Tag Archives: Jesus

An Immediate God

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Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit detached from my faith. Sure, I go to church, pray before meals, toss up little “popcorn” prayers throughout my days. But, I’m not involved in any kind of Bible study. I’m not serving in His Name anywhere.  I’m not reading any of my dozen or more devotional books that I have on my bookshelves. I’m not spending any kind of quality time praying and listening for answers. I’m not being still….at all.

One night, recently, I was praying that God would give me the self-discipline I needed to get back into His Word and take time to pray more often instead of filling my days with just “stuff.” I went to bed that night telling God that I needed Him to get me back on track and into more of a routine to make sure that I’m taking the time to slow down and read the Bible and listen to what He has for me. At the time, I thought that was a pretty good prayer. I thought that was what I needed. I went to bed that night determined to “try harder” the next day to spend time with God.

I woke up the next day and got the kids off to school. Before starting the rest of my day, I quickly grabbed my copy of Jesus Calling. If you have this devotional, you know how absolutely amazing it is. If you aren’t familiar with it, I highly recommend picking up a copy. It’s a quick read but each short devotional is filled with amazing insight and guidance.  On this particular morning, God did not disappoint. I started reading the following entry:

Let Me infuse My peace into your innermost being. As you sit quietly in the Light of My Presence, you can sense Peace growing within you. This is not something you accomplish through self-discipline and willpower; it is opening yourself to receive My blessing. (emphasis added)

WHOA! God just used my exact same words! He heard my prayer and gave me an immediate answer. Even though I know that God answers prayers all the time, I was taken aback. He’s answered many of mine over the course of my lifetime. But, this one felt like I was having a dialog with Him. I asked him to help me be more self-disciplined and He answered right away. Self-discipline was the last thing I needed. What I needed was to just sit quietly with Him and open my heart to receive Him and all His blessings.

I decided to dig a little deeper into self-discipline and willpower.

Willpower is defined as; self-control: the trait of resolutely controlling your own behavior.

Self-discipline is defined as;  training and control of oneself and one’s conduct, usually for personal improvement.

The common denominator in these two definitions is control of oneself. This is the exact opposite of what having a relationship with Jesus Christ is all about. Having a relationship with our Savior is about releasing that control. It’s about allowing God to control our steps and guide us in His ways. This is something that is very hard to do, especially in our culture and society. We live in a world where people seek control in all they do. There are even those who panic when they feel they don’t have control. Many of us have come across what is commonly known as a “control freak.” For many of us, that label hits pretty close to home. We have remote controls for TV’s, toys, radios and cars! That’s what we are programmed to do….control things. So, this devotional was more of a challenge than I originally had thought. Give up control? This was not going to be an easy task.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are at least a dozen Bible passages that talk about having self-control. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about here is not just a one time thing. It is something that we need to do everyday…all day. When we wake…hand the day over to God’s will. When we face trials….ask God for His guidance. When we are in conversations…ask God to bless our speech and those that are listening. When we are angry that our children have disobeyed us once again….stop, breathe and ask for God’s mercy and grace to flow through us to them (that’s a hard one for me sometimes). When we have an opportunity to be Jesus for someone…ask God to give us the words THEY need to hear and not just what WE want to say.  Giving up control isn’t going to be easy. Shoot, I’m actually nervous about what that’s going to mean in my life. But, the devotional continues:

You have learned to thank Me for hard times and difficult journeys, trusting that through them I accomplish My best work. You have realized that needing Me is the key to knowing Me intimately, which is the gift above all gifts.

He’s right, you know. He has accomplished some of His best work in my hardest times. Without those tough times, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t be where I am today physically, emotionally and most of all, spiritually. Without His work in my life, I could never grow in my relationship with Him. A relationship that began as an acquaintance but is growing towards intimacy every day.

So, I ask you, who’s in control of your life? Can you give that up and allow God to do “His best work?”  If we open ourselves to receive God’s blessing, there is a whole world to discover that we may never see if we choose to “go it alone.” There is a whole lot we could miss out on if we only bring God along for the ride. The big question is…can we let go enough to let Him drive and allow ourselves to receive His blessing?

Isaiah-58-11

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God Winks…just to let us feel His presence.

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It was June 26, 2012.

The day was a yoga pant-t-shirt-baseball cap kind of day. I got up and got the kids fed before the babysitter arrived. The kids had only been out of school for a few days on summer vacation and were already on my nerves with their constant fighting. I was thankful I had somewhere to be even if it was to be hooked up to a machine for three to four hours at the hospital.

Back story on why I need to be hooked up to a machine twice a week:

Twenty-one years ago I was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of 19 (for those doing the math, I’ll save you the trouble. I’m 41). I was fortunate enough to have found a match amongst my siblings and had a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, my brother’s bone marrow didn’t take as well as they had initially hoped and I developed what’s called Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD). Basically it means that the bone marrow is rejecting and attacking different areas of my body. My eyes (hence, no tears. Read previous post for that story), gastrointestinal system, lungs and skin were/are affected. For 21 years the doctors have been trying to get my body to accept this new bone marrow. Three years ago I headed down to Maryland to the National Cancer Institute to participate in a study about my disease. Apparently, I’m a medical anomaly. Great! *sarcasm* They recommended Photopheresis treatments. So, twice a week I go down to a hospital here and get hooked up to a machine that processes my blood to help stop the rejection. It’s working. I’ve been healthier since starting it. It’s just not something you look forward to doing.

I get down to treatment. My nurses have become my friends and they can tell that I just don’t want to be there that day. They are surprised that I didn’t call in and take a mental health day as I had been doing several times over the previous weeks. Needless to say, I was surprised too. I was in no mood to be there. I went to my corner of the treatment room and started my own pity party. I just wanted them to hook up the damn machine and let me drift off to sleep and make this whole procedure go by faster.  I love my nurses. They try in vain to help me cheer up. I don’t want to cheer up. I want to be healthy. I don’t even remember what it’s like to be healthy! Begin pity party now….

I finished treatment and headed home still lost in my thoughts, trying to remember how I felt before leukemia. It was a futile effort. I was pretty much on auto-pilot all the way home. Then, it hit me. Not a memory of my pre-leukemia days but a Nissan Altima. Right into the driver side of the front of my car. I had come to a stop at a T-intersection a couple of miles from home. I checked both ways before making my left turn. I saw the Altima but thought he was turning. So, I went. *S*M*A*S*H* That was it! The icing on of this proverbial crap cake of a day.  The dude in the other car just kept calling me nasty names and jumping around the intersection like an idiot (guess he’s not hurt). I called the police. Reports were taken, information swapped, yadda yadda yadda. I drove my limping car home and that’s when I broke down. I just sat in my car shaking and crying (see previous post for how THAT makes me feel).

My pastor’s daughter was my babysitter that day and he came to pick her up. He noticed how shaken up I was and offered to pray for me. He prayed that I would feel God’s peace in this situation and that I would see His presence in my life. He left and I walked up the driveway to examine the damage on the car and take a few pictures.  As I was walking up the driveway, something caught my eye. There it was, plain as day, God’s presence. Immediately following was His peace.  Right there, in the middle of my son’s green bean plant that he brought home from school, was God’s wink that said “I’m here. Rest in me and I will give you peace.”

The best part of it was that I checked this plant every single day looking for green beans to show Nathan. I lifted every leaf looking for new growth. Never had I seen this particular leaf. I would have noticed it! I love butterflies. Since I became a Christian butterflies have had special significance to me. They symbolize rebirth and new life. They symbolize my transformation from my old life without Christ to my new life with Him as my guide. God KNEW that this is exactly what I needed right then. God answered my prayer immediately!

I watched this leaf over the course of the next few days. It never looked this clear again. Some days it was hidden behind other leaves that were probably moved by the wind. Other days it was not as brilliantly green and alive as it was that first day I saw it. But, I knew it was there. Just like I know God’s there all the time. Some days He’s hidden by things in our lives that block our view of Him. Some days He’s not as brilliantly seen because our eyes are clouded over with doubt and worry. But, He’s there. He’s always there. You just have to ask Him for that “wink” that says “I gotcha! I’m here!”

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

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I was never a big Ren and Stimpy fan but this song has sadly taken residence somewhere in the deep confines of my brain and it comes out every so often to tell me “Still here!” This morning I shut the front door as my children’s busses pulled away from the house and reveled in the quietness of a home that has been….that has been…”Happy, happy, joy, joy” for the last few months. Darn it! There’s that stupid song! Where did that come from? Crap, now how long is it going to take me to get that back into it’s small little corner of my brain to hibernate for another decade or so? (My apologies now to any of you who also have this song hidden somewhere deep in your memory. You now are experiencing the pain of this redundant song right along with me). If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing this song, I invite you to google it. But, be warned, it will hide somewhere until it can find a way out for the Rest. Of. Your. Life!

My first blog entry was written only a week into this “wonderful” summer vacation. I didn’t know what to really expect of July and August. Now, I know. It was more of the same and it just escalated the more time they were out of the routine of school. On August 23rd it all came to a head (an ugly, mean and sad monster of a head). Because I don’t want this entry to take up a terrabyte of space, allow me to list a few of the struggles that my kids have as a result of their birth history. This is not a laundry list of complaints. They are, however, the facts of their young lives.

Allison (10 years old, 4th grade)

  • born drug addicted to cocaine, methadone, heroin and marijuana
  • born to a mother who drank gin when she couldn’t get any drugs and prostituted herself for drug money
  • her biological father is HIV+ and has AIDS (praise God this was not passed onto Allison or her mother)
  • has been in Early Intervention/special education since she was born
  • diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and as a result struggles with: developmental difficulties, stealing, understanding consequences, understanding empathy, food hoarding, making friends, keeping friends, academics, impulse control, recognizing danger and a load of other issues that we are still finding out about daily.

Nathan (8 years old, 3rd grade)

  • born drug addicted to cocaine, heroin and marijuana
  • born to a mother who was incarcerated for accessory to murder when we first met her (anger issues?)
  • born at 28 weeks weighing 2 pounds 8 ounces
  • has been in Early Intervention/special education since he was born

I will get to making a list of their many awesome and sweet traits at another time (there are MANY) but this entry is about what happened on August 23rd and the blessings of my children were nowhere in my peripheral vision that sad day.

Prior to this day, there had been a build up of a whole summer of finding food stashed behind furniture, incessant fighting, lying, story telling, tattling and constant disobeying. This day was the culmination of all these things.

Nathan was in the midst of writing 25 times “I will stop telling lies because it hurts those I love.” He had been working on this for FOUR days. I finally told him he had to sit at the dining room table until it was finished. No getting up. No breaks. No nothing until it was complete. This writing assignment was a result of weeks of lying and lying and me taking a compassionate approach using the Bible to do devotions about lying and praying for God’s strength to stop lying. Crap, I’m not telling the whole truth (AKA lying). I did do those things but I also yelled, badgered, embarrassed and belittled him every time he told yet another lie. I needed to pray and ask God to forgive me for not relying on Him to help me get through to my young son. My patience and wherewithal was wearing very thin. I had a flashback to my days of having toddlers and trying to keep them in their timeout seat. All the advice I sought told me to just calmly walk them back to their seat without saying a word. Well, I was calm as I did this…the first 20 times! Then I got a little more forceful. Then I yelled. Then I cried. Then I sobbed because my young son got out of the chair for the umpteenth time and came to the kitchen and said, “Heather, I’m not doing this assignment. You can’t make me!” Needless to say, my first response was shock that he called me Heather. But then a rage rose to the surface like a volcano about to explode vicious and unrelenting molten lava towards anyone in close proximity. Thankfully, I was able to hold the rage back. I said to him, “Heather? Where do you get off calling me by my first name?” Little did I know that there was an equally dangerous volcano raging inside my sweet boy. A volcano that could not be held back from spewing out hurtful words. Over the course of the next minute or so I sat there dumbfounded by the words coming out of my son’s mouth. He was calling me Heather because I was not his mom. I was not his mom because I don’t treat him like a son. I don’t love him. I never should have adopted him. He doesn’t belong in our family. And a slew of other things that by this time I couldn’t hear because my rage was filling my ears and I was about to explode. I did explode but in a way that I wasn’t expecting…extreme sorrow.

I bolted down the hallway to my room and locked myself in and sobbed. For those that know me, I don’t do that. I don’t cry. I seriously don’t cry. My tear ducts dried up over 20 years ago and have never shed another tear. I get the emotions but I stifle them because it physically hurts to cry. Close your eyes and remember a time when you needed to cry but couldn’t because it was neither the time nor the place. You feel that build up of pressure behind your eyes as you hold back the tears until you can let them loose somewhere else when you’re alone. A stray tear may eek its way out only to be brushed away before anyone sees it. Now imagine that build up happening the entire time you’re crying with no tears falling. No release. No rush of relief. Only pain to the point where you just need to close your eyes for a few hours to protect them from the barrage of light streaming in a window. That is what I felt for hours on that Thursday. I stayed in there all day (only coming out periodically to check and see that my daughter wasn’t burning down the house). I didn’t care how much TV they watched that day as long as it kept them in one place and out of trouble.

As I laid in bed heaving and crying out to an empty room I could hear notes being slipped under my door. “Mommy, are you ok? Please come talk to me when you are done praying. Love -Alli” Thank the Lord, she thought I was praying! I was praying but I was questioning why God trusted me with these two children if He knew I was going to screw it all up. I was yelling at God for trusting me because I felt like such a failure! I was racking my brain trying to figure out how I messed Nathan up to the point where he felt he didn’t belong to our family. What had I done, said or implied to make him feel like that? My despair from this day lasted for a couple of weeks. I’m still going through some of it and trying to work out how I feel and how I’m going to handle all these emotions. One thing that kept coming to mind that day was a post I saw on Facebook (located at the end of this entry) a few days prior to my “meltdown.” In the midst of my sorrow and doubt was the image of these words coming to my mind. I knew, deep down in the recesses of my broken heart that day, that God was still there. God was loving me through my failures and my brokenness. He would lift me up out of this miry pit I was in and set my feet on solid ground again. I just couldn’t feel anything at that moment. I knew it but I didn’t feel it. Thankfully we have a God who is unrelenting in His love for us. For now, His love is all I know I can rely on. His love will get me through until I can do more than just sob. His love will fulfill my children as I figure out how to love them the way He wants me to. His love will endure forever and forever.