The Blogger Herself

The Blogger Herself

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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

5 tools For Overcoming Discouragement

Summer used to be my favorite season.  Honestly, it still is in many ways  I always loved the cookouts, the ball games, the ice cream.  The day trips, vacations, The late nights, the sleeping in.  Summers past I loved reading by a pool.  The heat was a friendly reprieve from cold or rain of winter or fall.  As I get older though my acne is often triggered by heat  Last summer I was still in survival mode learning how to embrace life without mom. Friends went truly out of their way to plan outings and such over the last 2 years, and I am so thankful.  Now though I have learned to create my own meaningful summer. on days when I have no plans or responsibilities to handle.  There are moments where I will look at friends summer vacations on Facebook, and think wow I miss that.  As an adult in need of physical care, I have only certain hours for outings and so in some ways, my time is very structured.  I have always been a person who thrived on the structure in the past, but in the summer I find myself a bit resentful of it.       Recently, I have discovered some ways to offset discouragement which is a temptation I must guard against regularly. Nothing can hinder embracing the Sunsets of our lives like discouragement.     One definition for discouragement is:  to deprive of courage, hope, or confidence; dishearten; dispirit. find it I'm hopeful this will be helpful to someone, and you will share your strategies for fighting seasons of discouragement.  I know some people face this fight more frequent than others.  Others battle alone inside their minds and hearts, never admitting the struggle, because they can't stand the possibility of the perception of being "labeled as weak.  Yeah I know I hear you, but we can't fix something if we never see or admit a problem exists.  Here is the truth most of us are prone discouragement at some point.     It could be discouragement from a job loss, broken marriage, betrayal from a friend, A disappointing setback, or just wear and tear of the daily grind.  How can we fight against something so invisible, still so real and present?  Here are simple tools five which seems to be working for me. 

1. Find something to show gratitude for.  Big or small and write it down. If you pray recall and dwell on the items listed.  Look back at the record often, and express gratitude."Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thess. 518  I will never forget when one of my favorite authors Jennifer Rothschild wrote, "God does not say be thankful for all our circumstances, but IN THESE.  I'm not thankful for obstacles or tragedy, but in it with time and practice in a lot of cases I can find something that evokes gratitude in a situation, often not right away but in hindsight  

2. Look for the hidden joys in the common places.  Every time this friend of mine washes dishes she dials my number.  As much as this loves me, I'm pretty sure she does not enjoy washing dishes, so talking on the phone makes time pass faster and serves hopefully as a pleasant distraction.  For me, it is process of dressing daily, because it can wear my out, the constant turning, pulling and tugging so I sometimes turn on music and remind myself how blessed I am to have nice clothes, and caregivers willing dress me.  I haven't always done so, but recently found it Col. 3:23 encouraging to focus on this.
3.  Help others even in a seemingly small way, because this will encourage you as much or more than others.  Send a card, buy a gift, say a prayer, Listen to someone who needs your ear.  Meet a need. Phil. 2:4
4 Take action despite feelings of discouragement.  Feelings are real, but not always accurate.  This is hard, but sometimes action is needed before feelings follow.
5. Remember past joys, but don't live in these.  Press forward.  Phil. 3:14

Friday, June 30, 2017

Embracing your Sunset in the Unknown Places....

Voice it tells us most everything about human interaction. Tone tells a lot about a person's Mood, and intentions.      The voice carries both power and timidity. It screams rage or echoes calm in chaos.  It is the name of a popular TV show.       It lets children know when they are in trouble.  Voice is one of the quickest ways to misread a situation or damage relationships.  It is the giveaway to a joyous event.  It is the key to my independent living in many ways with Technology like Amazon Echo, and Dragon software.
It is my mom's voice and laughs I knew early on I was going to miss the most because it had the ability so often to calm the crazy around us.     There was a lot of ways which we were different, she could bring calm to so many things with her demeanor, and she rarely ever sweated the small stuff in life.   If she was aggravated there was not much hiding it from those closest to her, but it was a rare occurrence to see her truly angry often.  If she was you knew you should back up, because you were going to get an earful if you were not wise enough to watch the look and the eyebrow raise.
My closest friends always know whether it a good day or not so good by the flatness or quivering in my voice.
There are many voices we hear throughout our day.  The sound of a loved yelling from the top of the stairs.  The sound of a child crying.  Some voices we easily recognize, others are harder to distinguish.  If I hear Michael W. Smith, usually by the first or second lyric at most I know it is him.

Recently, I  found myself in a situation where I was hearing a lot of voices around me, including my own.  Some of the voices I heard were encouraging and constructive others more confusing.  We have an enemy who distorts lies to sound like the truth. Who makes sincere concern sound like condemnation. God kept putting the truth of  John 10:3 before me.But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.To him, the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.find here
It isn't always convenient to listen to the Good Shepherd.  It isn't always guaranteed a smooth path.  In fact, it might be anything but smooth.  It might be risky and unfamiliar.  Chances are there will be obstacles  There will be unknowns and uncertainty, but where Jesus leads by his voice He provides.  How do we find the beautiful sunsets God has for us in the unpredictable in our lives?  I am still learning, but here are some truths I know.  Jesus the Shepherd is good.  

1. To hear the shepherd's voice, prayer a two-way conversation is vital.  Col. 4:2

2. To hear The Shepherd's voice, you have to value his above your own. Matthew 6:10

3. Sometimes you have to risk rejection and failure, still trusting God to lead you  Mathew 14, John 13.

4.      You have to seek God above approval of yourself and others. Gal. 1:10 Matthew 6:33  My hardest one.

5.You have to obey his voice, even if it makes you appear foolish.  Daniel 3:18.  

  6. God honors and blesses those who sincerely seek him, and He offers grace in Jesus.  Hebrews 11:6   

7.  Jesus knows his own by name, and they know and aware when He speaks.  John 10:3.  
He is the voice above all others, and He can always be trusted as the Faithful Good Shepherd!  Who is the voice is guiding me and who is the voice is guiding you?  Do we know him well enough, that where He leads, we know where and how to follow, hour by hour?  I don't know about you, but I want to discern his voice, even when it is hard, and costs me my pride or my _?  Even when we are in unknown places, we are still known by an ALL-KNOWING God!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Is Christmas Really Over?

   Is Christmas really over?  Sure the presents were opened  Our bank accounts deems it is so.  The tree will come down soon.  The baking stopped.  The stores stopped playing carols.   The excess gluttony hopefully is slowing down.  In a traditional commercial sense, yWe are done with Christmas and entered into2017.     While we won't see Christmas themes until October of next year, which by the way, is too early in my opinion.  Like me, I wonder if you need to be reminded the life-changing truth of Christmas does not end after December Twenty-Fith.     “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,

    which means ‘God is with us.’Matthew 1:23  
What if we opened our presents, but never took these out of the boxes these came in?  What good would that do any of us?  What an insult to the gift giver.  Many of us do this very thing, with God.  We are more than willing to celebrate a baby in a stable, but beyond this, we are all done with Christmas aren't, we?  We only unwrap the gift just enough to get the warm fuzzy feeling inside.  It never seems to get us through the rest of the coming year does it?  Sometimes we are eager to open the gift of Christ's, birth, but we refuse to open the rest of the gift completely. Either, we are too prideful to accept that this baby was not just a baby, He came to fulfill the greatest need of humanity.  He came in flesh, to recuse people from isolation and Separation from the Living God.  His name is Jesus and He is willing to be Immanuel God with us.  He desired to be with us, so much that He gave his life through death upon a cross for us.  The real gift is, though He died, He didn't stay dead. I don't only mean that Jesus died universally for all. He also died personally for each.    It is the personal part we need the most.  We are too busy to live in the reality that God is with us in the ordinary.  He is willing and desires to be with us, in the highs, lows, and in-betweens.  In October, I faced an unexpected trial that knocked me to the ground emotionally and spiritually.  For a short time, I doubted I could recover from it.  It seemed to come out of the blue, but in hindsight, I can now see the storm had not been swirling out of nowhere. Before it actually hit harder, than I ever dreamed.  Conditions set the stage for such a storm.  In that storm, I heard something, and at the risk of sounding dramatic, I know I will never forget that moment.  That moment I know God, whispered to me, "Teej I'm with you in this, and I WILL get you through this. "  "I WILL NOT AND I HAVE NOT LEFT YOU. JUST LET ME LOVE YOU I knew in that moment, I would be ok.

Sometimes we don't unwrap the gift because of unworthiness.  In reality, though what if we redirected our focus on the fact God went to such an extreme to declare our value, wouldn't that bring greater joy and glory to God?  Let me allow this to ruminate a little.    Unworthy has its place, but if we dwell in unworthiness too long, in my case, years, then I miss the beautiful truth of the Gospel.    As I finish writing, it is the three days into 2017, and the theme seems to be living Hope filled in the awareness of the presence of God!  How would you and I live more fully if we lived with the awareness and expectation of God's Hope Filling presence in our lives?  Don"t miss your Sunset in 2017.  Action Step: Ask God to make us aware of his presence, in the hardest moments of our day.  Then, let' us Celebrate and thank God for being "with you and me  

Friday, September 16, 2016

Finding your Sunset After Loss

   God never intended for anything we learn about life to be just for us.  It is intended to help others in their journey.  I have avoided writing and blogging regularly, because my attention has been needed elsewhere.  Now that Franklin ha been placed in his new home, I know he is safe and well cared for far better than I ever could.  It has freed me from worrying about him.  I am rediscovering creativity, and able to do more things   I also have avoided writing, because the lessons I am learning are still not bunny rabbits and rainbows.  Even a year and 4 months after mom's cancer battle ended though it is easier now, it is still hard, not so much, because I want her back, but because she brought such joy to everything, and she was so good at keeping everything smooth.  I still miss her  laugh and smile.    I love to talk about her and do things she loved  to do.  I laugh at the things she uses to do that drove me crazy.  As most of you have figured out I love sunsets!  To me, life contains beautiful sunset moments so beautiful if you are not paying attention you will miss these.  It could be something as simple as a card in the mail that lifted your spirits.  It might be the sound of your grandchildren playing in the yard or lunch with a friend  Many of my friends' faced losses in recent days.  Some the loss of a friend, others loss of a parent, pet, or job.  No two losses or relationships are the same  I am no expert on loss, but I am learning a few helpful tips for embracing Sunsets after a loss.  This post is for those of you in difficult situations.  You might be struggling with the question why am I in this situation...
 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change James 1:17."Click for reference  You may not be able to see or embrace the gift that comes as a result of loss quickly, but if you search long enough, you will  begin to see that in the loss there are sunsets moments and your losses will mature and change you.    I have and will continue to make mistakes, as well as just blatant bad  choices.  Most of these tips I have learned as a result of my own shortcomings.

  • Be forgiving of yourself and others.  You will make mistakes and your actions will sometimes be disappointing to you and to those that care about you.  Give grace.  I am still learning  to do this, and will for the rest of my life.
  • Allow yourself to feel confusing feelings, and resist the urge to scold yourself.
  •   Self Care.  If you are like me, you may be tempted to think self-care is unbiblical.  Yeah me too I understand.  I think about Daniel in the Bible, though, and he took the time to make sure his body, mind, and spirit were taken care of.  Yes, he trusted God to care for his needs, but he also was wise and mature enough to take responsibility to invest in his own well-being.
  • Lower your expectations of yourself and  others.  Don't look for others to be able to understand or validate your feelings.  This is totally unfair to expect.  Look to God , who knows You and your situation fully.   
  • Ask for prayer from people you trust.  
  • It is ok to escape for short periods, but be wise and escape only in the short term Be careful how and when you escape.
  • Be specific about needs and expectations.  I do  not  do well at this.  mostly because I never want to be demanding or entitled    If I  drop something in public, then I need to ask someone to pick up, instead of attempting to miss rolling over it.  Mom laughed once, because I broke a pair of shoes, by running these over, because I didn't want to stop whatever she was doing to ask her to move my shoes out of the floor.  Sometimes God places us in situations because we need a reminder we are not in control, and we need to run both to God and others. 
  • Be thankful for blessings big and small
  • Find your passion...  This is an ongoing process...  Find joy in small things.  I recently discovered I enjoy coloring.
  • Look for ways to support and comfort others facing a loss of any kind.  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Cor. 1:3-4  Text found here  What have you found helpful in finding joy after loss?  How can you use your own losses to help others in theirs?  Are you finding your own sunsets after a loss?  I am discovering it is not just a monthly process or even a yearly one.  It is a journey that lasts a lifetime.    Moment by moment you will find your sunse6 again after your losses.  My dad use to say all of life is about loss, and in a sense he is right, but in loss there is a deeper gratitude for joy and finding your Sunsets again.

Monday, June 06, 2016

What Kind of Christian Am I Anyway?

If you are a regular on the social media site Facebook, then you probably have taken one of those what kind of person are you quizzes.  You know what kind of friend are you?  What kind of parent are you? What kind of movie star would you be?  Ok, all I have proven at the moment, is I spend too much time on Facebook.  During my volunteer shift, in effort to aid clients emotionally, and spiritually as well as practically, I am encouraged to inquire about their spiritual background, or preferences.  I realize what a privilege this is, and how personal that is, and so I approach the subject respectfully for the sacred ground I tend upon.  I truly do desire to serve the whole person.  For example, if someone states I am a Christian, I say what that means to you, because being a Christian means different things depending upon a person's own definition.     I have recently asked not out loud, but over the course of a year or so, what kind of Christian am I?
I wish I could tell you I'm one of those Christians that every time someone asks me how I am doing, that my response is "better than I deserve" because while that statement is of course true, It isn't me, it isn't how God wired me. If God has wired you that way you are blessed with a depth of spiritual maturity I don’t have yet. You have nothing to be ashamed of and I'm inspired by you. For the rest of us who haven't yet made to where you are standing, please be patient with us who openly acknowledge our doubts and questions before the great God of the universe. I have a false perception and expectation of what contentment actually is.  My mentor challenged me to redefine what being content means for me.  What did it mean for Jesus, Paul, Joseph Peter, and others?       .Well let's start with Jesus.  Hebrews 12 2 says fix our eyes on Jesus for the joy set before Him despised the same and endured the cross.  Elsewhere in scripture tells us in the Gospel accounts that Jesus desperately wanted to be spared from the cross.  It was for the joy ahead of him that enabled Him to endure the agony of the cross.  It was not that he loved being in pain, or pretended that He enjoyed the ordeal.  He offered himself based upon the future outcome and result that would take place, salvation.     It isn't that he was content with the immediate circumstances, but He was content in the rend result...  He was content IN this, not with this. The same with Paul I'm sure He did not enjoy jail and isolation or humiliation.  He still chose to view his life and his loses through the lens of Gods eternal and present promises.  It is possible then, to be discontent with a circumstance itself, and still be content in Christ.   .  11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.'  Phil. 4:11-13.  

The world says we are entitled to instant gratification. We become disillusioned with ourselves and God, when we experience road blocks, losses or even less than favorable events in our lives.  All as result of not understanding Christ has not promised a joy ride, of gratification, but a lasting journey which offers contentment in, not from our circumstances.    This is what enables a mom at her breaking point, not to throw in the town on guiding her sassy teenager.  She understands that while she may not, be content with their behavior,  she marches on, because she is content knowing and  that one day her investment will pay off even if it simply means knowing she did her best.  What if contentment means choosing to respect your boss, even if you don't agree?  What if it means mourning that outcome, but staying faithful in prayer anyway?  What if it means being gracious, and thankful when life does not go, as planned or the bill is more than you were prepared to pay?  I don't know about you, but redefining   contentment this way, takes a lot of pressure off.  There is a difference between complaining, and simply acknowledging that while life isn't a fairyland. There is a sure foundation.  What kind of Christian am I?  I am the kind that is learning and growing imperfectly in contentment found outside of external surroundings, within the unchanging faithfulness of the Christ.    How do you define being content?  Like me, do you need to reexamine your definition of contentment personally despite what society throws at you?   Don't miss your sunsets, because of the clouds.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Celebrate the Gift!

Imagine my surprise when someone who features quality blog content on their website decides to feature my blog.  I thought It was a joke or scam.   I haven't traveled the world, and I'm not the funniest gal on the block.  Though I do have a sense humor all my own that I like to think comes from my mom.  If anything these last few weeks bluntly revealed  a confidence crisis for reasons that need not be shared here.  I began doubting my ability to do much of anything right.  Between an annoying mild case of shingles, Steady changes at a volunteer job I love, and a dog who despite the vet's objections though reasonable,,I'm still convinced needs anxiety medication.  Oh and adjusting to a new chair, and examining many of the life choices I have made, and trying to improve.  I've stated before how I have a difficult time with seasons of change.  When mom passed in April I honestly do believe I coped well with saying not goodbye but see you later.  In last two months, it has registered to my heart and mind.I have to live the rest of my days on earth without her involvement and help.  Yes, I did that very thing once she was too sick, but in those months all I expected was to survive by the grace of God, and I did. Now the expectation is that I will thrive and live, and until now I have never imagined my life without hers too.   I've been an adult, but never one without her input and support,     There is a fine line whoever between sincere improvement directed by the Holy Spirit, and just plan apologizing for who God created you to be, and over the last couple of months it has developed into the second category for me . As Christians sometimes I think we get caught up in this thinking that it is somehow God's desire for us to see how truly bad we are, and only then can we see the value of God's goodness.  If you don't relate, don't stay on this statement.    I realize there has to be a balance.  Prideful and arrogant thinking are not pleasing to God, but neither is shaping yourself to match who you and others say you should be  This has been difficult in the area of grief, because everyone including myself envisions there own view of what grief should or should not be.     Back to the first sentence I wrote I was shocked and exited to learn someone who does not know me decided my writing is valuable to others.  I also take it far too personally when people have some type of content criticism of what I write. I don't mind grammatical and structural correction, but content is hard.   Thoughts of trying to make my writing what others want to read isn't a bad thing, but if that is my focus, not only is my motive wrong, I am missing the opportunity to be who God designed and created me to be.   New Year  resolutions aren't appealing to me, but there is one desire I have going forward and that is to focus on valuing the gifts and blessings God gives me. If I do this, It will also motivate me to minster to others who need to know that even if one person's life is blessed by theirs, then  life has purpose and even more they may come to know how deeply they are loved by The Creator Himself!  When we are living out our purpose we are fulfilled. When we are fulfilled by the One  who gives us purpose and value, then our focus becomes not on  finding our value, but in serving and giving to others.  As many around the country this weekend proclaim that Life is a gift, and each person has worth, I wonder what the world would like if we strive to take three actions. Do something along with me. Take a moment not to focus on your flaws, but to celebrate your gifts.  If you are like me, you'll find it much easier to calculate your missteps, than to celebrate your strengths and your progress. Second, Tell someone they matter, and in some small way SHOW them. It might be a card, a compliment, a prayer, a hug, or a creative gesture.     Third, Thank the people who celebrate and encourage you.  Thank God privately for using others to encourage you. Name some of those people as you give thanks for them.  Ready, yeah I'm going to do it with you.  When we are done let's start over tomorrow. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

When Prayer Becomes the Hardest Thing You Will Ever Do!

I strive to be at least two things.  One a good listener, Two, a person of prayer,  When mom got very sick, my prayers were short and simple.  Sometimes all I could do was pray a few words at time.  Secretly at the time, this went on for several months,  I would do my best to go through the motions knowing others were holding up in prayer.  It is not easy being known as "the prayer warrior" in most of your circles .  Don't get me wrong it is one of the greatest privileges in life is to pray for others..  What an honor that others allow you the joy of sharing their burdens and counting on you to pray.  What a great joy it is to trust God and watch Him act.  In spite of this though I continue to wrestle in prayer these days.  It does not seem to come as natural as I might have once thought it to be.  Some days it is hard to focus and my mind wanders.  Other times it seems like I just don't know how to express myself.  I know there is a shock huh?  There are a few lessons I've learned recently, or am continuing to learn.  I'd like to share  to share a few, in case it could help someone.

Prayer is hard no matter who you are...  No one person is a master at the Practice of prayer.  I know you like me, must have had those moments where you thought if I could pray like that guy, It would be so much better.  Trust me he struggles just like you, and if he doesn't now he will some day.Romans 8:26
Humans have made prayer into a formula, instead of a two way grand fellowship between God and man . We create patterns in prayer, many of which are good. We need to include elements like Thanksgiving and confession see Ps. 100 and Psalm 51, but there are seasons when we should allow our hearts to flow freely as we would, when we have a conversation with  someone else.  This one is hard for me.   As I am super structured and this also how many of us are taught.  I always laugh when I think of  how my grandfather would jokingly whisper to me Rubadubdub thank you for the grub, before his actual heartfelt dinner blessing. I truly believe God created enjoyment and He values humor.  No one has taught me more about incorporating laughter in prayer than Jennifer Hand.  Sometimes we stress so much about how to talk to God.  Recently. I was upset, because I just could not pray.  In a rather helpless moment of attempting to ask God what was wrong with me, it seemed God was impressing upon me the reality that wasn't a time for me to speak words, but to invite God to speak to my spirit.  I would never have spoken the special words God gave to me, to myself.  If you are struggling to pray, It could be because it is a time God is desiring to speak to you. Prayer is mostly hard, because we make it hard.  A friend reminded me recently, We can be more ourselves with God, than anyone.  This is because He more than anyone else: knows who we really are!  Do you ever wonder if you can do the prayer thing?  Well, two years ago, I might have shrugged my shoulders, and arrogantly thought to some degree it is not that hard. Of course, that was before Prayer became the hardest battle I'd ever fight!  I'm just starting to come out of the driest and most difficult prayer season I've ever had in my Christian life to date.  I can also tell you if that is where you are, it is okay.  You are okay.  God is still there.  Don't quit, but give yourself grace!  God is patient...  Keep going, It will be worth the struggle.     


Sunday, October 04, 2015

Is Surrender Possible?

Can I surrender all?  After all the last time I asked God to help me love Him more than anything or anyone in my life. It wasn’t long after that that when the word cancer invaded our lives.  I continued to pray the same even as time passed and year after year mom's cancer remained and sometimes grew larger. I watched as she placed a smile on her face as life forced her to take early retirement.  I watched as she prayed for others, and rejoiced when they were healed.  I watched her laugh when others would have cried.  The day I knew my life would never be the same was the day I got the call  cancer was found in her brain.  I felt as if the air almost left my lungs barely able to nod.  I watched as her once strong body that took care of me, was feeble and lifeless unable to raise her head.   Helpless I prayed asking God to spare her from such agony. I begged God to let me  take her place knowing I could never fight as hard as she did.  I often thought the world needed her more than it would ever need me. As she felt pain that without pain medicine would not stop.  I watched as my family’s hearts were broken into pieces, and I powerless to do anything.   Yet there was and will always be the glorious hope to come, and that quiet peace only God could give..  He gives it still.  Oh the joy and fun of the legacy she gives us now in all her humanness. 
Of course our church is talking a lot about surrender as we study the Holy Spirit.  What words come to mind when asked if I have been in a place surrender where God proved faithful?  Yes, God is faithful when we surrender our lives.  Yes it scares me what continual surrender may mean in my life.  Does it mean more discomfort?  The truth is a lady in my church and countless others who has endured more pain than I ever will.  God has never required me to go to AFRICA to feed the poor or say goodbye to child I gave birth to.  The list is endless.  Admittedly, I could not find the strength to sing the words I surrender all the first two times, last week at church because I was scared.  God has provided everything I need!  He has given grace beyond what I could deserve and yet there is that fear that God will command me to do something radical, and what if I “surrender” in advance whatever that might mean, and then I can’t find the courage to follow through?  It has been hard for me to sing that song, but harder now.  I never want to commit to sing words I can’t live out, but then it hit me I can’t surrender in my own power.  Surrender is only possible through the supernatural enabling of God.  I cannot know what God may or may not ask of me either now or in future, but I must trust that God knows my heart, and I desire to be faithful.  He will enable me to choose to a surrendered life.  The God of the universe can handle my failures.  He has already redeemed these anyway.  So what do I have to lose?

The process of sanctification isn’t my job.  It is God’s process not mine.  It is by Faith like in Hebrews, that we chose surrender not just once but continually.
Surrender does not mean we will be exempt from persecutions or trials.  Jeremiah proclaimed truth and was faithful despite not having a happily ever after, or seeing results. Jer. 35… America is a results driven society.  I am learning faithfulness driven by anything other than for faithfulness sake, is not surrender. Will I be faithful if it guarantees me little upon this earth, but coasts much more?  It has been and will continued to be my prayer for God to enable me to surrender. 
                Here are some reasons to surrender.  One, Jesus is worthy of surrender.

  Two, He himself has surrendered to God and for the sake of his children, and it cost him everything. Romans 8:32. A life surrendered always brings peace, God is good, and his ways are perfect. it is by faith, I take the first to surrender which is an expression of willingness.  I continue in a place of not knowing what the journey of what surrender will look like.  Where do you my friend find yourself on this journey surrender?  Each journey will look different.  I’m sure not the poster person for surrendered living. The more I look to the Savior the more I know it is the life I am called to live.  Would love to hear from you.  It might be that grudge you’ve been holding for twenty years.  It could be that substance you find comfort in, or that to do list you always check off.