Monday, May 20, 2019

When We Choose To Not~

I don't know why
(well, I do know why -
it was raw, messy,
and took absolutely
everything out of me)
but,
when I was little
and my stomach
would feel all out of sorts,
I knew the cure
that would end all of my discomfort
was simply to
(yes - I know)
throw up,
but I did everything within my power
to not.

To not have to deal with that.
To not have to go through that.
To not do the one thing
I really needed to do.

"You just need to get
whatever it is
that doesn't belong
in your body
out."

Words from my mom every time
I found myself in this situation.
And, of course, she was right.
Once I finally did,
I always felt so much better.

Throwing up -
as uncomfortable and as messy as it is,
is simply the body's way of
ridding itself of something -
that left inside the body
has the potential to cause sickness or even death.

And as uncomfortable as
throwing up is -
(even writing about it is somewhat uncomfortable)
there is a blessing to be found at the end of it.

Which in a very round about way
leads me to the last several weeks,
this post,
and this question:

When it comes to spiritual toxins -
like bitterness and unforgiveness,
why aren't we willing
to go through the messiness
of purging these from our heart?

Why do we allow
the very things that
steal our joy,
rob us of our relationships,
and create havoc in our lives
to stay?

And again,
I know why -
because it's raw, messy,
and can take everything out of us -
mainly our pride,
our need to be right and in control,
our desire to win at all cost.

Don't be too quick to overlook
the very last word
of that very last sentence -
with residual bitterness and unforgiveness
there is definitely a cost.

A high cost.

For us.
For the offended
and the offending party.
And yes,
even for innocent bystanders
caught in the crossfire.

The sooner
we purge these toxic feelings
from our heart
and our life,
the better.

When we choose
to not 
rid ourselves of these,
left inside,
these spiritual toxins
have the potential
to not 
only bring death
to our relationships with others,
and possibly even
sickness and death
to our physical body,
but worse of all,
death to our relationship with God.

We know the answer
to this problem.

We know the cure
for this "disease of sin".

And, I wonder -
why do we choose
to not humble ourselves,
to not admit our faults,
to not share our grievances,
to not seek for and if need be
to not offer forgiveness?

Why do we choose
to not
do
whatever it takes
to purge our heart?

And the greatest question of all:
Can we really afford to not?



~Stacy


Saturday, May 18, 2019

Have You Noticed?

It's May.
So, it's not surprising,
as I scroll through my Facebook feed,
I see them everywhere.

Moments of time
captured, recorded, and measured
in side by side
"first day of" and "last day of"
school photos.

And,
I think it's safe to say,
without this visible documentation -
the dramatic changes that take place -
even in just the span of ten short months -
might be overlooked,
completely missed,
not truly taken notice of.

Last week,
on two separate occasions,
(both in the aisle of a grocery store,
oddly enough)
brief conversations with friends -
who I hadn't seen
since the first few weeks following
the death of my husband -
became a Polaroid-like moment for me.

"Oh Stacy! You look good -
not so very tired like
the last time I saw you.
You do, you look fantastic."

"It's so good to see you, Stacy.
You're looking good - really good.
My heart was so worried about you.
It's good to see the joy on your face."

It was in their
"before" and "after"
words of me,
I discovered two things:

1. I didn't know then,
I was walking around
looking so very tired and joyless.

2. I didn't know now,
that I wasn't.

To me, I was just me -
making my way through life.

One day rolls into the next
that rolls into a week,
a month,
a year,
and ultimately,
our life.

We aren't often aware
of the subtle, gradual,
yet often life changing ways
are lives are changing
right before our very eyes.

The one pound of weight gained
again and again
that now has us twenty pounds overweight.

The one piece of paper stacked
again and again
that now has us buried in clutter.

The one night of no sleep
again and again
that now has us looking well beyond our years.

That one excuse of "I'll do it tomorrow"
again and again
that now has us still so very far
from reaching our goal.

What would our lives look like
if we continued to portray them
in before and after photos
long after we don our cap and gown
and walk down the aisle,
diploma in hand?

Would we live our lives differently,
more intentionally,
if at the end of each year,
we looked back
and took an honest inventory
of how our life has changed
over the course of twelve months?

Would documenting our progress
or lack of it,
spur us on,
shake us into action,
find us applauding and celebrating,
or shaking our head?

Life is happening
whether we are
aware of it,
or not.

And maybe, just maybe,
if we were
more aware of it,
we'd be getting
a whole lot more living
out of our life.

Just a Saturday afternoon thought.



~Stacy





Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Not-To-Be-Missed Blessing~

One of the greatest blessings
of walking through a hard season,
(because yes, blessings are here, too -
precious, not-to-be-missed, blessings)
is the blessing of knowing.

That moment when -
in the midst of
heartache and sorrow,
trials and tribulations,
upheaval and change,
betrayals and battles,
at the very core of your being
you come to know God.

I think we would all agree,
it's one thing to know about someone,
but it's something entirely different,
to actually know someone.

And all to often,
the knowing -
the true knowing of God,
happens in the very places
we wish wouldn't happen
at all.

When all is well,
when all is rolling merrily along,
when life is happy and good,
we see God's hand -
(yes),
we acknowledge His goodness -
(I hope),
we recognize His presence in our life -
(at least we should).

But oftentimes,
in these times of good,
our knowing of God
is merely in relation to
what He is doing in our life,
how He is providing in our life,
who He is "serving as" in our life.

Just look at David.

Just look at Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.
~Psalm 23:1-3

Here, in green pastures,
surrounded by still waters
and a time of restoration,
life is good.
And it is here,
in these verses,
where David refers to God as his shepherd.

Notice the psalmist is focusing on
what God is doing,
how God is providing,
and who God is "serving as" - his shepherd.

Notice, too, in these verses
David is referring to God as "He".

He makes me to lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness.

And as much
as we would love to stay right here,
we all know -
life isn't always
green pastures and still waters,
and so,
the psalmist continues:

Yea, though I walk
through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup runs over.
~Psalm 23:4-5

And it is here,
in the places we'd
rather not go,
rather not find ourselves,
rather not be, -
the valley of the shadow of death,
and in the presence of our enemies,
that we come
to truly know God.

It is in these places of life,
(if we allow these places
to draw us in close to our God)
that we go from noticing
what God is doing,
how God is providing,
who God is serving as -
and we begin to know
the very presence of God.

No longer is David
referring to God as "He".
No - in these verses,
God has become
a very personal "You"
who is
intimately and personally
caring for the psalmist.

You are with me.
Your rod and Your staff comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.

Yes, indeed.

One of the greatest blessings
of walking through a hard season,
is the blessing of knowing.

That moment when -
in the midst of
heartache and sorrow,
trials and tribulations,
upheaval and change,
betrayals and battles,
at the very core of your being
you come to truly know God.




~Stacy

Friday, May 10, 2019

This, I Know This~

There's not a whole lot
I know a whole lot about.

But, this -
I know this.
In fact,
I consider myself an expert.

I know the heart of a mother.

As a teacher and administrator
for eighteen years
and a Director of Children's Ministries
for seven,
I have met and known
an incredible amount of mothers.

From sitting with our knees
tucked up under our chins
in chairs designed for those
much younger than us,
to standing outside my classroom door,
to late night phone calls,
to notes left behind on my desk,
to prayer requests and prayers
prayed together on bent knees, -
I have been face to face with
the heart of a mother.

From mothers who
never finished high school and
felt so ill-equipped to be a mother,
to mothers who
had diplomas and degrees and yet,
felt so ill-equipped to be a mother.

From mothers who
with humble eyes bent low
and hands outstretched,
asking to borrow money from me
until the next pay check,
wondered how not having enough was
shaping their child,
to mothers who
having "more than enough"
wondered how their affluence
and easy life style was
shaping theirs.

From mothers who
were divorced and broken
trying to find their identity
while helping their children find theirs,
to mothers who
were stay-at-home-housewives
trying to find their identity
while helping their children find theirs.

From mothers who
wanting only the best for their children
felt over-controlling, outspoken, and out of line,
to mothers who
wanting only the best for their children
felt too-passive, easily manipulated, and out of control.

From mothers who
had lost a child
through miscarriage, death, or divorce
feared the future with one less,
to mothers who
expecting yet again
feared the future with one more.

The heart of a mother.

It is giving, sacrificing, loving, caring, mending, nurturing, correcting, listening, instructing, molding, yearning, desiring, lamenting, pondering, inspiring, empowering, encouraging, teaching, releasing, embracing, refining, defining, determining, questioning, believing, hoping, willing, and unrelenting,

In the heart of a mother,
I have seen the heart of our Heavenly Father.

A heart that will stop at nothing
for the good of her children.

A heart that will give its all
so that all might be given
to her son and to her daughter.

A heart that
even if it costs its own
will give and give and give.

Yes, I have seen and known
the heart of a mother.

And, It. Is. Beautiful.

If the heart of a mere human,
flawed and imperfect as we are
can be this beautiful,
how beautiful still is the heart
of our Heavenly Father?

I'm not there yet,
because the vastness of His heart
is unfathomable, incomprehensible,
without boundaries or end.

But the more I
sit with my knees tucked up
under my chin at His feet,
or stand in His presence
with hands lifted high,
or kneel before Him
with humble eyes turned down
and outstretched hands,
the more I come face to face
with His heart.

No, I'm not an expert
on the heart of our Heavenly Father,
but from the glimpses I have seen,
It. Is. Beautiful.

It. Is. Beautiful. Beyond. That. Of. A. Heart. Of. A. Mother.

It. Is. Beautiful. Beyond. Description.

It. Is. Beautiful. That. We. Can't. Even. Imagine.

We see bits and pieces of it
in the heart of a mother.

We see the height and depth of it
on Calvary's cross.

But, one day -
one day we will see it
face to face.

There's not a whole lot
I know a whole lot about.

But this-
I know this.

I can't wait to spend eternity
becoming an expert on
the heart of our Heavenly Father.


{My beautiful sister and sweet nephew}

   ~Stacy     




Monday, May 6, 2019

Thunderous Applause~

Have you ever done it?

Admittedly, (and ashamedly)
I have.

Sometimes, (dare I say most times)
it happens before I even realize
it is happening.

The way you drive through a stoplight,
only to get to the other side
of the intersection
and find yourself asking
"Did I even look at that light?"

The way you grab your jacket,
take your last sip of coffee,
latch onto your keys
and head out the door in the morning,
only to get in your car,
drive half way to work
and find yourself asking
"Did I remember to lock the front door?"

It's not a case of being forgetful,
it's more a case of not being mindful.

We get caught up in the moment
and our natural self
goes on autopilot,
reacting and doing
without us so much as thinking.

And while driving through an intersection
without being mindful of the light is not good,
and while not remembering
whether or not you locked your front door
might keep you wondering about it all day,
there is a kind of natural reaction
that is far worse than either of these.

A compliment is given.

An award is handed out.

A round of applause is heard.

A pat on the back is felt.

And . . . we
blush,
beam,
soak it in,
and stand up tall.

Without even thinking,
without being mindful at all,
we takes these forms of praise
and we claim them as our own.

And, we forget what Mark Twain
so quaintly and boldly reminded us of:

"Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; 
but it is lightning that does the work."
~Mark Twain

Before we even realize it is happening,
without being mindful of it at all,
self goes on autopilot,
and we
steal God's thunder.

Because you see,
any good thing in me,
(and dare I say)
any good thing in you -
any accomplishment,
any success,
any victory,
anything at all
that causes those around us to
stand up and take notice
the way thunder catches our ear -
is simply a direct result of The Light,
His light,
working in us.

It is not us,
but God who deserves the praise.

It is not us,
but God who deserves thunderous applause.

When people in our life,
somehow miss "His lightning",
and only notice the
crackling,
thundering,
reverberating sound
of His mighty work in our life,
it is our first and only duty
to direct their eyes to Him.

Only, we often don't.

Caught up in the flattery,
knee deep in compliments,
riding high on the accolades,
we say "thank you"
and allow His thunder,
(a direct result
of the work of His hands
lighting up
our gifts,
our talents,
our less than perfect efforts and attempts)
now mistaken as ours,
to shine in the spotlight.

We may be the one heard,
the one noticed,
the one who others see,
but
it is our
duty,
honor,
privilege,
and our only appropriate response
to point all the applause
back to our God,

Yes,
we might look good,
and we might seem impressive,
but it is God who does the work.

May we never forget
to give Him the glory.

May we ever be mindful
to sing His praise
in thunderous applause.



(Sharing again from January, 2016)

~Stacy



Thursday, May 2, 2019

Esperanza~

As I hung up the phone,
I could hardly breathe.
The news was simply too
wonderful to contain.
In fact, I felt as though
my heart would burst
with joy and excitement.

My husband and I
were going to have a baby . . .
a dream come true.

This wasn't the first time
I had heard these words
from the doctor
or experienced this overwhelming
flood of emotion.

Twice before,
I had been able
to surprise my man
with this same, wonderful news.

Twice before,
I had been able
to watch
as his face lit up,
and his eyes sparkled.

We both loved children,
and having one of our own
was a dream we both shared
and talked about often.

Twice before,
however,
I had also known the
deep sorrow and silent grief
that rips your heart apart
when you lose that little life
before you've even
had a chance to meet
your son or daughter face to face,
or embrace and tenderly kiss them.

This time was going
to be different, though.
I just knew it.

I could feel hope
running all through out my body,
from my head to my toes!

I had lost my father
eight months earlier,
and I felt as though
this was God's way
of bringing new life
back into mine
and joy back into my heart.

I could hardly wait
to tell my husband
and the rest of the world.

Even though my faith was strong,
and my hope sure,
I have to admit,
there were moments when
I would start to worry
about losing this precious little one, too.

When those moments came, however,
God was always faithful
to send a reminder
to keep me hoping.

Like the time
I was sitting
in a hospital waiting room,
waiting to have some
routine blood work done.

I started to feel anxious,
but before I had a chance
to dwell on these feelings,
a beautiful little girl,
about three years old,
came and sat down
right next to me.
As she did,
she placed her arm
on top of my arm
resting on the arm of the chair
between us.

We talked and laughed
and had the best time.
After a few minutes,
I asked her
what her name was.

"Esperanza," she replied.

"What a beautiful name.
Your name means HOPE
in English, doesn't it?"

She just smiled,
but her mother nodded and said,
"Yes. Yes it does."

I knew this because
Esperanza was the "girl" name
I had picked out
for this new little one.

Hadassah Esperanza Sanchez

Esperanza - Hope,
because all through out this pregnancy,
God had filled my heart
with hope.

Upon hearing her name,
instantly my fear vanished
and hope ruled my heart.
God was with me and everything
was going to be just fine.

Weeks flew by and soon,
at my six weeks Dr. visit,
I was able to not only see
my little one,
bu to hear the
beating of its tiny heart.

"Your baby has a strong heartbeat.
Everything looks and sounds terrific!"

Still, as the days went on,
fear tried desperately
to steal my joy.
With each moment of fear, though,
God was faithful to send me
a hope-filled moment
to hold on to.

Like the time I was driving
home from work
and caught myself once again
fearful of facing yet another miscarriage,
yet another heartbreak.
Turning a corner,
a sign at a church
beckoned for my attention.

There,
for all the world to see,
(or at least those driving
down this street)
were God's words of hope.

Now the God of hope
fill you with all 
joy and peace in believing,
that ye may abound in hope,
through the power of the Holy Ghost.
~Romans 15:13

I instantly pulled over
to the side of the road,
found a pen and paper,
and copied down
this powerful word from God.

I decided, then and there,
to commit this particular verse
to memory.
The next time Satan tried
to bring doubt or fear
to my heart or my mind,
I would hold up
my shield of faith
and quench his fiery dart
by boldly proclaiming
the hope in my heart.

Weeks turned into months -
three to be exact.
Then, my hope died,
right along with the death
of the tiny life
I had carried inside me.

I was devastated.

This time was suppose
to be different.

How could this be happening again,
especially after God
had been so deliberate
in His attempts
to encourage me
to keep hoping,
to keep believing?

I felt totally and completely numb.

To be totally honest,
I felt as though
God had been teasing me.

He knows the
end from the beginning.
And, He knew this pregnancy
was going to end
just like the two before it.
And yet,
He kept dangling hope
out there in front of me.

My numbness soon turned
to anger and bitterness.

Time went by
and I struggled
to keep my relationship
with the Lord
vibrant and strong.
I had walked with the Lord
long enough to know
His true character:
all love, all mercy, all wisdom,
all the time.

I knew God loved me
and only wanted the best for me.
I knew He was always
working all things for good
and for His glory.
I knew what Satan
meant for harm,
He could and would
use for my good.

My head knew all of this,
but my heart,
oh my heart.
It felt betrayed.
It had dared to hope.

Then one night,
as I was reading in Psalms,
God, in His tenderness,
revealed to me
the true substance of the hope
He kept placing in my heart
during those three months.

And I suddenly realized
my hope
had been completely misplaced.

All that time,
I had been placing my hope
in the life I carried,
not in the One
who was carrying me.

God did know
how this pregnancy would end.
He knew my heart
would once again
be broken into a million pieces.
He knew all of this,
and because He did,
He was preparing me
for this loss
by placing seeds of hope
into my heart.

Not hope in my baby,
but hope in HIM.

Tears filled my eyes,
once again,
as I found myself
on my knees
thanking my God
for being
all loving, all merciful, all wise,
all the time.

Over and over again
in the Bible,
we find verse after verse
leading us to the only one
we can truly
place our hope in.

Be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen your heart,
all ye that
hope in the LORD.
~Psalm 31:24

And now, Lord,
what do I wait for?
my hope is in You.
~Psalm 39:7

Happy is he that hath
the God of Jacob
for his help,
whose hope is in 
the LORD his God.
~Psalm 146:5

Blessed is the man
that trusts in the LORD,
and whose hope
the LORD is.
~Jeremiah 17:7

Now, years later,
I would love
to be able to tell you
my heart no longer feels
the pain of these losses,
but that wouldn't be true.

Not a day goes by
that I don't feel the hurt.

Yet, through the hurt,
I have chosen
to keep placing my hope
in my God.

As I allow
the God of hope
to fill me
with all joy and peace in believing,
I abound with hope,
through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever been
disappointed by God?

Have you ever felt as though
He dangled hope in front of you
only to lead you to heartache?

If so,
I encourage you
to take a closer look.

Could it be,
like me,
your hope was misplaced?

The world and all that is in it
will let us down,
abandon us,
and leave us brokenhearted,
but our God -
who is
all love, all mercy, all wise,
all the time, -
never will.

Put your hope in Him
and I guarantee,
you won't be disappointed.



~Stacy