Your Words Have Power…

Monday, January 13, 2020

Church sign calendar: Copyright 2019 Andrews McMeel Publishing
Illustrations by Doug Bowles

If the words you spoke appeared on your skin, would you be beautiful?

Well, folks… this one jumped off the page at me.  Of course, it’s not the first time I’ve ever heard it, but I do find it a powerful question. I’ve even seen it as an image:

Words Power 2

Friends, we live in a world where people no longer feel the need to filter what they say to others. In our daily lives of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, we are able to hid behind a computer or phone screen and never have to face a person we are unkind or demeaning to. This is not something I have ever taken lightly… and there are people out there that I have hurt – either through my words or with my actions – and I have been trying to find ways to apologize for the wrongs I know about. Even if the wrong occurred 20 or more years ago. Those aren’t easy conversations to have and I wept as I corresponded with someone last week who I deeply hurt 23 years ago. I had been forgiven before, but just needed to say it again recognizing exactly how I had hurt that person.

As a follower of Jesus, I am called to use my words – spoken or written – wisely.

Ephesians 4:29-32 (NIV) says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

BE KIND!!!  That’s not a new concept. God has been telling us that for 2000+ years.

I’ll go all crazy on you and also post that passage as worded by Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase of the Bible, The Message: “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”

Each word a gift… Mr. Peterson has such a way with words.

This verse has been a challenge to me through most of my life. Not that I have ever been one to curse someone out (though I’m sure that has happened more than once in my 42 years), but I have said hurtful things or used a hurtful tone. I still struggle with tone – just ask my mama, her best friend, or my husband.

My daddy and I used to send this scripture back and forth to one another pretty regularly. It was an area we both worked on pretty consistently and failed at pretty regularly. But we were determined to keep one another accountable when we could.

I strive hard to speak words that will be helpful and useful. It isn’t that I don’t ever say anything negative ever, but I think it through before saying something that may be seen as unkind.  Just this weekend I called someone who is a stranger “quarrelsome” while quoting 2 Timothy 2:22-26. I thought, and even prayed, over my comment to this person before posting it… but this was someone who had questioned the integrity of a preacher I admire a lot. A preacher who epitomizes “loving the least of these”. The person who questioned my compliment of the preacher is someone who seems to look for ways to attack, hurt, and bash others using the Bible – something I’m not okay with. I’d witnessed this stranger doing this before, many times, and not said anything, but this time he was attacking me and I responded back.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” and in this situation I felt that a rebuke (using scripture) was warranted.

Perhaps I’ve gotten off track… but I don’t think so. Even when we are correcting someone – our child, our spouse, our friend, a fellow Christian, or even a total stranger – our words have power and it is up to us to use that power wisely. Even in my correction, I want my words to bring life and encouragement; not death. I fail the most with my husband and children, but I’m getting better every day.

What about you?

If the words you spoke appeared on your skin, would you be beautiful?

Commit… #OneWord2020

Slacker….

Slacker… that should be my word, right? I love, love, love to write and decided in November that I would write several times a week in 2020, but here we are on January 10 and I’m just now opening my blog for the first time in nearly six months.

I had big plans and hopes for myself and I already feel behind.
Don’t worry! I’m not beating myself up too much… just being real because that is who I am.
What you see is what you get.
I do not lie very well and that includes being fake.
For 35 years of my life I was a sermon illustration.

Of course, there are things in my life I don’t reveal easily. There is a year that I refer to as “the dark year” when I made consistent bad choices that I’d love to forget ever happened. But, alas… we don’t get to go back and fix mistakes or change decisions so why dwell on those things.

My word for 2020 is Commit.
Commit

So far, I’m obviously struggling… because a focal point of my committing was using the Church Sign Calendar as a prompt to write a la my daddy.

To be 100% honest, I haven’t really liked most of this year’s signs thus far:
1/1 May your _____ be longer than your resolutions (paper gone, but I held onto it for a few days so I kinda remember it)
1/2 Backsliding begins when knee bending ends
1/3 Do you love carbs? Jesus is the bread of life!
1/4-1/5 Enlightenment is when a wave realizes it is the ocean
1/6 & 1/7 have disappeared
1/8 You can’t do everything, but you can do something *I did mean to write this day
1/9 Physical strength is measured by what we can carry, spiritual by what we can bear
1/10 Find someone with a Friday night personality and a Sunday morning heart

Let’s go back to 1/8:

You can’t do everything, but you can do something.

This was the one I was going to write about, but the day got away from me and I didn’t. It has stuck with me over the last couple of days because I recently spent ten weeks out of work and six weeks in bed due to breaking my ankle and couldn’t do anything. To be honest, instead of taking those six weeks to read or write (hmm… this blog, maybe) I watched seasons 5-10 and then seasons 1-10 of FRIENDS.
Before breaking my ankle the word “controlling” would have applied to me perfectly. I do the laundry. I have always gotten up with the kids. I have always packed lunches. I’ve taken them to the bus stop or to school 95% of the time. I am the PTO President at their school. I teach preschool three days a week. And the week before I broke myself, I was hired two days a week to work in the Children’s Ministry department at my church. I volunteer every Sunday morning in Children’s Ministry and I took on the role of Shepherd in our American Heritage Girls troop this year.
All of that stopped dead the moment I broke my ankle… no work… no volunteering… no packing lunches or walking to the bus stop… I had to relinquish control of everything and it was HARD. But Life. Went. On.

Everything I did and do was covered by family and friends.  We had six weeks of meals (three times a week) delivered to us. Jeff stepped up and took control of everything. Everything. And he owned it…

But I digress from the 1/8/2020 Church Sign…
You can’t do everything, but you can do something.

So many times we look at the World around us and it all looks so big. Making a difference can seem impossible. We want our country to be safe from outside threats, but we don’t want to hear about our government making decisions to keep us that way.

Every day people in our own city, county, neighborhood are abducted and sold into slavery – children, women, and men (though we don’t hear about the men as much).

It becomes overwhelming as we look at everything and everyone who needs something and we shut down trying to figure out how to solve all the problems.

But we were never called to do everything.

Matthew 22:36-40 (Lexham English Bible) says
“Teacher, which commandment is greatest in the law?” And he said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

Jesus called us to love God first and then to love our neighbor. But who is our neighbor?
Jesus answered that question in Luke 10:25-37 (NIV). (click on it to read it)

I don’t want to toot my own horn, but here is a real life example of attempting to live this out this week…
Yesterday I decided that I wanted a Bacon Ranch Salad from McDonald’s (with crispy chicken). I arrived that the McD’s near our house and there was a woman who appeared to be in the drive thru line, but when the line moved forward she did not. I sat in the entryway watching her as the line moved two more time – leaving a sizeable gap. Where she was “parked” she could easily have been picking up someone who was leaving work. So, with a four car size gap between her and the car in front of her, I pulled into the line. She immediately laid on her horn to let me know I was cutting in line, but did not move to get around me. I still had to wait through three cars ordering in front of me while she stayed at least two car lengths behind me. I could see her in my mirrors as she seemed to be searching all through her car for something – the reason she kept missing the cars moving forward. When I got to the payment window, I asked to pay for her meal.  Sure, I was hoping it would serve as an apology for line jumping, but I also think she was searching full on for enough money to pay for something to eat. If that was the case, I hope she could use the $3 and change I spent on her meal to get dinner or something else she needed.

Another scripture that I LOVE from the Bible is Colossians 3:12-14 (LEB):
Therefore, as the chosen of God, holy and dearly loved, put on affection, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, putting up with one another and forgiving one another. If anyone should have a complaint against anyone, just as also the Lord forgave you, thus also you do the same. And to all these things add love, which is the bond of perfection.

And while many Christians discredit The Message because it is a paraphrase, it says this beautifully:
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all purpose garment. Never be without it.

Friends, we cannot do everything, but we can show love. We can be God’s hand, God’s feet, God’s message, God’s arms to a World desperate for love.

So back to my word for 2020… COMMIT

I want to commit myself to more Bible reading and study.
I want to commit myself to more writing about Jesus.
I want to commit myself to being evidence of God’s love.

Proverbs 16:3 is pictured above in the Darby Translation
The New Living Translation says, “Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.”

God, I commit myself to you – my plans, my actions, myself.
Help me remember that alone, I cannot do anything, but with YOU, I can do all things… or at least I can do SOMETHING.

Oak Hill Christian Service Camp

It’s Monday morning, July 22 at 10:54 AM.
I should be at Gethsemane practicing with the Music & Drama Crew… but I’m not.
Interestingly enough – here is a post sitting in my drafts from two years ago, July 24, 2017…

Titled: Missing Music & Drama
It’s Saturday morning, July 24 at 10:16 AM.
I should be frantically running through my house, checking a list, and loading up my car to head to the week of camp that I am Dean of at Oak Hill Camp.  I’m not.
I cannot tell you how this makes me feel.  There are too many feelings in my body to properly categorize them all, but I can tell you that I know I’m going to miss this week of camp this year.
I became a camper at this week at the age of 12 (summer of 1990).
I missed the year I was 13 for some reason I can’t remember, but from 1992 until 2016 I’ve been at Oak Hill Camp for Music & Drama every summer.
In 1996, at the age of eighteen, I became a staff member.
*Note – this was NOT a wise decision as my best friend and ex-boyfriend were both campers and spent the week making out in front of me.  So not fun.
In 1999 I became a Dean alongside my mother and my closest camp friend from my life, Christie.
In 2004 my mom handed over the directing reins to me and Christie.
Since that time, I’ve sat in front of the choir and directed.  THIRTEEN years of directing the group.  That’s a huge chunk (1/3) of my 39 years of life.
I won’t be directing this year and this is causing all sorts of “feelings”.
Why I’m not attending this year and why I’m not directing were in a post I shared yesterday. I’m making the right decision as we have no clue what Monday holds with my daddy’s surgery.

First – daddy’s surgery to remove the cancerous tumor from inside his heart was 100% successful. However, the melanoma moved to his brain in 2018 and he returned to God on November 5, 2018.

Now let’s update that list above.
I became a camper at Music & Drama at the age of 12 (summer of 1990).
I missed the year I was 13 for some reason I can’t remember, but from 1992 until 2016 I’ve been at Oak Hill Camp for Music & Drama every summer.
I missed the year I was 39 (2017) for my daddy’s heart surgery.
In 1996, at the age of eighteen, I became a staff member.
In 1999 I became a Dean alongside my mother and my closest camp friend from my life, Christie.
In 2004 my mom handed over the directing reins to me and Christie.
Since that time, I sat in front of the choir and directed.
14 years directing; 19 years as a dean – that’s a long commitment.

I’ve been asked a lot this Summer why I resigned from that week. A lot of reasons were behind my decision – some I don’t speak of because they are incredibly personal for me. I can just tell you that when I missed camp in 2017 it wasn’t just for my daddy’s surgery. It was God’s way of showing me that *I* was not essential to Music & Drama. As the saying goes, “The show went on…” without me. In some ways that hurt, but in many ways it allowed God to work in my life in other ways.

What isn’t included in that list above is that in 1979, at the age of 4-6 months old, I was at Oak Hill Camp with my mama who was either cooking or helping the cook. I slept in the bunk area above the kitchen.
Every summer since then, I’ve been at Oak Hill – as a staff kid first and then as a camper.
In 1992, at the age of 14, I became a Junior Counselor (JC) at Oak Hill. It was something I had spent years dreaming of and planning for. Sure – it was going to be a lot of work, but I knew it was also going to be a lot of fun.
That Summer – 1992 – I spent every single week at camp. I was a JC at both First Chance weeks (each three days at the time; one Sunday – Wednesday the second Wednesday – Saturday), both Junior weeks (3rd – 5th grade), and both Junior High weeks (6th – 8th grade). I was a camper at both senior high weeks and Music & Drama.
Every Sunday, my parents drove me out to Oak Hill and helped me set up my bunk. Every Saturday, my parents picked me up, took me home, and (daddy) did my laundry while I slept. Eight weeks full of camp and that was BLISS.
I was a JC for several Summers, though that was the only Summer I “lived” at camp.

That said, it’s been a couple decades since I worked at a Junior Week of camp… Yes – I’ve *taught* at Junior 2 (Beast Mode) for two Summers before this one, but I’ve driven out, taught, and left. I’ve spoken at Vespers and Campfire. I’ve presented Missions and I’m visited, but I haven’t worked a full week of camp (outside of Music & Drama) in 23 years. I’d almost forgotten all that goes into running a “normal” week of camp – especially recreation!

In September of 2018, when I told the Camp Board that I was resigning from Music & Drama, Heather Ferguson – who I had been at camp besties with since Middle School – approached me about working her Junior week full time in 2019. Full time means a bunk in a cabin, a daily job (teaching the same class I taught in 2017 and 2018), and being part of a team. There were some things to work out – mainly Joe.
Ella’s love of Oak Hill is going to rival mine. She started out as a staff kid at 8 months old and joined me for the camp portion of Music & Drama for four Summers before her brother was born. Two camp kids is harder to do, so in 2013 my mama retired from M&D and began grandma’s beach camp during my week at camp. Ella attended Beast Mode as a camper in 2018 and absolutely loved it so I knew she was on board for this year. Joe, though, was only going into 2nd grade and still 6. He’d be younger than every other camper, but the camp board was okay since I was going to be there on staff. So, with Joe squared away, I signed on to work Beast Mode full time.

I’m gonna be honest – I was SUPER NERVOUS last Sunday (July 14). Beast Mode is not remotely my speed. There is an obstacle course that includes “beasts” and a mud pit, there are color wars, there is a staff hunt (super fun at 15, but super scary at 41), and Ultimate Kickball where the bases were a pool of ice, a pool of Elf Spaghetti, a pool of mud and a slip n slide. Thankfully, Heather appreciated my love for all things photos so I got out of a lot of the things I was scared of because I was photographing other people doing them.
There was also the element of it being a JUNIOR week… even with swing years, these kids were rising 2nd – 6th graders and I’ve spent nearly all my camp Summers with kids who are 13-18 years old. No one at Music & Drama leaves their Bible at the kick ball field. (Who am I kidding… I can’t remember the last time Music & Drama used the kick ball field for anything other than activities tied to the looking at the moon.)
Was I cut out to deal with such young campers????? (The jury is still out on that question.)

Y’all – I had THE. BEST. TIME. I mean, I’d do it again right this minute if I could and I’d actually play Ultimate Kickball, handing my phone off to someone else to gather evidence. (Hold me to that statement, Beast Mode crew!) While I am still mulling over becoming a dean of a different week of camp, I’m also thinking that I may do that in 2021 instead of 2020. I may need another year of Beast Mode under my belt to prepare me for other work. We’ll see what God has planned, but he definitely cultivated a love for this week of camp in my heart. And, yes, I am missing Music & Drama – it has been a huge part of nearly 3/4 of my life, but God made last week have a huge impact on who I am and where I am heading.
Teaching these kids was fun in 2017 and 2018, but teaching kids that I was actually getting to know was life changing. Knowing their names (well most of them) made the class more enjoyable for me.
Reminding JCs to sit among the campers was something to check off in 2017 and 2018, but reminding JCs of their importance in 2019 was personal because I want them to succeed and go on to become deans running weeks of camp they’ve loved like I did.

Oak Hill Christian Service Camp has been a part of my life for my entire life and I’m so glad I didn’t let this year go by without being out there in a full-time capacity. I was BLESSED getting to know staff members and JCs that I have had little to no contact with in the years I’ve been insulated at Music & Drama. They are wonderful kids and adults and I feel like I’ve missed out on something by not knowing them.

I’m so grateful for parents who loved Oak Hill and instilled that love within me.

I know that God will keep me tied to the camp in the coming years and decades and I cannot wait to see how HE is going to use ME there.

If you are looking for a SAFE place to send your kids to sleep away camp… a place where they will learn about Jesus and have incredible Christian examples who will care about them… look no further than Oak Hill Christian Service Camp.

If you have a middle school student – we have one more week left in this Season!!
A week I, myself, think is going to be one of the coolest weeks of the Summer.
Check out the teaser here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B0CniKgFjr-ULl1ImbHhDmgpHPX0iPP1MjSUgo0/

Grief… this is nothing new

I’m not the first person in this world to grieve.

I’m not the first person in this world to say, “It’s like an ocean and comes in waves.”

Grief is like the ocean-R

I’m not the first daughter to lose her daddy.  I’m not the first daughter who had a rough relationship with her daddy from the age of 12-30, who restored that relationship and then lost her daddy. I’m not even the most recent daughter to lose her daddy… I’ve had two friends lose their daddy in the last six weeks.

But I am the first ME and so, like others who write to process their mess, I’m going to write about it to get it all out.

You see… yesterday was the last day of school for my kids. I am the PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization) President at their school. The PTO hosted a lunch for the staff & teachers of the school – and let me tell you – our parents sent in more food than I could possibly imagine. One random question… “Are you the PTO representative helping set up the luncheon?” sent my brain in a HUGE spiral.  I was not… As president, I delegate out what others can take care of and I’d delegated that lunch on out – especially after getting our Swim Team meet schedule and knowing we were going to have our first meet on the last day of school.
So I immediately texted the person in charge and their response was that the principal had said in an email that it was all taken care of and that we were appreciated.
But my brain would NOT let go. We were failing in every possible way as a support – not only for our teachers, but for our Principal and Associate Principal who should’ve been out and about in classrooms saying good-bye and not setting up a lunch in the teacher’s lounge.
My first breakdown was really, really random and I was shuttled into the book room by the principal who asked me not to look/act distressed because that made the other parents distressed and I was a leader and an example. I pulled myself together and went to the classroom of a teacher who has become a friend where I asked her a completely unrelated question and then lost my ever-loving emotional mind. (Thank you, God, for friends.) To be honest, I felt reprimanded and my concern belittled. Yes – I am a leader and an example, but I’m also a parent who can’t figure out when I’m on the good list and when I’m on the naughty list and that stresses me to the maximum. 
I left my friend’s room pulled together and okay – heading to the cafeteria to party with our fifth graders before they left the school.
Then I passed the teacher’s lounge where the Associate Principal was by herself and popped my head in to say, “I have 30 minutes before I have to leave to run errands. Do you need help?” I barely got the words out before walking in past her and turning into the copier room and bursting into a sobbing mess… where the Principal walked in to find me and assured me I was not letting anyone down.
After getting myself together (again), I went to dance and take pictures of our fifth graders and then headed out to run my errands before the bus arrived home at 11:30-ish.

My first errand involved a quick trip into Target for something where I was immediately confronted by the wall of Father’s Day cards. Well then…

I actually picked out a card for Jeff (because I haven’t done a card in ages) and got my other items and never once gave it a second thought.

You see… for YEARS, daddy and I had what I call a “rough relationship”. He was a fantastic minister, but absent in areas of my life where I needed him. I didn’t show him the respect being my father deserved – regardless of my anger or jealousy. We were a lot alike and that meant that when we disagreed it was explosive with neither of us backing down.
For YEARS, I struggled to buy him a Father’s Day card because they were all LIES. “Thanks, Dad, for your support”, “Without you for a Dad…”, “I’ll always be your girl, Daddy” – UGH! I’d spend an hour reading every card finding one that kinda fit.
The funny one with the grill? Nope – I’m sure my dad grilled, but I have no memory of it.

Anyway – I had several more emotional breakdowns over the course of the day when it dawned on me that tomorrow will be my first Father’s Day without my Father.  And thus the crashing waves of grief. Not at all connected to the things I was crying about, but still there in the back of my mind.
And it likely started a year ago with a comment by a friend who is transferring her membership to our church tomorrow – on Father’s Day. She told me it was going to happen and wanted to be sure I’d be there. She picked Father’s Day because she’d been baptized on Father’s Day by her own daddy when she was younger.  I replied that I, too, had been baptized on Father’s Day by my own daddy – June 16, 1985 –

Ummm… I just cussed in my head because tomorrow is June 16, 2019. I might die.

Again – it was a moment in time… a friend giving a friend information and asking for support (which I am SO EXCITED to give). She chose Father’s Day because of that memory tied to her daddy who died suddenly and unexpectedly on June 29, 2004. She’s been walking this road I’m on for 15 years. She, her sisters, and her mother are testaments to survival through survivable loss.  We were right in the middle of the busy after church kid pick up and my brain didn’t even begin to process all the information I’ve put in the last seven sentences. But I cannot ignore that my brain did indeed begin to process all of that (and maybe more) and this has been building up in me all week long.

Looking back, I’ve not been really focused on major holidays or events and what this loss means to those. I acknowledge that they are coming and that I will indeed be sad on those days, but I have not been remotely prepared for how some of them will affect me.

I got up on my birthday knowing full well that my daddy would not be posting his usual very long post about my birth. I got up and got dressed and took my kid to soccer and came home and lost my ever loving mind and went back to bed.

This week leading up to Father’s Day has seen me lost my temper and my tears far more often than I should have and I just needed to take a moment and acknowledge that it’s there – GRIEF.
Since November, posting photos on Facebook has become unimportant – because my daddy isn’t there to comment on them. I’m not sure I realized how much of what I posted was for my daddy, but in the wake of his death I just don’t take the time to post pictures like I did. Eventually I will get April, May and June up… because I like having a record.

Y’all… this grief thing is NO JOKE and it is NOT FUN.

I’m not the first person to say this, but I needed to write about it and get it out for my own good.

Tomorrow, I will CELEBRATE that I had a daddy who loved me.
Tomorrow, I will REMEMBER that, though we had years of disconnect, we spend the last 10 years of his life close – super close.
Tomorrow, I will REJOICE that my friend is placing her church membership at Fairmount.
Tomorrow I will CRY because I will miss my daddy and miss hearing him preach and miss his Facebook posts.
Tomorrow, if your daddy is living – be sure to hug his neck or call his phone and tell him you love him.

Happy Father’s Day in Heaven Daddy… I sure to miss you.

Facebook Cover Collage 2019-02-05 (2)

Let’s Get Real…

Funny, as I typed in the above title I misspelled “Real” as “Read”.  That could be a whole other post – the books I’ve read that guided me, encouraged me, challenged me, or just let me veg in another person’s (character’s) world.  Having just wrapped up the Harry Potter series with my 10-year-old daughter, I can say that I love living in Harry’s world and love returning to it through my kids. (Who am I kidding… my reading it with The Bean was my fifth or sixth time through the series and I’m on my sixth or seventh trip through now with The Boy, age 6, as we’re halfway through Chamber of Secrets.)

BUT… that’s a post for another time.  Today, let’s get real.

The thought of being real has really struck me this week. A friend, who attends Two Rivers Church in New Bern, NC has been posting a picture of herself immediately after waking up up all this week. It was a challenge from their preacher this past Sunday to post a photo of oneself (quoting her post on FB this morning) “All laid bare. No makeup. No staging. No fixed hair. No filters.” Are you brave enough to participate in such a challenge?  Am I?

On Monday I started #TheLittleWay Challenge. Already, on Friday, I’m failing.  I missed Day 1 all together and made it up on Day 2 while participating in Day 2. However, I haven’t gotten a single physical work out in!  I have upped my water take (some, but not enough to pee too often, so obviously failing at that) and I’ve tried to choose better things to eat (but I’ll admit that the family discovered my stash of reese’s cups miniatures and peanut butter m&ms and I restocked my jar with reese’s eggs last night).
On Monday, the Bible Study group I’ve barely attended for nearly a YEAR (say what?) started Beth Moore’s David study and I met our leader on Tuesday to get the book and still haven’t done a single day’s homework. Every time I sit down to do it I get interrupted by a little one. I used to get up at 5 AM and haven’t been able to get up when the alarm went off. A year ago, I was the substitute if the leader couldn’t be there.

A year ago, I was less than a month away from turning 40, which I celebrated with a 5K Run with a couple friends (and a cool El Patron party hosted by my brother & husband). I ran my first 10K in March 2018 and then fell completely off the running wagon shortly after. I haven’t donned running clothes in over 6 months and, while I miss it, I cannot get up with the alarm to go meet the best running gals a girl could ask for.  They’ve left me in their dust, moving on to a half and (I’ve heard rumor of) a full marathon run this year.  I’m already signed up for the same 10K and desperately need to start training, but just cannot seem to get up. The best solution is to run WITH my kids after they get off the bus… but I’ve only done that one day and then failed at that.

Now, before you go jumping on me for getting down on myself – I promise, I’m not wallowing. And, no, I can’t push off any of these areas of letting myself down on losing my daddy to cancer in November. I’d started slacking off long before his brain cancer diagnosis on 8/4 and his passing on 11/5.

I’m just in a slump of epic proportions and can’t seem to pull myself out of it.
AND. THAT’S. OKAY.  It’s okay to not be okay. It’s the whole reason I named this blog what I did – Ministering Through My Mess. Because life is messy and being a Christian doesn’t make it less so. I fail and Jesus picks me up, dusts me off, and sets me back on the path.
I shared this image on Facebook & Instagram this morning…
jesus compass
It had been posted by Jennifer Dukes Lee from her book, It’s All Under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible.
I ordered the Kindle version of the book and can’t wait to read it after I finish the book I’m currently on.

How many times do we ask for God to lead us, but refuse to follow?
How many times does my 4:15 alarm (running) have to go off or my 5:15 alarm (Bible Study) have to chime before I stop hitting ignore and get my rear end out of bed?
I don’t know that answer yet… but maybe posting this confession here will help with my motivation.

In an effort to live out my #OneWord2019 SHINE, I promise to be REAL – to be AUTHENTIC. I feel like, as a Christian, authenticity is one of the best character traits I can have. Being honest when I fail – or when I’m not okay.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a stellar wife (and darling husband only would to not bring me shame). I wouldn’t describe myself as a stellar mom (ask The Bean about that – our battle this morning could convince you). I am definitely not a stellar house keeper – a reason we rarely host people in our house. So what am I good at? Well, I WANT to be a light for Christ and I hope that as I journey through 2019 that I’ll become more and more a beacon for God to use. I want to shine so brightly that other “wonder what [I’ve] got”.

To quote a Newsboys song… “Shine. Make ’em wonder what you’ve got. Make ’em wish that they were not on the outside looking bored. Shine. Let it shine before all men. Let’em see good works, and then let ’em glorify the Lord.”

Now… Time to get real – Where are your pictures just waking up?
(Just kidding)

One Word – 2019

SHINE

Matthew 5:16 (NASB)
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

I have struggled to come up with my #OneWord2019. For 2017 and 2018, my word was Pause. I have a pretty good temper and I often don’t pause before reacting. This happens mostly at home, and I haven’t perfected it, but after two years, I’ve definitely gotten better and I wanted a new word for 2019.
In my funk yesterday, a friend suggested I claim the word “Grace”. She said, “Grace to allow yourself to grieve, love, hurt, hope, and find new joy.” It was an excellent suggestion!
But, as my funk started yesterday, the word SHINE crossed my mind. I scowled at myself and told myself I didn’t feel like shining just then… but the word grew on me.

Daddy’s calendar on 12/26/18 said,
“We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.”
I called mama and read it to her and she said, “That’s also how God’s light gets out of us.” (Woman is brilliant, by the way.)

Whoa! The idea of my own brokenness being the best way I minister as been a theme in my life for years. My blog (which I’d love to be my career, but I don’t take the time to do create in a way to get paid sponsors) is called “Ministering Through My Mess”.

WE ARE ALL BROKEN! Eve and Adam broke us and we’ve been broken ever since, but God uses our brokenness to reach other broken people. Our healing and survival through our brokenness is what makes us stronger…

I have loved Kintsugi for YEARS (though I don’t own any yet). Kintsugi (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique.

I am a broken person – I’ve made bad decisions. I’ve been hurt and I’ve hurt other people. But My God isn’t broken and he uses my experiences to help others. While many Christian churches (and ministers) refer to Jesus’ broken body, only the King James Version uses the word “broken” in reference to Jesus’ physical body. The KJV words 1 Corinthians 11:24 “And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”
The KJV was used for so long that the idea of Jesus’ body being broken has held on. Even I thought the scripture was worded that way in each translation until I started really looking into the wording. In every other translation I checked, Jesus is quoted saying that His body is given for us.
It is important in scripture to know that not a single bone in Jesus’ body was every broken. This is crucial because he was the PERFECT sacrifice for us – for our sins.
But he did suffer great cruelty and physical abuse as he made his way to the cross. From the moment that the people called for him to die and Barabbas to be released, he was beaten and mocked.

Anyway – as usual, I’ve digressed. God uses MY brokenness to minister to others. God doesn’t look for perfection. One of my favorite lists is that of the other broken people God used in the Bible…
Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossip, Martha was a worrier, Sarah was impatient, Moses stuttered (we believe), Rahab was a prostitute, and Lazarus was dead.
If God can use the list above for his glory, then God can certainly use my boy-crazy teenage self, my rush into marriage at 21, my subsequent divorce, my temper, my occasional bad word, my struggle as a parent, and so on, and so on…
I want to use 2019 to SHINE God’s light out of myself so that others will want God in themself, too. Standing on a box and shouting about end times will not bring someone to Christ, but my life reflecting HIM just may.
May God, shining INTO my brokenness and filling my cracks – repairing my brokenness with HIM, make me a vessel to be used by Him for His Glory. MAY HIS GLORY SHINE OUT OF ME.

Matthew 5:16 (NASB)
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

shine - kintsugi lamps

When Fear Faces God

Seven days before my dad’s surgery this summer, I wrote a story about my daughter and daddy’s surgery on Facebook.  Three days before his surgery I shared it here.

Yesterday, September 19, my dad posted the following Church Sign quote on his church’s Facebook page: “Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.”

Before reading the devotion that followed, I immediately raced back in time to July 23…

The day before my dad’s surgery I left Richmond to drive to Norfolk.

I was petrified. I hadn’t felt that until that very moment.
You see, I woke up that morning with the plan to go out to camp for “church” camp style.  Jonathan Thayer was bringing the Word to our staff and teens that morning and I love the messages he lays on us.
As I was getting ready I felt such a weight… I knew I wanted to be at my church home, Fairmount, and hear our minister, Rick, preach.  I knew I wanted to worship with my church family before heading to Norfolk to spend days with my blood family.
Leaving home, Oh My Soul by Casting Crowns came on the radio.  I didn’t really hear the first verse, but as I turned left from Ellerbee onto Royerton the chorus of the song started.
The chorus says:
“Oh my soul you are not alone.
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know.
One more day; He will make a way.
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down.”
 
THERE’S A PLACE WHERE FEAR HAS TO FACE THE GOD YOU KNOW.
WHOA………………………………………
That line hit me like a ton of bricks.
My daddy’s surgery was going to be the moment where My Fear had to face My God.
I want to interject here that while I was late to 9:30, I made it before communion and got to hear Scott Mullins sing Rich Mullins’ Hold Me Jesus.  You want to have God step down into your mess and speak right to you?  Be at the end of your faith and pray for a miracle.
Here are the lyrics for the first verse and chorus:

Well, sometimes my life just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big,
And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus,
Cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

Friends, I have never been so scared in my entire life.
Not in Haiti when our tiny plane took off from the Port-au-Paix dirt runway airport and the pilot turned around (yes, TINY plane) and told us someone had ciphoned off the gas and that we’d have to make an unplanned landing in Cap Haitian to refuel.
Knowing that the surgeon, who is RENOWN for heart surgery, would be cutting 1/4 of my father’s heart out and rebuilding it was terrifying.
I left Fairmount and went to have lunch with my camp crew.  Then I said my goodbyes, taking a picture with everyone so that I’d have a camp picture even though I was not officially part of my own week this summer, and hit the road to Norfolk.
I willed “Oh My Soul” and “Thy Will Be Done” to play as I traveled throughout that day.  I am ministered to and I love to minister through music.  It’s been years since I sang on a stage, but it burns in my soul to share God’s Word through music.
I was gifted hearing both of them more than once as I switch stations near Williamsburg.
I was okay on Sunday.  I really was.  We hung in the room with Mama and Daddy until after 10:00, then headed for a “family” room that Warren had rented for the two of us.  I could barely sleep and was up again around 4 AM when Warren got up to go help daddy with his last wipe down.  I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I packed up and headed to daddy’s hospital room.  Around 5 AM it was just the four of us.  I pulled up the Rich Mullins song and did my best to read the words through my sobs.
Mama asked that we each pray as we held hands.  I. Couldn’t. Say. A. Word.
Oh, I was praying I just couldn’t vocalize anything but sobs.  It was awful…
Then we were supposed to sing the Doxology – something my mom, brother, and I can sing in beautiful harmony.  I couldn’t make a sound besides something that sounded like a whine.
I just have never been so scared in my entire life.
The Episcopal Priest that had been sent to us weeks before by one of daddy’s high school friends came and anointed daddy (me, still sobbing) and prayed with us.
Then friends from Richmond and beyond started showing up.
They took daddy to the prep area, allowing us to go with him.
Warren and Sharon Grubbs showed up there to hold our hands and pray with us.
The very new middle school youth minister from Northside showed up to pray with us.  We really liked him.  He could’ve been so uncomfortable in the face of our fear – we were total strangers to him – but he rock that visit out.  I need to tell someone at Northside about that…
Then, they said it was time and we got to walk with him to a set of doors.  I stayed on one side of his bed down the hall, in the elevator and to those doors where I did my best to say “See you later” with a smile that likely looked more like a grimace.
Then we walked through the doors and I fell completely apart in my brother’s arms.
**Sidenote – I don’t know what possessed me to write this right now – I’m sitting at my computer sobbing hysterically and have to leave for work in 10 minutes.  But daddy’s sign quote has stuck with me for 24 hours so I guess I needed to address it.**
Friends, there is a place where our fear has to face our God.
In the Bible there are 365 instances of “Do not fear” in some form of wording… One for every day of the year.  But that mattered not one iota to me that day.
It was me, holding the fear of losing my daddy, facing my all powerful, all loving, all knowing God.  He knew I was full of fear.  He know I was full of doubt that he had a miracle for me.
And while I got my miracle that day, we don’t always, do we?
One more song before I sign off… This one is SO POPULAR right now, but do we really mean the words?  I pray that I do because I sing it with all my heart and as loud as I can when it comes on. Even If by MercyMe
EVEN IF my miracle didn’t come – MY HOPE IS IN JESUS.
Where is yours?
If you don’t have a place to focus your hope, let’s talk.
Because God can meet you right where you are – in darkness, in heartache, in FEAR.
He can take our sorrow and our hurt when we’re willing to hand it over.
Sometimes He allows us to wear it and suffer through the unthinkable, but He’s still right there… holding us up.
I needed my daddy’s surgery this summer to KNOW that my faith was in God.
To know that if my worst fear came to pass, I’d be okay.
I’d have My God to hold me.  He’s faithful. He’s good.
Even when our fear looms so very large.
God loves you, friend.