Tag Archives: life journey

A Lesson from the Trees…

We read a lot of books this week about things relating to Christmas and Jesus coming to this earth, but out of all the books represented, one has lingered in my heart and thoughts for the past few days. I began a blog post a few days ago that went something like this…

I got to work early this morning because I knew it was going to be a busy day and I wanted to be prepared. Lying on my desk was the book I was supposed to read to my preschool and Kindergarten students. I had read over the book before and was familiar with it, but knowing I would be reading it to the children who were already wiggly and excited about Christmas break and all the activities, I thought I better get more closely acquainted with the story and possibly act it out instead of just reading through it.

As I read the book, I had a hard time holding back the tears. The Legend of the Three Trees depicts the story from the perspective of these three trees that are cut down to create three different objects all fitting into the life of Jesus. As I read about each tree, I could not help but apply the story to my life and my wants and desires. It was as if God was gently whispering to me that He knew the desires of my heart, but the things He wanted to do in my life would bring about a very different outcome than if I followed my own plans and dreams.

The first tree had great dreams and plans that it would be chopped down and made into a treasure chest filled with gold and jewels and encrusted with precious stones. It would bring happiness to all who possessed it. The second tree wanted to be a great ship and travel and carry precious cargo to countries around the world. The third tree wanted nothing more than to be left standing and to grow straight and tall and be beautiful right where it was and to spend its days there looking out over the hill.

What actually happened to the three trees was quite different than they had dreamed. They were all chopped down and separated. The first tree ended up as a feed box for cattle and other barn animals. The second tree became a small fishing boat. The third tree was cut into long boards and stacked in a lumber yard to be used at a later date. None of them achieved the dreams they had envisioned and hoped for all their lives.

The story continued…one night in the barn, the feed box became a manger and inside it held the most precious gift that earth could ever receive…the baby Jesus. Many years later, the same fishing boat supported the feet of a man who cried “Peace. Be Still!” calming the storm and bringing the boat safely to land. A few months later, the third tree found two of its beams placed together to form a cross that supported our Savior and the tree once again found itself on a hill overlooking the earth, but also raising up a sinless sacrifice that would end the repeated need for atonement for our sins.

Three destinies…but oh, so different from what they had planned.

It has spoken to my heart over and over again since I read the story. Each time I acted out the story for my little ones, the message ingrained itself more deeply into my heart and soul. Each destiny became a part of who I am and where I am at this point in my life.

For you see, I have wanted to possess great wealth and to be able to make those happy who came in contact with me. I wanted to be able to give financially to those in need. I wanted to be able to make great things happen. But, I did not consider that instead of giving out great wealth, I needed to be filled with it, and that only then, would I have something to give.

You see, the first tree thought of wealth only as something recognized by its appearance of gold and encrusted jewels. That tree only thought it could give happiness by allowing others to take from it, when in reality, the most precious gift was placed inside it and only then could it reach out and bring happiness to those around it.

I have wanted to travel and seek adventure upon many shores, in many lands. I have wanted to experience life to the fullest and be able to say I have visited country after country and state after state and enjoyed all of God’s majesty and the wonders this world has to offer. That has been a desire of my heart for a long time; however, I have found myself in a small pond, or lake, or sea, with a limited choice of destination. Life has allowed me some liberties, but mostly I have been confined to the task at hand. It could get a little stinky like all those dead fish and it could become monotonous at times.

Perhaps, I didn’t realize that it is not the destination that provides the adventure or miraculous event, but it is the situation and opportunity that allows miracles to be performed. The second tree experienced a traumatic event that lead to a miraculous occurrence, for it is only in the storm that Jesus can calm the waters. Without the storm there would have been no need for Jesus to speak and take control of the situation. It is Who is in the boat that counts, not the location of the boat.

And, most of all, I can relate to the third tree. Change is difficult. When you are comfortable and you just want to stay in one place and grow and view things from a certain perspective, it hurts to be chopped down, stripped of your bark, limbs, and leaves, and cut into planks. The view changes and for a while you may see only a stack of dusty lumber. You cannot feel the wind as it blows through your branches. You cannot feel the sun as it beats down and warms your leaves. You cannot softly sway in the breeze and watch as others enjoy a picnic under your shade. You are stacked in a pile in waiting mode. Everything in life as you know it has changed. The bark has been taken away and you are lying there with nothing familiar and no idea what will happen next, if anything at all.

I think that must have been how the third tree felt. All it wanted was to remain where it was. I have felt like that so many times lately. I have gotten comfortable and when I began to feel a little chop beginning to shake my foundation, I have wanted to find a way to retreat. Fear of the unknown loomed over me and threatened my peace.

Of all the trees, the third tree must have had such mixed emotions about its role in life. To be chosen to be the cross that crucified Jesus was both glorious and horrible. To contribute to the Savior’s death by being the instrument used to crucify Him was never anything the tree wanted to be in life. To cause pain to the One who loved and created it was such an ironic destiny.

I am sure the tree would have wept if it had the capability because becoming a cross would have been the furthest thing from its heart’s desire. Yet, when the blood of Jesus began to seep out and onto that cross, I cannot help but believe the tree felt its wood begin to tingle and as the blood covered it, something rose up in the tree and it began to realize there was much more to this than just a terrible ordeal leading to death. The view from this hill was majestic in a very different sort of way. The darkness, earthquake, thunder and lightning all bear witness that surely this was the Messiah and the realization of the importance of the moment began to permeate the tree.

What if the tree had been left standing on the hill? It would never have experienced the salvation of the world through the death of Jesus. It would have been beautiful just as it was, but it would not have known of the events, the suffering, the agony, or the miraculous resurrection that covered the sins of the entire earth.

I don’t know about you, but I have dreams and desires. I have mentioned this in my previous paragraphs. I have goals that I would like to achieve and I have plans that I would like to follow through with at certain points in my life. However, my desires and plans and dreams are from the finite thinking and keyhole perspective that only I can see.

God’s ways are higher than our ways. His plans may include some chopping. They may include removing me completely from certain situations or changing my view. I may have to wait at some points. I may be disappointed when greater adventures and opportunities pass me by while I float on a small pond with the smell of stinky fish all around me. I may have to serve. I may have to work. I may have to leave all that is comfortable.

I am not sure. I just know that if I yield myself to God’s plan for my life instead of viewing things from my own selfish perspective, I will find the original destination was so very limited compared to what God wants to do with my life.

God loves me and knows the desires of my heart, but even more than that, He knows how to fulfill them in a way that I never dreamed possible. The picture may look a little different than I had anticipated, but the end result will be beyond what I can imagine.

Dear God,

Help me to place my life in Your hands and allow You to do with me as you see fit. Show me that dreaming is good, but only You can take those dreams and make them into something more beautiful and purposeful than I can ever imagine. Help me to look past the situation to see the miraculous. Help me to realize that a simple manger, a small boat, and two beams of wood can be used to change the lives of the entire world. In Your hands, in your time, let me be all that You want me to be for You.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Until next time,

C.

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A Lesson in Love…

I wrote this part of the blog post last night when God began to deal with me about love and the frustration I felt because I was convicted about my actions this past week. I didn’t finish the blog post because I was tired and went to bed, but now I know why I didn’t finish it. God had to work on me all night long to help me understand my frustration and what I was doing wrong and why I couldn’t love like I am supposed to love without failing. Here is how it began:

Two in a row. Wow! I don’t usually write this much in one day. It just seems like it should be about midnight right now, but it is only a little after seven in the evening and there are only so many Christmas movies and cooking shows that I can handle in one evening. The wind is whipping over the water and the temperature is dropping. I can feel a little cold air seeping in through the fireplace. All the holiday movies are playing and it is conveniently snowing on the screen which contributes to the overall chilly atmosphere the weather is presenting us with tonight. My previously injured knee is aching making me fully aware that I have developed a new weather alert system. The more intense the ache, the more likely a cold front is heading our way. I am comfortably nestled in the recliner with my warm, fuzzy pajama pants and a well-worn t-shirt. (Yes, the neck is cut out-for those of you who know I cannot stand those high-necked shirts.)

I have something on my mind. It has plagued me most of my life. I yo-yo back and forth with it and today, I saw something again that made me go right back to my previous thoughts and conclusions. You see, it is about love. I think I fail at that a lot. I justify some of my actions thinking that I am protecting myself from hurt or that I am not allowing people to take advantage of me, but I have a hard time getting past this Scripture:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
– 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

There it was again. The Scripture and a picture:

love

“Wuv. Twue Wuv”….Sorry. I had a Princess Bride moment.

I can’t do this. I fail all the time at loving people like this. I don’t trust. I notice when someone does me wrong. I get angry. I get hurt. I keep track sometimes…I have tried to let that go, but it is hard. I want what I want. I am self-seeking at times.

I have a hard time with patience. I saw a prayer on Facebook on one of those e-cards. The guy was asking God to actually give him patience and not the circumstances that cause him to learn patience. I can relate to that.

Sometimes I take things others dish out and don’t walk away because of this Scripture. Sometimes I endure a lot of hurt from repeated incidents because of this Scripture. Sometimes my friends get frustrated with me for allowing people to take advantage or for accepting them as if nothing happened when they return from a previous incident…but I do it because of this Scripture.

Back to this morning…

That is as far as I got last night. It is probably a good thing because I would have come to the wrong conclusion. I would have said “it can’t be done” and let it go at that. I would have said that I need to keep trying and I would have asked for forgiveness and continued in the path until the next time I felt convicted. That is what I have done in the past because I was looking at myself and thinking that I had to do this within my own power.

You see the key is not trying to love while really stuffing down your real feelings in order to take the hurt that someone may give you. The answer is not keeping your mouth shut when you want to tear into someone and tell them what all they have done wrong. The answer is not pretending you are not happy when you see someone getting what you think they deserve after they have hurt you. The answer is not manipulating a situation or making someone feel guilty until they do what you want just so you will be happy and it will turn out the way you think it should. All of that is not changing how you are really responding to the situation.  You are just hiding it and at some point it is going to implode or explode and the other person or you are not going to know what happened when it finally surfaces.  You may become violently, physically ill or you may go off into a nonsensical tirade on that other person when they have no idea where it is coming from or why you chose that moment to explode.  You are not truly resolving or letting things go if you are reacting in a way different from what you are feeling inside and you are acknowledging.  It is still there. You are just showing a mask to the outside world. Please don’t pretend you don’t know what I am talking about. We may not always show it, but we do these things.

God gently whispered to me that the answer is “surrender.”

That is it. Surrender to Him.

One of the songs that I have posted here previously and that has been played over and over and over in my car the last few weeks is Casting Crown’s “Just Be Held.” One part of the song says to stop holding on and just be held. It also says “your world is not falling apart, it’s falling into place.”

Sometimes we hold onto things and people and situations because we have to be in control when God really wants us to let go and just let Him hold us. He wants us to surrender to Him and lean on Him and let Him guide our paths. That is Scripture. We get so busy trying to figure it out and wondering why this twist in the path has happened when all we wanted was this other thing and we just think it is all falling apart, and sometimes we become angry at God and at others when we shouldn’t because the key point in the center of it all is that it is what “we” want.  God never promised it.  We just expected it to play out a certain way and became disappointed when it didn’t.  That is where I was this past week.  That is not where I am now….

Once He whispered that to me about surrender, it all made sense.

If you read my post yesterday, you saw a comment from one of my friends who NEVER posts a public comment (until yesterday), but who communicates with me regularly via email, phone, or dinner conversation. She introduced me to https://www.reviveourhearts.com/ website and a lady named Nancy Leigh DeMoss, now Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She just married last weekend at the age of 55. She wanted me to watch and listen to the unfolding relationship between Nancy and her now husband, Robert, and about how God brought him into her life.

My first reaction to all of this was that I am not her and I am not that spiritual and my life has been different, so that didn’t really relate to me. I related more to Robert, the husband, than to Nancy. Nancy surrendered her life to God at a young age and was not sure, but thought she might be called to singleness. She served God with all her heart and did not seek to have romantic relationships.

Robert was married and he and his wife were friends with Nancy throughout the years since he was in publishing and she was the author of many books. His wife passed away from a two year battle with ovarian cancer. It was after her death that he began to correspond with Nancy and their story plays out over a five part radio program on the website. I won’t tell it here, but God was in the middle of it and their wedding was more a reflection of God’s love and the references to the bride of Christ than it was about them.

I was overwhelmed with the spiritual journey and immediately told God that I couldn’t live up to that. I understood more about Robert’s journey and the moment when he realized that he had put Nancy in a place before God because he was emotionally attached in a way that God had to stop him and help him to remember who the Lord of his life should be. I have been there. That I can relate to.

From the time I was old enough to consider it, I thought I would be married and have a family and a big house with a wrap-around front porch and a place to adopt children who had no one. I still have this visual image in my mind of that. I was in a relationship when I was very young. It lasted two and a half years and it was my very first heartbreak. I realize now that I was way too young and that distance and parents played a part in ending it before it became too serious, but it was my first unresolved issue and it haunted me for many years.

I never really “dated” with the exception of three blind dates that were straight from somewhere I won’t mention and that I escaped from as quickly as possible. Dating has been foreign to me. I don’t understand its purpose as the world views it today. I don’t consider being in a relationship with someone unless I consider them to be someone that I could possibly spend the rest of my life with. I am lost on the concept of just dating to have fun. I don’t want to invest time and emotions in something in which I see no future. That may sound serious to some of you, but what is the purpose of dating except to find the one you are supposed to be with? If you can provide me with a valid reason other than that, I will listen. And even saying “find the one” does not resonate with me because I believe if God is truly in control in my life that He will bring the one person that I am supposed to be with into my life at His appointed time.

With that being said, I have really messed up in the past in the relationship department and I have taken situations that I thought God wanted me to be in and made them something they should never have been. As Madea would say, I took a person who was only meant to be in my life for a specific purpose or a season and placed lifetime expectations on them. I somehow took things into my own hands and lost sight of God’s purpose in trying to place someone in a position where they should never have been.  This scares me a bit, but I realize now it is because I had not surrendered in all areas of my life.  I didn’t know how to love outside of my own ability. That is a lot to think about.  I am still thinking about it as I write this. I am wondering how I can convey it to those who are twenty years younger so they won’t make the same mistakes I have made.

So, the few relationships I have been in have been a bit more complicated because they were friendships as well as romantic relationships. I can truly say that I have even been in a relationship that I viewed as a friendship and the guy had pursued me at first for physical reasons, but when he got to know me as a person, we became good friends and never dated. I had no idea what his original intent was until my pastor at the time counseled me because he was concerned about the relationship. I was stunned, but I confronted him and we talked through it and remained friends.

So, basically I have not really dated other than those three dates. I have been in three major relationships in my life, but those were friendships first.

I really don’t know why I am writing all this. I feel like I am digressing, but it is sort of pouring out of me. Perhaps it is because this all relates to love and how to love people and my frustration at failing.

So, let’s get back to that. Surrender. While I don’t think that I am like Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, I do admire her surrender to God. I know she writes about things for women that relate to me, but every step of this relationship, she was on her knees praying for God to show her what to do. She did not give her heart away or say “I love you” until she was ready to say “I will marry you.” The world would be a better place if more of us were like her. We would save ourselves a lot of pain if we were surrendered.

So, I protested about my friend saying that I was like her. I even told God that I was just not that spiritual and if I had to be that spiritual I would never be able to be in a healthy relationship. Then, I found that Scripture and poster on Facebook about love and it really bothered me.

I was really hurt this past week. I had a rough week. I sought a distraction that I thought would make me feel better and that ended up hurting me more. That is because I was not surrendered. I should not have needed to seek a distraction.

Okay. So, God spoke to me throughout the night. He said that if I was truly His and surrendered to Him that no weapon formed against me would prosper. Words spoken to me or against me that would pierce and hurt would not do so because I was His and I was trusting Him to guide my life in every category.

When things did not go my way, I would not be hurt because my way was not His way. When I saw others with things that I thought I wanted I would not be envious because I trusted Him to give me good gifts.

When I would be jealous of things, I would remember that He knew what I needed and in His time He would give me the desires of my heart, but first I must seek His kingdom and His righteousness.

His righteousness. I am so far away from that. I want what I want…or at least I did when I went to bed last night. This morning I have found that my eyes are leaking and my heart is saying…

“Lord, I surrender. That is the only way I will survive. I cannot continue to seek my own way and I cannot continue to be vulnerable to hurt like this. Please help me to remember you are in control and nothing matters except what You want and where you lead me. Help me not to defraud others by speaking words that didn’t come from you, but came from hurt harbored in my heart because I did not get my way. I don’t want to be selfish. I don’t want to be in something that You didn’t design for me. I won’t ever be satisfied with second best. I want the good gifts You send to me. Help me to surrender.”

So, while I am sitting here crying about the things I have said and done that have come from the core of my being and the hurt from not getting my own way, I need to say “I am sorry.”

I hope those I need to apologize to will read this blog post. I hope that I will truly surrender and not cause any more hurt. I hope that from this point forward I will truly be able to love like I am supposed to love and not notice when something is intended to hurt me, or seems unfair to me. I pray that I can let God hold my heart and not try to hold on to mindsets that cause me pain.

I hope the only reflection others will see in me is Jesus and not a jealous, selfish nature that confuses and causes people to want to keep their distance.

I don’t want to seek my own way or try to understand things beyond my comprehension. I want to realize that other people and their journey is not my journey and just because I don’t understand why doesn’t mean my life stops here. I know that where I am today is partly because of the consequences of my actions, but I want the place I will be tomorrow to be where Jesus wants me in a fully surrendered life.

So, please forgive me and give me a chance to start again and love you all with the love that comes from a heart that does not seek its own, nor has its own motive, but loves the way Jesus loves.

While I was editing this blog post a song came to mind.  I realize the meaning behind the original writing was an experience Matt Hammitt of the group Sanctus Real went through with his newborn son who has a heart defect.  While the context of the original lyrics refer to the experience with his son, they are lyrics we can all relate to and I have included the following excerpt and the song because I think it is relevant.  God wants all of us.  I am trying to answer that call and surrender.

I have a feeling that my new Scripture is probably going to be Paul’s statement: “I die daily.” I think that is the only way I will keep God on the throne of my life and lean on Him and not on my understanding. I am looking forward to the straight paths He has for me. No confusion. No hurt. Just trust and surrender.

I read something a friend posted and she mentioned advice given to her about “leaning into it.”  I think that speaks to me.  God tells us to “lean not unto our own understanding…” (Proverbs 3) So, instead of trying to balance on my own, it is time to lean and it is time to remind Him and myself that I am His…every. single. day.

Until next time,

C.

Afraid to love
Something that could break
Could I move on
If you were torn away
And I’m so close
To what I can’t control
I can’t give you half my heart
And pray He makes you whole

You’re gonna have all of me
You’re gonna have all of me
‘Cause you’re worth every falling tear
You’re worth facing any fear
You’re gonna know all my love
Even if it’s not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me
Is where I’ll start

I won’t let sadness
Steal you from my arms
I won’t let pain keep you from my heart
I’ll trade the fear of all that I could lose
For every moment I’ll share with you

You’re gonna have all of me
You’re gonna have all of me
‘Cause you’re worth every falling tear
You’re worth facing any fear
You’re gonna know all my love
Even if it’s not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me
Is where I’ll start

Heaven brought you to this moment
It’s too wonderful to speak
You’re worth all of me
You’re worth all of me
So let me recklessly love you
Even if I bleed
You’re worth all of me
You’re worth all of me

Here’s Matthew Henry’s commentary: “God has said it, and we may depend upon it, Seek and you shall find. We have a general rule laid down (Jer. 29:13): “You shall find Me when you shall search for Me with all your heart.” In seeking God we must search for Him, accomplish a diligent search, searching for directions in seeking Him and encouragements to our faith and hope. We must continue seeking, and take pains in seeking, as those who search; and this we must do with our heart, and with our whole heart, with vigor and fervency, putting forth all that is within us in prayer, and those who thus seek God shall find Him.”

 

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A Gentle Reminder…

Every time God does something unexpected, I find myself amazed. I don’t know why. It is not that I don’t believe with God anything is possible. I guess I just forget at times and then He does something visible and tangible that I could never orchestrate and it reminds me of how blessed I am and how great He is and how much He cares about every little detail of our lives.

I posted about the Thanksgiving dinner event for We Will Go Ministries in a previous blog post. I had intended to follow up after the dinner and maybe even post some pictures, but I have to share the journey. I believe it is important, if for no one else but me.

We have been promised over six hundred dollars from various awesome people, as well as having been promised some: desserts, water, plastic ware, and other things by our wonderful school family. God is bringing it all together little by little.

So, I was out and about and decided to go ahead and pick up the plates and cups and a few other items that we needed. When I got to the register, I separated my purchases to keep everything accounted for with the donations, and the store manager began to tally up the merchandise. She said, “I am going with you. It looks like you are going to have a party!” Please know they know me by sight at this store and I’ve had many great conversations with the manager and some of the other employees. I smiled at her and began to explain what the plates and cups were for and she pulled off a blank piece of register tape and handed me a pen and asked me to write down a phone number and a name that she could contact to come and help serve on Thanksgiving Day. I gave her my information and told her to call me. She gave me a discount on the plates and cups. (smile).

After loading all my packages in the car, I headed back to my apartment. I saw the mail carrier’s truck parked at the boxes, so I stopped to get my mail. I have been expecting a package and had tracked it, so I was hoping it had arrived. I got out of my truck and began to talk with her and asked her if she had a package for me. She said she did have one and I collected my other mail and she began to talk about the holidays and I told her that I was doing something different this Thanksgiving. I explained where I worked and found out that she had been thinking about checking us out to send her son to our school. So, we talked about God and school and things for a while and I found out her son had attended another school that seemed to be moving away from Christian values and she was concerned about it and had pulled him and placed him in the public school system.

So, we talked a little more about that and I told her to come and see us on preview day in January. I told her about the fact that we’ve had over twenty students in the past month accept Christ into their lives and hearts. I explained that nothing was more important to us than making disciples for Christ. We both teared up and she asked me about Thanksgiving Day. I told her what we were trying to do and she said, “I have been trying to find someone that needed help serving on Thanksgiving because I wanted to take my son and let him see what life is really about and how blessed he is.” I gave her my name and phone number and told her that we would be happy to have her come and help serve. After a few more moments of conversation, I wished her a good weekend and waved goodbye.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe God allowed me to be in the right place at the right time to connect with people who wanted to help, who have a heart to serve, and who are to be a part of my life in some way. I will tell you that when I first went into the store, the manager was in the back putting out stock. They had just received a truck and the aisles were full of merchandise. The only reason she came to the front of the store was because they had to have a price override on an item the person in front of me wanted to purchase and the cashier could not get the machine to work. So, after the price override, the manager just continued with me to help the line move more quickly.

Not a coincidence.

Maybe it seems small to you, but to me it is a lesson that God will place people where He needs them to be. If they are hungry and want to serve, He will give them opportunities to do so. He will orchestrate meetings and circumstances that allow His will to be done and His work to go forward.

How much more should we trust Him to orchestrate what we consider the “big” things in our lives? If He cares that someone wants to help a homeless person, but doesn’t know how to get in contact with an organization and He sends me to give them an opportunity to do so, then how much more does He care about those things most precious to us? Those who are homeless are precious to Him and in His eyes this is a big thing.

I say this because I’ve had a week of stressful situations. My physical body has reacted to the stress. My emotions have reacted. I have prayed. I have taken deep breaths and moved forward. I have walked one step at a time without being able to see very far in front of me. It has been a bit rough.

Perhaps today was only for me. Perhaps it is my journey and not relevant to you at all. Well, that is okay because today God reminded me that He’s got this. Today, He demonstrated to me just how much He is concerned with things that matter to us and that He is in the midst of all the details.

I cannot wait to see what He does next and I know that Thanksgiving Day is going to be awesome in so many ways that I haven’t even begun to imagine. If you are in the area and you would like to be a part by helping to serve food or transport food, or by just being there, please know that you are welcome. If not, then please take a moment to say a prayer for all of us and those we will serve on Thursday…

And remember, He has plans for you… (Jeremiah 29:11)…trust Him and let Him show you. I am going to do my best to take my own advice.

Until next time,

C.

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Floating Pieces

My heart hurts today. It literally. Physically. Hurts. But before you call 911, let me explain…

God is good. That is a fact. He is. All the time. No matter what. But that doesn’t make this world and some of the things that happen in it good. He takes things that are meant for evil and makes them good. He promises not to put on us more than we can bear (with Him). You have to remember the (with Him) part or you will be messed up.

He worketh in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure. He sees that huge puzzle, big picture perspective. We don’t.

We have a puzzle piece that we are given each day. Sometimes the day flows seamlessly and the puzzle piece fits into the big picture and we breathe a sigh and rest to wake up the next day for a new puzzle piece. That is a pretty good day.

Sometimes we wake up and we receive our puzzle piece and fit it in and we get an idea of a little tiny glimpse into how our future might look and we are able to fit several pieces together to create something. Perhaps it is: a relationship, or a new friend, a new home, new job, new mission, journey, project, etc… You get the idea. This is a day we believe we are making progress and understanding our life journey a little better. We begin to see a path laid out in front of us and imagine how we will proceed and dream about the possibilities. I would say this is an ideal day.

Then, there are those days where we are handed a piece of puzzle that seems a very odd shape. The colors, texture, design nothing seems to match what we already know of our existence. We withdraw from it. We try to give it back. We deny it. We grudgingly realize it is not going away, but we don’t want to face it. It doesn’t seem to make sense or fit anywhere. These pieces may take the form of: hurt, pain, rejection, sickness, death, loss, broken hearts, shattered dreams, despair, anxiety, fear, etc… You get the idea.

We shake our heads over these pieces. We don’t know why they were given to us. We don’t have answers. We may not even have a piece of the puzzle already framed out in our life that remotely matches the colors in that one piece. It fits nowhere near to anything we have already put together. It is a floating piece.

Today has been a day of floating pieces. I have cried over things I read about others who were handed a piece with cancer. A young talented mother using her last energy and pain free moments to record songs and stories for her daughter to listen to after she is gone. A grieving father thanking God for the pain free moments that allow her to do so, and saying this is the answer they were given even though it is not the one they wanted.

I have cried as I remember pain from years passed that rises up to hit me and those I love in the face as the anniversary of a tragedy presents itself. Questions are still unanswered. All that is left is to grieve and celebrate the life that was…and to trust.

Many things have caused my eyes to water today. Things past. Things present. Things I know will come. Sometimes I want to hurl the floating pieces back and ask “Why?!” but always there is a gentle reminder about that big picture.

As one who loves puzzles, I can appreciate the big picture. It doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated by the individual pieces. It just means that I understand it is a work in progress.

The good thing about boxed puzzles is you can see the picture before you begin the process. That is what sells these puzzles. It is the finished product. If we could only see the jumble of pieces I am sure our puzzle purchases would be minimal.

It is what the puzzle will become that attracts us and gives us the energy and strength to patiently work until the picture on the box matches what is inside the box. That is how life is, but it is just in reverse.

We already know about heaven. We know the end result, but we don’t have all the pieces to get us to the big picture. We are only given one piece at a time to fill in a small portion of the puzzle and as we experience life, we gain knowledge of the big picture. There is a lot of mystery and a lot of unanswered questions.

I don’t know why a mother was handed a floating piece that will take her from her baby girl. I don’t know why there are hungry people in this world when we have so much excess that could resolve the issue. I don’t know why we are left here with our hearts broken at the sudden loss of a loved one. I don’t know why some suffer physical illness and disability and live in continuous pain as part of every day of their lives.

I just know these floating pieces fit in somewhere. Somehow in the big picture of things, God uses them to create a beautiful masterpiece. I don’t have answers. I wish I did. I just know that a God who was willing to give His very life for mine, so that I could have the hope of a beautiful end result in the puzzle of my life has to know what He is doing.

Floating puzzle pieces make my heart hurt. They make me cry. I don’t understand…but I trust the one who carved the puzzle pieces and laid them out. I trust His hand. I trust His heart.

Today, there are big empty spaces around my floating pieces. Tomorrow may still be the same. Nine years from now, they may still be floating, but I know that someday I will understand and I will be able to see the entire masterpiece and I will say, “I realize you could not have created this without those pieces. I am glad I trusted You with my life and with those days when nothing made sense.”

Until next time,

C.

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Being Thankful and Helping Others…

I’ve never done this before.  Yeah, sure.  I have donated clothing and household items and even furniture, but I have always sort of stopped there. Maybe I helped with canned food drives, but didn’t fully understand what I was doing.  Perhaps, I purchased a piece of artwork or a cross, but I never saw behind the scenes at what those dollars supported.  I didn’t know the stories of the people whose lives depended on my purchase.

I have lived at a comfortable distance from those that I have contributed to in the past.  I helped when it was convenient for me.  I gave things that I no longer wanted or needed.  I wrapped gifts and fulfilled some child’s wish list and maybe even a few adult’s lists, but I have never had something burden my heart like what is currently happening.

When I lived in Austin, Texas, I was warned that homeless people line the streets and that you have to be very careful who you give to because a news reporter had just exposed many who stood beside the streets with signs all day and then drove themselves to their mansions in the hill country at night. I don’t think I have ever seen so many homeless people up close and personal as I did the year and a half I lived in that area.

I have seen students that came to school from homes with no running water and barely any food.  I have helped to pack book bags with snacks to help them make it through the weekends.  I know of students that would try not to use the restroom until they made it back to school due to the deplorable condition their home facilities were in-and the fact they had no running water.

Yes, all of this is right here..in America.

I cannot hardly watch the commercials for feeding starving children.  I cannot watch those about abandoned and abused pets.  I have adopted a rescue dog before and loved him until he passed on from this life.

Please know I say all this to relate to you because I am sure you have done some of the same things. However, what I am asking myself and you today is:  Did it inconvenience you?  Did you lose any sleep, change any plans, or sacrifice a meal, clothing, or any other activity because you helped someone?

You see, up until recently, I hadn’t sacrificed.  I hadn’t felt it where it hurt.  I hadn’t taken the last bit of cash for lunch out of my purse to hand to someone I knew had to have it to live (and when I say this, please know I mean someone other than family members or relatives whom I have helped or been helped by in the past-I mean people with whom I had very little invested other than a casual acquaintance or who had been newly introduced to me). I hadn’t felt the war within myself about whether or not I should purchase a Christmas tree or use that money to help someone who had no shoes or clothes.  I hadn’t thought about the money I spend on clothes, eating out, or general entertainment and how much food I waste on a daily basis.

I read Jen Hatmaker’s book entitled “Seven”.  It actually has the number ‘7’ as the title if you are trying to look it up on Amazon. I read it several years ago and I just picked it up again…and put it down halfway through it.  You see, she lives in Austin, Texas now and she sees all those homeless people and they are ‘her people’. She has walked out of a winter church service barefoot leaving her cowboy boots and socks behind because there were people who needed them.

I am not there yet.  Just yesterday and again today, I struggled and held Austen, Doyle, and Shakespeare close and fought with myself about why I might need the hard copies as well as the Kindle versions. I had friends who helped me to re-organize my spare bedroom only to find I didn’t donate everything as I so ceremoniously proclaimed when I walked into the room.  The exercise bike I haven’t ridden in two years is still there.  The Trek (expensive) bike with two flat tires that I haven’t ridden in I don’t know how long is still there.

My sewing, crafting, floral arranging, every kind of label and photo paper you could imagine, Kindles, laptops, and printers…they are all still there.  I was so proud of the four bags of clothing that I weeded from my closet after reading a couple of chapters in ‘Seven’. However, I look at my closet and it is still full. The shoes and boots actually jump out all over the floor because they are in total chaos and are not sure where they belong. (smile)

What is my point?

I am way more materialistic than I realized. I am hard-headed and stubborn and I don’t sacrifice at all even when I think I do. It is not costing me anything, really.  I haven’t left my comfort zone….

But, I am afraid God is going to ask me to do so and I am not sure what my response will be at this point.

I feel that He has talked to me about doing something specific on Thanksgiving Day and that is what this post was supposed to begin with, but somehow it got all tangled up and I seem to be having diarrhea of the mouth (or fingers in this case) spilling out my random chaotic thoughts showing my struggle with living a modest life that reflects Jesus and not me.

I am not there.  I keep saying that because it is true.

I just think God is using this one thing to help me make a step in the right direction.  Sigh.  So here it is:

I need six hundred dollars to feed two hundred people on Thanksgiving Day.  The details are here:

https://www.gofundme.com/wwgthanksgiving

I have never instigated anything quite like this before today.  I have the approval of my administration at work and some of the funds that are already showing are from those supporters.  This is legitimate.  Every penny will go to this ministry.  I am not affiliated with them.  They just touched my heart in a very real, deep, meaningful way and then God stepped in and told me to work on this.

I cannot do it by myself. I do have a budget and I am a single person.  I am praying and keeping my fingers crossed.  I will take care of any fees associated with the site that deducts from the donations.  Every dollar given will go for food for these homeless families.

You can read about the food being prepared and what will happen if we go over our goal.

I will keep you posted on this journey.  I ask for your prayers and I ask you to think about this if you are reading this blog. Would you spare a cup of Starbucks for someone to have a hot meal on Thanksgiving Day?  Would you spare one trip through the drive-thru? That is really all it takes to feed one person.

If you cannot or don’t feel comfortable helping, I understand.  I ask for your prayers.  I ask you to check out their website and see how encompassing their ministry is and see if it is a fit for you.  You can donate directly to them, but it will not go toward this meal.  We are doing this independently from their normal donations.  This is our gift to them.

I hope this will be the beginning of some of the most wonderful Jesus experiences in my life.  I will keep you posted.

Thank you for letting me share my heart and my crazy, random thoughts.

Until next time,

C.

Matthew 25:35-40

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

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Just Be Held…

First of all I will say up front, these are not my words.  At least the song is not.  I say that for one person in particular and they know who they are.  However, I have felt this song has been something God wanted me to hear today.  It seems to be everywhere I go. It is on my mind.  I had to stop and listen to it in its entirety.  There are so many things I could take and write from the lyrics.  There are concepts and analogies….but right now, I just wanted to post it because I believe I need to remember it today and look back on it as part of my journey.  I don’t know all the significance it will have, but I know there will be some.

God is good about placing lyrics in my head that sing through to my heart when I don’t know what to say to Him, or how to pray.  He lets me know He already knows. He is kind and loving like that.  He is close today and He is talking…even if it is through the lyrics to a song that He gave to someone else.

Until next time,

C.

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How much more…

I have tried very hard to write a blog post this evening…but I can’t.  I can’t find the words to express what I want to express.  I spent most of the evening sitting here in the recliner and listening to old Southern Gospel songs and crying.  It wasn’t a really sad crying, but one stemming from memories. They are good memories, but they involve those who have gone on to heaven and listening to these songs only makes my heart long for heaven, too.

I have tried to grasp how much God loves me. The only guidance I have is Scripture…and songs written from Scripture. Tonight, I listened to one of those songs that was written based on Scriptures brought to mind after a church service…or at least, that is the testimony Rusty Goodman gave after he sang the song. I wanted to share it with you because it says what I cannot say…

I hope you will remind yourself as I am reminding myself tonight, how much more God loves you than you can even begin to comprehend.  Here is the song:

How Much More…

If he knows when a robin falls from his nest

And he grieves… when he sees it die

If he kisses the rose, with the morning mist

How much more, does he love you and I?

If he cares for the lilies, in an open field

And caresses each petal with dew

If he acknowledges a tree

When the winds make it kneel

How much more does he love me and you?

If he takes out the tide

Turns the desert from its dry

And carves out mighty rivers to sea

Just to give a little brim

One more place to swim

Then I wonder

How much more

Does he love you and me?

If he’s prepared a place

For all that has been

I’ve been told and believe it’s true

He’s preparing me a place

I cannot comprehend

That’s how much

He really loves me and you

How much more than a fragrant rose

That he gives life in the spring

Or does he love me less

Than the little bird

In its nest

That never sowed

Yet he soars on the wing

If he can speak a simple word

And calm an angry wind

“Peace be still.”

He can calm a rolling sea

Then he can speak “Peace be still.”

To the storm that’s within

That’s how much he really loves me

Then he can speak

“Peace be still”

To the storm that’s within

That’s how much God really loves me.

Until next time,

C.

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