The mess that’s called life

**reposted from May 2015. Maddie is still Maddie. She’s now in grad school figuring out the next steps of this “messy life.” She continues to struggle with directions and singing off key, but she’s living intentionally and can often be found resisting the temptation to overthink. Perhaps you need this reminder today.  You probably don’t know me. Hi, I’m Maddie. Here’s a glimpse into some of the things that I call my life: There’s a big difference between the energy I’m exerting when I say I’m “going for a run” and when the METRA train pulls into the College Avenue station and I’m a block away from the platform. The only points I got marked off on my driving test (despite not having actually taken a real driver’s ed course) were for not following directions. Evidently I “left the course” when I was trying to back up next to the parallel parking cones. I didn’t even know that was something you could do. I’m pretty much perpetually cold. So naturally, I decided to go to college in Chicago. Two years later and I still never remember to keep an extra pair of gloves in my backpack. Speaking of being cold, I’m currently in one of my dad’s old sweatshirts that I found in the basement. Don’t tell him I’m wearing it. I’m just freezing and despite having carried 140 lbs of clothes home (literally one of my bags was 57 lbs. The lady at the airport made me take some of the clothes out and wear them – no joke, I walked through the airport with 4 shirts on,) I didn’t think...

Feeding the Discontent Monster

I was mad. Discouraged. Ready to quit. In the span of a month, I’d been hit hard on every side—physically, emotionally, relationally. And to top it off, an area I’d poured my life into for over a decade seemed to be dying. It wasn’t fair. Wasn’t right. I knew God was in control, which meant—He’d allowed all this. That was what frustrated me most. It felt as if He’d intentionally led me to a painful dead end. These are the thoughts one has late at night, when sleep won’t come and negativity is fed by the predawn darkness. The more I thought about the events—and there were numerous—that had crashed into my nice, pre-planned, agenda-based world, the more upset I became. The heavier my discouragement felt. Until I became paralyzed by inactivity. In truth, by self-centeredness. That’s what it came down to. Entrenched in entitlement, I focused on the have nots instead of the haves. With thought after thought, I fed the Discontent Monster until her insatiable appetite overshadowed every good and precious thing Christ had given. The next morning, groggy, stiff, and still nursing a self-fed negative attitude, I opened my Bible and … read this: “…For I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (Phil. 4:11-12). Why had God allowed all these trials to hit? Why had He seemingly killed that which I was so certain, over a decade previously,...

Stop And Smell The Roses – Taking Time For A Year End Review Of Your Life

  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15b ESV All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is coming to a close: the house is a mess, the decorations might still be up, and yet now is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses and make time for a year end review of your life.  As a matter of fact, apart from the major holidays this specific week (between Christmas and the New Year) is my favorite time of the year. Do you want to know why?  Every year I take this week to sit and review what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved and what I hope to do in the next year. It’s not a complicated process, but it is a strategic process that my husband and I do every year. We started doing this about ten years ago and it’s turned into the most thought provoking and productive week for both of us. Chances are you do something like this either mentally or on paper, so why not make a plan and see what you learn in the process. I’m going to share with you what I do, you take it, then tweak it to fit you and your family. Here’s what you need to get ready; paper/giant sticky notes/notepad colored markers/pens/highlighters calendar (last year and the coming year) music (this is very important for me) – I love to listen to “Epic Soundtracks” on Pandora so that I don’t get distracted by the words in the songs. I put those giant sticky notes...

Pressure Holes

There is a lot of construction taking place near my home. When I leave our subdivision, whether I go right or left, there are great machines digging, drilling and moving materials around. One day as I was driving into town, I saw a large contraption drilling holes into a massive, misshapen block of cement. The cement slab was part of the old road, and the machine was breaking it down for removal. I found it interesting that the machine drilled holes into the cement first before applying pressure. Once there were several holes about one foot apart from each other, the machine’s clamps bore down on the cement, crumbling it into chunks. Both the holes and the pressure were necessary to tear down the strong block of cement. Satan knows this is true for God’s children too. The Bible guarantees that we will have great pressures and troubles in this life (John 16.33). The holidays are definitely proof of this truth. Christmas can bring amazing joy, but it also may add great amounts of financial, emotional, relational and mental pressures that are intensified with the busyness of the season. This is the time that we need to make sure that we are filling our weak areas with God’s grace. Are we staying in God’s Word? Are we communicating with our Heavenly Father? Are we renewing our minds in Christ daily? Are we finding rest in the Holy Spirit’s strength? Satan wants nothing more than to crumble us to bits, stealing our joy and robbing us of special moments. He wants to watch us fall and make the lives of...

Trouble With the Joy, Joy With the Trouble

When we’re there [on the battlefield], we only see a small portion of the field in front of us. Given the unpredictability of a raging battle, one is apt to complain…suffer, or feel hopeless. And, it may appear that we lose many battles there, allowing the enemy “to have temporary and apparent triumphs.” {story told by John Piper}. With this in mind, consider how Paul addresses the church at Thessalonica… In imitating us (referring to Paul, Silas, and Timothy), you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great JOY from the Holy Spirit—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble [1 Thessalonians 1:6 The Message]. Given the visual of a battle and the message from Paul concerning joy with the trouble, I’m shaking my head. Admittedly, joy is the very last thing that I feel when I’m losing or feeling defeated. Yet, lately, I’ve been surprised that despite really hard stuff, I’ve felt a sort of calm contentment deep in my bones. In acknowledging that it’s there, it remains unrecognizable. And, I’m strangely happy. It’s perplexing at best, and my conclusion is that this must be the indestructible joy that comes from a grace not of this world, because my capacity for joy and contentment is so very confined. Is it possible that I’m actually experiencing joy with trouble? I believe so. When I look to Jesus, I see that while he was a “man of sorrows, well-acquainted with grief,” [Isaiah 53], he was also a man of immeasurable joy and gladness. You see, gladness doesn’t mean that there...

On the THIRD Day…

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.  And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,  but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.  And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,  that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.  Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,  but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.   But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.   As we prepare for the celebration of Easter, we pray that you’ll pause and remember what was done for YOU. All that was finished on the cross. All of it. Paid. In full. For YOU. Join Peter in the marveling. Marveling at what had happened. What a gracious God we serve. From all of us at ICDevos, may the reality of the resurrection overwhelm you this...

Finding peace

When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. (Psalm 94:19, NLT) Stockings no longer adorn the mantle, lights have been carefully folded away, and a sparkling tree no longer lights the room. The holidays have past, and a new year has been rung in. There is something peaceful about one chapter closing and another beginning. Last year’s chapter was a hard one. I found hope wavering and peace elusive. Last year rattled me in many ways: ways I was not prepared for. In the midst of it all was the reassuring hand of God, His steady hand, His unchanging love. Yet even now, I know the stress of those moments remains; the emotions long hidden away need to be faced. Like Peter, I longed to leap out of the boat, then quickly found myself sinking. Precious Peter may well be the disciple I most identify with. He is passionate, bold, and well-intentioned, and often speaks or acts before thinking. After a day of teaching and feeding five thousand, the disciples have pushed off from shore while Jesus retreats to pray. Before dawn, Jesus walks on the water, toward the boat. As Jesus approaches, the disciples are frightened, but Jesus tells them to “take heart.” Peter responds, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come come to you on the water.” Jesus beckons Peter to come (Matthew 14:22-29). The fierce winds are too distracting. As he begins to sink, Peter cries out, “Lord, save me!” Faithful Jesus takes hold of Peter’s hand, lifting Peter from under the water. “You of little faith, why did...

Restoring the Joy

Christmas. A time of joy and celebration. A cherished time with friends and loved ones. An opportunity to reflect on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. For some, this season will be anything but joyful. Joy has been replaced with sorrow due to loss. Loss Whether it is the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job, the majority of us have experienced the pain left in its wake.  We’re left with agonizing questions. Why did this happen? Is God punishing me? How can I handle this loss? How will it affect my family? Questions that may not be answered immediately. Questions that may be not be answered at all. With the celebration and family gatherings that go hand in hand with the Christmas season, our loss only seems to be magnified. How will we make it through? Help, Hope & Healing Where are we to turn when we’ve experienced a devastating loss? I’m reminded of  the answer penned by King David: Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. Psalm 42:11 The Lord truly is our source of strength. Upon careful reading of the Bible, we’re able to identify with believers from time past who have experienced extreme difficulty. They had feelings and emotions very similar to our own. They too had to deal with loss and grief. The book of Psalms shares the heart of David throughout the ups and downs of his life. Not only...

How To Get Your Heart Right This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just a few days away and yet if I’m being honest there are days in this season of life when it is just plain hard to be thankful. Shocking, I know. I shouldn’t be saying that to you, I should put on my Patty perfect pastor’s wife hat and pretend to have it all together…but, I just can’t do that anymore. You and I both know that being real with each other is so much healthier than some pretend story of how someone else’s life is more put together than yours. Plus, it is a reality that many can relate to right now. I can count my blessings, I can try to be positive, but let’s face it–life is hard sometimes and it’s not enough to know that fact in your head, you’ve got to give it time to get your heart. So, what are you supposed to do when you should have a heart of thanksgiving but your heart and your head aren’t talking to each other? That’s a great question and I’ve found some incredible wisdom for us right here in this verse; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 ESV Let’s dig right in because this is just too good to wait on…if we are anxious then chances are we aren’t going to have a heart of thanksgiving, will we? We’ll be, well…anxious. Worried, frazzled, distracted and trying...

We Whine Too Much

“I have to go to the store now.” “Well, I guess I have to go to work.” “I wish all this stuff would just happen on its own!” How many times do you say or hear others say they “have to” do something…with a hint of whine, reluctance, or disdain? Perhaps we don’t want to work our way across that super store, finding the few items we want among the rows and rows of options, people who are grumpy like us, and cashiers who seem to want to be anywhere but there. Not everyone has the options we have to shop where we shop and to be able to afford it. Not everyone has the opportunity and ability to work. We often take our blessings for granted, and whine and complain about them. We get bored. We need a fresh perspective. It’s not that we need to be overly excited about everything going on in our lives. We just don’t have to see our routines as drudgery. We don’t have to see the limitations of our lives without realizing we made many of the choices that got us where we are (and were often excited about those choices at the time)…and that we have the opportunity to make many choices today that impact tomorrow. And we choose our attitudes. Perhaps you’re dealing with some difficult stuff today, and it seems out of your control. Yet, you can control how you respond. Like the saying goes, “You might be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.” Filter every detail of your life today through God’s perspective....