When I was called to give the devotional, I immediately asked God to present a topic that would help me reveal how He has been at work in my life. What could I tell our church family about myself that you don’t already know? Let’s be honest. Most of you have known me since the day I was born and you already know more about my struggles and triumphs than I might want to imagine. You have witnessed my highs and lows and there isn’t a ton to reveal that would shock you. Many of you were probably here the day my parents got married and the day I was baptized. Right after that prayer for guidance a very dear friend of mine sent this video by Neale Walsch and I was completely touched with a tug in my heart and I knew I wanted to talk about YOU and the divine miracle that you are.
Deuteronomy 7:6-8 says, "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt."
I have loved God my whole life but my journey was truly transformed when I began to put Him first, above all else. When I began to let go of so many of the selfish behaviors that crowded my heart there was room for Jesus to go to work….. To transform, change and mold me. I needed the Lord to bring me out with a mighty mighty hand. I have a cousin who attends this church and he has been my friend for a very long time; He may be shocked to know that he has had a huge impact on my spiritual life. I remember a time many years ago that I looked at him with judging ‘He’s a Bible beater’ eyes and could not comprehend his deep connection with Christ. I couldn’t fathom having that sort of relationship with Jesus. Sure I loved him but this guy had completely turned his life over to him and wasn’t that a little bit much? I wanted to stay in my surface comfort zone and believe that loving God was enough. I didn’t really want to do the work. I didn’t really believe I was his treasured possession. After years of struggling and making poor decisions and continuing to put myself first over and over and over, it finally clicked. I finally got beat with the Bible. I finally quit resisting and let the Holy Spirit flood into my life unabated. After much persistence, my life began to change. Nothing has been the same since. I began to feel like a chosen one. I began to believe I am his daughter. I began to know there is a higher purpose for me. I began to really understand those words in Esther 4:14 that say, “And who knows that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” I began to believe I was put here to help fulfill His royal plan. When you give more and more to God, when you really really start to buy in, your eyes begin to see things in a new light. When you know Him more, your heart becomes more. New chambers open and there is a capacity within you that is more than you can imagine. I finally understood why my old friend had changed so much and why his life was and is such a blessing to God. Your spiritual depth and realm of influence strengthens and expands because you are living out His destiny for you. Let that soak in: He has a destiny designed just for you.
Ephesians 1:4-7 says “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
BUT it is not always perfect, peachy and rosey…..Even in this new improved Jesus loving skin, I still have times where my faith feels weak, when I feel my anointing has run dry. When I question the ways of this world and exactly what my purpose is. Empty and perhaps a bit alone. Over the past couple of months, I have experienced this drought. I have cried where are you God? I cannot hear you. I cannot feel you. It has been as if my faith has felt tossed into a very dark hole. There hasn’t been one specific event to cause this mindset but several things that have honestly made me believe our world is broken beyond repair. Where is the divinity? I believe most of you can relate to the issues of this world being very overwhelming and heavy at times. Children dying from cancer, mass shootings, suicide in our young people, mental illness, addiction, homelessness, divorce, sad, sad, hard things. It hurts my heart. I am a tender person when it comes to other people’s pain and I can get saturated in the sadness of it all. I can get down and out with what can feel like such brokenness in this world. Sometimes, it is enough to begin to lose sight of the glory, not only in this life, but in ourselves. With each difficult event we question; Who are we God? What is our purpose God? Where are you God? My 10 year old was telling me every friend at school that is sick right now. Chance had a fever during trick or treat. So and so has a bad cough. The list was long and at the end of it she shook her head and said, “So many people sick. Jesus take the wheel.” I can, at times, lose sight of who is behind the wheel. I can forget the miracle of this life that is going on around us every day and I begin to lose sight of the miracle I am intended to be. The joy of a little life kicking inside of me or a warm fire on a cold October evening or a beautiful Panhandle sunset or the hysterical things my kids say. Those tiny miracles and amazing blessings that swirl around us all the time can be so taken for granted. I am certainly guilty of it. The message by Neale Donald Walsche says, “There’s a purpose behind it. There’s a mechanism in place. There’s a process that’s being undertaken in life by life itself. That process is the process by which we as deliverers of this life, as those who are living into the experience, create the experience we are living into has a means of experiencing and expressing who we really are.” Each and every one of you sitting in this room is part of this process, part of this mechanism that God has in place. All of us are deliverers of life. Timothy 4:2 says: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season, whether the time is favorable or not; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” Timothy 4:2 teaches us to persist no matter what. Whether it is convenient or not, whether you feel like it or not, whether you can hear God or not, you must persist. Because you are the axis for this miracle of God’s plan. You are intended to be a miracle and you were put here for a purpose so specific, so ordained, so anointed that the rest of God’s idea for this earth revolves around you. You are such an enormous part of this process that this miracle of life cannot go on in the same way without you. You are crucial to His plan. You are divine.
I have found a deeper layer in my heart for Christ but I am still working on the persistence part among other things (many things). I believe we will continue to grow in persistence every day for all of our days, because that’s what life is: an ebb and flow of triumphs and trials. Pushing your faith in the hard times can be so challenging and I am learning that you must do exactly that: PUSH. FIGHT. Never give up. Stay in the word, serve, pray, hit your knees with gratitude whether the time is favorable or not. Lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ when your faith needs pushing. My cousin Ryan, my husband and family, this church, the altar where I have received communion for over thirty years, the bell my son now rings on Sundays at noon, the faces of each and every one of you are a critical part of my persistence. Our church family is so important, those who have witnessed the good, the bad and the beautiful contribute to our lasting faith. We fuel one another with faith and fellowship and familiarity (fu mill yarity). We are all integral to God’s plan and purpose and when this world is chaotic and crazy is when we need to persist alongside one another the most. We must remind each other:
When the anointing has run completely dry. Persist.
When it seems you have been walking in the wrong direction towards your purpose. Persist.
When you feel uninspired and God feels far away. Persist.
When your faith shows no results. Persist.
When your obedience has not paid off. Persist.
When your prayers seem like they echo out into the abyss. Persist.
When your bones feel dead-and so does the word. Persist.
When your heart feels empty and your soul feels lost. Persist.
Let Jesus take the wheel, He is on his way. Your anointing has not run dry. You are walking in the right direction no matter how curvy the path might seem. Your inspiration will find you again. The results of your faith will soon sprout from the fallow ground. Just a little more rain. Just a little more sunshine. Your obedience will pay off. You have not wasted a single breath to prayer. There is still life in your bones, and child of God, there is still life in His Word. Persist. Be Divine. Live the purpose that was set out for you. First Peter 2:9-10 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Your heart will be filled. Your soul will be found because you are God’s greatest and most divine miracle.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”- Peter 5:10
So much “I am just not happy. I am trying to find my happiness. He doesn’t make me happy. I just want to be happy!” We are living in a culture that teaches us we are supposed to be elated all of the time. Happy about our bodies, happy about our careers, happy about or children’s grades, happy, happy, happy. If you are looking for what makes you happy, you cannot be whole.
The suffering Peter is referring to does not really mean for a little while. He does not mean life will be hard for like five minutes and then you will be blissfully happy for the rest of your lives. I believe the little while is your whole live long life. You will suffer throughout this journey but this life is only for a teeny tiny little while.
Last night I walked home from dinner at my sister’s. Betty was on her bike singing loudly. AAP drove home with HAP in his lap who had on a bright orange hat…backwards. Precious sight. I almost burst with happiness in that moment because my life is so full. A moment. A fleeting moment that comes and goes. I am not happy all the time but I have so many wonderful moments of happiness that the rest of life is pretty great too.
After you have suffered a little while…
We all suffer in our own ways. Life is hard. Life is challenging and sad and complicated and sometimes lonely. I heard an addict say recently, I was sober for 15 months and it was the most miserable 15 months of my life. But what she didn’t see on the other side was that it was the BEST 15 months of her family’s lives. They spent 15 months, for the first time in years, not worrying if she was dead or going to be homeless or if her heart was broken. Which brings me to this, joy, in my eyes, almost 1000000% of the time is about selflessness. It is about putting others happiness before your own and sometimes, just sometimes, you get a big return on that investment. What you give comes back around and that brings joy, lots and lots of joy. Perhaps that 15 months of sobriety was no fun for the girl but for her family it was the most relief they had felt in a very long time. It was the most connected her child had felt to her and so although she was sober and ‘miserable’, she was making such an enourmous difference in other people's lives.
We are not called to an easy life. We are called to a purposeful life. Life is not about being happy, yippety dee da day all of the time. It is about finding what makes you whole. Serving others. Helping friends. Your children. Your sister. Your brother. Giving back. Hearing someone laugh. Cooking a meal. Friday night football. Double strollers. Matching tees on cousin brothers. Hugs. Listening. Being compassionate. Being like Jesus. Jesus suffered for a little while and I doubt he spent every hour of every day happy. But he was whole. He was whole because he always put others first. He was whole because he sought God. He was whole because he spent his life serving and praying and healing. If you are searching for your own happiness, if you are constantly wondering WHY CAN’T I JUST BE HAPPY, if you are so focused on your own joy and glee, you have it wrong. Wholeness. Wholeness will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
I love wine. I love red wine and white wine and even pink wine. I love to smell wine and taste wine and cook with wine. I have been to Napa and Sonoma and Rome and in wine clubs and I have drank enough wine to fill Lake Meredith perhaps. So after HAP was born I quit drinking (obviously before he was born too). I miss my fun care free self a lot. I was happy in my wine days. Travelling and laughing and letting loose and man I was a whole lot of fun. But I was not whole and I was selfish and I was not the absolute best version of myself for my family. Not drinking is boring….a lot…..and I miss it sometimes but I miss the false sense of wholeness it can bring ZERO. I was happy, and did I mention fun, but I was very incomplete.
I still have a very long way to go….I have also come a very long way. Over the past few years, I have moved closer to being restored, strengthened and established little by little. I have moved away from being happy all the time towards a heart that is whole. Fillin’ up the cracks. Lordy, do I have some cracks. A Biblical Definition of ‘Wholeness’ – The state of being perfectly well in body, soul (mind, will and emotions) and spirit. Complete sanctification and restoration. God’s original design for man before sin entered the world, and now attainable only when one’s body is in heaven after the second coming of Jesus. (A noun). I don’t believe God designed us to be doing cartwheels about life all the time. We were not put on this earth to always be HAP HAP HAPPPPPPPPY. It is so much more than that. As his children, we are so much more than that. Through our suffering, through HIS suffering we are warriors for God's kingdom. We are children of light, sons and daughters of victory and the best symbols of God's love.
But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:10
If you are seeking what makes you happy, I encourage you to put a twist on that search and look for what makes your heart and soul whole. I encourage you to shift your focus towards the happiness of others. Help a neighbor, take back a mean word, pray with your spouse, take flowers to a friend, hold back the ugly comment, GIVE RATHER THAN RECEIVE. The only thing that will make our “little while” the best little while until we get to the rest of our while is surrendering to ourselves.
This morning my little nugget made blueberry pancakes all by herself and brought me a plate with a sweet pink rose from our yard. That. THAT brings more wholeness than all of the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc in Lake Meredith.
Today as we walked to the park and B rode ahead, she took a spill on her bike. I walked faster towards her but she was already back up, assessing her scrapes, not a tear shed. She was waiting for us, tar kneed, at the park as if nothing had ever happened. I put my arm around her and we sat in silence, me crying inside. I wanted to take her home and swaddle her up in the softest blanket and hold her in my lap for the rest of the night. I wanted to rock her and sing to her and read her Llama Llama Red Pajama. But she will not fit in my lap any more and she reads mysteries to me now. Long legged and lanky. Tall and skinny. Brave and big. She doesn't really need her momma any more.....
Ten has strainght crept up and snatched my heart. As her tiny little self rode ahead of me today, I felt a little robbed. Where has it all gone? How is she ten? TEN years in a blink. And ya'll I mean a blink. The fastest longest decade of my life. This last breath of summer has been a gut punch for me. As her 10th birthday and 5th grade year approaches, she wants to spend countless hours with her friends and soaks in the sunshine while she rides as free as a bird on her bike. She doesn't really need her momma any more......
She cooks supper and brownies and makes her bed and showers without being asked. She braids her own hair and picks out her own clothes. She hasn't asked me to tuck her in at night in a long time. She is growing up and ten came too fast. I need a few more minutes with that little girl who needed her momma ALL the time. Ten is change. Ten is big. Ten is the beginning of new things.
When I was pregnant with HAP, before I knew he was HAP, I was certain I would never love any child like I love my first born.....and that is true. I love them both in completely different ways, equally, deeply, but differently. My girl is my girl. My first. She is funny and laid back and kind and an old soul and soft and sensitive and bubbly and different and loves Jesus. When she was born my heart changed forever and when she rode off on her bike today, unscathed, it changed again. Everything I know about being a momma has stemmed from her. I asssure you she has taught me equally along the way and I have made 1,000 mistakes in this past decade but she is a testimony that doing your very best works sometimes. All that is good in my momma heart started with this little lady. And now she doesn't really need her momma any more....
In the exact same breath that my heart felt sad, I felt more gratitude than I have ever known. Grateful that she can ride a bike and dive off of a starting block and braid her own hair and bake brownies. Grateful that I have kept her alive for ten whole years. Grateful that I can blog about something as trivial as a bike wreck. We are truly sheltered in our little safe haven. I am so grateful for her health and her heart and her independence because I think that means we are doing something right when we haven't really a clue what to do at all. My heart sank and then almost burst out of my chest with so much thankfulness and pride that she doesn't really need her momma any more....
Happy Birthday to one I love the most. You are loved.
"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well." Psalm 139:14
Because I genuinely fear this blog might ever lose its sense of realness, a new monthly entry which I will deem "Dose of Reality".
I posted a sweet pic today of my precious family in their finest Easter gear, hair combed, clothes ironed, color coordinating and looking mighty fine.
Dose of Reality: The very first thing that happened when H woke up was to somehow find a piece of chocolate (I hid the rest), unwrap, drop wrapper on the floor, stick chocolate in his mouth, drool on self, wipe chocolatey drool on his clothes, repeat. The very first thing that happened when B woke up was to discover her Easter basket (swim bag) and declare (in tears) that she knew everything was from us and the Easter bunny is not real. She saw the tankini at the Dollar Store previously and the white chocolate bunny was in her Easter basket from her Poppy & B. I digress. After some raising of the voice and tears and changing outifts 3 times and curling 86 curls, we left for Sunday school where all children were pouring Skittles on their donuts. Again, I digress.
I came home from SS to get H ready who was fast asleep in his bed all snuggly and warm. It literally broke my heart to wake him up knowing I was about to force him into a suit and bow tie. After thousands of tears and a few slaps, he was dressed and we were out the door. Needless to say I did not get to paint my nails or finish drying my hair or pick up the 87 candy wrappers off of the floor. Speaking of hair, I had so much dried paint in my hair, I had Betty cut off an inch or two at the end of my ponytail. Needless to say, my hair was alllll kinds of uneven when I wore it down today (like layers but not so much). Perfect. I did make blueberry pancakes so the kitchen (and house) were a disaster. Reminiscent of Christmas morn.
Following a beautiful service, Easter egg hunt, lunch (chocolate), second Easter egg hunt, kitchen cleaning only so I would have enough pans to cook again, supper, and now bath time and bed, I sit totally exhausted and completely happy.
Dose of Reality: Life can be dang hard, especially holidays and especially toddlers. But I will never forget this Easter for the few minutes I spent ironing his suit (I typically do not iron. I spray wrinkle release on their clothes while they are wearing them), the way our Pastor shined in her white robe, feeling very close to Jesus and the unending gratitutde I have for each and every dose of reality....
The picture of the suit and bow tie should be complimented by the one of him sitting on his firetruck in his underwear crying (chocolate on mouth) because all candy has been moved to the top of the closet where it can be recycled for a certain birthday in August.
Looking back to the time of my divorce and the time after when I was a single momma in this house, I feel like I was afraid of the dark. I feel like those nights were long and I lost sleep and heard noises and felt afraid and alone. Daytime never seemed to be an issue but I remember tossing and turning and constantly checking on B throughout the night. My heart would race in the darkness and I remember times of feeling paralyzed in fear under my covers. I remember having my grandmother smudge my house and pray over every room to keep the bad spirits out. Long nights....fear that I dimissed at the time because morning always came. The sun would always rise and I would go about my life in the light. Sometimes when my husband is gone I can creep back to those days and feel just a tad bit of the anxiety but for the most part, being afraid of the dark is gone. Light prevails.....
Honesty time: I love Easter more than Christmas. I love that there is no stress over gifts and that there are not 100 parties to attend (let’s be honest I don’t go anyway but that is irrelevant). I love that Easter is warm and breezy and all things new. I love that my entire yard is just beginning to burst into bloom, just on the verge of the peony blooms busting wide open. There is such a feeling of renewal and freshness and new beginnings around Easter. New life is happening all around us. I love brand new haircuts on toddler baby boys at Easter and bopping blonde girls donning special dresses. Easter is my favorite holiday which is what I say about every holiday during that particular holiday. I am a lover of all things. The thought of sweet baby Jesus being born is so special and sweet to me but as Maundy Thursday happened yesterday, I began to feel so weepy and emotional and overwhelmed with gratitude for that cross he chose to bear. Can you believe he loved those guys enough to wash their feet? I shake my head. I want to be a servant like him. I really do. As we go through this weekend I cannot help but feel completely consumed by His love.
Someone died for our sins. For my silver Choctaw tongue and my impatience and my over indulgence and my jealousy and my judging and a thousand other things, someone died for those sins. Someone loves us enough to forgive us and bring us out of the darkness.
“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.”-1 Thessalonians 5:5.
Before Jesus we were all just wandering around in the dark, a tunnel with no light at the end. We were dust. We are dust, but because of his sacrifice, because of those nails driven into his hands and feet, we are children of the light. We do not belong to the night, we belong to the day. I believe Jesus had a choice. I believe he could have ran. He could have turned the other way and not fulfilled his destiny. He could have forsaken us. I believe when he prayed for the cup to be taken from him, he was terrified and perhaps having second thoughts. “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Yet he stayed and cast his own will aside for the will of God so we would not be forsaken. When I think about Jesus in a more human nature, when I think about him being afraid or in pain or sad or alone, it is almost more than I can bear. He was such a nice guy. He was such a giver and a teacher and he just wanted to love everyone. I am sad he had to die. I wish I could have known him. I wish I could have had dinner with him. So that we would not be forsaken. So that we would have a life in the light and not in the darkness. So that we could live again. So that we could be free.
Isaiah 42:16 God says, “I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”
You are a child of the light, a child of the day. You have been chosen by God himself to walk into His marvelous light.
Friend loved by God, remember this Easter weekend that you are a peony bloom just about to burst open. Remember that all of your sins were placed on that cross and that you are forgiven. Remember that you are CHOSEN, that you are a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD. God loves you so much. He isn’t up there judging you or scolding you or being angry at you. He is loving you. HE CHOSE YOU TO BE HIS. He paid the price. He gave his only son. The tomb was empty. Whatever your fear in the darkness may be, whatever struggle you may have, whatever aches in your heart, choose to walk in the light because someone loved you enough (the one and only wonderful you) to choose death for you. Hold your head up high and be His possession, be His prize. Jesus did not run. He stayed. He stayed for you and for me. You are worth it. Every bit of afraid and alone and sad Jesus felt was worth it because of how marvelous you are. Because of how good your heart is and how bright your light shines and because this world is so much better with you in it. This Easter above all else, be reminded of how much you are adored and that no amount of night will keep the sun from rising. Breathe in and out and feel that warm air on your skin and show yourself some love. You are a child of God, a saved one in Christ and your rough places will be turned into level ground. For you Jesus stayed, for you he took the cup, for you he walked into the darkness so that your light may shine. Because he lives.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9