Happily (N)Ever After: What’s the REAL Story?

Psalm 3:3 “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.“

“Once upon a time, in a land far far away lived a beautiful princess (who cooked, cleaned, did laundry, knew everything about childcare, did the accounting for the palace, juggled, hunted, played basketball, sewed, was a size 3 but never worked out and could eat like a man, was a gourmet chef, all while never breaking a nail or having a hair out of place) awaiting her tall, dark, and handsome, gallant prince (naturally rippled with muscles without working out, worked 9 to 5–never an evening or weekend, went home for lunches to call the princess to see how she was “feeling,” hunted and fished to provide for his castle, but only during his 15 minute breaks so not to take away from his chat time with the princess), adorned in gleaming armor-buffed and polished-riding his stately white stallion.

The princess dreamed of the moment her hero would rescue her from the tower (so she could talk nonstop to Sir Perfect who: listens but doesn’t want to give advice. The princess is incredibly intelligent and organized and he’s been waiting his entire life to be micromanaged. He cooks, cleans, tells her she’s beautiful at least eight times a day, does all the heavy lifting, is willing to diet when she wants to and only eat what she wants and never sweets in front of her).

That is how the story goes, isn’t it? Sigh, if only… .

Eric and I just got back from attending the 25th anniversary celebration of his brother Jon and lovely wife Sindy. When I asked if they had any advice after 25 years the first thing out of Sindy’s mouth was, “It hasn’t always been easy.” The funny thing is, that’s the same thing both of my sisters who are now in their 35thish year of marriage say. How does that happen?

“Snips and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails; Sugar and spice and everything nice,” aka, nursery rhymes and fairytales.

The truth is, relationships are hard, marriage or otherwise. The topic of marriage has come up several times this week in every day conversation. I shared with Sindy my feelings that the real adventure in life doesn’t even begin until after the commitment of marriage. That’s when we can finally let our guard down. Another relationship killer is that many people forget to pursue their/our mates for the rest of our lives. It doesn’t end when we live in the same house. If the pursuing stops the relationship has a new title: roommate.

Can I share my heart? I don’t mean to sound cold, but when we choose to make the commitment of marriage, our family becomes more important than our “feelings.”

Feelings come and go, like Scrooge said in the story, A Christmas Carol: “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” Food, the way something is said, the weather, all of those affect the way we feel. I have to choose my actions and reactions very carefully if I’m basing them on how I “feel”.

Mark Lowery was talking about faith, and I think it describes marriage very well. He said when you get up in the middle of the night and stub your toe on the end of the bed, you don’t feel very saved. You have faith, however, that you are. My opinion, only, is that the same rings true of the love we have for our spouse. There are ups and downs, good and bad days. We have to know, that we know, that we know that our spouse loves us. We might not always feel the love, but we have to have faith that it’s there.

If it’s not there, who stopped pursuing whom? (Sidenote: how many people do you know get separated or divorced and then get a gym membership? Suddenly they’re willing and ready to pursue someone else…for how long?)

This last week in Bible study reminded us that after we got saved the Holy Spirit now lives in us. Our old self dies and we start looking more and more like our heavenly father every day. How can we not? He lives in us. We don’t think the same anymore. We don’t have the same goals. Our old selves, about making us feel good, dies. Our new selves are Christ with skin on. We are just carriers, like the world views Covid-19, LOL.

Since He gives us a new mind, I am learning(too slowly for my taste) that I have given my nasty rights to sin to Him— but in a great way!

I no longer have the right to be angry when someone wrongs me. I have the right to think of them as Jesus does and feel sorry for them because they don’t know better and need help.

Psalm 3:3 “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

What does this verse have to do with the “And they lived Happily (N)Ever After.”? Every body makes mistakes and screws up in a relationship. We get tired, hungry, are cold or hot, anxious, uncomfortable, whatever and mistreat the people we love the most. If we harbor unforgiveness, tucking it away, the next time it happens is another layer of unforgiveness on top of the previous. After a while we/I am carrying a heavy weight on our backs and it’s hard to even look the other person in the eye.

This verse reminded me that our glory(with the ability to forgive and release the action and person) is living in us. With the layers gone He lifts our heads and we can stand tall and look the other in the eye, without weights or bitterness. He is our shield so the next time they come at us with their nasties, may I/we hold our head high and look at them through the eyes of the Holy Spirit living in us: with compassion, separating their action from the individual. Loving the person not their performance.

That is just what He’s saying to me. Until next time: Blessings.

Forgiveness: Once and For All

Ephesians 4:22–24 “Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and… Put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

Happy Friday Eve! Do you have any big weekend plans? This weekend I am blessed with the opportunity to help two very special people celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary! Anybody who’s been married that long knows that it’s a miracle they made it 25 years, no one died nor did they kill each other—double blessing!

The same weekend, Taylor, Kristian, and Willow have a wedding they are attending. They get to witness the opening of a brand new book with the words “Once upon a time…” while Eric and I attend the middle chapters of an “and they lived happily ever after.”

These two events remind me of last weeks blog. I was speaking of a child who gets dirty before a wedding takes place. They disobeyed the parent who told them to stay clean, but didn’t loose the parent’s love and were guaranteed forgiveness for the offense. This week, Heavenly Dad, through Dan Molder (I think that’s his name) has been speaking to me about the whole being forgiven for “all unrighteousness,” meaning sins for today and the sins for tomorrow. I mentioned last week that every time I sin we don’t throw Jesus back onto the cross for Him to die again for that sin. He died ONCE to pay the penalty for our sins, but that’s not a license to continue to sin. OK, that’s the recap.

This week I’ve been working on wrapping my mind around living the life I was created to live. I grew up that the reason we become Christians is to stay out of hell and with the understanding Christians try not to sin using self discipline and asking God for help. That’s the goal in life! At the end of the day, I’d pray for however long, to confess all of my mistakes that I’ve made throughout the day. If my list isn’t long then my prayer wasn’t long and I feel like I had “Had a good day.“ How sad is that?

What Dan says is that we, since were created in God’s image, shouldn’t live in a sin consciousness. What that means is I shouldn’t wake up every day microscoping every move that I make so focused on the lines that I’m afraid I’m going to cross that I am missing out on the opportunities that God created me for. At the end of the day I should throw my hands up into the air and shout “Thank you Lord! I am not who I was this morning and I am a little bit more like you today! Today was a great day, not because of what happened to Me but because I choose to look and react like You IN SPITE of what happened to me today.” I’m learning to change my focus. How can I become more like him if I’m not watching Him but staring down to make sure that I don’t trip?

One further: we were taught that we’re supposed to be humble, which technically is a good thing. Instead I turn this into the justification for self-hate. If I like anything about myself then I must have an ego and I think too highly of myself. How sad is that? I was created in God’s image! Would I look and view God in the same measure that I do myself?

Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely NOT a depressive person, some might call me perky. I even have a tendency to be a “Pollyanna.“ (Those are my daughter Taylor‘s words, not mine.) This week I came clean to Eric when we were discussing this topic. I explained that I love to encourage people. The truth is, however, it’s because I don’t want anyone to hate themselves as much as I hate myself. I will cheer them on for fear that they are holding themselves back out of lack of self-esteem or value, like I do.

Confession time is over, back to the child at the wedding.

So the parents and the child attend the wedding: the child is now squeaky clean and very pretty or handsome. The parents are in a good mood and ready to celebrate with a new bride and groom. What happens if the child can’t get past the pain they caused the parent? The parents are over it, but the child continues to apologize all day long, “I’m so sorry I hurt your feelings today, mommy and daddy.” “I am so sorry I got dirty today, mommy and daddy.” The parent continues to reassure them, but it just doesn’t help. “I’m so sorry I disobeyed you, mommy and daddy.“ “Can I do laundry for a week to make it up to you?“ On and on this goes all day. The child even feel so bad they tell just about everyone at the wedding how horrible they were!

Did the child enjoy the day? Did the mom and dad enjoy the wedding? Did the bride and groom enjoy the day? Did the other guests enjoy the wedding?

What would’ve happened if the child would’ve said,”I am so sorry that I got dirty,” The parents forgive them, they get everything cleaned up and they go to the wedding without mentioning it again? It’s done and over, so why bring it up again? Do you think the child ever do that again? If you’re the parent and you think,“Yes they will!” then you really haven’t forgiven them, and you need to do a heart check. At the same time, if you’re a child and you do it again, were you really sorry? A heart check will reveal the truth.

Christ died on the cross for us once to pay the penalty for our sins. We know we are forgiven. When we screw up and we pray “Will you please forgive me for…” and then walk around all day wondering what His answer was and beating ourselves up, that is like the child at the wedding who can’t get past his mistake. We know we are forgiven. There is supposed to be unspeakable joy in a relationship with our Heavenly Father, So that doesn’t quite sound right…or is it just me?

What would it look like if when we made a mistake we say, “Father, I am so sorry I…fill in the blank…screwed up.“ This next part is my nugget for the week: “Thank You, Heavenly Dad for forgiving me. Thank You for knowing my heart. Thank You for equipping me to not make that mistake again. Thank You for the lesson that I learned through that mistake. Thank You for helping me look more like You now that I’m on the other side. Thank You for loving me in spite of that mistake. Thank You for helping me forgive myself and move on.“

The bottom line is focus. What we focus on we do. If we focus on the sin, we’re going to sin because we’re afraid we’re going to. We create our own worst nightmares. If we wake up every morning just happy to be a child of his and focus on him, what are we gonna look like? When we stumble, get up! I need to dust myself off and not stand frozen. Get my focus back on Christ! I ask for forgiveness quickly! I truly am sorry so I’m going to do everything in my power not to do it again but I’m not gonna focus on it. I put my eyes on Jesus the author and creator, the beginning in the end, the perfect one.

This week I am learning: that’s what forgiveness looks like.

Until next time: blessings!

It’s About Time

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.“

How many times have you heard that verse? Is it your first? Is it your thousandth? What does that verse mean to you? I had to dig deep, believe it or not, to find that out for myself.

Last week I shared with you about feathers being ruffled in Bible study. One of the points of contention was the end of this particular verse. It says, “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.“ This is where a confession of one of my “uglies“ comes out.

The group worded it that once we choose to commit to Heavenly Dad and take on the identity of His heir, we no longer sin. Honestly, that ruffled every feather that I have ever owned, own, or will own. I know me. Saying that I don’t sin is like saying I always walk in a straight line. It just isn’t so. They also said that if I am sinning then why am I allowing myself to do that? Again, feathers at full alert. “What the what?“ Are these people for real? It felt like they were giving me and/or everyone else licenses to go out and “do to others as they want to do to them.” “Shut up Tracy, shut up,” was going through my head.

I left that meeting confused, frustrated but knowing and trusting that Heavenly Dad would reveal His truth in His time. They were allowed to hear God speak to them personally as much as I have a valid relationship with Heavenly Dad. I can’t judge them, they can’t judge me for the way He reveals truth. Yes, there’s only one way to heaven as sin separates us from Heavenly Dad, stated in this verses:
John 14:6 “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’“
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.“

It’s the micro scoping of every verse that throws me for a loop. I love the Bible. Every word was written for a reason. Unfortunately, it was written in Greek and/or Hebrew. Can you read Hebrew or Greek? I can’t. Someone along the way has had to translate the original text. That’s like asking “How do you describe a banana?“ Five people may give five different descriptions but it’s still one banana. So it is with the Bible. Many people have translated and I’m sure few translations are exactly the same. That leaves room for interpretations…

This topic has been with me all week. Eric tried to help by showing me a video that has brought clarity into his life. Unfortunately, it equated the word guilt with condemnation. Yes, we sort of condemn ourselves, but guilt isn’t always bad. Is pain always bad?

If you touch fire, it hurts, so you pull back. It’s a safety precaution. If you step on a nail and don’t come down fast, that little bit of pain can save you from the nail piercing your foot. It’s a safety guard. So, too, can guilt. Often times the Holy Spirit, in His still small voice, will give us a nudge and we know that a little bit of guilt means we need a course correction. As soon as we make that adjustment, the guilt goes away and we have our freedom again. We are not supposed to wallow in the guilt, because that is shame.

You can take all of that with a grain of salt because that’s just my understanding of the way Heavenly Dad has spoken to my heart. He may bring additional clarity later on. Let me say: I hope your patient with me :-).

Have I gone on long enough? Let me bring it around for you. What Heavenly Dad has spoken to me about this week is: the group is right. Jesus paid once for our sins—like a deposit on our account. Every time I screw up, we’re not going to throw Him back onto the cross. He died once and for all. It doesn’t give me the license to sin. As a child of His, an heir, I won’t want to sin. If I do, I need to check my heart and true commitment. Did I think I chanted “magic words” for a fire insurance policy to be pulled out at the pearly gates: “Hi Peter! Um, yah, it’s here in my pocket. The date and time are stamped right there. What do you mean He looks at my heart…?”

I’m sorry-that was a butterfly moment. Back to the subject at hand: If I do screw up, fall into my humanness, I haven’t lost Him as a father and He hasn’t denied me as his child.

There’s a great story to reference in the prodigal son, but let me put it in terms of nowadays. Let’s say you were going to a wedding and told your child to stay clean but they went out and played in the mud. When they walked in the door and you saw them dirty would you disown them and put them out of your house? You told them specifically to stay clean. They choose to get dirty. Didn’t they love you? Do they consider themselves more important than you? No, they’re a child. They’re still learning. They’re going to make mistakes. You’re going love them anyway, help them clean themselves up, slap a smile on your face and, Lord willing, make lifelong memories. If you’re an amazing parent, not like I always was, you’d laugh about all of the dirt and the mess while taking pictures to scrapbook later, LOL. How you react to the situation is going to be remembered long after the wedding vows are over.

Our Heavenly Dad knows that we are children growing daily to look, act, and be like him. Unfortunately, we are just that, children. We aren’t born mature. We grow by learning, sometimes the hard way. Some of us are headstrong yet he loves us just the same.

If you want proof that he doesn’t give us a license to sin, check out Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.“

Gosh darn it, He doesn’t let us off the hook. We need to own what we do wrong and do the best of our ability to make it right. We can’t make someone forgive us, but we can sincerely offer an apology and do whatever we can to make it right.

After this week-long struggle, I finally quieted myself to hear what He had been whispering throughout the week. Thankfully, He’s not an “I told you so“ Dad/Father/ God. I just imagine him leaning back in His chair with me running around in circles, chasing myself, my list, my priorities…FINALLY coming to the end and falling on the floor exhausted. He then leans forward and asked, “Are you ready now? “

I was, so I listened. It was about time.

Until next time: blessings!

“Opened Not My Mouth”-Right… .

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Have you ever prayed for God to help you to “shut up?” I have—make that AM.

When Taylor was a teenager she complained I would lecture her. Then again, most teenagers probably think a conversation consisting of more than two or three sentences is a lecture. Nevertheless, I tucked that accusation/opinion away.

When Archie and I had disagreements, we would give each other opportunities to fully explain our “sides” of misunderstandings or disagreements. While listening to each other we would try to do heart checks, making sure that we weren’t making pointed sentences to hurt the other person. We knew that not just words but the effects of words last for a lifetime, far after the disagreement was over. We tried to choose our words carefully. That takes time.

Eric is a bullet point person. When I formulate my reasoning, the words drown out the subject matter. I knew how to “speak Archie” for 28 years and now I am learning a new dialect called “Eric.” It’s tough as learning any new language is. I’m older and things take longer to “sink in.” Since I desperately desire to speak in a way that Eric can clearly understand because I love him, I’d prefer not to have to wait 26 more years. I want my words to give a clear picture of my heart when I try to communicate. I don’t know how to do that so I’m asking for help.

I need to have my mind renewed/revamped with a completely new set of communication skills. The most important is to: shut up. Sounds holy, doesn’t it? The problem is that my mind formulates paragraphs as I have always spoken in word pictures (and I like to write—go figure). How can Heavenly Dad change that?? I didn’t know but I trusted Him. I started praying for Him to help me “shut up.” In case you’re wondering, God can work immediately or he can chink off little bits of the crap that I/we need to get rid of a little at a time. I think of it as the Master sculptor chipping away at His masterpiece (not that I look, feel or act like one) and that’s what He’s been doing for over a year.

Though still a massive work in progress, I finally had a break through. Eric and I were in a discussion with a group of people and there were points flying everywhere—everyone had their own opinions, Biblically based. Then people started to get feathers ruffled, including me. I don’t like anyone pressuring me to change my beliefs because of their interpretation of scripture. I trust Heavenly Dad to reveal truth to me when I’m ready. For the first time, instead of formulating my “comeback” I sat quietly and listened to them and no comeback or reasoning was in my mind. I actually did a self-analysis and thought,”Wow! I’ve got nothing! This is so cool!” It’s not that they were changing my mind. Heavenly Dad gave me a peace that it’s not for them to convince me or me to convince them. He can and will speak for Himself. I just need to read, talk with Him and then listen. He will give understanding in love. The love part is what gets lost when we humans feel it necessary to change the minds or convince someone that a particular thinking is incorrect. Maybe it is but battering a frustrated person with facts won’t help them feel Heavenly Dad’s unconditional love or acceptance.

“I had nothing” and was the best ever feeling and description of an answer to prayer. “Thank you, Father!!!”

If giving up the need to feel,” justified, heard, and ultimately right” gave me this much peace what else am I trying to control or hang onto that is actually causing anxiety? Chink, chink, a couple more pieces fall off. Boy does He have a long way to go!

Until next time: blessings!

He Calls Me By Name

Isaiah 43:1 “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!“

Happy Tuesday dear friend. If it’s not Tuesday when you’re reading this, it will be soon. Actually, writing that reminds me that the only thing we have control over is how we choose to react when something happens to us. This brings me to Eric and my conversation yesterday.

If you’ve been with me long enough you know my morning routine: coffee, quiet time, coffee, workout, coffee, shower, coffee and getting breakfast stuff going, well, and coffee. I basically just sip all morning. A couple of times a week Eric and I do try to work out together.

Eric’s schedule, otherwise, is slightly different. A bit of quiet time, then work out, then quiet time, prayer, shower, grab breakfast, and out the door he goes. In there are precious moments. Between the quiet time and the workout he usually comes and checks on me.

For a while I think he was checking my blood pressure, LOL. “Are they at it again?” I would then proceed to complain about how the Israelites turned away from God for the umpteenth time. “How could they not believe/obey in God when He was a cloud in front of them during the day or a pillar of fire by night?! Erg!!! We have to have faith without seeing but they could see and choose not to believe!!!”

Maybe he was checking on me to make sure I wasn’t having a coronary. Anyway, he grins, gives me a kiss and goes off to work out. After his prayer time, as he passes me making breakfast, I often say, “What was your nugget?” That’s where yesterday’s nugget matched up with Heavenly Dad and my conversation.

His nugget (a reminder), “I need to make sure I’m not focusing on what I’m not allowed to do in my relationship with God versus what I’m supposed to do/or can do.” I knew exactly what he was talking about.

Can you imagine driving a car with the goal of not hitting the guard rails? What if at the age of 16 you sat behind the wheel and your parents said, “OK, push on the gas. Don’t go over the white lines on either side of the road. Don’t cross over the yellow line in the middle of the road. Don’t go through stop signs. Don’t go through red lights and try your darndest not to go through yellow lights. Don’t hit pedestrians crossing the road. Don’t go too fast. Don’t go too slow. Don’t break on railroad tracks and don’t go through blinking lights at railroad crossings.

Are you feeling excited about learning to drive?

What if it was presented as it was intended? “Driving is freedom to travel to new places, experience incredible opportunities, and expand your horizons! You can meet new people, taste different foods, listen to music written in ways you never imagined! In order to keep you and the world around you safe there’s just a few rules you need to learn… .

How do you feel about driving now?

Eric and I were chatting about why it’s important to focus on living the life God created for us instead of us focusing on all of the “thou shall nots.”

In Thursday night Bible study, Eric and I are learning about, “kingdom living.” We are children of God and with that have great purpose. We need to focus on the identity we have in Him as children of the Almighty, His heirs. Though humble in spirit, we should hold our heads high. We are chosen! He calls us by name. We were His before we were not.

How does this apply? He is our Dad. He loves us and wants us to be here. We are not accidents of nature. We were planned/designed/created in His image! He wants to hang out with us and spend time. He wants us to praise and worship Him but wants us to tell Him what we need and want. Is this relationship always pretty? Mine’s not.

Confession: when I’m anxious and alone I talk out loud to God. It’s not always the most respectful, I might add. The other day I was just frustrated beyond belief and I was pouring out my soul to Him. I cried out loudly, “Why can’t you just give me…“ and then it hit me, “… peace.” With that one word He did. He didn’t fix the problems I was facing or remove temptations. He gave me a peace to deal with all of them. He fixed me. He helped me realize what I needed, gave me the word to say and then honored my request. I am learning to walk through this rough situation with my hand in His, so I’ll have some experience under my belt for the next bit of rough terrain. Is it fun? No. Do I need it? Evidently I do. Do I trust it’s going to work out in the end? Absolutely.

Does any of this make sense? This is just what He gave me, so I’m passing it on to you. You can take it in and chew on it or throw it away. I bet it would taste pretty good with coffee, everything does.

Until next time your friends: blessings!

God Put on the Brakes

Isaiah 30:15-16 “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In  returning and rest you shall be saved;  in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, 16 and you said, “No! We will flee upon horses”;  therefore you shall flee away;
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”; therefore your pursuers shall be swift.

Wow! This was in my devotions today and took me back to last week: “Run run as fast as you can…” Why is the Lord pushing so hard on this topic, I have no idea.

This passage is talking about how Israel/Jerusalem fell(Let’s be honest, they turned their back’s) away from God and what they need(ed) to do to get back.

You know the way I say God always speaks to me in threes? Last week He was speaking to me about this very topic. Last night Eric and I were listening to an End Time Ministry program and a dude called in to say,” I fell into my old life, what do I do now? I knew it was wrong, one little thing happened which led to another… In the end I really messed up. What do I do?” The way he asked the question it was almost like he thought God wouldn’t take him back. This morning’s devotional makes three. Anyway…

Reverend Baxter asked him, “Who loves you more satan or God?“ His answer, “Well, God does.“

Baxter then proceeded with, “If Satan took you back that quickly, how much faster would God take you back since He loves you more?” Lightbulb!

This passage in Isaiah lays it out. There’s no running to gain forgiveness. The faster and further we run the more we’re pursued by whatever is chasing us. The path to rest…is repentance. That’s the quiet. We think we have to move to build muscle, but the strength comes in the rest and trust : quietness.

EERK! Repentance is a big word. What the heck does it mean? It means, STOP running. Take a breath. Admit that you screwed up, say you’re sorry, and stop doing it. Turn… Walk away. Trust Him, He’s got this so rest. Let Him deal with whatever is chasing you. Who can do a better job at beating your enemies (whatever is pursuing you), you or Him?

Confession: This week God put the brakes on: I throughout my back again. Believe it or not, it was coffee related! I just leaned over to pour out the dribble in the bottom of my cup next to the car and Bam! There it went. Why? I have no idea. I’m not fighting it. Eric helped me lay down and we prayed about it. I was able to get through the weekend better than previously and it is slowly on the amends. This is my reminder that the strength I need is found in the rest that I haven’t been willing to take for a while. My, “going, going, going,” means eventually, my pursuers, my back issue, is going to come up and overtake me, as it’s always pursuing me. Right now I need to find my strength and healing in rest.

Are you running? What is pursuing you? Do you need rest and strength? All I know is this verse says to stop. Rest. Repent. Trust. You’ll gain strength.

These are not my words, but I share them with you, my dear friend. Please stop running. Rest.

Until next time: Blessings

I’ve Got This

Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

“Run, run—as fast as you can! You can’t catch me! I’m the gingerbread man!” Maybe I’m pulling a little bit too much of the Grammy thing into this blog, LOL. This nursery rhyme written long ago, ties in perfectly with this verse. Do you wonder why?

Lately, I’ve been running into a lot of people with very high expectations for themselves. So high, in fact, I doubt if they will ever reach them. They’re running and running but getting nowhere.
Though it’s good to set goals, perfection should be off the table. That has been saved for our eternity with Heavenly Dad.

Why am I talking about this? When the subject of God comes up with people who are actually interested in getting to know Him, these underlying expectations surface. These individuals might cuss, smoke, drink, whatever they feel is a sin or not worthy of God. The funny thing is, I don’t say a word. It’s their convictions, not mine.

I’m just another sinner saved by grace. I don’t have the time or the energy to judge anyone else’s actions when I have enough crap on my own plate I’m trying to deal with. It’s funny the way they look at me like I’m supposed to acknowledge that they are a heathen or something. I feel like they would feel better if I would judge them, as a punishment for/to themselves. It’s not gonna happen.

I want to share with them that God wants them as they are. They don’t need to clean themselves up, per se, to come to Him. His hands, with the nail prints, are open for them NOW. He wants them just the way they are.

Don’t get me wrong, once we fall in love with Him, we won’t want to do some of the things that we’re doing. We will want to change to become more like Him. The difference is, we can rely on His help to get rid of the baggage that has been holding us back/down. When these actions are stealing our attention and robbing our lives of joy and relationship, He says,”Give them to me. You’ve carried them long enough. You are a new creation and this isn’t who you are. This is not a part of who you were created to be so step away from it-run. You won’t go back because when you are tempted to, you will, again, give it to me.”

“I’ve got this.”

We then have the freedom to do what we were created to do—the TRUE desires of our hearts. Do you know what those are? I didn’t until I asked Him.

I didn’t know that I would love standing in front of 110 blank faces of 2nd-4th graders to teach them who Jesus is and about His love.

I didn’t know my heart would be blessed by standing in front of 50 crafting ladies teaching them how to make 3-D flowers. I excitedly shared the beauty that God instilled in Linda and Emma Lou (Heartfelt ) to share with others. I didn’t know until I asked and He sent people to open those doors of opportunity.

The rest of my heart’s desire was to be a wife and mom. When, at the age of 45, the wife part ended in loosing my love to cancer and at 48 walking my only daughter down the isle to give her to another, the desires were all gone. I had to ask for a renewed heart and new dreams. He blessed me with Eric.

With blessing does not come instant understanding. I did/do not know how to love Eric the way he needs to be loved. Heavenly Dad is teaching me, I’m trusting Him, and Eric is tolerating me, moment by moment as the new love and understanding unfold.

How does all of this start? It’s as easy as ABC:

Talk to Him.

Admit you have sinned and you are sorry (be as specific as possible and you’ll feel a lot better). Please know that sin was what was separating you from Heavenly Dad and there was price to pay.

Believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay, once and for all, for that sin. Because of this sacrifice, you are no longer separated from Heavenly Dad. He hears your every whisper. You will never be alone again.

Choose to follow him. Get into his word. It’s an amazing book! It’s full of adventure, romance, words of wisdom, parables, people who screw up, people who do things right, mystery, prophecy, everything you could ever want to read.

No different than a parent that keeps their child from sticking their finger in a light socket, He, too, has guidelines for you to live by. Get to know those so you can be safe and free.

Lastly, tell the world! Don’t hide your light! Be baptized and wash away the old and show the world that you are new. The old is gone, the new has come.

What’s keeping you down with the chains of your baggage? How long do you want to carry it? When you are done… Done… He’s waiting for you.

I love you dear friends. Until next time: blessings!

When God asked, “How’s that anger thing working for you?”

Jonah 4:4 “Do you do well to be angry?”

Today I’m crying “uncle“ to another area if my life that I’ve been trying to handle/figure out all by myself. You have probably known me long enough to know how well THAT works for me—I suck at it. Time to begin yet ANOTHER new chapter.

Being previously married for 27 years I thought I figured out what I enjoyed about marriage. What I have found in the last one year plus, is that some of the things that I thought was “marriage“ was just my relationship with Archie. It’s time to Kabash those expectations. I’m heading to counseling for myself.

This brings me to my devotions yesterday and this verse in Jonah, the next chapter on my journey through the Bible. I think most of us know the story of the big fish that swallowed him for three days and then vomited him out on dry land. That’s a mental picture I try not to focus on for too long.

The long and short of the story is the city of Nineveh was doing evil and God wanted Jonah to give them a heads up that, because of this, God was going to destroy them. Jonah knew that if he warned the city, they might repent and be saved. Believe it or not, Jonah didn’t want to go. He thought this city deserved the punishment it was about to get. He hopped on a boat and went in the opposite direction.

Many know the story of the angry storm that happened next: The men in the boat frantically dumped cargo over to lighten the load, but to no avail. They eventually find Jonah sleeping and are like, “What!?! Get up and pray to your God!”

What was Jonah supposed to do? Tell them the storm was all his fault because he was running from the Almighty? (BTW, God doesn’t appear to tolerate disobedience for long)? That’s what he did.

Did they believe them? Would you? Well, the next thing they did was cast lots to see who’s problem/fault it was. Guess who’s name came up. Bingo! Jonah was the culprit, just as he said. The long story short, too late, is that he told him to throw him overboard. They didn’t want to, but did and the storm immediately stopped.

Did God let Jonah drown? In all honesty, He could have! What would be MY price for disobedience? What about people who offend or disappoint me? Do I let them drown/cut them out of my life—ouch!!! Obviously he didn’t or there would be no story of the big fish in the Bible.

After that the nauseous fish did his thing, God spoke again to Jonah and he wiped the fish stomach bile off of his extremities and obeyed. Keep in mind, it didn’t ’t mean he was happy about it. Off to Nineveh he went.

Nineveh had approximately 120,000 people and it took three days to walk across it. It shocked me to learn that Jonah walked through and warned the people without screaming, doing miracles or anything unexplainable but the people of Nineveh repented! Even the king put on sac clothe and commanded everyone to fast. God sent him when the Almighty had prepared their hearts and knew that they were ready to hear. It was all in His time and part of the great design.

You think 120,000 people being saved would put a smile on Jonah’s face but you’d be wrong. Instead, he moped and got angry. He wasn’t happy that they were sorry for their past mistakes. All he could focus on was the pain and misery they caused others before repentance.

That one cut me to the heart. How many times do I get caught up in someone’s past mistakes? Can I leave the past in the past and see them as God sees them now, forgiven and new? The big question is: Can I be happy for them? Forgiven doesn’t mean they won’t have natural consequences for their mistakes—we all do. Who am I to think I have the right to expect anything to or from anyone else when I’m not walking in perfection—ouch!

As I was studying, Heavenly Dad revealed that many of us have very different views of Him. Though I see him as my daddy who scooped my up in my desperation and gave me a reason to keep living, others view Him as a big monster just waiting to pounce on them for every mistake they make. Jonah chapter 4 verse two Jonah says “I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and relenting from disaster.“ Jonah described who God is. “Relenting from disaster…” Means that He wants to stop the mess He sees us creating if we would just FREEZE… and repent.

Jonah is the witness/testimonial, maybe reminder is a better word, that once we make changes in our lives not everyone’s going be happy for us.

Jonah was so angry about their salvation he asked God to take his life! That’s some pretty intense judgment on Jonah‘s part, don’t you think? But then again, don’t we do that to ourselves? We so focus on others “not getting what they deserve,“ that we stop living our life and wallow in anger, wasting our time and breath. That truly is stealing our time and/or the death of OUR life.

Jonah 4:4 “Do you do well to be angry?”

I love this verse! It was like God saying “So how’s that anger thing working out for you? Are you living the life you’ve always wanted? Is this judgment getting you anywhere in life? Do you feel fulfilled, content, purposeful? Are those feelings helping in your relationships, building your business, making you a better and more complete person? How do you feel about yourself when you look in the mirror there buddy?”

Yep, I love this verse. God not only asked once, but twice. He wanted to make sure Jonah heard it. Me too.

That’s why I’m going to counseling. I need someone else to hear the words coming out of my mouth to see if they’re lining up with where my heart needs to be. If they aren’t, I need to get on my face in front of the Great Designer, apologize for criticizing, judging, and manipulating His judgments and design. I need tell Him that I trust Him and actually do just that. Then I need to let Him do His thing and focus on the path He has for ME and not judge the paths of others.

So my question is: how’s the anger thing working for you?

Until next time, blessings!

Just Between You and Me

2 Chronicles 20:22 “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.“

Happy Thursday—for you Friday! How was your day? My Thursday feels like…Thursday. It is midday so hopefully, I’m sliding down towards Friday, LOL.

It’s my lunch time at Heartfelt Creations. Usually during that time I’m praying or checking Facebook videos on food. Whatever I’m doing I’m usually walking. Today’s the same, but my attention span is lacking. I think Heavenly Dad is nudging me about my devotions this morning. I’d best refocus, settle my thoughts, and open my ears to hear His still small voice.

I shared with you that I’m reading through the Bible. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited or annoyed with my devotional time. I’m learning tons but my view of the people of Bible is changing. I always perceived the Bible as a book of perfect people that I have to live up to. Instead, it’s a bunch of people who constantly turn their backs on God. Part of me wonders: had they known all their mistakes would be published in a book to be read for centuries to come, would they have made the same choices?

They followed God. They didn’t follow God. They followed God. They didn’t follow God. When they didn’t follow God crap happened and then they called out to God, “Help me! Help me!“ It’s sort of annoying. I get so perturbed. God was in a cloud for them to see every day and a pillar of fire by night! How could they NOT follow when they didn’t need faith just EYESIGHT?!?!? I often air off to Eric. He tends to do a half-smile at me and then smirks,”For now…” when I complain, “Good grief they’ve turned their backs on God again!”

Then you have the kings that, “…did more evil than any other that came before him.” I can’t even guess how many times that’s been said. There were some seriously bad dudes in the old testament.

With that being said, it does help me keep perspective about loving myself. Do you ever have trouble doing that? Sometimes I feel like all I do is screw up and then say, “Help me! Help me!“ (Does that ring any bells?) At least I know I’m not alone AND thank God my goof ups won’t be documented for generations to come.

The passage above was in my devotions today and I thought it was quite interesting. King Jehoshaphat, who actually did follow God, found out that he was going to be attacked. There were several kings coming against him and he knew they were going to be slaughtered. They took this situation to the Lord and basically the Lord said, “I’ve got this.“

At the end of my Bible reading in the “What did you get out of this?“ I got a real positive. It was seriously cool because after God said “I’ve got this” Jehoshaphat went to the battlefield. He then appointed people to start worshiping and praising God—what?!? They had total and full trust and faith that God was in control. The passage says while they were worshiping and praising, God arranged an ambush for his enemies. They didn’t even have to battle, God did it for them!

When I pondered this to myself, I wondered if I ever had that much faith…? When something comes at me that I know I’m going to fail, I do pray. I may even not even have a shadow of a doubt that God is in control and everything is going to be fine. Now the question: do I automatically start praising Him even before I see the results? That would be a no.

When I contemplate further: have I ever had that much faith? The honest answer is also a painful “no.” Usually, I keep my focus on the enemy rushing towards me. My hands may be in my pockets but my mouth is probably still moving. The thoughts in my head, coming out of my mouth, are not “thank you”s but more of,” Wow, can those guys run! Heavenly Dad, you do have this, right?”“They’re getting pretty close there Heavenly Dad…“ As if I could tell the Creator of all how to do His job better than Him. Seriously?

The Absolute craziest part of this is the fact that I do know that He’s “got this“. In my twisted thought process what I am actually thinking is: “I mean I know you’re in control. Even if I’m defeated in battle, you’re going to work all things for the good, right?“

I expect the bottom to fall out and then trust that He’s going to make a masterpiece out of my brokenness. I very rarely trust that He’s going to SAVE me from the actual destruction. It’s like when bad things happen, I feel like God looks at whatever the bad situation running at me and says, “That’s gonna make some beautiful flowers.“(beauty from ashes).

Today I question myself: why do I only trust Him with brokenness? Do I not believe that He can save and use me the way I am? I took a step away from myself and realized that, with me, it is a very unhealthy piece of me that believed God can only use me after picking me up from rubble and dusting off the soot. That’s sad. That’s not love.

With that insight, I’m not going to pretend to have the answer. I know it’s another area that he’s chipping away at, I need to seek Him in prayer, then shut my big mouth of doubt and listen as He reminds me: I am created for a purpose, I am made in his image, I am His child first and foremost and He loved me enough to die so we could be together.

The first step was admitting to myself that I even felt this way— And then I go blabbing to you, LOL. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone. He said I don’t have to stay this way.

Until next time:blessings!

Social Distancing of the Heart

Proverbs 12:18 “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 13:17 “A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.“

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” I have quipped this childhood saying before. With the recognition of the term “bullying“ and the results there of, this phrase has been proven inaccurate.

This week I was “blessed“ with the opportunity to experience this for myself. Even putting on my “armor“ before heading out for a holy battle didn’t prepare me.

Eric and I were camping. We took it easy and meandered through the morning with coffee and several hours of alone time with Heavenly Dad. We had to share a VERY small space. When I was done I offered to run across the parking lot to the store to give Eric seclusion to pray.

With Covid-19, Eric and I very rarely go into stores. We usually order groceries ahead for pick up. When I stepped through the doors of Meijer, it took a microsecond to remind me why we continue this practice even with the restrictions lightened. The store was packed. Half of the patrons were in masks, the other trying desperately to tango their way down the aisles maintaining the acceptable 6 feet of safe space.

There were small lines in each row waiting to proceed further down the aisle to reach a desired/particular brand. Each time the invisible lines were crossed tension would rise. It was very stressful. Finally my list was complete. It is now impossible to buzz your way to the checkout with distance requirements in place. Since the self checkout seemed the shortest, I took my place in the clothing racks behind the “next” person in line. They were standing on the appropriate star sticker on the floor directly in the middle of the main isle—awkward!! When a register opened, on they went and I moseyed my way to the star.

Carefully taking my place to avoid giving or getting contact from any passerby, I was swinging my cart around to make sure my backend would not block the moving traffic on both sides. That’s when it happened.

Not even fully in place, a woman with a mound of groceries slides into place between me and the person at the checkout counter. She looked back at me as I smiled pointed to the safe social distancing stars on the floor. She nodded and…turned her back to me, staying in the middle of then aisle blocking traffic. Oooookkkkkay.

My thought was,”At least I’m not on a time table,” and I waited. Next a man came up behind me, not hiding out in the racks like I had done but distancing himself down the center aisle. I smiled. The woman in front moved forward to take the next open register and then it happened.

The man behind me went around me! At this point I was feeling very invisible and said to the gentleman,”I’m so sorry but the stars on the floor show us where we are supposed to stand and I’m am actually next.” Barely making eye contact he mumbled,”I’m with her her,” and went ahead. Now I’m tired, as I had been waiting for sometime, felt disrespected, and if that weren’t bad enough, when I scooch up to take the lady’s place to make sure no one else stands in front, a Meijer employee chastises me for not being on the star! In my mind I was thinking,”Where were you just moments ago?!?!”

To make a long story short—too late, I made it through the line but grumpiness was in my heart. As I slowly made my way back to the campsite I was comparing the feelings of joy, fulfillment, and peace that I had when I left with the frustration, impatience, and disrespect I was feeling now. I would say I was miffed but being honest, I was angry. That stunk! It only took an hour, even less, to literally feel like a completely different person. I had felt so…prepared! Now I had to face Eric. Who was I going to be when I walked through that door?

Thankfully, I did have time to process and pray about this between the store and Eric. I plopped down and told him what happened and the feelings I had but that’s where it ended. I confessed how frustrated I was with myself, first and foremost, for letting the actions of others affect my feelings. Instead of giving Eric the opportunity to jump into the situation and be angry with me to justly comfort me, I asked him what I could do better to prepare for the next time that happened.

Proverbs 12:18 “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 13:17 “A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.“

What would my day have been like if my recollection of the details would have stayed negative? How would that have set the stage for maybe not just that day but the reminder of our camping? “Trouble” seems like a simple term for all of the turmoil we probably avoided by choosing not to “act” on the negative feelings even if they were justifiable.

Hmmmm…I’m still working on not feeling that way to BEGIN with. It’s definitely a process.

Until next time: blessings!