Tell Your Story!

There are chapters of our past we wish didn’t exist. We would love to tear them out of the whole story of our lives if we could.

Do you have chapters like that? You know, the seasons of life where you just fell apart? Where things got ugly. Where your soul was ripped in pieces?

Yes, I get it.

I have chapters like that in my own life.

But the older I get, the more I am realizing that those are the chapters I need to highlight. I need to book mark them. Turn back the pages and reflect.

I don’t know the specifics of your story and your difficult chapters. But I DO know this:

There are other people out there who have similar chapters to yours. They have experienced the same circumstances. They too, know what it’s like to have their soul ripped apart in the same way yours was.

What’s sad is that many people think they are the only ones with that kind of chapter. That nobody understands. That nobody really gets them.

But that isn’t true at all! It’s a flat-out lie. 

The enemy is the father of lies and he wants us to think we are alone. That we are the only ones walking a difficult path. That everybody else has it all together and something must be wrong with us.

Wrong. Lies. Not true.

God even tells us in His word:

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man…” (2 Corinthians 10:13)

He also promises that when we suffer, He will comfort us.

“He comforts us in all our troubles.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

This is great news! Yes, God does comfort us. But that’s not the end of the verse!! Read on…

“He comforts us in all our troubles, SO THAT we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Did you catch those two words??

SO THAT!

God doesn’t just comfort us for our own sake. He comforts us so that we can pour that same comfort into others who are hurting. It may not be right away, but at some point we will come across someone who is hurting in the same way we have.

You can count on it.

But here’s the thing. The only way we know WHO to comfort are those who speak up and tell their stories.

The only way I know who God is calling me to comfort are those who have actually spoken up. Maybe they haven’t told all the details of the entire ugly chapter. But they say enough to make it loud and clear that they are hurting.

The only way someone else can bring you comfort and help you along your journey is for YOU to tell YOUR story. This works both ways.

I have experienced this on both ends. Because I have been willing to share my hurt–the ugly chapters of my life–I have been blessed to have others pour God’s comfort all over my aching soul.

And because of my own journey, I have connected with others who have stepped out and told their story. 

Or sometimes a person will hear two different people share their stories and connect them together. One may be on the other side of the hurt and already into a different chapter of life. And the other person is just beginning a painful chapter.

So go ahead. Tell your story. (Of course we need to use discretion and wisdom on when, where and who we share with)

That one chapter you want to tear out? Don’t.

It may just be a life line to someone else who thinks they are the only one.

Lord Jesus, I pray today for whoever is reading this. If there is something in their life you want to use to comfort someone else, would you please reveal that to them? If someone is hurting, would you connect them to someone who understands? And give them courage to step out and tell their story. Amen

Blessings to you!

Lisa

Author of Embracing The Race

 

3 Things I’ve Learned From Painful Seasons

PAIN.

Nobody embraces it.

We absolutely hate it with every fiber of our being.

We avoid it at all costs.

But because we live in a broken world, it is part of life on this earth…for now.

Broken relationships.

Faltering health.

Wounds from the past.

Horrible tragedies.

I’ve experienced what feels like unbearable pain. Seasons of life where I thought I’d never survive.

But because of God….

I did survive. I did get through. I found His light at the end of my dark tunnel.

I don’t know about you, but the more I look back on these seasons of my life, I can honestly see a purpose in those painful times.

You mean, there can actually be something good that comes from pain????

As crazy as it sounds, yes.

My painful seasons of life all have these common threads.

*Pain makes me desperate.

What’s so good about feeling desperate? Feeling desperate is not something we usually crave. It creates feelings of panic, worry, and anxiety. Like a weak swimmer who’s drowning in the deep end of the pool, we cry out for help because we’re going under.

I’ve been desperate in the midst of  broken relationships. A failed marriage left me feeling very desperate. With a newborn and an uncertain future, I lived in survival mode and swirled around in desperation quite a bit.

*Pain leads me to be more dependent on God.

When the familiar things of life suddenly become unfamiliar and I’m venturing out into the unknown, I’m always more ready to lean on God. And unfortunately, even the people we think will love us most will leave us disappointed and hurting at times. It’s in those times when I see how much others have failed me that I can truly depend on God’s unfailing love. In a strange way that is hard to describe, it’s during these painful seasons that my dependence on God is strengthened.

*Pain gives me deeper compassion for others.

Once I’ve trudged through a painful season of life, I always discover something I didn’t notice before.

I now possess a unique compassion for others who are in the midst of the same kind of pain!

Because of what I’ve gone through, I gain an understanding and perspective in the midst of my pain. I am then able to recognize this same pain in others. Or when I hear someone share the hurt they’re going through, my heart has an instant connection with them. And this is where the purpose comes in.

The wounds from my previous pain now become stepping-stones, allowing me to enter into someone else’s world. A world where they think there is no hope. A world where they feel trapped. A world where they think nobody could possibly understand.

Even if I’m still feeling the hurt from my painful experience, I can still offer words of hope. I can honestly tell them, “I know how you feel…I’ve been there.”

Part of my own healing from painful wounds comes when I walk alongside someone else who is hurting. The fragile threads of my life that unraveled in my soul are now knitted back together, forming a cord of hope that someone else can cling to.

Your pain is not ever wasted. It’s not in vain. It serves the purpose of becoming more intimate with your Savior and comforting others on the same path. Here’s a few that stand out to me…

My sister-in-law, Holly, has allowed God to do an amazing work in her life in this way. She’s a survivor of sexual abuse. She experienced heart wrenching pain that threatened to swallow her up and leave her bitter. Yet she cried out to God and He has healed her hurting heart. She tells her story often and reaches out to others who are caught up in the same kind of pain. God uses her pain for a purpose.

Dear friends of ours, Brian and Amanda, lost their 18-month old son in a tragic accident a few years ago. They experienced such horrific pain and their world was shaken to the core. But they surrendered their lives to God through the journey and now help encourage and comfort others who have lost young children. God uses their pain for a purpose. 

My friend, Stacy, lost her beautiful daughter who was born prematurely. She lived for about 3 weeks. She spent those days in the newborn intensive care unit, watching her baby hanging on for life. Although her heart shattered in pieces, Stacy has allowed God to do a beautiful thing through her pain. She quilts blankets for babies in the NICU. She reaches out to other families who are waiting to see if their babies are going to make it. She gives genuine comfort to others because she knows the pain they feel. God uses her pain for a purpose.

Be encouraged dear friends! No matter what pain you are experiencing, God is with you. He knows.

Allow your desperation to turn into a strong dependence on the one who rescues and redeems. And let Him do more than rescue and redeem just you. He longs to work through your life to bring comfort and encouragement to others.

Let Him use your pain for His purpose. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Blessings to you!

Lisa

Check out my devotional book, Embracing The Race

 

 

Holiday RUSH or Christmas REST?

Whether you want to be or not, you’re right smack in the middle of the Christmas season. Do you find yourself feeling rushed? Overwhelmed?

I’ve got to finish my shopping!

I’ve got to get this house cleaned up before my family arrives!

Get out of the kitchen so I can bake the cookies!

We have three Christmas parties to attend on the same day!

If you’re anything like me, just thinking about everything that needs to be done can leave you feeling exhausted. It’s almost impossible to escape the holiday rush.

There’s an ache in my soul because of this! Do you know what I mean?

It’s that pull between everything that has to be done and everything your heart longs for.

A battle between rush and rest.

Are you kidding me? There’s no time to rest during the holidays!! How in the world can you think about rest at such a time as this?

But if we let the holiday rush overtake the Christmas rest, then everything we are doing is in vain.

I’ve often thought that embracing rest meant that I had to carve out a huge block of time for a nap.

Or that I had to sit completely still with my feet up.

Maybe you’ve thought of rest as getting to turn off your alarm and sleep in.

But I’m learning that embracing rest is more about having a peace in my soul. 

Maybe I can’t take anything off my busy to-do list this Christmas season, but I can shift my attitude about those things.

Instead of rushing out the door with a frantic sense of urgency, maybe I can pause for just a few moments to pray.

God, I’m feeling frustrated, anxious and exhausted! Please give me your peace.

Instead of feeling burdened about baking dozens of cookies, perhaps I can turn on some music and pray for the people I’m making them for.

God, help me have an attitude of love as I bake these cookies!

Maybe we really do have to attend multiple parties on the same day. But instead of thinking of them as places to go, we can see them as opportunities to love people.

Lord, help me to show love to those who need it most. Give me your eyes to see those you want me to see.

The days leading up to the birth of Jesus without a doubt brought a sense of urgency.

We’ve got to hurry! Will there be a place for us to stay?

Mary and Joseph most certainly felt a heavy burden of having to travel at the last-minute. And I’m sure they battled anxious thoughts of this new chapter of life God was calling them into.

Why me? Couldn’t he have picked someone else? What will people think when we return to Nazareth?

What appeared to be a messed up plan, absent of any peace, was God ushering in the Prince of Peace.

Right in the middle of the rush. Right in the middle of the urgency. Right in the middle of their worry.

And the same Prince of Peace that came on that first Christmas morning is the same Prince of Peace that can bring us REST in the midst of our holiday RUSH.

So what’s it going to be for you this year? Rush or Rest? Anxiety or Peace?

I encourage you to carve out some quiet moments in the midst of your busy schedule to embrace the PEACE and REST only Jesus can bring. That’s what He came for!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa


Check out my devotional book, Embracing The Race

When the Clutter Piles Up

The kitchen island gets a lot of traffic in my home.

Piles of mail.

Car keys.

My husband’s wallet.

Dirty coffee cups.

My daughter’s latest craft supplies.

School papers.

It doesn’t bother me if just one of the above items gets plopped down. But usually it’s a combination of these items together that drives me bonkers!!

After coming and going in different directions, things begin to pile up. And finally it gets to where I just can’t take anymore!

In that moment I am on a mission. (And anyone who is in the room is strongly encouraged to help me in this mission.)

It’s time to clean up the clutter. Time to put things away in their rightful place.

The wallet and keys need to go somewhere else, but not here. The dirty cups need to go in the sink. Pieces of scrap paper need to be trashed.

And junk mail? That’s a no-brainer…in the trash!

Once that’s accomplished, I feel better and can function again.

Just maybe this is a powerful picture of what we do with the clutter of LIFE.

Things slowly begin to pile up.

First it’s one thing. And then another.

One emergency to throw us off. An unexpected episode that sets you in a tail spin. A forgotten commitment. Someone asking you to do something else. People and projects pulling you in opposite directions.

Just one of these things might not be so bad by itself. But when they start to pile up, you can feel it coming. When you go from full to empty with no time to fill up. And before you know it, your life is full of clutter.

I can’t take this anymore!

And one by one, we can start to tackle the things that clutter us up. Not a clutter we can see. But the clutter on the inside. The clutter of our negative thoughts. The clutter of our distorted perspective.

The clutter of our soul.

Some things just need to be put in a different place. (Do I need to delegate something to someone else? Do I need to say no to a request of my time?)

Some things we need to get rid of. (The feelings of hopelessness. The toxic thinking that spirals out of control.)

And some things we just need to accept. (That person we want to change is out of our control. The season of life we must go through to get to the other side.)

And once we start to clean up the clutter, we can breathe again. We receive clarity.

We feel hope.

We can even invite others around us to help. People to hold us accountable. Friends to walk alongside us.

To help us sort through the messes of life.

I will probably continue to lose the ongoing battle of keeping my kitchen island cleared of clutter.

But I can most certainly win the war that stirs in my soul.

It’s a constant battle.                       Day after day.                                 Moment by moment.

But when I surrender to God and reach out for help, the clutter of life gets put in place. Not an overnight fix. But a gradual victory over time, through each season of life.

I think it’s okay to want an uncluttered kitchen. But I most certainly need to be more aware of the clutter of my soul.

What about you? Are things piling up in your world? Feeling overwhelmed with the clutter?

Let’s reach out and call on the One who can help us sort through it all. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is waiting for us to ask Him to clean up our clutter.

The less clutter there is, the more room He has to give us PEACE.

Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. ~Psalm 25:4-5

Blessings to you!

Lisa

Check out my devotional book, Embracing The Race

 

Threads of GRACE

After collecting an excessive amount of running tee-shirts from years of races, I finally put some of them to good use!

Sorting through my unique collection, I chose some that stood out to me  and had them turned into a beautiful tee-shirt quilt.

It turned out better than I expected!

Each piece of fabric brought back memories from a particular race. Some had happy memories attached to them while others emitted feelings of misery and disgust.

This shirt represents my first 5K. The race I thought was on flat pavement turned out to be a difficult trail run through the woods. I really felt like quitting! 

This one was a half-marathon through pouring rain the entire time. The kind of rain where you’re literally soaked to the bone and you can hardly see in front of you through the water gushing down your face.

This race was actually an obstacle course–A TOUGH MUDDER– I vowed years before I would NEVER do. After some prompting from my brother, I decided to do it anyway. Muddy from head to toe, I truly did not recognize myself in pictures from this insane mud run.

But other shirts on this same quilt have happier, more positive feelings attached to them.

This was my first half marathon! I can still conjure up those feelings of elation from crossing the finish line.

This race was a fun 5K my family did together. No pressure. Just a fun race where lots of unexpected prizes were given out at the finish line party.

Ah yes! This one represents the best time I ever had for a half marathon. Perfect conditions. Best pace ever. (And no injuries!)

I looked at each shirt, traveling back in time to relive each of these races. The good, the bad and the ugly. But then I stepped back and looked at the quilt as a whole.

Yes, when all these shirts were weaved together, it symbolized my entire running journey. It was beautiful!

But as I continued looking at the quilt, I saw something much more powerful….

This quilt is a beautiful picture of what God does with US!

Hang with me here, and please don’t miss this!

God is a master at weaving the seasons of our lives together–the good, the bad and the ugly–and He knits them together with threads of grace. And over time, He takes these individual moments of our lives and turns them into a beautiful tapestry of glory!

The 5K I ran where I wanted to quit? That’s like the seasons of life when we are ready to give up because we’re disappointed or our expectations weren’t met.

Running a race in pouring rain? It paints a picture of those times we’re trying to survive the storms of life.

Ha! And the Tough Mudder where I was a crazy-muddy-mess? Don’t we all have seasons like that? Where we are such an absolute mess we don’t even recognize ourselves. Life knocks us to the ground and we wonder how we’ll ever get up to keep going.

But we also have those seasons of happiness. The times we are living in our sweet spot, using our gifts and talents for God’s glory.

And we have those moments when life is just good. Our families are thriving. We have unexpected blessings heaped upon us when we least expect it.

And I’ll bet you can think back to moments in your life when you felt so successful. You accomplished something you’d dreamed about. Something you worked really hard for.

So just like this quilt represents the good and not-so-good moments of my running journey, in the same way,

God is continually weaving the moments of your life together for a greater purpose of displaying His glory.

So we have to be patient and we have to trust Him. Maybe you feel stuck in a season of wanting to quit and you can’t see beyond the difficulties.

Maybe you’re stuck in a muddy mess and you don’t see a way out. But I can assure you there is a clear path up ahead if you’ll just hang on. Because God is already taking the fragile threads you’re grasping on and is weaving them into something strong and beautiful.

It’s easy to get hung up on the current set of circumstances we’re in if that’s all we’re focusing on.

But when we take a step back and look at the big picture, we can see how God is weaving everything together for our good and His glory.

Which seasons of your life stand out to you–the good, bad and even the ugly–where God held you together with His threads of grace?

Blessings to you today!

Lisa

Check out my devotional book, EMBRACING THE RACE

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Side

When  my family took a trip to Israel a few months ago, one of the many highlights for me was taking a boat out on the Sea of Galilee. So many significant events took place here!

Jesus called his disciples from this area.

He walked on water.

The miraculous catch of fish.

But my favorite is when Jesus calmed the storm.

 

I’ve heard this story taught multiple times. But it’s what happened before and after this miracle that makes it even more powerful to me now that I know the whole context.

Let me lay the foundation of what was going on before Jesus gets in the boat with his disciples. They were all gathered in Capernaum, the headquarters of Jesus’s ministry. The people were flocking to him, bringing their sick to be healed. The crowd was getting a bit out of control and Jesus decides it’s time to move to another  location.

But not just any location.

He intentionally says to his disciples, “Let us go to the other side.”

When he says “the other side” he means the other side of the lake.

But the other side of the lake was pagan territory. They didn’t follow the ways of God. They were known for indulging in all kinds of sin. The Jewish people weren’t embraced there. And they couldn’t stay for very long because of restrictions with food and social requirements.

Jesus knew exactly where they were going. It wasn’t just a random decision.

They headed to the Decapolis region for a divine appointment with a demon-possessed man.

Everyone in Capernaum would’ve been able to hear this man screaming from across the lake.  He wandered aimlessly in the tombs by the shore because nobody could contain him. He was out of control.

Jesus is making a very bold move to take his disciples across the Sea of Galilee to the other side.

So this is what happens right before an unexpected storm threatens to drown his disciples. Waves of panic rushed through seasoned fishermen as they watched literal waves crash over their ready-to-sink boat.

But Jesus awakens from his sleep (asleep–really??) and calms the storm before their very eyes. The storm didn’t take him by surprise. He was on a mission to get to the other side.

Nothing was going to stop him.

At this point, I wouldn’t have blamed the disciples one bit if they’d turned that boat around and headed back home to Capernaum, to familiar territory.

But Jesus wasn’t finished yet! Someone was waiting for him. Desperately waiting on the other side.

Approaching the shore, the demon possessed man doesn’t skip a beat. He’s waiting for Jesus. He must have heard the buzz spreading about this supernatural man who could heal the sick. This was his only hope. He was at his wit’s end.

Jesus takes control of the situation and casts the demons out of this man. And he not only casts them out, but he ushers them into a herd of pigs, driving them over a cliff into the sea.

The man is immediately set free!

He begs Jesus to let him climb aboard the boat with his disciples. (Wouldn’t that be anyone’s first response?!)

But Jesus firmly and lovingly tells him to stay. To go and tell his own people what Jesus did for him.

This is huge.  A demon possessed man—bound up in a prison of despair—is now set free to proclaim the good news. He’s a missionary in the pagan region of Decapolis!

A region on the other side.

Here’s some powerful insights to take away from this and apply to our lives today:

Sometimes Jesus calls us out of our comfort zone and asks us to go to the other side.

While it’s comfortable with the crowd, we are sometimes called to take a risky move.

A move that will feel very uncomfortable. A move that will tempt us to panic.

And yes, a move that might even drive us to feel as if a storm is threatening to drown us.

But instead of getting focused on the storm, maybe we need to shift our focus on the other side.

 

Who or what is waiting on the other side? 

The neighbor across the street.

The co-worker everybody avoids.

That estranged family member who causes conflict.

Or it might be a place Jesus wants you to embrace.

Your child’s school.

A new ministry that needs volunteers.

Whatever the other side is for you, take that leap of faith and go forward. But be prepared for the enemy to attack. Because anytime we make a move toward pointing others to Jesus, the enemy will do whatever he can to stop us.

You might get opposition from others. You might be criticized. Your whole world could be shaken up.

But just like Jesus, may we keep our eyes fixed on the other side. When the waves of doubt and panic threaten to drown us, may we trust Jesus to calm the chaos.

Just like the demon possessed man was changed forever, there are souls who are desperately waiting for the love of Jesus to impact their lives. Waiting for hope. Waiting for good news. Waiting for someone to reach out.

But that isn’t going to happen unless we resolve to go to the other side.

Pray today for God to show you what the other side is for you!

Blessings to you,

Lisa

Check out my book Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul 

Part of my proceeds are donated to WaterStep, a ministry that puts clean water in developing countries.