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.  

Sometimes He doesn’t take it

I’ve talked with God a lot about my struggles, the things I don’t like about myself. Anxiety is one. Depression another.

But in all my asking He doesn’t take it.

He allows it to be a teacher.

Our feelings aren’t things to be pushed away, but to be held. To allow them to do their job.

My son is getting two fillings today, at five and a half. I’m nervous. He’s nervous.

I want to take it from him, but it’s not for his best. He’s going to have to do hard things in this life and I can’t shield him from them all. Today it is fillings, who knows what tomorrow holds.

So today, I’m learning to live with that anxiety and allow my son to get his teeth taken care of so he can be cavity free.

God sees the end picture. He knows what our struggles bring us too. To a place of being with Him, of resting in Him with our whole selves. Not the self we like.

So, today what part of yourself do you wish were more together, healthier, because those are the things God wants. He wants to be with all of us. The parts that doubt, that are addicted, that are hurting, that are fearful. The parts so utterly broken.

See I wanted God to take the feelings away, but those feelings were pointing to deeper hurt that needed to be brought to the light so it could be healed. And when I struggle with anxiety and depression it’s normally because I’m pushing that self away and telling myself to get it together.

See I’m uncomfortable with my son and having pain. I want to run from it, to say just keep the cavities, but it will cause more pain later.

So I let Him have space to be courageous. And he is.

Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is to come to God with it all. And let Him heal it, it can be painful. But we can have confidence, He’ll gladly accept us. And we will have a deeper relationship with Him. He knows how it all ends, and it’s good.

So pray today, give it to Him. He wants it. And if you don’t know how, ask Him, He’ll help you.

Maybe we are all chosen.

Sitting in my living room, listening to little snores from a baby boy who hasn’t felt good lately.  Stomach bug has taken him down.

Sitting, thinking on what to write and how to write it today.

I have bacon cooking and coffee brewing, planning to enjoy a little down time before picking the older kids from school.

“For such a time as this” a verse from Esther.  We were created for such a time as this.  This world we live in right now, we were created to help, to encourage, to lift their eyes up to Jesus.  That feels like a huge task.

I find myself saying, yeah, they are definitely chosen but not me, not my gifts, not my talents.  I have no influence.  No space to create to share with others.  Not true.

Chosen does not equal perfect.  It does not equal complete, whole.  It represents the willing.  The ones willing to allow God to use them, all of them. The good the bad and the ugly.

And we are chosen because we are loved.

1 Thessalonians 1:4 “For we know brothers, loved by God that He has chosen you.”

God loves all the parts of our story.  The good and the bad.  He loves us in everyone of those moments.  John 3:16 says “For God so loved* the world…”.  He loves the whole world.  You are included, I’m included.

So the first qualification is

1) to be loved by God (whew, this requires nothing of us)

And the second is to be willing like Esther, in the face of such danger, to step out to stand up.  For her it was for her nation.  What do you need to stand up for?  (…whew I’m challenging myself with that question!)

2) be willing.

Be willing to fail.  Be willing to rise up.  Be willing to accept accountability.  Be willing to let others look into your life.  Be willing to show people where God has been in your life.  Be willing to heal.  Be willing to wait.  Be willing to step even if you don’t know what step is next.

3) ask God.

This one might be scary, because if you are like me you know He will answer and what if you don’t like it.  When you step into a plan God has for you, you will like it one thousand times more than you own.  Don’t settle for sitting back, because you are scared.

Clarification: this doesn’t have to mean ministry or mission field, but it could.  I’m taking this as day to day living.  This is me sitting in my living room writing as my baby sleeps and my kids are at school.  This is my small step.

Take a step today, toward a dream, a word, a gifting you know you have that you’ve not used for His glory.  Go, just enough today.  He’ll give you the next step tomorrow.

Life doesn’t always go as planned

Sitting at home, writing today, while my mother-in-law works in the other room today.  Her flight got cancelled yesterday and the one for 1 pm today was cancelled as well.  The airlines are planning to call her back and give her an update on a new flight.

Stressful.

So much of life has not gone the way I planned it.

We didn’t plan to move to Texas.

We didn’t plan to be in college ministry.

I didn’t plan on getting a teaching degree.

I didn’t plan on having a breakdown or breakthrough, whatever you want to call it, at age 30, with three kids.

But God knew.

Psalm 139:16

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.”

Essentially, God knew every day I was ever going to live, and He knows every day I will live from here on out.  He knows the struggles, the joys, the trials, and the fruit He will produce.

I’m reading “None like Him” by Jen Wilkins and its such an amazing book, opening my eyes to so many of the things that God is and I am not.  And my last chapter was on how our God is eternal.  There is no time that He has not known completely.  He was relevant for the Israelites and He is relevant right now for us.  He knows all.

Revelation 1:8

 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Psalm 90: 17 Moses requested for God to “establish the work of our hands.”  So we can rest our plans in His hands because it’s better than we ever planned.

See, my mother-in-law got on a flight this afternoon that is direct instead of flying all afternoon connecting somewhere else to her final destination.

He knows.

He knows our testimonies need some plans changed.  He knows we need to see Him move and we see Him move more clearly when we are desperate for Him, when we are only looking for Him.

And if all our plans go as we thought, then who is God? Maybe He has to throw some wrenches in the mix so we look up.  And sometimes those wrenches are really, really beautiful.

What plans of yours have changed, and how has God used them in your life?road-sun-rays-path

I see you

Dear momma,

I see you.

I see you loving on those babies, when you are so tired you cannot even think straight.

I see you cutting up those grapes in halves because you’re nervous your toddler will swallow them whole.

I see you momma cooking two meals because you don’t want to eat chicken nuggets, but it’s the only protein your cutie will eat.

I see you washing those dishes for the second time today.

I see you holding your sweet girls hand as you walk her to school.

I see you leaning over your little ones at night and kissing them on the forehead and whispering you love them.

I see you rocking your two year old who’s teething and they look at you with those loving eyes.  The world stops for a moment.

You’re a good mom .

I see you asking for help when you were losing your patience.

You’re a good mom.

I see you praying over those kids asking God to help you not totally mess them up.

You’re a good mom.

I see you budgeting and trying to save as you head to the grocery store.

You’re a good mom.

I see you making mistakes and beating yourself up for them.

You’re a good mom.

You’re not perfect.

But you are a good mom.

Take true inventory of your day.
And if you can’t, ask someone close to you. My sister in law is one of my best encouragers.
And you’ll realize the rough parts were such a small portion of the day.
Then, remind yourself you are a good mom.

And it’s enough.

Grounded

Where to begin.  This topic is heavy and hard to articulate.  It’s something I’ve felt a thousand times, but still struggle with the right words for it.

Anxiety.   Defined as “…an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.”

I read an article yesterday about “Anxiety in children” from heysigmund.com.  I just can’t get over how powerful this article was.  When you struggle with anxiety, maybe you fear your kids will struggle with it too.  I don’t think anyone loves feeling anxious.  But it is a normal feeling.  It’s normal.  It’s normal. It’s normal. (I’m reminding myself.)  Because one of the biggest hiccups with anxiety is that it feels so lonely.

This article articulated what a strong mind looks like, and it is one that protects us.  I love this.  I believe the heart of anxiety is a sense of needing to protect ourselves.  “Hey Sigmund” calls an anxious mind strong, creative, and a little overprotective.

Have any of you been with a parent or maybe yourself, and you just feel the need to be overprotective, sit down Timmy, don’t climb on that, don’t jump too high, what’s in your mouth, oh nothing, just the food I gave you…  Anyone else?

Someone with anxiety is reacting the same way just in their mind.  It is irrational but it feels so real to that person.  And going back to the definition, I’m reminded of myself, anxiety for me is a fear of not having enough of myself to do what I need to do.

So I’m going to recap a piece of this article, because this stuff is good!  Go read this article even if you don’t struggle with anxiety, because I know you know someone who does.  Give yourself wisdom to understand someone else.  It is super science-y, which I love.

First it talks about our amygdala (where we feel all our emotions) and someone with anxiety, there’s works a little harder.

Grounding is one area I want to land with this topic.  Anxiety is like the mind getting hijacked by fear of the future.  And grounding is a way to bring it back to the present.

“Hey Sigmund” suggests a fun activity using your five sense.

When anxiety rolls for you or someone you love, here are the five suggestions: Have them say out loud: (Probably will only have to do a few)

5-what are five things you see

4-what are four things you hear

3-what are three things you feel

2-what are two things you can smell

1-what is one thing you can taste

This can help bring you to the present.  (Present; defined as existing or in progress right now. LOVE!)  We don’t have to be perfect or anxiety free, but we can stand in the present making progress over anxiety hauling off with our day.

I’m practicing this today.img_7242-1

Writing

I’m off this week.  A little jostled.  Like my tiny world shifted a little too much this week.

So today I’m still writing.  I don’t want to write only when I feel awesome or when I feel I have the most amazing word for someone.  But I want to write, and do it on days that I don’t feel like it too.  Because I feel called to it.  To write.

The one thing I hear over and over if you want to write is to keep your butt in the chair and write.  Today is that day for me.

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I want to write not just to feel better, but to see change and growth.  To see this craft turn into something beautiful, an art work.

If you told me a year ago, I would thoroughly enjoy writing, I’d laugh.  My claim over myself for years was I’m not a writer, I like math.  I was really saying um, I’m only good at math not english.  Which is a pretty broad statement to put over yourself.  I like to do that, box myself in.  Anyone else?

So this year, I’m stepping out.  Writing.  I have things to say and words to speak.  Words that I feel are important.  I have a story to tell, and I want to be the one to tell it.  So I’m writing.

So, I guess I’m writing today to tell you don’t box yourself in.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but take whatever next step you need to move in what God is calling you to.

Sometimes, I like looking too far into the future, but the only step we need to take is today.

We have dreams, true dreams, that have been placed on our hearts.  It’s our job to awaken and do those dreams.  They are there for a reason.

I have so many friends that spur me on who are pursuing dreams and making things happen in their lives and their families.

Like my friend, who is a missionary pursuing prenatal fitness certifications because she is so passionate about mom’s and their health.  If she can do it in Africa, we can here.  Or like my friend and her husband, who are pursuing rental properties so they can live their dreams together.  Or another friend who is teaching at five am in the morning before her babies are up to help their family, but mostly because she’s an amazing teacher and it will always be in her heart.  Another friend who is pursuing a degree to be a nurse anesthetist, she’s dreamed about it, kept pursuing, and now has the opportunity to go and do that dream.  I could go on and on.

Maybe the the key is to let others inspire you, instead of making you jealous.  I like this option better.  So, instead of jealousy I can let someone else’s passion pour into my life and inspire me towards my passions, whatever they are.

Be inspired even when you don’t feel like it.  I’m working on it.