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

Going Through and Not Around

John 4:4 “He had to go through Samaria on the way…”

The encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman is a story I’ve heard multiple times over the years. But I recently heard a message from Albert Tate that fleshed out this story in a fresh, radical way. It touched me so much I feel compelled to share it. I hope it impacts you as well.

When Jesus made the decision to go through Samaria, it was a huge ordeal. He was intentionally choosing to venture into a place that was hostile towards Jews. Samaritans and Jews clashed. Jews simply did NOT associate with Samaritans. At all!

And to get to where he needed to go, he did NOT have to go through this area. It was inconvenient. Out of the way.

But scripture says “had to go”?

Not for the sake of convenience, but for the sake of the gospel. The good news of the gospel is for everyone.

Even the Samaritans.

In his recent message, Albert Tate put it like this:

“When you follow Jesus you don’t go around Samaria, you go through Samaria. You don’t go around people, you engage people. People that don’t look like you, people that don’t vote like you. All people. Ministry is waiting on the other side of your discomfort.”

This really stirred up my heart.

I don’t want to be guilty of limiting my love to only those I feel comfortable with.

Or only to those who will love me back.

Am I truly letting the love of Jesus flow through me to everyone I encounter?

Do I ever avoid situations because certain people will be there?

In other words, do I purposely go around certain people instead of going straight through to them?

I’m honestly asking God to search my heart and show me where I don’t get this right. To show me those places, people and situations where He wants me to go through.

It’s easy to say that I’m being obedient to God’s call in ministry when I’m with people I can relate to.

I’m confident and comfortable pouring into single moms because I truly understand the path they are on. I have no problem running straight through to them!

I’m comfortable talking to women who struggle with depression and anxiety. I truly understand their hurting hearts. I’ve been there frequently! I’m fine with going through to where they are. I’ll even pull up a chair and savor coffee with them.

But what about someone who I have NOTHING in common with? What about women who don’t believe the same way I do? What about women from a different culture? Different political views? Different world view?

If I were sitting across from someone like this in a coffee shop, face-to-face, how would I respond?

Would I have the words to carry on a conversation? Would it feel awkward? Would I be uncomfortable? Would I feel like going around them even though I know I’m supposed to be right there with them?

I’m asking God to do a work in me so that no matter who I come in contact with, that He can use me.

To spread His love. Share His grace.

I don’t want to be known as a woman who avoids the uncomfortable, but chooses to share the comfort of Jesus.

I don’t want to be known as a woman who only loves the lovable, but shows grace to the unlovable.

Yes, I want to be a woman who engages all people, no matter what.

Lord help me not go around those you’ve put in my path, but to go straight through with the love and grace you’ve given to me.

Blessings to you!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Life is Short…Live it Well

When you find yourself suddenly entering a new decade of life, it certainly changes your perspective on time.

Hitting the big 50 milestone marker became reality for me recently. Mixed feelings? You bet!

My daughter blessed me with her encouraging words, “Gosh, Mom, you’re a half century old!”

For a few days I found myself feeling a bit on the negative side.

If the average life expectancy is 70, then I guess I’ve got at least 20 years left.

I guess it’s all downhill from here….

But then God reminded me of all the blessings He’s poured out upon me. So instead of getting depressed about my age, I rejoiced in all He’s entrusted me with. I also feel compelled to use the time I have left on this earth for His glory.

I like how James 4:14 puts this truth:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Most people don’t know how long their “mist” will last.

70 years? 80?

For some, their mist is very short. Tragedy strikes out of nowhere and their days are suddenly gone. No warning. Living life as if there were no tomorrow.

For others, they are faced with the reality that their “mist” is coming to an end. Cut short compared to most.

amzie

Sixteen-year-old Amzie Smith is dying of terminal liver cancer. She’s living each day to the fullest because she knows time is short. You can read more of her story here. In spite of what she’s faced with, her goal is to shine the light on God’s kindness and love. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she’s chosen to let God use her life to point others to Him. She’s packed more into her short “mist” than most people do in a lifetime. Her faith inspires me to live each of my days to the fullest.

What if we all lived like that? What if we embraced each and every day with everything we had?

The reality is that we just don’t know how many days we have on this earth. There are no guarantees for anyone. We are given one day at a time and we get to choose how to live that day.

Psalm 90:12 says “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”

Maybe this means wisdom is found in the day-to-day moments of humility instead of thinking when we get older we’ll suddenly have a huge dose of it.

Psalm 146:2 says, “I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”

While I have my “being”? How long is that?

You don’t know.

But we are urged to praise God as long as we live. It’s simply praising Him for what He’s given us. Taking our gifts and talents and using them for His glory. Loving others He puts in our path. Pointing them to the love of Jesus. It’s our purpose.

So just as sixteen-year-old Amzie is living her purpose to its fullest, I want to do the same.

Instead of putting the eternal things on the back burner with the assumption that I’ve got plenty of time later, I choose to do those things now.

Ann Voskamp puts it like this in her book The Broken Way:

“Whether we have a diagnosis or not, we all get one container of time–but no one gets to know what size that container is. Live every day like you’re terminal. Because you are. Live every day like your soul’s eternal. Because it is.”

I don’t know where you are in your journey of time, dear friend. Maybe you’ve lived many years and you have regrets. Maybe you’re approaching middle age and you think you’re halfway through your lifespan. Or perhaps you’re young, thinking you have a whole life yet to live.

Your life is short…live it well.

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Weary from Pouring into Others

I’ve been running on fumes lately and the gas tank of my soul is almost on empty.

The things I’m running after are all good. 

Encouraging others in their faith.

Walking alongside friends in difficult circumstances. 

Helping to lead a group of single moms.

Showing hospitality to others in our home.

Preparing to launch and market my first book. 

But in the midst of all the kingdom work, I can feel myself wearing down a bit. In a constant flow of pouring into others, I’ve forgotten to slow down enough to be refilled. Not being intentional enough with my time to sit before the Lord and let Him refresh me.

Imagine a huge pitcher of water. It’s surrounded by multiple small glasses. At first you can freely pour the water into the other glasses.

A little bit here. A little bit there. Pour some here. Pour some there.

But what seems an endless supply will soon run out. The large pitcher will run dry at some point.

 

An empty pitcher can’t fill anything up. An empty pitcher serves no purpose. It must be refilled before it can pour back out. We can set this pitcher under the faucet and turn it on. Water from an endless supply is available at any time.

This is a picture of what I must do to stay filled up! I need to sit still under the faucet of God’s never-ending love, full of peace and strength that will never run out. An endless supply of grace–available at any time.

Maybe instead of waiting until the pitcher of my heart is empty, I should go back to the faucet every day and stay filled up. I’m so guilty of waiting until every last drop of strength and grace are squeezed out of my parched, weary soul.

You know how some servers at restaurants are great about keeping your drink refilled? Instead of waiting until your glass is empty, they keep filling it up every time they walk by. Might even seem annoying at some point! But their eye is on the glass. Their goal is to keep it filled to the brim.

Perhaps I should aim to be like that server in guarding the condition of my soul. 

Always aware. Making sure I’m filled up. Intentionally watching.

But even if I push too hard and find myself on empty, God is still ever so gracious and patient with me. He calls me to simply come with my parched soul and sit at His feet.

He beckons me to soak up His presence. Overflow me with His peace. Fills me up to the brim. And then He whispers to me and says, “You’re filled up now. Go and pour into others who are still on empty. Pour into those who need to be refreshed. Let me flow through you to show my love.”

What about you? Are you running on fumes from pouring into others? Do you feel parched because your soul needs a refill from the Living Water?

Let’s challenge one another to stay filled. Encourage each other to keep a watch on our souls.

God longs to fill the pitcher of our souls with His never-ending supply of power.

It’s a must if we’re going to keep doing the kingdom work He’s called us to.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett