Prayer

Finding My Voice (conclusion)

You can read Finding My Voice by clicking on the title link just provided. However, this post should be able to stand alone in its truth.

As I was preparing for what I was to share with the ladies of the first Be Still study, I went back to one of my earliest journals that I kept. My October 2, 2014 entry was written while at a 72 hour intensive women’s retreat. I read directly from it, and since it is a “prayer journal,” I asked the women gathered to please close their eyes as I read the words unedited from my journal. As I began, I asked these sweet sisters to listen carefully, and try to identify how God surely heard my words and has undoubtedly answered my requests.

Lord, Thank you for this time. I love spending time with you in silence, in the stillness. Despite my loud personality and at times non-stop mouth, my love, desire and need for time in the quiet with you and in prayer are what I yearn for the most. Better than glitz, glamor, and the like; You are my provider. You are the only thing that satisfies. You are the lover of my soul. I am Your precious child, and Your design.

How many times have I missed this? The business of busy-ness. I ask you now Lord to keep my focus on You. Drain myself of me! Instead, fill me with You, and You alone. Let me replace all my opinions of myself with the opinions, love, and adjectives You have for me. Surround me, embrace me with Your holiness, and righteousness.

For all the ladies here and for myself also, speak Your word and truth into our hearts. I no longer pray with my eyes closed, but rather with pen in hand. Let me be an instrument to be used by You Lord. Show me opportunities to share my love and faith in You.

I closed with this prepared prayer. “Oh Heavenly Father, thank you for letting me share and remember this prayer from over 4 years ago. Nothing is a surprise to You. You are here Lord, and you are in this place. Thank you for each woman here today. May each of them know they have been prayed for by many prayer warriors sitting in this room, and elsewhere. There is power in prayer! We have no doubt that You have hand selected this study for each one of us to be part of, and we are using this time of learning how to surrender all unto You. I pray each one of us can leave here encouraged to live out Psalm 46:10. May we humble ourselves, be deliberate and obedient to practice being still so that we can know the Great I AM. Take us deeper in our faith. Thank you for giving me a voice to make your name great. You deserve all our praise. You know everything about us, and love us STILL. You are our Mighty Counselor.”
In Jesus Name, Amen

For those of you readers old enough to remember Andy Rooney and his famous way of bringing us The rest of the story, I want to share with you a little God wink that the majority of those ladies were not aware of. The women’s director had let each one of us on the writing team have freedom in what and how we presented out little speech to address the women in attendance. She and another church staff would deliver the bigger teaching points for each week. We did not meet beforehand to discuss exactly what each of us were going to share to make a seamless flow. But you know what? God did! That week the ladies got to hear my testimony. I had talked about seeking help with a counselor, and later in the hour information was given on who to contact for counseling and other needs. It was like my testimony was a volleyball set for God to drive His point home about using the community of believers to help each other out along our journey. I don’t know if I adequately described how exciting and goose-bump giving this was for us; but it was not by coincidence, nor by chance. God orchestrated the timing and it was perfect. We knew at that moment along with many others along the way, we were operating in His will and obedient to His direction. We were serving as His vessels.

Today take time to ask the Lord to open your spiritual eyes, and be willing to go and do what He has planned for you. Remember, you are chosen, and you are His. You have been called out of the darkness, and into His glorious light! You have a voice. Carve out time to meet with Him to find what He wants you to share, and then don’t keep it to yourself. You matter to Him. You matter to others that need to hear your struggle and the victory you have found in Jesus. 

 

Prayer

Finding My Voice

I began following Jesus after my first child was born. God grew me in my faith right alongside my children as they grew up in church. I started serving in pre-school, children, and youth ministries until God had me step out a couple years ago when I agreed to be part of a women’s writing team for a study on Psalm 46:10. I would be jumping in the deep end without my floaties, and trusting God with His plans for me.

I have no problems talking to strangers, or oversharing for that matter.  But one of the hardest parts of the study was the moment I had to stand up and publicly give a little insight into myself. Now mind you, I am typically comfortable speaking in front of large groups of children or teenagers, but these were women: Godly women, women of all ages, backgrounds, gifts, wisdom, and status in our church and community. When I got up on that stage, I was physically shaking and terrified. I heard it in my unsteady voice.  The enemy was on full attack mode and whispering all sorts of doubts and telling me how unqualified I was to speak to others. I persevered, and what you are about to read, was what I read aloud to a full room of ladies whose eyes were parked on me.  

About 7 years ago, I was in a bad place and stayed there for some time. I felt alone, I had health issues, and feelings of failure for quitting my job as a Jr. High science teacher, and at the bottom of my spiral down I was on the verge of ending my 20 year marriage. Thankfully, I sought help. At the conclusion of my very first session with a Christian counselor he told me these 3 things about myself:

  1. I have Mommy issues
  2. I have abandonment issues
  3. I didn’t have a voice. 

The first two were well realized, and self diagnosed years before. However, I wrestled with that last one for a while. I didn’t have a voice? How is that possible? I didn’t keep things in, I’m an open book. But I soon realized that for most of my life I wasn’t being heard, or not by the people that mattered most. I began writing then as part of my therapy. It didn’t start out great either. There was some ugly crying, ripping up papers, and what I like to call “serious butt time.” A nice way to put it is that a whole lot of time, and work has gone into the transformation and healing I have experienced.

But you know what? I found my voice in writing. I found that despite my ADHD tendencies, I could focus when I dove into pen what started out in a old partially used cheap spiral notebook. I found that I naturally began writing to my audience of ONE.  My therapeutic writing, pouring my guts out morphed into prayers and meditation and lessons from God.

My intimacy with the Lord has grown exponentially over the years. Early each morning my time with God isn’t just a luxury, or a box to check on my Christian to-do list. Plain and simple, it is hard work, takes time, but it is worth all of the effort and has become a daily necessity for me. Why? Because HE hears me. He always has time for me. He extends grace. He created me and loves me beyond measure. He is mine and I am His. He will never leave me, nor abandon me. Jesus is all I need.

To be continued…Finding My Voice (conclusion)

After my obedience in posting I’m back, I was prompted to make an entry every day until God tells me to stop with the daily submission for public viewing. I want to keep it short, so tomorrow check back to read the closing of this public testimony. Have a blessed day, and know that you are not alone.

faith

Control

I have been parked in the book of James for many weeks now. I am reading scripture, praying for wisdom and deep understanding. I plainly ask the Holy Spirit to shine a light on any dark places where I do not fully allow his truth to penetrate and expose my hardened callouses and sinful pride. I am watching Francis Chan’s video series on James, working through a guided study by Max Lucado, as well as healthy discussion in my adult small group.

Lucado posed a question that seriously captured my attention; it is this:

Would you change the way you are living if you could see your future?

Why or why not?

In high school I lettered in debate of all things. Believe it or not, I am not fond of arguing. I do like researching and presenting logical facts, as well as being able to present and defend both sides of a question. My first response to this question on a personal level is YES. Yes, I would want to see the results of my lack of faith and sinful actions. Therefore, if I could quickly see the bellyflops and heartache of my poor choices, I would steer clear and adjust my words and decisions. Wouldn’t anyone want to avoid deep hurts to themselves and others they love? I would certainly change the way I am living if I could see into my future.

Take time to read James 4:1-10

Let’s look at it more pragmatically. As Christ followers, there are certain truths we all profess to believe.

  • His ways are higher than our own. Isaiah 55:8-9
  • We pray for God’s will to be done. Matthew 6:9-13
  • All good things come from God. James 1:17

I’m about to sound like I’m steering off course here, but stay with me. Do you remember the popular television game show, Let’s Make a Deal? The audience was typically dressed up in crazy costumes and trying to get noticed. As the chosen contestant was presented with different choices along the way hoping to be one of the final standing to play for the big prize hidden behind a door, box, or curtain. The excitement was fun for all, and what made it even more entertaining is that there was always the possibility someone may get ZONKED and end up with nothing of value other than a good laugh.

All of us have a free gift of grace, Jesus took care of that on the cross. He knows each one of us, and knows us better than we know ourselves even down to the number of hairs on our head. We live in a fallen sinful world, and many of us may think we get zonked more than average. Moreover, what the world would consider a ZONK, bad luck, a series of unfortunate events, etc. isn’t always what it seems. Many of the worst situations in my life, have been times that I turn to God and lean into him with a comfort that can not be explained until you have lived it personally. In life we have choices to make everyday. We don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.

If I truly want to pray, and live according to God’s will, I must trust him. I must be willing to be obedient to let him lead me. I must give up my craving to know ahead of time and stop “helping him out.” That is something I have a tendency to do. I want control, so sometimes I try to get a sneak peak by snooping around, nowadays cyber-stalking is such an easy temptation. I tend to want things to go the way I want and I find myself manipulating situations to formulate my desired outcomes. When I do these things, I am not letting God do his will. I am acting as the world would and quite honestly seeking their approval and applaud. In my meddling, I am working against God. I must allow God to do a work in me and be content, satisfied, and filled with joy without knowing what is behind each door. I must stay in his word, able to hear his voice, and go where he leads. I desire to know God’s will, but more than that, I must be willing to do God’s will. I must be obedient to act (have my go-shoes on Designer Shoes of Peace). Faith and love are action words. Create in me a pure heart Lord that allows me to bravely walk upright along the path you have designed for me. I humbly give up my rights to be in control. Let my life be lived for your kingdom, and set apart from this world. Thank you for delivering your Holy Spirit to reside in me. Continue to transform my thinking through the reading of your faultless God-breathed scripture.

Prayer

Malleable

I find it quite interesting that I am in my mid 40’s and I continue to learn new and profound lessons.  I know you have been doing a work in me to make me aware of some areas of my life that still need some adjusting, perhaps at times a major overhaul. Okay, that last part may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but I do know that I am not yet where I need to be. Like the apostle Paul in Romans 7, I find myself doing exactly what I do not want to do. It is a raging war inside of me. I long to always do what is right, and going where you lead; but more times than I can count I fail. Thank you that your mercies are new each morning.

I come to your feet this morning and as most days I pray that you change me. Shine your light into my dark places. Reveal to me the areas where I need to be rebuked and challenged. Align my thoughts and actions to be pleasing to you. All that is good within me is because of you Lord, and I want to please you by showing your righteousness to others. Use me; I long to be your humble servant. Give me your eyes to see, and may I gain understanding and wisdom through the Holy Spirit leading me while I meditate on your word. You have proven yourself to me by being trustworthy and a promise keeper. You never leave me, and you will never abandon me. You always welcome me back with open arms, separating me from my sins as far as the east is from the west.

For the last couple of days if not weeks, the word malleable keeps appearing in my prayer journal. As a science teacher, this was a vocabulary word I was familiar with and I was praying for God to “shape me.” Today, I decided to dig deep with actual definitions from the dictionary and here is what I found.

MALLEABLE  1) capable of being extended or shaped by hammering or by pressure from rollers. 2) adaptable or tractable 3) Capable of great deformation without breaking, when subject to compressive stress. Gold is the most malleable metal.

The second definition showed the word “tractable” that I was not familiar with so I looked it up to and here is its definition:

TRACTABLE 1) easily managed or controlled; docile; yielding: a tractable child; a tractable disposition. 2)easily worked, shaped, or otherwise handled; malleable.

This is one of those moments for me where I am actively resting and letting God lead. It was like a special gift waiting for me when I read these 1-corinthians-10_13definitions.  It is confirmation that I am on the right track. I am requesting to be able to allow the disappointments, hardships, and pain in life to extend me and shape me under that pressure; knowing I will not break. At times, I do find that life’s circumstances squeeze me like pressure from rollers. I know I am not alone in this, but I have always seemed to be the kind of person that has to learn things the hard way. In my stubbornness, God has had to hammer me because I wasn’t responding to his still small voice. I welcome the hammer, especially when it is from the righteous judge who wants nothing but the best for me. Tractable is a new word for me and I love it. I pray that I yield my will to His. May I be an easily managed child of God with a willing spirit to be obedient.

 

What really makes me awe-struck this morning by my Heavenly Father, is found in the more scientific definition that I had been meditating on and revisiting lately. I am reminded of how special I am to my creator who loves me. Gold is a precious metal and is the most malleable. I tend to forget that I am a precious daughter, and I am a valuable treasure. Purifying gold is a process by which it is placed in a blazing hot fire to burn off impurities that rise to the top. The impurities are skimmed off, and the process repeats until the refiner can see his own reflection, like looking into a mirror. Lord, I want to be refined by you. I want you to continue to purify me by the trials of life. Turn up the heat on any sinful desires, bring them to the top and not hidden in any dark place inside of me. Skillfully remove all the trash that floats to the surface until nothing is left but a glowing reflection of you. When others look at me I pray that one day they will see a reflection of you. I pray that day by day I become more like you, and less of me. Continue the good work you have started in me. May this post bring glory to You, Lord of ALL!
faith

God Provides

In previous posts entitled, “Faith Story” I share details of my life, and my late uncle. Here is one of my favorite parts of our story. I have gathered my journals from what would really be his last days of life. Here is my journal entry from the morning of March 18, 2015

What awaits me today O Lord? May I trust that ALL is in your hands. May the words spoken today during the care meeting be filled with grace and may the words spoken be received well by my uncle. The progression of his symptoms and continued weight gain from edema mark the external signs of a failing internal system. He is weak Lord, but YOU are strong. Your love endures forever. May my uncle not pass until his eternal address is secure with you.

On this day I would be using Batterson’s Draw the Circle as a daily devotional for the second time around. Here is what I wrote,

‘Write down the revelation’ -Habakkuk 2:2 Batterson says journaling is one of the most overlooked undervalued spiritual disciplines. The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory. It is a way to look back and remember what God has done. Thank you Lord that I tapped into this discipline and have seen its power in my spiritual life. I don’t ever want to go back to the way I was before.

On March 20, two days after the care meeting  in which my uncle was on pending:denial medicaid for medical necessity. I was caught off guard a bit. Here is where I share my journal entry,

We were all on a conference call in this meeting with the state of Texas authorities when the nursing home LVN promptly used these words, “The family (referring to me) will appeal if denied.” What? I don’t know what that looks like, but I pray that you Lord would approve him before we have to fight another confusing red tape battle. Your glory and your good provisions have been at work all along these many months, and there is no stopping now. Amen!

Knowing that and trusting in you brings a smile to my face. I must continue to remember what you’ve brought me through in order to keep a positive outlook on difficult circumstances…You will provide. You Lord have proven yourself trustworthy. May I be able to show my strength and faith in you by sharing with others as my testimony of your righteousness. Lord, I know that you provide for all who love you. You bless us beyond our comprehension. You control the Earth’s rotation, orbit, placement, the birds of the air, down to each heartbeat and breath of all of your children. Thank you for my uncle. Thank you for letting me love on him as he once was (by my grandmother who has been gone for more than 20 years). May he feel it, and receive. Finally, Luke 11:8 is worth noting here because it says ‘yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.’

You met our needs all along the way. March 22, 2015 I would write these words in a brand new journal.

The first page of a new journal. Oh Lord, how I hope that in between these pages I listen to you and obey your still small voice. Reveal more of yourself to me and expand my mind to accept your righteous wisdom. Let my time with you each morning keep my armor in tip-top inspection ready shape, and reading and studying your word sharpen my sword; my only weapon of offense…I would end this day with Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.”

March 23, 2015 early morning excerpt

…I’m running out of umpf with my uncle. Please revive my servanthood. I know he is depressed and wants nothing more than to go back home.

poster

Later that day, I would get a call with my uncle sounding unsettled and an urgency in his voice. I was there asap, especially since his nursing home was only two miles from my home. By the end of a long, hard, and scary day, I would be meeting with hospice people and he would be signing his own Palliative Care forms. That day he would tell me of his favorite verse that was in a poster of photos and scripture I had made for his room. In his words, “even with faith being as small as a mustard seed, you can do all things.” I would write in my journal on March 24 the following:

My uncle told me I was comforting to him, and he told me he loved me. I prayed over him thanking you Lord for the extra time that allowed Paul and I to get to have a relationship and restore family. I pray that our story will be seen and heard by others and do nothing, but touch others and bring glory unto you.

I had been with my uncle all day, and was blessed to have a friend to pick up my children and care for them. I stayed. I was exactly where I was supposed to be: holding his hand, comforting him. I left only after a hospice nurse arrived to keep 24 hour care and watch. I received a call a few hours later and at 11:07pm on March 24th he left this earth. I arrived so fast, he was still warm to the touch. I was shocked, and caught off guard by the next steps. I had to arrange for a funeral home to come get him. I had to mourn with another sleeping residence on the other side of a curtain, as well as a uniformed police officer to keep guard until the funeral home arrived. That right there is harsh; before this night, I had no clue. I was totally 100% unprepared for the reality of death. Only with God’s help did I survive this night. I also know my Lord and Savior was with me and cared deeply for me. After a sleepless night, I would experience the best and only “good” conversation with my mother (my uncle’s sister) for a couple years before this time, and never since. I would sit down at my normal time to begin my day with quiet time, with my Bible, my prayer journal, and my current study or devotional. Here is what I would write and discover in its entirety.

Through puffy, teary eyes with little to no sleep I praise you Lord. My uncle is with you. He is no longer struggling. I have visions of him running and jumping and testing out his new body. I see him reunited with his mom, and the most awesome thought is that he has seen Jesus and is worshipping you face to face!

Today will be filled and days to come with planning, paperwork, etc. Please Lord guide my steps. Be with me each decision and appointment as they come. Thank you Lord for a good conversation with my mom. You allowed my uncle to open up and share and be honest and vulnerable with me. I take great pleasure in my heart knowing he saw and felt the good in me. He loved me. He and my kids got to know each other and create memories. Yesterday he told me that his time here he has collected some of the best, and more good memories than years combined back at his home. (hours away)

As my usual, I then open up my study. This day I was continuing in a prayer devotional. As I opened to the page marked, I look down to find a great sign from above. The tears flowed as I see the title

Sow a Seed – Matthew 17:20 “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…” This is my uncle’s favorite verse that I had written out, and prayed over him dated November 19th. Just yesterday he said it was his favorite out of so many. You God are faithful and you add to my faith everyday. Thank you Lord for caring for me and loving me.

God provided. He did not have to, but he did. He gave me a gift that is priceless. A certain sign that my uncle was indeed with him in paradise. I know that God has, is, and will continue to bless me beyond my circumstances that at times seem to be pressing in on all sides. My faith will not be shaken. Jesus is my hope and my future! He is my rock and my fortress. I will trust him until my very last breath. He gives life, and he is love!

 

faith

Faith Story – Part 3

Monday, November 10, 2014 I would see my Uncle for the first time in 5 years. I was prayed up, and thankful that I have my journal to share my exact prayers for that day.

Lord, keep me focused on my Uncle. I will abide by his wishes and do not want him to be disturbed. Give me calm, give me guidance, give me direction as to what I need to know, do, say, and feel. I surrender. I can not effectively (and with a level head) do this on my own.

When I walked in that ICU room that day my uncle met my presence with a question, “What are you doing here?” My earlier prayers were immediately answered because I calmly replied by telling him that, “I loved my grandmother, and she loved me. You sir, are my grandmother’s son. Out of love and honor for her and my Lord, I am here for you.” I also reminded him of her favorite verse, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

That first week, I was met with some big challenges and realizations. My uncle told me that he was a Buddhist. His best friend from grade school (a married lady) was caught in an uncomfortable position because my Uncle had named her as medical guardian and possible executor of his will. Like never before I realized things/stuff/items don’t really matter. I was reminded of my mother’s inability or unwillingness to behave in a manner in which I desire. God’s timing is perfect. My husband and I attended a marriage retreat that first weekend he was in ICU. I was encouraged to go, and grateful we did because it united our marriage in God, and gave us strength that we would need to draw from in this season. Above all, I learned that God will do amazing things when you follow his plan and keep the most important thing as the priority in your life. God first!

I learned when I have no words, all I have to do is turn to the words of holy scripture. Always with a nod of permission from my uncle, I would sit and read the Bible out loud with great clarity and immodesty. My uncle would be intubated on and off for the next 30 days. He would spend more than a week tethered to a bed with tubes, lines, and alarms at all times. Our normal Thanksgiving trip would not happen, as I would be in an intensive care room, with no turkey, and without hopes of a grand family meal occurring. However, Thanksgiving 2014 was remarkable because I would get to experience first hand God’s saving grace. The entry below is from my journal dated November 27, 2014.

My uncle told me he loves me for the first time in 44 years. Today I know that his ability to love me was a gift from our savior. Paul’s salvation is secure. He feels God’s presence. I needed this Lord. He is a blessing and a miracle in my life. Thank you for blessing me with this time of him being in Houston. He is not a burden. He is a joy. He is my uncle who is now my brother in Christ. Receive him into your loving arms where all his fear and anxiety, frustration and weakness will be replaced with safety, security, comfort, joy, praise, and strength. What a glorious day when heaven comes and floods his eyes.

Just days later, I would have to advocate for his quality of life. Day by day, I would be determined in my approach to learn and seek the best care for my uncle. My prayer life grew, my spiritual eyes were opened wide, I was humble in declaring the work God was doing; not on my strength, but all from the power of Christ in me.

Not every moment was I able to be a rock and a crown wearing sister of sainthood. There were moments where I would get angry at my mom’s attitude, or sad at her lack of help. I would suffer a few times in despair with the red tape of trying to navigate government entities, nursing homes, lawyers, banking, taxes, liens, and bills. There was even a situation where there was a person who stole valuables from my uncle, and refused to leave my uncle’s property. But without fail, the times my emotions went awry I took my eyes off God. I would look at my situation, and not rely fully on the one who holds it all in His hands. Often I was reminded of this scripture in Exodus 14:13-14 “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 

Over the course of the next 4 months, my uncle and I restored a family legacy of love. There was forgiveness, genuine care, and grace displayed for all to see. A true living testimony of the power of Christ. James 1:2-4“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

It has been two years since my life was forever changed by that season my uncle arrived in Houston. I am blessed to know my uncle’s salvation is secure. I am humbled and blessed beyond measure to be used by God for His purposes. The Lord has awarded me in His perfect timing with an Earthly inheritance as well. Not only would my grandparent’s home be saved from the government entities, and be left to me as rightful heir; I would receive something of even greater value. I was honored in getting to know my uncle’s true friend as my own. She and I became prayer partners, we are friends forever, and I am proud to say she is my sister in Christ. Thank you Lord for all you have done. Let us not forget who we are in you, and may we be obedient to your continued calling in our lives.