Thursday, December 27, 2018

Piecing It All Together~

They sit across from me
at the kitchen table,
my brother-in-law
and my precious little
three year old nephew.

As they open the new puzzle box,
a Christmas gift,
my little nephew is beaming with
joy and anticipation.

"Ok, son.
These are rhyming,
so to make a puzzle match,
the two items have to rhyme."

As little blue eyes look on,
my brother-in-law 
sorts through the pieces
all tucked neatly in this box 
and pulls out some examples.

"See, like this.
Hat goes with cat.
And, look -
mitten and kitten,
and star and car."

My nephew,
not at all sure about rhyming,
sits and watches,
as one by one
his dad 
finds the two that match
and joins them together.

From my view,
across the table,
it all makes perfect sense,
until this:

"And here's another one, Son:
Night and light.
See how they go together?"

Night and light?

And, in this moment,
as He is always faithful to do,
God speaks a precious truth
to my heart.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."
~Isaiah 55:8-9

So often we look
at the pieces of our life,
trying our hardest to understand
how they all somehow 
fit together.

Admittedly, some "matches"
are easier than others.
Some things,
just naturally seem 
to fit together,
to make perfect sense,
to be understood.

But - then,
then there are those times,
when we find ourselves
looking at two pieces
that don't seem to match at all.

Like night and light,
they seem to be complete opposites:

Loving our enemies.

Finding joy in the midst of sorrow.

Having faith in the face of fear.

Losing our life that we might gain it.

We shake our head
and wonder,
how could these two
possibly go together?

And just like my little nephew
(and me, too)
trying to understand how
some things that don't seem to match
surprisingly do,
we have to intentionally stop
and focus on
how the pieces of our life
are being "classified".

Only when rhyming
would
hat and cat,
mitten and kitten,
star and car
and night and light
come together to form 
a perfect match.

And only when
trusting the heart of 
our Heavenly Father
and His promise to
work all things for good
and His glory,
will
the jagged-edged pieces
of our own life,
begin to come together -
creating,
building,
shaping,
defining,
and in the end,
displaying 
the whole picture.

"See how this new puzzle works, Son?"

My precious little nephew
sits for just a moment more,
then hops down from his chair,
and heads off back into the living room.

"Ok - well, maybe another day.
These new puzzle pieces are
a little harder to understand."

And in my heart,
as I think back over my life,
and the pieces then,
and even now,
that have seemed out of place,
I can almost hear 
my Heavenly Father
speaking to me.

"See how this all works together now, sweet girl?"

And just like my nephew,
in times past,
when faced with the challenge
of trying to make sense of it all -
I, too, have hopped down 
from this new way of 
viewing my life
and tried to head back into the
comfortable, more familiar,
"Oh, I get it, God!" places.

But for some reason,
this time,
this time is different.

And instead of walking away,
I find myself drawn into
the mystery that is God,
whose ways are far beyond mine.

This time I marvel
at our God who can take
the seemingly opposite pieces
and mold them together
in a way that fits perfectly
into His bigger picture,
His bigger plan.

I may not understand
how all these pieces fit together,
but He does,
and for now,
that is enough.



~Stacy


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Messiah Has Come~

Sometimes,
we live as though the Messiah
has not yet come,
as though we are still waiting
for our Deliverer -
the one who will free us
from the wretchedness
that is me,
that is you.

We allow guilt and shame
to keep us at bay,
to become a wall of separation,
to be an endless weight from which
we are never free.

The Messiah has come. 

Jesus, the Christ, was born.
Our long awaited for Deliverer
left the splendor of Heaven
and brought to the wretchedness
that is me, that is you,
deliverance through His death on the cross.

The veil has been torn from top to bottom.

We no longer need to
walk in the darkness of our sin.

We no longer need to
carry the weight of our sin.

We no longer need to
be identified by our sin.

Jesus,
The Messiah,
The Lamb of God,
has come.

Now, we
who believe
are clothed in His righteousness.

Now, we
who were once
separated from God
have complete access to His throne.

Now, we
who had no hope
of escaping the penalty for our sins
have been
redeemed,
made whole,
set free,
delivered.

Our Messiah has come.

May we live each and every day
in this truth.

.

~Stacy


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Fighting Your Way Back Up~

"That's why I hate living
in this world sometimes!"

The words tumbled out,
wrapped around the tears
gushing from my heart.

We stood at the front door,
my husband and I.
There,
on the front porch,
a baby hummingbird,
lying on its back,
lifeless.

We had heard it hit;
the sound of the impact
propelling us to the door.

There,
on the welcome mat,
yet another
vivid, unwanted, unwelcome,
reminder of sin.

It had been a week
chock-full of reminders.

Funerals.
Diagnoses.
Prayer requests.
Broken hearts.

And now, this.

I had had enough.

Enough of dying.
Enough of crying.
Enough of this world.

"It's just part of living in this world, Beautiful.
You can't let it get to you like this."

Get to me?
It had already got me.
Hook, line and sinker.

And sink, I did.

Down,

down,

down,
landing heart first
in a spiritual funk.

Have you ever been there?

Surrounded by one heartache
after another,
it becomes
difficult to see The One
whose heart aches
for all mankind.

Swallowed up in
tears and sorrow,
it is easy
to lose sight of The One
who swallowed up death,
the man Jesus,
the Man of Sorrows.

I struggled to find
my footing
as the quicksand of despair
kept pulling me down.

I reached for scriptures
to grab onto
in hopes of pulling myself free,
yet hopelessness
kept the hope I needed
out of my reach.

I knew I was lost,
but I couldn't find my way out.

I knew where to run,
but I couldn't find my way back home.

I knew The One I needed,
and yet,
I couldn't find God anywhere.

The rest of that day.

The next day.

The day after that.

A week and a half later.

Time marched on
leaving me stuck in my funk,
faltering in my faith,
drowning in the darkness
of an immense shadow
that hid God's face.

Until the day of yet
another funeral.

Standing in a crowded room,
I spotted her -
the great granddaughter
of the precious lady
who had died.

And, she spotted me.

Without thinking,
I started making
my way to her,
as she weaved her way
through one person after another
in her quest to reach me.

We met in the middle.

As I knelt down in front of her,
she buried her head in my neck
and we held each other -
this six year old and I,
locked in sorrow.

"I love you."

It was all I could say.

"I love you more," came her reply.

With that,
we looked at each other
and smiled.

"I don't know," I said with a grin.
"I love you more than more."

"I love you most," she said,
as she hugged me even tighter,
leaving no room for debate.

Then,
looking me in the eye,
she whispered,
"She's ok now.
She's not here,
but she's ok now,
isn't she?"

I nodded my head "yes".

And, as I did,
I felt it hit;
the impact of this truth
propelling me straight
to the door of God's heart.

Here,
among the wages
of sin
and the very sting
of death,
was a vivid, desperately needed,
more-than-welcome reminder
of the gift
of our God.

No more sickness.
No more sorrow.
No more tears.

Eternal life,
in and through,
Christ Jesus our Lord.

As I hugged this precious girl
once more,
I found my footing.

Standing to my feet,
I felt the firm foundation
of my faith
holding me up once again.

Wiping my tears,
I felt God's love
wash over me
as I saw once again
His face -
the face of grace.

Grace willing to die
that we might forever live
in His presence.

I looked heavenward
and smiled.

I had found my way
back home.




~Stacy

(Re-posting from September 2012)


Friday, December 14, 2018

On Vacuuming, Basketballs, and the Collisions of Life

Vacuuming the living room, 
I accidentally 
bumped the basket
housing all of my husband's 
sports equipment. 

As soon as the basket 
and the vacuum collided, 
a basketball 
came rolling out of the basket 
and across the floor. 

And right then and there, 
God spoke 
a powerful truth 
to my heart.

As we go through life, 

no doubt, 
you and I 
are going to experience 
the jar of life. 

It's inevitable, isn't it? 

And yet, 
these very collisions, 
these very unexpected "meetings"
that often leave us 
feeling knocked around 
and misplaced, 
are the very things 
God can use 
to reposition us 
and "set us free" 
to fulfill our God-given destiny.

A basketball wasn't created 

to sit 
in a basket. 
It was created 
to roll, bounce, and move. 

You and I weren't created 
to sit 
in the basket of life, 
either. 

God created us 
to LIVE, 
and move, 
and experience life 
in and though Him.

For in him we live, 
and move and have our being. 
~Acts 17:28

Today, 

look at your life
from a spiritual vantage point.

Stop and survey 
your life
from a place
(possibly on your knees
in prayer)
that allows you 
to see 
the overall picture. 

Could it be 
the very thing, 
the very one,
the very circumstance 
that is threatening 
to rock your world, 
is the very thing 
Jesus can and will use 
to reposition you, 
to place you 
where you need to be, 
to set you free?

Just a thought 

that came to me 
while vacuuming . . . ~♥




~Stacy


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Heavenly Invitation~

As I sat in a small room, 
waiting to be seen 
by a doctor, 
I could see the elderly gentleman 
sitting in a small room, 
waiting to be seen 
by a doctor, 
across the hall from me. 

His eyes, dim. 
His head, hung low. 
His spirit, weak. 

His eyes met mine, 
and when they did, 
I smiled. 
In his weakened conditioned, 
he smiled back, 
but only with his eyes.

As I turned my gaze 

to the bare white walls,
I heard the voice 
of another patient, 
sitting in a small room, 
being seen 
by the doctor, 
down the hall from me. 

The conversation,
not mine to hear,
drifted into my heart 
anyway. 
His progress, slow.
His diagnosis, dismal.

I looked up at the ceiling, 

and soon found myself 
listening in on 
one-sided phone conversation.

A lady, 
sitting in a small room, 
waiting to be seen 
by a doctor, 
next door to me, 
was checking in on her child. 

Left home alone, 
this mother's heart was there 
with her child 
as she sat on the other side 
of the wall from me.

And right then and there,             

Photo Credit
God showed me 
why I was here, 
in this small room, 
waiting to be seen 
by a doctor.

I was here 
for him, 
and him, 
and her. 

I was here 
for every single person who, 
today, tomorrow,
or all the days after,
will find his or herself 
sitting in one of these small rooms. 

I was here to intercede on their behalf. 

I was sitting in this room, 
so that while I 
was waiting to be seen 
by a doctor, 
I could lift these precious people 
up to 
the Great Physician
who is always and forever 
sitting on the right hand of God 
waiting to hear 
and answer our petitions.

This wasn't about me.
It was about them.


This wasn't simply 

a routine doctor appointment.
This was a heavenly invitation, 

a divine appointment. 

One, 

of God only knows how many,
given to you and me 

each and every single day 
of our life.

May our eyes, see.

May our ears, hear.
May our hearts, respond.
May our spirit, intercede.

Each and every time 

God places a heavenly invitation,
a divine appointment in our midst,
may we never fail 

to accomplish His mission.~♥





~Stacy



Sunday, December 9, 2018

The True Desires of our Heart~



All we could ever imagine, could ever hope for, He is… 
He is the Prince of Peace whose first coming has already transformed society 
but whose second coming will forever establish justice and righteousness. 
All this, and infinitely more, alive in an impoverished baby in a barn. 
That is what Christmas means – 
to find in a place where you would least expect to find anything you want, 
everything you could ever want.
~ Michael Card

Several years ago,
when God opened the door for me
to be a nanny to a family
with three young boys,
I was looking through a Christmas catalog
with my four-year old friend.

As he turned each page,
he would excitedly point
to several pictures and exclaim,
“Oh, I want that! And look, Stacy!
I want that, too! And, that! Oh, wow!”

No wonder this catalog
is so often referred to
as a “wish book”.
This youngster was wishing
with all of his heart.

With each page turned,
his voice grew louder
and his excitement uncontainable.
We finally reached the last page
and to my companion’s surprise,
I was now the one voicing a wish.

“Oh look, Walt!
A pink Barbie Mustang convertible!!!!!
That’s what I want for Christmas!”

“Stac”, came his quick reply,
“We have a problem.
I’M not Santa!”

He was right, of course.
He definitely wasn’t Santa.
But, then again…
neither is God.

As Walt and I sat on the couch,
perusing the Christmas catalog,
we weren’t thinking about Santa.
We were only thinking about
our wants and wishes.

The only reason Santa
had been brought
into the living room that day
by way of our conversation
was because Santa was the one
Walt was counting on
to fulfill all his wishes.
Sadly, Walt’s thoughts of Santa
had nothing to do with Santa at all
and everything to do
with what Santa could give him.

I have a feeling
I don’t need to type
another word.

Like me,
you can already hear the Spirit of God
whispering to your heart.

Traditional Stalker Santa
{Photo Credit}
So often,
we treat God as though
He were Santa.

The only time we think of Him
is when we are in need (or want!).
Our thoughts turn to God
when we are hoping He
will be the one
to fulfill our desire.

Our focus becomes consumed with
the blessing,
the healing,
the answer,
the need,
and not the Giver of all good gifts.

We come seeking
His hand,
the gifts He can give,
not His face,
not who He is.


Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart
.
~Psalm 37:4


Desires.
You and I have plenty of desires,
but are these “desires”
really what our heart
is desperately seeking?

Are they really what will make us happy
or fill the void deep down
in the innermost part of our being?

Will they bring lasting joy and happiness?

Walt didn’t need anything from that catalog
and I certainly didn’t need
a pink Barbie mustang convertible.

We only thought we did.

No doubt, these things would have
brought us some happiness,
for a moment at least,
but before long,
Walt and I would have found ourselves
thumbing our way through yet another catalog
in search of new “desires”.

When we delight our self in the Lord
and love Him for who HE IS,
and not what we can get from Him,
something truly miraculous happens.

As we seek Him and learn of His ways, 
we start to discover 
what we have been searching for all along.

The more His face comes into focus,
the more our desires,
the true desires of our heart,
come into focus, too.

We discover ALL WE NEED
and ALL WE WANT
are found in Jesus.

He becomes our EVERYTHING.

As we turn the pages of His Word,
we find our self
getting more and more excited
with each new revelation
of His character.

Each page finds us shouting,
“Look! I want to be like that!
Oh, and, look! I want to shine like that!
Wow! Take a look at that!
That’s what I want in my life.
I want to be just like YOU, Lord!”

And guess what?

Jesus,
in His awesome love,
wondrous mercy,
and amazing grace,
grants us the desires of our heart.

As we seek His face,
our entire life,
our entire being
is filled to overflowing with HIM.

He’s not Santa,
and I am so glad He isn’t.

He is SO MUCH MORE.

He is our ALL in ALL!

He is the true desire of our heart.~

Heavenly Father, 
Thank you for loving us the way that you do. You know us inside out, backwards and forwards. You know what we truly need. Help us to turn our eyes upon you. Help us to gaze upon your wondrous face. Let us not seek you for selfish gain, but rather may we seek you to gain our real identity in you, through the real desires of our heart. As we turn the pages of your Word, may we always be filled with excitement and wonder at who you are. May our desire always be…to be just like you. In Jesus’ name, Amen~




~Stacy


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Serving Up Hope~

One morning,
several years ago now,
I found myself
ordering a cup of coffee for me
and serving up some hope
for the barista taking my order.

The conversation had started simple enough
with a traditional,
“Good Morning, How are you?”
His answer, however,
was anything but the usual
"Fine. How are you?"

"I honestly don't know," he said.
"Getting out of bed every morning
is getting harder and harder to do.
There just doesn't seem to be anything
to get up for, you know?
Would you like that coffee
with non-fat or skim?"

"Non-fat will be perfect".

While he turned his back
and began his job
of whipping me up a hot drink,
I turned my heart upward
and began my job
of interceding and bringing this young man
before the throne of grace.

"Here you go, Ma’am.
Is there anything else
I can get for you."

"No, thank you, but I have something
I'd like to give you."

Then, as I opened my mouth,
God was faithful to speak.

"The next birthday I celebrate
will find me
saying goodbye to my forties
and hello to fifty.
Sadly, for most of my life,
I felt just like you.

The thought of getting up
and going out into a new day
wasn't very appealing.

Fear, insecurity and hopelessness
were my constant companions
and life was a struggle;
something to survive, to get through."

He nodded his head,
and put down the towel in his hand.

It was obvious
God had his attention.

"I know exactly what you mean.
I don't know," he said
as he shook his head,
"there just has to be more to life than this.
This can't be all there is."

"You're right,"  I smiled.
"There is more to life than this.....
SO much more.
Want to know what changed everything
around for me?"

His mouth didn't respond,
but his eyes did.

"God".

He shifted his weight
from one leg to another
and I could tell
this wasn't the answer
he was hoping for,
and yet I knew 
it was the only answer 
that would ever offer him hope.

"God changed everything for me.
When I began to seek Him,
He showed up
and He has totally changed both
my outlook
and my inlook.

He's given me hope.
He's given me a reason
to get up each morning.
He's made life worth living."

"I don't know.”
He was shaking his head again
and rubbing his forehead.
"There is just so much
sadness and heartache.
It seems like everywhere,
lives are falling apart.
Where is the good in that?"

"The world is full
of pain and sorrow,
but that's exactly why
Jesus came.

He came to heal a broken world.
And while the brokenness
in this earthly world
will always be,
God has come to dwell among us,
sending His Holy Spirit
to live within us
to fill us
with His peace, joy, love and hope
in the midst of the
chaos and the brokenness.

With Christ,
we are never alone.

He is with us,
and He will help us,
and believe me,
He makes ALL the difference."

A customer drove up behind me
and I knew this conversation
was near an end.

"I've lived life both ways -
with God, and without.
For me, life with God has been
so much better and so much more.

If you don't have hope,
you don't have anything,
But, if you have hope,
hope in Christ,
you have it all.
And, speaking from experience,
I know hope in Christ
does not disappoint.
He'll never let you down."

I put my car in gear
and gave him one last smile.

"Thanks for the coffee."

He smiled back,
nodded is head,
and said "Hope, huh?"

"Gotta have it,"  I said,
as I slowly started to drive away,
"and God is the perfect place to find it."





~Stacy

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Not Once~

Even though,
over the past two years -
my face has quite frequently
resembled my face in this photo
from so many years ago,
(I’m the little one on the right)
my heart is still overwhelmed
by the kindness, goodness,
gentleness, and faithfulness
of my Abba Father.


I have no doubt -
if I would have been sitting
on Jesus' lap in this photo instead, -
my expression would have been one
of peace, love, joy and happiness
(even without all the candy canes!).

Because what I know is this:

Some of the most precious moments
of the past two years have been,
when -
with my face looking just like this -
I have drawn near to my Abba Father
and found what my heart needed most.

When -
I have sought Him
for answers, direction,
wisdom, understanding and courage
and found The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

When -
I have fallen helpless from my weakness
into His strength
and found myself
uplifted, safe, secure, and able.

When -
I have run to Him so scared
and so overcome with "lonely"
and found myself held,
oh so very tight
by His embrace,
and completely wrapped up in His comfort.

When -
I have climbed up into His love
so empty, so undone, so broken,
and found Him to be MORE THAN ENOUGH.

He is the true treasure of Christmas,
but much more than this, -

He is the friend
who sticks closer than a brother,

He is the one
who never leaves us or forsakes us,

He is the one who
understands when no one else does,

He is the Lover of our soul -
always and forever.

Yes, I came to my Abba Father
so many times
with my face looking just like this
these past two years,
but praise God,
not once -
after spending time with Him, 
did I leave the same way I had come.




~Stacy

Sunday, December 2, 2018

When Happy and Joyful Are Hard to Find~

December is supposed to be 
a happy month, right? 
The Christmas season, joyful. 

But, what happens when 
happy and joyful 
decide to fly south for the winter? 

What do you do 
when heartache and grief 
consume your heart 
and tears, not smiles,
are seen on your face?

This was me, several Decembers ago. 

And, truth be told, 
this is still me in so many ways 
(yet for so many different reasons) 
now. 

If this is you, this December - 
read on my friend. 
Read on:

************

While others have been decking the halls,
baking sugar cookies,
hanging stockings,
and writing out Christmas cards,
I have been grappling to hold onto 
the joy that is synonymous 
with this blessed season.

On December 17, my precious friend Ruthie passed away, 
leaving behind two children.

The very next day my little dog, Sally, 
who has been in my life for over fifteen years
became ill and then passed away 
two days later.

Tucked between these two deaths was
my birthday and the anniversary 
of my father's death, nine years ago. 
(Yes - my precious daddy passed away 
in the late night hours of my birthday.)

Laughter has been hard to find 
and tears, a constant companion.

And yet,
in the midst of it all,
I have come to understand, 
as never before,
the priceless treasure we were given
that night in Bethlehem 
so long ago.

That tiny babe - 
God's own son -
left the splendor of Heaven 
to come to a world 
that despised and rejected Him.

That tiny little one - 
wrapped in swaddling clothes - 
the Son of man,
was born to die, 
conquering death once and for all.

The Baby Jesus, - 
Immanuel, God with us,
entered our world,
so that one day,
we could enter His:
A world where there is 
no sorrow or crying, 
no sickness or death.

The joy of Christmas isn't contained 
to the manger.
It extends all the way to Calvary.

Death is the very reason Christ came.

Christmas reminds us sin has a cost
and God has a love that knows no limit. 

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." (John 3:16)

The promise of a Deliverer -
the love of a God 
who would send His own Son -
the blessed HOPE we have
in and through Christ Jesus our Lord -
this is the JOY of Christmas.

This is what keeps us wiping our tears 
 while all the while singing
"Joy to the world the Lord has come".

This is the hope I cling to, 
even when my heart is broken.

And, this is the hope you can cling to, too.~♥



~Stacy

Friday, November 30, 2018

Because of Jesus~

Maybe, 
it was because the messenger was 
an angel.

Maybe, 
it was because the message was beyond all human comprehension.

Maybe, 
it was both.

But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
~Luke 1:30-32

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
~Luke 2:10

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
~Matthew 28:5-6

Mary.

The shepherds.

The women at the empty tomb.

All, greeted with the words
"Do not be afraid".

As I ponder these three particular angelic encounters, I see something I've never noticed before.

There it is -
in each heavenly message,
the gift of salvation.

Conception.
Birth.
Death and resurrection.

Maybe, 
it was because the messenger was 
an angel.

Maybe, 
it was because the message was beyond all human comprehension.

Maybe, it was both.

Or maybe,
maybe,
it was because of Jesus.

Because of Jesus, 
we don't have to be afraid.

Do not be afraid, 
you have found favor with God.

Do not be afraid, 
this is God's way of sharing the Good news of peace and joy with the world around you.

Do not be afraid, 
not even death can hold you back or separate you from what God is doing.

Because of Jesus, 
we don't have to be afraid.

When God places a seed of destiny inside us, we don't have to be afraid.

When God is birthing something new in us and through us or around us, we don't have to be afraid.

When God has closed a door, buried a dream, or taken our very last breath, we don't have to be afraid.

The angel spoke it 
to Mary, 
the shepherds, 
and the women at the tomb.

God speaks it to you and me today.

Do not be afraid.

Whatever God is doing, 
we can trust Him.

Wherever God is leading, 
we can follow Him.

Whenever God is calling, 
we can answer Him with a resounding, "Yes, Lord!" -

because of Jesus.

Because Jesus was conceived in a young virgin,
because His birth was announced to shepherds on a hillside,
because He no longer is in the tomb,
but in Heaven,
sitting on the right side of God the Father,
we do not have to be afraid!

Maybe
this is the message of the angel:
the gospel of the Good News, proclaimed to the world.

Immanuel. 

God is with us. 

Jesus has come.

We have nothing to fear.


"Do not be afraid."~



~Stacy

Thursday, November 15, 2018

What a Gift~

I know God loves us all,
with a love
we can't even begin to fathom
or begin to understand.

And yet,
wouldn't you agree -
the way He loves us
so kindly, mercifully, and beautifully
in spite of who we are,
makes us feel
as though He loves us
best,
most?

I am always undone
by His goodness,
by His attention to my life,
by the faithful ones who answer His call
in regards to
simple, little ole me.

In April of 2017,
I was invited to speak at a women's event,
at a church several hours away.

To be asked to attend, a blessing.
To be asked to share my heart,
an honor and a privilege.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time
in the company
of these amazing ladies of faith.
I shared of the loss of my husband,
the loss of my ministry job
because of the loss of my husband,
and God's faithfulness through it all.

Arriving home,
I received an email from the lady
who had coordinated the event.

"Would you mind if we add you to our church prayer list?"

Of course, my answer was
"Yes, please do!"

A week or so later,
much to my surprise and delight,
(and heartfelt appreciation
that poured out of my heart
in the form of tears of thanksgiving)
a Prayer Gram arrived in my mailbox.

"Dear Stacy,
We want you to know that we prayed for you today out of love and concern.
We consider it a blessing and a privilege to do so.
May you experience God's presence, comfort, strength, and guidance in days to come."

The Prayer Gram was a bright and cheery
colored piece of paper.
Most precious of all -
it showcased the signatures
of each person who had prayed for me,
including the precious handwriting
of little ones new to holding a pen in hand,
but already familiar with the sacred honor and duty
of lifting up another in prayer.

What an amazing gift
this church had given me -
the gift of prayer.

Imagine my surprise,
when the following week,
another Prayer Gram arrived.

And the week after that.

And the week after that.

And the week after that.

On and on,
every single week,
week after week.

Including this week.

These precious prayer warriors         
are still praying for me,
eighty two weeks later!

Eighty two weeks later!

Every. single. week.

That they would take precious time
to pray for me, amazing.

That they would take precious time
(and spend precious postage!)
to mail me a Prayer Gram
so I know they did, amazing.

The fact that I am not forgotten,
that I haven't slipped from their minds,
that I am being lifted up
and held in their prayers -
still,
faithfully every week -
priceless indeed.

I know God loves us all,
but sometimes,
in times like this,
when week after week,
these precious Prayer Grams
arrive in my mailbox,
I can't help but think
of the way He loves me.

Thank you Trinity United Methodist Church,
from a heart blessed
beyond words.



~Stacy

Monday, November 12, 2018

Maybe If We Tried God's Design . . .

Grief is messy.

There is no other way around it.

And because it is,
society
(and the deepest part of us, too)
tries to skirt around it,
keep it neat and tidy,
sweep it up and away,
all out of sight -
as fast as new fallen leaves
are raked,
stuffed into trash bags,
and set out on the curb
to be picked up
and taken away.

Only,
God didn't design leaves
to be raked up
the moment they light upon
a perfectly manicured yard.
God didn't design leaves
to be raked up
at all.

Raking is man's idea.

When sin
(and then later, death)
came to the garden
that fateful day when Eve,
deceived by Satan,
took and ate the forbidden fruit,
God had a plan.

God had a purpose in it
and through it.

His ultimate plan:
Loving the world so much
He sent His only Son
to die on the cross,
and then be resurrected to life
so that you and I
can escape the chains of death
and experience life eternal
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

And yet,
in the Autumn season,
when leaves take on glorious color,
then fall to the ground
and begin to "break down" into the soil,
God has a plan and a purpose
in place here, too.

Nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium
are released back into the soil.
Earth worms,
which are so beneficial
to the health of our yard,
have a smorgasbord of leaf litter
to munch on and thrive on.
The soil structure,
made stronger by the addition of the leaves,
can absorb more water.
And, critters such as
box turtles, toads, and chipmunks,
have a blanket to shelter under.

Simply put,
fallen leaves are good for our ecosystems.

And yet,
because they are
messy,
unsightly,
and make us
(or our yard)
look less than "put together",
they are scooped up
and disposed of as soon as possible -
before they have a chance
to do the work
God intended for them to do.

Sadly,
I think far too often,
grief is handled
in much the same way.

And yet,
just like a leaf
is broken down
and morphed into something new -
something that -
if left to do its work -
can benefit the world around it,
loss and brokenness change us,
in a way
that through the power of God,
if given enough time
to do its work -
can benefit those in our world, too.

So often,
when we have experienced
significant loss or brokenness in our life,
society acts as though
we should be quick
to return to our "normal self".

But, how can we
when we are no longer
who we once were?

And yet, for the sake of society
and for the sake of looking "put together",
we put all our effort into trying
to "go back".

Only,
God didn't design our broken hearts
to be swept under the carpet of "normal"
or pushed back in to "life as usual"
the moment grief lights upon
a perfectly manicured life.

"Back to normal" is man's idea.

For in the grief process, itself, -
when the sting of death is felt,
and tears fall uncontrollably
(and often times, inconsolably)
God has a plan and a purpose
in place here, too.

A leaning into,
a drawing deeply from,
and a clearer revelation of God's presence
in our grief,
nourishes and strengthens our own relationship with God
in a way that changes us,
and possibly even changes those
watching us
walk through this season.

Our loss and brokenness
and the raw open wound it leaves,
stirs up in us
more compassion,
more sympathy and empathy,
more caring and responding
to those
walking through grief
with us or
after us.

A greater realization
of the brevity of life,
combined with our
"I wish I would have"
and "I wish I wouldn't have"
regrets and shortcomings,
cause us to live
more circumspectly,
more intentionally,
more passionately,
more selflessly,
more completely
which in turn
causes us to
love deeper,
serve greater,
and appreciate fonder,
our fellowman.

And,
possibly most precious of all,
the comfort we receive from His Spirit,
the peace that comes from His presence,
the joy He gives in the midst of,
and the hope we have in Jesus our Lord,
propels us to tell others about our God
like never before.
We know the difference Jesus makes
and we can't help but share Him with others.

Yes,
grief is messy.

There is no other way around it -
only through it.

And yet,
it is the going through it,
it is the allowing God to use it
to work in us and through us
that changes us more and more
into the likeness of God.

Maybe the better solution
is not to return to "normal",
to who we no longer are,
but to instead
walk with courage, grace, and honesty
into the person
God is helping us become
through this loss and brokenness -
unapologetic for our scars,
unashamed of our tears,
and untouched
by the unmet expectations of others.



~Stacy 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

When the Label Doesn't Fit~

Have you ever felt
misunderstood,
misjudged,
mistaken for who you are?

A couple of weeks ago,
I ventured into our local library.
Knowing a dear friend
had donated a copy
of my new book, IF ONLY I COULD,
to our local library,
I was excited to type my name
into the electronic catalog database
and see my book
pop up on the screen.

And, sure enough -
the title of my book came up.
Jotting down the number
assigned to my book,
I headed out to find it.

Only -
the section of books
I soon found myself
in the middle of
had nothing to do with
"Christian living",
"grief counseling"
"life beyond the death of a spouse",
or even
"the Christian walk and God's faithfulness."

To my surprise
(and really, surprise is not a
strong enough word here!)
I found myself surrounded
by literature -
poetry to be exact.

And upon closer inspection,
as I narrowed in on the search even more,
I discovered my book
sharing shelf space with
none of than
William Shakespeare!

I almost laughed out loud.

"Oh, sure. Of course,"
I thought to myself.
"This makes perfect sense -
Sanchez, Shakespeare.
Nope. I don't think so."

I spent the next twenty minutes
trying to explain to the reference librarian
why my book
absolutely. did. not.
belong in the literature section
sharing a shelf with "Romeo and Juliet".

"This is poetry.
Plain and simple.
Just look at any page of this book."

"Well, yes, I suppose
at a quick glance
it looks like poetry,
but really,
it's all about the journey of grief.
I don't see how anyone
looking for a book on grief
is going to find my book
if it's not listed in the appropriate section."

But, alas
(not to sound like Shakespeare)
no matter how hard
I tried to explain to her
my book would be better suited
somewhere else,
I was met with the same answer.

"This is poetry."

As I walked out of the library
and made my way to my car,
I shared my frustration with God.

And, as He is always faithful to do,
He spoke a powerful truth to my heart:
It's not the number on the spine of the book,
or the classification of the book,
or even the book itself that matters.
It's the message inside the book that counts.

Labels.
Categories.
Judgment calls.

Like my book
getting a quick one time glance
and labeled "poetry",
you and I are often
"labeled" in much the same way.

And I was reminded again,
how man is so quick to look on the outside
without so much as taking the time
to open the cover of
a human heart,
a human hurt,
a human being,
to discover what is truly inside.

(Forgive me, Lord.)

For the Lord does not see
 as man sees;
for man looks at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.
~1 Samuel 16:7

After conviction and confession,
what God spoke next to my heart,
and what I felt His Spirit
wanted to make sure
my spirit didn't miss
was this beautiful truth:

"It's why, sweet girl,
it's so important for you to know
who you truly are -
not who the world
tries to tell you you are.
It's why you need to know
who you are
in Me
and through Me
and because of Me."

More than poetry,
between the front and back cover of my book
is a powerful testimony
to the faithfulness of our God
in a season of grief.

More than who the world says you and I are,
beyond our physical characteristics,
beyond our social status,
beyond our bank statement,
beyond our worldly labels,
we are who God says we are.

And who we are,
is messengers of 
His grace,
His power,
His love,
His hope,
His comfort,
His salvation.

But we have this treasure
in earthen vessels,
that the excellence of the power
may be of God
and not of us.
~1 Corinthians 4:7

It's not the label that counts;
it's the message on the inside that matters most.

No matter
what label life tries to place on us,
no matter
where we might get "placed",
no matter if we feel we belong,
or even if we don't,
our label,
our placement,
our classification
doesn't change the message that is
Christ in you,
Christ in me,
the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

Don't worry, sweet girl.
No matter what shelf
your book is on,
I will be faithful 
to place it in front
of the very hearts
you and I wrote 
this book for.

Don't worry, 
sweet heart reading this post,
no matter where
you might find yourself,
I will be faithful 
to use you
to carry my message
to a dying world.
Simply,
and faithfully,
shine where you are.

Hmmm?
Sanchez, Shakespeare?

Maybe so.




~Stacy

Thursday, October 4, 2018

That Which Remains~

"I'm sorry, but I don't think you understand."

And really,
how could she possibly understand?

A letter from my credit card company
alerting me to suspected fraudulent activity on my account
found me on the phone
engaging in a conversation
that soon
had me fighting back tears.

The conversation had started out fine.

"Ok, Mrs. Sanchez,
you will not be responsible
for these unauthorized charges.
We will be sending you out new cards
within the next few days,
but before we do, I'll need to speak
with the primary person on this account
to verify this information."

This is where the conversation
headed in a downhill direction.

"My husband passed away."

"Hold please."

The next thing I knew
I was speaking to an entirely different person
about an entirely different subject.

"Since your husband is now deceased,
and this account was listed
under his social security number,
we will be closing this account immediately."

"No, that's ok.
I'd like to keep this account open.
Since my name is already on our account,
please just update our information
using my name and my social security number
instead of his."

"I'm sorry, but that's not possible.
This account will be closed immediately."

"I'm sorry, but I don't think you understand.
We have had this account for years
and I would like to keep it open."

"I'm sorry, but that is not an option."

"Is there someone else I can talk to about this?
I really don't want to close it."

"No. I'm sorry. You can reapply for your own account.
Would you like to do that?"

And while my head
(understanding the whys behind
why this was happening)
was trying its best
to stay in this conversation,
my heart was completely lost
in a conversation all of its own:
"We can't close this account.
Not THIS account.
Not THIS card.
Why isn't she listening?
Why won't she cooperate?"

"Ma'am?  Would you like to do that?
Would you like to reapply for your own account?"

Fighting back tears,
all I could say was
"No, thank you.
Without him,  - - -
it  - - - it - - -
wouldn't be right."

Sensing I was coming unraveled,
the woman on the other end of the line
thanked me for my call
and ended our conversation.

As I hung up the phone,
another conversation
from so many years ago,
began to play in my heart
like it was yesterday.

"Hi, Beautiful! Glad you're home, Baby."

Arriving home from work,
the look on my husband-of-barely-three-week's face
gave away the surprise
that he had a special surprise
to share with me.

"Here you go, Beautiful."

Standing proud and tall,
and sporting a huge smile
and a sparkle in his eyes -
my husband handed me
a credit card.

"Look, Baby.
It's got your name on it.
Your married name.
Stacy Sanchez.
As soon as we were married,
I called my credit card company
and told them to add you to my account.
And,
(he was very proud of this next point)
I told them I wanted your card
to have your name on it.
That way you'll never have any trouble
if you need to use it.
Put it in your wallet, Beautiful,
and always keep it with you.
If you ever have an emergency,
you'll have this to use."

Oh, the look on his face.
Oh, the pride of officially being my husband
and longing to watch out for
and take care of his new bride.
Oh, the beauty of that moment.

No,
unless she would have been me
standing in our living room
that day so long ago,
there is no way she could possibly understand.

What I was feeling
had absolutely nothing to do
with a piece of plastic or
an account with a credit company.

Here, once again,
was simply another
vivid,
not-to-be-missed,
undeniable,
can't-do-one-thing-about-it
reminder
of my husband's death,
of the hard to accept he's-no-longer-here truth,
of all the changes his passing
continues to bring to my life.

Having my husband in my life
was like opening my wallet
and seeing this credit card.

I knew they were there.
I knew I could count on them.
I knew that I knew
I had what I needed.

No longer having this account,
no longer having this card,
pierced my heart -
yet one more time -
with the truth that
I no longer had him, either.

And as it usually does,
this truth
completely broke me.

When I finally quit crying enough
to be able to speak,
I fell to my knees
and began to  . . .
thank my Heavenly Father.

And this is when the downhill spiral
took an upward turn.

Early on in my journey of grief,
this wouldn't have been my natural response.
I would have fallen to my knees
because (thank God) my grief always took me there,
but I would have questioned,
I would have wrestled,
I would have fought to understand.

And I think all of those reactions are
more than fine, more than welcome,
more than understood by our God.

And, eventually -
God's Spirit at work in me
and at work for me,
would always lead me to a place of
thanksgiving.

Now,
two years and eight months
into this journey,
thanksgiving comes easier.

I am learning to bypass the
how comes,
why nots,
if onlys,
and just settle in on the
thank yous.

Because what I've learned about grief
is this:
It's the not having
what you once had
that breaks your heart.
It's the once having,
but no longer having
that hurts so much.

But -
it's the fact that you once did,
it's the fact that you once had,
that is worthy -
so very worthy -
of our thanksgiving.

And it is in this place of thanksgiving
that I am always reminded again of
my Father's heart,
my Father's love,
my Father's goodness,
my Father's care,
my Father - period.

And more than a
piece of plastic
with some numbers
and my name on it,
tucked into my wallet
could "protect me"
or "take care of me",
my Father can
and my Father does.

And more than
the love of my life,
my husband -
a mere human being
could "protect me"
or "take care of me",
my Father can
and my Father does.

And more than
the reminder
that neither of these
are no longer in my life,
I was reminded once again -
in the most
beautiful,
powerful,
vivid,
not-to-be-missed,
undeniable way -
that my Father God
has been,
is still,
and will always be
with me.

I know He is here.
I know I can count on Him.
I know that I know
I have all and so much more
than I'll ever need.

The reminder of the loss hurts -
oh, how it hurts.

But,
the reminder of my God who still remains -
comforts,
strengthens,
and heals -
oh, how He heals.

And, I'm starting to understand -
it ways I couldn't possible before -
this,
this is a beautiful part of the journey.



~Stacy