What Do You See?

Over the last year, I’ve heard a lot of teaching and information on personality differences, strengths and weaknesses, looking at ourselves through positive lenses and sharing positive feedback to people around us. It’s really easy to look at someone different from me and think “what is wrong with them?”, or pass a speedy judgment when someone makes a decision differently than I would. Being part of a large family, there are MANY personalities in my house. Sometimes we joke about there being too many chiefs and not enough Indians, but without question, we’d all tell you who is in charge of the house. There are six children, two parents, 3 grandparents still living…all but one of those people live within an acre of each. Eight of them in one house, and two right across the driveway. We see each other on a daily basis and we have to deal with problems or the awkwardness just festers. My parents are incredible, but about as opposite as two people could get on minor things! My older sister and I share a room, and we’re the same way – COMPLETE opposites. Yet, we get along as if we were almost twins (most of the time anyway…except when we disagree about open vs shut curtains and open vs. closed door at night!) There’s 4 other siblings and while we’re all similar in some areas, in other areas I must say sometimes I wonder how we’re all related. Anyway, I’m one of the more sensitive siblings. I tend to give more 2nd and 3rd (and 4th, 5th, 6th…10,000th) chance to people who have hurt me, I’m loyal (sometimes to a fault) and I generally search for the good in people. This can be a bad thing sometimes, because I’ll overlook their negative qualities and cling to the positive with the comment “look how awesome this person is!” Don’t get me wrong – I see the negative, trust me. But I will not focus on it, especially if everyone else is focusing there.

In my family, close friends and people who know me, I’ve heard the statements “you trust too easily, you’re indecisive and ride the fence, you always want more and what you have isn’t good enough for you, you’re set in your ways, you’re stubborn, you avoid conflict and that’s bad…etc.” I’m sure everyone can think up a negative thing someone has said about you in the past that while as much as you hate it…you know that it’s a part of you and you’re not sure it’s able to be changed…or that you’d really want too. Because let’s face it…yes, I’m stubborn but if you ask me, I’d say “only when it comes to something I believe strongly will I not give in.” I usually will give in…to avoid conflict…to keep others happy and bring about the most peace. However, if it goes against a core value or something I believe strongly, you better believe I’m gonna be stubborn. Maybe that’s a bad thing…but over the years, it’s had moments where I’m very thankful for that part of who I am.

Towards the end of last year, I ended a relationship. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it’s taught me some things about myself. I’ll say looking at my life now, I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve been learning because of the situation. The man had told me many things, some that I’d longed to hear for years and hadn’t really believed until he told me them without being asked. When we parted ways, this same man who had promised many things and gave many compliments (which I choose to believe were meant when he said them), on the way out of my life, he broke my heart by shattering everything he’d ever said to me. It was like he had this list of all the things and places I was vulnerable and he enjoyed crushing each one of them. This left me a myriad of emotions…aching and upset were probably the two most predominate ones. I found myself wondering again who I was, if there was any good thing I did, if I was beautiful and wanted, why someone would want to be friends with me. I questioned if I was a loyal friend, if I loved honestly or if it was just shallow love, I asked myself if I could make decisions, if I could be a positive addition to anything. That’s when I realized I’d placed a lot of my confidence in how he viewed me, which is very bad. My confidence is now being rooted in what God thinks of me!

Well, enough of that memory lane, over the next few months, I buried myself in work. Yesterday, at church we heard a message about “naming our animals” (I’ll post a link to that later) and being busy while waiting on God to move in our lives. That’s what I did. I told myself that no matter what that guy’s opinion, or anyone else’s opinion of me was, here is what mattered – God knew me. He loved me. He chose me. And He would do it again in a heartbeat!

Over the course of reading and continuing my education through in-service trainings, sermons and talking with friends and family, I began validating who I was again, this time on a much firmer foundation. Building my self-confidence back up. I wasn’t crazy. I was still just as beautiful as I was told. I am loyal, always will be. God would bring verses, put a message on someone’s heart, have a song sung to me, a song would play on the radio, I stumbled across a movie that had a great message in it…the ways God spoke to my heart crossed all lines and started getting the message across. I felt like God was pursuing me and saying “You’re special. I love you. You are mine.”

That’s the coolest feeling.

So get this…on the 12th of February, I had to be in Knoxville for a training and this was conducted by the TSU (Tennessee State University) staff members. We’d had to previously fill out a personality quiz (The Strengths Quest by Gallup), and that quiz would give us our top 5 strengths. As I took the test…I thought “there is no way this is going to nail me. It’s so complicated and confusing. I’m not even sure that’s what I’d answer, I need to analyze that more…oh wait, I only have 20 seconds, ahhhh….just pick one. Hope that was right…whatever, it’s not like it’s going to matter anyway”…those were some of my thoughts while taking the quiz…needless to say. The quiz hit me squarely, the results described me almost to a T.

  • Developer
  • Empathy
  • Belief
  • Harmony
  • Input

Now, being 100% honest…as I read those words, I wanted to cry. Because they put some of the very things I have been criticized on into a positive light and they were strengths. Things I was GOOD at. These were skills that I had, that God gave me, to compliment the people around me. Not everyone has these same skills. These were specifically given to me. To me.

I may break this into two posts…and talk more in depth about what I learned in the 2nd one. But here’s the main point to this post…You are special, unique and of great value!

There is no one else just like you, no one else can complete the task you were put on earth to accomplish and you are needed to get the job accomplished. Others may look at us, with our various strengths, and go “well, I just think those are weaknesses”…they see them as such because those strengths of yours, are most likely their weaknesses. For me…I look at the list of 34 strengths and can easily pull a few that I’m not very good at – these are things like “command, competition, deliberative, woo, intellection, etc.”…I find these are some of the strengths that I like having in other people (because it’s areas I’m weak in) but they are also some of the ones that will drive me crazy fastest.

So here’s my last thoughts for now…look at the people around us, and appreciate them for their differences. Check out their strengths, admire them for their strengths and look at yourself the same way! You have strengths, maybe these really are the “weaknesses” others see. It never hurts to improve on areas we have…but if we focus on what we’re strong in we can stride forward and TRUST ME, the weaknesses will still be there. But our strengths will get stronger. It’s a matter of what we’re looking at – positive lens or the negative one? Do we value people for being different or do we try and turn everyone into a “me”?

I’ll write more about what I learned next blog post, but I don’t want this any longer! LOL! Trying to learn to get “short, sweet and simple”…haven’t quite learned that technique yet! 🙂

A Song of Blessing

         My family has grown up singing the hymns, due to singing nightly growing up…most of the first and last verses are memorized for me and some of the other verses. Years back, after going to college and changing churches, the hymns slowly seemed to be fading from how often I used them. Recently, as a family we have been singing a lot more. I also now have several hymns on my iPod which I enjoy listening and singing these wonderful songs.

          There’s something uniquely soothing and promising about the words found in the hymns. Yes, there are some words that I go “what does that mean?” but for the most part…they’re as easy to understand as any other song. Some view these as “old fashioned” and “too traditional”, but to me they’re cherished pieces of music that draw our hearts to God, calm our spirits and help us focus our outlook on life.

          Last night, my family was having a prayer and praise night (due to all church being cancelled down here from snow and icy roads). We’d gathered around the piano in our living room and were singing, before we went to prayer Mom had requested we finish the singing by ending on the song “Sweet Hour of Prayer”. Now, if I’m perfectly honest, this is one of my least favorite hymns. There’s just something about it that hadn’t ever “sat right” with me. I don’t know if it’s the melody or pace to the song, but it’s just never been a favorite. Well…last night…I must say it moved a little closer to my heart.

          Life isn’t always easy, there are good days and bad days, days when we feel untouchable and days when we’re more vulnerable than we ever imagined. Times when we ‘have all the answers’ and times when we feel like direction is blocked off from view. God is silent and we are left alone to face the future. (*Note…we are NEVER alone, even if it feels like it! I heard once that the Teacher is always silent during a test. God allows us to experience the negatives in life to see if we will turn to Him or if we’ll attempt handling it on our own. It’s all growing and learning experiences. But He is always with us!) Anyway…back to the song.

          Singing verse one, I struggled with my attitude. I didn’t want to be singing this song…much less ending our time on this song. I decided to just sing…and reevaluate the words to the song to see if there was something I’d been missing. Wouldn’t you know it, verse two comes along –

          Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer! Thy wings shall my petitions bear. To Him whose truth and faithfulness, engage the waiting soul to bless. And since He bids me seek His face, believe His Word and trust His grace. I’ll cast on Him my every care, and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer.

          Those words struck my heart. Jesus bids, He calls me, He wants us to seek Him out. He is desperately longing to see my face, to talk with me, to listen to me, to guide my life down the right path! In seeking His face though, I must first BELIEVE His Word. To believe His Word, the Bible, I must read it and accept it as truth! Then I must TRUST His grace, trust Him. Trust is not easy thing for me. But trust, I must. It’s all about putting trust in the One who will never break that trust, never lie and never walk away. Then, when we make the decision to believe and trust, we can easily cast our cares on Him and leave them there.

          There are moments in my day-to-day life when I ask myself the questions: Will I be doing this job forever? Am I doing “life” right? Am I serving God properly? What about marriage…will I ever get married? Will I find the man who shows Christ’s unconditional love for me? Will I be a good wife? Kids…oh man…how would we support them? Look at the condition of the world? Will my husband be a good dad? Will I make a good Mom? What if I mess up? What if I make bad decisions? What if, what if, what if… and on and on the list goes. Trust me…if I linger on that list too long, I’m a miserable basket case. I’ve got friends who on (hopefully) rare occasions listen to me panic when I dwell on this too much. As soon as I get done “sharing”, I realize how pitiful I sound.

          I know God has my future written down. He knows what’s happened to me. He knows what will happen to me. He is currently equipping me for what’s ahead. I can just trust Him and live my life from day to day, keeping Him the focus of my life and all those other worries will fade. I can seek His face, believe His Word, trust His grace and cast my cares upon Him.

          And all this can be done in my sweet hour of prayer.

More Than Conquerors

When studying the Bible, or talking about love, the infamous chapter is I Corinthians 13. This chapter is one of my favorites, one of these days, I’m planning to write a post (most likely it’ll be in parts or just very, very long!) about the things I learned about love from being in a relationship. Because let me tell you, being “in love”, bring to life the idea and imagery of what it may be like with God. Just imagine it a thousand times better with God – because He doesn’t have selfish motives, He doesn’t ever break His word and He loves us completely and fully ALL THE TIME.

Continuing in Romans, I rediscovered the promises and the wonder of Romans 8:35-39. But there’s also some great stuff earlier in the chapter! 🙂

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are  killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Isn’t that promise just beyond comforting? Troubles, persecution, lack of food, being naked, danger or death…just to name a few…none of these are going to come between the love God has for us. They cannot rip us from His hands or take us from His care. We may be, in the world’s eyes, easy prey. Many view Christians as weak, but if you look into the history of Christians – they are some of the strongest people you’ll ever meet. Nothing can overcome us, because we are in Christ and He has conquered death. Which means…we have overcome and conquered death. 🙂 Pretty cool, huh? Dying or living, spiritual beings, government, current circumstances or the “scary” unknown future…no matter how high or low you are, nothing can separate us from God’s love. It is always there. Always with us.

Always. That is such a beautiful word.

When we’re covered in Christ’s love, we have nothing to fear because we are more than conquerors in Him. Nothing can separate us from Him. Not what others do or say to/about us, not what sins we do, not how bad we think we are. He loves us, He has conquered everything and we can stand under His wings and find protection and love.

Say What!?

Sometimes I go to read something, am watching something on TV or listening to something on the radio and I find myself going “what did they just say?” I stop to think for just a moment, to process through what I thought was just said. Depending on the situation, I can figure it out…other times I’ll just miss it and tell myself to look positively and hope it was saying the proper thing.

I grabbed my Bible the other morning and curled up in a chair to read. Looking out the window, I saw a sight that I haven’t seen in…over 10 years. The ocean. There is such majesty and beauty in the ebb and flow of the water, the unending sound of the crashing waves, the cry of the seagulls and the smell of the salty air. It grips a piece of your heart that is very different than any other area on earth. I’m a mountain girl, give me mountains over city, flatlands or oceans any day. But when you are used to one topography, the change can be enlightening. I will say, seeing the ocean and watching the sun rise and set over the waters – it gives you a whole new appreciation for the wonderful world God created. I tore my eyes away from the beauty God created, the gift to His beloved (me…and you, if you’re a believer of God), to read the love letter He has recorded for generation to generation! How amazing to see the LOVE He has for us, that He has forever kept His words, His love to us recorded in written form.

I’ve been working through Romans, and this particular morning I was starting in Romans 6. What I’m going to do is write out the chapter and put my thoughts towards what I was reading in black, and the scripture in a blue ink. Crossing my fingers and hoping it comes out like it makes sense in my head! 🙂

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. I lose track of how many people are like “I’m saved, so now I just live however I want too.” Then they continue to use our Lord’s name in vain, they behave outrageously and then just say they can ask forgiveness and it’s all forgiven. How wrong is this mentality! I’m just as guilty in this area, but it’s unreal how we as children of God will abuse His unconditional love and His forgiveness by continually disobeying or living our own desires. It’s like in a parent-child situation…the child may be running after they were told to stop, and the running child charges the table and off topples the glass figurine. CRASH! The child is immediately sorry, and the loving parent forgives with an admonishment as to this is why we don’t run. The next day, the child is running again. Warning the child, the parent encourages them to slow down. But the child knows they were forgiven for breaking the glass, it’ll be okay to run…I mean, come on, running is SO much fun! But before you know it…CRASH…they run into their older sibling who was unloading the dishwasher and the plates they were putting the cabinet all drop to the floor in a shattering of glass. The child is immediately sorry, and the parent again forgives and uses the teachable moment to remind the child of why they don’t run. The next day comes around, and you guessed it…the child is running again…this continues day after day. Bruises occur, material possessions are broken, toes may be stubbed and discipline may take place. But no matter what happens to the child, they always gain the forgiveness for the mistakes. Maybe a week, maybe a month, maybe a year afterwards, the child may be running and this time it’s outside. They’re not paying attention, and they run into the road……the parent may forgive the driver, but there is no taking away their child’s bad decision. This child may die upon impact or may just be bodily injured with broken bones or paralysis. The point is, the child’s actions eventually caught up to them. They heard the warning of their parent, they knew they weren’t supposed to be running carelessly, but it was fun, it felt good, it was enjoyable…so they did whatever they wanted too,  knowing their parent would forgive them for disobeying their instructions. As a human, it is our privilege to “do what we want”, but we need to be wise about that as well! God gives us warnings about our actions, we can listen and follow His guidance to safety and success or we can throw caution to the wind, do whatever we want and while it may seem “ok” for the time, it will catch up to us…and sometimes be a warning, sometimes it will be life threatening and sometimes it may cost us everything. God will ALWAYS forgive you – doesn’t matter what you’ve done – but the point isn’t to try and see how many times you can get away with something before you’ve gone too far. God is looking out for our best interest. Trust Him and listen!! There are so many examples I could give of how this works out in life…both personal experience and from stories of others. Trust me, it’s not worth pushing the envelope. As you do, it may be enjoyable while you’re doing it…but when it goes south, the pain and regret that you’ll have to deal with aren’t worth the enjoyment you got out of the action. So…back to Romans! 🙂

How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Isn’t this a BEAUTIFUL picture!!! We have the choice, the freedom to serve God, to choose life, to choose joy…we don’t have to be a slave to our bad decisions, our sinful nature, the ways of the world…we can CHOOSE to have a better, more satisfying and glorifying life. One thing my Dad has taught us is that our life is going to be an example. It’s out decision as to what type of example – it’s either a warning to others of what not to do or an example of what to follow. We can make the decision as to which our life will be. Jesus took our sins, our mistakes, all the way to the cross with Him. We must realize that God nailed our mistakes to the cross and we don’t need to take them off again. When God turned away from Jesus on the cross, that was because of our sins. My sins. Your sins. Every lie we’ve told. Every bad action we’ve done. Every hurtful word spoken. These are the things that were killed on the cross. When we sought God’s forgiveness, and gained it…we’ve been buried and resurrected as a NEW and CLEAN being. We got a clean slate, this is the slate we need to write our story upon with God holding the pen! Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourself to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Just because we have grace, we have forgiveness doesn’t mean we have a free check to go and do whatever! Our actions still have consequences, we still have things we need to do and we still have good and bad decisions to make and avoid! Jesus came with grace over the law, but He never said “abandon the law because I’ll cover you with My grace”…nope, the law is there to show us the magnitude of God’s grace. The law is there to show us our sinful nature. The law is there to show us we can NEVER do it alone. We need God’s grace to be cleansed. No matter how good we strive to be, our goodness is never good enough to get us into eternity with God. ONLY being under His grace, will we find life with Him forever. Our good enough will get us straight to Hell, we need something more than ourselves to find the freedom we all crave. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. We’re all servants to something, we’re all in bondage to something. The question is are we going to be servants to ourselves, to Satan, to sin – which leads to bondage of fears, alcohol, pornography, theft, food, etc. etc. etc. If we choose to grasp onto the freedom Jesus gives us, the “bondage” we live in under Christ is so freeing. We find we don’t have to carry the weight of the world, we don’t have to worry about what everyone else thinks of us, we don’t have to worry about ever being alone. He is always there and He will always help us through every experience we go through.

Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. I just loved the picture image of this grouping of opposites is wonderful! We get to choose, again that distinction is made. Our actions, our beliefs…we get to decide. Someone can’t make us  be _____, or we aren’t born _____…we make the decision of “this is who I am, what I believe, what I will do”. While having that “power”, or responsibility as it is known in my family, comes great pressure to make sure we’re doing the right things. Being free from sin, we have the power to be holy and gain everlasting life. Now, here’s the thing…we will have eternal life, everyone will. Some will choose to spend it in Heaven, worshipping Christ, celebrating and being with other believers. Others who deny Christ and don’t accept His sacrifice for our souls, will spend it in Hell. The choice is ours – life or death, holiness or sin, Jesus Christ our Lord or ourselves? If you want additional passages, check out Romans 7:24-25! 🙂

I was reading a book (Completely His by Shannon Ethridge), the same morning as I was reading this chapter and this quote grabbed my attention. “The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no string attached, seems to go against every instinct in humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, the Muslim code of law – each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.”   – Philip Yancey in What’s So Amazing About Grace WOW! I just…wow. God makes it so easy to come to Him, to love Him, to know Him. We don’t have a check-list that gets us wishy-washy results. God tells us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved! It’s truly that simple. We don’t have to wonder if it’ll stick…once we are a child of God, we are FOREVER a child of God and NOTHING you do or say will change that.  He loves you.

Oh my friend, when you hear the majesty of what God did for you, when we grasp just a fraction of how AWESOME He is…all you can be left saying is “Say what!?” and that’s where the richness of knowing Jesus begins! Dig deeper, the deeper and more intimately you know Christ the more and more you’ll want to seek clarification and more understanding on the richness and promises of being a Child of God!

Touch

Just a quick thought for tonight…

We’ve got company over, and there’s a most adorable set of twins that are still quite small. I just love little people, it’s a passion of mine to pour into their lives at an early stage. Children don’t hesitate to share what’s on their mind or just randomly blurt “I love you”…and you don’t doubt it. There’s an innocence and beauty in their lives that often gets lost as we grow older.

Well, I’d finished my shower and was combing through my hair when it sounded like sobbing coming from down the hallway. I first thought I was imagining things because the twins had “gone to bed” like an hour prior. However, upon walking down the hall, I found the little boy curled in the corner behind the door, crying his little heart out. Sinking to the floor next to him, I was like “Hey, hey, hey, what’s up?” He looked up at me and goes “I need to go potty!”

Resisting a smile, I quickly assured him that was okay and to follow me. After making sure he was good, we went back to his makeshift bed for the night and I tucked him in. Sitting on the floor between his sister and him, I just stroked his hair until his breathing calmed and he drifted off to bed.

The first thought in my head while sitting there was “I can’t wait to be a mommy someday.”

The second was how amazing the power of touch. When a person is hurting…a warm embrace can fix a load of problems. When someone is celebrating, a high-five or a happy hug is usually a sure thing. To let someone know we care, we may touch a shoulder as we pass by. Healing can be found in the massage therapy world. Girls love having their hair played with by someone else because “it feels better when you do it”. There’s something about touch that speaks deeply to our souls. I’ve often heard that there’s not much a mother’s touch won’t fix and as I was dwelling on that tonight, a verse came to mind.

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night: nor for the arrow that flieth by day. -Psalm 91:4-5

WOW! First, the He…is God. He protects us like a mother hen does with her children. His wings cover us, they touch us, and in them we find the comfort, protection and peace that we all so desperately long for and seek after! So tonight, or tomorrow (or whenever you read this) may you rest fully in God’s protection and His mighty love. Let His touch cover you, comfort you and protect you! Because TRUST ME…if you ask God to make Himself very real to you…

He will.

Even When It Hurts…He Is There

For the first blog in a long time I’m writing down thing I’m processing and experiencing. What’s been going on with me, what I’ve been learning is a large reason why I haven’t been blogging much. It’s not that I haven’t had thoughts to share, it’s just I haven’t felt like they were worth anything. God is teaching me (I can be a slow learner!) that when He is present, anything can be used for good. I just pray God uses me. That is the deep desire of my heart. So…for what it’s worth…here’s a look into my life in the last few months/year!

Sunday (the 25th of January), after the passage of a lot of time that I spent mostly in prayer, not much reading of God’s Word outside church and nightly devotions with the family, I decided there’s no time like the present to pick up His Word and start reading again. You may be wondering “why would you stop reading!?” In all honesty, I never know why I do that. Why I let the excuses pile up and keep me from reading the best story, the best love letter…the Words of my Savior. Logically, that makes no sense. The best way I can explain it…it hurts. Last year, as a whole, was pretty rough. Starting in April, I found a journal entry that spoke of this deep rooted thought that one of the relationships in my life that I valued was going to end. Being the way I’m wired…I fought it. I am loyal (sometimes to a fault). I gave it everything I could and then just a little more. I prayed, “Lord, please don’t take this friendship, this love away?”

A few months prior to April, I had this dream (and first, let me just say, normally I’m not a “I dreamed this so it will happen”…but this dream I only had once and remember it with stunning clarity. So, I tend to think it was send straight from God). In the dream, I was reading a Bible story about the woman who gave all her money and the rich rulers who only tithed a part of what they had made but acted like they were being so spiritual. I can pick up the exact book and go to the exact page that I was reading in my dream, and I remember reading the story out loud. As I read, my heart asked the question – Have you given Me all? Jesus was asking me, if I’d surrendered everything in my life to Him. Of course, being the “good Christian girl” that it feels like everyone thinks I am, I responded “YES!” Again, my heart asked “Everything? Even _____?” (In that black space was the name of the person I held dear) My heart stopped. I remember feeling my body go numb in the dream, the book suddenly felt like a million pounds and I didn’t want to be there anymore. Because I knew the answer with defining clarity.

No.

I hadn’t turned it over. I was afraid turning it over to God meant I would lose the friendship. Maybe temporarily, maybe permanently…maybe I’d be surprisingly blessed and get to keep it. I prayed, and tried to push the dream right out of my mind. But if God is ever trying to teach you something, you know…He doesn’t let you forget what the lesson is. It comes back to your mind at the worst times, the best times, and the times when the dark of the night seeps into your mind before you drift off to sleep. That question “Everything?” seemed to haunt me and no matter how much I prayed and fought it, the answer stayed the same “no” and the knowledge of needing to give it up, grew and grew. To cut the story short, in September, I surrendered. The painful part, I lost a friendship that I care about deeply. But in that pain, I found I had friends who still loved me, still wanted to talk to me, and still cared. I found my Savior, right there…waiting to hold my heart fully once more. Did all that knowledge erase the pain of losing someone precious? Not even close. There were times I laid awake at night, on the drive into work or any moment where I was quiet that the pain seemed to overwhelm my heart and the tears leaked silently down my face. The questions of “why” and “what happened” roared out of the silence. The best part – I didn’t have the answer and no one I talked to had answers either! Even now, there are times when I fight to keep the pain at bay, I push the tears back and I start loudly saying things I’m thankful for. It’s not a fast solution, but it works at least temporarily. The saying is true though, time heals. Doesn’t take the memories away, or take away the desires, but it takes away the sharp pain of loss and give you room to dream new desires.

This is when my devotions severely slacked off and that is entirely my fault. I’d get my Bible and sit to read, but the questions and feelings just stormed through my head. I found I could read a whole chapter and not have any idea what I just read. The words on the page looked like black and white markings. I was reading them but wasn’t retaining them. I dislike when I go to read something important, such as God’s Word, and I’m just zoned out. So, I’d start reading the passage over, but it didn’t seem to matter how much I read it, but it wouldn’t sink in. So, I put it on the nightstand for a little while and just decided to talk to God. Haha…I talked, or tried talking to God, would be a better way of saying it. I recall more than one drive into work when I’d start “Dear Lord” and then silence would ensue. I didn’t know what to say next. I wanted to be angry at Him for my loss, but I couldn’t be. I got exactly what the friend and I set up. It wasn’t God’s fault, and I knew that. I wanted to be peaceful, but when your heart hurts it can be hard to feel peace. I will say, once the initial pain of losing subsided, I did feel at complete peace once I said goodbye. I’d happily be friends still, but they chose to separate. If we ever talk again…that’s up to God. But if we don’t…I have the joy of knowing that I’ll get to spend eternity with this friend. I can’t help but smile when I think of that.

Here’s the thing…even in the darkest times…I could sing. I could praise Jesus with my voice. My time wasn’t spent reading His word, or talking with Him…but in praise. I would sing all the way to work, all the way home, and I’d sing in my head before I went to sleep (especially when thoughts would turn negative). Now, do I recommend doing this in place of other time with God? Oh no! But, sometimes our song is all we can give Him. I found much comfort in reading Psalms – which is where I would read when I couldn’t focus on my normal Bible reading spot.

This morning, while taking some time off of work and away from home, I picked up my Bible and opened it to where I’d been reading through the Bible. In the middle of Romans, chapter 6 was where I started. From the first words, the chapter gripped me and gave me LOTS of room to think! (I’ll post about that in the next one)

Sometimes, the answer may be to just be with God. He is our Savior, our Father, our Friend, our Lover…and here’s the thing…we can be with our earthly Dad, we can be with a friend or we can be with the one our hearts love, but we don’t always have to be talking and listening to them. Just being in the presence of this person is enough to bring peace, strength and contentment. I think God is much the same way. Yes, it is GOOD to spend time reading His Word (listening to what He’s teaching us) and it’s good to spend time in prayer (thanking Him, making requests, seeking forgiveness, etc.) but it’s also good to just rest in His presence. In time, you’ll begin talking. You’ll find the words to speak. The pain or the time of quiet when it seems God isn’t there…that will pass. It’s just about keeping near Jesus.

Some of the verses that seemed glued to my brain during this time are found in one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD…Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy upon me, and answer me. When you sadist, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. –Psalm 27

The whole chapter is good…but those are the verses that would jump off the page. It was the cry of my heart when it seemed the road ahead was skewed and every dream for my future had been dashed. The miracles and the ways God showed Himself to me in the months that followed was astounding and breathtaking. I’d love to share all the ways He showed Himself in the small and big things. Maybe I will. But here’s the beauty of God, He wants us to find Him and He will show Himself to us in great and mighty ways!

Time w: GodThis is the truth right there…and I know everyone is into the “keep calm and ____” pictures, so I thought this was a great one to close with! 😀

Against Hope

“Who against hope believed in hope…he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; BUT was strong in faith, giving glory to God. And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform.” -Romans 4:18a, 20-21.
Sometimes God’s plan, to us, may leave us asking “what are You doing!?” But Abraham’s faith is commended and recorded forever in God’s Word for us to learn and be encouraged from. Believe in what God can and will do!! Check out Philippians 1:6…the promises of God, to be there through it all are everywhere in His Word. All His promises are true and there in the Bible, just check them out. They will encourage you without fail. Just believe….against all odds…keep believing that God has a plan for your life and He will perform it unto completion! No matter what the circumstances are, as we seek God’s face…He will be found and when He is found, we can look back over those places in our life where we wondered where God was…and see Him so clearly in the path we walked. It’s all about walking in faith, when the road is too dark to see what is coming next.