How I Pinpointed and Matured In My Faith

How I Pinpointed And Matured In My Faith

“We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”-2 Corinthians 5:7-8*

This month, I am focusing on faithfulness as part of my study and reflection of my 2018 word “devotion”.    The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines faithful as “steadfast in affection or allegiance**.”  I decided in order to discuss faith or being faithful, I needed to ask the question, “When did I discover my faith?”

All people have faith and believe in some type of idea whether is it a religion, a concept, or a theory.  I believe in God as my father, Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit who is within me.  I am not here to pass judgment on those who don’t believe like I do but to give background on what defines my faith.

I grew up in a Methodist Church, baptized as an infant, attending services, Sunday school, confirmation classes, and church camp.  I loved the singing of hymns, the activities we did in Sunday school and going away to camp for a week.  When I completed my confirmation classes, I understood the personal relationship with Jesus and believed everything I was taught.  This is where the seed of faith had been planted.

I left for college at seventeen, and didn’t think about going to church or being involved for the first few months I was away from home.  Initially, I didn’t understand why I was feeling out of sorts and had this gnawing sensitivity inside me. A few more months passed and someone invited me to their church one Sunday morning.  As soon as I stepped into the worship area I felt a warm wave of love and peace wash over me.  I was home and it was well in my soul.  I did not make it back every Sunday, but when I did, my time spent in the church was a way to ground myself and re-center my priorities.

Scott and I married when I was nineteen at my home church.  We decided when we moved to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, we wanted to find a church for us.  Early on we visited different churches but would not commit to joining one.  I did pray daily and God answered me sometimes obviously and other times not so much.  I was faithful in keeping conversations open between us but felt guilty for not making my Christian walk more evident to others.

In early 2000, I was pregnant with my third child and a girlfriend invited us to her non-denominational church.  It was a new and exciting surprise because this church offered a Saturday night service which fit our lifestyle.  Scott and I dropped the two older children off in the age-appropriate children’s church and walked into the worship center, which sat about three thousand and it was packed!  We found my friend and sat down when all of the sudden the music team started playing a song from a famous rock band of the 60’s to open up the worship time.  This was the hook to catch your attention and prepare you for the series, which was about getting your groove back in worship.  I don’t remember the details of the pastor’s message but let me tell you, it made a huge impression on Scott.  He was excited about going back to church and joining due to this one visit.  In hindsight, I know God was presenting the opportunity for us to put skin in the game and plant ourselves in a church.  It gave us the little time we had left to build our relationships back with Christ and allow me to build the necessary connections in the church to support myself and the kids after Scott’s death.

Scott’s death was my pivotal point in recognizing and living out my faith.  I made a choice the night he died, to turn towards God and all He could afford me because losing Scott was unbelievable, unbearable, and unendurable.

The harder I leaned on God, the stronger the Holy Spirit uplifted me.

The more I left at the foot of Jesus, the more God provided for me through others.

The angrier I became at God and my situation, the more inner peace I experienced from the Holy Spirit.

I have constantly believed in my God.  In the last seventeen years, my belief has deepened into an unwavering faith and a personal relationship with Him.  I strive to learn more, pray more, serve more, and share more of my experience with others.   Someone once asked me, “What if you have spent your entire life worshiping, giving, and praying to God, and when you die you experience nothing.  Don’t you feel like it was wasted time?”

My answer is no.

If I spent all my time going to church and giving selflessly of my time and my money to others, I don’t consider it a waste of time. I have enjoyed all of these activities, improved my character, and helped those who are less fortunate.  My faith has been with me for a long time and becoming a part of a church family, learning wisdom from the Bible, and serving others has only deepened my commitment and devotion to God.    This life is full of challenges and blessings and I am content with the lessons I have learned.  I know how my faith started and continues to grow and mature with every day I am privileged to live out here on earth.   And I know where I am headed on the day my last breath leaves my lips because of my faithfulness in Him.

* The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

**www.merriam-webster.com

GraceTruth-600x800-4 Linking up with Grace & Truth at https://www.embracingtheunexpected.com/

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Ready To Rock My Next Mama Moment

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“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”-Proverbs 22:6*

Do you know what I wanted to be when I grew up?  It was not a dancer, a doctor, or a famous musician.  The only dream I can remember from the time I was a little girl was I wanted to be a mama when I was all grown up.

I was twenty-four before I understood the true definition of a mom.  My perspective changed on everything because of the tiny little creature God had given me to love and raise up.  I remember when I was pregnant with my second child, the panic which flooded my mind and heart; could I love another one as much as my firstborn?  I quickly found out the answer was, yes I can.

Throughout my years of rearing my three beautiful children, there have been many lessons learned on both sides of the parent/child relationship.  Some of the lessons I am proud of and would do it again in a heartbeat.  Other lessons knocked me off balance, left me shaken, and robbed me of my stamina to get back up.

But I did.

I slowly rose, dusted myself off, pulled up my big girl panties, and took a deep breath.

And reverted back to what I know best; being an unconditional, relentless, and hard-headed loving mama who would lay down my life for my children.  The privilege of being a mother has taken my heart soaring to the heavens and left it crushed with sorrow.

I know I was not alone in my parental duties.  God, my husband(s), family, and friends also played a key role in raising up the Townsend children.  I am thankful for the extra hands, opinions, and grace which was provided.  But there are certain aspects of this type of relationship only a mother can fulfill, regardless of the age of a child.  And here I stand; waiting to rock my next mama moment.

Below is a piece I wrote back in 2016 as part of a five-minute writing challenge.  Reflecting on what I wrote confirms my dream of being a mother.  I am not perfect, but I certainly have good intentions of caring and loving my children.

You were wanted and loved.  To this day, I can feel the phantom fluttering inside knowing you were growing in me.  When you were born you were perfect and exactly as I imagined.  I was in awe of how little you were and remember touching your soft newborn skin and taking in the sweet aroma which only a baby can truly present.  Because of you, my title and purpose changed in my life.  It was not about me anymore, but about you.  You also changed me physically, which I am proud of the scars, curves, and extra padding which I now bear.  I would move heaven and earth to protect you from evil, threats, and harm.  I would die for you.

I would correct you when you were wrong and praise you when you were right.  I have been your biggest cheerleader and have believed you could do whatever you wanted to pursue.  It broke my heart when I had to let you fall and receive the bumps and bruises life would give you.  But I knew you would bounce back, fiercer, stronger, and wiser.  I am so honored for you to call me mom and blessed for God allowing me to be a part of your life.  I know one of you understands what I have described here and the other two will grasp the concept when they become parents one day.  Continue to put God first in all you do and the rest will fall into place.

Love you with all my heart,

Mom

* The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

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Making The Most Of A Second Chance

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“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-6*

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

In 2001 I was facing the unthinkable.  Scott, my husband of fifteen and a half 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 the two weddings was quite different.  The first time I was a nineteen-year-old who thought I knew it all.

Ah, but I was so naïve.

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. There was the bickering, fighting, 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.

But the second time around, almost twenty years later, my life experiences of growing in my faith and actually losing a husband made these vows come alive and burn into my soul.  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 would 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 actions 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 watching television, texting, and reading social media then investing time in developing our relationships?  We fight for the principles we want: a local law changed, a change in a school dress code, electing a new official, but we don’t fight for our marriage?  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.

I have been praying for a married couple who is going through a serious rough patch in their marriage. As I have been praying for them it was revealed to me, marriage is a perfect example of honoring God and acting out our Christian values.  My prayer is for this husband and wife, to put God first in the marriage, and then focus on themselves and what needs to change with them individually, not changing each other.

I have learned when I get frustrated with Randy, I seek God to change my heart, and reveal to me what I need to change.  I also lift Randy up in prayer daily, asking God to show me how to build him up so he can receive God’s provisions.  Our marriage is not perfect, but we give it to God daily so He is glorified through our covenant and we can testify to others of His love.

I am so honored to receive another opportunity to learn from God what I need to focus on 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.

* The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

I Promise You A Rose Garden

I Promise You A Rose Garden

Spring.

What a glorious season where all the naked, dead, and withered foliage turns green and thickens.  I learned early on I am not a cold weather winter kind of sista.  There is a reason I live in the south!

When the weather turns warmer, my husband takes down the makeshift greenhouse he has built around the gazebo.  We admire what has been growing for the past few months in the shielded warmth of the cozy abode.  This year we had some peppers, oregano, rosemary, chives, and our citrus trees already had flowers!

Then we start pruning, cleaning out, re-potting, and fertilizing all of our plants.  We also plant new seeds to grow starters for planting later.  We have worked so hard on our backyard this last month and WOW, it has paid off!

I have such affection for my roses.  I spend an abundant amount of time ensuring they are nourished, trimmed, trained, and loved.  Here, you judge……

Roses

I believe God feels the same way about us.  We live in this beautiful world He created and He provides similar opportunities for us.

Nourishment– God has provided a bounty for me to enrich my body and my soul.  He has afforded me the ability to shop for or grow my food, and the intellectual capacity to read the bible and feed my spiritual appetite.    “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

Trim/Train-For me, this is called discipline.  God uses my circumstances for teachable lessons which in turn will help me grow.  As I grow in His discipline, I will develop self-restraint and turn away from sinful actions.   For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Love-When I feel loved by God and others, my heart is full and I want to pay it forward.  I know my roses don’t feel my love literally, but because I care for them, in return, they bloom beautifully and we reap the benefits!   “He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. “ Luke 10:27

Because of our persistent time, attention, and love for the roses and garden, we are rewarded with such beauty and tasty fruits and veggies!  I choose for God to be my gardener and prepare me for a magnificent spot in His garden where I can bloom forever.   Blessings!

Letting Go

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“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. “-Psalm 127:3-4*

Affection is my word for the month of April and what comes to mind is my love and affection for my children.  I would do anything for my children, but sometimes there is nothing which can be done. I found myself in this position and all I could do is give my daughter to God.

In my younger years when I was asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, my response was to be married and be a momma! It was my dream and I was blessed with my first and only girl, Taryn, in January 1990.  She was a daddy’s girl from the get-go.  Needless to say, when he suddenly died in 2001, it was devastating for all three of my children.  Taryn retreated to a dark and empty abyss and the climb out of the hole was brutal on all of us.

I witnessed behavior issues and did everything I could to “fix” her.  We saw counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and doctors.  She was evaluated for disorders and learning disabilities.  She built this huge wall around her and would not let anyone into her painful world.  As time marched on, there was disobedience, drugs, drinking, and even running away for five weeks.  As her mom, I kept trying to figure out what I had done wrong.  Was it something I said or something I did or did not do?   The guilt and the shame weighed me down and I was drowning in my own grief- again.  This time over my child who I could not reach, heal, or understand.

Thank God for my husband Randy, who reached out to experts, and explored our options to save Taryn from her destructive actions.  We decided to send her to an eight-week wilderness therapy camp.  It is like something you would see on a reality TV; two undercover police escorts came at 4AM and woke her up, handcuffed her, and walked her out to the front door.  I was ordered to stay in my bedroom with the door shut.  I rocked myself back and forth crying out to God to save my little girl.  At this moment I realized, I had to give her up to Him.  His will would be done.

  • Turning over control- My first major hurdle was the realization I could not fix Taryn and God was the one in control. It did not matter how many people we consulted to find an explanation as to why she was acting this way.  Taryn later revealed to us she blamed herself for her father’s death.  She was eleven at the time and her dad had sent her to her room for misbehaving at dinner.  She remembers stomping up the stairs and wishing he would go away.  He left later in the evening to play in a soccer game, where he collapsed on the field and died.  She carried this burden on herself and told no one for six years.
  • Turning over anger- Not all issues were resolved overnight. Even after the therapy program, Taryn continued to slip back into her old habits and wound up pregnant at seventeen.  She gave birth to a baby boy after her eighteenth birthday and gave him up for adoption.  It was the best decision for both her and the baby as she continued to heal and work on herself.  This was a huge disappointment for me and I had to come to a place of forgiveness and letting go of the anger.
  • Turning over pain- Today, Taryn is twenty-eight years old, married with two beautiful daughters (my grandbabies!). She graduated high school and completed her Associate’s degree as a medical assistant.  She works extremely hard for her family and plans on going back to school this year to complete her registered nursing degree.  I burst with pride as she has risen above her anger, hurt, and grief.  I have had to forgive her for all the hateful comments, actions, and pain she has created for herself and our family.  I am so thankful to God for walking with and bringing us through these circumstances and strengthening our bond as a mother and daughter.

I am amazed at how God guided and directed me as a mother.  I know I am not perfect, but am so blessed to call myself the mother of these three beautiful children.  I look forward to seeing how they grow up, parent my grandchildren, and I pray they enjoy and cherish all the moments.  It is said children are a gift from God.  Thank you, Lord, for picking me to be the one and only mother of these three children.  I love you Taryn, Hunter, and Braeden!!!

* The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

A Mother’s Dedication

A Mother's Dedication

In 2004, I watched “The Passion of the Christ*” in the movie theater with some ladies from my church.

Let me set the stage.

I had been widowed for three years and my focus the entire time was my children and their mental and physical well-being.  I was hyper-sensitive emotionally, and as a visual person, allowed the entertainment to paint the picture.   When the movie started, I left the theater in Grapevine, Texas and for the next two and half hours, I was transported to Jerusalem over two thousand years ago.  I could feel the dry, dusty dirt on my body, the heat radiating off the sun and the immense hatred of the crowd who wanted Jesus crucified.  I could hear men screaming and women wailing and watched the merciless beating of Jesus. What caught my eye was watching Mary, mother of Jesus, in the back of the crowd, gazing at her precious son,  and I felt the motherly connection.

I am not sure if it was the timing of this movie or the intensity of the film, but I was extremely moved as a woman and a mother to Mary’s part in the final hours of Jesus on earth.  I have not lost a child nor am I comparing my children to Jesus.  But I can relate to a woman who gave birth to a child, raised him, provided protection, and prayed for him.  I found myself in the theater sobbing and grieving right along with Mary as a Christian and as a mother.

I realize in the movie there were added components to emphasize the drama, but I was curious what if anything was mentioned in the bible about Mary in Jerusalem.  In looking at the four gospels, I found it interesting only one mentions Mary, the mother of Jesus, specifically and it is in the book of John.

In John 19:25-27 it reads, “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciples whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’  From this time on, the disciple took her into his home.”**

Jesus identifies his mother, and the disciple, John, who wrote the gospel.***  There is not an abundant amount of detail around Mary, but it does put her at the cross where Jesus was crucified.  I also know from history women of this time were not considered as prominent as men, so it is a safe assumption they would not be near the crosses but in the background.  I find it fascinating Mary and a few other women, made it to the base of the cross and with His dying breaths, Jesus acknowledged and spoke to her and John.  When her actions defied the norms of the day, Mary demonstrated what a mother would risk in order to be there for her child.

As a mother, I would want to try and deflect any type of pain, sorrow, embarrassment, or failure from my children.  I wish my children at a young age did not have to experience the death of their father.  I wanted to “fix” them with therapy, love, church, and praises.  I could not take the pain from them and they each had to live through the grief, grow into it, and accept it as a part of who they are.  Mary had to stand at a distance and watch her son ridiculed, mocked, beaten, tortured, and eventually hung on a cross to die.  We both could do nothing but be a witness to the pain and suffering of our children.  We as mortal women carry the burden of birthing, nurturing, protecting, loving and fearing for our children.

Easter is about the good news of Jesus and how he died and rose again for each of us.  I celebrate this joyous occasion and understand because of His sacrifice, I have a new everlasting life.  I additionally see Mary in a different light, as a mother, during this Easter season, and have come to appreciate her role in the event which exhibited the dedication, sacrifice, and true love for all mankind.

*The Passion Of The Christ-A Mel Gibson Film-2004-Icon Productions

** The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

***Bible Hub 2016 and Berean.Bible-Benson Commentary John:25-27


Flourishing Today

 

WHO AM I TO JUDGE?

WHO AM I TO JUDGE_

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”-Matthew 7:1-2*

I love live music.

There is something about instruments and artists coming together to create a piece which can move you physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I have attended numerous concerts, events, and weekend jams and seen performers from Guns & Roses to George Strait to Elton John.  I have witnessed many concerts and the “other” extracurricular activities which accompany the event.

Been there, done that.

Last Friday night, I had the honor to attend a Christian concert with an incredible lineup of TobyMac, Mandisa, Ryan Stevenson, Danny Gokey, Finding Favor, and Aaron Cole called the “Hits Deep” tour in Baton Rouge.   Talk about hip-hop worship!  It warmed my heart to watch families dancing, singing, and praising along to their favorite songs for three and a half hours.  The crowd was diverse in nature but the artists were dedicated to promoting the message of how we are all the same on the inside and should unite as one in Christ.  Satan hates when people gather in the name of Christ and he was scheming at this concert venue, in a subtle way.

As my husband and I were walking to the arena, anticipating the entertainment which was about to unfold, I heard a voice booming through a bullhorn.  Randy asked me, “I wonder what they are protesting about?”  As we approached the doors, we were met by about a dozen people; the men were holding signs stating those who were attending the Hits Deep concert were going to hell for our actions.  One man was yelling into the bullhorn and rattling off scripture.  To the right of the men were a group of women and children, standing in silence.  I walked over to a Baton Rouge police officer and ask if he knew who they were and he said they were from a church in another state.

I was flabbergasted.

This was not another religious faction or proclaimed atheists attacking our beliefs or choice of music, but individuals claiming to be Christ followers, hurling angry words and judgment against thousands who were attending a Christian concert.  Why would they be upset with our choice of entertainment?  I don’t want to get into the reasons why this group felt compelled to picket this particular concert, but I want to point out the nonobvious reason.  The enemy plants seeds of confusion, doubt, and lies and makes us question each other’s motives and decisions for our actions.  Filling our minds with validation for our ability to judge the actions of others and come to the conclusion we are taking a stand, in the name of God.

Wait, how many times have I done this to others?

Conviction enters my soul.

I am not going to judge this group who chose to stand outside the concert last Friday night, dedicated to their beliefs they were delivering a message and serving God.  Perhaps they were, and maybe they weren’t.  I don’t want to fall into Satan’s trap of reviewing my fellow brothers and sisters and rationalizing my conclusions.  I need to focus on my behavior and the message I am portraying to others.  I am dedicated to spreading the peace and love of God and witness to those who want a personal relationship with Jesus.

I know one thing.  It was a blessing to take part in an event where we could forget our differences and focus on one common element:  Our God.  This group missed a wonderful night of praise, worship, and fellowship with a diverse group of Jesus loving concert goers and it was GLORIOUS!   #weare1movement

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

 

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