I’m Desperate

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

I received a message from a friend recently.

“What do you do when the bad stuff just keeps coming? Not little things like the unexpected bill or problems at school but the big stuff. Things like death and serious illness and major loss. How do you keep going? How do you reconcile the loving God of scriptures with the God who allows loss after loss to just keep coming?”

Yes, I understand her question. I understand the pain behind her words. The confusion. The fear. The frustration. The anger.

She and I have both been hit hard over the last few years. And it seems the hits just keep coming. We both find ourselves treading water, barely able to keep our heads above water.

And the never-ending trials have driven me to my knees with one simple prayer:

God, I’m desperate for you.

I’m desperate for the God of Adam and Eve, the God who fellowshipped with them in the cool of the morning, the God who walked in the garden with them each day.

I’m desperate for the God of Abraham, the God who faithfully fulfilled His promises long after it was physically possible.

I’m desperate for the God of Hagar, the God who sees our pain and anguish, the God who comforts us in our distress.

I’m desperate for the God of Jacob, the God who reveals Himself to us, who wrestles with us until we are forever changed.

I’m desperate for the God of Joseph, the God who redeems our every pain, lifts us from the pit, and sets us in a position of power when He sees fit.

I’m desperate for the God of Moses, the God who calls us from obscurity to lead His people to the freedom He called them to.

I’m desperate for the God of the Israelites, the God who parts the Red Sea to make a way where there is no way, the God who provides for our every need at just the right time.

I’m desperate for the God of Rahab, the God who saves us from our sinful past and places us in a position of honor.

I’m desperate for the God of Joshua, the God who breaks down the walls and leads us into the Promised Land, the land filled with the good things He came to give us.

I’m desperate for the God of Naomi, the God who turns our bitterness into joy.

I’m desperate for the God of Ruth, the God who takes our grief and brings a kinsman-redeemer to restore all that has been taken from us.

I’m desperate for the God of David, the God who anoints us, positions us, and forgives us when we genuinely repent.

I’m desperate for the God of Elijah, the God who takes us to a place of total isolation so we learn complete dependence, the God who honors the fervent prayer of an ordinary man, the God who pours out His power in front of His enemies.

I’m desperate for the God of Elisha, the God who gives a double dose of His power.

I’m desperate for the God of John, the God who loves me deeply and intimately, the God who calls me His beloved.

I’m desperate for the God of Mary, the God who invites us to sit as His feet and soak in His goodness and His grace.

I’m desperate for the God of Lazarus, the God who resurrects us from the dead, gives me new life.

I’m desperate for the God of Peter, the God who sees strength and courage in spite of my failures.

I’m desperate for the God of Paul, the God who changes me in an instant, wipes out my past and gives me a beautiful new future with a purpose only He could create.

I’m desperate for the God who calls me a masterpiece, the God who promises He has a purpose for which He created me before time began.

I’m desperate for the God of Revelation, the God who is preparing an eternal future for me where I will rejoice in His presence for all of eternity, where He will wipe every tear and I will never again experience pain.

I’m desperate for my God, the God of the Bible, the God who has been forever faithful to me.

This world is a difficult place. It’s filled with hurts and pains, grief and loss. The last ten years have been filled with more pain and anguish than I ever imagined I could survive.

And yet God has proven Himself faithful. He has walked with me every step of the journey, carried me through in ways I never could have dreamed. He has taken my pain and replaced it with blessings abundant.

I don’t know what’s next in this crazy journey called life. But with every twist and turn, I find myself longing for my Father, longing to have all He has to offer.

I know my Savior. And I am desperate for everything He has for me, regardless of the trials I must walk through to get to Him.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Psalm 42:1

 

 

To Trust…or Not to Trust

2016.

It is definitely a year I won’t forget. Death. Illness. Surgery. Financial struggles. New relationship.

And kittens.

Yes, kittens.

Several months ago, I told you about our cat, Tigresse. She was one of a kind. She was our gopher hunting, mouse killing, door opening four-year-old cat.

But, I use the term “was.”

Back in March, she mysteriously vanished, and we were heart-broken. As much as she drove us crazy, she also stole our hearts. We know she will never be replaced.

But, living in a rural area, a cat is an absolute necessity. And thus began our hunt for a new cat. In May, my sister gave my daughter a new kitten, hoping it would give her some healing.

Less than two months later, Smokey disappeared. Vanished one evening while my kids were at church camp.

So I found Ace. Ace was a beautiful, sleek and shiny solid black kitten. He was a little high-strung and anxious. But, he grew on us…for the month we had him. Yes, he, too, mysteriously vanished.

By this time, we began to wonder what was happening to our kittens. Our best guess is that there may be a coyote stalking kittens in our neighborhood (I’ve seen neighbors post “Missing Kitten” posters so I know we aren’t the only ones with mysteriously vanishing kittens.)

You would think I would know when to stop. But I am determined to have a cat to kill the critters around our house.

This time, I decided to find two kittens. I was hoping they would keep each other company, keep them close to the house until they could turn into the great hunters I am hoping for.

When a friend posted on Facebook about two stray kittens, I jumped at them! Rushed right over and picked them up. I thought it would be an easy transition.

Boy, was I wrong!

These two kittens are terrified of humans! They run from us, hide from us. We are constantly searching for them, trying to make sure they haven’t crawled up into our cars before we leave in the mornings. They have been a true challenge.

A couple times each day, we open some cat food and set it out for them. We make sure they have water and cat litter (although they don’t use it). When we can catch them, we pick them up and hold them, showing them we are safe. We are doing everything we can to show these kittens we are trustworthy, that we want nothing but the best for them. But it has been a hard sell.

This weekend, one of the kittens had a breakthrough. After wandering away from the safety of our home, a kind neighbor brought him back to us. My son held him close, stroking his head gently. He began to purr loudly, to settle into the safety of Blake’s arms.

The next time we saw him, he actually walked toward us instead of running and hiding! It was a huge break-through! Maybe, just maybe, this kitten will learn to trust us, to allow us to love him.

As I was thinking about these sweet kittens, I began to think about my own life. It has taken years for me to let the walls down, to trust God with all the broken pieces of my heart. He has carefully fed me, pursued me, fought for my affections.

And yet, so often I find myself running in fear, not wanting to trust Him. I would rather cower in the corner, protecting my broken heart, allowing the walls to safely surround my heart and keep me safe—and keep others out.

But slowly over time, His tender mercies and unending faithfulness have broken the walls down. I’ve let Him in to heal my heart, to show me He is indeed completely trustworthy. And I’ve learned to run to Him, to let Him scoop me up and hold me close.

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. Psalm 28:7

Yes, I have learned that God is completely trustworthy. I trust Him with all my heart. He has helped me every step of the way, filled my heart with joy.

But now, I am trying to learn to trust a man with my heart.

Yes, I’m learning this dating stuff is not for the faint of heart, especially not after your heart has been ripped to shreds. I find myself acting just like this little kitten. Some days I run out in excitement, ready to be loved. I’m excited to move forward, to forget all of those days of wandering around like a stray kitten with no one to love me.

Other days, I find myself running and hiding. Finding any corner where I can cower in fear, uncertain of what the future holds. Can I really trust this man with my heart? Can I let my walls down? Will he protect me, protect my heart, like my Heavenly Father does? Or should I leave my walls up, stay inside the safety of the fortress I’ve built around my heart?

So far, my friend has been nothing but amazing! Roses just because. Rushing to my side in crisis. Loving my kids as his own. Fixing things around my house. Mowing my yard when the boys are gone. Being a listening ear when life is crashing around me.

He has stood by me in so many ways, honored me, treasured me. He has been my strength when I was absolutely weak, pointing me back to the Father when I felt as if my faith would crumble.

And yet, I still have my moments of fear. Moments when I feel as if I must run and hide. Moments when I am terrified to trust him with my heart. Moments when I think God must be crazy to ask me to break the walls down.

But that’s where my trust in my Savior comes into play. You see, while men have yet to prove they are trustworthy, God has proven Himself completely trustworthy. As I look back at the many ways He has cared for me, I know I can trust Him. I know He loves me completely, wants only the best for me.

This man has chosen to make God the center of his life. He is a fallible human, one who can—and will—disappoint me (as I will him). But, because he has chosen to make God the center of his life, I can trust God in him.

I may not trust him, but I do trust God in him.

That’s why I could never date anyone who hasn’t chosen to fully surrender to the Savior. I could never trust anyone who hasn’t chosen to be the one.

And I pray you also understand why it is absolutely essential that when you decide to let your walls down, you also choose to wait until you find one who has chosen to give his/her heart fully to the Savior so you can give your heart to him/her.

 

You Have Permission

Being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is extremely hard.

Single Mom or single Dad. Never married. Divorced. Widowed. One child. Two children. Eight children. No matter the reason you are a single parent, the struggles are real. The struggles are often overwhelming. The struggles are often similar.

When you are divorced and have custody of the kids, you are mom and dad. You carry the entire burden of the household, the finances, the chauffeuring. You must be the fun parent and the disciplinarian. You are responsible for every doctor and dentist and orthodontist appointment. You are the cheerleader, faithfully supporting your children in all of their activities.

And, you have the added stress of attempting to co-parent with the other parent, the one who potentially broke your heart. The one who knows exactly how to push your buttons, to get you on the defensive. The one who possibly continues the verbal and emotional abuse of you and your kids. The one who continues to try to hurt you while failing to realize it hurts the kids. You must navigate your own grief over the loss of your dreams while helping your children navigate their own messy grief.

When you are widowed, you carry the entire burden, just like a divorced parent. However, you don’t get even the occasional weekend away from the kids while they are with the other parent. You don’t get the short break can become your sanity check, the time you can use for yourself. You are the only parent on this earth, no one else to even occasionally share the burden, no one else with the same level of concern for your kids. And you must navigate your own grief as you help your children navigate their grief.

In both situations, you face your own struggles, your own loneliness, your own longing to be loved again. You miss your friend, the one who knew all of your secrets and loved you anyway. You miss the companionship and the stability, the security. You long for what you once had…or at least thought you had.

I’ve walked the single parent path because of divorce. Now I walk the single parent path through death. It’s hard. It’s lonely. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting.

There are days like today where I just want to hide, not talk to anyone at work or home. I just want to curl up in my closet and pretend the world doesn’t exist. I want to send everyone away and listen to the peace and quiet, do what I want without having to take anyone anywhere, without having to cook for anyone or answer questions or help with homework or remind anyone to clean their rooms. I just want to run away!

Days like today, I remember every difficult moment of this journey. I’m also leaning I have permission.

I have permission to fall apart. Why is it we moms (especially single moms) think we have to be strong for everyone? Why is it we don’t want anyone to see our weakness? Why is it we choose to hide our pain and our tears instead of being real and vulnerable?

I am the world’s worst. I like to be the rock, the one everyone else looks to for support when their world falls apart. It is the most uncomfortable position to be the one in need. And yet, we are all human.

Right now, I’m ready to fall apart. I can no longer hide the pain from my kids, from those closest to me. The tears have been flowing without reserve, not by choice but because I can no longer hold them inside. And, honestly, it feels good to let them out.

When this moment of fear and grief passes, we will wipe away the tears and continue pushing forward. And my kids will know that being strong does not mean we never fall apart.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You have permission to be less than perfect. I value quality. I value responsibility. I value giving your best effort. And, if I’m honest, I often value perfection.

I am learning that sometimes less than perfect is good enough. The house isn’t up to my standards? That’s ok because at least we have clean clothes. The yard isn’t mowed again? It’s not exactly at the top of my list of priorities in my life that is jam-packed with activities from morning to night. My kids’ school projects aren’t Pinterest perfect? At least they are learning and doing on their own rather than having parents who step in and do it for them.

As much as I always wanted to be the perfect mom, I have learned to let perfection go. And I think my kids think I am the perfect mom…for them.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You have permission to not have it all together. Sometimes we are an absolute mess. In less than a month, I left two phones in the bathroom at work. My work phone was stolen; my personal phone was returned. It’s amazing that’s all I’ve lost with the chaos in my life!

How many times have I forgotten an activity? A parent teacher conference? How many times have I missed a doctor’s appointment or an awards assembly? How many times have I had a rough day at work and my kids were the recipients of my bad mood?

Sometimes—many times—I simply don’t have it all together. As a matter of fact, sometimes I can’t seem to get anything right! I burn the dinner. I forget a child. My calendar is deleted. I forget to pray with my kids before school or before bed. But I am learning that we get a fresh start each and every day, a new opportunity to see His mercies fresh as the sun rises above the horizon and we start over.

God knows I don’t have it all together, and yet He still loves me. He sweetly reminds me that in my humanity, He gets to show off His power.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You have permission to be nice to yourself. How many times have you bought new shoes for your kids and neglected to replace your own shoes that are falling apart? How many times have you purchased new clothes for the kids while you continue to wear your college wardrobe?

When’s the last time you did something nice for yourself? Treated yourself to a manicure or a pedicure? Saved up money and went for a massage? Had a girls’ night out without kids? When’s the last time you asked someone for help so you could have a quiet evening alone?

Scripture teaches us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves…meaning we must learn to love ourselves before we can love others. Perhaps it’s time you learn to love yourself, to do something nice for yourself. You will find that you become a much better parent when you take care of yourself.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I don’t know where you are in this journey, but I know our Savior thrives in our weakness. When we can admit we don’t have it all together, He can and will gladly step in and show His strength in us and through us. We can boast in our weakness because we get an opportunity to see His power.

Maybe, like me, you feel as if you are about to fall apart. Maybe, like me, you are at your breaking point, overwhelmed with the exhaustion and stress of trying to juggle everything. Maybe, like me, you can’t hold back the tears any longer.

Let’s give ourselves permission. Cry if you need to cry. Scream if you need to scream. Go for a run. Eat that last piece of cheesecake. Take a hot bubble bath. Ask someone to watch your kids. Admit you can’t do it all alone.

Go ahead. It’s ok. You have permission. And tomorrow, we will wake up, reminded that His mercies are new every morning, that His grace is sufficient, that He is strong when we are weak. Great is His faithfulness!

 

 

Shhh! I Have a Secret

I have been keeping a secret from you all.

Please forgive me for not being completely open. It’s a tough secret to keep, but it’s one I needed to savor myself for a while.

It’s funny. I am a very quiet and private person. I’m not one to put my personal life on display for the world to see. I like to keep my private life my own.

It seems like a complete oxymoron for me to be writing a blog at all.

But when God calls, I must follow. Never in my wildest dreams did I know what He planned for this journey. Never did I imagine that strangers around the world would know my story, would know my name. Never did I dream that people would be waiting to know my heart, my struggles, my victories my defeats.

And yet, here I am. And you are among my greatest blessings, my closest friends.

Friends share with friends, right? So I have decided to open up my private life and tell you all one of my closest secrets.

Are you ready?

Please don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret, just between friends.

Here it goes…

I am dating someone.

Yep. You read that correctly. After seven years as a single mom, struggling to overcome adultery and divorce and financial struggles and so much more, I am dating someone.

There’s no ring on my finger. There’s no wedding date set. But, there is someone special in my life. For the first time in seven years, I have the companionship that I have longed for. And, we are slowly moving forward to see where God might take us.

It has been a very rough year as I explained recently, and he is the bright spot in 2016. A very bright spot. An answer to prayer. It has been such a blessing to have him walk beside me through some of the most painful circumstances I have ever faced, to hear his words of encouragement and hope when I feel like I won’t make it another day.

And he came as a complete surprise.

At the beginning of the year, a friend and I covenanted to pray that 2016 would be the year of complete restoration, that God would finally fulfill our greatest desire, the desire for love and companionship. And we both fully believed this was our year.

Then my kids’ dad died.

One of my first thoughts was that there was no way I could start dating. I had to put my hopes and dreams on the backburner to focus on my kids, to help them navigate their own grief.

I let my hope die.

But, within a few weeks of his death, two of my kids came to me (separately) and said, “Mom, it’s time.”

They were giving me their blessing, restoring the hope and belief that God was about to do something amazing and crazy. In their grief, they were giving me the freedom to move forward with my life.

I want to qualify all of this: I am only three months into this relationship. We definitely see God’s hand, but we also understand there’s a long, long way to go. We are determined to do this whole dating thing God’s way, to keep Him at the center of our lives and our relationship. We don’t want to jump ahead of God. I don’t want to tell you that finally God has restored my life fully and completely…because we are choosing to take it one day at a time, seeking His face, walking in obedience.

But I am letting you in on my secret now because we find ourselves in uncharted territory, tip-toeing into the waters of dating, learning day-by-day how to move forward into the future God has for us. We are striving to put aside the baggage we each carry from our pasts, from the pain and devastation we have experienced in our own lives. And I hope that as we learn, I can help you as you venture into this strange territory of dating post-divorce (or whatever trauma you have faced).

Because I have chosen not to focus on dating during the last seven years, it’s a topic I haven’t spent much time talking about in my blog. However, it is a topic I am frequently asked about. So I’ve decided that we will take this journey together, learning how to date God’s way.

Today I give you three nuggets of truth I have learned in the last three months:

God’s timing is definitely not our timing. As I said earlier, when the kids’ lost their dad, I knew the timing was wrong. But God was sitting in heaven laughing at me.

Seriously. This year has been crazy. Not only do I have three teens (or near teens) who are all going different directions at the same time. I also have a full-time job that keeps me super busy. I am trying to keep up with my blog and the various writing opportunities that are coming at me. I am in a mentoring program with Shannon Ethridge designed to help grow my ministry and my personal life. We have been overwhelmed with sickness and surgeries. My to-do list is beyond human capabilities…and growing every single day.

And now God sees fit to bring someone to me…at the busiest season of my life when I don’t even know how to get from one day to the next. His timing is definitely not what I would choose.

When God seems silent, He is working somewhere. Do you remember in the movie You’ve Got Mail when Meg Ryan suggests a meeting with her online suitor? Tom Hanks’ response is, “First, I have a project that needs some tweaking.”

That’s what God has been doing in the last few years. He’s had a project to tweak before He could bring us together, before He could reveal His will to us.

You see, two years ago I felt like God went silent in my life. I felt abandoned, as if God had simply left me and quit moving me forward. I have struggled to see the future, to see how God is going to answer my prayers and fulfill my dreams.

Now I see more clearly. Two years ago, this man made a decision to pursue the heart of God in hopes that one day God would give him permission to pursue me. He decided to go all in with God, to put aside his own worldly pursuits so that he could become the man God created him to be. And it has been so much fun to watch as he has grown spiritually and surrendered fully to his Savior.

While I thought God was silent, He was simply tweaking the project He had started years before.

Never say never. I have known this man for most of my life because we went to high school together. I have also stated unequivocally that I would never date anyone from high school. I didn’t date the guys from our school when I was in high school, and I wasn’t going to start now. I might have even specifically stated that I would never date him.

Boy, does God have a sense of humor! Exactly where I say never is where He chooses to work and move. You would think after all these years of seeking God I would learn not to limit Him, to never say never because sure enough I will eat my words.

Had I chosen not to walk in obedience, I would have missed out on this amazing man who has changed my life in great ways. I would have missed an opportunity to be treated like an absolute princess, to have someone by my side who honors me and respects me in ways I have never experienced before. I would have missed this man who puts himself aside and serves others sacrificially all the time.

So, I’ve had a pleasant surprise in 2016, one that I have to take day-by-day to see where God leads. And, I ask that you all pray for us as we attempt to walk in obedience to what He has for us in the days ahead.

In return, I will take you on this journey with us, as we stumble and pick ourselves up again to learn about dating after divorce.

Thanks for keeping my little secret!

Desires and Delight

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalm 37:4

“God,” I cried out as the tears streamed down my face and my feet pounded the pavement, “I want to desire you. I want to delight in you. But, honestly, I really just want a husband.”

I had escaped the house and my three young children to run. Something about running helped me refocus, clear my mind. It was an opportunity to be alone with God, to pour out my heart to Him.

I was in the midst of an unbelievably difficult divorce, reeling from the trauma of my husband’s affair. My heart was shattered into a million tiny pieces. My life was in shambles. I was terrified of the journey ahead, one filled with hardships of every kind.

All I wanted was to have my life back, to have the security of a husband and a normal family. All I wanted was companionship, someone to hold me close on those lonely nights. All I wanted was someone telling me I was loved.

And as I poured out my heart, expressing my pain and my desires, I heard the still small voice.

“It’s ok,” He said. “I know your heart longs for a husband, for companionship. I also know you are surrendered to me, desiring to know me more than anything else. I have it all under control.”

His sweet whisper calmed my heart, relieved my fears. In that moment, with those precious words, I knew that God knew my heart’s greatest desire. And I was completely convinced He was planning something amazing.

It’s been seven long years since that conversation with God. I’ve reminded Him over and over of His promise, of His faithfulness. I’ve reminded Him of my heart, of how I have repeatedly chosen Him over the momentary pleasures of this life. I’ve reminded Him that He has promised to give me the desires of my heart.

As I’ve walked this journey, I’ve struggled to understand God’s ways. Does He always give us what our hearts desire? What if our desires are in conflict with His will? How do we reconcile this principle from the Psalms with reality?

Yes, there was a day when my greatest desire—perhaps my only desire—was to have a husband, someone to love me and walk through this life with me. But somewhere along the way, somewhere as I sought my Savior, He changed me. He changed my desires.

I still want a husband. I still want companionship. I still want someone to hold me at night. But, instead of longing for a husband, I find myself wanting God more than I want anything else.

God changed my desires to make them His desires.

And that’s the way God works. When we submit ourselves to Him, offer ourselves as living sacrifices, He changes us from the inside out. He takes our hearts, our desires, and changes them to reflect His heart, His desires.

But how do we delight ourselves in Him? How do we allow Him to take over our lives, to change our desires to His desires? Perhaps we can find some hints in the surrounding verses.

Commit everything you do to the Lord. Psalm 37:5a

God doesn’t want part of our lives. He doesn’t want specific areas. He doesn’t want us to commit portions of our lives to Him. He wants us to commit everything we do to Him.

Every day when I wake up, I ask God to take my day, to live my life through me. Whether it’s what I say or write or my work or my play, I don’t want it to be done in my power. I want it to be God living and working through me. In every single area of life, it is Him through me.

Trust him, and he will help you. Psalm 37:5b

So often, I find myself wavering in fear. How will I pay these medical bills? How do I help my children heal from the pain they are facing? What if my daughter continues to have medical problems? The questions never end.

But there’s only one answer: God. He is my helper. He is my provider. He is my healer. He is my protector. He is my everything.

When I learn to release fear and trust Him, He is always there, always willing to help.

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Psalm 37:7a

How often I get caught up in the craziness of this life! Life tends to go non-stop, barely a chance to breathe. As I chase my kids from one activity to the next, trying to keep up with the demands on my life, I find myself run-down, exhausted, barely surviving from day to day.

I must learn to slow down, be still in His presence. I must learn to wait patiently for Him, to let things happen in His time. I must learn to cast my cares on Him, to rest in Him.

And then, as I intentionally search for calm in the midst of the chaos, I find the peace and joy of my Savior.

Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Psalm 37:8

Are you harboring anger and bitterness in your heart? Are you angry with someone, something? It’s time to let it go. Let forgiveness flow through your heart and wash over others. Rid yourself of every root of bitterness.

As you let go of any rage or bitterness keeping you stuck in this life, He will change your heart, change your mind. He will purify your desires, making them like His. He will set you free from the heavy burden of anger and rage.

And as we seek to delight in Him, we experience the goodness of the Father. We get to experience His love and grace poured out on us.

He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:6

When enemies come against us, God steps in. He makes our innocence shine. He brings truth to light. He defends us in the presence of our accusers. He makes our reputation spotless.

We can trust God to shine His light on the justice of our cause. His light shines brightly.

but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land. Psalm 37:9

As we trust in Him, we possess the Promised Land, a Land flowing with joy and peace, love and goodness. We find His perfect peace guarding our hearts and minds, even in the midst of the chaos. We enjoy the abundance of living in His presence every single day.

And you know what else?

Even as we enjoy the abundance of a life lived in His presence, even as we see our desires shifting to His desires, we also find our earthly desires becoming reality.

Do I still believe God has a special man for me? Absolutely! And now that my heart is fully His, He has free reign to do as He sees fit. And I am now in a position to accept the gift of seeing my heart’s second greatest desire fulfilled.

 

 

Be the One…

My friend told me of a conversation he had recently.

Recently, a small group from high had an impromptu gathering, men and women. It seems, however, that most of the participants had recently walked through divorces.

As they talked, the conversation came around to what men are looking for in women.

“We want Dena Johnson,” one of the men stated.

He turned to my friend seeking his approval, and my friend nodded his head in agreement.

Please understand: I am not telling this story to glorify myself in any way. In reality, hearing this conversation completely shocked me…and even embarrassed me.

There’s so much you need to know.

You see, in high school, I was friends with everyone but I was by no means the one the guys wanted. I was the smart girl, class valedictorian. I was the goody-goody who was at church every time the doors were opened.

I was the girl who sat home alone every weekend, asking God when it would be my turn to have a boyfriend.

In many ways, nothing has changed since high school. I’ve been single for nearly seven years now, and until recently hadn’t been on a real date in at least five years. I’ve watched as friends lost spouses to death and divorce and quickly remarried…all while I sat here asking God when it would be my turn, when He would fulfill the desires of my heart.

And yet, as I sat here wondering why I am so unlovable, so unwanted, I suddenly hear that I am exactly what the men want. Makes no sense to me.

As I talked with my friend, he further explained the conversation. Back in high school, the guys were looking for a good time. But, as the years have passed, many of us have walked through the pain and devastation of adultery, betrayal, and painful divorces…and none of us ever wants to face the devastation again.

After suffering through the pain, men are looking for a woman who will be faithful, loyal, kind, and loving. They are looking for a woman who will love unconditionally, who will grow old by their sides. They are looking for a woman whose priorities are in line, with God first and family second. They are looking for a woman whose heart is big enough to love them and their kids.

They are looking for a woman who looks like Christ.

As my friend related this story to me, I was humbled. What an honor that others see Christ in me! There is absolutely no greater compliment for me.

But it’s not something that happened overnight. I’ve spent many long hours seeking the face of God, bowing in prayer, pouring over scripture. I’ve begged God to open my heart and mind to healing and wholeness. I’ve asked to be molded, whatever the cost. I’ve spent my time, seeking God’s purpose for my life, asking Him to open doors so I could become all He created me to be.

And it has cost me plenty. I chose to sit home on weekends rather than going out for drinks with friends. I poured my heart and soul into words on a computer screen, opening my life to complete strangers in hopes they can find encouragement in my struggles. I face critics—painful, ugly words thrown at me by complete strangers who think they know me and have a right to judge me.

Sometimes it hurts.

Despite the pain, the joy and peace my Heavenly Father pours out over me makes every sacrifice worthwhile. And while I wait, I know God is doing a work in me.

And my prayer has been that He was doing a similar work in a man, somewhere, a man who would willingly do the hard work to become the man God created him to be.

These men say they want someone like me. But my question becomes what are they doing to become the man someone like me would want?

I’ve made my choice: I will follow my Savior all the days of my life. I will do my best to point the world back to Him, to let the world see His goodness and grace in me and through me. And I will not settle for anyone who doesn’t have the same commitment, anyone who is not willing to surrender his all to the Savior.

I’ve never been willing to date just to date, to compromise for the sake of ending the loneliness. I’ve never been willing to straddle the fence, keeping one hand on God and another on the pleasures of this world. I’ve never been willing to give my heart to anyone who doesn’t flee sexual immorality and the easily accessible compromises the world offers.

I decided to wait until God brought someone who is willing to be the one someone like me would want, someone I can give my heart and life to for a future of knowing Him and serving Him together.

So while men may sit around and talk about wanting a woman like me, I have to ask which one will be willing to do the hard work to become the man a woman like me would want?

And I ask you the same question: Will you be willing to do the hard work to become the woman or man a man or woman who truly loves God wants?

If you are wondering where to start, here’s a few thoughts on becoming the one…

Pursuing God above all else.

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 29:13-14

To become the one, we must pursue God passionately, with our whole hearts. It can’t be an after-thought, one of many priorities. We must make Him our passion, our main desire.

It’s not something that happens overnight. We must surrender our own will, asking God to take our hearts and do a mighty work in us. We must ask Him to take our desires and mold them to His desires. We must make Him, His word, the priority in our lives.

As we let go of this world, of our desire to control our lives, as we learn to trust Him with our lives, we find His perfect peace consuming our every moment…a peace that emanates from our being, drawing others to us. .

Be the one who pursues God wholeheartedly.

Trusting God’s perfect plan.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Sometimes, many times, we can’t see how things can possibly work out. Our lives spiral out of control, and it seems we will drown.

But, the one who trusts God has an inner peace, a confidence, even in the midst of the greatest storm. The waves may be churning, threatening to overturn the ship, but the one who trusts completely in God has a quiet confidence, allowing him or her to keep moving forward. It doesn’t mean there’s no fear. It doesn’t mean he/she never breaks down. But there’s something… Something others see, a strength that helps him/her remain focused.

Be the one who trusts in God’s perfect plan, his perfect time. Be the one who exudes a supernatural confidence that there’s more to the story. Be the one who is kept in perfect peace because you trust in Him.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

Eyes steadfastly focused.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Many people are caught up in the past. Maybe they struggle with their past sins, past choices. Maybe they struggle with past failures. Maybe they struggle with the baggage of failed relationships.

Be the one who allows the past to help mold you into a better person without allowing it to weigh you down.

Our past should never define who we are today. We should allow our past to help us transform our future by learning from our mistakes, but we must also learn to let go. If we keep our eyes focused on the past, we will miss the future God has for us.

As Christians, we should have our eyes firmly planted on the One who holds the future. We should focus on the purpose for which He created us. We should constantly be striving for the rewards He has planned for us.

With our eyes focused firmly on the prize for which He has called us, we cannot lose ourselves in past regrets.

Be the one who keeps your eyes focused firmly ahead.

Committed to purity.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18

When we were younger, many were just looking for a good time. After you have endured the pain of betrayal, you find yourself wanting more. You want someone you can trust with your heart, someone who holds sex in a place of value. You want someone who is looking for life-long commitment, not just a good time.

I’ve lived through the hurt and betrayal of the deepest, most intimate kind. When I again give my heart away, I want to know that whoever I trust with my heart has a passion for purity, a desire to experience the God-given beauty of two becoming one flesh and the true intimacy that comes from the spiritual and the physical dancing together as God designed.

Purity is not just about abstaining from sex; it’s about keeping our hearts and minds pure as well. It’s about fleeing anything inappropriate for God’s people. It’s about keeping our minds on the things of God and our eyes away from images that would lead to lust. Purity is about seeking to do relationships the way God designed.

Be the one who flees sexual immorality.

Are you looking for the one, the one who will love you as God loves the church? Before you find the one, you must be the one.

 

 

I Can’t Handle It!!

Have you heard the saying, “God won’t give you more than you can handle?”

That is an outright lie!

The Sunday after I learned of my husband’s affair, we went to a new church. The pastor was preaching a series on, “You Can’t Handle It.” He spoke of the trials of this life and how we, as humans, are not designed to carry the burden, that many times the pressure is simply too much for us to bear.

And that’s the way God designed it.

Repeatedly, God tells us it’s not our responsibility to handle it, to carry the weight of the trials of this life. For example, 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us. Exodus 14:14 tells us to be still and let Him fight for us. John 16:33 says we will have trouble in this world but He has already overcome those trials. Matthew 6:25-34 tells us not to worry. Just as God cares for the lilies of the field and sparrows, He will also tend to our every need.

The struggles of this world are not ours. They belong to Him. He never intended for us to carry the burden. Instead, He always planned to carry it for us.

The trials of this life are not about how much we can carry; they are about how much He can carry.

And there is no weight capacity on God.

Some of you may be questioning right now, asking about 1 Corinthians 10:13. It is probably one of the most misquoted scriptures. Here’s what it says:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1Corinthians 10:13

There’s one key word in this passage: temptation. No temptation is so great that you cannot overcome. That is a scriptural promise. If you are faced with a temptation, God always has a way out. No temptation is more than you can handle.

But what’s the difference between trials and temptations? A temptation is the desire to eat too much, where a trial is the struggle with an eating disorder. A temptation is the desire to have sex with someone outside the bounds of marriage, but a trial is the burden of overcoming the pain created by adultery. A temptation is the desire to drown your sorrows in alcohol, but a trial is the sickness of a loved one.

A temptation is the opportunity to sin, but a trial is the painful circumstances of living in a fallen world.

There are many of us facing overwhelming trials: adultery, divorce, sickness, financial ruin, death. Our lives have been turned upside-down, often by no fault of our own. We are watching our entire lives crumble, wondering how we can ever bear up under the increasing pain and pressure. We are treading water, simply hoping we can keep our heads above water.

And we are on the verge of drowning.

We see no way out, no way of escape. The pain and pressure are pressing down on us, and we can’t carry the load any longer. We desperately want out, but life just keeps happening.

And we can’t handle it.

I’m right there with you. I’m done, crumbling under the pain and pressure of life. I can’t keep going. I am ready to throw in the towel, simply escape from life. I can’t carry the burden any longer.

It’s not the financial strain of mounting medical bills now totaling in the neighborhood of $10,000.

It’s not the stress of trying to walk my children through the pain and grief of losing their father.

It’s not the exhaustion of working full-time, ministering part-time, and being a full-time mom to three active teenagers.

It’s not the pressure of lies being told about me in an attempt to destroy me and my reputation.

All of these things together are bad…possibly as bad and as stressful as the pain and devastation I suffered years ago during the early days of adultery and divorce.

But when you throw in health problems for one of your very own children, your heart and soul? As you stand by helplessly, wondering what the future has for your daughter? When you stand over an unresponsive child, watching her body convulse and wonder if she will pull out of it?

That is more than I can handle.

Yes, my baby had her second seizure this weekend and is now on anti-seizure medication…and I am about to lose it. Crumbling in a heap. Tears staining my cheeks. No longer able to handle the pressure.

And I’m reminded that God does give us more than we can handle.

But He doesn’t give us more than He can handle.

What now? How do I let it go and trust Him with my burdens? How do I throw my cares on Him and let Him take them?

Surrender. I’m at the end of my rope, unable to handle the pressure. I’m tired of carrying the burdens, of straining under the weight of this life.

I hear God whisper, “Surrender. Trust me with your cares and your burdens. I’ve entrusted you with these trials because I know the outcome. I know your faith will be strengthened and these trials will help conform you more to my image.”

So today, I pause before my Savior, throw my arms in the air, and say, “I can’t handle it. I’m finished. All of these trials are yours. You take them, because I don’t want them anymore.”

I am choosing to intentionally release my grip on this life and trust Him to handle it.

Seek His purpose. Somehow, some way, God is using this pain to conform me to His image, to prepare me for whatever He has planned for my future. I don’t know what it looks like. I don’t know what these trials are working into my life…nor what they are working out of my life.

But I know my Savior. I know all things work together for my good (Romans 8:28). I know He has a purpose in my pain, one that will eventually enrich my life in ways I never dreamed.

God is going to use this season. One day I will look back in amazement at what God did, and I will be able to use this time to point the world back to Him.

I must simply trust His omniscience and sovereignty.

Yoke with Him. You’ve probably heard Matthew 11:28-30.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

But what does it mean to yoke with Jesus? It’s a picture of two oxen, one considerably larger than the other. A heavy beam has been placed across their backs so they can pull their load, possibly a plow or a wagon. But the larger ox is carrying the weight while the smaller ox is simply learning.

And that’s how it is with Jesus. He carries the heavy yoke, the burden, while we simply walk beside Him, learning from Him. We don’t have to exert the energy because He is doing all of the work. And, when we take His yoke, it is light, easy, filled with love and kindness…and rest.

Here’s where I am today: I am looking back on my relationship with my Father, remembering His great faithfulness over the years. I know He has never failed me before, and He won’t fail me now. I have to trust that He has my best interest in mind, even when it seems there’s no way this mess can work for my good. But I must move forward, acting in obedience even when it makes no sense, even when it seems life is crumbling before me. And, when I find myself trusting even in the midst of chaos, I can know that I will find rest for my weary soul.

Can’t handle the pressures of this life? It’s ok. God never expected you to handle it.

 

Wrestling With the Tough Issues

Our country is in tumultuous times. Everywhere we turn, we are faced with division and strife. Racism. Same sex marriage. Refugee crises. Transgender issues. Targeting of law enforcement officers. Terrorism. Religious freedoms. Gun control.

Everywhere we turn, violence erupts. With each hot-button issue, emotions run deep. We have become a deeply divided nation, one spewing hatred and bitterness.

A friend recently posted to his Facebook, “What’s up with all the angry white Christians?”

My heart sank as I read those words. We Christians are frequently portrayed as intolerant, as dogmatically rejecting anyone and anything that does not match our theology. We are seen by those outside the Christian community as the most hateful people, ready to judge others for their lives while failing to recognize our own short-comings.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid it’s a pretty accurate description…at least to a certain extent.

I was raised in a conservative Christian home by wonderful, loving parents. I was taught the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, fully trustworthy in every situation. God’s Word always has been—and always will be—the final authority in my life.

Yet, in 2016, I wonder if we are truly clinging to the inerrant Word of God or if we are more often clinging to fallible, man-made interpretations of scripture. Perhaps we are much more like the Pharisees than we care to admit.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly pointed to the importance of loving others. In Acts 2, we read about the early church. We see that they selflessly gave of themselves and their possessions to help others, to meet each other’s needs. And God added to their fellowship.

It was the selfless acts, the extravagant love and grace of the early Christians, that drew others into their fellowship. It wasn’t their adherence to a set of rules and regulations. It wasn’t their calls for holiness and separation from the world. It wasn’t their political stand. It was their love that drew others into the Way.

You might be thinking, “But the early Christians didn’t have the same pressures, the same struggles we have. They weren’t facing a world where all of their beliefs were systematically rejected.”

Don’t fool yourself. The early Christians had to wrestle with their own hot button topics. Romans 14 talks about food choices, a hot topic in its time. Do we adhere to the Old Testament laws or are we under grace? Acts 15 addresses the issue of circumcision, a legal requirement for the Jews but an issue completely foreign to the Gentiles.

These topics may seem ridiculous to us, but to the early believers they were just as important as the issues we face today. They were issues that caused dissension among believers and made them look foolish to the outside world.

And do you know the final answer?

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong….Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. Romans 14:1, 12-13

I want you to understand that I stand firmly on the side of the inerrancy of scripture, but I am afraid that we have twisted and contorted the Word to say what we want it to say and not what God intended. The theology to which we cling often alienates and suppresses rather than embracing and freeing.

I am beginning to wonder if, in our pride, we have decided that we know all the answers when perhaps God intended a certain amount of mystery.

Let me give an example from my own life: I am divorced.

Growing up, I held to the belief that divorce was wrong. The only exception was for adultery, and adultery only happened to those who were not fulfilling their role as a spouse.

Until it happened to me.

Suddenly, I was face to face with reality. Was I at fault in my marriage? Did I do something to drive my spouse into the arms of another? Or was it a result of his own free will?

As I walked through the pain and devastation that overtook my life, my theology changed. Yes, I still believe God’s ideal is one man, one woman for life. But I have learned to accept that we live in a fallen world where the ideal sometimes doesn’t happen, where one (or both) spouses may allow their hearts to become hardened and walk away from the covenant made with their spouse and God.

I have come to question my interpretation of scripture as I dig deeper into the realities of marriage and divorce. Is adultery the only acceptable reason for divorce? What about abuse? Should a spouse stay in a marriage where he/she and/or her children are at risk? What about emotional abuse? Is a spouse required to stay in an environment where his/her humanity is slowly and methodically stripped away? What about addiction? Are we required to stay in a situation marred by the dangers of drugs and alcohol? Or pornography? Does a porn addiction count as adultery?

Life is not black and white. We can interpret scripture by the letter of the law or the spirit of the law. We can base our interpretations on the traditions of man or the character of God. We can err on the side of judgment or grace.

And it doesn’t matter what the hot button issue.

Here’s the conclusions I have reached:

We are all created in the image of God. Regardless of race or sexual orientation or religious preference or career choice, God created us all.

We are all loved deeply and intimately by the Father. He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).

God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). We will never fully grasp His ways, His thoughts this side of heaven.

Our job as Christians is to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-38). Just as God showed His extravagant, radical love by sending His son to die for us, so also should we love those around us.

Non-Christians are not expected to understand our convictions (1 Corinthians 1:18). We cannot expect the world to conform to our Biblical standards because our ways are foolish to those who do not believe.

As I’ve wrestled with some of the hot-button issues of our day, I’ve come to understand that I don’t fully understand God or His ways. There are mysteries, some of which I may never understand this side of heaven.

However, wrestling with the tough issues has also changed me. It’s made me a much more loving and gracious person. I hope that as I wrestle, I become more of a shining light of His love to the world around me. I pray that as I struggle with my theology, others are drawn to the Savior because of His love oozing from me.

Perhaps it’s time that we as Christians throw aside some of our preconceived notions, our Pharisaical traditions. Perhaps it’s time we search scriptures with an open heart, asking God to reveal His heart to us. Perhaps it’s time we do everything we can to show the radical love Christ showed so others will know we are Christians by our love.

Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see this world through your eyes, with eyes of love and grace and not condemnation and judgment. Open my ears to hear the hurt and pain and devastation of the poor and marginalized, of those who don’t know you. Open my mind to understand your ways, your heart of compassion for those who are desperately in need of your love. Use me up and pour me out as a drink offering for others so they might know I am yours by my love.

Stop! Thief!

Years ago as a newlywed couple, we lived in a large apartment complex in San Antonio, Texas.

One night, in the early morning hours, we were awakened by a loud banging on our door. The repeated thuds reverberated through our small apartment, jolting us awake. It sounded as if someone was trying to break the door down.

I grabbed the phone and dialed 911. The voice on the other end of the line calmly asked what kind of emergency we were experiencing.

“There’s someone beating on our door!” I exclaimed.

My heart was pounding, and fear was oozing from every inch of my body.

“Ma’am,” the voice calmly replied, “please go answer the door. It’s the police. Your truck has been stolen.”

As we stumbled out of bed and into the other room, a San Antonio police officer greeted us at the door. He explained that a lady in another apartment heard a commotion outside her window. She looked out to see a man breaking into our Chevrolet S-10. She called the police, and watched for thirty minutes as the man cut through the anti-theft device we had on our steering wheel and hot-wired our truck. She even took pictures of the suspect!

But the police arrived at the scene too late. The truck was gone.

It was such a strange feeling to know someone had violated us. Our sense of security was gone, and we wondered how to move forward. It was the only time I have ever had anything stolen.

But as I look at my life now, I realize I am robbed regularly.

My joy is stolen. My peace ripped away. My sense of security shattered.

You see, I find myself allowing others to step in and steal from me. I allow their words, their actions, to destroy my attitude. I spiral into depression, bitterness, anger at the mere mention of certain names or situations.

And I am robbed of the abundant life Christ promised me.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10

I don’t know what is stealing your joy and peace, but I know what it is for me. For years, I battled my ex-husband. Every negative, critical email ripped at my soul and sent me spiraling downward for days. It wasn’t until I consciously and consistently prayed for forgiveness, prayed for freedom, that I was able to overcome the attacks without being dragged down. It was truly God who set me free, restored His perfect peace and joy.

But today, I battle a new enemy. New people coming against me, spreading lies. I beg God night and day to be my defender, to bring truth to light. I cry out for my righteousness to shine like the dawn and the justice of my cause like the noonday sun (Psalm 37:6).

I slip into a downward spiral, only to catch myself and begin to claw my way back up. Some days I am able to regain what the enemy steals; other days, I’m not as successful, allowing myself to be violated over and over.

But God…

God is faithful. I know as long as He is the anchor of my soul, I will return to the abundant life, the place I want to camp and live. I don’t want anyone, any circumstance, to rob me of the gifts God has planned for me in this life. I want to fight for the abundant life!

But how do we fight the enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy?

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Ephesians 6:13

We must be prepared for the battle. We must determine in our hearts to stand firm, to never be shaken. We must be ready and willing to resist the enemy at all costs.

Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. Ephesians 6:14

The belt of truth is essential. John 8:31-32 reminds us that true disciples cling to Christ’s teachings and walk in complete obedience. These disciples will know the truth and live in complete freedom.

But what is truth? Jesus said He is the way, the Truth, and the life. Truth is knowing our Savior, personally and intimately. It’s watching to see where He is working and joining Him in His work. It’s learning to walk with Him, every moment of every day. And then, we know Truth and we walk in freedom.

For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. Ephesians 6:15

Peace. We all seek it. We know it when we experience it. But how do we live in it? Isaiah 26:3 reassures us of His perfect peace when our minds are steadfast and focused on Him and His word. And Philippians 4 reminds us that His peace which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds when we stop worrying and instead pray, when we think on the good things of Christ.

Putting it all together, we find peace when our minds are focused on the things of God, when we have a constant diet of God’s word, when we stop worrying and start praying. And this is the good news!

In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Ephesians 6:16

Faith grows when it is put through the fiery test of trials and tribulations. As we walk through the troubles of this life, we see God’s faithfulness, we see Him carry us through. Our faith grows as we experience His tender loving care in the difficult times of our lives.

And then. When the enemy throws the fiery darts of doubt and fear, we are able to reflect on the many ways God has been faithful in the past. We see His goodness and His grace, the ways He turns our brokenness into beauty. And it gives us confidence to know He has fought these battles for us in the past, and He won’t fail us now.

Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17

The helmet of salvation is essential to protecting our mind. Scripture speaks repeatedly about being transformed by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2), about focusing our thoughts on things that bring glory to God (Philippians 4:8). We are told to forget those things that are behind and focus on the prize for which Christ called us (Philippians 3:13-14).

We protect our minds by taking up the sword of the Spirit, by constantly bathing our minds with the Word of God. We read it. We think about it. We memorize it. We meditate on it. Our minds must be saturated with the word to adequately protect it.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:18

There is no substitute for prayer. Our minds cannot conceive what God brings about in response to the prayers of His people. When you find yourself worrying, turn it into a prayer. Pray for God’s peace. Pray His word. Pray for our enemies. Pray for those who persecute us. Pray for those we love. Pray for God to do an amazing work in us so He can do an amazing work through us.

Lord Jesus, I don’t want to let the enemy steal the abundance you have promised me. Help me use the tools you have given me to fight off the attacks. Build my faith so I might be able to trust and believe that you are in control, that you will fight this battle for me. Help me to walk so closely with you that I know you, the Truth, and you set me free from the battles this life throws at me. Teach me to walk your way, knowing your way protects me from the enemy.

 

Uncle!!!!

I’m crying UNCLE on 2016!

Can I just say I’m over it? It seems I enter every year with great expectations, waiting for God to totally blow my mind with good things.

So far, I’m still waiting…

Let’s review the last six months. My oldest had surgery in December. A very painful surgery. My kids lost their dad unexpectedly in April. I was sick the entire month of May.

Last week, my kids watched as they rolled me away into surgery. I can’t imagine the fear they faced knowing they had just lost their dad. Yes, it was a routine surgery, but I am certain there was a huge amount of anxiety rushing through their minds.

(On the bright side, my surgery was just three days before Blake’s birthday. The first thing I said post-op was, “I need someone to get Blake a birthday cake Friday.” The boy had FOUR birthday cakes: ice cream cake, white cake, cookie cake, and cheesecake! He hit the jackpot!)

Friday morning, as I was still moving very slowly from surgery, Blake calls me to his sister’s room. I was in no hurry…wouldn’t really matter if I was since I can barely walk.

“Mom,” he said, “you need to hurry. I think she’s having a seizure or something.”

I got to my daughter’s room to find Cassie lying in bed, grunting and drooling everywhere. She was unresponsive to my voice and to my attempts to awaken her. She just kept grunting. Drooling. Rolling around in bed. Pupils fully dilated.

I sent my son after my parents. My phone was somewhere in the house, but not where I needed it. My mom and I knelt by her bed, praying and attempting to calm her while my dad called 911.

My background is that of neuro nurse. I’ve taken care of seizing patients before, but nothing compares to watching your own child in a full blown tonic-clonic seizure. Can I just say there is no fear like that of seeing your child ill, helpless? Wondering what is going to happen. Wondering if she will pull out of it. Wondering how your other children are going to handle yet another loss, another traumatic event. Wondering how you will pay yet ANOTHER $5000 deductible.

So many fears. So many worries. And yet the only thing that matters in the moment is that precious life in the bed before you, that precious life you brought into the world.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Cassie began to come around. With slurred speech, she began to ask about my sister-in-law. She asked why she was making that noise. With everyone gathered around her, she asked who was hurt, what was going on.

By the time the paramedics arrived, she was responding. She knew the date, where she was, everyone gathered around her. She was still struggling with her speech, but she was improving every moment.

We loaded her on the ambulance, and I rode beside her. Holding her hand. Comforting her. Explaining all the monitors. Helping her understand exactly what was happening. I sent out text messages to those I could think of, begging for prayers. Neighbors saw the ambulance and stopped to check on us.

After several hours in the emergency room, blood and urine tests, CT scan of the head, we found…nothing. She was back to normal.

But I’m not sure I will ever be back to normal.

It’s possible it could be a once in a lifetime seizure. Perhaps brought on by stress (we’ve had our share this year). Perhaps brought on by lack of sleep (she’s been playing hard this summer).

But how do you go to sleep at night after an event such as this one? What if it happens again? What if she’s in her room on one end of the house and I don’t hear her? What if she goes unresponsive again and can’t call for help? What if?

The questions and fears are unending. The visions, forever imprinted on our minds, haunt us. We struggle—once again—to return to a sense of normalcy, whatever that may look like.

 

You will keep in perfect peace
    all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Isaiah 26:3

 

It seems every event in my life brings me right back to this truth: Keep my thoughts focused on Him.

The waves crash around me. The storm rages. The winds howl.

“Stay focused on me,” He calls.

My eyes wander to the pain and the loss, to the hurt and rejection. I wonder how I can ever lead my kids back to a place of healing, of wholeness. I worry about them, their future.

“Stop worrying. Seek my face. Focus on all of the blessings I’ve poured out on you,” He gently reminds me.

I worry about mounting medical bills. I struggle with the reality that every time I think I might get ahead, something happens and knocks me back down. With three teenagers and college only a few years away, I’m facing the most expensive years of raising kids and I bear the entire load of providing financially.

“I am your Jehovah Jireh. Remember how I carefully provided for your every need, every step of this journey?”

The burden is heavy, the future so uncertain. I wonder how I will stand up under the weight.

“Cast your cares on me because I care for you.”

Yes, this year (and a great number of recent years) has been tough! I’m finished…ready for a break. I find myself wondering how, when I will see the blessings of the Lord poured out, the answers to my prayers.

And yet, when I change my perspective, I realize how many incredible blessings are in my life. I see the hand of my Savior, guiding and protecting. I recognize His sovereignty that protected my precious daughter in her time of need. I know He somehow arranged every detail—my daughter was home instead of at a friend’s house as planned, my son was up early and heard her, and so many other details—to keep her safe and pull her out of it.

I know He has provided for me in the past, and I know He won’t stop now. He is trustworthy. He is faithful.

And when I remember His goodness and His grace and His character, when I focus on Him instead of the storm raging around me, He keeps me in perfect peace.