Great (Unmet) Expectations

I have a rather large pile of party decorations sitting in the corner of my dining room. Graduation decorations to be exact. Red and silver balloons, confetti, maps, globes, suitcases, you name it – I have it.

My eldest daughter is a senior this year and I’ve been collecting the decorations for her party for months now. Her heart is to travel and I wanted to be sure we captured that spirit of adventure when we decorated. She, like many others, has an adventure up ahead.

But the adventures, and even the celebrations ahead will look differently than any of us could have anticipated.

We’ve all been feeling the loss of unmet expectations. Our seniors were expected to walk across the stage and have their name called. I was expected to cheer so loud that I would embarrass my daughter and family sitting with me. We were expecting to throw a massive party with numerous friends and family making the trip to celebrate. We were expecting to capture all the important “lasts” of her final year of high school, all the “lasts” of our middle daughter’s final year of middle school, and the final days of our son’s 2nd grade year. We expected to take pictures of graduations, continuations, and end-of-year swimming parties. But everything has changed and will look differently moving forward.

We’ve had tears from learning the school year would be finishing up here at our house instead of in the hallways of their schools, and we’ve had lots of sighs because we’ve been feeling all the feelings. 

We’ve also had the following:

We’ve been blessed to video chat with our family and friends catch up on life. Seeing faces and hearing voices makes such a difference!

We’ve had face masks that were lovingly made and delivered to our doorstep by our church family.

We’ve had beautiful yard signs made and delivered by friends to honor our senior girl.

Cake pops were delivered to our middle girl by a friend from her middle school – out of the blue.

Meals and treats have been delivered to us by friends across town and across the state.

A Surprise Easter Egg Hunt was lovingly delivered and placed in our front yard for our kids to enjoy on Easter Sunday.

More than just these wonderful expressions of love, we’ve had hope delivered to our hearts.

Yes, everything we expected to do won’t happen quite like we planned. But believe me when I tell you:

Our Seniors will still graduate.

Our middle schoolers will still continue on to High School.

Our littles will still finish out their school year with the excitement they always have with summer ahead.

Above all, Our God will remain faithful. That’s who He is.

Those events and celebrations will happen, they will just look differently than we expected.

But in the midst of this, we can still find hope, celebrate, and find reasons to discover joy. 

Celebrations will look differently for all of us. At our house, we are going to do our best to throw a backyard Prom, a Drive-Thru graduation Party for local fam & friends, an 8th grade Continuation Dance, and a 2nd grade End of Year Party. Why? Because celebrations still matter and I can’t let this crappy virus steal any more from my kids.

Our senior girl will still dress up in her Cap & Gown because Caps & Gowns Matter and if you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you know that message means a lot to me. If you are new to the blog, here is another reason why it matters: Click here.

This time of being at home has definitely felt like a loss in many ways, but I also feel as if God is giving us back so much. 

He’s supplying our needs.

He is providing us strength and new mercy every single day.

He is helping us to think creatively about how to make the most of our time, and how to connect with others in our community.

He is sustaining us with His love and quieting our minds with His peace.

He is making His love known and His gospel accessible through things like online worship experiences, through food banks being open, and through community outreach programs for all who have been affected.

He is helping our entire world

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He is giving us a chance to see the world through different eyes, and giving us the opportunity to respond to the needs of those around us as best as we can with what we already have. 

Friend, if you are reading this anywhere in the world today, chances are, you’ve felt loss at some level during this pandemic. I’d even venture to say you have felt a lot of loss. Whether it be personal loss, or feeling the weight from what your children have lost, we are all walking through this together. A beautiful reminder that we are not alone. 

My hope for us is that we reflect the love we have been given and the hope that has been delivered to us. That our children, young and old, can watch how we respond to unmet expectations. I pray that our families would see the resilience that comes from thinking about doing celebrations differently. Moving forward may not look the same as in times past, but that is probably a good thing. I keep hearing leaders say the same thing, “Do we want to go back to the way things were?”. I don’t want to go back to normal- I want to grow through this whole experience and learn to look at life and people differently.

As we inch closer and closer to the dates that these celebrations would’ve been taking place, let’s be mindful to show those around us that we too can hold onto hope while walking through uncertainty. We can still seek God while we wait for Him to move in and around us. We can shout for joy while we wait for restrictions to lift. We can honor the achievements of those we love while providing for the needs of those around us. It’s not one or the other; it can be both. It must be both. Here in this image is the verse I am praying over you, and today, let’s all begin to pray it over each other:

Lana's View
That’s my girl:)

Go The Extra Mile: Today, take the time to check out one of my all-time favorite songs. A beautiful reminder that we can hold onto hope in the midst of uncertainty. God is our hope and He is truly the anchor for our souls.

Do you have a senior or someone special you;d like us to celebrate with you in this season? Tell us about them in the comments!

peace-liz

New Post: Pain Management

Almost one month ago, I gathered with my family as we walked and are still walking through an incredibly difficult moment in our lives – the passing of our father. There aren’t words to describe the amount of loss we felt then and still feel even now. It hurts. It’s an ache I can’t even put it into words. Watching our earthly father draw his last earthly breath and enter into eternity with Jesus was painful. But there was something beautiful happening at the same time: Our dad was transitioning to a new life, completely whole and healed, dancing on the streets of heaven.

The tears burned as they poured out of our faces and we all cried aloud, lamented, and felt the absence of his presence with us. Pair that with the fact that we can’t have a Celebration of Life service for him because of the current restrictions from this pandemic, which many others are experincing right now. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but even in the misdt of this pain, I can’t help but thank God for His very real presence in that room that night. And His healing presence still meets us each morning; when we wake up feeling the loss come in waves over us, He is there. On the good days and the really really hard days (because grief comes and it hits when you don’t expect it), He is still here, right next to us. Our God is always on call.

Our Great Physician doesn’t sleep or take breaks – the psalmist says he is close to the broken hearted.:

He even promises to be with us until the very end of the age. 

Do you ever think we avoid Our Great Physician as much as we do our earthly ones? Does the pain we feel inside feel altogether too much to pour out to Him as he intakes our emotional, mental, and physical history?

I think we often try to run from the ache of the pain- from the ache of the evaluation of our ourselves, and also from the pain or suffering we might have to endure in order to feel healed and whole again. 

Don’t run friend. Don’t avoid the powerful and healing love of God that reaches the very source of our suffering. 

Sometimes the remedy is as simple as a prayer of surrender. Other times it takes some work and therapy on our part: like making that phone call, getting ourselves into therapy, or forgiving those who have wounded us in some way, even when that someone is us. These steps must be done without delay – especially in this everchanging season when so many are canceling events and postponing gatherings, those phone calls and next right steps could be incredibly healing (more on that in an upcoming post). 

Let’s call on The Lord in prayer; let’s surrender to His ways. Let’s ask Him for the wisdom to make that next right step – then, let’s make the next right step. Make the appointment (even if it has to be through video conferencing because of this current Covid-19 situation). Let’s make the phone calls we’ve have been wanting & needing to make. Let’s listen closely to that voice that cannot be replicated in text messages. If an apology is needed, let’s give it gladly and with sincere love. If forgiveness is required, let us give it graciously and abundantly. Whatever we need to do, let’s do it together because pain & suffering do not have the final say in our stories.

Friend, we don’t have to manage pain with avoidance or denial when Our Loving Father is on call 24/7. Our Great Physician has more than just our physical form in his sight. Our mental, emotional, and spiritual state matter to Him because He designed us and formed us. My prayer today is for all of us to remember that Jesus is well acquainted with pain and suffering. In fact, that’s what we are remembering today, this Good Friday of Holy week:

“He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like someone people turned away from;[b]
he was despised, and we didn’t value him. Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.
We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for[c] the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:3-6 CSB)

Take heart friend, Jesus has already paid it all- for our forgiveness of sin and for our complete healing of mind, body, & soul. All of it has been completely covered by his plan. And no surprise bills come in the mail. 

He’s a specialist and the best in every way. What a Savior! What a Surgeon! What a Healer we have!

Let’s PrayLord, on this Good Friday, we choose to remember that You are still Good. You know exactly what pain and suffering look like and feel like. We thank You for understanding us and our circumstances even better than we do. Lord, You see the entirety of us all- our past, our present and our future. Lord, when pain rises up in front of us we pray for the strength to run into Your arms. We are done running away from the hurt and the anguish. Our desire today is to run full-force into Your embrace as we pour out our hearts to You. We are done feeling alone in this – because You have already promised to never leave us or forsake us but to be with us until the very end of the age. Help our hearts to hold onto Your truth this morning! We don’t want to walk around avoiding pain- this world is full of brokenness and experiences that wreck our hearts. Lord, we come to You, knowing that You fully understand, and knowing that we can turn to You in our pain and brokenness. Thank You for Your love that walks us through it step by step, moment by moment, so we can live lives that are healed and whole. We will remember Your sacrifice for our salvation and for our healing today. And Lord, let us not forget that You didn’t avoid the pain of the cross or the depths of the grave; You finished the painful work because of Your great love for us. We are loved by You Lord, and we love You and thank You today for embracing us in the pain and through the healing, Amen.

Go The Extra Mile: We’ve been singing this song recently and it often comes to mind these days, so give it a listen and I pray it encourages you!

This post is dedicated to our amazing Daddy, Ricardo B. Sanchez

The One and Only Rico

Queen of Hearts Wrap Up: Heart Condition

In the past few weeks we’ve covered the often misplaced emotions that can dwell inside of us, the portions of our hearts that still need the warmth and light of God’s love, and the challenge of learning how to pour out our hearts to God. Definitely not lightweight material. But remember, since we are trying to live our lives in truth and honesty  before God, these are the things that should get our attention. 

Not to violate our hearts or to make us feel shame, but so that we can begin to feel hope rise up and walk in victory. 

Our life isn’t just for us friends. As long as we are on this earth, we each have a mission to carry out. We can either do so by living this life with hearts that are broken and hurt or, we can live with hearts full of life, hope, and healing.

The choice is ours to make.

I wanted to share a portion of my daily devotion with you today. Just the notes I took from the study I am currently working through. This morning, I was reading through passages in the Bible and the repeated pattern I saw was that the people of God also had a heart condition with the following symptoms:

-Hardened hearts, hearts that didn’t fear The Lord, stubborn & rebellious hearts, and hearts that they allowed to lead them astray.

These might have been the symptoms from a people long ago, but friend, I can hold up the magnifying glass of scripture and find those attributes in myself. Can you too?

All those symptoms stem from the same place: The Heart. This heart condition also comes with a warning from The Great Physician Himself:

“Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in wilderness where your fathers tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did.” (Psalm 95:8)

Do not harden your hearts.

What’s even greater? There is a treatment and prescription for this condition:

Worship & Bow Down. Kneel Before Our Maker in Surrender.

Why?

Because there is a world in need around us, waiting for us to heal so we can bring life, healing, and hope in Jesus’ Name.

Friends, below is my prayer from this morning. Real and honest. And if you’ve stayed with me this far, I invite you to pray it with me. Let this be OUR prayer today as we wrap up this series and continue this lesson. I don’t want to be the Queen of Hearts. I want to surrender to The King of Kings.

Let’s Pray: Lord, help our hearts to be softened to You alone. We don’t want to repeat history again with hardened hearts. We don’t want to be negligent of this condition that can overtake so quickly and destroy so much. We will come to You in worship and surrender, with joy, because You are God and King Most High. We will yield to You in reverence Holy Spirit, and come to You in worship as we bow down to counter act the hardness in our hearts. Thank You Lord for helping us to understand that we can give You total control of all that is within us, because You know how to care for those who belong to You. Amen.

peace- liz

Go The Extra Mile: I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and the music selections I’ve been adding – I’ve enjoyed creating these posts for us here on the blog, and I LOVE MUSIC! This song holds a special place in my heart, and I hope it meets you right where you are today:)

Queen of Hearts: Pour Out Your Heart

I’m a huge fan of British shows and all things UK and one show that I found intriguing was “The Crown”. One particular episode caught my attention because it had another one of my favorite things: letters. In this episode, the brother (Edward) who had abdicated the throne was featured showcasing his attempts to find work and move back closer to the family. A few of the scenes showed him at a desk at the end of the night, writing out his thoughts and feelings to his dear wife- the one he chose and the one he shared everything with. It struck me. Not because of the content he was writing, but the faithfulness to this routine which many of us might not be familiar with: Pouring our hearts out at the end of the night.

I know this to be true: When we don’t pour out our hearts to God first, we end up with hearts overflowing with all kinds of unresolved feelings.

Let’s hit the switch.

I have a challenge for us this week: Instead ending our days throwing around hurt and complaints, I want us to pour out our hearts. Just as a warm cup of tea is slowly poured into the vessel it is being served, let’s slowly pour out:

the thoughts that we know are holding us captive,

the situations beyond our control,

the conversations and assumptions we have held in our heart,

the inner messages that we keep on playing that we know are lies and not truth,

the hurt that we’ve been hanging onto and holding against others,

and anything else that’s tried to make its home inside of our hearts.

Pour it out. All of it. Every single drop.

Holding onto all those things is a habit that we think gives us control. The truth is, we don’t have control. We have pieces of hurt and pain. We have pieces of frustration and anger. We have pieces of fear and anxiety. And each piece, is like a habit of laying bricks – thinking that it is keeping us safe when in actuality, we’ve imprisoned ourselves. What we thought was a defense system actually isolated our hearts from those we love and those who love us. It also separates us from God- because we’ve tried and tried to handle this habit in our own strength without sharing it with Him.

Friend, I want to remind you that God isn’t afraid of all that we’ve bottled up or built up in our hearts. He’s not. He actually invites us to come to Him:

He desires to spend time with us and that we spend time with Him, pouring out our hearts. We see this even when creation was perfect – God came down to walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the Day (Genesis 3:8). To walk and talk. Even after the fall, God still wanted mankind to share life with Him. Not just the pieces of our heart that can rejoice when life is going well, but He also wants to share life with us and hear us pour out the hurts and break the habits that have been holding us back from experiencing His best for our lives.

Our hearts matter to Him friend. They matter to him and they matter in eternity. How we use them, what we choose to hold onto, what we choose to let take root, what we treasure in them- all of it matters. 

So what will you pour out to Him today?

Will we let go of that which entangles us today?

I’m raising my hands friend- I want to pour out my heart to Him. I’m hoping you do too. I’m telling you the honest truth- my heart is heavy right now. As each little piece of our heart (yours and mine) trickles out to Him, it gets easier and easier to pour out the rest, like a steady stream.

Let’s Pray: Lord, let everything within us come out to you first, as an offering of surrender. We surrender our hearts to You in this moment. We surrendered to Your love and Your light that shines bright in the dark places. We surrender to a Your Truth that shows us a better way. We surrender to Your loving arms that welcome us in and hold us together when everything else feels like it is falling apart. We are done holding it all in, and we declare that we are ready to pour our hearts out to You so that in turn, You can use our lives to be poured out in service for Your glory. God, we thank You for the finished work of Jesus that allows us to be healed and made new. We accept it and we will choose to give you the praise for the healing that is taking place deep inside of us as we pour out our hearts to You. Amen.

peace – liz

Go The Extra Mile: Check out one of my absolute favorite messages in this song from The Belonging Co! The lyrics, “I don’t want it if You’re not in it I just want You…Your heart, Your ways, show me Your face…” that’s the whole point behind this series- to align our hearts to look and operate more like His and to become more intentional about our relationship with Him.

Queen of Hearts: Where The Sun Doesn’t Shine

These past few weeks in Colorado have dropped snow in our high country and even rain down here where I live. Just outside my dining room window, I can see in the distance frosty white blankets of snow on top of the beautiful Grand Mesa. Add a warm cup of coffee, and you are set for a picturesque morning. Add coffee to any morning and you are set for just about anything:). Anyhow, coffee is great and my state of Colorado looks lovely with snow. This wintery week made me think back to a memory I had just a couple months ago:

While traveling over the mountains and through the plains of Colorado, my family and I saw piles of snow plowed off to the side of the highway, and fields covered in thick bright – white flakes of snow. The sight was so bright that it had me reaching for my sunglasses. Which, I conveniently forgot at home (yay me). One sight that I couldn’t get out of my mind while driving: the areas around the mountains that never seem to experience direct sunlight. The snow always seems to stick longer there; the ice underneath doesn’t melt when everything else around it does. Those drifts of snow and ice seem to be covered in shadow most of the time- not exposed to the brilliance of full-light, but they do feel the effects of the light a little later in the season. As I stared out the window while driving, I had my husband jot down a note for me so I wouldn’t lose my train of thought (thank you hubs!): 

There are places in our hearts that feel much like those cold and dark areas with snow and ice. Places that are in need of the warmth of God’s love and renewal; places that never quite feel sunny or bright. They often come tethered to choices and situations that feel more like a dangerous slope than a beautiful winter wonderland. These places within us may not directly feel the sunlight instantly melting away the bitter and frozen-over parts in our hearts, but we must not forget- they are indirectly affected by the light and movement around them.

Friends, I don’t know what nook you may find yourself in today- be it cold and keeping you numb or stuck in dangerous patterns of behavior. We may not know when that area will have a melt from the warmth around us, but we can know this: God’s love IS all around and His light CAN pierce through the dark shadows to bring warmth and hope for new seasons of life ahead.

Even when we can’t see it.

Even when it feels like there isn’t any change.

Even when it feels like everyone and everywhere else is experiencing His brilliance and His presence.

He is right there where we are.

He is bringing change in and around us.

His presence is very near, even in the places where the sun doesn’t always shine.

This is my prayer for you today, and if I’m being honest, it’s for me too.

Let’s Pray: Heavenly Father, You alone are the only One that can search the depths of our hearts. You can see the areas that You are working in so much better than we can. We are thankful that You continue to work in us and all around us. Today Lord, help us to know that You are still near in the seasons of life that don’t always feel bright and brilliant. There are areas of our hearts that desperately need Your light to flood them, and cold corners in us that still need the warmth of your love. In all of those spaces, in whatever season we find ourselves today, help our hearts know that You are near. We want to live lives that display the warmth of Your love and the hope and peace that comes from experiencing Your process of healing. Help us to focus on the light and love we do see happening in and around us so that we can remind ourselves of Your promise to make all things new – even the spots that look lifeless and scary- You are still able to breathe hope and security into them. God, we choose to trust that You are working within us- in the places where the sun hasn’t quite shown its face, and in the places all around it. You are Good, Faithful, Loving, and Kind, and we will believe that Your timing is perfect – illuminating our hearts to the realization of Your nearness. Thank you Lord for the reminder that You aren’t afraid of our cold and closed off areas. I pray that in this season, You would make our hearts ready for the bright seasons ahead- so we can allow You to continue to work in us with the light of Your Truth. Thank you for being the King of our hearts Lord; help us to never take your presence for granted. In Your Holy Name Jesus, Amen.”

Peace – liz

Go The Extra Mile:  This is one of my favorite songs from Hillsong United, for the simple phrase, “Come, now, as you are or as you want to be…”. That’s the invitation we have from Jesus – to come to Him with all that we are and allow Him to do what only He can do with our hearts and lives. I hope it encourages you the way it does me every time I listen to it!

New Series: Queen of Hearts

New series y’all!

Hey friends, just wanted to let you know we are starting a brand new series this month called “Queen of Hearts”, exploring our own hearts. The good, the hard, all of it – so I hope you’ll join me on this adventure.

When I think of the ultimate Queen of Hearts, I think of the character from Alice in Wonderland and her favorite phrase, “Off with her head!”. At every turn, this Queen would bark an order out of anger and rage while her card-shaped attendants fluttered and scurried about, running into themselves. Those same subjects just wanted to appease their Queen and prevent her from exploding into a fit, so they carried out her commands – painting the roses red, because they planted white ones on accident. She was agressive, impulsive, and had only one idea that came to mind when things didn’t go her way…get angry.

I’ve felt like the Queen of Hearts before.

Too many times I have felt like I had to respond to a situation or a person with anger, when deep inside I wasn’t angry; I was hurt, or frustrated or straight up disappointed in myself. But instead of figuring out how to name the correct emotion, or pausing to take a breath, a reaction came out instead of a response. The emotion I felt was the wrong one expressed.

Have you ever felt like that?

Friend, it’s our job to grow to a place where emotions and frustrations can be named and solutions can be thought of. It’s on us to seek His help and look for the hope He alone can give. We all want to experience internal rest, knowing we can trust God with every hurt that has gone unnamed, and every emotion that has gone untamed. We are offered a continual learning process from God; one that points us toward the finished work of the Cross.

I will be the first to admit, I haven’t “figured it all out”. However, I want all of us to take Him up on that offer – to find what the root cause is for our heart condition (though it may be many little things compounded over time) AND to live knowing that He made a way for us to live with hope; hope for ourselves and hope for our hearts to be restored.

So here is my challenge for us this month: To look into our hearts, uncover some past hurts, talk about strategies to break some bad habits, and begin to live from a place of hope. Why? Because the condition of our heart matters to Him, so it should matter to us.

Want to join me? 🙂

If you are raising your hand, then be sure to check back each week as we dive into this new series together! And comment below to let us know where you’re joining us from!

Go The Extra Mile: I love this song by Riley Clemmons because it says, “You want all I have with no holding back, when I’m hurt, at my worst, You see the beauty…”. Click the link and let’s blast it loud together as we embrace the fact that God wants every piece of our hearts – because He sees beauty and is writing an amazing story with our lives.