Good (Grief) Friday

April 14, 2017

Good Friday. It’s here, and it makes us uncomfortable.

Why do I say that? Because everywhere I turn I read, & have even sent texts today that proclaim, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!”

In the words of Jesus in the meal He had with His disciples in the Upper Room, I don’t see a “rush to get to Sunday’. Instead, I see an explanation of what was to come & the commanded words “do this in remembrance of me”. upper room

I sit with those words. I let the reality of death set in. I hear the whips of the strips of reeds bruise His flesh, and strips of leather with embedded shards of glass break open His flesh. I cry tears of grief and sadness, and I dare to stay in the place of grief, and remembrance for a while.

With the recent unexpected and sudden loss of my father, this particular Easter season carries more pain. It was our favorite holiday to celebrate together. I feel the urge and desire to want to rush through to Sunday. I want the Resurrection, and I want it NOW! But there’s silence that shrouds the air on Saturday just as the grave clothes remained on the body of our Jesus.

I just watched The Passion of the Christ. I’ve only seen it once before, and it was in the theater on opening week-end thirteen years ago! I swore I would never see it again. I told myself I didn’t need to see that again. I didn’t need to hear those sounds again. And I didn’t need to go “there” again…to that place of death.

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But don’t I? Don’t you? Don’t WE?

Our rush to get to Sunday echoes our current state as a society of how we tend to hurry through grief. We don’t “feel all the feels” because it’s just too painful. We hurry the process when even in death Himself, Jesus didn’t. We talk about the events of Friday afternoon (Crucifixion), and Sunday (Resurrection), but we leave Friday night, and all day Saturday in the realm of declared unimportance. But the truth is “unimportance” translates to numbness, denial, anger…and all the feelings about grief we don’t want to experience. We tell ourselves we don’t have time to deal with those feelings in the moment, and that we’ll come back later to feel them….but we never do.

And besides, why deal with grief and the pain of the silence of “Saturday” when it’s all about heaven (Sunday), right?

Well, I would say wrong. It’s all about God. He is the “maker of heaven and earth.”

And He, too, is the Designer of the process. And that process involves grief, silence, and sitting in those dark places that leave us wondering: What’s going to happen next? What do we do with ourselves now? Where is our hope? Do we really have any faith left? Why is God so silent…does He not care?

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In the midst of our pain & suffering, God meets us there. Both of my parents died on a Friday night, and a month ago when I lost my dad I asked God to reframe Fridays for me. He showed me that they both entered His eternal Shabbat (Sabbath) rest on a holy day. Even now as I type these words, I realize that’s what Jesus did, too. He paved the way for us to enjoy that rest forever. What a gift!

So, yes, I recognize the goodness of Friday every week, as well as this one called Good Friday which precedes Resurrection Day (Easter). It truly is the hope of heaven that sustains every believer in Jesus as we make it from Friday to Sunday. I just hope the grief of Saturday….the time in between…isn’t lost in celebration, but that it’s remembered with integrity.

It’s Good Friday, and Sunday’s comin’…..but so is Saturday.

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Tasty Tuesday!

January 4, 2017

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I’ve had this idea for a couple weeks now to have a feature on my blog where I highlight a meal (recipe with pics, etc), & call it “Tasty Tuesday” (& run a feature on Friday & call it “Fearless Friday“). The only problem regarding today’s post is I ran late getting home following a meeting I had in Dallas. So, I considered doing a feature at a restaurant instead of cooking tonight. That way, I wouldn’t always have to prepare a “homemade” meal on Tuesday nights, I could mix my attempts with the pros! However, I really didn’t want to eat out tonight since I went grocery shopping yesterday. Ugh… Decisions, decisions.

And then it happened. I was tempted to feel like a failure on freaking JANUARY 3rd of the new year! Wow…the enemy wastes no time in bringing discouragement in the form of doubts & those pesky little things called “feelings”!

Well, I dug in my heels, and said, “No. I’m not going there.” And I decided I’d assess the food situation at home.

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Hot Mess Express!

My sole purpose in wanting to create “Tasty Tuesday” & “Fearless Friday” is to bring encouragement as we all learn to operate out of a place of fun, creativity, and courage. I knew right then I just wanted to drop the facade of perfection I can lean into, & just have FUN with it (while taking care of my hunger pangs….”hangry” really is a thing, y’all)!

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Gettin’ Fancy

Tonight, I made a peanut butter & honey sandwich, sliced up a pear, & added some veggie stick chips. I poured a cold glass of milk, & set my table. But I took it a step further….instead of using a paper plate or ordinary dishes, I used my CHINA! I also cut the sandwich into triangles to make it more “fancy”, and I found myself laughing while plating it all like a Master Chef…haha! The lemon lavender cookies were the perfect sweet ending, too.

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Lemon Lavender Cookies

And not just because Disney made a popular song out of that phrase, but because you’ll gain your life back, or find one you never knew existed…one that YOU were destined to live! And you’ll even have FUN making it fabulous!

Tonight, I’m thankful for the sweetest honey found on Whidbey Island, WA…it truly made my sandwich EXTRAordinary. And I’m also thankful for God’s help in taking the negative thoughts captive…the muscle of self discipline I’m learning to exercise is growing, and that’s both empowering and faith building.

 

Here’s to TASTY TUESDAY, & all the new beginnings & fresh revelations of 2017!

 

Word of the Year for 2017!

January 1, 2017

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I love the NEW YEAR! A fresh start. A clean slate. Promises to take hold of are just within reach. I love soaking in the positivity and peace most people are expressing and pouring out in written and spoken word. It’s lovely while it lasts!

To get to my word of the year, I have to tell you a little bit about my THEME of the year! 2017 is a year that will contain a big milestone birthday for me: 40. Yep, the big “4-0”. I’ve never been one to be bothered by my age, and find it kind of interesting when I hear people talk about birthdays that “bother” them. My Mamaw always said, “Well, what’s the alternative?” But when I started thinking about turning 40 years old, I realized that what bothers me is not the number, but rather the things still left undone. Hopes not yet realized, places not yet visited, and goals not yet reached (or even written down for that matter). The sand in the hourglass seems to be falling more quickly, and it makes my heart race, and my brain send impulses frenetically that seem to be saying, “You need to complete a lifetime’s worth of stuff in 12 months. Got it?!” So rather than succumb to a midlife crisis, and throw all caution to the wind and suddenly move to an island with no job or home, I decided to be intentional in looking at this next year and creating a theme. Forty: Fearless, Fit, and Fabulous! I want to be FEARLESS in every area of my life. The spirit of fearlessfear and unbelief tend to hang out together. They’re buddies. And they’re two “frenemies” that I’ve decided to kick out of my circle. I have no place for them in my life anymore. I want to be FIT in every area of my life…body, soul, and spirit. I need to be intentional about self care. I’ve allowed neglect & abuse to rule the roost and that’s poor stewardship. And it’s absurd that I would choose the things I have when God says, “I want to give you ABUNDANT life, Leigh-Taylor. One that overflows!” So, that’s what I’m choosing….overflowing, abundance that saturates every realm of who I am. And then there’s FABULOUS! I want to do special things this year that make it truly fabulous, and a year that stands out from among the others in my memory. Because travel feeds my soul, I know it will include some fun getaways and trips, but I also want to find the fabulousness in the normal day to day living, too.

So, because of this great theme I’ve been excited about I thought FEARLESS would be my word. It seemed like a natural fit to me. But that’s just it….it’s what “I” thought it should be. I didn’t prayerfully receive it like I did my other words. On Christmas Eve, I was thinking through how I wanted the upcoming year to be different, and I invited God to speak into it. That’s when the word entered my mind in big, block letters: BE. I knew instantly that it was my word for 2017. Then, immediately following that picture i saw in my mind, the cover of our devotional book that we’re using at Gateway Church for our corporate fast popped up on the screen: Created to Be.

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This is the graphic I saw on the screen at Gateway Church!

I came home, and immediately started thinking about verses and two popped into my mind. The first one was Psalm 46:10, “BE still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” I thought, “This is ridiculous, Lord. I’m the one telling everyone I know about what You’ve done in my life through Shabbat, through REST! Don’t I have this whole “being still” thing down?” I paused instantly, and knew down deep in my spirit that I didn’t practice “being still” in ways that had brought about total refinement. My quick, haughty response was my first clue! So, I’ve decided this definitely was one of my verses for the year. I want to BE still and know that He is God….whether I know anything else, I don’t care. For me, that will be enough. Also, I want to see God BE exalted among the nations and BE exalted in the earth! I’ll see that done in new and fresh ways as I focus on BEing still.

joshua-1-9-imageThe other verse is from Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? BE strong and courageous! Do not be afraid.; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” So many “be’s” y’all!! While that does in fact make my heart happy, the verse came to mind because of that first BE. I did some studying and found that the Hebrew word chazak is the word used there and means “strength and courage” (& there are 3 repetitions of it in that section of Scripture). The Israelites would shout it while advancing into battle. It was their battle cry, their war hymn…their anthem! I want chazak…and that will come as I BE…and as I declare it to BE!

So there you have it, folks. My word of the year for 2017. As you can see, there’s much to unpack. There will be a lot of unnatural discipline required to just BE. But I am declaring that I’m up for the challenge! Chazak!

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Rerouting

April 16, 2016

Have you ever looked up an address on your GPS, looked at the overview and thought, “Oh, yeah….I know where that is.” But “just in case” you leave the GPS on. You know, “just in case” your memory isn’t what it used to be!

I needed to get my car alignment checked, and corrected. When I got new tires a month or so ago, I was warned the alignment was off, and I needed to get it checked or it would ruin my new tires in the same way it trashed my old ones.

Having the day off, I thought I should take the opportunity to actually take care of this issue since I’ve already put it off, and the noise from the tires was getting louder. So, I put in the name of the recommended automotive repair shop, looked at the GPS directions, and uttered those familiar words: “Oh, yeah…I know where that is.”  And just like that, I took off. After all, I knew where I was going.

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Well, after being warned by GPS to make several U turns, make a left turn here, a right turn there, I started second guessing myself.

Sigh.

Maybe I DON’T know where I’m going after all!

I had this thought, “Maybe I’ll just follow the GPS instructions, and see what happens.”

I STILL thought the crazy thing was wrong until I had this realization: I mixed up the two streets, Lebanon and Eldorado. The truth was I DIDN’T know where I was going, but I would’ve bet everything I had that I was right. And I’d be homeless if I did wager a dime! I was WAY wrong!

Because of my “certainty”, I lost precious time getting…well, LOST. If I just would’ve trusted and listened to my GPS in the first place, I would’ve GAINED a few things like time, patience, & peace instead of LOSING those very things!

It was at that moment, when I realized my mistake, that I heard the Lord whisper to my heart, “You do the same thing with me sometimes, Leigh-Taylor.”

Ouch.

More sighs.

“You’re right God.”

The truth is sometimes I’ll receive a directive from God, and take off thinking, “Oh, yeah. I know where I’m going.” I know Proverbs 16:19 says, “Man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

216969d584656bb2918624a74e033389And sometimes like my trip today, I ignore the first time His voice tells me to make a U turn, or take a right, left, etc. I keep going my own way, thinking I know best. But then something stirs. A knowing deep in my spirit that something isn’t right, and that I need to pay attention to the Voice I hear.

Oh, the time wasted, the frustration felt, and the peace lost all in the name of doing thing MY way instead of His!

I’m thankful for teachable moments like these that come from hearing that still small voice from a merciful God that gently corrected me and gave me deep insight into something more than getting my car back into alignment.

It was a spiritual check up that revealed pride and busyness were throwing off my alignment with the Father.

I’m so thankful for a gracious God who ALWAYS knows where He’s taking us, and we can trust His directions!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

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Good Gifts

January 10, 2016

This morning I decided to go to church in my pajamas. But don’t worry! While my flannel pj’s ARE cute, I didn’t show up at a church building in them. No, instead, I stayed in bed and live streamed the service on my lap top. It was such a gift to enjoy the best of both worlds: Sabbath rest AND getting to hear the message about the PERSON of the Holy Spirit.

While I really enjoyed the whole message, and could probably write a blog post about several points made by Pastor Robert Morris, the one thing in particular he mentioned that got my attention was about how he asks God for a birthday gift every year.

I sat up and thought, “NO WAY! I thought I was the only one that did that!”

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Nearly four years ago now, my grandmother moved to heaven. I had a really special bond with my “Mamaw” as I was born on her 50th birthday. My first birthday without her was so painful. I missed her very much. I found myself on the floor beside my bed, that first year without her, crying and asking the Lord how that day could ever be special again. He said, “Leigh-Taylor, this day IS special. In fact, I have a birthday gift for you. Can I give it to you now?”

I choked back my sobs. God had a birthday gift for me??

“Sure, Lord…what is it?!?” I responded.

“Open your Bible,” He said.

And so I did. My Bible opened to Psalm 37 and immediately my eyes went to verses 5 & 6. It reads: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him, and he will do this; He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

What I didn’t mention before is that I was in a situation at the time where a major wrong was committed against me. While I had the support of many people around me, I felt like I needed affirmation from the Lord that He was my Defender, and that I could trust Him for true justice. On my birthday, this couldn’t have been a sweeter gift! Shortly after this promise was given to me, the Lord proved my case, and I was able to close that painful chapter in my life.

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Sea of Galilee

 

Well, my birthday this year was extra special. I got to spend it in ISRAEL! I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t wait to spend time with God. I was staying in a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee. I laughed and told God, “Hurry up! Make the sun rise!” *smile* It was the second time in my life I heard God laugh…and it was good. I found a quiet spot on a VERY LOW bench along the shore of the Galilee, and watched the sky lighten up over time while I listened quietly to praise and worship music.

At one point, I got up and made my way over to the water. There was a broken down “pier” of sorts. I decided to sit on the end of it. The mock pier was just high enough out of the water to where my pants wouldn’t get soaked from sitting on it, but I was basically sitting on a pallet in the water!

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Birthday Gift #1

I said to God, “Ok, what do You have for me this year? What’s my gift going to be?” I was so eager and expectant. I only waited a couple minutes before I heard, “Look down, and pick up that shell.” So, I looked down, reached my hand between the wooden slats of the pallet, and picked up a shell that had a plain brown outer covering but a beautiful inner lining that was revealed when I turned it over.

At that moment the Lord spoke again, and said, “Leigh-Taylor, today is going to be a day of gifts for you!”

My heart was full of joy, anticipation, and expectancy after hearing those words. I realized after a few minutes that my face hurt from smiling!

And it was true. It really was a day of GIFTS! I got a beautiful shell, was sung to by my traveling group, went to Beit She’an & saw incredible views of various mountain ranges, got baptized in the Jordan River where a rainbow appeared along with five white doves, and went into Jerusalem & saw the city for the first time!

All those things are gifts in and of themselves, but God always multiplies His gifts. There were treasure troves at each of those places, and nuggets of wisdom that He spoke to me along the way.

While I love the connection that Pastor Robert and I have made to asking the Lord for a birthday gift on our earthly birthdays, I know there are people out there who think or feel God may have a gift for them, but He doesn’t have one for me. I want to tell you that’s a lie! He DOES have a gift for you. It starts with Jesus, the ULTIMATE gift, and if you ask Him today for a gift and wait patiently before Him, I believe wholeheartedly there’s a unique special gift from God just for you!

So ask Him today. He’s the ultimate gift giver. And He always gives GOOD GIFTS!

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Word of the Year 2016

January 1, 2016

Every year, I prayerfully receive a word of the year from God. For 2015, it was BEHOLD. That word has come to be so precious to me. At one point, I thought maybe I would keep the same word. I wasn’t ready to let go of it. But that’s when God reminded me to keep holding all things loosely…even my words of the year. I want every area surrendered to the Lord, and for there to be nothing between us.

2015 was filled with many great adventures, but my trip to Israel was by far the greatest. It was there that God laid the foundation for the word He would give me for 2016.

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Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting the Wailing Wall (Western Wall) to be all that life changing for me. I had printed out a prayer that a friend had sent me, and last minute on the outside of the paper I scribbled a prayer that said, “God, release your promises here, and beyond. Amen.” Something like that anyway… I thought I’d go say a quick prayer, shove the piece of paper into the wall, and go on with our tour. We were told we had 20 minutes before we needed to move on.

 

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Prayers in the Wailing Wall

Our group had just been to the Upper Room, and one of our pastors had given his testimony about what God did in his life at the Wailing Wall. He encouraged us to be open to whatever the Holy Spirit had for us there. He anointed us with oil, and off we went. I believe our pastor’s testimony released the Spirit of Prophecy for God to “do it again”….to bring healing and direction. I was totally unprepared for what was about to happen.

 

 

I took a few pictures in front in the courtyard, and when I was ready, I approached the wall. I stood there praying for a minute then I leaned in and placed my forehead on the wall. That’s when something happened. I saw a freeze frame of my life memories, and one particularly painful memory was frozen and I could see it clearly. I had never been able to overcome this memory completely even through counseling. In that very instant, God whispered to my heart, “Today, Leigh-Taylor,  you have been made wholehearted.” I doubled over & started sobbing uncontrollably. That had been my prayer for two years! I said to the Lord, “It can’t be that easy, God!” He said, “That’s what happens when you come into my Presence.”

Healing IS that easy…emotional, spiritual, physical…any and every thing comes into alignment in His Presence.

A phrase that the Lord had given me prior to my trip to Israel was: Touch the hem of my garment. I had no idea that it would be a prophetic phrase that would be true for two occasions: my prayer shawl I bought in Tiberias, and my healing at the Wailing Wall.

A couple days after I returned home, I was asking the Lord about my word for the year 2016. Immediately, the word PRESENCE came to mind with a passage of scripture confirming it as well as another passage for my yearly declaration. You can see them below:

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And the Lord said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest [by bringing you and the people into the promised land].” And Moses said to Him, “If Your presence does not go [with me], do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that Your people and I have found favor in Your sight? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we are distinguished, Your people and I, from all the [other] people on the face of the earth?”

The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have asked; for you have found favor (lovingkindness, mercy) in My sight and I have known you [personally] by name.” Then Moses said, “Please, show me Your glory!” And God said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the Name of the Lord before you; for I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion (lovingkindness) on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man shall see Me and live!” Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place beside Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and while My glory is passing by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and protectively cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away My hand and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” Exodus 33:14-23

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“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11

I know that this year holds many promises, and a heavenly release of those promises here on earth and in my life. I can’t wait to see what 2016 looks like after a year of living intentionally in His PRESENCE!

Amen.

Life Lessons from a Lab

August 31, 2015

I took Norah out after I got home tonight. Since it’s below 90 (that’s a big deal in TX), I thought I’d take her out to do her favorite thing: retrieve the ball from the Chuck It! All I have to do is say “Chuck It” and she goes crazy!!

chuckitWell, she was taking longer than I wanted, & under my breath I uttered, “This is annoying…why do you have to sniff EVERYTHING!” Then I called her name. She looked up…made eye contact even, and then went right back to walking around…and sniffing. My frustration grew. “NORAH!” I yelled, “Come here!” Again, she stopped looked right at me, and kept sniffing (the air, the fence, the tree…you name it). That time something burned in me. I was getting so mad at her deliberate disobedience. And then I heard His voice: “Leigh-Taylor, you do the same thing sometimes.”

Oh, no He didn’t. But oh, yep He did.

God was using this very moment to teach me a life lesson. I had a feeling the lesson would continue as I grabbed the Chuck It. I was right.

Norah heard the sound me picking up the ball with the Chuck It, and she immediately ran toward me. In fact, from that point on, I had her undivided attention.

obeyIn the field across from my apartment, I launched the ball far into the air. Norah ran, got the ball, and brought it back to me. She would keep her eyes glued on me, only moving as I released the ball and said, “Go get it, girl!” One time, she dropped the ball several feet from me, and expected that I come to her. I had to tell her twice to bring it to me. She finally did….and only then did I launch the ball. We did this over and over for quite some time.

In our own lives, there are times we say we want to walk in our God given destinies and know the purpose for our lives. But do we? Really? There are so many distractions vying for our attention when in reality if we would just take time to be still…to listen to His voice…we would see that our purpose and our destiny is about to be revealed & launched right in front of us.

You know something else? When I launched the ball and saw Norah run full speed ahead doing something she LOVES to do, I laughed. It brought me so much joy to see her enjoying something she was born to do. God feels the same way about us.

Take time. Be still. Listen. Obey. And then go get ’em! Go full speed ahead and do what YOU were born to do! Sometimes those distractions seem worth it in the moment, but I bet if we could ask Norah if she would prefer to be back on one side of the fence sniffing around, or out in the wide open field chasing her dream, I’m thinking she’d say the latter.

Thank You, God, for taking an ordinary night, and teaching me an extraordinary life lesson.

norah smiles‘Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do super abundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]— To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it).” Ephesians 3:20-21 Amplified

Sometimes

May 10, 2015

*A Tribute to my mom who moved to heaven April 12, 2013*

Sometimes…

photo(2)Sometimes I know it’s raining before I even look outside because my hair curls up & looks like a chia pet. Genetics. Thanks Mom.

Sometimes I think about you telling the corniest jokes on the planet & I can hear your laughter & tears over what you think is the funniest thing ever (one of your faves: A 3 legged dog walks into a bar in Dodge City & hobbles over to John Wayne & says, “I‘m lookin’ for the man who shot my paw.”). Seriously. It’s not THAT funny. But thanks Mom.

Sometimes while I’m checking out at the grocery store & the cashier tells me her whole life story, I think about how it used to annoy me as a child. But now I love that the same thing happens to me. I treasure other people’s stories because YOU taught me how to listen. Thanks Mom.

Sometimes when I am having a busy day at the hospital & a new mom starts crying, I grab her hand, sit on the foot of the bed & cry with her. All because I once saw you wash & braid an old lady’s hair at the end of your shift. I learned empathy from you. Thanks Mom.

Sometimes the days are easy. Sometimes they’re hard. But unlike “sometimes”, I’m ALWAYS grateful that because of your trust in Jesus I know I’ll see you again. And for that I say, “Thanks God”.

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Peace! Be Still.

May 8, 2015

Anxious. That was the state of my body, soul, and spirit.

My heart raced, my mind wondered, and tears couldn’t even flow (they were probably too nervous to even try and leave the tear ducts)!

In the span of two weeks, needs were brought to my attention that were “too much”. My heart hurt hearing the emergent needs of some of my friends, and my heart of mercy wanted to fix it. But that’s exactly what I couldn’t do, AND it’s exactly what I shouldn’t try and do. Mercy is a beautiful gift. It’s Holy Spirit given and anointed. However, it’s easy to cross the line into pride when we start thinking we’re the ones that can rescue.

We can’t. It’s that simple.

ONLY GOD CAN.

Sunday morning I woke up, and immediately wanted to go back to sleep.

I just wanted to make the aches in my body go away. I wanted the racing in my mind to go away. I wanted the rapid heartbeats to slow down.

redjournalI grabbed my journal along with two pens, one red and one black. It was time to have a serious conversation with the Lord. I needed Him to tell me what this was all about and how we were gonna fix this thing!

I sat on my porch for THREE HOURS! I had my Bible, journal with pens, my phone to play praise music….all the things I could possibly need in order to hear God clearly.

So I thought.

I read through John 6. My personal miracle story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 led into the next miracle of Jesus walking on water. I’ve read that story numerous times, but it was God’s Word that read my heart on the porch that day.

I had asked Jesus, “How can I take You at Your word? I thought I could really say to this mountain, ‘MOVE’, but the mountain hasn’t moved, Lord. I feel like my world is falling apart and I can’t see You. How do I know You’re really there?”  And in the red letters, the next line I read was, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

When the disciples had the storm swirling around them, they didn’t recognize Jesus at first either. Yet when they did, they took Him into their boat, and IMMEDIATELY they were taken to the shore where they were heading (another piece of the miracle).

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However, even in my journaling the anxious feelings didn’t flee. Even with Jesus saying, “It is I; do not be afraid” my heart and mind continued on their race to nowhere.

I looked at my phone. It was time to go to church. Ugh. All I wanted to do was crawl back in bed.

I only went to church that night because I am helping out a church plant, and I know what a big deal it is for a church planter to receive a text that says, “I’m sorry…I’m not going to make it.” It’s devastating, and I didn’t want to be a part of that.

So, I begged God for a word the entire walk up to the door of the meeting hall.

When the worship team started leading us, I felt a shift in my spirit. Every single song brought tears, and I didn’t know why until we started singing You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music. Ah, I get it Lord… Words like “You call me out beyond the shore into the waves….” echoed in my spirit.

Fear was the root cause of my anxiety, and God started peeling those layers back one at a time.

castyouranxietyThen the pastor started preaching. My skin was covered in chill bumps, and my heart convulsed within me. There were SENTENCES the pastor said straight out of my journal. He had no idea I had been dealing with anxiety. But God did. And He gave Pastor Jeff the words to speak straight to my heart to reaffirm to me that He heard me during our time on the porch. He was there all along.

And what I love about how God works is that He goes the extra mile. While that part of the story is amazing enough, it doesn’t stop there. I went to another church plant’s life group this past Wednesday night. Guess what we talked about?  Yep, you guessed it. The miracle story from John 6:16-24. Jesus walks on the water….

Ok, God, I get it. You’re real. You care. You love me. AND You want me to “epiripto”  (“hurl violently”) my cares on you because You care for me.

When Jesus speaks, the storm has to listen. You won’t be overcome, and He will deliver you to the shoreline. Sometimes there’s a process involved, but He’s saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.” You and I can ask Him to get into the boat with us. Who better to invite than the very One who calms the sea with His voice!

So, today no matter what you’re going through, if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ speak these words to your storm: “Peace! Be still.” The wind and waves must listen.

peacebestill

Finding Jesus in a Parking Lot

May 6, 2015

Burdened.

Too much.

Overwhelmed.

How could I be feeling like this? I had just attended a three day women’s event at my church where I listened to the “best of the best” bring incredible insights from the Word of God, and gifted musicians who brought us into the presence of the Lord where we experienced “on earth as it is in heaven.”

But what did I have to show for it besides a bruised heart to go with my slumped shoulders?

Stress had manifested itself physically, and was matching externally what was hemorrhaging internally. I had reached my limit, but didn’t know that’s what the numbness and tingling was from. The electrical pain I was feeling started deep in my soul, and radiated out into my very finger tips.

I was shutting down.

abide2I had missed two weeks of observing the Sabbath. Twenty four hours a week consecrated to God. Holy. I had been absent from abiding with my Father. John 15:5 in the Amplified Bible says, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.

I had done just that. I had cut off from vital union with the Vine. Jesus. And I had become a “shriveled up grape” crippled under the pressure of my own weight along with seemingly “noble things for the kingdom” (unending prayer requests from friends, service projects for hurting warriors, and even this three day women’s event).

When I got home and tried to take a nap, adrenaline continued to course through my veins. I couldn’t settle my spirit. I knew I needed Sabbath rest, and I needed to do something that would feed my soul. I decided to get crafty and make a prayer notebook, and get organized! Yes, that’s something that makes me happy. Hobby Lobby and The Container Store each have pieces of my heart. And those pieces can be found in the aisles with Mod Podge, designer scrapbook paper, and well…anything with glitter.

So, I hopped into my car, and prayed the whole two minute trip to Hobby Lobby. I turned off my car, and proceeded to pray out loud, telling God how overwhelmed I was, etc. Then my prayers took a different turn. I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal to me areas in which I needed to repent.parkinglot

That led to me having church in my Mazda! That led to an encounter with the Lord that I had missed during an incredible conference. That led to me being reaffirmed in knowing that NOTHING can fill me like Almighty God, and NO ONE else can touch my heart like He does.

One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 9:6 and if often quoted at Christmas time. It says, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Yes, the government shall be upon HIS shoulders. That’s why His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30). He is the only One with shoulders big enough to carry the world (and so much more). When we start thinking WE can do the same, we’ve stepped over the line into pride. A righteous burden can become an unrighteous burden if we’re not careful.

I may have gone to church for three days in a row, but it took me parking my car and sitting still to find Jesus.

 bestill