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Author Archives: January

About January

I am a blessed wife, mother of three amazing and totally different, MeeMaw to a beautiful grandson, a Pastor recently called to minister in the urban communities of the local area in which I grew up, and community-based counselor for school-aged children. I currently make it through the day with my coffee, my journal, and my God, trying to keep it real, all while keeping the faith. In this blog, I hope to give some insight to the power of His presence in my life, and share with you some of my 4am, caffeinated journal ramblings.

Just keep praying

“She called me 5 minutes before we were supposed to be there and said she changed her mind.”

This is the response received when asking for the outcome of a meeting I had to miss. But what no one knew was that 5 minutes before they were supposed to be in that room, someone was praying miles and miles away in a different room. Praying for one so many had already given up on. Praying a family would be given the opportunity to show a young soul that no one was giving up.

God had answered my prayer. And this conversation triggered another one had over a year before. One that wasn’t so grace-filled.

I sat in the meeting, reporting needs, data, and the potential for those “needs” to not be met based on things beyond my control. I sat there thinking of all the pitfalls and solutions when I heard it-a mocking tone from across the room: “Maybe we can just pray about it. Isn’t that what works?”

I don’t recall how long that meeting ran on after that. I don’t recall what was decided. What else was said. What I was being asked to do. Because I sat stunned that my faith has been put on display as some kind of joke. That mocking a praying woman was OK.

It wasn’t the first time I had been told prayer was ridiculous. Praying has always been deemed silly by those who don’t believe in its power. Its power to change people. To move mountains of circumstances. To heal.

I wish I had been strong enough that day to list all the ways in which prayer had “worked.” The proof I had that all that had unfolded, the roadblocks moved had not just been mere coincidence.

The prayers I uttered in corner offices that the most vulnerable would be safe and secure as they passed over the threshold I had soaked with prayers of protection. And the countless wee ones who passed through and stayed because “it’s safe in here.”

The prayers uttered for tough conversations, reconciliation, and healing of hurts I never inflicted.

No one will convince me that the call made within those 5 minutes was mere coincidence. That this time or all the others before, God had not heard the pleas of my heart.

No. I am convinced on that day God desired the same thing, and he worked it out. Just as He will continue to each and every time I ask.

And while it may not be as evident as a call 5 minutes before a meeting, each time I come to Him with the burdens of my heart. He will work it out in His way. His time.

Because despite anyone’s thoughts that what you are praying for may not be worthy. May be silly. May be useless. Keep on praying anyway. He hears you. He wants to answer you. He cares about what’s on your heart.

You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it. Matthew 21:22

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2019 in How Is Your Faith, My Heart Will Sing His Praises

 

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Pinky promises from God

“We will go tomorrow to get donuts. I promise.” I said this to my little boy as he headed into the house. As he trickled in from school, and we then began the task of managing the afternoon and evening activities. Pinky promised that, yes, next time we would go. “Tonight we have a lot to do, but tomorrow is wide open.”

Then tomorrow came, and as we headed into the house after bus stop pick-up, I looked back to see that same little boy crying. “You said we could get donuts today,” he sniffled. “You promised!”

I had promised. But I had also forgotten, and I was oh-so-close to breaking the trust this little guy had in me.

Thankfully, I kept my promise. But it did not diminish the fact that in my rushing, my human capacity to only TRY to manage all things, I had managed to forget this one thing. I had almost forgotten what I had promised to deliver. I believe it is safe to say, we all have broken a promise, or for whatever reason been unable to keep it.

But God. He never breaks a promise. He can always be trusted to do what He says He will do!

The Bible is full of thousands of promises God made to His people, and still hold true for us today. While over our lifetime we may make countless promises to others as well, God never ceases to deliver. Time and circumstances don’t stand in the way of the promises God keeps.

I urge you to reflect on the promises of God, especially next time someone breaks their pinky promise to you. Write them down. Recite them. Keep track of how many God has or does deliver. I trust you will find that though our faith and trust in people may waver, His won’t. He will never fail you, and He will keep every “pinky” promise made to you!

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Hebrews 10:23

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2019 in How Is Your Faith

 

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Love that “sticks”

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle. Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. Doesn’t revel when others grovel. Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth. Puts up with anything. Trusts God always. Always looks for the best. Never looks back, but keeps going to the end. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, MSG

I read over the passage before me again. I had read it hundreds of times over the course of a year or more. Had prayed it probably just as many. As I read it, I wasn’t expecting it to tap into the very reason it pulled at my heart.

A sticky note. Yes. A simple yellow post-it. Written on it in kid writing: “Always be kind and work hard on your dreams.”

A sticky note I was never even supposed to have. After all the other notes with inspirational messages were hanging on other doors and walls throughout school, as planned-this one remained on the original door in which it was posted. Right in plain sight as I opened that door. The only one left. How did I miss it? I could bet my life I took them all down.

But, no. There it was. Staring at me. So completely out of character, it seemed. Those words. When others spoken had not been so loving or “kind” at times.

I still have that yellow post-it. No, I didn’t chuck it in the trash, though in all truth-I wanted to. Not believing at the time anything written on it.

But, God is who He is, and not a lot He does or asks us to do makes sense. So, instead of ripping that small piece of paper up and tossing it, I took it off my door, and posted it in my Bible.

I slapped that note on the page where 1 Corinthians 13 was printed. And every day…I prayed.

I prayed that the author of those words would indeed be kind and have all their dreams come true.

But I didn’t stop there. I prayed that same “author” would learn to be kind. Not rude. Would refrain from being irritable. To always speak and seek the truth.

And I prayed I could do the same, so this person would know who Jesus was through me.

To know His “true” love.

See, love isn’t always the romantic version that the movies portray. That isn’t what Paul is referring to in the Love Chapter. While it makes for a great reading at weddings, it isn’t reserved for husbands and wives. We don’t simply desire these things in only our romantic endeavors.

We are called to show unfailing love to all. To all God’s children. And, yes, that even means His “hard to handle” children. Some whose names are written on sticky notes.

Love is freely given. It doesn’t come with strings attached.

Love that “sticks” is an encourager. It speaks kind words, wise words, and doesn’t seek to tear down with harsh words.

Love is forgiving. Seeking to always reconcile with others, restore relationships, and not keep bringing up past hurts and mistakes.

Love sacrifices. Even if it’s scary. Even if it’s hard. Even if everyone else is bound and determined to do something different. It doesn’t think of self and reputation, but instead thinks about what is best, good, and true for others.

No. You don’t have to be in a romantic relationship to desire a love that sticks around.

Nor do you have to be in one to show it.

We are all called to love whoever God places in our path, or whomever He places on us His burden.

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. 1 Corinthians 13:3

I don’t know what post-it note you need to stick in your Bible. But someone out there is bankrupt because they don’t know His unfailing love. Love them today. Love them until one day it finally “sticks.”

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2019 in Like Jesus Does, Loving Others

 

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I’ve got the joy, joy, joy

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Grunts. Kicks. Moans. All by 8:30 in the morning.

Complaints about what is in the fridge to eat. Complaints about the days plans. Words like these: “Grateful? For what?”

These words were muttered into not our first week, but our SECOND week at the beach.

Let me say that again…our SECOND week.

And, yet; there wasn’t anything of which to be grateful?

For the last several months or so I have been pondering the concept of joy, and what it truly means. Is it being happy because everything is going as planned? Is it having all the things? Accomplishing all the things?

No. Because you can have all the things, and still not be joyful.

You can eat the finest food, and still complain it’s too salty or not salty enough.

You can have an abundance of money, and still not be satisfied with what that money can buy; always wanting more.

You can defeat your toughest challenge. Run your toughest race. Play your best game, and still complain that your time wasn’t as good as last time, or that you missed too many shots.

Or…you can have two weeks at the beach, and complain that you sat too long at the ocean. The sand feels funny. It’s too windy. Just to name a few.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

Joy.

It comes from giving praise for the things you do have. Even if you don’t have it all. Giving praise for what is going well, even if other things just aren’t that great.

It comes from looking around you each day and expressing thanks for all that has been given.

For me, it began with examining whether my own heart was expressing joy, or expressing grunts and grumbles. With sitting down each day after some of the hardest days at work, and jotting down at least one thing that went well. Even if it was only ONE thing.

It started with one. Then two. Until now, each morning, I begin my day with three. Three things for which I am grateful.

And while there are definitely days I don’t get it right, and still grumble; having a daily list of things that are good. That fill my heart with joy. Well, it helps me shrug off some of the junk in life a little bit easier.

Being stuck in traffic means we have the ability to travel.

Being sticky and sandy means I spent the day at the beach.

Running out of my favorite chips means I had food to eat in the first place.

Not coming in first place means I started something. And I finished.

It means that when life throws me something besides joy, I can still find it.

And encourage others to look for it, too.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2019 in My Heart Will Sing His Praises

 

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Fix my thoughts

It woke me in the middle of the night. After several weeks of a sinking feeling. That feeling that even though you woke up feeling okay, something was “doomed” to happen. After several weeks of unstoppable bouts of crying. Of chest pains I attributed to a bronchial infection. Pain so bad in my abdomen woke me and kept me up through the night. I spent the remainder of that night on my bathroom floor, in the fetal position, convinced I was dying. Or simply just going crazy.

These feelings of dread. Sadness. And unexplained physical pain had gone on too long.

“It sounds like you have been having panic attacks. Have you been under a large amount of stress lately?”

Had I? Yes. I had. I had spent the last several months dreading going to work. Crying on my way there, and my way back home. It took immense effort each day to even get myself out of bed, because I was terrified of what angst would await me at work as I arrived.

The thoughts that I wasn’t doing a “good enough” job.

The late evenings staying, often neglecting my family just so others could not find fault in my work.

The many times I took the actions and criticism of others as the gospel, and beat myself up over it.

The nights I lay awake worrying if I even had a job. Or would have one in the coming years. Irrational thoughts. What if they don’t believe me? What if all my work doesn’t matter and only whether I am liked does? Will I be fired?

“Have you ever been treated for anxiety?”

But that word was used for those who worried about tornadoes, and packed their basements with enough food to survive the zombie apocalypse they could not stop worrying about. I don’t worry about everything. So….anxiety isn’t what this is.

But the word “anxiety” that is thrown around by many, and the stories above that are used to illustrate its existence-they are not what it really is.

It’s exactly what I had been feeling. I had been worried. A lot. About my job. About my clients. About what others thought of me. About how this affected my family. About my health. And all this worrying? The excessive thoughts that kept me up at night? They were wrecking my life.

Everything had to be perfect. Sometimes to the point it was done over and over and over again until it was. Even if I lost sleep. And some of the things that I thought I had overcome. From which I had healed came creeping back to the surface. Triggers from past events that were now compounded by new ones.

(Note: Not everyone’s anxiety symptoms are the same. Nor are they the classic symptoms most documented in medical journals. If you suspect you have anxiety, be sure to talk to your doctor).

And…I needed to overcome this thing once more. It was consuming me. My thoughts. My sleep. My spiritual health.

I had to get back to myself.

And while seeing a doctor was the first step. Fixing my behaviors. My thoughts. Knowing what triggers sent me in a panic. Even disconnecting from people with whom I engaged were many of the others.

My particular brand of anxiety took captive of my brain. My thoughts. And once it successfully mastered its task, it took over my body. To stop it I had to wrestle those thoughts. Understand the triggers in my body, and get back to baseline.

Here are some of the things that worked for me:

Color. Seriously. Color. It seems very childish, but that is often the very reason it is calming. It takes your brain back to a simpler time. And it calms the fear center of the brain at the same time.

Paul had something when he said to think about what is good. Negativity breeds negative energy and thoughts. If we focus on all that is bad, we will believe that all is bad. Shifting our focus on the things that are going well in our life, shifts our daily focus on what is good. This applies to the company we keep. When we surround ourselves with those who are positive, and treat us well. We tend to feel better as well. It’s OK to evaluate the people with whom you spend your time in order to heal.

Keep a journal. I write. Constantly. Maybe because my brain never seems to stop. I keep several journals. One where I “dump” all the junk from my workday, so I can go home to my family refreshed. One where I reframe negative thoughts. And one where I write down anything that keeps playing a loop of angst in my head. It’s also how I determined what was triggering my anxiety attacks (which I know now were related to feeling a sense of helplessness when others are denied their voice or safety). The process of thinking it, identifying it, and then writing it out, provides your mind with a blank slate. You’ve released it. It’s as close as you can get to talking it out with a trusted confidant.

Speaking of trusted confidant. Find someone you trust who will hold you accountable, in love. For instance, I have a handful of friends that I know will bring me back down to earth when I’m out of control in my head. I also know I am not perfect, and I tend to lash out at those who live with me when I feel attacked. My husband is one of these people. And, even though I don’t all the time, I make an effort to ask: “How can I get better at that? How should I respond instead so that it doesn’t hurt you?” Since I know these people will speak to me with genuine love and concern, the feedback they give is received.

Pray. Pray for peace. Pray that God will clear your path of any anxiety triggers. Pray he will place loving and understanding people in your lives. Prayer is what honestly sustained me, and helped me get up after the nights I lay crying on my closet floor.

And, because sometimes you need to-see a therapist, or ask for medication. And know that this is OK. As a believer it is acceptable to utilize the gifts that have been provided to others through Him. The gift of science. And the gift of wise counsel. Seek them. Use them. Wisely of course. It’s not shameful. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you less of a believer in God’s power. No. Admitting you need help makes you quite strong.

In addition, fix your thoughts on the one who can help you in your time of need. Find a Bible verse you can go back to each time you start to feel those unwanted, irrational feelings again. Because you will have bad days. Everyone does. Here’s one for you that helped me remember that my anxiety would not win my heart or mind, and kept me focused on those good and true thoughts of which Paul speaks:

So do not fear, for I am with you: do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

He held me during those trying days at school. He held me on the bathroom floor. He holds me when my thoughts were fixed on all I supposedly wasn’t.

And He will hold you, too.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2019 in Uncategorized, You Are Enough

 

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Love that simply gives

“I filled it up. There are more left, but I stopped at 316.”

316?

“Yes. 316 mints.”

A jar. Filled to the top with 316 mints counted out by my daughter.

“You know. For John 3:16-For God so loved the world He gave…and you are giving.”

Or so I thought.

They, however, were never given. Instead all 316 sat on a shelf at work, attracting others to grab a few as they headed back to class.

For God so loved…

My hope was that each time a mint was given, someone felt a little more “loved.” That although the one for whom those 316 were originally intended never received them, others felt love that was offered with no strings attached. Just simply given.

For God so loved the world…

There was a part of me that resented those mints. I could not wait for them to all be gone, and I was determined I would not buy anymore-ever!

When I was encouraged to buy more, I remembered my initial reason for getting them in the first place. So that little “blessings” of love would be handed over to someone who needed it.

Because He gave…

And if He kept giving, certainly so could I. It didn’t matter what happened then, others needed me to give…now.

His one and only son…

He became flesh and dwelled among us. And my flesh was called to do the same. I had been placed in a new neighborhood. I was still called to go and love others, no matter what happened in the old one.

No matter what happened after the 316th mint was counted. It was still love that motivated the giving. Nothing else.

Whosever believes in Him…

No matter where circumstances may have moved me, I was still called to be the one who followed the example of the One. Who helped people feel as if they belonged. Feel cared for. Accepted. So that maybe in the giving, others would believe in Him, because they saw Him in me.

Something different. Someone like Jesus.

Shall not perish…

So that spirits would be quickened before unwise choices are made. To learn love does not fade when certain conditions are not met.

And if that love, belonging and connection comes from a silly mint.

So be it.

I know I would do it again. And again. And again.

All so someone can feel the love of God.

A love that simply gave.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Loving Others

 

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The memory keeper

There is this mythical parenting truth when it comes to pictures. It has often been said that when your first born comes along, you snap away. Not wanting to miss a single moment. With others that follow. Not so much.

I have scrapbook upon scrapbook of my oldest. Sports scrapbooks. Scrapbooks filled with field trip memories. School memories. Summer vacation memories.

You know, scrapbooks filled with pictures that often had to be printed from a roll of film.

I have maybe three of my middle. A total of one for my youngest. Barely completing that one’s baby scrapbook.

I didn’t stop capturing memories behind a lens. But as the kids grew, the lens changed. The media changed, and the method of storage did as well. Pictures that once filled creative albums now take up space on a digital album. Often on some phone app I rarely look at.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16

I may take those scrapbooks off the shelf once in a blue moon (meaning not often at all). I may see an old digital memory on my Facebook highlights one morning that brings back some nostalgia.

But those pictures are not the memories. The days in our book are.

And while I will still take pictures, and I do believe that they will tell a story long after we are gone…I don’t believe they are the memory keepers.

The memory keepers are those moments that are never captured on your iPhone camera roll, but that you still talk about over breakfast.

They are the things for which we have no negative, but we can still remember in vivid detail.

Like watching babies sleep. Being hugged super tight. Rocking chairs on front porches. The book long after it is read. Recounting funny moments with friends over and over. The moment of your child’s birth. The moment you saw those lines. The moment they said, “Mommy.” “Daddy.” “Granpop.” “Grandma.”

These are the moments Kodak, Facebook, Instagram, or the iPhone can’t come close to retelling. These are the moments that don’t make the scrapbooks, but that live on even still. That are written down on the tablets of our hearts and minds to be shared for years to come.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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