Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Remember.

It's all over.  The preparing, shopping, baking, decorating, visiting and festivities are all over and I'm left with the calm after the storm.  The quiet.  The emptiness has crept in and my mind swirls with anxious thoughts.  In all the busyness of the holidays I left my first love.  I know he's waiting for me but I shun his love for what the world around me offers.  It didn't take long for me to become completely consumed in my thoughts and drown in rejection, depression, and anxiety once again.  The further I stray from the lover of my soul the more shame keeps me from returning to Him.  So, I ignore the still, small voice that gently calls me to turn around and find what I'm looking for.  Surely He doesn't want me like this.  He knows how I have spent my days, the thoughts I'm thinking, the fact that He is not what I'm longing for at all. 

My Bible sits unopened on my side table.  I know I should reach for it first, but I grab my phone and check my texts, scroll Facebook, and check IG.   I'm going to ignore that nagging feeling I get, because I know what I need to do.  My thoughts swirl into a mess and I know I should turn them into prayers, but I don't.  My mind feasts on the sadness.   I know I should be happy.   I have so much to be happy about, but my mind won't allow me that luxury.  I know I should be happy and I that I have it so much better than a lot of people, but I cannot seem to still these runaway thoughts.  I know I am loved, but never enough.  I know I'm wanted by some and that should be enough, but it never is. 

It doesn't take long for my thoughts to dictate everything in my life.  I know I shouldn't eat that, but it will make me feel momentarily better.  I know shopping isn't going to fix things, but the urge to get out of the house and spend money is almost more than I can resist.  Even as I reach for the Diet Coke I tell myself it's not going to help.   What's next?  Puppies... maybe I need a puppy.  Scrolling for puppies takes up half a day and those cute little faces convince me that will be the answer to my emptiness.  If I had a puppy everything would be right in the world.  Or maybe I need a new car or maybe I need new shoes, new clothes, new friends.   I just NEED. 

I am my beloved's and He is mine. -Song of Solomon.

He will not let me go this way for long.  No scolding.  He knows that's not what I need.  I do that to myself enough.  Just a gentle reminder that I am His and He is mine.  All the love this universe can hold is mine from the One who fashioned me in His hands.  A gentle reminder that nothing in this world will ever satisfy my thirsty soul.  A reminder that what I am really longing for is HIM.

"As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul after YOU, O GOD." Psalms 42:1

My soul longs for you.  I am weary and thirsty.  I strayed too far away from my source.  I was disoriented and I couldn't find my way. 

"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God..." vs 2

"When I REMEMBER these things..." vs 4

"Why are you cast down, O my soul?  Why are you disquieted within me?  HOPE THOU IN GOD: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His presence." vs 5

"Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life." vs 8

He calls me to come to Him.  He reminds me of His love.  He reminds me that He is all I need.  I forget over and over again, but He reminds me. 

Remembering is the key that unlocks my mind.  I remember and drink in His Word.  I gulp it up, because I've been running too fast and too long.  My fear, my sadness, rejection, loneliness, self-hate had me trapped.  But I am His... those things can't have me, because I am His.  I am loved, the price paid for me is too high to let me go.  He will never let me go.  I stray, but He always brings me back. I am wounded, but He is the healer.  I think I'm rejected, but He reminds me I've been chosen.  I let my failures separate us, but His GRACE restores me. 

It will happen again.  I will forget.  He will whisper to my soul to remember.  He will gently draw me back to Him.  I will find what I was longing for all along...  What no human can give me, what no thing can offer, what this world advertises, but can never supply...  My soul longs for God. 

When my soul is cast down, Lord help me remember. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Better than Zoloft.

In the last 10 years I have suffered from depression on and off.  I know I''m not alone, because every 3rd commercial is about some kind of anti-depression medicine that will apparently help your mood, but may cause blindness, heart problems or suicidal thoughts.  Well, NO thank you Zoloft, I do not want any of those side affects.  For me depression has not been debilitating.  I function just fine.  There have been times that anxiety has kept me from a social life, but for the most part living my daily life has not been a problem.  The best that I can describe what I feel is joyless. 

Although I knew I wasn't always happy, I really had no idea how unhappy I must have been, until one day when one of my son's friends said, "Miss Angela, why are you always mad?"  I was a little taken aback.  Always mad.  Why you little......... I'm always mad because I have all these kids and they are so exasperating.   I'm always mad, because I'm exhausted.  I'm always mad, because the work of raising children, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and schooling NEVER ENDS. 

This angry women who walks around with a scowl on her face and barking orders all the time is not who I want to be.  The Bible talks about a joyful mother of children and I want to be her.  They didn't have Zoloft when the Bible was written so what did this woman know that I don't?  How was she so stinking joyful when she didn't even have a washer and dryer? 

I don't see many women that are happy today (I'm sorry if you are reading this and think I'm thinking about you, but....) and I wonder why?  We have every convenience that we could want to make our lives easier.  We have every pleasure right at our fingertips.  We have it all and we are so unhappy.  Could it be we are making ourselves unhappy, by focusing on ourselves CONSTANTLY?  Could it be unrealistic expectations or could it be envy of what other people have? 

Why would a woman with everything she has ever wanted and prayed for be so unhappy?  

Could it be that happiness is not found in stuff?  Could it be that happiness is not found in getting everything you want all the time (think spoiled kid)?  Could it be focusing on yourself, only makes you sicker?  Could it be envy is enough to kill you softly? 

Read a few of these verses:

"Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble therewith." Proverbs 15:16

"A merry heart MAKES a cheerful face: but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken." Prov.  15:13

"A sound heart is the LIFE of the flesh: BUT ENVY rots the bones." Prov. 14:30

"A merry heart DOES GOOD LIKE MEDICINE: but a broken spirit dries the bones." Prov. 17:22

All of these verses are from Proverbs, which was written by King Solomon, the wisest person who ever lived, according the Bible.  King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that there was NOTHING that he withheld from himself.  If he wanted it he got it, but he found that he had it all and it was all vanity.   He had everything, but you can tell by his writing that He had times of intense melancholy.  He struggled to find joy in life.  WHY?  Because joy is not where or what we think it is.  Joy is counter-intuitive.   Let me show you....

There are so many treasures hidden in plain sight in the Word of God.  Sometimes you miss them and sometimes they smack you in the face.  Look at this little beauty "...but he that has mercy on the poor (needy), happy is he." 

The last couple of weeks our family has been celebrating Advent.  Advent means to "look forward to an event".  We are looking forward to Jesus coming again.  The Bible talks about being prepared when Jesus comes again and we studied what he told his disciples about that very thing, before He his death on the cross.   He spoke of finding His people working for the Kingdom, while he was gone. 

"Then the King shall say unto them on the right hand side, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For when I was hungry, and you gave me food: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and you took me in: Naked and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came unto me."  Matthew 25:34-36.  It goes on to say the righteous asked, "when did we do these things to you?" 

And Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, Insomuch that you did it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it to me."  vs 40

Each day of this Christmas month we have tried to follow this command.  Find ways to do some good to someone.  I'm going to tell you 2 of the things that we have done, NOT to brag on my family, but to share with you the effect it has had on all of us, especially myself. 

On a cold and windy day a few weeks ago I woke up thinking of 3 men, that we had seen panhandling on a cross street in Dallas, on our way home from the Zoo.  I couldn't get them out of my mind.  What could I do?  Sitting in my warm bed, drinking my hot coffee, far away in a cozy suburb.  A crazy idea popped in my head.  Chicken noodle soup.  That's what I could do.  I may not be able to feed the world, but I could surely feed a few.  I got to work in the kitchen making a big pot of homemade chicken noodle soup.  My mother in love raced off to Walmart and came back loaded down with things like socks, chapstic, snacks, and little water bottles and my children sat around the table filling bags to give away, when we took our pot of soup downtown.  After we got it all loaded up in the car, we drove downtown and found a spot to park our car.  It didn't take long before we had a crowd formed around us.  Word had spread that there a bowl of warm soup and hot chocolate.  After everything ran out and we said our goodbyes we piled in our warm car and drove away.  I will never be able to get the image out of my head, of the lady that I had been talking to for a while, climbing up a set of stairs with her all her worldly possessions in 2 plastic bags.  She sat down and hunkered in for the coldest night of the year so far.  There was nothing to block the wind, whipping around the building, just her blanket wrapped as tightly around her body as she could get it.  At that moment because she had forced me to see her and talk to her, she changed my world.  I drove home in a daze.  My heart full from the love and joy that was in all of their faces, all because of  ONE BOWL of chicken noodle soup. 

It took me a long time to go to sleep that night.  I was thinking of all of them.  All the men and women who wouldn't have a house to go home to, a bed to sleep in, or a food to eat.  How could I EVER again be ungrateful?  How could I be sad?  How could I give a crap about my stained carpet or my old beat up car?  How could I care about who did or didn't like me?  How could I be upset because my kids messed up the house, at least I HAVE A HOUSE.   All the things that were so important to me before that little trip downtown don't seem to matter much anymore.

"When I was hungry, you fed me."- Jesus

Another day last week we made a call to a little lady in a nursing home and asked if we could come for a visit.  We had never met eachother, but I thought it would be nice for her to have some company, so the kids and I would bless this lonely soul with a visit.  What a fool I am.  We knocked on the door and waited for her 90 year old body to bring her to the door.  As the door opened the most beautiful soul I have ever encountered cheerfully ushered us in the room.  I was immediately in love.  She made us feel comfortable and we got to know eachother. She shared with me that her husband of 67 years had just been moved to another facility, because his disease had gotten so bad that she could no longer take care of him.  Her voice broke and tears welled in her eyes as she talked about going to see the love of her life that day for the first time, since he had been moved, and then she turned the most beautiful smile on to my children and told them how their visit had been perfect timing.  She told her about her children and grandchildren.  She told us about being a school teacher.  She told us of a full and wonderful life.  She also shared that her life felt empty now.  Her chair faced the only window in the room and outside the window was a bird feeder.  How many hours of her day was spent staring out that window, her only company the birds who flew in?! 

How could I go home and resent my life?  One day the husband I complain about will forget my name, but today we can be in love.  One the children that frustrate me and makes messes will be gone.  My life will be quiet.  My days will stretch long and my memories of a full life will be the only thing that I have.  How can I do anything other than LOVE MY CRAZY LIFE? 

Elaine haunts my thoughts.  How after meeting her, can I be unhappy? 

"When I was sick, you visited me." -Jesus

In the last week there has been a strange thing happen in my house.  It's so odd that every time it happens people ask what's going on.  "Why are you smiling?", asks my husband.   I guess my little neighbor friend was right...  I was always mad.  I didn't know it, but the people around me have noticed a subtle change.  A happy smile has replaced my angry scowl.   My thoughts are filled with people other than myself, who have so many reasons to be sad, but all they showed me was a beautiful, joy-filled smile.  Each one of them have humbled me.  Each one of them have haunted my thoughts. 

I thought we were finding ways to bless others, but they have blessed me far more than I could ever have imagined.   I thought I was rich and I was sharing, but I found out things don't make you rich.  The smiles of those men and women are imprinted on my heart and they are contagious.  The smile on Ms. Elaine's beautiful face and the glisten of tears in her eyes have broken me.  This Advent season the little I was able to give, Jesus has increased a hundred fold.  When I gave what I had, he gave what I did not- JOY.

J- Jesus first.  O- others second. Y- yourself last.  He shared the secret to joy and we miss it.  We think happiness is a feeling that comes from having what we want.  But Joy comes from giving our lives away.  Joy comes when we put ourselves last.

Paul said in Acts, "I have shown you  all things,  how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, 'It is more blessed to give than receive."

In this context that word blessed means -blissfully happy or content.

Do you see it?  BLESSED TO GIVE.  We are not mad  happy when we get.  We are content and blissfully happy when we GIVE.  Give money, time, things, chicken noodle soup.  Whatever you have today.  If all you have to give today is Christmas cookies- GIVE.

I have read that scientists have studied the affect of giving and the natural high that people receive from it... they have found that the effects of giving are better than anti-depressants to lift mood and quality of life.

Science supports the Bible- "It's more blessed to give than receive."

Find someone to give yourself to today... the effects are better than Zoloft.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Honeymoon is over.

We had a storybook romance.  I felt like Cinderella at the ball.  He was in love with me and I was in love with him.  We embarked on a future that looked like it had only good things on the horizon.  There were no signs that would indicate the storms ahead.  All my dreams had come true.  I knew the day that I stood at the altar I had found the one whom my soul loved.  Our Wedding theme song was "At Last".   With all my heart I knew he was the one. 

It wasn't long before the next miracle was on the way.  We were having a baby!  I was over the moon.  I daydreamed about the perfection of this little angel and how much fun we would have together.  When we found out we were having a girl I cried like a baby, because I didn't want her to turn out like me... but the excitement of picking out baby girl clothes and furniture for her room was enough to push my fears to the background.  When our little angel came along it was a moment like no other in my life, this was what unconditional love felt like.  I couldn't believe the level of emotion a person could feel for another person.  Being a new mommy only made me fall deeper in love with my husband...  He was the reason I had been blessed with this tiny bundle of perfection. 

I had always dreamt of the life I would give my children and the kind of mother I would be.  I jumped right in.  It was an adjustment, but I was willing to adjust for her.   Even though we had the normal baby problems like not sleeping well at night and crying for unknown reasons, I really thought being a mommy was a walk in the park.  She was 8 months old when my jeans started to get a little tighter.  I took a pregnancy test and almost died right there on the toilet.  HOW could this happen???  I was breastfeeding and everything.  I was not supposed to get pregnant again this quickly. 

To say I was in shock would be an understatement.  I was not ready for this.  I was afraid that Bobby would be unhappy.  I  was a little angry with God that He had allowed this to happen.  This was the first crack in my perfect little life.  Eventually we adjusted to the idea that we were going to have another baby, even though the one we had was still nursing and sleeping in the bed with mommy.  I started preparing for new baby right away, but I was a little resentful of this little baby in my belly, that was making me feel cruel to the little baby that was in my arms.  I felt like I had to rush her to grow up now and I felt like she wouldn't get all the babying that she needed.  I began to really doubt that God knew what he was doing.

There were nights that I cried a 1000 tears of regret, when I had been cruel to my daughter, because I was so tired from my pregnancy, and I blamed the new baby and the One who had given him to me.  My doubt in God began to grow and my insecurity as a mother began to mushroom.  The more insecure I was in my ability the more cruel I was to my daughter.  Sometimes I hated her for making me feel like a bad mother and sometimes I hated the baby growing bigger in my belly every day.  I was not ready.  I hadn't even become a good mother to the baby I had.  How could God want me to be a mother of another?

Well, none of that mattered because there was a little boy on his way and we had to deal with what was in front of us.  Our second child was born when our oldest was 17mos old and still nursing.  He was beautiful and pleasant and I was in love with him.

I remember the moment when I knew I was in over my head though. After a couple weeks being stuck in the house with 2 little ones,  I thought it would be a good idea to load up us all up and tackle shopping.  I nursed the baby, bundled him up and strapped him in his car sear.  Then I dressed big sister, put her shoes and coat on and grabbed my purse, baby bag and keys. The baby starting screaming bloody murder and I realize he had a dirty diaper.  Unbuckle the car seat and pull baby out...  He had pooped all out the sides of his diaper.  Undress Him and change his diaper, find new clothes, put him back in the car seat and buckle him in.  Now I'm feeling stressed, depressed, tired and just want to stay home, but I've committed to this, so go we must.  Drive to Target with a baby screaming in the backseat and a big girl looking worriedly at her baby brother... even she knows this is a bad idea.  Pull into the parking lot, take the baby out of the car seat and nurse him.  Fifteen minutes later, after putting him back in the car seat, we find a buggy and put him in the back and big girl in the front, all while he's crying, and I'm dying of mortification, because I know every one in Target thinks I'm the worst mother ever to have children and most of the time I agree with them.  We attempted to walk around for a few minutes, but after realizing this was not going to end, we left the store with nothing and piled back in the car, while the baby cried all the way home.  When I got home that day I decided I would never, ever leave the house again. 

This was the beginning of my serious doubts and misgivings of my marriage as well.  I was struggling as a mother with two little babies and I was seriously regretting my choices in life.  I needed my husband, but he was busy.  He was working full time and had accepted a position at our church as youth pastor that required a lot of time and commitment.  I was angry with him for being gone and I was jealous because we had always planned to do ministry together.  I wanted to help him change the world, but I couldn't even pull myself together to go to Target.  My anger grew daily.  The man I loved was becoming a stranger and my happy, little life was losing all it's luster.  The Honeymoon was over.

I remember one night when he was getting ready for a youth event.  I was so mad at him for leaving me alone again.  I was seriously regretting marriage and children.  I SUCKED at this and I couldn't function by myself and I wasn't doing any of the important things that I had set out to do.  Having children wasn't supposed to require so much.  I don't remember what I said to him, but I will never forget the look in his eyes, when he finally broke his silence.  For the first time I could see life from his perspective.  Here was the same beautiful man that I had said yes to.  The man who was changing right before my eyes from the man I had dated and married to a Father and a husband who's shoulders were weighted down with responsibility.  He was a man who was trying to do his best to do all it all.  He was a man that was trying to make his wife happy, be a good father, work full time and be a mentor to a group of teenagers and he was overwhelmed too. 

In that moment my heart broke.  Instead of falling more in love with this beautiful man, my love was dying.  My love was based on a fairytale.  My love was conditional.  My love was selfish.  My love wasn't love at all. 

I ran to my closet (that's where I go to meet with the Lord) and I cried and poured out my heart to him.  I confessed all my junk to him and I screamed and raged at him for allowing me to have this beautiful life that I was destroying.  Why would He allow someone so ill-equipped to be a mother and a wife.  WHY????????????? 

As I lay on that floor that night crying out to God, He met me there, and like the night on the bridge when I wanted to end it all, He spoke to my heart and reassured me that He could help me, and His word would be my guide.  I was never meant to do all this in my own strength and I had been too stubborn to cry out for help.  I had to learn a valuable lesson that night, that I try to remember every day of my life...  God is waiting for me to seek him.  He will always be found when I seek him. He will always answer when I call.  He will always help me when I am overwhelmed. 

"I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." Psalms 34:4

The Word of God is full of promises to His people.  He promises to be a Shepherd to his sheep, but we sheep have a character flaw that makes it hard for Him to lead us...  we like to stray.

I had no idea what being a mother was all about.  I had no idea what being a wife was all about.  I really believed that my husband's job in life was to fill me and make me happy.  I had placed a burden on him that he couldn't bear.  He was never meant to complete me.  There is only one who can fill me.  There is only one who be all the things that I need.  I forget daily.

From that night on the Word of God was my guide and He began to teach me, lead me and guide me.  I still mess up.  I'm still learning.  I still need daily reminders, but God is faithful. 

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and without reproach; and it shall be given him."  James 1:5

Even though the Honeymoon was over and the fairytale had ended something more amazing has taken it's place.  Real Love.  Selfless Love.  Love that puts the other person above self.

"Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, love does not boast, love is not arrogant.  Love does not behave itself rudely, SEEKS NOT HER OWN WAY, is not easily provoked, love keeps NO RECORD OF WRONGS;...Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things."  I Cor, 13:4-7

I had expectations that did not resemble real life and I held onto them until those expectations threatened to destroy my beautiful little life.  I expected to be a good mother.  I didn't have a clue.  I expected a fairytale marriage.  I had no clue.  I had no idea how hard all of this was going to be, but I have had to learn to love the hard, because it is the very thing that draws me to my knees and closer to the true lover of my soul.  Jesus.  He is everything I need. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Redeeming Love.

This is the rest of the story... 

I wish could say that my transformation from dark angel to saint was immediate, but it wasn't.  I had no idea that the Devil likes to go to church too and he knows just who to saddle up to.  It didn't take long for the good little church boys to find out what kind of girl had shown up in their midst and I found out all too quickly how much they had in common with the bad boys.  I didn't yet know that my worth and value was not in what I had to offer, but who I was in Christ and there are some habits that die hard, like looking for love. 

I had never wanted to be a hypocrite so at 21 I left the church for good.  I decided if I was always going to be a child of darkness, then that's just who I would be.  My heart battered and bruised more than ever before I plunged head long into the darkness.  I left Jesus, but he wouldn't leave me.  Sometimes at night after I had gotten really drunk I would pull my Bible out and start reading.  I would cry and wish that I could be a good person.  The boys who knew my number wouldn't leave me alone and I just didn't know how to say no.  I wasn't worth saying No.  I wasn't worth a decent guy.  I wasn't worth anything, but a few minutes of pleasure. 

For a second job an old friend offered me a preschool teaching position and I fell in love with the kids that were in my class, but it didn't take long for my friend to recognize that I had an alcohol problem.  She called me into her office and she said, "Be in church on Sunday or don't come in on Monday."  I'm sure she didn't know what to do with me and she just wanted to help me.  So, I showed up on Sunday Morning...  Which was even harder than walking into church the first time.  These people knew me now and they knew what I had been doing.  I'm sure there had been rumors of why I ran away in the first place, but here I was and I couldn't leave now.  I would have done anything to keep my job, because I loved those kids and I just thought being their teacher was the closest I would ever come to being a mommy. 

I left church that morning knowing I had to go back that night.  I felt pulled back.  That night I went back to church and I really can't remember anything about it, but I got in the car and started the drive home.  We lived about 45 minutes away at the time, so I had plenty of time to think.  At one point on the drive home I could see a bridge coming up and I prayed, "Lord, if you can not change me, then kill me."  I was ready to drive that car over the bridge.  I wanted to be free. 

I know people say you can't hear the audible voice of God, but if He is God I guess He can do what He wants and I heard Him.  His message came through loud and clear.  "My Word (the Bible) can change you."  Well, if that was His answer and He was willing to spare my life, I might as well give it one last go.  I devoured His Word from that point on.

When I started reading the Bible for myself the things I found there astounded me.  I couldn't believe some of these people and the things they did.  I couldn't believe that God would use such a shady bunch of people and I found hope there.  During my day job when the little people would nap I would get my Bible out and read for 2 hours.  I read the Old Testament and I was shocked, but what blew my mind was a small section in Matthew chapter 1.  It was just a list of names.  Nothing exciting, but I couldn't believe one of the names that was listed there.  Surely her story wasn't something to be proud of. 

In Matthew chapter 1 before introducing us to the Savior about to be born, the author gives us a genealogy.  A list of names, a family tree.  In verse 5 it says, "Salmon begat Boaz by Rahab..."

Rahab was a harlot (prostitute) from Jericho.  She had great faith in the God of Israel and she was instrumental in helping Israel capture the city of Jericho.  Because of her help 2 spies promised her that if she would hang a scarlet thread out of her window when they came to take the city, she and all that were with her would be saved. 

Her story is wonderful and amazing and you think it's over at the end of Joshua when the Children of Israel have conquered the city and taken Rahab and her family into their camp.  BUT Her story is far from over.  In fact it's what we have to piece together ourselves that makes her story and GOD'S extravagant grace so amazing.

In Matthew we find out that someone married Rahab the foreign harlot.  Can you imagine how that went.  From family to friends I'm sure Salmon was getting an earful.  Everyone repeating the same thing, "You know what kind of woman she is, Why would you marry her?!", "You're going to regret this." 

But what they didn't understand is when a woman who has worn a scarlet letter her whole life meets a God who gives her the love she's always longed for and the worth that no man could give her... She's a new creation.  She's not that old harlot she once was...  She's been changed. 

It's been argued that the man who married her was one of the spies that she helped in Jericho.  We don't really know much about him, but I'm sure EVERY man and woman in that camp knew what kind of woman she was.  Salmon must of saw something in Rahab that others didn't see.  Maybe it was her blind faith in His God?  I have no idea, but one thing I know for sure, God was more than good to Rahab.  Rahab became the mother of a son named Boaz, who had an equally beautiful story, but for another day.  Boaz had a son named Obed.  Obed had a son named Jesse and Jesse had a son named David.  KING DAVID.  A man after God's own heart.  A man handpicked by God to be King of Israel. 

It blows my mind that God chose a foreign prostitute from Jericho to be the great, great, great grandmother of King David.

When I read all this my heart began to hope that my scarlet letter could be removed.  That one day God would send a man, who would see more in me, someone who would love me like Jesus loves me.  Someone who would want me to be the mother of his children.  I was 24 when I began to pray for that husband and that future.  Not too long after that an old friend came back into my life.  We started going to the same church and He had recently given His life to Christ.  He was so nice to me.  He knew who I had been.  He knew everything about me.  He was always kind.

On night in October he asked me on a date.  I knew the moment that I said yes that this is the one that God had sent to answer my prayers.   Our first date was what any first date should be.  He brought me roses and opened doors and treated me like a lady.  Healing began that night.  He held my hand and he hugged me goodnight, but he left it at that.  We were basically inseparable after that night. 

On Christmas we were sitting in the living room with his family when he got down on his knee and asked me to marry him.  I couldn't believe this was really happening to me.  I had thought I would have to move away and start over fresh where no one knew who I was.  Instead God gave me a man who knew everything and loved me anyway.  Just like Jesus that Christmas so many years before when I gave my life to a God who knew everything and loved me anyway. 

I'm sure that Rahab believed her life would always be selling her body to make a living for her family.  In her wildest dreams she couldn't imagine the plans that an unseen God had for her.  I'm sure she's in heaven right now at the feet of her Savior rejoicing in that He would choose her to be a part of His story. 


There's another story in the Bible that reminds me of Rahab's story and my own.  

"And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began  to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with fragrant oil." 

The man who had invited Jesus to his house thought to himself, "If Jesus were a prophet he would know what manner of woman this is who is touching him."  Luke 7:39

Jesus says, "Therefore I say to you, her sins which are many, are forgiven, for she loves much.  But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little."  Luke 7:47

It's been 15 years since God made me a promise that He could change me and I wake up everyday and look around and I can't believe my life.  I can't believe how good God has been to me.  His Word is changing me.  It's not an immediate work.  It's a daily thing, but through His word I have found people, just like me, who were extravagantly loved and I found the strength and courage to believe that if God would choose a harlot from Jericho to be part of His family surely He would want me too.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Thanks for messing up my Christmas.

She's still there.   On the inside of me that 19 year old mess of a girl is still there.  We somehow coexist.  Sometimes, I feel like I might have multiple personality disorder, but really it's just who I was and who I am.  I tried for a long time to lose her, to hide her, to forget her, but I know I never will.  She is who I am.  She is who I would still be. 

She's the girl who made a few bad decision early in life and thought that those things would forever define her, so she became what defined her.  She was the girl that people talked about.  You know the one...  the one with the reputation.  The one that girls didn't like and boys did (for a few minutes anyway).  She was the one you didn't introduce to your mom or talk about to your friends.  She was the secret. 

She was the girl who partied hard.  The one who cussed like a sailor and could outdrink the boys.  She was the girl that drank til she passed out, so that she wouldn't cry herself to sleep.  She was the girl who counted and tried to keep track of all her sins, because if she tortured herself enough she might one day be able to change.  Change never came.  The next day, the next night, the next time it was always the same.  Always looking for love, but forever settling for a boy's momentary lust.

She was the girl who hated herself, so she totally understood why everyone else did.  She was the girl that mothers are embarrassed of and ask themselves, "What did I do wrong?"  She was the girl that you didn't invite to go anywhere with you, because you never know how she's going to act. 

20 years ago this Christmas that mess of a girl, who felt worthless, plopped down on the couch at her Mom's house expecting to hang with the fam for the night.  Play some games, have some laughs, veg out on momma's famous homemade fudge and just be normal for a bit.  This Christmas they changed the plans...  They were going to church.  WHAT??????  Who goes to church on Christmas????  And what is this newfound fascination with Jesus????  I wanted to scream... "Why are you ruining my Christmas?"  They asked me to come along.  I was highly skeptical about that.  I didn't know a whole lot about church and Jesus, but I knew this one thing...  God knows everything.  I figured I should probably stay away from His house.  It's one thing for Him to know it all, but for me to just walk in and defile his house was a new level of wrong.  Girls like me don't go to church.

There was no resisting my tiny momma when she was determined though and off we went to Church on Christmas...  It was a little surreal.  I couldn't believe that they would even want me to go with them to church.  I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself, surely they were too.  I wasn't the kind of kid you paraded around to everyone.  To make matters 1000 times worse they walked in the doors of this big, beautiful church and kept walking all the way to the 3rd row.  There were 25 rows before that we could have sat in, but here we are at the very front of the church.  So close to the front that I could actually see sweat on the forehead of the Preacher.  I couldn't turn back.  I didn't even know anyone in this place.  I couldn't leave.  There was my sweet, little momma, beaming up at me as if she had just won the lotto.  What in the world was she so happy about?  My stomach was sick.  I had to concentrate real hard just so I didn't puke everywhere.

Eventually after singing a few Christmas songs, that I only at that moment realized had always been about Jesus, the Preacher stands up and starts talking.  I really was in a daze and I can't remember all that He said, but in my haze I heard, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believed on Him would not perish, but have everlasting life."  This was NOT what I was expecting to hear.  You mean the whole reason we celebrate Christmas is because God sent His son for us.  For me.  Me.  This mess of a girl.  The worthless, disaster of a girl. The one who allowed herself to be used and abused and thrown away like garbage.  The one no one loved, except for the people who brought her into this world.  How could God love me?

At the end of his message the preacher asked if anyone wanted to come down to the front and accept Jesus as Savior.  Still in a complete daze I realized my arm had gone up of it's own accord, betraying me in front of all these people.  Someone grabbed my arm and asked if I wanted them to walk to the front with them.  My mouth said yes, while my head was screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOOO".  It was too late though.  The Preacher was already zoned in on me and down the rest of the aisle I walked.  "Do you want to give your life to Christ?"...  Honestly I have NO IDEA what I want to do, my head was saying, but my mouth said "yes". 

The ONLY thing I knew at that moment was, I had just heard for the first time that the God, who KNEW EVERYTHING, said in His own words from the Bible, that His love for the whole world (including me), was so great,  that He sent His son, so that my sins could be forgiven.  The ONLY thing I knew for sure in that moment was that I wanted forgiveness more than ANYTHING in this world.  So, if that meant following Jesus...  sign me up and show me how. 

It's been 20 years this Christmas since I decided to follow Jesus.  I have fallen, He picks me up.  I have strayed, He finds me.  I have been a hypocrite, He loves me anyway.  I have screwed up royally a million times and I have been forgiven every single time.  My walk has at times been the stuff of ridicule and scorn, but not by my Savior.  His Word has healed me, comforted me, and set me free.  It's been 20 years, but I'm still that girl.  I will not forget her.  I don't think God would let me.  I'm that girl that He loved as much that day, when He knew all my ugly secrets, as He does today. 

His love has changed me.  His Word has been my guide.  His hands have held me.  His GRACE (unmerited favor) had sustained me.  If it were not for Jesus messing up my Christmas 20 years ago my life would look very different today. 

"Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be TO ALL PEOPLE.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a SAVIOR, which is CHRIST THE LORD." Luke 2:10-11

I'd like to thank my Mom, who is now in Heaven with Jesus, for messing up my Christmas and dragging me to Church to meet her Savior.  I will forever owe you a debt of gratitude.  A baby changes everything!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Even so, Come.

I love Christmas.  I love the twinkle lights, the tree, the decorations, the nativity scene, and of course I love the presents.  I love to give them and I love to receive them (just being honest).  I love shopping for the right gift, I love decorating every nook and cranny of my house and I love getting together with family and friends.  Christmas makes me feel GOOD.  In our house we try to focus on the reason for the season... The birth of our Savior.  We always talk about why we in this family celebrate and what different things mean to us, but we all get a little distracted by all the other fun stuff of the season. 

This year in an effort to put more focus on the reason we celebrate the Hubs suggested we incorporate Advent into our holiday season.  I thought that was a great idea so I started searching Pinterest for Advent activities to do with the family.  WOW...  there are 1000's of great ideas out there, so many in fact, it's hard to choose what to do...One could get a little, dare I say, distracted. 

Advent - a coming into place, view, or being; arrival.

On the first day we talked about Isaiah 11:1 and the Jesse Tree. We did a craft to go along with it and help them visualize the verses we were talking about.  We talked about how Isaiah was looking forward to the Messiah, who would come from the family tree (line) of Jesse, who was the father of King David.  Isaiah 11 has a beautiful description of Jesus and Heaven and the glory of His future Kingdom and I was reminded of Revelation 21 and John talking about the new Heaven and the new Earth, so we turned to those verses and I read them.  We talked about looking forward to no more pain, no more tears, no more disease and no more death.  We talked about seeing Memaw (my mom) again and how wonderful that day would be.  It's not hard to look forward to Heaven. 

Later that day I felt this nagging feeling that I had left something out.  I felt like I had somehow missed the point of the looking forward.  I went back to those verses again and I saw it...  The Advent of the Messiah. 

"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying "BEHOLD (LOOK), the tabernacle of God IS WITH MAN, and HE WILL DWELL WITH THEM, and they shall be His people, and God HIMSELF shall be with them, AND HE SHALL BE THEIR GOD." Rev. 21:3

I missed it.  I missed it, just like the whole world missed it the first time Jesus came.  In that little stable, laying in the animals feed trough was the SAVIOR OF THE WORLD...  Immanuel, which means GOD WITH US and they missed it.  No one came to worship him that night.  There was no room for Him. 

Why did they miss him?  They were distracted.  They didn't even know what they were looking for.  The climax of all they had been waiting for happened that night.  The long awaited Messiah had made his debut and NO ONE NOTICED. 

They were looking for a warrior, they wanted to be set free, but they didn't really want Immanuel (God with us).  They wanted the King of kings and victory over their enemies.

That's what we as their contemporaries want.  We look forward to Jesus coming again to wipe away our tears, to vanquish our enemies, to bring us to a perfect place, BUT WE DON'T look forward to GOD WITH US.  

We as people haven't changed at all since Moses brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, with a cloudy pillar (God's presence) by day and pillar of fire by night.  They wanted rescue, NOT GOD.  When it was time for Moses to go up on that mountain with God, they said "yeah you go, we will stay down here." 

Romans 3:11 says, "There is none that understand, there is none that seek after God." 

The good news is that Jesus came anyway.  He came that night...  Immanuel (God with us).  He came and He lived for us and died for us.  People who rejected and despised Him.  He rose again and He went to prepare a place for us.  He is coming again.  Coming to redeem a people who are too distracted to remember their King is coming.  He is coming and He will be with us.  God with us.

This Christmas season as I gaze upon all the old familiar things and I excitedly anticipate all the beauty and the fun of the season, I will try to keep in the forefront of my mind what exactly I'm looking forward too.  The baby in the manger happened long ago in a time and place faraway.  The man on the cross, who defied death, and ascended into Heaven is a memory.  We look forward in longing for our God who is making all things new for us.  We look forward to the God who would make his dwelling place with us.  We celebrate the King who is coming.  Even so, Come, Lord Jesus, Come!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Let's be honest.

If I could have hugged her through the phone I would.  The text she sent was one of utter defeat...  Surely, she couldn't be this sucky of a mom, that she can't just pick up a couple of groceries at the store, without everyone erupting in tears?  That epic lie that all new mommies or even us old mommies believe...  everyone else is doing this better than me. 

The problem is no one has been honest with my beautiful young friend...  The truth is when we have little babies and toddlers:

We cry everyday.

We yell and lose control.

We hide in the closet and eat candy bars and drink coke.

We don't measure up to our own standards.

We struggle to do simple tasks like grocery shop, cook dinner, and keep our houses clean.

We hate whining, but don't know how to make it stop.

We feel inadequate.  We believe our children would be better off without us.

We hate life one moment and are overwhelmed with joy the next.

We are lonely.  We are tired.  We are scared.  We feel defeated.

I remember when my 4th child was a baby...  I thought it would be a breeze because I had done this 3 times before, but it wasn't.  He was different.  He cried non-stop for 6 weeks and he and I stayed in my room, while the world went on around us.  I felt insane being locked up in that room, but that was the only way either of us would survive.   And I worried about my other children.  I worried that they would think I didn't love them, because I spent all my time with the baby.  I was silly to worry though and I realized that when they would fret over him when I wasn't close by.  They would come and find me and say, "Mommy, the baby needs you." 

I felt helpless during that time.  I couldn't do the simplest things and I was sure, that God had made a mistake, giving me these little blessing, because I was going would ruin them and they would need life long counselling to overcome their crazy mother.   I needed help to do everything... all I could do was sit in a rocking chair with a little baby and try to make him content.  I couldn't make dinner, I couldn't clean house or do laundry.  I called this little guy my "sling baby", as he was ALWAYS in the sling.  When I did go to the grocery story I would actually nurse him in the sling so that he would be quiet and content (I have only admitted that to a couple people)... that's way embarrassing, but it's what I had to do.  We didn't go anywhere or do anything that wasn't absolutely essential.   Thankfully, this did eventually pass and life got back to normal hard. 

There is one truth that has carried through every hour, day and year of being a mother though... and that is THIS IS HARD.  It's like beautiful torture.  Believe me there is nothing I would rather do with my life.  I love my children more than any other thing (besides their Dad), and I know I am extremely blessed to be a mother, BUT IT IS HARD.  Every day I know that I am in over my head.  I know I am not equipped and I KNOW that I have done things that have caused scars. 

So, I'm going to share with you some truths that God has shown me through the years and the tears...

God never intended to give us a life that was easy.  He actually wants us dependent upon him.

My hope is not in myself being a good mother...  "Be of good courage, and he will strengthen your heart, all you that HOPE IN THE LORD." Psalms 31:24

My help comes from the Lord.  "God is our refuge (hiding place) and strength, a very (abundantly available) HELP in times of trouble." Psalms 46:1

We have a big job to do.  It is the most important, influential job in the whole world, there is no doubt about that.  We are right to want to do a good job, but we must understand that we can not do it alone.  God is our help and a lot of times when we pray for His help, he will provide a flesh and blood person, who wants to help us.  Instead of calling out the Lord we try to do it on our own, but we need to call out.  First, to the Lord and then accept all the help He provides. 

We also need to understand that we can not "do it all"...  that is a lie of our modern culture and new moms are plagued with guilt because they can not do it all.   A mommy with a little baby is very limited to what she can do.  There should be no guilt in that. 

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in his bosom, and SHALL GENTLY LEAD THOSE WITH YOUNG." Isaiah 40:11

God calls himself a shepherd (psalms 23) and he talks about leading us beside the still water and MAKING US LIE DOWN in the green pasture.  In Isaiah he talks about what he expects from mommies with littles...  He leads them gently.  He doesn't push them or prod them to do more or be faster.  In fact, God MAKES THEM LIE DOWN.  When we would drive ourselves to DO MORE, God says "slow down and rest". 

Look at how he treats the young lambs!  He holds them in His arms and carries them in His bosom.  Do you feel like you can never put that baby down?  Maybe that's just the way it's supposed to be.  Maybe it's not fussy baby who needs to adjust?!  Maybe it's Mommy.  Maybe we turn off the advice of the whole world and DO WHAT WORKS!!!  Maybe that's the way God would want us to do it???

So, the next time that the enemy tells you that your are a horrible mother and tries to steal your joy, remember that God is your hope and your help.  Remember that His GRACE is enough to cover all your mistakes.  Remember that THE JOY OF THE LORD is your strength.  Remember that because of that baby in a manger there is NO CONDEMNATION IN CHRIST (Rom. 8:1) and God gave you these little blessing because He knew that "through Christ you CAN DO ALL THINGS."

If you were perfect and had it all together you wouldn't need God and He wouldn't receive the glory.  So, Mommy you might suck, I know I do sometimes, but God is ABLE to overcome all that and one day His name will be praised for the young man or young woman that you helped him raise...  To God be the GLORY!!! 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Dysfuntional Family.

My greatest accomplishment in life was going to be raising good kids.  I just knew I was going to be good at this.  I had worked at a daycare for 4 years and basically that qualified me to diagnose every problem child and what their parents had done wrong.  I was that person that would look at your child and frown at their bad behavior and secretly tell myself that my child "would NEVER do that".  I felt being a Christian qualified me to do a better job than other people, because doesn't the Bible say, "Train your child in the way they should go and when they are old they won't depart from it."  I don't know how old, old is but it looks like it might be OLLLLLDDDD.  I thought I had it all figured out.  I was going to raise missionaries, pastors, and super star Christian athletes. 

If my greatest accomplishment is raising good kids, then my greatest fear in life is WHAT IF?  What if I royally screw these people up?  The worst moment of my life was realizing, shortly after my oldest was born, that I SUCK AT THIS.  I'm selfish and I have anger issues and like I need sleep and I just want to be left alone.  Sometimes (well a lot), I yell and scream over NOTHING.  Sometimes my mental issues interfere in my plan for perfect parenting. 

Just as an example I had a freak out on my 12 year old daughter the other day, because she wouldn't play a game of hide & seek with her younger brothers.  I went in my room and cried like a baby and asked myself WHY are you acting like this...  I realized it's because my baby girl is growing up and in a few years she won't be here and in a few years after that they will all be grown and gone and we won't have any rowdy, little children running around the house screaming...  ALL OF THAT over a preteen not wanting to play a game.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME???

It didn't take too long after entering into this parenting thing to realize that there was no way I could accomplish my life's work of raising good kids, because I am not a good person.  I can try real hard and I can fake goodness on the outside, so that people are convinced of my goodness, but God and I know my heart. 

The Bible says, "There's none good, not one." and "Our hearts are deceitfully wicked" and "There's none who seek God." 

Parenting has exposed my sinful heart more than anything ever could before it.  I've been humbled and convinced that "no good thing dwells in me".  Where does that leave my life's work of raising good kids?  Fear dominated my days and nights.  I fretted and worried about their future.  I tried to control every aspect of their lives and protect them from any influences I deemed negative.  I had no peace, worrying that they would be bad.  I fixated on character flaws and did Internet searches to see if they were displaying signs of some future disorder.   I was consumed with fear, so I parented in fear.  My children knew they couldn't do anything right and felt hopeless under my scrutiny...  Much like I felt when I tried to work to earn God's favor.  I have lived so much of my adult life trying to be good enough for God and I always seemed to fall short.

All that changed one day.  The Bible says, "He sets the captives free."  I guess my self-imposed prison sentence was over and the Bible was the key to set me free..  Reading Ephesians 1 for a Bible study I was doing, rocked my world. 

"Blessed be the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." vs 3-4

You should really go read the whole chapter, but I'm going focus on this one thing...  God chose me and blessed me and MADE ME BLAMELESS.  This is NOT a work I did on my own.  This is actually ALL GOD on my behalf.  I am not only blameless, but I am LOVED.   None of which is dependent upon my good behavior.  This is the gospel (good news)...  that I am now accepted BECAUSE of the work that Jesus Christ did on the cross. 

When I soaked in the truth that God's grace was enough to cover my imperfect, not having it all together, emotionally handicapped self, I started to walk in that grace and live in that grace and then somehow that grace transformed my parenting.  I realized the one thing that God the Father did that I needed to emulate was lavishing my children with GRACE.  Letting them know that there was nothing that they could do to separate them from my love.  Letting them know that I don't have it all together and that I make mistakes, so I know they will too.  Letting them know that it doesn't matter what the future holds, my love for them will never diminish. 

This changed the way I read the Bible as well...  I remember the first time I read Genesis through the filter of God's AMAZING grace.  The people transformed before my eyes.  People like Abraham, who had once been a hero of the faith,  turned into the flawed human he had always been,  loved and blessed by an incredibly faithful, redeeming God.  As I continued to read in each family I saw the same exact thing...  seriously flawed humans loved by God and guided by His hand.   The real breakthrough for me was looking at  Jacob and his 12 dysfunctional sons.

Jacob was not an all-star Father.  His sons would probably be in prison today.  They were a motley crew of sinfulness...  but they were chosen by God to be "THE" 12 tribes of Israel.  The story of their lives is so messy I sometimes blush in embarrassment and wonder just what was God thinking when he chose this bunch, but God did and I'm personally thankful.  No matter what my children become in the future I can always look to Jacob's family and have peace that NOTHING is past God's forgiveness and grace. 

Fast forward to that night in Bethlehem and those shepherds out in that field and the angel who said "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to YOU this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."  and then a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, GOODWILL toward men!" Luke 2:10-11,14

Nothing had changed...  Men had not suddenly become good and deserving of God's grace.  He interjected Himself into our stories and redeemed all of our ugliness and laid it on His Son.  That baby that came into the world 2000 years ago changed everything.   He redeems our mess and brings beauty from our ashes.  Because of that baby in a manger, who later hung upon that cross, and rose again to conquer the grave, I can have joy, peace, and rest that extends to my children.  To God be the glory...  A baby changes everything!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Do you feel me?

Please permit me a moment of complete honesty...  There have been moments, even seasons of intense disbelief in my life.  On the outside it may appear that I have a strong and secure faith in Jesus Christ, but that's not always true.  I did not grow up in a Christian home.  I was 19 when I decided to follow Jesus and I had NO IDEA what that meant.  I remember the first time I experienced complete and utter disappointment and doubt in this unseen God that I had decided to give my life to...  there was a girl in our church, she was beautiful (inside and out), she was an awesome athlete, she was kind, her smile would light up the room and she made everyone feel seen, she was in the prime of her life, enjoying high school, and out of nowhere, she was diagnosed with cancer.   I couldn't believe it.  As a church and community we prayed for her, we fasted, we cried and we prayed some more.  She battled so bravely.  When you would go to see her in the hospital she would ask you how you were doing... as if anything I was going through could compare to her pain.  Tana Jo left this world way too young.   I could not believe that this God I had decided to follow would not intercede in this.  My faith was rocked.  

There have been many times in the last 20 years that I have been disappointed by God, there have been times of complete darkness, and there have been times of pain and hopelessness.  More than that, there are times of nothingness.  Times when I don't feel God, when I wonder what I'm holding on to.  When I find myself floating in a vast, empty space and I don't know how to get back to the place I was, when I was so sure all of this is real. 

I'm sure you've all heard or read the story of old Job: 

"There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was BLAMELESS and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil." Job 1:1

Job was a good man, a loving father, and he had great possessions.  The Bible says that he was blameless before the Lord and all that he had was a blessing from God, but all that was stripped away from Job.  Many times we read the first chapter and we praise Job, because in all of Job's personal tragedy he does not sin against God or speak ill of his treatment.  He says, "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked shall I return, The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." vs 21.  But there's a lot more to this story.   After losing his 10 sons and daughters, all of his possessions and then his health Job does what any of us would do...  He sits down in the dust and despairs for his life.  Fast-forward to chapter 38, after God listens for 36 chapter to 4 different men expel all of their earthly wisdom, He decides to speak up for himself and boy does he have some things to say. 

"Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: Who is this that darkens counsel by words WITHOUT knowledge?  Now prepare yourself like a man; I WILL QUESTION YOU, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell me if you have understanding." vs 1-3

The Lord then goes on for 4 more chapters asking Job question after question that He can not answer until finally Job confesses "I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from you.  You asked, 'Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me."  Job 42:1-3

Job realizes what we all need to...  God is God and we are not.  Our understanding is limited.  We see things from our earthly, limited, mortal perspective.  When we try to understand God, apart from faith and His own WORD about himself, we will sit down in the dust and despair. 

What do we do when we lack faith, when we've lost trust?  When sin has separated us from God or when painful situations that we don't understand make us doubt His goodness?  What do we do when we are so far away from the faith that saved us and we have no idea how to get back?  When it feels like a season of darkness will last an eternity.  When your prayers go unanswered and doubt steals your joy?  What can we do? 

James 4:8 says, "Draw near to God and he will draw near to you..."

But how do we draw near to God?  The bible says "If my people will humble themselves and pray..."
Prayer is an act of humility before God.  It's a confession that we need God.  Like Job, answering God and admitting he didn't know anything, we have to understand that we don't understand it all.  The Bible says that FAITH comes by hearing the Word of God.  The faith to believe, in a God who's ways are not our ways, only comes from reading the Bible, but there's another nugget of wisdom in God's word that I believe has helped me draw near to God and to FEEL His presence more fully than I have before in the past...

Hidden in his little verse is a treasure worth more than all my earthly goods...  The truth hidden in these few words gives me access to the God of this universe and well, you could say it gives the key to God's heart...  what is this treasure you ask???

"But YOU are HOLY, O YOU who inhabits the praises of Israel."  Psalm 22:3

First we must come to an awareness of God's holiness. 

The best that the dictionary can come to is- having a spiritually pure quality, entitled to worship.

That doesn't even begin to help us understand that God is not like us.  He is good, He is pure, He is all wise, all knowing.  Like Job we have to come to God with an understanding that He is God and we are not.  We have no real understanding apart from what He reveals to us.  The second part of this verse says He inhabits praise.

Inhabits- to live or dwell in. 

The God of the universe dwells in the praises of His people.  When we recognize His God(ness) and we come to Him in humility and we exalt (praise) and lift up who HE is, He draws near and makes a home in our praise.  Praise is the key to God's heart. 

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him and bless his name." Psalm 100:4

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect (at peace) with him..." 2 Chron. 16:9

Our circumstances can not determine our understanding of God.  When life doesn't look the way we think it should, when pain rules our days and tears consume our nights, when we don't understand the ways of an invisible, all-knowing, Holy God we tend to stray away.  We run away from God and hide like Adam and Eve.  We doubt His goodness and forget His grace, but this is not the way it has to be.  Sometimes I don't feel God, but that doesn't change that He is always holding me in his hands.  Jesus said 'No one can pluck you out of my Father's hands."  Paul said "Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  It's us who stray, but we can find our way back to Him when we humble ourselves and pray.  When we enter into His courts with praise and thanksgiving He promises to draw near to us and that's when we begin to feel His presence all over again.

Find something to praise the Lord about today.  Look past that thing that's causing you to doubt and the pain that is blinding you from the goodness of our God.  Search your life for evidence of His grace and praise Him for who He is and do not stop until you have felt God draw near to you. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Filled up.

I'm not gonna lie...  eating right isn't my fave and exercise (well, it sucks).  I would rather be doing so many other things with my time, but I'm alllllmooost 40 and the pounds pile up quickly and do not like to go away easily anymore.  Those shells and cheese, I cooked for the kids tonight, were looking delectable, but I didn't even lick the spoon and that 25 minute workout I did today,  I'm sure is a walk in the park to other people, but my heart was beating out of my chest and my face was bright red and dripping with sweat.  I'm thrilled about the 3 pounds I've managed to lose in the last 3 weeks, but I really just wish I could magically go back to pre-kid size and not have to do all this.  It was so cool when I could eat a snicker bar and drink a coke, without having to think about how it would affect me later, but it just doesn't work that way anymore.  I have to make a change.

A couple weeks ago a friend talked to me about the micro diet... I plugged my info into a calculator and a site gave me personalized numbers to keep track of.  The theory is that as long as your eat your micros (fat, protein, carbs) in the right amount then you should start losing weight.  I thought what the heck, why not give it a shot.  So, I opened up the Myfitnesspal app and started keeping track of my numbers everyday.  My calories are down, but the weirdest thing is I hardly feel hungry.  I thought I would starve to death and always be hungry.  I thought it was going to be so hard to resist junk, but the opposite is true, I don't have any cravings.  WHAT??????

Even at the Thanksgiving feast and the following days of leftovers I really didn't crave anything.  I had dessert that day, but it wasn't a must and the next few days when the pies and cakes lingered around I really had no urge to eat them.  What gives???

Tonight when I was making dinner I realized that I wasn't really even hungry.  I actually felt satisfied.  I didn't feel like I was missing out on shells and cheese or even my favorite mashed potatoes.  Those beans and quinoa that I had made for myself actually made me happy.  I'm not thinking about ice cream and cookies.  I'm not dreaming about Snickers or Heath bars.  I feel full and satisfied. 

I'm no scientist, but I have read that the brain tells us when we are hungry.  The brain really doesn't care what we feed it and often times the brain wants nothing more than to be satisfied with junk.  The problem is that there is no nutrition in the junk that our brain tells us to eat and so after a while our body cries out for more and the brain sends out another craving message, because we need protein, fat and carbs in the right amounts to keep our bodies running at the optimum level, we will continue to get this message for more.  What is going on in my body right now is affecting my brain.  My body is receiving what it needs to function and my brain is sending out a different message.  My brain is telling me that I don't need anything else, because I'm full.  I've also read that good, healthy food actually has chemicals that tell our brains when we are full and when we have had enough...  I'm not sure about you, but Lays potato chips  have NEVER told me when I was full.  Can't eat just one, right?! 

Junk is NEVER enough.  Junk never makes me feel satisfied.  I always want more. 

Well, tonight when I was standing at the stove that feeling of being full, got me to thinking, I haven't felt that empty feeling lately that drives me to shop or eat or run away or anything that makes me feel better.  I have been feeling pretty content lately.  I haven't had that nagging sense that I just need something or someone to make me happy.  What gives? 

Psalms 34:8 says, "O, taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him."

To be painfully honest I would rather do a lot of other things than get up in the morning and pray and read my Bible.  I could sleep or scroll facebook.  I could read a new book or just sit and do nothing.  I have to force myself to get my Bible out and I have to force myself to pray...  because like eating right and exercising... these things are not what I want to be doing.   For the last few weeks I have gotten up and grabbed my coffee and my Bible and found a quiet place to talk to God.  At first it's not what I feel like doing and I have to force myself to find things to praise Him for.  Not that there aren't a million things that I could praise Him for, but I am selfish and self-centered and it all starts with getting over myself.  Before too long as the praises come one after another I start to feel thankful, content, blessed...  I start to see how amazing my Father is and then humbled to be chosen to be His child.  The tears flow and my heart finds it's home again.  When I open the Bible after this time of praise I hear him talking specifically to me.   My brain is no longer running the show driving me to so many other things.   I find myself feeling full, satisfied.   The next morning I have to do this again.  I force myself to taste and see and I leave feeling too full for the junk I would normally veg on. 

Jesus called himself many things while he was on earth.  Isn't it interesting that he called himself the bread of life and said that those who come to him shall never hunger again.  He also called himself the living water and said that those who come to him would never thirst again. 

Jesus said "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: FOR THEY WILL BE FILLED." Matt 5:6

Filling up on Jesus leaves us satisfied, with no room for all that other crap we craved before.  When Jesus was teaching one day and there were a multitude of people (over 5000) and he knew the people were getting hungry He asked the disciples what they had to feed the people.  "They came back with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and said what is this with so many.  Jesus took the 5 loaves and 2 fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.   And they did eat, and WERE ALL FILLED: and there was taken up of the fragments that remained to them 12 baskets." Luke 9:16-17

When Jesus fed the people they had more left over than they started with.  When Jesus fed the people they were satisfied and full and had some left over.  When Jesus fills us up we will be joyFILLED, satisfied and content.  When Jesus fills us up we no longer have those craving for the junk that only leaves us longing for more.  Taste and see that the Lord is good. 


Monday, November 21, 2016

Candy Crush

A few weeks ago there was this certain holiday that makes being a mom HARD.  You know the one.  Your kids dress up adorably, go knocking on random people's doors, and are given huge handfuls of CANDY...  Everyday from that day forward until all the candy runs out, every mother in America gets hounded constantly for CANDY.  Who came up with this horrible scenario??? 

Just yesterday my sweet little angel baby came up to me and angelically asked me for a piece of candy, to which I immediately responded "UM, NO!"  Didn't the little cherub remember he had already had enough junk that day????  Obviously not...  Right there before my eyes my little cherub turned into one of those Halloween goblins.  He whined, he cried and then when all that didn't work he says the meanest words a mommy can ever hear, "Well, I'm not gonna lub ju anymore!" 

Why you little bitty ball of frustration how dare you say that to me.  Do you know how much of my very being I have sacrificed to give you everything in this world that I think you need??????  How dare you.  I didn't say all that of course.  I just went about my business.  I know he's gonna love me in about 2.5 seconds when he makes his very next request, but this whole episode got me to thinking, about how I act the same way with the one who loves me the most.

Oh Lord, how many times have I asked and you have not given me what I wanted?  How many times have I cried and thrown a fit when you didn't provide the thing I wanted most?  When I looked with my limited perspective and deemed the object of my affection good, because well, it looks good... it's got to be good for me, and besides I JUST WANT IT!!!!!!

I want it.  I WANT it.  I WANT IT!  If you don't give it to me I'm not going to love you.  Forget all the good you have given me.  Forget about the sacrifice you have made for me, to forgive me of my sins and provide eternal life for me.  Forget that in those things your goodness and love for me has been proven a million times over.  Forget that I know that you are a good Father, who will give me every good thing I need...  I want that thing and I want it now. 

But, what if that thing isn't good for me?!?!  Do I trust you to decide what is good for me?  Do I love you enough to receive your yes, as well as, your NO?  This is the question I have asked myself many times in the last few years. The answer is always the same...

"Every GOOD and PERFECT gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, neither shadow of turning."  James 2:17

YOU ARE GOOD.  You know what's best for me and you are so good that, IF something were good for me, you would give it to me.  If something is not good for me, You will withhold that thing, no matter how much I beg, steal or borrow to get it, because YOU ARE GOOD.

David says in Psalms 119:75 "I KNOW, O LORD, that your judgments are right, and that you in faithfulness have afflicted me."

God had afflicted David in faithfulness.  That's a hard pill to swallow.  Sometimes affliction is the good thing that you will give to me.  Sometimes instead of getting a shining, colorful piece of candy, you hand me a stinking glass of apple cider vinegar...  cuz that's really what's good for me. 

No matter what though if I trust that you are good I can rest assured that...

"Blessed be the LORD, who daily loads us with benefits, even the God of our salvation." Psalms 68:19

You are good.  It's hard for me to remember that when you tell me no and withhold from me something that I "think" I want.  You know better than I do.  You know what that thing will eventually cost me.  You know better than I do...  Help me remember and believe that everything that you do is for my good!!!

Friday, November 18, 2016

I Just Want to be HAPPY.

Maybe if I had a new car, I could be happy.  Maybe if I had new clothes, I could be happy.  Maybe if my kids would listen.  Maybe if I had a glamorous career, or my kids were in school, or if I had her body or those friends or maybe when my kids are grown or wait maybe I want another baby.  I just want to be happy.  I don't want to feel discontent and longing for everything in the world.  WHY DO I FEEL THIS WAY???

I know I shouldn't feel this way.  I have everything I have ever wanted.  My girlhood dreams may not have been yours, but this is what I wanted when I was a little girl.  I wanted to be a stay at home mom.  I wanted 5 children.  I wanted to be a wife.  In fact my reality is even more amazing than my girlhood fantasies, and yet I find myself feeling discontent most of the time.  They say you can't have it all and that is true, but does that mean we have to mourn for the rest of our lives the things that we chose not to have?

Proverbs 14:30 says, "A sound heart is the life of the flesh: BUT envy the rottenness of the bones."

I don't know how long I've been in this funk, but it's been a while, and I'm sick of myself.  I know that I have absolutely no justification for feeling so unhappy.  I have a good life.  So, obviously being happy has nothing to do with what we do have or don't have.  Happiness must be a state of mind. 

Proverbs 17:17 says, "A merry heart does good like medicine, BUT a broken spirit dries the bones."

Proverbs 15:15 says, "All the days of the afflicted are evil; BUT he that has a merry heart has a continual feast."

Could it really be that simple?  If you see yourself as afflicted all you days will seem evil... even the good ones?  If you have a cheerful heart every day seems like a feast?  Can having a cheerful heart really be as good as medicine?  Can it change the way we view our life?  Famine or feast?  Is it really up to us?

Is being JOYFILLED as simple as being GRATEFULL???  I think it might be. 

Is it me or is the sun shining brighter this morning?  Are the birds singing sweeter?  Is my husband sexier and smarter than he was yesterday?  Are my children more adorable this morning?  Does the food on the table taste better? 

A few weeks ago I decided that instead of being a petulant, ungrateful, whiny child, I would get up and have a praise session.  I would praise the Lord for every single thing that I could think of.  The next day I got up and did that again.  I left my requests out and just spent time thanking God for anything I could think of.  The next day I got up and did the same thing.  All the sudden I had a new pep in my step.  I had more energy to put in my life and relationships.  I felt a calmness creep in my soul and that grew into a sense of contentment which turned into pure joy.  Nothing had changed.  In fact some things happened that would normally drive me into a pity party, but not this time.  My heart is full and I feel good. 

King Solomon, who was the wisest man who ever lived, says he gave himself to anything his eyes desired, but he came away with this...

"Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works. Let you garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil.  Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which he has given you under the sun, all the days of your life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might.."  Ecclesiastes 9:7-10

God now accepts your works...  has the meaning that God wants you to enjoy your life.  His will is for people to enjoy the simple things in life and be thankful.  Being thankful for all the simple pleasures in life and keeping our eyes focused on our own lives and not what other people have is the key to being JOYFILLED.  Being happy has nothing to do with having more or different, but  trusting God that whatever he has given me is everything I need.  Turning my eyes from what I don't have to what I do have and being excessively grateful for the blessings that have come from His hand. 

"Blessed be the Lord, who DAILY loads us with benefits, even the God of our salvation." Psalms 68:19


Monday, November 14, 2016

Distraction of Depression

I never thought it would be me.  I have always been a fairly happy, go with the flow kind of person.  Never one to get down and stay down too long.  If ever I was down in the dumps one of those good cries where you're wiping snot off with your sleeve and your head aches for 2 days after, would be good enough for me.  I would wake up every morning feeling like it was a new, fresh start.  I would ridicule and mock those who struggled with depression, quoting verses and giving a pat on the back, with little sympathy for their situation.  That is until depression snuck up on me and would not go away.  All the sudden I had a new found empathy for people who couldn't just shake it off.  All the sudden I could see that you can literally have everything you've ever wanted and know exactly how blessed you are... and still be sad. 

I can't speak for everyone.  I won't pretend to have any answers.  I know that the reasons for depression are many and varied.  This is just a post coming from someone who has been sad a time or two and who has found comfort in God's Word.

Throughout the Bible you will see many examples of people who have suffered from bouts of sadness.  People who were used by God in big ways to do amazing things, but also suffered from seasons of sadness.  I could give you many examples, the one we all know best is Job and there is a lot to glean from Job's life or even Hannah distraught because the Lord had closed her womb.  Jonah when God gave him a mission that he didn't want.  David grieving over the loss of his infant son.  Sarah waiting a lifetime for a son and not seeing that promise fulfilled.  There are many examples in the Bible, but the one I want to focus on today is Elijah.

Elijah was a powerful prophet of God.  Throughout the story of his life in 1 Kings we see many examples of Elijah calling down miracles from heaven.  Bringing a young man back from the dead, commanding a 3 year drought and standing strong against an evil King and his more evil wife.  We see him call down fire from heaven in a contest to prove who is the one, true God.  We see him slay the 450 false prophets of Baal.  We see him pray and God send the rain...  But as is God's way we see Elijah's humanity and weakness.  After a huge victory and miraculous display of God's power we see Elijah run and hide. 

I Kings 19:4-5 "But He himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and requested for himself that he might die; and said 'It is enough; now, O, Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.  And he lay down under a juniper tree and slept..."

Elijah had just witnessed God display his power in an extraordinary way.  He had just had a great personal victory and where do we see him next?  Running and hiding and laying down and begging for God to bring the end.  I would die laughing right here at the absurdity, if I had not done the same thing myself too many times to count. 

God sends an angel to comfort Elijah.  The angel says "Arise and eat." and a second time encourages Elijah to arise and eat and then the Angel says "because the journey is too great for you."

Sometimes the journey is too great for us.  God himself says we can't do it in our own strength.  Sometimes the pain is too great.  Sometimes the situation is more than we can bear.  I've heard it said God won't give you more than you can bear, but in this verse we see that the angel acknowledges that this is too much for Elijah. 

Maybe you have felt that way before?  Maybe you feel that way now.  You really don't know how you can keep going.  You're tired of fighting.  You're tired of trying.  You just want to lay down and rest awhile.  God knows. 

The angel touched him, and said unto him, "Arise and eat." And he looked and there in front of him was a cake baked on coals and  a jar of water.  And He ate and drank and laid down again. 

I believe that bread and water represents Christ.  The Bible says that Jesus is the bread of life and the living water.  I believe that for us who are in Christ there are times and seasons where the journey is too great.  Times where people will tell you to just get over it.  Times where the only thing that sustains us is the Spirit of God who dwells within us.  Sometimes comfort comes outside of ourselves because we can not bear to go on.  Sometimes the urge to lay down is too great.  But just like Elijah we still have a journey to take.  We still have things we have to do.  It's not time to lay down just yet.  Heaven and being with God sounds so much better than keeping on going, but it's not time to stop. 

I'm thankful that God is faithful to continue to pursue me just as he did with Elijah.  Elijah ran, but God found him.  Elijah gave up, but God comforted him and provided for his physical needs and gave him the strength to go on.  God was faithful to Elijah and God has been faithful to me when I would rather lay down and die. 

2 Cor 1:3-4 "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the FATHER OF MERCIES, and the GOD OF ALL COMFORT; Who comforts us in all of our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves have been comforted."

He comforts us so that we can comfort others.  God has allowed me to go through seasons of sadness so that I can better understand how to comfort those who are going through the same thing.  He has allowed me to feel the weight and burden of brokenness, so that I can better understand those who feel weighted down and heavy burdened.

You can see that Elijah got focused on himself.  He got distracted from his mission when he focused on how all of this was personally affecting him.  That's a natural, human response, but it's not the right one.  I believe that's what happens to me.  I am going along on my journey, trying to fulfill my mission and all the sudden I get distracted by how much this is costing me, then I get depressed and I lay down.  How easily it is for me to forget that I still have a mission. 

As I said in the beginning, I know there are many reasons for depression and this doesn't apply to many of you.  Some of your depression is physical or results from painful things that have happened to you in the past.  I feel your pain as well.  God wants to comfort you in your pain.  I don't want you to think that I think it's a simple matter... because it absolutely is not.  However, many times for myself, Elijah and many others depression creeps in on me when I turn my focus inward. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Socially Unacceptable

It's the middle of the day, not the usual time a woman would be going to the well to fill up her water jar.  She's alone and we don't know why, but for whatever reason she didn't want to go with all the other women to the well.  She's probably lost in her own thoughts or she would have seen the man leaning up against the well.  This could be a dangerous situation...  Especially when He, a man and a Jew, neither of which should have anything to do with her, asks for a drink. 

This man is not like the men she knows or has known though.  He tells her he can give her living water and then reveals himself as Messiah...  asks about her husband, and then we find out why she's a social outcast.  She's a woman with a reputation.  Married five times and now living with a man that she's not married to.  What a time for the disciples to walk up and see who their master is talking to.  They would have known exactly what sort of women this is, but they don't say anything.  I love Jesus more in this moment than any other...  He disregards social standards (talking with a women), He ignores racial strife (Jews and Samaritans hated each other), and seems oblivious to what this interaction may do to his reputation.  He extends grace where every one else heaps shame.  He promises eternal life, where others would demand punishment.  He offers his presence when the world excludes.  It's being socially unacceptable that thrusts her into the arms of the Savior.

I've been this woman.  When I was socially unacceptable and on the fringe of society, Jesus found me.  When no person, man, woman, friend or family could satisfy my lonely soul.  When I searched for love in all the wrong places and ended up used, abused and discarded, Jesus found me.  He offered me living water so that I would never thirst again. 

Through the years I have turned my heart to other things looking for love and coming up dry.  Whether it was from my husband, my children, family or friends, they could never fulfill me.  It's in the loneliest places that He finds me again.  He reminds me of what my heart already knows.  He alone can satisfy my soul. 

I am prone to wander away from God.  My heart strays away and I start looking for other things or people to fill me up.  I have to be reminded over and over that I will find no satisfaction in other things.  God is faithful to remind me where to find that love.  In Christ alone.  I found a little treasure of a verse today in Titus 3:4-8 

The Angela translation of these verses are...  God through Jesus was so kind and loving toward us that he saved us not by our own good deeds, but according to his mercy and the washing and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which He POURED out ABUNDANTLY through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being declared righteous through His Grace we are now his children and have the hope of ETERNAL LIFE.  This is a faithful saying and these things I want you to CONSTANTLY AFFIRM.

and Phillipians 4:8 "...Whatever things are true, honest, just, and pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of a good report think on those things."

If you are a Christian then Jesus has given you His spirit (living water) to satisfy you hunger and thirst for God.  We never have to thirst again,  The battle that we have and the reason that we are so thirsty, is our mind.  What we dwell on, what we believe, what we think about, determines whether we will be full or empty.  What we seek after matters.  What we give our minds and hearts to will either eat at us like a cancer or fill us with unexplainable peace and joy.  The key is constantly affirming that word that God has given us.  My favorite book in the Bible is Ephesians...  I read and reread it and read it again...  There I am reminded that I am chosen.  I am loved.  I am adopted.  I learn that no matter how socially awkward I may be in this life, the God of the UNIVERSE has chosen me.  That when I am rejected by others I am chosen by him.

Like a kid in the schoolyard who is picked last, I may never have what this world deems as valuable, but the One who made all this and rules eternity has chosen me to be on His team...  that's gotta mean something.  It's not up to other people to decide whether I'm worthy or not.  God in His good pleasure (eph 1:5) has chosen me.  That's got to mean something, so if it does mean something I need to constantly affirm this truth. 

When my thoughts turn dark and I believe the things that I hear, my heart turns to my idols again to fill me up.  When I'm spent and have nothing left, He finds me again.  How do I overcome this?  Battle the lies with His truth.  Believe His word and speak it to my heart.  When I hear I'm not worthy, battle it with his truth, I'm chosen.  When I feel unloved and unwanted, remember I'm adopted.  When I think this life is all there is, remember I have been given life eternal and one day I will be in Paradise with my savior.  When the world tells me I'm unimportant, trust that I am so valuable that God sent His own son to purchase my life. 

So, when you feel socially unacceptable, lonely and isolated, remember that the Creator of the Universe says you are so valuable He gave his own son to redeem your life.  His love and grace He has lavished on us through Jesus his son.  Don't let how other people treat you decide your worth.  Only the One who created you has the right to do that!