Cloud of Complaints vs. Shining like Stars

“Mom, what’s for supper?” he asked as he sat down at the table. When he took a look at the plate in front of him he responded, “Ewww. I’m not eating that.”

“Well, this is what I made. You can choose to not eat it, but you need to stay at the table”, as I try to respond calmly but the truth is, the whining makes me intensely frustrated and angry on the inside.

This is a frequent short conversation at our house. Ethan, having sensory issues that results in him to be an extremely picky eater, will then sit at the table with an unpleasant look on his face. He often then follows up by pushing the plate away from him and saying, “It smells bad.” Let me just say, it doesn’t make the mealtime all that delightful.

In all honesty, my boys are typically joyful and complain very little, but when it comes to meal times, it seems to happen a lot. I understand the whole sensory thing and we tried sensory therapy for over a year to get past that but it was without much success. Still my efforts remain with the same goal in mind: not to force them to eat what is on the plate, but then to also not complain about what they are being served.

Are you a complainer? If we are honest, we can all find ourselves complaining over the little annoyances of life or what we are dissatisfied with. I am not talking about simply stating an undesirable fact about life, we all have those, but complaining is all about the heart and attitude behind stating those facts.

In the last week alone, I heard complaining about the weather, traffic, a spouse, busy schedules, how much something cost, a job, co-workers, the food that was prepared, and someone’s own child. The list can go on and on though, can’t it?

I’m not about to point fingers. I’ll admit that the cold weather, feeling tired and the alarm going off in the mornings are grumblings that have come out of my mouth in this past week as well.

I just want to take a moment to help us stand back and have an honest evaluation of what our complaining can do and ourselves. A little “food for thought” if you will.

Maybe you find yourself in a season of life with your plate being full of things that stink. You don’t seem to find much that makes you happy and you just want to push it all away. You try complaining about it to whoever may listen, and there might be some loving and patient people out there who will stand there and tolerate what you have to say.

And then there are those people who seem to compete about complaining regarding who has it worse. You know what I am talking about. As if that is going to accomplish anything! But to these people, it does seem to make them feel better if they can try to prove how their lives are worse off. However, if you stand back and observe, all you see is an unpleasant look across their face.

I was recently reading in Numbers about the Israelites getting ready to finally enter the Promised Land. It was the land that God describes as “flowing with milk and honey.” Shortly before they were ready to enter in, they sent spies to explore and see what was in store for them. They indeed found that it was green and lush, full of trees covered in figs, dates, and nuts. It had big beautiful fruits, grapes and pomegranates, that they took back to show the people.

However, amid the beauty, they also found it had large fortified cities and the people living there were just as big. Scary.

Instantly, the people start complaining. Everyone joined in. They started to question God and completely lost their perspective of everything that He has supplied, the miracles performed, and what He brought them through for the past 40 years.

This made God very angry. As a result of their complaining, being a just God, He withheld from them the very thing that they wanted…a life with a plate full of good things for them to enjoy.

It has really got me thinking. What do you think the Lord is withholding from you each time you complain?

IMG_0079

Seriously, let’s stop and think about that for a moment. What is your complaining costing you? Joy? Peace? Contentment? Your reputation? Friendships? The very thing you desire?

Each time we grumble, we are speaking against the Lord, and I think it often stems from ungratefulness, lack of trust, jealousy and pride. Each time we complain, we are typically thinking only of ourselves, right? We are not thinking about how God has been faithful and all that He has already supplied and given us. It can damage not only our relationship with God, but with others as well.

Maybe your plate in life really isn’t great right now and it is full of distasteful things. You very well might be facing some big and scary events. It is OK to have emotions of sadness, discouragement, frustrations, and disappointment. However, it is what we do with those feelings that matter.

What if we took them straight to God instead of those around us?

Philippians 3:14-16: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life – in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.”

Do not let your complaints cloud the light that could be shining through you! Rather than grumbling and whining, let’s respond with a heart focused on gratitude and truth. Instead of withholding His gifts, I believe having an attitude of gratitude will result with God rewarding us and blessing us in ways that are wonderful!

Speak the language of the Lord – praise and thanksgiving. Let us not forget about all that He has already provided for us, the gifts of the past and also the ones currently in the present. Not only will having a genuinely grateful heart affect you and your situation, but it will affect everyone around you as well.

Your light will be noticed. Guaranteed.

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Dear God, Help

In many ways it made perfect sense that he was screaming, “I hate you! I hate this!” at the top of his lungs. After all, it was I that was holding him down while he was being inflicted with pain. This was not the first time but one of recent many. The “I hate yous’” were becoming more frequent and also more painful to hear.

There was one particular time however that is forever etched into my memory. Noah was 5 years old and I was sitting on the edge of his Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) bed, holding him tight in my arms so he couldn’t move, while the nursing staff changed his PICC line dressing. This was something that had to be done on a regular basis. Due to Noah’s genetic syndrome, he has more hair than a typical child. Tape and tegaderm are one of the things he absolutely hates the most because it really hurts coming off. He was crying, screaming, and looking me straight in the eyes. I knew he didn’t understand why I had to be a part of this painful process, preventing him from fighting back and allowing them to do what they were doing. He didn’t understand that he had to go through this so he could be healed. The nurses were silent as he cried and quickly did what they had to do. In my calmest voice possible, I just said over and over, “I’m so sorry; I love you so much.” What nobody saw or heard that day was at the same time my son was screaming, my heart and mind were screaming just as loud, and I physically felt sick from it.

“God, I hate this!” “Why are you allowing this to happen?” “Make this sickness stop!”

After the procedure was over I was able to loosen my grip and sit him up. I hugged him and rocked him back and forth as I comforted my child. Kissing him gently on the cheek, I repeated softly in his ear, “I am so sorry. I love you so much! You are such a tough little guy.”

In his whimper, he then said to me, “I love you too mommy.” I knew he never truly hated me. It was just his plea to be allowed to fight back when the pain started, an attempt to defend himself.

A few moments later, a man from our church, whom I respect greatly, walked in and sat down. I wasn’t aware, but he had come to visit right when the procedure started and choose to wait patiently in the hallway outside the room. While waiting, he wasn’t able to see what was happening because the curtain was drawn shut, but he heard the whole thing. After sitting down he said to me, “How do you do it? How are you able to be a part of this over and over?” With downcast eyes and a shattered spirit, I responded quietly, “You do what you have to do.”

The truth is, I was a complete mess inside and was barely hanging on. Noah had been in the hospital for a few months by this time after a life threatening illness. I was probably at one of my lowest points emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I knew that others were experiencing more difficult things in life, even within my own extended family. Because of this, I was finding it very difficult to communicate my feelings or this depth of isolation with anyone, and it became a private struggle between God and me.

Dear God, Help!

One night as I lay down on the pullout bed in the PICU, I knew that I had to hang onto my faith. I knew that I needed to pray, even though I was finding it very difficult to even do that anymore. Sometimes, I would allow several days to go by without taking the time to speak to God. Partly from pure exhaustion on so many levels, but also from a frustration that had made its home deep within. Speaking to God in the midst of some of the roughest days was something that I choose to leave to others to do for us. That particular night however, as I lay quietly, the stillness in the room was filled with the alarms of the machines going off. The only words I could muster were, “Dear God, Help.” Those 3 words became a frequent prayer of mine after that, but I understood that was all that was needed to be spoken.

Romans 8:26-28 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself interceded for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  

In the days that followed, there were many more procedures and crying, and my heartstrings would be tugged and pulled on very hard. However, a new grace-filled realization started to cover me that would eventually bring me peace.

At one moment later on, I found myself holding my son during another procedure and hearing him scream to me “I hate this!” Calmly, I started to gently tell him “I’m so sorry. I love you so much! You’re being so brave.”

I was trying to explain to him that he had to go through this so he could get better; all the while I was quietly questioning God at the same time. Suddenly as clear as if I was hearing the words out loud myself, I too felt the Spirit gently say to me, “My child, I love you so much! I know you don’t understand, but you need to go through this. Trust me, it is part of my great plan for you and if you allow me to do my will, I will turn this pain into good and for my glory!”

I needed to hear and feel those words at that moment. But even more than that, I needed to believe it.

Are you in a time of life where you need to hear God tell you that He loves you, despite the pain you are in? I can tell you, He does! GOD IS LOVE. Maybe you already know this but do you actually believe it? Do you find yourself fighting back? Do you need a little comforting in life? Let me remind you of this promise:

“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you…” Isaiah 66:13

You know, life doesn’t make perfect sense. At least it doesn’t to us. But you are His child and you are being held tight in His hands. Hands that love and can heal for His glory.

A Letter of Recommendation

002_Fotor_Fotor

Last summer, our church was privileged to experience the Watoto Children’s Choir from Uganda, Africa. It was an amazing, beautiful performance full of excitement, energy, and the proclaiming of how life is beautiful, despite the hard circumstances these orphaned children have had to endure.

Randy, the boys, and I signed up to be a host family for one of the adults and two children that evening. After we took a moment over a bedtime snack getting to know one another, it was time to get Noah tucked into bed. Our nurse for the night had just arrived and it was getting late.

Up until this time, Will, Tonny, and Brian, our guests from Africa, had not seen a child with a trach or other tubes coming from his body. They studied Noah’s bedroom full of the equipment and machines that we hook him up to each night and watched us tuck him in.

Noah's equipment collage

Right before it was time to turn off the light, Will (the adult) asked if he could say a prayer over Noah. Accepting his offer, our newfound friends from Africa whom we had known for a total of 1 hour, stood with us, hands joined, and circled Noah’s bed. It was a beautiful moment that I will not forget.

The thing is, our night nurse stood quietly tucked as far back into the corner of the room as he could, stood their wide-eyed and watched the whole thing. Never saying a word. I did not know if he was a Christian or had any belief in God, but I said a silent prayer and asked God to touch his heart that night.

 ~

Over the past several weeks, my son Noah has been waking up in the middle of the night with having bad dreams. Honestly, it all started with something he saw on a commercial. While watching a decent TV show, a not-so-decent commercial came on featuring a horror show and 30 seconds later, it was embedded in his mind and the scary dreams began. Not only that, but he is now terrified of being alone and also of the dark. He currently will not be on a different level of the house alone, even in daylight.

I have had talks with my boys about where fear comes from, and what we need to do if we are overcome with fear. Namely, speaking out loud proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ. They understand that this type of fear does not come from God, and they know there is power in the name of Jesus!

A couple nights ago, he was afraid to fall asleep. So, I took a moment and prayed with him, specifically for the Lord to drive out any fear that he was having and that he wouldn’t have any nightmares that night. To his delight, when he woke in the morning, he happily proclaimed that he didn’t have any bad dreams.

Thank-you Jesus.

Last night, the same nurse that stood quietly in the corner of the room last summer, was scheduled to watch over Noah. Another nurse, who was orientating to start working in our home, also came. I informed them of Noah’s recent nightmares and told them that Noah might ask to have them sit with him until he falls back to sleep if he does wake up.

This morning, when I came downstairs, I asked how the night went. The male nurse shared that Noah did indeed wake up scared in the middle of the night from a bad dream. I then asked, “Did he ask you to sit with him?” To which he replied, “I did, but I also prayed with him, and he feel right back to sleep.”

Friends, after a year of having this nurse in our home from time to time, I still have no idea if he has any kind of faith. He is an amazing nurse who is as friendly as can be and does a great job with Noah. Both Noah and we love having him in our house. But as far as real “fruits” being produced, I just can’t tell. It leaves me unsure.

So, when he shared that he sat and prayed with Noah, it just made my heart leap. I asked Noah later this morning if he was the one who asked the nurse to pray, to which he replied as innocently as possible, “Yes, I asked him to pray with me”. I don’t know if this was the action this nurse would of naturally taken or if this was the first time this young man has ever lifted up a prayer to the Lord. But since Noah asked, he responded and I just can’t help but smile about it.

This time however, the female nurse, being on orientation, was present in the room, standing quietly and watching what was happening.

 ~

2 Corinthians 3:2-3, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

Back in the day when Paul was writing this letter to the Corinthian church, there were some religious teachers that would carry written letters, their resumes on stone, to prove they were authentic and were capable of giving a good sermon. Paul, not carrying any letter like this, didn’t need too…he chose to use his life and was encouraging the church at Corinth that they were doing the same.

You see, the most powerful sermon that we can ever give is not with our written words. Ink is used to write on things that are perishable – things that will eventually fade and wither away. These typed words, my words, will never have the impact that real flesh and blood interaction will.

The most powerful sermon that we can give is with our lives – authentic Christian lives that reflect our creator. When the Spirit of the Living God takes his finger and engraves on human hearts – that will never fade away.

You can be a living letter of recommendation.

When we live in such a way and expose what the Spirit of the Living God writes on our hearts, our lives become a letter that is in a language that ALL will be able to read.

It doesn’t matter if you are from Africa spending some time in the USA, if you have nurses come into your home every night, if you go to work each day, if you are a stay at home mom, or if you are a child…

God can use you to recommend Him to all those you come in contact with.

Be a walking testimony! In honor of this Valentines Day, dare to expose your heart by the way you live and share the love letter that is written on it.

You just never know who will be standing off to the side, quietly watching, taking it all in ~ waiting for God to take His hand, touch their heart, and make a lasting imprint that will never fade away.

PS…Will, my friend, never stop being a true living letter of recommendation!

It Is Not Your Fault

I can honestly say that I had never intended for this to come out so soon in starting my blog.  But this post came pouring out of me today, and I just have to trust that there is a girl out there tonight who needs to read this.  Please read the following with a gentle spirit. 

This post is for that young girl, (the one in the past and the one in the present), who needs to know and be reminded of this:

“It is not your fault.”

It is not your fault that you showed up to their house that night. After all, it was your babysitting job. You were in your second year of college and this was a great way to earn some extra money.

It is not your fault that you grew to love those two kids and learned to trust the husband. After all, he was a regular church attender, was on the church council, had a respectable job, and was only a year younger than your own father. After a year of babysitting, they started to feel like a second family.

It is not your fault that the wife was constantly gone on business trips and after all the time you spent at their house, you barely got to know her.

It is not your fault that when you tucked those sweet kids into bed that night, a boy and a girl, both in their elementary years, gave them each a kiss and told them that you were so excited to see them again the next night – that this was actually the last time you would ever see them again.

It is not your fault because you didn’t know what was going to happen just a short while later as soon as they fell asleep.

It is not your fault that as you sat down at the island in the kitchen to do your homework, when the back door opened, it was the husband who came home much earlier than expected and gave you a look that you will never forget.

It is not your fault that at that exact moment, a knot formed in your stomach – that sick feeling that is hard to describe, and you knew something bad was about to happen and you were unable to run out of there. After all, his grip was much stronger than you were.

It is not your fault that he told you that you were pretty.

It is not your fault that you had on your favorite pair of jeans, the ones that fit you like a glove. Looking back, you were in the best physical shape of your life and it was during one of the few years of your life that you actually believed you looked good too.

It is not your fault what happened next. The sexual assault – you didn’t deserve that. You did nothing to promote it or even see it coming.

It is not your fault that despite being on the honor roll during your entire college years, you failed the test that you had to take the next morning. Your mind was unable to think clearly and you didn’t have the courage at that moment to let your instructor know what happened a few hours prior.

It is not your fault that the following day, when you woke up early to go to clinicals, you were assigned a patient with the same first name and age as the husband was. You didn’t do well that day.

It is not your fault that you were unable to focus clearly, and despite it being one of her very first times to watch you, the nursing instructor that followed you that day pulled you aside that evening and told you she didn’t think you had what it took to be a good nurse, and that it felt like another knife cutting into your already raw wound.

It is not your fault that you didn’t have the guts to tell her at that moment what you were going through, but that statement made its way deep into your mind and you knew you had to prove to yourself and to her that you did have what it took – more than you or she ever realized.

Even though it was not your fault, I need you to know that not everyone is going to be accepting of what happened. There will be people who will be of great support, who want to love you and help you out, to be there and listen. And it is good to hang onto one of the most special moments that happened on a long and quiet drive home after an awful experience at the police station – your little brother, though not saying a word, reached over and took your hand and held it…and it was all that you needed. But there will be others who will just not know how to handle it. They will completely ignore they ever heard of it. Give them grace. They just don’t understand. For those who are there for you, appreciate them and tell them how much it means to you.   And please, above all else, go get counseling. It will be the best thing you can do.

I need you to know that you did good when that burst of courage came and you went to your old high school and spoke at chapel. You were brave and wore your favorite pair of jeans, the ones that fit you just right. It is OK that you were barely able to stand on your own two feet because your whole body was shaking. But when it was over, the young girl who came down off the bleachers, crying so hard she was unable to talk; you hugged her and told her, “It is not your fault”, and she needed to hear that. You were able to communicate a little bit of hope that day, and you found that a little bit of healing took place inside of you too.

I need you to know that you did good when after that day, you decided that you were not going to live as a victim, but as someone who went through a traumatic event and came out on the other side. You made up your mind that you were determined to let this help make you stronger, to turn the ugly into good.

Despite that, it is not your fault that you continued to struggle with guilt and shame. I need you to know that there will be many moments down the road that you will feel guilt and shame over things that you will do – where those feelings are actually deserved. Sweet girl, the guilt and shame you are feeling now because of what happened to you, that is not deserved. You can get rid of that.

It is not your fault that from that night on, having a positive body self-image is something that has never happened again. You try so hard to get past that, to love yourself, but it is such a daily battle. Dear girl, I need you to remember that you are pre-approved and loved anyways. You don’t need to try so hard anymore. The Holy Spirit can handle it and fight that daily battle for you, and help you see that you are beautiful just the way you are – hidden scars and all. And most of all, when your husband looks at you and tells you that he still finds you beautiful – you NEED to believe him. He needs you to believe him.

I need you to know that whether you like it or not, this is a part of your story. It is hard to write, but God allowed this to happen to you, for He is in control of everything – the good and the bad. I don’t understand it. I don’t. But I believe it. You need to remember that He too is without fault.

It is OK that you decided to keep this event to yourself since that day you spoke at chapel many years ago. It isn’t like you were trying to hide it, you just didn’t find desire to talk about it. But today, you feel another burst of courage, and you pray that God uses it for good.

Even all these years later, despite the courage you are feeling at this moment; you fear judgment from others and hope that those reading this will not look at you differently than before. But I guess that might just happen anyways, and you want them to know that just like little brother, they don’t need to say any words, but maybe a squeeze of the hand or a smile will be just fine.

There is no need or desire for pity. Just a need and desire to want to turn an ugly moment into something that can be beautiful – a way to help another girl know that “It is not her fault.”

Please share if you know of a girl in this present day that needs this message.

She needs to know that she is going to be OK.

I have faith that she will, because even though it was not my fault, I too turned out OK.

Linked at #FaithFilledFriday

The Day I Prayed for Humility

001_Fotor

Back in our early years of marriage, my husband and I lived in Missouri. He was in medical school, and I was working as an RN on a Cardiac Unit in one of the hospitals in the city. We had been there for a few years and I was becoming very comfortable at the job. At that time, the Unit I worked on felt very stressful. There was a high RN-to-patient ratio and just overall, I remember it being very busy. It was a common weekly occurrence to find one of the nurses in the bathroom crying. However, I grew to love all things cardiac, the staff that I worked with, and found myself with a good relationship with the physicians whose patients I took care of.

I started to realize that despite the craziness of it all, I was feeling pretty confident in myself. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but as a nurse, there is a fine line between being confident and too confident. I knew that as soon as a RN started to feel too confident, bad things started to happen. It seemed that those nurses started to pay less attention to detail and unnecessary mistakes would be made. I never had great respect for nurses who felt overly confident, as it would show in their attitude and demeanor on the floor.   Pride would take over them and it showed.

When I started to feel pretty comfortable and confident, I felt like I had one foot over the fine line and the other one on its way. I found myself thinking that I was better than some of the other nurses. I was being judgmental and comparing myself better than them, and knew in my heart I was looking down on them. I started to think about it a lot and felt convicted that I needed to pray for a little humility to put my feet back where they belonged.

So, one morning before work, I sat down on the couch in our little apartment. I said a brief prayer and it went like this; “Dear Lord, I’m feeling a bit too confident in myself at work lately and I know that my heart is not reflecting yours. Please keep me humble. Amen.”

And off I went.

The moment I walked into work that morning, I could feel the level of stress on the Unit was very high. I got my patient list, listened to report, and started my day. Immediately, I felt as if I was running behind. Patients seemed overly demanding and each room that I walked in to, I was dealing with issues that just put me even further behind. I was trying to get all my meds passed and there is typically a certain time frame that you did need to get the meds into the patients. One particular patients labs were not coming back. I kept looking in the computer to see if they were done, and for whatever reason, it was taking a long time. I really wanted to know what his potassium level was before I gave him the high dose of potassium that was ordered. But, I was in a hurry and time was not on my side. So, in my confidence of myself, thinking that all would be just fine, I did something I don’t normally do, and gave his meds anyways before getting the lab results.

Well, shortly after I gave his meds, the labs did come back and wouldn’t you know it, his potassium level was high that morning. In cardiac patients, potassium is something of great importance, and too high or too low can cause significant problems. I immediately knew I made a big mistake and am pretty sure I said something under my breath that wasn’t very Christian-like. I knew I would have to let the doctor know what I did.

A brief moment later, and he arrived on the Unit for rounds. Right there, at the nursing station, I tried to pull him aside kinda quiet like and to let him know what I did. I didn’t want to make a scene or anything and certainly didn’t want anyone else know my mistake. I am pretty sure my confession might have been the straw-that- broke-the-camels-back for him that morning because he just started to let me have it… loudly, in front of all the other nurses. I don’t mean just a little bit loud, but like SUPER-DUPER LOUD WHERE ALL THE OTHER NURSES STOPPED WHAT THEY WERE DOING AND WATCHED.

Only a couple hours into my shift that morning and the Lord answered my brief prayer. I was humbled. It was embarrassing. Pretty sure I was the nurse in the bathroom crying that day.

At that moment, I no longer felt overly confident in myself, and honestly, that stuck with me for years. I’m not saying that the Physicians response was necessarily appropriate, but it did cause an effect on me that was needed and ultimately, for my benefit. I am happy to say that I never had to endure another verbal spanking like that from a Physician again! Thankfully, the patient suffered no ill effects from my mistake and I don’t think I ever passed meds again in my nursing career without looking at what all the labs were first. It would become a teaching point that I used over and over again with future nurses that I would orientate as well.

~

Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

Praying for humility might not be the top thing to pray on your prayer list. If you are like me, there is a certain level of fear that comes with actually asking for the Lord to make you humble. You never know what avenue He will take to make that come to fruition in your life. However, the Bible is very clear that the Lord will use the humble for great things. Christ himself was the ultimate example for humility and if we desire to become more like Him, then we absolutely need to make humility a priority in our prayer life.

Do you find yourself in frequent comparison and thinking you are better than your neighbor? Are you being judgmental towards others? Do you find yourself being selfish and thinking you deserve better than what you are getting? Do you feel like you should be the one being served instead of doing the serving? Do you feel overly confident about your spirituality and how you live your Christian life, comparing it to those around you? If so, maybe you need to take a moment and ask God to give you a little humility.

Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Let’s lay aside our selfishness and start to treat those around us with respect and love. Let’s get rid of the judgmental attitudes and realize that we are ALL made in the image of God. Let’s start serving those around us and lifting them up with encouragement, instead of expecting others to give us the attention and praise.

Having humility doesn’t mean you need to have depressing thoughts or to put yourself down. The Lord doesn’t want that. But He does want us to have an attitude that reflects His.

Philippians 2: 5-11, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Humility is not something that will come naturally to us sinful people and it is more than a one-time prayer. We absolutely need the Holy Spirit’s help in this area. Without it, pride will rise up and cause us to look like fools.

Now days, my humility comes fairly frequently, mainly thanks to my 12 year old son Ethan. The boy talks non-stop and with having High Functioning Autism, he doesn’t quite yet have the filter that I would like. (It is something that I work on him with constantly.) He’s slowly improving. However, just two days ago, he loudly let the lady cutting his hair know that he has had to wear his dad’s socks for the past two days and that he had the same outfit on as the day before because his mom was so far behind on laundry that there wasn’t anything for him to wear.

Ethan

Um, sweetie, “Shhhhh”.

As I have learned to do, I just smile and try to remember to thank God for the built in blessings that Ethan gives me. 🙂

Yes – somedays, I have to remind myself that humility is a blessing.

So, whether your humility comes on a daily basis via the children God has given you, or else if you need to – confess your mistakes before the Lord. Either way, we need to remember to daily ask for humility. It will only be to your benefit and you will gain wisdom because of it.

In fact, I am going to stop and do the very same, right now.

 

Christmas Angel

Since I was a little girl, early elementary age, I feel like I have been pretty in tune to the world around me.  At a young age, I understood full well that money was not something that was plentiful at our home. My father was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in his early twenties, shortly after I was born. He also had some other health issues that required surgery and hospital stays causing the medical bills to pile up. I also understood full well that my father was an extremely hard worker and was doing everything he possibly could to provide for our family. My mother too, worked outside the home to try to make ends meet.

It was just a rule whenever we went to a store that we were never allowed to ask for anything. Not even the candy or gum that was staring at you in the face when you were going through the checkout lane. I understood that “extra’s” just couldn’t be afforded.

At one point, I remember very specifically sitting at the table with my father in the evenings, licking the green food stamps that we put on little “BINGO” looking cards. When those cards were full, we both would go to the grocery store and “buy” milk, bread, and cheese. Looking back, I am sure that had to be a bit humbling for my dad, but he has never been the proud type. He did what he had to do and as a little girl, I watched him and took it all in.

One Christmas eve, our family gathered in our living room. We had big windows in the corner of that room and a Christmas tree filled that space for the people on the street passing by to see.   The thing however that was probably different than other families sitting by their Christmas trees that evening was that ours didn’t have any presents under it to open.

I remember that my mother and us kids were sitting on the floor, and my father stood up. He told us that this year, due to the circumstances of that year, there just wasn’t going to be presents for us. But right at that moment, the front doorbell rang. My dad went to the door and I got up and did the same. There stood a man, holding a box, and handed it over to my dad.

He took the box, closed the door, and placed it down by the tree. Then he opened it and started to take out little wrapped gifts, and on those were our names.

We each took a turn opening those gifts, and my gift that year was a small angel ornament. Honestly, I thought it was kind of ugly looking, but none-the-less, I knew full well that I had to be grateful, and I was. I understood that as a little girl.

Christmas Angel Ornament

Throughout the years, us children always received a new ornament every year, so that someday, when we moved out of the house, we would have enough to cover our own Christmas trees. When it was time for me to leave home, I took with me my box of ornaments, each one representing a year of my life – memories. And that little angel ornament was tucked in with the rest of them.

~

Fast forward several years later. My husband and I had just moved to Wisconsin. We lived in an apartment complex that had an underground parking garage, and each apartment had it’s own little closet in that garage to store extra items. So, when we moved there in the early summer, we brought our Christmas tree, along with all Christmas décor, winter coats, etc. and put it in that space to store.

When December rolled around that year, we went down to that little storage closet and opened it up, anticipating gathering our Christmas tree and décor. At some point between the time we moved and the time we went to gather our Christmas items, the space had gotten wet and mold covered EVERYTHING. Our winter gear was dripping in mold. Our Christmas tree was ruined. I started to open the box of the ornaments that I had received every year from the time I was a baby to the present day, and found that mold had made it’s way inside of that too.

Very slowly, one by one, I started to remove those ornaments to assess the damage. 95% of the ornaments I had to throw away that year. But as God would have it, when I went to pull out that little angel ornament, not a single drop of mold was on it. I looked it over multiple times and I could not find any mold. It was placed in the middle of all the other ones that were covered in mold, and yet, it was not ruined.

Each year now, as I go to decorate my Christmas tree, I pull out that old angel ornament, handle it with care, and place it upon my tree. Each year as I do, I am reminded of where I came from, the grace that God had on our family all those years ago, and am reminded that despite what life hands you, our Father protects us.

Jeremiah 29:11, “”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I sometimes feel that this verse is misunderstood in today’s culture. People who read it tend to think that this verse means that God will protect you from suffering or pain. That is not it AT ALL. It does mean that God has plans for each one of us, and until we have fulfilled that purpose on this earth, we can have hope and know that He is with us and will help us along the way.

I just want to take a moment to encourage anyone who feels that they are stuck in the midst of an unfair time of life, or if they feel that things are just not going their way. It is hard, isn’t it? But you know what? It is going to be OK. If you can just try to remind yourself that God has plans for you – plans of prosperity – your perspective will start to change! None of your struggles have to be in vain if you place your trust in the One who is in control of it all.

I am happy to say that while times were not easy, from what I can tell, I always had the material items that I needed growing up. I know those items sometimes came with a price – financially, or worse with judgment from others. (That was actually easy for me to notice) But I could also tell that my parents placed their trust in God. And God supplied what we stood in need of.

And the whole time, He was using it to mold (no pun intended!) me into the person I am today.

I know because the Christmas Angel reminds me year after year.

And that everyone is a good thing. 🙂

 

The Beautiful Gate

Welcome to “The Beautiful Gate”. I am thrilled that you have arrived! My prayer for you is that you may take a moment to sit back, relax and know of the love, grace, power, mercy and healing that can take place through Jesus Christ. I desire for this to be a place of encouragement and a way to give praise back to God for the good things He gives us…even if it is not the things we were expecting.

Beautiful Gate photo

photo from en.wikipedia.org

Acts 3:1-10 tells us of a story where Peter and John were arriving at the temple for their afternoon prayer and they came to the gate called Beautiful. This gate was larger and more lavish than the others and it was the entrance of choice for many of the people. This was also a place for public worship.

There was a certain man, crippled from birth, which was brought each day and laid at this entrance. Being a mother of two boys, each with their own special needs, I can’t help but find joy in the fact that this is the place where the special needs people gathered…a place called Beautiful. They came to beg for money and food, to get recognized and affirmed, but in this passage, so much more happened.

As Peter and John arrived, the man asked them for money. I imagine his eyes were downcast and his self worth was next to nothing. He knew he was different than all the others and that he could not care for himself the way he wanted too. His life was lived by relying on others. Peter asked the man to look at him, to lift up his eyes and to see his face. The man listened, expecting to get something from him; most likely the money, silver or gold, he was asking for. After looking at this man, Peter and John showed love and allowed God to use and work through them. Peter replied, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” At that instant, Peter grabbed the man’s hand, he became strong and true healing took place. There was no doubt in the healing between Peter, John, the cripple or the crowd that was there. The man immediately walked, leaped and praised God. All who saw it were filled with wonder and amazement.

This event led to the opportunity for Peter to share with all the people who suddenly gathered around him. (Verses 11- 24) Right there, at a place called Beautiful, Peter shared that it was not his own power that healed the man, but it was only by the power of Jesus Christ. He also told them that Jesus was no longer dead, but alive, and they needed to repent of their sins and believe in Him, to place their faith and trust in Him alone and they would be saved. Many came to find Jesus as their Savior that day.

God was glorified.

I think in years past, when reading this story, I would briefly think, “What a nice story. Yep, God can heal cripples”, and then just keep reading on. I never stopped to dwell on it. But one day, that changed. During one of my quiet times several years ago as I was reading this chapter, these verses jumped off the pages, lodged into my heart, and I have been thinking about it since. It might be a story that many would not spend a lot of time on, but I viewed the gate called Beautiful in a special way that morning that I will never forget. That particular day, the Holy Spirit started to stir something in my heart that has finally led me to here.

 ~

During my elementary, middle, and high school years, I was never that student that excelled at grades. I was very average or below average in that regard, and I was completely fine with that. I am almost positive that I didn’t produce anything amazing that involved writing during my Language Arts class. What I remember most from that class was my buddy that I sat by. Unfortunately, that really doesn’t help me out right now.

What I do have right now however is a burning desire to share certain experiences and the lessons that I have learned through them. Over the years, the Lord, has allowed me to experience a wide variety of things, which while not always fun, I have learned to become thankful for them.

One of those experiences, both joy and trial intertwined together, was the birth of my second son, Noah. Due to a rare genetic syndrome and chronic health issues, I started a Caring Bridge site for him. Now, almost 9 years later, and over 1000 journal entries related to our boys, (the older with ADHD and High Functioning Autism) I have found that writing is something I have grown to love and need to do. I have discovered that it makes me feel better and it releases a tension that can build deep down inside. It helps me to slow down, to listen to the things the Lord is trying to tell me, and to process my thoughts. Most often I find it is more for my own teaching and reminding than it is for those who are reading it. I know the same will be for this.

~

Several years ago, when reading that passage in Acts 3, it was not an awesome time of life. It was a day-to-day struggle doing 24-hour medical cares on my son, my Physician husband working long hours, and just dealing with so many changes that had happened in my life. So when I saw that the place where the people with special needs would sit and gather was a place called Beautiful, I actually cried. And I don’t cry very often; not near as often as I probably should. I was finding it difficult to find beauty in life at that time, but I felt that the Lord gave me a little piece of treasure that day. A change in perspective along with an opening of my heart and mind to see the beauty around me, and in turn, I became exceedingly grateful.

There were days when I felt like the cripple; I was physically worn out, and emotionally and spiritually I felt stuck, like I was not going anywhere on my own. My spirit felt down and it was hard to turn my face upward towards God. But then I would attend Bible study and dig into God’s word. Bible study is with a group of woman whom has become some of my best friends, and over the years, they have been very patient with me and let me talk and talk and talk. Then, I would come home and write and process the things the Lord was speaking to me. I was turning my face upward and getting something in return that I wasn’t expecting. I would be left knowing that despite the storms of life, grace was a gift that was pouring down. It was drenching me deep into my soul and healing was taking place.

Psalm 100:3-4, “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”

I closed my eyes and realized what this grace was and where it came from. Jesus Christ…my gate to grace. Since then, I try to make a conscious effort to find the good, and to respond with thanks and praise in the everyday.

Are you hurting? Do you feel weak in a specific area of your life? Does your soul feel downcast? Does Jesus feel so far away? We, each with our own special needs, whether it is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, let’s take time and turn our face up toward God. We may not always get what we are expecting or asking for, but we can trust that we will get something even better in return. Just like the crippled mans legs were made strong, the Lord will equip us and make us strong in the special chosen areas of our lives in order to do the work that He has prepared for us.

I find comfort in knowing that even at my worst, even if life isn’t going the way I would desire, even if I feel crippled in such a way that is preventing me from moving forward, and even if I find myself begging God for a specific desire that he has not yet granted, that God has not overlooked me or passed me by.

Friend, there is no promise given to us that life will be easy. But there is a Bible full of promises that provide hope, comfort, and healing that will be given in the name of Jesus Christ.   Like the cripple, let’s desire to walk, jump, and leap in such a way that those who see us can see the work of God!

And that is my biggest desire for this entire blog. That God may be glorified in the every day…the ordinary, the unexpected, the pain, the joys, the learning and healing, and that He will look down upon it and see it as a place He can call Beautiful.

Some day, like that crowd of thousands who came to place their faith and trust in Jesus alone, we will join them at the gates of heaven. He will call out our name, we will lift our eyes, see His face, and I know we will arrive to new gates that will be beyond any amount of beauty that our human minds can imagine.

Revelation 21:21-27, “The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

I want you to know that I am a work in progress. God has been very patient with me but I am slowly learning. Please understand that I am not going to be writing out everything perfectly, using proper punctuation, or even grammar at times. (Remember: average high school student!)

But once again, God gave me some grace-filled affirmation this morning that I didn’t even ask for. When I sat down at my desk, turned over my daily devotional flip calendar, this is exactly what it said, “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” (The Nester, Nesting Place) Thank you Jesus!

I just desire to be obedient to God and to really allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide. It is my hope and prayer that as you visit this site, you may be blessed and encouraged as you walk your own path in this life.

Won’t you join me at the gate? A place where I want to open my heart and mind, to write about the glorious work of God in my life; understanding that it is not through me, but through Him that beautiful things can happen.

Thankful for His Beautiful Grace,

Rachel