Thank God My Yesterday’s Gone 🙌🏻

If 2018 is Forward for me, and it is, then this song could be its anthem. I’ve been listening on repeat and worshipping like no one is watching. 😁

And I’ve been at the place of this next song, too. In fact, it could probably be an anthem for the year that everything changed.

You can’t be grateful until you know you need to be. And I’m grateful to the core.

Hallelujah.

(As always, thanks to the college kid for the excellent music suggestions of late. ❤️)

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Don’t Ask Me How I Am…

…because I might answer you honestly.

There is a standard American greeting, at least in the south, that goes something like this:

  • How are you?
  • I’m well, thank you. How are you?
  • I am well.

I’ve pondered this greeting for some time, because we are not always honest in our answers. And unfortunately, my assignment is to be authentic. 😐

Last summer, events aligned in a unique way that caused me to relive/rehash/re-evaluate painful events in my life, dating back to when I was two years-old. This was brutal, and I suffered.

In September, our family experienced an unexpected death. We worked through grief, and had good days and bad days.

In November, I had a very bad day.

I’ve learned to be kind to myself in those situations. I plodded through the day, waiting for a break, when the strangest thing happened. I felt at my worst, but I felt something else, too, quite randomly, as I was driving, alone.

I felt God with me, in a real, almost physical way, and I was stunned. 

I kept driving, for I was on a small, slow, just-about-empty street in our little town, but I froze, mentally, as realization, or peace, or stillness, or something settled over me. And I rested in it.

“You’re here with me, aren’t you?” I whispered into the stillness of my car.

There was no answer, but I felt the gentle comfort even stronger, almost like a warm hug.

As I continued my day, still languishing, I also continued to feel God’s presence,  almost like He was walking with me, and I shook my head in wonder. I thought of the familiar scripture that says,

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…”

Never before have I experienced this kind of thing, and not since, but I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. And there was a lesson for me.

You see, to go over some basics, I believe that God is real, and not just a fairy tale. This is something I’ve learned by study, but I’ve also experienced firsthand. He changed me, from the inside out, and I didn’t imagine it.

I live in here, so I should know.

I believe that the one God of the Bible exists in three persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit that I felt in the car, and as I went through my day. I received the Spirit, indwelling, when I became a Christian.

I believe that Jesus came to earth, lived the perfect life I could not live, and redeemed my soul by paying a debt I could never pay with his death and resurrection. By giving me His Spirit, and helping me find emotional healing in Him, I believe he also saved me from literal death, but that’s another story.

And I know all of this, cognitively, but when I’m suffering, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.

But here’s the forest:  no matter what my day or my life looks like, whether sunny or gray, whether wonderful or awful, whether I am euphoric or in the depths of despair, in the end, because of Jesus and His sacrifice, it is well with my soul.

Yes, again, I know this cognitively, but now, I know it experientially, and what a thing to treasure.

Thank You, Lord.

So the next time you see me and ask me how I am, I might just say, “You know what? It is well with my soul.”

And that will be the truth.

IMG_6502

The story behind the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” can be read here.

Words here.

A favorite modern rendition, sung this very morning in church:

(Okay, Lord. I’ll write the blog.)

 

Posted in Facing the Monsters, Just Being Real, The Year of Forward (2018) | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Heart Is An Open Space 💔 ➡️ ❤️

Early this morning, during a lovely drive in the darkness into the big city, God aligned circumstances and the words to a song to do unsettling work in my heart. I didn’t even know this job needed doing, and yet, it was so deeply rooted that I literally, physically felt the undertaking as it was happening. I’d only carried the weight for thirty years or more.

The song, by Housefires, starts with an accoustic piano opening, and these words:

“Pull me in closer…close to your heart. May I be a pure reflection of all you are:  Love that is patient, love that is kind, and love that keeps no offenses or wrongs in mind.

Make me like Jesus.

Make me like Jesus.”

And later, the chorus:

“My heart is an open space, for you to come and have your way.

I’m open.

I’m open.”

I was singing along, sipping a delicious honey latte’, enjoying the drive, when these thoughts popped into my mind:

Really, Stephanie? Is your heart open enough to forgive?

I was silenced, and I knew in an instant what that last question meant, with surprise. I was being called to forgive a person for painful wrongs from long ago. I didn’t realize I was holding a grudge. I always just accepted the related life events and thought it was that simple. But I knew in this moment that an entrenched thing was there I’d been blind to. And yet, even as I knew that I was being called to let this weed go, I also knew that I was huddled over it, arms around it, looking back over my shoulder and protecting it. It was mine, and I wasn’t sure I could let it go.

The song dances on, and I listened on repeat, and battled, but it was fruitless, and I told God so. I knew that yes, I was going to let this go, and I knew that no, I couldn’t do it without his help. And I also knew that the help I needed was already given, and I was going to be, in the end, free.

“You’re faithful to find me, right where I am. Oh, even in my wandering, you call me friend. And mercy receives me, and lifts me to my feet. And I’m caught up in the wonder and mystery.

I’ll know when Jesus…

I’ll know when Jesus…”

(My pitiful words here are so inadequate, Lord. Oh, Spirit, give understanding.)

My King is not asking me to do anything he hasn’t already done. From the cross where he was crucified 2,000 years ago, the Passover Lamb forgave those who killed him. And then, he rose from the dead, and lived, so I could face tomorrow. And he lives today, so I can live through him, no matter what.

So, yes…

“Do whatever you wanna do. And say whatever you wanna say. And move whatever you wanna move, God. And change whatever you wanna change.”

Yes, Lord.

“My heart is an open space, for you to come and have your way.

I’m open.

I’m open.”

❤️

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Embarrassing Moments 😐

This morning, I was scrolling through a messenger thread, looking for something particular, when I discovered I’d accidentally thumbs upped a random comment. That’s when I discovered I was in the wrong messenger thread. 😳

Oops.

For the life of me, I couldn’t find a way to remove the thumbs up, and it was probably too late, anyway. Here is what I private messaged to this poor person after my realization:

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And yes, it could have been much worse, trust me. I could have thumbs upped another comment in that thread, and I’ll leave it at that.

This got me thinking of my most embarrassing moments. Here are two that stand out in my memory.

Once, in a group text with church people, auto-correct changed one of my words to thong.

And coincidentally, I once went to the front of our church with a group of people to pray. During my earnest prayer time, I realized I was in a just-below-the-knee skirt, and the way I was positioned on the steps at the front of our church, it was possible that someone (or more than one someone) in the seats behind me saw my exposed backside. Thankfully, I was wearing granny unders, but still, this sight is something I would have protected any and all unsuspecting eyes from. Hopefully, everyone was bowing their heads in prayer as they were supposed to be doing.  🙄

Immediately following this disturbing revelation, I rose and went back to my seat to panic ponder. I talked myself out of worrying about something I couldn’t change, but I did mention the incident to my teenaged son on the way to the car. And do you know what he said?

“Mom, nobody cares.”

To me, this is the moral of the story, and thankfully, he was probably right.

 

P.S. I never wore that skirt again. It was donated soon after the above mentioned event.

P.S.S. During my pondering time in my seat after the event, I did pray and ask God to temporarily blind anyone who might have seen. Just for those few seconds. Or give them temporary amnesia. Whatever worked. God’s choice. Seriously.

 

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Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Here is a story.

Recently, I was asked to do something, and I should have said no. I should have said no because the errand I was asked to do fell precisely during the hours of my long-awaited and difficult to obtain appointment at the Apple Store Genius Bar to fix my phone, and we all know how important those are, correct?

But I said yes, and no worries, because I could just reschedule my appointment.

Nope.

Two hours later, and after venting frustration to the point of yelling no, screeching at an automated voice and leaving a scathing review on the Apple website, my appointment stood, resolute. And I was furious.

Now, this fury deserved some examination, because it was not as simple and justified as it may seem on the surface. This fury was actually sin, but that’s another blog. Just trust me on this one. I live in here. I should know.

I suffered in it all day.

And I whined to God, and to my husband, who looked at me helplessly, poor thing. I attempted to whine between the lines to my brothers in some texts, but they are smarter than that, they don’t have to listen, and it wasn’t their fault, anyway.

This morning, I was dressed and ready to go by 7:30 a.m. And the first thing on my agenda was to get on the phone to Apple Care during the car ride, and give them a piece of my mind, and get that appointment rescheduled. I’d worked hard to get it, and I’d waited over a week for it, and Apple should do a better job, and….I’ll spare you the rest.

At 7:35, I got a text saying the errand was off.

I realized was free to go to my appointment after all. And I was dressed and ready two and a half hours early.

Good thing the appointment didn’t get rescheduled.

🦗🦗🦗

Realization washed over me in that moment, and it wasn’t pretty.

Here is the truth:  I should have said yes to that errand, because it helped someone I adore, and it was the right thing to do. And I should have changed my attitude.

Thank God, I’m a Christian, so I know he provided a way.

Oh, I made a stab yesterday at submitting my will to God’s Spirit for help, but I really didn’t want to, so I continued my tirade all day long, and almost into the night. But mercifully, God allowed a brat to sleep.

All that sanctimonious anger for nothing. And I had to splash my true colors all over apple.com, vomit them to that poor, automated voice (just doing its job), spew them to my husband, sugar coat them in sweet texts to my brothers, and look: now I’m called to admit them here, in front of God and everyone.

I deserve every bit of it and more. To think I could have walked in peace and joy yesterday.

As a Christian, it is my responsibility to mow my own back yard and let God fix my junk, and I have shamelessly neglected that duty in my lifetime. There is no excuse.

Yes, my junk is understandable, and no, as a human I don’t have real power against my selfish passions (believe me, I’ve tried) but the good news is that God sent his Son to pay the price I couldn’t pay, and to fix the problem, and to make a way for me. It’s mine for the asking, and for the taking.

I just need to start living like I actually believe that. I’m the one who says I believe the Bible.

Whew. That’s my story for today.

Now, I’m off to my appointment, celebratory coffee in hand, to enjoy a trip to a beautiful shopping mall. I’ve owned this issue with God, and he forgave me. #joyrestored

And you know what? God had this all along. I just needed to trust him.

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😁

29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29, NASB

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Ephesians 4:31, NASB

 

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2018 – Forward

My one word for 2018 is forward.

My key scripture for 2018 is Philippians 3: 12-14 in the ESV version:

Not that I have already attained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Did you name your year?

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New Year’s Day 💝

I’m a Christian, and I spent some quiet time with the Holy Spirit early this morning, before anyone else was awake. This is my favorite thing in life–actually, it is my lifeline, but I neglect it in the busy mess. I find that I have to discipline myself, so I built a listening time, followed by a honest me time, into my quiet time method. I have to practice listening, shutting out everything else, and being real with Him about what is on my heart. The rewards far outweigh the effort, because this time can become intimate, and meet my deepest needs.

There is so much more, but I wanted to quickly leave you with the latest song that I’ve had on repeat at times in 2017, because this song’s artist is one of the things going in the box for 2018. I’ll be purging her from my playlist, except maybe when on a long drive and needing to stay awake, but more (hopefully) on that, later.

When I met my husband, I was only 15, but the first words out of my mouth when I first saw him were, “I would marry that man.” And even as I uttered those words to a friend (who claimed she saw him first) I wondered why I said them. But they came true.

There have been four decades of life in between that moment and now. That’s a lot of life…good, bad, beautiful and ugly. Those decades were filled with countless ordinary moments.

A reviewer for this song said it was about finding love in the ordinary things of life. But it spoke to me on a deeper level, about sticking it out through thick and thin. And that’s been the story of our marriage.

When we started out, the odds weren’t good for us. In addition to being young, I was also an emotional train wreck. And worse yet, I was not walking with God. But I quickly turned to God in the rough moments of marriage, tearfully reciting a laundry list of issues about my husband, until one day, I heard a still, small voice seem to say, in my mind, “Don’t come back to Me in prayer until you’re willing to pray for Me to change this marriage starting with you.”

Ouch. I didn’t think God understood my dilemma, but of course, He did, and perfectly.

In time, I was willing to pray that prayer, and in time, we made it.

And as the song says, I wanted my husband’s midnights, but the true love was found in those countless moments of cleaning up on New Year’s Day.

Not bottles, but life.

And finally, on repeat today, my favorite rendition of a classic melody for New Year’s Eve:

From me to you, happy new year, and may God bless you abundantly in 2018.

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