Monday

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."  Matthew 6:33

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Matthew 6:33


Many of you woke up this morning the very same way, with an alarm clock blaring obnoxiously in your ear reminding you that the weekend, which was over far too fast, has left you and that the dreaded Monday morning work week had shown up like a not so favored relative showing up at your house unexpectedly. Nevertheless, here’s Monday and as we tend to do, many of us drudged out of bed, eyes still halfway glued shut, brewed a pot of coffee, got the kids and/or spouse up from their peaceful slumber and we all got started with our days feeling tired and spent already, and as the morning chaos kicked into high gear no doubt we were griping and complaining wishing for just one more day off from it all, wishing it were Friday already. I know the routine all to well, we all do, but today as I woke up to the screaming alarm clock still feeling like I needed 12 more hours of sleep I decided that instead of complaining and wishing for Friday, I was going to spend the day giving thanks to God for every blessing I could think of. I don’t mean just my generalized songs of thanksgiving like “thank you for my children and for my family and for my friends and thanks for our health and for Your presence in our lives. Amen.” Nope, my project this week is to spend time everyday truly giving God thanks for ALL of the blessings, from an ideal parking spot opening up just for me to my jeans fitting just a tad less tight to my boys spending an entire day getting along and laughing together minus any shouting, arguing or disagreeing. I figured that if I dragged myself out of bed with an “OMG is it really Monday again” attitude then surely I was going to face the day and everyone I meet with the same out of sorts attitude. So instead of immediately picking out the bad and the negative in my day, especially on a Monday, I was going to spend the time giving thanks to God for even the most minute things. Aha! and then the devil got me right out of the gate. You see, as I sat down to try to write this post earlier this morning I kept having trouble getting the computer to cooperate with me. It kept giving me the “internet is not responding” message each and every time I began to work on today’s post. Normally, because technology and I have yet to become best buds, I would sit here a while and holler at my computer as if it were going to suddenly hear and comprehend my anger and immediately straighten up. Today, however, I let it go. I shut the computer off, opting instead to head out and run some errands that I had to run, then I would come back and try again. Well, lo and behold when I sat back down to begin this post a second time, again the computer began giving me the same problem only this time I kept on pushing through, refusing to give up and refusing to get angry. “Father, thank you that I am able to have access to a computer and to internet service to be able to write this post and send it out on my blog to remind myself and those who read it that there is a blessing to be found even in the midst of a crazy Monday morning, even in the one hour traffic jam which has made you late for work, even in the baby crying, the cats drinking from your child’s cereal bowl while your child is still steadily eating his/her cereal, even as we troubleshoot the computer problem time and time again until finally it decides to work. There is a blessing to be found and in each and every blessing there You are.” Amen

Advertisements

A new perspective

"Have faith in God"  Mark 11:22

“Have faith in God”
Mark 11:22


Have you ever felt like the little leaf in the picture? Can you even see the little leaf? It’s there, I promise you. I know I have felt like that little leaf many times before. I am the little leaf and the big leaf is my problems. I am the little leaf, the big leaf is my mortgage payment falling behind, my van needing more gas while my bank account needs more money, one of my son’s getting sick, bills coming in faster than I can pay them, ect. I am the little leaf, the big leaf is the publisher who rejects yet another book submission or the publisher so big they won’t even consider looking at one of my stories. I am the little leaf in a big, big world often times overshadowed by the leaves who have louder voices or who demand more attention. Being the little leaf in a big world outdone time and time again by the big leaves beside me, above me, all around me, it’s hard to be heard or seen. Sometimes I’m not even sure that I want to be seen, but merely heard, through my stories and through my pictures. Can you see yourself as the little leaf and your problems or challenges as the big leaf? Well, now, turn it around. Close your eyes and picture God, He is with you, He is beside you, He goes before you, He has already conquered what lies before you. Now open your eyes and look at the leaves again. Your problems, your challenges, your insecurities, your doubts, all of those things that hover over you holding you back, leaving you feeling like the little leaf, they are now the little leaf and God is the big leaf. He now overshadows all of the problems which had only a moment before seemed so big. Viola! A new perspective. I had to do this just yesterday when I dealt with a few occurrences which made me literally feel smaller than the little leaf in the picture. Immediately after facing these things the doubts whirled in my head of whether I would ever be successful at anything, whether people would ever view me as “good enough”, whether I was ever meant to be accomplished enough so that people would listen to me and I would be heard. I wrestled with this for a long time yesterday until bedtime came and I let God put my mindset into a new perspective, for as long as I had faith I could be anything I want to be through Him and as long as I have faith, I can overcome any obstacle which may try to stand in my way.
“Have faith in God”, Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go and throw yourself into the sea’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes, what he says will happen it will be done for him.” Mark 11:22-24

Keeping it real

"People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7


That jumbled, thrown together, messy pile of sticks sitting by the side of the road waiting to be picked up and disposed of…in a nut shell, that’s me and I readily and unapologetically admit to that. I am a “real” Christian woman. Now that’s not to say that I am anymore Christian than anyone else, what that means for me is that I hide behind nothing anymore. What you see is what you get and you’d be surprised at how many people find that fact about me uncomfortable. I am all real and I feel little need to give any excuse for that. Here, let me enlighten you a bit more about me: I am merely days away from turning 40 years old and I rarely can be found wearing makeup, I am easily 50 pounds overweight, I am a single mom with no promising prospects in sight, I am the widow of a man who died of AIDS, the ex-girlfriend my youngest son’s father who I still care very deeply for, I wear comfortable clothes which can sometimes consist of very baggy stretch pants and a pair of Christmas socks worn in March, my house is a wreck with entirely too much stuff that I need to purge myself of, I am the worst procrastinator making 101 excuses in a mere 24 hour period for why I haven’t completed my “to-do” list, I am a living, breathing “doubting Thomas” always wanting to believe what God is telling me I can do while still questioning whether I can actually do those things or not and fearful of failing, I have six tattoos and am looking forward to getting more, I am foolish-foolish enough to believe that I can make a difference in the world even if I am only one person, my family is dysfunctional, but we definitely put the FUN in dysfunctional, I fall asleep while trying to say my nightly prayers or while reading my devotionals, I still have to fight the urge sometimes to not give people half a peace sign when they act foolish in traffic. Perfect, phony, fake, I am not any of these things and that’s what I have recently discovered makes so many people uncomfortable and I can’t say that I know for certain why however I can only assume that it’s because they are afraid that if they spend too much time in my presence perhaps the “real” inside of them might start showing and this is even more frightening for Christians. I suppose many Christians think and feel that as a Christian we should be a walking, living, breathing testimony of God’s work and part of the way to show that is by covering up those things which could be less desirable to others by adding layer upon layer of more attractive “things”.
I do like to dress up, wear nice clothes, put on makeup and do my hair, but when I do it’s not because I am trying to cover up the real me, and believe me if you meet me with the makeup on and my hair fixed nice and all gussied up, it won’t be long before you see me again in comfy, baggy, beat around the house clothes. And I’m not going to tell you that my life is peachy and that everyone and everything is just fine if it’s not true. I’m gonna tell you that life is messy and I am working with God to clean it up. Truth be told, not one person who will read this post can sit back and say, “Aww, that’s such a shame that she is so flawed, gee I thank God that I am not flawed at all.” We are all flawed, we have all sinned, we have all fallen short of what God wants for us, and we are all God’s children. Blessed enough to be able to look up to the sky and say to our Redeemer, “forgive me for mistakes I have made, help me to do better, help me to live the life You have planned for me.” And as we sit, alone or in the company of others, and release our cover-ups to reveal to Jesus and to the world our flaws we can stand in baggy clothes, minus the makeup, donning flip-flops with socks, and messy, tangled, matted hair or with the makeup, heels, nice outfits, a spotless house, and a healthy bank account and know that God sees our hearts and the honest and true person that we are and loves us all the same. Beneath that jumbled, thrown together, messy pile of sticks may be a patch of beautiful, vibrant, newly blossomed flowers just waiting to greet the world…Only God knows.
“Let them see You in me, let them hear You when I speak.” JJ Weeks Band “Let them see You”

Happy Birthday Greg

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference."

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.”


Something you may not know about me, 19 years ago I was married to a wonderful, caring, generous, and fun-loving man named Greg. He was truly my best friend. I met him when I was 16 when we both began working together at a Hardees restaurant in Norfolk. We hung out as friends at first, until one night when we discovered that our feelings ran far deeper than friendship and we began dating. It wasn’t long after we began dating that Greg told me that he had a devastating disease that he knew I should be aware of before we ever talked about marriage or children. Greg was HIV positive and I was barely 17. Perhaps I was just too young and in love to find doubt, perhaps I was too na├»ve to understand the tremendous repercussions of the disease, or perhaps way back then I simply had enough blind faith in God to know that everything would be ok, even if I would have to one day say goodbye to my husband. Whatever reason you choose to go with, I didn’t let his diagnosis stand in the way of how we felt about each other and on November 7, 1992 I married my best friend. Not long after we were married we decided to move up to Wisconsin so that Greg could be close to his family. His biggest reason being that he wanted to make sure that his niece, C.J. would get the chance to know him before he passed away. Less than a year after moving up to Wisconsin we discovered that I was pregnant. I was thrilled, we both were, albeit he was extremely worried that both the baby and I may be infected with the disease. It was a legitimate fear but again somehow I simply knew in my heart that we would both be fine, and nine months later we welcomed our son, Greg, Jr. aka Bubba into our lives. We loved being parents, Greg absolutely adored our son and he was more than happy to stay home with Bubba while I went back to work to support our family, but our joy was short-lived when not two months after Bubba was born Greg got sick and was hospitalized. Greg had been sick before, but this time felt different. This time I could tell that something was very wrong with him even as the doctors continued to reassure me that everything was ok. I knew Greg was much more sick than he’d ever been before and I was scared. Bubba was barely three months old when the phone call came in telling me that Greg was gone. My heart just sank and as I drove to the hospital with my younger sister and my three month old son in the car I cried as a song by Travis Tritt came on the radio. The song was titled “Tell me I was dreaming”, and if you know country music well then you know that on that drive to the hospital Greg was already speaking to me telling me goodbye.
Greg was only 29 years old when AIDS took him from us all. That’s too young, and every year when this day rolls around I think to myself “What would he have been like if he had survived this disease?”, “Wouldn’t he have been so proud of our son?” “Wouldn’t he have enjoyed sitting with both of my boys laughing and joking while watching a NASCAR race.”
Greg was a wonderful man and I have always searched for some way that I could let his life go on even though he was gone. I look at our son and I see so much of who his dad was in him even though he never knew his dad, and I realize that Greg’s life and legacy have gone on in Bubba. Wouldn’t Greg be so very proud of his son. Today Greg would have been 48 years old and I still seek my way to create a charity for AIDS in Greg’s name. That would be amazing, but most importantly I want to try to live a life which is full and rich and meaningful especially as I have been given the chance to live. You see, both Bubba and I never tested HIV positive and that, I know, had everything to do with God.
Happy Birthday Greg. My gift to you today is that from this day forward I am going to work hard to let your life and legacy live on so that others can know who you were and see that the face of AIDS isn’t always the one we expect to see.
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Regrouping

"And I'll praise you in this storm and I will lift my hands that you are who you are no matter where I am."   "Praise you in the Storm

“And I’ll praise you in this storm and I will lift my hands that you are who you are no matter where I am.”
“Praise you in the storm by Casting Crowns

Yesterday I took a trip to the emotional rollercoaster playground. Remember my post questioning why I sometimes feel lost even though I thought that in God’s grace I had been found. Well, yesterday was simply another reminder that even when you are strong in your faith, even when you have confidence that God will see you through, even when you pray morning, noon, and night and you do all that you can to be the person you think God is calling you to be, life will throw you curve balls and you just have to learn to face them with strength and more faith. I learned this when at first I woke up feeling really good despite the fact that I now had to seek new gainful employment and I wasn’t quite sure of what I was being called to do. I got out of bed, worked out for 30 minutes, then turned on some relaxing spa music and sat on my bed deep breathing and listening for God. I felt pretty inspired and motivated when my day began especially since I was doing something that I had wanted to take the time to do so many times before, but I had never been able to etch out the time from my busy days. Then came the appointment I made with a local college to explore possibly going back to school to finish earning my nursing degree. Big, huge waste of time. The guys was super-duper nice at first giving my boys and I a tour of the campus and showing us the different classrooms and offices, however once we sat down to discuss the cost of the program and the credits that I had already taken which would transfer over I instantly lost my interest, especially when he didn’t seem to have the ability to give me straight answers about tuition. I felt that God was telling me for certain that this was not the path that He intended for me to be on. So, with three hours and about a quarter of a tank of gas wasted, I headed home. As I drove home it became painstakingly clear to me that I was not meant to be a nurse, but what also weighed on me was the fact that in today’s society so many people judge you and who you are based upon the vehicle that you drive, the clothes that you wear, the house that you live in, the degree that you have and the career that you chose, and even though I did go to college and earn an associates degree, a part of me still felt inferior because I could not go back to school and earn my bachelors degree. That seems silly, especially since I know that God doesn’t see me, see us that way at all. When He looks down on me or you or anyone for that matter, he doesn’t see the taglines-bachelors degree holder, excellent career path taker, impeccable four bedroom house, tremendous fashion statement maker, clean and well maintained minivan driver. No, God looks down and sees me for who I am and even if the taglines read-never attended college, works as a minimum wage waitress, lives in a falling apart modest three bedroom home, shops at the thrift store on a regular basis, drives a seven year old, barely holding on minivan-God loves me for who I am. He sees me and all of my glorious flaws and He loves me just the same. God sees us all and all of our glorious flaws and He loves us just the same.
So, this morning when I woke up, I got out of bed again, worked out for 30 minutes again, turned on some relaxing spa music and sat in the middle of my bed deep breathing and I listened for God again, and today He told me to put yesterday out of my head, for it is done and over with and to face today “unafraid and ready to accept the challenge of being an instrument of God’s use”.(Joyce Meyer “Starting Your Day Right”) Whatever it is that God calls me to do I pray that I may hear it and just go do it, even if I may not yet understand it even if it may not be the most glorious, glamorous, or even popular thing to do in today’s society.

Reinvention

"With God all things are possible."   Matthew 19:26

“With God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26


“With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26)…ALL things! So why is it that I find it so difficult to convince myself that reinventing myself is impossible? For most of my life I have always been known as the frumpy, dressed down, messy house, tore up yard, sister, and to date I have lived up to these labels. However, just days before the new year arrived I had this strong yearning and desire to reinvent myself, completely. To stop saying “yes” to every request made of me, to stop eating the same foods that were bad for me, to stop living up to the labels that had so easily become my identity. I had this intense craving to become this woman I have never quite been before. This woman who dressed nice no matter what my size, someone who took the time to do my hair and put on make-up and walk with my head held high, someone who not only extend my daily walks but who threw some jogging in there (even if I do look funny trying to run). I could see myself becoming this “new” me until I went back to work and also took on a second job, then when my son got sick and spent time in the hospital my priorities quickly shifted to getting him better. Now, however, as I am about to embark on several new journeys I can see that woman who I want to be. I can feel her hovering just outside of my skin. So much so that today I went to the store and was trying on outfits which only a few months ago I never would have considered for myself. I looked…nice. I caught a glimpse of the woman I want to reinvent into, but guess what I did. As I headed to the checkout line with my mom and my sister I quickly convinced myself that I should not be spending my money on clothes and just that fast I hung the lovely outfits on a nearby rack, opting instead to walk out empty handed. Ugh! I know, right. Even you are frustrated with me as you read this. I did redeem myself, a little at least, I made a phone call to an admissions officer at a local university to set up an appointment to look into going back to school to earn my nursing degree. Perhaps a small step, but alas, a step in the right direction. Perhaps tomorrow after church I will head back to that store and pick up even one of those outfits I hung back on the rack, who knows, maybe I will find an outfit I like even better. Yes, I have faith that I can become that “new” me, I can reinvent myself, I can become the woman I have been longing to be but I know I will have to be oblivious to anyone else’s opinion of me, deaf to the doubters who will no doubt pounce me with “what if’s”, and clueless to the idea that I have already been labeled. After all, weren’t we all freed from the bondage of such things when Christ died on the cross for you and for me. Reinvention…sounds like an excellent plan and today seems like the perfect day to get started.
“If you’ve gotta start somewhere why not here? If you’ve gotta start sometime why not now?” (“City on a Hill” by Toby Mac)

Right in my own backyard

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."  Matthew 7:7

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Matthew 7:7

It’s been a few days since I have posted anything. Life, in some ways, is slowly beginning to get back to normal following my oldest son’s bout with liver abscesses (secondary to his Crohn’s disease). We have begun attending church again, that has been such a wonderful blessing especially with the many genuinely wonderful members of our church who were so thrilled to see Bubba back in attendance. (This is where I have to stop and give a plug to one of the most amazing churches in Portsmouth, Virginia-The Forward Church http://www.forwardchurch.me)
Anyway, as I was saying, life is getting back to normal, tonight Bubba will be back to rehearsing with the church band, Stephen, my youngest, will be attending the men’s group there, I will be picking up my nephew from school and Bubba can now drive himself around again. In many ways I am thrilled that life is resuming as normal, at the same time, however, I can tell that much has changed in all three of us and the lives we lived prior to this experience will never be the same. For instance, I am going to be leaving my job as a preschool teacher. With so much time already missed and several more follow-up appointments not to mention the potential for later complications, it seems wrong for me to keep leaving the children for extended periods of time. So I will be seeking another form of employment while also very actively pursuing my writing career. I also have heard my boys beginning to embrace their talents such as both of their passion and gift for photographing and video taping our city’s fire department. Both of my boys are gifted photographers and I am trying to teach them both to embrace that gift and share their talent and passion with others. In fact, only during this time did Bubba find out just how many of his videos the fire department uses in their training. What an amazing feeling this gave him and it definitely made me proud. I too am learning to just let go of many things which I hadn’t realized were still holding me back prior to this whole medical scare with Bubba. For instance I hadn’t realized how my worry about what other people thought of me and my desire to be a people pleaser was holding me back from simply taking steps forward to living the life I really want to live. I had been so concerned with how I would appear to others, that I was still doing things I didn’t like doing, I was still giving “yes” answers when in my heart I knew I should have been saying “no thank you”. Even now the thought tries to creep into my mind saying, “What if they don’t like you?” or “What if they don’t like what you do?” I have to remind myself that those are not the people who ultimately I will have to answer to. So, with that thought fresh in my mind this morning I woke and prayed to God asking Him for direction and guidance. Then I left my house and took my usual walk around the neighborhood. While I was walking I ran into a neighbor who told me about a little shop in the downtown area of our city where artists can sell their work on consignment. Immediately I thought about my boys and their love of photography. I asked her if the shops owner would be interested in selling their work and she told me that she couldn’t see why she wouldn’t. Just that fast, God had begun to answer my prayer. My neighbor is a collector of all things that have wonderfully been discarded by the curb, which she turns into works of art and she herself sells at the very same shop she had told me about. After learning this about her I came home and went right to work looking for things inside and outside of my house that I could contribute to her talent. As I was looking around out in the backyard I happened upon this wooden cross, lying amid the damp, decaying leaves. This cross had originally been the frame for a build it yourself scarecrow event that my boys and I had decided to do for fun along with my nephew, Tylin, a few years ago. The scarecrow has been long gone and so I had assumed that the frame also had been thrown out, but alas here is was, lying in my backyard and it was then that I heard God answering another part of my prayer. I have been so busy lately trying to find a new place to call home for my boys and I and so busy trying to find God in the world, yet here He was in my backyard all along. As I surveyed the cross lying there I could hear the whisper of my Heavenly Father telling me to slow down, take in the life I have right now, seek Him in my home and in my family first. Serve Him in my home and in my family first, then go forth and do His good work and seek Him in the world.
Life can quickly get out of control between jobs and kids and spouses and family members, sporting events, church functions, deadlines, and even hobbies, and it’s so easy to lose sight of God and His purpose for our lives. Today I have a challenge for each and everyone of you who reads my posts: seek God in your surroundings. I bet you’ll find Him. After all, He does have this funny way of knowing just when to show up in our lives.

I thought I was found,so why do I feel so lost?

"Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see."

“Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.”

So many times over the past year this song has run through my mind and the line which has stuck with me the most is “I once was lost but now I’m found…” I have been found in Jesus, what an amazing blessing; what an amazing grace. I wake up everyday seeking Him, trying to hear His wisdom, trying to live the life which will best glorify and honor Him. Still, I feel so far from where I am meant to be. There are days when I can see glimpses so clearly of the woman who God intends for me to be and sometimes she even seems so close I feel like if I just reached a little farther I could grasp her and bring her to me. Other times I feel like I am so far from that person she’s nothing but a mere stranger to me. My passions are many and some are clearly defined, and I know how I can work toward living them such as my passion for writing, my passion for my boys and being the best Mom and role model I can be for them, my passion for helping others, my passion for creating a better life for myself and for those around me, and most importantly my passion for Christ and living my life for Him. Some of my other passions are not so clearly defined such as my desire to learn and use American Sign Language, my long-time desire to become a nurse, and my desire to start a ministry for women to inspire and lift them. I know I want to do these things I’m just not quite sure how to get started or when the right time to start them would be. I don’t want to live a “have to” life, even though I know there are things which we all “have to” do, but I don’t want my entire life to be defined as that. I want to…and that’s the answer. I want to live a “want to” life. I want to pursue my passions and not let anything or anyone stand in my way. When I was 22 years old I read an article in Reader’s Digest about this man who had learned that he was very sick and had only a short amount of time left to live his life. The man created a list of 50 things he wanted to do before he died. In other words, this fella created a “bucket list” long before “bucket list” was even thought of. This man’s list and his story stuck with me and inspired me to create my own list of 50 things to do before I died. I started the list the very next day and it was totally amazing the things I was actually able to check off. Some things were life changing, such as becoming and RN, working in Labor and Delivery, becoming a volunteer EMT, teaching children, and falling in love again and having another child. Some of them were silly and simply a “why not try it” thing like getting a belly ring, losing 40 pounds, and getting a tattoo. Some were things which would be almost impossible to achieve like taking my boys to Disney World and running an entire marathon. I shocked myself as to how many of those things on my original list I actually accomplished. Work in Labor and Delivery-check, become a volunteer EMT-check, lose 40 pounds (lost 75)-check, fall in love again-check, have another child-check, get a belly ring and a tattoo-check, take my boys to Disney World-check. I actually did so many of those things and looking back now I am certain that the reason why I was able to easily check off so many of those goals were because I was young and no one had told me that I couldn’t. I simply said I was going to and I did. Now, though, as I sit on the cusp of my 40th birthday I know that I need to cleanse my memory of the many who have shouted to me that I can’t and simply get back to the 22 year old me who had my mind and heart so focused on the list and who had so much faith that she simply went about accomplishing those things leaving no time to hear the doubters and naysayers. I want to live a life that Jesus would look down upon and say, “Yep, she’s on the right track.” Most of all, I want to live a life which would lead me to the place where I can walk beside Jesus. I am found in Jesus, and that is a blessing indeed, even still I understand that not everyday is going to present me with a clear answer as to exactly what I should be doing to get it right in life. I can only have faith that in being “found” and no longer “lost” all I need to do is stop what I am doing, get alone with God, and pray, asking for direction, and I know that God will be right there to lead me. We all can be found in Jesus and through Him and His amazing love for us, we can be put back on to the right path even when we feel the most lost we’ve ever felt in our lives. All we need to do is pray. Pray, believe, pray, have faith, pray, and diligently seek His wisdom and guidance.
“Show me your ways, Oh Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5

There’s a first time for everything

"Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."   2 Peter 3:18

“Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
2 Peter 3:18

And so begins the season of Lent, a time leading up to Easter when many people devote themselves to “fasting” in some form or fashion. Some actually fast throughout the whole 40 days, amazing! It would take me a tremendous amount of determination, discipline, and faith to completely fast for 40 whole days and nights. Some “fast” by giving up something that they truly enjoy for the 40 days such as a favorite food or chocolate or video games and such. As an avid chocoholic, a devoted video gamer (yes I not-so-proudly admit that) and a full figured woman who loves food, this too would be a tremendous lesson in determination, discipline, and faith for me to accomplish, but…A-ha! I suppose those three words right there are what ultimately helps me to grow in my relationship with God. I have to admit another fact, I have never before observed this practice before during the season of Lent. Mostly because for me I always figured that God would love me just the same whether I gave up something during Lent or not. This is true, he will still love me, but it has only been this year that I realized that engaging in the practice of “fasting” during the season of Lent is not about proving my love, dedication, and devotion to God or to my faith, but rather it is a practice in growing my relationship with Him. By giving up things which I feel certain that I just couldn’t live without, I am growing my faith by giving my temptation to reach for those things to Him, then watching Him work on my behalf. By faith I can steer clear of the candy and cookie aisle in the grocery store, by faith I can keep from picking up my cell phone and playing one, two, or all of my games, by faith I can cut down on the amount of food I have been eating lately. By faith I can also commit to adding certain good habits into my life, such as adding 30 minutes of yoga to my nightly routine, taking the time to pray with my boys every night before we head to bed, and carving time into each of my days, even if its only long enough to post one blog, to write. In making these changes, in learning to “fast” during the season of Lent I am reminded of one of my all time favorite scriptures from the bible, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
So for the first time ever I am going to “fast” over the Lent season not just by devoting myself to giving things up, but rather by devoting myself to making a habit of doing more positive things for my family and for me, and by trading out the not so good habits for better ones, all of which I hope and pray will be to God’s glory, thereby helping me to “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” And helping me to come closer to the cross and to the feet of our most precious and prized possession in life, Jesus.

Peace in the midst of chaos

"Be still and know that I am God..."   Psalms 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God…”
Psalm 46:10

5:25 p.m. in the evening and all is quiet and calm here on the home front after an early morning start that took us back to the hospital for another four and a half hours. In order to help make sense of this I need to fill you in a little. As I told you in my first post I am the mom of two wonderful young men, Bubba who is 19 and Stephen who is 13. They are my heart and God truly blessed me when he gave me my boys. My oldest son, Bubba was diagnosed almost 6 years ago now, with Crohn’s disease. This is an auto-immune disorder which causes your body to see the normal bacteria in your intestines as harmful therefore attacking the bacteria and causing inflammations, sometimes blockages, and intestinal abscesses among other problems. (To learn more about Crohn’s disease and other IBS disorders you can visit the Crohn’s/Ulcerative Colitis Foundation at http://www.ccfa.org). Since being diagnosed Bubba has had 5 hospitalizations including his most recent one which was the reason we were at the hospital again today. At the beginning of last month I took Bubba to the local children’s hospital because he had been feeling really bad for a while and it was only getting worse. He’d started out with what seemed like a typical cold but before long he had developed a very bad cough, a severe pain behind his right shoulder blade, light-headedness, a fever, and he’d been so very tired. He fought me about taking him in until the pain began to radiate around to his chest which made me concerned that perhaps there was a problem with his heart or perhaps he had developed pneumonia. In the emergency room the doctors and residents ran many tests at first thinking that he did in deed have pneumonia, however one chest x-ray, one ultra-sound and one CT scan later they discovered that he had 4 abscesses growing on his liver. This shocked us all (by all I mean Bubba, myself, and his younger brother, Stephen) Bubba was in for another hospitalization. Only this hospitalization would bring about events that would forever change and effect us all. Point in case, this has been a long, hard road for all of us working to get Bubba back to health after 9 days in the hospital, then coming home on a PICC line receiving IV antibiotics among a host of many other medications he is required to take all of which seem to be working to get him better. Still, for me the unsung hero in all of this has been his brother, Stephen, who has pitched in to help with his big brothers chores, he’s helped take care of his brother’s dog, and he’s helped me out tremendously with a laundry list of things all the while maintaining a sense of humor and a strong demeanor. Today, however, was a day when all of that began to crumble as now that his brother is beginning to feel better and more like himself, the two of them are back to “mouthing off” to one another which normally wouldn’t phase me, but today while the three of us were waiting for Bubba to go in for a follow-up CT scan the two of them started one of their battle of words ending with his brother spatting out something which hurt me to hear and which I know he himself instantly regretted saying. Needless to say it was a rough moment for all of us. I was angry and hurt by what Stephen had said, but also I understood his need to be validated and appreciated more readily by his brother now that he had been such a strong and ready source of help and encouragement for him throughout this whole journey. The incident quickly disolved as his brother went in for his CT scan and by the time the three of us were sitting in the patient exam room waiting to see the doctor, they were back to laughing and joking like nothing had ever happened. In the midst of this uncertain and trying time for all of us, there was still peace. A peace that I know could come only from God.
As I sit here writing this entry a winter snow storm is blowing around lots of lively and beautiful snowflakes, blanketing the Hampton Roads area with a few more inches of snow before the spring comes. Outside my house a storm rages and the world around me faces it. Inside my house those two wonderful boys of mine have found their own peace, one curled up on the sofa snuggled beneath two blankets and the other perched back comfortably in his camouflage rocker/recliner, both of them sound asleep. As I find my own peace watching the snow fall through my window and knowing that for every storm that we have already had to face God has been there offering us peace and healing and for every storm we may have to face still, God will be there in the midst of the chaos reminding us to come into his arms, be still, and know that He is God and He is with us.