The Blogger Herself

The Blogger Herself

Sunday, August 05, 2018

What I learned from a MIddle School Kid about sharing the Gospel.

A  few weeks ago, something brought my attention to a young man on Sunday who shared with students quite a bit younger than him how God loves even the people who do not choose him.  His statement stopped me cold and I listened.    It then reminded me of something I prayed in January you know those new year goals and dreams.  I prayed that God would give me the boldness to tell someone, not about Jesus, many know about him, but less know about how enter into a relationship with Jesus one that would not be solely about avoiding hell and entering heaven though that is part of my desire, because I know  what it is to live apart from Christ for hours, days weeks years and months looking for the assurance that I could know I had been forgiven and did not have to face condemnation and punishment from God   I would not want anyone or myself  to experience an eternity without God through Christ.  I imagine nothing more hopeless than the thought of this.  No rescue, no fulfillment, No compassion, No joy, no justice, No restoration.  No joy no peace.  No comfort, no absolute.  Nothing would matter at all without access to God through Christ for me.  Yet I know many I deeply value believe that their greatest hope is found within the source of self-ability.
       Anyway. evangelism isn't something that comes naturally to me or something I would ever say is something I am gifted with.  When you spend years in a sea of doubt regarding your eternal security all through middle school and through a good portion of high school, it seems almost hypocritical to share the Gospel with others.  Satan will tell you can't share the gospel with others because look at you, you wasted years wondering if Jesus really did rescue you after all.   You will only confuse people the enemy says, so you should not try.  Maybe you never had such thoughts, and if you did you sure would not admit those to all of your blog readers right?  I remember that moment in high school telling God I didn't want to live with the invisible question mark above my head anymore.  I knew I heard the Gospel at age seven, and in whatever capacity I could at the time remember praying that Jesus would be in my life, and recited I knew and believed Jesus died for my sin.  Somehow through the years the memories and details of that event began to get fuzzy.  This led me down at least 3 years of miserable doubt wondering if my salvation "took" for lack of a better phrase.  I kept my secret torment to myself many years, but those doubts led me to dig deep into scripture, long after I had been baptized and joined the church.  One night I guess somehow my mom seemed to be aware this was an issue I was dealing with, and she said "you know T.J. if you are worried about it all you do is ask, and God will settle it.  So one night I did.  Something like God I don't know if I was saved then and just don't remember it, or if I simply have a hard time trusting you to do as you promised but either way I don't want to live in this state of any more, so please help me know that I belong to you.  While many might have walked the aisle or been dunked again I never felt I needed to because for me it was more for my benefit than anyone else.   I knew everyone else was assured of my commitment to follow Christ years ago the only person who doubted that was me and given the limitations I had at that point, I do not feel that Jesus was commanding me to a "rebaptism" because for me it was an issue of my choosing to believe Jesus had the power to rescue me and that he would do as He said He would.  In my case, It was an issue of my not asking him to. Why am I sharing this with and what does it have to do with a middle school boy from church?
About a month ago my sister-in-law boldly made the courageous step to share her story and her obedient choice to be baptized again. As much I never wanted to share this part of my story on Facebook.  I was so encouraged and challenged by her openness this I had to ask myself why was I so reluctant to share my own story?  After that night, which I mentioned above, it was amazing how God opened my eyes and heart to the many verses of assurance.  That night was a turning point for me.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago to hearing this middle schooler tell his younger peers in his own words  God loves everyone, even people who do bad stuff.  At that moment, I realized in many situations you don't need a formal plan of Salvation or a course formula on sharing the Gospel.  We know the truth and facts, but we are scared to speak up and say this is what Jesus has done for me, and I know He can and will this for you.  In fact, He has done this for you already, He is just waiting for you to put your yes on the table.
I don't know if I will I get to see someone come to Christ by sharing my faith.  That isn't the point, the point is am I able and willing to set my pride aside to share with others the best thing that ever happened to me?  I am more willing than I was a month ago, due in no small part to a middle schooler who took God at his word, Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.1 Tim. 4:12
  Don't miss your sunset share what counts and relax in the truth.  This young man shared what He knew to be true of God.  What an example to be followed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Finding my Sunset with The Elephant In the Room... Post contains adult topics. PG-13*

I don't usually like for Cerebral Palsy to be the focus of my writing, but lately, I feel the need to let people into this part of my life, because I'm building some new relationships, and I wonder sometimes if people are curious what a snapshot of a typical week consists of for me.  I was born with Cerebral Palsy often referred to as CP for short.  My mom went to the doctor for a check-up in her seventh month of pregnancy, and doctors said everything was fine.  The crazy thing is her back was hurting at work that night.  She apparently worked 4 days 10 hours.  She found herself in the back seat of her boss's car being taken to a Halifax Daytona Beach Hosptial.  She arrived at the hospital at 930 PM and she always told me she believed I'd born in the back seat of that car the nurses rushed and told her there was no time for any medicine.  The truth mom had the strongest pain tolerance and did not have medicine with me or my younger brother no surprise to either of us. I was born April 29th, weighing in at  3 pounds @ 10:02 PM.  Stayed in the NICU for forty-five days.  Cerebral can be caused by several different things, but in my case, it was believed to be the result of brain damage from Oxygen Depravation.  Many years later I found out a couple from Canada were on Vacation in Daytona and the same thing happened with there baby, but the day I was released from the hospital their baby sadly died.    I wonder what that baby's life might have been like if their outcome had a different ending.  I also wonder how things may have been different if the reverse had occurred.
  There are a few types of CP and no person with CP is affected exactly the same way even if they have the same type.  Some have speech problems I do not., but as much as I talk, people might wish I did sometimes.  I'm kidding.   Some people with CP walk with a limp or cane.  One side is typically stronger than the other.  I am stronger on the right side of my body and have minimal use of my left side.     Cognitive issues can be common, but not in every case.  People often assume that when you say brain damage, it means you don't have cognitive abilities,   They wonder if a person with CP can express themselves or process information most people I know with CP can including me can, but this is not always the case.  CP is anything but a cookie cutter condition.  It is best to ask questions instead of making assumptions.   CP is such a normal part of my existence, questions people have often do not occur, to me. but  I'm not offended by questions.  What is the question that most surprises me?  Once a college student asked me if I could have sex, for a or a disability panel... I  joked and said are you offering yourself?  Quicky I explained I can only speak for me, but the instruments work, I just choose not to use them.  One, because I believe sex is intended for marriage, and I have no expectations of being married.    What is the most common question you are asked?. How do I use the bathroom?  I use adult briefs because my hips and knees are fixed for the most part making it impossible for me to utilize a toilet.     I have caregivers that come a minimum of two times per day, and a max of 3 for showering and personal care.
What do I like about CP that it keeps me humble and patient because I don't have another option and there are times that I would hope it makes more dependant on Christ than I might be without CP because I'm stubborn and do not like depending on others for help.  I like that it makes me more compassionate, and forces me to have a sense of humor about a lot of things.  Can I drive a car?  Nope, I can barely drive my chair to get where I'm going grin
If given the option would I choose CP honestly no, but given the option, I would not choose a lot of things and most of the time I'm glad God does not entrust me with such an option in the hear and now.    So if you could give someone the chance to view an aspect of your life, what would that be?  Love to hear about it!
How do I embrace my sunset with CP?  I look to God, I pray to be content in plenty or want.  I live out my purpose some days poorly other days with great joy!  I know my friends with physical challenges will have great insight to share, which may be much different and contrasting to me my own.   That is a good thing as we have different lives and are different people Feel free to share those.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Savoring Our Sunset at St George Island!

  It took my breath away the bright ball of orange filling the evening sky  The blue sky served as the perfect backdrop, and time stood still.  Awed by the beauty!  Enthralled by joy, and certain my soul could not hold it forever.  Relationships deepened.  The sunset above the water soothing my soul. Many moments of pinching myself to see if I was dreaming.  I never imagined the possibility of witnessing a Florida sunset again.  I never believed the ocean would greet me with arms open, but it happened.  It was not something I dared to pray for or dream of but He knew.  God knew the desires that I buried in my heart.    I not only witness a beautiful sunset I experienced it savored, it, and shared with some special people.    Now I remember it!
Any number of events could have happened to prevent us despite much planning, to see the sunset.  We could have run out of gas or had van trouble before getting there, but none of those events occurred.  Me running out of gas?  Yall I can't ever let that happen right Houston?  God allowed me the joy of seeing the most amazing FL Sunset on the last day of vacation.  We had attempted to view the sunset the night before, but could not because of a brushfire nearby.   We ended up playing games that night as a group, which is another one of my favorite things to do because it connects human beings and requires them to interact.   We laughed more that night because none of us tried to force an agenda, we chose to see a change in plans, as the chance to make another type of sunset moment, one much more figuratively than literal, and it was every bit as satisfying as seeing the actual sunset the following evening.  God knew I would savor the sunset more by sharing it with people I'd already made memories with and game night provided the means and platform
It is important to use our past moments those special sunset moments to motivate us in our less than exciting ventures and less than sunset like moments harder to find.    It is hard coming back from the beach to caregivers quitting or who have already quit while you are gone.    Plus limited conversation and ongoing uncertainty with chronic stomach problems which lead to other problems  Then my computer having to be restored this week and losing three years of my own prayer journals    Knowing God loves me enough to bless me with this trip, gives me hope for future, and gratitude for such a sweet gift! When was the last time you let yourself savor God's love and the love others have for you?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

if,Mother’s Day hurts,your heart,.thats ok.

I know so many of you who dread at least two holidays in the year.  Some of you dread both Mother's and or Father's Day nearly every year because you either long to be a parent, and that dream remains unfulfilled, or you lost children or parents you'll never get back, at least not the way you did before.  I wish I could look in the eyes of your soul, and tell you how truly sorry I am for the sorrow these two days in the calendar year bring to you, whether it is because of death, divorce, infertility, or an estranged relationship with those you love. It could be all or none of these reasons that leave you feeling left out, and forgotten in these holidays  Let's just say what we are thinking, but aren't brave enough to say it, because we know the looks will get from onlookers. It isn't right or fair you have to deal with the ache in your heart this year or other years passed by but the truth is life isn't fair and isn't right.  Sometimes, it is just as my nine-year-old cousin says, "life is life" and you have to deal.  Our culture is uncomfortable with the harsh realities of life, and so we do whatever is needed to dull the hurt and discomfort we feel.  We attempt to numb sorrow, with whatever works.  Sometimes it is social media, though that rarely is helpful because it is like a megaphone in your ears and a dagger in your heart.  Sometimes, it is eating the Whole bag of brownie brittle I may or may not have done this.  Sometimes, it is more dangerous, like,self medacating wit( a substance of one kind or another
 This is not a post where I'm going say you are not coping well or doing it or you should do this instead.  I simply want to tell you God is there to meet you in your pain, even you don't believe He is.  I know I can't believe this for you any more than you can convince me to believe it.  All I can do is tell you what promise I'm clinging to and maybe just knowing someone cares will help whether you believe it or not.   "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." 2 Cor. 12:9-10 Do you feel weak?  Do you ever wonder if God's grace is sufficient for this weekend much less your life and future?  Let me tell you are not alone as you wonder, but as you wonder, the promise is still true,   A friend said to me today, I'm praying for you this weekend, it took me a minute to consider what she meant, as life gets us busy doing so that we don't have time to connect with the void that is as apparent as a neon sign.  I appreciate it as most would think it has been a few years now, I'm sure she is used to it.   I'm not used to it, and in some ways I hope I never am, because to be accustomed to the void is to miss the beauty of entering into ministry.  One of my new tradtions in the last few years has been to give my grandmother flowers.  I know she has a daughter she adores and that daughter would and has done everything for her.  That still does does not change the fact that she lost one daughter, and we lost our mother. My Aunt lost her sister, and the list goes on. It.feels like something that would makei my mom smile, even though the flowers might not be the most elaborate.
A word to those celbrating this weekend, never apologize or think you need to feel guilty for celbrating and vauling your parent,or your child this is good, healthy and right to do.  All of us will be without a parent, parents, or a child some day, and so savor the moments you have.  If your realtionship is messy or complcated make peace with it again.  That might mean accepting and forgiving a parent who never was able to give you what you hoped for.  What  ever you need to do to to do to begin to heal, you can start now. If you,need to rest or cry or write a letter, or make a phone call do what you neeed to do.  If you need to pray at home one sunday, out of the year on purpose so be it.  By the way i am not suggesting that you do that, so dont have your Pastor write me to tell me how wrong I am.  Im simply saying especally on these hoildays, God gives new mercies and even special ones,  Whatever you do, it will go a long way torward healing if you reach out to support someone    In need.  I have seen this so many times Whatever we feel this weekend or other days in our,lives,  We have to know God’s grace can and does sustain us not just in minds, but in our hearts and,that is something.only God gives.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The day I Stood UP!

I giggle silently on the inside because I already know what the title of this post will be.  Let me tell you about the day I stood up.  This is the moment where you shake your head in confusion and I burst into laughter.  If you know me you already know  I was born with Cerebral Palsy and have not physically stood entirely on my own without support from the time I was born ever.  In my years prior to surgeries to rebuild my hip sockets due to pain, I could stand in a stander with belts or with the help of physical therapists I could transfer at least in elementary school to the toilet, chair, or floor mat.  No, for those wondering cp itself is NOT a progressive disorder  Those days didn't last long as I lost a ton of mobility after both hip surgeries, but it got rid of my pain, but my lack of mobility, resulted in brittle bones.  In high school, one of my teacher's and I joked, we could tie me to a rope, tell everyone I was standing and sell tickets.

      While I may not be able to stand physically. My title, you will find out is true.   Over the last few months, I have accepted the realization I can stand in the righteousness of Christ, and more than anything this is why the reality of Easter means so much to me personally.  The more I dwell upon the unshakable truth that I don't have to strive for approval and acceptance of God, the freer I  become to give him glory and share the gospel and its hope with those I encounter.  Jesus didn't just take the punishment of death for Peter, or Paul or Timothy, or Billy Graham.  He took all my not good enough, every bad thought, every foul word, ever lie I've ever told, every hint of bitterness my soul contained and He paid the price sentenced to death for my bad attitudes, my pride, my woe is me pity parties, my unkind intentions so that I could not  only approach the perfect  living God, and live in eternal bliss and awe with him, but so I could talk to him about my deepest fears, and the joy of my heart.  Somewhere along the way, Jesus has not only become my bridge for a painless afterlife, He is becoming my right now, everyday life Sustainer!    I am so grateful for the promise of Heaven with God, but my heart is far more satisfied with the truth that I can praise him now!  I can lean on him now.  I can ask for, and receive forgiveness today, not just tomorrow or some future time to come, but right now in the present, and still know it cannot run out or become stale.
I'm not a robe wearing kind of person, because of my seating arrangements, but I love the feel and look of a nice robe.  Jesus wore and bore my sin, as well as the sin of humanity.  He knew the weight of being condemned and shamed.  He provided a necessary all be it an unfair divine exchange.  He took my sin, and in exchange clothed me in HIS own righteousness.  He tasted defeat so that I can taste victory!  see Isa. 53
  Just as I can't physically stand up. It is not possible to through my own ability or effort to have a right relationship with God, and to stand in the righteousness of God in Christ.  self-righteousness is an illusion.  It is rooted in the deception that we are the standard and the assumption that we are the ones who define what is right.  Oh, what joy and transformation have occurred in my heart, as I learn to stand and be clothed in the righteousness of Christ himself.  After years of self-loathing. though I'm still being transformed, I truly am standing!  Are you standing?  Maybe though you have physically stood your whole life, you truly have never understood who Christ has made you into and is still shaping you into.- spiritually speaking,   For years, though I accepted Christ for eternal life, the new identity piece never clicked it never made sense to me.   Slowly it is as if my eyes can now see what my pride refused to embrace.  What would it look like to stand in the truth of what Christ has given you through His death and resurrection?  Stand in it.  Be clothed in Christ's righteousness!  "God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 cor 5:21   "I  am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels." Isa. 61:10 NLT

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Christmas Card in February. In loving Memory, of Susan Morris

It has been less than a month since Susan Morris was unexpectedly at least by us, ushered into the presence of Jesus.  Susan and I have had overlapping shifts in Choices for the past 6 years.  I had no idea on February 8th I would be so profoundly impacted by a phone call from a mutual friend of ours, who taught with Susan before she retired.    The friend called to tell me Susan and her husband were killed in a wreck.  "What?"  It did not connect.  I know a few people by the name of Susan.  My mind began to swirl, not the Susan I had just seen two weeks earlier who was supposed to be on vacation with husband.  The same Susan who laughed and joked with me.  Susan who often told me how proud my mom would be of me?  Susan who provided such a motherly wisdom, as I struggled with life without my own mom?  Susan made everyone feel important from the tiniest child to the most disrespectful person in the room.  Susan prayed like no one I had ever known.  She loved Jesus, and though she was always on the move going from one place of service to the next, she was never too busy to encourage someone.  The times we talked on the phone about work, the Lord or family, Susan was just getting geared up in the first 30 minutes.  If you asked her what she thought she would tell you but in the kindest most straightforward way.  Susan could have said a lot, but she knew when it was best to say nothing.  She was passionate about everything, and almost never flippant about anything.  She had a heart for grieving people.  She would be editing this post if she were here.

Why am I writing about Susan, because her legacy is still impacting me from beyond the grave!  On February 13th I went to her visitation and gave my sympathy.  After coming home, I thought God, please help me this seems so wrong for her son to be forced to live without his parents he is a couple of years younger than me.  I began to open my Bible and found a Christmas card unopened, I don't remember ever reading it.I vaguely recall her asking my about a card, but I'm bad to put things down somewhere and forgetting where I put it.  I have no idea how it ended up in the Bible.  I often read the Bible on my ipad or computer so I can Journal what I read, but that night I was studying the lesson for storytelling Sunday, and always read it in the Bible in hand too for some reason or on my lap.  As I opened the card, the outside said Jesus.  Inside the Christmas card said TJ, I am so proud of how you've served and grown in the Lord this year, it has been such a joy to watch.  Love, Susan.  Susan supported and encouraged me as I wrestled with going to a different church.  I know finding that Christmas card that very night was no accident, and if I can make even a fraction of the difference in so many lives as Susan Morris still is, it would be far more than I'd ever hope for!  I look forward to telling her this one day.  Is there someone who is impacting your life right now?  In honor and memory of my friend Susan Morris who is serving and celebrating Jesus right now, will you call or write someone who has positively inspired you, and say thank you?  Yes, I know life is busy, but you'll never regret a sunset you refuse to miss!  In Susan's honor, I've been writing thank you notes since last week!

"The word of the Lord is tried;
He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him." Ps. 18:30

Friday, March 02, 2018

What An Injured Dove Revealed, About God and Me

Monday afternoon sitting on our porch as I was preparing to spend time outside, there under a table was the most gorgeous dove!  Quickly, Mumzie and I realized the dove was somehow injured.  I was texting everyone I could think of to get help for this dove.  I never thought I would be so concerned about a bird, I knew I myself could not save this beauty, but I was on a mission to do whatever we could to find someone to help this dove.  Every time we went to the front door we became compelled to help this dove.  Mumzie gave it water, and eventually, after many phone calls to family and friends, I found the number for Wildlife rescue in Chattanooga.  I was so concerned this bird may die overnight before it could be rescued the next day.
Yes, you can laugh, I even prayed asking God to help this poor creature.  Why was I suddenly so invested in this dove?  To be honest, at first, I wasn't sure why.  Over recent weeks I have had conversations with friends about the mystery of God choosing to heal some, while others are still waiting, hoping, and praying for their miracle or who in this world never got their miracle.  The week before this I said okay God I will stop trying to understand why healing comes to some while others continue to suffer, it seems most of their lives   The burden of this is too heavy.  Some in the world, are seemingly taken to soon, who are impacting lives, and on the other hand, those longing for healing are called to stay while longing for eternity.    As I watched this beautiful helpless bird,  I remembered the scripture about how not one sparrow falls to the ground without The Father knowing of it. "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God." Luke 12:6  Do you see it TJ? It was as if the Lord was saying, As much you care for this bird who has nothing to offer you, this is only a tiny portion of how deeply I care for my children.  It didn't stop there, I knew then it was personal.  The way you invest in and care for this dove, it doesn't begin to express how invested in you, I the Living God am!  
The dove had puncture wounds from some type of attack, but because it has been rescued by a wonderful nonprofit, it has a fighting chance of recovery. As believers, we are attacked by trials, hurts, bitterness, sin, temptations worry, idols and more. WE have more than a fighting chance, because we have Jesus who has a flawless record when it comes to redemption and rescue of lost, sinful broken rebellious people! I was a mess of an outcast, shattered by sin and God keeps rescuing me!  As I pray to be rescued, from the worries and fears of this life. How can I pray for you?  Where are you pleading, searching and praying for rescue?  I am grateful a dove is still reminding me, God can be trusted to rescue me too!  

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Finding Your Sunset in Broken Dreams

One night as a teenager I remember saying to God, you know I'm not going to have my own family so can you just take away that longing now?  It didn't go away in an instant, but I quickly learned that while my friends were pouring themselves into sports. or dating, neither of which were likely for me. School and grades were my tickets to glory.  In my own sick and twisted way, it was where I obtained praise and acceptance.  I never felt smart no matter how many A'S I got on my report cards.  I knew I was always one bad grade away before my whole identity would be obliterated.   I remember saying to someone at school, if I don't have my school performance, then I really didn't have a lot going for me because it wasn't like I was going to have much else to offer the world.  It sounds tragic, but I believed it.  In September of 2004 my identity crumbled, I caved and didn't survive my transition to a 4-year college, and buckled under the weight of my own unrealistic expectations, and one college advisor bound to prove I didn't have what it took to see it through Combined with a VR Counselor who told me if I could not keep a full class load, I'd have little to no chance of pursuing a job in journalism.  All of this resulted in my dropping out of college, as I spiraled into my first episode of major depression three weeks into the semester.  The only thing in life I ever quit, I think.

What does all this have to do with why I'm writing this post?  Our culture is drawn to the idea of dreams.  Movies, songs, motivational speakers, many people talk about what it means to have dreams and goals in life.  Dreaming is something I trained myself long ago was a waste of my time and energy,   Dreams go unfulfilled, get shattered get ignored.  One of my favorite life stories in the Bible is the story of Joesph in the Old Testament.  He had a prophetic dream that He would play a big role in Egypt, and his brothers would be bowing down to him.  Little did he know this dream would cause him much heartache and turmoil, and cause great pain to his family.    If you know his story you know in Genesis he is solid into Slavery by his brothers, because they resented the favoritism Joesph's father showed him.  Then, though he was a man of honor, he found himself falsely imprisoned for rape.  This would be the point of the story which most of would probably become discouraged and embittered but Joesph through God's power's made the best of the hand he was dealt. When most of us may have said Lord, I've been too hurt by relationships.  I bet many of us would say on the inside, but Lord this person deceived me, you deceived me you showed me this dream, but nothing looks like the dream.  I  was talking to a friend last week, when she expressed that she was hurt that God kept bringing dishonest men into her life, and how they've hurt her numerous times.  I gently reminded her she was blaming God for something He himself was not doing to her, but He could use her experience to strengthen her faith in Him if she was willing.
I cannot help but wonder if  Joesph held tightly to the dream he had so many years before all the injustice he endured.  As he had been forgotten by those he advocated for.  One thing I know, Joseph trusted God's plan and sovereignty, even when it appears life treated him unjustly.  The bible states God was with Joesph, and he prospered.  This biblical version of a Lifetime movie as I call it, would not be what I'd call prospering, but this is why God is God, and I'm not.  In my sinfulness, I often want the easy path.  The one where everyone is happy and there is no confusion, sorrow, or broken dreams.  Ironically, however, it is often those broken dreams God uses most to bring his healing restoration into our lives.    Joesph's dream, in this case, was actually a vision of future events in his own life.  It didn't happen as quickly or as easily as Joseph might have wanted or even envisioned.  God still fulfilled the dream and showed his greatness.  20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Genesis 50:20. 
I rarely talk even with those closest to me, about my desire to be a wife, and a mom, mostly because I know with my physical condition it isn't possible, as I cannot care for myself, much less a family of my own.  As this thought crossed my mind at almost 35 years of age, I praise God who has granted my dream of having my own family in a different way.  Every week at Choices I have the joy of equipping people in many cases to build their own family legacy.  I have the joy of pouring love into and making memories with the children in our family.  I get to impart encouragement, to moms who may feel there is no one out there cheering them on.  Now I am able to tell kids every month God loves them, and they are important to him and his plan.  That I imagine is the greatest joy parents can have.  God can take even a broken dreamer and fulfill a dream far better dream than the broken one she spent years running away from.  Do you have broken dreams?  Would you invite God to enter your broken dreams, and restore them?  Does this resonate with you?  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Hills, Rivers, and Churches.

Dear Family and Friends:
I’ve never been more nervous to write a blog post.  While I hope everyone reads this post, the people I most desire to read it are 2 groups of people.  I will tell you more about that in a minute.  First for my own peace of mind and because I want to make sure God directs my words, I will be opening up with a verse I have made personal prayer in this post.
 May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to You,
Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer. PS. 19:14

In 1987ish which was a long time ago.  My mom, my brother and I began attending and became part of Brainerd Hills Baptist Church after we relocated to Chattanooga TN, and moved in with my grandparents were I’ve lived for the past 31 years.  I’ve loved church, for as long as I can recall.  I loved being in Mrs. Anne Medley’s 4 year old Sunday school class which I still remember.  I loved how my Grandfather carried me to the back of the church to greet the Pastor most Sundays.  I first heard the Gospel at BHBC BHBC is a loving church filled with people who love me and who I love very much.  This BHBC Family has loved me and supported me through surgeries, grief, loss, depression, service, awkward youth years and needs of every sort. Without the support of this family I can’t be at all certain that I would have accepted Christ, when I did.  I developed a foundation rooted upon the Gospel, and a lot of that is because of people like Wilma, Fowler, Mr. Clyde who gave out candy at church.  I met friends in GA’S who I continue to respect and memories that will be forever etched in my heart.  During middle, school and high my passion for Christ grew because of people like Sarah Haren and Lisa Crawford.  The church supported me in my work with Choices by in spirit and funding.  My last 2 years of high school in BHBC youth was the time in life that I believe I really started to build friendships with people my own age   The staff @ BHBC has pastored and loved me well. I can’t begin the hundreds of people who have invested in my life or my family. Why then did I begin to become involved with a different church called Two Rivers 4 months ago?
To answer that question I must go back.  3 years ago, a friend invited me to Two Rivers church Chattanooga on Sundays when my family was out of town, and I enjoyed it, so I went from time to time, especially early after mom died, because I could get through a service without balling my eyes out missing my mom thinking of a memory with her as BHBC had always been such a big part of our relationship and our lives.   Two Rivers Church plant originated from Two Rivers in Knoxville. Over the course of months I began to spend time in groups with that friend and some of the people she was connected to, and I was not looking for anything more than this.   
One of the first times I went to 2RC mom was very sick, and I simply went because life was a mess, and so was I, I think my family had to go out of town that week as mom’s health got worse I became desperate to escape the house at times, just to get away from the helplessness feelings I had on her rough days.  While I was home I kept myself busy doing things that needed to be done.  The last thing I needed to do was drop the ball on the things mom actually needed me to do.  I was only emotional with her a couple of times with her and family when things got bad.  Nothing bothers my sweet family more than when I show distressing emotions, I figure because they love me so much, it hurts them.  Anyway I went to Two Rivers that Sunday the summer before the spring which she died.  The sermon was on Psalm 23, and how we sometimes we think we can hide where we are from God, but how he is the caring Shepherd who carries us!  I didn’t know when, but during that Sermon, God gave me an awareness that though she would have better days ahead at times, her time on earth was going to be shorter than any of us wanted.  As I prayed that day during the prayer time, I let go, of everything I hid behind that smile, I asked God that question, you know the one “good Christians” like Job never ask.  I said God, if you know where I am, and you are good then why are hurting her and all of us, by not sparing her from this.  He didn’t answer my question, but He did promise to carry me and invited me to trust him.   Even then I had no intention of going Two Rivers regularly.  BHBC was the only church I had ever known, and at that point I had every notion to be at BHBC until my dying breath.    I continued to be part of BHBC coming to every event I could.  Quite honestly, I liked Two Rivers, but at that time didn’t see myself there.  It was about as much of a culture shock as people not serving sweet tea up north.  In case you’re wondering that is a big deal.  It was pretty far outside my comfort zone at the time too.  I wore my Baptist heritage like a merit of honor, and though there is nothing wrong with that in and of itself, and we should take joy and be confident in our convictions and commitment, In my case I  had become prideful secretly, and inwardly judged and made some pretty false and sinful assumptions about Two Rivers church early on.  I did not see it then, but God was slowly pulling me away from BHBC as I had become safe, complacent, and comfortable in my place and role in my own heart. It was simply though my mouth praised God, my heart was not right, and though no one would have known, behind the closed doors of my heart, when I was alone with God-I knew I was bowing to my personal idol of performance. My heart was far from God, and that had nothing to do with either church.  One day during my time of “visiting” Two Rivers, I sensed God asking me if I would follow Him even if He asked me to follow HIM to Two River’s church. That was two years ago surely, I heard him wrong?  Nothing in the service, even referenced membership, and I wasn’t totally sure it was even an option.   No Lord I can’t, BHBC has been too good to me.  My family is there.  No one will understand.  It will be a betrayal to so many, and I love them.  I pushed it out of my heart, but the harder I tried, and the more I prayed God affirmed through his word, prayer, and counsel from unbiased parties from outside both churches that in fact God was leading me, and was calling me to a new season at Two Rivers Church Chattanooga to serve and be challenged, and yes even loved. To be honest I expected that it would never work out for more than a few weeks, but my confidence and clarity in my resolve to obey and trust God was maybe for the first time in my life greater than my fear of failure and rejection. I prayed for God to show me, and He did.  The last Sunday I was at BHBC before I took the walk of Faith to begin exploring Two Rivers further I could not get the courage to go to Sunday school, so I stayed in the sanctuary, and prayed.  I prayed for both churches, I prayed for my family, I prayed for myself, because I knew the road would not be easy.  I also asked for a sign and that same day God provided, not one but 2 unexpected events.  It was at that point, I knew the next step was to meet with Two Rivers Pastor, and simply tell him how I had to come to that point, and that my greatest concern was finding transportation.  I fully expected him to say well we can pray about that, and the conversation would end there.   He didn’t pressure me at all, and in fact even said I can’t tell you what to do, but he did seem confident where God leads He will provide a way.  My primary concern was not a deal breaker?  The next obstacle scared me far worse than the first, and I did that a week later. I kept it a secret from family until after the meeting, and decided I need to tell my Aunt and Uncle first before I told the rest of her crew and my grandmother. I kept it a secret until that point, because I’m a people pleaser and I knew at that the minute I sensed disapproval at all from anyone, I would began to back pedal and not follow through on what God had made completely clear.  I knew to do so was a direct act of disobedience.  I also knew this was one of those turning point times in life, I would have regret if I did not move ahead.  I almost threw up twice on the way to their house to tell them. The only thing that kept me from doing that was the chic-fila I ate on the way.  Deep down I knew they would have concerns and be sad, but I also knew they would love and support me as they always had.  Plus I needed their help to tell my grandmother as I knew it would be very hard for her.  I accepted Christ at BHBC, I was baptized, and did most everything with my family.  Pretty much anything I did without them, in the past had failed and I wasn’t sure then, this would be any different. My mom and family had always been my safety net and our family did everything together.  Through this whole process I’ve learned not to take my family and their love and support for granted.  Everyone survived and I have grown so much in the past 5 months.  Questions I feel I need to answer:  Do I miss BHBC?  Yes, I miss and love so many in The Body.  Why didn’t you tell more people personally?  I was simply taking one step of faith at a time, and wasn’t sure how everything would turn out, though I knew God would be faithful.   Do you regret anything?  The only regret I have is not being more open and honest with my family and BHBC and trusting God to help us adjust.  I’m sure it is awkward and unfair answering questions they never should have had to, and I sincerely apologize for   hurt I have caused to my family or BHBC in this process, my goal here is not to defend, but to share my heart.  I have not done this perfectly by any means.
Was I mad about something?  I was not and I am not.  I have nothing but love, respect gratitude for BHBC.  You have loved and served me and lived the Gospel to me, and given more than I will ever deserve. I love the staff and the BHBC FAMILY that has not changed.  That part of this the was agony
Is this about preferences or truly obeying God?   Richard Mason, who by the way will always be referred to by me as Pastor no matter where I am. All these years growing up at BHBC, He taught me worship and church never was and never will be about me.  Worship is about God.  Church is about God.  Anything other than exalting God and Christ is not worship, it is a futile self-centered pursuit    
Will I come back?  It would be arrogant of me to say I know what God has planned or that I can predict my own future, but BHBC will always part of my life. Only God knows what the future holds, and I have committed this to him   I hope Lord willing to be at every cousin’s baptism or Children’s musical, and as long as the doors are open to me you will see me from to time.  In fact on November 5th I plan to attend Dr. Richard Mason’s final service as senior pastor of BHBC.   I have said it before and I will say it again, there is none that models a sincere Pastor’s heart better than Richard and Dianne Mason, well I mean other than Jesus of course.  At the present time, I am confident and blessed to say that Two Rivers church for a lack of a better term is where God has called me, and I am choosing to embrace this journey fully, and though the journey is scary and painful at times, it has been one of the most fulfilling and stretching journey’s I have ever been part of, and I am in this season fully committed to it, and them.
What would I like to say to BHBC?  I love you and I thank you with all of my heart for everything you have given me, both individually and as a body.  I wish I could write a letter to each person who has touched my life. 
Will I join Two Rivers at some point?  That is likely the direction I expect, as I’m already serving in some capacities.
What will happen to Sanctity of Human Life Sunday at BHBC, if/when I do?  I strongly suspect this effort will likely move forward, and I am happy to provide any helpful information if desired.  I am not irreplaceable and the effort is much larger than any contribution God allowed me to have.
Am I finding my place at Two Rivers Church?  The truth is, I found my place at Two Rivers Church  two years before I ever said yes to the Lord about being there.  There were many tears of agony prior to surrender, but I knew. I cannot thank them for embracing, me, loving me respecting me, and giving my place at the table in the mission God has entrusted to them.
How do I get there?  Primarily 3 amazing families in the church, who have so sacrificially served me.  Megahan Murdock put her yes on the table first.  She and husband Bryan have extended the priceless gift of their friendship to me.  Meaghan and I went to high school together and without even knowing that she reached out offering help no strings attached.  A lady by the name of Susan House, I met at “Random” at work by the way there is no random with God.  I have fallen in love with their whole family, they remind of everything I love about my own family, and I kind of feel adopted by them. The staff of Two Rivers Church has been caring and supportive.  I am sure secretly they may wonder if there are in over their head with all that I come with, but they have been nothing short of totally supportive, and have not at any point placed any expectations on me, that I have not asked for They did not pursue anything from me they just loved where I was for who I was.  They have allowed me to ask questions, allowed me to risk, and already helped me grow spiritually, but practically too.  The mission and vision of Two Rivers church Chattanooga awakened my heart, in new ways to the same Gospel I’ve known since childhood and challenged me to serve in ways, I never thought God would allow.   Two Rivers is big on discipleship, and the gospel transforming lives of both the both redeemed, the searching, and the lost.  At some point in life I’ve been all three of these. 
What do I fear most concerning BHBC?  I fear my new season being viewed as personal rejection of BHBC, this is not true, and it never will be.  What do I miss most?  Multigenerational relationships and hearing my cousin Brady worship in church.
What do I fear most concerning Two Rivers? That they may find I’m not worth their investment. 
If you have read this post completely, and still care, you truly are amazing as this is the only post I’ll ever post which is four pages .If you have read it, truly love me beyond comprehension.  Thank you!  Walking by Faith not by sight.

  TJ Ellis.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

a Letter to Those hanging by a Thread!

This post is going be different from any I have shared with you before.  This is a letter to those who may be hanging by a thread and feel their hope is almost lost.  Last year at this time, this very week, that is where I was.  A month before this I said goodbye to a dog I dearly loved, Lost a caregiver in a rather messy situation, was getting adjusted to being in my mom's old bedroom,  and was processing a death by suicide of someone I knew, though not well.  On top of this grief, anxiety, and depression were never far away, as hard as I tried to be strong.  Last year at this time, I went to my well-meaning doctor asking for advice.  She suggested 2 medications which in my case didn't interact well.  As a result, I began having panic attacks worse than anything I had in my life.  Thankfully for me, a well-educated counselor figured out it was that Medicine was making things much worse. My family and close friends knew how bad things were.  I was afraid to be alone which I never am.  I slept that entire week, and when I was not sleeping, I was crying.  I wasn't able to function at the time much less read the Bible. and I no desire to see anyone much less go out.  I remember one day praying to God, and saying, if this is all there is for me, then please take me home, because I can't bear living this way.  There is a lot of this time I don't remember, nor do I want to.  I remember though hearing the closest thing to God speaking to me that I can ever remember.  I heard a whisper in my spirit saying Teej, I've got you, and I'm not letting you go.  I love you and I'm not finished with you yet.  That was first real ounce of hope I had felt for some time.  Thanks to my devoted loving family and friends, some really cool coworkers, and most of all God himself and medical provision from him.  I found joy again, and a desire to live fully alive!  Do I still struggle, yes and to some degree maybe always will, but tonight I want to celebrate that I'm not where I was, and I pray I'm never ever there again! A year later I have seen God continue to rescue and liberate me from a broken and damaged mind and heart.  My joy is full through my struggle is at times present.   I know many of you are hurting out there, and I want you to know you are not alone in your struggles, sickness, fears or whatever you are facing.  You may not see better days coming, but I promise if you keep breathing, and showing up every day you will find your sunsets again!  You will see light instead of darkness.  You will find hope instead of despair.  Comfort instead  of grief.  You will find the song of your soul again.  If you are going to find it though you have to hold on with faith that better days are waiting ahead just beyond the storm!  Hope is coming, reach out and grab with every tiny step it is coming.  Do you see it in the distance?  If not, you will just keep reaching it is coming.  You are loved, and your story is only just beginning.     Celebrate where you are, and how far you've come, dream about where you are going, but above all hold on to the hope in front of you, even if you can onlyfind a flicker of it now, more will come in due time.

I waited patiently for the Lord,
and He turned to me and heard my cry for help.
He brought me up from a desolate[a] pit,
out of the muddy clay,
and set my feet on a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:1-3