The Pool Chronicles

When we moved our kids from Charlotte to the sticks, one of the things that made them the saddest was the fact that we were leaving our pool behind. So when we found our new home up here and it had a pool in the backyard, we were all ecstatic. Sadly, we could never keep the pool clear. I was beginning to think I had lost my touch at balancing chemicals.

Last year, I was battling health issues. I really didn’t feel like dealing with the pool. Add to that the fact that we had a broken piece on the pump and no extra money, and it quickly led to the decision to just ignore the pool.

Fast forward to this year. We had finally sold our Charlotte house (Praise God!) and were using the money to do some things around the house. Yes, one of my priorities was the pool! After a couple years of neglect and not being covered, we had developed a beautiful swamp and frog habitat. 🤢🐸

To begin working on the pool, first we had to drain the swamp (no politics involved). We drained as much water as we could and then were left with about a foot of murky, marshy water that was full of leaves and golf balls (thanks Jake), and frogs. Most of that had to be bailed out with buckets. (I bailed out on that project!) Finally, the liner was cut away so we could see the bare bones of the pool.

Yuck. The water that had seeped out had to be removed. We were ready to put the liner in! But the day had gotten away from us, so the man we had hired said he would come back the next day to finish. Of course, that night, it rained. And poured. The next morning, we went out to find standing water in our dirt pool. So once again, it had to be dried out. And then the liner went in! Yay! So close to swimming!

But. As the water started filling, part of the liner came down.

So most of the water in the pool had to be bailed out so the liner could be put back into place. Up to this point, Keith had been available to help the pool man. But now, he was stuck with his fiance and me as helpers. Poor pool man! Finally, he got it replaced and we were in business! Except we had discovered that the reason I could never keep the pool clear is that we had a leak in our pump. Uh oh. But fortunately we had rescued the pump from the pool at the old house (thanks Mom!) And it is working perfectly! The pool area is still a work in progress. The deck has boards that need to be replaced. The pool rails need to be cleaned. I did get our good steps put in, but they’re not perfectly balanced. However, we have the rest of the pool season to work these things out.

And I have a beautiful pool to swim in, work around, exercise in. I am thankful!

As we went through the process of the pool remodel, I’ve also been going through a couple other projects. I’m redoing my floors inside (which is a much slower process!). We had to replace a wall, due to black mold. (Yuck!) We ended up needing a new refrigerator. And we tore one wall down completely. The first week or so, it drove me crazy that we weren’t able to finish it immediately, but I’ve settled myself into the idea that it will get done in time.

I’ve had yet one more project going. This one is much more personal. That project is me. I watched myself on video a couple months ago, ministering to a group of ladies, and all I could see was how I had let myself go. I have reasons. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, medications, genetics. But those reasons had become excuses and I had packed 40 pounds on my short, already overweight frame in the last couple of years. As I watched the video, I wondered if everyone else was as distracted by my appearance. I decided then and there that it was time to do something. I started praying and researching. I settled on a plan that looked like it would work for me. And it has. With God’s help, I am well on my way to a healthier me. Not that the journey has been all that much smoother than with of my other projects! Some weeks, it’s been one step forward, two steps back. But the key is to keep moving forward.

And that leads me to the point of the blog. As I’ve been on these journeys, and they’ve all ended up being far more complicated than they should have been, God has been speaking to my heart about the spiritual parallels.

There have been times in my life that I’ve thought, oh! Now I understand God! Only to find out that He’s just revealed another piece of Himself to me. As I’ve matured in Him, I’ve come to realize that He grows us as we go.

Look at David. David was annointed as king long before he was ready for the crown. God had lessons for him to learn. Then, once David was crowned king, he had it all together, right? Wrong. He still made mistakes. Big ones! Yet, he always went back to God. In fact, God called David “a man after His own heart.”

In the book of Job, we read about a man who refused to curse God, no matter the fact that he had lost everything. So Job had it all together, right? Well, not quite. He did get very frustrated and very sassy with God. Then God had to remind him Who was really in charge. Job turned his attitude around and, in the end, was a blessed man once again.

Then, there’s Peter. Peter was a disciple of Jesus. He walked with Jesus daily, loved Jesus, walked on water with Jesus (briefly), confessed He was the son of God. He saw things most people didn’t get to see. He even defended Jesus against the guards who came to arrest Him! Surely, Peter never faltered, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Three times Peter denied even knowing Jesus after His arrest. But in His love and mercy and goodness, Jesus forgave Peter and gave Him the opportunity to grow from it. Three times, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Three times Peter responded Yes. Three times Jesus told Peter to tend His lambs. Peter readily agreed and went on to be a leader in the early church.

Life is full of transition. It’s seasonal. What is today may or may not be tomorrow. The only way we can handle these ups and downs of life is with Jesus. You may have noticed in my pool chronicle, that we hired a pool man. He’s an expert in his field. Because of that, we were done in several days. With the house project we’re doing it ourselves. And it’s not done. Seeing a parallel? There’s only One expert on life. That would be the One Who gave you life.

So. Where are you today? Have you given up? Return to God. Are you trying to go it alone? Return to God. Are you feeling stagnant? Draw closer to God. Are you serving and loving God to the best of your ability but feel a but stuck and confused? Just keep loving and serving Him. Here are some scriptures to help you out. Oh, and those stories listed above? The Leigh version is pretty accurate, but I really recommend you go read them yourself!

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

And rend your heart and not your garments ” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil. Joel 2:13

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. Joshua 1:9

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. Proberbs 3:5-6

I the Lord do not change. Malachi 3:6

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

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Swimming with Daddy

Good morning! I’m sitting on the balcony this morning, watching the water. Amy and I are in Florida this week. We love Treasure Island – the water is clear and calm, the sand is white, and the condo is almost on top of the beach. I’m pretty my place in heaven is going to be similar! 😁 However, when a storm comes the water is neither calm or clear. Yes, that would be a blog all it’s own, but that’s not where we’re going this morning.

I managed to drag my chair, body, Bible, and coffee out about 8:30. Normally by then, folks are already staking out their place on the beach. Today, however, there were only a few stragglers on the beach. The storm was bad enough last night to wake me up (Believe me, that’s bad!), so the water this morning is rough and angry. The wind is still blowing. For the most part, the only souls brave enough to go out were the ones hoping to pick up treasures washed in by the churning waves.

Except one cute little family. Now, I saw this family at the pool yesterday, so I already had a first impression. I’m a people watcher by nature and tend to notice things others might miss. They are your basic family of four – mom, dad, girl, boy. My best guess is that the girl and boy were about 4 and 2.

As I watched the little girl laughing and playing in the pool, I immediately noticed I could only see about 2 square inches of her skin above her legs. Everything else was covered by various protective equipment or covering! She had an ear band on. (If you’re not familiar, it’s this fabulous thing they’ve come up with to keep water out of a kid’s ears! Where was this when I was constantly fighting swimmer’s ear as a kid?) I then noticed the telltale wires and attachments of cochlear implant. She also had goggles, sunblock, super-duper can’t sink swimwear, and a fearlessness that made me smile.

The parents were attentive, loving, interactive. Both kids were well cared for and protected. I enjoyed watched them. Yes. I know sound like a voyeur. Oops. At any rate, they weren’t the kind of family that made me cringe when they showed up at they pool!

Back to the beach this morning. I noticed the dad had the little girl in the water. He had her securely in his arms. They were jumping, splashing, playing and the little girl knew she was safe in daddy’s arms. I imagined I could hear her giggling as they jumped the waves. Occasionally they would stop and pose for mom, who was on shore, taking pictures and tending baby brother.

God started speaking to my heart about His Daddy’s heart towards us. He reminded us that He often takes us to unfamiliar territory, but we are always secure in Him. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my ritghteous right hand.” As I watched that daddy hold his little girl, I could feel my Heavenly Father’s right arm holding me just as securely.

As I basked in that glorious thought, the dad suddenly let go of the little girl and start swimming towards shore! My mama’s heart froze. I was on the balcony of the sixth floor, but was still ready to jump into action. Before my heart stopped completely, I realized the little girl had followed suit. She was swimming furiously towards the shore. After about 5 strokes, the dad stopped, turned around, and scooped his baby girl up. He told her what a great job she did. I realized then what was going on. He was teaching her how to swim in the ocean!

I remember those days. I had a dad who was convinced his girls needed to be as self sufficient as possible. Ocean swimming was definitely on the list of lessons. As a result, we are all strong swimmers. And strong women. I guess his lessons stuck. But back to the story…

As the dad and little girl practiced their swimming, he was never more than two steps from her. She was never out of the range of safety. His protective watch and long reach were right there.

Oh my. Are you with me? Do you see? God often carries us into places we can’t survive alone. If we’re not careful, we can quickly lose sight of Him and forget His promises. Like this one, ” Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you, He will never leave or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 3:16)

The little girl was able to relax and enjoy her swim because she trusted her daddy. Do you trust your Daddy? If not, why? When has He failed you? Hebrews 11:6 says “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Have you ever thought about that? Why? Why can we not please God without faith? Have you ever taken a kid swimming who didn’t trust you to not let them drown? It’s miserable! I think it must be close to that! But seriously, why ask Him for something if you don’t trust Him to provide? Is He truly the Lord of your life or a convenience store where you ask for what you want, when you want?

Finally the dad and daughter were done swimming. They came ashore to high fives from Mom. The little girl had a huge smile on her face. She already trusted her daddy, but now her faith in him was a bit stronger.

And so it is with us and our Heavenly Father. The more we trust Him, the more we see that we can trust Him. At first, He may just carry us into deep water. Then, before you know it, you’ll be swimming in waters you once couldn’t even imagine. He is so good! His ways are so much higher than ours. And you may never know why He takes you swimming in water over your head. But nothing in His kingdom is wasted. Trust Him. He hasn’t dropped you yet.

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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Victim or Victor?

A few weeks ago, I ran across the opportunity to purchase a devotional journal with matching shirt. 100 Days of Less Hustle, More Jesus. I was in the midst of several different things and felt like the waves of the storm just wouldn’t stop. I immediately ordered a set and eagerly waited to start. The sweet friend offering the set was also planning a Facebook group to coincide with the devotional to give us all a place for support and feedback and more Jesus time. Ironically, the start date she had set was the first day of my friend trip with Amy. How perfect!

Days one and two went perfectly well. No problem. Day one was all about God Himself being our peace. I’m down with that! Day two was about surrendering the things we’ve been holding onto, those things that we decide to handle ourselves. Okay. That was a little harder, but after a good talk with Jesus, I was ready! Then came day 3.

It seemed innocent enough. Be authentic. I’m authentic aren’t I? I mean, don’t I tell you guys when God is dealing with me? But here was the rub. There was someone who God had been prompting to speak to me to walk in victory. And for some reason, I was having trouble making those things line up in my life. I read the page over and over several times, then shut the book, unable to do the journaling that is a vital part of the study. Finally, screwing up my courage, I messaged my tormenter…er…friend who kept posting stuff on Facebook about the victorious walk. Thankfully she’s a patient listener. As I poured out my heart, the truth I didn’t even realize came gushing out. My internal battle came from a statement made from someone who chose to walk out of my life. She implied I was a victim. I have spit and sputtered about it ever since. But since I couldn’t shake it, I was concerned there may be some truth there. My friend was loving enough to speak truth to my heart.

First of all, she did the most important thing a friend can ever do for us – she pointed me back to Jesus. She told me to get in the Word and pray. I told her I was. Then she pointed out something I had never seen about myself.

Now. Here’s the authentic part. I’m not thrilled to share this. But, I’ve promised to be real here, so here goes. That person who called me a victim was right. Ouch. Not all the time, mind you. Throw a health issue at us? Bam! Strong warrior woman of God! Picking on my kids? Warrior mama! Need someone to pray with or for you? Let me grab my armor! Reject me? Oh, poor me! Why is this happening? Why????

Splat. Victim.

I could write you a book about why that gets me. I could write you another one on why satan chooses to use that on folks who have rejection issues. But, you know what? I really don’t think that’s going to change my victim status at all! I don’t want to be a victim! I want to walk in victory and let God have all the glory!

So. I did exactly what the friend said to do. I read the chapters of the verses that were offered in the devotional. Then, He woke me up at 4am and invited me to some precious time with Him. I would love to tell you that I was a gracious receipient of that gift, but I actually asked could we not do it over coffee at 9am. He said no. So we had coffee on the beach at 5:30am and I’m glad He’s bossy and got His way!

I once had a dear friend who always said that the natural parallels the spiritual. To highlight that, I walked out to a stunning moon on the water being overtaken by storm clouds. As the sun came up and moved over the beach, the storm just seemed to disappear. And yes, that’s how it felt for me. When I allowed God to shine His light in my storm, it has seemed to just disappear.

Now, let’s talk about victory vs victim. The definition of victory is “an act of defeating an enemy or opponent in a battle, game, or other competition.” It comes from the root word “vincere” which is a Latin word that means “to conquer.” Victim is a word of uncertain origin that filtered through Latin. The Latin root meant “person or animal killed as sacrifice to a deity.” Oh my! Do you see what I see?! Oh that’s powerful! But let’s not get caught up in that.

John 16 has Jesus instructing His disciples about the Holy Spirit. The verse we were supposed to be looking at was 13, which we will definitely cover, but 12 really captured my attention. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” See, I was really struggling last night with the fact that I’ve walked this walk so long, but am just now realizing I have this huge issue! God made me realize two things. One, I was being a bit of a snob. I know I’m not perfect, why was I trying to act like I was? Two, even the disciples weren’t ready to hear some things from Jesus Himself. Our Heavenly Father’s timing is always perfect. Maybe I just couldn’t handle that truth before now. I don’t know. But I’m thankful for His correction! Verse 13 goes on to say, “But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will only speak what He hears, as He will tell you what is yet to come.” See. I was ready and the Holy Spirit was dealing with me.

Next, we were to read Ephesians 4:25. But, in good faith, I was reading the whole chapter, as I had been urged. Verse 15 hit me right between the eyeballs! “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” Ouch Jesus! Did you just tell me to grow up?

“Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by it’s deceitful desires.” My desire, I think, was sympathy. When the going got hard and I felt personally attacked, I rolled into a ball and fell apart. Not very victorious. “To be made new in the attitude of your minds. (!!!!! Emphasis mine!) And to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Put off falsehood and speak truthfully with your neighbor. In your anger, do not sin.” (Vs. 23-26) I have to pause here. I was very angry about a situation at work. To be honest, I had the right to be angry. But my attitude wasn’t godly at all. Again, I was assuming that victim status.

Now, check this out… “And do not give the devil a foothold.” That’s how the NIV puts it. The NASB says “opportunity.” Both words are accurate and paint a pretty good picture. How often do we grumble to everyone else rather than putting on our armor and letting God handle a situation? When we do that, we’re opening the door to that old deceiver.

“”Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29) Oh. Ouch. I’m so sorry Lord. Please forgive me! “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.” (V. 31-32 NIV). Y’all. I was expecting from everyone else what I wasn’t willing to extend. Oh my. I’m so sorry.

So our next verse was 2 Corinthians 12:9. But. God had other plans and I accidentally landed in 2 Corinthians 1. So let’s go there first! “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (V. 3-4 NIV). If we don’t allow Him to take our troubles and help us, how on Earth can we lead others to the cross for that help? If I’m a victim, I can’t teach you to walk in victory. In fact, if I’m looking like a victim, the Christ walk isn’t going to look appealing at all! It will look no different from a worldly walk.

So let’s go back to the verse we were supposed to be looking at. 2 Corinthians 12:9. Paul had seen a lot. God himself had picked him out, converted him, shown him wonders and miracles. Paul knew he had the propensity for conceit. He said to keep him from it, God gave him a thorn in his side, a messenger of Satan. Now, I’ve read all different opinions of that thorn. Some say it was a physical affliction. Others say it was an evil person. I say if God wants me to know specifically, He’ll tell me. In the meantime, I’d say our thorns can be just about anything the devil throws at us to derail our walk. Paul goes on to say that he asked God three times to remove the thorn and God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is perfected in weakness.”

God’s grace. It’s all we ever need, right? Yet, I had avoided reaching out for the one thing I pushed everyone else towards. As I sit here gazing at this beautiful water, the sun beating down on my back, I can’t help but be thankful for His correction, His guidance. I use the word correction because that’s exactly what it is. Like a ship who had blown off course, I had gotten a bit out of whack. These last weeks of wrestling (whining) have been tough, but in the end, profitable. I hope to never again have to come to you and admit to being the victim. If I do, I hope you can extend grace. But, today, I declare, I am WALKING IN VICTORY!

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Sunshine

🎶I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May. I guess you’d say what can make me feel this way? My girl, my girl, my girl… talkin’ ’bout my girl… My girl.🎶

Good morning all you fabulous women of God! Did I song bomb you? Good! That was the plan! Now, I know that was not a Christian song by a Christian band about a godly subject. But, we’re gonna talk about it anyway.

When people see you, do they want to greet you with “good morning sunshine!” Or are they thinking “uh oh here comes the storm cloud?” Ooohhh am I stepping on toes here? See God’s had me thinking about victory. We all want to think we have the victory. After all we’re saved! If you are like me and part of the Penecostal church you are used to hearing “saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost!” And you have to say it in the preacher voice for it to really have impact! 😁 At any rate we have Jesus in us! The SON. Are you tracking with me?

Now I won’t lie to you. Satan stole my joy in the last six weeks. I will not recount what all has happened. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I surrendered my authority and handed over my joy. And when I handed over my joy, I handed over my victory. You know, that victory in Jesus we like to sing about. I didn’t mean to. And I didn’t even realize I had. Until I realized. And in that moment I felt remorse, shame, guilt. But God is good and he met me in that moment.

In the meantime, since I snatched my victory back, and have been writing again, and have been giving God all the glory, Satan has been trying harder! I have been open about my physical limitations. I have fibromyalgia. I believe completely that God can and will heal me. Until He does, I must live in this broken body. This week I fell again. For the second time in a week. My body is not really a fan of me throwing it to the ground. I have two choices. I can wallow in self pity. I can whine about the fact that my body doesn’t work the way I think it should and that it hurts. Or I can be thankful that I can still proclaim Jesus’s name, proclaim his glory, praise his name, spread his joy! My friends, choice number two is where the victory is!

So. How are you this morning? Are you stormy or are you sunny? I get it. Life is hard. And it can throw some rotten stuff at us. It’s important for us to remember that that rottenness of life doesn’t reduce the goodness of God. He is love. He can’t do anything outside of that love. So, if He’s allowed something in your life, it’s not because He doesn’t love you. Romans 8:28 promises that He works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. All things. That surely means the rotten things too.

So I’ll ask again. Are you sunny? Is the Son shining in your life? If not, why don’t you slow down a little bit, take some time at His feet, and let Him tell you how much He loves you. He’s waiting for you. And when you show up, who knows? He may just break into song. 🎶My girl🎶 “The Lord your God is with you, the mighty warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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Beautiful

Lately, I’ve been pondering beauty. Have you ever met someone who seemed not so beautiful when you first met them, but became more beautiful over time? Or have you met a person who was just gorgeous – until you got to know them? Yeah, that’s what I want to talk about.

Merriam-Webster describes beauty as “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” 🤔 I like that one. But more often, I think we think of beauty like this, “a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.” (Google)

According to Statista.com, the revenue of the cosmetic industry in 2018 was more than $62 billion. 😳 That includes “Skincare, hair care, make-up, perfumes, toiletries and deodorants, and oral cosmetics.” Now, I’m a big fan of soap, toothpaste, deodorant, hair gunk (curly hair here!). I have a small love affair with Bath & Body Works, because, for some reason, most of their products don’t affect my allergies. I even love makeup, though I rarely wear it. And when I do, I don’t wear much. But y’all. Sixty-two billion dollars?!?!?! That’s a lot of money!!!! Skincare makes up roughly one third of that amount. Yes, some of those products are just to keep us clean and socially acceptable. (Please don’t give up your soap and deodorant!) But a lot is to make us beautiful!

Which takes me back to my point. Is a well done face of makeup what makes us beautiful? My Mamaw and Mama always said “Pretty is as pretty does.” So I guess your eyeliner can be on point, but if you’re giving someone the stink eye, you’re not so pretty! 😁

The Bible has a few things to say about beauty. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornmentRather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Hmmm.

Okay.

But what about Esther? I mean, didn’t she get a year’s worth of special beauty treatment before her selection as queen? Didn’t God use her in her position as queen? Surely that means something! Yes, it means Esther lived in a different time from you. Put on your Oil of Olay and go on with your day!

Proverbs 31:30 says beauty is fleeting. I bet if we further analyzed those beauty industry statistics, we would find that a lot of money is spent on men and women trying to stay young looking.

Ephesians 2:10 says we are God’s handiwork. Seriously. Think about that. Can you imagine God Himself placing your nose and teeth and eyes. How do you think He feels when we study ourselves in the mirror and critique His handiwork? Especially if we’re not looking inwardly to critique our inner beauty.

Ouch. That hurts, doesn’t it? Don’t worry. I’m stomping my own toes too. 😬

So, in my pondering and praying and reading, the scripture that has rolled through me is this: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7 (NIV) It’s repeated in Romans 10:15: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (ESV).

Okay. I know it says feet. But work with me here. Those who are teaching/preaching/telling the good news, praying for others, walking with Jesus have that inner beauty that we read about in 1 Peter.

Since I started mulling over the beauty thing, my FB timeline has been full of beauty memes. “An ugly personality destroys a pretty face.” “If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies. How different our ideals of beauty would be.” “No beauty shines brighter than that of a good heart.”

The most beautiful people I have ever known have been the prayer warriors who fight battles no one knows about. The friends who get their knees for you in private, hug you in public, encourage and exhort, and always point you to Jesus. The preachers who speak truth and leave all they have at the feet of Jesus for the cause of winning souls. The pastors who balance family and congregations with better balance than the circus man on the tightrope. The folks who are full of love for everyone because they’re full of Jesus. Beautiful are those who preach the good news.

So. Are you beautiful? I ask You to gaze deep into God’s face and ask Him. If you’re not, He alone can transform you into the beauty you want to be. If you are, keep spreading that beauty. You’re making a difference, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

As for your share of the cosmetics industry, I really don’t care. And I’m not so sure that God cares. I think He just wants your insides to be the most beautiful part about you!

Be blessed. And tell someone you love them.

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Stand by Me

Sometimes for me, there will be a moment in time that it seems God is highlighting something for me to look at. You know how, in photographs, everything will be blurred but the one thing you’re supposed to be seeing? Well, it’s a bit like that. I had a moment like that yesterday. The image is seared on my brain and heart, and the significance has churned within me, so write I must.

I have the privilege of being in a group of ladies who are in ministry and help lift one another up. Ministry is tough. Rewarding, but difficult, nevertheless. So often, women in ministry give and give until they have nothing left. Then they give some more. This group is a safe place to meet Jesus with our empty cups and get an overflowing refill.

Yesterday, I was at a retreat with these precious ladies. Close to the end of the meeting, our speaker/preacher/teacher had been praying over anyone who asked and things were winding down. We were chatting, worshiping, absorbing and had formed a loose semi-circle. In the midst of that, one of her team members approached her. And I witnessed one of the most touching scenes ever.

There is a height difference, yet they were wrapped in an embrace. I am a curious (nosy) person. I tend to people watch. I had seen the activity before the meeting started. Much preparation and prayer went into this retreat. They had given all they had. So to me, it was obvious this was a joyous embrace at what God had done in our time there. The shorter woman had her hand on the taller woman’s head, praying fervently. I saw so much love. Love for God and each other. It was exhaustion, exhilaration, excitement. And to me, it was a true picture of what God means for our friendships to look like.

Friendship. It’s a weird subject. I have 708 friends on Facebook. I would have more if I accepted all my friend requests. But, those people aren’t all my friends. I don’t even know some of them!

I have a solid circle of friends. Friends who I know have my back. I have acquaintances that probably refer to me as a friend, but they only see what I choose to allow them to see. I have ministry friends, who are a different sort of friend altogether! They get it. Even when they don’t get me. 😁 And then I have Amy.

Amy and I met six years ago at Harris Teeter. She was my supervisor (for a short while). God saw fit to create a connection. He used something in me to reach Amy in a new, exciting way. And a friendship was born. Then we became best friends. As life’s circumstances have changed, so has our friendship. We now are more like sisters and often get mistaken as such. God blessed me immensely the day He allowed me to meet her and I’m utterly thankful.

But. We live in a fallen world. And friendship has been twisted and skewed. More than once, Amy and I have been mistaken for a couple. I try to be quick to correct the error (most of the time 😬). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “but it would be okay if you were a couple!” No. Pushing the issue of homosexuality aside, because that’s not a subject I choose to tackle today, it wouldn’t be okay if she and I were a couple. It would cheapen the precious friendship we share.

Amy is my confidant, my prayer partner, my encourager. Sometimes she knows me better than I know myself. When the two of us are praying about a thing, I can always feel God’s power multiplied. (Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:19) Her presence in my life means more to me than I can express.

I know what some of you are thinking. Yes, I adore my husband. He comes before Amy. God, Keith, kids, everybody else.

Look at a couple of the most known friendships of the Bible. Jonathan and David. Ruth and Naomi. These were tight friendships. They weren’t going out for coffee once a month and doing an online Bible study together. They were altering their lives for one another. In today’s culture, they are odd, weird, strange, “gay.”

But. What if. What if that’s exactly what God designed us for?

Close relationship.

Life is hard friends. And it normally doesn’t go as expected. The friends I started this blog with? Well, later that day, one of them had a medical episode. The other one is medically trained. Thank God! But, to watch her jump into action for this woman she loves was amazing. She was shifting roles from friend to medical professional so fast if you blinked you would miss it. Her medical training gave her the expertise she needed to handle the situation. Her relationship with her friend gave her the love and authority to say “No! You’re not okay. Do as I tell you to do!” Because the relationship and love were well established, her friend complied.

We need friends! We all need a safe place to land. If you don’t have a friend, try praying and asking God to show you who needs your friendship. And be prepared. Relationship is always messy. But it’s always worth it.

Two are better than one,because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

By the way. I don’t actually know the relationship between those two women I wrote about. I don’t know how long they’ve known each other, how long they’ve been friends, how they met. But what I do know is the Lord has given them a very special bond. I feel so blessed to have witnessed it.

Also. Yesterday was best friends day!

Be blessed and tell someone you love them. And find you a friend if you don’t have one!

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Where’s My Baby Doll?

So. I had a rough week. It doesn’t matter why I had a rough week. What matters is how amazingly I handled it. Oh. Wait. Nevermind.

I’m pretty sure I told Amy a dozen times I was going to start carrying a baby doll and acting crazy so no one would speak to me. Very spiritually mature of me, right?

Because I needed the reminder that we can’t always be at the top of our game, I googled “depression in the Bible” and came up with a few guys who handled their rough weeks almost as well as I handled mine.

We all know the story of Jonah. God said, “Go to Ninevah and tell them about me.” Jonah said, “Nope. They’ll kill me! I’m taking a boat to anywhere in the opposite direction!” He did. And God sent a storm. The dudes on the boat figured out it was Jonah’s fault they were all going to die and asked him what they should do. He told them to throw him in the ocean. They did and God had prepared a big fish to swallow him. He hung out there for a few days before he repented, then the fish puked him onto dry land. God told him again to go to Ninevah. This time he obeyed!

Then, we have Elijah. Elijah was pretty awesome. God had just used him to show that baal was completely powerless and…well…dead. But, then Jezebel threatened his life and he was just done. D-O-N-E. He even told God to take His life. He went and hid in the mountains! God sent an angel to tend to him, then God met him there Himself. After that, Elijah was able to go on.

At last, we have David. Yes, David, man after God’s own heart. David, who had killed tens of thousands. David, who would become king. Before he became king, the current king, Saul was not happy with him. In fact, Saul was trying to kill David. David got so scared, he faked being crazy and went and hid in the caves! (See. If David can fake being crazy, why can’t I?).

So let’s get back to me. This morning, I felt myself spiraling downward. I knew this wasn’t good. So I reached out to my precious prayer warrior friend Beth. I knew she would know just what to say. And she did! She reminded me of a few truths I had forgotten.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 NLT

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 KJV

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT

Keeping our eyes on Jesus really is the key. Just ask Peter. He saw Jesus walking on the water and he was so excited he asked if he could join Him. Jesus said yes. Peter stepped out of the boat and started walking. Then, he looked down. Oops. As soon as he quit looking at Jesus and started looking at the waves, he started sinking.

Well, that’s truly what happened to me this week. God spoke a very special word to us on Sunday. Then, just as the Bible promises, all hell broke loose. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The enemy was after me and my mind was where he attacked. He had me convinced of things that had no basis in truth, only in fear. And, he was doing a fabulous job until Beth used God’s truth’s to turn me around. We prayed together, I cried (a lot), she encouraged me, and we ended the conversation with me being refilled with God’s strength for the journey.

So. How are you doing? You need to borrow my baby doll or find David’s cave? Or are you doing okay? Either way, I’d like to equip you with some of my favorite verses for spiritual warfare, because we truly are in a fight for our lives – and for the lives of others.

No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 54:17

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Eph. 6:11-17

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Luke 10:19

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Rev 12:11

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shallmount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 2 Chronicles 20:15

Be blessed and tell someone you love them. Now, get out there and fight!

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