Overwhelming Grace

Sometimes the grace of God overwhelms me.

I was almost done with my first job of the day. I reached in my purse to pull out my work phone.

The verification form that documents where I was and what I was doing needed to be signed.

However, before I opened it. I noticed my husband had tried to call me. That’s weird, since he only calls my personal phone.

Not too concerned, I got the signatures I needed then proceeded to the nearest bathroom.

Once there I pulled out my personal phone that was completely blown up with alerts. I had notifications from social media, email, private message, and two missed calls.

I looked at the missed calls first. Both were from my husband, but he didn’t leave a message. I’m thinking maybe something happened with one of our kids and was checking to see if I was available to pick him up.

Earlier this morning, as I was filling up the dogs’ bowls, one of our kiddos informed me he had taken two of the little pink pills for his allergies.

“Good luck dude. Those are Benadryl. They’re going to knock you on your butt.”

I was sure the school had called my husband asking if someone could pick him up to sleep it off.

After responding to each notification their icons, one by one, disappeared.

But wait a minute. There’s a text message I hadn’t seen. It was from my husband. Oh, he did leave a message. But it wasn’t to ask if I could pick up a kid.

No, he had been in an accident. He was ok, but wanted me to know.

I immediately left the office to call him.

No answer. No answer. No answer.

What is going on?

I call my scheduler at work. No answer. No answer.

I call my supervisor. No answer.

Oh my gosh! Some people need to answer their phones!

I finally get ahold of someone. She clears my day, so I can attend to my husband, who finally has called me back.

He’s ok. His big beautiful truck is not. The other driver lost her car too, but was otherwise fine, aside from being shook up and a wrist burn from her airbag deployment.

Everythings ok, all things considering.

We have insurance. We have Gap. It’s Friday, and he’s off tomorrow.

“Are you ok?” he asks me.

I am. I am. But I’m not.

Fear has crept in.

What’s going to happen? What does all this mean? What do we need to do?

All these thoughts fill my head as I try to calmly, but urgently drive to my husband.

The traffic thickens. Slows. Eventually comes to a stop. And now I sit on the freeway.

Great.

Inch by inch. Foot by foot. Then slowly but surely we all start to move again.

What was that?

I glanced over across the median, at the traffic going to opposite direction.

Cars are facing backwards, sideways and metal everywhere.

Suddenly this HUGE wave of love rushes over me.

Why, God? Why do you love me so much? Why is it, every “disaster” I face, I feel your protection?

My eyes swell up with tears.

It’s his grace.

His undeserving grace.

I joke that I’m his favorite. I JOKE. I know he has no favorites. But seriously? I’m not this lucky.

I am overwhelmed by love.

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As if it was My Last

My hands hurt.

I was a freshman in high school when I took my first typing class. I had always been fascinated with typing.

But two weeks into the semester, I broke my left wrist, roller skating. I wasn’t quite sure what the teacher was going to do with me.

Can you believe she pulled out a, Typing for Right Hand, book? I was amazed. I loved it too. Even with one hand I did my best to be finished with my assignments before the rest of my class.

My hands hurt.

One of my very first jobs I’ve ever had was a cashier in a grocery store. So I have to tell you, back in the day, I was pretty quick. Which was good because our managers pushed us to be quicker, faster, more efficient.

It’s what got me through my shift. It was even better when Corina was working because we both had to be the fastest.

Management kept track of your speed too; daily and weekly.

Besides the two of us, I don’t know if any one took their speed as serious.

I remember the first time I had signs of carpal tunnel. I wore a brace on one hand, and wasn’t able to use it. They still stuck me on the Express line and after my shift one night, one of the managers pulled me aside and told me I got a complaint.

A customer wanted to know why a cashier with one hand was put on a register that took such a high volume of customers and was expected to go quickly?

The manager told the customer to turn around and watch me. “She rings up more people and items with one hand than any of my other cashiers do with two.”

My hands hurt.

While working as a cashier, I put myself through school. I started off as a Communication major, but after one semester of classes, at ASU West, I quickly discovered how much I hated it.

All my life, in spite of my passion to learn, school was always a struggle for me. I studied like a straight A student, and despite my Honor Roll status, never once made that dream come true.

But ASL was easy. For the first time in my life, school was simple. I just had to learn a sign once, and never would I forget it. I never had homework, or had to study. I got As on all my tests.

ASL 101 was just suppose to be a break from my “real” education. But I loved it! Imagine my surprise when I found out I could make a career out of it.

It was during my maternity leave with my first son, that I discovered two months in, my hands had started to swell, stiffen and were painful. It wasn’t until I went back to interpreting, that I realized arthritis had settled in.

Oh, how my hands hurt.

I’ve been hard on them my whole life. And they’ve been so good to me, even with all the neglect and abuse I’ve put them through.

And it is now that I’m so upset with myself and so in awe of God.

I want to serve. I want to become the hands and feet of Jesus, just like those who have come before me. I want to breathe light into someone’s darkness. I want to share hope to the hopeless.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

I look at my hands, a gift God has given me. They were given to me with a purpose. They were given me with design. And it saddens me that I’m sure their purpose was not to push myself to be better, or faster, but to aid and to help… and my hands hurt.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: – 1 Peter 4:10

So I push myself everyday. Maybe to make up for all the missed opportunities to care. All the missed opportunities to love. Everyday I use them as if it is my last day on earth, as if it is my last day to serve.

Because what if it is? What if tomorrow I meet my God and he asks me what I did with the gift he gave me?

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31

All of this, none of this, means anything unless they are working for the Lord.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. – James 2:14-17

So Lord, I lift my hands, my throbbing, aching hands and ask for one more day. Just give me one more day to use them as you have designed them. Let one more person know your grace, find your hope, see your love, through my hands.

In your Son’s holy name. Amen

What Did I Just Do?

So I kinda did something behind my husband back. He may kill me.

I had prayed that God might use me greatly for his kingdom, and to use me how he sees fit.

I’ve already been working with the homeless for a while now, but today I heard God tell me, “That’s easy.”

You know what? He’s right. Anyone could help the homeless. It’s not that much of a sacrifice. Buy an extra few cases of water a week. Cut some bags up that other people have donated, to make into mats. How is crocheting sleeping mats and beanie hats any real sacrifice? I love to crochet.

No, I feel God calling me to do something else and honestly I’m scared to death. I know whatever it is, it’s going to stretch me, push me, and nearly send me over the edge.

I LIVE FOR THAT KIND OF STUFF!

I’ve been following Jesus for too long to accept an “easy” mission like homelessness. Or I should say, how I serve the homeless, is easy. I should be dedicating my time to something that is harder and more challenging to me.

Something that requires me to GROW my faith.

And….

I believe working with children; homeless children, may be it.

Me, the one who never wanted kids. Never desired to be a mom. The one who is still raising five of her six kids.

Oh this is not going to go well, I can assure you. My husband and kids are going to freak out!

Today, I spent three and a half hours sitting next to a room, listening to an infant go through what I think were withdraws, and her nurses talking about lowering which drug, over the next couple of days.

It hurt for her to eat. It hurt for her to lay down. The only time she stopped crying was when someone held her, and even then she wasn’t happy.

It hurt my heart. It broke my soul.

After an agonizing feeding that lasted forever, the baby girl threw up. From the sound of it, it was everywhere. Her nurse remained calmed. She spoke gently to her. I was impressed.

It was during her bath, when an alarm when off outside the infants room.

“Oh no.” I heard the nurse panic for the first time. After a few minutes, she called out to me. She asked if I could help her.

Ah…

Not knowing exactly what to say, or what to do, but knowing I wasn’t going to say no, I got up and entered her room.

“Would you mind just standing here to make sure she doesn’t fall out of the tub?”

I immediately thought, oh this could be bad. If something happens to this baby it would be bad for me, it would be bad for the nurse, and it would be bad for this baby.

“Sure.”

Her nurse wasn’t gone long, but it was much longer than what I was anticipating.

I stood about a foot away from the tub. My eyes glued to her as she and the tub faced away from me; too afraid to touch her. I already knew I wasn’t suppose to be there. I could see her little pink arms and legs move as she kicked the water. The top of her head and eyes were covered by a wash cloth.

She was so little. She was so full of life. And she was so alone. God, where is her mother?

I thought to myself, this isn’t easy.

It bothered me I would be leaving soon. It bothered me I would soon escape this child’s pain, and she wouldn’t. It bothered me that I was going to do it anyway.

Recently, I was invited to participate in a 40 day devotional prayer challenge. Yesterday was day one.

Today I read, “Every act of obedience, no matter how small, makes our heavenly Father proud. Every act of faith — even a faith as small as a mustard seed — puts a smile on His face. Every sacrifice, no matter how insignificant it may seem to us, makes a difference.” – Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge

So I ask God to use me. I asked him to show me where he wants me. Then I find myself in this situation today.

After the nurse returned I went back to my chair asking God if there was something I was suppose to do.

For today, I was just suppose to sit there and listen; to listen and become aware.

What am I suppose to do now? I don’t know. I told my husband about my day. He flat out told me we were NOT going to adopt this baby.

Well of course not THIS baby, but I don’t know. There was a reason I was were I was today.

He tells me, “You’re just thinking about Delilah.”

“Who?”

“Delilah, who called into the radio station earlier this week to nominate her mother who raised 10 kids and fostered five of them.”

“OH MY GOSH! HE’S WORKING IN YOUR HEART TOO!”

“No he’s not! This is your crazy idea, not mine.”

“But I completely forgot about Delilah.”

In James 1:27 it says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

After today, I feel he may be calling me in this direction. I don’t know, but whatever it is I know it’s going to grab me with both hands and take me and my whole family with it. And where it goes, grows closer to Him. I can feel it!

Why I Worship

Believe it or not, last night was the first time I have ever been to a Christian music concert. Well, actually still haven’t really attended one. I was there as a volunteer for World Vision International. That was my first time too.

It was cool to see so many people worshipping God in one place. The verse that came to me as I stood up high in the upper seating of the Talking Sticks Resort Arena, looking down was,

For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.'” – Romans 14:11.

No, the arena was not sold out, but still there were hundreds of people sitting and standing with their arms held high, not necessarily because the band was good (which of course they all were) but because the message was.

You are not alone. Press into him. You are loved. He has overcome death. You are saved.

For four hours, hands were held high. Sometimes the artist would back away from the mic so you could hear the worship of the crowd. It was surreal.

I remember, years and years ago, seeing commercials for WOW Hits. They are music CDs performed by Christian artists. Now this was before I became a fully committed follower of Jesus, but there was something about those 30 second videos that had me memorized.

For 30 seconds they would show crowds of people on their feet, lifting their hands to Jesus, and praising him. I would sit in my living room and feel compelled to raise my hands too. But never would.

Last night, I felt I to got to experience my own WOW moment. It was amazing.

I have to be honest though. That wasn’t the coolest part of the night.

No, the coolest part was being able to help 23 children become sponsored, through World Vision International.

For fifteen minutes I got to walk up and down the vertical aisle, with my hand held high, holding a picture of a little boy or little girl, and seeing Jesus work in two places, thousands and thousands of miles apart, at the same time.

THAT WAS THE MOST AMAZING PART!

Twenty-three, TWENTY-THREE little kids, and their families, are going be greatly impacted because 23 people committed to serving God’s children, and Jesus let me be apart of it.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am of that. You see, I was blind, but now I see.

There was a time my life when I couldn’t see Jesus. My life was dark. I felt no hope.

But he saved me!

Now I see him every time I open my eyes. I look for him. I hunt for him. I seek him.

And he lets me see him!

He went up to the open coffin, took hold of it, and the men who were carrying it stopped. He said, “Young man, I’m telling you to come back to life!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. – Luke 7:14-15

Jesus is still resurrecting people to this day. I am one of them. And I will search, and seek him to the day I die. Never ever will I allow the darkness to overshadow me again.

My prayer, is in my search, others will follow, and I will guide them to the one who saves.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. – Ephesians 2:4-5

I worship him, not because he demands it, but because he is worthy of it. I once was lost, but now I’m found.

Thank you, Jesus!

Communicating

My pastor and his wife came to pick my daughter and I up early, one Saturday morning. We were going to a couple of house dedications for Habitat for Humanity. As I entered the vehicle, he immediately handed myself and his wife a sheet of paper that had the time, date, and location of the houses we were going to speak at.

As we drove off we laughed, and joked and kid, about life and what was going on in it, when suddenly my pastor asked for my address.

I froze. I thought, what an odd question considering he just picked me up from there. I got about half way through my home address before it hit me, he meant the address of the house I was suppose to talk at for the dedication. We all started to laugh.

It was funny.

My son went to his dad’s house wearing a shirt that was too small, stained, and honestly was just weird looking. His step mom text me commenting about the shirt, saying Fun says he doesn’t have any clothes over at my house so she’s going to send some shirts back with him.

I was stunned and furious (with Fun) at the same time. I thanked her for the offer, but explained the child had plenty of clothes. He just chooses not to put them in the dirty hamper to get clean, so when it’s time to go to his dad’s, he has no clean clothes that fit.

Not so funny.

Communication is so vitally important to any relationship. It is easy to hurt someone’s feeling over a lack of communication. There is the potential for so many misunderstandings because we don’t know how to talk to each other.

How many times has a there been a broken relationship because of it?

I know, for myself, my first marriage disintegrated because we didn’t know how to communicate.

We just didn’t do it right. We didn’t talk. We didn’t speak up when feelings got hurt. We didn’t stop to explain our reasoning behind something. We didn’t listen. We assumed the other should have known, they should be able to read my mind by now.

For whatever reason, communication just didn’t happen.

So now I find it funny, two people who sucked at communicating one-on-one, find themselves in a second marriage with kids and step kids and exes (possibly two) and a new spouse.

No wonder second marriages have a low success rate. If two people could not communicate the first time, what makes them think this second time…with more variables, is going to be any easier?

Now we have kids’ schedules to arrange between school, and home(s), sometimes work. Half days, and holiday breaks. Activities they go to. Grandparents to see. Homework to do. Projects to get done. School supplies to be bought. Doctors’ offices to be visited. Churches to attend. Friends to play with. Birthday parties. Christmases.

UGH!!!

For the sake of our family, marriage, kids and our sanity we have to, really have to, learn how to communicate if we’re going to make this all work.

Here is a list of my suggestions I have found to be helpful when trying to communicate with my new family, and blending this mess.

– Talk
Never assume the other person knows stuff. Even if you’ve already told them, tell them again. And don’t be upset with them if they forgot. At the same time, don’t get upset if they tell you something again, and again, and again. Getting upset does not help with communicating.

– Listen
Listen to what the other person has to say, even if you don’t like them, can’t trust them, it takes too long, or you already know. Don’t interrupt. Don’t rush them. Be mindful.

– Assume the Best
Assume this person means no harm. Assume they love your children just as much as you do.

– Encourage
Use kind words. Build them up. If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it. Don’t even think it and certainly if you can’t say it to them because it’s not nice, don’t say it to anyone else.

– However, You Can Express How You Feel
Use “I” statements. “I feel disrespected when you pick up and drop off the kids without telling me in advanced.” “I feel you don’t care as much for Peter and Mary because you don’t ask them about their day, like you do with James and John.” Instead of, “Changing the kids schedule without notifying me is disrespectful.” Or, “You don’t even try to care for Peter and Mary, because they’re not your own kids.”

– Avoid Words Like Always and Never.
Seldom does someone ALWAYS wait until the last minute to do something, or they NEVER help around the house. It takes just one time to turn you into a lair and now a battle of honor is about to pursue.

– Keep Your Emotions Out of It
Do not text, email, or call while you are angry. Walk away. Figure out why you are so upset. Calm down. You want to respond, not react. Usually our first impulse is to show them how we reacted to their message. They don’t need to know that. It’s often not pretty and not how we want to be viewed. Instead, don’t say anything. Process your feelings. Talk to someone to help get all your reaction out. And then respond maturely, calmly, and respectfully.

– Don’t Let Them Turn You into a Person You Don’t Like
It would be better to not say or do anything at all, than to say or do something you are going to regret. Stay true to you, and don’t give them that power over you.

– Do Not Ignore
Do not throw your hands up in the air in defeat, saying, “I just can’t communicate with this person.” Figure it out. Even if they do everything wrong; for your marriage, and your kids, figure it out. If it was easy, you probably wouldn’t be divorced in the first place.

– Practice Grace and Mercy
Everyone messes up. It is not unusual for people to suck at communicating. You don’t need to remind them. You don’t need to tell them how horrible they are at it. Assume they are learning. Assume they are practicing. Assume you suck at it too!

I am confident there are many more good tips to consider. These are just a few I try to practice and fail at, daily. Maybe they can help someone else too. Maybe you have some to share with me.

Until then, happy blending and keep communicating!

Prejudice, the Absence of Love

To end prejudice, I believe it takes more than teaching our children not to hate.

We really need to teach them to love.

Love, especially those who hate you.

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! – Matthew 5:44

I never taught my children to hate. I never taught them to be prejudice, but they have learned it just the same.

Due to circumstances of a divorce, three of my boys went to an inner city school where they were of the minority who were targets of prejudice. I’ve written about their experience before.

And although my daughter never went to the same school, she too, has similar experiences at another one.

My biggest regret in that whole season of our lives, is I never taught my boys to love; to love those who hate, to love those who are hard to love.

My daughter on the other hand, I taught her to pray for those who teased her and called her names.

After trying to fix the injustice for my boys by talking to their teachers and going to the principal, I learned nothing was going to change. I felt helpless and hopeless. And even though they were getting a great education, I transferred them to a lower performing school so they could feel safe.

But they never did feel safe again. They had already learned fear. They had already learned not everyone supports them. Not everyone cares for them. And in fact, there are those who are out to get them and mean them harm.

All of that has followed them into their new schools even though the threats are gone and have been gone for a long time.

So when I learned of my daughter experiencing something similar, I became heartbroken. I immediately felt helpless and hopeless all over again. I knew there was nothing I was going to be able to do to fix this, to make her feel safe.

I told her we’re going to have to take this to God. We were going to have to pray for those who hurt us, because we know those who hurt, are hurting too.

Since then my daughter has shared stories with me of her classmates; horrible stories. Stories of pain and suffering no child should hear, much less experience. Stories of neglect, and abuse. Stories of children living without a home. Stories of children living without a mom or a dad. Stories of homicide and of suicide.

Stories that I would never allow my child to watch on TV or see in a movie are being lived out in real life by my child’s classmates. These are eight, nine, and ten year olds sweet children of God.

My heart hurts.

These children are hurting. These children are lashing out. These children need to be loved on, not punished. These children need a hope for their future.

Maybe that’s why my boys didn’t receive much sympathy when I tried to address the issue. In light of what other children were experiencing, our concerns were small in comparison. And to resolve our present situation would require the situations of other children to be addressed as well. And for that, they had no answer, no solution.

But in school, there is no hope of a solution because there is no God there.

So I taught my daughter to pray.

If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. – Luke 6:29

One day I was sitting in the principals office talking about a little girl who was threatening to cause my daughter physical harm and two weeks later, as I was driving up to the school to drop her off, she was yelling this little girl’s name out the car window, implying for her to wait for her.

I was surprised. I was confused.

In the matter of two weeks of prayer from my little girl for this little girl, God revealed a story that softened my daughters heart to show love instead of hate, and from that love grew an unlikely friendship.

I’m so proud of my daughter. Her strength amazes me. It is not easy to pray for someone who hurts you, and yet she still does. Every night at prayers, I listen to a long list of names she has asked God to share his grace and mercy with.

I know there is not a lot we can do as individuals, but maybe some little girl or boy who is living a nightmare right now, can see a glimpse of Jesus’ love through the prayer and actions of my little girl. What if through a little girl, who looks different than them, showed them genuine love, like no one who looked like her, ever did before?

What if there were more little boys and girls like her? What if we all showed more love instead of the absence of hate?

Accepting Who I’m Designed to Be

Last week I posted something on my social media about a very striking, yet larger woman, I had seen. I commented on what she was wearing and how fabulous I thought she looked. I mentioned I really wanted to tell her how great she looked, but I knew that I wouldn’t.

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I received lots of positive feedback, encouraging me to do it, but I didn’t.

I didn’t because I really didn’t think God was trying to give her a message, as much as he was trying to give me one.

She was beautiful. She was graceful. She walked with confidence. She felt good about herself. I could see that. To say anything would be insulting.

I was envious of her. And even though she did not fit my box of what beauty should look like, she still was.

And the kicker was, she looked more like me than she did like any other beautiful woman on TV or in a magazine.

What I really wanted to tell her was, “Teach me how to be fabulous too!”

Of all the comments I received, I had one friend who knew that there was more to this encounter than meets the eye. She encouraged me to journal about it.

And I did.

Thank you Ms. Sandra; here it is.

Maybe the sin isn’t in the overeating, but in letting it stop you from being who you were design to be.

I haven’t owned this statement yet. I’m working on it.

I’ve written in an earlier post, I’m not lazy and I don’t typically over indulge. And yet, even when I restrict my diet and become more intentional about moving, I always and forever, gain all my weight back.

I can lose it. I can’t keep it off.

I could have surgery. But I don’t have the health problems that would warrant it.

Maybe, physically, I’m suppose to be exactly how I am. But I fail emotionally.

If Jesus accepts me how I am, why do I feel I need to be any different?

Why am I telling him, he’s wrong?

I know this isn’t going to change my attitude over night. I’m still going to struggle. Letting go of an ideology I’ve grown up with is not easy to let go of.

I wish I never read that book that defended I was overweight physically, and underweight spiritually. Maybe it’s not true.

Maybe it could be, for some. But maybe not for all.

I think Jesus is probably more disappointed in how I let my self-image prevent me from doing the things he’s called me to do.

I think he may be more disappointed I’ve let my weight occupy my thoughts as much as I do. Whether I am 200lbs or 130, thoughts and ideas of my weight consume me.

I have replaced my God.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. – Romans 1:25

Oh how I praise my Self when I have lost the weight. And oh how my Self punishes me once I put it back on. How I strive, and struggle to make my Self happy.

I worship it. I have given myself over to it. It rules me. It consumes me. It lords over me.

I keep thinking if I was smaller, things would be different. People will look at me differently. And when I say people, I mean strangers. They will respect me more. They will take notice of me more often.

Many years ago, I had seen a study (how scientific, I don’t know) that tested how people reacted to people in fat suits. It was horrible. They were ignored, they were passed over. They are shown to be in a lesser class.

This worried me. Because for some reason, I care what other people (strangers) think of me. And I “knew” I had the power to change how people look at me.

I could change it, by changing me.

But I’m starting to realize something. I’m learning that perhaps I’m not suppose to be a 130lb woman. I’m not even suppose to be a 160lb woman. Because even when I am, I’m not.

Why do I continue to strive to be someone I’m not?

Lord, please forgive me for my sins. I am sorry I have bought into the lie that my size is a reflection of who you are. I am even more sorry that I’ve aided in spreading a false message that isn’t from you, to others.

You do not condemn me for being who I am. I do that to myself.

Please wash over my thoughts and cleanse them from anything that does not come from you. Rid me of the false messages that tell me I’m not worthy; that I could be better.

Forgive me for putting my Self above you.

It would be my honor to continue serving you, while still being me; the me you’ve designed me to be.

Amen.