Random thoughts… Triggered memories… Maybe they were brought to the surface because of a sound, or a taste. Maybe from an old TV rerun or song on the radio. Today, mine was from a smell.
As I was in front of the mirror putting my new makeup on, I came across a very familiar scent. This was a new bottle of foundation, so I wasn’t immediately sure what the smell was. I knew it was familiar, and I knew that I loved it. But I couldn’t place it in my memory. So I continued on with my daily routine. As there was no one around but me for a change, my mind was given the privilege of wandering. I began thinking about my daughter, Faith. I was thinking of all the little ways Faith and I show each other love. One thing we love to do is hide little notes and gifts for each other to find. No real money goes into these gifts, but a whole lot of love does. There are moments that only Faith and I share… Little things to show that she’s important to me and that I’m important to her. She even tells me all the time how beautiful and precious I am to her. Can you imagine that?!? My child calls me beautiful and precious!
I thought to myself, she gets that from me. I don’t say that with arrogant pride. It’s just how it works. Children will mimic their parents in thoughts, words and actions.
As I continued daydreaming, as if a light switched on, I remembered the smell. Noxzema. Something in my makeup smells exactly like Noxzema. My mom used to use that face cream on a pretty regular basis. One precious and random memory I have with my mom is putting on Noxzema together. I remember it painted on her face… and then painted on mine. So insignificant. So random. So full of love. That was one way my own mom shared a moment with me. Noxzema smells like mom… Noxzema smells like love.
I’m so blessed to have a mom who set an example for me of little acts of love. She took the time and had the thought to bring me into her world and leave her private space to share with me those moments that won’t be forgotten. I’m even more blessed that my mom is still a big part of my life. She continues to bless me in ways I couldn’t begin to list. I’m quite sure that she picked up a thing or two from her own mother. Where did it all start?
“We love because He first loved us.” -1 John 4:19
Jesus loves us. It’s not about anything we could ever say or do, good or bad. We don’t earn it. We can’t buy it. We don’t even deserve it. But He loves us. And it’s the reason we can love. I’ve said before that children will mimic their parents. I’m not just blessed to have parents worth mimicking… I’m blessed to have a heavenly Father who started it all. Maybe your story is different than mine. Maybe your own parents were less than loving. Forgive them. They may have had struggles you know nothing about. But one thing we do have in common… We have a Heavenly Father worth mimicking. Jesus showed us how. He set the example. Love first… love with all your heart… be willing to sacrifice… meet them where they’re at… don’t condemn… create moments that will last forever… Love like Jesus.
Today was a fairly pivotal day for me. I had the unique opportunity today to see if my heart would pass a stress test… twice! To give you a fair picture of what I’m talking about, I need to back up a bit.
A little more than two weeks ago I started experiencing some minor “heart” symptoms. It kind of felt like there was a big weight sitting right in the middle of my chest. That pressure was accompanied by some mild anxiety. Initially, I paid no attention to it, as these symptoms sometimes appear in my body when my hormone levels get a little goofy. I know what it is, and know how to effectively make it right. No problem! But this time the symptoms didn’t go away like usual.
Just a few days ago, I awoke to a pain so severe right between my shoulder blades that it actually knocked the wind out of me. The pain radiated through my chest and did not subside. Naturally, this happened as I was home alone with my two youngest children. I thought I could just ignore these symptoms and they would go away. So I got up and made breakfast for the kids. But not only did the symptoms not subside… They actually got worse. I tried to call my husband, who was away at softball practice, with no success. At this point I had gone into full out panic mode. My heart began racing out of control. That, combined with the back pain and chest pressure, led me to believe I was actually having a heart attack. Not knowing what else to do, and not wanting my children to see their mother fall to the ground and die right in front of them, I grabbed the phone, dialed 911 and ran into another room where my kids couldn’t see me. The nice man on the other end of the phone talked me through the panic and pain. He graciously stayed on the phone with me until the paramedics arrived.
After running a battery of tests, the EMT’s determined that there was no immediate threat. I was not actually having a heart attack. They did, however, strongly recommend that I go straight to the E.R.. The paramedics stayed with me until we finally got a hold of my husband, Neal. Within a short time, he was home. Taking the EMT’s advice, Neal took me to the emergency room. We spent the greater portion of the day there having multiple tests done, only to be told after several hours that there was nothing wrong… go home. The instructions were to follow up with my primary care physician… Which I did. My primary doctor ordered a nuclear stress test for me. And that brings me to the present.
While the pain in my back had subsided quite a bit over the past few days, the chest pressure hadn’t. I could barely sleep last night, because I was so nervous about taking this stress test. You have to know that this is one test you don’t EVER want to fail. My nerves were absolutely getting the best of me. With frequent episodes of panic and anxiety, it was really too hard to tell if what I was experiencing was in my heart or in my head. Either way, I was mentally preparing myself for the worst. I made sure to pray over my kids and give them extra big hugs and kisses as I shipped them out the door for school this morning.
While experiencing yet another bout of anxiety, I heard God speak very clearly to me. “What are you so afraid of?”
REALLY GOD?!? Have You NOT been paying attention to what’s going on with me lately?!? What am I so afraid of?!?
It was quite obvious what I was afraid of… What if I die? What if Neal has to raise the kids without me? What if God wasn’t willing to help me because I did this to myself? I opened the door to fear and allowed a stronghold of the enemy to manifest more powerfully than I was believing God’s stronghold on me is. What if, what if, what if!?! There are so many “what if’s”. Too many to count. That, God, is what I’m so afraid of.
And then I heard it again… “So what are you so afraid of?”
I thought about it for a bit. If I tell Him what I’m afraid of, and He asks me again… I must be missing something. What if I die? Well, I’ve received Jesus as my savior. So I’ll be in the most magnificent place with the most magnificent person. I’ll be in Heaven with Jesus. What if Neal has to raise the kids without me? Well, Neal is an amazing, attentive, smart, loving dad. He’s totally capable of doing a spectacular job of raising them. I have total confidence in him. What if God wasn’t willing to help me because I did this to myself? I opened the door to fear and allowed a stronghold of the enemy to manifest more powerfully than I was believing God’s stronghold on me is. Hmmmm… ouch. What if that’s true? I’m in big trouble.
It became apparent to me that this was the true root of my fear. What if Satan was stronger than God? Oh, make no mistake. I know he isn’t. But what if he is, only in my world, because it’s where my faith was. I was crossing my fingers, praying in tongues, quoting scripture, and doing anything else I could think of to make things right. None of it seemed to be working though. My faith wasn’t in any of those things. My faith was in the devil’s ability to walk right through the door I opened for him. After all, if I didn’t have a reason to question the health of my heart, the devil couldn’t convince me it was broken. Right? So this is my fault. I deserve whatever I get.
A couple hours later while sitting in the waiting room at the hospital to have my stress test, as yet another bout of anxiety was settling in, I prayed. I admitted that I was sitting in that room questioning the health of my heart because I had taken the gift of this temple and made light of it. I admitted to succumbing to the lies of the enemy that I deserve the struggle. Someone has to pay for my past mistakes. I was ready for God to look at me with a “Yes you did, but maybe I will clean up your mess… again” kind of look. But that’s not what I saw in my spirit. I saw Psalm 46.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress
Nothing but Grace. Nothing but love. Nothing but comfort and assurance. Of all the lies I had believed, one was actually a half truth. Someone did have to pay for all my past mistakes. That someone was Jesus. Paid in full.
Today I had two stress tests to pass… The first spiritual and the second physical. I am happy to say that I believe I’ve passed both. J The anxiety I’ve been experiencing has all but disappeared. I won’t actually have the doctors’ report about my time on the treadmill today for a few days yet. But it doesn’t matter. God is my refuge and my strength. He is my ever present help in trouble. I will not fear. I will be still and know that He is God.
Just the other day I heard one of my favorite songs play on my computer. The song is “Precious Lord” sung by Mike Farris. Precious Lord is a nice song in its’ own right. But when Mike Farris got a hold of it… woh! That song totally rocks! It’s especially wonderful because God orchestrated that song with that artist just for me. It’s true!
My husband and I had each grown up with a smattering of religion. But thinking back to when we were new Christians, it was our first go at taking Jesus seriously. Saying yes to Jesus was the easy part for both of us. The tough part though, especially for Neal, was finding our way in this new world. We were both a product of secular living. So breaking up with the world didn’t necessarily come easy.
I immediately took to the local Christian radio station. Little by little, Christian music was replacing the secular stuff, until I wasn’t listening to anything else. I couldn’t seem to get Neal to switch though. It wasn’t a dislike of the Christian message in the songs. It was a pure dislike of the top twenty playlist that the one and only local Christian station would play. For a few months I did my very best to expose him to as much Christian music as I could. He really wasn’t having any of it.
…So I prayed.
I gave up trying to force Christian music on Neal. Instead, I prayed that God would provide some Christian music for Neal that he would actually want to hear. I wasn’t really sure how that could happen, since the local station kept primarily to their top twenty list that my husband did not like! Neal and I have always had different likes when it comes to music. I was into Barry Manilow… Neal was into some band called the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies. (Seriously… what kind of name is the “Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies” anyhow?!?) Not exactly the same styles. But it was no longer my problem. I gave it to God.
One morning, as Neal was flipping through the radio stations, he heard something that made him stop. The local Christian radio station was playing their “pre-morning show song”. He liked it so much that he tuned in more than once to that station in the morning as they would play it each day. Finally, Neal decided to find out who this one and only artist was that he liked so much on this station. Guess who it was…
Mike Farris, formerly of the “Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies”, singing Precious Lord.
Turns out that Mr. Mike Farris went and got saved and recorded some AMAZING Christian music… which our local Christian station used a track from for their pre-morning show song… which happened to be playing at the very moment Neal scanned through the stations… which was all perfectly ordained and coordinated by our God who answered the prayer of a wife who wanted her husband to be blessed, but was blessed in return by now having a new household favorite that everyone, even our kids love to listen to. See… I told you… Just for me. J
Have you ever had those moments that seem like a nuclear explosion of chaos in your world? I have joyfully, respectfully, and gratefully taken on the responsibility of leading a team of twenty people from three different states on a missions trip to a children’s home near Kingston, Jamaica. This is my first experience taking on such a role. Coordinating this team, although not without its’ challenges, has actually been rather fun for the most part. I have enjoyed the challenge of recruiting and coordinating team members and all we need as a team to make this trip successful. But recently I came upon a situation that would make even the toughest cookie feel like crumbling… I tried to purchase airfare.
I’m sure purchasing airfare seems like such a simple, even boring task. I mean really… How complicated could it be? I needed to coordinate airfare for twenty people out of three different states, getting them all to Kingston, Jamaica at the same time. But this is 2014. We are not without multiple resources to get it all done. Even still, I first decided to let a travel agent help me out. After about two full weeks of not getting much from her, despite my phone calls and emails, I finally received an email back with some travel options. A bit disappointed with the results she gave me, I did some research myself. I was finding the very flights she sent me at significantly lower prices! I called my travel agent, and in a respectful and much nicer tone than I wanted to have, I showed her the great deals I found in only five minutes of searching… as opposed to her two weeks. (I left out that last part… But I was thinking it!) I asked if she would be willing to book these new and better flights for us. Of course she said yes… for a fee of an extra $30 per person! Ugh! I respectfully declined and decided to do it myself.
Since we have so many people going on this trip, we qualify for a “group” status. What that means is that we can reserve all twenty tickets without having to pay the full amount up front. We also have the flexibility to change names on the tickets if needed. When dealing with a big group who are still trying to raise funds, these options are pretty important. I called the airline and spoke with a gentleman who quite obviously spoke English as a second language. I let him know our circumstances and asked if I could book our group tickets with him. He was certainly willing to help… for a $25 per person fee! Once again, I respectfully declined. I know those fees may not seem like a big deal. But when you’re raising funds, every penny counts. I need to be responsible for what monies I have been entrusted with.
Not wanting to lose the decent flight deals I had found, I figured I would just go online and book them all myself. The bad part of doing things this way is that the tickets would be officially purchased and issued… No refunds… No changes. If anyone had to back out at this point it would be too bad. The money would just be lost. Before making such a significant purchase, I needed to get all twenty team members to agree. It didn’t take long. In less than two hours, most everyone responded in agreement. I logged on to the airline website only to find the prices of the tickets had jumped up… significantly.
At this point, more than half of my day had been spent dealing with these tickets. When I saw the new, higher price, my stomach did a gigantic flip flop. The current price of our tickets were almost $100 more than our budgeted amount. Had I remembered to eat lunch, I easily could have lost it. Brain swirling, eyes hurting, feeling anxious, nauseated… *DEEP BREATH* “Be still and know that I am God”. As I heard that, I couldn’t help but wonder if God had been paying attention to my day so far. Ok… one more deep breath. I prayed for God’s favor as I picked up the phone and called the airline back.
Hallelujah! A sweet lady who spoke perfect English answered. I explained the unfortunate price jump to her. Unfortunately there was nothing she could do about that. Just as it seemed there was nothing she could do to help me, I felt prompted to tell her where we were going and why. She placed me on hold for a minute or two. When she came back on the line, she offered to waive the $25 per person fee and book the tickets for me with the “group” status. Although the ticket prices were still higher than they were earlier that day, at least we’d get the tickets reserved before prices potentially jumped up again. One of the other benefits of group status is the flexibility in the tickets. If prices drop, I can call and have our price lowered. She also gave me contact information to get free baggage vouchers for everyone in our group! With the savings in baggage fees alone, that brought our cost below the price I had found earlier. Amazing!
At the end of my conversation with this sweet lady, she told me that her hometown is actually Kingston, Jamaica. She wanted to express how thankful she was for what we were doing for the children in her country. That is the favor of God! No amount of my efforts, anxiety or frustration achieved anything. But one deep breath, a quick prayer and stepping back to let God do His thing did it all.
Letting go of control is so hard. Things couldn’t have looked worse when viewing the situation through human eyes. Only by letting go… by being still and knowing HE IS GOD, was I able to see His perfect grace in my little nuclear explosion of chaos. Compared to Him, I guess it doesn’t seem that big a deal after all.
Can you remember back when you were a kid? Of course you do. What I actually meant to ask was, do you remember the dreams you had as a kid? Think about it. Your initial reaction may very well be to say yes. But if you take some time on this, I think you’ll agree that it may just be an automated response. While you might remember some of the ambitions you had, have you ever pondered why you wanted what you did?
It seems that everywhere I turn, the topic of dreams has been coming up. Admittedly, I haven’t thought about dreams in a long time. I’m very happy with my station in life. I love my husband and kids. Oh sure, there’s always something I’d like to change, have, get rid of, do differently, etc… But all in all, I’m good. So why is this topic surfacing like crazy to me? Experience tells me that there are no coincidences. God must want me to pay attention.
As I think back to some of the dreams I had when I was younger, I remember that I wanted to be a star on Broadway. I wanted to have at least six kids (all before I turned the old age of thirty, of course). I wanted also to be a psychologist in my spare time… You know, in between Broadway productions and raising kids. I had some dreams! They sound pretty ridiculous, right? Perhaps not as ridiculous as you might think.
What was it about those things that I really wanted? What did they mean? Why was it important to God to bring me back to those dreams? Surely it wasn’t to point out how I’d failed at reaching every single one. (ouch!) I never made it to Broadway. I only have three kids… The first of which I had at the age of thirty. (FYI – Three is enough!) And despite how I love to try and fix the world’s woes, I never did become a psychologist.
I knew it was God bringing me to this place. So I asked myself the question, “WHY did I want those things”. Well, after really pondering it, it was pretty simple. I wanted to be loved. That’s it. Nothing more. I would have fans who would love me for what I do, children who would love me for who I am, and patients who would love me for how I help. Love.
The next thought I had was not about how I failed in accomplishing my dreams, but rather how I succeeded. I am loved. There are people who love me for what I do, who I am, how I help, etc… But most importantly and unfailingly, that’s how my heavenly Father feels about me. He loves me not only for all those things in me, but even more, because He sees Jesus when He sees me. It feels good to be loved. It feels good to be successful. It feels good to be covered in the Grace that allows me both.
In my last post, I wrote about having witnessed God’s miracle healing. It was an incredible boost to my faith. But it was also an “in your face” reminder that not everyone was experiencing this miracle. Why? What was the difference between my situation with Faith’s chicken pox and anyone else experiencing, or not experiencing His healing? There had to be a reason.
I had been in church long enough to see people getting prayed for over and over again for things they never appeared to be getting healed from. As a new Christian, I just assumed that meant that sometimes God wants you healed… And unfortunately, sometimes He doesn’t. Maybe there was a prayer quota that God required… Like signing a petition. Then people could be healed. Or maybe it was getting the right person to pray. Surely a more “seasoned” Christian would have a better shot than someone who wasn’t as passionate about prayer. I wasn’t really sure why people weren’t getting healed. God was a slot machine. Pull the lever… Come on Jesus! Seven… Seven… Rats! Not a winner this time. Pull the lever again. Maybe have a friend pull the lever for good luck. Rats! Not a winner this time either. Healing was a gamble. And a bad one at that.
I spent the next several years witnessing and even experiencing the miracle of healing from God. Unfortunately, I spent those same years also witnessing and experiencing the let down and disappointment of not seeing miracles happen. Praying for healing became more of a ritual than an expectant hope. It was just something we did. The bigger the sickness, the more people we’d get to pray. Where were we going wrong?
I became more and more familiar with healing scriptures. One of my favorites, and probably the most well-known and used scripture is Isaiah 53:5. “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed”. This verse was practically stamped in my brain. Over and over I would quote it whenever the slightest symptom would rear its’ ugly head in my body or in my family. I had incorporated God’s Word into my “sick time ritual”.
Surely there must be some sort of consistency to God. He can’t really be as wishy-washy as the track record showed. If I was ever going to have a trusting relationship with Jesus, I had to make the decision that God’s Word is true. Profound, isn’t it? I decided that if God was real, and I knew He was… And if He is the one who breathed every word into the bible, and He did… And if I had received Jesus as my savior and become a joint heir with Him, and I did… Then what God spoke was for me… every time!
I’m believing God. I’m believing His Word is for me. Why were people still getting sick? I don’t know. But what I do know is that God says I’m healed. So sickness is not from Him. Sickness is not His will. There is never a time when God doesn’t want you healed and living in that perfect health. Scripture says that Jesus bore all our sickness and disease. You are not the sick fighting to be healed. You are the healed, resting in the promises of your creator and redeemer, resisting the weapons formed against you by the enemy. God promises that no weapon formed against you shall prosper. He never said no weapon would be formed. So when the ugly weapon of sickness or disease shows its’ ugly face in your presence, fight the way Jesus taught us to fight… “It is written”.
“Don’t be so surprised”. As long as I live, I will remember those words… I was a fairly new Christian, having only been a church-goer for less than a year. My husband Neal and I had three very young children. Garrett was two, Eddie one, and Faith was just a baby. One Friday afternoon, as I was washing up the kids, I noticed a few little red spots on Faith… and then on Eddie. Within a very short period of time, they were multiplying. One conversation with the doctor later and it was confirmed… Chicken pox. Ugh!
At that time, I was a member of the church choir. So Sunday morning, after changing one more round of diapers and checking on the state of the chicken pox, I headed off to church to perform my choir duties, leaving Neal at home with the kids. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember what songs we sang that morning. I don’t even remember what the topic preached during service was. But I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine in the hallway outside the sanctuary after service was over. We were talking about people getting, or rather not getting miraculously healed by God.
As my friend and I stood in the hallway chatting about this, I looked at her and said, “If I ever saw anyone actually get instantly and miraculously healed, I’d be SO surprised”. She nodded in agreement and added that we shouldn’t be surprised. But the unfortunate truth was that we would be.
After the morning church activities were over, I went home to relieve Neal of his nurse duties. I picked up Eddie and changed his diaper, checking on the chicken pox. Thankfully, there were still only fifteen or so spots on him. His case was so mild that he was able to handle the chicken pox really well. Next was Faith’s turn to get her “once over”. I took her diaper off. No spots. I took off her jammies. No spots. I took off every stitch of clothing she had on. No spots. They were gone! I searched her skin from top to bottom. That morning when I left for church, she had at least thirty or so spots. Just a few short hours later… zero. There wasn’t even a faded mark where the spots used to be. Her skin was as perfect and beautiful as God created her to be. I was so confused, bewildered, and otherwise shocked. And then I heard this voice resonating somewhere in the center of my body, “Don’t be so surprised”.
God had healed my daughter of chicken pox. I was finally witness to God’s miraculous healing power. There was absolutely no denying it. Faith was healed. And there was no explanation outside of God. I made a promise to God at that moment that I would never be surprised again at seeing someone get healed. I would always be amazed… But never again surprised.