Surprise

‘My timing is not His timing. My plans are not His plans. My ways are not His ways. My good for His Great.’ Words you keep telling yourself when you know something is coming, but you have no idea what it is.

I am a planner. I like to know that things have been thought through and planned, so I know what to expect. No surprises. Because, well, I hate surprises.

Let me elaborate. I don’t mind being surprised, but I can’t stand knowing there is one coming. If I am going to be surprised, I would prefer to be completely in the dark until it is fully revealed. I guess that is why I dislike scary movies or scary anything for that matter. I know I am going to be scared, I just don’t know when it’s coming, and that irritates the crud out of me.

I truly believe God finds this characteristic of mine amusing. Because although He is a planner as well, He does not always divulge His plans to His children. He gives us our daily bread. He wants us to depend on Him, trusting that He indeed has it all worked out. Giving us too much might make us greedy; giving us too little, would be leaving us wanting more.

Five years ago, God told me something was happening in my 40th year. That’s all He said, something. No details. No specifics. Not even a category. I already knew that my 40th year would include Jake graduating, but I knew that wasn’t going to be all.

When I first heard that message, I spent months imagining what it could be. Was I getting married? Was I moving to Guatemala? Or back to Florida? Was I getting married? (Oh, did I say that already?) I tried to find answers in everything. I was frustrated that I knew something was going to happen, but I didn’t know what.

As the years passed, the desire to know dwindled. I got busy and caught in the present that I forgot about the future, per say. Plus, it was so far off, it kind of seemed out of reach. Well, as my 40th year got closer, the anxiety and desire to know rekindled and it was stronger than ever. Jake graduated, knew where he was going to school and it was all paid for (PRAISE JESUS!!). But what about me? What was I going to do?

Well, some things worked themselves out and I ended up spending my 40th birthday back home in Florida. I spent 10 wonderful days with friends from throughout the 15 years Jake and I had lived there. Person after person asked when I was coming back. Of course, that was my desire, but I wasn’t certain if it was God’s will, so I just asked people to pray.

When I got back to Thomasville, I was renewed. Not knowing wasn’t scary anymore, it was just unnerving. I prayed and prayed. Begging for an answer. Begging for some huge revelation of the remainder of “the plan”, and it came, sort of. It wasn’t a huge revelation, but it was a huge storm. Hurricane Irma was on its way to crush my home and all I wanted was to be there with my friends. As crazy as it sounds, I wanted to weather the storm with them.

The Friday and Saturday prior to the storm hitting, I was literally sick. My anxiety was causing my body to go haywire. Then God did something amazing. He made the hurricane fall apart. As the days passed, yes, there was evidence of a storm, but there was a sense of gratefulness for God and His never-ending mercy.

After a week of anxiety, anticipating the worst storm in history, there were deep breaths and sighs of relief. I was also relieved. Relieved my friends and their homes were spared, but my anxiety had made a shift. I now knew what my next step was to be.

And this is where I am today. At the crossroad of this next step, a new chapter. I have given a “I’m leaving, but not sure when” notice at work and know that I am moving back to Florida at some point, but that is as far as I know. I am looking diligently for a job. Applying for whatever opportunity crosses my path and praying for God’s direction every step of the way. Would I like the entire plan laid out before me? Of course, but for right now I will do my best to be satisfied with the daily bread He provides and try not to get too caught up in the fact that I still, in fact, hate surprises.

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Last First Day

The night before your  senior year begins, the words of 1 Peter 2:12 are my prayer for you…”Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

As the close of a chapter in your life approaches, know this. As there will always be people who love you, there will also be people who don’t. There will always be someone who doesn’t agree with your actions no matter how good your intentions. Some will even make things up about you in an effort to bring you down. But my prayer despite all of that negativity and slander? May they know that despite their greatest efforts you are a young man after God’s heart because your actions contradict their words.

So, it comes back to you…

  1. Seek God FIRST! If you seek Him first, you will never lose your direction.
  2. Follow His prompting. By doing what He calls you to do, it won’t matter what anyone says.
  3. Seek to ONLY please God! Human approval is based on results; God sees your heart and loves you beyond your wins or losses.
  4. See what He sees. Many have told you or made you felt like you were less than, but know that when God sees you, He sees a bold, strong, courageous man who will bring many to His Kingdom.

As a result, you will not be dependent on the opinions of others and it will help you see the good in everyone. Then those very people who accuse you, will be the ones who glorify God because of your unwavering character and faith.

God has HUGE, GREAT things for you and they are not in the future. THEY ARE NOW! Don’t miss the opportunities He gives you. I am PROUD to be your mother! I love you! I bless you in the name of our Lord  and Savior, Jesus Christ!

May your last first day be the first day of a new and amazing journey. A journey that your Heavenly Father has specifically chosen for you!

Words

“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.”

When I was in 8th grade, a guy told me I couldn’t be his Valentine because his friends thought I was ugly. Those words have stayed with me since they were spoken. I may not identify with them as much as I once did, but for a very long time, I did some stupid things to validate my worth and receive the approval of others.

“She used to be ashamed of her story, now she’s excited to tell them about God’s mercy, favor, and glory.”

I have made some awful mistakes in my life, many I have confessed to and many I have not. I guess this could be said for any of us. We confess just enough for people to believe we are transparent, but keep plenty close to the vest.

“A…heart like his mama’s”

One of my biggest complaints of Jake is how differently he treats me versus how he treats others. I complain that he is so polite to others whilst treating me not so nice.

His heart is definitely like mine. Last night, Jake reminded how mean I am to him. I have said some cruel and heartbreaking things to him throughout the years, which have obviously stayed with him. I have crushed his spirits, devalued him as a person and a young man. All the while sharing with others how “far” Christ has brought me.

Am I negating the distance I have travelled? Absolutely not, but how can one proclaim being a lover of Christ when she is not loving the most special gift He has blessed her with? Have my words hurt my son as deeply as the words spoken to me by an 8th grade boy?

“You are being too hard on yourself”

Am I? Or am I taking advantage of all the mercy, favor, and glory God has showered on me? Am I no different than the person that hurt me with his words all those years ago? Am I still the self-absorbed child that sought validation by putting others down because I was once hurt?

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” – Ephesians 5:8-13

May Your conviction produce a change and not be easily forgotten.

Know It All

Several years ago, someone questioned my beliefs of speaking in tongues. He didn’t argue with me, he just wanted to know why I believed what I believed. I wasn’t sure how to answer him. A trustworthy person, earlier in life, had taught me something, and I adopted it as my own belief, no questions asked. Now the question was being asked. And I had no response.

Because of that experience, I have really become a student of the Word. I don’t want to just take on something because it sounds true. I want to be able to back up what I believe if ever questioned. In addition, I also like to ask the question that was asked of me “why do you believe that?” That question, as it did for me several years ago, has sparked many a conversations. Unfortunately, it has also sparked many arguments.

When did it become wrong to question someone? Is it that offensive to know someone’s thought process on his or her beliefs? Have we become so defensive that everything is interpreted as attack? Are our beliefs so absurd we would never want to share our reasoning with a person who genuinely wants to know our thoughts on the matter? Could we not learn from one another by questioning others? Is this not what Proverbs 27:17 mean when it says: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”?

Could it be that when we question someone’s beliefs, we get to know him or her a little better? Or if we are the ones being questioned, could it be an opportunity to share our beliefs with someone who may believe as we do? We are so quick to tell people when we are right and they are not, that we often forget that there is only One that knows it all and we are never too wise to learn something new!

But God…

I was recently reminded that often when we are tested and tempted, it could be a sign that a reward for our faithfulness could be right around the corner. That with God and the Holy Spirit within us, there is always victory no matter how often we doubt and stumble.

She awaited the revelation, the appointed time, which spoke of the end and would not be proven false. Though it lingered, she waited for it because she knew it would certainly come and would not delay[1]. She had always prayed for falsehood and lies to be kept from her; she wanted neither poverty nor riches, but only her daily bread. Because she knew if she had too much she would disown her God. Or too little, she would steal and dishonor His name [2]. Yet she sat alone looking out the window, thinking, longing, “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish? In Your love You kept me from the pit of destruction; You have put all my sins behind Your back”[3].

He reminded her that He knew her deeds, her love and faith, her service and perseverance, and that she was now doing more than she did at first[4]. “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach; for I am your Maker, your Husband”[5]. Though once comforting, His words now seemed distant, unattainable. Knowing her heart so well, He continued, “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you now perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland”[6].

His words reminded her that He was faithful to all of His promises and loving toward all He has made. He was near to all who called on Him[7]. That if she delighted herself in Him, He would delight in her ways and make her steps firm. Though she stumbled, He would not fail her and give her the desires of her heart[8].

In her anguish, she cried out to the Lord and He answered by setting her free[9]. She then knew that if she only put her hope in Him, her strength and her spirit would always be renewed[10]. For perhaps the reason they were separated for this short while, was that they may be together forever[11].

[1] Habakkuk 2:3
[2] Proverbs 30:8-9
[3] Isaiah 38:17
[4] Revelation 2:19
[5] Isaiah 54:4-5
[6] Isaiah 43:18-19
[7] Psalms 145:13, 18
[8] Psalms 37:4, 23-24
[9] Psalms 118:5
[10] Isaiah 40:31
[11] Philemon 15

His Image

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27

So many of us have read this verse and have skipped over the meaning of being created in “his own image”. In the image of God. We. Were. Created. I don’t know if I have ever thought of this before. Or if I have, why haven’t I lived it out?

The world has an image of what we all should look like. For females, we should be voluptuous with sexy everything (body, hair, face, clothes, shoes). Men should be tall, chiseled. There is this standard that we (I) all strive for. We seek to look like the image the world desires when we are already made in the Perfect image of God.

Of course, maintaining the image of God requires work and sacrifice. We must maintain the standard of His image. But what does created in His image mean? Let’s take a look at a couple of characteristics of His image: health and strength.

Health. Does this mean thin? I don’t think so. I am thin, but I am far from healthy. I don’t eat or exercise as I should. I know people, both lighter and heavier, that are much more healthy than I am. But being healthy isn’t only about our physical bodies. Healthy can also refer to our emotional and spiritual self. If we are exercising and maintaining a healthy weight, but are continuously filling our hearts and minds with junk, there is no value in our working out our physical bodies. Jesus kept up His physical body (He walked everywhere. I am quite certain He was physically healthy.). He also kept up with His emotional and spiritual self (Scripture after Scripture refers to Him praying and seeking God.).

Strength. With health comes strength. We are in a battle. Whether a believer or not. Everyday is a battle. We fight for our happiness, our families, and, too often, our sanity. Everyday we make life altering choices which determine who and what we are fighting for. Some of these battles require physical strength, but more so, our hearts and minds need to be strong. Jesus was a perfect example of this multi-level strength. His physical strength allowed Him to walk all over the region. His physical strength also helped Him carry the cross to Calvary. However, if His heart and mind were not as strong, His body could not have made it through such torture.

We were created in His image. In the image of a Healthy and Strong God.

Created in the image of God means we were given bodies and minds that are in His likeness. When He sees us, He sees Himself; He sees Perfection. However, this Perfection isn’t self-maintaining. As Jesus taught us, we must choose everyday to maintain such health and strength. Unlike Jesus who knew what was ahead for Him and why He needed to maintain, we have no idea what today or tomorrow will bring. We, therefore as Jesus did, need to be prepared to reveal His image when we win and when we are bloodied and bruised.

Could he free me?

One of my first assignments for Moody Bible was to compose a letter of someone who had heard or come in contact with Jesus and what their reaction would be taking in consideration the first century world.

Dearest cousin,

I must share with you the happenings of these days. Papa, mama and brother attended a wedding in Cana. I remained at home as I often do. Brother told me during the feast, the wine ran out, but within the hour there was more, much more. Papa told brother the new wine was much better than the first and wondered why the bridegroom had held the better wine until then. Brother did not believe the bridegroom knew from where this new wine had arrived.

Uncle Nicodemus came to the house to speak with Papa several days later. They spoke in privacy as to keep the rest of us from hearing, but mama, brother, and I could not keep too far away. We tried not to listen, but did not want to make too much noise that would disturb them either. As the conversation went on, we could hear Uncle Nicodemus sharing of the signs he himself had witnessed and those, which the other Pharisees had witnessed or had been told of.

He spoke of the temple being turned about and all of the traders being told to leave. He mentioned of the Capernaum official’s son that had been mysteriously healed. He spoke of the man in Jerusalem who had been an invalid all of his life – thirty-eight years, I believe it was – and was miraculously healed as well. In Samaria, of all places, this man spoke to a woman at Jacob’s well who had several husbands and the one she was currently living with was not her husband. Uncle Nicodemus was told that this man, which I believe he called Jesus, told the women of all her doings and she was amazed and shared what he has told her with all who would hear.

Uncle Nicodemus finally told Papa of how he had went to see this man, Jesus, during the night and had spoken to him of all the things that happened. Unfortunately, during this time, Uncle Nicodemus was whispering, so we were not able to hear all of the details, but we did hear the need to be “born again” meaning not of flesh, but of spirit. At one point, Uncle Nicodemus seemed to be angered because Jesus had questioned him as teacher of Israel.

Oh, cousin! I do not understand what this all means. Papa spoke with mama after Uncle Nicodemus had left and I later heard her speak with the ladies while they fetched water at the well. It seems some have been angered by the actions of this Jesus and others seem to have chosen to follow his teachings. Philip and Nathaniel chose to follow this man’s teachings and they have not only shamed themselves, but their entire families. It seems as if the life provided to them was not good enough. Their responsibility was to guard the traditions, the status, and honor of their family, but they chose shame in it place of responsibility.

I will do as Papa and Mama instruct, but I often wonder what is truly behind the signs and acts of this teacher, Jesus. Could he possibly be the Son of God? Could he be the promised Messiah that has come to save us? I have heard so many stories of the healing and promise he professes. I have even seen some of those who he has healed and they look so different, so free. I would never do anything to bring shame to our family much more than I already have, but Cousin, what if this man is the one who can free me from this curse? Oh, cousin, it has been a long twelve years and I long to be clean. Maybe if I touched him just once, could he free me?

With a deep longing for your return and companionship, your cousin, Veronica.