Saturday, December 30, 2017

Restored, And Better Than Before

My mother always used to tell me "good things take time." To paraphrase that, I've learned through the years that "God things take time!" The journey to a beautiful destination can be made of rocky roads and seemingly impassable mountains. It is easy to lose hope in those times. Just like an oak tree in the winter that looks dead after losing all of it's leaves, new life comes in the spring. It starts with tiny little buds, and culminates in a colorful tree full of leaves with deeper roots and greater strength than before.

"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." ~Isaiah 40:31

It takes time to work through the anger and sadness that come when grieving a loss. Once we are able to say goodbye to the losses of yesterday, one is able to open the door to the dawn of a new tomorrow.

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

While God may let us lose things, He is also a God of restoration. As we find better doctors, and finally get long sought answers, we find a better quality of life. In the process we learn compassion, empathy and become stronger. We learn to have joy in things that once meant very little, and we become closer to the Lord. We also learn coping strategies and how to live rather than just survive.

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." ~1 Peter 5:10

When God restores our lives we are different people because we're more complete than we were before. Equipped with a fresh perspective and renewed spirits, we receive what He has for us with a new appreciation and a grateful heart.

"Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  ~ James 1:4

Have you found that living through hard things has made you a better person? If so, how?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Tidings Of Comfort and Joy

Christmas brings with it great meaning and for some great difficulty. It's the time when our losses are felt deeply once more, and the life changes that come with those losses are greatly emphasized. This is especially true when attending attending family gatherings and parties or being alone. For me, the reminders and thoughts of what Christmas is really about make the difference between feeling sadness or joy.

I find it interesting that in the Christmas carol "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" it speaks of tidings of comfort and joy." Why would comfort and joy go together? Maybe because joy is much different than happiness. Many of us think of joy as something similar to happiness. Happiness is based on circumstance and is fleeting. Joy is based on the certainty of Christ, and the agape love of a Father who gave everything for His children. What a wonderful gift God has given us! There is a magnificent assurance of Heaven after this short life, in which we will all be fully healed in God's presence. There have been times when I was mad at God for what He let me go through in my life, but when I thought about what Jesus lived through, it changed my whole way of thinking. God chose for Jesus to be born in a manger, and to be raised by a poor family. Jesus chose to be homeless and live with so little. Everything was for us, he suffered to save us from our sin. Now we live under a new covenant and the only sacrifice was and to this day remains just one- him. How amazing is that?

Yes life is hard and it certainly can be unfair. But we live with God's mercy and grace all because of Jesus! This is the same infant Jesus we celebrate on Christmas. Because of him we don't get the punishment we deserve and we get the grace that we don't deserve. We receive God's sustaining grace every day and his saving grace to allow us into Heaven when we die. Thank you God for giving me so much! Talk about a fulfilled promise! Read about this promise in the Old Testament as far back as Isaiah: "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14)

Take great comfort that we have a God who stands on His promises. Over and over we can read in the Bible about how God will love us forever (Jer. 31:3), never leave (Heb. 13:5), provide (Gen. 22:14), protect (Is. 64:8) and forgive (1 John 1:9). The list goes on and on. What a comfort that is! And what a joy that the greatest gift is Jesus! God also promises to fill our hearts with joy in John 15 and 16, we just need to make room! The more we empty our hearts, the more room we have to be filled with lasting, meaningful joy!

Oh Precious Father, thank you for Your amazing sacrificial love that gave us a savior. Thank You that through him we have unending mercy and grace, and will get to be with You one day. Thank you for always hearing our prayers and doing what is best in the perfect plan that You have for us. Help us to accept that Your ways are so much higher than ours. Help us to embrace the joy of Christ in Christmas and to focus on You and Jesus, not on temporary circumstances. Help us to remember that you are in control.  Thank You for loving me just the way I am. I love You Lord, I praise and worship You for all that You are. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Tidings of comfort and joy to you this Christmas!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Finding Peace In Stillness

When I heard Amy Grant's podcast she did for Jesus Calling last year, so much of it resonated with me. Amy grew up in church and learned so much from the Bible and about Jesus, but how well did she know him? As the daughter of a pastor, she was immersed in religion at a young age and she loved the Lord. Yet it wasn't until she was older and needed a savior so badly, that she learned heart lessons that culminated in finding the peace that knows no understanding. It was by learning how to be still, letting go and trusting God in everything.  Sometimes the simplest lessons are the hardest to learn.

Join Amy for this 9 minute excerpt from her Jesus Calling podcast below.

Amy Grant: Seeking God's Presence Through Stillness Podcast

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Thankfulness In Advent Guest Post

I am honored to be sharing my friend Victoria's advent post from Chronically Hopeful as a guest post. May you be blessed as I was. 

Thankfulness in Advent
                                                                                                                                              We are encouraged to write wish lists. The media hypes up the season with empty feel good out of reach promises. Such as promises of “true” love, materialistic gifts., and the picture-perfect Christmas day with family.  People strive for perfect.
                                                                                                                                             Days that are nearly bursting at the seams with activities become more hurried so that more activities can be intertwined. There is no time to breathe in this season. In the blink of an eye, Christmas day has come and gone, leaving a sobering tragedy that we missed the opportunity to cherish moments and grow closer to Christ.

People become so busy that cannot hear the whisper of Christ. It is funny that the one thing we need most is the first thing we normally cut out, which is, our time with God. We might have a sing that says keep Christ in Christmas yet we neglect doing so.

The Greatest Gift                                                                        

Keeping Christ in Chrismas is more than using the phrase Merry Christmas. Keeping Christ in Christmas is slowing down and cherishing the gift of time. Keeping Christ in Christmas seeking Him with your whole heart and spending extra time in His presence. Additionally, allow Him to speak to You and transform You. Keeping Christ in Christmas is loving, praying for, and caring for all those around you.

Christ should be at the center of our excitement and focus. Jesus whispers gentle reminders to us. His name is whispered in the Old Testament. Jesus whispers to us in the chaos. He whispers in moments of silence in front of awe-inspiring lights. He whispers to us in the Christmas songs and through the
texture of garland. He even whispers to us through the aromas of Christmas. Jesus whispers to us
                                                                                                                                              Christmas, can you hear Him?
                                                                                                                                              What if instead of wish lists we kept a gratitude list, how would this transform our Christmas season? Slowing down in gratitude, as mentioned in a previous blog post, enables us to enter fully into each moment. Advent overflows with gifts from the creation story up until our present day. These gifts are 
waiting to be acknowledged all we must do is pay attention.

Jesus, I am amazed at how you, my Sovereign God, parted with heaven for a season. You entered in awomb through a miracle utilizing uninvited women. Entering into the beauty of You creation and navigating this fallen world. You became a helpless infant.
                                                                                                                                              I praise You with all my heart for the hope found in Advent. Help me to slow down, to cherish each moment, and to hear Your loving voice whispering to me. I surrender this Advent season to You knowing You will do a work beyond my dreams. Cultivate in me a Christmas heart of gratitude.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thank God For The Buts

The holiday season can be a difficult time for those who have suffered loss. Whether it be the death of a loved one or the death of a dream, whether it be the losses that pile up from major illnesses, or job losses, sadness can make the holidays very hard to get through. So what helps when loneliness and heartache set in? My friend, there are no magical answers, BUT there is always something to be grateful for. For some people, that may be hard to believe, but it's really true! I call it silver linings or the "buts."

It's all about changing our statements. When we see through eyes of sadness everything looks dark and dismal, and that is the feeling. It's hard to move forward, when you can't see anything ahead, and it feels paralyzing. It's an awful place to be. When I feel sad it helps me to write. Have you ever tried that? It can take some practice, before the thoughts start tumbling out. Here is an example of things I have written in the past:

There's so many things I can't do anymore
I've lost friends over this
So many people don't understand
I feel so alone
I can't be strong and independent anymore

Maybe you can identify with some of these things, they are very common feelings. When one looks for a silver lining, we look for something to counter the negative statement, positive self talk, and we can include God and His power in that silver lining or "but." Here are my new statements:

There's so many things I can't do anymore BUT I have found new things I can do.
I've lost friends over this BUT I have found new friends who are better friends.
So many people don't understand BUT I do value the ones who accept me even if they don't understand and am thankful for God who loves me so much just the way I am.
I feel so alone BUT I have learned that I am never alone, my God is always with me, He is faithful.
I can't be strong and independent anymore BUT God is strong for me in my weakness, and I am grateful for those who help me.

The "buts" can provide some comfort as we heal and go through our days. Some "buts" are very inspiring and meaningful to me such as the third and fourth line of the first verse of this popular hymn:

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Gift of Thanksgiving and Praise

Throughout the Bible we are told not only to unceasingly pray and thank God repeatedly, but also to praise Him. In many instances, we hear thanks and praise used together. I have been learning what a difference it makes in my life to not only thank God for all He has done and all He is doing, but also to praise Him.

When I get up in the morning, before my feet hit the floor, I greet the Lord and thank Him for at least three things. I got into this habit when I was having a difficult time. Doing this in the morning sets a more positive tone to my day. It always makes me realize how much God does for me no matter how bad things are at the time. It helps me to focus on the right things. When we thank God, we look at the many things He has done for us and it does put things in perspective. So if that's true, why do we need to praise Him too?

Praising God not only acknowledges what He does but also who He is. It puts the focus on Him and brings us into His presence. When we are in His presence to that degree, we are protected from the enemy. When we put Him into focus so fully and praise Him we also are building our faith and becoming stronger. This really is true. You are filling your mind, spirit and heart with the living God and you will be blessed for that. You will also feel and experience the blessing of that. It is truly a gift. Let us pray:

Thank You Lord, for all of the incredible things You have done for me and continue to do for me, and for the ways you continually bless me. I praise You, worship You and honor You my sovereign God, the Great I am. Your love is higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans, thank You for loving me with that love. Thank You for the sacrifice You made for me and for the protection You give my loved ones and I. Thank You for the mercy and grace that I walk in each day and for the faithfulness that You show me. I am a child of the Most High and I honor You and cherish You as my King. Help me to have a thankful heart every day, and to reflect to others the love You show me. You know my heart Lord, You know my burdens and I continue to trust You with them. I lay it all down again and ask for Your peace once more. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

He Keeps His Promises

                   Image result for Sycamore tree in autumn

Sometimes song lyrics speak for themselves and resonate with us in such an intimate way. I believe the the recent song by JJ Heller, "You Keep Your Promises" does just that. It likens the seasons of our lives to those of nature, and speaks of how God always keeps His promises. Sometimes it takes a while before we see the fruit, as in waiting for a spring that always comes. 

Sandals in the closet
Jackets by the door
Orange, red, life and death
Scattered 'round the feet of the sycamore

The waiting hands of winter
Catch us when we fall
Is it just me? I can't believe
The green of spring was ever here at all

You keep Your promises
You keep Your promises
I might not see it yet
You keep Your promises

Everyone I care for
Just like every perfect dream
Withers, fades, and drifts away
Feels like we're all falling with the leaves

You keep Your promises
You keep Your promises
I might not see it yet
You keep Your promises

There is hope within the breaking of the heart of every seed
And I know You feel the aching at the end of all good things
I believe in restoration, I believe that You redeem
Because I know somehow the sycamore will bloom again in spring

You keep Your promises
You keep Your promises
I might not see it yet
There will be life again
You keep Your promises
You keep Your promises
I might not see it yet
You keep Your promises

Click on the link below to see the video for this beautiful song:
You Keep Your Promises

Praying that for those who are experiencing a cold winter, it isn't too long. And that you do know the assurance of God's promises including the spring that is coming.

For a copy of God's promises click below:
God's Promises (printable)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Caught Up

"Seek Him."  ~Matthew 6:33

The older I get, the more I come to realize how much I need the Lord. I look back over my life and I can see how many times He has pulled me through, how many times He has carried me when I was weak. He has been the one true constant throughout everything and there are those who know the miracles that He has performed in my life. Without God, I would truly be nothing. 

Though many of us know this, there are still times when we lose our grasp on keeping our time with Him a priority. We get caught up in things that are going on in our lives, needs of someone else or ourselves or we simply lose focus. When this happens, it shows in every part of our lives. We start losing our peace, our perspectives starts shifting more and more to that of the world. We're not as strong, we can't stand as firm. Our emotions get the better of us more often. Allowing ourselves to get caught up in anything other than Jesus is not a good thing. If affects our lives in a negative way.

Yet when God is the priority, what an amazing difference it makes! He trumps all our circumstances and we can focus on Him rather than our problems! He lifts us up and supports us so we don't get knocked back down. We're able to function in His strength rather than our own. There are so many reasons to make and keep God number one in our lives. Everything we build in Him is lasting treasure. We get to experience Him in a whole new way, as King and Holy Father!

So how do we know when we are slipping into worldly ways? God will show us what we need to know by praying and reading His word. When we ask Him to give us a heavenly perspective He will! 

Thank You Lord, for being so loving, and merciful! Thank You for being so willing to help us be better! 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Beauty In The Broken

Butterfly, Mosaic, Yellow, Colorful, Mural, Decoration
When I think about different parts of my life, I feel like Humpty Dumpty. I am so grateful that I have a God who could take the pieces of me and my life and put it all back together again, but I cannot tell you how many times I thought of myself as damaged. The truth is, there is beauty to be seen in the broken.

Mosaic art is made from pieces of broken porcelain or glass. The Japanese used to repair their pottery with gold and silver making them each piece that much more beautiful. When we give God our broken pieces, we surrender in a more complete way, and he makes such a beautiful masterpiece with our brokenness. You see, when He has our weakness to work with, that is when He is the strongest in us, and can really do His work. 

I spent a long time fighting my weakness and need for Him, because I wanted to maintain strength and independence. What a mistake that was. I am at my best when I am functioning in God's strength, not my own. I don't need my independence, I need Him. I can stand strong when He is supporting me, and when I don't have the strength on my own, He keeps me going with his strength. He also uses my scars to tell a story of hope to others. He can do the same for you!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Still Thirsty

Before I was overcome by three devastating chronic illnesses, my life was very full. I was very active. The offer of the job I really wanted finally came in. I loved what I was able to do in my volunteering. We traveled with friends. My husband and I took regular walks through lush, scenic neighborhoods and green ways. We drove wherever we wanted to go to see family and friends and managed to do what we wanted. Still, we had unrealized dreams and still, we were thirsty.

When I got so sick that I couldn't do these things anymore, I realized what I lost and I grieved. But something else happened. I slowed down, and even learned how to be still. Many times, especially in the beginning, I had to be still. I reached out to God not as the strong, independent woman I tried to be, but as the struggling, weak and helpless woman I felt like I was. I opened the deepest parts of my heart out of desperation for help, relief and comfort. What I found was nothing short of miraculous. What I had read about and never understood I experienced first hand. God the Father, who comforted me like a little child, and took care of me in a whole new way. I let him have all of me, maybe for the first time. I thought I had surrendered myself completely before, but as a frail human, the tendency to hold some back is always there. This time, I didn't think about it, I just did it. For the first time, I was no longer thirsty.

It reinforced something I knew in my head but maybe not fully in my heart--God wants us to come to Him as we are. He will fix us after we come. As one who grew up in a performance based environment, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around that. Illness brought me to that place where I stopped thinking and started listening and obeying; where God helped me to overcome my unbelief. The most amazing part is that all I needed was willingness and my simple prayer from my heart: "Help me God, fill me." I was so weak. I am still weak every day until I ask for His strength which is what I function in, so much better than my own which runs out so fast. He's not just God, but He is My God. He loves me as His own daughter, and He never leaves me thirsty.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Perspective Is Everything

Some say perspective is everything. It certainly affects the way we see the world and perceive events. It never ceases to amaze me, when my grown kids tell the same stories from when they were growing up. I get three different versions! That's because their level of maturity, their role in the situation and how they felt about it, all affected how they saw things and remembered them each time.

They are called filters, the lens through which we see the world. We commonly refer to romantics as seeing through rose colored glasses, or depressed people as "seeing through a dark veil." I have found that the mood and frame of mind I'm in affects how I experience what is happening in a day. It all comes down to perspective.

When I first was diagnosed with my illnesses I was scared. They were rare and I didn't know a lot about them. Information wasn't easy to find. I thought of myself as very sick, and consequently noticed every single ache and pain. I forgot about the normal aches and pains we all experience. I was looking for what was wrong.

When I found acceptance not only of my illness but of where I am presently, with the help of God, my thinking and my filters started to change. Although my doctors didn't give me hope of a full recovery, my Lord does. Instead of thinking of myself as being sick, I try to think of myself as getting well. While that may not mean I will be fully healed in this life time, I look for what is okay or getting better instead of what is worse. When the pain is bad, I put it in the context of a bad pain day, meaning tomorrow may be better. Looking for the good, and thinking positively, shines a bright light on my illnesses, instead of feeling like i am walking a dark, lonely path.

Applying this practice to my daily life has led to a reduction in stress, and an overall feeling of peace. Remembering God's faithfulness in prior events helps me to put much more trust in Him now. I've been learning that I can pray for Him to work through me, and He will. I can ask Him to carry me when I'm weak and He does. I can ask for His strength when mine is running out, and He gives it to me. I can pray for Him to help me with having a life- affirming attitude, and He really does help.

Changing one's perspective can even impact how you feel physically. It doesn't change having an illness, but it can certainly contribute to overall quality of life and how much pain you feel. For me, it has meant letting go of self-sufficiency and depending on God and those He chooses to work through. That has been difficult for me, but along with the letting go has come a freedom to change and grow, and the humility to ask for help. Maybe that is a new beginning in itself.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

When The Walls Are Crashing In

Have you ever been in a deep dark pit? So deep you couldn't see a way out? I have, at different points in my life. As a teenager after a horrible trauma I didn't think I could possibly survive.  Also when I became chronically ill with Addison's Disease and then other co-existing illnesses, knowing life would never be the same, I was grief stricken.

I lived in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina. I was in Central Mississippi so we didn't get the devastation of the coast or New Orleans, but we got hit hard. At that time I worked hardships for the state retirement plan, and after hearing all the stories from the coast all day long, I would go home at night and cry, at least in the beginning. But you know what? I watched the stories change. From shock and grief to unity and a new hope...where there is God, there is always hope.

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. It is also when Hurricane Irma will be hitting the Southeastern United States. Please know that whether you have evacuated or stayed, whether you are in a bad situation or hurting, no matter what your circumstance, or how dark things look, it can and does get better. You are never alone. I can say this because I have been in that dark pit. We can't always do it our own, sometimes we need help. There is no shame in needing help. We are not built to be perfect or completely independent, no matter what anyone has told you. Please if you feel like giving up, don't. Reach out. If not to someone you know, I will have some contacts below. And I want to share something that helped me. Please share it with anyone you think it might help. God never leaves us, and is a source of great comfort and peace.

I promised you some contacts. You can always contact me. For some anonymous contacts who are trained to help people that are hurting and people that are thinking about giving up here are some numbers and web addresses:

1-800-273-TALK (24/7)
Crisis Chat:
Textline: Text home to 741741

Please, never give up when the walls are crashing in.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

What Would Jesus Do?

Last December when I was wrapping up Christmas shopping, I had a real scare. I pulled into a parking space and I had someone pull up by me and run out of his truck, yelling obscenities at me, telling me he was waiting for my space first. He pulled his fist at me and stood over me, threatening me. He had his wife and kids in the truck with him. I had never even seen the truck. This man really scared me and I ended up leaving not only that space, but that store because he scared me so much. I really thought he was going to hurt me.

We live in a culture of anger and hate. People get angry so fast. I have watched people get out of cars and beat up each other up. I have seen virtual strangers beat each other verbally online. Things happen so fast, misunderstanding becomes jumping to conclusions, and so many things become about taking a side. Unity seems to be a word that doesn't exist anymore. Understanding and compassion are replaced with a "me first" attitude. So many want to judge who deserves what and what is fair, even when not fully informed and even within the church. One wonders "What would Jesus do if he were here now?"

Do you remember the bracelets that were a fad for a while that said "WWJD?" They stood for "What would Jesus do?" I think that is a good question to be asking ourselves now. I hear many people talking about the problem but that won't solve anything, not without something behind it. It is very easy for anyone to get caught up in it, but then that makes us a part of the problem too, doesn't it? When we respond in kind, we are part of the problem.

We all need to be part of the solution and that mean taking action. We fight darkness with light. We fight hate with love, and anger with kindness. We go back to the things we learned as children. For instance, The Golden Rule- Treat others as you want them to treat you. We love because He first loved us. We need to show the world that love. The love that gives and is kind and gentle. People learn by example. We are the face of Christianity, and we need to remember that more than ever when we are in the world dealing with people that aren't Christians. Jesus wants to save the sinners, and he wants us to help him do it. It starts with remembering that we are all sinners, even those of us that he has already saved. Kindness speaks a language everyone can hear. Next time you have an opportunity to show someone the love of Christ just ask yourself this question- "What would Jesus do?"

Dear Lord, Thank You for showing me such love, patience, tenderness and care every day. Help me to do the same, and please forgive me when I fail. I want to do better. Help me to always pause, and ask myself what Jesus would do. Thank you for working in me and convicting me. Help me to be one who people can look at and see You in me. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.  ~Ephesians 4:32

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Light Side of The Moon

We just had a momentous occasion- a solar eclipse.  When a solar eclipse occurs, the moon crosses between the earth and the sun and actually covers the sun for a short while. When that happens, everything looks different. The sun is covered, completely for a few minutes, and everything looks dark. The sun is still there but it is covered up. What we can't see changes how everything looks. 

That can happen in our faith lives. Isn't it true that real faith is believing in what we can't see? That isn't hard when things are going well and the way that we want them to. What about when the future is unknown? What about those times when we feel like we're on hold and just waiting? And what about when the storms in life don't seem to end?

Faith can be worn down pretty quickly when we aren't letting God do soul work in us. It is in our weakness that He is strongest. In fact, it is in the hard, uncertain times that He will do the most work in us but we first have to invite Him in. Instead of grappling for how to gain control of one's situation, we need to seek the power and wisdom of the the great I Am. The more willing I am to let go and let Him, the more I can perceive to just believe and know that the sun is still there. Even if I can't see it, even if it's not shining, the sun will shine again for me. 

With God's strength, power and wisdom, all things are possible. When I am in Him, and not in my own limited strength, I can see more clearly and be renewed daily. Thank You Jesus.

Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see it
Well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me

~ Jeremy Camp
I Will Walk By Faith

Saturday, August 19, 2017

True Friends

One of the great gifts that God gives us is that of a true friend. God sometimes puts a person in our path that can be a helper to us here on Earth, someone to walk us through the hills and valleys of our journey.. All of our relationships are not true friendships, but the ones that are meaningful are most certainly blessings worthy of special care and thanks.

The qualities of true friendship can be found within prominent friendships found in the Bible. Jonathan loved David as himself and displayed self- sacrifice and unwavering loyalty to him. (1 Samuel 18.) He was able to give him the strength he needed to go on to do the great things he did in Israel. Aaron became Moses' public voice for him as Moses' was afraid of speaking (Exodus 4.) He was a friend who bridged one of Moses' shortcomings.. Elisha found an older, wiser mentor in Elijah and stuck by him (2 Kings.) And when everything went wrong for Ruth and Naomi, instead of doing what would be most beneficial for herself, Ruth stuck with Naomi so she wouldn't be lost and alone (Ruth 1.)  Ruth was loyal, selfless and unconditionally loving.

As I seek  to become more like Jesus through God's word, I am greatly humbled when reading about these model friendships in the Bible. I do know that I have good, Christian friends that stick by me in spite of my own shortcomings! I couldn't be more grateful for that! I love that we help each other through and don't pretend to be something we're not. We admit how we feel and are real with each other. My friends help me to grow and become a better person. I hope and try to do the same for them. I even have had a few friends that I don't see anymore. Not everything is forever, but instead for a season. The love will always be there, and I will always have the gifts they gave me in my heart and my memory.

Thank you Lord for the gift of true friends.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Fertile Ground

When I planted my flower bed this year, I prepped my soil well. I planted flower seeds, and had the ideal light, a good fertilizer and watered just the right amount. I ended up with many more flowers and plants than I was supposed to have and they got much taller than they were supposed to. My flower garden thrived because it had everything it needed from the ground up to do it's very best.

Had I just thrown my seeds onto the ground this would not have happened. The ground had to be broken and nourished. Just like the soil, we have to be broken up and cultivated by God in order to be fertile ground for His seeds to grow in.

I can see this to be true in my own life. It wasn't until I invited God into my mess and opened my heart widely to Him that He was able to do good work in me. In order for my faith to become deeply rooted, I had to be broken and open; for me that didn't come until I was ready. He could only go as deep as I let Him! Oh how I wish I had realized this sooner!

This soul, now so fertile, became so ready for what God had for me. I remember saying that I felt like I had a direct line to God. Do you ever feel that way? I want you to. I want you to know that you have nothing that you need to hide from God, nothing that will make Him leave you or love you less- nothing.

Once one lets Him in, they will never be the same again. His love is so moving and transforming. To be able to feel it and know it deep inside, you have to let Him deep inside. I know I had such a hard time trusting, that it was hard to trust Him fully, but I am so glad I did! Now there is no turning back for me! God's unconditional, agape love is nothing like human love. He is faithful without fault. Full of mercy and grace, He will add unique and lasting beauty to your garden.

Are you ready? Do you have fertile ground? Do you have ears that can hear? Can your heart comprehend? I pray that you are willing and ready for all that our God has for you!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Jesus Take The Wheel

Those of us who like country music and Carrie Underwood may be familiar with her song "Jesus Take The Wheel." Like many country songs, it tells a story; this one of surrender to Jesus when a young woman has lost control of her car on black ice. The song talks about how she had a hard year, a lot on her mind and was low on faith. It doesn't sound like she surrendered until she had to, does it?

Well when my pain hits like a bolt of lightening, and I can't get comfortable, surrender is the last thing on my mind too. When medication isn't stabilizing the problem at hand, letting go isn't something I really think about, what about you? And then when other issues surface on top of the symptoms of my chronic illnesses, my tendencies are to try to get control, not to surrender it.

So then, how many times do we wait to completely surrender until we're desperate? How many times do we halfheartedly surrender only to take everything back again? I know what my answers to those questions are. I'm not proud of them either. 

Why is it such a struggle to surrender one's life to God? The answer that comes to me is the fear of the unknown. What will I have to go through to get to where He is taking me? 

The crazy part is that He has never let me down, not once. He doesn't give me everything I want, but God gives me everything I need- always! He always stands on His promises. He is always with me, I am never alone. When I look back I can see He has made something beautiful out of everything that has happened in my life- and you know what? A lot has happened in my life. I guess that is good reason to trust Him completely. Trust may be hard for me, and it may be hard for you- but we're talking about God, not people. 

So maybe now it's time- to let go and let Jesus take the wheel!

He "causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Through the "things" in life, He molds and makes us into "the image of His Son" Rom. 8:28-29

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Come As You Are

When I was growing up I prided myself on not crying in front of other people, this was something I was not supposed to do. I fact, my mother told me not to cry, period. She got that from her mother who was British and grew up believing that it was important to "keep a stiff upper lip." Many of us were raised being taught to hide our feelings, and many church cultures taught us that handling things with grace meant not allowing our feelings to be a part of things. While relying on our feelings can certainly guide us the wrong direction, that doesn't mean that God doesn't want us to acknowledge what we feel and let ourselves feel our emotions.

Why else would we be created as emotional beings? We were created in the image of God. Jesus wept (John 11:35.) Jesus got angry and turned tables over in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13.) We also see several examples of God expressing a lot of emotion toward us from Heaven throughout the Bible. The truth is if we don't allow our feelings, they don't go away-- they sink deeper inside of us and gain more control of us and our lives.

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. ~ Proverbs 14:13

The worst things happen when emotions build up inside and then explode, like a cork popping out of a bottle. God wants us to express our feelings; he wants us to be real. More accurately, He wants us to bring them to Him.

For years I wore a mask, hiding what I was really feeling. I had people convinced I could handle anything. Inside, I was suffering. I kept my feelings at a distance and was not touch in touch with them. In fact the first time I sat down and actually talked about my feelings, I had trouble identifying them. It wasn't anyone's fault. There are so many people who believe that it is right to keep our feelings to ourselves.

For me those days are now gone. I believe God wants me to be real. I struggle to do that with grace, and I pray about it regularly. But when people see my Christianity, they see the real thing; that it is okay to not be perfect and that He loves us anyway. He wants us to come Him as we are; He is the potter and we are the clay. I am a work in progress and always will be on this side of heaven, we all are. He sees me as I will be when He is done with me, and it still amazes me that my God cherishes and treasures me.

It helps me so much to know that I don't have to hide my emotions anymore. Even when I get angry, I have learned that it is not something to be ashamed of, but something to be dealt with right away so the enemy doesn't have a way in.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. ~Ephesians 4:26-27

God is so good, sometimes I think people don't realize how good. Thank you Lord that you made us with emotions and You help us with them. Thank you that joy does come in the morning!

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. ~Psalm 30:5

Saturday, July 8, 2017

I Will Rest In You

Sometimes I am so tired, and sometimes I am soul tired; weary of life and all that it entails. It feels like day rolls into night-- light fades into darkness with still so much unresolved and not yet done. The load grows heavier and anxiety deepens, the air grows heavy. After a while I realize yet again that I tried to do it on my own and wore myself down. You see Lord, I know I can't do life without you, and yet somehow, I find that I have taken the load back again. Unintentionally, subconsciously, I take back what I had laid at your feet. I need to lay it down once more. I need to have my soul replenished and my burdens lifted. I know there is only one place to find true rest and that is in you sweet Jesus.

When things pile up Lord, it can be overwhelming, especially when illness is active too. In the thick of it all, sometimes I just need to stop, breathe and be. I know that when it is all too much Lord, your peace will overcome. 
I may not be able to see more than what is right in front of me, but no matter where I am, you are with me, and that is all I need. Thank you Jesus that you never change yet you change everything! In you I find the kind of rest I have never had before

And so I will trust in you and I will rest in you. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

My Safe Place

As I sit here listening to the rain hit the roof as it endlessly pours down, my beautiful beagle/basset hound approaches me shaking like a leaf. He is scared of hard rain and terrified of thunderstorms. The only way he feels better is to feel me by his side. So he comes over and lays as close to me as he can get, leaning against as much of my leg as he can. Then he almost always lays his head on my foot or my leg and tries to keep me from moving. He knows how much I love him, and he knows that with me he is safe.

As a human and an adult, I still become fearful. My greatest fear--is that of the unknown. What will happen? What will I lose? How much will it hurt? These questions plague me when I don't feel safe. Can you relate?

What do you do when you get scared? My natural tendency is to go to friends and close family members and ask them to pray for me, and to talk to someone close to me. Then if I am still feeling bad, I go shopping, watch a movie or find another way to distract myself. These are ways to push the fear away for a little while, but that's all they do. What I've been learning is that only God can truly erase fear.

When I was a young woman, I had social anxiety. For anyone who doesn't know what that is, I froze up when I was around more than a couple of people. I had trouble making phone calls, and I could not get up in front of people. When I had staff meetings at work, my hands would get shaky and they would sweat so much that I would leave handprints on the table. God removed that fear in me. When I took that fear to Him, He gave me what I needed, and He still does. I have taught classes, gotten up and spoken in front of churches, I make videos, lead support groups and can handle crowds now, because I know that Jesus is right there with me. What an awesome God we serve!

God tells us 365 times in the Bible to not be afraid. Knowing that the opposite of fear is not courage but faith, sends me to the Lord in prayer and to His Word. Is it always the first place I go? No. Does it need to be the first place I go? Yes!

Out of trusting Him comes courage. It's not big and flashy. It's being able to keep going. Courage is that still small voice that says "You can get through this." It is knowing that He will catch me or cushion me if I fall, and that God is always with me. With Him I am safe. Whatever it is, with God I know, I can do it, and I can get through it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Keep Going

There have been times in my life when I feel like I have dark clouds that follow me everywhere I go. Times when there seem to endless struggles, beginning with one, extending into another, and never seeming to end. Not only do dreams shatter and plans fall apart, but the idea of just having life go on an even keel seems like a faraway dream.

It has been that way recently. What do you do when life goes that way? I know what I do, I pray, a lot. I keep trying what I can do, and then I keep putting what is out of my control into God's hands- over and over again, since I tend to take it back.

The more I meditate on scripture, the more I realize I am far from alone in my struggles. From the likes of Moses, Joshua, Job, Daniel and so many more, God's people have waited and gone through long periods of traveling through the "valleys" of life before finding the beautiful destination that God had in store for them.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.  ~ Romans 15:4

The story that stands out to me is the one of Joseph and his brothers that is found in the book of Genesis. Joseph was the 11th son of Jacob, and was his favorite. He was gifted with prophetic dreams. He also was a bit of a tattler. When Jacob gifted Joseph with the beautiful coat that the oldest would normally get, and Joseph started relaying his dreams to his brothers, they built a lot of resentment toward him. They betrayed him and sold him as a slave.

After years of being a slave, and being falsely imprisoned, God was with Joseph the whole time, using his gift to bring him to become one of the most powerful men in Egypt. He also used his trials to transform him. In the end, Joseph got back together with his family, was reunited with his father and forgave his brothers, bringing all of them to the palace and giving them unimaginable resources. Once more they were a family, but in the best of ways. He persevered and was brought through to a much better place than he could have possibly dreamed.

Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning   ~ Psalm 30:5

As people with chronic illness, it is hard to go through so much for so long. Sometimes it feels like we never get a break and things only get worse. As Christians on a walk, Jesus is by our side, every hour of every day. God never stops working on us and our lives, as long as we are open to receive it. Yes, His purpose for us may be for a greater good, but the reward in the end will be worth waiting for.

From the beginning of the world, no eye has seen, no ear has heard, what God has prepared for the one who waits for Him.  ~ Isaiah 64:4

Friday, June 16, 2017

Saying Goodbye

I lost a friend a couple of days ago and I lost another friend the day before that. When I say I lost my friends, I don't mean we separated, I mean they died. 

It is so hard to lose someone to death. The thought of not seeing or hearing from my friends again causes me great anguish. I still miss people who were close to me that died a long time ago-- my grandparents, my first husband, my cousin, my aunts, my friends. Each time someone dies, it is a reminder of how temporary everything and everyone here is. Yet while a future with them is gone, I embrace the memories of who they were and the relationship we had.

As a Christian, there is great comfort in knowing that each of my loved ones that is gone, has gone to Heaven, and is in a new body, with no pain and no problems. They are with Jesus! What a thought!

While I am left here, I am held tight by Jesus, and each time it hurts, he collects my tears and wraps me in his precious love. I am comforted knowing that one day I will see my loved ones again when I stand in Glory with them. What a day that will be! 

Click here to listen to a song about how God comforts us in our sorrows

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Full Life Versus Fulfillment

Have you ever had numerous relationships but still felt lonely? Have you been in a crowd yet felt alone? How many times has your life been full yet felt empty? I've been learning through this walk that emptiness and loneliness aren't about how many friends you have or how many things you have going on, but more about the meaning of them. There is a difference between having a full life and having fullness.

Relationships can become obligations when they lack depth and authenticity. Fulfillment doesn't come with busyness but with fullness; it's about quality rather than quantity. No matter how many friends we have, or accomplishments we achieve, if God's hand isn't in it, they will not satisfy us. We will still crave being filled;  the holes will not be filled and we will not feel fulfilled.

I went through it, and still go through it at times. Sometimes seeking God's will becomes seeking His approval of one's own will when we're not careful. Sometimes, even the service we do for God can become wrapped in the wrong feelings and desires. It's never intentional, and can be very hard to identify. Doing that puts one on a road to burn out. And then of course saying yes to everything, doesn't mean saying yes to the right things. When we do things in and through God, we work in His strength and not our own. What a difference that makes!

Now, I always try to put things in the Lord's hands. It is amazing how things will fall into place when they are God's will. A perfect example is our mental illness ministry. I lived in a few states and was in three churches before it came to fruition. I worked so hard at it, and then when I got remarried, my husband and I worked hard at getting it in place. We met so many obstacles. It became clear that the timing wasn't right. When we moved to Georgia, the church we came to was looking to put a special needs ministry in place and the minister personally helped us get it in place. It is still going almost 6 years later.

God loves us for who we are, which is who He created us to be. One of the gifts of being filled is not having to fit in. If anyone had told me that need would go away, I would not have believed them. As one who felt like an outsider a good part of my life, I no longer feel that way. The need to fit in and feel like I belong is no longer there. When that happens, we are truly free to be ourselves, and can be comfortable in our own skins! It is when we can be authentic and real that we truly feel loved by others, because we are loved for who we really are. We are also free to set boundaries. For those who are not familiar with boundaries, it means drawing a line and sticking to it. I have learned to say a true "no" and while it doesn't bring me more friends, it does gain me more respect. God keeps showing me what isn't important. I wish my eyes and ears had been open to this much sooner!

In order to be filled by God, we have to be empty of the shallow, meaningless things that don't satisfy and pull us away from Him. Something I put in my prayers is for God to empty me out, cleanse me and fill me. I have found to be filled by Him, is to truly be filled. He is the only one who can fill the holes and make us whole. Then we come to our relationships healthier instead of needy and also attract others who are healthy. The need to be busy and fill my time so much isn't there anymore. It sure used to be. Is there anyone who had to learn to be still? I sure did. Now it comes easily.

In order to hold on to Jesus, we have to let go of the meaningless things we are holding on to. For me, it took a while to see that I was holding on to other things that were not helping me or my walk with the Lord. By true introspection and prayer, I was able to see these things and God has helped me to change them. Going through a very uncertain time in my life, holding on to Him and truly being filled by Him has been making a huge difference!

I pray for you, that God will show you the empty things that you hold on to as well; that He will empty you of those things, cleanse you and fill you with Him! I pray that you will be whole, that you will let go and hold on to Him!  I pray that you will know how loved and treasured you are for the unique individual that you were made to be, and that you will start loving that person too! Additionally, I pray that you will experience the freedom and peace that comes with truly being filled!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Gift of Today

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

Today is the tomorrow we dreamed about. It becomes yesterday and a memory very quickly. Today is also all that we know we have. It would be so easy to fall into ignoring today in pursuit of better days, but we live in a fallen world, and tomorrow may not be any better. Each day is a gift from God and we have a choice to rejoice. 

When today is a hard day to live what do you do about it? Many get caught up in memories of the past or worries of the future and miss the good that may be right in front of them. Have you ever done that? Have you missed an opportunity or something special because you were caught up in something else? Or missed out on something you thought was small and it ended up being something very important to you? I have. 

There is no time like the present. Each day is a day to make the most of and a day that will never come again. There will never be another day like it. There are many things that are not in our control, but we also have choices. We can choose how we see things. We can choose whether to be miserable or joyous. We can choose to be thankful for what we have, and to not take anything for granted. We can choose to look at things in a whole different way and see what we haven't seen before.

How many times do we look up and see those who have it better and avoid looking down to see those who have it worse? How many times do you look around and see all that are in need of what we need to be saying thank you for? I had one of those days and the memory lives on inside of my children and I.

We were getting ready to move to another state, cleaning out before we packed; putting out trash and things to be picked up. A young couple was walking down the street with a little boy. They stopped when the man was looking at the old weight bench my oldest son was getting rid of. Meanwhile, the little boy was grabbing old, torn up toys out of the trash pile. Long story short, the woman had 5 kids between 18 months and 17 years old and had left her abusive husband. He was not providing for them. She was staying with her sister, had no car, no home, no money, no way to take care of her baby and 5 year old twins, so no job. She slept on an old couch next to a washer and dryer. But she was grateful to not be beat anymore and have peace. 

The boy wanted the toys from the trash because she had no way to give him any and Christmas was coming. This made my kids and I rethink everything. All they were going to hold onto, or most of it, went to this family. Clothing, collectible toys, you name it. Five van loads of things. Things- that were extra to us- and everything to them. The last trip they made back- she brought all the kids and then came to me, hugged me and just cried. I will never forget this. It moved my daughter to start volunteering in high school and me to start giving as well. It changed our whole outlook. 

Life is a gift. Our blessings great and small are a gift. Today is a gift. Treat it well, and be grateful because you never know when it may change. 

God's love and faithfulness is the greatest gift of all, one to be treasured and joyous about every day. He has a perfect plan for each one of us, and though the road is long and sometimes hard, it leads to the most beautiful of places. So when it gets hard, look inside and see the hope that lives within you, put there by a God that loves you so very much and say "thank you."