I’m Coming Out

I’m coming out. Coming clean, if I may. Brutally honest. I’ve been struggling. Walking the tight rope between self pity and pride. That uncomfortable gray area somewhere between “help me!” and “what are you talking about? I’m fine!” I know that I’m not fine but I’m too prideful to risk pity.

My very best friends have no idea what my day to day life is like. I’m a master deflector. I’ve learned to brilliantly navigate through relationships. With the utmost love and genuine care I invest my time and ear listening to my friends trials and triumphs. I was a journalism major and I’m an accomplished interviewer. I’m not nearly as quick to let others uncover the real scoop about my life. And as of late this is by design.

And yet how can I write about my relationship with Christ if I can’t be truly honest? How can I have genuine, sincere, meaningful relationships if I don’t want to be exposed? Honest? And why is it that some topics transparency is acceptable and others show weakness or failure in the eyes of the world?

How about you? What difficulties are you hiding from the world? What pain do you go to great lengths to hide? Do you unload on your spouse and kids behind closed doors only to repaint your persona once you step outside of your four walls?

We live in a confusing time in history. As a human race we rally around the obscure only to crucify what we deem as weak. Broken. We base self worth on selfies, homes, cars, education, vacations, and our vain accolades to promote our children. We place the highest value on busyness, being seen, self promotion, and self enrichment. In other words, success is perfection that we must create, orchestrate, and perform in order to be of value or worth. Everything is a fight to win perfection.

We turn cancer patients into “survivors”. Those battling disease into “warriors”. Addicts are “recovering”. Marriages that fall apart into “battles”. We take every day human life experiences and rally behind them to make them socially acceptable by simply labeling them something to justify the “weakness” that person is walking through.

Does anyone find this crazy? Doesn’t the bible clearly tell us in 2 Corinthians 12:10 “For when I am weak, then I am strong”? God knew and God knows we all face weaknesses and that is a good thing!! It is in that weakness that we let Him take the burden from us. It is in that weakness that we have the opportunity to shine. The enemy has convinced the world that weakness is failure and can only be corrected by self help. And if we label it something then it’s socially acceptable to be the walking wounded. Otherwise we are just broken.

Today is World Scleroderma Day. Since scleroderma is part of my testimony I thought I would share with you what it’s like living with a chronic, incurable and ultimately terminal illness. It sucks. It’s watching your body become broken. It’s loosing independence. It’s living with disfigurement. It’s painful. It’s isolating. It’s sometimes terrifying. Its heartbreaking. It’s embarrassing. Often shameful. Exhausting. Expensive. I have absolutely no control. Zero.

And yet the disease has allowed me to see the bigger picture. The disease has let me personally know Jesus. The disease has let me see that pre- scleroderma I was infected too. I was diseased with self. Self everything. I do not believe that God makes bad things happen. But I do believe God brings to light who we really are when bad things do happen.

I’m broken. God knows, people, I am broken. And I’ve spent the last month screaming at my husband because of all I can’t do. I take pills to be able to swallow. I take pills to make my non existent digestive system function. I take injections for my joints. I take vitamins and probiotics to fight the never ending pool of bacterial overgrowth in my gut. I inhale things to get the fluid out of my lungs. I swallow more pills to keep flushing my kidneys. I get injections in my skull to fight the blinding headaches. I rub prescription creams all over the ulcers on my extremities. I only eat foods that won’t make me violently sick or choke. I inject myself with chemo drugs every Sunday hoping to achieve remission. I can’t stay awake during the day and I can’t sleep at night. I am a trapped in a body that I can not control.

In the worlds eye–and admittedly in my mind during quarterly melt downs–I’m a failure. But guess what? This ain’t forever.! And through all of this I still see Jesus. I see Him in the sunrise. I see Him in the sunset. I see Him in my garden. I see Him in the texts from friends. I hear Him in phone calls. I hear Him in my husbands voice as he whispers “I’d take it for you if I could”. I hear it in my grown children’s “I love you, Mama”. I feel Him in the sunshine. I feel Him in my dogs warm snuggles. I feel Him in music blaring from my car stereo.

Through weakness I have become strong. Strong enough to be dressed and ready for the world and most days with a smile on my face. Strong enough and smart enough to hunt down, diagnose, and research every new symptom that pops up. Strong enough to know when I’m not strong enough to push through. Strong enough to live outside of my circumstances by investing in relationships other than focusing solely on me. Smart enough to know that life isn’t a do over. Life is the the question “what are you going to do? Are you going to make a difference? Let Jesus shine? Or are you going to succumb to mediocrity?”

I am physically broken but in Him I am perfect. In Him I have a label… “I am His”.

“Never give up”-Luke 18:1

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Back To The Throne

Every evening before I go to sleep and every morning before I rise I ask God to show me what He would like me to share. To write. If I hear silence I don’t write. This week I have heard a lot. I’ve waited for Him to help me express it but the words just haven’t come. I can tell you that if the words aren’t His I won’t write it.

This week two topics have been placed heavy on my heart. The first is our time here on earth. The second is our children. I will be honest I am somewhat of a coward. I know exactly what He wants me to write and I haven’t done it. I will say time is short. Oh so very short. There is an urgency to bring all luke warm Believers back to the Throne. To become entrenched in falling in love with Him again. To be Awake. Ready. Actively seeking Him.

The second is praying for our children. Seems simple right? Well it is not. I have prayed for our children their whole lives. I know they are each His.  One of our children has a very strong walk with the Lord.  Another one of our children has the most miraculous testimony. But she doesn’t see that  yet. I know that she will come back to Him. My fear is that our time is limited. As a friend told me earlier this week “You can count on that promise! It is fact, God’s word tells us  if our kids have been trained up in the way that they  should go? They will come back. God is a man of His word. Period. (Proverbs 22:6)”.

I think in previous decades and generations our parents turned a blind eye when we were in college. They trusted our judgement. They knew we had been raised in the church. They knew we would be back when we married and had children. This generation is different. Much different. Traditional biblical values are no longer the thread of our national upbringing. Everything is immediate. Everything is about Me. This generation is not learning how to have a relationship. There are no social skills. I really believe that plays a huge part of the enemies plan to destroy our children. When your child is faced with immediate gratification monetarily, mentally, sexually, and morally why in the world would they want to take the time to read and learn the bible? To develop a relationship with Christ? When every child in this nation is pushed to be a winner? Or handed a trophy for making it to class? Why would they need a Savior? They’re being taught to be their own saviors.

The book of Joel, Timothy, Peter, John, Mathew, Luke, Revelation all tell us that we are living amongst the last generation. People, Christians specifically, do not want to hear this. I will tackle the scripture for this at a later date.

Back to our kids. We must be obedient, diligent, and deliberate in our prayers for our children and grandchildren. Here are some pretty great promises from our Savior.

1) Pray that they will come to know Christ at an early age. (Timothy 3:15)
2) Pray that they will recognize sin and have a hatred for it (Psalms 97:10)
3) Pray that they will be caught when guilty (Psalms 119:71)
4) Pray that they will be protected from evil in their emotional, spiritual and physical areas of their lives (John 17:15)
5) Pray that they will have a responsible attitude in all of their interpersonal relationships (Daniel 6:3)
6) Pray that they will respect those in authority over them (Romans 13:1)
7) Pray that they will desire the right kind of friends and be protected from the wrong friends (Proverbs1:10-11)
8) Pray that they will be kept from the wrong mate and saved for the right one (2 Cor. 6:14-17)
9) Pray that they will learn to submit totally to God & resist satan in all circumstances (James 4:7)
10) Pray that they will be willing to be sold out totally to Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1-2)

The most powerful tool that we have as parents is to pray for our kids. Pray for their hearts. Pray for their decisions. If need be? Pray for them to be broken of the chains of this generation.  It is in our depths of despair that we cry out  and turn back to God.  God hears us! He is not going to leave a single one of His children behind.

Time is short. Pray for the ones you love. Cry out to the heavens. Be prepared to witness miracles.

“He learned obedience through the things he suffered”-Hebrews 5:8

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Emptied Of Ourselves

Someone recently told me that they suffer from the fear of missing out. With a straight face. She was dead serious. She actually had a physician tell her that she is possibly suffering from this “disease”. I tried not to laugh. To humor myself I googled it. Get out! It’s a thing. A real life phobia.

Athazagoraphobia:  “noun. An irrational fear of being forgotten or replaced”.

Oh, Dear Lawd! I could feel it coming. My biblical tirade. I choked it down. “Wow! I’m so sorry” was all I could come up with. Their $40 co-pay went to someone who decided tacking on one more label to an already confused person was a good thing. I really wanted to call this Doctor and educate her. But then I realized it doesn’t matter.  Nothing I say is going to make a difference. She has to work it out for herself. Come to the epiphany on her own.

So let me tell you what doctor of biblical studies Elizabeth thinks (you know that’s sarcasm right?). We can not be full of the Holy Spirit until we are emptied of ourselves. If the Lord can’t get us to leave a situation, relationship, lifestyle on our own accord? He causes our circumstances to change. That falling away of self causes extreme loneliness. It causes depression. It causes deep grief for what once was. He’s stripping away. He’s taking away the hangups, hiccups, and pride. He’s undoing the chains and releasing us from bondage.

Sometimes those emotions are so frightening we seek medical help. I get that. Been there done that.  We fill our ears, get them tickled, with words that help explain our pain. The feelings are real. I don’t discount that. But the Lord wants us to come to Him for the answers. When you love someone such as a  child, spouse, best friend,  or parent what do you want to do? Spend time with them!  One on one time to share news, stories, thoughts, feelings about their life and yours. When God pulls us away from social situations we feel completely alone. Left out. Unloved. The reality? He is so in love with us He wants us all to Himself. He wants us to share our fears, sadness, loneliness, helplessness, heartache with Him. He wants that season of our lives all to Him. So that He can mend us. Heal us. Strengthen us. Love us. Build us up so that He can release us back into the world made brand new in His sight.

The process is excruciating. Sometimes paralyzing. But He has us in the palm of His hand. When we can shed our pride and our fear God is able to do amazing things in our lives. Mental illness is very real. There was a time in my life when I was so paralyzed with fear and depression that I didn’t want to participate in daily life. I understand it and I’m not making light of it. Psychologists couldn’t help. My husband couldn’t help. Someone invited me to a bible study. For five years the Lord sloughed off and made new what was once dull and broken. I remember sleeping with the bible on my face. I would read scripture before I went to sleep. I’d leave the open bible on my face. All the while praying for God to rearrange my brain. Change my thought process. Take away the pain of feeling left out, left behind, betrayed, not good enough, etc. etc..

There is no doubt that we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). God gives us that beautiful promise. But we have to want the help. His help. We have to trust that in that broken space and time He’s at work. In the silence He is there holding us up, retraining, regrouping, rearranging.  He’s closing doors to what once was. But if we can trust Him? Hang on? Cling to Him? What He has in store for us is better than anything we could have ever imagined for ourselves.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!”-2 Corinthians 5:17

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Plugged Into Busyness

Admittedly my phone is essentially an appendage. If we are being honest I guess you could say that makes me a hypocrite. Nothing bothers me more than people who don’t use phone etiquette. Case in point my kids and my better half.

Yesterday my daughter and I were driving out of town. We were carrying on, what I thought to be, a lovely conversation. Until I realized she wasn’t smiling at me but rather at the texts that were popping up on her phone. I expressed how rude I think she and her generation are. What did she do? Held eye contact with me, to make me think she was engaged, all the while those fingers were carrying on a text conversation with someone else.

I proceeded to tell my daughter that our next family gathering would be phone free. I would be the obnoxious parent who takes away all of the phones. “We are going to enjoy a phone free zone”. “Oh, pahleeze Mama” was the smiling response I received fingers still blindly text typing.

Hmmm, I will show them. I’ve already designed (in my mind) the basket thingy in which I will collect and place all devices. I will force my family to converse. Hold their phones hostage. Yes. Yes, I will by God. And they will love it. Because I tell them they do. Yep, the ole dog can still bark.

Do you ever catch yourself praying and the next thing you know you are making a grocery list in your mind? Or you get up early to read scripture and realize you have no idea what you’ve just read? As an added bonus you’ve gone over everything on your to do list for that day? Heck, for the whole week for that matter.

Our minds are on such overdrive we don’t even know how to quiet them. Silence is a lost luxury. I’d be willing to bet that most children don’t even know how to day dream. The good stuff. Like in elementary school, in early Spring, when your teacher was explaining a lesson. You glanced out the window. Innocently watching the kids playing during recess. Your mind wandered to extraordinary super hero sized adventures. The next thing you knew the bell was ringing. Nope. Guarantee day dreams are no longer a thing. Kids are scheming and dreaming of ways to get back on their phones.

Don’t be fooled for one second. The enemy is masterful. He has an entire world believing the lie that we must be busy. We must be engaged in something all of the time. If you are not busy you are not important. If you are not making lists, making plans, making meals, making meetings, making money you are making nothing of your life. And we believe him!

If satan can keep us busy? Well, he can keep us from seeing the real splendor of our daily lives. If we put our phones down we will notice the beautiful blue sky. The love between the elderly couple holding hands walking through the grocery store parking lot. The baby rabbits eating grass in our backyards. The birds nest in our ferns on our front porch. The lightening bugs in our neighborhood. The really mundane extraordinarily beautiful gifts we overlook every single day. We miss these things when we are checked out of life and plugged into the busyness.

If we started looking up more frequently we would be in awe of who God is. If we were in awe of who God is we wouldn’t be so in awe of the mindless activities that clutter our lives.

This week put your phone on silent. Walk outside. Listen to the leaves rustling in the breeze. Watch the sunset. Gaze up at the stars. Call the enemy what he is: a big fat liar. A thief stealing our time, talent, and attention. Kick him to the curb.

Spend some time with the One who created it all for you. Enjoy His magnificence. Thank God for the gift of His time. Ask Him to help you make time to be plugged into Him.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”-Philippians 4:6

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When The Storms Come

As I am writing this our neck of the woods is preparing for a stormy day. The schools announced last night that they would be dismissing early today. Many businesses downtown are closing early.

 

Living so close to the coast Eastern North Carolinians are well versed in early Spring storms. Tornados, hurricanes, floods of biblical proportions, and N’oreasters. For the most part life goes on as normal. Based on history people are usually well prepared.

 

I’m always amazed (and somewhat amused) by the people banging on the doors of the grocery store in the midst of a storm. We live in the rural farming coastal flatlands. Weather is a topic of discussion to everyone at some point in the day. It is second nature to keep a loaf of bread in the freezer and extra batteries, candles and bottled water on hand in a “prep kit”. Okay maybe we just do it because I’m married to an over achieving Eagle Scout. Storms are part of our landscape. Be prepared.

 

How about the storms in your life? Are you caught off guard? Do you panic? Or are you calmly prepared? When we aren’t grounded in Gods word? When we aren’t bonded in Godly friendships? When we are totally entrenched in the world? The storms come and we cry out “Lord, what in the world?! Where are you?”

 

When we are walking with God on a daily basis He prepares us for life’s storms. The storms are still going to come. With Jesus? The storms are easier to navigate.

 

One of my favorite Psalms is 89:8-9 “Lord God All-Powerful, there is no one like you. You are strong, Lord, and always faithful. You rule the stormy sea. You can calm its angry waves.” No matter how large my storm may be a great and mighty God is in charge. An all powerful Lord is there to calm my seas. Don’t you love that?!

 

The good news? Storms come in seasons. They don’t last forever. Some may blow through very quickly. Others may linger. But they all resolve. Some end with a peaceful calm. Others leave a path of destruction. If we are prepared with our prep kit ahead of the storm ? We just hang on and trust that He will guide us through. We have the absolute guarantee that God, forever faithful, will navigate for us.

 

“He reached down from heaven and rescued me. He drew me from deep waters”-Psalm 118:16

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Through His Eyes

I once took an online theological test to find out what my spiritual gifts are. Turns out I was off the charts in mercy, prophecy and discernment. Which makes perfect sense as to why I gravitated to my new red and white ginger jar vase. I discerned that I needed it. I was attracted to the fact that it was sitting all by its lonesome. I knew I had a perfect spot for it in our home.

My husband and I went to a huge warehouse sale Sunday afternoon. People were pulling the blue and white oriental ginger jars off the tables in a frenzy. The big red and white oriental chinoiserie ginger jar caught my eye instantly. “You’re sure? This one and not the large blue and white?” cute husband said. “Yep, that’s the one. It’s perfect”.

Beautifully dressed women glanced our way. Curiously listening to the interaction between my husband and I. You could see their wheels turning. “What is she doing? Blue and white is the trend”. I proudly helped my husband hoist my find over to the checkout table. I knew I had found a treasure. It stood tall, distinctive and set apart.

I’ve always had the ability to see what others sometimes do not. Probably why I drive anyone who knows me crazy. My brain goes 1,000 miles an hour. In a split second I can spot something out of the corner of my eye. I can be deep in conversation with you and in an instant change my focus. Some call it ADD 😀. I like to think of it as creativity.

The reality is that God has wired me differently than most. As a teenager it tore me up inside. I was in a constant state of inner turmoil. I wanted to be like everyone else in dress and activity. I wanted to be on trend. Yet I also had a deep internal struggle of seeing things differently. Some decisions I made were horrible. Like cutting my hair completely off like Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go’s. Other decisions worked in my favor. Like the whole preppy thing. I had a southern baptist mother–I had been dressed conservatively my entire childhood. Fortunately, for me at least, that was a fashion trend in the 80’s.

It wasn’t until my early 40’s that I realized this “seeing things others don’t” was a blessing and not a curse. I wish I had been a mother in my 20’s who was mature enough to nurture my kids individuality. I thought, back then, that if they had the best they would better fit in. That fitting in would make them happy. That looking like everyone else and doing what everyone else did would make life easier and less confusing for them. I was wrong.

God wants us to see the world differently. He wants us to see the world through His eyes. Through His eyes we can see the beauty in different. Through His eyes we can see magnificent colors. Through His eyes we see what’s important to Him. Through His eyes we find peace in who He created us to be.

If we constantly are trying to blend in? We will live in a state of longing for more. That hole inside of us can never be filled with the standards of the world. That blue and white, currently on point, vase will not make you happy in 90 days if you bought it because everyone else says its “the thing”.

As for me and my over sized awkward unpopular red and white new friend? We are so good. A gigantic smile pops up on my face every time I look at it. To me it’s beautiful because it’s not popular . It’s a reminder that He’s gifted me to see the world differently. To me? It’s perfect.

“When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. “-Psalm 94:19

 

 (I’m all about a beautiful blue & white vase👍🏻 Purely an illustration that all jars are beautiful not just the popular ones. No blue and white ginger jars were intentionally condemned in this post 😉).

Jesus Our Ultimate Do-over

Who doesn’t love a do-over? Waiving hand vigorously over here! I cringe when I think about teachers, coaches and myself telling our kids through the years “there are no do-overs”. Guess what? We were all wrong. Dead wrong. Life is actually one gigantic do over for most of us. Here’s another fact: do-overs are biblical. Jesus is our ultimate do-over. He died to give us new life. The past is erased and everything is made new. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!“-2 Corinthians 5:17. Isn’t that the most exciting news you’ve heard ?!

I definitely could use a bazillion do-overs. Words that have stung. Words that have threatened. Words that have belittled. Emotions that came from a place of fear, hurt, and ultimately deep unwavering love. I am so thankful. Let me say that again: I am so thankful. Thankful for God’s grace. I am in utter awe of His mercy. Moved beyond words by the cross.

Secondly I’d like to say prayer works. If you find yourself in a place unable to pray (1) call out to the Lord audibly (2) call, text or email a friend and have them intercede a team of prayer warriors on your behalf. I can not emphasize enough the importance of crying out to the Lord. He hears us. He sees us. He loves us. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them“-Romans 8:28

Recognize that prayers may not be answered immediately. Prayers may not be answered fully. Prayers may not be answered the way you had envisioned. Guess what? Pray anyway!! God sees the narrative. We may be able to envision how we want the story to end. That conclusion may coincide with God or it may not. Trust that all the hairpin turns and crazy mishaps throughout the journey are making for a story worth telling. A testimony that glorifies what only He can do to save a life.

If you have been in our home you have seen the gallery wall we have in the back of our house. We have every year of school (for each of our daughters) framed from transition to 12th grade. it’s one of my favorite things about our home. Each school year picture reminds me of the joys and challenges from each year of their lives. If it was not a great year? No worries~ just glance to your right and you will see the next school year framed. Each picture holds the joy and promise of a new year. A do-over from the previous mistakes of the year before and a continuation of the great things from years past.

Not all of our prayers have been answered…yet.  I’m 100% certain God will masterfully intervene  when His timing is perfectly suited. Many prayers have not been answered the way we would have expected. And many answered prayers have blown us away. God responds to our prayers, as my mother used to say, in three ways: (1) yes (2) not yet and
(3) I have something far greater planned. Keep praying.

God’s in the business of do-overs. He loves us deeply. There may be a multitude of plot twists along the journey. Probably more do-overs. Today? Today is a new day. Today I know who the Author is. I trust that He is in control. To God be the glory.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”-Hebrews 11:1

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