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Rest(ore)d

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I battled aggressively and continuously for well over a year. I was battling the enemy of my soul – – battling depression and sometimes battling grief when I should have been partnering with it. No one soldier can stay on the front lines at all times. They must be pulled back by their General for intentional and strategic respite. 

 This respite always includes deep and restorative sleep in a safe place. It always involve deep hydration. And it always involves food – – the satisfaction of hunger resolved. Thirst Quenched. Often times a family offering was involved. If close to home, soldier were sometimes offered a visit to home. If not, the opportunity to write letters extended. If wounds had been incurred, treatment and healing was pursued.
In July, my general – -the one and only God himself – – called me to the tent of Rest. And he extended every principle of military rest to me. I was pulled from the front lines. The front lines involve constant pressure, alertness, and very little rest. The phrase “ sleep with one eye open” comes in part from the type of rest the front lines offer. 

This meant I stepped back from all extracurricular pressures. I let go of what “jobs” I had in ministry. What I didn’t “let go” of – – I gave myself permission to do at my own pace. That meant I cancelled a bible study session because I was too exhausted. And postponing a scheduled bible study 3 weeks because of my travel and family schedule. The pressure of schedule and duty was removed. Way less rushing and stressing. Way more peace and breathing. In this way, the pressure came off.

But in another aspect of rest and recovery – – the pressure was turned on. As my mental pressure decreased, God very intentionally increased physical pressure on my body in some specific ways. I had regular massages and chiropractic appointments to allow for physical rest and release of tension. The grief I had fought hard to NOT epress built up in the muscles of my neck and back. They became knots and adhesions that made me cry out in pain. And forced those tears to roll out of my spirit and through my body. 

I began sleeping with a weighted blanket and allowed that extra pressure to sooth my body and my nervous system. My breathing and sleeping became deep and restorative. In the safety of HIS arms.

Food. He laid a feast before me. He set a table for me in the presence of my enemies. My feast was worship. Worship through song, dance, movement, crying on my yoga mat, having scripture read over me in my bed. Walking barefoot in the grass and sunshine outside my office for 20 minutes in the afternoon.

Drink. Holy hydration. Living Water . Simply. . . Jesus. His Words. His Ways. His Truth. His yoke. Allowing Him to be a pillow that my whole spirit can sink into and be surrounded by.

He will tend my wounds. Heal my spirit. He Chose a therapist endorsed by my husband and closest family who will guide me through the parts of trauma that are stinking around a little too long for true peace to reign. 

And finally the reconnection to my family. Being intentionally present and invested in the now and hows of their little lives. More snuggles. More talks. More planning. More Walks. Less phone. Less industry and distraction. Even giving myself permission to miss a few ministry related balls at bat. I quit swinging at everything. And concentrated on certain pitches.

And focused effort aimed at the right pitches will swing you into a home run that reminds you – – your home is actually heaven. The battlefield is very temporary and the earthly plight is as brief as it is hard. And He finally gave me that piece of the puzzle I claimed in faith but did not hold in my heart.

 RESTORE. To bring back; reinstate. Return to original condition. 

Let’s take a deeper look at its roots. 

Rest: cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength. To be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position 

Ore: a naturally occurring solid material from which a metal or valuable mineral can be profitably extracted.

Through the rest, the things of great value are extracted. Our souls are profited. This is not a Sabbath rest or a rest with a particular rhythm. It is a total loss of all thought or task that emits a holy “electrical” change in your spirit. Like all things of God it’s hard to explain and unique to experience. And Good.
I rested as God rests and I awaken refreshed. I will be back on the front lines again, Exhausted. Bewildered. Overwhelmed. And Overscheduled.

But I also know I’ll be refreshed and restored in a way only He can.

My Shack 

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The following was written a year ago after I stumbled upon one of the biggest miracles I’ve ever experienced.  This place is a piece of heaven on earth. A sacred place where Gods love lives if He gave it an earthly address. The thing is. . .He had to tell someone to build it. And they had to be obedient. Thank you Bud and Lynda Lynn for your obedience And my great blessing: 

A few years ago, probably more than a few- actually- I read the book “The Shack. ” It touched me deeply. . . The themes of God being real in our lives in the form of three persons– of him very literally inviting us on adventures and intimate journeys with him, and the miracle of finding the truth of who Christ is in the form of our deepest loss made a mark on my heart. And I said to God- “I wish you would do that for me one day. . . ” but in my heart I did not believe He would. I didn’t think God would choose to be that literal with me. An actual note in my mailbox. An actual cabin and “shack” in the woods, an actual serene lake outing with Jesus. That was fiction. And for some reason, in my mind, God had decided to leave that sort of direct, burning bush style communication in a far away land called the Old Testament. 
But in the days after Ellis’ homecoming, I did get a postcard in the mail. I tried to dismiss it but I could not . Because every cell in my body reacted to it in a way that only happens when creation responds to its creator. That same day I bought a rose print backpack equally mysteriously. And I knew that note that began “my fellow adventurer” was just a hint of what it would come to mean. But it remained a mystery. 

I continued on the hard work of getting reconciled, battling up, grounding and surrounding, and storytelling. . . The next song to sing, the next step of obedience. . . That next hard first or sweet truth. . . I put that adventure note in the back of my mind . . . 

Until I arrived at the cabin in Branson . . . Only seeing that little shack of a chapel sprinkled with roses. . . With reminders of Jesus always with his children. . . Rose crowns and thorn crowns. . .angels and babies. . . But a very intentional touch of vintage pink roses everywhere. . .and He whispered check out the woods behind. . . And there’s a cross crowned in a garland of pink roses. . . I ran to the front of the chapel and tried to jerk open the door but it was locked. I soaked in the grounds of the chapel and knew every bit was for me. I peeked in the window like a child and could tell there were real short pews but not much else. 

The next morning I laced up for a run but God whispered to try the trail at our condos. . . It led to a private, serene lake much like the one I had imagined years before . . . And Jesus was there. 

When I returned the chapel was open and just as I knew it would. . . It blew me away. Vintage rose curtains, little paper roses mounted on pew ends. . . Everywhere I looked – a very specific symbol of something significant between me and Ellis or me and God or all of us. . . A place perfectly prepared. . . Like no other. . . By no other. . . It was a romantic scavenger hunt. . .a dance. . . A peek a boo game laced with surprises. . . The final one would happen the next morning when I would go there there to worship with my family and look down to see a replica of my childhood bible. . . From my baptism that occurred after a holy moment in a patch of woods outside a rustic chapel. . . Singing the beginning and the end . . . And knowing He is the God of both sacred times. . . And knowing for sure that He gives us the desires of our heart in ways we would never expect. I am glad He has allowed my heart to stay open to all He has. . . For a tribe who protects my life with endless rings of sweetness in prayers we call donuts. . . And for going ahead and doing that which I doubt He will – – just to show me who He is and how magnificently He loves me. . .

#EG41

Much Love 

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He sees me kneeling here. . . I offer Him the worship of trusting Him with my tears. . .and He says . . . “She has shown me much love.” 

Much Love. Each tear comprised of much love. Each prayer in desperation composed of much love.  Each time I look to the Word instead of the World – – an act of much love. . . 

My sins which are many are forgiven for I have shown much love. . . To the One Who Is Love. . . who gave Himself up for Love.  His feet are absent from my earthly view so I blow a kiss to the heavens. . . 

I’m in a new phase of my grief journey. It’s one that’s more intentionally caring of myself and my family.  Becoming a caretaker of my own spirit. . . 

And as much as possible I am giving myself permission to grieve when it hits me. . . It often “hits” me – – sweeps over me actually at church- – a strong wave of love and longings and brokenness. . . That’s more than I can push back and so I’m swept out with it. . . Wrapped up in the security of my Fathers Wings but allowed to be rocked by the waves. 

And because I’m trying to embrace these waves rather than fight them- – I’ve taken the pressure off to ” keep it together ” in front of the crowd. And so among the masses today, I shook the row with my emotion.  The river of tears flow freely.  And a shift will occur. 

The church will be reclaimed as my sanctuary and not my battlefield. I will take a respite from ministering to others but I will enter a retreat where I am ministered to.  

I won’t watch the tears roll down my husbands face without being able to hold tight to his hand and whisper truth into the ears that are attached to his soul. 

I will enter into a posture of unguarded worship. . . Its the only real worship there is

 And it’s more than that. For I’m not the only woman who came to the day in her destiny where she would bear no shame in her tears. Not even close. But there is one that Jesus spoke of directly. . . 

He demanded that they look at her- acknowledge her gifts which were only Love. . . 

“She wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. . . She has not ceased In kissing my feet. . . Her many sins are forgiven – – for the she loved much.” 

And so it is my faith that saves me and I too go in peace. . . 

Luke 7: 36-50 tells the whole story and part of it is my story too. What a great author He is. . . Faithfully crafting sequels of salvation for us all . We love much because He is much Love❤️ 

The Truth About Pain

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Since the moment that I began to realize that death itself had touched my child . . . That just as she had been beautifully gifted to us, she had also been taken away. . . From the start. . . 

I have been surrounded by Truth. Not scientific truth. Not intellectual truth. Not earthly truth. But Gods Holy Eternal Truth that never changes and is the foundation on which we stand. My mother was the first one to declare it over me in the hallway of the hospital where she was pronounced. . . Not beautiful. Not healthy. But dead. Expired. At rest. 

The truth has healed my spirit. It has soothed my soul. It has allowed me to stay connected and even reconciled with the only real source of life- -My God, My Jesus, and His beautiful spirit that He left to tend to mending me. 

There’s no way around the beautiful truths that He has revealed to me. But as beautiful and comforting and holy as it is- – This Truth. 

It cannot be separated from the pain that brought it. I’ve tried to trade the Truth for the pain. For all that’s good about God to somehow cancel the ripping of my heart- – the assault on my body and soul that this life experienced has delivered. 

The truth and the pain are married. It’s not one or the other. They are a package deal. The truth is critical to healing . . . 

But I won’t heal on truth alone. Tremendous pain is also a vital part of healing .  We do not want that to be as true as the Truth. . .but it is. It’s ok to not be ok because the opposite of being ok is actually how we get to that ok place. 

So one piece of the healing puzzle is discovering and believing what God says is true about your situation. 

And for me the next piece will be to learn to embrace and properly place the pain – -just as I have the TRUTH. God made us mind. Body. Spirit. All three must be renewed in Him. None can be skipped. Phase 1 for me  was most definitely Spirit. I thank God for that. He knew I needed it that way. He is kind and thoughtful. Faithful and All Knowing. 

I have reason to believe my mind and body will be healed together, in tandem, simultaneously . . . Because of the strength He has brought to my Spirit. 

It will not be easy. It will be hard and holy but I was made by a Holy God.  And I was made for hard and holy things. So bring it. . . Bring it On. Bring it hard and fast or sweet and slow. I trust You and I Am Yours God. 

But as a note to those who read my words–if I’ve given you the impression that Truth cancels pain, I apologize for that. I will be faithful to share the light He’s shown to me. Both in the places where Truth lives in Triumph and in the places where pain is prescribed and holy. . . There is no shame in pain. The freedom of Christ lives there too.   

The Ebenezer

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The first time I tried to select it, I fell short of accomplishing the task. I could hardly choke out the phrase “my daughter died” . . . And it would take more than that to do this properly.  
The salesperson was unaware that this was not business but rather a sacred work. . . 

It wasn’t meant to be a memorial for ” just a baby” or one for just this time or just this season. It needed to stretch beyond the borders of time but could only fit on a finite amount of space. It must capture the spirit of who she was and continues to be. And yet it must not be a shrine to her. As powerful and precious as she is – she is not deity. We must glorify God and cast a brief reflection of this story- – this mystery- – of His Glory. 
And so on a better day when my voice was stronger- – we set out to climb the summit. To make the selection. One tear. One word. One flower. One font. One hummingbird. One design dimension. One painful choice at a time.  
And in that process what began as a memorial stone became an Ebenezer.  

Before Ellis Grace’s homecoming, “ebenezer” was an odd word in a beloved hymn. But since, it has become a pillar. . . A monumental medallion. . . Shining on a country hill. . . A marker of who we are. . . A declaration of Gods Goodness in All Things. . . That as timeless as our sweet Ellis Grace is, so is Gods Unending Kindness. . . 
Hannah gave her child to the Lord for all of his days. I did the same. She prayed a prayer. I prayed that same prayer. Her child raised an Ebenezer to the most high God. I raise my child’s Ebenezer to the most high God. 
“After a long period of sadness and trouble, a consequence of Israel’s disobedience, Israel repented under the leadership of a new priest and judge, Samuel. God restored their political security, and the people, for their part, recommitted their hearts and minds to God. 
Samuel placed a large stone at the place where this restoration began. He publicly dedicated it as a monument to God’s help, God’s faithfulness, God’s eternal covenant. And as the people got on with their lives, the stone stood there, visible to all who passed that way, a reminder of judgment and repentance, mercy and restoration.
The Ebenezer stone represented a fresh beginning, a reversal of course for God’s people. It also said something important about God: his mercies are everlasting; his covenant is forever.” 
Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—”the stone of help”—for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” —1 Samuel 7:12, NLT

#EG41

Our Resting Rainbow 

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I will never forget finding out I was pregnant with #5. I dreamed that I had a long line of pregnancy tests to show Chris and they were all positive. I woke up with a full bladder and a hunch . I took the test in our guest bathroom downstairs at 5 AM and I ran upstairs to tell him, show Him, hug him, and praise God with him. And we felt the kind of joy WE desired to feel. Finally. And it was needed.  And after so much sorrow- I was a bit drunk on JOY.  

Intoxicated with love and hope and promises fulfilled. We needed this baby. This bright rainbow after such dark storms. It felt like an olive branch of redemption from God. Like freedom from a prison we were locked in and like sunshine on the chilliest of days. It felt right. It felt impossible for the road to be short or marked with pain. I could feel the ordinance of this- – the holy declaration of restoration. 

And my world instantly got bigger. It didn’t make me grieve less but things that had been painful like pregnant ladies and onesies in my hospital gift shop – – lost their sting and began to have luster again. I felt like I had been invited and accepted back to a fairytale castle after a long stay in a dungeon. 

The joy was exhilarating and God began to do things rapidly that He had taken His time with on other babies. A strong sense of the gender. A song for this baby. A name. All things gifted in an ” early” surge of joy that swept over me. I ordered special gifts for this baby including some very special rainbow themed items. Such sweet fun. I quite simply had good vibes. 

My mother cried tears of joy and relief, my husband beamed, and I was covered in the kind of joy and peace that is usually only associated with Christmas. Everything about it was perfect. I had just started my 41st year – how perfect. 

Perfect would remain the theme from January 19th until February 9 when the “spotting” began. The ultrasound that was meant to reassure instead revealed that what was supposed to be a 7 week pregnancy had actually drifted into eternal rest at 5 1/2 weeks.   God had blessed us with a rainbow baby that would be a forever resting rainbow. 

And We had been used by God once again for Him to ordain life through our family. But He had used His math instead of mine. And in a wave of tears and an assault of painful cramping. . . I once again cried out to God that I don’t understand 

But I trust. 

That I wanted different. 

But know His way is higher. 

That I’m hurt . . . So very hurt and disappointed . . . On top of seething hurt and disappointment that was still there.  Hurt upon hurt. 

And that it’s hard to feel that He is good. And hard to feel that I am not cursed. 

Do you trust me

It’s the only question He asks me sometimes.  

I trust you. It’s the only right answer. All the time. 

I trust that I begged Him for the miracle of remaining  reconciled to Him. I wanted to know for sure.  I trust that the best way for me to know for sure was to lose another child . But without drifting out of reconciliation with Him this time. He was good to give this gift. And kind to deliver it to early  in the  process.  Grace. 

Grace Upon Grace. 

I trust that I had asked Him to deliver a child naturally many times many years ago. But was placed in a position with all of my live births to deliver surgically under His protection.  I trust that this , these sacred 3 days that I labored over this resting rainbow. . . Was His YES to those prayers. The kindest yes for my body and my heart. 

I trust that He knew I love the buddy system and hated for any member of our family to be alone. Even in Heaven.  I trust that it is right for Ellis to have a sibling in heaven. For our girls to be together.  

I trust that I’m better for being fully sure of when I believe that life begins.  There is no doubt when you tearfully beg the nurse to see if there’s anyway she can retrieve a picture of that “yolk sac” for you to keep. And you lovingly stare at it and thank God for it. Yes, life begins at the beginning for me. Long before the cadence of the heartbeat starts. 

And I trust that He qualified and ordained me for yet another territory in ministry.  Each road I walk with Him is one I can help lead others down.  My resume of pain is the most important one I’m writing. It gives me jobs and titles for this kingdom that no one else will be selected for.  These paths paved with pain are taking me to good places both on earth and in Eternity. 

I learned that rainbows remind us of Gods promise to us.  They are a reminder that we are in relationship with Him and He has the upper hand.  As He should.  But it’s a hand we rest in. One our names are written on. I learned that rainbows make us children of wonder. Real rainbows don’t stay that long. They sparkle in the clearing after the storm and then they disappear in the sky. 

Chris privately buried our rainbow right where her sister was laid to rest.  It is on earth as it is in heaven.  We tucked away many dreams when we tucked that sweet baby in to rest eternal.  A new memory box of things never used or worn. It was a week before Ellis’ birthday and there would be no birthday for this little joymaker.  

So we rest on the promises of God even while those sweet promises rest in His loving arms. 

Our resting rainbow. My covenant. His resting promises. May we all rest In The peace that only He can bring.  And I fell in love with that rainbow when she was two lines on a stick and walked in joy the 3 weeks we were roommmates in this body.  I loved ever minute of being her momma.   It’s gonna be a great reunion in heaven. No doubt. But now I’m guaranteed to have someone I will meet there for the very first time. Even though I carried them in my body and my heart for the fullness of their earthly life.     When I get there,  I won’t want it any other way. Of that, I am sure.  Only God can orchestrate such magic. 

Sweet baby, Mommas coming. 

Sweet God, it’s good to be your baby always. 

Finding Ellis 

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I do not think it is possible to give away the plot of a movie called Finding Dory. But just in case *spoiler alert* don’t read this if you don’t want any hint of a detail😉
Sweet Dory was lost from her parents for most of their lives. . . And God spoke to me deeply in their story line which is hidden for much of the movie. We Come to find out that they did not panic. They did not go crazy. They did not search so frantically that they lost themselves. . . They peacefully followed her by doing something each day that built a shining path to their reunion. They were faithful. They stayed. They remained whole. They remained together. They kept hope alive in their hearts. Each day they let their love for her build one more step closer to her home.  

So Lord let us be like those animated fish . Let Carrie and Chris be like the faithful fishes, Charlie and Jen. Thank you for helping us build a path to peace and keep hope in our hearts of a reunion that lasts forever. You’re a good, good Father and we are so loved by you❤️🙏🏻
#EG41 #useEllis2tellus #findingdory