The Day of the Ugly Cry

We’ve all had the ugly cry.  The one with tears pouring down uncontrollably.  Snot running, mixing with the tears, no tissues within sight.  Shoulders heaving, chest tightening, body in uncontrollable waves of sobs.  That ugly cry.  We each have a memory that comes to mind when someone says “ugly cry.”  When we are at our absolute lowest of lows, God is there.  He lifts our face and smiles love and hope into our hearts.  That doesn’t always mean it is puppy dogs, rainbows and unicorns though.  (Can you tell I have two little girls?)

I’ve had two big “God gripping my life” ugly cries.  It seems when God needs to get my attention gentle words aren’t effective; I need my head beat against the concrete instead, but I digress.  First ugly cry was the Sunday after I filed for divorce.  Yes, Christians can be divorced, we sin just like the next person (another blog for another day).  That was the first time in many years that I attended church and I sobbed through the entire sermon.  I don’t think I heard a word the pastor said and found myself sobbing and weeping at the front steps of the sanctuary begging for absolution of my sin and confirmation of my salvation in Christ.  (Luke 7:36-50 was me!) That was 8.5 years ago.

The second big ugly cry was in the parking lot at UT Southwestern before my neurosurgeon appointment, to receive a 3rd opinion on my spine and neurological diagnosis.  The first two opinions were not encouraging.  I prayed harder than I’d ever prayed for longer than I’d ever prayed just for that one appointment.  Seriously, when the Bible talks about praying without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:16-18) that’s what I was doing, for weeks!  Before walking in for the appointment it came down to do I really believe that God is good?  Do I really believe that living the rest of my life in constant nerve pain that cannot be medically improved is God’s best and God’s “good”?  How could a good God really do that in my life?

I decided before I walked in to the appointment that God was good, no matter what.  Then I wiped all the snot and tears away, using at least 10 napkins, gathered myself (and water because I was dehydrated after all that!) and went inside.  The appointment didn’t go well.  I didn’t get good news and the doctor didn’t have the best delivery of the unfortunate news.

However God is good, and he is faithful.  He has used my journey of pain and suffering to reach others for Christ in the most miraculous ways one could imagine.  I met a random woman suffering in constant pain at the exact moment her husband was across the world in the Sea of Galilee praying for help for her pain.  God gave us to each other to love and mentor each other through this journey.  She is now pain free, I am not.  And that’s okay.  I’ve been able to share Christ openly in several doctors offices.  Nurses have been able to see the example of my love and joy through suffering and have received encouragement.

God has used my pain for His glory.  He has used my suffering for His glory.  But the biggest result of my big ugly cries was God changing MY heart towards Him.  I had to pray incessantly to God which forged a new level of relationship with Christ.  He taught me to trust Him even when it doesn’t feel good.  God lifted my head, ignoring my running snot, looked into my eyes and said “Peace be with you.” (Philippians 4:7 ringing in my head).  God taught me it isn’t about this moment, it’s about the future discipleship of others using the giftedness God has given me, which includes my pain.  My pain is a gift from God.  And God is good.

If you are struggling today my friend, be encouraged; God is WITH you and God is FOR you!  He will absolutely give you more than you can handle just so you will rely on Him to make it through.  If you are having a hard time, I encourage you to sit and worship with these songs today: “Blessings” by Laura Story, “Thy Will” by Hilary Scott, and “Hallelujah” by Pentatonix.  These three songs have gotten me through the last 9+ years of pain and worship, worship in pain.

Philippians 4:7 – And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Psalm 29:11 – The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Isaiah 54:10 – Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

 

 

Bumps and Bruises

Bumps, scrapes, bruises and blood are all common around our house.  With a rough-and-tumble kid there is no telling what adventure and injury the day will bring.  We’ve had three days of school so far this year, and she’s been to the nurse every single day.  She’s also my child who had four concussions in two years and still continues to be a daredevil to this day.

Life can be a beating as well.  Sometimes there are physical scars but more often there are emotional scars.  The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is a lie.  Words hurt.  We are left hurting and wounded by people’s words, careless actions and senseless deeds.  Sometimes our wounds are temporary and will heal with time.  Other times we are left with permanent scars showing our former hurts and forever wounds.

Be encouraged today.  Bumps, bruises, scars and wounds mean you are actively living life.  If you don’t get in the game of life you won’t have pain and suffering, but you also won’t reap the rewards.  Life is messy.  Life is painful.  Life hurts.  But with Christ, it is worth every bruise, every scar and every wound.  Christ came to save the world not condemn it. (John 12:47)  Jesus loves you and wants to heal your hurts today.  Accept God’s love, grace, mercy and hope today.  Expect joy in Christ in your life today.

PS:  Imagine our scars compared to Jesus’ scars.  Mine will be NOTHING compared to his!

John 12:47 – If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.

Psalm 34:4-6 – I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.  This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.

2 Corinthians 3-5 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

Psalm 6:1-10: O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger, nor chasten me in your wrath.  Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.  And my soul is also greatly troubled; But you, O Lord – how long?  Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.  For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?  I am weary with my mourning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.  My eye wastes away because of my grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.  Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.  The Lord has heard my please; the Lord accepts my prayer.  All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

Thank You For Your Service

How often do we thank our service men and women for their service in the armed forces? Anytime someone is in uniform or shows a USAA insurance card, they are waving their flag for our country. They need the encouragement and the prayer support of their fellow brothers and sisters to show we are united with them and support and appreciate each of them.

But, how often do we thank the janitors at our church for their service to God? Do they not also need the same encouragement and support as you and I? Do they serve a lesser place in the kingdom because of how they are specifically called right now? Matt Chandler’s (President of the Acts 29 Network and Pastor at The Village Church) first job was as a janitor in a church.

So often we are feeling in a “less than” place in our lives.  We tell ourselves “I am less than because of my position,” or “I am less than because I have less than others,” or “I am less than because my ministry isn’t as big as others.” Hear this today: God doesn’t create anything less than another! We are each fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) in the image of God. Do our lives look different, yes. Are we each called differently, yes. But there is no “less than”.

Know that you are seen and you are loved for who you are, not who you desire to be.  Janitors, executives, addicts, criminals, housewives, hurting and lost, we are all children of the one true God who loves and delights in us. He weeps for our sin, he rejoices in our victories and he cheers us on in our “church janitor” phases.

No matter where you are in your walk today, remember that you are seen, you are known and you are loved. Encourage your brothers and sisters today. Pray for your family in Christ, known to you and unknown.  Look for the invisible people in your world.

Psalm 139:14 – I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 115:1 – To you alone, O Lord, to you alone and not to us, must glory be given because of your constant love and faithfulness.

John 6:37 – Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away.

Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as snow.  Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as while as wool.”

Psalm 149:4 – For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.

The Rule of 7’s

One day, a friend gave me some of the best advice I’ve received and, quite possibly, the best advice I’ve ever passed along to others.  Life is messy.  It’s chaotic, it’s frustrating and sometimes infuriating.  People act senselessly and recklessly creating ripple effects that tear through hearts and lives.  Some days there seems to be no end to the nightmare.  That’s when the rule of 7’s comes into play.  How will this moment look and feel in 7 days, 7 months and 7 years from now.

Wow.  Talk about perspective changer and attitude changer.  I found that my daughter’s meltdowns while frustrating in the moment, won’t be our reality in 7 years.  The frustrating situations at work won’t even be memories in 7 months.  And the battle over healthy food vs. peanut butter and jelly (or even just jelly straight up) won’t be an issue in 7 days.  The messiness of today won’t matter in the future.  Will it shape it, sure.  Will it define it, not unless you let it.

Today you can choose how you will respond.  Do you continue the messy, ugly ripple effects created by other people’s poor choices, or do you stop and consciously choose to not let this small moment define your future reality?  I choose love for others, grace for others, mercy for others and joy, joy for myself.

God is ever constant.  Never changing.  Always good, even in what feels bad and messy.  The one and only choice you will ever make that will absolutely make a difference in 7 days, 7 months and 7 years, is the decision for salvation.  If you are tired of riding the emotional roller coaster of inconsistency then choose Christ today.  He is right there with you, just waiting for you to take his hand.  Expect joy today.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!

Romans 12:12 – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

1 Peter 1:8-9 – Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

2 Corinthians 12:10 – That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Christmas In August

So the first Christmas catalog arrived in the mail yesterday!  You know the kind that has all the random stuff that would make great gifts for all the random people in your world?  As I casually flipped through a few pages I found myself thinking of people, like “oh, my sister would love that” and “oh, this would be perfect for our neighbor from two years ago.”  The excitement of bringing joy to others is contagious.  The more I flipped through the catalog the more I wanted to buy and the more I imagined joy on peoples faces when they opened their gifts.  It was a beautiful daydream (I was good and didn’t immediately place an order for half the catalog).

If giving gifts at Christmas brings us so much joy, imagine how much joy Christ must have when he gives us gifts.  Every moment of every day we are receiving various gifts from God.  Whether it be an encouraging word from a friend, the ability to get up out of bed, or a hug from a loved one, each moment is a gift.

The smile on God’s face and the love in his heart when he carefully crafted each moment of your life is beyond our ability to imagine.  He loved you so much that he flipped through the catalog of creation and hand picked each and every moment to gift to you in life.  Nothing was done by chance.  Everything is good, even the bad messy times, because you are loved and cherished by your creator.

Stop to see the gifts around you today.  Look at the gifts that were given to you by God and lift up prayers of thanksgiving for the blessings you have been given.  Thank God for his love and his heart of giving.  You are cherished beyond measure.  By his grace you can receive everlasting life.

James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.

Nehemiah 9:6 – You alone are the Lord.  You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them,  You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before you.

Revelation 4:11 – Worthy are you, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and because of your will they existed, and were created.

1 Timothy 4:4 – For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude;

Psalm 148:2-5 – Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts!  Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light!  Praise Him, highest heavens, and the waters that are above the heavens!  Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.

John 3:17 – For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

 

Photo by Tofros.com from Pexels

Bowling Ball Turned Wrecking Ball

After church on Sunday our family decided to go bowling.  It was the second time in five years, and Livi didn’t even remember the previous time she’d gone.  Clearly not winning the Mother-of-the-Year award for 2018 but that just means I’ve got five more months before I have to start trying again.  Kidding!!  (Or am I…)

Everything was going great.  We made it to our lane, shoes were on, balls picked out and the competition began.  Livi and Addy had bumpers so they felt tremendous about their scores.  After our first few turns, Reed and I warmed up and our scores started to catch up with the girls.  It was also about that time I could feel something was wrong.  The swinging rotation of hurling a weighted ball ripped through my spine.  Every move I made and every breath I breathed sent searing shock waves of pain through my torso.

The bowling ball was supposed to have wrecked the pins at the end of the lane, instead it wrecked my heart and tore open wounds of grief.  I knew this would be my last time bowling, my body wouldn’t make it through this again.  Each time I rolled the ball I rolled it in anger.  Anger at the girl who wrecked her car into ours.  Anger at the pain that I endure 24/7.  Anger at the loss of freedom to do what I want when I want.  Anger that I would never bowl again.  Anger and sadness and more anger.

Never once did I roll the ball from joy.  Joy that God has given me the ability to walk and function in daily life when so many people I met through my pain journey will never walk again.  Joy that God has slowed me down so that I can appreciate time with my kids and my family.  Joy that God has provided me ministry opportunities through the pain and through the grief.  Joy that God showed me how ugly I was and how He had so much more for my life.  Joy that God wanted His best for me.

I may have struggled to walk out of the bowling ally, and I may be moving extra slowly for the next few weeks, but I won.  I not only won the game but I won a life lesson.  It is okay to be angry, and it is okay to grieve.  It is okay to experience pain and it is okay to cry.  Just make sure to find your joy in Him.  Our God is a compassionate God and he wants nothing more than to hold you, comfort you and then give you His best.

Psalm 86:15 – But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.

2 Corinthians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

Isaiah 49:13 – Shout for joy, O heavens!  And rejoice, O earth!  Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains!  For the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted.

Psalm 40:1-2 – I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.

 

Suppositories Are Never Good

I’ve promised to be a real life, speak-it-like-it-is, messy blog.  This one may take the cake and take “messy” to a whole new level, though.

Suppositories are awful.  They are never a good thing.  Maybe the end result of using one is good, but the actual experience is terrible.  When Livi was little she had awful GI issues for months.  We spent hours in the doctor’s offices getting x-rays, blood work, medications, you name it, all just to try and help her get some relief.  Expect Joy Monday night ladies Bible study group was praying for poop (yes we actually prayed for poop) for months.  The prayers and the medical treatments worked and, after a while, Livi was back to normal on her GI functions.

It made me think, though.  What stuff is making us constipated in life?  When we are focused on Christ (and what joy we can experience by following His will), we have balance.  When we lose sight of God’s will, or choose our way over His way, we start to get constipated by the world.  Sometimes we have small hurdles in life that jolt us back to clean living.  Other times we have painful life lessons that bring us to our knees in reliance and submission to God’s will.

My current work schedule is my culprit.  We had some changes at the office a few months ago and the trickle-down effects mean I’m no longer balanced in life the way I once was.  I’m more heavy on work than I am on kids, family, house, God or myself.  I’m constipated by work and the only way to clear it out is by doing something intentionally and strategically to break up the dysfunctional routine and enable the body to form a new rhythm of life.

Spending time in God’s word is the best place to start.  Ask God to reveal the areas that are blocking you from having a joy-filled relationship with Him.  Spend time praying specifically for God to show you His will for your life at its present stage.  Pray for Him to show what your balance should be.  God created the body and He created us.  He knows exactly what we need to function smoothly.  Pray that He strengthen you to follow Him.

Jeremiah 10:23 – I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.

1 Corinthians 6:19 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

1 Corinthians 3:16 – Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?