Calling Out to God

Calling out to God is my way of making sure He is still there.  I know that sounds silly, but maybe Lillyann can help me explain what I mean. She spent the night with me the week before her third birthday and woke up at three in the morning. She came into my room quietly asking “Gigi?”  I assured her I was there and  put her in bed with me. She snuggled closely and fell right back to sleep. She didn’t need anything. She wasn’t scared, and she really knew I was there.  She wanted to check and  make sure, but more importantly, she wanted to be near me.  I  lay there for a long time holding her, listening to her breathe, and thinking of how much I love her and how glad I was that she was next to me. It made me think of praying.  I pray often and love to be in God’s presence.  I know it makes Him feel the same way I do when Lillyann comes looking for me.

I call out to God in a variety of ways many times a day and often whisper “God?” around three in the morning myself when I wake and need company or reassurance. I cry out when I’m hurting, argue when I’m angry, plead when I’m scared,  ask a quiet question when I’m confused, or whisper a soft thank you when I’m happy.  Like Lillyann, I just need to know He is there. Calling out comforts no matter what circumstances surround me. His presence is all I ever need and wonder why I pray for anything else.  The desire to be with God is the center of my relationship with Him and with others. God is the ultimate loving presence.  Pastor John continues to remind me that I can be such a presence in the lives of those I love.  It truly is all we can be or do in this world.  So simple yet so very difficult for me at times.

I’ve learned many lessons in love over the course of my life, but those lessons have became more intense in the three years after mama’s death.  God sees my potential and beauty, and His love helps me see both in myself and others if I reach out in love. What a difference it makes when I find the courage to risk reaching into the hearts of others and into my own to find the love God has in mind for me. Finding that love is the point of my journey.

A great friend is one who knows me at my very worst but still sees and loves the very best in me. That level of love changes me and allows me to experience kingdom love now. God not only loves me that way, He shows me how to love the same way.  Just as I go to God when I am, hurting, troubled, or just out of options, I can go to a friend who hears and understands my heart. It isn’t easy to open up and expose my feelings.  It’s why I preferred those cages for so long.  I could hide and pretend all was well, but I wasn’t able to love as God desires.  Love and truth go together and cannot be separated. Honest communion combined with love,  allows me to walk in God’s kingdom now.  I believe children understand kingdom love and walk in God’s kingdom until we teach them not to reach out, not to open up, and not to trust.

I think of myself at Lillyann’s age and wonder how it is possible for anyone to take out their frustrations on someone so tiny and vulnerable. I am struck by how fragile  Lillyann’s little body is next to mine. She trusts me to love and care for her. The thought of hurting her is beyond me, and I would die keeping someone from hurting her. I thank God she and Mylah are surrounded by those who love and cherish them. The beauty of being re-begotten is that it means to get a new Father, one who draws me near when I find myself alone or fearful. A Father I can cry out to in the darkness and trust Him to hold me closely until my fear subsides. I am loved in a way that allows me to be who He sees in me. Through reaching out and loving, I am able to see beauty and potential as it is reflected in God’s heart and through the hearts of those sweet friends He places in my path.

Flave’s Field

Granddaddy Holden’s farm was located near Brevard in Transylvania County, North Carolina. The soil in Flave’s field was a sight to behold.  The black, rich dirt would grow anything, and God used that image to teach me an important lesson.  I’ve always seen myself as a potted plant, a spindly one at that, but God sees me as a fertile open field. Flave Holden’s farm still stirs powerful childhood memories and is a perfect example of  the kind of growth God has in mind for my heart. Daddy used to tell us that you couldn’t leave a hoe or shovel out in granddaddy’s field overnight because there would be two of each when you woke up the next morning. The richness of the soil in his field was due, in part, to the fact that it was nestled next to the French Broad River and the Pisgah National Forest. His was unlike any other garden I’ve ever seen.  Flave was a Baptist preacher, a farmer, and the biggest kid I ever knew.  He loved to play, and I loved him.  He always had a smile on his face, wore thick glasses and was a very big man.  There was a silent strength in him that comes from one who has deep faith in God.  He loved to play the piano and sing hymns with abandon.  We learned to follow along as he played the shape-note hymns we grew to love. I followed him around like little puppy when I visited his farm. 

I once caught him in a very private moment that gave me a glimpse at the love he had for the land God had given him.  Granddaddy didn’t know I was watching as he looked lovingly at a the black rich dirt he was crumbling in his big hand.  As the dirt fell, I sensed that this field was more than a place to grow food. He loved that dirt and what it represented. It was life itself and connected him to his God in a way that I am only now beginning to understand.  He knew God was the giver of life, and he was a good steward of the land God entrusted to him.  He also knew God delighted in watching His children grow as much as he loved to see the vegetables in his garden ripen. Both are well worth the trouble it takes to tend them.

God prefers plants in a field, birds in the open sky, and fish in His waters. We insist upon putting birds in cages, fish in tanks, and flowers in a pot. We so want to contain and control and take His creation and make it our possession. We even attempt to define and limit God. Granddaddy knew who owned the land and gave thanks to God for allowing him to harvest His fruits, both in the field and in the church. Unlike Flave, I’ve always gravitated toward a cage, a tank, or a flowerpot. My heart didn’t venture into open spaces. There is safety and security in a cage, so fear kept me from allowing my heart to accept the kind of love that grows in the open. My witness suffered because of my inability to open my life and my heart in the way God desires. Love and truth go hand in hand, and neither can be contained.

The image of Flave’s field blesses me in ways I can’t describe, just as I am unable to explain the beautiful way God communicates with me. So patient, so kind, so loving, but most importantly, so aware of who I am and how I hear and learn. That is the most beautiful blessing of all. God knows me, loves me, and helps me love Him and others as I’ve never dared to love before.  We each love God in a different way. I’ve learned to focus upon my relationship with God. I cannot tell others how to love Him. I can simply let them see how I love Him. That is what witnessing is all about. When a friend is hurting, I can only listen and love. I need not do anything. A loving presence is more than enough and models what God does for me. Pastor John has been trying to teach me that powerful truth for a very long time. I am only beginning to understand the concept.

God is the Master Gardener and will provide all I need to grow into His disciple if I will simply yield my will and let Him do the tending. He sees potential in me just as Flave saw all that dirt would yield as it ran through his fingers. The fruit of Flave’s field filled our table as we carried home carloads of the delicious vegetables it produced.  I especially loved the fall when his apple trees were full of ripe fruit.  There was nothing quite like the soft pink apples that grew in front of his home or the big white mushy ones that grew near the barn. Knowing God loves me and wants me to be the fruit of His Spirit humbles me and changes the way I live and love. It gives my heart the same feeling of freedom I found on Flave’s farm. A yielding field allows the Gardener’s plow to break and take away all that hinders growth. God’s plow has cut deeply at times, but the results have been well worth the pain.

Birds of a Feather

I want to share a beautiful memory of mama.  I said goodbye to her on July 5, 2009. Mama and I are birds of a feather.  Our journeys are forever woven together. She and I share a bond beyond mother and daughter; we are kindred spirits with similar hearts. Here’s a glimpse at Mary Sue Holden. She is a powerful part of my journey,  so I want you to get to know her a little better.  She never drove a car or worked outside the home, but she made our house a home and loved me dearly. She was my first taste of love in this world, and the way I love has a lot to do with the way she loved me.

Lillyann and Mylah remind me of her all the time. I know she would love them dearly because she loved all her grandchildren and great grandchildren dearly. She once told me that you haven’t lived until you have a grandchild. I agree wholeheartedly.  I loved mama dearly while she was with me; I love her even more now, and I know I will love her in a way I can’t imagine when I join her in heaven:)

Mama always makes me think of birds. She was fascinated by them in a way I’ve never known anyone else to be. She also loved Mig, a black lab she had as a child. She asked frequently during the last year if her life, if Mig would be in heaven.  Mama was like a child in so many ways, and she was truly concerned about seeing Mig again.  I told her that I wasn’t sure all the people I thought would be in heaven would be there, but I was sure that Mig would be:) That made her smile and reassured her as she prepared to go home. My father tolerated no pets other than birds in his house, so mama had birds when we were growing up. She fed wild birds, watched birds from the kitchen window, and had birds in the house. Mother loved her birds and would, much to the frustration of my father, let them out of their cages. She would talk to them while they sat on her finger or rode on her shoulder.

Those birds, especially Pete, loved mama because she delighted in them and would sing  when they sat on her shoulder. Pete was a green parakeet who flew at the sound of daddy’s voice, but he would sit on mama’s shoulder for hours and look longingly at her and sing happily. Daddy was always trying to capture Pete and insisted that he stay in his cage. Pete knew mama enjoyed his company, and he loved her. They both ignored daddy! Pete and his companion Repeat would stay out of reach when he was around. I think part of mama’s attraction to the birds was the fact they were a source of frustration to daddy!

Like mama and her birds, God gives us the freedom to sit in the palm of His hand and looks at us with delight when we love Him and sing along. We must choose to get out of our cages and sit in the palm of His hand if we are to find the peace He desires for us to find in life. The cage is a safe place where we think we will find security, so is hard for us to leave it unless we get Pete’s attitude. He had no trouble getting out of that cage and got to the point where he would squawk until we let him out. Daddy finally learned that if he would be very still and talk lovingly to Pete, he would sit on his finger too:)

I love thinking about mama and her birds, I miss her so very much. I went into a tail spin the week mama died. The world didn’t make sense anymore; I lost my bearings and was more out of balance than ever in my life. I was hurting, but God offered this beautiful image a few weeks after her death to help me see the importance of getting away from the cages in my life.  You don’t have to be in the cage to be held captive. Pete and Repeat were examples of that. Getting out of the cage inside the house is great, but flying outside in the open is something my heart has only recently experienced. I know God will continue to show me His way and help me get where He wants me to go. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (KJ) “Be still” would be the only tattoo I can imagine myself ever getting. The verse is tattooed on my heart, and I am beginning to understand what it means. It’s so hard for me to be still, but I pray  I will get better so I can hear and heed and obey in a way that blesses and glorifies God. He is to be exalted! He is God after all, and that is something I keep forgetting as I try to do things on my own, slip inside another cage, or settle for flying around inside the house. God prefers the open air, and I’ve been enjoying it a lot myself lately:)

A Deep Breath of God’s Love

Messages to Mylah


A Deep Breath of God’s Love

Acts 19:1-7  NASB

Now, it happened that while Apollos was away in Corinth, Paul made his way down through the mountains, came to Ephesus, and happened on some disciples there. The first thing he said was, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?” “We’ve never even heard of that—a Holy Spirit? God within us?””How were you baptized, then?” asked Paul.”In John’s baptism.””That explains it,” said Paul. “John preached a baptism of radical life-change so that people would be ready to receive the One coming after him, who turned out to be Jesus. If you’ve been baptized in John’s baptism, you’re ready now for the real thing, for Jesus.”And they were. As soon as they heard of it, they were baptized in the name of the Master Jesus. Paul put his hands on their heads and the Holy Spirit entered them. From that moment on, they were praising God in tongues and talking about God’s actions. Altogether there were about twelve people there that day.

I love these beautiful scriptures, Mylah, and I hope you will love them too. Paul knew Jesus was the real thing, and he also knew that breathing in the Holy Spirit is what makes Jesus real in our lives.  Spirit means breath, and that’s what this message is all about.

You were not breathing when you were arrived in this world, sweet Mylah. I was at my home with your big sister Lillyann, so I did not see Tyler’s face when he realized you were not breathing. Mere told me that tears were streaming down his face, and your poor mommy was desperate to know what was happening. The doctors quickly cut the cord, took it from around your neck, and whisked you from the room. All held their breath collectively as they waited for you to breathe for the first time.

Nothing is more comforting than taking a deep breath of fresh air after you’ve momentarily lost it. Sometimes our breath is taken away; sometimes we suffer from asthma or some other condition that keeps us from breathing. Your breath wasn’t taken away, but your first breath was delayed. I suffered from asthma after being exposed to black mold, so I understand the fear that comes from not being able to breathe. It is a feeling of utter helplessness and more frightening than anything I have ever experienced. I know what your daddy felt when he realized you couldn’t breathe was far worse and cannot imagine what must have been going through his heart and mommy’s.

God feels the same pain when we don’t accept His Holy Spirit. It breaks His heart to see us without His love and gasping in vain for something to fill the emptiness. I thank God for your first breath, and I thank Him for every breath you have taken since. Each time I hold you, I take in a deep breath of God’s love, smile, and thank Him.

God is love, and the Holy Spirit is God’s breath. Christ gives His Spirit to comfort us while He is with God. Christ promises He will never leave us; He, the Holy Spirit, and God are One. The Holy Spirit lives within us and fills us with the most beautiful sense of peace imaginable. We are one with God and with one another when we love as He loves. The peace, love, and joy He gives cannot be described, but it can be felt. It’s a difficult concept for expert theologians to tackle sweet Mylah, so just remember breath gives life, and God’s breath makes life worth living. The Holy Spirit gives a new way of breathing and living. A life, as Pastor John would say, worth living forever:)

God gives me beautiful images as He teaches because He knows I’m a visual learner. I hope to pass those lessons along to you, your sister, and others. The image this morning was the most amazing one yet. I say that each time God gives an image, and I pray I never get accustomed to them or take them for granted.

At two this morning, God woke me with a simple illustration. I put a Breathe Right strip on my nose before going to bed because the workout earlier was a tough one that left me a winded and wheezy. I keep the strips and Benedryl handy just in case I have trouble breathing. I rarely use them and keep them mostly as a security blanket. I don’t like those sticky strips and end up taking them off during the night. When I woke this morning, I got rid of the strip and rolled over expecting to go right back to sleep. God had other plans.

The image was Christ breathing God’s love into me and then bidding me to breathe deeply. As I took deep breaths, comfort surrounded me. Breathing is something I try not to take for granted. Each time I get wheezy, I panic and remember the mold that literally took my breath away. This image was about taking my breath away and replacing it with God’s sweet breath of love. As I lay there breathing deeply, I felt God’s presence in the most intimate way, as if we were sharing the same breath. As with all His images, I am frustrated in my attempts to describe what I don’t have words to describe.

The fruit of the Spirit is love was the message. That goes right along with the sweet lessons this week and reminds me of Galatians 5:22. God wasn’t finished and continued to bid me to get rid of my breath and breathe in His. The love of His Spirit gives joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control when we take our breath away, pray for the Spirit’s help, and breathe deeply. When I emptied my lungs and breathed deeply, something wonderful happened. Each breath became a prayer.

I’m lonely Lord, but I don’t want to be. Spirit, take away my loneliness. I inhaled deeply and felt the loneliness disappear as love filled the space.

I’m sad Lord, but I don’t want to be. Spirit, take away my sadness. I inhaled deeply and felt the sadness disappear as joy filled the space.

I’m frightened Lord, but I don’t want to be. Spirit, take away my fear. I inhaled deeply and felt the fear disappear as peace filled the space.

I don’t want to wait Lord, but I know I must. Spirit take away my impatience. I inhaled deeply and felt my impatience disappear as patience filled the space.

I’m angry Lord, but I don’t like the feeling. Spirit, take away my anger. I inhaled deeply and felt the anger disappear as kindness and goodness filled the space.

I don’t trust you Lord, and I know I should. Spirit, help me to trust completely. I inhaled deeply and felt my worry disappear as faithfulness filled the space.

I want to be in control Lord, but I know that I am not. Spirit, take away my need to control. I inhaled deeply and felt gentleness fill the space as I let go of my need to control.

I have feelings I should not have Lord, and I know they get in Your way. Spirit, help me to do the right thing. I inhaled deeply and felt my lack of control disappear as self-control filled the space. I knew I could obey in a new and beautiful way.

Each time I took my breath away, cleared space for His, and let the Holy Spirit fill that space, I felt a sense of intimacy with the Trinity that was better than anything I’ve felt before. Eugene Peterson calls it the Trinitarian dance. I have never been closer to God than at two this morning. I thank God for the early morning dance that took my breath away and filled me as I have never been filled before. I thank Him for bringing me to the place of breathlessness that allowed me to remember the panic of not being able to breathe. It helped me appreciate the sweet lesson and the beautiful image. We need to breathe deeply, and we need to pray deeply too. We need to pray as often as we breathe because prayer is more essential to life than breathing.

As I write this message, sweet precious Mylah, I humbly recall that you arrived in this world not breathing. I cannot type or think that without crying tears of gratitude to God for giving you that first sweet breath. That image will always remind me not to take love for granted. Enjoy each breath Mylah and never take a single one for granted. Take a deep breath of God’s love, know that you are loved, and love with all your heart. God does indeed promise to love you always, and so do I. Each time I hold you, I smile, thank God you are breathing, and take a deep breath of God’s precious love.

My Love Always, Gigi:)

In Love’s Wake

Messages for Mylah


“In Love’s Wake”

You are growing so quickly sweet Mylah, and I delight in holding you. You, Lillyann, mommy, and daddy met me at the Cork & Bean for lunch on Sunday, and you were just adorable. You slept most of the time, but you were awake long enough to know that you were surrounded by love. The folks in the cafe were all staring at you, and a sweet little boy about the same age as your big sister came over and just stood and looked at you. His parents made him come back to their table, but I told them that he wasn’t bothering us. I know how he feels; I can’t stop looking at you either. You are so very beautiful as is your big sister. You look like her and your beautiful mommy, but you also remind me so much of your sweet daddy when he was little.

My first Letter to Lillyann was about a special time at the Cork & Bean when she was one. This letter is not about a special time at the cafe, even though it was a beautiful time together. It’s another message about love. This time the scriptures that inspired me where from Exodus 33:12-23. They describe a time when Moses asked God to let him see His glory. God’s glory is something we are not able to look upon, and His face is too much for our tiny minds to absorb. God told Moses that He would put him on a rock and cover his face with His own hand as He passed by so Moses could see His goodness. That was more than enough for Moses, and He was reassured that God was with him and would always be with him.

Exodus 33:12-23 NASB

12 Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” 14 And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. 16 For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” 17 The LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” 19 And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” 21 Then the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; 22 and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”

God will always be with you Mylah; that is His promise and His Son’s promise. God provides His Spirit to accompany us on this beautiful journey. Moses was able to see the wake that followed God. I create a wake when I travel through this world.  As I love, I enter the lives of those in my path and leave an impression on their hearts. Just as a boat, truck, plane, train, or any other moving body leaves a wake, so do I. Love opens the heart the same way a boat splits the water. How my love affects another depends upon many things. Love sometimes hurts and cuts deeply into my heart. I may love with abandon and find myself abandoned. I can feel what isn’t love at all. I can miss love completely because I’m not paying attention. There is no way to guard my heart in the wake of others except to trust it to God and let Him help me discern the truth. True love enters unexpectedly and leaves an impression upon my heart that lasts for eternity. God’s love enters my heart when I accept the love He so beautifully offers in His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ comes into my heart and helps me understand love and all it can be. He sends His Holy Spirit to stay in my heart and bring comfort during those times when it is broken.

I wish I could say your heart will never be broken sweet Mylah, but that would not be true. I love with my whole heart, and my heart has been broken several times. Each time, it comes away a little stronger and better able to love again. This has been a difficult year for my heart. I was caught in the wake of one who hurt me very deeply last week. I am thankful God showed me the truth even though it hurt me. I am also glad you and sweet Lillyann are here to help my heart heal and grow in new directions. God showed me what true love is this year, so I will never accept less now that I have a new gauge to help measure love. You are surrounded by love, so your name is fitting.  Your mommy made up your name, so you are the only Mylah I’ve ever known. I hope you will always remember that your name means you are loved always. Don’t settle when it comes to love. I used to think I didn’t deserve to be loved. I know better now thanks to God’s sweet Spirit. I hope you will always know better:]

My Love Always, Gigi:)

You Are Loved

Messages for Mylah


You Are Loved

I heard your name for the first time last month, and it is absolutely perfect for you. It means My Love Always. You are loved by many sweet Mylah. Your middle name, Isabella, means God’s promise. God’s love never fails, and He promises His love always. People may disappoint when it comes to love and your expectations, but you can always count on God and His promises.

I began writing letters to your big sister, Lillyann, in April, 2010. I wanted to do something different for you. I am leaving my work in the church office in September, a few weeks before you are expected to arrive. God is calling me to write, pray, and study. I also want to spend time with you and Lillyann. While I am not sure where the journey will take me as I go in this new direction, I know God has amazing plans for all of us.

I began studying 1 Peter two weeks ago. I had a very bad attitude when it came to Peter. I saw him as hard-headed and not giving Mary enough credit. I thought he had a bad attitude toward women. When I took the time to get to know him better, I learned that I was wrong. That is always the case when I judge someone before I truly know them.

Peter taught me about love and brought me closer to God, so I will always have a special place in my heart for him. I am not only loved, I am called to love. Peter learned about God’s love and, like me, he did it the hard way. That’s another reason he captured my heart; we have a lot in common in that regard.

1 Peter 1:17-23 NASB

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times forthe sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

If I were asked to sum up God’s Word in one word, it would be love. The Old Testament says God is love; the New Testament says Jesus loves me, and together they represent a beautiful living love letter written just for me. God’s love is something Peter knew first-hand, up close, and personally. He is the rock upon which Christ built His church, and he holds the keys to heaven’s gate. I’ve always thought of that as a position of power. One who stood at the door and decided who got in and who didn’t. Many feel the same way, but that’s not what Peter does. Peter knows the key to entering God’s kingdom, whether here or after we die, is accepting God’s love. He could not keep that wonderful knowledge to himself and knew that I couldn’t either once I got a taste of God’s love. Peter understood the rock upon which God’s church would be founded was Christ’s perfect love. There is nothing in this world more powerful than love. When I realize that beautiful truth, everything changes. I learn I can walk in God’s Kingdom now.

Peter tells new believers that God’s plan has always been in place. He knew before He formed the world that it would take His love to make it work. He begs us to love one another as if nothing else matters. The problem with love is that it involves trust. I have a problem with that because trusting involves being vulnerable. Peter is trying to get me to understand that God is different, and His love is unlike anything I’ve ever known. God sacrificed His only Son to give me access to that special love.

I am called to live a new life and love differently. My love must reflect God’s. Christ is a living, breathing example of God’s love. By giving me a connection to the Holy Spirit, Christ makes the impossible possible. My heart is turned upside down, and my world changes as a result of the change that takes place in my heart. I am re-begotten; that means more than simply born again. It means that I have a new father. My new Father is Love, and Christ offers a perfect example of God’s love in human form. He asks that I be a witness of His love, and He gives the Holy Spirit to help me carry out His commission.

God is love, and God’s Word is love. Christ lives out God’s love in an amazing way, and the Holy Spirit enables me to do the same. That’s what Peter is trying to tell me as He reminds me that my new life is conceived in the very heart of God!! How can I hear that and not be affected? Easily. My heart must mature before I am able to understand what God’s love truly means for me and His world. Love must be received; it cannot be forced upon another. God will not force me to love Him. If He did, the very nature of His love would be destroyed. Peter tells me what the prophets said about my old life being as short-lived as grass and wildflowers, but God’s love and His Word last forever.

The beautiful news is that I do not have to wait until I die to receive God’s love. In fact, if I do wait, I miss the opportunity to share God’s love with others. Peter knows the point of God’s love is to share it with others. Love and sharing go together, and that goes against human nature. I guard my heart and hold tightly to those I love out of fear. Kingdom love differs in that regard; the more I love, the more I am loved. God’s love is a love meant to be shared with abandon. Selfish love never survives, and Kingdom love will not survive unless it is shared. That’s the beautiful difference Peter is trying to show me.

In the realm of human love, sharing may mean adultery and infidelity. It means children leaving home and starting new lives with new loved ones. I hold tightly to those I love out of fear of losing them. Fear causes fusion, and fusion results in breaking because even human love does not fare well when held captive. God refuses to fuse. Unfortunately, old habits keep us from loving as God desires. I take God’s love and try to conform it and Him. God is the Great I AM. He is Who He Is, and that is what the family systems literature would call self-differentiation. In order to love as He loves, I must follow His example and become who He created me to be. Christ follows God’s beautiful example and remains true to Himself all the way to the cross. When I am who I am meant to be and accept others as they are, I begin to see the beauty of God’s plan for love. Love cannot be contained or held down. Our fear results in the need to control and causes me to miss the kingdom love God so desires for me. It is the love I will have in heaven, and Peter knows I can have it now.

It’s important to understand and accept God’s plan for love and love one another as though our very lives depend upon it. Peter is telling me that it is not only my life, but the lives of others that depend upon it. Peter understood the power of God’s love to transform and had the key to the Kingdom-God’s love. He knew he was loved and wanted everyone to share God’s love. Knowing I am loved changes me and fills me with the desire to be a witness of God’s love. Know that you are loved sweet Mylah and open your heart to the love God has for you. Don’t settle for anything less in this world because it is God’s world, and He allows us to love here on Earth as we will one day love in heaven.

My Love Always, Gigi

Changing Direction

January 1, 2011

Dear Lillyann,

We all seek answers, but it is never easy for us to change direction. Smart folks look for answers; wise folks search for truth. Thomas, a disciple of Christ’s, says it this way. “If you are searching, you must not stop until you find. When you find, however, you will become troubled. Your confusion will give way to wonder. In wonder you will reign over all things. Your sovereignty will be your rest.” (Gospel of Thomas) I am learning that the more I search, the more questions I have.  I’m only beginning to understand the importance of wondering. I think that’s what Thomas is trying to tell me.  Like all children, you are filled with wonder.  It’s the way God wants all of us to be.

The world is full of quick fixes and easy answers, but they don’t satisfy or give the direction I need.  As I’ve searched this past year, I’ve been confused and hurt, but truth often causes hurt initially. Hurt gives way to healing when the truth is told with love. God lovingly continues to give questions and bring me back to the place of understanding that I don’t have to understand.  That knowledge changes the way I seek and makes changing directions much easier.  I have the tendency to get comfortable where I am, and that makes me unwilling to change. Fear accompanies change and keeps me from going where God bids me to go.

The journey is meant to bring me closer to God. I search for God because deep down inside, I know only He can provide the peace and love I so desperately desire.  Many have the facts; they accept Christ as their Savior, but go on living just as they always have. They even say that the only difference between them and others is they are forgiven. I am ashamed to say I’ve said that myself. This year, I have learned that changing direction is part of following Christ. If I am to find all that God has in mind for me, I must be willing to change direction.

Love is like a fire and must be fed. If I ignite sticks, paper, or straw, I get a bright flame that burns brightly, dies quickly, and isn’t very satisfying. That is what quick fixes, lust, and easy answers offer. God knows truth and love are both necessary for understanding and walking in His kingdom. When I let the Holy Spirit combine them, they become a bed of coals in my heart. Then, I am ready for all God has in mind. When I look for and love Christ in others, I feed the fire in a way that transforms. Love enables me leave fear behind, change direction, and continue seeking.

When it comes to loving God, the proof is in the pudding. That’s a funny expression that simply means you may say you can cook, but I’ll believe it when I taste your pudding. Long ago, when that expression became popular, it was very difficult to make pudding. Today, we have instant pudding, a great example of an easy fix!  The proof of whether or not I’m truly changed by God’s love will be in the way I live my life.  I pray this year of new direction will result in positive changes for me and those in my path. I hope to be the change I wish to see in the world. That’s from a beautiful quote by a very wise man named Ghandi. I would add that I hope to be the change God wants to see in this world. I suppose Ghandi would say they should be the same!

I am leaving my job at the church because God is bidding me to free my time so He can use me in a different way. I’m not sure how God will use me, but I know the trick to following God’s directions is not looking at my map while He’s talking.  God bid me to change directions in 2007 when I left teaching, and that’s how I began my work as a church secretary.

I wanted to be a teacher from the time I was five.  I loved to play school in the little house that was behind my home.  I taught for thirty-three years and loved sharing my love of learning with the students God placed in my path. I had no plans of leaving and would have stayed for many more years, but God had other plans.  I didn’t fight with God because I knew I had to leave. Things were happening that went against all I believed about teaching, and children were being treated in a way I could not ignore. I learned a lot as I tried to bring about change even though I wasn’t successful. Oddly enough, a former student’s sweet compliment made me realize  I had to leave.  She was a grown woman who had a daughter attending the school where I worked.  She stopped by to tell me that it made her feel so good to know that I was still walking the halls.  I knew I could no longer be part of what was going on, so it was time to let the administration know I was leaving.

They say you know when it is time to retire, and it was crystal clear to me in January of 2007 that I had to leave.  I prayed and begged God to bring about the changes I wanted.  I looked at my map while He was giving me His directions.  I was dumbfounded by all that was happening and humbled by how little influence I had.  God cannot use me until I come to a place where His will is more important than my desire for answers, so I gave it up to Him and found the peace that got me through a very difficult time.  When the head of the deacon body called to ask if I would consider being the church secretary, I laughed out loud! I told him I would pray about it, but I knew that God didn’t want me to do that.  I didn’t have a clue how to be a secretary, besides I was a teacher and knew God would find the right place for me to do just that.

I went to pray with a smile on my face.  God’s going to love this, I thought, as if He didn’t already know.  I barely got my knees on the floor before I knew God wanted me to take the job.  The smile gave way to panic, but that subsided as I hushed and let Him speak. I knew He knew what He was doing and didn’t question Him.  The last three and a half years have been filled with beautiful learning and growing.  God has blessed me beyond belief as I’ve done this work for Him, and I know He will bless me as I follow His new directions.  I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that I’m nervous about the coming changes, but I know God has wonderful plans and will lead me where He wants me to be.  Let me tell you about some wonderful people who were willing to follow God’s directions even when it meant changing their plans.

There was a famous group of travelers who set off on a two-year journey to find Jesus. They used the stars to guide them and trusted God’s directions after they found Him. Those travelers are known as the Magi or the Wise Men.  I get to tell the Children’s Story about them this week. I love seeing the sweet expectant faces of the children as I share God’s Word with them because I feel the same way as they do when it comes to God’s Word.

Matthew 2:1-12 The Visit of the Magi NASB

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “ In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘ And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.”

The Wise Men spent two years on their journey to find the child born to be king of the Jews. They were not Jewish but were following the stars which heralded the amazing birth. The people near where He was born didn’t pay that much attention to the couple staying in a place where animals were kept and sheep were birthed. The shepherds were told of his arrival and went to see Him, but most folks didn’t even notice. The wise men arrived when Jesus was two years old, and they assumed that everyone would know about this new born king. They went to the king’s house because that is the most likely place to find the king. They continued their search and eventually did find Jesus. God warned them to go home a different way; they heeded His advice and did not go back by the palace. Herod was furious and decided to conduct his own search for the child. Countless little ones had to die because of his jealousy and fear. Herod had power, and he wanted to keep it. He wasn’t the type to change his direction, and he didn’t listen to God. Wisdom is better than power, so seek it and seek Christ. You’ll be amazed at what happens if you’re willing to change direction when God bids you to go a different way.

In Christ’s Precious Love, Gigi

Accepting God’s Love

December 26, 2010

Dearest Lillyann,

It’s the day after your second Christmas, and you’re in Florida with mommy and daddy. I couldn’t be happier for you. All the presents you’ve gotten, are getting, and will get when you get home don’t compare to the beautiful gift of having you, mommy, and daddy together for a whole week. I know your little heart is popping with joy, and mine is too as I write this. Tears of joy are running down my cheeks as I think of it. Love is the greatest gift of all, and time with those you love is far greater than any gift that can be purchased in the world. The gifts of this world are truly wonderful, and I know you love the little train set that I gave you before you left, but I also know you love the time we spend playing with it more. I have more gifts for you when you get home because I love giving you things. I delight in watching you play with them. especially when you try to figure out how to make them work. You remind me of your daddy when you do that:)

Watching you learn and grow blesses me, but I also delight in watching you sleep and just holding you in my arms. When you wrap your arms around my neck and kiss me, my heart melts into a puddle of pure joy.  You are a special little girl who makes a difference in the lives of all you love. That is what love does, Lillyann. It transforms me into something I cannot be without it. It changes me as I give it away and changes me even more when I welcome it into my heart. I’ve never had a problem loving and have the tendency to love with my whole heart, but I have had trouble when it comes to accepting love.  That’s the biggest way God’s love changes me.  I see myself as worthy of love and am able to accept His love and the love of others in a way I was unable to before.  That changes me and those I love, and that’s what accepting God’s love is all about.

God loves giving and loves it when we accept His gift of love and share it with others. He wants more than anything for us to love Him, love one another, and figure out how His love works.  Just as I love watching you enjoy the gifts I give, so does God love it when I accept and share His love.  He loves me so much that He gave His only Son so I could be with Him and experience love unlike anything I could ever imagine on my own.

While your love changes my heart in a beautiful way, God’s love transforms even more powerfully in a way that I cannot put into words. It has been a decade of transformation and a time of tremendous growth for me sweet Lillyann. This last Christmas of the decade, God gave me the gift of  a beautiful image to help me remember that transformation. God is eternal love, and Christ brought that love down to earth on the very first Christmas. The Holy Spirit connects me to God’s love and helps me love others  and myself as God desires. Real love is eternal and isn’t defined by time or circumstances. It always has been, is, and always will be. In fact, God is love.

Let me tell you all about the sweet image God gave me on Christmas morning. I have a chair that was the organist’s chair at the church for many years. I brought it home because I couldn’t bear for it to be thrown away.  Mary Evelyn, who reminds me so much of you, sat in it during the morning worship services for decades. It is a special chair for me because I love to pray and meditate, and it’s perfect for both. I was doing just that on Christmas morning. As I thanked God for all that He gives, I opened my eyes and saw the picture of the orchid  you love so much that’s in the hallway. As I looked at the orchid, I could see God holding a beautiful crimson and yellow butterfly. The crimson was the blood of His precious Son, and the bright yellow the breath of His Holy Spirit. They were connected in a beautiful way and blessed me as I thought of my own transformation.  I thanked God for the beautiful gift of His presence in my own heart.

You know how I feel about butterflies, and God knows how much I love them. Everyone who knows and loves me knows that about me. I delight in them, and so do you!! Butterflies are a symbol of transformation. I have struggled in my cocoon in the forty-four years since I first accepted God’s offer of love. With the help of the Holy Spirit,  I’m letting go and learning what accepting His love truly means. God’s transforming love connects me to Him, His Son, His Holy Spirit, myself, and others. With God, I am a new creature with a changed mind, a new heart, and a fervent desire to connect to and share His Love. It’s taken me a long time to let that beautiful truth transform me, but it is worth every minute of the struggle!

God is the source of all true love. He is everywhere if I will simply seek Him. He is in each of us, but He is also in flowers, birds, butterflies, and all of His creation. Seeing and connecting to His love is what the journey is all about. Love connects us to God, to one another, and to His beautiful world. You and I have a sweet connection, and I feel your love across the miles this morning. I love you in a way that helps me understand God’s love all the more, and I thank you for that dear little one.

In Christ’s Precious Love, Gigi:]

Forgiving Like Christ

June 4, 2010

Dear Lillyann,

To grow as God desires, I must forgive those who hurt me. I already knew that about forgiveness, but tonight God showed me how to forgive like Christ. He took forgiveness to a new level, and I experienced peace and joy as never before. I cannot forgive as Christ forgives on my own; I have to have the help of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness frees the heart and allows healing and growth that will not take place without it.

Pastor John went to Gardner Webb last week and heard Fisher Humphries speak on forgiveness. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I was harboring a lot of anger over the week mama died. I thought I had dealt with the pain and moved on, but I realized that I had a great deal of what John calls inner seething over the hurt and abandonment I experienced that week. That’s what happens when you let things simmer inside.  Forgiving like Christ clears the heart and calms the spirit.

I depended upon Pollyanna to get me through the service on Wednesday evening. The children were having a musical, so I put on my happy face knowing I could count on her to help me out. She is an old friend who offers a comfortable solution to everything, and I needed a quick fix.

On Thursday morning, my anger grew worse, but I decided to seethe. Sometimes, seething satisfies as nothing else, and Satan uses it to slow cook my anger. I asked John when he came in from breakfast to tell me what he learned at Pastor School. I needed a distraction, and I love learning about God and His Word. He told me about absorbing the hurt, pain, and anger while giving up the right to retaliate.  This wasn’t the forgiveness I knew about. I couldn’t believe my ears; it was exactly what I needed to hear. I’m always amazed when God does that, but I shouldn’t be since He is God:)

I knew the source of my anger. I had hidden the anger away and never faced it because that’s the easiest way to deal with hurt.  I was tired of pretending and wanted to hear more about this new way of forgiving. I asked John to walk me through the process of absorbing the hurt, pain, and anger. He said to first name the pain and hurt along with the person who hurt me. Then, ask the Holy Spirit to help me forgive completely and let God absorb the hurt so that it never bothers me again and do the same for the anger. The final step offers the most healing.  Pray for the person who hurt me and sincerely ask God to bless them. Give up the right to retaliate.

I was dumbfounded because I had never heard anything like that before. I knew I would go through the process as soon as I got home. I got ready to pray and took down my Emmaus candle. I figured the pain would be as bad as the initial hurt if not more considering all the anger that had simmered for so long. I got mama’s prayer shawl, lit the candle, and began to relive the day mama died. As I sat on the bed and started to remember, I got on my knees and asked the Holy Spirit to please help me because I didn’t want to hurt anymore. The sweetest and most beautiful thing happened. I had tears in my eyes as I looked up at the candle.

I held a small wooden cross as I prayed, and beautiful rays of light came from the candle, through the cross, and right into my heart. I could feel my heart healing. The hurt, pain, and anger was replaced with God’s love. I repeated the process with the anger, and it was even more powerful as I let God transform it. This went on for about a minute. I continued to stare at the light as I absorbed the pain and anger from another hurt before blowing out the candle and thanking God for love that transforms hurt and anger into love. What a difference it made in my heart. I completed the process by asking God to bless the person who hurt me.

Pastor John is doing the address at the Baccalaureate service tomorrow. It’s called “The Challenge,” and it’s on forgiveness. I’m looking forward to hearing it and passing it along to others who need the kind of healing I received. 

Forgiveness brings such joy Lillyann, and I thank God for the pain and hurt that allowed me to grow nearer to Him. There is an old Spiritual called “Wade in the Water” about God troubling the water so He can free us from illness and oppression. I’ve been listening to that song all week. God does stir up the water, and His healing comes with the stirring.

That stirring reminds me of a story in John 5 about an angel stirring the spring where people came to be healed. Those who got in the water were healed, but those who waited until the waters calmed were not. A crippled man who had no one to place him in the water met Jesus one day. He was healed without even getting into the water.

(John 5:2-9) NASB “Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “ Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.”

I love this beautiful story of healing because Jesus asked the man if he wished to get well. Sometimes, I wallow in my hurt because I don’t want to get well and stop hurting. The pain becomes a part of who I am. It becomes harder and harder to let go. This man came to the pool for thirty-eight years; I remained stuck in my hurt longer than I should have and didn’t let go until I was ready to be healed. Jesus waits for me to want to be well before He heals me, but He heals immediately when I am ready. Forgiveness is the same way. Forgiving like Jesus isn’t easy, but the healing that occurs when I do is well worth the risk. I convince myself that I have every right to be angry and retaliate. He convinces me to love, forgive, pray for those who hurt me, and move on. His plan is always much better than mine:)

In Christ’s Precious Love, Gigi:)

Being a Friend

April 26, 2010

Dear Lillyann,

The thing I love most about you is the way you delight in everything. It’s the quality I love most in a friend and is exactly how God wants us to be with Him and one another. When you see me, you squeal with delight, and I do the same. Friends delight in one another even though they may not always be happy. Friends must also go through sad or difficult times, and the squeals of delight become a quiet looks of relief or tender tears of release that come when you know someone hears and understands your heart. That kind of friendship is the most valuable thing in this world. The Bible says it is like the fellowship in heaven, and I believe it.

One of my friends is 90 years old today. Pearl lights up when she sees me coming. I love that about her because it makes me feel so loved. She looks for me when she is at the church, and embraces me when she finds me. I have many wonderful friends who do just that. I am overwhelmed by the number of people who love me and sometimes want to back away or even run away. I try to love by myself rather than letting the Holy Spirit love through me. The Holy Spirit is the sweetest friend of all. Jesus sent Him to stay with me until I am in heaven. I can walk in God’s kingdom now with the Holy Spirit’s help. He is called the Comforter because His presence is like a warm embrace. He is always there when I need Him.  I will try to be there for you when you need me Lillyann, but I will not always be. I pray you will become good friends with the Holy Spirit and know that you are surrounded by love. We are beautifully connected to one another through God’s Spirit and become one with Him and one with each other through His love.

Working in the church office can be very stressful because I get a lot of love from the people of the church and the community as they pass through. Many times, the troubles they are having overwhelm me because I try to take it all in, process it, and make things better for them. Wanting to make things better is a big problem because only God is able to do that. It helps Him if I let the Holy Spirit work through me rather than trying to do things by myself. I am just learning that, and it is helping my relationships, especially the one I have with God. I cannot fix the problems of others; I can only be a loving presence who listens and speaks the truth with love. It’s not an easy thing to do, but the results are amazing.

We sometimes get love and lust mixed up. Lust is a word mostly associated with sex, but it has to do with much more. Lust is when you have to have something or someone. It is the opposite of love when you have deep feelings for someone, but you don’t want anything from them. It is easier to understand if you look at it from the standpoint of wanting. Lust is wanting selfishly. Loving is wanting the best for those you love. I have made the mistake of trying to make others happy by giving, but that leaves me empty. I do love giving you things, but I love being with you even more. It’s why you squeal when you see me, and I do the same. I hope that never changes.

Getting and giving complicate love if we are not careful. When we truly love, we listen carefully and deeply. Pastor John is teaching me about being a loving presence, and that is helping me connect to you in a special way.  We have become fast friends because love was there all along; we just had to connect to it. As I learn to listen, I am more open to the love that is all around me. Connections make this life like heaven when our relationships are pure and honest and filled with love. I am open to love in a way I never have been before, and you are a big part of that.

Be open sweet Lillyann and always love the way you do now, with abandon. Children love the way God desires. I’ve learned to pull away and stop connecting with my whole heart because my heart has been broken many times, but it gets a little stronger each time. I am glad to be loving again and not worrying about getting hurt.  I am just learning to be who God wants me to be and to love the way only I can; I hope you learn that more quickly than I did.  People are attracted to you if you aren’t worried about whether or not they love you back. Give and love openly and don’t worry about those who don’t understand the way you love. Look up to God, open your arms to Christ’s forgiveness and love; then snuggle next to the Holy Spirit. You’ll be amazed at how God’s love will change your life. God will place friends in your path who will help you see yourself as God sees you, friends who hear your heart and let you hear theirs. You are my sweet friend Lillyann, and I love you so very much.

In Christ’s Precious Love, Gigi:)

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