Thorns Have to be Pulled Out if We Want to Heal

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I’ve been feeling a pulling inside of my heart lately ~ a tugging. It’s a gracious little pull, but firm and unrelenting at the same time. God is nudging me ~ and that means I need to perk up my ears and listen.

He has something to teach me. It’s something that’s important to Him, therefore, it’s important for me.

It’s about Mercy.

What is mercy, anyway? Well, just for starters, dig on this….. (and this is just the definition that mankind has tried to come up with for it):

  • Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

And for those who like the one-two-punch-type-definitions ~ Try these on for size:

  • Leniency
  • Clemency
  • Compassion
  • Grace
  • Pity
  • Charity
  • Forgiveness
  • Forbearance

But God’s definition of mercy even goes far beyond all of that. We have only to look at the cross to see it ~ and then we get to gaze upon the EMPTY tomb and the blessed hope we have because of what Jesus Christ has done for us!

God doesn’t need our offerings, our sacrifices, our works. He wants, more than anything, for us to show His love and MERCY.

This is what it is to love in a merciful way ~ doing it especially when it’s hard.

This is mercy.

  • It goes far beyond something as simple as offering support or acceptance.
  • It moves right on past feel-good harmony and shows up even in the midst of conflict.
  • It entails blood, sweat and tears on our part sometimes and the pain is most assuredly not lost on us.

But who are we to be absolved of that when our own Lord and Savior allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross as He showed us all of His beautiful mercy?

Just who do we think we are to retain any kind of “right” not to offer up mercy to others?

It’s what He wants from us, friends. But we must ask Him for the power, lest we fail. ‘Cause mercy may be a gift, but not one that we offer up without a cost.

Showing true mercy can truly hurt.

  • So today, as I walk through my own kind of hard stuff, I shall ask the Lord to search my heart and pull out the thorns that are blocking it from being pliable and mercy-filled.
  • Today, I will ask Him to fill the spaces that are raw and possibly even bleeding from the wounds ~ fill them with His healing balm so mercy and love can flow.
  • Today, I will pray that my Savior will help me to remember that it’s not all about seeking to “do the right thing” when it’s hard, but to truly share His love and mercy and allow that to then flow out toward others.

And I covet your prayers, friends. Because this is one of those things that I think you might easily apply the “be careful what you pray for” little snippet to.

We shall not fear.

How about you? Is there anything in your life that you have started to approach with a sacrificial mode of thinking instead of asking Jesus to give you a heart of true mercy, compassion and grace? Do you find yourself struggling under the weight of the sacrifice and carrying a burden that seems to be getting heavier every day? Are you feeling empty, depleted, and like there is nothing left to pour into others? Is there a place God is calling you to display His mercy but you feel you are holding back for a multitude of reasons?

I can answer yes to all of the above, so just so ya know, you aren’t alone.

And that’s when I realize that I am doing it wrong. That’s exactly when I know that it’s time to stop working within my own power and turn it all over to Jesus.

This is part of what this really means, I think. This is part of how we show mercy instead of offering up sacrifices that over time just run dry. Relinquishing the sacrifice-and-serve-because-I-should-do-it mentality and simply let God move us one moment at a time.

This is how Jesus does things. And He will help us too if we simply ask. We will probably have to ask over and over again, because self creeps in often and tries to take the reins.

But He is faithful.

He is merciful.

And He will deliver.

So that pull inside of my heart and the one that you may be experiencing yourself right now? That little tug that is unrelenting? In a way, although it can be uncomfortable at times, it’s just another way the Lord is displaying His mercy towards us. He cares too much to allow the thorns to remain, friends. He loves us too much not to heal our infections in our hearts.

He has work to do in me. And I have so much to learn.

But I am ever-so-grateful that I have the best teacher a girl could ever ask for.

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13

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More than 24 More

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Once upon a time, there was a girl who decided she would get married, have three or more children, and live happily ever after by the time she was about 20 years old. She wanted to have her children young, so she would be able to be a hip and fun grandmother some day.  Her husband would be handsome, fun, and reliable (loyal). He would take care of her until the end of her days on this earth, never cause her harm, and make her feel loved. Always.

She had it all planned out: She would keep herself pure for her husband, always be beautiful and the perfect partner for him, never be mean or angry, and then, maybe she would be worthy of the love she knew he would provide for her. She didn’t want to mess this up; not before she met him, and certainly not after.

But she did. She messed up all of her plans.

Yes, something happened to the girl along the way. She searched for love in all the wrong places. She gave up thinking that she would ever find the guy – the one who would love her unconditionally, support her in the good times and the bad, and be her best friend at the same time.

She gave up.

So she threw in the towel. She screwed up in her search so badly, that she felt even more unworthy by the time that she actually got in touch again with the man that she had met at a younger age…the one who would be her husband.

She was happy when they reconnected again, but had already made the firm decision that marriage would not be in her future. She was done…finished. And besides ~ she was tainted goods. How could this guy ever love her for who she was now?

But God made it clear: this is the one. This is the one for her to marry, as much as she didn’t want to get married after all that she had been through.

So she did.

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I am so thankful for 24 years of marriage with my guy. But I have a newsflash for you, dear friends: He’s not THE ONE.

  • He does love me unconditionally.
  • He does take care of me in sickness and in health.
  • He is loyal, reliable, handsome and fun.

But he wasn’t THE GUY.

He is not the One that my soul was thirsting for. He’s not the One who could make me pure again after all the screw ups from my past. He’s not the One who will FOR CERTAIN be with me until I take my last breath.

But He is the one I was meant to marry ~ thanks be to God!

I’m so glad that God lent him to me. I’m so thankful that he is right next in line behind my Lord and Savior for me to love. I don’t always love him as well as Jesus would have it done, but I try.

And the girl does get to live happily ever after. And so does the boy. With The One!

#morethan24more #whoohoo #eternitywithChrist

As I look back over the years of our marriage, I find myself not only grateful, but enjoying a moment of clarity as well. There are two main things that I truly think have carried us through and drawn us closer together over the years, in spite of how we can be in different places regarding different things at the same time.

  • Our mutual and individual love for Jesus Christ.
  • Our desire to be good friends above all else.

The first thing has to be there, or we start placing our expectations upon our spouse for love and acceptance. We start living for that, versus allowing Christ to live in and through us. We start trying to glorify ourselves, worship our marriage instead of the Lord and what He wants to do through our marriage, and live for self instead of for Christ.

We start seeing “love” as what we get out of it instead of what it really is meant to be by God’s design.

And to me, the friendship thing is soooo important because all the other stuff fades anyway, friends. We get old; can ya dig? We stop being so sexy. We can become sick, even ugly in some ways. Just ask my husband how I look during one of my Fibro flares first thing in the morning…ha ha. (He probably won’t tell you though – cuz he loves me too much – so there!)

But because he is my next-best-buddy-second-only-to-Jesus ~ he simply laughs at my disarray and lack of charisma. And I love this about him a whole bunch. It’s one of my favorite things.

So Happy Anniversary to my best husband ever! You are my favorite friend on this earth and I am so grateful that you love me for who I am, even when I’m a messy monster.

God displays his sense of humor frequently in our marriage. But He also shows us His unending grace and mercy.

Once upon a time there was a girl who became, in many ways, quite the opposite of what she thought she’d be as a wife, a friend, a mother. God took her and married her to a wonderful man of God who showed her without question, Jesus and His grace, love, mercy and compassion in physical and tangible action on a daily basis. He showed her through this man that she can be loved, flaws and all. He made it clear that with the help of Jesus, she can love better than she ever thought possible too.

  • 24 years of beauty mixed in with some ugly too ~
  • Loving moments coupled with some scrappy, nasty conflicts ~
  • Impossible-to-verbalize joy and palpable painful seasons ~
  • Blatant imperfections all overridden by gracious and unmistakable gifts from God.

24 years of blessing and time to understand God’s kind of love a little bit better right here on earth – together.

And here’s to more than 24 more!

Above all, love each other deeply; because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

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Hello. Is it You I’m Looking For???

Little joys make the things that are less-than-great all the better.

As my health took a downward turn over the last couple of years, the Lord has really helped me to appreciate the small things that I can do. I’m also learning, through the process of reveling in such wonders, a whole different perspective in regard to doing our work as unto the Lord.

Little stuff counts. It counts a lot. But we truly have to be intentional in looking for these little lovelies sometimes, my friends.

So here are a few of my favorite things right about now. I bask in these; I bathe myself in them. When the world tells us to live a little and let go of such menial tasks, I find myself LOVING it when I get to do them. (sorry, never-ending laundry, you didn’t make the cut).

Hello, clean counters. I love to wash you and stroke you with my fabulous 409 every night before going to bed so that I can wake up to your gleaming face every morning before you get trashed all over again.

Hello, pulled together curtains. I love to pull you closed over the blinds each and every night so that I can enjoy your fabulous geometric sassiness for a while before I get the satisfaction of flinging you wide open (let there be light!) each and every morning. You complete me.

Hello, Pill and Vitamin Bottles. I love digging you out of “the drawer” every morning and every night, only to put you back away again so you cannot continue to remind me of what all I must ingest simply to exist. I also love the drawer in which you reside, because if I didn’t put you back in your cozy little home after my daily dose of AWESOME I might actually forget I swallowed you already and take a few too many. So yah…thanks.

Hello, Windex. I love you. That is all. #therejustarentwords

Hello, Mirrors, Mirrors on the walls. You make my heart sing. I don’t love you for the reflection I see when I gaze into your face, but I really love you for the way that you help me pretend I have more daylight streaming into my humble abode. Windows are overrated anyway, so there’s that. You are the best pretend window friends I ever had. Stay a while.

Hello, Blankies and Throw pillows. You make things look prettier even when stuff all around you is messed up. I appreciate you helping me to have a semblance of style amidst the chaos. You’re good like that. You are exceptional, I must say too, at helping me to hide the muffin top whilst sitting and laying around on the couch. It just makes me feel better. You serve multitudes of most-excellent purposes. Yay for efficiency and beauty entertwined in such a lovely manner! You are my shining stars.

And now, for a fabulous tune from our one and only, Lionel. His voice is amazing and brings me much joy. I wanna take a chill pill, curl up with my blankies, and gaze at my light filled mirrors, clean counters, and geometric curtains every time I hear him.

Every single time.

Jesus Sees

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Do you suffer with something that seems to prevent you at every turn from feeling like you can be the “hands and feet” of Jesus? Are you sick, afflicted, grieving, or so overwhelmed with your day-to-day tasks and responsibilities that you struggle to be able to “go out” into the world and love upon others?

Have you cut out all the extraneous stuff that takes your time, attention, or space away to make room for what is truly important; yet you still get stopped in your tracks every time you try?

You may simply just not be seeing it then.

You may not be seeing that you can serve others from right where you are.

I want to encourage you today, dear friends if you, like me, sometimes forget to remember that you can love others the way Jesus commanded even if you can’t go out into the world to do so.

  • You can do it from your bedridden place.
  • You can do it from what seems like your prison of sorts.
  • You can do it, even if you feel isolated, too sick to go serve at the soup kitchen, unable to go to church because you might be contagious, too weak, or incapacitated.

Prisons got nothin’ on Jesus. Walls can be torn down.

Your heart is not incapacitated, friend. Jesus lives there if you have accepted Him as your Lord and Savior. Jesus is bigger than all the things that pretend to be obstacles that are insurmountable. He can and He will love others through you, even when it doesn’t seem like you are doing “much.”

AND…..sometimes another way that we can show love to others is by allowing them to share some grace with us in our own time of need. Let us not discount that part of loving like Jesus, friends. He let His own feet be washed, after all. He allowed others to wait upon Him at times too.

Humility is precious, yo.

Yes…part of being a true servant comes in allowing others to do things for us too. It is a mark of true humility if we can push down that ugly pride and allow others to meet us in our ugly places, our needy places, our spots in which we feel trapped or like we can’t give in return.

This is grace.

And we can love and encourage in our own ways too. Don’t let anyone tell you that just because you cannot go and volunteer at the church, meet needy people downtown, or run all the races to raise money for worthy causes that you aren’t giving of yourself; that you aren’t “enough.”

Jesus was sacrificially loving all of us while nailed up on that cross. Nails did not incapacitate Him by any stretch of the imagination! Quite the opposite.

Hands and Feet don’t have to be free from physical limitations to be effective.

Jesus proves it.

  • We can still stir one another up, even if we are ill or unable to literally be the hands and feet that are out there meeting others.
  • We are part of the stew of grace and love and truth.
  • We are part of the same mind and body as our fellow believers who may be enjoying better health and vitality than we are able to right now.
  • We are still part of the church, dear friends. Don’t let the enemy tell you otherwise.

So if you are down in the dumps today, wishing you could serve more actively and feeling like you are trapped and just not “with the program” of being the hands and feet of Jesus in the way the world likes to see, remember that your light is still shining.

And maybe it will help you to remember two simple little words today ~ I know I’m going to……

JESUS SEES.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2: 1-4

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The Itch I Cannot Scratch

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Those dudes in the scriptures? They were T-O-U-G-H peeps, my friends. The stuff they went through – endured – it’s truly beyond me.

Johah, Moses, Abraham, Job, David, the disciples and sooo many more! These dudes went through the ringer, man. I can’t even fathom it.

I get it: Some of them, at first, went through stuff without relying upon the Lord for help. But when they did turn to Him ~ when they did rely upon HIM, His power, His strength, they triumphed. Yes, even while suffering God can show us that because of Him, we have overcome.

That’s how our Savior does things. He pulls us up out of the broken pits of despair and suffering and works His wonders in and through those trials for the world to see. Glory be to God!

He doesn’t necessarily remove suffering, although we, small children that we are, like to think that a nice parent would do so.

Sometimes you have to allow your children to go through some stuff so they truly become stronger and learn and build character. All that good stuff, you know?

I laugh at myself of late, because I feel like I relate to Job. I laugh out loud because when it even goes through my little mind that I can relate to this dude and what he went through, it becomes crystal clear how small and weak I really am….ha ha. Why? Because what I am enduring right now is only a microscopic fraction of what Job actually went through in his time.

And if compared to the suffering that Christ endured? My trials cannot even be seen under a microscope!

Yes, I laugh.

And I cry.

I laugh and I cry because right now, along with the “normal” pain I carry with me all the time from the Fibro Monster, I am infected. Out of the blue (that’s what Fibro and CFS does – surprise!) my immune system started to shut down. Literally over night, my skin became inflamed and infected. It is now in my eyes (pinkeye), my face is covered in scabs (candida yeast) and I have fever blisters on my lips.

I cannot hug my kids or my husband. I can’t even kiss my puppy. I am itching all over and want to scratch my face off, but I can’t touch it. There is no escape. And it sucks rocks.

But…it’s really going to be okay. I’ve been here before. And I, unlike Job, have a doctor I can finally cave in and go to see today.

But when I think of Job, I often think only of how well he held up under adversity far greater than mine. I tend to walk in condemnation during such times because of that. I compare myself and my small faith as compared to men like these, and I come up quite short.

And then I realize later what I have done because God whispers to my heart – go and check a little deeper into the story, my daughter. Job was not so perfect in how he handled things either. He was human, like you. You can learn from him, yes. But also learn that he wasn’t pretending this was all fun and games and that’s not what I am trying to grow in you right now either.

I realize that Job, like me, at first accepted his plight with great dignity and minimal complaining…

The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21).

So very often, when I am under duress, I stop right there in Job’s story. And then I walk away thinking I am an ungrateful child. But when I check a little further and go a little deeper, I see that eventually, Job had his human moments too. He, much like David in the Psalms, cries out. He doesn’t pretend he is loving this situation at all. He even goes so far as to curse his life.

Yes, long before spilling their hearts out to the Lord, these men, like little old me, also went through phases of resentment, bitterness, self-pity, and even anger for all the calamities they were facing.

None of us is perfect when we have an itch we cannot scratch…

Why is light given to him who suffers? Why is life given to those who feel sad in their soul?  They wait for death, but there is none. They dig for it more than for hidden riches. They are filled with much joy and are glad, when they find the grave. Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and around whom God has built a wall?  For I cry inside myself in front of my food. My cries pour out like water.  What I was afraid of has come upon me. What filled me with fear has happened.  I am not at rest, and I am not quiet. I have no rest, but only trouble.” Job 3:20-26

There’s no pretending on Job’s part that this is a walk in the park, friends. The key is that he sees his infection, but doesn’t place blame on the Lord for it. He cries out to Him instead. He is honest in his anguish. And when we honestly share our burdens with the Lord, it is then that He can truly take them for us.

In His timing, of course.

So yes, this is why I laugh at myself, friends. This is also why I cry sometimes. Because I am like Job even though my infection doesn’t come close to comparing to all that he endured. And unlike Job, I allow the enemy to make me berate myself before I realize what is even happening.

But the good news is that like Job, I do not blame God for my suffering. Thanks be to God that He speaks to us and ministers to our hearts through His Word. Thanks be to the Lord that He can “work all things together for our good.”!

We go through these little processes when we are “suffering” don’t we? It is part of what the Lord uses to mold us and shape us and build our character. It is part of surrender. It is part of dying to self. We struggle to scratch and scratch and scratch. We struggle to satisfy and obtain our own peace and relief. We struggle to the point we can even sometimes forget for a moment and lash out and fight against the One who knows us and loves us the most.

Until we finally give up.

Through all the struggle Job endured, the struggle to understand what was going on was the very itch he couldn’t seem to scratch. Searching for the answers and looking TO GOD is what finally brought him relief of sorts. Trying to understand more about God versus his present situation was part of what strengthened his already-strong faith and character.

Job may have become angry with his situation for a while, but he never really cursed God. He did, indeed curse his situation and cry out a lot about it though. He stopped short of accusing God for the suffering that was inflicted upon him, even though he was angry and upset about his plight.

I think this is the kind of thing that God wants from us. He wants us to cry out honestly about our plight – to HIM. He doesn’t want us to pretend it’s all okay and show how tough we are.

Even through the suffering, Job did not blame the Lord…he even admits he came to know him and build his relationship with him in a new way…

My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Job 42:5

I am infected. I am not tough about it. But far greater than the infection I carry around upon my face right now, I am filled with the love of Jesus. And He saves me!

  • He scratches my itchy heart when it needs it.
  • He brings relief to my soul when I cannot get any from my physical and emotional ailments.
  • He has my heart in the palm of His mighty hand.
  • He brings me a greater peace than any itch-scratcher-reliever-thing ever could.

And it is all for HIS glory anyway. 

And oh, yah….

It’s not even about me.

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this” (Isaiah 48:10).

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