Thursday, June 22, 2017

You Never Know What Someone Else is Going Through

You Never Know first appeared on Riches Out of Darkness in early 2016.

by Danetta Kellar

I have changed the names of the dear ones in this post to protect their privacy. 

We had been in the ancient, spacious house for months. It had once sheltered three families, and now our small one took up only one wing. The old walls were constantly crumbling, and with only half a roof over the central courtyard, the birds and other less desirable animals came and went freely, leaving their own little dirty deposits. 

Fighting the constant Sahara dust was a losing battle, and even if I threw water on the tile floors and squeegeed it down the drain, a fine layer of golden powder covered every surface again by afternoon. 

One morning, my friend Hope came to visit. Morning visits were rare, so I knew this must mean business.

Our husbands were close friends. We had shared many meals together in one another’s homes. Hope was familiar with my housecleaning habits, and my funny American ways of dealing with clutter that differed so much from her own. She teased me for hanging my pictures in the middle of a big wall, instead of clustering all of them together along the very top.

Today Hope offered me a proposition. Obviously, to her at least, I needed help in my housekeeping battle. To prove it, she slid my sofa away from the wall and lectured me on the piles of dirt that hovered in the corners like guilt. 

Hope had a sister, and this sister needed work. She could clean my house for me and I could pay her. A beautiful arrangement, after I swallowed my born-in-the-South-to-an-obsessively-clean-mother Pride.

I had no idea that day how much my life was about to change, that I was about to receive a friend I would treasure for years to come. I couldn’t have imagined the lessons I was about to learn.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Never Ending Journey

by Danetta Kellar

He chose an eighties’ playlist. 

I couldn’t have been happier as we barreled up the interstate, belting out lyrics with Madonna and Journey at the top of our lungs. I even caught him singing falsetto with Men at Work. He looked at me, incredulous. “You know all the words to these songs, Mom!” 

He had never seen this side of me, I’m sorry to say. I had been too tight, too controlled, to shut-up in parenting perfectionism to just let it go and have fun, unabridged. And now we were speeding toward his future, childhood behind us.

“Babe, you are playing all the songs of my youth! This is the music I was a wallflower to at my seventh-grade dance. The music I listened to in my first car driving down the highway with the windows down, feeling truly free. These are the words that helped me through my first break up.” 

We continued singing, and I noticed him glancing at me every once in awhile with a new look in his eye. 

The trunk of the car was loaded with his footlocker, his soccer bag, and skateboard. And lots of junk food. We were on our way to the first stage of Goodbye, his two weeks of summer orientation for the competitive Math and Science school he’d be attending for the final two years of high school. 

I woke up early that morning to hem his dress pants, then promptly forgot them hanging on the door. For weeks I had carefully reviewed the list of things to bring, including money for laundry, and then left it in a neat envelope, on the bar, at home. I was not myself. 

“Are you nervous?” he looked at me sideways as I searched on my GPS for the nearest bank. 

“Well, I didn’t think I was, but I guess apparently I really am.”

“Yeah. You are. Don’t be nervous, Mom. I’m going to be fine.”

Later that afternoon we said our goodbyes. I walked across the campus in the evening sunlight, but in my mind I was in the QE2 Hospital, sixteen years earlier, my newborn in a small bed by my own. I held his pudgy little hand, his fingers in a vice grip around my index finger. 

The nurse came into the shadowy room. “Let us take your wee one out to the station for a bit, love. You need rest.” She rolled his bed out through the backlit door. Panic suddenly filled me, the entirely brand-new sensation of mother-bear protectiveness surging through me. You cannot take my baby from me! Bring him back! My unreasonable thoughts faded as I slipped into exhausted sleep, my baby safe and sound with the nurses just outside my room.

The crazy road-trip of letting our babies go starts even before they are born. 

We release them to God, we release them to God, and we release them again. I sat in my car and cried a bit, then let my boy go again, my anxious thoughts slipping into the rest God offers to mothers over and over. I can trust Him to keep my child in his care as He always has. 

On this never-ending journey of letting children go, make sure your playlist is one you know and can sing loud and off key. Take lots of snacks and have a cheeseburger on the way if that’s what he wants. Talk a little and listen a lot. And at the stops along the way, hug hard and let yourself cry.

TWEETABLES




Thursday, June 8, 2017

Exposing the Fear that Lies Behind Most Everything

by Danetta Kellar

I lay in bed, feeling suffocated. 

In the darkness, Fear seemed to have found himself on the center stage of my mind in a solo performance. 

He loomed bigger than the ceiling and I saw for a moment how big I had actually allowed him to grow in me. During the daylight, in the rush of life, I had managed to dodge this realization. I noticed it in fleeting moments, some more gripping than others, but I had become an expert at deflection.

Not this night.

I had just spent almost two hours in a car driving along a highway in the rain, listening to one I dearly love pour out her sorrow. Grief is relentless in its squeezing, its paralyzing of the human heart. She was grieving the loss of one very dear to her and wanted to die too so she could be with him.

All I could do was reach behind my seat and hold her hand as I cried myself, my tears blending with the falling rain and making the car lights distort along the dark highway. We talked about the plans God has for her life, the very special work that only she can do in the world. And in my heart, I cried out, “Please, God, don’t let her long for heaven yet! Not yet, Lord!”

Fear grabbed me and whispered his terrible threats.

Hiding behind him came an entourage. Fears small and fears large, fears slithering and fears stomping. The crescendo deafened me.

“Jesus!” I cried out. In an instant, all was silent. There was no lag, no labor. The toxic spewing of His enemy and mine simply ceased.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Psalm 23:4

I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Psalm 55:16

He who watches over you will not slumber. Psalm 121:3

The promises stored up in my heart came tumbling across the meadows of my mind like a tinkling stream, their music making it hard to believe such darkness had covered me only moments before. 

As I lay there upon my bed, listening to my Shepherd, He showed me how I had allowed fear to become an insipid, creeping, silent force in my life. 

Gently and firmly, Jesus led me to His truth. His kindness led me to repentance. And I slept in peace, the enemy defeated.

Are you struggling with fear today? Have you become so busy you cannot see its tendrils choking the life in your days? I sure did. Run to His promises, cry out to the Shepherd. He has defeated fear, no matter what Fear would whisper to you today.

TWEETABLES



Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Best Gift Walt Disney Ever Gave


by Danetta Kellar

We were walking around entranced, captured by the magic of Disney World. 

When my daughter spilled her drink, a cast member immediately appeared with a smile and wiped it up, leaving the bench looking shiny and perfect. Even the ducks who waddled among the crowds seemed enchanted. 

We stopped to admire a tree cleverly shaped to resemble an ostrich and then leaned into a cool breeze wafting across the railing. Looking down across a gently flowing stream, I gasped. Shooting up only yards from the perfectly manicured topiary garden were weeds. Lots of them. Standing up defiantly through the ivy, they lifted their green fists toward the lovely blue sky as if victorious. They had pulled the curtain back and revealed the wizard behind the magic. And he was a mere, flawed, mortal.

Perfectionism is flawed.

The idea of perfectionism only finds its fullness in God. Perfect means complete. And God is complete within Himself. We are only complete with Him. He is what we are missing.

God is what we are missing on the days something just doesn’t seem right. He is what we are missing when the news leaves us feeling agony and despair. He is what we are missing at night as we lie sleepless worried about finances or children going astray. God is what we are missing when we fight with a friend, a spouse, a co-worker. 

God is the missing piece that completes our lives. Life without Him is an incomplete, imperfect, life which can never be truly fulfilled.

The throngs of people who flock to Disney each day are drawn to the magic, the ideal of Perfect. The hope and dream of Happy. The wish for True.

Even a brilliant, imaginary, generous visionary like Walt Disney cannot hide the weeds of an imperfect world, an imperfect life, lived by imperfect humanity. 

Perhaps the best gift Walt Disney has given us is the ability to see our longing for perfection and joy, for completion. 

It is a God-crafted longing in every person, reflecting his and her very essence, the image of God reflected in each human soul. The fingerprint of God in each heart longs for completion. We were made to be complete.

Completion, or perfection, is only found when our souls are united with our Creator through Jesus Christ. Christ restored the broken relationship between us and the God who made us. Christ made completion possible again for every person. 

Our longing for the Magic Kingdom is a longing for heaven. In that Kingdom we will not only walk the streets as visitors, but as citizens. And there will be no more weeds.

If you have not given your heart to God, accepted his gift of completion through Jesus Christ, you can do that right now. Take this moment to trust Him and accept His gift of citizenship in heaven. Write to me in the comments section below and let’s walk the streets together.

TWEETABLES




Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Promise of a Firm Step



by Danetta Kellar
@DanettaKellar

If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37:23

Are you facing a decision today? I am. More than a hundred. 

Will I place others first and see how I can serve them or will I focus on my own need for more rest, my wish that the school year would just be over already? When someone says something I misunderstand, will I assume the worst, judging her? Or will I believe that she too is trying her best and listen again? Will I be a reactor or a responder? 

Each day is comprised of hundreds of little decision-steps. Each one builds on the others, making a pathway through my day. 

I can’t wait until the midst of the busy day to decide my way. I have to do that in time set apart, alone with God, still and listening. It doesn’t really have to take that long. It can be a quiet half hour I take in the evening instead of watching my favorite television show. 

I am so desperate to walk in a way that delights the Lord that I have been known to drop to my knees in prayer in the bathroom, the door locked behind me, in the only place in my house I can get privacy some days. It doesn’t matter what form it takes; what matters is that I pause to seek the Lord’s way for me.

When I have taken time out to do this, both my steps and my stumbling become less stressful. The almost-falls are so much better than the full-on-face-plants. When I have learned the Lord’s way for me, I have His promise of a firm step and His strong arm holding me when I stumble.

Maybe this sounds too esoteric, too vague. How can one know God’s way?

We have been given an instruction manual with all the basics we need to know the way that delights the Lord. 

That manual is the Bible and it shows us the path of life and fulfillment.

If we are not reading it, we won’t walk in it. 

When my steps get shaky and I fall on my face over and over, that’s my cue that I may not be walking in a way that delights the Lord.

I’m believing God’s promises this week. I’m taking time out to put His Word in my heart every day no matter how pressing the crush of busyness is. I am counting on firm steps and a strong hand to catch me when I stumble. (Because I surely will stumble.) How about you? Let’s do it together. 

If you want to join me in #100daysoftruth, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for daily picture posts from God’s Word. 


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Thursday, May 18, 2017

How to Make It to the End of the Ride (When Life is Moving So Fast You Can Barely Hold On)

By Danetta Kellar

We climbed into the rollercoaster cars, all five of us. I strapped the belt on tight, giving it an extra pull to be sure. The attendant came by and lowered the bar and locked it. Now all I could do was look straight ahead and hold on. 

I was worried about my daughter seated behind me, who was riding a fast coaster for the first time. Her brothers screamed like monkeys, chanting, “Go! Go! Go!” They were ready for a thrill. My husband put his arm protectively around our little girl just as the machine lurched forward with a jolt. 

The next few minutes were a blur as we held on for dear life and hoped our lunch would stay put. The ride was over as quickly as it had begun. I have never been so happy to see the exit.

On our way out, pictures of our terrified faces flashed on a screen. We had survived to tell about it.

Life, especially at the end of a school year, during a big project at work, or a health crisis, can race forward at the speed of a breakneck rollercoaster. 

Everything can become a blur as we hold on for dear life. Concern for others on the ride with us becomes secondary as we try to keep our own selves from being thrown. It’s all we can do to make it to the exit.

Good for us that a hidden camera cannot snap a shot of our terrified faces and post it on a screen in the midst of the high-speed ride of life. (Although I guess anything is possible now.)

The way to hang on in life’s busy seasons is not much different from how we stay put on a rollercoaster ride. 

Secure your belt, and lock the bar. Before any action on any day, secure your heart and mind in the Truth found in God’s Word, the Bible. If you are wondering where to begin, practice reading one Psalm and one Proverb each day. The Psalms teach us how to relate to God. The Proverbs teach us how to relate to each other. 

Lock the bar by reminding yourself who holds your day in His hands. Then look straight ahead and remember to breathe. The exit is coming, and believe it or not, this ride is not as long as it feels.

Hang in there and tell your story when it’s over!

TWEETABLES

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Mother Heart of God

by Danetta Kellar

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord cares for me. Psalm 27:10, HSCB

For those from deeply dysfunctional backgrounds, associating God with father or mother can be repulsive, feel unsafe.

The mere thought of God as a parent can call up memories of abandonment, abuse, and pain. God as Father or Mother can actually be a trigger to those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These hurting, confused ones often suffer quietly in our churches, or just don’t come at all.

We are trapped in a world of words, and limited by their concepts. 

God, however, is not trapped, confined, nor limited by any language of man nor any gender. He is the original father, mother, and brother. His love existed before the corruption of humanity and the broken path of love it has built over the centuries.

There is redemption for your concept of mother this Mother’s Day. 

It is found in the mother heart of God, the One who knew you before you were born (Psalm 139:16), who wove you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:15), who knows the plans designed for just you (Jeremiah 29:11), all the days of your life (Psalm 139:16). 

God is the One who knows how many hairs are on your head (Matthew 10:30), the One who sings over you while you sleep (Zephaniah 3:17). The Lord keeps vigil over you while you rest, watching and protecting (Psalm 121). God is a Comforter, a Counselor, and a Teacher (John 14:16, 26, Isaiah 9:6). The mothering love of God binds up your wounds and makes you a daisy chain crown of joy instead of sorrow (Isaiah 61:3). God adorns you with a new dress of white (Isaiah 61:10, Revelation 7:9), and calls you a jewel on a necklace (Malachi 3:17). 

This is the God who cares for the little birds but cares so much more for you (Matthew 10:29,31), the One who wants to hear your heart and never tires of listening (Psalm 22:14). 

Come to the Lord this Mother’s Day, and be comforted.

For all the broken mothers and broken children who have failed and are hurting, God waits. Let God our Mother heal all our broken places, mothers and children. And let the concept of Mother be redeemed by the One who mothers our souls.

This is the mother heart of God for you and for me this Mother’s Day.

Take time out to look up each of the verses cited above. Underline them in your Bible as a reminder of how God mothers our hearts. And may you experience the mother love of God on Mother’s Day.


TWEETABLES



Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Difficult (And Inevitable) Place of Disappointment in Marriage


by Danetta Kellar

Disappointment in one another is a difficult place to navigate in marriage.

The pressures of life encroach upon this sacred relationship, changing well-worn paths into treacherous passages. The familiar can become unpredictable, and doubt in each other crouches at the door.

I once hiked a mountain deep in Africa. Along its heights we reached a boggy path along the edge of a cliff, treacherous and slippery. 

The terrain which had at the base been solid and immoveable now transformed to secret pockets of sinking mud and insecure footing. Tufts of moss spotted the way providing the only possible passageway. 

Step by unstable step we climbed. No one spoke. Every eye was fixed upon the precarious footpath, hearts in our throats as we wondered if we would make it to solid ground once again.

Images of the stories I had heard of deaths on this cliffside rose up in my mind like specters of doom. I pushed them away, focusing on my own two feet. 

If I had not seen with my own eyes, climbed with my own feet the secure paths we walked on only yesterday, I would have despaired. 

Reality would have been distorted in my mind, and I would have been sure that no stable ground ever had existed, only mud and mire. 

Marriage can be like that. There are passageways that seem unrecognizable to us, so different they are from the start of the journey. We could swear that the mountain has melted beneath us, the steadiness and hope of earlier days a mirage, a wish.

Has the mountain changed? Does it no longer want to be a mountain? Will we make it? Is there a path anymore? 

If we peer closely, we will find there is a Rock beneath the mountain that never moves. 

It is unchangeable, and it is steadfast. It is the Lord Himself, and He promises to be our sure footing though the way is no longer visible to our eyes. 

We will find this sure footing when we step forward in faith, placing our foot upon the promise. God is the promise. He promises to be the Rock in our marriages and our lives.

When everything else looks, sounds, and feels unstable, we must strengthen our souls by remembering the promise of security upon the only immovable Rock. God, not our spouse, is our Rock and our Redeemer. 

The instant our foot is placed firmly in belief on the ground before us, we find the welcoming strength of the immovable rock holding us steady. Then we do it again. And again. And again. Step by faith-filled, courageous step, we reach the heights. From that vantage point we will gaze on the slippery slope behind us and marvel that we survived.

If your marriage is hurting today and the way seems lost, look for the Rock beneath the mountain. 

There is sure footing for you today, though the way may seem hidden. Step out in faith and stand upon the promise, one stride at a time.


Lord, be the Rock beneath my feet in my marriage today. Be the steadfastness of my feelings and thoughts, and keep me climbing higher. Amen.

TWEETABLES


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Letting Go of What Won’t Grow

by Danetta Kellar

It seems cruel to me to toss aside any little flower, any leaf, any growing thing unless it is truly withered and dead. As a result, my garden is a friend to weeds. 

It is also a place where shrubs grow stunted with strange leaf diseases that have slowed their growth. Alongside the voluptuous and fragrant peonies grow the never-blooming lilacs, slumped in the hard clay, refusing to display. I keep hoping they will one day decide to defy the challenges of their environment, their diseases, and explode in color and life.

But I don’t have time these days to make them flourish. No time to amend the soil, apply the special nutrients that might strengthen them against fungus. On their own they remain, struggling to grow. They are limited, and I am too. And so we are at a stand-off.

I finally gave up last week and pulled up the Indian Hawthorne, putting it out of its misery. In its place, we planted healthy azaleas who love the partial shade. They are happy there and shout in the sunbeams, “What took you so long?”.

As I survey my garden, assessing what is truly thriving and what is not, I can clearly see another landscape, the garden of my life. 

In that garden too there are weeds and well-intended plantings, things which bow low with neglect. I realize it is time to uproot those things which have ceased to thrive. The season is here to make room for new dreams and endeavors. 

It is not cruel to remove that which drains life of its energy and potential. Such a task is wise and leads to joy.

I am doing spring gardening both in my own garden and in my heart. The old is going, and the new is coming. You can do it too, and here is how.

Step back and take a good look.


Take some intentional time apart from the hustle and bustle and carefully survey all that takes your time, energy, and resources. Make a list. Be creative. I use colored pencils and make a visual of all I am carrying, doing, being. 

There are those things that anchor your life like a tree anchors soil; primary relationships, work, rest. They are essential. But then there are those other things. At one time in my life, I had an abundance of time commitments that were like pretty potted flowers that catch the eye and lead to impulse buying. Like those impulse flowers that ended up frying in the sun, my over-commitments withered in the heat of my burn-out.  

Take time to evaluate the big picture from a healthy distance.

Bring it all before God.


Now talk to God about all you identified. Every part, even the little things that nag. Bring it all before Him, and ask the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to guide your thoughts and counsel you about what to keep and what to eliminate. Ask Him to help you put what’s left in order according to priority and purpose. Make a plan in this space alone with God for what changes need to be made. 

I find that when I do this, there are many things that simply need to be mentally and emotionally released to God. After I yield them to Him, they suddenly shrink in size and urgency. Some disappear altogether.

Bring everything before God and make a plan with Him.

Uproot.


Eliminate all that is unnecessary. Be relentless and creative. Are you in a busy season? Is it really necessary to spend three hours each week grocery shopping? Use a free grocery pick-up service without guilt. If it’s available and frees your time up to be with loved ones, rejoice and do it. 

At one busy season living in Africa in my early parenting years, I hired a young man to deliver my vegetables every day. The trek by foot across town every three days for fresh food defeated me and I needed help. As a result, we made new friends with his family and this bone-tired mom received much-needed assistance.

Somehow, women, in particular, have believed the lie that getting help or seeking shortcuts is not spiritual, or strong, or whatever. Let go of that attitude. Look around you at the season you are in. We know you are Wonderwoman. But even she needs to balance her conquests and rest occasionally.

What about relationships? Are you so busy mentoring and helping others that your well has run dry? Be honest about your need for rest and recharging with those who count on you. Then take care of yourself and do what’s necessary to give again when you are stronger.

Eliminate what you can, even if it is just for a while.

Wait. 


Don’t replant right away. Wait and watch what God will do in the space you have opened up in your life. He is the planter and the grower of good things in our lives. If there is something new that can fill that space, it will be clear and not stressful. It will be accompanied by a sense of relief, not strain. This is peace.

Wait patiently on the Lord and let Him fill your new spaces with what is needed.


There are times when my life stretches at the seams like an old black suitcase I once dragged around to the other side of the world. Full of treasures and necessities, it was about to bust wide open. I couldn’t do without a single one of those special things and kept finding more to stuff in. I didn’t mind dragging it so much because everything it contained was so important, and the trip had a foreseeable end. 

But most times, I find life is better when I travel light. My journey through the seasons is much easier when my bag is small and efficient. I get less achy and tired that way, and moreover, I can happily help others with their baggage when mine is not so heavy. 

Take some time out with me this week and let go. Then share your story with me!

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