Thursday, June 20, 2013

Humpty Dumpty and Giving Up.

I'm having a doozy of a time...I'm just so discouraged.  Even in my prayer efforts, it appears that everything is getting worse, rather than better.

The coffee shop is taking much longer to open, much to my dismay...although so many times, I've felt the Lord whisper:  "not in your my time."

Okay, Lord, I will wait.

In the meantime, the financial burden seems to be getting heavier, along with other mounting frustrations.

Hours go by so silently that I swear you can hear the crickets chirp.

And if the state of the store isn't enough to drive a sane woman insane, I've got big frustrations going on in my personal matter how hard I try to fix them, it seems like I hit brick wall, after brick wall.

At some point, logic sets in and says if you keep trying the same thing over and over again, don't expect different results.

But, what do you do, when you feel like you've come at a problem from every angle and nothing seems to provide relief??

So, I sit here, completely worn out, broken, tired and weary...feeling like my dreams are shattering before my very eyes.

Today, I had to go back to court, to yet again try to resolve a matter that I've been dealing with for the last couple years.  The other party did not show up this time...

I was frustrated at first...until the judge brought us into the court room.

It was a different judge than what I had become accustomed to.

This judge wasn't familiar with the case and started to ask my legal representation questions...he didn't know much about the circumstances, either.

So, in an act of divine appointment, the judge requested that I take the stand, go under oath and answer questions.

PRAISE JESUS...finally, a judge would hear me!

I had to state obvious information, of course, before proceeding and then I was asked to give a recap of the last two years.

I took a deep breath and started talking.

I kept talking...

and I kept talking, still!

I kept talking until I had gotten it all out.

There was silence in the courtroom for a few seconds and finally the judge smiled at me, with compassion and sympathy and asked me if I felt better.

After two years of built up frustration, resentment and desperation, it felt so good to finally be able to speak the way I needed to speak.  Finally, my words were falling on the right ears.

The judge and my lawyer continued with their legal banter and I just sat there, feeling for a moment that hope is a real thing after all.

Now, please don't misunderstand my intentions for blogging this...its not to air my dirty laundry...its to share the moment I had when I got back to my shop.

Still frustrated, I walked back to my desk and opened up my devotional.

(I love how God always seems to speak to me, right when I need it most!)

For months now I have felt that  my frustrations are really starting to get the best of me.  I truly feel like Humpty Dumpty...that the next slightest fall, I will crumble, break and none of the kings men would ever be able to put me back together again.

What I seem to quickly forget is that the kings men will never be able to put me back together again...only THE King...the one and only King of Kings.

Why do I forget so quickly that the King of the whole wide universe has me in the palm of His hand??  That I am a daughter of the King?

Because I'm human.

This is what my devotions told me:  that no matter what, no matter how frustrating life can feel on this earth, that when you keep trying and trying and it seems like nothing is getting better, or no one seems to care about how hard you are trying or no one seems to be paying attention, that no matter what, God is watching your day God will say "well done" to me, for trying so hard, for scraping things together to try to provide for my family, for trying my absolute hardest to be diligent at work...for always keeping the house clean, even when I'm tired from working, because it teaches my children to care for things.  Or, cooking a meal a few nights a week, so that I can show my family the importance of sharing a few moments together, in the extreme chaos of today's world...all of those little things matter...all the things that you do behind the scenes, even though no one here on earth may ever say thank you properly for the hard work and sacrifices you make...GOD is watching you and He KNOWS your heart and how hard you try.

He knows...

He sees every tear that falls from my cheek when I'm alone because I'm worn out, exhausted and tired.

He hears every prayer I make when I'm frustrated because personalities seem to clash.

He somehow makes $4 appear so that my kids can go to the pool and be with their friends.

And, He somehow had a different judge hear my case today, that wanted to listen to my story.


He knows how hard I try to make ends meet for everyone in my family...He knows how hard I try to be the peacemaker...He knows my heart, even when others seem to misunderstand me.

I sat at my desk and bawled...because I have been feeling like nothing I do matters...that some people don't care if I'm around...that my store is nothing...that no one likes what I have to offer...that no matter how hard I try with my kids, its never enough...that I work everyday and I still fall short...I have felt like a big, fat ZERO.

I don't know why I'm struggling so much right now...I don't know why life seems so incredibly hard at this point in my life.  What I do know, however, is that the ONLY thing that is keeping my world together right now is my God.

Even if I have nothing else, I have that...and that is all I need to keep trying.  It gives me the strength to get back up, even though I feel like staying gives me the hope to keep going, even though I'm so tired, weary and desperate for relief...I know that God sees my heart, and knows my efforts. 

So, what does this all mean?

It means don't give up...don't give in...never stop trying.

While there are some people on earth that we need to try to please, ultimately, their approval rating is not the one who counts.

Because, if you look at it like this...anything you do, purpose in your heart to do it for the Glory of God...when you do that, EVERYTHING else will fall into place...

It may take time...

And heartache.

And frustration.

And it may feel like you are walking blindly along...but then again, walking in faith doesn't always mean you know where you are going....but walking in faith DOES mean that you know who's holding you in the palm of His hand...and somehow, that gives me the courage to take another step.

But when your motives are right and you are living your life to glorify the God who gave you life, your other relationships will flourish.

Remember, you're so much more valuable than Humpty Dumpty.  God will put you back together.

Today, this song, which I know I've heard a hundred times play on my Pandora station, came on the radio...when I needed it most...

I've never paid attention to the lyrics before, until today.  I heard her say, with so much heart and emotion:  "How many times have you heard me cry out, "God please take this"?  How many times have you given me strength to just keep breathing?"

I dunno...

It's me...It's my heart...It's how my burdened heart feels to me right now.  I refuse to NOT look to God...but I feel weary and I've cried out to Him time and time again, asking for answers...and because those answers seem to be far off, I'm on my knees, pleading for His strength, to help me go one more day...

Maybe it's your story too...I hope it speaks to you.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Old Skeletons and Prayer.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about praying and prayers.

Yes, they are two different things, I think...and yet the same.

The last few weeks, I've really felt the Holy Spirit moving in my heart...

Not only have my daily devotions been specifically dealing with praying, but I've had a lot going on in my life that demands prayer time.

It's got me thinking about the subject...about what the true purpose of praying our prayers should be said...and what to expect when we pray.

For some, praying is something we do when we need to ask God for something...either an answer or sign we've been seeking, a wish or hope granted, an item we desire or to help heal someone we love.

To others, praying is simply talking to God...thanking Him, sharing the deepest desires of our heart, or even asking for forgiveness.  While I think it's a mixture of both, I've come to understand the power of prayer in a different way.

Over the course of my life, I've said a lot of prayers...all of them different.

Prayers to keep my family safe (while in violent situations in the Philippines).

Prayers to heal broken hearts (when my mom and dad divorced).

Prayers to bless my store (when the store traffic and sales revenue are down).

Prayers that people see the light of Christ in me.

Prayers that God will draw the people I love together.

Prayers for forgiveness, when I've wronged people.

...and prayers asking God to heal those I love.

I think in the last six months, God has really taught me a lot about praying...

I had a very special friend, whom I loved dearly, recently pass away from cancer.  Her death left me broken hearted.  While I know God was calling her home, my selfish heart wanted for God to make her better.  I believed that He had the power and ability to do so.

As her physical battle became greater, my sleep at night became more and more disturbed.  While I am a fairly light sleeper, I am usually a very sound sleeper.  Several times a week, at different times, I would randomly wake up during the night.  Each time that happened, the very first thing I would think of was Deb.

While the rest of my house was sleeping soundly, I would just lay there and pray for her...I would pray for healing, comfort, peace...strength, courage...and hope.

Occasionally, God would bring another friend or two to my mind and I would pray for whatever struggles they were facing as well.   During the course of this praying schedule, as I closed out my prayers each time, I would always drift back to sleep.

While of course I prayed for Deb and others during my daily devotions each day, as Deb drew nearer to the end of her earthly life, my midnight oil prayer time became a nightly event.  A few times, Deb even called me during the middle of the night...I would always desperately answer the phone, only to be worried with no one on the other end.  In turn, I would lay there and just pray.  At one point, I shared with her daughter my nightly prayer schedule...and during the course of our conversation, it became clear to me that God was using Deb in my life, teaching me about the power of prayer.

Make no mistake, I do believe that prayer gives us the ability to ask God for what we need or want.  Prayer is one of the most powerful gifts that God has given us.  It gives us the ability to step before the God of creation and boldly speak to Him.  Philippians 4:6 tells us:  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

However,  in no way does praying mean that God will answer our prayers the way we WANT them to be answered.

Sure, things may work out how we "think" things should work out...but sometimes they don't.

BUT, what I have learned during my prayer moments with God, as my walk with Him grows deeper, is that He changes our prayers to match His will.

This is what I mean by that:  In the beginning of Deb's battle, I was asking God to heal her...I wanted God to fix her.  Make her better, so that I didn't have to lose her and say goodbye to her on earth (notice I was saying the word "I").  Towards the end, my prayers were more for comfort for her physical pain and the emotional pain of her family and friends...and for the peace that comes from knowing that we will see Deb again one day.

But, as I began to understand what we truly get out of praying, my prayer time became stronger and much more intimate. 

And what is it that we get??  A deeper, much more in-tune relationship with God.

It BLOWS my mind.  In other words, I like waking up at 3:20 in the morning to spend time in prayer.

With that being said, last week, my devotions were SPECIFICALLY about praying.

I've shared with you all in the last several months, my frustration with the slower days at the store and how scary it is to see the sales dwindling.  While I remain in prayer about the store, trusting God to provide what we need financially so that the bills get paid and we can remain in operation, in order to minister to women in our area, my devotions last week spoke strongly to me.

It talked about hindrances to prayers.

Hindrances?  What?  I thought nothing could stand between me and God?


What really spoke to me was when the writer stated that there are two hindrances to answered prayer:  Unconfessed sin & UNRESOLVED CONFLICT.

Uh-oh...those Skeletons...waaaay back in the closet.

Could this possibly be why I don't feel much peace when I pray about the store?  Because there are people in my past that I never asked for forgiveness for?

The voice I heard from God, as I asked myself this, was indeed yes.

DANG it.

So, after more prayer and asking God to forgive me for not resolving those past conflicts, I absolved to drag those skeletons out and get rid of them.  (Halloween, here we come!)

I made some phone calls, emailed a person I hurt in the past and asked for forgiveness from all of them.  I dealt with some problems I had been neglecting, because I was afraid of the repercussions.

I didn't expect anything in return from these people I needed to apologize to.  I just wanted them to know that God had been dealing with me and that I needed to be obedient to what He wanted me to do.  I just needed to apologize and ask for forgiveness for wronging them in the past.

I'll be honest.  It was hard for me to do....I had to swallow hard a few times...I felt my pulse quicken and my palms get clamy.  But, in the end, I was thankful for the graciousness and grace showed to me, by those I talked to.

Now to those skeletons:  So long sucka's!!  Satan no longer has that grip on me!

Ultimately, this is what I've learned about prayer:  Prayer is where we learn what God wants for us.  Yes, we can boldly approach His throne with our requests, petitions and pour out our heart's emotions....but its the deeper relationship with God that makes us stronger and better.

God will always give an answer...we just have to be faithful to listen to what He has to say.  Part of praying is listening...just like any conversation you may have with someone you love.

Ever talk to someone that you just cannot seem to get away from?  Don't you just go crazy??
Imagine how God must feel if all you do is pray to Him and ask Him for what you want and then just scurry along, onto other things?

I have people that come in the store occasionally that don't really want to shop, but rather talk.  Some of its happy things they want to share with me, while others need someone to talk to.  Many times, I can see it in their eyes...that quiet struggle they are facing or a battle they are fighting.  I am always happy to listen to anyone who wants to talk to me, but when they share with me their heartache, it helps me pray for them better.  If they don't feel comfortable opening up, that's okay...I still mentally put them on my prayer list.

Even though Deb has passed away and is living with the Lord now, the Lord still wakes me up at random hours in the night...and its a peaceful feeling knowing that He wants some of my time, alone with Him.

How funny it is to me to know that God understands that 4 o'clock in the morning is about the only time I have for "free time"...completely uninterrupted, one-on-one, truly intimate time with my heavenly Father. 

Believe me when I say this, I take prayer very has helped to changed my relationship with the Lord as well as my life...and Deb's life helped teach me that.   If I ever say I will pray for you, I mean it.

You'll be on the list. 

With that being said, if there is something you want me to pray for you about, let me know what's burdening your heart...we can pray together!  Matthew 18:20 says "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."


My precious friend, Deb and I

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Facebook Emoticons and GRACE.

Do you ever feel like you just don't fit in?

I know I do, all the time!

In fact, its something I'm struggling with right now...

Sure, I know that people care about me...and I care about them too!

But, there are days that I just feel like I'm always on the outside, looking in.

The third wheel.

Two's company, three's a crowd...

You know,  just lonely.

Yesterday, I was really feeling down in the dumps.  I don't know if it was because of the snow, the cold weather, or the lack of sunshine...but I sure was down there.

I posted a silly little face on Facebook yesterday, that said I was "feeling down".

Because, well, I was...

I try to not post passive aggressive statements...but I was just messing around with the new emoticon feature on Facebook...and it felt silly to lie about it and post a happy-go-lucky little smiley face, when that would of been a I was honest. 

I said I was feeling down.

I must say,  I was warmed by the response I got.  If I didn't know before that people care about me, I sure do now!

But still, there are things in my life that make me feel that no matter what, I will always be an outsider around here...

It hurts my heart.

And just now, when I need to be reminded that I'm not alone...
I had a friend from Georgia post on Facebook about Grace.

(It was what I like to call a Divine appointment)

Yes, Grace.

As in, not the name or a person, but rather the gift of Grace, that comes only from God.

The gift of Grace that tells me that I belong to the King of Kings...that I am a daughter of the Father...that I was bought with an amazing price.  That I BELONG to Him.

The kind of Grace that assures me that if I feel like I'm on the outside looking in, I'm right where God wants me to be.  That no matter what, He is the One who will never leave me, nor forsake me.

It gives me comfort and helps me feel not alone. 

In the quietness of my thoughts, I hear the Lord whisper to me:  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

So, when I feel sad and down, I know that God can use me...His word tells me that!

Writing for my blog really helps me understand what it is that God wants to do with my life and how I can be more faithful to Him.

So, I turn to this blog to share my lonely heart with you the hopes that you will find the Grace of Jesus in your own life!

I know my thoughts are not deep words of wisdom, but perhaps you are experiencing the same thing I am right now.

Perhaps you need to feel loved and included, like I do, from time to time.

Perhaps you are struggling with something in your life.

Perhaps you have just lost someone you love, or are on the brink of telling someone goodbye.

Perhaps your heart is hurting too...

The truth is, no matter what is going on in our lives, it doesn't matter if we are accepted by others...what matters is that we belong to God and He is ready to embrace us in our weakest moments.

And that simple truth is enough to warm my soul and put a smile on my face.

While I enjoy and appreciate my Pastors teachings, my most favorite thing at church on Sundays is when Pastor James gives the benediction.  He stretches his arms out and says to us all:  “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”  (Numbers 63:24-26)

Its like I can feel the very breath of God, breathing life into my broken soul.  Its one of my most favorite things in all the world...It reminds me that God is with me every minute, of every day...even on days when I feel left out.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Sinners Heart & the Crucifixion.

Here it is, the day before Good Friday.

I've had a great week...I've made decisions this week that I feel like God has been preparing me for, for, exciting stuff is happening in the store...SOON.

And since those decisions were made, I've felt that my walk with the Lord has flourished...I've felt connected...walking in His will...listening to Him and what He wants for my life...

Its been SO GREAT!!  I know the valley's will come, but I do admit that I hate them.

So, then what do I do??  I go an screw it up.

I told a lie this morning.

I can hear Satan rejoicing...

Why is it that when we are walking the closest with the Lord...we screw it up and blatantly sin?

I am reminded of Peter (once again).  Proclaiming his undying love and loyalty to Jesus...

Only to deny him 3 times in ONE NIGHT.

Just like me.

Every time we sin, we are choosing to follow the blackness in our hearts...and deny the cross that Jesus set before us.

I feel like crap right now...shame has set in.  I know what I did was was out of fear and selfishness that I told this lie.  I am reminded of my childhood, when I would lie to my mom or dad...I know the devil hates it when Christians confess their sins, or bring them to light...its easier for Satan to torment you, when you don't verbalize your wrong doings.

I asked the Lord for forgiveness and I know He grants it...but the irony is not lost on me.

Good Friday...the day that we remember all the Lord suffered through for us...the day He suffered to save me from my sins.  All week I've been thinking about the cross and what it means...and more importantly, what the crucifixion meant.

And here I go again,  falling on my face...

Many years ago, (like 20), my Pastor James from Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Oakwood, GA preached a sermon that I still remember with extreme clarity (really, its the only sermon I remember like I do this one).  As I recall, at the end of the sermon, there wasn't a dry eye in the sanctuary.  The sermon was a study on the crucifixion...what it was about, why it was practiced and what really took place during a crucifixion.  As Pastor James taught us about the crucifixion, it became clearer what Jesus really endured for us. 

We see it depicted in movies or pictures...and sure, the men on the crosses look beaten and bloody...but I have never seen a clear picture of what it really must of been like for Jesus.

You see, the crucifixion was reserved for the countries WORST criminals...I suppose what would be equivalent to our death penalty today.  Rapists, murderers, child know, the REALLY bad criminals...those who commit crimes against our fellow mankind...those who's acts disgust us to our very core.

When Jesus was sentenced to die by crucifixion, that meant he was sentenced to die like the worst criminal...along with the sentence also came the torture, beatings and public mockery that Jesus would have to endure.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was handed over to the soldiers to be flogged after the people had demanded Barabbas be released and Jesus crucified in his place (Matthew 27:26).

Here's what a flogging really means...

The soldiers used what is called a cat-of-nine-tails...a cluster of long skinny leather strips all bound together, so that the flogger could achieve a better grip.  Jesus would of been chained to a post, with his back to the flogger (or flogger's...meaning plural).  The long skinny strands of leather would of had bits of crude metal, broken glass or even sharp rocks embedded in the leather.  When the flogger cracked the whip on Jesus's body, the long skinny strands would of wrapped around His body.  Of course, because of the bits of sharp metal, glass or rocks, it would of dug into his flesh.  As the flogger pulled the whip back, the skinny tails would of ripped flesh as they retreated.

Over and over, the floggers would do this...5-10-15-20 times?  Who knows how long Jesus had to endure this...

Bits of His flesh would of been hanging off his of his body exposed...bleeding profusely....losing energy...losing physical strength.

Get the picture?
And still, Jesus let them.

As if that wasn't enough, after Jesus was flogged, the Bible tells us that the governors soldiers took Jesus into the "Praetorium" which would of been like an arena like area (Matthew 27:27).  It would of been an open area where they could place Jesus in the center and mock him.

We are told that the soldiers stripped Him of his clothing...

All jokes aside, most of us can't even bear to wear a swimsuit in public...and there is our King, standing naked for all the world to make fun of...

They made him a crown of thorns.

Do you remember how much it hurt the last time you pricked your finger on a rose bush?  When the soldiers "placed" it on Jesus' head, they shoved the crown of thorns DEEP into his flesh and jammed it down on his head...

Seriously, the pain is more than I can imagine.

And still Jesus stood there.

Next, they placed a robe on Him...and mockingly knelt down and worshiped Him.  This is noteworthy because keep in mind that He was flogged and so his body and torso would of been completely open and bloody.

Ever scrape your knee or something and then wear jeans??  By the end of the day, if the wound isn't covered, your jeans have completely dried to the wound...and you go to take your pants off and it HURTS because the fabric has stuck to the wound?

They placed the robe on Him...all over his blood crusted and open flesh body...and later on ripped the robe all of his wounds. 

And STILL, Jesus remained.

Matthew 27:30 tells us the soldiers spit on Him (which shows such disgust and contempt).
They beat him over and over with clubs...striking His already weak body, over and over again.

He couldn't of been able to even stand...

They ripped out parts of his bead...lets be honest ladies...those of you who get your eyebrows know it hurts.  IT DOES.  The soldiers RIPPED out chunks of His beard from His flesh...

Our Jesus must not of even been recognizable...He was beaten and tortured so severely.

And still, Jesus remained.

While the soldiers forced Jesus to carry His own cross to Golgotha, it doesn't come as a surprise that Jesus stumbled while He walked.

As horrific as all this is, its really just the tip of the iceberg, compared to the brutality of the actual crucifixion.

As they laid Jesus down on the cross, spikes....HUGE spikes, were driven through His hands and feet.

Ever hit yourself with a hammer?  Yea, you know how bad that hurts...

And these soldiers weren't "gentle" about it...driving the nails deeper and deeper into His hands.

If you've ever gotten a tattoo, you'll know that your feet and hands are some of the most sensitive areas on your body...they are full of nerve endings that resound all over your body.

Every single square inch of Jesus's body would of felt the pain that shot from each slam of the soldiers hammers.

After Jesus was nailed on the cross, the soldiers would of pulled the cross to an upright position...

Now comes the real pain...

As Jesus HUNG on the cross, and when I say HUNG, I mean HUNG.  The force of gravity would of immediately taken over and the flesh in His hands would of started tearing from lack of physical strength.  It would of been incredibly difficult for Jesus to keep Himself upright.

As His body became physically weaker and weaker, it would of started to slump further down, making it almost impossible for Him to breath.


At any point, He could of called down the angels...God the Father could of struck them all dead....brought Jesus up to Heaven...

Ended it all...

But then I wouldn't of had the chance to live for the Lord and spend eternity with Him.

Just like the story of Abraham, when God asked him to sacrifice his beloved first born son, Isaac.  At the moment of true obedience on Abraham's part, God provided the Lamb for the sacrifice.

And that's what Jesus was for all of us.

The LAMB of GOD.  The ONLY way any of us could ever have TRUE SALVATION.  He gives us the HOPE of a future with the Lord.

After all of that...I was still stupid enough to disobey His word today.

I thank God that He loved me enough to send Jesus to do that for that the blackness in my sinners heart can be made as clean as snow.

This is what I think about each Easter season...
Happy Easter to you.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Peter and Me.

So, I admit it....I've gotten into the History Channel's The Bible, TV mini-series.

I think its COOL.

I have read the Bible, front-to-cover, twice now in my lifetime.  Some of the stories conjure up images within my imagination, as I try to understand what it must of been like to witness Noah and the ark and watch it rain for 40 days...or what the Red Sea really looked like when Moses parted the waters...or even felt the earth tremble as the walls of Jericho tumbled down as Joshua and his men marched around it.  The Bible is brimming full of instances in history that defy logic and create wonder and awe...and if you didn't see it with your own eyes, its hard to imagine the magnitude of what God really did.  The movie puts an entirely different spin on the ever popular Sunday School stories that many of us have heard all our lives.  In our youth, the stories are depicted with sunny faces, fluffy angels and even a pretty rainbow. 

The reality of what transpired however, is far from sunny and happy.

I think its somewhat noteworthy to comment on the fact that there is a warning sign about the explicitly of some images that are portrayed in this movie...but in all reality, Hollywood most likely hasn't even touched what the brutality of those times were.  I mean, think about what the Crucifixion really is about.  There is nothing beautiful, or even heroic about it (apart from what Jesus did for us).  And, as I watch the movie, it becomes clear that most of the characters in the Bible that followed God were subject to horrific brutality.

But, really, what was I thinking?  When Samson's eyes were gouged out, was it really a pretty sight?  No.  I'm sure there was not a doctor there to give him pain medicine to ease his physical suffering.

Ever wonder what it would be like to be caged up with lions?  I can't even bear to stand close to a lions cage at the zoo, let alone be in a den with them.

Anyways, moving on...

So far, my absolute favorite part has been when Peter meets Jesus for the first time.

I think out of all the apostles and characters in the Bible, I identify the most with Peter.

He stumbled horribly, he doubted, he failed...and yet he loved Jesus so much.

In the movie, Peter meets Jesus as he is about to go fishing.  It is obvious that Peter is very discouraged by the lack of fish.  When Jesus offers to help him, Peter declines the invitation and even goes as far to say "whats the point?  There is no fish out there anyway..."  (as he wistfully looks out onto the water, discouraged by the lack of fruit for his labor).

I have felt the same way and said similar words this week:  "What's the point??"  It makes me wonder, why try so hard?  Why keep going?  Does it really matter how hard we try?

Okay, back to the movie...

Of course, not dismayed by Peters brush off, Jesus walks into the water, forcing Peter to help him climb up into the boat (keep in mind, Peter already told Jesus no...but as we all understand, Jesus didn't take no for an answer...I love the smile on Jesus face as he gazes at an exasperated Peter...a teasing smirk, or chuckle if you I said, the visual truly helps to understand their relationship better).

Completely exasperated by his self-invited guest, Peter casts the boat off the shore.  From there, Jesus commands the fish to the water around the boat, tells Peter to cast the net...and fish abound, much to Peters amazement and awe.  He looks at Jesus with wonder...Jesus gazes back at him with love.

I've talked before about when Peter walked on water (it's one of my favorite stories).  Peter seemed to be one of the boldest about following Jesus to the ends of the earth and yet his lack of faith always seemed to get the best of him.

Why?  Because he's human.  And so am I.

And still, Jesus relationship with Peter was special...because above all, Peter loved his Lord.

In another scene, when Jesus is speaking to Peter right before He is arrested (I skipped ahead to a special sneak peek), Peter proclaims his undying loyalty and love to Jesus.  Its the look on the actors face who plays Jesus that speaks volumes, as he rushes forward and embraces Peter.  He knows what is to come...

Its the hug that matters...Jesus tells Peter before the rooster crows, he will deny him three times.

And in Jesus's embrace, He forgives Peter for what he is about to do.

How many times do we deny God in our own lives?  Every time we choose something over Him.

Every time we doubt what He can do in our lives.

Every time we panic (as I have done this week).

And yet, because of the Grace that only He can provide, He is ready to hug us back.  Forgiveness is there for the taking!  If we have asked Jesus to live in our hearts, then we are His eternal prodigal children.

What a comfort that brings!

I'll admit, there are some scenes in the movie that I can't watch...

I wont be able to watch the crucifixion. 

It's too much for my sinners heart to watch what He did for me.  I don't deserve what He did.

None of us do.

And yet, He did it, because He loves me that much.  MY face was in His minds-eye as he was brutally beaten and tortured.  He could of called down the angels and destroyed all of those who mocked and beat Him...but He knew that I would need a savior and someone to live for...and so he laid there and let people beat Him, stab Him, shove thorns down into His flesh, rip a cat-of-nine tails around his body, tearing chunks of flesh off of His bones and tearing chunks of his beard out of His face.

If we were to witness the crucifixion today, the most gruesome, grisly Hollywood horror flick would still not compare to what Jesus physically endured for us.

Above all, as I continue to watch the movie and ponder the events that transpired, it makes me ashamed at the lack of faith that I have.

What would I do if I were faced with similar circumstances in life?

Earlier this week, I was on the verge of a panic attack, as I stewed and fretted over the state of the world, our economy and the direction the government is taking our country.

I was alone in the car and I needed to talk to, I called my dad.

First of all, if I've never told you all this before, my dad was a pastor before my parents decided to become missionaries to the Philippines.

I have said this so many times, but I wish that I could go back in time.  I would like to be able to go back to when my dad preached, but have the understanding that I have now.

He was a great pastor.

God gave him a special ability to comprehend scripture and be able to explain it in a way that gives clear understanding.

My dad's still got it...

I felt so much better after I talked to him.  He simply said that if we live for the Lord, we will spend eternity with Him...its useless to get all worked up about what "may come"...but we are assured that the end will result with eternity spent with Jesus.

Sure, we may face trials that go beyond our comprehension...and there may soon come a day where our faith is tested, as it was for many of those in the Bible.

I told him I fear for my children...but my dad just said this is a time that we should be teaching our children right from wrong and to teach them the importance of taking a stand for what is right.

As I hung up the phone with him, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude that Paul Leslie is my dad.  I still miss his teaching and preaching...but I'm glad that I can call and talk with him when my heart is troubled.

And even more overwhelmed with gratitude that the Lord is my heavenly father, looking down on me with love and guidance.  He gives me the peace that I need in these troubled times.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What's the Point??

Do you ever stop in the middle of your crazy life, and think to yourself:

Who am I?

What's my purpose here in this world?  (We all have one...)

What am I supposed to be doing while I'm on this planet??  (I hope not just existing!)

This is something that I think about all the time...

And, I don't think I'm alone.

I mean, if there is no purpose...then what's the point??

Sure, I have a totally fab women's boutique...

But, it's my job.

It's my trade...its what I do to hopefully earn a living, to pay for the necessities in life and take care of my family.

But it's not my purpose.

It's not what God put me on this planet for.

Owning the shop is part of His plan and it helps me execute my purpose in life, but its not my destiny. I don't want to be remembered for selling shoes...

As I look back over the years, it is evident to me how He has allowed me to go through certain life experiences, in order to help me have greater compassion and understanding of what's going on in the lives of people that I meet in life now.

I think at times, we over think this concept...perhaps you may feel that only people like Ghandi, or Martin Luther King, Jr. are people that have great purposes...or that God looks down in higher favor with people who are in the spotlight doing "great" things for mankind.

But, its just not true.

It's we as humans who make others actions out to be "grand"...not God.  He looks in favor to ANYONE who is faithful to answer HIS call on their lives.

God does not play favorites...

We are not all called to do the same thing...but we are ALL called to do something.

Or be someone...

In the 36 years I've been in this world, I have had my heart broken to the point that it felt like it was bleeding, suffering and full of sorrow.

I have experienced my parents divorce.  I have experienced my own divorce.  I have experienced deep depression.  I have experienced post-partum depression.  I have been betrayed.  I have betrayed others.  I have been hurt by words.  I have hurt others with my own words.  I have been emotionally abused by a husband who did not love me.  I was told I was nothing, over and over again.  I have lost loved ones.  I have had to watch people I love suffer.  I have had to deal with separation from my children.  I have made bad choices in my life.  I have been angry, lost, sad and left in despair.

It's been a heck of a ride...

There were days that I didn't want to even wake up.  I would pray that God would just let me go to sleep and not wake up, ever again.

But, if that were to happen, I wouldn't be fulfilling my God-given purpose, would I? 

Because I have written about this before in my blogs, as you know, I went through a very dark time in my life.  I don't refer to it as a dark period, necessarily because of the events that transpired, but because I was not living for the Lord.  I turned my back on the Lord, in anger, hurt and frustration.  I felt that He abandoned me and was not watching over me...He let some really bad things happen in my life, things that I didn't understand.

It was several years later that I realized that it was not He who turned His back on me, but rather mine on Him.

I will always remember the feeling of when I turned back to the warmth of His embrace.  The fullness, contentment and peace that I felt when I turned back to His light....

The grace and forgiveness...
Oh, words will never describe it.

I still can't...

I think all that I have experienced, the good and the bad, has lead up to this point in my life.  It has all been working together, since I was a child, all weaving together to help me realize the purpose that God has given me.  Going through all that darkness helped me realize how desolate my life was and that I never want to feel like that again.  NEVER.


My mom visited me a few weeks ago.  At one point, Jae, my daughter, was telling Grammy about a Spirit Award that she had received at school.  Jae was recognized because she got up from her table of friends during Intervention to go sit with a classmate of hers that was sitting alone.  Jae recognized that she could help make this little girl feel accepted and loved, by sitting with her.  As Jae was explaining to her Grammy what she did, my mom looked at me and told Jae that she knew another young girl that used to do the same thing when she was Jae's age: me.

Grammy went on to tell Jae that she was just like her mama in that regard, always trying to make sure others around her feel loved...that people don't feel left out.  That people understand how valuable they are and needed.

I think one of the worst things that could be said of my life is that someone in my life didn't understand their worth in my eyes.  I would hate it if you didn't realize how important you were to me, or to the Lord!

The conversation that Jae and my mom had has been stuck in my head for the last two weeks.

In my reflection, I have realized that my purpose is very simple...and it's something I've been doing for as long as I can remember.

My purpose in this world is to LOVE.  It is to show love to others, so that they feel the love of Christ and know that they are worth something.  Hopefully in this, they will come to the Lord too....or find Him in times of struggle.

My oldest daughter, Brooke and I were talking about this very subject, this morning.  I told her, for as long as I live, I will proclaim my love for the Lord.  I cannot express my gratitude in enough ways, to show Him how grateful I am for His mercy, love, understanding and GRACE.

Just remember that YOU have a purpose too.  God has a plan for will only find peace when you are resting in what He wants you to be doing.
If you want to find meaning in life or feel grounded, He is the only way you will ever feel that way.

No matter where you have been, or what has happened in your life...God will use it, somehow for His glory...if you let Him.

For all things work together for HIS GOOD.  God wants the glory, in all that we do...even in times of trial, suffering and pain.  He can use our hearts, no matter the state they are in, for His purpose and plan.

My life is living proof.  I will sing of His praises, all of my day!

There is a relatively new song out, that has quickly become my new favorite...the group Philips, Craig and Dean are one of my favorites, and the lyrics of so many of their songs have always struck a cord with me.  Their latest, "Top of My Lungs", really speaks to my heart...

Here is the song...I imagine myself on top of a mountain, belting this song out (I am a much better singer in my head, than reality).

Love you all.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hope & the Apostle Peter

Feliz Año Nuevo!!  That means Happy New Year in Spanish :)  Yes, I have a love for the Mexican language.  Secretly I think that my husband, Mark, should encourage and enable me to learn more about the Mexican culture...on a white sandy beach, sipping margaritas!!  No??  Yea, that probably wont happen any time soon...

Anywho, I do hope that your Christmas season and New Year's holidays were blessed and full of love and hope.  To me, that's really what the holiday season is about...

Love & Hope.


Hope & Love.

Its really what we all need on a regular basis, isn't it?

For me, over the last six months, I needed hope...and lots of it.

The past year was a difficult one for me.  It felt like there was a little black cloud that followed me all over the place.  No matter how hard I tried to be optimistic or happy, I felt like God just kept stretching me in ways that were really painful.  Through my personal life, as well as the life of the store, I felt like I was continually walking in the dark and on eggshells. Even my sleep seemed disturbed.  

Worry is like a thief...

With the state of the economy and the negativity saturating the media, I felt like that little black cloud hovered over Christmas too.  My joy was not as bountiful this year and I felt discouraged, desperate and even angry.

As hard as I tried to ignore the news, it was impossible to not worry about the approaching Fiscal Cliff that our lawmakers kept warning we were about to go over...

Or to hear the disgusting news of sweet little kids being brutally and horrifically murdered, just because.

In my eyes, the evil that is roaming this earth is very apparent.  But, I shouldn't be too surprised. 

The Bible tells us that Satan and his demons are free to roam the earth, until Christ comes back.  Until then, this kind of havoc and hate will continue.

Throughout the months of October, November and December, I hit my knees to the ground in prayer many times.  I even had special friends pray with me, desperately hoping for clear answers from the Lord.  I craved relief.  I clung to the verse that tells us that when "two or more are gathered in My name, there I will be also".  Through the trials and tribulations of this last year, I have needed to feel the closeness that only my heavenly Father can bring.  I just wanted to hear Him say that everything would be okay.

I needed HOPE that it was all gonna work out.

There were days that I felt the relief, but honestly, there were days that I didn't understand and the clouds seemed to storm in.

Like I said, worry is like a thief.  I let my own despair get in the way of what I know God wants me to do.  
Over the last couple of weeks the shadows have started to diminish.  I have come to this understanding:   sometimes the Lord gives us just what we NEED, rather than what we WANT or what we THINK we need.  I have come to understand that what HE WANTS is for us to literally check with Him every step of the way.  

And this is exactly why the Apostle Peter was able to walk on water...he kept his eyes boldly on Jesus.  Being the Creator of everything, the Lord defied logic and nature, giving Peter the ability to walk on water.    The minute he looked down is when he started sinking.  Sometimes the task that God sets before us seem larger than life.  At times we wonder, how in the world can they even be accomplished?  The beauty of Peter's story is that it wasn't his own ability to walk on water.  Its was Jesus, and only Jesus, who gave Peter the ability to walk on water. 

If Jesus could help Peter walk on water, surely He will give me the ability and tools I need to do the job that He has set before me, right?

This weekend, the Lord supplied everything that I NEED to do the job that He has set out for me.  

And that is what gives me HOPE.

I think when the answer I had been seeking suddenly became clear, I literally breathed out a sigh of relief...and felt my knuckles relax.  (If it's possible to be white knuckled with worry, without physically holding onto something, I believe I've experienced it over the last few months).  

As I look back over 2012 I am reminded of many blessings and trials that the Lord brought me through.  However, just like an artist places glass in a fire to refine it, the past should never define us...only REFINE us.

I am reminded of the somewhat cliche poem "Footprints in the Sand".  We've all heard it a million times, or seen it on convenience store plaques.  But, as I look at the past year and look to how He provided for me and helped me understand things better this past weekend, I can see Him carrying me the whole way.

I am so thankful for His love and the HOPE that is in Him.

Where would I be without it?  Probably in a permanent state of grumpiness and despair...

Blessings to you, on this January day!  May you have HOPE for an amazing year...remember, despite the world we live in...HE is in control.

Another one of my favorite songs, sung by Steven Curtis Chapman, 
"Sometimes He Comes in the Clouds"...
 powerful lyrics that spoke to me continually over the last few months.

I hope they minister to you, as they did me.

"For where two or three gather in my name, 
there am I with them.” ~Matthew 18:20