God or Money?

“No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.  He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.  What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight. Luke 16:13-15 
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I grew up in a financially unstable home. While we always had food to eat and a roof over our heads, I recognized, even at a young age, the struggle to keep what little we had. In my adulthood, I’ve realized a deep, unhealthy urge to rely on money for my sense of security. When there is enough of it, I feel like I can conquer the world. But when funds run low, my soul starts to tailspin into worry and irrational thinking.  What a flaw of mine!  What a lack of trust in the amazing God I walk with.
God is the only eternal source of security and peace. Money has never been able to heal my heart or give truth enough to help me overcome some of my deepest fears. Yes, we work at our jobs and one of the end goals is a paycheck.  There’s nothing wrong with needing or wanting things money can give.   The problem arises when our faith and trust in money overpowers our faith and trust in God.   When it consumes us, we become slaves to it.  It’s a lesson that God reminds me of over and over.  He is the one providing, not only for my financial needs but for my spiritual and emotional needs as well.   I could have nothing by the world’s standard but if I have God, I have EVERYTHING.
God, help us to focus on the things that matter to You. Lift our eyes to see only You. Help us to be a good stewards with what you have given us. Help us find peace in You and let us rest there, Father. Help us to not care about the worldly things. I know, I know and I know, You are the only treasure worth having.
God or money? I choose God. He will take care of the rest.
mailbox

Warning: If you make me cry, you’re likely to end up in my blog…

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Our mailbox is huge.  I could literally shove my 15 pound dog into it with plenty of room to spare. My point? It holds a lot of mail.  It’s the reason I’ve slipped into the bad habit of checking the mail only twice a month, when it’s time to pay bills.  I should drag a small wagon out with me to collect it all instead of chasing after bits in the wind when it slips from my arms.   This morning, among the flurry of grocery store circulars of sales I’ve missed, credit card offers, and utility bills, was a giant USPS envelope addressed to me from my dear friend, Ana who’d moved away this past November.

I turned it over in my hands curiously, hoping it hadn’t sat there for days, buried in the dark, bottomless pit of our mailbox.  I noticed the return address, remembering the night she told me her husband had accepted a job in Nebraska and they would be moving in a month.

“What? Next month?” I’d said, shocked.

She nodded and her dark eyes shone with that sparkle she gets when she smiles really hard.  I listened to all the details and cried with her when she talked about leaving all her extended family behind. I hope I seemed supportive that day, because although I was happy and excited for the new adventure in store for her, I was mainly disappointed with the loss seeing her regularly.

She was one of the girls in our bible study group and so special to me.  From the beginning, God placed her right smack in the middle of that tender spot in my heart.  I realized from the first few study sessions, how intensely private and guarded she was. She was quiet, doing more listening than sharing but as the weeks went by, she opened up more and more, revealing some of the things she’s had to face and overcome; things others rarely see or ever have to think about. Her strength struck me.  It attracted me because I often felt so weak.    To me, she is something to marvel at, a silencing mystery, someone worthy of respect.   She was a tough nut to crack but how amazing it was to watch God courting her and witness her faith blossom right before my eyes, like a delicate rose in the soft light of a new day.

Some weeks, when she was the first to arrive at my house for bible study, we’d have some precious one on one time before the weekly flurry of girls arrived, turning the conversation and our attention to other things.   At the close of one of our weekly studies, knowing that I was facing one of my greatest fears, flying, she spoke up and suggested that the women pray for my upcoming trip and even more shocking, she’d actually led the prayer.  It might have been the first time I’d ever heard her pray out loud which made the words all the more powerful and treasured to me.

Thinking of all this, I opened the envelope and out slid one of those new adult coloring books, the exact kind I’d pondered buying for myself a few weeks ago, hoping its promise to cage some of my untamable worries for a few hours proved true.  I’d lingered in front of the display at my local craft store, thumbing through the books but never bought one. Now here it was.  There was even a pack of colored pencils to go along with it.

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I was touched that she’d thought of me and actually gone to the trouble of mailing it.  I’d seen the snowy white pictures she’d posted on Facebook. I’m spoiled by the freedom of Florida’s reliably warm sunny weather and imagined the extra effort it must have taken to send.   I stared at the book on the counter and started to cry. Hard, shoulder shaking sobs and all, right there in the middle of my kitchen.  Ana’s feather of genuine friendship lightly landing on my overly stretched bag of emotions was all it took to pop me.   I wasn’t expecting a flood to break me this morning.  I wondered why I was crying.  I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop.  I wanted to sink to the floor and finally release it all.

I think I’ve barely been holding it together lately.  The last month or so has brought huge changes that have left me anxious, frustrated, and feeling out of control.   I’ve spent most of my time seeking God’s will within these changes.  I’ve repeatedly sensed the Holy Spirit urging me not to worry, yet still, I’ve worried.

In my quiet time with the Lord, I’ve been led to Matthew 6 which says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink;” and “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I’ve been led to Matthew 13 which describes Jesus’s Parable of the Sower and shown how I was in danger of becoming the one who received the seed that fell among the thorns, the one who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

As usual, trusting God is a process for me.  It always takes me being hit from multiple angles before it finally sinks in.   Now this little Color your Blessings book, each page highlighting a different bible verse, dripping with the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, shouted of how Ana had acted obediently on the prompting of God when she’d sent it.

Then I read the letter tucked inside the front cover and cried some more for the way God has taken hold of her heart.  The verse at the bottom of the letter she’d chosen to quote for me, speaks volumes into the depth of what I’m going through.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.

Proverbs 16:3          

I’m full of gratitude for His workings within our little bible study group and bringing me more than just new friends but spiritual confidants that can uphold one another by following His lead. He is so good.  When I’m face to face with the wonders of how God works within us and through us, I can hardly breathe.

Ana is special.  She’s one of my God selected sisters and I love her.

Its the perfect way to start out my 2016. Thank you, Ana.  I love it.

 

 

Caught In The Noise

 

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This weekend my family celebrated my mother’s sixty-ninth birthday. It was a great night, which is somewhat of a milestone for my family.  Usually, we have to carefully navigate topics, stepping over the brittle bones of past grievances. Thankfully, this night was an incredible relief of easy laughter and relaxed interactions.  We need more of those kind of nights.  Either way, that’s not what this is about.

As a gift to my mother, I made a photo montage of her, beginning when she was just a girl in Chile, living in her beloved house with its Spanish tile barrel roof and its endless sea of grassy land and trees. Grainy black and white photos fading in and out to Nat King Coles-For Sentimental Reasons, show her smiling wide with her arm draped over her brother’s shoulder, or sitting next to my grandmother, both looking so beautifully young.  Their crinkled eyes smile into the miles and miles of future that lay before them.
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She came to the United States in her early twenties, on a whim, at the urging of a friend who was moving here.  Seeing the photos of her in bell bottom jeans, mini skirts and long sweeping false lashes, I recognize that same wispy sense of adventuresome boldness that carried me away from home at that age.  She worked as a live-in maid for a wealthy couple in Coral Gables and her employers encouraged her to get out and explore her surroundings on her day off.  She didn’t have a car so she called a cab.  My father, the young handsome cab driver, showed up at her doorstep that day.   As the story goes, he was so enamored by her, he made a deal with the dispatch person to have all the calls from that address routed to him from then on.

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By the next song, the photos tell how she marries my father in a hot pink mini-dress and show him, Elvis style pork chop sideburns and all, leading her up the aisle into a flurry of marriage, babies, graduations, mother of the bride moments, and a wild precession of grandchildren, all culminating in this sixty-nine year old moment of life, surrounded by all these people who exist, simply, because of her.

 

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Putting it all together was overwhelmingly emotional for me.  There were mountains of photo albums to look through.  Once I narrowed down which ones would be in the montage, I had to analyze each photo frame, timing it exactly to coincide with the song choice. I replayed each part over and over wanting to make it perfect. Little by little, I was swept away in gentle waves of memories of relatives long gone. Before I knew it, I’d dissolved into a weepy puddle of tears at my desk.

I wept for my Grand-daddy who passed when I was a junior in high school.  I rarely saw him wearing anything other than dark belted trousers, a nicely ironed, white, short sleeve button down, and his shiny black gentleman’s shoes.   When I was a little girl, he’d take me on long walks which inevitably took us passed Bart and Slart’s house, names we’d made up for two puffy black chows who’d rush their side of the chain link fence, barking up a storm, each time we’d walk by.

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I wept for my Abuelita, who once, during one of our many card games, reminded me she wasn’t a rabbit when I asked her which she preferred for lunch, a ham sandwich or a salad.  “No soy conejo,” she said curtly behind a slow teasing smile.  We all chuckled.  Then, it seems in the blink of an eye, she was also snatched away and suddenly it’s hard to breathe.

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I wept for my aunt, my dad’s sister, who always fascinated me.  The way she held her cigarette between her long, slender fingers, the same as mine.  The way she seemed to prefer being barefoot and kept her long toes pointed.  The way she laughed at serious things and how there seemed a hidden wildness in her that could escape at any moment.  The same year she died, I  watched her hold my baby girl in her arms. I admired her Greek olive complexion and the way some of her hair, piled in a loose bun, fell around her pretty face. 

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I wept for my Abuelito, who once invited my cousins and I on a short walk to the corner store and then, along the way, chased us with the dry, stiff, flattened corpse of a toad that’d been run over in the street.  I can still see his devious grin, holding the slightest pinch of it between his two fingers, while we squealed and ran for our lives.

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My heart was wrung out in front of the screen this weekend and I can’t unrealize how fleeting life is.  How these important moments float by like feathers on a hurried breeze.  Life reveals it’s meaning in a mere whisper buried underneath a chaotic surface.  Listening for that whisper, noticing those floating feathers, takes an effort.  Most of the time, we miss it.  How easy we are lulled by all the noise. That’s the great tragedy of life, isn’t it?

Thankful For Sexy Jeans And Other Stuff.

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It was a lazy Thanksgiving morning even though I had a few things to get done. Bill had to work half a day which meant more of the load would fall on me. The house needed picking up. I’d have to drag the fleshy twenty-two pound turkey out of the cooler it’d sat in all night, soaking up brine and put it into the oven.  I went over the dinner menu in my mind, tallying up the hours and minutes I’d need to start cooking the side dishes before my sister and parents arrived for dinner.  I contemplated showering and getting ready first thing that morning but opted to stay in my PJ’s instead.   Mid-morning, Sarah finally wore me down and convinced me to give her a much-anticipated haircut. She wanted bangs and had begged for days now.  We put on the radio, dancing around to Yesterday by The Beatles, and cleared a space for a mock salon by the kitchen sink. I laid out the comb and scissors while Sarah perched on the stool, twitching like a nervous squirrel.

“You’re going to have to hold still if you don’t want me to mess up, Sarah.”

She stiffened in a valiant effort to hold in her excitement. I parted the hair at the crown of her head and combed it forward.  I could see her smiling behind the curtain of hair.  I wondered why she wanted bangs so badly. It had taken her months and months to grow her bangs out the last time.  Whose haircut was she admiring so much, she felt compelled to imitate it?  I held the scissors up to the edge of her face, the first strands of hair in between the blades.

“Are you sure?” I asked one last time.

“Yes, Mommy. I’m sure!”

I let the scissors close with a snip. A six-inch clump fell into her lap.

“No turning back now,” I declared.

She sat quietly as I made my best attempt to cut a straight line across her forehead.

I was just finishing up when Bill walked into the house.  Something about the way he stood in the doorway, smiling through the beard he keeps because he knows I like it, or the outline of his strong thighs through his jeans, or the same familiar black and white sneakers he buys over and over, or his laughter as the girls tackled him to the floor, just took my breath away. Suddenly, I wished more than anything I’d gotten myself ready first thing that morning. I wanted to kiss him but I turned away because I hadn’t brushed my teeth.  I didn’t hold eye contact with him either because, in all his overwhelming handsomeness, I suddenly felt shy.

It’s amazing that after twenty years together, there are still these rushes of unexpected affection that send me into a slow swirl of stomach flutters and teenage self-consciousness. To me, this proves that, in all the things we have gotten wrong through the years, we are still doing something right.  I don’t believe in soul mates.  I believe love is a choice and yes, sometimes very hard work.  It’s not easy to put away your pride for the benefit of this thing called marriage, or act lovingly toward your other half when the elusive romance muse hasn’t shown up in months.  It’s not easy, but the effort is worth it.

When you can reach out and feel his strong hand in yours while walking the dog, or fall asleep with your head tucked into the nook of his neck, or sink into his arms and let the tears roll freely without having to explain why, it’s worth it. I’m convinced there are no good or bad marriages.  Like fruitful or barren backyard gardens, there are only those that are richly tended to and those that are dispassionately neglected.

This Thanksgiving I stole a thousand glances towards Bill and drowned in the fullness of gratitude for my husband’s presence.  I’m thankful for the way he fathers our children, the way he loves me through my worst moments and yes, the way he looks in his jeans.

 

Choose Something Better

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Remember the first time you met God? Because if you can’t think of a single powerful, heart shattering  experience, you better get one. Pray for an encounter with God.  Pray and start obeying the prompting whisper of the Holy Spirit when He tugs on your heart.

He will call you out of your warm bed in the middle of the night.  He will call you away from the television and into your bible during the best parts of your favorite show. He will call you out of your seat and up to the front of the church during an altar call.

Chase that urge, explore it and you’ll see.  Go when you get the call.  Get up and go immediately because what He’s calling you away from, is nothing compared to where He’s about to take you.  Trust me, it’s far better.

It’s Your Move

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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”  

Jeremiah 29:11-14

I used to live in a prison of my making. I was so lost, I couldn’t find my way out. For years, I sat helpless behind the cold steel bars of pain.  My body was free, but my soul was chained to something oppressively dark. It was always standing over me.

But God was present in all this.

I quietly watched Him from behind my prison bars. I heard His echo in the encouraging words of people who tried to help. I saw Him on the television speaking directly to me through pastors as I flipped randomly through channels. He came to me in songs, illuminating lyrics like tiny love notes. He embraced me with the afternoon breeze. With a whisper on the wind, He told me He loved me. He was there.  He was always there, even when I retreated further into my cell and buried my head in my knees to hide from Him.    He never stopped beckoning me into awareness, faithfully urging me out of my coma.

He made me want to be free.

He made me want to come out of the shadows. Then He gave me hope that, just maybe, I could. So instead of passively watching Him come for me, I finally stepped towards Him.  Like a flood released,  He rushed in, bathing me with pure love. He made me clean. He made me free.   My prison walls fell around me like wet cardboard because nothing else can stand in the wake of Him when He comes to claim the ones He loves.  

Everything changes when you let God move through you. It’s a total and absolute soul reset.  Do you know the plans He has for you? 

The Journey

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Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;

Jeremiah 1:5

When I was younger, I lived only for myself, making decisions in the midst of a spiritual darkness I wasn’t even aware was a threat.  I was a leaf on the wind, floating on the breeze of whatever felt good. Before long, I got into trouble and found myself in a circumstance I’d never expected.  I was stunned.  I’d only been taking a harmless dip in life’s calm clear ocean but it had beckoned me deeper and deeper. Before I knew it, I’d been swallowed by powerful waves, so much stronger than I could handle.

Suddenly I was lost, alone, and terrified. I let myself be deceived into making a bad situation even worse because of it.   Shaken, frantic and hopeless, I sank deeper into a black pit.  All I thought I was or would ever become, was fading away, like a Polaroid in reverse. Every day was a dizzy spiral of self- loathing, regret and terror.   The day I gave my life to God, I was spent and half dead, spread out on the shore, spit out like decaying seaweed left to scorch in the blazing heat.

I sought out the only Christian I knew back then. She met me with compassionate eyes, allowing me to pour it all out in her arms.   She took me by the hands and prayed for me and with me. I choked out my salvation prayer in hiccups, the words falling slow off my thick tongue. My tears of surrender, so fat and heavy, I thought I could hear them bursting on the floor below. I was a grown woman, yet in my soul, I was still a helpless little girl. I knew I was giving up but I didn’t feel defeated. Instead, I was overtaken by a sense of security and relief. It was going to be alright. It was going to get better. That day was the first in a glorious journey of recovery and strengthening.

Now years later, when I read Jeremiah 1:5, I’m still struck. I remember the day I cried like a child who’d gotten lost and finally asked a grown-up for help. I understand that overwhelming strange familiarity all over again. That day, I didn’t meet God for the first time. I’d wandered way too far and I was finally returning to Him. My Father had come to get me and carry me home.

 

Thank you, Lord, for your faithful love.  You are the breath my soul can’t live without. You’ve awakened me to dreams I never knew were within my reach.   I have been out in the world. I’ve seen it and know the destruction that comes from it.  You made my black and white world come alive with vivid color.  Sometimes I’m absolutely baffled at the brokenness it sometimes takes to finally surrender to You.  But Father, if that’s what it took to bring me home to you, to let you take over, I would do it a thousand times over, thanking you for it each time. You are so worth every bit of it.

In Jesus name, Amen

Germs, Smerms

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bloghop

Today’s post is part of the Hearts At Home blog hop, encouraging mom’s to lighten up and laugh. Please visit jillsavage.org for more great viewpoints.

“I got one! I caught a fish!” My six year old daughter, Annie, waved frantically from the edge of the dock. She’d developed a thing for fishing since school let out for summer, spending hours  casting lines into the lake behind our house and relentlessly teasing the mossy green slider turtles with her fishing bait.   Her first catch ever was a striped, twelve-inch long Mayan fish that she’d snagged using a piece of a hotdog as bait.   After that, just like that Mayan, she got hooked.

“Yeah!” shouted my husband, Bill who’d been sitting on the patio. He raced the length of the yard in her direction.   He was the designated fish “unhooker”, the one who guides the hook out of their gasping mouths and places their wiggling scaly bodies back into the black water.

I ran behind him.  “Don’t let her touch it! God knows what kinds of germs are crawling on those fish.”

No doubt, Annie would put her fingers in her mouth, or rub her eye before she’d washed all that slime off.

“Oh,” he said with a snap, suddenly turning back.   “Let me get the camera.”

“Oh geez, the fish is going to die! Why do you always to this? Are you going to take a picture of every single fish she ever catches?”

“Yes. I am.”

Annie was blissfully hopping on one foot in front the day’s catch, a slick black catfish, as it lay slithering on the dock.

“Put it back in the water until Daddy comes.  It can’t breathe.”

She lifted the pole, peeling the fish off the dock and placed it into the murky water.    Immediately, it began thrashing back and forth, splashing us with the dirty water. I shuddered, imagining what bacteria could be lurking in the droplets. Brain eating amoebas?  Flesh eating bacteria? I recalled a new article a few summers back about a boy who died from meningitis after swimming in a lake.

Annie gripped the pole tightly and looked up at me with wide blue eyes. Her smile was beaming brighter than the afternoon sun.

“You have to take a shower after this,” I said quietly, wiping her face with my shirt.

“Alright Annie!” Bill cheered as he jogged towards us, camera in hand.  “What’d you catch?”

“It’s a catfish! It has whiskers, Daddy.”

“Those are the slimiest of them all.” I muttered.

Bill brushed past me.  “Let’s see.  Bring it up and let me take a picture of you with the fish.”

“Don’t touch it, Annie.” I cautioned over Bill’s shoulder.   “Just hold it up by the pole.”

Annie reeled in the line a few feet and then carefully lifted the pole out of the water.  It bowed under the weight of the fat catfish, dangling in front of her like a piñata.  She threw her shoulders back, puffed out her small chest and holding tight to the fishing pole, she grinned towards the camera, like a true fisherman.

“I can’t get the fish in the shot.  Hold it closer to you, Annie.”

Annie pulled the pole upright into a ninety degree angle.  The fish swung like a pendulum on the wire.

I slapped my forehead. “Oh my God.  Really?  The fish is suffering! You’re going to kill it for the sake of a dumb picture.”

“Relax. The fish will be just fine. It’s got at least five minutes before anything happens,” he said, still angling the camera.

Annie squinted at the fish each time it passed close to her face. The silver hook jutting out of its mouth flashed in the sun beams streaming through the tree branches above us.

“You don’t know that for a fact,” I argued.   “Ugh.  Just please hurry.  Annie, put it back in the water for a minute.”

Annie let the pole drop towards the water.

“No!” said Bill.  “Annie, just grab the line and pull the fish a little closer to you.  I’ll take the picture really fast.”

Annie jerked the pole upright again reaching for the end of the line as the fish swung back towards her like a wrecking ball. Before she could gain control of it, the slimy fish slapped against her cheek. She scrunched her face and turned away, as the fish swung back out over the water, only to circle around, barreling back towards her. Bill reached out, trying to stabilize the fishing pole and the camera crashed onto the damp wooden planks of the dock.  The fish landed against Annie’s chest with a thud.

I gasped. Bill cringed.  Annie was a wide-eyed statue with her face pulled as far back into her neck as it would go. The mucky fish squirmed against her thin shirt.

She looked back and forth from me to Bill. Finally, she shrugged. “Eeww?”

Bill and I locked eyes.  His face contorted trying to stifle a giggle. Then Annie joined in with a laughing snort that sent us all into such fierce hysterics, I had to cross my legs and cling to the dock railing in desperation.

Bill picked up the camera.  “Hold it right there, Annie.” She smiled a wide exaggerated smile, revealing one adult sized front tooth crowding out rest of her tiny remaining baby teeth.  Bill snapped the picture and got to work on removing the hook.

Within seconds, the catfish was diving back down into the quiet darkness of the lake.

As our laughter died down, Annie put her little hand in mine and gave it a tug. “Mommy, don’t I have to take a shower now?”

I looked down at all the new little brown freckles that had surfaced on her nose and cheeks so far this summer.

“Why don’t we try to catch another fish first, Peanut?”

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Just Keep Going. God is Still There.

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I don’t want to get up when my alarm goes off at 5:00 am. This is quiet time I strategically set aside for God and writing every morning.  I’m heavy with discouragement about the state of my writing.  My latest submission to a popular website wasn’t picked up. On the surface, I handle it well but underneath, I worry that my well of God inspired writing is running dry.  The disconnect with God feels almost tangible.  Last night, I went to bed with every intention of getting back in the saddle, but this morning, I hit the snooze button several times.  Somewhere in the middle of that subconscious state of clarity, I make up my mind.  

I’m not getting up. Forget it. I’m too old for this.  I have nothing fresh to write about and nothing significant is coming out of it anyhow. What’s the point?

But I’m still so unsettled, I can’t fall back asleep.  Finally, the guilt pushes me out of my warm bed and I shuffle stiffly into the kitchen.   Draped across the kitchen counter, waiting for my coffee to brew, I groggily scroll the internet on the iPad, shopping for a storage bench or chaise lounge to put at the foot of my bed.  This may seem insignificant but it’s not.  I’m constantly tempted to fall into distraction when I should be focusing my entire self on God.

This is God’s time, whispers the Holy Spirit.

But I’m feeling defiant.  I throw a quiet spiritual tantrum and continue browsing.   Finally, coffee cup in hand, I sit down at my desk and reluctantly pick up my bible.  With my forehead down, pressed to its worn cover, I pray,

God, what am I doing wrong?  Why do I feel so flat?  I thought that we were doing this writing thing together and now I feel alone.  I’m without any direction.  I feel so uninspired.   Please show me what I’m doing wrong.  Please help me do something right to get myself back to where I was when we started this whole blog thing.

Maybe the problem is I’ve started paying too much attention to the writing time and not enough attention to the prayer time, I think. But just as quickly as the thought surfaces, I feel in my gut that I have the green light to focus more on the writing today.  Instead of opening up a new Word document, I decide to sign on to a website that encourages and offers training to writers like me .  At the top of the page is a podcast with Shelen Bryant.  I’ve never heard of her but I click on the podcast and listen to her interview.

After being challenged by a friend, Shelen traveled all the way to Africa just to find out if the child she sponsored financially was actually a real person.  As a sponsor of two Compassion International children, I’ve always wondered the same thing so I’m immediately intrigued.  While she was there, (yes, her sponsored child does, in fact, exist) she saw the desperate need of this child’s family and in the village itself.  Moving into action, she starting a non-profit organization to help the poor, buying beds, mosquito nets, shoes, and clothes. Now she is renovating whole villages, even building kitchens in orphanages.

Amazing. What a clear and awesome mission. Will God use me in some powerful way someday, I wonder?

“God wants us to be all in,” Shelen is saying to the interviewer, pointing out how the disciple Peter was the only one willing to jump out of the boat and the only one to experience that “walk on water” moment.  All the disciples loved Jesus but they would not get out of the boat because it represented comfort and safety to them. Comfort and safety paralyze us.

It absolutely reminds me of what God has already prepared in my heart and how far he’s brought me in dealing with my problems of fear.

The interviewer asks her about overcoming doubt, specifically what God would say about thinking we are too old to start a new journey.

This touches me in a way I’m not expecting and I’m surprised at the stinging behind my eyes.  I listen intently, staring down the forehead wrinkles reflecting in the computer monitor.

Shelen answered, “As long as there is air in my lungs, God is not finished with me.  In the whole scope of things, the universe, God’s kingdom, God isn’t confined to time.   I might as well be five years old.  If God has a plan, age doesn’t matter.  When we feel these things, we need to go straight to the bible.  He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.  God will cut right through all that negativity.”

Outside, dawn is breaking. There is a soft violet hue shining through the sheer curtains in my den.

She goes on.  “Even if we feel unqualified in what we are trying to accomplish, God is the one who’s qualified.  We need to submit to God’s authority and become women under God’s control. God is the great qualifier.   When we make our little missions about God and not about ourselves, it totally changes our vantage point.  That is why we must stay close to scripture because it will always bring you back to truth.”

I pick at a loose corner on my bible cover, pressing my thumb into the hard edge of its compressed pages.

“It is so easy to get off track and forget the mission statement.   One thing I do know for sure, I don’t want to succeed in something that doesn’t matter, no matter how big it is or how much it promises.”

I lean back in my chair, nodding.

When speaking about the evolutionary challenges of her organization, she quotes Philippians 1:6, “He who has begun a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”

I stare at the far wall, releasing the breath I’d been holding.

Then she says,    “God’s plans cannot be thwarted.  Sometimes we block God from what he wants to do.   God is faithfulWe are not.”

There is a pregnant pause. Finally, the interviewer sighs. “Wow. Someone out there needed to hear that.”

third thursday

This blog post is a part of Jill Savages Third Thursday Blog Hop themed Unleash Your Power to Inspire. Please visit www.jillsavage.org for more great reading.

 

 

The Day I Started Loving God More Than My Husband

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“Good morning.” He hesitated, but then bravely leaned in to kiss my cheek. I shrugged him off, still seething from an argument the night before.

“Leave me alone,” I hissed over the dishes I was washing. He backed away.  “So we’re going to keep this fight going, huh?” He waited, but I offered nothing. I focused on the stream of water dividing around the cup in my hands.

Our five-year old daughter, eyes still swollen from sleep, wandered over to him, her arms raised. He scooped her up. She clung to his neck, melting into him like warm candle wax.  He kissed the top of her head, carried her into the living room, and dropped her neatly on the couch beside her big brother.  He gathered his wallet and car keys and left for work, letting the front door slam behind him.

I let out a long deflating breath. My throat felt bruised from holding it all in.   I dried my hands, making my way into the living room to flip on the television, hoping to keep the kids occupied until I could gather myself.

Over the earlier weeks, my husband and I had argued over everything from financial burdens to the way he slurped his coffee.  I felt voids everywhere, convinced he wasn’t living up to be the husband I thought I needed.

Some days I’d cry out to God in frustration, “Don’t you see how he is failing me?  When are you going to fix him?”

In response, God would consistently shine the light back on me, convicting me to change. My soul would scream in protest.

 But why me, God?  What about him?  I am in the right, not him!

Eventually I’d stopped taking my complaints to God. But then, that morning…

I watched my daughter scoot across the couch towards my son, digging her tiny body in as close to him as she could get. She leaned into him, laying her head on his shoulder and draping her arm over his chest. She exhaled a blissful sigh as she settled in.  I felt myself smiling genuinely for the first time in days.

But I noticed how my son’s body stiffened. The day before he’d caught her in his bedroom, dismantling some of his most prized Lego creations. Still harboring bitterness over it, he looked down at her with annoyance.  In one exaggerated move, he rose up, throwing himself on the other end of the couch.    My daughter tried to steady herself as her head slipped off his shoulder and her body fell into the cushions. She sat up,confused looking after him. As the rejection slowly registered, her countenance crumbled.  Her spirit seemed to collapse within her while my son stared indignantly at the television. I felt disappointed in my son’s inability to rise above what she’d done and extend her some grace. I was in anguish for my daughter. My entire being wanted to protect her, revive her sense of value and mend her bruised spirit.   Then God unveiled His heart in the gentlest whisper.

This is how I feel when you treat Bill that way.

Suddenly my perspective shifted in a way that rocked me to my core. That simple revelation, at that specific moment, was the perfect antidote for the crusty shell encasing my heart. It cracked wide open and revealed the simple bottom line. It was as if God himself had turned my chin, saying,

Your husband is also my child. Put me first and all else will fall into place. 

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37

Once I understood the significance of that verse, I was free to experience marriage the way God designed it. It must start with a genuine love for God. It’s the power source that melts hearts, crushes attitudes and administers deep compassion for one another. That’s why He must come first, above everything else. As partners in marriage, when we consider that God is our father but also our father-in-law, grace is abundant.  Forgiveness is swift and easy. Now my husband is the runner-up, behind God, in the order of my heart and yet somehow, I love him more now, than I ever have before.

third thursday

This month’s blog hop theme is Unleashing the Power to Rise Above.

Please visit http://www.hearts-at-home.org/ for more courageous stories of women rising above circumstances.