Monday, December 15, 2014

The Face in the Mirror

Do you like who you see in the mirror? Sadly, I can honestly say that I used to hate the person who stared back at me from that reflection. I am fifty-five years old, and up until a few days ago, I didn't have much positive to say about the person I saw in my mirror every morning. I can trace the origin of my insecurity as far back as elementary school ... that feeling of not being sure of myself and how I fit into the world. 

I became a master of deception. There aren't many who knew how I truly felt about myself. I allowed a few precious people to slip past the cracks in my facade, but all except the most perceptive probably had no idea how I really felt about me. For years, I was even able to convince myself that I was just fine. I mean, it's just natural to struggle with self-esteem, right?  

I can still recall in vivid detail the first time serious rejection rocked my world. I was stunned, blind-sided, never saw it coming. That person was a safe place ... or at least that person had been a safe place, my protector, my champion. The hateful words that shattered my naivete' rattled around in my mind for years; they still attempt to rise from the ashes of my past at times.  

I felt impenetrable walls instantly rise around my heart. NO ONE will ever hurt me that way again. No way! The only person I can safely trust in this world is me. Self-protection. That too is only natural. And for years that's how I lived my life. 

The downside is that even I (the one who would have the most vested interest in doing a good job) did a lousy job of protecting myself. Countless poor choices, one after the other, chipping away at my sense of security, my sense of identity, my sense of self. Each time I deemed it safe to let down the walls a bit, safe to let this one or that one have access to my heart, I would again be disappointed by the reality of human nature. Another hole in my heart. And a bigger one in my head!

Eventually this truth prevailed: the only way to avoid rejection is to reject them before they can reject me. Oh, I might not actually reject them outright, but I lived armed and dangerous. Always on the defensive. At the first hint of negativity, my weapons were at the ready. I had a quiver full of various arrows: criticism, judgment, self-righteousness, resentment, sarcasm, the cold shoulder, the silent treatment, bitterness, unforgiveness ... just to name a few. 

You can't hurt me if I hurt you first, right? 

Wow! How in the world did I have any friends at all? you might be wondering. 

That's the saddest part. 

Every single one of these methods of self-protection can be employed by Christians and non-Christians alike. They are equal-opportunity solutions. They can be delivered in mean and hateful ways, OR they can be hammered home in sweetness. 

If you are feeling self-righteous (aka: self-deceptive, and sanctimonious) it might sound like this: "Oh, I just hate to feel this way. We really need to pray for so-and-so. Do you know what they did to me?" 

If you are just sincerely struggling, it can go like so: "Please pray for me. I am having a terrible struggle. I need to come to a place of forgiveness for..."

Sometimes the intent is to harm. Sometimes the motive is pure: Please, God, I just want to stop the pain and keep from being harmed anymore. 

No matter why or how, we should be clear on this fact: Harboring these kinds of thoughts and feelings is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die. (I have no idea who should get credit for this quote, but it fits too perfectly not to use it here. I Googled to find out who originally said it, and this is what I found: click here.) 

The honest truth of the matter is this: If we insist on protecting ourselves, if we wall off our hearts to avoid being hurt, if we reject others before they can reject us, eventually we will reject ourselves. We will grow to hate the person we see in the mirror every morning. And that's no way to live. 

How do I know? I lived it. 

You see, I gave my heart and my life to Jesus Christ when I was twenty-five years old. He has been my Savior since the day I prayed and asked Him; my eternity in heaven has been secure. I am saved, but I haven't been truly free. 

I haven't trusted God to protect my heart. I've remained staunchly in control of my life and who could or couldn't get close enough to cause me hurt. That's not to say there has never been pain. As I said above, I haven't always done such a good job of protecting myself.

Jesus has been my Savior, but He was Lord only in select areas. For the thirty years I've walked with Him, I really saw little problem with that. But I had a lot of questions. Why does this or that keep happening to me, Lord? Why can't I find the victory?

And as the years have passed, the Holy Spirit has faithfully helped me, little by little, to pry my fingers off the steering wheel of my life, and He plucked the last one away a couple days ago. 

Over the past ten weeks, I've been part of a Bible study called Freedom, and it culminated in a retreat this past weekend. At that retreat, so many things happened. One of the most significant for me was a newfound freedom; and that freedom came through surrender. I will no longer insist on protecting myself; I will trust God to protect me. I will no longer insist on staying in control; I will yield myself to the Holy Spirit and let Him lead me.

If you have seen yourself in anything I shared above, you might want to pray a prayer similar to the one I was led to pray:

Dear Father, 

I confess that I have not allowed You to be Lord of my life. I have tried to control people and things. Please forgive me. I have allowed a spirit of rejection to permeate my relationships with others, and I have even rejected myself. Forgive me. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am created in Your image. If I reject me, I reject You. I will no longer give that spirit of rejection access to my mind or my heart. I tell you, rejection, that you must go; you no longer have any legal right in my life. Fill me, Holy Spirit, with Your love, with Your life, with Your truth. Use me to carry that love and truth to others. 


Saturday, December 6, 2014

I was Running Low on Ammo when I got to Church ...


Confession is good for the soul, right?

So I confess that I knew that title would grab your attention!

And, yes. Yes! Confession is good for the soul. It forces us to live honestly. It forces us to live on purpose. It forces us to live our lives like we really mean it. 

Please don't ever let anyone tell you that God doesn't have a sense of humor. I wrote my last post (Should We Stockpile Ammo?) a couple weeks before it actually made its debut; how was I to know that when I re-read it, God would use my very own words to bring conviction to my heart? 

Not funny, God! 

Actually, it did make me laugh. Caught red-handed. 

Let's see ... now where was I? 

Oh, that's right. 

I was running low on ammo when I got to church [click here to read the post :) ], and instead of paying attention to Pastor's message, I was forming a plan of attack on the clutter that is currently holding my home hostage. 

  • We are going to clean out that room, deal with the boxes of "stuff" that reside there, reclaim our living space. 
  • We are going to clean out our closets.
  • We are going to clean the kitchen cupboards out. 

The din of my racing thoughts was deafening. 

But eventually the Spirit of God began to penetrate the clamor, and my spirit responded to His ministrations. Maybe it was the worship music. Maybe it was the Spirit calming the savage beast of perfection that raged within. Maybe it was just my Father in His great mercy, reaching out His hand to steady me.  

Let's see. What had I written in that earlier post? 

The more of His word that we have hidden in our arsenal ... in our hearts ... the more weapons we have available to us to address whatever assault the enemy has cooked up to turn our life upside down. 

Just whose words had I been listening to that morning? 

You are a failure. 
You are inadequate. 
You mess up everything. 

Oh, yes ... those would be the words of the enemy. The words of a liar bent on stealing my peace, bent on destroying my true identity as a daughter of the King, and determined to kill my joy. 

Whenever I am unsettled, I have noticed an unhealthy pattern. Instead of sitting with God and asking Him what He wants me to learn in the midst of my unrest, I want to DO SOMETHING! By getting busy "doing," it seems I feel convinced that I have worth, promise, and potential. So my natural tendency is to get Bound Under Satan's Yoke, performing to prove something, rather than recalling the truth of God's word that tells me who I am in Him. If I would simply speak that truth to myself, it would expose the lie and bring instant peace. 

In the spirit of confession, Thanksgiving Day was a two-week celebration in our family this year. Nothing at all wrong with that; we ought to be giving thanks every day, right? No, the confession is in the reality that when we are caught up in having company and pulled from our usual routine, I often don't make the time I need to for God in my life. 

Right about here is where there needs to be a warning label. (The genius of this photo will be lost on those too young to remember the television show Lost in Space, but I couldn't resist.)

In busy times like these, I acknowledge Him, but I'm not sitting in His presence the way I need to be in order to stockpile ammo, to keep myself steeped in His words of life. I find that I'm often trying to live on yesterday's manna

Living on yesterday's manna is never a good thing. People are like tires with a nail in them; or like helium balloons several days past their prime. The truth of the matter is that we leak. We can take great care to keep ourselves filled with the Holy Spirit, but this is a daily endeavor; if we don't refresh our supply, we will run low on ammo. 

As long as I'm confessing here, I might as well give you the full monty. In all long-term relationships, you know that there will be those days when things just don't seem "right" between you and your loved one. That particular Sunday, my sweet husband and I were dealing with a repetitive struggle, a certain concern that arises every so often between us, especially at times when I allow my spiritual tank to leak. Each time this particular issue surfaces, we share our hearts and our thoughts, but we still seem to come away without full resolution. Things improve each time we tread the pathways of this challenge, but the fact remains that we still have a ways to go. 

Instead of focusing on the positives, the fact that we get closer and closer to full resolution each time we reach this place in our relationship, that Sunday I was full of frustration and self-condemnation. I was irritated at him and at myself. I ended up in church, but I wasn't worshiping my Lord. No, I was steeped in bondage, at least until the Holy Spirit was able to shine some light into the darkness and remind me to use my ammo; to remind me to speak truth to the lie and be freed; to stop the enemy in his lying, cheating tracks.

Hubby and I sorted everything out as the day progressed, and as I prayed and reflected the next day, I told God how very blessed I am to be His daughter and Wayne's wife. In fact, I can say without doubt that my husband is the one of the best things that has ever happened to me. God gently whispered in my ear: 

Tell him, then. And live like you mean it. 

Stop living as if you have a choice; spiritual warfare is not an option in the Christian life. Put your fatigues on and get back in the war. 

By the way, take all your ammo. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Should We Stockpile Ammo?

The 2nd Amendment to the United States' Constitution grants American citizens the right to bear arms. There is much uproar in today's world about that inalienable right ... both in favor of it and in opposition to it. There have been many attempts by legislators to hinder the purchase of both arms and ammunition. 

So my question today is: Should we stockpile ammo?

Now that I have your attention, I have to tell you that I am indeed talking about offensive weapons in today's post, but the ones I want to discuss are weapons of a different kind. 

Ephesians 6:11-17 speaks about the armor we should wear as Christians in the war between good and evil. There's a belt, a breastplate, shoes, a shield, and a helmet -- all defensive weapons. There is only one offensive weapon provided Christians: the sword of the Spirit. 

That sword is defined as being the word of God. 

What does the Bible say about the Word? One of my favorite scriptures is this: 

In the beginning was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, 
and the Word was God.

The Word of God ... our Bibles ... these are living Words. It's like having God Himself speaking through us. These words are powerful. These words will defeat the enemy of our souls every time. Without fail. 

When we are facing tough times and we pray God's Word over situations and people, when we stand on His promises, it is like interjecting God Himself into the midst of our dilemma. We place Him like a covering over the things that concern us. 

The more of His word that we have hidden in our arsenal ... in our hearts ... the more weapons we have available to us to address whatever assault the enemy has cooked up to turn our life upside down. 

We are often quick to credit (blame) God for whatever hardship we are facing, when many of our trials are self-induced, if we are honest. And it is true that He will also sometimes allow us to be tested (just read the book of Job, if you doubt that), but never ... not one single time ... has he allowed us to be tested and defenseless. He sent His Son to pay the ultimate price for our salvation, and then He gave us a Bible full of the Word, that we have at our disposal, to address whatever comes our way in this life. He also sent us His Spirit to remind of those Words ... but if we don't read His Word, if we don't hide it in our hearts and minds, how is the Spirit going to recall it to our memory when it's desperately needed?

Then we want to rail at God. Why are You letting this happen to me? Why have You forgotten me?  

It would be then that He would smile (because He's much more patient and forgiving than we are) and whisper to the Holy Spirit:

Now would be the perfect time. Go and remind my child of Hebrews 13:5, when I said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Oh, wait ........ she hasn't read that in her Bible yet, so you have no way to bring it to her remembrance. 

So should we stockpile ammo? Absolutely. Read your Bibles. Soak in those words. Every single verse has the potential to stop the enemy in his tracks. He is the father of lies and the truth is not in him (John 8:44). He comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Take those darts/bullets (your ammo of choice) of truth and remind him of that whenever he starts messing with your thoughts, with your life, with your loves ones. 

One last bonus thought: Those who are of the mind to stockpile ammo for their guns, afraid that they won't be able to get it in the future, are always on the lookout for sales and places to get ammo cheap. Well, God's word is free! Can't get any less expensive than that. 

The Word, the good news, might be free; but it isn't cheap ~ it cost Jesus His life! We bless Him when we live like we know it. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

You Find what You Look for ...

If you've been married for any length of time, I'm sure you know by now that your spouse can do things that you find annoying. I mean, it can't be just me, can it? 

Let me give you an example. I've always been a night owl, while hubby could happily go to bed at 9 PM. I can be nodding off on the couch in the evening, but around 10:00, I always get that burst of I'm-not-sure-what, but I could stay up for another couple hours after it hits, no sweat ... until the alarm goes off at 5 AM. I guess God just designed our biorhythms differently. After all, variety is the spice of life, right?  

That being the case, it's not unusual for me to sit up reading at night, while Wayne slumbers peacefully beside me, quiet as a mouse. Quiet as a mouse, that is, UNTIL I turn off the light and snuggle down to drift off to dreamland myself. It usually doesn't take more than thirty seconds, a minute at most, before I hear that first raspy little snore. Really? 

I literally feel my entire body tense at the softest hint of a snore. My blood pressure elevates, and I find my thoughts spinning around at the injustice of it all.

I've been reading for over an hour, and you haven't made a single peep. But now ... now that I'm trying to sleep ... now you are going to snore. That's just great. Priceless!

I used to get so frustrated that I'd go and sleep upstairs. All I could think of was that I had to get up in "x" amount of hours, and I knew I'd never fall asleep with Mr. Freight Train next to me. 

We even purchased an expensive mouthpiece a year or so ago, one that is supposed to keep the snoring to the bare minimum, and my beloved is talented enough to have figured out how to snore around it! Yes, I admit that it happens only once in a while, and the snoring is softer than it used to be ... but it's still snoring! 

So rather than focus on the part about him snoring softer and not as often as he used to, I find that I focus on the fact that he is snoring at all. 

Okay, okay, okay ... I'm off on a bunny trail. This post wasn't supposed to be about snoring. It's about focus. 

God has been talking to me a lot about focus these days. And the awful truth is that if I am looking for something negative, I don't have to look far. There's always a ready supply of negativity available, most of it beginning right inside my own little head!

But I'm learning that if I will take my magnifying glass and look for the little nuggets that my Father puts in my path, I am so blessed; and those thoughts wrap themselves around my heart and carry me safely through my day.

I had such an experience the other day. My husband and I were eating lunch, and the restaurant was equipped with televisions. It was the weekend before Veteran's Day, and the stations were showing all sorts of ads where sports teams had made it possible for soldiers to come home and surprise their loved ones at the various games. Apparently Wayne had seen several of these reunions throughout the weekend, and he was describing them to me. I could tell that he was very touched by them ... to the point of reaching to wipe the little telltale glisten from his eyes, as he struggled to speak around the lump I could hear forming in his throat. 

I just sat and listened, touched by the stories he shared, but even more touched by the man I've shared my life with for the past thirty years. He is a family man, and his heart is wholly God's. His desire is to leave a spiritual legacy for his family. Nothing means more to him than me, our kids, and our growing number of grandkids. What an incredible blessing! 

And to think I'd have missed it entirely ... 

if I hadn't moved that magnifying glass two inches ... 

from his nose 

to his eyes. 

We do find what we look for. Why not look for the good? What have we got to lose?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Love in the Little Things...

As I shared at the end of last month, God has been speaking Psalm 46:10 to my heart for quite some time now. And my focus has been on the "Cease striving" part of that verse. Recently, He very pointedly directed my attention to the second part of that statement: "Cease striving AND KNOW..."

To be known in the sense of the Bible often implies an intimacy in relationship, a type of knowing that implies vulnerability and transparency ... it is more than an academic understanding. I have come to realize that I have walked with the Lord for over thirty years, yet I have kept Him in the box of my limited understanding, for the most part. There are wounded places in my soul that have kept walls around some parts of my heart, limiting my ability to trust and rest in Him. It's been easier to know Him as the helper in my plans, with me being careful to maintain enough control of those endeavors to keep me feeling comfortable. 

So I have begun praying for God to touch those wounded places and make them whole again. And I have asked God to help me to truly know Him in the deepest sense of relationship. 

Last week, after praying that way for a couple days, I woke with a tune running through my mind, catchy and familiar, yet I couldn't quite place it. I remembered once being taught that God sings over His kids.

"The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in His love He will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing."
Zephaniah 3:17
Our teacher said if we woke with a song in our heads, we could envision the Holy Spirit singing over us as we slept. That thought has always warmed my heart. 

I headed off to work, still pondering. I felt nudged in my spirit to turn on the radio. So I tuned to my favorite Christian Station, The Bridge

I'll bet my song is going to play! I thought. 

The first song I heard was Forgiveness, by Matthew Ward.

I was stunned as I let the lyrics soak in. It's not that I haven't heard the song before, but this time, I listened like it was God speaking directly to me. It was almost verbatim what my last Bible study lesson had taught, and God had indeed shown me some people I needed to forgive.

The next song I heard was my song, the one the Spirit had been singing over me as I slept, the one I'd been humming since I'd climbed out of bed. It was Greater, by Mercy Me.

Another recent Bible study had taught on the importance of speaking life and not death, the importance of breaking words of death which had been spoken over you in your life, or even those words of death you might have spoken over yourself ... like what a failure you are ... words of rejection ... words of self-hatred, etc. I'd agreed with God that I had some work to do in this area, as well. 

And now my heavenly Father, the Creator of the universe, was sending me specific words of encouragement to help me succeed! 

That's love! Love in the big things. Love in the little things, like the song that stayed with me all day long. 

He longs to love us. Just ask Him!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Putting my Money Where my Mouth is...

The name of this blog is Dare to Share. So now I'm going to put my money where my mouth is. I'm going to take a giant leap of faith... 

Let me digress for a minute. You may have noticed the picture up above ... that's me atop a 30+ feet-tall pole, attempting to perch atop a teeny, tiny board ... preparing to take a leap for the bar that's extended in front of me. I may hit that bar, or I might miss it. Either way, those harnesses that they put around my chest and my hips are going to catch me in my fall. I am safe. At least that's what they told me before I climbed that pole...

And they were telling me the truth! But for me to find that out for myself, I had to take the leap and test the harnesses. 

This event took place at the Outdoor Wilderness Learning Center, in Dubach, LA. We celebrated our daughter-in-law's birthday there at the end of October. 

As I reflected on my time atop that pole in the days that followed, God reminded me of what my husband told me the day after the event: "I've never loved you more than I did when I saw you up there on top of that pole." That love wasn't based on externals. It was based on his knowing that I was facing my fears, and that I was willing to learn to trust. God showed me that our faith in Him is just like that. He is crazy about us from the start, but His love is kindled anew when He sees us facing our fears, trusting Him to prove Himself ever faithful to us in each circumstance that comes our way. When we leap forward in faith, He is that harness that will catch us and carry us forward. We might hit the intended mark, or we might fail and have to try again; either way, we are not on our own. He is right by our side, carrying us through. I call it "living in the leap"!

Okay, so I've avoided it long enough. I said I was going to put my money where my mouth was. Here goes: 

When I first wrote Worth Every Tear, I had aspirations of setting the world on fire! I would bring hope to countless families battling with wayward children. While there is nothing wrong with desiring to help others, my motives were not as pure as I imagined. It wasn't just a desire to help, but a desire to prove myself to God, to earn His favor by showing Him what I could do for Him. 

Aren't I grand? Aren't You glad You saved me? 



Sickens me to admit it, and I'm not sure I even recognized it until recently.

But confession is good for the soul, right?

So move onward a few years. What am I doing for God now? It has to be something big right? Well, at least that's the lie I bought into. Part of the challenge of living in this world is not to be of this world, and the world measures success by how important something seems to be, how significant... how big... how expensive... So our Western culture teaches us, anyhow. We are supposed to Think Big

I've spent the last couple years wondering What Now? The book is complete. I'm back in the workforce. Homeschooling is a thing of the past. Who am I now? What am I doing for God now? And I wasn't able to come up with anything that seemed good enough, big enough, important enough... 

I believe that's because my focus was still on me and not Him. Earlier this year, He pulled me up short and told me to STOP! He needed to get my attention. I wrote about it several days ago: Are you BUSY too?

In the past four months, God has radically changed the way I perceive many things. He's shown me that I don't have to earn His favor; I already have it. He's shown me that I don't have to make things happen; He's got it all under control. He's shown me that I don't have to understand everything He is up to ... I just need to trust that He is up to good things, especially when I don't understand! 

Recently, a friend posted something on Facebook that has totally reshaped how I view ministry. It is worth reading: Click here

What I do for God doesn't have to be a great big thing. No, I can do the smallest thing from a pure heart, and my GREAT BIG God will use it for His glory and for the good of all who are touched by it. 

All that's required of me is to focus on my relationship with Him, spend time getting to know Him better and better. As I learn to hear His still, small voice more and more clearly, in the midst of the chaos of the world, and as I obey without worrying, trusting Him to "catch me if I fall," He will make a difference. I simply need to live ready, and leave the results in His hands. 

So be encouraged today! Your leap of faith may be to smile at the next person you pass in the grocery store. Or it may be to leave a $100 tip to a waitress, as my friend did. Or whatever God whispers to your spirit. Just be ready to obey and leave the results to Him.

Today, He told me to share what He has been teaching me, so I have put my money where my mouth is and "dared to share." The results are up to Him. 

Learning to live in the leap (of faith) is setting me free from performance and perfectionism. There's room on my perch! Join me today!

God bless you! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Are you BUSY too?

You may have noticed that my blog has been inactive and eerily silent for four months. (But more likely, in life's general chaos, you haven't even missed me ... sometimes I overestimate my own importance!) 

It's almost been like a writer's block, but in truth ... God told me to rest. Not "rest" in the sense of relax, but "rest" in the sense of STOP

Psalm 46:10, in many translations, reads: "Be still, and know that I am God..." In the NLT, it reads: "Be silent, and know that I am God!" The Complete Jewish Bible says: "Desist, and learn that I am God..." God's Word translation says, "Let go [of your concerns]! Then you will know that I am God." And the Holman Christian Standard translation says, "Stop [your fighting] - and know that I am God ..."

For most of my three decades of walking with the Lord, I've been busy ... busy filling my life with good things ... busy trying to live as a "good Christian" ought to live ... busy doing everything I could to erase all the negative things that come against folks ~ shame, rejection, fear, humiliation ... busy trying to fight off all the bad stuff in life and to keep my family from having to deal with it in theirs. But the more I fought against it, the more I honed in on it to "take it out" (I won't think those thoughts; I won't lose my temper; I won't eat all those cookies...), the larger it often seemed to loom on my horizon. There's a reason for that; what we focus on becomes the mainstay of our life. 

I recently heard this acronym for the word BUSY:

B - Bound
U - Under
S - Satan's
Y - Yoke

Seems God's been trying hard to get my attention, and it only took thirty years to do it! I've wasted three decades fighting to earn God's favor, when I already have it! The more we plod through life trying to accomplish what God has already done for us, the more bound and imprisoned we become. He doesn't need us to impress Him. He is already crazy about us! So much so that He let His only Son die, so that He could have a relationship with us. And He did that while we were still thumbing our noses at Him! (John 3:16; Romans 5:8)

So if you are tired, feeling bound and hemmed in, if you are wondering just where is that abundant life God promised me? (John 10:10), it might be time for a divine cease and desist order in your life too. 

It's time for all of us, Christians and seekers alike, to stop "doing" and to start resting in what's already been "done" for us. It's time for us to find freedom. It's time for us to exchange Satan's yoke (busyness) for Christ's yoke: 

"Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Dear one, you don't need to earn God's love. You need only to receive it. 

Now that's good news!

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Expectation Response

"To anticipate" or "to expect"; both involve looking forward to something, according to

In my post last week, Pins and Needles ... and the Waiting Thing, I touched on the subject of expectations. Expectations, in and of themselves, are not inherently bad; it's the attitude with which we hold them that can get us into trouble.

When I saw the picture of the little tot above, clearly anticipating the arrival of a Christmas visitor, it made me smile. Certainly, that little child's anticipation is pure and joyful; there is expectation of blessing to be sure, but probably not such a specific expectation that it will yield sinful heart attitudes if not met exactly. Maybe little Bobby is hoping for a bicycle; but if he gets a puppy instead, he will be just as thrilled. 

I find that as we grow older, our expectations begin to define our responses. Teen-aged Bobby might expect a car for Christmas, and then pout when he gets only a computer. A computer is clearly a blessing, but it isn't the blessing Bob wanted; his expectations were unmet, and now instead of being thankful, he has a bitter heart. 

For me, personally, it isn't so much expectation of material things that can threaten to undo me. No, it is expectations of people and relationships. Sometimes I assume others think just as I do, and then when they act in a way that is unexpected, it wounds me. Once wounded, I might withhold forgiveness for an individual, expecting that they realize I am holding out for an apology. And since they think just like I do, I should have no need to explain why I'm hurt; they should already know what they have done to hurt me. And I certainly needn't verbalize my desire to receive an apology from them; they already know what they need to do. Right? 

Or suppose I have been the one to trample on a relationship. Maybe I did something that could be, in hindsight, construed insensitive; but it wouldn't have caused me that much anguish, had it been done to me, so there's really no problem. Right? Or perhaps I can't think of one single thing I have done, which I myself would find hurtful or offensive. I could come away from that situation with this attitude: "Well, that person is obviously too sensitive; that wouldn't bother me. It shouldn't bother them." 

Assumptions that others think like I do, or that they understand me ... or assumptions about others' thoughts or feelings ... these things can only end in one way. And it can be summed up in the spelling of the very word itself:

ASS - U - ME

I wish I could tell you that I learned these truths in an academic setting, but you already know that I did not, and that I cannot. Unfortunately, most of us learn these painful lessons the hard way, by being hurt, and by hurting those we love. 

Sadly, I have in the past ignored the nudge of the Holy Spirit to forgive an offense, choosing instead to wallow in the assumption that the offending party knew exactly what they had done. I withheld my forgiveness, waiting for my much-deserved apology (in my humble opinion). All I ended up with was a bitter heart and a broken relationship. Thankfully, God was able, after I knew Him, to get through to my stubborn heart, and He was able to restore the relationship, when I finally gave up my rights and just loved that person right where they were, accepting that what they were giving me was all they were capable of giving to any relationship. It was then that I was finally able to pray for that soul, pray that God would be able to heal and mend that heart, free it from the pain and suffering which crippled it (as God had to free my own). And who knows, maybe one day, the relationship will be all I hope it to be. At least, for now, I'm not the barrier to God's touch for either of us. 

Yes, there are times when we really have a justified reason to be offended, but God still calls us to forgive and let Him deal with the offense. Then we have to face ourselves and ask this question: Do we trust Him to take care of things? Are we afraid He will extend mercy, when we want Him to exact revenge? Are we going to insist on exacting revenge ourselves, to be sure things are handled the way we expect them to be handled? I've had those arguments with God too, and that's a subject for a future blog post. 

And there will be times when God calls us to end a relationship that is not healthy or beneficial. But in my experience, if it's truly Him calling the end, you will still have love in your heart. That's a great deal different than bitterness. 

I have found that the longer I allow bitterness to fester, the greater the battles will be to love, when it's all over. It's almost like bitterness is a virus, and it leaves antibodies in your heart. Later, when you truly want to love, sometimes that old virus will flare up, and you find yourself fighting that old battle once again, trying to regain your footing, having to re-conquer territory that you already won from the enemy. How much easier it would have been to forgive in the first place, the first time the Holy Spirit nudged me in that direction! 

My desire for the future is that I keep my expectations centered on God and His word. I know I do not always think as He thinks, for we are told in Isaiah 55:8: "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord." 

I also know that He knows how and why I think as I do. 

Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up.
You understand my thoughts from far away.
You observe my travels and my rest;
You are aware of all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue,
You know all about it, Lord.
You have encircled me;
You have placed Your hand on me.
This extraordinary knowledge is beyond me.
It is lofty; I am unable to reach it.

If His word becomes the filter for all my future expectations and assumptions, then my responses will be more Christlike. People will be able to see Him, rather than me. 

John 3:30 says, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

John 12:32 says, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pins and Needles ... and the Waiting Thing

To say our family has been waiting, sometimes on pins and needles, for close to a month, is putting it lightly. 

On May 23rd, our son and his sweet wife had their first child, a sweet baby boy. When time permits, she plans to share their story on this blog.

For now, let’s suffice it to say that we never once anticipated or expected the unthinkable. Our grandson arrived without incident, all 7 pounds and 14 ounces of him; and within an hour of his birth, we almost lost him. We will be forever grateful to the Lord for His miracle touch, and for working through the incredible NICU staff at St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, LA, to give us back our sweet boy.

Yesterday, our son celebrated his very first Father’s Day! What a blessing!

Our daughter and her husband are also ready to welcome their second child, a little girl, into this world. To say that they have been ready since her cousin was born is an understatement. Her actual due date is today, but the doctor has said, for the past three weeks, that he didn’t expect her to last another week before delivery. She certainly looks like she can’t last another day. We all thought a Father’s Day appearance would be perfect! And yet, Father’s Day has come and gone, and we are still waiting …

Expectantly …   

… on pins and needles.

God has spoken to my heart much about waiting over the past year. I’ve discovered that there is a difference between waiting and waiting well. I wait well ONLY when I am trusting in Him completely, when I am totally surrendered to Him, His plan, His purpose, His timing, free of any expectations of my own, except those founded in His character and His promises.

At other times, when I’m waiting with strong opinions of my own as to how something should happen, or when it should happen, that is when I merely wait … on pins and needles.

Oh how I’d love to say that I’ve mastered this waiting thing. But the truth of the matter is this: If I’d really mastered the waiting thing, there would be no pins or needles to it. There would be only peace. I would wait well every time, resting completely in my Father’s plan, His touch, His care … His ability to work all things together for good in my life.

Romans 8:28 says this: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

I love God, and I am called according to His purpose, so I stand on His promise to work all things together for good to me. There have been many a time in my life that I have stood on this promise in perfect peace, in the face of difficult trials; I have walked through those places feeling His strength carrying me through. At those times in my life, when all is beyond my grasp, beyond my poor attempts to fix or control, those are the times I seem to hunker down and wait well. I have no other choice. And I have learned to praise Him for those times! Our vigil for our grandson a few weeks ago was such a time. He poured out His grace and mercy on each one of us as we waited, and we waited in victorious fashion. His testimony at these times is exceptionally powerful!

But what about the times I don’t wait well? What about the times when I wait on pins and needles, every other breath a battle to stifle my own opinions and desires and to rest in His goodness, trust in His mercy, in His plans, as I wait on Him to move … in a heart, in my life, in answer to a prayer, in any given circumstance …

What about then?

Is His testimony any less powerful?

Is His promise any less true?

To His great glory and to my great relief, and to the testimony of His unending mercy, His working of all things together for good in my life isn’t completely dependent on me. It is more dependent on His character and His inability to be unfaithful to Himself, except for times when I choose to walk contrary to His calling. If I choose to sin, God is not bound to keep a promise to me. But as soon as I repent and turn back to Him in love, He is still willing to work even my mistakes towards His good purpose in my life. I have seen Him do it.  

So, yes, even if I am not waiting well, His promise is still true; He can still work all things together for good to me, for I still love Him, and in the midst of the battle between my desire and His, I am still called according to His purpose.

But my testimony for Him suffers when I don’t wait well, because the peace is missing. His peace that He died to give me. His peace that passes all understanding. The thing that others would see, that would draw them unto Him. It is dimmed, hidden behind my impatient flesh.

Philippians 4:6-7 says: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

My pins and needles are a form of anxiety; therefore, when I’m waiting on God, but not waiting well, I do not have the peace that passes understanding. I look like every other impatient person in the world. I still have the promise of God available to me, that He will work everything to my good, but no one but me knows it!

How much better it is when I can surrender my expectations, my will, my opinions, my demands to a good and loving Father, for He longs only to bless me. I am a work in progress, and I’m happy to say that I “wait well” more often than I used to, not just after I have exhausted all my other options first and have no other choice; but how I long for a time when it is a rarity that I feel that pins and needles feeling as I wait.

James 1:2-7 NASB, instructs us:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.” 

I'll end with this. It was either the first or second day that our grandson was in the NICU. Wayne and I had stopped by our hotel to get something before heading back to the hospital. I glanced up at the sky, and I saw this:

To the bottom left of that upper cloud formation, I clearly saw what looked to me like the imprint of a hand. It brought great peace to my heart, because as I stared at it, I felt the whisper of God's love, like He was impressing upon my spirit that my life and the lives of my loved ones are in His care. He has us covered. His hands of blessing, protection, and prayer are outstretched toward us. 

May you know that truth in your spirit. May we each know it. And may it strengthen us to walk through our trials with confidence, to wait well, as we trust Him. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

My Prodigal Years...

I'm in the process of applying to be an on-line counselor/spiritual coach for Goundwire, and the application asks us to share our testimony. I've been a Christian for twenty-nine years, and that question always stumps me. Why, I wonder?

When I was first saved, I'd hear people give their testimonies ... dramatic kinds of things.

"When I got saved, God delivered me from a heroin addiction. I've been clean and sober ever since." 

"When I got saved, I was on the verge of a divorce, and God healed my marriage." 

"When I got saved, I was instantly healed of my cancer and transformed into the picture of health." 

Of course there were more sedate kinds of stories, but I seemed to zero in on the amazing, miraculous ones, and I immediately felt my own story could never measure up.

I've learned over the years that God doesn't use a yardstick. There's no measuring tool for testimonies. Every single one of them is an amazing miracle, given mankind's wayward nature and natural affinity to do things our own way; we all have a natural inclination to run from God, to resist anything that is actually good for us! Some of us just tend to get into bigger messes. 

But back then, I just felt like my testimony wasn't exciting, and that no one would care to hear it. I mean, after all, hubby and I read a Four Spiritual Laws tract, published by Campus Crusade for Christ

B-O-R-I-N-G!  Right?

As the years passed, I realized that the fact that hubby and I read the same tract, a week apart, and both got saved, was in and of itself something of a miraculous occurrence. I'd read the tract, prayed the prayer, and left the tract on the counter in the kitchen, not realizing exactly what I'd done in the spiritual sense (but it was enough for our great God!). A week later, hubby ~ he actually does have a name, Wayne ~ came to me with tract in hand ...

"Did you leave this in the kitchen?"

"Yes. Why?"

"I just read it and prayed the prayer."

"Oh, I did too."

A few days passed, and I couldn't get the tract out of my head. I read it again; it was then that I spied the phone number on the back. 

I dialed the number, and the woman who answered (she'd given us the tract at a Bible study we'd attended. Long story, but let's just say that we were at the study, not due to a hunger for God, but to please Wayne's boss) chatted with me for a few minutes, giving me a chance to let her know that I got her number off the tract. Then she said something that blew my mind.

"We've been waiting for you to call. We've been praying for you and your husband since we left the tract with you." 


So, okay. I know what you are thinking. That is pretty awesome. (Like I said earlier, we serve a great big God!) But you have to remember where I was coming from back then.  

That was then; this is now. My spiritual journey over the past year, which I talk about in my first post to this blog: Bare Naked Lady, really opened my eyes to God's providential hand in my life since the day I was born. I decided that's what I want to share with the folks at Groundwire. It goes like this:

I lived my teen and young adult years making one poor decision after another; choices rooted in a poor self-image that led to promiscuity, alcohol and drug use, self-sufficiency, and rebellious pride. There's no glory intended in the admission of the truth here; it's just who I was then. There was alcoholism in my family, and a molestation that occurred in my very early years, which I had never shared with my parents; these factors had convinced me that I could trust no one but myself. Sadly, my track record gave evidence to the truth that I was not trustworthy, either. 

When I experienced my first true love, at the tender age of seventeen, I was sure he was the answer to all my woes in life, that he would take care of me. I gave him everything; you can fill in the blanks, but I do mean everything. When I later found myself tossed to the curb, I spiraled into a string of empty one-night stands, stubbornly holding out hope that I would eventually stumble upon the magic Mr. Right, who would really care, who would unwittingly save me from myself and give my life real purpose because he wanted me. (Please understand, I do not harbor bitterness against my first love; we were two young kids who thought we were so grown-up and in-the-know, but in reality both very mixed up and confused; our end was inevitable.)

And I was blind to the love my parents had for me, at the time standing in judgment of them, because of their own struggles and confusion in life.

I did believe in God, even way back then, but there was no personal relationship. And I couldn't understand why, if He was so wonderful, He would let me hurt so much. 

After a few years of this crazy kind of living, I was battling depression and flirting with the idea of suicide, because I felt worthless and unwanted. But I was a coward, too, so all I did was flirt with the idea; it was easier to see myself as a victim and feel sorry for poor little old me. That's where God found me when He mercifully chose to intervene in my life, at the bottom of a spiritual pigpen. Luke 15:11-32

Even before I knew Him personally, I believe it was Providence that He separated me from my first love. He was not a bad person; he went on to become an upstanding citizen and a fine individual. But God had already hand-picked the one I was supposed to be with, the one who would be able to truly love me. My pigpen was the stage God set; it was there that He tapped me on the shoulder, got my attention, and began to woo me to Himself. A few years later, when a friend hounded me to go on a blind date, it was then that I met my real true love. A year later, on our first anniversary, Wayne and I celebrated not only our marriage, but our new birth together in Christ. And we've been walking with Him ever since.

In my Lord, I've finally found the answer to all of life's woes. The One who really cares. The One who saved me from myself. The One who gives my life true purpose. My True Love. 

God never ceases to amaze me. Wayne and I have walked with Him for twenty-nine years, and I am still just beginning to truly understand how much God loves me and who I am in Him. His gift to me, in the form of my dear husband, has been a picture of the love of God ~ unconditional, sacrificial, ever-growing, ever-changing for the better, for the good. 

That's the kind of love I want other women to embrace, for it is with that kind of love that God loves them too. That's the purpose of this Dare to Share blog, to unite us as women with our Creator, our Savior, our Father, our Friend; that we would all come to understand the incredible depth of His love for us! Ephesians 3:14-21

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bare Naked Lady

"I'm not sure about the whole courtship thing," my daughter, married now for two years, shared. She went on to explain that she'd not felt ready to handle some of the things she encountered when she first experienced a young man show interest in her. "Maybe if I'd dated a few guys, I'd have known how to handle that situation without freaking out."

Admittedly, her thoughts surprised me.

Over the next few days, as I pondered what she'd shared, I realized that even if I'd allowed or encouraged her to date, she would have still been unprepared, because I couldn't give her what I never had.

I'd done plenty of dating. And it was those experiences that led me to favor the idea of courtship for my own daughters. I'd been unprepared for dating. I assumed that having my kids wait until they were older to begin those opposite-sex encounters would protect them from the stupid mistakes I myself made. By the time I married their father, my heart was bruised and battered. I'd given pieces of my heart to each young man I dated, and I entered marriage with large chunks of it missing.

In fact, after thirty years of marriage, God is still restoring my heart. Some of the major repair work has taken place over the past year.

A little over a year ago, in April of 2013, I attended a women's conference called The Ruach Journey. It was a wonderful experience. Ruach means "the breath of God." I truly did feel the breath of the Holy Spirit in my spirit at that conference. I came back home, ready to change the world.

Here I Am, Lord. Send me! (Isaiah 6:8)

And in my quiet time with the Lord, He gave me my marching orders.

Wait upon Me. (Isaiah 40:31)

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

He was calling me to a time of rest, rest in Him.

My sails quickly deflated. But I've learned to trust my God. So I settled in to obey His mandate to rest and wait. I began to feel that He had me ensconced in a cocoon of sorts; a holy chrysalis, if you will. For the sake of information, I learned that the British dictionary defines chrysalis as: anything in the process of developing. Well, that was me. God clearly had me in a development process. And He wasn't particularly concerned with how long that development might take, or in sharing that news with me.

In November of 2013, I attended Ruach 2. Honestly, I'd grown so comfortable waiting with God that I thought maybe I wasn't ready for Ruach 2, but as I filled out the necessary application to attend, He made it quite clear that I was to go. It was yet another step in my development process.

Over the course of the past year, He used many resources to minister to me. To name a few:

God used these tools and my time with Him, to help me understand that though I'd walked with Him for over three decades, I was still in a very embryonic place in specific areas of my spiritual development. I'd spent many years being who I thought He wanted me to be, who I thought others expected me to be, but I truly had no idea who I was created to be. It is this sense of self that was missing in me. The question never had been whether or not I (or my daughters) should pursue dating or courtship; the question was (and still is): Did I ... Do I know who I am in the Lord? Do I truly know that I am His beloved? That He has chosen me? That I am accepted in Him? That He is able to redeem and forgive me? That His love is all that I truly need, and that love gives me worth and purpose in this world?

As He has enlightened (Ephesians 1:18) me over the past months, I've begun to realize that there are many women just like me "out there." Precious daughters of the King who have no idea who they are in Him. Coming to understand who they are will bring incredible freedom and joy. That's what I hope to accomplish in sharing my journey on this blog. I don't have all the answers. All I have are my two fish and five loaves (John 6:1-15), but I'll share them willingly and let God do the rest.

I've been feeling quite restless the past few days. The desire to reach out has been growing in my heart. But I've been letting fear rob me of my joy, letting it keep me from stepping out into the deep. I've been asking God for more confirmation, more reassurance that this is His call for me. During my quiet time with the Lord, for the past two days, He has prodded me.

Go. Now. I've freed you from the chrysalis. It's time to soar, little butterfly! Go.

So here I am. Soul bared naked before whoever takes the time to read this blog. (I'll bet you were wondering how in the world I was going to tie that title to this post!) And I pray that God will bless you, that anything He asks me to share here will help you along your own journey to freedom, joy, peace, and understanding in Him. Amen!