Blessed to be Broken

God's not finished with me yet!

I’ve Got It

The other day at the grocery store, I had to reach quite far under the top shelf to get the big plastic wrapped container of 35-16 oz., water. Or is it waters? Either way, as I hoisted it up to walk it around to the front of the cart, a gentleman said, “Here, let me get that for you,” as he started walking towards me. Ummm. What? I replied with, “No thanks, I’ve got it.” He said, “Are you sure, it looks pretty heavy”. He wasn’t wrong, it wasn’t light. But, I reiterated, “It’s ok, I’ve got it”. Then we parted ways.

After the brief encounter, several things went through my brain. The first was shock that someone was offering to help me. Usually I help others get things they can’t reach. Then, did I look like I was struggling with the water? Then insult, because I am woman hear me roar, right? Then, awww, that was super sweet, you don’t find many guys who offer to help. At least that hasn’t been my experience these past several years. I’m not saying those guys aren’t out there because clearly they absolutely are. I’m just saying, I haven’t typically intersected with them.

Next up, over analyzing the situation. Why didn’t I put the cart behind me? Once I grabbed the water I could just turn and put it in the cart instead of taking extra steps around the cart? Gosh, was I polite enough when he asked? I would hate to be the person that stopped him from helping others because I was too gruff. All my fellow people pleasers raise your hands in the air and say, heyyyy, hooooo.

How many times have you offered to help someone, got turned down and then vowed to never do that again because people are just, well, too people-y? Then you turn around and help because that’s just who you are, and you know how good it feels to help someone.

Now let me give you some background. A couple weeks ago I was having dinner with a friend. I promise you, this is not about man bashing. Some women actually like to have doors opened for them, and to be let off the elevator first, but my friend and I have noticed these type things have gone by the wayside. At least in our cases. I don’t know all the reasons why, but I have a few guesses. Again, not man bashing, just an observation.

Days after that conversation, I was going to the post office to mail my Christmas packages. I was carrying 2 boxes. An older gentleman, in front of me was carrying 1 box. His one box was bigger than my boxes. When he got to the doors, he opened the one side…for me. At the same time, another gentleman was exiting the building, and he held the other door open for me. Both doors, wide open for me to walk through, by 2 different men.

Back to the other day and the water incident. This is the part of the story where I loop God in. He’s always weaving things together. Do you look for Him in these things? Any way, God heard my conversation with my friend. God heard me previously say, multiple times, how sick and tired I am of going to the store. These weren’t prayers. I was actually grumbling. Yet, beyond the grumbling was a heart cry. God separated the grumbling from the heart cry, and answered.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful I can go to the store and get all the things, but, it doesn’t mean I always like it. Those of you who always go to the store, I know, you get me. I’m not sure why I declined the man’s offer to help with the water, but it reminded me of how God will answer prayers and we either see it or we don’t. We either walk through those wide open doors, or we decline the help offered. You know, “I’ve got it”.

When God says His ways are not our ways, He’s serious. Remember, if we seek Him, we find Him. Do you know God? Because your relationship with Him will determine how you seek Him. I used to seek the judgmental, god must hate me god. Well, not so much seek as try not to catch his attention for fear of wrath. I mean who wants that kind of attention?

But, God cares about us. All through the Bible we find out just how much. He cares so much about this child who felt neglected about a simple door being opened for her, He sent not one, but 2 men to open doors for her.

It’s really rather simple, God’s in the details. He hasn’t forgotten you. Maybe though, you’ve forgotten who He is? Have you put Him in a box looking for Him to do your bidding? Or have you given Him the room to move using ALL the things He has at His disposal? Are you looking for Him in your day? Are you expectant for Him to move?

Truth is, He’s moving whether you see it or not. There’s always gonna be someone who wants to tell you how to have a relationship with God. That’s not gonna be me. All I’m going to do is share what He’s done for me. Because I don’t truly know you the way He knows you. I don’t see the deep desires of your heart. But, God does. And quite frankly, I’m still learning about my own relationship with God.

Your relationship with God is personal. He’s the One who knows what you need better than anyone. Not the stars, not the moon, not your horrorscope, (not a mistype), not even a psychic. I may have past experience with relying on those other things to help me navigate my life. They didn’t serve me well.

My point is simply this, God heard the cries of my heart and He answered. Why? Because He loves me. Guess what? He loves you too.

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Circling The Drain

Circling The Drain

I feel a shift. Not a big or mighty shift. But a shift, nonetheless. It’s easy to see big, drastic changes. But it’s the small steps towards something that gets easily ignored, forgotten, or even dismissed. When in fact, those tiny steps forward should be celebrated.

Perhaps this shift is a new thought that interrupts, and inserts itself into the “same old” pattern of thinking. This new thought brings hope into a desolate situation. Except, the hopeful thought gets tossed to the side because the “nothing good ever happens” thoughts over power it.

I call those negative thought patterns, “circling the drain”. It’s like at any given moment we can be sucked down the pit of despair drain, but instead we ride the rim, hoping something will change, but dismissing any hopeful thought or movement toward change.

What happens next? The “what if’s” join the circle. Nasty little buggers. The “what if’s” allow the imagination to run wild with every possible “this will never work” scenario. They snatch hope away like the Grinch stealing all things Christmas, until there’s not even a piece of tinsel left.

Hopelessness then comes creeping in like the thief it is. This is the scariest of places. Hopelessness has a language and feeling all its own. It deceives and destroys. It robs you and doesn’t think twice or look back to see if you’re ok, because it could care less about you. It takes and keeps taking, until there’s nothing left to take.

I’ve been hopeless. I’ve been overrun by guilt, shame, self-loathing, and low self-esteem. I’ve looked at the reflection in the mirror and mentally abused myself. Which led me to physically abuse myself. Not in obvious ways…at first. Eventually, the lies of the enemy piled so high on top of me, I couldn’t or maybe I just didn’t want to see a way forward. I just wanted all the pain to stop.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’re there now. Words seem hollow. Simple actions are unbearably hard to achieve. Going through the motions is a chore. And if this is what life looks like, you no longer want any part of it. Whatever the reason(s), I’m so sorry.

The theme song to the tv show MAS*H is entitled “Suicide Is Painless”. I beg to differ. It’s anything but painless. It’s gut wrenching. It’s hope deferred. It’s dark, twisty, and hell bent on destruction. Suicide is not a stigma, it’s not selfish, and it’s nothing new. It has no rhyme or reason and anyone can be its victim. Race, religion, status, popularity, rich, or poor doesn’t matter. Suicide isn’t glamorous and it won’t “show them,” a thing.

I can’t make any promises, but I can say, from my own experience, that suicide is not the only option. There’s still ”life” to be had. There’s still more. But you have to decide your life has meaning and purpose. You have to decide to step away from the rim of the drain. You have to know, deep down, below the darkness, there’s still a light shining. Even if it’s a flicker, it’s still there.

You have to fight for you because yes, you are worth it. Let me repeat that..YOU are worth it!

Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. Seasons of life come and go. This moment in time is not your entire story. It’s just, right now. And right now, is all any of us have. In the blink of an eye, shift happens and life begins beyond this moment. Because time nor the world, my friend, stops for no one.

I guess what I want to say is, there’s always hope. You may have to dig to find it, but it’s there. Name one thing you can be grateful for and focus on that until you can think of the next thing, and then the next. There’s always, always something to be thankful for, as cliche as that sounds. If you weren’t supposed to be here, you wouldn’t be reading this.

And if no one has told you lately that you matter, please hear my heart when I tell you, YOU matter. And what I mean by that is, the world would not be a better place without you, nor would those left behind be better without you.

You are an intricately made, wonderfully complex, deeply loved person of effect. You, my friend, are a world changer. It all begins with a ripple. Remember always, greater is He that is in you, than he who is in the world.

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Silly Love Songs

The past few days, the song “Silly Love Songs” by Paul McCartney & Wings, has been running around in my head. Which is odd because I don’t really like his music. Yet, here we are. Let’s take a look at some of the lyrics:

“You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs
But I look around me and I see it isn’t so, oh no,
Some people want to fill the world
With silly love songs
And what’s wrong with that?”

The song was written by Paul and his wife Linda. It’s said it was written in retaliation to music critics who accused Paul of writing, well, “silly love songs.”

It would seem songs, and movies about love are always in high demand. Who doesn’t love a happy ending? This time of year we’re flooded with cheesy love stories. Despite knowing the overplayed plot of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back, we still tune in. We cry, we laugh, we get all sentimental and we long for the unrealistic tv version of love. Simple, silly, cheesy, love.

However, if you’ve ever been in a relationship, you know they take work. There’s no play by play book that covers every human interaction. For sure there’s similar experiences but no relationship is comparatively exact to another. We know there are highs and lows. We know things get blown out of proportion and feelings get hurt. We know they end. Sometimes we’re so devastated by the end of a relationship, it takes years to fully recover.

Even so, we long for that “silly” love connection despite knowing how awful it can make us feel. Why? Because we all love the idea of love. Can I let you in on a little secret? Love is anything but silly. Are there silly moments? Of course. But what happens when we bump up against the truly hard stuff? Do we tuck tail and run or do we press in and persevere? Allow me to share a story with you.

The beginning of a love story begins with a birth. I mean, we’re all were born at some point, right? In this particular story, this birth, no matter how long ago it happened, the purpose is the same. It never changes. It’s all about love. Not love, the sqishy, ooey, gooey, feeling; love, the action.

Once upon a time, thousands of years ago, a baby was born in the city of Bethlehem. But, not just any baby. No, this baby had a specific plan and purpose on his life. A purpose so big, only he could fulfill it. This baby, was sent specifically for you.

Let me show you.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16 (GNT)

Do you see that word “everyone”? That means, you. Everyone does not exclude you, it includes you. God didn’t say, “except that one,” no, He said “everyone.” So can we now agree that God sent His Son for you?

Ok, let’s keep moving forward. The baby born in the city of Bethlehem was named Jesus. Maybe you’ve heard of Him? His mission, to save the world. Read that again. To save the world. Cue the theme from “Mission Impossible”. Who’s in this world? You are. It’s no accident you’re here, despite what you may have been told or how you may feel.

Let me show you.

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!” ~ Psalm 139:13-16 (TLB)

Can we now agree, you’re no accident? Not only are you not an accident, you’re marvelous because you’re His workmanship. Not only are you marvelous, you’re wonderfully complex. All those things about you, you think are too much, not enough, or over the top, are part of your complex make-up. You are everything He thought of and put into action. I know, crazy, right?

As I mentioned earlier, the mission of Jesus was to save the world. Every single encounter we read about in the Bible is significant and completed with great purpose. As Jesus grew into the man He was purposed to be here on earth, He didn’t bypass the broken or the sick, or the downtrodden or the sinners. No, He went in search of them. Why? The answer is simple, yet so complex. Love. Not silly love. Agape love.

A grape ape what? No, no. Let’s try it again. Agape love. It’s a Greek word. This love is not a feeling. This love is all about action. It’s the highest form of love. It’s sacrificial and it puts others first.

Let me show you.

“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.”
~ 1 Corinthians 13:3-7 (The MSG)

So, you see, you can write, listen, and sing about silly love songs. You can watch all the silly love movies, but you won’t be filled. There will still be a longing for “something” more. I know, because I bought into the lie that silly worldly, selfish love would make me whole. But, it never did.

It wasn’t until I understood that while I was still neck deep in my pit, covered in sin, that the Savior of the world, chose to sacrifice His life for mine, because of His great love. And friends, there’s nothing silly about His love for you. He’s very serious about His relationship with you. But, that’s something you’ll have to experience for yourself. Because He’s not a stand-offish God, He’s personal.

And it’s not Santa Claus, who sees you when you’re sleeping, or knows when you’re awake. Nope, it’s God. But don’t take my word for it.

Let me show you.

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
~ Psalm 139:1-12 (NIV)

Nothing silly about that my friends! God sees you. He hears you. And most assuredly, He loves you. He’s not forgotten you, nor has He abandoned you. He is always, always, with you. Your mission…believe it or not. He leaves that choice in your hands. He will never force His love on you. Because His love is a gift, freely given to everyone. And yes, that still includes, YOU!

May God bless you and keep you, make His face shine upon you, and give you peace!

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Stink, Stank, Skunked

A couple days ago I shared the following story on Facebook wall. At the time, I wasn’t sure why this happened. As I was contemplating the scenario, it dawned on me that before I got out of bed, I prayed for God to help me be creative. Hence the following story. I hope, if nothing else, it makes you laugh. It definitely helped me be creative. And might I just add, well played God, well played.

If you were anywhere near the vicinity of my home around 6:15ish am, I hope you enjoyed the show.

I let Moose out this morning like I always do. I threw his toy after he ran out as he waited in “attack” mode for me to toss it so he could grab it up and then run over to the corner of the house to see if there was anything bark worthy that way.

As I sat down to enjoy my morning devotionals and coffee I heard him growl. Not his typical growl. I thought…well maybe that squirrel finally decided to charge him. I got up out of my chair and opened the door and no, there was no squirrel.

The scene playing out before my eyes was straight out of a cartoon. There was Moose being chased round and round by a demonic skunk. Sweet baby Jesus! I in no way handled this well. I started slapping my hand repeatedly on the glass window of the screen door while yelling at the top of my lungs trying to scare the skunk off. This is apparently not the tactic you want to use. It did nothing but make the two of them go round and round faster. This skunk was no where near deterred by my crazy lady behavior. Pretty weird since I was freaked out by my own behavior. But, this is a skunk we’re talking about, people!!

The skunk, to my nose knowledge had yet to spray. That doesn’t mean it didn’t. As Moose would circle around to the door, I would open the screen door for him to run in. Praying to God the skunk wouldn’t follow him in. Moose was pretty freaked out, so it took him a couple times round to see the door being opened for him.

Moose doesn’t usually have something chase after him. This was a new unwelcome experience for him. He typically does all the scaring off with his “vicious” bark, but this skunk was all like…I don’t think so, dude. Lemme show you what I got!

Finally, about the fiftieth time aroundMoose saw the opened door, and ran through it. Thank the Lord, Moose didn’t get directly sprayed, but the smell is in my house just the same. Awesome.

The demonic skunk stuck around the front porch until the sun started coming out and then it no doubt scampered back to its den. Wherever that is. I’m guessing Hell. I know skunks have their purpose in the world, but Lord, just no!!

Moose is fine after his skunk encounter. He’s resting peacefully in my lap. Maybe he learned a lesson today, maybe he didn’t. Only time will tell.

What did I learn? I’m still figuring that out. Meanwhile my house is filled with aromas of stink, stank, skunk.

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Check Engine Light

This morning I found myself in an angry mood. Like how is it even possible to be angry without anything even really happening yet?

As I’m talking it out with God, while trying to listen to a “Gratitude devotional,” (did you catch the irony there), I berated myself for even being angry. Like, my anger was something to be stuffed down and swallowed so it could continue to fester in the dark.

It was then my Heavenly Father asked me why I was being dismissive of myself? Wait, what? So, I had to sit with that. Anger stuffed down, will find its way out. Most likely, someone close to you will suffer the brunt of your unchecked emotion. Then you have that to deal with.

On the show, “The Big Bang Theory,” Penny never pays any real attention to the “check engine” light in her car. She just keeps saying “it’s fine” to anyone who points out the light is on. Eventually, her car gives up. It sputters and spews, as smoke fills the engine area and then it completely dies.

Consider your emotions as your check engine light. They’re telling you something. They’re letting you know, something requires your attention. Ignoring or dismissing them, will not make them disappear. You either deal with them, or they’ll deal with you.

In dismissing my anger away, I was telling myself, I wasn’t worth my own attention. That I didn’t really matter. That it was just an extension of my constant state of ungratefulness and I just needed to get over myself. But, it wasn’t. It went so much deeper than that.

So, as silly as it sounds, I apologized to myself for ignoring the “silly” check engine light. I sat in it. I processed it with God and now I’m sharing it with you.

If God thinks every detail of our life matters, why would we think any less about our own lives? Why do we ignore what we’re feeling? Where did we learn to do that? Acknowledging our emotions is simply giving ourselves permission to look under the hood. It may be a minor adjustment or something that goes deeper than a quick glance.

Either way, daily maintenance is critical to how you keep your heart in check.

Proverbs 4:23 reminds us; “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV)

When was the last time you checked your engine? I daresay, your well being depends on it.

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What Happens Next

Did you ever have someone pick a fight with you but you didn’t even know a battle existed? Have you ever faced an enemy you had no real understanding as to why you were thought of as the enemy, just to find out it was because you were being you?

What happens next in that moment is crucial. You can turn to people pleasing mechanisms to try to gain their affection which will inevitably cause you to resent them.

You can ask others what their take on the situation is and see what suggestions they offer. Keep in mind, most friends will be biased to your presentation of the situation. Which is typically one sided.

You can get angry and retaliate causing an even bigger rift. Ya know, cause that always works out well.

You can reactionary text the person. Here you can easily hide behind the screen and say and approach things in ways you never would during an in-person conversation. Most likely “tone” will be inserted and a text argument will ensue. No one comes out feeling better after these. They are the epitome of immaturity and fruitlessness. And now you have written documentation so you can rehash the situation or put it in your weapon arsenal. Ya know, cuz that’s healthy.

You can sit and stew and think about all the things you want to do or say. You can twist your imaginary mustache planning and plotting all while snickering devilishly. Picture Snidely Whiplash from Dudley Do-Right.

Or, you can pray. You can ask God to show you what you need to do next. Praying might not change the situation but it will definitely help you process with the One who understands you best. He alone is able to handle ALL of you. Let’s face it, we all got stuff. But, He alone will love you unbiasedly through it. He alone has the ultimate answer.

Relationships take time. Trying to rush through them to be only what you desire is not a relationship. It’s a dictatorship. You’re better off with just being an acquaintance. This way you can fake it till you make it and never have to be vulnerable or authentic. Putting on a constant show to garner one’s attention or affection is draining and caustic. It’s like playing a game of roulette. Who will I be today? Sounds exhausting.

Thankfully, God is faithful. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He’s my constant in the storms and the One I can safely find refuge in. Knowing that I’m fully accepted by Him, helps me be more authentic and vulnerable.

Let’s face it, pretending to be something we’re not only gets us so far. Eventually the facade falls away and we “lose” it. Typically blaming the other person for our own lack of authenticity and self-control.

It’s not easy being “real” in a “look at me” selfie world. But, if you can find it in you, to be more self-accepting, you may just be more accepting of others. Because in the end, isn’t that what we all want? To be accepted and loved for who we are, and not what we bring to the table?

Just my musings for today. I hope you find space in your day to appreciate you and know how very loved you are. You’ve been through a lot. Maybe it’s time you gave yourself the grace you’d give another. Speak kind words over yourself and watch how your mind and body respond. Because being your own best friend is so much better than being your own worst enemy.

Be brave my friends! It’s a new day, and sometimes the biggest obstacle we’ll face, is the one staring back at us in the mirror.

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Dear Empty Nester

Ok, you’re on your own. There’s no one to really look after or do things for. You feel like your purpose is gone. You literally don’t know what to do with or for yourself because you’ve been taking care of others for what seems like forever.

You feel like your “purpose” is gone. I know. I repeated this part about purpose because it’s important. While you knew this day would come, you don’t feel prepared to move forward. You somehow feel guilty for not having anything to do. You’re anxious because you can’t stop feeling like you should be doing something, but you have no clue what that something is. Yikes!

Getting yourself out of the house feels like a chore. So many “why bothers” come hurling at your over anxious brain and it debilitates your forward momentum. You’re exhausted and you’re peering over the edge into the abyss called, “What now”.

You holler into the abyss and nothing comes back. You’re frustrated with yourself. You may even be a little angry and disappointed. But, none of this will change the fact, that just as seasons change, so do the seasons of our life.

And I’m not gonna lie, this one has been hard. Nothing will teach you faster about what you put your worth into than becoming an empty nester.

But, as I sit in the quiet, I’ve learned it’s not the time to make huge life altering decisions. This is the time to be still and figure out who you are again. Do you even know what you like? Do you even have a clue what brings you joy?

We carry a lot of titles that try to tie themselves to our identity. They deceive us into thinking we’re more important than we are, and without them we’ll be nothing. It’s why so many feel so lost when they retire. We become the job. Forgetting that before the job, we were someone.

You have a choice. You get to decide what’s next. You get to discover who YOU are, what YOU like, what’s worth YOUR time. Because suddenly you’re very aware of time and how it stops for no one.

And that’s a lot of you. You’ve not had to sit with just you in a long time. The person you face in the mirror every morning is all you got. So, whatcha gonna do with all that? I’ve been asking myself this question for months.

Let me share a little of what I’ve learned.

  1. Give yourself grace to be a human being over a human doing. It’s ok to not be going at mach 10 speed.
  2. Be kind to you. You’ve been through a lot and your soul needs tending to. Crying is inevitable, so have kleenex in every room.
  3. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Getting to know you will be a challenge, but it’s crucial to understand the culmination of you, up to this point.
  4. Journal. Get the yuck out and you’ll begin to see what you’ve been carrying. Just be honest about all of it. All. Of. It.
  5. Get outside, everyday in some way. Look up. It will remind you, there’s a bigger world out there, outside of yourself.
  6. You’re worth taking care of. Make a good meal for yourself. Go for a walk. Dance. Listen to music. Sing. Meditate. Take a course of some sort. Talk with God….a lot! Get your hair done. Get a pedicure or manicure. Get a massage. Move your body.
  7. Don’t isolate! It’s important you don’t sit with you and your own thoughts for too long. Let’s face it, we can be our own worst enemy.
  8. Be a good friend to you. Speak life over yourself. Remember life and death are in the power of the tongue.
  9. Volunteer
  10. Above all else, guard your heart. Everything you do flows from what’s in there.

Being an empty nester, doesn’t have to mean your life is empty. This is the time for discovery. You’re an amazing person who maybe forgot about you because everyone else took good chunks of you. God still has good plans for you. You’re not forgotten. You’ve got more gumption and courage for this new phase of life. Most importantly, YOU are not alone. Trust me, if I feel like this, I know others out there do as well. You need something to do? Let me know. If you need to chat, gimme a holler.

You may just find this empty nest life to be the very best thing you never knew you needed. Wipe those tears off your beautiful face, and get back in the game. Your life isn’t ending, it’s just beginning! ❤️

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Keep Paddling

For a couple weeks God laid a person on my heart to pray for. Last night I had a dream about this person. This morning when I woke up, I checked my text messages. A friend sent me pictures from an event she attended plus another pic she was given. In the pic she’d been given was the person who I had been praying for and dreamt about last night.

I stared at the pic. Past memories collided with my present. I cried. For many different reasons. If I only knew then what I know now. Garth Brooks sang a song called “The Dance”. The lyrics say:

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end
The way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance”

I wrote in my journal that it’s hard living with one foot in the past and the other foot in an unknown future while straddling the fence of the present. The past is both a blessing and a curse. It’s easy to get stuck floating in a river of disappointment, despair and lost dreams. Floating isn’t the same as paddling. Floating to me represents contentment while paddling means momentum.

Where are you? Are you floating or paddling? Are you straddling the fence? Friend, if you’re still here, you still have purpose. That means there’s more to be done. Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep that forward momentum going. Remembering the past is different than reliving it. It’s so much more important that you stay present.

Today is a gift. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is yet to come. Right here, right now, is all that’s promised. Make plans but keep an open hand on them. Seriously, how many times can you count the plans that didn’t go as you planned?

Whatever the reason you’re still here, trust that it’s part of a bigger plan and a greater purpose. Remember, it’s the small things that make up that bigger plan and greater purpose. So keep on paddling my friend, because each stroke counts.

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The Favorite

You were their favorite. The baby of our dysfunctional family. It came at a cost. It sucks when parents single out a child as their favorite. Everyone suffers. Including the favored child.

How ironic that you would be the first to leave this earth. You found solace in the mired depths of alcohol attempting to silence the demons that daily hunted and chased you down. You were sad, angry, and misunderstood. Also, loving, compassionate, and beautiful.

You never asked to be the favorite. But you had special needs that required more attention than your older siblings. We’ll never know what it felt like for you. We were too focused on what it felt like for us.

Today is your birthday. I’ve been thinking about you a lot. I sang “happy birthday“ to you. It’s what I do. Eleven years ago, I called to sing to you. I was shocked to hear your actual voice. Back then you hardly ever answered the phone. I was so shocked I forgot to sing. We had a nice conversation and you ended it with ”goodbye sister of my loins.” Ummm, what? You said it was from a movie. You thought it was hysterical.

After we hung up, I realized I forgot to sing to you. I waited about an hour and then called you back. Imagine my shock and surprise when you answered again. You were supposed to be running your errand. So we talked a bit more.

I was nearing my retirement from the military. You said you wished I lived closer so we could have face to face conversations. You told me about a town you loved in New York called Skaneateles. Pronounced skinny-atlas. You said I should check into it. The fact that I was even considering coming back to the NY area was confounding since I swore I’d never move back that way.

Next thing I know, I’m looking up the chamber of commerce website for Skaneateles. The picture that first appears is beautiful gazebo on a lake. I see another picture of town folks dressed up in costumes for the annual Charles Dickens festival. I’m enthralled. I knew in my knower I had to get there. Not sure what it is about gazebo’s, but I love them.

Months later, I would move to Auburn, begin working at a bed-and-breakfast as an innkeepers assistant and my beloved employer would be a part of my Jesus story. Buckle up, because I’m about to tell you how God chose a proclaimed atheist to save my life.

My brother said he believed in science and facts, not God. But God, despite my brothers belief still created him and still knew him. He even loved my brother. Loved him so much he knew his heart, his desires and answered a prayer to have his sister move closer, so they could have more face to face conversations.

I don’t believe for a second it was a coincidence my brother answered that second phone call and told me about Skaneateles. My brother loved this town, I loved gazebos’s and lakes and I had a dream to own a bed-and-breakfast. That is until I worked at one. But, that’s a story for another day.

The bed-and-breakfast where I worked, was located in Auburn, NY. My employer attended church in Skaneateles at Grace chapel. Eventually, I would join her and her family and we’d attend church together after we served breakfast and got the guests checked out. Sunday was my favorite workday.

After attending this church for several months, they began talking about their next baptismal ceremony. I felt called to take this next step in my faith journey. This is the best part.

My baptismal took place at Skaneateles lake, at the very spot that I once viewed from a computer screen, some 4,360 miles away. And yes, the gazebo was there.

God in all His glory and sovereignty can use anything and anyone. He’s not limited by what you believe. He used my brother and a gazebo to get me right where He needed me to be. His good plan included an “atheist”. Don’t worry about my brother. His salvation story was written long before life things happened.

I love and miss my brother. God loves him more. I have no doubt my brother is God’s favorite. I’m ok with that, because I’m His favorite too. Guess what? So are you.

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Rain

I sat trapped in my car. No, not really. I actually chose to sit and wait out the dump of rain from the heaven’s above. Lord knew we needed the rain. My once green lawn was smattered with brown patches of dry, brown, crunchy grass. No bare foot wants to walk on that mess.

As I sat there watching the rain, I saw it run off the ground, and down the road in a steady, stream like flow. The ground couldn’t soak up the water as fast as it was coming down. It had been too many days since the last rainfall, and the ground was as hard as a rock.

Listening to worship music while waiting out the storm, I started to cry. Yep, I’m that girl. But, I’m ok, with being weepy over rain. I cried because I was reminded of the times my heart was like the hard ground.

Having a hard heart doesn’t typically happen over night. It usually comes from defending it in the only way we know how. That’s what happens when we put up a shield to shut “things” out. Truth be told, it’s easier to stuff it down than work through whatever made us put the shield up in the first place. In this moment, we think we’ve conquered the “enemy” that threatens to steal our peace. In actuality, we gave into the enemy and a root of bitterness started to grow.

I need to add that in abusive situations, protecting yourself is vital but it’s different from hardening yourself. Protecting yourself means you know your attacker and you have defense mechanisms in place to thwart the enemy and still be who you are. Hardening yourself changes who you are to your core.

I attended a nurse pinning ceremony in 2021. One of the nursing faculty gave a speech to the student’s on the “heart-brain”. Say what? She had my full attention. I wanted to know more about this “heart-brain.”

Since I haven’t studied or majored in this area of expertise and I don’t want to misrepresent this, I’m including the link from Science of the Heart so you can dig deeper if you’d like. It’s titled Heart-Brain Communication and it’s fascinating.

Now let’s get a little nerdy, shall we? I’m going to quote straight from the website.

“The heart-brain, as it is commonly called, or intrinsic cardiac nervous system, is an intricate network of complex ganglia, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells, the same as those of the brain in the head. The heart-brain’s neural circuitry enables it to act independently of the cranial brain to learn, remember, make decisions and even feel and sense. Descending activity from the brain in the head via the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the ANS is integrated into the heart’s intrinsic nervous system along with signals arising from sensory neurons in the heart that detect pressure, heart rate, heart rhythm and hormones.” (bold emphasis added)

Wait, it gets better!

“The anatomy and functions of the intrinsic cardiac nervous system and its connections with the brain have been explored extensively by neurocardiologists.[13, 14] In terms of heart-brain communication, it is generally well-known that the efferent (descending) pathways in the autonomic nervous system are involved in the regulation of the heart. However, it is less appreciated that the majority of fibers in the vagus nerves are afferent (ascending) in nature. Furthermore, more of these ascending neural pathways are related to the heart (and cardiovascular system) than to any other organ.[15] This means the heart sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart.” (bold emphasis added)

Is that not the coolest thing you learned today? Our bodies are so complex and intricate. Is it any wonder the author of Proverbs says:

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” ~ Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

In addition to that, from Ephesians 6:14 we are to daily ensure the “breastplate of righteousness” is in place. Notice it says righteousness not hardness.

Back to my rain lesson. As the rain slowed down, the ground was more open to soak up the water. The downpour was too much for it and the water flowed off it instead of down in it.

When we take time to sit with Jesus, the constant deluge of the world’s chaotic pace takes a back seat. We can breathe easier and our heart opens up to what Jesus has for us. And now that we know our heart sends more information to the brain than vice versa, how much more important is it, that we allow Jesus full access so He can remove our hearts of stone in exchange for a heart of flesh? (Ezekiel 36:26)

Lord, thank you for showing me your ways are not my ways and your ways are higher than my ways. Thank you for never giving up on me and being the good Shepherd who gently leads and guides me through all areas of this life. Thank you for your love, guidance, grace, and mercy. How can I not praise You when every where I look, there You are! Bless my friends, family and enemies with a heart of flesh and remove the stony hearts so they may see Your glory. In Jesus name I pray, amen!

Have a heart-brain day my friends!

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