Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fruitcake Wasn't An Option~

As I prayed to God about what I should give my co-workers for Christmas this past December,
I heard God over and over again speak this question to my heart:

"Stacy, what would YOU like to get for Christmas from your co-workers?"

And, the answer my heart came back to time and time again was always this:

"Some paid time off."

Followed, immediately by this:

"But, Lord - you know how precious paid time off is. Can't I just get everyone some fruitcake?"

Yet, no matter how hard and how long I wrestled with God about fruitcake, I knew it wasn't an option.  Not, if I was going to be obedient to His prompting in my spirit.

So, a week or so before Christmas (I told you - the Lord and I wrestled long and hard with this),
I approached the pastor at the church where I am employed and asked if it would be possible to give some of my paid time off to my fellow co-workers.  He graciously agreed and per my request, each person was given two hours of paid time off.

When my co-workers approached me to thank me for their Christmas gift several commented paid time off was a gift they never would have thought to give.  I admitted I wouldn't have thought of it either if it hadn't been for the Lord speaking it so loudly and boldly to my heart.

But, the story doesn't end here.  With God, there is always, always, always a "rest of the story".

Fast forward from Christmas to February 8, the day I received an email from the pastor at the church where I am employed.  The subject of his email: bereavement leave. (You can read the story behind this here.)

Having spent two weeks visiting my sister and her family in November, plus giving away some of my paid time off as Christmas gifts, I knew my paid time off bank was running low. Imagine my surprise and the amount of tears that flowed from my eyes as I read these words:

The church has given you three days of bereavement leave (Feb. 7,8,9).  Beginning on February 10 your PTO will kick in.  As of today, you have 146 hours of PTO available (the staff have donated a portion of their hours to your bank).

Our God knows the beginning from the end.
Nothing catches Him unaware or off guard.
Before we even know we have a need,
our faithful God is already there,
moving ahead of us,
preparing, planning and providing.

God knew, come February, one of my greatest needs would not be fruitcake, but paid time off.
God also knew, that without Him first planting the seed of giving paid time off in my heart,
it might not have occurred to my co-workers that this was even an option, even a gift they could give me in one of my greatest times of need.

But, the story still doesn't end here.

I had only given each co-worker two hours.
They selflessly took my meager gift
out of the extravagance of their love for God
and their compassion for my sorrow,
they each gave me 5 times more than I had given them!

5 times more!

And to think,
I wanted to give them fruitcake!

And to think,
when my precious Father God was prompting me to bless others,
I wrestled with Him!

And to think,
if I wouldn't have listened to God's voice,
if I wouldn't have surrendered to His leading,
if I wouldn't have said "yes" when my heart wanted to say "no",
I would have quite possibly missed out on one of the sweetest blessings of my life -
spending time away with my sister,
loving on my sweet nephews,
quieting my heart in God's presence
as I stumble my way through tears
and the heartbreak of losing my husband,
not alone,
but surrounded by family.

We can only see today,
this moment,
right here,
right now.

But our Abba Daddy, our Father God, the Lover of our soul, the Alpha and Omega -
He sees and knows all things,
and He is ever orchestrating the details of our life for this moment
and every. single. moment. to come.

No, fruitcake wasn't an option,
not, if God was going to be able to bless me with
that which I needed most.

May we always have a heart attuned to His,
ever listening for His prompting,
ever obedient to His calling,
ever answering "yes" when we want to answer "no".

For only God knows what is down the road,
only God knows what tomorrow will bring,
only God knows what will bless us most.

May we trust Him in all things,
that He in turn,
may bless us in all things.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Even in the Waking Up~

On any given day (or night), sleep doesn't come easy for me.

On the evening of February 4, it didn't come at all.
The next night, when it finally did come, it came for only a few brief hours,
in the wee moments of the morning, from 4:00 am until about 6:30 am.

But then,
there was the waking up.

Feeling the overwhelming emptiness in my bed,
in my heart,
in my life,
before my barely open eyes even had time to focus in
on this new place I found myself.

And the realization,
that where I now am -
here without him -
is not a dream,
but the view that will greet me
each and every single moment
upon waking
day after day after day,
ripped my heart anew,
and I sobbed until I could hardly breathe.

The aloneness - too much.
The realness of his loss - too much.
The not being able to "wake up" from all that has happened
and be back to "what used to be" -
too much.

I phoned my sister,
miles away,
headed to the airport,
on her way to see me.

"Oh, sweetie. Are you ok? Were you able to sleep?"

I tried to speak between sobs.

"Yes. But, then, . . . .  then . . . .  I woke up. And, . . . .  I was so  . . . . . . . disappointed. So very disappointed."

Disappointed. This word didn't come close to describing how I felt, but since a more fitting word has yet to be thought up, it was all I had.

"I know, Hun,  I know."

We talked for a few more minutes, then she hung up, promising to call from the airport.

Left alone, once again,
I did the only thing I knew to do.
I reached for my Bible and I cried out to God.

Oh, my Abba Daddy,
what am I going to do?
Me without him?
Here by myself?
No good morning hug?
No goodnight prayers and kiss?
No listening to his snoring?
No sleeping beside him night by night?
No living beside him day by day?

And, waking up, Lord -
how am I going to survive waking up to this,
waking up to alone,
waking up to missing him,
waking up to just me,
morning after morning after morning?

And, God,
in this moment,
like in every single moment of our life,
did what He does best.

As I opened my Bible,
His precious Spirit led me to this:

How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can't even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
You are still with me!
~Psalm 139:17-18

And, I heard His sweet Spirit whisper to mine,
You aren't alone, my sweet child.
You will never be alone,
for even in the waking up,
I am still here.

Thank you, my sweet Abba Father.
Thank you, my precious Father God.
How you love me.

Friday, February 19, 2016

When Almost was More than Enough~

Two weeks ago yesterday, everything changed.

It was 4:50 pm.

Trying to wrap up everything on my to-do list before heading home from my office,
I was busily working away when my phone rang.

"Hi, Beautiful. Do you think you'll be able to get away right at 5 tonight, or will you need to stay late?"

"Hi, Handsome. No, I should be able to leave here in about 10 minutes."

"Instead of running errands, do you think you could just come straight home?"

"Sure. Is everything ok?"

"I think I might need to go somewhere for some help. I'm not feeling quite right."

"I'm on my way. Don't worry.  I'm coming right now."

I grab my keys and purse, and as I head out the door, I mention to a co-worker my husband needs me and I have to go. NOW.

Buckling my seat belt and starting my car, I phone my husband.

I talk with him all the short 6-8 minute drive home, assuring him with each turn and each intersection passed I am almost there.

"I'm going to call an ambulance," he finally says. "That way I will be able to get in to see a doctor sooner once we're at the hospital."

"Ok, Handsome.  Hold on, I'm coming.  I'm almost there. I'm almost there, Handsome. Love you."

And with that, our conversation ends.

Traffic begins blurring with panic and erupts in heart cries to my God.

"Oh, Lord. Be with my husband. Help him, Father God.  I'm almost home.  I'm almost there, Lord.  Help him.  Help me be able to help him once I get there.  Oh, Father God, I'm almost there."

A half a minute or so later, I pull into the drive.
It's 4:58 pm.
I race to the front door and into our home.

"Honey, I'm here. It's ok, now. I'm here."

My ears and my heart met with only a deafening silence.

"Honey!!  I'm here!!"

I turn the corner of our hallway and see his legs and feet (and his phone), lying motionless.
And, I see him there, lying in the bathroom, and I know.

I was too late.

looking at the radiantly peaceful look on my man's face,
feeling surrounded by the gentle hush of angels,
experiencing as never before the peace that can only be the presence of God,
I know in the deepest place of my heart,
God is here,
in our bathroom,
in our home,
in this moment,
in this timing.

I was almost there,
but God,
God is here.

Here with His kindness and His mercy.
Here with His "in an instant" blessing.
Here with His arms open wide.
Here with my husband then,
here with me, now.

And all I can do,
as I hold his hands tight,
rest my head on his chest,
and cry until I feel as though my own heart will give out,
is thank my God.

It is God who blessed me with this man
25 years ago when we first met.

It is God who blessed me with the gift of being his wife almost 16 years ago.
(We had dated 10 years before saying I do because he had to be sure he was sure!)

It is God who blessed me to be the one to live alongside this man as he lived out the day to day
living of his extraordinary life.

It is God who blessed me with his last words, and almost his last moment.

And, it is God who was with my husband at his last breath.

When I was almost there,
God was there,
more than I could have ever hoped or imagined,
more than I could have ever wanted for my husband.

When I was almost there,
less than half a minute away,
God was there,
and it was more than obvious
God was (and always will be) more than enough.

(Thank you in advance for praying me through what I know is going to be one of the hardest places I have found myself in life.  Through it all, I am holding on to my God who I know is and always will be more than enough.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Just in Case You Ever Wondered . . .

Just in case you ever wondered . . . a little about me and this place called "Heartprints of God". . .
I grew up in a loving, Christian family. I went to church every week, memorized scripture, and knew all about what it meant to be a Christian. Sadly, I didn’t grow up knowing Christ. And believe me, there is a difference. A huge difference.
From the sidelines of life, I stood watching the rest of the world march to the beat of its own drum while aimlessly stumbling around in the dark to hear the beat of my own heart. Everyone else seemed to have it all together. Everyone seemed so confident in who they were, in what they were doing, in living their life. Not me. It wasn’t easy lugging around heavy suitcases filled with insecurity, self-doubt, fear and a whole lot of other “unmentionables” day in and day out.
I knew I was a Child of God, but what did that mean? How did that help me find my place? Why did I always feel so out-of-place?
Fear held me prisoner. I was afraid of people, afraid of failure, afraid of life. Needless to say, this fear kept me from being and doing all that God had created me to be.
But then…
God began changing everything. I started experiencing a hungering and a thirsting for something more. I began to feel as though the fear in my life was suffocating me, sucking the very life out of me.
Lord, I want to be free.
I want to find my place.
I want to live.
I want to feel You.
I want to KNOW YOU.
Awww….at last, my heart finally realized what was missing. KNOWING GOD. And so my search began. I bought a brand new Bible and on the inside front cover, I placed a heart sticker with the following verse:
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart..
~ Jeremiah 29:13
Then each day, I set aside time to read God’s word.
I had read the Bible before, but this was different. I wasn’t reading the Bible to fill some religious requirement or to memorize a verse, I was reading to find God. Before opening the pages of my Bible, I would stop, kneel by my bed, and open my heart to God. I prayed for His Holy Spirit to open my eyes to see Him. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to open my ears to hear Him. I prayed for my heart to know God.
And, I was not disappointed. The Word of God came alive to me. Instead of a book I didn’t understand, it became God’s love letter to me. Each day I couldn’t wait to spend time feasting on God’s word. The more I read, the hungrier I became. The hungrier I became the more I read and the deeper my fellowship with the Lord.
Then, one day, I came across the following passage:
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
~ Ephesians 3:14-19
There is was.
May you be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. It was what I was longing for…to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. I wanted Christ in my heart, not just in my head. I wanted to be filled with ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD. Kneeling down by my bed, I invited Christ into my heart.
From that moment on, His love and the beauty of who He is has captured my heart. I am no longer held captive by fear because God’s perfect love for me has cast out ALL my fear. (1 John 4:18) Now, FINALLY, I have found my place in this world….only the beautiful thing is….my place isn’t in this world, it is IN CHRIST. No wonder I always felt out-of-place!
I am learning who I am IN and THROUGH Christ and this has made ALL the difference in who I am.
I am a sinner saved by Grace. Nothing I could ever do would be worthy of Christ’s love for me. He loves me simply because He loves me. It’s as simple and as wonderful as that. The closer I get to him, the more I find out who I am and why I was created. The more I come to know Him, the more I come to know my purpose on this earth. The deeper I fall in love with Him, the more complete I am.
A heart transformed by the love of God.
A life changed by His presence.
A sinner saved by grace.
This is who I am.
I am also a wife, a teacher, a writer, and currently, I am blessed to spend my days serving as a Director of Children’s Ministries.
You see, God has completely changed my life. Since I have come to know Him, He has opened wide doors of opportunity for me to share His love with others.
I invite you to come on in, sit down for a bit, and rest in His love. May you find HIM here. May you come to truly KNOW the Lover of your soul, the one for whom you were created to love and serve.
May you find HIM,
and in doing so,
find the very heart of who you are.~♥

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Gift of His Spirit~

"How do you see it?" he asks,
with a tilt of his head and a longing in his eyes
that lets me know
this question is not about how I see it,
but how he can see it, too.

"How do you see something
that is as simple and as ordinary as being able to spot an owl in a tree
and draw a spiritual connection from it?"

It's as though his words
are now the ones
helping me to see.

And, I realize,
(possibly for the first time)
what a precious gift I have been given.

How spiritual lessons and a deeper understanding of God
are broadcast across my mind
and felt down in the deepest places of my heart
from morning to night,
all through the moments of my day.

How what I see
and what others see
is so very different.

How what I perceive and
what others sometimes perceive
are separated by heaven and earth,
"of God" and "of the world".

How God's precious Holy Spirit
guides and leads and reveals -
all day long. 

How in the simplest of moments,
God speaks the most profound,
life-transforming revelations to my spirit.

And, I'm beginning to realize
what I have been given
is more precious than the air I breathe.

And, I'm coming to understand
that not everyone
sees what I see,
hears what I hear,
connects with what I connect with,
understands what the Spirit reveals to my spirit.

"How do you see it?" he asks.
 "How do you see something
simple and ordinary
and draw a spiritual connection from it?"

This understanding of spiritual lessons in the commonest of places,
this undeniable revelation of God in our midst
which is often missed
by others
sharing the same space,
and experiencing the same moment,
is indeed a precious, precious gift.

And, I'm beginning to understand,
with an urgency and a
"calling" that will not let me rest,
that this gift is not for me alone.

How if others are to see what God shows me,
and hear was God tells me,
and understand what God reveals to me,
I must be faithful to give of my gift to the world.

When I see, I must reveal.
When I hear, I must tell.
When I receive, I must give.

The lessons,
the revelations,
the connections between God and man
are not for me alone.

Because what I am beginning to realize,
and what I am coming to understand,
is this precious gift -
was handpicked by God for me,
so that I, in turn,
would take what I have been given,
and give it away.

Because -
not everyone sees,
not everyone hears,
not everyone notices
God in the everyday places,
someone who does,
through the power of His Spirit,
points God out.~♥

But God has given us his Spirit. 
That's why we don't think the same way that the people of this world think. 
That's also why we can recognize the blessings that God has given us. 
Every word we speak was taught to us by God's Spirit, 
not by human wisdom. 
And this same Spirit helps us teach spiritual things to spiritual people.
~2 Corinthians 2:12, 13

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