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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Prison of Doubt

“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

Have you ever found yourself in a season of doubt?

The kind of season where everything around you feels dark. The light you could once see so brightly, now seems to have faded.

You wonder if God is really there. Does He see you? Doesn’t He know what you’re going through?

The path you were on seemed so clear and firm. But now the path has disappeared and it feels like you’re sinking.

Sinking into disappointment.

Sinking into discouragement.

Sinking into despair.

And then your weary mind is flooded with questions…

Are you sure this is where you called me, Jesus?

Did I not hear you right?

This isn’t where I thought I’d be right now.

Have you abandoned me?

Do you even hear me?

John the Baptist was asking some similar questions when he found himself in prison.

Ummm….prison?

You mean the one who was called to prepare the way for Jesus?

In prison?

Yes. That’s where he was.

He sent two of his disciples to find Jesus and ask him point blank:

Are you the one who was to come? 

This is where he is doubting whether or not Jesus is truly the Messiah.

Should we expect someone else?

As if the first question wasn’t clear enough, this one surely grabbed his attention!

John’s entire ministry pointed others to the coming Messiah. His assignment was to prepare the way for Jesus. If he got this wrong, then everything he did would be in vain. He would have been guilty of leading so many others astray.

He couldn’t live with that. He knew his days were limited. (When prophets rebuke kings, it usually didn’t go very well.)

So he had to know the answer to his final question.

Did he get it wrong? Was Jesus really who He said He was?

Dear friends, we often find ourselves in similar situations. We may not find ourselves in a physical prison awaiting execution. But we find ourselves in a different type of prison…

We might feel trapped in a marriage that  started off on the right path, but now is falling apart.

We may have taken that dream job but now it feels like an absolute nightmare.

We poured so much into our kids but now they are wandering off, making poor choices.

Or maybe someone you trusted has betrayed you and you feel stuck in a prison of bitterness.

Whatever it is you’re doubting, you are most certainly not alone. We all have seasons of doubt. We all have those moments when we are afraid to even admit we doubt God’s presence in our lives.

After reading back through the passage where John the Baptist is doubting who Jesus is, he gets his answer.

Jesus sends those disciples back to John with exactly what he needs to hear. Don’t miss what Jesus says!

“Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

John would certainly recognize Isaiah’s prophecy in those powerful words. This promise would bring the peace John needed to sustain him through the painful circumstances he was experiencing.

Notice that Jesus did not speak words of condemnation towards John. He didn’t express disappointment that John was doubting him. He didn’t throw up his hands in frustration that John would dare question his authority as the Messiah!

Right after John’s disciples go on their way, here is what Jesus says about John:

“I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt. 11:11)

Jesus makes this statement in the midst of John’s doubt!!  

I don’t know about you, but I find this nugget of truth fascinating. It brings me such relief and peace. It removes the heavy burden of guilt I sometimes feel when I’m in a season of doubt myself.

As the forerunner to paving the way for Jesus, John did a lot of great things. He called a nation to repentance, and prepared the world for Christ’s arrival.

But the quality I think we can all embrace is how he persevered in the face of public misunderstanding and malicious persecution.

Have you ever been misunderstood by anyone? (A family member, friend or co-worker?)

Have you ever been wrongly accused for standing up for your beliefs?

Have you ever felt like someone has bound you up in an emotional or mental prison?

I don’t know where you are today, but I want to encourage you to claim the promises of Jesus that will bring you peace.

The very words of Jesus are what ultimately comforted John. Even in prison. Awaiting a death sentence.

Wherever you feel trapped, locked up, bound up or hopeless…only His promises can bring you peace.

Don’t feel shame in your doubts, but bring them to the feet of Jesus, the only one who can unlock your prison of doubt.

Blessings to you!

Lisa

When Love is Hard

Valentine’s Day.

A popular time for people to declare their love for one another.

A husband confirms his love for his wife with beautiful roses and a special dinner at a fancy restaurant.

A parent excitedly lavishes candy and gifts upon her children, hoping they will feel the love oozing out in between each bite of chocolate.

A young man chooses this day to propose to his girlfriend, their love so explosive for all to see.

Yes, these are ideal expressions of love we long to give. Or even better, the kind we long to receive.

But what if this is not reality in your world today? What if you can’t identify with any of these scenarios?

You can’t go there today because for you, love just feels HARD during this season of your life.

Your marriage may be crumbling and there aren’t any flowers or fancy dinner date on the horizon.

You’re in the midst of conflict with one of your kids and no amount of candy or gifts will make things right.

Or perhaps you’re single and there isn’t anyone in your life to declare their love to you. You are literally all alone. By yourself. Going through a divorce or a break-up with a significant other.

Yes, this is when love is hard. It doesn’t feel good. In fact in feels down right miserable. 

But the kind of love I’m referring to in the above scenarios is human love. And because humans live in a fallen world with sin nature, their love will fail. It will disappoint. It will leave you feeling empty at times.

Even the best of marriages? Yes, their love will fail at times.

Even the best relationships between mother/daughter and father/son? Yes, their love will fail at times.

What about the love between two people who are soul mates…made for each other? Yes, their love will fail at some point, too.

Not trying to be discouraging on this Valentine’s Day, but this is a reality we have to come to grips with.

Human love will fail and disappoint. But the love of God is unfailing and always dependable. 

When He declares His love for us, we’d better take notice and cling to it with all we have.

Psalm 13:5 says “But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation.”

Psalm 6:4 says “Deliver me and save me because of your unfailing love.”

When love is hard with the people in your life, remember that His Love Never Fails. 

He also tells us that NOTHING can separate us from His love.

Romans 8:35,39 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So nothing or nobody can separate us from His love! I don’t know about you, but I just really need to soak this up and camp out here for a while.

It’s easy to get discouraged by our loved ones when they hurt us. Disappoint us. Let us down.

And if we aren’t careful, we can let the disappointment of human love override the declaration of Holy Love. A love that is unfailing. A love we can depend on. A love that will never be separated from anyone or anything.

So where are you on this Valentine’s Day, dear friend? Are you in a place where love is hard? Has someone you love disappointed you? Whether it’s your spouse, child or friend, you are not alone.

An amazing thing about God’s love is that when we embrace it and let it ooze out all over us, it gradually begins to trickle out to those around us. His love will come out through us if we stay still long enough for it to soak through our souls. And then we are able to love others like He loves us.

Even when love is hard.

broken-1739128_640

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett