WHEN YOU’RE ALREADY DISTURBED!

I love Pinterest! I think it’s great therapy. I can hoard all I want and not need more totes, and I can organize to my heart’s content. But I have two boards that are locked; no one but me can see them. One is Christmas gift ideas. The other is a combination of pins that talk about depression, poor self image, etc. They’re all things that I don’t want anyone to see because each is a part of that place in me that I don’t want anyone to know about.

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Some of you know what that place is like. It’s dark, sad, ugly, desolate and deliberately uninviting. It’s the “What Would People Think?” part of ourselves, and it’s the loneliest place in the world. As you can imagine, the only light is a single, naked bulb hanging in the middle of the room. (Ambience at it’s worst.)

But you know what I’m finding out? A lot of people have a room like this! Sure, some of them might be small closets while others are as large as a ballroom, but I think most of them are just about the same size as any other person’s. So I’m finding out that I’m really no more weird or damaged than the next person. (Although I have to respectfully acknowledge that there are people who have been through so much more than I have been.)

I think genuinely depressed people try very hard to appear happy because if you asked them how they’re doing (in any way other than that socially appropriate, rhetorical way), they might be tempted to tell you. And if they tell you, they might start crying. And if they start crying, they might not stop. And if they can’t stop, you might find out just how broken and frightened they feel. (Kinda sounds like a depressed person’s version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, doesn’t it – but without the cookie, which in itself is depressing.)

b93374320808c392e99e91e03685948dI applaud Brene’ Brown for bringing shame out of the closet. I appreciate Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson for revealing his own bouts with depression. I believe it’s time for mental health to be treated with the same degree of importance as physical health. After all, poor mental health can be life-threatening, too.

It’s one thing to tell children (and adults) that bullying and abuse is wrong. But there are so many victims of abuse and bullying who don’t see the wrongness of being bullied and abused! They don’t see enough value in themselves to make a stand and say enough is enough.

What’s even sadder is that some of those people are born-again, church-attending Christians. They’re children of a mighty God, and they’re living in despair. I know there’s hope, and as long as there’s hope, there can be victory. Christ has secured the victory over sin and He holds the keys to Hell. As Christians, we do not glorify God if we live our lives defeated and hopeless.

We don’t have to wear a fake smile and act like that everything is just peachy. Sometimes it’s hard. Cancer is hard. Financial problems are hard. Unemployment is hard. Depression is hard. Recovery is hard. Life is hard! But we’re not alone, and we’re not without hope and help.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this blog and how I could use it to encourage others. God has put it on my heart to not waste my own experience and to use the talents he’s given me to help others. But I haven’t figured out how. Who knows? Maybe someone else is already doing a good enough job of it, and I am doing this out of boredom or pride.

But here’s what’s on my heart that I want to share:

We are valuable. While we may feel broken or damaged, we’re not – at least not so much that we can’t be put back together as something even more beautiful. We started out valuable simply by being born, and someone perverted our value into something ugly.

We are not alone, even if there’s not another soul in the world who treats us with respect and affection, there is the offer of relationship with God through the sacrificial death of his son, Jesus Christ. But I also know how empty that can sound when we’ve been rejected by people who we can touch and hear. How are we supposed to trust in God when he isn’t physically present?

We are lovable simply because the One who has created us has set us aside for a divine purpose – all of us. But I also know how hard it is to believe that when those who were supposed to love us, nurture us and keep us safe did anything but that.

We are deeply and unimaginably loved by that same God, but how does that love translate into something tangible? It can feel pretty futile to tell ourselves, “but God loves me” when we go home to an empty house and eat lunch alone every day.

Some of you may think I’m looking for pity when I reference my childhood. I can assure you, I’m past that. I believe I’m finally at a place where I can refer to my past without living in it. If it bothers you, this is your warning to walk away while you can. But if you want someone who understands, stay tuned. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to send me right back to my mother’s house. I just don’t stay there as long as I used to!

I don’t want my experience wasted; I’ve wasted enough time with it and I’m done. I know that you can be a Christian and still be far from enjoying the love, approval and victory you signed up for when you gave your life to Christ. Christ didn’t just give you a Get Out of Hell Free card. You’ve been adopted into a whole new family where love and acceptance are abundant. You’ve been given the right to point to the Son of God and say, “I know I don’t deserve to be here, but I’m with Him.”

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Too many of us are still living as a child of Judy, Bob, Maria, David – pick your adult’s name – and are failing to live as a child of God. We’re missing out on the blessing we could be to others. We’re missing out on a radical, abundant, joyful life because we can’t see ourselves the way our Creator sees us. Heck, even other people in our lives see us more favorably than we see ourselves and we can’t even manage to accept their version of us, much less God’s. My husband and girls love me like crazy, and I still don’t get it!

We were created to be glorious reflections of the God who created us and, in doing so, live amazing lives. But we’re not. And attending a church service or listening to a great preacher on television or reading an inspirational book just doesn’t cut it when you walk away thinking, “except for me.” Trust me, this includes you! This is one team for which you won’t get picked last.

So where do we go from here?

 

 

 

 

 

LETTING GO OF THE LIES

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 NIV

This is such a short sentence, and yet it’s so powerful! It’s one of those verses that could be divided and each sentence would work alone. But they work together powerfully!

If you’ve ever felt inherently defective and undeserving of anything good, you’ve missed so much. My prayer for you is that you can move from a position of powerlessness and worthlessness to one of power and worthiness in Christ even if no one else has treated you that way – including yourself. I pray that you will open your heart and hands to what God has to give you.

A good place to start is by submitting to God and resisting the devil. I read this verse on my phone this morning and, for the first time in my Christian life, I read it differently (and I’m kind of excited about it right now because I need this now!). Today is different because I read it as a deserving child of God. I’m learning who my real Father is, and I have to tell you, He’s powerful!

My Father has already won every battle to come. In spite of how scary the devil can make things look, it’s all nothing to God. If you follow the story of Christ, you’ll see that demons fled when He spoke. They knew who He was and they were afraid. They were afraid Christ had come before His appointed time, which tells me they knew their time was limited. Their fear also tells me that they knew they were on the losing team. They were weak and vulnerable and had no choice but to submit to Christ as the son of God!ca320ee80218a2a06ce2f66d5db8dbf3

This is the same devil and demons we deal with today. They’re the ones who whisper to you that no one likes you, that you’re inadequate, that you’re alone. They’re the ones who lie to you!

Now, be honest for a moment. If you had a friend who you knew lied to you, how long would you listen to her and trust her? You’d be foolish to believe what she said. Sure, there might be times she tells you the truth, just to keep you in a relationship. But how long could you tolerate hearing, “Jill doesn’t like you.” or “Jim thinks you’re fat.” or “You’re not good enough.” when you know it’s a lie?

So why do we listen to Satan’s lies? Because they agree with the thoughts you already have? Test them against what your loving, forgiving Father says about you, and you’ll see that they are, indeed, lies. Remember that Satan condemns and God convicts. Condemnation is bad, and you don’t need that. Conviction is good, and you need that.

Submit to God. Read His word and learn how very much he loves you. Realize how wonderful and powerful you are as the child of the One who created the universe and you with the same hands. But you need to submit to God so you have an anchor to hold onto. It’s a bit like playing on the monkey bars; you don’t let go of one bar before you let go of the bar you’re holding.

Then resist the devil and make him flee. The verse doesn’t say, “and hope he’ll leave you alone.” It puts the truth very simply – he will flee. He’ll flee from you just as he fled from Christ and his disciples. Why? Because you are a child of God, and God protects His own. This is where you let go of the other bar.

Trust me, once you’ve got ahold of God, you can let go of the stuff that doesn’t help!

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GOD’S GOT YOU COVERED!

0fca0f31e3ae70ed82b1e571ed0ed6fdI wasted two days of my  life this past Friday and Saturday. They’re just gone!

I felt angry, bitter, and scared and numb. I was so scared that I shut down. Worry about what my future holds consumed me. I ran future possibilities through my head until I couldn’t think anymore. But I felt I had to look ahead to determine if I could handle any of those possibilities – just in case. I’m so tired! And the only thing I managed is to lose two days of my life.

I struggle between trusting God and trusting all the players, including – especially – me. I can say I’m going to let God handle everything that troubles me now, and then I worry about it.

When I worry, I take the whole thing outp of God’s capable hands. I know what I’m saying is, “Lord, I don’t trust you.” (Like I can trust myself to do better!)

Here’s one of those “fortune cookie” declarations I mentioned in my last post – the ones that are always optimistic and seem to be meant for someone other than me:cd608ccfde83a8700ac72470819c551e.jpg

But I’ve decided to claim this one because I think it reflects the personality of God. And these are the characteristics of God that I need now and believe I can go boldly before the throne and ask him to use in my life.

My God has me covered. He has already been where I’m going and has made a straight path and good plan for me. He has already spoken to the people who will influence my life, closed the doors that need to be closed and opened the doors that need to be opened. He’s got me covered.

When I had an emergency open heart surgery at Allina, I was helicoptered there. I learned later that before I even landed, the path to the operating room was cleared. There were no obstacles at all. Every door was open, including the elevator doors. Nothing was going to delay my arrival. And everything and everyone was there and ready to save my life in operation. That’s what God does in our lives.

And because he’s God, we can always be confident that he will – at his discretion and in his time – provide increase, restoration, healing and breakthroughs. He loves us and meets us where we are, but when we become His child, things need to change. He can’t leave us as we were without him. That means we can expect an upgrade in our life. Praise God that while I’m not yet where I want to be, to his glory I’m not where I was when he got ahold of me!

But I can’t do this on my own. I’ve seen what happens when I try to handb7458c51ee3ce0ffe8fcf57175829bd9le my struggles alone. I waste days feeling sorry for myself and nothing gets done. So I need to turn it all over to God. And that can be hard to do. What if I don’t like the plans he has for me? What if He takes too long? So the first thing I had to do was to surrender my heart to Him. And as I do (it’s a process for me!) I find him softening my heart, making my heart and thoughts right, in line with Him and his plan.

The hardest part for me is to “choose to trust”. I’m already in pain because there’s been a breach in trust, usually, and I’m hurt. Now I’m supposed to put my trust in someone I can’t see or touch?! If I want peace and want to see victory, yes.princess warior

I have to hold onto the fact that I am putting my trust in someone who truly loves me and wants what’s best for me. I didn’t grow up with that. In fact, I grew up with a parent who I believe hated me and would sabotage me every chance she got. She did not have my my best interest in her heart as God does. So this faith alone is very hard for me. But I have to believe it, and I have to believe that God will give me a new set of eyes to go with the new heart he’s given me.

Does God want us to have the victory over our enemy? Yes! Why? Because he loves us and because every victory we have is a victory for His kingdom. What sort of leader would he be if he had a defeated army with no hope in them?

I pray that I can remember Whose I am and who I am as I go through my present struggle. God has promised that He has a good plan for me. He’s promised me a new heart and new eyes to see more clearly. I think trusting Him sounds better than wasting my days in bed feeling sorry for myself.

IS IT JUST ME?

Isn’t it hard to be upbeat all the time? I don’t always feel a praise on the tip of my tongue when it’s been a really, really long, trying week! I mean, sometimes things are just plain hard and it seems like there’s no end in sight. If anything, that light at the end of the tunnel keeps getting further and further away. Or you suspect, as you’re standing on the tracks, that the light which seems to be growing larger is the light at the front of the train itself!

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I hope God’s not disappointed when I get weary of trying times. I don’t think he is. To the contrary, God gives us encouragement in such times:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

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I don’t know about you, but I get really weary sometimes. I only decided to begin blogging (again) a few weeks ago, and already I feel tired. Not from writing; the writing has energized me and actually given me something good in my life to look forward to. I’ve always tried to be an encourager, but have most recently needed encouraging myself. Still, no matter how negative I may feel when I start a post, I find that I simply cannot empty my trashcan on someone else’s desk and walk away feeling satisfied.

In fact, I have a confession to make. The last few posts have started out as an invitation to a pity party. I’ve had a lot of discouragement lately. I read declarations here and there about how God is about to bring my trial to an end and how He’s about to bring me out of the wilderness into my promised land, and honestly they’re beginning to sound like fortune cookies that someone else was meant to get instead of me. I know my God is a God of “suddenlies” and abundant victories, but I just don’t feel it right now.

So I end up feeling like a bad Christian for being discouraged and disappointed and frustrated, you know?

What’s the solution, then? I suppose I have to rely on what I know and not on what I feel. It’s as simple as the first song I learned in Sunday School: “Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.” And it does. The Bible is the longest love letter ever written. I don’t get it. I can’t fathom how God could keep loving someone who can be so unlovable sometimes. I don’t get how God can keep forgiving someone who is so often unforgiving, especially when He knows I’ll probably be right back asking forgiveness for the same thing in a couple of days.

But His Word doesn’t tell me to understand. It tells me to trust.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

But even if I turn out to be the only person encouraged by what I write, then I guess I’ll continue to write. And that may well be the case! (You’re going to love this one!) Yesterday followed one of the worst days I’ve had in years. (Not the worst, but right up there in the Top 10.) It happens that a friend of mine put me in contact with a friend of his, who was in the process of reading my blog to offer me some feedback. He found a post from my first attempt at blogging over seven years ago – which also happened to chronicle one of the lowest points in my life (Also in the Top 10). He proceeded to tell me I was on the right track with it.

I didn’t want to be told I was on the right track. I wanted to be at home, in my bed, eating worms – alone! – while I slowly melted into a worthless puddle of slime. How ironic that someone could go into my past and shine the light on an encouraging post that I wrote.

Things aren’t any better today, by the way. God hasn’t pulled a “suddenly”. To make things worse, the situation that troubles me is quite out of my hands. In fact, the only control over it is to accept it or reject it, and the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been, as far as I can tell. (By the way…I don’t like it!)

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So, what’s left? Hope. As hard as it is to grasp right now, I have hope. Right now, it’s just me and God – and the hope He promises me.

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5 ESV)

I spent enough of my life in shame. It would be easy to feel shame now. After all, my life doesn’t look so promising, and I’m honestly a bit anxious. I don’t feel like a model Christian. If anything, I’m a struggling Christian. I struggle to keep trusting God when he’s silent. I struggle to keep faith in Him when he doesn’t answer my prayers quickly. I struggle to put my life my life in his hands when I’m afraid he might end up taking me through homelessness to glorify his name. I’ve read those stories, and I don’t think I have the faith or fortitude to go through that! But at least I’m not hopeless.

 

 

RISE UP AND STAND FIRM

For a devotional today, I read Psalm 20. It was incredibly encouraging!

Psalm 20:4 says, “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

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I really like that part! Who doesn’t want God to give us the desire of our heart? Who wouldn’t appreciate having all their plans succeed?

But there’s such a temptation to limit God, isn’t there? I look at my present situation and think, “If only God would….” I see my immediate need and pray that God will meet it. But what if meeting my immediate need in the way I think is best isn’t what would glorify God? Then God becomes little more than a Santa Bunny, there to make all our dreams come true and give us a pony if we beg long enough.

First of all, God is so much bigger than we let him be. He is able to do all things and to give us an abundant life. Too often, we settle for a little blessing because we’re in a hurry, when we could have a greater blessing and a genuine heart overhaul if we would only trust and wait on his timing.

The second mistake we make is in expecting his blessing to glorify us rather than Him. We don’t really mean to, but it’s our nature to be self-focused most of the time. God loves us dearly and wants to bless us, but he owes us nothing. The way I see the scripture, he has a victory planned – but for “his anointed” and for His kingdom. I believe all of God’s children have been anointed for something. His anointed have been set apart for a sacred and divine purpose. It is the anointed who will bring glory to the kingdom of God:

Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call! (Psalm 20:6-9)

When you are anointed and you go to battle in the name of God, there is nothing and no one who can stand in the way. God has already established His victory. The only question is when and how. And what are we to do as the enemy falls in defeat? Rise up and stand firm!

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What an awesome God we serve when His name is stronger than chariots or horses, whispers or doubts, or whatever weapon the enemy chooses to use against us. We’re not told to put our faith in our checking balance or our relationships. And we’re not told to fidget and worry. We’re told to rise up and stand firm.

I pray that today I can do that. I pray that I can put my worries in God’s hands and let the victory over my circumstances be for God’s glory not mine. And I pray that I can simply rise up and stand firm.

WHEN YOU QUESTION YOUR PARTNER

Remember when you were in school and you had to partner with someone to complete a project, and your partner failed you? Not only did you do most of the research, but you got a bad grade besides because of their lack of participation.

Or as an adult, you were on a workplace committee to work on a project. Most of the members did a fair job of contributing; but there was that one person who not only didn’t do her part, but actually made the outcome of the project worse than if she’d done nothing at all. In the end, your boss didn’t care about how each member performed individually; they only wanted results, and the results were dismal.

Sometimes, you think, it would have been easier to have done it all yourself. You know what they say, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” That would be the easiest way to handle things, wouldn’t it? But that’s the world’s answer to everything. The world will tell you to “look out for yourself because no one’s going to help you, baby. You’re in this alone.”

Some Christians would go so far as to say the temptation to not rely on anyone else is from Satan because division has always been his goal. And there’s truth in that, too. Satan will wait until you’re weak to suggest that no one – not even God – will be there to help you.

But what if it’s not a school partner or a coworker who isn’t pulling their weight, but your spouse – the one you believe God set aside just for you? Robin Williams once said, “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”

For some, this isn’t a theological contemplation for meditation; this is a question they need an answer to because they feel very alone right now. And quite scared.

That’s the root of it all right there, isn’t it? Fear. God’s Word reminds us again and again to not fear, do not be afraid or dismayed. As a child of God, our heavenly Father promises that he hears our cries and knows our hearts. He is our Abba Father, our provider. Will he come through when no one else does? Will he show up when the one he chose as your partner fails you and leaves you afraid that he or she won’t do their part to provide for the family?

Satan whispers, “See? I told you you were alone.” He is constantly on the move to see what he can destroy, and if your relationship looks wounded and helpless, you can be certain he’ll attack it. All he needs is an opening, one small opportunity. He only needs us to be weak. Weakened by fear, disillusionment, anxiety, unfulfilled promises, unspoken assurances.

I believe there are warriors out there who are battle-weary and need encouragement. I don’t feel it’s enough to simply say, “God says that you shouldn’t be afraid.” He has said that, several times in fact; but I think it’s naïve to think those who need an encouraging word right now will find it encouraging enough. For some, it would be like slapping a smiley face sticker on your problem and calling it first aid. Some of God’s children have a history of disappointments that have left them feeling hopeless and helpless when things get scary. They expect nothing more more than self-preservation to be their security.

God gave you emotions, and fear was one of them. But it’s not his plan for you to live defeated when you have been designed for battle. And if the best way for Satan to gain a foothold in your life – in your marriage – is for you to be weak, then you need to be strong. Tou can be afraid if you choose, but do it afraid!

God knows you can’t do it alone. He never intended for you to fight in your own power and has made it clear that apart from him, we can do nothing. So pray for the peace, confidence, discernment and courage you need. Then put on the Armor of God and prepare for battle, knowing this:

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“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10 – 17). Then stand firm.

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He is God. He will not fail you!

JUST ONE OF US REGULAR FOLK

For most of my life, I dreaded reading the Bible. It seemed so boring! All those doth sayth’s and verily’s can really get to a person after a while. God always seemed to be smiting some tribe or another.

But at some point in the last year, I had a refreshing perspective of the Bible.

First, I realized that this is a collection of some of the most flawed people you could imagine. The fact is that they were just like us!

Second, I realized that God loved them dearly and used them in mighty ways in spite of, or actually through, their weaknesses. Jonah was kicking and screaming while God used him; but he used him! Abraham and Sarah got ahead of God’s timetable and decided to take things into their own hands and “help” God.

Have you ever felt like that? Like you’re bursting full of God-ordained potential, but you don’t feel like you have a starting place? You’ve been sent on a mission without a road map or a timeline? You don’t know when to start or where to stop. Maybe you think you heard God wrong! You know there’s a big plan for you, but the plans are anywhere from sketchy to questionable.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the patience for that. To me, that’s a whole lot of nothin’ that leaves me standing in the middle of nowhere looking like a confused Minion.

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I want a plan, an Excel spreadsheet, a T-shirt…something! Because if I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, I don’t know if I’m doing it right or not.

But if there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s this: God is as merciful as he is sovereign!

He can take whatever mess we’ve made and still work things to fit His plan because His word never returns void. And it never gets readjusted. He didn’t look at Ishmael and say, “Well, that’s not what I was thinking, but it’ll work.” No. He didn’t listen to Jonah and say, “Fine! Someone else can do it instead.”

So rest assured that if God has planted a seed in you, it will grow to fullness in His time and in His way for His purpose. You might go kicking and screaming. You might try to “help” him. You might even try to get ahead of the game and do the wrong thing. But you cannot make an irredeemable mess of what God has spoken over you.

Just remember who ends up getting the glory here. Oh, God’s going to use you and the talents he’s given you, but the glory will be His. After all, where’s the glory if he lets you do what anyone else can do without his help?

 

MY CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL STORY

In a couple of weeks, Chicken Soup for the Soul will be selling it’s latest book, The Miracle of Love. Thanks to God’s goodness, I had a story they liked enough to publish. This is my second in 10 years, and sometime I’ll share the other one with you. But I want to share this one now because 1) I’m super excited about it and 2) it will tell you a little more about me. I hope you enjoy it!

A DREAM COME TRUE

I looked down the petal-strewn gauntlet. It occurred to me that this was either the dumbest thing I’d ever done or the smartest. Either way, it was certain to be the most memorable. This was my wedding day.

At the other end of the aisle stood the man who had asked me to marry him. He looked terrified. I could see sweat glistening above his eyebrows. Then it occurred to me that perhaps it wasn’t terror he was feeling as much as the humidity in the sanctuary. This was unquestionably the hottest, most humid day Missouri had seen this year.

The church was one of the most breathtaking places in town, primarily because it was one of the oldest. I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me that the cooling system hadn’t been updated. However, I didn’t know that it still relied on a swamp cooler. I learned that day that swamp coolers take a great deal of time to cool the room, and this particular swamp cooler had not been given enough time to compete with the miserable heat and humidity of the day.

So there I stood, sweating in a wedding gown that cost more than my first car and high heels that I never would have worn at any other time and would never wear again. Those sitting on the left were complete strangers to me and were undoubtedly concerned about the groom’s mental capacity to enter into legal contracts such as marriage. And those on the right were good friends, most of whom were already quite confident that my mental capacity was questionable.

They weren’t the only ones who were concerned. They couldn’t be thinking anything I hadn’t already considered. Will he be able to settle down with a family after being a bachelor all these years? What will happen to my daughter and me if this turns out to be a mistake? Are we insane? I pondered that last question the most.

There wasn’t much about our courtship that was ordinary.

My four-year-old daughter Sophie and I lived in Kansas, and we were pretty much on our own. She’d begun to ask when she would get a daddy and insisted that he would drive a truck because that’s what the father of every other child in daycare drove.

My groom, on the other hand, had always been the single uncle who played with His nieces and nephews while their parents enjoyed adult conversations. In Minnesota, 415 miles away, John had been alone for a long time. He’d never been married and he had no children.

We had only two things in common. First, we each felt we were missing something without a spouse. Second, we both knew Rob and Tracy. I had gone to high school with Rob, and John had gotten to know the couple in college. And it was those relationships that would be key to the future of John, Sophie and me.

In Minnesota, summer had finally given way to fall. John lay in his bed and prayed, “Lord, will I always be this lonely? Isn’t there someone out there for me?” This prayer played over and over in his head as he fell asleep. Once asleep, he had three separate but connected dreams.

In his first dream, he was dating a woman with a little girl. In his second dream, he was standing at the alter with Rob as his best man. In his last dream, he was opening wedding gifts with his wife on one side and one of his sisters on the other.

Later in the week, John called his former college roommate.

“Rob, I had the weirdest dream, and you were in it. I was dating a woman with a little girl. We got married, and you were my best man!”

“Well,” Rob grinned, “I happen to know a woman with a little girl, and she’s looking for someone.”

The next time I saw Rob, he mentioned casually that he had a friend who was single and might like to meet me. At the risk of inflating my ego, he left out the details of the dream. After all, who needs a prima donna who thinks she may be someone’s dream-come-true?

“Seriously, Rob! He’s in Minnesota, and I’m in Kansas. What are we supposed to do?”

Rob wasn’t worried. “Oh, you meet, you fall in love, and you get married.”

Nine months later, John and I stood on opposite ends of the aisle at the beginning of a new life together. And my daughter would have a father – the first man to tell her how incredible and beautiful she was.

In less than 24 hours, the three of us would drive to Minnesota, where I had no job and knew no one except John. I took a deep breath and began my walk down the aisle. I knew only one thing with relative confidence: I would agree to absolutely anything if it got me out of this dress and these heels!

Twenty years later, I’m happy to say that God planned a successful marriage. It hasn’t been a simple marriage – certainly not one without many challenges – but those challenges have strengthened our love and appreciation for each other.

SO, WHAT’S UP?

God is doing something in my life right now, but I don’t know what it is. For the first time in my life, as far as I can recall, God is leaving me entirely out of the loop. I’ve stepped out in faith before, but with at least a small amount of understanding and larger degree of agreement. When I married John and moved from Kansas to Minnesota almost 21 years ago, it was by faith that I moved with my 4-year-old daughter, Sophie. But I wanted to be married. I intended to be married. And I understood and accepted that marrying John would require a move to another state. The rest I left in God’s hands – where I would work, for example. But to a fair extent, I was “kept in the loop” with God’s plans.

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But this blog is different, and today is the first time I really sensed that what happens with my writing is entirely in God’s hands. Even though I wonder if I’m doing the right thing or if I will have enough to write about, I have more than enough ideas to keep me writing something. In fact, it was my younger daughter who suggested I quit posting every day. But I am human, and I do like feedback – you know, a hint that I’m at least on the right track. But I’ve had very little feedback or comments. Ordinarily, I would give up. You know how it goes – you diet for two whole days, realize that you haven’t lost any weight and give up.

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Yesterday was especially discouraging because it appeared that no one – NO ONE! – read my post. (And I thought it was a pretty decent post.) Then this morning, I see that I’m getting visitors from somewhere, who are looking at something; but I don’t know what they’re looking at. But, then again, I don’t understand blogging anyway. I know writing, so I write.

Bottom line: I have no idea what I’m doing, but I keep doing what I think I should be doing because I feel called to help God’s children know how much they’re loved.

Then I passed by this verse last night from one source and this morning from another source:

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I’m learning that even if no one reads another word I write, I’m edifying myself and renewing my mind. And that’s good because I need it! Five years ago this coming July, I had emergency open-heart surgery for an ascending aortic dissection. Since that time, my speech and handwriting have deteriorated to the point where I avoid speaking or writing as much as I can. But I can type, so I’ve decided to do something “meaningful” with what I can do. My body and energy level have been worse than they are now (which is good), but it’s a looong way from where they were before my surgery. I can’t do the things I used to be able to do, which leaves me sitting most of the time…which leaves me here on this blog.

I’ not the woman I was five years ago. I don’t push myself beyond my limits, because the cost of doing so is too high. I don’t talk as much as I used to because speaking clearly is too frustrating, so I economize my speaking. (Trust me, I used to talk non-stop about anything and everything. If I had a thought, I figured I may as well say it!) I tire easily so I choose more carefully where I spend my energy, which I’m pretty sure is what they now call ‘self-care’. And I’ve had to find a new purpose for myself. I spent my life finding value in what I did. Now, I have to find value in who I am.

And I believe that’s what God wants for his children. I believe that what they do is important as long as it doesn’t become a substitute for who they are. I think action is valuable (and required) as an extension of who they are as a child of God. But above all, God wants us to be convicted of who we are in Him. We need to know that we are loved, forgiven, redeemed and His. He wants us to know that we have a Good Shepherd who will take care of all our needs. He wants us to know that we have the Holy Spirit to comfort us when no one else in the world can.

I found this blessing by Susie Larson and think this is a good place to share it:

“May you believe – with all your heart – that God is writing a great story with your life! May the lies that came your way today fall by the wayside and not make their way into your heart. May you instead know and believe the truth about who you are and whose you are. You are loved, accepted, gifted, and treasured. You have important things to do in this life. May you refuse to let anything distract you from God’s highest and best purposes for you. He will make a way when there seems to be no way. He’ll move mountains at just the right time. You can trust Him. So trust Him.”

I would be honored if God chose to use me to help those who feel unloved and unlovable to become convicted of His love for them and their value in Him. But I also know that I may need to spend some time in a wilderness of my own before that can happen. See, the reason I want to help those who have felt unloved and unlovable is that that’s how I spent so much of my own life – even when I was loved and couldn’t accept it. Christ didn’t die for us to have lives with no victory in them. He died to save us from the lies of Satan, who daily condemns us daily, and to be living trophies of God’s glory.

I want more for me and for others like me. So I guess I’ll just keep writing until I am convinced that God wants me to stop.

Peace and joy to you!

 

 

FREAK OR FIGHT?

Yesterday was rough. It was one of those days when you begin to feel hopeless; nothing is ever going to be fine, much less good, again. And, as usual, it comes down to our finances. I feel horrible admitting that my faith in God is measured by my checking balance, but that’s the truth of it.

See, when my account balance gets lower, my fear and anxiety increase. When my anxiety and fear increase, my faith in God decreases. And I know that’s when my faith in God needs to increase. I know the verses about fearing not and casting all my cares on Him. But I’m still scared.

This is the crack in my spiritual armour that I mentioned a few posts ago. This is the moment of truth. What will I do? The way I see it, I have two options: Freak or Fight.

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I’ve already freaked. I cried, worried, and what-if’d my way down a few rabbit holes. I’m still broke. And I’m still anxious. This is what I’m comfortable with. I think I probably come from a long line of freakers. My mom certainly was one.

OK, time for a quick side story! When I was about 23, I made the horribly desperate (the decision was both horrible and desperate) decision to move back home. It was a bad neighborhood, and within two days of living there, someone set my car on fire when trying to steal the radio – which was sad because it was the only part of the car that still worked well. At 2:00 am, my step-father, Frank, woke me up to let me know my car was on fire. When I asked him if he’d called the fire department, he answered, “I thought you’d want to do that.” (Now you know Frank.) The car was consumed by flames by the time the fire department got there, and my mom was screaming, “What are we going to do?! What are we going to do?!” (And now you know Mom – the Freaker.) Since the only pressing business for the morning was getting me to class, and since we had a city bus system, I decided I’d get up in time to take the bus and went back to bed. That’s what I was going to do.

So back to the question of whether I should freak or fight over our finances today. Freaking out is sort of satisfying and gives me something to do, I suppose; but it doesn’t really help, does it? And I know that every minute I take my sight off God, it pleases Satan immensely. Satan loves nothing more than to see me be anxious and fearful because that means my trust is not in my heavenly Father. I guess that means that I may as well put on the Armour of God, starting with the shield of peace.

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I know my heavenly Father is loving and gracious and good. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. His burden is light. He has unlimited resources that we can’t even fathom. Our financial situation is no surprise to him. He already has a plan for me and my family because he’s already gone ahead of us and made a way. I have no idea how things will turn out, but I don’t suppose I need to know because I know the One who is making the arrangements for things to turn out well. (I just hope his plans for us don’t require us being penniless up to that moment when he “suddenly” performs a miracle to demonstrate his glory, ya know?)

So, today I take a stand that I will fight and not freak. I will remember Matthew 6:31-34:

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Today I will cast my cares on God. I will put my concerns in his hands. And I will hope I will be smart enough to leave them there! After all, He knows me, He sees me, and He loves me. And he’s a God of  ‘suddenly’ and of Red Sea miracles.