Once again, I feel like this post was written for me.
Each of these writers has shared such profound insights, wisdom – clearly opening up their lives and letting us all settle into the glow for a moment. Get comfortable, this post is downright luminous.
When You Only Have a Few Embers
by Zohary Ross
There are times when my faith feels strong like a roaring fire that but there are other times when it feels small like a tiny flame atop a birthday candle.
When the flame of passion for Christ feels very slight and as if it could go out at any time.
Last year was rough for me spiritually. In December I experienced what it means to have a prodigal child for the first time as I went through a particularly rough time with one of my boys which culminated in him moving out of our home and our relationship being strained.
I cannot tell you how heartbroken I was, still am. At the time I went through terrible depression, I felt like such a failure. I didn’t think I would ever leave my bed. I didn’t want to do ministry, I didn’t want to speak, I felt like I couldn’t do work as a life coach because clearly I was a failure. Right? How could I minister to others when my own family was falling apart? I pretty much told God I was done doing stuff for Him.
I honestly felt the darkness closing in and I didn’t think I had enough what? Strength, faith, perseverance, maybe all of those to get through it.
Brene Brown defines grief as the loss of normal. This was exactly true for me. I grieved the loss of what I thought normal was for our family and felt utterly unprepared and unmotivated to come up with a new normal.
But I desperately wanted to believe. I wanted to cling to My God’s promises. I wanted to trust that He had a plan for my life AND my child’s. But I didn’t know how. . .
My husband is an expert fire maker. Not in like a scary pyromaniac kind of way but more former boy scout kind of way. He knows warmth is one of my love languages and can get a mean fire going on the wood stove.
But as that fire burns the logs start getting smaller and burning down until there’s nothing left but a few hot embers and we come down to two options, let the fire go out OR add a few more logs and keep it going. . .
And so it is with faith. There are times where our fire for God can seem at the verge of going out, but just before it does, there is a choice, let it go out completely or keep it going. . .
Last year I needed to keep my tiny flame lit but I just couldn’t do it on my own.
And so I did what I knew my husband would do to keep out wood fires going, he would add a log, he would add more wood but I was all out so I had to borrow some from my friends.
Vulnerability was the key piece of kindling for me as I put out a feeble prayer request via text. . ., “would you please pray. . .?”
This was scary. Being vulnerable often is but like fire it can be contagious.
And I knew I needed help, that this was not something I could do alone and it was worth letting others into my mess, it was worth showing that I didn’t have it all together, that I failed in many ways, that I was weak.
So I sent that text to a few close friends, my soul sisters. I said please pray because my heart is broken and I don’t know what to do, I don’t even know what to pray for.
And then prayers started coming in. And not a whole lot changed except I felt strengthened. I can’t explain it, just over time I felt like I could get out of bed and then I felt like I could make a meal for my family and then play with my little ones and eventually laugh. . .I literally felt stronger and Brighter.
After my December episode, once I was able to get out of bed. I realized I had been listening to the enemy’s lies and that he wanted to keep me from God’s work. So I decided instead of hiding out and feeling guilt or shame for what I was going through with my son, I was going to be open about it.
I’ve talked about my struggles with others, I’ve written about it on my blog, I’ve shared honestly when I speak to groups and I can’t tell you what a blessing it’s been to have women come up to me and say thank you for sharing your struggles, thank you for being real and vulnerable, I feel like maybe I can now too. Or friends who say thanks for sharing your prayer request, I’m struggling with___ would you pray?
Sometimes we need to reach out to others to fan the tiny flames of faith in our lives. And that often means letting them see all our cracks and flaws. And sometimes we need to be the kindling others need to keep their own fires going.
Let us not underestimate that power of faith. Even if you get down to just a few small embers, it has the potential to fan into flame a powerful fire for the Lord in our own lives and in the lives of others.
People, this woman is a gem.
I ran into Patty Scott in a group for writers on the West Coast. When I offered up the option to guest post to the group, she jumped in enthusiastically. We friended each other and since then, even in the few weeks I’ve known her, she’s been an extraordinary encouragement to me during a couple of very dry weeks.
You are going to love her take on The Illuminated Life, I promise. Go check out the rest of her blog. you will leave refreshed.
Because Some Things Bear Repeating
by Patty Scott
There is this sweet older woman at my church. She has raised six children and, though outwardly she walks with a walker, inwardly she runs with the Spirit. She once told me something I had never heard before. It bears repeating. She said, as though everyone knows these things, “God says some form of ‘Fear Not’ or ‘Be Anxious in Nothing,’ 365 times in His Word. That’s once for every day.”
Now I’m not much for contrived uses of scripture, like when someone refers to half a verse and it ends up totally out of context. But this – this 365 – one for every day, it grabs me and reveals God’s heart. Our God is in the details. He wants to assure us each and every day that we need not fear. And even if the number is a coincidence, it is sure that He echoed His loving will for us in this: Fear Not.
So I started thinking about why we need this reminder and all the ways we are like skittish sheep, unable to settle even though our Shepherd assures us we need not be anxious. Like sheep, we lose sight of Him and we feel vulnerable and exposed. Under the surface we know we are weak and lack the ability to provide our own needs and protection.
Over the years I have had many fears and they have blown in like uninvited storm clouds blocking me from believing His goodness. I have feared what would happen to my boys when they grew up. Would they stay the course? Or would they get sucked under into all the world holds out to them? I have feared rejection because my heart has been wounded too many times by losses and abuses from others who were wounded and never got the healing they so desperately needed. I have feared not being enough – which when I dug deep has roots in the debilitating fear of rejection and abandonment. I have held distressing rumblings in my heart over whether my needs would be met. I have thought that my life won’t add up to a bag of beans when all is said and done.
These fears, when they press in kept me self-reliant and insecure, and worst of all, they isolated me. I may have been surrounded by others, but I wouldn’t let them see the fears. I wouldn’t be vulnerable because I didn’t feel safe. I could be helpful. I could be seemingly perfect, the one who had it all together. But, I could not be afraid. And yet, I harbored fear and kept it hidden in my heart – trying my best to hide it from myself, from you and even from God.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
~ 1 John 4:18
God is in the details and not only that, He is in each of our lives.
His relentless love is not just for the whole world, it is for each person He made. It is for me. It is for you. He went to low places when He walked this earth as a man. He wasn’t afraid to go into the houses of sinners, to touch lepers, to speak to the outcasts. He came for them. He comes for us: the fearful. And to us, He says, “Do not be afraid” over and over until it rings out every day in our heart and we believe it.
To those of us who have feared He won’t give us what we need,
He reminds us of our own mother-heart for our children. Even though we are sinners, when our children ask us for bread, we don’t give them a stone. God doesn’t “take orders” but He gives what is best from His heart of love for us. Oh, my amnesia-prone soul, remember His love!
To those of us who have feared rejection,
He comes near and says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” You may not hear Him in those moments when your heart clenches tight and circumstances scream that He has forgotten you or doesn’t care about what matters most to you, but your emotions are not always a reflection of reality. He is with you and He cares beyond measure. This God who has counted the hairs on your head and has woven you together in the secret places before you were born, He is your great High Priest who sympathizes. This Creator of the seen and unseen has called you friend. Like Aslan in Narnia, He can seem to come and go, but you are never out of His mind.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things
~ Collosians 3: 1-2
When you fix our eyes on circumstances or on what others think or all that could be feared, you cannot keep your eyes on Jesus. We, the myopic, see only what is near. He is the lifter of your head. He comes to you, His beloved child, and tilting your chin up, He invites you to look at Him instead.
You are His delight.
Your heart may deceive you and measure you by the reactions and treatment of others. You may measure yourself by your accomplishments (or the way you feel you have never gotten enough done, well enough), but He is not measuring you by those standards. His measure is His love. He is a lover. His Name is Love. His love came down for you in Bethlehem. His love bent low to be beaten for you. His love went down to the grave for you. It doesn’t stop there. He comes down for you even today in this very moment as you are, where you are and He repeats the song of His heart for you.
Close your eyes and hear it deep:
The Lord your God is with you.
He is mighty to save.
He rejoices over you with gladness.
He will quiet your fears with His love.
He exults over you with joy.
~ Zephaniah 3:17
Patty is married to her beloved surfer husband, devoted to Jesus and blessed to be the mom to two wild, crazy, precious boys. Patty is a home educator, tea drinker, avid reader, and friend-encourager. She writes and speaks to inspire and bless by sharing the real, the beautiful and the reaching of her own heart on her website, Hearts Homeward.
The problem with blogging is that those of us who blog also read a lot of blogs.
And when you read a lot of blogs, it’s very easy to come under the disillusion that everybody out there has all the answers.
But you don’t.
I don’t have any answers. Or at least, very few of them. So, I stop writing. Because, what do I know?
I suppose I know one thing…if you think you know what you’re doing, you will wake up tomorrow and find out that you don’t.
I am living in a hamster wheel these days. Lots of redundancy. Lots of repetition. Very little progress. I am a girl who is driven by results, so you might guess (and you would be right) that this lack of progress might be causing me the teensy-weensiest bit of agida.
Okay, lots of agida.
I go to work every day, and I do basically the same things every day. I go to the gym three times a week, ish. I get two kids dressed in the same red and navy uniforms and I drive to the same school which is also my workplace and I sit at a desk for eight hours and at lunch I run errands to places like Target and Trader Joe’s. Then I go home and make them dinner and it starts all over again.
Going to the gym when you are over 40 kind of stinks. Lots of pain and very little gain. Or loss. Sort of a lot of status quo. I exercise in order to eat.
Parenting is it’s own brand of drudgery. There are rewards, but there is a lot of sameness and repetition as well. I wash the clothes, they get dirty again. I empty the laundry basket, it gets filled with the exact same uniforms. I straighten up one room, leave, and come back to find it’s been turned into a fort. I vacuum the floor, and 12 seconds later, a tuft of dog hair crawls out from under the buffet and wave at me.
Lots of repetition. Very little progress.
I lost 600 followers on Faceobok last week. 600 followers that were hard earned over the course of YEARS, thousands of posts and status updates and photos. All because Facebook decided to change their policy for who sees what, and how much that is going to cost people like me – authors, restaurants, small businesses – those 600 people who made the personal choice to follow me will not see anything I post on Facebook any more (or at least, very few of them) unless I pay to have my posts promoted by Facebook. So, Social Media, which has always been free, is no longer free. Whereas a post six months ago would be viewed by 400 or so of my followers, this blog, when I vainly post it to Facebook tomorrow, will get seen by maybe 20.
That’s discouraging. In an industry where the number of followers can make or break a book contract, it’s downright disheartening. I might have even cried a little. Two steps forward, one and three-quarters back.
Lots of repetition. Very little progress.
So there you go. This is just me, not having all the answers, or really, any of them.
Can you relate?
Have you ever lost it in public? I mean, lost it…
There was that time I started banging my fist on the counter at Long’s Pharmacy. I think I even said “I’m not crazy!”
But then again, I was about eight months pregnant. I was a walking poster board for crazy.
A friend of mine, an attorney, once admitted that before children, she was offended at the term “Disability Leave” when it was applied to pregnant women. “Pregnancy is not a disability!” she insisted. And then she got pregnant. “I realized that by around 36 weeks, I was completely disabled. Emotionally, physically, mentally…get me out of this job NOW!”
So this one time, I tried to pick up a prescription from our local pharmacy. It was late, I was tired, it was raining. The gal behind the desk kept telling me I didn’t exist. “You’re not in our system.”
Yes, yes I am. I come here all the time. Find me. FIND ME NOW.
That’s when the fist-banging started. It was punctuating every word of “I. Come. Here. All. The. Time! I. Am. Not. Crazy!”
There should be a manual out there that having kids will make you crazy. It starts with pregnancy, and it really doesn’t stop. Yesterday my hair burst into flames after a relatively calm, cool and collected morning getting ready for school. My oldest was the last to finish breakfast. As usual.
“Don’t rush me!” he says.
That’s the point when my head popped off and started flying around the room like a deflating balloon. An hour and fifteen minutes. An hour and FIFTEEN MINUTES. All we ask is that you put on clothes and eat. That’s it. That’s all that’s been asked of you in AN HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES.
I’m a mom. I can eat and get dressed and diaper a baby all at the same time. And I can do it in under ten.
I’m glad my kids are of the forgiving sort. I’m glad that I don’t use that pharmacy anymore. I’m glad that the officer who gave me a speeding ticket by jumping out in front of my car with his little ray gun thingy when I was pregnant with Colin didn’t walk up to my car right away or that might have been the next story in my litany of crazy.
May your Monday NOT be crazy.
The conversation continues…
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Some people are hard to get to know.
Christi, however, is not one of them. I find this post so fascinating, because what she’s written below is not my experience with Christi at all. I think, in fact, we met virtually on Twitter or something, and We. Just. Clicked.
Who knew you could meet your bestie online?!
Christi is delightful. I know I keep saying the same thing every week about these guest posters BUT THEY REALLY ARE!
It was never my intent to be “perfect.”
At least not consciously. But I suppose my childhood had fooled me into the belief that my appearance, how others saw me, what they thought of me, had to always be near perfection. So that there would be no criticism, no insults, no snide remarks. No faulting me for being “less than” something or someone.
Stand up straight.
Always curl your hair.
Never leave the house without a bit of blush and lipstick.
Smile. But not too much.
Don’t get dirty.
No running around.
I was in my 30s with two kids before I realized this facade I had kept up for decades. Especially at church. Oh yes, the most important place to look like you have it all together. Like you are super spiritual, the picture of perfection of a woman, wife, mom.
Then one day I accepted a play date invitation from a woman I was beginning to become friends with. I was excited because it was the first invite we’d received since coming to this particular church. Even thought the other women intimidated me a bit, Carla seemed outgoing, funny, and down to earth. I really wanted to be her friend.
The kids, my two and her two, had a great time together. But Carla seemed a big reserved. We were still being somewhat formal and too polite with one another. I couldn’t quite break through the surface with her.
I didn’t get it. What was wrong with me? Did she not like me?
I chatted more, my nervousness taking over. I mentioned how I lost my temper that morning with my youngest (and most difficult) daughter.
I could have picked up Carla’s mouth from the floor. “You get angry?” she asked.
“Of course I do!” I replied.
“But when I get angry and lose my temper with my kids, my husband tells that I need to be more like you because you never lose your temper. He actually says, ‘You need to be more like Christi McGuire. I bet Christi McGuire never loses her temper!’ ”
I starred at her, then I burst out laughing. A deep belly laugh, have-to-wipe-the-tears kind of laugh.
“Are you kidding me?!?” I gasped between laughs. By now I was holding my side. “I lose my temper ALL the time!”
She was wide-eyed, either at my ridiculous reaction or at learning the fact of my hot temper. “You do?”
“Of course I do!”
I asked her what in the world made her think I didn’t lose my temper. She said because I seem perfect at church. I never raise my voice. My kids always follow along obediently, their dresses pressed and perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect!
That’s when I realized it. I wasn’t aware of how I portrayed myself. But truly, if I’m honest, deep down I did want people to think I’m perfect.
But look where it got me. With few friends. Surface relationships. Because I gave the impression that I was too perfect, too good for anybody else. Totally fine on my own.
Truth is, I’m not fine on my own. I need friendships, relationships. We all do.
I told Carla that it appears like that on Sundays, because it’s the only hour during the week where she (and others) observes me. I’m dressed up in my best clothes with my hair and makeup done (not in my sweatpants, unshowered, with greasy hair and smelling of baby poop like during the week). My kids were in their Sunday best and in-between naps when they were the happiest. And they were well taken care of in the nursery. So I was extremely happy to have an entire two hours all to myself, even if it meant sitting through a Sunday School lesson and sermon!
What people don’t see during that small window of time on Sundays is real life—the tantrums, the lost tempers, the arguments, the nagging, the extreme exhaustion, the microwave dinners, the dirty dishes, the unfolded laundry, the three-day worn yoga pants. What people see on Sunday is nothing—and I mean nothing –like every day, ordinary life.
But because of this, I put up a barrier, a wall so thick that others couldn’t see inside or attempt to get in. The result may have appeared like perfection, but it really was loneliness. Once I gave Carla a glimpse of my “real” life, she breathed a sigh of relief. “We’re so much alike,” she said.
Yes. Yes, we are. But we never would have known that if I had kept up the façade. If I hadn’t let her see my cracks and crevices. My … gulp … imperfections.
Once I chipped away at my perfection, I could let my light shine through. And that light attracted others. Friends. Genuine, real relationships that I was missing when I tightened up my cracks so nobody could see my imperfections. The real me. Because, let’s face it, the real me is not perfect.
And that’s okay.
With 12 years of experience as a writer and editor, Christi has published hundreds of parenting articles and dozens of curriculum units. She also enjoys assisting aspiring writers through the writing, editing, and publishing process. A self-admitted “grammar geek,” Christi will edit anything with words—from business materials to church newsletters to book manuscripts.
Christi lives with her husband (her high school sweetheart) and two daughters on the Gulf Coast in Florida where she is nursing a brand-new addiction to Trader Joe’s PowerBerries (thanks to me, bahahaha). You can read her stuff in places like LifeWay’s ParentLife magazine, or on her blog Witty Words.
This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.
-Corrie Ten Boom
Have you ever read Corrie Ten Boom’s memoir, The Hiding Place? Other than being an extraordinary account of Dutch Christian’s enslaved and sent to prison camps during WWII, the one thing that the book left me was this:
It is possible to be grateful in any circumstance.
I forget this. I want to be grateful for the good things, but being grateful for the not-so-good things? It’s a challenge.
My life is small. I am not facing extraordinary hardship or even a true enemy. I struggle with little things. I struggle to be a good parent, a loving wife, a gentle friend.
I want ot be thankful for these small challenges. I am thankful that they are not large ones. I am thankful for the persistence and tenacity that have built up within me…without them I would surely fail as a parent. I am thankful for the dark days following my mom’s illness and death, for they have allowed me to understand the value and importance of letting my own light shine, a light of my own. I am thankful for the ones who have gone before me, who light the way, and who are, even yet, waiting and cheering for all of us on the other side.
Your turn: What are YOU thankful for on this March Monday?
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I am so happy-happy to share this person with you!
Truly one of the shiniest people I know, I met Lisa at a writer’s conference, attracted by her purple pixie cut, hipster glasses and Chuck Taylor’s. Her personality is made of sunshine and her plum cake is positively eloquent.
How Shiny Are You?
by Lisa Bogart
Are you a floodlight? Do you shine on big issues and pour light into dark places with great force for all to see? Are you a twinkling little Christmas light? Flashing on and off illuminating just enough space for one person to find their way.
Which one sounds more appealing? The big bold powerful light or the small gentle lamp? If you are like me, you probably would pick the floodlight, the power to be bold. These lamps have to be plugged into a power plant size source. Those twinkly little lights on the other hand don’t seem to pull much power.
But does it take more power to be a floodlight than a twinkle? It looks like it, yet when both are plugged into the power source of God it’s equal. The twinkle lights shine just as strong as the spotlights. One may be shining with a wide reach and the other beaming in a small space but each one has to be connected to the source to keep going. Plugged into the power grid of God and his will each lamp finds it can go on for hours and hours lighting the place it’s mean to be.
Floodlight feels synonymous with spotlight. As in, Look here! Little twinkly lights feel synonymous with candlepower. As in, glowing just enough. Spotlights have big messages to deliver. They shine on social injustice. They make us see hidden issues. They are powerful. Twinkle lights beam on little things, small issues, dainty ideas.
I am jealous of the floodlight people.
I want to be a floodlight. I want to have an important job to do. I want to have big ideas, strong opinions, and bold actions. Turns out I am more of a twinkly light. My shininess is small. I have a little idea that takes small actions. My big shiny message to the world is: Be Kind. That’s it. Be nice. Show compassion. Think of the other guy. But you know what? It’s just as important. We should all be kind yet it’s hard for us to remember.
So I try to shine on kindness. That means I try to act in the kindest way possible every chance I get. I fail over and over. It’s hard to be nice all the time. And that is why I twinkle and sparkle a little at a time. I flash on and off. Sometimes I reach mega wattage and am nice and compassionate. But just as often I get cranky and am a dim bulb. So I’m glad I’m a small light that can recharge daily and start over and over again.
I admire the spotlights of this world. And I have discovered they need the help of us twinkly little guys. They need to know we are shining along with them. No message, however important, can get out if there is only one light is pointed in that direction.
As long as the powerful beam of the floodlight does not become apersonal spotlight and as long as the twinkly little light doesn’t get discouraged and extinguish there is a place for both. The spotlight folks are offering a chance for many people to become involved in a cause, see a problem or join an important movement. The twinkly light folks offer a chance for connect one-on-one and give comfort, change, or peace. God designed the world with all kinds of light from megawatt to candle flicker. We need all the illumination we can get for our world to shine properly.
Today, shine as you were intended.
Lisa Bogart is knitter, writer and keeper on kindness. She is married to her college sweetheart and mom to Zach. She lives in Northern California and radiates love wherever she goes. Her glass is always half full, and you cannot be near her without feeling better about the world in general.