Desert Places

Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

Think about a time when you haven’t really felt like being happy (who knows, maybe that time is right now). Whether something terrible happened, or all the little things of life piled on your shoulders. Either way, it’s not a great feeling, is it? You feel sad, isolated from others (possibly by your own doing), and irritated. I know for me, when I recently experienced it, I felt angry, uninspired, dry, and empty. I had nothing left to give anyone and I had nothing left for myself. Or so I thought.

Until one morning my daily verse led me to consider a discussion from the previous night at a women’s group I attend. It focused around the fact that so many of us, even Christians, act unhappy in our daily lives. Why is that and how can we change it?

The very last night of Jesus’ human life on earth must have been His worst. You think you’ve got it bad. Take a minute and think about how He must’ve felt. He knew that meal in the upper room was the last one together with his friends this side of heaven. He also knew one of His friends would turn Him over to the “authorities”, and all of His friends would reject Him. Not to mention the slight issue of dying an excruciating death by crucifixion in a few short hours. Doesn’t make our problems sound so bad, does it?

desert

Does It Matter What We Think? On this particular morning, God showed me two things I can do to pull out of this funk, my desert, and feel the joy and peace Jesus died to give me. The first thing was what Jesus did after that last supper. He served others. He put other people before himself by washing His disciples dirty, sandy feet. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15) When we start to turn our thoughts and our focus off ourselves and onto those around us, we’ll be amazed at how quickly we start to feel better.

The second thing Jesus did was sing. Matthew 26:30 says, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Who in the world feels like singing when they feel like that? Not me! I can pretty much guarantee Jesus probably didn’t feel like it either. But that didn’t stop Him. Why? I wonder if it’s because He knew the value of a song. Singing in the midst of our misery does wonders for one’s soul. Even if we don’t feel like it. The next time you feel “down in the dumps” or you think life has handed you a bad batch of rotten apples, try doing something nice for someone else. Then sing your heart out-and if you’re like me, and haven’t been blessed with a beautiful singing voice, sing when no one’s listening—God is!

Love Is

Dear Friends,

I want to preface this post with this word: I wrote this a while back, prior to having major surgery. I want you to know not one part of it is intended to bring any praise or attention to myself. I give God all the credit and glory and I hope you can see His awesomeness in how he has blessed me!

Happy Reading!

 

“How are you feeling? Are you nervous?” “I had no idea!”

I’m feeling fine. Nervous? Nah, piece of cake. And my response to the last exclamation-well, it’s not like I go about my life telling everyone I come in contact with that my husband needs a kidney transplant and I am so wonderful that I’m giving him mine. To be honest, I don’t really think about my end of it much. It was a no-brainer when I tested in the beginning. The day we found out we passed the first test was one of the happiest days of both our lives. As the next month passed, and I completed test after test after test (sometimes the same one twice), all I could think about was how my husband’s life was going to change. For the first time in years he would feel like a normal human being again. What a gift I could give him!

The “love chapter” in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, speaks of what love is not. It is not boastful. It is not proud. And it is not self-seeking. There is not one thing I am getting for myself out of this, except a new life with my husband (and 8 weeks of recovery with him). There is a reason I have been purposefully keeping my focus on him.

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Does It Matter What We Think? What if I spent the last month focusing on what this surgery meant for me physically? How much stress and anxiety would I have felt? Maybe so much so that I would have reconsidered my decision and backed out of giving my husband this gift. After all, the transplant team at the hospital reminds me multiple times whenever I’m there for an appointment that I do not have to proceed. I can back out at any time. Even the day of surgery, up until they fill my body with anesthesia. But instead of thinking about what might turn into great fear, I am choosing to think about the good of others.

What if I let my thoughts wander the other way, and allow pride to rule. Love is not boastful, right? If I permitted myself to soak in all the compliments and “thank you’s” and praise I was hearing, I’d be doing this for the exact opposite reason.

No, this beautiful gift I can give him is just that. A gift. And I will tell you, this is one battle that’s been pretty easy for my mind to fight. I think a large part is due to the fact that whenever someone brings it up to me, God has helped me train my mind to respond with a focus on someone else. Even when I haven’t been tempted to reflect on the praise I received. The Bible tells us our thoughts become our words and actions, and I truly believe that. I also believe the verse that talks about speaking things that aren’t as though they were. This includes our actions. I challenge you today, in whichever area you struggle in, whether it’s your thoughts or your words, to ask God to help you be mindful of that area and to give you the tools you need to fix it. The freedom you will feel is beyond words!

 

 

 

Photo by Leighann Renee on Unsplash

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.

throne yes

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?!

I am awesome blog

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.

praising my savior all the day long

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.

Resolution

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.