Pity Party for One?

“And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NKJ)

It was not my finest moment as a christian.
I was so cold.
I was soaked.
I was frustrated and tired.
And I felt alone and defeated.

An hour before that moment, I had left work late after an unusually bad day and all I wanted to do was pick up a pizza, go home, put on my pajamas, and indulge myself while watching a good romantic comedy.

But my evening did not go as planned.

I walked straight from the front door into my kitchen, sat the pizza box down on the counter, took off my coat, scarf, and gloves, and opened up the box to grab a slice of pizza to munch on while heading to the bedroom to change. And that’s when I heard it . . . the sound of rushing water. And I went into panic mode. We had just gone through a couple of nights of temperatures in the teens and I knew I had a busted pipe and I just knew it was somewhere under the house. I threw the pizza slice down and ran to the back door, switching the back porch light on as I flew down the steps.

That’s when the real adventure began.

The porch light didn’t work so I stumbled into total darkness where the sound of rushing water was almost deafening. Okay, I know that’s a little dramatic but I guess you had to be there. I ran back into the house to grab a flashlight and could not find a single one anywhere, which is a little ironic because my son is in the military and we have probably had at least twenty military-issued flashlights in the house at one time. But being the resourceful single woman who I am, I remembered I had a flashlight app on my phone so I ran back to my purse to fetch that handle little gadget. I ran back outside, still forgetting to grab my coat, and proceeded to find the source of what had messed up my night of indulgence. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I discovered that the problem was not under my house, but the outside faucet that had burst. Either way, I knew what I had to do – I had to cut off the main water supply.

And that’s when my backyard became Pity Party Central. As the cutoff valve was located a foot in the ground and about five feet directly in front of the outside faucet, it had filled with water and mud from the water continuously washing over it. Even though I am a country girl, I have to admit that I hesitated for a moment before reaching my hand down into the unknown to turn that valve off. Only, it would not budge. I didn’t have the strength to turn it. At that moment, I caved. I broke down. And the tears flowed. And they weren’t silent tears. I didn’t just cry out loud. I wailed. There I was in the dark on my knees, still in my work clothes and dress shoes, water rushing over me, shivering from the cold, and I was giving up. Me, the woman who has always been the epitome of strength while taking care of everyone and everything, was looking up at the night sky and yelling “I am tired of doing this life alone. I can’t do this anymore!”

And then there was silence – no sound of water. Nothing. Nothing but peace. For a moment, I was unaware of the dark. I was unaware of being more and more drenched with every second that went by. I was unaware of the cold. All I knew was peace and the Holy Spirit whispering, “I didn’t go anywhere. I’ve been here the whole time.” Wow! I realized that I had been too busy trying to control everything from trials to weaknesses that I had not asked God for help. I was putting my trust in myself or food or shopping or various other things instead of putting my trust in Him. I knew I had to change. And I had a renewed strength as I leaned over to easily cut the water valve off.

I stood up and surveyed the aftermath of the night’s event and praised God that it happened and for his grace and loving me enough to never give up on me.

And I walked backed into the house and threw away that pizza box.

This post is part of the weekly Blog Hop with the Proverbs 31 Made to Crave Online Bible Study.
P31 OBS Blog Hop

Empowered

I recently stepped out of my comfort zone to devote myself to the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study for Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Made To Crave, and to post weekly on their Blog Hop. Piece of cake, right? Well, maybe not, because now I’m going to think about cake for the rest of the day. But seriously, I knew I needed to do this not only for myself but in order to help others one day when they take this journey. I knew I was in trouble when I found out the study’s “word of the week” for this first week was empowered. I find it ironic because as I started this first week’s chapter reading with a bag of cookies sitting in my lap, I felt anything but empowered. I was struggling with feelings of doubt, fear, failure, and feeling unworthy. And I was discouraged by yet another recent failed attempt for a healthier lifestyle.

But isn’t that one of Satan’s most popular tricks – right when we’re not looking? He wants us to believe his lies that we are not worthy. That we are a failure so we might as well give up right now. That’s why we have to know who we are in Christ. We are empowered. And God has been trying to tell me that for nearly two weeks. And I finally get it. I’m done with being tired and frustrated. I choose to give up the controls and let the Holy Spirit guide my path and my choices. I choose to believe the truth written in God’s Word. Today, I choose to be empowered.

I know this will not be easy. I have always equated being healthy with being skinny. I have never had a problem losing weight but I would always replace my food addiction with another addiction, such as shopping. I was not making God my priority. I was not craving God. Now, I do. So, it’s time I work on that relationship. I invite you to join me here each week as I move through this bible study and post on the Blog Hop. It may not always be pretty but it will always be real.

“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3, NLT)

This post is part of the weekly Blog Hop with Proverbs 31 Made to Crave Online Bible Study.

P31 OBS Blog Hop

My Year of Bethlehem

A few days ago, I found myself feeling a bit melancholy while packing some holiday decorations. To me, this was the official end of another year. It seemed like the year had flown by and I had nothing to show for it. It was just another year of failure. Just as soon as the thought had entered my mind, I knew it was not of God. It is true that this past year had been one of tremendous trials but it had also been a year of tremendous blessings and growth. I guess you could say that 2013 was the year that God stretched me.

Faith

Faith is such a small word to have such a huge impact on the Christian life. I think my biggest lessons learned last year dealt with faith. My major battle came by way of someone very dear to me going through a trial so filled with darkness that it not only had me on my knees but many times had me falling on my face crying out to God for help. And I am not ashamed to put that in print because when I got up from the floor, I arose with a battle cry so fierce that I’m surprised my next door neighbor did not hear it. Maybe she did and was just too scared to come over and investigate. To think of it, I should have those moments more often. Those moments humbled me. They drew me closer to Christ. They taught me how to listen to the Holy Spirit. And they made me a warrior. Even now as I write this, I continue to cry and pray over the situation. That’s where faith comes in. This past year taught me that we cannot give up when walking through a fire. Every day, I see where God is working on that issue and victory will be complete in His time. I cannot give up hope during the waiting period. It’s simply not an option.

Trust

Let me just be honest about one thing. I have never really been big on trust. It never worked out well for me in the past. But I made one of the best decisions of my life when I decided last year to enter into a Christian mentorship. To me, trust became an essential element of success in this new adventure. The key is learning where to place your trust. I was wisely but lovingly guided to get to the bitter root of my trust issue. And it was not pretty at all on my part. Believe me, it messed with that “pleasant disposition” that I claimed to have. But it changed my life and my Christian walk in a way I never thought possible. And I hope that I can go forward and take what I learned from that experience to help other women know their significance in the Kingdom of God.

As I continued packing away the precious handmade tree ornaments, compliments of my son’s childhood, I realized that 2013 was the year my heart truly changed. It was the year that I finally allowed my Savior full access. Yes, it was full of tears, challenges, broken relationships, broken dreams, and confronting evil, but it was also full of spiritual growth, forgiving and being forgiven, building faith, new relationships, family coming together, chains being broken, healing, wisdom and understanding, and watching a dear friend hold her first grandchild. It was not a failure at all. It was far from it.

It was my year of Bethlehem.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5,6 NLT)

Furious Longing: A Love That Heals

“I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.” (John 13:34-35, NCV)

This week’s chapter, Healing, in Brennan Manning’s The Furious Longing of God could not have come at a better time in my life. By the chapter’s title, I first thought it was going to talk about the gift of healing but I was pleasantly surprised to find a message of the healing nature of love. We are commanded to love as Christ loved. Manning describes it as a “sign of authentic discipleship” (Manning, pg. 87). Wow! I don’t know about you but the weight of that concept overwhelms me. I think it would overwhelm anyone with the faith to believe that Christ loves us no matter how much we mess up. He loves us when we are at our best. And he loves us when we are at our worst. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us less or more. He sees who we really are. He sees the “us” that sometimes no one else gets to see. He sees our heart. He sees the good underneath the bad. Now that is a furious love.

And I wonder how we measure up to that. Can I just tell you honestly that I struggle with that? I think if everyone was honest, they would admit to struggling with it also. But this chapter has made me take a hard look at myself and think about how powerful our actions and words are.

Do you believe that love heals?

I do.

And there are so many ways to show love. We never know what just a simple smile can mean to someone with a heavy heart. A phone call. An email. A lunch or dinner invitation. An invitation for coffee or tea. Try doing this for someone outside your “collective” once in a while.

But that is not the only conviction I received from this chapter. I have to ask myself “How do people feel after being in my presence?” Maybe we should all ask ourselves that. Do we, like Christ, see the good in people or do we just concentrate on the unlovable parts that we all possess? Come on, you know I’m right. We all have a bad day once in a while. But even on those days, we need an affirmation of love. And receiving that can turn everything around. I believe the body of Christ especially should be committed to build up others instead of tear them down. Let me say again that I include myself in this. It’s easier (and more selfish) for me to concentrate on the hurt that someone has caused rather than think about the root of that action. I need to stop and think about what is at the core of the issue. What might be hurting them to cause them to lash out at me? It’s a lot to grasp. I just can’t say it any better than Manning did in this chapter:

“Healing becomes the opportunity to pass off to another human being what I have received from the Lord Jesus; namely His unconditional acceptance of me as I am, not as I should be. He loves me whether in a state of grace or disgrace, whether I live up to the lofty expectations of His gospel or I don’t. He comes to me where I live and loves me as I am. When I have passed that same reality on to another human being, the result most often has been the inner healing of their heart through the touch of my affirmation. To affirm a person is to see the good in them that they cannot see in themselves and to repeat it in spite of appearances to the contrary. Please, this is not some Pollyanna optimism that is blind to the reality of evil, but rather like a fine radar system that is tuned in to the true, the good, and the beautiful. When a person is evoked for who she is, not who she is not, the most often result will be the inner healing of her heart through the touch of affirmation.” (Page 82-83).

Love is so powerful. And just as powerful is the lack of love. We all need to grasp that. I don’t know about you but I really need to do a better job in showing the love of Christ with every single day.

This post is part of a weekly book club discussion that my friend, Sarah Salter and Jason Stasyszen co-facilitate. Our current book selection is Brennan Manning’s “The Furious Longing of God.” Please check out their blogs to see more discussion on this wonderful book. And we would love for you to join us in the discussion. You do not have to read the book to participate in the discussion.

Furious Love: Our Father

I’m so sorry for your loss. When a daughter loses her father, it leaves a void in her heart that nothing can ever fill.” I still remember those words written on a sympathy card I received from a colleague when I lost my father to cancer four years ago. When I read the card for the first time, I had no idea how true the words would prove to be . . . . until a year ago.

At the gentle prodding of my friend, Sarah, I agreed to join in on the weekly book club discussion of Brennan Manning’s “The Furious Longing of God”. Each week we take a chapter and write about what speaks to us. This week’s chapter was about God as Father. Abba. I have to admit to crying through most of the short chapter. In fact, even as I type these words I am wiping the tears with my shirt sleeves. It’s been a tough journey but healing has come. There is no longer that void, that hole in my heart. And it is because of my relationship with God. My Father. My Abba.

My daddy was saved a year before he was diagnosed with lung cancer, three years before he passed away. The transformation was remarkable considering he was never an affectionate father. We knew he loved us. We just never felt it. He had a hard time showing emotion but I now know that had a lot to do with his upbringing. He showed his love by working hard and providing for his family. He did the best he could and I wish I had understood that as a child and especially as a teenager. Before his diagnosis, I had walked away from God. No, let’s be honest here. I had run from God. But at the end of Dad’s illness, I moved into my parents’ home to help take care of him and we had many conversations about life. About God. About mistakes. About forgiveness. About love. And I came back to God. And even when the disease had ravaged his body and he could no longer move or talk, we had silent conversations. He had the sweetest smile in those last weeks. Those two years were hard. I would work during the day and then stay up with daddy at night. There was very little sleep as I watched him slip away. And I would not have traded those moments for anything in the world. And when he left us, I knew and felt his love. And I knew loss.

And there it was. That void.

Instead of turning to God and putting all my trust in Him, I tried everything to fill that void. I buried myself in work. I tried to bury myself in friendships. When all that didn’t work, I was left feeling rejected, abandoned, and unworthy. I was broken and at the point where all I had was God. Why do we always have to wait until we get to that point? I crawled back to Him like the prodigal child I was. And he was there. In fact, he was always there. He didn’t leave me. I left Him. His love never fails. He never turns us away. He is our provider, our protector, and our comforter. He is our Abba. I came to him with childlike trust and he wrapped his arms around me while I cried. And he said “My child, I love you.” And it’s a love that remains no matter what I do. No matter how I mess up. He never lets his children go. We will never do anything to lose our heavenly Father’s love. I honestly don’t have the words to describe how I feel when I curl up in my prayer corner and he envelopes me with His love. Allow me to share the way Manning described it in this week’s chapter (pp. 42-43):

“If you took the love of all the best mothers and fathers who have lived in the course of human history, all their goodness, kindness, patience, fidelity, wisdom, tenderness, strength, and love and united all those qualities in a single person, that person’s love would only be a faint shadow of the furious love and mercy in the heart of God the Father addressed to you and me at this moment.”

He is my Father, my Abba. And he loves me with an everlasting love more powerful than anything this world can throw at me. I am the daughter of the most High King. I pray for all of you to know that love.

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, Abba Father.” (Romans 8:15, NLT)

This post is part of a weekly book club discussion that my friend, Sarah Salter and Jason Stasyszen co-facilitate. Our current book selection is Brennan Manning’s “The Furious Longing of God.” Please check out their blogs to see more discussion on this wonderful book. And we would love for you to join us in the discussion. You do not have to read the book to participate in the discussion.

Dances With Beauty

“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.

- Kahlil Gibran

During lunch yesterday, I was flinching through some pictures taken of me during a recent girls’ getaway. I actually wanted to cry while looking at them. And then, the image of a little girl I saw about three years ago flashed across my mind. How thankful I am that God brought this memory to me. I sat back in my desk chair and smiled to myself as the comforting memory of that girl washed over me.

I had let a girlfriend talk me into going to a local street festival and I instantly regretted that decision as soon as we arrived. I had never seen so many people in one place. How in the world was I going to shrink into the background with so many people walking around and bumping into me? It was complete torture for me so when my friend suggested that we go sit and listen to the street band, I said “yes!” before her attention went elsewhere. Naturally, I chose the very back row in which to sit and enjoy the music. That way, I could sink down in the chair in my own little world and hide.

And then I saw her.

She practically danced her way down the aisle towards the front of the stage where the band was performing. Her worn but clean sundress fit neatly on her chubby frame and short red curls bounced on her shoulders as she marched. She could not have been more than eight years old and she was on a mission to get to that stage where two other little girls were dancing. And they were not just any girls. They were dainty, blue-eyed, and very blonde. They took one look at her and started whispering and giggling. I just knew this was not going to turn out well. But the red-haired girl took her place and started dancing, not caring what anyone thought. The look on her face was one of pure joy. The other two girls tried making fun of her but their efforts were in vain and she continued to dance. They quickly gave up and walked away. And still she danced.

And she was enchanting.

She gave all her heart up there in front of everyone and we could not take our eyes from her. I wondered if she would always be like that or would she succumb to our culture’s message to fit a certain mold or its touched-up definition of beauty. I longed to have that confidence. I wanted to kick off my flip-flops and join her but fear kept me glued to the seat. What would everyone think? Why do we care so much about others’ opinions of us? It keeps us from enjoying life and also keeps us from fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. I have to be honest that I struggle the most with believing that God made me beautiful. And for years that struggle took me on a dangerous ride of anorexia, later bulimia, promiscuity, and other destructive behavior. Even now as a Christian, I still struggle with it as I stand in front of the mirror so many pounds heavier, wrinkles forming on my face, and in desperate need of a hair color retouch to cover the gray. To tell you anything different would not be honest and I promised that this blog would always be honest. I am a work in progress.

But I do know that God loves us with all our imperfections. We are all a magnificent creation of God. Just think about that for a minute. God created us. Wow! That alone makes us a masterpiece. That is what I grab onto when I am at my most vulnerable moments with self-image. And as I learn more about how to take care of my body and be healthier, I also spend more time with God. And the more time I spend with Him and clothe myself spiritually, the more His glory and beauty radiates on me. And spiritual beauty, my dear friends, is the most breathtaking beauty of all.

So, this evening I will print out one of those pictures of me with my amazing friends, frame it, and place it on my writing desk to remind me of God’s blessings, love, and beauty.

And then I will dance.

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” (Psalm 139:14, NKJV)

Grandma’s old zippered Bible

I was exhausted as I wiped the dust from the box I had stored in Daddy’s old barn. Looking at the faded date on the outside, I could not imagine what it contained that I had neither missed or needed in twenty years. Even though I was totally exhausted, I could not help but open the lid with the anticipation of a child on Christmas morning. I blamed my tired state when I found myself pretending that some treasure was waiting to be discovered and then laughed at my silly behavior. But the laughter quieted as I found myself staring at layers of my childhood packed neatly away in the old cardboard box. My favorite doll. Kindergarten pictures of a shy chubby girl. The first book I ever received as a gift. Baby shoes. I felt as if a movie of my childhood was playing in my head as I removed each item from the box. And then I saw it and my breath caught in my throat. How could I ever forget my grandmother’s old zippered Bible? I just sat and stared at it for a while, afraid to blink for fear that it might disappear. I felt a tear on my cheek as I removed it gently from its home. Its better days well behind it, a safety-pin now substituted for the zipper pull, the once shiny red gilded pages were faded, and the binding was separating as a result of age and use.

gm11

I sat in silence and cradled the Bible to my heart and wept. I wept for a woman who passed away when I was only eight but I still remember every detail of her face and her love for me. I wept because I realized in that moment that I was not the kind of woman that she had been. When my son was growing up, he never saw me pray or read the Bible. Although it is true that I was a good mother in many ways, he never saw me walking through a flower garden praying and talking to God. He was never subjected to watching Oral Roberts every single week day at 10 am. Believe me, if you were in her house when Oral Roberts came on the television, you not only watched it but you were quiet and still while doing so. And if you were in her home when a storm came up, you were told to be quiet and “respect God’s handiwork.” She was a fierce mix of Cherokee, discipline, strength, faith, grace, and abundant love. That is how I remember her. She was a godly legacy in my life. I realize now she was sowing a seed. I might have taken a far different path than she had hoped but the seed was always there . . . always growing.

As I lay the Bible aside, I wondered how I would be remembered when I am no longer here on earth. What seeds am I now sowing in life? In my son’s life? What am I presently doing to bring glory and honor to God? Am I walking out my purpose? Will my legacy be one of a dedicated holy life of compassion and selfless generosity, obedience, and helping people to know the love of Christ? What kind of life will my grandchildren and hopefully great-grandchildren be reading about in the tattered pages of my journals one day? Hopefully, they will read of a well-worn life of faith, battles lost, battles won, and the enduring love of a Savior that walked with me through all of it.

What are you leaving behind, my precious friend? It is never too late to sow that seed.

Grandma Mattie

Grandma Mattie