Never Lonely

Loneliness is hard. 

I am often alone in my thoughts, alone in my dreams, alone in my passions, alone in my fears, and alone in my sin.

I have loving children, an adoring husband, faithful friends, a supportive church family, and yet I still feel keenly alone at times. Why?

There’s a void that only my Maker can fill. When I’m thriving in relationship with Him, that space is fully occupied, and loneliness itself becomes void. But when I’m pursuing my soul’s satisfaction in the temporary treasure of earthly relationships, loneliness reigns.

Every night I wake up between 3:00 and 4:00 AM. I head downstairs to put our puppy outside. Then I come back upstairs to my bed and the pondering begins. Tonight, I’m lying here contemplating my relationships, and as precious as they are, my chest aches with loneliness. I could easily find tears. I’m reminded yet again that Jesus is my best Friend, my antidote for loneliness. He is the Friend who sticks closer than a brother and lays down His life for me. Because of my union with Him, I am never alone. I am not lonely.

With Jesus, I have zero risk of being left. I will never be misunderstood, mistreated, misrepresented, misguided, rejected, disowned, forsaken, betrayed, or labeled. The friendship I find in Him not only solves loneliness, it provides a safe haven.

Loneliness is hard. The reason this is true is that it was never intended for my life. Perfect companionship is mine through my union with Christ Jesus. He promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Safe Biking

I have a little rearview mirror on the handlebar of my bike so I can see when cars are coming behind me. Sometimes I find myself peering into that narrow reflection more than the wide road ahead. I’m either looking for what’s back there or I’m gazing at myself. Either one is dangerous! If I’m looking in the wrong direction, how will I know where to go and, more importantly, how will I avoid hazardous obstacles?

I’ve written about this topic before; I must be directionally challenged! Unfortunately, I’ve had lots of experience with aiming toward the wrong thing. I’ve stared directly into the mirror of my personal vanity, ego, and pride. Other times, career moves or relational dreams have had my full focus. Regardless of which idol steals my eyes from the Prize, trouble looms.  

Instead, I want to be like David, with my eyes continually on the Lord.

My eyes are continually toward the Lord, For He will pluck my feet out of the net. (Psalm 25:15)

Here is my five-step plan for keeping the right focus:

  1. Receive the Holy Spirit’s conviction for wandering from Christ.
  2. Repent of the obstacle blocking my view of Christ.
  3. Replace the obstacle with more of Christ.
  4. Remind myself that my efforts are only successful due to my union with Christ.
  5. Repeat this over and over until I am with Christ.

How determined are you to cease gazing on lesser loves? Visual victory can be ours through Christ. Here’s to safe biking!

The Path

Sometimes the path is clear
The journey well defined
My Guide feels ever near
His peace and rest are mine

Sometimes the path is dark
The journey hard to see
My Guide feels ever far
Has He forgotten me?

My heart leads me astray
My focus all within
My bones start to decay
It’s then I call on Him

Oh teach me, Lord, to trust
To know You never change
Help me to call You first
And lay down all the pain

Then will I see again
The path that leads to You
My Comforter, my Friend
My Savior, tried and true

Daytime Moonlight

In the early morning hours, I can sometimes see the moon from the night before even as the sun is already revealing its brilliant light. With each dawn comes fresh mercies and compassion from the Lord. “They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). I know this is true. I depend on it. And yet, I have the tendency to look back and focus on the night, those times of difficulty and trial.

I took a bike ride at 7:00 this morning and noticed the moon was still lingering in the sky. It was the perfect picture of traces of the night trying to remain in my day. Instantly, the Lord began to work on my heart, for there are many hurts and failures of “nights” gone by that try to rule my thoughts and dictate my day.

I’ve been betrayed. I’ve been abandoned. I’ve been slandered. I’ve been lied to. I’ve been scorned. I’ve been defamed. I’ve been threatened. I’ve been ridiculed. I’ve been reprimanded. I’ve been reviled. I’ve been rejected. I’ve also been guilty of similar evils. Christ has redeemed all of it. He shines like the morning sun upon my nighttime, covering me with the precious healing light of truth and forgiveness. And yet at any time, any one of these dark night memories can easily seep into my daytime thinking.

I have two choices: I can mope in the moonlight of difficult nights, or I can soak in the sunlight of what has been made new. A dawn of fresh breath is mine to breathe! Each day offers new hope in Christ Jesus.

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

My hope remains even when the moon is still in sight. I don’t forget the hardship, but it no longer influences me. I look upon it and tremble no longer. I see its purpose in my life and recognize it as growth and wisdom gleaned. I now see the hardship as blessing. The “moonlight” simply becomes a part of my story, which has been perfectly designed by my Creator. 

I will not live in the past. I am not stuck there. The fresh dawn is mine to enjoy as I place my hope in my Savior, the One who makes all things new and restores His people.

…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

O King, It Was You

I’ve strapped on my boots
My laces are tied
It’s time to go
Where I cannot hide

I head back in time
To places once been
Each memory
Is like an old friend

Some gentle and light
Some haunting and deep
Each one reveals
The things I now keep

Recalling my roots
The sunshine and shade
His choice, not mine
I am who He made

The former, the now
The triumphs, the falls
The rest, the plow
My heart holds it all

To note where I’ve walked
Is helpful to me
I see my path
With such clarity

Each moment was shaped
Like clay in His hand
No one can thwart
His masterful plan

My joy and my pain
O King, it was You
For Your great name
You’ve grown me in truth

Love Bank

If you saw my previous post, you know we recently buried our seventeen-year-old dog, Maestro. He was my third dog. Didi was the family poodle before I was born and lived till I was age twelve. After her, Callie saw me through the rest of my schooling and into my marriage. Maestro lived with us five years before our girls were born. His passing has inspired much personal reflection.

In the last eight years or so, I have been through the self-evaluation/self-awareness ringer. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever cared to know. What I’ve come to realize is that I love love. What I mean is that I love to love and to be loved. Of course, who doesn’t love to be loved? But I REALLY love to be loved. I am in a constant battle with myself concerning all of my relationships. Do they love me as much as I love them? Is their love bank equally full? I have unknowingly pursued the answer to such questions my entire life. Some relationships have suffered and even ended from my tireless pursuit. 

I give out love to my detriment, always hoping it is returned in equality. Many show me great love, but I usually doubt if its level is equal to mine. This is a foolish game, an endless source of frustration and unintentional hurt. Everyone expresses love differently. Just because it isn’t expressed in the same way as mine, doesn’t mean it is less than mine. It has taken me a long time to understand this.

After losing Maestro, I realized what the love of dogs has meant to me throughout my life. They returned love to me equally. I never had to question it, measure it, or even pursue it. It was just there, anytime I wanted or needed it. When this love went missing, the Lord dealt with my heart. He took all the gained wisdom of the last eight years and applied it directly to my wounds. He’s been convicting me for a while to choose Him more quickly, to direct my affection toward Him more fully, and to pour out my adoration on Him more earnestly. 

What comes back to me will never be equal. No, His love far surpasses what I could offer. Christ’s love also outweighs anything His creation could give me. My husband, my daughters, my parents, my dearest friends, or my pets—none of them can love me as He loves me. Yes, He comforts me through human hugs and canine snuggles, but He alone is the source of pure and perfect love. 

Over the course of this past year, every time I said goodbye to Maestro thinking we were losing him, I always thanked him. I thanked him for his faithful love, for never denying me of it, and for lavishing me with it. It is with a precious bittersweetness that I praise the Lord for this hole in my heart that Maestro leaves behind. It is a reminder of my love bank and how I should be spending it. 

Where do you invest your love?

Seventeen Years

For seventeen years, I got to smooch
Sweet puppy dog cheeks on my pooch

For seventeen years, I was greeted with excitement
That Westie grin told me what his heart meant 

For seventeen years, I got to play
With a boy determined to get his way

For seventeen years, I cuddled with him
He was certainly “man’s best friend”

For seventeen years, he watched our lives unfold
The birth of our babies and stories told 

For seventeen years, he was a sounding board
Fur tissue for my tears, comfort from the Lord

For seventeen years, I’ve been blessed with my Buppy
Forever grateful for the gift of such a puppy

For the next seventeen, I’ll miss him so
My angel boy, my sweet Maestro

Lost and Found

Every night I take a hot bath. It’s my thing. Don’t get the wrong idea, it’s not a soothing moment set with dim lighting and candles so that the world will melt away. It’s usually accompanied by noisy girls getting ready for bed and videos that I need to catch up on playing on my phone. It’s also really quick because it’s so piping hot! I love climbing into cool, fresh sheets afterwards. 

Last night, my routine was no different; however, after twenty minutes in bed, I realized my ring was missing. I had worn this ring from my grandmother on my right hand since I graduated from high school. It is beyond special to me and is also quite valuable. It has the stones from the engagement ring my grandfather gave her when he proposed. After his death, she remarried and had this ring created with those diamonds. When I graduated, she told me I could pick out a ring from her jewelry collection. There were many to choose from because Nana was a very stylish woman. I chose well. 

Where could that ring have gone? Down the drain? Patrick and I searched everywhere I’d been that evening, checking nooks and crannies and corners and crevices. I finally fell on the bed and simply prayed. So many times when something has been lost, the Lord has helped me to find it. Isn’t that His nature—to seek and save the lost? I know my ring has nothing to do with salvation, but my sickened heart surely needed saving!

Suddenly, it hit me! I ran to the bathroom and knew right where it was. I had used a loofah bath mitt in the tub, and when I took it off my hand, my ring came off too. I grabbed the mitt and felt something hard inside. Victory! 

Most of us know what it feels like to lose things. I have lost friends, family, money, time, and certainly material items. If I had lost this ring, life would have resumed with little change. Yes, it was devastating to lose something so valuable to me, but the reality is it is only a material thing. It won’t last through eternity.

There is one thing I can never lose: my security in my Savior. The worth of my position in Him cannot be measured. He has bought me with a price. He is the Champion of the Lost and Found, redeeming those who were so very far from Him, and drawing us into the presence of the Most High God. This calming truth rests upon those who are His, so much so that we need not fear losing anything of this world. We have what truly matters. 

“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)

The Truth Behind the Smile

This Easter photograph from 2012 always stirs my emotions, not because my babies are growing up too quickly or because of fond Resurrection Sunday memories, but because of what I was battling.

It is a precious photo of my family, but the truth behind my Easter smile is that I was ill from sleep deprivation. I was in the middle of a six-week doctor-ordered process of breaking a lifelong bedtime habit, resulting in little to no sleep night after night. The harm this habit had caused to my body over my lifetime was discovered after I sought care following a dramatic car wreck in which I pulled out in front of a semi and totaled our Jeep.

Just weeks before this photo, I’d been verbally abused and physically threatened by someone in a series of horrific phone calls. The threats increased my fear when our little Lillie went missing at church that morning. The service started late because everyone was looking frantically for her. When she was found I dissolved into tears in the sound room while the choir entered the platform. I was in no condition to lead triumphant Easter hymns, but His strength is perfect.

I see this photograph and feel compassion for that woman of 2012. She could never have imagined that far worse difficulties were in store, the kind of difficulties that could utterly destroy her and her family. I want to tell her that brighter days will come, but that they will be coupled with more dark days. She should know that hardship prepares her for greater hardship. But I would also explain that the scars will serve her well. None of them will be wasted. Most importantly, the Lord is faithful through every trying moment, offering His hand of mercy, conviction, guidance, and grace.

As I look back on those five years of trial, I understand more clearly what my sovereign Lord was doing. His plans always hold specific purpose. Though I’m thankful to be on this side of that season, I do not know what the next one holds. But what I now know with great certainty is that there is nothing too difficult for Him. Because of my union with Christ, there is also nothing too difficult for me.

Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.  (Jeremiah 32:17) 

There’s No Not

Legend has it that if you blow off all the seeds of a dandelion in a single breath, the person you love will love you in return. However, if any seeds remain, that person may not have the same feelings toward you.

I wonder if we play this game with the Lord. With each stumble, do we begin blowing on the dandelion of His grace, praying there is enough left?

Pulling the petals off a daisy, we recite, “He loves me. He loves me not.” But with Jesus, there’s no not. He loves me. Purposefully. Powerfully. Perfectly. In fact, He loves me enough to separate from His Father, to wear human flesh, to suffer horrifically, and even to die. 

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

How do you view God’s love? 

Some believers rest so firmly in His love that they fail to recognize His wrath. Yet His jealous love will not allow His people to follow false gods without consequences.

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24)

Other believers land so firmly on our depraved condition that they’re hesitant to proclaim His lavish love. The fear of sounding like a wishy-washy Christian results in leaving out this glorious truth of our faith.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

The bottom line is that Christ Jesus loves His own. His love is purposefully, powerfully, and perfectly in place. “He loves me not” is not an option for those who are in Him. So blow those dandelion seeds into the wind, or pull off those daisy petals with confidence. “He loves me. He loves me.”