The Journey’s Ups & Downs

The Top of the World!
The Top of the World!

While having lunch with friends this week, the waitress spilled a large glass of ice water on the floor beside me. It made a loud noise, so she was the center of attention for an awkward moment. I told her it was okay, and she smiled; but I know she wanted to crawl into a corner. That’s what awkward moments do to all of us. I am painfully familiar with awkward moments and have had far more than my share, so I learned at an early age to make the best of them. I quickly made fun of myself before anyone else had the chance or let Pollyanna make lemonade from the lemons life threw at me. 

The water from that overturned glass immediately disappeared into the carpet, and the ice quickly melted away. No harm was done, and life went back to normal. As I looked at the wet carpet, I couldn’t help but wish the same were true in matters of the heart. Once it’s broken or poured out, life can never be the same. That’s a good thing, but it’s a painful mess for a while. Each bump, break, spill, or near miss strengthens my heart and brings me nearer to God. He knows brokenness and emptiness enable my heart to climb or come down from the summits on this journey. It’s human nature to want to quit when my heart is hurting, but I’m learning that giving up doesn’t have to follow giving out. Christ will help when the burden is more than I can bear. 

Pride tells me to quit, but love bids me to reach out for help. It’s good to do what I can on my own, but it’s better to let love lead me to a place of accepting help when I need it. If I don’t, I’ll give up each time I give out. No one would attempt Mount Everest without an experienced sherpa, but many walk through life afraid to ask for help. Walking in God’s kingdom is more challenging and takes far longer than a trip up the mountain, so He gives a beautiful Guide to help us along the way.

Reaching the summit isn’t for the faint of heart because as soon as the view takes my breath away, I’m left with the prospect of going back down. That’s a more daunting and more dangerous journey than the climb upward. God reminded me in His lessons this week that ups and downs are part of the journey, and I must get used to them if I want to live and love as He desires. The beauty of being at the bottom is knowing there is no where to go but up. My favorite Psalm of Ascent is 121. I cannot look to the mountain when I am standing on top of it. I am invincible on the summit, and I forget I need help. That is the most dangerous place for my heart to be. Whether I come down carefully or in one fell swoop like the water in that glass, I am in the perfect position for remembering from whence comes my help.

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.”

God guards my going out and coming in and my going up and coming down. The journey will always have its ups and downs, but I take sweet comfort in knowing that Christ left a great Guide to help in both.

The beauty of the summit.

Looking at the summit. (Beijing 2008 Olympic Games)

Watching Over Me

Sunset Watching Me

This evening, as I watched the sun setting, I tried to capture the beauty before me. Instead, I caught the sunset watching me. It’s been a difficult week, and God knew I needed a smile. I marvel at His ways, and I pray I always will. He knows me better than I do, and I know He will fill my heart with more than I can begin to imagine.

This sweet image took my heart to Psalm 121. God is always watching over me, and His love changes everything.

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever. (NLV)

 

 

 

On The Way Up:)

I love the Psalms of Ascent, and Psalm 121 is especially dear to me.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever. NASB

I love to look at the mountains as I pray. Unlike the ocean, they do not move. I like that about them and could stand and stare at them forever. They are one of the few things that cause me to stop and be still:) My strength does come from God, and the mountains remind me of His majesty. This beautiful psalm reminds me of Who God Is. Asleep or awake, day or night, sun or shade, going out or coming in, God is there protecting and loving me forever. What blessed assurance of His sweet presence!

The mountains I love so very much will eventually wear away, but God always has been, is, and always will be the same. My faith falters, and my obedience is inconsistent; but God is faithful and patient. I beat myself up when I get off course because I waste precious time that could be spent with Him if I stay down when I stumble.

I will stumble and fall as long as I am living. It keeps me humble and reminds me I am human. Lillyann insists on pretending she is a puppy, and crawls all around the house. Her poor knees bear the bruises of her imagination. My heart bears the same skins and scrapes when I insist on my way instead of yielding to His.

I am so thankful God loves me and tends to my heart just as my mama tended to my many bangs and bruises. As I told Lillyann today that her poor knees couldn’t take much more abuse, I thought of my own heart and the punishment I put it through as I insist on my own way. God bid me to treat it with the same care He does and asked that I stop putting it in harm’s way. Hearts and knees deserve loving care; Lillyann and I both need to remember that.

I’ve been sleeping on the floor for two weeks as I’ve waited for the wonderful new mattress I ordered. I found out yesterday that it’s been ready for for me to pick it up for three weeks now. God made it clear that He has provided a new home, new furniture, and a great mattress, but I am still sleeping on the floor. I’m also still settling for less than He desires when it comes to my heart. God provides abundantly, but my stubborn insistence on my way keeps me from experiencing all He has for me.

The Psalms of Ascent are about moving up an drawing near to God, but I cannot move up to where He wants me to be as long as I’m satisfied where I am. Fear keeps me from ascending, and a lack of trust keeps me satisfied on the floor. I’m slowly learning to step out and up and put my trust in Him. Psalm 121 along with the amazing mountains I see at every window of the new home He has provided remind me that I am surrounded by hope and help:)