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Fear

Matthew 14:29-31 (NLT) 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

Acts 16:25-26 (NLT) 25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!

Fear has erected a prison around me, my heart, and my thoughts. I’ve been stifled by it. I’ve been in bondage, but if I take the time to get grounded back into what God has to say, then the walls begin to shake and begin crashing down. Then the freedom Christ promised me is lived in once again. Just like Peter, if I take my eyes off of Jesus to look at the waves crash around me, I begin to sink, and I yell, “Master, save me!”

The people who work for the government to identify counterfeit money don’t waste their time studying the fake bills. They meticulously study the true money, so that when they see the false, they quickly identify it as what it is and move on. That is what I must do. I must be so intimately connected to God’s truth that I can quickly recognize Satan’s lies and move on, and not let his deceit hinder me from what God has promised me!

I encourage you to read this blog about identifying counterfeit money and apply it to your spiritual life. What spiritual heights we could achieve and victories seen, if we quickly and efficiently identify the falsehood of the enemy!

Counterfeit Detection (Part 1)

Not Looking Back

[Luk 9:62 NKJV] 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

I have been dealing with a heavy heart lately…actually, if I’m honest, I live with a heavy heart since Ariel’s diagnosis. Lately has been worse because my daddy died all of a sudden. I miss my dad. I miss the days before Ariel’s leukemia diagnosis. I miss the carefree days of just enjoying our babies, the joy of our marriage restoration, and having both of our dads around.

It is so hard looking at our pictures now…something I used to love. Everything is seen through a datestamp. I look through the pictures and something wells up within me and wants to scream at my son in that picture, “Enjoy it, son, Granddaddy is gonna be gone in 10 months!” Or every picture of Ariel is viewed as pre-diagnosis or post-diagnosis…and I so wanna climb into that picture and go back to pre-diagnosis days. I can’t help it, that’s just how I feel.

The past few weeks have been especially trying. Ariel has been sick…the praise is this is the first time she’s been sick since her diagnosis in over a year! She’s had a stomach bug. And while she handled that like a champ, unfortunately, it’s taken a toll on her already delicate GI system from all the meds she takes. When one of my babies gets sick, it’s hard. But when Ariel gets sick or doesn’t feel well, I don’t handle it well…I admit. I worry. I fret. I stress. Not that it does me or my family a bit of good, but, again, it’s what this Mama does. I just want her better.

Her dad finally asked about what life would look like after treatment ends in 13 months. It was a great question I could never manage to think of, since I can’t get past the stage we are always currently in. Once treatment ends, we will still be going to the doctor once a month for another YEAR! Then it will slowly taper to fewer visits over the next FIVE years till we are just going once every six months! I swallowed that news. When we left the hospital that day, I cried in the car as we were driving home. I knew they would monitor her closely after treatments ended, but I never imagined this. This is our life. This is my baby girl’s early life. She won’t remember a time without hospitals or clinics or pills or needle sticks or procedures. I was devastated. It’s all very heavy.

There’s such a strong duality to all of this. I am so grateful my baby girl turned five years old yesterday…ARIEL IS STILL ALIVE. I STILL HAVE HER. When she feels well, she’s full of life and fire and sheer will. However, there’s this flip side to it all. This is a very difficult and, apparently, long journey to trudge. Life is so fragile. I feel like we are always one step away from this vast precipice and any chaos we experience or one more extra thing and our lives shift out of balance ready to topple head-first into the expanse. That’s not really a fun way to live. It’s heavy.

Thanksgiving this year was so picturesque. It was this normal bustling holiday. Kids were excited about the meal while watching the Macy’s Parade. JW and I were busy in the kitchen preparing the feast. A handful of guests came. I watched football. JW took the kids hunting. Then I went Black Friday shopping while they cooked s’mores over a fire. It was normal when normal isn’t normal at my house. I couldn’t believe it. It was the most wonderful Thanksgiving I’ve ever experienced. I walked around the house thinking how happy I was, but my happiness nowadays is muted. It’s no longer carefree happiness with giddiness and a light step. My happiness is experienced in the heaviness…will it always be this way? I hope not, but at the same time, I’m so very grateful for it now. Heavy happiness is so much better than the sadness my life could be…and I know that full well.

I want a life that isn’t so heavy. I long for carefree days. I want the joys of my babies in perfect health. I want my dad back. I long for simple days and normalcy. God knows my secret thoughts. He knows the desires of my heart…better than I even realize them. This holiday weekend, I read a t-shirt that said, “Don’t look back, you’ll miss the road ahead.” That grabbed my attention. Then yesterday morning my heart was heavy again, because it was Ariel’s birthday and she started out her day vomiting all over the floor and I had to clean it up. Then my morning message popped on my phone: “The only thing the past has to offer you is lessons. It’s time to look ahead and move forward!” Honestly, God, I don’t wanna move forward. I don’t like this path I’m on. Can’t I just get off this crazy train?

But God doesn’t leave me alone. He makes His presence known. He lets me know He’s here on this crazy train next to me. As I was sadly going through pictures this weekend, I noticed something I’d never seen before. Around times of tragedy, there would be pics we had taken of rainbows. Who doesn’t love rainbows? So we try to get good pics of them when we see them. But I started noticing a trend, and I couldn’t believe it. Ten days before my Father-in-law died, there was a huge wide rainbow in the sky. Around the time my dad died, I found a rainbow on my bedroom floor and used it as a science lesson for the kids, thinking nothing of it. Then yesterday morning, I felt inclined to read the Blessings of God I have typed out hanging in my kitchen…and there it was…another rainbow on the blessing sheet! I believe God, in His way, is reminding me of His promises: His promise that He will bring health and healing to Ariel, His promise that we will laugh and will rejoice again, His promise that great shall be the peace of all my children. I cling to these promises daily.

I also cling to the promises that have already been fulfilled. I just had a birthday myself. The background pic on my phone is of my husband holding my birthday cake with the candles lit and all the love in his eyes. I don’t forget there was a day when that wasn’t the case, or that I didn’t know if I’d ever celebrate another birthday with him again. What you don’t see in the pic is in the bottom corner there are three tiny kids all excited to be bringing their mama gifts. They don’t understand THEY are the gifts. And somewhere sleeping in the background is the tiniest one whose name means there will be happier days ahead.

Our journey is long and hard. My heart is heavy most times right now. I miss my daughter’s health. I miss being able to lean on my dad for support and his love. I do wish I could go back, but God is telling me not to look back. He’s promised me miracles. And I have learned that when God promises stuff, I gotta hold on to my hat, because it’s gonna be big! I tell you, I’m ready for big!

 

He makes all things new


“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”  Ezekiel 11:19-20

Before my marriage failed, I was a terrible wife…terrible person really. I didn’t show my husband respect, was very controlling, bossy, and cold-natured. Even though I loved my husband, I didn’t show it well at all.

My husband has always been a kinder, more patient person than I. We would even joke about our different “natures” in the way we would wake up from sleep. My husband would wake up with a smile, a kiss, and a snuggle. I, on the other hand, would wake up with a grimace and a threat if you touched me! JW was the hugger and more physical. I didn’t want to be bothered. After 10 years, he’d had enough of my cold nature and sought warmth elsewhere. And after God opened my eyes to my own sins, I couldn’t blame him.

But here’s the good news: God is so much bigger than our “natures.” The verse above says He changes our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. God can and does soften us! He puts a new spirit within us! It took the breakdown of my marriage to be softened, but through that God was able to put a new spirit within me. I am no more cold and hard and unloving. After our marriage was restored, when my husband would wake me, I would greet him with a smile and a kiss and a snuggle! We discovered God had changed me to the core. I was no longer grouchy and sour. Instead, I was grateful and appreciative of my husband’s return and all God had done for us. I was amazed. JW was amazed.

It’s been over 7 years and it now takes something to remind me of how I was in the past. It’s hard to remember how our marriage used to be…how we used to be. God can change people. God can change a marriage. Nothing is impossible with Him. Let Him do the same for you. It’s a beautiful thing!!!

My part in the breakdown of my marriage…

I was sharing with someone the other day how I gladly share our story to people, yet I’m still careful who I share with, because I don’t want anyone to look down on or think badly of my husband. It can be so easy to blame him for infidelity, yet I pointed out to this person that my sins of anger, control, manipulation, and disrespect toward my husband for the 10 years of marriage before he left, was no less evil in the sight of God.

Honestly, I believe that’s God’s first step in marriage restoration: revealing our equal part in the breakdown of our marriages. So many want to blame their spouse for all the sins and injustices done to them in the marriage, yet it’s God’s grace and mercy that reveals OUR sins to us. Think about it. Isn’t it better for God to reveal our sins to us here on earth so we can repent, rather than die in our sins only thinking of our spouse’s faults? I think so, and so I’m grateful for that night.

I remember it like yesterday. My husband had sent me a letter requesting a divorce and all his reasons for wanting it, while he was gone to work. I cried and was so sorry for the way he felt. But later that night God showed me my sins like scenes of our life together flashing before my eyes. I couldn’t look away, and I couldn’t blame anyone else. God was so clearly reminding me of all the things I had done wrong in my marriage to my husband. That night, I asked for forgiveness from God, but it would take much longer to receive forgiveness from my husband.

I don’t want anyone to ever think I’m some sort of saint for sticking with my husband after infidelity, because I know it was my sins that drove him to that point. Neither of us were right in the things we did to each other. But when we are able to see that, God can fill us with so much compassion for the other that healing can begin. No more bitterness. No more anger. Just compassion and mercy, because we know we need it too!

I pray this helps someone let God open their eyes so healing can begin for them too.

P.S. In the early days of restoration, my husband once told me something at a time I doubted his love for me, since I was suffering from low self esteem after he ended everything with the other woman. He said, “You know the verse: ‘He who’s forgiven much loves much?’ That’s how I feel about you.” I never doubted his love after that, because I knew exactly how he felt. And we still feel that way to this day.

A promise fulfilled

Wanted to share something with y’all that JW realized the other day.

While he was in the Far Country 7 years ago, I continually received God’s promise of double. I couldn’t understand why God kept whispering double when my husband had moved out, was seeking a divorce, and seeing another woman! 🤦🏻‍♀️

Then we get pregnant a month after He restores us and I think that’s the double…my husband plus a baby! Then we get pregnant with Ariel and I think that’s the double…2 parents have 2 kids! Only to get Annelise later to now have a quiver full which met more than my expectations. LOL! But in that time, we miscarried a couple of precious babies and experienced much heartache and loss. We didn’t want to try anymore. Finally, we found ourselves walking a dark journey with Ariel’s leukemia diagnosis, and we didn’t have time to think about anything. Yet, God used our distraction with her to sneak in one more baby…I will be honest, I wasn’t thrilled. I was barely hanging on as it was. We had just come out of the darkness her initial cancer diagnosis flung us in, and I was so fearful the whole first 3 months of pregnancy that I would lose another like I had the last one (carried 3 months then lost unexpectedly). I couldn’t be happy. All I did was take a day at a time with the pregnancy and Ariel.

But God in His mercy slowly reminded me to “rejoice.” That will forever be a precious word to me. In 2012, when JW had said he would come back home, but slowly began retreating from that decision, God told me to “rejoice.” So I stood on what the Holy Spirit spoke, and not the words my husband said. Guess who turned out to be right? 😁

So, God, if You tell me to rejoice again, I’ll believe You and not what all my fears say. Now, here we are 35.5 weeks pregnant, expecting a newborn baby in August 2019. And that’s what JW realized: August 8, 2012 was when God restored our marriage…this baby is coming 7 years almost exactly to that date! Isn’t that just like God to fulfill His promise of double in 7 years which represents “God’s completion and perfection?” From two messed up imperfect people, God has brought forth four children who are continually trained in the truth of God’s power and great love for His people. Our kids know our story, they know God restores and heals. Through Ariel’s story, they also know God provides and protects. We may not understand His plans, but we teach our kids to believe He has them and they’re for our good.

For a final tidbit, I’ll share the story behind the new baby’s name. Many times we wanted to use the name Isaac for a boy, but we either had little girls or loss. This time, when we found out it was another boy, neither of us had the heart to use the name Isaac. We knew Isaac meant laughter, and that just wasn’t where we were with everything that’s happened in the past year. After God started telling me to rejoice again, I began to look up names that meant rejoice…only to discover the exact wording of what Isaac means: “I will laugh/I will rejoice!” I couldn’t believe it. But what I loved the most was that it was a name of future promise…”I WILL…” God was telling me that better days were coming! And that is what I cling to Every. Single. Day.

God’s Best

God’s permissive will vs. God’s best

I had a prayer partner praying years ago with me that always prayed for God’s best. She’d say in her prayers, “Lord, we don’t want Your second best. We only want Your best for us. Please bring us Your best.”

She never knew how much those prayers changed my way of thinking. I realized that God knows the future, while we don’t. He knows what is truly best for us, when we truly don’t. Why should I pray for certain things to come to pass, if I really don’t know if it’s in my best interest? So, I began to pray for His best, even if it looked scary or crazy or whatever. I wanted His will for my life, above my own.

I hear people pray for God’s permission about things…even pray His permissive will, but I don’t want His permissive will. I want HIS plan A. No longer do I want to exert my plan/will and hope He makes it good. I believe He’s a benevolent God who won’t push His plan and let’s us follow our paths…that’s what scares me now…following my path that turns into some Plan B!

God is searching for those who will follow Him no matter what, through anything, and above their own will. He’s looking for those who will trust He knows what’s best for them. I encourage others to change their prayers like I did. I admit that it can lead to dark and scary paths. But God has never failed me, and every time I have seen His protection and provision when I couldn’t find it on my own.

My Story

I heard a song today on KLove. Big Daddy Weave “My Story” Got me to thinking today driving home from Jackson. Before 2012 I thought I loved the Lord, but the only way I could share Christ was to tell His story. My story was separate from Him. But since 2012 God has written my story so that it can’t be told without Him in the center of it. I liked that thought. My story is now His story. And He continues to write it. It’s a very painful work of literature, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Whether it’s my marriage or my children or even the health of my children, it all points to Him no matter what. If all this pain is to make it impossible for us to tell our stories without Jesus being in the center of it, then it’s all worth it.

Pruning

When we moved into our house, there was a beautiful rose bush beside the front door. I don’t know the first thing about roses, but I know they’re pretty. Well, I didn’t touch that thing for 3.5 years. It got bigger, and it continued to produce gorgeous pink roses. However, over that time it became unruly and grew into the path of the door. It actually became dangerous with the kids, because the thorns were so close to the entrance.

So, this past winter I decided to prune it. I trimmed and cut, till my 5 year old said fretfully, “I think you cut too much!” I explained that it would grow back even more beautiful, we just had to wait and see.

I sit here in front of that bush as I write this. Spring has sprung and our sad little leafless bush has leafed into a lush plant filled with tiny rosebuds waiting to open and grace us with its beauty once again. I reminded my son of his needless worry, while I pointed out all the new growth waiting to explode.

How much our lives are like that rosebush. So many think that when hardships come, it means we’re being punished: Some unseen God messes with us unfairly and beyond our control. Yet, if God were to leave us alone, as I did that rosebush, we become unruly and a thorny, even dangerous, mess.

It’s in the pruning process a big God sees and knows what His work will produce. We just have to trust Him to do the job His way and then wait and see the beautiful end product.

I’m sure there are those who wonder how we can praise God in the midst of such trials. Why are we not blaming Him instead? I just know, He’s a big God and He’s not leaving us alone. He’s not leaving my kids alone. He’s got plans. And whether I can see those plans or not, I can see Him working. And I have learned in past pruning processes, when God works, the end product is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined!

Personal Rights

You ever think about the leading cause of divorce? Some would say adultery. Others say a lack of compatibility. I believe it’s the injustice served to one’s personal rights. What do I mean? Let me explain.

One spouse cheats and the other feels he/she has the right to fidelity within marriage. That sounds very reasonable. What about the right to be happy? Don’t we all have the right to be happy? Isn’t that not only an American right, but a human right too? So if our spouse doesn’t make us happy, we have the right to find someone else who does, right? That’s what the world would tell you. Even churches have fallen in line with that way of thinking and counsel accordingly. But what does God say about our personal rights?

Doesn’t God want us happy? Doesn’t God acknowledge the injustices done to us by others? Don’t we have rights to feel the way we do? Of course He does and He agrees you have the right to feel as you do when all these terrible things are done to you, but just because He acknowledges and understands your pain, doesn’t equate to reciprocation. When someone does something wrong to us, we are never to retaliate or do something wrong in turn, all for the sake of justice.

Let’s look at our ultimate example: Jesus. Jesus was mocked, scorned, lied about, betrayed, beaten, abused, and killed. Never did Jesus grab up a sign to picket for His social injustices. Never did He go around talking about all the evil things people were saying and doing to Him. Not once did Jesus retaliate. Not once did Jesus stand on His own personal rights. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and He let them spit in His divine face! Think about that. Does that sound like the One Who would counsel you to divorce your spouse because he/she cheated on you? Would Jesus Who wants us to follow His example, give our spouse the cold shoulder because they don’t do everything we think is right in our marriage? Would He tell you to abandon the covenant of marriage so you can be “happy?” No, He wants us to love our neighbor (i.e. spouse) UNCONDITIONALLY! Why do we not apply to our spouses the lesson to turn our other cheek when someone slaps it?? Why do we only give our spouse only “so many chances” when Jesus says to forgive seven times seventy (i.e. an infinite amount)?

The Father loves you. He agrees you have personal rights. You have the right to feel betrayed, to want justice, etc. etc. But He’s asking you to surrender those rights and do it His way…just like Jesus did.

Can you do that today? Can you choose Jesus and His higher ways over your personal rights?

Marriage Instruction Manual Part II

So there’s only a few weeks between Part I and Part II. We were just recovering from the disconnect of grief we experienced after the death of my father-in-law, when we had to rush our 3-year-old daughter to the emergency room after a lot of weird and unexplainable symptoms were occurring, only to receive the diagnosis of leukemia! (I wasn’t kidding when I said 2018 was the worst year of our lives.)

This chapter in a marriage instruction manual would have to be entitled, “Chapter 13: Dealing With Simultaneous Grief Within Marriage.”

🤦🏻‍♀️

We don’t realize how much we depend on our spouses during the seasons of life. When life is good, we expect them to celebrate with us. When life is sad, we expect a shoulder to cry on. When life is hard, we expect support and encouragement. However, all of that falls under the assumption that they are not in the exact same place we are. We are assuming they have those things to give when we need them. Unfortunately, those assumptions are incorrect when you both find yourselves in the same pit of darkness…a place neither has walked, nor wants to…a place of more questions than answers. Our daughter’s diagnosis sent us both, separately, spinning into that place.

What do you do when you don’t have that spousal support? You can’t blame them, because you don’t have it to give either.

Here’s the instruction part for Parts I & II:

1. Take up your grievances with God, not your spouse. He’s the Dude in charge anyway!

2. Sit tight. Wait for things to turn around. The pressures surrounding you and your spouse will change. Wait for it.

3. Don’t do anything stupid! There’s a reason a lot of marriages don’t survive the stresses and traumas of life. They’re hard. When things escalate, refer back to instruction #2! ⤴️

I wish I could say that everything our marriage experienced in 2012 would prevent any future problems, but that’s not the case. When things got hot and heavy and the pain was unbearable, we, unfortunately, attacked each other. There were fights that I can’t even remember now what they were about, but we survived. What we did learn in 2012 to prepare us for all that we were going through was instructions #1-3.

In these times, it’s proven that our spouse (no matter how strong or wonderful) isn’t our lifeline, that position is only for Jesus! Our answers don’t come from our spouse either. He/She is just trying to figure it all out too…just like you.

Keep in mind, we simply cannot give what we don’t have to give. In the trauma of our daughter’s diagnosis, both my husband and I were severely hurting. We, honestly, didn’t have each other to lean on or look to. However, that’s ok. Those are the times we are reminded that God should always hold that place…in the bad times and the good.