That Sweet By and By

Happily ever after used to be my battle cry.

I was sure I would see Jesus in that sweet by and by.

I couldn’t seem to find my dreams no matter how I tried,

So I began to drown inside the ocean I had cried.

 

Jesus never seemed to tire as He caught each falling tear.

I know He wished I’d let go of my paralyzing fear.

He made sure that the way to Him was always crystal clear,

But I put up my obstacles and would not let Him steer.

 

He bid me trust and promised that He’d never told a lie,

His precious love so much more than simply pie in the sky.

I loved Him more than anything and said that I would try,

But wondered if I had been wrong when I began to die.

 

I gave up the steering wheel and prepared myself to veer.

I let go of everything but decided to stay near.

His sweet loving word of comfort was all my heart could hear.

He showed me miles of faces, and I saw those I held dear.

 

Some were here and some in heaven, but all were filled with cheer,

When they saw I realized their love would always be near.

That sweet by and by is not in the sky; it’s always here.

The love I sought, already bought, by Someone very dear.

Happy First Anniversary to Me :)

Happy first anniversary of blogging to me! The year has been filled to the brim with lessons that have taken me out of my comfort zone and pushed me beyond what I thought possible. I marvel at how God has taken my desire to share my journey with my sweet grandbabies and turned it into something so much more. In my thirty-three years of teaching, I was constantly telling my students to write about their lives because no one else could write their autobiographies. I journaled my pain, but I never found the courage to write my own story until a dear friend encouraged me to write for Lillyann. Audience makes all the difference when it comes to writing, and I was suddenly motivated to tell the truth with love so she, and now Mylah, could hear Gigi’s heart.

Life and love are about hearing one another’s heart, and that has been the biggest lesson I’ve learned as I’ve brought my story into the open. It’s a lot like taking off my clothes in front of a large group of people, and I almost didn’t do it. I put it off until God made it clear that I needed it even more than my little granddaughters. Telling my story has opened my heart in a way that I could never have imagined a year ago. I thought it would be easy to blog about my life, but that has not been the case at all. For those of you who write and share your stories, you know exactly what I mean. Writing takes a toll on the heart, and I’ve always known that. In my classroom, I had photos of famous authors all around the room. I thought it was important for my students to see the face of the person who wrote the literature we were reading.

One day, a middle school student asked me very seriously if all the authors on the wall had sad life stories. I was cautious how I answered that question because I wanted my students to be encouraged to write, but I also wanted to be honest. I told him that many of the authors did have tragic lives; I saw a teachable moment and knew I needed to be honest. I love middle school students because they are so very real and know the pain that brings into their own lives. I told my students that writing takes a willingness to let others see your pain and feel your hurt, and that takes a toll on the heart and the soul. It isn’t for the weak and takes more courage than anything else in this world. I didn’t tell them that was why I avoided real writing like the plague. I wasn’t ready to reveal that much to them. I wish I could have been a better example in that regard.

They understood as only middle schoolers can, and I’m sure many of them saw my own cowardice. They didn’t call me on it, so that means they either didn’t notice my fear or they understood and respected it. I do remember wishing I was as brave as those faces looking down from the wall that day. I have thought about that question many times and find great irony in the fact that I taught writing yet didn’t write. I see now that my passion came from the fact that I could not do what I so wanted them to be able to do. Like a prisoner pleading for those on the outside to enjoy the open air, I was pleading with them to do what I could not bring myself to do. I was fifty-seven before I found the courage to write as I knew I should and fifty-nine before I found the courage to share my writing with others. I would say late is better than never, but I know timing is much more complicated than that.

I know the importance of readiness when it comes to learning, and the teacher in me knows that my heart wasn’t ready to write or admit that I couldn’t in that classroom long ago. God used my passionate desire to write to encourage my students to write. He really does make all things work together for good. He was writing His story on my heart all along, but I wasn’t ready to hear it. The most difficult critic to get past when writing is self, and I imagine that’s true for all writers. A year ago today, I struggled with sending my first post. I know I read it a hundred times and cried almost as many times before finding the courage to take my clothes off in front of the world and say here I am. I smile when I read that now because my heart has truly come home, and I love myself in a way I never believed possible. I marvel at how God works, and I thank Him and all who have given me the courage to open my heart and be who He created me to be.

Here’s my first post. Lessons in Love

Lessons in Love
Lessons in Love

Bringing My Heart Home

In his commentary on Jeremiah, Walter Brueggemann says, “We become like the god we serve. Pursue a bubble and become a bubble.The object of love determines the quality of love.” My study of Jeremiah over the past two weeks has been a challenge. Jeremiah has a way with words, and his poetry always touches my heart very deeply. However, his message from God is not an easy one to swallow. All prophets must struggle with the temptation to say people want to hear, but there is another word for those who do that. Prophets and harlots have very different agendas. Harlotry is easier in the short term, but prophets who speak the truth with love have a sweet closeness to God that is far better than anything this world has to offer. Jeremiah knew the cost of proclaiming the truth, and God’s messengers know it today.

The past three days have been powerful ones for me as I’ve been given the rare gift of seeing a glimpse of my nineteen-year-old self through the eyes of a dear friend. Forty-two years ago, I went on a camping trip with a very special friend. It was a time of connection that brought us closer to God, and it was wonderful to get to relive that time. He wrote a book based on conversations we had that weekend and shared it with me this week. As we talked about the book today, I was deeply touched the healing our honest communion brought both then and now. Sharing the truth with love changes the one telling the story as well as the one hearing it.

Jeremiah knew the importance of sharing Gods truth with love. He was given a difficult message to pass along. Those words were for the people of Israel thousands of years ago, and they are for me today.

Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:10 NASB

It’s been a month of dying to self and having my very foundation pulled out from under me. The razing prepared my heart for the building and planting God has in mind. God put loving friends right where I needed them, right when I needed them. He always does, but I don’t always notice. I hope to become more aware of all He has at every turn and pray I never lose my sense of awe when it comes to His glory.

I was reminded this week that childlike faith is to be cherished, and I also learned to love who I have been, am, and will continue to be under God’s loving care. I am grateful for those willing to love honestly and share the path in a way that gives me the courage to share my own story. When I find the courage to tell the truth with love, I find God in that telling. It changes me and those with whom I share the path. The lessons this week have been very difficult, but I love the way God brought them home to my heart. In fact, those lessons brought my heart home in a beautiful way. It’s His and always has been, and I know He has wonderful plans in store as He continues to “pluck up, break down, destroy, and overthrow” so He can “build and plant” what He has in mind. 

The sunset this evening was just God showing off, and I absolutely love it when He does that!!

Bringing My Heart Home

Lust, Love, and m&m’s

God broke the sugar coating right off of my heart this week and used a very sweet image to teach an important lesson in love. I have the tendency to allow my heart, as Langston Hughes would say, to “crust over like a syrupy sweet” in order to protect it from the pain that accompanies love. God’s love cracked that colorful coating into a thousand pieces last week in order to show me the deep rich love I was about to miss. Forest Mars and Bruce Murrie found that a candy coating would keep their sweet chocolate from melting in my hand before it melted in my mouth. I learned the same about my heart long ago.

I wasn’t expecting the image God brought early this morning. In fact, I already had my own image and my own beautiful thoughts. I am learning to let go of mine and go with His. Lust is a colorful candy coating that covers love if I let it. I’m afraid I’ve done just that for a very long time. If I settle for lust’s candy coating, I miss the rich love God has in mind for me. I can’t imagine putting m&m’s in a jar and looking at them or licking off the coating and throwing the chocolate away, but I came very close to doing just that last week.

God knows the way I love, and He always knows exactly what my heart needs. I marvel at how He used a little piece of candy to teach a lesson I will not soon forget. Each time I eat one of those sweet little treats, I plan to smile and thank God for the deep rich love that is more than I could ever imagine on my own and far better than the thin colorful coating that covers it.

Love, Lust, and m&m's

One of a Kind Heart

How can I read Psalm 138 and not sing aloud to God. David had many faults, and so do I; but he loved God in a way that touched God’s heart, and I want to do the same. God doesn’t need perfect children; He simply wants to be loved. It’s what David wanted, and it’s what we all want.

“I will give You thanks with all my heart;
I will sing praises to You before the gods.
 I will bow down toward Your holy temple
And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.
On the day I called, You answered me;
You made me bold with strength in my soul.

 All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O Lord,
When they have heard the words of Your mouth.
 And they will sing of the ways of the Lord,
For great is the glory of the Lord.
 For though the Lord is exalted,
Yet He regards the lowly,
But the haughty He knows from afar.

 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;
You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
And Your right hand will save me.
 The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” NASB

God is Love, and my heart is a one of a kind creation designed especially by Him.  According to Reverso,”Designer clothes or designer labels are expensive, fashionable clothes made by a famous designer, rather than being made in large quantities in a factory.”  Designer labels are expensive, but they do not compare with a one-of-a-kind creation which is, according to dictionary.com, ” unique; pertaining to a singular example.”

A singular example perfectly describes my heart which is one of a kind and cannot ever be duplicated. If I had an identical twin with the exact same heart, mine would still be unique because hearts are more than simple cells put together to form an organ. My heart has nothing to do with the organ that shares its name. My heart is the part of me that will live on long after I am dead. It is at my very core and is what makes me, me. It longs to do what it was created to do – love and be loved by God and others.

God designed my heart to love Him, and He loved me first. That is a powerful truth when I hold it next to my heart. It gives me hope just as it gave David hope and will give my granddaughters and their granddaughters hope. That’s the beauty of a heart, and  I cannot help but sing out in thanksgiving when I wrap my heart around God’s love. Psalm 138 is a perfect example of just such thanksgiving. I hear David’s heart in a powerful way!

I’ve given my heart to those who have hurt it deeply, and I’ve hidden it away in fear. I’ve also known the feeling of love in its truest form, and that gives me a taste of what God has in store. True love is about sharing the truth with love, and no one is better than God when it comes to that. It makes me want to sing, and that’s the best sign that my heart is right where it needs to be:)

Glass Houses

The saying goes, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks.” I understand and agree with the lesson of the saw, but I think “People who live in glass houses don’t throw rocks” might be a better saying. Exposing my heart to others and allowing them to do the same, causes me to put down my rocks. Rocks come from brick barricades built to keep me from exposing myself to a world that might not understand or accept me. Facades work as well as brick buildings when it comes to hiding, and I’ve done more than my share of hiding behind both. I have also tossed a rock when threatened. Fear is behind all rock throwing, so those filled with fear don’t fare well in glass houses.

Glass houses represent openness and allow me to share my story and let others into my story. They are the dwelling place of honest communion, but they are not designed for comfort. I never watched the reality show “Glass House,” but I know it was designed to let the audience determine what happened inside a house full of folks competing to win a $250,000 prize.  It is more about exhibition than honesty, and that’s not what I’m talking about.

When it comes to God, He sees all and knows all. He loves me unconditionally and waits for me to realize that I’m living in a glass house. In Ecclesiastes 12:14, I hear words that remind me that nothing is hidden from God.

“For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” NASB

Proverbs 12:22 reminds me of why I want to live in that glass house. Love makes me want to delight God because He certainly delights me.

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, But those who deal faithfully are His delight.” NASB

My favorite verse, Psalm 51:6, humbles and brings down the facades and bricks around my heart. David captured the heart of God in a way that makes me want to open my heart as he did. He was not a perfect man, but he was a man after God’s own heart. That’s all God asked of him, and it’s all He asks of me. David knew the pain of living in a glass house, but he also knew that God teaches wisdom to those with open, honest hearts.

“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” NASB

The television show encourages inhibition and exhibition because that’s what brings great ratings. God encourages honesty and acceptance because it brings wisdom, faith, and delight. Nothing is better for my heart.

Carlo Santambrogio and Ennio Arosio.
Carlo Santambrogio and Ennio Arosio.

Cross Examination

When a witness is called to the stand, they are often asked to testify in regard to the character of the one they represent. As witnesses go through cross examination, they often fall apart. Taking the stand does not ensure the character of the witness will be left in good standing when the dust settles. I know my own heart doesn’t fare well when God puts it to His Son’s cross for examination as He’s done this week. Good witnesses are not the ones with the strongest opinions or the ones with the most elaborate details about what occurred. The best witness is the one who sees and hears the truth without the filters of self interest. God’s witnesses are the same.

I am very adept when it comes to rationalizing, and I can be very selfish when it comes to getting what I want. I can be even more so when it comes to getting what I believe I need. God showed me yesterday that my arguments are convincing indeed. He listens to all of them and gives me all the space and time I need to convince myself, however, He is not going to change His mind or heart during my exhaustive presentations. He listens and waits for me to see my argument in His light.

When I stop my flowery delivery or determined debate and look into the heart of His Son, I see His precious love and am silenced and humbled by the cross examination that takes place. In the light of Christ’s love, my arguments miss the mark. My flowery speeches wilt, and I turn to God and beg for His mercy and forgiveness. In the courts of this world, my stance stands firm and prevails; but it’s not in the courts of this world I wish to dwell or prevail.

God makes it crystal clear that it is, and always will be, up to me to choose the courtroom I prefer. The world offers talented lawyers and luscious loopholes that tempt me to stay and win my case, but I will lose His presence in the process. God offers mercy, forgiveness, grace, hope, and love; but He will not accept my arguments no matter how eloquent or elaborate they may be. He sees His Son’s precious love in my heart, and He will accept nothing less from me if I am to go the way He wants me to go. I can let Him lead me on His path or leave Him and go on my own. I can be my own witness on my own path and become my own judge and jury, or I can follow where He leads and be His simple witness.

Being God’s witness doesn’t involve convincing anyone to do anything, and that includes me. It is a simple path that requires only that I love Him with all my heart and soul and mind and strength and love my neighbor as myself. His Holy Spirit will help me understand how to do both, but I must first stop my arguing, get off my stand, stop leading and allow myself to be led by His beloved Son.