Rivers, Rapids, & Waterfalls

What if we took a moment and thought of our journey of life as a river?

A flowing river that meanders around curves and hugs its banks, that goes through winters without freezing and summers without getting too hot at the bottom. A river that has clear water but hits murky sections. A body of water that has purpose, brings joy, and can also be destructive.

When I type that out, I can see how our lives are very much like a river.

We float along on our individual river and many of the days are really smooth. Gorgeous, sun on your back, light paddle smooth.

But rivers also have rapids and waterfalls. The rough parts and the straight up catastrophic parts. Our rivers aren’t mappable. We are at the pressures of the waterflow to take us forward. Yes, we can choose to get to the bank and look ahead for the best paths, but really, we cannot see much farther beyond our own eyes’ limitations.

Rapids come. Waterfalls come. Smooth waters also come.

The thing about rivers is, you cannot control the flow of water. You cannot make water stay only in the calm banks. Humans try really hard to control the water. Really hard. This coming from a girl born in upstate New York, who has traveled the Erie Canal lock system more times that I can count. We try really hard to control the flow of water. We have systems to conquer the climb up the flow of water…but truly, we cannot stop the water flow. Even dams cannot control the heavy weight of it all for too long in bad enough storms.

But God.

What if the rapids we are entering or are currently in, are preventing us from a waterfall ahead?

What if these prayers we have prayed and have gone very unanswered or even solid closed doors, are really saving us from some rocky water we could not survive?

What if this lack of current is preparing us for the next turn?

As humans we feel the need to control it all, thinking we know what is best for us. But really, we do not know all the ways things could play out for us. We do not know what is down stream. We just don’t.

Right now, many of us are not doing our normal things, at all. But I have to believe with everything in my being that there is reason for that. That we are growing from this, or we are being protected from things we are not ready for, or our paths need to change. There are so many possibilities and we just do not know and won’t ever truly know.

But God.

This is where faith is so life giving and powerful. If you have experienced enough closed doors or unanswered prayers and then look back at how it all worked out and realized it is exactly how it should be, then your faith just keeps growing.

My dearest friend, gave me this quote today, not knowing exactly what the words of my heart were:

When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.

Buddha

Now, I will not even attempt to argue that Buddha was a Christian, but I do think he was very wise in many ways and was right about this. I can look back at so many things that have not turned out how I expected or are as a direct result from a closed door on some big prayers and I am so grateful for the closed doors and unanswered prayers. The situations have worked out exactly as God wanted and beyond what I could have ever dreamed of.

I firmly believe that we will get to the other side of this current bend in the river, whatever it is for you right now, and we will look back at it and it will all make sense. The hard, the suffering, the good, the bad, the yes, and the no.

This is faith.

Trusting that God is in control and it will workout to match His plan.

That is the hard part…It will match His plan. His plan often does not match your plan. And, if you do not know God, I get why you would have a lot of trust issues with this one. A lot. I only recently really learned to trust in God’s plan because I had made enough of a mess of my own life trying to do it myself. This is hard. I get it. I wrote about finally handing over the reigns in Mountains and Valleys

He takes us along on our river and only He can see ahead. Only He has the map and only He can known why we are in current rapids, slow current, or murky waters.

It does not mean we cannot get frustrated at our current situation for a bit. Have you ever been in a canoe with another grown adult, in water that is 6 inches deep and stuck in muck? Anyone would get frustrated at this. Or at least this anyone did.

But, it also means that we need to surrender and trust the One who knows your river best to lead your course.

And, it also means that we need to be grateful for all the unknown waterfalls He has protected us from.

We have much to be grateful for.

Rivers are beautiful, uncharted, wild, and constant progress forward.

So is life.

Take the journey for all that it is.

Yes, this is a view of a lake. But, we took a long river to get here.

A Weary World Rejoices

Have you ever really listened to the lyrics of O Holy Night? Like really listened?

Maybe I had never truly listened before or maybe I have not had this heavy feeling of weary at the holidays before, but when I heard O Holy Night this week, the lyrics shook me.

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn

-O Holy Night

We, as humanity, are coming at the Christmas season weary.

I do not know what your personal struggles may be at the season, but I know enough to know that you have them.

Typically, I do not like to list out my current struggles because in a lot of ways I feel as though then I am comparing my struggles to yours and thus diminishing either of our hards. Hard is hard is hard.

But in an effort to be vulnerable and also to show you the stature I had when I heard O Holy Night, you should know what has led up in my little family’s life to understand this moment:

My father-in-law passed away from a series of medical issues, on November 8th after spending two weeks in the ICU with his two sons and wife by his side. My spouse and his brother then came home to help us tell our respective children that Grandpa had passed away and then they packed up to go support their mom for a few days. While they were together grieving, they were exposed to Covid. After a week, my husband came home and went into isolation in our home, thus taking over our master bedroom and putting me on the couch, unable to hug my grieving husband. While in isolation, my husband developed Covid from his exposure. Thanksgiving came and our three kids and I did not get to spend the day with our favorite human. Also, let us remember, Grandpa also is not celebrating Thanksgiving with us…and neither is Grandma, who is alone now. During this time, another family member who was close to the grieving process of my husband’s father was hospitalized with Covid. Oh and also, we had to switch to distance learning because Covid is running rampant here and I am both a parent of students in distance learning and a teacher. So, everything is a lot.

Heavy. Hurt. and then I heard the lyrics.

the weary world rejoices

O Holy Night

And finally, I had a word for all that I have been feeling: weary.

So many of us are weary right now. You may be weary from employment issues, social unrest issues, equality issues, addiction issues, fertility issues, health issues, money issues, parenting issues, pandemic issues, life issues.

The crazy thing that makes me pause is that all these issues, accept for pandemic issues, were present in life before the pandemic began. However, right now, we as humanity are feeling one massive issue collectively, on top of all other life issues that have always been there. This has the opportunity to draw us together because we can all feel the collective heaviness that is right now. We collectively are weary.

We are a weary world but we have reason to rejoice.

Life is hard. Life between the two gardens is hard. It just is. Sin -not your individual sin so keep reading. I am not blaming any one person.- But sin entered the world in chapter three of the first book of the Bible. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible and it only takes three chapters of it for us to have sin enter the world. Chapters one and two tell us how God had this plan as He created creation and it was all good. All good. There was no death, no shame, no anger, no need, no jealousy, no suffering. It was all good. Then sin entered the world and it is just the pits after that until we enter the other garden, which is Heaven.

So here we are, between two gardens, living in a hot mess of the world and we are weary. This year we can feel the weariness. But, we have reason to rejoice. Rejoice because this is so not how it is supposed to be and one day, it won’t be. It just won’t be.

The lyrics go on to say:

He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger

O Holy Night

Yes! He knows our need. Oh my word, does He know our need and our weaknesses. He knows it all and fierecely loves us anyways. That is reason to rejoice.

Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

Let all within us praise His holy name.

O Holy Night

Love. Peace. Joy.

These are amazing reasons to rejoice. As you read God’s word, you see the theme of love, peace, and joy written all over it. It is not the condemnation that many feel religion brings. No, faith is not the laws, but rather the grace by faith.

This season is a season of joy because our savior has come and He will deliver us from this weary, weary place. It was never supposed to be this way. He can bring us peace. He wants us to show love and we are so deeply loved by Him.

So as we walk in the heavy, we have hope. So much hope. We can rejoice as we will not be in this ick forever.

And, there is some Earthy peace in knowing that this weariness is not something that is unique to our current human experience in 2020. Almost 200 years ago, a man, Adolphe Adam, felt this weariness in 1847, as he composed O Holy Night and turned his hope to Jesus.

To read more like this, check out Surrendered and Suffer well.

Suffer well.

I got angry. Life things, pandemic things, living things piled up and I got angry. Life and living are different when you are in a season where death is very real.

I was not angry at any person. I was angry at the situation/situations.

and then I got bitter.

I was not bitter at any person. I was bitter at life.

Everything was piling up and I felt so out of control. I lived in this space for a day. A full day. A full day of anger and bitterness. And then I surrendered. But that was one horrible day. All the days have been less than great lately, but this day was horrible. It was horrible because my heart was full of emotions that do not give me hope or life. I allowed anger to take over me. I allowed anger to harden my heart for one awful day. Have you been there too?

I could not stand myself that day. So now, not only was I dealing with the previously stated pile of things, I had added my raw and unsavory emotions to the pile. This did not help things. At all.

In Romans 7:18-19, Paul states:

For I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.

Ugh. Man, Paul speaks right to my heart. I do not like that my emotions take over me like this. I know that this is not the way to handle situations. I know there is a better way, but my word, it feels all so much. And I lose, a lot.

Have you been there? You know your reaction is not reflecting the person who are striving to be, but there is hurt in your heart and you just spew it out.

Fortunately, I have been in the practice of spending time with God every. single. day. He knows my heart and there is nothing I can hide from Him. And His word reminded me to suffer well.

…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Romans 5:3

Oh Paul, there you go again bringing some serious truth. Life between two gardens will have suffering. This is a fundamental truth of life. But, it is in the suffering, when we suffer well, that grows our perseverance.

Our perseverance strengthens our character.

Our strengthened character will bring hope.

Hope.

Everything is a mess and there is hope. Hope. Hope for the next steps. Hope for the greater plan. Hope for tomorrow. Hope.

I needed this reminder. I needed this truth to speak right to my heart. If you need this too, I pray you feel the peace that comes in the hope that is brought through our suffering.

Suffering well does not mean that you act like everything is fine.

Suffering well does not mean that you ignore the situation.

Suffering well does not mean that you try to fix it all and be your own superhero.

Suffering well means you lean into the lessons that are coming in this season and allow yourself to feel the feels of it all.

Some of those feels are anger. But you have to move on. I have to move on. I have to show my children and myself that living in the anger hardens your heart and stops you from learning the lessons.

Yes. Suffering is such a bummer. But, the gift of perseverance, character, and hope will make the suffering worth it.

Suffer well.

Lean in. Grab a blanket. Hot coffee. Lots of books. Maybe a dog. Warm candles. Whatever gives you a feel of cozy and feel the feels.

Suffer well.

Unstaged picture of my favorite space to lean in and feel all the feels.

Surrendered.

Mountains and valleys:

We think that life is made of highs and lows, but somehow we forget the climb. The middle. The suffering and the growing.

When you are at the top of a mountain you can see your successes and be awe inspired by the journey you’ve been on and He who has helped you reach this moment.

When you are deep in the valley, you can see the dauntingness of the mountain before you. One can find themselves going deeper or retreating from moving forward.

However, we do not spend enough time talking about where most of our time is spent: the climb. The part when we are not giving up but oh my, is that mountain a hard climb. So hard.

Everyone is experiencing some sort of climb right now. I am not sure what your current situation is, but given that we are in the midst of a pandemic, with rising cases each day, one can assume you are feeling some ripple effects of this season. Our family is feeling it. Our family, as with many other families, are experiencing other life crises at the same time, because as it turns out, other horrible things can also happen in a pandemic.

Everything has gotten pretty “a lot” lately. Maybe this is you too. You know it could be worse, but you also know it could be better. In fact, you know it can be better because it was better just a few weeks ago and now you do not know what a few weeks from now will look like. For me, that is daunting.

There is a Matthew West song that just echos so much of what society wants us to feel and the contradiction to what our hearts are screaming. My favorite lyrics are:

I say I’m fine, yeah I’m fine, oh I’m fine, hey I’m fine

but I’m not, I’m broken

And when it’s out of control, I say it’s under control

but it’s not

and you know it.

Matthew West -Truth Be Told

Things are not fine right now. They just aren’t. Everything is out of control and I am broken. I cannot pretend everything is okay. Maybe you feel this too.

I tried to control it. I tried to change the plans I created and make new plans. I tried to fix what I thought I could fix. But everything just keeps piling on. Piling on in a level that has become almost comical because of the sheer ridiculousness of all. the. things.

And turns out…this one is bigger than me. So much bigger than me.

I keep running to God. Not in my structured routine of daily quiet time every morning. But constantly. I have run to Him more than ever before. And then I was reminded of Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God.

I have to surrender.

Surrendering is not giving up. It is knowing when you have done your part and now have to release it to the one who can do what you cannot.

God. God is in control. I firmly believe that God does not cause bad things. However, God does allow you to walk through the hard with Him beside you, to grow you.

He is in control. He is sovereign. He works all things for good.

So, I surrender. I give it to God. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, quite literally. However, I have to anchor to the truth that there is a bigger picture here and God will clear the way. He will clear the path on this hard climb. He will move us forward. Otherwise, if I do not anchor to this truth, I know I will fall off the mountain into a deep valley. I have been there before. I am not going back today.

So I surrender. Maybe you need to surrender too.

It is okay for things to not be okay. Stuff is hard right now. Hard Hard. Not broken dishwasher hard, but lots of things are crumbling and normal is so far away, hard. Some things will never return to how they were before. Hard.

But, keep climbing. Please keep climbing. Stop trying to find the path yourself, but surrender and let God clear your path.

We will eventually get out of this hard middle and we can be at the top of this mountain again. No climb is without it’s struggles. However, there is nothing wrong in admitting it is hard.

Surrender. This battle is bigger than us.

And to check out Matthew West’s beautiful reminder to let the truth be told, check out this video. Listening to our kids sing this song in the car today reminded me how beautiful it is to show our kids the importance of not putting on facades but sharing our struggles.

To read more like this, check out Suffer well, A Weary World Rejoices, Looking for the bird seed, Showing up for the lesson, and Mountains and Valleys.

leaving a legacy…carrying a legacy forward

I love black jelly beans…

in a probably more than healthy way. But is it because of their unique flavor or because they remind me so much of my Grandma Peetz? I also love hugs from squishy older women and have a fondness for daytime Oprah because of her.

I love all things Christmas and probably not just because it is clearly the most wonderful time of the year, but because my Grandma Fran lived for everything Christmas. Our girly is named after this woman because of the spunk she had and how much I loved her.

I love history, but is it because I am fascinated by the stories of the past or because my Papa Jim would watch the History Channel on volume 100 every night? Our son is named after both this grandfather and my Papa Warren because of their powerful influence on me.

And my word, do I love calling my oldest child Peanut because my Papa Warren called me Peanut since the moment I entered the world, until the moment he left, telling my Daddy to “Say goodbye to my Peanut for me.”

I have no doubt that you could also list out the things that make you uniquely you, that have been brought on by the people who have loved you and walked ahead of you in life. These memories are their legacy. We honor the time they spent with us by thinking of them and talking about them as they leave us.

Our youngest child is a deep thinker and a processor. She is selective in what she shares and has to toss her thoughts through her own brain before she articulates them. It is a complete honor whenever she opens up and shares with me. She and I got a rare moment alone together as we waited for grocery pick up and she brought up family and I knew her heart was thinking about her grandpa, my father-in-law, who passed away a week ago.

“Do you have a great grandpa?”

“Yes. So do you. We all have ancestors.”

“What is an ancestor?”

“The family that came before us.”

“What was your grandpa like?”

And so began our healing conversation of me sharing with our girly my favorite stories of four of my favorite people, all of which I was very blessed to know, and all of which I have had to say hard goodbyes to.

“How do you remember so much about them?” our girly asked me.

“Because I think about them a lot and I talk about them. It is okay that it makes me sad sometimes, but it also makes me really happy to remember them. I am happy when I think of things that they taught me or showed me or that we did together. Being sad because someone is gone is part of being so happy to have been so loved while they are here. We can keep loving people when they are gone, by remembering them.”

Then my five year old shares how she misses Grandpa. A lot. She says she can still remember him. Of course she can. We will keep on remembering him by talking about him and my husband will share about him.

We will never again eat Tic-Tacs without thinking about him, as he was constantly handing them out to our kids. Once our son even got one stuck up his nose and my husband had to use needle nose pliers to get it out. Thanks Grandpa.

I told our girly how Grandpa is the one who taught me how to shoot a gun. Me, a girl from upstate New York, who had never in her life shot a gun or had the desire to, spent a Father’s Day in northern Minnesota with a folding table covered in guns, target practicing. And..it was amazing.

I thought about how I ate lutefisk (basically fish that has the consistency of Jell-O) in an effort to earn positive favor of my future father-in-law, and I do think it did help me get some bonus points. I would do it again if given the opportunity to do it beside him.

I thought about my incredible husband and brother-in-law, who are amazing, godly, loving, supportive, all the good things- men, who my father-in-law and mother-in-law raised. The way they act in life and treat others continues the legacy of my father-in-law. I am often blown away by the goodness that is my husband and lately I have been feeling very grateful to my father-in-law for the work and sacrifices he made in raising him.

I thought how we can never watch a Vikings game again without someone making a connection to what Terry would have thought about each play. And, my word, I do not want to see the Lindner men if the Vikings ever actually do make it to the Super Bowl. I do not know if Terry would be happier that they made it or upset that he missed it?

I chuckled because my sister-in-law had just shared with me how she is hoarding soap that smells like him.

Smells. Sounds. Experiences. Conversations. Foods. Memories.

I thought about how we have to keep talking about these things and sharing these things because our experiences with those who we love do shape how we view the world. When you have the gift of having someone love into your life, it is so risky because you have a very real chance of losing them one day. But if you do it well, you will be forever shaped by their love and pieces of them will continue on with you as you continue forward.

We have to honor these legacies. We have to feel the feels and share the stories. We have to continue it on. And… our kids, they get it. Invite them in. Let them share. Yes, they have different views of the same memories, but these are their stories and they need to be able to solidify their moments. Otherwise, one day, our girly will grab a pack of Tic-Tacs and think nothing of it…and I don’t want to live in a world where we don’t remember those we love in the simple moments of our lives.

Showing up for the lesson

God is always teaching us something.
Are we creating enough quiet enough to hear Him?

I am was an escapist.

I have been known to try to escape all the hard things by avoidance, numbing, or literally running away. Hard stuff is hard and why would anyone knowingly put themselves through the hard? That seems counter-cultural.

I have been thinking about this much more lately as life keeps getting more difficult. More social unrest. More political opinions. Covid numbers climbing. Personal tragedy. Life is really hard. And my default button is to run from it.

Avoidance. Numbing, Escaping.

However, God in his amazing mercy, prepared me for the road that we would be facing collectively as humanity and personally as a family, in the year before this. I wrote about this in Mountains and Valleys. He taught me to run towards him, rather than away from problems. He broke me hard and built me back together with a shifted heart that has learned to really lean in to the lessons.

So here I am, in a season where everything around me is changing and the phone just keeps bringing more reminders of the ick in the world, yet my heart is not running away. I am trying my best to show up for the lessons. What is God teaching me right now?

Covid is out of control. Numbers are sky-rocketing. My classroom, which is my safety blanket of normalcy and full of sweet 1st grade faces, is in jeopardy. There is nothing I can do to change this. There is a lesson there. Am I learning that I have idolized my career and need to keep that in check? Or am I learning that education and the impact of a teacher far extends the classroom walls?

People are ill. Very ill. Not covid ill, just life is hard and people get very sick, ill. What lessons can we gain from their suffering? What is the legacy we are leaving? Are there things we should say to those we love that we put off? Are there choices we are making that our older self will be grateful for or wish we had done differently? Are we loving one another in hardship and in celebration as we should? I want to learn these lessons.

Social unrest and political turmoil is making each day a bit more rocky. How are we handling things? How are we stepping into the situation? Are we avoiding having the hard conversations, as my previous self would have? Or are we gaining the courage to say the hard things but say them laced in love and do our part to bring us back together? Are we working towards reconciliation in our actions or are we allowing division to further spread?

See the thing is, bad and hard things are going to happen. That is how life is. However, we can make sure that the suffering is not in vain. I think that is how we can honor the hardships we see others going through by showing up for the lessons that we are being taught and apply the new wisdom to make sure the life we are living, is lived well.

I was an escapist. Now, I am showing up for the lesson.

But, I still nap. I love a good nap.

You take what the enemy meant for evil

And You turn it for good

You turn it for good

Elevation Worship: See a Victory