Joy Comes In The Morning

tulips2020

What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us. ~ Helen Keller

It has been said that a cardinal is a representative of those we love that have passed away. When the bird appears, it means your loved one has come to see you…often when you need them or miss them the most. I must admit, I am not one to believe in such things. However, I do find it interesting that for the second year in a row, right before the anniversary of my daughter’s death, a cardinal made an appearance at my house.

This morning I awoke in a NyQuil haze, stumbling into the kitchen for my morning coffee…welcome to winter in the Midwest. As the aroma of freshly brewed java tickled my nose I began to perk up. At that moment a glance out my door wall stopped me dead in my tracks. Out of the corner of my eye the flicker of vibrant red caught my attention…then I saw it. The contrast of the bird’s beautiful feathers on the cold gray brick pavers stood out like the North Star in the black night sky. I must admit, in that brief moment, I thought, “just when I needed you most sweet girl.”

Tomorrow will be 12 years since my beautiful Francesca Isabella went home to be with Jesus. I can honestly say that 12 years later, the new year never gets easier. The loss looms at the dawn of every year as a beacon to remind me of how quickly life can change and how silly those 5 year and 10 year plans really are. Nothing is guaranteed and in an instant it can all change. You can plan til your hearts content but rarely does life play out like the fantastical narrative we create in our minds.

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. ~ James 4:14

January 7, 2008 was an ordinary day in a new year. The day dawned with so much hope, so much possibility. As I wrote in my journal that morning I did so with so much confidence. Reflecting on a sermon I had heard the day before, I wanted nothing more than to glorify the God who had set me free and changed my life. I had no idea that the minutes passing by were racing me toward a moment when time would stand still.

January 8, 2008, what a difference a day can make. The day before, which started with so much hope, ended with soul crushing heartache. On this day my journal simply started with…

“I am numb!!! You have taken Francesca Isabella home to you!”

These are the words of a mother who has had the most sacred thing torn out of her life, her own child. There are not enough words to articulate the kind of pain one feels in this moment, and I pray none of you ever have to feel it. All the plans I had for that year, for Francesca’s life, for my own life shattered into a million pieces on a January afternoon. Life was just a vapor and I was learning that lesson the hard way.

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads my beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. Your prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessing. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever. ~ Psalm 23

When King David penned these words it was a reflection upon his life. An honest account of how God had sustained him throughout his life. What I think I love most about this Psalm is that it doesn’t paint the picture of a perfect or an easy life. Quite to the contrary, it talks about walking through dark valleys and facing enemies that would have delighted in his demise. Yet, through it all David knew protection, comfort, blessing, goodness, love, and he had victory. Not because he was a particularly strong person but because God was a good, good Father. God was David’s shepherd. His was the voice David sought, His were the arms that brought comfort in the midst of soul crushing heartache, He was the shield that protected David from the schemes of the enemy even when everything was stacked against him, it was His goodness and loved that saturated David’s life. David was living evidence that God’s promises were true, regardless of the circumstances of his life.

I feel such a kinship to King David. I, too, feel like I am living evidence that God’s promises are true. As I read the 23rd Psalm David actually disappears from my mind and my own life plays out through the familiar words on the page.   Yes, every new year begins with the reminder of the darkest valley I have walked through. And yes, every new year begins with the reminder that all of my heart no longer dwells with me here on this earth, a piece of it now awaits me in heaven. However, I cannot linger in the heaviness of that reality, the grief of my journey does not overwhelm or consume me. Because it was through that grief that I have experienced the fullness of God’s comfort and His protection. His goodness and His love did pursue me. When the enemy tried to destroy my family it was God who stepped in, not so that we might merely survive through the pain but that we might thrive because of the beauty that was revealed through the ashes of it. I am living proof that on the other side of the shadow of death your cup can overflow with blessing.

Weeping might last through the night but joy comes with the morning. ~          Psalm 30:5

Several months ago a preacher that has a fire for Jesus, an extraordinary anointing of the Holy Spirit, and my utmost respect pulled me aside and gave me a prophetic word. He said, “You will be a spiritual mother to many.” It was so simple, yet so profound.

Last night his words echoed in my mind as I had the privilege to speak into a handful of young adult women. I poured out how God’s story intersected my story and radically changed and transformed my life. The journey wasn’t easy or pretty…it was raw and it was hard, but it was real. And as I spoke there she was…my sweet girl, Francesca Isabella, God’s precious daughter, the one I had the privilege of calling my own for the briefest of days on this earth. She is woven throughout God’s story and my own. Her presence may no longer be in this world but she is everywhere I am, because she is in me. She lives on, actively and vibrantly in my heart. And though I will never have the opportunity to mother her in this lifetime, because of her God has placed me in a position to be a mother to others.

It might be silly or whimsical but a part of me wants so desperately to believe that beautifully vibrant cardinal outside my window this morning was a little piece of heaven cheering me on. Reminding me and maybe some of you, that while a new year might start with a flavor of sadness, and weeping may last for the night…joy truly does come with the morning. It might not look the way you thought it would or wanted it to, but if you trust God, I promise He will turn the ashes of this life into beautiful things…I am living proof of it.

Cardinal2020

(my morning visitor)

Becoming…

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decided to be ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

A new year has dawned and with it comes all of our goals and best intentions to make this year better than the last. It’s funny, a few months back a CD, as in compact disc, surfaced at work. The artist is one that many of you don’t know, but he is a good friend of mine, in fact he’s the worship pastor at the church where I am on staff. This CD had the 1990’s written all over it. I mean down to the Structure suit Jon wore in the cover shot. For those of you not alive in the 90’s, Structure was a popular men’s store back in the day. The title of the CD was Becoming and for weeks after discovering it we teased him. Had he become?  Was he still becoming? That’s what happens when you work with people you truly love…you tease each other like you would a sibling…without mercy.

However, as silly and trivial as that all seemed at the time, the word “becoming” is one that I haven’t quite shaken. Maybe it’s because at 42 I feel like I finally understand that life is one long journey of becoming. Becoming who you are…becoming who you were meant to be…becoming the totality of every experience you have this side of heaven. Perfectly and wonderfully created for this moment right now. The past is the stepping-stones and the lessons learned to uniquely equip you for the challenges and triumphs of the day. The future is what you are currently being prepared to walk into. With that truth I realize that there will never be a point where we will actually become. Never will we reach the pinnacle of what we are meant to be. As long as we draw breath, we are still becoming. We are like clay in the Potter’s hands. Which means that in every season of life He molds and shapes us. In every season we continue to become what we were meant to be…right here…right now.

There is only one thing God wants of us, and that is our unconditional surrender ~ Oswald Chambers

The older I get the harder New Year’s has become. When I was a little girl my mom always cried as one year slipped into the next. In my childish mind I couldn’t understand why. As an adult, I see things more clearly. There is a certain ache for the things that have gone, the pains endured, the good byes that were said, and the joys that have become memories. It is in the closing of a year that one must assess the dreams that slipped away while leaving room for new dreams to come alive. Sometimes that is easier said than done. Truth be told… sometimes… I find myself wanting to hunker down in my bed, depression creeping in, as I wallow in what is gone and what will never be again.

Indeed, for a few days I did allow myself to wallow…

Then I did the only thing that made sense in that moment…I prayed!!!

In my prayers I reflected on my word for 2018, “choice”

Did I make good choices? Did the year play out the way I expected or wanted it to? Does it ever, really? What choices mattered most? Which ones would I like a do over on?”

These are the ramblings of my own mind as my thoughts hit the pages of my journal…

“In the end “choice” is a funny word. What have I learned? Choice is a word that suggests control. And while it is a choice to practice self-control…at the end of the day 2018 taught me…yet, again…that there is very little I actually control and the only choice that really matters is the one to honor God…to walk in step with Jesus…to be fully surrendered in all that I do. Once that choice is made…everything else falls into place…regardless of how the year actually turns out.”

And out of those reflections birthed my word for 2019…SURRENDER.

Every goal, every dream, every hope for this coming year rests in my yearning to become more surrendered to God in every area of my life; mind, body, and soul

Everyone on earth is carrying an unseen history, and that alone deserves tolerance ~ Michelle Obama

I could give you a whole list of my goals for 2019 but why bore you and why put myself out there for public accountability. Let’s keep it real people, you know I’m going to let at least one of these goals fall to the wasteside. There I said it…now in next year’s blog I can own it.

But here is one I will share with you. I have set a goal to read at least one biography a month. Odd goal? To some, probably. However, as I spent time with God dreaming about 2019 the one thing He clearly laid upon my heart was people. To be more intentional, but not just with people I know or people who are like me…but to open my eyes to the world of people all around me. To open my heart and my mind to see people as God sees them. To hear people’s stories for a greater understanding of why they think the way they do or live as they have chosen to live. God has reminded me over and over again that I cannot speak into the lives of people who I have never even bothered to hear or tried to understand. He has reminded me that in the differences of humanity come the beautiful tapestry of all whom God loves…all whom Jesus died for. How can I ever declare that truth, if I never stop to listen to the story of the human experience beyond the comfort of what I have always known.

So I find myself sitting here. Next to me is a book that just a few months ago I would have never considered reading. Becoming, by our former First Lady, Michelle Obama, is my first book of 2019. For those who know me…pick your jaws up off the ground…I promise the shock will wear off. For beyond what you know or what you think you know there is always a back story, a greater understanding of why. What I have discovered in the first six chapters is that there is a compelling story behind every person, ones we admire and those we don’t. I was never a huge fan of President Obama. Politically, he doesn’t align with my beliefs on most topics and quite honestly, neither does his wife. Yet, I read this book not to dispute political ideology but to understand the humanity behind the position held. To learn about the experiences that molded and shaped our former First Lady into the woman she is becoming. I am sure as I read there will be things said that I will cringe at and vehemently disagree with. But I have also discovered there are things I have a new-found respect for. Michelle Obama is an incredibly intelligent woman who, much like myself, keeps it real and that is a common ground that I can respect in anyone. But the greater gift is being able to see someone through a different lens. A lens bent toward empathy rather than divisiveness.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the new year ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whatever your word for 2019 is, whatever your goals or dreams may be…may we all be reminded that a New Year is birthed with new opportunity to continue to become exactly who you were created to be in such a time as this. The past does not define you…it was merely the training ground for all that you are meant to do in this season. The future has yet to be written…the circumstances and choices of today will prepare you for all that lies ahead. My choice today and every day will be to surrender my past, my present, and my future to Almighty God and allow Him to author a greater story than I could have ever written on my own. Becoming all that He desires me to be for His kingdom and His glory.

Happy New Year and Godspeed

xoxo

 

Undone

“And they lived happily ever after…”

I don’t know anyone who wishes for a life of difficulty or uncertainty.  In fact, I can confidently say that most of us sign up for the fairy tale at a very young age.  You know…knights in shining armor rescuing damsels in distress and they live happily ever after in a 2 story Cape Cod with a white picket fence in a Mayberry like town. Sounds about right doesn’t it?  It’s interesting because there are two very distinct definitions for fairy tale and it is very obvious which one we all prefer…

fairy tale (noun) 1)  story in which improbable events lead to a happy ending 2) a made-up story usually designed to mislead.

I have to be honest, that second definition never even crossed my mind, yet as I read it I realized that this truly is the correct definition.  Do fairy tales not mislead us?  Do they not make us believe that the lowly servant girl can marry a prince, that true loves kiss will erase all difficulties and when the dragon is slain all will live happily ever after.

“Authenticity ministers far more than put-togetherness.  And vulnerability builds a far stronger bond than perfection.” ~ Michele Cushatt

An unexpected life…who cannot relate to that…are we all not living one?  If we all think back to our childhood aspirations, I bet few of our lives actually turned out they way we dreamed they would.  Well maybe I shouldn’t speak for you, but last time I checked I didn’t end up with a law degree from Georgetown, I never entered the Washington political scene, and I am not running for president in 2016…LOL…nope my fairy tale did not come true…not even close.  In fact, when I think about the dreams of my youth I wonder if God would have been able to speak into my life louder than my own ambitions.  Thankfully, I’ll never have to know.  At 18 the reality of an unexpected life put me on a very different road…one that lead me directly into God’s plan.  Of course, I took the scenic route and I was derailed a time or two but God used this time of unexpectedness to speak His truth into me.  I would love to say that as I gave my life to Christ my “happily ever after” came to be, but the reality is that the most difficult parts of my life came after I became a Christ follower.  A child diagnosed with autism and losing a child to SIDS is where the reality of my life shattered any childhood fairy tales that lingered in my dreams.  It was in these valleys that I had to make peace with an unexpected life.  My words fail me as I try to articulate the ferocity in which the pendulum of emotion swings when you walk the darkest roads of life.  I have often wondered if there would ever be a way that I could fully communicate what it feels like to be empty, when nothing makes sense and you cling to God with what little strength you have left.  You wrestle with fear and doubt…you cannot help your mind from wandering to all the things that should have been…the very things that would have made your life normal and good, the fairy tale the child in you dreamed it would be.  In the end, I think the one thing we all long for more than anything is the simple knowledge that we are not alone.  That in a world that loves to put on the facade of perfection, there are people who struggle…just like we do.

“Character is not born of stillness.  It requires the hammer blows of affliction” ~ Charles R. Swindoll

Have you ever met someone and instantly felt comfortable in their presence?  The kind of person that exudes a certain special something and you want to soak it all in.  This past July I walked up to a  hotel suite door like a nervous girl on her first day of high school.  I was at the She Speaks Conference and I was about to enter into my speaking peer critique group.  Would the other ladies like me…would my speaking coach like me?  Uggghhhh…what if she hated my speaking and told me I misunderstood God’s calling on my life?!?!  Yes, these truly are the doubts that fill your head when you attend a conference with 600 other ladies who are gifted and called by God to a ministry of writing and speaking.  My stomach was nauseous as I wondered what in the world I was doing there.  Then it happened…I opened the door and on the other side was a group of some of the sweetest and most talented ladies I have ever met.  In just a few short minutes that hotel room became a safe zone…it was a place where 12 strangers were bonded for life by the God who brought us together.  An environment of encouragement and grace enveloped our group as those qualities exuded from our speaking coach, Michele Cushatt.  From the moment she began to speak to us she soothed our nerves with her honesty and transparency.  She reminded us that nothing we did or did not do in our group negated God’s call on our life…He had called us, of that she was certain.  As her confidence poured into all of us our nerves began to melt away.  In those moments God brought a mentor into my life…a mentor whose beautiful spirit and grace reminded me that one of the  greatest blessings God gives us is this family we all belong to, the Body of Christ.

“Peace isn’t a byproduct of control, the payout of a happy conclusion.  Peace is the infiltrating, life-giving presence of a very real God.” ~ Michele Cushatt

In real life very few people get to ride off into the sunset and bask in the glow of their happy ending.  In real life things get messy and hard…real hard.  However, it is how we navigate…or better yet, how we allow God to navigate us through the tough stuff that matters most.  You see Scripture tells us in Philippians 4: 6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  But what happens in the rawness of your world crashing in around you?  What happens when the devastating twists and turns of life try to rob you of the presence and the peace of the God who loves you?  How do you make peace with an unexpected life?

You might not have realized this but this blog post is all about my beloved mentor, Michele Cushatt’s new book, Undone: A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life. I have honestly never written a book critique and I am not really sure I know how.  But when I was given the opportunity to be on the launch team for Michele’s book I jumped on it.  Besides being a mentor, Michele is up there with some of the best communicators I have ever witnessed, there is a reason why she is on the Women of Faith tour, just sayin’.  With such ease and grace I witnessed her weave stories around the beautiful truths she desired to convey. I knew that anyone who had been so gifted with words would write a fabulous book and I was not disappointed.  You will find no spoilers in my brief summary of Undone for I do not want to rob you of unwrapping this book like the gift that it is.  This blog is merely a tease…it is the build up to the real gift, Undone.  I chose to write this blog as I did because I wanted you all to know who Michele is to me, I’ve never had the honor of personally knowing an author before.  I wanted to give you just enough so that you would know what an amazing gift God has for you on the pages of this exquisite memoir written by a precious sister in Christ who has made a tremendous impact on my life.

I had the opportunity to write a little blurb on the Undone website and that is what I will share with you…

“The unexpected life is something we all have in common, however it is how we choose to walk the journey that makes the story uniquely our own.  Michele Cushatt’s “Undone” is a refreshingly transparent memoir that tackles some of the biggest obstacles that one can encounter on life’s path; pain, heartbreak, divorce, blended families, betrayal, forgiveness, and cancer.  A master story-teller, Michelle easily draws her readers in with her honesty and sense of humor.  But it is the vulnerability in which she shares her deepest struggles and the grace that flows through her words that reminds us we never struggle alone.  It is in the raw truth that we truly see how God’s story intersects with our own story, if we would just open our scared, bewildered, and broken hearts to Him.  One cannot read this book and not walk away blessed by the beautiful soul that is Michele Cushatt.  Her hand print highlights to us that God is good…all the time He is good!”

Undone will be released this coming Tuesday, March 10th and I HIGHLY recommend it.  It give it two thumbs WAY up…honestly I wish I had more thumbs cause two doesn’t seem like enough.  Head over to Amazon to pre-order your copy today…buy one for a friend while you’re at it, it’s that good.  What is most captivating about Michele’s story is that we can find ourselves in it.  Even if the circumstances of our struggles are different the reality is that we are all trying to make peace with an unexpected life on some level.  And peace is something that God desires for us, in abundance.  Whether you are walking through a valley or not, the wisdom and transparency of Michele’s story will touch your soul in a very special way and you do not want to miss it!

For more info go to http://undonebook.com/

 

 

Hopeful Expectation

catharsis, noun:  the act or process of releasing a strong emotion especially by expressing it in an art form.” ~ Merriam Webster Dictionary

What does a writer do when they have not been prompted to write?  The desire to do that which one loves is overwhelming yet the muse they rely on for their words has not spoken.  I never really considered myself a writer.  I am not trained at all in the written word, at least not in a formal way.  But over the last few years I have developed such a passion for it.  When I sit at my computer I get lost in the beauty of the experience.  It is both cathartic and creative.  There is a secret place in me that has always wished I was more creative.  I have such an appreciation for the arts yet I have always felt as if I was on the outside looking in.  Not really talented in any medium of art…and that is not being modest, it’s brutal honesty…I have often felt like my appreciation of the arts has been a longing to be a part of something creative.  When God birthed in me this desire to write I was both elated and terrified.  I am not a writer.  A communicator, yes.  A writer, no.  But He was giving me this opportunity to dabble in something creative and that excited me.  When I began my blog in July I never could have imagined how much joy, how much release, and how much intimacy with God writing this blog would give me.  As a one who has written in prayer journals for years, you would think this revelation would not be a shocker but of course, it was.  I often think God must sit back in the throne room of heaven and get a great chuckle out of me.  I tend to be slow at catching on sometimes.  I imagine Him giving a dramatic, “DUH!” with a shake of the head…cause in my mind God is Italian so His gestures must be off the charts.  He probably talks with His hands too.

What makes my writing so unique is that I never just write to write.  In fact, I can’t.  Don’t believe me?  Well I tried it tonight.  I sat at my computer with the full intention of writing about a Group I am currently teaching on Wilfredo De Jesus’ book In The Gap.  I got through the first paragraph and I paused.  What I had written felt empty.  I had the best of intentions but as I reread my words I knew God had stopped me.  Why?  Because He never prompted me to write on this topic.  In that moment He reminded me that my writing has always been about what He lays on my heart.  To share snapshots of my life and my journey, through the events and episodes that He uses to shape me.  The circumstances and struggles of life that He desires for me to share.  Whether funny or serious, my writing at its very core is never about me but always about God.  He is the One who gives me the passion to write and therefore when I try to step ahead or around Him to write…it simply does not work, the words do not come.

Tonight I had such an overwhelming desire to write.  Since going back to work a month ago I have had little time to think about my writing.  The adjustment of schedules and the transition into a new role took precedent over pretty much everything.  Yesterday, I was sitting in my office and I was gripped by fear.  Not an “I’m afraid” fear but rather it was a dread fear.  In a moment this horrific thought crossed my mind…”What if I never write again?”  It was a fleeting thought at a random moment, and it left my mind as fast as it entered it. But my heart sunk at the very suggestion that I may never write again.  Truth be told, tonight I sat at my computer so that I could prove to myself that my fear was unwarranted…I would indeed write again.  Yet, as I sat here, completely unprompted by God, my words were flat.  They didn’t flow forth the way they usually do.  They lacked everything that made them even worth sharing…they lacked God.  Hitting delete never felt so good!!!  Don’t we all feel that way sometimes?  We have all made decisions that we know full well we never consulted God on.  We impose our will on Him and then expect Him to bless it as if it was all His idea in the first place.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we were just a delete button away from a “do over”  when we put our desires before God’s will.  Alas, we do not have that luxury.  However, we do have the beautiful gift of knowing that our God goes before us.  He has prepared in advance all that He has for us.  Where we are going…He’s already there.  Instead of trying to beat God to the destination maybe we should just treasure the gift of knowing He is paving the way.  When we are on the road paved by God delete buttons are not necessary.  When we trust God, He even uses our mess ups for His purpose and His glory…this blog post is proof of that.

This morning during our staff prayer time God laid two words on my heart…”hopeful expectation”  I didn’t know what they meant and I honestly did not have the time to ponder it either.  Those two words, jotted down in my prayer journal, were followed by the line “I have hopeful expectation.  Father, I don’t just hope you will move…I know you will!”  It’s amazing how something you write down at 9:30 in the morning comes back to speak to you at 10:30 at night.  Hopeful expectation..I am full of hope because of who God proves Himself to be over and over gain in my life and in the lives of those around me.  His hand print is everywhere.  Sometimes my vision gets a little blurry and I need to get refocused, but that’s my issue.  God never changes and my hope is firmly rooted in my Creator, Almighty God, the One who reigns over heaven and earth, He who is the same today as He was yesterday as He will be tomorrow.  My hope rests securely in all that God is and one thing I know for sure…God is a mover.  He never slumbers and He never sleeps.  His watchful eye is always upon us…His presence is always among us…His Spirit is longing to ignite a bold movement, a movement of His children; bringing the truth and the grace and the love of Jesus Christ to those who so desperately need His touch and His redemption.  I bask in hopeful expectation not so that I can write again, no this hopeful expectation is my “I’m ready” stance.  Ready for a great movement of God. Ready to be used when God calls upon me.  Hopeful expectation…the anticipation stirs in my heart as I am engulfed with the excitement of being in the middle of something so much bigger than I can even imagine.  Is there any greater place to be than in the center of God’s plan…in the middle of His movement?  I can tell you this, there is no place I would rather be.

As I get ready to hit publish I recognize that this may be one of those blog posts that is simply my journal entry in an open forum.  If the lesson is only for me, I am okay with that.  Sometimes this is exactly what I need for God to walk me through certain thoughts, emotions, or attitudes.  There is so much freedom when we take off all the baggage and just walk in honesty with our Savior.

Timing is Everything

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/104/70897755/files/2015/01/img_7617.jpg

“Storms make trees take deeper roots.” ~ Dolly Parton

I am a writer, it is what I do.  No, I’m not an author…simply a writer.  My thoughts are best communicated when words flow from my mind to my hand, from the pen to the page.  Maybe this is the reason I have kept prayer journals for years.  I struggle to quiet my mind when I pray, yet when I write my prayers they effervesce out of me.  I wonder if this is how composers, song writers, authors, and other truly gifted artists feel as they come alive in their craft.  I am no Mozart, I don’t belong with the likes of Lennon and McCartney, and Shakespeare, Austen, and Hemingway would cringe if they thought I was even suggesting to be in their league.  LOL…I am amateur at best with my feeble attempt to write yet when I sit down to journal my heart to God or to answer His prompt to blog…that is when I find words…words He has crafted in me to share and words I return to Him is praise, worship, acknowledgment, anguish, despair, confession, and intercession.

Seven years ago…

There were no words, they died with my broken heart.  All that remained were the muted cries of anguish that screamed from the depths of my soul but the pain was too great for them to manifest into an audible sound.  I didn’t worry about whether I would ever find the words to journal again, I was more focused on trying to make sense out of the heartache that weighed down on my chest like a freight train.  As I sat in my living room the night my daughter died, rocking my body back and forth in a futile attempt to soothe the unsoothable ache, the thought that nothing would ever be okay again consumed me.  I cried out God to fix what seemed broken beyond repair…our hearts.

“Those who leave everything in God’s hand will eventually see God’s hand in everything” ~ Unknown

One week after my daughter passed away my dear friend and grief counselor gave me a prayer journal.  The words of my heart flowed to the pages of that book like the haunting and aching melody of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.  There is such beauty in the rawness of the human experience…crying out to the only One who can heal a heart that broken.  Of course at the time I didn’t see beauty, I felt the pain.  But in those moments the gift of communicating my deepest hurts, desires, fears, and hopes to God through the written word returned to me and the healing process had begun.  As I scour those journal entries now I am transported back to a time when God’s presence in my life was so strong…He was everywhere…I felt Him with me, physically.  His people showered love down upon us so lavishly that as I reflect I am awed by how much God took care of us.  His hand print was everywhere.  In my desperate prayers I begged Him to help us survive.  He did more than help us survive…He transformed our family through His love so that we could thrive.

“I AM ABLE to do far beyond all that you ask or imagine…Do not be discouraged by the fact that many of your prayers are yet unanswered.  Time is a trainer, teaching you to wait upon Me, to trust Me in the dark.  The more extreme your circumstances, the more likely you are to see My power and glory at work in the situation…Keep your eyes and your mind wide open to all that I am doing in your life.” ~ Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

Tomorrow will be seven years since losing our precious Francesca.  As I sit here tonight I am in awe of just how far God has taken our family since that fateful afternoon in 2008.  I asked for survival and He gave me beauty like I’ve never experienced amidst the ashes.  I asked for healing and He gave me peace and purpose.  I asked for my daughter to be a miracle and every day I live, every breath I take I do so knowing that I walk in the miracle of my precious girl’s life.  It is through Francesca that God was able to mold me into all that He created me to be.  She was a miracle…my miracle…she helped me fall hopelessly in love with my God, to fully surrender my life to Him…every part of my life.

Timing is everything.  Seven years ago I sat in the middle of the destruction of my imploded life.  Tonight I sit here in awe of my God and how His plan and His purpose far exceeds anything we could ever imagine.  Seven years ago I wondered day-to-day how I would get out of bed…This morning I got out of bed to start a new chapter in God’s plan for my life.  In the rhapsody of this paradox I could feel the words coming alive inside me waiting for the right moment of release.  The awe I felt reflecting on the road I had traveled…the road that God has carried me down.  Three years after Francesca died I felt God place a call on my life.  He guided me back to school because He desired to use me in ministry.  I had no idea what it would all look like and I really didn’t care…I had learned to just trust that still, soft voice.  It was the voice that had brought me comfort, healing, hope and peace.  I trusted Him to guide every aspect of my future so on to school I went.  I graduated over a year ago and have been in a holding pattern since the day I put my last period on a research paper.  God had told me to wait…the time wasn’t right…so I waited.  Believe me, waiting for a Type A, Doer is not an easy thing to do.  But I trusted God’s purpose AND His timing (even if I thought He was kinda slow at times).  Today of all days the wait came to end and I began my journey into full-time ministry.  Some will say the timing of this is pure coincidence.  I don’t believe in coincidence…I don’t believe in chance.  I believe that my God is always at work in the details.  Beautifully crafting the timing of certain events for His purpose…even if it’s merely to remind us that His hand print is everywhere.  To illustrate that He does make all things new.  To demonstrate how He turns the pain, that evil would like to use to destroy us, into the catalyst for His plan and purpose for our lives.

Tonight I go to sleep with words of celebration as vibrant as any heavenly scene Michelangelo could have ever created in my head.  In a  dream I am one of the great artists creating a masterpiece of praise.  Praising the love and grace our Creator God showers upon us, a love that is faithful and limitless.  And I  Celebrate the beautiful life of my precious Francesca, the one who pointed my life straight into the will of God.  Seven years ago I would have said this blog entry was impossible…tonight I say “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” ~ Philippians 4:13

Follow The Yellow Brick Road

 

IMG_7042.JPG

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” ~ Edmund Lee

Childhood memories…they rush into my mind and wash over me like the warmth of the sun on an early summer’s day.  They bring me back to a simpler time when life wasn’t so demanding, so complicated, so hard.  Was there anything better than crawling into bed and finding freshly washed sheets that were dried outside on the clothes line?  They smelled…well…cleaner.  They felt…well…crisper, cooler.  It was a sensory experience overload of the best kind.  How I used to love the first sunny spring day of the year.  That always meant windows open, fresh air, and spring cleaning.  Nobody could spring clean like my mom.  To this day a whiff of Pine Sol can take me right back to that little house I grew up in on cleaning day.

Memories…they can transport you right back to another place and time even for the briefest of moments.  That very thing happened to me today and in the shower of all places.  Actually, I do some of my best thinking in the shower, probably because it’s the only place that I shut up long enough for God to really speak into me.  Today I was having a moment because I have been missing my blog.  It’s been almost a month since I have written and I was longing for the release I get when I share the thoughts God has laid upon my heart.  However, I never write a blog entry unless God’s prompts me to.  I’m not really a writer so it is His inspiration that I need to string words together in the form of a story or a life lesson.  It is His message and His words that I desire to convey never my own.  Today as I quieted my mind to think, to reflect, to be silent so that God could speak a memory flashed through my mind.  Instantly I was a little girl again awaiting the one time of year when a rainbow would come onto the TV screen and the musical score would begin.  It was one of my favorite days of the year…it was the yearly showing of The Wizard of Oz.

It may seem very odd to you that God would bring me back to The Wizard of Oz during this moment of reflection and prayer but to me it was as if He had revealed the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle that we had been working on together.  Weeks have gone by and I have felt everything in my life has surrounded around a journey…my journey, the journey of others…a journey to understand who we are and what we were created for.

Isn’t it funny that the beginning of The Wizard of Oz starts in black and white.  I feel like my life before I knew Jesus was in black and white.  It was drab and it was dreary, even moments of happiness seemed to be lacking something.  In the dull of the black and white I searched for the very longing of my soul…my identity.  Who was I?  There was this tug of war over who I would become.  Would I allow the world to define my identity or would I choose to recognize that the God of the universe created me with His own hands and in His very image?  Knitting me together in my mother’s womb He ordained every one of my days and prepared His plan for my life before I ever even entered this world.  The soul that is far from God aches deeply because it longs for the One who is the Creator of all things.  The soul that lives separated from God lives in black and white…even where there is happiness there is a longing for what is missing.

As a little girl I would sit glued to my television waiting for my favorite moment of the whole movie…the moment that Dorothy’s house lands in Munchkinland.  Black and white fades away and we open the door to glorious Technicolor.  The drab and dreary is replaced by the lush landscapes that are vibrant with life and color.  Our faith journey is very similar.  When we walk in this world we are colorless, black and white.  The very life we were created for is slowly sucked out of us by a world that is dying.  However, the minute our soul reconnects with God, the instant the Spirit is reunited with the soul it created, black and white diminishes and our eyes see in color for the very first time.  The colors of righteousness, grace, forgiveness, and love shimmer with the brilliance of the most perfect diamond.  The sight is overwhelmingly beautiful and if we are wise we will pause for a moment to take it all in.

Wouldn’t it be nice to put a “The End” and a period to complete the story right here?  Not so fast!  We, like Dorothy, still have a journey ahead of us.  That is the unique truth of living out our faith…it is a journey home.  A journey suggests that we must keep moving forward, we must keep our eyes open for the encounters we will have and the lessons we will learn along the way.   Many people begin their relationship with Christ and then decide to insert the period…they are done. Jesus has saved them from their sin, their soul is reunited with the Spirit and now they are done.  Oh no…that is not the case at all.  The moment you open the door to Jesus Christ and Technicolor floods in…that is the moment that your life truly begins.  The old has died and now you are a new creation in Jesus Christ.  It is the beginning of stepping into the life that God has planned for you and has been preparing you for.

No matter how beautiful the Technicolor is we all still struggle to let go of the black and white.  We want to…desperately…but the black and white has been so much a part of our lives that it becomes difficult to let go the false identity it gave us.  Many of us struggle to let the labels the world placed on us fall away as we step into who God says that we are.  Don’t believe me?  Just look at the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and The Lion.  Each of these individuals lived in the luster of Technicolor but were held in bondage to black and white thoughts.

The Scarecrow had a huge inferiority complex. Why?  Because he lacked a brain and the world says that anyone who is uneducated, according to worldly standards, is lacking or less than.  How often do we let that very same thought hold us back? We let of lack of knowledge or education and past mistakes disqualify us from what God has prepared for us to do.  We allow hurtful words spoken into us keep us in the black and white…we believe the lie of the worldly standard.  We decide for God that we do not have the intelligence to be a viable member of His kingdom so like the Scarecrow we stand still and do nothing.  When Dorothy stumbles upon him he can’t even scare crows anymore.  How often does Satan leave us alone because we have let the lies of world paralyze us to the point that we are doing nothing?  The enemy need not fear the one doing nothing.  There is reason why they call this the battlefield of the mind.  The mind is where the enemy likes to whisper the lies that will hold us captive.  But Dorothy encounters the Scarecrow and she sees his value, his worth, and his potential.  She speaks life into him and helps to free him from the bondage that holds him idle.  Is that not exactly what God’s word does for us?  Paul writes in Romans 12: 2-3 ” And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  When we live in full Technicolor we live in full freedom.  Freedom from the former us…freedom to be who God created us to be…freedom to be who God says that we are.

The Tin Man represents any one of us who has ever suffered the pain of a broken heart.  Left alone and abandoned by the woodsman the Tin Man rusts away, the pain of lacking a heart is slowly killing the spirit inside of him.  He feels unworthy, unloved, and unlovable.  So many of us hunker down with the wounds of our past that we walk around as patches of black and white admist the vibrancy of Technicolor.  Like the Tin Man’s oil can was out of his reach to soothe the ache of his stiff body, often times we place God’s truth out of our reach.  The wall of hurt builds a fortress around our heart so that the oil can of God’s word cannot soothe our aching soul.  We allow the heartache to define us rather than rest in the promises of God.  Psalm 34: 17-19 states “The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”  Ahhhh…do hear the freedom song?  God doesn’t want our identity to be “brokenhearted”, “abandoned”, “unlovable”, or “unwanted.”  Those are labels of the world.  God says we are His children (John 1:12-13), we are complete (Colossians 2:9-10), we are free from condemnation ( Romans 8:1-2), we are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39), and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:11-13.)  Let the oil of God’s word heal your soul and anoint your life to do the things God has created you for.  When you do you walk in the fullness of your salvation…your freedom in Christ illuminates from the inside out and the world will see the beautiful color of God’s presence in your life.  The Tin Man just needed someone to remind him that he was worthy of love.  Dorothy and the Scarecrow spoke those life-giving words into him and off the trio went.

Finally, we meet the Cowardly Lion.  Ahhhhhh…fear!!!!!  The poor Lion was so fearful that he was scared of his own tail.  How many of us suffer from this affliction?  Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of bad things happening, and list of fears go on and on.  One of the enemy’s favorite tactics is fear.  Someone who is afraid will not only be idle but they will also cower, they will shrink back in order to ensure that nothing bad happens.  This is not how God created us nor is this living in the freedom of our salvation.  Isaiah 61 tells us that Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted and to set the captives free…to release us from darkness.  He did not go through the agony of death by crucifixion so that we may remain bound up by fear.  NO…he did it to set us FREE!!!!!!!  Free to be who He created and called us to be.  All of us can relate to the Cowardly Lion on some level…fear of being vulnerable, fear of not being accepted, fear of not being liked or loved.  But God that is not who God created us to be.  2 Timothy 1:7 says “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”  If God is for me whom or what than shall I fear?  NOTHING.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.” ~ Philippians 4:6  If left to own devices we will wither away in our fear.  What we need is a Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Tin Man to walk along side of us to remind us the truths of who God created us to be so we can get on the road and be an active participant in the journey.

Often times I feel like I am on the yellow brick road.  The journey from opening the door to Technicolor to the beautifully majestic Emerald City is full of adventure, travel companions, interesting encounters, meaningful relationships, highs, lows, and an enemy who wants to make me miserable because I have something that he cannot have.  One might be thinking the finale of this God thought about The Wizard of Oz places God as the Great and Powerful Oz but the answer would be no.  I am actually the Great and Powerful Oz.  LOL…yes, you read that right.  Let me explain before you start getting the wrong idea.  You see Oz was nothing but an ordinary man.  He wasn’t a wizard, he had no power, and he had no real ability on his own to help the four people who stood before him…he didn’t even have a biscuit for Toto.  All he really did was point out what each of them already possessed.  By their actions the Scarecrow had shown his intelligence, the Tin Man had demonstrated how deeply he loved, and the Lion stood courageous (well sort of) before the wicked witch.  That which they had been longing for had been theirs all along.  Even Dorothy found out that within her was always the ability to get home.  Oz wasn’t a wizard, he was merely a messenger.  He spoke the truth of who they were when they could not see it in themselves.

Life is a journey that starts in the dullness of black and white.  It was always meant to be more than that but the brokeness of sin has shifted us into a colorless existence. We are born color blind.   However, the moment we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, He restores and heals us.  The most beautiful gift that God gives us is His lens in which to view the world around us.  When we put on God’s eyes we see the vibrancy of color, we see potential, we see opportunity.  God is love and when we wear His eyes we love all those that we see.  We have an overwhelming desire to reach out to the lost and to the hurting, to bring hope to those who have given up.  To touch the lives around us with the love of the Savior who rescued us from the black and white to bring us into a life of full color.  Not unlike our childhood friends from The Wizard of Oz, we too can walk in the beauty of God’s colorful majesty and still be  held captive to thoughts and feelings of the colorless world we left.  My job with this blog was simply to remind you that as a Christ follower the Spirit of the living God dwells inside of you.  God has created you for a purpose…to bring the brilliant colors of righteousness, grace, forgiveness, and love to the world around you.  God did not create you and Jesus did not die so that you would be held in bondage to worldly labels.  He created you because you are His beloved and He has a hope and a future for you.  Through you He desires to share His love with those who so desperately need it.  Who are you?  You are the child of the One True God!  What is your purpose?  To worship the Father, to make the name of Jesus known, and to reach out to a lost and hurting world with the same love that the Father lavishes on you.  God has created you to do great works in the name of His Son.  Sometimes we merely need a messenger in our day to point out what is already there inside of us.

 

The Art of Friendship

IMG_5651-0.JPG

Steel Magnolias…just typing this brings a smile to my face.  This cinema classic from 1989 introduced the world to M’ Lynn, Truvy, Clairee, Ouiser, Shelby, and Annelle; the colorful sextet from Chinquapin Parrish, Louisiana.  This movie is the South!  From the southern drawl, to the ladies chatting and bickering in the beauty shop, the “giant armadilla groom’s cake”, the reference to the local Piggly Wiggly, and even the impeccable church outfits which included hats and all…this movie brought to life everything I had imagined southern life to be.  Stereotype?  Probably, but I loved every minute of it.  However, Steel Magnolias is so much more than your average chick flick.  What makes this movie earn the title of a “classic” is that you actually fall in love with the characters…you take them with you long after the closing credits roll.  They make you laugh, they make you cry, and in the end they have you laughing and crying at the same time.  The true genius of this film lies beyond the stereotypes and the antics…the true genius of this film is the simple theme of friendship.  These six eclectic women have a bond of friendship that transcends age, position, wealth, and stage of life.  The beauty of true friendship is showcased in and through them.  Friendship based on loyalty and love; friendship that celebrates the mountaintops and walks through the valleys; friendship that brings the ray of sunshine and hope when the world seems dark and cold.  The deep impact of this movie comes because it touches at the heart of something we all desire, true friendship; we all long for people in our lives who will love us exactly as we are.

“Friend”:  noun  1) a person who you like and enjoy being with 2) a person who helps or supports someone or something 3) one attached to another by affection or esteem.  ~ Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I love that definition.  What I love even more is friendship.  When we are younger our friends are our world but as we move into adulthood careers, marriage children, etc. distract us away from many of our relationships.  It can be argued that as we get older and life gets busier it becomes more difficult to maintain deep lasting friendships.  Over the last few weeks I have been very reflective about the friendships in my life.  Maybe because I feel like 2014 will go down as the year of friends for me; old friends, new friends, and lifelong friends.  I am coming to place in my life where I value all the people who have entered and exited my world under the banner of friendship.  It has been an eclectic group of people who have touched me deeply and I have learned something from all of them.  I look back at no former friendship with regrets, instead I choose to take with me life lessons.  You see, there is something so beautiful about friendship, so much can be learned.  Whether it lasts a lifetime, a season, or a moment friendship always adds value to our lives. But like any relationship, with friendship comes risk.  Friends can hurt you and betray your trust.  But how does the old cliché go? “With great risk comes great reward.”  There could never be enough words to convey the rewards I have reaped through the friends that God has placed in my life over the years.

“We didn’t realize we were making memories we just knew we were having fun…” ~ Anonymous

TWENTY YEARS!!!!  It’s been twenty years since I have graduated high school.  How is that even possible?!?!  Whether I can believe it or not, twenty years have gone by since I walked the halls of Center Line High School.  At one point in my life that school and the friendships I had formed there were my whole world.  Friendships that hinged on the code of teenagers; don’t ever date the person I like or have ever liked, don’t ever talk to the people who I don’t like,  only take the classes the cool people will be in (or the boys we like), and the silly list goes on and on.  It’s so funny when you really start to think about school age friendships and what they are based on…it’s a wonder that any of them survive beyond the school years. In February I had the chance to stroll down memory lane at my class reunion.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, twenty years is a long time and people change, or not.  Luckily for me, my graduating class was so small that we combined our reunion with the grade older than mine which happened to be my husband graduating class…how’s that for strategic planning.  So with the security of my husband and the few friends I still keep in contact with I anxiously awaited for what the night would hold.  In the end, my nerves were for nothing.  It was a wonderful evening.  Nobody cared who hung out with who in school we were all there to have a great night and that we did.  We laughed over old stories and wondered how in the world we got away with half the stuff that we did.  There was a collective sigh of gratitude among the crowd that night…grateful that social media wasn’t around back in the day. The night was like looking back at photos with fond memories.  I treasure the snapshots, but the people in them have now changed and carried on with their lives.  While we once had promised to be B.F.F.’s (yes, such a thing existed in 1994), the reality is that forever was a lot shorter than we ever anticipated.

“Vulnerable”: adjective 1) Open to attack, harm or damage 2) capable of being physically or emotionally wounded. ~ Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Friendship can be a very scary thing.  Odd statement?  I don’t think so.  I actually think more people would agree with me than not.  You see the difference between childhood friendship and adult friendship is one really terrifying word, “vulnerability.”  There is a reason why Jesus calls us to have faith like a child…children are naturally trusting.  Trust is simple and it is easily given.  As we become adults the cynicism of the world settles in.  Old hurts and betrayals make us weary and gun-shy from putting ourselves out there.  Many of us walk through our adult lives holding people at arm’s length.  We have friendships but they aren’t deep, we keep them on the surface where things are nice and safe.  Unfortunately when we live in the safe zone we rob ourselves of the true joys of friendship.  You can never go very deep with anyone if you only allow so much of yourself to be exposed.  Sometimes you just need to let go…with great risk comes great reward.

“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.  Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” ~ Ruth 1:16

So why the long dissertation on friendship?  First, because it is my greatest prayer that anyone who may read this will understand that God ordained friendship.  It was never His intention for anyone to walk through this life alone.  He wanted us to experience the blessing of friendship, companionship, and camaraderie.  He is after all a relational God and we are created in His image.  Throughout Scripture He gives us illustrations of special relationships forming so that we may see that He has given us the gift of friendship.  Naomi and Ruth, David and Jonathan, Jesus and the Apostles, Paul and Timothy; these are just a few examples.  I encourage you in your own quiet time to study these friendships.  It has taken me a long time to understand the art of true friendship, but when you have it it’s a beautiful thing.  However, you must let your guard down and let people in to form these kinds of relationships.  That means being vulnerable and letting people get close to the real you.  I know that very thought makes some of you break out in a cold sweat, but just remember regardless of where today finds you, in the realm of friendship you are never alone.  God treasures you my dear friends…never forget that.  He is your best friend, first and foremost.  When earthly friends let us down and are nowhere to be found…God is there.  Friendship is all about love, grace, honesty, commitment, loyalty, fun, and, forgiveness.  Does that not perfectly describe the relationship God desires to have with us?

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~ Ghandi

My second purpose for writing this is for change.  With age and maturity I have learned much about friendship.  Friendship for women can be very difficult.  Most guys will read that sentence and laugh, but it is actually a true statement.  The art of true friendship is hard because, in general, we fail to teach the attributes of true friendship.  Somewhere along the way we have forgotten that God created the concept of relationships and therefore His attributes should govern how we live out our relationships.  Unfortunately, God’s attributes have been overshadowed by what the world has deemed as acceptable behavior in friendship; cattiness, jealousy, disrespect, and gossip are the ingredients the world puts into the recipe of friendship.  Don’t believe me, tune into Bravo and watch any one of their Real Housewives of… installmentsAll these women claim to be “friends” yet all of those ingredients are present in their relationships.  Whoever coined the term “frenemies” was, sadly, a genius because that is exactly what many friendships look like today.  It breaks my heart that girls of all ages and even grown women operate in a world where these traits are not only acceptable but expected in friendship.  I caution you all to remember that when cattiness, jealousy, gossip, and disrespect are present true friendship ceases to exist. My heart burns with a passion for us to change the culture for the next generation of girls.  We need to proactively teach our daughters, our nieces, our cousins, our neighbors what true friendship looks like.  What if we taught our girls to extend grace, show kindness, be compassionate, have self-respect, and honor friendship?  Instead of being in competition with each other what if we taught our girls to cheer each other on?  And what if adult women modeled this very same behavior for them?  It would surely be a great day if we could all learn the attributes of godly friendship and then modeled it for our children.  How happy would the day be if the words “catty”, “diva”, “drama”, and “gossipy” were the exception and not the rule.  I believe all things are possible through Christ who strengthens me.  When we operate with the mind of Christ the fruits of the Spirit come alive in us; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still gently allows you to grow.” ~ William Shakespeare

Last night was a warm summer evening.  The Super Moon hung proudly in the sky for all to see. Its unique, bright, orangish hue illuminated the sky and I was once again reminded of how awesome the creative hand of God is.  I shared the sight of the beautiful moon with fourteen amazing ladies that God has placed in my life.  There we stood sipping on lattes and tea, snacking on baked goods and froyo while the fragrant aroma of freshly brewed Starbucks coffee filled the air along with the sound of laughter and chatter as we all stood around in a circle and enjoyed each others company.  Our friendship has been uniquely knitted together by our Creator who created us to desire fellowship and relationship with one another.  He brought us together to pour into each other and support one another.  The sisterhood we share transcends age, position, wealth, and stage of life. It is based on the truth and love of God that we all stand firm in.  Last night reminded me of how thankful I am for friendship.  At 38 years of age I can honestly say I finally know what true friendship is.  True friends are the people who have seen me in all my brokeness yet they still love me.  They are the ones who give me awkward hugs to cheer me up.  They are the ones who can see the truth behind the “I’m fine” and know when I am anything but.  They are the ones who have cried with me and wiped away my tears.  They are the ones that know the darkness of my journey and choose to hold me up when I cannot stand.  They believe in me.  They know how my mind works and get me back on track when I veer off.  True friends take crazy road trips to get me to a conference that they know God has called me to.  True friends make me laugh til I cry.  True friends understand that my life gets difficult and complicated from time to time.  They hold me accountable.  They pour God’s truth into me.  They pray for me.  They honor our friendship and don’t gossip about me and they protect me when others try to.  True friends are my safe people…they know me pretty, ugly, confident, unsure, insecure, passionate, crazy, broken, over dramatic, silly, sarcastic, and funny…they know ME and yet they still love me.

One of the greatest investments we can make in this life is friendship.  When we choose to pour into others and allow them to pour into us only then can we experience the beauty of true friendship. You could call this post an ode, of sorts, to all of the fabulous friends that God has placed in my life; old friends, new friends, and lifelong friends…God has used you all to shape me into who He has created me to be.  There are few gifts more precious than that.   I have often wished that I was a card writer.  Some of my sweetest friends write and send out the most beautiful and thoughtful cards.  It is something I always mean to do but then times slips away and I forget.  However, one thing I do often is tell my friends how much I love them.  I want them to always know how much I cherish them and what a special treasure they are to me.  Friendship is intentional behavior…intentionally making room in your life for other people, being vulnerable and real, and expressing gratitude for who they are and the value they add to your life.  Will you accept the gift that God has given you?  Will you embrace the gift of godly friendship?  Like most things in life, friendship doesn’t just happen…you must choose it!