Grace in Baggage

graceIf anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Ponder It.

  • How is your past negatively impacting your present?
  • How is your past positively impacting your present?
  • What piece of baggage do you most want to leave behind?

Receive It. Our past doesn’t change, but the way we view it and use it changes – thankfully. The change doesn’t automatically happen. We can cling to the past so tightly that it seems the same or even worse than it did when we experienced it. We can also misconstrue it in a way that unrealistically paints a beautiful picture over something hideous. Neither is helpful when we respond out of our own desires and preferences. God alone is the redecorator of our lives. He determines what needs to be tossed aside, recycled, reused or handed down to someone else. Baggage is not always a bad thing. Our experiences of yesterday prepared us for today. We don’t see the benefit in every situation. Some situations are simply filled with pain. We might never see the benefit, but if we can’t see God using it in our lives, we don’t need to carry it with us on a daily basis. Just because something is in our past doesn’t mean it needs to become the filters through which we experience everything. Only God needs to serve as our filter. When we let him sift everything, he brings to the surface what is necessary for a particular day, situation, season or relationship. Unless God can use it, we don’t need to regularly access it. It’s part of our baggage, but it’s in storage until God unpacks it and says, “I’m going to use this to grow you or someone else. Don’t worry. I’ll help you work through it, and when we’re done, I’ll repack it.” We can’t ignore or lug the weight of our pasts. Let’s let God decide the perfect timing of packing, unpacking, repacking, and purging.

Live It. As you pick up your purse today, ask God to reveal to you what needs to be packed for your day. Carry no more and no less.

Mourning the Before

logo_-_copieWe often mourn the before: before the betrayal, move, diagnosis, death, election, etc.

We look back at a preferred time and situation.

I get it.

And while mourning the before might be beneficial and even necessary for a season, it can become counterproductive, even creating distortion and confusion, in the long run. We can make the before something that it wasn’t, and compare it to the flaws of now, creating discontent.

We can fondly recall the past, but if we try to go back to it, we will fail every single time. We can only learn from it and move into the future with the lessons, examples, healing, and experiences.

We can mourn the before but live in the after.

Please, Lord

3024e395ac2b9db1b490bc9e10fe0b78.jpgThen Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord“Please Lord, remember how I have walked before You faithfully and wholeheartedly and have done what pleases You.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (2 Kings 20:2-3)

God remembers. Asking Him to remember is more about us than Him. It’s us recalling what we’ve done and how we’ve trusted Him (or not) and acknowledging that He knows everything about us in the past, present, and future. It’s our humility and boldness in His presence. And it’s an essential part of our faith.

Spend some time with God today, recalling your journey with Him, settling into His presence in the present, and trusting Him with the future.

Give it all to Him. Give yourself to Him.

Remembering Well Enough to Move On

It sometimes seems that families (and friends and just about anyone) keep each other in the past. We get together and recall some of the same stories about people’s faults, successes, and embarrassments. Recalling helps us connect with each other. We remember shared experiences. But we can also spend so much time and energy recalling what has happened in the past that we keep people there.

We do the same with people’s favorites. We get the same type of Christmas gift for someone year after year because they were thrilled with it one year. We find out someone’s favorite restaurant so we meet there again and again or give them gift cards even though their lifestyle, preference, or diets have changed. Of course, some favorites endure, but many do not.

Remembering is good but we can’t keep people in the past. We can’t repeat their favorites as if those will always be their favorites. We can’t continue a tradition, assuming it has always been or will always be. Traditions started somewhere and likely aren’t as longstanding as we think. We must be willing to move forward, explore, listen, and make new memories. We need to continually get to know each other. We change and grow, and we need to invite people to share their process (or leaps) with us. And we need to be willing to share our process with others as well.

Stagnancy isn’t productive, and it’s not realistic. We don’t want others holding us in the past any more than we like someone holding our head under the water. It’s stifling. We can celebrate the past and recall it with laughter and sadness, but we don’t have to stay there. We need to make more memories in the here and now. We need to remember well…and move on.

This Day in History

Search “this day in history,” and all kinds of important things come up. But I wasn’t there for many of them. Even if I was alive, I wasn’t actually at the place mentioned.

My Timehop app is more personal. It tells me what I posted, what photos I took, or who tagged or messaged me a year ago, two years ago0, three years ago, and so on. Since I’m not consistently active online, on some days, Timehop is nearly bare. However, about a month ago, there was a week packed with reminders.

I was reminded of several women’s events at which I had spoken over the years. One was a small gathering of moms. Another was a large conference where I met women from around the globe. Yet another reminded me of a spiritually full weekend of stories, conversations, prayers, and healing. I was reminded of the Living Proof Live team I served alongside for over a year, forging friendships, serving well, and growing in my own prayer life as I encouraged and equipped others to do the same. I also saw snapshots of writing: posts about what I was writing about and struggling with, links to blog posts that reminded me of a different season of life, and the memory of writing all day at Panera with one of my very best friends.

Each was a moment of time. And each is important to today.

Knowing “this day in history” isn’t as insignificant as marking a moment in the past. It’s not getting stuck in the past. It is being aware enough of the past to know how it impacts today. It’s appreciating what brought me to today. It’s setting a memorial stone, intended as a reminder of a moment. If we stay in the moment, we don’t need the reminder. But we move on, glancing back every now and then to celebrate where we’ve been and where we’ve come, and more importantly, what God has done in our lives each step of the way.

So, glance back every now and then. Instead of longing for the “good ol’ days,” celebrate what you’ve experiences. Instead of settling into the pain of a memory, recognize the difference between then and now.

God is beyond all time, so He sees your yesterdays, today, and tomorrows. He can give you glimpses that help you commit to the next few steps. Let Him show you a timehop, then celebrate with Him today.

When God Calls You Back

God doesn’t want us to get stuck in our past. However, He uses our past for our present and future.

When we get stuck, ashamed, overwhelmed, and burdened about our past, it’s not God working in us. He doesn’t steep us in the negative. He certainly reminds us of it. He wants us to remember the lessons we’ve already learned. He wants us to remember His mercy and peace through bad decisions and chaos. He wants us to see the line of memorial stones He has had us stand to commemorate the moments He has been faithful in our lives. That line of memorial stones points us toward His faithful provision of the future.

But God only pulls us back in order to catapult us forward. Like a pull back race car.

Ready? Feel the tension of being pull backward? Let God pull you to just the right tension, because when He’s ready, and you’re set, you…will…GO!

Ready, set, go

Intentional Breadcrumbs

breadcrumbsWe need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs…ahead of time.

It doesn’t seem to make much sense. After all, how can we leave breadcrumbs where we haven’t yet been? Isn’t the trail of breadcrumbs supposed to be for our return trip?

But how often do we come back to the exact same spot, using the exact same path?

On the other hand, how often do we circle, meander, intersect, repeat, backtrack, and so on?

We rarely experience something just once. We might claim something is “once-in-a-lifetime” and, honestly, we can’t ever completely duplicate the experience, because we can’t repeat the same time and moment. Yet there are themes. We relearn similar lessons. Our lives are filled with patterns, many of which we might not even notice.

What we do in one experience impacts future experiences. When we’re intentional, we lay breadcrumbs for the future.

When I read something in Scripture at different points of my life, even different times in a day, I absorb it differently. It challenges me in a variety of ways. What I skim over in one reading, leaps off the page in another. The same words can encourage, convict, challenge, equip, excite, or confuse me. The best I can do is process them the best I can in that moment, plant the seed, and trust God to do the growing.

Breadcrumbs.

I don’t rediscover every breadcrumb I drop along the path. Sometimes, I’m just too preoccupied to notice the patterns. Other times, I find great joy in rediscovering something familiar.

I don’t want to miss out. I want to learn and relearn, discover and rediscover. But I can only do that with intention and attention…and a good supply of breadcrumbs.