My mustard seed is enough today

A thought has been rolling around in my head that I haven’t wanted to acknowledge. Instead, every time the thought comes too close to the surface, I’ve squashed it, managing to delay really having to come face to face with it until now.

Did I misunderstand what I thought God asked me to do?

Instead of really being spiritually led in that decision I made, was I really relying on my own voice?

This is a difficult thing to decipher and one I can’t really discuss with anyone because, after all, only God and I were there.  The reality is that if the decision had resulted in a “favorable” outcome within MY timeline, the doubts wouldn’t have gained entrance to my head. I would, instead, be happily going through my days, comforted by the direction God had chosen for me. I would be thankful; grateful for the path He laid out.

Today, however, I’m full of doubt. If God truly directed this path, why am I standing here in the midst of the same struggle? Well….it’s not an uncommon quandary we Christians face. If we aren’t careful during this delicate time of doubt and questioning, our faith can be shaken. Given that, I’ve decided to study the word where my faith will be strengthened and not give in to the relentless thoughts that maybe I threw away the roadmap and now I’m 400 miles down the wrong highway. The thought of having to turn around and retrace the 400 miles just to get back to where I was before the decision is overwhelming…And, besides, in the deepest part of my heart I know that God has directed my path here. I don’t even pretend to know why but I do know He has.

If you are where I am, or ever have been, this probably strikes a chord. Doubt and fear can be relentless if we give in to the stronghold. SO…let’s not. Let’s stand firm in the knowledge that we are here for a purpose. There is something to be learned or, maybe, the situation will have a breakthrough and we will know that only God could be responsible. It will be a testimony to His saving grace. Maybe our situation will worsen, even, and the clouds won’t part for longer than we think we can even endure. Knowing this, how can I rely on my own limited and shallow strength to sustain me?

Hebrews 10:35-38
Do not let this happy trust in the Lord die away, no matter what happens. Remember your reward! You need to keep on patiently doing God’s will if you want Him to do for you all that He has promised. His coming will not be delayed much longer. And those whose faith has made them good in God’s sight must live by faith, trusting Him in everything. Otherwise, if they shrink back, God will have no pleasure in them.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself. In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.

Psalms 112:6-8
Such a man will not be overthrown by evil circumstances. God’s constant care of him will make a deep impression on all who see it. He does not fear bad news, nor live in dread of what may happen. For he is settled in his mind that Jehovah will take care of him. That is why he is not afraid, but can calmly face his foes.

Romans 8:28
And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into His plans.

Habakkuk 2:1, 3
I will climb my watchtower now, and wait to see what answer God will give to my complaint.

But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!

 

We Aren’t Any Different

I haven’t been a big fan of Whitney Houston for a long time. I remember, as most of us do, when she first came on the scene and I was blown away by her obvious talent. I felt the same way the first time I heard Mariah Carey sing “Vision of Love”. Wow. Overflowing talent; almost too much for one person to be walking around with.

And then both of those young, talented girls got caught up in the machine of fame. They became a little “too big for their britches” in my humbled opinion. We know the story, don’t we? Lindsey Lohan, Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, etc. etc. etc…… talent, fame, and the fall. From the first moment the public senses the eventual demise, we’re like bloodhounds on the scent of a rabbit, aren’t we?

Money can’t buy happiness. Hel-looo? We SAY it but I don’t think we believe it even when the proof is right in our face.

When I heard of Whitney Houston’s passing, I was sad. Angry. Outraged. Why, Whitney, with all of the very best resources at your disposal, were you incapable of becoming clean? You were raised by an apparently supportive, faith-filled woman that loved you unconditionally, you had a daughter that loved you, friends, fans, amazing accomplishments and yet…you battled that particular demon. You had everything and still didn’t win the fight.

As Jennifer Hudson sang in tribute to Whitney Houston last night during the Grammy telecast, it occurred to me that there had been a turning point in Whitney Houston’s life. There had been an event or a series of events that had stolen her brilliance (and by that, I mean the inner light that radiated earlier in her career). Like a thief in the night, her demon stole her future and she was never able to overcome the grip. Underneath that addiction was pain and she was attempting to numb the ache. Who am I to second guess what the ache was about or to assume she didn’t fight against it hard enough?

My dad is a diabetic who has…and I suspect always will…love sweets. According to my mom, he’s eating all of the wrong things and his health is showing the effects. That’s my dad’s demon.

I know of men who have had the respect of the community, prestige, admiration and had loving, adoring families but have fallen to a different sort of addiction, leaving wounded and scarred people in the aftermath of poor choices. A demon of a different sort.

Demons. Anyone who is hurting has them and some of us beat our demons; whip their tails and send them packing. And some of us don’t fare as well.

So although I hadn’t been a Whitney “fan” for a long time, I feel differently this morning than I did on Saturday evening. I feel compassion. Sorrow. I believe she’s been delivered to heaven, free of the demon, released from the pain, and made fully whole and brilliant once again.

Of course, I want that for all of us. Those who have fallen from grace, from adoration, from self control, from moral values, from respect of ourselves and others…that is redemption. Most of us are living our lives and doing our best, in spite of whatever pain or weakness we possess. So, despite the fame and whatever money there may have been, she was just like any of us. Maybe that’s why we hated watching it unfold.

Rest in peace, Whitney. May your passing, and those of so many others, be a reminder to us that life is fragile and often difficult but that we are never alone. When we feel like retreating and waving the white flag, that is often when we are at our most secluded. Lord, help us to know that You will fight with us and for us. Remind our brothers and sisters to press IN, Lord. THAT is freedom.  In your mighty name, Amen.

Be blessed,  Amy

 

The Clay and The Potter

This morning ~ well, in truth, for many mornings now~ I have felt the absence of God.

Don’t misunderstand me. I know He’s there. But His presence, normally evident and palpable, seems clouded. Veiled.

You know those dreams where you’re chasing something and you wake up before you reach whatever it was? That’s it. My need for Him is so obvious and yet He isn’t showing up. I’m chasing and He feels elusive.

Of course God isn’t avoiding me. Of course He is pained, watching me flounder and wrestle with the course of my life…and I take as much comfort in that as I did climbing into my dad’s lap as a scared little girl when the summer tornadoes would pass our midwest home. Faith. Faith is what sustains me.

Maybe He wants me to rely less on Him and more on what I know to be true in my heart. Maybe He wants me to realize that people aren’t always kind and they will fail us even when they didn’t intend to…or expect to. Maybe there are lessons here that I will never fully realize until we meet face to face. It is faith that assures me that that day will, indeed, come to pass.

Even in this place of struggle, I am so aware that I must come to an understanding that I am blessed through this trial. In James 1:2-4, it is written “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” I am trying. Admittedly, my own strength is weakening and I pray for an end to this complicated issue. Admittedly, His timing isn’t aligned with my own. Admittedly, I am trying to fix what isn’t mine to fix.

I feel a LOT like clay these days. 
And I don’t feel like being grateful about it.
But I am not alone. Veiled or not, He is there to see me through. He will never leave nor forsake me.

Be blessed. In all times.
Amy 

 

Walking Away

Is it possible that winter is going to pass us by in Florida? Last year, it was really cold. This year, it has been~ in my estimation, at least~ perfectly mild. Warm enough during the day to have the house open AND enjoy some time in the sun. Cool enough at night to leave the windows open and get the kind of sleep that is simply not possible in the summer months. I love air conditioning but it just can’t simulate the breezy, cool temps of a Florida winter night.
This morning, my career girl walked out of the house into the cool air to report for her first day of training at USAA.  She’s had a lot of jobs in her relatively young life with the first being at Hollister while just a junior in high school (that job ended up costing me money). Throughout college, she has dabbled with a teller position, a fitness center something or other, an animal shelter assistant, a waitress at a high-end beer establishment and the highly unfortunate, yet highly lucrative, serving of chicken wings.

Yeah…well, I did the same thing. I worked at jobs I hated, jobs I loved, jobs that paid nothing and jobs that paid too much considering all I had to do was stand and look pretty. Haven’t we all? So it was with a real sense of pride that I watched her grab her coffee cup and lunch and walk through the door~ on her way to a career.

As I watched her walk down the walkway to her car, I couldn’t help but remember her first day of kindergarten in Jacksonville… her first day of middle school in California…her first day of high school in Virginia…and packing her up for her freshman year of college.

It’s funny and sad and beautiful how memories flood us sometimes as we do something as simple as watch someone walk away.

Blessings,
Amy 

Just Another Day

Valentine’s Day is this month. Truth be told, my attention is more focused on the Strawberry Festival than it is on 2/14 but I may be the exception. It’s clear that Valentine’s Day is a very big deal for some ~ those who share their anniversary with Cupid, those who look forward to the wrapped box of chocolate annually (my mother), those who anticipate a proposal, and those who simply appreciate dinner reservations and maybe a greeting card.

And the rest of us? Well, it’s likely to be just another day. I’m not sure I even like all of the pressure and commercialism associated with this Hallmark driven holiday BUT, in some small way, I think it helps the non-romantic step outside of their box. How can that be bad?

I still remember the embarrassed, flattered look my mom would have on her face when my dad would walk through the door on Feb. 14th with a grocery-store-bought bouquet of roses and a heart shaped box of  Whitman’s Chocolate Sampler, fresh from the holiday aisle of our local Walgreen’s. He never failed. Even on years when they weren’t on speaking terms, he’d bring them and put them on the snackbar rather than hand them to her. I never quite got that procedure but that was how it was. That was Valentine’s Day in my house.

Consequently, I guess the grandiose expectations for Feb. 14th were not inherited and I think it’s fair to say that W feels the same. In fact, I can’t recall the last time we “celebrated” Valentine’s Day with candlelight, chocolate and romance. Hmmm….never?

But then a friend of ours~ a male friend, in fact~ posted on Facebook yesterday something that he had read and felt led to pass on. I really loved it and am sharing it with you today, too. It’s not just about 2/14…it’s about love on that day and the other 364 days of the year. Ladies, is this the man we all dream of?
Men, take note.

FROM: All Pro Dads. There are some basic principles that can help when we’re serious about honoring the decision—and it is a decision—to “Love Your Wife For Life.” Marriage is all about how we communicate, and this is some of the stuff we need to get across.

1.Understand that love is, primarily, a commitment:

A marriage is decision rooted in a covenant. This means that the future of a marriage is not dependent on feeling, but on our commitment to values.

2.Understand that love is always a choice:

Because of our commitment, we can choose to love. Indeed we must! This is actually a lot easier than waking up in the morning wondering if we’re still “in love.” Love is a choice.

3.When you wake up in the morning, imagine specific things that you can do to serve your wife (then actually do them):

Having chosen, it’s our privilege to act. Loving actions reinforce the choice to love. Do this routinely, and—believe us—the feelings will be there in spades.

4.Tell your wife, every day, that you love her:

Things become more true when you speak them; love is no exception. Not only will your wife respond genuinely, in love, but you will also live into the words you express.

5.Tell your wife—every day—that she is beautiful:

If you believe it, she will believe it. When she believes it…that’s a good thing! Not only is that a good thing, but it will actually become increasingly true.

6.Remember that you are the only one you can change:

There is a lot of compromise in long-term love, but the only compromise we should ever push is our own. Another way to say this is, “Lead by example.” or, “Be the change you want to see.”

7.Establish a habit of faithfulness:

This point is not just about the physical relationship. Be faithful in the way you use your time, in the allocation of resources, in the way that you talk. Faithfulness, or fidelity, has many facets, and they all focus the light on the soul of your relationship.

8.Choose—each day—to love your wife out loud:

Just a few examples: Flowers, chocolates, regular dates, words of affirmation, words of endearment, love notes, cards, attention, weekend getaways, respect, concern, kindness…

9.Always build your wife up:

At least two things happen when a man affirms and encourages his wife. First, she is lifted up. Second, he feels more positively about the relationship.

10.Put your wife first in everything:

Here’s what happens when a man puts himself first:

-Love is sucked out of the relationship

-Tension is created to always make him “happy”

-He becomes impossible to satisfy

-Resentment replaces service

-Much more negative stuff we don’t have time to list….

Here’s what happens when a man puts his wife first:

-The relationship is love-centered

-She automatically seeks to please him

-Respect and encouragement dominate the relational landscape

-The home is pretty-much tension free

-Stuff way too good to publish in this list….!