Friday, October 31, 2014

A Bruce Goodbye



If you knew my dad’s mother, Grandma Bruce, you know what I am talking about it. And rumor on the street is if you know me or my kids you’ll experience the “Bruce Goodbye” is a genetic trait passed down through the generations.

It looks something like this:

 As it’s time for someone to leave the house (mind you, you might just be leaving for a few hours...) We walk you to the door giving a hug or two or three…and then we open the door and go outside with you saying goodbye and then as you try to get in the car everything intensifies with more hugs and goodbyes until the person trying to leave is almost annoyed and has to shut the car door quickly, but then the you usually need to roll down the window because we are standing waving and screaming goodbye until we can’t see your car anymore and you must acknowledge this with a wave, a honk or your own verbal goodbye as you step on the gas to get away from us.

I’m not exaggerating.

So imagine my feelings this morning as I’ve reached the end of this blog and it’s time to say goodbye…good grief, it took me 31 days to try and get all my words down and it wasn’t enough.

For the life of me I cannot remember where I heard this, but however it came to me it was a gift from above:

God promised His Word is a lamp unto our feet, not a floodlight into the future. 

As much as we moan and grumble about wanting to know all the details of how a situation will work out, what a blessing it is to not be overwhelmed by what a floodlight would show us up ahead. It could be amazing or it could be gut wrenching, but we are safe in the light of the lamp where God can provide for us exactly what we need for this step and we can rest assured He knows what is on up ahead on our path. What He knows does not overwhelm Him; He just gently, lovingly prepares us on this step for the next one, one minute at a time. 

Yesterday on the way home from the hospital I could not quit thinking about how “sure” everything seems in the world and how that lulls people to sleep in thinking this is all there is. But lo and behold in a couple of days almost everyone in America will change their clocks backward an hour. Try explaining this to a child! It’s WILD! “Well, a long time ago a bunch of people without the internet or email spread the word to everyone that they decided it was best for all of us to change our clocks so we could have some more daylight at the end of our day and so at an agreed upon time we reset our clocks.” I can’t imagine America agreeing on anything today that would have such an effect on people (We see you over there, Arizona.)

Time is something created by people, but set in motion by God when He created day, night and how long it takes for the earth to travel around the sun. God did not say in Genesis “Let there be clocks.”

I had a feeling I needed to post about this and then last night during our bible study video Beth Moore begins teaching us the context of 2 Thessalonians and how Paul was reminding the church that Jesus will return at a specific time. 

We all experienced a paradigm shift in our thinking. It’s still rocking my world this morning as I awoke to my alarm clock.

For thousands of years, time was kept simply by day and night, sun dials came along but they could only mark time in daylight, but it wasn’t until the 1300s when mechanical clocks began keeping time to the hour and then the 1700s brought the pendulum to keep track of seconds. How do we keep track of time today? How many times today have we looked at our phone or wristwatch to see where we are in the expanse of time?

She explained that God isn’t like the timer feature on our phones where we are counting down toward an event, we are counting up like a stopwatch, counting seconds and years as we lead up to Jesus’ return. Every generation wonders if they will be the ones to see it happen while alive, but here we are in 2014 even more obsessed with keeping track of time than any generation before us... and every second that passes is one that brings us closer to our real home. Waking up this morning means we are that much closer to real and eternal RELIEF.

“and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” 2 Thes 1:7

Instead of feeling like time is running out, I want to feel time is running toward something marvelous. I do not want to live worried about how much time is left; I want to eagerly anticipate the time that is coming.

“when He comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” 2 Thes 1:10 emphasis mine

When the stopwatch is stopped by the almighty hand, I want to be among all of you who finished the race together, out of breath and yet energized, ready for what God has in store for us next. Can you even imagine?

Thank you all for being a part of this journey through sweetcarolinebaby’s blog. We are eager to see what God has in store for our next leg of the race and I know it will all be revealed in His perfect timing.

“You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant. You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming.” 2 Timothy 4:3-8 msg emphasis mine

Stay tuned, God is up to something new!...Now I’ll finally let you roll up your window and drive away with that last big hug.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Jesus in Scrubs

Day 30 Click here to see all the posts in this 31 day series  


7:19am
They just carried my baby to the OR for ear tubes. My head knows:

It is a simple procedure.
He will feel so much better.
It is necessary. 
It will only take 15 minutes. 

I know it all. I do. And I have peace the surpasses understanding from everyone's prayers.

But it takes real work for a momma's heart to catch up with her head.

People have asked about the recovery time and I go into a spill about it being a week in the hospital and then a few weeks at home before they stop me and say "For tubes?" Umm, no. I'm constantly giving my nephew, Jett, over to the Lord in prayer so it's hard to think of anything else. 

On the pitch black, quiet drive to the hospital this morning the sky was so clear you could see many more stars than usual, even for Arkansas. 

I felt God telling me in that moment of driving that I needed to remember what I have learned. 

I've been so quick to share my new knowledge that the reason the future is so scary is we are incapable of imagining God's presence and His provision there. We cannot feel God's peace until we are in the moment. So our idea of what will happen then is inherently false. God will be meet us in the moment when it comes and we cannot know all that He has planned to provide. 

I've been so excited about how this new insight has affected my everyday peace in life so much that I didn't think about how the "future" means it is here in the next second. And the next minute. Not to sound cliche (which means it most certainly will!) but the future is now. His peace is for now. I shouldn't worry about tomorrow or about the very next minute:

God's peace is for this moment and for tomorrow and for all the minutes in between until we are finished. 

7:31am

I just typed the word "finished" when Dr Johnson came in to say Ethan did great. He will be back to us and irritable in about ten minutes.

"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

...And many times when we get to the "future" we find God provides in ways that go above and beyond what we would even hope for...Ethan came back to us with just a few tears on his cheeks and went promptly to sleep in my arms. 

The nurse said on our way out, "It's really harder on the parents than the patient." 

Isn't that the truth? God is with the patient, covered in prayers with all of his or her needs being met by the hands and feet of Jesus in scrubs. While those of us on the outside have to be still and know that He is God. 

No matter what role we are playing right now, whether we are the parents or the patient or the child of God waiting on his or her need to be met, the LORD will provide. Always.

What role are you sitting in today? How can you help spread or embrace the peace as the hands and feet of Jesus provide?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Boxes


Would you agree people are multidimensional? Are you able to sum yourself up in a handful of words? Would it be the complete picture of who you are?

We tend to categorize people to make things easier on ourselves. There’s not an inherent problem in putting people in a category of work, school, neighborhood etc; it is impossible to know every single person that crosses our paths. However, I want to be careful to not keep people in boxes I create for them. Making people stay in their boxes is easier because it keeps things tidy in our lives; everyone stays at arm distance to not interrupt what I have going. However, I have learned letting these people cross into my life in a different way or simply letting my perception of them be fluid has led to amazing blessings.

A friend and I began inviting the moms from our kids’ Mother’s Day Out program at our church to lunch at one of our houses each month (the idea is spurred from if:table which I HIGHLY recommend everyone consider doing.) 

Last year I flew in and out of the church barely having time to say hello to the other mommas. This year is different; I’ve let go of some opportunities which has allowed new ones to develop. I’ve been able to get to know some really special ladies and I have learned from their wisdom as we share with each other about mom life in missional terms. I am so glad we obeyed and stepped out in faith to ask these ladies to cross over from our school “box” into our real lives. It makes me wonder what other areas of my life I am keeping people in their convenient boxes, but in actuality it’s just causing me to miss out on opportunities of mutual blessings.

These moms as well as any of you who have had more than ten minutes with me might characterize what I am going through as “crazy, intense, amazing.” I’m a little afraid it weirds people out. I’ve been trying to tell these new people in my life that I haven’t always been this way, or that I’m not really as crazy as I seem, but I’m starting to think this personality is here to stay for a while. 
 
One morning in particular I texted a couple of different friends and I said “I’m beside myself over what God is doing!” I hesitated before pushing “send” because I felt the need to linger over the idiom “beside myself.” I went ahead and pushed send with certainty in my spirit that it described what I was feeling. Not even an hour later I was sitting in church when God brought this verse to my attention:

“For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” 2 Corinthians 5:13 (emphasis mine)

You’ve got to be kidding me? It’s biblical to feel this crazy, amazing, astonished way about God? I felt so loved by God that He helped me feel good about my craziness!

I later google searched the background of “beside yourself” and up came another verse:

“Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” Acts 26:24-28

In both of these verses Paul is either being called crazy or justifying his craziness all because of God and what wondrous things he has seen.

I believe when we are witnesses or participants in the astonishing things God does for us, we can’t help but share what we have experienced. I am hoping my transparency will help people open their minds and hearts a bit to what God is capable of doing. I want to give you hope for your own situation, whatever it may be…God knows and He hears our pleas.

“Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26

Do we allow people to change? Can we think of someone that might need encouragement as he or she is being made into the new creation God intends?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Laughable!


Around six months ago a friend at the gym responded to my lament about not being able to fit in exercising the way I use to before sweet Ethan came along. She suggested I go to an o’dark thirty class in the morning. Oh how I laughed. Out loud, right away, in her face I laughed, because she obviously did not know me well and I am NOT a morning person. Nope, No siree bob. Hilar-ious.

Guess what happened yesterday?!  I did it. I went!!  Y’all, get this: it wasn’t horrible! It was actually way better than I expected, it was amazing! It ended up giving me many surprise blessings throughout the day that I could never imagined! I thought of that well-meaning friend a lot yesterday and how just a few months ago her suggestion was laughable. 
And of course, that evening I read the if:equip for that day. Sarah laughed, too.

How many times have I laughed off a well-meaning word of wisdom spoken to me when I think I know better. Sheesh! Don’t I spout off about trusting God? Whatever happened to “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me?” (Phil 4:14) Why do I pick and choose when to believe and trust in that verse? WHO DO I THINK I AM?!

In all seriousness, I can see how our pride gets in the way so often when God is pushing us out of our comfort zone and we think we know ourselves better than our creator. He does not want us to lead a boring, same-old, let’s go to make the donuts life. (This reference is even before my time, just google it if you don’t get it.) He has amazing, joyful experiences waiting for us when we allow Him to do His will with us.

Sometimes newness is forced upon us and the only decision to make is sink or swim. Being widowed at 29 with 1.5 kids was one of those times. Blessedly, I was surrounded by a community of believers who sat with me, cried with me, and gave the best gift ever: pointing me in the direction of the One who binds up the brokenhearted. I had no idea God was a refuge, a tear collector, a Great Physician who can bring joy from mourning…Before Thomas died I did not need to know God in that way. But I learned. 

If our mighty God can bring beauty from ashes the way He did in my life, and continues to do so as I grieve, why would I ever doubt Him to work in “small” areas of my life as well?

Well, I do doubt. I’m human, not Jesus. But just like He provided the people to encourage and admonish years ago, He is providing them today as well. I asked God to help me in the area of exercising and He sent a friend that said, “I’ll run along with you.” 

Let me tell you, it takes a fellow runner to go through grief…and to get up before the crack of dawn to sweat alongside me.

Thank you, Jesus for sending wise people into our lives. They may suggest laughable scenarios from where we are sitting today, but if it lines up with Your promises in the light of your Word, unimaginable blessings await us when we obey…Dear Lord, help us to remain teachable.

What idea or thought has come to you through God's Word or a wise friend that seems laughable? Why is it so implausible?
 
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 esv (emphasis mine)

“A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” John 10:10 msg (emphasis mine)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Imperfect Progress




Yesterday was pretty bad. One of those humbling days where God wanted to remind me of all my imperfections, and there are many, and they are ugly.

His ways are definitely not my ways. It’s fascinating and frustrating for sure. I am being reminded that I need to give all thoughts over to Him minute by minute on days like yesterday or else others will get hurt. I refuse to beat myself over it today or drown in guilt, but I have to work at remembering what to do whenever the negative self-talk starts up again.

One of my top five all time most powerful learning moments came during Beth Moore’s Breaking Free study.  If you ever decide it’s time to be free from bondage in your life, “Breaking Free” is the study for you. There isn’t time for me to go into it today, just trust me. Do it. (I’ve done it six times…maybe that helps show you how amazing it is, or maybe it makes you wonder if it doesn’t work! Ha! Each time I went through it I was in a different stage of life or grief so it worked on different strongholds I had. Ask me about it sometime.)

Back to the powerful learning moment…

“Captivating thoughts are controlling thoughts.” What we think about most is what controls our emotions and actions. So what we think about is a pretty big deal. 

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor 10:3-5

In Week 9 homework Beth gives some practical ways to get the captive thoughts under control. As I mentioned recently, many of us have deep grooves in our brain where negative self-talk, abuse, PTSD etc  have made it seem believable and normal to feel pretty crummy . It’s time to reprogram!

Recognize the lies you tell yourself and, this is KEY, REPLACE them with TRUTH! It’s not enough to tell yourself it’s not true, you must find scriptures to memorize and replay when the thought enters your brain again.

One question Beth says to ask yourself to recognize a stronghold is “What are you afraid of?”
One of those answers for me is letting people down. Even though I am on a road to recovery of my people pleasing, the thoughts still enter my mind, “If I say no to an invitation, she won’t want to be my friend” or “I have to help anyone who asks even though it means my sanity or family will suffer” or “If I can’t respond to a text quickly she will think I’m indifferent or too busy to be her friend”---I know, if you cannot relate to these statements then they sound CRAZY! And if you can relate, please know there is help! I can now quickly recognize those thoughts as lies and recite back to myself what I have learned.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

One way to replace lies with truth is to memorize bible verses pertaining to your lie. Just a simple Google search for example, “abandonment bible verses,” gives you so many you’ll need to read through and pick the ones that speaks most strongly to your Spirit. Write them down on cards and keep them with you. Beth said she even took hers grocery shopping. Whatever it takes, y’all!

She also wisely instructs those of us in recovery to avoid as many forms of deception as possible. We are extra susceptible to negative outside influence when we are making ground in tearing down lies.

I by no means have all of this mastered, but there has been “imperfect progress” which has led to freedom and joy. I want this for you, too.

If you had an audio recording of your thoughts from today, what would be the dominant theme? Is there a repeated phrase that needs to be recognized as a lie and replaced with Truth? 
 
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