God Is Real-Surprise!

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

My husband’s kidneys are failing. We found out a while ago that he needs a transplant. At our first visit with the transplant team, we were informed that the donor doesn’t necessarily have to be a perfect match. As long as they are donor-worthy, they can perform something called a swap. I’m in good health, and had decided that I wanted to donate for my husband. So, as much as I would have loved to be able to give him one of my own kidneys, I proceeded with the testing believing I’d be able to donate to someone else, and we’d complete the swap.

Not long after my bloodwork, I clearly heard the Lord say to me, “Why don’t you just ask Me for you two to be a match.” My response? “Because, Lord, I know You’re capable, but I don’t think I have the faith to ask and believe for it.” I didn’t doubt that I heard His voice, though, so I began to pray. Short, simple, and to the point. I asked God to make it so that not only would my blood type match my husband’s, but that our blood and tissue would also be compatible. This way I could give my husband a part of me and we’d truly be one. Not to mention it would make scheduling and the whole procedure much simpler and quicker.

Not long after I stepped out onto that invisible beam, similar to Indiana Jones at the end of The Last Crusade, I received a phone call at work. Not only did our blood type match, but when a part of me was put together with a part of him, there was no reaction. Wow! Why do we doubt God’s ability? Remember, He wants us to come BOLDLY to His throne of GRACE.

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Does It Matter What We Think? Every single day we are given multiple opportunities to think the best about a situation, or think the worst. What’s the first thing your mind often steers to? With the internet at our fingertips, today, more than ever, we find ourselves researching statistics and looking for facts. But faith doesn’t go based on facts and statistics. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Do you know the statistics of a spouse being a perfect match for transplantation with her husband? I don’t know the exact numbers, but I do know that siblings have a 25% chance of being a perfect match and a 50% chance of being a half match. And that’s a blood relative! God wants us to live beyond the facts, beyond what we can see. It’s time to start thinking about what God can do for us, and then ask Him and believe it!

I Am Awesome…and So Are You!

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works” Psalm 139:14

“You’re awesome!” This was a recent compliment I received, to which I mentally replied, Oh really? You obviously don’t know me very well. Don’t get me wrong, the compliment was very much appreciated and it made me feel pretty darn good. But being someone who has struggled with insecurity, other, more harmful thoughts quickly crept in and suffocated any positive thinking that resulted from the wonderful compliment.

Have you ever found how God knows exactly what you need at the exact moment in time? It wasn’t long after I received this compliment when I was reading one of my daily devotionals. It led me to the verse above. I took away two things from this verse. First, I was reminded that God loves me and made me Himself. That alone should warrant my praises. Okay, thanks for the reminder. Nothing I haven’t heard before, but I will say it was a good reminder for my slight insecurities.

Second, and this was a huge WOW factor for me, is the latter part. “Marvelous are Your works.” WOW! Do you see it? If not, don’t worry, I didn’t either the first ten times I read this verse. I needed a little assistance. Let me show you. In the beginning of the verse, David said that he was made by God. If he then proclaimed God’s works are marvelous, he was saying that he himself was marvelous, because he was made by God. Soooo…YOU are marvelous. I am marvelous. Isn’t that marvelous?!

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Does It Matter What We Think? My question to you is, do you believe it? Marvelous is a pretty powerful word. I don’t know that I’d ever think to use that word when describing myself. But God would. I can be confident in that word as I continue to run the race I call life, and keep my eye on the prize even when I fall. I am no less marvelous in God’s eyes when I fall. And neither are you. So when we fall and begin to question our identity and God’s love for us, let’s get up, brush ourselves off and finish what God has started!

Praise: An Answer to Prayer

“I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

Recently I had the precious opportunity to spend almost two hours in the car alone. As I was driving home from a women’s event, I began to pray in a way I don’t usually pray. Basically, I said, “ok, Lord, it’s just me and you. All my insecurities, my shortcomings, my weaknesses, they’re all here out in the open. Despite all this, please show me how.” I don’t usually bare all my flaws when I begin to pray. But last night, as I spoke to God as if He were my friend, things became real. There wasn’t this barrier between me and the Holy One. It was just me and my heavenly Father.

Often times I feel like I fall short as a good parent. I’m sure I’m not alone. If you have children, you probably know what I mean. Right now I really need to hear from God regarding a few situations we’re facing as a family. After I prayed, I reached to turn the radio off so the noise wouldn’t drown out God’s voice. But as my finger touched the button, something made me stop. I listened to the words Big Daddy Weave sang through my speakers. “This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior, all the day long.” It stopped me right there. Was that from you, God? Of course we always tend to question whether we really heard from Him, don’t we? We ask Him, but don’t always expect an answer.

Wait, that’s it? How could that be it? Truth be told, I wasn’t very good at praising my Savior lately-especially at home. Maybe I heard wrong. God, how is that going to help me teach my kids what they need to learn?

Then God revealed this to me. I wasn’t sure I was supposed to share it or if it was just between me and God, but I believe if I struggle with this, then someone else must too-surely I’m not alone in this. So, listen closely.

My child, as you learn how to praise Me throughout your day, the difficulties from your trials won’t bother you and get you down because you are simply living in the joy of just praising Me.

Wow. Well, Lord, if this is really what You are telling me, then I need Your help. There’s absolutely no way I can do this on my own. And, uh, any chance you can wait till tomorrow? I’m not sure I’m up for starting this tonight, since I’m still on an emotional high from tonight’s event. I don’t want to ruin it with whatever trial may be awaiting me as I walk through the door.

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Does It Matter What We Think? As I mentioned earlier, the hardest place for me to praise God is at home. It’s where I let the pressures of the day fall away, and it’s not always pretty. Yet that’s what God instructed me to do back at the beginning of my prayer. So, what am I going to do? I’m gonna do what He asked me to do, because I know with His help I can do anything. I will praise the Lord at all times. Then I’m going to watch the transformation happen before my eyes, because God is faithful and He would never ask us to do anything that He didn’t think we could do with Him!

Realistic Resolutions

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;” Lamentations 3:22-23

Let’s play a game. I’ll say a word and you say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready? Resolution. What did you think? New beginning? Fresh start? Or perhaps the first word that came to your mind was Failure? Do you remember last year’s New Year’s Resolution? I know I don’t remember mine.

One definition of resolution I found is a FIRM DECISION to do or not do something. Another definition calls it a promise to oneself. I don’t know about you, but that scares me just thinking about it. Typically, we’re the hardest on ourselves, aren’t we? Maybe you’re not like me, but I am often hard on myself when it comes to commitments and following through on decisions I’ve made. Yet I can’t predict the future. I don’t know if something will happen that might cause it to not come true.

My daughter has developed a wonderful habit of being honest with her family. But sometimes maybe she shares a little too much. For example, my husband and I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (if you haven’t done it, I highly recommend it) not too long ago. One of the changes we made as a result was that we were going to be having what we called “budget meetings” with the kids weekly. This was a time to sit together and talk about the money they’ve made that week, what to save, spend, tithe, etc. The first meeting we sat down and she had just a bit of that 16-year-old attitude (shocker). Then it came out. She didn’t understand why we needed to do this because her dad and I never follow through on anything anyways, so what was the point? Ouch! But she wasn’t wrong on that point.

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Does It Matter What We Think? I have a couple of goals I’d like to set for the coming year. However, I have peace knowing that if I don’t follow through today or meet my goal, the verse above promises me that I can try again tomorrow. God’s mercies are new EVERY SINGLE morning. This means that we don’t have to wait for January 1 of each year to start over with our resolution. If we fail, which, let’s face it, we’re human, so we’re bound to fail once in a while, but we have the grace of God to pick ourselves up and try again. And again. And again. I must admit, that makes me feel so much better than making a promise to myself to do or not do something and ultimately know in the back of my head that I may fail at it. So, try not to look at this year as a one-and-done failed attempt at another resolution if you make a mistake by February 1. Let’s look at this year as 365 days of new beginnings!

 

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

A Serving of Servanthood

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” Mark 10:43

Crash! I heard the pounding of little kitten feet as 3-month-old Reese ran for safety from the lamp that shattered into tiny pieces across my dining room floor. I didn’t know what to do first. Make sure my precious, adorable, lovable kitten was not injured, scold her for getting on top of the buffet in the first place, get mad at my husband for leaving the lamp out, or laugh, remembering how we joked about that old lamp, hoping maybe one of the cats would knock it down. Mission accomplished. Except that, when it dropped, it was me and four kittens. So that meant that guess-who had the privilege of cleaning up the mess? Moi.

After completing a speedy body scan on Reese, I snapped a picture to send to my husband and fell to my hands and knees, ready to clean up the mess as quickly as I could. As I picked up larger pieces of glass, I found myself complaining, sinking deeper and deeper into self-pity. I didn’t have time for this. I had to make dinner so my son and I could leave in half an hour. Since I was alone, I had hoped to sit down and work on my writing for a bit while dinner cooked. Cleaning up a broken lamp was definitely not something on my list of goals for the precious amount of time I had free that afternoon.

As I crawled around the floor, however, the familiar feeling of guilt made its grand entrance. Didn’t I want the cuddly kittens? Didn’t I want to be a mom and wife, to take care of our home and make sure everything was safe and in order for my family? Didn’t I want to be the one to prepare dinners, ensuring my family was well-fed? I wanted to serve my family, so why was I complaining?

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Does It Matter What We Think? Not long after this incident I had another lesson in servanthood. Guess I didn’t learn the first time. We were invited to our friends’ house for dinner and I spent several hours that day creating a couple of desserts. When dessert was served, however, our host presented a delicious-looking pie. Immediately I felt frustrated and inadequate. God immediately asked me, “Tracy, don’t you want to know what it truly means to serve Me?” Yes, of course, Lord. Not five minutes after the pie was placed on the table I excused myself to the rest-room, a sanctuary where I could have a quick fit and then pull myself together in private. While in the bathroom my eyes were drawn to the shower curtain like metal to a magnet. The word “serve” jumped out at me. In that instant God showed me the real meaning of servanthood. He reminded me it’s not about how much time we spend on something or whether we’re appreciated or acknowledged for it. It’s in the act itself of doing something for the sole purpose of pleasing someone else, taking no thought whatsoever to ourselves. Just like Jesus when He washed His disciples’ feet. Just like Jesus as He lived out His entire life on earth. As we embrace this holiday season, let’s remember Jesus’ actions while He was here, and strive to be like Him, the servant who rearranges his/her thinking so we desire to put others’ before ourselves. To be the person who takes pleasure in picking up shattered pieces of old lamp from the floor, because in doing so, we are learning what it truly means to serve.

An Attitude of Gratitude

“A gracious wife brings glory to her husband.” Proverbs 11:16

The topic for the dinner event was grateful. I would’ve preferred to speak on fear, since we seemed to have an intimate relationship. Gratitude, however, was honestly something I focused on in November or when I struggled with my thoughts and intentionally expressed my thanks to God during my prayer time. I really didn’t know what I could talk about that people didn’t already know. What story did I have that they could relate to about being grateful that they hadn’t heard a million times already? As I began to prepare my talk, I thought it was a good idea to decipher the difference between gratitude and thankfulness. Guess what? The Greek work “eucharistos” is the same for both, thus clarifying for me the difference-There is none!

That was good news since I wanted to use a lesser-known Bible verse about being thankful for my talk. One that people would hear or read and say, “Oh, I never thought of it that way!” So, it was exciting for me (and, I’ll admit, a little hard to swallow) when I found that the word “eucharistos” as an adjective mean gracious or agreeable. “A gracious wife brings glory to her husband.” In other words, a thankful wife brings glory to her husband. As Joyce Meyer would say, “ouch, hallelujah!”

You see, this month I’ve been trying to focus on ways to express my gratitude to others, and wouldn’t you know, last week God showed me I had been forgetting about my family. Why is it that often times the people we’re closest to are the ones privileged enough to get all our leftovers? So, I found it funny (ha, ha, God) that the verse He led me to was one about our family.

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Does It Matter What We Think? I want you to think for a second about how this verse is worded. A gracious or thankful wife. What would come to your mind if I asked you to describe a nagging wife? I’m sure it wouldn’t take you long. That person is known as a nag because of a repetitive behavior that has come to define them. A thankful wife is not a wife who expresses her gratitude once in a while, but who has developed this as a character trait of hers. Purposefully. Intentionally. How can we do this? By thinking about what we’re thinking about. Make it a habit to express gratitude to our family members.

Are you single? Or perhaps you’re a husband, and therefore you think this doesn’t apply to you. Don’t worry, you’re in luck! The Bible tells us that Jesus is our bridegroom and we, the church, are His bride. The comedian and TV star Tim Allen recently said women might say they want to be happy, yet we always find something to complain about. I’ll admit, I was one of those women in the audience who initially laughed but then was struck after the fact that, wow, he’s right. That is true – at least for me. Since we often find something to complain about, let’s think how happy we’d be if instead of focusing on the negative we focused on the many things we are thankful for. Life would be great! Are you living in a way that brings glory to Jesus by being a thankful “wife”?

A New Journey

Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power 2 Thess 1:11

“We’re about to get the next 1,000 readers.” ”Here’s the next step to take on your writer’s journey.” ”We’re about to start. Join me?” “Feeling overwhelmed?” These are just four email subjects I received in the last 24 hours. There are also two other phrases I’ve heard repeatedly lately. “You need a platform” and “build your email list.” My head is spinning just as I write this and I feel a dull ache begin to throb across my forehead. Oh, but I’m not done. Last night for the second time another new term reared its ugly head in my already overwhelmed brain during a rerun episode of Shark Tank. In order to be successful, it’s important to have “laser-like focus.” Oi. Where do I point my imaginary laser when millions of voices are screaming at me from all sides, all demanding my “focus” in order to be successful?

Last year I was given a great treasure. A book. I love books! Only this one was a hidden treasure. I love fiction, and this book was not fiction. I placed it on a stack of other books in my night table for future reading and proceeded to forget about it for the year, until I’d shuffle through the stack looking to see what might interest me at random times between books. Finally, one night I pulled it out and thought I should probably read it because it was, after all, a gift, and I did appreciate the gesture. I had no doubt it was a great book, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea-or didn’t look like it.

After dusting it off I read the title again. Wonderlust: A Spiritual Travelogue for the Adventurous Soul. That night as I read chapter one, my eyes were opened to the hidden beauty within these pages. The author, Vicki Kuyper, journaled through the years as she travelled to various places around the world, seeing God show up time and again in various ways in her travels. I was about halfway through the book and one night just after returning home from a writer’s retreat, when my mind was on overload about where to begin first, I read the chapter titled, Journey Toward Purpose. I figured I already knew my purpose, which was to write, speak and teach. I just needed guidance about where to start. Boy was I in for an awakening that night.

As I began to pray after finishing the chapter, God spoke something so completely opposite of what I thought that I didn’t doubt for one second it was His voice. He said, “Tracy, your purpose right now is not to scramble about trying to make money with your platform, it’s not which freelance job you can land first, and it’s not even trying to finish your next book so you can submit it to your top agent of choice.” Needless to say I was a bit taken aback, and of course, ready to argue. “No, Tracy, I need you to do something else right now. Something more important. Your purpose is to pray for your husband and your children.” God was telling me to put everything else on the back burner and focus my strength and energy on interceding for my family, specifically some things that will be coming up for us in the months ahead.

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Photo by Michael Heuser on Unsplash

Does It Matter What We Think? Nothing matters more to me than hearing the voice of God and obeying the call. I believe He called me into teaching. I believe He called me into writing and speaking. But I also believe He called me to be a wife and mother to these three, amazing people in my life. As a result, I know He will take care of all else while focus my laser-like vision onto my purpose for today. I also know my purpose tomorrow might be completely different. Maybe tomorrow He will tell me to focus all my energy on just loving others. Maybe it will be next week when God tells me again to bring my focus back to my platform. Maybe it will be next month. But I’ve learned that it’s ok. Like the disciples’ prayer above, I want to be found worthy of God’s calling for today, whatever that is, so I can fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith!

How about you? Have you had a deep desire to do God’s work, something you knew you were called to do, but had to put it on temporary hold to fulfill another calling?