“Who Do You Say That I Am?”

I had the privilege of babysitting my 19 month old grandson last night so mom and dad could have a break. It was a much needed respite for a mind that has been contemplating some pretty heavy stuff as of late. I made him waffles on my animal shaped waffle maker, much to his delight. We played toy guitar solos together, put together a puzzle, rode stick horses, and read the favorite Dr. Seuss book “Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You?”Then Pop Pop got the idea of building a fire in our fire pit on the back patio as the sun was setting. Such a beautiful night in the late summer of my neck in the woods. After a good 2 hours of chasing my sweet little man, I held him by the fire with his blanket and tried to get his mind off of running all over the yard. I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “I’m Trying to Catch a Baby Bumblebee”, and any other kiddie song I could think of. If I took a break, he would promptly tell me “Again”. So singing it again was at hand. We ended up on the song “Jesus Loves Me” and I was reminded of an early toddler theology lesson I used to teach my kids when they were his age. “Hey Ben, look at the moon. Do you see the moon?” He’s quite the talker, “Yes”, he replied. “Hey Ben, do you see the star over there?” “Yes”. “Do you know who made the moon?” a pause… “God did can you say God?” He’s quite the little parrot, “God”. “What about the star? Who made the star?… That’s right God did. Can you say God did” Ben “God did”. Then it hit me the final part of the theology for toddlers lesson I taught my own babies, “Ben, do you know who made Ben?… God did. Just like the moon and stars that are so special. So are you. You are so special to Grandma and to God.” Lesson over, he says “Grass” pointing to our yard a few feet away, and a squirm, That boy wants to run in the grass. No time for this watching a fire, stars, moon, and toddler theology with Grandma. Time to GO!

I’ve started up a Bible study with a group of ladies called WOW- Women on Wednesdays. We are going through a book by The Kendrick Brothers called, “Defined- Who God Says You Are”. I’ve wanted to read this book for a few years, just haven’t had the time. A few years ago I did the video/ Bible study series so I kind of know what it’s about, a topic that is vital, especially to me. “Who God says I am.”

I grew up in church. I’m thankful for that. My parents did their best and I know they loved me greatly, but things were very hard for a lot of my first 21 years. As some would say, “There’s a lot of water under that bridge”. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned the hard way. But in the middle of all that, I believed things about God and myself that have been incorrect, and I’ve had to learn both from my own relationship with God, friends encouragement, and professional counseling for the past 4 years that I have viewed my world through distorted lenses for a very long time. Thus the need for daily reaffirmation of who I really am, who I am in Jesus.

This morning as I opened my “Defined” book it referenced a verse from the Bible that I looked up. Matthew 16:15-18. I have read that verse several times and in my Bible I had a note that I liked it in the Message version. So I looked it up there.

“He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

A few words jumped off the page at me. “And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.” The accounts of Peter’s life before Jesus rose again and the day of Pentecost were anything, but a steady rock. He seemed to be a jump before you think, speak with out contemplating, impulsive kind of guy. And Jesus defines him at that moment in that conversation with a definition that I’m sure puzzled him. “Peter, You are a rock. You are stable, steadfast, impenetrable, solid… ROCK. That is who you really are.” And just like I explained to Ben last night that God made the moon, the stars, and Ben all with a word. When Jesus speaks who you are, that is who you are.

I have let so much define me for so many years, but really what matters is not what my experiences have said I am. It’s not what my own feelings about myself say I am. It is what God says that I am. That is what He spoke and created in me from the moment He told me who I am, who I really am, when He created me years ago. At times I understand what this means, other times I do not. Just like my little man probably didn’t get the depth of Grandma’s toddler theology time last night. But that’s ok. He and I both have a lifetime to learn these things and an eternity to experience the truth of what God has spoken about us when He said that we are “Chosen and dearly loved” by Him.

A Beautiful Mind—A Mind Made New

Life has it’s way of leaving scars on us. No one is exempt. We may like to pretend like we all have it all together and put up a pretty facade, but behind the good exterior is an inside that has had it’s share of struggles. Some scars come because we jumped right into a hurtful situation feet first with eyes wide open. Some scars come because good intentions did not work out and situations were more than anyone could fix. To be a player in that type of play is tragic in many ways, but God… He has a plan to work all things out for our good, even the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Psalm 147:3

Last week I found myself contemplating life’s issues and suffocating with anxiety. As I prayed and asked God to deliver me from the anxiety and the physical sensations that go along with that, I shot an honest assessment of my feelings up to Him. “God, I hate my mind…” There are times in battle that it seems victory is far away. That pretty well summed up my situation at that point, but deep inside the still small voice spoke in a whisper, “You have a beautiful mind”. Though my mind may have scars from times past, scars point to something greater, Healing. Though there may be remnants of the hurts that still need for God’s hand to touch, there has already been so much He has already healed. So my mind, with it’s struggles and sometimes pain, is actually a display of what God can do for someone who has fought a long, hard battle on the inside.

It’s been a long, long time since I have seen the movie “A Beautiful Mind”, and to be honest, I barely remember it. Except for the plot which was about a mathematician, John Forbes Nash Jr., suffered with a psychiatric disorder, schizophrenia. He fought a long hard battle inside his mind, and then finally went on to do extraordinary things in his field of mathematics earning awards in that field. Reading bits and pieces of his story on Wikipedia today has made me think about the struggle we all face, and the tenacity we all need. I, however, fight my battle with an advantage that I am unsure if Mr. Nash knew about. The healing power of the blood of Jesus, poured out for me.

John Forbes Nash JR. And his wife Alicia

There is a popular worship song that comes to mind. It’s wording is fairly easy since it repeats ALOT! “Surrounded”- “This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you.” Some versions throw in “At your table”. There is a place that I can take my mind as it tries to run the show for me with fear, anxiety, depression, etc. That place is at the table that God has prepared for me. It is in His presence that I am surrounded by His peace and wholeness can be found. It is there at His table that I am strengthened to get up, set my mind on what is True, Noble, Right, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, and Praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8) i.e. Get my eyes on Jesus, and It is at His table that I am made new by Him renewing my mind. 1 Corinthians 12:1-2.

This morning as I sat down at His table, my time with God in His word, I contemplated some hard memories that have recently hit me of days gone by. It was there that I sat saying, “God I know, You have said, “I have a Beautiful Mind” because Your word assures me that I have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16.) I can’t imagine a mind more beautiful than His. I pictured the blood of Jesus pouring over my mind again and again, calming the anxiety, healing the hurts, restoring the broken. Because that is exactly what Jesus does. He makes all things new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) He is never late concerning His healing, His strength, His power. He is always right on time. At times, I may not feel all the feels about the truth of God over my situations, but I can rest assured that what He started He will complete, and that includes the transformation of my mind into what He had prepared for it to be all along, “A Beautiful Mind”.

The God Who Sees

I got to do the Grandma thing yesterday. SO MUCH FUN!! My grandson is about 1 1/2 years old. So he’s trying to talk and full of personality. Watching him reminds me of his dad, my oldest son. If there’s one thing his daddy liked as a 1 1/2 year old and that my grandson likes too, it would be attention. His daddy refused to play in his room. Every toy he had was brought out to the area I was and played with. Sometimes the mess would be overwhelming and I would wish he would play in his room just once, but NO DICE! For the longest time I thought one of his favorite phrases was, “Look MOM!” Then yesterday, I noticed how much my grandson loved it to realize I was paying FULL attention to him. If I sat down for a second, he would grab my hand. Time to play! There is nothing like having all or Grandma’s attention on you to know you’re valued and you’re loved. The more I thought about this the more I remembered that all four of my kids as they grew just wanted Mom to see them, to see their accomplishments, their needs, their likes or dislikes, etc. There is such security in being seen.

Watching my grandson play at a local nature center.

This morning as I spent time with God I thought about all this and then my mind went to the value of being “seen” by God. As God’s children, there is nothing like knowing that He has His full attention on you. He’s always there, God with us! He refers to us/God’s children as “the apple of His eye”. Zechariah 2:8. Jesus talked about how God knows when a sparrow falls to the ground, and we are “worth more than many sparrows”. Then of course, our value in God’s eyes is worth so much more than we can ever fully imagine. He was willing to pay the ultimate price for us, Jesus’ death on the cross, so we could be what He desired so greatly, His Own!

But alas, we live on planet Earth and I’ve got to admit there have been times in my life that I have wondered just how much God was seeing me. Sometimes life’s troubles, circumstances, my personal screw ups, or things done against me have left me wondering, “God did you see that?!?!” “God have you forgotten me?!” Doubt creeps in, and instead of going to God I froze under the weight of it. The thing I love about God is He does not freeze! He’s the One who may have 99 in safety yet still goes after the one!

Genesis 16 has the account of Hagar, Sarai’s slave. She was mistreated and abused and finally she ran away into the wilderness. Afraid and alone, God sent an angel to find her in her time of deepest need. Hagar gives this name to the Lord who spoke to her, “You are the God who sees me”. Hagar at her lowest sees that God does see her, both in the good times and the bad.

What a hope! The times of loss, the times of abandonment, the times of sorrow, the times of pain, etc. “God Sees”. Nothing is bigger than His ability to See us and not only see us, but be there. I have to become more and more like my little grandson, always looking God’s way to reassure myself that what He says is true. He’s right there cheering me on during the good times, comforting me during the hard. Always holding me and always being “the God who sees me” because He values me enough to always keep His face towards me, His precious child. He sees me! And know that wherever you are, whatever you have done, He sees YOU! His face is towards you and He wants to give you peace and show you how valued you are!

“An Enemy Hath Done This”

My garden in a good year.

Awww, Summertime! Since my kids are older I find myself with a little more time. As my kids were growing up, summer was consumed with Cousins staying with us for a week, swim lessons, pool cleaning and maintenance, and keeping the peace between siblings as they enjoyed their break from school work, more time to fight… Those days are now a memory and my latest occupier of my time has been gardening. Gardening has been an area of challenge for me through the years. When we moved to our current home, 13 years ago my husband always thought it was a great idea to have a garden, and he really wanted me to think that too. But for some strange reason I had this mental block where I thought I was just no good… Probably the giant weed patch experience we had and the shame it produced in me was the biggest affirmation that I needed to leave gardening to the pros so I did… Fast forward to around 4 years ago, I find myself sitting in a Counselor’s office struggling with some of life’s issues and she looks at me and says, “What do you like to do?” Something that for the life of me I could not find an answer to… “How about gardening?” I replied to her “I did it once and I’m no good.” She replied, “It’s because you haven’t really tried”. And lo and behold she was right! I came home that afternoon and told my husband if he wanted to try to put a garden in I was game to try. I studied youtube videos and web sites, made a gardening board on Pinterest. The love for gardening was born.

Probably one of the things I love the most about gardening is when I am occupied with the manual labor of it, I take time to pray and almost always I think about the different places God talks about gardening in the Bible. Every once in awhile I get behind on my weeding, that’s when the Parable Jesus spoke in Matthew 13 comes to mind. Jesus tells about a man who sowed good seed into a field, and then in the night an enemy comes out and sows weed seeds in the same field. The quote I reflect on is verse 28. I always hear it in the King James Version. It just seems more indignant… “An enemy hath done this”. I get it. Every time I have to pull out one of those weeds, especially the ones that has prickly stems on it, I grit my teeth and think the same. Oh had it not been for the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden!! All this effort would be less sweaty, tiring, and actually less effort all around! ” An enemy hath done this!”

Weed wrapping around my bean plant

Today as I was pulling weeds and grass surrounding my green beans plants I noticed one weed wrapping it’s way around one of the bean bush. I tenderly unwound it. Then the time Jesus spoke in the Bible about weeds choking out the good plant sown in the thorny area. Jesus was talking about our heart’s responses to the word. Sometimes the word lands in a heart that is ready to let it grow. Sometimes the word falls in a heart that life’s circumstances/ worries of this world choke out the good plant. Yep… once again “An Enemy Hath Done This”.

I’ve been praying a lot lately about keeping the main thing the main thing. That is knowing and experiencing God’s love to it’s fullest. It amazes me how sometimes I look at the ground of my heart and think, “Looking good, no weeds, freshly tilled and watered. Good stuff will come out soon.”

Before the Weed invasion…

Other times I look at it and see a weed patch that somehow sprung up ultra fast, not exactly sure how all the weeds got there so quickly, except to understand that “An Enemy Hath Done This”, and If I don’t allow the master gardener, Jesus, to pulls some weeds out of my heart everything that is good will soon be choked out.

Daily maintenance of my heart’s garden, helps to keep it weed free. Especially when it comes to looking at the depths of God’s love. The enemy would like for nothing more than to choke out God’s good love with satan’s weeds of worry, anxiety, depression, anger, or anything else he can throw into the garden of my heart. But Jesus wants for us to have our hearts abounding with His love. Our willingness to participate daily with His heart gardening maintenance is what we need. Daily allowing His word to cultivate our hearts and allowing Him to pull out the lies/ weeds the enemy has sown using the power of His truth. Then His love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and self control are free to grow. Especially His love! Because it is the first seed He sows into my heart, a very tiny seed, but with His care it grows to be the biggest plant in the garden. So big that others can find refuge in it and experience the shade from the harshness of life under the shadow of His love growing in me.

There Be Bears… No Match for Our God!

My neck of the woods that I live in includes around 30 acres that my husband and I own and 80 more next to it that is forestry land. It kind of gives the illusion that we are somewhat secluded when I look out my back window of my house. Earlier this spring my husband and I were taking an occasional evening stroll around the back half of our property. It’s wooded but he mows a nice path around it. This half is what butts up against the Forestry land. While back there we noticed some tracks, not our usual deer track and occasional scat. It was bigger. I noted to him that if I didn’t know better I’d think there was a bear in our woods. I’m a Missouri girl. I know bears are possible, but in my 50 years of living here and spending lots of time on back roads, walking in woods, and camping in state parks, I have NEVER seen a bear in the wild here in Missouri. We joked about how we must have either a really big dog running around or Big Foot is real.

Probably a bear and not Big Foot lol

Fast forward a week… The biggest rumor on the local Facebook pages are “pictures” of a bear spotted digging in someone’s trash about a mile from our house. Our possible Big Foot Evidence more than likely was that bear. Not a happy thought for me because as a lover of the “I Survived” animal attacks series. I had just watched an episode where a Grizzly in the Rocky Mountains had nearly killed a man hiking in the mountains. Needless to say, our strolls through the back half of the property have stopped for a little while.

Bear, a little too close to my neck of the woods…

Each morning when I get up I look out my windows towards the Forestry land and strain my eyes looking for a bear. Then as I contemplate my usual early morning flower and garden maintenance around the perimeter of my house, I think, “What if there is a bear in my yard.” I know the likelihood is slim and the bear is probably more scared of me than I am of him, but the thought goes through my mind. If I let it, I would find myself sitting in the confines of my house with the occasional dash to get into my Jeep to head to town. I would miss out on my usual summer enjoyment of Gardening, fresh air, and sunshine…

So this afternoon I found myself struggling with some anxious thoughts. Nothing about a physical bear. It was more about a “spiritual bear” or you could call it a “lion or tiger or bear Oh MY!” Anything you want to name it, it seems big and it seems ugly. As I was doing some house work and thinking about this “bear” I started thinking about a verse in the Bible about someone being afraid to go out because of a lion. Proverbs 26:13 says “A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!” The sluggard uses it as his excuse to lay around be immobilized. I picture this kind of “Ho Hum…” attitude that the sluggard has with an “oops… can’t go out the door” reply. But sometimes it’s not because we’re lazy that we let the possible lions (or bears) keep us from venturing out of our comfort zone. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid. Maybe we’ve been bit before or watched one too many episodes of “I Survived my animal attack” to step outside our door.

Then it hit me, there was a young man named David that was faced by something ugly and intimidating, a giant and he didn’t cower in fear because he had already taken on a lion and a bear some time before he saw the giant. He didn’t end up the poster boy for the next episode of “when animals attack” He took it to the animals and killed them both. 1 Samuel 17 gives the account of David trying to convince the King he could take on this giant. “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them… The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Gutsy words, but He knew who His God was. David spent a lot of time with God, praying, singing, writing about Him. God later refers to David as a “Man after God’s own heart”. He knew his God and He knew his enemy was no match for his God.

The same goes for me and for you too. It really doesn’t matter what size our Giant has grown to or how intimidating his threats are. The truth is the same God who gave David the strength to kill a physical lion, bear, and Giant. Is the same God that fights for us. No matter how loud the anxiety shouts and the situations loom it will meet the fate as David’s opponents did. Because God rescued David from the hand of the Philistine Giant, He will rescue us from the hand of our enemy as well. Because as Jesus so poignantly displayed on the cross when He died and then rose again from the grave. He considers us to be “after His own heart” as well. He Loves us! Nothing can separate us from that truth.

My Redemption Story

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!…” Revelations 21:5

Fifty years on Planet Earth gives a person a gift of great value, “Perspective”. When I earnestly started my relationship with Jesus back in the summer of 84 at Camp Sharon Church Camp, I felt like a brand new person. I deeply desired to make a 180 degree turn from the direction I was going to the direction Jesus would lead me. I had taken part in the start of My Redemption Story turning from spiritual death to spiritual life. I had no idea that God wanted to not only have me commit my entire life to Him and live in relationship with Him, but He was in the business of restoring or redeeming the things that I had chalked up to being broken forever. And from that point on until present He is still at work in my life redeeming and restoring the things that have been broken or lost along the way.

Forest Gump had it wrong, life isn’t just like a box of cherries. It is like a book, a book with MANY chapters. Or at least that is how I’ve been looking at mine. There’s the childhood chapter, the middle school chapter, the junior high chapter, the high school chapter, college, newlywed, new parent… all the way to where I am now. LOTS of CHAPTERS!!! Some of my chapters have been really enjoyable, others I am glad I survived and got to move on. There have been chapters where I have stood in awe of all the goodness of God in my life. There have been chapters I could not see Him or feel Him near because of the brutality of the storm. Chapter after chapter, and in these chapters there have been things that have happened that I’ve looked at as irreparable and broken.

This is where perspective helps out. When you live long enough to ride high on the good times and crawl through the tough, every once in awhile your remember a past chapter of your life that wasn’t so good. Mistakes were made, friendships lost, hearts broken, etc. but GOD!!! Some of these chapters “I” had the idea of how it should all be played out and my chapter should be written. You know how it is we want the perfect life, no conflict, perfect spouse, perfect kids, and perfect pets… One time scrolling through Facebook or Instagram should clue you in on this because we present our perfect world. But the truth is our chapters in our books are rarely what we thought they should be. Sicknesses happen, death occurs, hearts are broken, conflicts arise, messes are made and our chapter seems to be jumbled and confused. But standing on the hill of perspective looking back on my life I am seeing some things. Things that looked to be destroyed are turned around and as a matter of fact they are better than they were originally. That is how my Redemptive God works. When we allow the Master Author, God to write our stories the way He wants to write them the chapters always end in Redemption, He rescues us from the way it looks to be turning out, He pulls us out of our messes, He makes the broken whole, better than it was before. Our book of our life is an account of all the ways God makes all things new in our redemption story.

The Bible gives the account of an army commander in the times of the prophets of the Old Testament. Through a series of events this man named Naaman went to the prophet Elisha with a request for Elisha to heal Naaman of leprosy, a disfiguring skin disease that leaves irreparable damage and at that time almost always ended in a long slow death isolated from friends and family. Elisha told Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan river seven times for God to heal him of this disease (a great inconvenience). Naaman eventually did what he was told and the Bible records this result, “…his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” 2 Kings 5:14 NIV. Looking at my wrinkles and dry skin on my 50 year old body points out to me what a miracle this was. God did not just give Naaman skin to match the body of whatever age he was. God gave him “New Skin”, “Skin of a young boy”.

It may take some time for us to see the redemption and restoration of some of the chapters of our story. It may take us walking through some inconvenient steps to walk in obedience to God before we see the results. But our God is the God who “Makes all things new” and in time even the chapters of our life that we would rather have locked away in the corner of the recesses of our faintest memories (or honestly forgotten forever would suit them best) God has every intention of taking that horrific thing and giving it “New skin”, a “new chapter in our book”. A chapter that when we get to see how it turns out leaves us standing with our jaw dropped in awe at the God who has not only done miracles in the past, but is still working them in our TODAY! Because He is not finished writing our Redemption Story until we stand before Him face to face in Heaven someday. We can be assured of that and know that the God who started our story won’t stop until He finishes it and everything He finishes is NEW and GOOD!

Shalom- God’s Remedy for Never Enough

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This morning during devotions I felt impressed to spend some time chewing on this verse. The punishment that brought us “peace” (Hebrew “shalom”- wholeness, completeness, soundness.) What Jesus did on the cross has made me whole, complete, sound in my mind as well as my spirit. I have walked in the identity of Never Enough. I am Never Enough for life’s situations. The feeling that I as “Never Enough” was me in my past that tries to haunt me, me in my present that tries to hold me back, and Never Enough in my Future that tries to paralyze me from walking in Christ’s plan. Praise God!! The identity of Never Enough stops at the cross. Because Jesus brings completeness. He is more than enough. I can walk in His confidence knowing that where I fall short He fills to overflowing. He is the God who turns a shortage of wine at a wedding into an abundance of the good stuff with water in clay pots. He is the God who takes a few loaves and fish of a boy willing to give them up and feeds 5000. He is the God who takes what little we have to offer and does exceeding abundantly more than we can ask or think. His Shalom He gives us at the cross makes us complete. Happy weekend you all!

Process- One Step at a Time Toward Freedom

“So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭2:25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭3:7-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There are some things that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Things don’t go as you think they would, life takes turns that surprise the most confident and secure of us shaking us to the core. Then there is the constant nagging of an area of struggle. “Paul’s Thorn in the flesh” played out in our everyday life. The one thing that keeps us on our knees holding on to what we can grasp of Jesus when we can’t seem to see what’s up and what’s down.

I imagine the mood of ancient Israel during the time of its enslavement to Egypt was a combination of these emotions. There was this promise given by God to Jacob. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you and I will surely bring you back again” Genesis 46:3-4 And then there was the reality of their daily life trapped, enslaved, beaten, berated, suffering… somehow the two didn’t seem to go together. But God had a plan.

I’ve been living the Christian life most of my life. I grew up in church, Gave my life to God at a young age. I am one of those read my Bible daily, pray often, regular church goers. But I can honestly say that some of the “good” ideas to help others has been some of the most devastating areas of struggle in my life. Sometimes life doesn’t go like you think it will and instead of being a temporary resident of Egypt for a good cause you end up enslaved, beaten down, and suffering in a place that in your mind was not meant to be like that. “What did I do wrong?” May be the thought you play over and over in your mind. When really you didn’t do anything “wrong” at all. It may feel like you were left for a long term stay in Egypt.

The anxiety and depression I have battled in my life feels just like a long term stay in Egypt with a cruel task master on my back. Now that I admit that I struggle, (an act of being defeated as seen by some in the “Faith” world) I can see just how long the nagging taskmasters of “you’re never enough” and “everything is all up to you” have been driving me with their long mental whips. It’s been quite awhile, and much like the Israelites, I have asked God to step in and fix it all time and time again.

This morning I sat in the quiet of the pre dawn hours reading my Bible and praying thinking of my day ahead and my appointment with my counselor to come in a matter of a few hours When I came across the verses above. It hit me. God sees me. God has heard my cries because of the driving of my cruel task masters that try to tule over me and He is concerned. God sees our struggles. It’s not a disappointment or a surprise to Him. But He also has a plan and provision made for bringing us out of them. Sometimes it may be one by one, slowly, and not exactly how we expected. But He will come. He does not fail. Even though I may view my world through the eyes distorted by what the disappointment in Egypt caused, God sees me as I really am, His. His promise is not to be enslaved by the thoughts of my mind, but to step into His “spacious place” where I, with Him am “more than enough” and “cared for greatly” by Him.

And here’s the main kicker, He is going to show me all of this. Every hour, every minute, every second that I look to Him. It took God to step in a miraculously free the Israelites from their land of oppression. God has already stepped in and purchased my freedom through Jesus. I have to learn how to walk as one who is free, one of freedom’s steps at a time. (Sounds like the power of the P word “Process” Baby! 😬)

https://youtu.be/NieC8KA0EvI

Thorns in My Flesh: Foot Pain and Anxiety

“Foot pain Sucks!” There I said it. As a person who has suffered with foot issues and pain all my life, it kind of feels relieving just letting that out. My earliest memories of heading to the big city from my very small rural hometown was for the very purpose of visiting a foot specialist. My parents saw my need and did their best to provide the best they could for their flat footed child. Which meant orthopedic shoes. They were kind of special when you are 7 or 8, but by the time I hit my teen years I was fairly certain I would rather hurt than wear anything so ugly, bring on the Nikes and Adidas! But as time went on and the pain increased, my willingness to see pediatrist or orthopedic surgeons that specialize in feet increased. It gets old trying to decide if you would rather stay seated or stand on up and work on through the pain. So began my love for Birkenstock anything, Feet Fleet Shoe stores, orthopedic shoe inserts, ankle stretches, an overnight foot splint to help with plantar fasciitis (takes a little getting used to), etc. It’s amazing the lengths I go to so I don’t have to slow down, sit down, and live with a ton of pain… All this being said, The battle against foot pain still goes on and due to pain in both of my feet, I’ve got an appointment with a specialist this week to see if there are any other tricks up his sleeve that can help…

Being a person of faith, and one who believes that God does answer prayers, and that He still heals today, I’ve brought this issue up to God more than once. I’ve asked for the elders of the church to lay hands on me, anoint me with oil, and pray for me more than once as the Bible talks about in James 5:14. I know God can heal my feet, but for now I tend to view them as Paul did his affliction he mentions as his “Thorn in His Flesh”. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Paul asked for God to take it away from him three times and God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” and there is no record of Paul’s thorn ever being removed.

This all came to mind this morning as I have contemplated another couple of “Thorns in my flesh” That seem to stick around, Anxiety and depression. Once again I have found myself going to great lengths to try to keep up with my “self care” regimen of exercise, eating right, prayer, meditation, medication, rest, fresh air, daily confessions of who I am in Christ, etc. Plus the appointments with a counselor… It’s uncanny the parallel between my foot pain and my struggle with anxiety and depression. Probably the thing that sticks out the most is to what lengths I would go to get some relief for both of them. Because whether it’s pain in every step you take or pain in a majority of the thoughts you think, both are uncomfortable and therefore worth being treated the best way you can, self care, spiritually, and with help from the professionals. And just as I have taken my physical foot pain to God and asked for healing, I have done the same with my mind, but I believe part of the reason my struggle has not been totally relieved isn’t because I am doing something wrong. It’s more a matter of God helping me to get a perspective I never had before.

My youngest son has some of the same issues with his feet that I have, sorry son… If he complains of his feet aching, I automatically empathize with him deeply. I’ve been there, as a matter of fact, I’m there now… I can also say that my accepting where I am in my struggles with anxiety and depression, has given me compassion for those who struggle in their mind. I can tell you what little I know that works the best for me to get relief and I can point you to the One who ultimately makes sense out of all the ins and outs of life- Jesus. I know that looking back through the years and seeing the path I’ve walked that His presence and His help is what has made the difference for me, and although I haven’t seen Him come in and zap my mind into always thinking happy thoughts, I have found Him more than enough when I was unable to see straight or find the will to keep getting up and keep going on. In fact, it is in my growing in knowing Him more that I can take the time to stop and appreciate the little things like the changing leaves, my grandson’s smile, laughter with my kids, or the embrace of my husband. All of these are gifts He has given me to show me that it is true, “God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness.” Whether the weakness be the aching of my feet or the struggles in my head, I can confidently say, “God and His grace is enough for me.” and “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13. Because the Evidence of God’s goodness is there, even in our struggles. It’s whether or not we chose to open our eyes to see it.

Orphan No More

Back in the early 90’s the world became aware of the Romanian orphan crisis. I remember, as a college student, surfing channels late at night on my parents TV and stumbling across a news report about it. In 1989 communism fell. Things hidden in the darkness came to light as the world watched news reports of hundreds of abandoned children left in orphanages that were poorly staffed. The bare minimum was done to keep these babies and children alive. I was captured by images of one year old infants in institutionalized baby beds rocking themselves back and forth. There was no one to hold them, no one to comfort them, no one to sing to them, tell them stories, or even call them by name. They had adapted to such cruel circumstances by soothing themselves the only way they knew how. Rocking back and forth with a blank stare on their face.

This morning as I spent my quiet time with Jesus, the image of these children came to my mind. So I open my YouTube app and did a quick search of the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. The first link that caught my eye was a short BBC report of a young man who survived the Romanian orphanage. He was adopted at the age of 11 by an American couple from California. What struck me about his interview was a quote that he said, “I could not adapt to a family environment. My mind was just so used to living in an institution. I was desperate to go back to Romania…” Institution, abuse, neglect… that was all he had ever known. A loving family with his needs being met was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. He talked about how easy it is to spot those who had survived the orphanages. “When you see a grown adult, sitting or standing rocking back and forth or doing something only an institutionalized person would do, you can instantly recognize that person grew up in an orphanage.” The final phrase that stuck with me, “I miss the orphanage. It was my home.” The young man in the report went back to Romania to visit his birth family and he had found that his mother wasn’t able to be the mom he was looking for and he went back to the United States.

Everyone has a past. Everyone has things they wished had never happened or that they had never done. We all are very much like the Romanian orphans of the 90’s. Due to the condition of our hearts, before Jesus, we have become used to the methods to self soothe that we developed through the years (addictions and coping mechanisms), and unfortunately we have let the conditions we came out of become our home, where we feel we belong, deep inside of our hearts. The labels we were given, engrained in us, are what we believe we are. So much so that we find ourselves searching back in where we came from trying to find the missing piece instead of embracing the “New” that Jesus died to give us.

I’ve spent the last week reflecting about my own identity, who I am. It’s not an easy task. Because just as that Romanian man looks at himself as an orphan, at times I tend to view myself as a spiritual orphan, left to my own devices. God speaks to me in His word about how I am to renew my mind, my thoughts, by thinking about the truth of the Word. I am not what I’ve felt like I was. I am who He, God, says I am. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people…God’s special possession…” or as the Passion Translation puts it “But you are God’s chosen treasure…” When God came to my Spiritual orphanage and found me in deplorable conditions, rocking back and forth trying to feel some kind of comfort for my broken and lost soul, God picked me. He took me out, He cleaned me up and put medicine on my wounds, changed my filthy, sin stained, rags out with His beautiful, righteous garments, and in that very moment Zephaniah 3:17 says the One who Delights in me, God, my Heavenly Father “sings” over me, His chosen treasure. God sings…

It is at this point, the truth of us being His treasure, that you and I have to make a choice. Will we accept the gift we have been given, new life, new identity in Christ, or will we wander about unable to take it all in because we cannot shake the image of ourselves that we have seen for so long? Only to find that what we thought was our “home”, our lives without Jesus, was nothing more than a cold and lonely place far from where God, the one who loves us, wants us to be, with Him, held closely by Him.