Blessed to be Broken

God's not finished with me yet!

What Happens Next

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Not The Glue

“Honor your father and mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” ~ Exodus 20:12

This post won’t be pretty because I’ve struggled with this commandment. I’ve wrestled. I’ve beat myself up with it. I’ve laid awake over not being loving enough. I’ve tried time and again to stuff the ugly feelings down, but they kept rising back to the top. Why wasn’t the forgiveness working? Was there something wrong with me? I went back to the relationship time and again, only to feel like a failure because, truth be told, I don’t like her. I feel sorry for her. I try to put myself in her shoes, but they don’t fit. Whatever she went through at the hands of my father made its way down to all of her children. Not just at his hands, but hers too. When you try to appease an abusive man, and you have kids, the kids suffer too. I guess it’s hard to protect your kids when you can’t even protect yourself.

I used to think, I was the glue that held our “family” together. That’s a lot for one person to take on. I don’t know why I have such a strong desire for family. Lord knows I’ve done my part in screwing things up, yet, it’s still there. Maybe it’s because when your family is so messed up, you desire something stable. Something that hugs and loves you. Something that lifts you up, and encourages you to keep going. That’s not what we got in the family I grew up in.

I’ve accepted that. I can’t change any of it. It’s in the past. But that doesn’t mean the past doesn’t try to seep in and take up space. I don’t recommend ignoring those thoughts. I do recommend giving pause and asking God why it’s coming up. Healing is trying to happen here and it’s a chance to grow bitter or get better. Journaling helps. Like, if you can’t talk about it, you can get it out of you by writing it out.

Forgiveness comes in all shapes and sizes. Crocodile tears, gulps of air in between heartwrenching sobs, whispers, shouting, faces etched in pain and anger, and in surrender. Surrender means you’ve placed the broken relationship in God’s hands where it belongs.

Broken people can commiserate together, but I don’t believe they can heal together. Battle wounds suffered on each person is separate. They may look similar on the outside, but the toll they took looks very different on the inside.

I kept returning to the scene of the crime expecting a different result. After all, she’s my mother. The title invokes respect, right? People innocently remind you, “she’s the only mom you’ll ever have,” and they base it off their experience with their mom.

You should be careful trying to guilt a wounded person to accept an abuser back in their life. It may not be what you mean to do, but sometimes good intentions do harm that you can’t see.

There’s an episode of the tv show “Mom” where the daughter has a podcast called, “The mother of all problems” where she speaks about her experiences growing up with an alcoholic mom. Her mother hears the show and wants to confront her daughter. The mom goes to her daughters apartment and the daughter pulls out her podcast equipment and the mom explains her side and how she’s doing so much better now and helping others. When the podcast is over, and they’re wrapping up the visit, the mom desperately wants to reconnect with her estranged daughter but the daughter tells her no, that she’s better without her mom in her life for now. The mom leaves devastated. I used to wonder how the daughter could be so harsh. I don’t wonder anymore.

In this scenario, it’s not that forgiveness didn’t happen. It did. But, healing takes time. It’s totally possible to forgive someone and not have a direct, hands-on relationship with them.

Even though the mom was now doing better, the daughter was working through her trauma and the experiences that brought her pain. She didn’t wish her mom ill, she just wasn’t ready to jump back into a full on relationship with her. In this case her mom was her abuser. Why would anyone encourage a relationship with their abuser, just because of their title?

It’s totally possible to forgive someone while you’re healing. I may not like my mom, but I love her. I have empathy for what she went through at the hands of my father. I have compassion for her pain. I also understand, that it wasn’t just my father who wreaked havoc in our lives.

I have forgiven her. I want nothing but the best for her. But in this season, the best I can do for her, is love and pray for her from a distance. The Lord knows my heart.

Do you remember when I said I thought I was the glue responsible for holding my family together? I was wrong. That was never my place. God reminded me, He’s the Savior, not me.

My responsibility is love. In this tender place, while I learn about love from my Heavenly Father, I get out of His way, because it’s never been about me. It’s always been about Jesus. But, don’t take my word for it, take His!

““Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ~ John 14:6

Honor can happen from a distance. In that distance, make no mistake, Heavenly work is being done. And from all my experiences, that’s the work that matters most. The best part, the burden is lifted from me, and placed in the very hands of the One knows far more than I ever will, the Creator of all.

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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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By Our Love

Palm Sunday was a big deal growing up especially at the Catholic church. Each person that attended church on that Sunday got a palm branch to take home. A reminder of how Jesus was exalted that day. Some churches still give out palm branches on this day. Maybe you’re familiar with the story from the Bible about the laying of branches down as Jesus rode in on a donkey or maybe you’re not. Let’s look at the story from the Bible together from the book of Mark.

“Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

11 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna![a]

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]

10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” ~ Mark 11:1-11 (NIV)

A King who rode on a donkey atop a cloak. Not a royal horse. Not a royal robe. Yet, He was given what seemed to be a royal “parade.” He was cheered and hailed. But, it didn’t last.

How often do we give our hearts to Jesus, yet turn tail when it get too hard? Or it doesn’t look like what we thought it would be to follow a Savior who willingly gave all?

I know in my walk with Jesus, I’ve had questions. I’ve been skeptical. I’ve allowed doubt to rule over trust. But does that stop Jesus from loving me? No. I know I can go to Him with every single thing that’s on my heart.

I also know what it’s like to walk through life without personally knowing Jesus and there’s no way I want to go back there.

Jesus never made Himself out to be better than anyone. Yet, He most assuredly was. He didn’t flaunt who He was in anyone’s face. Although, He could have. He simply did as His Father asked.

The love He has for me, is like none I’ve ever known. Most times, I can’t comprehend it. It doesn’t make sense. There’s not even anything I can compare it to because I’ve not witnessed that kind of selfless love nor do I think I’ve ever been able to offer that type of love.

In a world that’s all about tit for tat, and what’s in it for me, how do we, as followers of Christ, make a difference?

It’s simple. Yet, ever so complicated. Sing it with me, because I bet you already know the words:

“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love”.

And where does that come from? Good question:

“”A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”” ~ John 13:34-35 (NIV)

Love. It’s a four-letter word that holds more meaning than I can even begin to imagine.

Love suffered, died on a cross, and was buried.

We think love is a mushy, poopsie, whoopsie, feeling, when in fact the very definition of love is Jesus. There was nothing mushy or poopsie, whoopsie in the way He displayed His love for us. It was filled with excruciating pain beyond this gal’s comprehension.

Love in action will most assuredly look more like sacrifice, than googly eyes cast in our direction. Just as easily as someone can look at you with googly eyes, they can shoot mental ” fiery darts” at you with those same eyes.

I’m sure we’ve all given and been the recipient of the “look”.

As we head into Easter week, I pray you know that Jesus knew what was coming for Him. He knew He would be betrayed, yet He washed the feet of His betrayer. How crazy is that? He knew His disciples would desert Him. He knew and He didn’t run from it. He stayed the course. Blows my mind.

Once we begin to comprehend what and who love is, then, and only then, will the world know we are Christians, by our love, by our love.

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Cinderella

There are lots of different movie versions of Cinderella. My favorite version of this beloved fairy tale romance is Ever After. If you’ve not watched it, go do that! Seriously.

You might think my favorite part is when Cinderella winds up with her Prince Charming, but you’d be way off. In this version of the movie it’s about the elderly couple, Louise and Maurice who are servants in the mansion.

The evil stepmother has sold Maurice into slavery to pay off her debt. His punishment for her debt? He will be shipped off to “The America’s”. Apparently that was quite the punishment. Who knew?

Instead, Cinderella or in this instance Danielle de Barbarac, our heroine, is able to save Maurice, her elderly friend from his horrible fate. She does this by throwing all caution and pretense to the wind. She borrows one of her evil step sisters dresses and heads into town to pay off the ransom for the man she considers family while pretending to be a courtier. Gasp!

She knows what she’s doing is wrong. She knows if she gets caught she could suffer the same fate as her elderly friend, Maurice, but she decided the risks were worth it. More so, his life was worth more than hers.

Now comes my favorite part.

Louise is out in the gardens working with her other servant friend, Paulette. Paulette spies Maurice, drops her bucket and does this little happy dance trot towards him and Danielle. Maurice and Louise lock eyes from across the field and with arms stretched out in front of themselves, they limp, run to one another until they fall into a loving embrace. I can totally hear the music in my head and see this scene. I tear up every time. It’s the absolute sweetest thing.

My beautiful friends, this is what love in action looks like. Laying down your life for another. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s risky. But, it’s always worth it. Even if it doesn’t play out the way we intend, it will always matter.

I’m so thankful, there were no cell phones back then. I’m so thankful that once upon a time, people took action, throwing caution to the wind to help their fellow man.

Whipping out a phone and making a video is great for entertainment, but who is it actually helping when someone is in crisis? We’re so afraid of doing the right thing for fear of being sued, we’d rather “help” by watching.

Don’t even get me started on people and their get rich tactics and manipulation. Ain’t nobody got time to give that nonsense attention.

Smart phones can be an awesome thing, but more often than not, they’re a hinderance to doing life the way we were meant to…together, in community, helping one another.

It’s called humanity. It’s being there when it really matters. It’s being there even for a mom you don’t always get along with.

Lord knows I have my own issues. How’s that song go? “Nobody knows the trouble, I’ve seen. Nobody knows my sorrow.”

That’s not true. The Lord knows. He’s always looking for those He can send to those He knows have sorrow or a need. We can’t hear Him if we’re too busy feeding our brains by watching other people live their lives through a screen.

The generation we live in, has made great progress in technological advancement, but we use it more to harm ourselves and others more than help. It grieves my heart.

We are self-sufficient, self-deluded, and self-serving. When was the last time you were self-sacrificing?

Believe me when I say, I’m right in the mix with you. It takes a lot to get out of my house some days and interact with people. It takes a lot for me to get in my car to drive and see my mom. But, it hurts me more to stay inside. It hurts me more to not go see my mom.

A hardened heart will always find an excuse to hold tight onto their life. Fear will always hold that hardened heart back from doing what’s right. It’s easier to allow someone else to take a risk than step into something that you’ve been given access to and an opportunity to step up.

I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. What I do know is God is still God. He’s still looking for His helpers. It’s hard to lend a helping hand when the hands are full with a phone we’re afraid of dropping.

All I know is if there’s a need in front on you, you can fill, but you wait for someone else to do it, you may very well miss out on the most precious gift God wants to give you. What He has for His children will far outweigh what the world can ever give.

Life is always moving. People still need help. Are we willing to sacrifice for another? Only time will tell. I sure hope when the opportunity arises, I’ll do my part to help and not harm. The choice is always ours to make.

I’m ever so grateful, Jesus chose to sacrifice His life for mine. I can’t even begin to imagine what that truly cost Him.

Is it any wonder, He tells us to count the cost to follow Him? He knows more than we’ll ever know what that really means.

Be wise, count the cost and if given the chance, help one another.

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Outshine

Last night I watched an episode of 9-1-1. A lot of the show resonated deeply with me. It was mainly about the character Maddie. She fell into what was initially thought of as postpartum depression. Turns out it was a thyroid thing. She was so depressed and convinced she wasn’t worthy to live, she attempted suicide. Thoughts of her hubby and newborn baby made her seek help instead.

She wanted to get healed before she went back to her hubby and baby whom she left months previously. She left because she was so exhausted from her medical condition she drifted off when the baby was in the tub and the baby slipped under the water for a few seconds. She felt on top of her condition she was a danger to her family.

There’s nothing worse than knowing there’s something medically wrong and no one will listen. Maddie ran from her family and her husband with baby in tow decided to find her. He felt responsible. She asked and pleaded with him not to follow, to give her the time she needed to heal. He didn’t listen.

Eventually after months they were in the same city. He daily sat outside a hospital where he thought she’d magically come walking out of one day, until a friend told him to get back in the game called life. That friend also told him that maybe, since he hadn’t found his wife, it was time to let go of what he so desperately wanted and let the “universe” do the work for him. As in, give back to the “universe,” and maybe the universe will give back to you. (Because you know, it’s all about what the universe can do for us.)

Eventually, Maddie and her hubby find each other and after the shock of the meeting, they finally get to talk. What it came down to is Maddie left because she knew her husband didn’t grasp the severity of her mental illness. He thought he could fix it by simply loving her through it. He had a good heart, but she needed so much more than he was gonna be able to give her.

Maddie had been through a lot of trauma. It hadn’t been respectfully dealt with, so the trauma dealt with her. Sometimes space is the best gift you can give someone who needs proper time to heal.

Maddie wasn’t able to heal while focusing on her family, job and all the life things. She didn’t leave to hurt them, she left to help them. She left to seek a deeper inner healing than they could provide. She knew in her knower it’s what was best. The fixers in this workd mean well, but people don’t need to be fixed. They need compassion and a safe place to land. We also don’t need our trauma to be trumped by another’s.

Listening is hard. Being vulnerable is hard. Fixing is nothing more than slapping a bandaid on a hemorrhaging wound. It takes guts to really listen with a compassionate ear. It takes guts to stop “running” from your pain and dealing with it. In reality, you truly can’t outrun your pain.

Maddie tried outrunning her pain by doing the daily grind and stuffing it down. But it came on her full force and it tried to take her out of this world. She succeeded in getting the help she needed. Sadly, many don’t.

I guess the point to all of this is, in a world where people are constantly trying to outshine one another in an effort to become noticed, we’ve forgotten what true compassion looks like. This “look at me and what I can do” world is a harsh place to exist. It’s even more harsh on those who feel they don’t have a place.

I’ll wrap this up with the new commandment Jesus gave us:

“And so I am giving a new commandment to you now—love each other just as much as I love you. Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”” ~ John 13:34-35 (TLB)

Notice it didn’t say to outshine one another. Because that’s not love, that’s selfish.

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Love Makes You…

This morning my Lent devotional’s primary Bible verse was a reminder of what love is, what it does and what it’s not. Let’s read it together:

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)

Last night during a televised show, an unfortunate action happened. If you’re on social media, you know. If you watched the show, you know. Staged or not, what we saw was not love.

I have this thing about owning up to our actions. Lord knows it’s not easy. The days I came clean about my adulterous life style with all 3 of my ex-husbands wrecked me. But, hiding it, almost killed me. It’s why I’m passionate about owning choices and the consequences that follow. Hiding behind a bad behavior choice and then blaming it on anything but yourself, is toxic.

This world we live in is awesome at the blame game and forfeiting any actual owner responsibility.

Last night, the excuse given for the bad behavior, was a cop out. And for those who don’t understand what love is and does, and what’s it’s not, will always protect the bad behavior and see it as something to be rewarded.

Friends, love the action, will not make you do crazy things. All the other emotions will make you do crazy things.

If you need another reminder of what love is, please, I beg you, don’t look to the world and it’s idea of what love is. It’s flawed. It’s misguided. It’s selfish. It’s attention seeking. It’s fantasized. It’s proud. It’s lazy. It’s flipped upside down, and it’s damaging.

I’m not saying that love doesn’t exist in the world. It most assuredly does. When you see someone helping another with absolutely no venue or thought that the action could be repaid, love lives. When you see someone lay their life down for another, love lives. When you see sacrifice lived out by a parent for their children, love lives.

When you see someone publicly humiliate another human being, rest assured, love most assuredly did not make that person do that. That’s not love.

When you see the person publicly humiliated rise up over the altercation, that’s a step in the love direction.

I’m no better than the person who did the hitting or the person who rose above. I’m just as flawed as the next guy. Most days I’m that clanging cymbal. I’ve been pained, and I’ve caused pain.

Admitting that I’m the one who has grieved another human being over my actions, is a hard pill to swallow. But in order to be fully healed, it’s imperative I own my part and admit, I suck too.

Otherwise, it will always be the other person’s fault who has me using misguided love for myself or another as an excuse to continue making poor choices.

What I know is that when I stand in front of Jesus, He’ll ask me what I did with the life He gave me. If I try to answer with an excuse about the way someone treated me, I have no doubt He’ll stop my babbling mouth in heartbeat and remind me, He asked me what I did with the life He gave me.

You see, it’s not about other people. It’s about what I know to do based on the instruction Jesus gave me. No, it’s not easy. Yes, I make mistakes. But, when we know we can do better, isn’t it time we actually do better?

I can’t answer that for anyone but me. All I can say is, don’t let the excuse of “love makes you do crazy things,” become the basis for the way you live the life you’ve be given. If you need another reminder of what love is, let me repeat it here:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but nowhere in those verses do I see. “love makes you do crazy things,” but I would argue that LOVE made you, formed you in your mother’s womb, loves you with an everlasting love and love led Jesus to die on the cross for you. He chose it out of love for you.

That kind of love will never make you do anything. That kind of love gives you the choice to love as He loved or love like the world.

The choice is yours, choose wisely, and make no excuses.

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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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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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The Choice You Choose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s my choice, what’s yours?

Peace and much love to you my friends.

 

 

 

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Fresh Grace for Today

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

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