An authentic love

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Many times I am asked to explain what I mean when I talk about feeling close to Jesus and having more than a superficial relationship with Him.  How can I say he is my best friend?  How do I know when He is guiding me in a certain direction?

When I was very young, I was taken to church by my mother and grandmother and as I grew it continued to be part of my life.  In my pre-teen years, I went for the fun and games, to see my friends and because I genuinely wanted to be good.  I wanted to do the right thing and I was afraid of the consequences if I didn’t.  Somehow, in spite of all of the lessons telling me that Jesus died for me and how much He loved me, I couldn’t wrap my head around what it meant to be in a relationship with Him.  There were times I felt more inspired than others, but I still didn’t grasp the depths of His goodness at the time.

Many years later, after multiple failures and the death of my mother, I found myself in a bad place.  I felt alone, insecure and without much hope.  As a young wife and mother, I didn’t feel like I had anything left to offer the ones I loved.

But slowly and surely, the things I had learned in my youth came back to me and the timely words of a friend reminded me that there was somewhere to find strength and peace.  I found myself thinking about God and wondering what it would feel like to run to Him and cast all my cares in His lap.  Would it work?  My mind, educated in the bible, said yes but my emotions were a wreck and my doubts numerous.

I don’t remember the exact day and time like some people do when they have life-changing experiences, but I do remember feeling like I didn’t have anything to lose.  Why not cry out to God?  I was at the end of me (and therein lies the key).  That was almost twenty years ago and I haven’t regretted my decision to fully surrender to Jesus, not one time.

On the contrary, my love for Him has grown by leaps and bounds.  He has been my friend when there was no one else who could possibly understand me.  He has forgiven me though my sin was deep and He freely gave this precious gift of salvation.  All I had to do was believe and ask and surrender my life to Him.

Has it been easy?  No, I would be lying if I answered that with a yes.  There were times I felt weak and frail when He has been my strength.  When I felt faithless and my shortcomings seem to come in droves, He was long suffering.  When my tears fell like rain, He taught me to have joy in spite of my circumstances.  When I was afraid and fearful, He spoke peace.  Making a decision to surrender didn’t make things perfect and life still had it’s curve balls to throw but now I had a perfect God to run to, Who gave strength like no other and a peace that I had never known my entire life.

Having said all that, I still haven’t fully explained how I feel so close to Him, why I am certain of His abiding presence and direction.  How do I know how much He loves and and how can I confess such an overwhelming love for Him?  Intentional time spent with Him, loving Him, getting to know Him and in the process, getting to know me.

The only way I know how to explain is this.  When you love someone (and I’m not talking about the superficial relationships this culture is wrought with), you spend time with them.  You get to know them.  You read their notes or letters over and over again because you want to discern how they really feel about you.  You’ll take the time to discover what moves them.  It’s not a “hook-up” or a “best friends with benefits” type of attraction.  It’s way deeper than that.  You put them first and even in the midst of life’s craziness, they remain a priority.  You look forward to their touch and you share with them your heartfelt thoughts and desires.  You turn to them for direction and advice because they know you so well, they are the best to give it.  You take every opportunity you can to be in their presence.  It’s intentional.

This made all the difference for me.  I went from feeling like I was outside looking in, to a beautiful, holy relationship with my Maker.

I felt inspired to share this on this beautiful rainy Sunday.  We will all have our perfect sunshiny days, but we will all also experience the rain.  Let us love Him intentionally, placing Him in the proper place in our lives.  When the rain comes, He wants to be your shelter.

 

Agree to disagree

Thursday night

The Prompt:  What is the most controversial thing you’ve ever written on your blog? What compelled you to write it?

One of my posts called Thursday Thoughts was written because I get tired of the double-standard in place in society about offenses, especially due to beliefs.  I am not controversial and don’t really even consider this particular post to be, but it’s the closet thing I have.

Daily Prompt: Regrets, I’ve had a few

Thursday night

What’s your biggest regret? How would your life have been different if you’d made another decision?

This prompt spoke to me in a big way this morning, causing me to reflect on my life thus far. I can’t say that I have one regret in particular and since I believe all things happen for a reason, I believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be today.

With that said, I have many regrets:

• The times I withheld forgiveness instead of forgiving freely and quickly and completely.
• The times I chose to clean house instead of making mud pies.
• Every minute I spent in the mirror criticizing my appearance, and especially the times in front of my girls.
• For the careless word spoken that wounded, sometimes deeply.
• The conversations I merely endured that should have been feasted upon.
• The years I spent running from God.
• The “I love you” left unspoken and the phone calls never made.
• Every hour wasted on hatred, jealousy, anger and strife.

And finally, the time I have spent dwelling on past regrets instead of choosing to leap past them, learn from them and strive to live out the remainder of this life with fewer of them.

This was a great writing prompt and it’s good to force yourself to think back sometimes and glean from past mistakes, to remember where you came from and who you have become. Of most importance though is to move forward and live this beautiful life out loud, with great expectations, faith and hope. May we all fully implement the lessons learned that they never influence our lives negatively again.

The Power of a Memory

Irish blessing with background of Everglades sunset.

Irish blessing with background of Everglades sunset.

Everyone has them, we make more every day.

Though unbidden at times, our minds obediently display

Some are quite wonderful, insisting we smile

Others, nostalgic, take us back for a while

Then there are those that we’d rather forget

The bad ones, the memories that leave our cheeks wet

If we are smart, we will learn from them all

About life, faith and friendship, and to answer God’s call

How to fail, yet get up again, stronger than before

How to embrace this brief life til’ we reach yonder shore

I am thankful for memories, no matter which kind they might be

You see, the power of a memory is a wondrous thing to me.

By:  Lisa

They hurt, so we love

Teardrop on Fire

Teardrop on Fire (Photo credit: tj.blackwell)

Why can’t we see that people are hurting?  Why do some people rush to spread bad news, but don’t bother to take the time to clear up a nasty rumor?

We are all touched by pain, turmoil and tragedy, are we not?  We all suffer so how do we forget what that feels like.  How do we forget what would have made us feel better and then not offer that instead of judgment and gossip?

Please know that I am searching my own heart as I share.  I hate gossip and try to stay far from it, but don’t we all get roped in sometimes?  Aren’t we also partakers even if we just listen?  Isn’t that just as bad?  And how does that help, what does it accomplish?

When I think on the times that I have felt ravished and torn by life’s trials and troubles, I quickly remember the friends who showed up, who covered me in prayer; the ones who stood up for me and my family.  I think of those who quickly discerned that it wasn’t a time for observation and speculation, but a time to show love and concern.  They realized that it was a time to love and hold and listen.

I have been studying the book of Job, and just like everything else God does, this was divine timing, because it has been helpful to apply some of what I have learned to hurting people.  It is teaching me to be a better friend.  One who understands that there is a big picture and I can’t figure it all out and I don’t have all the answers.  Sometimes the most helpful thing I can do is to pray for them and listen.  Notice I said “listen”, not always speaking, not always thinking I have all the answers.

Most of us, by the time we have reached my age, have experienced the death of a loved one, severe illness in ourselves or others, financial difficulty or even ruin, marital discord and sometimes divorce, problems with children and grandchildren, and the list goes on and on.

God help us to remember some of those times; the way we felt, the people who cared and the things that counted.  What made us feel better, what caused a smile to tug at the corners of our mouth and what made us feel loved and warm inside?  May we remember and pay it forward.

If I should die before I wake

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If I died tomorrow, what would people to say about me?

I think it’s helpful sometimes to think of your life this way.  My parents, my kids, my friends, those who don’t even know me well, the ones I meet at the grocery store, on the plane, at the sports event.  How would they remember me, what words would they use to describe me?   How was I perceived?  How did I treat people on a day to day basis?

If we look back even in the last week and consider this, it brings what our personal legacy will be into focus.

When people think about a legacy, they often think in terms of money, prestige or power.  None of that matters to me.  What matters is that people see me as a virtuous, compassionate person, someone who would listen to them, love them, offer advice, give second chances, encourage them and live the life I so highly recommend, the one with Christ at the center.

When I reflect on the past week of my life, I can already see glaring failures.  Opportunities missed.

I am challenging myself to think this way more often; to realize that the little, seemingly inconsequential things, really do matter.  We can merely look at someone in the wrong way, or not allow our look linger long enough to show our interest in them.  What about when we half-hardheartedly listen while conversing because our heart isn’t in it?  There are the times we are tired and grouchy and speak before we think.  We can be callous in our topics, not taking into consideration the entire audience and things some of them might have been through or we neglect people and make them feel left out.

On a positive note though, we can also seek out opportunities to smile, to tousle that little ones hair and tell them they’re awesome, to pat that elderly one on the back and ask about their health or their grandchildren.  We can tell that teenager that many have given up on that they can do it.  We can seek out that single parent and see if there is anything we can do to make the load a little lighter, let them know that we really do love them, that they’re in our prayers.

Think about your own life, about all the little things that gave you strength when you didn’t think you had any left.  Think about the people who spoke goodness into your life and gave you hope or a hand up from the mire.  Those are some of the sweetest memories.  Those are the people that you remember fondly.  Just a small amount of kindness might mean the world to someone.

I know I fail often, but by the grace of God, I will grow into a more considerate, loving and giving person.

Change can be good

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What if we could look at things differently sometimes?

We are all on that carousel of life going round’ and round’, involved in so many different things.

What if we could stop it and step off and take a good open-minded look at some of our situations?  We’re great about observing other homes and lives and making what we think are wonderful, albeit sometimes critical observations.  What if we looked at ours from that same point of view?

Take a deep breath and look at your home, your family, your job.  Look from the outside instead of from where you are.  What are the things that are working?  What isn’t?  Could any changes be made for the better?

I find that the more time I make for prayer and reflection, to slow down, find a quiet place and think, the more likely I am to recognize or realize problems, to see the areas I need to work on, to allow my Creator to whisper solutions to me.

We have to be able to admit it when things need to change, that we aren’t always right and that we don’t always have the answers.  This is the hardest part for me, the surrender.  I have to surrender all of my earth-bound dreams and desires and goals and ambitions to the lover of my soul, the One who knows the best route for me, the One whose plans are perfect.

Sometimes I feel like a stubborn, know-it-all child who doesn’t want parental intervention.  Surely, God sees me that way at times.  As my walk progresses and my faith is strengthened, I find it easier to “let go and let God”.  I’m finding that when I do this, this life is a glorious one to live.

Daily Prompt: Un/Faithful

feel my love

The Daily prompt was “Tell us about the role that faith plays in your life — or doesn’t.

I can say without a moments hesitation and with complete assurance that my faith is my everything!  It’s who I am, how I love and live and exist.

My life is based on and around what I believe about how God knew me while in my mother’s womb and how even then, there was a plan for my life.  There was already a purpose and it’s my desire to live that out to the fullest.  This purpose is what motivates me, compels me to move forward, and learn more about what that will of God is for me.  Each and every one of us is precious to God and He has a plan for all.

If not for my faith in God, in the belief that His Son, my Savior, died on a cross to redeem us all, I would not have the hope, joy, peace and love that resides within.  I’m deeply grateful for that love, that peace that surpasses my understanding.

Daily Prompt: Immortalized in Stone

sculptor-Robert Graham

Today’s challenge from “The Daily Post” reminds me of the scriptures in the bible about the potter and the clay.

The question was:  Your personal sculptor is carving a person, thing or event from the last year of your life. What’s the statue of and what makes it so significant?

The sculptor in my life would be God and the carving would be me.  My hopes would be the following scenario.  My expression would be one of awe and reverence.  My position would be a yielded and submissive one.  My heart would be visible for all to see and somehow carved to show an openness, a place to give and receive love.

My hands would be shown as doing and my feet also in motion, on their way to help.  There would be stages shown in this carving as I change and grow.  There would always be room for improvement.  It would somehow express the spiritual side of me because the physical isn’t what is important.  If the carving were just to depict this past year, it would look the same as many prior years; there would be growth and change and failure and successes; all moving me towards the final me that God created me to be.

I am very thankful for this “prompt” today because it has caused me to think and reflect and meditate on this past year.  I’m grateful for the positive growth in my life and the wisdom that comes with age.

Making pictures from the clouds

I was looking up at the sky today after work and was reminded of all the times I looked for pictures in the clouds with my paternal Granny.  She is very old now and I don’t get to spend as much time with her as I would like, but I miss her and the way things used to be.  I jotted this down and thought I would share it.

Growing up, my granny’s house was my favorite place to be.

We would always start our morning with a nice cup of hot tea.

She played any game our minds could imagine.

We sailed the high seas and captured the dragon.

We went on adventures from her living room chair.

We could laugh, sing, get rowdy;  granny just didn’t care.

Sometimes Pop would grumble, ‘they’re getting too loud”.

Granny would giggle and say, “Let’s go find pictures in the clouds”.

We would then go outside and spread out a sheet.

And lie there close to granny to see what we could see.

She made the best chocolate pies with meringue on the top.

Then, she might prance through her kitchen riding a mop.

She loved to see our laughter, always wanted to have fun.

But even granny knew when the silliness was done.

Silky grey hair all scooped up in a bun.

There was a lot more to granny than just having fun.

She showered her family with unconditional love.

And honored her Father in heaven above.

You would often catch her kneeling by her bed lost in prayer.

She made sure that you knew, for your soul you must take care.

I hope she knows how much she means to each of us.

For me, she was an essential part of growing up.

All of my grandparents were incredible and every one of us knew how much each of them loved us.  I just happened to spend the most time with this particular granny and we were always very close.  From about 5 to 13, I spent as much or more time at her house than my own.  She is also the only one I have left!  I hope I am half as good a grandparent to my grandchildren as all of my grandparents were – I was very blessed!

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