Friday, October 20, 2017

The Perfect Life

It was a particularly busy day at work one day recently. The whole day it seemed that I would no sooner start on one project until 2 more came up almost simultaneously. There was a steady stream of people in and out of my office needing something or asking questions. There were deadlines to meet, places to be, and a stack of things to do.

I fuss about it, but I love the pace of my job. I thrive on it.

I took each thing as it came, as I have learned to do, and pushed through.  Days like that, though they may seem overwhelming, do at least make the day seem to fly by.  In the midst of all the busyness, though, the Lord prompted me to write about a question that came up as I was reflecting on this chaotic day.

What would I be doing right now if I had been given the perfect life I always thought I wanted?


In the seventies when I was a teenager, I remember thinking a perfect life would be to get married, have children, and be a stay at home mom all during their growing up years. Before you judge me too harshly, remember one little detail: In those days it was quite common for mothers to stay home with their children while the husband went off to work everyday to "bring home the bacon." 


I had a brief ambition in high school to go to business college and be trained in office administration before getting married. However, I fell in love my senior year in high school, and the fleeting ambition to go to college fell by the wayside. After high school graduation I got married at eighteen and had three children within the first decade of our marriage. I got to stay home with my children part of the time, but for the most part, my dream life was not working out like I had planned because:

I kept having to return to the workforce.


Except for a few precious years, I was a working mom. I was thinking about what life was like when my children were small. I can never really know what "might have been," like George Bailey did in It's a Wonderful Life. I have an idea, though, that what I thought I wanted was not at all what I needed.


I remember being unhappy about having to go back to work when the youngest started first grade. The monetary strain of raising a family caused the need for me to seek a job. If I had stayed home, though, the chain of events that unfolded over the years would not be the same.

For one, I'm quite sure I would not have gone to college. The job I was forced to seek out got me out of the house and allowed me to be more comfortable around people. Back then, I was such a timid shadow of the person I am today. I gained confidence in my abilities by learning this new job. This reawakened my love of learning--I remembered that I love school!  The possibility of college entered my mind. As my confidence increased I worked up the courage to take a chance and enroll in "Intro to PC," my first college class. 

Because I found the courage to go to college, I discovered my fascination with technology. Who knows if I would even know how to use a computer if I had my "perfect life?" I love working with computers; I continue to learn as I go and have never been afraid to try the next new technology. 

After I had been at my job for about 6 years, I felt led to apply for another job. It was almost a year later that I got that new job. Here I was around technology more and more, and as communication in the workplace evolved from memos on paper to emails, I adapted to the changes. Because of this job, I now had access to email in the nineties, about the time when it was becoming a new way to communicate. The internet was a new, exciting thing and I was eager to learn about it.

Finally, and most importantly, I might not be a Christian. It may sound like a stretch, but if I hadn't been forced to go out and get a job, I might never have had the courage to try a new church. It was only because my daughter wanted to go to a local church after she had a God encounter at a youth outreach they held. Even though I was raised in church, I never knew Jesus as my personal Savior. I gave my heart to Christ while going to this church that my daughter wanted to go to. 

My life began to change when I accepted Christ as my Savior at age 39.

So, though I was unhappy about it at the time, the adversity in my life that caused me to get a job outside the home in the first place was actually a good thing. It led me to college, which sparked a fire in me to learn more. This in turn caused me to get the job that led to my present job, which I believe is a gift from God. 

I can honestly say I am thankful to God for allowing the pain and need that caused me to seek out that job back in 1988. I so desperately did not want to stop being a stay at home mom; I felt like I was deserting my children at the time. Now I see it was all part of God's plan for my life.

As I was reflecting on all the pain and struggles I have been through, I remembered a story I heard. It is said that if the caterpillar has help getting out of the cocoon, it doesn't form properly into a butterfly and will soon die. It's the struggle of getting out of the cocoon that causes it to become what it is meant to be.

My struggles over the years have been painful, and sometimes I just wanted to give up. Literally. In other posts I have shared about my battle with depression, and how I was suicidal at one time. I wasted a lot of time and energy being unhappy about having to work outside the home because it was not what I had wanted. 

It was all part of God's plan, though.

These days, I am so very grateful for God's intervention and guidance. He has guided me every step of the way and I have not one doubt that I am exactly where I was supposed to be all along. I am actually glad that I had to work, because I believe it was part of what God used to help make me who I am today. 

Put your life in God's hands and trust Him to lead you in the ways you should go. He always knows what we need, even if it's not what we think we want at first. 

He always knows best.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5,6 NLT

Saturday, September 16, 2017

When Worry and Anxiety Come

"Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?" Luke 12:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

Just days after my last post, Hurricane Harvey slammed into the coast of Texas. For about a week previously I had been watching the weather closer than I normally would, for you see, I have family in Houston. Very close, very dear family; my youngest son and his wife live there. Sure, they are no longer children, of course, but as any mother will tell you, your babies are always your babies, no matter how old they are, no matter that they have been grown and on their own for many years.

When it became clear that Harvey was indeed heading for Houston, I hit my knees, and enlisted my brothers and sisters in Christ to agree with me in prayer. We prayed protection over not only my family but the entire area.

Thursday evening, I texted them to see how they were. I asked if they were evacuating, and they said no, they were on high ground and had supplies.

Friday the hurricane made landfall, southwest of them in Corpus Christi. I checked in on them that evening and was told it was raining a little, "really more drizzly than anything." They had gone for a walk. Life was still fairly normal. They were prepared to evacuate if it became mandatory, but were optimistic that they could ride it out.

At this time, we didn't know that the hurricane would stall out and sit over them for days, dumping tons of water and flooding many areas of the city.

For 5 or 6 days, I texted my son and daughter-in-law about twice a day. Each time, they were fine. Even though it rained, and rained, and rained. By Sunday evening, it was still raining there but my family was still high and dry. I had been praying all along and giving them to God, but I was still nervous and worried about them. I was doing my best to trust Him, but it was so hard.

Then it all changed. A peace settled over me as was praying that evening. It began to sink in what was going on: God had directed them to the exact area of the city to live in when they first moved there several years ago. He knew this was coming, but He took care of them. 

This is one of the times I can honestly say I experienced what Paul talks about when he said:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6,7. NASB

I like the way the New American Standard phrases this passage; "Peace that passes all comprehension will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus..." We can't even comprehend it; we can't get our minds around how He can do that, but He does.

That's exactly what happened. God's peace just enveloped me; it settled over me like a warm blanket on a cold day. Even though I was still praying and still checked in on them, I was not worried anymore. 
It continued to rain until about Wednesday, but I remained calm.

I know many people were flooded out of their homes; some lost everything. My heart goes out to them. I do not begin to understand why some were flooded and some were not; I just know that God spared my family. They stayed above the flood waters the entire time and even kept electricity. I do not believe it was by chance.

I believe my God heard and answered our prayers, and I wanted to testify to His goodness and mercy. 

"Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen." Philippians 4:20 NASB

Sunday, August 20, 2017

To Be Free, Stand Here

I've been going through a rough time for a few months now. It seems like depression would like to come and take up residence again. It's not going to though. I finally shared this with my Sunday school class and asked for prayer.

I don't like to ask for help, especially considering where I have come from and the period of extreme neediness and insecurity I went through following my divorce and my youngest child leaving for college. Thank God I am not that person anymore. Sometimes, though, I think God allows circumstances that cause us to realize we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for us. So I had to swallow my pride and ask for prayer.

This afternoon, I was looking through some older journals, seeking to encourage myself from reading about what God has done for me in the past. I came across an entry from 2007. I had forgotten all about this, which makes me glad I journal.

I'll share a bit of it here. It was written after a time of prayer where I had a word from God:

"...God showed me the pit I have been in. In the past when I have read about pits in the Bible, I have always pictured a large hole in the ground about 10 feet in diameter and just deep enough to be hard to climb out of. The pit I saw, however, was so deep I couldn’t see the bottom when I looked down. The diameter was just large enough for a person to get through, not wide like I had always pictured.  Jesus was reaching down to get my hand and help me up. However, I had climbed all the way up until I could see light at the top somehow. I wondered about this, but before I could ask He revealed to me that there were steps in the side of the pit. I had not noticed those before. I asked where those came from and He said they were the Word of God. Speaking the Word of God had given me something to stand on that was higher than where I had been before. Every time I had spoken the Word in faith believing I had climbed a little higher. It was a process. I didn’t climb from the depths of this pit overnight. I was also concerned about being in a pit again, when I clearly remember Him pulling me out of one 2 or 3 years ago. I remember because He told me then that we embark on this journey by the following steps:


He showed me that first is salvation: 'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.'—1 John 1:9. 


Second, He told me to not be always looking back continually at what I have come out of: 'Forgetting what lies behind me and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.' Phil. 3:13

He then told me another scripture, found in Psalms: 'He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.'  Psalm 147:3

Then He reminded me that as I stood in that desert back in the summer of 2003, looking around at where He had brought me to, I saw a little ways off a mountain range. I somehow knew then that I was going to be climbing again soon. I began to see that the Christian walk is a series of mountains and valleys. As we go onward with Him, we go into times of valleys in between the mountains, but each time we end up a little higher up, a little better off, a little closer to Jesus. Unless we are willfully disobedient, we don’t plunge to the depths where we once dwelled. 

Somehow I had crossed this desert and found a way to go up, which led me through the core of the mountain to the bottom of a very narrow, dark pit. This is the pit that I had found myself nearly to the top of. Jesus had been with me every step of the way, encouraging me to “speak the Word.” He could have pulled me out at any time, but He knew that by my speaking the Word of God, I would be transformed on the inside. I am being changed on the inside as I go, because the Word gets inside and does the work. How marvelous!"

Prior to this writing ten years ago, according to my journal, I had been confused and had felt “dead” inside for a couple of years. 

I say "according to my journal" because I honestly don't remember!  God has completely transformed me and I am no longer "living there," praise the Lord! THIS is why I journal; because God showed me in 1994 that I would be a writer. He put in me a desire to journal, knowing I would I have to have those "notes" from the past to encourage others. 

I had no idea in 1994 how or where I would write. Sometimes we can't see very far ahead. We just have to trust that He knows what He is talking about.

For years I hid God's Word away in my heart by posting little notes all over my apartment: on the bathroom mirror, above the kitchen sink, on the wall by my bed. I would see those scriptures daily and say them out loud when times got tough. Doing this is how I got through to where I am now: delivered from a host of things including depression and I'm NOT going back there!

The Word that I spoke in those dark times has brought me so much farther than I could have imagined! The tears I cried did their work in softening my heart to enable me to take in more of His Word. I turned to the only place I knew to go when my heart was broken, or when I was afraid, or when I was alone; the Bible. 

God used the dark night of the soul back then to cause me to get into His Word more, because He knew it is LIFE. He knew it would be the source of getting me to the next level.

He also knew I would need to be encouraged TODAY and would be able to read what He has done in my life and how far I've come. 

He knew I would STAND on His Word and be FREE! 

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (NASB)



Monday, August 7, 2017

What Really Matters


As I have mentioned on here before, I've been de-cluttering and minimizing the stuff I have been holding on to. One time it may be sorting through a box of pictures; another time it might be as simple as cleaning out my sock drawer. This past Saturday, though, the organizing project was one I had been putting off because I dreaded it, but I really felt like it was the day for it.

These were boxes of memorabilia from my life before the divorce, going all the way back to childhood; boxes I had tried to go through unsuccessfully about 5 years ago. I was in a precarious place emotionally back then, due to emotional baggage that I had never dealt with. I just wasn't healed enough yet. Some of my parents' stuff was in those boxes, and even though my mother had been gone 15 years and my dad almost 30 years at that time, I wasn't prepared to face it. I hastily packed it all back up and stashed in the back of the closet, far out of sight and hopefully, out of mind.

By doing this I pushed the pain down into a corner of my heart, so to speak. It was out of sight and mind, but it was affecting me much more than I realized. I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have learned from experience that raw emotions and hurts that are not brought to the Lord will eventually infect every part of the soul. Depression fueled by rejection, shame, and feelings of worthlessness was just beneath the surface all the time.

Thankfully, later  that year God miraculously set me free from that darkness and pain in my heart and I am forever changed. Still, I was a little hesitant to open those boxes, much less throw away or donate some of it. I knew it was time, though.

So I opened the closet and pulled those boxes out. There were the childhood memories, such as my Girl Scout sash and pins, various pictures and clippings from my childhood; and even some 45 records. There were mementos that represented my parents' lives. The items so painful to see that I had pushed them out of my sight for 5 years. Pathetic, I know, but this is what the enemy specializes in. Remember, he comes to "steal, kill, and destroy." He tried to destroy me but he was not successful, praise the Lord!

I'm not sure what I expected to feel upon seeing my mom and dad's treasured items again. One would probably expect to cry, or feel extreme sadness, but something very different happened. I felt joy. I felt relief. There was a release from the past and the hold it had over me. I was surprised but happy to finally be able to face the past; to hold in my hands mementos like a tiny American flag pin that my mother liked to wear on patriotic holidays. 

Looking through the boxes I found it difficult to believe that I had actually been afraid of this. It seemed silly to me that I would find it painful to see and hold these things again. I have now realized all these years later that I didn't lose my parents. I know where they are, and I know I will see them again one day. It was hard to accept back then, though, and I obsessed for way too long over the fact that I was the only survivor of my immediate family I grew up in. 

The rationale of the preceding paragraph is from the perspective of a delivered, free believer. Jesus has broken the chains I once dragged around. The reason I can see it so clearly now is because of the redeeming work that Christ has done in my heart. 

There is no way I could have ever untangled the mess that my life was in. One of the pictures I have attached is of several pieces of jewelry that were hopelessly knotted together. I tried for over half an hour to salvage the wooden cross necklace, the one piece in all that mess I really wanted to keep. Then it hit me that this was a perfect analogy of the cross. Only Jesus can set us free. When it's all said and done, only the cross of Christ matters. Because of the cross I am free!

I found it so ironic that same items that the Lord had given me the grace to box up in 1996 all by myself I was now going through again all by myself. It had caused me so much grief and pain for so many years. Just like He always does, though, He gave me the grace and ability to go through those boxes and throw away or put in the box to donate what I didn't need anymore. As a bonus (or maybe it was the whole reason all along?) I got a lesson in what really matters.

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NLT

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Contentment

Contentment. In Philippians 4 Paul writes that he has learned to be content in whatever circumstances in which he finds himself. This has been an ongoing process in me for my whole Christian walk. It's like a pattern: I long for something, God shows me what He has provided instead, and I gradually accept and eventually become actually thankful for His provision.

Lately though, I have been anything but content. This may seem random, but I promise it will all be relevant. Let me explain.

Over the years He has provided housing, food, clothing, and transportation for me. I started with basically nothing and He added as the need arose.

I was scared when I first became single with one child still at home. I needed a place to feel safe; somewhere my son and I could live alone, but not alone in the sense that people were close by. God led me to an apartment, where I had good neighbors. I loved that apartment!  I lived there for 11 years.  I started to want something of my own, though, so He provided. I went from living in an apartment to buying the house I now live in. 

A few years ago, I became aware of just how much stuff I had crammed into my little 900 square foot house. I thought I must need a bigger house, and asked God to provide. But He did something surprising: He opened my eyes to minimalizing.

He showed me that I had adequate housing for a person living alone, and I needed to live within what He had provided. This sounds kind of mean, now that I am seeing it in print, but it wasn't at all. It actually was presented in such a way that it was like a revelation or something. Only God can do that; change your heart to want to give stuff away and actually be happy about it.

So I've been on this adventure of going through my stuff on a regular basis. I am constantly getting up on a Saturday morning and deciding "today I am going to sort through [fill in the blank] and give away what I don't need."  Sometimes it's clothes or shoes; sometimes it's furniture. Lately, it's been pictures, which can be challenging, but also freeing.

I love doing this. (This has to be God).

You have to constantly be in communication with God about this. I have learned to ask Him about everything.  Isn't that what He told us to do, though?

When He directed me to minimalize, I felt strongly that I should not bring new items into the house. For instance, I recently wanted a new bookshelf to accommodate my fantastic new idea I got (probably on Pinterest) for displaying books and pictures in my living room. Instead, He has directed my steps, saying "use what you already have."  I have heard that phrase so many times in my conversations with Him, but He's always right. Always. 

In short, He provides whatever I need.

So, what's the problem if God supplies all my needs?

For quite some time I have been focused on and increasingly upset by the fact that my children and grandchildren live far away from me. Even though we stay in touch by phone and internet, they are too far away to be daily or even weekly in my life, and this has been a sticking point for me. For several years I have battled with this. 

To fill the void, God brought Godly friends around me many years ago to love me and accept me as their own. I am living proof that He does set the lonely in families. The friendships and subsequent "adoption" into the family that He developed with my two "besties" and me over the almost 2 decades we've been friends is a miraculous story in itself, but the details of that is for another blog post at another time.

So I went to God recently, crying and lamenting over the fact that I need to see my kids and grandkids more. I told Him what He already knew: I had always and forever only wanted "the house with the white picket fence" so to speak with the sprawling front porch and rocking chairs on it. There would be a big backyard for the kids, and a deck for us to hang out on and watch them play. My kids and grandkids would be in and out of my house all the time. I would see them at least once a week. This is how I envisioned my future life when my children were growing up. 

This is not my reality

Over the past year or so, I have grieved over the loss of this future that I did not get to have. I have wondered what happened; why would God put a dream in my heart He was not going to fulfill? He never answered these questions. I became increasingly discontent, then discouraged, then defeated. The stage was set to enter back into full depression, each day getting darker and more hopeless. So utterly hopeless. The enemy of our soul would like us to believe that it is hopeless. I almost did.

But there is always hope. ALWAYS.

This past week was the bottom of that downward turn. I wept and prayed for a good long while after church Wednesday night. I did what I should have done in the beginning: I surrendered this whole thing to God. I asked Him to, once again, rearrange my heart, my longings, my desires. 

I basically asked Him to do with my heart what He had asked me to do with my house full of stuff: sort through what was there and take out what didn't belong. I asked Him to purify me and put the right desires in my heart, the ones He wants, because HE KNOWS BEST. Then I went to bed, and got up and went about my business as usual, going to work and coming home. 

This morning in prayer, I heard God as clearly as I have ever heard Him, regarding my kids and grandkids. It was so familiar, and was probably there all along but I didn't want to hear it. He said these words:

"Use what you already have."

So what do I have? I did what I always do when He tells me this about a thing I think I need. I took stock of what my resources are. What do I already have?

I have the internet. Thank you Jesus for the age of technology! We can Skype or Facetime more often.

I have my phone, constantly with me. We can text and send pictures to each other. We can talk on the phone (in olden days people actually talked to each other on the phone. I know, right?)

We can interact on Facebook (when I can get the darlings to comment). I try, oh how I try. 

God has provided a reliable car; I can go and see them more often; especially the grandkids who are growing and changing DAILY. I want them to know and have a relationship with their Mimi. 

As God provides the funds, I can fly to see the ones farther away. I can even drive when He gives me the courage to drive that far on my own.

The enemy wants us to live defeated and in despair. He wants us to believe that nothing will ever change, that there is no hope. But he is wrong.

There is always HOPE. Always.

"I have learned how to be content with whatever I have...For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." Philippians 4: 11, 13 NLT

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Still Standing

God can and does speak to us all the time, in many different ways. We just have be listening and watching. He showed me something awesome this morning in a thunderstorm. First though, I have to give some background on my experience with storms.

I grew up on the edge of tornado alley, so thunderstorms and tornadoes have always been in my life. I never really noticed them until the spring of 1996 when an F3 tornado came tearing through my town and left a 1/2 mile wide path of destruction for several miles. My house was in the direct path, but God spared the lives of my family and our house. We just lost trees, a storage building, and were without electricity for 3 days.

Ever since that night in 1996 I've had a healthy respect for severe thunderstorms, especially those that have the potential to produce tornadoes.

Recently, I've had some wind damage on my property. Two years ago, strong straight line winds took out a tree, causing it to fall and rip the electric meter completely off my house! Three months later, another storm blew another tree down and pulled the wires loose from my electric meter again! At least the second time it didn't cost me anything. The electric company was able to reconnect the wires since the meter was not damaged this time.

Last spring, I got caught in a hail storm with no where to go and had to drive home in it. I had damage to my car and had to pay the deductible to get it fixed.

So, forgive me if I'm a little jumpy when it's storm season. I have good reason to be.

This morning I overslept. I awoke at 8:00 am to the sound of my cat meowing loudly. She was very impatiently telling me that her bowl was empty and she was at death's door.

Ok, that was a joke! For those of you who do NOT know my cat, she isn't about to starve any time soon. She weighs 17 pounds.

After I fed the starving cat, I got ready for church in a hurry. Since I was running late I didn't even turn on the TV. I usually have the news on while I'm getting ready in the mornings.

In 35 minutes I was out the door and in my car. It occurred to me that it was really dark outside for 8:40, but I went on anyway, headed for church.

As I left my neighborhood, which is in a forest that completely obscures the sky, I topped the hill and saw the northwest sky for the first time. It was a completely black wall cloud, and it was bearing down on my town. I contemplated trying to go on toward church, which is 12 miles southwest of there, but I knew I could never beat it. I wasn't afraid at that point, but I also did not want to drive in a severe, hail-producing thunderstorm. I feel like wisdom was telling me to go back to my house and wait until that cloud passed. I would just go to the 10:45 service instead of the early one.

I drove around the block at the next corner and calmly drove back to my house. I parked my car under the carport and went into my house, just as the first gusts of wind and drops of rain arrived.

Once in the house, I turned on the TV and was relieved to see commercials. Anyone in tornado country knows that the weather is the top story when it is really severe, and they don't even break for commercials. You can laugh if you want, but it's true.

Soon, the weatherman was showing the storm on the radar, just as it was arriving outside. It was merely a thunderstorm but it had potential for hail. Since I didn't want to risk hail damage on my car again, I was glad I had come back home.

I had relaxed when I saw it was mostly a lot of rain, so I was not prepared for what happened next. I was sitting on my couch, looking out my front window at the storm. My very large pecan tree in front of my house was thrashing about violently in the wind. We're not talking about a sapling; this is a mature tree, taller than the 2 story house next door. Its trunk is so large I can't wrap my arms around it. Several times, it appeared that a branch would break off the tree. The limbs almost touched the ground two or three times. All the trees in the neighborhood were being tossed around in the wind, but this one right in front of my house caught my attention.

I really wish I had thought to record this but it was so surprising and I was
doing a lot of praying at the time.

After about 15 or 20 minutes the wind started to subside. I stared in amazement at that tree. It was still standing! Not only was it still standing, it had not lost one limb. Not one.

As I continued to look at the tree, I heard the still small voice reassuring me that just as this tree was tossed about in the wind, yet did not break, so would I feel tossed in the storms of life at times, but I WOULD NOT BREAK.

God has made nature to be resilient. Trees can withstand a lot of wind without suffering any damage. He also made us, and when we put our faith in Him and trust in Him to get us through the storms of life, He will.

Lately, I have struggled with just that, one of the "storms of life." Over the years, I have suffered the loss of loved ones, financial loss, and physical sickness and pain. I have been through major depression. I have walked through intense emotional pain and had my heart broken so badly, I didn't think I could survive it. You name it, I've been through it. I'm sure we all have had our share of "storms" of this nature.

However, though I have suffered through many storms over the years as I walk with the Lord, each time He has brought me through. Just like the pecan tree, I'm still standing. This morning, He timed a thunderstorm just right so that He could reassure me that He would get me through this storm that I am presently in. 

I'm encouraged by this, because with every new "storm" or battle, there is growth. Praise the Lord! I will come out on the other side of this with a new level of freedom. He is breaking off some more chains!

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.  Psalm 91:1-2 (NLT)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Cast Your Cares

Have you ever had your heart broken, your spirit crushed? Have you felt like you were rejected, damaged, and broken beyond repair? I'm sure most of you have at some time or another had some heartbreak. Pain is a reminder that we live in a fallen world. None of us is exempt, but Jesus has the cure for the pain.

 "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." 1 Peter 5:7 NLT

I'm not proud of the broken life I used to live, but God is using what the enemy meant for evil to do good. I am sometimes led to share some of it.

During prayer recently I was reminded of a time many years ago in my life when I was in one of those very painful places. Life had dealt me a series of hard blows, leaving me as a broken, damaged version of who God had created me to be. My heart had been broken into a million pieces and I was crushed emotionally. God has done a miraculous work in my life and I am completely healed from all that emotional damage, praise the Lord! But I'm feeling drawn to write about it, so here I am. 

I was a mess, but because of the Lord's redeeming love He has delivered me and set me free so well that before I could write this blog I literally had to look it up in my journal because I couldn't remember the details. Thank GOD I can't remember it! This is a testimony of His awesome, redeeming power and love. 

My journals are written in many volumes, spanning the last 22 years since my walk with Jesus began in 1994. They record the details of the journey and I feel strongly that I am supposed to keep them so others can benefit from hearing about what God has done for me. I don't live there anymore, though, and seldom go back into those darker volumes unless I feel led to do so. God gives me grace to read portions without being negatively affected, but He also gives me the sense to leave the past in the past.

Because of my fragile and broken emotions, I was easily hurt over small things. But if something substantial came along that was bad enough to knock even an emotionally stable person down, it was devastating to me. This is about one of those times where an incident hurt me very badly.

After the incident I was to the point emotionally that I had actually become sick physically. I couldn’t eat. For days, I had no appetite.  I ate next to nothing, only then because I felt like the Lord told me to eat.  So I did, but almost got sick. Grief consumed me.  I was functioning a little, sort of on “auto-pilot;” but I wanted to die. I cried out to the Lord repeatedly to help me, because I knew He was my only hope. 


Then one morning during my prayer time something happened. Looking back, I know it was the Lord. Suddenly, for about a ½ second, there was a brightness (I had my eyes closed, but it felt like a light was directed toward me).  Then, I felt the presence of Jesus.  First, His hands were on my head, and then He touched my heart.  For just an instant, it was heavy, like a weight was on it.  I had a cramping sensation in my stomach, like a resistance.  Then it was just GONE. The grief, pain—ALL GONE!!!  My heart was light.  I remember Him saying as He touched me, “you can’t bear this, so I am taking it.”  He took my pain!!!

I have never been the same since that day. I still had some emotional stuff to work through, but the incident that had caused me so much grief and heartache in that particular situation has never bothered me again. I have completely forgiven those who hurt me. I am completely free of the pain.  I don't think about it. I don't worry about it. Its power to hurt me has been neutralized.

If you identify with this at all and are having a struggle emotionally, take heart. You are not alone, and you aren't the only one who has ever felt the stinging pain that is so prevalent in our broken world. Do not believe the lies that the devil is telling you that you are too much a mess, that you are unlovable, or you have passed the point of being able to be redeemed by God. The devil is a LIAR.

God will do for you what He did for me. You have His Word on it.

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22 NIV




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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Has God Forgotten You?

I was thinking about this past "winter," if you can even call it winter. It got kind of cold a couple of times, and even snowed the first week in January. After that, we were on a roller coaster of temperature changes for the rest of the season, going from below freezing to near 90 in the same week sometimes. Crazy.

In a normal cycle of seasons, there is spring, summer, fall, and then winter.  Then the cycle begins all over again. At times, everything seems dead in winter. Judging by the outward appearance in nature, if there are no leaves on the trees, no grass, no flowers, and the birds have mostly gone away, it's winter. There is no sign of life, and it would appear that all is lost.

It's kind of like what we go through sometimes in our Christian walk. 

I've had seasons like that, where my prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling. I would pray and not feel like God even heard me. The situation didn't change. I would cry, pray, cry some more, read the Bible, and pray some more.  Still no change. Still complete silence from God.

Even David went by his feelings and said in the Psalms many times, God, have you forgotten me?

"O Lord, why do you stand so far away?
Why do you hide when I am in trouble?" Psalm 10:1 NLT


Of course God hasn't forgotten us. We can't live by our feelings; they lie. Repeat after me: Feelings cannot be trusted. The older I get and the more I grow in my relationship with Christ the more I am sure, completely positive, that these are the times when He is at work, when all seems to be lost; when we are tempted to give up. We just can't perceive it.

Just like in winter.

In winter, the trees have no leaves and no signs of life. Even though the outward appearance seems to suggest that there is no life there, we know better. We know that in the spring, life will return to all the plant life.

God is at work, and even though it appears He hasn't heard us, the answer is coming. Just like Spring. Hang in there. All is not lost; you have HOPE.

Speaking of hope....

We are in Holy Week. In this season of Easter, let us pause and reflect on what Jesus did for us when He died on the cross to save us. When they hurriedly laid Him in the tomb as the sun was going down and Passover was about to begin, it appeared to the disciples that all was lost. He was dead. The Messiah, their promised Savior, had died.

But all was not lost. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead! He is still ALIVE TODAY! He did what He came to do; He died for our sins, and defeated death, Hell, and the grave. 

Because of what he did for us, we can live with Him forever. We have HOPE. 

So, take heart, friend. God has not forgotten you.

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.   Roman 5:8 NLT





Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sunday Driver

I grew up in the 60s. Looking back, it appears it was a simpler time and kids today would probably think it was boring. We didn't know what we were missing, though, so we weren't bored.  We didn't know about any of the things that the future held back then, like computers, smart phones, and streaming movies from the internet right to your living room. Talking to another person on a screen and actually seeing them while you talked to them was pure fiction that only happened on the Jetsons.

We had fun, and there was always plenty to keep us entertained. Lots of  pastimes from that time in history seem to have "gone by the wayside," though. The saying itself is outdated and has faded from our modern vernacular. THIS actually strikes me as funny, because it's so ironic. 

But I digress.

The 1st car I remember, a 49 Dodge
One of our activities in my family was the Sunday drive. After Sunday dinner was over and the Sunday paper with its funny pages in color had been read, sometimes there was an outing. It was the practice of piling into the family car--usually there was one per household--and driving around looking at the countryside. Sometimes we would drive 20 or 30 miles out in the country or go to another nearby town; sometimes we would just drive around our town and see the pretty houses going up in the new subdivision. 

Think of it as an old-fashioned way of seeing what's going on around you, like surfing the internet is today. Of course, our "surfing" was in a car with no seat belts, where the children in the backseat leaned up to the back of the front seat and propped their chins over the seat back to get a better view of where they were headed.

Ah, yes. Those were the days.

There was no mall to go and walk around in, and with the blue law in full force no stores were open on Sunday anyway. And...there was no Wal-mart yet! 

Sometimes our drives would include a visit to a relative's house, or sometimes if the weather was nice we would go to the park; but most of the time we just drove around. They usually ended the same way, though; we would stop at Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone. Then, as we drove home I would ask if we could drive by the "little pink house," a mid-century modern house a few blocks from our house that was...you guessed it...painted pink.

Yes, this was interesting to see. It was, after all, actually in the middle of the twentieth century at the time, so the house was just "modern" without the "mid century" part.  It was a novelty; a new, ranch style house in a neighborhood of white bungalows built in the 20s and 30s, so it already looked oddly out of place. And, don't forget it was PINK. 

It was also, as we established already, a simpler time. We enjoyed being together, experiencing the sights together and making memories. We laughed at silly stuff that no one else but our family would get. Driving by the little pink house was a bonding experience for us. I've carried that memory and others like it for over half a century and now I'm the only one who remembers them. 

My dad would laugh and tease me, but I think he was secretly glad to indulge my silly request. He wanted to gawk at the strange looking house, too. Of course, we had to slow down when we were looking at something.

And that's where the term "Sunday driver" came from.  Now you know. 

Enjoy life with your family. Make memories like these with your kids. These are the good ole' days they will reminisce about someday. Make them good memories.
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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Recalculating

Recently, I was using GPS to help me find the airport when one of my sons flew in for Christmas. I had received advice from someone in the area to get off the interstate at a certain exit, but the GPS had other ideas. As soon as I passed the exit the GPS had told me to use, he said, "recalculating..." then gave me the updated instructions for which exit to use. Three times I passed the exit I was instructed to use, and three times I heard him say "recalculating," ever so politely, in a beautiful British accent.

Hey, you set your Siri the way you want. Mine is a British guy.

I laughed about it at the time, but it got me to thinking; doesn't God do that for us? He has a plan for each one of us, but sometimes we either don't ask His direction or we ask Him but then veer off the path He put us on and go our own way. We get ourselves into a mess, way off track from where we meant to be. Finally, we admit we messed up and go to Him for help. He gives us direction, possibly recalculated from what He told us earlier, depending on how far off course we have gone.

In my case, I had planned to go to college but fell in love in my senior year of high school. Since I had always seen myself as a mother, and even wrote in my journal that I wanted to have three children, I did what a lot of eighteen-year-old girls did back in the seventies:  I got married, intending it to be for life, because I believed--and still do--that marriage is forever.

Life happens, though. I did have three children, as I had always hoped I would, and they have turned out to be wonderful people. They were the joy of my life when they were little and still are today. The marriage, however, did not turn out well.

None of this took God by surprise, of course. He knew all along the course my life would take and had already set His plan for me in motion when I found myself divorced at 42.

I can second guess my choices, the paths I took, whether I should have turned here or there, and I have--many times--but it doesn't really matter. It's in the past, and the best I can do now is listen for the voice of God for directions.  Recalculated directions. Because He still has a plan for me. He didn't toss me aside because I didn't follow His plan precisely.

Whether I messed up and missed my exit, or took an exit when I should have stayed on course, God is right there with me, whispering directions to get me where He has planned for me to go.

If you are feeling like you missed God's plan for your life, or if you never even asked Him what His plan is, there is still time. First, if you've never trusted Jesus as savior, please do that now. Admit that you can't save yourself and invite Him to be Lord of your life. Then ask Him to give you directions, and He will.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11 NIV