The Anchor for Our Souls

“We will not hide them from our children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.”  Psalm 78:4

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I read the email while spaghetti boils over on the stove and garlic bread threatens to burn in the oven. My neck tenses and an ache settles deep within my stomach and heart. We are three months away from our next move with the military, and I’m not ready.

A glitch in our housing arrangement at our next duty station. A longer than expected wait for our home. A list of temporary apartments attached at the bottom of the email. I can’t bare to click it open.

What seems too good to be true ends up being just that.

The dominoes begin to fall. I allow my mind to run alongside them.

A longer wait for housing means our son’s last summer before going away to college will most likely be spent in a hotel or navy lodge.

Our dog will need to be shipped off to stay with a family member.

The thought of living out of a suitcase for an extended period of time exhausts me.

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One email opens a pit of panic so deep, I fall hard and fast.

I throw dinner on the table and retreat to my bedroom for a quick moment to pull myself together.

I am aware that my family’s climate heavily depends upon my attitude and a frazzled and anxious me does not make a peaceful home.

Before I can talk anyone else off the ledge, I need to take a step back and anchor myself to a firm foundation.

I go to the only place I know to go. I don’t have it in me to make it all happen. I need an anchor that can steady this rocking boat and promise safety amidst the strongest of storms.

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I know this anchor. It has proven strong and faithful. This anchor is sure to steady me in the most tumultuous of seas.

Recognizing God’s hand in our past, and confident of His hand in our future, is that anchor.

We are mandated to remember the mighty hand of God in our past.

To recall his mighty deeds in days by gone, and remember his miracles of long ago.

To not only remember what the Lord has done, but also to share His mighty works with the next generation, our children, and our children’s children.

We have a history to remember.

We have a responsibility to etch the handiwork of our God in to the hearts and minds of those who come after us.

Our God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He will not fail us now. Our past has proved it. Our future relies upon it.

This anchor is trustworthy and connects us to hope beyond our circumstances.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the only true anchor for our souls. He is the One who knows all things, and He is faithful to walk with us through all things.

We must be deliberate in slowing down, moving toward a posture of trust, reliance and remembrance.

When the anchor is entrenched deep into the sea bed, only then is the ship stable.

This anchor keeps us from floating aimlessly out to sea.

We rely upon its dependability, having full confidence in its ability to protect as we move forward in to the great unknown.

Then and only then can we face these uncertain times with godly certainty.

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“For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” Psalm 117:3

“May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.” Psalm 90:17

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:11

 

When Enough is More Than Enough

 

Singapore

Singapore

It is the Friday before Father’s Day and I have yet to pick out a father’s day card for my dad. I stop at Walgreen’s and dig through the already picked-over Father’s Day cards looking for one that “says it all.”

A little boy pushes his way in front of me, grabs for a card, flips it open and says “this one.” He and his mom walk to the cash register with the first one they read and walk out hand in hand.

People come and go, and I’m still standing there reading canned sentiments about how much our Father’s mean to us.

How can someone else’s words REALLY convey what my father means to me?

How can I make my father understand the breadth and depth of love swelling in my heart for him, with the words another wrote?

Grandpa and Grace

Grandpa and Grace

So I attempt to put in to words what no greeting card has yet to convey.

Because………

The love of my father was always laughing, and joking, and putting food on the table.

The love of my father was quiet and strong.

The love of my father was consistent and  freely given.  

The love of my father was showing a strong work ethic, and possessing a loyalty that one does not see much in this life.

But mostly, the love of my father was always more than enough.

Grandpa taking Kyle to a Liverpool game in NYC

Grandpa taking Kyle to a Liverpool game in NYC

His love was enough to help me walk out in to this world when I didn’t want to and it was enough to allow me to come back when this world tired me out.

La Maddalena Italy

La Maddalena Italy

His love allowed me to widen the circumference of my life bit by tiny bit. Because, I was this skittish child who was afraid of my own shadow and I would have liked nothing more than to stay tucked away in the safety of his home. His love, and that of my mom, gave me the confidence and solid footing to know that, wherever I went, whatever mistakes I made, he would be there.

Along the way, he has fixed more light fixtures in my home than I can count and picked up my DOG!!!!! at the airport more than once.

He has driven hundreds of miles only to drive me right back again.

He has flown half way around the world and been to Countries he probably had no desire to see, only to be with us.

Singapore

Singapore

My father taught me not always with words, but with actions. Big actions, full of love.

And it was always enough.

But, for some, father’s day is a reminder of what they missed. Because some did not have a father teach them to play baseball or change the oil in the car.  Some did not have the constant presence of a father in their life.

A father’s absence can leave a gash that never seems to heal;   a gap that no one seems to fill.

Yet, there is ONE that can fill the void. ONE that consistently fills in the gap these here-on-earth dad’s leave behind.

The creator of heaven and earth, our heavenly Father, is the only ONE.

Because only He is the perfect Father. He is The only Father who loves flawlessly, and has our best interests ever before Him. His patience knows no limits, and His forgiveness washes away every stain and blemish.

For this reason, I pray Father’s Day is a day of great security for ALL of HIS children, whether you have known the love of a here-on-earth dad, or not.  My prayer is that today we all experience the fierceness of God’s love.  

Today, this is my prayer……

“For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”  Ephesians 3: 14-21

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When Your Pen Runs Dry and The Point of It All

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I stare at white space for days that run in to weeks. And I wonder how writing could be so fulfilling and flow so freely for months at a time, and then suddenly, it comes to a screeching halt. And for the next two months it feels like I am pressing hard a piece of coal, in hopes of producing a diamond. But at the end of the day, that coal is still a lump of coal, weighing heavy in my hand.

And this panic sets in. That mine is not good enough, not pretty enough, not high-tech enough. This pressure in the blogging world to have all the right widgets and buttons. To host give-away’s and link-up’s and build an audience. And I can’t seem to keep up.

What follows is an intentional pause; a pause to refocus on the point of it all. Because, these words of mine, where do they point? Am I wrestling against my true purpose and making it all about me, or am I pouring out words, and living a life that points to Jesus?

Because this life I live is meant to point back to Him. That is THE point. That is MY point.

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How are my words bringing life to a hurting world? How is the way I live my life pointing others to Jesus?

We Jesus followers, whether we are blogging, changing diapers, or teaching a class room full of children, isn’t the point of it all really to radiate the love of the One who sacrificed all? To point to the One who counted His life but lost, in order to be in relationship with us?

So these dry and seemingly empty spaces, the days when words don’t come, and no one sees the effort you put in to the kids, they are like a cool breeze that floats in through that open window on a hot and humid day. These are the days that refresh our soul and renew our purpose, because it is then we see clearly the reason for it all. All else falls away and we are left with Jesus.

On these days, I look at the life of Jesus. A man so controversial we are still talking about Him 2,000 years later. A man who did not come, as expected, with swords drawn and political aspirations, but came wrapped in compassion and love. He broke the chains of “having to perform” with the gift of His sacrifice, pouring his grace and mercy upon us without limit.

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People did not meander toward Jesus in small groups of two like the animals headed to the Ark. People flooded to Jesus. They grabbed the hem of His cloak to catch a glimpse of His power; they climbed trees to set their gaze upon Him; they left the bedside of their dying children to seek Him out; they ran to His presence not thinking where their next meal would come from. And to think He drew such a crowd without Tweeting His whereabouts and posting aesthetically pleasing photos on instagram!!!

Why were people drawn to Him? Because He offered something they wanted; something we all need. Hope, healing, and higher purpose. This hope that we are not in this alone; healing from a hurt and dying world; and purpose that transcends beyond our checking account, social status and number of followers on twitter.

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So today I run to His side; I bend low and grasp the hem of His cloak to feel a touch of His power; I flock to His presence so that his compassion rubs off on me just a little bit; I exert myself to catch a glimpse of Him today. Because, if we look to spend time with Him, He is faithful to show up. And when He shows up, He puts it all in perspective. He is THE point!!!!

Something Unexpected At My Kitchen Table

bethanysosweet

My memory is skewed. Because it was not that long ago that Mother’s Day brought with it pain and tears because of what I could never have again.

I remind myself to remember. Because the loss is part of the story.

And the empty makes the full all the more full!!!!

Because there were years, and I mean years, of “bruised-knees” praying.

Because those pink-lined pregnancy tests always did end up in the trash.

And the doctor appointments filled my calendar, and my medical file bulged and Doctor’s clamored to see what they had “never seen before.”  And none could figure out how it was possible I even had one little guy sitting at home.  A miracle they called it.

But all the while, I heart-ached for what they were telling me I could never have again.  

Surrender came not long before that Navy Hospital in Italy. The Doctor, who seemed more like a friend than my ob/gyn, explained my percentages of having another child. And she monitored and watched as my body lost our last.

But all the while, God was making another way.

I experienced birthing pains of a different sort…because don’t let anyone tell a mother-through-adoption that they don’t experience birth pains…….oh they do and it hurts. That waiting and paper trail and so many other people holding the strings to when and where and who your baby will be. So we blindly trusted.

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And He made our family in a way I could not clearly see.

But adoption is just part of our miracle story.

Because four months later, that same Doctor from Italy finds me again in Virginia. And that test popped pink and the Doctor smiles big and rejoices with me. Because we have a new little girl at home and now another is on the way. And she asks me if she can share my story. Because she walked through the loss with me and now sees my quiver (or mini-van) full!!!!

And I love how our God can even amaze a mass of Doctor’s.

So I celebrate this baby’s birth seven years ago today!!!  Because I don’t have to look further than my kitchen table to give testimony that miracles do happen even today!!!

“This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. ” Psalm 18:30

 

 

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A letter to our Teenage Daughter’s….

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I was honored when my good friend asked me to participate in her daughter’s Birthday celebration. My sweet friend would be taking her now 13 year old daughter for a weekend getaway to talk to her about life, love, faith, and all that is relevant in the life of a teenage girl. I am honored to be a part of it and pray all of our daughters would embrace this passing on of knowledge, wisdom, and insight to the next generation!

To our Teenage Daughters, 

I hope to offer you some words of wisdom that will help you on your journey through this life you call your own. Although each of our paths are different, we can learn from one  another’s mistakes and missteps. My mistakes may not be your mistakes, and my weaknesses may not be your weaknesses, but allow me to share what I wish I knew at 13.

First and foremost, understand who you are. You are not only your parent’s daughter, you are a Child of the One True God. He has ordered your steps and accounts for every day of your life. There is purpose to His ordering of your days. There is purpose in YOUR life. Ask Him to reveal that purpose, and He will be faithful to show up!!! Don’t allow the mean girls of your life to belittle you or minimize your life. His opinion is all that matters!

Do not listen to this world when they tell you your worth is in your physical beauty. Your worth is found in God. And God cares most about who you are when no one but God is looking. He looks on the heart. Only man measures worth based upon the outward appearance.

Guard your heart. Know that each time you hand over your heart to a boy, there is a possibility it will not be returned to you in one piece. There is no rush in giving away your heart. But when you do, and heart ache steals your breathe away, you have a Father in heaven who binds up our wounds and reaches down to bring beauty out of the ashes of our life.

The amazing thing about a relationship with Jesus Christ, is that He takes the broken pieces of our lives and crafts them in to something beautiful. We all fall down at times. We all make mistakes. You will make mistakes. Forgive yourself and forgive others. Our hearts break, dreams derail, and life does not always follow the path we expected. But Jesus Christ is there through it all. There is nothing you can do to separate you from the love of Jesus Christ. Believe this!!! Remember this!!!! It is a truth that will help you sleep at night.

And so there is this…..let’s talk about sex. In this life there are some things that once you give away, you can never get back. And this giving away leaves you depleted. This giving away makes it a little bit easier to give some more away. And before you realize, large chunks of you are missing and you are just a bit numb. Please listen when I say that a boy will not ask this of you if he indeed has your best interest in mind. Don’t allow anyone to minimize sex in your mind. Sex is a beautiful thing that can blossom and bloom into the most beautiful bouquet if nurtured in the right season. But if forced to bloom to quickly, it will morph in to something it was entirely not meant to be. And we parents want to be realistic and prepare for the day our children decide to take this leap toward adulthood. But can I hold you to a high standard? It is possible to wait!!! Wait for the right man, wait for the right time, wait for your wedding day! I promise you it will be so much more than you can even imagine it to be on that day.

Finally, expect BIG things from God. ASK big things of God. We are so often nearsighted and expect so little of Him. He is a BIG God….expect Him to act like one!!!

Praying you build your life on the solid rock that is Christ Jesus!

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And so I encourage you to speak truth in to the lives of your daughters (and son’s).  Share with them how God molded your life and took the shattered pieces of your life and made them into a beautiful masterpiece.

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“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.  They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. ”  Proverbs 1:8-9

“The unfolding of your words gives light;  it gives understanding to the simple.”  Psalm 119:130 

For ideas on how to start this conversation with your daughter’s and son’s, check out Generations of Virtue

Who is your Lifeguard?

kyleandi

Panic sneaks up on me in the dead of night. I turn over and gaze sleepily at the clock. 4am.

All is quiet in the house except for my heart, which has stirred my mind and body awake in a furry.

The runaway thoughts of a mother wanting desperately to protect her children.

Ah, yes!!! Worry. Panic. Fear. The tri-fecta threatening my peace and effectiveness as a follower of Christ.

Fear cripples and overwhelms. It stops us in our tracks and makes us second guess our better judgment. And I’m swallowed up by it.

josh

The next day my 12 year old son will board a plane and jet away from our home in Singapore to spend five days with a missions team in Hong Kong.

I reluctantly loosen my grip on my son’s life and the world seems to spin on its axis a bit faster. Control is slipping through my fingers and I feel let loose.

A boat floating at sea with no anchor!

A peeling away happens over the next five days….a peeling away of the façade that I am my children’s protector; that I hold my children’s safety in my hands.

I am a prayer warrior these five days without my son. I am committed. I am on my knees and reading the Word. I am clinging to the only true protection my son has….the protection offered by our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Word is my life vest. Christ, my lifeguard. My son’s lifeguard. And I cling closer to shore those five days and always keep my life vest in reach.

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And then……

I write these very words December 14th, 2012 as a gunman breaks through the front doors of Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 first graders and 6 adults.

And the world’s foundation seems to shatter. Families crumble and we all try to make sense of the senseless.

We mourn with those families and ask why and we hug our very own first graders a bit tighter that night.

Some things are not meant to be understood this side of heaven. Some things will just never make sense.

And we’ve all heard the clichéd expression “God won’t give us anything we can’t handle.”

I assure you those parents at Sandy Hook Elementary were indeed given more that day than any one person can bear alone.

So can I clear up this misconception…..no where does the Word of God state that we will not face things in this life that we can’t handle (The verse often misquoted (1 Corinthians 10:13) refers to temptation, rather than suffering.)  If we watch the news for more than a few minutes, we will see life overflowing with circumstances that could drown us in despair.

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And why would we need to make room for the Lord in our hearts if we could handle everything on our own strength and resolve?

Even Jesus cried out to his Father the night before his death, “My soul is overwhelmed with suffering to the point of death.”   Jesus did not face the darkness of night alone, or the suffering he knew would come with day’s light. He reached for His, and our, Father in heaven.

Our Savior knows of suffering. Who better to comfort us in our suffering, than the one who took all of life’s suffering upon himself?

When we acknowledge this life does indeed hand us more than we can handle on our own, we then find God’s promises. His promise to be faithful to meet us in the midst of the senseless and the why’s of life. His promise to carry the load of this life when we can’t manage the weight.

We have a God who cares. A God who carries!!

“cast all your anxieties on Him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

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Evil exists. There is no escaping it here on earth. But our God ultimately wins this war!!! Evil will one day be smothered, snuffed out and forever restrained.

And so I anchor my soul to the Lifeguard who is stronger than the biggest wave. I tether myself to the Life vest that is truly unsinkable. And I race toward that Lighthouse that shines light in the most violent of storms, and rest in the shadow of our Almighty God.

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

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.