Peace, peace wonderful peace

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You know how some moments just stay with you, all of your days?  You couldn’t erase them from your memory, even if you tried?  I remember one of those days.  It started as a visit from a friend, who I’m sure was concerned about my well being after the recent loss of my mom.  I don’t remember all of the details but I know God had His hand in it.

On the outside, I was a wife and mother doing my best to serve my little family well.  On the inside, I was a wreck.  I hadn’t seen or even smelled anything that resembled peace in a very long time.  As much as I loved my little family, I felt as if a part of me had died with my mom, who left us at the tender age of 49 due to infection after a liver transplant.  She left me, her eldest, 8 months pregnant and struggling to make sense of a life without her.  Honestly, the thought of continuing to live without her, didn’t seem possible.

For the most part, I could hide my grief.  My husband saw the really ugly days and held me as I was falling apart.  He understood better than many, as he’d experienced great loss himself.  Friends and family were supportive and said and did all the things they truly thought would help.  But, like I said, on the inside the battle was raging and few knew how bad it could get on some days.

Mom was my best friend, the person I spoke to every single day, the person I shared everything with.  She had been an excellent mother from day one, but you don’t learn to have the deep appreciation until you are older and you don’t really understand some of what motherhood means until you have your own children.  She advised on any and every problem without judgment, she was my biggest fan and Nana to my daughter.  She had felt the movement of the grandchild she would never hold as she moved her hands across my swollen belly and spoke words of tenderness as she lay in the hospital bed.

Once she was gone, I threw myself into the role of “the strong one”, but I didn’t realize that I could only do that for so long, that sooner or later I had to deal with it.  I waited until after the baby was born, agonizing through labor without her by my side; I waited until I stopped nursing so the stress wouldn’t affect my little princess.  Then, I shoved the pain inside and watched helplessly as it reared it’s ugly head touching my family through my lack of patience, my loss of desire for living and a dark depression which had settled over me.

But on that day I mentioned, sitting on my old green couch, I uttered words that began a chain of events that would change everything.  As I was talking to my friend, I merely said, “I think I need to go see someone.  I can’t do this anymore.”

I don’t remember when I saw her again or if it was by telephone but not too much time passed before we spoke again.  She uttered the words that spoke to me somewhere down deep and my soul raised a frail and weary hand to identify with them.

She said, “I was telling mom what you said the other day about needing to talk to someone.  Mom said that you already know Who you need to talk to.”   Now, it goes without saying that my friend and I knew she meant I needed to take my troubles to the Lord.  There was no explanation needed for 2 girls who had grown up on the little white church on the island.   I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but those words started a fire somewhere deep inside of me.

They were simple words, brief and to the point, but I am so glad they were spoken and then shared with me.  (Sometimes you will never know the effect your words can have on someone or how God will use you in mysterious ways to bring about change)  Those few words weighed heavily on my heart and mind for days.  I couldn’t shake them, couldn’t forget them and couldn’t ignore them.

In retrospect, I realize that people were praying for me.  At the time, even though they would say, “I’m so sorry, honey, I’m praying for you”, it didn’t resonate with me, didn’t even bring me comfort.  It didn’t register in my spirit or maybe I was too angry at God for taking her to listen with my heart.  I’m not 100% sure, but I know now that God had a plan and that in the depths of my grief and despair, at a time when I was far away from Him, He loved me.  He saw me, He saw my pain and He reached out to me.

A few days later, I found myself on my knees beside my bed pouring out my heart along with what seemed like buckets of tears.  On that day, I finally surrendered.  I gave everything to Him and I made a decision to turn away from all of the wrong, negative thoughts and turn to His Word and His council.  I decided to to choose Him first and foremost.  My heart was filled with a peace that I still do not understand.  When I got up from that floor, my life was changed.

To this day when people ask me to name something I gained from my relationship with Jesus, the first word that comes to mind is peace.  I hadn’t had any peace for so long; it was such a welcome balm.  There are so many who long for peace and look for it in all the wrong places.

Do I still miss my Mother?  Of course.  But, I can honestly tell you that my grief doesn’t control me anymore.  My earthly flesh will always miss her and feel a pang of hurt when holidays come or events occur that I would love to share with her.  But, Mom is with Jesus and it brings me comfort to think that maybe she had something to do with my outcome, even if it was just her prayers.  She always wanted her children to serve God and voiced that again near the end.

There is a Way to peace and He waits with open arms.  Run to those arms and find yours.

John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

The love in the No-nos

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As Nana instead of mama, I can get tickled when my almost two year old granddaughter is testing my daughter.  I have earned that right but I am wise enough to hide my laughter.  My cousin’s wife has termed it being “rascally” when she starts acting like a little stinker.  This usually happens when she is fighting sleep, but lately with the two’s looming in the near future, it happens more often.

She will go up to something she knows she isn’t allowed to touch and get her finger as close to it as she possibly can and look at you, studying your response.   There is a snowman dish that captivates her, but she knows she can only look at the “no-man”, not touch.   The other day, she touched it and took off running.

She is trying to see how far she can push before it’s too far.  What can I really get away with?  Will this really hurt me, or is mom just saying that?  What happens if I touch the forbidden?  She runs full speed ahead trying to taste, touch and see everything as fast as her little legs will carry her.  When she knows she has committed a “no-no”, she will swing those golden curls back, look at you and swat her own little behind, all with a smile on her face.

She knows exactly what she is doing, yet there is something in her that rebels.  She doesn’t always just listen and obey.  At times, she has to learn the hard way.

This morning, I was contemplating sin and temptations and how long suffering God is with us.  I am a firm believer that Jesus died for my sins, but I also believe when I committ them, I need to repent.  Daily I pray that God will search my heart and help me to live a holy, committed life for His glory.

I thought about my granddaughter’s behavior and it reminded me so much of us as God’s children.  Oh, how He loves us!

How often do we run through life anxious to see it all and do it all, and we wander too close to the things that God knows might cause us harm?  He warns us, yet sometimes we fail to heed the Father’s voice.  That seemingly harmless conversation we are being lured into might cause us pain later.  A still small voice whispers, “no-no” but we ignore the plea and carry on, like a toddler running with scissors.

Thankfully, when we fall, He is there to pick us up.  He willingly forgives the offense and loves the hurt away if we let Him.  If we are smart, for our part, we will repent and learn something and we don’t have to repeat that lesson over again. We aren’t toddlers trying to figure out who is in charge.  We do already know that God wants the best for us, and that His plan for us is perfect!  Why do we question that?  If He keeps something from us, it will always be for our benefit.  If He changes our direction, it’s to keep us on the best path.

His banner over me is love.  Maybe we can remember that the next time the spirit of God is dealing with us about something.  His no is always shrouded in love, just like ours are with our children.   It always means, I know a better way or I want a better outcome for you.  It means, I love you.  Trust that love.

 

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.

 

The other side of the fog

Sunday morning Word

This morning I was studying the story of Joseph from his coat of many colors and the telling of his prophetic dreams, to the jealous brothers casting him into a pit, and then selling him into slavery.  But all along God had a plan and He positioned Joseph to save Egypt and Canaan from famine.  A good outcome didn’t look possible to the human eye, guided by the flesh.

I was reminded of one of my recent trips to Miami to be supportive to my youngest daughter and visit my almost 8 month old granddaughter, struggling with an infection in her lungs.  Since her diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis, she has fought and won many battles in the short time she has been around to bless us.  I attribute this to many prayers.

On the particular morning, the fog was thick and blanketed everything for miles.  My travelling progress was impeded as I slowly navigated my way through the unknown.  Visibility was limited, and I found myself a little nervous because I couldn’t see the cars coming toward me from miles away and I was unsure of what was creeping up behind me until the headlights broke through the fog.  I found myself focusing on the fog and its dangers, ready for the sun to break through and begin to burn it all away.

I felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit as I realized that once again, God was trying to teach me something.  You know, if we slow down and pay attention long enough, we can hear that still small voice.

Such is life.  In this journey through the vast unknowns with Cali, I know that on the other side of it, there is clarity.  I cannot begin to figure it all out now, to predict what is coming or to visualize the hidden hazards along the way.  I can apply this to so many situations in life; those where I can barely navigate on a daily basis, much less discern the outcome.

But, this I do know; on the other side of the fog, there is a Son and He always burns for me.  His will may not be understandable at times, the outcome may not always make sense to me, but I will continue to live in the knowledge that He wants the best for me.  In the midst of a broken, fallen world, He is my hope, my strength and my refuge.

Remember, it was never God’s intention that we live in a broken, fallen world that is filled with sin and hurt and hate.  And, He loved us enough to send His Son, to give us a chance at redemption, restoration and an eternal life, a life much more important than the short one we will live out on this earth.

Love until it hurts

Who will tell them they are loved?

All the weary, worn and broken.

Will we merely pass them by?

Words of healing left unspoken.

No, Not I.  I said, “I’ll go.”

And heed their silent cry.

Take my hand and join me.

Let’s touch a life that’s gone awry.

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Matthew 25:45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

We all know someone who could use a hug, a smile, some love and if we don’t it’s easy enough to find out.  This is just a reminder to myself and to others to give back, share your heart and whatever else you have to share.   Blessings!

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.

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