Faith It, Till You Make It!

Wow!  What a season!  I’m not talking about winter, spring, summer or fall, or a sports-related season.  I’m talking about my spiritual season for the last couple of months.

My church’s current series is entitled, “The Valley”, and that’s precisely where I’ve been.  I’ve been waking up most days feeling “sideways”…totally not myself, a little bit grumpy (some days a LOT grumpy), anxious, stressed, depressed.  All rolled up into a tight, metallic-tasting ball wedged in the pit of my stomach.  Yuck.

I’ve attempted to “fake it, till I make it”, but I couldn’t easily hide my feelings…

IMG_0186.PNG

…whoops!  Actually, what I REALLY need is a faith lift (no lisp intended).  I NEED A FAITH LIFT.  I need to “faith it, till I make it”.

This gem was shared at service last Thursday night…

IMG_0185.PNG

I’m tired of being squeezed.  It’s time for me to lean into Him…hard.  I need to keep my eyes on Him…put all of my hope and trust in Him.  I know that if I continue to hold His hand, He’ll pull me through this valley.  I want to replace the metallic-tasting ball in the pit of my stomach with the abundant joy, love and peace of my salvation… when I was on fire for Jesus and my roots were firmly and deeply planted in my faith.  My fire hasn’t gone out, nor has my faith wavered (because that will NEVER happen!), but I want the flickering flame to be replaced with the raging inferno it once was.

I’m going to “faith it, till I make it”.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

 

Who does God say you are?

I had the pleasure of hearing Pastor Matt Fry from C3 Church in Clayton, NC speak and bring the Truth at service yesterday at Granited United Church. One of the first things he asked was, “What label are you wearing?” Label? What label? Am I wearing a label? Geez…where is it? What does it say? Who gave me this label? Does it say “I’m anxious?”, “I’m not worthy?”, “I’m not good enough?” If you’re wearing a label and it doesn’t reflect who God says you are, it’s time to rip it off. The “Hello, My Name Is…” tag isn’t cuttin’ it because SOMEone, SOMEwhere gave it to you when you weren’t even looking and it’s defined you ever since.

Pastor Matt shared a poignant story from when he was a young boy regarding the “reading table” he was assigned to sit at in class. He promptly went, of his own accord, and sat down at the “advanced” reading table, confident that he was sitting where he was supposed to. Where God instructed him to sit, but the teacher asked him to move…to sit at the “average” reading table. There it is! The “label”…he didn’t ask for it, I’m sure he didn’t want it and although the teacher may have believed that this was the “right” table for him, she had no idea that in that one instant, she would define who he was…slapping an “average” label the size of Texas right across his chest. More importantly, even though the sign was invisible and no one else could see it, HE saw it…believing it in his heart. A teacher with good intentions…innocent enough, I’m sure, but a label-giver, nonetheless. No apples-on-the-desk for her!

Pastor Matt stated that we first need to “discover” who we are in Christ and then we need to “declare” who God says we are. In his book, “I Am”, Pastor Matt shows you how to unlock God’s power and purpose for your life by discovering who you are in Him. By exploring the seven “I AM” statements Jesus made in the Book of John, he unpacks key truths that will help you discover who He is and ultimately reveal your true identity in Christ. My husband bought the book at the Warrior’s Men’s Breakfast yesterday morning, so as soon as he’s done reading it, I’m going to dive in!

Pastor Matt provides free daily declarations that you can download from his website: http://www.mattfry.com

IMG_0167

Yesterday’s message came without coincidence as I’ve been trying to figure out exactly who God says I am. I’ve already peeled off a couple of labels that I unknowingly picked up along the way. Although some were slapped across my chest without my knowledge, there was one label, when I was fifteen (over forty years ago), that a teenaged boy gave me regarding my weight. I didn’t ask for it…I didn’t want it but I’ve worn it for over four decades. Only recently did I take a big black Sharpie marker and cover up what it said, but I haven’t been able to take it off…yet. I know I’m moving in the right direction and I’m clearly a work in progress. I am His. I’ll just straighten my crown, pull my shoulders back and remember Who I belong to.

I need to discover who God says I am and then I need to declare it. When it comes to me clearly, filling my heart with His wisdom, grace and love, rest-assured, an air horn and megaphone will be involved because I will totally be shouting it from the rooftops!

-Numbers 14:28- “As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say.” NLT

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

Celebrating Father’s Day With A Broken Heart

IMG_0151

This is the first Father’s Day without my beloved Dad.  He was the greatest man I’ve ever known and loved (other than my husband).  He was my protector, my hero, my confidante, my mentor, my rock.  He was a constant fixture in my life for over 50 years.  Being blessed with a great memory, I turned 55 a few months after he died at 90 years old, and I can remember back to when I was 4 or 5.  This means that I have 50 years of memories for which I am so thankful and blessed; but it makes it all that much harder to let him go because I did have him for so long.  From the time I was 17 and my only (and older) brother died at 24 years old, everyone’s mortality, including my own, has been hovering mere inches from my face for nearly four decades.  I have dreaded, for what seems like my whole life, losing my Dad…I knew it would come and I believed that I’d NEVER be READY…EVER.

As I sit here, writing this, my Amazon Music is on shuffle, and Sidewalk Prophets’ “This is not goodbye” just played, followed by Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good Father”; clearly NOT by coincidence!

I never really believed in coincidence, but after turning my life over to God, I KNEW there was no such thing.  God has a plan for everyone.  Always.  I believe His plan for me was to turn to Jesus, ask for the forgiveness of my sins and for Him to be my Lord and Savior.  Once I did so, I became filled with the most incredible joy, love and peace that I have ever known.  No coincidence that He was preparing me for what was to come seven months later…my Dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis and subsequent passing nine days after that.  I was so thankful that I was with him while he transitioned…that I was with him when he took his last breath and left his physical body, no longer suffering or in pain.  I had prayed for this just a week earlier; falling to my knees and pleading with God to NOT let my Dad suffer and if that meant He had to take him the following week, to please do so…and He did. Answered prayer.

20180617_201502

So, as I sit in my Dad’s back yard this morning, on Father’s Day, wearing his robe, drinking from his “#1 Dad” coffee mug, there is a peace in the quiet stillness of this morning.  He may not be here with me physically, but he is here, in his glorious spirit form.  I can feel his love as though he has his loving arms wrapped around me.

Many years ago, he and I had a moment when I all-of-a-sudden became overcome with emotion, just thinking of the time when he would no longer be with me.  I was sitting on the ground with my back to him, cleaning the wheels of my car.  My shoulders were kind of shaking a little as I quietly snot-sobbed and he said, “Tess?”  I turned to look at him with tears streaming down my face, snots and all.  Without any words between us, his eyes filled up when he saw my face, and his bottom lip quivered ever-so-slightly, because this was the “connection” we had – emotionally, spiritually – and I squeaked out, “Just promise me that ‘when the time comes’, you’ll ALWAYS be with me.”  As tears spilled out of his eyes, and gently rolled down his always-cherry-colored cheeks, he whispered, “I promise”.  Never being one to break a promise – EVER – I know that he IS always with me.

I love and miss you more than I can say, Daddy, but I thank you for keeping your promise… Happy Father’s Day “upta” Heaven.

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” – Psalm 34:18

“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

Whaddya mean “God placed it on your heart?”

IMG_0149Photo Cred:  Vancouver Church of Christ

The first time I heard someone say, “God placed it on my heart”, I thought, ‘what the heck does THAT mean?’  It came at a time when I had pulled out of serving in my church’s kids ministry as I had just suffered the loss of my beloved Dad and I knew that I wasn’t in a good “head-or-heart” space to love-on and pour into these kids.  I was met with understanding and compassion, even though I felt guilty for taking myself off of the rotating schedule.

I continued to be strong in my faith; never being angry with God for calling my Dad home, but still incredibly sad over my loss.  A few months passed, when the woman who oversees our kids ministry program reached out to me via Messenger to let me know that “God placed it on her heart” to ask me if, instead of returning to serve (if I wasn’t ready), would I consider writing a kids ministry newsletter.  As I read her message and before I could let it sink in, she immediately sent another message saying, “You don’t have to answer now…please just pray on it!”

That same evening, I was on my way to a ‘Staff Recharge’ at church (having no idea what it was all about as I was still a ‘newbie’).  As I was driving, I was reflecting on 2017 as it was getting ready to come to a close.  I was still struggling with the loss of my Dad, and my best friend of nearly 40 years had just lost her son.  I was ‘SO OVER’ 2017…I just wanted it to end!  All of a sudden, it was as though Jesus was riding shotgun in my truck and reached over and gave me a dope-slap.  Then I clearly heard His voice, “Terri, I know that you’ve suffered trials this year, but did you forget that you found me in 2017?  That I saved you?  That you and your best friend were baptized on the same day?”  And just a few short weeks later, my husband, for whom my church family and I had been praying on for eleven months to come to church, joined me for Christmas service and returned the next week and was saved before the end of 2017.   Whoops…my bad!

After the Staff Recharge event, the woman that I previously mentioned came up to me and asked if I had prayed on her request and she reiterated again, that ‘God had placed it on her heart’.  She was so excited about it, as she animatedly shared why she thought He placed it on her heart, saying I was ‘a gifted writer’, and she really believed that I was being ‘called’ to do this.

I placed my hands on her shoulders, and when she had paused, I told her, “I prayed on it” :::insert dramatic pause here::: and then I told her that He guided my steps to say ‘yes’, which I believe was His way of placing it on my heart!

Since that time, I’ve learned to “Be still, and know that He is God”, and before I knew what hit me, He was placing all sorts of things ‘on my heart’. “Pay for the person who’s behind you in the Dunkin’ Donuts’ drive-thru; Offer your time here, and there; Increase your giving at church for My Glory; Be kind and gracious to this particular person”, etc.

If you’ve been unsure if whether or not God has placed something on your heart, I’ll humbly simplify it… When you are unsure about making a decision…if it’s unclear if it will truly be for your good, the good of others, and for His Glory, turn-off all of the other noise and just ‘listen’.  When you do, your heart will grow tenfold (quite similarly to that of the Grinch’s!), and you’ll hear His soft voice guiding your steps, placing it on your heart, and it will be an unmistakably clear message!

 

Proverbs 3:13 – “Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.” (NLT)

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

N.B.  As I was getting ready to publish this, while listening to the Contemporary Christian music station, Chris Tomlin’s “Good, Good Father” began to play.  This song’s meaning is two-fold for me – “He” is such a good, good Father; and so was my beloved Dad.

 

 

 

 

God – legit – moves mountains!

Matthew 19:26 –  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”    

 faithcanmovemtnsPhoto cred: Morocco Pens

That’s right, MatthewI’ve seen the impossible become the possible!  I’ve witnessed, first-hand, what God can do! He moved a mountain that I had been standing at the foot of for so long, craning my neck all the way back to try to see to the top of it, but I never quite could.  It was a mountain that seemingly I created, yet feared.  In my mind’s eye, as I prayed on it… prayed that it would move far away from me, there was a tiny seed of doubt… I prayed on it, but I didn’t really believe that it could be moved.  So it stayed there. And it stayed. And it stayed. I’d pray every day for it to move, but that stupid seed was still there, too, and God knew it.  He tried to encourage me to crush that seed underfoot, but I had trouble hearing Him over the seed’s intent… doubt.

After nearly a year of staring at the foot of that impossible-to-move mountain, I finally heard God’s loving but firm voice say, “Just crush that seed of doubt and watch what happens. Trust me.  Put ALL of your faith in me and what you have believed to be impossible is possible…for me.”  So wearing a fabulous pair of boots, I placed that seed of doubt on the concrete and smashed it with my heel into a million pieces.  I knelt down, bowed my head, closed my eyes and prayed, thanking Him for His eternal love and faithfulness.

When I opened my eyes and stood up, I saw Him off in the distance carrying that mountain far, far away.  God moved that mountain for me as soon as I put all of my faith and trust in Him, and once I did so, I fully expected Him to move it. The moment I crushed that tiny seed of doubt, He blessed me in more ways than I could possibly imagine.

Although faith can move mountains, doubt can create them.  I was so tired of having such a stiff neck looking up at that mountain, I had considered pitching a tent at the foot of it and laying flat on the ground as I suspected that I’d be looking up at it forever.

I thank Him for commanding me to shut up and be still for a minute so that I could actually hear His message… to crush the seed of doubt, to put all of my trust and faith in Him so that He could do his job. After all, He IS God and He’s way better at it than I am!

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God”.

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

                     

Thankful Through The Storm

IMG_0127.PNG

Photo Cred:  ACT Emergency Services Agency

The ability to be “thankful” through and during a “storm” can sometimes seem distant, elusive, just out of reach.  When something tragic and sad has happened in your life, how can you possibly be thankful?  Drowning in your sorrow, feeling helpless or hopeless certainly doesn’t leave much room for thankfulness.

Or so I thought…

2017 has been a year of loss and heartache for me.  My beloved father passed away in August and my very best friend (of thirty-eight years) and sister-in-Christ lost her son unexpectedly last week.  Yes… it’s been a year of loss and sorrow.

For the last few weeks and months, I’ve been “wishing away” 2017, chalking it up to one of the “worst years of my life”.  Sadness had overtaken the joy and peace of my salvation and I felt as though my world was crumbling down around me and I with it.

I was driving to a church staff meeting last Wednesday night, having the feelings, yet again, of this terrible, tragic year and there I was, wishing it away again.  All of a sudden, it was as if Jesus was riding shotgun in my truck and he gently, but firmly, gave me a dope slap in the back of the head and then I heard, “Terri, I know that you have been through many trials and tribulations but did you forget that you found me and I saved you this year? That your best friend was also saved and that you were both baptized on the same day? I’ve been with you every step of the way… through it ALL.”  I’m not sure how often Jesus gives out “dope slaps” but this was well-received and I heard Him…loud and clear!

My faith and trust in God is what moves me forward, one step at a time, one day at a time and even one minute at a time, if warranted.

IMG_0128.PNG

Photo Cred:  Following My King-Blogger

My faith IS bigger than my fears, my pain, my sorrow.  I continue to keep my eyes on Him, leaning into Him and His Word and knowing that through Him, all things are possible.  Even being thankful through the storm.

With Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, the first without my father, I know that it will be emotional for me and my family.  As we gather around the table, the head of which being either empty or occupied by another family member, the tears will flow as the Thanksgiving dinner blessing is said.  Memories from all the holidays past will significantly impact the holidays of the present and future.  Living in and through this storm, I know that I do have so much to be thankful for, and I’ll pray for those who can’t find their thankfulness during their storms in the hope that they’ll see He is always with them and is always there to reach down and lift them up through their pain and sorrow, pulling them close to Him and giving them comfort and peace.

So let the storms come, let the rain fall hard on my heart because I know His love and light will shine through it all and He’ll help me rise above it.

“When storms are raging in your life, you must grab a hold of The Rock—that is Jesus. He is your refuge, your shelter, the only secure, safe place. He is the bright ray of sunshine in any storm that comes your way.” ~Cathy Irvin/CBN.com

Psalm 107:29 ~ “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

The Aftermath: Learning To Live Without Someone You Love

IMG_0120

As the days, weeks and now months have passed since my beloved father died, I’ve been struggling with how to live happily without him.  He was everything to me.  He was the beacon of light on a dark day.  He was the ray of sunshine that burst through the clouds when my mood was dismal.  He was my last phone call of the day.  I made sure that we always had that nightly opportunity to recap our respective day and to exchange, “I love you’s”.  It’s now been sixty-four days since I’ve spoken with or hugged him.  But who’s counting.  Oh, yeah… that’d be me… I’m counting.  Truth-to-tell, I have spoken to him every day since his passing, but naturally, it’s a one-sided conversation.  I miss his voice, but am blessed in having a couple of audio recordings of conversations we had earlier this year.  These weren’t recorded by chance… they were done purposefully, in preparation of when he would inevitably be gone from this world.  There are a few videos, too, but I’m not quite ready to listen to, or watch them, just yet.

This isn’t my first loss of a loved one and surely it won’t be my last.  I’ve been down this road countless times, beginning at age thirteen with the loss of my wonderful “Gramps”, followed by the loss of my brother four years later (and so on, and so forth), and I know I’ll travel it again.  It’s not a straight, bumpless path… it twists, turns and it’s filled with hills, both negligible and steep, with hidden, grass-covered divots, in which I’ll undoubtedly stumble.  I’ve encountered many hills and valleys throughout my life, as many people do, but my Dad was always there… either pushing me up, or pulling me up from those respective hills and valleys.

When he was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently died nine days later, the joy and peace of my salvation promptly made its way to the back burner where it simmered on low for many, many weeks, overshadowed by the enormous loss of him and my grief.

IMG_0121.PNG

Photo Cred:  The Gourmand Mom

I was not, and am not, “mad at God” for “taking my father”.  The week before he passed, I got down on my knees and prayed to God to “please not let him suffer” and I distinctly remember saying, “If that means you have to take him next week, Lord, please do.”  Prayers answered.

I clearly thought we had more time; perhaps several weeks or a couple of months, but I’ve come to the realization that if God had not called my Dad home when He did, my fear of him suffering would have become reality, and as much as I miss him, that would have been too much to bear.

In my mind’s eye, and in my heart, I can see that the back burner is empty now.  The flame is gone and instead, the front burner is fully lit on high and my joy and peace are slowly beginning to “bubble away”.  

IMG_0122.PNG

Photo Cred:  The Cook’s Info

I knew they would return and even though they might jump to the back burner occasionally, I’m confident in knowing that they will never be gone… they may just need to “simmer” once in a while when not at a full “rolling boil”, for those times when I simply need to acknowledge my loss, my sadness and cry, as I continue to live without someone I loved beyond measure.

Revelation 21:4:  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Matthew 5:4:  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~  TP

 

Christians are not “better” than anyone else…

…they’re just “better off with Jesus”.  ~Pastor Anthony Milas, Granite United Church

 

IMG_0114

Photo Cred:  Mountain Toppers

Profound words from an awesome and ever-engaging Pastor!  I have been attending Granited United Church for over nine months.  It’s been the most amazing experience of my life.  Why, you might ask?  Well, first, I have Jesus.  He is first and foremost in my heart and I welcomed Him as my Lord & Savior without a moment’s hesitation, doubt or fear of the unknown.  Additionally, to help me in my Christian walk, I have the passionate and heartfelt guidance of G.U.’s Lead Pastor, Anthony Milas as well as my Campus Pastor, Courtland Holloway and their lovely wives, Christy and Kara, not to mention my entire G.U. Family.  One of the first things I learned when I walked through their doors was that there are “No Perfect People Allowed” at Granite.  Outstanding!  I’m about as far from perfect as a person can be!

October is “Pastor Appreciation Month” and I can’t thank my Pastors enough for the way they pour into us each week.  They don’t walk in front of us, nor behind us, but beside us so that we may lean on them as we lean into the Word to better know and love Jesus.  So “Thank You” to all of the Granite United Pastors and their wives for helping us all on our respective Christian journies.  You are well-respected and well-loved!

IMG_0116.PNG

Photo Cred: LittleThingsAboutGod

As duly noted by Pastor Milas yesterday, as Christians, we need to say, “NO to the world and YES to the WORD”.  It’s not as difficult to do as it may seem.  Stick your nose in a Bible if you’ve never done so.  Perhaps start with the book of John.  When you read the gospels, you’ll see that Jesus didn’t come here to teach us about religion; He came to save us.  He wants to have a personal relationship with each one of us.  All we need to do is call upon His name, ask Him to forgive us of our sins and to be our Savior.   If you’ll take a leap of faith and do so, you’ll know the joy, peace and eternal love that salvation brings.

Sometimes, it’s not an easy path to walk…it can be lined with naysayers, those that may ridicule, judge or reject.  That’s okay, they’re not the ones I’m trying to please; only Him.  Do I completely understand EVERYTHING in the Bible…not even remotely, but it’s a work in progress; I’m a work in progress!  With the guidance of a very loving and devout Christian woman, who teaches my Bible Study class (shout out to Nancy Susan Salois!), I am learning and growing every time I immerse myself in the Word.

IMG_0115.PNG

Photo Cred:  www.mybible.com 

O Come to the Altar’ By Elevation Worship…. (an excerpt) of very POWERFUL lyrics!!

Are you hurting and broken within?
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin?
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well?
Jesus is calling
O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ
Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling
Oh what a savior
Isn’t He wonderful?
Sing hallelujah, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him
For He is Lord of all
Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you found

IMG_0117.PNG

Photo Cred:  Soul Shepherding

To not share the Good News and the peace and joy of loving Christ would be like not grabbing and pulling back on the arm of a toddler who’s about to step off a curb into traffic.  Why would I keep this all to myself?  Why wouldn’t I want my loved ones, both family and friends, to have what I have?  I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and know that God has a plan for everyone.  He’ll do His work, and I’ll continue to do mine.

Granite United is a church that extends grace, not shame or criticism.   I’m so THANKFUL to have found this wonderful community where I get to worship, pray and be taught the Word of God in an awesome, very cool, and hip way (and by cool and hip, I mean “TOTALLY COOL AND HIP!”)

Again… a huge THANK YOU to Pastor Milas and ALL of Granite’s Campus Pastors!  Without “you”, we wouldn’t “be”.

Luke 15:3-7 – [3]So Jesus used this illustration: [4]”If you had one hundred sheep, and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it?  [5]And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders. [6] When you arrived, you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found. [7] In the same way, Heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!”

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

He’s Got My Baggage

 

 

IMG_0100

Photo cred:  Macy’s

Little did I know that I had “baggage”.  I thought I was “good”; perhaps toting around a small carry-on bag containing a few trinkets of regret, shame, embarrassment, guilt, etc.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had considerably more than a carry-on bag.  I had that, plus two of those big suitcases with the wheels and retractable handles, a garment bag, a duffle bag and a backpack.  Seriously?  Where did all of THIS come from?

I was simply “doing” life on my own…without help, without guidance and without purpose.  I thought I was managing things in a reasonable fashion.  I thought I was just like everyone else…sucking it up and moving forward.  Oh, I was, alright… I had my head down and plowed through everyone and everything, ignoring what was in my heart… knowing that something of enormous proportions was missing.  But what was it?  What was it that I was missing on my solo flight through life?  There was “something”!  It seemed to be on the very edge of my heart and mind, but whatever it was,  it seemed so elusive and mysterious.

I was plugging along by myself for over fifty years.  I had my beloved family and friends, my dogs, my job, a few hobbies, and my life “seemed” to be okay, average, “normal”… but ALWAYS, something seemed to be missing.

As I reflect back over the last five decades, I did start out with a small carry-on bag, no doubt, but over the course of time, the rest of my baggage crept in, almost imperceivably, and the next thing I knew, I had one of those hotel-dollys stacked high with the rest of my baggage. I hunkered down behind it holding on to the cold, brass rails in a defensive lineman’s stance, with all of my weight on the balls of my feet so I could reluctantly push it.  I pushed it uphill most of the way, only once in a while, when my life seemed simple, fun and carefree, did I take the opportunity to jump on the back of it while it careened downhill… going faster and faster….. Woooooooo Hoooooo!  On those rare occasions, that baggage dolly would inevitably come to a crashing halt, tipping over and spilling my regret, embarrassment, shame and guilt all over the ground.  I’d painstakingly gather everything back up and stuff it all neatly into my baggage, and I’d hunker down again and start pushing.

I was EXHAUSTED.  This down- and uphill battle was killing me…breaking my spirit into a million pieces.  How could I POSSIBLY go on any longer in this fashion?  How could I even entertain getting my life “under control”?  Who was going to save me and redirect my life so that I could live peacefully, joyfully and without guilt and shame?

And then it happened.   That elusive and mysterious component missing in my life showed up.  All I had to do was stop pushing that dolly full of my baggage, open my heart and my mind and ask for help.  I knew I couldn’t do this alone any longer.  I needed help, I needed rest.  I needed Him.  Only He could take this load off of my nearly broken back and shoulders.  When He offered to take my baggage from me and told me to follow Him… I couldn’t do it fast enough!  Without a moment’s hesitation, I started to transfer my baggage from that dolly to Him.  Each time I ladened Him with yet another bag, He stood tall, His knees never buckeled, His stance never wavered.  His pile was getting bigger and heavier by the minute and mine was getting smaller and lighter.  By the time I finished, He had it all…

IMG_0099

Photo cred: Pintrest

He reached over and took my hand.  As I stepped into His love, light and life, I never looked back.  I’ll NEVER be able to thank Him for what He’s done for me.

We all have baggage…some loads are lighter than others, but we ALL have it, nonetheless.  When you’ve had enough of doing this life on your own, He’s waiting for you…

God is greater than the burdens you are carrying.

IMG_0101.PNG

Photo cred:  Proverbs 31 Ministries

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

Whaddya mean, you want me to *SERVE*?!?

IMG_0069.PNG

Photo Cred:  Illinois Baptist State Association 

After I joined my local bible-based Christian Church, Granite United, I kept hearing chatter about “serving”.  Being new to the church, I was unclear as to what that meant.  As I continued attending service each week, the notion of “serving” began to unfold and before I knew what I was doing, I had filled out a “Connection Card” checking off the box for “Kids Ministry”.  Wait a second…”Kids Ministry”?  What could I, as a new Christian, possibly “teach” these kids about Jesus?  They probably know way more about Him than I do.  They’ll probably teach me a thing or two.  But okay… I committed to doing it…and so it began.

Easter Service…my first time in KM.  These little bright and shining faces looking at me like I knew what I was doing (I was as nervous as a tortoise trying to cross Route 93), but I just “went with it”.  I mean, these are “just kids” after all, right?

We played some games and did a lesson followed by an Easter Egg hunt.  I watched as one of the sweetest little girls on the planet handed over the “golden” Easter Egg that she had found to a boy who happens to be blind.  As I watched this transaction transpire, the waterworks came on and I was sobbing like a baby.  I had just witnessed a four year old angelic-looking girl gladly, graciously and lovingly give up the coveted golden Easter Egg to a boy who, although he couldn’t see it, knew it was a “big deal”.  He squealed in overjoyed delight, jumping up and down with a smile on his face that went from ear-to-ear.  I stood there placing my hand on the little girl’s shoulder and bending down to her level, told her how “very proud I was of her for giving him the golden egg and that was such an unselfish thing to do.”  Looking up at me with her big, beautiful blue eyes and an ever-present smile, she beamed, “I know!”  Being such a little girl, this was, in no way, a self-serving or self-aggrandizing statement.  It was “matter of fact”, as if she simply knew that what she had done was a “good” and “kind” thing.  :::I was still crying at this point, but reined it in a little so as not to alarm them:::

As we wrapped up the Easter Egg hunt, service had concluded and parents were arriving to pick up their kids.  Hugs all around and heartfelt “good-byes” ensued.  For those that know me well, know that sometimes I’m overcome by emotion and this day was no exception.  I got in my car and as I drove the 15 minutes to get home, my heart was so full of love and happiness over these kids, I continued to cry, barely being able to see where I was going.

So I’m a few rounds into KM and let me share with you how it’s changed me and what I’ve learned.  I’ve “taught” a couple of lessons… Noah’s Ark & God’s Rainbow and the Last Supper & Communion.  I’ve watched these kids be engaging, kind, selfless and loving.  I always used to jokingly say that I could never “run a daycare” because by the end of the day, when the parents would arrive to pick up their kids, they’d either find them hanging from the ceiling fan or duct-taped to the wall, suggesting that I’d never have the patience or wherewithal to “deal” with kids.  All joking aside, how wrong I was!  I am so thankful to be involved in Kids Ministry and knowing that it’s a committed process to teach children about Jesus in a fun and loving way; without it being too overwhelming for them.

IMG_0070.PNG

Photo cred:  Kids Matter Kids Ministry

Kids Ministry has taught me patience, to be able to see Jesus through the wonder-filled eyes of children.  It’s taught me about giving my time, willingly and lovingly, to assist these kids in learning about and coming to know Jesus.  After all, I’m a “Baby Christian”, so I’m learning right along with them.

Since kids can sometimes be unpredictable, there have been a few moments where things were going a little “sideways”, but through the loving hand of Jesus Christ, I found myself de-escalating a situation that otherwise may have ended with a ceiling fan or duct tape.  (Just kidding!)

In all seriousness, I never, in a million years, would’ve thought that I would be where I am today…completely devoted and ever-faithful in following Christ and serving in Kids Ministry.  These kids have impressed upon me their desire and willingness to know the Lord, and by His mercy and grace I will humbly do my best to help them on their journey.  I’ll hold their hands and take this walk with them, knowing that if either of us stumble, Jesus will be there to pick us up and help us continue on our way.

If you’re a part of the Granite United family and haven’t yet served in Kids Ministry, I urge you to do so.  Not only will you be helping kids learn about Jesus, you will be rewarded in ways you never could’ve imagined!

Matthew 18:2-4 [2]”And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [4]Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven’.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP