Life Happens and God Draws Near

Brokenness

Coffee is brewing and the warm smell fills the room and I want to linger here in the presence of my Father.  He is calling me and I have not been listening.  I have been avoiding, living my own life, believing I was still in relationship with him only to find myself afraid, alone, and on my knees.  “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18.  I know I have not been listening, but God has my attention.  I know that he held my life before me and called me back to him.  I am here in your presence once again, not pretending to be whole, but broken and needy.  “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3.  I am binding my wounds.

Self-Righteous

Who have I been?  I have been a selfish, self-righteous person, yet Romans 3:10 reads, “As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;”   I have not put others first, I have failed to not just be strong in myself, but allowed myself to wallow in self-pity.  I see all the ugliness inside of me.  Who did I think I was?  Did I feel I was better than others?  Did I forget to walk in others shoes?  How did I find my way back to this place?  I know I have allowed Satan a crack into my life and he encouraged me to think only about myself.  Why did God choose to bring me out of this pit?  I feel the weight of my selfishness lifting off of me as God is showing me my lack of relationship with him and begins to heal the brokenness.  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17.

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Broken Vessel

Walking along in my selfish life, I suddenly found myself in a situation that was like deja vu deep from my past.  Where did that ugly person come from?  This person that I thought was lost suddenly emerged like a monster from the dark.  Yet, probably not as suddenly as it seemed.  Recently, I have been a “Debbie Downer”.  I have been a self-righteous pompous person.  So finding myself selfishly raising my ugly head like a monster in the dark may have seemed sudden, but now I see that I was racing down a path of destruction. The humiliation means I want to hide, but I know that I have to move forward.  Although, the pain that comes with seeing my selfishness hurts deeply, it has been nothing like facing the emptiness where God should be in my life.  It is nothing like knowing he could choose to take my life with each breath, but has chosen to hold my beating heart in his hands.

My heart is broken because I have broken the most important person in my life.  I alone have created deep pain and sorrow that is hard to forgive.  I have hurt my husband deeply and that pain is like no other pain.  I imagine that the pain God has felt is much the same, watching his son hang upon the cross for my sins.   Words and sometimes even actions can not repair such damage, but I pray that our relationship can weather the storm.  Romans 5:1-5 promises me, “Father, we feel the burden of our sin, and it is exhausting to try and make ourselves whole.  Our hearts long for your presence.  We rejoice in our sufferings, know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”  I am a broken vessel… (a few lyrics from a powerful song)

Broken Vessels

You take our failures, You take our weakness
You set Your treasure in jars of clay
So take this heart Lord, I’ll be your vessel
The world to see Your life in me

Oh, I can see You now
Oh, I can see the love in Your eyes.
Laying Yourself down
Raising up the broken to life

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”  Corinthians 4:7

(1° Broken Vessels – 00:00 2° Touch The Sky – 09:32 3° Say The Word – 13:55 4° Heart Like Heaven – 18:19 5° Closer Than You Know – 24:49 6° Even When It Hurts – 33:34 7° Oceans – 39:52 8° Love Is War – 48:48 9° Captain – 56:05)

Worthy

As I contemplate my sin and move toward Christ, I realize that I am worthy in God’s eyes.  I feel God drawing near to me and feeling his strength now I can see where my focus should be.  First and foremost I need to focus on him and ensure he is the priority in my life.  “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  James 4:8.  So I seek his presence in prayer and in my daily walk.  I think of others before myself.  I smile so others might smile.  I seek the happiness in my life that is my choice and no one else.  I trust in God.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6.  I am focusing on my heart once again in order to put my Father first in my life.

My Worth Is Not What I Own 

Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed – my ransom paid
At the cross

I rejoice in my Redeemer,
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul

Closing Verse: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Challenge:  Protect Your Heart.

Celebration in Heaven

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Saying Good Bye

Over the past week or so, I have watched the country say good-bye to a man who believed in the walk to Heaven.  He has preached to Louis Zamperini and was known as the Pastor to the Presidents, as he prayed and advised many.  He has loved so many people and so many have been touched by his passing.  Even as he made his last trip from Montreat, NC to Charlotte, NC, the roads were lined with so many people who needed to say goodbye.  I struggled to watch news report about him because for some reason losing him has brought forth in me so much emotion.  I did not know him or his family, but he was just a person who seems to easily connect with people – thousands and thousands of people.  This past Sunday night, I watch the short documentary and just cried, but I know that living or dead, Billy Graham belongs to God.  “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”  Romans 14:8.  It feels like the world has lost something good. Someone who found the good when there seems to be so much hate.  Rev. Billy Graham personally touched me at a trying time in my young life with his words, and for that I am thankful.

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Zola

In November of 1987, I said another goodbye that caused more pain than I had felt in my 19 years of life.  My grandmother, Zola Williams White, passed away.  She was such a role model for me, and I saw and knew her love for Christ.  What she and I failed to do was talk about death and her not being in my life one day. What would that be like?  I was a Sophomore in College, I needed to know where she was or if she was.  Seems strange to tell this story now, but back then without a laptop, smart phone, etc to do simple research, I began a journey to find some answers. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  Hebrews 11:6

(my grandmother)

Heaven

This journey began by finding Christian bookstores and visiting each looking for answers about Heaven.  I looked at so much material.  I read many, but we all  know that there is not really an answer to be found.  I have to stand in my faith just as she had done for some many years.  I know looking back she was not afraid, but where I found my comfort was in a book written by Rev. Billy Graham.  Facing Death and the Life After was published in 1987 released just about the time of her death.  I feel like it was written for me, and reading this book began a turning point for me to walk in faith after being so angry with God about losing her. I realized that Heaven is a place that Christ promised us while on Earth.  “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”  John 14:2.  I long to be there.

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Goodbye is not Forever

So watching the funeral and events leading up the funeral have been painful knowing that a great man of God is not among us anymore, but how happy heaven must be to have Billy Graham home.  One day I pray that I meet Billy Graham in heaven standing along side my grandmother who I know is loving both Christ and Billy today.  How do I know?  God’s Word Tells Me -“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Psalm 119″105.

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Closing Verse: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Challenge:  Christ is challenging us to follow him and walk by faith.

 

Loss of Innocence

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Loss of Innocence: 

Today is Valentine’s Day and a day that should be filled with loving those you have been blessed to live life with,  but I sit and watch the sadness of another school shooting.  Deep down in my soul I ache and cry for the innocent lives lost and the innocent lives scarred once again.  As a public school educator, my heart is breaking.  I hold the tears back and just wish that I could make the world a better place for every child.  I look back on this year and the loss of two young lives in my community who chose to take their own life to end the pain deep in their soul that could not be filled.  I find myself once again praying hard for the students that I love each day who just need someone to say good morning, call their name, and make them feel important, put clothes on their back, and food in their bellies.  I pray as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 teaches, “Pray without ceasing,”  God has blessed me with  the privilege of watching children struggle and bloom, yet either way I walk in a world where children just have different lives.  I ask the questions Why?  But I already know the answers.

Loving thru the Darkness:

I watch the news coverage of the shooting, and again I ask Why?  Why God is there so much darkness in the world?  Then I remember that Man made the choice that brought sin into this world, and no one is immune from the darkness and pain that sin brings not even an innocent child.  Genesis 2:17 explains, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  It is hard, so hard to watch the lives of so many children, and it is hard to accept the loss of young lives cut so short in their prime.  To know their dreams, their families dreams are shattered in one brief moment, yet I feel so blessed each day to go to work and serve children.  My prayer has always been that I am a catalyst that brings some hope, love, and joy to their lives.  I pray to God that I am an example of your love for these children you have placed in my life and that I am able to touch their lives each day, each month, each year.  As 1 John 2:6 reads, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” May my walk show Christ.

Walking in the Light

“Walking in the light may sting a little, but it is far preferable to life in the dark.  And on top of that, it is the only way to healing.”   -Jared Wilson.  I read this quote at church on Sunday morning and it just resonated with me.  I have been searching the scriptures this week and seeking the light in the darkness of our world because scripture is clear in 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”  To walk in the light is to walk with the Lord.  God’s light is the one true light that can bring healing into my life, my students lives, and our world.  A world that is hurting and in need of so much healing light.  “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”Psalm 147:3.  I know that seeking the light will bring healing in the darkness.   2 Corinthians 4:6, ‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’

Following the Light.

When my heart is broken from the darkness of the world, I seek healing in the light and I find comfort in his word.  “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Psalm 119:105.  These words of light written so long ago in such a different time, but yet so relevant today because God knew that the darkness would never leave and his people would need to continue to seek the light.  Comfort is what his word brings to my life.  I pray for a country that will heal in the words of 2 Corinthians  1:3-4 and bring comfort to others, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  I pray that I can bring comfort into the world or at least the lives of the children I love each day.  Ephesians 5:8, “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”

Closing Verse:  ‘Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”‘ John 8:12

Challenge:  Do you find yourself in the darkness?  Does the pain of the world seem hard?  Seek the light of Christ for your life, so you can Be the Light for someone else who needs to find their way out of the darkness.

 

Jesus, My Advocate

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Why Christmas?

During this Christmas season it is hard not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle the season can bring, but I should stop and remember why I celebrate this season.  Jesus Christ came to earth as a gift from our Father to save us from myself.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16.  Jesus became our advocate.  I am remembering this precious gift this week because sometimes smooth road become bumpy and rough.  Sometimes we just need someone to have our back, and this Christmas season reminds me not just of the gift God gave me, but of the friend who has walked in my footsteps so he could understand and advocate for me before God.

My Advocate

Having Christ as my advocate brings peace and comfort to my life in times of confusion that this world brings.  His advocacy also bring joy and love to my life when the road is smooth and life seems easy.  Either way he is teaching me his truths and loving me with grace in order to show me himself in my life.  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14.  As I walked through a week of struggles in this Christmas season, I know that Jesus is my advocate and the advocate for my family.  He is teaching and loving me through the ups and downs, so that I might show his love and mercy through my life.  He is standing before God for me.  “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,”  Matthew 10:32

Advocate for Christ

As I move through this Christmas season remembering how Christ has stood by my side, may I advocate for him with others.  I pray that I can stand for him as he stand for me.  May my life be a light, a model, and a source of comfort to those around me.  May I provide for others a way to know Jesus and all things that he has provided for me as my advocate.  “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19.

Closing Verse: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, ”  Isaiah 9:6

Challenge: This is a time to stop and remember why we celebrate Christmas and celebrate Jesus our Advocate.

Christmas Traditions

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Christmas Season

Christmas music is playing now everywhere I go and the lights are shining bright.  The season is here.  I want to enjoy and let the stress of the weeks that lead up that wonderful day that is gone so quickly.  I want to remember why we celebrate this season.  I always find myself this time of year thinking about the past.  Thinking about Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with my girls.  The fun, the laughs, the surprises, and most importantly the family traditions we have created together and continue to create over the years.  I believe that traditions are important for families and can be past down to the next generation.  Paul reminds me of the importance of traditions in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”

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Family Traditions

My family has a few old traditions like the mouse calendar countdown to Christmas.  Our girls would almost fight to get to move the mouse each day.  They loved for the one whose turn it was to forget, so later in the day the mouse would secretly be moved. This simple purchase so many years ago has brought so much joy to our family.  Even now my husband takes pictures of Harley moving the mouse and sends it our now grown daughters.  It is a special memory and tradition in our home, and one I hope continues in the homes of our daughters one day with their children.

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Jesus Birthday Cake

Another great tradition for our family is baking Jesus’s Birthday Cake and singing Happy Birthday to him on Christmas Day.  Today my girls bake the cake and decorate the cake together instead of me, but I enjoy watching them back home together in the kitchen having fun carrying on our family tradtion.  We still gather round the cake on Christmas afternoon and sing and eat his birthday cake!  This is definitely one of my favorite Christmas memories and traditions!  “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

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Even the Cake Decorations are important to our family.

Sharing Traditions

As an educator, I could not help but wonder about the traditions of my students, so I asked them to share favorite Christmas traditions with me on a Chalkboard in the school library.  It is engaging to hear them talk about the little things their families do together that are important to them.  Here are a few from this years board:

  1. Enchiladas for Breakfast on Christmas morning.  Why?  Her family is from Guatemala and this is just something her grandmother has always done.
  2. Crab Legs for Christmas Eve.  This student was super excited to share how much the night means getting to eat the crab legs!
  3. Lights.  One student just shared how much she enjoys lights and lots of lights.  She and I have that in common.
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These are just a few shared on the board and in discussions with my students.

Over the years I have heard some wonderful traditions that families share.  Some I wish I had even thought of.  Some that brought a great laugh but was still so important to the student.

  1.  One I wish I had thought of is only receiving three gifts for Christmas.  “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”  Matthew 2:11
  2. Several years ago a student shared that on Christmas Eve they had to eat their meal with a different utensil from the kitchen.  This was a long family tradition and brought lots of laughter around the table.  Who knew what you would get?  How do you eat with a whisk?

The Gift of Jesus

Traditions are important in families and even school communities.  God shows us how to celebrate him anywhere.  This is a like a tradition.  Praise the Lord in all that we do as Psalm 150:1-6 exclaims, “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! …”

During this  Christmas season with traditions being shared and even created remembering the reason we have this season is the most important.  God loved us that he gave us the greatest gift of all.  He gave us His Son.  He gave us Life.  ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16.

Closing Verse: “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”  1 Corinthians 11:2

Challenge: During this Christmas Season full of traditions don’t forget God’s traditions and gifts in your life.

Living in the Fog

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The Fog

Do you ever feel like you are walking through a fog in life?  You just are not living clearly day to day and things just seem blurry.  This has been the week that I have just walked through.  After the the struggles over the past two weeks, this week was to be the beginning of normal again, but then again that is not always how God works in our lives.  One moment of happiness and a sigh of relief and in the next moment chaos and the unknown.  Yet, God was there.

Blessed Struggles

Working through the good and the bad and finding the moments to stop and cherish have been important over the past few weeks in my life.  Although, God knows my struggles he continues to bless me because I know that others are struggling with more than I could bare at this moment and for that I thankful for his grace and mercy.

Searching for Answers

As I walk through the fog, I stop to wonder what I am to learn from this moment from God.  What is he teaching me in this moment?  So I search scripture for answers and once again I am driven back to a favorite reliable verse.  Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  God is in the fog, knows the fog, and will use the fog for good.  Now, I feel the fog lifting and know that God is here and working through all the struggles.

Closing Verse:  Romans 12:9  “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

Challenge:  Seek His Word when you find yourself in the Fog.

Faith

God’s Gift

I woke up this morning to this verse from 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we live by faith, not by sight.”  When I read verses like this, I wonder how some can choose not to believe there is a God because I tend to see his purposeful movements in my life.  Just when I need him near to guide or protect me, he shows himself to me with a verse like this.

Leaning on Faith

I get in the car and drive the hour plus for my father’s surgery.  A surgery where I have to have faith in the doctors and surgical team to preform the tedious operation he needs.  Without my watchful eye to know that all is well, I have been given the gift of this verse.  This verse was what I needed to start my day.  This was his gentle reminder to me that he is in control and I must be strong in faith.

God is in Control

As I sit and wait and wait, my faith is tested.  As my mind wonders to what is happening and what is going on when I should have gotten an update and hour ago.  I have to take a deep breath and realize that my faith is being tested.  God is here and in control and that is what I need when things begin feeling out of control.  Proverbs 16:9, is just one verse that reminds us of how much control God has, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  No matter my plans or my thoughts, God is establishing the future and I must trust no matter what that he knows best.  As Romans 8: 28 firmly reads, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Good News

Jesus Christ brought the Good News into our lives so many years ago with his teachings and sacrifice for our sins.  John 1:14 reminds us that God sent his Son to walk among us and save us from ourselves, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”    The doctors have brought the good news that all is well and another step in a long journey has been taken toward healing and strength and God is good. Sometimes simple steps can be hard to take, but with God’s strength and guidance these necessary steps are easier with faith.

Closing Verse: “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Romans 10:17

Challenge: Find Christ and Find Your Faith.

 

Growing Weary

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Exhaustion

As this week comes to a close, I am feeling both physically and emotionally tired and can feel my body closing down with exhaustion.  My introvert needs are on the rise.  As I find rest on my pillow to replenish my body, I turn to scripture to rejuvenate my soul.  Proverbs reminds me that God knows my condition at all times and will attend to my needs, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds,” Proverbs 27:23.  My body and soul will find rest in God’s arms.  Finding renewed strength from God is the only way for me to rejuvenate my body and soul and feel refreshed again in your life.  Each time I reach such exhaustion in my life I am reminded of my deeper need for scripture and that my biggest failure is not turning to him in the midst of my weariness.  Isaiah 40: 28 reads, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”  God is my strength.  He does not grow weary and I must seek him always first.

Rejuvenation

As scripture continues to rejuvenate my soul through his word I find myself thirsty for his strength.  God’s gift through his words brings such comfort and joy to my soul that my energy is renewed and I want to shout from the mountain top Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” I am rejuvenated when I seek to Praise the Lord!  This rejuvenation now also saddens me in that I allowed the exhaustion to win over my body and soul and failed to seek my relationship with God to find the rest that I needed.  Moving forward now in my life, I pray that I will seek God always first even in the midst of something as simple as exhaustion creeping both spiritually and physically into my life.  Matthew 11: 28-30 reads, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This verse reminds me that it I turn my burdens over to the Lord, I will find my burdens much lighter.

Seeking God’s Wings 

As I replenish with scripture, rest in the midst of my family and friends and enjoy the  loving arms of my husband, I realize how blessed God has been in my life.  I give him the all the glory and am reminded that walking through each day in his name that I will feel less tired and more energized.  Thank Lord for this lesson.  You will find me now under his wings as in Psalm 91:4, “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” As I wait under his wings for the Lord my strength is being renewed: “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Closing Verse:  Jeremiah 31: 25, “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

Challenge: Seek scripture when the challenges of life seem to be mounting.  Find refuge in God’s wings.