If the shoe fits…

Dreams.

They hold so much meaning, and God-given dreams have the power to impart knowledge, wisdom, and determination where you might otherwise be lacking. There are a few dreams I have had in my life that have in seasons sustained me, but the most remarkable one, the loudest speaking, the most powerfully compelling one I feel the need to share.

As I opened my eyes to a sun washed yellow morning, the bed seemed crisp and cozy. I liked it there, it was where I wanted to stay, covers over my head, snuggled into a pillow, blanketed in peace. But something urged me to sit up, so I stretched and smiled and let my legs dangle to the side of my bed. Immediately, I saw them. Big black men’s shoes several sizes too large. I was confused. A Father figure stood beside me beckoning me to put them on.

“No.” I didn’t actually say it, but my body language communicated it.
Silently, I argued and pointed dramatically, “Do you see the size of those?!”

He merely smiled and with gentle authority pointed towards the shoes.
I looked at the shoe and pulled up my foot, inspecting the difference in size, thinking to perhaps show Him that there was no way my small foot would fit. He wouldn’t have any of it. He coaxed me off the bed and onto the floor. I stood still, frozen, staunchly unmoving. He wasn’t deterred, nor did He wait. He placed me in the shoes. I looked back at Him helpless, watching how the shoes engulfed my foot. Not only did they not fit, I could have fit a whole shoe-clad foot inside them!

“Walk.”

Did I hear Him correctly? He pointed ahead of me and urged me forward.

“But, I’m gonna stumble! I’m gonna fall! I’ll walk right out of the shoes! They do not fit!” I was crying and pleading, I could not do this thing!

“Walk it out until they fit.”

Those words encouraged me. Something broke within my spirit and I found myself moving forward. He walked behind me and assisted me each time I stumbled and fell and all the while encouraged me onwards.

That seems crazy huh? That we could actually walk something into fitting us? But, there are things in my life that I have been led to do that just don’t fit. They don’t feel right, they aren’t looked at favorably, and they just leave me scrambling for that big, sun-soaked bed.
And I’ve been tempted to throw the shoes off, move away from anything resembling a life-form to an island where I can declare a law which states, “No shoes allowed!” Only, I can’t. Because the minute I reach down to release myself from their burdensome awkwardness, His gentle voice speaks, “Walk it out until they fit.”

“But you don’t understand!” I wail. “They look at me, they don’t like my shoes, and question where I bought them or if I should wear them at all! And they have another pair, they say they are the ones You intended for me, and the thing is, Daddy, they fit!”

He is silent.

“Wouldn’t it be easier, Daddy? To wear the shoes they have? Wouldn’t it be easier, more comfortable to just put these clodhoppers in the closet and run instead of stumble all the stinkin’ time!”

Then He speaks, “Easier? Yes. Comfortable? Yes. Would it make them happier with you, less unsure of Me in you? More favorable toward you and My work through you? Yes. But, will it strengthen you? Will you trust me as much? Would your faith believe the impossible and your heart hear My voice beyond the noise? Would you be empowered to stand for Me against the flow no matter how the great the cost? No.”

“So what You’re saying is…?”

“Walk it out.” Oh, that smile. Oh, that overwhelming peace that outdoes the purest yellow light of any sun-washed room! Oh, that loving glint in His eyes that undoes every fear in me.

Maybe this is you… Maybe the shoes He has for you are a little clunky, or maybe they are tight and uncomfortable and need some breaking in? This I know, you alone know the path He’s asked you to walk, and in the end, it isn’t about what others thought or what they believed, it is completely about your obedience – to the hardship, to the pain, or to the rejection. Allegiance requires big steps, unashamed trust, and a heart that only needs One yes.

So, if you see me stumbling a little, wearing shoes that aren’t trendy or anything YOU would ever wear, understand that you aren’t meant to, because I’m wearing the footwear my Daddy picked especially for me!

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The Road not taken

One of my favorite poems is “Road not taken” by Robert Frost. Let me share a taste:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both.
But being one traveler, long I stood, and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth.”

I smiled as I typed that. It was the first poem I ever memorized and recited. I fell in love with its cadence and simple language. I always felt it was substantial – That each line was poignant, and each stanza a choice. And somehow I knew I’d need it, to make my choices, to examine the roads that appeared, and to remember the outcome.

Every day is a fork in the road. Every day meets us with choices – what to do and what not to do? Only, many of us rush through, never taking the moment to ponder the outcome. We don’t see the choice. We see the obligation, and life becomes a chore rather than an adventure. It becomes a rat race instead of a walk. And we lose our joy.

Are you struggling with happiness, feeling useful, or like your life has meaning? Then I would ask you, do you see the fork in the road? Are you at odds with your family? Do you feel like you don’t know your kids? Does your spouse seem distant? Then, I would direct you to the roads. Sometimes the difference between life and death, happiness and depression, optimism and pessimism lies in one thing – the path we choose.

My aunt is an optimistic woman, loving and kind, open and giving. I can look at her life and be amazed. By the circumstances life handed her she had every excuse to be bitter and mean, distrustful and selfish, and entirely pessimistic. But, she chose to walk a path in direct opposition to her circumstances. Some of the family would think she was strange. But, I think she is beautiful. Has her life gotten any better or easier? No. In many ways it’s gotten harder, but has she lost her genuine smile, or stopped giving out makeup stain leaving hugs, or ceased praising her Father in Heaven? Not a chance!

We often hear of forks in the road, roads to travel, and we think that is about choosing our circumstances. Life isn’t that fair. We are often left to choose within the circumstances others make for us what road we will take.

In Deuteronomy God laid it on the line: “I’ve brought you today to the crossroads of Blessing and Curse.” (Deuteronomy 11:26 MSG)

There is the fork.

Here is what you need to know – what you choose affects not only you but everyone around you. See, unlike Frost’s poem.. We aren’t traveling alone. We bring with us family and friends, and they, too, have to bear the consequences of our choice.

Every day is a choice.
Every moment a decision.
Every decision a path.

And, the one we choose matters. If I’m in a bad mood, I must choose not to take it out on my kids And, if I do, i must choose to humble myself and ask forgiveness. If I’m not feeling well, I must choose not to become depressed. And, if I do, I must choose to forgive myself. If I am not happy, I must choose to find the source of happiness not dwell on its lack. If I am feeling useless, I must be intentional. If I feel unloved, I must make sure I am loving others, and I must remember that love is selfless.

“Road not taken” ends like this:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh, ages and ages hence. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

The final line of Frost’s poem has left literature majors the world over ponder, “So, was he happy with his decision?” I suppose that depends on the reader, and how we interpret our roads and our sighs. We can take away two endings – an ending with a sigh of contentment, of a path well traveled despite what forest of a life we had to walk through. Or an ending with a sigh of regret, of a path that didn’t lead where we had hoped, sitting bitter and disillusioned and alone.

I’m an optimist. I choose the sigh of contentment. I choose the ending that says regardless of where exactly that path dipped and bent and whatever bridge appeared, I walked it with hope and trusted it was the best road for me… Regardless of my circumstances.

Today is a new day.. And two roads diverge.. Which one will you travel? That will make all the difference.

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The GOOD, the BAD, and the indecisive…

I was talking with a friend the other day, and she was sharing about a friend of hers and her parenting techniques. Honestly, I have to keep from rolling my eyes in the midst of these conversations, but then she said, “Everything comes back to this, ‘Are you making GOOD choices?’” Huh. She had me. I don’t know that I have ever asked my children that, and when you think about the empowerment that acknowledging the significance of choice gives, it really is amazing! Because we discount it, push it aside, ignore it – UNTIL we make a BAD choice.

Because I’m a daydreamer, I faded off and I began to imagine the significance that would make as they grew up, as they started dating (or chose not to), as they developed friendships, as they went off to college, and then as they chose a mate. Then I stopped. What a lovely picture! Imagine good choices in marriage – of choosing to forgive instead of holding a grudge, of choosing not to be unfaithful when your needs aren’t being met, of choosing to act in love instead of anger!

I had the opportunity to review a new book by Gary and Norma Smalley called “Four Days to a Forever Marriage: Choosing Love or Anger.” This is the exact premise of that book. As spouses we are so content to just be, to deal, to settle with what we have, we don’t want to choose to make it better. We use excuses like “I’m too tired to work on my marriage, I’m just trying to get through the day.” Or, “I read a book once, it didn’t help so I haven’t bought another one.” Or, “I know the Bible says to submit to your husband and stuff, but look at our culture, it’s just not the same.” I know these excuses pretty well; I’ve used them. But this book takes you through the day in the life of a couple, their struggles and their fears and in four short days you gain the understanding that it’s all about the choices we make…and making GOOD choices.

If you think about it, it’s not doing anything more but paying attention to what we are doing! The Smalleys walk you through those daily choices and questions, and you are forced to take a good look at the bad choices we unconsciously make. Like a good friend says, “Not to choose is still a choice.”

I can choose not to talk to Brian when I am angry, but what am I communicating in my body language, in my actions? Most likely I am fighting him without saying a word, and he feels it. A GOOD choice is swallowing my resentment and saying, “I am ticked, but I’m willing to share with you why I feel this way in the hopes that we can make it right.”

I can choose to put others first. The Smalleys point out that we often do this without realizing. Anyone in ministry knows that this is a hard one. I would never tell Brian, ”I love strangers more than I love you.” But, when I consistently choose to reschedule dates or leave after the kids go to bed, to mentor and to minister others, subconsciously that is what I am saying. A GOOD choice would be to put firm lines or boundaries between ministering to others and time with my spouse that says, “You are important enough to me that I am making sure that we have time together.” That speaks love and respect.

Lord knows, I’m not perfect. My marriage isn’t perfect, and I’m not gonna even attempt to write a book about how imperfect a parent I am, and chances are GOOD that my home-life and relationships look like any of yours. But, this book begged me to ask the question, the same question that wise and learned parent asks of her kids every day, the question that I often hear from Daddy God, “Are you making GOOD choices?” If I’m one hundred percent truthful (which I try to be) I answer, “Not usually,” but it’s not too late to start. And my first GOOD choice was investing 4 days into reading that book. (Did you notice that it’s only for 4 days? I’ve done no carb diets for longer with less long-lasting effects!) I only wish it had been around BEFORE I got married, twelve years in it might have saved us some pain from making some really BAD choices.