A Clear Lens to Look Through

First thing this morning, leaving my driveway to take my son to school, I realized my visibility through my windshield was quite poor.  My windshield had a dewy blanket left on it, and the problem was that my car is, let’s say, less than perfectly clean.  I turned on my windshield wipers, they swiped back and forth only to smear more and more filth across my windshield, causing less visibility, defeating my need and purpose.  Then I pressed the button to spray the washer fluid, only to smear even more and cause even less visibility.  Have you experienced this before?  Or, just me?  🙂

lens

I’m in a class currently that is challenging me to think about the mindsets that I view my relationships, my ethics, my purpose, and my daily tasks through.  What is my lens?  How is my visibility?  How often do we trudge through our day only viewing the moments we live in with an entitled, selfish, inward focus?  To be honest, I believe that we do more than we realize.  I do, sometimes automatically, and my emotions signal me.. feeling irritable, short fused, or even sorry for myself. Let’s look at a simple, little heart checklist:

  • Am I defensive and immediately annoyed anytime someone disagrees with me, questions my viewpoint, or has criticism for me?
  • Do I gossip?  We all know when we do, and we justify as we do it.
  • Do I dismiss my own weaknesses or sins with little justifications inside, only to look at others with more condemnation?  (I was tired, lonely, sad, had a bad day, not treated right, etc.)
  • Do I have a woe-is-me attitude?  No one else understands me, and no one else tries as hard as me, and no one else appreciates me…
  • Do I expect other people to be interested and enthralled with my pursuits, but don’t show similar interests for theirs?

It’s a start to cleaning our windshield!

There are many more reflective questions that we could add to this list, but intentional heart prodding helps us find a starting point.  Selfishness and an entitled lens leads to losing our clear visibility directing our needs and purpose.  We don’t see others, or ourselves in the light of who God created us to be when we allow only our self-gain to direct our pathways.

So, how did God create us to be?

Quite simply. . . To Love and Glorify Him. To Love Others.

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”

Matthew 22:37-38, ESV. 

Changing our visibility doesn’t just happen with only acknowledgment, it happens when we work on it; accepting responsibility and making changes.

What are some ways we can do this?

Give God each moment of our day.  We are His creation, His children, and the display of His image on this earth.  Choose to reflect His Character.

We must know His character; What He says about us, others. We must continually sink deeper and deeper in the knowledge of His love.  How do we know?  We begin by studying God’s word, and processing it out with others who seek and follow Him.

Be grateful. Notice the mass amounts of blessings and surprises of grace in each day.  The sunrises, smiles, good meals, friendships, and so much more. Not only should we count them, but we should act.  Say thank-you.  Tell God and others about our appreciation.  Cultivate a culture of gratitude in your soul.

Practice otherness.  Tip your waiter or waitress. Be kind and attentive. Fill out the survey form for the store employee who asks you (literally takes 5 minutes, and you know you *have time* to spend that on Facebook) it may give them a raise eventually or needed kudos from their place of employment.  Let someone into your lane.  Volunteer.  Spend time with others.

Be Wholehearted.

Our Creator said that it’s better to give than receive.. He also said that what we do for the least of these, we do for Him.  He knows us! He made us.  When we function this way, it not only benefits others, but it gives our soul true peace.

Check out this article that really is insightful for us! 7 Scientific Benefits of Helping Others

If we don’t check and change our lens for the way we view things, trying to fix things on the surface level will be difficult, tiring, and frustrating.  This can lead to, “Look at all I do for everyone else!”  And, that is not true gratefulness and loving others, right?  That’s just more about ME.  Just smearing the dirt more on my windshield.  Checking the very motives and conditions of my heart and then acting on it, gives it all a good cleaning… giving me the visibility I need.

Hope you find this encouraging, it’s definitely all been working overtime on this old heart, and I wanted to share with you.

(By the way, I plan to wash my car tomorrow for those concerned!)

Motivation, Application, Wisdom & Joy

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”   ~Galatians 1:10

Why do we do what we do? 

Simple question….lengthy answers? Or could it be a simple answer? 

Crossroad

During one of my life’s most difficult seasons, my Pastor Reg’s response to my gauntlet of a whirlwind of questions was, “Ask yourself with each decision… What is the wise thing? What is the right thing… what is the wise thing, what is the right thing?” 

What is the wise thing? 

What is the right thing? 

Since then, I cannot tell you the countless times I whisper this question over and over as I face the next thing.

So, why do we do what we do? 

Pride? Ego? People pleasing? Fear of failure? 

Serving myself?  Serving other’s whims and pressures?

Two things that I have pondered ever since that conversation with my Pastor… 

  1. I won’t know what the wise thing is unless I actively seek the giver of wisdom. 

That Bible that sits on my nightstand…  It contains the words from my Father. Why is it so much easier to seek every other source in the world when I face decisions, than to go immediately to the source in prayer?  Am I daily learning more about God, and His ways?  Are my roots growing deeper?  Do I intentionally seek?

You don’t gain knowledge about math without listening to instruction, studying, applying and working it out.  You don’t increase in ability at your sport, or musical instrument, or workplace without listening to instruction, studying, applying, and working it out… See where I’m going with this?  🙂

2.   I often know the wise thing, or the right thing… but I choose otherwise. 

Entertain my silliness for a moment, but when I ask myself, “What is the wise thing..?”  before I decide to eat that huge piece of cheesecake for lunch… well, I do kinda know the answer.  However, I eat it anyway.. and an hour later I feel sluggish, heavy, and I haven’t fed my body the proper fuel for my day to be the best in productivity.  Now, I may make that decision again because that cheesecake is so yummy!  Lol.  But, at least I need to own the consequences.

There are some decisions that carry much more severe weight, and consequences.. and owning our unwise choices is not silly, or trite, but vital for our life and those we love around us.  We grow when we face our wrong decisions square in the face, and work it out with God’s ways accordingly.  One wrong decision doesn’t have to turn into a snowball of more, and more and more wrong decisions.  I did you wrong?  I need to face it, apologize and change my behavior.. But, when my ugly pride and me sits on that throne… I ignore the question of what is right (or talk myself into a solution that isn’t godly) and instead of making it right, I cling to the wrong one, justify it, and continue to walk serving someone other than God.

steppingstones

I don’t know about you, but when I’m carrying my load wrong, I get tired. The absence of God in my decisions and thought processes makes me feel burdened, confused at times, and alone. But, the presence of God is my fullness of joy. And joy is my strength. See how that works out? “He will make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, ESV). He’s a good Father – He’s not going to keep the wise thing or the right thing a secret from you… seek Him today with your every question. 

And may our motivation for what we do be all about Him, through Him, and because of Him. 

New Year’s Resolutions

To ring in the new year of 2017, late in the month of January, my mom, my four sisters, myself and some of my nieces met together for a brunch.  This was a first for us, and it was a very meaningful time.  It was a needed time.

So, why am I writing on this now?  Ha.  We are half-way through the year!  Let me explain.

One of the activities we did that day was writing our “New Year’s Resolutions” on 3×5 notecards, and then if we wanted, sharing with the group.  It was such a great idea, it truly helped me to slow down and be intentional about what my priorities really were for the year.  Afterwards, I placed my little cards in my Bible as bookmarks and needed reminders for my daily life.  Here we are in July, and halfway through the year and I smiled this morning as this particular resolution marked my Psalm this morning.  Rest.  True Rest.  Did I even know what that meant when I wrote it?  I certainly didn’t know what all my year would hold… that’s certain.  But, I smiled because I thought the definition of rest has taken on a new shape, and new meaning for me in so many ways the past few years.

blog me

Rest.  True rest.

That’s what she said in January – beginning 2017.  Here we are in July.

I like to visualize rest thinking about our cat Thomas.  Now that fellow knows how to rest!  He has a little routine every day.  And it all revolves around rest, I’m pretty sure (well, that and eating..).  He has his morning stretches, his breakfast, his nap on Paul’s top bunk, snacktime, naptime on Wesley’s bed, snacktime, naptime on couch, snacktime, aggravate our other cat Romo time, snacktime, and then relax-time on back of couch or in our laps to complete his evening before bed time.

blog 2.JPG

The only time he doesn’t rest is when his food bowl is empty.  Not only does he not rest,  WE can’t rest.  Because he paces, stares, and even gives a little bite (if it comes to that!) to remind us “MY BOWL IS EMPTY.”

Kinda like me.  I can rest when things are all nice and tidy… all my ducks swimming pretty in a row (and for the record, I can’t even remember when it was that way for me.  I am thinking they are not even ducks at this point… maybe chinchillas?).

But, oh God where is the rest when things aren’t the way I want them?

Not when things are hard and confusing.

Or, when I have needs that I feel aren’t met.

Not when I feel I’m wronged or shorted from what I deserve.  (Ouch).

Or, how can I rest when the storms are big and unexpected… and the lights seem to flicker on and off.

Where are you?

And, He reminds me.  The wind and waves know my name.  You can rest.

flowrers bridge

Throughout the years, lack of sleep has become my nemesis.  I’ve learned some practical ways that help.  Sleep association patterns:  Reading before bed, journaling my “to-do” list for the next day, calming playlist, lavender scents, relaxing a wee bit on my caffeine intake :), less screen time, good hydration, etc.  All great aids!  Definitely have proven to help me greatly!

But, maybe you will agree with me… there seems sometimes to be no cure for an anxious heart.  When you toss and turn on your bed, and sleep seems so far away.  Your pillow may be the only one you trust with your tears, but God sees.

What was the Psalm that my resolution from January had randomly marked?

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
 When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.”

Psalm 94:18-19

What’s the true rest I want to practice?  Trusting Him.  Allowing His words to console the deepest corners of my soul.  Letting go of what others think, giving Him all the heavy things I carry, fully embracing His forgiveness and grace, trusting that He is at work in all areas… even the ones that may be difficult to understand.  Entrusting each step to His wisdom and ways.  Reaching for His word when I want to ruminate on issues.  Committing myself to pray, even when there aren’t words, or when all I want to do is complain or worry. Looking for faithful friends who can listen, pray for me, and share needed perspective and truth to my ears. Settling my mind to know I am not the “fixer” of anything, I’m just a girl who has the opportunity to love others, as I have been loved. Loving is easy, when you spend time with the One who loves you.

Sleepless nights will still find us.  Anxious moments will come.  That’s for sure.  But even in those moments, we can have the gift of true rest.

2017 –  A year of rest.  The gift of rest that we can all embrace.

 

 

let’s communicate for love’s sake

My tongue often reflects my heart.  The Bible tells me that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).  My heart often is self-serving, and my tongue reflects that!  I often write it off, even to myself, with disguises and masks.  Recently, I’ve thought much about difficult conversations that are loving, and why they seem soo difficult to have. We seem to find it way easier with conflicting views to sit far off and throw lashes with our tongues to others who think like us on the topic, or whine and complain to our friends — rather than speaking face to face to HEAR their thoughts and SHARE our thoughts with true love to the one with whom we don’t see eye to eye.  Promoting unity involves honest, real conversations and authentically listening.  Putting my heart out there.  Caring more about true love for all than just “love” of my self.  Selfish-love that worries how I look to others, or critical that the other won’t care about my side of things (and certainly me not caring about their point of view), or worried about how I’ll be perceived…. which actually can’t be love…. cos all that’s fear based. There’s no fear in perfect love.

hands-love

Whispering behind backs, blanket statements thrown out there targeted to make someone “hear” me without actually reaching out to them personally, indirect communication and using God to justify “me” and “my” agenda is manipulative… again there’s my fear clinging to a silly control that is really just an illusion, right?

We can’t control others.  And even if we could, would that be love?  I can’t make you hear me, and you can’t make me hear you.  But, true love is the bridge that is only capable of connecting us.  Unifying our hearts.

True love gives a patient ear.  A kind response.  Even if we disagree… love can be kind.

bridge 3

True love doesn’t brag, protect its ego, or become jealous.  It doesn’t have to win the argument.. it wants to win the trust of the other person.

nail

True love doesn’t dishonor others.  (Ouch!)  It never shames or disgraces another.

bridge 2

True love isn’t angered, and it doesn’t make a list of all the wrongs to shake in the face of the other.

flowrers bridge.jpg

True loves gets excited to share truth!  It doesn’t let things go by that are “not” ok… True love reaches out to restore that which needs a new perspective and breathe new light and hope.  True love confronts when needed, with a beautiful aim to build up.

bridge

True love protects, hopes, keeps going, and trusts God – cos He’s the one actually in control.

True love never fails.  God’s love will never, ever fail us. 

So, you may be like me sometimes, and say… “This is impossible.  You don’t know my situations.  You don’t know how impossible this really is.”

And, you are right.  I don’t know your story, as you don’t know mine.  But, what I do know is that with God… this is possible.  I believe that with all my heart for you and for me.  And, how He shows you will be a miracle designed for you, and it will bring peace to situations that you right now feel like can never be resolved.  The first step is to trust Him.  Trust and obey.  As we know His love, and as we sink deeper and deeper in the vast, overwhelming love of our Father – We know love.  And, as we love others, the love becomes more and more real and known to us.  What a beautiful cycle to be in, right?

Divisiveness destroys, but love restores.  Last time I checked, my God was in the business of restoration.  It’s what He does.  Give it up to Him.  Be brave and kind when you speak up.  Be quiet and still to hear Him.  Reach out and talk to others about conflict and various perspectives.  I can’t know your story, unless you share it. Please be brave, it’s yours, and it’s meant to share. Let’s give each other the opportunity to put one another’s shoes on and walk around a bit.  Unity comes as God fuses us together as one.  One body that represents Him.  His way is vulnerable, honest love and connection… So let’s seek His ways.  Mine don’t always work the best.  😉

Bible References:  I Corinthians 13:4-8; 1 John 4

To A Wild Rose: Straight From the Heart of Joy

Today the series continues, and I’m beyond honored to have one of my heroes share with us.  She’s a ginger-snap that I like to call my little Toodles.  Joy is a giant-hearted person who continually shows me what true perseverance, courage, and faith look like.  Joy is the fourth in my lovely quintet of sisters. She graduated Cum Laude in 2015 from Stephen F Austin University with a Bachelor of Arts for Creative Writing.  Currently, she is a Masters Candidate in Creative Writing and a Teacher’s Assistant with the English Department at Arkansas State University.  I pray that this post reaches deep into your heart, as it did mine.  

Rings left by coffee, stains left by people

I almost always buy my clothes second-hand, coffee-stained sleeves and lipstick-stained collars, worn-down and fraying and faded and beautiful. I love the history that comes with an article of clothing that has been worn by a stranger: it could have gone hiking in the Smoky Mountains, could have soaked in the tingling, woody smoke of a campfire, could have spent days in bed cuddling a newborn, or drinking coffee and watching old movies. I love that things have histories. They do not begin and end with me and my personal joys or tragedies. The world spins, and I am only a small part, watching.

vintage-clothing-store-pf1yzjmuvmu

Isn’t it amazing that the people we love live on beyond us? It is not as if, after we have lunch with a friend, they get in their car and immediately vanish from existence. They may disappear from our sight and our mind—but they are now in their own little world, experiencing their own little joys and tragedies. They are mysteries to us. We can speculate: are they eating lunch right now? Are they slathering mayonnaise on bread or making too-strong coffee with heaping teaspoons of sugar? Are they happy? But we never know, for certain. We are stuck in our own limelight. They have exited off stage and are in the dark of the wings.

Like most Americans, I am guilty of being very self-absorbed. I live in my own head, with ghosts of old words. In my life, I have been hurt by individuals who entered and exited. Their cruel words become a stain on my sleeve, their lies broke a button on my shirt. I repeat the thing they have done to me like a mantra: hurt, hurt, hurt. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I forget that they have exited off the stage, that they are living out their own mystery elsewhere, and I become obsessed with the way in which they have changed me.

As a woman, I have lived through a series of expectations. I passed through them like wandering through bewildering rooms in an old house. Sometimes I felt very lost. I was raised with the expectation that I would marry and have children, because per the culture, that was God’s plan for women. Guys I liked told me that they thought women should be modest and cover their legs, their breasts, their hair, but also stay in good shape so that they could be sexy. Men in churches told me that I should be submissive to authority figures and not argue or dispute ideas publicly. Teachers told me I had to try harder, because women still didn’t get the opportunities that men did unless they went above and beyond their male colleagues. Friends reminded me that I should major in a field suited to a woman: like teaching or nursing, because other jobs were too masculine.

But I didn’t want any of that: I wanted to be a leader, a shaker, a dreamer, a doer. I used to pray to be magically transformed into a man, because I thought men’s lives must be more exciting. For a few years I bound my breasts and wore boxy clothes to pretend I didn’t have a figure. I rejected every romantic intention of any guy that came near me; because I thought love meant submission to degradation, meant agreeing with my partner’s crazy thoughts, meant shutting up when I disagreed, meant taking abuse…out of love.

Looking back, I recognize myself as an intelligent, creative child who was just curious and excited about everything. So much got stifled by those well-intentioned comments to be more ladylike, to talk quieter, to dress feminine, to eat less and stay in shape, to find a husband, find a husband, find a husband.

Now I know better; I know as a woman I am just as whole and full of potential as a man. I believe in the adventures of being a woman. Yet I am guilty of letting these old comments stain my perspective on myself. Sometimes when I’m teaching I think, Wow, I sound bossy. Sometimes when I’m standing in front of the mirror I think, My teeth are so ugly and fang-like, so gross. I like rock music and science fiction (that’s not ladylike), I prefer other people to cook for me (I’ll never be a good wife).

Recently I found out, due to some issues, that it is almost impossible that I will ever be able to have children. My first thought was: I guess I’m not a real woman. But that thought was ugly and untrue, that thought was an old ghost of someone who told me, once upon a time, that the only reason I was born was to serve a man and have babies.

rosedance

And I know that thought is untrue because the women I love are doing amazing things. They are sometimes mothers and wives, yes, but they are also personal trainers and musicians, globe-trotters and activists, counselors and preachers, nurses and nannies, business-owners and orchestrators, singers and dancers, makers and creators, dreamers and soldiers, rockstars and fashionistas, bakers and brokers. I see them jogging in the morning. I see them at coffee shops, reading for pleasure. I see them wearing clothes that make them feel good. I see them building fences and chopping wood, plastering walls painting houses. I see them moving abroad to Italy or China. I see them fighting crime, speaking out, turning in their abusers, being so very loud and so very lovely.

And I am in awe of them.

I am in awe of you.

You are my mentors and heroes, you are why I tell the ghosts to shut up, and get off the stage. You are why I silence my fears that I’m bossy or unladylike or weird. You’re why I’ve learned to love being a woman again.

Because whatever unkind words have been spoken to you, whatever little rips and tears have been made to your soul, you wear yourself with grace and purpose when you live to be who you truly are. When you gamble on yourself, when you believe in your dreams. You are as beautiful as that dress, hanging in a thrift shop, that dress that has been danced in, twirled about. The dress that has seen the sun and rain both, that is worn in as soft as down, yet sturdy and durable. There are stains, yes, but they are beautiful because they tell me your story: you survived, you overcame, and you are still needed, yes, and desirable, unique in your history.

It’s hard to leave the old expectations behind, because they resurface quietly, they are still little wounds that are healing. Yet: “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

It is best to let the ghosts go.

We are surrounded by victors and achievers and those breathing heavy and dripping sweat because they are running ferociously down the path set out for them, they are living their true purpose. I would much rather listen to their voices, strained and panting though they may be. Wouldn’t you?

To A Wild Rose: Straight From the Heart of Tracie

Next up in the series, you have the pleasure of meeting my friend Tracie.  We’ve known each other quite a few years from the days of pushing our little ones around in baby strollers, to now sharing the bittersweet moments of waving goodbye as our “babies” drive off to college.  Tracie is proud mom to three amazing kiddos, and wife to Pastor Richard Boyd.  She serves our school district as the Help Desk Technologist, and is one of the most giving ladies you’ll meet. From taxiing around our kiddos, giving me much needed reminders, and so much more I’m blessed to know Tracie… and I think you will be too as you read her honest, open words.  

As I sat this morning, all alone, looking at the decorations in our house, drinking coffee, and remembering where each ornament came from I was flooded with love, and something else.  I realized I have wasted alot of time.  I have held grudges, judged others, not forgiven, and not shared the gospel like I should.  My dad is in the hospital right now, and I just lost my grandma and a lady who was a spiritual mother to me, so my heart is kind of heavy.  More than the heaviness of the loss of people, is the loss of time.

feet-blog

I didn’t speak to my dad for five years when I was a teenager, and I have always felt a little estranged from him, but last year when his dad passed away, things changed.  He needed my help, and I freely gave it.  We have had the best relationship in this last year because I let us.  I let go of old hurts and pain and just loved him where he is.  I let him love me in his way, not the way I want him to love me.  I let go and let God.

My dad is not saved and I have tried to discuss it with him before, but he doesn’t see a need for a relationship with Christ.  I have tried to live my life in front of him, and hope that it has been a witness, but as I sat there this morning I thought, “Has it been?”  “Have I shown the love of Christ with my grudges and un-forgiveness and judgmental-ness?”  “Would anyone want to know about Christ watching me?” The answer is no.

Young couple holding hands in the wheat field on sunny summer day.

Time is short people!  Even if you don’t believe in the end times, you can look around and see how fast time passes!  My daughter is looking at colleges, my son is grown and gone, I will have another teenager in a month, time has passed me by!  I have wasted something God has given me with “MY” hurts, that I really haven’t shared with the fixer of those hurts, Jesus.  

Please don’t let the time continue to go by another day having “junk” that keeps you bogged down to the point that you can’t live for Christ as you should, or share the gospel like you should.  Forgive people, love people, and tell people about Jesus.  There is someone looking at your walk, whether it is your children, husband, friend or stranger.

Walk in a walk that they will know He is walking with you.

To A Wild Rose: Straight from the Heart of Emma Jane

Today as we continue our series, To A Wild Rose, I want you to meet my friend Emma.  I’ve known this curly-headed, inspiring brunette since she was 5 years old, and I’ve watched her grow into a young woman who challenges my heart to love strong and always stay careful of complacency. Her mother,who shined so bright in Jesus, went to her eternal home in 2011, and Emma continues Jamie’s legacy by singing of the Love that endures forever.  Emma is big sis to four little sisters, completing her senior year of high school, is quite the musical gal (sings, plays piano and ukulele, songwriter, etc..) and is in prayer as she chooses the direction for her life this next year.  Read the words from the heart of a courageous young lady.  

—————————————————————-

Those of you who know me are well acquainted with my thought-pattern or lack thereof. It’s mildly hilarious considering how hard I try to be a writer.  All I ask is that you read to the end. I promise it’ll make sense (hopefully).

I am not a gardener for sure, but I have always loved plants. Cacti especially. Momma was never a gardener either….. I was blessed with a jack-of-all-trades for a dad. Most every year, we had a gigantic garden. Even though I complained about working it, I loved every minute I spent with my parents out in the sweltering heat. I learned a lot about plants over those summers in the dirt from my daddy. I love how God gives us real-life examples of aspects of our walk with Him.

Roots are extremely important to a plant. They are the source of life.

They soak up all the goodness that the plant needs to flourish, and they offer protection. A tree with deep roots is going to be harder to blow over than a tree with immature, weak roots.

roots

In June, I was uprooted from my comfortable home and thrown out into a new church, new school, new life. These past six months have revealed my strengths and weakness like no other trial in my entire life. I have spent days and nights crying out to God, in desperation when I see all that I am missing out on. I have spent long evenings, dancing on the dock in front of a glorious sunset, praising my Creator for this great love He lavishes upon me. I have been taking care of my roots, so to speak. Through this trial, I have been seeking God. It is not always easy, In fact, it’s never easy. I constantly pray that God instills a desire for deeper roots. Through all of this, I am reminded of how easy it is to fall into “surfacey Christianity.” We go to church, post inspirational Jesus quotes, and try to be decent people. Beloved, we are so deceived! Relationship with God is so much more than these. When God draws us, He woos us with His love. He courts us, and calls us into this divine covenant with Him where we offer ourselves, ugly, broken, hurt, and confused.

Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called His children – 1 John 3:1

blog-rose-emma

This love is my comfort. This love is my hope. I feel like I spend way too much time missing things that often I fail to appreciate and love the present. In the midst of my hurt and confusion, God is God, and He is GOOD. He wants more than anything for us to be pulled deeper into a loving relationship with Him. So spend some time with Him today. Let your roots go deep, so you can withstand the crazy stuff life throws at us.

He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit – Jeremiah 17:8

To A Wild Rose; Straight from the Heart of Abby

Once again, I’m delighted to have my niece Abigail as a guest post for my blog.  She joins us in the conversation regarding women, and as always I’m in awe and grateful for her transparency. Abigail is beautiful mommy to Mr Liam Jonathan McBride.  This past January her loving, devoted, one-of-a-kind husband Jonathan went to his eternal home, and Abby remains here carrying on the legacy of love giving to all she encounters.  You can read a little of her story here.  She manages her home business, The Little Farm Kitchen, and also manages her little growing farm! A braver, stronger, more loving ginger snap of a woman you will not meet.  And, I’m priviliged to be her Aunt and a recepient of that love. Lean in, listen, and let’s continue to stay mindful and in prayer over this vital topic.  

In all honesty I have been avoiding writing this. I kept going over topics in my head that I could write about, but I couldn’t get this out of my head.

You see, the last 11 months of my life, no matter how I tell it, it has not been what I ever imagined. And I think that sometimes as Christians we try to glorify our trials. Today I just want to be brutally real with you all.

I am a strong person. I know that. People who know me know that. But I would like to put forth the notion to you that mountains are strong, trees are strong, there are many strong forces, however after enough small persistence of any given thing, they slowly begin to fade. It’s almost undetectable. First it’s just small things, you don’t smile quite as big, your laugh sounds pitiful in your own ears, you look for excuses to “check out of life” not in a suicidal way physically, but emotionally and mentally. You begin avoiding people who can truly see you. You begin avoiding anyone that might catch a glimpse of what’s underneath your surface.

Praying woman hands

I would love to believe that I have only been doing this in the last 11 months, but I know that I have been doing this since I was about 11 or 12 years old. I smile and laugh and reply “I’m fine!” But deep down a little voice is saying “I’m not fine, please help me!”. In my life I have suffered mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. I have lost my husband. I have seen my family torn apart by another family member, I have seen some of the Devils best handiwork. And even after ALL of that, I reply, “I’m fine!”.

What we as men and women need to understand is that brokenness is the beginning of healing. Our culture loves to shame and ridicule those of us who admit that we aren’t ok, it seems sometimes especially the Church. If we do not acknowledge that we are indeed broken, how are we to begin the process of healing? It is impossible. Today I ask that we all do our part to break the stigma of shame that has been cast on Depression, Mental Health Disorders, Anxiety and many other prisons of the mind.

And finally, yes I am weary! I am weary of doing good, and being repaid with bad. I’m tired of pretending. I’m tired of seeing people treated like with hate and disrespect. I’m tired of people defending and protecting pedophiles and abusers and turning their backs on their families. I’m tired of not seeing more good in this world than bad. I’m tired.  But I’m not done! Just as the persistence of bad wearing and tearing down overtime, so works the persistence of goodness and love. And I’ll be darned if I let the bad wear me down to the point of defeat. If we will persist in doing good, if we will persist in giving love, if we will persist in being strong, if we will persist in teaching respect through our actions, over time, and maybe not in this life, but over time, we will see the rewards.

Hands rose.jpg

Dear friends, let us not grow weary in doing good. You never know if you might be the last face someone sees as they seek help and hope. And when we do grow tired, remember there is someone out there who wants to truly see you and know you and help you.

You are so loved.

To A Wild Rose: Straight from the Heart of Alicia

Hello Everyone, here’s our next post in the Wild Rose series.  I’m so grateful for all the brave ladies stepping up and sharing their stories with us!  Fresh perspective.  Today, I want you to meet my pal Alicia.  She is among my passionate, fervent, beautiful friends who is a loving mom, a wife crazy in love with her hubby, and shares her gift to many as a sonographer who introduces mommies and daddies to their little ones every day.  🙂  You’ll see clearly the heart of one that knows the deep love of God as you read her words below.  

In the beginning, I wouldn’t even call myself a wild rose, but a type of crazy weed.

sad-girl

Why? Because that is how I felt. As a child, I watched my home as I got older to be a place of violent arguing, physical abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, and a sad view of what love means. I watched my mom first make sure I was okay in the moment of it all, but my eyes still saw it all, stored it in my mind, and it became normal in those eyes. My parents were doing the best with what they had been shown when they were just children. I know my parents loved me then, and they continue to show me that love today. I can always hear my mom say, “Alicia, I want better than what I had growing up and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes as I did.” Oh, how I look up to my mom for what she went through! She is not just a blade of grass as I know she must have felt like, but she is a strong, beautiful rose. I watched my mom cry, become angry at it all, but also have to be happy and there for me. I watched my dad leave over and over again. I didn’t realize how this would affect me later on in my relationships though until several years ago.

work.6895354.1.flat,550x550,075,f.brave-flowers-in-the-storm

In Jr. High I can remember being lost in who I was as a person. This is the time I began to try to find myself. I was saved as a young child, but I gravitated slowly away from what I knew was right and chose to disobey my mother in things that were not who I was. My sophomore year I was so convicted of things and wanted to be on “track.” I began to date who I thought would be “the one” (he will be mentioned throughout as this) for the rest of my life. This all started great, but throughout our relationship things are now apparent to have been so unhealthy. Things like arguing, pushing away, typical neediness on my part, typical boy stuff on his part, and typical “high school relationship” things became normal throughout the years. All I wanted was to be loved. While I felt loved by one, I also found it in someone who would be disapproved by anyone else at the same time. I thought I found that in a man twice my age. I would be given gifts of whatever I wanted, loved like I wanted, and was treated much older than I was. I was made to feel good in all of the ways we want to be felt. I was beautiful, sexy, and all of the things we want to be all while also being made to feel beneath him, controlled, and trapped. My life consisted of keeping him happy all while I was drowning in feelings of being good enough, pretty enough, where he wanted me, etc. For about 2 years (it’s hard to remember) I kept this relationship hidden deep in my heart. “The one” and I broke up due to typical high school things and my other relationship with “the other man” also ended around this time and I dated 5-6 different guys in a matter of probably 6 months. I became what would seem obsessed with some and then in a matter of time I was back with “the one.” During this time I had fallen so deep into a love again with him, but I still had a lie hidden. I needed to tell him about “the relationship” with his stepfather. Yes, you are reading this right. God soon convicted me one morning in February of 2010 to delete all social media connected to the world and tell him the truth. This would break my heart, but I knew it was for the best.

That started the beginning of a very long, but so rewarding journey in my life. Light was shed on something that needed to be shown.

Tucker, my husband now, was my best guy friend at the time of all of this and I had to at some point tell him what was happening. His reply was simply, “Okay.” There wasn’t a hesitation in his voice that would indicate losing him also as my friend. Months later we began as boyfriend/girlfriend as I was convinced by many that he loved me and that love was so obvious. The end of my senior year in high school ended with no friends except for a few which includes Tucker and my freshman year in college began with such tragedy and sadness that I would be convinced to file against “the other man.” A statement was written to him to be read in court about forgiveness. I chose to put that behind me and move forward although it was so hard to forget. During the beginning of mine and Tucker’s relationship I held onto some of my old ways including arguing, belittling, etc. The closer I got back to Christ and the more I prayed the easier it became to let go of these ways. Oh, but God works in mysterious ways because while my parents separated he knew to bring me another dad who would love me like I was his child. I was also given a stepmother who would not only love me the same as her two girls, but would show my dad the patience and love that he has longed to feel. I tell you all of this so you can see the death and growth of the “wild rose” writing this. I was shown and chose all that I knew and seen.

rosejdk

All I wanted was love! Isn’t that what we all want?

flwoer

It took me all of this tragedy above to see what true love was and that was in Christ first. I now look back and have some grief over my childhood self. I can see myself crying out for water like growing flowers do and my heart breaks, but thankfully I have been saved by the ultimate gardener, God. My challenge to you as parents is to really observe things our children see daily in us. They are like sponges absorbing it all and one day will live according to how they were taught as just tiny seeds. You are raising future “wild roses.” Show them how to bloom and love like Christ.

Meeting Rita

ritaEleven years ago.  September 24, 2005.  I remember the day all too well.  I remember the night even more.  As I stared at the TV screen as a wind-blown Geraldo reported the damage to me that was occurring in my southeast Texas.  All I could do was pray… for my husband, all the first responders trying to keep safety for others, those trying to keep the chaos at bay, and for all those in danger.  Hurricane Rita swirled with fury into our community recorded as the fourth most intense Atlantic hurricane ever.  A category five that tragically took over 100 people’s lives that day.

The boys and I had left Hunter earlier that afternoon and also left our first home, and our sweet lab Maggie behind and made our way to stay at my dear cousin’s home in Tyler, Texas.  Reluctant wasn’t the word, as I pulled out of our driveway, tears brimming over in my eyes as I said goodbye.  My gut told me that this was the end of something…. Or the beginning of something… whichever way I want to look at it, maybe.

The next morning an early call finally came from my husband, who sounded so exhausted.  He was ok, and he was safe.  My heart was so relieved to hear his voice!  Maggie was safe, too!   He hesitated as he began to tell me that our home was not ok.  We had received severe high wind damage, resulting in part of our roof being peeled back, rain pouring into our home.  Light fixtures fallen, sheet-rock peeling back off the wall… everything wet, wet, wet, wet.  Our privacy fence, and roof to our pool outbuilding was found in various places… including across the road and field from our home.  It was all a wreck.  We comforted each other, “We’ll get through this, Joani.  We have each other, and that’s what counts,” Hunter reminded me.  So true.  What beautiful truth.

The following weeks without electricity compounded the devastating damage to our homes effected by this storm.  While my husband and all the wonderful community helpers, local law enforcement, fire departments, and disaster relief teams worked hard to clean up, re-build and help our community survive… the south’s heat and humidity continued to work its way with mold growing everywhere and anywhere Rita’s water and moisture had shown itself.

When I finally was able to re-enter the community, my heart sank as I saw such devastation everywhere.  But, my heart was lifted high as I saw weary faces all around, with smiles on their faces, love for each other in their hearts, and hands to help.

To be honest, to write all of my thoughts about the journey we began September 21, 2005 would be a novel.  So many beautiful moments, so many wonderful helpers, and some dark, dark days, too  — all part of God’s road for me.  And, honestly, I actually have written one!  Just not ready to share it all yet… Haha!  But, today being the anniversary I just wanted to share with you a bit of hope when days look dark, and the night even darker.  When the storms swirl in, and fear makes us tremble.  When so much is lost, that it’s hard to see what remains. 

SunRiseThe One who calms the storm in my heart, the One who created the sea, and told it where to stop.  The One who knew you and I before we were born, and knows every day that we will live on this earth.

He is greater.

There was a very sad moment of big realization for me as I held James’ blankie in my hand.  In our haste and emotions as we left for Tyler, I left it behind.  Now molded and ruined.  He was four at this time, and my grandmother had crocheted it for him at birth.  He loved that little green blankie.  He slept with it every night (sometimes even brought it to the grocery store with us, but shhh don’t tell him I told you ;)), and he loved how his fingers slipped and fit right in between the stitching.  My Mema is with Jesus now.  I miss her so much.  I sat and held the blankie close, ready to toss it in the trash with all the other debris of memories.  Crying, I felt the pangs of the loss of innocence for my children in this broken world, I cried for the interruption of their joyful times spent in the pool, the normal routine with play-days and school days with friends, the loss of all their belongings.

And, then right there, that still, perfect, small voice whispered to me.  Sitting on a moldy, wet carpeted floor, with piles of trash bags containing my home, mosquitoes buzzing in my ear… crying my eyes out holding a child’s little blankie…

I am greater.

Greater than all this.  And, I am here. 

Yesterday, as I woke up and opened my Bible, 11 years later, I searched for a verse of comfort for this season’s storms.. they aren’t a physical hurricane for me, but this world still has some swirling, whirling chaos trying to run my life some days.  The verse I ended up reading wasn’t the fuzzy, feel good one I kinda was looking for, it was so much more.  Deep meaning for true deep down comfort:

 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”  This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:26-29, (ESV) 

My life has been shaken. Shaken with things that felt like was shaking even beyond my core. Sometimes to the point of wondering how I will ever steady my footing again. My friend, what I have seen is that through my shaking He has been my rock that doesn’t move. Clinging to that steady rock, keeps me steady even in the biggest storms. I may shake, but my Father does not.  An amazing part is that through my pain, through my sufferings, through shaking like a leaf and standing vulnerable and helpless before my King, He has not only guided each step by His hand, but He has shaken off many things that needed to be stripped away, and He has replaced them with things that can never, ever be taken from me.

A quote that has come to have more and more meaning for me through the passing years, written in a book called “A Grief Observed,” by CS Lewis is this:  “God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already.”

He is greater.  This I know.

Meeting Rita.. a new beginning.