37 Years In

Happy birthday to ME! And yes, I am still accepting gifts and mass quantities of coffee too. I’m another year older, and hopefully, another year wiser. I tend to get reflective about my life when January rolls around.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting about how life is a gift.

My last birthday was spent celebrating the incredible life of my Grandma-In-Law that walked into eternity a few days before my 36th birthday. Grandma Sara was the only grandma I ever knew- she was such a role model to me in life & faith. Her life continues to inspire me as a wife, mom, and Jesus-Follower (she was the best, seriously the best). Around this birthday, our family heard of a few losses of loved ones by those we know and love. I may not know everything, but I do know this:

Celebrating life doesn’t always include cake.
Sometimes it includes a colorful party.
Sometimes it includes a room full of joy and laughter.
Other times, it includes a room full of cold, pastel-colored flowers and
deep
deep
sorrow. However…

Celebrating life is still a gift.
Friend, let’s go deep for a minute…

We are never promised a peaceful life up to the spry age of 100 years old.
We have not been promised a life absent of struggle or strain.
We are not even promised tomorrow.
What we have been given is the gift of right now and it is brief -like a vapor- in the scope of all eternity.

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14 NASB)

When we wake up in the morning and we are able to breathe deep, it is a gift. When we are able to hug a friend during a regular day, it’s a gift. When we are able to smile at a complete stranger and brighten their day, it is a gift. When we find ourselves in the midst of a battle and are surrounded by caring friends, it is a gift. When we experience defeat or an unthinkable loss and are barely standing, it is a gift.

Let’s get even more real:
When you are holding a child who is sick or full of great need and you can do nothing else for them, life is precious and fragile and it is still a gift.
When you feel the panic of violation because articles of worth, your personal belongings, were stolen from you (true story ya’ll)…life is not about stuff; life is about people and sharing life with them. Even under these circumstances, we can know His perfect peace and know that life is still worth celebrating.

Through every season and situation of life, God is still good and this life is still a gift.
He’s given us all beautiful and mysterious gift and we need to remember to celebrate it well.

Celebrations usually include gifts.
Now, gifts are not meant to stay in boxes wrapped up with a shiny bow.
Our gifts were designed with a greater purpose and were designed for use. This life is full of opportunities to experience both. Often times, those opportunities will look more like
Pain
Struggle
Brokenness
Weakness
Loss…but when we’ve come through to the other side, whether by the skin of our teeth or with plenty of room to spare, we must remember that life, and celebrating this life, is a gift.

Your life is a gift my friend. Don’t let your gift gather dust or stay hidden. By holding back our gifts of life, we are depriving someone who is in desperate need of those exact experiences of hope and faith. Your life, all of it, matters. The glorious parts as well as those that feel mundane. The parts you want to put on display and the parts you think aren’t worth sharing. Every day that you are able to see this truth and know it deep down in your soul is a day for celebration.

“Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son.
Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, His blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.”
(Ephesians 1:4-14 MSG)

Friend, I know this is not your typical birthday reflection on how wonderful it is to be 37.
I didn’t want it to be.
This is just my observation having only 37 years in.
I tried a couple other drafts, but I came right back to the deep. The exact place I try to live from. Sometimes I feel like I get it right, and others…well, let’s just say I’m a pro at the do-over;).

My challenge for you is this:
What will you do with this gift of life you’ve been given?
How will you spend it?
How will you celebrate and share your gift of life today?

Your life is precious and matters a great deal to God. Only in Him can we find the peace, joy, hope, courage, love, honesty, redemption, grace, and mercy that we can share with this world through our personal stories of experience.

I’d love to hear your thoughts today on how you will personally celebrate and share life. Please comment below or share this message with a friend (preferably over coffee and chocolate cake). Make today different by celebrating and sharing this beautiful-messy-challenging-awesome life we’ve been given.

Peace-liz

Go the extra mile:
Check out this song- I can’t get enough of it!

Parking Lot People

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The Lot

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s (yep,I’m getting old), I was apart of a ministry-training team called Masters Commission. Feels like it was just yesterday, but the hair color I repeatedly have to use to cover gray strands tells me otherwise;).

We lived each day together learning how to love God, love others, serve others through ministry, and be of some service no matter where we found ourselves in life.

Be it on a church stage, or in a school auditorium,

In an office cubicle, or on a continent far from where we called home.

Even on the street or in parking lots,

We learned how to take notice of needs and become dispensers of hope and love.

I knew that was the mission then, and I am reminded of that time of training again today…in, of all places, a parking lot. But today I received the blessing of someone seeking me out because I was the one in need. A dear friend from that  MC team saw the hurt and pain and uncertainty on my face while I walked past her car.

You see, once you spend a few years with friends who become you’re family, they can tell when you’re not ok; you cannot fool them. They can call your bluff, and they can point out in love that something is not ok, and gently remind you that it is ok not to have it all together.

Not in a, “Ha! I knew you were a mess under all that make-up!” Kind of way, but more like,”Hey! You’re not alone! You are loved! It’s ok to fall apart! I won’t run away from you! I’m here for you!!!”

Do you know what I mean?

Friend, I hope you have at least ONE friend like that. And if not, that’s my prayer for you today- that God would show you the people who already surround you, and that can be His arms of love when you so desperately need the reminder.

So back to parking lots…We are a lot like the vehicles in those lots.

There are cars are all around; all of them look shiny and perfectly parked but maybe the interior is a mess; maybe there are a few dings and scratches, maybe there are sparkly paint jobs but underneath the entire system is about to fall apart.

Dear one, can I remind you of a previous post I wrote awhile back?

I’m not good at being broken.

It’s not my favorite thing.

To be honest, I’d rather clean toilets with a tiny toothbrush than fall apart in front of people.

Why?

Because I’d rather be the one encouraging others; because I’d rather give the impression that I’m strong and I can handle just about anything. But, there are days when

I. just. can’t. even.

But I know this: I am in desperate need of Our Savior.

When circumstances beyond my control make me feel out of control…

I need Him.

When I’m not sure how else to help or pray for my own children…

I need Him.

When relationships feel awkward or strained…

I need Him.

When numbers and needs don’t add up on paper…

I need Him.

When I want to run and hide and isolate myself…

I need Him.

When I wish things would magically get better already…

I need Him.

I’m guessing that maybe you’ve felt that way too. Maybe even today.

I’ve been reminded of this today and wanted to give the reminder to you that, God is The Master when it comes to rebuilding broken things.

He is far more capable of rebuilding the brokenness inside of us and around us than we ever could be with our frail human hands.

Let’s lift up our hands together in surrender today as we say:

Lord, I’m tired of pretending I’m ok…I surrender. You know the brokenness that I’m experiencing right now and only You can see ahead to the healing and restoration that I cannot. I’m giving you all of these broken pieces and humbly ask You Lord, to have your way. Take all my fears and doubts Lord, and strengthen me as I trust You- my Savior and Shepherd of my life. I will not forget Your faithfulness and Your unconditional love in the midst of what I’m facing now. I will cling to the promises of your Word and fix my eyes on You alone. Thank you for mending the broken pieces in me Lord. Thank You for chasing me with Your fierce love and even for when You send true friends to chase me down so they can lift me up to You-even in parking lots. Thank You for not running away from my brokenness, but seeing beauty in it Lord of Life. Amen.

Friend, be it in a parking lot, or at the grocery store…we can remember these truths. We can be mended and made whole. And in turn, we can be dispensers of love and hope to someone in need today. Hug and friend, call your family and love them today; you may be the very person that can bring hope to them. I’m praying for you friend, and I’m praying for God to show you the people in your life that can be your parking lot people:).

Peace-liz

Go the extra mile: You’ve come this far, take one more step with me! Check out the brilliant work of Switchfoot in their song, “I Won’t Let You Go”.