Are you willing to hope?

Hope.

A simple word defined, “to expect with confidence, trust.”

How many times in this life have you lost confidence or trust in something or someone?

Countless for me.

So today I was challenged with this idea of hope.  Should I get my hopes up?  Should I allow myself such anticipation?  And I was reminded that I’m hoping in the wrong things.

I’m hoping someone won’t disappoint me or let me down.  I’m hoping this new shirt will make me feel happier.  I am hoping this new endeavor will sustain me.

But that’s not hope, not true hope.

We need to move our hope up higher, to a person who will never disappoint.

Maybe you’re thinking, Tara, I have been so disappointed by God.  He has let me down, not shown up, or left me.  I’ve felt those things too.  So, I challenge you to do something new.

Look back at some of those painful and disappointing times in your life and ask God to show himself.  Ask Him to show where He was.  Trust Him when He speaks.  It’s true.  He was there.

He is incapable of disappointing us.  Of letting us down.  Of leaving us even if we’ve left Him.  He is omnipresent, everywhere, all the time.

Now, you don’t have to look back forever, just long enough to let God show you He was there, He was moving, on your behalf, so He can be with you.  He sent Jesus.  He sent Him for you.

Romans 5:5 (NLT)

 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

So who are you hoping won’t hurt or fail you?  Hopefully it’s not a person or a thing, because they will hurt and fail you.  It’s not hopeless though.

All through the Psalms you’ll find the phrase “I put my HOPE in You.”  Move that hope to the right place.  And allow people to be people.  It will move pressure from them, pressure they cannot carry for us.  And let God surprise you with hope.

He is worthy of all our hope.

Goals

Goals.

Not a word I use in my vocabulary very much.  Too much expectation.  Too much fear of failure.  Sounds good, but yeah right.

Just a few thoughts running through my mind about the word: goals.

If you asked people closest to me if I’m goal oriented, it would not be the first phrase they would use to describe me.  I kind of like it this way.  I like feeling some freedom to move, breathe, and change things up.  Sometimes goals set me in a place of inflexibility.  Free-spirited maybe.  But I like challenges, I like doing things, and sometimes goals are necessary to get crap done.  Right?

One of my only goals this year was to read two to three books a month, twenty-five total for the year. (Look I even made my monthly goal none committal).  This is totally manageable for a mom with three kids, right?  Three months in and this month is proving to be challenging.  I have two books that I’m finishing, but it is the last week of March!  Yikes my mind immediately said, yeah its okay, don’t worry about it, you won’t make it this month.

However, I fought that thought.

I looked at my two books: None like Him by Jen Wilkins and The Wind at the Door by Madaleine L’Engle (Wrinkle in Time Book Two).  (Honestly enjoying them both and I don’t really want them to end.)  However, I saw I only had two chapters for each book.  I have one week and four chapters.

Now, this is totally manageable.   (And I finished The Wind at the Door last night and will start the next book today which gets me a little ahead for next month.)  So I’m doing it, little by little, until this month ends.

This makes me think of other goals I have set and at the risk of failing I just stopped, not allowing myself to look ahead to see if I really could do it.  I assumed failure before I even knew if it was true.

So totally unqualified to talk about goals, but I challenge you to look ahead just a little and see if your goal is manageable if you set out a more specific plan.

My husband is doing this.  He’s an amazing goal setter, I look up to him in this area and take his lead a lot because he is gifted at it.  He has a mile amount he wants to run this year, and he didn’t just break it down to each month how many miles, but to each week the amount of miles he needs to run to meet that goal.  And he is doing it.  One week at a time.

This doesn’t take much effort, just courage to look and see if your goals are attainable.  You will see they are if you break them down into smaller chunks.  Like trying to eat your veggies for dinner.

April is coming, a new month, a new week, a new day to set a goal.  Share it with someone who loves you and will ask how you are doing because they want to see you meet your goals and like walking with you.

Break those goals down: yearly goal-monthly goal-weekly goal-daily goal.

See what you can achieve today or this week, and I bet you’ll meet it for the year too.

 

 

 

Home

Home.

Oh how I love this word.  I feel this way around my husband.  He always feels like home, I’m content to be in his arms.  He smells good.  Doesn’t a home smell good.  You know how your friends would let you borrow a shirt and it smelled like their home?  You can’t explain it.

Recently I watched Ferdinand with my kids,  such a cute movie.  Like totally cute.  I love Ferdinand, his flower loving giant self.  It’s about this bull who does not want to fight like the other bulls and trying to find his place in life.  He finds this little girl and this song Home by Nick Jonas (go listen ASAP) is perfect as this bull is running through sunflowers carrying this precious little girl who is now his best friend.

The longing of every heart to feel like they belong.

And that they belong just as they are.  “Home is where you’re happy,” is one of the lyrics in the bridge.  Where are you happy?  Y’all, I sing this song all day and watch the music video with or without my kids.

There’s something so simple to that belonging.  In the movie, it so freeing to watch this sweet little bull run through fields of flowers.  Then, he has to go back and help free his friends.  And he does.  Then they belong.

Isn’t the point of our freedom, to point others to the one who has set us free.  Sometimes to go back, and let other’s know they can belong too.

I do this a lot with cartoon movies, emote all over them.  Looking deeper at this meaning of life, and I feel like God uses anything to speak to me.  Reading some of my kids children books (Oh the places you’ll go-great motivator, Sleep like a Tiger-great comfort if you struggle sleeping).  He is everywhere and in everything.  Shining the light for us so we can keep walking this thing out.

I hope today you feel happy.  Happy to be in a safe place to call home, a place where you belong.  Sometimes we might not feel like we belong because of the people around us, but maybe even at our own feelings about ourselves.

Listen to me, you belong.  You belong.  You were created to live in this exact time.

You are no mistake.

We don’t have to do anything to earn belonging, we only have to be human.

Where do you belong?  Maybe just right where you are.

Listen to Him telling you, You belong.  You are mine.

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The Good Life

Life with littles.

I have learned a lot.

As a parent you say a lot of, “no don’t eat the sand.”

“You just had a bath.” (mud from head to toe)

“Don’t put that in the toilet.”

It is a constant roller coaster of ups and downs and doing the same thing over and over.

Maybe it is the point, because I am a slow learner.  It takes me a few circles around the block for me to get the point.

I feel like the best mom when my kids are off their tablets/away from T.V., but there is a trade off.  And it usually means the house is a complete disaster.

Disaster equals play.

They have to see where the toys are, which means lots and lots of dumping toy buckets and picking them up to be dumped again.

Just writing it feels overwhelming.

But it’s not all parenting is.

Eventually, the evening slows to lulls.  The kiddos get a little sleepy.  We read our stories for the night.  Brush teeth (that is not the peaceful part).  And I watch those sweet kids fall asleep. Their eyes begin to drift slowly, slowly, until they close.  It’s beautiful.  They are content.  Happy I’m beside them.  And it’s quiet.

Life feels like a whirlwind, but there are these moments where it pauses.  Where it slows to almost standing still, where you can take it all in.  Don’t miss those moments.

It’s not just parenting, but marriage too.  It is the quiet in the car where you are just happy to be in each other’s presence and content to be quiet.

Maybe work, all the sudden you feel a groove in your job and you understand someone more and appreciate all they do.  The frustrations start to fall as you sit and just embrace where you are.  What you have.

Content.

Being content in the quiet has taken me a long time to embrace.  I used to believe silence meant something bad was about to happen, but it’s not true.  The quiet is where God tells you who you are, who He is and why He can be trusted in the busiest of moments.

Life is both.  Crazy and lovely.  Content and fast-paced.  Slow and powerful.  Meaningful and mundane.

Embrace it all.  And make those quiet moments count; loving those around you, listening to the songs of birds outside on this spring day, the sun shining, and the breeze blowing.

I’m sitting in my hallway, listening to my kiddos get along, the birds are chirping, my coffee cup is almost empty, and I’m writing.  Life is good.  It is not perfect, but it is good.

Importance of quiet: God is in the whisper, so we should probably make time to hear it.

Psalm 46:10 says “Be Still, and know that I am God.”

I like how the NET translates it, “Stop your striving and recognize that I am God.”

Be still, embrace whatever moment you are in, and allow God to speak straight to your heart, I promise it is good, a gift.

 

 

 

Keep Your Heart Soft

We are faced with so much in this life.  Maybe you’re thinking, Tara, I haven’t had much trouble.  But, lets just take a look for a second.

Has anyone hurt you so deep you wanted to keep them completely out of your life?  Have you ever been bitter when someone comes forth accepting Jesus or returning back to faith thinking they don’t deserve that chance?  Has someone ever told you a personal story and you felt yourself close off from the pain and hurt because it was too much?

I think I can say, we all close our hearts off in some area of our life.  But when we choose to leave our hearts open, we leave room for love to completely pour out on someone.

An abuse can lead to such a deep love for people in terrible situations leading you to pour resources and support towards a ministry promoting freedom for the hurting.   Freedom from alcohol addiction can lead to a deep love to see others freed as well.  Opening your heart back to the person who hurt you most allows you to see they are not perfect and deserve love too.

It’s a difficult task.  I do not believe this means keeping yourself in an unhealthy situation like abuse.  But we can allow God to move in, let forgiveness settle, and open up to a new way of living.  Living and loving.

Sometimes opening our hearts means we can finally move forward.  Trust me, you want your heart with you in this life.  It is the piece of you with compassion, understanding, joy, hope, empathy.  The place saying “me too.”

You might cry, you might sing praises, you might pray deeply for someone you struggle loving, but let that love flood out and keep your heart open.

I like to place my hand over my heart when I’m praying sometimes or worshipping.  I have lived life with knowledge and little heart, and learned it is essential to be in the both knowledge and heart when we are dealing with people.

I want to be the person that sees the prodigal come down the aisle and be so overjoyed and happy God gives us second chances  (Thinking of the song Reckless Love, the verse “…leaves the ninety-nine…to come and find me”).  I want to be the person who can hear hard stories and know my God is faithful.  I want to give people second chances.

Because ultimately God has left His heart open for us, so we can know He loves us and He loves this world.  Waiting.  Pursuing us with this Reckless Love.  So, we can be brave, keep our hearts open, and love people like He asks us.  It’s His love anyways.

 

 

 

 

 

“The Way of Suffering”

Suffering.

How can a word provoke such a powerful image, feeling, or place most everyone can relate?

I might have already lost you.  No-one wants to suffer.  I don’t want to suffer.

But we do want deeper.  We do want closeness.  We do long for acceptance and understanding.  We do want compassion for those hurting, and patience with people closest to us.  We want freedom.  We want peace.

I feel very unqualified to write anything of worth about this topic, but I have suffered.  And I think suffering is what makes us most relatable.

For the longest time, I’d gloss over tough topics with people and put a shiny Christian phrase over their hurt.  Fighting that urge to try and remove someone else’s suffering.

Not too long ago, I was sharing with my counselor how I was feeling about others pain.  I don’t like when others are hurting or are upset.  I want to remove it and make them happy.  And she said something profound, she said “Tara, you don’t really want to take it from them do you?  This is their journey.”  See those moments I’ve wanted to step in and save are the moments someone needs most.  Those are the moments I’ve needed most.  The moments when I was alone and no one could save me but Jesus himself.  He became so real, so close.  And in the moments you realize for yourself who God is and pursue Him, those are the deep, compassionate, loving, kind moments with a  Savior that will never let go, never let you down, even though the world has turned their back.

The truth comes forth.  You see who you really are.  What you are really made of.  And that makes all the difference.

And I know 100% that God will use your suffering for good.  I cannot recount every moment that God has used my suffering for good and for His glory.  Those things in my life I thought were better left hidden and concealed.

Be vulnerable.  Even when it’s hard.  Let God use you.

And maybe we can just sit with people who are suffering, let them know we are there, that we care, and watch them soar in ways we didn’t even see possible.  Maybe we can be proud people are healing and restoring.

I fumble, maybe speak too much.  I’m still learning what sharing my suffering and story looks like, but I know it’s good.

There’s purpose to suffering is not just for you, but for others too.  Keep your eyes up, He will use it.

Looking for a picture for the title page of this blog, and it is fitting I found a picture of the Via DeLorosa from our trip to Israel.  The places where Jesus carried His Cross to Calvary for us.  Jesus came, suffered on the Cross for me and you, and rose victorious three days later.  I think it make sense to think about suffering as we prepare to enter into the Easter season.

Suffering is for victory.  Our ultimate victory in Heaven with our Savior.

Simple thoughts on reading

Growing up I had a lot of insecurities and one was reading.  My heart would race and I would feel so silly because I read slower than my friends and stumbled upon words easily.  I had the hardest time sounding words out.

So that lead to an early age of not enjoying reading.  Of claiming, I’m just not a reader.  I’m slow.  It’s too hard.  I made it through high school only reading books we listened to on tape (haha!) and reading reviews online to find out details about a book instead of reading it.  I didn’t do well with time crunches on reading.  I’m an absorber of knowledge.  I like to sit on it and let it soak in.

So the first book I remember reading cover to cover was Redeeming Love.  I read it so fast.  It was so powerful and I would sit and read before my college classes would start and pick it up as soon as class was over.  That same year, my husband read Josh Hamilton’s book about his life out loud to me, one of my favorite memories.  We read for two hours.  I sat and listened to the peaceful voice of my husband and cried tears of joy at an amazing testimony of God’s love to change anyone.

My eyes were wide open.  Reading.  The joy and the passion of a good book.  I wanted others to enjoy reading too.  So as I started student teaching science I found I still wanted to encourage my students to read.

I was student teaching and one of the students really struggled with reading.  She wasn’t enjoying the books her friends were reading.  So I encouraged her to step down and read a previous grade book and she loved it.  I saw her eyes open and she was proud of herself.  Reading is reading no matter what.  We must start somewhere.  And books speak to us so differently.

Reading is a powerful connector.

I became a first year teacher six weeks into the school year, and it was flat overwhelming.  I wanted to connect with my one hundred and twenty students, but I didn’t know how.  And the second semester I decided to focus on connecting with a few students instead of the overwhelming task of the entire grade.  So this one student, worked in the library and I loved her book references.  I started reading Hunger Games that spring and we’d share details of the story together.  I remember thinking wow, this is what reading is all about.  Connection.  Reading crosses culture, age groups, social classes and makes us all the same: curious.

I love reading now.  I’d say its a huge passion.  A few years ago I realized it when my husband said, wow you’ve been reading a lot of books this year.  I felt proud.  Honored he noticed, even though that wasn’t my goal.

A few take-aways:

  1. I like reading fiction with non-fiction.
  2. I use November and December to finish up books I’ve left behind during the year.
  3. I’ve set a goal to read two to three books a month.  (Averaging two so far.)
  4. I follow authors on instagram and podcasts (Shauna Niequist podcast); they have the best book references.
  5. I make a wish list on amazon of all the books I want.  The list grows every day.  We are living in days where we can get a book about anything.

I am currently reading A wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle and None Like Him by Jen Wilkins.

Last month I read A Wrinkle in Time and The Happiest Mom.  

So what are you reading?  What books do you re-read?  What book do you want to read this year?  Reference away!

Making connections

This season of life seems to be one of making connections.  Those ah-ha moments that put pieces of life back together where they were once all strewn across the floor for people to step on.

Last night, we were having small group and I was sitting and thinking about influence.  And I immediately had this rush-you know the feeling when you think you’ve done something completely wrong and there’s no way to go back to undo it-this time to my head where I was processing something that had happened.  A word ill spoken.

Shame.  The rush, the flushed face, the thing that says “there’s no way this can work out” or heal, it’s shame.  It keeps me in a place of anxiety and feeling unworthy.  A place that says things can’t change or I can’t change.

I realized it was shame, but didn’t know what to do with it.  So I was asking for prayer requests, realizing I was embarrassed to even share, but said you know I’m not perfect.

ah-ha. I’ve kept shame at bay by trying to be perfect.

Shame keeps us in a lot of unhealthy places.  Places of secrets, of fear of being known, accepted, loved.

But, when we step out we realize we are not alone, and we can share.  Last night, I said “I’m a ministers wife, but I’m not perfect.”  ah-ha.  I had put those two things together.  “If you are a ministers wife, i.e. you must be perfect.”  Kind of a hard gig to live up to.  But being real, being vulnerable, opening up even the yucky parts of myself to my friends and family has cleared up a lot of that shame.

Then it hit me, I could ask for forgiveness, share my heart, open up more, and allow an opportunity to be forgiven.  All was not lost.

I always thought Pharisees believed they were perfect.  But they didn’t.  They knew their secrets, their lies, their addictions, their pride.  They used their perceived perfection to hide their shame and guilt.

I’m reminded of the story of a woman who was thrown at the feet of Jesus naked, ashamed for been caught in the act of adultery.  The Pharisees wanted to catch Jesus and see what He would do with her.  So he began to write and Jesus asked “If one of you is without sin, throw the first stone.”  And they all left, see they knew they had sin, it would be blasphemy if they said they didn’t.  So, it was just Jesus and this woman, I can imagine the shame she’s feeling, and Jesus says, “Did even one condemn you?” “No,” she replied.  And Jesus says, “Neither do I.  Go and sin no more.”  (John 8:1-11)

Forgiveness with Jesus is simple.  It’s coming to Him in all our shame, and nakedness.  And leaving with Him saying I don’t condemn you either.  Jesus knew, the condemnation is what buries us and keeps us from coming back to Him.  Removing that shame then gives us the power to live.  Fully.  Oh sweet forgiveness.  Sometimes I feel I’m just now grasping more of it.

“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”  1 John 1:8-9

So what do you need forgiveness for, ask, and it will be given.  I love this verse because its a promise.  Thank you Lord.