Category: Faith

50

2 Peter 3:8  (NIV) 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 50. Half a century old. Me. Wait- what?! How did that happen?! When I … Continue reading 50

Connecting the Dots

John 17:20-21  English Standard Version (ESV)

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me…”

Connecting the Dots5

 

If you have ever struggled with feeling like you don’t belong, I understand.  If you’ve ever struggled with the worry that people just wouldn’t understand you, I do understand.  If you’ve ever wondered if anyone heard your cry, I’m listening.  If you’ve ever struggled with how you fit into the grand scheme of things, boy, oh boy, do I know how that feels.

I’m finally starting to see where God has been leading me my entire life.  Funny thing is that, as much as I fought it, it is right into His arms. Funnier thing is that, when I got here, there were a whole bunch of others here, too who had thought the same stuff!  We are now connected in Christ.  My dots are connected to their dots now.  And there is strength in numbers.

The scripture I started this post with is where Jesus is praying that people would come to know Him by hearing the gospel and the testimonies of the ones who were with Him.  That people would believe in Him and come to the Father through Him by being witness to the changed lives of His disciples.  His prayer was that those who came to believe because of those lives would become one with them, and one with Him, just as He is one with God.

That’s not the only time the Bible says that He prayed for us.  Luke 22:32 shows that Jesus prayed for Simon, that his faith would not fail him.  John 14:16 says He would pray for the Father to send us an advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be our helper so He could be with us forever.  Most importantly, in my opinion, when he pleads with God to “forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” in Luke 23:34. No doubt about it- Jesus is our great defender.

By praying for us, Jesus set an example of how we should lift each other up.  In this culture of “whoever looks best in their neighbor’s eyes wins,” that’s a challenge for most of us.  I take the challenge seriously now.  In fact, I published my testimony the other day and I can’t even describe the whirlwind of  response it has received.  I prayed it would open doors for people who thought they were alone.  I prayed it would give others courage to do whatever it takes to get their voices back. I prayed for grace as people came to know my secrets.

Then I realized that, wait- people would know my secrets!  But then they might come to understand that they are not alone. And maybe some of them would come to understand that they were meant to hear my story because God is calling out to them!  Yes, that He is calling their sleeping spirits awake because they need to know that He is still on the throne and that He is still in the business of setting the captives free!

I have no more secrets, at least that I am aware of today.  All of what has been done to me and all that I have done has been confessed to God and to a small handful of who I consider to be safe sisters in Christ.  As I continue to walk in His protective shadow, I am being equipped to handle any other secrets that come to the surface but I am also being prepared to address the wrongs I have committed.  I have not been blameless in this life.  But I am free.  I am happier than I’ve ever been.  I am no longer ashamed or afraid.

So I pray that you are free.  I pray that if you are not free, you would find a way to start that process.  It can be as simple as looking at a friend and saying, “Hey, do you have a minute?  I really need to get something off my chest.”  Or maybe over a cup of coffee, you can start asking God to put someone in your path that would speak to your heart.  Someone who would speak to your pain, be the first to say it so you can say, “Yeah, that happened to me, too.”  Oh, the dots that are connected when we find we aren’t alone!

•     •     •   

There is healing in Christ.  There is freedom in Christ.  There is joy here.  No lie.

Peace y’all….

Busy Work is for Bees

Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Honey Bee Cross Process

 

I’ve been too busy to write for a few days… ok, a week.  I’ll admit, it’s been busy work to keep my mind off of writing.  There’s a lot going on.  But I’ve worked it out and now I know what I want to say.  So here it is….

God’s Got This.

Profound, right?  Sounds like the same old stuff everyone else says, but I mean He really does.  I’ve taken a week to stress and then spend time with Him to make sure I had this down before I came back to tell you about it.

I love to make stuff.  I love creating tiny gifts to give my friends and I love to talk about how each day God shows me something else to be excited about.  My dream is to one day incorporate the two into one big, pay-the-bills-and-have-free-time-to-play-and-create pile at The End of the Sidewalk.  But life keeps happening and distracting me from it!

So this past weekend, I turned my phone’s ringer off, including all social media notifications, on Friday night so I could think.  I left it that way until I needed it for church and then for the GPS for a prayer dessert I was going to on Sunday. I wanted to read, pray, and listen.   I had received a text earlier in the evening from a friend about the bookmark I had recently given her, saying her daughter wondered if I made panda bookmarks.  Of course I never had but I quickly responded, “Why yes, I do!” As soon as the ringer was shut off, I started doodling.  Saturday morning I got to work and by noon, I had created a few I thought she would like- cute, huh?

MyMy's Bookmarks

Nothing fancy, but she loves them.  They’re mostly corner covers, and they’re not all pandas, but they were a hit!  There’s even one her big sister might like and her dad’s a Tennessee Vols fan so yeah, I had to make one like that, too.  Judge me. 😉

But it made me happy to know that I was able to share a little bit of the crafty side of me with a friend. And to boot, to show me how happy she was, I think she’s 7, she made one especially for ME!

imagejpeg_0 (2)

This was all in response to listening to God to just be.  Not be a bee: but Just. Be.

I have an hour drive home from work, so Friday on my way home, I was having this talk with God about why I’d been stressing all week.  About why I even got to the point of wanting to be mean so my voice would be heard. I mean, earlier in the week, I had wanted to remind people that they had made choices that effect others and that just because they feel ignored doesn’t mean they get to get out of the choices now.  I wanted to tell people they aren’t God and to be mindful of the examples they’re setting.  I wanted to tell people “Let it go!” and “I told you so!”  And every time, instead of posting or emailing or texting or confronting, God kept bringing me back to the thought of a yoke.  The yoke of trying to fix things especially.  The yoke of thinking that, after the life these people have watched me live (read: survive), they should be able to believe that I knew what’s best for them.

The thought of a yoke reminded me of a lesson from the Freedom in Christ classes I worked through last fall.  In this particular class,the facilitator taught us the Biblical meaning of the yoke by telling us a story about a young ox that was hooked up to the yoke of an old ox.  The young ox (Judi in this case) thought she was tough and strong and could work circles around the old ox (this one would be Jesus) and tried to prove it. The young ox would pull as hard as she could to get the old ox to hurry up and get the job done- probably so she could go play Candy Crush or something- but the old ox just kept up the easy but steady pace.  The young ox pulled and stressed and got so exhausted the old ox ended up just about dragging her around while He finished the work.

Thinking of that scenario made me realized that God was trying to show me that all of that stuff that’s going on isn’t my problem, it’s His.  He was trying to show me that my job is to keep the pace He has set for me and to let Him help me through it all.  I realized I was trying to play God but that’s His job.  I realized that all of the stressing and the busy work with groups and games and visits I had pulled off last week was about avoiding Him while I tried to figure out how I could work it all out myself.  He was trying to remind me of how much I need Him.  All the time.

So I closed it all down for a few days.  I shut out the noise of social media, put my face in the Bible and a couple of good books I am reading, and I made a little girl some silly bookmarks. And you know what happened?  The world kept turning.  Facebook kept Facebooking.  Twitter kept up with the tweets.  People kept peopling (yes that’s a word now). Jesus kept being Jesus.  And I survived not being in control.

I can’t fix anything but I can work to improve who I am as this new creation in Christ. I can focus on who I am called to be now that He is living in me.  I can trust that He knows what’s best, what’s going on, and how it’s all going to work out while I take care of my little piece of the earth.  I’m officially hanging up my robe and sandles folks.  I’m gonna leave the busy work to the bees and let that easy yoke guide me on this journey.  God’s got this.

Peace y’all.

 

I’m No Billionaire

Mark 8:36 English Standard Version (ESV)

36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

POWERBALL2

I woke up today with absolute certainty that I had not won the lottery, the biggest in history, from what I understand. I might have wondered differently if I had actually bought a ticket.  Now, before you start thinking I’m being a judgmental self-righteous Christian telling you gambling is a sin and that you’re doomed to hell for buying tickets, stop right there.  Stop reading this post right now and go back to the very beginning of this blog where I tell you it’s all about me.  This blog is about me; the failures described here are about me; the interpretations of the scriptures are about me. It’s my life I’m talking about, not yours. Ok?

We good?   Good.  Let’s move on then…

I have never wanted to be rich.  I’ve always wanted to be debt free, but that’s a different concept.  I’ve lived through too many examples of the kind of damage that having too much money can do.  I was raised poor but with all of my needs met and once, when I had a job making three times as much as the highest paying job I had ever had, I became a complete idiot with the money.  I’m blessed to have survived the aftermath of a layoff with my sanity.  I know a lot of people that were laid off with me lost everything.

The scripture from Mark that I used at the beginning of this post is about more than money though.  To me, it’s about what we treasure most.  Look at today’s inCouragement calendar:

January 14-

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~Hebrews 11:1

I’ve always thought of those words in the context of believing in God.

But that morning it seemed the One Who Loves Us whispered that part of faith is also about believing that our obedience makes a difference- when we can’t see the results.

~Holley Gerth, Heart to Heart With Holley

My Input:  Holley’s thoughts about faith had never occurred to me but the concept isn’t too far fetched.  I mean, I used to see the Bible as a rule book that I just couldn’t keep up with.  I used to think I had to beg God to help me or to bless me and then list all the things I had done or not done in order to convince Him I deserved it.  Winning the lottery used to be on that list.  Oh, yes.  I used to try to convince God that He knew I would just turn around and give most of it back (after I got myself and my family out of debt and bought an island and a new truck and all the other junk I didn’t need)… yeah, I made those promises. You ever do that? Tell God,  “I’m gonna buy a piece of land so big my whole family can all build houses on it!” We all know better… I’m convinced God does, too.

I tried searching the Bible for wisdom on the topic of gambling and it all boils down to Matthew 6:21 for me.  Where my heart is shows what my real treasure is. If what really drives me is money, or if it’s sports (Go Vols), or my kids, or service to my church or my job; if it’s anything BUT chasing after the heart of God, then that thing becomes my God.  If He’s not first, in my life at least, He may as well be last.

Only this past year have I come to understand that the more I choose to seek the face of God instead of His hand, the more obedient I become.  I mean that like this: the more I choose Christ and the more I strive to respond to this life like He would, the more willing I become to lose things- things like bitterness, rage, hate, competition, envy, jealousy, greed…The more I lean into Him, the more thankful I become for the grace that was shown to me, the more grace comes to me.  Is that crazy or what?!  Gratitude with an open and obedient (meaning, “Yes God, please change me because I’ve been such a stinking train wreck all these years!”) heart causes change in my life that leads to more gratitude!

So, there you go.  I didn’t win the lottery.  I’m no billionaire today.  But I am rich.  You better believe it!  Because I accepted Him, I am a child of the One True King!

 

Why (blog) now?

 

Deuteronomy 11:18 (The Message Bible)  Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder.

011216 inCourage Post

Disclaimer:  This may be a little long, but it’s another “catch up” post and starting tomorrow, they will be shorter…. maybe….

 

If you’ve been friends with me or are connected to me otherwise on any social media outlet for more than a year, you may have noticed I don’t post the same junk I used to.  I was looking back through some of my “Memories” the other day and discovered that it’s incredible how seeing proof of growth gives you confidence that you’re on the right path.  I know I’ve changed.  That should be enough, right?

But I’m no butterfly yet.  This is journey, not an event, considering it took 46 years to get here, so it will be fun to see where it goes.  Anywho, I was talking to a dear friend after church this past Sunday and she asked if I journaled.  I told her I had this blog, but wasn’t very good at keeping up with it.  She suggested I write something every day, just the little “pearls” that come up in my life, the things God is doing that show He is very much alive and working in me, because I don’t want to forget them.  So part of this is that; gathering pearls.  It appears that I have said some things that actually helped people when I didn’t know it so if that happens here, then I thank God!

That’s the biggest reason, you know.  To thank God.  I’m blogging, journaling, or whatever it’s called, so I can thank Him daily for provision, for my health, for my clearer mind these days, for friends who humor me enough to read what I have to say…  Be warned though, each entry will be completely doused in typing errors!  I despise wasting the time it takes to spell check and will still miss some when I do it, and besides, I can’t look at the monitor while I type- thanks to some horrible experiences in my high school typing class…. in 1986…. but I digress….

So, my goal this year is to say what I feel, in love, and when I feel it, instead of allowing anything to build up inside me.  The only thing that I want to have building up inside me is the love of God and a fruitful, faithful love and trust in Jesus Christ.  I have laid it all out and will continue to do so in order to continually make more room for Him.

That being said, I started reading a daily “(in) courage” calendar I bought at a Christian bookstore on Black Friday because it was cute and was only $4.  I started reading it on January 1st and it occurred to me that I have a growing group of girlfriends at work that enjoyed my Countdown to Christmas posts so they might enjoy this in-courage-ment calendar with me, so voila!  The blog was given meaning!

So, from here on out, through this year at least, my goal is to give you my take on the calendar, mixed in with the pearls that come up in my life and the blessings, struggles, joys, fears, tears, and chocolate that come along with them.  I’m new at interpreting scripture, but that’s the beauty of the living Word- it feeds each person that reads it according to the daily needs they have.  Isn’t our God so amazing like that?!

I am open to feedback, especially of the teaching kind, but won’t accept mean or judgmental “trolling.” Thought I’d share.  Whatever helps us grow is considered welcome so comment away!  The Bible does in fact say this in Philippians 4:8 (oh, and almost everything here is English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted) :

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

So there. I’ve started this thing.  To catch you up to speed before I move on, here’s what I did:

Yesterday I gave the ladies a key chain for the Class of 2015 with Jeremiah 29:11 on them (see the first gift photo above, courtesy of Wendi, pronounced Wind- Eye, one of my favorite ladies) with a note about why 2015. I also gave them little food journals I “made” (meaning I bought them at Big Lots and wrote on them and wrote a note and stuck it inside each one of them) – to explain, we started the Hungry Games, otherwise known as The Biggest Loser, at work and it was a perfect day to start encouraging!- and I made bookmarks to keep them smiling as they marked where they are in the journals.   Here’s what that looked like… and yes, that’s real glitter…

011216 inCourage Post 2

Then I wrote this in an email (slightly edited to make sense to those outside my work family):

Ok, so if you’re here and opened your presents, cool.  If you’re working from home today, there is a small present on your desk.  I wanted to explain them a little without giving away what they are.

The last time we started the biggest loser, I paid my $20 and proceeded to gain 30 lbs!  I was down on myself and doing it for all the wrong reasons so I just quit.  This time, I’m doing it so I can be healthy enough to be used.  If God wants me to go somewhere and I can’t go because I can’t fit or because I can’t breathe enough to walk there, I’m not serving like I should.  I want to become healthier and to learn to take better care of this temple He’s created me to be!  I made the gifts so you would be encouraged to know you’re not alone and to know it’s not a race, it’s a lifestyle change.

We are worth the time and effort it takes to care for our bodies and I for one am ready to take charge and take back my temple!  I bought a little calendar that, like the Christmas countdown, if you’re interested in reading it, I will send out each day with my thoughts.  It’s called “(in)courage” and it was written for women to be living their lives In Courage!  Here’s today’s page and I will let you all get back to work.  I love y’all!

January 11-

God made the world and then He came to change it.  He isn’t a principal, He’s an artist.  He doesn’t condemn, He creates.  But sometimes we stop too soon. And when we do, things seem unjust.  Perhaps they are simply unfinished.   When the world tries to change you with its painful, cutting ways, instead embrace the story, receive grace, turn around, and change the world.  ~ Emily Freeman, Chatting at the Sky

My input:  Life is unfair.  And the funniest part of that is that life is perfectly fair because it’s unfair for everyone!  When rough patches hit us, what would happen if instead of griping or fussing (or like I used to do, cussing!) at the situation, we chose instead to look at it as part of the story God wrote so very long before He even created the world?  What would happen if we literally just made the decision to accept whatever it is as a lesson He wants us to learn from?  Are you willing to say, “Lord, I have no clue what You’re up to, but I’m in” and mean it?  I’d just about bet that if you tried it, He’d respond to it and would blow your mind with the outcome He has in mind instead of what we think we deserve.  Like I said on Facebook in my New Years’ post, I’m tired of picking out Pintos when God wants me in a Mercedes.  I’ll wait on Him and believe Romans 8:28:

Romans 8:28 English Standard Version (ESV)

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.

I hope you all have an amazing day!

Much love-

That’s where it ended.  I sent that out to my girlfriends email group at 10:30 am.  Then, at about 1:20 pm, we were notified that one of our co-workers had passed away.  We have (almost all) worked together for 5 or 6 years and she was here before any of us and had been fighting cancer in several forms for a few years.  My coworkers know that, before I accepted Christ, I was not her friend.  I was not kind to her.  I took her witnessing to me as her trying to be in my business all the time.  I took correction from her, when she was in a leadership role in a department where I used to be the trainer, to be sarcastic self-righteousness.  I said that’s how I was to her BEFORE I accepted Christ.  March 28, 2015, I did everything I could to lay that Judi down at the cross and walk away from her forever.  That’s the day I accepted Christ.

Her name was Darlene and she was one of the first people on my list of those I needed to make things right with.  I mean, I walked by her every day and never said a word, and that’s after I had spent two years working directly with her!  When I needed info from her group in my work, I dreaded having to ask her because the guilt and shame I felt knowing she knew I was now in Christ and was still not acting like what I thought a Christian should act like to her.

I watched her with this cancer thing.  Melanoma.  I call it a “thing” because that’s what it became.  It literally consumed her.  And you know, she smiled through it.  She said, “Oh, I’m fine and should be back at work in a week or two.”  On one occasion when she was back at work, I knew she was sick and not feeling well, but I couldn’t stand myself anymore.  I also wasn’t any good at face-to-face stuff because I cry- All. The. Time.- so I sent her an email.  I won’t go into detail, but I admitted my wrongs to her, in detail, and asked for her forgiveness literally thinking she’d tell me to go straight to hell.  She not only forgave me but told me she knew my heart had been torn by the world and was watching the changes in me and knew something was different about me, even if I hadn’t told her about Jesus.

Peace made.  I was kinder, gentler, more patient. I worked with a group of friends one day in her yard to help prepare it for winter when she was too sick to do it herself.  We didn’t talk much, but she knew that work day was my way of saying thank you.  Thank you Darlene for showing me how to trust Him anyway.  Thank you for showing me that, no matter what the day holds, I can smile and know Who holds the future.  Thank  you Darlene for never, ever one time saying I told you so or you owe me or anything else that directly reflected the kind of person I had been to you for so long.  And thank you God for moving me to ask my girlfriends what if.  What if we decided not to be angry at God when things don’t go our way but to thank Him for allowing us to be a part of the story.  Thank God I was a part of Darlene’s story.

I started this post with a verse from the Bible about writing the Word of God on your heart.  About tying it to your wrist or hanging it on your forehead, whatever it takes to remember it.  That’s because life is going to happen.  This fallen and often very ugly world is going to happen.  It’s always changing, and it seems like most of the time, it’s changing for the worse!  But the truth of God never changes.  He has- past tense, done, in the word of a friend from middle school, finito- defeated the enemy and has won the war He waged against sin and death and we ARE victorious in Him.  You may take it differently from day to day, but if you search your heart and listen to the voice of God as He leads you through your days, you will find His meaning.  Yesterday I asked my friends to remember that He is in charge and to keep the end of the story in mind instead of the details on the pages in between.  It appears I asked just in time, too.  In God’s always-perfect time.

So now, today’s calendar note says this:

If we’re not moving forward, we’re stagnated. – Heather Gemmen Wilson

I have no idea who the lady that said that is, but she’s right.  Water that doesn’t move gets stagnant and you know what happens to it, right?  It gets all slimy and turns green and starts to stink.  That’s what happens to our hearts if we don’t nourish them.  I don’t have a lot of favorite stories to tell you but I know the story of what my good, good Father is doing in me is becoming one of my all-time favorites!  He is moving me forward in Him.  That’s my part of the story.  I have no idea what the end of it looks like except that I get to be like Darlene someday, standing in His presence, glowing in pure love, and not worrying any longer about the cares of this ratty old place we call earth.

That’s why I’m here… I think.  To be a source of encouragement, or inCourage-ment, to you.  I want people to know that there is a better way, and believe it or not, it really is a lot easier than the way I used to live. I still babble incessantly but these days, I’m talking more and more about what He’s doing, in me, in my circle of friends, in my world and yours.  His yoke really is easy- because He sets the pace.  His burden is light- because He will never leave me to do it all alone.  He draws me, daily, deeper still into Him.  And I dive, eyes wide open, with open and trusting arms…

“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.”

– William Barclay