What Nakedness Reveals

Fall is the celebrated season to break out the flannel, boots, and pumpkin spice, yet it’s also a time to see immense change happen in nature. We’ve just watched what was once growing, green, and full of life burst forth with bold vibrancy before all-too-quickly fading into drab tones, weathered stiffness, and the preparation for dormancy.

The trees have been shedding what’s left of their leaves, and the storms which are due to arrive soon will likely finish off whatever remains.

Trees can be a window into our soul. It can be good to let go of dead things, but doing so can also leave us feeling naked, feeling exposed and feeling vulnerable. Being uncovered—and letting others see our realness—can be a challenge.

I’ve been gone from the visibility of published writings here for a time, and it may be a while until I post again, but I’m here now. Here…in the moment because of the trees. Much like the trees, life and change can be a process to shed what is seen by others while being brave enough to reveal broken branches, burls of curled wood, and scattered parts that were once full of life and purpose.

Don’t you feel like this at times?

Yesterday, I took a walk in the forest behind my house. The sound of silence from the trees contrasting with the crunch of the dried and fallen leaves beckoned me. To be able to look up, look down, and look around—seeing the divergence of what is alive, what is changing, and what is dead—reminded me of how we are much like these majestic creations that blend together in a forest. There is beauty to be found in every season—with trees and within ourselves, too.

It’s easy to see the forest, yet harder to see the tree within the forest. …that is, until we get up close to see the tree for what it is:

  • The tree is changing with the seasons of its life;
  • it’s letting go of that which is dead while standing strong;
  • it’s giving life to a network of tiny organisms resting beneath its cover;
  • it’s offering fruit to other living creatures;
  • it’s preparing to rest;
  • it’s patiently waiting for the next season;
  • it’s readying itself for rebirth…and growth…and beauty to come.

Those trees—and you—isn’t this what your life has been about, too?

“Trust the journey.”

It’s what I say to myself when forward progress is slower than it seems it should be.

Trust your journey.

Trust in the season in which you find yourself.

Trust in the seeds you have planted while getting to where you are today.

Trust in the change that has taken place.

Trust in the work you are doing to prepare for what is coming.

Faith is not a moment; faith is a journey.

Seasons change.
We change.
Life gives us opportunities to be the change.

As much as you might miss some of what’s been left behind, trust in the opportunity ahead that has been created by being willing for forge a new path after letting go of what may no longer serve the same purpose for you.

It’s okay to be naked and exposed for a while. 

It really is!

 


 

Finding Hope in Shedding an Old Life

In April, I adopted an orchid. It was a take-home gift from a lovely bridal shower I attended in Michigan. I’ve never been tasked with caring for an orchid, but it was so lovely with its six blooms, that I was excited to transport it home.

The conditions in Michigan gave us a wintry blast of ice that coated the car to 1/4″ thick. It took 30 minutes of running the defrost and chipping away to clear the car before loading up my luggage and moving the orchid from the warmth of the hotel room. She was buckled into the seat belt in the back seat for the six-hour drive.

Upon arriving home, I settled her in on my kitchen counter with an ice cube for refreshment (Google is so helpful), before doing some laundry and packing up again for a seven-hour drive to Virginia. I gave strict orders to my family to NOT touch it or water the orchid while I was gone.

I returned a few days later to find a few buds had sprung open and new buds were forming. Yes! Victory in the moment! I had never grown one of these tropical beauties, but she was growing and glowing without much help from me.

Her 15 blooms have dazzled me with their beauty for months. A few weeks ago, her blooms began to wrinkle and lose some luster. Now, just three remain, and soon, she will seemingly slumber. As a first-time orchid owner, I’m not sure how long she’ll rest, but I’ll remain expectantly hopeful of her reawakening, no matter how long it takes.

 

 

This little orchid helps me to see the circle of life through the challenges and hopes within each of us. She has particular needs, and when her needs are nurtured, she is mesmerizing. Overdo or under do anything with her, and there will be issues. She’ll be less than she was created to be.

That’s life, isn’t it? There are surprises, delights, new opportunities, beauty, blossoming, showy moments and confidence in becoming who we have been created to be. Yet, in all of this, there are disappointments, heartache, a shedding of the old, fading joys, wrinkles, retreat, silence, and a feeling of loss where we have trouble knowing when we’ll get our groove back.

Expectant hope abounds in this little orchid, in all of nature, in us and in others. It’s all around us.

Can we see it in the simple?  Can we see it in the small?  Can we see it in the lonely?  Can we see it when we are shedding an old life, old habits or that which leaves us feeling dead?  Can we see it with a new opportunity?  Can we see it in our smile?  Can we see it when the Creator is working in us?  Can we see it?

Expectant hope abounds all around us.
Can we see it?


 

Finding Trust (Because I Quit My Job)

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Trust is a weighty thing. It’s a two-way street in our relationships with others, but when it comes to God, it’s a one-way street. We don’t need Him to trust us, but we do need to trust Him.

Today is a new day, and it’s a first step into the days ahead. That’s the case for all of us each and every day. But today, it’s quite magnified for me.

I’ve taken some steps toward changes in my life—leaps of faith, as I see them—to move away from circumstances that didn’t honor God or me, but now I’ve moved into the unknown as a result of my choices.

I quit my job.

I gave my notice a few weeks ago, and yesterday was my last day. I don’t have another job yet, but I felt as though staying at that one had become something I could not continue to do. My husband has lovingly supported my decision, as he’s repeated to me that I “haven’t quit or retreated from anything,” but that I’ve chosen to “advance in a different direction.”  


My husband’s words of encouragement are extracted from Oliver Prince Smith—a decorated, four-star general and retired Korean War veteran—to encourage me: “Retreat, hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction.” My husband has repeatedly repeated the shortened version to me as I wrestled through making the decision about my job, and he reminded me of these words again last evening after I finished my last day in the office.


I’ve been wrestling with trusting God in my next steps. Today was a new day in the wrestling match of trusting Him.

My study time this morning took me into a lesson about time…and about how He knows the plans He has for us…and about how the plans He has ordained for us have already been written. Then I decided to read through Psalm 138 and 139.

My husband’s Bible was beside me in our library room, so I grabbed it and flipped to where Psalms would be found. The page I turned to quickly and randomly had a verse circled:

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”

My husband had written “burden” above “cares.”

No coincidence.
None of it.
It’s yet another God-incidence.

When this morning’s Bible study turned out to be about time, I smiled a bit and said a few “Oh, of course it is!” thoughts under my breath. Those of you who know me well have heard me talk about the importance of trusting God’s timing, but I always throw in a “…but He’s so slow!” comment about my own experiences.

But this!…here’s another God-incidence in a lickety-split moment, found as I was moving into the next course of study. I needed to stop to write my thoughts (that you are reading), because I knew Psalm 138 and 139 were going to keep His reminders coming.

He knows the burden and worries I have been carrying. He knows why I needed to leave my job. He knows why I have struggled to trust Him in these next steps. He knows I need to feel His strength and His love and His confidence and His “I’ve got this,” especially today—on this new day into the rest of my days.


Oh, Lord. I thank you for your presence in my life. You are full of such mercy, grace, love…and hope! I am working on trusting you…on surrendering my wondering hopes to you…on having expectant hopes, instead. Thank you for your patience with me. 


Finding Hope in Expectant Hope

I have a friend who is fighting a tough battle with cancer, and today she has a new appointment with a new doctor in a new place for a new round of hope in her future.

I often don’t know what to say to someone else who is fighting a battle, but it’s just in my God-given nature (truly, not of my natural self) to pray that people never give up hope. So, I do.

Wondering hope leaves us wondering.
Expectant hope leaves us expecting.

There’s a huge difference between these kinds of hopes, and my prayer is that she can find even more expectant hope through her trial—more than she’s already had to muster up in all phases of this years-long journey.

“Expectant hope is powerful and never wasted.”

Those were some of the words I shared with her this morning as she reached out to her friends on social media before her appointment.


We’re all battling something. 

Maybe it’s cancer.
Maybe it’s abuse.
Maybe it’s racism.
Maybe it’s not being understood.
Maybe it’s legal trouble.
Maybe it’s prison.
Maybe it’s anger.
Maybe it’s pornography.
Maybe it’s bankruptcy.
Maybe it’s pride.
Maybe it’s worthiness.
Maybe it’s food.
Maybe it’s smoking.
Maybe it’s our boss.
Maybe it’s our wayward child.
Maybe it’s our church.
Maybe it’s shattered dreams.
Maybe it’s loneliness.
Maybe it’s fear.
Maybe it’s our past.
Maybe it’s self.

Wondering hope leaves us wondering.
Expectant hope leaves us expecting.

My encouragement to you today (and it’s a needed encouragement to my own self-talk, too), is to stop wondering and start expecting. Expectant hope is powerful and never wasted, especially when you stop hoping in the circumstance, and begin hoping in That which is greater than the circumstance.

 


 

Finding Hope in Hope

Welcome to June!

May was a magnificent month on so many levels. May brought sad endings, happy endings, fresh starts and new beginnings on my path throughout the month. Memories were made through milestone moments, love was shared and doors were opened.

May was also a tough month. Doors slammed closed on yet another round of hope, justice fell through a manipulative chasm, and loneliness ensued within a black hole of solitude.

June is here, and a new month is a new opportunity to mark a new round of optimism and hope… by choice, of course.

It is a choice.
It’s always a choice.

Within every given ending, start, beginning, milestone, anniversary, reminder, closed door, chasm
or black hole of circumstances, hope is a choice.

Do you hear that?
Hope… it’s a choice.

It’s a choice you have to make, and it’s a choice I have to make, too.

Don’t ever give up on it.
Don’t ever let the darkness overcome the light.
Don’t ever…

Choose hope.

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace
as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~Romans 15:13 (NIV)


What is your hope for June?
What is the darkness needing to be overcome by the light?
I’d like to pray for you, and I’d certainly appreciate your prayers for me, too.