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Archive for the ‘Handling Challenges’ Category

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. . . and the naysayers said she wasn’t good enough, smart enough, creative enough, worthy enough . . . who said her dream was just that – a dream – and nothing would come of it. . . and the thief called Doubt tried to pick her soul pockets, steal her identity, take away all she held dear, all the goodness that her Lord had seen fit to give her.

“All is well. . . ,” she said as she ran, choking back her despair, unable to see beyond the tears . . . she ran to her Savior, grabbing hold of her Lord. . . and she didn’t let go.”

. . .  and the girl said to the wolf stalking to destroy her and all she held dear, “All is well.”

“What have you to be ‘Well’ about?” asked the wolf, encroaching on her peace and safety, as the wolf shadowed her, threatening her. “I am more powerful than you!”

“All is well,” the girl repeated. “Because my Lord has said so.”

The shadow of the wolf receded as he slunk away; Her Lord was more powerful than the wolf.

winterwell2 2019c.jpg. . . and the girl spoke to the storm that bore down upon her to rip her apart from root to heart, “All is well.”

“That cannot be,” said the storm, a vortex of chaos, rage and coldness, twisting the dirt, roots and limbs of the earth up to the heavens. “For I have more strength than you. ”

“All is well,” said the girl. “Because my Lord said so.”

. . . and the storm for a moment quieted as if deflated, then roiled itself up into a rage, unleasing its full force on the girl, bashing against her like a tsunami to a shore – and the storm saw her Lord, standing between the girl and the storm, protecting her with his gleaming shield – and the storm raged onward, searching for those who didn’t know “All is well,” those who didn’t have the protection of the girl’s Lord to save them.

. . . and the girl spoke to the fever that came quiet and hot into her home, trying to break the life of someone the girl loved very much. . . and the fever taunted her, as she dipped the cloth into the cool water, squeezing out the excess, and laying it on the forehead of the one she loved so, she spoke saying, “All is well.”

“I have come to break your spirit and to destroy your  heart’s desires,” the fever whispered, knowing she alone could not control the army of unknowns that gave the fever its authority to determine life and death.

“All is well,” said the girl,” dipping the cloth into the water, wringing the excess out and gently placing the cloth onto the fiery forehead of the one she loved.

. . . and the fever surged, burning her fingertips, “How can that be? You don’t even know from where I come. You have no wisdom to stop me. Love and determination cannot sway me.”

“All is well,” said the girl. “Because my Lord said so.”

. . . and the fever broke, withdrawing his army of unknowns, abdicating his position of influence to the greater power of her Lord.

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. . . and the girl sat in a quiet moment, time after time, with her Lord, thanking him – that because of him, “All is well.”

We at the Blue Cotton House have been walking through a BIG challenge since a few days before Christmas. I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around how to talk about the challenge – or how to pray about the challenge. It was in my kitchen, as I was cooking through the challenge, that God sent me to 2 Kings 4: 8-36 – and “All is Well” became my battle cry. I couldn’t determine how to write about it until this morning – because it’s not my story to tell but I am a supporting character in the story – and this morning, while a Little Snow came, my husband and I drove to a mountain view where we will build one day – and God showed me how I could write about the challenge – and his amazing grace and saving power. Not long after I finished writing this, we received an answer where the fullness of joy overflowed our home and hearts. There is still a Little Ways to journey to the Challenge’s End, but, let me tell you – miracles do still happen, God makes ways where there was no way, and He will, if you let him, stand with you every step of the way, and, while sometimes when the journey isn’t a journey we want, “All is well.”

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence” ~ Psalm 91:1-3.

“The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my savior; thou saved me from violence. I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies” ~ 2 Samuel 22: 3-4.

“How precious is Your loving kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings” ~ Psalm 36:7.

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in thee” ~ Psalm 84: 11-12.

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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beachbirdccThe world may ruffle your feathers, but the Lord gives peace to your soul.

“And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
~Philippians 4:7.

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(The little foxes don’t stop tearing at us, do they! I wrote this in 2012 – and they haven’t stopped trying to ruin. It’s God’s Holy Spirit that makes the difference, why the vine of whom I am doesn’t break, doesn’t ruin. Challenges don’t go away, but faith, God and the Holy Spirit – they make the difference in how I live through those challenges. I wanted to remind myself today about letting the Holy Spirit wash over me and through me, cleaning me out and filling me up with things of Him.)

The little foxes had torn at the vines of my heart, nipping, trying to ruin the vines, to break the roots. Those little foxes, I am familiar with them. I recognize them for what they are, and though I know them, am prepared to deter them, they weary me. Yesterday evening found me battle fatigued, bruised, smudged by the dirty tactics, needing a Holy Spirit Rain to wash out these little foxes.

As I stepped outside into the Tennessee heat, the hotness touched me tangibly as though I had slipped on a fine kid merino shrug. My husband joined me to watch the sunset with its pinks, oranges hedged with billowing whiteness. Dark clouds encroached. Sunsets delight us both, drawing us close, this shared sensibility that restores much.

Lightening grew, grumbling bouncing in the North, sliding south. My jaded faith doubted it would dip our way. Usually, our rain was a southerly rain. We walked outside, talking about our crowded hydrangea, dwarfed rose bush, untangling the morning glory from the overgrown butterfly bush. Our garden had changed – and we needed to tackle those changes.

We stopped briefly, looking at the growth behind a burning bush. Surprised, my husband said, “Grape Vine.” His Dad grew grape vines – it was as though he somehow crept into our garden and planted it. But he couldn’t have, though. Another change, a sorrow change for us, during our journey, the loss of my father-in-law. Yet, there was a sweet reminder, wrapped around our bird feeder.

As the lightening bullied its way closer, we retreated inside – and inside, lightning cracked, silencing the katydids and tree frogs.  Lightening is bold where we live.

As bedtime arrived, so did the buckets of rain. “Come and smell it,” I called to the boys, the 2 little guys. The littlest showed up, giving me his 10-year-old incredulous-look followed by the “My-mom-is-nuts” look, but he stood with me sniffing the sweet scent of rain washing the dusty worn air of hotness. He decided to sleep on the floor of his room. “It would be safer,” he reasoned with 10-year-old logic.

I joined my husband on the porch, my pausing place, my favorite place to sit, to knit, to read, to grade essays when I taught, to listen, to watch, to be. . .  and the rain poured, in sheets, wave after wave of sheets.

I thought of an afternoon rain 23 years ago, during a heavy summer drought that stymied my cucumbers for my bread and butter pickles. That afternoon, it rained a downpour – and my first born, freshly 2, danced with me outside, in the rain, faces pressed upward, mouths wide open.

Today, in the darkness, my driveway shimmered like a pond, the water shifting in the breeze, in the pummeling sheets. And the lightening – it wasn’t just jagged bolts. It was like watching God draw in the sky with a thin pen over and over and over.

I thought of the Holy Spirit, the unsung member of the Trinity – and I wanted it to wash through my soul, like rainwater washed the dust, the heat from the air.

“And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain” (Job 29:23)

I wanted to be filled, filled like Peter with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, filled so much he never faltered again in his mission.

Sitting in my rocking chair, pushed toward the edge of porch, the rain misted over my legs and arms, cooling, chilling – and I laughed – relishing the moment, the blessing, the washing away.

The rain moved south, and I sighed, wanting more. Like an encore, the clouds backed up, pouring a double portion over our patch of living.

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

I wanted the Holy Spirit to fill me like that, to fill me with crucifixion courage, overflowing with mountain-moving faith, drawing me closer to the Father, to hear His words to me, His comfort, His power to vanquish the little foxes.

“You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly”
(9a).

I am not alone, Father. You care for me, your creation, sending me living water, The Holy Spirit, to grow me more than I think I am, that I am not what the little foxes taunt; I am precious to you, valuable to you, like land that overflows abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it”
(9b).

You provide nourishment for my spirit, The Word and The Holy Spirit, enabling me to fight off spirit colds, weaknesses and tormenting situations that wear me out like the dusty, hotness of a relentless summer day. Empower my will to seek Your Holy Spirit Provision; let it not be the little foxes nipping and tearing at me that send me running to you. I want to be stronger than that, more faithful than that.

“You drench its furrows
and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers
and bless its crops” (Psalm 65: 9-10).

Holy Spirit, rain on me, filling the hidden places, the high and lows of my soul, softening the soil of my spirit, allowing the gifts my Father planted before I was born to grow, producing abundant fruit, and sharing the seed of that fruit with others – and if that fruit is not taken as given, let it not become a wily fox to my vine.

Let the rain come. Let it come softly or in a downpour – and let me be like an eager child who runs outside, mouth wide open, to receive the living water, a Holy Spirit Rain.

“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams” (St. Augustine).

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My two-year-old granddaughter walked across the yard beside me with a plate of strawberries. Maneuvering over Sadie, our golden retriever’s inconvenient mole-holes and balancing a plate of rolling strawberries, Ava was in danger of either losing her dignity or her strawberries.

“Can I carry them?” I asked, being careful of her heart and her confidence.

Concentrating on her journey, she confidently answered, “No.”

A few more steps later, she let me carry the plate of strawberries. Carefree, unburdened, she made it across the yard without falling into evidence of Sadie’s favorite pass-time – digging a few inches into the ground, stuffing her nose into the dirt, huffing air out of her nose hoping for evidence of a bona-fide mole.

Ava, like me, wants to do it herself.

Words like “Let it go,”
“Get over it,”
“You might as well forget about it”

Those are hard words to wrap my mind around. I’m not talking about forgiveness. I’m talking about giving-up something important, something heart important, something not quite tangible.

How do you let it go, get over it, forget when you live in hope, like the journey of a prayer sent out?

How do you live in the middle of that prayer-journey-in-the-wait – because in the wait – hurt still happens, the challenge still exists.

I’m an obsessive thinker. That doesn’t mean I think well, just obsessively.

Obsessive thinking works well for my writing. It works well for problem-solving, too – for things like math, reading, finding the perfect white cake recipe, how to teach our golden-retriever Sadie to stay, stomach pain for a son that took 5 years to get a correct diagnosis(severe esophagitus), another son who kept getting directions wrong because he heard 2 out of 3 words correctly (Central Auditory Processing Disorder), how to draw Benjamin Bunny on a chalk board.

I am a problem-solver, a solution-seeker, an information gatherer.

Obsessive thinking doesn’t work well for heart-challenges that I don’t have the ability to change. For example, I cannot persuade someone who doesn’t like me, who has their heart set on not liking me – to change their mind.

Sometimes I cannot change a parent, child or friend’s decision, even though I know that decision may hurt them in the long run.

I cannot make someone believe God is real, though I can tell them what He means to me.

“Give it to God,” – I hear it over and over again – in sermons, in posts, in encouragement, in grocery aisles.

Like Ava, God is walking beside me. “Give it to me,” He says, as I maneuver through the figurative mole-holes life brings.

It’s hard for an obsessive thinker to give thoughts over to God. It’s hard for the problem-solver, the solution-seeker in me to “give up.”

God’s been personally training me this Spring – on giving my challenges to Him.

When thoughts start creeping in for heart-hurts I cannot change, I look at the 2 scriptures on my desk:

“You’re my servant, serving on my side.

  1.     I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.
    Don’t panic. I’m with you.
        There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
    I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
        I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you”(Isaiah: 41: 9b-10).
  2. “Be Still and Know I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

I take a deep breath, trusting the prayer and visualizing the challenge as a boxed gift, wrapped with a beautiful bow. I take a deep breath and picture myself handing that gift-wrapped box to Him.

Through the rest of the day, I repeatedly grab it back, only to return it to Him – and this goes on and on – shoving it in His hands, snatching it back.

Except each day, I let Him keep it longer. It gets easier to let Him keep it. Just last week, I grabbed it back, ruefully smiled at Him – and before it had totally left His hands, took my hands off. He didn’t “tsk tsk” me, didn’t taunt me with “No Takesy Backsie’s” –  My soul felt like He smiled encouragement.

Giving it to Him doesn’t mean I’ve given up. It doesn’t mean hope has died. It just means He’s walking beside me taking care of it better than I can.  Like Ava – it’s much easier to get across the yard with sturdier hands carrying the important stuff.

He doesn’t tell me I need to be stronger, better, smarter, more lovable, find the solution myself. He just asks me to trust Him.

“Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
    he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
    topple into ruin” (Psalm 55:22).

I’ve learned in the past 5 years that hope and faith are the wings of prayer – and love is the heart-beat of that prayer. The answer to that prayer might not be what I was expecting – it might not even be answered in my lifetime – but it will be the perfect answer.

I’ve learned that the real living that refines us into who God designed us to be is in the daily living of the wait of a prayer sent out – and the daily living should be in the assurance of a prayer answered – in God’s time.

If I am assured, I need to live joy-catching all the other things going on in the daily that He gives me – like the smile of a 16 year old surprised 3 weeks before his birthday, in the yellow of an evening primrose replanted from my aunt’s garden, in the good-morning phone call to my mother, in the happy snort of Sadie’s nose underground, in a little girl walking beside me with a plate full of strawberries.

God is teaching me this dance, this living carefree before Him – He is most careful with me (1 Peter 5:7b) – in this giving to Him and taking back.

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For a bit of time during the last few weeks, I felt much like a tin water bucket left out in the rain, where each soft drip eventually wears away the outward coating, rusting and thinning the inner foundation, until it finally the soft drip has worn a hole. I don’t know why, but there is something about poetry, how it captures the groanings of the soul so much better than prose. As the challenges drip, wearing the thin skin covering my soul, I wrote poetry.

fuscias, oranges yellows and purples
flowering for me,
Blessings from the Father
But I have no heart for flowers today
No heart for the downpour of the rain
Greening my grass
No taste for the Worchestshire and lemon
Mixing with the pork
No taste for the chocolate hidden in the drawer
No heart to hear
The cricket choir, or the turtle dove
calling

My mother’s heart it grieves
For struggling sons
struggling independence training
struggling to find their place
in the race

How do you have the heart for
God’s love letters
Or blessings left along the path
Except to know He sits beside me
And if I believe hard enough
He holds me hand, catches the tears
That flow inside, letting me fall apart
For a few minutes
Until He puts me back together
Dries my eyes
And tells me not to give up
On His children
He loves so much.

Do you ever have days like that, where you just fall apart, just cannot fathom how you will handle tomorrow’s schedule? When you really want those answered prayers now because the challenges are growing, grOWing and GROWING? Those moments where it takes effort to just stop, where you just want to go crawl into bed and sleep the stress away but what you really need to do sit on the porch with the Father? No bird song blessings – just you, the Father – and a bunch of quiet? I have those moments. . . .

When I was upset and beside myself, you calmed me down and cheered me up” (Psalm 94:19)

725) Well, the Father, He sent me to the dr for an abscess – the results were increased energy level, no pain.
726) Making myself knit a few rows, even though I had to back lots of stitches out – because I just couldn’t get it right. Making myself find the sweet moments in just the knitting – I needed that.
727) Sitting on the porch, wrapped with a quilt, watching the stars, listening to the katydids, letting the stress evaporate.
728) The baby turning 12 in the midst of a few good friends, ice cream pizza, gummy worms and lots of noise – from after school until 10 p.m.
729) A red beet, yellow pineapple and honey fruit smoothie for a 7 a.m. ride to a soccer game.
730) That I made myself make that smoothie even though it would have been easier to have given up and let the chaos steal something delightful.
731) Trees swaying under a blue sky in a 6:30 a.m. autumn breeze on a Sunday soccer tournament morning.
732) 3 white geese, mouths wide open, reaching for bread crumbs
733) an impossible schedule, parceled out into a manageable size
734) not the moment of my son scoring the first goal at our tournament, when he usually plays defense. Not that his coordination and foundational strength have kicked in from years with a stomach problem – and now he can literally out-run any other teams offense – from behind. But that after half time, after he had scored, he took his usual second-string bench seat – and the coach said, “What are you doing?”  He answered, “Sitting on the bench.” The coach said, ‘Get out there; we need you.” There’s a whole post in there about never giving up, no matter how bad the challenge – never give up the hope or the dream. Don’t we all feel like sometimes we’re bench sitters, not first-string players – and serving God, well, we want to do a first-string job. My son, he needed a moment like that, a moment of over-coming.
735) the other son, being the youngest and littlest, the first time being a bench-sitter – shoulders set, mind set – to take up the challenge to get off that bench and not letting the challenge make him feel it is a permanent place.
736) Somehow in the chaos of this weekend, of all the schedules – there were moments of comfortable peace just hanging out with the boys.
737) The birds are quieter now. I guess their chicks have left the nest. They keep their voices down now. Today, though, when I took a break for sit with the Father, to find Him – I heard the birds singing a sweet autumn song – and I heard it right after I read this:
738) “You hear those little goldfinches chatting in the undertones without ever stopping? –Bird voices. –Talk to Me like that, ceaselessly, sotto voice. –Soul Voices” (Evelyn Brown, He and I)
739) A student-worker wearing a t-shirt, ‘Ask Me My Story” – and someone did. He gave hist testimony – how awesome is that!
740) That happened right after I read this: “Look at the stained glass windows. Some are in the shadow and have kept all their colors to themselves. Others have surrendered to the sun and are completely lost in its light” (Evelyn Brown, He and I).
741) An answer to a prayer unfolding, relief from a son – trying to wait with grace in the unfolding of it.
742) A soldier reservist son, finishing up a job – and finding a civilian one to get him set-up for taking college classes.
743) A candle lit – a message to the chaos that I will not let it control the atmosphere and mood of where I am


744) Windows, in my office, in my kitchen, outside my bedroom window – letting me see the blessings of God all around me, constantly moving, constantly there – even when the challenges bring me low, He stops in the midst with me – and we sit together, the Father and I.

745) “Our day. . . when I shall work in you more than you work” (Brown, Evelyn, He and I)

746) The soft drip of the challenge . . .and I can no longer hold it all together in this rusted mess – so He holds it together for me.

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About 18 months ago, we moved and life changed. Or maybe life changed and we moved. God said, “Go” and we did. Straight into a battle – a year-long battle. A year where I learned the importance of standing. I called it The Year of Standing.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:12-14)

The Year of Refreshing replaced The Year of Standing. If you ever read The Hobbits, you will see that after every major challenge, there was a period of refreshing: physical, emotional, and spiritual. One of the things I love about J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is how he wove things of God into his stories – like challenges and refreshing.

Refreshing is not what I thought it would be. It was not a retreat where you studied God Words – like I did before The Great Challenge. The period before The Great Challenge was battle preparation. The Great Challenge called upon me to use what I learned in God’s Words. That is how I was able to stand and not fall. Refreshing is like sitting in the swing on my grandmother’s front porch, sitting beside her, resting from the heat of the afternoon sun and just being together. Words are few. Maybe drinking a glass of tea, pointing out a magnolia blossom or a bird flitting from her nest. But instead of being beside my grandmother, I was beside God.

I felt tremendous guilt for the longest time – I should be pouring over God’s Word, I thought. I should be binding and loosing. Delving into the prophets and the apostles. Where was my fervor to learn more, learn deeply, learn long?

God tells us there is a time and a season: a time for war and a time for peace, a time to heal, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to be silent,  a time to heal a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them (Ecc. 3).

I sat with God, as though on my grandmother’s front porch. Spent time just soaking the refreshing, gaining strength to walk again, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Being with God, as I drove, as I walked, as I cooked, as I mothered, wifed and lived daily things. He was always with me. The Year of Refreshing is closing. Funny, He prompted that revelation through my work on The Goose Girl.  I am moving into The Year of Walking.

I am not fully sure of what will unfold. But I sense a pressing in. A gathering of stones. More action in my relationship with God, time for a deeper conversation, an apprenticeship. Rising from the swing to walk. Typically, when someone says, “Walk with me” – they have something to say, something to teach you, knowledge to impart. It is an intimate times that allows revelation, instruction and encouragement.

Walking is about resuming relations in peace time or the interim between battles in a war.  It is about wholeness. I survived the battled. God provided a period of refreshing. It is time to walk again.

 

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