The Struggle IS Real

Dear Friends,

“The Struggle is Real!”, was the slogan emblazoned on the clearance rack t-shirt. I thought, “Oh My Gravy! That is so true!”  Of course, the t-shirt didn’t know what I was thinking, but it made me ponder seriously if there was a problem with my heart or my attitude. I left home before 7 am trying to get to one of the stores open at that hour trying to find something festive to wear for a Christmas party tonight.  I have been diligently working out and changing just slightly the way we eat.  Much of our food comes from our garden or an animal that was raised for our consumption.  I have lost nearly 20 inches and 10 pounds since July.  I exercise at least 5 days a week,  Yet, when I look in the dressing room mirror, I don’t see beauty. I see a distorted, ugly person who shrugs her shoulders and places the clothes back on the hanger wanting to cry. I bought a pretty shade of red lipstick and hope that will do for the Christmas party I am attending this evening.

I am pretty sure that is a heart AND attitude issue! 1 Peter 3:3-4 gives me a good guide for beauty, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” This isn’t saying you can’t look nice or wear pretty things in my opinion, it is that I am worth a great deal in God’s sight. What’s on the outside doesn’t make me look pretty if my insides are ugly with self-hatred.  Does it really matter what I wear if I don’t like the way view my exterior? No! Will I wear an older outfit tonight to the party? Probably. Does what I wear matter in eternity? Not a bit.  God loves us right where we are.  If we are fluffy or thin, light or dark, young or old.  It’s truly about seeing ourselves as God sees us.  A sweet friend named Tanya D, said this more times than I can remember, “Beautifully and wonderfully made my friend. Beautifully and wonderfully made.” Which comes from Psalm 139:14

So I repeat those words now to myself, and to you, sweet one as you may be struggling with this today, “Beautifully and wonderfully made my friend. Beautifully and wonderfully made.”

Love,

Tara

image

 

Advertisements

More? Or Less?

How many times do you hear people say, “I want less of a good thing”? Do we hear, “I want less ice cream, less fried chicken, a smaller portion of fries with that, or less cake”?

I can honestly say I hear very few people saying that!  Usually its more of this, more shopping, more shoes, more toys for the kids…

As I was sitting here praying about things in my heart that need to be changed, I determined what I want. (More or less.) 🙂

More of Christ, Less of me.

More Scripture, Less screen time.

More hope. Less despair.

More joy. Less chaos.

More resting in Him. Less running from Him.

More contentment. Less anxiety.

 

What are you seeking?  More? or Less?

 

 

 

Be Still

tara.jpg

As I view this photo, it takes me back to the chilly fall day I had taken my daughters to Guadalupe River State Park.  It was too cold to swim that day, but in my mind’s eye, I crawled over the gnarled tree roots as I had done many times before.  Carefully and slowly I made my way to the water.

I was barefoot and anticipated first touch of the water on my bare toes. They tingled as I slid my foot into the water, big toe first testing the temperature.  It was cool against my skin. I placed both feet into the bubbling, gurgling river as the water fully surrounded me. Making room for me. Welcoming me.  My feet sank slowly into the sandy, murky mud that enveloped my feet completely.  They have disappeared into the bed of the river. Every now and then, if I wiggle my toes, they reappear above the mud.

Small minnows ,dart to and fro, between my legs, tickling me with their tiny bodies as they search for their next meal.

Water, aimlessly floats and meanders lazily, as I bask in the sunshine not wanting the quiet solace to end.

I am overwhelmed by the many colors that my eyes behold. I am thankful as my senses are fully ignited by the beauty surrounding me, engulfing me, protecting me, shielding me. I am relaxed in the beauty of God’s creation.

I am still before Him. I know that He is God.

Life Preserver

tara-young

“Those who guard their lips, preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

This verse gave me such a mental picture!  I saw a person flailing and splashing about in the water. Screaming and yelling, though I am not sure if it was out of fear or anger. Fear of being alone. Fear of past or present. Fear and anger that nothing ever done is good enough. Fear that the kids won’t succeed. Fear that always keep friends pushed away, because we don’t want them to see the evil in our hearts. Or just because we are sinful, hurt people.  Fear consumes.

Regardless of the craziness, the first part of the verse, “those who guard their lips, preserve their lives.” struck me with full force.

Our words build up, encourage, tear down and hurt all out of the same mouth.

The latter part of the verse talks about bringing ruin. Not just ruin for us, but also for those around us.  This was a painful blog to write about, because of this very thing I am guilty. Perhaps this is the reason I was led to write these words?

I have a challenge. Let’s watch the faces of those we love, crumple as we speak loudly and rudely.  Let’s watch as they shine and sparkle as we encourage them. Let us see their hearts fly as we encourage them. Or, see them chained to the pain as we yell mercilessly.

I want to be a life-preserver. Not one who brings ruin.

Join me!

Humbly Bowed

Humbly bowed, in your presence Lord.  I call to you, come find me where I am.

I’m begging now, down on my knees. I need you God, to make me pure again.

Here I am, a sinner needing cleansed. Come wash me now, from all this filth and sin.

Forgiveness flows, like blood and water flowed. From Your side, Your life just slipped away.

Thank you God, forgiveness floods my soul. I’m pure again, washed as white as snow.

My sins are cast. Far away from me. From east to west, thank you God I’m free!

 

There Is Always Time…

This is something that struck me fully today. We are often so tied up with time constraints and schedules. Kids games, parties, lessons and even church activities stretch us. We frequently say that we don’t have time for anything.  The truth is, we make time for what we want to make time for.

Today.

Remember, “There is always time to do what God asks us to do.”  Donna Otto

The Bad Place

The Bad Place

My husband and I were missionaries in Africa early 2000-2003.  We were so excited to plan a rafting adventure!  Rather, he excitedly planned a rafting trip on the Nile River, while I was leery and fearful! I nearly drowned as a child, so it was natural apprehension.  Being the good wife, I put a frightened smile on my face and off we went.

Typical, well-balanced rafts, carry 8 or more people.  Our raft, including the guide, carried 5.  Should that have been an indication of our day???  It wasn’t as if we could say, “We’ll wait and do it another day” as we had flown from Kenya to Uganda!   We were at an extreme disadvantage with that, and that none of the four passengers had ever been rafting before.

img_6108With trepidation I carefully put my helmet on and tightened my life jacket.  It was so tight for safety reasons, it was really hard to breathe.  I felt trapped.  We paddled for a few minutes to practice.  He taught us how to hold onto the oar and the raft if we flipped, and how to climb back in the boat.  In calm water, that is much easier to do! He called different terms like the obvious, “ROW HARDER!” and “GET DOWN!” (I excelled at the latter!)  That was one he called most frequently because that meant we were either going to flip, or go into the rapid and come out properly in the boat on the other side,  and he was trying to keep us safe.  Did you know that guides have done this so often, they know if you are going to make it through the rapid or not?  Did you know that they will flip you for your own safety? No.  Me either.

So out of our 8 hour Nile River rafting adventure, we flipped 5 out of 10 times.  Wait.  He flipped us 5 out of 10 times.  We made it through the level 2 & 3 rapids, but not the level  4’s or 5’s.  Also unknown to me, because I was not aware much of the time being separimg_6109-1ated from the boat, and being rescued and brought back to the boat by my own personal kayak-er rescuer,  that there were Nile Crocodiles on the banks as I sailed by crying and peeing my pants as my life passed before my eyes. I was also hit by branches and had red ants on my life jacket and in my hair. (On a good note, though I was unable to hold on to the raft, I did hold on to my paddle!)

At the end our long journey, there was one more optional level 6 rapid. Saved for the risk taking, professionals!  It was called The Bad Place.  I can hear you saying, “Don’t do it! Tara! Don’t do it!”  That  was what my heart and mind were saying as well! Believe me!   One of the men said, “Man, I am not doing that!  No way!”  “I am going to sit this out!”  It came down to me.  Sammy and the other guy were game so I had a decision to make. Quit, or hit this rapid head on, knowing full well we weren’t going to make it through.  I can honestly say that I had tears of fear dripping down my sun-blocked, sunburned cheeks. Not all weepy boohoo, just plain old fright, panic, horror and dread!   My comment, which made my husband beam with pride was, “I didn’t come this far to quit. Let’s go.”

the-bad-placeWe got into the raft and as soon as we sat down, he pushed us off and yelled, “GET DOWN!”  it was at that moment, I let go of my paddle because I was already under water.  I was tossed, turned, scared and tumbling like a towel in a washing machine!  I thought I was going to die.  I couldn’t get to the surface. I couldn’t see the surface! Twisting, whirling, spiraling out of control, until I finally, I reached the end of the rapid.  Sammy apparently was still under water, but popped up soon after I did and was already at the bank down river a bit smiling. I on the other hand, was breathless, hyperventilating and crying.  I saw just a hand reached out saying, “I got you. You are ok.” One of my fellow rafters was there to help me out of the water.

Sammy and I walked up the hill with his arms around me.  He said something like, “that was fun.” Or, “I am so proud of you!” or both.  We arrived at the top of the hill, after a long day, to an awaiting celebration feast.  In my heart I thanked God for my survival.

I can say with pride, “I Rafted The Nile River!”

Life is like rafting that river sometimes isn’t it? We are rafting along smoothly enjoying the ride,  until He being the guide,  sees things that we can’t and protects us by flipping our boat. Or circumstances like the life jacket, tiny red ants, or branches smacking or biting us, cause us great discomfort and pain.  We begin flailing and tumbling in the rapids of life, and forget that God is always there.

He sends friends to give us a hand. He sends a way for us to get back in the boat.  He never leaves us alone. Psalm 138:3 says, ” On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.”  He hears us when we call. He gives us strength.
He equips us for  “The Bad Places” in life and gives us the courage to go through them, even though we know going in, it is going to be hard and scary.  Yet, we are able to say, “I didn’t come this far to quit.”

Lord, be with my friends who may be going into, or are already in The Bad Place. Please protect each one and bring them safely out the other side.

In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.