The Greatest Commandment

Love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In All the Wrong Places...

A couple of nights ago, I was running out to meet a friend at her house to make a hula-hoop. Yes, a hula-hoop! She is a fellow colleague who has used this technique with her clients, and I was thrilled that she was willing to show me how to make them! Very cool, VERY therapeutic, and very fun!!See??

However… this is not what I’m blogging about.

Now... you’ve got to realize I’ve been on crutches for 6 weeks because of a broken foot and ankle. (don’t run in high heels…) It takes A LOT of effort to get to and from the car (anywhere, really), and if I have to carry anything with me, it’s that much harder. So… I’m looking around the kitchen for my keys and they aren’t where I usually put them. I looked in the bedroom and couldn’t find them in there either. Assuming I had left them in the car, I crutch out the door, down the steps and across the gravel driveway to my car. (I can’t park in the garage because it’s too narrow to get my crutches through!!!) Finally, I make it to the car. Guess what? NO KEYS. I look under the seats, looked in the console… everywhere. NO KEYS. Ugh.
Back inside the house I go… another small feat. So I get inside and basically look in all of the same places and maybe a few more. Nope. Can’t find them. I was beginning to think I’d lost my mind. Better yet, I need one of those clapper things that will find your lost stuff!! Where in the world could they be?? What was I wearing? I looked in jean pockets, jacket pockets… everywhere. After about 10 minutes of searching, not only was I worn out, I was at a loss to where those stinking (but ever so important) keys were. Back out to the car I went… perhaps I didn’t look hard enough. Again… I looked in the same spots. NO KEYS. Finally, I decided to look in the back of the car to see if I had a bag or anything that my spare keys might be. (don’t even ask why I don’t know where the spare keys are…) I hobbled to the back of the car, opened the hatch… and TADA. There they were. Why on earth were they in the back of the car???? All I can figure is that when I got home the day before, I must have put them there while I picked up something else and forgot them. Who knows?!? But at least I found them! 

The funny thing is… they were right there the whole time! I was just looking in the wrong places! And I WORE myself PLUM OUT by doing so.

About 10 years ago I was living in Chattanooga, TN. We lived in this old house that was built in the 1930’s. I LOVED it. 

Not only was the house quirky with all of the little hiding places that old houses have, it also had TONS of beautiful flowers that came up year after year. Tulips (my fav!), lilies, antiqued Roses, you name it…  Every year during that pre-spring – post winter season, the yard would fill up with Daffodils. I LOVE those things! Not just because they are pretty, but because for me, it’s always God’s reminder of what’s to come! A beautiful spring and summer with gorgeous blooms everywhere you look! So every year when I see them, I get so so excited!!

Well… the last year that we were in the house I was struggling with leaving Chattanooga. I simply loved it there, and didn’t want to leave my friends and “family.” That year, during the Daffodil time, every yard had these beautiful reminders that spring was right around the corner. MY yard, however, had nothing. I waited and I waited. Where were they? I actually became even more bummed than I already was… all because of those silly flowers not showing up at MY house. Why couldn’t I have them?? Actually, I think I dwelled on it so much that it became more about everything wrong in my life than it was the flowers… but, needless to say… I was not happy about the lack of their appearance in MY yard. (MY yard… it’s all about ME, right?? Haha)

 So… I had finally given up on the flowers. I pouted and started the process of preparing for a move. One morning I was upstairs cleaning and packing the girls’ bathroom when something out their bathroom window caught my attention. I looked out to see what was in the back yard but didn’t see anything. However, my eyes drifted to the very far corner of the yard… way back in the place that we really hadn’t focused on that year because we were working so hard to make the front look spic-and-span to sell the house… and guess what was back there? You got it. DAFFODILS.

God spoke to my heart in that very moment.

You have been looking for happiness in all of the wrong places. It’s been here the whole time, right under your nose, but you wouldn’t open your eyes to see it. Why do you stay focused on what you don’t have, rather than what you DO have? You just might be surprised to find that what you DO have is all you need... and what you have been looking for all along. 

Romans 15:13 says “May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Just like those durn keys, I was looking in the wrong place to find my prize! I was looking for hope, joy and peace in flowers, people, Chattanooga, etc… but I wasn’t looking for it in God. He is the one who can give us everything we need for complete happiness. When I finally gave up, the keys and the flowers both turned out to be right there, with a message from God in them both. “You are looking in all the wrong places…”

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”  Romans 5:1-4

I know that a lot of times, I look for happiness in the wrong places, especially in people. The lost keys this week were a wonderful reminder of this, and I am thankful for the gift of Holy Spirit, who opens the eyes of my heart when He speaks. Ever so gently, His whispers remind me, guide me, lead me and grant me peace. True peace.

Are you looking in the wrong places?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Battlefield In My Mind

So...God did some work in me today because I had some stinkin thinkin going on and was finding myself down in the dumps big time. I tend to fight an ongoing, invisible battle. Its not one I'm proud of, but I do know that I'm not alone in this. It's the battle I fight in my head.

 I thought I would share this with you for the days you are struggling. He led me to the scriptures and talked to me through it. The scriptures are listed below what He said to me. I know that God can use my struggles to minister to others, and I'm not the only one out there who deals with depression or letting their minds take them to dark places. My mind becomes almost like an intense battlefield. God will win the battle for me, but only when I stop, listen and LET Him.

I hope that when you are feeling rotten this will help pick you back up as it did me.

He said this, in this order, through His word:

You cannot have a negative mind and a positive life. Your thoughts will be what you become. 
 Proverbs 23:7: for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost.“Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

You are depending on yourself, not ME. You are giving in because you are forgetting HOPE. Use my word as your weapon against the enemy. Tear down your strongholds with my truth. Purposely think right and speak them aloud in confession. I have work I need to do through you and I need you to be strong and mature. Persevere as Job.
Romans 8:1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
Psalm 42:5: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God,  for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
James 1:4: Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Phil 1:6:   being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Phil 2:3:  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves

Positive thoughts produce positive lives. You used to be positive and full of faith and hope. Bad things happen. But they work for good for you who love ME. You are not to fall apart, but instead, be readily adaptable and adjustable. Do not let the bad things that have happened to you keep affecting your new life in Christ. He is your.counselor, your comforter, your strength. I sent Him to guide you, to convict you and to lead you to righteousness. Through HIM the work that I began in you will be completed.  Ask Me for help to resist the sin of speaking negatively about yourself. If you keep this up, you are going to hinder the good things I have in store for you.
Matthew 8:13:Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose
Romans 12:16:  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud.
 2 Cor 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.
John 16:7,8:  But I tell you the truth: it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.
 Phil 1:6: being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Hope is to keep you steady in times of trial. I want to show you mercy and loving kindness but you keep running from me. My word will heal you and rescue you from this pit of destruction you are in. I know you can't understand all of this, but you must choose to believe. Pray in Jesus' name and by the power of His blood, you will be protected from mind binding spirits. Meditate in my word day and night. Ask me for Wisdom and I will give it to you and show you what to do.
Acts 17:11: ...for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true
Romans 4:18-20: Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead, since he was about a hundred years old, and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.
Hebrews 6:19:  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.
Proverbs 15:15,  A fool spurns his father's discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.
Phil 4:6,7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
John 8:31,32: To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Psalm 107:20: He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.
Romans 8:26: In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
James 1:2-8 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Own Little World

A few months ago I was in Asheville shopping. It was a fairly cold day, but I don't think it was snowing or anything. I had been in the mall for awhile and when I came out, there was a homeless guy wandering from person to person in the parking lot. I knew he was going to approach me, so I had already come up with several excuses for why I couldn't help him by the time he got to my car. He was either intoxicated or was suffering from a pretty serious mental illness... or probably both. He wasn't rude at all, but rather used manners, and when I turned him down (umm... I don't have any money... seriously? I just came out of a SHOPPING mall and said THAT?? Lame.), he simply nodded and walked the other way, looking for someone else.

Whew. Off the hook.

Until I came out of the next store, that is... There he was again! Still circulating and asking anyone he saw for some help. This time I paid attention to what he was saying. "Do you have any change or a dollar so I can get something to eat?" The nudge inside of me said, "What are you going to do?" My brain said, "Drive fast." Afterall, I am a female, and I didn't want to put myself in harms way.

Well, an hour or so went past, and I hopped from store to store. Finally, it was time to go home. I stopped by the gas station for a quick fill-up, and guess what? There he was AGAIN. Ugh. And there came that nudge. Again. So what do you think I did?? I quickly hit the pay & pump and jumped in my car to avoid eye contact. No eye-contact means he'll leave me alone, right?

I sat in my car while it filled up with gas and watched him circulate from individual to individual. What I saw was heart-breaking. What I saw was what I was guilty of myself. Judgment and shunning. People were "shooing" him away as if he were a dog. One person actually stood there while he filled up his own tank and angrily told the guy to get away, that they had no use for him. His wife sat in the car and gave shameful stares at the guy. The looks she gave him will stay in my memory forever. It was simply horrifying. At that moment, the thoughts that entered my head were things like, "He's a human being! What makes us better than him, just because we aren't in his situation. I don't care if he's drunk or crazy or whatever, he deserves to be shown love. This is a PERSON."

The nudge was still there. Obviously.

"What are you going to do, Kristin?" (that's when I know it's God. He never calls me Kris... I know my mom would appreciate this.)

I answered back. "I don't know. I can't give him money."
God: "Why not?"
Me: "I really don't have any cash. And I don't really have much money to begin with."
God: "Are you hungry?"
Me: "Yes, actually I was thinking of going in to get a snack for the drive home."
God: "He is, too."

ok. ok. So I decide to go into the store and get both of us a snack. As soon as I walked in, the judging thoughts came back to me.

Me: "What should I get him. He is homeless and hungry and begging. I should just get him some lance crackers, or something cheap from this stand over here... nothing much, but ...
God: "What are you going to get for yourself?"
Me: "A coke and some chips! Why not treat myself?"
God: "Get him what you buy yourself. He doesn't deserve any less."

When I walked outside, a little shaky and certainly humbled, I was prepared to hand over the snack and bolt. Thing is, he was GONE! I actually questioned God about why He would have me buy something knowing the guy was going to be gone! So I got in my car and thought, maybe He was just trying to teach me a lesson on showing love and mercy. It's weird, because part of me was relieved, but most of me was disappointed. The man was actually on my heart.

God: "He is walking, you know... he couldn't be far. Go look for him. I will guide you."

So following God's directions, I turned up a road that I had no clue to where it would lead... Sure enough, within just a few minutes, I saw the guy outside of a bowling alley. The manager was standing out front with her arms crossed, making sure that he wouldn't get near the front door, and giving him a stare down similar to the one the lady in the car at the gas station had given. Ugly. Plain and simple. Ugly.

I rolled down my window and motioned for him to come to my car window. I had to do this several times as he looked around for under cover cops or something. Clearly, he didn't trust me. Finally, when he got to my window (and the manager was ready to come assist by the "ready" stance she had taken), I simply gave him a coke and a bag of chips and said, "Here. Try to stay warm tonight."

The look in his eyes is another one of those images that will never leave me. He was speechless. He tried to say something, but got choked up, and just looked at me with a side-ways kind-of question... like he wanted to say "really??" but couldn't.

I'm absolutely not lying to you when I tell you the lyrics to the song that was on the radio as I rolled up my window. This is the part of the Matthew West that was actually playing.

"Stopped at the red light, looked out my window
Outside the car, saw a sign, said "Help this homeless widow"
Just above this sign was the face of a human
I thought to myself, "God, what have I been doing?"
So I rolled down my window and I looked her in the eye
Oh how many times have I just passed her by
I gave her some money then I drove on through
in my own little world there's
Population two"


I have been very hesitant to share this story publicly for many reasons. The first and main one is because of what Matthew 6:1-4 tells us.

Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding. "When you do something for someone else, don't call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure—'playactors' I call them— treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that's all they get. When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. (The Message)

Several months ago I had a friend call me out on this. While at the time, I was not making a production of my serving, it came across that I was, which is also not good. I have checked with God several times on this, and He wants me to share the story for many reasons, but mainly because of where my heart was. He (and I) believes that other people can totally relate to it, and by sharing this, perhaps another heart will be changed. Mine sure was. I have served poor populations for years and years. I have "pretended" (my opinion) to serve the homeless by periodically serving in soup kitchens or handing out food, but my heart has never been truly, truly in it. You see, I always placed some sort of judgment on this population. Always. Most of the time, without even meaning to, I "rank" people. A hierarchy of the human population, so to speak. As I said, it's never been intentional, but I still do it. Distinction. Human supremecy at it's best... by a proclaiming Christian. Some people will argue that this is acceptable, as there are just bad people in this world and if we are always giving hand-outs, they will never learn or change. But this guy in Asheville, remember? Either drunk... or crazy... or both? I didn't know squat about him and I still judged him, or more clearly put, classified myself as a more soverign individual. And I've done it my entire life.

I finally decided to share the guilt I carry because of the way I have ignored God's word. Over the last couple of months, not only have I heard that song a million more times, God continually nudges me to do more. Matthew 25 tells us very clearly what He expects from us: (again, from The Message)

When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'

"Then he will turn to the 'goats,' the ones on his left, and say, 'Get out, worthless goats! You're good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.'

Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?'

"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'

I don't know what exactly it is that God is calling me or leading me to do here, but I DO know that He is changing my heart daily. The man in Asheville was a wake-up call to how hardened and cynical my own heart had become. I am thankful that God has forgiven me, though, and even more thankful that He loves me enough to discipline me gently. Finding fault in others is something I am guilty of, and He reminds me frequently.

"Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone." John 8:7 (NIV)

All in all, I was living in my own little world. Admittedly, I still do. But God is working in me and through me. As I said earlier, there were a lot of reasons I am sure He wanted me to share this, but I believe the main one is because perhaps someone out there will begin to let Him change their heart as well. I have begged Him for years... "God, break my heart for what breaks yours."

Well... He has.

Matthew West's "My Own Little World.

In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I've never gone hungry or always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket shoes on my feet
In my own little world
Population me

I try to stay awake through the Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate but I never give 'til it hurts
and I turn off the news when I don't like what I see
it's easy to do when it's
population me

What if there's a bigger picture
what if I'm missing out
What if there's a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world

Stopped at the red light, looked out my window
Outside the car, saw a sign, said "Help this homeless widow"
Just above this sign was the face of a human
I thought to myself, "God, what have I been doing?"

So I rolled down my window and I looked her in the eye
Oh how many times have I just passed her by
I gave her some money then I drove on through
in my own little world there's
Population two

What if there's a bigger picture
what if I'm missing out
What if there's a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world
Start breaking my heart for what breaks Yours
give me open hands and open doors
put Your light in my eyes and let me see
that my own little world is not about me

Friday, March 30, 2012


“You’re so A.D.D. you can’t even make it to the second ‘D!’”

A statement made by a friend once upon a time… but it’s true. I admit it. I can totally relate to the dogs in the movie, "Up." I do not have the hyperactive component, but I definitely have the inattentive type. Sometimes it is a struggle just to get through an hour! I consider myself an intelligent person, and because of this, I have formed coping skills over the years to help me be more successful. However, often times I choose (yes, it’s a choice) NOT to use my tools… and in turn I wind up in trouble! I struggle with things like talking on the phone and driving… as there is no telling where I will end up if I’m not purposefully thinking about where I am going. My dear friend, Alicia, has rescued me numerous times from those occasions.

One time I was leading a youth leader meeting. We were actually having a pretty important conversation regarding leadership and the time commitment needed for the upcoming year… but we were outside… so I’m sure you can imagine my struggle! So… long story made short… I was mid-sentence when this enormous Q-tip went flying by! Actually, it was a bug of some sort… but it honestly looked like those things we clean our ears or our newborn’s belly buttons with. My attention immediately went to this flying cotton ball on a stick! The problem was, as I said, I was mid-sentence… and it probably sounded a little like this; “Before you make this commitment for next year, I would really like for you to pray about it and honestly answer some tough questions. Not only do I need to know that your heart is fully into this ministry… but the kids OH LOOK AT THAT BUG!!!”

I still haven’t lived that one down.

A couple of weeks ago I went on a women’s spiritual retreat. We were in this beautiful cabin on the top of a mountain (I’m NOT exaggerating!) in Pigeon Forge, TN. It was almost impossible not to get lost in the beauty and glory of God from the view alone! The weekend was entitled “Saturated 2012.” We went there to be fully submersed in the Holy Spirit. Boy howdy, were we ever!!

One of the first things we did that weekend was sit in silence, eyes closed, palms open, listening for the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine what this is like for someone with ADD??? I have a million different things going on in my head! You want me to sit in silence for how long?? 20 minutes? Right.

Well… I had to at least try. So… I sit, eyes closed, palms open, contemplatively listening. Here come the random thoughts… Who knows what they were… but they sure were distracting. So I asked God to block out the thoughts and the rest of the world (I mean, even a little sneeze will send my brain into la la land sometimes…). As soon as I asked for it, He gave me a vision. It was a cross, and He said to me, “Focus on me.” Once I focused on that cross, it became easier to listen. Actually, He wasn’t really speaking to me a lot at that point (other than a repetitive “Focus on me”), but was pointing out to me some of the distractions that I brought with me that weekend. The message was very clear… it was to focus on Him, and not worry or think about anything else. He has me in the palm of His hand. (This went on several times… )

Then another vision came. At first it was a glimpse of Jesus’ face. But the face was also surrounded by white, and the white appeared larger and larger until it looked like HUGE angel wings. As it got closer and closer to me, I realized the wings were more like arms, and they were embracing me. It felt like He was giving me a giant hug, and all I had to do was sit there and receive it. I felt like a little girl reaching up to be held by her father.

A little while later, a friend approached me. She said her eyes were itching during our silent time and as she was rubbing them, she opened them and caught a glimpse of me. The image of me sitting on the floor with palms turned up gave her a strong reminder of me as a little girl… reaching up to my daddy.

Wow. What a powerful presence the Holy Spirit is.

Over the next few days, I am going to try to put my experience into words. As much as I like to write, I am struggling to come up with words that can describe some of the images I was given over a 2 day time period. At first, I thought maybe I am not supposed to be sharing this… or the words would come more easily… but every day I feel the nudge to sit down and take some uninterrupted time to get it into writing. I don’t know if it will take me one blog or several to adequately describe, in detail, what gift I was given… but I do promise to begin the task at hand.

In the meantime, enjoy a short clip involving a dog with ADD from the movie “Up.” J

A Talking Dog!



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Training Wheels

Wow. It’s been over a year since I have blogged online. Oh, I’ve still been writing… but it’s been in my little brown journal… just for me! I’ve been feeling the urge to get back on here for a while now, so here goes…

So… a few weeks ago, on a beautiful day here in the mountains, we took our bikes and went to the park. Andy just got a new bike for Christmas so he was ecstatic that we were going! He had his cute little spider-man helmet (and horn!) on in the car before we even got there! The girls are pros on their bikes so they just took off. Andy, however, is new to a bike with training wheels. He had a tricycle before, but now he’s a big boy!

Off he went! Until… that is… he came to his first “hill.” I say hill, because that’s what he called it… but really… it was more like a tiny little bitty slope. Really. It’s not even noticeable when walking. But the Bubs noticed it and was scared. He got off of his bike and walked down it. At the “bottom,” he got back on and rode around the loop again… until he got to the slope… (are you seeing the pattern now?) Erin and I both tried to convince him he would be just fine if he rode down it, but he was too intimidated by the steep mountain in front of him. I even offered to hold the back of his bike while he went down, but it was just too much to consider. He looped around and around (walking down the hill, of course) for about 30 minutes. But THEN… one time… he got off of his bike… and started asking questions. “How fast is it?” “Will I fall?” “How do I know I won’t fall?” “How do I know it’s not fast??” “etc…………………………….”

Finally… he worked up the nerve. He. Rode. Down. The. Hill. !!!!!

Well… kinda. He freaked out about mid-way and did that “I’m losing control” thing that we do when we lose control on a bike… steered into the grass and promptly crashed. Once he realized he wasn’t dead… or even hurt… he got up, asked if he could try again, and walked his bike back up to give it another go. Mind you, I was standing at the “bottom” of the hill, in the curve, trying to coach him to a successful finish! (like a good mom, right??)

He was slow at first, but eventually he figured out his bike, his balance, the slope and the brakes. Over and over he went down that hill, getting faster with each attempt. I stood there at the bottom on pins and needles, waiting for the big crash and whatever stitches would go along with it. I kept wanting to run up and hold the back of his seat and control his speed, direction and wobbling! But… I didn’t. I taught him what he needed to know and I had to let him learn it himself.

That’s when it hit me.

As I stood in the corner of this gianormous alp (what? It was big to him!), I was overcome with a realization of this must be what it’s like for God to watch us flounder and flop before we figure out what it is He has taught us. It would be a lot easier if He just made it more elementary for us… but there is something about the pain that helps us learn in a more permanent manner. He knows everything about what our pain feels like, but He also knows that if He does what we want Him to do, which is make it all easier, we won’t grow into the magnificent and beautiful butterflies that He intends for us to become.

On a youth mission trip a couple of years ago, a young lady (Maggie) was helping us repair a rotten section of a family’s roof. The roof really needed to be completely demolished and rebuilt. It actually would have been a lot easier if we could have taken the whole thing off and started fresh… but that wasn’t the plan. The supervisor for the mission gave us instructions to salvage what we could, replace the rotten wood with new, and then re-shingle. We did a lot of “sistering boards,” which meant taking the strongest portion of the old wood and attaching new wood to it to provide strength. During the process, there was a lot of frustration and discouragement, as not only was our task incredibly hard, it also would thunderstorm about every 45 minutes. I think we spent more time tarping and re-tarping during the first 2 days than we did roof repair. Anyway… one afternoon late in the week, we were all staring at yet another section of completely rotten wood. All we could see was how bad things looked. Several times throughout this week a hand or foot went through the roof, which only gave us more work to do. As leaders, we were beginning to be completely overwhelmed, which is never good... On this particular afternoon, however, an interesting observation was made. There were butterflies everywhere. They had been there all week, but because it wasn’t raining, they were abundant in number. They were gorgeous Monarch butterflies and it was hard not to just sit and stare at them! Finally, one of the teenagers in the group asked the obvious question, “Why are there so many butterflies around here??” My co-leader was very quick to respond, “They feed off of rotten wood… and there is nothing but rotten wood all over this house.” Silence fell upon the group as we took in the meaning of what my co-leader had said. Maggie was the one who broke the silence.

“That’s the beauty of the rot.”

Now I doubt she even has a clue that her statement has stuck with me as long as it has. In fact, I’m not sure she even knows how profound it was in the first place! However… her simple sentence reminds me over and over again that there is something beautiful in EVERYTHING. We just need to notice it. When we are struggling to just get through the day, look for the good. Always find more blessings than bummers, because if you don’t, you can’t grow and change into what God has planned for you.

God tells us this, too.

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. Psalm 119:71

Neither this man nor is parents sinned,” said Jesus, “But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” John 9:3

This is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, I am strong.” 2 Cor 9:10

Consider is pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may become mature and complete, not lacking in anything. James 1:2-4

Bless those who persecute you. Bless, and do not curse. Romans 12:14

He heals the broken hearted, binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

So do not fear, for I am with you: Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

God is always with us… no matter what… and can make the scary hills less scary… and can help us learn how to maneuver down them, no matter how steep or tough the challenge.

No matter what, though, look for the beauty in the rot.