All I Know Is: not much—but Enough

Colossians 4:2, NIV: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

Watchful and thankful…watchful and thankful…watchful and thankful… . This was the verse of the day that I was pondering. I started praying through it and I was wondering what I supposed to be watchful for. For some reason my mind went back to our Thursday Bible study.

Eric and I love to listen to pastors or teachers that we don’t normally listen to, just to see what they have to say compared to how we believe. We came upon a pastor from the church that Eric used to attend. He now travels and teaches and they no longer refer to his messages as “sermons.” The person who wrote the article referred to the people in line as going to a “show.” Interesting. It was also interesting that this gentleman did a question and answer time before the “show.“

A young man asked a question that challenged this speaker. The man asked how a loving God could allow his wife to be pregnant with a child that they knew was either going to die or have serious medical issues. The speaker was quiet and pondered for a moment. He didn’t really have an answer except to tell the young man to stay away from people that quoted scriptures like, “all things work together for the good of those that love God,” and similar scriptures.

Some listening to the interview would be shocked, appalled, and would choose to take offense. As I listened though, my mind went back to Archie’s first diagnosis with cancer. Those scriptures are exactly what my pastor’s wife quoted to me. It was not comforting. I honestly felt judged and that she didn’t feel like my “feelings” were valid. The idea that I was supposed to take my focus off of Archie‘s pain in the moment and think happy thoughts about the future seemed cold and insensitive. But who am I?

When I heard that preacher say those words, conflict was brewing within me. My heart knew the Scriptures to be true but at that time I was hurting. God felt 1,000,000 miles away. I knew using his roadmap would ultimately get me to the right destination. I also knew the path I was on had rocky roads, raging rivers, deep caverns, hills and valleys, and things that I didn’t know how to get through. I longed for a guide who would meet me where I was at, take me by the hand to help me up the difficult parts and catch me when I would fall backwards. I didn’t need someone ahead of me, across the abyss in front, screaming about how wonderful the Destination was going to be. Then again, that’s just me.

Thursday night, the subject came up. Thankfully (watchful and thankful) The people of our group had a good understanding of my feelings. Heavenly Dad spoke to me in that moment.

What would you say if someone asked that question to you, “Where is God when…?”

All I know is God loves you. All I know is He loved you so much He gave His only… Only Son to die FOR YOU so you can be with Him. All I know is I am so imperfect the price of my forgiveness was so high it cost Jesus his life.

I don’t know why this is happening. All I know is that He doesn’t want you to hurt. He didn’t cause this issue but I realize He maybe allowing it. All I know is you don’t have to go through this alone. He wants to give you comfort, a safe place to hurt and heal.

Isaiah 25:4a For You have been a defense for the helpless, A defense for the needy in his distress,
A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat;

Psalm 46 God is our refuge and strength, a great help in times of distress. Therefore we will not be frightened when the earth roars, when the mountains shake in the depths of the seas, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains tremble despite their pride.

When I was in my darkest hours and was so alone I pictured myself under Heavenly wings, protected from blasts of unknown turbulence, rain, cold, preditors, anything and everything.

Psalm 36:7 How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.

All I know is…I felt safe.

I don’t have any answers to why things happen. All I know is…I am His child that He scooped up off the floor, out of a puddle of tears. He comforted me when no one else had any words and or failed to show up. Though He didn’t give me back my best friend, eventually (after loooong hours with Him and some healing) He have gave me a another/different best friend who graces me with no pressure to hid or forget my past.

All I know is: He can be there for you.

Until next time: blessings!

There’s the Rub

Proverbs 25:28 “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.“

Proverbs 10:30 “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty and he who rules his spirit then he who takes a city.”

Do you see the common phrase in both of these passages of scripture? “Rules his spirit.“ This is Heavenly Dad’s elbow into my side. I am reading through Proverbs, so one Proverbs is understandable. The second proverb came in the book Power of a Praying Wife. Again, a certain chapter on a certain day, in a book that I picked up randomly, with the exact phrase from the portion of the Bible I am in when I am just reading through the Bible. What are the chances? Only God…and his elbows.

This week was Father’s Day. I did a post in Facebook thanking the men in my life. This included my dad, Kristian-my son-in-law, Eric, and referencing Archie, as his presence will always be part of my life.

In it I referenced how Archie crammed 21 years of life into Taylor. I challenged her not to grieve what she is missing but to celebrate that she had him. There’s the rub. I need to practice what I preach.

I’ve only known Eric for a little less than two years, so I have to leave him out of this. Archie was the best dad I’ve ever known. It’s probably because I got a front row seat of his parenting style for 21 years. I sat beside the coach and watched the way he affected his player, or players, when we fostered.

I know how much he thought about, sacrificed for, and worked hard to provide for Taylor to succeed AND fail, to learn for herself. Anyone that knew him knows he was not an enabler. Taylor won big or lost but always had a soft place to land when she fell. We were her practice ground for the real world: safe. It was OK to fail, because she was always loved.

There are a couple of men that I greatly respect and their parenting styles align closely with his. There are more relationships between fathers and children that I see lacking in that connection, for whatever reason.

Now that Arch is gone, Father’s Day always seems to have a tinge of grief for those relationships. I grieve for those people because I know Taylor and Archie had that wonderful relationship, and it had to stop by neither of their choosing. I grieve because of these other relationships that both parties are still here but there is not the sacrifice or effort. It makes my heart so heavy, it hurts.

I celebrated Eric yesterday but by the end of the day the heaviness had stolen my smile. I shared with him why, and as I was saying the words my challenge to Taylor on Facebook started screaming, “Hypocrite!”

I choked back half a laugh as I shared this with Eric and he grinned. It was then I had my topic for this blog. That, of course, is only half of the equation. A topic needs content.

This morning in my time with Heavenly Dad, “Rule your spirit,” was a reminder for me to get it together. I choose what I dwell on. I can’t help what pops into my head, but I decide how long I let it tumble around in there. I set the time limit for focus. I know when I’m wallowing. I choose to continue wallowing or I choose to think about something else.

Freebe: I have learned thinking about cookies, M&Ms, or skittles are not good options.

Choosing to celebrate and what that looks like is also a choice. Celebration can be as elaborate as hosting guests and friends to reminisce about the good memories. It can be as simple as allowing 10 to 15 minutes to think about/on happy memories. Past accomplishments are proof that over the course of time we have built muscle.

“My strength comes from the Lord,” says that many are stronger than they even realize. If we try and remember it’s not up to us to have the muscle, it’s up to God to carry it for us, anything is possible.

For me, I confess, it’s easy to play the victim. It’s easier to give excuses as to why I can’t than make the effort to “can and will.” But that’s just me and the Heavenly elbow was reminding me to knock it off and stop focusing on the negative. I have a Dad to apologize to for my haughty expectations over the years, a step-dad to thank for being in my life, a son-in-law whom I love and was blessed to help celebrate his first father’s Day, and Eric to celebrate that God gifted him with two amazing kids. I am blessed!

The pity party was over. Until next time: Blessings!

Podium People

Psalm 119:36 “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!”

“ I don’t know… I think I have to pray about it and see if I can get used to it.“ That’s kind of the way we left it.

Do you remember a few weeks back I talked about the, “Buffet versus the carry-in”? That’s what this conversation was about. The last few weeks, post Covid-19 lock down, has proven interesting. The church services have been shorter, not the length of time, but the length of the “message.” There’s more podium time for people to share their testimonies. That’s the part that I need to get used to.

I’ve shared with you that my daily devotions, part of it, is reading chapters of the Bible and then the, “what did you get out of it?” That’s the way church is now. We show up, they’re singing for a while, maybe a message, but then the podium opens up. People get up and share what God is doing in their lives. Some people get up weekly. Why? That one I had to ask myself. Honestly, though, shouldn’t we all be getting up each week? If we’re having our devotions every day, and God is speaking into our lives, shouldn’t I have something to say? Shouldn’t I be looking for the way He’s moving in my life? Shouldn’t I be seeing some sort of change?

Eric and I got into it this week and it was totally my fault. Of course, at the time I didn’t see it that way, LOL. Yes, disagreements do take two people, but life is “10% what happens to us, 90% how we react to it,“ Swindal. Eric said something, but it wasn’t the words that he said, it was the way that he said it. It was my choice how I reacted to it and I did a poopy job(Willow’s Grammy came out in that description). Shame on me! I had the power to encourage or to tear down. I flubbed it.

Joyce Meyer said something years ago, when Taylor was maybe in middle school. It stuck with me and continues to resonate in my mind. She said, “When we have a disagreement, look for something to apologize for. There’s something, even just one thing, that you could’ve done differently.“ She was right. Through Taylor’s middle school and high school years I used that premise. Even if she did some thing that rocked my world, I still looked for some microscopic thing I could’ve done differently.

The kids I used to teach Sunday School also knew my theme/goal in life, “Whoever apologizes first wins!“ I try not to let a wound fester. It’s hard eating crow, but what stands between me and my first bite is ego. It’s hurts even more when someone else may have thrown the first punch. Truth: I am responsible for my actions/reactions and the way I treat others. There’s no way around that.

At the time one of these “events” happens, however I completely justify my nasty response in my head. They hurt me, so that gives me some sort of “right“ to hurt them back. “I’m just defending myself,” right?

Psalm 119:36 “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!”

This doesn’t say that I’m supposed to follow God‘s lead when everything is going well. I’m supposed to be following God‘s lead instead of thinking about myself. That includes when someone doesn’t treat me the way I want to be treated or the way I expect to be treated. Ouch! That one hurts.

Heavenly Dad has nudged me before on this one and is working on me, again, about my expectations. If I expect nothing when bad things happen, I would take them in stride. But I don’t expect bad things to happen. Truth be told, I expect people to be nice to me-butterflies and rainbows. When that doesn’t happen I sometimes get pinched. How ridiculous is that?

Honestly, if someone is having a bad day and are having a hard time “holding it together,” shouldn’t I be the safe place they can go? Shouldn’t I be the person they should be able to be ugly to yet be accepted wholly, completely, and loved without expectation?

When it was all over, I got out my knife and fork and took my first bite of crow. Eric deserved better. God deserves better. No, I’m not really much of a podium person, but I can honestly say I did see God work. Eric forgave me and still loves me, in spite of myself.

I need to sharpen my knife and have my fork a little closer for a quicker pickup. More than anything I need to be willing to pick it up a heck of a lot quicker than I did the last time.

Till next time: blessings!

“Off with their heads!“— Or Not

2 Samuel 18:32 “The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” And the Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up against you for evil be like that young man.”

Good morning! Can you tell the coffee’s kicked in? I usually begin my blogs explaining the morning view from where I sit. Today, however, I’m on my way to work. Maybe I should ask you if you are enjoying the view from the passenger seat.

I love talk-to-text and the bonus alone time with God as I’m going about my daily duties. Driving along, I’m talking into a phone, like the old fashioned micro tape recorders from the 80s or 90s. Why? Because Heavenly Dad’s been whispering to me and I want to jot it down before I forget.

This morning‘s devotional opened my eyes to my reactions to those with whom I have to share difficult information. David was,”The man after God’s own heart,” so I know when he reacted to a situation in love, it’s best for me to sit up and take notice.

2 Samuel 17-18 was about David’s son, Absalom who was out to steal his kingdom. The extreme sad aspect is that David had to go to war against his OWN people because of his son’s tyranny and underhanded methods to steal his throne.

How did David respond to his son’s attempt to kill him and take his throne? He asked his men to take it easy on his son—the one who drove him out and was trying to steal his crown.

I was reading through this and in the end of my reading program there’s, “what did you get out of this,“ or something along those lines. My take away today was the response of the servant who had to tell David that his son had been killed.

Though David was THE man, he was a warrior nonetheless. I’ve read where men had come to him to tell him news about Saul, the previous king (who was trying to kill him out of jealousy). Though the news was technically in David‘s favor, he had the men (who thought they were being helpful) killed because they had dishonored Saul. Even though David was given the throne by God, and could have rightly overtaken Saul to claim kingship, he did not. He honored Saul by recognizing him as the first chosen one of God. So that’s a snippet in how David handled those who disobeyed orders.

Did I mention that David’s son was not alone in his conspiracy? Oh, no, he was in cahoots with people David considered friends! Can you imagine the trust issues David would have to work through at the conclusion of this affair? (that’s my butterfly side-thought)

The part that spoke to me was David’s response to being told his son was dead. Actually, it was more of THE WAY he was told.

When the messenger came to him about his son, he HAD to have been in fear. David had asked them to be merciful to his son and they had killed him. How? One man put three swords into his heart while 10 surrounded him and beat him to death! How the heck is that an example of mercy? In my mind I hear the queen of hearts screaming, “OFF with their heads!“ What would David do?

The way the messager spoke is what made me sit up and take notice:

2 Samuel 18:32 “The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” And the Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up against you for evil be like that young man.”

That was it. That was the verse that spoke to me out of the three chapters I read that day-weird, right?

I questioned myself: how do I talk to people about difficult situations? Do I share areas of concern or things they don’t want to hear but need to hear in a way that they need to hear it? This messenger has been running to David, probably for a veeeeeery long time. Cell phones or cars would’ve been amazing! He was probably hot, sweaty, exhausted, and scared for his life. I wonder what his self-talk consisted of? Was he saying “Crap, crap, crap, crap, I can’t believe I have to do this! Crap crap, crap, crap!”?

Of course, the smart thing to do would’ve been to pray, “Dear Heavenly Father, what words does David need to hear?” I probably would’ve huffed and puffed, “Just the facts, Jack,” along with, “this is so not my fault…“.

This messenger of wisdom shared painful information in a way, not only getting the point across, but almost saying a blessing for David. I would never have been able to come up with that.

That was the rub.

The javelin that went into David’s son’s heart was shared with mine. How often do I know facts, whether in every day conversation or in the heat of the moment, that are 100% right but the way I say them is 100% wrong: Accusatory, degrading, or whatever but in a way which is not sympathetic or empathetic. Sometimes my response is just as painful as the information I’m sharing. Shame on me.

It would be great to say I’d always have the opportunity to pray before I have to speak. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, there’s no time for prayer. This was another self-check. Am I praying now for God to guard my tongue and my mind? Am I asking for His protection concerning the words that fly out of my mouth on a daily basis? Ouch!

David left and grieved deeply. I don’t know if this messenger is ever mentioned again in the Bible but his example spoke to me.

Sidenote: how many times do we do something that’s just “our job” and people that we are unaware of are watching and taking notice? There’s a freebie.

Anyway, I probably don’t get out of Bible reading what someone else would. I believe this verse was put in front of me, on this day, at this point in my life for this to be brought to my mind. I was ready for my Heavenly Dad to continue to refine me in this area. Will I get it 100% right? 100% no, but at least I’m aware and when I make mistakes I will trust that He will bring it to my mind more quickly and slowly but surely I will look a little more like Him.

Until next time, blessings!

Teach Me

Psalm 51:10-11 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.”

“but I don’t have time… Maybe I can take it to work and do it at break… It’s just one day… .”

This is me arguing with me. Do you ever do that? My morning did not start as I wanted it to. My back hurt so the excuses started from the moment my eyes popped open.

I think I told you about my day starting at 2:30 in the morning. Since clarity doesn’t come until after coffee, I try to head off as many excuses to not do what I know I should do before I pull the sheets up at night. I usually go to bed in whatever I’m gonna work out in the next morning. Why? One less thing to do, technically three: I don’t have to think about what I’m wearing to bed, I’m saving laundry, and have one less excuse why not to work out in the morning(getting ready or changing).

After nearly falling out of bed in the morning, I mumble some sort of morning phrase to Eric and then drag myself to Clisthby. A few sips of the magical brew, quick stop in the restroom (must chase Hal away so I can stand myself-halitosis) and then off to battle! The movie War Room is my distraction of choice and I am close to having what scene-to-start-where to make it thru my workout.

Sometimes I love it but other times there are constant excuses in my head as to why it’s OK to stop early. The longer it takes to argue with myself the further I get in the work out. Finally, I concede that I’m almost done and focus on the movie. It’s much more enjoyable when I finally stop squabbling with myself.

After, I jump into the shower, super quick and do a five to ten minute doo. I guess you could safely say, I’m not exactly high maintenance. For me, I just want to get through all of the last hour and 15 minutes or so to get to the good part: my time with Heavenly Dad.

Today my devotions were about the Holy Spirit. Next, I read my chapters in the Bible in the program to read thru the Bible in a year. Day 124 can be checked off the list-Whoot, Whoot! Psalms 51 mentioned that David asked God not to remove the Holy Spirit from him. That one needs more contemplation so a notation was jotted in my margin. I was a little shocked because I didn’t think the Holy Spirit was really mentioned until after Jesus died on the cross. Two mentions of the Holy Spirit, cool, but my time was running short.

I like to have plenty of time to pray. Lately, I’ve been journaling my prayers. I write for a bit and then pause and wait to see what else God brings to mind. What I’ve added to my morning schedule is the book, “The Power of a Praying Wife.“ There laid the dilemma for the morning: I felt like there had to be a choice of either the book or a longer prayer time. One is a prayer strategy, the other is putting legs on that strategy and I didn’t have time for contemplation. I think at that point I just said, “God what do you want me to do?“

In the book, “Power of a Praying Wife,“ there are prayers that are written out. I justified, “well at least I know how to put my thoughts together if I read the book.“ This is always a good thing before the coffee fully takes affect. I grabbed the book.

Today’s chapter was about praying for Eric‘s walk with Heavenly Dad. When it came to the prayer part, I started laughing! What “just happened” to be within the prayer!? Psalm 51:9-10. I was praying that God would not remove his spirit from Eric. Now I ask you, what are the chances of me praying through the Bible on day 124 AND being on the same passage of scripture I am reading in a book I just picked up randomly about a week and a half ago to reread for the umpteenth time?

What are the chances of this on the same day as my Holy Spirit devotions? Some call this coincidence while others call it karma. I now recognize it as relationship with my Heavenly Father. He knows the number of the hairs on my head so He realizes His daughter is thick skulled. Telling me once is like shooting me with a with a foam dart. It will bounce off. He needs to repeat himself multiple times for the point to penetrate to my mind and trickle down to my heart. How does this happen? I ask, “Father, teach me…”

I don’t know how to be the wife Eric needs. Though a wife for 27 years, Archie was totally different from Eric. Their needs were and are completely different. I have no idea what I’m doing!

Instead of assuming I know what Eric needs and asking God for specifics, my prayer is a constant, “Heavenly Father, please… Teach me.” The Great Designer created Eric perfectly to accomplish great things. It’s my job to learn how to support and encourage so as to not get in His way! Since I’m a pathetic mind reader the best way to know and understand Eric (even better than asking him) is collaborating with the One who designed and created him. In all honesty, I doubt if Eric even knows what he’s capable of, but it’s going to be fun finding out! I’m grabbing my prayer journal, bag of popcorn and settling in as Heavenly Dad peels back the layers. Eric is emerging from the Heavenly cocoon and I am blessed with a front row seat!

Self check: in what other areas of My life should I be asking, “teach me…?”

Until next time: Blessings!