Our Portion

“My dear and precious friends, whom I deeply love, you have truly become my glorious joy and crown of reward. Now arise in the fullness of your union with our Lord I plead  with Euodia and Syntyche to settle their disagreement and be restored with one mind in our Lord. I would like my dear friend and burden-bearer to help resolve this issue, for both women have diligently labored with me for the prize and helped in spreading the revelation of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers. All of their names are written in the Book of Life. Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One! Let gentleness be seen in every relationship, for our Lord is ever near. Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a single thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day,  offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell Him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things”Philippians 4:1-9

As I read this letter from Paul to the Philippians I have a huge smile on my face. I’m smiling because though saved? Not much has changed amongst us fallible and squabbling people in 2,000 years has it? The perfectionist in me finds this somewhat of a relief.

There is so much to love about all nine of these verses! My favorite being:

         “Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing”

Paul goes on to say:

“Be saturated  in prayer throughout  each day, offering your
faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude”

And my very part:

“Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that
transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you”

The enemy has convinced our society that all answers to life and all fulfillment of life can only be found in the material. Guess what? We have bought into the lie! Every aspect of our culture involves instant gratification. The irony is it seldom gratifies us longer than an instant.

For eleven months our family had the privilege of witnessing my husband live out Philippians 4. He was saturated in God’s word, precision focused on what is righteous and true, full of joy and laughter and not worried about anything except  the present. I can only describe it as a supernatural season. We knew we were a part of something bigger than we were and very special. I believe Robin’s illness (ALS) and testimony were used not only for God’s glory but as a wake up call for our family and many in our community.

When we focus on what is good, righteous and true? Immediately we are able to identify what and who or whom is unhealthy and or hurtful in our lives. It also helps us to be appreciative, thankful and filled with over flowing gratitude for all that we do have verses  all that we think we should have. Jesus should be our portion. Our everything because we are His everything.

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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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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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Lord I Choose You

It’s always a challenge for me to identify what circumstances I have allowed or created in my life versus what God has allowed. Or what simply is out of my control.

I remember my mother telling me at the end of her life: “Lillibet, no one ever intentionally sets out to be a bad parent. We do the very best we can at that very moment. Sometimes we get it so wrong. Other times we sigh with relief that God got it right”.  It wasn’t until Jane was gone that I realized the gem she had been. And now? Here I sit in my quiet time whispering  “God, you know my heart, I only wanted to be a good Mama. No a great Mama. The fixer. The mender. The master of my domain. The Savior”.

You see the thing is God loves us so much that He gives us free will. We can teach right from wrong, good from evil. We can love, threaten, punish, ignore, manipulate, and plea. Ultimately it is our fleshly free will that determines our choices. We choose. God lets us choose. And sometimes we choose to play god rather than thinking God is capable of being God.

For those of us who are planners and organizers we want to orchestrate our choices for those we love. Maybe we hold so tightly that our kids don’t ever think they are able to choose their life. Some of us cling too tightly while others not tightly enough. All of us think we are striving for the perfect balance. The perfect path. The perfect future. The reality? We have no control. In the end they choose.

Sometimes we have to let those we love fall. We have to let go. Get out of the way so that He can catch them. We forget God is in the business of saving. We aren’t the life line or the life boat. We aren’t the answer. Because quite frankly we aren’t God.

And I guess that’s what the Lord has been whispering to me these past weeks. Free will. Life is free will because of the cross. And sometimes it hurts. A lot. Sometimes you feel like you can’t breathe. Sometimes the pain is staggering. Blinding. And then? He gently reminds me of the pain He felt when we, His beloved, rebelled (rebel) against Him. He understands our sorrow and our grief. He understands my pain and your pain because He felt it. Died for it. Died for us.

His word promises us that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He’s always there. If we choose to wait for Him. If we choose to trust that He has a divine plan for all of us. A plan that can’t be thwarted no matter how tightly we try to cling. Or save.  Or rescue.

So Lord, I’m letting go. I don’t know for how long. And knowing my control freak nature? I probably will (let’s be honest I will) throw you back up on that cross a time or two. But right now? In this moment? By faith I’m choosing to let you be God of something I can control: me. God of what  I can’t control: others. With your help hopefully I’ll recognize the difference.

Lord I choose you.

“I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments, I have laid before me.”-Psalm 119:30image