a broken heart has to expand to hold the hurt or it will truly break

a broken heart has to expand to hold the hurt or it will truly break

I may look a little too long. Stare sometimes. Please know I’m not trying to judge.  I’m a noticer–some people have told me.  I want to know your story and to be perfectly honest, the arrow of my stare is not aimed at you–it’s centered at my heart–right back aimed straight at me.

He wore a hat, his face covered by a beard. His hair long and he sat on the pavement watching the cars pass by.  He saw me with his eyes and I saw him.  His head turned, watching as I drove by.  What did he think of me?

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Another man, younger–maybe early 30’s or so.  His clothes clean and he was carrying the weight of his belongings around his waist…in one bag.  Me, stopped at a red light and he walked in front of my car.  His eyes met mine and he looked away–quickly.  Why are you carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, on your back, on your face, in your eyes? Why and how can I help?

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I have seen you before. Walking.  And this morning, there you were again but this time you were standing by the railroad tracks ever so still watching the boxcars go speeding by.   Why are you in such deep thought on this chilled morning? Is your story in one of those cars? What are your needs?  Will you allow someone to help? Do you know Jesus?

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I read somewhere that a broken heart has to expand to hold the hurt or it will truly break. And I believe this is true. Because on this day the hurt from my heart ran down my cheeks. The overflow poured like rain from an old house with leaky gutters.

The hurt came from the need of others. The ministry of presence.

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My four hour shift has ended. Now what? Do I wipe away any evidence of wet from my face, walk away and forget? Do I forget what my eyes saw, what my ears heard? But six days will pass before I return again. What happens to the overflow? Will it heal quickly in my own comfort? Where will my heart be during those 144 hours?

Will I be burdened enough to pray for the lady and her family whose house flooded and she had to use her grocery budget to pay for the repair bill?

Will I even give a second thought to pray for the woman who faces surgery to remove the cancerous tumors in her stomach?

Will I seek donations of clothing for the man who lives in a tent on the coldest of nights in winter and the hottest days of summers?

Will I be burdened enough to pray for the woman who just wanted baby wipes for her baby? That’s all she needed….baby wipes.

And the family who accepted help for their utility bill but were too proud to accept food even though their faces screamed need. Will they cross my cluttered and busy mind, even once?

Will the hurt and the struggles of others burden my heart enough to tell others about the ministry and their needs?

Tell me God, please. Do I seal my heart tight, again…this broken heart?

Neichelle Guidry recently shared this at The Justice Conference, “If you are going to seek the kingdom of God—you must overcome your addiction to comfort.”

And a few days after serving at the ministry I heard a Christian writer speak these words. She said, ‘I don’t want to stand before Jesus one day knowing I could have done something and I let fear or my choice to remain silent be my excuse.’

The school social worker said she had only a few left.  And she handed me these strips of paper.  Children’s names.  Not filled with wants, basic needs rather and a few wishes. And she said, these are the ones no one has chosen.

The season of thankfulness and giving is coming. Our tables will be full, ribbons and bows and lights and sales will be in abundance and the broken will remain broken and we can do more.

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me. Matthew 25:40

 

 

Journaling: giving Thanks, giving Praise–it’s all Worship

Journaling: giving Thanks, giving Praise–it’s all Worship

I was humbled to speak and be among the most beautiful, most inspirational women last weekend at the Faith, Hope, Butterflies: Seeing God’s Beauty in Change Christian Women’s Conference in North Wilkesboro.  I am still in awe of the stories and the beautiful worship music shared and the blessings God rained down on us.

I spoke about journaling, giving thanks, and worship. Glory to God alone.

It had been less than 48 hours to the moment that I had shouted at the nurses and doctors to stop–it was too late.  Too late.  My loud didn’t come from a heart of anger but from the deepest of darks.  You see my Daddy was lying on a cold steel table there in the hospital and the electric shocks the doctors and nurses were pounding into his heart were not going to bring him back to us.  Jesus was there and my Daddy was with Him.

And God tells us….In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

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There was so much I wanted to say about my Daddy at his memorial service.  But I was struggling to find the words–my thoughts.  And I went into his bedroom on that Sabbath morning, the day of his service and picked up one of his journals and began to read it.  My family didn’t even know my Daddy had been writing down his thoughts–we only found the journals the day after his passing.  His journals weren’t the fancy ones–they were the 5-for-a-dollar notebooks.  That was my Daddy.

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Daddy’s penned words didn’t talk about himself or his life–they glorified God–through thanks, through scripture, through song lyrics, through quotes.  And on that Sunday out of his yellow notebook I shared Daddy’s testimony from his own words.  His writings expressed Jesus’ love, a love that is calling to us to our last day and the question, are we ready.

In his journal he wrote, “Some call it heaven.  I call it home.” And the words I shouted, ‘it’s too late’ on that snowy morning in the hospital–it was never up to the doctors and nurses to save him.  Only Jesus can offer salvation and Daddy accepted this grace gift and prepared for his eternal home years before March 7, 2014.

In everything give thanks.

Research shows anyone who practices gratitude on a daily basis benefits greatly both physically and mentally.  It’s so much more.  It’s worship.  It’s prayer.  It’s talking to my Heavenly Father.  It’s what I believe we are supposed to do.  It’s recognizing all of His good gifts.  In all things.  In sorrow and in joy.

As I was preparing for today I spent a little time reading some of my past journals entries….

November 16, 2011, “Dear God what a wonderful, wonderful night–thank you for answered prayers.  Thank you for saving JB.  Please God help us to guide and help him.  And then I wrote the text message JB had sent me on the opposite page so I wouldn’t forget.

January 20, 2018, I set a timer you know.  In my urgency I was only going to work 3 hours–done in 3 hours–cleaning and organizing the craft supply room at the church.  And then I received a text message fom a dear friend, ‘you have been on my mind–are you okay?’ And right then the altar was calling me more than the disarray of glue, paint, beads, twine, yarn, stickers.  And on that day God was preparing me for 2018.

The past few years I have chosen a word and this year my word is brave.

And on January 31st my baby brother was rushed to the ER and the medical staff gave us little hope.

March 22, 2018. Dear God, My journal stopped on January 29th, two days before Tom was close to death.  And I couldn’t write–only pray.  My brother is a miracle because of you.  Thank you God for your healing grace.

August 23, 2018. Today I am waking up to a new season in my life–a new chapter–so to speak.    I have breast cancer.  Breast cancer–not sure it has soaked into my heart–fully saturated it but my mind has absorbed all the medical language–the procedure steps.  Today I am a number–one of the many women diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer.  A partial lumpectomy with six weeks of radiation.  God, keep me brave.  Keep me strong.  And thank you for your many blessings.

My journals are often times filled with lists–names–people needing the uplifting of prayer–one liners of gratefulness-blank pages.

  • Sunrises so blinding I have to look away.
  • Hugs so tight from grand baby girl they almost take my breath away
  • Pink clouds
  • The dark night sky filled with stars.  Filled with visions of heaven
  • Birds at the feeder
  • Baby Wyatt’s first birthday party–his curls are just like his Daddy’s at that age–my baby boy
  • Sweet tea with crushed ice
  • My grand baby boy Kase singing loud, Love Lifted Me

And my prayer lists–

  • Jacob Brown and his family
  • My aunt Geraldine and family
  • My church
  • My family
  • Children in need
  • Homeless

And the list goes on…….

Do I write in my prayer journal and gratitude journal every day–no.  I fail God daily.  But I am trying to do better.  Because what I have found most for me in keeping a prayer journal, a gratitude journal is this–returning to the pages whether I am writing or rereading, they both bring me closer to God.

Keeping a journal has helped me to be more grateful for the privilege of prayer, both answered and unanswered–to pray–to read and remember scriptures–to be thankful for both my blessings and my storms.

And on some days I return to the pages and many are filled with tear stains–marked by the noise of the world and sadly even myself–trying to drown me in words such as loser-failure–unworthy.  And as I reread my past I am once again reminded of how much God has changed me through some of the hardest struggles.  How my faith and trust in Him has grown.  How His presence, His grace, and His mercy are steadfast.  I remember His goodness and remember He is my hope.  And I am reminded these words should be a constant in my thoughts–my warrior cry–I am His daughter and I am forgiven.

I ask each of you to take a moment and think of three things you are thankful for and three people who are in need of prayer.  I am certain you didn’t have to think very long.  We all have much to be thankful for and many are in need of prayer.  The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, study God’s word, serve others, and to give thanks.  When we focus on our blessings rather than our burdens and our complaints, I believe we will experience more contentment and our faith will become stronger.  And when our hearts are on the needs of others, we will forget self.

O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: His mercy endureth forever. Psalm 136:1

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

2 Timothy 2:15, Study to shew thyself approved unto God. 

Isaiah 34:15 Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read

And the story of the Good Samaritan–to serve others–And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.  Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Luke 10:37

You may want to give journaling a try.  Whether it’s illustrating or simply keeping a list of names in a prayer book, keeping a prayer journal, a scripture journal along with your thoughts–a list of ways you can serve others or sermon notes on Sunday mornings.  You don’t have to have a fancy journal to begin.  Only a pen and paper will do, along with a willing heart.

Thank you for your presence today.  I thank you for your kindness and your prayers.  I am not worthy nor do I deserve to stand before you.  But I hope something I have shared with you today will encourage you.  And most importantly I pray I have used my voice to praise His Holy Name.

In closing I want to share this.

The hard is getting harder.  The cruel in this world is becoming more and more hurtful.  And evil is, as we have never experienced.  We are living in a world that has forgotten God–a world that has forgotten to where our blessings flow.  A world that has forgotten how to love.

As I stand here and look at all of us–together in this room I want to leave you with this thought and read from Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 5 and 6.  

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  

We need God to shine strong in our lives.  Together. Our world needs God and they need to see God in us.  Our world needs to hear our prayers and see us praise Him more.  And our world needs to see us more like Jesus–love more and judge less.

Let’s share His story and share ours.  We need each other.  We need the giving of thanks–the giving of love–the giving of encouragement–the lifting of prayer for one another.

We are so much better together than we are apart.

May God bless each of you.

 

 

 

cancer is cancer and love is of God: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

cancer is cancer and love is of God: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

I have this scar—it’s about five inches long.  The place where my skin was broken and the cancer was taken out of me.

She wore a pink shirt and when she got ready to leave the cancer clinic she forgot which side of the building she had parked her car.

And another lady–she walked in.  Her face glowed and her head, it was covered in a yellow and blue scarf with the tiniest of flowers weaved into the colors.

Cancer does these things.

Cancer is cancer and love is of God.

He came into the house and turned around quickly, back out to his truck.  I forgot something my son-in-law said.  And when he came back into the house he handed me this pink ribbon pin.  ‘I got this for you’.  And I couldn’t get my voice to speak as it wrestled with my overwhelmed smile.

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A Mama this week–her message read, my family is praying for you.  Her message went on to say–‘even though the treatments are different, please know I am here to talk anytime you need to talk.’  And I broke.  You see, this Mama, she’s in her own battle with cancer.  Her young son, in the midst of chemotherapy.  And he is a warrior, a fighter, and he makes no bones about it nor does his Mama or Daddy or his family–they all love Jesus and their faith and hope is steadfast in Him.

And I think about her, thinking of others in the midst of her own storm and I am drowning in this undeserved grace.

Cancer is cancer and love is of God.

The mail comes and more than once comes this love.  A beautiful shirt handmade by a friend I don’t see very often but I know she’s always there–anytime–day or night if I need her.  And I will do the same for her.

And so many other heart gifts, words, cards, reminders of ‘I’m praying for you’, ‘We are thinking of you’

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We take our seats before worship songs begin and one of our Deacons is carrying this large Ziploc bag–filled with pink ribbons with pink pins.  And he hands me the pin and tells me one of the ladies in our church fixed the ribbons and he was giving them out to everyone.  And I can’t imagine the time she spent making these gifts. I look up and see pink ribbons adorning lapels and dresses and shirts and jackets and coats.  And in my heart there’s this pouring out of what seems to be like the breaking of the alabaster jar where heaven breaks and blessings pour down.

Cancer is cancer and love is of God.

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This week my aunt was rushed to the hospital on Monday fears she had had a stroke.  It was later determined she had a large mass on her brain.  God answered our prayers as the surgery on Thursday was successful, the mass was removed and my aunt is doing very well.  Our family is waiting on the test results and we covet your continued prayers.

It’s true.  Cancer doesn’t treat us all the same.  Our treatments and diagnosis may be different.  But there is this promise in the lifting of prayers in faith-believing. And the love we give to each other matters.  Love matters.

And cancer is cancer and love is of God.

And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cornithians 12:9

grape pop, the rock and the seed and the white haired lady

grape pop, the rock and the seed and the white haired lady

Baby girl, she decided she was going to take home two cans of grape pop from the church picnic and she wanted me to help her carry the cans to the car just in case her Mama forgot them.  So we walked to the car–she carrying one and me carrying the other.  The car door was locked so we set the pop cans in the gravel next to the car door and she was happy knowing her grape pop was that much closer to going home with her.

I reached down to hold her hand as we walked back to the picnic area and her tiny fingers were clasped into a tight fist.  What’s in your hand, I asked–and she looked up at me with those blue eyes–eyes that match the color of sky and with a smile I do believe only four-year old little girls can muster up–she said, ‘nuthin’ with a giggle.

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And I said, ‘you do too have something in your hand and we walked a few more steps and she said, ‘wanna see what’s in my hand? It’s a rock I found!’ And she spread her tiny hand to show me her treasure.

An hour or so passed and it was time to leave the picnic and as her Mama was buckling her into the car seat she told her to give me, her Granna the rock–fearful she might swallow it on the way home.  And baby girl did so, reluctantly.  I dropped the rock in my pocket gave her eyes and nose kisses and said good-byes with luv yous. IMG_6686

It wasn’t until I got home I realized the rock was actually a seed. Sometimes they look the same but their substances and purposes are entirely different.  The rock will break and never produce any type of seeds and the seed will never grow hard enough for the strength of carrying another’s load.   And yes, we desperately need them both.

Sunflower Seeds

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Her legs are strengthened by the help of her shiny silver walker.  Her snow white hair, evident of her 72 years of life.  And her gratitude shines grace.

‘I thank Him for everything,’ she said. ‘If I get a good parking place at Wal-Mart, I thank Him.  He provided that good parking place for me.’

‘And I know if I go through a storm, He won’t leave me during the storm and He will be there when I come out of the storm. He’s good to me and I thank Him.’

And I sat there across the table and soaked in her words.

Her bold testimony, her smile–I can’t help but imagine all of the seeds she has planted over her lifetime. How many people have leaned on her as she leaned on her Rock.

This beauty–I only met her a few nights ago. And because of her gratitude–because of the seeds she planted in each of us–because she shared loudly her love for the rock of her life, because of her–every woman left that room with a fuller heart. A deeper seed. A stronger hold on the Rock.  Because of her.

But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.  Luke 8:15

In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Psalm 62:7

The women on pew four…the Saturday Gratitude Journal

The women on pew four…the Saturday Gratitude Journal

She parked in her usual spot and I saw her walking with her rain cap snug and her Bible hugged tight to her heart.  It was Sunday morning and the rain was dancing sideways with the wind.

She drives herself to church every Sabbath and she’s faithful. A constant every Sunday morning.  And she’s not the only one.  They share a pew. Pew number four. And they are the most beautiful women I have ever laid eyes on.

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DSC_0613.JPGThere are these widows at my church.   Their gray shines from the light of the windows. They sit close, their love for the church radiates. They give with their presence. They give with their faithfulness.  They give with their love.  They give. DSC_0636.JPGAnd on this day, it wasn’t the rich Jesus wanted His disciples to learn from, but the widow. Her story consisted of four verses in the New Testament, the book of Luke and the book of Mark.

And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.  And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.  Luke 21:1-4 (KJV) 

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.  And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:  For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. Mark 12:41-44 (KJV)

Two mites.  A farthing. Two small copper coins worth fractions of a penny.  She gave with faith.  She gave with love.

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Photo courtesy of Jenner Lee Design

Come Sabbath I will drive into my church’s parking lot like every Sunday morning and I will see two of their cars–same parking places, parked side by side.  The other ladies will arrive shortly after.  And once again they will take their places on pew number four and smile.  And the heart of our church is fuller–blessed deeper–because of them.

 

Ten words…the Saturday Gratitude Journal

Ten words…the Saturday Gratitude Journal

On my kitchen window sill stands a tiny card with the words Be Brave–Pray over Everything. The business card happens to be my good friend Maggie Russell’s, owner of BG Studios. Maggie is a gifted artisan and every single piece of jewelry she creates is covered in prayer long before it is sold.

I see the words every morning.  Be Brave.

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I have read so many stories this week of the brave.  The waters, the wind–and in a few short hours lives changed and lives lost.  Rescue efforts, devastation. And volunteers, linemen and emergency workers and so many others.  Families who were forced to evacuate from their homes, rescued from rooftops, cars.

Don’t ever think for one moment being brave comes without fear, without exhaustion, without the shedding of tears.

And don’t think for one moment being strong comes without fear, without exhaustion, without the shedding of tears.

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And I have so much to be thankful for this week….

God’s Holy Word

Seeing the tears of my nephew when he saw his bride 

School buses

Worn photos

Flowers that grow despite the weeds and thorns

The rabbit in the garden ever so still 

The dark night sky filled with stars. Filled with visions of heaven

Answered prayers

This Christian writer–she referred to her strength words as her “ten words”. Ten words she has to go to often.

I. Can. Do. All. Things. Through. Christ. Which. Strengtheneth. Me.  

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The strength we have through Christ is not for a few things, it is for all things. Through Christ. It’s not strength just for today.  It’s not strength for tomorrow.  It’s not strength for the right now.  It’s a strength with no end.  A strength that never grows weary.

Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:4 (KJV)

There will continue to be days of worry, stress–things we can’t control. Dreams and goals we want to accomplish. Some things we can’t change and some we can.  And amongest the difficult, the hard smiles, the tired–there are these ten words. Trusting words. Reassurance words.  Promise words. Brave words.  Prayer words.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Philipians 4:13 (KJV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

one moment away: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

one moment away: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

My phone is sounding in it’s silent tone and I can’t answer it right away but I can see who’s on the other line.  My doctor.

And it’s about time for the call.  He told me last Friday it would be 7-10 days when he would have my report.  My report from the surgery.  My report that would tell us whether my cancer had spread–if it was in my lymph nodes–if more surgery would be required.

One phone call, one doctor’s visit, one moment of time.  And everything can change.  One phone call of a loved one’s death–one doctor’s visit with the diagnosis of cancer or disease.  And these moments of time are not always of hard news.  Some moments are of unwavering joy.  Joy of happiness.  Joy of answered prayers. Joy of healing.

One moment of time.  And everything can change.

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There’s this nurse’s voice on voicemail asking me to call my doctor when I get a moment.  A moment of time.  I hold my breath as I count the number of rings it takes for someone to answer.

‘We have received your report back and the cancer has not spread. It is not in your lymph nodes,’ my nurse explained.  ‘The entire area was removed in surgery, the margins are good and the doctor told me to tell you it is a very good report, a very good report.’ And she said, ‘We will see you on Tuesday for your recheck and talk about the scheduling of your radiation treatments.’

And I cried as I thanked her.  Praising God for His faithfulness, a grace that never fails.  Answered prayers.

One moment of time.  And everything can change.

And this week as with any week, God has blessed and I have so much to be thankful for.

To see my son again as a baby–Wyatt’s little feet pattering across the floor and his head adorned with blonde curls

Morning devotionals

My Daddy’s white handkerchiefs 

Hearing my daughter read the story of Batman and Superman to Kase and Drew, my grandbabies with their heart giggles. 

Clouds filled with moisture–eyes filled with tears

Songs that wake me up in the middle of the night–over and over, Thy Will be Done.

Answered prayers

Warriors of prayer.  Warriors of faith

Beauty in the healing miracles–Jacob, Drew, Jenner, myself and so many others 

I remember vividly the morning. I had spent the night at my daughter’s.  A light snow had covered the ground.  The phone rang. ‘Daddy has been rushed to the hospital and it doesn’t look good,’ my sister said in a trembling voice.

And in the mad rush to get to the hospital I reached for my bag and my knees gave way to the floor.  I can’t do this.  And in that moment of time–my life, it changed forever.

And I also remember vividly the announcement of my three grandbabies.  What a beautiful change these three have brought to my life.

My oldest grandbaby boy–eating dinner at Chick-fil-A. ‘You’re going to be a grandma in January or February!’ my daughter and son-in-law said with smiles that bursts through the restaurant walls.

My granddaughter–my son-in-law called wanting me to come to their house to see something.  Now it was hunting season so I thought for sure he had scored a big buck.  I kept waiting on him to lead me to the backyard to see this monster deer and then he reached on top of the refrigerator and there it was–this stick–positive.  ‘You are going to be Granna again’, my daughter said with a joy only an expectant mother can voice.

And my son calling, ‘Mom, we have something to tell you.  Jesi and I, well, we are pregnant.’   Not Jesi is pregnant, we are pregnant.  And this thing about my son–you don’t have to see his face to know his smile is wide.  He gets that from his Papa Lackey.

One moment of time and everything can change our lives here on earth.  But there’s this one promise, one moment of time that will change us for eternity.  And that is Christ’s coming.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 

1 Corninthians 15:52 (KJV)

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. 

Revelation 22:20-21 (KJV) 

One moment of time.  And everything can change.