Heart Warrior

My heart is stirred by a beautiful song for the King… Psalm 45:1

I’ve been wanting to write something for days now. And it’s just as the verse above says… my heart is stirred. Different versions of the Bible use moved, overflows and gushing. And that’s exactly how I feel today. Stirred up.

Another definition of “stirred” is “to keep moving.” And I find that ironic because the message springing up within has nothing to do with moving. Quite the opposite, actually, for it has to do with sitting still. Yes, if God has impressed anything upon my heart over the past several years it is this…

The act of standing still. Which is really hard, by the way. In truth, it take great effort to do nothing at all.

“What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20

I was moved (there’s that word again) by reading part of the Christmas story this morning. The angel told Joseph not to worry because what was conceived in Mary was of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus’ earthly father took those words to heart for he moved forward in his plans. He took Mary to be his wife and stepped into the role of father. But this must have seemed crazy to everyone who knew and loved Joseph best. Not the best course of action, many must have opined.

As for me, this speaks volumes today. Because it was the Spring of 2013 when I clearly felt as if God were leading me to “sit on the porch.” It was a call to inactivity. Stillness and quiet. But you know, we live in a fast paced world. And busyness means productivity. More, it equals “credit.” Thus, I resisted the message that was planted and conceived in my heart.

Oh, it sounded good. I wanted to do it. But I just could not. Today, I know the reason but back then, I simply couldn’t bring myself to say no. To anything. If asked, I did it. I was a “yes” girl and in my eyes, “yes” girls counted. They mattered most in the world.

“Believing that doing less can somehow produce more requires a resilient faith. It takes an unshakable concrete trust in God.” Priscilla Shirer

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Yes, there’s been a message rolling around in my heart and mind for days and days. It began on November 30th, the day I put up our Christmas tree. For that’s when I was reminded of five years ago. Of the time I purposed to know Christ more fully at Christmastime. It was a season I decided to make Christmas real in my heart.

You know what I’ve come to realize? This seeking of a Christmas heart came nine months after that call to “sit on the porch”. No doubt, a message was conceived deep within – a call to stillness – and in the time it takes for a baby to develop in the womb, the message was “delivered” in my life. At least for a time.

Because the most wonderful thing happened. Nine months after understanding God wanted me to sit, I discovered I was pregnant. It was the day after Christmas. And that’s the day I decided to heed God’s call and stop all the extra. At least a little bit…

I slowed myself in that I gave up a volunteer position that required lifting. Because I was pregnant. I was protective of my baby and didn’t want to do anything that could harm her…

And so, from December 2013 till a couple of months after Annabelle was born, I slowed down. And in contemplating that time, I uncovered one of the greatest revelations of this season. It’s that the conception of my daughter coincided with my desire for a Christmas heart.

Honestly, I stand in awe of that. Because it feels as if she were the answer to my heart’s longing. Which leads me to comprehend that if I want a Christmas heart such as I purposed long ago, then I need to look at what transpired immediately afterward…

It was a time of stillness. And development.

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You know, God has a way of leading someone. He drops breadcrumbs everywhere. And that’s been happening a lot here lately.

See, I wanted to write something in particular. As I said, my heart was moved by a beautiful song. Other versions use good theme, a good matter or good news. And I had such a good title!

But everything is pointing me to the heart. And I mean everything. From the stethoscope sent home to my daughter this past Thursday after her heart electrocardiogram, to the Facebook post I saw the next day of a precious little girl who has VSD (Ventricular Septal Defect) and now has a pacemaker. Then there’s the elder who shared his testimony at church on Sunday. He’s on his own heart journey and now has a defibrillator.

Then there’s today. My boss mentioned a television program he saw about Kawasaki Disease which leads me to my daughter. Yes, my little Christmas heart had her own journey beginning October 20th. And it appears her heart journey ties in with mine. Hers being physical…

and mine, spiritual.

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Be still and know I am God. Psalm 46:10

I wanted to title this post “a different Mary… the slacker.” It was the above verse that so inspired. See, a definition of still is: to show oneself slack. And in the past year, I’ve come to understand this has been one of my deepest issues. Or hangups.

Because God called me to sit still in March of 2013 and I flat out refused. No, not one shred of my being wanted to show myself to be slack. Because I wasn’t a slacker! To be fair, though, I didn’t realize I was refusing. I honestly didn’t know I was disobeying a command of God’s.

But that message, stillness, it was brought to me again and again…

It started in November of 2012 when we joined a church with a two-year rule. The scope of what I was allowed to do was limited. A few months later, I heard, “sit on the porch.” Nine months later, I was pregnant. A forced sit still, if you will.

But you know what? Once Annabelle was born, I moved on as if I hadn’t even had her. I reverted to a hurried and hectic pace within months. And from then on, it was on. Plans and projects and volunteering.

But then, there’s God and His breadcrumbs. At a writing conference when Annabelle was 11 months old, I heard, “Come away by yourself to a remote spot and rest.” And in October of 2016 after a particularly busy season, I heard Psalm 46:10 no less than eight times in a matter of days.

I still didn’t get it, though. Not inside my heart. Because I said yes to every single thing that came my way. I even said yes to things I came up with on my own. I added so much extra to my life and was the exact opposite of what God called me to. And this all served to add stress and angst to my life.

But then, there is God. Oh, He nearly hammered me over the head with His message of stillness in the late Summer of 2017. And that time, I finally heard Him. I understood I was to stop every, single thing. All of it.

And so I did. But it was so hard…

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For Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:42

The title for this message has changed from day to day. Last Thursday, at Annabelle’s echo, I thought it would be “Heart Healthy.” This came about because the doctor asked about my own…

“How’s your heart? Any issues?”

Wow. There sure have been. But nothing physical. No, all mine have been inward. And because I’d already been stewing on a different Mary (of Martha and Mary), I could not help but to contemplate the condition of her heart. How was she?

Because she’s known for sitting at the feet of Jesus. She was the picture of Psalm 46:10. In truth, she allowed herself to be shown as slack. But Jesus tells us that she chose the good part. The good part being Him and His words.

See, Mary placed herself near the Lord. And that word for “feet” means: of disciples listening to their teacher’s instruction are said to be at his feet. So, I don’t know that Mary was literally sitting at His feet. However, what’s clear is she was off her feet, for she sat. And in Jesus’ eyes… that was enough.

In pondering this heart of Mary’s, I also wonder about Martha’s hurried, distracted one. She was serving many dishes. Ultra-busy. And she even voiced complaint to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care? Make her do her part!”

And this is such a lesson for me today. Because this is what so inspired the initial writing of this. How brave Mary, the slacker, was. For she went against the norm. Custom would have had her on her feet, busy, serving.

Sitting and listening? Well, that just goes against the grain. In fact, it may seem crazy to some. And it may even bring about pointed fingers and criticism. Because if one is still, one is not active. One is not moving. And most assuredly, being still means you’re not doing your part, right?

A slacker to the core?

Yes, this has been one of my deepest issues. A hangup. For God told me to stop all the activity long, long ago. But I resisted. I wanted to keep up with the pace of the world. I wanted to do whatever was asked. Because I was a team player. I wanted to do my part… even if He said no.

But the fact is, I was choosing the wrong part. Parts that weren’t mine. Parts that covered up and hid all He wanted me to see. God knew, though, that when I stilled long enough, I’d discover the issues of my heart. And if I sat even longer, perhaps my heart beat would return to it’s native rhythm…

One that beat in step with His.

And eventually, it did. Because in the sitting and reflecting, an inner work happened. A heart transplant, if you will, for a transplant took place in the sitting and reflecting.  Yes, that’s when the healing began.

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The Lord has sought out for Himself a man (David) after His own heart… 1 Samuel 13:14

Here’s what I’ve come to learn. The heart can be stirred. Indeed, there can be flowing and gushing. However, the busier life gets, the slower the stirring. A stagnation of sorts. And when activities outweigh time with the Lord altogether, movement of the heart comes to a complete standstill.

I know this because I’ve lived it.

And the heart that’s moved? Well, it’s a Christmas heart. It’s like King David’s, a man “after God’s own.” And I’d say David went after that heart. And if we want it, it’s one we have to go after, too. It just takes some digging.

See, the definition of heart is: inner man, mind, will, soul. It’s not only the organ that circulates blood, but also, it denotes the center of all physical and spiritual life… the soul or mind as it is the fountain and seat of thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, purposes, etc. It’s the inner part…

It’s the good part. The one Mary chose, I think. You know, the slacker. I can’t help but feel that she was after a heart like His just as David was. And stillness paved the way.

But you know, when the time was right, her heart was moved by a good theme. For she was the woman who anointed Jesus before His burial.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, had her song – the Magnificat – at the conception of Jesus. And this Mary, the one called to stillness, displayed an act of devotion as His crucifixion loomed near.

Mary inspired me for she was still when she needed to be. She was a woman who dared to show herself slack in the face of criticism. And when the proper occasion arose, she rose to the occasion.

The act of Mary pouring out perfume upon Jesus’ head is a visual display of her heart’s outpouring. It was an offering of pure adoration and devotion. And Jesus said she did a beautiful thing to Him.

This was her song.

And more, Jesus proclaimed that wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she did would be told, in memory of her. And this is the testimony of a slacker named Mary…

She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Mark 14:8

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It’s a Christmas heart I’ve been seeking. I think I’ve found mine. And though it’s not perfect, it’s so much better than it was. See, I was sick. I just couldn’t say no. Addicted to busyness. But now, I know. I cared too much about what others thought. I disobeyed God’s command to stop because I worried people would think badly of me.

A slacker, they’d say. A woman who doesn’t pull her fair share or do her part. But now, in putting up my feet and sitting at His, I don’t worry so much about that anymore. In the light of His glory, all that fades.

And in realizing what He did for me, how He lovingly called me to stillness over and over, I cannot help but open my mouth. Just as Mary, mother of Jesus, opened hers through the Magnificat, I have this writing. It’s my attempt at song. And this is how I extol Him this Season. For God so loved the world, He gave Jesus, this being the essential message of Christmas.

Today, though, I realize He gave me another child. For He loves me so much, He gave Annabelle. And through her, I’ve been slowed down. Oh, not always and not perfectly. But mostly, slowed.

And in the slowing, I was able to gaze upon His beauty. Because I wasn’t distracted by busyness. Thus, I was able to seize that heart I’ve been seeking. It’s a healthy heart. Unhurried. Joyful and giving. This is what a heart like His looks like.

It looks like the one I find inside me now. A heart moved by a good theme. Similar to that of a child’s…

A Christmas heart full of adoration and devotion.

For Him. My Savior.

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Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise… Facebook quote

Not so long ago, I told a woman, “I’m tired all the time. I’m tired because I’m 45 years old and I have a 4 year old.” But today, I realize that’s just not true. Because in reality, I’m tired because I have a 4 year old AND…

Dot, dot, dot.

It’s all the dots I add to my life. This is what wears me out. And this has been my biggest struggle. I’ve wrestled with being just mom. Only mom. That’s been my fight. Because deep down, I’ve never felt like it was enough.

So I added in lots of extra. Volunteering and saying yes all the time. Because all the extra made me feel productive. Full of importance. But then, I started hearing God’s whisper. It sounded like stillness.

And the verse that resonated the most? Be still and know. The CSB version uses, “Stop your fighting,” which makes it all clear. Simply, God wanted me to stop fighting Him. And my position in life. He wanted me to realize that if the only thing I ever did was raise my children, that’s more than enough. Because that’s the main thing He has for me to do.

And for a solid year, I tried to do this. I did my best to remain activity-less. Aside from a few slip ups, I did pretty well. But then, my little girl began full-time preschool. Know what I thought?

My time had come… time to get busy again. And oh, I had so many plans. For clarification and direction, I entered into a 40-day fast which ended on October 14. And for those 40 days, I was diligent in my stillness. The very day it ended, though, I signed up for something extra. True to form, I wanted to pull my weight and do my part. Inconceivably, I was ready to say yes all over again.

But then, Annabelle began a heart journey. Six days after signing up for extra, my little girl developed something called Kawasaki disease. It’s an illness which causes inflammation throughout the body and can cause aneurysms and heart disease if not treated properly.

Needless to say, I was overwrought. And overcome. And, it was a total redirect. You can bet her being at home slowed me significantly. But through this very sickness, and stillness, God pointed me back to Christmas of 2013. To the time I desired a Christmas heart…

And so her heart journey, which began in October, became a picture to me. A call to remembrance of all that God said. And I remembered His voice whispering…

“Sit on the porch. Be still. You don’t have to do another thing.”

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As I’ve said, my heart is moved by a theme. It’s one of less is more. It’s one of being mom, and only mom. This stirs me because it’s been my biggest struggle. Letting go of all the extra in order to take hold of that which the Lord would have me grab with both hands.

Like my little girl…

The above picture is from this morning. Annabelle went back to school for the first time since 10/19. Oh my gosh, she was excited. She was raising her arms without my prompting. Just like a victor finishing a race.

Know what I see? A girl full of heart. A girl who overcame an obstacle. For she is a warrior. I’m not just talking about her, though. See, I include myself in that description…

Because a battle was fought over my heart. And through God’s strength, I prevailed. That makes me a warrior, too. Which is one of the reasons I changed the title of this post to Heart Warrior…

Because of the battles fought over hearts everywhere. Annabelle’s and mine. But also, and particularly, because of a little girl named Delaney. Her mom gave me permission to use her picture and share part of her story.

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My first thought of open-heart surgery in a young one took place while we were in the hospital with Annabelle. And though what we walked through was scary, it pales in comparison to some others. Like the little one my husband noticed in the elevator who’d already endured such a procedure.

Upon returning home, I was surprised to receive a private message from a friend who asked me to pray for a little one named Delaney. I was told she was undergoing open-heart surgery. So I prayed.

Lo and behold, I saw the loveliest post of her mother’s the day after Annabelle’s final heart echo. And though I don’t even know this woman, I was blessed to read her entry through a mutual friend. She graciously allowed me to post this picture.

Mom offered her own “song” and praised God for Delaney’s progress. And words she used (found online) seemed to be a mantra or a prayer. “I wept, you fought. I wondered, you proved. I prayed, you overcame.”

And for Christmas, I thought it would be truly great if anyone who reads this stills for just a minute and lifts up a prayer for Delaney. And for her parents. Both she and they have overcome so much.

Pray that Delaney, this little heart warrior, will overcome all the more. That she fights and proves. And fully recovers.

In Jesus’ name.

Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:13, 14

In closing, the above passage has stirred me more than once. Stand still. It means: to place, to present oneself, to take one’s stand. In light of this writing, I like that. Because I think I’ve done that. I take my stand in sitting down. In stillness.

But if I want to be true to the Word, and I do, there’s more to it. Because verse 15 exhorts the people to move on. To move forward (toward the sea). So, I know this season of stillness won’t last forever. There will come a time in which God calls me to move onward.

But for now, He bids me to move in only one direction. Toward Him. Toward a Savior. For this day and this Season, this is really all He wants me to see. Which is so appropriate because it’s Christmas.

And this is the message of my Christmas heart. The good theme that moves me. It’s one of stillness. It’s one of laying aside all the trimmings and trappings and busyness so that we can stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.

Provided to us through a boy child named Jesus…

She will give birth to a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus (The LORD is salvation), for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Like a drum!

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Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:3

It was yesterday that I felt it. I went to a women’s Bible study and watched this hour long video. I was captivated by every word spoken. And then, at the very end, my heart began to beat. I felt it. It thudded in my chest and throughout my limbs. I could hear it in my ears. A loud, steady pounding. It lasted about two or three minutes. Thud. Thud. Thud. Just like a drum. And I had to sit there choking back tears. I was thankful for that heartbeat. Because it’s one I haven’t felt in quite some time. And this type of beating is not one that merely proves I’m alive… that I exist. No, this sort of pounding reminds me of what I sometimes doubt. It tells me that I’m really His. And it tells me that He hasn’t forgotten me. That He still has purpose for my life. No, I’m not as dead as I thought I was… for there’s life inside me. It’s my heart beating just like a drum.

You know, I just celebrated my 41st birthday last month. I’ve now roamed this earth over 14,965 days. But this month, I celebrate another type of birthday. For it was seventeen years ago (sometime in February) that I officially became a Christian. You know, I said a prayer and hoped for the best. I was moved then, too, for I remember the tears. But you know… I don’t I recall a heartbeat then. So much time has elapsed and I didn’t journal so I can’t say for sure. But I wonder today… did my heart beat like it did yesterday when I said some words I thought I was supposed say? Did I feel a thud, thud, thud in my chest and ears all that time ago? Like a drum beating?

After becoming a Christian, I did all those things I thought I was supposed to do. When asked, I said yes to working with teen girls although they knew far more than I did. Most specifically, they knew God. When I moved away from North Carolina, I tried to be good but failed miserably and lived under a cloud of guilt. It was not till 2004 that I attended church once more. But you know, despite knowing all the right words and all the right actions, there was something so fundamental I had missed along the way. Although I appeared to have it all together, and seemed to be a spiritual person, I was far from it. And so, bypassing a relationship with God, I began to serve again because I thought it’s what I should do. And because I thought I should work, I did what was comfortable to me. I worked with kids. And over time, I became bitter and resentful about what I was doing. Because although working with kids is a good thing, it wasn’t my thing.

And then one day, out of the blue, something extraordinary took place. It had to have been January of 2009 when I felt something inside me. There was movement. I was at church and a friend of mine spoke of a women’s service to take place in February. She wanted someone to share their story. And then the first beat. Quietly at first, but it grew louder and stronger with each thud. The steady rhythm echoed throughout my whole body reaching through the ends of my fingers and filling my ears. This had never happened before. And so, after the service, I knew I had to do something. Perhaps inspired by God for the very first time, I dared to approach my friend. I told her… I think it’s me. This foreign beating of my heart coinciding with my friend’s request was of God. He wanted me to speak in front of a crowd… completely out of my comfort zone.

And I did speak, as I should. But afterward, nothing changed. When the next opportunity arose, I volunteered to work with kids once more. Because they were comfortable. And so, resentment piled upon resentment and bitterness grew in astronomical proportions. Until the late Summer of 2010. Something came up. And I couldn’t sit still as the passion ignited in me. There was to be a Bible study for women. And my friend and I were to lead it. And so we did. But alas, I moved and joined another church. And when asked… I said yes to working with the children.

And so today, I realize something incredible about that heartbeat. Because it occurs to me that perhaps the heartbeat has always been there. Is it possible that I’ve been so busy doing what I shouldn’t be doing, that I just couldn’t feel it? Is it possible that during the winter of 2009, God awakened within me my true heart? Just maybe that beating in my chest was God stirring me. He knew I was trying my best to serve Him. But He also knew it was out of a sense of obligation. Perhaps He was telling me what to do then. Was He gracing me with a glimpse of His plans, but I just didn’t grasp it? Was it five years ago that God called me to work with women? Was it in January of 2009 when the passion I have for His daughters was birthed within me? For I know there are many women who quietly die in church pews every Sunday. I know that they cannot feel their heartbeat… just like there are times I cannot feel mine. And I so long for them… just as I long for me.

And yet, here I am today. I am still working with children. But yesterday, in a women’s Bible study, I felt it. It was like a drum. My heart thudded in my chest and through my limbs. I heard it in my ears. Bump, bump, bump…. loudly, steadily. And I knew. God awakened my spirit once more. He reminded me that I’m His. And He reminded me of my passion… of a calling. Through that thudding, I know He has work for me. But this work isn’t duty bound. No, this work has something to do with the resurrected heart that pounds within me. It has everything to do with a spiritual beat. For that thump, thump, thump I feel only occasionally… that beating I feel throughout my whole being… that’s really His heart. For what pounds like a drum is God’s heart as it beats in mine.

This year I can see. I realize that January and February are times of celebration. For these are my birthdays. I was physically born in January and spiritually born in February. But now I see there’s another birth to celebrate. For it was five years ago that God awakened my true heart. He gave me a passion for His dying daughters. It was five years ago that God called me to serve… but not children as I’ve been doing for so long. No, my heart… and His… is for His girls.

Oh yes… there’s a heartbeat. Steady and thumping like a drum. May it never stop.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 26:36

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A Christmas Heart

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Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. James 1:13

What puts you in the Christmas mood? What can make a soul merry and a countenance cheerful? For some, seeing the twinkling lights against a dark skyline usher in the beginning of the season. Others may rock around the Christmas tree, hearts glowing brighter with each careful placement of an ornament.

What does it for you? Is it the Christmas baking or a roaring fire (when the weather’s cold enough)? Or is it when Christmas cartoons make the scene? Do the Christmas songs you hear bring a pep to your step? For in stores and in cars and in homes we hear all about the joys of Christmas, but…

Does the joy really penetrate our exteriors?

Tis the season to be jolly and chestnuts roasting on an open fire may be coming out of our mouths, and the halls may be decked out with boughs of holly, and silver bells may be ringing in our ears, but what really lies within our hearts?

That’s the question I ask myself today.

This morning, I can honestly say Christmas has not reached my heart. And in truth, I don’t know that it ever has. See, in yester years, I’ve always felt a bit gloomy by the time Christmas rolls around. Because there is always great build up and excitement of what will come but then, Christmas is over in a flash.

The opening of presents has always been anticlimactic in that they cannot fill the emptiness inside. Gifts, no matter how wonderful, can fill a hollow heart. And so in days of yore, I would inevitably find myself sitting on the floor gazing at a mess. As the tissue paper and boxes and too many gifts piled higher and higher, I would think, “There has to be more to it than this.”

That’s why this year, I really want Christmas to be different. For once in my life, I want for all the clichés I hear to be real. I will not again proclaim, “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “Keep Christ in Christmas” unless I can say it in all sincerity. Because in years past, I haven’t done so.

No, in the hustle and bustle, I’ve always forgotten the real reason. And past behavior proves I did not keep Christ in Christmas.

And so, He becomes my goal this year. Jesus. More than anything, I want to focus on the true reason for the season and put Christ back in. For amidst all the activity, He all to often gets left out.

But this year will be different. For I hope to give my family the best gift I can offer. Yep, this is the year I hope to cultivate a Christmas heart. And my prayer is that my Christmas heart will last beyond the lights and the trimmings and the trappings. For years to come…

Unfortunately, I didn’t get off to a good start. See, Monday evening was not a good night in our household. Coming off the heels of a busy weekend (traveling for Thanksgiving), I thought it would be a good idea to put up a tree and do some decorating after a long day. And so, after leaving a dinner mess upon my kitchen countertop, I made an even bigger mess in my living room. I brought up box after box of ornaments and began my task.

My hopes were high as the right music played in the background. However, as evening turned to darkest of night, I found myself feeling less than joyful. And quite frankly, my patience wore thin.

For there were lights and ornaments and stockings strewn about, and the kitchen was a disaster. It was past my son’s bedtime, but no matter… the Christmas tree had to be completed. Because once I begin something, I have to finish. It’s one of my flaws.

And so, as my son’s interest began to wane and toys became his focus, I snapped at him. “BEDTIME!” I hurried him off to bed and when he asked for a story, I said impatiently, “No, you cannot have a story, it’s past your bedtime! I let you stay up to help with the tree, but you didn’t want to!” My tone oh so ugly. And then with an action that didn’t match my demeanor, I kissed his forehead and scurried off in a flash.

My sighs were heavy as I set out to finish my agenda. And much later, when last ornament was hung and the messes were shoved into corners, I had time to reflect on the evening. That’s when regret came knocking, for I was utterly sorrowful at the way the night turned out. My regret ran much deeper than the Christmas tree…

It was about the way I treated my son and the memories he will carry with him. Would he reminisce fondly about our Christmas times together? I think not.

Instead, my son will remember a mother who was frustrated with tangled lights, who repositioned his ornaments because of spacing issues, and was more concerned about spending time with a dead tree than about spending time with him. He’ll remember a mother who showed more concern over three broken ornaments than she did over his own broken heart.

And so, as I stood there thinking about three broken ornaments, I thought they were fitting. The first was a baby blue bootie, purchased in honor of my son. The second was a cross that broke in two as it hit the floor. And the last was a delicate angel, its wings roughly pulled loose. All broken. Like us. My son and me…

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Monday night, three hearts broke alongside three broken ornaments. My son’s as he lay in bed, mine when I had time to think, and God’s. Oh, how His heart must have broken at the sight of a mother much too hurried to care about the weightier issues. Mercy and love. For I had forgotten the entire reason I was decorating that tree.

And as the reality of the evening set in, I found myself as broken as the cross I threw in the trash. And so, I lay down with my son weary with exhaustion. I clung to him, hoping somehow he’d feel my love through his slumber. And as I drifted off to sleep, my heart was as heavy as the boughs laden with ornaments. Monday night, a Christmas heart eluded me.

Yes, it’s true. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas inside my home. There are trees, and lights, and nativity scenes, and a gingerbread house. And my insides have been somewhat better the past two evenings as I’m trying to remember…

…the reason for the season.

See, deep down, I know it’s not about tangled lights and musings on what an awful mother I am compared to the ones I see in picture perfect scenes on Facebook. I know it’s more than losing the internet connection while uploading photos to a website for calendars. It’s deeper than straightening the gifts the kitties have knocked about for the umpteenth time through their playful antics.

It’s more, so much more, than what lie on the surface. And so this year, I pray it will be different. This year, I hope to find what I’ve been looking for. More than anything, I want it all to be real. Every bit of it. I want to say, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” and mean it with my whole heart.

And as for my son, I want to lavish him with love. So that’s where I’ll start, for a Christmas heart begins with love.

You know… up till now I’ve always found Christmas to be a bit of a let down. Oh, you’d see a merry countenance and a song on my lips. But that was all surface. And deep down, I felt hollow. But now I know why

I overlooked God’s gift to me though He’d been offering it all along. So distracted was I, I never saw His gift of love. His reason for the season. But truth is, it’s always been there. His gift was always there for the taking and it always will be.

Christmas and every day.

So in reality, the only gift that matters this season is a Christmas heart. Cultivating one that bursts with love. And that’s His gift to us. A present ready to be opened.

I’m looking for mine now. That Christmas heart…

Have you found yours?

Trial by Fire

fire

But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot. Jeremiah 20:9

About a month ago, I was on fire… for God. I wanted to speak on His behalf. I wanted to be His witness. I wanted to glorify God through my words… and so, I typed out messages via blog format. This was my method of testimony. And I thought I was doing what I was supposed to. I was on a specific track headed in a certain direction. I was leaving darkness behind as I was entering His light. And then, I reached the destination of God’s Ten Commandments. His law set in stone. God’s words etched onto a tablet of rock by His very, own finger. And those tablets of stone were then placed inside the Tabernacle. God’s words were kept in the Holy of Holies, placed inside the ark of the covenant, which is also referred to as the ark of the testimony. There’s that word again… testimony.

I thought I knew where I was headed next. See, words swirled through my brain ready for blog format. I was ready to testify. I thought I was God’s girl… His witness. I wanted to magnify the difference between then and now. I wanted to proclaim that long ago, God’s words were etched in tablets of stone housed in God’s dwelling place – the tabernacle. But today, God’s words are housed in His new dwelling place… His chosen people. And His words are etched onto tablets of flesh… the heart. I wanted to show that God’s living word is lifted off the pages of Scripture, and nestled deep into our hearts. The words of the living God… living inside us… living inside of me. I thought I was ready. I believed I was a credible witness. My heart was right, and my motives were pure… or so I thought.

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it? ” Jeremiah 17:9

It was just over a month ago that I was halted in my tracks. God’s words leapt off the pages and I cringed when I realized they were meant for me. “What right do you have to recite My statutes and to take My covenant to your lips? You hate instruction and turn your back on My words.” Psalm 50:16-17. I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could this be? I was testifying for God. I was telling the truth. I was typing out messages about His words. What had I done wrong? But then, after I let His words simmer, they penetrated my heart. See, Hebrews 4:12 is true: “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.” The heart. The very place I was ready to testify of… the innermost part of my being where God’s word is housed is what tripped me up. My heart. Deceitful above all things and wicked. My heart… chambers that I thought were pure were instead tainted… filled not with God’s word but something else entirely.

You know… there’s a small church down the road from me. I’ve passed it about a gazillion times. And on the sign out front, you can read, “A half-truth is a whole lie.” That sign has carried the same message for at least three months now. The first time I saw it, I thought it was pretty good. See, there are people out there who need to know that. Other people… not me. But now, after reading it one gazillion and one times, I know it must be just for me. And until I understand this truth, perhaps it will linger there – mocking me each time I pass. I have to get this right.

You see, it was sometime back that the word “liar” kept staring back at me from the pages of Scripture. I tried to address it. But mostly, I just skimmed over it. Because I don’t lie. I don’t tell lies! But you know what… God’s word tells me otherwise. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8, 10. Liar. I am a liar in that I don’t recognize my sin. And not only that, by not seeing me as I really am, I make Him a liar, too. And this cannot be.

Sounds desperate, doesn’t it. But there is good news… the fact is, I am God’s girl. And the truth is, I am on fire. And what’s occurring in my life is only natural. Because the closer I get to God’s fire, the more of me will be burned away. For through this journey called life, I find that my faith is being tried (1 Peter 1:7). It was Peter who wisely said to Jesus’ followers, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you…” 1 Peter 4:12. The dross is being burned away. And for today, while the ashes still smolder inside, I cannot help but think of “Liar, Liar, pants on fire.” But tomorrow… tomorrow will be another story. For I am being purified by the Refiner’s fire. And what’s left will be golden and true. When the bitter envy and resentment and hate go up in smoke, only God’s word will remain. And then, when only His words fill my heart, I can testify. I can be His witness. And my testimony will be credible. I shall recite His statutes, for…

…his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot. Jeremiah 20:9

Child sized holes… for Cathy

I’ve been blessed in that I can work from home… it’s been almost seven years now. However, that can be good, and that can be bad. Because when you stay at home, you can become isolated and separated from the world and current affairs. Especially when you quit cable and satellite and have nothing but internet for news and Netflix for entertainment. And so, it was last year when a couple of my family members died that I purposed in my heart to see more of my family. And here I am a year later, but not much has changed. Oh, I’ve reached out a little bit more this past month, and have tried to do better with loving on my family, but not nearly enough. And so, it was last week when I was praying that I had to stop mid-request. Because it was my aunt Cathy that I thought of. And what came to me was clear… “She’s next.” It was her that I wanted to love on next… but here I am a week later, and I’ve not moved from my hermit’s quarters.

It was earlier this week that a devastating tornado ripped through Oklahoma. I didn’t even know it till late that evening. As I said, I’m isolated here… I work from home, I check the web for news sporadically, and I don’t leave the house much. And when I finally realized what took place so many miles away… I was moved, and yet, I had nothing. Writing-wise, that is. I fancy myself a writer, and here was this catastrophic event that took place, lives lost, and I had nothing to offer by way of words. Until today that is. It was not till this morning that my heart was heavy, and that my eyes were weepy, and that I pondered what really took place. It was not till this morning that I fully comprehended that the worst had happened for so many people. Because what really happened is that some peoples’ biggest fear was realized in that they lost what mattered most to them. They lost their children. And what’s left are child sized holes in their hearts… holes that can never be filled. And that’s when I remembered… I remembered my aunt Cathy.

people sized holes

Honestly, I can’t tell you how many years ago it was when my cousin Barbie died. It has to have been at least eleven or twelve years. But what I do remember is the time of year… May. I remember because I was at the beach with my husband’s family. It was near Memorial Day, and we were having a blast. But there was a message on my phone… Barbie had died in a tragic accident. She was a young woman and it was so unexpected, and when I called my brother, he could barely choke out the words. It seemed so surreal to me… how could this happen? And when I heard the news, I was young, myself. And I had no children… and no thoughts of trying to. Not really. And so, this sad and tragic event affected me… but not as it would today. Because now, I am a mom. And now, I know how I feel about my own. And if I want to be truthful, this is my deepest fear… that I’ll lose my darling boy. And I know that if he were to be taken from me, he would leave a hole in my heart that no one could fill. Because there is no other him. And I’m sure this is exactly how my aunt feels. And I’m pretty sure that what took place in Oklahoma earlier this week serves as a reminder of her own loss… and of her own broken heart. I’m sure she sadly remembers her own child that was ripped from her arms way too soon, leaving a hole that can never be filled.

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:18

Today there are so many broken hearts. Today, so many mourn the loss of their precious babies, and comfort seems far off. For some families, like in Oklahoma, the wounds are fresh… but for some, it’s old wounds that have never quite healed. And age matters not. Because I don’t care how old the soul is that moves on from this earth, the fact is, she’s still someone’s baby. And I wish I could tell Cathy this… that I think I have an idea of what she may feel. I wish I could go back to that time so I could really empathize with her and let my heart break alongside her own as it happened. Because then, I could not…. not like today. I wish I could go back to that time so I could offer her words of hope… words of wisdom. But you know, it’s never too late. And it’s no accident that God brought my aunt to mind last week. Because He knew what was going to happen this week… He knew just how she would feel. Remember, “Cathy’s next…” See, her daughter died sometime in May. There’s no doubt… she is remembering. There’s no doubt… she still feels it. And there’s no doubt, the child sized hole remains.

It’s Memorial Day weekend. And too often, we forget what really matters… see, mostly we think about beaches and pools and hot dogs and lakes and cook-outs and fun. But it’s so much more. It’s a time to remember those who have gone on before us. And may we not forget those who were left behind. And this weekend, may we not just remember those left behind, but come alongside them. May we offer them hope and surround them with prayers… especially the mothers.

See, a mother is connected to her child in a way that no one else could be. At first, the baby is knit together in her womb… inside her. The baby is encompassed, surrounded by protective fluid. And she receives life sustaining oxygen and nutrients from her mother through the umbilical cord. And then, when she finally leaves the safety nest of her mother’s womb, she exits by way of the birth canal and is placed directly into her new safety nest… her mother’s arms. And most mothers will testify today, that if we could, we would keep our children right there… in our arms forever. But that’s not the way of life.

So this Memorial Day, may we remember, and may we pray for those left behind…

Dear Lord, may they know! Please God, may all those left behind with child sized holes realize that yes, it’s true their sweet children were indeed carried away from the safety of their arms. However, may they receive some sense of peace when they comprehend that their little ones were carried away by the arms of Your angels. And although they cannot physically hold their precious babies here on earth, just maybe, God, just maybe… they will find some comfort in knowing that those little ones are now with You, in Your everlasting arms. May they realize that there’s no safer place to be…  in His name I pray, Amen.

No, I don’t think those child sized holes will ever be filled here on earth. But one day, the holes will disappear, when we ourselves are ushered into His arms… alongside our children. And so this Memorial Day, I choose to remember. I will remember those families out west, and their hurts. And my heart will break alongside theirs. But also, this Memorial Day, I will remember Cathy and her own child sized hole. Today, my heart breaks for her. And because God brought her to mind, I just have to think today’s writing is specifically for her… this one’s for Cathy.

Here

Here is a condensed testimony of what’s happened, and what I believe is happening, through God’s amazing plan.

First, the truth… No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. John 6:44.

February 1997. I became a child of God, and yet I stumbled about for years without going deeper than the surface. I went through the motions (if I went through them at all). September 2004. I came to Pinehurst, NC, and I joined a church. I heard God’s word, and my faith began to grow. However, I moved away for a year. August 2008. I moved back to Pinehurst and joined the same church. I had one full year of pure Bible study and prayer before getting busy. My faith was established and I was full of belief and expectation. Spring 2010, I received a promise through God’s word. I was certain He gave me the following words and knew that He would send me back to my hometown… a place that I had elevated to my very own promised land.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. Jeremiah 29:13,14.

Summer 2010, I did just that. I began to seek Him with all my heart. By the Fall, my search for God was in sincerity. And then it happened, He sent me home. I was settled in my hometown by Spring of 2011. After a while, I climbed a mountain with God, but tumbled down so, very low. Which brings me to today. I am here, in my very own promised land on earth, and I’m still diligently seeking God. It is here, in my hometown, that I have found more of God than I ever could have imagined. My question? Why the wait? Because the truth is, God is the one who draws us. Why, if I became His child in 1997, did He wait so long to draw me to Him? Why has it taken sixteen years to get here? My search for God began in earnest close to three years ago. So why now… and why here?

January 2013. I received my answer. I have a new promise from God… and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. Exodus 34:10. This is why now, this is why here. I am among my own people, and some of them may need to know just how big a God we have. I myself need to know. And so, God, with His complex plan worked out all the minute details to bring me to today and my indwelling of my homeland. It’s here that He will do His biggest work in me. Here, among my people, God will transform me… and they shall see. They will know that He is the LORD, for I am the branch of His planting. Here.

And so the transformation has begun. First, confession. HUGE confession. And then, He said get a new spirit. And now, God says, get a new heart… “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart.” Ezekiel 18:31. And oh how I want that new heart. Because for years, my heart has been so hard. As a young girl, I was so tender and senstitive. Why, I would cry if someone looked at me funny! But over time, that heart of mine became calloused. It started when sin came knocking. Oh, no doubt, I became God’s child many years ago, but inside there were hidden things. Darkness that I didn’t lay down at the cross, but rather carried in my heart, tucked away and out of sight. And it’s been killing me, a slow death by way of a hardened heart. Because my heart became so calloused and cold through the years, it really served no purpose other than to pump blood through my deadened body. Essentially, I was of no use to God, because my heart was as hard as flint. But several years ago, things began to change… I began seeking Him with all my heart. And so He drew near to me… but only so near. Before drawing me further into His presence, He had to first clean me up.

And that’s what He did… He told me that He desired truth in the inward part. And it was in my hidden part, that He made me to know wisdom (Psalm 51:6). And after many years, I acknowledged my transgressions to Him. I confessed. Because He tells us to empty our hearts of detestable things and abominations. And then the miracle will happen. God will give us new hearts. But we have to do our part. We have to pour out our hearts before Him, emptying it of hidden things (Psalm 62:8). And then, He will remove the stoney heart out of our flesh, and He will give a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19).

I am amazed with God. I am amazed at How He works things out. See, I left home at nineteen but returned as a new creation. I came back as a child of God. And in all my years away, God could have drawn me to Him if He so purposed. He could have brought my dark sins to light while I was living elsewhere… but He waited for the right time. He drew me to Him several years ago, and that’s when my true search for God began. I sought Him with my whole heart, and now I’ve found Him. He’s restored me to the land He banished me from… my homeland. It is here among my own people that He will sanctify His great name. My people shall know that He is the LORD God, when He is hallowed in me before their eyes. Here, He has sprinkled me clean. Here, He has given me a new heart and put a new spirit within me. Here, in my own land, God has taken out my heart of stone, and here in my promised land, God has given me a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36.

God is doing a work in me. He’s waited for the right time so that I could become brand new right before my own people’s eyes. It is here, in my promised land, that I will experience the victory God has promised me, through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is here that I will await the next miracle… for it is an awesome thing the He will do with me. Hallelujah and Amen.

Can I trust you with my heart?

Yesterday was one of my favorite postings. Because I feel like the past few years (or longer) has been nothing but a giant struggle. But you know, I don’t dare place my struggle on the same plane as some of those I know. I know people who have struggled, or are struggling, mightily. My step-mother-in-law just had her second kidney removed. She is struggling. I have two aunts who lost their children. They’re struggling. I have a friend and both of her sons have a disease. She’s struggling. I have an aunt who is estranged from her sons. She’s struggling. This aunt also happens to be having a cardiac catheterization this week, and she said something intriguing. In thinking about her procedure, she said, “The bible verse “trust in the Lord with all your heart” is taking on a new connotation for me.” Yes, I am surrounded by a myriad of hurting people who have fought tangible battles, and who are still fighting. And there are so many more.

My struggles are different. Because when I contemplate my time on earth, I have had no major upheavals to overcome. When I look at the course of my life, it seems to have gone along quite smoothly. Outwardly, everything looks just fine. But inwardly, that’s another story. Inward is where my struggles lie, and my heart and mind are the battlefield. I’ll give you an example through a child’s movie. We had a snow day on Wednesday, so my family watched Finding Nemo. The first scene is really quite something. The dad, Marlin, and his wife, Coral, are looking over their new home. Their babies (eggs) are nearby, and everything looks just great. But then a barracuda arrives on the scene. The parents look on in fear, and Marlin orders Coral into the house. But she just stares at that threatening fish, and then she fights for the lives of her children. She swims for them… but, she doesn’t make it. And none of her babies make it… except one. And I have to say, in all the times I’ve seen Finding Nemo, the movie never got to me as much as it did this time. Because I realized… I am both Coral and Marlin.

I have a son who is six and a half years old. And I just have to say that I’ve lived in fear most of his existence. It began immediately after he was born. I could barely sleep at night for fear he would stop breathing. Several times a night, I would place my hand on his chest to feel it rise and fall, and I still do this now, just before I go to bed. After the breathing, came eating. I feared every bite would choke him to death. And that little dickens knew somehow. He was about two and a half when he filled his mouth to capacity, and then looked over to me, opening his mouth wide as he could for me to see inside! See, fear must have been oozing from my pores because even at that tender age, my son knew I was scared. And there are other fears, losing him in the grocery store, him getting hit by a car, and on and on and on. I have been living in fear from the day my son was born. Do you know what God says about that? “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18. Quite clearly, I have not been perfected in God’s love.

Finding Nemo was eye opening. I could see myself in Marlin. He was terrified of everything after the tragic death of his wife and children. And because of his fear, he smothered his one remaining son. He didn’t want to let Nemo do anything. He didn’t trust Nemo, or anyone else for that matter. And that’s me! I am just like Marlin. And I can see myself in Coral, too. See, she fought for her children… to death. Any mother would. We love them so much, we would do anything for them. Our children are tied to our hearts… why, they are our hearts. We feel everything they do. When they cry, we cry. When they laugh, we laugh (usually). I love my son so much, and the thought of losing him nearly incapacitates me. And because of fear, I barely live. And through that fear, I’ve hindered my child.

Everything came to a head this past January. It all began in July. My son developed a skin condition (they say it’s Psoriasis). He still has this. Among other sicknesses, he had some sort of allergic reaction in December that lasted three days. Not sure what that was. Through this time period, my son got to where he couldn’t hear us. Thus, an ensuing ENT visit, which led to ear tubes, both of which blew out because his infection was so bad. Now, I know these are all minor issues. But not to me. Because I lived in fear from the day my son was born, these issues just heightened my fear. And this past winter, fear grew exponentially. The morning of my son’s ear procedure, I despaired. I honestly believed that God was going to take him from me. I know, irrational thinking, but this is what I thought. I cried the whole time I was in the shower, and I cried as I saw them put my son to sleep. Despite the fear that held me captive, my son came out just fine. It was the day after the procedure that the tubes blew out. By that point, I was undone. Eventually the infection went away, but the fear remained. And so, it was this past February when God & me had a moment.

On February 9th, my son developed a pretty high fever. After my husband went to bed, I gave my son Tylenol, but about 45 minutes later his temperature began to rise again. When it hit 103.5, I broke. I knelt before my bed and cried out to God. He already knew my fear, for He knows my heart. But I never wanted to voice it before (superstitious?). But that night, I talked to God about my fear. I prayed for that little boy and his fever… for healing. And not just for the fever, but for everything else that plagued his body. It was a night I surrendered to God, and wept before Him. I knew only God could heal my boy, and me. Because although my son is the one who had all sickness, I believe the battle over his body was actually being fought within my very heart.

I’d like to say that after that night, fear left me forever. But it hasn’t completely. See, this is one of my struggles and it’s an ongoing battle. Two-steps forward and one-step back with each skirmish. But you know, last night a new thought struck me. I think it must have stemmed from my aunt’s remark about trusting God with her heart. See, my son is my heart. How could he not be? And it was within this past year that my husband and I had a ceremony at our home, consecrating ourselves to God. We did this last Spring, and from sincere hearts gave all of ourselves to God. And that included our son. Last night, I remembered 2 Timothy 1:12, but rather than thinking about me, I heard it in light of my son… “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day.” Yes… my son! I committed him to the Lord not that long ago. God is fully able to keep him. Whatever takes place with my son (good or bad) is in God’s hands! He will allow nothing to happen to my son outside His will. And so, I think that truth finally sunk in last night.

There’s an older country song I love. It’s Travis Tritt who sings out, “Can I trust you with my heart?” Well, my son is my heart, and God knows this about me. Last night, when I reflected on 2 Timothy 1:12, it was as if God were asking me, “Can you trust Me with your heart?” Yes, I believe I can.