Saturday, March 2, 2019

Hope For Tomorrow: Navigating the Seas of Disappointment

Ever noticed life is an ebb and flow between calm waters and storms of disappointment? From my observation, the people who have the greatest joy and emotional fortitude are people who have learned to navigate the disappointments of life well! I’ve come to realize there are three lies disappointment whispers:
                                      I’m not enough. 
                                                ...God is not really for me!
                                                    ...Now, I've missed my chance! 

When the waves of disappointment crash in, a sure way to loose your footing and get knocked flat on your keister is to pout like a toddler who didn’t get what they wanted, live strictly on your emotional heartache, and turn to self loathing . 
Bon-voyage on the Ship O’Despair ! 🛳⚓️ Believing the lie that the best of life is behind you and you’ve lost all chance of realizing your dreams tosses all hope for a future overboard ! To navigate the seas of disappointment well you have to combat those lies with truth. 

The voice of TRUTH speaks:
You are worth wanting, loving, liking, pursing, fighting for, and keeping!
"You are my servant. I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you ; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:9-10

There are times we make decisions that land us in a mess facing consequences. A healthy dose of introspection is good! Let me say that again... a healthy dose-- not a dose that leads to self condemnation!! Ask yourself : Did my words encourage or tear down? Did I love well ? Act with integrity ? If you can answer yes, you will find the situation /hurt wasn’t really caused by you or about you, rather about the character /integrity of other party which is beyond your control.

God opens and closes doors , gives good gifts to His children, delights in you , and made you in His image . (Romans 8:31; Rev 3:8; Gen 1:27; Zeph 3:17) He is most certainly with you and for you!

You can trust that God is always at the helm! God can restore and bring opportunities that are far more than we can orchestrate, ask, or image. (Eph 3:20) 

The truth is disappointment can actually be God’s grace and favor. Grace is God’s unimaginable generosity (Desmond Ford) . His generosity is sometimes saving us from ourselves; from our plans. Sometimes that grace is saving us from darkness hiding behind a seemingly good business deal or seemingly good relationship. God knew imminent disaster was just around the corner. 

I had the gift last weekend of a long time friend reminding me what a gift of evangelism my late husband had . Her story brought to mind a couple of years prior to Micah’s death, he had a vision to buy acreage to build a home , barn, and dig out a pond. He wanted to use this to serve our church and host youth events . We felt this 6 acres we found were perfect! Not foolish plans, good plans right? Used for God’s glory, right? Imagine our disappointment that the land was sold right before we put in an offer and was then subdivided. 

Y’all that disappointment was God’s grace!! God saved me from being a widow with two young children way out in the boondocks being overwhelmed taking care of a lot of land! Can we all think of a time God had our “6 “when we didn’t even know the tsunami that was coming? When we were about to plunge into a rip tide mess that would pull us away from God’s best for us? That the job offer you were certain would materialize , the best friend who left you in the dust, the fiance' that called off the wedding ...was actually God’s redirection .

God’s redirection was actually for your protection. Sometimes what actually felt like rejection and demotion was God’s favor and promotion. 

Anchoring to His PERSPECTIVE in response to disappointment is everything ! A soul shift to proper perspective exposes the lies of disappointment to the light of God’s truth. You can CHOOSE to lean into God by having a heart posture of thankfulness and asking God , Show me the next thing ! "Show me the very next words of love to be spoken, to the very next heart, that's shattered and broken...the next way you're gonna use me." (Casting Crowns, The Very Next Thing).

Please hear me out ! I’m not discounting the cutting emotional pain that accompanies disappointments. The anxiety that can ravage veins , the fog of grief is all raw and real. Emotional pain leaves gaping holes and hearts heaving for breath . In order to make it through the storm, cling to the Master rather than the mast ! He has more out there for you beyond the gale force winds and sea squalls tossing you about . Know this current state is temporary, there is so much more to your story . Your life is a glorious unfolding !!!

When your core is to be a vessel, His hands and feet to bring glory to the ONE that made you, navigating life’s crashing waves of disappointments gets a little easier —makes the emotional pain a little more palatable while you sail through your storm and eventually port in more peaceful waters ! I promise once He has safely pulled you into harbor, one day you will gaze out to the turbulent wake of the Sea of Disappointment behind you and shed tears of joy ! You will be able to say, “Lord , thank you ! Now I see! I see that was the misery and destruction you rescued me from enduring !” 

Until the whole world hears, 


Music Behind The Post:
Steady My Heart: Kari Jobe

Hope in Front of Me: Danny Gokey

You Are: Colton Dixon

The Very Next Thing: Casting Crowns

Glorious Unfolding: Steven Curtis Chapman

Haven't Seen It Yet: Danny Gokey

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Stained Glass Reflections

Here we are again on the dawn of a new year. The last eleven moons and  an Advent season gone by have given me much to reflect on as God has whispered defining words to our haven.

BROKEN BEAUTY: When brokenness and beauty exist simultaneously.

"Sometimes to get your life back you have to face the death
of what you thought your life would look like." ~Lysa Terkeurst

As a widow, there will forever be this bridge we live on embracing past, present, and future simultaneously. Much like stained glass pieces welded together to create a masterpiece of beauty, pockets of joy will be mingled with some twinge of sadness especially for my kids. Transitions invariably rip Band-Aids off hearts as the realization sinks in, this side of heaven a nuclear family of four won't be pieced back together. While there has been so much joy and peace this season, Christmas Eve I realized putting out the kids St. Nick and stuffing stockings alone will NEVER feel normal.  

FLUID: the act and art of practicing being flexible despite changed plans, disappointments, and chaos that comes your way. I am learning to adopt a new Ann Voskampism, "No expectations. Only gratitude because all is grace. " Amid the ever changing plans and hustle of the season, this new phrase has helped me be present minded and enjoy those present without getting my tinsel in a tangle! Most often God ends up righting plans or realigning schedules better than I could have ever dreamed.

GRAFTED: To transplant or implant (living tissue) into a bodily part; to replace a damaged part or compensate for a defect. 

Our Advent tradition is to read Unwrapping The Greatest Gift (Ann Voskamp) family devotionals and hang corresponding Jesse tree ornaments on our tree. The Jesse Tree tradition takes you through the genealogy of Jesus. Ya'll, this year I was squarely hit with GRAFTED IN and GRACE. In Jesus' lineage there are harlots, adulterers, and incest. (This sermon is a great walk through Jesus' lineage: (Ancestory of a King) His lineage clearly shows no one, no matter what they have done, is too far gone or excluded from the opportunity to be grafted into God's family. His lineage makes me want to be keenly aware of who our family has grafted in and to stay vigilant of who in my midst needs to be grafted in? The forgotten, the lonely, the battered, the grieving? 

VISIONARY PARENTING: Parenting with the focus and intention of creating servant hearted disciples which is evident by behavior shown to the nuclear family. 
Ya'll its been almost a full year since I penned the Home Sweet Home post. Almost a year since I sat my kids down and asked them to forgive me for believing "all siblings just fight" and "true character is who others outside our home tell me they are".  A year focused on building each other up rather than tearing our home apart brick by brick. 

I'm still in this campaign to create servant hearted disciples whose character in our home matches the behavior outside our home. Most days if I’m honest, I wonder if I’m making any ground at all . Truth be known, today in this house has been savage. Truly, the strife stirred up, the critical tone of voice, the bickering, makes anger flash in my heart. I'm emotionally drained; however, I've resolved, I'll do whatever it takes! I’ll do whatever it takes to keep instilling character and truth in love that who they are and how the people under our roof are treated is the most important ! It's important for now and also for the generations to come. 

"Let us not grow weary in doing good, 
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we not give up." 
Galatians 6:9

I continue probing hearts--"Servant or selfish ?" "What kingdom are you serving ?-- The kingdom of Light or of the Dark? There are only 2 kingdoms ." I'm trying to make a conscious effort to hang up the hat of yeller and lecturer; to lecture less and pray for their hearts more ! When my words ring sharp and I think, "How many times does it take? When will they learn? ", I’m reminded of my own need for grace. I stop to ponder how many times my Heavenly Father could shake his head at me over the sin present in my own life .  But he doesn’t say, " I told you so!" or "When are you going to learn ?"  Instead He extends grace!

GRACE is..."undeserved, unearned, unearnable favor. Grace is the message of Christmas for Jesus came down to be love in a body. Love is GRACE and TRUTH all. the. time! Like life, GRACE is not fair, it's better than fair; disturbingly better than fair. For every sin has a GOTCHA. Jesus came to GETCHA!" (Andy Stanley; Undeserveable 12/2018) 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

When the World Stoppped Turning: Our Journey from 65 Roses to a New Bed of Roses

Seven years, seven months ago, April 13, 2011 to be exact was the day our quake happened! My friend, collegiate ministry partner of 14 years, husband, and father of two kids heaved his last breath in ICU at UAB Birmingham. I remember him hanging on; hanging on for three long weeks after a pulmonary bleed from cystic fibrosis complications. Our days during that storm were a roller coaster ride. We lived in a time warp from blood gas to blood gas draws, on ventilator, dialysis, through being in a coma, and waking up...

When I arrived at his bed side that Wednesday afternoon, I knew! I knew today was the day, the day of his ultimate healing. The day he would step into the presence of the Father. There was no doubt, no escaping the jaundice look of death he wore. Guant, frail, lifeless. I also knew the “eye of the tiger” needed my permission to quit fighting; quit fighting to return home to the two babies he so wanted to see grow up! The babies doctors told him he would never have!

I bent low, mustered up the bravery to whispered in ear,  “I’m going to be ok, the kids are going to be ok . I’m just going to pray, I’m jealous you are with Jesus.” Mission accomplish. Within two hours the descent started.  Heart rate drop, blood pressure lower, breaths shallower.  That was the day our "65 roses" (cystic fibrosis) chapter slipped away .

I’m not sure I can articulate the fog I walked through or the seemingly insurmountable task of trying to settle an estate/restructure finances, and return medical equipment , all while simultaneously dealing with my grief and walking a 7 year old and a 22 month old through their own! I recall feeling lost, alone, and drowning in emotional exhaustion!

In December 2011, my friend, Emily, met us where our family story began on our college campus for family photo shoot. Seeing brown eyed boy and blue eyed girl fingers grasping my hands in photograph as we walked across front lawn with fountain streams in background, I made the resolute decision the time had come for party of three to move from "65 Roses" to a new bed of roses. I had the opportunity to show my kids love is win-win proposition (Davis Chappell) and pain doesn't have the last word. 

This morning on the eve of Thanksgiving, this beautiful journey of loss to restoration crossed my path. The Brookers story of becoming single parents, blending families, and creating a new bed of roses is hope-inspiring! Enjoy!

Daniel and Brittney Brooker's story
Brooker Blog

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Road Less Traveled: the day I walked away

This picture...I know to the ordinary eye, it's only two driveways. To me? Deep meaning lies in knowing to the right what awaits! What awaits? Colquitt County field, Center Hill farm, Cagle compound, a family that loves big! Dude's bear hugs and infectious, belly laugh. Cookie's cheek kisses; hands that cup face with the simultaneous declaration, "Welcome darling! So glad you are here! Can I get you red? or white?" See to Cookie and Dude, unorganized chaos and pitter patter of cherub feet are not only the norm, but to them the more the merrier. 

When I snapped this picture on Thanksgiving eve 2016, we were in the thick of walking through two years of my life I have dubbed the John Grisham years; 2015-2017. My marine, pastor dad has a saying, "Who needs soap operas? Real life is better!"  Maybe not better, but more shocking than any author could dream to pen. This picture takes me back, back to lots of memories; mostly to Easters gone by. Large family pictures on porch, grandkids scavenging for eggs post filling bellies with turkey, field peas, and Darryl's dumplings. Then the reality of why I have come to the farm hits like ice. 

Some people remember where they were when they learned JFK was assassinated or 9/11 when the twin towers were struck. On our defining day, the day life was ripped away and took hunk of hearts? For us, the summery May day in 2016, when the world stopped turning, lost all color, and faded gray, I was sitting in Moe's eating lunch with mom and Joy. Phone rings, I knew it was pastor daddy and he was dealing with tragedy. While usually it's someone else's tragedy more detached, sifting evidence would soon make it clear, this was our tragedy; one that never in a million years did we ever think would be part of our story. 

"Kate? There was a fire,...…..NO. ONE. MADE. IT. OUT!"

"Dad? What do you mean no one made it out? How do five adults not smell smoke and go wake any of the others? " Prickle sensation sting my arms in fear. Chest pains. Nausea follows. Over the coming days, we learn five young adult, full of life family-friends, murdered. Shots rang out, fire set to conceal. 

Sitting in the drive of the Cagle Compound Thanksgiving 2016, I was going to grieve, to hold hands and hearts when I was the one that received comfort. In some crazy twist, Bubba losing his life helped lead me to a place I realized it was time to save mine. The two roads diverging reminds me, in order to live out my calling, I had to choose the road less traveled, shed my people pleasing nature, and walk away from a dark, toxic presence that slowing drained life over 20 years.

Hard revelation to wake up to the fact to preserve your life you much leave and cut off another. Lives you have invested in, prayed for, sat holiday table around for many trips around the sun; yet, lives for the majority unleashed a steady stream of criticism and accusation. Long road traveled to the awakening that my true identify as a child of God, I possess a self worth that doesn't necessitate encompassing toxic or the murdering of me with tongue lashings, ultimatums, and threats. The time had come to shed the grappling for control and ploys of manipulation the dark brought to our lives, slowly strangling out life as if fingers gripped throat. 

Coming to the fork in the road, I see what an idol I made out of this mission to convert this "vat of poison" into something good and wholesome (Jen Hatmaker). How many times had I humbled myself and apologized for actions I did not commit, or for my perceived words uttered that were twisted into half-truths just to restore peace? All the while, a piece of me was chiseled away and dies a little each time.

Only after trying the professional attempt (counseling), the spiritual attempt to no avail. Over an over beating my head against an unhealthy emotional wall, I conclude healthy was not going to surface. I emerged with two kids still alive, although bearing some deep emotional scars. For the love, of a bleeding widow, mother's heart! As if loosing your father is not enough collateral damage for two babies, let's just add some insult to injury on this train wreck! Ya'll, hurting people, hurt people!

Beloved, it's been a hard fight back to joy. Standing here nearly three years out from the landslide that rocked my haven and nearly took me out, I can say I'm put back together. More like shards welded into stained-glass, but He "pieced me back together" beautiful and "reintroduced me to His love".  The litmus test for people who get to stay in your circle? If they breathe life and liberty; make you a better version of yourself,  those are the ones that get to stay! (Todd Tillman) Otherwise, trimming your tree so you can be fruitful and prosper is a perfectly legit act of self preservation!

I'll be forever grateful to the "roses" in our December that helped love us back to life and helped us break free. Thanks to all who have given us roots and helped us find our wings!

Until the whole world hears (the Good News),
Much love and thanks,

P.S.--Special thanks to the Edwards and Cagle Clan for allowing me to include part of their story to share how their pain has helped my pain! Thanks for loving the Ward fam so well and showing us family isn't always what you are born into, but family is who walks beside you down the "road less traveled". Love you the Little House and back!

Music Behind the Post:

I Miss Me More--Kelsea Ballerini

Landslide--Fleetwood Mac

The Road Less Traveled- Lauren Alaina

Defender--Jesus Culture