I've invited my cousin's daughter, Amber Krueger, to once again grace our pages. Her thoughts are probably what all of us are thinking this winter...
Despite the forecast. Live like it is spring.—Lilly Pulitzer
Only God could say what this new spirit forming in you will be… accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose Wisely.
—Karen Kaiser Clark
When the winds of change blow in it can be unsettling. Scary, even.
Especially when the change is dramatic. Like the unexpected loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job, or our health. That kind of change in life upends us. Leaving us with a sense of uncertainty. Insecurity. Upheaval.
No wonder we seem so averse to change.
Although change of any kind can be painful, it can also be a place of growth. A place where our faith stretches. A space that is transformative.
I think one of the reasons why we resist change so much, is that we like to feel safe. Cozy. Comfortable.
I know that is how it’s been lately in my life.
But, that’s not how it always was.
My hubby and I, in our younger days, were adventuresome. We embraced change.
When Rey had the opportunity to play basketball in France we welcomed it with open arms and made the move.
When a church in Colorado Springs needed a Youth Leader, we dove right in and loved every minute of it.
I remember the day we moved to White Bear Lake. I stood on our front stoop and asked God not to let me drive my tent stakes down too deep. I wanted to be willing to pull them up again if God had other plans.
But, then life happened. We rooted ourselves firmly. In the neighbourhood. In our kid’s activities. At church.
Oh, we still took little adventures now and again. I went to Ukraine to speak at a Women’s Conference. Rey went to Tijuana with the Youth that he’s been a part of for 20+ years.
I even went back to school to become a certified Spiritual Director and started my own publishing company.
But, that’s almost a decade ago now.
Then, a year and a half ago we lost our dearest friend to a three-week battle with cancer. It rocked our world. We had always assumed we would grow old together.
Amid our deep grief, I began to sense the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart. Telling me it was time to let go and play it safe no longer. It was time to be stretched. Because life is short.
We're kicking off the New Year with our sweet friend, Hannah Sorvik Fordice, who has a blog of her own called Rubble and Rescue. If you've had a tough 2017, you too may be wondering how 2018 will unfold. Praying her words will minister to your soul...
As the days countdown to Christ's birth, we Heart Matters gals thought that the best gift we could give you is some time set apart with Jesus. This quiet time experience Julie Miller has written is really the gift that Ignatius of Loyola left for us as one of his many legacies. Ignatius loved God's Word and approached it uniquely. Rather than read the word to fill in blanks on a page, he stepped into it as if he were living the stories out.
So, in the words of Frederick Buechner...
Thanksgiving Thoughts to Prepare Your Heart
...all which we behold
Is full of blessings...
What do you behold today? Whom do you behold?
Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, — a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.
O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.
It is an unfortunate human failing that a full pocketbook often groans more loudly than an empty stomach.
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Let the poor and hungry among you come and harvest the crops that spring up in your fields. Whatever is left over, the beasts may eat. Do the same thing with your vineyards and your olive groves.
My first introduction to real poverty occurred when traveling with a friend to spend a little fun in the sun at a resort in Dominican Republic. My friend, Nancy, had tried to prepare me. But, there’s no way to prepare oneself for what I was about to see.
We had barely driven away from the airport and onto the road when the gravity of poverty hit me full force.
Scattered along the roadside were makeshift shanties made of whatever materials folks could gather. Children hung about in various stages of undress. Dirty. Big-eyed. And no doubt hungry.
As we continued our journey we passed beautifully manicured lawns that led to gated resorts. Palms trees waved. Coral-colored condo’s and high-rises peaked out above the palms. As well as snippets of white, sandy beaches and the sparkling, blue ocean as wide as the eye can see.
I tried to absorb the dichotomy. Desperate poverty just outside the gates of incredible wealth.
When we arrived at our destination, Nancy took me on a tour of our new abode’s beautiful grounds. There were tropical flowers like the bright blue Isabel Segunda, the crazy-looking Bird of Paradise, and flaming red Delonix regia, better known as Flamboyants, that I had seen only in magazines. Not to mention pink Bougainvillea’s and bright orange Penta’s. It was breathtaking.
But, I was haunted.
We know what we are, but not what we may be.”
― William Shakespeare
Who do I say that I am? This question is an essential question to be reckoned with throughout our lives. During the first twenty-some years of our lives one of our main tasks is to develop a sense of our identity.
We get a lot of input from outside sources on this topic from family, friends, coworkers, teachers and ministers… We usually end up with a sense of identity that is based on the roles that we have, what we are able to do and how we look. Look at how people introduce themselves: I’m name; I work as a job title at employer. I’m married with # of children.
On one level we know who we are. Yet, on another level we don’t have a clue as to what we are. Some of you might be thinking, “That’s pretty easy. I’m a human being.” However, is that all we are? We could say we are energy that is vibrating at a low frequency. But, that feels too basic. We’re missing a key part of who we are.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition there is the belief that we are made in God’s image. What does it mean to be made in the image of God? How we answer that question will depend on how we define God and how we relate to God. For example, God as father, creator, judge, love, mystery, life force and spirit are a few of the ways I have related to God. Given this, I have identified myself throughout my life in various ways: a child of God, sinner, co-creator, beloved, mystery and spiritual being.
As we continue our discussion on our Identity, we've invited our precious friend, Lisa Harrell, to add her voice from a single woman's perspective... be blessed dear readers!
Another single friend and I were talking recently and she recounted again her frustration about having to do everything herself. “If I were married, someone else would at least be mowing the lawn or balancing the checkbook or getting the oil changed. Sure, I can do each of those things but it’s trying to keep up with it all while working a stressful full-time job, cooking, getting groceries, cleaning, doing laundry, working out, keeping up with friends, caring for my parents, and attempting to tend to my spiritual life and relationship with God that overwhelms me. Heaven forbid I should get sick or some other unwelcome emotional upset, relational conflict, or life event disrupts my life. There is no one to share the load. I need a partner! I want a companion.” While it may sound strange to call this full, busy, often frazzled and overwhelmed way of living lonely, it can be excruciatingly so for a single woman – be she single by choice, a lack of choice, death, or divorce.
Of course, the quick “Sunday school” answer often offered us single women (right after the placating ‘you’ll find someone’ or ‘there’s a good man out there somewhere for you’) is, “You already have a partner, it’s Jesus!” Okay, yes…but how do I experience this in regular life? I haven’t seen Jesus using spot remover in my laundry room lately nor has he surprised me by filling my tank with gas.
Who is Jesus to me, a sometimes lonely one who needs him so much? Who am I to him? At core, I am beloved, I am seen, I am understood, and I am sustained by him. He shares his breath with me. He hears me. He weeps with me. He laughs with me (though I so rarely notice it). He prays for me. He comforts and encourages me. All these things are what I need most and long for in a partner. But for lack of skin and bone presence, there are times I still feel lonely. After years of fighting, hating, being embarrassed by it, and bemoaning it, I’ve come to believe and accept that loneliness is actually my unique flavor of invitation from God, an invitation to come home to Him, to myself, to reality as it is (yep, along the way he invites me to let go of my demand for something better). And in coming home, I find that it is good, very good.
Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
I love walking through a field of wildflowers. Every season there is something new to surprise and delight me.
As summer shifts quietly to autumn, the wildflowers change too. Gone are the purple columbine, the yellow primrose, and the red poppies. They’ve been replaced by purple asters, and yellow goldenrod with a few straggling red cardinal flowers thrown in for good measure.
God has painted our world with a vast variety of flowers in every hue. Anne LaMott in her book Grace Eventually speaks of God’s creativity this way, “The meadow was a crazy jumble of flowers, giddy experiments of a Painter trying ideas out together: How about this with this? Isn’t it wiggy?”
If God saw fit to bless this world with such unique beauty and variety, it is only fitting that he created you and I uniquely beautiful in all our diversity.
In fact, David wrote Psalm 139 in awe of how intimately God made and loves us…
13You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. 15 You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! 16 You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book! 17-18How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I can’t even count how many times a day your thoughts turn toward me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!
The thing is, I didn’t always believe that. Most of my life I struggled like crazy to conform to other people’s expectations: to be thin, not chunky (as I was often called in childhood), to be stoic, and not so emotional. To be strong, and not weak. To be ambitious, not a daydreamer.
God’s angels are watching over us.
Aren’t all the angels ministering spirits who are sent to serve
those who are going to inherit salvation?
Do you believe in angels? Oh, I’m not talking about those cute little chubby cherubs that you can buy in the stores. Or even the D’Amico angels, which I collect. No. I’m talking about ministering angels that appear on earth to guard and protect us.
Forty years ago this past August, I had an encounter with an angel...at least that’s what I believe.
It happened when I least expected it, but, when I most needed it.
I was nineteen at the time and living in the city. It was Friday and I was eagerly awaiting my work day to end. I had made plans to head north for a fun-filled weekend celebrating my eight-year-old brother. After a quick stop at my apartment to change into more comfortable clothing, I hit the road.
About halfway to my destination, my life turned upside down. Literally.
Going 60 miles-an-hour in the left lane on a major highway, my car suddenly jerked left toward the median. The tires hit the gravel and spun my car around 180° to face the oncoming traffic. The skid sent my car back into the gravel and in a blink of an eye, my car was flipping in the median over and over.
It was surreal. The windows blew out. Glass shards flew, as did I. (There weren’t seatbelt laws back then.) The next thing I knew, I was being slammed upward onto the roof of the car, then into the passenger door, where I was left crumpled in a pile when it came to rest.
I panicked. All I wanted to do was to get out of the car. Thankfully, three young men were ready to yank the door open and we're able to catch me as I lost consciousness.
The next thing I remember I was laying on my back in the grass with grasshoppers bounding over me.
My mind whirled, my heart raced, but, my lips were dumb.
Just then a gentle-faced man leaned in close to my own. He slipped his hand in mine and whispered, “Julie, my name is Jerry _____. You’ve been in a car accident. You’ve been placed on the ground to keep you stabilized until the ambulance comes for you. Do not be afraid. I am here. Try to rest quietly.”
As we prepare our hearts for autumn...
I thought a reprise of this old devotional I wrote might be just the ticket we need to refocus our thoughts as the blustery winds blow in.
I am like a deaf man who cannot hear…
Be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord.
Psalm 38:13a / 35:22b
The wind blew strong all through the night, rattling windows…and my nerves…and today it blusters still. Even as I sit here, it howls and hollers. Our neighbor’s screen door slams open and closed, being pushed and pulled with each stiff gust. Leaves scurry and scatter across our lawn in every direction. The typical sounds of a neighbor’s dog barking or of traffic hurrying along the nearby highway are muffled, if not silenced, by the wind’s boisterous behavior.
But, it is not just the wind that has been blustering of late. My mind feels tumultuous as well. Unsettled thoughts have been clamoring noisily in my head; yet, the more I try to pull them together, the more strewn they become. The worst part of it is I cannot seem to make out God’s voice over all the confusion. I cry out to Him, but my words just echo off the walls.
“What’s wrong with me, Lord?” I ask. “Is there some sin issue in my life that is separating us? Is that why I am struggling so?” I lay my heart out before Him and confess my sad propensity to stumble; yet, the tumult continues. I wonder then if the enemy of my soul is behind this menacing disruption between my Savior and me; perhaps he is the one creating this disturbance in my mind. I whisper a prayer of protection and thank God that He is greater than anything the enemy can hurl at me…still the blustering continues.
A silence fell over the group that went on…and on…and on. So, I started to talk. I chatted on like a radio.
I’ve been reading through the book of Job from the Bible this summer. It really is a painful little book. It’s painful, not only because of the horrific catastrophes that happen to Job. That is excruciating enough to imagine. But, to have to listen in as his closest friends carelessly prattle on and on as Job suffers…well, that just breaks my heart.
Poor Job even tried to stop his friends after their droning deluge of words and pleaded with them, “You think you are wise. But, my spirit is broken. If only you would listen carefully to my words and let this be the way you comfort me.” (12:1-2, 16:2-3, 17:1 and 21:1-2) Unfortunately, the droning continued. His friends just didn’t get it.
Some folks never do.
Proverbs 18:2 tells us that a fool “only wants to tell others what they think.”
That’s precisely what Job’s friends intended to do. In response to his pleas, they said things like, “I cannot keep from speaking.” Or “Listen to what I have to say.”
Job’s friends desperately needed a class in Listening 101.
When we listen, really listen, we pay thoughtful attention to our friend; we hear what is being said and unsaid, in order to fully understand what’s on her heart.
But listening is hard work. Especially when our friend grows quiet. Some of us are uncomfortable, nervous even, with silence. We feel the need to fill the air with words.
I love the quote by one of the Desert Fathers, Arsenius, who said, “I have often repented of having spoken, but never of having remained silent.”
Give light and people will find the way.
The sunroom in the condo where we’ve stayed in Big Sky, Montana the last couple of years overlooks a small lake hedged in by the small ski village. The village sits at the base of Lone Peak. And the view at sunrise is breathtaking.
But, the view at day’s end is equally spectacular. As the sun slowly slips out of sight, the lights of the village begin to flicker on, polka-dotting the mountains darkening silhouette with a warm glow. Dusk paints the sky in broad strokes of watercolor pinks, purples and oranges.
It’s a scene I rarely miss. I tuck myself into a comfy chair and breathe in the beauty of God’s unfolding majesty.
As nightfall descends, and with it the waning hours, one-by-one the lights of the village go out.
A solitary light shines out against the deepening darkness from Lone Peaks starry summit.
From my bed, I can look out the window and gaze up at that light. It is strangely soothing to me. Like the words that Galadriel spoke to Frodo in the book, The Lord of Rings. “And for you, Frodo Baggins, I give you the light of Eärendil our most beloved star. May it be a light to you in dark places when all other lights go out.”
The light atop Lone Peak is a light in dark places when all other lights go out.
As my thoughts begin to tumble one-upon-another in my head, I quietly slip out of bed and back into the cozy chair that I love, and give freedom to my thoughts.
I scribble down the first three words that spring to mind as I gaze up at Lone Peak: Protection. Direction. Comfort.
I stand to look out the window and scan the horizon from east to west. It may seem crazy, but, the mountains seem to all but disappear in the blackest darkness.
I imagine a light brightly shining from the tallest peak in the region would surely be a blessed gift of protection, especially for pilots. Think of the tragedies that would occur if the light atop Lone Peak went out. Like the light on top of transmission towers and skyscrapers, the light atop Lone Peak warns pilots of impending danger and thereby safeguards against loss of life and cargo.
When I ponder further, an old saying whispers to my heart, “I’ll leave the light on for you.”
What do you think of when you hear that statement? (Besides Motel 6.) Close your eyes and think about it for a moment. When someone leaves the light on for you, what do you expect to find when you arrive?
We happened to arrive quite late to a friend’s house last spring, but, they didn’t just leave the light on for us, they waited up to welcome us. When someone leaves the light on for you, you expect at the very least a safe place to lay your head.
I pray that the light I bear will also be a beacon of protection, a safe place for people in this ever-darkening world.
You are the world’s light—a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all.
Our fourth guest is a writer of poetry. Her name is Denise Smith Collier and her beautiful words can be found on her Facebook page, Heart of Worship. May these words from both of her poems bless and encourage you today...
Love Letter from Jesus
My beautiful bride,
I long so for you,
With sharing our love,
Communion of two.
Days feel like thousands,
Not having you close,
Thoughts that consume,
My heart yearning most.
Your scent like a rose,
A smell like no other,
That reaches to Me,
Soon I will come,
My arms to then hold,
And take you with Me,
The place we'll call home.
It's our third week and we are really excited to share another lovely lady's blog with you. Her name is Heidi Zwart. She has a wonderful blog about health and wholeness that you will be so encouraged by. Follow her at www.heidizwart.com.
We pray that these words that Heidi wrote will resonate with you today as you move toward a healthier life, day by day.
Check out her blog: https://byambershands.com/. It's a wonderful collection of yummy recipes, creative crafts and ideas to inspire you to tap into your own God-given gifts and abilities.
The last few days have been incredibly difficult ones for me.
On days like today, when my heart is heavily burdened, when my thoughts are clouded and my spirit is grieved, I find myself drawn to performing simple tasks with my hands.
Today I turned off the television, turned away from social media, did my best to shut out all the distractions and baked bread.
There is something about the process of baking bread– the taking of simple ingredients like flour, water, and yeast; the working of dough in one’s hands and making something wonderful out of it– that helps to order one’s thoughts and soothe a troubled soul.
Our lives require more silence than we’re typically given. When I was younger I avoided silence at all costs. Now I find myself seeking out the few moments I can get.
The resting of the dough reminds me to take time for silence, for reflection, for prayer.