Redemption, Pt. 1

It was mid-November when I received the frantic call from my former step daughter, “Daddy had a heart attack and he’s in ICU,” she said panicked. “You need to come to the hospital right away.”

Her father and I had been divorced for nearly 7 years. But we have a son together and had already walked through the years of divorce and custody related animosity to finally reach a point of mutual respect and co-parenting.

When I arrived at the hospital, I got a clearer picture of his health situation. My ex-husband had been sick for several weeks with some kind of flu virus, running a fever spiking to at least 105 degrees. No one knew exactly what it was because he had been too stubborn to go to the doctor.

A buddy of his had stopped by his home to check on him the evening before and discovered him in bed, unresponsive. The friend began CPR and called 911. The EMT’s were able to resuscitate him and transport him to the hospital where he was admitted to ICU. He was on life support, in a medically-induced coma. The nurses gave me a very grim prognosis. They had no way of knowing how long his brain had been without oxygen before the friend discovered him. So if he pulled through, he could be a vegetable for the remainder of his life. Moreover, they had no idea what his original illness was because they couldn’t ask him what symptoms he’d been experiencing. What they did know was that whatever infection had made him ill had gone systemic. It was attacking his blood and because of years of unhealthy choices and alcoholism, his liver and kidneys were not filtering the infection on their own.

I left our 8 year old son in the waiting room with his extended family so I could assess the situation for myself. I entered the room where the father of my son laid in a coma with tubes going in and out of his body, connected to machines that were breathing for him, feeding him, and medicating him. His mother stood at the foot of his bed in shock, tears streaming down her face. She kept touching his feet, hoping for a miracle as she helplessly watched machines breathe for her son. After a few moments, she said I needed some time alone with him and left me there with my ex-husband.

In those moments, I held his hand and spoke to him as though he was napping and could hear me just fine. I made amends for the years of hurt between us. I apologized for my part in the failure of our marriage. I knew this may be the last time I would get to speak my heart to him.

At that moment I felt an urgency in my heart to pray for him. He had never really believed in God and at times even poked fun at my faith, calling me a “Bible Thumper.” But I knew if ever there was a moment he needed Jesus, it was now. I spoke to him and said, “I know you can hear me and even though you can’t respond with words, I know your spirit can agree…”  Then I prayed the prayer of salvation and told him that if he confessed with his mouth and believed with his heart, he’d be saved. “The Bible says that even the rocks will cry out to praise God. So I know you can, too…”

Then he nodded.

He slowly nodded his comatose head right off the pillow!

I held his hand and wept tears of joy. That was the confirmation I needed to be assured that he had accepted Christ as his Savior. Through my tears, I reminisced with him about our son. I reminded him of the day our baby boy was born; and all the proud moments we shared as parents to our son.

Then I released him. I told him that if his body just couldn’t fight, that we would be okay. I would raise our son in a way that would make him proud. I would keep alive the happy memories for our boy. I assured him that we would see him in heaven one day if he chose to leave.

But if he wanted to stay on this planet, he better fight and fight hard. I let him know that being an invalid just to appease everyone else’s request for him to hang on would be unacceptable.  That’s not what he would’ve wanted either. It would be a complete recovery or none at all.

That may seem like an extreme ultimatum to make to a man in a coma. But I knew my ex-husband. In fact, I recall several conversations he and I had about his wishes should a situation like this arise. But he didn’t have a will. He was young. He thought he had all the time in the world.

I chose not to let my son see his father in this state. If this was his end, I didn’t want our boy’s last memory of his dad to be clouded by tubes, machines and helplessness.

I went home that night and told my son the beautiful story of how his daddy accepted Jesus into his heart. He was glad, but of course still saddened by the situation. He was confused. We all were. Why was this happening? Why his daddy? Why couldn’t he see him at the hospital?

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

I Can’t Do This

The last few weeks, I have been stressed to my gills. I quite literally have been feeling like a rhinoceros is sitting on my chest. The anxiety and pressure have been slowly building until finally, I called one of my dear friends, nearly in tears because I’ve been trying to hold it all together on my own.

I keep thinking that I can come up with a solution to this specific issue I’m having all on my own. I keep telling myself, I can do this. God gave me a brain and certain skills. I can fix this. By myself. And then I inevitably end up panicking, beating my head against the wall and having a mental meltdown. I get overwhelmed and freeze up. The fear and anxiety take over every thought until I’m obssessing over something truly small in the grand scheme of things.

Then, yesterday morning I was helping my 3 year old daughter get dressed for preschool. She was wearing pajamas which are slightly small and really quite due for donation. But she loves them and insists on wearing them anyway. She was struggling to get out of theses pajamas and ultimately tying herself up as though she was in a straight jacket. I offered to help, but she adamantly said she didn’t want help. A few more minutes of fighting and tangling herself up even more went by. Now she was frustrated nearly to the point of tears. Again, I offered to help saying, “You can’t do this by yourself. Let Mommy help you.”

“NO! I do it MYSELF!” she yelled at me. And then continued to struggle and fight the pajamas (which were clearly winning). Finally, she gave up, surrendered to my help and in less than 5 seconds, we had her safely out of the cumbersome pajamas. She had shed tears and sweat for no reason. I was right there and willing to help the whole time. But, dangit if she’s not the most stubborn, independent, and downright infuriating girl EVER!

Later, God whispered to my heart, “That’s what you look like right now.” BURN! All my freaking out, worrying, and attempts to “do it all myself” are as futile as my toddler struggling to take off pj’s that are too tight. I struggle and frustrate myself with worry and worst case scenarios for no reason. There’s an easy solution. But the solution requires me to surrender to God and say, “I can’t do this alone. Will you help me with this?”

The issue I face still exists. I don’t have the “happily ever after” yet. But I do know this: God can take care of it. Knowing that He is in control gives me so much peace. And when the worrying thoughts begin to creep up, I remind myself that I don’t know the answer yet, but God does and He’s working it out on my behalf. Until then, I will trust.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs :5-6

Love Me Tender

I was 6 weeks pregnant with my baby, lying in my bed, weeping. It wasn’t that soft cry you see in the movies with a single tear rolling down my cheek. No. This was a full-bodied, sobbing, ugly cry. The tension release of the years of abuse I’d endured. My 6 year old son slept soundly next to me as I broke down, crying out to God. This was my rock bottom.

We’d just escaped from our abuser a few weeks prior and as the dust settled, I crumbled. My husband at the time had verbally, spiritually, and physically beaten me down to the point that I didn’t think I was worth anything better than his torment. But the terrified look in my son’s eyes and the thought of bringing a daughter into that world was the jolt I needed to flee from his tyranny.

So there I lay in the spare bedroom of my gracious sister’s basement, asking God why. How could I be here? How would I have the strength to pull it together? Where do we go from here? But most of all, how was I so blind?! Who would want me now? I beat myself up with shame and guilt for the abuse that had not only hurt me, but my son and possibly my unborn baby as well. I was spiritually and emotionally broken.

I don’t know how long I shouted in my head and cried out to God. But when I finally quieted down, I felt His peace wash over me. The precious love He says I deserve that I’d never felt in human form before wrapped its arms around me. The most comforting embrace enveloped me. And I heard the faintest whisper: “Let me be your husband.”

That might sound like a strange statement to some. But I’d vaguely remembered hearing a scripture that referred to God as a husband. The next morning, I opened my Bible and found the scripture. As I read, God began to reveal to me that He offers perfect love. Only He could repair the intense damage that had been done. I saw that although He can’t fulfill the physical aspects of a husband like picking the kids up from school or physical intimacy, He could provide all the things I’d been lacking most. He would be my Provider, Comforter and Healer. He promised to be my ever present help in times of need.

For the following months and years, God has taken me on a journey of love and intimacy with Him. He began to awaken my heart. Is it the same as having a flesh and blood husband? Absolutely not! Do I still feel the pangs of singledom from time to time? Of course! It’s a faith journey. But every once in a while, when I need it the most, I can feel His tender love embrace me and I know I am His beloved. And He is mine.

“For your Creator will be your Husband; the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is His name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.” -Isaiah 54:5

2016 Word of the Year

I’ve seen lots of bloggers, individuals and businesses tag a single word to encompass their goal or theme for the year. My sister even has a friend who daily posts a phrase with her theme word pasted into the key word spot. For example, she’d take the quote, “Live each day as though it’s your last,” and sub in her theme word, “shine.” So she comes up with “Shine each day as though it’s your last.” Clever, right? I love how creative this is! But every day?!?! That’s too much commitment for this girl. I can’t even make it through 30 days of gratitude in November! By day 14 I’m posting something like, “Whatever! I’m grateful for each and every one of my friends. That should hold me over for a couple of years. Seriously. Who came up with this idea?!”

So you won’t catch me posting something daily or even weekly about my word for 2016. It’s more for me than anyone else. It gives me a single theme to focus on in everything I set out to accomplish this year. I have some big endeavors on my agenda and more than anything, I don’t want the important stuff to fall by the wayside. That is why my word for this year is…. drum roll please….. Intentionality.

Here’s what that looks like to me: Doing everything with intention. If something doesn’t fit in my primary focus, I say no. No more haphazard marketing ideas for my real estate business. Family time will be scheduled and protected. Prayer, worship and Bible studying will also be scheduled and protected. The point is that everything I set my hand to this year will prosper because I choose to be intentional in finances, tithing, family, work, self-education, family, and spirituality. No more wasting time. Okay, that last part may not be executed perfectly. Progress, not perfection!

What is your word or theme for 2016?

Steady Heart

“When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here! Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” Matthew 14:26-31

I can relate to Peter in this story. He was brave and stepped out in faith, keeping his eyes on Jesus. But when he saw the storm and the wind around him, he doubted his decision. I’ve done this many times. I courageously stepped out in faith, starting my real estate business. Then, when money gets tight and closings are slim, I have a panic attack and begin to doubt. “Did I hear you right, God?” I question. “Maybe I should’ve done something more stable,” I scold myself. But Jesus lovingly takes me by the hand everytime and says, “Keep your eyes on Me. Trust Me. I’ve got this.”

He is faithful and He leads us into miraculous places if we simply trust Him. Remember Peter? He was the only one that got out of the boat to walk on water with Jesus. Where were the other 11 disciples? They were back on the boat watching this miracle from a safe distance. So even if I have moments of self-doubt and I don’t know what’s around the next corner, I’d rather be like Peter and step out into the unknown to follow The Faithful One.

Listen to this song and focus on His Faithful, Steady Heart.

Who Am I?

If someone asked you right now, “Who are you?” most of us would respond with what we do, our job, our function, our strengths or weaknesses. So often we wrap our identity up in our activities. The things and actions that fill our days. I could say, “I’m a mom, a business owner, or ministry leader.” But then when one of those titles is compromised, we lose our identity.

The Word of God tells us that our identity, our success or failure, the very core of who we are is not defined by what we do. Instead, it is defined by God’s infinite and perfect love for us.

There is so much freedom in the realization that I am a child of God and I am no longer defined by the mistakes of my past, but by His everlasting love. When I respond to that infinite love, everything else fades away. It’s just me and my Daddy as He rocks me in His loving arms.

Listen to this song and declare its chorus: “You’re a Good, Good Father. It’s Who You are… And I’m loved by You. That’s who I am…”

 

No Plan B

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

God has a plan and a purpose for your life. That may not be an earth-shattering revelation for some. We’ve all probably heard some version of this idea. But then we look at the mistakes and messes in our lives and we can’t possibly understand how this is all part of God’s divine plan.

Let’s look at King David for a moment. Have you ever heard the story of the shepherd boy that killed a giant? It’s a pretty amazing story. But it doesn’t end there. That shepherd boy grew up to be king of God’s people, Israel. Moreover, he is the only person in history that God went on record calling him a “man after His own heart.” Does that mean David was perfect? No. Far from it. He was actually really good at making mistakes. Big ones. Lots of them.

Then what made him so special? I believe it was because he was also really good at repenting. He continually recognized God for who He is and honored Him. David was also a worshipper. He wrote a majority of the Psalms which were the praises of a shepherd’s heart, recognizing God and ruler of the universe. He lived a lifestyle that magnified God. God blessed David because of his heart.

In fact, God chose to use what some of us might’ve deemed David’s biggest mistake to carry out His plan. David had a queen, but he chose to go after someone else’s wife. Not just anyone’s wife, but one of his head military captains’ wife. He committed adultery with her and then tried to cover it up when she became pregnant out of the affair. Worse, he had the husband killed and took her as his own wife. Most of us would pass harsh judgement on that. But which lineage what Jesus born through? Not the “honorable” marriage. Nope. God used the murderous, adulterous marriage to produce The Savior! He redeems that which we think is ruined!

God had a plan from the beginning to use David’s bloodline to bring forth a savior. Even though David messed up royally (pun intended), God used that mess to create a message of redemption! He still accomplished Plan A, using less than perfect people. He is a God of redemption. Whatever is stolen or broken, He redeems and uses for our good.

God has a similar plan of redemption for each of us. Did God want me to be sexually abused as a child? No. Did He desire for me to endure abusive relationships? Absolutely not. Other men with free will infringed on my rights. It breaks God’s heart when those things happen. But God is able to take what is intended for evil and use it for good.

God has a plan and purpose for your life. And He has no plan B. No matter what terrible things may have happened, whether your fault or someone elses, God will use it for your good to fulfill His plan. God redeemed my story of abuse to be used as a story of healing and grace! No matter how far we think we’ve strayed from Him, we are never out of His reach! God will use all who are willing to allow Him to lead them to accomplish His purpose. What is that purpose? That all should be saved. That all should be called children of God.

Let the pressure subside as you realize that God does not have a Plan B. He has one perfect plan. That doesn’t mean we have to be perfect, but that He isn’t afraid to get messy with you to accomplish His plan and work it out for your good.  Give Him whatever broken pieces you have and watch Him turn it into a beautiful stained glass window to shine His light through.

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens; He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17 

Many of us have heard that God is in control. Even those who don’t believe have probably heard this. But what about when something bad happens? Disaster strikes, a diagnosis is given, a loved one is lost… then what? Did God make that happen? How do we reconcile that an all powerful, loving God is allowing things like cancer, murder and rape to happen?

God IS good. So then do we blame everything bad that happens on the devil? We do have an enemy. He would love nothing more than to keep us from fulfilling the divine calling on our lives. However, I think the devil gets too much credit. Scripture says he is a liar and a tempter. His tricks have not changed over the years. I’m sure he’d love to take credit for everything we blame him for.

The fact is people have free will. God loves us so much that He gave us the freedom to choose. In the very beginning, when God created humans, He designed us with free will. He put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden so that they would have the opportunity to choose to love and be in relationship with Him. He walked and talked with them every evening. They were naked [vulnerable] before Him and each other. And THAT was perfection. But they chose to disobey the one rule God had given them. That was when sin, illness, shame, and death entered the world. That is the moment when God allowed all the bad things to happen. Now let’s get one thing straight. God never wanted evil things to happen. He is the source of every good and perfect thing! He is a Good, Good Father! Allowing and wanting are two very different things.

So why give man free will? Why put the “no-no” tree there to begin with? If He knew from the beginning that we would screw His perfect creation up, why give us a choice? Because free will is love. Control of our will is dictatorship. Have you ever been in a controling relationship? I have. And it’s definitely not love. If we were forced to love God and had no options, that would not be real love. Ever heard the saying, “If you love something, let it go?” God invented that. God’s love is perfect. Which means He loves us enough to give us the freedom to make mistakes. He sadly watches as we fumble and abuse ourselves and each other. He painfully allows us to choose to deny His very existence. Not because He is helpless or standing idly by, but because He loves us enough to allow us to make choices and mistakes. Sometimes peoples’ free will even hurts others.

But here’s the good news: God is in the business of redemption! He sent Jesus to pay the ultimate price, buying grace. He paid to redeem our stories. There is nothing so broken it is beyond God’s healing touch! His mercy and grace are everlasting. You may think you’ve messed up too much for God to fix it. Or that others have damaged you beyond repair. But that IS a lie from the devil!

God loves us enough to give us a choice. Because of that there is death, sickness and people who hurt others. Life is messy. But God is not scared of your mess. He loves you so much He sent His Son to die a cruel and painful death so He could get in the middle of our messes. God didn’t kill Jesus. Religious people did. We did. But God allowed it, not because He wanted it, but because He would then use it for our redemption.

When you read scripture through the lense of  a loving parent, you will see that the story of the humanity unfolded in the Bible, is not one of a vengeful God, just waiting to bop us on the head. Instead it is a story of a Father Who loves us enough to give us a choice. Like any good parent, He allows us to stumble (a lot) in order to learn how to take wabbly steps towards Him.

Today, run into your loving Father’s arms. He’s waiting for you to make that choice so He can finally heal and repair all your brokenness!

No Longer Slaves

Fear causes us to react poorly in every situation. Addiction, codependency, anger, control and a multitude of coping mechanisms are  a product of fear. We fear the unknown so we take control. Of everything and sometimes everyone around us. We fear people’s opinions of us, so we cope with a thing called codependency or people-pleasing. We fear pain, so we escape with unhealthy ways of coping that develop into addiction. We fear loss of control, so we exhibit anger. This is how so many of us have moved through life: responding to fear.

But God sent His Son to pay the ultimate price so we could be called sons and daughters of God. Shed the identity that fear has enslaved you with and step into your true identity: a loved child of God. That title comes with authority and God-given power to walk out deliverance! Whatever your unhealthy coping mechanism is/was, that is no longer your master once you believe that God loves you and Christ paid for you to be FREE!

As we are moving into this new year, shed the old you and begin to put on the identity of a child of God! You are LOVED!

“But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”  -John 1:12

Resolution Revolution

It’s that time of year again. You know. The time when we all come up with some resolution for the new year that we may or may not be resolved to maintain. But we do it because we feel obligated. Mostly because society says we should.

It’s a new year. A time for new beginnings and a forward-thinking attitude. Hopefully a positive one. We think of all we’d like to accomplish in the next year. Some of us may put a lot of thought and consideration into what our resolution will be. Others of us (like me) decide on a whim so we’ll have an answer when someone inevitably asks what our New Year’s Resolution is.

As I’ve been contemplating my New Year’s Resolution (a little late, I know), I’ve noticed that society would say that it should be to lose weight, fit in a smaller dress or get slim, trim and toned. Even Oprah told me last night on a commercial that we should both be working towards “our best body ever.” Yuck! My value is not based on the number on a scale. Oprah’s success has never been based on what size dress she was wearing at any given time. She’s getting paid to endorse a product. I get that. But that doesn’t mean I have to buy it!

I’ve been giving a lot of thought the last few weeks to what I’d truly like to accomplish and where I sense God is leading me in the coming year. During all this introspect, not once have I thought, “I need to be a size 2 in order to attain happiness and success this year.” I have, however, realized I need more energy to do everything I aspire to.

More importantly, my goal in 2016 is to be intentional in everything: family, career, and ministry goals. All of which require mental, emotional, spiritual and physical discipline (that scary word). Building character like integrity, perserverance, self-control and trust in God are far more valuable than losing 10 pounds!

I challenge you to not fall prey to society’s pressure for your new goals in this year. Instead, focus on God’s goals for you. Lean in to the areas He would want to develop you in. God has always been more concerned with the heart matters. Whereas society focuses on the external and visible. The grocery store magazines will tell us we need a “new year, new you in a size 2” but God says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” -Romans 12:2 [NLT]

Rather than setting a goal of enhancing your physical appearance (which is probably doomed to failure by February), set a goal to know and understand God. Choose something like memorizing one new scripture each week (that’s 52 in a year, in case you aren’t gifted at math). Or decide to pray/meditate each day. Take time to listen to God’s leading and follow that. Choose something sustainable that you can realistically stick to for the whole year, creating a new habit and deepening your relationship with our awesome Creator!

Comment below with your non-conforming resolution! I’m interested to see what you are aiming for.