Change, Faith, Fruit, Grace, Growth, Live It, Lost to Found, Tansform, WALK

How’s The View

I think most people will agree with me when I say that experiencing a moment, or multiple moments, of conviction, can be one of life’s best teachers.  You know what I’m talkin’ about right?  That second you want to crawl in a hole because you’re feeling smothered in guilt, remorse, shame…need I go on?

ashamed I am sure it doesn’t take long for us all to recall those, not so fun, life lessons.  Whether we impulsively stuck our foot/feet in our mouths, blew a situation out of proportion, or continue to fail at that one thing you’ve been trying to work on; if you’re a follower of Christ, His Spirit will quickly begin to weigh on us.  I can just picture His Holy Spirit standing in front of me with His arms crossed while tapping His foot out of frustration until I have that Ah Hah moment of, “Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have done/said that.”

I had just such an experience this week.  Several of them, I’m sure, but one that is really tugging at me.  I have been struggling for about a month with kidney stones.  I was passing seven at one time, had surgery to have a stent placed, and finally began feeling better last week as I was starting to recover.  By the end of the week, I could tell I was passing more.  I went to the doctor, and they did see multiple stones.  Good times (deep sigh).  Ladies and gentlemen let the pity party begin!

a1765564416_10

Can’t you just hear the thoughts I was having…”Why is this happening to me again? What did I do to deserve this? Wah wah wah…” Poor pitiful me.  I could feel the frown on my face.  All while sitting in my air-conditioned home, on my comfortable sofa, reclined with my heating pad, my fourteen-year-old daughter making my plate of food, and watching all the Netflix my little heart desires.   Sounds hideous, doesn’t it?

I have been blessed with the opportunity to go on two mission trips to very poverty-stricken areas in Uganda over the last couple of years.  Each time coming home feeling terrible about how so very spoiled we are as Americans, and we don’t even know it.  We don’t realize how ridiculous we sound to people around the world when we complain about standing in line too long, and wi-fi being too slow, and “I don’t really feel like eating there…”

37000387_10214820967376801_8931133764726161408_n      19702448_10211907377858884_6913897236654322246_n

 I would get so aggravated when people would moan about their “first world problems”, yet here I was, doing just that.  I realized it while I was sitting through our weekly Women’s Bible Study group discussing missionaries over the centuries that have literally sacrificed and lost everything to be obedient to God.  One, William Carey, traveled to India in the 1800s with his wife and children.  While there, one of his sons and his wife died.  He continued to serve the Lord through it all, and His ministry impacted innumerable lives.

The way I would have seen that situation if it was me, I’m afraid, would be a much different view than what he saw.  Through the pain, sacrifice, grief, and struggle, he saw the path that God had laid before him from the beginning.  He could see the lives that would be touched, and the Glory God would receive if he persevered.  His view was filled with the desire to show Christ to a lost world, the faith that knew God was in control, and the expectation of Him to do something absolutely amazing with his situation.  Not only that but what a testimony for people to witness a man walking out His faith in such a way.  We claim to have hope, but so few of us show it when the rubber meets the road.

As we read Carey’s story, I could feel myself sinking in my chair.  How much had I complained that day and the days before?  My view was filled with self-pity and impatience.  I was focused on my circumstance instead of fixing my eyes on the One that was in control of it.  I lost sight of all the blessings that fill my life that I know I don’t deserve.

With that being said, I type this with a smile on my face (while sitting on a heating pad 😊) because I am so very thankful for God’s sanctification process through conviction.  NOT CONDEMNATION.  That’s a whole other topic that I won’t get into tonight.   I am thankful for the tests we must go through, whether I succeed or fail.  I am thankful for conditions that He allows me to endure in order to continue to mold me into the person He created me to be.

Consider changing your view to one that sees struggling in the Christian life as a temporary privilege.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  Romans 5:3-5

Change, Good Works, Grace, It's Up to Us, Kindness, Live It, WALK

Kindness Doesn’t Cost a Thing, yet it’s the Richest Gift You can Give.

I am always amazed at how God uses difficult situations in our lives to offer us an opportunity to stop and take a good look around and within.  Generally, in those moments, it’s much easier to become self-focused; worrying only about what we are going through and ways to overcome it.  But the more I listen to God’s Word in my life, the clearer it becomes that, that is not how He intends for us (believers) to respond.

Over the last week or so, I have had the unfortunate experience of having multiple kidney stones.  Several of which were too big to pass, leading to a surgical procedure to place a stent in my left ureter.  And yes, it IS as painful and uncomfortable as it sounds.  Even though I was dealing with pain and the stress of trying to make last minute plans and arrangements because penciling in a surgical procedure wasn’t on my radar, I could see God’s sovereign hand all around me. Even though it was a “last minute” procedure, everything fell right into place. Each nurse and medical professional that I came in contact with seemed to genuinely be happy.  They were very kind and accommodating.  One of the nurses even liked the snow as much as I do.  That might sound odd, but around “these parts” in Kentucky, most people don’t like the snow.  But there is a small niche of us crazies that actually pray for it.  We had a good laugh about it as they wheeled me down to the operating room.  What better way to get someone prepared for what can be a terrifying situation?  I drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face and laughter still lingering in my heart.

As I woke up in recovery, I can remember opening my eyes, and the first thing I could hear the staff discussing was the opportunities for foster care and adoption.  Again, I instantly began smiling.  My husband and I have recently started the process of fostering, and it was as if God was using that moment to give me confirmation.  Still being a bit groggy from the anesthesia, I’m not at all positive what I said, but I do know that I interjected myself into the conversation.  They smiled and happily allowed me to join in.  Possibly just for entertainment purposes, nevertheless, it was very kind of them.

Once I had spent the necessary amount of time in recovery, they wheeled me up to my room where my parents were waiting for me.  At that moment, my new nurse walked in.  As she was introducing herself and starting to take my vitals, I can remember looking up at her and wondering why she looked sad.  She was never rude or cross in any way, but my mother and I could tell something just wasn’t right.  She seemed very busy and was struggling to juggle everything.  It also appeared as though she might not mesh very well with the other staff members.  It was apparent that she was the outcast and the sadness was from being lonely.  She was always surrounded by people but still felt alone.

I went out of my way to smile and talk to her.  I told her what a good job she was doing and to take her time.  I told her to go finish up whatever it was that she needed to and not to worry about me.  I wasn’t going anywhere.  She cracked the first smile I had seen from her and sighed a breath of relief.  As she would walk in and out of my room, bringing me things to sign or asking me questions, it appeared that she walked a little taller and was even beginning to laugh a little.  She thanked my mother and me for our patience and instantly tried to make us understand why she was struggling.  We again encouraged her and let her know that she has a tough job and is doing the best she can, and that’s all that matters.

God blessed me with so many compassionate people as I was going through that procedure.  Maybe He sent my mom and me there to be a blessing to that nurse.  All I know is when we left, and she wheeled me out to the truck, she hugged me and had a smile on her face.  Even if that smile only lasted a few minutes, I am thankful that God chose to use my situation to put it there.

Could I have been inpatient because I was in pain and wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible? Yep.  Could we have treated her like everyone else had been treating her, perpetuating her misery just because we were too worried about ourselves to notice? Yep.  Do people do that to her, and others, EVERY single day because we live in a society that is so consumed with self that we aren’t even able to see the pain and heartache of those around us? YEP!

We often ask how things have gotten this bad or why everything and everyone seems broken.  We live in a world that simply doesn’t show or receive enough kindness.

We go about our days with our headphones in, and instead of being aware of those around us, we often choose to exist in our own little world. Sometimes we’re just not conscious of our surroundings, but often we are entirely aware but make the conscious decision to stay introverted and ignore the fact that there are people besides ourselves on this planet.

People who are hurting.  People who may be doing just fine. People who may need a kind gesture or smile.

Despite the needs of others, we often choose to be stingy with our acts. Why are we acting as though kindness is costing us time or money?

So, to sum up these ramblings… compliment someone’s shoes if they stand out to you. Share your umbrella with the person without one. Strike up a quick, cheerful conversation with the cashier who probably feels invisible a good part of time unless someone is irritated. Reach out to those in need. It may not seem like much, but these little compliments, gestures, and conversations could go a long way in making someone’s day and changing the world.  Who else is going to do it? BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THIS WORLD!

”Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

DgsxaTGXUAEM1Oq

Brokenness, Change, Faith, Grace, Growth, Live It, Lost to Found, New, Salvation, Tansform

Your First Ingredient is Brokenness

broken woman

We must be broken in order to be made whole.

A Sociologist named Brene Brown said, “We are ‘those people.’” The truth is… most people in our world are one paycheck, one divorce, one addiction, one mental health diagnosis, one serious illness, one hurt, or one bad choice from becoming “those people”— the ones we don’t trust, the ones we pity, the ones we don’t let our children play with, the ones we don’t want living next door, the ones we know deep down need our love and God’s love more than anyone, but we can’t approach “those people.”

Our minds are so sensitive to the quiet voices telling us to keep up appearances, keep ourselves busy if we don’t think about it; it’s not really there, it will eventually get better.

Our generation has become artists of illusion, masters at covering pain, self-medicators, slaves to their finances, and lost in loneliness even when we are surrounded by those we love. All because we can’t seem to realize that the only solution for being broken is… brokenness.

We can never truly be whole until we’ve been broken. Those in this world that can make the most significant difference have not only risen to the top but have also fallen to the bottom.

Jesus makes the broken whole again. He takes the overlooked, the undervalued, the left out, the written off, the damaged and devastated, and then He does what only He can do.

I know this may not sound like it makes much sense, but brokenness is the first ingredient in a miraculous transformation. I am living breathing proof of that. The fact that I am alive, sober, full of peace and joy, and madly in love with Jesus Christ is all the proof I need. But in order for God to build me up and bring me this far, I first had to be broken down. Through loss, pain, anger, doubt, and tears I was not only broken…I was shattered, fractured and in pieces.

It was in that darkness that Christ’s light shone the brightest — illuminating each piece, gracefully fitting them together to form a new creation. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Not only that but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.
You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence.” Colossians 1:20-23 (The Message)

The best part of all, the part I still can’t believe most days, is that time after time God chooses to use the broken things. The ones that when asked how they have made such a miraculous transformation, they can only point to Him. That is why I am thankful for every tear, every heartache, every circumstance that broke me.

Woman-praising-in-sunshine-ss_159078203-e1425484730774

“If grace was a kingdom
I stopped at the gate
Thinking I don’t deserve to pass through after all the mistakes that I’ve made

Oh but I heard a whisper
As Heaven bent down
Said, “Child, don’t you know that the first will be last and the last get a crown”

Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours

The pages of history they tell me it’s true
That it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with the scars that You use

It’s the rebels and the prodigals; it’s the humble and the weak
All the misfit heroes You chose
Tell me there’s hope for sinners like me

Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours

Grace is a kingdom
With gates open wide
There’s a seat at the table just waiting for you
So, come on inside”

Broken Things – Matthew West

Brokenness, Change, Faith, Grace, Growth, Lost to Found, New, Salvation, Tansform

Introductions Are In Order

I am so thankful to begin this new year as a part of this ministry.  Before I jump right in though, I think some introductions are in order.  I am a true believer in the fact that, for you to understand and get a deeper look into the heart of a message, you need a pretty good picture of where that person has been and what God has rescued them from.   A visibly transformed life can have a major impact on the world around you.

Ten years ago, if you would have asked someone to describe me, I’m afraid they would’ve used adjectives like angry, lost, empty, aggressive, broken, self-destructive… I’ll stop there, I’m sure you get the picture.

After moving around for a good part of my childhood as a military brat, we finally settled in Western Kentucky where most of our family was.  Within our home, there was no prayer, no Bible reading, no foundation of faith.  I don’t blame my parents.  They were both very young and did the best they could while dealing with their own childhood trauma.

To spend as much time as I could with my grandmother, I began going to church with her every Sunday.  The bond that I had with that very special lady is something I could never describe in written words.  We were inseparable.  I remember sitting beside her each Sunday, in amazement, as she gracefully played the piano during worship. She loved me like I had never felt love before and made me feel deserving of that love.  Around the time I would be starting middle school, something terrible happened.  My grandmother was life-flighted to Barnes Hospital in St. Louis because her heart was failing.  I can remember my aunt picking my sister and me up from school and taking us to the movies to keep us distracted. Fortunately, she was blessed with the opportunity for a transplant, and it seemed like everything was going to be ok.  She lived for eleven years after the transplant.  The last two years of her life were the two years of my life that the devil used to catapult me into a lifetime worth of anger and emptiness.  The medication she had to take to keep her body from rejecting the new heart destroyed her kidneys.  She began dialysis several times a week but was withering away.  I watched her light and life slowly fade as she suffered every second until the end.  The questions, fueled by anger, started flowing.  Why her?  She went to church! She played music in church! She loved the God that was supposed to love her back! She was too young! Could there really be this all-loving God? No, there couldn’t, He wouldn’t do this.

That anger combined with a life that was in a constant state of chaos due to a lack of involvement, lack of faith, substance addiction, abuse, and family members who were out of control…I was left to let the anger, sadness, and loneliness open the door for the devil to make himself at home.   I began trying to fill that brokenness and emptiness with every terrible thing this world has to offer; partying, attention from anyone willing to give it, and more and more anger.

When I was 21, I became pregnant.  Of course, we had to get married because that’s what a good southern woman does to save face.  But this wasn’t all bad.  I started to feel a little peace and happiness.  I thought I loved the man I was marrying, we were going to have a child, I was doing great in college and could still finish so everything was fine.   The day I had to say goodbye forever to that baby, I felt myself break.  I can remember it vividly.  Any anger that had been buried came erupting to the surface.  That was it! There definitely is no God, and if there was, He could care less about any of us! That is what I told myself for years.  I was an anthropology major in school, so there was no shortage of professors who were quick to reinforce that thought with scientific facts and figures.  And boy was I ready to argue with anyone who dared to try and convince me that there was a loving God and that “He had a plan”, and that “there was a reason for everything”.  I was educated, had an aggressive personality and was motivated by so much anger that the devil had a field day with me.   I did what I could to try and convince everyone around me to give up on all those silly stories and rules created by men to control society.   The only person I know I successfully pulled away was my own mother.

My marriage was anything but happy.  How could it be?  We were so young, and I was so volatile.  We each turned to different ways to numb the pain.  Two years after the loss of our first child, we were both preparing to graduate college and had big plans for our future.  But God had a different plan.  I became pregnant with Chloe.   It was a shock because due to health issues, I wasn’t expected to be able to have any more children.  When that child was born, I felt myself begin to heal.  Just as I felt myself break when I said goodbye to my first child, I felt myself, LOVE.  Really love.  I knew then that she was sent to me for a reason and that there had to be “something” or “someone” out there because this kind of love could not be explained with science.  But I had no understanding or faith to fall back on.  I was the poster child for someone who was “lost”.

I struggled for years after Chloe was born.  Her father and I couldn’t seem to get through past hurts, and our marriage was so unstable that we divorced when she was one.  I was a single mother moving from place to place and job to job.  I know now that I was moving every year because I was running.  Running from my sadness and emptiness.  But no distance ever made a difference.  I was still angry and lost.  Along the way, everywhere I went; I met and got to know bold Christian men and women that tried their best to lead me to Jesus.  Each planting seeds.   I would always disregard them though.  Until one person, someone I had grown to love, all but forced me to go to church.  I started attending on Sundays.  I enjoyed the singing and meeting new people but would zone out and not pay attention to much else.  But one day was different, I woke up feeling different.  I went into the church, sat in my pew by myself as usual and listened, really listened.  I didn’t feel alone.  I had been so ashamed of myself for so long, thinking that even if there was a God, “How could He love me now? Look at what I’ve done, what I’ve said!”  That day, I heard and felt that He does love me because Jesus loves me! He suffered and died for me! ME! Not just the righteous people that have never fallen.  Me!  I could feel Him right there with me as I fell apart.  Almost like He had His arm around me as I finally let go of all that anger, shame and guilt and gave it to Him.

On August 8, 2009, at the age of 28, I was baptized.  And I’ve never been the same.   The devil didn’t and still doesn’t make it easy, but now “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

I saved the happiest part of my testimony for the end.

The sorrow I felt for convincing my mother there was no God was unbearable.  I prayed for years for God to allow me to bring my mother to know Jesus. On Mother’s Day of 2017, my mom gave her life to Jesus and was baptized.  Now we worship Him together!

60464683_10217030069242967_6553565574763380736_n

You see, that is what we are created to do.  To be transformed through God’s Grace and to live it out each day to be a living testimony to those around us.  I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me down a path that helps those as lost as I once was.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“ ‘The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ ” “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15: 21,24