Thursday, November 30, 2017


I remember a few months ago I sent a prayer request to our campus pastor. In it, I also apologized for feeling like I was asking all the time. He told me I had nothing to worry about and that I was like the persistent widow.

The weird thing about prayer is that I think we can sometimes have a really distorted picture about what it looks like on God's end. We tend to think more along the lines of a parent or a person observing a child in a store who is repeatedly asking for the toy they just saw on the shelf. But since we know that God's ways and thoughts are higher than ours, we can rightly conclude that so are His perspectives. (Read Revelation 5 and Revelation 8 and just see how our prayers rise up to God.)

Anyway, in the parable of the persistent widow starting in verse 6 it reads: "And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"

First, we see the the clear comparison of the judge who is described as unjust with the truth that we know God is just.

Second, we see that we can cry out to God both day and night.

Third, even though His timing might look incredibly different from our perspective of it, we see that He will not keep putting us off, but answer us quickly.

Fourth, we see a tough question that at first glance can almost seem unrelated......When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?

That last point always stumped me a bit until I thought about the definition of faith: confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. The question from my perspective is really like asking, will Jesus find people who are courageous enough to believe and ask despite the evidence of what is before their eyes that says otherwise.

Now, because we also know our circumstances and what we believe got us to them, we can easily put ourselves in the category of karma. We all too often condemn ourselves thinking we did it to ourselves and therefore have no reason to think God would ever answer us. The reality of this being my train of thought came to a stunning realization when I read the account of Peter trying to walk on water. I saw myself in his position for the first time except instead of crying out, "Lord, save me!" I realized I would be much more likely to try and tread water to save myself and drown in the process.

What startled me today though in light of all this was Deuteronomy Chapter 3. Moses pleaded with the Lord to let him see the good land, and the Lord's response to his plea was this: "That is enough," the Lord said. "Do not speak to me anymore about this matter."

So why is this encouraging? Because if God were done with the requests we've been lifting up for days, weeks, months, or even years, He'd tell us Enough. But until that day comes, we can have faith that He is not only listening, but is responding in His time, in His way, in accordance with His will.

I don't know what each of us is going through right now that seems like we've been praying for since we drew our first breath. And I don't know when God will answer each of those prayers. What I do know is that sometimes He's waiting for a reason, sometimes He's training us through the wait, and sometimes He's waiting for us to realize He's already answered and we just didn't recognize His response.

From the time of the fall, we knew that a Savior was coming. From the time of the Ascension, we have known that our Savior is coming back. And until we inhale for the last time, we can ask God, in the name of Jesus, for anything and everything, persistently. And as we do, our hearts can cry out.....

Come thou long expected Jesus
Born to set thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


To be completely upfront, this is going to be a different kind of post. I'm starting with Scripture, relaying my current reality, sharing a quote, and leaving this post completely open ended. The abrupt conclusion, sans a perfectly tied bow to wrap it up, is intentional. Because the truth is, I can't answer these questions for you, only for myself. And honestly, neither of us can really answer them; we'll need to seek God for the answers we want.

"The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your
journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with
you, and you have not lacked anything." Deutoronomy 2:7

There is always something we think we need that we do not have. Always. We might not have it identified because what will bring it to the surface is not yet present, but there is always something.

Recently I have had to face the reality that a part of my story that I absolutely believed was dead and buried reared its ugly head. Being forced to face painful memories head on is never a pleasant experience, especially if you thought it was all over.

As a result of this situation, every insecurity has pushed its way forward to stare at me every time I see my reflection. And true to form, I have found myself desperate for the only thing that I have ever known to squash these feelings. And it's not God.

Now, after approximately three hours of sleep, I have to accept a few things about myself that were revealed through this verse.

1. There are things I think I need that I either do not have or do not immediately get to stop the storm that is raging in my heart.

2. If God really was my everything, there wouldn't really be more for me to want.

3. The object of my desire signifies a greater lie that I am believing and a trade I am subconsciously making.

Yesterday afternoon I read what I am about to share in Unseen by Sara Hagerty. And then a few hours later I had the chance to put her words of wisdom into solid practice, hard practice, but instead I chose pride and fear believing that what I was telling myself I needed was all that was going to speak be still over the waves crashing all around and pulling me under. But the truth is, God was not about to give into my idolatry because as Moses words state, I have not lacked anything and I certainly wasn't lacking yesterday. I was just simply refusing to state my truest and deepest need.

So when you read this quote, realize that the one to whom you may actually utter these words, is nothing more than the hands and feet God has given you to comfort you in your time of need. They are never meant to replace Him and should always be spoken to God first and foremost.

Excerpts from

"Up, please" - the incessant plea of the well-tethered child........Shame and rejection can shove that vulnerable "up, please" way down, as if to say, I never again want to feel that ache of needing and not receiving, so I won't ask the question that leaves me with my arms in the air and no one on the other side to pick me up. "Up, please" is a dangerous request for any of us who question love........"Truly I tell you," Jesus said, "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3 NIV).........But if we're honest, we don't really like it......To be honest, I don't really want to need God. 

Instead, I want to crawl out of weak skin and take notes on a five-point lecture on how to grow my love for God, because wouldn't we all rather learn the hard lessons about love in a tidy sermon than in the rough-and-tumble of our lives? Yet He keeps inviting me to be bare with Him, to sit before Him and let down my heart and ask the questions and wait on His answers. Be vulnerable and stay vulnerable is quite the invitation in a world that praises and rewards the invulnerables. The dozen moments in a day that I resent because they remind me that I'm weak are the ones when God wants to hear my faltering voice: "Up, please."

...........Where are the places you're working hardest to be strong? What causes you to shut down on a given day? What is it that makes you send a panicked text to a friend or escape behind a screen or to rummage in the fridge for something to eat? Where are the places you are coaching yourself to be tough?"

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


At this time of year with Christmas fast approaching, it's so easy to get caught up in the excitement and all the things that we want to do. Christmas trees that are worthy of being immortalized on facebook, instagram, and pinterest, presents that are sought endlessly searching stores and the internet, menus that will impress our guests, and cookies ~ freshly baked ~ to say thank-you to those who have invested in us over the year. Losing ourselves and the main focus takes about 2.2 seconds flat.

While all of the things I listed above might have good intentions to make it a Christmas to remember, we need to always keep at the forefront of our minds that even the best ideas we have might not be in our best interest.

In the beginning of Deuteronomy, Moses is recapping what happened just before he was about to lead the Israelites into the promised land. In Deuteronomy 1:22 he says that the people went to him and said, "Let us send men to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to." Truthfully that seems pretty logical. I mean, how many of us don't call ahead to AAA to get that TripTik before venturing into the great unknown? And in response, Moses records that it seemed like a good idea to him. (v.23) Except it ended up being the worst idea for all involved.

The reality is, even our very best ideas, the sure fire winners we are certain will bring our family closer together and create memories to last a lifetime, really need to be brought before God. Why? He knows so much more than us. While we might fantasize about stringing popcorn, starting a fire, watching A Christmas Carol, and drinking hot cocoa, God knows if what we should do instead is color a picture of Baby Jesus and read Luke 2. And He also knows if we should do the reverse. (Seriously, how many of us have planned the perfect way to teach our kids about Jesus only to get completely frustrated when their age shows a horrible lack of interest and now we have convinced ourselves we are the worst parent ever and our kids will never be saved? Just sayin')

As Advent is about to begin in the blink of an eye, I have found a few resources that I am hoping will help us keep our eyes where they truly need to be focused.

First, has three reading plans for Christmas: The Road to Christmas, God With Us, and His Name Is. Each of these plans are Scripture references that can help us keep our eyes where they belong. Second, is offering Max Lucado's Because of Bethlehem free. (You can just watch the videos plus when you sign up, there are free downloads sent to your inbox.) Third, wrote a book called Loving My Actual Christmas. When you sign up to receive her newsletter, there is a download for the Bible Study that is broken into four weeks to focus on hope, love, joy, and peace. And finally, has their Advent study starting on the third, but has archived studies under all available plans from Christmas 2016 and 2015.

Keep in mind that these are just my suggestions. Even if they seem like a good idea, it would be best to take them to God to see what He would have you do to prepare your heart for Christmas. My only prayer is that this Christmas we'll do more to see others, love others, support others, and hear others, just as God constantly sees, loves, supports, and hears us.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Brick by Brick

Foundationally speaking, our life starts with Jesus. The ultimate goal of course is to end it that way, too. The question we have to answer is how are we working towards that end. 

When I first saw this verse in the devotional app I read, it was talking about business specifically and that when you start a business you have a lot of groundwork to do. However, Michelle Myers clearly states that the groundwork laid can never replace the foundation of Christ. So, if as Paul says immediately preceding verse 11 that we are to be careful how we build (v.10) because everything will be tested by fire (v.13), then we have to consider the materials we are using. This is where the implications get much bigger.

It's no secret that I have a struggle with weight. Why? Food. Flat out. I heard our pastor recently talk about his healthy changes and that they weren't based on restrictions or following a certain plan, but that he had to decide what was enough. I thought about that a lot yesterday while at a friend's house waiting for her to get off the phone. This is what I determined:

What is enough? Jesus
What is extra? Anything
What is overkill? Everything

Think about it. If we apply that mentality to our food selection we can clearly see our patterns. If Jesus is enough to satisfy, then a simple piece of cake or a cookie is extra and a blessing. Beyond that, it's overkill. I'm talking of course about the holiday buffet of desserts that always materializes after dinner or a party. Any normal day, one dessert option. Holidays? Bring on the bakery itself. Of course we have to exercise self discipline, but that's the point. We have to know what is enough.

Now back to the original thought. We have options as to how we can build up our arsenal on our foundation to release the chains that hold us bound so that we can run without being hindered. (Hebrews 12:1-2) Are we going to go for quick fixes and fad diets or are we going to look for the quality materials that display the power of God and the glory of Jesus?

If we start with the foundation of our faith, Jesus Himself, and then work to build up from there, then the resources we choose should always have at their core a desire to help us seek God first and foremost. Anything that promotes selfish ambition or vanity is probably not a good idea. Why? The changes are based on the temporary not the eternal.

Take for example the idea of giving up something for Lent. The idea is to show a sacrifice like Christ showed a sacrifice. But our giving up knowing we get to go back isn't really a sacrifice at all. It's a temporary restriction. Ouch. Or mabye the idea of getting ready for summer, a class reunion, or a wedding by doing some cabbage soup eating plan knowing that once we've reached our goal of being able to impress our intended audience we have no intention of continuing said plan. (I can say this because I have experience with it. Not the cabbage soup diet, the mentality that thinks this way.)

Please keep in mind that this doesn't just apply to food/physical health. This applies to the horrid articles that talk about how to spice up a marriage, the way to get our kids to do exactly what we want, and how to increase our portfolios dramatically. Quick fixes are everywhere and available for anything and everything we wish was different about our lives. But the sad truth is, unless the heart changes, all we are doing is behavior modification that only lasts until the fire comes and destroys whatever faulty materials we used to build up what we wanted. (By the way, I won't be walking much today....I'm dizzy from hitting my head so many times on the table and getting my toes stepped on.)

I will grant you that moving forward with this has to start with prayer. We have to beg God for the new hearts we so desperately need to quit buying cheap bricks and using shoddy labor. We are meant to live lives worth of the calling we have received but we can't do that if we are continually relying on cheap imitations of the real thing. Instead, let's remember that everything we need we have in Christ, and then start intentionally looking to see how He meets the needs we have. Perhaps if we can do that, we'll see everything He gives as grace to move us along the way.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

To Do List: Stop

It's a holiday weekend. And I'll be honest, I'm exhausted. My guess is I'm not the only one.

We know from Mark 2:27 that Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." And as I've said before, for the girl who never wanted to stop and just kept going, it's nothing short of a miracle that I now love Sunday's. It used to be that I'd feel guilty for continuing to keep working. Then I eventually reached a point where I'd stop working but obsess about the things I saw that needed done. Now I crave it. That's mind blowing to me. But also proof that God is the one that changes our heart, over time, when we are ready. His timing is always perfect.

All that said, since the end of October, I have been reading the Gospels. Y'all they are incredible. The plan said to read Matthew, Mark, and Luke 1 on day one, continue through until Mark dropped off on day 16 and then pick up with John 1 on day 17. On that first day I read Matthew and Mark but once I got to Luke 1, the first 4 verses had me backtrack and decide to go through them independently, 3 chapters a day. I finished today. (Some days I read 4 because I wasn't going to leave Mark 16 all by itself, just addded it to Mark 13-15. And yesterday, I got so caught up in it, I read four chapters of John by accident.)

First, what made me backtrack was what Luke says in verses 3-4.  I decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Those words screamed right at me. Like loud. Why? Because I have always looked at my Bible as my favorite acronym: Baisc Instructions Before Leaving Earth. These two verses said this......this gospel is the biography of Jesus. I'm going to tell you everything I know to be true. This is the story of the life of Jesus.

Okay, in many ways I knew that but it never clicked like it did that day. And so I went back and saw it as if it were one of my kids sitting down with their grandkids telling them all about my life. The things I did and said. Totally changed everything.

Now, to be fully honest, for as much as I've read my Bible, I had never, at any point, sat down and read the Gospels. Have I read every verse over time? Most likely at one point or another. But this was consistent, back to back, chapter after chapter, and it was amazing. I mean truly amazing.

And at the end of it, as good as it has been, I have to admit, I am exhausted. My brain, my heart, my emotions are all over the place. I have seen things from an entirely new perspective. I have taken notes, written down some questions, and been challenged in ways I didn't know I needed to be challenged. I am so thankful for what my morning quiet time has been and can not encourage you enough to do this for yourself.

The point of all this is that sometimes, we can be exhausted before the Sabbath and need to stop. For as many times as I have heard or read about the woman at the well, the focus has always been on her. Why she was there in the middle of the day, the way she deflected questions, what she really needed and what Jesus could give her. But before the exchange even happens there is something so startling and comforting.

John 4:4-6 says: Now He had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well.

Jesus was tired and He sat down by the well.

Ya know, sometimes we just need to accept that we are tired, and even if it's not the Sabbath or our rest day, we need to just sit down by the well. The exhaustion might be physical, it might be mental or emotional, or it might be all three. But if Jesus can sit down when He's tired, so can we.

And just like the woman who went to the well to get her physical water, we can choose to sit by the well and just drink spiritual water. We can let all that living water in us well up to the spring we know it is, and just let it refresh us and satisfy our thirst. We can just be still and quiet and let God remind us through His Spirit of everything He has taught us. No effort required. No energy exerted. Just let Him love us.

If like me you are feeling a bit stretched from a month of remembering to do a million little things, feeling like you were put on The Machine from The Princess Bride, and were brave enough to endure crowds, perhaps it really is okay to just stop. As much as we think the world will stop turning if we stop moving, it won't. And maybe, just maybe, if we stop long enough to let Jesus care for us, we'll come back stronger from following His example.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Twenty-One

I had originally planned to only go through Thanksgiving, but there is one more thing I have to share because it is nothing short of a miracle.

When I first started working out regularly in  my early twenties, it took about 2.2 seconds for me to become obsessive. What started out as swimming laps at the gym, turned into three hour workouts that added a stairmaster, a stationary bike, a cross-robics machine, and weight training. No lie. Every day. And heaven forbid I couldn't get it all in because I had to be at work.

After about 2 years of this, I met my husband. Suddenly spending time with him became much more important. I still worked out but not with quite so much fervor.

Then came marriage.....then kids.....then little to no activity.

Then from a conversation with a friend, I started my journey again in late 2011 with Jillian Michaels. You know, go big or go home.

Again, it took about 2.2 seconds for me to become obsessive. Except now, it was worse. Not because my workouts were longer, but because my workouts were never hard enough. I had to push farther and farther every day. I mean, if I were training for something, great, but I wasn't. I just had to be able to do more. (Clearly, you can see I have a problem with addiction type behavior.)

Anyway, aside from the mental pressure I was putting on myself, there was also quite a bit of emotional pressure. I have a food problem. A huge one. I love food. And exercise, while good for my body, has always been my ticket to food. And so the more I would eat, the more I would push. And as much as I love working out, it was also a sort of punishment for lack of control/discipline. And if I've learned anything from Jillian Michaels over the years, it's this: You can not out exercise a bad diet. And so you know, that includes healthy food. Too much food, is too much food. Period.

But recently, God started changing something in my heart. And I realized I can't do as much physically because of this stupid flare (#IHateLupus). I'm entirely too weak and tired to do what I know I've been able to in the past. And if I've been convicted of anything, it's that rest is important. I mean, I don't even blog on Sunday's now. (The 'rest' post that shows up, is scheduled on Saturday's to post automatically at midnight and it's just a picture reminding us to rest.)

So the new schedule is workout M, T, W, rest on Thurs, workout F, S, and rest on Sunday. Y'all yesterday was Thanksgiving. And I didn't workout out. And I didn't do an insane workout on Wednesday in preparation and I'm not doing an insane workout today as punishment. That is nothing, and I mean nothing, short of a miracle.

Okay, I didn't eat stuffing. I made quinoa and put in the celery, oninos, butter, and poultry seasoning and put some gravy on it. (FYI, it was fabulous.) But for the first time, there was green bean casserole that my cousins wife made. And I ate it! (Oh so good!) And I had a small slice of apple pie, pumpkin pie, and just a bite of my man child's cupcake. And I don't hate myself today. I am not beating myself up for it. And I am not regretting it. It was Thanksgiving and I gave thanks for what was in front of me because sometimes it's okay to step outside the norm.

I don't know what miracles God has in store for me in the future, but this is one I never saw coming. Like you just don't even know. And I can tell you, promise you in fact, that God has one in store for you in the area you think it's not even a remote possibility. Yes, it did take years, a lot of years to get here. And it took a lot of hard lessons. But each one was worth it. Because as much as the green beans, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, turkey, and desserts were incredible, none of them even come close to what it's like to taste and see that the Lord is good.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Twenty

Even if you don't listen to Garth Brooks, you're probably at least a little familiar with the song Unanswered Prayers. The refrain goes like this:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because He doesn't answer doesn't He don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

Now, I would contend that God does not leave any prayer unanswered. I would say that the answer to the prayer was actually no, we just can't always recognize it as a no until a different, and always better solution, is given.

I will grant you there are a ton of prayers that I have shot up to God that were seemlingly unanswered. And I can tell you that there have been prayers I prayed that I stopped praying for one reason or another that were still valid requests and were the online equivalent to a We'll let you know when your requested item is back in stock that were answered so long after the fact that I didn't even recognize them at first. My guess is that you could say the same. 

But for all the prayers God hasn't "answered" there is one in particular that I am thankful for today.

From the time I started dating in high school, I really always thought that 'this guy' (whoever I was dating at the time) was always the one for me. And not that any of them were really bad or anything, they all had some great qualities, but if you saw the differences between them, you'd be certain to think that I was clearly out of my mind. I went from super 'preppy' (yes, I know how much I just dated myself) to liking the guys that listend to heavy metal. Seriously y'all, I bought and learned all the songs on a Faith No More tape. That says something. (And by the way, the guy I liked at that time, hardly even knew I existed but I thought common interest.)

But God. He always knew. From the moment He began forming me, He knew. He knew I would need someone who could put up with  my particular brand of crazy. He knew I would need someone who would hold me close when I was freaking out about something. He knew I would need someone that would patiently wait when I insisted I didn't want a hug until I realized how desperately I wanted one. He knew I would need someone who would hold my hand at doctor's appointments, pray over me on the way to surgeries, and give me a different perspective when things weren't going quite as I had planned. He knew I needed someone that would listen to me babble even when they had no clue what I was talking about, someone that would make me laugh, and someone that would love me completely for exactly who I am.

I don't know what your unanswered prayers are that you can sit down and thank God for, but I know you have them. So maybe today as we think about all we are thankful for, we need to recognize just how many prayers really have been answered perfectly, just not as expected or anticipated.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Nineteen

Growing up, I hated to read. Like, H-A-T-E-D it. As a matter of fact, I didn't even consider the possibility that I might like to read until college when a friend gave me a Sidney Sheldon book as a gift.  (Master of the Game in case you were wondering.) That book sparked something in me I didn't know was there. After I finished it, I went on a reading rampage. Sadly it was all Danielle Steele, but I was devouring books like Cookie Monster devours cookies.

After my Danielle Steele days saw their close (I was really ticked at the ending of The Ranch), I moved on to most of the other books Sidney Sheldon wrote and then found Mary Higgins Clark. That girl can write. But then came kids and reading disappeared for a long time. Not the love of it, but the motivation (and ability to stay awake) to do it.

Then, late in 2016, I decided to embark on a journey of books. I was kind of frustrated with where I was in life and figured that there may be a book or two that might help me. Not necessarily from a 'self-help' perspective, but more like a friend writing down what they've gone through with God over various circumstances and the willingness to share their experience in case it might help someone else. Needless to say, I've read a few books this year. (The reading list is on the side.) Each of these works has imparted something that has absolutely left a mark on my heart and in my life. But the beauty doesn't end there.

Each of these books has sparked change in my life that has been on display in post after post on this blog. And these books didn't end with me because everything that has helped me I have passed on. Why? Because we all need someone who's willing to say what's really going on in their heart so that we feel less alone, can openly admit me too, and realize there is hope.

Weird as this might sound, in Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix movie, Luna Lovegood says to Harry Potter, "Well, if I were You-Know-Who, I'd want you to feel cut off from everyone else; because if it's just you alone, you're not as much of a threat." Call me crazy but He Who Must Not Be Named sounds a lot like the father of lies.

Today I'm thankful for the book that showed me I love to read and to all the people that have written books sharing their stories in hopes that God can use it to bring Himself glory and help those of us who realize we need someone who's gone before us down a hard road. Our stories matter. We may not think they do, we may be tempted to believe they can't help anyone, and we might really want to keep them hidden. But bringing them into the light not only shines the power and glory of God, but it brings us to the truth that we are never, ever alone.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Eighteen

Over a year ago now I read the words of John 5:39-40 ~ "You study the Scriptures dilgently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life."

For all the words I've read in my Bible over the years, those were perhaps the most frightening because I saw myself more clearly than I ever had before. Why? Because my idea of 'eternal life' could have been dubbed the easy life.

Don't misunderstand. I don't mean easy as in trouble free. No, much worse. I mean easy like, pat answers, perfect responses, no brainer Christianity, just doing what you know to do while leaving all emotions, thoughts, and intelligence out of it. An automatic response generated based on knowledge of the Scriptures applied to any given circumstance, situation, or problem. But I can promise you, that is not life. Not even close.

As hurtful as it was to see the reality of my heart on that day, I could not be more thankful for that Holy Spirit gut punch. While I would like to say I am fully recovered from that mentality, I can't. But I can say that I am a lot better now than I was before. Because now, even though I don't do this perfectly, I at least get that when Jesus says, "Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty," that this is a continual activity.

For all the time I have spent seeking physical fitness and healthy choices, one thing that always surfaces is meal prep: figure out what you are going to have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and your two snacks, stick to it, and believe that your preparation will pay off. But I don't think I ever paid attention to the fact that in doing so, you eat five times a day. I would do it, but it was just so automatic, I didn't really pay attention to the motions of it.

But did you notice what meal prep isn't? It isn't eat it all by 8:00 AM and move on until the next day. First, you'd get sick. Second, you'd be hangry by mid-afternoon. Ironically, that's what I've typically done with Jesus. I gorge in the morning and never think to go back for more later in the day.

But that's exactly what He offers, "Come to me." He isn't a one trip salad bar surcharge added on to the meal, He's an endless buffet of all we will ever need to satisfy both hunger and thirst.

The words of John 5 tore me to pieces during the summer of 2016. Seriously. Ripped my heart in two because I didn't know how to adjust. Thankfully, I didn't have to. Jesus has been doing the adjusting all this time and He will continue because He's not giving up on me any time soon, even when I feel like giving up on myself.

Whatever hard words we get when we read the Scriptures, we have to know that Jesus is speaking them for our good. He wants so much more for us than we want for ourselves or think we can either have or deserve. He loves us entirely too much to let us continue on the way we are when He knows we are ready for a dose of the truth. And for that, we can be truly thankful.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Seventeen

The small group I am in has some pretty mighty prayer warriors. Not that every prayer we pray gets answered exactly as we would want or in the exact timing we would prefer, but we have a pretty decent track record of seeing God do some amazing and remarkable things.

But as much as we are prayer warriors for each other, we all have a prayer warrior that surpasses any flesh we will ever know.....Jesus.

On the cross, Jesus says, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) That is a loaded request. And that prayer transcends those who put him there physcially and applies to us, every single day.

Jesus' intercession on our behalf includes the things that we don't yet understand the consequences of our actions.

It includes the things we don't know are wrong because the area is gray and the Holy Spirit hasn't fully convicted us, yet.

It includes the things that we don't even realize we are doing because they've become so habitual we don't even think about the fact that they're happening.

And it includes all the things we do to in our heart to harm ourselves like holding on to anger, resentment, and bitterness that cause us deep grief, pain, and sorrow. The things we don't even realize are still affecting us and manifesting themselves in untold ways.

This all encompassing prayer should result in our highest form of praise and thanksgiving simply because it covers us from head to toe, heart to soul, and mind to body, of everything. Why? Because our flesh simply can never fully get it and Jesus not only knows that, He has compassion on us for it. We might get better, but perfection is reserved for Him alone, and we are incapable of truly understanding everything we do from His perspective.

As we go through this week which is often marked by higher than normal stress levels that typically result in hangry-type outbursts, let's remember that we have a Savior that is interceding on our behalf constantly because we don't always realize what we're doing. And when we sit down at the table on Thursday amid perfectly browned turkeys, delicately whipped potatoes, and sweet pumpkin pie, let's give thanks for the One who saw us, loved us, and prayed for us as things burned, tempers flared, and voices bit those closest to us.  And instead of beating ourselves up, let's rest in the truth that even when we don't know what we're doing, He always knows exactly what He's doing: interceding on our behalf.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Sixteen

When we think about the miracles of the Bible, we generally think about the really big things. Noah, Moses, Jonah, Gideon, and of course all the things that Jesus did. When we think about miracles being done today, we tend to look for the really big things. Radical cures from cancer, survivors found three days after an earthquake, or people that walk away from horrific car accidents virtually unscathed. What I wonder is why we tend to discount the small miracles. The ones done in us that we truly know the difference of who we once were and who we are now.

In Matthew 11, Jesus is warning the unrepetant towns saying, "For if the miracles performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." Granted, He is talking about the things they witnessed Him doing, but I don't think there's a lot of difference.

My personal experience has taught me that if I am going to doubt Jesus' ability to do something, it really has nothing to do with His ability at all. It's all about whether or not I think He has the desire to based on the recipients (me) worthiness of said miracle. For example: Do I believe He can make my ds-DNA number return to normal? Absolutely. Do I think He will make it just happen? Not necessarily based on the fact that I take so many things regarding my health for granted and would likely need the same miracle again and again because I have resisted turning from my preferred ways. Of course this is where grace comes in because He can just do it if He wants to because truthfully, I'll never deserve anything He does on my behalf and God knows I can never earn it.

But my reality shows a different story. He has absolutely performed miracles in me. Yesterday I told the women I meet with in small group that I am now taking two rest days a week. Two, y'all. Two. For the girl who refused, lamented, and never took one, to be taking two days off from exercise is huge. That was not me. That was Jesus. Flat out, hands down, case closed. I didn't take rest days when my foot was in a boot....I worked around it. When I had surgery a few years ago, I was horrid to live with when I couldn't workout. HORRID.

Call me crazy, but I'd be willing to be that if we all sat down, we could come up with lists of miracles we have seen Jesus do in our lives and the lives of those we know. From sobriety to salvation, we have seen more than we acknowledge.

Today, I am thankful for the miracle of rest. And not just the ability to pause and take a break, but the fact that I look forward to it and even yearn for it now. And here's something really cool: my rest days are Thursday and Sunday. And I am not working out this Thursday and taking a different day just because I'm going to eat pumpkin pie. As a former compulsive, over-exerciser, to not workout on a day known for indulgence, that right there is an entirely different miracle.

How many miracles have we seen Jesus perform that we haven't given Him credit for? Instead of letting them remain unspoken, let's be like the crowd of disciples in Luke 19 and begin joyfully praising God in loud voices for all the miracles we have seen.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Fifteen

Yesterday I picked up my hair dryer and heard a buzzing noise. Not knowing where it was coming from, I ran out of my bedroom, down the hallway, knocked a picture off the wall, all th while making a rather girly squealing noise. Apparently there was a fly stuck in our bedroom ceiling light.

Later in the day I was in our bedroom and the fly buzzed again. And I ran down the hallway again. At least this time I didn't knock a picture off the wall. But I still ran. Thankfully my husband came to the rescue, took down the light, and annihilated the fly.

Now, if you look at this from different angles you see different things.

~Loud buzzing noise of unknown origin causes appropriate response from unsuspecting victim.

~Loud buzzing noise of unknown cause creates appropriate response from unsuspecting victim. (I mean how could I know it wasn't a bee? I certainly wasn't expecting a fly in November!)

~Loud buzzing noise of known cause and origin creates completely unnecessary reponse from a grown woman who is a zillion times larger than it.

I am quite certain if one of my two offspring had their iPods ready and had caught either instance of me running down the hallway from A FLY, we could undoubtedly be winners on AFV. I am also reasonably certain that I will never, ever, ever go on Ellen DeGeneres' show (not like I'd be invited but still) because I am absolutely certain my family would share this story and a human dressed as a giant fly would show up behind me to scare me on tv. Yes, they love me, but they also aren't about to miss a good laugh at my expense.

But as I sit here and think about this, I am reminded of what so many of us know to be true: the Bible tells us 365 times to fear not. Granted, I don't think there is a verse that says Thou shall fear not flys, but that's not the point. We fear things that haven't even happened and run scared, cowering in corners, and paralyzed from any action because of what might happen. Granted my greatest fear in not knowing what was creating the buzz was the possibility of me, one of my kids, my husband, or our cat getting stung. But being afraid of things that could happen but have no clear and present threat? That seems a bit unreasonable.

Now, I am not saying I don't live with a ton of fears. Heaven knows I do, most of which have materialized and been magnified since giving birth. But I have to ask myself what they are costing me. And what am I willing to give up in order to give in to my fears. Because that's what it amounts to.....a trade.

So today, I am thankful that God thought to include 365 times we are not to fear in His word. I'm supposing He did so because He knew we would need constant reminders. So instead of keeping our eyes on all that we imagine might happen, let's keep our focus on all that God has done to protect us, and realize we have nothing to fear.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Fourteen

Recently I had the opportunity to rewatch Mom's Night Out with a friend. If you have not seen this movie, find the time to watch it. Not only is it funny, it is deeply convicting.

As women we tend to believe that we should be able to do and be more than we are. We put expectations on ourselves that we assume others have that they haven't actually expressed. We berate ourselves horribly when we forget to do something or fail to execute the perfect plan to get things done so as not to inconvenience anyone else. And the worst part is that we rarely acknowledge that anything that didn't get done just wasn't part of God's plan for the day even if it was an integral part of ours.

Now, assuming that with the holiday season rapidly approaching and that this movie is going on your Bucket List of things to watch, and that with mommy/wife/overwhelmed female brain you are going to forget what I am about to write, you need to know the question the main character is asked at the end.

As she is lamenting her situation to a relative stranger and how she is not enough, he asks her, "Not enough for who? You?" and then proceeds to tell her that God placed her in her husband's life, her children's lives, her friend's lives, because she was the one He needed there.

I can hardly believe that there is a woman out there that doesn't blame herself or accept some responsibility for the less than stellar choices someone they love has made. We think if only I'd done ............ or if only I'd said ............ or if I'd just been less distracted. But the truth is we aren't responsible for someone else's decisions. And maybe, just maybe, their bad decisions are meant to be redeemed by the grace and love only we can show them in the way they will best understand because God has built a foundation over time.

Today, let's be thankful that even when we feel like we aren't enough, God says we are. And even more importantly, let's be thankful that when we feel like we dropped the ball, we weren't the one holding it in the first place.

Mom's Night Out (2014)
Offical Trailer 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Thirteen

For how many times I have read this verse, I don't know how many times I skipped over something rather important. It says that nothing can separate us from the love of God and includes a list of the things that we might think possibly could.

Life....even if we seek to gain our life and end up losing it....still can't separate us from the love of God.

Death.....even though we know sin leads to death....still can't separate us from the love of God.

Height or Depth.....can't go anywhere and find ourselves out of God's reach.

Nothing in all temptation, no circumstance, no situation can ever separate us from the love of God.

Demons.....not a chance. Despite the fact that we often forget who we are in Christ and give them more power over us than they have the authority to exercise, they still can't separate us from the love of God.

These things are all fantastic. And they are the ones that we notice the most. But the one I don't think I ever paid attention to.....angels. Even they can't separate us from the love of God.

While this is purely speculative, when I think about angels constantly praising God, I also envision them being the first ones to want to leap to His defense. Almost like we would pounce on anyone who just slammed our BFF. And for how many times in a day we fall short of God's glory, I can only imagine that being in His presence and knowing how great God truly is, it would be pretty difficult to watch us question His goodness. And while I don't imagine they would try to separate us from God's love because of our own foolishness, the fact is this verse says even they can't do it.

I don't know that we'll ever be able to wrap our feeble human minds around this concept, but today when you realize you've done something you really shouldn't have, or when you realize you missed an opportunity that you believe God wanted you to take, remember that nothing, absolutely nothing, not even angels can separate you from His love, and be thankful for that promise.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Twelve

When our kids are little, we often enjoy their questions. They are filled with innocence and curiosity about the world and all that is around them. From why is the sky blue to how do flowers grow, we are given opportunities to explain what we know to be true from time, experience, and maturity.

Now when Jesus asks a question, it's a little bit different. He asks because He has a much deeper purpose in getting to the answer. Typically our motives, but sometimes to re-direct our attention.

Over a year ago I started a list of questions Jesus asks. You know, the red letter words that end with a question mark. I didn't finish it because I got distracted and only made it through John 11, without ever having gone to Matthew, Mark, or Luke. Some of my favorites were:

Do you want to be made well? John 5:6

Does this offend you? John 6:61

Do you believe the son of God? John 9:35

Do you believe this? John 11:26

When Jesus asks a question, it's never because He doesn't know the answer, but the question still isn't rhetorical. He's trying to get us to understand something but needs us to acknowledge it first.

Today I was reading Luke 8 and the story of Jesus calming the storm. In verse 25 he asks the disciples, Where is your faith?

I hadn't thought about the list of questions I started late last summer until today. But they are important. The way we answer them reveals so much to us about what we most believe at any given moment.....especially the Who do you say I am? or What do you want me to do for you? questions.

The Where is your faith? question however, startled me into something I didn't realize before. When Jesus asks this question, it's because He knows our faith has been misplaced. Not misplaced like lost, but misplaced like put somewhere it absolutely doesn't belong. In the case of the story where Jesus calms the storm, the disciples were putting their faith in the strength of the storm, waves, and the potential to make them drown more than Jesus' ability to save them.

The problem is that when Jesus does ask us a question, we often avoid it. We don't want to face the reality of our answers or what they reveal has been hidden in our heart. But the questions are purposeful, meaningful, and meant to draw us closer into Him.

Today I'm thankful for the list of questions I started that I haven't thought about. I'm thankful that even though I've avoided most of them, He's never stopped asking them. And I'm thankful that by answering them, I can let Him address what I have accepted as truth that isn't as truthful as I have thought.

So, if Jesus were to sit across the table from each of us today over a nice hot cup of coffee and ask, Where is our faith?, let's take the time to answer. Because if He didn't want to actually hear our response, He wouldn't have bothered to ask.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Eleven

Sometimes our hearts have to heal. Sometimes the healing process is slow in coming, sometimes we make huge strides, and sometimes something happens that feels like a knife slicing through an old wound. And sometimes we need to remember that we are covered by grace. Grace that says I know you want to get this right every time, but sometimes, I need to remind you how desperately you need Me.

Luke 6:37-38 says: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

And so today, I am thankful for grace. And today, I am going to show myself an overwhelming abundance of it, because today I need to remember that I am not perfect, I will not do things perfectly, and perfection is reserved for Jesus alone. If I will pour out grace on someone else, I have to be willing to pour it on myself as well.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Ten

What I see:

1. A teacher with a K-8 degree that was used for just over a year.
2. A Mary Kay Conultant who never made it to a Red Jacket.
3. A Beachbody Coach who never made it to Emerald.
4. A girl who had a string of unhealthy relationships.
5. A mom who desperately tried to scrapbook and then gave away a lot of stuff.
6. A mom who secretly wanted to homeschool but couldn't motivate her kids to do anything.
7. A wife who has refused help on more than one occasion because 'she can do it all.'
8. A woman who has ignored God's Word and stubbornly held on to her own preferences.
9. A lupus patient that disregards the dangers of stress and improper rest.
10. An obsessive personality that looks at interruptions to stop as obstacles to be defeated. #Boot

What God sees:

1. Preparation for a future plan that hasn't been fully revealed.
2. A deep knowledge that all the promises of money will never make you happy.
3. An understanding that what once was in your twenties is not what's best for you in your forties.
4. A girl who fell in love with the one I intended for her from the beginning.
5. A mom who understands that every moment has to count more than it needs to be documented.
6. A mom who is willing to do anything to help her kids but respects their desire to be independent.
7. A wife who is learning that accepting help is not a sign of weakness.
8. A woman who understands that walking as close to the line as possible means she's trying to get closer to Satan than God and that's not a good place to be.
9. A lupus patient who is learning to listen to her body and has learned to step back even from good things because they aren't what's best.
10. An obsessive personality that is beginning to look at interruptions as invitations to see God move when it doesn't make sense.

Challenge: List what you see......List what God sees......Give thanks that He sees what He's started through to completion.

Bonus Track
Unfinished by Mandisa

Friday, November 10, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Nine

As I've been writing the things I'm thankful for in the past, it has certainly made me more aware of all I have to be thankful for in the present. Funny how that worked out.

Anyway, as I worked out this morning, I was listening to my current playlist and it made me think about all the songs that have such a special place in my heart because of the truths they remind me about God during a particular time in my life. Some of these are pretty old, so it'll date me. Here's to all who have music as their love language.

No Eye Has Seen ~ Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant (freshman year of college)

Breathe In Me ~ Michael W. Smith (junior year of college)

Grown Up Christmas List ~ Amy Grant (college)

Redeemer ~ Nicole Mullen (right before Ray was a year old)

Rescue ~ Desperation Band (late 2005 very early 2006)

Healing Is In Your Hands ~ Christy Nockels (September 2010)

Each of these songs are undeniable evidence of God's faithfulness during some of the hardest times of my life......including a time when I felt so far from God I thought I'd never go to church again. But knowing how he made me, I met a girl in college that loved Michael W. Smith and that second song filled my heart in a way I won't ever forget.

As I look at this list, I can see how I was obviously pursued through the years. Jesus is nothing if not relentless in his desire to capture our hearts. And that, more than anything else, is a reason to be thankful.

Breathe In Me ~ Michael W. Smith
undoubtedly his greatest song ever

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Eight

It's easy to for us to tell ourselves that no one wants to hear our story or will care about it. We take what we see happening in the world and consider our triumphs and tragedies as a mere drop in the bucket and keep things to ourselves. But in doing so, we rob God of the glory he so richly deserves because of the miracles he performs in us that others then get to witness.

11 years ago I became a Christian, meaning I really got it. Shortly after that I bought a book written by some obscure author that I had no idea who she was. Little did I know that this 'Beth Moore' was going to be used to change my life forever.

I'm pretty sure when God made me he put in some pretty strong obsessive tendencies. Once I bought the devotional she had written called David: 90 Days to a Heart Like His, I had to find everything she'd done. A quick google search sent me to a tv program that she was on every week, and one particular episode where she talked about how she learned to love to read God's word. She read with passion and conviction like it was a novel rather than a textbook. This blew me away. It also opened up my eyes to see all that it held.

And now, 11 years later, my desire to read my Bible is stronger than ever. Once we can see all that it holds from cover to cover, it becomes more necessary than the physical food we eat.

The chances of me meeting Beth Moore this side of heaven are probably not great. But I can tell you that her willingness to share her past and all that she's learned gave me a glimpse of what a redeemed life could potentially look like. She openly puts herself out there to show that God is capable of changing what we see as a pile of ashes into a thing of beauty. And her bravery to be honest about where she's come from and what she has gone through has given me the courage I need to tell my experiences.

We know that what we go through is not just for us. We are meant to use it to encourage others. But I don't know that I would have ever gotten that to the degree I have if it weren't for God working in her life and then using her life to work in mine.

Ya know, when Jesus performed some of the miracles and healings he did, he told the people not to tell anyone. Did they listen? No. They might as well have taken out full paged ads in the New York Times and bought commercial airtime during the Superbowl. But we, who have been commissioned to tell others, tend to live pretty tight lipped. Sad, isn't it.

So instead, let's show how thankful we are for the lives that have impacted ours, and the way they have impacted ours, by sharing our stories. Beth Moore showed me how to do that with class, elegance, and kingdom perspective. And for that I am beyond thankful.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Seven

When I read Rebekah Lyons book You Are Free earlier this year, one of the chapters was titled Free to Confess. I learned at that time that this wasn't just about admitting where I'd been coming up short, but also about stating or delcaring things I knew to be true about God and what he was showing me about myself. At that time, I started writing a 'truth bomb' in my planner every day.

This tiny little decision didn't seem like a super big deal at the time. But as I look back on all God has shown me or challenged me to know about him or myself over the past 11 months, I am completely blown away. These little snippets are such an encouragement to look back on and remind myself of on the hard days or in tough moments.

I suppose someday if a book or Bible study is in my future, they may become part of the quotable content that shows up on a meme to be shared on social media. But until then, I pray these highlights from the past year encourage your heart and walk with Jesus as much as they have mine.

(Please keep in mind I wrote them for me to see....I'm not pointing fingers like I'm writing them to 'you' who is reading them now, I'm just keeping them exactly as I wrote them.)

January 18, 2017 Seeking God first and foremost not only keeps your priorities in alignment, but will keep your heart and mind in peace. He told you to do that because he loves you and knows what's best. He will take care of the needs and you don't need to know how.

February 9, 2017 God's expectations of me are the things he actually says, not the specifications, qualification, or quantifications I put on them.

March 4, 2017 Nothing I ever face takes me out of reach of God's hand, God's heart, God's sight, God's ability to hear my cry. He may not want me to dwell on it, but he does want me to deal with it.

April 12, 2017 You can not extend God's grace to everyone but yourself. He meant it for you too!

May 3, 2017 The mouth may speak what the heart is full of but the Word of God judges what is in the heart that remains unspoken.

June 3, 2017 If you desperately need and opinion on yourself, ask God for his.

July 5, 2017 God doesn't ask you to change for him. God wants you to love him, let him in, and allow him to transform your heart and mind to what he always intended.

August 19, 2017 When you give up on yourself, you are truly giving up on the Spirit in you, Jesus' declaration to never leave you, and God's promise to complete you.

September 8, 2017 Quit trying to satisfy your thirst with what can't even water the ground.

October 4, 2017 Being a woman who fears the Lord more than most is still settling for second place to a woman who fears the Lord and is worthy of praise.

November 4, 2017 There is not a prescribed amount of time invested that precedes your worthiness to receive what you've been promised.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Six

"Ever feel beat up? But in a good way? I like to call this a Holy Spirit gut punch."
Michelle Myers

Last November, swHw (she works His way) did a one month trial membership for $1.00. I thought for $1.00 it might be worth it to find out if this page I was following on Facebook was any good. It took about 2 days to realize it wasn't as good as I thought it would be; instead, it was the divine intervention I didn't know I needed.

Over the past year, I have done the online classes, I have done the Bible reading plan, I have been challenged in areas I had become complacent. I have grown more than I thought possible and have been seeing the fruits of what happens when we seek first the kingdom of God.

If I had to sum up what the year has been like, the quote above would be Holy Spirit gut punch after another. Some of my favorite gut punches have included:

"As a woman who speaks more words, you are more likely to be wreckless with your tongue." from What Gossip Costs

"God's saying: You're lazy, you're not disciplined, you're not working consistently and I'm not sure what you're expecting." from Home Office Makeover (That one was so dead on it wasn't even funny. And it wasn't condemning, it was an accurate assessment of my life at that point. And guess what was birthed from got it, consistent blogging.)

"We need to be careful that we don't lean so far into our strengths that we fall on ourselves. We need to lean into Jesus." from Not Leaning Into Your Strengths

"If Jesus recruited a team to maximize His mission, you aren't going to do it alone." from Better Together: Maximizing Your Mission (For the Type-A control freak, that one needed to be heard.)

"The same God who doesn't need to duplicate a snowflake has the power to work in you to give you your own unique calling and assignment." from Keys to Longevity (So we need to stop comparing ourselves!)

God will always bring about exactly what we need the moment we need it and not a second sooner. I was following the facebook page for at least 7 months before I joined. But God brought it when I was ready for it and for that I am truly thankful.

To find out more about swHw, click the picture below.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Five

Several years ago I was going through a season where I honestly believed God loved me because he had to. You hear God is love enough and you start to think it's just what he is and therefore does and that there isn't a lot of choice involved in the matter.

As I look back on that time period in my life now, I smile. Not because I can't believe I actually survived it (the wind and the waves freaking out the disciples would have been more welcome than this experience), but because I understand so much more and am beyond thankful because of it.

There's a Hawk Nelson song that puts this into perspective for me any time an inkling of doubt creeps in. In the refrain he sings, "If you want to know how far my love can go, just how deep, just how wide. If you wanna see how much you mean to me, look at my hands, look at my side." You can't deny the theology behind those words.

It's pretty easy to get caught up in a performance mentality where we actually believe we earn God's love and approval. We think we have to do a, b, and c to be counted worthy but the reality is, any a, b, and c we do is a response to the love we've been shown, not a rental payment to keep it.

At the very beginning of this time period, I was certain that God did more to tolerate me than anything else. I was convinced that I'd missed so much that I would be playing catch up for the rest of my breathing days. For the girl who constantly feels behind anyway because she puts some pretty heavy expectations of perfection on herself and walks around feeling beat up most of the time, this was not exactly a promising future.

Anyway, I walked in to church, put the kids in their classrooms, and heard our pastor at the time say that the Holy Spirit had him convicted that the message he planned to preach was not what he was supposed to deliver and that if nothing else, he needed us to understand two things.

1. God loves us.
2. That love is personal, it's about us.

Although I'm thankful I didn't, I could have died at that moment a very happy woman.

I'll be honest, I have no clue what his sermon that night was about. He could have stood up there and sang Yankee Doodle and I wouldn't remember. I was entirely too in awe of what I'd just heard. What I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt was that at that moment I understood Hagar's words in Genesis 16:13, "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the one who sees me."

Please know that whatever we are going through right now, we are not alone. We have a Father in heaven that is watching over us diligently, protectively, and without hesitation. He isn't waiting for us to do something in order to keep his love and we can't do anything that will remove it. He loves us because he knows us, made us, and thinks the world of us. And as if that weren't enough, he also thinks we're worth dying for.

Bonus Track
Drops in the Ocean by Hawk Nelson

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Four

The Timeline:

May 2008 ~ January 2012 on 150mg of imuran
February 2012 ~ off imuran for surgery
Early 2016 ~ mammogram and follow up asked questions about lymph node
Late 2016 ~ questioning lymph node, additional test, determined by visual appearance to be reactive to systemic lupus
Even later 2016 ~ Call from primary doctor that he thinks I should get it checked further "just to be sure"
January 2017 ~ meet with surgeon to decide if we should follow through with biopsy
January 2017 ~ calls to rheumatologist, mom, and sister, discussions with husband and friends
February 2017 ~ biopsy performed and determined to be reactive to lupus (My lymph nodes are HUGE compared to what they should be....normal is considered 1cm in diameter, one of mine was 2.6cm)
August 2017 ~ lupus becomes active again and I am put back on 150mg of imuran

Imuran: Immunosuppresive drug given to stop the immune system from working given to stop the system from having a field day in the body; greatest risk, lymphoma

When my doctor's office called and said that he wanted me to have the lymph node that he'd already determined was probably nothing checked, I was a little irriatated. I thought it was behind me and over. I didn't want to deal with it but I also knew that if I ignored it and a year later it turned out it was a problem, I'd regret not. Of course we were all relieved when we found out it was nothing of consequence.

By the time of the surgery, I'd been off imuran for 5 years. That was a miracle in itself. Little did I know I'd be back on it at the end of the summer. But God did and he certainly prepared the way.

If I had never had the biopsy done, we wouldn't have a reference point to when my lymph nodes were 'normal' just in case. Knowing myself, I'd likely be nervous about being on imuran again if we hadn't gotten in checked. But we do know when they were just big and we do know that up until this point, they were fine. (Nothing wrong with them now either.)

As much as I've known this to be true in other circumstances, when this little hiccup in my plans showed up, there was a part of me that was pretty ticked off. If I'd been a bit more mature about it, I would have acknowledged the fact that God was clearly up to something. But all I could think about was having another surgery, more anesthesia, restrictions, and a scar. (The scar by the way is barely visible. #GreatSurgeon) But God......always but God.

We need to learn to trust that his interventions always have a purpose. Sometimes we see them quickly (like in six months) and sometimes they take years. But they are not because he's bored or because he likes to pick up the snowglobe of our lives and shake things up just for fun. They are for our good.

Whatever we have gone through, are currently dealing with, or have coming in the future, we can believe that he knows, he's prepared, and he's preparing us. Nothing catches God off guard and he's not asleep at the wheel. He's watching over everything that impacts our lives and he's going to see us through whatever it is.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Three

In the spring of 2001, I became a Mary Kay Indpendent Beauty Consultant. While I look at that title and laugh at the pictures that correlate with that particular time period, it was a pivotal experience for me. Why? Because in the late summer of 2001, 9/11 happened. And while I was 'sold' on Mary Kay because of the financial future it had the potential to provide, I realized on that day, that all the money in the world could never protect me or give me the security I so desperately wanted.

About 7 years later, I started to truly question whether or not I was supposed to continue. I'd lived in three places since the day I ordered my starter kit, and I never once found in its contents the life I thought I wanted. As I began praying about it, I remember one day walking around Target praying that God would give me a clear sign as to what I was supposed to do. At that moment, I saw the dvd case for The Devil Wears Prada and I knew. My heart would never have the proper motives for being there. 

At the same time, it seemed that God was telling me to teach. Now, I did not survive the classroom for a reason. I've said it before and I'll say it until the day I die, you can not be an effective teacher when you want to be their mother more. And I 'argued' with God about it. Listing all the reasons I couldn't, shouldn't, and wouldn't do it. The problem is that I have a teacher brain. I can not shut it off no matter how hard I try. I actually lamented this yesterday to someone because I would love to have a quiet time in my Bible without having my brain race on how to teach, write, or share it. Instead of giving me suggestions on how to slow down, she said to embrace it because it's just the way God made me. Who'd have thunk?

Slowly but surely, God kept sparking thoughts and questions in my mind that showed me that what I needed to be an effective teacher was a subject I was passionate about and a 'classroom' that wanted to be there. 

The scary part of this entire time frame was that my only reference for what God was showing me was Beth Moore. I am not Beth Moore. I can never be Beth Moore. And I freaked. Until December 18, 2008. I kept going back and forth over how "I" was supposed to accomplish anything. By that point, I had only owned a Bible for almost two years and really knew nothing. But then I went to her blog and saw Luke 1:45 staring me down. And I said okay.

And so here I am, 9 years later, writing about all the things God shows me through his word and the normal things of life on earth. And I have no clue where he's taking it. But I know it's what I'm supposed to do and I know that if I'm faithful with this I will be entrusted with more. (Don't ask me what "more" is because I couldn't answer you.)

As I look back on the time between 2008 and when I started writing in 2016, I think about all the 'attempts' made in between. None of them stuck. And by nothing but the grace of God, this has been going on for 378 posts, 379 if you count today. That is nothing short of a miracle. Believe me. I have never been consistent on anything in my life. Ever.

So today I'm thankful that God planted a seed and he caused that seed to grow. He used so much experience to get me to the place that I put out the first post. And he brings here who he wants to read it. I didn't do this. He did. I just believe him.

Whatever God has promised you or shown you, know he hasn't forgotten. He's not slow in bringing it to fruition, he's intentional about the process. And every step towards it is ordained for a reason. Believe him, trust him, and seek him. He's got something in store we can't even imagine.

 Thanksgivng gratitude challenges have always left me scrambling to write things down at the end of the day. From now until Thanksgiving, we are turning our focus to the things we are most thankful for in the past to remind us of God's ever present faithfulness.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Giving Thanks ~ Day Two

When I was a junior in college, there was a storm coming through Edinboro. I wanted to call my grandmother that night but figured I'd call her the next day. She'd recently been released from the hospital and was going to start outpatient dialysis the following day. The morning after the storm, there was a knock on our apartment door. It was my mom. My grandmother had died the night before and I didn't call.

It took four years and two months for God to redeem what I regretted. 

Shortly after I got engaged, my husband's grandmother was in the hospital with congestive heart failure. I didn't know how bad it was until I asked my mom a question about what was happening in the hospital. When the move a patient from critical care to a step-down unit, logic would tell you they are getting better or at least are holding steady. But when I told my mom what was in the IV drip she said that it meant they couldn't do anything.

And so one evening my husband (then fiance) said he was going to call her earlier but forgot and said he'd just call tomorrow. I handed him the phone and he dialed. Although weak and barely understandable, he did call and hear her voice. She died the next day.

As much as I hated what I went through all those years before, that experience prevented someone else, someone I loved dearly having the same regret. God knew that. He knew that situation would leave a mark on my heart. And for it, I am incredibly thankful.

So much of what we go through has very little to do with us. God uniquely weaves our deepest sorrows into another person's greatest triumphs simply because he can redeem what we endured and build the faith of someone we love at the same time. 

Nothing we go through is meant to end with us. And if we are ignoring or delaying dealing with it, we have to own that we are preventing the harvest that God has promised to reap through it. We can't afford to let what caused our deepest pain remain a shadow in the corner that leaves us fearful. There are too many people that need our experiences to see the hand of God at work in their lives and ours.

Challenge: What experience from your past do you see that ended with you? How can you remember to use it to help someone today or in the future? Are you willing to let God in to redeem what you think is broken beyond repair.

Thanksgiving gratitude challenges have always left me scrambling to write things down at the end of the day. From now until Thanksgiving, we're turning our focus to the things we are most thankful for in the past to remind us of God's ever present faithfulness.