So that, Yo. So THAT.

 

4d2982e5bff124830a7c0bbb0c1c91c2Not one detail of the Bible is in there just to embellish things or simply make them exciting for us. Not one word is there by mistake. The Word of God is truly living. The Holy Spirit teaches us and speaks to us through it – not only while we are reading or studying it, but as it works its way into our hearts and minds and consequently, our actions.

On suffering, man! Let’s talk about this for a moment. Yes…..again.

You know that I get it – in my own little way. I get the mixed-up mess that our suffering can be in our lives. I totally understand how our minds can play tricks on us as our bodies, our feelings, our emotions, our circumstances wreak havoc in our lives. I’ve had my share of my own form of sufferings in my fifty years on this earth so far – and I totally understand the GUILT AND CONDEMNATION the enemy tries to place upon us while we go through such things.

I think I know why, but for just a moment let us visit some of the thoughts that come to us as we suffer when we end up trying to do it on our own.

Any of these sound familiar, friend?

“I can’t believe you are such a baby. This is NOTHING compared to what other people go through. You really need to get a grip.”

“Why don’t you just change your attitude – your outlook – your perspective. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, already!”

There are starving children in so many parts of the world – they don’t even have a roof over their heads – and here you are crying in  your cheerios about YOUR situation!”

I could go on and on and on, but it wouldn’t be helpful. You get the picture. And if YOU have ever experienced your own kind of suffering that doesn’t fit into the category of a terminal illness, being totally abused, living in poverty, amongst other more horrid things than what you are experiencing, you T-O-T-A-L-L-Y feel like my soul mate right now, I would bet!

Dig this: We CAN remember that others are suffering things far worse than we are, yet still feel badly about what we are going through ourselves all at the same time. Big epiphany, I know!

The enemy wants to  make us feel like we are brats or that the worse things that others go through in the world are lost on us. The enemy wants to keep us small, TOTALLY self absorbed and wants us to HIDE the fact that we are suffering out of guilt, or…whatever.

But if we look at Jesus and the time He spent here on earth, He did not discriminate when it came to sufferings. He didn’t ask people to hide it, either. He displayed that we should bear one another’s burdens and be honest with each other about such things. Not just sin, but hardships!

  • He understood what it meant that a leper or a blind man could not be a part of society – their physical ailments – the pain – the limitations –  the full ramifications of that.
  • He understood that a woman scorned was suffering just as much – just in a very different way.
  • He understood and did not minimize the fact that sin caused suffering too – Peter and his pride, Noah and his drinking, David and his lust, and Martha who had many “control  issues” and was a  chronic worrier.

He came to save the lost and the broken from their sin and all forms of suffering. And He asks us not only to rejoice with those who rejoice, but to also weep with those who weep! But none of this can happen if we don’t acknowledge our NEED for Him – our brokenness.

So, yes – sin causes suffering, but so do iniquities and things that we cannot control. Both entered the world when Adam and Eve made the choice to eat from where they were told not to. It’s part of the human condition – sin and suffering. And it’s why we need our Savior, Jesus Christ.

When we suffer, if we don’t see the need for surrender, we are even more lost, and more suffering gets layered on top of the mess we already are dealing with. Even if we don’t have a specific circumstance or season marked by what we might describe as suffering, surrender is still necessary to walk with Jesus. Why? Because we really are ALWAYS in a place of needing our Savior to comfort us and make us more and more like Him. We have not arrived!

When we are walking around in a season of health and ease, we are more likely to forget our brokenness – to forget our need. For me, that is when I have forgotten that I am utterly broken.

But at the same time, seasons of suffering – although they cause us to press in more and seek the Lord’s face more, also can be marked by a self-centered condition that I can’t even put into words. Hence, the darts and arrows flying through our minds and hearts that come from that ugly enemy.

Getting outside of oneself when suffering with something that is SO ALL-CONSUMING you cannot ever, EVER avoid thinking about it is a challenge, to say the least. There are things we can do to distract ourselves, but I find they only help for so long. All the self help in the world, doctor’s advice, pills or potions can’t hold a candle to this formidable enemy of focus on self.

You don’t have to be acting “selfish” to be totally consumed with self. If you have ever suffered from a chronic illness, pain, grief, or depression or anxiety, you already know that.

  • But you FEEL selfish.
  • You FEEL like you “should be able to” rise above it all.
  • You FEEL like if you could just think more of others, maybe you could be more giving and self sacrificial in spite of what you are contending with.

Feelings suck sometimes. Just sayin’.

I don’t have the answers to any of it…but Jesus does. The only thing that I know is that I have to practice surrender over and over and over every single day.

  • Spiritual surrender
  • Physical surrender
  • Mental surrender
  • Surrender of perceptions, work ethic, timelines, schedules.
  • Surrender of things I love and things I struggle with and need to remove from my life.
  • Surrender of the ugly and yes….some surrender even of the beauty. That last part is the part that makes me want to scream like a child and throw a tantrum. Not fun!

But in that surrender, there is such beauty – as we empty out, even of those things which aren’t “bad things”, it leaves a space. A big space.

Jesus is meant to fill that space. Only Jesus.

On the days I don’t seek Him with all that I  have, that space causes MORE SUFFERING. It causes a black hole, that ends up becoming like a cancer-of-sorts. But on the days that I do realize – “hey, I am empty now, I need to seek HIM and I NEED Him to fill me with HIMSELF“….those days are SO VERY GOOD in spite of the pain that I may still be contending with.

  • We aren’t meant to do this by ourselves.
  • We aren’t meant to think we are “less than” if we are suffering.
  • We aren’t meant to walk in guilt and condemnation.
  • We aren’t meant to dump stuff out and leave the black hole alone.

And now, I will get to the crux of it, friend. These verses speak to me about purpose in suffering and fill my heart with joy!

IF we are seeking Jesus in the midst of our sufferings, and IF we are asking Him to change us, He WILL use that for good and bringing forth His will. He WILL use that to spread the gospel – the hope that we can have only in Christ! No matter what the circumstances are.

He will use it to get us outside of ourselves. Even if we can only do so in teeny tiny ways. God is God and can use even the smallest of things to do BIG STUFF!

So, what is the purpose in suffering, then? Well, first off – we can become more like Jesus if only we ask Him to teach us through it all. And secondly, it is (the suffering) there SO THAT we can offer comfort to others that we never could before.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”  2 Corinthians 1: 3-7

Paul goes on to say that much of what happened to them in Asia caused them to despair, even to the point of seeing it as almost a death sentence. But he shares that he sees in retrospect that it all happened SO THAT they would not rely on themselves, but on God, who raises the dead!

There is a purpose, friends. God can do anything! It may not be what we would have chosen for ourselves, but it is part of the human experience and part of His will in our lives to walk through hard stuff with HIM by our side.

And how better to rid ourselves of the mindset of self, self, self, than to let Him fill that black hole and pour Himself out to others in need of His comfort?

Nothing is done without purpose when it comes to our Lord working out His will in our lives and the lives of others. There is always a SO THAT.

So that.

So that.

So that.

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Home Sweet Home

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My beautiful father-in-law, Alden, went home to be with Jesus, friends. And we will miss his presence here with us on earth, for certain.

BUT….

At the same time that we grieve OUR loss, we are rejoicing too ~ because we KNOW, that we KNOW, that we KNOW – he is with his Lord and Savior right now – and for that we rejoice!

Bless the Lord, oh my soul!

I couldn’t sleep last night, because I kept writing this poem in my head as I was laying in bed. I got up this morning and the rest of it came together, so I want to share it with you today.

If you are grieving the passing of a loved one who is also a Christian, friend ~ grieve away ~ and remember to give your grief over daily to the Lord. He will comfort you. He will be with you. He will place you under His mighty wing of refuge. It’s okay to grieve. We just need to do it with the help of our Savior.

And as you grieve, know too the peace ~ that only the Lord can truly provide. Know too, the promise of getting to be in our true home with our Savior when we leave this tiny dot in the universe to go home. Know that your loved one who accepted Christ as his Savior is there now. He is right there with Him…..

With GOD.

 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8

Home Sweet Home

He gets to run ~He gets to jump

He gets to dance and sing.

He gets to see ~ His shining face

And all the light He brings.

He gets to laugh ~ He gets to hug

And tears? He’ll never cry!

He now has wings ~ And gets to soar

Throughout the heavenly skies.

He gets to kneel ~ He gets to bow

He gets to worship in praise.

He gets to shout ~ “Thank you, Father!”

For eternity ~ all of the days.

He gets to live ~ his real life now

Days of adoration, joy and love.

His Almighty Lord ~ His Risen Savior

He meets Him, up above.

He gets to live ~ he gets to abide

Next to God and all His saints.

Where there’s no grief, and no, not war

Only praise, devoid of complaints.

He gets to do this ~ ’cause of mercy

From our Jesus, he is now there.

He loves His precious ones ~ all His children

He’s counted each and every hair.

And he is one  ~ he is God’s child

And His Father called unto him…

Come home, my child” ~ it’s far past dark

Into the light, where there’s no sin.

He gets to shed it ~ that broken body

And fly home, as it should be.

No longer encumbered ~ no longer trapped

God’s face now, he’ll always see.

For You have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
And my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living.

I believed, therefore I spoke,“I am greatly afflicted.”I said in my haste,“All men are liars.”

 What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
 I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
 I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people.

 Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.

Psalm 116:8-15

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Squint if We Have To

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I’ve been reading and studying 1 Peter this week and it is full of beautiful golden nuggets of Christ’s truth. All of the Word is, friends ~ but I find that every time I return to this section of scripture, there is just SO MUCH to absorb. I’m still learning and digging into this beautiful book of God’s word, but I have some observations that I thought I’d like to share with you.

Although the entire context of the whole of the book of 1 Peter (and the entire Bible for that matter) is crucial for us to understand, I thought I would break down what these particular verses (taken in context) have meant to me lately, and that I’d do so in a different format than I usually would.

Maybe some of you are contending with the same things, and maybe they speak to you and your life and  Christian walk in a different way, depending upon the season you are in and what the Lord is guiding you to do right now in your own life.

But here are my own observations for now.

Chapter 2, verse 2…..“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation”

  • This is one of the things that I feel that the Lord has been calling me to absorb and grow in for so long – I often find that I get caught up in many other things in life and put my time spent in the word second, or third, or even further down the line. It needs to be my GREATEST priority. I find that the more consistent I am about it the more it becomes a DESIRE versus a thing that I need to do. Babies need milk – they crave it. It feeds them, grows them, nourishes them. We can’t allow ourselves to go on a fast when we are but babes in need of our life-giving Savior.

Chapter 2, verses 9 -12…“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

  • Man, there is a lot of meat here to digest. I will pick a couple of things that the Lord is using in my own life and walk with Him right now – First, I often find that I am encouraged by others to remember that I am royalty as a true Christian and to “walk in that” with my head held high. Although I think it is important to remember this promise that we are his royal heirs, and we can remember to remind each other about it as a source of brotherly encouragement, I find that this is so emphasized that it can become twisted – tainted by man – and in those times, for me, a struggle ensues.
  • The piece that stands out to me here is what it says right after that in verse 9 – “so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you”.…In other words, we must remember we are his royal heirs FOR HIS GLORY AND HIS ALONE.
  • We can’t allow the enemy to distort this for us, friends. We can wear the crown with our own human pride if we aren’t careful. When we find ourselves doing this, it becomes about self versus the Lord. When we need encouragement, let us remember we are his royal children – but always because we are thankful that He has sacrificed for us so that we can be a part of His royal family. We receive His mercy – not what we deserve. It’s about HIM.

Chapter 2 verses 18-20 Servants be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”

  • This is on my mind so much lately – and God is working in my heart a lot in regard to this very thing. Yep – this political season we are in as Christians in America right now – it will challenge us to remember these verses. It’s beyond difficult. We can stand for truth and what we think is right – and we should. But no matter what happens, we must bear up under the authority that ends up being chosen for us. We don’t have to agree with the things they ask us to do that are not biblical, but it doesn’t mean we don’t still have to find a way to glorify God under the authority of rulers that may not be good ones. We do. Jesus had to do it too.
  • If we go to other sections of scripture and study what Jesus did under the wicked rulers of his time on earth, we see that it was not an either/or approach that He took. He spoke the truth and never stopped – even to the point that it led him to the cross. He tore up tables in the temple where the Pharisees were. But he also stood and accepted the sentencing of Pilot. It is hard to do both/and in these situations. The world tries to make us feel like we can’t be good little Christians and submit to authority over us while at the same time standing up for the truth. But it can be done. We have only to look to Jesus and follow in His footsteps. And it will bring about pain. If any of you has this figured out yet, please send me a note! 🙂

This leads us straight into the next section of 1 Peter which reinforces that we have Jesus Christ as an example….a beautiful and perfect example!

Verses 21-23….”For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

  • God is our judge, not man. Satan, through others, will try his best to make us feel judged by man – to make us feel that we are in the wrong to stand for Christ’s truth and love in an increasingly dark world. But we must remember who the real judge is, and that we are to please and honor HIM above all.

The second half of 1 Peter is the section I am studying right now –

  • It is about serving the Lord willingly, especially when it is hard.
  • It is about remaining zealous and fervent in our love for Him and sharing in the sufferings of Christ.
  • It is about Godly living in a world that stretches us and pulls us and tries to twist it all up.
  • It is about loving one another and seeking peace without starting to live for this world and pleasing man.
  • Jesus experienced the very same temptations and struggles and obstacles in his time on earth. He overcame all of that and so much more. For us.

So I will leave you with some thoughts about the introduction into that part of 1 Peter and some of the things that God is growing my own heart about it as we speak. I am sure I will learn much from Him over the coming week as I delve further into this. How about you? Do any of these sections in scripture encourage your own heart or mind?

Chapter 3 verses 8-17 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” 

  • “Harmonious” here does not mean blending in or going with the flow of the world. It means being free from destructive and consistent disagreements, to the point of broken relationships and allowing discord to rule our lives ~ and, in particular, among fellow believers it means forming a consistent whole. Christ is the foundation that holds us together, and the moment we go off and do our own thing, we are separating from the whole.
  • Sometimes, part of seeking and pursuing peace as Christians gets mixed up and distorted in our world. The world likes to redefine what love is – what joy is – and yes, what peace is. We are to seek true peace, (the peace of GOD not man) even if it means we have to suffer. We will be intimidated and even worse. It will feel troubling, but we can always remember to turn those tough feelings over the Christ, friends.
  • We want to be comfortable Christians sometimes, because our flesh screams for it and also because we get tripped up in our minds by the enemy (at least I do). In our endeavor to be kind and not sow discord, we can sometimes water down the truth. That is not love.
  • Going with the flow for the sake of the world’s definition of harmony and getting along is not real love. I, for one, am in deep prayer about how to be loving, yet not venture into the abyss of watering down God’s truth for the sake of getting along by the world’s definitions of it. How to be zealous for Christ’s truth AND love, and how to know when to remain quiet and always gentle in my approach to such things versus when to speak up and do so loudly (but without malice or bitterness) is an inner struggle I am facing as a Christian right now. It. Is. Hard. But I am seeking Him – and I am seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to show me the way. That’s the only way it can ever happen. I can’t figure this one out, and I think that’s the whole point – we are to rely upon the LORD and fill ourselves with HIM (milk for the baby) so it will flow out of us. #bigstruggleforthiscontrolfreakofagirl
  • He tells us to “be ready to make a defense for anyone who asks us to “give an account for the hope that is in you”. To me, that doesn’t mean to be “on the defensive” as Christians. Yes, we must be sober minded. Yes, we will be attacked much. But we can stand for His truth and His love with a gentle spirit – relying upon the Holy Spirit to give us the words and the nudges as to when we should remain silent, or when we should speak up. Have I ever told you that I desire a gentle spirit? I so want to know what that looks like! This Italian/Irish girl struggles with this, friends. Will you pray for me? I need Jesus!

This has been what the Lord has been challenging me to learn more about lately – and I keep coming back to one thing:

Jesus is the source of all of it. Period.  

His word is the nourishing milk that leads us to know more of Him, to learn to love Him better, to make HIM be the only One we turn to for guidance in navigating these confusing and difficult times.

I don’t have this down or mastered, in case you haven’t guessed that one yet. I’m just walking along the road with Him by my side. There is so much I don’t see or understand about it all. There are so many shiny objects all around that distract me. There are darts and arrows coming our way – some of which are disguised as loving little zaps of happiness, false peace, or “good and right Christian behavior.” I often think that I am my own worst enemy at times – but I know better. It’s a conspiracy. We must know who our real enemy is. God reveals much about that for us in his word as well. We do well to study it, as He provided His word as well as the Holy Spirit to us for good reason.

But although I don’t trust myself, I DO trust in Him. One day at a time, sometimes moment by moment, He is with me to teach me and  help me see when I am being deceived. He removes the real enemy and the layers of trickery and deceit blocking my vision when I plead with Him to open my eyes and reveal where I am going astray. He sometimes teaches me through correction for mistakes I am making. Sometimes, He steps in before I screw up royally and spares me from impending heartache and pain.

But always, he saves me. He most often does so by helping me to cut through the muck and simply focus my gaze upon HIS beautiful face. Him and Him alone.

I love Jesus! I just wish I could love Him better, more, and as much as He is deserving of – and I fail, friends. It pains me, but I fail so utterly so often. Thankfully, he knows. Just like when my own children were little toddlers and were self-absorbed and throwing tantrums, never as a parent, did I feel “they just don’t love me.” We must remember that, because He is our Abba Father and He knows.

He knows.

He has already drilled holes through the conspiracy and its shoddy foundation. He has already made a place for us where we will no longer go through these experiences and where our fleshly desires and our humanity will stop getting in the way of loving Him best and eternally and wonderfully and beautifully.

May the Lord continue to teach us and guide us – so that we can truly shine His abundant light in the darkness. Sometimes we can go to such dark places….be surrounded by so much darkness, or be so aware of the darkness that resides in our own sinful little hearts, that our eyes start to adjust to the black. It becomes comfortable eventually, that dark place.

But it’s not supposed to be that way.

It can hurt when the light starts to pour back in. But we must open our eyes – we must pursue the light! It has to be done – even if we have to squint at first.

Let’s continue to ask Him to help us. Let’s continue to be the light. Yes…..

Even when it hurts.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:5

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Part of the Story about My Dad

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Hi Friends.

I have a story to tell you – not really a STORY, but something I really need to share with you today.

It’s about my dad. It’s about me. It’s a story about things that happen in our lives that form, change or solidify things that we value (or don’t) in life. It’s also about Jesus.

As always, it’s about Jesus.

Recently I felt the need to apologize to my face book friends, because I had found myself sharing not only big picture things about deception and corruption I see in our world but specific things about our current presidential candidates. That is not something that was coming across well, and it is probably largely because of two things:

  • My own anger and emotion was coming through.
  • All of us right now are feeling a bit emotional about this election in the United States and the candidates especially.

In light of that, I feel strongly that many of the folks who are on my face book and also read my blog should know a few things about me. I want for you to know where I was coming from.

BUT – I also do NOT want to minimize that I have still been in the wrong to allow my anger to seep in to what I share.

So please know that. This is about giving folks a little bit of insight that they may never have had before in regard to myself and what drives me to share things.

My father served in the United States Air Force for almost 20 years. He was dedicated to this country and the constitution, upholding the law, protecting us from evil things and corruption. He sacrificed a lot – including ultimately, his own life.

There were many things the man just could not tell us – and he told me that. There were also things he could tell me, later in life – because I too, worked for the government with a certain level of secret security clearance. The few things he COULD tell all of us hit us like a ton of bricks (it did me, at least). You could see it in his eyes how very important it was that we remember these things.

  • Things like what totalitarianism and dictatorships can mean for people.
  • Things about terrorists – their ideologies, philosophies and goals to destroy.
  • Things about the methods of Satan and all the very real things that enemy seeks to do to human kind.
  • Things that were going on even back then – under the surface – in our very own government – that our current President at the time was fighting AGAINST.

He taught us about the good things too. This was not a man led astray easily. He was (and I truly don’t say this just because he was my dad) BEYOND INTELLIGENT. He was wise. He sought after Jesus with all his heart, mind and soul. Like most of us, he had his times in which he became a bit lost – or couldn’t find a good church to attend, and even fell away a bit in his relationship with His Savior.

But he always came back. Especially toward the end of his life. He told me the last time that I saw him how very important Jesus was and our relationship to him. He told me that I might go through times that were extremely dark and difficult but to rely upon JESUS through it all. He told me that is the place he was in – after all he’d seen and experienced – and that he saw how easy it was to get caught up and grief stricken about the darkness we see around us.

He told me to always remember during those times the following two words: BUT GOD.

He had almost a photographic memory, so not much was lost on him. He looked at all sides of things and made up his own mind as to where he would stand firm for himself. He was not brainwashed. He carried experiences and things with him he couldn’t share with anyone close to him – only with Jesus.

So, I feel very strongly about a few things in regard to national security and especially terrorism. I feel strong feelings regarding corruption – in government and in other leaders in our world too. I won’t go into that at this time, but trust me – I have my reasons.  And they are SOLID.

But more so – I feel compelled at times to bring to the surface the things I see in the enemy – the real enemy – who hides in the shadows and tries to trick us. Always, Christ’s truth and love is what is most important to me. But sometimes we have to be willing to go deeper into the mud before we can free ourselves from the pit.

Lt. Col James Michael Basile was killed in El Salvador in 1987. Ironically, although he was working there to deal with some corruption issues and saw and dealt with first hand what the terrorists in central america were trying to do, he died on a routine rescue mission in a helicopter.

He was in his early forties.

Right before he died (a couple of months prior) he had come home to us in Panama for a rest. The man was despondent. He had just seen something horrific happen (due to terrorists) that I cannot even repeat here.

Friends of his died. Families broken. Human sensitivities to such things only can withstand so much. He was pretty tapped out.

But he still got up.

He got up and he showed up for all the normal little things we, his family were going through at the time. My brother’s graduation from high school. Some activities my other brother was involved in. Family time and family dinners.

Then he had to go back to El Salvador. Alone. And I could see the deep grief and sadness in  his eyes the morning he left.

That was the last time we got to see James, “Jimmy” Basile alive.

We all wrote a letter to him for Father’s Day that year. We each wrote a paragraph or two and mailed it to him from Panama, where we were living comfortably. This was one of the things that I was deeply worried and concerned about when we found out he died….

Did he get the letter and was it opened?

We did find out later that yes – it was in his apartment and was opened. I still have that letter today and treasure it.

This gives me peace and I believe with all my heart that it was a gift that God gave to me at the time.

My point is this – friends, we all have things that  have happened in our lives that we feel pretty emotional about. We have things that have formed, solidified, or utterly blown apart certain values we hold dear.

Some of us are called by Jesus to share His love and His truth. Sometimes the truth part as to what Jesus tells us is really going on all around us isn’t pretty or comfortable.

Jesus went all the way to the cross for that and more. But He did it IN LOVE.

BUT…..we are little humans. We are sinful creatures. It is easy for the enemy to sneak up on us and get us to focus on one thing more than the other.

  • The Ugly Truth OR….
  • The Beautiful Love.
  • OR the distorted truth and/or the distorted love – the counterfeit ones.

I say this a lot because I really mean it: When it comes to JESUS’ truth and love, it’s not  either/or. It is meant to be both/and.

But sometimes we have to choose to emphasize one over the other at certain times. That’s what listening to the Holy Spirit can do for us. That’s what being in tune with the Lord does – it helps us to discern whether to do both/and or either/or at just the right time.

The Holy Spirit, our Helper – helps us to know when we are falling off course and helps us to correct our footing. Also, we are helped to stand firm when needed if we only seek the Lord in prayer and lay it at HIS feet each and every day.

Right now, although I feel strongly that I am called by Jesus Christ to share BOTH His truth and His love, it is HIS, not mine. And if it becomes tainted with myself, my own “feelings” or anger, it’s time to listen to correction and change course.

And I am now moving into a place where He is asking me to share more about the love than anything else – without sacrificing His truth – not by any stretch of the imagination!

Always with and in HIS love.

At times the Lord puts it in my heart to get tough and share the things that aren’t so nice to hear, but are true. At times, He asks me to share nothing but encouragement and light. At times, He asks me to do both. But when my human sensitivities start to get in the way, that’s when it all just becomes corrupted by the enemy.

I told you in my post the other day – it’s a conspiracy. And often what I write about is something – a spiritual war I am waging myself, or a thing Christ is working on within me – right at that very moment.

  • It’s not because I am enlightened and “past” the attacks myself.
  • It’s not because I have some awesome wisdom or knowledge that others don’t have.
  • It’s not because I am on the other side of it and not waging the war myself.

It’s quite the opposite of these things I just listed in most of the things that I write, dear friends.

That’s the whole point. I write about what Jesus is showing me about these things in my own life and sometimes I feel He urges me to share it.

Right now, when I look around myself – I see things the way I think my dad did at certain times in his life. He dug deep. That man dug for gold in others around him and he also dug for truth – even when it wasn’t pleasant. He didn’t hide his head in the sand but he didn’t forget that we have to love one another at the same time that we seek the truth.

Of late, I have felt so strongly to share with others that Jesus tells us to remain watchful – because there will be so many coming in His name to deceive – because the enemy is walking around – prowling – waiting to devour.

What I see right now is that maybe once in a while I need to do quite the opposite at times such as these.

Maybe when I see how utterly deceived we are – we are soooooo being led astray – instead of sharing what I see, I am to share more of the light and the love again.

I don’t know. I am in prayer about it like I haven’t been about something in a long time.

BUT GOD –

But God will reveal Himself to us – those who seek Him – even in the ugly.

And for now? I have only to remember one thing if and when I am conflicted or in a place where it feels like I have to choose between truth and love:

It is both/and. But it needs to always be done in love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-13

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God sees right through the Bubble

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This one’s going to be hard to articulate, so I ask you to bear with me as I attempt to put into words what has been on my mind and in my heart these past few weeks.

It’s about living in our protective and self-made bubbles. It’s about avoidance, friends. It’s about withdrawing, forgetting, ignoring, and self-protecting. It’s about closing our eyes.

It’s about selfishness. Pure, utter and total selfishness.

Yes. This is going to be another one of those blog posts. And I get to talk about it, because I am a prime offender. I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you that I like my little feel-good bubbles. I like them way to much and I often do everything in my power to avoid having them popped wide open.

I like to be comforted. And I often look to my own devices to find those soft and fluffy things that will make me feel good. It’s a fact.

And although it is not always wrong to seek comfort and regroup, to care for ourselves so we can be better for others, our motivation behind it is what is important.

  • Are we trying to run from something, or are we moving TOWARDS God?
  • Are we becoming so comfortable that we never come back out again?

These are the burning questions on my mind lately.

So, before you get to this next part, please keep in mind that this is not a political post. This is not just about refugees or people hurting in other parts of the world.

This is about the state of humanity all around us and inside of us! It is about how we don’t want to look at the ugly and how we think somehow, that by closing our eyes to it, we can escape it.

So this came across my news feed the other day on face book – and it reminded me, friends. It reminded me about the bubble – the dangerous bubble of self-protection we often live inside of and guard with all that we have.

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You see, he reminded me ~ this little boy reminded me. What he expressed deep from within his sincere little heart right before he died brings back  home (it never should have left) the truth ~ the OPPOSITE of what our world and our modern culture tells us is the actual truth.

  • We are NOT to live for ourselves.
  • We are NOT to close our eyes to the suffering all around us.
  • There ARE and WILL be consequences for everything humanity is doing against humanity, and ultimately, against GOD.

And this little boy is telling on us.

GOOD FOR HIM!

I think about Jesus and how He was when he walked this earth alongside of us. I think of how although he often retreated to the mountains or the quiet places to spend time with His Father in prayer, He then immediately immersed Himself among the lost, the suffering, the left out and the shunned.

Jesus didn’t avoid looking suffering right in the face. Not the suffering of others around Him, and not the suffering He took upon HIMSELF.

No. Jesus is not about avoidance of the ugly. Jesus IS about the hope and beauty that only HE can bring about as He steps inside of our ugly mess and pulls us up, up, up.

Ugly stuff ain’t got nothing on the power of Jesus Christ, friends.

And Jesus sees right through our “protective” little bubbles – the ones we like to think hide us from the bad and uncomfortable stuff and even from His divine and mighty view. You know these bubbles well, I’m sure. The’re those things we use to prevent anyone from seeing the pain and ugly within ourselves.  They’re the little things we try to tell ourselves will shield us from things that might drag us down.

We think they are our friends, but they’re just big, fat fakers. Masters of illusion. Liars.

He sees inside and He is telling us that there is a time to come out.

There is a time to burst out of the bubble and rejoin the living – the ugly of it and the beauty of it, friends.

All of it.

There comes a time to rejoin – the reality in life – to look it full in the face and soak up the whole of it.

  • The beauty.
  • The ugly.
  • The heartache, joy and pain.

But it’s hard. It is so hard to open our eyes and come out of our cocoons of self protection, isn’t  it? It feels so warm and soft inside and out there – well, it’s cold and harsh, man.

It’s challenging for any of us to do this – especially when the world tells us the opposite of truth:

You have to look out for number 1.

You must stay positive above all else.

Remove negative forces from your life and immediate environment – that is the true mark of a healthy human being.

Don’t tolerate negativity or stuff that just drags you down.

Self matters. 

Self matters.

SELF MATTERS!

I find it especially difficult because of my health and the nature of my Fibro – people often ask me why I spend so much time studying world events and news when it’s just so negative! I do so because I am somewhat trapped inside of my home due to my condition – trapped from going to be a part of things that are too overwhelming for my senses and my nervous system. I don’t want to go completely dark while I am not able to go “out” into the world as much as I could before I had the Fibro.

I don’t want to lose complete touch with what is going on in the “outside” world.

I find that the Lord gives me a peace about having to look the ugly full in the face as I watch the news, read about world events, and compare these things with what He tells us in the Word.

I don’t like to see the suffering, friends – but I see the good in how the Lord uses this to remind me it’s NOT ALL ABOUT ME.

But I have to be careful, just like anyone else does – that in “managing” my Fibromyalgia, I don’t end up staying in the cocoon all the time. I have to be willing to venture out and take risks so I don’t get caught inside the bubble of health management. It’s a hard one, I tell ya – and it bothers me. I need prayer over this matter, for sure.

There is so much outside of our own little world – our own bubbles, so to speak – the ones we create for ourselves or the ones that circumstance lays upon us. Sometimes we can’t burst out all the way due to things like health issues, living in a remote location, or being in a place and time in your life where you are somewhat stuck where you are for right now.

But the Lord has given us so many ways to stay connected – even in the midst of such limitations.

When I look the ugly full in the face – when I look at the suffering I see around me – it’s only a microscopic picture of what is really happening, I know. And even that small amount is so-very-unpleasant.

  • It’s tempting to avoid it.
  • It’s easier to run from it.
  • It’s “better for us” to take care of ourselves and surround ourselves ONLY WITH those things that make us feel good.

But when we do that, we miss out on all God has for us.

When we do that, we don’t get to see the way Jesus works His divine wonders through even the ugly and the dark, the suffering and the pain, the seemingly insurmountable circumstances and state of the dark side of humanity and darts and arrows of the enemy.

We don’t get to truly appreciate the triumph and saving grace of the Lord if we don’t look it ALL full in the face.

So today I am reminded:

  • I am reminded of how when something dark and sad pulls deep within me and tugs at my heart in ways that hurt – that literally hurt – Jesus is there.
  • I am reminded of the fact that the Lord came to save the lost and LOVED US ENOUGH TO DIE FOR US even while we were still sinners.
  • I am reminded that Jesus never tries to avoid looking at the suffering for His own sake, rather, meets us right there and looks it full in the face with us.

The state of the world can be depressing if we lose sight of that – if we rely upon how things are going as our true indicators of how Jesus works and moves in mighty ways, we shall be lost.

We shall spiral down the staircase that leads to nothing but death, utter hopelessness and despair.

BUT…………

If we look full in the face the reality of the world – the horrid things that happen to us and to others in their suffering and REMEMBER WHAT JESUS CAME FOR – we will know.

  • We will know that ONLY HE can save us.
  • We will know that although sad and terrible, these things are part of what He said would happen as the time draws near for His return.

We will remember and we will know.

  • We will know, just as this sweet little boy in the photo above knew – all the way up to his last breath:

We can tell it all to God.

God IS there for us, in spite of how much evil there is in this world.

He has NOT forgotten us.

And our real home is with Him.

Little boy didn’t get the option of staying inside a bubble of comfort – quite the opposite is true. And now?

  • Little boy is not crying any more.
  • He is no longer suffering.
  • He is home in his eternal and beautiful home with Jesus.

He knew that he was going and he knew that God would be welcoming him home soon and very soon after this photo was taken.

And he’s telling it all to God!

Little boy’s earthly life was taken from him – but he is telling God everything. Just as God asks us to do. And now, no one can take life from him ever again. Praise God!!!!!!

  • No one can take his joy from him now.
  • No one can inflict suffering upon him now.
  • He has the ear of the Lord right there with him now – and for always.

Thanks be to God. No more need for bubbles.

THANKS BE TO GOD!

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. John 16:20-22

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Stormtrooper

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A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

I feel the anxiety rising up in the pit of my stomach. I try to run. I try to hide. Then I make my feeble attempts to move into a place of accepting it.

But the body fights – it fights for its rights.

All to no avail.

So I stop trying and just….exist. I just commit to exist in the midst of it. All expectations must be thrown out of the window – smashed. Except for one.

I won’t do this alone. I will NOT do it alone! And that’s not because of my own expectation, but because of a promise made by Christ Himself.

He will meet me here. He will draw near.

My heart is crying out along with every fiber of my body and being. Not only does my heart cry, but real tears stream down my face throughout these last 24 hours. How much longer? How much longer, God?

These are the times.  These are the times that make me realize that the DAILY pain I have ALL THE TIME with Fibro, is nothing compared to the stuff that jumps off the scale when there’s a weather situation or an illness on top of it all that exacerbates it. I can live with that stuff (the day to day aches and pains), and still offer something of myself to others; experience a good mood even though it is a wicked little thorn in my side that never leaves.

But THIS.

“Don’t you know, Jesus – don’t you know that THIS is where I draw the line? I have to deal with the daily crud of Fibro and I don’t like it, but I’ve been a good girl and I suck it up. I seek you in the midst of it all. But why do I have to deal with THIS on top of it all. It’s not fair.”

Jesus didn’t draw a line with regard to how much suffering HE was willing to endure, now did He?

Ha Ha. Silly little girl.

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

Practical paralyzation – just bad enough to make EVERY SECOND excruciating to get through, but not bad enough to be given a pass not to do life – work, tasks, chores. That little tidbit right there?  THAT is one of the WORST PARTS ABOUT FIBRO! Or – is it a blessing? Got me!

But then there’s this one too…..

Attacks from the ugly enemy.

“this is nothing compared to what Christ did for you. Why are you compaining? There are people out there suffering far worse than you. Why don’t you just pull yourself up from your bootstraps little girl and persevere for once? Geez. What a little baby.”

I long for rest. I want to run, but there’s no where to hide. It’s inside of me and I can’t get away from it, friends. I have no choice but to move through the pain. One ugly and long, drawn-out second at a time. Each hour seems like an entire day. Each day seems like a long, bad, drawn out week.

Where’s the end? Where’s the destination? Where’s the party, yo?

Vice grip, trapped in concrete. Unable to move to the left or the right. Even being still comes with its own level of crushing pain.

I want my mom! Oh yah – she’s in heaven with Jesus. I’m happy for her. I really am.

But what about ME!!!!

Are we at the peak yet? When will we move down the other side of this evil bell curve? I’m ready for the fall, because after its done, it spells a semblance of relief. Right?

We are going to get off the ride eventually, right?

Can Jesus just meet me here in the midst of it all? Do you think its possible that He would?

Will you, Lord? Will you bring me peace through the pain? Will you carry me through these excruciating moments, minutes, days in which this suffering wreaks havoc through my body? Will you massage my soul and my mind that is growing weary as I trudge through this? Will you pour Your grace out upon me – more of it, even though I am stamping my feet right about now?

A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

My heart is crying out along with every fiber of my body and being.

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

And a peace –

And a joy –

And a comfort provided by the only One who can offer it.

The Great Physician.

My Almighty Savior.

The One and Only Divine Healer of all our hurts, all our pain.

My Lord Jesus Christ – He shows up in the storm and through the rubble it leaves as we move through it. He clears the path.

And through this, I shall know Him better.

Through this ugly, His glory shall be made manifest.

This I know.

I look to YOU, Lord. I see you clearly even when my eyes are closed. I can see you when I am in the middle of the darkness, inside the tunnel when it seems there’s no way out. I can see you even on the roller coaster ride that is spinning my head and blurring my vision. I can see you, Lord!!!

And I know that YOU see me.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. …1 Peter 4: 12-19

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Sliver

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Here’s another one of those tight rope things to consider, friends. It’s about hopes and dreams and walking in line with God’s will for us. It’s about dark and light and which one is truly more powerful. It’s about the pull that seems so strong, but is really just trying to fake us out.

It’s about God’s power to overcome all of it.

In the Bible, we find many stories of men who had hopes and dreams. Some of those dreams were crushed, but God still worked out His perfect plan for those guys. The dream they thought they had became something much bigger, much greater, and most importantly, something that lined up with God’s will for them.

God’s plans are more important than our dreams.

The walk toward the “dream” was always one of hardship. Was this a dream that God planted inside of their heart, or was it one of their own making? Finding out is usually what brings on the challenges.

Most of these guys went through some type of process of captivity first – look at Joseph – look at David – look at Paul, and many, many others. Dying to self is always an aspect of bringing about GOD’s plans for us.

And it hurts. A lot.

If not actual captivity (being bound in chains), these guys experienced some serious obstacles every which way they turned – ailments, iniquities, sin as stumbling blocks, people trying to murder them, being beaten, flogged, swallowed by a big fat fish!

Nonetheless, God took what started out as their dream or their desire as to where they wanted to be or go, and used those challenges along the way to change their path – correct their course – so they would end up on HIS path and doing HIS will.

God’s compass seems confusing to us, but it’s always right.

I struggle all the time with the desires of my own heart and sacrificing all of that and laying it at the feet of Jesus, friends. What are my dreams, and do I even have any left any more? Should I even have dreams or are they just dangerous things that lead me down a path to self satisfaction? Usually my own dreams are things that will help me escape my current plight – that’s why they are often quite unrealistic. Although God can do ANYTHING and nothing is outside of His power and reach for us, I feel that He is trying to help me learn to be content – Under some pretty rough circumstances too.

Chains make it hard to do that. I’m a comfort creature, friends. I’m like that person in the Princess and the Pea story – I will notice ANYTHING right now, due to the Fibro that doesn’t “belong.” They feel like heavy chains to me – weighing me down. And I don’t know how to do contentment in the midst of discomfort.

But Jesus does.

Lately I have struggled again with some of the ugly depression that creeps into my life every so often – it is a clinical type of depression, mostly physiological – in other words, it doesn’t start with emotional or mind-type stuff, it starts because of the neurological issues going on in my body. But mine then does impact (once it sets in) my mind, my heart, and sometimes it FEELS like it even touches me deep in my soul. So the emotional things – the attitude, the perspective, the thoughts, the heart – they all follow.

And it HURTS. (Please don’t pity me – I’m just stating a fact here)

It’s the double whammy of depression, friends. The physiological cause, and the emotional and mental effect. Compound depression. Anyone out there who experiences this knows EXACTLY what I am talking about. And it stinks!

During these times I have to walk a line between surrender and fighting to even walk each day in the face of that surrender –

  • In giving it over to God and asking Him to let it run whatever course it is supposed to and trusting Him to remove it.
  • In giving it over, but not laying down and letting your bones dry up.
  • In not struggling tooooo hard, because if you do, the chains are going to bite right down into your flesh.

You can’t fight it out of the picture. You can’t fully give up, either. You just have to ask the Lord to help you know when to move and when to stay still. And most of all, you have to ask Him to keep fear from setting in, because that will completely immobilize you.

During these darker times, (this should go without saying) I feel an even greater sense of being in prison. You see, the “normal prison” is one I have made the best of, friends. I have found, along with Jesus, how to live inside of it – the light can burst out from the inside and still move outward in the world. Even though I am “in here” I am not confined by these walls. Jesus can do anything!

But during the depressive times, the beauty of my prison fades….it becomes a darker and more “dried up” place. I have to search for drops of His water more fervently, because it’s hard to see. I want to run, but my chains seem even  heavier. It feels like the light has gone out, although there’s still a sliver of it living inside of me. It feels like it wants to burst free, but it isn’t time for that right now.

Talk about discomfort. It’s hard to just lie there and hug your chains when you fear you are wasting away.

The dreams you had left die a little more….

Death to self becomes a whole lot more real and talking about it becomes an actual acted out, very real, and very tangible thing in one’s life.

The pain associated with that is not even something I can articulate. I am sure many of you know it all too well.

But we can’t buy into the lies of the enemy. He wants for us to believe that because the dark cloud seems more pervasive than the Lord’s sliver of light, that it is actually more powerful. The enemy wants us to believe it is going to overtake us and extinguish ALL the light. And he makes it seem very likely and very imminent and very, very real.

We MUST remember that the light in the midst of that darkness is there -it is Jesus – and it’s pretty clear to see that it’s there if only we lift up our heads. It doesn’t always make the depression or the chains disappear – it doesn’t always make the black and threatening cloud go away immediately, but it does give us peace, comfort, and even some joy.

It extinguishes any doubt as to whether we are alone.

He is always with me. Always.

So yes….it’s hard not to “dream” during these times – dream of the things that would take us away, if only for a moment. Dream of the things that would  help us escape the cloud of darkness. Dream of the things that would offer a fake sense of lightness, satisfaction and freedom from the prison or the chains. Dream of light and bright places that aren’t really bad things, but also aren’t the real source of light, freedom and living water we are to be seeking after at all times.

I find myself wanting to be on the beach and hearing the waves crashing around me – my toes in the sand feeling it wrap around me like a cocoon – the sun hitting my skin and melting away the chains that bind up my muscles and tissues on a daily basis – the melatonin (oh what beautiful stuff) that helps our mood and lifts away the heavy and dark…..these are all good things.

But none of them are Jesus.

The beach can’t meet me in the dark places. I can’t make it magically appear to help me feel better. The sun doesn’t really shine in the dark corners of our hearts and can’t melt the chains that are wrapped around us so tightly during dark times. It’s all a temporary “fix” if you will.

But the Son of God can.

He is my sun – He is my light – He is my freedom.

Is He yours? Are you allowing Him to meet you in the dark places? Do you cry out for Him all the time to help you walk through whatever might come your way? He is here for you too, you know. One sliver of His light can penetrate the death cloud the enemy is trying to use to threaten you. Do you feel it melting away? The burden can be turned right over to Him – He can bear it for us. He wants to take the weight of it all and lift it from us. We have to open our hearts and our eyes to Him. He is here.

I do believe that when I go to live with Jesus in eternity, there will be a beach there. I just think He knows the desires of my heart and will far surpass my own idea of a beachy life. He builds palaces instead of mere houses. He fills us with light from the inside out instead of just tanning us on the surface. He ebbs and flows through us more powerfully than the depression or ailments of our bodies and hearts and minds ever can.

He is with me in the dark and He is always there for me when I come out the other side of that darkness.

I don’t have to walk in darkness, although it comes for me some of the time. I get to walk with Him no matter where I am. No chains can ever stop Him from penetrating all of it. A sliver of God’s light is more than enough to penetrate through that cloud of dark.

He looks at me and smiles and tells me to bask in the light with Him. He says it is time to dance with Him on the water. He wraps me into Himself and shows me without question that He will hug me far tighter than the sand ever can. He warms me with His light in a way the sun can never do.

He is my rock. He is my salvation. He is my freedom from all the chains that try to bind me.

He is God.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:5

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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 Scars of Love

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There are so many things that I was told at a very young age, yet I am finding I wasn’t fully “taught” how to do these things, rather, I was simply told about them over and over again.

This is proof that knowing something doesn’t translate into knowing how to do that something.

It doesn’t translate into understanding it. It doesn’t mean it becomes a part of our character. It’s just some stuff that we think we know and that’s that. (Yah right…I got this)

Here are just a few of mine…

  • Don’t wear white after labor day (which I did, all the time, ’cause I’m a rebel like that).
  • Take care of your skin and don’t lay out in the sun (this one went right out the window, along with the sunblock and was replaced with lemon juice and oil, hot diggety dawg).
  • Seek first to understand others over being understood yourself. Love those “others” not only as you love yourself, but love them even better. Do I even need to explain how I lived this one out, friends? (Let’s just say EPIC. FAIL.)

So here’s what Mr. Stephen Covey says: Seek first to understand and then to be understood. And he is right.

But the Lord is even more right about this. The Lord actually doesn’t only admonish us to do this, but he tells us why and how. It can’t be done without Him. It can’t be done if we don’t fully surrender our own needs ~ our needs to be understood, our needs to be right and vindicated, our needs to get others to change or come around to our way of thinking or being the person we think they should be.

He is my God. And only HE is the God of my brothers and sisters.

Translation? I need to move my butt out of the way sometimes so God can work in others just as I need room for Him to be able to do His work in me.

We are called not only to take up our cross when it’s easy to carry, but to go the distance and even allow ourselves to be nailed to it. Sometimes, especially during conflict, we throw that right out the window. We enlist our inner rap star and fight for our right to party. And that just doesn’t make sense. But it is the human way, after all.

A huge part of loving others the way God asks me to comes down to putting them in front of myself when it comes to conflict and seeking understanding. In other words, I need to throw my need to be understood out the window and not my cross.

Truly. It is a mark of true wisdom to allow God to be God. And wisdom trumps knowledge and turns what we know into real action. It takes the worldly views and discards them, and enables the pure truth to emerge.

  • Wisdom tells us how to let God be God and tells us what place we have in the process when it comes to ourselves and others.
  • Without seeking God’s wisdom, we get no understanding. And that is one of the keys to relationship and dealing with conflict, friends.

Wisdom is the principal thing; [therefore] get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

So when does the magic music of true understanding usually grace my itchy ears ~ especially in relation to those things that I think that I already “know”?

In my own experience, I have found out how it should look through the times (so, so many) that I was doing it wrong. Sometimes, the wrong way, in hindsight, makes the right way stand out ever-so-clearly. (so sad)

I am now almost 50 and fully “understand” what I knew all along, but didn’t really absorb or believe. My skin has paid for all of the days of adoring the sun and allowing it to FRY MY FACE. Some of it is irreversible, so I get the beautiful privilege of carrying the scars and discolorations with me for the rest of my life.

The white after labor day thingie? Not of consequence to the Lord or myself, so in a glorious way, I get to be a rebel for life in relation to this one small thing. (happiness and joy!)

But the scars that we carry for the things we wish we would have listened to ~ they may be ugly and we may regret them, but they are still a reminder nonetheless. And that can be good.

They are a reminder that there are certain things in life I should seek to truly understand and live by, instead of responding with a “yah, I know that.

What scars will we carry to our death bed in relation to the fact that we haven’t fully lived out what it means to seek to understand others first, (and in turn, love them and esteem them more highly than ourselves) before being so intent on being understood ourselves?

Will they be irreversible for our entire earthly lives? Will relationships and conflicts and divisions the enemy creates through it all mar us and be a testimony of how much we messed up in following our Lord’s commandment to love others the way He has asked us to?

In the end, will we be able to say “I was right?” OR will the scars we bear be testimonies to the race that we ran, holding our cross with us the entire way. Will I go to my death not being understood, maybe even persecuted and spit on and mocked and beaten on top of not being understood by others?

Two words: Jesus did.

But guess what? He was still understood, dear ones. God understands our hearts, our thoughts, our feelings, our sorrows and our joys. If we are truly confident in that and have the relationship with the Lord that we are meant to have, we don’t NEED for others to understand us so very much.

It’s just icing.

I get to talk about this and share it with you because I have credibility. Why? Because I have screwed this up so many times (and continue to all the time) that I have learned a lot about the difference between truly seeking to understand someone and the lens through which they see things (which most definitely influences their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors) and only hearing them and being able to say ‘yah, I know that.

I have messed it up. I have the scars to prove it. I am the first in line to seek to be understood before even attempting to understand someone else. That is love of self in all its twisted and depraved “glory.”

I have been the first one to sign up to go through the motions of seeking to understand someone else (especially if I am in a conflict with that person), when all I’m really doing is getting ready to reply, show them the err of their thoughts, feelings, ways, or respond through my narrow view of how things “should be.” Or simply waiting my turn and biding my time to get my chance to take the floor and make myself understood and known. Capeesh?

But I do want so badly to seek to understand others first, because I believe with all my heart  this is part of what the Lord calls us to do in relation to truly loving others.

  • I used to think active listening was the key, but it’s not.
  • I used to think that letting them talk, and then talking after they had their turn helped, but it doesn’t always.
  • I used to think if we followed the rules of how do do conflict well, we’d come out enlightened and understanding one another even better. Not always the case.

It’s about listening with a truly surrendered heart. It’s about SEEKING to understand how that person feels, thinks, sees things. Especially if it’s “wrong” in our eyes. Especially if we walk away in the end not feeling understood ourselves.

This is beyond difficult to do. But just in case you haven’t heard the news yet,  all ye true followers after Christ: Love hurts.

But guess what else? It’s okay. 

The closest thing I have seen in the world to describe the kind of listening we need to employ if we are to truly seek to understand others is “empathic listening.” But go and read you some good old Proverbs and you will find the really good stuff. Listening with all our hearts does some really good things…

  • This takes true vulnerability.
  • This takes throwing away our way that we see the world and getting inside of the other person’s heart and mind (i.e. the epitome of being the opposite of selfish).
  • This takes surrender. (the real kind – the all the way kind)

This takes tapping into God’s love, God’s wisdom, God’s heart and allowing Him to rule and reign in ours right that very moment.

It also takes time.

It takes time to convince someone that you are truly seeking to understand them. It builds mutual trust, and then and only then, can we help them to understand us. To me, the best thing in the world, is to allow that person to understand myself not for me, but as a gift to them. Mutual understanding builds relationships.

Make sure they are ready to receive that little gift only after you have given them the best gift first – seeking to understand THEM. We may have to hold the smaller gift aside for days, months, maybe even years. But we know it’s there. So does God.

This is a mark of love. This is a mark of wisdom. This is a mark of being true followers of Christ Jesus.

My scars are going to start to change. I am going to be proud to carry some of them with me to the end of this earthly life. Some will be marks of regret, but some will be indicators of God’s true love in action in my life. All will be reminders of pain.

Jesus understands.

May the scars you carry and the new ones you take on be indicators of how well you loved others. May they be nothing but signs of how well you ran your race. And may the new ones be testimonies of the fact that you truly love Jesus and the gift of the cross He has given you to carry.

Let us not forget to remember: We don’t have to carry it alone.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

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Are You Homesick?

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Do you ever feel like you are homesick, but you can’t quite place your finger on just why that is? Do you, like me, forget sometimes that the pining away for that sense of home is kind of always right there with you even if you are with your earthly family, surrounded by loved ones, and nested in your little nook of the world that you reside in daily?

Are you lonely for home, dear friend?

Do you forget to remember why you are a little homesick, friend? Do you forget to remember, albeit momentarily, that this is not your true home and the reason you are having that feeling is because in your heart and your soul, you know this all too well?

  • You may be thankful for your earthly family and never want to leave them, yet feel conflicted because heaven just sounds so much better right about now. You kind of feel like you want to cut and run. Fast.
  • You may realize what your mission on this earth really is and embrace it with a disposition of gratefulness and even see it as a privilege, yet….you know in your heart it’s just not the good part of the deal. Jesus gets it.
  • You may know that you are still, in a way, just a child inside ~ a child of God who simply feels like they just want to go home and be reunited with their Father. You feel lost. But He is with you.
  • You might be the kid who feels like he has been invited to the party (party? really?) who really just doesn’t feel like attending and wants to stomp their feet, cry and yell, and scream “take me home NOW”. (It often seems like kind of a stinky party anyway). Parties are overrated.

Most certainly in these times, our eternal home sounds a whole lot better ~ and with good reason.

With good reason.

You see, although life is a gift, this earthly place in which we temporarily reside was never meant to be party-ville for any of us anyway. Yes, it’s filled with blessings and beauty, but also with heartache, grief beyond belief, and a consistent and relentless slinging of darts and arrows. It’s a mixed up stew of good and bad, of beauty and ugly, of elation and confusion and it’s hard to know at times what the baseline was that started the cooking process in the first place.

The stew can be comforting but confusing at the same time.

Yes, life is a gift, but not in the way we like it to be sometimes. We like bows and ribbons. We like pretty wrapping paper. We like fun and laughter and happiness. We don’t like it when a spoiled brat comes to OUR party and ruins it for us. Oh yah…but I’m that spoiled brat at the party sometimes. (You’d think then that I’d be a little bit more understanding.)

Jesus was when He walked the earth.

Jesus still IS.

It’s not our time to open all of our little presents, friends. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. The real and lasting gift comes from accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and allowing Him to live in and through us. That’s the only gift we really need anyway. The great news is that we don’t have to wait to open that one and it stays with us forever and ever!

We just don’t get all the other great stuff that will be part of our daily living once we enter our eternal home right now. That is reserved for when we step into eternity. And there are mansions and feasts awaiting us there. Whoo Hoo!!!

But there are other gifts to be thankful for in the meantime:

  • There’s the gift that comes in the sharing of the gospel and good news of Jesus Christ being spread throughout the world so that when the real party gets started ~ so that when the best present of all is opened ~ so that when we all sit down to celebrate and feast with Christ ~ we will have many permanent family members and fellow good party attendees alongside us as well! Now that’s a party!
  • There’s the gift of our family, our friends, our loved ones and the fact that the Lord lent them to us so that we aren’t quite as lonely while we wait to go home. We get to see them go through joyful times and comfort them through grief as well. We get to live out Jesus with them during all of these times. We get to do this life with them. We are in good company.
  • There’s even the gift of knowing Jesus better through our suffering, our trials, and our grief.  When He heals us ~ when He comforts us ~ when He lifts us up ~ these gifts just keep on giving. Because of the first gift that we got to open right away, we are filled up with Him. He never forsakes us.

I don’t know about you, dear fellow Christian friends, but for this girl, it’s easier to come to terms a bit more with my longing for my true home if I just fully embrace it in those moments that I am so very heartsick and quite simply, reach for Jesus.

If I fully wrap my heart, mind, feelings, thoughts, my very SOUL around the fact that this is an ongoing grief process, (we are dying to self daily) but there is still cause for celebration ~ well, then the grief starts to dissipate into a million little pieces.

Because of Him.

In these moments ~ these moments in which we long for our forever home with Jesus, these moments in which we find ourselves feeling so alien and out-of-place, so very sick down to the molecular level of being in a foreign land, so desiring with every fiber of our being to finally arrive at our eternal home and stay ~ forever ~ in these very moments, we can taste our true home inside our very hearts….because He is there.

Yes. It is in these precious seconds that we find ourselves actually being filled with the sense of home we need. It is when we are on our knees and telling our Savior that we want more of Him, that we want to be in His presence more, that we miss those who have gone home already without us ~ well, in those moment we have truly come as close to home as possible ~ until such day that we take our last breath and depart this earth.

It is in these very moments that we find and know our Jesus in new and special ways. It is then that we are not quite as lonely for home anymore. He lives in us.

Are you lonely for home today? Do you long for Jesus to come back and take us home with Him and allow us to leave this temporary life behind? Do you find yourself loving parts of this life here, but knowing it is all temporary and struggling to wrap your mind around how to live here when eternity will be so very much better? Cry out to Jesus, won’t you dear friend? Ask Him to fill you with His peace and joy, His comfort and wisdom. Remember His will is being done in and through you, even when many things that surround you feel like a party that’s just gone bad.

For now, our loving Savior has taken up residence in our hearts to help us as our physical bodies walk through a foster home of sorts. And He has prepared a place for us that we get to look forward to. Yet He has not left us alone in the meantime.

How great is our God!!!!

In the meantime, let’s allow Him to live in and through us every second of every day. Let’s be okay with longing for our true home but making the most of the time we have here so that our feast in heaven will be filled with many other beautiful children just like us. It’s what Jesus wants, you know.

He wants all of His children to join Him in eternity!

Let us cry out to our Savior in our loneliness.

Let us ask Him to heal our hearts when we are homesick and look to Him.

And let’s be filled with the wonder of home that Jesus brings to us right where we are at in spite of our earthly limitations.

He can do that, you know.

He will do that.

He has promised.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14:23

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A White Christian Woman’s Apology for being Privileged yet truly Poor

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But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

I was born privileged.

I was born into a caucasian family, of middle-class social “status”, if you will.

My father was in the US military and I was able to travel and receive “special” status for being part of a military family that served a great nation. Wherever I went, I was accepted. And I milked that for all it seemed worth at the time.

  • I have never gone to bed hungry…
  • I have never gone without clothing….
  • I have always been cared for, loved, and had all of my basic needs and then some met to the fullest.

Yet I complained ~ a lot.

You see, I always wanted more than what I had. I wanted everything that I wanted and then some. Wasn’t I entitled to it, after all?

  • I wanted acceptance.
  • I wanted the kind of love that I thought worked best for ME.
  • I had holes in my heart and nothing I tried to fill them with worked for very long.
  • It was all about me and I had to do whatever it took to make my life how I wanted it to be.

The grass was always greener and I sought my special sunshine spot in the meadow ~ relentlessly.

  • I didn’t really care what it would take as long as I got what I wanted.
  • I didn’t think much outside of myself.
  • I knew poverty and hopelessness existed all around me, but my own little life ruled everything.

I thought somehow that I was entitled, and even secretly “cast the first stone” at others for their own inadequacies or sins, all the while, sinning in my own special way and then justifying it.

I cared a little about others ~ but in reality, my own self preservation was the driving force behind all that I did.

Yes….I was born privileged. And I was born poor as well.

I wasn’t concerned with how people of other races or financial classes might feel when others made them feel out-of-place, not accepted, or even persecuted.

I took care of a few people who were needy – giving a bit of money and care here and there when it worked out for me and was overall convenient.

I proclaimed to follow Jesus Christ, but didn’t really give my whole life over to Him. Sure, I would accept “salvation”, but not make Him the King of my life and allow Him to make all the decisions.

I could still do that myself.

I told you: I was also born poor. I just didn’t know it yet.

So today I wish to say I’m sorry for the things that I have done in the past and the thoughtlessness that I portrayed all those years.

I’m sorry to all those who I could have cared for, loved and  helped, but I chose not to.

I’m sorry to God for turning from Him for decades and ignoring those that he loves.

I am sorry for being born white, but not taking extra care to be grateful for what I have and take even more steps toward helping others who struggle because of their race.

I am sorry for being born into a middle-class family, who never really struggled to make ends meet, yet I turned a blind eye to the poverty right in front of me.

I am sorry for being a fake Christian all of those years and allowing legalism to rule, judgement to reign, and love to take a back seat to everything.

I am sorry for being truly poor and lacking love in my heart.

I can’t help how I was born – that I am white, that I was allowed to be educated, that I was able to travel and have all the comforts and needs that I took for granted to be met. But I could have helped how I saw it all. I could have shared more. I could have appreciated things so very much that I simply wanted to just give it away.

But I didn’t. Because I was truly poor.

I am now a very flawed work in progress and always will be until I go home to live with Jesus.

But I get it now.

  • I understand that to follow Christ is to allow Him to live in and through us and that it’s not MY life.
  • I understand that I am not able to turn a blind eye to others in need and it is my privilege and responsibility to help them.
  • I understand that I am to discern the truth and stand firm in that truth, but always speak it or show it in love – REAL love.
  • I understand that I was born rich by the world’s standards, but was truly poor without God.
  • I understand that I can love others even when I disagree with them or their choices, because God loves me that same way.

I understand.

And now I am truly rich.

I won’t make apologies for being a Christian and I won’t make apologies for standing for God’s truth in love. I won’t make apologies for not conforming to this world and its definitions of just what truth and love are ~ because I only follow the truth of Jesus.

Period.

But I do apologize for my lack of giving and lack of love and care at times.

I do apologize for turning a blind eye.

I do apologize for pretending to be rich, but really being poor in my heart.

So if you find yourself privileged but knowing in reality that you are poor, dear friend?

Turn to Jesus, won’t you?

If you find yourself under-privileged, but truly rich because Christ lives within you:

Celebrate and praise Him with me, won’t you?

If you feel lost, misunderstood, persecuted, terrorized, because of race, social disagreements, spiritual arguments, bickering and fighting, or for any reason under the sun…

Won’t you turn to the One who understands it all? Jesus Christ!

We all must seek to find true salvation, understanding and love through Jesus Christ and Him alone.

Then we truly have something wonderful to share with others. Then we are truly rich.

We can’t make everyone feel understood or loved all the time in spite of all of our own sins ~ only He can do that. But maybe, just maybe, He can do some of it in and through us.

We can’t live by truth and do so in love without Christ.

We can pretend ~ just like I pretended to be privileged and rich when I was so very bankrupt inside.

But it won’t last.

All the other stuff is temporary and doesn’t really mean we are rich anyway.

But in Christ, we are both privileged and we are rich.

Let us go forth and share that with others!

‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:39-40

...that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.…Colossians 2:2-3

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The Alien and the Candy Store

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Are ya ready for the understatement of the millennium? I don’t do conflict well.

Unfortunately, in that arena, the fact that I am a highly empathic person does not help me out much. You might think that it would, but yah – not so much. And it really doesn’t help that I have a health issue in which stress takes a HUGE toll. At least, not when conflicts get just plain ugly.

“Productive conflict” as I like to call it, well….. I’m pretty good with that stuff. It’s great when people are sitting down and calmly discussing their feelings, angst, hurts, desire to understand one another. It’s not-so-great when the teeth are showing and “understanding” one another is not in the center of the equation on everyone’s part.

Desire to strive for understanding one another and harmony ~ yah, that’s my thing.

Sometimes it’s my own sharp little teeth that are grinding and showing and making the conflict become “unproductive”. I can be like an alien trapped inside of a candy store, make no mistake about it!

Other times, I am the one seeing what’s really going on around us and feel quite helpless and alone ~ and that’s when the conflict starts to really take a toll on me. I then risk turning into that alien with fangs because fight or flight starts to take over. The monster in Annie comes out to play, and that’s a bad thing, my friends.

Does that happen with you?

I wrote a little while back about not being easily offended and what the Lord has to say about that. As Christians, we must know who we are IN CHRIST and try not to allow those little darts and arrows (that are constantly coming our way) to penetrate our hearts.

But we still get hurt sometimes. (And I am the Queen of that junk. Hence, why I wrote about it – it’s something I have to work on with the Lord because I STINK at it!)

So people like me? We forget to remember and get hurt and in turn, we hurt others right back.

We all do.

Most of the time it’s because of our sin nature – I say that matter of fact because well, it IS. It’s a matter of fact.

And sometimes it’s because we don’t have our full armor on. The Lord cautions us about that. He even lays out for us, piece by piece, what we need to wear today – EVERY day.

But we get cocky – sometimes we just feel like running light and free. When I do that, I almost ALWAYS get into trouble.

The armor is not meant to be an option. Sad, but true.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12

The schemes of the devil ~ let’s just say that it ain’t no joke, friends. I think sometimes that as Christians, we know that he is there, operating and up to no good, but we often overlook just how pervasive his trickery, planning and divisive little tactics really are.

I sense these forces all around us. Do you? Sometimes people think that I read into things too much or whatever you want to call it. Sometimes they may be right. But most of the time, I know what I know to be true. And when you sense something like this around you or others you love, it is unmistakable that ~ IT. IS. REAL.

By the way: The Lord says it’s real too – it’s all throughout the Word.

Check for yourself.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

So those of us who sense these things and do so more regularly or easily than others; well, we aren’t “crazy.” We are actually obeying the Lord to be ever-so-watchful of such things.

But we also have to be careful.

We have to be careful to put that full armor on and remember Who is MORE powerful, Who is MORE present, Who is KING.

Why? Because so often, fear can overtake us. And then we go into full combat gear mode. We try to add to the Lord’s armor something of our own. Some secret weapon that we think might enhance it and make it work even better.

NOT the case, friends. Not the case!

For me in particular, this happens when I allow what I sense or see around me that is “not good” to be magnified and begin to overwhelm me. Sometimes, I feel this need to have the whole “strength in numbers” thing going on. Not as a ganging up on others type of thing, but this NEED to understand what’s really happening – together.

Finding someone else to be there with me in the moment, to name it, talk about it for what it really is (what we are sensing and seeing creeping in) seems like a smart and intelligent  way to fight against it.

You know? To know we have a common enemy and fight IT together, instead of fighting one another?

We’re on to you, evil.

Yah….like that!

But that almost never happens in the moment. And that’s another one of the horrible one’s little schemes. (I can’t stand that devil, by the way)

The truth is, that only God can help us to combat that fear. Only God can help us in times of unproductive conflict. Only God can comfort us that He believes us when we sense the REAL evil around us and feel threatened and even cave into allowing it to permeate our own hearts and try to take over.

Only God.

So we have to KNOW Him. We have to spend time with the Lord in daily prayer, in His Word. We have to seek Him constantly – especially in times of turmoil.

Because it’s too easy to get swept up in emotions, hurts, offenses, and let the REALLY dangerous stuff take over – bitterness, anger, fear, self-pity, hatred, division, apathy – the list goes on.

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14

The armor will do us no good if our hearts are filled with ugly. It will only trap that darkness inside and make us feel stronger and thicker skinned.

Our hearts need to be soft and open to the One True God.

There is a time and a place for vulnerability in love with one another. And yes ~there is a time and a place to proceed with caution. But ALL the time, we must rely upon the LORD for our strength ~ for His wisdom to know what to do ~ and for His peace.

Evil will try to harm us and make us think it is going to get us. Most of the time, it will start right inside of our own hearts and work from the inside out. And yes, sometimes, we are under assault from the outside and it’s banging up our armor pretty darned good.

But if we are truly followers of Christ, we will wise up to what’s going on because the Holy Spirit will make it clear.

And then we’ll remember…………

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. Psalm 121:7

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

We are not alone. It’s just a matter of who we choose to keep company with ~ Jesus, or the aliens.

Let’s seek HIM ~ shall we?

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Evil Pretends to be King

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Each day, we check the news and something more shocking seems to have happened.

  • Something that grieves our hearts…
  • Something that rocks a family, a community, a country to the core…
  • Something that makes us stand in awe, jaws dropped to the floor, wondering…”how can this possibly be happening?”
  • Something….. more.

Something more evil than we can even wrap our minds around.

  • It breaks our hearts and tries to steal our peace, our love.
  • It incites fear, fighting, and tries to take our eye off the ball.

Evil, and the one behind it all prides itself on being a great magician ~ a master of deception.

And it has always been here.

Evil tries to masquerade as many things ~ anything but the pure dark and sick and twisted thing that it is. It doesn’t want you to see who the driving force behind it really is.

  • It tries to fake us out.
  • It tries to put us into fight or flight and keep us there.
  • Evil feeds on FEAR.

And fear breeds lots of even uglier things. It is a catalyst for all kinds of ugly..

But evil can NOT be allowed to be the winner.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

WE can not allow evil to take center stage, friends. Sure, it’s impossible to deny that it is here ~ I am certainly not talking about doing that. (That ~ causing us to simply look the other way ~ well, that’s another tricky tactic that is often used to cause apathy or compromising of our values ~ of love).

Yes. LOVE through the power of Jesus Christ is the true, most powerful thing we have in our arsenal against evil.

But even more importantly, we MUST remember Who is the One, True King!

He has not only always been here ~ He has always been and is!!!

HE IS.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The ONE TRUE KING!

Don’t blame God for “allowing” evil to be present on this earth, friend. Cry out to him instead.

Remember to assign blame where it is due. Then ask the Lord to fill you up with more of Him and His love, His comfort, His peace.

There’s a prince of this earth and his sad little name is “Satan.”

But over ALL the earth, over ALL the universe, over ALL eternity, there is only ONE TRUE KING.

He is coming back for us soon…

Soon and very soon!

And there shall be no more evil. There shall be no more tears. Every single knee shall bow to the One True King!

For those of us who have accepted Christ as our One true love and our One true King, we know this.

So yes….

  • Evil hurts us.
  • Evil causes grief, pain, and absolute outcry.
  • Evil takes temporary victories and tries to fake us into believing that it’s time to throw in the towel and surrender to it.

But let us remember the love of Christ. Let us remember who the King really is.

Let us remember we are royalty ~ Christ’s children.

And most of all: let us remember just Who has already won.

We are not the captives of evil. We have been captured by Jesus Christ, our Lord. And thanks be to HIM!

AMEN.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

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About the Time that I Died

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All the times that I not only didn’t appreciate my parents, but I treated them with disrespect, disdain, detachment.

All the times that I went against what I knew to be GOOD, true, lovely, noble, GOOD…. and did the opposite of it all ~

On purpose.  😦

  • The giving away of my one true love, my Jesus.
  • The substitutes that I tried to allow to take His place.
  • The tossing aside of Him – the One, the ONLY One who matters most.

Yes ~ those things.

Those mean, dark and ugly things that lurk in the corners of my memory banks. The ones that try to “come alive” again and threaten to steal peace.

You see, I was dead once.

I was a part of the ever-so-popular group of the walking dead. I kind of even knew it as it was happening too. But I didn’t know how to get out of the quicksand.

But now?

I am ALIVE.

When you were dead in your sins and in the un-circumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins. Colossians 2:13

All the things that happened, to me and because of me – the ones that aren’t pretty;  the ones that are hurtful; they didn’t make me who I am today.

They don’t define me.

I am not a “better person” for having experienced those things. I am not better for having perpetrated those things.

I learned who I do not want to be from what HE did to bring me out of it all!

I don’t have those ugly experiences to thank for it.

I have HIM.

  • The premarital sex ~ it didn’t develop my character.
  • The dabbling in drugs ~ they didn’t broaden my thinking, or make me wiser.
  • The drinking for all those years ~ it didn’t make me stronger.
  • The aimless wandering, the not knowing who to fit in with and who to live for…none of it gave me purpose.

But God.

I am a new creation in Christ. And if anything, it is what God does even through the ugly that makes the old die, and the new come alive.

He brought me back from the dead.

Yes ~ He makes ALL things new!

Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

My memory is failing me in some ways with my chronic illness. But in the most ironic way, at times, it seems sharp in regard to the dark things of the past. The dark cloud under which I took my self-seeking shelter is almost palpable when I recall it.

And I’m working on that.

  • I’m working on forgetting the old.
  • I’m working on reveling in the new.
  • I’m working on being present in the beautiful moment of today.
  • I’m working on the true kind of shelter.

The one in which I get to step out, hand in hand with Jesus, and look to the skies whilst seeking His face and bask in the fact that….

HE IS ALIVE!!!!

And because of Him….

So am I.

There will be rough terrain to conquer. There will be dry times in which my lips are parched and I am not sure when I shall reach a place of reprieve. But I will walk this with THE Savior of the world right there with me. He may even have to carry me sometimes.

He will make a way and keep me whole. 

No. Matter. What.

This I know.

Do you know it, friend? Do you know that you are no longer dead if you are living in Christ Jesus? Do you know it? You CAN look ahead, even when it looks bleak outside. You will not die, but have eternal life. You will never be alone – even now, while you navigate that which seems desolate or dark. In this, each day is made NEW.

In Jesus, we are truly ALIVE.

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19

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Just Enter In ~ Even when You are Limping!

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And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

Tonight I got to attend church for the first time in several weeks. Friends, it was a blessing that I find hard to put into words.

You see, my family and I attend the Saturday night service, and for whatever crazy reason, Colorado has been having rainy weather ~ storms brewing on the last few weekends especially.  Well, those storms and that back and forth “weather” is something that wreaks havoc with regard to my pain level. And quite frankly, I haven’t been able to muster up the strength to show up until tonight.

Pain. Deeper than the “normal” Fibromyalgia pain I have and walk around with every day.

Pain. The kind that goes to a whole new level – making my joints feel like they are being squeezed in a vice – restriction of range of motion.

Pain. The sticky, slashing layers of it – striking me over and over again.

Underneath is the all-over tightness and dull ache I always have. But layer upon layer of acute and sharp stuff starts to ensue ~ tacking on to the one beneath it and compounding and building something….awful. Until ~ well, you guessed it: I am down for the count or full on struggling and even limping.

But today I was able to do it, friends. Today, I was able to get to church (and even able to somewhat disguise that limping for a while).

It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fluffy and feel-good stuff. No way, no how! But I wasn’t agonizing to the point that I couldn’t smile. I wasn’t so completely focused on my pain that I couldn’t pause to worship my Lord and Savior. I wasn’t disabled to the level of not being able to talk a bit with a couple of lovies of mine, hug a few sweet peeps, and let someone know how very proud of them I am.

I was laughing through the limping. I was loving through the limping. I was able to enter in and engage, broken body and all.

And this was good.

I even got to see a double rainbow driving home with my daughter while we laughed and listened to the Spanish radio station (that always makes you happy by the way- you must try it sometime).

My point is this: If you can scrape yourself together enough to just show up and hang with some fellow believers – even if only for a short time – it’s a good thing.

It’s good to get there and be there – to just enter in – even if our bodies are falling apart.

It’s good to rest too if we just can’t do it ~ but when we can, we almost never regret it.

It’s good because there’s no better place to be while limping than with others who can lift you up and just need to see your smile. Yes. Even your wincing-type smiles.

I’m thankful today friends – I’m so very grateful that I got to enter in to my church home. I am glad I got to see those fellow lovers of Jesus who are hurting in their own individual ways, yet seeking Him through fellowship with one another.

Some of us may be limping ~ it’s true. But the best kind of  healing comes when two or more gather in His name. Because when that happens? Well, HE is there.

And HE is never limping. HE conquered the grave. HE saves us from everything, friends and gives us eternal life and fellowship with HIM and those who are part of HIS family.

That is cause for constant celebration. That is the most good of all!

Limping or not ~ I’m up for that kind of party. I shall sing His praises. And yes ~ I shall dance.

Even if only in my heart.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

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I Have Been Immersed Today (And I Will Rejoice!)

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I have been immersed today.

I have been immersed in self-pity. I have been immersed in Jesus joy at the same time.

I have been immersed in pain – true and deeeeep-below-the-muscles-all-over-kind-of pain. I have simultaneously been immersed in an inexplicable Jesus-kind-of comfort.

I have been immersed today.

I cannot sleep, so I write. I write about my immersion.

Today I have sharp and vivid memories – fond ones of times when I given the ability to jog all the time. Running for miles and miles and sweating all the toxins out – ending with a rush of endorphins that lasted the whole day long.

Immersed in the beauty of that memory.

Pounding out the stress – the aches. Pounding it out through the pain. Painful at first – probably for the first mile or so.

And then came the bliss. I was immersed in the bliss then ~ consistently.

I have been immersed in the memories of that physical euphoria today.

I have been immersed in the longing for it – the pining away for it.

The flesh is strong. The desire to satisfy it is even stronger.

And the tears came. They came fast and hard. And they are still here right now as I write and share my heart a bit.

I am immersed in tears today.

Oh how I miss days in which experiencing some initial pain – intentionally-embraced pain – held what seemed like a beautiful pay-off that was beyond worth it after each of those long and so-very-satisfying runs.

How I miss being able to work hard enough physically that I would get on that good sweat and feel….cleansed.

Now my body has to work in overdrive just to make it through the day. The pain from my Fibro is so intense some days that the days in which I feel nothing more than a generalized tightness of muscles (ALL OVER, I might add) seem like “good days.”

Will I ever run again?

And so I walk with Him. I walk with my Jesus as I cry like a baby and wish for something more – something different. I struggle and strain not to fall into a place of condemnation for not being content on days such as today. I turn it over minute by minute to my Lord and Savior – begging Him for conviction to replace condemnation where needed, and comfort to replace my sense of discontent and sadness.

He is cleansing me.

I am immersed today. Because I am toxic.

I am immersed in the knowing of my Lord and Savior and the need to know Him even better.

I am immersed in waves of self-pity and despair laced with the knowledge that I am blessed beyond belief all at the same time.

I wallow, I bask. I beg, I accept. I scream. I pray.

I ask for more.

I thank Him for what I have.

And I end this day immersed in prayer – praying for a deeper knowledge of Him and who He is – and the ability to see the fruit that He is producing in my life.

And while I feel I am withering and rotting in so very many ways, I know the truth. And it sets me free.

I have been immersed today. I have been immersed in relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And I shall rejoice. Because HE is never going to be a fading memory I have to pine away for – He will always be with me. And it keeps getting better and better every day.

I think I’ll “run” with that one!

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines….

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high hills.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

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Anew

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And the crushing of the heart – it is raw.

And the hurting of the feelings – they are fresh.

And the complaining and the mocking and the misunderstanding – all there…

Anew, anew, anew.

And the selfishness – replenished daily.

And the failure to understand – a formidable presence.

And the sneak attacks of the enemy – surprising.

Anew, anew, anew.

Relentless, pervasive, crushing, divisive.

Battling, raging, perplexing, isolating.

Ripping, smashing, slaying for whatever cause –

Anew, anew, anew.

And the blessings – they are awaiting.

And healing of the heart – is never-ending.

And the sanctification – His merciful cleansing.

Anew, anew, anew.

And the wisdom imparted through prayer.

And the peace – through self surrender.

And the love replacing the hatred.

Anew, anew, anew.

Perpetual, ever-present, molding, unifying.

Treaties, calming, understanding, risking.

Patching, rebuilding, healing for whatever cause –

His mercies and His love –

Anew, anew, anew.

It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

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When it Storms in May (and You were expecting Sunshine)

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So much in life and how it goes for us seems to depend upon our expectations, and our willingness to be flexible in that arena. I live in Colorado, and the weather here is, to say the least……..unpredictable. (smirk upon my face)

Sometimes I have a pretty bad attitude about it too. Just ask my husband. I often say I would rather live in a warmer climate (year round), possibly near an open body of water (beach and sand), and where I can know what to expect (overall) on a day-to-day basis. A girl can dream, right?

But I know ~ the grass is always just seeming greener when I think that way. Dreams are just dreams, after all. (sad face)

In all honesty, I am quite blessed to live in Colorado when it comes to weather. Most of the time, we have more sunshine days than many other places when you spread it out over a year’s time. Most of the time.

But this May has really been ugly. I haven’t enjoyed it at all, especially with this Fibro body I am walking around in now. I thought it was going to get sunny and warm again. We were teased with that a little bit, and I was getting excited, you know? But alas ~ then came the gloom and hail and dark and rain and wind and….the stuff I hate.

So, the expectations must be adjusted once again. I didn’t do a good job of being proactive about it this time, and my attitude started to decline along with how my body feels. I forgot to look for the ray of sunshine amidst the gloomy and the cloudy.

It’s there. That ray of light is always there. I just wasn’t looking up.

There’s also a bigger picture at play here other than what month of the year it happens to be and aside from what the fickle weather is doing. It’s about all of life, friends.

For me, I had thought that I was going to be in a place in life right about now where I would still be enjoying the awesome ability to run and jog and get on a good sweat and have endorphins from doing so running through my body 24/7. That’s not been the case since I was struck down with Fibromyalgia.

At one time, I actually thought that once I reached this age, I would be sitting back and enjoying time with my Mother (and best friend) on the weekends – having coffee – because she had planned to move here so she could spend more time in a state that she loved. She went to heaven though – so that didn’t happen.

I also thought I’d be enjoying the role of coaching others in my work and possibly even taking that to a higher level than I had experienced a few years back – helping people find ways to tap into their strengths and enjoy their work even more. But I had to step out of a leadership role due to all the stress in my life.

But out of all of those things – those things that the world might portray as dreams lost – out of them all, the Lord has brought so many blessings my way. He is so very faithful. And He can make beauty (sunshine) out of the ugly (storms).

He is more powerful than lightning…

He can comfort us and protect us even when hail seems to be raining down, never-ending.

He can keep us warm and dry even when it is wet and soggy all around us.

We have only to adjust our expectations.

We have only to turn it over to Him and allow His will to be made manifest – even when it’s the unexpected stuff and we wonder what He might be doing.

JESUS ~ He knows this.

He shows us that it is not about our own will, but that of the Lord’s.

He shows us that each day is a day in which we don’t have to know what to expect because God’s got this.

He shows us that we can ALWAYS look up ~ look up to the One and Only ~ the only One who knows, never changes. The only One we can always rely upon without fail.

So if you find yourself feeling disappointed, let down, sad, or kind of stuck, it’s okay. Your expectations may need to be adjusted, or you may be going through a grief of dastardly proportions that has nothing to do with expectations at all.

Either way, God’s got you in the palm of His hand. And He will carry you as His will is brought to fruition.

You are not alone, dear friend. And even in the middle of the storm, He always has something good in store for us.

Bow your heads today with me, friends.

And when you are finished?

Don’t forget to look UP.

Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights. Unlike them, He never changes or casts shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

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