Tag Archives: freedom

Pondering With a Coloring Book 2

So yesterday I posted about how unhappy I was with my color choices as I started a new page in Lisa Joy Samson’s Colors of Hope (on sale today on CBD). I mentioned that as I colored the  Lord revealed to me  thoughts about being creative and brave and willing to try new things in life.

Following is what I pondered as I continued coloring that particular page:

I’m still not done with this coloring page or its accompanying verse (When you call out to me and come to me and pray to me, I’ll hear you), but I gotta say, I’m loving how this is coming together–even the yellow and blue I didn’t like at first.

Today three things went through my head as I colored and chatted with Jesus. The first was simply joy. I think the happy colors brought that out! I worshiped, with little praise songs freely bouncing around in my head. I wanted to celebrate His creativity, love, power, and beauty. This mixed with the ponderings I posted yesterday led me to think about what it looks like to be a follower who surrenders fully, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, without forgetting that life has other gardens, too. Beautiful Eden gardens where we enjoy bounty and beauty and walk in intimacy with our creator.

I want to understand how to live as one who walks in surrender when called to hardship or a season of sacrifice–or even to live without getting angry at God when life sends me a curve ball.

AND I want to be a joyful woman who is adventurous and lifts her face to the breeze. Free. Focused on the glory of the life God desires for us. Believing in His goodness.

The second line of thought was about perspective. As I worked around the edges of my coloring page, I saw previous work differently. I was able to see little flaws I hadn’t noticed and fix them. They didn’t bother me. At this stage of the process I was far enough along to simply handle them. No stress. And as more spaces were colored I started getting a sense of the joy of the whole picture and how it fit together, not just the unfinished parts that made no sense at first. I don’t think I have to explain either of the metaphors popping out there!

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The third pondering was simple joy in God’s provision for play and refreshment as I color. In this season of my son’s upcoming wedding, my other son’s graduation, and my efforts to meet a May 1st book deadline, I’m incredibly grateful to the Lord for leading me to play through this devotional coloring book. What delight to see the happy colors, to be creative without need for perfection or plan, to just hang out with him.

The last many years He’s often pulled me out of my more serious approach to time with just the two of us. I’m learning to rest in His wisdom in leading our relationship. There are seasons for all kinds of relating with the Lord, and I love the deeper study times as well as the intensive prayer and journaling times, but He knows I can be too serious, too responsible, so He pulls me out for long walks or gives me a coloring book and asks me just to be in His presence.

To chat or not.

To play.

Isn’t our God good?!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this three blog series about the joys of coloring and the things Lisa and I learned while interacting with Colors of Hope. Next week I’ll be talking about navigating empty nest as I interview Vicki Caruana, who wrote, “The Joy of Letting Go.” This book releases April 1, no foolin’! Receiving an advanced copy of her book in the mail the week my oldest son married his beautiful bride was quite timely. (I hope to also blog about the wedding soon. It was a glorious day full of joy and peace! There is joy in letting go. 😉 )

Until Tomorrow,

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PS If you’re interested in hearing more about my journey out of the “quiet time” box of my past and into more freedom to be playful with the LORD, you can read about it at the end of my book, Soul Scents: Bloom, available now on Amazon.

Pondering with a Coloring Book 1

Yesterday I posted an interview with Lisa Joy Samson,  who created the beautiful Colors of Hope coloring book. It reminded me of some coloring epiphanies I had, so I thought I’d share them with you.

The first one was written a few weeks ago as I turned to the coloring book for gentle meditation and peaceful time with the LORD in a season where life seemed busy. Happy, but busy and in need of some quiet stress relief. I shared my thoughts on Facebook, but I thought maybe you’d like to see them too.

Hope it blesses you today.

Pondering 1 ~
So you know how sometimes you have a sense that the Lord is nudging your spirit? I think He’s offering me a coloring epiphany. lol It started yesterday. I was meditating on Romans 15:13 as I colored. My son Seth happened to be here briefly. I pointed to what I was working on and asked him what color I should use next. “Mom,” he said, “the great thing about coloring is there is no right or wrong choice.” (And yes, there was a twinkle in his eye that said, “really did you just ask that?”)

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So today I start a new picture. Honestly, I’m a little judgmental about every choice I make. Too much yellow. Why did I decide to add in blue? I wish I had a prettier shade of purple.

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But I keep going. I pray the accompanying Scripture, thanking God that He always hears my prayers.

Coloring one spot leads to another and soon there is yellow and blue in places I never planned. But the presence of the colors there helps me feel better about my earlier choices because the white spaces are being filled in a way that things are starting to look connected and whole.

The stirring comes again, and I try to listen, eventually putting down my colored pencils and grabbing my journal. I’m still processing, but what I think the Lord is nudging my heart about is freedom. Freedom to try a new color and trust that sometimes (I’m not talking morality here, just life) there is no right or wrong choice. He wants His kids to explore. To play. To create. But we’re afraid. We don’t want to make the wrong choice. So we stay stagnant and resist a more adventurous, colorful life. We’re afraid of too much yellow, you know?

I’ve always been a strong proponent of seeking God’s will. For many years my life verse was Psalm 32:8, which basically says God will lead us on the best path for our life, advising us and watching over us. So I asked Him this morning how living more free to explore fits with this thinking.

I’m still in process, but this is what I think I got. Sometimes we are so afraid of making a wrong choice that we can’t step out of the box the world has put us in. He is inviting us to adventure. To color. To playful exploration. But we’re bound up in our concerns about doing it right. Best. Not making a mistake.

Meanwhile there’s Jesus calling to us, “Wanna explore with me? There are beautiful pathways over here. This one has more flowers. That one has a great mountain view. Over there we can see the ocean! Which one sounds fun? Which one makes your heart leap with anticipation? Whatever you choose will be the best path, because we’ll be on it together!”

But we can’t even hear Him because we’re afraid to pick up that bright yellow. We keep walking, head down, not realizing we’re playing it safe, not best. We’re walking an old path, not a best path.

Back to the coloring book. It’s like those little spots that connect and lead to another spot are the paths I was thinking about above. And God created the whole coloring book after all. So when I get brave and choose something I’m not sure about, He just chuckles and thinks about how coloring right there with that color will connect with lines and shapes that will eventually color in white spaces I hadn’t even noticed and make the picture beautiful. I’m exploring. Having fun. Adventure. He’s enjoying watching His child play, and He loves her creativity. He comes and plays with me, sometimes suggesting a specific color, but often asking me which one I want to pick up.

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And all the while it’s the best pathway because we’re exploring together. Free to take chances. Free to create.

Free to play.

More Coloring Ponderings Tomorrow,

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Breaking Chains

You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons. ~ Isaiah 42:7 NLT

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No more let sins and sorrows grow

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found.

~ “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts

One of the events I most look forward to during the Christmas season is the hanging of the lights at the intersection near my home. When a gentle breeze stirs the branches, they seem to dance in the rhythm of my heartbeat, singing that my Light has come. Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let every heart prepare Him room! No more let sin and sorrow grow! He came to make His blessings flow!*

My heart hasn’t always sung at the thought of Jesus’ birth. There was the whole not being allowed to celebrate Christmas thing, but there was more to it. Though I accepted Christ at a young age, my understanding of the magnitude of this event was severely limited as was my grasp of Christ’s death and resurrection. I knew Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth to save me from my sins and make sure that I could spend eternity with the Father. But I was in my thirties before I began to truly grasp His transforming grace. If you’ve read the Soul Scents collection, you know my story.

Christianity meant a ticket to heaven and a long, hard struggle to walk the straight and narrow until I got there. It meant trying very hard and failing often, living under the bondage of failure. I felt I couldn’t live up to what I thought were God’s expectations of me. I didn’t pray enough, read my Bible enough, or witness enough. Motherhood was especially debilitating. I knew I failed there. I should discipline better, be more patient, play with them more, spend more time on their academics, pray for them more often, teach them more skillfully, be a more organized housekeeper . . . the list was never ending. Often I approached God with my head hung in shame, condemnation rolling over me.

Then there was that whole shame around failing my mother. Condemnation was a beast to be slain.

Somewhere I missed the verse that told me that God didn’t send Jesus to the world to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:17). Furthermore, the next verse, John 3:18 begins by saying that whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned!

I used to think these scriptures simply meant I wouldn’t go to hell. While that is a very good thing, it is a limited understanding of why Christ came. It’s not just the condemnation of the final judgment that Christ did away with, but also the condemnation in my daily life.

Everything I’ve done in the past, am doing now, or will do in the future is cleansed by Jesus’ blood. When God looks at me, He sees Jesus.

And Jesus is perfect.

These concepts are especially hard for those of us who were victims of gas-lighting or other emotional, verbal, or religious abuse.

As the year draws to a close and with it this collection of devotions, my heart cry is for your freedom and mine. And friend, freedom comes from Jesus and His glorious grace.

Have you ever really noticed verse three of the beautiful hymn, “O Holy Night”? There is a powerful phrases that says, “Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease.”**

What oppresses you? What holds you back? Where are you chained? Where in your life is there slavery to lies instead of free living in truth and grace?

Maybe, like me, you need to let go of striving, performance, perfectionism.

Maybe, like me, you’ve taken on false identities, things the enemy said to you that you believed.

Maybe, like me, there are some people you have to forgive if you’re going to move forward. Maybe you have to admit how bad it really was before you can completely let it go.

Maybe, like me, your failures eat at you. Your inability to be all you wanted to be pulls you down.

Maybe, like me, there are rooms in your heart you’ve refused to enter for years that need Jesus.

Maybe, like me, your scars and wounds have whispered shame and unworthiness and have tried to shut you down.

Oh sweet friend. Chains come in every size.

Give Him permission to reveal them, cut them apart, untangle them.

If you’re like my husband and me, you’ll need Him to start with the really big, thick ones. In your surrendered state You will make big choices. Like drawing difficult boundaries or leaving bad theology or forgiving someone whose actions were unthinkable. Then He’ll cut more chains by asking you to do something weird. Like write a book series or buy your first Christmas tree. And while He’s working on those really big, visible chains, He’ll also be working on the tiny ones in your heart. These are like golden necklace chains. They aren’t bad, but instead of adorning you for His glory, they somehow got all twisted into tiny knots, so He gently rubs the spots, untwists the golden lines, careful not to waste a single thing He plans to use for your joy and His.

Hallelujah!

Jesus broke the bondage of our heavy, chained souls. He freed us from the curse of condemnation from within and without. He spread His blessings as far as the curse was found. He broke generational strongholds and patterns of dysfunction. He saved us from the voices. He saved us from ourselves.

It’s a done deal. It’s ongoing glory.

All the while He whispers that you are worthy of His every effort. He doesn’t leave things undone, but faithfully works, as long as it takes, to show you how to live in the healing and freedom He purchased for you at the cross. He calls you to leave the crap behind and stand in the fullness of who He created you to be. He invites you to warmer climates and clean, open spaces where you can run and laugh. He longs for you to embrace His favor. There is no greater worship than surrendering to His love, than embracing His favor, than becoming all He created you to be.

As you drive through the twinkling lights in your neighborhood this Christmas season, remember that your darkness is pierced, your light has come. May our hearts prepare Him room, singing, “No more let sin and sorrows grow, / Nor thorns infest the ground; / He comes to make His blessings flow / Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found. . . .”

Joy to the world! Our Lord is come!

Precious Jesus, thank you for being the light that shines into the dark places, releasing me from sin and despair. You broke the slavery chains in my life. You continue to unravel knots and set me free. You placed me in a wide open space where the warmth of Your presence lights my way. I commit to worshiping You by embracing Your favor. By living as one who is loved, forgiven, and free to dance in joy. I give You all my “not good enoughs” and simply rest in the deep, penetrating grace of Jesus. I let those who’ve wronged me off the hook, handing them over to You for Your healing justice. Thank You, Father God, for the cross of Christ. I trust You to make my heart move with Jesus’ life rhythm. After all, He lives within me, and our hearts beat as One.

*Excerpts from “Joy to the World,” text by Isaac Watts

**Excerpt from “O Holy Night,” text by John S. Dwight

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 see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

Breaking Free to a Spirit of Adventure

“You’re like my dog,” my agent, Rachelle Gardner, said.1 thin

Not exactly the way you hope a conversation with someone this important to you will begin. At my humorous, self-deprecating response she quickly assured me she adores her dog. Then she got very serious.

“As long as there is a trail my dog runs free. But as soon as we’re in a open field my dog becomes unsure. I’m offering the gift of freedom. My dog could be exploring and running at will but holds back.”

I’ve pondered her words often, especially lately. I sense God saying, “There’s your field. Fields really. Run free. Plant. Explore. It’s all yours to discover!”

And some days I do.

Other days I seek the safety of the trail. Of the KNOWN. Of a list. Someone else’s box.

It goes back that old tape that says I have to do everything perfectly. That says there is only ONE right way. That tells me I better be careful, or I’ll get my hand slapped.

I was mad at God this week.

I’d tried to run free, and I thought He slapped my hand. The voices in my head were louder than they’d been in a long time, telling me I was doing it all WRONG.

After a lot of tears, some prayer, and a couple of good conversations with my hubby and a best friend I see it differently. God never slapped my hand. He never told me I was doing it wrong. Those were the old voices of religion and perfectionism and fear and . . . the enemy of forward momentum.

The Voice of Love said what He always does. That He loves me, His special girl. That He cheers for me. That I could stop striving, trying to do it RIGHT, and run free.

In joy.

“See the fields?” Love whispered. And understanding flashed as I envisioned open fields as far as the eye could see. Fertile fields of hungry earth. Waving grain. Lush green rows in some, wildflowers in others, and emptiness with dry cracked earth in another. All mine to explore. Places to mingle with what was already planted. Places to scatter my little seeds of hope and freedom. Pour water on thirsty ground.

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During a time of quiet reflection last night I understood the struggle. This week was simply another molting, a shedding of too small skin. And as it fell away to make room for new growth I reverted to vulnerable, unsure me. The dog clinging to Master instead of running free in the gift offered. And I knew I was okay. That the journey was okay. That shedding is good, even when accompanied by a few tears.

Adventure_Sports_Podcast_logo_125x125Then this morning.

Oh this morning!

A podcast where I was a guest aired. My own responses danced over me. Adventure! I am free to live a life of adventure. Love has been working every day, all my life, to entice me to joyful freedom.

This podcast is full of metaphors from my own experiences about the journey to freedom. It shouts out God’s heart for me, for all of us, calling for a life that is stronger, freer, and full of adventure. It talks about how dropping the weight in my body helped me rediscover a spirit of adventure in all of life.

How about you? Any voices trying to pin you down and hold you back? Are you in another molting stage, shedding a skin that’s grown too tight? What choice can you make TODAY for freedom?

Join me. Let’s break free to that spirit of adventure. Adventure is more fun with a friend.

Maybe the interview will encourage you, too. Come on over to the Adventure Sports Podcast where I talk about Breaking Free to a Spirit of Adventure.

a great quote to go with podcast

A Sacred Space

His voice broke as he hugged his son.

Emotion from my steady-Eddy.

“I’m proud of you,” he says. Then he is wrapped in the long arms of the teenager who now towers above his dad. A manly bear-hug.

Our son’s face softens, his smile one of pure delight.

IMAG0234It seems funny to me–how this moment, this thing that once raised our eyebrow–today provides a sacred place.

He is only seventeen and needed our signature.

When he first asked for a tattoo for his birthday, I gave the party-line answer. “A decision this permanent should be made when you can sign for yourself. One more year.”IMAG0241

Then I tipped the scale the other way with my question, “What do you want and why?”

“A tattoo of the wristband they gave the men at church. It’ll be a reminder that I choose God and am determined to be a man of integrity.”

“That’s really cool, Sam.’ My resistance faded. “Maybe we should talk to dad.”

And so today we stood together in a giant hug, the three of us wrapped in the hallowed spaces of a tattoo shop.

And hubby’s voice shook just a little as he looked into this baby boy’s eyes and declared his pride in the man before him.

Another boy becoming.

Another young man finding his own way with faith and temptation and questions and answers all in the context of seeking relationship with the Creator.IMAG0237

Across the room sat David, getting the same tattoo, standing (figuratively) shoulder-to-shoulder with Sam. A brother thing from this newest sibling, this gift of marriage.

Our daughter divided her time between these two of her men, watching the artists at work. Solidarity flowed between all five of us.

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David’s new tattoo is placed below the tattoo that says, “love.” He and Sarah got them while they were dating, on the night they went to a concert to raise money for, “To Write Love on Her Arms,” a non-profit dedicated to helping the hurting.

The old Christian box Jerry and I lived in didn’t have room for these sacred moments.

But this new freedom of seeking God, not a cultural mindset, allows for such expression.

Today a simple band of black and red reminds these men who they are and Whose they are.

Someday Another will declare Who He is, “And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”*

Riding with Sam as we drove home I said, “I’m so happy.”

His grin was wide. “Why?”

“I think because I feel your joy, and it overwhelms me.”

In reflection I know it was all of that and more. A Dad loving his son. A son knowing he is accepted. A mom watching the youngest take another step into the fullness of who he is.

A man forming before my eyes.

The delight in freedom.

Freedom to be who we are and to express it.

Until Next Time,

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*Revelation 19:16

 

 

 

 

 

Expressing All that Excitement!

“Guess what? Guess what? Guess what?” IMAG0120

My boys responded with the teenage eye roll.

Maybe I tend toward the melodramatic, but hey, a girl’s gotta express all that excitement.

This morning it was over the working burner in my stove.

Time again to be vulnerable about a “private” subject. Since 2013 I shared here about losing weight inside and out. I’ve mentioned periodically our struggle with money.

There it is. The taboo word. Money.

Always paired with the word struggle.

But as I’ve lost weight Jerry and I have also fought to lose the poverty mentality. The attitude that money is always pain and struggle and worry. That there won’t be enough.

I admitted last week that we had some really hard times in the years surrounding Jerry’s near death, times when I couldn’t get groceries. During this season my stove went out. We found a free one on Craig’s list, but the front glass was broken in the oven. Soon after the main burner of the stove started working on only one setting: high.

This morning I put turkey bacon in my skillet and used my favorite burner on medium. MEDIUM! Hallelujah. See, little by little, (and sometimes huge project by huge project), the nagging things that have made me feel pushed down are being fixed, replaced, repainted, re-purposed.

It’s amazing what a new oven door or fresh coat of paint or new fabric on old pillows does to that weary, poverty mindset.

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Picked a nice grey accented by white for my entryway.

 

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The walls are “stone white” and the trim a high gloss white. The china cabinet used to be bright blue, but it is now the color of the wall opposite it. The back of those grey pillows is the original blue fabric, which makes them feel custom made!

Yesterday we got new carpet. NEW CARPET throughout downstairs. The old carpet was original to the house 30 years ago. And I always hated the color. LOL.

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it’s so soft and squishy!!!!!!

Today? New shelves for the freezer. After the old ones broke I was determined to not be angry every time something fell out. It took a while to afford replacements, but thanks to that $75 needed, this is no longer an issue.

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Can’t count the times that jar of yeast almost hit my toes!

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Toes are feeling much safer now!

A friend tells me, “inch by inch it is a cinch.”

And it’s true. A little effort and money here. A little more there. It’s getting done. The upgrades long overdue in my home are actually happening.

The temptation has been to not even start these home projects. There are many, and we are weary. To be candid the first project was thrust upon us, and we had no choice.

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Coming home to old wall paper gone and new sheet rock hung.

But over the last three months much has been accomplished, and I have a peace about my home that is natural. It’s a peace I fought for, sometimes several times a day, when the need for repairs or the lack of beauty threatened to send me into despair.

During those lean years I changed patterns in how I lived, hanging out in rooms that needed less work so I didn’t get pulled down by the bad carpet or old paint. I cut fresh roses and brought them in from outside or made cloth napkins from old fabric to add beauty to each day. I lit a candle. Played some Beethoven. Used the pretty dishes. Cleaned out clutter.

Tried to give the family good memories by working hard to make a big meal even when I felt overwhelmed with the improvisation of cooking without a trip to the store.

We learned a lot in those years. The kids don’t take a gift for granted. Their hearts are tender when they see a need. They work hard. (They have some wounds, too, which I ask my Lord to heal.)

I learned to pray hard. That even in the worst of times I could find something to share with someone else. To find joy in little things, like those 1,000 gratitudes I wrote in marker on my ugly wall. (By the way, it took about seven coats of paint to cover that!)

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I learned to treasure the gift of laughter, of a peaceful home life, of friendship and walks in the sunshine.

The best things in life really can’t be bought.

I learned that God cares about little things. Like when I craved mangos in my weight loss shakes, but couldn’t afford them. I prayed for them and was given a whole flat that were on the verge of being too ripe. I cut those mangos up, froze them, and enjoyed them in my shakes for weeks!

My journey has not been as intense as others. A friend of mine went without food for some time as did her son. Both left the bag of a few cookies on the counter for the other to eat, choosing hunger over taking the last bit of food. I haven’t been hungry like that. But my own journey was significant for me. I fought hard to find joy and to rise above the broken things and broken places in my home and in my heart. Sometimes I cried. Many times I found victory after the tears.

As we’ve worked together in my home I’ve learned new skills like caulking, painting, and using a power tool. This knowledge also helps me rise above my circumstances to create the beauty I crave in my home.

Today I am grateful.

For the lessons learned.

For feeling like I can breathe.

For the fact that I shopped for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving meal without worrying if I would be able to pay for what I need.

I’m grateful for a new fence, new carpet, painted walls, working burners, shelves, and oven fronts. For a new-to-me couch and end tables. For pillows a friend and I sewed that spruced up furniture I already had. For new dish clothes and new shoes.

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I’m grateful for children who dug out old fence and scrapped off old wall paper and filled in holes in sheet rock. For a friend who contributed resources and taught us and for other friends who gave of their time and skills. For a husband who refused to abandon me to finishing projects even when he was bone tired from an eleven hour shift at work. Who fixed my stove burner and installed that new oven door. Who, with our son, helped hang shelves.

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Notice the old carpet! NOT my favorite color.

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Loving that new carpet beneath my new shelves!

I’m grateful for a God who is returning to us the things stolen during the hard season. For a God who cared even about the perfect painting to set the theme for my remodeled room and the 50% off candles that tied the colors of the new sectional together with the blues and greens of the walls.

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For a God who is teaching Jerry and me to live outside of the fear of not having enough and to trust Him as He teaches our hands to create the provision we need.

All our circumstances have not changed. But we are moving into a new season. We are dropping the weight of a poverty mindset.

We are learning a new place of freedom.

How about you, my friend? What’s your relationship with money? Is it friend or foe? Is there stuff at your house that drives you to despair? If so, what CAN you change? You might not be able to buy new carpet, but how about covering some old pillows or cleaning out a clutter pile?

If you’ve never had old carpet, old furniture, or old paint, have you realized what a gift that is? What about the intangibles like love and joy and peace?

May the God of all fill your (and mine!) heart to overflowing with gratitude and joy.

May He empower us all to lose the weight of the money issue and embrace the truth that He has provided and will continue to do so.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!

Until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

 

 

 

Free Indeed

Never before have I heard anything that encapsulates my journey with God in one quick message better than this does. I don’t know if you can experience it like I did without the years of journeying through the questions I had behind the concepts taught here, but if you want to know my passions and belief statement, here it is folks.

I wish I could embed it, but I can’t figure out how. So please visit Flatirons Church for the whole service. If you prefer to listen to only the message rather than watch the whole service, you can do that, too.

A little background on the subject: This series is based on the Galatians, a book in the New Testament of the Bible. It was written by Paul, one of the first guys who traveled around telling others about Jesus coming to save the world. Paul was raised a Jew, and after Jesus’s death actually killed people who believed in Jesus, thinking He was doing God’s work. But then God revealed Himself to Paul, and Paul became of one the most prolific writers about the new order Jesus came to bring to earth.

A little background on me: Perhaps the reason I’m so passionate about this particular message is in my early years I longed to know God but became caught up in religion. I felt enormous pressure to do it all “right.” I talked before about how my need to be perfect was incredibly damaging to me. You can read more of my story here. In my mid-thirties I went through some deep healing. During this season I awoke one morning to the Spirit whispering to my heart, “It is for freedom I have set you free.”

These words are found in Galatians, the book this series at my church is based upon. That morning I jumped out of bed and grabbed my Bible and read the whole passage: “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free, therefore don’t return to a yoke of slavery.”

And that has been my goal ever since–to walk with the Lord in the light of His acceptance and freedom, not caught up in trying to follow rules or please people, but to become immersed in His love and unconditional acceptance and to discover how to live a life that offers it to others without destroying myself. Part of freedom is learning boundaries. Much of freedom is learning there is only One to please, and all others fall underneath that first goal. Resting in His Love, not my efforts, is the best part of life.

Wandering and Pondering

There is no goal but movement.

No map dictating the journey.

No planned route.

On the days I set aside time to exercise for at least an hour, I simply walk forward.

I haven’t had much time for free wandering. Or I haven’t made it lately. My routes have been quicker and planned to burn 2-300 calories.

But today the wanderlust hit again.

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I thought I’d harvested all the vistas within an hour’s foot travel. That my neighborhood had been explored.

But today I gave myself an hour.

I took a turn I hadn’t taken before.

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And as my feet moved, I pondered last year’s wanderings.

Was the Spirit chuckling as I meandered day after day, making unexpected discoveries? Did rub eager hands waiting for the day HE nudged me to knock on a stranger’s door to see if they needed food?  the day a pastor I’d never met asked me to pray for him, or when I felt a spiritual confrontation like a physical assault when God led me to a gathering to walk through and pray?

Did He do this on purpose? Train my inner person to loosen up by first freeing my feet?

I’d almost forgotten the breath-taking wonder of taking off out the front door not knowing what He was going to lead me to do next.

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Until today.

When I once again pounded the sidewalk realizing this brave meandering in my familiar neighborhood has done more than release my body. The courage I’ve found here, just walking to lose weight, shook loose some sort of interior control mechanism so I could find courage to move forward in life.

So I could figure stuff out that I hadn’t yet.

Would last week’s epiphany have come if last year’s walking had not?

Today I walked the familiar route past the library and the park and kept going.

At first it was more of the same. Fences around a trailer park. Not especially exciting.

I determined to see beauty.

I noticed the homes with rosebushes, big canopied tents sheltering tables and grills. Heard music flowing. Brushed beneath the fresh green leaves of a huge tree.

And then came the surprise. A park I’d forgotten with a nature path I didn’t know existed.

Off I meandered, gravel crunching beneath my feet, curving through verdant grass. First down a hill, then following a stream, then on paved walk into a new neighborhood.

The houses and streets were unfamiliar, though I knew I’d driven through it further north.

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I kept walking, thinking I would find my way back to a road I knew.

But a nudge sent me turning right when I meant to go straight.

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Such a lovely street unfolded before me with home after home with beautiful landscaping, and all those flowers made my heart full.

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More unexpected treasures.

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Found just because I moved forward.

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Flowing with the promptings of my heart.

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In freedom.

And now that I’m learning to flow forward in life, not just in my neighborhood meandering, what else might I discover in this place?

This freedom place.

Until next time,

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Freedom to Move Forward Part II

south sudanI did something brave.

Different.

Unexpected.

(If you haven’t read yesterday’s post, this one won’t mean as much, so check it out!)

Just over a week I was surprised by the desire to visit a third world country as part of a team reaching out to spiritual leaders of a new country learning its freedom.

While I have long desired to serve others and even wished I could meet special people, like my World Vision “daughters,” I’ve never been one to jump at the idea of this sort of thing. Europe I’ve dreamed of visiting. Third world countries? Not so much.

But I couldn’t resist the truth: I was interested, longing to go, even.

But my mind went other directions, and I let the thought drop for over an hour until I “accidentally” stumbled right into the informational meeting about this trip.

Again intrigued, I stayed. Longing. Wondering.

I came home and went on-line to check out the application procedures. My computer wouldn’t let me into the system, and I walked away frustrated. Ended up in bed sick the next day and dragging for several after. But always in the back of my mind the desire lingered.

I prayed. Asked friends to pray. It seemed too big a decision to make without one of those huge, red check marks in the sky beside the “yes” (not that I’ve ever had that exact cosmic direction, but you know what I mean).

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As real life got in the way I assumed this, like many of my ideas (I’m pretty impulsive and interested in many thing!), would fall away.

Until Sunday, the deadline for that application.

Sunday Jerry and I took a drive in the mountains, lingered over a picnic lunch, and explored all the stuff 20140629_132412of yesterday’s post. As we descended back to the Colorado plains in our little silver car we were freer than when we began the climb. Hopeful for next steps. Excited about living outside the fear of getting it wrong.

We hit I-70, just below Genesee where the view opens up and reveals Denver far below, and I caught my breath.

“South Sudan,” I whispered.

“So it’s back to that,” said Jerry.

“I don’t have to wait for a cosmic sign. I can apply.”

And so I did.

God had revealed the freedom to move forward, to follow that desire inside of me calling out for attention.

To do something brave.

Different.

Hard and unexpected and adventurous.

To do it with His blessing even without a shocking confirmation of His will.

I could simply go for it.

Something that might turn out breath-takingly beautiful. Something that might hurt. Or even be dangerous. Certainly uncomfortable.

Something bigger than me.

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I came home, and my stupid computer (I say this with great affection) still wouldn’t let me into the application process. I stumbled a moment. Was it a sign I shouldn’t do this? I shoved the thought away and went with the forward motion of my heart.

Jerry offered me his computer, and I was in on the first try.

I don’t know yet if I will be chosen to even interview for one of the spots, much less as part of this team.

But I had the FREEDOM to try. The FREEDOM to reach way beyond who I am to do something I’ve never once before imagined.

The tears pool in my eyes as I type.

Where can I go in my newly-understood freedom of forward movement? What possibilities lie ahead that I never before dreamed? I have a catch in my chest where the breath should come out. It seems so crazy wonderful big.

This blog started as an inside-out journey to physical weight loss.

And that freedom plays into this one.

About a year and a half ago I was out for my walk. The pounds had dropped away. I had another 20 to go. I trotted downhill when blindsided by the urge to run. I couldn’t resist. I let those feet fly, pounding the pavement like I hadn’t done in years and years and years.

I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to run! “What in the world are You doing with me, God?” I whispered. “What are you preparing me for?”

I heard no answer, but felt his chuckle in the breeze upon my face.

At 210 pounds the idea of the sort of venture I applied for on Sunday would have been immediately dismissed.

But I am freed for forward movement. Free in my body. In my heart. In my mind. In my spirit.

I couldn’t sleep Sunday night. I just kept soaring.

Wishing you a freedom discovery of your own,

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(South Sudan pictures taken from Wiki.)

Freedom to Move Forward

It’s like breathing deeper. Or flying. Or laughing for a long time.

This new sense of freedom.

Crazy how the layer must peel away.

And in each new layer of freedom how the heart soars.broadmoor 10

How I think I’ve arrived.

Only to find out weeks or years or months later that there’s a deeper level not yet lived out.

Last year it was in my body.

In my thirties it was in my mind, emotions, and spirit.

Yesterday it was a paradigm shift again, but more than that it was a very real change in how I do life.

Here’s the thing. Until my thirties much of my effort was centered around being good. I wanted to be good for God. To do it all right. As I’ve written before, that almost destroyed me, that crazy realm of perfectionism. And in one of those oh so sweet moments amazing moments, the God of the Universe chose to whisper to me, “Paula, all your life you’ve tried to be good. Get to know me, and I will make you good.”

And thus began the journey of letting go of the self-pressure to perform and clinging to the promise that the God who created me would complete His work in me and make me something better than I was.

At that time I remember thinking that life was really just about surrendering to the One. Moving when He directed. Instead of a myriad of rules I couldn’t keep straight, figure out, or live up to, there was one guiding word in my life: surrender.

And here I sit, about ten years later realizing that there was another layer of performance that had not yet been cleaned out. And that there have been times I’ve been paralyzed by it.

See, when life was about following the rules, there was a lot of pressure to do it right. When life became about following the Spirit, I wanted to do it right.

Somewhere in these last ten years I slipped back into the old rut of striving with a new face called living out God’s will.

Don’t get me wrong. I still want to live in God’s will.

Hang in here with me so I can explain.

Sometimes I’ve gotten so stressed about my ability to hear God or discern His will that I was held back in fear that I hadn’t heard correctly. Here’s an example:

Last fall my fabulous agent and I made the decision for me to focus a few years on writing category romance. It’s not the great American novel, nor it is the life-changing non-fiction work I dream of writing, but it is a genre I can write in the chaos of having children at home (or launching into the next stage, which frankly is way more momma work that I ever dreamed). It’s also a genre where I’ve been traditionally published and won some recognition.

So last fall I wrote a romance.

For the first half of the book I fought myself constantly. Somewhere deep inside I wondered if I was in God’s will. There had been a direction in my heart, wisdom in counsel, but not one of the rare, audible stamps of approval from Him. I doubted my decision, which made writing unnecessarily difficult. About half way through the story I began to see the unmistakable fingerprints of God flowing in the threads of my story, and my heart was at rest. Unfortunately I spent way too much energy on second-guessing myself before I finally came to grips that I was okay, and God was fine with my choice.

The last month or so I’ve been meandering through a book by Graham Cooke. I read a bit at night, pink highlighter in hand, and wonder if I’m retaining the concepts as I fall asleep. Over the last year I’ve also been memorizing the 14th chapter of John in the Bible, wondering if those deep magnificent concepts could somehow go even deeper than my cognitive understanding and change me. Wondering. Not knowing if I was learning or changing or growing or not.

But God is faithful to change us even when we don’t know we’re being changed. HE never stops working in us, even when we don’t know it is happening. Evidently my Spirit and His were processing when I didn’t even realize it because yesterday it all came together for me, and suddenly I felt it–that breathless, wonderful, want-to-laugh-out-loud-in-joy sense of new-found freedom.

It wasn’t even very different from how I’ve been striving to live, it just took out the striving, which is really what living with and for and in Jesus is all about, right?

Peace. Rest. Confidence. Joy!

Here’s the bright and brilliant and breath-taking truth: I am freed for forward movement.

Duh, right?

Here’s what I mean. My focus, my “job,” my only real goal in this walk with God is (or should be) getting to know Him. Growing in intimacy.

But I’ve spent way too much time focused on getting guidance, on what I’m supposed to DO instead of who I am in and with HIM and who HE is in and with me and who we are together.

Relationship. Beautiful, glorious, breath-taking relationship.

The kind where you enjoy life together. You talk about stuff. You laugh and celebrate and sometimes cry together. You simply BE in oneness.

See, when I am focused on relationship I’m not striving to figure out how to live life, I’m simply living it! Moving forward as I feel in my heart I am to move. Always pliable, surrendering to His nudges, but not striving to know His will, not struggling with decisions, not paralyzed by fear I might have misheard or made a wrong choice.

Just moving–walking, leaping, dancing, running, whatever the mood of the task or moment–forward.

I can trust that when the God wants to redirect or draw my attention to something I haven’t yet discovered, He will. Jesus said His sheep know His voice, and God told the prophet Isaiah, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'”

I can trust my God to lead me. I can trust myself to know His Voice (and HIM to straighten me out if I miss it). I’m a grown-up and free to walk forward directed by who I am and who HE is in me. God doesn’t want to micro-manage me. He doesn’t want me to be afraid of every little misstep.

He wants me FREE and in motion!

The wonder of that–the joy of moving forward without constant questioning and too much striving to be sure I take perfect steps–makes me want to run forward and be brave and do new things and be comfortable with the old things I’m already doing.

And I have. But I’ll save that story for tomorrow.

May freedom fill your heart too,

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