Be a Branch, Not the Vine

I thought I’d deviate a little this week. I originally wrote this post for the American Christian Fiction Writers website blog, but I thought it just as appropriate for our daily lives as it is for writers. I hope you enjoy!

Jesus instructs us in John 15, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.”

New York Minute Book CoverWhy is it that we (ok, I) read verses like this one and automatically establish boundaries around them? Surely Jesus didn’t mean everything. He doesn’t care about what I write. Actually, He does. God wants us to abide in Him in ALL things. Strong’s Concordance defines “abide” as to sit, or remain, to dwell. We all know what it means to dwell. When we sit and dwell, we are home. Jesus is saying we can’t do anything unless we live in Him. And what happens when we do? We bear much fruit!

Six years ago, when God inspired me to write my first book, The Longest New York Minute, I certainly had no idea what I was doing. The extent of my writing at that point were a few pieces of high school poetry and a short essay in honor of my deceased father-in-law. Then one day my ten-year-old daughter inquired about 9/11 and voila, a new career was launched after searching unsuccessfully for any related age-appropriate books.

As this idea began to form, I felt a great peace settle inside. It seemed as if God was saying, “As long as you abide in Me, you will succeed.” I grew more and more excited as I began researching and developing an actual story. This peace remained as I sat at my computer and prayed, handing over the entire project to God. It was He who inspired it in me, and He would need to be the One to bring it to fruition. Many times, as I sat, ready to work, however, I’d become frustrated or antsy. The words wouldn’t flow, my mind wandered, or distracted by laundry, dinner, on and on it went. I know you’re sitting there nodding, feeling my pain. It didn’t take me long to realize it was those days I forgot to abide in Him. I wasn’t sitting and remaining in Him, I was trying to do the “works” for myself. I became the vine. As a result, confusion and chaos reigned in my mind.

Now, I’m not saying that if we give every writing piece to God, it will land on the NY Times Bestseller List (or insert here any plans of ours). What I am saying is this; Jesus promised us that we will bear much fruit if we remain in Him. He didn’t say how long it would take or how He would accomplish it. After four long years, the book was finally completed and I’ve seen God do amazing work through it in the lives of young people as well as my own life. During the writing of my second book, Tapestry of Lies, I felt an even greater frustration than I’ve ever felt before in writing. After almost two years I felt stuck. I couldn’t get it right. Ready to give up, I cried out to God. With intense prayer and hard work, He brought me to a new level in my writing and crafted ideas I didn’t think possible!

These difficult times are the tests. How will we respond when our writing (or dream) isn’t going according to plan? God has placed these passions and desires in our hearts. I encourage you to abide completely in Him and let Him lead you on this incredible journey!

Does It Matter What We Think? Keep your thoughts focused on God always and remember He has great plans for you, and you will see them come to pass.

Honesty Is the Best Policy Part 2

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high and lofty thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

swordLast week I shared with you the history of where WAYT247 came from. Now it’s important to share with you how God is helping me overcome the lies of the enemy that still threaten to haunt me today. Regardless of the circumstance, I believe the tools I use are the same tools you need to overcome your own struggles. Before I continue, take a minute and think about your name. We all have one. You may love it, or you may hate it. But you’re stuck with it – well, unless you legally change it. Do you know what your name means? If you’ve never looked up the meaning of your name, stop reading this and find out. Don’t worry, it will only take 30 seconds with the amazing world of Google.

My name means courageous. The Irish go so far as to use the terms “warrior,” and “war-like.” I’d prefer to interpret that as passionate! Recently, when I was preparing to speak at an event, a friend of mine made an excellent observation. She noticed that the exact meaning of our name is very often the one area in which we are attacked the most. Isn’t that interesting? I was given a name that means courageous, yet for years my struggle has been fear and insecurity.

I know I’m digressing a bit, but I want to tell you why I spilled my guts about something very private and personal to me. After a scary health concern and the death of a close family member, my eyes were opened to a hard fact. Our time here is limited. We don’t know the day or the hour when our time on this earth will end. I realized I wanted – no, needed to make the most of the time I’ve been given here before it’s too late. Anyone seen I Can Only Imagine? The movie is based on real-life events of Bart Millard, lead singer of the band MercyMe. In the movie, Trace Adkins (love him!), who portrays Bart’s music producer Scott Brickell, has a heart-to-heart with Bart. He tells Bart that in order to make a great song, he should write one that portrays his hidden, painful past. He says, “write about it, but to do that you’ve got to face your fears.” There’s that courageous piece again. It was as if God had spoken to me there in that theater. I took a deep breath, gulped down my fears and insecurities, and wrote about the situation, trusting that if God was calling me to share this, He would take care of me.

Ok, so here’s our help. Last week I talked about the “devil poke”, or the one thing the devil uses against us because he knows our weaknesses. We have a choice when we feel that poke. We can either choose to dwell on it, thinking things that make us feel worse, OR we can decide to put on our armor (I talked about the armor of God a few posts back). The best way to use our armor when the devil attacks our minds with lies is to speak the truth. Joyce Meyer said in her book Battlefield of the Mind, “The Word (the Bible) coming forth out of a believer’s mouth, with faith to back it up, is the single most effective weapon that can be used to win the war against worry and anxiety.” Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Here’s the problem I’ve found. In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us to PUT ON the armor. That means that it’s not going to magically happen. The sword of the Spirit, or the Word of God, isn’t going to pull itself out of its sheath and attack the enemy. Nor is the shield of faith going to automatically thrust itself into our hands every time our faith is wavering. No, we have to actively do it. But sometimes, it’s just too difficult. I know! I’ve been there. The armor feels way to heavy to bear in that single battle. There have been days when I know if I just opened my mouth and started reciting some of the verses I have in my journal for when I need them, (or in other words, heave that mighty sword out of its sheath), then it wouldn’t take me long before I started believing the truth and fighting the lies of the enemy. Yet for some reason, I just can’t do it. It’s easier for me to lay on my bed and curl up into that safe and secure ball and cry. Sound familiar? I’m sure none of you have ever acted like that before. Well I have, and I carry on in this manner until I hear that small voice that says, “Get up, Tracy. You’re right. You can’t do this on your own, but that’s why you have Me. Lean on Me and I will be your strength.” As I continue to lean on God and depend on Him to help me during the down days, I find it easier and easier to confess and believe the truth about my life and the lies become less and less intimidating.

I can’t tell you how many good things have already come from this testimony. For starters, I told you in part 1 about the woman whose best friend was currently in the midst of the same situation. There was also another woman that day who approached me with such relief, knowing she wasn’t alone. I shared this at a retreat in May and I can’t tell you how many people were able to relate a single part of the story to their own lives. And lastly, a new book idea was born out of all this!

Does It Matter What We Think? In the verse above, the word “carnal” means of the flesh. The Bible clearly tells us the weapons we have available to us are not of this world, but from God. They are so mighty that they can demolish a stronghold, or a “fortress” that we have placed our confidence in. So mighty that they have the capability to destroy every single thing that exalts itself against God. Where did Satan come from? Heaven. Why? Because he wanted to be greater than God, exalting himself against the knowledge of God. Now here’s the best part. According to this verse we have the means to do it, but how? By TAKING EVERY SINGLE THOUGHT INTO CAPTIVITY TO THE OBEDINECE OF CHRIST. If I begin to think something is wrong with my marriage, I speak against it. “My husband loves me. ‘A threefold cord is not quickly broken.’” (Ecclesiastes 4:12) If I am afraid, or don’t feel strong enough to handle a situation, I speak against it. “I am strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” (Eph 6:10) “I am strong, I will not fear. My God will come.” (Isaiah 35:4) “I am a child of God and He loves me. His thoughts for me are more than the grains of sand on the beach.” Whatever your struggle is, start speaking the truth against it and the lies of the enemy won’t be so scary. Remember to make the truth about YOU. Insert “I’ and “me” into the verses. As you do this, you will see a transformation taking place in your mind and before you know it, that armor won’t feel so heavy. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” As Toby Mac sings, “speak life,” and let’s win this war together!

Photo by MS

Honesty Is the Best Policy, Part 1

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Ephesians 6:10

Eagle in the sky.I think it’s time. I’m not ready, but, as we all know, God’s time is usually never our time. To personalize the verse above, I am strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. During my drive home tonight from spending a few precious hours enjoying pizza, a chick flick, and way more junk food than this mostly whole-food plant-based body is used to, with a couple of sisters in Christ, I felt like God told me it’s time. Time for what, you ask? It’s time to tell you how whatareyouthinking247 came into existence.

Maybe it was seeing the relief on the face of the drunken, lost country singer reveal the truth he’d been hiding after he sank to rock bottom. Actually, the thought of blogging about this flickered in my mind after I shared this openly for the first time at a Mastering Motherhood event. After I finished speaking, a woman approached me at my table and asked if this was on my blog. Naturally, she assumed that since I had spoken about it, it must be public knowledge. I’m embarrassed to admit, but that was the first time I even thought, hmm, should I blog about this? The answer hit me like a bolt of lightning as this woman continued to share about how her best friend was currently experiencing the exact same thing!

After that day, I pushed the idea to the back of my mind and refused to consider it when it nudged its way to the front. I preferred to only speak about it to strangers instead of having it in writing for everyone and anyone to read. That way it disappeared, in a sense, to be forgotten until the next time I spoke about it. If it wasn’t in writing I could pretend it was only in my imagination and never really happened.

Actually, it was (no, it is) only my imagination, but unfortunately my imagination has made “it” more of a reality than I’d like to think. Ok, enough stalling. What is “it”? “It” is the erroneous belief that my faithful husband was sneaking behind my back cheating on me. While I’ve struggled with insecurity for a long time, I think the one trigger moment for me, or as a friend termed it, the “devil poke,” was a couple of years ago when I saw a text from a coworker to him. I didn’t know they texted each other, and I saw a pink heart. Now before you go on thinking he’s doing anything, I have to tell you the reason for the text was because he had been out for a few months due to surgery and she had checked in with him to see how he was feeling, letting him know she was thinking of him. Now, you might say, did she really have to put a heart in there? That’s what I thought, too. But, maybe she’s just a nice, caring person who likes her emojis. I can tell you in confidence that nothing bad was intended in her text.

I went back and read past texts between them (with my husband’s insistence) and saw that they’ve ever only been work-related or harmless discussions. In my mind, however, that small act spiraled into something much greater and much more dangerous.

Anyone remember the cute, small, purple dragon named Figment who lives at Disney World’s Epcot Center? He represents a figment of our imagination. The entire place has activities to show visitors all that could happen if we just use a little imagination. Of course, it’s intended for progress and all things good. But what happens when this small figment of our imagination grows into a huge fear that transforms into a paranoia so debilitating that there are days when we can’t do anything except curl into the fetal position and cry out to God?

Life for me got to the point where I couldn’t even be in the same room alone with his cell phone. This knot in the pit of my stomach would tighten every time I looked at the small, rectangular box lying there on the table screaming, “read me!” Not too long ago, God gave me a revelation. I had an “ah-ha” moment. He showed me it was as if the devil covered my face with a veil. Not a light, beautiful wedding veil, but a dark, heavy veil that offers no glimpse of what lies beneath. When my eyes are covered by this veil, it is so easy for me to believe the lies the enemy is telling me about my husband. The thoughts that would enter my mind when I’d see his fingers typing away on his phone, or when I would walk into the room and see it on the table. Yet there are other times when my eyes are free from the weight of the veil and I see things clearly, the way they really are.

First Corinthians 10:13 encourages us, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Let me tell you, there were days I didn’t think I could bear it. But God IS faithful and knows all our struggles. During a severely difficult time, (because, let’s face it, we’ve all had roller coaster troubles in life-some days are easier than others), I was reading a book written by Carol Kent. In “When I Lay My Isaac Down,” she talks about her struggles with something terrible that happened with her son. In the chapter I was reading that particular day, I read this. “…but God, even while I’m saying I want to relinquish my control, I want to take it back. So God, I will let go of my control for the next minute, and if I make it that far, let’s try for five more minutes, and maybe there will be a time when I will come to the end of one full day.”

Those words saved me that day. I told myself if I could just get through one minute, then it didn’t matter what happened the rest of the day because I had success. Pretty soon the one minute grew to five minutes, and eventually, I was able to make it through an entire day without letting my imagination run wild.

Does It Matter What We Think? This experience shook me awake as to what can happen when we allow our minds to dwell on the wrong thing. You may be reading this and thinking, well, that’s too bad for you, I’m sorry you don’t trust your husband, but I don’t have that problem. I want to tell you that I believe a similar problem is lurking in the back of each one of our minds, waiting to prey on our vulnerability. Maybe this isn’t your problem. Maybe you’re not even married. But have you ever felt insecure? Have you ever thought someone was talking behind your back when you walked by? Have you ever feared that you would never have enough money in your bank account? We all have a fear that has the potential to overpower us and become greater than we alone can handle. As the Casting Crowns song goes, “we were made to be courageous.” What is your “devil poke?” I challenge you to release the barriers and think about that one thing that creates a debilitating fear within you, and allow God to heal it. Next week I’ll share how He is still doing a great healing in me and the good things He is bringing forth from this experience.

Deadly Thoughts

Psalm 3:1-2 “O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’ Selah”

armyYou know the story. Good guys surrounded by the enemy, wondering how in the world they can defeat the undefeatable. The bad guys are bigger, stronger, wield more powerful weapons, and show no mercy in their faces. Sound familiar? It should, if you’ve ever seen any superhero movie (yes, we recently saw the latest Avengers movie). The only difference with the movies is that we, the audience, know the good guys always win in the end. If not all, at least most of them. No matter how intense the battle scene is, how much it may appear that evil will overcome good, the movie continues until there’s a happy ending!

Unfortunately, we don’t always have that same assurance when we’re faced with a similar situation in real life. Or do we? While David was no stranger to real-life battles, I believe he also experienced many mental battles. You see, often the enemy armies can be so strong and powerful in our minds that we hear voices saying, “God will not deliver you. Look at you, you’re so far under it’s hopeless.” And don’t tell me I’m the only one who hears voices in my head. If you don’t, listen harder. You will. Any time we’re tempted to think we’re not good enough, we can’t do it, or it’s too much to bear, that’s the enemy whispering those thoughts into our minds.

In the verses above, the word “Selah” means to pause and think. I’m not sure why David wanted to stop and reflect on the fact that his enemies were so strong that he wondered if he’d make it out alive. I wonder if as he thought about it more and more, he knew he needed to make a decision to change the way his thoughts were headed. We’ll see below the change in his thinking in the next verse.

For me, it was the whispers telling me that God had left me, that He didn’t care about me anymore, and had no desire to hear my prayers or comfort me in my deep grief. In fact, I remember one moment when I told Him I wouldn’t be surprised if He chose to take my husband from us (he underwent surgery during this time so this wasn’t a completely crazy, out of the blue thought). The enemy armies were rising up against me, closing in fast, and the more I let myself meditate on these thoughts, the more I sunk into a numb depression. I couldn’t even compile words to form a good blog post. I had nothing left.

If you’ve ever seen God’s Not Dead 2, you’ll nod and smile before you even finish reading this paragraph, remembering the wisdom given to Grace from her grandfather. There’s a part in it when she can’t see anything positive in her situation. She feels despair as she has prayed and asked God for help. The scene I remember vividly is when she confides in her grandfather, expressing her confusion at not hearing from God. He was silent, offering no comfort or guidance, very much like He was doing with me. Grace’s grandfather asked her very simply, (I’m paraphrasing as I can’t remember the exact wording), you’re a teacher, when your students are taking a test, do you help them or give them the answers?

Does It Matter What We Think? God promises us that He always cares for us and will never leave us. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit (or whose spirits are crushed).” But sometimes, I guess we need to go through things at times when He is silent. It doesn’t mean He’s not there. It means we need to regroup mentally and stand up against the enemy armies with the weapons we have before they defeat us. I will tell you, it may seem impossible, when you’re down for the count, bleeding, bruised, broken, and weak. But remember, God’s name is YHWH. “I Am.” He is with us to “get it done.” God doesn’t lie.

Recently I had a very low time. We just happened to be at church one morning when I was really struggling. A dear woman I’ve known for years sat behind me. As I sat there with my head in my hands and prayed that God would somehow let me know that He heard me and was there, she leaned forward and spoke a wonderful word of encouragement to me that God had given her. The part I want to share with you is this. God wanted to say to me, “let’s go together and get this done.” In other words, stand up and put on your armour because I Am with you to the finish.

What armour? Ephesians chapter 6 describes it: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, or the word of God. David was no stranger to battle so he must’ve known this and realized it. As we see in the next verse, Psalm 3:3, he begins to turn his thoughts around. Yes, Lord, I am outnumbered. I cannot handle this on my own, it’s too much. I don’t feel Your presence. “BUT (my emphasis) You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill.” Put on your armour, and together, let’s finish this life strong!

Joy in the Midst of Rejection

“In Your presence is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16:11

Rejection concept.Oh yippee, a new struggle. I was finally getting things under control where my emotions were concerned, and wa-bam! Within seconds I experienced something that left me feeling utterly rejected. I suppose this feeling follows insecurity around like a shadow. Sort of like how Robin follows Batman. I guess it’s not a complete stranger to me, then, since I’ve struggled often with insecurity. This time, however, it decided to ditch Robin and transform itself into the Dark Knight as it spread its wings over me. I apologize for the Batman analogy. Not sure where it came from but I liked it!

The sun had already set as its typical backdrop for my struggles. Sure enough, here I was, once again struggling. As I lay in bed, wallowing in my grief, or my rejection, I started to feel myself sink deeper and deeper into the familiar abyss of self-pity as I concentrated all my attention and energy on this rejection. This time, however, something amazing happened. God whispered to me! It wasn’t an audible sound, like, “Traaa-ccyyyy, where are you?” in a sing-song voice. It wasn’t even a real whisper. No, it was silent, but so loud. I was lying on my back when it happened so all I needed to do was lift my head and I found Him! The Psalm above replaced the thoughts of self-pity and pulled me out of the abyss that night. “In Your presence is fullness of joy. In Your presence, is fullness of JOY!” God was telling me He was there with me. All I needed to do was just welcome His presence and I could have complete joy. I decided to stop dwelling on my current situation and instead focus on being face to face with my Maker and my Redeemer, my Friend, who was right there with me.

The prophet Isaiah said that Jesus, “is despised and rejected by men.” (Isaiah 53:3) It still amazes and reassures me to know that Jesus, in the form of man, felt every feeling and emotion we do. Interestingly, Isaiah said He “is” despised and rejected, not He “was.” He said this years before Jesus was even born. As I reflected on that, years after Jesus died, I applied it to what I was going through and felt comforted in knowing He still feels what I feel today. I know He may feel what I feel as I go through it, but He doesn’t want me to stay there.

It struck me how blessed I felt after the fact to have been given that experience. Each night as I lay in bed now, first I say goodnight to my sweetie pie, then I roll over onto my back and turn all my attention to my Maker, spending a little time with Him before falling into peaceful dreamland.

Does It Matter What We Think? It was all about how I perceived my situation. Imagine if I ignored God’s silent call and let myself sink deeper and deeper into my rejection and self-pity? I would have missed out on sweet, one-on-one quiet time. Recently my pastor preached on King Saul and his son Jonathan. King Saul was ready to give in to the Philistines because of what he saw, but Jonathan stepped out in faith and faced the battle. (See 1 Samuel chapters 13 and 14). During the message, something my pastor said really struck me as he talked about Saul’s disobedience to God’s instruction. The Bible says Saul, “felt compelled” (13:12) to take matters into his own hands when he started to feel afraid. I don’t want to be like that. I want to care more about the kingdom and winning the battle than feeling offended or rejected!

Be Anxious for Nothing…Except During a Panic Attack

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-8

AdobeStock_145889681.jpegSure. It’s easy to say, but how easy is it to put into practice? Don’t worry. Be anxious for NOTHING. But what about my stressful job, God? Be anxious for NOTHING. But what about my kids, God? Be anxious for NOTHING. But what about my health, God? Be anxious for NOTHING. Or my finances, etc.? God’s reply… Do not worry about anything, but instead pray to me with a thankful heart, and you will be surrounded by my peace. Period.

Recently I had a major panic attack. Anyone been there? You know, the chest pains, (which of course make you think you’re having a heart attack), the hot flashes, followed by the chills, headaches, trouble breathing, that awful unsettled restless feeling. You’re not sure whether you need to call 911 or wake your spouse to drive you to the ER, only to be told that there’s nothing wrong with you. Make some “lifestyle changes”. Or, like mine, your spouse would tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you and to just relax and go to sleep. Right.

Now I’m no stranger to periodic panic attacks, but I’ve never experienced anything like this one before. It was during a time where everything seemed to be closing in on me all at once. Honestly, I thought I had been handling things relatively well. I guess not.

It was just before bed when it started. By the time I crawled under the blankets, I was convinced I’d be in the walk-in before the night was over. I had a choice that night. I could either choose to succumb to the thoughts that incessantly banged on the door of my mind…

OR I could have chosen to pray and cry out to God for His help in my time of need. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) In Hebrew, brokenhearted, or “nishbar lev”, means those of us that are broken (one description I read used the word “shattered”) on the inside and need God’s help because we realize we just can’t do it on our own. This verse, then, tells us that God is right next to us when we feel like we are completely helpless and can’t put ourselves back together. Sound familiar? This is exactly what a panic attack feels like. That night I chose to stop being a victim of anxiety. I’m not saying it was easy, but instead of entertaining heart attack thoughts, I began pleading to God for help, clinging to the hope that only He could give me.

I love Psalm 4:8. It’s encouraging that I’m not the only one who has ever experienced anxious nights. David prayed, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” I can pretty much guarantee that he was feeling anything but peaceful and safe when he prayed that prayer. Yet he chose to cry out to God and proclaim what he already knew God could do instead of succumbing to the other thoughts that threatened to overtake him.

I don’t know about you, but it seems that anxiety tends to strike more at night. Why is that? Because Satan loves darkness! It’s his playground. Ephesians 6:12 talks about the, “rulers of the darkness of this age.” 1 John 1:5 declares that, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” Satan wants to take advantage of the night and get into our minds when we are at our weakest. But if we remember God is light, and He is in us, then we are the light too and no darkness can survive in us!

Does It Matter What We Think? I hesitated to publish this blog because I wasn’t sure it really held the emotion and passion I intended. This is so important. Anxiety is very prevalent in our society today but I want to remind you that we have the tools to fight it. I love the band the Newsboys. In one of their songs they sing a line taken from Psalm 30. “There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.” How encouraging is that! As I prayed that night God did show up. He always does. He promises He will. I know this isn’t the last time the enemy will try to trick me into thinking I’m having a heart attack or dying. But I can stand firm on the knowledge of the fact that if I hold fast to God and choose cry out to Him instead of “fulfilling the desires of…the mind,” (Eph 2:3), the joy WILL come in the morning and I don’t have to be anxious for anything!!

Knock, Knock

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

Blog pic knock knockIt was a dark and stormy…morning? What? Yep. I know, cliché. But that’s exactly what it felt like. It was a Friday morning, usually the best day of the week when we get to spend the “Free-form Friday” in our dress-down jeans with seventeen preschoolers who have finally succumbed to the last four days of our structured routine. This particular Friday, however, was anything but roses. It seemed that the earth had shifted terribly on its axis, causing its inhabitants to feel anxiety, worry, and stress. Literally, the weight of the world seemed to be rolling slowly, its sole purpose to crush one particular forty-something teacher right in front of a bunch of four-year-olds.

By noontime, I knew there was a desperate need for a Dunkin run. Collecting orders from my classroom staff (and principal-ok, yes, come on, this woman runs the entire school), I drove the few miles to sanity-a small (which should have definitely been at least a medium) chai latte with almond milk.

Spending the first four minutes decompressing, singing in my head to the radio, I spent the next three minutes praying. It wasn’t so much as a prayer, as a pleading to God. Where was He? Didn’t He see what had happened that morning? Did He care? I have to admit, so many days I begin the morning with a wonderful quiet time, reading and praying, and then before I know it the entire day goes by and while I may have acknowledged God, or even encouraged another friend to stay strong in Him, it’s three o’clock and I’m hustling to pack up so I can be out the door for the second half of my day, and I’ve forgotten all about the real Him. My real Dad (the omnipotent one).

As you can imagine, these particular three minutes in the car were like priceless gems for me. My thoughts and prayers quieted down as I still waited to feel Him, or for some miraculous sign from above that He heard me and still loved me, (knock, knock, God, You there?) I turned into the parking lot and happened to glance at one of the parked cars. There, glaring at me from the back, was a large silver cross that had been fixed to the rear of the car. Immediately I felt a wonderful peace and joy as I lifted my eyes and silently thanked God while exhaling a deep breath at His goodness. He had heard me! He hadn’t forgotten me even though I had forgotten Him in the midst of my dark and stormy morning.

After I ordered my five drinks I was pulling back onto the road and one of my favorite songs came on the radio. It was Casting Crowns’ “Just Be Held.” Another word from my Dad. My favorite verse of that song is when Mark Hall sings, “your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place. I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.” Wow. Why is it that we (I) get so bent out of shape as soon as a little bit of stress is applied to our even-keel life, when God’s promised that He is always with us. All we need to do is search for Him during the storms of our day and stop holding on.

Does It Matter What We Think? I know you can’t tell me I’m the only one who’s ever asked God if He’s still there, if He hears me or if He’s listening. But if we meditate on those thoughts for too long, they can be destructive. God promises us He will never leave us nor forsake us. Instead of treading through the storm, wondering how on earth you will get through it, focus your mind on Him and let go. He is on the throne!

Photo by LP