Have you asked God to re-gift you?

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!”  Psalm 139:13-14

Have you re-gifted a gift someone gave you before?  You took the gift and wrapped it in the most beautiful paper and placed the best bow you have on it, giving it to your mother-in-law.  Couldn’t resist the humor in that but I think just about everyone can say that they have re-gifted a gift.  Now hold that thought.

adult birthday birthday gift box
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Have you sat down to pray, totally fell to your knees, and asked God to take away your trials, your suffering, your pain?  And as the days go on, it’s all still there.  You are still going through the trial, may be, you are still suffering and in pain.  What if you flipped the prayer and asked God to walk with you through the trial, lightening the burden of the suffering and the pain?

I want to talk about something that struck me listening to Chrystal Evans Hurst this past weekend at the Women of Joy conference.  It so fitting in my life and helps me to place the right perspective and see the process that God is asking me to see.

In Chrystal’s talk, she spoke about the package that God made when He made you and I.  He didn’t make the package lacking anything.  The package includes your gifts, talents, career, physical features, family, your joy and happiness; and it also includes your trials, suffering and pain.  You could not be you if you do not go through the trials that God allows.  If you do not go through the trials He allows you may not bring forth the fruition of the gifts that He has given you.  All things in our lives are “God given” or “God allowed.”  And all things work together for the glory of God, for His purpose.  When you ask God to take away the trial, the suffering, the pain, you are asking Him to re-gift the gift He gave you, the package He created and designed – YOU.  When you were formed, God wrapped you in a beautiful package and placed the most perfect bow on you that is unique to you and delivered you into the hands of your mom.

 Why would we want to change, re-gift His “wonderfully made” package?  

I totally understand that sometimes the pain is too much, the trial is a huge burden and drains the life out of you.  Sometimes I feel like my trials will never end, they begin to just merge together and I find myself restless, asking God to take it away that I’ve had enough.  But then there is the glimmer of hope, my FAITH that jumps in and opens my eyes and shows me that the package is made complete in my trials and through my trials.  My trials and my suffering will produce perseverance, they will provide growth within me, they will ultimately flourish the gifts God has given me and ultimately, they will make me stronger for the next trial.  God is equipping us in our trials, suffering and pain.  I think what He wants from us is to not ask Him to take away the trial, but to ask Him to help us get through it by companioning along the journey with us and by lightening the load by helping us carry the cross that rest upon our shoulder, just as Simon of Cyrene did for Jesus.

Accepting the entire package is difficult.  Sometimes I just want to kick and scream but God grabs my hand and tells me “get up and let’s fight this battle together.”  You are not alone and He will walk along the journey with you, carrying you when you need to be carried, embracing you when you need to feel loved, lifting the cross so it’s not so heavy when you begin to fall under the weight of it, and providing you rest and protection under His wings when you become weary and afraid.

img_3265I want to share this poem I wrote.  It is a poem of feeling beaten down, yet hopeful, longing and finding God after a fresh rainfall in a droplet that remained on the tip of a leaf.  God refreshes us daily if we open our eyes, ears, minds and heart to His presence in all things surrounding us.

Rays of sunshine

In the ark of the morn

As birds perched above sing

To a heart that’s been torn

Darkness has crept

Through the cracks of my being

Depleting Your goodness

My heart started fleeing

Crushed and broken

My heart cries out

Where are You?

Why do I doubt?

A quiet path

Your presence I longed for

To refresh my spirit

On this path You implore

Light of grace

Reflecting on the leaves

Revealing a droplet

A newness conceived

Your presence refreshes

As I sit before You

A whisper of Your love

My spirit is made new

My faith prevails

Your Word running deep

Rooted in my heart

I’m perfect and complete

Consider it joy!

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

In this blog, I wanted to share how great our God is and how intentional He is through an experience I had today in Adoration.

As I sat in the presence of Jesus in the Adoration chapel, I looked upon the Blessed Sacrament and became overwhelmed with joy.  The monstrance was radiating as the sun passed through the stain glass windows above and recent events in my life passed before my eyes.

I thought about Lysa Terkeurst’s talk from this past weekend and the verses from James 1:2-4 that she phenomenally unpacked.  This morning, I was reminded of those exact verses by a friend from work that had absolutely no idea about the talk at the conference.  And last week, my youngest daughter read a devotion about thanking Jesus when our life feels more and more out of control.  As I sat there, I was reflecting on these encounters of considering it joy and thanking God when I am in the midst of my trials, knowing this will press me and test me and the fruits of perseverance will be produced.  Most recently, I have really been tested yet I sat there smiling with joy.  As I was sitting in the chapel looking upon my Lord I also began to see how God’s love and grace transformed my life.  I was reminded of my story and how I am visibly transformed from the mere telling of my story from the pain and darkness into the love and light of Christ.  My resurrection story is a place I can go to and see the result of God’s pressing and molding.  It is not a place I go to and drag up my pain and hurt.  When I am reminded of my story, I can only smile as there is joy in my story, despite the pain.  I have risen from a place that was unhealthy and it was only from the hand of my God and the love I found in my faith in Christ.  As I see the smile this produces, I am strengthened in the trial I go through today because I know that the God I love, my Lord, my Jesus will be intentional in this trial as much as He was in the one I endured many years ago.  Through the perseverance, He will make me “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  I wanted to share this from a place of joy and acceptance, a place of strength and endurance, a place of perseverance that is within me and each of you through our faith and trust in God and His intentional plan in our lives.  May His presence radiate within you the joy that is found in the midst of your trials as He produces perseverance and makes you “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

May God’s blessings be upon each of you.

 

 

Has your veil of darkness been lifted revealing the love of Christ?

“Faith widens our lens of our limited human understanding, giving us the graced view of eternal perspective to see that all is well in God.  It’s the veiled revelation of living faith that allows us to see Christ in the midst of our pain, as our hearts open up to anchor themselves in the promise of life beyond the grave, which is the ground of hope.” Mary’s Way The Power of Entrusting Your Child to God, Judy Landrieu Klein

Have you had moments when your faith was weak?  Moments when you were in the valley or in shear darkness?  Perhaps, you couldn’t see past the circumstance you were dealing with and you were just fighting to survive, to keep your head above the water?

There was a time in my life when my lens was very narrow.  All I could see was the storm I was in.  I bobbed in the ocean I was swimming in, just trying to keep my head up and above the surface.  Physically I was surviving but spiritually and emotionally I was drowning.  Then one day, this little spark of faith widened my lens and opened my heart.  I began to anchor myself in the love I found.

I found this man, who was human and divine.  His eyes looked upon me with love and sadness at the same time.  He knew my pain because He had felt an enormous pain of His own.  He was rejected no matter how He loved.  He was stripped of His clothes, beaten and spit upon for His love.  He endured the greatest level of humiliation.  Yet, His love remained.  It was unfailing and unwavering.  When I came face to face with Him and saw His enormous love radiating towards me, I knew my life was transforming.  No matter my rejection, my humiliation, my brokenness, He loved me.

Have you ever felt this love – truly experienced it?  Have you felt it in the midst of your pain and suffering?

If you are struggling in your marriage, your health, with addictions, parenting, loss of a loved one, any relationship or brokenness, try embracing it.  Allow the veil of darkness to drop and see Jesus looking right at you with love and sadness.  Give thanks for your cross and allow Jesus to be your Simon of Cyrene lifting the greatest weight of your cross so that you can complete the journey of hope and glory that is beyond the grave, in the light shining in the midst of the darkness.

asphalt dark dawn endless

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Discover the power or prayer in these darkest moments.  Embrace His gaze upon you as you kneel before Him, praying for those who hurt you, for His will in your health and addictions, for comfort through your loss, or to mend your brokenness.  He loves you to the “heavens” and back, even in your weakest, darkest moments.

Understanding in why we are asked to carry these crosses is beyond our limited view.  In all things, God is good.  When our FAITH is tested and strengthened, we are given a greater perspective revealing this goodness of God anchored in the center of our circumstance.  May your faith be strengthened when the storms of life test it the most.

Do you wrestle with stillness?

“Be still and know I am God.”  Psalm 46:11

Do you struggle with stillness?  What is God saying to you when He says “be still and know I am God?”

A couple of years ago this verse danced in my head and I questioned what it really meant to me, what was God saying to me when He said be still and know I am God? 

A few weeks later, I had gone to see my eye doctor just for a regular exam so I could get some contacts.  As I’m sitting in the chair, my doctor looks at me concerned and began asking me a series of questions.  He asked if I was dizzy and having headaches.  I looked at him very confused and slowly stated, I was fine and no I hadn’t been having any issues with headaches or dizziness.  He explained to me that my optic nerve looked swollen.  He said it could be one of two things, it was swelling, which would indicate neurological issues or there was calcium deposits causing it to look like swelling, which would affect my peripheral vision.  He referred me to a neuro ophthalmologist to run further tests.  Of course, like most people, I go home and search the internet, not very wise.  Everything bad under the sun comes up, heightening my anxieties.  I made an appointment to see the specialist.  I spent an entire day undergoing several exams on my eye and was becoming very concerned through each exam.  After all the tests, she still could not make a determination what was going on with my eye and made me an appointment at another facility to have an ultrasound done on my eye.  I was alone and frightened as none of these tests revealed a definitive answer.  I had a couple of hours before the appointment for the ultrasound.  I found myself longing to go sit quietly in a church.  I found a church just down the road from where my ultrasound was scheduled.  When I walked in, I noticed they had Adoration in a small chapel.  I went in to sit, to “be still,” with Jesus.  Being there brought about a calmness and tranquility and all my anxieties on what could be wrong with my eyes were gone.  I was in a state of stillness and I knew that God was in control.  I knew that no matter what the doctor found, this was part of God’s plan in my journey.

Now, when I read that verse and contemplate its meaning, I know that God is telling me, “relax, I have this figured out, you are mine and I am your God, your Heavenly Father who loves you, who has a plan for you and all things in  your life.”

Being still and allowing God to be God, does not mean you have to go to a church or a chapel and find complete solitude or quietness.  You can find this stillness in your home or outdoors.  God is all around you and anytime you find yourself needing to be still, find a comfortable spot, pause and allow Him to reveal to you that He has everything under control because He is God.  This stillness is a moment of focus on God in all matters in your life.

Toxicity in relationships

“So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  Ephesians 6:14-17

Are you a victim of a toxic relationship?  Have you been a victim of a toxic relationship?

In the chemical industry, toxicity is always a concern with certain chemicals.  We are always made aware of the toxicity of the things we work with and how to safely handle them through labels or safety data sheets. In some cases, we have to put on layers of protective equipment to protect us from exposure to the toxic chemical.  It is the awareness that something is toxic that triggers our response to protect ourselves with additional safety gear.

purple liquid poison on brown wooden surface
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In relationships, we often don’t receive this awareness.  There are no labels or documents that come with the people we are engaged in a relationship with. The toxicity is not revealed until we are embedded in the relationship.  In some cases, as with a family member, it has always been a part of our life.  And in many instances, it goes unrealized, it’s just normal.

What does a toxic relationship look like? Webster defines toxic as containing poisonous material that is capable of death. If you have been in or are in a relationship with a spouse, a friend, or a family member and you feel they are draining the life out of you, there is a high probability you were in or still are in a toxic relationship.

So, how do you deal with toxicity, especially with people you love? How do you protect yourself from the poison that is capable of death, death of your spirit?  Perhaps the answer is the armor of God?

ancient antique armor armour
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What do you think the armor of God is that is mentioned in Ephesians 6:14-17?  I think the armor of God that is stated in Ephesians is Jesus, the truth that gives us righteousness through His love and His peace that no one can take away.  It is our faith in this truth, love and peace and it is the Holy Spirit that guides us in the word of God, establishing our faith in Christ.

You may say, okay that’s nice.  I get that but how does this help me in my toxic relationship or dealing with the affects of a past toxic relationship?

If the relationship is life threatening, seek help.  You may need to leave the relationship. 

If the relationship is causing spiritual death or has caused spiritual death, start in prayer.  Seek God’s help.  Pray for the person and forgive the person.  Embrace the word of God by reading the Bible.  Embrace the forgiveness and love of Christ.  Soak up Christ’s peace through the Eucharist and know that the person cannot take this away unless you allow them to.  Become a warrior with the armor of God on and  the army of your community supporting you on the battlefield in prayer.

We alone cannot fight toxicity but God can do it for us.  It is our faith and trust in Him that allow us to wear His armor and shield our hearts from the venom present in the relationship.  Don’t allow toxicity to poison you and cause spiritual death within you.  Protect yourself with “the armor of God”.

Gazing

pexels-photo-574116.jpegIf I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light” – darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day.  Darkness and light are but one.  Psalm 139:11-12

Have you gazed up at the night sky lately?  Have you embraced the wonders of the universe through the blanket of darkness, sprinkled with tiny little lights, revealing the end of the day and the hope of a new day?  Can you feel the intimacy of the creator by gazing up on His magnificent creation of the universe that is far from your grasp, yet closer than your next breath?

The night sky is magnificent to gaze up on.  A few months ago, I visited this quiet little cottage in the middle of nowhere.  This cottage is a place where I can intimately speak to God without any distractions from my daily life.  During this visit, I had decided I would just lay out on the ground under the night sky and gaze up on the beauty of the night.  As night began to fall, the clouds blanketed the sky and there appeared to be no stars in view.  Of course I knew they were there, hidden behind the clouds.  As I continued to gaze the stars began to surface one by one filling the night sky with a beautiful light in the great darkness.

As I gazed up on the sky, I was reminded of the darkness in my life and how in that darkness, light was sprinkled in.  That small glimmer of light sparked a journey full of hope and joy.  It became my compass, just as the star was the compass for the 3 wise men. God knows when I’m in darkness and need Him to guide me. He knows when to send that small twinkling light to guide me into a brighter light, a joy filled place of hope and love. Just as He knows when I need a shimmer of light, He knows when you do.

Next time you look upon the night sky remember that God is present in the darkness as well as in the light.  Just as you gaze up on the night sky, God gazes up on you.  He knows every move you make, every thought you think, how many cells are in your body, and how many hairs are on your head.  You cannot run from Him or hide from Him.  He takes your hand and guides you.  He brings light into the darkness as “darkness and light are but one”.

Hope

Tomorrow is the first day of Spring. When I think about spring, I think about hope. It’s the time of year when flowers begin to sprout and bud. It’s a time of new life. We celebrate Easter, the greatest celebration of the year.

The Easter season follows Lent, a time of death from worldly things, preparing us for new life at Easter, when Jesus rises from the dead. His resurrection brings new life to each of us as He is present in each of us. Our hope doesn’t come from the world or the things in it, it comes from our inner core, our center, where Christ lives within us.

I remember a time in my life when I didn’t feel hope. That feeling was dark and cold. Each day I felt like nothing would change. I would be stuck in this place of pain and suffering. Then hope peaked through a tiny crack of light and my faith began to sprout. The world seemed different. The colors surrounding me became vibrant, the birds were no longer silent and the springs from the ground seemed refreshing.

When hope fills you, a new life and a new journey takes route, leading you to unimaginable landscapes. The walls that were built up begin to tumble and reveal stepping stones to a God who loves you more than anything and guides you closer to Him. He leads you to greener pastures, where the clouds aren’t dark and the sun shines bright, where the wildflowers dance in the fields as a beautiful tapestry of color before your very eyes. As you stand there in awe, taking in all that you can, full of hope, full of life, He holds your hand and you feel the warmth of all His love flooding every crevice of your body. That is the ecstasy of hope.