Lost and Found

I am always losing things. Always. My keys, my kids, my mind. I’m just a scattered, messy girl. I can never remember where I have put stuff! But whenever I lose something, I find something else. Like when I am looking for my keys in the bottom of my purse, I find my favorite lip gloss I bought last summer. (It stinks because the lip gloss is usually expired.) Or when I am looking for that earring back, I find the battery to the kid’s remote control car. (because earring backs and batteries belong in the same place, right?)

I’ve lost some important things lately, and they have all landed me in the same place: a church surrounded by people from my past.  I have been to 3 funerals in the last few years of people I loved dearly: my father, my grandmother, and my grandfather. It’s a tragedy to me; however, in the process of losing these precious people, I found something else. I found the memories of my childhood, the history and nostalgia of what makes me me. For each of these funerals, I spent some extended time in my hometown of Macon, Georgia, grieving and visiting with dear ones. I drove down old streets, sat with old people, listened to and told stories with family and friends and remembered. I remembered who I am and where I have come from.

I remembered that I grew up going to my grandfather’s country church to hear “Just as I am” played for 3 stanzas so that the lost could come down front for salvation. I remembered that cross-stitching was an art that my grandmother taught me and we would sit for hours and craft. I remembered that dad loved Mountain Dew and would sit in an old folding chair with buddies covered in grease stains from hours under the hood of a car. I remembered that VBS was where I met Jesus at age 9 and soon after my grandfather baptized me on Easter evening. I remembered Wednesday night suppers and pink foam rollers on Saturday nights so my hair was curly for Sunday School. I remembered how much I loved hymnals and Jesus and choirs and homemade lemonade with my great grandfather on his back porch.

I remembered how strong and faithful my family is to our tribe and we all stick together and when we lose one it hurts us all. I remembered snuggling up close with my grandmother for sleepovers and fresh made biscuits in the morning. I remembered youth group and lock-ins and my crazy friends and dancing with brushes for microphones. I remembered mom having us at church whenever the doors were open because she cared for the outcome of my soul…and it is well with my soul.

All of these memories and deposits made me who I am. There are many more, too many to write. Too many beautiful conversations and hugs with wise ones who had deep wrinkles and love in and around their eyes. For some reason, this last visit, this last funeral, made all these moments so real and so vivid. They were like a perfume in the air that I was grateful for. I missed them at the time. Missed the importance, the necessity of them. Tradition and memory are like hot soup on a really cold day, you don’t appreciate them until your body has an ache and a craving.

I think I’ve had an ache and a craving lately. I didn’t realize it was there. I’ve gotten a little lost over the years, not sure exactly where I fit in, who I am, what I believe about certain things. I’ve lost that confidence of my 16 year old self. At 16, I could win the race, because I was surrounded by this army-family that believed in me, that had poured tradition and memory and love and Jesus into me all those years. I could fly as high as I wanted according to them. They had placed treasures in me, beautiful treasures of faith, love and hope and I had no doubts.

But we all leave the nest and the world grabs a hold of us, and doubt and sin and loss place their ugly fingerprints on us and we forget. We lose something. Maybe we lose ourselves.

Thank goodness though, when we lose something, maybe ourselves, we find something. I found a lost piece of me this week, at a church, at my Papa’s funeral. I found what I had forgotten, who I am, what was put inside of me. What my grandparents and parents and aunt and uncles and cousins put inside of me, what my pastors and church and friends put inside of me, and that I still have an army-family that loves and believes in me. That’s who I am, full of tradition and memory, and country churches and hymns and salvation. That’s what inside of me and I love it. I had forgotten, I had lost it, but I am so glad I found it.  

The Holy, Hard Things

I have had the honor of having two Papas on this earth, my father and grandfather. Both were men who loved God, sharing his good news every opportunity they had. My father would share the love of God in sunday school classrooms and hospital halls and my grandfather from the pulpit. The pages of their Bibles were worn and covered with pen and highlight markers. I loved both these men and they were loved well by their friends and family. My father left us almost 5 years ago and my grandfather left us today.

These men had women beside their beds as they breathed out the earth and breathed in the kingdom. These women, my mom and grandmother, are two of the strongest women I know. They are very different, and I believe God placed the best of them inside me. My mom is powerful and decisive, and efficient. My grandmother is scattered and silly and loves to feed you. They are different but the same. They both believe in serving their families and their spouse no matter the cost. No matter how hard, no matter how isolating, no matter how heartbreaking.  Both of the men in their lives were very sick in the end. I had the privilege of watching them serve past the point of exhaustion: Sleepless nights, doctors visits, home health, countless medications. They fed these men, made sure they rested, made sure they kept their dignity in the last days that strip dignity away.

They never left. They never stopped. Despite the fear, despite the heartache, despite how hard it was. And I got to see it all. I got to see their tears, their faith, their love, and their surrender. And it changed me. 

It seems today some of us have lost this: the fight, the faith, the surrender to the hard things. We want to run away or let go or look for a way to ease the pain. Somehow, we bought the lie that God isn’t in the tough stuff, that we shouldn’t have to experience suffering. And if we do, we seek a remedy to make it go away. But God is there, ever present in hard things. Those times are holy times, when you sacrifice, surrender and find yourself alone with only God, crying out “Abba, Papa.”

What if instead of running away from the struggle in our life, we stayed put, served, loved, cried out to God….and found him. Found him in the Holy, hard things.

In Joshua 3 and 4 , the Israelites are getting ready to cross the Jordan river on their journey to the promised land. The priests are asked to go ahead of them with the Ark of the Covenant, which holds the presence of God. Joshua 3:17 states: “Meanwhile the priests stood on dry ground in the middle of the river bed as the people passed by them. They waited there until everyone had crossed the Jordan.”

And in 4:10, 11 – “The priests who were carrying the ark, stood in the middle of the river until all of the Lord’s instructions were carried out. And when everyone was on the other side, the priests crossed over with the Ark of the Covenant.”

These priests, these servant leaders, were asked to be brave, to give, to step forward, to endure, to wait, to be last. They held the presence of God while the wandering people, thousands and thousands of wandering people, walked past them. Who knew their doubts and fears and fatigue? The Jordan was at flood stage. What if the water receded, what if the people made it through and they didn’t? What if Joshua was wrong? But they endured so that others could be blessed. 

They were carrying this precious heavy load, the presence of God. And we see that they never let go and they stood until God’s instructions were complete. My mom and my grandmother have done this. They have carried a heavy, precious load because of the presence of God in them, because of their heart for the holy things. They didn’t run away when it got too hard, too much. They endured so that others could be blessed. 

Isn’t there a holy lesson here? To stand and bear the burden, to not give up, for the sake of the holy things, to serve and endure because the promised land is on the other side. And how privileged I feel to have observed it through these women in my life. Stand firm friends, God is in the hard things, carry his presence until his instructions are complete.

Galatians 6:9 “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Abba Father, Papa, give us strength to endure, to press on, to find you holy in these hard spaces.

Walks and talks

This summer, I went for a long walk on the beach with my oldest son, Mack. We were at the tip of Florida where the shells are amazing. The waves are mild so the mollusks don’t bury so deep in the sand. Because of this, they are brought in by the gentle tide and land on the shore. There are beautiful, unique shells all over the place. Ones like I’ve never seen before.

This beach walk was a precious slice of time with no brothers, no ipad, no distractions. Just me and my boy and the sea. And the shells. We started looking on the sand, but then begin to look to the left at the upcoming waves and there they were, these perfect baby conch shells just spinning in the tide.  We would race to grab them before the tide took them back out. Many times it did and we would sigh, but then cheer as it brought them back a little further down the beach. It was a game with the ocean, could we catch the shell before he took it away from us? Would he spit it back out?

We caught about 10, always checking to make sure there were no slimey friends inside. We gave a few away on our walk to shell hunters that weren’t as lucky as us. We felt a little prideful at our bounty. Every time we gave one away, the ocean would spit one back to us. I told Mack that is how God works, when you give, He gives back. The statement seemed to bounce off Mack. But maybe he heard it, really heard it. We also talked about marriage. His buddy’s parents are splitting up and I tried to explain a little about marriage. How it takes hard work, Jesus helps, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. He seemed to want to move on to less “boring” topics. Nevertheless, I tried to fill his ears with some wisdom while I had the chance.

It really was the perfect little walk, storm approaching, waves rolling, wind blowing, and my boy. Opportunities like this have to be seized, I am learning. I have to grab on to him before the world does. On this day, the world reminded me of  the ocean. It can pulls us in, toss us around and spit us out.  Who knows where it will release us. Who knows what’s out there, under the weight of the world, just like the dark water.

I’ve always been afraid of the ocean. It’s an unknown, curious place, full of danger and beauty, death and life. My husband loves to dive in, but I am always cautious, concerned that something might bite my foot off or slip by me and drag me under. The world is like that too I suppose. Some of us dive right in, some of us are more cautious. But it’s an unknown, curious place, full of danger and beauty, death and life. We can easily get pulled under and tossed around. It’s easy to lose our way.

I think on this more these days as Mack approaches 11 and the teen years are just around the corner. Have I prepared him for the beautiful, deadly world? Will the world pull him in and spit him out? Who will win? Will he find beauty or danger? Death or life? Will he be tossed about like these shells who didn’t dig deep, who just floated at the surface?

Sometimes I feel tossed around by the world and all it’s distractions. But I am reminded that Christ is what grounds me, what keeps me steady.

This verse is my prayer is for Mack, and all of us that get tossed about like these beautiful shells: “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”  (Hebrews 6:19).

I later found out that these shells are called “fighting conch.” I loved this and the imagery it brought. We are all tossed around by this sea of a world, but we must have some fight in us. Fight to stand firm, to fight for our marriages, for our children, for our eyes and minds and souls. Jesus, may we be found faithful, fighting for you and the things you hold dear.

The Smell of Poverty

I remember roaches dropping off the ceiling then scampering on my paperwork. I hate roaches and when I see them, chills run up my spine and I become paralyzed. But here I was, sitting with this family, in government housing, trying to conduct a therapy session with roaches falling from the ceiling.

I remember testifying in court, telling the judge that the mother was unfit to keep her three children, while watching her cry in the seat in front of me. I had no children of my own, but I had to guess that when you cook meth in the shed out back you aren’t fit to parent.

I remember standing in the single-wide with a little guy when his mom walked out the door. She had left me with her son because she just couldn’t do it anymore. I had shown up for a family session and was left with a little boy. The authorities and child protective services showed up and I left crying.

I remember sitting with a family at their kitchen table discussing all the safety measures in place, the alarms on the sibling’sdoors, the behavior plans, the therapy sessions, and my nausea from my unprepared heart. How was I supposed to help this family whose elementary age son was a sex offender?

I remember curling up in a ball on my family room floor, having a panic attack, telling my husband “I can’t do this anymore.” I was too young, too inexperienced, too afraid to do this too hard job I had been given. A “family therapist” for those at risk and I was only 24 and barely married.

There are so many more stories I could tell, stories of incredible heartache and heartbreak, of poverty and prison walls, of death and destruction. Nine years of watching the hurting and the broken try to survive. I worked for a non-profit that provided free therapy services to at risk families. I’ve seen things I can never un-see, things I wish I never saw.

I walked away from this job to raise my own family with a fingerprint on my heart that changed me. Sometimes that fingerprint is a little too dull. Like when I’m trying to figure out which pair of shoes I will wear because there are so many to choose from. Or what vacation we will go on because there is money that allows me to make a choice. Or what summer camp to send my boys to, maybe I’ll send them to more than one. When the fingerprint is too dull, I forget all I saw and smelled.

Poverty has a smell. Did you know that?

I smelled it the other day in the gas station. I was buying my son a snack and two gentlemen were buying lottery tickets. They looked like they were day laborers with ripped clothes and work boots. It was a really cold day and they smelled of really strong propane. Poor families have to use propane heaters to warm their homes because they can’t pay their heating bill.  They smell because they don’t always wash their clothes because detergent and water costs money. I forget that sometimes. They smell because life is hard and things aren’t guaranteed.

I was thankful to smell them and continued to breathe them in. I know that sounds weird, but I wanted to remember the smell of poverty. I had forgotten and my soul needed to remember. The fingerprint had gotten too dull. It’s been dulled by big houses, and beautiful clothes, and vacations and good food. I had to remember the smell of poverty so I could remember all I had learned and how I had changed those 9 years. I never want to forget.

I’ll never forget sitting in that DFCS waiting room to drop off paperwork. I was surrounded by mothers who had to convince a caseworker that they were working the plan and could see their daughter this weekend. Mothers who needed to get approved for food stamps so they could fill bellies and then go buy cigarettes. Mothers who wished they were me in my nice clothes and my nice car, just dropping off paperwork.

I’ll never forget sitting with school counselors and social workers and probation officers and judges and caseworkers trying to decide the fate of a family. I’ll never forget sitting on a back porch with a grandmother, deciding to cut her granddaughter’s hair because the lice were just too much. I’ll never forget securing a mattress for a family because that was all they had left to get in order for the kids to come home.

I was thankful to cross paths with those men in the gas station, thankful to smell them, to remember poverty and what it means. I came across a prayer today by Billy Graham: “Might I always remember the poverty of my soul before Your love invaded my life, Lord Jesus, and I knew You as Savior.”

I read a little today on the poverty of the soul. Some feel it is the condition we are in before we know Christ as Savior, some believe it is our inability to see the good in life. However you define it, soul poverty is hard. Billy Graham asked that he would always remember it. Why would we want to remember this poverty? This soul poverty where we are broken and tired and wandering, just looking for a home to rest our mind and bones. Soul poverty has felt like a wandering for me. A constant looking for approval, acceptance, purpose, a place to rest my mind and my bones.

I was walking around with treasure inside, yet had no idea it was there. How frustrating that must have been to God. He had given me his everything and I was walking around like I had nothing, soul poor looking for a home. I was striving to find meaning, and it was inside me all along. Buried deep by doubt, but there all along.

So, again, why would we want to remember the poverty of our souls? A friend once told me, you can’t know the light until you’ve been in the darkness. It’s so true. Spending time every day with the poor allowed me to appreciate the good things in my life, things taken for granted. Like name brand ice cream and hair products. Like wrinkle cream and air conditioning. Like new tennis shoes for my boys and trips to the beach. Because of those days with the poor, I usually don’t take for granted the richness in my life. The same is true for the poverty of my soul. Those days of dark wandering make me appreciate the light I’m living in now. The blessed assurance I have now, finally knowing all that I am because of my Savior. Please let me remember the dark poverty of my soul so I can appreciate the light, whole and healed soul that I have now.

Poverty has a smell, but so does our life in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2: 15-16 states, “For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved…a fragrance that brings life.”Look around, are you being the sweet aroma of Christ to others? A fragrance that brings life? Or are you walking around soul poor and kind of stinky? Doubt stinks, you know. I bet the enemy stinks pretty bad too. He loves keeping us poor and broken and just smelly.

I have come out of a season of doubting and entered a season of declaring. Declaring who God is and who I am because of him. I am smelling sweet these days! I believe I am sweet aroma to him. No more stinky, stale soul poverty for me.

So come out friends and be a sweet aroma to those around you but let us never forget the poverty of our souls before we met Christ!

 

 

Thoughts on 41

lighted candles on cupcakes
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My thoughts after 41 years of living:

Wear sunscreen 

Eat less sugar and more vegetables

Listen more, talk less

Exercise

It takes 2 to make a thing go right

Don’t judge – there is a reason behind every behavior

Read a lot

Forgiveness is better than being right

Good friends are hard to find so choose wisely and hang on tight

Dance often to loud music

Save money and don’t spend more than you have

Marry someone who loves Jesus and is your friend 

Parenting is good and hard and beautiful and full of lessons

Marriage is good and hard and beautiful and full of lessons

Drink a little but not too much

You don’t always need something new

Say yes more

Listen to your teachers and tell them thank you

Serving others is better

Spend time with people that are very different from you

Soak up the moments right in front of you

The second half of your life is fuller

Jesus wants your whole heart. If you give it to him, it’s so good. 

Spend more time on your hobbies than your screen

Listen and learn by watching your elders 

Get a mentor

Get a counselor 

Communicate often with those in your circle

Write letters and mail them

Go to the beach

Go to the mountains 

Buy a boat

Buy a truck to pull it

Eat good food

Journal 

The Holy Spirit has things to tell you

Read your Bible everyday 

Take a trip with friends

Cook for sick and tired people 

Rest your mind and body

Love well

The Day I Lost my Sam

It’s funny how in losing something, you find something else. Like when you’re looking for your lost earring under the dresser and you find that lego piece your son needs or paperclips or cut toenails. Gross. Who finds cut toenails under their dresser? Definitely not me. Or maybe me.

Anyway, one afternoon at our house, we were all outside enjoying the weather, except Sam, my 5 year old. He was in a really grumpy mood that day and stayed inside. I was out reading and something  told me to go check on him. I went in the house and couldn’t find him anywhere. I looked in all his favorite hiding spots. He’s notorious for falling asleep under his bed. I looked in all the cabinets, the basement, no Sam. Screaming his name, no Sam. We looked outside, called neighbors, drove through the hood, no Sam.

I started to panic. Sam is such a fireball, I just knew he had marched outside, in his grumpy state, and took off across the street to the baseball field where he had been picked up by some pedophile who had taken him to Florida. Sam is really beautiful, with curly blonde hair, blue eyes, and a gorgeous smile. Of course a pedophile had taken him to Florida! How do I request an amber alert?

I went down this path of thinking because for some reason I have always assumed God would take Sam from me. I have always thought I loved him a little too much, held him a little too close, lingered a little too long. He was the baby, the last one. The last of everything and his birth took all of my everything, so I have kept him really close.

Growing up, a woman in my town accidentally backed over and killed her 5 year old with her minivan. This tragic event really rocked my small town and we always heard that the little girl was just an angel who came to visit. I’ve wondered that about Sam. He is this precious thing that I can’t quite explain. He’s full of passion, good and bad. He will make your heart feel like it’s going to explode with love one minute and then the next you want to hang him by his toes. Yes, I have threatened him with toe hanging.

So, I decided on this drive around the neighborhood that it was time for my angel to leave, that I had gotten too close and God might want to teach me a hard lesson. God doesn’t work like that by the way. I was just in panic mode and weird thoughts were in my momma brain.

As I’m driving, a neighbor who was on “Sam patrol” calls me. “They found Sam!” “What, Where?” Surely it was on the busy road across the street, or hiding in a strange neighbor’s backyard. “Under the blanket on the couch!” she says.

Huh? My sweet little treasure, underneath the blanket? Why didn’t I just lift up the blanket? I walked by it several times in my search. I ran in the house, and saw the crumpled blanket on the couch. I lifted it up and there was my Sam, curled in a ball, dead asleep. Sweaty blonde curls covered his forehead and his bunny was under his arm. I just sat there, relieved and a little nauseated. I kissed his salty cheek and took a really long look at his perfect eyelashes. My Sam, my treasure, was there all along. There on the couch the whole time I was yelling “Sam!” franctically right beside him. All the screaming and panic, and he was so close but I couldn’t find him.  He slept thru it all.

All twenty minutes of my panic. Did I mention it was only 20 minutes? It felt like years. I had gone down so many rabbit trails of death and despair in only 20 minutes. I had cried out to Jesus in the car and decided this was going to be a lesson for me, take my child and make me grow. Weird momma thoughts again.

This moment feels familiar to me. I think of other treasures hidden that I’ve found. Precious treasures that God has been revealing lately. Some have been hidden 20 years but to God it probably seems like 20 minutes. Isa. 45:3 says, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel.”

I feel like I have been a treasure hunter lately. Lora Croft maybe? No, she was a tomb raider. I wonder if she found treasure on the way? I definitely wish I looked like her, man, her abs and biceps.

Anyway, I’ve been in this season of finding all these treasures. They have been there all along, but I was running around screaming, panicked, freaking out. Why couldn’t I just lift up the blanket? These treasures were there but were just covered up by the darkness. Darkness the enemy and my own flesh created. But God in his goodness has just lifted up the blanket for me. He’s good at that you know, lifting up blankets, uncovering treasure, removing darkness.

My freak outs looked a little like this: “What if no one sees me, what if no one cares about me, what if I screw up these kids and this marriage, what if I’m all alone, what if they hate me, what if I miss You?”

“The Great Freak Out” has been a bunch of what ifs. I’ll capitalize it and caption it because it deserves it. It has been a season, a long one, “The Great Freak Out.” Like The Great Depression but over my soul. Those “what ifs” have buried my treasure, increased my doubt and stolen my rest. Treasure has been there all along, I just had no idea, I was missing it. I still haven’t uncovered it all but I know Jesus put treasure in these jars of clay and wants to reveal it.

Did you know you are a treasure? Scripture tells us we are his masterpiece, the apple of his eye. We are someone worth fighting for, worth treasure hunting for. God gave up his own treasure, His son, Jesus, for us. What needs uncovering in your life? He’s good at lifting blankets, you know.

Lessons learned from Dad

Before school, on cold mornings, my dad and I would sit on the kitchen floor, next to the vent, and eat peanut butter and jelly toast. Mom had to be at work early, so dad got us ready for school. He loved sitting near the floor vent to stay warm. I don’t remember what we would talk about, I just know this was our thing and I loved it. Dad and I had a few things that were special to me. Most Sunday afternoons he would put blankets on the family room floor with pillows and ask me to take a nap with him. He also loved having his back scratched and his feet rubbed. These are sweet memories of my childhood that I’ll hold close. As I grew up, we grew apart, I guess like most teenagers do with their parents. I moved away to college then got married. However, things changed when he got sick. We have always had a special relationship, but I believe we grew closer in his final days.

At the end, we sat in hospital rooms a lot. We didn’t have peanut butter and jelly toast, mostly jello and bland hospital food. We didn’t eat together in the end, but I was able to feed him. We didn’t get to nap on the family room floor but I was able to rest with him and watch him sleep in his hospital bed. I was still able to rub his back and his feet, only his limbs looked older and tired. I’ll never forget one moment with him at the hospital. We were alone before he went into a procedure for his failing liver. We prayed, we hugged and I rubbed his feet. A precious moment with one of my heroes.

Dad is one of my heroes because of how he handled what he had been given. I don’t know who gave it to him, God, the fall of man, or just life. I can’t answer that, but he handled it so well. He endured suffering beautifully to me. What I saw when we were together inspired me. He endured more suffering than any other human I know. Those details are too hard to share or even remember. But through it all, I saw him glorify God. Every time he was in the hospital, he would make friends and share Christ. I told him to stop or God would just keep him sick to spread the gospel. He had a ministry of suffering, at least, that’s what I began to call it. His legacy was made known at his funeral, when doctors and nurses were present. Friends had flown in and the chapel couldn’t hold all the guests.

I have recently processed some of my grief over his great struggle and sickness. Wondering why his pain had to be so excruciating and what I thought was a shameful end. A friend asked me, “What did you see in his soul during all the pain?” Well, I couldn’t answer right away because I had missed his soul, because I only saw his physical pain. After thinking on this, I know that I saw his soul transform and grow closer to God. Our relationship became more tender, he became more sensitive, his faith seemed deeper. These days, I am choosing to focus on the beauty of his soul, instead of the sadness of his decaying body.

I am realizing this is a valuable lesson, to focus on souls instead of bodies. How hard is this, when someone walks into the room, to look past their body and see into their soul? God is so good at this. It takes eyes like God to do this, to have soul eyes. Ephesians 1:8 encourages me, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know.”

Somehow our world has this backwards. Our bodies have become idols, while our souls are starving. Starving for God, for His spirit, for rest. It’s really a tragedy to only feed our body and not our soul.

I’ve been focused on bodies too long, ignoring the health of my soul and missing the souls around me. That was the problem with dad, I was so focused on his body and the pain he was in, so I missed the transformation happening in his soul. It seems there is a lot in the Bible about pursuing soul health before body health. Our bodies are guaranteed to decay and fail us, but God guarantees the health and healing of our souls. Psalms discusses souls quite a bit:

Psalm 103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul.

Psalm 63: 1 O God, you are my God, my soul thirsts for you.

Psalm 62:1 For God alone, my soul waits in silence, from him comes my salvation

Psalm 42:11 Why are you casts down, O my soul, Hope in God.

David, who wrote many of the Psalms, seems to be onto something here. David was a tortured soul. He endured much hardship: he was an outcast, he was alone, he was a shepherd, he was a king, he was a murderer, he had an affair, he was anxious and depressed, but most importantly he was a lover of God. He was madly in love with his God. I believe that is why he writes so much about the soul. He knew only God could meet his needs and restore his soul.

Paul understood this too. He was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, and alone. In prison for preaching the gospel, he asked for prayers to preach more boldly. His body only served as a house for him to glorify God through. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:16 “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

That’s it, that’s the secret that Paul and David and maybe my dad knew. They had come to a place of seeing their failing bodies as just a house for God’s glory, not an idol to be worshipped or adorned. I am so guilty of this, I’ve been confused, tricked even. Instead of seeing the treasure inside, housed by a jar of clay, I have chosen to preserve and adorn and elevate my body above the eternal gift I have. That’s the lie I have chosen, the apple I’ve bitten into, to choose the value of my body over the value of my soul. And I have done it with others too, placing their outsides in higher esteem than their insides, the insides that house the potential for glory. That’s a sad and screwed up trade, the flesh over the Spirit. God have mercy.

How did this happen? The enemy is very cunning and has provided all the resources in the world to distract us. Let’s refocus and see what God has to say:

1 Corinthians 15:22, 53 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. For our dying bodies must be transformed into something that will never die.”

1 Timothy 4:8 “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

Ask God to give you soul eyes, to see past the physical and into the eternal. Is your soul starving, weary or tired?

Psalm 116:7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

Thoughts on Friday Night

Watching that sweet girl dance her heart out to worship music, her red hair and striped socks, just twirling, twirling. There was a spirit about her dance, like the Spirit had invaded her space, her body, movements that pleased God and all who watched. This little girl who prayed for us, thanked God for us and for cheese and shoes and her mom’s health. We sat in awe. She asked her mom to join the praise dance, but mom refused, maybe too aware of others eyes. Aren’t we all too aware of others eyes? Aren’t we all just girls that want to twirl and wish we weren’t so self aware? We sat in this circle in this restoration house. All feeling more restored once we left.

Some of us from the rich side of the tracks, some of us from the wrong side of the tracks, some of us with scars on our arms from the tracks of the poison, some of us with scars on our hearts from the tracks others had left. We sat, all different, with different clothes, some fancy, some borrowed, we sat, all different, with different stories, some quiet and sad, some death defying, but yet all the same. All women who knew brokenness and joy, who knew the Savior, who knew something holy was happening in our midst.

We told our stories, our times when we knew Jesus best. We listened to others stories, some who met him in a jail cell, some who met him at vacation bible school, some who met him strung out, overdosed in the back seat of a car, some in the dark night of depression, the dark night of the soul. But the same Jesus was reaching down into these different spaces loving no one any more or less, redeeming the rich and redeeming the poor, redeeming all of us from the poverty of our souls.

We are all on the wrong side of the tracks, even if we have designer clothes and gas to put in our car, even if our kids live in other places, even if we drink too much, yell too much, spend to much, even if we are covered in tattoos and our teeth have fallen out due to the meth we ate, we are all on the wrong side of the tracks if we haven’t met and fallen in love with the Savior, the Rescuer, our Jesus.

And He speaks to all these different hearts and sees us all as daughters, worthy of a crown, worthy of his death and his blood. These women, these broken bodies that hosted us, they spoke of Jesus like a friend, they know him in a way many will not because of the darkness they entertained and they darkness they danced with. The light that was stolen from them due to empty bank accounts and cruel men and forgetful parents. I’ve had light stolen from me too, yet my bank account is full and I’ve been loved by a gracious man and had loving parents.

How is it that we can all be lost no matter what side of the tracks we come from? How is it that a room of such different women can talk and cry and love and pray so hard in only a few hours of meeting each other?

Only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only a God so good can move in a room and bring unity and laughter and grace when the food is bland and the heart is weary. Don’t you want to serve a God like that? A God that can remove boundaries and prejudice and assumption and judgement and bring love and peace and break chains and heal hearts.

He’s waiting on you, he’s drawing you in. No one loves like him, no one will scoop you up and hold your heart and heal your wounds and place you in a circle with women that are nothing like you yet, you are all the same because of the death of his son.

Because of the blood that was shed we become one, one body, one spirit, one heartbeat for the world. Why would you not join this bandwagon and say yes to the unity of the broken and beat up? Have you been broken or beat up? Are you from the wrong or right side of the tracks? Either way, you need him, you need a redeemer, a restorer, you need a reckoning, and a replacement for your tired and weary heart. You need a God that you can twirl for, be completely unaware for, isn’t it about time?

The Good and the Bad

It’s good when eyebrows grow back due to a skin care experiment that removed too much facial hair. (It happened to a friend.)

It’s good when your best friend forgives you when she shouldn’t and you don’t expect her to. And then she just loves you like always because that’s all she knows to do.

It’s good when those lilies you divided (like you thought you were a gardener) come back and surprise you come spring time. I guess those garden prayers work.

It’s good when your kid remembers your prayers over him for courage and recites the verse you have begged God for countless times during the night.

It’s bad when you spend your monthly cash on wrinkle cream and lip gloss and there’s not enough money for haircuts or broccoli. Who needs haircuts or broccoli anyway.

It’s bad when you lose the earring your dad gave you for Christmas and then he dies and you just want something special to remember him by.

It’s bad when you lose yourself and your confidence and think you have to be someone you are not and you are 40 but it feels like high school again.

It’s bad when your kid finds out his best friend has parents who are divorcing and there’s a move coming.

It’s bad when you miss the eyes of your loving spouse because your eyes are focused on other things. And you wish you were different or better, instead of loving just you and that makes you think he should be different or better. Even though he loves just you.

It’s good there is a God out there that is patient and kind and sent a book of wisdom to guide us. It’s bad when we ignore it and try to figure things out from social media, our neighbors and Real simple magazine.

It’s good when you have the resources to love and serve the former addict and prostitute at the local ministry on Friday nights. It’s bad when you completely forget there is a need because you are online shopping for a new outfit for the party next week.

It’s bad when you sink into an emotional hole of lies telling yourself you could do better, be more, work harder, eat less, tighten up, weigh down, smile brighter, stand straighter. But the hole is so deep it takes two days to climb out.

It’s bad when the man you think is going to save the world dies and is buried and the next day nothing happens.

It’s good when he rises on the third day and appears to you and you choose to believe, even though it may cost you your life.

It’s good he sent us a Holy Spirit that whispers, “child, your value is tied only to me, not your status, your behavior, your appearance, or your performance.”

Thank God for the good. Thank God for the new morning, a chance to start again, redemption. Thank God there was a resurrection and there will be a reckoning and a restoring.

Thank God he makes all things new, even those crazy, unthinkable, unspoken places that we are afraid to say out loud because what if they knew places. Those places we can only entrust to him, those are the places that feel the worst that seem so bad but he is a good good father and those are the places he loves to step into best and show off.

Show off in me Jesus, in the baddest parts.  Would you just be so good?

 

 

 

 

Being Present

I went into Mack’s room a few days ago, saw his scrapbook on his dresser and sat down to look at it. It was full of fun summer pictures. When Mack visits my mom, they scrapbook together, such a sweet thing between the two of them. As I looked through his book, I found myself crying and feeling regret. I had nostalgia, but also regret. You see, I missed a lot of the moments in the pictures because of my expectations. Expectations have really ruined a lot of things for me. I don’t ever remember resting and taking in these scrapbook moments. I remember wishing the boys were behaving better, they weren’t so messy, so loud. I remember wishing I looked better in my swimsuit or that I was a better mom. I remember wishing I wasn’t so tired all the time, wanting the boys to stop fighting. I wanted the birthday party just right and the wet, messy kids to leave my house. Because of all these expectations, I missed it. Looking through the scrapbook I saw it. I saw the smile on Mack’s face as he went down the zip line at camp. I saw the soap bubbles all over his angry birds swim suit from the massive slip n slide covered in Dawn. I saw the watermelon seeds and stains on Ben’s face after a hot summer day at Gigi’s.

As I lay on his bed this morning in a quiet house, I did not miss the dust on his nightstand. There it was, and I had just dusted a few days ago. Frustrated, because dust shouldn’t be there after I just cleaned it, another expectation not met. Dust that will always be there, but pictures of memories that are gone. And I missed them. I was not present. I know God redeems all things, and I am a good mom, but I am sad. I have regret. Expectations can ruin things. They keep us hoping for more while missing the good in front of us, the great that surrounds us. My boys, my family, sweet memories I cannot get back. Thank goodness my sweet Mack chose to scrapbook with his Gigi.

I was reading in Matthew 9 and there was another story of expectation and a missing. While reading, I saw this ribbon of love as Jesus walked through his days, calling people to follow him, eating with them, healing them, just loving those right in front of him. He didn’t miss them. It’s so beautiful. He calls Matthew, the tax collector, out of his swindling to follow him and then they have dinner together. He calls a bleeding woman out of her hiding and heals her. He then calls her daughter when no one else would even say her name. He raises a man’s daughter from the dead. The funeral music was already playing and he just breathed life in a dead girl. He heals two blind men who chased him into his house. He didn’t ask them to leave because he needed a break, he just healed them. He didn’t miss them. And he just keeps going, spreading his love, seeing the people right in front of him. Not thinking ahead to his death, or his glory in heaven after this hard season was over. He was present and miracles were happening. He had no expectations of these people or even himself. He knew he belonged to his Father and that was enough. He just loved what was right in front of him. I don’t think he had regrets.

Maybe being present is a breeding ground for miracles. Maybe expectations cause us to miss the miracle.

Of course the Pharisees were there to judge and criticize. They had lots of expectations for him, for themselves and everyone else. And they always missed it. Expectations can ruin things. These men had the living God right in front of them and they missed it. They did not miss the dust however. Dust is really all they saw. They saw the rules to follow, the chores to be done, the expectations not being met, and they were angry. And they missed the miracle, they missed the Savior. They couldn’t see the ribbon of love he was sharing, the healing he was offering. I believe some of them may have looked back when it was all over and they had regret.

I don’t want to miss it anymore. I don’t want to miss the grass stains, the smell of dirty boys, the sand in the back of the car from our beach trip. Sam just woke up and walked in holding his Bible. He said, “Mom, do you know who is my faborite friend? It’s Jesus because he made all of the people and he came down here to be with us.” That’s it. Sam is not missing it, and he got it right. Jesus just came to be with us. That’s where the miracles happened, when Jesus was just being with people. Immanuel- God with us.

Mary just sat at his feet, while Martha was worried about the dust. I wonder if Mary knew Jesus was leaving soon, is that why she sat with him, wasted that perfume? The dust would always come back, always be there, but Jesus would not. Is that why Jesus loved so hard? He knew he was just here for a short time and he wanted to love and touch all the people he could.

What if we did that? What if we lived like we knew we only had limited time? Loved Jesus with all we had, sat at his feet, taking him in, not worrying about the dust for now. What if we loved people like that? Knowing we only had limited time with them, just being with them, noticing them, loving them with no expectations?

Just being with people is where miracles happen. I don’t want to miss Jesus. I don’t want to miss the people he has placed right in front of me that I can love, and maybe offer some healing to. I want to just be with them and just be with Jesus, just sit at his feet. I don’t want to just see the dust and be frustrated. Expectations ruin things. I want to be present and look for miracles, maybe be part of God’s miracles. Don’t you?

Easter is coming soon, what a perfect time to be present at the feet of Jesus, to be present while surrounded by the ones you love. Easter is when the greatest miracle happened, the resurrection of Christ. Be present, focus on Him and those around you, and look for a miracle.