Happy Endings

“I thank you for answering my prayer and giving me victory!”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭118:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I love Christmas movies. I love them so much I start watching them before Halloween. Although the storylines are predictable, each one is heart warming, romantic, filled with hope and an unshakable belief in miracles. Each one always has a happy ending also. Who doesn’t love that?

This may sound ridiculous and a little like I see the world through rose colored glasses, but our real lives can very much be like a Christmas movie. I’m not referring to an eternal state of winter, homes decorated with Christmas trees and stockings hung 365 days a year. Life isn’t always heart warming or romantic either. What I’m referring to is the hope, the belief in miracles and the happy endings that most Christmas movie storylines encompass.

In the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey is down on his luck. He’s facing bankruptcy, poverty and loss of his family business. He’s in such despair that he contemplates taking his own life. At his lowest moment, he meets Clarence the angel, who shows him what life would be like if George never existed. George realizes just how much his life choices positively impacted his family and town and chooses to live. What he later learns is, the whole town came together to help financially sustain the family business. In the end, George is reunited with his wife and children with a restored faith and Clarence the angel earns his wings.

The Bible is full of happy endings too. Every trial and tribulation, every story of captivity ends with God’s deliverance and victory for those who obeyed and trusted in Him. Abraham goes from childless to the father of all nations. Moses is an abandoned child raised by Egyptians. He spends 40 years in the wilderness after murdering someone and then is used by God to deliver His people from the very Egyptians Moses was raised by. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, thrown into jail because of a lie and raised up by God to be the Governor’s right hand man saving multitudes during a famine. Daniel was taken into captivity and elevated by his captor. Even when he was thrown into a lions den, God delivered him and elevated him once again. Jesus Himself was tortured and murdered but conquered death when He rose from the grave three days later.

Why did all of this happen? Because God’s victory is inevitable and He clearly loves happy endings. Don’t just take my word for it, feel free to check out each example in His word and read about His victories first hand. The Old and New Testaments are full of testimony showing God’s ultimate power and victory.

I have no idea where you’re at in life right now. Maybe you’re at the top of the game and you think life couldn’t possibly get any better. Maybe believing in happy endings comes easy for you because you’ve never experienced anything shattering or disappointing. But maybe you’re in a constant state of chaos and unrest. Life keeps throwing you one crisis, heartache or disappointment after another and you’re barely holding on. Maybe you’re like George Bailey and have even contemplated taking your own life. If that’s you, stop right now and pray. Pour out all your hurt and sorrow to Jesus and ask Him to comfort you. He may not change your circumstances immediately but he can take away the hurt and pain if you seek His comfort. He is with all of us in the best and absolute worst of times and He’s always ready to comfort us in our time of pain.

When you’re done praying, resonate on this: what you are going through is a season. It may feel like a lifetime. It may even feel like a curse. But it’s honestly, just a season. Recognizing that your situation is temporary can strengthen you to persevere. It can also increase your hope in God’s ability to deliver you. God didn’t stop delivering His children when the Bible was done being written. Every person’s redemption story is merely an extended version of His word. Our testimony is a living chapter of the Bible. Instead of the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John-these books are titled by our own names and hold the stories of God’s unique work in each of lives. But living books don’t come in print-they are books filled with stories that can only be told by the one God wrote the story for. No matter how many twists and turns your story holds. I am confident it holds a happy ending. God needs you to endure the conflict so you can live to tell the story of His happy ending for you.

Some of you reading this have experienced tragic endings. You’ve lost loved ones in horrible ways and you’ve experienced things no human should ever go through. The idea of a happy ending may even anger or enrage you. All I can say is, I’m living proof that God can turn any tragedy into a happy ending. Death is a permanent loss that leaves a huge void. The idea of living without your loved one brings no idea of a happy ending. But God is faithful and can still produce one. It comes down to healing, believing and surrendering.

Happy endings come when we allow God to comfort us and heal our wounds. Happy endings come when we stand on His truths and believe Him at His word. Happy endings come when we surrender to His will and His way. If God promises to fight for us, we have to believe He will no matter how long it takes. When God tells us to be still we have to obey. Trying to manufacture our own miracles only delays His promise. Getting in God’s way produces Ishmael results when God promises us an Isaac. Surrendering takes great discipline and a trust to know that God always keeps His word. But the obedience of surrender also brings great reward including God’s happy ending.

Keep in mind one thing: although Christmas movies have predictable happy endings, God’s happy endings aren’t the same. God may allow a loved one to die from cancer. But their happy ending is perfection in eternity. God may allow a marriage to end. But he may bring provision as your happy ending making the transition back into singlehood a little easier. God may not give you the job you’re hoping for. His happy ending may be in the form of a different job that exceeds your wildest dreams. God may not heal you from a chronic disease. His happy ending may be in the strength and ability to prevail in spite of chronic pain. God’s ways are not our ways. But His ways are always perfect and victory is always His. That happy ending is 100 percent guaranteed!

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A Downpour or a Sprinkle?

“He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭107:29‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I believe everyone goes through storms in life. Some storms come in the form of financial despair, loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a rebellious child or maybe dealing with some sort of addiction. A stressful situation of any kind, especially the kind that seem to last for years or as if they’re endless, can feel like you’re walking against the wind of a full blown hurricane with no shelter in place to escape. But sometimes, what we imagine or expect to be a storm turns out to only be a little sprinkle. Let me give you two examples of what I’m talking about.

This past Independence Day, the morning started out very hot. My family and I “puddled” as we endured the humid temps watching a parade that celebrated our nation’s birthday. By afternoon we were lethargic and becoming stagnant because no one wanted to move in the heat. Normally we would’ve gone to the beach but this year we had different plans that turned into a day of “playing it by ear.”

Me, being a creature of habit and feeling overheated, felt a strong need to get to a lake. So my niece and I headed to the local lake that has a beautiful walkway trimmed around it. As we were driving the sky started to rumble and large drops of rain sporadically hit the windshield of my vehicle. The clouds didn’t look too stormy and judging by the rain droplets, I assumed whatever was brewing was going to blow over quickly.

For a moment, I was right. By the time we parked and headed on our walk by the lake, there were no raindrops. However, in a few short minutes that changed dramatically. The rain formed a steady sprinkle and by the time we were halfway into our walk we were caught in a massive down pour. When it started raining sideways we decided it was best to turn around and head back to the car.

Did I mention there was limited shelter in the area and lightning was striking over the lakeshore periodically? My niece and I could’ve panicked. But for some reason we just laughed as the rain flooded our heads, faces and clothing. In fact at one point the rain was coming down so hard I could barely keep my eyes open to see where we were going. Once we reached shelter we paused enough to get the water off our eyes and then head back out in order to reach my vehicle and drive home. Once in the vehicle, I had to wring out my shirt and my seats became drenched from soaked clothing. Nonetheless, this was one of the best moments of my life. The rain cooled us off and it was a rare memory that created much laughter with my niece also.

This morning the skies got loud again. The rumbling sound drew me outside to see what was happening. Dark gray clouds were heading my direction and getting noisier the closer they came. The wind was picking up as well. All signs showed one doozy of a storm about to hit. I returned inside and waited for more. Guess what-aside from a five second down pour, this morning’s display was “all talk” with very little action.

Circumstances in life are very much the same way. Sometimes we are hit by situations that nearly blow us over. Sometimes what we expect to be a major uproar turns out to be just a bunch of noise and nothing more. Sometimes, like my niece and I did by the lake, we heed the warning signs and find ourselves up to our eyeballs in a storm that could’ve been avoided. Sure my niece and I made it out and we shared one heck of a laugh as we went through the process but in stormy life circumstances most people aren’t laughing nor do they even know how to get themselves out.

No matter if you’re in a downpour or experiencing a sprinkle, Jesus is the master of the storms. Whether He chooses to calm the storm (like He did for the disciples) or allow you to experience a typhoon like Paul did as a prisoner on a ship, Jesus controls the storm. Even self created storms (brought on by our own sinful choices) can be calmed when we surrender to Jesus and seek His redemption. Jesus may use the storm to break you, but never to destroy you. Also, if you’re being broken by Him, He’s only breaking off what doesn’t honor Him in order for you to grow deeper in and closer to Him.

What situation are you facing today that feels like a major storm? Examine how you got there, confess anything that was self-made (including any lack of trust or disbelief you may be experiencing) and stand on His promise that He will calm your storm and still the waves. Also-ask God for discernment to heed the warning signs and also to know the difference between circumstances that are downpours and ones that are really just light sprinkles or sporadic raindrops.

Christ in Me

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Today I surprised my mom at her church. It was a blessing to see the joy on her face when she saw me. It refreshing to be back in a church. It’s been a bit since I’ve attended. It was also refreshing to see a man I’ve covered in years of prayers. In church worshipping and engaging in fellowship with other believers.

After church I was blessed to have a quick conversation with this friend. He paid me a compliment that’s resonated with me all day. He told me I have a light in my eyes. A light that is life. I’ve been compliment about my eyes many times but no one has ever seen that in them.

My first response was to point out the tired and purple bags hanging from my eyes. He didn’t allow me to negate his observation though. He simply stated he wasn’t talking about what was below my eyes but what was in them. He said he could see Jesus and a love for people in my eyes. When he was finished I responded with a confirmation that I do indeed love people.

What he said resonated with me because Ive never been complimented that way before. But his words resonated me for another reason too. I thought about the times I don’t act loving toward people-the times I lose my temper, grumble, complain, hold a grudge, take things too personally, or deliberately choose to be rude or unkind. I actually thought I was presenting a falsehood to my friend and that I should message him the “real” me. I wondered if in those moments do my eyes show the opposite of life? At my worst, do they exude death?

Tonight, before writing any emails or messages, God led me to Psalm 139. Reading this chapter showed me what God sees in me (and you.) We are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. He made all the delicate parts of us and knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. We are wonderfully complex, a marvelous display of His workmanship. Every moment of our lives has been laid out before Christ before we even existed. Including every bad moment and sinful act we engage in. Yet His thoughts about us are precious! And Isaiah 55 reminds us that His thoughts are not our thoughts-they’re higher than ours.

Today’s conversation was Christ orchestrated for both my friend and for me. God used my eyes to hopefully breath more life into a man who’s felt dead inside for years. But God also used my friend’s words to remind me of who I am in Him.

The next time the enemy tries to define you as anything than who you are in Christ-meditate on Psalm 139 and worship Abba with this chorus from Jeremy Camp:

“So come and empty me

So that it’s you I breathe

I want my life to be

Only Christ in me

So I will fix my eyes

‘Cause you’re my source of life

I need the world to see

That it’s Christ in me

That it’s Christ in me”

This chorus alone reminds us to empty ourselves of all we think we are and fix our eyes on Him-our source of light and life. When we do that, it’s inevitable that others will see His light and His life through our eyes!

Hypocrites and Holy People (or Sinners Saved By Grace)

“…He [Christ] gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:25b-26 NLT

How’s your sin life? Yes you read that correctly and no, there is no auto correct typo in that question. How is your sin life? Many devotionals focus on a person’s prayer life or their walk with Jesus but how often do we focus on the path we take in our daily sins or with ongoing strongholds that continue to set us back spiritually? God doesn’t want us to dwell on our past or worship our sin but I believe He definitely wants us to examine our hearts and allow Him to cleanse us from all that keeps us stagnant in our relationship with Him.

I’ve been called many hurtful things in my lifetime and a “hypocrite” is one of them. Truth be told, I’ve even referred to myself as a hypocrite thinking this description made me more real than sanctimonious. In fact, I had planned on titling this post “I am a Hypocrite” and writing more of a confessional than a devotional. Looking up the definition of a hypocrite and seeing what God’s word says about this word changed my mind.

The dictionary defines a hypocrite as; ” a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion…” (Merriam-Webster) God’s word describes a hypocrite as someone who puts on a show in their faith for attention and public praise (Matthew 6:2, 5 and 12.) The Bible also tells us hypocrites honor the Lord with their mouths but their hearts are far from Him (Mark 7:6.) One common word to define hypocrite found in both the dictionary and the Bible is “LIAR.” There are times I am an attention seeker but one thing I am not is a liar.

Lying is the top character trait I have zero tolerance or grace for. The lack of grace is obviously a flaw in my own character and one I continue to have to surrender to the Lord allowing Him to soften my heart toward. After all, if Christ died for my lifetime of sins, I definitely need to be able to forgive someone who has lied to me or lied about me, right? I guess this post is a bit of a confessional after all and my lack of grace for liars is confession number one.

So here’s confession number two-I fail in my Christian walk every. single. day. Some ongoing strongholds I have are unforgiveness and holding on to past hurts, keeping my heart closed off to protect myself from getting hurt again, cussing, worrying, grumbling and gossiping. In one confession I have managed to admit that I do not always practice what I preach. But my posts aren’t written in a self-righteous or “holier than thou” manner where I’m esteeming my walk and pointing out the flaws in yours. In my childhood, I attended a church where the pastor preached from a pulpit of self-righteousness and his flock were the ones who were “wretches”. I prayed the prayer of salvation every Sunday in that church and never felt good enough t be redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. I loved my childhood in a state of constant shame and fear of a wrathful God.

My posts are written from the depths of the muddied waters I travel through daily in hopes that my fellow mud puddle dwellers can be inspired to draw closer to Jesus and to seek His cleansing. I use my own personal experiences to show that I also strive to pursue His cleansing for my own journey. I am far from perfect. In fact, here’s a few more strongholds I struggle with:

  • I get angry and in my anger, I sin. One thing my momma used to say was “Her mouth is going to get her in trouble.” She’s been right about that far too many times.
  • I over spend and am a slave to debt. It’s why I work two jobs and don’t regularly tithe. I struggle with many sleepless nights worrying about how a bill is going to get paid or how I’m going to meet all the financial obligations I have.
  • I haven’t attended church regularly in two years. I’ve been church shopping and in a season of busyness where I choose to skip church just because I’m tired and want one full day to be home and be still. I also use the excuse that I haven’t found a church I’m drawn to as much as I was drawn to my old church.
  • I’m not always faithful in my devotionals and prayer time. Most days my prayers are more like “oh yeah hey God-I made you last again today but yeah you know I still love ya.” At night, lying in bed my prayers can become obsessive over my own needs and wants, lifetime longings and dwelling on my mistakes that I forget to pray for anyone else.
  • I struggle with lust. I’m single, never married and have two biological children. I’ve lived with more than one man in my lifetime. I’m definitely a modern day version of the woman at the well. …The list could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

For 2018, I am working on allowing God to define me and my character. I have spent far too many years defining my character based on how my critics describe me. One thing God is showing me that I am and am not is this-I am holy and I am not a hypocrite. You see when we give our hearts to Jesus, He covers us in His blood and makes us white as snow (Isaiah 1:18.) We are no longer a slave to sin but we become slaves to righteous living (Romans 6:18.) We are adopted as sons and daughters of the One True King (Romans 8:15.) God makes us holy (Hebrews 2:11).

Guess what the definition of Holy is: “specially recognized as or declared sacred…consecrated…dedicated or devoted to the service of God.” (Dictionary.com) The word consecrated means “set apart” which God shows us is exactly who we are in Psalm 4:3 when David acknowledges that the Lord set apart the godly for Himself. He shows us again in many examples in the New Testament where references are made about being a new creation, made holy and set apart for His glory. Believers whose hearts belong to Jesus cannot be hypocrites. Yes we sin. Yes we have strongholds that interfere with our relationship with Jesus. Yes we don’t always practice what we preach. Paul wrote it best when in Romans he confesses this: “…The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans‬ ‭7:14-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

But we are also redeemed by Jesus and saved by Grace.

I urge you to examine your sin life and confess every stronghold you’re still a slave to. Look up and meditate on scripture that may help you overcome those strongholds that make you feel like a failure. Strive for holiness in your daily walk but give yourself grace when you stumble and fall. Don’t lie and especially don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Lastly, no matter how many times you sin today, lay it down before the Lord and see yourself as holy, but never. ever. call yourself a hypocrite.

For My November Pearl

“I will give thanks and praise to You, for [my daughter] is fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works and my soul knows it very well.”

Psalm 139:14 AMP

“So God created [my daughter] in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created [her]…”

Genesis 1:27 AMP

“For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which he set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].”

Ephesians 2:10 AMP

When I look into your youthful amber colored eyes, I see uncertainty in who you are and who you were born to be.  I see hope and fear battling for your future as you strive to feel accepted while processing the wounds you’ve already experienced in such a short life span.

When you look into my aging gray colored eyes I want you to see everything I know you are capable of being.  I want you to see the best-selling author, Grammy winning song writer and stage performing guitar player I see whenever I read one your stories, hear you sing and listen as you teach yourself how to play the guitar.   My eyes will forever see you as Bruno Mars describes when he sings, “When I see your face, there’s not a thing that I would change. ‘Cuz you’re amazing, just the way you are.”

When you look into Jesus’ eyes, I pray you see everything He made you to be and most importantly, I pray you see yourself the way He has always seen you-precious, treasured and immeasurably loved.  I pray you know how to look into the eyes of Jesus and seek to see yourself and your life the way He designed it no matter what disappointments may be waiting for you.  Life is full of disappointments.  But life is fuller of blessed joys that make your heart beam with an unexplainable joy.

I remember the night I went into labor for you.  It was one week before your due date and I could not get comfortable.  I was completely over being pregnant to say the least.  I put my hand on my incredibly oversized protruding belly and said, “Baby girl, you need to come out because momma is tired of being pregnant.”  You listen because at 12:30am my water broken.  During labor you and I had another mother/daughter talk.  After 12 hours of labor with what felt like non-stop contractions and pushing for nearly an hour and a half, with shear exhaustion I said, “Baby girl, you need to be born because momma is tired of pushing.”  And you listened-it wasn’t long after the hospital room was filled with screeches of a newborn baby girl and sobs from both your momma and meme simply in awe that you were finally here-all 9 pounds 2 ounces of baby girl perfection.

When you were little I would trace your face at bedtime.  Before I would begin, I would say, “Let me get out my magic crayon and draw a picture of perfection.”  I “drew” your eyes, your button nose, your perfect pink lips.  I would tap my fingers across both cheeks to cover every freckle that God had sprinkled on your face.  I would even draw your chin, eyebrows and hair.  In the end, I would brush my fingers across your whole face and say, “Voila, a picture of perfection.”  Do you know that’s really the way I see you-imperfectly perfect, a precious gem that is completely irreplaceable?  A treasure that is to be loved, cared for, protected and admired for the beauty that she holds within.

My heart breaks every time I watch you look at yourself in the mirror and profess that you are “ugly.”  Baby girl-God does not make ugly.  You are His creation, therefore, it’s impossible for you to be anything less than stunning.  If you would look at the sunrises and sunsets God gifts us every day, if you would take time to gaze upon the majesty of the stars spread across a multitude of galaxies and know the same God who designs these natural spectacles is the same God who designed you, I know you could believe you’re more spectacular and breath taking than any awestruck beauty of nature.  After all, God designed all of us in His image and God is definitely not ugly.

Before you were born I never knew if I would ever carry a child within me or if God would ever make me a mother.   When I was your age, I told God to not make me a mother.  I believe my exact words were, “If you’re a smart God, you won’t make me a mother.” In my defense, this was spoken out of frustration because your uncle, at that time my bratty little 2-year-old brother was exasperating me.  And at the age of 25, findings from a surgery I endured left me with only a 50% chance to even conceive.

Can I just say I am so incredibly thankful that God answered that request with a big “heck no” and blessed me with you and your brother?  You two are the best part of me and since you are my first born all of your “firsts” hold a meaning that cannot be compared to anything else because it’s the first time I have a child experience that stage of life.  Just like since your brother is the youngest, all of his “lasts” hold a different special meaning because it’s the last time I will have a child experience that.  This will make more sense to you when someday God calls you to be a mom and gifts you with your favorite person on this planet, your baby girl or boy.

When I carried you in the womb, I would read my favorite children’s stories, Charlotte’s Web and Corduroy, aloud to you every night before falling asleep.  Sometimes Cinderella too.  I know this reading impacted you even before you took your first breath because you have such a love for writing and reading books and you even wore a Cinderella dress to your most recent formal dance.  That reading time continued when you were a toddler reading Stuart Little to you to get you to fall asleep at bed time. The book had minimal pictures so momma told you to close your eyes and see the pictures in your mind.  I know this helped grow your creativity but can I tell you a secret?  It also helped you fall asleep before I was through one chapter of the book.  Which meant your tired momma could the fall asleep too.

Now that you’re older and striving to be your own person,  you call me the “safety police”.  Do you know how crazy protective I was when you were little?  Girl-I freaked out the first weird virus you had thinking it was like the bubonic plague and was really just something you most likely picked up from touching a grocery cart, similar to having a common cold.  I know you get annoyed with the boundaries I set for you, the lectures I give about drugs/alcohol usage, stranger danger, social media usage, etc.  I know you think it’s because I don’t trust you but that’s not true.  None of us were born with an innate sense of making safe choices.  Wisdom is something that is taught and learned.  My helicopter parenting is only a means to guide you into making your own wise choices with each year you grow but also a way to protect you from all the evils this world holds.  You know I’m a glass half full kind of momma which means I’ve taught you there’s more good in the world than evil but sadly we just cannot look at every person who crosses our path through rose colored lenses.

The day you were born forever changed me because I no longer could make any decision that would impact just me-everything I did and continue to do I have to think about how it will affect you and your brother.  I know I fail often kiddo-but I do strive to put you guys first and always have your best interests at heart.  If I could wish anything for your life, it would be that you would seek Christ above all the things you chase after in this world because although the things you pursue you think are saving you, Jesus is the only one who can truly save any of us.  I would wish that you would understand how loved and valuable you truly are so when rejection rears its ugly head it won’t crush you because you’ll be standing on an indestructible foundation of secure love.  Lastly I would wish for you to chase after every dream you aspire never letting fear or self-doubt keep you from at least going for it.  After all, you simply will never know what will happen if you do not try.

I thank God for you and your brother every day.  I thank God for giving me the greatest job in this lifetime which was to carry you, give birth to you, raise you and to forever be your mum. Every day since the day I found out I was going to be your mother, you and your brother have always given me a thousand and one reasons to smile.  Until Jesus calls me home that will never change.

And Jesus Wept

Last week I rec’d a prayer request via text message regarding the sudden and tragic death of a young man.  I didn’t know him, but I know and love the person who was grieving his death and asking for prayers.  We spent the day texting back and forth trying to make sense out of God calling home someone whose life was fully dedicated to serving Him before this young man’s ministry could even begin.  In the midst of our conversation I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to tell her this: “Although God is the One who called this young man home He is grieving over his death too because His children are hurting and immersed in grief.”  I believe the Holy Spirit talked through her as well when she responded with this; “It’s been raining all day here.  I imagine the raindrops are tears from Heaven pouring down.”

When tragedy happens, we tend to blame God first.  A few common questions people cry out when they’re in the pit of despair is “Where is God!?”  or “Why did He let this happen!?” In Psalms 22, the man after God’s own heart even cried out “My God, My God, WHY have You forsaken me.” In the midst of life shattering grief we wonder how a God who says He loves us could also allow us to feel such crippling pain.  And for some, grief will cripple them.  The pain can be so overwhelming they’ll harden their hearts simply so they don’t have to feel anything anymore.  Others will self-medicate or turn to another self-destructive behavior as a means of comfort that creates a false sense of numbness.

So where is God when tragedy happens?  He’s right there in the face of that tragedy and He’s right with you at the moment your heart shatters.   The second half of Deuteronomy 31:6 says “For the Lord my God personally goes ahead of me.  He will neither fail me nor abandon me.”  In Isaiah 43 God again promises He is with us always whether we go through deep waters or through the fire of oppression.  Psalm 23 tells us that even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death He is with us-His rod and His staff comfort us.  Where is God-He is everywhere, all the time.  Even as His own son was beaten to the point of being unrecognizable, hung on a cross and stabbed in the side-God was there.

But why does He let tragedy happen?  My human response would be “Ask Job.  I’m sure he asked the same question when God allowed satan to take Job’s entire family and his prosperity only to prove Job’s faithfulness to Him.”  But I’d prefer to answer in God’s words with Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT) “’My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts’ says the lord. ‘And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.’”  As crude is this may sound, God is God and He does what He wants even if it hurts us or we cannot comprehend what He’s doing.  He does however promise to use everything, including tragedy for His glory and His purpose (Romans 8:28).

The same God who allowed His own son to be murdered, is the same God who wept when Lazarus died and is the same God who is grieving WITH you too.  Jesus wept.  The shortest verse in the Bible yet one that may bring greater comfort than hearing the Lord is near to the broken hearted.  Knowing God is with us isn’t always comforting, especially if we can’t feel His presence.  But what a great comfort in knowing He is grieving with us.  What a comfort to know it breaks His heart to break ours.

There are no right words to say when someone is in the midst of grief.  We offer, “I’m sorry for your loss” or send a sympathy card.  You can try to hold them tightly until they don’t hurt anymore but even that doesn’t truly take the pain away.  The only true healing comes from Jesus Himself. The same One Who breaks our hearts is the same One Who can take each shard of brokenness and piece it back together making our hearts whole again.  In Psalm 147:3 God promises to heal the brokenhearted and bind up all their wounds.  The word bind in Hebrew is chabash, which means to bind, bind on or bind up.  In exploring the thesaurus, another word for bind is to wrap or secure.  God, with His love and sovereignty is the only One who can wrap up our broken hearts and make them secure again, secure in His word and in His love.

I want to close today’s blog with a few lyrics from Danny Gokey’s, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.”  Ironically the story behind this song was based on a pastor wanting to see a heart surgery take place. In the midst of the surgery, after the heart had been repaired, they couldn’t restart it.  The doctor uncharacteristically spoke to his patient and said, “We’ve fixed your heart, there’s nothing wrong with it.  We just need you to tell your heart to beat again.”  Jesus, the Great Physician will fix our broken hearts too when we come into agreement with Him and tell our hearts to beat again.

“You’re shattered

Like you’ve never been before

The life you knew

In a thousand pieces on the floor

And words fall short in times like these

When this world drives you to your knees

You think you’re never gonna get back

To the you that used to be

“Tell your heart to beat again

Close your eyes and breathe it in

Let the shadows fall away

Step into the light of grace

Yesterday’s a closing door

You don’t live there anymore

Say goodbye to where you’ve been

And tell your heart to beat again”

May God’s loving grace and mercy fall on those who read this and are in a time of loss and grief.  As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3; “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…”  My prayer for you is that God turns your mourning into dancing and you see God’s goodness prevail through the darkest storm I pray you will ever face.  To the family who lost their son and their church congregation who was present with them when their lives were forever changed, this was my prayer to our Abba:  “Lord, let even his death be a mighty miracle and testimony for Your glory.  Show them, show everyone who knew him and was touched by His life how this tragedy will be used for Your glory.  Let not his life nor his death be in vain.”

#Origin

“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”                                                         Philippians 3:14 NLT

I watched my first rugby match this morning.  I follow a couple of rugby pages on Instagram and my newsfeed was blowing up with pics of this crazy game called “Origin”.  I had no idea what “Origin” was or what the craze was all about.  But I quickly learned.  Actually, I still don’t know why they call it Origin but I learned what the craze of rugby was all about.

Prior to watching this game, my understanding of rugby consisted of it being a form of football where they wore no pads and dressed like soccer players.  I knew the rules were a tad different but never studied it enough to fully understand the similarities or differences.  Watching the match was a real eye opener that rugby is clearly in a league of its own.

Football and rugby both have an offense and defense. The offense moves the ball to the end zone/goal line, the defense does everything in their power to stop that from happening.  Where American football has four downs (or four attempts to move the ball toward the end zone) Australian rugby offense can move the ball through 5 tackles before the ball is turned over to their opponent.   But there’s a greater difference-In football, after each down, a new play is discuss and set up, a new strategy is planned before the ball is hiked and another attempt is made toward the end zone.  What I watched in rugby, the team runs together in a horizontal line lobbing the ball to each other trying to bust past the defensive line.  When they’re tackled, they get up, kick the ball slightly behind them to a team mate and the running/lobbing madness begins again.

Another difference is passing.  There’s passing in rugby but it’s nothing like football.  In American football, a quarterback can throw a spiral that’ll clear the defense to a receiver who can outrun the enemy.  A quarterback with a strong throwing arm combined with a fast receiver makes for one tough high-scoring offense.  I’m still trying to figure out how passing works in rugby, but I didn’t see any throws over the defense’s heads or someone running down field to catch and score.

Watching the offense move the ball to score a try (or touchdown) and the defense repeatedly tackle them was like watching a spiritual warfare battlefield.  As Christians, we are the offense.  Each day we are called to press on toward the goals we have in this life, accomplishing our God-given dreams.  The enemy is the defense.  He and his evil henchmen do everything in their power to tackle every move we make preventing us from reaching God’s goals for our life.  If we’re tough like an Australian rugby player, we get right back up and keep moving only to again meet opposition and maybe get knocked down again.  A vicious cycle until we wear out because let’s face it, the enemy doesn’t get tired.

As exhilarating and slightly confusing as rugby is to me (confusing only because I’m still learning it), there’s a few differences in American football I really like.  First,  there’s a quarterback who sets the stage, directs the plays and tends to determine how the ball is going to move down the field into the end zone. In life, we have a quarterback too.  Psalm 37:23 reminds us that “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT)  God has already set the stage for us. If we listen, He directs the plays (our steps) and His word determines how we (the ball) navigate through this life achieving His goals.

Second, the offense’s response to a defensive tackle is to pause, reset, and set up a new strategy before moving the ball again.  In life, when the enemy attacks us, there are times we should “cease striving and know that He is God….” (Psalm 46:10 NASB) There are times in life where the enemy has knocked us on our backsides so hard all we can do is pause, seek our Heavenly Quarterback for direction and allow Him to set up our next move.  It may look like the same move we tried before, or He may have a different “play” for us.   Whatever the plan, if we listen to His leading, we will victoriously find ourselves successfully in the end zone with the enemy licking his wounds in defeat.

One last thing-in American football there’s a term called “false start” where the offense crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is in play.  In life, we can experience false starts too if we try to move ourselves before the Lord tells us to move or better yet before He has even given us direction or set up the play.  The books of Deuteronomy and Jeremiah along with many Proverbs warn us of what happens when we walk outside of God’s direction.

Whether you play Australian rugby or American football, the prize is ultimately a trophy and bragging rights.  In life, the prize we press on to achieve is accomplishing God’s will for our lives, changing this world and giving Him all the glory.  Doing anything that glorifies God is a prize worth fighting for no matter how many tackles the enemy makes on us.  With God as our Quarterback, in the end, we will score the ultimately try/touchdown!!!

Its Snowing…In May?!!!!

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 19:21 NIV

Like most people I have BIG plans for my life.  As a little girl I aspired to be a Solid Gold dancer or a singing contestant on Star Search.  Don’t judge (but please feel free to laugh out loud!)  Any child of the 80’s with a creative mind like mine and a gift for making a fool out of themselves in front of a crowd, had the same dreams.  When I was 12, I wanted to be president of the United States.  By the time I completed high school my goal was to earn my college degree, get married, become a mom and have a successful career helping troubled teens.  On my 25th birthday I cried-I had only accomplished one of my goals and I was working 3 jobs just to make ends meet.  Now at 40, I am a single mom working 2 jobs, still struggling to make ends meet and clearly in the midst of a mid-life crisis.  Today I want to travel and touch lives all over the world letting people and orphans know they matter and they are loved.

The past couple of months I have been restless- physically, emotionally and spiritually. This restlessness has boiled into fear and anxiety.  It’s become a serious condition like a rash that takes over your entire body or a virus that eats you from the inside out.  It invades my dreams, it wakes me in the middle of the night and it robs my joy during the day.  The simplest task can become easily overwhelming when fear is hitting me full blast.  I become easily angered or I sob.  I’m exhausted but can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep because my mind simply won’t shut down or be still.  People who know this struggle about me often ask what I’m so anxious about.  Sometimes I tell them I don’t know. But I think I’ve figured it out.  I simply feel stuck.  My life feels stuck in a season of winter and at this age of my life, I am afraid I will stay stuck in winter forever.

Did I mention I HATE winter?  I’m speaking of the actual season.  Where I live we get very cold, very long and very snowy/icy winters.  Days are dull and skies are gray.  Many days I drive to and from work in the dark and never see any daylight.  I get quite depressed.  By the time February and March arrive I am anxious for warm days, sun filled skies and for all the snow to melt away.  We tend to get a mid-winter thaw-a few warm days here and there but then we get slammed with more cold, more snow and more ice.  April arrives and I check the weather daily hoping for a hint of even 50 degree (10c) weather.  And in May, I celebrate the colors of green, the blooming of apple blossoms and spring time flowers.  I relish the smell of the first lawn mowing and celebrate the year’s first real thunderstorm.  I buy my park pass and count down the days until the lakes are warm enough to swim in while planning out my beach days for the summer.  My spirits lift as I think snow is finally gone and my toes will be buried in the sand in not time.

This past weekend, in Mid-May, it snowed!  As I woke Sunday morning to a dusting of white powder covering my lawn, I reflected on my life and feeling stuck in a winter season.  I have so many plans for my life, yet none of them seem to be coming to fruition.  It’s like my life has come to a standstill with no hopes of moving forward relationally, financially, spiritually or even in my career.  Seeing that snow outside my window, I thought “That’s it, winter is never going to end, summer is never going to arrive.  All my beach days are never going to happen.”  Reflecting on my life, I tend to think “My dreams are dead.  This is it.  This is as good as it gets.  God just wants me stuck.”

But God has a different answer.  Weather wise, He’s shown it by gifting us with a prediction of 70 degree temps (21c) later this week.  Life wise, He says “Don’t worry,” (Matthew 6:34.) He keeps sending me Proverbs 19:21 and a few other verses like Job 23:14 and Isaiah 46:10.  He gently reminds me that His way is better than my way and I simply need to surrender my hopes and dreams to Him.  After all, every dream He planted in my heart will come to pass in His time.  Because patience is not a virtue I was born with and God knows I LOVE being in control, He makes me wait, refining me and conditioning me into the Kingdom Woman He designed me to be to do the big things He has planned for me.  Dreams He’s already shown me, I’ve turned into idols and tried manufacturing my own miracles instead of trusting Him to bring them to pass.  I always lose when I get in God’s way.

Winter is a time when days are shorter and life slows down.  This winter season in my life is God’s way of teaching me to just “be still.”  I make myself restless because instead of obeying Him, I act like a crazy hamster in a plastic wheel running a race that will never end, chasing after empty things, and going absolutely nowhere.  If you’re in this same season, remember this-a wise woman recently told me, “There’s never been a year summer didn’t come.” With that I will add, there’s not a story in the Bible where God’s dreams and purpose didn’t happen either. Practice being still, practice trusting in Him and read His word every day.  When someone I love dearly was going through an incredibly difficult time, we read the book of Psalms together.  Psalms was the same book suggested to me just this week to read and pray, as a means to overcome my fears and anxiety.

Lastly, find contentment in every day no matter how long you’ve been waiting, longing and praying.  Most importantly-don’t lose hope, but place your hope in the One who gives us something to hope for.

Choose Life

I struggled with severe post-partum depression.  Just as I was feeling “normal” after the birth of my daughter I found out I was pregnant for my son throwing my hormones completely out of whack again.  I was taking anti-depressants but they weren’t helping and I was too prideful to seek counseling.  After all, I had worked in Social Work for over 10 years thus, I knew how to counsel myself (at least that’s what my thought process was.)  I was in a troublesome relationship, struggling with irrational fears that I would ruin my children’s lives and just completely bombarded with defeating thoughts about myself.  I believed I was a horrible person that didn’t deserve to live.  I thought about leaving my family.  I convinced myself my children were better off without me but no matter how awful I thought of myself I couldn’t abandon them.  Thoughts of dying crossed my mind but I never attempted.  I actually thought so poorly of myself that death didn’t bring solace.  I didn’t want people attending my funeral, fearing they would only remember me as a really bad person.   At my worst I felt so defeated I didn’t want to exist.  I prayed but felt nothing from the Holy Spirit-or perhaps I was too consumed with fighting my own battle that I just wasn’t listening.

One Saturday, after a very heated (and abusive argument) with my partner, I ended up in the emergency room expressing feelings of suicide.  The ER gave me the drive-through form of treatment and sent me home.  Prior to going to the ER, I had gone to the walk-in clinic.  They weren’t equipped to handle someone having a mental breakdown so they sent me to the ER. But the doctor I spoke to at the clinic contacted my family physician that day, letting her know I had been there for post-partum depression.  My doctor’s nurse called me first thing Monday morning and two doctor’s appointments and blood tests later, I was placed on hormone replacement therapy-two pregnancies had depleted my hormone levels to that of a woman who had already gone through menopause, and that had caused the mental breakdown.

At the first visit with my doctor I told her I just wanted to feel “normal” and no longer wanted to be a “head case” (the name I was called by my partner when we would have a heated argument.)   She told me two things that day that I will never forget.

  • Normal is just the setting on your dryer.
  • There was something physically wrong with me causing the emotional meltdowns and mood swings. Not wanting to be on medication for depression is like a diabetic not wanting to take insulin.

The hormone replacement helped regulate my moods.  But I still felt very low about myself.  I had a dear friend who ministered to me through these struggles, sent me Christian books to read and even bought me a Bible that I used until the binding broke and the cover fell off.  I cried out to Christ repeatedly but I still listened to the devil and entertained his lies about who I was and what my life was.  It took the truth spoken from a beautiful friend of mine, who spent a weekend at my house, to open my eyes.  Sitting around a bonfire in my front yard, sharing my struggles with her she said to me, “He’s turned you into somebody I don’t even recognize.”  She was referencing the man I was in a relationship with at the time, but looking back, I can see that I had allowed the enemy to turn me into someone even I couldn’t recognize.

Since that experience God has brought me from a pit of despair and hopelessness and has grown in me a like for myself.  I’m still a work in progress so that like has not turned to love just yet.  He has shown me His love for me, how He sees me and who I am in Him repeatedly.  There are days I believe His truths, but there are still days the enemy’s lies  cast me down.  I can’t tell you my life has been all “sunshine and roses” since that day because it hasn’t.  I’ve still experienced pain, heartache and even depression.  But I don’t take medication and I don’t see a counselor.  What I do is pray.  I meditate on God’s word.  I read Psalms over and over reminding me of God’s great love and faithfulness.   When I feel myself sinking into a pit and it feels too much for me to fight, I text friends and ask them to pray.  I’m so thankful for the prayer warriors God has gifted to battle for me when the enemy’s attacks leave me battered and bruised.   But no matter how bad life gets, I choose life-I choose to live.  I stand on the promise that God knows the plans for me and they are plans for good, they are plans for prosperity.  They are not plans to harm me but to give me hope and bright future. (Jeremiah 29:11)  I can’t have any of that, if I end my life.  And neither can you.

The topic of suicide has been on my heart because it’s been attacking family members I love dearly, because it took the lives of two people my best friend loved dearly and because in social media I see posts almost daily of people feeling death is a better choice than life.  Death is not the better choice.  Death will not solve the problem.  Life is the best choice.  God is the solution to every problem.  Psalm 36:9 tells us “For you (God) are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.” (NLT) He is also our Redeemer and Deliverer.  His plan for us is life-so much so that He sent His Son to conquer death!  John 1:4 says “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” (NLT) The word was Jesus Christ.  He came “that we may have life and have it abundantly.” (”John 10:10b ESV)

The Holy Spirit tugged at my heart to write this post a couple weeks ago but then I got “writer’s block.”  I prayed for insight and words to type but got nothing until I saw a post on social media recently about Elijah’s desire to die in 1 Kings 19.  Elijah was fleeing from the wrath of Jezebel.  1 Kings 19:4 tells us “But he himself (Elijah) went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’ ” God’s response was short and sweet: “Arise and eat.”  Elijah in verse 8, “arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.”

God did not answer Elijah’s request with death.  He answered Elijah with life.  He put Elijah in a situation where he was solely dependent upon God for survival and it was during that time that He restored Elijah.  If you’re at that point in your life, if you’ve cried out asking God to take your life because you think death is far better than life, I say to you, arise and allow God to sustain you.  Cry out to Him minute by minute, day by day and surrender all your pain to Him.  He will redeem you.  He will heal you. He will deliver you from death because He wants you to live.  His plan for you is greater than all that has knocked you down and pushed you to the brink of death.  This is the same God who delivered Joseph from slavery and imprisonment, delivered Daniel’s friends from the fiery furnace and Daniel himself from the lions’ den.  He is the same God who rose Lazarus and His own Son from the dead.  Why-because He. Is. Life. And He calls us, to choose to live in Him.

If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts I would like to encourage to not only pray and cry out to Jesus but to seek godly counsel, talk to your family physician, reach out to family members and friends who love you and will pray for you and with you or even call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.  Go to http://www.crisistextline.org/ and get a list of great resources available to you that will encourage you to choose life.

And here’s some God irony for my readers-just while writing this post I’m listening to a Todd White sermon (The Revelation of Your Value).  In it he confesses his own testimony of battling suicide.  Watch it:  https://youtu.be/Vt_ShPgl-aU