The Monster in the Mirror

There she is again.  Every time something goes wrong, even with something goes right, this wicked monster is the first to cast stones.  She’s quick to remind me of everything I’ve ever done wrong.  Every day, I must contend with her.

Every day, she reminds me of how weak and beaten up I am and all I’ve been through.

Minute by minute if I listen to her, I’m reminded of why I shouldn’t try, why I shouldn’t believe for better and should quit while I’m ahead.  With every new day, the old stares me in the face – if I focus on her long enough, her voice overpowers the God in me.

Perhaps the most important choice is at the beginning of the day, deciding who you’re going to listen to.  The monster doesn’t lie, she tells the truth…her version of it, anyway.

She wants to keep my focus on the past and all the pain affiliated with it.  She needs an excuse to make no effort.  Not because she doesn’t believe (she does – she knows God) but because she does and she knows if I choose not to listen to her (myself) and heed His word and His truth instead, efforts must be made, exercises in faith and trust must ensue.  She’s tired.  She’s weary and she’s discouraged.  She finds very little reason to believe a single word she says or trust even a fleeting thought of hope.  It’s all justified.  Just like a victim seeking revenge on her assailant, her actions would be righteously justified.

Here’s the thing, though.  She’s submitted to God so her right to herself has been relinquished to His right to her.  Her own actions to justify herself are null and void…She’s put her trust and heart into the hands of a Mighty Savior who has already won the battle with the monster.  All she has to do is believe it.  She knows she’s no match for fighting the monster but she’s sure her Jesus is more than capable for the battle of the day.  It’s not her strength against who she sees (and remembers) in that mirror that will have victory this day; it’s His.

Every single day, the choice is ours.  Who will lead us?  Who will we listen to?  Who will we believe?  Ourselves or our King?  The battle is won or lost with that one decision.  The truth is, we may have to make that decision on a minute by minute basis. It won’t be easy (the past will attempt to discourage); it won’t be fun (fighting ourselves is ugly and messy) but we will be victorious against our giants if we choose to fight with all of our armor on – trusting Him with everything they throw at us.  Are you in?

“…even if our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”  1st John 3:20 NLT


Long Haul, Short Faith?

Most of the United States has had to endure a snap of cold weather that seems to have gone on all winter when, in reality, it’s just been around for a couple of weeks.  It’s really unusually cold with temperatures down into the teens a lot of those days.  Even here in the mountains it’s unusual for us to have consecutive days of temperatures that cold. Even those of us who usually don’t mind (and actually prefer) winter find ourselves longing for above freezing temperatures.  So does that mean the truth is out, we really aren’t winter people?  You be the judge.

A day or so of inclement weather isn’t a problem for anyone but when it goes on for days with no quick end in sight I think our true colors (including our bright red noses and discolored toes) begin to show.  We humans can endure for a minute, a day perhaps but after that comes negativity, whining and complaining. Our endurance with unfavorable things seems to be very weak.

The same observation can be applied in the spiritual realm.  We believe God when things are easy and good.  A little problem pops up and what’s our first normal reaction (be honest!). Maybe the issue is resolved in a day or two and we’re back to our happy selves.  What if the trial lasts longer?  A month?  A year?  Five years?  Longer?  How’s our faith then?  Is it still visible?  Do we still believe God; is our faith intact when we’re in a long test like it is in a short one?

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).  Is that true with cancer that a person fights for years, losses of jobs from which it takes years to recover, natural disasters from which someone loses everything, an illness of a child that’s lifelong, abuse by a family member that lasts for many years?  ALL means all. God is just as good, working things for our good at the beginning of a trial, regardless of the kind it is, as He is and will be at the end of it.

Like an athletic trainer, God uses (not causes) all these things…everything…to condition us, test our faith and grow us into the steadfast and strong believers He’s wanting us to be.  How can our faith grow if it’s never tested?  How can we believe Him to be a healer if we’ve never been sick?  A provider if we’ve never had a need?  A Savior if we’ve never realized we’re lost?  All the things we go through are “opportunities” for us to get to know Him more personally and once we’ve been acquainted with that side of God, nothing can convince us otherwise!

At the onset of whatever comes our way, let’s shift our mindset. Let’s decide to trust in Him, believe He has good intentions for us through whatever it is, no matter how long it lasts and trust Him all the way through.  Let’s understand that it’s an opportunity to get closer to Him, grow our faith and strengthen our resolve as people of faith. We’re going to be going through things, including cold weather, all our lives so why not make the most of it as we do?

Things are going to happen that will test our faith, strength and endurance; how we choose to handle them is where the blessing (or the curse) is.  Right?

Delight in Your Desert.

I liken my life in Alabama to being in a desert. I’ve met many, many wonderful people here. I’ve had some wonderful experiences and folks have been good to us. I’ve gotten to know, love and respect my sister and that surely would have never happened had I not lived here. I had the opportunity to know my Father before he died and to care for him in the years just before he passed.

I had the opportunity to do the right thing(s) regardless of how I’ve been treated all my life which allowed many deep wounds from my childhood to be dealt with and healed. I’ve learned through asking for the truth to be revealed and when it was it was as ugly as I feared it would be ~ but once exposed it can’t hurt me anymore. Truth is better (no matter how painful) than the lies of a lifetime.

I’ve seen God, face to face, and I know Him intimately through the circumstances and I’ve learned complete trust in Him. I’ve learned what it’s like to have only Him to cling to, rely on and His love for me is more than enough. MORE than enough. I’ve learned that the choices made in a desert experience are critical because they determine whether you live or die there…not literally perhaps but spiritually for sure. You can keep crawling, digging through, and stepping one tiny step at a time going on nothing but trust in God to see you through until you’re through it or you can give up and give in because it’s just too hard. You can pick a place and make a home in the wilderness and settle or you can choose to believe and be compelled to keep moving until you know you’re through it.

It’s not that I don’t like Alabama nor have I been discontent. I just don’t belong here. I had to be here to be restored & healed so I could be able to go from here. Those who don’t know me & our history won’t understand that. I’ve learned to be content whatever my circumstance and that in itself was worth the 26 years of the desert!

If you’re in a “dry place” I pray you have Jesus in your life & have a relationship with Him. Frankly I don’t know how anyone could survive…or would want to survive…without Him being with you through it. I so get why people do crazy things so much better & I have learned not to judge. Desert walking is extreme, in extreme circumstances. Desperate people do desperate things; thus the results we see in our world today.

I’m grateful for every single moment of these past 26 years. I’m grateful for the friends and my sisters (one of which is in heaven) who walked with me and loved me through. I’m grateful to God for being my Guide, my Teacher, my Redeemer, my Restorer, my Spring of Life, my Comfort, my Provider, and my Healer (to name a few) every second and every step.

Don’t give up if you’re in that place and try to see and believe it’s for your good because it surely is or you wouldn’t be there. God bless you.

Left to Live

For the longest time, I felt like I was being punished or made to suffer because pretty much everyone close to me has died. This includes two siblings, mother, father, best friends, my mentor, beloved pets…the list is long. I mean, why are they gone and I’m still here?!

My life, from the time I can remember has been, well, hard. It seems when I look back there are so many losses, so much sadness and lots of struggles. I don’t know many people that have lived through some of the things I’ve lived through. If I wrote about a lot of it I would have to market it as fiction.

Recently after the loss of a another childhood friend I was snatched with grief. I felt so bad for his close friends as well as myself. I’ve also watched as those around me suffered through their losses and hardships which breaks my heart. We’ve lost so many the past few years it seems. Some say that’s to be expected at our age. Maybe that’s true. Maybe we need to stay prepared for loss and death.

We could stay focused on the bad and sad, keeping ourselves primed for the worst. We could stay in a defensive mode always looking to guard ourselves as best we can from the trials and tribulations of life. If we did though, wouldn’t we miss out on the good?

I’ve lived long enough to know God always, always, always brings something good out of something bad. Perspective is everything. In the midst of what we think will finish us there’s always something to comfort us and help us see past the grief and pain.

While thinking about all of this it dawned on me. We’re left to LIVE. We have survived what we thought would kill us! He left us here to live. So what does that mean?

There’s a difference between surviving something and living through it. Surviving means (to me) taking one breath after another never seeing joy in anything. It means feeling no gratefulness, or anything else for that matter. It’s that place of going through the motions – no enjoyment, no heartfelt thankfulness, and worst of all, no praise to God. It’s the life of “walking dead”. No feelings about anything. Monotone misery.

LIVING on the other hand is the opposite. It’s learning to be grateful for getting to be alive one more day and being joyful for that blessing. Living is waking up knowing your day may be just like your yesterday and being glad about it. It’s finding the good in the bad even if you have to look hard to find it.

Living is being sad you lost someone but being thankful you had them in your life in the first place! Living is seeing someone else going through what you’ve already passed through and offering to help. It’s believing that God, in His infinite wisdom and providence, has allowed you to be here right now for “such a time as this”.

You’ve been left to LIVE. Will you?

My Great Enabler

I have a problem. I’m an addict. I used to drink a lot but I don’t any more. However my addiction-nature still lives. I don’t want alcohol…I want my way. I want things to be good and right. A lot of wrongs have occurred in our lives and on the other side of 50, there’s a deep “addiction” for happily ever after. I want easy. I want fair. I want not to hurt, struggle or suffer any more. See the problem? Let me help you..”I WANT” is the problem.

Psalm 37:8 slapped me in the face this morning. The Lord gave me a wake up call. “Cease from anger and forsake wrath; DO NOT FRET IT LEADS ONLY TO EVILDOING.”  (Emphasis mine)

Fretting is that stirring of emotion that makes us want. It makes us focus on how things aren’t rather than trusting God in how things are. Fret keeps me focused on ME.

Oswald Chambers is one of my favorite Authors. In “My Utmost for His Highest”, he says fretting signifies the evil in me because the ability NOT to fret isn’t based on my circumstances, it’s based on my relationship with God.

Fretting (worry) comes from the desire to have my own way. Ouch that hurt but I must confess, it’s true.

It’s easy to praise God when things are good. Let’s face it, attacks from the enemy are becoming more intense. The fight for faith is relentless. The only way not to fret is to stay close to Him and soak in as much of Him as we can and then act out (literally) what He’s given us. He enables us not to fret, otherwise we will definitely stay in a tiz all the time.

“Do not fret” indicates we have to decide. It’s up to us whether we do or not. To me, it’s a pure form of submission, a decision to put me behind, once again, what’s pleasing to Father. What’s pleasing to Father? Being thankful, praying about everything and being anxious for nothing: not fretting!

This is the ultimate evidence of our faith, as I see it. If I have Him in my life…if I have the relationship I say I do with Him and His Spirit is “big” (I spend time with Him, in His word) I will live it. We often have to decide to live a pleasing life for Him and it starts with our attitude and what we choose to spend time thinking about.

We make the free choice not to fret and He enables us to do just that. He’s the power source and He’ll do His part. Will we do ours?

Just Like That

This past Saturday, we were blessed by some friends to take my son on his first airplane ride. When the opportunity came I had no reservation whatsoever about saying yes. A second thought or doubt didn’t enter my mind. I knew the pilot and his reputation. He’s a career commercial pilot with a stellar reputation. His wife, who incidentally lost her father in a plane crash many years ago trusts him implicitly which speaks volumes (and is a whole nother story) and she’s my sisterfriend so that was good enough for me!

So we went. I ushered up prayers as I do every time we do anything or go anywhere because I’m well aware that ultimately it’s Father God who provides and protects us every single day.

I watched as our sweet pilot-friend took my (special needs) son all around the little plane showing him every detail (inside and out) carefully explaining to him, giving him a chance to ask any questions so he would be comfortable with his ultimate adventure. Even after being seated ready to fly, all systems go, he talked Matt through all the gauges, explaining every detail in laymans terms so he understood.

I smiled as I saw how careful this man was in his craft and with his craft. It was obvious he loves flying and just as much, he loved sharing what he does with others so they could be blessed as well. He was totally confident we would be safe and more importantly he didn’t allow us in the air until he was sure the plane and the people in it were ready to go.

The weather system that hit Oklahoma over the weekend was headed our way and I wondered about that. Driving to the airport I had my doubts that we would be able to take off. The clouds were moving in, the winds were picking up but mine aren’t trained pilot eyes. I realized I wasn’t trained to make the decision so I left that up to the capable and trained pilot.

We got up in the air and the flight was wonderful. Matt enjoyed everything about it with many “wows” and smiles and I was delighted. We all love seeing our children’s dreams come true and I’m no exception. I felt so blessed just being a part of the experience for so many reasons.

As He so often does, the Lord had a lesson for this girl while in the air; though the whole process actually.  While soaring amongst the clouds, with storm clouds pretty much all around us I felt a nudge in my Spirit, almost a tap on my shoulder. I rewound the whole process that got us in the air and Father spoke clearly to me these words: “Barbie, you went for this without reservation or second thought. You trusted this man with your cherished son with no questions asked. Even though what you saw with your eyes said no, you still went on and placed your trust in the pilot, the one with the knowledge and you went. I want you to trust ME just like that.”

I fought back tears as those words invaded me. “Just like that” God wants us to TRUST HIM. Just keep going forward even when things don’t appear favorable because we’re not the ones who know; He sees the whole thing from beginning to end and all the in between and when He provides an opportunity He wants us to trust Him “just like that”.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many opportunities & blessings I had missed by being fearful or basing decisions on what I saw. Wow. The “yes” is always left up to us to TRUST Him. Will you? After that plane ride I think I will. Jeremiah 29:11-13

Keep Looking and Keep Believing.

Anyone who knows me knows how much hummingbirds mean to me. I think of them as tiny angels and maybe a hint of the Glory of God. How creative He is to make this magnificent tiny birds! He must have known the effect they would have on us. Who doesn’t enjoy watching them?

I look forward every year to seeing them. I have feeders right outside my office window so I can see them all the time. A friend of mine who’s visiting the beach in S. Alabama sent me a text yesterday telling me they had seen one and thought of me. In both of my books, I’ve written stories about them to share what God’s taught me. So with that prompt, I mixed up some nectar and put my feeders out expectantly waiting to see them. No hummers.

This morning to my delight, they came to feed. I was delighted to see them and have been mezmerized by them most of the morning.

It occurred to me the act of believing they would come encouraged me to fill up the feeders and put them out. Even though they didn’t appear the day I put them out, I didn’t fail to keep looking. I believed I would soon see them as friends living close by had already been blessed by their presence. All the encouragement I needed to believe was there; it was my choice to act on what I believed!  I could have chosen not to fill the feeders. I could have chosen not to believe they would come. After all, just because they were all around me didn’t necessarily mean they would come to my house. Knowing that, I still decided to believe.

Friends, that’s such a great analogy of our faith-walk. We must decide to act like we believe God will “show up” in our lives. Actually He’s in our lives continually we just have to choose to be focused enough on Him to see evidence of His presence.  If you’re troubled by something, have a need, etc., believe you’ll see Him in action. Put out “feeders” (pray, look) and believe. Keep believing. He may not come when you think He should. He may not manifest Himself in the manner you’re expecting but He will see to you. He promised (Philippians 4:19).

Keep looking and keep believing.  And WHEN (not if) you see Him and His handiwork in your life be sure to thank Him. Enjoy Him and all the blessings and promises that are yours from Him. And, enjoy the hummingbirds!