Tag Archives: celebration

Like a Hallmark Ending

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can find the whole series here. This is part four of a specific story in the series, which starts with Advent Devotion 4, but really the whole context is helpful, so why not start at Advent Devotion 1?

Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them. Hebrews 6:9-12 MSG

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Our first tree ~ December 2014

Yep. It’s the Hallmark ending you’ve been waiting for.

Bewildered expressions marked my sons’ faces as they did their father’s bidding and unloaded the van. Stunned, they carried their first Christmas tree and two boxes of lights into our home. Jerry disappeared into his office, still processing his choice to bring us a tree.

Thankfully our son-in-law, David, was home because he actually knew how to set up a tree, something the rest of us had never done. He couldn’t wait to surprise his wife–our daughter, Sarah, whose employment at the church meant she was working that day. It was dark when Sarah texted her husband saying she was almost home. He asked us to turn out the lights on the tree and in the living room, so there would be no hint through the picture window of the surprise awaiting her. When she arrived, I asked her if she’d do us a favor and please plug in the lights.

“We have a Christmas tree?” She squealed.

Then, “We have a Christmas tree! We have a Christmas tree!” The little three-year-old finally had her dream after twenty years of waiting.

“Dad, do you know, do you know about the promise of the tree?” she asked. “I prayed it would be this year. While I was home.”

As Sarah and I told Jerry about the promise, I realized it was no mistake that our family home had been overrun by all of our adult children that Christmas. Our Lord orchestrated it all. Though I hadn’t been allowed to create “Christmas” for them growing up, the Lord sent everyone home for our first Christmas tree.

That night after my husband and Sarah and David had gone to bed, all three of those grown-up boys slipped into the living room sprawling their six foot frames across the carpet next to the tree. In the hush of night, with the twinkling lights punctuating our joy, we shared about the wonder of it, our first tree.

The story of why my husband bought the tree that year is too long for today’s devotional, and I promise to share of the story. But I have a point today, not just a poignant story.

We serve a God who is faithful to His promises.

He hears our heart cry.

He loves to give us good gifts.

There were many Christmas seasons, including that early December of 2014, I felt like Job’s words from The Message, “Where’s the strength to keep my hopes up? What future do I have to keep me going? Do you think I have nerves of steel? Do you think I’m made of iron? Do you think I can pull myself up by my bootstraps? Why, I don’t even have any boots!” (Job 6:11–13).

But God offered hope in that year as he had in the others. Today I am not groaning as Job did. My heart shouts out in praise and joy, sounding more like the words in Romans, “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (Romans 5:3–5, MSG).

Do you have a long unfulfilled desire, my friend? A longing beyond your control? If you are confident it is something the Lord has promised you, then hang on. Don’t give up.

He always keeps His word.

God, You are the giver of good gifts. Thank You for every gift You’ve given me and for every gift yet to come. Where I feel despair, please flood me with hope. If I have desires not of You, then please refine my heart so I can long for only the good You already want to give. If I have unfulfilled desires that are within Your plan, give me confidence that You will work in Your time. I know You are not capricious. You don’t dangle hope to snatch it away. You give promises to sustain. Then You keep Your promises.

More on why Jerry made such a momentous decision in the days to come. Stay tuned!

Until tomorrow,

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Big Celebrations and Simple Pleasures

20140611_145401We wore our Hawaiian attire just ’cause we could. For a joke in a way. A celebration of the memories of 25 years of marriage.

We matched. We rejoiced in the fact our clothes from that trip 16 years ago fit. That life together had held many special moments.

We got a lot of stares. Of comments. A group of teens on their break stood smoking outside a restaurant and snickered.

I smiled and waved. “Hey! We have a good reason!” I bantered. “It’s our 25th wedding anniversary, and we’re wearing a memory.”

They cheered for us then.

I never knew what a conversation starter bright, out-of-date, Hawaiian attire could be.

Honestly, I was a little embarrassed by all the attention, but I’m glad we did it. It was like a shout to the world that marriage can be fun. Can last. That you can still play together after 25 years.20140611_230050

At Trader Joe’s the comments on our floral glory drew attention to our special day. They gave us flowers. We bought dark chocolate and wine, which we shared later that night.

It was a different kind of anniversary celebration for us. We weren’t able to get away for an overnight. We didn’t escape to traipse around in the mountains like we often do on special occasions.

We ran around town.

We shopped.

We ate out.

It wasn’t really very Jerry and Paula-ish. We’re not big shoppers.

But it was glorious.

I bought Jerry really good new shoes. He bought me silver jewelry. Yes, his gift was more romantic, but I swear those are the best tennis shoes my man has ever worn!

It was a joy to buy each other gifts. There were years we couldn’t.

20140611_193408After the hoopla we returned home to dress for dinner. I wasn’t quite up to making a matching spectacle at the nice Italian place we’d chosen. Besides, when I shopped for a dress to wear to Bernice’s memorial service I couldn’t believe how many dresses actually fit, and I bought a special one and saved it for this special day, hoping Jerry would like it. Would think I looked yummy in it and show it. ;o)

He did.

I’m still stunned I can find clothes I like so easily after all those years of hating everything, struggling to find something that fit, much less looked okay.

How foreign to like buying clothes again after my weight loss journey.

Weird.

And wonderful.

20140611_205508But back to our special day.

The beautiful dining experience that evening included live music and elegant food paired with a lovely wine.

Being the writer I am I people-watched in between those moments of staring deeply into my lover’s eyes. ;o)

Some people didn’t seem that happy. It was like it wasn’t special to  them to eat that good food, to stare at each other across the table, to enjoy a beautiful atmosphere and glass of good wine.

To them it was just another Friday night.

“If it ever gets to the point  that we do this all the time, and we suddenly realize it’s no longer special, let’s just stop,” I said.

Jerry agreed.

Life is too precious to blaze past beautiful moments.

I don’t ever want to take gifts for granted.

I hope I won’t.

Our normal is a meal at home, and these days there are less and less faces around that table, but every one who is there is precious and every meal we share a joy.

And oh the glory when those kids all come home and crowd around the table! Every time someone thanks me for the meal, every time we’re together like that I feel the gift of such a commonplace thing and think it extraordinary, even though it happens at some level pretty much weekly.

So maybe there’s hope that a special meal like the one on our anniversary night won’t lose the magic either, even if it becomes a new normal when the kids skitter away to build their own nests.

If it does, I hope I’ll quit going to nice restaurants.

Life is full of gifts.

Some are very simple. Like the aroma of freshly popped popcorn.

Some are extravagant, like four dresses in one day.

But all are there for the taking–a little notice, a little unwrapping, a little celebrating.

Until Next Time,

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The Stuff Dreams are Made Of II

(For part one of this story click here.)

Valentine’s Day morning Jerry and I lingered in our beautiful vintage room at the Broadmoor. I couldn’t resist a long, hot bath in the large, tiled tub, complete with lavender mint bath salts from the Broadmoor’s spa collection. We chose a lazy morning over breakfast, so by the time we left our room we were starving.

We ate in the Tavern, next to La Jardin, which is a 1900s style garden room attached to the main serving area. (Since it was Valentine’s Day we needed reservations to actually sit in this beautiful room, so we settled for being close enough to gaze inside. Not that the expensive wooden decor of the Tavern left anything to be desired.)  La Jardin, with its 16 ft long chandelier, reminded me of the garden room dining area on the RMS Titanic, which I researched carefully to include in one of my scenes in our book, Titanic, Legacy of Betrayal. Of course this gracious space is on solid ground, not on the ocean floor. And Jerry and I loved it. Oh the opulence of the early 1900s!

jerry in the tavern

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I chose a very wonderful french onion soup to start my lunch. It’s the best I’ve ever had.

french onion soup

And I savored every bite!

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Afterwards we headed to the Espresso shop for that morning coffee I’d not yet enjoyed. It was now our after lunch treat, and we each ordered something sweet. Jerry opted for a chocolate filled croissant, but I chose entirely based on beauty. And the fact that you can NEVER go wrong with raspberries and chocolate. (Just another example of why the thoughts in my post last Thursday about maintenance and keeping weight in check after a time of feasting were necessary reminders for me!)

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What we did next was not romantic at all. We set up office in the very elegant lobby and worked on FAFSA, due that day if we were to get our son on the list to be considered for college scholarships. Oh well, real life sometimes invades.

While we labored away we were given a wonderful surprise. I spotted my friend Brandy Cole-Vallance. She stood next to a gigantic fresh flower arrangement with a huge sign advertising her new book. Brandy’s gorgeous cover alone would have made me want to read the book, but when she shared her premise I was totally hooked! (Don’t miss the painted ceiling in the picture below. If I’m keeping facts straight, it was painted by the same artist who did the ceiling of Grand Central Station in New York City. When he was told his work was perfect, He purposely included an imperfection, telling on-lookers that the only perfect one was God.)

brandy

What’s especially spectacular about bumping into Brandy is she had only received her book contract the night before, in front of a ton of people at the Writing for the Soul Conference. Everything was still new and like a dream for this debut author, and I loved the somewhat glazed sheen of joy in her eyes. Authors often spend years honing their craft and networking before breaking into the business. Many never actually experience this moment; few get their contract in front of an audience. I had a taste of this in 2011 when my first fiction contract for Postmark: Christmas was given to me in front of 500 people at an ACFW conference. It’s truly a stunning experience.

Getting to hug Brandy and cheer her on was a divine appointment–a sheer gift. As state coordinator for ACFW,  I feel invested in every one of our wonderful authors. Their victories bring me great joy. Plus Brandy and I share an amazing agent, Rachelle Gardner of Books and Such Literary, so we connect in two different, but precious, communities. Congratulations, Brandy!

All too soon Jerry and my lovely dream-of-a-stay came to an end. I waited inside the double doors as Jerry retrieved our car, standing just away from the blustery gusts of a very cold late afternoon. Two porters stood opening and closing the doors as each traveler came and went. Each was greeted with a genuine smile, and I found myself wondering if doing a job which required such consistent, cheerful kindness actually made a person feel happier. I finally got up the nerve to ask the smiling man during a break in the action. He said the Broadmoor was careful in its hires, getting good people who represented it well, but that being cheerful did help a person feel cheerful.

As I did the night before when I visited with our valet, I wondered at the stories this man could tell, at the people he’d met.

I think a novel series set at the Broadmoor is brewing. What do you think? Would you read it? I know I wouldn’t mind going back for more research! ;o)

I was a bit wistful as Jerry pulled into the circular drive and our dreamy experience ended. Thankfully the Creator topped it off with a gorgeous white moon to see us home.

The next morning Jerry made the boys and me our traditional Saturday morning whole wheat pancakes. Maybe the Broadmoor ambiance continued to flow through my veins because I decided my breakfast needed to be pretty. Which goes to show it doesn’t take a fancy resort to embrace moments of celebration. Like the smiling doorman, I want to find and spread joy in my ordinary days. It seems a worthy goal.

back home

Share it: Sometimes dreams do come true

Spirit Seeker Sunday ~ Guest post

I was impacted by this power post by Amy at Loving the Least of These. I bet you’ll relate too!

Breaking Free

Somebody once said that loving other people well starts with loving ourselves.  I’m pretty sure most of my life has been spent trying to love others while hating myself, if I’m being honest. Much of that self hatred has revealed itself through my abuse of food – on both ends of the spectrum.  My sophomore year of high school I started starving myself.  I was friends with a girl who was starving herself and made it a point not to ever eat more than her.

Then in college I started putting on weight until I was healthy by the time of my wedding.

But by a few years into my marriage I started putting on pounds.

And I have qualified as obese for the past ten years.
Imagine my embarrassment walking through Ethiopia for the past three years incredibly overweight as I held the hands and hugged the necks of people who were literally starving.  I felt like a fraud.

The embarrassment of putting on the weight in the first place has been a source of really deep shame for me. I have felt like people must look at me and wonder how I could let myself get so out of control. It has caused me to not even be able to really look people in the eye because I’m just so ashamed of who I am.

I’ll never forget being in Ethiopia with my sweet, petite friend, Abbey, and having a random stranger come up to us on the street and ask me why I was so big while she was so small.  He asked me if I ate different food than her even though we lived in the same country.  I laughed it off, while wanting to absolutely die on the inside.  He hit a nerve because he asked me the question I had been so afraid to ask myself – why?  I haven’t wanted to think about the deeper things that have made me get so out of control.  I haven’t wanted to admit that food is where I go for comfort. It’s where I go to hide.  I haven’t wanted to admit that I have thrived on the instant gratification that comes from eating whatever whenever.  I haven’t wanted to admit that on my best day, I am a complete glutton, covering up my pain and insecurity with food.

My issues with my weight and with food have robbed me.  I live in a beautiful state where the mountains beckon for a hike or a bike ride, but I don’t go because I become exhausted too quickly from being out of shape and overweight.  My kids want to go to the park or do something active outside but I make up a lame excuse because what mom wants to say to their kid “Mommy’s too fat to play outside with you”?

But most notably, as my body has gotten bigger, who I am on the inside has shrunk – I have allowed myself to disappear in many ways. It has been brutal mentally to be smothered by my weight.  I battle thoughts daily of “Well, I couldn’t possibly do that – look at me.”  The gifts that God has given me have been squelched because the beast of being overweight has completely overwhelmed me.  I feel like I will catch glimpses sometimes of the person God has created me to be on the inside and I think “just maybe I can actually BE that person”, but it’s never long before doubt and insecurity take over any glimmer of hope.  I literally hide behind people in pictures – doing my best to only let my face show.  My smile really is just masking my insecurity.

If someone tags me in a picture on FaceBook that shows more than just my face, I delete it.  I don’t want to be seen.  It’s just so heart-breaking.

I have been on so many diets only to watch any pound lost come back.  Failure after failure after failure.  It has been a very long battle that I have not won.  The sense of failure and despair every time has honestly been too much to bear, and has caused me to settle into the mentality that this is just how it is for me – I’ll always be bound by this.

This past year or so has been a process of internal transformation and realization for me about the good and beauty that exists in me.  I was brought to the lowest place of my life so that God could help me realize who I really am as His beloved, and that He longs for me to dream again and fully embrace who He’s created me to be.  I have spent hours and hours in counseling and have done the brutal, beautiful work of unpacking lies I’ve believed about myself and ultimately, discovering that I have had a bogus view of God all my life, which has made me feel so much less than.  There is some sort of stark raving mad idea being spread around that we should live our lives with our heads hanging all the time because of how bad we are and how much we fail.  And so we stay small and ashamed instead of living in the reality that “God is a wild man who is knocked out by who we are”.  As I started to realize what this means for my life, things started changing inside of me and I began to hope.  As I have gotten “healthy” emotionally and spiritually, I have begun to realize that Maryann Williamson was oh so very right when she said:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is
that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our
darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be
brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not
to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the
world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people
won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the
glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in
all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give
other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our
own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I think I’ve used my weight issues as an excuse to keep myself “small” on the inside and to hide from the responsibility I have to live out who I am to the fullest.  I haven’t feared my weight issues – I’ve embraced them far too fast and too easily accepted them as just part of my life.  But what I have feared is the power and the beauty of who God has created me to be.  I have been unable to embrace that and have hidden myself away in excess pounds so that I wouldn’t have to be courageous enough to be myself.  Who I was on the outside was a reflection of the sickness inside of me.  It wasn’t until I took this past year to look inward and figure out just what it was I trying to hide from that I finally found some peace. Nobody likes to take the time to deal with the muck inside of us, but it’s so very necessary; otherwise, we just stay sick.  Being on a journey of loving, valuing and embracing who I am caused me immediate discomfort with my food struggle.

In September, I decided I was done being a prisoner to food.  Physical health was the next logical step on my path to living free.  And it was terrifying, people!  But the possibility that I could be free, caused me to take a step of faith and just beg God to help me do it this time.  I was tired of shrinking back and saying no to life.  Inwardly, I was new, and it was time to reflect that outwardly by the grace of God and a whole lot of belief that I was indeed worth it.

Four and a half months ago, when I decided I was going to try to break free from this food addiction, I only told a hand full of people because I was scared to death this would just be “one more thing” I tried and failed miserably at.  At age 38, I weighed 215 pounds and was wearing a size 18W. (How’s that for vulnerability?!)  I had 80 pounds to lose to get to a healthy weight. 80 POUNDS. It might as well have been 500, it seemed so out of reach.  It’s practically a whole person!

Before I go on, please hear me – it does not matter one iota what you look like or how much or little you weigh.  What matters is that you are free and fully alive.  I am sure that somewhere out there are women who are 215 pounds and free as a bird.  Good for them!!  That is not my story.  For me, my abuse of food has taken away my joy and fullness of life.  For you, it might be something else.  The important thing here is that we break free from whatever prison we might find ourselves in.  I have said for years and years that this is just how my life is and that I don’t have any power to change it.  I call bulls***.  That’s a helpless, victim mentality that is ultimately rooted in fear.  It was with a whole lot of fear of failure, a whole lot of prayer and a whole lot of encouragement that I started my journey to health and wholeness.

In the past four and a half months I have lost over half the weight I need to lose and have gone down 4 sizes.  You guys.  I just wish I could convey the power of it all.  Food has lost its hold on me. God’s grace has been absolutely overwhelming to me on this journey.  I am humbled and in awe.  But most importantly, I am free.  Even though I have more weight to lose to be healthy according to my doctor, if I never lost another pound I’d still feel free.  It’s not about a number on the scale – my quality of life is better, my energy is better, and I find myself dreaming again about my life.  It’s such a gift.

You might be expecting an “after” picture, given all the “before” shots above.  But the point of this post isn’t for you to look at my body and tell me what a great job I’ve done.  I have debated even publishing this post because I haven’t wanted people to get the idea that I’m looking for accolades – I’m not.  I am very aware that people’s struggle with food is a very sensitive one (on either end of the spectrum), and I pray that nothing has been said here that rubs salt in any wound. I’m simply hoping that something about my journey might touch some of you in some way to aspire for freedom, whatever that looks like for you.

It would have been easier and far less embarrassing for me not to address this issue at all here on my blog.  But, I believe in the power of sharing our stories.  I believe in vulnerability and letting people into our struggle.  I share it because my friend shared her struggle and then her victory with me – she made me hope and then take action for myself.  I share it because Maryann is right when she says “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  I share it with you because I have always been that person who watches other people lose weight and get healthy – it has never been for me. But here’s the deal – freedom IS for me.  It’s for all of us.  It doesn’t matter if it’s weight issues, crushing anxiety, relational problems, guilt, shame or feelings that you’re not enough – you CAN be free.  You are worth getting free.  Your loved ones deserve you finding freedom.  You are not an observer of your own life – you get to choose how to respond to circumstances, problems and addictions.  You are worthy of health and freedom. And there’s a God who believes that about you too.  And He WILL help you.

Psalm 10:17 says “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you
encourage them, and you listen to their cry.”

So, be bold and brave, friends.  This life is too short to stay small and imprisoned.  You have so much to offer the world.  When we let our light shine, we do, indeed give others the permission to do the same.  So, shine!  And may your own freedom inspire the freedom of others.

love,
the free me

Spirit Seeker Sunday ~ Victorious Small Successes

IMAG2685“Self-control starts by making one good choice.” Lysa TerKeurest

Don’t you love the idea of victorious small successes?

That means we can feel successful several times a day! We can celebrate each tiny step forward. When we fall down it doesn’t have to sabotage us, we can just make a good choice the next time and celebrate victory again!

In her Made to Crave Devotional, Lysa TerKeurest said, “Sometimes victory seems so far away because we measure it only by the end goal. And end goals can seem overwhelmingly huge, daunting, and just plain hard to reach. But if we start measuring our victories by the smaller choices we make each day, victory won’t seem so impossible.”

I appreciated the Scripture Lysa chose, too. “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance;”

It’s similar to a verse that deeply impacted me in college, found in Romans 5:3-4: “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

In both of these Scriptures perseverance played an important role. Today I’m applying Lysa’s verse to weight loss. In college I studied this verse during a time of great despair. I remember life being so hard that I saw it in black and white. It was like all the color drained out. I even contemplated suicide. I have several memories of God’s intervention in that time, but two stick out. The first is that I walked to class and felt led to take an unusual route. I passed an amazing flower that was exactly my favorite color. I KNEW He was showing it to me, and the bright happy pink burst upon my black and white world.

The second was the study of that Scripture. The commentary I read talked about how hope is the mark of Christian maturity, how if we allow God to produce perseverance in our suffering, our character will deepen, and eventually we will discover hope. (And hope does not disappoint.)

Hang with me; this is all coming together in my mind. Putting these two concepts together is important, I think, for the weight loss journey.

Lysa says, “Self-control starts by making one good choice.” Her Scripture said that self-control produces perseverance, and my Scripture said that perseverance produces hope.

If we make that one good choice–whether it be in weight loss or in life–we can celebrate that small success. As we persevere, one good choice after another, celebrating each one, hope grows! We can truly begin to believe in change, that life can be different. That we can overcome our struggle, whether it be with our weight or some other life issue.

As Lysa said, “Big things are built one brick at a time. Victories are achieved one choice at a time. A life well lived is chosen one day at a time.”

Yes, Lord, help us all build a path to victory one choice at a time!

How about you? Let’s celebrate a victorious choice!

Celebrate victory one good choice at a time.

Finally Content

charm 1Last Christmas my daughter gave me a charm. The instructions? I wasn’t allowed to add it to my charm bracelet until I reached whatever weight felt right to me.

The charm, a flirty little red dress, sat in my jewelry box until this week.

I’m finally comfortable with the new me.

I haven’t actually lost weight since last summer; I’m still roughly 55 pounds lighter than a year ago. But thanks to the fat shrinking component of my BENew metabolism booster, my body has continued to shape up even without change on the scale, and I feel content.

I love the little charm, not only because it was Sarah’s way of cheering me on, but also because it continued a tradition I started with the kids. That bracelet boasts baseballs, gymnastics, skiier and hockey figurines, a drama mask, graduation hat, and even a tiny engagement ring–all to celebrate special accomplishments and moments the kids experienced. I love it that my daughter wanted to commemorate this achievement of mine.

I weigh myself every week or so, and I’ve been able to stick within 2 or 3 pounds either side of the 55 pound weight loss. It’s a bit of a trick learning to maintain, but if I notice the scale climb I charm 2am more intentional about watching what goes in my mouth for a few days and it dips back down.

So after maintaining my new weight for a few months I feel good about putting that little red dress on my bracelet and believing this really did happen for me.

A sassy red dress and a bracelet

Epiphany #6 ~ Stretching into His Arms

IMAG2573I warned you my summer was a summer of discovery. Obviously now that we’re into October and I’m still getting epiphanies, my fall is following suit.

Honestly, those first five epiphanies wore me out. Highs and lows. Hopes and struggles. Dreams and Disappointments.

Growth.

If you’ve hung with me this far, thank you. I’m hopeful that today’s epiphany will be the last I need to write about–at least for a while.

Actually, even though I was bawling when this epiphany came, it might be my favorite. With it comes a picture I cling to. I think about it all the time. Even envisioned it as I walked about my neighborhood last week.

I’m posting this blog ahead of time because as you read this I’m embarking on yet another new adventure, attending the 2013 National Life Force Convention. I’ve no doubt but that I’ll need this epiphany as I continue to discover what it means to become a business woman who is yoked with Jesus in unforced rhythms of grace. 

Learning to do something new without falling back into my negative patterns of perfectionism and performance-driven behavior isn’t easy for me. But this epiphany helps.

It came while I was praying with my friend, Jill. She told me that God liked that I was competitive and wanted to do everything I did with excellence. He just didn’t need me to get caught up in performance and perfectionism. Then came the epiphany. She said, “You push too hard to stretch yourself. All he asks of you is that you crawl into His lap, lean into Him, and let Him do the stretching.”

Let Him do the stretching.

All that struggle melted away.

I don’t have to try so hard, to question myself so harshly, to push myself. I simply hang out with my Father, safe in His arms, and let Him do the stretching.

I know if He does it I’ll bend but not break. I will grow and change, but it will be natural healthy growth, like a branch full of grapes connected to a strong vine. Not straining and groaning, just sweet, normal growth.

Yes, I’ll change as I need to.

It just won’t kill me in the process.

After all, He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.

How about you? Are you resting in His arms today? Looking to Him to teach you how to do YOUR work in the unforced rhythms of grace? If not, I invite you along. It’s way better this way.