Where He Leads

A phone call with a friend turned from talking about the difficulty of her work and life to expressions of longing for something more life giving. As she thought about how that might look, I heard the “Can it be?” hopefulness in her quiet tears. Can there be a life lived differently than what I know now? Can my hopes for the future be more than a dream? Can I be more confident in who I am—show up and offer my perspective, voice, and gifts? Can my contributions matter? Can I matter? Can I let go of expectations to be like someone else and enjoy being the woman God created me to be? Can I enjoy life and breathe in restfulness, joy, and peace? Yes, that and so much more. God hears our personal expressions of the question, “Can it be?” He knows each of us and the dreams and hopes for fullness of life that tug at our soul . . . and how uncertainty can feel as if we are walking in the dark. I’ve had a similar list of can-it-be wonderings that I’ve kept tucked away in my heart. Snatches of the longings spill out in vulnerable moments, reminding me that I still have more to discover, more to move toward, more to lean into with God. He reminds me of the beauty and gift of His presence as life and as light in my darkness, as the one who invites me to be His light bearer. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5 “Again Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.'” John 8:12 “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” Ephesians 5:8 I continue to be in process, learning to comprehend and trust all of who He is and the timing of His work and grace . . . How when the answers to my questions and cries seem to be met with silence, He is not absent. He is present and holding me, drawing me to deeper, truer places with Him. How He does not want me to rush through pain or the darkness of the moment,...
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Through a Heart of Thankfulness

The holidays are at our doorsteps. This week ushers in a ready-or-not season of… Of what? Instead of being swept into days of traditional busyness, I am drawn to slow and consider how I would finish that sentence. What do I hope this Christmas season will be? When I listen in prayer, how might God prompt me toward a different kind of celebration and worship? What shape might it take? Where will I begin? This week in America we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, a historical day of remembrance and gratefulness. Tucked within that part of the tradition is a prayer rhythm that I need not leave behind but instead can carry forward into the Christmas season. Remembrance and gratefulness. This is where God draws me to begin—not for tradition’s sake, but for my heart’s sake. Through thanksgiving, He invites me to turn my attention toward Him to notice His kindnesses, His grace, and His love deep within and around me. Through thanksgiving, He heals and helps me shed past expectations, memories, and pain that threaten to obscure the beautiful simplicity of the greatest gift ever given—Jesus, the babe in a manger, the promise of once-for-all redemption. Through thanksgiving, He creates space in each unfolding day for anticipation and reveals to me where He dwells in the unexpected places of this season. Through thanksgiving, my heart prepares Him room. Yes… “Joy to the world, the Lord has come; let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room.” The writer of the song, Joy to the World, pulled the themes, in part, from Psalm 98:4-9, a psalmist’s proclamation to the Lord of his joy, celebration, and thanksgiving. Remembrance and gratefulness are instilled in the expressive words of this Christmas hymn about the wondrous birth of Jesus. So in remembrance and gratefulness is how I’ll move through this week and where I’ll begin this Christmas season. And instead of ready-or-not, I pray that God will prepare my heart in readiness for what these weeks can hold. My first prayer of thankfulness? Through a heart of thankfulness, may I receive You more fully and more deeply. Thank you, Jesus, for your presence in each moment and for your grace to help me be more present to those around me throughout this Thanksgiving and Christmas season. What will yours be? Reposted and adapted from www.PresenceNow.Be–another site where Jan...
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A Season’s Gifts

Winter. In many parts of the world it is the season of rest. Nature hibernates or slows. Our winter in northern California has yet to fully rest. Today I took a walk in a warm sunshine that felt like spring, thankful while being hopeful for the blessings of rain and rest. Seasons are unpredictable, not up to us. Gifts from the Creator, they come and bring what they have. I remember visiting a small Amish bakery in Missouri when my children were young. It was a sweltering summer day, and as we stepped into the warm darkness of the little bakery, my son exclaimed to an elder Amish man, “It’s hot!” The man smiled and said, “We take the blessing of each day. Without the warmth we would not have the grain to bake the bread.” I’m learning to live in the uncertain, within nature’s seasons and life, with a blend of acceptance and expectation. With thankfulness and with hope. Each day made by God a day to be thankful. Psalm 118:24...
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Expectations

Expectations. Usually I’m not conscious of how incessantly they drive my thoughts, play with my choices, nip at my perspective of myself or my relationships.  But if I make room for a shift . . . What if I live up to my expectations, my goals and dreams, my prayers and understanding of God’s love for me—instead of the expectations of others? What falls away? What remains? What truth, what gold?...
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Cherry Pits . . . and Eventually Grace

A family incident, when my children were young and when my husband and I were visiting my father, has become representative for me of my relationship with my father . . . and grace. At one of our meals, a cherry pit hit my stepmom and my father immediately blamed our children. He wouldn’t let it go even though their ten cherries and corresponding pits were accounted for. This is the same man who once told me, “Your mother and I didn’t plan to have children” and never followed that up with, “but we’re so glad we had you and your sister.” Childhood moments with my father, especially mealtimes, meant enduring harsh, impatient words and responding with tears and stomach aches. Expectations, control, no sense of the child as a person. No grace. My initial response was to hide, to be quiet, to go under the grid. If I did everything I could to stay out of his line of sight, I could survive—not that I was aware as a child that was my tactic. But this became a pattern in my life in other contexts and relationships. Later when I realized that, I began to find my presence and my voice again, and to help others do the same. I’ve worked alongside my husband for most of our married life at a residential ministry for at-risk youth. I’ve written the stories of those who didn’t have a voice, and I am partnering in a project with an organization that is making inroads into halting the sex trafficking industry, primarily in the Sacramento area. I loved my father, and I don’t allow the difficult memories to cloak my life in regret or unforgiveness. By the end of his life I believe he gained awareness of his impact and softened. What I didn’t realize, until recently, is how much of who I’ve become and God’s transformative work within me has been tied into those early days with my father. How when I thought I was hiding or giving up, I was learning to fight. For me, for others, for a voice. For grace. Yes, grace. And courage and purpose and fullness of life. After all, cherry pits are seeds....
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Born To . . .

I just listened to a local news story about a 90-year-old woman who travels to a pediatric center every Thursday to hold babies. She is described as having a “deeply peaceful presence” as she spends her hours holding the precious little bundles. “That’s what’s important—that babies get loved.” She tells others this is what she can still do and says, “I was born to hold babies.” Simple. And powerful. In a place of transition and questions and hoping to land more firmly on what I was born to do, I smile as I think of this woman. Am I trying too hard? Making this more complicated than it needs to be? Likely. This woman—her name is Edna—has a beauty and wisdom to her story that I can learn from. Live. Be with others. Do what comes naturally. Love....
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The Invitation of Slowing

For several years now I have sensed God’s invitation for me to slow my life and discover the richness I otherwise miss in keeping a frenetic pace. Imagine what it would be like if instead of speeding down a highway through a country setting we took time to walk the same route. What would we notice? Who might we meet? Or what if we were to stroll through a museum and pause in front of one masterpiece. Just one. What intricacies of the artist’s labor would we begin to notice? What stories would we imagine? Religion and art are saying the same things: stop, pay attention, be aware of the depth of time, see people, see others, be human. ~Fredrick Buechner If you were to find a moment today to pause and pay attention, where would you...
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Fully You

What a difference it makes in our day, in our relationships, in our intimacy with God when we courageously live the intricacy of our unique design. ‎”Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”     —The Message’s take on Matthew 6:6 Take time to stop, if even for a moment, to be fully you, fully present in the presence of God. What shifts do you notice?...
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From Thorns to Fragrance

The time in my life had been extremely difficult, and my body was physically and severely responding to the stress. A friend stopped by my house to share a gift of encouragement. With it came this quote: Note this bit of gorse bush. The whole year round the thorn has been hardening and sharpening. Spring comes. The thorn does not drop off and it does not soften. There it is, as uncompromising as ever; but halfway up appear two brown furry balls, mere specks at first, that break at last–straight out of last year’s thorn–into a blaze of fragrant golden glory! –Lilias Trotter My friend offered these words with a single hyacinth bulb and a container for growing it. She wrote, “This is not a bit of gorse bush, yet is a bit of spring fragrance for the winter. Wishing you a joy-filled day.” Her words offered hope that my difficult season would one day bring about a blaze of fragrant glory. Sometimes lying in my bed at night, all I could utter were single-word prayers, but they were filled with meaning. After receiving the gift and quote, I pictured the thorns of my life transforming into an unmatched fragrance of life and fullness. Fullness. Did you know that when Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV), that the word “life” was not the Greek word bios but zoe? We’re invited out of daily mere existence to a life lived with passion and vitality. Imagine taking the energetic zoe life God calls you to into the way you live and work, into your relationships and conversations, into how you take care of yourself, into all your choices, goals, and dreams. That’s living. That’s thorns to  a blaze of fragrant glory. What is one area of your life you’d like to live more energetically and passionately? What will you do differently? When will you...
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