Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Confession #75 - The Last Seven Years

In God's economy seven is a Holy number.  In the old testament seven years represents the Sabbath or Shmita year which is the year of rest.   At the end of seven years God's intention was for the land to have rest and the poor to eat, for his people to be debt-free, and Israelite slaves were to be set free. Here's just a few verses about it in the Bible:

"You may plant your land for six years and gather its crops. But during the seventh year, you must leave it alone and withdraw from it. The needy among you will then be able to eat just as you do, and whatever is left over can be eaten by wild animals. This also applies to your vineyard and your olive grove." (Exodus 23:10–11)

"At the end of every seven years, you shall celebrate the remission year. The idea of the remission year is that every creditor shall remit any debt owed by his neighbor and brother when God's remission year comes around. You may collect from the alien, but if you have any claim against your brother for a debt, you must relinquish it. ..." (Deuteronomy 15:1–6)  

"Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel: I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, saying: "At the end of seven years ye shall let go every man his brother that is a Hebrew, that hath been sold unto thee, and hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee"; but your fathers hearkened not unto Me, neither inclined their ear." (Jeremiah 34:13–14)


I  believe God still holds a purpose for the seventh year and today I realized that it's my Shmita and that God has set me free...

This morning, like many, my body woke me up at 5:00 am.  I don't have to be up until 7:00; I wish someone would tell that to my internal clock.  As I lay there I started to think about my daughter and when we first got her.

Our first weekend with Lexi
I remember that day pretty well; a week before, we had met her for the first time.  She was only two years old and we were introduced as mommy and daddy.  After a wonderful weekend "playing" parents we got her forever a week later.  Over the last seven years I've seen this remarkable child become someone wonderful.  Then I got tears in my eyes thinking of all the mistakes I've made.

I wouldn't categorize myself as neglectful, she always has everything she needs and wants, is fed and clothed and bathed and very loved.  But truthfully, I don't spend enough time with her; I never did.  So I lay there thinking of how, if given the opportunity, I would go back and do it better.  Then I realized what going back to the last seven years would actually mean.  Could I live through that hell again?

These last seven years have been seriously hard, in fact the hardest of my life.  I severely struggled with being a parent, nearly ended my marriage, destroyed a friendship, went broke and claimed bankruptcy, almost ruined a relationship with my sister, and gained back lots of weight I had lost prior to adopting our daughter just to mention a few...

Would I do it all differently again if I could?  I suppose only if I had the knowledge and wisdom I have today.  But then what would happen?  I would destroy my incredible and blessed present by "fixing" the most significant things that God used to shape and mold me into who I am today.

Teaching at Women's Event
The last seven years have been very difficult, but there have also been some wonderful things as well.  I found a church and bible study where I regained my relationship with the Lord.  I began teaching, writing, and speaking for the Lord.  I made friendships that I know will last a lifetime. I wrote a put on a play and other women's ministry events.  I helped restart a women's ministry at my new church.  And just yesterday I was told by a dear friend how I've ministered to her and blessed her.  I humbly admit that's been said to me a few times before.  The dirty christian woman would have never been created if it weren't for these regrets.  I shutter to think what my life would be if it were for these last seven years.  I am certain I wouldn't be the same person I am.

I confess, I haven't written in this blog for a long while.  I've been so upset and frustrated by that, but I haven't had words to give.  Now, I believe that's because God was doing some work on my heart.  I needed to face the regrets and realities of the last seven years in order to move forward.  I had to mentally go back and accept what has happened in order to embrace and appreciate every last bit of it as blessing.

Lexi today
Romans 8:28 is one of my favorite verses and I particularly love the Amplified translation, "And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose."  Today I've been set free from my regret and my mistakes because I see how God was using them for my good to create something special,  He used my past to bring Him glory and others to Christ.  I also realize that it's never too late for me to right a wrong so on that note I think I'll  play dolls with my 9 year old when she gets home from school today.

What about you?  Are you living with the continual regret of your past mistakes?  You must know that  you are forgiven by an amazing God who never looks upon us with resentment.  He loves us in a way we just cannot comprehend.  It doesn't matter what our sins are, God forgives them.  Perhaps you haven't forgiven yourself.  That has to happen for you to move forward.  You must embrace that time, and see what God had done with you through it.  You may have scars, you may have dents, you may never forget but God WILL use it for His good because he has a plan for your life and the lives of the people you touch. "For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope."  Jeremiah 29:11

It's over the period of turmoil is over; and you are free.  "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" John 8:36.  Don't stop moving forward in your dream!

Thank you Lord for you great and mighty plan and for the end of the struggle.  Thank you for bringing me to terms with my past so I can move forward and thank you for all that you have blessed me with throughout this time.  I pray now for the ladies reading this who have lived with deep regret and sorrow from their past.  I pray that they begin to embrace their experience as a blessing in disguise and to know that your plans and purposes are still in the works for them.  I pray that the Shmita is cancelling all the debt, and enslavement they've had in the past and that they will finally feel the freedom you sent Jesus to bring for them.  In Jesus' precious name I pray.  Amen.





Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Confession #74 - Leaving A Legacy

A few nights ago a friend of mine was in distress.  She felt she had cheated her children out of a legacy because she and her husband had made some poor decisions where money is concerned.  She expressed feeling as if she had nothing of value to leave them.  She said that it's her responsibility as a parent to leave a legacy to her children, to give them an inheritance.  She said that she blew it.

My heart grieved for my friend but I strongly disagreed with her reasoning.  While I do agree we are to be good stewards of the resources God blesses us with, which includes leaving an inheritance for our children, I 100% disagree that by not leaving a financial inheritance qualifies as not leaving our children a legacy.

For the last 10 years my financial life has radically changed.  My husband and I have gone from a high five figure income to living just above poverty level.  We've had no health insurance, no life insurance, no savings, no retirement, nothing...God forbid either of us pass away we would have nothing tangible to give our child.  But I am certain that if that happened tomorrow, we'd still be leaving our daughter a legacy.

And that's just what I told my friend about her children.  See, as Christians we, "Walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7  Which means we don't rely upon this world, and it's material possessions and fortunes to take care of us and meet our needs.  We rely upon God.  My friend is a Godly woman, who lives her life in faith and walks that out in front of her children each and every day.  Her legacy isn't earthly things, her legacy is how she teaches and models before her children a life lived by faith.  It is this same legacy I am leaving for my daughter.

Honestly what if we left our kids millions?  Would they know how to handle it when the bottom falls out from underneath them?  It happens all the time.  Throughout history, people have taken their lives after discovering they were ruined financially.  Because tragically they were worshiping their wealth and had no idea how to live without the god of money.  But we, women of faith, are a living legacy, teaching our children that no matter the circumstances, in want and in plenty, we will praise and trust the Lord and He will be faithful to those He loves.  He promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us and His love endures forever.

So what kind of legacy are you leaving your children?  My prayer is that you are teaching them to lean not on their own understand but to live by the Word of God and to live by faith.  Romans, 15:4 says, "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."  God has left His legacy for us through His Word which is His son Jesus Christ.  (John 1:1)  Our legacy is to pass the word of our Lord and Savior onto our children and to teach them to live by dying to Christ which is to gain the eternal hope that we have in Him who always loves and provides for his dear and precious children, us.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you that you continually teach me to walk by faith and that you have given me the best legacy of all to leave my daughter, your Son Jesus Christ.  Father I pray for the mom's reading this today who may feel they have nothing to give their children.  Encourage them to know that the greatest gift, the biggest inheritance we can leave them is a witness of a life lived in faith.  Give us the peace and understanding that our children and their futures are secure in you.  In Jesus' precious name I pray.  AMEN

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Confession # 73 - Am I growing?

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/13194817@N00/132085178">Grow</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
My best friend tells me that I am growing in my walk with the Lord all the time.  She encourages me whenever I feel like I've blown it she says, "Well that showed progress."  And perhaps she's right ,but I don't always feel that way myself.  Most of the time I feel like I was only just inches, just moments away from blowing it...

In particular there was an incident this weekend in which I came really close to blowing it.  I've mentioned in the past that I'm Italian so it should come as no shock and surprise that I have a temper.  But I'm also a mamma, which mean when you mess with my kid, you get the protective mamma bear and the Italian temper in one big explosive package...

On Sunday we attended a birthday party at a local kid's museum.  After the party the children were allowed to enjoy the museum on their own.  My daughter took off with her friends and I sat down with the rest of the parents for a little quiet time and conversation.  After a while it was time for us to leave and as I was collecting my things, saying goodbye to my friends, and rounding up my daughter a woman came over to me and asked, "Is that your child?" (pointing to Lexi).  I said yes and then she came out with, "Well she's got some real aggression issues!  She hurt my daughter."  Her passive aggressive tone was quite evident.  Immediately I apologized for my daughters behavior and before I could do anything further the woman just walked away from me.  I looked around at my friends as if to say, "What just happened?" then I took my daughter by the hand to go and find the woman in hopes of smoothing out the situation.

http://www.imagebase.net/Concept/Test-012-copy
After a moment I located her and once again apologized for Lexi and I told the her that I would speak to my daughter about her behavior and then asked if her child was okay.  Rather than answer my question she said, "Where were you?"  With a finger pointed in my face she continued, "You're kid's been going wild for over an hour and you were no were in sight!  You need to be watching your child, if you had been around this would have never happened."  (Incidentally, I could have been three feet up my child's backside and it still could have happened, but I digress).  My initial response was to ignore her blatant attack and I bent down and asked the child if she was okay.  The child, who was not crying, did not need an ice pack or band aid, said she was okay.  I apologized again then I looked at the woman and said, "You know I really am sorry about whatever Lexi did, we are dealing with some issues and I will address the situation to her."  But I just couldn't resist, I couldn't hold back and I continued with, "However, you don't have the right to tell me how to parent my child."  Her reply was, "I think I do as long as it involves my child!"  My answer, "No you don't.  You don't have the right to tell someone else how to parent their child or to question their motives.  You may have the right to an opinion, but keep it to yourself."  And I walked away.

That may have shown self-control and some growth on my part, but I have to say that if that woman had said anything else to me; uttered so much as another syllable in my direction, this would be a very different story.  The rage inside me was over-the-top and my blood was boiling.  In the past my response would have been quite different and I would have left that place without my dignity intact.

I came so close to loosing it, I wonder was I really displaying growth by restraining myself conscientiously or still sinning because of what was going on in my heart?  To be honest, in my heart, I wanted to punch her smug face and anticipated an excuse to do just that.  I visualized in my mind how it would have looked and how satisfying it would have been just to deck her.  I could feel the energy of a strong punch welling up in my shoulder.   I could see my fist tightening.  I wanted to hear her gasp and feel the snap of her chin as my fist connected with her jaw bone.  I wanted her eye glasses to go flying off her head and her body to hit the floor.

My dear friends, my heart is black; dirty, black and ugly.  So really, am I growing?  I hope so, I pray that I am, but until these thoughts leave me and I can honestly ask for forgiveness for desiring vindication then I'm not so sure there's growth.  Restraint?  Yes.  Growth?  Hummm...not so much.  So perhaps the only difference between myself and my aggressive eight year old child is that I showed greater restraint.  

Restraint isn't growth.  Restraint is more or less the fear of consequences.  And I did fear the consequences, publicly embarrassing myself and my friends, possibly getting arrested, showing my daughter that violence and aggression is the way to solve problems, hurting another individual, frightening children and worse of all loosing my Christian witness.  Those consequences certainly weren't  worth the desire for vindication.  But fear of consequences isn't a lack of sin.  The sin was still there rolling around in my dirty heart.  Still, I enjoy imagining myself hitting the woman.  It's sin, it's evil, and every time I entertain it in my soul I grieve the Holy Spirit that lives in me.

As Christians we need to be growing.  I've written about this in the past, growth in Christ is manifesting the gifts of the spirit, love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, patience, gentleness faithfulness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) Without the outward manifestation of fruit, we can hardly consider ourselves Christ-followers.  We need to be allowing Christ to mold us and change us, not just showing restraint (self-control) in our actions and deeds but restraining our minds not to entertain such black sinful ideas and thriving on them.  I got a rush out of the anger and aggression I felt inside me, I liked it and that's what's scared me to confess.

Do you struggle in this area as well?  Pray with me.  Father I lay bare my heart before you.  Lord I ask that you would forgive me for my lack of growth in my heart.  Forgive me Lord for my thoughts of aggression, forgive me for liking the feeling of hatred and allowing it to feed my soul.  Forgive me for desiring to cause pain to another, and for not entertaining the idea of love and peace instead.  Lord give me the strength I need to love my enemies and to pray for them.  Let my life bear good fruit so that my witness will truly be a image of Christ.  Help me to first of all forgive those who have angered me and caused me pain and allow my heart to be healed.  In Jesus' name I pray.  AMEN



Photo credits: growth photo



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Confession # 72 "What did I do to deserve this?"

Lexi's gloomy face
These last few weeks have been tough with our daughter.  Please don't get me wrong, I love my child.  She is a blessing from God and I thank Him for the privilege of being her mom.  But she is VERY challenging.  I don't quite know how to explain this to those of you who have kids.  Simply because most of you parents out there are probably thinking they're all like that.  But believe me when I tell you she's different.  Without divulging too many details, she takes challenging and strong-willed to new levels.

In particular she's a constant complainer.   NOTHING, AND I MEAN NOTHING you ever try to do for her is ever satisfactory or good enough to make her happy.  It takes a tremendous toll out on me emotionally.  Not because I wish to please her but by anticipating how to avoid meltdown moments and planning ahead with a solution, she quickly turns those ideas into failures by refusing and rejecting my efforts causing the situations to spiral out of control.  Honestly, most of the time I'm convinced that this eight year old child just wants to make everyone's lives utterly miserable, particularly mine. This morning I was crying out to the Lord, "What did I do to deserve this?  Why did you give me this child?"  "I was a good kid, I listened and obeyed. So why God did you do this to me?"
Me

God's response, like always, came in perfect timing.   This afternoon I was reading Numbers 11-12 and came across the passages about how the Israelite's complained about the lack of meat and how hard they had it in the desert.  No matter what God did to supply their needs, by sending manna, keeping the wild animals away, bringing order to the community, providing for the forgiveness of sin through sacrifice, teaching them to prevent the spread of disease by order the infected out of the campsite, they still complained. (Leviticus & Numbers)  It became such a burden on Moses that he called out to God.

Numbers 11:11-15 "He [Moses] asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?  Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?  Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’   I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.  If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”    

In Numbers 12:3 we read, "(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth)."  But even so Moses' own sister and brother started complaining about Moses himself.  Even this humblest of men could not escape the burdens of miserable people.

Now I don't profess to be the most humble of people myself.  I confess this dirty christian woman has had her share of pride-fullness, however, often I don't  understand what I did to deserve this constant struggle with my child.  I realize that at times I take her behavior personally, because frankly, it's hard not to.  And to compare myself to Moses may seem a stretch; Moses was dealing with anywhere from 2-3 million people and I am speaking of a single strong-willed child. But through this lesson, the Lord taught me more about His character and the character I need to have concerning my child's disobedience.  God was angry with them and He didn't allow them to go unpunished for their sins.  God dealt with the Israelites; he brought a plague onto the them and many of them died (see Numbers 11).

However, what truly spoke to me was how God defended Moses.  Then God called Moses' siblings to the Tent of Meeting and set them straight.  He said to them:

"When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.  But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.  Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"  Numbers 12:6-8

Then God afflicted Miriam, Moses' sister, with leprosy.   Please do not think for one second that I wish a plague or leprosy on my daughter or any such other affliction but I do need to punish her for her complaining. 

God doesn't like complainers.  His anger burned severely against the Israelites and Moses' siblings for their transgressions and ungrateful, prideful hearts.  I'm sure God wasn't very pleased with Moses for complaining to God about his burden either.  But God loved Moses so much that when he pleaded on behalf of the people and his sister, God's wrath subsided.  Moses interceded for them.  Jesus is our intercessor.  He pleads on our behalf to the Father.  Likewise I am Lexi's intercessor.  Immediately, I prayed for forgiveness for her and for my complaining and questioning God. Then I asked God to open Lexi's eyes and cause her to realize how blessed she is and how to appreciate her life.  This is a lesson many of us have had to learn in life and it takes time.  (Some of us are still learning this, myself included).  We come into this world selfish and prideful how we leave it is up to us.  I just hope I can leave a lasting impression of joy and thankfulness on her heart so that when she leaves this world she will have lived, "Thankful in all circumstances." 1 Thess 1:18.  Which of course means that I have to set that example!

God also reminded me that He has chosen me as His servant, that He speaks to me, and I am valuable to Him.  He gave me Lexi because He wants me to raise her to know Him and to teach her right from wrong.  Just as God appointed that job to Moses over the Israelites.  God gave Moses his original law, the ten commandments, to teach the people right from wrong. (Exodus 20) He gave Moses guidelines for life through his encounters with Moses.  Moses was faithful to seek God in all matters regarding his people.  (See Levitcus - Numbers)  Which is a reminder to me to seek God in all matters especially those concerning my Lexi.

Finally, I realized that the reason things have been getting so difficult with my child is partially my fault.  It's because I've failed to humble myself and seek Him daily for his guidance.  If you're a parent like me, struggling with your child's behavior, throwing your hands up and complaining to God, "What did I do to deserve this?",  I can relate, but it isn't the answer.  Daily prayer and seeking God through His word is the answer.

She is precious to God and precious to me
Our kids are too precious to leave to their own devices least the world swallow them whole.  We must be warriors on their behalf and intercede whenever necessary.   "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.  And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.

We have divine authority over those things that cause our children to behave certain ways.  We have the job to teach them, guide them, pray for them, and intercede on their behalves.  I know I mustn't ask God "Why" anymore, but through my encounters with God daily to be equipped with His word to demolish all things that want to lead her astray from the faith, steal her joy, and rob her of the sacrifice of praise and thankfulness to God.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for answering my question today, that I didn't do anything to deserve this.  And by helping me to discover first, I'm not alone, many others, including your servant Moses, came before me. Next, I have a job to do as a mom to train up my child, (Proverbs 22:6 & Ephesians 6:4) and third that you have given me authority to fight for her over the evils of this world.  Lord I pray for my sisters-in-Christ who, like me, may be throwing their hands up right now and asking, "What did I do to deserve this?" that you would continually send us the revelation of how to deal with difficult situations with our children.  Teach us, mold us and make us into the mom's you have called us to be.  In Jesus' name I pray.  AMEN.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Confession # 71 - "Let it Go!"

Year after year the holidays come and the holidays go.  Every year I stress, worry and get depressed thinking of what family drama to anticipate.  I stress over hosting or not, I stress if I've been fair and generous enough with gift giving.  I stress making sure my wrapping paper matches our Christmas decor.  For me the holidays are usually a time to stress.

Last Christmas I blogged "Dreaming of a White Christmas".  A video confession of all that I do "wrong" at the holidays and how I fail to focus on Christ every year. This year with the need to finally have a "White Christmas", the Lord saw fit to use my situation to bring about some much needed changes in my holiday festivities.  Changes that can only come from a Christ-centered relationship.

Although I confess, I did spend more than I had, and racked up some debt, this year has been radically different.  First I need to take you back a year.  Last year I decided to stand up for myself and have a holiday I wanted.   I wanted to go to church on Christmas Eve with my family and then host the holiday at my home with the traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes.  Sadly, my family, being less than accepting of my choices, refused to join.  My mom refers to them as "her" holidays and so she insisted she host and that we be there at a time that would make it impossible for us to attend church service.  Stubbornly rather than give in, I chose to host the holidays for friends instead and that included attending church.  Although, it may have killed me in terms of stress and energy, I was determined NOT to give in and stand up for the fact that mom doesn't own the holidays.


Do you have relatives like this too?  They have to be the one who does it all, for whatever reason.  I could probably speculate many reasons why, from wanting to be in the comfort of their own home to the martyrdom of all the work it takes.  Whatever the reason, they take over.  

And I also decided that we were not traveling to relatives for Christmas either; much to the chagrin of my father-in-law.  Years past we would make a visit a week long Christmas vacation.  I can't explain why but ever since we had a child I don't want to be in someone else's home on Christmas morning.  I want to be at  home.  We started some traditions and I like to stick to them.  This did not please my husband's family, and understandably so, but I felt we needed to be more of a family, the three of us.  Needless to say that although last year we had a "nice" Christmas and enjoyed the company of our friends, there was something missing.  I complain and get upset at all the baloney family puts us through but when I don't have their company I feel empty.

What I failed to realize is what Christmas means to grandparents.  Perhaps they are clinging to Christmases gone by with us as the little ones.  Maybe they're uncertain of their time left on the earth and want to spend as many moments enjoying precious moments with their children and grandchildren.  So this year, I didn't give it a second thought, of course we would spend Christmas with family, but I vowed we were going to do what was best for our family.  First, I threw out the window the desire to host.  Why fight with mom?  If she wants to host Christmas Eve then so be it.  Additionally my friend suggested that we spend Christmas morning home then drive to see our relatives out of town.  Why didn't I think of this sooner?  So the plan was in place, Christmas Eve we would go to church, then on to moms for dinner and presents and the next morning wake up in our own home to a Santa scavenger hunt followed by a yummy homemade breakfast then a four hour drive to the cabin in the woods.  Hooray!

But we weren't in the clear yet.  Oh no one more wrench was thrown into the works for good measure.  Mom wasn't happy with the fact that we wouldn't be there until 7 pm because of church and she got angry.  The next day she called me to let me know that dinner was starting at 5 pm and they would just go ahead and eat without us and save us a plate.  She said that if they waited until 7 then the kids wouldn't get to open presents until midnight.  Boy did that upset me!  As a Christian in a family that isn't accepting of my choice to put God first, I usually feel like an outsider, but even more so at the mention of eating alone on Christmas Eve.  And although I felt the anger and emotion welling up inside of me and a desperation to let her know how I felt, I simply said, "Okay" and ended the phone call.  I knew this was not the time to have that discussion.

After the call I was heartbroken.  Desperately, through anger and tears, I tried to figure out an alternative celebration, but not only was this Dec 23 and I had just slaved making an octopus salad and baked a coconut cake, but it was also not what I wanted.  I wanted to be with them.  After all my dad's health hasn't been well this year.  The chemo and radiation treatments have really taken a toll on him and frankly, I don't know how many Christmases we have left together.  Not to mention that two years ago we lost grandpa and grandma is 87 with failing health so all this got me thinking, it's just not worth it, I'm letting go.  Let it go, let it go the Holidays will be what they are...  Can you hear Elsa singing?  LOL!

So, we went to church at 5 and got to mom's just before 7 and ate alone.  At first I was feeling anxiety
but the Holy Spirit quickly took over, and spoke to my heart, by way of the movie Frozen.  I LET IT GO!  I decided to relax and with the help of  a single glass of white wine I was able to enjoy the evening.  I laughed at everything,  especially when my 18 month old niece climbed inside my daughter's brand new American Girl camper.  God is so good!  The kids opened their gifts together and the joy I got from the moment my daughter ran over and hugged my mom for the gift she gave was precious.  Mom had tears in her eyes..

Christmas morning we woke my daughter early who, much to my delight, wished Jesus a Happy Birthday, and as planned, we had our scavenger hunt, opened gifts, ate breakfast and hit the road to be at the cabin in time for a wonderful Christmas dinner with the in-laws.  This morning I woke to watching a bear with her cubs just outside my bedroom window and now here I sit out on the screened porch enjoying the cool breeze and typing away.

God had blessed me tremendously because I chose to put Him first and not loose my cool with my family.  This has been the best Christmas of my adult life.  It wasn't about the presents, the gift wrap, the cooking or hosting it was about celebrating God and being with our crazy, infuriating and absolutely wonderful family.  Finally!

Finally, I'm discovering the truth behind the saying, "You can't change others, you can only change how you react to them."  It changes the entire outcome of your experience.  You have the power to make it a good one or a bad one.  Ladies, if you are still suffering through family baloney at Christmastime, know that you are not alone.  But remember, whenever you make God your priority, He works it all out.  Let it Go!

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you Lord for giving me the ability to "Let it Go" this year and enjoy you and my family.  I pray each and every Christmas from here on out gets better and better.  Lord I pray for my sisters-in-Christ who deal with the same Christmas struggles that I do.  Father bless them with the ability to "Let it Go" and give them a very merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  In Jesus' precious name I pray.  AMEN.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Confession #70 - Deep Down

Before I met my husband, I was such a different person.  I was so staunch and proper and I didn't realize I had a fun side and never could I laugh at myself.  Basically, I was so afraid of how people saw me that I kept myself in a box.  I didn't allow my personality to flourish and take shape.  I spend the first 20 years of my life trying to please everyone instead of just being myself.  I couldn't let my hair down and God forbid allow anyone see how broken and messy I really was.

That began to change when I met Vincent Cuchel.  Vince was the most down to earth person I had ever been with.  He could make me laugh at things I'd never let anyone think I found funny.  He gave me the courage to let down my guard and see who I could really be.  That's when I realized I was in love and 24 plus years later, I still am.

One of the most important things I've learned is that being in love isn't just how you feel about another person, it's also about how you feel about yourself when you're with them.  With Vince, I've been able to truly be myself.  I've learned to let my hair down and not to take myself so seriously.  I learned I could tell him just about anything and he still seemed to love me, I could let him into some of my deep down places and he was willing to bring a flashlight to help me clean it out.

After I fell in love with Jesus, I began to change even more.  But for a long time I kept God in a box of sorts.  I kept Him at this level of reverence and respect, and forgot that He's also my Heavenly Daddy; the one who loves me above all.  Eventually I came to understand that the more I get to know the true nature of God, the more I am able to let my hair down with Him too.  That must sound silly, I mean, God knows me better than I know myself.  After all, He created me.

God knows the deep down stuff inside of us, the things we don't want to admit to, the really dirty, dirty stuff.  Many of us keep these things hidden deep down and don't even talk to God about them.  We know He knows, so why  should we talk to Him about it? Because it gives us a freedom we've never known, it creates a deeper intimacy with God and most of all it changes us into the people we were meant to be.  Just as my relationship with my husband brought out the more fun-loving side of me.  Jeremiah 23:24 says, "Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord."

I pray you don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that God loves you for who you can be.  The bottom line is that God loves you period.  Not who you can be, not who your going to be, not who you wish you were, He loves you, the entire, broken, sinful, dirty you.   Psalm 139: 13-15 says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth."  If He didn't, Jesus would not have died for our sins.

Beth Moore illustrated this point really well.  I recently did one of her studies, "Sacred Secrets" and I just loved the truth Beth shared with us.  She said (paraphrasing):
It's so interesting that science hasn't yet come up with a way to tell people the exact moment when a woman is pregnant.  You have to wait.  But what's so cool about that is that in that time frame before the positive result is able to show on the pregnancy test, the only one who knows you even exist is God.   You're His intimate secret.  
How amazing is that?  You are God's secret, He keeps you a secret just waiting to tell everyone about YOU.  Our lives are never a mistake!  He made you with a purpose and has a plan for your life,"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11.  He just wants you to let Him get deep down in there.  Allow Him to teach you to be yourself and let your hair down so he can fulfill His purposes for you.  Likewise, let yourself love God, love Him to the point that you feel better about yourself when you're with Him.
http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-let-your-hair-down/

Listen, if you've been praying for a breakthrough and hoping for a deeper relationship with God, but are not willing to let Him into your deep down places then you're blocking a blessing.  Until we really learn to grab that truth and let Him get deep down we are missing so much!  John 10:27 says, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."  He knows us, we've already established that fact, but we have to know Him, we have to be able to recognize His voice and if we're not listening and letting Him inside, deep down, we may not recognize it.  But the Bible warns us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock."  Matthew 7:21-24.  When we know God's voice we can discover His will for us and then are able to put His words into practice which transforms us into the person He created us to be.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you Lord that I've learned how to let you into my deep down places.  Thank you that I can be myself with you.  Lord I pray that through the process of allowing you to clean out my dirtiness and shine your light in my dark spots you will continue to reveal your plan and purposes for my life.  Lord for my sisters-in-Christ I pray that they too will allow you into a deep and intimate relationship with  you.  They will face those deep down places with you and that you will show them your will for their lives and just how much you love them.  In Jesus' name I pray.  AMEN.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Confession #69 - Heavenly Pleasures and Treasures

Photo taken from  https://www.flickr.com/photos /marianneedelacruz/8657019110/
Today I've been thinking a lot about Heaven.  It started out with an indescribable bliss I was feeling about the simple pleasures in life.  This morning my slice a pumpkin bread from Starbucks was warm and wonderful.  Later a trip to the Italian meat market brought to mind joy-filled childhood memories.  I began to find such pleasure in simple, relatively ordinary things and an appreciation for the gift of life God has bestowed upon me.

So few times do I just slow down and reflect upon these pleasures.  So few times to I just operate in monumental happiness, but today I had a few of these incredible moments which lead me to think about how unimaginably joyful Heaven must be.  To live in utter and complete joy here on earth seems absolutely improbable, still it's possible when we commune with God on such a deep and intimate level.  But in Heaven, living within this realm of joy is not only possible it's most certainly probable.  And so I began imagining Heaven and what my mansion will be like.

Photo Taken from http://rfhadley.com/
In the Book of Revelations John describes Heaven, "The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.  The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.  The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass."

The Bible also tells us that we are also storing up treasures in heaven whenever we sow seeds in the spirit, by obeying God, giving and doing His will.  Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."  Matthew 6:19-20.  And Matthew 13:52 says, “Therefore
Photo taken fromchristianpreschoolprintables.com
every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”  and in chapter 19:21 Jesus says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  John 14:2 tells us that Jesus is building us a mansion there, "My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?"

So basically Heaven is beautiful, we get to enjoy the pleasures of the treasures we store there based on our early performance and we get to live in a great mansion that Jesus himself is preparing for us.  We get to spend our days surrounded by the purest love and are able to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ continually.  How incredible does that sound?

Photo taken from theshelbyreport.com
After a lovely trip to the Italian market my mind began to flutter with what those treasures in my mansion would be.  This may sound silly but I believe our mansions will be filled with things that we appreciated here on earth.  If that's true, mine will be filled with elements of Italy everywhere since this is the sole place on earth were I want to be.  I imagine the smells will be aromatic with fresh baked bread and pastries, fresh cut grass, pumpkin anything, and cinnamon, apples and cloves.  Of course it will be comfortable, warm, and welcoming.  I trust that there will be a beautiful and bountiful garden filled with flowers of all kinds especially hydrangeas.  I will be surrounded by loved ones and pets and that it will hold all of the simple joys I knew here on earth only to a degree of beauty that I could never imagine.  See for me, these are the treasure I dream of.  Gold and jewels are wonderful and I know there will be immeasurable amounts of them around but each time I earn a treasure for my heavenly home I believe that these are the types of things I will be surrounded by in eternity.  Have you ever thought of what Heaven will be like for you?  Have you imagined the pleasures and treasures surrounding you in eternity?

There is no doubt in my mind that that's where I'm headed when I leave this earth, and just imagining these pleasures and treasures waiting there for me builds a determination to stop living for this world and what it holds, but to enjoy each day as a gift.  A gift to earn more treasures in my heavenly home.

http://www.opendoor.org/
I know, that I know, that I know, I'm going to Heaven.  Perhaps you don't know for sure.   So I have to ask, do you want to join me?  If you don't know for sure that you are saved you can.  Romans 3:23 says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  But God loves us so much that He had a plan, " For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16.  The Bible makes it quite simple and easy, "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."  Romans 10:9-10.  You cannot earn salvation, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God..."

So we can't earn our place in Heaven, but we can receive the gift of salvation.  You can pray this prayer right now and know that you are saved and are going to heaven:

“Dear Lord Jesus,
I know I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I trust and follow you as my Lord and Savior. Guide my life and help me to do your will.
In your name, Amen.”
If you prayed that prayer please leave a comment telling me so, and let me rejoice along with you and the Angels in Heaven.   "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents"  Luke 15:10.  I hope to meet you there someday and check out your incredible mansion.  God Bless you!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the heavenly pleasures and treasures in the simple things of life here on earth, but thank you even more for Jesus Christ who paid the price for my sins on the cross so that I can live an eternity in Heaven with you.  Lord I pray for my sisters reading this right now that they would receive the gift you have for them and that one day I will get to meet them in Heaven.  In Jesus' precious name I pray.  AMEN.