Change of Plans


When I got married the second time around, I had a job. I rather liked it. It required definite use of brain cells. Being a mom, much of the job is menial, tedious, mind-numbing work. It doesn’t take a genius to wash clothes and wipe booties.

Well, six months later I was laid off. A second baby was well on the way. Did I ever picture that as my life? Of course not! I had big dreams, like most people. As a teenager, I read The Lost City.  Never again did I want to be an ordinary journalist. I wanted to some day work at a foreign news desk. For The Washington Post!  I never made it out of middle-sized small town papers. Thank God. I would have sucked at being a reporter at a bigger place. I just wasn’t meant to do it, I guess.

So not one of those big dreams came true. Because it’s just not what my life is supposed to be, and you know what? I’m ok with that. Because my big dreams are different now. Maybe not as exciting in the world’s eyes, but they’re pretty major to me.

I’m reading Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. Today’s quote that sent me hurrying to blog is this: “If we don’t prepare to modify our plans, we will end up more and frustrated and overwhelmed.”

As women who marry and intend to – one day – have children, inevitably, we are surprised when they come. We aren’t just “not ready” – we don’t always want one right then. We have jobs. A social life. Spontaneity. And then we rearrange our lives for a period of time – forever or just six weeks or so – and change course. That’s our new direction.

Maybe we want a second child – in theory. I did. Guess what day I decided maybe I didn’t? Yep. The same day I found out I was pregnant with said second child. I am not kidding. It was probably an hour before I took the pregnancy test.

Wowza. Change course again. New life begins. Life gets more complicated.

I admit I have been adrift for years. It’s very unpleasant. It’s only been about six months since things really began to look up. Prior to that, I did not know what the plan was, so I kept doing what I was doing. Being a wife and mom. A writer. A nose-wiper. A daughter, friend, and neighbor.

It isn’t that now I see some deep plan unfolding in a vision. It’s an energy I feel. I know something different is on the way!

If your life is stuck, pray. If your life is moving forward and you aren’t sure exactly where God is taking it, pray! He might not reveal all just yet. But Shirer is right – you don’t want to be frustrated and overwhelmed when you suddenly wake up and realize your entire life plan has changed and you somehow forgot!

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The Census That Really Mattered


I confess – when reading the first chapter of the Book of Numbers, I skipped over most of it.

Come on! A lot of names and numbers (no pun intended). But there are two things in the first 50 verses that just jump off the pages at me! And they are the following:

“The Lord spoke to Moses” (v. 1)

“For the Lord said” (v. 47)

What do you think that felt like for him? Have you ever thought about it? I have. Mostly because it made me feel like less of a freak in today’s world. When you tell people that God speaks to you – in His own voice sometimes – they look at you like you just stepped off the non-denominational crazy train into their presence. That’s no slur against non-doms. They are what they are and that’s their business. But in a good ‘ole Southern Baptist church, that’s not what folks are expecting to hear.

So I posed four questions to God about it this morning. Am I just super-lucky and blessed? Or do I just pay attention? Or is it part of Your plan that I don’t know yet? Or all three?

In case you’re wondering, He did not speak an answer to that. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

However, in this first chapter, something else interesting happens – God commands Moses to make a census. And he gets nothing like the information gleaned from one our country does periodically. As someone who has analyzed the data, I can tell you that for sure!

What God seems to want to know is how many men are of fighting age. Why? Well, keep reading the Old Testament, my friends, and you’ll figure out real quick. But then…something important is decided.

There are 12 tribes of Israel, but only the Levites (who become Levitical priests) are called not to fight. The reason is that He wants them to take care of the Tabernacle (the Temple tent that God dwelt in before a stone-and-mortar  building was erected much, much later).

See in Numbers 1: 50-51 “But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.“

So then, it begs the question – am I a fighter or a priest? Or – am I both?

You see, war is necessary. I don’t think all – or even most – of the wars fought throughout history were needed. But some of them were. And I do not have the character or moral fiber to fight in a war. At least, not a war between humans.

The answer, friends, is both. I am both a fighter and a “priest” – in the sense of someone who is responsible for taking care of my church, and the Christian Church as a whole. And what war do I fight? Why, the Battle Between Good and Evil. Otherwise known as the war between God and satan.

That war, y’all, has been going on since the beginning of time, practically. It rages every moment of every day. And you and I are a part of it. Check out Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study called The Armor of God and you will see what I mean. She can explain WAY better than I.

Today, the Church has a battle to fight – for our souls and the souls of others. But we also have a Church to take care of. Blessed God! He gave us multiple ways of doing so, using our gifts and talents He bestowed through the Holy Spirit.  I think this Bible.org post lists them in a clear and concise way.

Go forth, my brothers and sisters, and use your gifts to bless, serve, and protect each other – and those people who need Christ. We are called to do it! It is part of the commission we have been given. Blessings to you!

My Mental Health Story


If you don’t have mental health issues, what does awareness month mean to you? Probably nothing. And I wouldn’t blame you.

The question is, what should it mean to you? And the answer to that varies. Does someone you know struggle with any of the following: depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, body image disorders, and dare I include gender identity issues? Yes. I dare. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, excessive thoughts/complaints about health, anger or aggression or violence, delusions/hallucinations, or even denial of problems?

Well then. The answer to the question is that if you know them well – if they’re a frequent part of your life – you need to be as aware as you can of what the problem[s] is and how to handle it, especially if you have children and/or mental health problems of your own.

But what if by “frequent” I mean someone you work with, but aren’t friends with, for example, or a family member of some sort? Chances are, if you don’t have experience with the proper handling of mental health problems, this person – or these people – make you angry or uncomfortable, to say the least.

It’s easy to judge. On all fronts of dealing with mental illness, it’s easy to judge. Some say their mental health doesn’t define them. Personally, I think that’s an easy way to think of yourself as someone free from the intense burden of grief over your life.

It absolutely defines me. Let’s see. Severe clinical depression. Panic/anxiety disorder. PTSD. Body image disorder in the form of bulimia. I lost 20 pounds in one month. I was a size 8 when I started losing weight. I was skin and bones when I was done. I thought I was beautiful. It made my Daddy tear up and ask me what in the world had I done to myself.

“Even if you hadn’t been born with genetic mental health disorders, after what has happened to you over your life, you’d have at least one,” said my first therapist. That was 18 years ago. I was a baby then, a 19-year-old myself!

I’m not going into specifics here, and it’s not because I’m ashamed of the things that have happened to me – and the things I’ve done because of it – it’s because there are people involved that, no matter how hurtful they’ve been, have a right to privacy. Frankly, people who didn’t handle their own mental health issues well. I can’t fully blame them for how they treated or “loved” me any more than I can blame myself for what I did to them. They didn’t have a clue what they were doing with their own lives. I certainly didn’t either.

I first and foremost have to give anyone struggling with mental illness this piece of advice: God is HERE. I was raised in a “Christian” family. Went to church every time its doors were open. And I hated myself so much, and knew of the hatred towards me of others (in my own house), that I was convinced God was DONE. Saved and baptized at age 9, I thought my chance for heaven and happiness was over. I had screwed up too much to be loved by God anymore, and – here’s the kicker that many of you know full well – I was so, so terrible that I deserved what people did to me – violence, sexual assault, infidelity, mental/emotional/physical abuse – all the way through to adulthood.

Yes. It doesn’t stop at childhood, for example, if that’s where it started. It follows you everywhere – until you decide enough is enough. How that happens and what that looks like for you, I have zero idea. I have no experience with, for example, schizophrenia. I know enough about it, though, to realize that it takes a village to get that mess under control, and in society – regardless of where that society is geographically – it’s not “proper” to talk about it or seek help for it.

Y’all, there is no reason to live your live surviving. There is no reason to let someone else you love do that. God put us here to THRIVE! To be fruitful, to blossom, to bloom! That recently happened to me. All because I decided to take a chance.

What did that look like? To you, it might be laughable. I got out of my husband’s car and walked into our church. Alone. Up the stairs to the Upper Room. Alone. I was acquainted with one or two women in the Bible study group I was joining. That was it. I sat there, before it began, my heart pounding. Intense nausea made it hard to think. I was shaking so hard and terribly ashamed because I knew that some of the women could see me doing it. But I looked at the book I’d been given and almost laughed.

Armor of God, by Priscilla Shirer. And I felt this seed of determination begin to build, y’all. Like the person I used to be, before my anxiety made me turn into an agoraphobic. Someone who got sick on car trips from being closed into a vehicle. Someone who got dizzy and faint just walking out the front door alone.

Second, if you know someone suffering from mental illness, PLEASE take note:

1. Don’t question their faith. Faith from YOUR point of view has nothing to do with it. I had a true love of God for many, many years. It did not stop satan from taking over my life, and it did not stop me from letting him. It did, however, save me countless times from suicide attempts, for example.

2. Don’t embarrass or discourage them to make a point about your own ignorance. I get that this is frustrating and hard for you,too. Especially if you’ve never dealt with this in your own life. It seems so simple – just get out of the house! Of the relationship. Of your head.

Guys, fear doesn’t work like that. It takes over your life, and when the people who are supposed to love you make you feel small, that fear erodes all trust. I have family members I barely speak to because I do not know how to bridge the gap of lost trust. Of judgment and criticism because I wasn’t what they needed.

3. It’s ok to get frustrated. It’s ok to get angry! There is something insidious and dark taking over the life of someone you love, and you are powerless to stop it. No one would blame you for feeling like that, least of all the person it’s happening to. They completely understand! Show unconditional love – which does NOT mean you never feel negatively about that person. It means you keep coming back and you never give up.

4. Learn your place. You cannot heal anyone; only God and, at times, medical help, can do that. You are there to pray over, try to guide, and love that person. That’s it. No one expects you to be perfect, or to always handle it well. You’re human, and everyone knows it.

5. Don’t let it erode your own life. Take care of yourself, because if you don’t you can’t fully take care of someone else.

6. Give it to the Father, y’all. His shoulders are perfectly capable of carrying and bearing your burden. Lay it at His feet every time it rears its ugly head at you, and you will be totally amazed at what He can do.

Whether you’re struggling with mental health problems, or someone you know and love is, hang in there. Seek help. That may be a doctor or a medication. Don’t be ashamed of this! There is PLENTY of love out there for you! God, others – we are HERE. Comment below if you have questions or just want to chat. Bless all y’all!

Here’s a prayer I was recently told about by a wonderfully sweet woman in my Wednesday night Bible study. Let these words of love soak into your parched heart – your dusty soul – so that you are lifted up and away from the evil of satan that is clutching your body. Your mind. Your soul. May God heal you, may He comfort you in times of distress. May He send satan straight back to hell where he belongs!

Ephesians 3:  14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

You’re NOT Too Screwed-up – For God


Good morning folks! It’s a great day out there. We’ve had some massive storms come through overnight. Everything is rain-washed and cool. Blue skies and birds singing – probably ’cause they get to gobble up the worms cast out of their homes by the rain. Ah, life is good.

No, I’m not deterring from the point of this blog post – in fact, my morning workout in the great outdoors is a perfect segue into why I – and you – am not too screwed up for God. I read about this issue in Tell Me About God.  Two and a half months ago, I would have ended today’s lesson in a watershed of tears.

Not today! Thanks to Priscilla Shirer’s The Armor of God (#ArmorofGod) and a class full of women of all ages, races, backgrounds, and life experiences, I have learned much about God’s love for me. But I’ll share this lesson for those of you who aren’t there yet. And y’all will be the ones shedding big ‘ole raindrop tears.

Day 43 – Can We Give Our Lives to God?

“Many of us are reluctant to forgive ourselves because we are unable to fix the things we have done wrong. Maybe we feel the sin is too big to fix – therefore we feel we shouldn’t be forgiven. BUT –

  • God knows our life and the difficulties we face each day.
  • He knows the injustices we have suffered.
  • He knows the frustrations and defeats we suffer each day.
  • He knows the handicaps and limitations we are saddled with.
  • He know how tough it is to get by.

Hasn’t the unfairness of life punished us enough? Isn’t it time to give our un-forgiveness to God?” ~~~Compilation by Jack Berryman . Edited by Randy Haas and Helen Lewis.

If this just slaps you in the face, because it so abruptly and jarringly gets your attention – that’s awesome! So if you watch this awesome video clip and can understand, then it’s way past time to hand over these feelings to the Lord.

People might tell you that nothing is too big for God to handle; that nothing you’ve ever done is too much for Him. But who can believe that, right? Wrong! Something I learned lately boils down to this: God predestined you. He chose you. Not because of what you will become but because of who you are RIGHT now.

Go forth this day and celebrate! Despite negative and troublesome circumstances and people in your life at this very moment, celebrate! Did you feel momentary joy when you read this? Don’t let go of that! That’s what God wants you to feel and experience!

So, as my Mama would say, tuck your knot – and for you non-Southern readers out there, bless your lil ole hearts, that means “bow your head” –

Father God, I pray that whomever reads this, on whatever day, finds comfort, grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and absolute joy in You and what You have done for him or her. Christ, step into this person’s heart. Heal, protect, and guide this person to the Father. Spirit, move in GREAT ways in this person’s life. Let there be no mistake – if he or she is in despair, for whatever reason – let this person know in a forceful and unmistakable way that the Godhead is in LOVE!! Amen.

Blessings y’all!