A New Song

Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name;
Bring an offering and come into His courts.
Worship the Lord in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity.”

 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
Before the Lord, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
And the peoples in His faithfulness.

Psalm 96 NASB

This beautiful psalm is perfect for the beginning of Advent as I anticipate Christ’s coming. Too often, I find myself singing the same old song and praying the same old prayers. This psalm lifts my heart and spirit and makes me want to join the forest and sing for joy.

Do I really think about Christ returning? I love the thought of Emmanuel and the sweet baby in the Christmas manger, but I cannot leave Him there or on the cross or in His ascension to heaven. He is coming again, and that makes me sing with great joy:)

I suppose it’s the judging that causes me to pause. I worry about how He will find me and what I will have to show Him. As soon as I say that, I remember that He is God and loves me more than I have room in my heart to hold or faith enough to understand. Judgment is going to come with Christ, but so is His love for me.  He knows, and I am learning, that this journey is about drawing near to Him and helping others do the same.

Sharing the journey is not easy because it opens my heart in uncomfortable ways, and that often gives me the urge to hide. The beautiful lessons of late have been about the difference in love in His kingdom and the world’s. Love is shared in heaven in ways it isn’t shared on earth. On earth, we hold tightly to love until it becomes lust. In His kingdom, love binds and frees at the same time. Kingdom love heals my heart and allows it to accept and give love in a way that unites and spreads.

It’s taken three years for me to understand the beautiful difference loving in God’s kingdom makes, but it’s been well worth the pain involved. All learning comes at a price; it forces me to change. That change is necessary for the growth needed to live and love in His kingdom. My heart has grown at least three sizes in three years, and it has never felt better. I thank God for loving friends and family who see me as He does and help me see the same. It allows His kingdom to come and His will to be done in my heart, and that makes me sing a new song, “and worship God in the beauty of holiness.” KJV

Share a Prayer

This prayer written by a seventeenth-century nun blesses me each time I read it, so I share the prayer this morning in hopes that it blesses you as much as it blesses me.

Keep Me Sweet Lord

Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from getting talkative, particularly from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful, but not moody; helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end. Keep my mind from the recital of endless details-give me wings to come to the point.

I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of others’ pains. Seal my lips on my own aches and pains-they are increasing, and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. Help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally it is possible that I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint-some of them are so hard to live with-but a sour old woman is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

I don’t know the name of the dear nun who penned this prayer, but I am thankful she had the courage and humility to put into words what I needed to hear. I love it when God does that:)

Balance in a Spinning Room

Being sick has given me a new appreciation of being well. I’m spoiled when it comes to sickness as I am rarely ill. I was reminded vividly in the wee hours of the morning that it is very frightening to be alone and sick, especially when it involves the loss of balance. As the room and all in it spun around me, it was very like a bad dream. I have only had vertigo once before in my life, and I thought I was having a stroke. The same thought occurred to me this morning as I struggled to stay centered.

The center is essential to both my physical and spiritual balance. God used the vivid example to remind me how very delicate balance is. When potassium levels are low, it seems the world is coming apart. One banana eaten in tiny bites was enough to bring back my equilibrium this afternoon. If it were only so simple with my soul, spirit, and heart. Just as my heart had major adjustments this week, so have my soul and spirit. My body is getting better, and the chicken broth for supper gave me hope for a better day tomorrow. God gives me hope when I remember that obedience, like those slices of banana, bring balance to my soul and help me to forget about understanding the why by simply focusing upon the what.

A few weeks ago, Gina told Lillyann to be nice to Mylah. Lillyann immediately asked why. Gina told her, “Because I said to.” Lillyann replied with conviction, “I said what I meant and meant what I said!” Poor God deals with a billion three-year-olds every day, and I’m one of them:) Obedience has been the message this week. Many who know me would say I am very obedient, but like Lillyann, I constantly want to know why I can’t have this or why things can’t be the way I want them to be. I also hold on when I should let go. God is helping me let go and listen to Him. He is faithful to hear me, and I pray I will become more faithful to listen to and follow Him.

Balance is tricky whether it is in the head, the heart, the body, the soul, or the spirit. Finding it without God is impossible. Finding and focusing upon God brings balance back in a beautiful way. With Him, I can find focus in a spinning room and obey in a spinning world:)

Rest in Peace

God’s healing brought a new rest to my heart, unfamiliar in that restlessness is absent. He left my heart as sore as it has ever been, but it isn’t broken or aching any more. The soreness, like the rest is a new sensation that causes me to pause as I notice the absence of aching. I’m not sure how long this soreness will last, but I pray the rest will never leave. There is nothing better for the body, soul, mind, and spirit than rest. I believe it is the stillness in Psalm 46:10. I’ve tried to find that sweet stillness but have been frustrated by its fleeting nature as I have caught a moment but been unable to hold it.

This rest is more than a moment; it is a state of being unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I struggled last week as God worked out the hurt buried deep in my heart. The exhaustion of the week along with facing the choices I have made in regard to my heart one at a time, but all in one week took the last bit of stubbornness and the need to retaliate right out of me. I was as depleted as ever on Thursday evening after aerobics, and I was ready to find a secluded spot and hide away. The beauty of God’s timing is that He placed that facing in a week filled with reminders of one beautiful choice I have made when it comes to love.

My son Tyler is an amazing man, and I love him more than life itself. When he puts his arms around me and tells me he loves me, my heart is never better. God knew I would need his sweet presence as I went through the ‘surgery’ He had planned for my heart. He also knew that having those sweet girls would help put my mind and heart right where they belong. Lillyann spent the night with me last night, and I love falling asleep with her next to me. She and Mylah know just how to soothe my heart, and God has made sure they were near me all week. Gina was a beautiful bride in my path this week, and she reminded me of what God wants for me when it comes to love. I haven’t ever seen myself as a bride. God does, and I plan to see myself in His light from now on.

It’s never easy to face my mistakes, but it is especially difficult to be confronted with so many in such a short time. I suppose it’s like the surgeon saying, “while I’m in there, I plan to…..” Well, the Master Surgeon took His two-edged scalpel, and while He was already in my heart, decided to go ahead and take care of all that needed cutting away. The soreness is similar to the feeling I get when I haven’t walked or exercised in while, and I call it good soreness. I welcome it as it reminds me to be mindful and remember that it is easy to fall back into those destructive patterns if I listen to the wrong voices.

The rest since Thursday has been just what my heart needed. My mind and body haven’t minded it either:) True rest is what God promises in Isaiah 26:3, and it is what my heart desires. I love that scripture, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.” That’s the peace and rest that allows me to be still and know that He is not only God, but He knows what He’s doing. Handing over my heart was not easy because it meant giving up my desires and embracing His. When I felt the rest that followed, I knew I had no desire to go back to the old restless aching. Just as walking in His kingdom doesn’t have to wait until I die, neither does resting in peace. I can do both now, and that’s a lesson I loved learning:)

Mylah High :)

When Gina came home from class yesterday, I stayed while she feed Mylah. Lillyann is sick, and I wanted to give her some special attention while Mylah nursed. Mylah is in the difficult process of weaning, so she was cut off before she was ready to stop. I love the sweet expression on her face after she nurses. I call it the Mylah high:) Her eyes are glassy, and her countenance expresses joy and peace and love all rolled into one. She has complete contentment, something for which we all search. My journey has lead me to many substitutes when it comes to finding the satisfaction my heart, body, soul, and spirt so crave. Yesterday, as Mylah and Lillyann slept on top of me, I finally found it. I learned this week that listening to and obeying God connects me to Him and His love in a way that is much better than a Mylah high:)

It’s easy to point fingers at those who do drugs because they are illegal and most folks don’t use them. It becomes a little harder to point to those with alcohol addictions and impossible to point at those who use food to get high. Workaholics are rewarded by society, and doers are dubbed saints in the church. We each have a drug of choice, but it never comes near the sweet satisfaction Mylah gets from nursing. God’s love is the only potion known to man that is better than mama’s milk. There is an unlimited supply; it’s free, and there are no harmful side effects. So why isn’t everyone running out to get some?

The problem is connecting and staying connected to the sweet source of God’s love and doing His will rather than mine or the world’s. Christ connects me to God’s love, and His Holy Spirit and Word keep me connected and help me find His will. Like everyone, I’ve tried many paths to contentment. They all left me either stuffed and miserable or drained and starving. Food is the safe drug of choice because churches not only condone gluttony, they encourage it. Fellowship around the table is essential to relationship, but the gathering often is more about filling than fellowship. The practice of having the Lord’s Supper together as a way of connecting to God and to one another has evolved into a plethora of platters filled with things that satisfy our bellies and have little to do with worship. Gluttony has become the sin of choice out of both convenience and frustration.

The world is like that platter of tempting food, and God’s will is the simple loaf and cup often left behind. His will becomes my project done on my time with with due credit and accolades expected. God’s simple will sits on the back burner.  Activities replace relationship and it comes down to I’ll do it if you feed me. I’ll get around to it after work if I’m not too tired. I’ll do what’s expected if there aren’t any shows, games, practices or better offers in the way. I’ve chosen to do and do rather than drink in God’s sweet nourishing love, draw near to HIm, and do His will. Mylah will nurse anytime, anywhere, and any way.  I pray I’ll have the same attitude when it comes to doing God’s will from now on.

Mylah needs nourishment, but she also needs to get close to mama and feel her presence. The same is true when it comes to God. He is Jehovah Jireh and will provide for all my needs, but He is also Adonai. Mylah is learning the hard lesson that she must transition to solid food and was absolutely adorable holding on to a little piece of cornbread and strutting around like a big girl yesterday. I spilled milk all over her shirt and scared her half to death when I had a bottle malfunction.  I’m sure she was wondering why I even bother with the bottle when there is a perfectly wonderful alternative available. I wonder the same thing when I think about how God is on the back burner for so many when it comes to getting high. Mylah will eventually let go of the bottle and learn that it’s really mommy’s love that makes nursing so special. She will always have that. Her name means “My Love Always”, and mommy made it up:) God’s love is always there. Listening to His sweet voice and doing that which He places in my path is meant to help me draw nearer to God’s love. Love is what I have always sought, and in finding God’s, I’ve found my source of contentment.

I feel just the way Mylah looks each time I study God’s Word, pray, do His will, or just take time to be with Him. It’s even better than a Mylah high. As I do what God places in my path, I understand exactly how Mylah feels when she nurses. When I try to placate or pacify with that which the world places in my path, I feel just like Mylah did with milk all over her and the floor. God has shown me over the past week what it feels like to be closely connected and taking in His sweet love. As I have done His will and seen the results in my own heart and in the lives of those I’ve touched, I have achieved an even better high than Mylah.

I’m not getting weaned; I’m just getting started:) I’m addicted and pray that Mylah and Lillyann also get addicted to doing God’s will because it allows the fruit of His Spirit to grow beautifully. There’s nothing like it in this world:) The alternative is a sick belly that leaves me feeling the way Lillyann did yesterday. Nothing can satisfy when the tummy is twisted in a knot, and that’s what doing the world’s will feels like.  Doing and doing just to do creates a big a pile of do do, and that isn’t pleasant for anyone. The way to tell the difference is there is bellyaching and do do in doing my will or the world’s. There is peace that’s better than a Mylah high when I’m doing God’s will.

God’s will isn’t difficult to find. Mother Teresa used to ask those who wanted to follow her and do what she did if there was no one in their home, their family, their neighborhood, or their community who needed them. She told them when there were none there, to come and see her. That was enough to humble, and I thought of her this week as God has reminded me of the many in my path who need a loving hand. Doing God’s will doesn’t bring attention or accolades, but it does bring the sweet sense of satisfaction that leaves me with glassy eyes and a state of contentment. Knowing my contentment will be complete when I come into His presence and spend eternity with God changes the journey and puts a bounce in my step as I walk in His kingdom now:)

Can I Get a Witness?

This message from Isaiah 6 touches and heals my heart in a deep way.  The Call For a Witness wasn’t what I was expecting, and I found myself humbled by it. God gives me the space to fall apart, and that’s a big part of answering the call to be His witness. I have to fall apart to get to the place where God can use me. I must confess that my way is, as the message says so powerfully, “bankrupt.”

When I hear God and truly understand, He helps me see where my life can use a little change and helps me bring about that change. That enables me to not only accept, but tell others of His grace, love, and forgiveness. Answering God’s call requires that I give up my plans and get rid of my need for approval. It goes against my nature, but it reveals His glory in a way that is better than anything I can do on my own. There is “holy hope” when I let go of my need to be in charge and allow Him to take me where I cannot go without Him and do what only He can do through me.

God’s Kneading

God used kneading bread to help me see differentiation in a new light. It is not only being myself, but also being one with God and others. Before I can do that, I have to let go and trust God with my heart. Fusion confuses and was the basis for my unhealthy relationships.  I have come to know and experience love with God’s help.  So many see being single as being alone. I understand exactly and would have agreed wholeheartedly with them a year ago.  I haven’t changed my status in regard to relationship, but God has changed my heart. Christ died that I might become one with Him as He is one with God.

That is exactly what happens when I love the way He wants me to.  Whether single or married, oneness with God creates beautiful intimacy.  I’ve spent a lifetime trying to find someone with whom to have that intimacy, and it turns out that He was right here all along.  God got lost as I attached in unhealthy ways.  Being married to the wrong person is the loneliest feeling in the world, and I thank God for helping me find the courage to change directions in that regard. There is nothing more beautiful than the union of two kindred spirits. Marriage is God’s design, and it is what He desires.  It took me twenty-nine years to realize that God wants what is best for me, and He did not sanction what I had in my marriage. That learning allowed me to let go of what I thought was right and trust Him with my heart.    

Christ’s precious and perfect love lets me connect without fusion and experience a freedom I cannot achieve without God. I can’t describe it, but I can borrow a phrase from Oswald Chambers who calls it “at-one-ment.” Atonement is being one and being connected at the same time. It’s achieving a deep intimate closeness with God and others while remaining who I am meant to be. It’s what Christ modeled, and I have gotten a taste of it as He has helped me leave wrong relationships, connect positively, and be who He created me to be.  There is an amazing sense of peace and connection that comes when you let go of  fusion and connect in ways that allow your heart to experience the freedom God desires.

While kneading the bread for communion tomorrow, I realized you just know when the dough has been kneaded enough.  The sticky mess is transformed into a satiny smooth ball when it is ready to rise.  Those who know and love me know that I love making and eating bread. The kneading is the best part because the dough is warm in my hands and smells heavenly. I love feeling the change that takes place within my hands as I knead it.  It’s hard to tell someone who doesn’t make bread regularly when to stop kneading. Put simply, when it stops hanging on to the counter, it’s ready to rest and rise.  The same is true for me, and I’ve been reluctant to let go lately.  I know I can’t live the life God desires until I let Him knead me to the point where I can let go and let Him get my heart ready. Then, I can rest and rise and love Him and others as He desires.

Today is Labor Day 2012. On Labor Day ten years ago, God gave me the courage to leave my marriage of twenty-nine years and walk the path He had in mind for me. I climbed out of the abyss in which I found myself, made my way through a dense fog, and finally made it to the summit where I could see love in God’s light. I’m not the person I was ten years ago. In fact, I’m not the person I was yesterday! I thank God for the change He wrought in my heart.  He’s been kneading my heart for almost forty years, but it’s feeling pretty satiny smooth right now:)

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.

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:]