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.

 

 

Cuddle Time

A father is a girl’s best friend. He is the one she runs to in times of trouble. When she is stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire, he is the one she calls for help. Dads make the best playmates too. They always have way cooler ideas than mom.  Every little girl dreams of marrying her daddy. (Livi is convinced she is going to marry Reed when she grows up.) Fathers are our protectors. We know they will always be by our side.  No matter what age you are, you are never too old to crawl up in your daddy’s lap to cry, laugh and just cuddle.

Not everyone has Mr. Wonderful for a father, though.  This world is broken, and so many fathers are broken too.  It’s hard to fathom a God who is always there for us, worthy of love and trust and praise when the only example of a father we’ve ever known has let us down time and time again.  Addy’s heart gets broken into a thousand pieces every day.  As a mom, you grieve for your child’s pain and you grieve for their loss of fullness of life.  It’s hard to imagine a father who is present, engaged and tenderly loving when you’ve never had one before. 

Stop and think for a moment about what the perfect daddy would look like.  Not necessarily the father that you had, or even the one that you wished for, but the perfect daddy filled with love, compassion, understanding, joy, grace and mercy.  Think about his smile and the love that would shine from it.  Think about the sound of his voice saying “come here my sweet, sweet child.”  Imagine his arms, wrapped around you as you lay your head on his shoulder.  Take a deep breath and feel the security and warmth that comes from his arms.  Hug him tightly and snuggle deep into his lap.  Tell him your heart, tell him your fears, tell him your insecurities.  Pour out everything while you look up into his eyes feeling the love that is being poured into you.

That is our relationship with God.  He is our good, good father.  Run to him in your times of trouble.  Run to him in your times of joy.  Run to him in your times of sorrow.  God wants nothing more than for you to crawl up in his lap and cuddle with him every day.  If you ever have trouble praying, just close your eyes and imagine cuddling with God.  Then let your heart lead as you look into your father’s eyes.

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Psalm 119:76 – May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.

Psalm 9:9 – The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Isaiah 64:8 – But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.

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

Psalm 116:1-2 – I love the Lord, for he heard my voice, he heard my call for mercy.  Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

 

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.