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

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Ellis

He was a friendly little kitten and at first glance, he looked like a normal, orange tabby.  He was meowing in the parking lot.  A big tomcat was approaching him so me…being me…got out of the car and picked the kitten up.  The first thing I noticed was the huge scar on his neck and upon closer inspection I fought back tears as it wasn’t an animal marking, it was a knife wound.  Still, he purred and cuddled like nothing had happened. He was unaffected by his past trauma, seemingly.  As I got to know him better, the visible signs of abuse were evident.  His eye looked abnormal, whiskers had been burned and cut, and two more deep gashes on his sides were prominent.  This kitty had been through some stuff, yet he was still loving and affectionate.  How in the world could this baby critter (vet said he was no more than 4 months old) still be trusting to any human hands? I was amazed.

Ellis reminds me of us.  Some have wounds that are visible and when we see them we find them repulsive and sad while their owners, because they’ve become a reminder of their survival, think nothing of them. I’ve met so many courageous people who’ve been through unspeakable things who bear their marks as evidence of our God who freed them and flipped their horror into absolute healing.

Oh God, that we would believe to be an Ellis. God can do it.

He can turn our ugly scars into most beautiful reminders of what He’s done for us. More importantly through the healing He renders, we can cultivate a deeper relationship with Him discovering who He truly is.  You can trust Him.  Will you?

Proverbs 3:5-6

Hebrews 10:23

He Can Handle It

Their eyes meet from across the room.  She tries to talk herself out of being attracted to him; he thinks she’s beautiful.  It seems like every place she goes, he’s there. Finally he catches her in a moment with no one around and he hones in to speak to her, one on one. He’s totally enchanted with her and she, him.  They arrange a meeting and then another.  After being with her for a while, although he’s sure he loves her, he starts to notice the deep wounds she carries.  The more he’s with her, the more prominent the wounds become.

She doesn’t show them to everyone, but she thought she could trust him.  Why else would there be such chemistry and attraction between them if she wasn’t safe to show him who she really is, what has happened to her? Surely she’s safe with him. She wasn’t. She was wrong. Eventually she finds that he, too, once her man of promise, has abandoned her.

Nothing is more beautiful than being loved by someone not because of all you’ve been through and who you really are…but in spite of it.  They come to know even the ugliest you and to your surprise, love you any way. That’s what real love does.  Too often though for one reason or another – good reasons and bad – we find we’re too heavy a package that people drop too easily. We find people can’t handle our reality – the real us.  They like us, they love us, they hate us.  No matter how hard we try to “be good”, be what the other one wants and needs, it’s never enough.

All of us carry wounds others have no idea about until we let them close enough to see.  When we’re exposed, they may decide they can’t handle it and they sometimes become distant.  Love is an overused and abused word used often with good intentions but few results.  Some have heard that word so many times (chimed in with other well-intended promises of faithfulness and love) we don’t want to take the chance on hearing it again.

We can totally expose ourselves to Jesus.  We may as well, he knows it’s all there anyway.  He can handle it.  He’ll never walk away no matter what has to be done to heal the wounds…ALL of them.  He’s perfect love, and human love can only be successful through Him (I believe).  He’ll never be intimidated and reject us because of anything we’ve been through, done or are going through.  We’ll never be too much, too wounded, too lost or too far gone for Him.  He can handle it.  As a matter of fact, what’s hurt us the most and left the ugliest scar on us, He died for.  He came specifically so we could be one with Him, expose ourselves completely to Him and let Him heal us.  He can even make the scars more beautiful.  He changes them from something we seek to cover to things of beauty we long to expose to glorify Him.

Whatever’s going on with you, He can handle it.  Whatever you’ve done, He can handle it.  He died so He could make you whole.  You, beloved, can trust Him.  Will you?

Matthew 11:28:  “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  (NASB)

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?

Driving Me Craaaazy

I must be the most computer-illiterate person in the world…I can’t get WordPress to work on my laptop. Been trying for hours until I finally took a hammer to it then chunked out the window. Not really…but don’t think I didn’t seriously consider that.

What’s SO HILARIOUS about this is I had written this God-inspired blog to share with you about bringing God-mountaintop moments down into our real world incorporating His inspiration(s) into our everyday lives, the difference that makes,etc…not leaving what we learned “up there” (if you know what I mean)…

Then the computer set me nuts. I almost got reallllly ugly. Almost did chunk it through the window then had to stop and hoarse laughed at myself hearing that steady beeep in my head. You know the one: this is a test, this is only a test…beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeppppppppp……….

When will I ever learn that the enemy will use EVERYTHING to steal our joy (just like my blog said by the way)…..

Don’t let him trick you! Don’t let the enemy do what he’s sent to do today (steal, kill, destroy).

Okay now, back to trying to get WP to wok on my laptop. Have a great day! 🙂

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?

ReRuns

I remember exactly what I was doing six years ago tonight. I was at Huntsville Hospital with my younger sister who was dying. On past anniversaries of her death of course I’ve remembered…but not like I am tonight. I remember laying my head on her pillow and singing “His Eye is on the Sparrow”. I can almost hear the voices of everyone with us in the room. I can recite the prayers and recall the people I met & the conversations we had. Why this year? I don’t want to remember all the details. I had a “trigger” today, a jolt back to that time in my life. I’ve tried all day long not to go “there” to no avail. I’m there and it’s sad & painful.

I’m also seeing what a profound season that was in my life in many ways. The lessons God taught me are numerous and, as a dear friend pointed out to me tonight, defined my faith in Him more than I realized until now.

I’ve had many experiences through which God has shown me who He is and taught me lessons but at no time in my life was He more real to me than He was when Joy died. This is a “footprints” moment. Through every moment of those three days she was in the hospital, her funeral and that first year I look back and see I was being carried. I’m here now so I obviously lived through it though I don’t know how…only one explanation: the carrying grace of God.

That’s when I learned that God isn’t obligated to explain Himself (unfortunately). All the times I’d heard of what He is capable of and His great love for us; His one-on-one personal attention to every detail of our lives came through those days. I saw it & experienced it through one of the worst things I had ever gone through. How crazy is that! I literally felt every cliche’ thing I had ever heard…and believed by the way…but there’s something about KNOWING all of it based on, well, knowing that changes you and your perspective. The knowledge of a personal God…my personal God makes it impossible to ever be the same.

Through her death, I learned the real meaning of Psalm 23:4. Walking through the “shadow of death” is just that: a shadow of death. It’s going through (with Him) what you think will surely kill you. Maybe it’s practice for the real thing. I don’t know. I just know that I didn’t WANT to live through such pain & loss and I’m sure God saw me through it; more than that He carried me. He tended to this grief-stricken pitiful child.

I remember the second I decided not to blame Him. Before that moment it could’ve gone either way. I’m an alcoholic (if you don’t know that already)~I’ve been sober 23 years thanks be to God. On this day six yrs ago I almost went back…I remember it so clearly. I almost decided not to trust Him,that this was my last straw…but I chose to hang onto Him rather than turn away. Why I don’t know, I just did.

Most of the time I try to look forward instead of back. I may take glances because I never want to forget where God brought me from but I don’t dwell in it. Tonight He’s taking me through every moment of that “shadow of death” and I think I know why. I think it’s meant for me to see how far He’s brought me through what He’s brought me through. Many things I had fogotten about that time, many things I chose to forget because it just hurt too much. Not tonight. I remember. This is a bonified rerun, just like watching a movie.

I clearly see that time in my life as forming who this woman of God is now. I’m who I am largely due to back then. I KNOW God now. I know what He did for me and I’ll never get over it, at least I hope I don’t. I’m quite tenacious where He’s concerned. He’s my favorite topic of conversation. Studying His Word & writing/sharing what He brings out of our time together is my “sweet spot” and all of that started with my sister’s death. I loved Him before; I was saved years before. I knew Jesus before…but not like I KNOW Him now. I’m no longer going to apologize for that.

Romans 8:28. ALL things. I know that to be true. Absolutely true. Even in death and loss and yes, especially through “the valley of the shadow of death”. 

So I said all that to say this: when you look back on any of your past, no matter how painful, look back purposefully. Make a point to take in where you were then and where you are now. Somehow miraculously regardless of how devastating it was you’ll see as I have that God has an amazing ability to bring something beautiful out of all the pain. If you don’t see it now, I’m praying you soon will.