Blessed to be Broken

God's not finished with me yet!

Label Maker

We love our labels, don’t we? Go to any pinterest board and you can find plenty of creative ways to label all the things. Even when it’s evident what’s in the container, we slap a label on it. Why?

There’s a type of comfort in a label. As if a label is all we are. Could you imagine if we wore our labels for all to see? Not the labels we think people would want to see, but the actual labels we brand ourselves with every day.

Labels such as, failure, druggie, drunk, ugly, fat, skinny, worthless, unlovable, stupid, addict, loser, and the list goes on. None of these are who you are but we sure claim them as if they were.

Labels make us feel comfortable. We embrace them. Even the bad ones.

Once upon a time, I embraced my bad labels. Oooh, let me tell you, I had a lot of them! Adulterer, drunk, home wrecker, bad Mom, stupid, failure, fat, and well, you get the point.

I embraced them like they were a fine coat of glitter! You couldn’t see my labels. But you may have seen the behavior attached to them and surmised for yourself what I tried to hide.

Once I bought into the label, meaning I decided this is just who I am, I became comfortable. The first time I committed adultery, I felt all the bad things associated with it. Guilt, shame, fear, dirty, regret, and just plain awful.

Why would I keep doing something that made me feel all those things? The easy answer is I was trying desperately to fill a void.

The more complicated answer is, I was broken inside and I didn’t know it. So, I kept on, keeping on.

The more I gave into it, the more comfortable I became with it.

The more comfortable I became with it, the more I justified it.

The more I justified it, the more I did it.

I believed in the label. Read that again. I gave power to the label.

Maybe you’re believing in a label too. I would caution you to be careful which label you choose to give power over yourself.

One of the most potent statements we can ever say is “I didn’t have a choice.”

That’s a great lie of the enemy. We use it when we want to justify the action associated to choice we’ve made.

The fact is, we all have a choice. We get to decide. Everyday we’re faced with several scenarios in which we get to choose.

You can choose the thing that’s going to lift up your soul or push it down. You can choose the thing that’s going to make you feel good for the moment, or the thing that’s going to cause regret. In the end, it’s your choice. You can’t blame it on anyone else. Your action, followed your choice.

Eventually, the labels from the bad choices will tear you down. They’ll make you believe more in them, then in yourself. You forget who once were and believe the lie, this is as good as it gets, and as good as it gets, sucks. There’s no hope in that.

Once it sucks, you reach, “so what’s the point.” Now my friend, you’re at a cross roads. I know, because I’ve been there.

When I got to “what’s the point,” I then went to, “who cares.” After “who cares” I got to “I can’t do this anymore.” After that, I made an escape plan because all I wanted was the pain to end.

Thankfully, my plans didn’t succeed. God stepped in.

“You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.

Proverbs 19:21 (NLT)

That was the night I fell to my knees and said I couldn’t do this life by myself anymore and asked God to help me.

The world and its ways did it’s best to take me out, but God already had a plan to raise me up!

Our choices matter. What we label ourselves matter. We’re the sum of our choices. But, we’re not defined by them. At any time, we can change course. The beauty in that is we don’t have to do it alone.

We have a choice. Life on our own–how’s that working for you?

OR

Life with Christ (Total game changer)

Don’t take my word for it, let’s read Romans 12:2. This verse breathed life into my dying soul. I’m referencing The Message version of this passage:

Place your Life Before God

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

Mic drop! Boom!

I no longer wear the labels of this world. They were destructive and confining. Friends, God didn’t slap an adulteress label on me and send me out into the world. But, He did give me free will. I made the choices that set my path in motion. At the end of my destructive path, God was there. I just needed to get my worldly self out of the way.

He never gave up on me. He will never give up on you. You may have given up on yourself, but He’s reaching out, waiting just for you. He created you for relationship with Him. Are you ready? The choice is…say it with me, “mine.”

Have an amazing day in Christ! He loves you with an everlasting love!

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The People of Walmart

I locked my keys in my car today. Good times! But, my son was already in the parking lot because we planned to go to lunch. So he hopped back on his motorcycle and headed to the house to get the spare key to my vehicle. #Hero

I took the opportunity to get out of the heat of the day which was heavy with humidity. #Blech So, I headed back into the store.

As I sat in the store waiting for my son to return, I asked God to show me who I could bless. As I scanned the various people moving around the store, I hummed the lyrics to “Build My Life,” because it was the last song I heard getting out of the car.

Watching all the people around me, I got the sense I was to look closer. So many people. Just like me, just like you. All of them a walking story.

Some wore shirts with their favorite sports team. Kids wore their favorite character on their shirt or something saying how awesome they are. Some had glitter, some wore hats, and well, some wore less than others.

But there was one t-shirt that was bolder than all the others. The front was the same as the back. I sighed. I thought, little kids just learning to read will see that and will ask questions parents my not want to answer yet. Made me sad. That what we want to say so loudly through what we wear could cause another to stumble.

The song changed in my head. I thought of the movie Funny Girl. I pictured Barbra Streisand playing the character of Fanny Brice dressed up as a pregnant bride and I smiled as the lyrics “A walking illustration of his adoration” now played in my head.

I thought “I wonder what story I tell” when people see me. “If” they “see” me. In high school I was told more often than not I looked like a b****

I wasn’t, I just didn’t walk around with a smile plastered on my face. I was quiet. I was shy. I didn’t feel like I fit in. I had my circle of friends that I pretty much kept to but there were also times, I didn’t shut up. Just ask the teachers who would put me in the corner. Ummm, hello, I can still talk from here. And, I did.

I digress, back to the main idea here. I continued to people watch. I saw people doing life together. I had the thought to shout out “Does anyone need prayer?” But I squelched that. More than once to be honest. Usually I’m pretty bold these days, but life has knocked me down a bit, so I kept watching.

But as I looked, I heard in my spirit “these are my people.” “What do you see?” And my eyes filled up with tears. Seriously, I think tears are my super power these days.

What I saw were people, made by God, created in His image. Each one unique with a story, just as I have one. No better than me. No worse than me. Just different. Yet, the same.

And I realized that as I waited and watched, God had blessed me in so many ways. I was touched by lives in those 30 minutes through people I may never meet.

And all they were doing, was everyday life. Getting each other coffee, paying for their groceries, smiling at others, pushing carts, taking fitful kids out to the car, and the list goes on.

These were the people I saw in Walmart today. My life will never be the same. Because God taught me more about love today. And when God touches you, you get wrecked in the best way! 

(Originally posted 18 August 2019, on my Facebook profile)

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How Big Is Your Shield

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” ~ Ephesians 6:13-17

A few weeks ago I walked through the rotunda at Elmira College where they hold various events. That morning the tables were all on their edge instead of their feet. In order to get to the stairs I take to go to my office, I had to weave in and out of the tables in my way. 

These were 8 feet round tables. I could easily hunker down behind one and be protected. Given the size and weight of the tables, hunkering down would be the obvious choice over trying to pick it up and carry it around with me as I deflected the “flaming darts of the evil one.” 

What do you mean by “flaming darts of the evil one?” I’m so glad you asked. Allow me to paint you a picture. 

I’ve been invited to a party. No, make that a gala. It will require me to get a dress. No, make that a gown. Like the one, Cinderella wore to the ball. Can you picture that? Only, it’s going to be you in that gown. You’re so excited you can hardly contain your giddiness. 

The night of the gala, you dress up in your beautiful gown and you practically float on air. You head to the gala with hopeful anticipation that everyone will notice you and ooooh, and ahhh as you enter the room. 

Then the unthinkable happens. You walk in, and there’s someone wearing the same exact ball gown. You’re horrified.  

Seconds ago, you were blissfully happy, anticipating the evening, and now you stand there aghast, not moving because your feet feel like 500-pound weights. 

Cue the head conversation!

Look at her.
She’s freakin’ gorgeous.
She looks so much better in that gown than I do.
I think she’s actually glowing?
Is she glowing?
She’s totally glowing.
Gahhh, I so hate her right now.  

What was I thinking?
Look at me.
I’m not beautiful.
I’m a total frump compared to her.
I’m not glowing.
I should’ve known better than to come to this gala.
Gahhh, I can’t even stand to look at myself right now. 

Fiery darts. They just got thrown at you, by you. And now they’re trying to penetrate your heart. They want to take root and steal the joy you had before you saw that other person in your gown. 

Moments ago, you were the one floating on air. You were the one who looked amazing. You were the one who was glowing. And then you gave it all away on a preconceived notion that someone looked better than you. Who told you that? You did. 

So what happened?

I daresay, you thought the gown was the thing that made you feel and look that way. I’ll go even further and say, the gown gave you a false sense of security. 

But, it was never about the gown. You may have bought the gown, but at that moment you didn’t own the gown. The gown owned you. You gave power to the gown that it was never meant to have. 

Y’all this happens every day. We give our insecurity over to the things of this world in hopes it will make us feel secure. It might not be a gown. It can be any number of things. Let’s take a peek at a few, shall we? 

Why is my hair curly and not straight?
Why do I have dark hair when clearly blondes have more fun?
Why did he pick her over me?
What has she got that I don’t?
Why am I short and she’s got legs for days?
Why can’t I spike a volleyball like her?
Why can’t I be picked for the cheerleading squad?
Why are her boobs bigger than mine?
Why is her nose so small and perfect?
Why are her parents so awesome and mine are so awful?
Why can’t I be that smart?
Why can’t I be someone other than myself?
Why can’t I dance like that?
Why can’t I sing like that?
Why can’t I paint like that? 

I could go on for days here. Why do we do this to ourselves? We literally make our own lives miserable by forgetting all that we have to offer, all that we can do. 

As I’m typing this, my head conversation says, “what are you doing?” “No one’s gonna care about what you have to say.” “Just shut up already.” 

Let me ask you this. Of all the times you’ve questioned “why are they more than this, than me” ever been answered? I’m sure it has. With an even more demeaning answer. Maybe it sounds something like,

Because I suck
Because God hates me
Because I’m ugly
Because I’m fat
Because I’m skinny
Because I’m gross
Because I’m stupid
Because I lack any kind of talent
Because I have nothing to offer

Any of these sound familiar? And let’s not stop there, let’s pick on each body part as if it were our personal enemy. Forgetting all our bodies have brought us through. 

All those demeaning answers are fiery darts of the enemy intended to steal, kill, and destroy you. 

Maybe at this point, you’re thinking, “oh, stop being so dramatic”! To that, I say, let me show you what the Bible has to say about our enemy. 

John 10:10 says: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ NIV 

If we’re constantly focused on what we’re not, how will we ever rise to be who we are? 

When we allow our own defeating thoughts to take over, how easy do you think it is for the fiery darts from others to take root and then compound the self-defeating thoughts running rampant through our minds?

This is a battle, my friends! If we have to rely on how many compliments we get each day, or how many likes, or loves, or comments, we place our existence on somebody else’s whim. 

Is that really how you want to live this one life you’ve been given? By someone else’s definition of how you need to be? I pray not. It’s an exhausting way to live. It’s a lot of pressure to be someone else’s idea of who you ought to be.  

I remember years ago, on the man-made scale of 1-10, I was told I was a 7. You might think that number is pretty high on that scale. Not to me. All that told me at the time I was given that “award,” an award I wasn’t even seeking I might add, was very simply, I wasn’t enough. That I was still missing something. 

Years later, I still battle the number 7. I look in the mirror, I hear that inner enemy say…not half bad for a 7. How do you think that changes the perspective of how I walk out the door for the day? 

I constantly look around for what a 10 would look like (in my already skewed view) and when I see her, I compare her to me. And all the self-defeating thoughts come rolling in. Mind you, I have no idea what that gal had to go through to be a 10 that day. Good gravy! How’s a gal to succeed? 

I mean, how am I to live an abundant life through the eyes of lack? 

Good question! 

Romans 12:2 tells us to not be conformed to the patterns of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. 

The pattern of this world in my instance was a man-made visual scale of appearance. It all started as far as I can remember from a movie simply titled, “10”

I never watched it. I had zero desire to do so. But, I knew about it and from that moment on, every man and woman was assigned a number by another flawed human being. 

This was/is not a good pattern. We have to first imagine that the number 10 is given to someone by who? Or is that whom? HA! Another 10? A less than 10? Perhaps a 3? 

Where does it stop? I mean a 10 to one person could very well be a 9, or an 8, or even a 7. You get the idea. It’s such a flawed scale. And yet, I found myself sucked into the pattern which told me I wasn’t enough all because one person told me that. One person. 

And I was defined by that number for years. Sad, don’t you think? Me too. 

What I didn’t know to do back then was to kick that thought and any negative subsequent thoughts to the curb. Instead, I allowed it to feed my already existing insecurities. 

I can’t go back and change any of that. That would be self-defeating and a whole other barrel of pickles that I won’t go into today. What I can do any time the enemy rears that number 7 award my way is to throw it right back in his face. 

Now, I’m not talking about the person who said that to me. I forgave them. The funny part about that. He had no memory of ever saying that to me. So, here I was, holding onto something for years, that was nothing more than a second in his world. Crazy, right?! 

The enemy I’m talking about is Satan. The thief I mentioned earlier from John 10:10. He doesn’t want you to have an abundant life. He’d like nothing more than to keep you in a pit of despair. That’s who you need to throw that negative stuff at. He’s great at dishing it out and watching you wallow in it. 

And most days, we’re more than happy to give our promised abundant life into his hands. The sad thing is, we may not even realize it until years have gone by. 

It’s time to say NO MORE! It’s time to put on the full armor of God, pick up my shield and deflect those fiery darts. And when I find myself losing ground because I’m weak from the battle, I will take refuge under the wings of my mighty Savior. 

I was not created to be a number. Nowhere in the Bible does God say I’m a 7, or any other number.  

I was created as a daughter of a King. And, not just any King. The King of Kings. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I’m the apple of God’s eye! I’m His treasured possession.   

Pssst. You’re all those things too my friend! Renew your mind sister, and when you leave home, don’t forget your shield! 

Have a phenomenal day. Be you! The world needs that. 

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Go Away…

As I listened to the radio on my drive to work, a huge smile spread across my face as an old familiar tune played through the speakers. As soon as Donny Osmond started to sing “Go Away Little Girl,” I couldn’t help but sing along with him. 

If you could see me right now, you’d see I’m still smiling. 

Ohhh the crush I had on him when I was younger. With his poster hung on my bedroom wall, I’d dream about the day I would marry him. Well, that didn’t happen. He chose another. Rude, right? ha ha 

After the song was over, the announcer said, “No he doesn’t. He doesn’t really want her to leave, Donny’s just playing hard to get.” 

In this song scenario, my beloved Donny was already in a relationship. But there was another girl who caught his eye, who from the sounds of things, was a little too close for his comfort so he told her “go away little girl”. He even explained the reasons why he wanted her to go away. 

Did she go away? In the song scenario, we’ll never know. It ends with him repeatedly telling her to simply “go away”.  

Temptation.

By definition, temptation is:

“the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise.” 

Me thinks there’s going to be some serious consequences to those who fall into the trap of temptation.

Make no mistake, I may have said “fall” into temptation, but you don’t fall. You choose. Whatever you decide to do when faced with temptation, is your choice. Your choice. 

When I was younger, for some reason, I knew it was wrong to want somebody who belonged to someone else. I had many crushes over the years.Donny’s poster came down, and David Cassidy’s went up. David’s came down and Starsky’s went up. The original Starsky, thank you very much. 

I think you get the point. I remember when Paul Michael Glaser, aka Starsky, got married in real life, I thought, welp, no more fantasizing I’ll be his wife. That was in 1980. 

Somewhere between 1980 and 1984, those lines of “you don’t mess with someone who’s taken” became so blurred, the line failed to exist altogether.

The consequences of my choices left me heartbroken and devastated. How devastated? 

So devastated by the culmination of my unchecked sins that I wanted to check out of this life. The pain was excruciating and I thought it was the only way out.

Looking back, I will say those temporary pleasure choices were not worth the cost. 

The first time you choose the temptation, whatever that may be for you, you may feel guilt, remorse, shame, and a slew of other bad emotions and then choose never to give into it again. 

Or, you may bury all the bad emotions and continue to choose the guilty pleasure time and time again. 

Either way, I dare say, you never truly know when, and for how long the effects of the choice you made will haunt you. All because you gave into temptation. 

You could argue that you had no choice, you had to do it. You could argue that the temptation was just too great. There was no way you could’ve walked away. You had to do it. 

You can easily “justify” the temptation in an effort to make it appear that giving into it was the only choice. 

You could even say, “no one could have overcome that temptation.” But what if I told you, you have an out? What if I told you, you have been given the authority to squash any temptation that presents itself? 

1 Corinthians 10:13 says: 

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

Stop! Go back, and read that verse again. What did you see? This is what I saw:

  1. Your temptation is no different from what others experience
  2. God will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.
  3. God will show you a way out 
  4. God is faithful  

That doesn’t mean you won’t have temptations, BUT, when you do, God will be faithful to show you a way out. So even if you do bite into the temptation, while you’ll have to suffer the consequences of your choice, He will show you a way to endure.

It also doesn’t mean you get to run around all willy nilly sinning all-the-day long because God will give you a way out. At some point you need to be responsible and use that gift of self-control God freely gives. 

Remember when I said that by my own choices I was left devastated and wanted to take my own life? Well, that was not God’s plan. He interrupted them. He gave me a way out so that I could endure, without ending my life.

He said:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

Matthew 11:28-30

This beautiful exchange of my devastating burdens for His rest did just what He promised. As I stepped out of my darkness and into His light, I was slowly renewed and restored. He was gentle and loving as He guided me through my sins and into repentance. 

It was an exchange. I had a choice to stay stuck in my pit or grab on to the hand of Jesus, and hang on for dear life. Had I not received what God wanted to give me, I can’t say for sure where I’d be now. 

Moral of this story can be found in Romans 12:2 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Make good choices my friend! You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and heartache. Just because it feels good now, doesn’t mean it will feel good later. 

There are consequences to every choice, and you may never know how your one bad choice can affect generations. 

That’s right, generations. Ahhh, but that’s a blog for another day.

Have an amazing day! 

 

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Torn Between Two Lovers

Now, if you know me, you know I love to sing. I once had a friend tell me that when I was going in for a CT scan, they would find a jukebox in my brain. HA! 

Songs pop in and out of my head constantly. From the moment I wake up, till I go to sleep. Maybe you too? Today, I wanna talk about a song that was all about having your cake and eating it too and asking others to accept it. 

“Torn Between Two Lovers” was a song recorded by Mary McGregor back in 1976. That’s right, I still remember the lyrics from a song from 1976. I would say this song would have been classified as a love song. 

There’s just something about a good, sappy love song,right?  But, this wasn’t really sappy, and I wouldn’t really classify it as a love song all these years later. It was more of a selfish, all about me and my wants song. 

The song lyrics and melody played over and over in my head and sprung forth from my mouth, as I sang, oh so beautifully – ahem, from the sound stage that was my bedroom. I would totally ignoring the rude audience that were my brothers who would scream for me to shut up. Rude, right? La, la, la, I can’t hear you! Ha ha ha

Let’s take a peek at some of the lyrics, this song shall we? Go ahead, sing along if you remember the tune. You already know I’ll be singing.  🙂 

There are times when a woman has to say what’s on her mind
Even though she knows how much it’s gonna hurt
Before I say another word, let me tell you, I love you
Let me hold you close and say these words as gently as I can

There’s been another man that I’ve needed and I’ve loved
But that doesn’t mean I love you less
And he knows he can’t possess me and he knows he never will
There’s just this empty place inside of me that only he can fill”

Ummm, what? 

Wait, it gets better. 

Torn between two lovers, feelin’ like a fool
Lovin’ both of you is breakin’ all the rules
Torn between two lovers, feelin’ like a fool
Lovin’ you both is breakin’ all the rules”

Soooo, you know what you’re doing is wrong, but yet, you keep choosing to do it anyways. Ok, got it. Continue.

“You mustn’t think you’ve failed me
Just because there’s someone else
You were the first real love I ever had
And all the things I ever said
I swear they still are true
For no one else can have the part of me I gave to you” 

This is where that famous saying, “it’s not you, it’s me” comes into play. And it’s true here. It really is her and what she felt she lacked. Her answer, let’s get another guy to fill the gaps the first guy was clearly lacking. 

Ok, let’s wrap this up, because once the chorus gets sung again the pièce de résistance (she said in her best French accent) of this song comes into full focus. Are you ready for it? 

“I couldn’t really blame you if you turned and walked away
But with everything I feel inside, I’m asking you to stay”

Ummm, what? 

Notice she didn’t say she was gonna kick the other guy to the curb. She didn’t ask for forgiveness. She never even apologizes. She simply explains herself and her actions and asks him to be ok with the third wheel being in the mix. 

Sadly, we never get to hear his answer. Or if she told the other guy about the first guy. We’re just left with, here’s a girl, loving 2 guys, explaining why she needs two guys and for the two guys to be okay with it. 

Spoiler alert! Anyone who has ever been in a monogamous relationship, who thought they were truly in a monogamous relationship, is not okay with this cavalier attitude towards relationship. 

This is why it’s so very important what you allow to speak into your life. I’m not saying in any way, shape or form, this song is the reason I felt it was ok to ever cheat in my relationships, but it was definitely one of the seeds that gave me the illusion it was acceptable. 

Inevitably, ultimately and irrevocably, I made the selfish choices to do what I did. 

If you’ve ever been cheated on, I’m so sorry. It was a choice you didn’t make, but had thrust upon you and it no doubt turned your world upside down. I know, I’ve been there.  

If you’ve ever been the cheater, I’m so sorry for whatever happened in your life that you felt the answer was more of what you already had over addressing the true matter of your heart. I know, I’ve been there. 

Please know that if a person cheats on you, it’s not about you. I can’t say that enough. So, I’ll say it again. It’s not about you. It’s 100% about what’s going on in their heart. 

They may try to pin it on you, they may twist the words to justify it, but rarely, when they’re in the thick of it, will they take responsibility for their actions and claim it’s an issue with them. Because they won’t see or refuse to see it’s an issue with them. That’s how they justify what’s going on. I know, I’ve been there. 

How else could words like these be justified:

“I couldn’t really blame you if you turned and walked away
But with everything I feel inside, I’m asking you to stay”

They can’t. Those lyrics, are all about self, twisted to make it seem like they’re the victim. 

It’s a matter of the condition of the heart. Proverbs 4:23 warns us:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  (NIV)

Did you see that, EV-ER-Y-THING you do, flows from your heart. 

Here’s a few examples. If you’ve ever had a broken heart, you cry, you grieve and your countenance is usually sad. If you’re excited, your heart beats a bit faster, your eyes glisten, and maybe your palms sweat. If your adrenaline is really kicking, from something good or bad (like being afraid), your heart beats to the rhythm of what’s going on, your breathing gets a bit more labored and you feel like you want to bust right out of your skin. And in its’ final curtain call, if your heart stops beating, well, you know that ending. 

Every choice we make, every decision we act on has a consequence. It’s never just about one single person. When it comes to cheating I daresay it’s all about how much worth you place on yourself and where you get it from. 

I wrote about that in this post What’s In Your Treasure Chest

But, no matter what the excuse is for cheating, it will always come back to it being a matter of your heart, your choice, your decision. It’s all about you. 

So choose wisely because I can say the consequences of the thing that makes you feel temporarily awesome will inevitably rip your guts out. I know, because I was there. 

There’s a saying, “once a cheater, always a cheater.” It’s what someone or society labels you when you cheat. But they don’t just call you a cheater, they wrap you in an “always a cheater”  blanket and stop looking at who you really are. 

If said aloud or enough to yourself, it will take root, and if you’re not secure in who God says you are, you’ll believe the lie and start acting out what those believe say you are, forgetting whose you are. 

How many times have your heard someone say, “I’m such a _________. It must be true or they wouldn’t say it.” You can fill in the blank with any number of things. Failure. Loser. Mistake. Cheater. 

It was in this place, where I piled guilt upon shame upon disgrace upon self-loathing, upon disgust, upon regret, upon hate on myself. It’s no wonder I didn’t want to be around myself or think I had anything good to offer this world. How could I? 

But God! 

Proverbs 19:21 says:

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”  (NIV) 

In my heart, I wanted to take away my pain by ending my life. As you can see, I’m still here, my plans failed and His purpose is prevailing. Yay! Thank you Jesus!  

Your lot in this life is not found in your failures. It’s about getting up after the fall. Jesus didn’t remain dead after being crucified. I mean, you can’t fall much harder than that. 

No, He rose up and kicked death square in the face so that we could know victory. But before we know what victory looks like, we will fail. We will have trials. We will face persecution. We will come up against opposition. But, those things are not the end. 

Today, let’s grab hold of some serious truth. This is one of my favorite truths to hold onto when I think things can “never” change. 

Isaiah 43:19 says:

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (ESV)

Friends, don’t give up. It’s not over yet. This is absolutely the first day of the rest of your life. Everything else is the past, and you are not your past. You are very much here, and in the present and God is most assuredly making a way in the wilderness. I know, because I’m there. 

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What’s In Your Treasure Chest?

When I was a little girl, I adored peeking into my grandmother’s jewelry box and playing with the baubles inside. I can still “see” and “smell” what I considered to be my personal treasure chest. 

The black leather box had a top that flipped open as well as several drawers that had delicate silver knobs on either side. Each drawer was lined with red velvet and the smell was like no other. 

Since my grandmother didn’t have pierced ears, she had those clip on style earrings.  When no one was looking I would take them out and carefully clip them on my ear lobes and pretend that their very existence on my ears made me oh so glamorous.

I’m not so sure she appreciated me trying on her troves of treasure or that pieces would come up missing from time to time. But, if she did mind, she never said. Or maybe she did say, and I don’t remember. Either way, the memory of her jewelry box brings a smile to my face. 

As I was driving to work today, a song by Mercy Me called “Dear Younger Me,” came on the radio. I’ve heard it many times before but today a line from the song stood out to me:

“My joy, my pain, would’ve never been my worth”

So here’s a peek inside my brain. As I sang along to those words, “my joy, my pain, would’ve never been my worth,” my soul was arrested with the thought, where are you placing your worth?  

As I dug a little deeper into that question, a visual of a treasure chest popped into my brain. This brought me to a paper I had written for a college class about topics I’d like to write about.  One of those topics was a story about my grandmother’s jewelry box. And voila! Here we are.

I remember lifting the lid to that jewelry box. I remember the jewels inside that garnered my full attention. I remember the anticipation I felt even though I already knew what was in there. I’m sure my eyes sparkled with the reflection of the treasure I held in my little hands.

But, I grew up. I stopped going to the jewelry box. I was no longer captivated by its contents. The things in there were familiar, dull, and lifeless. Yet it sat there, year after year, unappreciated.

The treasure trove once my place of temporary joy and wonder is now long gone with the passing of my grandmother years ago.  

It’s kind of like life, isn’t it? We find things that bring us joy and happiness for a moment and for a while we’re enamored with it.  We get the “thing” we wanted or lose the weight, or have the big wedding. We study hard and get the job we wanted so we can buy all the things we think we’d be missing out on if we didn’t have it in our lives. 

And yet, there’s still an emptiness. 

Once again, things become familiar, dull, and lifeless. So we search for the next shiny treasure that will bring us temporary happiness. It’s easy to kick things and people to the curb when they’ve served their purpose and we have so many other options available. 

So the question of where are you putting your worth is not a surface question. It’s a let’s get real with ourselves question of the heart. 

Is your worth found in people’s approval? The way you look? The amount of money you make? The material things you’ve collected? You’re job title? Maybe you’re basing your worth on societal standards. Only you know the absolute truth. 

There are so many things of this world we consider treasure. But they are all things that will one day fade away. I’m not saying it’s bad to have those things. It’s really only when we put our faith, trust, and worth in them that we can get in trouble. 

The harsh reality is, houses burn down, people steal your stuff, companies fold, things and bodies quit working, loved ones die, and accidents happen. 

When those unexpected things happen a hard downward spiral begins and you’re faced with the question, “what do I do now“? Sadly, some never make it to the other side of that question because they tied their existence to a thing or a person and their hope was lost. 

Having been at the brink of that dark precipice, many times, I get it.  

After retiring from a career I held 29 years, it was tough trying to figure out what to do next. My treasure was found in seriously numbing my senses with alcohol. 

After years of singleness and dating my treasure was to find the perfect mate. 

When marriage got too hard and I felt unloved, unwanted, and not enough. My treasure was found in men who made me feel “loved,” “wanted,” and “enough”. 

When menopause hit and I couldn’t lose weight the way I used to, I was beside myself. My treasure was self-loathing and disgust. 

When my body betrayed me and I couldn’t work out the way I used to, my treasure became excuses. 

When the reflection in the mirror started showing my age in years, my treasure became longings of days gone by. 

As if any of this was all there was to life on this earth. In all of that, I was so wrapped up in self, I couldn’t get past myself. I was always in my own way. It mattered not what any good thing anyone said because I bought into the lies that I was not enough based on unattainable societal standards. 

I was the picture of smiling on the outside, while slowly dying inside. 

I literally could not accept myself because everyone and their life looked better, shinier, happier, healthier, and more complete. My treasure was in the wanting. Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re there now. 

Can I just say, if you’re still reading this, you’re story is not over, it’s just a new chapter. It’s not going to look like the rest of your life for a reason. Times change and time most assuredly doesn’t stand still. We’ll either get stuck in what was, or we grab onto what is, and hope for what could be. 

I’m not gonna say some of the things that brought me down don’t come back and haunt me, because they do. But now I know better than to latch onto the lies that tell me I’m not enough and sit in my woe is me pot for days on end. 

These lies stole years from my well-being. Maybe you as well. If that’s true, I’m so very sorry for all you’ve been through. 

But today is a brand new day my friend. It’s full of God’s faithful love, faithfulness, and mercy. (Lamentations 3:22-23) When God says you the apple of His eye, (Psalm 17:8), then you’re the apple of His eye. When He says He takes great delight and is singing over you (Zephaniah 3:20) then take hold of that truth and run with it. When God says He’s got a plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11) then believe it. 

Can we just agree that God’s Truth should never be harder to believe than the enemies lies? And yet, here we are, letting the thoughts of the one who only comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) take our thoughts captive. Let me just say he’s not the boss of you, unless you allow it. 

The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galations 5:22-23)

Did you see that…self-control. We have that. Plus all those other attributes. But, it’s up to us to exercise them. One last thing on this treasure topic and where we place our worth and then I’m off to seize the day. 

Matthew 6:19-21 says: 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (bold emphasis added)

So, let me ask, what’s in your treasure chest? 

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The Choice You Choose

The hard fact of the matter is, you may not like it, you may not agree with it, but it is their body and it is their choice. Please, hear me out. Your right to believe in something does not give you the right to stomp all over someone else’s choice and make them feel less than because you believe your choice is better.

Screaming louder does not make your choice superior. Nasty quotes and making fun of things you wouldn’t choose, or name-calling is a form of bullying, allowing for division and pompous “knowledge” to rule over compassion.

From choosing whether or not to go to college, choosing a career path, getting tattooed or pierced, who to vote for, pro-life or pro-choice, having sex before marriage or not, to eat the donut or not, and so many more, are all choices an individual makes. You and I both know that choice conviction comes from God, not man.

Need an example? Read John, chapter 4 or 8. Let’s look at John, chapter 8. Here we learn the penalty for adultery is death by stoning. Could you imagine being hit full force, over and over with stones laced with hatred and “righteous” indignation, until you died? Umm, no, thank you. I’ll take a hard pass on that one!

But, that was not the case in this story. Two people decided to commit adultery anyways. They both made the choice and agreed that the act of committing adultery was worth dying for.

No matter the law, or what anyone else may have said, in the end, despite knowing the severe penalty it was their choice. They wanted what they wanted and they went for it.

Maybe like them, and dare I say me, you’ve made dangerous choices that weren’t in your best interest. Choices, no doubt others didn’t agree with or wouldn’t do. Choices others warned you about. Choices deep down you knew were wrong. So.Very.Wrong.

But if someone made the “wrong” decision in your eyes, what was your choice? Did you fight fire with fire or did your words/actions help put out the flames? Ugh, let me just say, I’ve fought fire with fire. But, I’ve learned that tactic only causes division, heartache, and regret.

Friends, God didn’t call us to shame and condemn one another. When did any of that ever make a relationship better? You could actually push the person to do exactly what you’d rather have them not do by being so crazy zealous over what you think they should do.

All you have to do is look back over your life and I bet you find a decision you made was because someone “forbade” you to do it. And you got all puffed up and under your breath, you muttered: “I’ll show them.”

Just so you know, that’s probably proof you shouldn’t make that decision. Nothing good ever really comes from, “I’ll show them.” Oy to the vey!

When did we get so wrapped up in trying to live other people’s lives, we forgot how to live our own because we knew in our knower, we “knew” what was best for them?

Why would I think I’m so good at telling others how to live their lives when my life can be such a mess? Maybe because it’s easier to put our focus on others instead of cleaning our own house?

In all honesty, I think we truly have the best of intentions when we want our loved ones and others to learn from our mistakes. I mean, experience must count for something, right? Seeing others fail must make a positive impact on our choices, right? That would be awesome, but it’s just not always the case.

A lot of my family members were alcoholics. I witnessed the devastation from it. I knew my chances of becoming an alcoholic were higher than others. I was educated on the effects alcohol has on the body and brain. However, despite being armed with all that knowledge, I still drank copious amounts of alcohol for years. That’s right, years. So.Many.Years.

No one made me do it. I chose it and many suffered from those choices. I can’t change it. It’s part of my story. But, it doesn’t define me. And no one can make me feel worse about my choices than myself.

The result of condemnation from myself is bad enough, but pile on condemnation from others and my little “woe is me” pit, will quickly escalate into a cavernous pit of self worthlessness and defeat. It’s the perfect place for the enemy to come in and keep talking me down.

Is that what we want? To help the enemy kick a person when they’re already so down on life they might not find their way back? What proverbial stone are you picking up and launching via your mouth, just because someone made a choice you wouldn’t? And don’t think that disapproving scowl goes unnoticed. That’s just adding insult to injury.

If we truly trust God, then can we have faith that while we “know best”, He actually knows better? That in fact, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:16) and not you. That what we should choose instead of slapping people with our churlish tongues is to pray for them while we love them through it? Not berate them through it?

And since we trust that God knows better than our best, maybe we should ask Him how we can help, not further hurt another.  Actually, pray for God to show you, your part in this process. Psalm 51:10 is an awesome prayer, “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” (bold emphasis added) Notice, you put the focus back on you in this instance and off of them. Lord, how can I help and not hurt?

Y’all, hate, bitterness, and rage are harsh taskmasters. All kinds of unhealthy emotions and physical and mental unwellness are tied to it.

In a world of “what have they done for me lately” (Totally just sang that Janet Jackson style) maybe start asking “what can I do for them?” Because in the end, all the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s and what-ifs, will never change the choice of what is. And when someone leaves this earth, you won’t worry or regret that you coulda, shoulda, woulda done something more.

We’re really only a choice away from what someone else chose. Every choice has a ripple effect. They’ll touch more than just our own life and we may never know how what we chose to do, say or act will impact another. But whatever they choose to do from what they’ve seen, learned or heard will be their choice.

So, share your stories. Share your failures and your wins. Share love, hope, and give great encouragement. Share your faith and your fears, and do unto others as you would have done to you. Share your gifts and give abundantly and don’t worry about the outcome. God’s got that part. Just do what you know to do with love and I guarantee you won’t regret it!

But that’s my choice, what’s yours?

Peace and much love to you my friends.

 

 

 

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There’s More To Your Story

He wanted to die. For whatever reason, life on this side of Heaven is not what he wanted. Maybe it was too big a disappointment. Maybe it was too hard. Maybe it was too painful or maybe, just maybe, it was the separation of his earthly vessel from His Heavenly Creator that caused a cavernous emptiness so encompassing that he felt only death could fix it.

So he set a course of action in play, one he was sure would take him out of this world, out of his pain, out of his misery, out of his suffering, BUT…God.

“You can make many plans, but the LORD’S purpose will prevail.” – Proverbs 19:21 (NLT)

This day was not like any other day. His body screamed “enough” and told him in more ways than one that he couldn’t keep going at the rate he was going. Many pieces and parts of his inner frame started to shut down from the years of abuse. He was on a mission, but so was God.

He would find himself in the ICU, hooked up to numerous medications. Each day during his stay I watched his body fight back from the brink of death. I witnessed glimpses of hope. I saw his body get the rest it so desperately needed to repair the damage from the choices he made.

I was very much aware of God’s mercies being new every morning and each second as recovery took over destruction. I watched the hands and feet of Jesus at work in those who claimed not to believe in Him. And I marveled as I watched God wooing those who are wandering.  How could I not be amazed at His beautiful and amazing grace?

I was reminded of this verse: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  – Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

I don’t know the reason he set out on his own path away from God. But his plans did not prevail, and he’s still here. Whatever caused that broken relationship with himself, the one that told him, his life was not worth living, is as personal as the love Jesus has for him. And just as I saw miracles happen over the course of that hospital stay, I know God won’t stop reaching, fighting for His son, His child, His beautiful creation.

I know, because I also found myself wanting to quit this world when it got too hard and the pain seemed unbearable many years ago. It was in this place of  desolation and the belief that no one cared that I thrashed about like a fish out of water screaming: “God, where are you?” And He whispered, “I’m right here, where are you?”

Indeed, where was I? Sin had pulled me far from God, but not so far that His love couldn’t save me. So, if you feel the lack of God’s mighty presence, I wonder, where are you? Because God, He’s right here.  I know, because His promise in Deuteronomy  31:6 says: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Never…that’s a long time.

Sweet friend, if you’re still here, please don’t give up, there’s more to your story than just this moment. Whatever piece of this journey you’re on, it’s nothing that will last forever…it’s just a season. Please remember, you’re life is precious and you have a purpose and there is no one exactly like you that can do all you were created to do.

Your story’s not over, it’s just beginning.

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499 Days

One of my favorite things to do in a pool is simply…float. Not much effort required except to stay afloat. Lying somewhat submerged with my ears covered by the water, eyes closed without a care in the world, body relaxed…I float. I don’t have to think, I don’t have to fix anything, I don’t have to meet anyone’s expectations, no need to perform, just float and aimlessly drift.

Word to the wise…this aimless drifting may cause you to bonk your head on the side of the pool if you’re too caught up in the bliss of floating. Eventually, the floating needs to stop and you need to get out of the pool, step back on solid ground, and get back to all things not floating related; I know, I know…bummer.

I have drifted from my blog for 499 days. I have to say, seeing that number was a bit of a shocker. It’s not to say I haven’t done any writing since then, because I have. Just not here. It’s not to say I haven’t visited this space either, because, I have. So what happened? Why did I drift and float off in the horizon? I’m so glad you asked.

As I watched the ending of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, I found myself arrested by the words Der spoke to Mer in an elevator. He said:

“If there’s a crisis, you don’t freeze, you move forward. You get the rest of us to move forward because you’ve seen worse and you know we’ll survive too. You say you’re all dark and twisty. It’s not a flaw, it’s a strength. It makes you who you are.”

For whatever reason, it felt like someone reached in and grabbed the breath right out of my lungs and then I sat there and sobbed. Y’all wounded heart healing is HARD. Letting God in, letting the walls down, feeling the excruciating pain, crying a bazillion tears, going through boxes of Kleenex and then seeing my mountainous  Kleenex pile, wore this girl out.

So, I did what I’ve done countless times before when things get too hard. I hid from healing. I stopped writing and I put those familiar walls back into place. I was tired of crying, and feeling the pain. It made me feel weak. I didn’t want to “own” the murky feelings of my reality.

I understood all too well the “dark and twisty” version of Meredith Grey and I didn’t want to dive into the “where it all began” pool anymore. Instead, I put on my brave girl face and told God “no.” I’m done crying and I’m done processing. I’m good now, that is until I wasn’t. Sigh.

More than once during those 499 days, I found myself in that place where someone reached in and pulled the breath right out of me. More than once the tears started and more than once I shut them off. You know what I learned? It takes more guts to face the things that tried to break you than to stuff them away and pretend you’re “okay.”

Y’all, I am not okay! I’m a living, breathing, hot mess child of God! Every single day I need Him. Every single day He shows up, and every single day I either let Him in, or I push Him away. But, even when I push, He never leaves me. He’s there breathing the breath back in that life tries to steal. I may be a hot mess, but God…He loves this hot mess. And He loves you too!

The Truth of the matter is this, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)

And that includes Hot Messes! Can a sister get an Amen?!

His Word never fails! He is good and He is for you..always.

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Gimme a “K”…Gimme an “E”….

cheerleaderI couldn’t for the life of me figure out what my beautiful niece was starting to cheer spell.  So I listened as she kept going.  Gimme a “T” and another “T” and then it dawned on me.  She’s cheer spelling her last name.  Kettell.  Pronounced (Kah-tell) I have to admit, I was taken back as she cheer spelled our family name and then gave the final cheer out; “what’s that spell?” “Keeeeeee-tellllll.”

When she was done, she jumped up in the air, clapped her little hands and then bounced off to her next adventure in a whirlwind of giggles. I, on the other hand, stood there perplexed that she chose to cheer spell that name.

Growing up with the name Kettell wasn’t a horrible thing per se.  But it sure never made me want to jump up and down for joy and give accolades through cheer praise.  I could in no way be proud of a name associated with such family dysfunction and tied to generations of alcoholism and abuse.

It boggled my pea brain this untainted little girl was cheering for all her worth because she was proud of her last name.  But she didn’t know what I knew.  She didn’t grow up with my family, and she will never be afforded the opportunity to meet her grandfather and be privy to his style of abuse. She only knew the life she has. Anything else she might learn about her grandfather will be passed down from those who knew him.

You see, when my parents got divorced, my father went out into the world and had another baby.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why God would allow this abusive man to have another baby.  But, it was permitted and my half-brother was born.  By the time he was born, I was in the military and other than having a baby picture of him with his name and date of birth, I would not have contact with him for 16 of his years.

I had already had several conversations with God about all this, but I never stopped to hear what God had to say, only what I wanted to tell Him.  That’s what our “relationship” was back then; me telling God what was wrong with His plans and thinking I knew it all.

I grew up with 2 brothers. I was the middle child and growing up we learned to survive life.  Ask us to share stories about growing up and you’ll hear different versions.  Not sure why that is, but when you survive life, your brain does things to protect you. Or so I’ve heard.   So when our half brother finally learned about his half siblings, he reached out.  My brothers freaked out a bit.  They didn’t know what our half-brother wanted and they for sure didn’t want to re-hash the past, so they chose not to speak with him.  Eek-gads, let the fear of the unknown take root.

I, on the other hand, wanted very much to talk with him.  Hello, I’m a girl, and I’m nosey, plus he was family.  So we spoke on the phone. I now had a link to a brother I often wondered about.  For years that one conversation was all I knew of him.  It would be many years later before we met face to face through circumstances only God could have arranged. Talk about mind boggling awesomeness!

So here we are, 14 years later and I’m watching my niece cheer our family name and I stand in awe as God no doubt smiles down of a piece of this family.  A piece only He knew about all those many years ago when I was telling Him what was wrong with His plan.  This puzzle piece that He made and knew would fit together for such a time as this has been one of the best, most awesome blessings in my life and I can’t thank God enough for His love and grace.

While my family as a whole still suffers from dysfunction and separation, I hold out hope for reunification and healing.  With faith as small as a mustard seed, I pray and lay our wounded family at the foot of the cross and hold onto God’s promises and know there is nothing too hard for Him.  Where there is no way, I know, God can make a way!  To God be the glory my friends.

To be continued….

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The Bold Blondie

with love, Jilly

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