You Can’t Understand My Ways

It is written, “A man’s mind plans his way but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure.” (Proverbs 16:9)

My beloved, I’m in complete and total control of your life right now and in the future. Let this bring comfort and assurance for your weary soul. Nothing can separate you from the love I have for you. Not only do I direct your steps, but I also make your steps sure.

Let that sink in.

Let that be nourishment for your hungry, longing soul.

No, you can’t understand my ways. But you can trust and rest in my promises.

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

It is written, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is a funny holiday to celebrate, because we’re called to give thanks every day, in ALL circumstances. That means even when we’re in the dark, and we can’t see how God is at work, we give thanks.

Here’s a simple list to get us started. I’d love to hear what you’re thankful for, too! Let’s start with the small things, because truly, there is so much!

I’m thankful for waking up today.

For the ability to breath and walk and laugh.

I’m thankful for fresh air. That when I walk outside I feel safe.

I’m thankful for other people. Old friends with whom I share a history and strangers whom I have yet to meet.

I’m thankful that I can trust people, because I trust myself.

I’m thankful for clean drinking water and that I never have to worry about when my next meal will be.

I’m thankful that I have a warm place to sleep at night and a roof over my head…

Okay, your turn!

5 Ways to Avoid a Holidaze

The holidays are upon us and it’s the busiest time of the year! Maybe you dread this season because it’s stressful for you, or lonely, or triggering. Whatever the case may be, here’s 5 ways that you can ensure your holidays don’t become a holidaze. I hope everyone has a joyful thanksgiving!

1. Manage expectations. We can’t be everything to everyone. And we can’t be in multiple places at once. So once you have your plans in place, learn to say no. Try spacing plans out when you can, allowing yourself even more room to just be. 

2. Practice gratitude. Take time each day to recognize what you’re thankful for. Better yet, write it down. And watch how your day improves. Practicing gratitude can relieve stress and deepen joy, so why aren’t we doing this every day?!

3. Serve others. The holidays are a wonderful time to give back and help others who are less fortunate! Volunteer opportunities and donation needs abound. When we serve others, we’re less likely to become absorbed in our own problems or preoccupied with our own stressors. It’s a win win! 

4. Take time for yourself. Self care is always important, but especially so during the busy holiday season. Even taking just ten minutes a day for yourself, can do wonders for your mind. How are you supposed to be there for others, if you’re never there for yourself? 

5. Avoid hot topics. These past couple of years have left us more polarized than ever. The holidays are a time to come together, so don’t ruin them by bringing up hot topics. Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion, and it’s important for people to research, think critically, and form their own opinions. But the holiday table just isn’t the time or place to be sharing them. 

Be Joyful Always

It is written, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

My precious child, I love you. I love to shower blessings upon you. To listen and respond to the cries of your heart. The joy I offer can’t be taken from you. So keep your eyes on me and delight yourself in all that I am doing in your life. This way, people will see your joy and wonder where it comes from. You’ll set an example of what it’s like to know me.

Child, your faith is a gift more precious than gold. To share your faith and its fruit, is to offer a precious gift to those around you who may not yet know my joy.

I call upon you to give thanks in ALL circumstances. To be joyful ALWAYS. Because even challenging circumstances present you with the opportunity to grow closer to me. Because even in the midst of uncertainty, I am near. And I have come so that you may have life, and have it to the fullest. This is my promise to you. And my word is good.

The Promise of Renewal

It is written, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

My beloved, you are tired and say, “Lord! I’m depleted!” But have I not promised to renew your strength? Indeed, I am the God of renewal. Walk with me and you will not grow faint, run with me and you will not grow weary. Rest in I am.

No man goes without rest. Not even my Son, the perfect man. Rest breaks are my opportunity to renew your strength. So don’t confuse your need for renewal, with exhaustion.

Trust that I am handling all of those things that you fear you won’t get to, if you pause. Pause with me. And your strength will be renewed. That is my promise. And my word is good.

The Greatest Tragedy in Art

Too often, artists begin to perceive their work as a product of their own intellect. We forget that the mind is the great deceiver. That creativity is, in fact, a gift entrusted to the artist. 

Suddenly and inevitably, the work becomes more about ego and less about art itself. This is the most common pitfall for artists. Our work suffers.

If it goes on too long unchecked, the artist transforms into the ego maniac. Which is, of course, the greatest tragedy in art. Our world suffers. 

Stress & Transitions

Isn’t it fascinating how our capacity for stress increases with age? Think of your most stressful life periods. Almost always it involves some sort of a transition…

Moving to a new city, starting a new job, getting married, buying a house, starting a family, adding to a family, losing a loved one… 

Transitions always involve growing pains. 

And when we’re in the midst of one, it can feel overwhelming. But then we get to the other side and realize life goes on.

As we look back, things that used to be stressful are now something we can handle with ease. Our capacity has increased. 

It reminds me of what Tony Bennett wishes he had a chance to say to Amy Winehouse: “Slow down, you’re too important. Life teaches you how to live it, if you can stay around long enough.” 

June 11th

10 years ago today was the hardest day of my life. The day my life forever changed. I barely remember the flights that took me from Los Angeles to Raleigh. I alternated between sobbing and passing out the whole way. I remember a woman who sat beside me on the first plane. She lost her husband in Afghanistan and said, “I hate to tell you this, but it doesn’t get easier.” I sobbed harder.

I remember waiting for my luggage at baggage claim and a man who smelled like cigarettes handing me a $2 bill and saying, “Just know that you are loved.” I still have the $2 bill. 

***

I got married a few months ago. I gave my girl friends custom made tumblers with the words, “You are so loved,” written in cursive on the side. 

Last night, my husband and I played guitar and worked on a painting for our new house, while Bob Marley played in the background and our dog snoozed on the couch. 

It reminded me of those first few months, ten years ago. I spent a lot of time painting then. I didn’t know what else to do. The painting was healing for me. A way to momentarily forget about reality. Something I could do without having to think. Thinking was so painful. The next few years, whenever June 11th rolled around, I’d paint. 

It’s just by happen chance, (is there such a thing?), that I was painting again last night. The memories are still painful, of course, but over time, June 11th has lost its grip on me.

I don’t know why we have to lose people we love, but I can tell you this: The woman on the first flight was wrong. It does get easier. Jibrey was right in what he often said, life does go on. And the cigarette smelling mystery man at RDU baggage claim was right, too. We must never forget that we are so, so loved. 

A Story from The Costco Gas Pump

As anyone who gets gas at Costco knows, the wait is long and people’s patience often wears thin. I’m third in line now, with the two cars in front of me each pulling up to their respective pumps.

The first guy gets out. He’s young, black, and wearing a mask.

The second, I’m frustrated with because he’s taking much longer to get out of his car. I see his door open and two feet slowly touch the ground, one and then another. He’s at least 90 years old, white, and contrastingly, not wearing a mask. 

The first guy is noticing him too. He doesn’t exactly look steady.

Then the first guy begins emphatically waving down a gas station attendant. I know he’s seeking help for the older one because I watch him peek around the pump for an attendant and then quickly back to the guy. As we both now wait for assistance, he appears to keep his eyes on the older gentleman, as if standing at the ready, should he need some help. 

My own eyes start to well up. The first guy isn’t in a rush to get gas and get gone, like I am. He’s present, and caring for a fellow human being. He doesn’t care that the guy is white. He doesn’t care that he’s not wearing a mask. He cares because he sees a man in need. 

If I were a news journalist, perhaps my headline would be, “Young Masked Black Man Comes to Old Maskless White Man’s Aid at Costco Gas Pump.” 

But do any of these details really matter? In today’s times, yes. They shouldn’t. But because we’ve been so increasingly divided over the past 18 months, we rarely hear these stories. We see them all the time, but we barely acknowledge them, and we certainly don’t hear about them. Sadly, these stories don’t sell. 

I think they should, though. Because to me, this story is what America (and humanity) is all about. 

How Else Do We Bring Glory to God?

How else do we bring glory to God, 

if not by having hope in a world sown with fear? 

…If not by remaining calm in a sea of chaos 

…If not by knowing peace in the midst of uncertainty, 

how else do we bring glory to God? 

If we don’t offer kindness in a society full of hate 

…If we don’t act with gentleness in a world that pursues power 

…If we don’t call upon His name, sing His praises, and dance in worship, 

how else do we bring glory to God?

If we don’t use whatever gift we have, with all the strength God gives, to serve others, 

how else do we bring glory to God?