A #parentingfail – Part 2

I could have sworn this post published last week…I even checked?!  I must be crazy.  Anyway, if this is a repeat, I apologize.

Author’s Note

Sharing things that I’ve failed at doesn’t exactly bring me joy.  However, when I began to realize that I was going to have to be obedient to God’s conviction and write a blog, God showed me that I would have to be honest, real, vulnerable. That I would have to be truthful and tell you things about being a wife, a mom, a believer, a woman that maybe weren’t so glamorous or flattering or honorable or joyful.  This was one reason I held off for so long. There are a lot of things I don’t want to tell you about myself. But, in the end, I realized that I am just God’s servant girl, and right now, He wants me to tell you some of the stories He’s given me so you can connect, so you can relate, so you can see God in my stories and in the stories that He’s given you.  Last week, in A #parentingfail – Part 1, I had to disclose what I see as one of my biggest failings as a mother. This week, I reveal the answer I got from God after years of pleading to Him to make me a better mom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After I scream at one of my kids or slam the door in frustration over something they’ve done, I feel the most horrid feeling.  It’s like my heart and soul are fighting to stay alive. I feel tight and hot and putrid in the center of my chest. Satan tells me I am not fit to be a mom.  He whispers that, if I continue yelling at my children, my son in particular, they will hate me when they grow up and will have nothing to do with me. Then, the tears come, hot down my cheeks, and I just want to curl into a dark corner and stay there.  It’s a disturbing feeling – the notion that your children might walk away from you one day and never look back.

I don’t want that.

Early on, I read all the articles I could find and talked to as many people as I dared to admit to that I frequently lost my temper with my children.

And, I cried.  Storehouses of tears.

And, I prayed.  Mountains of prayers.  For God to take away my temper and make me stop yelling at my children.  For them to still love me even after all my temper tantrums.

But then, I’d be right back in that place, that hot, angry place where I’d end up screaming again.  And, I’d think, “why aren’t my prayers working?! Why am I still yelling so much?”

Pray hardest.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Truthfully, the years have worn off the sharpest edges.  I’ve learned better ways to interact or deal with disagreements or how to walk away.  So, there has been some improvement, but it has been minuscule compared to what I wanted – a total transformation, a 180 degree turn…June Cleaver, maybe?  😉

I didn’t think God was answering my prayers if He didn’t make me stop yelling altogether…after all, that was what I asked for, cried for, in my prayers.

Then, a few years ago, I was in a Be Still Mama Bible study, and we read Stuck by Jennie Allen.  In the study, Allen discusses 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 where Paul discloses the thorn in his flesh and how he has pleaded with God to take it away from him.

So, to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ ESV

In essence, God told Paul no.  God would not take away the thing that was tormenting Paul.

Grace is sufficient.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Why not?  Why would God say no to a fervent prayer from one of His children?  Why wouldn’t He give relief when it was requested?

The answer was the same for Paul then as it is for me now: Without the thorn, Paul wouldn’t look to God as he should.  Without my thorn, I wouldn’t lean on God as I should.

Our weaknesses, just like our strengths, are God-given – and they are both ultimately for God’s glory.  We use our strengths to glorify Him, and we bring Him glory in our weaknesses as well.

How is that?  That doesn’t make sense!

When we are weak – when we lose our tempers and yell at our children, for example – we must acknowledge our need for God.

When we read every possible child psychology and parenting article, scouring for something that will work, and we still yell, we come face-to-face with our need for God.

And we throw ourselves down at His feet.  We beg forgiveness. We confess that we can’t do it alone.  We ask Him to help us.

In our weakness, He is strong.

I remember the moment I came to that conclusion after completing the section in the Stuck study where Allen talked about Paul.

I KNEW in that moment that God said no to me, that the temper and outbursts were a thorn in my flesh that wasn’t going anywhere.

And, you know what?  I was immediately at peace with it.  Immediately!  That was my confirmation that God was indeed saying no but that everything would be alright.  God always gives peace.

God v Satan.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Now, this isn’t to say that God will always say no to our requests. Surely He’s said yes to some of yours as He has said yes to some of mine.

And, it isn’t to say that He’ll say no to you specifically about your temper and your interactions with your children.  You may get a different answer.

What’s more, it isn’t to say that God won’t give me relief in some ways.  He has. He has let me see better ways of interacting with my children that don’t always lead to meltdowns.  There will probably be other breakthroughs and lessons to learn in the future as well.  We are called to pray no matter what.

Effective Prayer.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

What I am saying is, It’s ok to ask.  It’s ok to plead and cry. However, if you pray and the answer is no, do not be discouraged.  Accept God’s peace when He says no. Find solace in the fact that He is leaving the weakness so that you’ll lean into Him and grow closer to Him.  He will get glory in some way, and that is in fact our ultimate purpose, to glorify God with our lives, even through parts we don’t like.

When has God told you no?  What were you asking for? How did it feel when you realized that the answer to your prayer was no?  I realize that these may be painful situations, but, if you are willing, please share as your stories can help others in similar situations.

*I’ll conclude A #parentingfail next week with Part 3.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Afterword

I wanted to share some of the notes I took in the Stuck study after I realized God was telling me that He wasn’t going to take the thorn in my flesh.  It was a kind of prayer that I journaled. Maybe it will help you, too. 

It was written in response to the following instructions: Read about the apostle Paul’s stuck places.  As you read, think about these two questions – “Who are you, Lord?” and “What do you want from me?” and journal your thoughts…

My response – Who are you, Lord?  – a God full of grace – a God with enough grace for me and all the horrible things I have said, done, and thought.  A God whose power is most evident when I am weak. When I know and accept that I am weak, I cannot brag and take credit for the blessings and good things in my life.  I have to accept that these things have come from God.

What do you want from me?  God wants me to allow myself to be weak.  God wants me to lay the weaknesses on Him.  God wants me to give Him the glory when He sustains me despite my weaknesses.  The weaknesses allow me to see that I do need God. The weaknesses take the pressure off me – I don’t have to be perfect, strong…I can’t be those things.  The weaknesses allow me to make room for God – to let Him take over.

The Point of my Life.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

When Your Feelings Are Hurt

My feelings were hurt the other day.  Yes, it was a petty thing that upset me, but I was momentarily wounded none-the-less.  Right away, Satan started in with the lies he likes to use with me in similar situations.

“See.  You don’t really have any friends.”

“No one really likes you.”

“It’s because you aren’t friendly.”

“You’re forgettable.”

“Why do you even bother?”

All these thoughts flooded my mind within about 2.5 seconds of the alleged offense.

Truth be told, Satan has been pulling this particular trick with me for so long, I don’t think he actually has to do anything anymore; I do it to myself. I start listing the lies for him.  I am doing Satan’s job.

And honestly, that isn’t something I want to do.

Do not give the devil a foothold

Photo Credit: Pinterest

So this time, before I wallowed in it and let it fester and infect my entire day, I stopped myself.  First, I told myself I was likely reading into the situation things that were not true. Nothing was done purposefully.

I remind my children of this constantly when they come to me bringing the latest complaint about who broke a beloved toy or who threw away a favorite drawing or who made a mean face at whom. I typically ask them not to assume the worst in others.

“Don’t immediately think your sister did that on purpose…”

Overlook an offense

Photo Credit: Pinterest

I bet I’ve said that to my son a trillion times if I’ve said it once.

If the lesson is good enough for them, and I truly believe it has merit, then it is good enough for me, as well.  So, I told myself that this time. “Don’t automatically assume this was meant to hurt you. More than likely it has nothing to do with you at all.”

Taking into account that there were likely no cruel intentions involved did slow my racing heart, but my flesh still wanted a pity party.

I wanted to text my husband or call my mom or my sister.  I needed someone to be outraged and demand, “How dare they!”  I just wanted someone on my side. That would make me feel better.

However, I thought back to a graphic I saw on Facebook not two weeks ago.  It explained the very situation I was facing at the moment. It showed two paths I could take in response to the supposed transgression against me: God’s way or the world’s way.  I knew I had to choose God’s way.

IMG_0279

I saw this graphic in my Facebook feed a few weeks ago.  I have no idea who created it originally, but I am not the author.

I didn’t want to.  I wanted to run, headlong, down the slippery slope of the left side.  I wanted to “tell people all about it.” That would be delicious! That would satisfy my flesh and give me the pity I wanted so badly.  But I knew, looking at that right column, that this was the way to go; it was God’s way, and it was the best way.

A better perspective was needed.  Peace was what my soul desired even more than pity.  I just needed to be with God for a little while.

Be at peace with everyone

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Instead of clutching my phone and feverishly blabbing how upset I was, I clung to my Bible.

“Lord, please show me what to do.  My feelings are hurt. I feel like I don’t have any friends.  What do I do?” I asked aloud.

This was part of my answer:

Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Colossians 3:13 – Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

James 1:19 – Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

A gentle response

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Hebrews 12:15 – See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks go God the Father through him.

There were other messages that I found, too.  There were plenty of verses about how much God loves me, that He created me in His image, that He has a purpose for my life, that He will fight for me and take care of me, that He will never leave me, and on and on.

When you feel unloved

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Interestingly enough, what this became was a snippet of time alone with God.  As I was reading through the different verses I found, I began to praise Him and worship Him.

When you read about how much He loves you, you can’t help but do so!  

Before I knew it, what had hurt my feelings just a few minutes prior was the furthest thought from my mind.  I wasn’t upset at the people involved. Satan was no longer telling me I was unlikable. God and I were having a peaceful praise party with Him as the focus.

Gone was my desire to blubber to my sister and hope she would jump on the sinking ship with me.  I was just thankful. My joy was back because I had chosen to reclaim it by focusing on God and what He would want me to do in the situation rather than what I felt like doing.

I have to stop here and say that I don’t choose this path every time.  I don’t always choose joy. Sometimes, I choose to flop right on down in that slimy, sticky self-pity filth hole and throw a little tantrum for a while.  Just get covered head-to-toe in that muck. Sometimes, I choose to let whatever happened ruin my whole day. Sometimes I tell someone what upset me. I relive the circumstances over and over, becoming more insulted each time I rehash the incident.

And it feels fabulously…horrible.  It just feels horrible. It feels like my heart is all covered in yellow pus, and I am suffocating.

It truly isn’t what God wants for me or for anyone in that situation – especially when the insult probably wasn’t legitimate at the outset (Legitimate offenses warrant a totally different blog post…for another day).

When to keep your mouth shut

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The next time someone steps on my toes, I challenge myself to talk to God about it.

The next time someone steps on your toes, I challenge you to talk to God about it.

First, remind yourself not to jump to conclusions; don’t immediately assume this was meant on purpose to hurt you.  Don’t immediately assume the worst.

Then, find your Bible.  Sit down and open it on your lap (or pull up your Bible app on your phone, but no texting or calling people to talk about what happened 🙂 )  Look up some of the verses listed above or find your own verses about dealing with hurt feelings or wrongs from others.

Next, ask God what to do.  Tell Him you’re hurting – that something happened that hurt your feelings – and ask Him what to do.

Sit quietly and wait to hear what He has to say.

I’ll try to do the same.

What do you typically do in response to someone hurting your feelings?  What is the outcome of the situation? Have you learned any positive or Christ-like ways to deal with such offenses?  Please share those here.

 

Starr Says Stay in Your Lane {A Blog Recommendation}

You be you, friend.

And let them be them.”

I was reading the Thirsty Thursday installment of the blog, The Daily Starr, by Starr Haigler, and it was as if she were speaking directly to me here…

“You be you…”

In her blog, Starr has a prescribed theme for each day (#makeovermonday, #trashouttuesday, etc).  #thirstythursday posts focus on God and His Word and His promise to give us living water so we don’t have to thirst ever again.  In this particular entry, she implored readers to walk the path God had set for them.  Her point was that God has given each of us spiritual gifts (she used 1 Peter 4:10-11 to support this), and we are to use them to serve Him, to bring Him glory.

1 Peter verse.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Watch out – she reminds us – Satan will employ one of his age-old tricks to get your attention off your gifts and hinder your ability to do what God has for you to do: comparison.  Starr points out,  “My gift is not your gift. And if I focus too much on your gift, I’ll miss what God has ahead for me in this journey. If I want everything I do to bring glory to God – I need to be me and use the gifts God has blessed me with.”

Your talent is God's gift.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

This post was particularly inspiring for me because I am someone who tends to listen to that voice telling me that I’m too shy or what I have to say isn’t very interesting or my past will hinder me from helping people see God.

What Starr had to say here reminded me that God has, in fact, given me gifts.  God has given me a path to follow.  My path won’t look like anyone else’s because it’s mine.  It might be narrow.  It might be hard to see what is ahead or where exactly I’m going, but it is the one ordained for me.  I need to stay focused on my gifts and my path.

It inspired me to think about what it is God has for me to do during this time He has given me here.

{Plus, the images of the snow in the trees and on the road were beautiful as were the others she included in this post!}

Check out this post, You don’t have to be like everyone else, and note the simple yet poignant prayer at the end.

One read and I’ll bet you’ll want to subscribe to receive your daily dose of encouragement and inspiration.  I certainly have.

the-daily-starr1.jpg

Photo Credit: The Daily Starr

A Mountaintop Experience: Reflections from a Weekend at The Cove

Sit a spell in a rocking chair on the porch at the Training Center and watch the fog creep in until it completely covers all the blue-gray mountains in the distance.

DeckCloudy.jpg

The “Back Porch” at the Training Center

Amble through the halls and take in the multitude of gifts given to Billy and Ruth Graham over the years as they traveled the world: the pin from Boris Yeltsin, the Russian Nesting Dolls from the Russian Delegation, or the Wooden Pestle from Romania, to list just a few.

If nature is your pleasure, choose a sturdy walking stick and follow the trail as it climbs and twists through the woods and past the creek up to the chapel. Those who are more adventurous can climb 3 miles up to the overlook.

_DSC3664.jpg

Porter’s Creek on the hiking trail

 

This past weekend, I passed a sweet time meeting with the Lord during a women’s retreat at The Cove in Asheville. Be Still Mama Women’s Ministry from FBCIT hosted the event and put together a dynamic line-up of godly women to encourage us to “Choose Joy” based on John 15:1-11.

John15_5.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Based on my observation, I heartily recommend that you go on a retreat the next time you have the opportunity. And, if that opportunity happens to take you to The Cove, I encourage you all the more.

To begin with, the venue is absolutely breathtaking, both the surrounding, natural environment as well as the inns, Training Center, and chapel themselves. Although we were there in the middle of winter, the weather was pleasant enough to venture outdoors, walk a few trails, and take in the beautiful mountain scenery. All around you’ll see glossy, smooth magnolia and hearty cedar. It was overcast while we were there, but the heavy clouds hanging low on the mountains and even lower in the trees epitomize the mountains to me.

Cloudsintrees.jpg

Imagine what the Graham home might have looked like when Ruth often stood at the door and kissed goodbye her evangelist husband as he went off yet again to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Do you see a cozy fire, creaking rocking chairs, soft rugs covering wooden floors, and shelves and shelves of books? That’s what I see, and I imagine that was the inspiration behind the homey, mountain decor that permeates the inns, the Training Center, and the chapel at The Cove.

IMG_0159.jpg

Suite sitting room in Shepherd’s Inn

TrainingCenterFireplace.jpg

We were all crazy about this grand fireplace in the lobby of the Training Center.  There were more pictures taken of this than just about anything else!

_DSC3679.jpg

Chatlos Chapel

If the interior says, “Relax. Pull up your chair and sit by the fire,” the exterior says, “Take notice. Stand tall! You’re nestled into mountain country.” Each building was built with a mix of natural stone and dark, handsome wooden beams.

_DSC3658.jpg

Shepherd’s Inn

_DSC3684.jpg

Shepherd’s Inn

_DSC3665.jpg

Chatlos Chapel

_DSC3668.jpg

Chatlos Chapel

And, oh the windows! They were everywhere! Some rooms, such as the dining room, had floor to ceiling windows, and lobby of the Shepherd’s Inn, where we stayed, was two-story, featuring windows from the floor to ceiling! The word ‘breathtaking’ just doesn’t even seem adequate to describe what you experience with your eyes.

 

ShepherdsInnLobbyWindow.jpg

Shepherd’s Inn Lobby

You don’t just experience The Cove with your eyes though! Your nose and mouth are tantalized as well – at least 3 times a day – at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Truthfully, I hadn’t considered the food as something to look forward to on this trip. But, let me tell you, I was completely and utterly blown away by the amount and quality of food as well as the selections themselves. Breakfast was a buffet of eggs, meats, pastries, fresh fruits, yogurts…I could go on, but breakfast is my favorite meal, and now I’m hungry again. Lunch and dinner included choices such as filet Mignon, grilled shrimp, baked Parmesan chicken, salmon, pork ribs, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, salad, rolls, cornbread…you get the picture, right?! I’m not saying you should go to The Cove just for the food, but I’m saying that you won’t be disappointed by it. You’ll probably leave a few pounds heavier than when you came. (I didn’t even mentioned dessert!)

DiningRoom.jpg

Dining Room in Training Center

The staff was kind and helpful as well. Their demeanor added to the overall hospitable air of the place. Everywhere you were greeted with their smiling faces welcoming you in the door, asking if you needed assistance with anything, or reminding you to help yourself to the coffee, soft drink, or water stations located around the facilities. The folks waiting the tables in the dining room were especially jolly as they begged us over and over to go back for seconds and thirds. “If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault,” one lady kidded us as she refilled our water pitcher.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not also share with you what you are likely to experience on a spiritual level while there. I most certainly encountered the Holy Spirit’s presence; it was there nearly every moment. This was due in part to the group of women there with me, the caliber of speakers and the message they prayed over for weeks and weeks, the worship leader and the music she chose, and the overall design of the retreat itself by the leader of our women’s ministry.

Wherever two or more are gathered.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

However, added to that was the idea that this facility itself, everything at The Cove, in fact, was designed with the purpose of bringing people to a place where they can relax, refresh, and experience the Lord. You just…feel His presence. You look out over the mountains, and you encounter majesty and awe knowing that He created those mountains and those trees and those clouds, and He knew you’d be standing there in that moment, feeling so small but not alone. You look at those friendly faces assisting you, and you realize that He made those people, and He gave them attitudes of servitude so they could be His hands and feet. Even the configuration of the furnishings – a grouping of chairs here and there by a fireplace, or a couch nestled in the corner by a bookcase – invited you to breathe in fellowship and experience the Lord’s calming presence.

It’s just a majestic place. The Lord is there! I urge you to go should the opportunity arise. You will be so grateful that you did.

Have you ever been on a retreat? Was it for work, recreation, church, etc? Where did you go? What was your experience there?

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Donna’s Story Part 2

That time you thought God had left you all alone…that He wasn’t doing anything in your life anymore…that wasn’t true.  He was working.  He was orchestrating this detail to fit in with that detail so that something extraordinary would come of it.  You wanted hamburger steak that very minute, but He had filet mignon on the menu.  You just had to wait.  Sometimes you have to trust.  And wait.

WAIT.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Ask Donna.  She knows.  She’s lived it.  She’s experienced it.  And she’ll tell you.  It was God the whole time.

(If you haven’t read Part 1 of Donna’s story, please go back to read it, then join us back here).

Donna told me, “My testimony used to be about how God changed me.  Now, with Courtney, and everything He’s done in that situation, I truly believe in miracles.  I knew they happened before, but I have been part of one now, so I KNOW.  I see how God put things together, how He orchestrated everything to work together for our good.  I know this doesn’t always apply to earthly comforts,” she continued, “but I cling to God’s promise in Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

About 6 months ago, Donna was forced to come face-to-face with something that had been a stronghold in her older daughter Courtney’s life for nearly 8 years: substance abuse and addiction.

For years, there were a multitude of signs that there was a major problem.  Donna admits that either she didn’t see them or wouldn’t see them – it was probably a little of both.

“I would catch her in lies; there were several car wrecks and wellness problems; she was always sleepy – I could go on and on,” Donna explained.  “Trust me when I tell you that the hardest thing to do as a parent is to let your kids make mistakes and suffer the consequences. Sometimes you just have to step back and put TOUGH LOVE into action.”

Tough Love.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Then there was the time, about 3 ½ years ago, when Donna intended to step in and help.   “Courtney and Madison came to spend the weekend with us, supposedly because Steve (Courtney’s boyfriend, and Madison’s father, who she was living with at the time) was horrible, doing drugs, etc. and she ‘just had to get away.’  I believed those lies and really wanted to help her get out of that situation.  The only way I could think of making that happen was for her to come stay with us for a while.  So, in order to convince Kevin of my great idea, I had a Plan A and a Plan B.  I had it all figured out and was ready to present it to him,” Donna smiled, remembering that night when she was ready to tell Kevin her ideas.  They’d eaten dinner together after Courtney and Madison had gotten there.  “I asked Kevin if we could talk, and we went out into the garage.  We get out there, and before I could even say anything, Kevin says, ‘She’s not coming here, Donna.  You can’t keep doing this.  She won’t learn, and it won’t be good for our marriage’.”

Donna was quiet for a moment, letting the weight of what Kevin said sink in, for herself and for me.  She looked straight at me; I could see resolution in her eyes.  “This is when I knew for sure that God was Lord of my life, by the way.  This conversation with Kevin proved it to me.  I had my Plan A and my Plan B all ready for him, but he completely shut me down.  I didn’t even get a chance to explain my ideas!  I never even asked if the girls could come!  Kevin just told me no!  Flat out no!  I didn’t even get to tell him my plan,” she emphasized.  “But, when he told me no, I just said ‘ok’, and I was honestly ok with it.  It was like God just said, ‘Donna go ahead and submit.’  And I did.  And I was ok. I knew Kevin was right, and that I should respect him.  That is when I realized God truly had changed me and truly was in control of my life.”

You might be thinking, ‘how could anyone say that kicking out your child was still the best thing that could have happened?’

Well, there’s still more.

Over the next 3 year period, Donna dealt with theft as Courtney stole from her, even her identity! There were “lies on top of lies on top of lies,” as Donna put it.  She even had to call DSS to ensure Madison’s safety.  “Some days it seemed like they were doing good, and then other days — well, not so good,” Donna said.

In June 2016, Courtney had another baby, Mackenzie.  She seemed to be doing good for the first few months after Mackenzie was born, but again, things were up and down.

Then in 2017, Courtney totaled her car one morning after dropping Madison off at school.  Courtney told Donna (much later) that the first thing she saw when the wreck was over was Mackenzie’s car seat.  It was empty, and she couldn’t remember if Mackenzie had been with her.  She was under the influence at the time and couldn’t recall where Mackenzie was, so for a few frantic moments, some bystanders searched feverishly for the baby…until Courtney remembered she’d left Mackenzie with the baby’s father, Steve.

This crash landed Courtney in the hospital.  And drug tested.  This was a wake up call for Courtney, but it wasn’t “rock bottom” yet.

A few months later, Courtney would get high at Donna and Kevin’s house during a visit.  No one realized it until everyone was back in the car taking Courtney and the girls home.

Donna recalled the scene for me.  “We were all in the car together taking them back home when Madison asked, ‘Mommy, why are you talking funny again?  Why are you laying all over me?’  I looked back and Courtney is laughing all weird and leaning over on Madison and then over onto Mackenzie.”

Donna said, “I nudged Kevin and said, ‘Look at her!  She is high right now’!”  Donna looked straight at me and said, “Heather, if my granddaughters hadn’t been in the car, I would have put Courtney out on the side of the road right there!  But I couldn’t do that in front of them.”

Instead, they went ahead to Courtney’s uncle’s house where she was currently living.  On the way, they called Steve and Courtney’s Uncle David and Aunt Beth.  Once Steve arrived and the girls were safe, Donna left.

This was Courtney’s rock bottom.

About two weeks later, Courtney called Donna confessing her problem and her need for help.  “I need somewhere to go now, mom,” Courtney insisted.  So, Donna gave her some places to call, and Courtney was able to go to a 7-day detox facility in Monroe.  The next step would hopefully be a treatment center.

Here’s where you begin to see how God was working in the situation, and it is so awesome:

Donna was praying.  Kevin was praying.  Everyone was praying: “Lord, Courtney has to get long-term treatment immediately!  Right now!  You’ve got to open a bed somewhere. Please show us the place You want her to go.”

Prior to this, Donna had gotten involved in a prayer group with some friends, praying specifically for their wayward, adult children.  Each mom picked a day/time to pray so that these adult children were covered every day of the week. Donna’s day is Tuesday.

As it happened, on a Wednesday morning, Donna emailed this prayer group, her Life Group, and the G2 Leadership Team (a Women’s Mentoring ministry from FBCIT in which Donna serves) asking them to pray for God to do a miracle and open a bed somewhere for Courtney.

Then, that Wednesday night after choir practice, Donna got a call from a friend in the prayer group, who got a call from another lady from the group who saw Donna’s email and was asking if she’d heard of a place in Monroe called the Solace Center, facilitated by pastor Michelle Feliciano, and best of all, they had a bed available right then!

Donna called them on Thursday morning to see exactly what kind of facility it was, and it sounded just like what they’d been looking for, so she called Courtney and told her of their availability and to call herself to see if it would be a fit.

Courtney called, got an appointment to see them on Friday, went for her Orientation on Saturday, and checked in that very day at 1:30!!!

You see, long before this ever happened, God had this special prayer group of moms planned.  God had already set it into motion for Donna to be a part of that group.  God put all of this together to get Donna in touch with a friend of a friend who knew about the Solace Center where God had a bed available…just for Courtney.  (There were lots of others from Donna and Kevin’s family, friends, and Life Group praying for Courtney as well.  Donna and Kevin are thankful for each and every prayer).

Today, Courtney is transformed beyond anything Donna could have hoped.  She is clean and sober and on fire for the Lord!  She is already almost halfway through the program.  She has a job and pays weekly rent at the center.  The best part, though, is that Courtney has now made Jesus the Lord of her life!  See, she asked Jesus into her heart years ago, but she strayed. However, God brought her to a point of confession and repentance, and Courtney has not been the same since.

Courtney_Madison.jpg

Courtney with Madison (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

Courtney_Mackenzie.jpg

Courtney with Mackenzie (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

What’s more, Donna and Kevin have found opportunities to serve together in ministry at Solace.  They serve on the Solace Board and their Life Group ministers to the Solace group as well. Most recently, they had a blast bringing in the new year 100% clean and sober (and no hangover the next day) at a party with the Solace residents.

LGKickballatSolace.jpg

Donna and Kevin’s Life Group team for the Solace Kick Addiction Kickball Tournament (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

GirlsatNYESolaceCenter.jpg

Donna, Madison, and Courtney at the Solace New Years Eve party (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing).

DonnaandPastorMichelle.jpg

Donna with Pastor Michelle Feliciano of the Solace Center (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

“I’ve been mad at God about this,” Donna shared, “and I have been mad at Courtney, but now I just look at all that He has done through something so terrible!  He restored my family.  The relationship between my daughter and me has been fully restored; and many other family relationships have been restored through this!  He has transformed my daughter’s life and just 2 weeks ago, Madison asked Jesus into her heart.  My husband and I are serving together in ministry outside the walls of church. I’ve learned how to have empathy and compassion for people who have been jailed or who suffer from addiction.  God has shown me so many things.  He changed me from who I was, and that alone was enough, but then He’s done so much more.”

daughtersandgranddaughters.jpg

Donna’s daughters and granddaughters (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

Christmasmorning.jpg

Christmas Morning 2017 (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

I could tell she was excited, so I asked her what she wanted people to know about God.  Without hesitation, she answered, “He is real!  What He did, sending his Son to die on the cross for us, He didn’t have to do.  He’s a good, good Father.  There is nothing better.  He wants a relationship with us.  He loves YOU, and He wants YOU to come back.  He wants to talk to you.  How?  Through prayer.  This is our communication with our Lord, and it is also our weapon, along with the Sword (the Word), against Satan.”  She paused for a minute so I could catch up as I quickly scribbled in my notes.

More calmly and quietly she continued, “He was the ultimate servant. What if we all served…each other?!  We should because Jesus served, and serving is love.”

Servant.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

So, this is another story God has given one of His servant girls.  And she was gracious enough to allow me to write it so you could know God – who He is, what He can do, and how deeply He loves us.

Jesus love deeply.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Just for fun…

Here are a few fun tidbits about Donna:

I asked what actress would play her in a movie about her life.  She said, “Reese Witherspoon or Julia Roberts.  I LOVE them!”  She said the movie would most likely be something inspirational or encouraging.

Donna loves Christian music!

Tomlin.jpg

Chris Tomlin – Donna’s Favorite artist – Photo Credit: Pinterest

Image-2.png

This is Donna’s current favorite song to dance to and sing at the top of her lungs!  Listen to Old Church Choir by Zach Williams

You can listen to Donna’s most favorite song of all time, Thou, O Lord performed by First Baptist Cleveland choir and orchestra.

Please join me next week for another post from Servant Girl Stories.

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Donna Part 1

Author’s Note: All my sisters in Christ are Servant Girls, and we’ve all been given God’s stories to tell. I’m grateful to be able to write to you about Donna and her story this week and next week on my blog.  We met over dinner and talked nearly 3 hours about who she was before she allowed God to be Lord of her life, how He changed her when she gave Him her heart, and how He is working in her family right now.  It is my pleasure to introduce you to the always smiling, always joyful, Donna Lawing…

“I knew when I was in high school that I wanted to be a secretary,” Donna told me. “I took a typing class in 10th grade, and that was it!” she said, with a huge grin on her face. (If you know her, you know that whole-face, contagious, brighten-your-day grin I’m talking about.)

So, after high school, she completed a 10-month program in Secretarial Science at King’s College and stepped into the working world at a company called SunHealth. That was 1987, and 31 years later, Donna is in her 21st year as the Executive Assistant for both Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and Sonic Automotive, Inc., working closely for Bruton Smith, Scott Smith and David Smith, as well as Bill Brooks, the Vice Chairman & CFO for Speedway Motorsports. (And sorry — no comment on whether or not Bruton is going to buy the Carolina Panthers.  I asked.)

FB_IMG_1463940199225.jpg

Donna (left) with Bruton (right) at Charlotte Motor Speedway (image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

“When I get to heaven, if God needs a secretary, I’m the girl for the job,” she laughed.

Obviously, this is the career she was made to do. It has been a constant in her life since she was 18. But, while her career path hasn’t changed, other aspects of her life certainly have.

Thirteen-year-old Donna asked Jesus into her heart one night at a church camp called Camp Lurecrest. As she sat around the fire with the other campers, the counselor began talking about God – explaining how much He loves us, so much so that He sent His one and only son, Jesus, to earth. The counselor went on to describe how Jesus lived a sinless life but chose to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin so that we wouldn’t have to.

As the counselor talked about Jesus being raised from the dead three days later, Donna became overwhelmed with this feeling of being ‘drawn’.

“There was this incredible love and this desire to really know Jesus,” she told me. “So, I asked Him into my heart that night, telling Him that I believed He died for me and took my sin on Himself, to make a way for me to be with Him forever.”

Unfortunately, as time went on, she went her own way and chose her own will over God’s. “I really wasn’t… discipled,” she admitted. The next 20 or so years were marked with many bad choices. While her career path was stable, her personal life was anything but. After two failed marriages, she found herself a single mom, raising her two daughters, Courtney and Jess, and working full-time to support them. She was very angry with her second husband and harbored a good bit of bitterness and resentment toward him and their failed marriage.

To make matters worse, Donna admitted she was always a bit vengeful, but life had sharpened this. Typically, she would only apologize if she “knew” she was wrong – but you had to prove it to her first. If you hurt her, she would definitely hurt you back; she would get revenge. She wasn’t humble. She was always right. Her way was the right way – the only way.

However, the Lord was about to change all that. He was orchestrating things for her path to converge with that of a high school crush who would be instrumental in leading her to a true relationship with her Savior.

Donna and Kevin knew each other in high school and lived in the same neighborhood. She was interested in him, but he was older. “Seniors did not date sophomores back then,” she said. So nothing came of it.

Evidently, it wasn’t God’s timing for them back in high school, but it was in 2003. They’d seen each other around Charlotte over the years, but Kevin happened to show up at Donna’s work one day; he was there for his job and saw her outside on her break. He stopped to say hi and ended up inviting her to dinner so they could catch up. After a few more dinner dates, they became a couple.

Resized_20170910_160938_1265.jpeg

Kevin and Donna Lawing (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

As they dated, they began attending church together, alternating Sundays between First Baptist Church Indian Trail (Kevin’s brother and his wife were attending FBCIT and invited them along) and the church where Kevin’s dad was pastoring in Charlotte. Donna began learning more about the Lord, studying the Bible more, asking questions, and soaking it all in. Kevin became involved with her daughters as well, coming to their home once a week to have a family style meal together.

It was at one of those meals, in January 2004, that Donna realized that she needed to surrender her life to the Lord. The conversation that night was about life – how people say one thing and then do another.  Donna began to see that she had been doing just that – claiming to be a Christian, but being no different from anyone else. She didn’t want to be that person anymore. She wanted Jesus to know that she was sorry for being a hypocrite; she wanted to “walk what she talked.”

That’s when Kevin told her, “we can make it right, right now.” And that’s what they did. Kevin and Donna went into Donna’s bedroom, knelt by her bed, and talked to the Lord. She told Jesus that she was sorry for how she had been acting and living. She told Him that she didn’t want to live that way anymore; She wanted Jesus to be Lord of her life. She surrendered all to Him right then and there and has never been the same since. She truly made Jesus the Lord of her life. She couldn’t blame who she was on her circumstances any longer. Her encounter with the Lord brought her face-to-face with herself, her sin nature, and she had to own up to the consequences. For so many years, she had tried to make her own way, but now she wanted Jesus’ way. She asked Him for forgiveness, and He took her back.

What’s more, all vengefulness was gone. “The Lord taught me how to be humble, and He taught me to submit – both to my soon-to-be husband and to Him.” Donna also shared that the Lord immediately took away her nasty mouth — her excessive and unnecessary use of profanity. It was literally, in that very moment, gone!

The couple got engaged and became involved in premarital counseling with Rick Jordan at FBCIT. This led them eventually to join FBCIT and Rick’s life group. (Incidentally, this is where I met them and where Kevin said those fateful words in class one Sunday when he was subbing for Rick: “The most miserable person in the world is a Christian who isn’t living for the Lord”.)

Donna is confident that their church and church family have been very influential in her development as a Christian. She told me, “A lot of where I am with the Lord and who I am in the Lord is due to our church and life group.”

FB_IMG_1440983434516.jpg

FBCIT Life Group that Kevin currently teaches. (Image used courtesy of Donna Lawing)

“Of course, we are all still a work in progress and always will be,” Donna was quick to remind me.  “I do still struggle with patience,” she confessed. “I tell everybody, jokingly (sorta), that I’m pretty sure God put me with my husband to help me learn and exercise patience! God is teaching me to be still. Sometimes you just gotta wait.”

The waiting, surrendering, and trusting part has really come into perspective lately as Donna has walked through one of the toughest situations she’s ever faced…her oldest daughter, Courtney’s, substance abuse and addiction.

Resized_20170514_145009_8588.jpeg

Donna (seated, front center) with her daughters, Courtney (top), Jess (right), and granddaughters, Madison (center) and Mackenzie (left)

“Considering all I have been through — and some of those things being what I thought were just the worst things ever — my life is really good. I have peace; I have joy; I have hope. Even in a moment of fear and despair, I am not broken by it.”

Donna knows now that life isn’t about her, it is about God and what He can do in and through her.

Next week, in part 2 of this Portrait of a Servant-Girl, I will share how God used Courtney’s struggle with addiction to restore their family.

What was your life like before you met Jesus? What did He change about you and your life when He saved you?

What Jesus Really Came to Do

Help me want the Healer

more than the healing.

Help me want the Savior

more than the saving.

Help me want the Giver

more than the giving.

Oh, help me want you, Jesus,

more than anything.

Jesus Healing.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

This is the chorus to Natalie Grant’s new song, “More Than Anything.”  I heard it for the first time last week on the heels of the post I just published about desiring a closer relationship with God in 2018, so the lyrics quickly caught my attention, especially the chorus.

The Gospel of Luke was the book God put on my heart to start reading at the beginning of January, and God has shown me some awesome things so far.  But, one of the lessons so closely coincides with the meaning behind this song that I knew God was using it to speak to me, and it is something He wants you to see as well.

As soon as Jesus began his public ministry (Luke starts sharing details of this in Chapter 4), people were drawn to Him.  They noticed the authority with which he spoke, but they were totally amazed by His ability to heal the sick and his other miracles.  They followed Him everywhere and brought Him sick people constantly.

In Chapter 4 verse 42, Jesus was trying to get away to be alone and pray, but the people continued following Him and tried to keep Him from going.  He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.”

Preaching to the Multitude.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Jesus wanted to do more than heal peoples’ bodies.  He came to do more than that.  Jesus wanted people to want Him.  He came because we need healing for our souls for eternal purposes, not just healing for our bodies since our bodies are temporary.

So, I hear this song as a prayer, and I sing it as a prayer.  I invite you to do so, too.  Listen to the lyrics and sing those words back to God.  Ask Him to make it so with you…to make you want Him even more than you want what He can do for you.

“More Than Anything” by Natalie Grant

What are you praying and asking God for right now?  What does God have you reading or listening to?  How has He spoken to you through what you’ve read or heard?

Rethink the Resolution

Don’t make any New Years resolutions for 2018.

If you’ve already made some, just forget ‘em.  Statistically speaking, most people don’t keep their resolutions anyway.  I quit making them several years ago because I didn’t keep them.

Resolutions are a little self-centered anyway, don’t you think?  We resolve to lose 20 pounds or stop smoking or train for a 5k or cut gluten from our diets or get out of debt.  Now, don’t get me wrong, these are all good things.  It wouldn’t be bad to determine to do some of them in 2018.

But, I propose we do something more God-centered in 2018.  Let’s make a pledge with God, for God, rather than making resolutions with ourselves, for ourselves.  Let’s pledge to strengthen our relationship with God this year.

let your roots grown down into him.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

How do we do that?  Well, how do we strengthen a relationship with anyone in our lives: spouse, child, parent, sibling, co-worker, neighbor or friend?

Engage with that person.  Talk with that person.  Listen to that person.

Engage. Talk. Listen.

This is how we build and grow our relationship with God as well.

Engage with God’s Word in the Bible.  Talk with Him in prayer.  Listen to Him in quiet time.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us about God’s Word: The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Commentary in the English Standard Version says, “The Word of God then acts as God Himself, so that one’s innermost thoughts and intentions are exposed.  This happens constantly in Christians’ lives.”

When you read God’s Word, it physically does things to you because it behaves as God Himself.  To borrow words from the verse, it is alive, it is sharp, it pierces or cuts, and it discerns or judges.  When you read God’s Word, it drives through to your very core and exposes everything to God – what you think, what you feel, what you intend to do, your fears, your values, your beliefs, everything.

scripture corrects us when we are wrong.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

What do you think will happen if everything in our hearts is exposed to God?  He will give us grace and mercy, and He will change our hearts.  He will align our hearts with His will, and when our hearts are brought in line with His will, our relationship with Him deepens.

live in the Bible.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Talking with God in prayer will also take us closer to Him.  Sometimes people ask why we should talk to God when He already knows our thoughts.

Let me use an illustration I have heard so many times that I cannot give credit to the original source.  Just know that it didn’t come from me.

Imagine you’re in a romantic relationship – married or dating.  This is someone you supposedly care about very much.  Imagine what would happen to this relationship if you never talked to this person.  You sat beside this person on the couch and watched TV or you rode beside this person in the car and texted or you sat across from this person at the table and ate your food, but you didn’t talk.  You didn’t share your feelings or reveal your fears or discuss your goals or tell this person you loved him or her.

Bottom line: this relationship would not last.

It works the same way with God.  He wants us to talk to Him and with Him.  He wants to hear from us.  He wants us to share our fears and our desires with him.  What’s more, the Bible assures us over and over that He is listening. And He hears our prayers.

Don't worry pray.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

One such verse is Psalm 34:15.  It says, “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears hear their cry.”

He.Is.Listening.

Talk to Him.

However, the most important way to go deeper in your relationship with God in 2018 is to listen to God.

Remember the scenario of the romantic relationship earlier?  Well, let’s say you do talk when you’re with that person.  You talk A LOT…about yourself: what you want, what you need, what you’re afraid of, what you think, what you don’t understand.  But, you’re so busy talking that you don’t listen to the other person’s fears, desires, and thoughts.  What will happen?

This relationship will not last.

Now, imagine this other person in the relationship where you’re doing all the talking is God – the Sovereign, the Most High, the Alpha and the Omega.  He knows all – including the purpose for our lives, so it stands to reason that we ought to listen to Him, probably even more than we talk to Him.

In Ecclesiastes 5:1-2, King Solomon talked about our attitude toward God.  He said, “Guard your steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil.  Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God.  For God is in heaven and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.”

Listening is imperative if we are going to grow closer with God.  We have to listen so He can tell us His will.  We have to listen so He can show us the way.  Then, when we do pray, our hearts are in line with His will, and we will want what He wants for our lives.  That should be our goal.

grant me a heart to seek you.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

We listen in our quiet time.  I’m sure you’ve heard this term, quiet time, before.  This is time we spend with God just listening. Being still.  Being quiet in mind and body and focusing on what He has to say to us.

Focus on what He tells you to do during this time.  Who does He want you to talk to?  Where does He want you to go?  What does He want you to do?  When you go to Him and are quiet, He will tell you.  As you listen to what God has to say, He changes your heart so that you want what He wants.

This is my pledge for 2018 – to spend time with God – reading His Word, talking with Him, and most importantly, listening to Him.  This year can be a year of spiritual change for you and for me if we will pledge to do these things to grow closer in our relationship with our God.

Rewarder of those who diligently seek him.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Do you spend time praying, reading the Bible and/or listening to God?  If you do, what are some of the positive effects this has had on your life?

If you don’t do these on a regular basis, what do you think is keeping your from doing them?

That Christmas Morning Feeling

Christmas is my favorite holiday! The food. The decorations. The tree. The lights. The get-togethers with family and friends. The church programs.  The music!

Y’all! The music!

The whole season is just so bright and happy and jolly.

our house 2.JPG

Merry and bright – The Hooks Home

Christmases were very merry and bright when I was little – I guess I couldn’t help but love them.

Great's.jpg

Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house with 4 generations!  I’ve spent all my 38 Christmas Eves at her house 🙂                                                                                                                       Photo Credit: Tiffany Murdock Manley

But, the big draw, especially when I was little, was the presents and Santa Claus! Christmas morning – that was the goal the whole season long.

What was under the tree? What was in the stockings? What was wrapped in all those boxes? Who had the present in the biggest box? Who had the present in the heaviest box? Who had the present in the weirdest shaped box?

What was I going to get? Would I get everything I wanted? Would I get something awesome I hadn’t even asked for?

I do remember being disappointed on Christmas morning when I didn’t see a gift that had been on my list…despite all the other gifts I did receive.

I do remember feeling sad when the biggest or heaviest box went to someone else.

I do remember feeling the let-down when I realized there were no more gifts left to unwrap…even as I sat surrounded by all the new toys, games, clothes, or electronics I had already opened.

In my defense, I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid to experience this. Happens every December 25. I imagine many adults can relate to this feeling as well. I know I’ve spent more Christmases than I care to admit feeling sad about something related to the gift-giving part – even as a grown-up.

It definitely helped to have kids. Once we experienced Christmas with our own children, I more fully appreciated how it felt to give.

Gram's.jpeg

Christmas afternoon at my parent’s house now includes 2 sons-in-law and 4 grandchildren!                   Photo Credit: Tiffany Murdock Manley

Still, there was that empty feeling once all the gifts were opened.

Christmas.was.over.

There were 365 days until we’d do that all over again, until we’d have that…feeling.

A-ha! It was the feeling! That was it! That Christmas morning feeling! The anticipation. The eagerness. The excitement. THAT was what was so hard to let go. It had been building up for 24 days or more and once it was over…there was an emptiness. A quietness. A sadness. A let-down.

How do you make that last?

We tried spreading out the present-opening part. We’d open gifts with extended family later on Christmas day and eventually did some present opening the day after Christmas.

But, eventually there are no more gifts to open – no matter how long you extend it.

How do you make that Christmas-morning-feeling last?

The past few years, I’ve been praying about it, and God helped me see that I have to desire Jesus more than gifts. I have to want His presence more than I want presents.

That takes praying and being receptive to the changes God wants to make in my heart. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop liking presents or Christmas morning or my mom’s sausage balls or hearing Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas.” It just means I’ll realize Jesus is more valuable than those things.

It has helped me to do an Advent Bible study; I’ve done one the past two years. It helped me focus on the real reason I celebrate.

This year, before we started our Advent study, I prayed for God to give me a heart like Simeon and Anna (Luke 2: 25-38).

Simeon and Anna.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

I want the Holy Spirit to be upon me like it was upon Simeon, to guide and direct me into the presence of the Lord. I want to serve day and night as Anna did. She never left the temple and her reward was to see the Christ child.

To wait in eager anticipation like Simeon and Anna – that is what I want. To wait to see the promise of God fulfilled in Jesus. That is the excitement I want! That will give me the Christmas-morning-feeling all year ‘round.

I prayed for that this year from the first of December until Christmas, and I believe God answered that earnest prayer of His servant girl. Christmas was happy and bright and exciting for me this year. Opening presents was a jolly time, but I didn’t experience the degree of let-down that I sometimes do when the last piece of shredded gift wrapping paper is thrown in the trash. I was happy, but I was also calm…at peace. The value wasn’t in the gifts; it was in God’s promise. We know that He keeps the promises He makes with His people – the Bible is full of evidence for that. So this Christmas, I focused more on God‘s presence than on presents.

Of course, I will have to continue to pray for this daily, especially when next Christmas rolls around, but I know God will fill my heart with His Son if I ask him to do so.

My prayer this day and every day, for me and for you, is that God would give us hearts like Simeon and Anna.

Always eagerly waiting.

Always faithfully serving.

Always gratefully praising.

Until we see our Christ.

A Love Letter from God

Why?  That’s the question I asked myself over and over when I was trying to “get right” with the Lord.  Why did this happen to me?  I was raised in church!  I was saved when I was young!  How did someone like me go so far as to not even believe in Jesus anymore?!  Why did I have to go through this?

The short answer is – it happened to me so I could tell you.

Love letter.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

God gets glory through the lives of His children – when we surrender to Him.  When we live for Him.  When we obey Him even when what He’s asking is scary.

This happened to me – this time spent away from God and then coming back to Him again – so I could write to you and tell you.  This happened so you could look at my life and see who I have been and what I have done and where I have gone…and see Jesus.

Grow through it.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

This happened to me because it was the only way I was going to give Him control over my life.  He knew me and what it was going to take for me to honestly come to Him…not just go to church because that’s how I was raised.  He wanted me, but I had to want Him.  He wanted a relationship, not the religious person I was when I was younger.

I believed with my head but He wanted my heart.  My heart was more difficult to convict, but I am grateful for the journey.  I wouldn’t have the relationship with Him I have now if it weren’t for this journey.  I’d still be trudging along in legalism and good-girl church stuff.

God is in control.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

I wouldn’t have any idea how to talk with Him or listen to Him, and I certainly wouldn’t be telling you about Him.

But, here we are.

(If you just found this blog, please go back and start with the first post, June Cleaver? Who Me?, so all this makes sense).

Here’s some of what I’ve learned and what God wants me to share with you.  (I have included some scripture references; however, the list isn’t exhaustive.  It may not even be the best and most relevant reference, just one that I found while researching).

{WARNING: these will sound like the cliches you always hear Christians say.  They did to me at one time, but they are real to me now that I have truly experienced Him}.

  • The presence of the Holy Spirit – the one God sends to live inside you when you believe in Him – will change you.  You will not be the same.  You cannot think the same or behave the same as you did before.
  • God is sovereign (Psalm 103:19, Psalm 115: 3, Romans 8:28).  He wants us to surrender our lives to His sovereignty – TOTALLY.  Simply acknowledging that He is real is not enough (James 2:19).
  • Take captive thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5) when they go against biblical truths.  Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23) against lies the world will tell you.  Go to God when you think your thoughts are leading you astray.  Go to God when you find that your heart is turning away from Him.
  • God wants us to trust our lives to Him.  He was us to be obedient and follow where He leads (Psalm 37:5, Proverbs 3:5-6).
Committ.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Pray (Philippians 4:6).  Talk to Him.  Read your Bible (Philippians 4:6, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Write what you’ve learned.  Write what you feel.  Write questions you have.  This is journaling, and this is a way to have a conversation with God.
  • HE IS ALWAYS RIGHT THERE (Hebrews 13:5). He doesn’t move.  He doesn’t go away.  You may, but He doesn’t (Psalm 16:8).  He is waiting right there for you to decide that you want Him.  He wants you, and He wants you to want Him.
  • God speaks to me.  God will speak to you.  It may not be an audible voice you can actually hear with your ears, but once you learn to hear and understand His voice and how He speaks to you, you begin to realize that He speaks to you all the time in many different ways (John 10:27).
Come talk with me.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • God is persistent.  He has a plan and a purpose for your life.  He will continue to woo you in the direction He wants you to go (Proverbs 19:21).
  • God doesn’t need us to fix ourselves before we come to Him.  We can’t anyway.  We simply go to Him, give ourselves to Him, and then He does the fixing.  If you are waiting until you’re “better” or “right” or “good” to go to Him, please stop right now.  You’re wasting precious time.  Just tell Him you want Him to take over your life.  Tell Him you believe in Him and want Him as your Savior.  He does the rest.
  • Obey – immediately! (James 4:17)
Be obedient to God.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Be still and be quiet (Psalm 46:10, Exodus 14:14).  God doesn’t scream and shout and stomp His feet.  If you aren’t still and quiet, you’ll miss what He has to say.
  • Turn towards God.  That is what He wants – your permission to take control of your life.

My journey wasn’t in vain.  I know this.  God has shown me.  It happened for me – to save me, and it happened for you – to save you.  You need to know that God is right there.  You need to know that whatever you did wasn’t so bad that He doesn’t want you.  You need to know that you haven’t gotten too far away from Him.  HE’S RIGHT THERE WITH YOU!  HE LOVES YOU. HE WANTS YOU*.

Talk to Him.  Read about Him.  Write to Him.  Ask trusted Christians about Him.

He’s got a journey to take you on, too.

If God wants it.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinterest

*I typed this post last night and then got up this morning to read “Day 21: He is Immanuel” in O Come Let Us Adore Him: A Study for Advent by Kristin Schumucker and Cara Cobble Trantham.  The last few sentences seemed to echo what I described here, so I’d like to share them:

“Immanuel means ‘God with us.’  It is one of the most profound and mysterious names of our God.  It displays His greatness and power as He is the almighty and eternal God.  Yet it also displays His humility and love for us personally.  He is the almighty God who has chosen to come and dwell with us…He came to dwell with us for usImmanuel – God with us is an invitation to us.  It is a reminder that we can come to Him because He has come to us.  it is a reminder that this personal and glorious relationship was initiated by Him when He humbled Himself to be a baby in a manger.  It is a reminder that no matter what lies ahead, He will never leave us.  Our God is with us.”

How does God talk to you?  How do you know His voice?  How did you learn that it was Him?  What has He shown you on your faith-journey with Him?