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 Fullness

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."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

He Knows

"If only they knew"-- how many times have we asked ourselves this question? If only people could see what we go through, what goes on inside of us, who we really are.

Yes, a profound statement; but how many times do we all feel misunderstood, especially when we live with something that may set us apart from others? When we go to church, or to work people know us by what we let them see and by what they perceive. How difficult that can sometimes be.

If they did know, what would happen? Anyone who has been hurt becomes protective of themselves each time they go through another hurt. I know I can become self condemning enough- I don't need any help. So there are only a few that get to see past the surface. And although I am pretty "what you see is what you get," there aren't very many that get to see the daily struggles that I go through and the pain that I deal with.

There is One who is always safe. We don't have to worry about how He will perceive us. Amazingly He already knows what we are going through, who we are, all the down to the core. He knows every joy, every sorrow-- every doubt, every single feeling and thought that each of us has, He knows. Even though He created everything around us, and has so many to care for, He gives each one of us this much attention, this much love! We are His sacred and treasured creations, his very own children, and He loves us as our perfect Father and our most cherished friend!

The most beautiful part is that we are loved deeply for who we are, exactly as we are, right now!

As one who grew up believing that I wasn't good enough, when I finally realized that Jesus took care of that and that I am loved fully and unconditionally, it changed my life. He knows-- and it's okay! I don't have to be perfect or even close, I am loved anyway. I am accepted, and I will never be condemned. For me, that is a game changer. It's okay that there are people who don't understand and don't get me, because He does and that means everything!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

To Be A Friend

Friendship can be such a wonderful and yet such a challenging relationship. We can share such deep, intimate things and yet have such fun! Some of my best memories through the years have been with girlfriends.

Some of the hardest things through the years have also been with girlfriends. Have you ever been unfriended? Have you ever had someone walk away that you thought was a good friend? Sometimes it can be because of a bad argument or sometimes two people just grow apart. There are so many reasons this can happen, but regardless of why, it hurts, deeply.

I am in the beginning of a Bible study on friendship and it has caused me to reflect on friendships-- relationships of the past and present and my role in them. I am already learning a lot about friendship from a Biblical perspective and it has made me realize that I have a big part in deepening my present and future relationships. It begins with me!

Just like we drag past relationship baggage into our marriages, we also tend to do that with our friendships. Sure, our older than dirt relationships may be in great shape, the ones we have known forever have withstood the test of time and proven themselves. Think about it though, should others have to prove themselves for things that belong to other people? The answer is no. Trust issues are common because so many of us have been hurt. 

We live in a fallen world. The big mistake I have made is putting too much into people and not enough into my savior. We are all human, and we can't fill the holes in someone else nor can someone else fill our gaping holes. So maybe the answer is to go to our very best friend-our savior first, to get filled and then go to our friends. 

Becoming more, becoming whole though Jesus gives us so much more to give a relationship, and will make for a healthier one. When looking for answers about friendship in the Bible, one is hard pressed to find much about taking. What I have found is scripture about choosing well, being a team and giving.

In the book "Unfriended" by Lisa Jo Baker, Chapter One talks about friendship "PTSD." It was a revelation to me that so many others went through a lot with friendship like I did. I thought my problems were due to moving a lot and being different- like being a Northerner in the deep South or having chronic illness,  but apparently just being a woman qualifies! 

In Chapter Two, Lisa Jo talks about what it means to lay our lives down for our friends; being in it for the long haul. When one experiences a loss, a grieving that goes on for a long time, who is there to walk through it with you? I learned about this first hand a few times in my life, and while there were many there in the beginning, there were very few that stuck by me as time went on. That is the kind of friend we are called to be. Isn't that the kind of friend we want?

So the challenge is what kind of friend am I and are you going to be? It calls for us to be brave and to overcome the fear of being hurt and go the extra mile anyway-- like Jesus did. 

Jesus is the best friend we could ever ask for. He is always there, always reliable, always kind, gentle and comforting. He is a perfect example of the kind of friend I want to be. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Light In My Darkness

When we keep struggling, it can be like being stuck in a dark, black pit. With Jesus, there is always light.

When You're the light in my darkness
And my eyes are Yours
I see what You want me to see
Which leads to so much more                                                   When You're the light in my darkness
And my feet are yours
You lead me the right direction
To what You have in store    
                                You light up the things Inside of me
I couldn't see before
When Your light burns
Deep within
I feel safe and warm
                                      When You're the light in the darkness         My heart is Yours
Open wide for You to shine inside
Even where light's
not been before

You are the light in my darkness
And I'm never alone
You shine Your light for me to see
Leading the way home

Kimberly Burnette

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

In The Quiet Stillness

In the quiet stillness, my breathing slows and quiets as I become more conscious of everything around me. Creation's wonders astound as small blessings become so apparent. As layers of all that overwhelms are peeled away, a simple peace enfolds and the realization that balance is so easily lost. The importance of slowing down, taking time each day for the things that feed my personal relationship with the Lord, and being fully intentional are clear to see. Reestablishing the habits of prayer journaling daily, scripture writing a couple of times a day, and spending considerably more time with my God make a difference almost immediately. Once again, that still small voice has returned and my heart feels full.

It is so easy to get caught up in the world. We look for other people and things to make us feel better. Social media and television provide escapes from reality. We look to others to fill the voids and make things better too often. Sometimes we ask others to pray for us, but we leave out going to God and talking to Him too often. Spending time with Him, trusting in Him, relying on Him, working in His strength, inviting Him to work in and through us--things cannot happen this way with other people, because none of us is perfect. We are all flawed, we all make mistakes, mess up, have weaknesses and are not always emotionally available for others.

So I have come to this conclusion: I need to, I have to make the time for my priorities, and my priority needs to be the things that feed my relationship with God. When I take the time, and  give the important things the time and full attention they deserve, I can live life from the inside, with joy and peace. I am able to lay my burdens at Jesus' feet, live each day at a time, not take on too much at one time, and make sure that I am relying on God, who is strong in my weakness. My own strength runs out very quickly, especially when I face challenges.

Forgive me Lord for allowing myself to be caught up in things less important than You. Help me to hold onto the balance I am starting to achieve again maintaining distance from some of the things I have determined through prayer to not be right for me at this time. Help me to continue to follow You and not people, and to keep that straight. Help me to stay in the Word, always putting It before any other book. Help me to keep myself connected to You, and to turn to You before turning to others. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Holding On And Letting Go

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

Even though I have a bad back I have a habit of trying to do things myself. I'll bring home a carload of groceries which I got help with at the grocery store, and yet I try to bring in a fairly heavy load myself. I weigh myself down, leaving my cane in the car; so there I am with this weight I shouldn't be carrying and without the cane I should  have to keep me from falling down. I hurt myself when I do this, yet for some reason I do it repeatedly.

This is the same thing I do when I hold onto things that God asks me to let go of. It may seem easier, but I am carrying all this baggage that is weighing me down. God wants to take it from me, and handle it for me. I resist letting go because I think I know how life should be or I hold on too tight because I think what I am holding onto is good. I am resisting letting go of my will.

Deep down I know that He knows better, and yet when it comes to my children, or a situation where I have a deep desire for a certain outcome I have a really hard time letting go of my own will in the situation. It is very hard to fully release my loved ones to God even though I know they couldn't be in better hands. And there are times in some circumstances in my life when I just can't imagine that there could be a better answer than the one that is sitting right there waiting to happen and it's not.

God isn't the magic problem solver; He doesn't just make our problems go away, but He does have the perfect plan and the perfect timing. He does know better than I.

When He asks you or me to let go of
something, it's because He has
something better for us. Instead of holding on to what we want, we need to go of everything else and surrender it all to the One who loves us so unconditionally and completely. He wants us to let it all go and hold on to Him.

Let us pray: Father God, Thank you for being our perfect Father in Heaven and that You have a perfect plan for each one of us. Thank you for loving us so much that You make us wait for Your best. Help us hold on to the right thing which is You. Help us to let go of what belongs to You which is control. You are in control, and You use everything for the good. Help us to remember this when things don't go our way. Help us to surrender and let go of everything else and hold on tight to You. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Father I place my life in Your hands.  ~Luke 23:46

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Above The Storm

Life has been hard lately. It seems like there has so many things happening at one time. Do you know the feeling? My husband lost his job, we have illness in the family to deal with, relationship issues, my chronic illness acting up-- like a storm system hitting hard, one storm after another. What happens when the storms come like that? I know for me it feels like I am alone. The real answer is probably that I pull back from people. I look for shelter that I know I can rely on, that will protect me and truly help me.

As I sit on my back porch watching the driving rains come down, there seems to be nothing but the small space around me. It's raining so hard that I can't see anything. When it lightens up, I only see the dark, heavy clouds looming over my backyard. This is how life has looked recently. If I went strictly by what I could see, I would truly be depressed right now. Thinking of the future based on what I can see would not look good at all.

I remember the last time I flew to see my in-laws. It was a stormy day when we took off in the plane headed to St. Louis. In the back of my mind, I was praying we wouldn't have to deal with turbulence while on the flight. When we flew above the massive, dark clouds, the higher we went the lighter it got outside. The rain stopped and the sun started shining. From the ground, I couldn't see the light. but as we flew above the storm clouds toward the heavens, the light appeared and was shining brightly before us.

I think of Isaiah 40:31. Those that wait upon the Lord will not only renew their strength, but they shall mount up with wings as eagles. It wasn't until recently that I understood why God chose eagles. I had previously thought it was because they were big and bold. That wasn't right. Eagles are the only birds that fly above a storm. When we rely upon God during our storms, He will lift us above them. When we wait for Him, he will give us His strength, so we can walk and run again!

We can't always see or feel God, and we certainly can't always see the light. Sometimes the light is hidden by the dark clouds and storms of life, but the light is always there--it just may take a while before we can see it.

I have to remember to not base everything on what I see, because that is not allowing for the divine, for God's part in things, which I don't get to know ahead of time. He wants my trust, He wants me to have faith in Him. God wants me to depend on Him, and to lean into Him for His strength, not just His wisdom. He wants me, and everyone else, to wait for Him, because He will always make Himself known when the time is right, although He already is present, sometimes we're just so caught up we can't see past our storm, just like I can't see past my porch.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Only You

Only You
I want it to be
Only You
In my mind
Within my soul
You're the one
To fill
The gaping holes
Only You

Only You
Can add soft colors
To my gray
Only You
Can show me
The one true way
You're the compass    
My true north                                            
Only You

Let it be            
More and more  
Of You
And less of me
Fill my heart
And my soul
Make me whole
In You,
Only You

Sweet Jesus,
Only You