Letters, Lectures, Laughs, with Love from Mama

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When it seems too hard to smile, my child come and rest awhile.

When the anxious thoughts press and crowd, just whisper my name aloud.

When the world seems too lonely a place, I’m a friend full of mercy and grace,

You can rest in my holy embrace, you’ll find me in the secret place.

Just take your heart, place it in my gentle hands, whisper a prayer my child, I understand.

I see your tears, I hear your faintest cry, it was for you I had to bleed. . . I had to die.

And when my sweat, became as great drops of blood, I saw your face, I did it all for your good.

Come cast your weary heart into the potter’s hands, come rest in my love.

I know you’re working for the Kingdom now, but don’t forget to let me show you how.

Consuming fire, to burn the chaff in you, so that my Glory can come shining through,

Don’t lag behind my child, don’t run ahead too fast,

Come, do your work, entered into my rest. (A song I wrote a few years ago)

I crave solitude more than I crave chocolate, and that is a lot. A few months ago, on a particularly weary Sunday, I told the Lord that I quit. I surrendered. . . ALL. The house, the children, the writing, the reputation, I placed everything in His loving hands. I told him I was tired of being in control, that I was sorry for the colossal mess I had made of everything. I asked Him to take over, and He did. Exhausted with my feeble attempts to create a masterpiece, I handed Jesus the paintbrush.

He has begun a work in me, removing my smudged up canvas filled with the pathetic scribblings of a madwoman who thought she could work it out, walk it out, worry it out, and is writing my story, as He chooses it to be.

Are there days when I want to snatch the paintbrush from His hand, and show Him how I dream it should look? Well sure. Am I perfectly surrendered? Hardly. But it is a dangerous thing to quarrel with the Master, and a waste of time, and I long to learn His ways, even more than I desire my own way.

This new canvas the Lord is painting included a change of scenery. My husband took a new job, about five hours from the state where I grew up. A new house, new schools for the children, new town, new people, new church, new trees and gardens and, well, you get the picture. Nothing is familiar. And for the first week or two, I reveled in the feeling of anonymity. I could go anywhere I wanted without someone commenting on an article I had wrote for the paper, or asking me to write a story on some event. No one asked me to volunteer for anything, no one waved hello, told me they missed me at this event or that, no one knew my name. It was heavenly. I sank into silence with a relieved sigh.

As the weeks turned into months, the joy of solitude began to fade, and a restless oppression began to gather over my head. Guilt over my silence, my stillness, my emptiness, my lack of busyness, pressed against my peace. One Saturday morning, our family went exploring our new hometown. In a little shop filled with Christmas trees and decorations, candles, and inexpensive canvas art, I spied a painting that captured my attention. I couldn’t quit thinking about it, even after we left the store.

I went back to see it several times, and each time, I knew it belonged to me. Finally, on the fourth visit, I gave in and brought it home with me, hanging it right where I knew it was supposed to be. It isn’t exactly a joyous Christmas picture. But it spoke to me, called to me, yes, even demanded something of me. I just couldn’t place my finger on it.

One day, as I sat staring at the painting, the answer came. . . just a still, small whisper to my heart. REST.  The painting is of a lone house in a bleak winter landscape, with the light of the moon glowing without, and a small fire glowing within, shining through a solitary window. A secret place. And this is where He has brought me to. BACK to. The secret place. No one around. No other voices. Just His. His light around me, His light within me.

Matthew 11:28) Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Psalm 127:1) Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. 2) It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so He giveth His beloved sleep.

And so, I rest. Many years I spent building, planting, working, worrying.  Today, I wait, in the secret place. Selah.

Hebrews 4:9) There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10) For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His. 11) Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12) For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13) Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with who we have to do. 14) Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15) For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 17) Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

It’s out of my hands. . . and into His. Paint away, Daddy God, make something beautiful out of these ashes that remain. . .

Once upon a time, about twenty years ago, I was a single mother of three, who had just given her heart to Jesus. I gave up a lifestyle of co-habitation with a boyfriend, and bartending for extra cash, to become totally dependent upon Jesus. Years of selfish, reckless living had alienated me from my family, and though my life had taken a turn for the better, relationships were still broken, and I had no immediate support system, other than church family.

I took a job at a local car dealership as a receptionist, and my children and I lived on around eighty dollars a week, after tithes. We were surviving, but there was no room in the budget for extras. With the boyfriend out of the picture, mowing our small lawn at our rental house became my responsibility. As the grass grew taller, my stress level increased. I wanted to live an excellent lifestyle, caring for the property God had blessed our family with, but circumstances were against me.

In desperation, I turned to God. I prayed a simple prayer, telling the Lord my need, and asking Him to supply me with an affordable lawnmower. I figured we could sacrifice around ten or fifteen dollars for a used push mower, if I could just find one.

A few days after the prayer, I was driving my daughters to school, and took a route that I didn’t usually drive. As I drove the back roads, I spied a lawnmower sitting beside the road. My heart leapt. Oh, if only it were cheap enough for me to buy. I noticed a cardboard sign leaned against the mower as I pulled over to the side of the road. I walked close enough to read the sign, expecting it to say “For Sale.” Imagine my shock, and delight, when I read “FREE.”

Tears streamed down my face as I pushed that little red lawn mower to my car, popped the trunk, and singlehandedly loaded that baby up, and drove away.

Yes, the lawn mower ran, for four more years of my singleness, it ran. I never changed the spark plugs, or tires, or oil, I just put a little gas in it, and mowed my lawn. I actually ran one of the wheels off of it, and that is how I knew it was time to stop running, and say “yes” to the amazing Christian man of my dreams who I had met at church, who wanted to marry me.

All these years later, and God is still answering prayers in my life. Do I always get exactly what I ask for? Well, no. Sometimes He gives me something so much better than I could ever think to ask for. He cares. He knows. He answers.

It was a chilly Sunday afternoon. I had a lot of writing to do from events I had covered over the weekend. I was taking Monday and Tuesday off due to the birth of a grandchild scheduled for Tuesday, so I headed to the office, still in my church clothes. After spending a few hours in heels and dress clothes at the computer, I had a sudden inspiration. Run home and change into something more comfy. It was Sunday, no one was at the office, hardly anyone on the streets, what could it hurt?

I headed home and slipped into my husband’s biggest sweater. The sleeves hung to my knees. I decided to leave my dress pants on, as they were warm and comfy. To complete the ensemble, I grabbed a pair of my thickest (stay home) pink and purple polka dot socks and slipped them on with my gardening/painting crocs, the purple ones covered in dirt, and white, gray, and blue paint. I was a sight for sore eyes, which really wasn’t a problem, I was working alone, right? Until I remembered I needed to stop at the grocers.

I had a conversation in my head. Sanity said: Look how you’re dressed. You must not step foot in public. Not so sane said: Oh please, who will be out on a dreary Sunday afternoon? Just run in and run out. Besides, you gave up caring what people think years ago. . .

And so the stage was set for a lesson in Public Humiliation 101, or for the makings of a really good column, right?

Honestly, I gave up caring what people think of me the year I gave birth to two children eleven months apart and had to wear those matronly sweat suits for 12 months in a row. God knows, as a recovering pastor’s kid, I have wanted nothing more my whole life than to escape the fish bowl existence and just blend in, be normal. But in His infinite wisdom, God has placed me on the front row, with cheeks burning, for the rest of my life. So I’ve learned to shrug, giggle, and pray: Hide me ‘neath your wings, Lord.

Meanwhile back at the grocers. . . I headed in, head down, to grab what I needed. Barely avoiding a collision with another customer, I found myself face to face with a well dressed lady who happens to be on the whose who list of the local wrestling moms association. (Not that such a thing exists, but her sons are well known for their wrestling endeavors, and my little guy just started the wrestling team, and oh, you know, now she was going to think I was homeless, or worse, tasteless, in my baggy beige sweater and dress pants). I apologized for my appearance, explaining that I was working on some writing, blah blah blah. She looked at me like I was to be feared, and hurried away.

I scurried to the checkout counter, realizing I had made a fool of myself by drawing attention to my clothing. I mean, who really cares, right?  Preparing to pay for my purchases, I recognized a lady at the other checkout whose daughter I had taken a picture of for the local paper, and whose name I needed to obtain for a cutline. She was dressed to the nines, and I quickly let my pride decide. No way would I approach her to get the information I needed dressed like a hobo. And with any luck, I could stay hidden behind the checkout gal, and she wouldn’t even look my way.

I was gloating over  that disaster averted, when I locked eyes with a gentleman in a Sunday suit stepping into line behind me. Oh glory, it was the pastor of a local church (which I just happened to be writing a story about). My heart sank to my well manicured, but unfortunately hidden beneath a layer of polka dotted socks, toes. Realizing I was the unwitting and unwilling pawn in a sovereign game of “monkey in the middle,” I prayed to God the pastor wouldn’t recognize me, offered him my place in line, and took off at a run, mumbling something about needing to get some “story information” from the lady who was now heading out of the store. It seemed the lesser of two evils.

I approached her on the run, breathlessly telling her I needed her name and explaining away my wretched attire as she graciously told me she was only so dressed up because of an engagement at church. I headed back into the store, my purchases still on the conveyor belt, the pastor holding my place in line, a hint of amusement in his eyes, and total recognition. We exchanged a few words about the story I was writing, and I told him about the upcoming birth of my grandchild, alluding to the fact that, OF COURSE, I would never be working on Sunday but for that reason, hoping he would surmise I would never dress so shabbily except on a dreary Sunday when I was having to work like a dog. . . I’m not sure he got the message, but Lord, I surely did.

As I headed back to work, I couldn’t help but giggle at the absurdity of what I had just experienced. Better to laugh than cry, I’ve learned. My thoughts drifted to Zechariah 3: 1) And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. 2) And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? 3) Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. 4) And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, behold I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. 5) And I said, let them set a fair mitre upon his head, so they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments, and the angel of the Lord stood by.

I have often pondered those scriptures, finding them relevant in my own life. More times than I care to remember, I have found myself standing before the Lord in garments stained by sin, with the accuser of the brethren breathing down my neck, reminding me of my mistakes and failings, and I all I can do is rely on Him to cleanse me once more, to wash me clean, and rebuke the enemy out of my life.

I like to think there was a point in Joshua’s garment changing where he stood completely naked, exposed, before the angel of the Lord. And I often imagine myself in times of spiritual crises as needing to come naked before the Lord. I clothe myself in spiritual pride, good works, religious activities, and pious, pretentious thoughts, and imagine that He can’t see through to the heart of the matter. And then I take a tumble, in my high heeled, Sunday best. I gossip, or I whine, or I doubt, or complain. What blessed relief to allow Him to remove my self righteous rags, and exchange them for his garment of pure righteousness.

How easy it is to join the church, put on our fancy suits, and slip into our little ‘servant role’ of usher, or choir leader, or hospitality committee president, or pastor, or evangelist, or teacher, etc, etc, and suddenly, we have arrived. “Those sinners. . . ” hmmpph! They should be more like big I! I never miss a church service, I’m never late for bible study, I give my tithes and offerings, I wash my hands before I eat, I never pick grain on the sabbath, (uh oh, do you see where I’m going?). I I I I I. . . SELF RIGHTEOUS Me.

Case in point. If I had been “robed” in my Sunday go-to-meeting garb, oh, how wonderfully proper and good I would have felt, about ME. As it was, clothed in my ridiculously comfortable get up, I felt pretty bad about ME. But in reality, who I am didn’t change just because I was dressed shabbily, nor does it change when I dress myself up in my religiously right attire, and strut around for all the world to see. Sure, man looks on the outward appearance, and I represent God, and my family and my church and the Kingdom and my employers, and yada yada yada. I get it, and I’m trying to put good sense ahead of comfort. But most importantly, I am relying on God to robe me in His righteousness. His humility. His Grace. His Favor. His Beauty. His Peace. His Love. His Joy. His Righteousness fits me much better than any of my old, filthy rags.

Hebrews 12:1:Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

God has a race for you to run. It’s not going to be you’re friends race, or your pastor’s race, or your neighbor’s race, or Joyce Meyer’s race, or some famous writer’s race, but it is a race that is marked out specifically for you. And you can run it, in the power of His spirit. You can receive the prize of eternal life, and the rich sweetness of His presence throughout eternity, in the company of His angels, and that great cloud of witnesses. You can do it, you can do it, you can do it!

Proverbs 28:1 says: The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Have you ever heard the saying: She’s scared of her shadow, or, He’s scared of his shadow?

I’ve heard it a lot over the years, and it simply means someone has irrational fears, that they’re afraid for no good reason.

When I came to the Lord 15 years ago, one of the first battles I had to fight was against the spirit of fear.

I grew up in a religious home, I was a pastor’s kid, my parents traveled the world preaching in tents, churches, auditoriums and anywhere the door opened. I knew a lot of rules about God, but I had very little relationship with Him, and ultimately, it led to rebellion in my life. Fear was used as a weapon in my life, and as a result:

I learned to fear the unknown, my natural environment, the spiritual realm.

See: Every dog was a rabid killer.

Every storm had a tornado in it that was going to wipe out not just my house, but my cousin’s house and my Granny’s house and the whole family.

Every swimming hole was full of sharks and snakes and bacteria waiting to destroy me.

Fear veiled my spiritual understanding- I believed that God was somewhere “way up yonder,” watching every move I made, just waiting for me to mess up so that he could throw me into hell, and not just hell, but the deepest darkest part of hell reserved for the worst of the worst..

I didn’t know God as Abba. As father, as a friend who sticks closer than a brother, as my comforter, as my guide who would never leave me or forsake me, as someone who would forgive all my iniquities and heal all of my diseases, whose mercy is new every morning, the God of Psalm 91, who would give his Angels charge over me, the God who is a very present help in time of need.

I heard about the devil, too. The stories I heard in churches, and in tent revivals terrified me. I heard about manifestations and creepy things slithering down dark hallways on their way to get me.

For some reason, I didn’t understand my authority as a believer over all the forces of hell. I didn’t know that if I would submit myself to God, resist the devil, he HAD to flee from me; that God had not given me a tormenting spirit of fear, but he had power, love and a sound mind available for me. Oh, traveling in the tent revival circles, we knew God as healer, we knew that he could open blind eyes, deaf ears, heal kidneys, straighten legs, and we knew a little about his provision, especially that he would give us enough money to get to the next tent revival, and maybe eat a hamburger on the way, but let me tell you, we were limited in what we knew of God.

The word of God says “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” My childhood was spent in fear, and unequipped for spiritual warfare, I spent my teen years and all of my twenties running from a God who I was sure hated me, and who I feared would never forgive me for the sin I knew I was living in every day of my life.

Fear drove me:

Fear of being alone caused me to choose wrong relationships.

Fear of man caused me to drink and do drugs to try to fit in, to be accepted socially.

Fear led to my behaving in reckless ways to prove that “I wasn’t scared of nothing,” when the truth was, fear was always there, driving, pushing, bullying, and tormenting me.

Don’t get me wrong, all fear is not bad. Science and psychology teach us about our fight or flight nature. Fight or flight simply means that if we meet a grizzly bear in the woods, and all we have to fight with is a marshmallow on a stick, our instinct to fight is going to disappear quicker than you can blink, and that flight instinct is going to kick in and we’re gonna run, probably faster than we’ve ever ran before. That is good, healthy wisdom. That is a good kind of sensible fear.

Remember the word of God says, my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Too often we are fighting for something we should be fleeing from, and we run from the thing we should be fighting for.

Proverbs 9:10 says: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.

The scriptures here are not talking about worldly fear, the kind of fear that says if I make a mistake, if I stumble, if I fail, if I fall God is gonna kick me to the curb, cast me aside. No, not that kind of fear. The fear of the Lord is reverential, it is knowing how small we are and how great He is, it is acknowledging that He created me, He has a plan for me, He knows the path I need to take, He is the one who needs to be in control of my life. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The spirit of fear, on the other hand, is straight from the pits of hell, and it has many far reaching tentacles that slither along the recesses of our minds, our wills, and our emotions, always seeking to take control, to influence our decisions, to drive us, to torment us, and so many times we don’t even recognize the weapon that is being wielded against us.

We fear failure, so we don’t bother to apply for the job, or to the college, or for the scholarship, or to try out for the team, or to study for the test, or to ask for a raise.

We fear man, so we refuse to use our gifts, we won’t sing, or teach a class. We find ourselves a “clique” or group, and squeeze ourselves into their little box, we dress just like they dress, talk like they talk, walk like they walk, do what they do, go where they go, and God forbid we have an original thought.

We parent in fear. We’re afraid to discipline, to teach, to protect, to invest all of ourselves, to let them go.

We are afraid in our marriages. Afraid to submit, afraid to trust, afraid to be honest.

We live our single lives in fear, afraid we’ll never find someone to love us, that we’ll always be alone, that we are not worthy of love.

And often we live our spiritual lives in fear, running from God. Why do so many of us choose flight from God, instead of standing flat footed in the face of the enemy, and walking in our God given authority? We walk around beating at the air, never seeming to make any progress in our walk with the Lord, just barely getting by.

I can only speak for myself when I say that the times I find myself running in the wrong direction, defeated, living in fear instead of walking by faith, are the times when I have made a mistake, failed, fallen, sinned, and instead of turning to God, I’ve begun to distrust the very one who created me, who came and rescued me out of the darkness, who healed me, filled me. I find myself AFRAID to go to Him again, to say I’m sorry, again, I messed up, again, Lord, please forgive me, help me Jesus.

Remember Adam and Eve, in the garden?

After they sinned, God showed up. But something else did too, fear had arrived on planet earth, and the same devil that tempted them to sin used his weapon of fear to keep them from God’s forgiving presence. They ran away from God, and hid.

And we know there is nothing new under the sun. The enemy still uses fear to keep us out of God’s presence. First he tempts us to sin, and if he can get us to fall, then he torments us with that fall. Our shame, and fear that God isn’t good enough to forgive us yet again drives us into hiding.

But let’s look into the word of God. Proverbs 24:16 says: Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.

God is not, I repeat, NOT, sitting up in heaven just waiting to kick us to the curb.

I recently had one of the sweetest life lessons from my Jesus. In fact, it’s why I titled this “I wanna be like Bubba’s daddy and Jesus.”

My ten year old son has wrestled with the middle school this year. What an honor to watch him grow and overcome fears that had troubled him since he was a baby. But that is another story in itself. As the wrestling season was winding down, we knew we were traveling to a big city, where he would wrestle in a stadium against the best wrestlers in the state. It was huge, with 26 matches going at one time. No coaches were allowed on the mats, nor were any parents. The wrestler had to go it alone, but I learned that parents could stand behind an iron gate that circled the arena, and try to spot their wrestler in the wild and crazy mix.

Of course, I planted myself firmly by the exit gate, knowing that when my son was finished with his match, he would have to exit there, and there would be no chance of him getting lost in the huge stadium with hundreds of parents and wrestlers. As I stood waiting, a huge, bearded man came and stood next to me. I scooted over to give him a little room. His eyes swept the mats, and suddenly he spied his wrestler. In a voice that echoed off of the walls of that stadium, he began to shout, “Go Bubba! You can do it Bubba! Use the leg sweep, Bubba! C’mon Bubba! Keep going! Don’t quit!” and all manner of encouraging words and coaching instruction. I was mortified. Shocked. Indignant. Dismayed. His voice shook the rafters. Caused my ears to ring. Annoyed me, to say the least.

I cast a few “Give me a break,” looks his direction, and was relieved when my son appeared across the crowd of wrestlers and I could focus on him. I forgot about Bubba’s cheerleader as I was quickly caught up in a cheering campaign of my own. Soon my little guy appeared at the exit, grinning from ear to ear, he had won his first match. We headed up into the bleachers where we would wait for his next match. Who cared about Bubba?

When they called my boy’s weight division, we headed down to the bull pen, where I would wait again at the gate. I was just settling in for the half hour wait, when who should appear but, YEP! Bubba’s cheerleader! Sheesh, didn’t we get enough of that voice the first go ’round? Hmpph! And sure enough, he soon spied Bubba, and began his passionate, loud, ear ringing shouting. “Go Bubba! You can do it! Don’t give up, Bubba! C’mon Bubba! Get up, Bubba! Buuuuuuubbbbbbaaaaaaa!” echoed off the walls and rang in my ears.

As I stood there, a funny thing began to happen. In my heart I began to think, “c’mon Bubba, you can do this, don’t give up, Bubba!” I found myself swept along with this man’s passion for Bubba to win, and suddenly, I wanted Bubba to win too! I couldn’t help but wonder about this Bubba who inspired such fervor, such excitement in this man. Why, he must be ten foot tall and bullet proof. Probably some giant of a wrestler, some child prodigy. I decided I had to get a look at this star, Bubba. Soon, the man beside me grew silent. Bubba’s match was over. I knew he had lost. I heard him mumbling, “Poor guy, he’s just worn out today. He can’t go no further.” My son still had not wrestled, so I knew I was going to get to see Bubba when he came through the exit gate. As I stood there scanning the crowd, waiting on Bubba the Giant, this chubby lil’ feller, no more than five years old came toddling toward the exit gate. I noticed that he was wearing the same color of singlet as Bubba’s cheerleader’s sweatshirt. Hot pink and blue. Hmmm. . . . as the little guy exited the gate, Bubba’s daddy swept him up in his arms and began to exclaim over him. “Great job, Bubba, you did so good! I’m so proud of you. You’ll get him next time, Bubba!”

I stood there in shock. So much passion and fervor, for such a wee little one. Not a goliath. Not a 5 time world champ. Just a little child, fighting to do his best. As I stood there with my mouth hanging open, watching that big man love his little Bubba, I heard the Holy Spirit say, that’s how much I love you. It doesn’t matter how many times you fail, fall, I still will pick you up and love you and encourage you to “get ’em next time!”

I don’t know about you, but that kind of rubs against my “religious grain.” After all, I am all about working hard, and being good for Daddy God. And when I mess up, I am more than a little apt to run and hide and nurse my skinned knees, my bruised pride. When really I should run to Daddy God.

When you stumble, when you fall, when you fail, and you will, or you lie, get up and run to God. Let Him sweep you up into his arms and whisper you’ll get ’em next time, keep running. Don’t let fear and mistrust of God back you into a corner and keep you there, get up and run to Daddy God!

See: satan knows our power source is our relationship with our creator. He knows that the opposite of fear is faith. And a christian walking in faith and confidence toward God is his biggest threat on planet earth. He knows that without faith, it is impossible to please God, and he is out to destroy our faith.

Hebrews 4: 14-16 says: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of Grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Do you know that it is impossible to be faithful if we’re not full of faith?

How many times have we heard: God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good. And then we go out and live our lives like He’s the meanest step-daddy this side of Arkansas, and we’re his red headed step child.

We know the scripture that says if our brother sins against us, we’re to forgive him seven times seventy, but I guess we get to thinking we’re better than God. We think- Lord, you surely must have run out of mercy for me this morning, cause you know I done messed up again, and I ain’t even gonna bother sayin’ I’m sorry cause you’ve got to be mad at me. And we drift along, in our ignorance, in our misery, in our faithlessness, just like Adam and Eve, we run and hide, and all the while, God is calling. . .

Hebrews 16 says let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive (not earn, not because we deserve) but RECEIVE mercy, and FIND grace to help us in our time of need.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a needy christian.

I need help in running my race,

I need help staying on the straight and narrow path

I need help in my parenting

I need his favor and protection to rest upon my children

I need his wisdom to guide me

I long for his peace and his joy

And you know what, He wants to give it to me. He wants to give it to you, too. He’s just waiting on a christian who is bold enough to say I need everything you have to offer Lord. Help me Jesus. He is waiting for us to take Him at His word, and believe that what He said He would do, he’ll do!

God wants us to run this race, and to run it victoriously. He knows our weaknesses, and He is seated at the right hand of the father, praying for us. He loves us, and wants us to win even more than Bubba’s daddy loved him and wanted him to win. Never fear, just listen to your heavenly Father cheer!

Heaven was silent, but even with His silence, life was good. However, the nagging guilt I felt because I was happy put a slight dent in my joy can. Work at the newspaper was satisfying; I had received a glowing report from my daughter’s teacher on her academic progress, and my boys were both staying out of the principals office. The gardens were growing lushly, and I had marked off several of my to do list projects around the house. So why, oh why was the enemy beating my brains out with doubt and hopelessness?
My mind was running a familiar and vicious cycle of negative thoughts; old habitual sins were besetting me, and failure stamped its ugly red mark across my mind with ferocious tenacity. One week, two weeks. Sigh. How long will you be silent, Oh Lord?
I found myself wondering about everything. Am I really doing what God has called me to do? Where were the fruits of my labor? Am I truly called to write, or should I just quit? And then that wicked self comparison. So and so is winning 500 souls a month, what am I doing for the Lord? God surely must be disappointed in my lack of spirituality. When was the last time I went on a missions trip, or visited a jailhouse, or preached a sermon, or evangelized the world? Lord, it had surely been a long, long time. Shouldn’t I be doing bigger and better things for His Kingdom?
Seems like all I have time for these days is working at the newspaper, raising the babies, and keeping up with household and wifely duties. And I rarely, oh let’s be honest, I never hear angelic harps and a choir singing as I go about my days, loving my children, laughing with my husband, writing and working, with a little face book and pinterest thrown in to keep me up to date. Worst of all, the heavens were still brass. I couldn’t get Him to blow a breeze my way, much less send me an Angel.
And then there was the small matter of my parenting skills, or lack thereof. I didn’t even have a plan, other than to trust God that He would give me the words, wisdom, love and laughter I needed each day to keep our family on the straight and narrow path that we were zig zagging down. And everyone knows, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I hadn’t read a good parenting book in. . . well, a long time. I have children who have struggles. Yep. A sure sign of failure.
BAM! BAM! BAM! The enemy pounded his lies into my head, day after day. Look at Sister Sally. She’s got her kids lined up and doing back flips, two by two. Little Joe is five years old and already preaching. . . when was the last time your children memorized a chapter? The enemy wove his story well, and the web of his lies clouded my mind like fingerprints on a screen door in the summertime, sapping the joy from my journey more effectively than a tooth ache on a cloudy day. Discouragement gripped my motivation, shaking the ever living daylights, not to mention the ability to perform, out of it.
I headed to the gardens as often as possible, hoping to hear his voice. I cried out my angst to Him over and over again. I repented. Repeated. One day as I finished another project in the yard, I paused to admire my lilies. They were already as high as my waist, and a beautiful emerald green. Since planting them four years ago, they had never failed to bloom beautiful, plate sized blooms. I had often thought of dividing them, but they did so well in their little corner of the world, I hesitated to disturb their success.

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Suddenly, I noticed that underneath the tall stalks, there were baby plants, about 12 inches tall, peeking out. Almost 20 of them. Oh the joy. Plant bulbs are not cheap, so I am always thrilled when I can save money by dividing, or when a plant produces new plants. The baby lilies stretched their leaves and stems along the ground, trying desperately to reach the sunshine that the large mother plant prevented from shining on their baby faces. Thrilled, I grabbed a kitchen knife and dug out the new lilies, planting them in three spots around the yard.

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Weary from the day’s work, I lay my head on my pillow that night, and felt myself immediately beginning to drift off to sleep. Suddenly, I heard the softest of whispers in my mind, “Consider the lilies.” Immediately my senses were wide awake. . .  I know that voice, and it had been so long since I had heard it.
Tears rolled down my cheeks and dripped onto my pillow as my heavenly Father reminded me that He loves me just as I am. He reminded me that He loves me not because I toil and spin, but because I am His. He assured me that I am, indeed, bearing fruit for His kingdom.
In Luke 12 we read about a man who had crops which were bearing abundant fruit, so much so that he decided to pull down his barns and build bigger ones, where he could store all his “stuff.” Then, he planned to eat, drink, and be merry, and take his ease. And God wasn’t pleased with this man. In fact, God called him a fool, and said that his soul would be required of him. Then God tells us that those who lay up treasure on this earth, but are not rich toward God, will see the same fate.
As we read on, we find Him telling His disciples not to worry about their lives, what they are to eat or wear, because life is about more than food and clothes. Then those words: Consider the lilies how they grow, they toil not, they spin not, and yet I say unto you, Solomon in all His glory was not arrayed like these. . . And later in these same scriptures He said. . . “And seek not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. But rather seek ye the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Oh how those words comforted my soul. My little corner of the world seems so small when compared to the great things that others do for Him. But my little corner of the world is still a part of His kingdom. I am not to worry about building bigger, why no! I am to seek HIS KINGDOM. And His kingdom is Righteousness, Peace, and Joy in the Holy Ghost. . . which I have found and found abundantly in the simple things in life, like being a mom, a wife, a writer, a friend of God. And don’t think for one minute I failed to grasp the significance of those baby plants stretching out from underneath the mother plant, their branches reaching for the sun. . . I WILL see my children growing upward, outward, with hearts and minds set on Heavenly things, as they grow in the Kingdom of God. We shall consider the lilies, together, my little family and I. And we shall rejoice in knowing it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us His kingdom. Selah.

I was reminded today of a little story my husband and I like to share about the beginning days of our marriage. As a blended family, we knew there would be challenges when we decided to say “I do.”

He had three children, I had three children, he had custody, I had custody. Our children ranged in age from 4 to 16. We had 3 boys, 3 girls. Before we married, he told me he wanted 2 more, a boy and a girl. I just rolled my eyes and told him he’d have to pray long and hard before I fulfilled that wish.

People called us the Brady Bunch, but we were more like The Three Stooges meet Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation. Our new marriage fit like a hand me down coat from a sibling that is three sizes bigger than you. It was bulky, awkward, and most days I just wanted to shrug it off and leave it lying on the floor, more willing to face getting a chill than to face the world in such an ill-fitting, uncomfortable mess.

Who would discipline the children, who got the biggest bedroom, whether I would continue my old job or go to work at the local newspaper, and how to keep 6 children spic and span and sitting quietly while Daddy preached another sermon were some of the challenges I faced as a new wife. Not to mention a 16 year old daughter caught in the throes of teen rebellion and addiction, a four year old whose daddy had just been killed in a car accident, trying to learn to be a good step-parent, fit into a new community, work a new job, and be a subm, submis, s-u-b-m-i-s-s-i-v-e (ughh, I’m still working on that one) wife.

One day, after another quarrel over some silly something, in a fit of despair I decided that I’d had enough. I grabbed my four year old (the teenagers were off at some church function), put him in the car, and told my brand spanking new husband I was leaving, and I wouldn’t be back.

He was grilling burgers, and barely even glanced my direction as I pulled out of the driveway. I was headed home, wherever in the world that might be, and good riddance to the whole mess. Angry, self-pitying thoughts raged through my mind. As I pulled the van up to a red light, just as sure as I am typing these words, I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit whisper to my troubled mind, “Turn this van around and go home. If you run away now, you’ll run for the rest of your life.”

I know that voice well, and I try desperately not to disobey. So I turned around, and headed HOME. He was still grilling, and when he saw me pull into the driveway, he struggled to hide the grin that crossed his face. “Well?” he asked. “Well, I’m home,” I replied. “I prayed and asked God if I should come after you,” he said softly. “What did He say?” I asked. “He said to put another burger on, you’d be home for dinner,” he smiled.

I huffed into the house eleven years ago, and I have never left again. It has not been easy. We’ve faced some serious storms as we’ve walked out this journey God began on our wedding day. But God has walked the path with us. The key we have found that keeps us together is not date nights, although those are good. It is not smoking hot love, (but that’s good, too). It’s not great financial security, or perfect children, or even a perfectly blended family that defies all of the stats. No, our key is daily prayer, together, about everything.

When we miss a day or two, one of us will invariably say, “Oh, we haven’t prayed.” And then we do. When I look at my two beautiful children that God gifted us with, I shudder to think I might have given up too soon, and never known the joy of doing this very hard thing.

The beauty of springtime, and the sudden burst of new life that surrounds us on every side is an exciting reminder that Jesus gives new life. His mercy is new every morning.

After staring all winter at a pale landscape with muted browns and greys, our eyes drink in the promise of a bright future.

You can hear the earth awakening from its silent winter sleep. The birds twitter and flit excitedly from tree to tree, the frogs trilling grows to a loud chorus in the back field, and the hum of the bee that darts just past your listening ear causes your eyes to fly wide open.

Flowers open wide and lift their pretty faces to be warmed by the sun.God paints His pictures in a million different ways, the artist of all creation. Springtime reminds us to pause and give thanks.

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