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
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.
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
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.