Thursday, December 31, 2015

Shifting your focus as you end the year...

I tend to buck the system when someone tells me to write my goals down because "you're more likely to achieve them if you do." Um, no actually I'm not. I am a writer, I write stuff all the time. And I've made plenty of lists, written plenty of goals only to later find that stupid piece of paper reminding me of what I didn't do. Writing is only half of the equation. There's no magic potion that occurs between writing something down and having it happen. Which I think is backed up by the article I found on stating "8% of people achieve their new years resolutions." We can SAY and WRITE till we die, that doesn't make it happen.

Why? Because change is hard. Growth is painful. And frankly when things get hard, when life gets busy, it's easier to just give in and be where we are.

I'm only 39 years old. I have lived much, I still have much to live. I am utterly amazed at how much I have changed in the last 10 years, how much I have changed in this past year. Sometimes I hear myself talking, recognize thoughts that I know I didn't used to have, and I can't help but be surprised at just how much I have changed. In talking with my son today, we discussed what it means to have a mindset that wants to try new things, explore, grow, and working to become something more than we currently are; I shared with him THAT'S the key to making things happen--you take the risk and do it, in the moment you are in!

I've changed, I've grown because I've worked at it. I read a LOT, I have people in my life whom I see as wise and will help me grow, I do the hard work and I don't give up. I may not move as quickly as I'd like in some areas, but I don't quit. I may take 50 steps backwards, but I don't quit. I may be crawling on the ground whispering "is this the end?" but I don't quit. I keep moving forward. I have grown ON PURPOSE because I have focused on the moment, remembering the end goal.

So, please, make your lists, write your goals, do whatever is necessary to get you focused but then actually do it. Don't set out to lose 80 pounds this year. Don't set out to read 15 books this year. Don't make some huge lofty goal because you think that's what you are supposed to do. Instead, set your mind on the fact that you want to grow, you want to become, you want to move this moment, on this day. A year is intimidating and for some of us a year is too large. We don't live a year at a time, we live a day at a time, a breath at a time. You want to read more? Then tonight read for the 30 minutes you'd be watching a tv show. You want to get in shape? Then pass on the donut and remind yourself it's about the moment and in this moment I choose to be healthy.

Grow on purpose in the moment you are in. Let the year happen, who cares about the year's resolution...grow on purpose in the moment you are in. The year is out of your control--the choice you make in the moment you are in, THAT'S yours to do with as you please.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

I Believe

For the past several years I've had a word to focus on for that year; I'm not exactly sure how it started, but it's been a rather interesting and helpful experience nevertheless. As 2015 is coming to a close, I've been thinking more and more about my word for 2016, having some moments of wondering if I'll even do it at all. But, last night during a conversation with a new friend it came with such clarity I could feel my insides smiling.


My focus for 2016 will be courage and I couldn't be more excited and freaked out! (which is pretty much how I know it's the right word)  I've had people describe me as being courageous but I always find a way to diminish it because I have never ever viewed courage as part of something I possess. However, I have done this focusing on a word/phrase concept for enough years now to know, by the end I'll view courage and experience courage in ways I cannot imagine right now--and that makes me very happy!

When you have a word/phrase to focus on for the year, it doesn't mean every waking moment revolves around it; what it does mean is that you experience that word/phrase in new ways, you grow tremendously in the area of that word/phrase and by the end of the year it's been successfully added to your tool belt (not that you've nailed it and never need to explore it again, but more that you're now aware of it and open to that word/phrase). It's a very cool experience.

My focus for 2015 has been believe and balance (yes, it was a two-word year). Though I have more I plan to write in these final days of 2015, I will leave you today with this...

The word believe came last Christmas as I was setting out my Nativity scene and I saw the baby figurine that represents Jesus. I instantly thought "Do I believe this BABY was 'Lord at thy birth'?" I realized that I knew it was true, but somewhere between my heart and my head a disconnect was happening. I was saying I believed it but did I truly BELIEVE it? 

This year has had it's ups and downs, just like yours I'm guessing. Some days are better than others, some seasons are better than others. As I got the Nativity scene out this Christmas and I looked at that baby, I had a different thought than the previous year; this year I said out loud "Thank you for being Lord at they birth."  A shift has happened and though I still have my times of struggle, I'm definitely farther along than I was this time last year in terms of believe.

What about you? What will be your focus for 2016? We grow on purpose friend, we grow on purpose.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Day 25 of 25 Days for Peace

I have put off writing all day--I woke early, with a "theme" of what to write about but instead of jotting it down so I wouldn't forget, I rolled over in bed and shut my eyes tighter. I don't want to write the last post. I don't want it to be day 25. This project has been invigorating, challenging, frustrating, and more rewarding than I expected and although those are all good, it's not why I didn't want this moment to come.

I tend to be an "out of sight out of mind" kind of person. Seriously, if it wasn't for my kids saying "mom mom mom" I'm certain I would have lost them by now. It's a real problem. And I know I'm not alone. I'm willing to bet many of you following along with 25 Days for Peace tend to be forgetful too, tend to be absent minded when it's not right in front of you. I don't want it to be day 25 because I fear we'll begin to shift and no longer be focusing on something as important as Peace; I fear that we'll wake up one day and say "That project was so good, can't really remember much of it and certainly don't feel peace now, but man it was good!" I fear that will be me.

Focusing for 25 days on a single word has been unearthing for me. Things have surfaced internally that I never saw coming, I've experienced God in ways I never expected, and friendships have formed that I never looked for; it has been an amazing 25 days and peace has covered me to the point of overflowing. I literally FEEL peace, I'm calmer, I'm focused, and at the store the other day the lady waiting in line behind me said "I want what you have because you seem so...peaceful." I busted out laughing at the irony as I said "Well as a matter of fact..." We had a beautiful encounter in a moment that could have just been grumbling and joining in misery.

As I write these words, as I reflect on the past days, I am realizing peace has become part of me. Could my focus shift? Yes, and in some ways it will. But, it doesn't have to LEAVE me. And it doesn't have to leave YOU. Our project is complete, but Peace is with us--let us never forget the reason why Jesus was bring US peace.

Merry Christmas to you...Happy Birthday to Jesus. This 25th day is the best day we could ever ask for, may Peace never be far from our focus.

*One final thought, in your times of struggle to find calm I encourage you to visit and re-read...the words matter in the future days just as much as on the current day.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Day 24 The list.

Growing up we're reminded all throughout the year about the list. The naughty and nice list. Santa's list. Our parents use this list to keep us from throwing fits in the store, being mean to our siblings and we are told that if we're reeeeally good, Santa will bring us LOTS of toys. Yes, Santa's list is a pretty big deal for kids and dare I say it's a big deal for parents too.

The problem? This list, you see, is conditional. We only get rewarded if we make the nice list and as kids we feel that we are only loved if we are rewarded and thus, when we fall short, the fear is much deeper than Santa not visiting, the fear is the loss of love. 

My biggest struggle as a Christian is that I often view God and how He works in my life along the same lines as Santa and that list. I think of the things I have done wrong, the times I have fallen short, the expectations of others that I failed to live up too and I am tempted to believe God has placed me on the naughty list thus removing me from His loving arms.

The list tries to haunt me.

Tonight, on the Eve of the birth of Jesus, my prayer is that we (you and me) will remember each and every day to come that in the miracle of the birth of Jesus the list vanishes. No longer is it about being good enough, no longer is there a threat of the make-believe Santa not visiting--through the birth of the very real Jesus, we can experience unconditional and unwavering love simply because God wants to love us.

When you become a Christian, the list vanishes and in it's place is the Prince of Peace.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Day 23. Finding wholeness

"When someone shows you their true colors, believe them. When someone says 'This is who I am' believe them."  Words spoken by the late Maya Angelo; words that have stuck with me since I first heard them in the late 90's although it hasn't been until recently that I began to grasp what she meant.

When will I come across a man I can trust? When will I meet a person that is truly who they present themselves to be? When can I lay my walls down? These are questions I wrestle with often and every time the answer I hear in my heart is the same--that's only found in Jesus. Which frankly, in my humanness, makes me mad and brings me peace all in the same breath.

I want to reach a point where I can be in relation with someone (whether friendship or romantic) and trust what he/she tells me. I want to know with certainty that he/she won't leave me, won't hurt my heart, and won't betray my trust. Understanding I will never have that is a difficult pill to swallow.

And then I think about the times Jesus was betrayed, the times Mary was ridiculed for being pregnant, the times God watched His Son endure heartache...

People are broken. That's the bottom line. People are broken and selfish and not 100% trustworthy. Most people  mean well, they have good intentions, but they are people and people are broken. There's a song with lyrics "I'm bent but not broken" and though I understand the notion, I beg to differ--we are straight up broken and it's in that brokenness we face the fork in the road. At the admission of brokenness we will either put on masks and put up walls or we will turn to God for hope and healing.

 The gift is, the decision is ours. 

We long to be surrounded by people that will love us, be completely safe for us and we understand that just doesn't exist. Instead of feeling despair over that, instead of giving in and responding from a place of hopelessness, I encourage you to take a risk and go to church this Christmas. Take a risk and reach your hand out to the only One that offers absolute unwavering trustworthy love.  For it's in the protection of Him that we are able to love the unlovable--broken people of which I am at the top of the list.

Heed Maya's words, befriend from a place of wisdom, instill healthy boundaries but never believe the lie that says "You'll never be in a place of trust where you can just be you."  We're broken for a reason, it's in the brokenness we find the beautiful peace of Jesus Christ.

It's in that peace we are made whole.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Day 22 of 25 Days for Peace. Jabez

I'm finding it more and more difficult to fully express what's going on inside of me over the past few days and in that I'm both frustrated and in awe. As a person who talks for a living, dialogs for a living, it's an interesting experience to be at peace with not being able to fully articulate my heart right now. We're at a new level, friends. A new level indeed.

I was reminded tonight of a book I recently read called Beyond Jabez (which I highly recommend you read). Jabez is only briefly mentioned in the Bible in 1 Chronicles 4:10 and it's in reference to his prayer to God in which he starts with "Oh that you would bless me indeed..." the author points out in Beyond Jabez that the word "indeed" is translated to mean overflowing or abundantly. So, basically Jabez was asking God to flood his life with blessing. Americans offer a double edge sword in this thinking, one side we tell you that it's selfish to say something like that, but we also tell you "you deserve to be happy!"  We want you to have a full and awesome life, but we want you to not enjoy it too much so that we don't feel less than...God's idea of blessing is thankfully different than ours.

Do peace and blessing go together? When I reflect on just the past 48 hours and how I've experienced God moving in my life I don't think I could shout a loud enough YES! I've found it takes a level of courage to fight against the culture (any my own negative tapes) and to actually ask for overflowing blessing...I've also found the blessings come in ways I cannot imagine and occasionally cannot articulate fully.

It's true, this time of year we learn mainly about the birth of Jesus but if I can be so bold as to point you in a different direction, I encourage you to dig into the Old Testament and study an amazing person named Jabez...peace is found under the covering of prayer and his prayer nails it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Day 21. What stirs you...

I can’t believe we’re nearly done with our 25 Days for Peace project! For 21 days my fellow writers and I have focused on peace both in the writing you read, and in the behind-the-scene conversations you don’t read. Writing can be a lonely feat—this project has made it not just less lonely, but has also allowed me to see that struggle is part of writing; meaning, I’m not the only one that struggles through the process of writing!

I have no formal training in writing (which I’m sure isn’t hard to figure out) and it wasn’t until just a few short years ago that I started to allow my writing to be out loud for others to read. I have always done some form of writing, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I began to let others read my words and it wasn’t until I read the book Three Weeks with my Brother by Nicholas Sparks that I realized I COULD call myself a writer. That book gave me the courage to say what I felt inside—I wanted to write. It was in the pages of that I book I learned that someone I admired for his writing had basically become a writer off of a challenge from his mother. 

25 Days for Peace was presented to me, not as a challenge in the literal terms, but a challenge nevertheless. What has been filled with ups and downs in terms of writing, has also brought ups and downs in terms of my connection to God. I have experienced God in a new way—I have learned to trust the process and to trust that God is in the beginning, the middle and yes, even in the end…every single day of writing.  

So, as you ponder the closing of 2015 and start to turn your attention to 2016 I would like to extend to you the same offer I was given (kind of)—what is it that your heart is bent towards? What is that thing you do that brings you a sense of peace unlike other things? What is it that you may have no training in but, have a natural pull towards?  Set your mind to be in that space, to give attention to that thing you’ve identified, daily for the entire month of January. Maybe you can’t physically do it in January, but you could learn more about it—I’m confident you could find a way to daily put attention to that thing that brings your heart peace.

Too many of us float through one year into the next never giving attention to the stirring in our hearts. Let’s stop doing that, let’s start paying attention and let’s start becoming… 

Writing is a challenge for me, but it’s a good challenge, a challenge that wakes me in the middle of the night stirring my soul. There is nothing else on this planet that does that for me. Find your stirring and then give it attention—God is eager to shed light on that kind of peace to you!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Day 20. At the altar we find peace

I woke this morning with a heaviness I haven't felt in a very long time and as I began to ponder the day ahead of me, I was wrestling with the idea of going to church. Fear has a way of gripping the depth of our heart and whispering to the us the very lies we believe will consume us. Fear had gripped me this morning and though I wanted to give in and just stay in bed, I found myself walking through the doors of the church--more from autopilot than desire.

I didn't see it coming, the way the service ended. I didn't see it coming, my nearly running to the front of the church and falling to my knees as I heard the band sing "Oh come to the altar, the Father's arms are open wide.."  As I knelt in front of my church and I heard the words being sung, I could feel with every heaving cry all the weight of my regret and every ounce of my fear pouring out of me; it was one of the most moving experiences of my life. And to think I considered staying home...

Several years ago in one of my many tantrums to God about being single I told Him that I wanted a ring from Him--after all, a husband gives a ring to his bride and God's word says in Isaiah 54:5 "For your Maker is your Husband..." so, I wanted a ring. A few weeks later my mom and I were out shopping and she wanted to look at the jewelry collection, I reluctantly went (I don't wear much jewelry). As she picked up a ring she said "Look at this, it's a ring of crosses" and as I took it from her hand I felt a wave of peace brush over me as if to say "I do."

It's only on rare occasions that I take this ring off, for it's my reminder that though I am single my Maker is my Husband. This morning, when I finally opened my eyes after pouring my soul's heartache onto the church floor, the first thing I saw was my ring and I knew in that moment...He has not left me. 

I started today with a heavy heart because of the weight of choice after choice, time after time, I have done the very thing I do not want to do--and I feared, perhaps He will leave me now. My day is ending with the heaviness of Peace and the reassurance that when I turn to God there I will find Him, at the altar with arms open wide...
"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Day 19. The bike

The one thing I didn't get to do this summer was ride. Not just any ride, but to ride on the back of a bike. Not just any bike, but to ride on the back of a Harley. I've ridden on other bikes and enjoyed it, but there's something about a Harley that takes the experience of motorcycle riding to a new level. I've had people ask me if I wanted to own one and my answer is always the same--no. I have no desire simply because it would take away the thing I most love about riding...I'm just riding.

Ask any person who owns a bike when they feel the most peace and chances are they'll tell you it's when they are riding--the open road brings a peace others just cannot understand.

I'm fully aware that some who read my writing are not Christians, who cannot understand this peace I refer to constantly. In reflecting on my sadness that I didn't get to ride this summer I realize that I only have that sadness because I know what it's like. So, instead of trying to tell you more about my relationship with Jesus and why he brings me absolute peace, I'm going to instead encourage you to add riding a Harley to your bucket list because maybe then you'll "taste and see" and maybe, just maybe, you experience a little bit of the Jesus I know...peace can be found in many places, including on the back of a bike.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Day 18. Facing Jesus

Sometimes I think about what it will be like when I die, when I am standing before God and giving an account of all of my breaths. I think about all the years I wanted nothing to do with God--will He bring that up? I think about all the things I've done knowing I shouldn't--will I be able to look Him in the eye? I think about how desperately I want to honor and serve Him now--will I have done that well? When the day comes that I stand before God will I just simply fall on my knees because I'll finally know what complete and overwhelming love feels like?

Tonight I hung out with a crowd of people that represent my church and as I walked among them, received their hugs, and felt their warmth I had a moment of thinking "this pales in comparison to the day you look into the eyes of Jesus" and I felt a peace swell inside of me.

I spent most of my adult life outside of church, wanting nothing to do with God--tonight I'm going to bed utterly thankful that's no longer my story. Regardless of who I was, regardless of who I am now, I know with absolute certainty that when I die I will finally feel whole and as I reflect on the birth of Jesus I can't help but let tears fall because his birth was for my death--for my moment of standing before God. 

Peace comes when we know where we're going, regardless of where we've been...if I can go to church and have it not catch on fire, if I can experience God's grace and forgiveness, then my friend trust me when I say there's not a person on this planet that can't have it too. Go to church this Christmas season and find that peace you've been searching for--He's waiting.  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Day 17. Looking Up for Peace

Each morning I take my daughter to school; she's 13 and the last one at home. Sometimes we talk the whole 2 minutes to school, sometimes we ride in silence. Every time I whisper to God how thankful I am to be able to do this--it will end all too soon.

Occasionally when I drop her off the sun is rising at just the right point and, as I turn to head out of the school parking lot, I see in front of me the most beautiful colors bursting across the sky.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but I feel as if my picture of the morning's sky falls short; maybe that's because you can't experience what I did in that moment. I doubt your breath is taken away by my picture, but mine certainly was by God's picture.

As we search for peace, as we search for meaning and as we search for God it would behoove us to just look up...His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3).

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


The wall behind our kitchen table is filled with words, inspirational words including "BE AWESOME." That wall is what many of my clients see during our coaching sessions. That wall is what my children see when we eat or play games together. That wall is what I see each and every day. No matter the mood, no matter the circumstance, there on the wall shouting at me is "BE AWESOME" among other words that inspire and encourage.

Much of my conversation and my thinking revolves around perspective. The more I learn about the brain, about the way God created us, the more I appreciate the ability to choose my perspective. I don't have to be in a bad mood unless I CHOOSE to be in a bad mood. I also don't have to view my circumstances as anything other than how I choose to view them. It's all in perspective.

I love the wall of inspiration and I love that the biggest phrase on that wall is "BE AWESOME" because frankly, if we're busy being awesome we'll be less likely to be jerks, less likely to be grumpy, less likely to be in a state of negative thinking. Not that we won't have our off moments, not that we won't still feel the impact of the blows of life--but hopefully we'll bounce back quicker, we'll cause less pain ourselves, and we'll begin to see the world as a place of positive, a world that is brimming with the hope brought about by the peace that surpasses all understanding. It's all a matter of perspective.

You were made for, go and...

Monday, December 14, 2015

Day 14. What we think about...

In conversation today I realized Christmas is next week. NEXT WEEK! I had a slight panic attack as I pondered how I was going to pull it all together (you know, the juggling of gifts and bills) and then suddenly I realized that also meant our time of writing for 25 Days for Peace will come to an end next week as well. I felt an instant wave of sadness.

Writing about one topic every single day for 25 days is proving to be daunting for myself and based on observation I think it's safe to say it is for all of us participating in this project. Daunting, challenging, and so very rewarding. Writing is cathartic--well, if you're a writer. But writing on a single topic for 25 days is a different kind of cathartic.

 Can we view something that is uncomfortable, something that stretches us, something that even proves to be daunting as good, as therapeutic even? Can we view something like focusing on a single word for 25 days to be beneficial to our overall well being? Proverbs 23:7 tells us "For as a man thinks, he is" That means, thinking about a single word like "Peace" for 25 straight days could, dare I say, cause peace inside of me.

As a writer you're always looking for inspiration, when you're writing about something specific like peace you're looking for specific inspiration and when you do that for 25 straight days you start to become desperate for inspiration. But if we view this experience, if we the writers and you the readers remember what you think about is what you are, then perhaps "looking for inspiration" is no longer necessary--perhaps it has just become "I think about peace because I want peace" and then, perhaps, the sadness of the thought of this project ending comes full circle.

We still have more than week left of writing, you have more than a week left of reading and together we will have 25 days of reflecting on a simple word. I'd say this project far surpasses what we even imagined or hoped! Here's to becoming peace!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Day 13. That pesky word Obey

I struggle with the word obey. Ok, struggle isn't accurate enough. I loathe the word obey. I hate being told what to do, especially when I know I should do it and don't want to and then hear the "command" to do it--everything in me screams "NO!" I truly and deeply loathe being told what to do.

I haven't been a Christian as long as most of my friends, but from my observation, it doesn't seem to matter how long someone has been a Christian, no one likes the word obey. Humans just don't seem to do well with that word. I find it interesting that that is the word Jesus uses when linked to "if you love me..."  In John 14 he doesn't beat around the bush, he states "If you love me, obey my commandments."

I've been thinking lately about words/phrases my friends would use to describe me and one that keeps coming to mind is "not easily swayed." I think because I'm so outspoken about having boundaries and in many ways I would say that phrase is good, even necessary; but if I'm to go a step further and fully see what that phrase represents, it also means "Don't tell Carla what to do--you'll get the boot." Boundaries are vital to becoming a healthy functioning individual and part of boundaries means being able to say "No, I'm not going to do that." However, what must always be assessed is the motive behind the "no", the motive behind the "I'm not doing what you told me to do."

I want so desperately to be a person of integrity, to be a Christian who serves God well; a quick review of my journal and you'll see 100's of pages over the last 12 years with that theme. I WANT to be that person. I have continuously fallen short. I knew what to do and I chose to do something else, I chose to not obey--again and again.

About four years ago I wrote a piece similar to this only the concept was "loving God isn't linked to if I obey him" and very quickly I found myself engaged in conversation with my Pastor; he brought up this particular verse in John, pointing out that I was in fact wrong in what I had written and after a few email exchanges I took down the post. That's the one and only time I've had that experience--removing something because someone challenged me--it's also the only time my pastor has been so blunt in saying "You're wrong, you can't put that notion out there."

I take my gift of writing very seriously. I take with great humbleness the fact that people from 10 countries follow this writing...I take my representation of Christianity seriously. It has taken me way to long to finally get on board, to finally stop tripping over a single word, to finally understand the all to simple connection. It's taken way to long for me to lay my pride down and say "Because I DO love you, I WILL obey."

My hands are sweating as I type those words, because I've never been able to do it before so the broken part of me is whispering "You're setting yourself up for failure. You're setting them up for failure." But, John 14  also records Jesus saying "I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart." I, on my own, I, Carla, cannot obey to simply obey. It's just not what I was taught to do, it's not who I want to be (frankly it seems weak to me). But because I believe in Jesus, I believe the bible to be truth, I believe God to be alive, I then also believe the things Jesus said. I, on my own, can't obey which is exactly why Jesus needed to come to this Earth--because obeying God is connected to loving God and in loving and obeying we find peace of mind and heart. I don't know about you, but this girl could use some peace of mind and heart!

It doesn't say it'll be easy. It doesn't say it'll make us popular. It does say Love=Obey=Peace.  It's all in the motive, remember ;)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Day 12. It didn't exist? Say what?

When I was a kid my Grandpa Saathoff showed me a list he'd brought home from his recent high school reunion. At the top of the list was the title "Things that didn't exist when we graduated"...I don't remember how many items were on the list but the one item that has stuck with me all these years later was number 5: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer hadn't been invented.  As I read those words I was completely in shock; it had never occurred to me that there had ever been a Christmas season without Rudolph, I mean the two go hand in hand!!!

As I think about the Christmas story, about the birth of Jesus, about the people that lived during that time I have suddenly found myself in a similar place of shock--there was a time when "christmas" didn't exist. I'll just let that sink in for a moment...Ok, maybe you have already come to that realization and maybe it seems silly for that to be a shocker me, but it is. It's a shocker because just as I assumed Rudolph had always been around, I also tend to assume Christmas has always been around--you know, the tree, the presents, the hustle and bustle of December, you know, Christmas. Sure the adult, logical, part of us KNOWS better, but do we pause give it the weight it deserves?

I encourage you, as you move through the remainder days of this December, to pause and reflect on the time when Christmas didn't exist--because Christ hadn't yet come. I encourage you to think about the FAITH those people showed, I encourage you to remember we are blessed because we know the end of the story much like we can sing Rudolph without really thinking about it. I encourage you see the peace God has granted you just simply being you--born when you were, to a time when Christmas exists, to a time when we can learn about Jesus, the very real Messiah that came so that you may have eternal peace.

We take a lot of things for granted, may we never take Christmas for granted.

Friday, December 11, 2015

day 11. I got nothin

 I wish I had some profound thing to write about today. I do not. Honestly in this moment, as I ponder the word peace, and as I think about all that has transpired in the past 11 days I really just want to sit in the silence of my house and just be. Perhaps I'll come back on and write something, perhaps I'll take the advice of my fellow peace writers and just be in the silence knowing that is ok...regardless of how my Friday night ends, know that I am praying (seriously, I don't just say that) for you to find comfort in the silence of the moment and feel God's peace, knowing that is enough.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Day 10. Peace in Dandelions

I had lunch with my son today. My 20 year, grown man, son. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that—I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to hugging my boy who now towers over me. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to seeing facial hair on him, to hear his deeper voice, nor do I think I’ll ever get used to hearing the stories of his life unfolding—an adult life, a life I’m no longer the center of. No, I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to any of that. 

One of my fondest memories of Tyler is when he was not yet 3 years old and we were walking out to the car, his little hand in mine, his baby sister in my other hand…I kept feeling the tug of him as he’d bend down, clearly trying to reach something as I’m trying to hurry him to the car. “Tyler, come on, we need to get going.” I said that two or three times before I finally paused to see what exactly was he trying to do and that’s when life suddenly stopped. My son, my first born, my little man, was picking dandelions for me as we walked down the sidewalk, but because he couldn’t reach the ground fully due to holding my hand he’d collected a bunch of heads of those yellow weeds.  My son looked up at me and in his sweet little voice he said “You’re beautiful, Mommy. Here…” and handed me flowers with all the pride a little boy could ever possibly have. 

Today my son and I sat talking about the past, about different memories he has, about different things we’ve experienced and things he’s learned along the way. As I sat across from him, sushi in between us (it’s our thing), I heard a whisper in my heart—embrace this peace.

My son was created inside of me when I was still a child myself. And my son has had to reap the consequences of a lost teen mom for most his life. Today, today, I’m nearly 40 years old and far from that 21 year old scared girl who was just trying to keep it together with 2 kids and a struggling marriage. Today I’m a different person…and…so is my son. WE have grown up and though we have been through so many trials, we have endured and together we find peace in one another.  

My heart bursts open when I’m with my kids, when I see their smiles, hear their laughter—my heart literally feels like it’s bursting open as I FEEL their love.  

Friends, we are missing out on a lot of “dandelion” moments because we are so busy moving from one thing to the other. Take time to be in the moment and embrace the peace being created.      

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Day 9. Peace is Everywhere

As I laid in bed last night thinking about a million different things, the one thought that kept coming to the forefront was "It's everywhere."  Peace can be easily overlooked, especially when we live during a time that is whispering promises of unrest. Peace can be so easily overlooked. I'm not sure when I started working on my perspective, I suppose it was a gradual shift over time until it just became part of me--kinda like a habit, which makes me laugh because a habit implies doing the same thing over and over and well, I'm not that good at that unless mistakes count. However, I am good at keeping perspective, seeking perspective, talking about perspective. I am good at that.

This morning I woke with a sore throat. First my back, now my throat. Seriously. Anyway, I woke with a sore throat so instead of making coffee, I decided to make "throat coat" tea with some thieves. Still half asleep I pulled the tea bag out and discovered the word "peace" right there starring back at me. And in that split second it all came full circle.

It's hard to serve a God you cannot see. It's hard to trust a Man you have never looked in the eye. It's hard to believe God is everywhere when hurt and fear seem to be everywhere. The number one reason I agreed to participate in 25 Days for Peace was because of perspective. I knew we ALL needed a good dose of perspective right about now--we needed to SEE God, EXPERIENCE God, BELIEVE in peace. I had no idea the depth of that happening to me, just 9 days in.

So, there it is, starring us right in the face. Peace. It's all around us. GOD is all around us. If we'll just look. If we'll just shift our perspective, open our hearts, and seek. God is wanting to speak to you...are you listening? And before you say yes He's just not talking to me, let me give you a bit of wisdom someone once gave to me--when we ask God to speak to us, we must be open to how HE chooses to speak, not how we'd like Him too. The trick is to just be open, be ready, and believe.

Peace is everywhere. Even in the very real need of a sore throat.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Day 8. To you, the Christian

Christianity can give the feel of “selling” something. Like we’re trying to convince you to buy the latest gadget. Take it for a test drive, try it out, taste it—you’ll see, it’s AMAZING, it’ll be life changing! Sometimes I hear the pitch for why you should become a Christian and I sorta puke in my mouth because we sound like a watered down infomercial not a Christian. 

Churches across our nation are shrinking and we’re asking ourselves why aren’t we growing? Why aren’t we inviting people to church? Because we still feel the real fact that we are living on both sides of the fence; we feel as if we shouldn’t dare say “come to church with me” for fear that person will say “Why would I want to be like you?” We know we should do better, make better decisions, be better people, but we aren’t. We aren’t any better than the people we are inviting to church. We are telling them come have a better life, yet we feel as if our life isn’t really any better. So, we say nothing. And we continue to live both sides of the fence and the churches continue to shrink.

We are caught up in the conversation that implies we can’t appear perfect (because we’re not) but we should appear like our act is together more than a non-Christian (because we’re Christian). Non-Christians tell us they don’t want to be judged yet they judge us. We say we don’t judge, only God does, yet we judge each other. The Christian is still caught up in things like addictions, affairs, and eating disorders. The Christian goes to church on Sunday and does life on Monday. 

So, why on Earth should ANYONE become a Christian? 

Here’s what I wish would happen in churches: I wish we’d have a day were we stood up and in front of everyone said “I am…and I struggle with…and that’s why I need Jesus.”  Did you see it? Did you see the answer as to why Christianity is vital?  Every single human being is broken, flawed, riddled with poor choices. Every single human being falls short of perfection every single day. BUT. The difference between all of humanity and Christianity is a God who said I will wipe the slate clean for you—forever. 

The church today is a far cry from the church it’s meant to be and frankly the church today breaks my heart. We are supposed to be different, we are supposed to be “set free from sin” and living a life that says “Yes, I want to do that but I’m not going to because I choose to follow God.” We are supposed to be an example to the world. We’re not. We’re a far cry from it. And that’s why we need Jesus. 

The Church NEEDS Jesus.

Why are we ashamed of that?

It’s holiday time and we’re all caught up in making sure we don’t offend anyone, we’re all caught up in making sure everyone feels included—let me ask you, Christian, did Jesus make sure everyone felt included or did Jesus make sure everyone knew the way to receive eternal peace? We, Christians must never lose sight of the very real fact that this life is not the point, that making sure everyone FEELS good is not the point. We, Christians, must never lose sight of the very real fact that the whole point for every breath we take is to express to those around us there is a very real and very tangible way to receive peace—regardless of what our circumstances are, regardless of what we were taught growing up, regardless of what our fears want us to believe. There is a very real gift offered to every single human being that has the courage to say “Yes, I want that” and when we, Christians, diminish that gift by masking it with “let’s all just get along and be inclusive” we are doing a grave disservice to the very people we claim we want to help. Isn’t that the point after all? Isn’t that why we’re so caught up in making sure we say all the right things at the holidays? Because we want everyone to feel good, we want to help bring peace to the world? 

Help me understand how we’re helping by hiding the only Peace that exists? Please, Christian, help me understand why you’re trying to blend in with everyone else and water down a Truth that is immeasurably rich. 

Never in a million years would I have told you that I would be one day writing about things like this. Never did I see this coming because for a very long time I rejected Jesus—but, never ever do I want to ever stop writing these words—Jesus Christ died on that cross in order to save my life, in order to give me eternal peace, in order to save me from a world that will surely swallow me whole. And if this offends you—good. It should. It certainly offends me to think that churches are filled with people who hide their faith. It certainly offends me to think our world is littered with Christians who live life in a way that is no different than a non-Christian. It certainly offends me that I am just as guilty of that as the next Christian. So, frankly, I don’t care that it offends you—I care that you ignore it. I care that you reject it. I care that you, Christian, hide it. I care that we look no different than the rest of the world. I care that we aren’t so enveloped in peace that the world is turning to us and saying “How do we get what you have?” I care. Oh how I care. 

Peace comes only through Jesus Christ. It’s not about saying Merry Christmas or even Happy Holidays. It’s about saying “let me tell you about a baby that took his first breath because your last breath matters.” If you want to be offended, be offended at the fact we are causing the very confusion we preach against. If you want to be offended, be offended at the fact Christians are not BEING Christians.

Be offended—but please, first, ask yourself this question: What exactly offends you and what part of that do you own?