Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Celebrate Life

Some days blend in with all the rest, and some have an anticipated excitement because it's a day of celebration or remembering. On February 22nd in 2009, I fully surrendered my heart and life to Jesus. In that moment in time, everything changed. Immediately, it felt like a ton of bricks—the burdens of a lifetime—had been lifted off of me. For days, I walked around with a freedom and thankfulness I had never known before. 


As time went on, I realized that the first step in surrendering is just that: I've woken up every day since then and realized I must choose daily to surrender my life and my all to the One Who rescued me. Some days are easier, and some days I want to crawl back in bed and have a do-over. With each day, God's mercies are fresh and new; He is always there, whether I feel Him close by or not. 


Compared to living in darkness and the pain of sin, there is no way I'd go back. Having my Father God's guidance and protection is far better than the mess I had made of my life in a few short years. Having Jesus as my deliverer, restorer, and friend has changed the way I process this temporary world and the pain that goes along with it, and the joy I know we can have NOW and into eternity. Having the Holy Spirit's comfort, counsel, strength, and help has poured purpose and passion into a soul once saddened by depression, substances, and loneliness. 


This journey of faith is not for the faint of heart or those comfortable with routine and the Sunday-morning box of religion. God has shaken me out of complacency and the norm on many occasions. On the other side of those difficulties were lessons I couldn't learn any other way. Jesus had to be my focus and the center of my affections. Dependence on anything else was shifting and unstable. We are all searching for this, whether we realize it or not. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Hebrews 13:8, NLT) He is the stability we long for.

 
We were created by God, to do the will of God, and to return to God. The evil one works tirelessly to keep us from returning to our Father. Once your eyes are open to the Truth and your heart has been saved from the tragic demise of separation from God, nothing in this world or out of this world can separate you from His love. My goodness, what a love! Enjoy your day, and remember to celebrate Life. 



Saturday, September 26, 2015

Irritable and Difficult to Console

Yes, that can be me at times. Irritable and Difficult! But those were the possible side effects on the hospital printout after our daughter's ER visit. She had a few colds and the stomach bug that month. That particular day she started really hurting--holding her chest and heart. I didn't want to act drastically if it wasn't serious; but we decided to take her once my husband got in from work and couldn't console her either. 
 
We had excellent attention at Magnolia. The doctor that night was thorough and kind. The EKG was good, and other tests were negative. It was the chest x-ray that showed bronchitis and pleurisy. I didn't know you could have bronchitis without coughing and wheezing; or that it felt like knives stabbing as she breathed. 
 
As there always is one, here's the rest of the story...
We were trying to go over spelling words that afternoon. She had been in a bad mood that morning. (I overlooked it because we all have mornings like that sometimes, and it's really rare for her.) It carried over after school and was like pulling teeth to do her 2nd grade homework. I used about all my patience, and had to really get on to her. It escalated, she was mean and upset, and I prayed through it as much as possible. We had limited time before bedtime routine. I could only think "I can't have her acting and talking to me like this when she's a teenager--I've gotta do something!" So the spanking had to come. It must have hurt me more than her. I went into the next room to cry. She quickly became more upset and irrational. 
 
Fast forward to the emergency room bed--we had an answer, we had meds for a solution, and we knew to be aware of side effects. That sweet girl mentioned the getting in trouble and the spanking with a respectful attitude and a smile on her face. She knew she had gone too far and had to be punished. I knew I had done it out of love, as painful as it was. It lightened the serious moment, and all was well between us; she loved me and I loved her.

The next day, I told my mom the why behind what brought on the near hyperventilation that Thursday evening...then the severe breathing pain and ER visit. I didn't realize she was still so out of whack from an earlier steroid shot in the week. So now she was being pumped full of more steroids to fight the inflamed lungs, and I was prepared for the list of side effects...kind of. 


So as I finished writing this, it was another night of many with my daughter waking between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m. Sometimes you've just got to go through those irritable days, inconsolable meltdowns, and restless nights for a season. What can be so tiring and draining can also be reminders of what you're so thankful for in life. Wherever you are now in this season, remember that this is a moment in time, either used for a teaching moment, or for gratitude for lessons already lived out and learned. 


"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, NIV)

"There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven--" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, AMP)


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

10 Years in the Making

It was most every girl's dream. The moment was perfect, the surprise unexpected, the love tangible. I had asked for our anniversary dinner to be at the Chop House. I hadn't thought much past a good meal. (Getting my watch battery changed last week, I did glance at the sparkly jewels illuminated in the showcases. 'But I like costume jewelry,' I thought to myself; 'its bling suits me just fine.' I hadn't even mentioned to my husband that I was at a jewelry store to get my watch going again.) As dessert came out, I thought it was unusual that the waitress stood behind me. Then I saw it. The prettiest little wrapped box with a poofy pink ribbon. I guess the chocolate dream brownie was there, too, but I was in that moment of Wow and Surprise and completely forgot about dessert.

I opened the 10 year anniversary gift, and must have said 'Oh my goodness!' half a dozen times. A few waitresses watched and shared in my moment of pure delight. I had not expected or (thought I) wanted a pretty, shiny ring for this special occasion...but the girl in me took it all in, savoring the time and the gift. When I see this special ring of yellow and clear diamonds, I not only think about it representing our years together, but also the special times Kelly has shown love in surprising, unexpected ways.

Marriage is a really wonderful thing. I was way off base years ago when I wanted someone to complete me, romance me, and be my everything. I didn't know back then how hard it was to want a great marriage, then be constantly committed to maintain it. Things will get out of balance, as life will do. But, when God began to restore our marriage and we came into agreement with Him--we made a commitment to keep seeking Him and purposely make time to get away and draw closer to God and each other.

February is our anniversary month. Valentine's Day is conveniently in the middle of our Love Month. It's also when we travel to a weekend marriage retreat and reconnect and prioritize. I used to call this Kim Season, because it's after deer and ducks, before turkeys and boating, and right in the midst of fishing. My sweet husband finally said, "Every season is Kim Season!" That's true I guess; and I am learning to enjoy the seasons that God blesses us with in life.

After the stunning surprise of my sweet anniversary gift, a waitress came up to us and said she hoped to find a husband like that one day. I realized that many of us girls search for someone to create moments like I had just experienced, often (and unrealistically) in a man who will adore us and sweep us off our feet--continually. As wonderful as my husband is, those fantastic moments are rare--just like the diamonds in a ring. We mostly live life in the day to day tasks, the mundane, the responsibilities that go with family, work, and community. It's when we are completed and filled with the LOVE of GOD--and are joined in a holy covenant with our spouse--that we can really enjoy each other's differences and appreciate the unity of marriage. It took a long time to get to this place, but now I see: my husband is a blessing, a great marriage is the desire of my heart, jewelry is nice, but God is enough.

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33, NKJV)





Friday, January 9, 2015

My man has stepped up...now what?

I have rolled this thought around for a while wanting to write and encourage some very special people out there. Whether you are the girl struggling to keep it all together, or the guy who has fought change, you are that special one. If you have endured through the lonely, hard days, you are that special one. If you know there's got to be more than what you've been living, you are that special one. And if none of this applies to you, but you see lots of dysfunctional people around, you are that special one. This post originated while thinking about the society we live in today. Families are under attack. Marriage seems to be an option some throw around lightly. Children are bombarded with media and entertainment unlike any other time in history. Our very identity and purpose for being alive have been skewed and the scales covering our eyes make things blurry and gray. This is all opposite of the goodness of God. There is absolute Truth (without this deception of it being relevant to the time and place we live.) God does not change.


With this being said, I want to share how God got my attention, saved my life, my husband's life, and restored our marriage to something more beautiful than I ever thought possible. I grew up going to church most Sunday mornings. It was a comfortable place, and I liked routine. Even with good intentions, there was always some shame associated with going. I inevitably made my mother late every week and she likes to be early everywhere. Still, it always made me feel good when we would go out to eat Sunday dinner after church, knowing I had been that morning. I always heard the Christian life was about a personal decision we make. Yet I had blinders on for years because I equated "personal" with things we don't talk about--things we keep private (kind of like your social security number and other personal information.) The thing I realize now is church and religion were only about information to me...it had not yet become revelation to me.


I had up's and down's like any person alive. I tried to make sense of life and purpose by searching for identity...in all the wrong places. As a child, I was ok for a while in my family's identity. But somehow, I always felt a little odd or out of place. I searched for fulfillment in friendships, education, boyfriends, cars, clothes, shacking up, drinking, and eventually drugs. I share those details at times, but what I was living in was sin. There's no need to justify any of the things I chose to do; I was separated from God and in a slow, downhill spiral. The devil didn't care that my first wine coolers at 15 took another 15 years to escalate to much more alcohol, drugs, and a suicide attempt. Each one of us has God Potential, so satan will try to destroy our souls to keep us from re-connecting to our heavenly Father.


Even after divorce, even after addiction, even after cycles of anti-depressants, even after years of wanting what I wanted, God still had a good plan--a God Plan--for me. When my husband and I had been married for a year, we found out I was going to have a baby. There was a shift in my purpose, my identity. Having our precious daughter is how God spoke to my heart and wooed me to Himself. It's really a fabulous story. My new love between parent and child mirrored the love between Father and me. Regardless of how I had run from Him, denied Him, argued with Him, broke His heart with my rebellious, calloused heart...He pursued me.


I chose Jesus. I actively choose Him every day. It took a while for His love and fruit to start popping out in my life, but they blossomed because I was so hungry to know Him and His Word. In those early days, my husband did good for a while, then went on selfish tangents of whatever he wanted to do. I was angry in the beginning. Not because of some spiritual holiness, but because he could go out and get drunk and high "with no responsibilities", and "I had a baby to protect." (Of course, that was not accurate on either of our parts.) Kelly had a battle raging inside I didn't understand until a few years later; I needed to get myself right before I was really a protector for our child.


Much later I heard my husband say that I was a constant reminder of the failure he felt he was. I was quick to point out his mistakes from the past month when he'd walk through the front door. It usually happened after he had been doing good that day. He felt like I would tear him apart whether he was doing right or wrong, so what was the point?! Meanwhile, I had started back to church and took our daughter to the nursery there. I needed some grown up time and a break from constant baby stuff. I was coming out of a pit of self-isolation. I was becoming so hungry for change--and for the Word-- that I began to focus more on what God needed to do in me than in my husband. I remember the week God dealt with me about being consumed with changing Kelly, and I needed to leave that in God's hands and trust Him. I asked God to make me pleasant. (I actually begged Him, because I was really obsessed with my own thoughts and feelings.) My dear husband describes that as the week I stopped nagging him. Whatever words you put to it, God was dealing with both of us...appealing to our hearts as a man and woman. God did draw us closer to Himself. He did restore our marriage. The thing is, we each had to choose God first--completely and foremost.

 

My strong desire to change, to love God, and to seek His will for my life has bloomed into a divine love affair. An exciting, new Life abounds through the mercy, love, and grace of our Almighty God. There's no denying that marriage is one of the most difficult relationships we have. There's also no denying it is one of the most fulfilling. To trust on this level, to commit yourself to the other, to shower mercy when you both know it's undeserved--what a beautiful picture of marriage, and our Lord Jesus and Father God.


So as the title of this shows, my man did step up. He did choose to put God first. (I do want to say that I realized early on I was accountable to God; I had to do what was right regardless of what my husband chose to do.) I did become more pleasant, with God's help. I let the Word of God fill me up and transform my thinking. I began to see the Fruit of the Spirit abounding in my life and in our home. I was addicted! [You know what I mean if you've experienced this peace after living in chaos, and this joy after living in hopelessness.] My husband was drawn to this new hope I had found, this new Life I had encountered with Jesus. I quit making him feel so bad about himself on purpose and allowed God to have His way with me, and with my husband. When my focus changed, everything else got clear.


If you can relate to any of this, God may be dealing with you about change in your life. To you sweet girls out there praying for your man to step up and be the leader in your home, that is a God-given desire. I say pray with all the fervency you can, because you are possibly fighting for his soul and the souls of your children and family and anyone he has influence on. I also want to say prepare yourself for when your man changes. Study now how to be the best wife to him. Put it into practice today, even if he is still in the same old deadly cycle. Don't be caught off guard like I was when your man is ready to step up and you must take your place. Not as a second-rate member in your union, but as the great helper God has created you to be! We are divinely created, uniquely different. Don't fall into a power struggle. When your man steps into who God has called him to be, you will be taken care of. And remember to continually pray for him; he is under assault with a vengeance from our great adversary. You can pray for your man like no other person on the planet. Wherever you are on this journey, let God be your Source of strength. He will never disappoint. You will become so passionate about your walk with Him that others will be drawn to what you've discovered. Enjoy your journey, and each gift of today.






Monday, November 24, 2014

I Choose Joy

I like to write about joy these days. I like to say out loud: the joy of the Lord is my strength, and, may the God of all hope fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him--then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. It's because of experiencing the flip side of hope, joy, and peace that I so adoringly speak these words very often now. It's because I remember those days of constant, underlying uneasiness, of dread, shame, anger, fear, resentment, hopelessness, etc., that I now embrace this peace and joy today. 
 
Don't get me wrong. I still have times I'm utterly disgusted with my "human-ness." I have days that are difficult and hard. I have mood swings. Sometimes it's predictable; other times it hits from nowhere. It can stem from the pressure of a busy season. Sometimes it's the basic physiology of being a female. The thing I like to remind myself is that the good days far outweigh the bad days. Even in the harder days, I search for goodness in the details of whatever is going on. Whether it's the storm brewing on the outside or the battle raging inside, there is still a calm, peaceful place to be found when God is your center. 
 
Of all the power, counsel, comfort, help, strength, advocacy, and interceding--which is what each believer has through the Holy Spirit--I stay first and foremost amazed at the joy we can experience (despite circumstances!) All the grasping I did to try and force some happiness was futile those days before salvation. No wonder! I tried on my own. How exhausting to even think we can control things in our life!
 
I want to encourage anyone who understands that heaviness of heart, that unexplained feeling that something will go wrong, or that underlying sadness that just shouldn't be there. First and foremost, you must be born again. (see John 3:3, as Jesus answered these questions for Nicodemus) If you are born again, but often battle depressed feelings or undercurrents of sadness or unrest, God is your ever-present source of help. Maybe it's hormones, and a doctor's wisdom could help. Maybe it's diet, and you know what to do but keep making unwise choices. I would say (from experience) that if you still just have an unhappiness about you, it's quite possible that you are grieving the Holy Spirit. 
 
Ephesians 4:30 in the Amplified Bible says not to grieve, offend, vex, or sadden the Holy Spirit of God. When you read the next two verses it lists things that will grieve Him (like bitterness, indignation, wrath, rage, bad temper, anger, animosity, quarreling, brawling, clamor, contention, slander, evil-speaking, malice, ill will, or abusive, foul, polluting, blasphemous language.)
If you're a believer, you have the Spirit of God living on the inside of you. Some of us habitually and constantly think, say, watch, and do things that are grieving our inner Spirit. 
 
May you be encouraged to think about your choices, think about where your life is headed, think about what's been on your mind, think about how you talk, and be guided by the Holy Spirit to make eternity your focus so you can truly enjoy here and now. God bless you!

 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Check THAT Off Your List

Lists. For my fellow list-makers out there, how do we get it all done without those little sticky notes and the magnetic notepad on the fridge--just waiting for things to be written down and accomplished in a day or a week. I tried memory for a while, and found that I floated from one project to another without getting much of anything done. Or, I could easily become legalistic about "my list," and not get the most important things done because of trying to get stuff checked off for the day. I could easily tend to feel good about getting my list all done by the end of the day, or feeling lousy if it's not all checked off. 
 
So here's another lesson on balance and self-worth: God must bring the balance, and I must take self out of it. I'm not more loved if my day is super productive. I'm not a failure if I wasted more time than I should have. Worth and value do not come from things accomplished, but from the love of Jesus that resonates in our lives as the driving force of who we are and what we do. It's really not about us. It is about how we choose to use this time we've been given. It is all about Jesus, and what He can do in and through us
 
Someone in your life today may need to be told they are loved, simply for who they are and not what they do. Children need this so they don't feel like only grades or sports or activities give them value. Adults need this because we often place value on strengths, talents, and what we have or get accomplished. 
 
You are God's prized possession. Out of all creation, you are His masterpiece. Just read Ephesians 2:10, or better yet, verses 1-10, to see for yourself how you are made alive in Christ. In Him, you are a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come. He couldn't possibly love you any more (or less) depending on how your day is...He IS love! And He loves you completely now and perfectly always because He created you and sees what you can and will be when He is your center. Have a great day, productive in the love of Christ that overflows from a heart that is rooted and grounded in Him!
 
"We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed." (Proverbs 16:1-3, NLT)

"You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail." (Proverbs 19:21, NLT)

"God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." (Ephesians 2:8-10, NLT)



 
 
 

Friday, August 15, 2014

'tis the Season

In the back corner of our bedroom, there's a candle sitting beside some family pictures and a lamp. When I open or close the blinds that surround the small sitting area there, I can smell that candle even when it's not lit. I don't think I've burned it since last fall; it probably has a name like Pumpkin Spice or Autumn Medley. But I've noticed that when I'm near it, the smallest whiff takes me back to memories of cooler weather, football season, grilling out, beautiful leaves, and an overall feeling of welcome familiarity. 
 
In learning to enjoy each day and each season, God is teaching me a great thing. As He often does, the lesson actually began with a question: what are you waiting for to be happy? The word could be happy, or satisfied, or content, or enough, or to enjoy life, etc. We each fill in our own blank, and we ask our own question along life's way. 
 
I began this joy-journey (learning to have joy despite up or down circumstances) and I've had to become keenly--often, painfully--aware of what steals my joy. There are a lot of predictable, general things that are potential joy-stealers. Therefore, I must stay equipped to fight those attacks. 
 
I've found that when I'm prepared for these enemy attacks because of the season or struggles I'm in--and he CAN'T get me rattled as he once did--I'll have strange, weird things happen. I've actually laughed out loud before, knowing the devil was throwing what he could at me. The difference is, I'm a new creation in Christ now. I know who I am in Christ (so my own weaknesses don't really matter that much any more.) I know that if I say I trust God and I have faith in Him, it must be put into practice--so why constantly worry, fear, dread, feel insecure, or keep a record of wrongs?
 
The first part of 2 Corinthians 2:15 says, "Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God." (NLT) May the fragrance of each of our lives be such that when life adds heat, or things seem great at the moment, or there's a lot of turmoil around, we are the same. This can only be so when Jesus is our center. We are ever-changing. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. We need His stability. He desires our intimate, all-in relationship, and our fulfilling the purpose He created us for--long before we were at this place and time.