Blessed to be Broken

God's not finished with me yet!

Falling Apart

You can do the hard things, but you don’t have to do it reliant on your strength. Wait, what? Lemme ‘splain Lucy. The other day, my son asked if I wanted a hug. I did, but I hesitated for a few seconds. I felt if I went in for the hug, I would lose whatever it was that was holding me altogether. I was tired. More tired than I realized.

The current battle in this moment was too much and a hug from my son might just be the end of me. I felt a choke hold of emotions rising up in my chest and throat, threatening to steal my composure. Do you know what I mean?

I surrendered and went in for the hug. Yep, I cried. I said I was tired of always being the “strong one.” My beautiful grown son gave me permission to stop being strong. For the next few moments I just breathed through my tears. Why is it so hard to be vulnerable? Why is it so hard to drop the facade and just say, I’m tired? 

I don’t know that I needed permission not to be strong, but I felt a surge of relief wash over me as I let it go. 

If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of putting puzzles together. I don’t even like riddles. Gasp! I know, right? I want the easy. I want the answer. I. Just. Want. To. Know! 

If you put a riddle on your social media post, I will google the heck out of it before I answer, and feel no shame! However, I will not read the end of a book I’m reading until I get there. It’s complicated, I know. 

Unfortunately for those like me who just want the answers, waiting is beyond annoying. But you don’t get where you’re going until you take a step, and then another, and sor forth, and so on. It’s like the exasperating puzzle. You put it together one piece at a time. 

There’s the key. It’s in coming together of the broken apart pieces that make the puzzle whole. When we try to ignore those broken pieces, we set the healing aside. We stuff those pieces down and let them flounder around in our beings as they look for an escape. 

Make no doubt, those pieces will find their way out, one way or another. 

Look around. You’ll see them if you dare to look close enough. It’s the person reaching for the bottle, hoping to drink it away. It’s in the addict, hoping to numb it away. It’s in the abuse, hoping to rage it away. 

Hurt needs an escape. It needs to be tended to. It needs a vulnerable place to land. A place where shame, guilt, and self-condemnation don’t reside. A place that says, it’s ok to cry. It’s ok, to fall apart. 

It’s so very important who you share your hurts with. In the wrong hands those hurts become weapons to take you down even further. To be used against you in moments you never see coming. 

Humans can be so very cruel and yet so very caring. It’s critical you know the difference. 

The day my son asked me if I wanted a hug, I didn’t know I needed one. But, my Jesus knew. 

He knew my human strength was waning. He knew exactly what I needed in the weakness I had yet to see.  

For the answer to be a hug is huge. I didn’t grow up in a hugging family. It’s not what we did. We only hugged when necessary. They always felt foreign. But, that’s not what a true hug is. It’s the total opposite. 

Hugs are a very simple yet powerful gift from our Heavenly Father. It takes 2 people to make a hug happen. It’s a participatory act of opening up your arms and both giving and receiving one another. A true hug envelopes your entire being and gives you space to just be. 

Friend, it’s ok to not have it all together. It’s ok to come undone and cry things out. After all, you never know what you might find after the tears have cried themselves out. And maybe, just maybe, whatever needs to fall apart, will be the very thing you need for things come together. 

It’s gonna be a GREAT day and you get to be here for it! How awesome is that? 

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Show Me The Way

The other day when I turned on the tv, Little House On The Prairie was what popped up on the screen. I can’t say I remember watching too much of this show when it originally aired or even the reruns. But for some reason this one caught my eye.

There’s a character named Edwards. I guess he hurt his foot and was feeling pretty useless and depressed. So, Ma Ingalls suggested to Pa Ingalls to take Laura over to Edwards house and go help cheer him up. Over the course of the visit, the man, Edwards suggested a hunting trip, and it was agreed that Pa Ingalls and Laura would go along.

Once in the woods Pa and Edwards decided to head out to hunt while Laura stayed behind to make some grub. Aha! Herein lies the true reason Edwards wanted to go into the woods. As I said before he felt useless because of his bum foot. It made him feel like a burden to his wife and friends. So he concocted a plan to off himself. He was just about to pull the trigger of his rifle to shoot himself in the head when Pa Ingalls kicked the gun away. With his suicidal plan out in the open, Edwards told Pa his plan and “reasonings” behind it. Who knew Little House tackled such heavy subjects as this?

Edwards was determined to finish what he started. But Pa Ingalls was just as determined to save his friend. While praying to God, Pa asked the Lord to show him how to help his friend. Help being the key word here. He asked God to show him the way. Just then a deer came out into the open. Pa said it was pretty much the deer’s lucky day and tried to shoo it away.

He fired a round into the air to scare the deer away. It didn’t move. A perplexed Pa then had an epiphany and said “show me the way.” Next thing we hear is another shot fired. This second shot captured Edwards attention who was sitting in his woe is me stew several hundred feet away. Pa screams out Edwards name and Edwards quickly hobbles over to Pa. When Edwards reaches Pa, he sees Pa on the ground looking poorly. There’s blood on Pa’s shirt. Dun, dun, dun.

Pa tells Edwards he needs to go back to camp and get Laura and a horse. Surprisingly, Edwards makes it back to Laura at camp and says her Pa’s been hurt and they have to go get him. BUT, Pa strolls into camp, blood still on his shirt, uninjured. Seems it must not have been the deer’s lucky day after all. The blood smear had to come from somewhere. Poor deer.

Edwards is pretty angry after having to hobble all the way back to camp on his walking stick crutch and complains he almost killed himself doing it. Ironic huh? Little House all over here teaching folks big lessons.

Once Edwards got outside of his own dark musings and thought more of helping his friend, his life took on another meaning. Instead of thinking he was useless and no good to anyone, he put all those type thoughts behind him and dug deep to find the strength he needed to help his friend. His injury may have hindered him a bit, but it couldn’t stop the overwhelming desire within him to help Pa. That desire to help, propelled him into action.

The enemy loves to isolate and speak death into your mind. He only comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Edwards couldn’t see past his injury. He allowed the lie that he was useless because of his injury define the rest of his life. How often does this happen in real life? Life isn’t what we think it should be, so we shrug our shoulders, say this is as good as it gets, and become like the walking dead. We draw further into our own world and forget that life is best lived when we help one another.

We all have different skills and gifts. We’re wired that way to help one another, not hurt one another. We’re wired that way to lift one another up, not tear each other down. Love one another is the Lord’s commandment for a reason. He knows what hate can do, what it’s capable of, and the way it hardens our hearts. Hate doesn’t make us stronger. It makes us weak. So weak in fact, we give up on the life Christ died to give us. I’m just gonna let you think about that on your own.

Today’s a new day. It already looks different than yesterday. Tomorrow’s not promised. How will you LIVE out this gift of today? It’s your choice. I hope you choose love. Love is its own reward when lived out as intended.

What does that love look like? I’m so glad you asked!

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4~7 (NLT)

Love well my friends!

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California Roll Style

I came upon a 4-way stop this morning on my way to work. As my car came crept up to the stop sign, I witnessed a truck slow to a crawl, but not come to a complete stop at their designated stop sign. I thought, “Ooooh, look at you just California rolling” through the intersection. Disclaimer; I may be guilty of doing this from time to time myself.

Over the course of my life, many people have made an impact on my life. But there’s a difference between someone making an impact on your live versus in your life.

I don’t know where I learned the phrase “California roll” for this traffic violation but wherever I learned it, it stuck. According to urban dictionary, this phrase means: “To fail to make a complete stop at a red light or stop sign, especially when turning.” See, I didn’t just make this up on my own. And I bet you thought I was gonna be talking about sushi! HA! This is not about sushi.

This past year where we’ve been allowed to work from home, stay secluded in our homes, and refrain from the life we’ve grown accustomed to has been hard. Life may not have come to a complete stop, but it definitely came to a California roll.

Where did I see this happen the most in my life? In my faith. Let me explain. Before the Covid “lockdown” I was in “control” of whether I went to go to church or not. When I made the decision to stay home from church pre-Covid, it was typically because the week had been to “people-y” for me. You all are awesome, but don’t get me wrong, sometimes life outside the confines of my home, is a lot for this introverted extrovert girl.

But then staying at home became my only option, thanks to a pandemic. Awesome. Not!

Watching church on-line is easy. It means I don’t have to be fully present. I can carry my digital device from room to room in my house and listen to the message while doing other things. It’s called multi-tasking. You know what happens when you multi-task? Something usually gets missed.

This past Sunday, I decided I was going to be fully present during church. No multi-tasking allowed. No California roll type faith happening this day. I didn’t go in-person. I stayed home. I was reminded as I listened and watched the worship and message who I was there for and why.

Church is not about the people. It’s not about the worship team, the pastor, the tithing, or the potlucks. It’s not about the hypocrites, the sinners, or the saints. Those reasons alone can actually keep you from going to church. They make for a good excuse. I mean who hasn’t heard, “there’s too many hypocrites in church” as an excuse not to go?

Please hear my heart when I say those things I’ve mentioned are not reasons to not attend church. I’ve had so many amazing encounters because of all those people and events. Having a church family is truly a blessing in ways I can’t even begin to remotely express my gratitude over. Relationship and community are a part of the life Jesus has for us. We need our peeps. And I’m not talking about them sugary marshmallow shaped chicks or bunnies! Blech!

So what’s church about if it isn’t those “things”? I’m so glad you asked. It’s about Jesus. It’s always been about Jesus and the message of the gospel. It’s about rest. It’s about taking the focus off you and centering on the One who gave His life for you. It’s about feeding your soul with the life altering Bread of life. If you go to church for any other reason than getting to know Jesus intimately than you’re missing out on the very thing you…I need most. Jesus.

 Jesus is the only One who makes an impact IN you. But, you have to stop long enough to get to know Him. California rolling through the process is like swiping right on a dating app. Or is it left? Clearly I don’t use these. HA!

The point of all this babbling is to say going to church is FOR you, but it’s ABOUT Him. What you get out of the experience is where you place your focus.

Matthew 6:33 says:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” ~ NIV (emphasis added)

If you want to know about “all these things” mentioned in that verse, I’d recommend reading all of Matthew 6.

At the end of the day, getting to know Jesus is a choice. How much time you invest in doing that, again, your choice. It’s called free will. It’s a gift. One we didn’t earn. And that’s the thing, Jesus freely gave His life for you. And you get to decide if you want in or out. That’s some amazing grace my friends. Choose wisely.

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Broken Shells

Just over a year ago I was at the beach with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. We had an outstanding time reconnecting! I’m not a huge fan of crowded beaches or hot sand. Since it was February, the sand wasn’t hot, and the South Carolina beach wasn’t crowded. It was perfection in my book!

Every day my cherished friend and I walked along the beach discovering its hidden treasures. She was on the hunt specifically for a whole sand dollar. She never found one. She found all kinds of broken ones. She collected them anyways. The thought was to piece one together to see if a whole one could be made.

Yesterday in my quiet time with Jesus, I was brought back to the beach. As I walked along the memory beach I carefully picked up each broken shell I came across and held it close. As if that broken shell was the most precious thing on earth.

Usually the broken shells are thrown down or tossed into the ocean. The flaws make them un-pretty.

Your flaws? Your broken parts? How do you see them? It’s important how you see them, because they’re part of you. You can’t erase them. You can’t out run them. Wherever you are, they are too. That’s why it’s so important to know, they don’t define you.

Did they change you? Absolutely. Did they end you? No. But they did become part of your story. The key word here is “part.” Are you letting part of your story define the rest of your life?

For years I allowed collective parts of my story tell me I was a failure. I held onto shame, guilt, embarrassment, and fear like they were my best friends.

Like those tossed aside broken shells on the beach, I felt un-pretty. So, I did what I knew to do. I buried the broken bits and pieces deep inside and then planted my “I’m ok” flag on top of my emotional mound of yuck.

I tried to pack the pain-filled voids with all types of things like sex, alcohol, shopping, crazy diets, television, food, exercise, etc. Guess what? The mound of yuck was still there. But, it never let me alone. It wanted to be addressed. It wanted out. Instead of letting it out, I stuffed it back down.

How’d that work out for me? It didn’t. When I thought I couldn’t take the pain of it all any longer, I made a plan to escape it. I was done. I wanted out.

But, years later, I’m still here. My self-destructive plan collided head on with Jesus. My plan failed. Thank you Jesus!

My life forever changed when I met Jesus. I don’t know who you think He is, but for me, He’s everything.

He is absolutely everything I’m not and so much more. But even though I‘d heard of Him, I didn’t know Him. Maybe you’ve heard of Him. But I have to ask, have you experienced Him? There’s a marked difference.

Being told about Jesus is not the same as having a relationship with Him. When you truly collide with Him, there’ll be no mistaking it.

It’s my heartfelt prayer today that you know Jesus in such a way, there’s no denying it. I wasn’t even looking for Him when He came for me. He came for you too, whether you believe it right now, or not. I can’t wait for you to meet Him.

The picture below is a beautiful shell I spotted on Myrtle Beach, Feb 2019. I left it there in hopes someone else might be reminded just as I was of how very loved I am. Do you see a broken shell? I see it whole, made just as it should be.

Have an amazing day, friend! It was made with you in mind, by the Creator of the universe. How awesome is that?!

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Rancid Stew

Last night I had a crazy dream….totally sang that! There were a lot of parts to my dream but I want to share the part where I got shot in the leg by someone I didn’t know, or maybe it was just some I didn’t recognize. I stared in disbelief that this person shot me. I screamed out “why did you shoot me”? They just looked at me, shrugged their shoulders and moved on, while I was left there wounded and bleeding.

I don’t believe this was a random dream. The other day someone close to me intentionally hurt me. But it wasn’t with a gun. It was with their words. I wasn’t stunned in disbelief as in my dream as this wasn’t the first time this has happened. Because of that fact, I can more easily decipher this wasn’t about me, it was something that hurt them, and the retaliation was to ensure someone felt their pain. That someone, was me.

As misguided as that sounds, this happens all the time. It’s been said, “You get what you give” or that’s “karma” for you. But it’s really just “hurt people, hurt people.” This comes from growing bitter. This comes from not openly and honestly confronting the problem you have with someone in love. Instead, stewing about it for days seems the better option. Trust me, it’s not.

“Danger, Will Robinson, danger”!

During the stewing process, not only does the current hurt get added, but previous hurts, unresolved bitterness, and things not even pertinent to the current issue gets thrown in. Now you’ve got one rancid stew. As the rancid stew keeps bubbling it’s got to go somewhere. After all, it’s been brewing for days now, and you have to release the pressure. Or in this case, release the hate.

Unfortunately, the receiver of this rancid stew you’re ready to serve rarely sees it coming. How do I know? Because I’ve been both the receiver and the giver of rancid stew.

I’ve learned as the receiver of this stew I have 2 options. Respond in kind, or try to get to the real heart of the matter. I’ve also learned responding in kind keeps the unhealthy behavior in play and gets me nowhere. This is not what I want for my life or for anyone’s life for that matter.

I know not to enter into the fray too soon after being served rancid stew. The server (original hurting person) may still be in “stewing” mode. Only this stew is the, “I showed them” kind of stew. This stew is all about feeling vindicated and successful in the hurting of you. This stew is totally acceptable to the server of the rancid stew. What’s that phrase? Oh yeah. “Misery loves company.”

And because misery loves company, we make sure everyone around us gets a taste of the rancid stew so we can ensure:

  1. We have backing before we serve the stew. (Misguided courage and pride)
  2. We can share afterwards how the intended received the stew. (Pride, pride, and more pride)
  3. And lastly, we can sit back and pat ourselves on the back for having the guts to hurt someone. (I’ll let you fill this part in, but for sure pride is in the mix)

When I became a Christian, I thought I just needed to take this type of stew, talk it out with Jesus, pray for the person, and go about my day.

This is where healthy boundaries come into play. I think I just heard angels sing! God gave us the Ten Commandments. Think of them as boundaries. The minute you bust a boundary, consequences are sure to follow. You either correct the behavior that caused you to break the boundary or you keep going until it breaks you. Yeah, I may know a thing or two about being broken by the consequences of breaking those boundaries. Oy vey!

It was time to set a boundary. The first thing to do was to find out what the real issue was that started the stew. Fortunately, it was relatively easy. As I said, there’s a starter to the stew, and then all the other things not necessarily pertinent get thrown in as well. I was prepared for all the stew ingredients because they haven’t changed for this person. I hurt for this person but at the same time, being continually hurt by and blamed for all the things I can neither change or fix is exhausting.

However, if there’s something I need to own, I need to do so in order to help “fix” the stew. This ingredient is called responsibility. Yup, it’s true, I’m being responsible for my own actions. It’s not a new concept, but it’s one largely forgotten or misplaced.

Years of carrying the same unresolved hurts weigh heavy on your soul. It’s too much to carry. It’s why we make the rancid stew. Something has to give or the stew will keep getting more rancid. Hmmm. Let’s start with this, Jesus said,

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

When we first process all the things that burden us with Jesus, we’re better equipped to handle things. Why? Because He will show you a better way. He is after all, the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:16)

When we process things through hate, hurt, lies, and discontent we fill our own heads with, we lash out with the same.

To get to the heart of any matter takes courage and vulnerability. We all have flaws. To see the flaws in ourselves reminds us we’re not perfect. We assume a lot. We’re wrong a lot. We act irrationally, and when that happens we add feeling foolish to the mixture. Not to worry. We’re in good company.

As the song says:

“Everybody plays the fool sometime
There’s no exception to the rule”

Funny, I just looked that up those lyrics and the group who sang that back in the 70s was “The Main Ingredient.” Coincidence? I think not. Moving on.

But, we don’t have to act the fool. Nobody likes to be served rancid stew. I hope the next time someone, myself included, feels the rancid stew brewing, we stop the recipe of misconception, lies, and hurt, and ditch that recipe for disaster into the trash where it belongs.

Honest communication, kindness, and love are great starters for a relationship stew. After all, you know the best meals are all made with….say it with me…bacon! Haha Gotcha! It’s made with love my friends!

Have an amazing day! Remember it doesn’t cost our souls a thing to be kind, but there are great rewards!

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Just A Girl

“And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38 (ESV)

If you’ve ever heard the story about the birth of Jesus Christ, then you’re sure to have heard about His earthly mother, Mary. We can really only guess her age when the angel Gabriel paid her a visit with a life-changing message. Can you imagine being 13 or 14 and being told you’re going to be impregnated by a Holy Spirit?

Ummm, I’m guessing not.

Mary’s story is like no other. She was just a girl doing her thing, making plans to be married and begin a life with her husband, Joseph. But God. He had a plan and she was a major part of it.

She could’ve said no. She could’ve taken all the presumptions of the things that could go wrong and simply said, “nah, I’m good, but thanks for the offer,” and went on her merry way. Get it. Merry way. Mary way. Her way. Ok, moving on.

Mary wasn’t given the big picture, she was given a snapshot of what was coming. She didn’t phone a friend or ask family for advice. She didn’t say, let me pray on it and get back to you, she simply said:

…“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” …

Luke 1:38 (ESV)

Mary’s faith and trust in the Lord is mind blowing. Don’t you agree? Is it any wonder why God chose her to be the mother of His precious Son, Jesus? God didn’t just choose Mary on a whim. He knew her. He created her for a purpose, and this was all part of His master plan.

Mary had no idea until that point and time that God had this plan for her. She could’ve been doing any number of things when the angel came upon her. She could’ve been washing the dishes, taking care of the kids, going to work, getting her hair done, wondering why she was put on the earth, or crying over the latest Hallmark Christmas movie. Any of those things sound familiar?

Just like me, just like you, Mary was living her life. Was it a fulfilling life? Did she ponder her life purpose and wait for it to happen? I don’t know, but it seems to me she was making plans to be married like any bride-to-be, would do. She was simply living her life and preparing for the next chapter.

And isn’t that what we do? We make our plans and think we have all the things figured out and then suddenly, without warning a plot twist shows up.

Do you think Mary saw the plot twist of an angel showing up and saying, “hey, girl, heyyyy,” do I got some good news for you”! I’m guessing, she did not!

But when this sudden plot twist of a moment came upon her she didn’t run. She listened. When the angel finished what he needed to say, she simply asked:

…“How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Luke 1:34 (ESV)

Good question! She didn’t start guessing and creating her own version of what was to happen. She got right to the point. In turn, the angel didn’t dilly dally with his answer, he said:

 “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

Luke 1:35 (ESV)

Do you think her jaw dropped to the floor at that answer? I could almost hear my own flippant answer. “Psshhhtt! Is that all? Well, glory to God in the highest indeed”! But this story isn’t about me. Thank the Lord!

What I’m trying to say here is, Mary was just a girl, living in the moment, doing all the “normal” every day things. God saw her. God knew her. God created her.

I’m just a girl. God sees me. God knows me. God created me.

You’re just a girl. God sees you. God knows you. God created you.

But, being just a girl was never His plan for Mary. It’s not His plan for me. It’s not His plan for you.

When you’re a child of the Most High God, you’re never “just a _________________________”

You’re part of His master plan. You have purpose.

Mary didn’t know when her “suddenly” was going to happen until it did. She would have more “suddenly” moments throughout her life. God didn’t say, “here you go, Mary, good luck with this monumental task” and leave her alone. No, He was with her, wherever she was.

Our “suddenly” moments typically change the course of our lives in ways we didn’t see coming. Just like Mary we have a choice to make. Panic and run or trust the plan God has for each of us. There’s a reason things are permitted in our lives.

Remember, Mary only got a snippet of the big picture. As much as we’d like to think we’re in control, God is the only One who owns the BIG picture. He knows exactly how all the pieces fit together and it will always be for the good and the glory of His Kingdom.

We may not understand. We may not agree, and that’s ok. As much as we think we do, we don’t need all the details. In all honesty, those details can keep us from moving forward in trust or moving forward at all. Why? Because we invent things in our head that most likely will never come to pass. I can’t count the number of times the things I’ve planned haven’t even come close to panning out. Thank you, Jesus!

My friends, whatever snippet you’ve been given as part of the bigger picture, will you trust God with the outcome? Can we follow Mary’s great example and say:

…”let it be to me according to your word.”…

Luke 1:38 (ESV)

Merry Christmas my friends! I pray you know how very much the God of the universe LOVES YOU! After all, He sent His greatest and most precious gift to us. His name is Jesus ~ Emmanuel ~ God is with US!

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Well Meaning People

I think it’s safe to say we all have that friend that always offers up what you should do because let’s be honest, it’s probably what they’d do. Their solution to your problem is a good fit for them and since your friends it should be a good fit for you too, right?

Not necessarily. Have you ever taken a friend’s advice and it went horribly wrong? What was the fallout? Do you trust your friend less now? Did you blame them for their advice despite the fact it was your choice to follow it? Did you kick your friend to the curb over it? Maybe it changed the dynamic of your friendship.

Maybe you’ve been that friend well meaning friend. I know I have.

I believe people mean well. But, let’s face it. We’re all flawed. We’ve seen things we shouldn’t have seen, and done things we shouldn’t have done, and they left a mark. Etched in our memories is the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s that never happened. A reminder that “next time” I’ll do that thing differently.

Only next time doesn’t come so we replay the past event in our minds and kick ourselves for doing the “dumb” thing. We say things like “why did I listen to so and so?” and “how could I have been so stupid?” and “some friend they turned out to be”.

It’s not that you’re stupid; you’re human. You tried something and it didn’t work out. You learned a lesson but instead of moving on from it, you clutched it in your hand and made a fist with it. What’s inside your fist?

The night before Jesus was to be crucified he was in the garden of Gethsemane with His disciples. Judas, one of the disciples, had betrayed Jesus. He wasn’t in the garden with them but he showed up with a crowd that was armed with swords and clubs. They were sent there to arrest Jesus. Jesus addressed the crowd;

“”Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?”

Mark 14:48 (NIV)

He goes on to remind these people prior to them coming at him with swords and clubs He’d been with them every day teaching them in the temple courts. They “heard” Jesus teaching, but did they “know” Him? If they knew Him would they have still brought the swords and clubs?

I’ve read this passage of Scripture several times. One night it hit me and I asked myself “what do I come at Jesus with”? “What’s inside my fist?” In my Bible that night I wrote “self loathing,” “bitterness,” “hate,” and “anger”.

Those were what the clubs and swords represented to me. Can Jesus handle all that? Of course He can. But at what point do I lay them down? At what point do I stop coming at Him with swords and clubs and KNOW He is worthy of all my praise?

I can’t answer that question for you. That’s a personal journey between you and your Heavenly Father. For me, it’s when I KNEW Jesus died for me. He chose the crucifixion.

When I see the word crucifixion. I see “fix.” He came to “fix” the sin that separated us from God. He came to “fix” what was broken in me. He came to ”fix” the self loathing, bitterness, hate and anger. To restore and redeem what the enemy has stolen.

God will finish what He started. But I have a part in this beautiful exchange. So I open my fist, my heart, and my whole self to Him and allow the good work He wants to do in me. Why? Because I’ve experienced enough to know God is who He says He is and He does what He says He’s going to do!

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work in you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ returns.”

Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

That’s some good news right there my friends! Open your fist! It’ll be ok! Have an amazing day and remember you are loved and so very precious in His sight.

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The Air of Familiarity

“Hello darkness my old friend,” are lyrics to the song “The Sound of Silence.” If you don’t know, the song was originally written by Paul Simon of the duo Simon and Garfunkel. It was composed after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Maybe like me, you didn’t know that bit of historical trivia. You’re welcome! The song has a bit more meaning now.

I’m sharing this with you because those first words I wrote seemed to envelope my being as I walked into a local Legion this past weekend to support a fundraiser. They were serving up a chicken bbq and I love me a good chicken bbq.

My son was helping out at the event. He actually pulled aside one of the meals for me. So sweet, right?

When I got to the event, I didn’t see my son outside where all the fun was happening. I thought, I should’ve texted him to let him know I arrived. You know what they say about hindsight, right?

Since I’d left my phone in the car and he wasn’t outside and I was in unfamiliar territory, I decided to pull my big girl panties up and venture inside.

This entails me putting on my “you can’t touch this” armor. I know all too well how to throw this armor on. It starts in my mind. “You got this girl.” My shoulders square up and my head tilts up a little higher. I walk with intention as I make a bee-line to my destination. Eyes front, but keenly aware of what’s going on around me.

Sounds like a lot just to head into a bar, right? But, I didn’t know what I was heading into and I knew I didn’t want to stay any longer than necessary.

As I got to the entrance of the bar, a man stood there between me and the door. I stopped. I waited. He didn’t move. He kept talking to whomever he was speaking with, so I waited.

It was almost as if I was given the opportunity to change direction. But he moved, and I went in. The air of familiarity wrapped its arms around me as if to say, “welcome home.”

I knew this place. Not because I’d been to this bar before, but I had been to what seemed like hundreds just like it.

The stark difference from walking out of the sunshine into the dark didn’t escape me. The neon lights dimly lit the room. My eyes adjusted to the dark. The stench of stale alcohol wafted up my nose and infiltrated my senses.

I quickly scanned the room for my son. He was at the bar. It hit me, hard. My son, was at the bar. It was the first time I ever saw him at the bar. As I got closer to him, one of his friends turned to me with a drink in his hands and said “you want some”? He knew better.

I’d be lying if I said the drink didn’t look “good”. In that moment several things went through my mind.

So many heart wrenching moments caused from the over consumption of alcohol. So many “fun” times. So many memories forgotten. Are they memories if they’re forgotten? Hmmm.

A lot of those forgotten memories had to be filled in by friends who were witness to my drink enabled ways.

Words that typically flowed from my lips after being filled in by the previous evenings antics were “yeah, that sounds like me.” Insert hollow laughter or total disbelief that I’d do something “like that.”

I had no clue if those things being repeated were true or not because I used to drink so much, I’d “blackout”. I’m so thankful smart phones didn’t exist back in those days. Pictures did. But not the technology to record drunken shenanigans in a small hand-held device. Can I get a hallelujah?

Alcohol is not my friend. It isn’t my family’s friend and truth be told, it’s not your friend.

It deceives you. It lulls you into a false sense of security. It makes you think you need it to get through the day. We glamorize it. We use it as a coping mechanism to “relax.” We say things like, “I just want to take the edge off” or it helps me “unwind.”

Let’s call it what it really is. It’s a justification to do what we want. Be careful the justification doesn’t turn into an addiction.

I remember going out a date several years ago. I was appalled on this first date he downed the entire bottle of wine during dinner.

So appalled I went home after the date and downed my own bottle of wine. Oy vey!

He at least let me know what I was in for had I continued to date him. I, on the other hand, hid it. Do you maybe see a problem there?

The Bible warns us about the destructiveness of our behaviors. God is a gracious God. He gives us the free will to make our own decisions. I’ve made some doozies! How about you?

Those “doozies” don’t define me. They taught me valuable lessons. It’s what I do with those lessons that either propel me forward, or drag me down.

We’re told by the Apostle Paul:

“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,”but not everything builds up.”

1Corinthians 10:23 (HCSB)

I can’t explain why some people can stop at just one drink and others can’t or won’t. I can’t explain why someone would deliberately want to hurt themselves by doing something we’re warned is bad for us.

I can explain the damage it’s done to my life. I can explain how it affected my childhood being surrounded and raised by alcoholics. I can tell you how it affected my life when my brother left this world after being caught up in the demonic clutches of alcohol’s call. Those things I know all too well.

I can say without a doubt, if darkness is a friend, alcohol is its name. It’s not something that builds me up. It tears me down.

I may not always make the right choice, but that day of chicken bbq, I did. I stared my foe in the face, well, ok, a plastic cup, and I said no.

I choose me. Why? Because Jesus thought I was worth dying for. This life is not my own. He paid the ultimate price for my freedom. I spent years wasting it in the dark. No more!

I’m a child of light. I’m gonna shine.

The best part, those wasted years will be used for His glory! He brings beauty from ashes my friends. Whatever your darkness is, it’s no match for Jesus! He’s overcome it all. Sweet Hallelujah!

Have a fabulous day, friends!

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Escaping Yourself

Have you ever watched the movie “Never Been Kissed”? It’s like a girl’s worst High School nightmare come to life. If I see it’s on TV, I give the remote a rest and settle in.

I don’t know how many times I’ve watched it, but I still cringe and say…”Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it.” She doesn’t listen. She does it.

If you’ve not seen it, it’s basically about a reporter who’s sent back to High School. Her assignment? Get in with the popular group and get the salacious goods on them. Simple, right?

No, not simple. Our heroine finds out all too quick she has her work cut out for her. She was not part of the popular clique in High School and her brother is quick to remind her of that fact when he learns about her writing assignment. He was even so loving as to remind her of the nickname they gave her. Josie grossy.

After a painful flashback her brother gives her a pep talk and she’s ready to seize the day! Or not.

After many awkward trials and embarrassing tribulations, her brother comes to her rescue and he goes back to school too. He has no problem getting into the popular group on his first day. He knows how to speak their language because once upon a time, he was popular too.

So what does her brother do when he’s “in”? He talks her up. He says a bunch of things to make her appear “cooler” than she is. He even goes so far to say, he dated her and that her family is well off.

I’m gonna stop there. To know what happens next, you’ll just have to watch the movie.

Let’s just call what her brother did what it is. A lie. In fact, he told multiple lies. It’s all very innocent isn’t it? After all, he just wanted to help his sister with her job assignment. What’s the harm in that?

Remember, on her own, she wasn’t “good enough” for the popular group. It was only when they believed she was something she wasn’t, she became acceptable in their eyes.

I can relate to that. I’ve tried pretending to be something I’m not in order to garner the approval of someone. I wonder if you can relate as well.

Imagine putting on someone else’s clothes that are too small. No matter how much you try to wriggle your body into them, they don’t fit. But let’s say you actually manage to squeeze yourself into them. It doesn’t take long to realize, this look is not for you and you can’t wait to get them off.

At what point does a lie become so uncomfortable you feel compelled to tell the truth? How long do you think a lie can “live” in you before it changes you? And by change, I don’t mean in a good way.

Typically when one lie is told, another is sure to follow. Eventually you have a string of lies to keep up with and before you know it, you’re in a constant state of worry over who knows what. It’s exhausting.

Lies have a way of catching up to you. Either someone figures it out or you become so frazzled, you have to tell the truth. Either way, be prepared to suffer the consequences.

Why is telling the truth so hard? Why is being who God made us to be, never enough? Why are we so afraid of the person in the mirror?

It’s the person in the mirror, you can’t escape. When you wake up, you’re there. When you leave the house, you’re there. When you go to sleep at night, you’re there. You are literally everywhere, you are.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t escape you. Let me ask a simple question. When does self-acceptance start? It doesn’t have to be complicated unless we make it so.

Let’s begin with answering what makes you feel most like you? Not what everyone else thinks you need to be, but what speaks joy into your soul?

When we try to be something we’re not, we do ourselves and others an injustice. We rob ourselves and the world of that “thing” that makes us who we are. We can even hurt others in the process of pretending we’re something we’re not. Including ourselves.

Sweet friend, self-acceptance isn’t a weakness. It’s a knowing who you are and not letting someone shame you for it. It’s a strength! I daresay if someone feels the need to shame you, they’ve yet to accept who they are. Why else would they feel the need to attack you? Think about that.

Everyday I see someone caught up in societal chains and social media makes those chains stronger. Living life behind a screen is a futile way of living. Are you exhausted from trying to keep up with the popular trends? Have you spent hours trying to copy someone else’s look? Dance? Talent?

Have you noticed the minute if you’re able to conquer the latest trend, it’s already passed and you have to begin the next one? Consider this. Maybe someone needs what YOU have to offer. But you’re so bogged down with trying to be someone else you forgot how awesome you are.

Our heroine from the movie inevitably couldn’t keep up the facade she’d taken on. Her “self” beckoned to make a stand. To be heard. To be seen.

It’s only when she stopped being who she thought she should be, that she became everything she needed to be. The approval of others faded into the background and she lived her life.

Is your “self” beckoning to be heard? To be seen? Maybe it’s time to listen. I know a thing or two about shunning myself and wanting to be someone, anyone, other than me. But at the end of the day no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t escape me.

I allowed others to disapprove of me and I wore their disapproval like my armor. No one told me it was ok to just be me. I needed to be skinnier, smarter, quieter, louder, dumber, and the list goes on.

It seems everyone had an opinion on what and who I needed to be or look like. So I became a version of other people’s input only to find out, by their measure, I still wasn’t enough.

Just like our heroine from the movie, I couldn’t keep up. Something had to give. So when I was at the end of “me,” I came face to face with my Creator, Jesus Christ. Maybe you’ve heard of Him.

If not, allow me introduce you to the One who loves you, just as you are. He accepts you, even when you reject yourself. A little secret…you can’t escape from Him either. How do I know?

It’s one of God’s promises. The LORD God goes with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6) Where you go, HE goes. Who else can make that kind of promise?

If you’re tired of all the noise, may I invite you to come sit with God? He knows what your tired soul needs. He wants to refresh you and restore what’s broken.

You don’t have to accept His invitation. He’s secure in who He is despite being rejected daily. He’s so secure in his identity, He’s stays the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) He won’t change for you. He knows what He stands for. Do you?

In a world that begs us to believe in everything it tosses our way, aren’t you ready for something that doesn’t shift with every passing fancy?

I know I was and you know what? Jesus, was patiently waiting. My life combining with Jesus is the BEST decision I ever made. I can say with bold confidence:

Jesus! He is the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6)

Have an amazing day my friends! Shine Bright!

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Treasure

Matthew 6:21 says:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Don’t you just love this time of year! The lights, the decorations, the gatherings of friends and family? It seems just about everywhere you look people are a bit more generous, kinder, happy, and loving.

Kids are doing all the extras, thinking if they behave just a wee bit more, Santa will be extra nice to them. My social media is filled with all things holiday-related. Are you smiling in agreement?

One of my favorite things to see are the pictures of kids going to see Santa.

I remember my granddaughters’ first visit to Santa.  She was all dressed up in her little Christmas outfit and they handed her over to sit on Santa’s lap and she looked up at Santa like, “who in the world are you“? 

Santa

It seems the first year visiting Santa can be a bit scary for most kids.  A lot of pictures you see are of them crying with expressions that say, “what have you done to me”? “I want my mommy”  Seems, they can’t get away from Santa fast enough. 

When emotions and reactions collide you just don’t know what’s going to happen. 

A couple years ago, a big wooden cross was brought in for our Sunday morning message. We were asked to fill out a sticky note for something we wanted Jesus to do in our lives and then take that sticky note and place it on the cross. 

I remember filling out my sticky note and getting in line to place it on the cross. Easy peasy! Let’s do this! Everything was going pretty good, But, that was about to change.

The closer I got to the cross, the more my emotions came bubbling to the surface and my reaction to the meaning of the cross grew. My knees started shaking, my heart started racing, and I was overwhelmed with an array of emotions. It was all I could do to keep moving forward to the cross.

It reminds me of that song “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me.

“Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all”

Pretty sure given my reaction as I walked up to the cross, I’m just gonna pass out when I come face to face with Jesus. Ha! 

I digress, back to the story.

That day at the church service we were given an invitation to write something on a sticky note and put it on the cross; to give whatever we wrote to Jesus. To be honest, I don’t remember what I wrote; I just remember my reaction to the cross.

Walking up to the cross, I felt so unworthy to even approach Jesus with my need. I felt vulnerable, yet compelled to keep moving forward. By the time I was face to face with the cross, I was overwhelmed with gratitude as I caught a glimpse of what Jesus did for the sake of all mankind; for me, and for each one of you.

But, don’t take my word for it. Let’s read Luke 2:8-20

The Shepherds and the Angels
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch
Over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

I suppose the shepherds could’ve chosen to stay in the field and keep tending their sheep, but they didn’t. They were sent an invitation and they answered with: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (bold and underline added for emphasis)

Did you catch the shepherds reaction?

They didn’t dilly dally and check their social media to see what the other shepherds were doing. They didn’t check with others to make sure it would be ok to go. They didn’t wonder if they were worthy or not enough or too far gone to go see the babe. No, it says “they went with haste.” Haste means “excessive speed or urgency of movement or action; hurry.” So, that’s what they did. 

And when they had seen all they were told about, they went back to their flocks “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

The Lord’s invitation to come to see the baby Jesus is not just for the shepherds. Verse 10 says:

“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (bold and underline added for emphasis)

Great joy for ALL the people; not some of the people, not a few of the people, not certain religious denominations of people, not specific race or gender of people, but ALL the people.

And that’s no different today! He invites each one of us into a relationship with Him: 

Matthew 11:28-30 in the Passion Translation says:

“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.”

So who is this invitation for? Say it with me…ALL the people. Just as the shepherds had a choice to answer the invitation to come and see what had happened, we have a choice to answer the invitation of relationship with Jesus. 

Jesus is calling…will you answer?

In closing, Luke 2:19 says:

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

As we reflect on the Love sent down from Heaven during this season and the seasons to come, I wonder, what things you’re treasuring up and pondering in your heart? 

Remember, 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Merry CHRISTmas to you and yours. May you know the abundant love, peace, and joy of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

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