The Power of Prayer

Two hours or less

James 4:8- “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

Prayer is powerful.  I love the term “prayer warrior” because I envision myself dressed in armor and waiting on my marching orders to pray again. Today, I feel empowered by praying, but it has not always felt this way.  A few years back I would catch myself saying casually to someone, “Oh yes,  I will pray for you” and not follow through.  As I spent time with God, it was pointed out to me in big, bold, letters, “Don’t say you are going to pray and not follow through”.  I got it.  My prayer life has changed dramatically.  I pray throughout the day and when a request comes through, I stop what I am doing and pray.  I believe in prayer and am certain of one thing -God answers all prayers.  I have learned there are different ways He answers prayer.  I have decided to share with you in a three part series my prayer life and how God answered my prayers; in three different, but perfect ways.    In developing my personal relationship with God, I have come to recognize how prayer is powerful and I am blessed to be able to lift up others.  My first prayer experience is when God and I saw eye to eye.

TWO HOURS OR LESS

My desire was to be a mom.  When I was pregnant with my first child, I asked numerous friends to give me the details of going through labor and delivery.  I did not care how horrible the experience was detailed.   I wanted to prepare myself for the worst in pain level.  Sufficient to say none of the horror stories prepared me for the inducing of my labor, screwing up the epidural (so I had to lay flat on my back through labor, pushing, and the unplanned C-section) severe shakes in coming off the medication, the stitches, and the long recovery process.  As I looked at my beautiful nine-pound baby girl, I told myself-NEVER AGAIN.  God had another plan.  By the time my daughter was a year old, the horrific experience of giving birth was a faded memory and my husband and I talked about another baby.  I started praying to God if he could let me do the entire labor and delivery process in two hours or less, I was game.  I also told him I knew it would be extremely painful with no drugs and as long as He was with me and it could be done it two hours or less, I‘ve got this.  I prayed this prayer for two more years and when my daughter turned three, I was pregnant with my first son.  The pregnancy was relatively normal and uneventful, meanwhile, I was praying my two hours or less prayer.  When it became close to the due date, my doctor discussed the different paths I could take with pain medication.  I smiled at him and said, “no drugs for me, thank you.”  He promptly chuckled and said I would change my tune when the contractions were going down.  In the wee hours of September 16th, (around 3:00 AM) I was the most uncomfortable I had been all evening.  I did not know what it was like to go into labor (my daughter was induced) but a little voice told me this was it.  I woke up hubby and said let’s go.  We got our friends to come get our daughter and we were off to the hospital.  I arrived at 4:00 AM and my husband dropped me off at the emergency entrance and left to park the car.  I could barely walk down the hall and a nurse saw me and grabbed a wheelchair.  At this point the pain was excruciating and I kept holding my breath.  I was put in a room and my hubby was given the paperwork to fill out while the nurse examined me.  “Wow,” she said, “You are at eight centimeters!”  I remember, okay God we have got this!  It was me and my husband in this quiet little room and then it happened.  My water broke (more like exploded) and I started pushing (uncontrollably) and my poor husband faded to white and screamed for help.  In less than 20 minutes, my beautiful nine-pound son was born!  Let me tell you, I could have jumped up on the table and fist pumped while celebrating.  I felt awesome!  No drugs needed and my son was born forty-six minutes from the time I arrived at the hospital.  You might think this was a coincidence, but let me share one more piece.  Seven years later, I was pregnant with my youngest son and I started the same prayer request again-two hour or less.  Guess what?  Same scenario, I arrived at the hospital at 6:30AM and at 8:04AM he was born.  No drugs and I wanted to jump up on the table again and celebrate: two for two!

There are times in our lives where God’s answer to prayer lines up with our heartfelt, desired outcome. And it is worth sharing an answered prayer to bless others.   I love to hear about uplifting and positive stories and when it revolves around an answered prayer-SCORE!!   I encourage you to share an answered prayer with others.  There may be someone out there who needs to hear and experience another God moment.

I want to pray for others so I have added a prayer request to my blog site.  Please let me know if I can pray for you.  Come back next week as I share another example of the power of prayer in my life.

Surviving The Firsts

surviving-the-firsts

Isaiah 40:31 -“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”.

Here I go again.  Our anniversary was coming up and this year would only be acknowledged by me.  I remember dreading the “firsts” after my husband died.  In the initial year as a significant date would approach, I felt the ache in my heart, the uneasiness of my stomach, and a thousand thoughts flying around in my head.  I would have to take deep breaths and clear my mind because I was so caught up in the fast, approaching day.  After living through all the memorable days in the first year, it dawned on me; I made it and had survived.

I reflected back on why was there so much panic and fear in approaching and living through these events?  I believe it is a process and something everyone has to experience in their grief journey.  In my situation, it was not so much the date as it was the anticipation of the day which was my focus.

How many days had he been gone?  How I was celebrating another holiday without him by my side?   When will I wake up from this nightmare?

I soon learned it was important for me to experience the anxieties as each significant date drew near.   The stressful time allowed me to press into God because I understood I could not burden this pain all on my own.  From the moment the panic set it, to the depressing mood which consumed me, and finally, when the day closed with a sense of relief, God was there.

Shortly after my husband’s passing, I asked many of my friends and family who had lost someone close, how long would I feel this way?  I wanted someone to give me the magic answer, to make me feel better and in my mind, have a goal I could set my sights on.  Everyone’s answer varied, but a good average was somewhere between two and three years.

2-3 Years!

I looked at my youngest who was five months old when his father died and realized he would turn three when I should not feel like I did in this moment. Looking back I can see how God needed this time to groom and grow me, as one of His children.  The process continues through my life as I have been molded and shaped again and again with each one of my losses since 2001.  All of my “firsts” were stepping stones to equip me with patience, empathy, tolerance, and spiritual strength in supporting others in their grief journey.  The first two to three years as a widow was a foggy memory and there are details I don’t remember, and it’s okay.  What I do recall is the love, patience, and support of my family and friends during an extremely difficult time in my life.  I thank God for putting all of the right people in my path those first few years to support myself and my children as we experienced our “firsts”.  I look back and know I survived the “firsts” because of His grace and mercy.  Today I share my testimony so others who have suffered a loss can experience hope and find strength in God’s love.

 

The Parade of Life

the-parade-of-life

“ The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;  I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”-John 10:10

We are in the middle of Mardi Gras season here in Southeast Louisiana.  When I moved here from Texas eight years ago, I had no concept of Mardi Gras.  It is not a one-day celebration, but a seasonal festival.   Carnival season starts with the selection of the Royalty for each parade (there are currently over eighty Krewes on the North Shore and South Shore which have their own parades) and the majority of the parades run in the final two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras day (also known as Fat Tuesday).

Most people love a parade.  The music, the floats, and the dance teams all melding together to form the celebration and Mardi Gras takes it to a whole other level.  Some of the bigger parades can have up to thirty floats, with well-known celebrities riding in the parade.  There are the high school and college bands from all over the country who march, play and have the crowds dancing on their feet.  And of course, there are the throws.  What is a throw?  To be honest, it is cheap plastic trinkets from beads to stuffed animals, which are tossed from the floats to the crowds.  And people act like they are precious and rare commodities, scrambling to catch or pick up the items off the ground.  I am a little amused at the passion some parade goers exhibit in order to obtain throws during Mardi Gras season.

As I move through my ninth Mardi Gras season, I have come to realize there are similarities to attending a parade and living life.  What if I approached every day as if I was going to a parade?

Anticipation-There is preparation and planning needed when going to a parade.  Where will I set up, what do I bring, how long will I stay, and do I have a plan for my physical needs (food, water, bathroom, elements, etc)?  Next is the excitement factor.  I know what to expect and look forward to the sights, sounds, and smells on the parade route.  Oh, how I look forward to some good Jambalaya and King Cake!  Another key component is location, location, location.  Who wants to be ten deep in a shoulder to shoulder crowd?  My husband is a seasoned pro at parading and he has the contacts for locations on the parade route and how to get around the crowds by using back roads and knowing when streets are closed down for the festivities.

I find living my life is like the anticipation of a parade.  I find myself preparing and planning for my daily agenda starting with prayer and journaling.  It helps me focus on what I need mentally and spiritually to face the day.  I plan for my family’s physical needs and try and keep our home a safe refuge from the ugliness in the world.  I find planning ahead lays a good foundation to face the day to day hurdles and activities.

Being present-When I hear the sirens from the police and fire trucks (who generally lead the parade and alert the crowd it is about to commence) I focus on the moment.  The sounds of the piped in music from the floats and the reverberation of the marching bands gives me goosebumps and fills my heart with joy.  I watch the children on the shoulders of dad’s and big brothers trying to catch a trinket or beads to put in their goody bags.   The smiles, laughter, and screams of delight coming from the crowd make me smile.  The atmosphere is full of excitement and positive vibes.  Then the last float goes by and it is over.  A little sadness fills the air as I want there to be one more float.  A deep sigh escapes my lips and I start to remember the excitement I recently experienced.

I am reminded I should also be present in my life.  There will be joy, excitement, laughter, and delight which I should embrace and soak into my soul.  I should not worry what could be around the corner; fear, sadness, grief, and disappointment.  Life is made up of all these emotions and in order to be present, I have to face and live through the good as well as the bad.

Fellowship-A parade consists of a crowd of people.  We generally meet some of our friends or family will come into town and join us, and it is a great way to get away from technology and focus on relationships.  We generally have to arrive several hours before the parade starts in order to get set up and avoid street closures.  While waiting for the parade it is custom to get to know the people around you, find out if they are local or out of town, what did they bring to eat, and what has been their favorite parade.  It is not uncommon by the time the parade rolls; we are sharing food, helping each other catch throws, and hosting our own dance party.

God is about relationships and so is life.   God made us social in order to interact and take care of one another.  This is why I am involved in a church and volunteer so I can fellowship with others.  I am amazed how moving to Louisiana eight years ago has afforded me new friends and relationships I would have not developed if I had not followed God’s lead.  I look forward to how my community will continue to grow in the future due to new connections with others.

Life is like a parade.  It is totally worth the anticipation, the experience, the relationships, and the memories.  If you ever have the opportunity to come down to Southeast Louisiana and experience Mardi Gras, I highly recommend it.  There are many family friendly parades all over the area and you can learn the history of the parades and get more details at http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/parades.html.   Blessings and Happy Mardi Gras!

mardi-gras-mask

True Love

true-love

“Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”-Proverbs 4:23

“Thank you, God, to have blessed me with a husband, again”.

In 2001 I was facing the unthinkable.  Scott, my husband of sixteen years, died suddenly and I was left behind raising three children.  The journey was unforgiving but with my God and His grace, I persevered and finally saw the light at the end of my grief tunnel.  Eventually, I found myself dating again.  Four years after Scott died, I married Randy.  The experience of two weddings was quite different.  First time around I was a nineteen-year-old Christian who thought I knew it all; but, was so naïve. There was the bickering, fighting, and threats of giving up and going our separate ways. I so loved him and now know my time with him would end all too soon.  When we got married, intellectually I understood the vows, for better or worse, richer or poor,  in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part. But the second time around, at thirty-eight, my life experiences of growing in my faith and actually losing a husband made these vows come alive and burn into my soul.  As Jesus spoke in Matthew 19:6-“So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate”. For the second time, I stood before God, Randy, and a few witnesses, to declare our marriage as a covenant which shall not be broken by man.

When we marry, a man and a woman join as one.  In Genesis 3:24 it says-“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”.  When we join together, we make a covenant with God, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in death.  Marriage is not easy.  In many ways, it is like working out.  You have to commit to it daily and sometimes it is painful and hard, but the results are rewarding.  I love my husband but I don’t like some of his behaviors and I am sure he can say the same about me!  It is my duty as a wife to invest in my husband, build him up, and support him.   Relationships in general,  need to be nurtured, fed and sometimes pruned.  There will be disagreements, but a couple who puts God first can learn how to disagree by praying for each other, discussing the issue and compromising on a solution.

Why do we spend more time on watching television, texting, and reading social media then investing time in developing our relationships?  What better example to pass on to our children and future generations than a couple who honors God first in their marriage and is committed to working out the differences, building each other up, and growing together.

Another key part for me in loving someone else is learning how to love myself.  And this my sistas, is not easy.  The enemy constantly attacks my thoughts with doubt, confusion, and fear.  I am my worst critic and hardly ever give myself a break.  In order to rise above the perpetual downward spiral of self-pity and skepticism, I have to center my mind and heart with my True Love.  I am a child of God, therefore I am loved and have a purpose.  1 John 4:19 states, “We love because He first loved us.”   I am made in His image and as I continue to seek His counsel through daily quiet time, I realize and affirm I have worth.  I am slowly accepting who I am and loving myself, flaws and all.

I am so blessed to have another opportunity to learn from God what I need to work on in order to be a better wife and partner for Randy.  I am in this marriage for the long haul and I pray my obedience to God, my husband, and our marriage testifies to others of God’s unconditional love for all of us.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day  colourful-hearts

Blessings In Grace

blessings-in-grace

“…Who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done, but because of His own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,”-2 Timothy 1:9

“Here, try this pair,” I said to him.  His shaky hand took the eyeglasses and he put them on his face.  He grabbed the bible and looked at the words on the pages.  Then his mouth erupted into a big grin.  “I can see the words, I can read my bible!  Bless you,” he said to me.  All I did was hand him a pair of free glasses, under the overpass in New Orleans on a brisk day in January, and he was ecstatic.  Yes, he did bless me.

My family and I try to go once a month to downtown New Orleans to feed the homeless.  We have met a wonderful couple, Cliff & Kim, who devote their time, energy, and resources to help people in need.  I remember the first time we volunteered with our son a couple of years ago.  I was extremely nervous to put my child in the midst of homeless adults and could only think the worst possible thoughts.  Boy, I was wrong.  It was easy to be on the outside and look into the secret, dark, and dirty world of living on the streets and to pass judgment.  They must be lazy, they must be addicts, and they must have done something terrible and this is why no one in their family wants to help.  God whispered to me, “look a little closer and talk to them.  Find out their story.”  And I did.

I met a man, who had to have dialysis four times a week, and because of this, he could not hold a job.  Since he could not hold a job, he had to live in a shelter close to the dialysis center.  His family was scattered all over the United States, and he did not have the money to move and be close to them.  He was so appreciative of the hot meal we brought to him.  He was so thankful for living to see another day.

I met a young man in his twenties who ran away from home because he could not stand the rules being imposed on him.  He got hooked on drugs and was too ashamed to go back home.  He wasn’t sure if he wanted to get clean, but he was surviving on the streets.  He had not talked to his family in over three years.

I met a young woman with two small children.  My heart ached thinking these precious children would be living on the streets.  Thankfully, they had a small apartment they lived in and mom needed some help with a home cooked meal for her and the children on this particular day.

As much as the stories here tugged on my heart and made me thankful for my own circumstances, they also have brought clarity to why I need to be there and offer some food or pass out some free clothes, bibles, or glasses.  It is about grace.  As a Christ follower, I have been showered with abundant grace from God.   I feel His mercy and favor in my life and I want others to benefit from His providence.  This should apply to all people in my life, not only the homeless.

I have unresolved issues with others and need to forgive or ask to be forgiven.  There are people in my life who have different opinions and beliefs and I need to honor and respect their views.  There are individuals who need kind words of encouragement instead of defeating statements. I can control my actions in my close circle and want to demonstrate favor, mercy, and kindness instead of setting up hurdles of impediment and condemnation.

If we all took one step in extending grace to those close to us or complete strangers, think of the change it could make in all of us.  I hope to inspire others to evaluate their own situations and see how they can discover the blessings in reaching outside of their comfort zone and spread some grace.

**I volunteer for a couple of different organizations and listed below are the websites if you would like some more information. Blessings!**

Ragan’s Hope

Mission:  Ragan’s HOPE, is committed to helping parents of children with serious ongoing medical conditions or injuries endure the initial impact and embrace the future, in the name of Christ.

https://raganshope.org/

Our Good Shepard Ministries

Our mission is to glorify God by reaching hurting people and helping them rebuild their lives in a positive way.  We are reaching out to the homeless, hurting and any other people in need to give them a “helping hand” in an effort to move forward with their lives in a positive way by providing basic life necessities (food, clothing, furniture, household items) while at the same time showing them the Love of Jesus and helping them to understand they are valuable, loved and not forgotten.

http://www.ourgoodshepherdministries.org/

Temporarily Displaced

earrings-2

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”-John 5:24

I have a pair of earrings.  Nothing fancy; some inexpensive costume jewelry which I fondly enjoy wearing.  In the past month, I have twice “temporarily displaced” one of the earrings while wearing them.  It should have been lost and not ever found, but it has made its way back to my ear both times.  I would notice I was missing the earring and look around but did not find it.  I would be a little sad at the loss (I really like the earrings!) and then bam!  It would turn up much later on the floor somewhere else unexpectedly.   I told the story to my husband, Randy, and he said, “Now there is your next blog!”  Little did we know…

This week will be the sixteenth anniversary of the loss of my first husband, Scott.  About this time every year, the shadow starts creeping in.  I don’t initially recognize what is going on but I start feeling “off”.  Then the sadness, anger, and pity will fill my head and heart.  Followed by the doubt and anguish of why I feel this way and who am I to try and be upbeat and positive all the time.  I feel like an imposter who says she wants to help others but is too consumed with herself right now to care for anybody else.  I start feeling like I have “temporarily displaced” my hope and faith and have given up.  Thank you, God, for it is only temporary.

I have to remind myself of all the love and grace which He has provided for the last sixteen years:

The wonderful family and friends who have lifted up and supported me when I couldn’t do it for myself.

Three beautiful children who are growing up and revealing to me what they have inherited from their father; his looks, mannerisms, humor, and love for others.

A second chance at love and life with an extremely supportive and gracious husband, Randy.

The ability to grow closer to God during this grief journey and recognizing His love and plans for me.

Discovering my purpose and taking the step of faith needed to prepare for the adventure.

Being still and knowing He is God.

When depression, anger, hurt, and even jealousy enter my thoughts and actions, I feel displaced.  I have to re-center my direction and the best course for me is prayer, reading scripture, and journaling.  Psalm 34:17-18 reads, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them: he delivers them from all their troubles.  The lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  I am righteous because of Him and He hears and comforts me during these dark times.  It is not an easy fix, but a process which ultimately makes me stronger and reminds me I am blessed because I am His child.

I am not afforded the promise this current life would be fair or easy.  When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I have assured the promise of an eternal life with Him.  I share this part of my reality not to ask for pity but in hopes to reach out to others who may feel the same way.  This is real and it is hard, but I am not alone and neither are you.  Please say a prayer for me during this brief difficult time and let me know if I can pray for you.

I am “temporarily displaced”   living here on earth right now.   But like my earring, someday I will find the way to my permanent home with my Father and it will be a joyful reunion.    Blessings.

IN-JOY

in-joy

“Sing to the Lord, you saints of His; praise His holy name.  For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:4-5

I know it has been a few weeks since I posted.  I have been trying to write about something I THOUGHT was on point and necessary.  Every time I sat down to write, nothing.  So I prayed and tried to understand what I was experiencing.  Was it writer’s block or something far worse, like no more writing?   Was this it for my writing journey?

No, it was a little more complicated than the above reasons and it took me a couple of weeks to figure it out.  During this time of attempted blogging, I heard a whisper in my ear and the Holy Spirit would say, “joy”.   I was stumped.  Joy?  It is such a small simple word with huge implications.  So I decided to do a little research.

According to dictionary.com, the definition of joy is “a state of happiness or felicity.”  As I scrolled down reviewing the origin of the word, the synonyms and the antonyms something caught my eye.  One of the words to describe the opposite of joy was grief.  Well, here is a word I was familiar with and the complete opposite of what I thought I was to pursue.  When I ponder what I have gone through, the light bulb goes off and I see what I have experienced with the two ends of the emotional spectrum.

In grief, I felt profound sadness.  My body, heart, and soul hurt with such deep pain I was not sure if I could ever recover.  But I did.  I can still feel the same intense ache occasionally, but it does not last long and I know it will cease.  In joy, I have experienced a state of happiness and it starts with a decision to pursue it.  I want to find bliss in my daily routine and breathe it in to fill the recesses in my soul with warmth and love.

In grief, I know my face displayed the raw emotions which churned inside me.  It was difficult to hide the sorrow and I know it made some people uncomfortable in not knowing what to do or say.  In joy, I feel my face radiate the glow from within me.  My smile can make someone else smile and in turn, makes me feel delighted.  I love the way happiness beams from me and I want to be a light for others in grief.

In grief, I have felt lonely and isolated and think there is no way anyone else has ever struggled with this reality.  I learned yes, this is what others feel and I was not alone.  In joy, I wanted to surround myself with my family and friends and embrace the jubilance of building relationships and memories.  When you are full of happiness you have to share with others and receive the blessings which are returned.

In going through this study of my grief and joy I realized I was not the only one involved.  God was with me every step of the way.  He comforted me in my sorrow and celebrated in my joy.  He has helped me see what my priorities are as I continue in this journey and understand my role.  My trials have been fiery and have resulted in me being refined and renewed.  I realize this is life and how it is intertwined with happiness and sorrow.  I know I am not alone in this reality and I challenge you to look at your life and find the blessings in both the grief and the joy.