Last week I was in Walmart. I was rolling my cart around the store like a woman with purpose, because the only way to “do” a store like Walmart is to roll in and roll out without looking back. I rolled around to the dairy section and a nicely dressed, middle-aged man quickly rolled in from the other direction. I clearly had the right of way. He stopped. He didn’t look up. He didn’t say excuse me. He just planted himself and stopped. At first, I thought he must have needed something in the shelves ahead of me. I waited a few seconds and then went around.
After I moved passed him, he kept moving and never stopped for milk. I quickly realized that he had intentionally or unintentionally moved in front of me and waited for me to go around him. At first, I was shocked that I had played right into it without him ever having to say a word.
The longer I rolled my cart around the store, the angrier I became. I was frustrated with myself for moving out of his way without addressing him. I was furious that he didn’t even have the manners to say something to me. I felt bullied and it just infuriated me!
In the OLD DAYS OF SUSAN, I absolutely would have found him in the store and done the same thing to him, making my point that you can’t bully me. I have dealt with bullies all my life and I am not always graceful in these moments of confrontation. God protected him that day.
By the time I left the store, I had already rehashed many of the details from past experiences with people who made me feel “less than.” I have to admit; this rehashing session wasn’t doing anything for my attitude or my disposition.
I was sitting in my car and realized how I had allowed my mind to take me down a trail I had no business going down. I had allowed this one incident to bring up feelings that had no purpose in my heart other than to cause resentment and bitterness. Time and time again, the enemy of my soul works overtime to cause me to resent people I am called to love. Yes, this man was ignorant to all the feelings his actions caused me, but it was my choice to rehash my baggage from my past.
We all have areas of brokenness in our past. The emphasis in that statement is the word past. The enemy loves nothing more than to use these areas as playing fields to keep us bound to bitterness and unforgiveness. Abuse, heartache, divorce, betrayal, division, death, and disappointments have a way of creating an open door for the enemy to speak lies to us and cause us great pain.
The Lord has healed me from my past. That doesn’t mean that certain situations don’t cause me to experience familiar feelings. It means that when those feelings rise up in me, I have to remind myself that I have been set free from the torment of my past. I am free.
So, after I pulled myself together in the parking lot of Walmart, I was able to pray for the man that 15 minutes earlier I was ready to ram my cart into. I prayed for the Lord to open his eyes if he was unknowingly being unkind. I also prayed for the Lord to heal his bitterness if he was knowingly being unkind. Then I left all that baggage in the parking lot and went home to my family full of men that I love completely.
Saturday night, we took our tribe over to Cold Stone. The eating area was packed, but there were two empty tables without any chairs. Jennifer got her ice cream first and was standing by the table. The man at the table next to her got out of his chair and gave it to her. He didn't have to, but I was very thankful that he did.
Today, I was back for another Walmart run. This is what mom's of four do for fun. We go to Walmart to replace the food the minions managed to eat in three days! I was far removed from the incident last week and hadn’t even thought about the man blocking my path. I was trying to get a case of water and the bag broke. A gentleman from the other end of the aisle came over and asked me if I needed help. I was thankful that he had eyes to see that I could do it…but it would be a kind gesture for him to do it for me. He didn't have to, but I was very thankful that he did.
We live in a culture today where women are taught that we need to fend for ourselves and to be preferred and cared for is the same as someone saying we are week. This is not the case. I am not a weak woman. I have had to be strong in many situations, but I don’t always want to be. I am secure enough in who I am that I am not insulted by someone opening my door or saying thank you or asking me if I need assistance. Because I am strong, I am able to take assistance when offered and not feel diminished in my worth. The men in my life don't have to, but I am very thankful that they do.
Living Completely Undone
My friend's little boy was very sick. He was hospitalized for days because his appendix had ruptured and an infection had set in. During his hospitalization, it was required for him to have a picc line. She called me devastated because she had just watched her bundle of love go through something horrific. As she spoke with me, I felt my head spinning and my stomach getting queasy. She needed to talk and I needed to rise to the occasion, so I grabbed a pillow and lay on the floor. I breathed deeply as she cried and we prayed for healing and strength, not only for her son, but for her and her husband.
Years later, I am not even sure how it came out that I had to lay on the floor. She asked me why I didn't tell her that our conversation was making me nauseous. I told her I knew she needed me to be strong. I knew God would strengthen me to pray with her even though it was difficult. My difficulty was nothing compared to what her son was going through.
I know some reading may think that is ridiculous. Unfortunately, I have no control over my physical response to difficult medical situations. I can't control my light head, my tears, or my need to lay down. It is what it is, but I won't allow it to prevent me from being present for the people I love. Now, that doesn't mean I won't unfollow you on Facebook if you keep posting pics of a gaping wound. It means when I need to be there for someone, I will find a way...like other people find a way to be present for me.
So often, I have had to push past my own physical response to pain and sickness. As I have gotten older, things have happened...babies have gotten sick, children have died, my loved ones have gone through chemo, and my friends have needed me. They have needed my physical presence and my emotional support. They have needed me to to rise to the occasion so I can point them to Jesus, the strong tower.
I find myself in a season of people I dearly love going through difficult things. Very difficult things. It can be easy to shy away when our friends need us most because it is uncomfortable to watch our loved ones suffer. But we can't shy away. We have to be willing to push through how it makes us feel, both physically and emotionally.
"Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment." Matthew 9:20-21
When Jesus healed the woman, she knew she had to get close enough to touch the hem of his garment. Her faith in Jesus healed her. When our friends walk through difficult times, often they need our faith and hope to rally around them. They need the encouraging words of truth found in the word of God. Sometimes they need the Jesus in you.
My prayer for is that I would be a strength to the ones I love going through difficult things. I pray I would always be willing to push through the hard conversations, the hospital visits, and the chemo appointments. I need Jesus to give me eyes to see when the people I love need encouragement. Jesus, please heal my loved ones. Give them strength. May they forever reside in the strength only you can bring to a situation.
Living Completely Undone
I have a standing coffee date on Mondays at 10 AM. Really, the coffee isn't the focus. Often we drink water, but our appointment stands and it is one of my favorite 2 hours each week. The 2 hour mark is also a negotiable. We set the alarm for 12 PM and then snooze it for another 20 minutes.
Tracie and I lived in the same apartment complex in Maryland. I moved to Virginia first and then 6 months later she came to visit me and fell in love with our town. Her family decided to move here and we were so excited to be close again. Unfortunately, we both got busy in different worlds. She got involved in MOPS and I got involved in a local church. We made different friends, went to different churches, and our kids went to different schools.
After a few years, we realized we never saw each other. It was pathetic. We would see each other at the pool and my friends would introduce us. Here is my friend that I have known longer than anyone in town and no one knew we loved each other! So...we decided to make a date.
For the past several years, we have been intention about connecting and investing in each other's lives. We have challenged one another in our parenting styles, or political views, and our hopes and dreams for our families. We have laughed and cried and sometimes both in the same date. It has been life-giving and truly a gift.
The past few weeks, my life has been a bit hectic. One of the Mondays the kids had off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Another Monday, the kids had a 2 hour delay so we met on Friday instead. We still try to squeeze it in when we can. I have felt a desire for some down time, but haven't had a window to fit it in.
Sunday evening I looked around my kitchen and it was a mess. We had small group sign-ups that morning, I was still getting tickets ready for the middle school, and I needed to wash everyone at least 2 articles of clothing for the next school day. I was beat and I considered canceling (for a minute). Philip said, "Why don't you just do it next week?" I was quick to inform him that if we didn't do it on Monday it would be hard to get it in. My week is so much better when we see each other.
Philip asked if Tracie had any friends. I cracked up. Tracie has tons of friends. She is one of those Southern girls that is nice to everyone. "She must really like you then if she wants to see you." How do I agree without sounding cocky? Honestly, I think our feelings for each other are mutual. We are both busy. Our lives are full. We both have a lot of friends, but we truly love our Monday coffee dates.
Before I went to bed, I conquered the laundry, picked up the kitchen, and cleaned up "enough" to be friendship ready. That morning I had a few things to get done before our 10 AM appointment. I moved quickly. For the first time since before Christmas, we sat and ignored the alarm completely. I think she left sometime before 1 PM. We are all caught up until next Monday.
Getting together with friends doesn't just miraculously happen. We get busy doing life, taking care of our families, working, and church involvement. Weeks turn into months...and then years. I have found seasons where I have been surrounded by people, but felt lonely. Then there were seasons where I hung out mainly at home, but the connections I had during the week were intentional and meaningful.
After Tracie and I said our goodbyes, I started to think about taking more time for intentional connections. I have friends I am very close with that I certainly don't see enough. They are my pool friends or my PTO friends or my church friends, but I am not being intentional about spending time connecting with these women. I believe I need to take more time to know and be known by my friends. My Mondays are full, but there are 6 other days.
Lord, help me to be relational-ly intentional this year. I am thankful for the friends you have given me. Help me to grow in my ability to be a faithful friend, a great listener, and an advice giver only when asked!
Living Completely Undone
Last weekend, Philip's parents came to visit bearing gifts for all. It is always great to have another Christmas in January. In one of the bags from Aunt Karen the Great (Philip's Aunt) was a small spray perfume bottle. Jennifer immediately wanted to use it, but we asked her to wait and use it another day. In typical "mom of many children" fashion...I forgot all about it.
Saturday evening I was sitting at the computer working on a project for church. I suddenly got a strong whiff of something flowery and then it went away. I am not sure why it didn't click that one of my children was up to something unusual. A few minutes later, the whiff turned into a windstorm of lavender and I questioned the boys immediately. Obviously, the one I needed to talk to was tucked away in an secret location.
As I continued my project, the scent became overwhelming and I started to search for the only child not in the room. I called for my daughter...silence. I looked under chairs and behind doors. I finally found her in the laundry room. On the floor next to her position was a certain gift bag that I had quickly tucked away when we had company a few days earlier.
She stood up when she saw me. As she rose, I could smell the cloud of perfume rise with her. I asked her if she sprayed something in the room. She replied, "No." I rephrased the question, "I smell something very strong and it smells like perfume. Did you spray perfume?" She continued to insist she did not spray the perfume.
Quickly, I got my husband on the case. We found the almost empty bottle in her bag. Obviously, we knew she had sprayed the perfume, our problem was that she was not telling the truth.
Finally, after several long and drawn out moments of intense conversation, our angel confessed to using the perfume. At the end of the incident, we talked to her about taking responsibility for her mistakes, speaking the truth, and apologizing. We pointed out that no one likes to be wrong and no one likes to get caught doing something they shouldn't be doing, but it is how we respond to that situation that can either hurt us or heal us.
There is something refreshing and healing about confessing our sins and our shortcomings to one another. James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." The Bible never says to confess so we may be punished or put to shame. It says so that we may be healed.
I knew Jennifer sprayed perfume. I also knew she lied. It was more important to me that she confess the lie than it was for her to apologize for the perfume without asking. Not to mention stealing all usable air from my home. In order for her to grow and become the woman I know she is destined to be, she has to learn to own her mistakes and ask for forgiveness.
When I go to the Lord and confess my wrong doings, he doesn't need me to confess so he can know my mistake. He already knows. He can already smell the stench that creeps into my heart every time I willing chose to sin, hide truth, and keep secrets that can hurt the people around me. So often, I am like my daughter when I come before Jesus. I hide the secret places out of shame or pride. What God desires by my confession is my healing.
In these moments with our children, we are teaching them that the most powerful relationship words are "I am sorry." and "I forgive you." Every time we ask for forgiveness and every time we forgive, we are demonstrating the value of humility and grace that empowers us to grow. Our friends will let us down. We will be disappointed. We will let others down. We will fall short. The true test of a solid friendship is when we use these moments of disappointment to go to the next level of trust: you can hurt me and I love you enough to work through my disappointment to forgive you.
In our relationship with Jesus, how quickly are we willing to humble ourselves, confess when we fall short, and allow him to shine the light on the secret places of our lives? I want to live a full life, a life where the enemy doesn't have any room to whisper lies, steal my joy, and hinder my growth. The power is not in the secret or the lie, the power is found in the confession.
This year, I pray that I will pursue my relationship with Jesus with a sincere honesty and openness that will not only change me, but those around me. I pray I would have eyes to see my shortcomings, my sin, and be brave enough to own them, repent, and accept forgiveness in those areas. I pray that I would grow in my maturity and would be willing to be vulnerable and honest with the ones I do life with.
I also pray for a boldness for the truth. In times where I shy away, may he help me speak words of hope, grace, and forgiveness.
Living Completely Undone
I remember the first time I went to a women's Bible study. I walked into a large cold room and sat at a plain round table. The leader wasn't prepared, the material hadn't arrived, and there wasn't any coffee. When I got home, I told Philip how nice everyone was, but there was something missing. I was really disappointed by the overall feeling of mediocrity. My time didn't seem valuable, I was cold, and I didn't have any plans of going back.
God spoke to my heart that following week and I knew I needed to go back. The next week I invited everyone back to my house where it was warm and there was coffee. I spent the next 5 years trying to show that hospitality done well, opens doors for ministry. When people feel welcomed and preferred, they are more likely to have an open heart towards ministry.
Christ has a standard of excellence. When he ministers to others...he doesn't stop half-way. When he turned the water into wine...it was the best wine at the wedding. When he rose Lazarus from the dead...he waited until he was good and dead and then raised him to life. He didn't raise him back to sickness. When he healed the woman with the issue of blood, he didn't just lessen her bleeding, he stopped it completely.
So often in the church, we don't do things well. It is easy to slip into an attitude of mediocre and expect people to be okay with it, but God has called us to something more. Something better.
Several years ago I was planning a retreat. During set up, I noticed one side of the platform differed from the other side and could easily be fixed with moving a few wires and tables. When I asked if we could move things around, one of the women rolled her eyes and told me I was being too particular. Did it really matter? Obviously it didn't to her, but it did to me. It wasn't about the platform or the wires or the tables. It was about setting the atmosphere and the expectation right from the moment the women walked into the room.
If I am going to do something, whether it is at school, church, or having people in my home, I believe it is important to do things well. I want to have a standard of excellence in everything I do, not so I can gain people's approval, but so they will be comfortable enough to open up their lives and their hearts.
My prayer for this year is that my standard would be God's standard and that he would give me eyes to see how I can improve in the area of hospitality and in making others feel loved and preferred. I pray that God would use my talents, my home, and my resources to influence and inspire the people around me. I pray that I would love people so well that they would be loved right into the Kingdom.
Living Completely Undone
Note to self: When writing, hit save before walking away. Some may call this a frustration, I call this an opportunity to perfect my stories by writing them again.
Day eleven (which was yesterday since my post didn't post). I have been concentrating these first few weeks on what things are most important to me. I have a full life, especially for a woman who doesn't work for money...well, except my husband's money. Occasionally, I feel a need to re-evaluate what I am involved in, deciding between what needs to stay in my life and what needs to be removed.
Last August, Philip and I went on vacation with our family. On the way home, we started to evaluate what we were doing with our family, the school, and our church. We want to be sure in every season, we have our priorities right and are not over-committed. I could only think of one thing that was causing me stress and when I got home, I let it go. Since doing that, I have felt balanced. It is hard to believe that something so small could throw off how I felt about everything I was doing. Today, I can honestly say everything I am involved in with the school, church, ministry, and family...I know is what God has called me to do. My life is full and full of peace.
I still felt a need to push further in this area, because I wasn't finding the time to do what I love most. I have a confession to make and a struggle to reveal. My confession: I desire with my whole heart to write. More than speaking. More than leading a small group. More than cleaning my house, doing laundry, and cooking dinner. I know...shocked! Who doesn't love keeping up with their home?? I want to write. My struggle: I don't do it.
Am I the only one out there who really, really wants to do something and has the time and the resources to do it...but doesn't? Someone said to me once, "I know you are too busy." Initially, I agreed, but to agree would be using an excuse that isn't true. I am not too busy to write, I am too distracted. The phone beeps. The dishes need done. I play my guitar. I talk to my mom. The phone rings. The washer stops. On and on and on... I go from thing to thing to thing and I don't write. AT. ALL. It is depressing. I get ready for bed and the negative self talk starts about how I wasted my day and my time.
So on my 11th day...I prayed and am continuing to pray that God would help me make room for the things that are important to my heart and that my priorities would be God's priorities for my day. I also prayed that I would be better at keeping the first things first. I want this year to be a year of challenge and growth.
Living Completely Undon
Loving well is one of my daily goals. I fall short. I don't love like I should. I get frustrated. I get angry. Sounds, people, laundry all drive me nuts and yet...all are so important to who I am and who I am called to be. I threw the laundry in because that is what I do every day of my life...I throw in the laundry.
To love like Christ loves me, like he loves the church, like he loves the lost, like he loves the broken...it is an unobtainable goal, but yet one every believer should purpose to reach.
The day our oldest son was born, my life and my perspective of love completely changed. All the pain of delivering this little guy was almost more than I could bear. After hours of labor, he finally arrived, wrinkled and crying. Good grief! What an introduction...and I LOVED him. He had just caused me all kinds of pain and torment for hours...and I LOVED him and have LOVED him every day since.
The first year with Jennifer was very difficult for me. I didn't have any answers on how to fix the broken places of her little heart. I suddenly felt lost in my role as a mom. I was angry at her suffering, I was frustrated with her pain...and even on the most difficult days, I LOVED her.
I believe being a parent gives a window into the meaning of unconditional love. This was God's gift to me, the first hand understanding of what it meant to love without the fear of not being loved back and to love without the expectation of benefits. For the first time in my life, I was willing to love without the promise of return.
What God has shown me since my early days of motherhood is that I don't love everyone like this. On some days, I don't love my kids like this. Through betrayal and heartbreak, relationships and people have disappointed me. These disappointments have caused me to hide my heart and to place expectations of loyalty before being willing to love and be loved.
This isn't God's best for me. This isn't his plan for me. He not only commissioned me to love from the center of who I am, but he created me to give love and to receive it. My life will only have full meaning if I am willing to let people in and truly embrace those around me.
Love is a risk and sometimes hurts. As I have grown in my identity and confidence...I have discovered that it is well worth the risk.
Today in my 10th day of Prayer, I find myself challenged to love with this kind of fearless love, to love from the center of who I am, without the expectations of a return. Even in times of difficult circumstances, I know the Lord will give me the strength to love well.
Living Completely Undone
There have been times in my Christian walk where I have had the faith to believe for the impossible. I knew in my heart and in my soul that God had spoken something specific and concrete and I had the faith to see it through.
Lately it seems that the fire of my faith has dimmed some and my belief has turned from "this is my calling" to "what if is isn't." I have often asked Philip, "What if this is it? What if we were just meant to raise our family, be involved in the local church, be trustworthy, be encouraging, and faithful? In the end, would I feel that it has been enough?"
To have this dialogue pains my heart because I believe God has shown me more. But what if? I don't want to waste my life and my dreams on something that will just distract me from my present.
Dreams are scary because there is an element of discontentment in the present, not because what I am doing today is meaningless, but because God has shown me more.
Yesterday, Dominic Russo from Missions.me spoke at church. He said, "Just like the destiny of an acorn is a tree and that everything that seed needs to become a tree is there, I believe the moment that God plants the seed in your spirit and God plants a dream in your heart, the capacity to make that dream, that vision, that destiny a reality exists by virtue of the fact that God put it there."
Sometimes I forget that God gave me dreams and I doubt. Sometimes I look at the impossibility and lose heart. Sometimes I try to formulate a different plan, a different vision, and different dream. Sometimes I tell myself that if my life stays exactly the same...I will be content.
I have yet to be convinced.
This year, I desire to passionately pray for the dreams that God placed within me heart. I desire to live life well today...while believing in the dreams for tomorrow.
Living Completely Undone
Today is Day 5. Every day at noon our church is having a different leader create a Facebook Live based on our church’s prayer emphasis for that day. Today was a prayer emphasis for the lost. I was asked to do the Facebook Live and pray for those who do not know Christ to come to New Hope and have an encounter with him.
It was a great opportunity for me to remember how much God radically saved my soul 30 years ago and how much I continue to need him in my life. It can be so easy to just live, wake up in the morning, get the kids ready for school, do my list of necessary things, welcome my children home, struggle through homework, make dinner, clean up from dinner, get everyone up to bed, spend a wee bit of time with my favorite guy, and go to bed. Day after day, this is my schedule. In all of this, it is easy to lose sight of my passions, my dreams, and my need for a Savior. Today, I took time to remember and reflect on God’s goodness, his transforming power, and how he snatched me from the enemy’s grip and made me whole.
It is always good to remember my own story of how God got my attention and claimed my heart. He is not religion or a myth. He is the Savior of my soul and leads me with my family, in my ministry, and with the people in my life.
I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I am thankful I won’t ever have to find out. He promised to keep me and continue to laugh at all my jokes. ♥️
Living Completely Undone
I have spent today thinking of "blind spots" and how the enemy tries to deceive me from my own sin and shortcomings. There are things I can't see and unless Jesus reveals them to me, these are things I can't change. I often tell Philip he has to love me enough to tell me when I am doing something I shouldn't. He hates when I ask him this, but it is so necessary for the person closest to me to gently (emphasis on the gently) point out when I miss the mark. This post could easily transition to relationships, but I will do that one another day. I need to have Godly people around me who love me enough to tell me stuff that hurts, the kind of truth that no one wants to hear, but we all need to know.
My husband prayed this prayer a few years back, "Lord, if there is anything in my life stopping me from living the way you want me to live, please reveal it." Unfortunately for us, shortly after that prayer, all war broke out. Later, Philip confessed that he asked God to take anything away that was taking his focus off him. I have since told him the next time he gives Jesus permission to reveal something in his life, he needs to tell me so I am prepared for the shake down.
As a couple, we don't want anything to stop us from being who God desires. The biggest obstacles in living a Godly life are the areas I can't identify myself...my blind spots. Jeremiah 17 says that my heart is deceitful. If I can't always see my heart clearly, I need Jesus to point out what needs to change. He often uses other people to accomplish this. I don't always enjoy this process, but I am committed to it.
We are in a process that will be perfected when we come face to face with Jesus. (Philippians 1:6) I have to remain humble. I have to remain yielded to the Holy Spirit and his prompting for growth. Do I hate being told I am wrong? YES, I hate it and sometimes fight it with every ounce of my soul. After I struggle with my pride, I am able to go to the Lord and ask Him to change me. There are just things I can't change without him. I am by nature a feisty Northern girl who needs a little extra Southern Bell charm.
This is my prayer. Wherever I fall short, however I am not representing the light of Jesus well, may my loving and gracious Savior reveal it to me so I can change. Please remove the blind spots and make me whole. May I forever trust Jesus enough to embrace the process of becoming more like Him. May God teach me how to love people well and to see people and situations through his eyes of compassion and love.
Living Completely Undone
I am a girl passionately in love with Jesus, my husband, and my children. I am forever learning how to live a life completely undone for my God. This blog is about my journey and a few funny stories in between.