His Timing is Not Always My Timing…

Seven years ago I gave birth to a healthy baby girl.  ‘Over the moon’ does not even come close to describing how we felt when we found out we were pregnant with our first child.  Parenthood is one of those things I had taken for granted my whole life.  I always just assumed that because I wanted children, I would be blessed with children when my husband and I decided the time was right.  Only, that is not exactly how things unfolded…

When our precious daughter was two years old, my husband and I decided we were ready to begin trying for baby number two.  Fast forward four years and we still were not pregnant.  I had gone to nutritionists, chiropractors, and OBGYNs.  I had taken vitamins, supplements, and even tried fertility medication on one occasion.  To be honest, I had come to the conclusion that this was not going to happen for us and I completely stopped praying about it for quite some time.  My heart had hardened and I was accepting defeat.  My husband admitted that he was feeling he was getting too old to be active with another child and things were just not turning out the way I envisioned.  During this time, the comments from others did not help.  “When are you going to have another one?”  “You are trying too hard.”  “It will happen when it is supposed to happen.”  Well- meaning, good intentioned people with BIG, caring hearts…and I wanted to strangle each one of them.  I’m just being real ya’ll.

Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Why was this not true for us?  I cried out to God.  “Lord, I have re-prioritized my life to try to be more Christ-like.  I am sharing the Good News with others.  I finally believe I am ‘living right.’  What else do you want from me?”  Friends, do not ask unless you want to be told. 

He wanted me to be obedient and follow Him to Africa.  Yes…Africa.  Oh but that is not all.  Leaving my family to go to Africa was the ‘easy’ part.  More on that later.

I did not go to Africa so God would give me a baby.  That’s just crazy talk.  I went to Africa because that is where He was calling me and I wanted to show obedience in the big things…even though I had no clue why He wanted me there.  He knew.  He wanted me there because there are some precious children with gritty little hands and feet who need someone to share the gospel with them.  Their little souls depend on it.  He also needed to introduce me to my second family in Ghana that I never knew existed.  Well…they do…and I love them dearly.  Not only are they amazing children of God who are tirelessly giving their time and hearts to advance His Kingdom…they are mighty prayer warriors and I will forever be grateful for the requests they have taken to the throne for me.

Did I mention that was the easy part?  James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  “But God, I did confess my sin…to You…several times. Oooh.  You want me to confess it to him?”  Yes friends, un-confessed sin was keeping me from the blessings God had in store for me.  He spoke that to my heart in the most crystal clear voice.  And I listened.  And obeyed.  And confessed.  And it hurt.  The last thing I wanted to do was ‘come clean.’  But that is exactly what I needed to do and exactly what I did.  Talk about moving forward in freedom.  Whew…I am beyond grateful for the conviction of the Holy Spirit that got me to that place of confession.

Now…on to our miracle.  Remember my prayer warriors from Africa?  In January of 2014, one of them texted me and he said, “My friend, the Lord has quickened my spirit and has told me you will be pregnant with child soon.”  Oh ‘ye of little faith.’  I doubted.  We had waited so long that I just could not wrap my brain around this finally happening for us.  On February 2nd, 2014, God confirmed that my praying friend was hearing from Him clearly.  All I could do was sit on the floor and weep.  Approximately 60 days later, this same praying friend texted me to say, “My friend, the Lord has told me you will give birth to a baby boy.”  You guys are not going to believe this.  I doubted again!  An early ultrasound showed we were going to have our second baby girl.  WRONG.  The ‘official’ ultrasound later confirmed that we were…indeed…having a baby BOY.  I immediately texted my friend and said, “Nathan! You were right!  We are having a boy!”  He responded ever so gently and said, “My friend, God does not lie.”  Ouch.  God knew I would learn so much from Adeline, Pastor Albert, Nathan, and Pastor T.  He knew I needed them in my life and that they would be a special part of helping me mature in my walk with Jesus.  And a closer walk with Jesus would be just what I needed to be the mother he designed for me to be.

Friends, God does indeed give us the desires of our hearts.  It may not be the way we hope.  It may not be in our timing.  It may look completely different than we have pictured.  The good news?  He knows exactly what ‘it’ looks like.  He knows exactly what we need and He equips us to be able to handle these desires and blessings the way He has designed them for us.  Share with Him the desires of your heart and then be ready to take the path He carves out for you to get you there.  He may just need to empty you of some things before He can fill you back up with His blessings. He has used this precious wee one to fill me back up in so many ways. From restored confidence to faith that can mountains…I am filled to the brim and overflowing. Praise be to God. 

Twenty Shades of Red…

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and my mind seems to be swirling with so many mixed emotions about this holiday.  Honestly, the twenty shades of red I see when I walk in to every store make me kind of crazy and overstimulated.  Fire Red.  Cardinal Red.  Wine.  Bulgarian Rose.  Dark Red.  Brick Red.  Crimson.  Persian Red.  Well…you get the point.

I begin to feel bad for the single people.  I begin to feel bad for the married ladies who are the only ones who do not have a dozen roses on their desk.  I begin to worry about the tweens and teens who base their value and worth on whether or not they have a Valentine.  I begin to feel pressure to find my husband the right card that says exactly what he means to me.  Honestly, I am just over this commercial holiday.  I am beginning to feel like I have lost that loving feeling!

Then ‘it’ hits me.  This is supposed to be a holiday of love.  What if our focus was on how much He loves us instead of how much the world and those living in it love us?  Have you ever thought about Him saying to you “Be Mine” or “U R Special?”  No, those expressions from Him do not come in the form of a candy heart.  Oh but they come.  They come in the form of His ultimate sacrifice.

“He loves me.  He loves me not.”  How many of you picked 100 flowers when you were little until at least the majority reported that ‘he loves you’?  There is such beauty in knowing that with Jesus…we never have to worry about whether He ‘loves me not.’  Not only does He love us…He loves us with an unconditional and unfailing love.  Did you hear me?  Unconditional and Unfailing.  That means He loves you in your addiction.  He loves you in your bad parenting moments.  He loves you in your separation and divorce.  He loves you when your heart is hard.  He loves you when you make that mistake you promised to never make again.  He loves you when it feels like NOBODY. ELSE. DOES.  He loves you.

Psalm 36:5, “Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.”

Precious friends, I am not suggesting that you throw out the suckers, cupcakes, and red-hot hearts.  This is simply a reminder to think about love a little differently this Valentine’s Day.  Love in the purest and most perfect form…

I WAS ABOUT TO LOSE IT…

I was upstairs getting the baby ready for bed and was frantic with thoughts of what still ‘needed’ to be done. There was a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. The dog and cat were begging to be fed and were following me around EVERYWHERE I went. In fact, a few choice words almost escaped my mouth as the cat weaved in and out of my feet causing me to repeatedly trip. There was a pile of laundry in each bedroom floor and I had washed the same load three times after forgetting to put it in the dryer. Our girl still needed a bath and bedtime was in 15 minutes. She had just run all the way upstairs to ask me for milk and a snack when her Daddy was in the same room as her. “Am I the only one who can do anything around here??” I had made this moment all about me and was starting to really feel sorry for myself. After all, I had just started back to work after being off with my precious boy for 3 months and I was PLUM EXHAUSTED from trying to figure out our new routine.

I was standing at the top of the steps and was on the verge of screaming, “A little help would be nice!!!”…and suddenly…there it was. A sound so refreshing and pure. The basement was swirling with laughter. The laughter of our precious girl and the laughter of her Daddy. She was laughing so hard she could barely catch her breath. I stood at the top of the steps and just listened and that is when God whispered to my heart. “Daughter, you need to breathe.” “Oh God, I desperately want to be ‘that’ person. That mom who soaks in the laughter rather than rushing it to bed…just because “it’s time”. That housewife who recognizes that the laundry could wait another week and we would all still have clean clothes. That woman who realizes that the 2 hours I have each evening with my family should be spent loving them well…even if it means leaving the dishes and dust bunnies. Lord, I don’t want to be remembered for having the cleanest house or ironed clothes (my husband will chuckle at this). I want to be remembered for loving well. Show me how to love well. Give me eyes to see what is important in this moment and a peace in knowing what…can…wait.”

Get Well…

Just the other day, I was in the grocery store and heard a lady kindly say to another, “Get well.”  I did not think much about the sentiment
until I got in the car and then suddenly, on the way home, my Spirit began to stir.  I started to think about this meaningful
phrase and how often we speak these words to one another.  We might say them when someone we love has a headache, a cold, the flu, a broken bone, or something much more significant.  In fact, these two words are so popular, they have their own category in the Hallmark and Family Christian Bookstore card sections.  I began to think, “Wouldn’t it
be nice if it was just as simple as ‘getting well’ from Cancer or ‘getting well’
from Dementia…especially if you were able to ‘get well’ in the timeframe of ‘soon’ which is the third word that usually follows. 
I feel pretty certain that if folks were in control of ‘getting well’ on
their own, we would see a lot less sickness in the world.

How wonderful it would be if we could ‘get well’ on command…

I started to feel
extremely thankful that other than some minor things here and there, our family has been mostly healthy and we have not been on the receiving end of many ‘get well’ instructions.  This led me to think
about ‘getting well’ spiritually.  After
all, isn’t this what Easter is all about? 
You see, I have been a believer as far back as I can remember, however; I wouldn’t have considered myself to be spiritually healthy for most of my life.  I was under the false impression
that as long as I went to church on Sundays and asked for forgiveness using a blanket ‘Confession of Sins’ already preprinted in my bulletin, I was good to go! I never once considered how continuing my sinful lifestyle in between Sundays was
grieving the Spirit and breaking the heart of my Heavenly Father.  He provided salvation by way of the most
ultimate sacrifice…the life of His one and only Son…and how was I showing
appreciation? 

The good news? He made a way for us to ‘get well’ spiritually…on command. Now it is up us to ask for that freedom receive it.

Isaiah 53:5 states, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”  HE WAS PIERCED FOR OUR
TRANSGRESSIONS…our adultery, our alcoholism, our drug abuse, our lying, our stealing, our coveting, our hatred, our promiscuity; our perversion, our bullying…ALL OF OUR SINS.  Friends, He has paid the price for every sin we have committed and every sin we will commit in the future.  Is this not reason enough to
make a decision to commit to Him?  To follow Him with every ounce of our being? 
There is nothing we can do to earn our way into Heaven…but there is
something we can do to become spiritually healthy.  We can commit our lives to Christ and make Him the absolute center of our world.  We can follow him wholeheartedly despite any persecution that may follow.  He is worth it.  Your salvation is worth it.  Will you commit with me today to becoming spiritually healthy…soon?   Jesus says to the Samaritan Woman in John 4:13-14, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty
again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  You may not have control over ‘getting well’ physically…but you do have control over this decision to be filled with the water He offers.    

SUNDAY IS HERE!  Mark 16:6, “And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed, you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. 
He has risen; he is not here, See the place where they laid him.”  Praise God…He is risen indeed!      

Delighting in Obedience

Being obedient used to present a challenge for me.  To be fair, it wasn’t that I was intentionally being disobedient, in fact, I desperately desired to walk in obedience.  The problem was, I would feel that stirring from the Spirit, sometimes in undeniable ways, and I would immediately begin to analyze what I was feeling.  My thought process went something like this…

“Was that a stirring from the Spirit or is that my own fleshly desire?”

“Wait, He can’t really want me to do that.”

“If I ask that man if I can pay for his groceries, I may embarrass him.”

“I certainly can’t give money to every person standing alongside of the interstate.  Why this one?”…as I continue to drive on past.

You see, I let my own worldly thoughts get in the way of responding to God in direct obedience.  Have you ever noticed the stories in the New Testament that talk about people being obedient in following Jesus?  They have one thing in common.  They responded to Jesus in obedience by going ‘right away’ or ‘immediately’ after He called them.

In Luke 5, after not catching any fish, Jesus instructed Simon Peter and his friends to try again.  Simon Peter was doubtful, however; he chose to obey Jesus anyway.  After catching an abundance of fish, Simon Peter fell to his knees and called himself a sinner for not believing.  Jesus replies in Luke 5:10-11, “Don’t be afraid!  From now on you’ll be fishing for people.  And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.” (NLT)

Later in Luke 5, we see another example of this immediate obedience.  Verses 27-28 state, “Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth.  ‘Follow me and be my disciple,’ Jesus said to him.  So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.” (NLT).

Being obedient is not always easy.  Being obedient is not always popular.  Being obedient does not always make sense.  Being obedient IS the way to experience undeniable fellowship with the Spirit.

This summer, I went to Africa on a short term mission trip. Being obedient and following Jesus to Africa was difficult in many ways.  I knew this is where God was calling me even if my decision wasn’t receiving the ‘popular vote’ from some of my friends and family.  Some were concerned about safety. Some did not understand why I would go across the world when there were local missions who needed people.  I knew one thing.  I knew that Africa was the safest place I could be since that is where God was leading me.  And I knew that in order to experience complete fulfillment, I needed to follow wholeheartedly.  I was right.  He was right.  He is never wrong.  While this was difficult obedience, often I find obedience in the ‘big things’ is not as hard as obedience in the ‘little things.’  God wants us to delight in being obedient in the little things in order to know that He can trust us with the big things.  Do not ignore that stirring.  There is a special feeling that comes with reaching out to someone that God has placed on my heart and hearing, “You have no idea how much I needed that encouragement today.”  Friend, you are right…I had no idea…but He did.  Obedience as simple as that gives me pure delight.  Imagine how obedience in all things delights Him…

P31 OBS Blog Hop

#Determination

Determination used to resemble stubbornness in my world.  Often I was ‘determined’ to do something just to prove a point.  Determination now resembles overcoming an obstacle.  I can think of so many things that I am ‘determined’ to do, however; lately, I am more ‘determined’ to eliminate certain ideas from my thought life and replace them with His ideas.  
 
I am determined to never doubt my worth as a child of God.
 
I am determined to be an authentic follower of Jesus and not a ‘plastic’ Christian.
 
I am determined to be obedient.
 
I am determined to learn how to follow Jesus with reckless abandonment.
 
I am determined to love others the way Jesus loves me and to use honor and value as verbs.
 
I am determined to surrender to Jesus on a daily basis and to ask Him to strip me of EVERYTHING that is not of Him.
 
I am determined to keep my thoughts focused on things that are pure, holy, honorable, lovely, commendable, and excellent. 
 
I am determined to surround myself with wise counsel who will build me up, encourage me, and lead me away from sin rather than towards it.
 
I am determined NOT to let my past define who I am today.
 
I am determined NOT to make pleasing man a priority and to focus my eyes above at all times. 
 
I am determined to NOT be of the world even though I am in it.
 
I am determined to tell others of His love, locally and globally, until all have heard. 
 
I am determined to repent and ask for forgiveness when I fail Him on a daily basis. 
 
Lastly, I am determined to trust Him to be my God…so I can just be me.  (Thank you Laura Story). 
 
P31 OBS Blog Hop

There. It. Was. A Not So Gentle Realization…

I started a bath for my daughter and she asked me if I would stay in the bathroom with her.  Often she likes her own “me” time to play and play in there until she resembles a prune.  This time, she wanted me close by so I stayed.  I grabbed my devotional for the day and asked her if she would like me to read it out loud to her.  She replied with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” so I proceeded to take my seat on the porcelain perch and began to read.  The passage for the day happened to be Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a ‘fragrant’ offering and sacrifice to God.”  We started to discuss what being an “imitator of God” may look like and then what came next shook me to my core.  In fact, it shook me way more than it should have as a follower of Christ who desires to have unwavering faith.  My precious daughter said, “Mommy, what if we decide not to follow Jesus?”  Clearing my throat…”What exactly do you mean, honey?”  She responds, “Well, what if someone (whew…thank goodness she didn’t say what if ‘I’) decided they didn’t believe in Jesus?”  Seriously ya’ll?  This is not something I even wanted to try to wrap my brain around, nor did I want to give this possibility too much attention.  Only, that is what it needed.  You see, I have believed in Jesus as far back as I can remember and was a pew warmer at church for years and years.  At age 32, however; I learned that I did not have the slightest clue what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus.  So yes, this question deserved my undivided attention.

What I should have done in this moment is prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill me with the words that my precious girl needed to hear about our Heavenly Father and about the consequences of a decision to not follow Him.  Instead, I simply said, “If you decide not to follow Jesus, you will not go to Heaven.”  She responded, “Oh no!  I want to go to Heaven to see Papa, Uncle Clyde, Grandma Tut, Tom-Tom, and Bingo (a neighborhood dog).”  Sigh.  Relief.  God used this conversation to teach me three things:

Firstly, often times, a huge explanation is not needed.  The truth can be shared in many ways and even if I do not have the answers, which is often the case, I can point others to His Word where the answers to all of life’s questions can be found.  People do not need me to be philosophical and speak “Christianese” to them.  They need me to be a light and to show them Christ through the way I live and the way I love.

Secondly, I am not in control of my daughter’s decisions as she grows up…but by golly, I will do the best that I can to be a godly example for her and to plant the seeds that God will grow as she seeks Him in her life.  And she will seek Him.  She already does in her own little way and she will continue to.  I have faith.  In the meantime, I will commit to covering her precious soul in prayer and ask that God give her the wisdom and discernment to make good choices as she is faced with tough decisions throughout her life.

Thirdly, I have a lot of work to do.  I will never achieve perfection here on Earth.  Thank God I was able to take that off of my “to do” list.  That being said, there are many times where I have not been an imitator of Christ.  Did I say many times?  I can probably think of many times today that this has been the case.  Yikes.  I certainly do not treat my body as a temple.  Growl.  There are many times I have not been humble.  Ouch.  As long as I am being real, there are many times that ‘this little light of mine’ has been hidden under that bushel and has been completely overshadowed by poor choices or a poor attitude.  Gross.  1 Corinthians 8:9 says, “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”  The last thing I want to do is be a “stumbling block” to anyone whether it be my child, my husband, my friend, or even someone I may not know.  Thank you God for using this child of Yours to teach me and bring me back to a place of humbleness in my journey.  Sometimes my lens just needs to be refocused.