Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Two years

Its almost June 2016. That means it is almost 2 years since I've heard my dad's voice. Two years since I've heard his thinking on the other end of the phone, trying to keep me on the line longer (no matter how big of a hurry I was in.) Two years since I could reach out to him for his advice. And, two years of not feeling his strong hugs, always full of unconditional love. Sometimes thinking about him just gets the better of me. I get lost in thought...we were moving back to Florida and my dad was happy about that -- but he was supposed to be here when we got here! Things weren't supposed to happen the way that they did! Well, at least not in my version of the story.

Moving back, my heart was comforted knowing that I would have my new family in the same place as my parents. We would get to spend time with my mom and dad. Dad was supposed to be a dad to us girls, and a positive influence & role model for my stepson. He was supposed to be there with his simple, corny jokes when we needed to laugh or to listen and advise when the car was making a funny noise. He was going to call us to make sure we were safe at night. And, comfort us in knowing that mom was safe and cared for.  

I've been pretty silent with my grief, for the most part. Especially as time passes. In a discussion with my partner recently, I voiced how my heart is still not settled on how everything happened two years ago. Questioning whether or not we made the right decision in removing the life support so quickly. The "what-ifs?" play in my head so often that it sometimes causes me to break down.

Do you know what she said after I shared my thoughts? She said that God holds the time card. And if it was his time, it was his time... If it wasn't? There is no amount of machinery or decisions or doctors that could have changed that. He would have woke up. Boy do I admire her faith. As much as I want to keep saying, "but still... what if?" In all fairness, she is right. Deep down, I do believe that. 

At his bedside, I remember my Aunt Karen reading John 14:3 - "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am." So even though I am questioning all the things that cannot be undone, I can stop questioning where and how my dad is, for we know he is with God. And, ultimately, that is what matters, right? 

As we approach June and all of these significant dates - Father's Day, his birthday, the anniversary of his death - I am going to turn my heart and my eyes to God with prayers for peace and comfort. After all, Matthew 5:4 reminds us that "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Two years later and I am still mourning -- I know you see me, God. But, do hear me?

My dad was one of my biggest supporters when it came to my writing and one of the biggest reasons I started this blog. And since he isn't here to read this when it posts, I'd like to think he is here with me, reading as I write -- here's to you, dad. I miss you more than you could possibly know. Not a day goes by that I don't think of you. I hear a song or a situation that reminds me of you. I wish you were here when I don't understand the many things you were so good at -- I mean, if you were here, I know our noisy washing machine wouldn't overtake all other noise in our house because you would know how to fix it. I miss you for mom's loss and hurt and all that she is having to learn in her new life on her own. I miss the most honest, perfect, handsome example of a man that you were and still are -- only now in my heart. With each day that passes, I hope I make you even a little bit as proud to have been my father, as I am to be your daughter. I love you with all my heart. P.S -- mom is doing great, you would be so proud of her! <3 <3 <3

Friday, May 20, 2016

The great debate

We all have rough days every now and then. And since we know that God is guiding us every single moment along the way, when something bad happens or a struggle arises, we know that He either put it in our path or, at the very least, knew it was coming. These moments can cause us to cry out to him, yes. And many times we say (or hear) the phrases "God is testing me" or "God is tempting me." But is he really? Does our all-forgiving God actually test us? Does he tempt us?

That brings me to this: The tempt vs. test debate. Have you heard of it? Well if you haven't, it is your lucky day. And, if you have... perhaps you can get some sort of small reminder from this post.

Before we more forward, lets take a closer look at Webster's meaning of the words test  and tempt.

Test: "a critical examination, observation, or evaluation..." or "... something...for measuring the skill, knowledge, intelligence, capacities or aptitudes of an individual or group."

Tempt: "to cause (someone) to do or want to do something even though it may be wrong, bad or unwise."

Even though we may intertwine these words sometimes, defining them shows a clear difference!

So... Does God test us?

When we were kids in school, teachers taught us for our benefit, didn't they?  They would give tests to see what we have learned - to see what our brains had retained, right? Well, God is our greatest teacher. He wants to know what we have learned, too. Except he focuses on our HEARTS. Deuteronomy 8:2 (NIV) says "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." Granted, we are not all led into the wilderness, but he doesn't have to send us there to find out what is in our hearts. He can do so by testing us at any given point on our journey.

We may be walking through life just as happy as a pig in mud when all of a sudden something happens that wipes our smile straight off our face... and sends us into a period of trial; a rough patch; to the bottom of a really tall mountain. What do you do? How do you handle it? Jeremiah 17:7 (NLT) says "Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence." Maybe God wants to see if you turn to him and follow as you have been taught - "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you... " Psalm 55:22 (NIV).

Or maybe he is testing your faith. Did you ever think about that? When he sends your life into what may feel like a downward spiral, are you still frowning? Or are you rejoicing because your faith in God is so strong that it overcomes any obstacle? James 1:2-4 (NIV) says, "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."  Yes, I just said that - find joy in your trials. Uh-huh. Sounds odd, right? And hard. I know. But think about it this way -- You walk through life, happily spreading the word of God and all that He is, all that He has done, and all that He can do... and then, when you come to a difficult point, do you turn away from him? Do you get angry? Or do you open your eyes and realize that your faith is being tested, smile, "...show that your faith is genuine," 1Peter 1:7 (NLT), and move ahead? After all, if you truly believe God is the Almighty,  is your Creator and can move mountains and part waters -- then you would truly believe that he has your back in a time of need better than any friend or family member ever could. With God, you are golden, my friend -- no need to fret!

Now, what about temptation. Does God really tempt us? 

The definition above says that a temptation may entice us to do something  "even though it may be wrong, bad or unwise." Why would God do that? He doesn't. James 1:13 (NIV) says "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone." Our God isn't like that. He wouldn't lead us to something that could harm us when he went to all the trouble to send his son here to be crucified for the forgiveness of our sins - only to tempt us to sin? Sounds a little foolish, don't ya think? My God, well, he just is not foolish. 

Yes, we are tempted. We ALL have at least one vice that tempts us. And God sees this. I mean, He sees everything. But did he lead you to that temptation? For example, does he pave the path for the alcoholic to walk right into a bottle of vodka? No. Satan may, of course. He may tempt us-- Try to entice us to commit sins. But God does not put these evil desires into the very hearts that he hopes to have filled with love!! 

Think about it -- even Jesus was tempted! Matthew 4:1 (NIV) tells us that "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." See those words? Tempted - by the devil. NOT GOD!

It is in times of temptation that we need to turn to God for strength to get us through -- to overcome temptation. After all, he didn't lead us to it, but he can save us from it... IF WE BELIEVE! 

Well, there you have it, folks. My version of the great debate. My God is an AWESOME God. He tests us to make sure we remember he is there and that our hearts are pure. And when we do succumb to temptation that leads us to sin, he is still ALWAYS there for us. We are human and we all mess up -- and how comforting is it to know that God is forgiving when we do?! 

I'm going to close with the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)... We have all said this so many times. But today, look more carefully at the words: 

Our Father, which art in heaven, 
Hallowed by the Name. 
Thy Kingdom come. 
Thy will be done in earth, 
As it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our trespasses, 
As we forgive them that trespass against us. 
And lead us not into temptation, 
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom, 
And the power, and the glory, 
For ever. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Life as a jelly bean

Hey, all. I just have a short, sweet and to the point message for ya today. Though, I sure hope it gets ya thinking as much as it did me.

Do you like jelly beans? Im not a big fan... but what if you have a huge pile of jelly beans and each one represents one day of life as you know it? The following is a video describing just that. Its less than 3 minutes long... please, please, please take a moment to check it out:

Pretty powerful, eye-opening message, right? Forget the statement about spending 3,202 days working or 671 days grooming.... though, really? Its the 8,477 days of sleeping that really got me! I sure do love my sleep and many days I never feel like I get enough! But seeing as though the average person sleeps away 8,477 of the only 28,835 days we start with? This takes me back to my teenage years when it would be noon on a Saturday and my mom would come in my room, swing open my blinds, tell me I was "sleeping my day away," and then proceed to sing... ♪♫ "just let the sun shine in, face it with a grin..." ♪♫ in a cheerful manner. I used to scowl then, but boy, do I wish I could get that time back!

Psalm 90:12 (NIV) says "Teach us to number each of our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." I am not sure necessarily that it is the amount of time that it takes us to do something, but rather the amount of things we accomplish for God during the time we are given -- growing and serving. I may have slept many hours away or wasted time in many various, non-pleasing ways... but that doesn't mean that I still don't have time to do good deeds and follow God's will. Now is the time for that!

As you swallow your daily jelly bean and close your eyes tonight, remember this: 

"Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. 
Remind me that my days are numbered - 
how fleeting my life is. 
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. 
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; 
at best, each of us is but a breath." 
Psalm 39:4-5 (NLT)


Friday, May 6, 2016

Ears & Lyrics

Have you ever really liked a song and when you heard it come on the radio you busted out with your air guitar and your almost perfect shower singing voice... melodically shouting, say, "ANIMAL" to that Def Leppard song...and then... you realized everyone around you was giggling while staring at you? Was it your moves? Were you a little off-key? Nope... well, maybe, but that wasn't why they were laughing. There is always that one friend who has to stand up and loudly tell you... THOSE AREN'T THE RIGHT WORDS! BAHAHAHA! IT'S PANAMA, NOT ANIMAL!

<head down, place tail between legs, please>

After the slight humiliation wears off, we start thinking...well, what are the words, then!?

I've done this SO many times and I know some friends who have, too. So, just for laughs, I figured Id share. 

Angel of the Morning by Juice Newton. 
       Correct: Just call me angel of the morning, angel
                        Just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby. 
       My version: Just call me angel of the morning, angel
                        Just brush my teeth before you leave me, baby.

Really? I shake my head every time I hear that song. 

And also when I was a kid... Flashdance... I used to think that was such a dirty song! 

       Correct: Just take your passion and make it happen

       My version: Just take your pants down and make it happen

Again, I shake my head.

My very close friend, Amy, used to sing this one... I cant hear it without thinking of her: New Kids on the Block, Hangin Tough

       Correct: Hangin Tough, Hangin Tough

       Amy's version: Standin' tall, standin' tall

It wasnt always while I was younger, either. Imagine Dragons, Radioactive...

      Correct: Radioactive, radioactive.

      My version: Ready to rock you, ready to rock you.

And most recently -- Stars Go Dim, You are Loved.

      Correct: Just look up, know you are loved. 

      My version: Just a cup of your love... 

I mean, most just don't make sense. And let's leave any possibility of Freudian slips alone, please. We think we hear what we hear and we sing it and as long as it flows and the melody makes us feel good... who cares if we don't have the words right, right!? RIGHT!? 

But what if that message in the song was important and we just didn't take the time to hear it correctly? Should we have looked up the lyrics to make sure we are singing exactly what we are supposed be singing so that we were hearing and delivering the correct message? 

A song isn't as important as God, but what if we slack in everyday menial things and it leads us to be faulty in what really matters? What if we aren't taking the time to hear God clearly, either? After all, Romans 10:17 says Faith comes from hearing the message... 

I recently heard Joyce Meyer say that when we choose not to listen to God about one area of our life, it may make it hard for us to hear him in other areas. In other words, we don't get to hear what we want to and tune out what we don't. When God speaks, you listen. Intently and purposefully. End of story. Remember -- he knows better than you what your future holds. Sometimes we have to go through something or do something we do not like in order to get there or in order to grow. 

But if we don't listen with open ears, how will we ever know? 

John 5:30 says I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Oh, no! What if you heard wrong because you didn't take the time to be diligent in your listening? "As I hear, I judge..." And you heard wrong? This can't be good, can it? This verse is telling us that Christ's judgment (as it was communicated) must be just because it is God's will. See the importance of getting the message straight? 

Just wanted to give you something to think about next time you sing along to a song, play operator with your kids, or, well, if you get a message from the big guy. Make sure you are attentive and careful with what you hear. You never know just how significant it can be!

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