Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Post by Sarah Markley

There are several blogs I follow because I enjoy them so much I like to know when they've added a new post. One of those blogs is by Sarah Markley. She has quite a powerful life story, and because of that she and her husband have been featured on The 700 Club.

The title of her post today immediately interested me. So I clicked on her link, and found the most amazing post. I want to share the link for it as my post for today. It's that good! A must read! Please take a moment to travel over to Sarah's blog (using the following provided link), and read God of the THIRD Chances . You won't be sorry!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I'm sitting alone outside in the quiet of the night, listening to the night sounds of God's creation: crickets and tree frogs making whatever sounds it is they make, the rustling of leaves as they fall to the ground as the wind blows. I'm reflecting on cool, fall nights, much like this one, over the past 35 years of my life.

Thinking back on the teenage years, I'm reminded of football games, bonfires, mud riding in the dark (yes, I'm one of those!), and sitting next to Mark for the first time on a hayride. Life was full of promise and expectation, and a new adventure was always just around the corner.

In my early 20s, many nights like this were spent leaving college classes, headed home to my new husband, where we'd sometimes sit outside and just enjoy being together. That first fall as a married couple was funny in so many ways. We had to call on our parents a lot, including learning how to use the floor furnace to heat our tiny home. Life was fast-paced, and still held lots of promises and expectations.

By my mid-to-late 20s, well...I just don't remember much about those days. I'm pretty sure most nights were spent changing diapers, feeding babies, and looking forward to going to bed so I could get a few hours of sleep. Life was just a hazy, sleep-deprived blur.

On nights like this in my early 30s, we started looking forward to dressing up the kids for trick-or-treating. We sometimes took them football games. And moments outside with my husband were secretly stolen after all three girls were in bed. We would sit on the swing and try to figure out how things had become so difficult between us. Life was a little scary, no longer full of promise, and adventure was not on our agenda.

As of this past Saturday, I am officially in my mid-30s. I'm looking forward to more nights like this. Quiet. Calm. Listening to the night sounds of the world around me. Life has once again become adventurous. We're making plans. At the same time, it's somewhat uneventful. I'm okay with that. These moments still have to be stolen when the girls have gone to bed, but I'm okay with that too.

Reflecting on my life and the 35 years God has been faithful to me, on many nights just like this, is good for the soul.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nine Days

So, I'm just going to be completely blunt and honest, and lay it all out there. The last nine days have been just awful. It all started when I took to heart something someone said out of ignorance. Someone a tender place in my heart. At first, I rejected it. But the more I thought about it, the more it began to bother me. I began to dwell on it, and it wasn't long before old feelings surfaced: worthlessness, doubt, anger, even some bitterness. How quickly those feelings surface and begin to grow! Even reading my Bible quickly became a chore instead of spending precious moments reading my love letter from God. And, my prayers began bouncing off the ceiling.

If you've read my previous post, you know I said I'm amidst a spiritual battle. This thing is no joke! Wow! In nine days, my mind has returned to dark places. Satan is working overtime in all sorts of ways to destroy me. And, he knows exactly what buttons to push. Over the last nine days, I started fighting in my own strength. That doesn't work. I'm headed back in the right direction once again, but angry at myself that it's taken nine days to get to that point.

This is something I wrote during this period:

I feel myself slipping away
Even though I beg and plead
I don't want You to let go
I want You to answer me
To make me understand
Just how it is You'll keep me free

I want to wait in silence
I try to rest to no avail
My mind knows what's right
But it's becoming frail
My mind is clouding again
A battle is raging, I can tell

Truth and feelings are at war
Truth is somehow in a bind
How much ground will feeling gain
Clutter bounces around in my mind
The fog becoming thicker once more
Make it stop before I'm confined

See how fast and far I can go when I trust in my own strength? Over the last four years, I've learned to depend on God...but sometimes, I have a memory lapse. I'm glad God doesn't have memory lapses, and I'm glad He doesn't give up on me!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Amidst A Battle

Spiritual warfare is a term that is kind of foreign to me. I mean, I've heard all about it, read about it. But, not sure I've ever really experienced it; at least, not that I was aware of. However, I'm pretty sure I'm in the midst of it now.

The level of intimacy I've had with God over the last several months has been like never before in my life. My relationship with Him is more personal than ever. Call me a holy roller, or religious freak, or whatever term people use for sold-out Christians, but He speaks to me. And I hear Him. No, not audibly...but I recognize His voice in my spirit. I've known for a while that He has been leading me to make myself available to share my testimony in a certain setting with those who need it. So, several weeks ago I made the appointment, which was scheduled for yesterday.

Since then, my family life has taken some crazy turns. Things that have never happened to Mark and me, or our children, have been happening. Scary things. Crazy things. Ridiculous things. Things that have caused me to question myself, my witness, my abilities, and whether to keep the scheduled appointment. And, on top of all that, we seem to have gotten ridiculously busy again. (I thought homeschooling meant you stayed home more?!) And, my quiet time has suddenly become not-so-quiet. I have one child who keeps getting up 5 minutes after I get up every morning.

I think the enemy is working overtime to try to destroy the intimacy between my Savior and me. I keep having to remind myself that I'm in a battle, and I must be determined to press on.

I kept the appointment yesterday. God was all over it. He calmed my nerves. He assured me I was doing what He wanted me to do. However, the insecurity rose up within me again today. The doubt, questions, and feelings of worthlessness came back. I have beat myself up over this so many times. I will not continue to do it! God has reigned victorious in my life, and the enemy has no part in this.

I think I need to set up "stones," or reminders of what God has done so when I'm in the midst of the battle, I can see the proof of how God has made beauty from ashes.

New Season

It's official. Today marks the beginning of a new season. Fall has arrived! (Although in the state of Alabama, it's going to be in the 90s AGAIN today!) I'm ready for cooler mornings, cozying up in my Snuggie by the fire, going to the pumpkin patch, and all other things fall-related.

Today marks a new season for me as well. Yesterday, I made myself available (in a private way) to share my story with others who need to hear it. I'm excited to see how God is going to use my story of forgiveness and grace to help someone else. I have entered a season I never imagined would take place in my life. It's amazing, and at the same time humbling, to be able to tell others how God took my ashes and has turned them into something beautiful.

Monday, September 20, 2010


When you've been through an experience that changes your life and who your are, you tend to categorize your life. At least, I think that's true for most people. It is for me. I define my life in three periods: pre, during and post. Memories are categorized. Anything that triggers a memory is categorized. People are categorized. EVERYTHING is categorized.

Pre- triggers are somewhat tainted, yet not all bad. Those memories are bittersweet. Anything associated with that part of my life stirs mixed emotions in me.

During- triggers are painful. Sometimes, they're sickening. They tend to be confusing. Once in a while, they still send me into tears of sadness. Most of the time, I wish I could forget them. Those are filled with regret.

Post- triggers are comforting. They bring to mind thoughts of unconditional love, grace, and mercy. Those are the sweetest. They sometimes cause me tears of joy.

So many things cause triggers: songs, movies, places, faces, phrases...the list could go on and on.

The experience is one that made me who I am today. I chose the hard way to get to where I am, but God's faithfulness is evident in all the categories of my life. He has used the experience to teach me things about myself and other people.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

No Matter What

The past year and a half have been life-changing for me. In January of 2009, I experienced healing from the left-overs of sins I had committed. My love for Jesus has grown in intensity, and I have a growing desire to give God glory. My prayers have become more fervent. My relationship with my Savior is sweet. His Word is precious to me.

With that said, I've done a LOT of reading over the past year. In addition to reading The Bible, I've mentioned a couple of life-changing books before, but want to mention them again: The Next Door by Melody Allred, and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Those books have caused me to look at my life in a different way. In addition, most of you know I LOVE music, so I'm always listening for new songs that express my heart. A recent release by Kerri Roberts does just that: No Matter What. In fact, it's almost a scary song to me. The lyrics talk about loving God "no matter what" He allows into your life. I hope (and I mean, sincerely, with all I am, hope) that I love Him "no matter what."

I have spent the last several months praying for some specifics...which I won't mention here...just know I'm not talking material things...I'm talking specifics about my life and my witness. What I'm finding is the more I pray, the more dedicated I am to giving God glory, the more Satan attacks me. He's attacking my family, specifically, my children. And, on one hand, I think I am ready for the battle because I know that God will reign victorious. On the other hand, I am scared. I doubt. I question and second-guess...not God, but my preparedness.

It's heartbreaking, scary, and almost intimidating when Satan wages an attack on me by using others to get my children and husband involved. My faith in God does not waiver in this; but my response to the attack does. I find myself praying more, begging God to direct me, to show me how to respond to the attack, to fight in a way that pleases Him. I am struggling, but God is faithful. I sometimes want to quit, but God holds me up. I want to react rather than respond, but God calms me.

I cannot go back to a place of complacency to please myself or anyone else. I cannot conform because Satan wants me to. I must be transformed (to the image of Christ) by the continual renewing of my mind (through reading His Word). I must take Him at His Word. I must believe God for what seems impossible to me right matter what! God didn't heal me to allow Satan to win...He healed me to allow Himself to be victorious through me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Significant Words

There are some words/phrases from several of my favorite (treasured, really) Scriptures that have been repeatedly coming to mind over the last few days. In fact, I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about them. I don't know why God keeps bringing them to mind, or how He's going to tie them all together for me; but, I want to share them with you:

restoring the years
songs of deliverance

Each of those holds deep significance to me, each in different ways. I can almost give you different stories about my life that relate to each one. Now they all seem to be coming together.

When God shows me something, this is the method He almost always uses: repetition. The same thought comes to mind repeatedly, and I have learned to listen because that's how He speaks to me. So, I'm finding it very interesting that He keeps giving me these words/phrases; not just one at a time, but all together. I'm just in the waiting process to see how He ties them all together for me. When He does, I'll share it with you.

In the meantime, I love to meditate on these words and the significance they have to me because of the way God has used them in my life.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In Your Name

Darkness held me captive
A web of sin within me active
A prisoner to my own mind
Chains locked me in a bind

Morning never brought with it light
Just a reminder of a long, dark night
My thoughts continually on replay
I wanted it all to go away

Worthlessness plagued my thoughts
I'd forgotten my sin You bought
My tears never seemed to cease
I couldn't find joy or peace

When I couldn't find You, You came to me
You loosened my chains and set me free
You healed me of the darkest night
And satisfied me with light

You restored and renewed my heart
You gave me a chance for a brand new start
Now in Your name I continually dwell
Jesus, of Your great love I will tell

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fighting and Whining

I get frustrated, no, irrate at my children's fighting and whining. I mean, it drives me NUTS! I sometimes wonder how many times a day I am referee/consoler. It always begins with an obnoxious-sounding "Mooooooom!"

They whine about how the others are mistreating them. They whine when they don't get their way. They whine when anything doesn't go the way they planned. They fight about everything..."she looked at me the wrong way; she hit me; she said my picture wasn't pretty; she ate the last popsicle; she's smacking; she tricked me" name it, they fight and whine about it!

Some days, by the end of the day, I cannot WAIT until they go to bed. (Today happens to be one of those days!) I love their precious sleeping, non-talking, non-whining, non-fighting little faces. I love their still, angelic-looking little mouths. I love that they don't hit one another when they are asleep. I love that they don't tattle on each other when they're sleeping. I love that their little voices are absolutely silent for 8-to-10 hours. I LOVE when they sleep.

I wonder if God sometimes loves when I sleep...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Falling...Sometimes A Choice

This weekend I attended a birthday party for a friend. This party included dinner, Starbuck's, and the skating rink. All those who attended were 30-somethings, so skating is not part of our regular routine. Beforehand, a few bragged about what good skaters they'd been "back in the day." We were all silly and ready for a fun adventure, which we definitely had.

As we put on our skates and got on the floor, it took a few minutes to get steady on our skates. But, like riding a bike, skating comes back to the memory pretty quickly. It wasn't long before we were all acting silly again and skating like we did when we were 12.

Several people were taking pictures so we could all have some memories of the birthday skate party. The birthday girl decided she'd squat-skate and go under her friend's legs. The first attempt was surprisingly successful. She decided to do it again. So while the friend was dancing away with her back to the birthday girl, I was on the floor, camera in hand, ready to take a fabulous picture of another successful attempt. Unfortunately, things didn't turn out so well that time. The birthday girl went under friend's legs about the time that the friend was amidst a leaning-backwards dance move. The birthday girl knocked her friend's skates right out from under her, and they both landed on the floor. I captured a picture that has left me laughing all weekend!

Isn't life like that? We're happily dancing along, and something sneaks up behind us and tries to knock our feet right out from under us. It could be any number of things: loss of a job, a diagnosis, a confession from a cheating spouse, an admission of addiction from a loved pick the scenario. When our eyes haven't been on the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, we suddenly have a decision to make when the scenario hits us. Unlike the friend above, we don't automatically fall. We have to decide whether we're going to fall and blame God, or whether we're going to trust God and allow Him to give us peace.

When my scenario hit me, I made small decisions, one after another, that led to a great big fall. My first decision was to blame God and get angry with Him. I knew He had the power to fix my scenario, so when He didn't act like the magic genie I wanted Him to, I decided God didn't really love me.

Falls hurt. They almost always make a mark, a wound of some kind. Sometimes it takes a long time to heal. Sometimes the wounds leave scars. But, no matter how hard the fall, how deep the wound, the length of time for healing or how big and ugly the scar, God is ready to pick you up from the fall, heal your wounds, and turn your scar into a beautiful story of redemption.

The questions you must answer are: are you going to choose to fall? If so, how hard? Or, are you going to choose to trust that God is good, He loves you and has plans for you? Are you going to keep your eyes on Him, or take them off and allow life's scenarios to knock you off your feet? You always have a choice.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Greatest Fears...Now

I have always been afraid of heights. When I was 10 years old, my family lived near a railroad trestle. One afternoon I was along with the family on a walk, and everyone decided to cross the trestle. I was not just scared; I almost panicked. I remember crossing behind my Mom, ever so slowly, hoping I wouldn't fall into the water below. I made it almost to the other side when one of my legs went down between the tracks. My Mom turned, helped me up, and we finished crossing. I don't remember anything about the return trip. I think I must've blocked it from my memory! Since then, I've been terrified of heights. (Strange that I like roller coasters!) On a recent trip to the Nashville kids' science center, I had to let Mark go up to the top floor in a cool maze with the girls because I couldn't stand the height of it!

But, there are two things I fear now more than heights. I fear myself, and I fear pride. I am terrified that pride will creep back into my life. And, I am terrified that I will reach a point where I will trust myself instead of trusting God. I know we are not to live in fear; but, when you've allowed pride and self-trust to so consume you that you fall a long distance, you are afraid to let it happen again. I am constantly reminding myself to be humble before God, to seek His guidance, and to obey.

I used to worry so much about what others thought of me that I would do just about anything to make a good impression. That is how I reached the point of what I call church burn-out. If I was asked to do something, I automatically said "yes" because I was afraid that other people wouldn't think I was a good Christian if I said "no." (btw...I wasn't!) I didn't seek God's guidance. In fact, I didn't even think about seeking it. Now, I don't take a step without it.

But, it is a constant struggle, battle really, to make sure pride doesn't enter back into my life. I question my motives for just about everything I do because I want to make sure God receives glory for anything that happens in my life. I'm positive there are and will still be prideful moments, and occasions when I trust myself; but more than anything, I want those times to become fewer and fewer.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

End of summer??

I love summer. I love that it's schedule-free and that the kids spend most of their days playing with friends. I spent the summer dreading the start of school.

One week before school was scheduled to start, we made the decision to homeschool. I gave homeschooling a lot of thought last year, but didn't have the nerve to do it. And, I didn't plan on doing it this year. And, before last year, I would've told you that homeschooling wasn't even an option for me. I liked my freedom a little too much.

But, the more hectic life became last year, and the more homework the girls had, the more I started to consider homeschooling as an option. We were tired ALL the time. And, of course, there was the issue of sending my children to a government institution where I had no say in what they were learning.

So...I prayed over two days, and God led me to the homeschooling process. I was a nervous wreck! But God has supplied! And, we LOVE it! We're not overscheduled or overworked. We get plenty of rest. And, believe it or not, the girls still have friends to play with. The best part is knowing that my children are being taught by one of the two people who love them more than anyone (next to God). And, they are being taught Christian values in every aspect of their educations.

Summer seems to have lingered a longer at our home this year. We get schoolwork finished early, and we get to spend our afternoons in lazy, summer fashion. And, this year, I don't dread fall and "shorter days" quite as much.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ms. Goody Two-Shoes and Mr. Nice Guy

We all know one. You know, the people we label as "Ms. Goody Two-Shoes" or "Mr. Nice Guy." They're the people that seem like they never do anything wrong. They never speak an unkind word, and they're always doing things for others. We usually secretly envy them. And, sometimes, we even think: they MUST be going to heaven...surely somebody that good goes to heaven.

My Daddy was (and still is) full of wise information. I remember him telling me one time that some good people would go to hell, and some bad people would go to heaven. Growing up as a preacher's kid (pk), I knew why he said that. But, the more I talk with people, I realize that many don't believe or understand that. Thus, today's post.

Just how good does one have to be to go to heaven? I recently heard someone explain that God treats us like we treat others, so it's important to be good to others. Oh, heavens! I'm so glad that's not true...because if it were, God may as well go ahead and strike me dead!

The Bible explains that in God's eyes, our good deeds are like filthy rags. Think nasty, disgusting, never-come-clean filthy. That's what our good deeds are like to Him. So, exactly how good do we have to be? Well, the Bible also says that there is none (not one single person) good...not even one! If that's true, then let me change the question:

How does one get to heaven?

Jesus gives us the answer: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me." We must believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross to accept the punishment for our sins, that He rose again on the third day, and that He is the only way we are made righteous before the Holy God. Wow! I just threw out some "religious words." So, I feel the need to explain in as simply a way as possible!

Sins - anything we do that breaks God's Law. Have you ever told a white lie? What about gossip?...Guilty? Me too. Those are sins. The Bible says that ALL have sinned and come short of God's glory.

Righteous - holy, free from all wrong.

So, what are we to do since we've all sinned and we need to be made righteous? Can we possibly be good enough, do enough to outweigh our sins and be made holy? Absolutely not. The only way to be made clean from sin, and to be made righteous is through Jesus. We must admit to God that we are sinners, and that we recognize that Jesus is the only way to be made righteous. We must accept His free gift of grace (receiving something you don't can't earn this!), and put our faith (hoping and believing in what you can't see) in Him.

Back to my questions: How good does one have to be to go to heaven? And, how does one get to heaven? Heaven is the final destination. But, while on this earth, our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. You can't enjoy someone with whom you don't have a relationship. If you don't have a relationship with the Heavenly Father, you are not a child of God. I beg you to abandon "good deeds" and enter into a relationship with the only One Who will never disappoint you!


I have a scar that's part of me.
I hide it well...I don't want you to see.
Layers upon layers disguise
The part of me that was unwise.

I fear you won't understand;
Instead, an explanation you'll demand.
I have no good or valid reason,
Except to say it was a season.

Even though the wound has healed,
And my redemption has been sealed,
The scar remains a part of me.
And maybe one day I'll let you see.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What's taking root in your soul?

When God wants me "get" something, He puts it in front of me repeatedly. Over the last several weeks, it's been Psalm 119. I mean, Psalm 119 is everywhere I turn: daily devotion articles, Sunday School study material, a new Bible study I'm looking into, etc. I love to read the Psalms, but lately, I keep winding up at Psalm 119. And, I keep asking God what it is that He wants me to learn from it. I have a feeling it may be a long learning process. After all, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible.

Today, Psalm 119:20 stopped me in my reading. It says, "My soul is crushed with longing after Thine ordinances at all times." (NASB) Back up and read that again. If that doesn't stop you in your tracks, it should. It made me question if my soul is "crushed" (overwhelmed, consumed, breaking) with "longing" (desire) for God's "ordinances" (laws, regulations, rules, judgments, decisions, justifications) "at all times" (consistently, constantly).

Four years ago, I willingly and defiantly abandoned any desires for God's ordinances. It was an issue of the heart, a sin called pride. When pride is present in one's life, there's no room for the humility of desiring to obey God's commands. Pride creeps into one's life in the forms of superiority or inferiority. We must be careful to check ourselves for any evidence of pride, and repent when we find that it's present. In my case, pride crept in, and by the time I realized it, I was on a path of destruction. Proverbs 16:18 became a reality in my life: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." (NASB)

I think I allowed pride to enter my life through small, seemingly innocent decisions. I didn't pray before I took on tasks. No matter how good a thing may be, it's not wise to take part unless God leads you there.

Over the past three years, I've learned that I cannot trust myself. I MUST take a matter before God for His approval before I can enter into a situation. So, this morning as I read Psalm 119:20, it struck a chord with me that my soul should continually be desiring God's decisions for my life. Without it, I'd be trusting myself and allowing pride to creep back into my life.

What about you? Is your soul, the deepest part of you, continually longing for God's ordinances? Or, has pride taken root in your soul? There's no room for both.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Is God good?

In Christian circles, and occasionally even non-Christian, I will read or hear someone say, "God is so good...He answered my prayer." I'm sure I've been guilty of this at some point. But, lately every time I hear or read that phrase, I want to ask: What if God didn't answer your prayer? He still good? What if God allowed someone close to you to unexpectedly die? He still good? What if your child is diagnosed with cancer? He still good? What if your spouse cheats on you and leaves you? God still good?

Of course, the answer is yes, yes, yes over and over again! But, when people repeat the quote above, I ALWAYS wonder if those people would still say God is good if He hadn't answered their prayers. I wonder that because there was a time when I thought I had God wrapped neatly in my little box. (FYI...God won't fit in a box!!) And, when my prayers weren't answered the way I wanted, I quit believing that God was good. I became angry with Him. I even went so far as to question whether He really exists at all. My anger towards Him led to a hardened heart, which led to numerous bad decisions that left me with scars. Have no doubt...I was a Christian at the time, but I was sifted! And, what was left was not a pretty picture.

It took a long time before I realized what the root of the problem was: I had a wrong concept of God. My pastor says frequently, "The most important thing about you is your concept of God." If you believe God loves you based on performance, that's a wrong concept. If you believe God never gets angry, that's a wrong concept. If you believe you've done something so horrible that God won't forgive you, that's a wrong concept. If you believe God would never send someone to hell, that's a wrong concept. If you believe God is only good when He answers your prayers the way you want them answered, that's a wrong concept.

Here are just a few things I know about God that fall into the category of a right concept (I won't even pretend that I know very mind can't even conceive or comprehend how big He is). He is:

Holy and Righteous

To take any one of those and label God with that one characteristic is to have a wrong concept. To take all of those and add no more is also a wrong concept. God is infinitely so much more than my small list.

What is your concept of God? Is it wrong or right? And, yes, there is a definite wrong or right concept. God is not left up to our interpretation of Him. To quote Beth Moore, "God is Who He says He is. God can do what He says He can do." We have to find out Who He says He is, and what He says He can do. Just a hint: those answers are found in The Bible.

Back to my original God good when He doesn't answer our prayers the way we want them answered? I have a friend who is undergoing a very strong medication to treat a very aggressive form of cancer. All who know him are praying for His complete healing and recovery. We want our prayers answered!! But, if our prayers are not answered the way we want them, will God still be good? With heavy hearts, we will answer, "Absolutely yes!"