Tag Archives: empty nest

Nothing is Wasted

God speaks. I just want to go ahead and say that right off the top because it’s the greatest truth a person can ever attempt to grasp and this truth is so personal and precious to me.

I don’t believe in coincidence. Not at all. I’ve seen too much in my lifetime to back away from that statement: there is no such thing. While it may take years and even seasons to understand the connections, I’ve seen it time and again. Everything is connected and nothing, if we allow, nothingnot a shred or a tear or an experience… is wasted.

This is a ridiculously crazy season of life–wonderful, terrifying and beautiful. I know I seem kinda “spiri-tchool” and  all but lemme just tell you– I can be one HUMAN being.  Ya know? Lately,  I am so full of every emotion you can imagine and sometimes, just for the fun of it, I just go on and experience them all in the same day even at the same time! A few months ago I summed it up like this: “It takes a boatload of endings to make a new beginning.”   Do you feel me here?

There’s that whole “empty nest” label thing (which we are refusing to wear), the “fix up, sell all, finish and tie up loose ends and go” thing and then the real, physical emotions that accompany the letting go as gracefully as possible. It’s the effort required to let things naturally come to a beautiful end so we can embrace the beginning God has set before us. There are a bazillion unknowns and the things that we might be permitted to know are not yet made clear. The only thing— the only thing we can hold fast to at all is our speaking God
THE in our midst,
with us and for us,
Emmanuel…. God.

So when I find myself here… this place that causes me to sit down and start typing it all out… I must choose to cast aside Every. Other. Method or Mode for coping with the emotions and uncertainties. Whatever it takes, I have to choose to lean in to the One Who Knows. Obey. Trust.    When it’s hard… lean harder.

Today is just one of those days. I’m so grateful to be doing ANY of this at all, but sometimes I feel a little loose and crazy. Know what I mean? Like my feet aren’t connecting with solid ground and my heart wants to grab my head and fly out the door hollerin’ “See ya!!” So… I did the very thing I must do: I leaned harder. Asked for GOD’S affirmation and to remind me what it’s all about one more time.  He did.

Remember that story we love to tell the children in Sunday school? The version in Matthew 14 is the one we seem to like best because it’s where Jesus sends the disciples out to the other side of the sea while He hangs back to dismiss the crowds. Then, late at night, He decides to join them… walking across the water to the boat. They are naturally afraid and He says, “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!.

Peter, (we love this part don’t we?) full of bravado says, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” Jesus tells Peter to come and well, we know that Peter starts out great.

Then he looks around.
Maybe he looks within?
Maybe he looks down and back or at others…but he isn’t looking at Jesus anymore.
Nope.

We read then that Peter begins to flounder and cries out “Lord save me!” and Jesus, chastising him gently pulls him into the boat with the others who then worship Him in awe as the Son of God.

VOLUMES have been written on this passage and I’ve heard many sermons from many different angles. Oh, but nothing comes close to the deep understanding you need to keep from going under when you’re the one gladly answering the call to “Come.”

Then the wind whips up and the spiritual attacks and distractions begin. Oh man… you’re drifting off center because the logistics are not lining up yet and gee,  it’s getting very lonely out here…There’s just so much to do!  You’re feeling a bit over your head and well, you’ve never been this far out before… and the shoreline still seems so far away. Ugh… now you’re sinking.  Aahh! “Lord save me!”  And He does.

Think about it for a moment–He does.   Bless Peter’s heart, we often imagine that Jesus might be scolding Peter with His response: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” As if Jesus might be pointing to Peter’s doubt more than his faith. Well, I wasn’t there so I’m not sure what Jesus’ words were pointing to…but I can wonder. Imagine…what if Jesus was in effect saying, “Oh Peter… look at your little faith. I’m glad to see it. Did you doubt I’d stay so near to you right now? Why?”   One can imagine…

I’d like to believe that, if the very next day the same scene was reenacted, Jesus would allow for Peter’s little faith to come to Him all over again even though eventually Peter would flounder, cry out and need to get pulled up again. I believe this because Jesus is allowing me with my little faith to do the same.

The beautiful gifts I’ve been given during this season from our Speaking God are sometimes subtle. Today it was deeply personal. In the midst of an inner meltdown, I got a call out of the blue to help a neighbor. Taking our son’s car, I was sure to plug in my phone for the call from Boot Camp which could come at any time. Equipped with a bluetooth thingie, it picked up on my music playlist and randomly played this sweet song by Jason Gray entitled “Nothing Is Wasted”.

Wow. I wanted to pull over.  I first heard that song during a season of deep pain when I wondered if God would ever lead me back out of the wilderness and show us the path of His call. Say what you will but this was a reminder… His reminder that He is near. He is faithful. He is leading and guiding and that nothing… not a shred, or a tear or an experience is wasted in the hands of our Redeemer.      I can lean as hard as I want.

Here: give it a listen.

Those Rumors You May Have Heard? They’re True.

We are told of a man….. a merchant by trade, known throughout the ages as one who can spot something of real and lasting value. More than a skill, this merchant appears to have been on a mission, driven to seek the best and the finest.  Experience has taught him about quality; he knows it when he sees it, perhaps even when others do not, and he’ll spare no expense to obtain it.

That’s all we know for, in just two short verses and one simple matter-of -act statement found in Matthew 13, we’re told simply that this merchant was compelled to search, gifted enough to know what to seek, and led to find a single pearl of great value. Upon it’s discovery, and recognizing it’s tremendous worth, he sold everything and bought it.

Like other parables from Jesus, this one is ripe with meaning. In the context of the discussion, Jesus has been instructing his disciples on Kingdom matters: value, redemption, growth, purpose and perspective. He’s teaching them what’s important to God and therefore what should be important to them… and those of us who follow. While ultimately, we know this parable is about the nature of God, Jesus explains, it’s for our benefit too: 

  • God wants us to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.
  • He desires that we should know His nature and have His image marked upon our souls.
  • He wants us to recognize lasting treasure and real value when we see it and to imitate the examples set before us as best as we can— to seek, find and spare no expense to bring our “pearls” into the Kingdom coffers.

You might know that pearls are born over time out of discomfort. A small irritating grain of sand gets lacquered by an oyster (typically), eventually becoming a highly prized gem. That’s a lesson in itself. But Jesus doesn’t focus on the process of how the pearl came to be. Instead he draws our attention to the outcome and the kingdom response to something so precious.

Notice also how Jesus points out this merchant’s success. He was a savvy  businessman with plenty of fine pearls already, yet we don’t sense that it was wrong for him to keep on searching. Something deep inside urged him on, knowing there was something more to be found. He surely valued what he had— a collection so beautiful and fine— but that didn’t stop him. Seeking, he found something of greater worth and had no problem selling ALL the rest to make it his own.

“The kingdom of heaven is like _____ ”. 

Here*  six times in six different ways Jesus expresses the kingdom equation in the simplest terms and the lavish kingdom response that turns our world economy upside down and inside out. This kind of extravagance made little sense then and even less now. Each time Jesus is spelling out further what He’d been teaching about the kingdom earlier in Matthew 6 where basically He says, “Look, your needs are known. Your needs are going to get met. Stop striving to meet your own needs and seek the kingdom first. The kingdom of heaven is like_____ and the treasure is tremendous and all the rest? You’ll be amazed by how those needs are met along the way.” (Some BIG time Lorretta paraphrasin’)

Obviously, I’ve been thinking a lot about these things. As one who’s been brought into this kingdom by a judgement value and price set by God alone, it’s humbling enough to make me put on my merchant’s cap and look for others. Depending on where you find yourself today, a variety of ideas may spring to mind as you mentally “fill in the blanks” Jesus (thankfully) left in these parables. 

For me, today, it’s a little more plain and real than it was even a year ago. I don’t have to look far to see my collection of “fine pearls”: a solid home, a successful business, a loving community, healthy houseplants! The list goes on. Twenty-eight years of marriage, three grown children and a decent 18-year run at self-employment have provided us with a flexible lifestyle in a place we’ve grown to love. As Christ followers, we’ve been privileged to invest 15 years in our local congregation, cultivating our gifts and talents while raising our family. We are about to be “empty nesters”. We are blessed with good health and mobility.

We are comfortable.
We have enough.

By worldly standards— even by the basic American Christian understanding we are considered “successful” and it would be no big deal to keep on as we are without a hitch.

Except, like that merchant,  we have been led by God to seek the Kingdom’s more. This is why, within the coming year we will sort, sell and moderately store all that we have to take a ministry position overseas in January 2019. It’s why we have begun to tell our business clients that we’ll be stepping away by then (not now!) and why Christmas with our children was so precious this year. It’s all about to change: we have found a pearl of great value and we’re selling (most) everything to purchase it.

Lord knows it’s not easy. In fact, once you set aside all the ridiculously romantic ideals of doing such things, it’s downright terrifying. It should be. It’s also the most peace-filled place we’ve ever been.  All we know as we prepare to go is that there is a God who loves us and the world so much that in spite of our sin, He sacrificially made a way for us to know Him and His great love. The kingdom of heaven is like… more than we will ever really understand, more than we will ever really deserve and yet, it’s like… right in front of us at all times and there are others who need to know this too.

As with all  such things of great value,  there’s sacrifice involved— a constant stream of releasing things to God’s care as we seek first His kingdom with the remainder of our lives and step beyond all that we’ve known to acquire this “pearl”.  In pondering these things; the parables, the pearl and the price, I’m beginning to recognize, by God’s grace, that the “pearl” isn’t necessarily a thing, place or position. Ultimately, yes, it’s the prize of the stored up “treasure” we’re promised at the end of time but in practical terms, the pearl of great value is obedience… the “everyday yes” to whatever God has called us— and you— to do.

We are very much in process and the details of how to do such a thing are still a bit hazy. The invitation however,  is clear: “Release. Give up everything to secure THAT “pearl”. And all the rest?  That will be the icing on the cake.  I promise.”

Would you like to know more about what’s going on? Email me at dl@stembridge.us  and I’ll add you to the Facebook page and prayer letter list. Thanks!

* ( six times in six different ways…) I originally wrote “five”– missed one, sorry! 

anchored in the heart of christmas

A while back I shared a bit about my love-hate relationship with Christmas. Y’all,  It can’t be a total mystery that there’s a spike in the common stress level from the mid- November through the end of the year.

I don’t wanna beat a dead camel but  truth is, you don’t have to be a genius or a Christian to see much of what gets the most attention during this “most wonderful time of the year”,  has absolutely nothing to do with the “Reason” for the season.  But that’s not what this post is about.

AND while I can neither confirm nor deny that the “Elf on a Shelf” is an agent of satan  Santa (just kidding people), this is also not what this post is about.

Anchored in the Heart of Christmas

 A few years ago, I joined my friend Katherine for a week of Christmas spotlighting her Advent devotional. Then I told you about one of our favorite family traditions; baby Jesus in our stocking.

I’ve thought a lot about that these last few days. Because my house and halls are be-decked and stockings are hung by the woodstove with care, even though one of my three children won’t be home this year and another will be scarce. This is a first…and a definite foreshadowing of Christmases to come. (sigh)

 I sat on my couch looking at the nearly-naked tree a few nights ago and  I guess I was still long enough for it to catch up with me: it’s almost over. The years of lego-strewn floors and the excited (or not) squeals of knee-knockers running through the house…hormone-laden “expressions” coupled with other loud and exasperated “exchanges”….the years of scraping together what little we had to place what always seemed like way too much under the tree.

We’ve turned the corner into new territory.

 So…for a night, I was a little sad. I’m ok now… it’s how it should be…even if it stings. We’ve done our “job” of setting TRUE Christmas before each of them, and now it’s time to stand back and watch the Truth take hold in their individual lives and bear it’s own glorious fruit.

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However,  a few of these more precious thoughts have kept me pondering in deeper waters over why we celebrate at all, the meaning behind the traditions we may choose to keep and what happens when there’s no one there to observe them with you.

 I sat with my husband that night, so grateful for the space he gave me to spill  the words, thoughts and tears  all running together into his lap. Together we worked to sort them into little piles of “truth and not-truth” and then scraped away what didn’t belong.

What’s left is the realization that no matter how we choose to celebrate or mark this time of year– with advent wreaths, Christmas trees, festivities, choir specials, caroling, whatever; no matter what we choose to include…

if  the celebration is not anchored in the heart of Christmas,
it’s meaningless.

What can it mean otherwise?  Why put up a tree, light a candle, set a creche or hang a dang thing? It struck deep; if what we do isn’t anchored to the heart of Christmas, and is instead tied to superficial things or even the presence of others, we’ll eventually find ourselves adrift and slightly lost on dark waters when (not if) things change.

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 What is this heart of Christmas? What are we anchoring ourselves to?  Honestly, I missed it for years. I think it’s what most perplexes the unbelieving (and yet somehow still celebrating) world around us.

Manger from Above

God gives us the answer through the answer He’s been giving ever since that night when, with no room in the Inn, the virgin Mary gave birth to her firstborn Son with Joseph by her side.  Wrapping him in swaddling clothes they placed Him in the manger and named Him “Jesus”.

Yet, even this is not the heart of Christmas.

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Certainly  it’s a most miraculous part of it, but the fact is,  Jesus, the Son of God, was only one of maybe hundreds…or thousands of babies born that night.

Fact is, the heart of Christmas was already beating before that night and had been since the beginning of time.  God,  the heart of Christmas,  then summoned the angels, the shepherds and the wise men,  just as He summons us now to “come and see” but not to stay there.. no:

“Go and tell.”

Go and tell…not only how this miraculous, God-sparked, angel-announced and star-marked baby has been born, but go and tell how, “unto us is born this day a SAVIOR who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2)

A Savior.

 The heart of Christmas is anchored in the WHY of His coming ,which was not simply to be born so miraculously, so magnificently…but to die, saving those who believe and bridging the gap between us and God.

The heart of Christmas is found anchored three days past His sacrifice at the cross….at the stone-rolled-away, He-is-not-here, He has risen, empty tomb

THIS is why we celebrate Christmas.
THIS is why we can have hope .

 No matter what else is going on.

Christ Born In You

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This GLORIOUS truth, their obedience and telling is why we know, can and must still tell today. Anchored in the heart of Christmas, we must consistently live and tell the whole story…the story of His coming, the story of WHY He came and what He did…and then, most importantly, we must live believing and telling of how Jesus is coming again.

Oh come to the manger and let us adore Him, Emmanuel–God with us. Pause,  remember and celebrate His life on earth but don’t stay there—that’s only half way home.

Because Jesus didn’t come for a season. Oh no. He came for all eternity and that is why we can celebrate. We are a people who once walked in darkness, who’ve now seen this Great Light.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!

Expectantly,Lorretta signature