How are you smiling?

Today is Easter Sunday. A day when Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and how he defeated the power of evil by rising from the dead. Through his resurrection we have hope for a new life. A new, full abundant life. A life of love and freedom. A life of peace and joy. And it’s not just for the future in heaven but available to us right now…in THIS moment. It’s an awesome day!

A good friend of mine who I haven’t seen in a few weeks came up to me at church and told me I looked fantastic…like I am enjoying life. Laughing. Smiling. I said thank you and

A beautiful image by Jennifer Studio JRU

A beautiful image by Jennifer Studio JRU

we proceeded to catch up for a bit. We talked about life and I told her what has been going on for me the last few weeks. Her next amazed question

“How are you smiling?”

You see what I filled her in on is…my cancer might be back. A few weeks ago my Dr. confirmed there is something in my hip bone and I am currently waiting on the results of an MRI I had last week. I don’t know what it is. I know it is in a place where I feel something like a bruise but it has been more annoying than painful. The last few weeks have been a process of getting scans and waiting…waiting…waiting for results. It could be benign. It could be malignant. I don’t have any answers.

I wasn’t going to go public with this process until I knew more information and could tell a definitive story. Posting information like this makes people concerned and I don’t want to worry anyone unnecessarily.

But I was convicted this morning that I need to share this. Right now. In THIS moment. The moment where everything feels uncertain again. The moment where my tentative future plans are once again abruptly stopped. The moment in the midst of the fear and anxiety BEFORE I know what the path forward is. Because THIS is the moment where I experience the power of Jesus most profoundly.

When my friend told me that I looked fantastic and seemed happy…it’s because I am genuinely good. When she asks “How are you smiling?” I think of Philippians 4:7 which says “and the peace of God which transcends understanding will guard you heart and mind in Christ Jesus”. I can’t explain it. I just know I’m not faking it. There is a peace deep in my soul that can only come from God. I am always a bit hesitant to proclaim this because I know everyone has a different experience of God’s peace and I don’t want to say it always feels like this. I have been through seasons of grief and sorrow where peace was much harder to experience through the pain.

But, right now…for me in this incredibly difficult moment…God’s got me…and I can’t help but smile.

My future in this life is completely uncertain…thanks to Jesus my future after this life is solid.

So…How am I smiling? It’s Easter Sunday…He is RISEN…a better question is How can I keep from smiling?

Blessings,

Lynnea

 

 

Preparation and Expectation

A lesser known fact about me is that my dining table is (almost) always set whether I am planning a dinner party or not. I enjoy it. It is a rotating design feature in my home and keeps my table from collecting mail and other clutter I can’t be bothered to put away. My life, somehow, feels a bit more ordered when it is set.

This is a common dialogue for a first time visitor:

Them: “Are you having people over for dinner?”

Me: “Nope, I don’t have anything planned at the moment. I’m sure I will eventually.”

Confusion…Them: “Then why is your table set?”

Me: “Ummmm…I like it like that.”

Them: “Strange…that seems very American

Me: “Not sure…I think it’s just me.” 🙂

Recently, I have been thinking about this a bit more deeply. “Why do I like it set so much?” I’m sure it’s partly due to the creative element. My rockstar mom has made almost all the napkins and table runners for me…so it’s partly feeling like my family is closer than they are.

But mostly it comes down to HOPE and EXPECTATION.

I don’t need to have a dinner party planned to know there will eventually be one. That sometime in the future friends will come over to laugh and share a meal together. I am preparing in advance with an expectation it will happen. And it always does. Sometimes it is my initiative and sometimes it is a spontaneous evening. I never know…but either way I am prepared.

This morning I was reading in Matthew 24 in anticipation of honoring Jesus’ death on Good Friday and celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday. It is one of His final sermons and He is talking to His disciples about the last days…how He will come again in judgement and establish His kingdom on this earth. You can feel the urgency in His words as He compels his disciples to stay alert…to be vigilant and prepared…because no one knows the hour or day He will return in glory…and they don’t want to be caught off guard. There will be trials…they will be persecuted…many people will turn away due to the rampant sin in the world…but those who endure will be saved.

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm til the end will be saved.”  Matthew 24:12-13 NIV

I confess that I don’t think about Jesus’ return enough. Most of the time I think about how thankful I am that God loved me enough to come to earth and cover my sins with His son’s life. I think about the resurrection and how I no longer need to fear an ultimate death. I think about grace and love…broken chains…redeemed lives. I mentally stop at Easter Sunday…get caught up in the present day and forget that Jesus WILL return. And when He does, will I be prepared? If I live with the EXPECTATION He will return, would my life look different? Would I stay selfish or surrender easier? Would I love more? Forgive more fully? Serve others? Live with more generosity? Build my life on hope even with significant trials?

This Sunday…look beyond the resurrection…will you be prepared?

I wish you all a very blessed holy week. Remember Christ has died…Christ has risen…Christ WILL come again.

Lynnea

 

Checking in…

Well hello there blogging world…I am indeed alive. 🙂 I haven’t been writing as much recently for a variety of reasons and realized that I should at least check in.

In the past my blogging breaks have come when I am navigating a particularly rough emotional season. That is not the case here and I have appreciated the off line messages from friends making sure everything is good. And honestly it really is. Sometimes surprisingly so. I’m just exhausted. I have been trying to go back to work more full time and my energy at the end of the day is gone…especially when it comes to writing.

I had a surprising feeling last Monday morning.

Something I honestly haven’t felt in a while.

I woke up…HAPPY.

It caught me off guard and you know there has to be some divine influence for that to happen on a Monday Morning getting ready for work. 🙂 It was surreal, I paused for a moment, said a prayer of thanksgiving and thought…I didn’t believe this could happen…I’m HEALING. My circumstances haven’t changed and there are still many things I would like to be different but apparently that doesn’t matter.

This moment encouraged me that things truly wont always be so hard. That things are moving. That my heart is healing and God is transforming the pain into something life giving. I have spent many hours and journal pages writing about healing…physical healing…emotional healing…spiritual healing. It is an amazing process. I will write more on the blog when I get back to my storm survival posts. But even with all my writing/processing the idea of healing is still a great mystery to me and one that I have had to absolutely trust God with. I can’t even count the number of times I wrote this in my various journals over the last 2 years:

Jesus, I know you see the pain in my heart…it hurts. I know that I can’t heal it on my own. I need you. I trust you alone to heal me. I trust you to work all this out for my good and your glory.

I have trusted this in my core for the last 2 years and I will admit that sometimes it is extremely difficult to keep trusting…day after never ending day when it feels like nothing is happening. There were seasons when life seemed to be getting worse rather than better. Things aren’t working out on my timeline. But I keep (attempting to) wake up trusting and I have learned that God’s healing is never superficial. The moments when things felt like they were getting worse he was cutting cancer out of my life and scrubbing old wounds with antiseptic. I still have no idea how my life will work out practically but I am able to live with more freedom and love than I ever have in the past. And I wouldn’t give that back for anything.

Happy Monday,

Lynnea

Photo: www.ilovedevotionals.com

Keep the Faith

These last couple weeks have been tough. I realize in the difficult times I tend to not write as much. I guess I’m not inspired. I feel a bit sorry for myself. I don’t have much energy…I try not to push myself too hard. I have been missing family a lot recently and feeling the full weight and isolation of living alone in a foreign country. The side effects of my medicine have been brutal as the summer temperatures climb and in general I have just felt suffocated by the things that are unknown and the things that are out of my control.

I have my bad moments. I don’t like them but it’s honest. I’m not endlessly positive…I can throw myself a pretty good pity party. I reached a point on Monday where I just needed to get out of town. Somehow being alone in an unfamiliar place is better than being alone in a familiar place. Through a last minute cancellation I was able to head up to a friend’s place on Ameland for a few days.

This has been just the right mental break for me. I don’t have any real answers to my questions but God is gently restoring my perspective.

I was incredibly encouraged by the story of Peter walking on the water in Matthew this morning:

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them (the disciples) and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits “A Ghost!” they said crying out in terror.

But Jesus quick to comfort them “Courage it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come ahead”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

The two of them climbed into the boat and the wind died down.

Matthew 14:24-33 (parentheses mine)

Peter can sometimes get a bad rap in this story. The Message translates it as “Faint-heart, what got into you?” The NIV says “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” I really empathize with Peter. At the beginning of the story it’s the 12 disciples…in a boat…in the middle of the lake…in the middle of a storm. Not a very nice place to be. I don’t know if they were sleeping but at 4:00 in the morning they were probably a bit groggy and then they see Jesus on the water. What the? I’d be terrified too!!

Peter tends to be the bold, impulsive one so once Jesus lets them know it’s OK he immediately asks to join him. My paraphrase of his question is:

Master, if it’s you…ask me to do something I can ONLY do by your power…ask me to do something I would never be able to do on my own! And Jesus does.

And then Peter jumps out of the boat excited to join Jesus…he takes some steps and then there’s a moment when reality catches up with him. Hey, wait a minute?! I’m walking on the water!! In a storm!! This is impossible!! And he shifts his gaze from Jesus to the churning water beneath his feet…that’s when he begins to sink.

Even with his sinking I have respect for Peter. The other 11 disciples stayed in the boat where they didn’t need to risk anything. Peter stepped out of security toward Jesus.

I feel like I am Peter in this story. I’m not walking on water literally. But in a season of my life where fears…and insecurities…and doubts…and pain were crashing against my heart like the waves against that boat…I saw Jesus standing there. I knew there was a way forward toward him but it was a path I couldn’t walk on my own strength…

Jesus, if it’s really you…ask me to do something I can ONLY do by your power.

Ask me to love when it is the last thing I want.
Ask me to trust when I don’t see the path but long to be healed
Ask me to forgive when it costs me so much.
Ask me to have faith that you wont let me sink.
Ask me to be confident that you will provide what I need
Ask me to have hope when things feel impossible.

Because in pursuing these questions I am no longer protecting my heart in the boat but RISKING…and it produces both fear and excitement…and life. I am being absolutely transformed.

I’ve spent the last few weeks focused on the fear and the waves at my feet rather than Jesus in front of me and I’ve been sinking. I’m thankful that he wont let me go down and is so gently shifting my focus back to him.

Sometimes Storm Survival is just recognizing the moments when your perspective is off…and shifting it back to where your strength/power comes from.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Find your center

I think one of the hardest things to do in difficult season…or maybe in our busy, noisy, distracted western lives in general…is to find our center. This sounds all Zen but from what I can tell it comes down to a single question. Who are you? Who are you when no one is looking? Who are you when you are free to make choices without external expectations? And are you OK with that person regardless of what other people think? It is easy to get pulled in a million different directions by responsibilities and life and to lose ourselves amidst the chaos. When a crisis hits we then become swept away by a tidal wave of fear or grief and get kicked around by the waves. The wind and waves of life are inevitable and unless we know what our center/anchor is they can move us from where we want to be without us realizing it.

I picture it kind of like a buoy in the ocean. When the wind and the waves come it will be a rough ride for a while but if your anchor stays in tact…you wont shift very far. If the anchor breaks or you never had one to begin with you might wind up in uncharted waters or on the beach. Either place you are no longer where you want to be and ultimately ineffective.

navigation buoy

My center is defined by my faith.

Who am I? Well, I am Lynnea. Nice to meet you. 🙂 I am absolutely known and loved by my God. Even though I’ve done my best in this life, I screw up A LOT and rely completely on God’s grace and forgiveness to bridge the gap from me to Him. I trust that as I wake up everyday He will help me to become the best version of myself but it will be a life long process.

This might sound overly spiritual but by defining myself this way my anchor is stable despite my circumstances. My choices then flow from this anchor point. I am currently attempting to:

  • fight for love and forgiveness/fight against anger and bitterness even when it is difficult…it sometimes seems impossible
  • try to be authentic even when it is scary – example: this blog
  • fight to keep my heart soft and vulnerable even when fear of pain can tell me to keep it safe and tucked away
  • live my life according to the principles outlined in the Bible…even when it doesn’t make sense to people around me.
  • practice thankfulness
  • daily recognize that I will continue to fail miserably in all these things but it does not keep me from continuing to try

I don’t do these things perfectly by any means…and actually I can’t do any of them without God’s grace…but as I fight for them he is faithful to provide the strength and transform my heart. Notice that they are all internal not external activities like: wife, engineer, success, intelligence, etc. They are all good things and am thankful that they add to my life but I don’t find my center in them anymore. (I’ve tried in the past…it doesn’t work) They can easily be stripped away and then I find myself beached.

Also notice that I use the verb fight a few times because life has a way of making these choices difficult. I have to fight against my own selfishness. I have to recognize that even though circumstances can be excruciating…the only control I have is over my own reaction. I can respond from my wounded places or fight to attempt to respond from a life giving place (very very hard – but ultimately worth it). Fight against a culture that will abandon something once it “no longer works for me”…but really believe/hope that God will keep his promise to work all things out for my benefit.

It’s not always easy and requires intentional choices but living in our center is where we are the most FREE.

OK, now how do you find your center. Excellent question. I don’t believe that everyone reading this is Christian so I will try to keep the tips more general.

Practical Tips:

  1. Can you answer the question “Who am I?” If not maybe carve out some quiet space for 15 minutes a day to either write or pray about this. And if your first response is a role you have (wife, engineer, artist) maybe try to dig a bit deeper. What kind of a person do you want to be? What makes you want to be that person?
  2. Take a hard look at your choices and actions. Do they reflect the answer you gave to question 1? Or do they show something different? Sometimes we can mentally define ourselves one way but our choices show our true heart.
  3. If there are behaviors you want to change set your intention. Maybe tell someone. Write it on a piece of paper or put something somewhere to remind you. (Similar to a tip on Practicing Thankfulness)
  4. Go for a walk without head phones/music. It’s springtime and (hopefully) sunny…new life is everywhere. Listen to the birds. Some how walking always helps me to refocus and clear my head.

Happy Wednesday and here’s to surviving another week.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Free to love

I don’t often listen to “Christian” music…most of the time it comes across as a bit sappy and lacking any emotional reality. But I have a Spotify list that I turn on every once in a while and a song We are Free by Aaron Shust caught my attention (not necessarily in a good way – sorry Aaron):

The chorus is what stands out to me:

We are free to love like our god has loved we are free to give like he gave
We are free from sin we are free to begin to forgive as he forgave.
–> With blue skies and sunshine and soaring chords

I absolutely believe these words are true but, as Christians, are we ready to accept the reality of them? When I hear a song like this it is easy to get swept up in the melody and passively sing along with the lyrics…content to let the words wash over me without taking a moment to step back and evaluate what “loving like he loved”, “giving like he gave” and “forgiving like he forgave” look like in my life.

Today is the beginning of Passover (a Jewish holiday remembering the Hebrew people being freed from slavery and Israel being established as a new nation) and is celebrated with food, family and friends. The (arguably) most famous account of a Passover dinner is “The Last Supper”…the last meal Jesus shared with his intimate friends before he was arrested, humiliated, beaten and crucified…to be resurrected on Easter Sunday. This dinner has been the inspiration for countless works of art and I have found myself reflecting on its significance this year.

OK…here’s a really basic synopsis and paraphrase: There is Jesus, who knows he is about to be cruelly executed and suffer TREMENDOUSLY (physically and emotionally). He sits down to dinner with his closest friends. Friends who have been with him night and day…listened to him…laughed with him…prayed with him…shared life with him…but still Jesus on the crosscan’t really see him for who he is. Judas is at the table and has already made the decision to betray him by turning him over to the authorities and ultimately to his death. He looks at the rest of the disciples and knows that they are also weak and will deny him at this most desperate time. They are arguing about who will be the greatest and Jesus knows that once he is dead they will be terrified and run away to hide. He knows that he will be abandoned and that they will break his heart but he STILL LOVES them. He washes their feet and gives them one last urgent sermon…tells them to love each other as He loved them…to lay their lives down for each other…He is about to leave them but they wont be alone…he is telling them but they can’t hear it…he knows they are blind and can’t fully understand what he is saying but over and over he is talks about how much he loves them…how much God the father loves them and wants them to know Him…to follow the way he lived his life. Jesus looks at them and says “I love you. I want the best for you. I want freedom for you. I want REAL life and joy for you. I want you to know me. I want you to love this world like I love it.”

He knows these are still the same men who will turn their backs on him in a few hours. Betraying him. Abandoning him. Allowing fear and self preservation to consume them. Jesus knew they couldn’t understand what he was saying but he told them anyway because someday they would. He urgently wants them to know how much he absolutely loves them and is proving it by dying in their place.

OK…wow. Loving like Jesus loved is not necessarily a cheerful upbeat song. It is personal and requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice and humility. Loving someone means truly wanting the best for them. And it’s not just loving the people that are easy to love…it means loving the bad people too…the people who have hurt you. People who have wounded you with hard hearts and selfish choices.

  • It can be an injustice in your past
  • Maybe someone used you in a relationship
  • If there is a person whose mere name makes your blood boil
  • Someone at work stabbed you in the back
  • ….the list goes on

God loves them too!! You see the world differently when viewed through the lens of how much you are loved and forgiven. Do you look at this world with compassion and see blind, wounded people just trying to live life and find love and affirmation (probably in the wrong places)? Or do you see their behavior and put them in a box with judgement? Can you see through their choices and have mercy on the hurting heart that made them? Or do you want to stand on righteousness? Please keep in mind I am writing this as much to myself as anyone. And I don’t mean we need to live life without boundaries. Jesus took time to care for himself. Loving someone does not protect them from consequences but allows the truth to be revealed.

But on the cross…as Jesus was dying he said…Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Basically – They are blind.

So yes, we are free to love like he loved, give like he gave, forgive like he forgave…and actually living life that way is the only TRUE freedom…but let’s not pretend it is as easy or happy as our songs may make it seem. Maybe if more Christians truly lived life this way it would be easier to convince people that it is actually “Good News” rather than a list of rules.

Looking forward to Easter,

Lynnea