Blessed to be Broken

God's not finished with me yet!

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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Identity Thieves

I started watching a new series on Netflix. It’s a hot mess. I could tell you what the name is, but I figure if it’s meant for you, you’ll find it. The typical 45 minute show gives you glimpses of how the characters got to be where and how they are in the present.

I find shows like this fascinating. I mean, haven’t we all heard something to the effect of how we’re modern day versions of the collective experiences of our past? Reflecting on how the past factors into who we are is a good thing. Staying stuck in the past…that can cripple us.

In this new to me show are two main female characters. I’m gonna focus on the one who seems to be a present day hot mess. But before I get into that, I want to share a short personal story. I feel it relates to our hot mess gal heroine.

Back in my drinking days when my glass would get empty, I would raise my glass and sing a little ditty with my own high pitched flair at the end. It was for anyone in the house who happened to be up and about while I sat in my queen’s chaise lounge. The song went. “Running low, running on empty, running low, running drrrrrr-hiiii.” And voila, my glass would be refilled.

Running low.
Running on empty.
Running dry.

I never even knew singing that song was about so much more than an empty glass.

Ok, back to our heroine.

This gal grew up in a couple of homes. When she was a young girl she grew up in here grandmother’s loving, safe home. As an adolescent and teenager she grew up in her mothers drug addled, chaotic home.

All years in my opinion are formative years. I believe every second since we were formed and knitted in our mother’s womb, matters. What you believe is on you. No need to get defensive or divisive on the matter.

It mattered the way this gal was shown love and affection. We don’t really get to see the love she was shown in her grandmother’s home. But, we see a lot of the love and affection she desperately craved, but didn’t get in her mother’s home.

As our heroine steps into her grown-up life, she appears, happy. She drinks, does drugs, sleeps with whoever she wants and becomes a high-profile, successful talk-show host. That’s what you plainly see on the outside.

On the inside, she’s the scared, insecure girl who only wants her mother’s approval. Flash to a scene where our heroine thinks it’s safe to go see her mother and share that she’s successful. She’s hopeful her mother will be proud of her accomplishments to date.

Imagine her heartbreak and disappointment once again when she doesn’t get it, but instead hands her mother, money for “rent”. She hides her hurt well. She stuffs it way down inside and covers the punch in the gut with a false sense of bravado.

She then struts her stuff with her head tilted high, shoulders squared, and chest puffed out, seeking approval from all the wrong places. She keeps everyone at arm’s length so they can’t get close enough to ignite the deep raw anguish ravishing her soul. To her, that would be a crime against the core of everything she’s built.

That’s the problem with building your house on materialistic things. Eventually, it all tumbles down. The control you think you have over your trauma is misconceived and misplaced and it needs a place to go. Trust me when I say, it will find a place, and it won’t be pretty.

Our heroine only wanted her mother’s approval. She even said something to the effect of “I keep going back for more, hoping this time it will be different and it never is.” She’s shattered from not getting love from a mother who in this stage of her life is an empty well. Yet, our heroine wants what the empty well can’t provide. Why?

Why do we constantly seek approval for who we are and what we’ve accomplished from others who are just as flawed as we are? I can’t answer that question. It’s truly just a hypothetical question.

I do know that when we desperately seek approval from others and don’t get it in the way we want, we turn to our identity thieves.

Others
Sex
Drugs/Alcohol
Success
Fame
Money
Social Media
TV
Cutting
Food
Shopping
Working out (make our outward appearance an idol)
Unwarranted plastic surgery

I could go on and on. Almost everything on the list above, I could raise my hand and say without out a doubt I did that. To be honest, I still do some of that. Just not the ones I deem detrimental to my being. Or are they?

The truth is, when we’re running on empty, low, or dry, unless we look to God’s Truth to fill us, we’re looking in the wrong places.

I can relate to our heroine. I grew up in the drug/alcohol addicted, devoid of love home. I saw what being desperate for love looked like. I lived what looking for love looks like. It made real love in action look like somebody wanted something from me. I lived my life suspicious of almost everything. The trauma I experienced took away what “safe” felt like and put my nervous system in a constant state of high alert and panic.

I can’t even begin to describe what my body does in response to certain stimuli. The funny thing is, it’s just when I think I’ve conquered something that yet another “alarm” goes off. This is not living. It’s surviving. My body was never built for this kind of trauma. Neither was yours. There’s a difference between learning to live with your pain, and healing from your pain.

It takes great courage to move past your hurt into healing. Facing the giants of your past will no doubt cause lots of tears and lots more snot. Always make sure you have plenty of tissues close by. Seriously, where does all the snot come from?

I’m still working through a lot of my “issues” but each day, I’m one step closer to becoming all God created me to be. I used to dread meeting “her” but now I can’t wait. I bet she’s going to be phenomenal.

The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He’ll take all he can get from you. He laughs at your pain and constantly tries to get you to sit and wallow in what hurt you. Just what you’d seek in a friend, right? NOT!

Friends, God sent His one and only Son so you could live an abundant life. He cares greatly for you. But, like I always say, don’t take my word for it, take His!

“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” ~ John 10:9-11 (ESV)

Now that’s some good news.

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You Deserve

Rant alert! I don’t know what it is about those two little words, “you deserve,” but they get under my skin like a bad bug bite’s venom. It’s right up there with the word “karma”. Nope, I don’t easily agree with them. In fact, I wrestle with those words, every time I hear them.

I remember when I went to the car dealership to trade my 2007 vehicle in. The salesman almost lost the deal when he told me, “I deserved” a new car. The vehicle I got came with a new car payment. My 2007 vehicle was paid off. So, I guess “I deserved” the car payment as well? He for sure didn’t congratulate me on that part.

Have you ever read the story of Job in the Bible? Job most certainly didn’t deserve the pain and suffering he was handed. But God permitted it? Why? Because He knew Job. He knew Job wouldn’t turn against Him and rebuke Him in his suffering.

Did Job deserve to be blessed double for all his suffering and pain after he proved his faithfulness to God? Did Job suffer any less or more than others suffer? Did Jesus deserve to die on the cross and suffer the worst kind of a criminal’s death?

Do people only deserve good things because they do good things? Do good people deserve to suffer at the hands of evil doers? Who really gets to decide what any person truly deserves?

I can’t answer these questions. If it were up to me, anyone who commits a heinous act would be put publicly to death. You know who would already be dead then? Me. I’m guilty of committing heinous acts against other humans and God. I’m guilty of breaking almost all the commandments. Yet, I’m still here.

I venture if you spent any time on planet earth, you’ve committed heinous acts as well. It’s human nature to sin. We ALL fall short of the glory of God. No one is immune to sin.

That young man who killed all those children in Texas, in my opinion didn’t deserve to die. To me, he got off easy. He deserved a long prison sentence so he could live with what he’d done until he reached a ripe old age. I wanted to see him suffer a lifetime of pain. Pain that goes deep and runs wide. But, that wasn’t my call to make.

On the other hand, I have empathy for the young man who must’ve dealt with far more pain and suffering in his short life that he thought killing innocent children and adults was the answer to his problems. How much hurt, hate and pain must he carried in his hardened heart? No clue.

I don’t believe for a second those children, parents, teachers, faculty, staff and families deserved what happened to them. Yet, it did. The carnage and trauma caused will take years to heal.

Where is the justice for those left behind? Those that have to deal with the consequences of the senseless murderous actions of one man will try to make sense out of what happened. They will try to wrap their minds around the fact their loved ones are gone. That the last time they said good-bye was literally the last time they would say good-bye, or I love you, or have a good day. Most assuredly the voices they’ll never hear out loud again will echo forever in their minds.

Do they deserve that? No, no they don’t.

It’s easy to place blame when these things happens. It’s how we try to make sense out of the non-sensical. We come together and grieve, but then we start shouting and pointing fingers at one another. Whoever shouts loudest is the one who wins? Right? Be careful with that theology. It’s typically the quiet ones stirring a pot you didn’t see coming to a boil until it’s too late.

The truth of the matter is, we will NEVER know what really happened, what transpired that day or what was going through the killer’s mind. All we know is the fallout.

But, there will be plenty of folks who will try to convince you to believe what they want you to believe. They’ll fill in the gaps with their “best’ guesses. It’s no longer about doing good for the people. It’s about, greed, and power, and money. All things rooted in evil when they become the focus of our existence. Idols in this day and age don’t have to be golden calves. They’re anything you give power to.

It’s easy to blame God when things don’t make sense, don’t go our way or when tragedy strikes. How can a good God allow such things to happen. God didn’t put the gun in that young man’s hands. Once again, God gave us free will, the choices we make HAVE consequences.

On this side of heaven we don’t see God’s bigger plan or the restorative plan He no doubt already has in place. It’s in times like this we either walk by faith or sight. We either believe who God says He is and His Sovereignty or we don’t.

Job chose to walk by what He knew about God despite his crappy circumstances and despite what his friends and wife said. Job had no clue what God was truly doing or that God would double all that was taken from him and make the latter half of Job’s life better. The justice God serves up will most likely never make sense to us. Our finite minds truly can’t handle that kind of sovereign truth.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

God never leaves us alone to deal with the things other humans are capable of doing to us. I daresay it’s when we leave Him out of the picture and take justice into our own hands that we suffer catastrophically more than if we’d have left the avenging to Him.

Count the cost. Count your blessings. Give thanks to God in ALL things because God’s not the bad guy here. We are.

Lord God, we give thanks that You are still in control and still on your throne. Lord, I beg You to hear the pained cries of your people. I believe you are close to the brokenhearted and You are giving comfort as only You can give. Your children are in deep pain and groaning from the tragedy of recent events. I boldly come before you and ask an abundance of love, comfort, mercy, and peace over the families who are left behind to deal with the travesty of evil being ever present in our world. Greater though are YOU than he who is in this world. Whatever You are already doing, I trust that it’s a plan for good and that restoration is already in progress. I pray this nation turn from its wicked ways, and turns back to You. I pray the idols of greed, hate, lust, power, and money are shattered and Your Kingdom comes on earth as it is in Heaven. May it be Your will that’s done and may we repent and submit our evil ways to You. In the mighty name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

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Its Done Me Wrong

The other day I was watching TikTok and a reel came on with Richard Marx. Good Lord, talk about a blast from the past! Richard’s a singer/songwriter that sprang up in the 80s and recently joined the community of TikTokkers with a compilation reel of his hit songs.

I smiled as I listened to the songs but was sorely disappointed when I didn’t hear my favorite song, Hazard. It’s a haunting tale of a young boy who moved to a small town and the town folk found him less than desirable.

In this sad-ish tale, he managed to find one person in town who he gelled with, Mary. Mary loved sunsets, hanging by the river and being with him. That is until Mary goes missing and everyone looks to the “boy” as the reason to her disappearance. I say boy only because the song alone doesn’t allow for you to know years pass by and the two are now grown.

Once again, based on the song, you get the impression the boy, despite his cries of innocence is found guilty in Mary’s disappearance. Look at these lyrics from the bridge of the song:

“I think about my life gone by
How it’s done me wrong
There’s no escape for me this time
All of my rescues are gone, long gone”

The song video tells a different story. The villain in this story is actually the local town sheriff. And in the video, the accused man is actually seen walking away from the town, leaving it ”all” behind him.

The things of this life have a way of getting deep into our souls. When allowed to sit too long, they twist and turn our insides until we feel like the person in the song…”there’s no escape,” and nothing good is ever going to happen. Our mantra becomes, “this is as good as it gets”.

That’s how I felt when I left my hometown years ago and went into the military. I couldn’t wait to kick the dirt of Elmira off my shoes and leave it all behind.

God had other plans. 32 years or so after I left, I moved back to Elmira. The circumstances that brought me back are unimportant now. It’s in the past. Suffice it to say, I made some bad choices and once again, Elmira left a sour, bitter taste in my mouth.

Had I not returned to Elmira, I would’ve not gotten to spend precious time with my dearly departed brother. How I miss him.

I remember whining to God for the umpteenth about Elmira. How could this be part of His plan for me when He knew how much I hated it?

His answer; it’s not Elmira you have a problem with, it’s what happened to you here. That was kinda like a gut punch, taking the wind out of my sails. He was right, Elmira did nothing to me but in my eyes, it had done nothing for me either. Elmira was not the problem.

Dang it. Now I knew I had work to do. It was time to transform my thinking. (Romans 12:2)

As long as I was blaming a city, how could I forgive the life things that happened here? How could I escape from the clutches the negative strongholds had on my hardened heart?

One by one, as I drove or walked by places I would say out loud, “you didn’t defeat me”. “Lord, help me forgive what happened here. Lord, show me where you were in this?”

On my own, I would’ve kept holding onto the bitterness of the hurt and pain form these hurtful incidents.

It’s hard to turn beauty from ashes when you won’t let go of the ashes.

The hard things of this life when allowed to take up any kind of residence changes you. It’s why forgiveness is so vital in keeping our souls moving forward.

Unforgiveness cripples our forward momentum and keeps us in an invisible prison. Stuck inside this prison we become victims to the schemes of the enemy. It’s a perfect playground for him to keep you in the darkness of pain and suffering as he replays the events like a vinyl record skipping on the same note.

Whenever I read Bible verses about weeping and gnashing of teeth, I’m reminded the pain and suffering of unforgiveness go hand in hand with this. I know whenever something from my past creeps in, my teeth clench as my face changes and contorts to the distasteful memory.

Being brought back to Elmira was not a punishment from God. It was a blessing. No, it most assuredly didn’t feel like a blessing each time I visited or drove past a hurtful place. However, each time I invited God into the mess, I opened myself up to the possibility that God would fulfill His promise and redeem/restore another part of my story.

I’m still working through parts of my story that didn’t have that happily ever after ending. Instead of dreading those parts now, and as crazy as this may sound, I look forward to working it out with God. I want all the ashes gone. They serve me no good purpose and the weight of their pain is too heavy a burden for my heart.

Friend, I don’t know what’s caused you deep pain and suffering. But, know you weren’t alone when it happened and you’re not alone now. The first step is acknowledging what happened. Invite God into that mess and allow Him to walk it out with you. It may take several times. Don’t lose hope in the process Hang onto hope like it’s your best friend.

One last thing. Whatever your “its” done me wrong is, I daresay, and with boldness and godly confidence, this is not as good as it gets, the best it yet to come!

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Pedestals

I’m over it.

If you blame Chris Rock, for Will Smith’s actions then you’ll start to understand why Adam blamed Eve because he ate the forbidden fruit and why Eden blamed the serpent for the choice she made. Each one had a choice. Each is equally responsible for their own actions. The blame game is nothing new. Sin is sin.

If Will Smith can see he did wrong and apologize, why is the public still looking to blame Chris for what Will did or for that matter blame Jada for an eye roll?

Chris made a tasteless joke.
Jada rolled her eyes.
Will deliberately walked on the stage and slapped Chris.

It’s doesn’t matter why and the why in this instance is nobody’s business.

Public opinion is dangerous and careless. Having all the facts you think you have doesn’t make you right. Just ask Jesus. Crucify a sinless man and let a criminal go.

Putting celebrities on pedestals is something that’s easy to do. But, it’s also nothing new. Satan himself once an angel in heaven named Lucifer attempted to be higher than God. He put himself on a pedestal and was thrown to earth.

“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.” ~ Isaiah 14:12-15 (NIV)

Did you notice how God knew what the angel Lucifer was thinking? When God says He looks at the heart and for you to protect it, He’s not kidding. Lucifer’s plans were in his heart and God saw it. You don’t even have to commit the actual sin before God knows it’s going to happen. Blows my mind how intimately God knows us.

Moving on. The fact of the matter is, Will Smith is human and he had a public melt down. How many celebrities do we need to watch fall from grace before we understand, they’re no better than us? That they’re flawed humans with raw emotions just like the rest of us? Did all his wealth keep him from falling? Nope, it sure didn’t.

But, what intrigues me is how quickly the public opinion that raised him up, so easily tore him down.

He’s supposed to be a model for others to follow. He’s the Prince of Bel-Air. He should’ve know better. Really?

When our hand-picked idols fall off their pedestals, it hurts. We put our trust in who we think they actually are, knowing nothing except what we’re fed about them.

The fact that we think we need to follow another human being is a deeper calling from Jesus to follow Him. People are flawed. Jesus has never changed. He is exactly who He says He is. He knows we need to follow and believe in something. And every single time we put our faith, trust, or hope in anything but Him, we’ll be disappointed and scurrying to find something to replace what’s disappointed us.

Will Smith doesn’t deserve the stones thrown by hands that sin daily. Our smugness alone throws the pile of condemnation upon him. And no matter what anyone else does to Will, there will be no one harder on Will, than Will himself. We’ve all been our own worst enemy at some point in our lives. Who does anyone think they are when their celebrity fails to live up to their expectation?

The hard truth of the matter, is no one is perfect, and that goes for celebrities and any other person, place or thing we’ve elevated.

The best thing we can do for Will is to surround him in prayer. Prayer is powerful. Prayer changes us. Prayer reminds us, God is still on the throne, still doing what He does best; being God.

May we all be so fortunate to have God fearing, praying people in our lives.

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White Flags

If I had a white flag, I feel like today, I would whip it out and surrender. It’s just one of those days where I wish I could “make the world go away.”

Everything seems too much, too overwhelming, just too _______________________, fill in the blank. You know what I mean?

Let’s take a peek at what the symbolism for white flags mean, shall we? There may be people who legitimately don’t know or care, but here we go, just the same.

I googled “white flag surrender” and after skimming the sites it brought back I went with the History Channel. I’m only going to post an excerpt from the page:

“In more recent history, the white flag has become an internationally recognized symbol not only for surrender but also for the wish to initiate ceasefires and conduct battlefield negotiations.”

I knew it stood for surrender, I didn’t know it included conducting battlefield negotiations. Interesting. See, there’s so much I don’t know.

You know who you can’t negotiate with…ever. Satan. That means you can’t play in his playground and expect not to get hurt. Why? Good question.

Because he’s the father of lies and he only comes to kill, steal and destroy. He’s a master manipulator who only has one thing in mind for you. Your complete and utter demise. He’s a real pisser that one. Yep, I said pisser. Feel free to look that up should you need to, but know it’s not good.

But, the funny thing is (not the ha ha kind of funny, the ironic kind of funny), we all choose to play on his playground every day. Every. Single. Day.

No one is free from sin. It’s not to say we don’t try to stay free from sin, but somehow or another. Maybe you don’t believe me. That’s ok, you don’t have to, I’m a gonna show you what God says about it:

 “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” ~ Romans 3:23 (NLT)

Do you see that tiny three letter word ALL? All means all. I know, I say it a lot, but once I saw the word “all” jump out from the pages of Scripture at me, I can’t unsee it.

But, there’s good news. Don’t go all willy nilly on me thinking, might at well keep sinning because clearly we all suck. Even though we all sin, God, put a redemptive plan in place for us to surrender sin. Just a fancy way of saying, God made a way for us to repent through Jesus.

“Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” ~Romans 3:24 (NLT)

Wait, there’s more!

For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past,” ~ Romans 3:25 (NLT)

See! Good news!

Yes, we all sin! But, we don’t surrender to sin. We don’t give up the fight to turn from our sin and overcome it. We don’t wave that proverbial white flag and give Satan an all access pass to ours lives.

If we were as lasered focus on eradicating sin out of our lives as we were on how we look, we might stand a chance on being “sinless”. But most likely, we’d find something else to make into an idol.

Speaking of idols and flags, what do you think pledging our allegiance to a flag does for us? Can the flag save us? Can the flag heal us? Can the flag forgive us our sins? Can the flag stop the wind and the waves?

Just some random thoughts I had the other day and how we get all twisted up over an inanimate object. Now, before you get all up in arms over my statements, please hear my heart. I love the USA. I love our flag. I served in the military and I’m proud of our armed services.

But the flag, truly, is just a flag. Yes, it has significant meaning and history behind it but when we use it a divisive tool, what good is it doing. What was I doing in the military? What or whose freedom was I protecting? I didn’t take an oath to protect a flag. I took an oath to protect the country.

God is the creator of ALL things. That includes the creation of the flag. How you view it, is up to you. Just remember, when you’re in trouble, that flag can neither provide for you, nor save you. That’s God’s job. Yet, we always try and find things to try and replace Him.

Psssst…let me let you in on a little secret…He’s not replaceable. Not for our lack of creativity and trying.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, the battle for our hearts is always under attack. What we give our hearts to clues us in to where our true allegiance lies.

I desperately want to honor God in all things. No, I don’t always get it right. The beauty of that, is God sees my heart. He knows my motives behind everything I do. He leads me and it’s my choice to follow.

So, here’s my white flag Lord, I surrender, because there’s no way I can do life without you. The cost was too high when I tried.

Love, Trish

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Anticipation

If you’re even a smidge like me you read the title of today’s story and you thought of the Heinz ketchup commercial with Carly Simon singing, anticipation. Welcome to my brain.

I think it’s safe to say we all need something to look forward to. Some may call it hope, or expectancy when we’re looking forward to something.

The opposite of looking forward to something is commonly known as dread. Especially when we’re in a season of life we don’t understand, don’t want or didn’t ask for. Dread is not a good motivator.

I have quite a few friends in a difficult season. It’s heartbreaking to watch your friends travel a hard road. How thankful am I that in my hard seasons, God always made sure I had people in my life who had gone before me to help me walk through the valleys.

I’m not saying I’m thankful others went through pain so they could help me. I saying, even though my friends went through painful times God didn’t waste their pain. He used it to help me and I’m sure many others.

Healing is ever so important for that very reason. Healing helps us move forward. Healing releases us from the pained filled memory so we can begin anew.

It’s hard to anticipate new things for our lives, when we hold onto the pain because somewhere along the line, pain became comfortable. The known feeling of pain, became easier than the unknown feeling of “what’s next”?

What’s next could be worse, right? And who wants worse? So, we stay stuck in the comfort of our pain. And who knew pain could become comfortable?

It’s not easy to get back on the “this thing called life” train when we’ve been derailed by the “life” that’s been thrown our way.

We’re not given much grace to grieve our painful experiences when life is still happening all around us. Reba McEntire sang:

“I guess the world didn’t stop for my broken heart.”

The world sure didn’t stop.

It’s why we’re still expected to perform and to slap on the “I’m fine” face. Maybe that’s where you are today. Maybe inside your screaming while painting a smile on your face. If so, I’m really sorry. If no one told you it’s ok to feel your pain, please know feeling and processing through it, is better than ignoring it.

The Lord says that “joy comes in the morning.” With it, the promise of a new day and a new way through the wilderness. Joy isn’t the same as happiness. Joy comes from a deeper, spiritual place. Not from people, places or things.

For all the things that bring us happiness can be taken and easily flipped to unhappiness. That’s why we warned not to build up earthly treasures for they can be taken.

I had a friend who once lived her life with the ideology of “waiting for the other shoe to drop”. She was anticipating dread.

Her brother passed away and it flipped her world upside down. Now she lives in anticipation of a full life as long as she’s here on earth.

No one has the secret sauce to each and every hard life situation. How we get through the hard things is walking them out with others.

And when that’s not working, the Lord says for ALL to come to Him. People may not always know what we need, but God’s already got things working in place to get you where you need to go.

Psalm 5:3 reminds us to talk with our Heavenly Father:

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (NIV)

We have a part in this. We lift our voices to the Lord. We lay out our needs. Then we wait. How do we wait? Expectantly.

But, that takes trust. If you don’t trust God, the waiting will be more like dread. Especially if we think God hates us. Which He absolutely, does not.

We can’t anticipate what God will do in answer to our prayers, but we can wait with anticipation that a good God will answer with His best. Maybe you need a reminder of just how much God loves you. Let me leave you with Psalm 139 (MSG)

1-6 God, investigate my life;
    get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
    even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
    I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
    before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
    then up ahead and you’re there, too—
    your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
    I can’t take it all in!

7-12 Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
    to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
    If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
    At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

17-22 Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
    God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
    any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!
    And please, God, do away with wickedness for good!
And you murderers—out of here!—
    all the men and women who belittle you, God,
    infatuated with cheap god-imitations.
See how I hate those who hate you, God,
    see how I loathe all this godless arrogance;
I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred.
    Your enemies are my enemies!

23-24 Investigate my life, O God,
    find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
    get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
    then guide me on the road to eternal life.

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Stick Art

Yesterday, my granddaughter and son came for a visit. I love when they come over. It reminds me how precious life is and to not take these moments for granted. Lena and I have some pretty great conversations. Her 5 year old logic is pretty insightful at times. Then there’s the times I look to her Father for clarification and we both sit there with a confused daze on our faces.

It was a beautiful Spring day. After all the cold days, the warmth of the sunshine felt amazing. I was still running errands when Lena and Justin came over. I pulled my vehicle into the driveway, Lena was digging a hole and her dad was overseeing it. She came running to the car when she saw me pull up. We hugged and she went running off.

Justin and I sat at the patio table while Lena happily played with sticks. She started picking up sticks and planting them in the ground. She was very particular about the sticks she chose for her project. She even did some pruning on the ones that didn’t quite fit the way she wanted.

Although, she totally missed seeing the sword her dad and I saw in one of her hand-picked sticks before ripping off the offending branches. Simultaneously, Justin and I started to say something about the sword stick but her little hands were faster than our reactions. She didn’t care. She kept pressing on.

This morning as I sat down with my coffee, Moose and my devotions, I was reminded of Lena’s carefully and thoughtfully constructed stick creation. I wish I would’ve take a picture. But, alas, I did not. And we all know woulda, coulda, shoulda’s, don’t change, what is.

Lena spent quite some time on that creation. After it was just the way she wanted it, she left it alone to come help me spy dog poo so I could pick it up. Moose got entangled in the stick art masterpiece and Lena ran over to help him. The sticks came a tumbling down. She didn’t care. She went off to the next project after helping Moose.

As I reflected on the Lena/stick events from yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of how God carefully constructs us. How He lovingly places gifts and talents where He needs them. How he prunes our “dead” branches that no longer fit in our lives. I thought about how when we fall apart, He doesn’t get all bent out of shape, He just leads us to the next thing.

I thought, how awesome is it, God can have a little girl build a stick creation and remind me how He uses ALL things to accomplish what He needs.

This all came after a pretty rough night with Moose. I took him outside for his last evening potty break. When we came back inside, I went to brush my teeth and he jumped on my bed. I didn’t see him do it, but he peed right where I sleep. Insert curse words here, because, yep, I used them.

I was tired, a bit grumpy and now let’s add anger to the mix. I showed him his mess, I reprimanded him, and then I put him back outside. I ripped the bedding off and threw it in the washer. I was HOT! I muttered under my breath, kept saying things I know better than to say, and then I grabbed Moose from outside and put him in his kennel for the night. Grrrr!

I didn’t sleep well. Night sweats from menopause don’t help. I didn’t care for my own behavior. I cried out to God and said this was too hard. Moose is more “work” than I wanted. Trying to break his 2 year old bad habits is hard. He barks way too much, and potty training him is…well, hard. He still barks at Justin’s every move when he’s here. Sigh.

This morning, God blessed me with another wake-up. I got out of bed and went and got Moose, he wagged his tail and jumped up to say hi! He didn’t stop loving me because I got angry.

Guess what? God doesn’t stop loving us when we get angry. He understands our emotions. He continually loves me through the pruning process. Last night’s angry escapades showed me I had some work to do. After all, isn’t that what God’s amazing grace is all about?

We’re always so hard on ourselves an God is constantly giving us grace. Shouldn’t we receive that grace and begin the day anew, just as He intended?

Never underestimate how God shows up in your life. When I said He uses ALL things, I mean, ALL things. Sticks, dogs, emotions, and the list goes on and on. His majestic imagination and creativity are endless.

Question is, are you looking for Him to answer how you think He’ll answer? If so, you may be missing what He’s trying to show you. Be on the lookout, stay alert, and know our Heavenly Father is always working in ways that we can’t take credit for, because there’s no way we can out wit God.

That alone is something to be thankful for!

Have an amazing day, friends. xoxo

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God's mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness. Lam 3:23

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