Happy Heavenly 1st Home-Going

“Look Up!” you told us. “Cling to what is good” you said. You assured us that “It is well with my soul”.  The past year I’ve clung to that truth with a broken heart and the promise that our Lord is the Great Healer.  The hardest battle I’ve ever fought. Most nights I have felt defeated. Yet the sun comes up and a new day dawns. With each alarm I arise with praise and thanksgiving that I was privileged to have loved you and been loved by you. With each day I ask the Lord to show me Joy.

A year later the landscape of our lives looks nothing as it did when you left. The change has not been well with my soul. Again, I ask the Lord to show me His Glory. Show me Joy. In the sorrow He has been my Comforter. In suffering He reminds me that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess.

A year later I have concluded that your death was not about you. It was about a family and a community getting right with God.  How do we conduct our lives? How do we treat those we say we love? What captivates our thoughts? Are we takers or givers? Do our lives show fruitfulness? Do we comfort or abandon? Self serve or serve others?

You knew you were meeting the Lord of Lords face to face. You spent your final months preparing for that meeting. It was magnificent to witness. Your death caused many to ask “Are we ready to meet Our Maker?”

I dreamt about you recently. You were healed. Standing tan and handsome in my garage. I was unpacking boxes. You walked up behind me and put your arms around me. You told me how proud you were of me. You told me that I had handled this year with grace and dignity.  You gave me intricate instructions and details on life going forward. As you turned to leave you said “I’m so proud of you, keep doing the right thing regardless of others behavior. I love you. Always do the right thing.”  There was a crash of thunder and I awake unsure if it was a real or a dream.

Have you put Jesus as your priority? Is He your ‘right thing’? He is real and our lives aren’t a dream. Life  can change in one diagnosis, one poor decision, one hardened heart.

Happy Heavenly 1st Home-Going, Robin Wooten! What a treasure you were! You are incredibly loved and missed. oxox

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so God’s Son may be glorified through it”~John 11:4

He Is Enough

“Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money including greed, lust & craving for earthly possessions and be satisfied with your present circumstances and with what you have; for God said, I will never forsake you or leave you”-Hebrews 13:5

If you live in the South this time of year your social media starts blowing up with pictures of the beach. The mass exodus has begun. Historically, at least for us here in Eastern NC, April kicks off beach season. Hands down my favorite time of year. Getting back out on the water. Breathing the salt air. Beautiful sunsets. Glorious views. The whole season. Everything. Soothes my soul.

They tell me there’s a real thing called FOMO: fear of missing out. I totally get it. It’s easy to scroll through Instagram or Facebook and see who is at the beach. What large fun family gathering is taking place. Who went where over Easter break. It’s far too easy to be dissatisfied with the circumstances you’ve been dealt. Rather than walking out your season as God called you? You scroll through social media and compare yourself to everyone else’s perfectly orchestrated lives full of staged grandeur.

We all have a hole inside that is empty, burns and is raw. It longs to be filled. Social media deceives us into believing the world can fill us. That’s simply a lie from the enemy. The only thing that can fill the hole is Jesus. If we don’t fill it with Jesus? More things, more dissatisfaction, more FOMO.

This Easter as I sat without my husband and entire family in church I realized how quickly time is moving. A year ago we were a family. Today? Life looks very different. We still feel the absence of Robin in every aspect of our life. I honestly don’t know how people survive lifes tragedies without God. If that hole wasn’t filled in my soul? I believe my entire being would have collapsed at the weight and magnitude of the year.

As I scroll through my newsfeed the next couple of weekends? When my heart in envious for saltwater? When I have a lump in my throat longing for what once was? I know beyond a shadow of a doubt God is promising me that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

He is enough.

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His Wondrous Glory

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I recently read a commentary that perfectly depicted how many of us are walking out our faith as we enter into Holy Week:  defeated from a long cold winter.  Dry bones. Let me paraphrase the commentary:

Winter is departing and with the resurrection the dead season is gone and new life begins. We are changed because of the dead season but not barren. Christ brings new life if we choose to leave winter and spring forward.

I adore this analogy. Just when we think we absolutely can not take one more second of the season? The Lord gives us a glimpse of His wondrous glory.

Christ gives us the choice to commune with him in new life because of the resurrection. Because of Jesus. A chance to move forward in anticipation of new hope and new life. How many of us choose to let fear keep us from moving forward? How many of us can’t quite let go of the past season in order to embrace the new birth of a bright fresh new season?

My puppy Henry, as frustrating as he is, has been my saving grace since my husband passed away last July. Henry and I have struggled mightily over who is in charge. One thing Henry has taught me? He doesn’t remember when I’ve scolded him or if he does he doesn’t show it. He leaves the past season in the past. He eagerly awaits my entrance every single time I come into his peripheral  vision. He only sees the here and now. He only sees the good. Regardless of how I’ve behaved he’s eager to welcome me by bouncing and literally hugging me with his two front legs and paws. He loves me unconditionally even when I don’t deserve it. Shouldn’t we all be welcoming Jesus and  new seasons exactly in the same manner in which Henry does? Jesus most certainly treats us with the same regard.

It’s sobering thinking about what Jesus physically endured for us. When I have that picture in my mind? I am embarrassed that I can’t let go of some of the dead bones from the winter season. Jesus. Brutally beaten to a pulp to take away our sins. We certainly don’t deserve it. He did it freely for us.

When we are walking around with dead bones? That is bondage.  That’s us allowing the enemy to steal our rightful place in the Kingdom. This week let us all spring forward into thanksgiving and praise for the One who died to give us the freedom of new life.

“Faith does not make things easy. It makes them possible”-Luke 1:37

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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Step Aside So He Can Step In

“Please don’t ask me how my kid is doing” I was thinking to myself after spotting one of my children’s former teachers in the grocery store.  Bless this Saints heart!  “How are you? The family?”   Easy enough. “Everyone is doing great and your crowd?” I replied.

One of my dear friends had a child who was figuring out life. It just so happened this particular young adult was taking a little bit longer to find stride. I remember her telling me how difficult it was to answer prying questions about this adult child. I thought, quite honestly, she was being overly sensitive and a tad ridiculous. How wrong I was. I get it! Totally get it.

It’s not that you are questioning your past abilities as a parent or that you are embarrassed. They are grown now. It’s a fine line between being overly informative and protective. It’s easy to brag on the successes of the child who has thrived. The child who is lost or struggling is a different story. You know it won’t make sense to others because you can’t make heads or tails of it yourself.

I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. Operative word is trying. I want to let go. It’s time to let go. I know this. My hopes and dreams? My husbands hopes and dreams? They are just that: ours. They are not necessarily what God has in the big picture.

I’ve spent weeks talking to God about what we did wrong or didn’t do wrong. Let’s be honest: what I did wrong. Silence. I was awoken in the middle of the night recently. I had a dream. In the dream God-I didn’t see Him or hear Him– I knew in the dream it was God. He clearly and precisely  stated  “Let go so that I may catch her“.

How many of us cling so tightly for control that we forget the freedom we found in Christ to begin with?  Why do we do that? When we trust Him enough with our own lives why can’t we entrust the lives of those we love to Him?

So this week I’m going to practice what Matthew preaches in chapter 6 verse 27: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?“.  I’m committed to praying.  I’m committed to trusting Him. Let’s be real, I may only make it until Monday night. But I’m going to try to step aside so He can step in.

So here’s to all of us with bruised or broken  hearts: the silent worriers, the control freaks, the grieving, and the depressed.  May we greet each other in public places not with the Spanish Acquisition but rather may we acknowledge one another with hugs, prayers, laughter, and kindness.  May we give it all to God so that we can get on with the business of living the life He has set before us. Amen.

“God is in the midst of her she shall not be moved”-Psalm 46:5

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