Category Archives: packing up

on following dad . . .

Through the front windshield, I could see that they were talking – daddy telling a story to my thirteen-year-old son, sharing a ride together in that ’93 Chevy truck that’s been in the family for over two decades. I followed closely behind, staying in the lanes where he stayed and making the turns when he turned. He was leading me down an unfamiliar path, but I didn’t mind. I trust my daddy, and I knew that at the end of our ten-mile trek, we would arrive at our intended destination—my son’s apartment.

On our agenda? Moving my eldest child out of his current apartment into my parents’ home, where he will temporarily reside until he takes the hand of his bride in July. My husband did his due diligence last weekend in moving our second-born son out of the same apartment into his new living quarters. Needless to say, it’s been an exhausting couple of weeks for both of us.

Moves do that. They deplete us of our reserves. There are multiple, moving parts to every relocation. Whenever we rearrange our living situation, we can expect some rearrangement in a few other areas of our lives.

The heart.

The mind.

The soul.

A physical move is so much more than a change of address. A physical move shapes our interiors as well. Maybe not so much in a way that others notice but certainly at a level where we feel the shift within.

I’ve moved a lot over the years, lived in five states and changed my address at least twenty times. Moving is a tenet, perhaps, of the journey I’ve chosen, albeit not always an easy acceptance within. I’ve wrestled with a few changes of address and heartily welcomed some others. All twenty of them have shaped me, left their mark on me, and added their witness to my story.

By faith, I’m still standing. By faith, I’m still willing … to move as God directs, whether a move involving myself or in helping my children with their own moves. Why? Because there is something built in that place of relocation, a brick-upon-brick, cementing together of my interior because of my unyielding belief that God is up to something. That faith is stretched and strengthened with each move. That with every box packed in an old place and unpacked in a new location, a soul is asked to go deeper with God.

And really, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty of soul-matters, shouldn’t we all want to go deeper with God?

I want to go deeper with God, even when it’s hard. And so, I followed my daddy’s pick-up truck this weekend and helped my son with his relocation. In doing so, I allowed my soul to move to that place of surrender … again. To saying “yes” to the change that is coming. I cannot stop the packing on this one. I can only unpack my heart before the Father and allow him to keep building up these surrenders into a strong tower of personal faith.

How grateful I am for a windshield that allows me to look through and beyond my front bumper and to see my daddy in front of me, leading the way to our intended destination. He has taught me so very much about embracing new chapters in the journey and about putting a foot to the pedal of faith, even when it’s hard. No doubt, his ability to press forward has better enabled me to do the same.

For as long as time allows (and as long as the engine holds out), I’ll keep following closely behind my daddy, with or without his Chevy tail-lights to guide me. I trust him, and the guiding Light that has guided him for seventy-six years will lead us both safely to our final destination where we will unpack our belongings for the last time and where we will share the same address for all of eternity.

Lead on, daddy. I’m right behind you.

Happy Father’s Day.

let the evening come . . .

“Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set.” –Genesis 28:10-11

 

Certain places. We’ve reached a new one—a God-ordained assignment just an hour south of our last one. My number nineteen; pastorally speaking, our fifth appointment with the United Methodist Church.

Like Jacob on a night so long ago in Bethel, we’re stopping here for a season. The sun has set on our previous day’s traveling (our six months’ worth of running), and now we have the great privilege of rest, of living and breathing in this new place landscaped by open fields, few stoplights, fresh peaches, and neighbors who drop by with fresh vegetables . . . just because.

Certain places. We’re well-suited for this one. Sometimes a heart just knows when it’s home. And this morning as we worshiped alongside new friends in filled church pews, my soul was stirred at the deepest level. First Sundays rarely go as planned; there are always a few hiccups and a few whispers, but none of that mattered to me on this first Sunday of my number nineteen.

What mattered?

The peace of knowing that I am home. That I can rest my head upon this stone named Saint Luke and can find a stairway that stretches straight forward to the heart of God. Like Jacob, my soul proclaims, “Surely the Lord is in this place …” (Gen. 28:16).

It’s not that the Lord hasn’t been present in my preceding eighteen places; it’s simply a great soul-relief knowing that he resides here as well. That God has already graced this place with the present of his presence long before my arrival.

I’m grateful for the setting sun, for a tangible sign that a previous day’s laboring is finished. It’s a good thing to shut my eyes and pull down the shades on the struggles of recent days, knowing that even as I rest, God is at work . . . ascending and descending on his ladder of mercy, making certain that I don’t miss his whispers of grace. I imagine he will tell me great and unsearchable things in this night’s pause (Jer. 33:3). Divine disclosure is a guarantee for the children of God. As we are faithful to rest in God’s house, our Father is faithful to entertain our hearts with his.

I want nothing more.

I just want to know God and then, out of that knowing, lead others to know the same. This certain place is the right place to do both. With God’s help and because of the heavenly generosity afforded my soul, I pledge my affection to this new ministry soil. I’ll put my hand to the plow, alongside my husband’s; together we’ll sow kingdom seed, and we’ll trust God for the harvest.

And so I pray,

Let the evening come, Lord. Let the stars shine brightly in this night’s rest. Slow me down and show me your glory. May the labors of my yesterdays serve as a strong foundation for my today, as well as an anchoring remembrance for my tomorrows. I thank you for this stay in Bethel and for this stone upon which I lay my head, my heart, and my faith. Make this pause in my journey count for your kingdom. Keep me on my knees, and awaken my heart to yours. Thank you for the struggle that has brought me thus far, and thank you for the grace that has kept me moving forward. Home is within reach. I can see it from here. This certain place is the right place for my heart. Amen. So be it.

PS: There was a beautiful flower arrangement on the altar this morning, given in honor of our arrival. Thanks to Mr. Bill, I have fresh cut flowers all around my house. It’s good to be welcomed!

Rodeo . . .

 

This isn’t my first rodeo.

In the course of my lifetime, I’ve lived in five different states, ten cities, and changed physical addresses at least eighteen times. My family and I are less than a week away from making it number nineteen.

A new home. New community. New ministry. New everything. Alongside the new, will arrive some old. It’s the old that sustains me. Strengthens me. Maintains me. That old?

God is near. (Ps. 145:18; James 4:8)

God.

Is.

Near.

When breathed in isolation, those three words hold enough theology, imagery, breadth, and depth to transition a heart from the old into the new. God and his nearness are old. God and his nearness are new. Never changing; ever the same. Ever present, active, and accurate. God simply and profoundly IS wherever I am. I cannot outrun his presence or hide from his heavenly GPS. He knows where I am and is willing to keep pace with my progression. Movement wins when God is with me.

This is how I can do this thing—keep making these moves and living the itinerant life. Knowing that God is near me keeps me upright in the saddle and focused on the finish line. Certainly, I’ve kicked up a little dust along the way, taken a tumble every now and again, and even knocked over a barrel on occasion. Each rodeo comes with its unique obstacles. But even then—even there in those moments of holding on for dear life—joy can be found. There’s something about the ride that trumps the risk.

To ride and rope and gallop alongside Jesus is to live life on the solid edge. This is how faith feels to me right now—dusty, wild, fast, and furious. I am hanging on for dear, sweet life. I’m resolved regarding the finish line, tenaciously gripping the reins in one hand while waving to the crowd with the other . . .

Just so you’ll know I’m still here. Just so you’ll know I haven’t given up. Just so you’ll know that I’m still committed to the ride, regardless of how bumpy it gets some days.

How grateful I am for the nearness of God and for this ride that draws me ever closer to his heart!

*Fair Warning: Number nineteen, here I come! Saddle up, and get ready to rodeo, friends. We’re in for the ride of our lives. May God grant us his favor, his strength, his discernment, his joy, and his peace for the journey that lies ahead. I thank you for the privilege of riding my horse next to yours.

 

a table for grace . . .

It’s not much. Just an old table with two even older chairs. I spied them alongside Hwy. 70 while winding my way home from my annual run to the eye doctor. My U-turn came as no surprise to my eldest son who made the trek with me; after twenty-four years of being my child, he’s grown accustomed to my motherly whims. After all, he needed this collection of not much.

A table for grace. A table for my boys.

“Think of the meals once shared there, Nick. The stories told there. The tears cried there. The prayers uttered there. Think of them, son, when you and your brother find your places around this table in coming days.”

And there it lingered between us – our thoughts about coming days and about how a table for grace might just be the thing to keep our family together, even though our paths are diverging.

Grace tables are keeping tables because grace tables are framed upon firm foundations. What is built there (through meals, stories, tears, and prayers) is enough to write a history and fortify its remembrance. Hearts are shaped, beliefs are forged, memories are collected, and sins are forgiven at a table for grace. It’s where we do some of our best work as human beings. Why?

Because when we sit down at the table with others, we lean our hearts, minds, and souls toward understanding. We extend reciprocity. We offer respect. We lend grace. Tables cry out for such generosity. To deny them this possibility is to live underprivileged. Who wants to live like that? I certainly don’t, and as the mother of two cherished and adored, grown sons, I must extend this privilege due them.

And so, I made a U-turn on Hwy. 70, did some negotiating, and came home with two chairs and a table for grace. I know something of its value, even though my boys have yet to bow their heads in thanks around it. That will come for them and for the four of us they leave behind; of this I am certain.

As a family, we love the table for grace. We didn’t just discover it. As far as we know, it’s always been . . . long before any of us made entrance into this world. A keeping table built on a firm foundation that will outlast our earthly occupancy and that will carry us forward into our eternal one.

Think of the meals shared there, friends. The stories told there. The tears cried there. The prayers uttered there. Think of it all – God’s all – when you find your place around a table for grace in coming days. God’s children (the ones who await our arrival at the heavenly banqueting table) understand the value of such meals. They no longer live under their privilege. Instead, they live inside of it, surrounded by grace and keeping company with the King.

A table for grace. A worthy U-turn. An everlasting history.

Would you take time to live your privilege this week? Find a table and find a loved one. Share a meal and write rich history together. Grace is waiting to meet you as you arrive. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

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an opportune time . . .

A couple of nights ago, I called my older boys and offered them this caution:

“Be on guard, sons. Apparently our family is now Satan’s new, favorite chew-toy.”

The next morning, my mother called with a similar warning:

“Elaine, I’ve been standing here in front of the mirror, curling my hair and thinking about all that’s been going on in our family over the past couple of weeks. We’re fighting something we cannot see, a battle of spiritual proportion.”

It seems as if my family is standing up against a formidable foe in this season, feeling the constraints of our faith in overload. Accordingly, I go to God’s Word this morning and allow it to speak truth to my soul. In thinking about Christ’s struggle against the enemy, I am strengthened in my own efforts at resistance.

“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” –Luke 4:15

Two things strike me about this verse:

  • An opportune time known as desert testing.
  • An opportune time yet to come.

There’s a plurality to the devil’s scheming. Funny how often we’re surprised by this reality. It’s not as if one opportune time is more difficult than the other. Opportune times are straining times, all of them stretching the comfortable boundaries of faith and requiring a step beyond what feels reasonable. I don’t imagine many of us go looking for opportune times (especially ones involving a forty day fast in the desert or a gut-wrenching surrender to nails and a hammer); instead, they seem to find us, pulling us in without notice. Almost accidentally.

Almost.

Opportune times. The Greek word kairos, meaning “season, opportune time. It is not merely as a succession of moments, which is “chronos,” but a period of opportunity (though not necessity). It is a critical or decisive point in time; a moment of great importance and significance; a point when something is ready or favorable, a propitious moment.” (NIV Key Word Study Bible, 1635-1636).

Read that again slowly and consider Christ’s conflict; consider your own. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Opportune times are not accidental occasions. Instead, they are orchestrated, carefully selected, and purposely planned. Whether schemed by the devil for our destruction or willingly allowed by God for our perfection, opportune times are those hinge moments in our life’s history that swing faith in one of two directions: a right one or a wrong one. Really, there’s no middle ground in opportune seasons. Either we live them right—live them forward and in faith—or we live the lesser road. A road of regression, wrongful conclusions, and regrettable distrust.

I don’t want to live on the side of distrust. I want to live rightly on the side of faith, fully believing that no weapon forged against me will prevail. That, in fact, victory is my heritage as a servant of the Lord (see Isaiah 45:17). Accordingly, I must pick up the sword of the Spirit and strap on my spiritual armor, because the opportunistic arrows of the enemy will not be quenched by feeble, weak-minded, and weak-willed faith. No, to stop his forward progression, I must stand in the strength of who I am in Jesus Christ.

I am God’s child. I am his chosen bride. I am the apple of his eye.

So are you.

Be on guard, friends. If you’re not in the middle of an opportune season right now, I imagine one is waiting for you down the road. Don’t fear its advent; rather, recognize it as it arrives and for what it has the potential to be—a hinge moment in your faith’s history that will strengthen your understanding of God and will catapult your witness forward for the exponential increase of the kingdom.

Satan may have come to me and my family in what he thought to be his opportune time. However, he seems to have momentarily ignored that my times (opportune and otherwise) are in God’s hands. They all belong to him, and his purposes for my life override any schemes to the contrary. God holds the chain to the short leash attached around Satan’s roaming, and today my Father has willingly and forcefully yanked it a few times so that the devil remembers who’s in charge.

I am grateful for God’s strength in this season and for your prayers that have, undoubtedly, tightened the noose around the devil’s neck. What privilege there is in standing alongside you, my mighty warrior friends! As always . . .Peace for the journey,

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