Got vacation?

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Made it through airport security and waiting at the gate to board!

 

Several weeks ago my husband and I took our first vacation, sans children, in 23 years.

Yeah. It was a big deal.

We flew to Florida to surprise our Brazilian-exchange-student-turned-son for his 21st birthday. We managed to pull off the surprise and loved every second of seeing the shock on his face. He knows I don’t travel or do vacation. Truth be told, I hadn’t flown in about 15 years.

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Coming into Fort Lauderdale for landing

Honestly, I had no idea how good vacations were. For one thing, my husband and I are complete opposites when it comes to relaxation. His idea of relaxing is gallivanting across the countryside sucking up every bit of activity one can as fast as one can. My idea of a good time is lying on a hotel bed reading a novel. Vacations just aren’t our thing, as you can see.

I wasn’t sure I’d even survive the Florida heat and humidity, but in September it was pretty darn close to Minnesota’s! I marveled at the creativity of God everywhere I looked. I had no idea there were so many species of palm trees. The vegetation and flowers were incredibly delightful. I wasn’t too keen on the iguanas, big or little! They are everywhere.

 

But do you know what made vacation so awesome?

What made it awesome was being with the people I love.

Little did I know that when I left Florida, I would be leaving a piece of my heart there.

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It’s a good thing love carries, love lasts. Love knows no bounds and is not confined by space and geography. As endless as the grains of sand, so is my love for these people.

Here’s to vacations, past and future.

Blessings,

Angie signature

Fighting back

I woke up this morning just knowing that it was going to be a “struggle” day.

You know what I’m talking about, right?

Before you’ve opened your eyes you’ve already let out a sigh. Though I wanted to roll over and sink back into the blessed abyss of sleep, I was already waking later than I should have. Yet another sign of the struggle.

Mondays are like that for me. But I refused to give in because I know better. I know that giving in only makes things worse, only prolongs the inevitable, and only reinforces my negative attitude.

I rose and readied for the day. I decided I was going to do what Elisabeth Elliot always exhorted, “Just do the next thing.” I wrote out my to-do list, deliberately not numbering it.

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As I knocked off each item from the list I grew more and more stronger. Gaining speed, by 1pm I had crossed off nine items. Whew. It felt good. I really felt as if I had just picked a fight with Monday and won. It felt so good to land a solid punch on Monday’s jaw.

The to-do list, of course, is never finished. There are still several items on it, but the most pressing ones are done. Today I am claiming joy, forgiveness, grace, and peace. I am playing  my “Fight Song” and praising God for His good gifts. He gives strength to the weary. When I am weak, He is strong. Anything I accomplish today is not of my doing. It is all of Him.

Friends, how is your Monday? Are you weak? Are you heavy with sadness? Are you overwhelmed? Ask Jesus for His strength. Then do the next thing. He will meet you there.

Blessings,

Angie signature

God, Do you hear me?

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I read the book “Ghost Boy” this week by Martin Pistorius. I. could. not. put. it. down. I finished it in one sitting. How on earth does a person wrap one’s mind around the idea of being trapped in their own body for twelve years? It is unfathomable, and yet Martin lived it for twelve years.

 

So many of you, friends, are living like Martin once did, trapped in your own body, the body of your circumstances. You wonder where God is and why He hasn’t answered your desperate cries. You scream, yet no sound escapes, the words dying slowly on your silent heart.

Psalm 13: 1-2

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Your circumstances haven’t changed, no matter how persistently you pound on God’s door. No matter the pleading and countless tears, God doesn’t answer. You, like Martin, have been trapped for years in unanswered prayers.

What happens when day after day nothing changes? What happens when the thing you long for is never realized? What happens when you faithfully pray and earnestly seek God’s face, yet receive silence in return?

I know what happens. I know what happens because I, too, have prayed for certain things for years without getting answers. I also prayed daily for my son‘s safety, but stood instead beside his grave. Does this mean God is absent? Does it mean He is deaf? Or worse yet, that He is uncaring?

I know what unanswered prayers will do.

They will either drive you closer to Christ or be the wedge between you.  

Yes, desperate prayers can stick like a crowbar in your throat, prying frantically, seeking entrance into God’s favor. And when entrance isn’t gained, then what? Do you throw down the crowbar in discouragement? Does despair take over?

Despair and discouragement are dangerous, friends. I know, I have been swallowed by them many times. And so was David. David, the psalmist, the king, the “man after God’s own heart” despaired and gave up courage. He, too, wondered if God had forgotten him. We wonder, like David, “How long, O Lord?”

Yet David knew this:

As much as he wanted his prayers answered, he wanted God more.

David’s prayers depended not on what God would give him. They depended not on the gift, but the Giver.

Somehow, Martin Pistorius knew that God was with him. When the silent, desperate prayers of Martin’s mind remained unheard year after year, he choose to believe that God was still good. He looked for God’s glory in a life seemingly void of it. He thanked Him for the people in his life who showed him kindness and compassion, who treated him with respect and love. Like David, he remembered the things in which God had been good to him.

Psalm 13: 5-6

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

Those prayers you’re praying, friend? The answer isn’t what you need. The answer isn’t an answered prayer. The answer is HIM. HE is your answer. His presence, His strength, His faithfulness and love is your answer. You may not get the answer you so desperately want. Instead, you get Him. You get God. And He hears you.

Blessings,

Angie signature

Goodness

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(Photo credit Abby Cherney)

I have one daughter who is a photographer and another who is a baker. I admit I am spoiled. My kitchen is never clean, but it’s a small price to pay for some of that yummy goodness pictured above. (It’s Chocolate Lava Cake, btw, made and photographed by one said daughter.)

I’ve been thinking much lately about goodness. Seeing goodness in life after loss is like participating in a marathon. It takes effort, training, and persistence to see any goodness after loss. (Not that I would know anything first-hand about a marathon. Anything to avoid sweat is my motto!)

But it is the putting of one foot in front of the another that eventually leads to passing mile markers of goodness. Always, it involves focus. Counting my steps, each one echoing something for which to thank God. Gratitude, like exercise, takes repetition. Practice does not, as they say, make perfect. Practice makes progress, said someone.

And the apostle Paul in Romans 7 gives voice to many of us. We do what we don’t want to do, and don’t do what we know we should. It’s never easy to praise when in pain, but the practiced prayers of our hearts are seen by a holy God. He knows the “sacrifice of praise” and sees the desire of a bleeding heart to trust it’s Maker. Our praise is never rejected, our hearts held by the most skilled of surgeons.

This life is training ground for eternity. You will most certainly face hardship and trials. It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” (James 1:2) Do not let this discourage you or cause you to fear, friend. In fact, let it spur you on, like Joseph, to store up during the years of plenty so that when the trials come you have a good and great reserve on which to draw upon.

But the reserves are not the good memories or wonderful years. No, the reserves are the truths you have learned, the truth about God and His Word. These truths will be the very life preserver around you when you find yourself in the depths of the sea, the waters overwhelming. The truth that God is good and everything He does is good will be your anchor in the storm.

He purposes that our “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2Cor. 4:17) Do you see that, friend? Those trials are achieving something. What are they achieving? Eternal glory. Eternal. Glory. We certainly don’t view our troubles as light and momentary from our perspective, but that eternal glory? That eternal glory far outweighs them all. We can’t even fathom, can we? For some of us, our sorrow is so great, so overwhelming, so heavy, and yet His Word says that these troubles will be far outweighed by eternal glory. This is goodness. This is why we give praise.

Circumstances change. God does not. He gives us good gifts, gifts too numerous to count, but counting them creates a hunger and thirst for more. It opens our eyes to more of His goodness, to see Him in everything. Have you been awestruck by God’s creation lately?

The other day while shopping I saw a child skipping alongside her parents. It made me smile because this little girl’s joy was evident. Seeing her joy gave me joy. Goodness isn’t hard to find if you purpose to look for it.

The overcast days swelling with rain have pressed hard on my perspective this past week, however, clouding not only the sun, but my view of daily life. I had to peer more intently to find the good, but I found it amid the simple: scattered leaves upon the patio, the sound of my children’s laughter, the delightful taste of caramel apple pie with a perfectly flaky crust.

Those things counted with goodness remind me of how good God is. They remind of the pleasures He gives, and the pleasure He takes in giving them. They remind me of His faithfulness and provision. They bring to mind His perfect nature and holiness.

For some of you, finding goodness is a challenge. Your life doesn’t look anywhere near what you thought it would be. You’re facing hard things you never dreamed. You’re wondering where God is at. Oh, friend, He is there. You may not see Him, but look for the love, look for the truth, look for the good. When you find it, you will find His fingerprints. They are all over. Trace them, touch them. They are in every good thing. Goodness and truth – He is it. Stock up, friends.

Blessings,

Angie signature

That sin you just can’t shake

Someone out there is struggling with sin, a sin they’ve tried so hard to overcome, but just keep failing to conquer. In fact, they’ve tried so long and so hard to gain victory over it, but have failed so many times they flat out gave up at trying. Why fight it, they figure? It’s just too hard. They’ve already failed so many people, it’s over, they think. And they succumb to their sin, numbing themselves to life, turning to a different path. It’s not the path they thought they’d find themselves on, but, hey, it is what it is, right? You convince yourself you’re happier this way, anyway.

This is what despair looks like. This is what believing the enemy does to the one who just can’t shake their sin. It leads one on an old familiar road, the road of sin. I know the road well. I’ve been there, friend. I, too, gave in because it was just.too.hard. I believed I had blown it, blown it beyond any chance of hope. I figured I might as well just live with it and, hey, if you can’t beat ’em, then join ’em, right?

Wrong.

But wait. You screwed up. Again. That means it’s over. Right?

Wrong.

Guess what? There is no limit to God’s forgiveness. There is no point where He finally snaps and says, “I’ve had enough. You’re done. Leave.” God doesn’t work that way. He is limitless, and His mercies are new every morning – even for you. (Lam. 3:22)

See, I know something you don’t. I know the truth. Remember this verse?

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

I suspect you’ve heard it before, but I’m guessing you didn’t hear the verses following it where Jesus says:

“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Do you see it? Truth? The truth is this: Your Father is not satan. Your father is God, therefore, you are not a slave to sin. Have I confused you? Let me explain: Before you (and I) became a Christian, your father was the devil. He was your master. You obeyed him. You had no choice, for you belonged to him. However, when you accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you became a son (or daughter) of God. You are no longer a slave to sin. You are forever in God’s family. Sin is not your master. 

Do you see the truth now? That sin you can’t overcome? That’s a lie. Satan has tied you up with the belief that you can’t overcome that sin. He has deceived you into believing you are handcuffed to your sin, that there is no escape.

Those chains? They’re paper.

And every time you choose to believe the whispers of the enemy, you slap another paper chain on your wrist. Remember, the enemy does not tell the truth, for he cannot. It is not in his nature. He is the father of all lies. (John 8:44)

Friend, you are free! You do not have to obey the voice of sin because sin does not own you. You are free to make a choice. You can choose to sin. Or you can resist temptation and be obedient to the One who died for you. Jesus finished it all for us. He set us free from the power of sin. We still live in the presence of sin, but we no longer have to listen to the voice of sin. Sin is now a choice.

What freedom! Your victory in overcoming sin happens when you realize the truth, when you see sin for what it is: a choice. That sin you can’t shake? Friend, you are not bound to sin. There are no chains on you. That’s the truth.

Blessings,

Angie signature

Dear Christian, Are you salty?

I have several teenagers, so the phrase, “Oooohhh. Aren’t you a little salty?!” is often overheard in our home. “Salty” in teenager slang means someone is a bit grumpy, irritated, or upset. It just comes with sibling territory, believe me.

However, I came across this article a while back and thought it was a powerful, parallel visual statement of a Christian’s relationship with Jesus Christ. Obviously, it isn’t the same “salty” my teenagers refer to!

The dress took on the properties of that in which it was submerged. We, too, as Christians who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are to take on the properties, the identity, of Christ. We who are immersed in Him will eventually look like Him. When people see us, they will see Him. When we stay long enough in His presence we cannot help but be like Him.

To be baptized into Christ is to have His character seep into your very being, to be dipped, as it were, into a dye bath, taking on the very property of Christ. Just as the dress in the photos took on the properties of the salt in the Dead Sea, so we Christians are to take on the “saltiness” of Christ. Of course, we are imperfect and sinful humans this side of heaven, but the Christian life that is truly in Christ will eventually look like Him. Do you look like Jesus?  Has his love, patience, and truth crystallized in your speech, actions, and conduct?

Blessings,

Angie signature