The Worst Day Ever

Last Friday was a day anticipated more than Christmas!  Through a school PTA fundraiser the girls were given a “Ride to School on a Firetruck.”  The girls waited patiently through the Christmas holiday for school to go back in session and for me to arrange their ride.  We got the arrangements made and the plan was for the truck to pick them up on Friday at 7 a.m.  The girls waited and waited, counting down each day of the week until finally the big day (Friday) came.

Everyone’s alarms went off at 6 a.m. on Friday, thirty minutes earlier than normal.  The kids shot out of bed, even though they went to bed over an hour late the night before, and raced to get ready.  I dragged out of bed, after having slept less than two hours, and threw on clothes piled on the floor that I had worn to work two days earlier.  (Truth and honesty here, right??)  Everyone was excited for the firetruck to arrive!   The girls because, hey, it’s a firetruck, and me so I didn’t have to hear them talk about it all day every day any more.

7 a.m. came.  7 a.m. went.  7:15 a.m. came.  7:15 a.m. went.  7:20 a.m. came, and Livi insisted that they forgot us.  7:25 a.m. came, and we all piled into my car and went to school.  Every morning I tell them the same thing: Have a super, awesome, fabulous, stupendous, amazingly incredible day.  Livi responded “This is the worst day ever!”  When I picked them up from school and asked “How was your day?”  they both responded “It was the worst day ever!”  I tried to console the girls by letting them know the ride was rescheduled to the following Friday.  They weren’t moved.

Finally the big day came.  This time the alarms went off at 6:15 (we learned how quickly we could get ready with some motivation last week) and everyone, including myself, hurriedly got ready.  It was another successful morning of everyone fed and ready by 7 a.m.! 7 a.m. came.  7 a.m. went.  7:15 a.m. came.  7:15 a.m. went.  7:25 a.m. came, and we all piled into my car and went to school.  Livi insisted that the firemen forgot them and that I was a liar for saying they probably had an emergency like last week.  When I dropped them off at school with their standard morning encouragement, Livi once again responded “This is the worst day ever!”.

After making some arrangements, I surprised the girls by picking them up 15 minutes early from school.  Both girls were truly surprised when they saw the firetruck sitting outside the school waiting to take them home.  The firemen were incredible and drove them all over town.  They let us wear the headsets, and we talked and laughed the whole time.  It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  At the end, as we walked up the driveway after waving goodbye to the firetruck, everyone agreed it had been the best day ever.

God’s plan in our lives works the same.  We see the pain of today, but God sees the hope in tomorrow.  We see the mess of right now, but God sees the beauty in the future.  We feel the hurt in this moment, but God sees the joy in days to come.  What may feel like “the worst day ever” may actually be “the best day ever”.  Don’t let waiting for your firetruck make you miss your ride to school.

Proverbs 19:21 – Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Proverbs 16:9 – The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Isaiah 14:24 – The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.”

2 Chronicles 20:6 – And said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven?  You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations.  In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.”

Philippians 4:19 – And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

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.

 

 

The Missed Opportunities of Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve

I’m going to screw this all up.  It should’ve been a better article had I not waited until midnight to write it.  I could’ve been in bed cuddling my two girls had I not wasted time earlier.  I would’ve been sleeping by now if I had made different choices.  We all do it, all day long.  The could have, should have and would have moments of life are all too prevalent in the back of our mind.  I could have been better.  I would have done more.  I should have accomplished more.

Missing cuddle time with my girls is tragic; it’s moments that I will never get back.  Feeling my little one’s fingers stroke my hair as she falls asleep is priceless.  It is a snapshot of time that will never happen again.  When you miss it, you miss it for good.

The same is true for missed ministry opportunities.  I could’ve had my quiet time today if I hadn’t slept in.  I should’ve talked to that person about Christ, but I was scared.  I would’ve volunteered, but no one asked.  When you miss these opportunities, you miss out on the best God has for you in that moment.

God is ever present (Psalm 46:1), always loving, freely giving of grace, hope, love, mercy and joy.  All you need to do is follow Him.  Follow him freely, openly and completely.  Say “yes” to every moment of every day.  Search for opportunities to serve Him.  Talk to the stranger you encounter about Christ.  Serve and give freely of your time and talents.  Seek and ye shall find.

Should’ve, could’ve and would’ve moments in your walk with Christ have eternal consequences.  Today is the day to seize the moment.  Today is the day to walk blindly in faith.  Today is the day to say “I am all yours God.”  Don’t miss the opportunities in Christ, you can never get these moments back.

Romans 12:11 – Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

John12:26 – Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

1 Corinthians 13:13 – So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Grab In The Dark

Oh my gosh.  Best, hands down, game ever.  Grab in the dark was my and my sister’s favorite game to play as kids.  We begged my dad to play it with us all the time.  There was never a time when the game didn’t end with injury, yet we constantly begged and pleaded to play.

It can only be played in a pitch black room.  If there is any shred of light, even the tiniest crack of light, you can’t play.  You have to be completely hidden by the darkness.  We would meticulously cover every bit of light coming from under the door and cracks around the window using blankets, clothes and anything else dense that we could find.  Once all the light was eradicated it was time to play.  It was on!

The basic premise of the game is that Dad would seek us out, grabbing around in the dark for us.  Can you tell how original we were when naming the game?  Amy and I would silently move about the room, hiding under beds, on the top bunk of the bunk bed, standing on chairs, anywhere we could find to hide that also had an easy escape route.  As Dad blindly hunted around for us with his hands, we would shift, jump, lunge, or whatever, into the next hiding spot.  Now technically we weren’t hiding per say because the dark was hiding us, but that’s why it had to be pitch black, so that way you were actually hidden.

So picture it, a dad, two kids, pitch black, leaping, lunging, swinging, jumping and in general rough-housing.  Did I mention it was in the dark?  I mean what bad could come of that?  Black eyes.  Cut arms.  Bloody noses.  Big bruises.  The game would never end until someone got hurt.  We never planned it that way, each time we played we truly intended that this would be the time that no one got hurt, yet that time never came.

As an adult I can’t imagine what my mother went through while we played.  I find myself wondering was she (a) so overjoyed Dad was entertaining us that the cost benefit was worth it to her and therefore she sat outside oblivious to our screams (of joy and of pain) while sipping an iced tea or (b) was she standing outside the door where we were playing, mommy heart stressed to the max, holding ice packs, band-aids and cloths ready to catch the dripping blood.  Knowing my mom, it was probably B.

Life in this dark and crazy world works the same.  This world is dark.  It’s broken.  We often can’t see to find our way.  We are searching for more.  Searching for a shred of light.  Searching to connect.  We often find ourselves jumping from one problem to the next.  Lunging from one near disaster straight head on into the next.  We love the “fun” that comes from sin yet we get beaten and bruised by the choices we make.  Our sin isn’t worth the consequences, yet we keep making the same bad choices over and over and over.

Jesus is the light for our dark world.  He is our hope that this time the game will be different.  He is the salvation that even when we make the same poor choice he will be our savior from the ultimate consequence of separation from Him.  We have hope that this time it really will be different because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  God is always standing there, waiting on us, heartbroken yet holding the ice pack to heal our wounds.  He is always faithful, never wavering and unconditionally loving.

Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Psalm 86:15 – But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Zephaniah 3:17 – The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Nehemiah 9:17 – But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.

 

Waving Flag

Trophy Club is a small town in Texas located between the large cities Dallas and Fort Worth.  Yes, everything really is bigger in Texas.  Women’s hair is bigger, our trucks are bigger, our football fields are massive and anything that we do, we do bigger.  And to answer the big question in your mind, no, you don’t typically see people riding their horses to school, but you can’t completely rule it out either.  My 9 year old was just telling me yesterday about a man who got a traffic ticket for riding his horse down the road because he didn’t know it was against the city ordinance.  But that is neither here nor there.

In keeping with the tradition of “bigger”, our town has a large flag pole displayed prominently at the entrance to the town.  It has a large American flag which waves proudly at all times.  It is most beautiful at night.  I truly enjoy driving home late so I can enjoy it’s beauty.  There’s a large spotlight which shines up the pole lighting the entire flag.  The brightly lit flag against the dark night sky is just awe inspiring.  It is the contrast of light against dark, along with the bold proclamation of what the flag stands for, that humbles you.

Think about your life.  What do you stand for?  What values and core attributes do you have waving in the wind for the world to see?  What bold stance are you making?  Are you being light in a dark and fallen world?  Do you shine brightly in the night sky?

I encourage you today to proudly wave your flag for Christ for all to see.  Wave your flag at the top of the flagpole and rejoice for having the freedom in which you can proclaim the love of Christ openly.  Don’t blend in with the night sky.  Be lit up with the spotlight of love, joy, hope, mercy and grace for the hurting world around you.

If more Christians would hoist their flag, turn on the spotlight and be intentional with spreading God’s love, joy, hope, mercy and grace, imagine how different our world would be.  Be that change.

John 8:12 – Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Matthew 5:16 – In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

John 1:5 – The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 8:12 – When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 1:5-9 – This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Luke 8:16-18 – No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.  For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.  Take care then how you listen, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.  

Bent Pages

Recently a chunk of pages in my bible got bent.  It was in my bag, pages side up, and stuff was put on top of it which bent a bunch of pages.  The ugly kind of bent, not the pretty “I use my bible a lot” kind of bent.  Like right down the middle of the pages big ‘ol chunk bent.  I hate ugly bent pages.  Maybe it’s just my neuroticness (is that a word?) but it makes it look less valued, less desirable, less perfect, in my mind.

I’ve tried to make the pages flat again by setting heavy books on top of it for a few days.  Didn’t work, still looks all bent up.  I thought about the clothes steamer (and the iron) but was worried the pages would disintegrate from the water and heat.  My pages will never be the same again.  The chunk in the middle will always have the appearance of folds and bends and messiness.

My life is full of bent pages too.  Bad decisions, permanent consequences.  Lots of messiness.  Failures.  I tried so long to flatten the folds in my life.  Hide them, cover them up, pretend they didn’t exist.  Overcompensate because of my guilt, my shame, my fear.  It was a failure.  I wasn’t a failure, but my cover up, “I don’t want to admit my failures” was a failure.

Today I stand before you free.  Free from the guilt of divorce.  Free from the shame of a child out of wedlock.  Free of fear of what others think of me.  God set me free.  He gave me hope in a new life.  He gave me joy in his everlasting love.  He gave me mercy in salvation through Jesus Christ his son who died on the cross for me.  He gives me grace in His daily blessings in my life.

You can have the same freedom, the same grace, hope, love, joy, mercy.  Turn the pain over to God.  Literally hand it over to him.  Fall down at his feet and surrender all.  Your pages will never be unbent but they will be made perfect in their imperfection.

2 Corinthians 3:17 – Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

John 3:36 – So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Galatians 5:1 – It is for freedom that Chris has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Acts 13:38-39 – Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.

Isaiah 61:1 – The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.