I sit here reflecting on what an amazing thing family is. Simple. People helping other people. Knowing full-well who you can count on. The individuals that would never hurt you if they could keep from it. Hugs. Smiles. Peace. Encouragement. I have all of this in my family, whether they’re in the same house or living in a different state. God has blessed me with role models, really great, strong ones who never surrender, even though there are days they want to. With tears in their eyes, they say “I’m doin’ ok” when you ask and you believe it, because we have a prayer-answering Father. And even though you may see some of their hurt, or that flicker of pain in their eyes, you have faith that they are ok. And on those days they want to quit, you’re able to remind them of that flame, that flicker of strength they possess, that can’t be extinguished, no matter the battle. No matter the odds or statistics. Diagnoses, injuries, heartbreak, and aches that most will never know about, will one day be erased. God is Alpha and Omega and those who call Him family can rely on His strength. We get tired, frustrated, offended, and discouraged, but with Him as our Father, we don’t lose. We get to look on His face one day and as every single individual’s knee bows, we will get it. We will finally comprehend what all of this has been for. And all the stress and anxieties of this short life will be a distant notion we can’t seem to recall. So if you don’t have the kind of family I do, be family for someone else. Hug freely. Smile incessantly. Sit beside someone and just be there in the moment. Breathe. And if you don’t know what a real relationship is like with the Creator of this place we call home for awhile, chase after it. Boldly ask God to open your eyes to that love that is like no other.
I’ve had one of those days or maybe not so much days, but weeks. One of those days when everything I throw at the trash can (think full coffee filter. Why do I throw those things?) doesn’t actually go inside the trash can and one of those days when you look up to the sky to try to get a handle on things and breathe, but a weird worm from a nearby tree drops onto your upper lip. (Ok, that didn’t really happen, but I did visualize it happening as I looked skyward that day. I have a very active imagination that can be a pro or a con at any given time.) So as I’m walking along, wondering about weird worms, I realize so much about our day is perspective and where we place our focus. My thoughts after I missed the trash can were, “Geeeeez, isn’t anything gonna go right today??” In that moment, I felt a much gentler thought almost audibly whisper, “There are many things that have gone right today.” That whisper, I believe, is the Holy Spirit. There’s no describing it, but I’ve heard it with my heart before many times. (“You don’t have to do this.” Is one of my favorite statements the Comforter has ever made to me. That was when I thought I had to drink. A lot. That’s a previous blog post.)
When I was gently corrected and reminded of the many blessings God had poured out on my ungrateful head that day, I realized that there are only moments of discouragement. Not “bad days.” It’s unlikely that every minute of a 24-hour period could be bad. It’s only moments we, in our fleshy ways, try to make out to be worse than they truly are by focusing on those instead of the good ones.
When Jesus left this earth after being raised from the dead, He said, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26 (NIV) I know I need an Advocate. Somebody who’s gonna help me out by reminding me that every little thing’s gonna be alright (some of you now have a Marley song stuck in your head now. You’re welcome.) Even on one o’ those days I throw the banana away and start to eat the peel.
I am so blessed and lemme tell you why. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine being married. Now, not only am I married, but I’m married to a Godly, praying man who not only recognizes when I need prayer, but follows through with it. I think all of us know how difficult that can be. So, I am happily spoiled in a way that I never thought I could or would appreciate. And I could almost write it off as being a not-so-blessed, but-more-of-a-typical happening, but as soon as I begin to take it for granted, I feel another hand. A smaller, 5-year-old hand gently touches my back. There are no words spoken because I know she is listening to her daddy pray. She not only hears the power that those words hold, but sees them as I miraculously (yes, I said miraculously) regain strength and energy into my body. Maybe to some it wouldn’t mean much. Maybe you picture Benny Hinn yelling and people dropping to the floor. I don’t know what you think about miracles. And I’ll be really honest, I don’t care. (Yup, said that too.) I know that I literally go from being too weary to walk or lift my head because my muscles give out to being able to continue on, whether that continuation leads to putting breakfast on the table (ok, it’s the coffee table—the kids eat in front of the TV sometimes. Ok, a lot. I’m letting it go.) or heading to work to do what I love. That’s real. That’s true. That’s what I choose to think on today. And that’s why I’m blessed beyond measure.
While reading in Jonah, the book I’ve been stuck in for awhile now (better than a big fish, right? Yuk yuk) it hit me that Jonah didn’t know that he was getting out of that fish.He had no idea what the outcome would be. We know the end of the story and have for years, except for maybe the actual “vomit” part…they left that out when I was a kid. We realize he got out and finally did what God asked him to do. But while in the whale (and please don’t argue with me about what kind of fish it was…I’m not concerned about that.) Jonah had some time to think. God gifted him with that time by providing the huge creature. Does anyone else find that amazing and hilarious? My NIV study Bible literally says that He “provided a great fish to swallow Jonah” (Jonah 1:17) God does provide, I’m just wondering if Jonah had to laugh at the irony while covered in muck.
In all of his pondering, he had to disregard what his senses told him. He had to focus on the why, not the scary sights,eery sounds,and nasty smell. (I won’t go into the other senses but to say”taste” EW!) He had to control his thoughts and cry out to the One Who created that fish for help. So, quite a few hours/days, he spent crying, praying, and giving thanks. I would think that would lead to some pretty enlightening epiphanies.It wasn’t that he didn’t recognize where he was, Jonah knew good and well that he was literally in the pit of this big guy’s stomach, but he also began to recognize Who had the power and Who had possession.He eventually grasped the fact that God had ownership of the seas and the sailors that had hurled him into the vicious waves. This God knew Jonah. He knew him better than he could ever possibly know himself. All he could do in this moment of recognition was to confess and ask forgiveness. He had to shake his head and wonder what took him so long to understand. He finally comprehended that God would go to any lengths necessary to not only show His love for one of His kids, but for all of them.
As an added bonus to God’s plan, because once Jonah got that he was lost, he recognized that others were lost exactly like he was. Salvation comes from the Lord and all it took was a few days and nights in the stomach of a sea creature for him to see that very, very clearly. My absolute favorite line in this book is “What I have vowed I will make good.” Jonah was speaking of the promises he made to God during his special one-on-one time that the Creator made possible. (Hehe) How many times have we promised things to God and not made good? God recalls and makes good on His promises each and every day, no matter our scenery or situation.He has made so many vows to us when we certainly don’t deserve them. My goal today is to just be, where I am, whether I like that place or not, and give thanks to the God Who deserves each and every one.
Within this health-filled journey of mine (you know the one to become not the healthiest person on the planet, but more so the one who gets up and doesn’t have to take a nap after a shower?) I got to thinking how we pray and wait. We pray and wait. We pray and wait. That may have even been more praying that what some of us do. Eek!
I have been on this journey for 8 years. 3 years longer than the 5 year-mark I thought I couldn’t handle at the time. They, “they” being various doctors, told me I might recover in 5 years, as that had happened to other people, somewhere, sometime before. I remember thinking, 5 YEARS? How could anyone make it 5 years with these symptoms?? I’m here today to let you know, you can do it. Hurrah, hurrah. I truly wasn’t trying to be a cheerleader (although I am very encouraging to others…I took a test once that let me know hospitality and exhortation were my top 2 gifts! I had no idea what the 2nd was, but now that I know, I consistently remind others that I am an “exhorter!”)
Without this journey, I would have no idea how to take care of myself. I’m still learning to do this, but the whole “His temple” thang wasn’t exactly a concept I paid attention to when I was downing 12 packs of beer and pack after pack of nicotine sticks. So, as I was making a pot of nutrient-rich soup (my husband will take one look at it and blankly state: “That’s all you.”) this morning, I thought about how we eliminate the toxins, but then fail to build ourselves back up. God freed me from the addictions to chemical-laden junk, but I wasn’t aware of how depleted my body was of what it truly needed to function. He took away my craving for the bad, but I’m the one who has to take responsibility for the damage done. (Did anyone else cringe at the “r-word”? I know I did.) Plain and simple, there are consequences for our actions. I’m thankful that He allows me to be me, learning at my own pace, and quite frankly, puts up with my frustrations along the way.
I am very flawed, but I don’t dwell on it. He reminds me that I am pure, holy, loved, blameless, and then loved some more. He says in His Word that if we ask for wisdom, we get it. I’ve found that I have trouble trusting those “words of wisdom” I receive. He says we know His voice, right? I’ve talked to so many who don’t know if it’s His voice or not. I always tell them where I started: I would think it was God. Then weight the options. Do I want to do this? No. (Usually God takes us out of our comfy zone.) Would the enemy of my precious soul want me to do this? No. Does it go along with Scripture? Yes.
That last one kinda stumped me for quite some time. I’d ask myself these questions, and then shrug my shoulders on the Scripture one, as if there was no way to know. There is a way to find out. The only answer to this is to dig into the Scriptures. Open up your Bible. Pray. Meaning, ask God for help in understanding (*because if you’re anything like me, I could read 1/2 a book and not know what 3/4 of it said some days.) Then read. Read anywhere you want or do a specific Bible study. God will lead you in this as well. Then pray again. In doing so, we get to know the One Who created each of us. Who better to talk with about our issues? Lord knows I gots some issues. God says we’ll know His voice, but only if we practice listening for it and to it. There is nothing more comforting than knowing full well that we know full well. But it takes practice.
Leave me alone, I grumble under my breath. Get out of my way, I say in the most polite way possible. STOP talking to me, I think to myself, as I reach for my first cup of coffee. I just want some time, no, NEED some time to myself. To think, to wake up, to scratch. Instead, I have 2 toddlers, 1 much like me (cuddling in the lazy recliner grunting to any passersby) and the other, much like her father (awake, alert, ready to take on the day joyously). “Mom, do cheetahs lay eggs? What’s your favorite color? Can I have a cereal bar? One time, at school, my cookie was melted and I had to wash my hands. Can I have another cereal bar? Mom? Mom? MOM!?!”
I have always been one to enjoy my quiet time. I don’t feel the need to fill up every moment with words. I like to reflect, ponder, and pause. I have found that if I don’t, I am a grump. Unfortunately, I have not had the time. And yes, my facial expression resembles that of Oscar from Sesame Street. I am in no way ready for my day if I don’t make time to check in with myself and God.
This brings me to what I believe God asked me to do: Get out of bed AND get out of it EARLIER. (To which I said, “Whaaaaa? I don’t think I heard You correctly.” I then proceeded to give a list of excuses, including, I have 2 toddlers. (I’m pretty sure He already knew this, being Creator and all.) I go to bed late. (Simple fix, I heard.) I’m exhausted already. (Because you’re not doing what I asked.) Um…uh…Ok, OK. Begrudingly, which is far from cheerfully if you know what I mean, I agreed. So, tom morning, I will be waking at 5. I tried for 6 and even 5:30, but God isn’t the typical negotiator. Grr. Ok, 5 it is. The absolute hilarious side of this enthralling story is I’ve done this before. I woke at 5, every morning because God told me to. Know what happened? I got TONS accomplished. I had more energy than I knew what to do with. I talked with God, laying all my fears and worries out in the open. Then I listened to Him reassuring me of Scripture like Phillipians 4:13 and that I could do anything as long as He was with me. I learned things I couldn’t possibly have learned from any other book than His Holy Word. Why, you may wonder, did you stop? Exactly. All I can figure is it involves what the Bible calls “flesh.” I had to kill it then, meaning I don’t always do what I want to, I do what HE wants me to. I would much rather lounge in bed, contemplating how I can procrastinate cleaning out the fridge yet again, but God wants us to give Him the firsts. First fruits, first of the day, first 10%. (That’s another day’s article.) So, tomorrow begins a new journey. One that God’s leading the way, with His dear disheveled daughter padding behind Him in holey house slippers, searching for His will and caffeine.
I’ve heard it said, or sung, “Lord, I hope this day is good” and I find myself hoping the same thing today. My motivation to do anything has taken a hit lately. My body hurts. My head feels funny, and not in a good way. My face’s natural position is a frown. I have to fight to accomplish anything. I don’t wanna do anything. Meh…
And then, I took 10 minutes to yell to God for help. And all of this came to mind:
Don’t accept the thoughts the enemy is putting on you. Don’t let all that junk become who you are. It is not. When God saved you, you became flawless. There is nothing you can’t handle. You ARE motivated. You can do absolutely anything. He accepts you just as you are. Don’t put things off. “Get after it!” As someone from a previous generation might say. Smile. A frown is NOT natural. You have a LOT to smile about. No one can take what God has given to you. You are poised, confident, successful, happy, motivated, and able to accomplish all tasks set before you.
That’s truth. If you don’t recognize it and/or the lies are easier to believe, take a few minutes today to sit in silence. Be still, knowing that He is God. Listen to what He has to tell you instead of all the other garbage.