this, in the brokenness of life.
Yet so many of us keep protecting them from pain. But if a heart can’t be cracked open Jesus isn’t welcomed inside. So it is with us too. If we cover over rather than opening up we miss Him…vulnerability cracks hearts wide open and leads us to healing. Life is hard so that we may need God who can heal and save us. Without pain and suffering in life we skip over a need for Him in our lives. And so it also is with sin…it’s in our brokenness of sin God is able to save us. So although we’d rather look clean from the outside in God knows what we need more than a freshly polished exterior, He knows we need our hearts re-membered by Him….

For God is the greatest of all Physicians and He’s the One that’s been healing hearts since the beginning of time…..
We can live with our heart broken wide open before God and not fear the idea of falling apart because the One who first put our hearts together is able to restore it again and again…the pain gets better but in the process we must offer our brokenness as our humble sacrifice…a way in which others find Jesus within brokenness and experience wholeness & restoration.

Our busted up world is longing to know they’re not abandoned in their brokenness and friends this is how we get to live out what we believe.
To show our hurting world
that Christ enters brokenness inside of us so that He can be inside of us!

Thursday’s Thread: Finding joy in the ‘THEN’ & ‘NOW’ of our lives

As I’ve mentioned I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting….
between weddings, graduations and funerals my mind has plenty of memories it’s been resurrecting.
My thoughts have been leaping between
THEN‘ and ‘NOW‘….
it’s from the past to the present God has a way
of  bringing healing to our hurting heart.
What we envisioned our lives becoming years ago
is often so different than the days we live in and yet if we allow ourselves the time to collect the beautiful moments we will find true peace and resolve for these days.

If you told me years ago my sons would one day still be young and yet leading in such brave and courageous ways for the Lord I don’t think I could have wrapped my mind around it…you see not every day in their childhood and teen years were easy.
There were a lot of hard moments…ones of brokenness, pain and even sin.
Because Life is Hard even when it is good!
And as truth has it not every day of parenting feels good…
within my own life I was struggling with disappointment, hurt and even betrayal.
There were many seasons of our lives I spent sprawled out begging God to seize the trials and bring relief to each of us…
times when Coaches and even Christian leaders in our midst were yelling profanity at us, when peers were spewing mockery and where even sin pitched its roots in wounded hearts. I often cried out to God in disbelief for I thought if we lived a life following and serving Him that He would protect our family at best from the pain of the world. Yet this was a broken expectation that I had no idea I was continuing to hold over God. I wanted God to protect my family from pain and sin. I thought if I parented hard enough and well enough our sons would come through life unscathed of its ugliness.
But friends
it was in these moments
THEN‘ God prepared each of our boys for their mission ‘NOW‘ and it was also in my moments of full surrender ‘THEN‘ that God upholds me ‘NOW‘.
Do you see it?
God really does prepare us in advance.
Yet, we often miss these beautiful things He’s preparing in advance for us because we are trying to look ahead to what we want…

Who our child or teen is right now is who they are becoming…the beautiful yet also the ugly that keeps us up at night. The shaping of a life happens in these arenas.  

Yet because so many of us are searching for something bigger we often miss the small yet beautiful moments happening right in front of us.

I remember it like it was yesterday but it’s really been 8 yrs since our oldest son Justin was speaking at a preaching competition. I remember it very well it was in the Spring of his Senior year and my husband and I were right in the thick of praying about moving from Oklahoma to Texas. Justin spoke with such passion in his sermon. I knew he had fully been living his life through his message…. for our suffering is often the most powerful sermon we have. Justin had just come through a very difficult and hard season and his message was piercing my heart. Not only because he was my son and I was reliving his stories with him but it was as if God was standing before me gently speaking into my own aching heart. You see God was calling my husband and I to move our family but I was honestly digging my heels into the ground in resistance. Our oldest son would soon be heading to college and moving our family felt like it was too many changes at once.
(It’s funny what hindsight does with moments like this)

As Justin taught on Paul’s words he eloquently penned the phrase,
‘…
suffering for the sake of gospel to be advanced’
over and over again it was scattered throughout his message.
Every time the words left his tongue they left a stamp on my heart, each time imprinting deeper into my soul.
I found myself thinking…
‘…
suffering for the sake of the gospel to be advanced.’
These words have led me through many hardships since then and they also transitioned my heart to Dallas just a couple months after he spoke this sermon and we’ve now been here for 8 years. 

I love how God writes words upon our lives that carry us through the hard & holy days and uses our children to speak them to us. Although Justin had no idea how badly I needed those words, God knew I needed them and he etched them upon my son’s heart to speak them to me. There’s something about how closely we listen to the voice of God when He speaks through our children!

Fast forward 8 years and a lot has happened since then…we’ve had multiple graduations, weddings and even funerals and His words still guide my thoughts…
‘…
suffering for the sake of the gospel to be advanced‘.

You see, when we were raising our young kids my greatest desire was for them to love the Lord their God with their heart, soul and mind…this was my daily target in growing them. Yet back ‘THEN‘ I never considered what that might look like ‘NOW‘….I did in their spiritual lives but not lived out in their daily lives, like how that would impact where they lived and what all they were going to have to encounter.

Yet these past years as meaningful days have sometimes strolled by with an empty house and my longing to be together passes sometimes unmet I am reminded throughout the years of raising our family how I often felt very far away from my birth family in Maine yet I repeatedly found comfort remembering it was the cost of serving in ministry….it was my (suffering) for the sake of the gospel to be advanced. I got through many of these hard days knowing God’s word was being spread and thanking Him for the family I had right beside me. It wasn’t until recently as I’ve been watching our house get emptier by the years that I realized there is a greater cost happening right under my own roof….my children have been sent out by God to live out their mission that will require a greater cost. You see we have four boys in four states and we may not always get to be together for the meaningful days that come through our lives, but they will be living out ‘NOW‘ what God prepared for them ‘THEN‘ to do. My heart is slowly catching up with His plan for our lives as He daily reminds me of this and calls me to join Him in advancing the gospel, not only through our ministry but also through each of theirs….the cost expended in each one’s service is counted in heaven.  

Today our house is preparing for our youngest son’s graduation…and here we are in the week of it only days away and although my heart would love to have each one of our kids in our home celebrating with us, I know they can’t. You see they are living out the call God has placed on them….One son is in India given an opportunity by God to preach to a people group whose country is preparing to close their borders soon to Christians while his precious wife is back home leading children to follow Jesus in their church, another of my sons is continually serving, meeting with and leading crowds of College students who are searching for their own meaning and purpose in Christ…He and his sweet wife are impacting lives in both the big and small details as they live out each of their God-graced purposes and yet another son who is defending our country and providing us with our freedom with his lovely & brave wife in Alaska….each prepared long ago for today!
Doing what God called them to do.
So as we walk through the celebrations of this week distanced by states and even countries I am reminded there is suffering for the sake of the gospel to be advanced happening. Maybe our suffering looks different but God counts it all…He sees it and is with us in it!
When we settle into this peace we are able to receive what He truly prepared for us these moments in advance to walk through. 

Whatever it is that is happening right now….we need to be present for it. Not wishing it  looked different, but it’s these moments friends that only by the grace of God we’re able to be a part of something greater than ourselves.

Thanking God for our
‘THEN’ & ‘NOW’
is what steadies our restless souls
and roots us in what
He prepared LONG AGO for us!

And above all else friends remember our suffering ‘NOW’ will bring peace ‘THEN’ to a broken world.

Thursday’s Thread: A letter to my younger self…

This past week a letter came in the mail to my youngest son who is about to graduate. The sender is what caught my attention. It was addressed both to and from himself. He told me his 7th grade English teacher had his class write a letter to themselves when they were in her class and here it was 6 yrs later and he was receiving it in the mail. It was fun for us to read both to see his transformation and also the distinct call God has had on his life all along. It was a great exercise for him to do then and an encouragement to receive and read it this many years later…boy does time seem to go by so fast!
After experiencing the significant impact of this letter I decided to write myself a letter but rather than addressing it to the future me… I decided to write to the younger me.

To my younger self,

There’s so many things I’ve wished I could tell you… we sure have come a long way by the Grace of God!

I write this as our youngest son is preparing to graduate High School.
Crazy as it may seem we’ve now spent 27 years raising boys and maybe what’s even more wild than this is….I’d choose it all over again!
Motherhood has been a gift and so worth the years we’ve given to them.
When it comes time for you to make this decision or if it falls unexpectedly upon you…don’t look at what you’ll be giving up by this seemingly overwhelming interruption instead what you’ll gain from it. For the gift of these little but mighty humans will far outweigh anything you expect. Sure there will be a lot of hard days, in fact seasons when you’ll wonder what you did. But those moments will strengthen the minor muscles of your heart.
The lessons you’ll learn and the love you’ll experience is like none other.  

Parent from YOUR place of creativity and passion.

Don’t try to be someone else….Be you!
You’re an amazing Mom and will rock this thing by the grace of God!
Please don’t make the mistake of getting lost in the boys’ lives, it’s so easy to slowly drift your identity inside of theirs but these boys of ours need you to be the woman God created you to be so they will seek out woman of character and strength as their wives to walk through life beside.
Tell them you love them a whole lot and linger longer in their beds tucking them to sleep each night, you’ll hold onto those memories in the years to come. Show them God through and through and even when you mess up show them Jesus…let your hard shine through the broken glass of life for through its’ rays they will see Jesus even more clearly. These up close encounters with Him will turn their hearts towards Him in their own hard & holy moments. 

Let God be your first…

A lot of things will fight for this spot but make Him your focus and everything else will fall in its rightful place. This doesn’t mean you won’t experience a lot of pain and heartache it just means God will be with you through it all.

Hold on tightly to the beautiful moments….Cherish, respect and honor your husband. And love him with all of you, he loves you dearly. He will be a living demonstration to you of Christ’s love for the Church. Although great storms will threaten your unity and love, cling to what you know is true. 
Fight hard for your marriage and not against it. 
Pride will threaten it from all sorts of places. 
The brokenness you’ll carry into marriage will be what God uses to grow you the most. Don’t fear these splintered messes for God will meet you within the secret spaces of your heart and do some amazing healing here. And this my sweet one is what He will use to heal and minister to others. 

You know all the times you thought you were too fat and not enough look past your criticisms when you’re older you’ll find your curves and the unique shape of who you were created to be is where your beauty really lies.
Those fears that keep rising telling you ‘you’ll never be good enough’ or ‘you’ll probably fail so don’t try’…don’t believe those lies you’re going to do things and go places you’ll never believe.
Those kids you’re so afraid of messing up well that doesn’t happen either because  grace wins in the end and covers all of your mistakes and misgivings.
Yep and even all the times you mess up and say the wrong things well somehow those get redeemed too!

Younger self, your faith is what will hold you together. 
Nothing else will fill you, guide you or bring you greater purpose. 
The world will dangle its attempts but you’ll do yourself a huge favor to resist their offerings and only give yourself to things of God. The world will offer to numb and satisfy you but their empty offers will only create a greater need within you and a whole lot more of mess you’d have to clean up. 
You’ll find the satisfaction for your soul lies within the pages of His Word…it has the power to transform your life and allow you to live free. 
So, before you do anything every day no matter the importance of your day saturate yourself in Him!
Implant yourself deeply inside His word. 
The wisdom of His Spirit will guide your household through all of its storms.  

God’s word never gets broken down even when our lives are in the middle of its own brokenness. 

The Church is full of brokenness and broken people including us.
Dismiss unrealistic and unbiblical expectations of God the Church and people this will guide you well. I fell into this trap far too many times early in our ministry years and  when I finally found freedom from this thinking I was able to love the messines of Christ’s bride as God does.  

Don’t be disillusioned into believing you are as valuable as your titles or the numbers on any measuring stick-
your identity comes from the Creator of our world.

Stay true to your desire to do Kingdom work, it will be full of some of your most rewarding and hardest work. But when you surrender your Kingdom work to God it will be less about what you will do for Him and more about all you’ll do with and through Him!
And young one, don’t get caught up in the bigness of ministry look for the small and unseen spaces of ministry…most of real life happens within these places. 
Get forgotten for the Kingdom for it’s here God is seen. 

There will come days when life is going to take your breath away and you’ll experience pain that runs deep…rest in the assurance that God is going to get you through it all!
He will never leave or abandon you.
For brokenness resides on this side of Heaven but one day when we join God in His heavenly realms all of our brokenness will find its once intended wholeness and healing.
Until then… we have the remembrance of all the times He’s brought us through the hard and holy moments of our life and will do it ever-so-faithfully again!

Words matter…they carry with them a reckoning force..ones that have the power to destroy or to revive lives.
Don’t waste your words on uselessness.
You have a tendency to get stuck on words, instead reserve your energy for the rebuilding and restoring of people to God.
The rest is only our missed opportunities that are wasted on pride. 

Remember when you hid your young self underneath the dining room table from the embarrassing shame of not knowing your ABC’s?

Well, it all turns out good.
Letters and words actually become what God uses in your life  to tell others about Himself. 

Let your love for words fall upon the pages of your heart. God’s going to use them to speak into places you’ll never travel. 
Write…write…write.
Our story is a bigger part of His story…you’ll find ‘story trading’ is a precious gift He’s entrusting you with as you share and collect stories all throughout life. 

On the matter of relationships.
Loneliness is a choice…

reach out and invest in others.
Don’t expect others to fill the emptiness that only God can fill.

People are worth it and community is a valuable commodity that is often exchanged for busyness.
Every hard is made easier inside of community!
Friends will be God’s hands and feet through your life to reach inside your heart and bring the healing it needs. 

The abuse you suffered when you were four will find its healing too.
Don’t let its pain drive you into all sorts of corners striving for attention, instead cling to the healing God has for you! 
It will blow you away what it feels like to be healed and healthy again. 
Share your story again & again for it’s a driving force in your journey to find healing. 

And as you walk into this new season of empty rooms fill them with the things and people of God. Let their emptiness become a vacuum for others to come and find rest in Him. Your heart will find healing as it has every time before. Our purpose never changes even in the midst of our circumstances changing…it’s here where God allows His purpose and our passions to collide, never becoming too settled for they’ll continually be changing!

Lastly, pray hard & never stop!

Prayer will sustain you, lead you and give you the grace to forgive. 
Prayer will carry you further than any thing else! 
Lean in deep to God in the quiet places of your soul, He can handle all you’re carrying and will lead you through your dependency upon Him. 
Sweet girl, pray with a recklessness and vulnerability before God you’ll be amazed at His response to your transparency.
His grace wins every time!
I love you younger self even all the jagged edges that God’s grace will soften and use along the way!

…….Ruthann, another version of you!

P.S. Here’s the beautiful family we’ve been given!

Thursday’s Thread: How is it time already?

Been spending a lot of time looking back and reflectinglately…there’s so much to take in and process these days.

I keep feeling my heavenly Father nudging me to rest & reflect.
But it’s hard to rest in the reflective moments
as our minds tend to conjure up all of our shortcomings and failures rather than celebrating the good.
It’s so tempting for us Mommas to settle in regret. 

In the hard days of toddlers and unending meal prep I often lost myself in looking ahead. Having four boys right on top of each other and a husband in ministry the days were crazy and intense. I found myself living in the waiting room of life more times than I care to admit…waiting for better seasons to come and just enough time to pass to usher in some sweet relief and yet here I am on the other side looking back…

I wonder what causes us to look ahead in the hard and look back when it’s passed us on by?

Each new first beckoned the years to slow down while the days seemed to pass all too slowly. Each fall brought the crispness of a new school year with the change of weather and an excitement of what was next. As the older the kids grew I had a hungering for the days of the past to return. The tension we live inside as Moms stirs a restlessness within us, doesn’t it? When we’re  down in the trenches of parenting it seems to come all too hard & fast. We spend so much of our days sifting through expectations and doubts… surviving rather than thriving. We can’t see it until we’re down on our knees cleaning up messes and life seems to be coming on so fast that we hear the whispers of truth we’re longing for….It’s in these times the truth has to overcome the lies shouting in our thoughts. Then there’s the dew drops from heaven God pours over us as we catch glimpses of our children living their own God-first life. This is where we begin to see what all our long nights and hard days are really all about…Mommas know you’re doing eternal and meaning-full things. Don’t ever forget this!

Our ministry of being present in their lives is how we’ll change the world-
One child, one day, one moment at a time!

For these seemingly small moments of investment are a big part of our child’s story… our ‘return of investment’ on our child’s soul. 

I can’t quite remember when it happened but without too much blinking it seems I’ve left the days full of naps and lullabies and am entering a season full of unknown. 

I’ve been thinking of a story filled with change and hardship. Though it tells a very different narrative it speaks of a longing to return. I am reminded of the Israelites who were freed from a season of  oppression and slavery, who longed for freedom perhaps even dreamt of their release. Yet within the pages of their story we read of a hungering to return to the past. I’ve wondered what could cause a person to yearn for the past more than moving forward? 

Yet these are the contimplations hovering over me…

For a second the other day I was doing the ordinary when all of the sudden I found myself weeping for my son’s leaving, for the quiet lull that would return with his absence. My heart was in a quandary of emotions…there’s nothing greater than knowing your child is walking in the way of the Lord and yet I knew there was an ending to a season coming through my door. My tears were burning my eyes, not another loss so soon. I feel like I’ve been collecting losses these days and yet my heart desires to not feel their pain. What eases this kind of loss? Our world numbs it with so many different things trying to find some relief from its pain….addictions fill our homes where too many dreams get replaced with regret. If only we knew our temporary fixes are keeping our healing at an arm’s length away from happening within our souls. 

These times become the narration of our story.
It’s where 
God calls for us to come….to sit and rest in these moments with Him.
God asks us to live a life of worship in the smaller corners of our lives,
where He meets us….
I think of Hannah a barren woman in God’s story who hurt day after day longing for a child to call her own.
One day while she sat in the presence of God in the walls of a sanctuary and poured out her pain before the Lord. Eli her spiritual leader came to her and mocked her accusing her of being drunk as he saw her lips begging God for a child. Rather than wallowing in her bitterness and hurt Hannah opened up her heart and spilled it like an offering before God and Eli. And God ushered whole heart healing to Hannah and gave insight to Eli who changed his tune. Eli prayed a blessing over Hannah.
If it weren’t for Hannah’s surrender
her laying down of her brokenness not only before God but also before her spiritual leader she wouldn’t have known the cry of her son Samuel that came from this interaction.

God wants to meet us in our seasons of pain and He wants to heal us here too!

It’s here where our lives get cultivated by our Creator, where he repairs our wounds. We’ve been writing a story our whole life…words from deep within.
And now God is leading us to finish the lyrics written from the depths of our souls.
It’s in these hard and holy moments that God is leading us to continue writing out
our story…
He’s making us in the secret…inside our moments of weeping as well as our sanctuary of worship.
My soul deeply longs to love rather than injure.
Oh God,
grant me this kind of soul quenching healing…
open my heart dear Father in the secret places and bring your fullness of healing.

Who’s needing some of this?
Maybe your circumstances aren’t the same, perhaps your story involves tragedy that’s still bleeding….listen to your heavenly Father who’s calling you to your knees as the sun peeks over the horizon. 

A lot is going on in our world…a whole lot of pain pounding down on the pavement of life. And maybe right now you need to hear the words rest & reflect… think upon God’s goodness and faithfulness and how He has carried you through some hard storms before.

Although there’s an ending to my constant shuttling of kids to their activities, no more fixing lunches in brown paper sacks and cleaning off their muddy shoes…
but what I know to be true is that God has prepared me and you for this time not only for the days which have passed on by, but for the days that are here & upon us.

My sweet son this one who is about to leave for college, sat beside me on my bed last night and patiently said, ‘how are you doing with everything Mom?’ It melted my heart at his compassion and thoughtfulness, because what I have ahead sweet friend is these kind of conversations filled with big questions where he’s able to handle my broken answers and console me. You see there’s not as much navigating to do when the one asking the question is mature enough to handle your answer.This growing up thing may be hard on our nurturing hearts but it’s really soothing to our souls. I’m finding the way through this season is found in celebrating these tender moments that renew us. We must remind ourselves our brokenness doesn’t knock us out it is what others get to be strengthened from.

So today rather than getting lost in the cutting edges of regret we must find rest and reflect on how God’s grace carries us forward.

And the question for each of us becomes…
‘How are we going to leave our story better than how it began?’  

Thursday’s Thread: Will I ever be enough?

Ever feel like you’re not enough?

Some days I struggle with this more than others.
Not smart enough….pretty enough…skinny enough…tall enough…good enough…not enough at home, work or in our friendships…
we’re just never quite enough for what ever it is we’re doing and there seems to always be someone who is doing it better…climbing further and running past us.

I’ve listened to plenty of hearts tell me these words to know there’s a whole lot of us sifting through our inadequacies and letting them swallow us up at night.

Our striving to be enough comes from a deeper part of our soul where our sense of belonging rests…it’s in this secret place we crave to know we are valued and matter. 

When I was younger I always wanted to be an amazing athlete. But no matter how hard I tried or how many hours I practiced, there was always someone better…I longed to be discovered and to stand out, but often felt overlooked.

Then when I became a Mom it was no different….

I seemed to always be traveling a few steps behind the other Moms.
You know the kind….
the ones whose kids know 5 languages and they’re able to write their name in cursive before they’re three.
While back at our house my kids were discovering new ways to string GI Joe from the light fixture and see how many frogs they could fit in a rubber boot.
While I was cleaning mud off the floors and begging God to help me find a way to keep four active boys occupied without permanently hurting one another or letting them play video games all day…
of course there were those days too!

I’ve wasted so many days wanting to be enough that I’ve missed living…

It’s been in the moments I’ve set aside my striving that I’ve found abundant life.

It was a hot summer day and the boys were all in their rooms for a little R & R. That’s what we called ‘Rest & Relaxation’ time, another name for nap time or let your Momma ‘Rest & Relax’ time.
Although I was missing my chance to rest because I had lined up a whole list of tasks for the afternoon. One of those was washing out the trash cans.
Why on earth I thought this was necessary I’m not sure.
There hadn’t been any rotten food left in them or an urgent call for it to be done.
My ‘need’ to do this was part of a much greater need to be enough.
I had prayed earlier in the day for God to bring someone into my day that I could share His love with…how this evolved into cleaning my trash can is beyond me.
As I was walking out the door that afternoon to begin this daunting task my phone rang and it was a young girl from our youth group.
She asked if she could come over that afternoon and talk.
Although I told her yes I felt torn…I knew if I met with her the tasks I had set out to do that afternoon would stay undone.

As I hung up the phone my heart was still in a bit of a frenzy.
You see what was in some strange way feeding my ‘not enough’ tank was getting things done and trying to be the ‘perfect’ wife, Mom etc.

But isn’t this how it can sometimes be?
In our pursuit to be someone else we lose who we are…
We believe the lie…. what we do equates with who we are.
I was exhausting my weary self trying harder to be better.
I went to great lengths to clean enough, pray enough, parent enough and all the while feeling like I wasn’t enough.
As I stood there torn and frustrated I felt a tugging on my heart and I heard God whisper ever so gently but firmly to my aching self…’you’re enough..all of you with me is enough’. It hung on me as if it was pulling me down…. I sunk to the carpet sprawled out before God
and I laid down all I was trying to be…
all my striving in vain…
the emptiness that felt like I’d never be enough pleaded with God to fill my brokenness and mend my splintered heart.
No more apologies needed for who I’m not…it was time for me to fully live.

When I was younger I can remember the words that stung this story trader’s heart.
I was told I talk too much.
Sifting through those words on the other side of wholeness I am fully certain that God put a crazy amount of words into my heart because He has a story to be written….no need to be saying sorry for something He’s doing.
It’s odd how people can sometimes view our tiresome traits.
If only I would have been inspired to find my voice… for life gets birthed when people are shown who they are.

Those who are told they’re too much are those God uses to awaken a sleeping world.

Yet it’s within our most broken & vulnerable moments that we are being prepared…
That afternoon that young girl didn’t need me to be perfect, to measure up.
What she needed was someone who had lived a few more years longer than her and who loved her enough to travel the hard road ahead with her.

I’m humbled every time I recall that afternoon.
She had bravely drove down our country road and stepped onto my porch to share the hard news that there was a sweet little baby growing inside of her…yes, no small need…no task comes before this kind of braving a storm where shame could have driven her away…every one of us needs someone in our times of courage so we know we don’t walk alone.

This is where God calls our hearts to be rendered to Him, not tangled all up in working out our worth.

We can often overcompensate for not feeling enough…
by being too much.

I learned a very valuable lesson that day.
Not only am I truly enough….my belonging doesn’t come from striving, it comes from choosing to be present and engaged with others.
For it’s here where our hearts are broken wide open for others and we experience the compassion of Christ, where our courage gets shaped by our pain.
I am enough for that which is far beyond my abilities because God who lives in me is more than enough.
My ‘need’ to clean out my trashcans that day was in no comparison to the life that needed saved that day…or the soul that needed restored.

…..Oh Lord please let our tasks not become what fills our thirsty souls…quench us with your living water…the pouring in and pouring out of our souls.

The fear of not being enough is our desperate cry to be seen and to be known!

Oh Lord how many of us are just wanting to be seen…Sisters may we look away from our phones long enough to see each other and speak boldly into each other…look around at your people they’re needing you to speak into them…because purpose is not something to be earned it’s something we awaken. We were made for this kind of community.

When we give away we receive! 

God’s not calling for us to be unseen but for Him to be seen.
He will always be seen when we quit striving to be more.
So many of us think the way of the cross calls for us to hide, but it doesn’t. Rather God  calls us to be vessels to illuminate His love to a hurting world.
It can be frightening living a life abandoned to God… resting in Him.
There’s something to ‘Rest & Relaxation’ time…
I’m learning to find this more and more these days.

Our world is so broken and is calling for us to meet it in its pain…it’s needing us to love whole-heartedly even if our hearts are broken too. For it’s in these times of pouring ourselves out that we’re able to be refilled by our loving Father in Heaven.
For deep heart-healing happens when we love with our whole broken hearts rather than half-hearted love any day…it’s where our brokenness becomes the gift God intended for it to be.

Thursday’s Thread: Heartbeats of home

The end of the school year has me all caught up in its happenings.
Funny how beginnings and endings
have a way of doing that…
my emotions range from feelings of crazy grace to inklings of unwanted sorrow.
I’m continually amazed
how God has let a busted up woman
raise a house full of boys into such
grace-filled men. 
But God has a way of bringing
the dead back to life
and restoring us for His greater purpose.

Yet intertwined within the beauty of my restoration and new life is a somewhat hindrance of grace. For inside the beautiful rebirthing of my soul I’m finding a loose strand….a remnant from my past surfacing. In the midst of recent loss and the impending losses down the road I am reminded how growth is part of our forever story. It takes my heart folding itself this morning intoa surrendered position for me to look into the internal work of my heavenly Father. This is not a moment fordoubt…..For a rendering of my heart is needed to expose and heal.It’s a time for me to go back to the beginning with God and wander in the garden a little longer with Him.

For the fourth and last time…this fall I’ll be leaving a big piece of my heart in a dorm room as we drop our youngest son off at college.

I’ve often been asked,
if it gets easier with each one.

I’m not sure Ive ever experienced the easier part of this….Each one of our sons has brought something so unique and special to our family that their loss was equally felt.

But, I will say the reality of life after this one leaves has me a bit undone.
It’s as if a corner of my life is being unraveling…. Don’t misunderstand me I still have a lot of life to live within the grief it’s just the process of unfolding what I’ve known for so long. I recalled the many times I’ve experienced this familiar feeling and how quickly I’ve attempted to fill in its spaces…..that I wonder what I will fill myself with this time...
I recall my husband’s all too familiar words….

We don’t raise them to keep them.’

This truth haunts me, I know he’s right but my soul wants to hang on…
But for how long is long enough…I wonder?
This boy right here is so ready to fly away just like each one of his brothers were.
There comes a time within each heart
-what is calling them forth is louder than the lullabies they’re leaving.
And it’s here in this bend in the road that I must release him to do what God has laid so heavily upon his heart.
The more I see hints of him perching
the more my heart wants to linger longer yet I know it is time…..

So at the beginning of these lasts, I am pondering a heartfelt question which is roaring inside of my chest….
Can I do this?’
Sure I’ll physically and emotionally get through this season but will I be better on the other side?
Don’t we all want to come out of our fires unsinged from the pain and better than we came in?
Like Daniel and his friends when they exited the fiery furnace…not a hint of the fire could be smelled. Oh to not have the scent of our trials on us as we emerge from them seems so right…
And yet sometimes God allows the fragrance of our struggle to draw others into our story with us. 

As I thought through this process that’s been tugging at my heart…. I wonder, what investment do I have wrapped up in all of this…. has making lunches, etching Bible verses upon their hearts and the mounting laundry baskets
become… who I am?

Has my daily role in their life somehow submerged into who I am?
Has my avoidance of getting lost in worldly titles caused me to get wrapped up in an identity crisis of my own?
In the midst of grieving the loss of my sweet Dad and the loss of being known as his child crashed me into this crazy intersection in life once again asking….Who am I?

Perhaps its what’s lying around many of our lives; some loose pieces of our identity have gotten embedded into our roles.

Have I staked too much of who I am in what I’ve been called to do?

As a Mom when our children’s achievements and behaviors regulate our emotions and our peace starts unraveling this is an indicator that our identity has gotten misplaced.
When our value is found in raising perfect kids and our peace becomes dependent on their performance rather than resting in Christ… It’s in these moments we feel stuck, when we aren’t where we thought we would be and neither is anyone else in our tribe…It’s in these places of discontentment that our identity can get out of whack.

Somewhere in my giving over…training…leading…serving…I’ve traded in this beautiful thing called Motherhood to define myself. It’s an easy thing to do. When we hear all day long… ‘Mom, can you do this…Mom, where is my…?’
We can forget the woman God created us to be reaches farther than our daily tasks.
That stirrings of our heart is God trying to awaken His call within us….His defining and refining of us.

Oh sweet Momma’s listen to what the Spirit is calling you to…yes be ever-so-present in your role as Mom, for the days take so long but the years fly by so quickly…but inside those days don’t lose yourselves. Yes, you’re their
Momma but you’re first and foremost
a Child of God…

The question doesn’t become whether I love my children more than God…it lies in where my love is rooted. My love for my children is best expressed through my deep love for God…He fills me up so that I can pour His love out upon them. When I confuse this order my identity becomes grounded in my role rather than in Christ.
And yet my love for God and my children are not in opposition or divided; they’re instead an extension of my love from God.

I remember one of my ever so tall boys towering over me in his dorm room as he looked deep into my eyes and said in his ever-changing voice,
‘You’re more than just our Mom, you’ve got a whole world out there that needs you!’
I knew in that moment if what I thought was hidden down deep filling my heart was coming to surface I needed an adjustment in what was defining me…my identity.
There’s immense beauty in a woman being able to fall apart so that she can let God put her pieces back together again…here is where vulnerability and the mercy of God meet. 

I am sure any task we do in Kingdom work has the potential of becoming a defining season for us…this includes the sweet and hard days of Motherhood too.

As I look down the road to my days ahead of empty beds and stilled rooms I can walk through these days confidently knowing there will be sadness but joy will come as well.

For God heals us and He fills us and when we feel like life is not enough He has a way of showing up ever so tenderly. You see to expect the future days to painlessly come would be to diminish the sacrifice & love that’s been lived inside them for the past 27 years.

When we love deeply we grieve deeply!

So as grief has come through my door before I expect it will be with me once again…and because nothing that has caused such work and prayer passes by without notice, neither will this transition of my life. I can fully trust in God that the impending season we are about to enter will be full of His blessings and joy as well as some sad moments.
Grieving people significantly in our lives places value upon all they have meant to us.
It also gives our days in the future the space they need to become great and filled with new beginnings.

So I will let my heart rest knowing….
There’s something sacred about doing the next thing even when it feels terribly ordinary and mundane in comparison to our days lived up to now.
Within these beautiful days we’re able to see glimpses of the seedlings we’ve been sowing for years. It’s in this season we see the harvest of our late nights and hours of heart wrenching prayers….These are truly the treasured days to come!