LOVE in the Shadows

Finding love in the shadows….

What is the thing in your life that seems like it hovers over you and creates a sense of looming darkness? Is it fear, finances, broken relationships, illness, the unknown…. Sometimes the circumstances of life move in and seem like the giant we cannot overcome.

Walking in the valley of shadows is an unsettling place to be. Most of us are uncomfortable there. We can tend to focus on the lack of light and the thing hovering over us. Your perspective in the shadows of life is what will determine how you handle it. A shadow is only a shadow because there is a light source behind it. God has not disappeared or let you go. As a matter of fact he is offering you a covering of a different kind. He offers you and I the shadow of His wings. He offers protection and comfort.

Finding the love in the shadows is a way of experiencing God in a whole new way. In the shadows our strength is weak but He is strong. In the Shadows the love of God can conquer our fear. In the shadows we can find the rest our Savior offers. In the shadows we are reminded of the most important parts of life. LOVE in the shadows is deeply personal.

If you find yourself in the shadows today, hold on. God is the light creating the shadow. As you sit in the shadow of His wings, rest in the comfort of a Heavenly Father that offering a love you cannot find anywhere else.

Change

CHANGE is inevitable. How you deal with it it up to YOU!

How do you deal with CHANGE?

As the seasons change around us there are times in our lives when the season change within us.  We go from single to married, no kids to kids, chaos to empty nest, career shifts, loss of loved ones, etc.  We all experience change but how we deal with it is something unique to each of us.

Ever since I was a little kid, I have been no stranger to MAJOR change.  Growing up I lost one house to a fire that left us homeless and one house to a gas explosion that left us homeless again.  I graduated college and my parents had moved to another state and I realized there was no home to go back to and it was a ‘make it’ or ‘break it’ time in my life.  I wanted children and God gave us triplets making us a family of 6 overnight.  I studied to be a school teacher and God led me down the path of becoming a Pastor.  Today I stand at the door of change once again….  The path ahead is not completely clear and there many emotions at any given time.

Change can leave us feeling insecure, exhausted, confused, troubled, and anxious to name a few.  Some keep so busy they don’t deal with the HEART of the change within.  When we experience major change, we can tend to ask WHY too long and never get to the WHAT’s NEXT?

I am no expert and I am far from perfect at living through change, but if you find yourself being face to face with life altering change, here are some words of advice from someone accustomed to it:

  • PRAY – God gives and He takes away for His perfect will for your life.  You may find this hard to believe in the midst of difficult times, but the more you dwell on the idea that your Heavenly Dad is FOR you and not just messing with you, the more peace you will find.  He will guide you, protect you and provide for you.  Remember His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).  Talking to others as you manage through change is helpful but don’t neglect to talk to the ONE who created you and has good plans for you. (PS – He can handle it if you are a little upset – just don’t get stuck there).
  • SURRENDER – God does not require us to be perfect to come to Him.  What He desires is for us to be surrendered and dependent upon His wisdom not our own.  You may be broken or worn down by the circumstances of your change but bring your brokeness to the Lord, He will not reject you. “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”  Psalm 51:17(NLT)
  • THINK FORWARD not backwards:  When big change occurs, we sometimes can get stuck in the web of all that we are losing or all that seems too big to handle when in reality, we can’t always see clearly.  Thinking backwards only causes us to stay in an emotional state of grief or denial.  I recommend setting a goal for yourself to list out 3 FMA’s (forward moving actions) each day.  This will keep your heart and mind guarded from getting stuck in the muck of self-pity and it will actually help you move toward the direction God may be calling.
  • LET GO of the OPO’s – People react to change in all different ways.  When we begin to compare how we are responding to the change we face with the way others would deal or think we should deal, we get derailed and lose sight of what God is doing.  Letting go of the OPO’s (OTHER PEOPLE’s OPINIONS) during a time of change is important to keeping focused on the ONE voice that can actually transform you and your circumstances.

Change is part of our human experience.  No one escapes it.  God uses change to shape us and prepare us for WHAT’s NEXT!

A favorite of mine and a reminder that the only thing that NEVER changes is our God!

Band of Brothers

I had Six brothers growing up.  Six biological brothers who would love and protect me.  Then, as life dictates, we grew up and moved on.  Along the way and through some difficult experiences in my life, men became unsafe.  As a result, I clumped them altogether and emotionally decided that there were not even ‘a few good men’ out there.  This lie I bought into was reinforced by media and a society that continually breaks down authentic manhood and portrays men as stupid, greedy and overly sexed.  Buying into this lie just made me angry and kept me from experiencing the strength of real men.  Every woman wants the HERO.   I needed a hero – I desperately wanted to be wrong about men. Every woman wants her heart to be seen and to be cherish.  I was desperate for my heart to be seen, protected and cherished again.

Thankfully, God was out to change my mind on men.  It began with my husband.  When I met Doug he was a genuine ‘guys guy’ who worked hard, loved to hunt, build things with his hands and was a risk taker.  He was compassionate and generous.  He loved to help others and genuinely respected them.  I fell hard.  Over the years, my husband has gently led me to become more the woman God has created me to be. He has never given up on me and continually shows me that I am valuable and cherished.  He has encouraged and pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of and has a knack for “kicking me back into play” when I feel like quitting.  When we committed our lives to Christ, he became not only my husband but my brother in Christ.  He is a reflection of Ephesians 5:25-28.

When I stepped into ministry, God began to add to the brotherhood.  God literally surrounded me with men.  Men that continually transformed my thinking.  God still sees fit to give me Six Brothers.  Six spiritual brothers who love and protect me.   God has personally gifted me in life with the presence of strong men who have reflected His image over and over because He knew just what I needed.   All these incredible men that God has placed in my life have not only helped me to know the truth and change my perspective, but have given me the strength to persevere and become more of who I am supposed to be.  I am so grateful.

Here are a few things I have learned about strong men from my Band of Brothers:

  • They set themselves apart for God and His purposes.
  • They lead by example and with humility.  
  • They are not afraid to be second.
  • They speak up for truth even when it costs them personally. 
  • They seek wisdom – not of this world or of themselves but of God.
  • They are respectful to all.
  • They appreciate beauty and know that it is a gift from God.
  • They say what they mean and mean what they say.
  • They are not afraid to fight for what is good and true – even to death.

I could go on… but I will end with this:  

This Christmas, I thank God first and foremost for the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ, who rescued my soul.  I thank God for the personal gift He gave to me in my Band of Brothers who have reflected the image of my savior.   I thank God for the gift that I can now honestly share with my daughters the reality of Godly men.

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Peace with tears…

We all make 100’s of decisions everyday; from what to wear, to what to eat, to what we say and to whom, when and how.  So many of our decisions are not 100% thought out.  We do things because that’s what we’ve always done; I drink coffee every morning because that is what I have been doing for the last 25 years.  Some decisions are more conscience and deliberate; I will get on that treadmill today because I need to change my health habits.

I think the toughest decisions are when we have to prioritize and choose that the one thing is more important in the grand scheme of things than the other thing.  When we are faced with a tough decision like this, the end result is a degree of disappointment for someone, somehow.  Do I choose the 88th birthday party of a parent in failing health or the state semi-final game for my High School daughter?  You could argue that both are important.  The dad may not be here for his 89th birthday.  The daughter has only one more season before she graduates and this is a once in a lifetime experience for her. Where, God, do my priorities lie here?  I want both but I have to choose.

Ever been in a situation where you had to choose and you had to take a look at your priorities?  It doesn’t happen too often that the circumstances are so drastic but everyday we are making decisions of priority.  We all have the same number of hours in a day.  What we do with that time is a reflection of our priorities.  Sometimes big, tough decisions can make us realize we need to have our priorities more in focus everyday.   Maybe God lets those painful decisions come before us to remind us that our time here is temporary and, for now, we HAVE to choose so choose well because you don’t get the time back.

So where do you go for wisdom?   I used to just rely on myself or what everyone else thought I should do, usually leaving me feeling stressed regardless of how I decided because deep down I knew it was a crap shoot.  But why not go straight to the ONE who knows everything, created everything and yes has allowed the tough decision to enter into the story?   God understands every circumstance and knows where every life will be 5, 10, 50 years from now.  Asking God is a great place to start.

  • Trust He knows what is best for you (whether or not you “feel” it).  Proverbs 3:5-6
  • Then ask and listen.  It may take a bit to hear him correctly because it takes time to get out of your own way when emotions are involved.
  • Trust, ask, listen THEN obey.  The result will be peace in the midst of the sadness of a tough choice.

I won’t get the time back with my dad or my daughter this Saturday.  The game and the party happen almost at the same hour.  I have to choose.  The Lord knows my daughter, my dad and me.  He knows what is best for each one of us.  When I prayed and listened – I realized I may just be missing my dad’s last birthday party.  But those are my thoughts.  Only God knows, so I will TRUST Him no matter what.  When I called my dad to let him know I would miss his party, his immediate response was, “Pammy, we have had our time together, you don’t get those parenting years back and Abbey needs her mom there.  I love you!”

Peace with tears today.  Thank you God.

Don’t Wish the Time Away

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As a parent there are times when I feel like I am experiencing a series of losses – a letting go a little at a time.  They slowly learn to crawl away, toddle, walk and then run. They ask your opinion less and look to others more.  They become less reliant and more independent.  But that’s the point right?  Well, yes that is the point of parenting – to teach them to get along without you.

Along the way though, there are times when you feel overwhelmed with the task; too much to do & too little time, the whining, the crying, the fighting, the craziness and you think, “I just can’t do this anymore.”  You dream of days when they would be past a certain stage and you won’t have to deal anymore.  But then you remember they will grow up and move past this stage.  And there in lies the tension.

A good friend told me, “Don’t wish the time away, you will miss it someday.”  I tried to remember that along the way and tried to savor even the moments I thought I might explode.  It has helped me keep focused on those times I wondered why I signed up for all this.  Times when the days seem so long.

Yesterday, my 16 year old got her license.  As I watched her drive away with the instructor, my heart went with her.  Like an old movie reel, I remembered the day she was born.  Oh how I felt like my heart was suddenly on the outside and had just been placed in my arms, wrapped in a tiny bundle.  Each milestone since then has been a lesson of deep understanding that she is her own person, unique and separate, belonging first to God and then to me.  He trusted us with her and has used her to teach us things only a child can teach a parent.  These are the times when the years seem so short!

So if you are a parent reading this and having one of ‘those’ days or maybe just floating ‘through’ the everyday, remember don’t wish the time away.  Pay attention to it all.  God has given you an invaluable gift in your children.  He is using you to shape them and them to shape you.

This song made me cry yesterday!

Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation vs. Restoration

A great sermon this past weekend has sparked some good conversation in my home.

Forgiveness is different from reconciliation is different from restoration.

Forgiveness takes only ONE person – me.  I can forgive anyone from my end.  I don’t need to hold a special meeting or have a long conversation.  Heck, the person doesn’t even need to be alive.  Forgiveness doesn’t say whatever it was that happened is right or ok or even forgotten.  We are still human, so forgetting is not an option.  Forgiveness says I will not hold on to it.   I can decide to let God be the judge and jury and just let go.  I don’t need to wait until I “feel” like forgiving.  There are a lot of choices I make that I don’t “feel” like.   Fact is, I may need to make the choice and let my ‘feelings’ catch up.   Maybe I have to forgive the same thing over and over until it finally settles into my heart.  Forgiveness is canceling the debt and setting yourself free.

Reconciliation is TWO people deciding to forgive and move toward one another.   Forgiveness is the prerequisite for reconciliation, but not a guarantee for reconciliation.  Reconciliation does not mean all the issues get resolved and trust is automatically restored.  Reconciliation is a willingness on both parties to let go and move toward harmony.  I can be reconciled to someone and agree to disagree on things and still be civil and enjoy the moments of life together.  I can be reconciled to someone and not have full trust.  I can be in the same room, share the same experiences and care for a person I am reconciled to without inviting them into the deeper parts of my life.

Restoration is TWO people deciding to forgive and a rebuilding of trust with the goal to RENEW the relationship. Restoration takes time and experience; no easy pass, no quick fix.  Truth is – trust is something that is built over time.  It can be broken in an instant but takes time to develop.  Trust is what we all want to have and what we all want to give in our most important relationships.  My relationship is restored when I can once again be vulnerable and trust.

FORGIVENESS is the foundation to dealing with broken relationships.  Jesus died for the forgiveness of every sin.  Jesus reconciled us back to God.  Jesus restores us to a right relationship with our Heavenly Father.  When we accept Christ, we can freely approach the throne of God not because we are good but because we are forgiven, reconciled and restored.

If Christ has done this for me, I have no excuse not to forgive.

Get Over It!

Like everyone else, I have been the victim of another person’s sin.  In some of those circumstances, I have remained the victim for years.  By learning to cope instead of deal, by choosing to go around the pain instead of through the pain, I became stuck as a victim.  I was deeply scarred and scared.  The result for me was anger.  I would excuse my sin because it seemed a logical response to my pain but my sin became a weight I could not bare.  I would have loved nothing more than to ‘Get Over It’, to have the pain somehow magically disappear. But in my attempt to ‘get over it’, this meant stuffing it, ignoring it, and manipulating life so I did not have to deal with it. I was still the victim.  I was worn and tired from years of trying to ‘get over it’ and I was beginning to recognize that the victim mentality was creeping into all areas of my life.  I began to wonder if I was ever going to be free.

Jesus met me at my wits end on the floor of my kitchen one morning.  As I attempted to bath my triplets and take care of my 4 year old on my own, things got chaotic (which was my new normal).  I was again the victim of my circumstances and felt trapped and ill-equipped.  I saw no hope because I had given way to the idea that anything could change or that any of my life would be in control.  What I didn’t realize was that control was an illusion and surrender was really the key to my freedom.  I had bought into the lie that if I could just get myself together, be better, get on top of things,  stop being so angry and have more self-control… I would be free.  That lie kept me pinned to the floor of my prison and I had no idea there was a way out.  In my desperation,  I gave up!  In the best possible way a person can quit – I quit trying to help myself.  When all I could do was cry and ask Jesus for help, it was enough – more than enough.  I surrendered my heart, my control and my life to Him on the kitchen floor that morning.

A LOT has changed since then, but the biggest freedom came when I allowed Jesus to walk me THROUGH the pain of my most broken moments.  I can still let that victim mentality creep in every once in a while when things feel out of control, but I now recognize where and who that comes from.  By the grace of God, I can get off that ride much quicker and Get Over It because my savior has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.  He has told me that He has plans for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans for a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Christ came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18).  You are I are captives until we recognize that we cannot help ourselves, we cannot free ourselves from our sin, we cannot undo what only Christ can.  God saw us in our sin and still loved – so much so that He died for us. (Romans 5:8).   We all have something to get over.  On your own, you will only find yourself under it (fill in the blank), but with Christ, you can truly be free and Get Over It!