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. 

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New Year’s Resolutions – Part Deux

Ok, this one is tough to share.  Lol. What will you think of me?!  😉  Ironically, I am practicing my resolution today by sharing with you!

courage

“This is your life.. are you who you want to be?”

This little phrase developed into an anthem for my life a few years ago taken from a 2003 Switchfoot song.  I began daily listening to it first thing in the morning as I brushed my teeth, combed my hair and stared at the getting-close-to-forty face looking back at me.

Am I who I want to be?  Or am I who I think everyone else thinks I should be?  Or am I stuck being someone I don’t want to be?  Or am I someone I don’t like, but seem to keep on being that person anyway?

You see sometimes in our life we grow up thinking that everything around us defines us.  People in our life, community, leaders, culture.. And, when we think that, guess what?  Our actions follow.  So, we allow those definitions to take root, and limit our actions to fit in the little box afforded us.

Oh, their family is just that way.  Oh, people with that color of skin are just that way.  Oh, women are just that way.  Oh, he’s always done things that way.  Oh, that temper just runs in her family. Oh, people that age just always think that way.  Oh, he won’t ever be anything else, he’s just not capable.

Oh, she just IS……

But, all that stuff doesn’t define me.  Nope.  It contributes to my life.  Like a recipe with a dash of this, and a tablespoon of that.. It all becomes part of who I am.  But, it doesn’t define ME.

Define:  To explain the meaning of : to show or describe something clearly and completely.  (Merriam-Webster).

There are things that we are so grateful for in life!  We are happy for their contribution, and glad it’s part of who we are!

But, here’s the thing.. there are things in our lives that we really don’t want to define us.  But, we feel restricted like they do. Trapped.  One of my very favorite songs right now is John Mayer’s “In The Blood.”  I cried the first time I heard it, because it reached deep into my soul, and straight to the lies that whisper to me that I am limited by my past to deter becoming who I want to be.  Maybe you can relate?  Mistakes we’ve made, failures, abuse from others, family struggles.. the list goes on and on.  “Could I change it if I wanted, can I rise above the flood?  Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?” (Mayer, 2017, In the Blood).

So, my resolution I’ll share with you is this!

Practice the courage to be myself.

Who do I want to be?

I guess the first step is us being intentional to think about it.  And, to realize we aren’t limited by that other stuff.  I’m not stuck… my Father made me free!

You aren’t stuck either.

I know these things:

1)      I am made in the image of God!  (WHOA!)

2)     I am a sinner that tries to find other things to fix my cravings.  I desire stuff that’s not for me, and sometimes I over-desire stuff that might be good in my life, but it still isn’t Him!  And, over-desiring that stuff still gets me off-balance because it’s temporary!  He is eternal!

3)     God’s grace is sufficient for yesterday, today and forever!  When I am one with Him, I am balanced and complete.  Seeking Him reveals more and more of my definition!

authentic

Some ways for me that help me practice….

-Being vulnerable, always truthful and sincere with my thoughts, but also kind and sensitive to the needs of others.

-Listening to others, and sharing with others in safety.  Staying away from gossip.

-Enjoying the moments of bliss I find!  For me often with music, (or other awe-inspiring gifts from God) that completely jive with who He made me.  You know the moments that you sing along with to the top of your lungs in the car.  Or, you listen to with tears. The moments were you have to just sit spellbound at scenery that doesn’t seem real.  And, then, for me that Beethoven symphony that leaves me with chill bumps and a sense of awe EVERY TIME?!

-Stopping to enjoy the sunset, or savor the coffee.  Giving myself the OK to rest, play, and create!

-Not stressing about what people want, need or try get from me… But give freely of the right things at the right time.  What’s on my plate?  Take care of those things step by step… and practice the word, “no” when it’s needed.  😊 Every time I say yes to something, I am also saying no to something else.  So, make sure my yes’s are the ones I want, and the no’s are the right ones for me.

-“Where ever I am, being all there.” ~Elisabeth Elliot.  Wholehearted living!

And, when I mess up (because I surely do and surely will…) getting back on the path and taking a step at a time back in the right direction!

Hey, remember as Dr Seuss says… “There’s no one you’er than you!” And that’s not a mistake… God shaped and fashioned you!

The practice of being ourselves takes courage, insight, and honesty.  Not just simply, well folks – this is me and this is what you get kinda courage… ‘cos honestly that can leaving us feeling very dissatisfied at the end of many days. Rather, the courage to be who we truly are. Who we are created to be!  And all with the flair of the individual ways He made you and me!  To practice shedding ourselves from lies of our image that weigh us down – hate, fear, insecurity, pain… and then practice putting on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and strong love for ourselves and others!

Bearers of the image of God

Here’s what is fascinating.. our God is a God of ubiquitous diversity!  Just take a look around, and then in the mirror!  I’ll leave you with this quote that I heard once in a lecture…

“Every man is in certain respects like all other men, like some other men,  like no other man.”

The same Switchfoot song also has this line.. “Don’t close your eyes.”  Ahhh.  That’s what I’d like to do some days.. lol.. but, courage isn’t always some big, bold hero with a cape and a big S on the chest… courage is taking the right steps today.  It’s opening our eyes to look at reality.  Steps.  One by one by one… Not always an easy road, but the one that brings harmony inside, no matter what we are walking through on the outside.

 

Two Kingdoms & Hope For A Weary Heart

img_8382Straddling two kingdoms. Some days I feel my legs stretching into the splits as the crevice between the two grows farther and farther apart in my heart. Looking down and wondering about a free fall. The tears flowing down my face from the pains of this one, while I gaze into the bliss of the other. When will there be no more dying, no more pain, no more ugly… and oh God, I cry out… where is the justice? The windshield wipers clicked back and forth in the rain… I wish I had one for my eyes too. Where is the justice? For children who suffer abuse around our world, for those suffering mental health that are judged and criticized while they are suffocating, for the hurting and the rejected. For the kids who hear whispers behind their back about their clothing, hanging their head in shame.. Don’t you think they wish they had nikes?? Or clean clothes? Don’t you think that they see the differences? Don’t we understand that no matter how tough the exterior is everyone would love a comfy bed like yours or a hot shower in the morning to be a norm? Don’t we know that every soul on this earth is struggling along every day just wanting to know true love… just like me and you?

But, oh the screaming and labeling. The shouting and the angry voices. The fear… the insecurities.

And so where is it that my heart lives? In this struggling, fighting, insecure world? Or does my Saviour invite me to look elsewhere?

Seek His kingdom now. We are in this world… not of this world. My heart is breaking for us as we straddle the two, but oh that we might more and more gain sight of the kingdom He offers!

We must awake all our senses to this gift. Take a deep breath, and inhale the fragrance of His grace. What we don’t deserve, but so freely given. My pastor this past week in his sermon said, “free, not cheap.” No, not cheap – this costly, precious exchange of His life to give us ours with feet set firmly in a new kingdom! May we stretch out our arms and let it flow… We have the opportunity to be the healing hands of Jesus.

For those struggling with mental health who need to be carried!

img_8386For the poor and rejected!

img_8385For the neglected and forgotten!

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For those without a voice!

Aren’t these the ones that Jesus reached out to? Didn’t He come to seek and save the lost.. the broken.. we that are in need?

img_8310Because the kingdom that He invites us to seek.. Oh, my friends! This is the kingdom of a radical Saviour who sees the value of a soul!

It’s a kingdom of hope!

It’s a kingdom of peace!

It’s a kingdom of joy!

It’s a kingdom of love… love that is patient and kind. Love that isn’t selfish or rude, or seeking its own interest. Love that isn’t boastful or conceited. Love that doesn’t get excited over wrongdoing… running in corners to whisper or delight over tragedy. We know the passage.. but do we really sink into the passage? Do we see how God pours out that passage lavishly all over our own lives?

Oh God, Your kingdom, come..

What will your heart given to the complete trust and reign of God look like? Take a minute to ponder that… Seek His kingdom first, Christ says. And all will be added. So, we look at the line we straddle, we lift our eyes up to Him, take a deep breath… and free fall into His love. His kingdom. Every choice, every thought, every talent.. all His. What’s in your life that you can place to use in His kingdom? Why, simply your all. All. All. How shall we walk in one kingdom, and live in another? That’s the miracle He offers us. Seek His heart today. Openly look to Him with eyes afresh and clean…not clogged up by the media, fear, or our own understanding. Lean in; freefall in His love. God will guide you as you navigate this messy world with a pure heart to fight in His kingdom for the news of this love.

For meditation: 1 Cor 13, Proverbs 3:5-6, 1 John 2:15-17, 1 John 4:18-19, Matthew 6:33-34

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 Melody

I’m so excited!  Here is our next post in this series.. “To A Wild Rose.” Let me introduce you to my friend Melody Rodriguez… She’s a mom who knows how to laugh heartily and cuddle muchly with her sweet kiddos!  She loves her husband fervently and the radiance on her face reflects his love for her. She encourages me as a friend who loves with truth and compassion.  As a sonographer she gives the gift everyday in her workplace looking at our “inside” world.  Melody is a courageous woman who loves God with all her heart, all her soul, and all her mind.  Thank you Melody for sharing!  

I love the topic of this blog series: Wild Rose. It takes my mind to the small potted rose bush right outside of my garage. It’s often the first thing I look at every morning. It is certainly a miracle in itself that it’s still alive. I love watching the roses in their beginning stages of life, but my favorite is when one is in full bloom. The rose is tall, its proud, its stretched out reaching to the sun all too aware of its beauty. It doesn’t feel inferior, it’s not competing. Its simply basking in who the creator made it to be. In those moments I silently pray, “Lord make me like this rose. Make my friends, my coworkers, make women like this rose.” I can feel His presence and his answer,

“My child, I did.”

roses-wsunshine

Most women at some point have walked or are walking through the darkness of comparison, inferiority, and a broken self-worth. There is no sun there. There is no basking and reaching, only wilting and a lack of self-value. All too often we’ve allowed the opposite sex to discern our esteem. As though men belong on a pedestal nor as our equal but to tower over us. I suppose from that height they can see well enough to let us know if we’re too thin or too wide. I guess they can hear better at that level to let us know if we talk too much or too little. Surely, mans opinion must be the most accurate determining factor of a females worth right? I was blessed with a long lineage of good men. I was fathered by one, I’m married to one, and I’m raising two. I’ve also spent some time on the flip side of the coin. I’ve allowed my value, my worth, who I am to be changed, to be altered to better fit into a stereotype attractive to men. And I see so many women living that lie today. This isn’t “normal”. This isn’t “just the way it is”. Women must step out and be willing to take an active role to re-define what our society has dysfunctionally made to a supposed truth. We have this amazing ability to build one another up if we so choose. To have those conversations with one another about where our self-esteem is and how we value ourselves.

best-friend-day-flowers

Will you stand and watch your sister wilt in the shadows? Or will you, like I’ve done with my potted plant after it weathered a storm, pick that beautiful rose up, set her on solid ground and turn her to the sun. Will you point her in the direction of the one who holds our value in His hands? We’re all weathered, maybe a little tattered, we’ve walked through shadows. But we don’t live there, we don’t stay long. We stand again, we thrive again, we bask in the light again. Why? Because we are daughters of the most high King. And today is the perfect day to start treating one another that way.

To A Wild Rose; Straight from the Heart of a Girl.

When I was just a little girl, I loved lying on the floor next to the piano as my sister practiced.  Beautiful moments gifted by God.  My big sis Jackie’s long dark hair falling over her shoulders, her freckled face seriously in tune with the beautiful melody of one of her favorites by Edward MacDowell, “To A Wild Rose” singing out from the keys.  There was something about his simple tune that has always connected with me, and even the name itself for some reason reminds me of how I see the precious women around me.  A little about me you may or may not know, I grew up with four sisters…tons of Jane Austen, bobby pins, and estrogen. Ironically, I now have five sons, and the tables have turned.  😉 So, I grew up with girls, work with girls, and also serve girls as I work at a pregnancy help center.  I guess that makes me think I have a little to say about girls, and to girls. Ha.  And, I guess that’s why I decided to title this new series as such.  A wild rose, beautifully wrapped up each one individually with different layers of petals… variants of sizes, hues, and even scents.

wild-rose-garland-pink-52-3

Recently, there’s been much discussion about views on women, “locker room talk,” abuse, value, respect, etc.  But, this is a topic that’s been on my heart, in my life, and in my circle for quite awhile longer than the recent news posts and Facebook brawls.  It’s also a topic a lot older than me and my struggles… Actually, it’s been around and is as “old as the hills”–  and, the beauty is we have continued to grow together on this topic! But, more discussion is so needed, and we have the opportunity to listen, learn, and love.

Quite recently I overheard a conversation in which a man was calling a lady not present a “Ho.” She apparently had been sexually active with several different people in the recent past, and the latest of which was a man who also had a recent reputation of being sexually active with many different partners, as well.  I “butted” in and queried as to if the couple discussing would call the man the same label, and with laughter was told, “No, that’s just the way it is.  Always has been.  It’s just different for women.”

Hmmm.

He brushes past us too closely, grazing our curves “accidentally.” We feel our boundaries infringed on, and we are made to feel uncomfortable.  We hesitate to speak up knowing the response might be met with laughter, or “don’t take it so serious – it’s really not that big of a deal.”  We are ogled in the grocery store, or approached in a disrespectful way, and maybe we look down at the ground awkwardly.  We are honked at while standing at the gas pump.  We are yelled at with crude words while sitting at a red light. Feeling like an object meant for others pleasure, rather than a living thing to be cherished. We don’t know where “yes” begins and “no” stops sometimes, because we’re just not sure.

We dismiss it.

It’s just the way it is.  Always has been.  Always will be?  Hmmm.

We struggle internally as we always feel the need to compare ourselves to others.  I’m too fat, I’m too thin.  I wish I had longer legs, or shorter legs.  Why am I freckled?  Why am I so dark?  I’ll do anything to get his love and his attention.  I must be worthless, he rejected me. Why am I not good enough for him? How can I win his affection or attention, that’s the only time I feel real value.

And, we either are saying in our very core that possibly we are sub-human as women, or men or super-human as we strive so hard internally to gain favor or equality… We struggle to see our worth that is already determined whether others recognize it or not.  Maybe we feel deeply flawed without that approval, or treat the desperate need for a man’s favor as if they are god-like and we are less than.

All the while, God has specifically made us just as He created the wild rose… And we are beautiful, free, individual, and overflowing with potential.  Not determined by what man says, but with specific, amazing, individual gifts and talents to give the world around us. Gifts not given by or dependent on another human.

An artist.

A mother.

An engineer.

A doctor.

A social worker.

A caregiver.

Never an object.

Equal?  YES!  Diverse?  YES!  Unique?  YES!  Each and every one of us!

Anticipate

I don’t know about you, but I’m not the gal I was twenty years ago, or even five, or heck, even one!  God constantly has me on a path of growth. My journey has me often walking away from things that aren’t best as I learn by trial and error, and enlightening me with new ways of looking at things, new perspective.  Honestly, growth hurts sometimes!  But, what a gift that rewards not only me, but those I love with a newness for my ways to live and love!  So, that’s what you will find here; fresh perspective, straight from the heart of many women who walk this walk every day who will be sharing the next few weeks as a gift to you! What am I saying?  We need to re-think the way that many of us view women.. and both sexes need to search our hearts on this matter. We aren’t personally healthy when we aren’t growing in wisdom, truth, experience and perspective. We need to remember that as a culture the same growth is needed..

The way it is, doesn’t mean it’s the way it should be.

Domestic and sexual abuse.

Pornography.

Exploitation.

Degrading talk.

Desperation and co-dependency.

The way it is, doesn’t mean it’s the way it should be.  We need to talk.  

For the next few weeks, I’ll be hosting a blog-series here, and I’m proud and pleased to say that many contributors who will share with us are among the most strong, kind, brave, precious, lovely ladies you’ll meet.  I’m so excited to start this conversation.

I want to leave you with a quote from one my recent reads that challenged me and reminded me of the most important love and definition that I’ll find.

“Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.” 

Are Women Human?  ~Dorothy Sayers

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.