Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Mark of Time~

I'm sure you've probably seen them.
Markings on a wall,
tiny nicks on a wood pole,
the measuring of years and inches
in a child's life.

Each time it's time to "measure up" again,
there is definitely something to document.
Each year, the mark noticeably higher
than the year before.

And, I've been thinking
what it might look like,
if somehow, someway
we were to mark off our spiritual growth.

How do you measure this kind of growing up?

And I guess the greatest question of all:
If we did,
if we could,
would there be something to document?
Would there be significant space
between each of our marks?

Is our faith walk noticeably different today
than it was
10 years ago,
1 year ago,
1 month ago,
1 week ago,
1 day ago,
one hour ago?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
forgive us and redeem us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
mold us and shape us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
change us and re-arrange us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
heal us and mend us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
free us and restore us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
calm us and refresh us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
love us and fulfill us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
guide us and lead us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
empower us and equip us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
call us and send us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
consume us and overtake us?

Have we truly allowed Jesus to
be Jesus in every area of our life?

Does our life show it?

Does our faith reveal it?

Do our actions reflect it?

Do our choices prove it?

How do you and I "measure up"
when it comes to growing up
in Christ?

Just something God has me thinking about today.
And maybe now,
something He has you thinking about, too.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Well, That Was Awkward~

Is there anything more awkward than life?

(Even death,
with the awkwardness it brings
is really just a part of life, too.)

I don't know about you,
but anytime anyone knocks on my door
(especially when I'm not expecting anyone -
and honestly - even sometimes when I am!)
awkward usually shows up.

And yesterday,
(when only a few short minutes
after arriving home from my morning walk,
I heard someone knocking on my door),
was no exception.

Looking through the peep hole
I was more than sure
I had no idea who this "knocker" was.
And, because I didn't know him,
I had no intention of opening my door to him.

But, my not opening the door
didn't keep him from knocking.
And, waiting.
And, knocking again.
And, waiting.
Minute after minute after minute.

It was during one of these waiting moments,
that his phone rang.
After a short conversation,
he was back to knocking,
but not only that.
This time when he knocked,
he called out my name.

"S t a c y?"
"S t a a a a c y."

This was getting more awkward by the moment.

To open the door or not to open the door?
This was the huge question.

Covered head to toe in sweat
from my morning walk,
I quickly went to the bedroom,
changed into a fresh t-shirt
and came back to the door -
only to discover he was (finally!) gone.

It was at this exact moment,
I received a text from my next door neighbor
letting me know their 20 something year old son
was climbing the tree in my backyard
attempting to get a cat
belonging to the neighbors
who lived behind them.

And, that's when it hit me.

The man at my door was the owner of the cat.
This man lived behind the neighbors who live beside me.
Having recently moved into our neighborhood,
I had seen his wife and two daughters
out in their backyard,
but never him.

Yep - this whole situation
had awkward written all over it.

I made my way outside to
where all the action was -
over by the tree,
in the far corner,
where our three yards converge.

As the young man scrambled his way
around in my tree
trying to get his hands on this runaway cat,
I scrambled around in my mind,
trying to get my thoughts on the right way
to apologize to this new neighbor.

Before I could mutter a word, though,
the wife of the man who had been at my door blurted out,
"I am so, so, SO sorry our cat is in your tree.
I feel so bad about all of this."

Awkward was obviously having a heyday with her, too.

"Oh, no!" I tried to assure her. "Don't worry about it.
I'm the one who needs to apologize.
I'm so sorry I didn't open my door.
My husband always counseled me to never open
the door to anyone I didn't know.
I had no idea he was your husband."

"Well, we're sorry our dogs 
chased your cat up into her tree."
This from the neighbors who lived beside me
and had texted me about the whole incident
going down in my backyard.

Evidently, awkward was on a roll
and had scored a triple play this day.

Finally, the cat was retrieved
and handed over to his owners.
And, eventually, the young man made his way 
back out of my tree.
We all smiled, 
and nodded our heads at each other
as if to say "All righty, then"
as we all headed back inside.
No doubt, all of us relieved
this awkward incident was over.

What is it about awkward 
that makes it so very awkward?

I think it all boils down to this:
Awkward reminds us of our humanness.

Awkward catches us in the moment,
without a script,
without a dress rehearsal,
without a plan,
without a facade.

It - like almost nothing else -
levels the playing field 
and brings us face to face with
our flaws,
our insecurities,
our social ineptness,
all the while reminding us 
of the total unpredictability of life.

Awkward reminds us we are not in control -
ever -
no matter how hard we try,
or how much we think we might be.

Awkward is awkward because
it is the truest, most vulnerable times of life,
and reveals to us 
the truest, most vulnerable places of ourselves.

And, who likes or enjoys that?!

(Now, even this post is getting awkward, isn't it?)

if we let it -
awkward can be a good thing.

After all,
it was this awkward incident
that brought my neighbors and me
into conversation with each other
in the very seldom (if ever) visited
back corners of our yards.

It was this awkward incident
that reminded me
(and maybe them - 
and maybe even you, too)
we are not the only ones
going through life feeling awkward.

The whole world -
no matter how hard people try to convince us otherwise -
is struggling with the awkwardness of life.

Maybe if we stopped to realize this,
our stress level would drop significantly.

Maybe if we were more aware of the awkwardness of others,
we would be more inclined to 
offer words of compassion,
instead of words of condemnation, guilt, or shame.

Maybe is we took a minute to remember
others are feeling just as awkward as us,
we would stop competing with each other
and start working together to complete each other.

If a cat needing to be rescued from a tree
can bring three neighbors together 
(albeit in a most awkward way),
why can't a whole world 
needing to be rescued from sin
and from itself,
bring all of us together?
(no matter how awkward 
it might sometimes be
or how awkward
it might sometimes get).

We are all in this life together.
And, its awkward.

And yet,
every time we put down our facade and are real,
every time we let our humanness draw us together,
every time we come together for the common good,
we catch a glimpse of God.

We understand deeper our need of each other,
and our need of God.

Is there anything more awkward than life?

Only you and I trying to live life
as though it isn't.

The cat in the tree incident -
definitely awkward.

This post -
a little awkward, too.

Me -
from having worked my way through both, 
all the more human
all the more aware of my need of my Heavenly Father,
and all the more aware of my need to
let go of my worries,
let go of my insecurities,
let go of my social ineptness
and instead help those around me
through this awkward journey called life.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?
Any comfort from his love?
Any fellowship together in the Spirit?
Are your hearts tender and compassionate?
Then make me truly happy 
by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other,
loving one another,
and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don't be selfish;
don't try to impress others.
Be humble,
thinking of others as better than yourselves.
Don't look out only for your own interests,
but take an interest in others, too.
~Philippians 2:1-4

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Stepping Into His~

I feel paralyzed.

I didn't state it as simply and as matter-of-factly as that,
but this -
this is was what my heart was trying to communicate,
without coming right on out and saying it.

Sitting at a table of ladies
who each had suffered loss in their own way,
we were sharing prayer requests.

My turn:
"Please pray I can find my direction
and my place in life."

No, this spoken prayer request didn't exactly cut to the chase,
but it's hard enough
to cut to the chase with yourself sometimes,
much less a handful of others.

"Without my husband here
to help me,
to bounce ideas off of,
to cheer me on,
and to pray for me and with me,
I feel scared (now this - this statement was raw, honest truth).
I feel like I don't have anyone to help me.
I really need for God to show me what to do and how to do it."

From the words of her prayer,
it was obvious the leader of our group
had heard so much more than my spoken request,
(Sometimes, I think we are only fooling ourselves,
but that's a whole different post for a whole different day),
and I left our time together
with a deep sense of peace.

And yet,
despite her prayer and the peace it had brought,
for the rest of that day,
and the day after that,
and the next two days after that even -
my mind was stuck on "repeat'.

Over and over I kept having a deja vu like moment.
I would see myself sitting at that table
and I would hear myself saying that one phrase:
"I feel like I don't have anyone to help me."

Then, last night,
while I was watching a Bible teaching on TV,
it all came full circle.
And in a matter of seconds,
it was as if the Holy Spirit took me
from lying on my couch
to lying by the pool of Bethesda.

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, which in Hebrew is called Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great crowd of invalids, blind, lame, and paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water. After the stirring of the water, whoever stepped in first was healed of whatever disease he had. A certain man was there who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been in that condition for a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be healed?"

The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred. But while I am coming, another steps down before me."

Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." Immediately the man was healed, took up his bed, and walked.
~John 5:2-9

I had heard this story ever since I was a little girl,
but for the first time ever,
here I was
in the starring role.

I was the paralyzed man.

And, here was Jesus,
precious Jesus,
standing right before me,
asking me if I wanted to be healed.

Just like the paralyzed man,
instead of replying with the obvious "yes",
I heard my own words spoken at that table:
"I feel like I don't have anyone to help me."

How precious is our Lord.

To both this paralyzed man that day,
and to me last night,
no words of rebuke
or anger or
"that's not what I asked you" or
"you should have tried harder or done more".

Only words that breathe new life.

"Rise, take up your bed, and walk."

Because, unlike any one else,
Jesus understands
the crippling,
"can't help yourself" grip of paralysis.

No doubt this man wanted to be healed.
For 38 years, (38 years!),
he had placed himself
as close as he could get
to his miracle.
Lying by the pool,
day after day,
waiting for the stirring of the water,
only to see the rippling,
than the stirring of all the other people racing to the pool,
while he was powerless to move even his big toe.

No matter how much this man wanted healing,
he physically could not
get himself up and into the water
on his own.

And, I do believe,
there are times in our life,
when we find ourselves completely unable to, too.

(and too many more to mention)

All of these can leave us
in a paralyzed condition.

All of these can leave us
feeling as though
our only hope,
our only way out,
our only escape is
through the help of someone else.

And often times,
we become so desperate
to find someone (anyone!) to help us,
we completely overlook
and totally miss
The One who is standing right in front of us.

The One who is not only near,
but who is generously and graciously
stepping right up to us and
extending His hand of help.

(Take a moment and go back a re-read this story.
The paralyzed man didn't call out to Jesus,
Jesus called out to him.)

"Do you want to be healed?"

If we do,
our healing isn't dependent 
on anything or anyone else other
than Jesus' offer
and our acceptance.

If we do,
all we need to do 
is rise.

To rise up in faith.
To rise up in His strength.
To rise up to new life in and through Him.

Notice, this man didn't waste any time
asking how
trying to figure out if,
he just immediately rose to the occasion.
Healing was finally within his reach
and he wasn't about to spend one more minute
in this paralyzed condition.

Why should he?
Why would he?

Can you imagine 
if the story line read like this:
Not sure how this would all turn out,
or if it was even possible,
the paralyzed man decided 
to forgo on Jesus' offer and opted instead
to continue waiting for the stirring of the water
and for someone to come along 
and help him get there in time.

That would be crazy.
That would be so sad.
That would be such a shame.

And, for the first time in my life,
I thanked God for this story,
and oh, how I longed to be able to thank this
paralyzed man
for choosing to step into God's strength.

And I realized,
all over again -
I didn't need
my man,
or anyone else to help me.

I had my God!

Yes, sometimes the events of life
find us pulled right out of what was normal,
and plopped down
smack dab in the middle
of a season that finds us
unusually motionless,
unusually helpless,
unusually waiting on
something or someone else to help us.

It's life.
It happens.

But, praise God,
Jesus is here.

Last night,
I had absolutely no doubt
He had seen me in this place,
in this condition,
in this paralyzed season.

I could see Him generously and graciously
stepping right up to me
and I could hear Him
offering His help.

"Do you want to be healed?

And, make no mistake about it;
He sees you, too.
He is generously and graciously
stepping up to you, too, and offering you His help.

I don't know how long you've been down for the count.
But, I do know this:
If a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years
can immediately 
rise, take his bed, and walk,
so can I,
and so can you.

It all comes down to this:

"Do you want to be healed?

rise, my child.
I will be the strength you need.
Let me do for you
what no one else can -
not even you.

Let Me set your life back in motion.

Let Me help you walk out your faith,
one step at at time.,
moment by moment,
day by day.

I am here.
I am all you need.

Rise, my child,

Friday, May 18, 2018

It's All in His Timing~

Some have his and her towels,
or his and her toothpaste,
or his and her pillows.

Here, in the Sanchez home,
we have his and her coffee cups.
And, I do mean cupS.

Not just one for him and one for me.
13 for him
and surprisingly enough -
13 for me.

(I told you - we have cupS.)

And while some might see 13
as an unlucky number,
to me -
several days ago,
13 was nothing short of beautiful.

To say our kitchen is tiny
doesn't even begin to convey
how very tiny it is.

Storage is almost non-existent.
And whenever my husband and I
were both in this little space together,
it always became a kind of two-step,
minus the music.
We would dance our way around each other
as we worked our way around our kitchen.

"So . . ."  you ask,
"Where might one keep
13 cups for him
and 13 cups for you
in a kitchen so tiny?"

It's a fair question.
And, it was a challenge, no doubt.

To help remedy this problem
(because we all know,
when you have a favorite cup -
or in our case,
13 favorites each -
getting rid of even one,
isn't an option),
my husband installed little hooks
underneath the cabinetry
above our kitchen sink area.

13 hooks to be exact.

And, it was on these hooks
that each of his cups proudly hung.

My cups found a home
which was far less than ideal:
stacked on top of each other
in a corner of our kitchen counter,
taking up precious counter space
that was already at a minimum to begin with.

Ideal or not,
this is how we rolled.
For 15 years, at least.

Until Sunday.

Dishes done,
I was wiping down the counters
when I spotted my cups.

Then this thought from out of the blue:
I sure wish I could find a place for my cups.

And for a reason I can't explain,
I turned my eyes upward to the hooks
where my husband's cups -
all 13 of them,
hung proudly still - even now,
two years after his passing,
untouched, unused,
collecting dust.

Then this thought
(that my heart could hardly believe
my mind was thinking):
I wonder if there are enough hooks
to house all of your cups?

And even more surprising than this thought,
was the way my heart chose to respond to it.
I guess we could count them and find out.

So, I did.
I counted the hooks.

I counted all of my cups.


Then this thought:
Do you think he would mind 
if we packed up his cups?
Not to give away.
Just to store away 
for a little while.

This time,
my heart responded more in character,
showing its true colors
as tears made their way down my cheeks.

Oh so gently, though, my head persisted.
What are the chances you both had 13 cups?
It seems like the perfect solution, doesn't it?
Let's go to the garage and see if we can find
a perfect box to store his cups in.

And, that's what I did.

Moments later found me
packing away "his",
and filling up the hooks
with "hers".

And in that moment,
13 became much more than a number to me.

It became a precious reminder of this precious truth:

For everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born,
and a time to die.

A time to weep,
and a time to laugh.

A time to mourn,
and a time to dance.

A time to gain,
and a time to lose.

A time to keep
and a time to throw away.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
~Ecclesiastes 3: 1,2,4,6,11

Don't worry, honey.
You'll know.
When the time is right,
God will show you,
and you will know.

Words spoken to me
time and time again
over the past two years.

Words that now
are starting to prove true.

And, I'm coming to realize
there isn't a "right time"
or a "wrong time"
there is only
"in His time".

And if we will only
until it's time,
then move
when it is time,
the moving will still be hard,
but it will also feel right -
in a way that can't truly be explained.

And sometimes,
most times, in fact,
we will discover -
what starts out as something
as simple as his and her cups,
when led by the Spirit
and touched by God's hand,
turns into something
that brings healing and growth,
and a peace that passes all understanding.

And, if we let Him,
God can take all
that appears wrong in the world
(like the number 13
and even death itself)
and use it
in a most surprising and unbelievable way
to showcase His
and to remind us of His precious love.

And more than a clean kitchen,
and more than free, open space on my counter,
the blessing that blessed me most that day
was the unmistakable evidence
of a heart
continuing to heal.

All in His timing.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

All and Everything I Need to Say~

As I bend down to pick up
the five gallon water bottle,
I remember the words of my husband -
spoken to me only a hand full of times,
when only a hand full of reasons
found me reaching for one,
instead of him.

"Be careful, Beautiful.
Don't hurt your back.
Use your legs to lift it, Baby."

Upon hearing his wise counsel,
I would always look at him and smile,
then reach down and pick up the bottle.

And, it dawns on me again tonight,
as I'm heaving this heavy monstrosity
up into my arms
to carry into the kitchen,
 - just like those hand full of times before -
I have no idea what I am using
to lift this bottle.

"Am I using my legs?"

The only answer I can give myself
is the shrug of my shoulders,
only that's hard to do when one is
lugging a five gallon water bottle into the kitchen,
so I don't reply at all.

But, the not being able to reply
doesn't stop me from wondering.

"What does that even mean?
Use your legs?  How? How do you do that?
Use your arms? Now, that. That I could understand.
But, your legs? I have no idea how to do that."

Come to think of it
now that I'm thinking about it -
there have been many words of counsel
given to me over the course
of my 52 years of life
that I have heard
and yet not had a clue one how to execute.

"You better start preparing your heart, Beautiful."

My husband had told me this a few weeks before
my father passed away.
He had seen death inch closer and closer
with his own precious mother years before
and he knew my heart wasn't ready to say goodbye.

I remember looking him right in the eye and asking,
(in a voice barely above a whisper)
"How do I do that?"

His answer:
a tender kiss to my forehead and a squeeze of my hand.

"You need to start building a new life."

I can't even begin to count
how many times these words of counsel
have made their way to my ears
after losing my husband,
followed seven months later
with losing my job.

And yet,
if I can't figure out how to use my legs to
pick up a five gallon water jug,
and if I couldn't figure out how to prepare my heart
to say goodbye to my precious Daddy,
how am I suppose to figure out how to
build a new life?

And -
surprisingly -
it is in this very question
that I find my answer.

Somehow, I just will.

I manage to lift and carry the water jugs.

I managed to wade my way through my father's passing.

I will manage to find my way through this season
and build a new life.

Only, it won't happen alone.
No - it will happen the way it always does.
for me,
my somehow is a Someone.

"Use your legs to lift it, Beautiful"
found me smiling up at my husband
and my heart crying out to my God -
"Help me, Jesus."

And, He did.

"You better start preparing your heart, Beautiful"
found me in the embrace of my man
and my heart crying out to my God -
"Help me, Jesus."

And, He did.

"You need to start building a new life."

This, honestly, still finds me wiping
one tear after another
(I loved my old life -
I don't want a "new" one)
and my heart crying out to my God,
"Help me, Jesus."

And, He is.

And, He will.

I place the water jug
on the ceramic water dispenser
my husband bought for me
when we first started dating -
almost 28 years ago.

As the water
gurgles and sloshes
and completely fills
what had been tapped dry,
I wipe a tear.

"Oh, sweet girl.
I know all of this caught you
completely unaware.
You had no time to prepare your heart,
(even though you wouldn't have been able to
even if you had known).
It's ok.
It is.
It's ok.
But please, please be careful, precious daughter of mine.
Don't hurt your heart.
Use my Spirit to lift you up."

when it comes to these words of wise counsel
from my precious Abba Daddy,
this -
this I know how to do.

"Help me, Jesus."

It's all and everything
I need to say.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What Would Yours Say?~

As soon as I made my way
up and through the small arroyo
that separates my neighborhood
from the one north of mine,
I saw it.

With six miles clocked on my fitness app,
I was headed home from my morning walk.
And, what a walk it had been.
Every step had brought the most precious
reminders of God's amazing love for me.

At one point, in fact,
my heart had been so overwhelmed,
I had spoken the praise of my heart outloud.

"You. Are. So. Beautiful. Lord."

And while every single reminder of God's love
is precious beyond words,
the ones that had touched me deepest
and had brought tears to my eyes,
were the times when I remembered the way God
had loved me still,
had loved me well,
had loved me above and beyond,
for absolutely no reason at all.
Just. Because. He. Loved. Me.

As these moments came to mind,
it was almost as if
I could hear my Father -
His heart so overwhelmed -
speaking His love outloud:
"You're my daughter
and I love you so very much, sweet girl."

That's when I saw them -
words for the whole world to see.
at least the corner of the world who,
like me,
might come up behind this vehicle.

There was no doubting
whoever was driving this vehicle
was proud of their NMSU Honor Grad.

But, more than that -
(you can see it, too, can't you?)
they were proud to be the ones
this graduate called
Mom and Dad.

the owners were proud
of the accomplishment of their child -
the donning of the cap and gown,
the walking down the aisle,
and the receiving of a diploma -
one earned with honors, to boot.

But, beyond that -
one couldn't help but also sense
this mom and dad
took great pride in having the unique and honorable honor
of being the parents of this graduate.

And, it was as if -
in this moment,
God was standing right beside me,
pointing straight ahead to this window
and saying,
 "See, Stacy.
This  - this is what I was talking about.
If I drove a car,
and I had a window,
I'd write a message just like that about you.
One the whole world could see."

And instantly,
I began to wonder -
What would it say,
if He could?
If He did?

And, I hope
I have you now
wondering the same thing, too.

(In fact, I'm going to leave you alone
for a few minutes right here,
to do just that.
Spend some time pondering
what your Heavenly Father
would write about you.
No need to rush.
When you're ready,
I'll be waiting for you
in the next paragraph.)

How I wish this
was you and I
sharing a table at a coffee shop
instead of you and I sharing company
over a blog post.
I would love to hear
God's window declaration
about you.

And you do realize,
don't you -
that if our Heavenly Father could,
and if He did,
write a window message about us,
unlike this one -
it wouldn't be about our accomplishments?

It would be about us.

That's the heart of our Heavenly Father,
after all.
He doesn't love us for what we do (or don't do),
He loves us for us.

"You're following the Father
of a daughter who delights my heart."

"You're following the Father
of a son who brings me great joy."

"You're following the Father
of a child who makes me smile."

"You're following the Father
of a child I love more than life itself."

Which brings us to the cross,
the place where love always ends up.

If ever we need a tangible reminder
of how our Heavenly Father feels about us -
we just need to look at the cross.

When God chose to announce
His love for us,
He did it so the entire world -
(not just a tiny little corner of it)
would know.

"You're my son."
"You're my daughter."
"I love you so very much."

Words that should make everything
in our tiny corner of the world,

As I headed home,
I smiled.

A six mile walk ✅
Loved by my Abba Daddy ✅
Ready to tackle the day ahead ✅

Monday, May 14, 2018

How to Gain from a Loss~

Her realization didn't surprise me.
Not now, anyway.
Not two years on the other side.

when my loss was fresh like hers,
I had felt the shock, too.

"You know what has surprised me the most?"
she asked one night
while we were messaging back and forth.

"No, what?" I inquired.

Having just recently lost her mother,
my heart wondered what she would reply.

"The people you think would be by you the most, aren't.
And the ones you didn't think would, are.
It's weird how that happens."

And, she was absolutely right.
As a recent widow,
I know all too well about that happening,
and yes,
it's weird in every sense of the word.

Weird because loss,
in of itself -
(like nothing I have ever known before)
shouts to us of the uncertainty of life.

takes what was
familiar, stable, steady, and predictable,
and pulls it right out
from underneath you.

And, it only makes sense
when we lose what is familiar -
(more than anything I have known before)
it leaves us feeling desperate for that which still is.

We long for some type of normal,
some kind of familiar,
something or someone who was there for us before
to still be there for us now.

Only - like my friend discovered -
people aren't always there for us
the way we might expect them to be.

Some are - yes.
And, praise God for those who stay
when everyone else walks out.

But -
here, now -
two years on the other side -
I can also praise God for those who leave,
opening wide in their absence
the precious space for others to walk in.

"I'm praying you'll experience unexpected blessings
in unexpected places from unexpected people."

A new friend,
who God placed in my life
only a week before losing my husband,
(who happened to turn out to be
an unexpected blessing herself)
told me those words shortly after I lost my husband.

She - like countless others -
others I wouldn't have expected
and others I didn't even know -
became a new way
God chose to minister to me
during this, -
the absolute, without-a-doubt
hardest, most difficult time of my life.

"When people you expect
to come alongside you and help you,
do -
you appreciate it,
you're thankful,
and you feel so blessed,
when the blessing comes from
an unexpected place,
an unexpected person
where no expectation for help
has ever been placed or expected,
it's easier to see the hand of God."

Words from the same wise woman.

she is so right.

A blessing is a blessing,
but when that blessing comes
from a person or a place
where you've never expected it,
you see the move of God.

You sense deeper His provision to
speak your name to someone,
place your cause upon a heart,
go out of His way
to meet the greatest needs
and satisfy the deepest longings of your heart.

Sometimes, He works through the familiar.
Sometimes, He works through the "new".

you might be asking -
what about the times
when no one comes,
no one responds,
no one seems to care?

(Yep - I've been there, too)

It is in these times
of utter aloneness
and complete isolation that
we receive the most precious blessing of all.

It is then,
when God, Himself,
shows up.

For me,
this has been
one of the greatest hidden treasures
of loss.

When it seems
we have nothing or no one,
we discover -
(in ways that I'd never had my entire life )
how very much
we have God
and how very much
God has us.

we realize, too -
how often before our loss,
we put
our trust,
our confidence,
our security,
in people and things other than God.

Yes, loss brings many realizations.
These -
these are my top three (so far.)

1. God is faithful.

In whatever form He chooses,
through those who are familiar,
through those who are new,
or through Himself,
He will be true to His word
to never leave us or forsake us.

He will be there.

2. Sometimes, we hold on too tight.

We have to be careful
not to hold too tightly -
to anything
or anyone.

This is true of what we have already lost,
but -
it is also true of those who will "disappoint" us
during our time of loss.

And by not holding tightly,
I simply mean that
once we realize that which was familiar
is no longer there -
(either by loss itself
or an unmet expectation) this:
Don't get angry.
Don't get bitter.
Don't get resentful.
Don't harbor unforgiveness.
Don't "write off" those who have appeared
to have written you off.

Understand loss is part of living in this sinful world.
Understand God is all-knowing and all-loving.
Understand God is always doing a new thing.

Understand not everyone will respond how you might respond.
Understand people are people and we all handle things differently.
Understand ours is not to judge others for what they do or don't do,
ours is
to love,
to be gracious and kind,
and to allow others to have some wiggle room.

Release what is no longer here.
And, release others to respond however they choose to respond.

By holding on to both loosely,
you will keep from
strangling your faith
and strangling relationships.

3.  I'm guilty, too.

This might be the toughest revelation to swallow.

It's easy to see where -
in our human opinion -
others have failed us,
but how many times
in how many ways,
have we ourself
not been there for someone else?

How many times have we
not lived up to another's expected expectation of us?

How many times have we chosen to walk away
instead of pressing in deeper and closer?

If we will let it,
loss -
(unlike anything I've experienced before)
can teach us to be
more compassionate,
more in touch with others,
more willing to choose to
move in closer and deeper
when before we would have turned-tail and run.

Loss can be the very thing God uses
to help us be His way to minister
to someone else in their time of need.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.
When they are troubled, we will be able to give them
the same comfort God has given us.
~2 Corinthians 1:3,4

No, her realization didn't surprise me.
Not now,
not two years on the other side of it.

What has surprised me, though,
is the way God has chosen
to minister to me,
to bless me,
to teach me,
and to convict me
through it.

Who would have thought
there was so much to be gained
through loss?

Only God.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

When Faded and Torn is a Good Thing~

Warmer nights found me
digging my way around
in my pajama drawer
in search of a perfect lightweight
sleeping option.

As soon as I spotted my old T-shirt
peeking out from underneath
some pajama tops, -
in my mind's eye,
I saw her words again.
Words so etched in my heart
it was as if I was
reading them again for the second time.

We must LIVE Before we die Stacy!
If we are STILL in the earth,
When the assignment is FINISHED
GOD calls us home~~
'well done, SERVANT'~~COME HOME~:0)

As this dear friend
had shared with me
the news of the loss
of her precious 30 year old son -
     and after beautiful words
     of praise and thanksgiving to God
     for rescuing her son from the pain
     he had endured fighting a terrible disease,
this amazing woman of faith
had ended our time of Facebook messaging together,
just the night before,
with those life-giving words.

This was my reply:

"We must live before we die."
Those are straight from the Father's heart
to mine, tonight.
Still struggling to find my place
and get back into life.
God always uses you to
pick me back up,
dust me off,
and get me MOVING -
or in this case - LIVING - again.
Thank you, faithful sister!
So blessed to be running this race
beside you.

Now, as I held my T-shirt in my hand,
and pondered these words again in my heart, -
with my finger,
I traced the dark blue,
barely faded lettering on the front of my shirt:

And, I thought about my husband's matching T-shirt -
identical to mine (only a couple of sizes larger)
and how
in those first months after losing him,
it was his shirt I slept in
night after night after night
instead of mine.

One day, early on in our marriage -
while strolling hand in hand through a mall,
we had come across a "sidewalk sale"
complete with a huge bin full of T-shirts.
He had spotted his about the same time
I had spotted mine,
and the rest  -
as they say -
was history.

unlike me,
over the course of about 10 years,
my man had worn his shirt.
Every. Chance. He. Got.

His lettering on the front
was so faded
it was barely legible.
And, his shirt was so thread bare,
that one night
while rolling over,
I accidentally tore a hole in the armhole.

It was then I had decided to tuck his away
for sake keeping.

As I stood here now-
holding mine -
almost in pristine condition,
it was easy to see
what God was trying to tell me.

My man had lived his life.
Boy, had he lived.
He had tasted and listened and smelled and seen.
And, he had felt -
with a passion and zeal
and an energy that couldn't be measured,
he had felt.

From the moment he woke up,
he ripped into the new day
like a child ripping into a present
on Christmas morning.

He spent his days

If his T-shirt
was any indication to the amount of living
my man had done,
the only conclusion
one could come to
was that
he had gotten his money's worth out of both -
his T-shirt and his life.

He had lived his life to the full,
completely spent,
with nothing left to wring out.

And, I smiled -
I thought about my shirt.

Because you see -
if my T-shirt
was any indication to the amount
of living
I had done,
the only conclusion one could come to
was that
I had spent most of my life
tucked away,
safely hidden
under other lightweight pajama tops.

(Not really -
but you get the picture-
and it's not one
I wish had any connection to me.)

And those words,
those life breathing words,
kept rolling around and around
in my mind.

We must LIVE Before we die Stacy!

Besides, the 50 years I lived
before losing my husband,
I have now lived 2 years,
and 3 months more.

And I see you there, reading this -
a look of confusion in your eyes -
as you, like me, realize -
to use the word "lived" -
here -
in relation to the passing of time
in my life -
truly doesn't do this word justice.

here's the thing:
I want it to.

More than I ever have,
I want it to.

I want to taste and listen and smell and see.
And, I want to feel.
Just like my man,
I want to fly out of bed each morning,
so excited to rip into another brand new day,
that my heart feels as though it will explode.

I want to
and LIVE
Before. It's. Too. Late.

Before the time for living on earth
is over.

And, again I see you there, reading this -
a look of longing in your eyes,
as you, like me,
realize there is so much living
we have left undone.

in my mind's eye,
I saw His words again.
Words that my man quoted time and time again,
words so etched in my memory
it was as if I was
reading them again for the umpteenth time.

I have come that they may have life,
and that they may have it more abundantly.
~John 10:10

Our T-shirts were cheap enough.
The fact that we pulled them out of a clearance bin
can attest to that.

But, when it came to paying the ultimate price
for my husband and me -
God sent His own son -
our precious Jesus.

The cost for our salvation
and our freedom
to have life and have it more abundantly,
His son's very life.

Worse than not getting my money's worth
out of a silly ole T-shirt,
I don't want to come to the end of my life
and discover,
(I almost can't write this)
I failed to
truly spend,
to completely use up,
to live and live more abundantly
every bit of the life
that Jesus died for me to live.

With T-shirt in hand,
I closed the drawer shut.

The search was over.

It was time to start wearing
the tail end off of this shirt.
(as my momma would say!)

And, it was time to
(as my man would say!)

And, most importantly,
it was time to start
LIVING the abundant life.
(as my God would say!)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

It's a Process~

It's a process.

We hear that phrase
time and time again,
and no doubt,
it's probably even slipped through our lips
and out our very own mouth
a time or two, too.

And yet,
how quickly we forget this.

Maybe that's the reason
God reminded me of this
again this morning
as I took my daily walk.

Actually, this conversation with God
had really started several weeks ago.
(after having walked for weeks and weeks),
while cleaning out my closet one day,
I spotted some shorts
that had somehow gotten
tucked out of sight.

Out of sight,
to me, at least -
also means out of mind -
so needless to say,
I hadn't worn these shorts for a couple of years.

Knowing I had been walking week after week,
and knowing I had lost some weight,
I just knew these
always-a-little-snug-around-the-waist shorts
would fit perfectly now.


"Lord, what's going on here?
I know I haven't worn these in a couple of years,
but how can I not even get them buttoned?!
They were always a bit snug,
but now -
even after walking week after week,
I can't even begin to think about wearing them."

And, I heard God whisper,
"It's a process."

The last two years -
packed full of
experiences -
had found me
slurping on Oreo shakes,
skipping healthy sit down meals for
a little of this and a little of that,
tossing and turning instead of sleeping,
and stress-producing cortisol
having its way with my waistline.

It had been this process, -
over the course of a couple of years, -
that now found me
standing in my closet,
jaw-dropped and mouth as wide open
as the gap between my button
and the button hole.

Fast forward to this morning,
and my walk.

A walk that found me
once again wearing
(thank you, Lord!)
one of these "can't button" shorts-
now, perfectly buttoned,
with even a little wiggle room!

As I smiled from ear to ear
and thanked the Lord for this sweet accomplishment,
I heard Him whisper again,
"It's a process."

And immediately,
I thought about a quote
God had placed in front of me
earlier today,
before heading out on my walk,
as I was sipping my coffee and
spending some quiet time with Him:

"Faith is better understood as a verb
than as a noun,
as a process 
than as a possession."
~Fredrick Buechner

A process, rather than a possession.

And while I can't speak for you,
speaking just for me
and the way that quote spoke to my heart, -
I have no choice but to admit
I long to completely skip the process
all together
and simply obtain
whatever it is I want to possess.

Faith, included.

(You, too? I thought so.
We humans are so alike that way.)

I want a faith that can stand any storm
without going through a storm to get it.

I want a faith that is willing to step out of my comfort zone
without having to leave all that makes me comfortable to get it.

I want a faith that is willing to trust God in the midst of
without having to be in the midst of something to get it.

I want a faith that remains when all else is gone
without having to lose everything else to get it.

I want faith,
and I want it now,
as if it is a possession to be had.

But, faith -
true faith -
and possessed
in the process.

And quite honestly,
when we are sorting through our spiritual closet
in a season of
trial or
sickness -
it's very possible
we might discover our faith
has somehow gotten tucked away
in a back corner,
out of sight and out of mind.
And, when we pull it out
and try it on,
there's a good chance
it might be a little too tight
or a little too loose,
and not quite fit as comfortable
as it once did.

it we keep walking with Jesus
and walking out our faith
with Him
and through Him,
each and every day,
even in and especially in
the pull-the-rug-right-out-from-underneath-you
places of life -
we will eventually find
our faith will start fitting us again.

There's even a chance -
a really good chance as a matter of fact -
like my shorts,
we'll discover our faith doesn't only fit,
but it even has a little wiggle room!

It can happen.

we have to remember,
it's a process.

Are we willing to go through the process?

I hope our answer -
both yours and mine -
is always "Yes, Lord."