An Open Letter To My Friend Who Has Cancer

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An Open Letter To My Friend Who Has Cancer

This post is based on an actual conversation with one dear friend, but I know many of you can relate. I hope it encourages you to keep praying, keep calling, keep holding up their arms.

If you are a survivor or are presently in the fight, I know full well that I just visit cancer and you have lived with it. I am speaking  only as a spectator on this journey.

My dear friend,

You are so very brave. I am in awe of your strength and determination. You keep showing up. I don’t know if I could.

You were feeling good today; you and chemo are “on a break”. On this break you’ve remembered how great “good” feels and you are relishing every minute. The break has been glorious, a chance to catch your breath and regain strength.

But you are counting the days until your furlough ends. In your words, you “can’t wish chemo away” even though you would like to.

I told you I would gladly take one round on your behalf, if only that were possible.

Easy words for me to speak, knowing it won’t happen. My words were sincere, but you can’t take them to the bank. They are as counterfeit as a three-dollar bill; worthless. It’s you who has a port surgically implanted in your chest wall. And yet you are gracious because you know I “mean well’. In hindsight, I’m embarrassed that I said them.

You said the chemo is a necessary evil. I’ve watched it ravage your body, turning your cells on each other. It took your hair and turned your skin to ash and yet your smile is radiant, because you hold fast to HOPE – it is your lifeline.

You are about to return to war. We will send cards and care packages, but you are the one on the front line.

I pray, frustrated over my impotence to help and God brought an Old Testament story to mind.

Moses was leading God’s people, a grumbling band of nomads, into the promised land. It was one gripe after another with them. I’m thirsty. I’m hungry. It was like a road trip with me.

The Amalekites were a nasty bunch who had a reputation for not fighting fair. About the time Moses had had it with the Israelites, they arrived in Rephidim, where the Amalekites attacked.

Moses was old and most likely tired from all of the grumbling, so he sent Joshua into battle.

He promised Joshua that he would stand on the top of the hill, with the staff of God in his hands as a show of support.

Joshua headed to battle and Moses went up the hill, accompanied by Aaron and Hur.

What happened next is the part of the story that the sweet Holy Spirit reminded me of as I prayed over you today.

Joshua fared well as long as Moses held up his hands. However, when he tired, his arms fell and the Amalekites gained.

Enter Aaron and Hur. They stood on either side of Moses, holding his arms up. They gave him a place to sit; they held his arms up until the enemy was defeated.

When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him
and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side,
one on the other–so that his hands remained steady until sunset.
So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Exodus 17:12-13 NIV

You are a fighter like Joshua; and like Moses, you know that salvation and hope are in God alone.

The visual is so big and beautiful, my friend. All of us who love you are trusting and believing God for your healing have come alongside you.

In the days to come, I pray that you will remember the multitude around you, lifting your arms and your battle to Jesus. I love you!

Because he bends down to listen I will pray as long as I have breath,

lorraine

This is such a hard topic; I write with great care but I don’t know your story. Please use the comment section to share the ways that others have come alongside you in your battle, whether cancer or some other struggle. 

Are You Asking God the Wrong Question?

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Are You Asking God the Wrong Question?

This afternoon I heard a quote that stopped me in my tracks.

“God isn’t after productivity; He’s after your heart.”

I was slain and relieved all at once.

It’s not been my most productive week. I haven’t felt well so I’m mostly going through the motions. I’m showing up where expected, but I don’t have much to show for the time spent. I can feel guilty pretty fast over that because I’m sort of driven.

The dictionary defines driven: Motivated by or having a compulsive quality or need.

I admit that I tend to measure my success and even my worth by how much I produce and how happy I’m making the people I’m producing for (craving approval is another story for later this month).

I’m my harshest critic. I should be more productive, I should be working harder, I should take a shower….

That familiar thief, comparison, is poised to snatch away my joy. I find myself discouraged over nothing in particular and everything in general. I’m frustrated over my inability to get things done even as I take careful note of all that everyone else is accomplishing (thanks, social media).

And then this afternoon some guy I’ve never heard of pops up on my radar and I decide to listen to him.

He talks about walking into every day, into every meeting, into every circumstance as a child of God.

He says my primary identity is not wife, mom, employee, or friend. My primary identity is God’s daughter.

I’m not an orphan who must figure it out on my own; I have a Father who loves me and who is going to take care of my needs.

I don’t have to claw and scrape out an existence today. Nothing is dependent on me and everything is dependent on Him.

Thanks, Allen Arnold. Thanks for the reminder.

I’m looking forward to feeling better and doing my part as He leads, but I’m so thankful that it isn’t up to me. He did not leave us as orphans!

I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18

Friends, it begins when we start the day with this conversation: “Father, I can’t wait to see how you are going to work today.”

I’d love to hear how you walk in confidence, knowing that you have a faithful Father who is going to come through for you, in the most unexpected ways. Share your stories in the comments!

His daughter,

lorraine

If you would like to know more about Allen Arnold, check out his book. Yep, it’s one more on my growing list of must-reads!

 

Let it Be; On Messes and Control Freaks

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Let it Be; On Messes and Control Freaks

Hubby and I have been at the beach all week. Vacation paradise, right?

working from the beach

What an office! I loved working in the warm salt air.

Actually, we are both working from the beach…he is doing some work in a friend’s condo and I’m doing what I always do, just with a much lovelier view. That is, as long as I keep my gaze to the East, toward the ocean.

You see, this condo is in total disarray. All of the furniture is pulled to the center of the rooms, covered in bed sheets and plastic. Every cupboard and closet is emptied. Their contents are piled high on every surface. Finding the coffee pot was a scavenger hunt.

Messy Condo

messy kitchen

As you can see, we found that coffee pot – survival ensured!

 

 

I happiest when my surroundings are in order; I’m easily rattled by confusion. This situation, my friends, is a recipe for disaster.

All of the televisions are disconnected; the internet signal is so weak that we can’t stream Netflix on our iPads. (Thankfully it’s been more than adequate during the day so I can work!)

There is no cell service.

We are both tired. We’ve had a couple of really full weeks and hubby is as put off by messes as I am.

So we spend most of our “down” time outside. As we should, it’s the beach after all!

On our first night here we walked along the beach. It was beautiful and relaxing. We’ve spent lots of time in the hot tub, as it’s my only option for soaking (there is not a bathtub in this condo…another interruption to my normal.)

I continue to work, testing new applications, with Jimmy Buffet singing in the background. It’s almost like vacation, but it’s not.

Honestly, by Tuesday evening, I was a grump. After a wonderful shrimp dinner, we returned to the mess and navigated the path to the bed. There was no TV to watch and I didn’t feel well. I flipped on my side and fell asleep fast.

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Storm clouds building down the beach – just like the ones building in my anxious heart.

After some rest, some coffee and some time with Jesus, I knew that I was at risk for missing the blessings of this week. So I began listing them:

  • I can work in close proximity to the man I love
  • We are eating every meal together; breakfast and lunch are on the balcony overlooking the ocean
  • The view…did I mention the view? I usually see only cubicle walls
  • Eating the best local burger
  • There is nothing I can or should do about this mess

That last bullet was a “Come to Jesus” moment for me. It was as if he said “Why is this bothering you? It’s not yours; don’t own anything that you have no control over.”

In that instant I knew this week was about more than the view and a messy condo. In fact, just a few days ago, I answered these questions in my quiet time:

  • Are you a control freak? My answer: Yes, I like to make sure things are orderly and neat. Somehow I think that if I can just control everything it will be ok. No wonder my chest hurts!
  • When is it hardest for you to trust God? My answer: When the present seems to be a train wreck.

This is the verse that He gave me that morning, as I confessed that I’m not always willing to wait for him to make things right, that I want to take charge and bring order and sense to everything around me.

Let your unfailing love surround me, LORD, for my hope is in you alone.
Psalm 33:22 ESV

As I write, I am also getting inspiration from the spiritual giants, The Beatles. Paul McCartney croons “Let it be”. And Jesus whispers, “Yes, that is for you. Just let it be.”

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This morning’s sunrise – right on schedule!

 

As I survey this mess, knowing that I own none of it, there is absolute freedom. I lift my gaze above the stuff and I see the ocean. I hear the constant roar as the waves return again and again to the shore. He’s got all of this; I can trust him with my life, messy as it gets.

Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?
Surely you know!
Every word of God is flawless;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Psalm 30:4-5 NIV

By his grace, in the midst of so many messes, taking refuge in him alone,

lorraine

P.S. – By some miracle of modern technology, a restart of the WIFI router has improved the signal strength and we got to watch Parenthood last night on the world’s smallest screen. Thank you, Jesus!

If you read last week’s post on my kitten adventure, here is the beginning of her new story…delivered safe and sound to her new momma:

Phoebe and Rose

 

If you missed her story, you can read it here. Thanks friends, and may all your days be “beachy”!

I’m Really Not a Cat Person

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I’m Really Not a Cat Person

The grands left for home on Saturday, just after picking up a kitten that was to become their new pet. Unfortunately, none of us are cat people and therefore didn’t know it wasn’t a good idea to let the kitten wander around a strange yard to use the bathroom before boarding the swagger wagon.

She bolted. Almost caught. Not anywhere to be found. After thirty minutes of fruitless searching, they left without her, a van full of sad children and frustrated parents. It wasn’t the most graceful of departures, but hugs and kisses and reassurances were given that we would be on the lookout.

I doubted we would see her again, but I dutifully posted in the local Facebook lost and found animals page.

The Facebook post filled with helpful advice as the day progressed, most of which was far too much effort for a kitten I was not emotionally invested in and…I’m not a cat person.

I had just spent a week with a houseful of grandchildren I am heavily invested in and I was tired. Instead of making posters and knocking on neighbors doors, I tidied the house a bit and then “cat-napped”.

As the cat lovers had predicted, she began to meow around dusk. We crawled around the bottom of the deck, sure we were hearing her cries coming from underneath. A dish of food was strategically placed within view of a window, hoping she would venture out once we were out of sight. There was no sign of her and we went to bed because I am not a cat  person.

Sunset Silhouette

These are the days that count, the evenings that we will remember. And these are three of the reasons that I depserately wanted to rescue that kitten.

I awoke to the sound of a baby crying or maybe it was the kitten? I peered at the clock.  2:30 a.m. – that was definitely a whining kitten, but weariness overtook worry and I feel asleep. After all, I’m not a cat person.

Morning came; the kitten’s crying continued. She seemed more desperate, crying almost constantly but there was still no sign of her.

Soon her cries became hoarse and weak. She had been missing almost twenty-four hours. This “not a cat person’ was getting concerned.

In full sun it was apparent she was not under the deck as previously thought. I noticed a hole in the dirt, at the corner of the deck, against the foundation of the house. Her cries grew louder as we investigated the opening.

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It was apparent she had run into an underground trench, likely forged by running water from the sprinklers. We’d found her!

Momentary relief and joy turned to panic. Hubby got on his face in the dirt and began to carefully excavate the opening. He caught a glimpse of her but the kitten retreated and went silent.

Meanwhile, I consulted with an animal-loving nephew who was giving advice via text message. He suggested we give her some time to calm down; perhaps she would venture out when she felt safe. We reluctantly walked away, and I was fearful that hole would be her grave.

An hour passed with not a sound. My earlier adrenaline rush was gone and fatigue and a bit of sadness overtook. I’m not sure why, ’cause I’m not a cat person, you know.

Neighbors popped in to offer help and I shared my concern. As we stepped onto the deck, chatting about the situation, she resumed crying.

Her voice grew louder as she ventured toward the opening.

And then, peering out of the darkness, we saw her face! She timidly approached the tuna I had placed near the opening and began to take small bites, peering at us in between.

Thankful for a twelve-year-old to navigate the narrow space, we all agreed our young neighbor was the best person to try to coax her out, most apt to be trusted by the frightened fur baby.

kitten shows her face

We all praised the kitty, trying to be totally chill so as not to alarm her. Finally, she ventured far enough to be scooped from her hiding place.

Filthy, she’d spent more than a day down a dirty hole in the earth without food, fearful and hungry. Her fur was matted with mud and fleas. And this “not a cat person” carefully washed the squirming kitty, hand picking every flea. I cared for that kitten like it was my job, but I’m not a cat person.

Dang it.

I planned to write a warm and amusing kitten story, but the analogy just made a direct hit on my heart.

Stuff happens and I feel insecure or wounded.

I’m not appreciated.

I was left out.

I was criticized unjustly.

I’m misunderstood.

I tend to follow a natural instinct to protect myself by my own means, running into a dark hole of sorts.

I try on my own to find a safe place, quivering and loudly complaining about my situation, but unwilling to take a step toward help.

As much we wanted to help that kitten, we couldn’t until she was willing to come out of that hole.

I wasn’t deaf to her cries; they pained me. I had empathy for her predicament. But she had to show her face and take those few steps of trust.

So often I run away from the promises and reassurance that God’s got me, that he is in control of the big picture. I hide and complain instead of looking to him.

These promises came to mind as I thought about our little kitten rescue and the joy that we shared when we “not cat people” knew she was safe!


But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9 NIV


He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
Psalm 40:2 NIV


 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Exodus 14:14 NIV


 

Can you relate? Where do you struggle to trust him, even when you are frightened by the unknown? Do you long to be known and seen and yet run from the one who knows you and loves you just as you are?

I’d love to hear how all of this landed on your heart, friends. Talk back to me in the comments.

Growing in grace to trust him with my fears and hurt,

lorraine

Kitten2

Here she is, all cleaned up and waiting to be delivered to her family.

When Arrows Fly

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When Arrows Fly

After the call that informed me I was pregnant (there were no at home pregnancy tests – apparently a rabbit had to give its life or some such nonsense!) I waited with great anticipation to know whether my first child would be a son or daughter.

With every visit to the obstetrician I anxiously listened to the heartbeat and every time, he said “Girl”. The baby’s heartbeat was fast and that was the gender predictor of the day.

Shortly before my due date, I climbed out of the back seat of a friend’s two door car and my water broke.

My husband brought a stack of bath towels to the door where I stood soggy, still producing an impressive geyser of amniotic fluid. I waddled in and sat on the only safe seat I could think of, the toilet.

My anxious hubby hurried into the living room and phoned the on-call physician, who insisted that he needed to speak directly to me. Our only phone was a rotary, attached to the wall as all phones were in the early 70’s. I had to waddle into the living room, stack of wet towels wedged between my legs, to face the inquisition.

“Are you sure you didn’t just wet your pants?”

“Pretty sure I’ve never produced that much urine in my lifetime. Nope. Didn’t wet my pants.”

“Do you think you could have? Because, you know, that’s common this far along in your pregnancy.”

“Here’s the thing…. I have wet my pants before. I can’t laugh with a full bladder and I tend to wait too long to empty it, so let’s just agree that I have experience in this realm. This was no accident.”

Finally, we headed to the hospital where it was confirmed that I had not wet my pants. (Insert eye roll and snarky “I told ya so!”)

Twenty-four hours and zero anesthesia later, I pushed a beautiful baby girl (he was right!) into the world. To this day, that was the best work I’ve ever done. At nineteen years old I was a mom; I didn’t fully understand or appreciate the tension of motherhood.

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This is grainy, but I love this picture taken before our first trip to church at one week old.

But I loved my baby and together with her father, I was determined that she would have the best we could provide. When her sister came along a few years later, we doubled down on that commitment.

I dreamed big dreams for our girls. I drew mental pictures of their lives, illustrating my plans for them. I wanted them to know Jesus and I wanted them to be “good” girls, but I wanted all of the things that the world said they needed as well.

Somewhere along the way, their dreams superseded mine. Their lives took the form of their interests, their goals and the desires of their hearts.

I was recently reminded of a passage I discovered years ago. It compares children to arrows.

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.” – Psalm 127:4

I was curious, so I researched the basic points of shooting a bow:

  • Stance is important. Stand upright with your feet well-planted.
  • Keep a relaxed grip on the bow.
  • Don’t grip the arrow – let it rest on the string.
  • Pull back the string using your back muscles, not the smaller biceps in your arm.
  • Aim at the target as you look down the length of the arrow.
  • Relax your grip on the string and let your fingers slip backward.
  • Maintain your stance – follow through is key to landing the target.

Although I started this Mom gig with zero archery training I can see some correlation.

Sometimes life got in the way and I didn’t give proper attention to the unique character of each of my children. I wish I had understood more about getting to know them deeply.

There were too many times that I looked at someone else’s target. I was distracted by what others were doing, or by what they might have thought about what we were doing. Now I know that none of that mattered.

The picture that I had attached to the bulls-eye for each of my girls looked little or nothing like the lives they are living, but I’ve come to realize that those visions were mine, not theirs or even God’s.

My girls have gone places I would not have had the courage to step. They’ve navigated land mines and treacherous terrain and fifteen passenger vans to fight for and provide for their families. They’ve taken financial risks and gambled their hearts.

It’s not always pretty, this journey of mothering, but by God’s grace those arrows will land.

As moms there is great tension between our longing for our children to remain close to us in a comfortable and safe place, and the desire to see them walk out God’s call on their lives.

This Mother’s Day, I write to encourage you. God is for you and your babies. If you could glimpse into my heart, you would see it hasn’t been easy to let go of my dreams in favor of His plans. But I’m learning that as much as I love my girls, he loves them more.

He’s got them, Momma.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
– 3 John 1:4

Letting go by his grace alone,

lorraine

The girls and I

February 2015 – Enjoying Disney’s Magic  Kingdom with my girls

Spotlights and Hissy Fits

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Spotlights and Hissy Fits

She was perched on my lap, knees digging into my thighs, peering over and around the head of the very tall gentleman in the row in front of us. She was literally quivering with delight as she watched the lights come up on group after group of dancers. Without fail, she clapped fervently then cupped her hands around her mouth and let out a whoop as each took a bow.

Periodically she turned a bit to face me, excitement lighting her face. “That was so good!” she exclaimed over and over. She could barely contain her joy.

She celebrated every performance including her own. This afternoon it was about her and her dance company and she was loving the costumes, the makeup and the spotlight.

After the final curtain we all loaded into the fifteen passenger van. In a matter of moments, she went from celebrated performer to big sister/little sister/six-year-old girl whose sparkly costume was suddenly itchy and whose blood sugar was crashing. She was near having a hissy fit, but Mommy assured her she could in fact endure the costume for the short ride home.

Once there, she slipped into something far less itchy and was given some quiet time in her room to unwind. In a bit she rejoined her six brothers and sisters in the kitchen for pizza and it occurred to me that her moment in the spotlight was short.

I thought of how I deal with my “fifteen minutes of fame” experiences. We all have them from time to time…. a short period of time when the spotlight and the attention turns to us and we feel special, important and celebrated.

But for most, those are short-lived and we climb back into the fifteen passenger van that is our daily life. To be honest, I sometimes throw a private hissy fit when the celebration is over.

Oh friend, I’m so thankful for GRACE that assures us that no matter how short-lived our moments of fame may be, we are valued and loved. 

GRACE even when I’m out of sorts because the current circumstance, maybe even the thing that just a day or so ago was beautiful and sparkly, is now irritating and I just want out.
If you find yourself just outside of the afterglow of a great experience, give yourself some grace, friend. Recharge with food for your soul and take a break. Then come join us at the table, where we will again celebrate the goodness of our Father and what He does for us and through us.

“Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace.
It’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people
who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you.
The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God
is and by what he does for us, not by what we do for him.”
Romans 12:3  ~ The Message

 

Enjoying his grace in spite of my hissy fits,

lorraine

 

 

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My beautiful dancer, and her mother’s efforts to keep her flat on her feet when she’s not in the spotlight.

 

 

 

Losing Myself in a Selfie Culture

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Losing Myself in a Selfie Culture

treeThe sun was high, it’s beams breaking through the trees; shadows danced at my feet as the leaves and branches swayed with the gentle breeze. Though the air was cool, the jacket slipped off my shoulders, tied around my waist as I walked. It was as if the woods were drawing me in, inviting me to stay a while.

I inhaled deeply; the loam under my timid steps was damp from recent rains, rich with the scent of mud and wildflower blossoms. The river was just steps away, the color of my morning coffee and scattered with limbs downed by the weight of the past winter’s snow.

A plastic grocery bag was tucked into my pocket; it’s the season for morel mushrooms and this was a great spot to hunt. I determined to pay close attention to every detail as I wandered this plot of ground, wild and yet mere yards from a house filled with many beautiful and well-appointed rooms. Wilderness and refinement are neighbors on this Midwest homestead.

I was not alone. My cousin, a skilled hunter and woodsman, hiked ahead of me. I followed his lead as we broke the thicket and entered the deeper brush. I had slowed to take in the details. I thought he might have intentionally passed a patch of the prized morels as a test. He’s like that… a teacher and trainer at heart. It would be like him to set up an opportunity for me to succeed.

Woods collageOther family members went off in various directions. I couldn’t resist stopping for pictures of flowers, or downed logs and animal burrows. I fell behind, no longer within earshot of the crackling of branches and leaves as my companions trekked through the brush.

For a moment, a tremor of panic welled up, threatening to overtake my joy. I didn’t know my way out. While I had carefully surveyed every tree and wildflower in the shady thickets and examined hollow logs and the play of light with the curiosity of a child, I paid no attention to the direction I had wandered.

He would never leave me here, I reminded myself. And almost to the moment, he called out. I responded, assuring him I was fine, moving in the direction of his voice.

There were others in our small group and we occasionally caught site of one another, always hoping for a report of a find.

Finally we regrouped back at the trucks, driving out. We hadn’t gone far when he stopped and we jumped out again, this time walking to the end of a long thicket. “This is a good spot. I’ll clear the way for you to step in.”

Skillfully he parted the thorny, twisted branches and held them back as he led the way. He continued to coach and lead as I finally entered a clearing. Again I ventured off, exploring and searching but staying within earshot of my trusted guide.

I heard creaking overhead and looked up to see a huge log perched precariously between two trees – a widow maker, I would be told later. I wondered how many eyes were peering out, watching me as I was completely unaware of them. There was some calculated risk in this place, but it was beautiful and wild. There was no need for fear, rather awareness of potential danger.

Once home, I surveyed the scratches; they were superficial. Tick checks were conducted by buddies, since they tend to hitchhike in hard to locate places.

Later, as I lay quiet in my bed before sleep came, I reviewed my wonderful day. There were glorious reunions with loved ones, the simple joy of watching a dog work like a champ for a master he adores, and the peace found in a place of worship seated between two people I love.

I remembered the hike in the woods and I was grateful, even thought we never saw even one mushroom. As I thanked God for a walk in the woods, he used it to speak to me about my often misplaced hunt for affirmation.

“I’m clearing the way for you to step in. Just follow me. You’ll get some scratches, sure…but I’ll be just ahead of you, making a way. Call out to me; I’ll be listening for your voice and I’ll respond.

I’m giving you some space to explore; I want you to experience all that I’ve created for you. There is danger, sure. You may get some wounds, but they will pale in comparison to the beauty of walking with me.”

Friends I know he is leading me toward something new. I’m scared that I’ll get hurt. And I might. This life was not intended to be easy.

He is teaching me to think less about myself in the midst of a selfie culture.

I’ve found myself returning to the empty cistern of people to get my tank filled, looking for likes and loves and affirmation that only he can give. I’ve asked friends (while not openly because that’s just weird) to fill me up, to refuel me for service and I’ve come back empty. Every. Single. Time.

It’s not his plan. He’s the one and only one who never tires of me, who calls me beautiful and beloved. He will literally leave the entire flock and come searching for me (Matthew 18:12) as I wander, trying to find my way, sometimes getting lost in the distraction of the pretty things along the way.

He never tires of you. He is waiting for you to call out; I’m convinced he’s setting up scenarios for your success. He called to Peter to step out of the boat, knowing he would not sink as long as he kept his eyes on him!

Your salvation and honor depend on God alone. He is your mighty rock; pour your heart out to him and never fear rolling eyes or impatient sighs. He is trustworthy. Go ahead, lay it all out in front of him, your REFUGE. Follow him, even if you fear a few scratches. He’s got you and he’s got something beautiful for you just beyond the thorns.

By grace alone, I’m following into this new thing,

lorraine

 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people.
Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:5-8 (NOV)

 

Never Good Enough

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Never Good Enough

I dared to dream that I would be chosen. After all, it was not a popularity contest. Everything I knew confirmed that selection was based on merit. Surely my solid 4.0 GPA, my outstanding citizenship (to this day I won’t drop a scrap of paper on the ground) and my involvement in extracurricular activities guaranteed my induction into the National Junior Honor Society. Granted, I was a band geek, but nevertheless, involved. I was sure that I was good enough.

By design. students were surprised when they spotted their parents in the room. My mom anxiously awaited the call that would summon her to the super-secret ceremony which occurred during the school day.

Mother was cheering for me. She had the best intentions but she always wanted each of her children to be “the best” at everything. No pressure, right? God rest her soul. I was certain that I would forever disappoint her. I didn’t realize that in her eyes I was the prettiest, the most talented and the most deserving.

I wasn’t the least bit athletic; in fact, I was skinny and clumsy.

I was terribly near-sighted and wore thick glasses.

I was an insecure introvert.

All of my doubts about my worth were confirmed everywhere I looked. Classmates were fashion and brand conscious, wearing Izod “Gator” skirts and Aigner loafers; my mom sewed my wrap around skirts and my knockoff “Keds” were from the J. M. Fields discount store.

But I believed this one accolade was possible; I was good enough. All of the boxes were ticked.

That Spring afternoon, the timid yet hopeful eighth grade version of me walked into the lunchroom\auditorium at Robinswood Junior High with the rest of her class. She looked around expectantly and her heart fell. There was no sign of her mother.

I don’t remember the ceremony. Disappointment overwhelmed me. I reported the outcome that evening at home. My mother wisely scheduled an appointment for me to speak to the guidance counselor.

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I trembled as I waited for the meeting, but I had to know. Never before had I questioned authority, but there had to be a mistake.

The counselor couldn’t disagree with my GPA and extracurricular involvement, although she inferred I could be doing more. She had no idea that band alone required a huge sacrifice. I had responsibilities at home for younger siblings. More was not an option.

The rest of the conversation was my introduction to the squiggly realm of subjective analysis of worth. “We don’t ‘feel’ you have leadership skills”. I’m sure there was more, but I heard that one loud and clear. As I look back, there was no one to help this awkward, struggling, smart and capable young girl to develop the needed skills.

I knew that to be good enough I would have to work harder. I studied to increase my intelligence and became a decent clarinet player, occupying first chair through junior high and maintaining the first section through high school. I had something to prove, if only to myself.

In January of my senior year I heard the chapters from John for the first time in my life. Every week I thought of how hard I had tried to be good enough. The good news of the Gospel brought me to tears and into a relationship with the one who said I was worthy of his life.

Even as I grew spiritually, I continued to buy the lie that I couldn’t lead. I wasn’t drawn into the inner circle of women at church; I knew the reason. It was the big “L” on my oily forehead…Lacks Leadership! Don’t choose her. There are plenty of prettier, smarter, more engaging women out there who will lead and influence women for Jesus.

I quietly served on the third floor, the place where the carpet was worn and the corners were filled with discarded stuff from below; the lower floors where women who were natural leaders sat around tables decorated with flowers as they learned Precepts of the Bible and dug far deeper into Scripture than I would ever go with those mere girls in my little corner room.

Every year I greeted a new group of girls, gangly and unsure of themselves as they ventured into high school. And every summer I marveled at the mature young women who moved on to the next room for tenth grade. I loved them; I prayed for them and I taught them as well as I knew how about loving Jesus and knowing how fiercely he loved them.

I hadn’t given any of this much thought. My eighth grade disappointment is way back in the rear view mirror.

The days that I taught ninth grade girls, often wondering if they a) thought I was the most boring woman alive or b) the meanest because I wouldn’t take them to McDonalds for breakfast during class every week, are already more than a decade ago.

Two weeks ago I got in my car and drove for twelve hours to a women’s conference. The associate women’s minister at the church had extended an invitation. The conference center was beautiful; the teaching was solid and Biblical and the worship of the 500 women in attendance was glorious. Every detail was carefully planned and executed. It was perfect.

At the end of the conference, as Jennie Allen signed books and posed for pictures with hundreds of women, I hung back. I finally took a spot at the end of line and moments later, she greeted me. I introduced myself and handed her my book. As she signed, an arm encircled me and the associate women’s minister spoke to Jennie.

“Do you know who this is?” Playfully, Jennie responded. “Her name is Lorraine…we’ve just met!’

And the response brought hot tears to my eyes, taking my breath and my voice away. “She was my mentor all through high school.”

Cass and the Ugly Cry

“She was my mentor all through high school.”

 

As it turns out, leadership was trumped by God’s grace, worked out in my life as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I could never have stirred up and maintained even one of those over the long haul, but the one who quickened me to life in the Spirit has given them for the building up of the body of Christ.

In that moment, he gave me a sweet glimpse into all that He had been up to on the third floor. His grace had accomplished what my striving could not.

By his grace alone,

lorraine

Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around
so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help.
That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get  all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time.
Oh, yes!
1 Peter4:10-11 ~ The Message

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I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this beautiful woman’s journey. Cass is leading women at Shades Mountain Baptist Church. The lady in the middle? She’s pretty cool too – meet Jennie Allen!

 

 

 

Are You Decorating a Prison?

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Are You Decorating a Prison?

I settled into the driver’s seat and kissed my sweet hubby goodbye. As I backed out of the driveway, anxiety bubbled up, competing with excitement and anticipation for control of my heart. I spoke a few words aloud to stifle it. “I’m fine. He will be fine. God’s got us.”

I sipped coffee from the Tervis he had handed me moments earlier. The aroma of the caramel liquid mingled with the scent of Polo and I missed him already. Once again anxiety threatened to steal the joy of embarking on a journey I had anticipated for months.

I drove in silence for a bit, considering my penchant for imagining the worst case scenario.

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I’ve never been good at good-byes. As a child, I hid from them, usually in the bathroom linen closet. It wasn’t often that we sent loved ones on their way, but when our Hoosier grandparents loaded the car for the long trek home I was not about to stand on the lawn and watch them drive away. I quietly slipped into my hiding place, where no one was leaving. I couldn’t bear the separation.

I am absolutely sure I didn’t say goodbye when my oldest brother reported to the Navy. As preparations were made for his departure, I withdrew. With every crisply ironed article of his sailor suit readied for packing, my anxiety increased. The world was a scary place and only God knew when I would see my brother again, if ever.

Not many years later, I got married and soon after we began our family. Imagine the joy when we finally bought a brick and mortar house and made a home. I was the mother hen and my chicks were all under my wings.

My husband had noticed that I didn’t handle goodbyes well; more like I didn’t handle them. At all. He couldn’t imagine missing the chance to get a last hug and speak one last expression of love and care.

And then one day he came home with an announcement. His parents were moving to North Carolina. He would be driving the truck with their household belongings and returning home by plane.

Ya’ll, I could not even. I was distraught. Seriously. I was quite certain that I would be widowed when there was either a tragic accident involving the truck or the plane fell from the sky. I was not in the habit of throwing fits, but I threw a good one.

How would I raise our daughter alone? How could his parents think this was reasonable? Why couldn’t everyone just leave us alone in our little bubble?

In retrospect I can see it so clearly; I was a young wife making feeble, yet frantic efforts to tightly wrap my arms around all of my loves and hold them tight. I believed it was up to us to protect our family; in this case it appeared it was up to me, because everyone else had lost their ever-loving minds and thought it was a good idea for my husband to leave us.

I was not being manipulative; I didn’t have a problem with my husband helping his parents. I was genuinely anxious and fearful and wanted to hold my little family together.

Forty-five years later I’m less concerned about a traffic accident than a potentially life-threatening drop in his blood sugar.

But here’s the thing that occurred to me later that evening as I walked into a conference center filled with stunning women, as their voices and mine blended and lifted praise to the Beautiful Name of Jesus. He never called us to live safe and cozy lives. He called us to step into our calling trusting in him alone.

I listened to Jennie Allen share her surrender of “yes” to Him for ANYTHING. I looked around at the vendor booths, filled with women who had started non-profits to support children in foster care and foreign missions. They risked stepping out of safe and cozy because they knew that God was with them in the first step and every one after.

They yoked up with Jesus and heard his voice, “I’ve got this, just get into the unforced rhythm of grace and watch how I do this.”

I had tried to wall us in; my goal was to create a safe and beautiful place for us to hide. The trouble is, those hiding places become “cutely decorated prisons”[1] where we do little or nothing for the kingdom.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand.[2]

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 God’s plan is better than hiding in a closet or spinning out of control over what might happen.

The weekend was absolutely perfect. There was so much joy in every part. He is good and He is calling us out to places unknown to us but known perfectly to him. He will be with us in the first step and every one that follows.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 ~ The Message

What is he calling you to, my friend? I would love to hear about your faith steps. Where is he taking you? Tell me about it in the comments, won’t you?

Finding the rhythms of grace,

lorraine

 

 

[1] Jennie Allen

[2] Hillsong United Lyrics, Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

I Want What I Want

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I Want What I Want

 

As I stepped into the salon, Kate looked up from her client and smiled, her dark lashes fluttering as she flashed a bright smile. “Hi Lorraine! I’ll be finished up here soon, okay?”

I sat on the lumpy parson’s chair next to the bay window and selected a worn magazine from the stack. Flipping through the pages, I focused on her client. They chatted about styling tools and I silently admired her cute outfit. “Love those thongs”, I thought. I almost asked her about them and then noticed the Tory Burch signature hardware on the strap.

They finished up and I caught sight of the exquisite setting of her diamond ring as she pulled her Louis Vuitton tote from the shelf behind me. Kate excused herself as they walked toward her Lexus, cheerfully chatting.

As we began the process of highlighting my hair to hide some of the evidence of my age, I mentioned the previous client. “She’s beautiful; and she has lovely taste in accessories and cars!” Kate agreed and we went on to catch up on one another’s lives.

A day later I sent my sweet stylist a text with a selfie, thanking her for my new look. She responded with an innocent comment that made me stop and think.

“You look stunning! You look like you drive a Lexus and wear Tory Burch.” She was humoring me based on my comments the previous day. I admired the woman’s sense of style and her impeccable taste, but that was really all that I knew about her. Was it that obvious that I might have wanted her stuff, if only for a moment?

I hesitated and then responded to her text from a place where God is working overtime to transform my heart. “I hope I look like I care about people; that I would drive my Passat to wherever you are when you need something.”

Lest you think this is a rant about designer handbags, it’s not. I own some; but I don’t want to be defined by the clothes I wear, the bag on my shoulder or the car that I drive.

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Image is powerful. I’ve wrestled with wanting a certain look and with not looking my age while not looking like a fool who’s in denial about her age. I want to be a Godly woman with great taste, who loves people. I want what I want.

Last night I sat in the quiet of my living room. It was early evening and the sun was streaming in the window as it crept lower toward the horizon, landing on the pages of a book I am reading. A phrase jumped off the page and I was arrested by it.

The author, Jennie Allen, was sharing a conversation she had with her friend, Jessica. Jessica spoke these words: “Jennie, I think most of us live thinking there is a medium. A place where we can live regular lives and serve God too.”

The truth is that when we finally surrender our lives, there is no medium. There is no contentment in living in the middle. I’ve spent most of my life precisely in the middle. Medium seemed safe and moderate, you know?

Your surrendered life won’t look like mine. For some, a surrendered life is a fifteen passenger van filled with car seats and kids who may or may not bear resemblance to you. For others it’s a hut in Africa or a shanty in Haiti. For some young adults it’s contentment in singleness and for others it’s contentment in a marriage that needs healing. There are moms who are worn out and worn down by a rebellious child they continue to love unconditionally.

Jennie went on to say that the only way to live is to die. It’s backwards and counterintuitive, isn’t it friend? And yet, there it is:

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—
Romans 6:6 NIV

 I want what I want. But in Christ, when my heart is truly his, when I am fully surrendered, I will want what he wants. Every day he’s opening my eyes to the reality that my pilgrimage is short compared to eternity. He’s realigning my priorities.

This is certain. When we approach Mt. Zion in the heavenly Jerusalem, as countless thousands of angels sing and God’s firstborn are assembled in a joyful gathering to welcome us, it won’t matter who we wore or what we drove. Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant will greet us, speaking forgiveness.

On that day, my only adornment will be his grace. I think it looks really good on me.

Stunning, in fact.

Grace to you,

lorraine

I referenced Jennie Allen’s book,
Anything – the Prayer that Unlocked my God and My Soul.
I highly recommend it and you can get it here.

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