FINDING PURPOSE

Finding Purpose

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.”-Romans 12:11-13

Early Saturday morning, my husband and I headed west to Lafayette, Louisiana.  It is the time of year where Ragan’s Hope, the non-profit where we are volunteers, delivers Easter baskets or totes to the families and hospitals we support.  Our mission is to help parents of children with serious ongoing medical conditions or injuries endure the initial impact and embrace the future, in the name of Christ.

I am truly blessed my three children have not endured a medical crisis, but recently it has hit close to home.  In December, my eleven-year-old nephew was diagnosed with B-ALL Leukemia.  An innocent child who’s little life is turned upside down, along with his family.  There is no more “normal” and life’s priorities have changed for all, including the siblings.  I don’t live it every day like my brother and sister in law and I wish I could help out more but unfortunately, I reside in a different state.  I pray daily for his healing and am comforted in how God reassures me all is well, because of my connection with Ragan’s Hope.

We have been supporting families with different medical issues for a couple of years in Louisiana.  Within the last two years, there have been three families, who have been battling ALL Leukemia.  All three are boys ranging in age from seven to thirteen, and in a different stage of the treatment protocol.  They are all farther along in the process than my nephew and it is like I can see into the future for my nephew’s journey.  God has been showing me what to expect and has offered me hope in the healing of my nephew.

Sin, disease, and death are part of our world.  It is easy to contemplate the worst case scenarios when faced with the loss of a loved one or a fearful diagnosis.  If we are open to it, God uses the opportunities to show us our strengths and the ability to sharpen our weaknesses.   I struggle with impatience and when I first heard about my nephew’s diagnosis, all I could think about is how much time it would take and what he would be missing out on his childhood.  God has placed these three families in my life to show me this time would not be wasted and there is hope of complete healing.  Sometimes we need to slow down and reevaluate our priorities to fully understand and travel the journey before us.

God has also exposed the strength in people.  He revealed the genius of the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff who deal with leukemia diagnosis’s daily and have the wisdom and for thought to develop treatment protocols to save young lives.  He showed the courage of the patients in dealing with the procedures needed in order to complete the treatment plan.  God also unfolded the determination of the family who rallies around their child and became the health advocates.  I witnessed the courage and tenacity in the families I have supported over the years.  There are times when they needed spiritual, financial, or emotional support and then I can step in and offer what I can in the name of Jesus.  Like the scripture says in Romans 12, share with God’s people who are in need.  God speaks to me and awakens the desire to help others and complete His works.

My husband and I were so honored this weekend to meet up with the families dealing with a health crisis and offer Easter totes, hugs, and prayers.  We drove almost four hundred miles and spent six hours being the hands and feet of Jesus.  God is sharpening my weaknesses and highlighting my strengths in order to guide others through their circumstances.  I feel so connected to Him and understand my purpose as I continue to serve others for Him.  Through it all, I have a renewed hope in the future of all the children I encounter with the Ragan’s Hope ministry, and especially my dear sweet nephew.  God’s got this, AGAIN.  Blessings!

If you would like more information on Ragan’s Hope, please check out their website.  We pray and reach out to families all over the country!   https://raganshope.org/

No More Normal

No More Normal

I originally wrote this post last year and God asked me to share again.  I believe this blog is meant for someone out there and my prayer is it will bring hope to you in the midst of your grief journey.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,  and I will give you rest.   Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,  for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”-Matthew 11:28-29         

In September 2000, I gave birth to our third child.  My husband, Scott, and I were so elated.  We had our three children, lived in a nice house in a friendly neighborhood, and found an awesome church.  God and life were good.  My beautiful, perfect, normal world crumbled the night of February 3, 2001.  Scott had left earlier in the evening to go to his indoor soccer game. Let me tell you, Scott played on more recreational teams- softball, soccer, and of course the inexpensive game of golf!  The two older kiddos were downstairs watching television and I was upstairs feeding the baby.  I heard the phone ring and my daughter answered it (she was eleven).   The next moment she is in my doorway with a ghost white face, and murmurs,  “Mommy, he wants to talk to you”.  I take the phone and all I can recall is certain words; your husband, collapsed, cardiac arrest, the hospital, and I need to get there right away.  At this point, I have handed the baby to my daughter, and both she and my seven-year-old son are following me around the house like puppies. I am trying to get away so I can process what the voice on the other end is saying.  Plus I have a million questions, first of which is, are you sure you have the right family?  My husband is athletic and fit, and he plays all kinds of different sports. Surely, this is not the man you are describing to me over the phone?  How dare you interrupt our quiet little evening with such a horrific set of circumstances?

I am not sure how the next thirty minutes played out.  My neighbors were over to take the kids and my mother in law (Scott’s mom) was picking me and we were driving to the hospital.  As we rushed down the highway, I could hear her talking to me, but could not comprehend what she was saying.  It was a dream, a bad dream, and all of the sudden, everything around me drowned out, lights, noise, and motion.  I heard a voice, but could not understand what it was saying.  In my mind, I said, “Okay God, I can’t do this.  I can choose to turn towards You or away from You.  I choose You because I can’t accept this situation.  HELP ME!”   All of the sudden, there was an aura of light around me and I felt all warm and peaceful.  No words were spoken but I knew;  He was there.  He continued to be there through the funeral, through the paperwork, through the tears, through the anger, through the pleading, and through the deepest- seated sorrow I have ever experienced.  God was also there in placing the right people in my life to help me survive, sustain, and subsist.  “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”- Isaiah 46:4

The first two years after Scott’s death were foggy and vague to me.  For me, it was all about existing and taking care of my children’s needs.  And God was there.  My prayers in the early days of my grief were short and simple, “Take away this pain, I can’t bear it anymore”, and it would subside: temporarily.  “Help me Lord, I can’t make this decision” and the answer would come clearly to me either in thought or from a friend.  I was able to meekly articulate the little prayers because I had a relationship with God.  He knew my heart and knew what I could and could not speak or handle.  He provided.  It was not necessarily a spoken word, but it was the clear answer when needed so I could move on down the grief path.  This season in my life was a little more one-sided, where I was at my most vulnerable, and He protected me.  God definitely protected me from Satan’s attacks and can only imagine the spiritual warfare that played out around me and my children.  God was faithful in moving me through my grief and assisting me in the realization grief is part of who I am.
Tweet: God was faithful in moving me through my grief and assisting me in the realization grief is part of who I am.

I look back at the last sixteen years and am in awe of God’s presence through it all.  This type of prayer was like a conversation between two friends.  I did not have the energy or the ability to wholeheartedly give my all to Him, and He understood.  I can say during this time in my life, I felt closer to God than any other time.  Because of this experience, I cherish my daily prayer time with Him.  I don’t use the word normal anymore because it died with Scott.  I do love my life the way it is today; different, rich, meaningful, and with purpose.  I am truly blessed by His love and compassion.

Please let me know if you have a prayer request.   I would love to pray for you!

A Prayer Prescription

A Prayer Prescription

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”-James 5:16

It finally happened.  I had invested in so many cleaning and disinfectant products I could open my own restoration cleaning service.  The little beast was not making its way into my abode, not without a fight.  We struggled and we fought hard, but lost.  Influenza made its ugly way into the front door and took over every square inch of our house.  Blame has to be laid somewhere, right?  I blame the school where it has bred and grown every day for weeks (the word on the street was there were hundreds of kids out with the flu) and I begged my sixteen-year-old, please wash your hands all day long!   I could have asked him to wear a mask and gloves because no one would have noticed or made fun of him, right?

We are all rarely ill in our family and so when we become sick, we are not good patients to ourselves or each other. The best course of action was to go to our three separate corners and fight through this by ourselves.  But in hindsight, I realized we were not alone.  God had our backs.

Even though I did little advertising we were all down for the count, people did check in on us and offered prayer.   I barely could whisper a “help me” to God and yet folks were reaching out.  You would think with all the hours of lying in bed, in and out of sleep, I could have spent ten minutes giving thanks for my circumstances (I could unload a list of diseases worse than the flu to have to fight for a much long time than a few days) and ask for healing, but instead I laid there, void of thought, other than feeling rotten.  It is nice to know others were praying for me during my time of need.

My lesson had revealed itself to me as I was on the mend.  My friends told me they would pray for me to feel better, heal quickly, and get back to feeling right with the world.  I was able to experience all of these steps and I believe it happened because they kept their word.  When I offer to someone I will pray for their circumstances, my intentions are to make it happen.  I try to pray immediately for their needs and also put their request in my journal so I can continue to pray over them.  I want those who ask for prayer to feel my appeal to God for them and know I care.  Prayer for others is a way to be the hands and feet of Jesus and demonstrate my commitment to raising their needs to Him.
Tweet: Prayer for others is a way to be the hands and feet of Jesus and demonstrate my commitment to raising their needs to Him.

As I get my house back in order, (can you smell the bleach?) I am relaxed with a certain peace in my heart.  I had several activities which were planned last week and they were not completed.  I am not stressed or panicked and I am able to re-schedule items which were neglected.  I think someone must have prayed for me to experience grace as well because, under my normal way of conducting activities, I would be in full freak out mode.  Not this time.  So thank you for the prayers last week for me and my family, you helped a sista out more than you know!  Let me know if I can pray for you.  Blessings.

God, Why Fire Ants?

country ants

Psalm 8:6-9  “You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet:  all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

There was a perfect balance of cool breeze running by me as the sun warmed my skin.  We were spending a few days at my mom’s place in Brenham, Texas and there were chores to be completed.  I jumped on the mower to clean up a couple of acres and enjoyed the alone time in nature to think.  The bluebonnets were about to make their debut so this would be the only time to cut the entire area.  As I surveyed the yard, I saw several black mounds rising above the ground.  I could not believe how many were in front of me and I thought to myself, “Well this will be fun-mowing ‘em down!”  FIRE ANT HILLS.  If you are not familiar with this creature, may I enlighten you?  In the south, this little booger has been a menace to both country and suburban folk.  It is astounding where they can build their mounds and mount stealth-like attacks on the innocent.  I can’t count how many times I have been stung by this little pest and I looked forward to creating havoc on their homes.  As the mower lurched to the first settlement, I silently asked the question, “God, why fire ants?  I can’t see any benefit from the existence of these mean little creatures which bring pain and anguish to those in their destructive path. “   As I was running over the fourth mound, I heard a whisper, “Learn about them”.

A few days later, I started researching fire ants on the internet.  I learned how they were introduced to this country back in the 1930’s from South America through the port in Mobile, Alabama and have spread over 260 million acres of land and in nine states!  The fire ants continue to move westward and will eventually make it to California[i].  In the area of Brenham, the ground is called Blackland soil or black gumbo.  It is thick clay which is difficult to dig down and plant any type of crop[ii].  The fire ants have no problem building above and tunneling below ground which helps aerate the soil.  I continued to investigate into their little pesky world and found they are beneficial in feeding on harmful insects which infest crops and in return, help in the reduction of using insecticides.  In suburbia, they feed on cockroach eggs, ticks, and other home invaders (can I get an Amen)!

After my educational quest to learn more on the fire ant I have come to the conclusion of what God was revealing to me; the ants are a part of His plan. I may have believed the fire ant is worthless and has no business being on this earth, but it does.  All it took was opening my eyes to a different perspective on the matter.

God created all.  He gave humans the ability to learn and understand the lower creatures and to maintain good stewardship over His land and take care of and respect the animals and insects.   God also gave us a brain to ask questions and solve complex problems.  I believe God welcomes my desire to unfold the mystery and questions about life as He holds the answers. If I slow down and be still, in turn, I can listen and hear His response.

Tweet: I believe God welcomes my desire to unfold the mystery and questions about life as He holds the answers.

I won’t be adopting fire ants as pets anytime soon, but the next time I question the existence of a creature or why some events happen, I should realize it is handled and God’s in control.  On the beautiful sunny country day, I was encouraged to educate myself and see a situation through a different viewpoint.  Now, I am working on my next question for God.

[i] http://fireant.tamu.edu/

[ii] Gardenguides.com

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