How I Found Joy In A Fortune Cookie

 

Have you ever found yourself struggling with something that used to come easy to you?

I seem to have fallen into a season where it is more difficult for me to find joy every day.  Those who know me well may find this puzzling for me to say right now. So, I must clarify. Happiness and joy are not the same thing. I choose happiness every day. Or I try to. I choose not to be negative and contentment has always come easy.  But happiness is circumstantial. Happiness is temporary.

Joy is Spirit filled and rooted deep in the vine of Jesus Christ. Joy remains regardless of circumstances. Traumatic accidents are not a happy occasion, but we can still find joy among the ashes.

Back in January, I chose a word for 2017. Actually, I truly believe the word was given to me by a God who knew what was coming for me and my family this year. Trauma and uncertainty.

The word is ‘trust.’

And let me just tell you I have been doing a real good job reading about trust.  I’ve memorized a few Bible verses and read them every morning like a good Christian should. I’ve even got a book sitting next to me even now, “Trusting God” by Jeff Bridges. I am the poster child for going at this with passion.

Perfect, check the box passion.

If you’ve been following my blog at all you know that God tends to bonk me on my hard head when I least expect it. If you ask me, that’s how I know it’s God. I find Him most often in the un-ordinary. He’s not a God of routine, that guy. And I was out of mine this morning.

I try to start each of my days with prayer and Bible reading. I use the same devotionals and right now I am clinging to the same Bible verses on trust. I go about my day with happiness and try to count it all joy.

Well, this morning was a little different. I was meeting a friend for breakfast and I didn’t have time to do my usual routine. I arrived a few moments early, so I decided to dig out my Bible app on my phone and check my quiet time box.

Y’all.

Why do they call it quiet time when God seems to be so loud and clear?

I found a reading plan that I had started back in March and abandoned. I don’t know why I abandoned it. I only read the first day. But March was the month my husband suffered a traumatic injury and I’ll be honest, my spiritual needs changed dramatically at that point. You know, it was a great time to flash the word ‘trust’ around.

So, today I read day two.  I’ll leave the verses right here for you:

Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

“Lord, God why do I not have that joy anymore?” I asked aloud in my empty car. “Why am I not like this man who knows about you and sells everything he has just to be with you?”

“Because you still don’t trust Me.”

My head fell back against the head rest as the truth pierced through to my heart.

He’s right. I don’t. I haven’t.

There’s no guarantee my husband’s arm will heal. There’s no guarantee he will be able to return to his manual labor job. And then what?

I say the words that I ‘trust’ God to heal him. I read the verses and grasp for that joy, but I haven’t really trusted him.

I just got a job I’ve been praying about for years. There’s no doubt in my rational mind that God has prepared me and marked my way for this.

But what if He picked the wrong girl?  What if I screw up? What if I can’t do it like I thought I could?

All of those thoughts are a lack of trust.

I was so convicted. I’ve been faking it all this time. No wonder it’s so hard for me to find joy. I put my faith in myself and not the Love of My Life, Jesus. I’ll never be able to find joy when I rely on anything other than Him.

So later, at lunch, my husband and I had gone out for some Chinese food. And I am telling him about my revelation. I can’t help but shed some tears as I am telling him the story and how I’ve been placing my trust in the wrong hands. And because my husband and I are walking together on a rocky road right now, he could empathize very easily with me. We wiped our tears with sweet and sour sauce stained napkins and then reached for our fortune cookies.

God is everywhere. Even inside fortune cookies.

We couldn’t help but laugh out loud about that ‘God-wink’ right there in the restaurant.

A little taste of the joy surely to come.

 

 

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Dancing With Regret {A Guest Post}

If I had to describe how I feel about Tracie Collier in one word, it would be “thankful.” She’s a safe place, a best friend and a Godly voice of reason on many days. And today she has come over to visit from her own blog, Shades of Mercy and Grace. I’m so thankful that God gave her to me, a ministry partner and a partner in crime.

Check out what she’s got in store for you today, and then head on over to her blog and check out just how amazing she is!

 

“Don’t blink,” they say.

I remember hearing that when he was a brand new baby and I found it super annoying.

Blink?!  Seriously?!  How about SLEEP? I would have enjoyed one LONG 5-hour blink.

There is no tired in the whole world like “New Baby in the House” tired, right?  It seemed to me that the exhausting newborn stage was going to last FOR-E-VER.  I wasn’t sure I was going to survive it.

I know when folks say “Don’t blink,” it’s meant with good intentions.  “Don’t blink” means “you’ll be amazed how fast the time is going to go, so you better keep your eyes open so you won’t miss anything!”  They were right.  It did go fast.  So stinking fast.  I don’t know who coined the phrase, “The days are long, but the years are short,” but they’re right.

Back when I flipped the calendar over to May, I found myself face-to-face with a date that seemed so far away not so long ago…graduation.  He’ll graduate from High School this month.  For the life of me, I don’t know how that happened.

While I find myself feeling a mixture of sad and sentimental that this chapter of our lives is almost over, I’m very excited, too.  I’m excited for everything he’ll experience and for the “new beginning” college will be for him.  I’m excited about the friends he’ll make and the lessons he’ll learn.  I’m excited about how God is going to use this next chapter to mold him into the man He intends for him to be.

But in the midst of all of the nostalgia and excitement, I find myself dancing around with an old, familiar partner:  Regret.

Regret and I have danced a few times before.  I know this partner well.

Regret is a stupid jerk-face that likes to show up, usually in the quiet of the nighttime, and yell in my ear that “everything is ruined” and “nothing good has happened.”  In my experience, regret is loud and bossy and rude.  Regret wants me to spend my time constantly looking behind me, reliving poor decisions and actions.  When it comes to this particular season of motherhood, regret really wants me to wallow in the times I have failed as a mom.  Believe me, there are plenty of instances for regret to bring to mind.

In this dance, I find myself feeling regret over the things I didn’t do, didn’t say, or said too loudly.  I feel regret for decisions made, consequences that were unrealistic, and opportunities missed.  Hindsight, they say, is 20/20.  I can always see what I “should have done” so clearly once the opportunity to do so has passed.  Tell me that happens to you, too?

See, if I dance with regret long enough, I get dizzy and disoriented and forget which way is up.  And that’s just what regret is hoping for! Regret wants to teach me a history lesson, but not a whole one. A history lesson that only includes the bad parts (the mistakes), but doesn’t include the good (the forgiveness), is really not a complete lesson.  Teachers who don’t tell the whole truth should be fired, shouldn’t they?

What is regret’s motivation?

I think it’s simple.

Regret lives to steal joy.

And what is the remedy for regret?

That’s simple, too.

Truth.  Specifically, God’s Truth.

See, nothing shuts down regret faster than Truth.

Regret says, “You could have been a better mother to him.”

Truth says, “I was chosen by God to be his mother.  I’m a human.  God’s been aware of that all along.  He knew I’d need forgiveness and has granted it through His Son.”

Regret says, “Your son is only going to remember the times you failed/yelled/were distracted.”

Truth says, “He’s also going to remember the times I asked for forgiveness, showed up when it was hard, and helped him succeed in crazy, wonderful ways.”

Regret says, “This chapter is over.  Look at how you failed.”

Truth says, “Yes, this chapter is over, but a new one is beginning.  God will be just as much in the new chapter as He was in the old one.  In God’s economy, even our failures can be used for His glory.”

Regret wants me to forget the truth and to only see my life through a lens of loss.

God’s Truth just isn’t having any of that!

No, God’s Truth redeems and makes things whole again.  His Truth calms storms and heals the sick.  His Truth even takes the ordinary, everyday mistakes of a mom in Alabama and uses them to teach and mold a boy into the image of His Son.  Go figure. God does amazing things. Held up against that kind of power, regret doesn’t stand a chance!

When regret invites you out onto the dance floor, you have a choice whether or not you’ll go.  You can tell regret to take a hike.  Truth is what shows it back to its seat.

And if you find yourself out on the dance floor wishing you hadn’t agreed to dance in the first place, remember that you don’t have to let regret take the lead.  Regret is pushy, but ridiculously weak.  At their core, bullies usually are, you know.  You can totally overtake it with truth.  In no time at all, you’ll see regret sulk away.  Bless its heart…it tries so hard.

So, whatever season of life you find yourself in, remember that God’s Truth covers every situation you face!

And regret?

Well, you really don’t have much time for that, do you?

You’ve got too much of a life to live!  You’ve got people to love!  It’s way more fun to dance with them, anyway.

To read more from Tracie visit her blog at www.shadesofmercyandgrace.com

 

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Clear and Present Danger {A Backyard Lesson}

“Look, mom!  There’s a hawk sitting on our back fence!”

I stopped what I was doing in the kitchen to join my eldest daughter, Abby, who was peering out the back door window.

“Isn’t he pretty?” she said in awe.

Sure enough, in the dusk of the day, there sat the enormous bird. It was so still I wondered for a second if it was real.

“Ooh! And look!” My daughter’s excitement grew. “There’s a little bunny right there on the ground next to him!  Isn’t it so cute? Just look at them!”

The sweetest little rabbit was nestled in a the grass nibbling away like Thumper in a patch of clover.

‘This could get interesting,’ I thought to myself.

“Just look at them! They are becoming friends! Look, they are talking to each other!”

My daughter. The perpetual Disney Princess with the voice to match. It was as though she expected them to start singing and sewing her a dress to wear to the ball.

My youngest daughter, Lucy, strolled in from the laundry room. She had been doing her laundry and had a fist full of dollar bills. No doubt her sister had once again left her change in her jeans pocket from the day before. The show going on in our backyard distracted Lucy from the inevitable squabble she was about to start over who gets to keep the money. Stroking her newfound fortune, she too began to peer out the window.

“What are you looking at?” she inquired, dramatically displaying the wad of cash as if it could pull us away from our own personal episode of “Wild Kingdom” unfolding in front of us.

My eldest, still wearing her rose colored glasses responded, “A hawk. And a bunny. They are talking to each other!”

“Uh, honey I don’t think they’re ‘talking’ so much as they are negotiating dinner plans,” I said.

“What?! No!” She was appalled that I would suggest any sort of malice. “They are becoming friends!  Just look how cute they are!”

“I don’t think so, babe. Pretty sure that little bunny is in trouble.”

As soon as I said that, the hawk jumped from its perch on our fence, opened its talons and swooped down to snatch up the poor defenseless rabbit. Lucy was horrified. She panicked and screamed throwing dollar bills in all directions. She ran to her room, slammed the door and hid under her covers. Abby just stood there in the window feeling betrayed and speechless. Her mouth wide open, dumbfounded.

I’m a horrible person. I couldn’t stop laughing at the whole spectacle. I saw it coming. I tried to tell them both. And, as usual, my children didn’t listen.

As I began to pick up the dollar bills that had been abandoned on the floor by my horrified child, I got a little nudge from the Holy Spirit.

Our enemy is a lot like that hawk. He disguises himself as sheer beauty sometimes. Magnificent even. He can seem silent and nonthreatening to those who are not aware of his danger.

We are a lot like the rabbit (or my children). Clueless to the predator watching our every move just waiting for the perfect moment to snatch us up and devour us.

As much as I admire my children’s naivety and want them to maintain their innocence for as long  as possible, it’s my job to warn them of the dangers of the enemy. If you keep up with the news at all I don’t have to paint any pictures for you of the terror out there.  But, that’s not what I’m most worried about.

I worry the most about a predator disguised as a sweet teenage boy willing to manipulate and swoon my daughter’s into doing things they don’t want to do and scarring them for life.

I worry about the enemy using friends they think they can trust with their most precious dreams and secrets only to have them plastered all over the school. Betrayal.

I worry about the fun of social media turning into a horrible viral nightmare.

The temptations to cheat. Temptations to steal. One bad decision that can lead to a lifetime of regret.

I could have my children watch the news and warn them about terrorists, military actions and criminals. But I think it’s easier to shield them from the world than it is from the predators in their own backyard.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil  prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

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Thoughts About My Messy Abundant Life

If I had to describe my life in one word these days it would be ‘worn.’ I am sure that many could relate to that tiny little word that is so unrelenting. I never seem to get ahead. I never seem to have the time to just be still. And good lord I love them, but my children. That is all.

Yesterday was one of those days that just wouldn’t quit. There were appointments stacked on top of appointments. Requests upon requests. Needs to be met. Chores to be done. There were moments I felt like I had forgotten to breathe.

And there’s not any of it I would want to change. It’s just life. My messy abundant life.

Sometimes though it gets to me. Sometimes I start to feel…worn.

And then it begins to creep up. That stupid selfish part of me that wonders where the Publisher’s Clearing House prize van is with my ticket to paradise. Why can’t I be driven to all the activities I love to do? Why is my calendar FULL of everyone else’s junk?

So there I am, crawling into bed way after my bedtime feeling more tired than usual and I realize I have gone all day without checking in with the One who made me. Exhausted to near tears I began to silently pray over my day. But all I could do was beg for rest.

“Lord, please let this night be restful. I’m so tired I don’t even think I have the energy to sleep…”

You ever have a moment when you are so needy and you begin to feel guilty about it? I began to apologize.

“Lord, I’m sorry that all I have done lately when I pray is beg for rest. I am just so needy right now, Lord, and I hate it. I feel like all I am doing these days, Lord, is asking you to sustain me. All I have for You are requests for healing. Requests for rest. Requests to just make it one more day.”

And dad gummit if I didn’t feel Him smile down on me, wrap me up and hold me while He whispered,

“That’s exactly where you need to be. Relying on Me for your every breath.”

I shed a silent tear in the comfort of His grip on me and fell asleep.

 

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A Story of Loss And Redemption {Dry Bones}

Trauma. It’s not usually a word that evokes thoughts of love. Most people try to avoid it. I know I don’t ever want to have to go through it again.

Traumatic events. Extreme circumstances. Wild, untamed moments are the ones that grab our faces in the palm of life’s hands and get too close for comfort. They are what change us. Shape us. Knock us down and break us wide open. They leave us vulnerable and helpless.

It’s not easy to live through those times, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

A Journey Like No Other

It was the phone call no wife wants to receive. A stranger on the other end telling her there’s been a bad accident and to meet her husband at the hospital.

After 5 days, 2  attempted surgeries by 2 separate surgeons and very little hope that anything can be done to save a nearly severed arm, you don’t expect to find love. The exhaustion. Frustration. Agony. Pain. Defeat. There should be no love there. You should be left with the pieces of your broken heart scattered on the operating room floor. Bitterness should seem inevitable.

Unless there’s love. Love endures all things.

When the second surgeon came to us and told us that even one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the region at Vanderbilt University might not be willing to take our case, we could have given up hope. We could have decided on the grim options with little to no chance of mobility and a dramatic decrease in quality of life.

Love perseveres.

Love is also patient.  So we waited. We prayed and poured out our hearts to a God we try to trust with every aspect of our lives.  Even the broken and not so pretty parts. That’s so much easier written than done.

But it’s worth it.

After a week of frustrated grief we got the call we had been praying for. A cadaver was available to harvest the exact piece of bone my husband needed to replace his missing elbow. It would be flown overnight to Vanderbilt and surgery was scheduled for the next day.

I Never Really Loved My Husband Until Now

We’ve been married for nearly 18 years. High school sweet hearts. Best friends. Two beautiful girls and a mortgage. That’s love. Right?

Arguing over who should take out the trash. Wondering how the bills will get paid. Forgetting each other’s appointments. That’s all part of marriage and the happily ever after. But it’s not love.

Love is the gruesome, gritty acts that no one else is willing to do. It feels like emptiness. Poured out. It’s giving of yourself when you didn’t even think you had more to give. And then doing it again.

Love is making the choice to be the better part of your most horrible circumstances.

Love is sacrificing. Everything.

Love is sleepless nights. Endless sleepless nights that bleed into days.

Love is holding the one remaining functional hand. For as long as he needs you to.

Love is not understanding how you will make it through the hardest parts, but knowing that you will. Together.

When the person you dressed up for and walked down the aisle in front of a couple hundred of your closest friends is suddenly thrust into a nightmare, you jump in after them and you do everything in your power to save them. Saving them saves you.

When Moments Turn Into Days And Days Turn Into Weeks

People keep using the term “new normal” which I guess makes sense. We’re doing things we haven’t normally done before, but will begin to normally do them. Trips back and forth to Vanderbilt. Occupational Therapy. More sleepless nights. Unexpected and sudden emotions. Relearning independence.

Our list of new normal activities goes on all while trying to cling to our old normal lives. All while praying that God will make it as it once was again. And we ask ourselves, “Why?”

We may never know the full purpose of my husband’s accident or the reason for the journey we are on. We may never fully understand the pain. Both physical and emotional.

But I know this: It’s not in vain.

The more I ask why and the more I pray for things to return the ‘normal’ the more I wish they wouldn’t. Going back to the way things were means that this journey has been a waste. Going back to normal means we didn’t grow. We didn’t learn. We didn’t seek His will but just our own.

I never want that to be said of me.

Humbled to be Used for His Glory

For some reason God has chosen my husband to share a story of heartbreak, defeat and loneliness. For some reason God is using me to walk alongside him and share that burden. For whatever reason God chooses to bring Himself glory through the healing from this hardship, I am humbled that we are the vessels.

One day at a time I see strength returning to each of us. It comes in the form of a restful night’s sleep. Finally laughing out loud after 4 weeks of tears and frustration. I see it when my husband smiles and can now slowly begin to make a fist again.

We’ve literally received a gift of old dry bones being made new! May we never forget that someone had to lose their life in order for us to maintain the quality of ours. May the use of one bone bring glory to God through two separate lives! I cannot wait to see what He does with these dry bones!

My husband cut off his elbow when he fell off a ladder and landed on an electrical box.
A cadaver elbow was used to replace the one missing and pinned into place.

 

 

 

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A Fast Food Lesson on Trust {Chick-fil-A Sauce}

One of life’s most simple pleasures is Chick-fil-A. Wouldn’t you agree? It’s one place I love to go and treat myself when I’ve been out running errands. And my children always request to go there as a treat. There’s just something about it I can’t get enough of. Warm chicken-y goodness all wrapped up with a smile. It’s addicting.

I am not sure why God likes to use Chick-fil-A to teach me little lessons. I am beginning to think God must have some stock in the company. Either that or Chick-fil-A is just a preview of what heaven will be like. I’m thinking it’s more of the latter. You can read about a time when He taught me a lesson on obedience in the drive-thru here.

A few days ago I had actually gotten away by myself. I love to do this on the rare occasion that my life isn’t getting in the way of my life. I had driven down to the river on a cold morning to just sit and be still. That’s another blog post on why there is so much importance in that, but I digress.  I spent a couple hours reading my Bible, praying, writing in my journal and just enjoying creation. Plugging into His power source is such a great soul recharge. I urge you to carve out a date with Jesus like that and see just how much more peace He gives you.

Even though my soul was full, my stomach was not.  I decided to drive into the nearest town and pick up some Chick-fil-A.  That was over 10 miles out of the way, but I didn’t care. I had the craving and the time.

Now, some of you probably have your standard order. And you’re probably pretty loyal to your favorite sauce. Me? If you want to bring me lunch, you can’t go wrong with chicken strips and Chick-fil-A sauce. This has changed since my college days when I lived off of the Chick-fil-A sandwich drenched in honey mustard. Either one is a winner and will earn you serious brownie points around noon on any given day (except Sunday).

So there I am in the drive through line, miles away from home. But it doesn’t matter. They’re all the same. They all serve the same recipe. The same sauces. They all greet you with a smile you can actually see through the speaker. I trust this place.

I place my order and the sweet girl named after my daughter (aww…added warm-fuzzy bonus) asks me if I want any sauce with that. Chick-fil-A sauce! I could probably drink the stuff! She tells me my total and I drive around to complete my transaction.

When she hands me my order she says, “And your Chick-fil-A sauce is in the bag.”  I smiled, thanked her, told her to have a great day and drove off.

I drove miles down the road, nearly back to my original spot at the river to enjoy my lunch alone. All that time my mouth is watering and my anticipation is building for what’s inside the warm white bag. When I finally settle into an acceptable lunch spot, I open the bag to pull out what I’ve been waiting for. Hot and delicious chicken with my favorite sauce.

But there’s no sauce! Nothing. Not even the wrong sauce as an acceptable substitute. I realized I was going to have to eat my chicken bare!

Reluctantly I bit into my sauce-less meal. I was disappointed. My daughter’s namesake even told me it was in the bag. I trusted her.

That’s when the Spirit nudged me into a lesson on Trust. It’s my word for 2017. If you’d like to know why, you can read about it here.

We put our trust in so many things don’t we? We trust the little girl to give us the sauce we request. We trust the waitress not to run off with our debit card number. We trust the weather man when he says it won’t rain. We trust that when we ask our children for something to get done, that it gets done and it gets done right.

The truth is that we are human and we can’t trust anyone to get it right 100% of the time.

Trust in him at all times,

O people;

pour out your hearts to him

for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

God pointed me to this verse while I was at the river that morning.  I had spent hours pouring out my heart to Him. Taking refuge in Him. Promising to trust in Him.

I firmly believe He was allowing me to practice my trust with the simple lack of Chick-fil-A sauce. It wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t what I thought I was getting. It wasn’t what I went out of the way for, anticipated and got excited about. I had put my trust in the wrong hands.

I’m not saying that the next time you make your way through the drive-thru that God will be the one handling your order. Although, at Chick-fil-A I wouldn’t be surprised. I’m saying that God is the one handling all of your desires. Right now.

He knows your heart. He knows what you’ve been pouring out to Him because He listens with an eager ear. More importantly, He knows what is best for you in your abundant life.

Are you willing to trust that promise?

Even with your rebellious child? Even with your out of control finances? Even with the broken heart you hold in your hand? Are you willing to trust that no matter what God’s got for you, it’s way better than anything you can find in a drive-thru or anywhere else?

I’m urging you to plug in. Take that downtime. Set that date and just be still to know that He is God and you can trust Him with every desire of your heart.

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8

 

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Like Falling In Love: 3 Reasons Why I’m A Christian

 

It doesn’t take much these days to start an argument. Recently, I had a tweet explode and all I said was  I wanted to go to church to give back to a God I believe in. You can join the discussion here.

It was a simple comment. Truthful, and my American right to do so. THOUSANDS of strangers reacted and hundreds attacked my statement telling me I was a fool. I ignored most of those comments because even as I have a right to my opinion, they also have a right to theirs. But arguing with strangers online does nothing but prove their ignorant opinion of me. It is indeed a foolish practice.

I responded to only a few comments and those were the ones that were genuine questions of why I believe in something I cannot prove. I believe that if any one ever asks that question of a Christian we should always be ready to answer gently. 1 Peter 3:15

After I answered those strangers’ questions, I wondered if I could answer them in real life. After all, there is a pretty little delete button I can use if my words don’t quite come out right on Twitter. Plus, there’s the comfortable anonymous factor. So I started thinking of my reasons for the hope that I have. The hope that no one can take from me and is undisputed among strangers and friends alike.

Why did I decide to follow Jesus and not look back?

I mess up. A lot.

Many non-Christians have a hard time understanding how anyone could be so devoted to someone or something that has a strict list of Thou Shalt Not’s. They seem to have this image of God where He is sitting in Heaven just waiting for us to screw up so He can punish us.  This is so not at all who God is.

Grace.

He’s amazingly full of it!  It’s when God gives us what we don’t deserve. Forgiveness. Love. Eternal life. And He never runs out of grace or allows it to stop washing over us. No matter what! My pastor painted such a beautiful picture of grace in a sermon last year.  Like waves in the ocean, grace is constantly flowing. It meets us exactly where we are on the shoreline washing over us if we are willing.

As part of my Twitter attack one stranger accused me of living a perfect life, so “how convenient” it must be to have God on my side. The perfect one.

I will never understand why Christians are accused of assuming things about others but non-believers can get away with assuming we think we got it all together.

If I had it all together I wouldn’t need Jesus!

Life is hard. Pray harder.

Did you read my last post? Last year was a doozy of a heartbreak year. So many challenges came upon me and my family last year.  I found myself hiding away a lot. I cried a lot. And I prayed a lot.

There are no doubts in my mind that those tears during those hidden moments and the prayers I prayed were not ignored. I have so many incidences that I shared with only my closest friends where I knew my prayers fell on God’s expectant ear.

When there simply wasn’t the money to pay the bills, God sent unexpected refund checks in the mail. (From our health insurance company no less!)

When drought threatened the foundation of our home. God sent the rains to repair it.

When my heart felt like it just couldn’t hurt any more, God whispered reminders of His love and restored what I thought I lost.

Those are just a few examples. I found so much rest in Him through a year filled with one trial after another. Matthew 11:28-30

One of my online accusers wanted me to provide ’empirical’ evidence that God exists. To me, a Christian, the evidence is obvious! Go back and reread the last few paragraphs! The evidence is only revealed to me through my faith in prayer. Anyone who has no faith in prayer could never be convinced ’empirically.’ It’s not worth arguing over, but certainly worth explaining at least once why I believe in the power of prayer.

I’m a hopeless romantic.

I love a good love story. What could be more romantic than a helpless girl rescued by a valiant savior? Ok, maybe valiant is a little sacrilegious when describing a humble Christ. But He certainly was brave, courageous and unrelenting in His love for me. And for you.

That’s the kind of person I want to know. That’s the kind of person I want on my side. That’s the kind of person I can stand up for and not back down.

Christianity is the ultimate love story.  It’s not a rigorous list of do’s and don’ts. It’s not a check the box kind of deal or a yes or no black and white answer.

It’s a relationship with the One who created imperfect me. It’s a love story between two people who strive to know one another brilliantly. And the way I do that is to read the Word and be still to know He is God and wait for Him to nudge me in the right direction.

Maybe that’s hard to understand because you can’t really see or feel God. Or maybe it’s hard to understand because relationships just never really work out for you. Maybe it seems foolish to put my faith and trust into something I can’t ‘prove.’

That’s really ok. Because it’s not about you and me. It’s about the love of my created life and the story He writes for me to share with you in the hopes that maybe one day you’ll fall in love too.

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My Journey To The Other Side Of Heartbreak {See Ya 2016!}

 

2016, I’m over you!

Typically, I couldn’t care less about a calendar year and don’t anticipate much a new one. But this year, I feel like I should ceremoniously rip December from my desk calendar and prominently place January 2017 where everyone can see it’s shiny newness.

Poor 2016. It’s not your fault.

It’s just that I walked through a whole lot of hurt with a whole lot of my favorite people. Including myself. The sudden and mysterious death of a parent. The death of an old friend. Divorce. The break-off of an engagement. Serious injury. Financial strain. And my personal experience of losing a very close decades-old friendship that I thought would last a lifetime.

Maybe you were dealt a similar hand this year and you can relate.

Hurt.

I could easily feel helpless walking through all of that. And I did. I still do, sometimes. But looking back I can see who I was in January 2016 and who God has stretched and molded me into using all of those trials. If 2016 has anything going for it it’s that I learned more than I ever have about leaning into Jesus for my healing, guidance and strength. I am humbled beyond measure by His mercy and grace and I am learning to set aside the idols that get in the way of His will for my life.

I have been beaten down, bruised and broken.  But never abandoned. Even in the midst of all the hurt I never felt my Savior let go of me. Even on the days when my grief was crippling, I learned to focus on the One who was calling to me among the crashing waves. Every day is a new lesson in remembering to clothe myself in the full armor of God, but trusting Him to be the one to fight my battles.

One word to change my life for 2017

2016 was the toughest year for me emotionally that I can remember. But I wouldn’t trade it in for anything.  I know when I am under fire it’s because I am being refined like metal. All my impurities will melt away transforming me into something more precious.  I am promised an abundant life in Christ and it is in Him that I choose to stay.

Perhaps you are one of many people who will choose a word to guide you through a new year.  I chose ‘intentional’ for my word in 2016. I had a much different idea of the word at the beginning of the year! I thought it would help me build intentional relationships with others. Instead, I found myself being intentional with my prayers, my quiet time, my thoughts and putting on that armor every. Single. Day. Or trying to.

I didn’t give much thought to my word for 2017, but I didn’t need to. God promises that he will work all things for my good and bless my abundant life. Heartbreak is never easy and no one asks for it, but sometimes God allows us to walk through it for the ‘soul’ purpose of getting to know Him better and learning to trust Him more.

That is why my word for 2017 is TRUST

Trust that He will never leave me nor forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Trust that He will deliver His promise for good. (Romans 8:28)

Trust that His dreams for me are way better than anything I could imagine for myself. (Ephesians 3:20)

Trust Him to heal me and to restore me. (Psalm 147:3)

Trust that the journey He brought me through in 2016 has prepared me for His plan in 2017 and beyond. (Jeremiah 29:11)

I never thought I’d be thankful for my heartbreak or that I would ever be able to turn my hurt into praise. Still, some days are easier than others.  But it’s because of those promises in Scripture that I am able to find hope. In good times and in bad. So, while I know my journey isn’t over (I am still breathing after all), and I know that the year is long, I can feel the Lord’s strength within me and that still small voice cheering me on through His sustaining power in 2017!

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Gift Giving Made Easy {No Obligation Required}

It’s gift giving season again.  Are you ready?  Do you have your list made out for all your family, friends, and neighbors? What about for those people you might need an “oops, I forgot you” gift?

Have you ever been on the receiving end of one of those gifts?  A gift given out of obligation.

Last year I was prompted to make cookies for my entire cul-de-sac. You can read more about it here.  It was an assignment designed to get to know the people I’ve lived next to for years but never bothered to introduce myself.  It was an exercise in building community.  And it worked. But I didn’t bake the cookies to receive anything in return.  I just wanted to bless people. 

The response from that was mixed. Some people didn’t even answer the door. Some stopped to talk for awhile.  Others gave us a few of their own cookies. But the woman who felt like she needed to respond by bringing over wrapped gifts for my entire family is what made me stop and think. Why was she compelled to do that?

She was giving out of obligation. If I had never  given her my gift, she never would have given me hers. It made me feel like the gift I gave her became a burden for her to return the favor.  She didn’t allow me to just love her without expecting anything in return.

Consider this:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life! John 3:16

How many times have you read that verse? Maybe this is the first time. If that’s the case, read on because I’ve read it and recited it dozens of times, but sometimes when you’ve grown accustom to something you begin to take it for granted.

I did that with this verse. It’s been presented to me over and over again throughout my life that it became dull. Lifeless. Meaningless.

Maybe you’ve felt this way at times too.

What a travesty!  It’s the most life-giving, meaningful verse. Why do you suppose it’s made it’s way onto so many billboards, fast food cups and bumper stickers?

Because it expresses exactly who God is.

He’s a life giver. A soul seeker. He’s a loving father.

God gave because he so loved whoever. That’s you! And that’s me.

It doesn’t matter what this year has done to you. It doesn’t matter where you find yourself. You were never the forgotten one. You were never the one God pulled an “oops” present out for. The prize has always been there for you to take, without obligation. Because you are loved. So loved.

There’s nothing you have to do to earn this gift. There’s nothing God expects from you other than to trust that this gift is wrapped in the perfect package. A sweet, innocent baby. An approachable child born just for you and I to be able to relate to and get to know intimately so that we will not perish. So that you and I could live an abundant and eternal life.

If you accept no other gift this Christmas other than the one sent from Heaven to a manger in Bethlehem thousands of years ago, you will have received nothing better. It’s beautiful and simple, yet filled with wonder and hope.

Allow yourself to be a whoever. Allow yourself to be loved.

 

For more Biblical insight, Bible verses and encouragement, check out my posts and many others over at BibleVerses.com.

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Peace {How I Found It With A Wish}

I lost an eyelash this morning.  Not really a big deal. But I lost an eyelash this morning and it taught me a huge lesson on what really matters.

My husband and I have been pretty diligent about staying out of debt for the last 7 years.  We worked really hard to pay off student and car loans and credit cards.  It took us a good while to get there, but when we did it was very liberating  and we were able to begin saving for emergencies.

We’ve had our share of car breakdowns, vet bills, and home repairs.  Anyone living in the free world experiences these things. But God always provides. Always.

This year though we’ve had a rough go. Our entire air conditioning unit needed to be replaced earlier this Summer giving us a huge $6,000 hit to our emergency fund. We reluctantly paid it but we were thankful not to go into debt and to have cool air. Southern summers are brutal, y’all. (Oh, how I love them!)

We slowly began to rebuild our emergency fund from it’s crippling blow, but life seems to want to beat us up a bit more. Both girls needed braces at the same time. The same. Time!

My oldest started high school along with musical theater and choir and dance and fees, fees, fees!

My husband needs to have surgery within the next few months. If you’ve been living in America the last several years, no doubt you are aware that even if you have insurance your medical bills are nothing short of ridiculous. I could go on since this is my blog and I can.  But I won’t.

Also, because of the extreme drought in the Southeast, my house is slowly settling it’s way into the ground and beginning to crumble around my ears. Just say the words “Foundation Repair” and you see dollar signs flash before your eyes. Go ahead. Say them. Right? Dollar signs!

Last weekend both of our cars, BOTH of our cars died on the same day.  One is still sitting dead in my driveway.

It’s all a bit overwhelming.

So, we pray. And we plan. And we pick up the things that God has put in our path and try to count it all joy.

We look for ways and anticipate how He will provide for us. We give it all over to the one who gave us our home, our kids and our health in the first place and let Him manage it all.

That’s where you find peace.  And you know you have it when you have moments like when you lose an eyelash.

You know you’re supposed to make a wish when you lose one, right? You make a wish and as with your birthday candles you blow it away.

Well, I don’t believe in wishes.  I believe in prayer.

So this morning when I lost my eyelash, as I often do, I paused to think about what I should pray for. I was in front of my mirror so I just looked at my reflection and smiled.

Hmmm… Should I pray away my trials? Should I pray for money to fall from the sky?

But I truly didn’t feel like I should waste my ‘wish’ on those material things.

So, I dug around deep inside my soul to find my purest desire. I drew in my breath and prayed.

“I pray for my children to grow up to know Christ.”

I surprised myself, honestly. It was in that moment when I realized I don’t really need money. Or health. Or even a house.

I need the assurance of spending an eternity with the ones I love the most.  I need to know that when they grow up and have trials of their own they will know they should lean on Christ the way my husband and I have tried to these last few months. I need to know that they are taken care of even in those times when I fail to do so.

Only the saving knowledge of Christ can provide any of that. Along with the peace He so lovingly provides during life’s most difficult trials. And all we have to do to get that peace is pray, trust and wait for Him to send the provisions He has already promised.

 

How has God provided for you during your difficult times? What did you learn from it?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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