Dear Momma,

I don’t like the small line that separates the two dates. As though the dash between your birth day and the day you left could somehow represent your entire life. It just feels so inadequate, so understated. I’ve contemplated this a lot lately, all that lies in the space of that dash, too much to ever capture in words. You married so young; I have told my kids that it was too young, really. Married at nineteen, and then had your first baby at twenty one. We never really got to talk about it, but I wonder if you were afraid? I wonder if you thought you wouldn’t be a good mother. Turns out, you were a great mother and friend. You found Jesus as a young adult, and you never looked back. Then, you were instrumental in daddy finding Him as well. I know you wanted something different for your family, something stronger and more solid that you could really count on as the years of life rolled by. And, Jesus was the answer. Now that I am at an age to really understand, I marvel at how you and daddy sold everything, loaded up your aging car with clothes and diaper bags then a small U-Haul with whatever was left. So young and unjaded in your faith, believing everything would work out fine. I wonder what the morning was like when you backed out of the driveway of all that was familiar and drove away with no promise of anything ahead. What was going on in your heart? Excitement? Fear? Joy? All of it? You just knew that daddy said he was called to preach, so you loaded up your two toddlers and baby and followed him to Colorado so he could attend Bible College. I think you would’ve followed him to the moon if he had asked you to; you loved him that much. Your faith amazes me. I don’t know if I would’ve had the courage to do that, but I am so glad you did. It was the beginning of your life calling. I remember you telling me some of the stories of those college years, how hard they were. But, you never complained about it, you did make it clear that you would not want to live them again though! I wonder how you felt when you reached the town that would be your new home and you had no home? No job, nothing tangible to rely on or to remind you that you had made the right decision. I wish we had talked about this more. Your story compels me to be a better person, to be thankful for what I have and to be willing to stretch my faith. Not to take for granted my home, food for my table and a luxury called a washing machine. I know you must’ve been so thankful when you found that basement level apartment. The one where you hung twine across the small living room as a clothesline because you didn’t have a dryer, and hanging them outside was out of the question, it was too cold for them to dry. I remember you told me how grateful you were when you finally made a friend, you were shy and had a tough time reaching out. You still talked of her from time to time until the Lord took you home. She was a gift to a young mom who had so little and was needy for fellowship. I would like to thank her in person; I hope I get the chance someday. She made a difference in your life with the simple act of friendship. I haven’t had the heart to look at your journal that you wrote during those tough days, I don’t think I could bear it just yet.   You were so brave. I know you didn’t feel it, you just knew the Lord called you and daddy into ministry and that was how it was meant to be. I ask myself often, would I be willing to do the same? To give up what the world calls necessities to live out what I felt God calling me to do? I remember stories of little food, but always enough, old cars that only ran half of the time. (We learned to push a car off the road like professionals as middle schoolers.) Homemade clothes out of half price fabric. (I still laugh at the pictures where one of the dresses you made for us had upside down sailboats on it because that was the only way the dress pattern would fit on the fabric. I’m sure people did a double take when we wore that one.) We played in the yard, had sprinkler fights, laughed and cried; never knowing the private struggle you faced each day to make life seem so normal for us. We never knew the nights you went to bed and prayed that God would provide for our needs the next day; not until we were adults and you told us the stories. You raised us to be strong, and we are, thanks to you, momma. You always told us you had all you needed, which is why it was impossible to buy you a Christmas or birthday gift. You know, we never really got to celebrate your 60th like I wanted to, why did I wait? What occasion was I looking for; we should’ve just gone out and celebrated YOU. I was so worried about doing something special, that I didn’t do much at all. Life lesson. It never mattered much to you though; you were never much for material things. You had your family and your heart was set on something greater, eternal joys. And now you are enjoying the very thing you spent a lifetime believing for – heaven. Is it as sweet as they say, mom? Do we get wings, can you fly? Are you shiny or do you look the same? Will I recognize you? I sure hope so; because you know I will be looking for you first thing. If I know you, you are not drawn to the beautiful gold streets but would rather rest by the crystal waters, probably fishing. And if you have it your way, you’re sipping on a glass of tea. I can still picture your big beautiful smile beneath that old floppy fishing hat you loved to wear. That’s where I’ll look first, by the waters. It comforts me to think of you doing what you love, waiting and enjoying heaven until we get there. Jeff was talking to me about a study he was a part of this week at church. It was about those who have gone on before us and how they are part of the great cloud of witnesses that the Bible talks about. (Hebrews 12:1-2, below) I love the thought of that, you cheering me on through this crazy, wonderful, painful, unpredictable, exciting, roller coaster of life. THAT makes me smile. You’ve been gone for eleven months now. It hurts to say that. Some days it feels like a lifetime, others only a moment. I think of you every single day. I laugh at some of our memories and cry when my heart longs to see your face or hear your voice. No one will ever take your place, my precious momma. The past and the present have collided and out of the ashes have come a new life song, a melody that has joyful dancing and mournful sorrow. Each day is a little more precious and those I love have become even dearer to my heart. But, just like you said He would, the Lord has been faithful through it all. He has held me, encouraged me, loved me and lifted me. I am emotionally able to walk now, instead of crawling. It is a slow, painful limping walk, but I can feel my strength slowly returning. I have learned to persevere from the best, to endure and have faith like you did. And, maybe most of all, I have learned to lean heavy on hope. Hope of healing, heaven and of seeing you. Those thoughts are the sweetest ones I have, the ones of a reunion with you. But, until then, there is life to live, and memories to be made. I will carry you in my heart everywhere, I wonder if you know that? I have to tell you, though, I am thankful that I don’t have to push cars off the road anymore, and I will smile today when I can throw my clothes in the dryer. Maybe I’ll even go outside on the porch and have a glass of tea and listen to the birds and talk about going fishing in memory of you.   I will follow your example and thank God for the little things; they make life richer. And I will thank Him for heaven, for eternal life where death no longer separates us, and tears are not allowed.

Love you always,

Me

This song has meant so much to me lately, especially this verse and chorus:

 “Through All of It” by Colton Dixon

There are days I’ve taken more than I can give

And there are choices that I made That I wouldn’t make again

I’ve had my share of laughter Of tears and troubled times

This is has been the story of my life

I have won and I have lost I got it right sometimes But sometimes I did not

Life’s been a journey I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret

Oh and You have been my God Through all of it

Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

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A few nights ago I decided to go for a walk. The weather was so nice, cooler than it has been, there was a touch of fall in the air. That’s such a welcome reprieve for south Alabama.   The town where I live is probably five miles from one end to the other, so to say I walked half the town is no exaggeration. My goal was to lose some weight, but not the physical kind. (Although I would like to lose some of that too.) I needed to lose some of the burden I’d been carrying around, and praying while walking seemed like a good idea. So, I headed out on the sidewalk next to a fairly public road, it is mostly residential. This road is actually a slight hill, so it’s perfect for a work out for a middle aged mother of three. Anyway, when I set out the sun was still up and I was bouncing along to the beat of the music, waving at the passing traffic. I was totally feeling it, heart rate up a little, wind blowing my hair back slightly, feeling pretty good about my decision to get out of the house. (Even though all I really wanted to do was sit on the couch and eat chocolate.) Within the first fifteen minutes I heard a helicopter nearby. It was loud enough that I could hear it even though I had my ear buds in and music was filling my ears. I finally located it off to my right.   It was landing at the hospital, life flight. Suddenly my heart was heavy for whoever was having to take that flight. I began to pray for the person and the family that was hurting this evening.   It hit me so hard how close life and death dwell to one another. I am only a stone’s throw away from the helicopter and I am feeling so full of life, and there they were fighting for theirs.  I suddenly felt more somber and reflective. We have tasted death in our family recently, not quite a year ago. I know exactly how it feels to go through something like that, to fight and pray and hurt and eventually surrender; it’s life altering. As I was thinking along these lines, I passed a home of an elderly lady who used to attend the church where I work. She was a lovely person and came into the office frequently, always with a smile. She passed last year and I miss seeing her come into the office and talk to me about her beautiful flowers. I was reminded how simply she lived, and yet so many have missed her since she’s been gone. As I was thinking about her and her life, praise music still flooding my ears and my senses, I began to feel very worshipful and thankful for my own life.   Simple as it is, I am so thankful to be here on this cool night, walking down this, at times, uneven sidewalk. By the time I reached my point to turn around, it was dusk. The evening street lamps came on and the shadows were becoming long. The car headlights blinded me as they passed and I couldn’t see in front of me very well in places. It’s then that I started to notice how many breaks and rough places there were on this sidewalk. I was still trying to keep a good pace and enjoying the music when I was startled by a runner who came up behind me. Where did he come from? Totally took me off guard. It took me few minutes for my heart rate to slow back down to a healthy rate. Then I nearly tripped on a large crack, sure didn’t remember seeing that earlier. It is then that I decided that I needed to focus fully on the side walk so that I didn’t fall. It was getting darker by the minute, and instead of relaxing this outing had begun to feel threatening.  How did something so pleasant become so UNpleasant? The day turned into night so quickly and suddenly I couldn’t see well anymore. My happy, reflective thoughts were halted by all the unexpected changes that happened in such a short amount of time. Runners, darkness, rough places. My life is that way so many times. Bouncing along to the joy of it all one day and tentatively taking steps around the broken places the next. Celebrating a birth one week, mourning at a funeral the next. How are we supposed to handle all of these changes? I have honestly laughed through tears in recent days. Emotions running rampant in my soul and my heart struggling on the roller coaster ride that life has me on. The roller coaster we are all on.

While walking carefully back, I began to think about the discussion we recently had in Sunday School. We talked about our eyes. I know you are wondering where in the world this is all headed, why the eyes? Because we talked about how to live in the world today, how to hold onto our convictions and hopes, how to walk in faith without losing SIGHT of WHO will help us to navigate through it all.   To be able to see our way through in a world that is often dark and uneven. We referred to Matthew 6:22-23

 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

As I walked while the sun was still up, I was able to see not only my path but everything around me and my senses were stimulated by it all. It was easy breezy. But, as night fell, my sight was impaired and that changed my attitude and my confidence, it effected everything. I needed to be able to see what was in front of me so I could get home to safety. Spiritually speaking, my eyes may wander when all is well, and life feels easy. But when hardship, tragedy, fear strikes, what my spiritual eyes focus on is essential to my well-being. I need to focus my eyes on Jesus. But, how do I do that? What does that really mean? Those are valid questions. Some ideas are to read His Word, talk to him, it doesn’t matter if you are sitting in traffic and the person next to you thinks you’re crazy because you look like you are talking to yourself. Just pretend you are on Bluetooth and let them think what they want. (This may or may not have happened to me.) Fill your mind with good things, surround yourself with people who will lift you up and pray for you. These things will help your spiritual eyes to be healthy. Then you will be able to SEE the path in front of you, and head toward safety and the truth. The verse that tells us Jesus is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path comes to mind. Well, I continued back up the slight incline of a hill and back to my vehicle. Carefully and cautiously. I kept my eyes focused on the sidewalk in front of me, I didn’t look around and worry about what was around me, I just took it one step at a time. And you know what? I made it. (I still think about the person who was being life-flighted that night, I hope it all turned out okay for them.) And the sun rose the next day and life moved on, the darkness passed. Hold onto that truth today, the darkness will pass, just put one foot in front of the other and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. And, a helpful hint, there is a flashlight on your phone when it gets dark. I forget about it every time!

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105

The Value of Things

This morning I was sitting in front of the dressing table trying to squint enough to see to put on my liquid eye liner. The lighting is different than what I am used to, so I was struggling. That and aging eye sight are the culprits. (If one eye seems a little more “dramatic” today, just pretend like you don’t notice.) As I was sitting there, balancing my bum on a stool that is too tall for this piece of furniture, I began to contemplate my situation. I was sitting in front of a borrowed piece of furniture in someone else’s room on a stool that didn’t fit. How did this happen? When did life get so turned upside down? Well, I’ve learned that life is always turning, always. May as well tie the rope of the Holy Spirit tightly around yourself and hang on. But, this particular upheaval was self-inflicted. Next time I tell you I want to renovate a room, kitchen, anything for that matter, would you please talk some sense in to me?! Let me start at the beginning or as close to the beginning as I can remember. We bought our house about eight years ago. It has required a lot from us, from plumbing to updating fixtures, ripping down wall paper, putting in new floors. Not always because we wanted to, but out of necessity. Some were cosmetic and others structural. In this case, it was a little of both. We knew when we bought the house that there was a little damage on a couple of the bedroom walls. We fully intended to fix that within a year or two. Well two turned into three, and three turned into four, and four turned into eight. (How’s that for you math guru’s.) We just couldn’t bring ourselves to commit to the huge project we knew it was going to be. We were too busy enjoying our children and their activities to dedicate much time to a bedroom renovation. Well, as we near a time in our lives where our nest is almost empty, we realize that we will not need all of the space we have before too long. We are looking into the future and the real possibility of selling our home. It has been a good home, spent a lot of good years here, but a changing season is upon us and it’s time to get ready. Anyway, a few days before I was balancing on this stool getting ready for work, we began the daunting process of “gutting” our bedroom. But before the “gutting” could begin, we had to move all the furniture, pictures, everything out of it and find a place for it in another part of the house. (Just give that a try some time when you’re bored and let me know how it goes.) Who knew I had so much stuff in my closet?! I guess I never really look or venture into those deep cavernous ends of the closet that never see the light of day. (I don’t have a walk in closet.) I’ve always wondered why there is a three foot space from where the door opening ends to where the closet ends. What good is it if you can hardly reach it with even with your arm extended? (I just throw the shoes I never wear down in the floor of that part and hope they don’t get swallowed into the abyss.) My sweet husband even took the time to take our daughter’s bed down and put up our bigger bed in her room because we are spoiled and don’t want to sleep on a full bed anymore.   (Go ahead and scorn me, I know that is so shallow.) So, after what seemed like performing surgery to fit all the “things” in my room into other rooms of the house, down came our bedroom walls, up came the worn out carpet, and anything that wasn’t living was yanked down and thrown out. We misplaced Tait, our dog, for a few minutes and had a scare that maybe he was wrapped up in the carpet that we tore up off the floor. False alarm, he was on the back porch, sunning. Oh for a dog’s life. It was then that we understood the height and depth and the length of the job we had undertaken. Value of Things blog photo 09.21.2015

First, we were so very thankful that there was no mildew behind the walls, so let me just give Praise to the Lord for that! But, otherwise, we were pretty much toast. No insulation in the walls, the floor was a little uneven, new wiring needed to be installed for outlets, there was just so much that needed to be done.   Insulation had to be put in, sheet rock had to be hung, outlet boxes screwed in, light fixtures replaced, ceiling repainted, floor had to be made even, and this is where we are now on this morning when I am contemplating my upside down life. (Oh, and let me add here that my husband is on a time schedule and has to return to work in a week. Any of you who have ever done renovations know that it always turns into an even bigger job once you get started. I don’t know why that is, but it is.) So that explains why I am in the room that isn’t mine. Now let me explain about the dressing table. It belongs to my daughter. Well, first it belonged to my granny, she passed eleven years ago. It was a devastating loss to my mom. My mom passed away less than a year ago. It was a devastating loss to me. She was an only child. My granny didn’t have very much, but what she left behind meant so much to my Momma; she was so sentimental. This piece of furniture is worth nothing really, but it means the world to me because it meant the world to her. She gave it to my girl and since it didn’t fit in her small bedroom, I was the lucky one who got to use it. (But, I am very aware that it is not mine. My daughter often reminds me not to get too attached to it.) It’s funny how something of no earthly value at all can mean so much to a person. It’s proof to me that our hearts do not lie with something because it’s worth a lot of money, but rather no amount of money can buy something that has our heart.   It’s priceless. The problem is it did not come with a stool or chair. So, I improvised and used a folding chair – “Just temporary,” I would always tell myself. Well, that turned into eight years. (Time really does fly.) Not just any folding chair, a blue, old, metal chair we used to stand on when we painted high places. So it is filled with paint splatters. Sad, huh? Well, it is only temporary. Part of our dilemma is that we can’t find a chair that fits. You know how there is a chair opening in the front of a table like this; well this one is for petite people. Can’t find one and I don’t have the desire to have one made to fit. I will someday, but for now I am graduating from the blue chair (my husband told me it was pitiful) to a stool that is a little too tall, but nicer looking. That is why I am balancing/dangling on it trying to put on my make-up.   It’s awkward, but it works well enough. All of this has made me think about how as I grow older I just don’t care as much about the “stuff” in my life. (I know, quite a stretch to go from dangling on a stool to contemplating my life, but my mind wanders like that.) Things just don’t hold the value that they used to. Don’t get me wrong I am excited to have my bedroom redone, but I would be just as happy without it. It doesn’t fulfill the deeper places in my heart. I will have several new things in my bedroom when this is all over, IF it is ever over, but none of it will mean as much to me as that old, not so beautiful dressing table with the mismatching stool. I’m not one to refinish furniture, so the poor thing has little chance of being much prettier anytime soon, but I don’t care, it is one of my prize possessions. (Well, my daughter’s prize possessions.) Every time I see it, I am reminded of my granny, my momma and family; the things that matter most to me. When all is said and done, it will be a beautiful blending of the old and new. Just like my life. Blending the old, the past, with whatever is next for me, the new.   I’m praying for a new perspective these days. Looking for new direction, a fresh work in my life. And even if there are tears streaming down my face as I step forward, I will still make that step. Looking ahead and anticipating what God is going to do next. And looking forward to moving into my shiny new bedroom!

A verse that has been on my mind as of late…

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” II Corinthians 4:17-18

An Honest Journey to Real Prayer

What does it mean to pray? What does that term mean to you? I’ve been thinking about prayer a lot lately. I’m realizing that I will always be learning how to pray and I could never explain all of its dimensions, especially in a short blog. But I know I am in desperate need of it and the power it brings. Life has reached a place where I have less and less to say about the things that go on around me. My kids are adults – or almost, I’m physically aging, I’ve lost one parent; life just keeps changing. I struggle to keep up with it all. Recently I was talking to my daughter, who definitely has a mind of her own, (what was I thinking when I raised her to think for herself?) and it hit me like a slap in the face how little say I had in the matter we were discussing. I wanted so badly for her to see what I was trying to say, because I was right in this instance (but I will readily admit that I am not always right) and I needed her to understand. It was important. And another recent conversation with my son made me realize that he was going to do what he thought was best, even though I could see some troubled waters ahead for him if he followed through with his decision. And then there were some circumstances and people in our church that needed prayer, and there’s my precious daddy who’s been struggling through the first year without my mom, the grief has been unbearable at times. I could go on, but you see what I am saying. Real issues that needed a remedy or guidance or peace or hope or relief, I have no idea what they needed. I just knew they needed something. This is when serious anxiety set in; a feeling of complete helplessness. It was in this place of desperation that the Lord was able to really speak to my heart. What could I do? What were my options?   Worry or pray? That would be an easy decision to make, pray of course. But, that turned out to be tougher than I thought. I found that I would get on my knees or sit down on a pillow, (Yes, I am too old to sit on the floor without something softening the blow for my rump, another sign of my age.) and pour my heart out before the Lord only to get up and pick that very thing I prayed about right back up and carry it around with me again. It was an endless discouraging cycle. Pray about it and then walk away carrying it with me. There was no relief, just more frustration. When I say carrying it I mean I would pray with the intention of finding peace of mind, but instead I would talk to God about it and then my mind would still remain troubled. I would walk away and worry about what was going to happen next or how I could better articulate to my child why they should listen to me. I mean, surely they would listen if I said it just right, right? Wrong. Or, as we’ve talked about in an earlier blog post, my mind would live on repeat, trying desperately to “fix” the situation. After living this unhealthy cycle for quite some time, a lightbulb slowly began to come on in my head. And when I say slowly, think about when an old fluorescent light first gets turned on after it’s been cold. First it hums, then it barely flickers for a while and slowly it continues to brighten until it is finally at full strength.   That’s how my mind was beginning to wrap around this idea of surrendered prayer. See how I slipped that word surrendered in there? That’s exactly how it finally dawned on me, subtly.  Prayer can’t just be me talking and talking and getting up and trying to take care of it on my own, it has to be surrendered. Kind of like waving the white flag with the Lord. (I love the song on Christian radio, “White Flag” by Chris Tomlin, it says exactly what I’m beginning to understand prayer really is, surrender to God.) When I go before the Lord, I have to be willing to leave it with him. To walk away and not take it with me. To surrender what I think is the best thing to His will. That is so hard for this “planner.” I want to know exactly what the plan is and then I can get behind it and cheer as it unfolds with the assurance that everything is going to be okay. Well, that’s not how this works, not even close. I don’t get the secret e mail with the plan, or even a hint. I get to explain what I think to the Lord, the entire situation all the way through and then I slowly get up and trust that he will do what is best. Trusting in this instance might look like this: when the troubling issue comes to my mind and I’m tempted to worry, I instead remind myself that God has it all under control. I will quote scriptures and sing songs that keep my mind focused on God’s power and authority. Sounds so spiritual and mature, doesn’t it? It’s the toughest thing ever and it isn’t pretty. This weekend I wasn’t feeling the best, and I didn’t really feel up to praying. (It does take energy and work, anything worth pursuing does.) But in the midafternoon, I felt compelled to pray. Now, I am not one that feels these types of urges often, I pray and sometimes I feel stronger than others about it, but this day, I literally felt that if I didn’t pray I was going to, I don’t know explode or something. My husband was taking a famous Sunday afternoon nap on the living room sofa, so I slipped into our bedroom and got on my knees by the bed to pray. (Yes, I had a pillow under my knees. Wouldn’t be able to walk later otherwise, no joke.) There weren’t any fancy words or great revelations, just a desperate mother who needed some reassurance and to surrender my will, what I thought best, to His. I prayed so hard, and I cried so hard, it was painful and refreshing all at once. Later, my husband came and told me it was time for evening church and the rest of our day happened. It wasn’t until later that night I was standing in the kitchen and I got a text from one of my kids telling me that they had ended an unhealthy relationship, EXACTLY what I had been praying about. I literally did a happy dance. (And that wasn’t pretty either.) I had committed to be quiet and just pray about this situation a few weeks earlier, another sign of painful growth in my quest for spiritual freedom. (Learning to shut my mouth.) But, even though I was quiet to this child, I was very vocal about it with the Lord, and HE HEARD MY PRAYERS. I waved my white flag and HE HANDLED IT. Later I found out that at the exact same time I felt so compelled to pray, the wheels of my child’s separation from this person started. And as a cherry on top, I received the text to let me know, right after it happened. So many words came to mind when I received that text, but you know what I did? I prayed about it, first a prayer of thanks and then a prayer of “what do I say, Lord?” He is clearly way better at handling this whole life thing than I am. That affirmation that God heard me has spurred me on. I am approaching prayer with a different mindset now. Instead of telling the Lord what might work, I tell him my heart and then wave my flag and deliberately move on. He can handle it. I know that this is a learning process, a lifetime won’t be enough to really get it down perfectly. But, I am slowly understanding, the light is flickering on now. So, friends, pray today, pray and then ask the Lord to help you to surrender to His will. Ask Him to carry the load so you can live freely and fully. And when He answers, do a happy dance, who cares if it’s pretty!

Below is the first verse and chorus to “White Flag,” by Chris Tomlin

“The battle rages on

As storm and tempest roar

We cannot win this fight

Inside our rebel hearts

We’re laying down our weapons now

We raise our white flag We surrender

All to You

All for You”

Amen, Lord, we surrender.

Psalm 120:1 “In my trouble I cried to the LORD, And He answered me.”

Behold I Am Doing a New Thing: Learning to Shut My Mouth

Lately I’ve been learning a lot about love. A crash course, really, apparently the Lord feels that I need more of it. And I don’t mean the term “love” that we like to throw around here in the south. For example, I say things like, “I love cheese grits.” And I do, but that is not the type of love I’m talking about here. I’m not sure I can really define it, or understand it fully, but I know that I am on a journey to experience it. Let me explain. Have you ever cared about someone more than your own feelings? I know for me that I carry my feelings in high esteem.  Meaning, I don’t just allow others to come in and hurt them, I actively try and protect them. Lately I’ve been put into some situations where I’ve gotten my feelings hurt and for the life of me I want to be mad about it. I try so hard to keep my feelings safe and sound that when someone breeches my safety zone and hurts them, I want to hurt them back, you know? (I‘m not talking physically, well maybe a little sometimes.) I want to retaliate to what they’ve said or done, defend myself.  Or maybe ignore them out of spite to let them know they’ve crossed the line with me. (How dare they?!) This is the type of behavior I have fallen into time and time again, only to find that it doesn’t make me feel any better. (Clearly, I am a slow learner.)  I just feel hurt longer and they seem to go on about their lives as though nothing ever happened.  I’m beginning to realize that when I respond in a way that is typical and expected, it makes the person who offended me feel validated in their behavior. It’s a “I hurt them, they hurt me so now we’re even” kind of thing. No one wins. I can remember when Jeff and I were newlyweds, (Oh lord that was a long time ago.) we fought like cats and dogs. Each one of us wanting to have the last word because we needed to feel heard. The problem was we were both so busy trying to make our point or defend ourselves that neither of us ever stopped long enough to realize that our verbal tug of war wasn’t changing anything. It was a dead tie, and not in a good way. We were married a few years before we really began to understand the value of holding our tongues and allowing God to do the talking. (Honestly, this is something we work on to this day, like this moment even.) I remember the times we argued and he would finally “give in” and declare that I was right, it never really felt as good to “win” as I thought it would.   And, if he verbally fought back, I would rally. It was an endless, losing cycle. But, when my husband began to learn the value in silence, not punishing silence, but the kind of silence where you have a thousand words on the tip of your tongue, but you bite your tongue to keep from saying them, things began to change. My pride wishes I could tell you that we learned value in being quiet around the same time, but the truth is he exampled this to me first. The Lord began to use his silence as a valuable tool to speak to my heart. The more he surrendered, unwilling to defend or win, the more I was left with my own words ringing in my ears. God became his defender and He was so much more effective. (Conviction, that’s a good old church word that applies here. I felt the wrong in what I was doing with my mean words.) What does this have to do with loving others, I hear you mumble. Everything. Recently I had an experience where someone was being very hard on me. The kind of hard where you sorta hate to see them coming. I complained, groaned whined about my hurt feelings and wondered how they could say such things, yada, yada, yada. Finally, after this had gone on a while, I began to feel convicted (there’s that word again) to shut my mouth. Now, to some of you, that is no big deal. But to those of us who love to use lots of words, it is. (A really big deal, and I need you to understand that. Really. Big. Deal.) It didn’t take long before I discovered that as I shut my mouth, instead of groaning and complaining about the offender, the Lord was able to deal with my heart. As my heart began to open (ever so slightly) to this person, I began to see things differently.   I began to realize that just like in my marriage, when I rail against someone who is hurting me, the voice of the Lord can be drowned out by my own. It prolongs the agony of the situation. When my voice is out of the way, (when I finally hush) then God can deal with their heart. My silence can become the catalyst that provides an opportunity for God to speak. But, in order for this to happen I have to love.  Because love looks out for the best interest of others above my own. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” is what I’m told in I Corinthians 13:1.  Trust me, this is an ongoing life lesson for me, I don’t want to be a clanging cymbal.  And that is where it gets tough. I’ve heard lots and lots of lessons, sermons and read countless articles on love and what it should look like. But, few of them really tell me how to get from where I am to where I need to be in loving others. I am left feeling like, “Well, okay, I need to love more, how do I do that? What is that supposed to look like in real life?” I’m a planner, I need a plan. Let me offer a suggestion, in case you’re wondering like I was.  I began to ask myself,  am I willing to love someone enough to be hurt by them and not retaliate? To let God step in and be my defender? To be silent when there are a thousand things I want to say or feel like I have a right to say?  To love them more than my own feelings? Basically, to step back so God can step up. Ouch. (I am not talking about verbal abuse, just the everyday hurts that we all deal with.) That’s a tough truth for me.   This is where my faith must be tried by the fire of action. And where I must actually practice the humility that is supposed to be evident in my life as a follower of Christ. He must increase and I must decrease. You won’t hear that message on primetime TV or in main stream media, yet, it is the only thing that truly works.  So the next time you are face to face with a difficult child, spouse, co-worker, friend, church member, the teller at the bank, the Wal-Mart check out person (it gets real here), your mother, father, sister, brother, anyone that shows up in your life and you want to groan. Stop and remember that love is much more effective when it is lived out through action, and actions speak louder than words, and less words means God can speak. And when God speaks, that means good things are coming. Can I get an amen? I love good things!

I Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

In my next blog post I would like to talk to you about prayer. The idea of loving others is wonderful, but completely impossible without prayer to empower us. I’m learning that in a very real way right now. I am still on my journey to freedom that we’ve been discussing, it is painful and so far and sometimes I feel like I’m on a roller coaster, but I’m not giving up. I’ve tasted a little of the freedom that is my goal and now I’m addicted to what I know my life can be like. As you’ve heard me say, and as momma always said, one day at a time. I’m so glad to be on this journey with you, see you next time.