August 1, 2020

So, Laugh

This LP Women’s blog is coming to you in the month when we start school. In 2020. During a global pandemic. I know, we are all tired of thinking about it. We are all tired of hearing about it. We are all super tired of not knowing how to discern truth and wisdom from all the noise. And sometimes, we just want to throw our hands up and say, “Whatever! I’m not in control anyway!” And then, give a great big hearty laugh in the face of it all. Turns out, I’m gonna permit you to do just that. Straight. From. Scripture. As I prayed about what to share with you girls this month, nothing was surfacing. I just kept thinking through the distress I have heard from friends. The worry from teachers. The desire to do the right thing but having little to no way of knowing exactly what that is. The daunting approach of the school year and all that it may mean for us and our kiddos. I thought about how the rabbit hole of 2020 is deep, and it doesn’t take much to lose ourselves in it — because we have no idea what is coming. And that’s when it surfaced: “...she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25, NIV Really, Lord? The Proverbs 31 woman? That’s what you’re giving me? The lady who has it all together and makes her clothes? The super-productive lady who has a great marriage, children who praise her, and well-toned arms on top of it? Oh no. I don’t think she’s quite what we need right now. We are in a mess! No, my child. I don’t need you to compare yourself to her. I need you to hear her laugh. Laugh. My dear sisters, in this blog we have promised to share with you what can happen in our lives when we put Jesus first. There are so many things we could focus on but today, we are going to focus on the idea that when we put Jesus first, we put ourselves in a position to think happily about the future even when things are a mess. Like they are right now. The Proverbs 31 woman does a lot of things well (obviously) but one of the things I love the most is that she comes across as an especially “unruffled” sort of person. And, hear me clearly, this is not because of her. I don’t want you to think that she’s just inherently some sort of person you’re not. The reason she can be this way is because she lets Jesus go first. He goes first in her thoughts. He goes first in her reactions. He goes first in her planning. And, He goes first when she thinks about “the days to come” and that lets her laugh. Here are a few other translations I found just for reference: And she smiles at the future. NASB She laughs without fear of the future. NLT She is confident about the future. CEB I don’t know if I can make my clothes as she does. And, if I end up homeschooling, these children will probably not be singing my praises every day. But I could use a laugh. I could use a lot of laughs. And, I’d love to smile at my future because I am confident about the God who will meet me there. That’s the difference. The reason the Proverbs 31 woman can laugh at the days ahead is because she knows who holds them. And, this doesn’t just give her peace in the moment. It gives her confidence that the days ahead are nothing to fear. So much confidence that it makes her smile. So, laugh. As you think about the days to come and things are dark, remember to have a sense of humor about the ridiculousness of it all. God is very much in control of whatever is ahead, and He does not intend for us to walk around in sackcloth and ashes until it’s all over. He’s okay with a giggle at the future every once in a while. In fact, He acknowledged her for it. Be confident in your future, my sisters. Put Jesus first and smile. After all, no one ever left this earth saying, “I laughed entirely too much.” -Anne Rulo

Lessons Learned

The life of Job is such an interesting deep dive into the mind and emotion of a person who encounters great suffering. He is, quite literally, the comforting BIblical figure for so many who find themselves in season after season of loss, trying to make sense of themselves and God in the midst of it. And, while Job himself is an important character to study, I have often found myself particularly interested in a few of the folks around him, namely, his wife and three buddies. They are an intriguing study in how people respond when others are suffering and a great read on what to do (and not do!) when you are trying to help. Just in case you are unfamiliar with the story, Job’s life starts out pretty fantastic. He has a large family, lots of land, livestock, etc. He is living “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1) for the Lord when Satan does a flyby. Satan suggests that the only reason Job is faithful is because God has not allowed any hardship in his life. At this, God allows Satan an opportunity to access Job’s life, wreaking destruction, havoc, and death in almost every way imaginable. By the end of chapter 1 (of 42 chapters!) Job has lost all his livestock and his ten children. This is how the chapter ends: “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 1:20-22, NIV Gracious! I cannot imagine that kind of loss, particularly all at once. The pain would be unbelievable, and the crisis of self, faith, and God is just as overwhelming. Certainly, it couldn’t get worse, but it does. As we enter chapter 2, God allows Satan access not only to the things and people around Job, but to Job himself. He is afflicted with painful sores over his entire body, apparently pushing his wife to the limit of what she could stand. In her pain, she offers this, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job 2:9-10, NIV At this point, Job has lost his livelihood, his children, and his wife has turned on him and the Lord. But, here come his buddies, comforting Job and giving us a great example of how to be with someone who is suffering. “When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Job 2:11-13, NIV These guys got it (at first). They did exactly what we need to do with suffering people sometimes. We need to just be there. Close our mouths. Pray. Weep for them. Gather with other friends and sit in solidarity just to say, “You're not alone.” If only they could have remained that way. While they started strong, the remaining forty chapters of Job are him and his buddies going back and forth trying to interpret what the heck is happening to Job’s life. Sadly, Job’s friends fall into the trap that so many fall into, making assumptions that it is something the suffering person has done wrong and/or that the situation is something the suffering person can fix. Job suffers and struggles and has BIG emotions the whole way through, but He never renounces God. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through what he went through as he personally struggled, but also had his closest people leave either by death or disloyalty. Sometimes, loneliness can be as painful as anything else. There are a few important lessons I want us to take away from this look at Job, particularly in terms of human suffering. Suffering is never without God’s oversight. We are never without Him no matter how hard it is. Suffering is difficult to tolerate, both for the sufferer and those around him/her. It takes a lot of patience to just be with someone without trying to interpret or explain what’s happening. We are not fortune tellers. It is rarely helpful for us to give anyone a concrete reason why pain has happened in their life. It is almost always helpful just to listen, love, and learn. As best you can, try to not abandon God or others in seasons of suffering. Loss is so difficult, but loneliness can be just as painful. Let us be faithful, both to God and one another, especially in seasons of suffering. Job is such a beautiful example to learn from, both in what to do and what not to do. May God be with us in it all. ~ Anne Rulo

Climbing Out of the Pit

February 1, 2021

I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR! Okay, so lately, it has been more of a little kitten mew. Friend, I am not gonna lie. I have been in a funk these past few weeks, even months. And if I were to be brutally honest with you, I have been in a deep depression. I am not talking about having a bad day or sadness that lingers. I am talking life altering, can’t get out of bed some days, overwhelming grief, kind of depression. It happens from time to time and it absolutely breaks my heart. I looked up the definition and it just makes me sad to even look at the word, “depression”. “Noun: depression - a mental condition characterized by feelings of severe despondency and dejection, typically also with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep.” Even the definition is depressing. (Yes, pun intended.) It can stop you in your tracks, be overwhelming, and rob you of your joy. So why am I telling you this? I have learned over the years that I am not alone in this journey and when I open up and am honest with myself (and others), I find that is where the darkness can no longer hide. Confession is good for the soul and sister, my soul needs some good ole stripped down, scrubbed down, bathed in glory cleansing. Matter of fact, just let me soak in some of those faith bubbles for a while. So, “Where are you?” Have you been in a funk and feeling the effects of the weight of the world? Have you had some life altering situations and/or grieving a loss of a loved one? Maybe you have had your own clinical diagnosis and are battling that heaviness. Depression is real no matter what form it may come in. From time to time, it may even win a battle or two. But let me give you a glimmer of hope. It will NEVER win the war! God promises us in His word that we are more than conquerors through Him. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 During this current episode of depression, I have learned about some tools to use in battle. As I reflected, I realized that in the days since Christmas I have not been focused on my prayer life, reading my Bible, and journaling. I start to condemn myself but then I remember my saving grace and do just that, give myself a little grace and start again. How? By opening my Bible and picking up my paper, pen, and a devotional my sweet friend gave me that says, “Hope shines brightest when your world is darkest.” That gift couldn’t be any more perfect for this season I am in. God used that friend and her gift to remind me that He has some precious words for me to bask in when my world seems pitch black. Today I am going to choose joy and remember that I am a daughter of the King. I will straighten my crown, pull my big girl pants back up (they are pink by the way), take a deep breath, and give the devil a knuckle sandwich. That last part may be a stretch. I’m a lover, not a fighter. And besides that, I have to remember that the battle belongs to the Lord! This world slings too much of its ugliness at me to fight it alone. I am so thankful that I can call on my Savior to stand in the gap of my shame and weakness. I don’t have all the answers as to why we go through depressing times. I don’t know the names of your demons. But I DO KNOW A SAVIOR who loves you and created you in His image. Sister, please read that last line again. He created you in His image and you are perfect in His eyes. We may not see it when we look in the mirror, but that reflection is who we see, not who your Heavenly Father sees. So many scriptures can tell you of your value in God’s sight. I would be writing for the next six months if I tried to list them all, so I am going to give you my top 5 “Go To” scriptures for when my feelings take over and I forget who I am in Christ. 1. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven. Luke 7:47 2. Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created. Esther 4:14 3. The very breath of God is in you. Job 33:4 4. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds; declares the Lord. Jeremiah 30:17 5. I have called you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 Sister friend, as I finish writing this blog post, I am praying over you RIGHT NOW. I pray that the peace that passes ALL understanding comes in and floods your heart. I pray your dry empty wells are overflowing with those life giving words from Jesus and that you are soaking up his preciousness. (Is that a word? It is now!) There is so much God wants to restore in you. I know there are going to be some dark days, but also know this: there is an eternal home that awaits you that is more beautiful than you can fathom. So keep going my friend and let God battle those dark days for you. Depression is real, but so is my Jesus, and I long for you to grow deeper in your relationship with Him. Postnote: Depression is not the same as guilt or shame. Clinical depression is a disease that is caused by a chemical imbalance in our bodies. If you are feeling as though you may need some help or support, you are not alone! Please reach out to our staff. Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash used by permission

October 1, 2020

It has been a couple of weeks since I took this photo, but every once in a while I skim over it looking for another picture on my phone. I marvel at the beauty of that particular morning and remember how amazed I was at the beauty the fog created. I almost missed it. I was in a hurry to get to work, and I almost missed the opportunity to capture the beauty. The picture doesn’t even begin to do it justice, but the memory of this morning will now be embedded in my brain for a long time to come. I thought to myself, “There will be a sunrise picture I can get another day.” Then, I felt prompted to take 30 seconds, pull over to the side of the road, get out my phone and capture the moment. There will be other “sunrises” in my future, but there was just something about THAT particular moment that needed to be documented. I didn’t realize it at the time, I just thought I had a cool picture, but God would later encourage my heart by using this image of that beautiful morning. For most of us, the last seven months have been filled with uncertainty and confusion. Just when we think we have the new rules figured out, they change. Pandemic, quarantine, social distancing, mask mandates, school opening, school closings, events canceled, isolation, vaccines, a rise in mental health statistics, job loss, not to mention an election. SO many lions and tigers and bears, OH MY! I felt I was doing okay through all of this; however, recently I have noticed a change in my attitude. These past several weeks have been an emotional roller coaster. I am a Christian who loves her Jesus fiercely, but this... this uncertainty is overwhelming to say the least. My musician husband made a comment the other day that made my heart sink. He was asked if he is playing anywhere, and his response was, “Well, I get to write a lot of opportunities on the calendar, but then I get a call and they get canceled.” Canceled! That is what I feel like the last several months of life have felt like. Nothing to do, nowhere to go, and nothing to look forward to. I used to get excited about life events, but now I find myself falling into a trap -- the one several others have unintentionally fallen into because they have been lured into that snare by negativity. On social media, people are stomping their feet, complaining because group events are not being canceled and that people in authority should have taken everyone’s welfare into consideration. In the next statement they are shaking their fists of complaint because of canceled events their son or daughter is missing out on. I am not scolding. I have had my questions and concerns too, but there is such a bigger picture that we are unable to see with our eyes. God used a foggy morning to show me there is still beauty all around us if we will take our eyes off the pandemic of our surroundings and truly look. Look to the Son. See that he is good. We used to complain because we were too busy, then complained that we had nothing to do. Pull the frustration bus over for 30 seconds. Capture the beauty of your surroundings. Read a book to your toddler. Watch the joy on their face as they are intrigued by your wisdom. Cherish your husband’s smile as he laughs at your silly antics. Take a few seconds to love on your fur baby who longs for nothing more than for you to throw a ball to them or to cuddle on your lap. Walk outside. Look at the colors on the trees as the seasons change. Thank God for all that He has done. Write a letter to a friend encouraging her to keep her eyes on Jesus. Storm heaven with prayers for your schools, co-workers, and city officials. Friend, I am with you! I hear you! I am praying for you! I want you to be encouraged. I know life is foggy right now, but there is still so much beauty around us if we really look. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Let him fill you so full that there is no room for negativity and complacency. I know it has been a long haul so far, but take a deep breath, grab you some grace, and keep fighting the good fight. We are all in this together. I pray you feel the peace that passes all understanding covering you. We may not see things clearly right now because of the fog around us, but if we keep our eyes on the ultimate prize, we cannot fail. 2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.