Thursday, September 24, 2015

                              I CAN FEEL YOUR PRAYERS
My husband tells me I think I'm "Super Woman". I believe every woman is. We come packaged that way. Our hearts are stretched as far as our loved ones take them. In my case, my heart is stretched from Oklahoma to Texas and then over to Louisiana. If you've ever driven through Texas alone, you know how much of a stretch that is! I spend a lot of time on the road. Which gives me a lot of time to talk to Love.
Before I relate this story to you, I want to clarify that I have a very normal family. A very normal, dysfunctional family. Compared to most, I think we lean closer to normal than dysfunctional, but nevertheless we have our issues...normally. Now that that is as clear as mud, let me continue.
Many times I spend my drive-time talking to Love about all of the pain that stretches my heart so. Watching my precious seventy-eight year old Mama undergo Chemo is not easy. Especially when I live over seven hours away and have to goodbye to her and leave the bulk of the burden to my sister. (The enemy reminds me that "I" never wanted to move to Oklahoma in the first place!) Now I carry heaviness all the way up Highway 45 headed north. My phone is busy with hard conversations of other loved ones who are struggling. Unraveling...everywhere. Words of wisdom are needed to hand those on the other end of the line, so I search. Life is not suppose to be this hard. Yet, it is. Another text comes where pain is overtaking yet another one of those I love. My mind travels back to the day before, when I once again tried to have conversation with my Daddy, to no avail. I look out the car window up into the blue sky just to make sure it is not falling. It seems unusually low.
Now this is where I would normally lose it. Yes, even Super Women lose it! I would normally begin to cry and let all of the weight that is buried hard in my soul breathe out. I would open the flood gates, while driving alone, and just let the tears come. I would begin to process what it is I am actually feeling. Isn't the Chemo enough? Can't the other crisis, of those who my heart holds dear, wait for another season? How much can one heart stretch?  The skies are falling! Then I would tell Him how unfair it is that everything seems to be falling apart at the same time...isn't the pain and fear of my sweet Mama enough? I would stay here with self-pity for a while. I would rehearse over and over again how could anyone be expected to deal with more than just my Mama's health in this moment. More tears would come. More wrestling would ensue. Once the tidal wave of tears and the expression of my souls grief had subsided I would then move to a place where I would begin to position myself to see this from Love's perspective. Slowly I would begin to hear His voice and feel His encouragement trying to ground me. I would sense His nearness and His tenderness and know that once again, I am not alone. Slowly, very slowly, the sky would seem to make it's way back up into the blue cavity from where it had fallen. I would begin to rehearse, with a determination, all the times He has saved us before. I would begin to say out loud how faithful He has been to us. I would begin to declare that He will be faithful again. Before I would pull into my drive-way I would have rebounded and felt the strength of His arms wrapped around me, tightly, once more. I would step out of the car knowing that it is His love that supports my every step. He is faithful and He is true.
But this drive home was different. Really different. The sky was still falling, and those I love were all still dealing with their own heartaches. What was strikingly different was what was going on inside of me. I will tell you I am simple-minded. I deal with things with the Lord in a very simple-minded way. One of the patterns I have learned about myself is that I will make it through anything as long as I am holding Love's hand. I look at things that I dread or don't want to go through and I imagine that there is a starting point (which I call point A) and there will be an ending point (which I call point Z). The way I see it, I will have to move from Point A all the way through Point Z to make it to the other side. Now, it really is up to me how long that journey takes. I can start with a good pace and then get bogged down somewhere around Point G. I may spend months there. Actually, truth be known...I have been known to spend years somewhere around Point M. It wasn't pretty. I've even been known to try and ignore and deny where I am on the alphabet line and pretend it will all go away. It doesn't. It never has. I have only prolonged what was already a miserably long journey.
So, sometimes when I know I am facing a situation in my life that will not go away by ignoring it, I have learned to face it head on. I realize no matter how much I kick and scream...I still have to make it to Point Z to get passed this in my life. I know my own weaknesses. I know how easy it is for my old man to get stuck with just the simple fact of how "unfair" it is that this is happening to me..."to me"...I mean I never did anything to deserve "this". How could they?  Now mind you, this is only Point B! I can stay here as long as my flesh wants to. I can stay here days, weeks, months or even longer. If my goal is Point Z...I might want to speed it up some. This is where I will start speaking truth to myself to help get me "unstuck". I will remind myself that this is no surprise to Love. He was not looking out at Mars when the enemy snuck this one past Him. So if He has allowed it into my world then I can trust there is something He wants to teach me from it's pain.  Because I have history with Him I know that I can trust Him. So I choose to leave self-pity behind, I pick myself up and head towards Point C. Point C is usually where I begin to focus on what Love can do to correct "their problem". I mean it's obvious "they have a pattern" of this type of behavior and it seems to always be inflicted upon me. So if He will just fix "them" then I will be okay. You can see how making it all the way through the alphabet can be extremely time consuming and full of delays after delays. It really can take years of your life from you. I speak from experience.
Looking at the challenges in my life, with the simplicity of this picture of a time line starting with Point A and ending with Point Z, has been very helpful. It has made it easier for me to just go ahead and move through areas where I would normally delay and go ahead and agree with Love and lean into Him to learn the lesson that is at hand. I have never regretted the truth I learned by the time I made it to Point Z. Actually, I am the sum total of what I have learned at all of those Point Z's in my life. Looking back, I am nothing but grateful for the lessons I have learned on some of the hardest journeys in my life. Now, is no different. I can trust that the pain that seems to be unraveling, on me and those I love, will bring with it a deeper understanding of Love's truths.  It ALWAYS DOES! 
But yesterday was different. As I drove and surveyed all of the skies that seemed to be falling at the same time I could feel my flesh wanting to move into self-pity under all of the weight of it...but at the same time I had this incredibly strong urge to simply trust Him.  It's like there was an internal component to me that I had never experienced an "over-drive" gear that I didn't even know was under the hood! Faith rose up so strong in me that I was speechless. It was like the gears that move me from Point A to Point Z weren't even necessary. It was nothing shy of GRACE. A gift from Love! My favorite definition of grace is: "the desire and the power to do that which Love desires of us". Even when I have the desire to do what Love desires me to...I am short of the power to do it. If I will repent of my independence and ask Him to help me with the power He will. But, I didn't even have to ask this time. It was there for the taking. Truly a the difference between being offered a spoon full of Horseradish or was a no-brainer! I simply couldn't refuse this gift of peace!
I drove in awe! How could even Love offer me such an easy way through pain? Could I really step from where I was, in the depths of distress, to the place of peace and trust without ever having to "work for it" while making my way from A to Z? Could I truly make the journey from pain to peace in only one effortless step? In the quietness of my car, with no effort on my part I simply looked at my life's chaos and pain and chose to abandon it for His peace and His character.  I drove with only my thoughts for company. All anxiety and sadness left me and only Peace and I made our way towards home.
I knew at that moment that those of you who are praying so wildly for us, those of you going before The Throne on our behalf...He had answered you! He hears YOU! There is no other reason that His grace enveloped me in that moment as it did. The only explanation is that HE HEARS YOU AND HE.ANSWERS.YOUR. PRAYERS! I am humbled! I am eternally grateful!
I remember another time, years ago, when I struggled with a miserably long season of depression. I could literally "feel" when others were praying for me and when they weren't. I remember talking to a friend about this. He asked me "So, do you think if no one prays it changes the outcome?" I told him, that I wasn't sure that it would change the outcome...but I KNEW for certain it would change the comfort or the lack of comfort along the journey. I want to thank all of you for lifting our journey up to Love and helping us to find comfort along the way! This side of heaven you will never know the difference it will make and for that difference we say thank you!!!


Friday, September 4, 2015

I've been reflecting on what The Lord shared with me yesterday. For years now when life seems turbulent I have gone back to the picture of me standing on The Rock and watching the sea ebb and flow all around me. At times it has felt like the ease of the tide changing with the waters rising and then receding. At other times it has felt more like a Tsunami determined to wash me overboard. Like a tempest determined to take my eyes off of The Rock and become paralyzed at the size of the waves. Nevertheless, when I remind myself that it is not The Rock upon which I stand that ebbs and flows, but the sea that surrounds me, I find comfort.

There is not a one of us that can't look around and find a turbulent sea close by. There is turbulence at every turn. Waves of hate and hostility are rampant in our land. It appears that we have come to a place on the time line that we are surrounded by those who call good evil and evil good. Our emotions are tossed to and fro with every passing day. We sit wondering are we getting close to the end? Will our country survive another year in the state we find ourselves? How long will the hand of God continue to extend mercy? Maybe the turbulence within your own four walls have you so overwhelmed you don't even have energy to look outside. Will your marriage survive? Will your teenager follow the ways that you have laid out before them, or will they throw it all aside and follow their ever pressing peers? Will the doctors report change the landscape of your life and the life of those you love? Turbulent seas surround us and truth be known they sometimes paralyze us even though we hide it well from others.

This is Not.Our.Home! Revelation Chapter 21 says that we are receiving "a new heaven and a new earth and there will no longer be a sea!" The Holy City, the new Jerusalem will come out of heaven and our God will live with us. Verse 4 says "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." That sea with its Tsunami size waves will be NO MORE! The harshness of life will end. We will have finally arrived to our true destination.

Our new home is described in verse 19, where we are told that it's foundation is made of 12 different types of stone. From jasper to sapphire and on and on ending with amethyst. Twelve in the bible represents governments. The very foundation of our new home is one of solid rock. A government that will forever stand! Unlike America's, it will never fall, it will never crumble.

There will be 12 gates upon which to enter the heavenly city. Each gate will be made of a "single pearl". Human eyes have never seen a pearl of this magnitude. Or have we? How is a pearl formed and where does it come from? You probably know that they come from the sea. But did you know a pearl begins its life inside an oyster's shell when an "intruder", such as a grain of sand slips in. In order to protect itself from "irritation", it quickly begins to cover the unwanted irritant with a mineral layer. Layers and layers of mother-of-pearl are formed until the irritant is no longer bothersome. So do you get it? We will enter our new home "through gates of pearl" where all of life's unwanted irritations and invasions will have been made beautiful!

Once inside the gates, verse 21 says "The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. The streets of gold will lead us to the Throne of our God. "Before the Throne", John tells us "there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal." (Rev. 4:6) Every wave in the sea of our crazy lives will have subsided and will lay perfectly still under our feet, like a placid sea, as we finally behold Him, face to face! We will finally have found our final destination. We will forever be home!

Mark 4:39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

For It Is Not The Rock Upon Which I Stand That Ebbs And Flows, But The Sea That Surrounds Me

It's been a really hard week. It's been a really great week! It's amazing how that can happen. But you know it too, because you've had weeks just like that. We've been given the worst news and we've received some of the best news ever! My mother and her baby sister, Carolyn, were both diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago. Prior to either of their hospitalizations or diagnosis the Lord had given us a dream warning us to be prepared for what was ahead and to "bring Him some hope, so that He would have something to work with."  Remember, "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) Now don't get me wrong, He expects us to have fear. He knows there is an enemy for our soul who uses fear to paralyze us. That's why He left us 365 scriptures in His Word that command us to fear not. He knows us so well, that He left us one for every day of the year! So He acknowledges that we will wrestle with fear and He expects us to bring it to Him and wrestle with Him until we walk away with His peace.

So we are doing a "Happy dance" for our precious Aunt Carolyn as she has come through her one year check up CANCER FREE!!! We couldn't be happier or more grateful! Unfortunately, my sweet Mama's report wasn't as good. BUT.GOD.IS! We hope she only has to endure 3 Chemo treatments and this will be behind her. We will be bringing Him all of the hope that we can carry. No matter how bad we hate this for her, we TRUST Him!

I have been reading in the book of Revelation this week. This morning I read, Chapter 21: 1 where Love reminded me "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." I thought to sea? Wow! Kind of sad for those of us who love the sea! Why no sea I wondered? But I have learned when I don't understand His ways I choose to trust His heart, His character. Later in the day I text my cousin to tell her how excited we are about the fantastic news Aunt Carolyn had received. In the text we celebrated the fact that He is the rock that we build our lives on.

I began to talk to Him later and thank Him for being my rock. I'm not sure who wrote it, but one of my favorite statements of all time is "For it is not the Rock upon which I stand that ebbs and flows, but the sea that surrounds me." As I continued to thank Him that no matter how bitter sweet our lives are I am so grateful that He never changes. He is the Rock that never budges, never falters, and it is only the sea of my life that sometimes washes over me making me feel that I may drown. It was at that moment that He reminded me of the scripture I had read only hours day we will be ushered in to a new heaven and a new earth and there will NO LONGER BE ANY SEA! That which ebbs and flows over and through our lives making us feel that we might certainly drown will be no more. There will no longer be a sea full of fear and strife determined to wash over us and cause us to lose our footing on the Rock upon which we stand!

I don't know about you, but He makes me some kind of happy! Where we are going, is going to be beyond any beach we have ever seen or imagined! If we lean into Him really hard...I think we can already hear the waves subsiding!!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

                    You've Come A Long Way Baby

I live in the city. I mean, IN the city. We are blessed with a home that is snuggled into an older subdivision with beautifully large mature trees. Nevertheless, when I walk out of Walmart I stare at a twenty-something story building at the edge of the parking lot. I would have never seen this coming. I was raised a country girl.

I made a trip back home awhile back. Looking for serenity I made my way down one of the old dusty roads I traveled in my teen years. It felt like stepping back into time. I parked my car in the middle of nowhere and enjoyed myself one spectacular sunset. The only sound I heard were the critters playing close by in the woods.

I could talk out loud to Love and nobody would know the difference! It was just the two of us, walking up and down those sandy graveled roads. It felt like a really big gift. As I began to unwrap it, I became overwhelmed with how much Love had changed me, since the last time I traveled that path. We're not talking about a little change...we're talking about a brand new creation.

I'm not saying that "I have arrived", I'm just saying I'm miles from where I began. He's done such a miraculous job of loving me towards "wholeness". How He broke shame and condemnation off of me is a wonder. How he rescued me from hopelessness is beyond me. I remember praying and praying and praying that He would free me from it's grasp and truth be told He did it so gently that I didn't even notice when it happened. I remember a situation arose, which normally would have had me wringing my hands and despairing of hope. But, in it's place was trust. No one could have been more surprised than me! He had done open-heart surgery on me, removing a heart of fear and hopelessness and replaced it with one that dared to believe, that with Him there is always reason to hope. When I realized what had happened I just couldn't help but giggle.

I once played to the fear of man and now I play to an audience of One. I use to wonder if I was a mistake and now I realize I am a miracle. I always questioned if I would ever truly feel loved and now I see myself no other way. I never tire of searching for His fingerprints on my life. When I stop to look, I find them everywhere. Sometimes the easiest way to find them is to step back into time and let Him show you how far you have come...and if you look closely, you will see Him having carried you every step of the way.