Saturday, October 29, 2016

Out Of The Fog


I have been in a bit of a spiritual funk this past month and a half.  And up until this week I couldn't quite figure out why.  There is a force that has great delight when I am in a fog.  Especially when the fog is so thick that I can barely even see God.  I haven't been sleeping and I have been in a strange emotional place.  It's not depression.  It's not sadness.  It's just that I am foggy and disconnected.  The things that have given me joy seem to be less vibrant.  I normally read when I can't sleep but I just haven't felt the desire to read anything of substance.  I began listening to podcasts and found myself getting irritated by my headphones.  The words being spoken became jumbled every time I tried to adjust the earpieces.  I even ordered a headband that had earphones attached (Amazon is open at 3am in case you were wondering).  They arrived and were a huge disappointment.  I just got more and more agitated trying to position them on my head.  Eventually I just gave up.  And I became a pro at tossing, turning and staring into the darkness of the bedroom.

Eventually, I asked myself, "What the heck is going on?" And the answer was quite simple.  I realized that I hadn't been silent, seeking or sitting with God.  My ability to listen was nonexistent and the noise that surrounded me was loud, distracting and was consuming me.  The fog became think and dense.  And clarity became cloudy.

I had too much going in in the world around me.  Three deaths in a week and a half, a precious woman having health issues and surgery, a sweet young couple mourning a loss, a child making a tough but joyful decision, another child struggling with where their future will lead them, and co-workers who struggled with losses and life altering moments.  And the list goes on. My plate was full and I prayed and thought that I had offered this all up to the Lord.  But I never allowed Him to clean my plate.  The fog was so dense that I couldn't see His hand reaching for the fork.  I was tired and my heart was breaking.  These burdens were heavy and my head was too cloudy.

Finally, I knew what I needed to do.  I had to listen.  This was the only way that I would be able to come out of the fog.  I needed to come to the end of me and realize that God is God and I am not.  I have a horrible habit of making God less than who He is and what He can do.  As I sit here and blog about my fog I can feel God's hand waving away the thickness that has been consuming me. In Psalm 139 David writes, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting." God's love is infinite and personal.  God is also infinitely wise and therefore able to plot the best course. Only a fool would refuse to let His infinite love and wisdom guide and guard their life and destiny.  And while the fog was thick I was lost and feeling a lack of direction God was ever present.  He whispered truth in my direction.  I just wasn't still enough to hear.

I decided that I needed something to remind me that He is God and I am not.  I am a sinner saved by His grace.  The grace that He freely lavishes on me every day.  I found a piece of fabric and braided three strands.  And placed it on my wrist.  It reminds me that God, the Father, is always there to guide and guard me.  And that God, the Son, has protected me from the pain of death by paying the penalty for the sinfulness within me.  And that God, the Spirit, is within me and floods my heart with light even when the fog rolls in.  I am overwhelmed by God's love, faithfulness, compassion, grace and wisdom.  And I am thankful that His mercy endures forever.

I pray that you are all feeling the blessings of our Almighty God.  If you are feeling cloudy I pray that you allow His amazing grace fill you with joy.  And that you too will come out of the fog and into His glory.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Quiet Nook on the Balcony....A moment of fear and lack of obedience.

Summer has been quite full.  And God has been very present in this season. I have felt Him guiding and protecting me continuously in these past few weeks.

Life is never dull.  I remember as a child on occasion saying, "I'm bored.  There's nothing to do".  How I wish I could have bottled those "nothing to do" moments and save them for now.  I feel like time is passing so quickly.  One minute you are kissing your babies as they are swaddled in your arms.  And the next you are kissing them good-bye as they head off to another town, city, state, and or country.  

Greg and I love the precious moments when our children are all together in on place.  Those moments are few and far between these day.  So, we have learned to cherish the moments we have.  This summer we had a dysfunctional family vacation.  We had everyone in one place if you count Facetime with the west coaster for a brief minute. We rented a house in Wildwood, NJ for a week. The house was spacious. And timing seemed perfect.  As one or two of the children were arriving one or two were preparing to leave. Like ships passing.  So we didn't have to worry much about sleeping arrangements.  There were moments of laughter, tears, frustration, joy, tranquility and exhaustion.  Greg and I spent the week serving our children and grandchildren.  And there were moments they were serving us.  This wasn't the most relaxing vacation.  However, there were many many blessings.  

During our stay at the beach I found myself  a quiet nook on the balcony early each morning.  The tranquility of that time had my heart smiling because God's voice seemed clearer in those moments.  A clarity I hadn't felt in a while.  I was able to be still, get in His word, and do something I enjoy.  Sit at His feet.  I also had time so I began reading book after book after book.  And I stumbled upon a book that I couldn't continue reading.  Not because I didn't enjoy it.  It was quite the contrary.  The author of the book asked a few questions and made a suggestion that literally stopped me in my tracks.  And out of fear, and lack of obedience in the moment, I put the book down.  But the questions he presented lingered in my head the entire day.  And the answers quite frankly made me uneasy. "What if you faced the sin in your life this very day with a period of mourning?  Genuine mourning.  What if you spent time reflecting and grieving over the sin in the world around you?  Is thinking about this going to change or transform you? " All these questions were followed by a challenge to, for seven days, go into a time of penitential mourning.

Wow, right?!?  What if?  I have to be honest.  I wasn't prepared for this.  I found myself praying and reflecting on the sermon on the mount.  And within a few weeks it was clear that I needed to be obedient.  Everywhere I turned God was gently whispering to me about this "state of mourning".  I turned on the radio and songs would play that made me think about my personal sins and the sins of this mad world. Each time I went to church the sermon nudged me again.  Ditto with my list of pod casts that I listen to daily.

So, out of obedience I am going back to the book, "The end of me" by Kyle Idleman.  I know that there will be great blessings as I seek scripture to back me up on this journey.  I pray that the Holy Spirit guides me through the process and places a hedge of protection around me in my most vulnerable moments and also on my prideful moments too.  

A few years back I had set out on a period of mourning my sins.  I had asked the Lord to allow me to see the sins of my past and present.  As memories of the horrible and dark things I had done flooded my head and heart I just sobbed.  I found myself in tears and broken.  I was overwhelmed by my sinful nature and became paralyzed over things I had done and said in my past and even in my current place.  To mourn my sins wasn't natural.  I had taken on this whole "sinner saved by grace" mentality.  I knew that if I confessed my sins before the Lord, He would be faithful to forgive me.  And as a result I became arrogant.  I stopped feeling the pain and repercussions of what I was doing.  And let me be honest I was basked in God's grace.  It became almost natural for me to point out the sins of the world and others around me.  I had become quite the Pharasee. Yes, I was a judgmental sinner.  I could see what everyone else was doing wrong.  But I gradually became complacent in grace.  I took for granted what God did for me in love.  The ultimate sacrifice wasn't as clear as it should have been. 

I praise God for giving me the memories of my sinful past.  He promises us that He will forgive our sins.  And that when we truly come to Him for that forgiveness those sins are as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)   During that sin memory flood Jesus showed up and became real.  I was broken and He was loving.  As I remembered each thing I had done I thought about the cost of that sin.  And the repercussion that each one had and still has today.  Gossip is the crown of thorns upon His head.  Hatred, the lashes to His back.   Jealously and bitterness the splinters from the cross rubbing as He carried them too.  And ultimately our sins of murder (if you think it you've done it), robbery (taking anything that doesn't belong to you...even if it was left behind), and selfish pride nailed Him to the cross.  

What does it mean when Jesus said, " blessed are those who mourn" and "blessed are those who are poor in spirit"? 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Which Can is Corn and Which is Peas....

 Labels can be really helpful and important.  And they can also be harmful and misleading. Have you ever thought about the labels we give to things, places and people? I sometimes wonder why Adam called a giraffe a giraffe.  And how did he come up with a name for everything? And did he seek God's approval for each thing and place that he titled?  Maybe I spend too much time pondering on this reality.  However, recently this label thing has left me feeling a bit perplexed.

 Yes, labels can be very important at times. For just a minute I want you to imagine you are getting ready to head over to the grocery store.  You have a list of items that you need to purchase.  Lettuce, avocados, red onion, ground turkey, cumin, coriander, a can of black beans, a can of corn, and shredded cheese.  Guess what you're m aking?  Anyway, you arrive at the market and you walk in the door.  All of the produce is thrown on a table like a pot of vegetable soup.  And the shelves are packed with boxes, bags and cans.  Nothing is labeled.  The boxes are all tan with nothing written on them.  Each can is missing it's paper wrapper.  And all the dry good bags are made of an aluminum non transparent type material.  It may be easy to identify the Lettuce, avocados, red onion and maybe even the ground turkey.  But be careful.  Looks can be deceiving.  You find yourself feeling frustrated because you cannot figure out which can is corn and which is peas.  You arrive at the meat counter and they have ground pork, turkey, chicken and veal all side by side without any label indicating which is which. They look alike but the recipe strictly calls for ground turkey.  Just then you realize that the prices aren't  on the shelves or the items you need to purchase.  Yes in this situation labels are absolutely necessary.

So what is the deal with me feeling so perplexed.  Well it's the labels we give each other.  I am not talking about the positive labels.  I am talking about the mean, horrible, disgusting and judgmental labels we place on the people we don't particularly care for or even know.  We are all guilty of shunning someone at one point in our life.

This morning I sat and read Ezekiel 16.  I had to read it a few times to let it sink in.  My understanding of this scripture is that, even when our circumstances take us to places where our friends, family and strangers will label us with a, not so appealing, name, our Heavenly Father still lavishes us with grace.

Nothing will prevent God from using what we would classify as "unusable" people. You see we are all addicted to sin.  If you look throughout the old testament you will find that God uses liars, adulterers, harlots and even people, like the ones we have shunned, to change the world. "God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him." 1 Corinthians 1:28-29 

I am pretty sure that Abraham, David, Solomon, and the woman of Ezekiel 16, along with others from both the old and new testament, would be escorted out of our churches if they showed up today. And I often wonder if Jesus showed up to a church service what label would we give Him? Would we run to Him?  Would our heart skip a beat?  Or would we label Him a street bum and request that He sit in the back to be less of a distraction?  Perhaps, we might find a reason to judge Him by His clothing or the color of his skin too.

When the world rejects us God search and finds us in the dumpster and showers us with His mercy and love. Then He pours His essence on us.  Clothes us in the finest garments.  Puts the most comfortable and fashionable shoes on our feet.  Initially, we are drawn to His side.  We wake up each morning and greet Him with a prayer.  We sip on that cup of fresh brewed grace and head out into the world.  Eventually the world seems to appeal more to us than the alone time we have with our Lord and Heavenly Father.  So, we gradually spend less and less time at His feet and more and more time in the world.  Only to wind up feeling judged, beat up, hated and confused. The world will take and take some more.  And when you are down and out it will beat you until you have nothing left to give.  The woman in Ezekiel 16 cared more for the things of this world.  She started out abandoned, rejected and alone.  But then in an instant was found and transformed into a princess.  Everything she needed her adopted father provided.  However, her desires for what the world had to offer became greater.  Her attitude was that of entitlement.  And she no longer wanted what her father, the one who found her abandoned in her filth as an infant, had to offer her. She left his side and went out to discover "herself".  She gave her money, jewelry, clothing and all her possessions away to anyone who would give her attention.  She even gave herself away.  And as time went on her life, along with her reputation, was ruined.  Every time she walked into a room she was labeled by the others. She was called a harlot, even worse than a harlot.  Prostitutes were even slinging labels her way.  There she was naked, cold, empty and alone.  The scars were too many for her to bear.  And just when she was ready to give up she hears a familiar voice.  His hand reaches out to her.  She hesitates.  How could he have known where to find her?  Why did he come to rescue her? She reaches for his hand and he pulls her to him and holds her so tight she can't breath.  Overwhelmed she cries and says, "Father, I am not worthy of your love.  I am a disgrace to your name."  Her father looks adoringly at her and kisses her muddy face.  He says to her, "You are a princess.  And those who know me will see that you are the source of my joy.  I have never stopped loving you."  He took her home bathed her, lavished her with love, and nursed her back to health.

Unfortunately the world will continue to be a harsh place to live.  We love to define and label people by the sin in their lives whether it be from their past or if they are knee deep in it currently.   If we are all made in His image why do we spend so much time pulling each other apart.  We should be blinded by God's unrelenting grace and His unconditional love. We need to stop defining each other by our skin color, hair, clothing, shoes, jobs and financial status.  And we must learn to forgive and reflect on God's mercies.  They are new every morning (Lamination 3: 22-23)   I  pray that the God of mercy and grace will renew our mercy for each other every day.  Not only do I pray the He renew mercy, but I pray that He'll make us tenderhearted.  God's grace has a divine never ending supply.  So, when the world gives you an unfavorable label just remember that your creator's name for you is the only label that matters.  God will come in and sweep you up and embrace what the world once labeled as an unworthy, broken, hot mess of a child and lavish us with mercy, love and never ending grace.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Are you ready for a makeover?  I know I am.  I want to be the best me I can be.  I want to be faithfully seeking God on a daily basis.  I want to see His truths more vividly.  And as I prayerfully seek these truths I hope that the lies that I have listened to over the years will fade.

Image is big deal.  And the more women I talk to the more I realize that I am not alone in believing that I am just not "all that".  And just like a lot of other women I have a tendency of picking out every flaw in my body.  And it just makes me feel horrible about myself.  So, what am I going to do about it?

The past few months I have gotten into the routine of reminding myself that I am a princess.  And that my Heavenly Father created me in His image.  Each time I find a flaw in my image I am decreasing the beauty of His image.  I am Made Alluring as God Envisioned I.M.A.G.E. And with that being said I have been waking up and having a sweet conversation with God.  Before my feet hit the floor I say, "Kathleen, you are created in God's image.  Yes I am made alluring, adorable, appealing, and amazing just the way God envisioned me to be. I.M.A.G.E.

I have been on many diet roller coasters and beauty regimens over the years.  I once did a costly wellness diet and was quite successful. But it emptied my pockets. I tried a few other things like the 7 day diet, The Master's Cleanse, and many others.  At first the pounds rapidly fell off.  The only down side was that once I went back to eating normal foods, that I liked, I gain the pounds back.  And I think those pounds brought a few extra ounces along with them. Needless to say I wasn't too successful. Like I said the one "diet" that did seem to work was too costly.  And let's face it I am cheap.  I needed to do something that didn't cost me extra money.  And I thought to myself, "what would happen if I gave up the cow?"   I was never much of a milk drinker or beef eater.  So, the thought of being completely cow free wasn't too alarming.  I went "cold turkey" so to speak.  And for almost two years I read labels, asked how meals were prepared, and the cow was never to be found on my plate or in my cup.  I lost a lot of weight.  My body was toned.  And I felt great about me.

Well, the trend was broken.  I started working at a desk job.  And along with the sedentary job I formed some pretty bad eating and other rotten habits.  I sit for 99% of my work day.  I walk about 100 steps to the lunch room, chat and chew for 30 - 40 minutes and head back to the desk.  My diet consisted of easy and on the go foods and that is how I reignited my passion for cheese.  And here I am today almost one thousand bricks of cheese later (enjoyed one delicious creamy brick at a time).  And now there are few pounds more of me to love.  

Let's start at the very beginning.  A very good place to start (hope you are singing).  The question is, "Where is the beginning"? Well, for me I thought it was going to be this past January.  I was getting ready to leave for vacation and I needed to weigh my luggage. I stepped on the scale and almost passed out.  In total disbelief I stepped off and back on again.  No change.  I was 143.6 lbs.  OUCH!!!!!  I cried and decided that once I returned home I was going to change my eating habits.  I absolutely need  to make that change.  Change is good!! Right?!?   Well not so fast.  Bad habits are hard to break.

In the past weight was never an issue for me.  I didn't need to exercise.  I could eat my weight in food every day and not gain an ounce.  But now that I am older my metabolism has slowed down greatly. And I find myself on the roller coaster of weight gain and loss.  After our vacation I got home and started walking every day.  By the end of February I was diagnosed with Shingles and Kidney stones.  I found myself pacing the floors to help alleviate the intensity of the pain.  This wasn't the exercise program I had in mind.  But it did get me moving.  I made some dietary changes and by April 1st I was a feeling thinner. So, I stepped on the scale and I was 138.6 lbs. I started doing the 21 day fix with my daughters and my body was changing too. By May 27th (Alyssa's wedding day) I was 127 lbs.  Yeah me!!  Hold on.  hold on.  It didn't last long.  I hopped right back on that roller coaster.  And started eating whatever and whenever I wanted. Yep, as of this morning I am back up to 132 lbs. You might be thinking that I am nuts right about now.  But hold on for a second.  On March 11th 2013 I weighed 112.4 lbs. In three years I gained a toddler (figuratively). That one thousand pounds of cheese turned into a 26 pound barnacle around my stomach, butt and thighs. This was not a change for the good. 

No better time like the present for me to make some better choices and make a good change. Yep, pick a date and stick to it. No matter what!!!  My start date is today! July 10th is the first day of the rest of my life.  It's not going to be easy. But, I will consume a lot less cow products over the next few weeks.  And hopefully I will kick the cheese and cracker snacker habit for good. I pray that I finally picked a date that I would truly commit to making the change.  And I am not doing this alone.  Praise God that I am part of a challenge.  Yes, a group of nonjudgmental, healthy lifestyle seeking individuals are taking this journey with me. And more important than those people I have asked the Holy Spirit to be my 24 hour a day coach.   Accountability, along with a plan, is the key to success.

Failure to plan is the plan to fail. So my plan is simple.  I will start each morning prayerfully seeking God.  I will remind myself, before looking in the mirror, I.M.A.G.E I am Made Alluring as God Envisioned.  Yes, I am made in His perfect image.  I will prep and measure my foods for the day (meals and snacks included) And stick to what I prepared. I will exercise each day for 10-30 minutes.  I plan to weigh myself every Wednesday and Sunday morning.  I will cheer myself on in all the ups and forgive myself in the downs. I will prayerfully slow down and eat only until I am full.  After-all my body is a temple.  I will hydrate and take supplements to maintain the inside of this temple too. 

You might be asking why I decided to share this with all of you.  Well, it's simple. We all took a journey together recently.  We discovered together how God relentlessly pursues us.  I pray, if you are riding that same roller coaster that I am, that you will make a decision to take this next ride with me as well.  There are going to be a lot of ups and downs.  But I know that by God's grace and His amazing love we will be able to accomplish our goals. It is for His glory, His honor and His praise that I want to make this temple, my body, the healthiest and strongest it has ever been.  And if you want to do this together let's lift each other in prayer and remind each other daily the we are made in His IMAGE.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Time To Grab the Lasso

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing." ~Zephaniah 3:17

This has been quite an eventful week for my family.  Our daughter, Ashley and her other half, Brian along with our niece, Laura were all traveling from Istanbul to spend the summer back home.  Laura was scheduled to depart on Tuesday and Ashley and Brian Wednesday. Laura got on her flight and safely arrived home on Tuesday evening.  And unbeknownst to her, shortly after her departure, there was an attack at the airport that she flew out of that morning. Ashley and Brian's flight home was cancelled.  They were safe.  Praise God! They both managed to get on another flight and arrived at JFK a day later than they planned.

My emotions seemed to be all over the place.  And my sleep pattern looked more like the the scribbles of a toddler than what "the sandman" planned.  This wasn't the first time fear for one of my children pour through my veins.  But this time seemed a little more intense. I played through some pretty terrible scenarios in my mind.  And my heart raced.  The world seemed too big for this mom to grasp.  All of our kids are out of the house and some live close while others are distant. I get little glimpses into their lives every now and then. And I absolutely love the little morsels they give me on a daily basis with phone calls, text messages, FaceTime calls and Facebook posts.  But this week I felt I needed more.  I wanted to hug each one of them and never let them go.  I came home from work on Friday and seeing Ashley warmed my heart and the hug wasn't just for her it was for me too.

Time to grab the lasso.  Yes, my thoughts needed to be gathered and brought to the place that I know they would be addressed properly; God's feet.  As I sat there praying for my husband, my children, my grands, my family and my friends I was lead to Zephaniah 3: 17.  God wanted me to rest in the knowledge that He is not only in my midst but in the midst of my loved ones as well.  He is a mighty God.  And even though this world is feeling too vast for me it isn't too vast for the One who spoke it to existence.  He is rejoicing over me and with me with deep gladness.  Things won't always go the way I want them to go.  There may even come a day that this world will break my heart.  But I know that I can seek rest in the palm of God's hand.  He will quiet me by His love and exult over me with loud singing.  Yes, He will drown out the sounds of this crazy mad world by singing His melody of unconditional love and abounding grace.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Wedding....A Lesson About Grace.

I cannot believe that it has been a month since I sat down and had a quiet moment on a Saturday to share my heart, thoughts and ideas with you.  Life has been busy.  But know that I have been thinking and praying that God has opened your eyes and heart to receive His abundant blessings.

On May 27th our youngest daughter, Alyssa, married a wonderful young man, Mike.  The days leading up to the wedding were stressful and seemed never ending. The house was full again.  All the children (adults) were home for the celebration.  There was so much to do.  Final dress fittings, the rehearsal dinner, pick up flowers, put the finishing touches on the d.i.y. wedding trinkets.  And so may more little little details that in the moment seemed very important.  The planned ceremony was to be held outdoors.  And the weather forecast, earlier in the week, was cloudy, rainy, and chilly.  The bride-to-be, along with my husband, tracked the weather for May 27th multiple times each day.  I remained calm and reminded her that God was in control.  As the day got closer the stress in her grew.  We all seemed to have moments of misdirected focus.  We received word that a few family members would not be able to make it to the ceremony and reception due to an unexpected surgery and some health related issues.  And because we paid over a hundred dollars per person we thought about who we could invite last minute to take their place without insulting them.  Yes, the focus in that moment was the fact that we couldn't get reimbursed for the last minute cancellations.  Don't get me wrong.  We prayed for Alyssa's step grand-mom, Mike's grandparents and our friend Tim to feel God's healing hand.  And we were thankful that they were courteous and told us instead of just not showing up.  The idea that hundreds of dollars were "wasted (for lack of a better word)" seemed difficult to swallow.  But even more difficult was the fact that these loved ones wouldn't be there to celebrate the most important day of their lives.  Their wedding day.  And the craziness continued to grow.  It felt like one disappointment after another. The wedding gown was hemmed improperly and had to be redone.  The forecast went from chilly to steamy hot and we had to place a last minute order for hand fans for the guests.  And a few other little things.

The Wedding weekend arrived!  And so did the sea of emotions. The day before the wedding we were all running around like chickens without heads. Alyssa and I went to go tanning (I got a spray tan) in the morning and have a little mom and daughter time. And the weather was beautiful and very hot.  We ran home and had to continue crafting.  Then we started throwing bottles, candles, flowers and wedding attire into everyone's cars.  I was sweating and my patience was wearing thin.  I realized that I had no room in my car, after putting my mom's, Greg's and Ashley's possessions in the back, for my bags.  So I crammed them at my feet.  And off we went to the hotel.  I looked in the vanity mirror and saw that my tan was running down my neck.  Ughh.  I started to cry. I just wanted to look nice for the big day.  And instead I now sat there thinking I looked like I was playing in the dirt.  Alyssa  called me and I told her about my dilemma.  She assured me that it would be fine. I hung up and quietly gathered my thoughts.  And began praying.  "Lord, help me to focus on what your plan is.  Keep my eyes on you.  Give me peace in my heart.  And thank you for your grace."

We all had our own idea about how the wedding day was going to be.  I know for the bride she envisioned it to be a bit different.  The sun was hot and we were all dripping with sweat.  The venue neglected to put the air conditioner on in the barn, where the cocktail hour was held, early enough to cool the room down.  We paid for extra time during the cocktail hour and because the temperature was unbearable it was shortened.  The guests ran to the reception area to seek relief from the barn because it was cooler in there.  The ovens broke as the caterer was preparing the food which caused a delay. The DJ wasn't playing anything that the bride and groom had spent months putting together for their perfect day.  As a matter of fact I think he must have been playing someone else's play list that evening.  I had to tell him multiple time to play songs that Alyssa expressed that she really wanted played.  And then he played a song that she was adamant about not having it played at her wedding (I heard it through the grape vine).  Then there were the "no shows". Yes, it was hurtful.  Alyssa and Mike had chosen people to invite to their special day that meant something to them.  They had to take friends off their list to include family members who touched their lives throughout the years.  So, as they noticed the tags and empty seats it saddened and hurt them.  Alyssa said, a few days later, that she was disappointed that they didn't call or anything.  And this is where "grace" comes in.

The beginning of this blog was me ranting about the disappointments that were felt about the days leading up to and including the wedding day.  Our expectations were not met.  We have all heard, "God's grace is sufficient".  But have you ever really thought about what that looks like in the aftermath of disappointment?  God's grace often has a way of offending our sense of justice.  His grace is one way. And it isn't full of prejudice.  No one asks for it.  He just gives it.  He doesn't give us grace expecting us to give Him something in return.  No, it's just the opposite. He gives us a fresh fill every day because He loves us. And we don't get to tell Him who we think is worthy or unworthy to receive it.  It's His gift to give and not our to decide who to delegate it to or how much each one should receive. I have said many times that if God's grace is sufficient for me my grace should be sufficient for others.  And this statement can be a hard pill to swallow.  Just as God gives me grace I need to extend that to the vendors that didn't do things "my" way.  And I have to be willing to give grace to those "no shows" too.  Because grace covers a multitude of disappointments and leaves us with joy.

Alyssa and Mike said their "I do's" and began to celebrate with their loved ones.  They had fun and will cherish the memories created that day. And as a result of all the disappointments they too are learning a lesson about grace.  They came home from their honeymoon refreshed and ready to enter into their new roles as husband and wife.  Alyssa experienced yet another disappointment when she looked at her wedding band and noticed a diamond was missing.  She was immediately crushed and upset.  We talked about what was most important.  She needed to be redirected.  The next day she called the jeweler and they repaired the ring at no cost.  This was unexpected.  She was thinking they were going to charge her and they didn't.  They even went above and beyond by repairing it the same day.  This is just a small example of grace flowing from God into the jeweler and out to the newlyweds.

Over the course of a few days we talked about the events of the wedding I encouraged her to focus on the beauty of the day  And for her to reflect on how God's grace was refreshing.   There were many truly amazing and wonderful thing that occurred on May 27th 2016.  Alyssa and Mike stood before the Lord and "promised to God" that they would love each other for the rest of their lives.  And in that moment nothing else mattered.  They stood there face to face and God poured a pitcher of grace over both of them.   Yes, the weather was hot but the sun was shining and the day was blessed.  Everyone loved the food and the signature drink was a hit.  And we discovered that people will dance to just about any song (even if it wasn't on the list).  The photographers were great and captured the joyfulness of the day.  And the photo booth had an endless line of people wanting to show their silly side.  All in all by the grace of God their wedding day was beautiful.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Secret Keeper

We just spent a little over eight weeks learning and growing deeper in a relationship with the God who sees you and me as perfect and treasured.  I cannot believe we are at the end of this sweet journey.  I feel so incredibly blessed!  El Roi has truly guided my heart to a place I am certain I never knew before.  I still have moments that I am really down on myself.  But He gently whispers in my ear, "Kathleen, you are made in My image.

How many times in your lifetime have your read through 1 John?  I would have to say, for me, more times than I can count.  And throughout the past few months I feel that the Holy Spirit has been guiding me to those pages a lot.  The message is very clear. Nobody is perfect. We all fall short.  God sees every detail of our life.  He knows when I wake up, what I eat, where I go, who I talk to. He knows what I am thinking, contemplating and much more.  He knows it all.  He is the secret keeper.

We all have a secret or two.  And this isn't going to be a blog about me revealing my deepest darkest secrets to all of you.  Quite frankly my sins are really none of your business.  I am not trying to be rude.  They just aren't.  I may have shared a few of them with some of you in the past.  I believe that often those sinful secrets are good to reveal when I want to share how God, the secret keeper and holder of my heart, can and does still love me.

Like I said, "we all have secrets".  But what  happens when those secrets bind us and prevent us from moving forward.  Those BIG stinkin secrets that escalate into a mountain of lies.  We fear that the truth will one day be revealed.  We walk on egg shells when at family functions because "they" might talk to each other and find out the truth. Or you bump into a work friend on a day you called out sick and it's evident you were not sick.  Awkward to say the least.

In 1 John God calls us to live in the light.  The secret keeper wants us to tell the truth.  When we tell the truth we don't have to worry about the story.  I would have to say that I admire the fact that my husband is a pretty truthful man.  If I look good he tells me I look good.  And if I look bad.  He doesn't say a word.  Ha ha ha. But seriously he really is quite honest.  However, he too has a few secrets in his head and heart. But when Greg tells me something the story is always consistent and never cloudy.  There are some people in my life that if they told me the sky was blue and the grass was green I would have to go a see it for myself.  It makes me sad when trust is broken because it hurts a multitude of people.  There is a bit of a trickle down effect.  The person or persons being lied to feel duped and the ones being lied about feel betrayed.  As a parent I have been the liar, the lied to and the lied about.  I am not eighteen, you are smoking and I am not the evil one.  All angles and aspects of a lie can cause pain.  Not just for the victims but for the liar too.  Lies cause separation. I have seen it in my own family. And I know my own heart has felt guilt and shame over lies from my past.  And that guilt and shame has put a wedge between me, my loves and God.  Just like Adam and Eve.  I want to hide in a dark corner.

Over the years my husband and I have sinned against each other and God.  We both have secrets and I believe we are both okay with that.  We are pretty equally yolked in that aspect.  Every now and then we have a heart to heart and reveal a little more to each other.  We are still learning each other and I believe that it will be a lifetime of learning.  There are moments that it's hard to share the deep dark secrets.  But God has consistently guided us to a loving place to let the light of truth shine.

What is the difference between guilt and shame?  Well in my opinion when I feel guilty about something I am usually in the midst of a sinful situation.  And I feel shameful when I realize that I
followed through and actually acted in a sinful manner. Both of these emotions cause me to become distant.  How do I stand before a loving God knowing I willingly lied, cheated, stole and or betrayed someone?  How could he possibly look a me and smile ever again?  Love.  Grace.  And Jesus.  Yes, God sent Jesus as an advocate.  He is the atoning sacrifice for my sins, your sins and everybody's sins.  We need to forgive ourselves and others.  Yes, forgive yourself.  Place those secrets, lies and your sinful nature in His hands.  Let go and let God.  If He wants your sin to be revealed have faith that He knows what and why he is shining the spot light on you.

Praying for all of you!  And waiting on the Lord to guide my heart as we prepare for the next part of the journey.  "Spirit lead me where my trust is without boarders."


Monday, May 9, 2016

You Can't Change the World

I hope you all had a relaxing and blessed Mother's Day.  I worked this weekend and I realize I am a few days late.  But better late than never. My Mother's Day was quiet and absolutely blessed.  My husband and I decided to sponsor another child.  His name is Jhoel.  He is eight.  And cute as can be!  As a mom it brings joy to my heart each time we receive a letter from our other children that we sponsor in Africa and Asia.  And now we have a son in Bolivia.

Wow can you believe we are in chapter seven already?  I have been so blessed. And I have learned so much about God's love and grace.  And praise him for giving me eyes to see me the way He sees me....created in His image.

Have you ever felt like God was trying to get your attention?  I know I have felt that way multiple times.  And this week there was a lesson to be learned.  And that lesson was to see others the same way God wants me to see me.  Created in His image!  And there is a song that comes to mind when I think about seeing God in everyone.  It's called, "Jesus in disguise" by Brandon Heath.  The words are pretty powerful.  "Ever get something in your head?  It's nothing you heard or nothing you read.  Ever had a cut but you never saw a blade?  Brought to your knees but you never prayed.  Jesus in disguise. Jehovah passing by. The burden of a tear hanging in your eye.  Jesus in disguise.  A scar across the sky.  You were looking for a king you would never recognize.  Jesus in disguise.  Ever feel like you've been somewhere before? You hold the key. You know which door.  Speak the word your lips have never known because your heart told you so. Jesus in disguise. Jehovah passing by. The burden of a tear hanging in your eye.  Jesus in disguise...A scar across the sky.  You were looking for a king you would never recognize.  Jesus in disguise.  So open my eyes as wide as I can blind as I am.  Blind as I am. Jesus in disguise."

Yep, He wants me to look around and see His face in everyone around me.  And that can be a bit of challenge depending on day and the person standing before me. There are people from my past and present that I honestly have a difficult time seeing God's face in them.  But He is putting this challenge on my heart to seek Him in a way that is a bit uncomfortable.  The God who sees me wants me to look deeper.  And He wants me to seek Him in the face of an enemy, a stranger, and in the face of those who have offended and hurt me deeply.  He even wants me to seek Him in the people that drive me out of my mind.

So, here I go.  I thought changing my perspective of me was challenging.  How do I even begin to change my vision toward others? It would be such a beautiful place to exist if we could all see God in each other.  The world would be full of love, light and perfection. However, fear, doubt and the voice in my head shouts, "You can't change the world, Kathleen."  I am just now getting used to seeing me in with a clearer focus.  I have to remind myself daily that I am made in God's image.  And now I have to add that everyone around me is made in His image too.  Really, everyone? Lord, how on earth am I going to be able to see You in the midst of the arrogant, selfish, rude and evil people that exist?  You are beautiful and perfect.  And this world, for the most part, contains a lot of not so perfect people.

God doesn't expect me to change the world.  He only requires me to change my perspective.  Instead of listening to the negative thoughts that are in my head I need to focus on His truths. We are the hands and feet.  In Matthew 25: 31-46 Jesus tells us that whatsoever we do to the least of these we do unto Him.  When we change our perspective and see Him in the face of our children, our spouse, our friends, siblings, parents, extended family, and co-workers it not that difficult.  But a change occurs when we begin to seek Him in those who push our buttons; bad drivers, rude clerks, self absorbed people, and those who have hurt you in the past and or the present.  Yes, when we begin to seek the face of God in those that offend us our hearts become transformed.  And instead of their ugliness we see His reflection.

You never really know what is going on in someone's life. When the cashier at the store is miserable we don't know the circumstances behind her frown.  When we are cut off in traffic by a crazy driver we don't know why or what they are rushing for.  And when we are hurt by our loved ones because of something that was said or done in anger we don't know the details leading up to the explosion.  How often do we put ourselves on a pedestal?  We neglect to remember the times we were miserable, in a rush and spoke harsh words.   We can be judgmental and very critical of others.  It's a natural response. And this is where the change comes into play.  Take those thoughts captive, blink a few times, and wait until you can focus before you judge.  Remember a time when you needed someone to just smile at you because you were having the worst day ever.  Or when someone slowed down and let you go ahead of them.  And the times when a loved one let you word vomit all over them only to hold your hand and say, "I love you."

Life is busy.  And we are often in such a rush that we don't see someone in need.  Or perhaps we do but we need to get to that next place and don't have time to stop and help that child that can't find a parent.  Or the man in the supermarket trying to find stuffing mix.  A few weeks ago I was running around Giant supermarket like a chicken without a head.  I had people coming over to help with wedding crafts.  And my quick trip to the market turned into a blessing.  I met an man named John.  He was looking for something.  I noticed him multiple times.  There was a sadness in his face.  And he looked lost.  After seeing him, half way through the shopping spree, I stopped and smiled at him.  He asked me if I could help him.  He told me that he just lost his wife of 62 years and he never had to shop at the market.  He wanted to make dinner for his children that were visiting.  So, I initially wanted to brush him off because I knew people would be arriving at the house within the hour.  I didn't have the time.  But I did.  And I was blessed in being a blessing.  I asked John to show me his list.  And we went through the market on a treasure hunt to make a feast for his family.  I left him after we completed the necessities.  As I got to the check out I saw him again.  And walked over to him and thanked him for blessing me.  And gave him my number.

Like I said before seeing God's image in others is somewhat difficult.  Actually it is quite impossible.  It is only by the grace of God that my vision changes.  And the possibility of seeing His image becomes clear. "With men this is impossible, but with God all thins are possible"~Matthew 19:26. When we chose to love God first and seek Him than loving your neighbor, family. friends and strangers becomes easier.

Okay here is the assignment for this week.....

Read the book of 1 John in a translation that you don't normally read.  www.biblegateway has a variety of translations.  What does 1 john suggest to you about living in the light of the God who sees you? What are some secrets that you have held on to in the past and feared they would be revealed? Were the revealed?  How did it happen?  What was the result?

How do you you think secrets and lies are connected?  How do secrets become lies?

What, in your opinion, is the difference between guilt and shame?  Do they have the same or a different remedy?

Think about some examples from your own life or the lives of others, of how an urge to control can cause us to hide from the light.  Do you believe attempts to control are always sinful?  What makes them harmful?

If you could write out your own policy on dealing with secrets what would it be?

Have you ever faced a situation where lies and hurtful words were being said about you?  How did you respond, and what was the result?  How do we let go and continue to walk in the light when something like this happens?

Have a blessed rest of the week!! Know that you are being lifted in prayer. And God sees you.  Be beautiful and shine!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Fruitless Quest

This past week was just odd.  That would be the best way for me to define it.  It wasn't a great week.  But it wasn't horrible.  Just odd. Greg worked the 3pm -11pm shift.  There are two shifts that I am not fond of and those are that shift and the 11pm -7am shift.  I just have a difficult time with those work hours because I am restless, my head starts to think, think, and over think some more.

Greg and I both were married and divorced and remarried (now to each other).  So there are a lot of things that can cause the fog to appear.  We both had to learn to trust in others and in each other.  In the beginning it was tough.  We both questioned each other in a lot of things.  And did some stupid stuff.  Only to laugh about it years later.  We had a lot of growing pains.  And we still do experience them on occasion.  But I truly believe it has been through the trials and tribulations that we have learned to trust in God.  And ultimately we learned to trust in each other and he is truly my best friend, my love and a treasure.

We married not just each other but each others children.  We vowed that we would be the best parents we could be to our new family.  We promised to love, honor, cherish and support all five of them.  And we vowed to do it as a team. God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, Greg and me. We were all so different. Each member of our family gave the others a run for their money.  Often we lived in a daily world of high emotions and righteous expectation.  But by God's amazing grace and lots of prayer we began to adjust.  God had some pretty spectacular things planned.  And in retrospect I am so glad for all the craziness we had to go through just to be here today.  The doubts, deception, deaths and ordeals.  We vowed to remain a unit through it all.

I never had the pleasure of meeting my Mother-in-law, Grace or my Father-in-law, Richard.  Greg lost both of his parents prior to us meeting.  We began to talk to each other shortly after the death of his Dad and my Grandfather.  I wasn't around to experience the pain of Greg's great loss.  And, to be honest, I couldn't quite understand what he went through.  My parents were both alive.  They were an everyday fixture in my world.  They lived with me and my three wild ones. But I knew that Greg had this great void.  He told me stories about his loving parents and how they loved each other.  We talked about their illnesses and how they lived their lives.  told me of their hopes of one day having a place in Wildwood, NJ to retire to and just enjoy each others company.  Sadly, they never had the opportunity. After Greg and I were married I began to notice that every year, beginning in November, he would change.  He took on this "bahhh humbug" persona that would last for a few months.  I found myself taking it personally.  He would sit and think and think and think.  There was this look in his eyes.  I would try to understand.  However, I just couldn't.  It took years and the death of my own Dad to begin to comprehend what my husband was feeling throughout those months of reminiscing about his loss.

I have had loss in my life; miscarriages, deaths, relationships, and other things.  But the death of my Dad was by far the biggest blow to my heart.  My Dad was so much more than just a parent to me.  He was my friend, my teacher, my go to guy when I needed advice.  He was the person who calmed me when my head would spin out of control.  There was one occasion when Greg and I were dating and my Dad was very sick and was in the hospital.  I didn't know, at the time, that Greg had asked my parents for my hand in marriage a few days prior to Dad's hospitalization.  So, every time I would go in to sit with my Dad everyone of my family members feared that Dad would say something and ruin the proposal.  But he didn't.  I sat with him one evening and asked him what he thought of Greg.  I shared my heart, my fears and apprehensions with my Dad during that conversation. And his response was, "Kathleen, Greg is a great man.  He loves you. And he loves your children.  If you let him go I will kick your ....." Greg waited over a month to propose.  He wanted to be sure that my Dad was in good health before he asked me to make the biggest decision of my life.

My Dad recovered and was able to be there for many more milestones with his nutty family.  And he and my Mom both walked me down the isle on my wedding day.  And as my heart was racing and my thought were running he was there to calm me and support me. All the while my Greg was standing there at the alter. And I know that his heart had a parent sized hole in it.  Yes, as I walked down with my parents he stood alone.  But later told me that he rejoiced in that moment because my parents officially became his parents that day.  Yep, he wanted the whole package.

Greg was a huge support to me after my Dad passed away.  God had prepared my heart.  But my heart was broken in a way I never thought possible.  It's an indescribable pain.  And Greg knew exactly how it felt. A few days after his passing I thought that I was going to die from the pain.  My stomach hurt. I felt numb.  And my movements felt like I was in slow motion.  My husband held me that night as I cried harder than I have ever cried in my life. I remember asking God why?  Why did He allow the surgery to go great?  Only to take him home the following day.  I was confused and hurt.   It took a little while for me to realize that God had blessed us with one more day. And that is exactly what we had prayer for, one more day.

I often think back to seeing my Dad with salty tear stained cheeks a few days prior to his surgery.  And I wonder if Dad wrestled with God and the plan for his days ahead.  I say this because right before his surgery I knelt in front of him and said,"Daddy, we want to pray for you before they come to get you." As we all gathered around him he looked at each of us.  And instead of us praying for him he prayed for us.  He was good at the sneak attack prayers.  

Greg was such a huge support and still is.  As I struggled with getting life back to normal.  I had to come to terms with the fact the life would and could never be normal again.  And that to seek that normalcy would result in a "fruitless quest".  Life was different and continues to be different every day.  I am thankful that the Lord picked that time to take my Dad.  Yes, it still hurts when I think about how much I wish he could have been here to see his grandchildren get married, his great-grands multiplying, and how beautiful and strong his bride is.  I rejoice knowing that he is no longer in pain.  And I know that one day we will worship our God together.  I still have days that I question why God would have allowed the pain of this great loss.  But I know that He is a God of love and wants me to trust that He is doing what is best.

There are times, when my fear of losing another close family member, takes hold of my head.  And like I said at the beginning of this blog when I have too much time I think and think and overthink some more. Greg is out there climbing ladders, going on gas emergency calls and fatigued.  I worry myself sick. I think about my Mom alone in her apartment and I worry about her health and well being.  And the children.  Yes, I even have silly fear for each of them. The mind is a creative thing.  I could write a ton of suspense novels with the crazy thoughts that run through my head.  Good thing, for me, that the Lord whispers in my ear, "Put a lasso around those thoughts and give them to me."  And that is just what I do.  Or at least try to.  Ultimately, I know that He is a good God.  And that He will bless us even in the tribulations.

There are great lessons in the pain. Greg was certainly able to help guide me through the process of losing a parent.  And I am not sure how I would have done it without his prayers and support.  We both handle our grief a little differently. And God is big enough to handle our anger, disappointment, frustration and lack of trust.  We have learned to talk to each other and pray about how our loss makes us feel.  And have both grown to love and trust deeply in God.  The God that has a watchful eye on us, a comforting hand to hold us, and most importantly He has an understanding of our pain.  The cross.

I am blessed that El Roi is beside me, behind me and in front of me.  I praise Him for the people He blessed me with to support me.  And those that He has put in my path to support in times of need and pain.  I praise Him for that still small voice that pulls me closer.  And I love that there is a fresh fill of grace that awaits this sometimes fear filled woman.  And I love the reminders that He set's before me "In this world you will have trouble, But take heart (have no fear) I have overcome the world." ~John 16:33

Things to think about......

What kinds of people do you have the most difficulty seeing Jesus in? What kinds of people push your buttons?

Why do you think judgement and criticism are such natural responses to encountering other people?

What can you do when you really are too busy to stop and engage with another person?  Do you think we should always have to stop and engage with people while we're working to get things done?

Blessings, sharing, hospitality, helping....which of these sounds more appealing to you? Which is the biggest challenge?  What do you think this reveals about you?

What are so practical ways you can stretch, "see and be" without getting burned out or overwhelmed?

See you next week.  Hope you are being blessed by "the God who sees you."

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Time for a Perspective Change

This past Sunday, as I sat and listened to Pastor Ross' sermon, my mind began to drift.  He made a statement that just captivated my thoughts.  "Fear makes our perspective of God small." And he continued with, " The greatness of our fear is in direct correlation to the greatness we attribute to God".

With the sermon still fresh in my mind I found myself reading chapter five of, "The God Who Sees Me" with a bit of a perspective change.  I thought about a time in my life where I didn't feel or see God.  It was in 1989.

Life seemed good.  I was married to my first husband and had a sweet baby girl.  I realized that I was pregnant again.  And was thrilled.  I was feeling a bit run down.  But I contributed it to being in the early stages of pregnancy.  One day I went to work, as normal, and I felt this pain in my side.  I thought, "I must have eaten something that didn't agree with me." I grabbed a few files and headed to Dr Tom's office.  He took one look at me and said, "Kathleen, you look a little grey.  Is everything okay?"  I shared with him that I was pretty certain I was pregnant and that I was feeling a bit run down. And I told him about the pain I felt moment earlier.  He suggested that I go to the ER immediately.  And I said I would call my doctor.

I called the doctor and he said, "Come now."  So, I called my mom and she came to get me.  We got to the doctors and I realized something was wrong.  I was bleeding profusely.  We immediately drove to the hospital.  Chris, my husband at that time, met us there.  They rushed me back to the O.R. and as I laid there, once again, I felt the pain.  This time it was so intense that I nearly fell off the bed.  They rolled me into the room and the next thing I remember I woke up and I was wrapped in warm blankets.  I heard the nurses talking.  And I thought, "They can't be talking about me."  I asked them, "Is my baby okay?"  One of the nurses walked over and said, "The doctor will talk to you in a few minutes."  They began to roll me into the hall.  And I saw my mom, Chris, and my brother-in-law Mark and a few others.  They were all crying.  I kept asking, "Is my baby okay?" I found out that I had an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured and that I almost died.  I was also told that I most likely wouldn't be able to have any more children.  This broke me.

 After being released from the hospital I went and stayed at my parents house. I wasn't allowed to go up and down steps and their house was more accommodating.  I found myself depending on the percocet to relieve my physical and emotional pain.  How could a God of love do this to me?  I lost not just a baby but my faith during that time.  I felt alone and that no one understood my pain.  I relied on meds and just shut down.

After a few months I found myself living again. However, I was still so angry with God.  I allowed my fear of trusting in Him again get in the way of me seeking Him.  I searched for happiness in things and others.

My parents saw that I needed a timeout.  So, one weekend  they decided to take my daughter with them on a road trip. I was alone. And  I remember seeing my Dad's bible on the table.  I sat in his chair and cried.  I wasn't sure where to start.  But I knew I had to tell God how I felt.  And I did. I sobbed as I began to seek Him.  And demanded that He show His face.  I pounded my fists on the table until they hurt too much to continue.  My tantrum exhausted me. And I decided that I would trust in Him once again.  He didn't show His face that day.  But He did bless me a few months later.

In May of 1990 I found out that I was pregnant again.  God had answered my prayers.  Even though the doctor told me chances were not in my favor I was going to have a baby!  The pregnancy was difficult.  And I went into labor early.  I was medicated to stop the contractions and put on bed rest.  But, in the end I was blessed with another sweet baby girl. I learned in the years that followed, once the fog was lifted, that God was always there.  And that His ways are not my ways.  I could have died that day in 1989.  But He blessed me with a life time to cherish my firstborn and the two additional that I gave birth to.  And He continues to answer my pray for a lot of children.  I am now a "mom" to two inherited daughters and a grand mom to two angelic little girls. I have a son-in-law and another on the way.

There have been multiple times in my life that God has made His presence know.  And there were many times I found myself seeking Him through the foggy days in my life.  I can relate to King David when I read Psalm 63.  I find myself in the early hours of the morning seeking God.  It's when I am most hungry for His word and I'm still in a quiet place.  I sometimes find myself sitting up in bed and lifting my arms to heaven.  I just want to feel Him lift me as I call out His glorious name.  I know that it is Him who satisfies my every need.  And He desires for me to praise Him in the foggy moments too.  And I have to admit that sometimes my day get too busy about things that I get frustrated and the fog rolls in and His praises are not on my lips.  But then the evening comes and I go to bed and glorify Him for the day He gifted to me.  I know that I  walked all day in the shadow of His wings.

It's kind of crazy but when life is going good and things are in, what appears to be, a perfect line  I find that I don't seek God as vigorously as I do in the storms.  I often think that I take Him for granted. He is supposed to be the Lord of All.

When I lived as a single mom with three children I felt He was more present. I knew that as His adopted and precious princess he would provide.  When we had little or no food He provided.  When I couldn't pay the bills He provided.  I learned to trust in Him and praise Him.  After all, He does take care of the birds, plants and animals.  Why wouldn't I trust that He would and could provide for us.  Yes, there were times I went hungry because I wanted the children to eat.  But in my hunger He fed me and comforted me through His word.  He really does want us to seek Him in all circumstances.  Even when we think we no longer "need" Him.

Life is good.  Yes, I am in a blessed time of my life.  I have a husband that loves me and sees me as beautiful.  (And by the way, in case you were wondering, I have been waking up every morning and saying before I look in the mirror, "you are created in His perfect image".  Talk about a perspective change. I am beginning to see Him in me a little more each day.) I have a family that is growing.  I have children that are seeking.  I have a church community that I am beginning to consider family. I have a job that provides me with coworkers that I adore.  But I feel like my vision of God is out of focus.  Perhaps it's because He has been calling me to do something and fear is holding me back.  I am in a position in my life where I could and really should do what He is directing me to do.  But, the fear of not being good enough paralyzes me.  It's called,  "paralysis by analysis".  I am honestly giving God a "maybe".  I know I need to fully trust in Him.  And write the book that He is calling me to write.  I know that I need to stop worrying about others and write as if I am writing to Him.  He is that author and perfecter of my life.  And I know that if I am in His perfect will I will be a success in His eyes.  So, I am going to ask each of you a favor.  Please pray for me over the next few weeks to have a God given confidence and seek Him in His plan.  And know that I will be doing the same for each you. I want to magnify God by removing all doubt fear.  I want to be fully confident in His perfect plan.  

Things to think about as you read chapter 6.  And if you don't have the book that's okay.  You can still think about these questions.

What discussions have you heard or attempts to explain how evil can persist in the presence of an all-loving, all knowing, all-powerful God?  What answers have been helpful to you? What questions still haunt you?

What has been the most traumatic experience of your life?  What experience do you fear most?

Visualize Jesus standing right next to you during a past time of pain or trauma.  What feelings does this bring up in you?

Why do you think some people feel closer to God,while others feel more distant, in times of trouble?

Looking forward to next week.

Be blessed and embrace the God that sees you.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

He Molds Us and Holds Us.

It's a beautiful Saturday morning here on the east coast.  The sun is shining.  I can hear the birds chirping their praises.  And there is the aroma of fresh brewed coffee coming from the kitchen.  I really enjoy the smell of coffee in the morning.  It sometimes sparks my senses and gives me, what some may call, the perception of clarity. Every Saturday my wonderful husband gets up and brews the coffee as I lay in bed and enjoy, for a moment, my quiet time with my Lord.  I can smell the coffee and I know that there will be a cup waiting for me.  Often, when my quiet time is extended, Greg will prepare a cup for me and bring it upstairs. He knows that I need my one on one with my Heavenly Father.  And he almost always gives me ample time to be still.  As the coffee arrives and we sip our morning cup together I invite my husband to join in on my conversation with the Lord.  We have a sweet devotional time and ask each other thought provoking questions.   Even after 15 years we are still learning about each other.

Greg is working this morning so I am sipping on my coffee and reflecting on how my relationship with El Roi has grown in the past four weeks.  How has my perception of myself changed because of His grace and love? This past week I really found myself trying hard to seek God in my reflection.  It's so hard to have that kind of a perspective change.  I had to constantly remind myself that I am made in His image.  And that He sees through my imperfections and loves me in His perfect way.  Every characteristic I dislike about me is still there.  I just have to stop looking at myself through my and see me as God sees me.  Stop focusing on the out and dig deep for what is inside.  "Outwardly we are wasting away but inwardly we are being renewed". I suggest that you stop right here for a moment and read 2 Corinthians 4.  Go ahead read it. Take the time to digest each and every word.  I will make it super easy just click on this link:   Pretty amazing stuff.  How did the God who sees you speak to your heart?

Our God is merciful.  Yes He made His light to shine in our hearts so that He would be glorified.  We are His treasure. His work of art.  A beautiful and intricately molded jar of clay.  The world will attempt to break us by telling us we aren't good enough. But God says we are worthy.  The world may shout perplexing ideas our way.  But God says I am here and will never leave you in despair.  The world might throw stones and bruise us.  But God says I will put a hedge around your heart.  All that the world throws at us are opportunities to reveal God's grace.  Like I said last week, His grace overflows from the cracks and holes that the world inflicted.  The more the world batters and bruises us the brighter His light may shine. And there is an eternal glory that outnumbers the troubles of this world.  He molds us and holds us. We may not be able to see Him in a way that is understandable but through faith we must set our eyes, fix our eyes, glue our eyes on Him the eternal Lord of all.

A few years back, on December 31st, 2010,  I remember driving to Abington Memorial Hospital and there was this joy and anticipation in my heart.  I was singing along with my praise CD, "Open the eyes of my heart Lord, open the eyes of my heart.  I want to see you ....." As I continued to sing there was a soft whisper.  I felt the Lord requesting me to be still.  I turned the music down as I came to a red light.  He whispered words to me that I didn't fully grasp until I walked out of the elevator and saw my mom and sister in the waiting area at the hospital.  You see God wanted to prepare my heart for the events that were about to take place over the next few hours.  I prayed for eyes to see and ears to hear.  And as a result I was able to see and hear Him in one of the darkest moments of my life.  And His grace flowed from the large hole that was created that day.  That epiphany moment that took place when I walked out of the elevator was when I realized the truth behind the whisper.  God whispered to me at the red light, "Be still.  I want you to remember that I was there with him at birth and I Am here now." I remember smiling and saying, "Thank you Jesus for being there with my Dad."  I had no idea that at that moment things were going in a different direction than the one I would have chosen.  My joy was squashed and my anticipation grew.  But I had this overwhelming sense of God's presence.  And as family members arrived to say their farewell to my earthly dad I remember seeking refuge in the palm of my Heavenly Father's hand.  You see He made His presence known.  God knew that I needed Him there with me.  I needed His grace, His mercy and His power.  I felt the power of the Holy Spirit in the most amazing way. As my crazy family sang songs to send dad off as he stepped out of this realm and into his eternal realm, I felt as if there was a silence and my feet were lifted.  It was as if I was in the middle of the biggest, warmest and most uplifting hug.  My life was altered.  And my faith grew.

Some may go through similar life altering moments and come out of it with a much different perspective.  Some may have asked, "God where were you?" And others may have had their faith shattered. It funny, as I sit and drink my coffee, that I am reminded of that "seeing is believing" concept.  I didn't see that coffee was made for me this morning.  But because I know my husband I knew that a hot cup was waiting for me.  I didn't have to see the coffee to believe it was in a cup waiting for me to wrap my cold hands around it.  I didn't need to see my husband making the coffee to believe he would do it.  Again, because I know my husband I believe in him and therefore I am able to trust that the coffee will be there.  That my friends is a "believing is seeing" illustration.  On the other side of the fence is my younger brother.  Thomas is one of those "seeing is believing" types. Yes, he is a doubting Thomas for sure.  So the concept of trusting in the "unseen" God is nearly impossible for him.  He needs tangible evidence that God truly does exist.  And for a long time I wondered why God didn't make Himself known to Thomas on that day in December of 2010. But now I know He did.  It's just that my brother needs to be willing to have a perspective change.  And I need to continue to allow God's grace to flow from the holes and cracks in me because I am certain that one day Thomas will have an epiphany moment and shift to the "believing is seeing" crowd.  Because I believe in God I was able feel the warmth of His embrace and I knew that He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us that day.  And I am sure that my brother felt something that day too.  He may not acknowledge that it was God holding us that moment.  But I believe that as God's grace continues to flow from the family and friends that surround him he will one day look back and remember how grace washed over us all that day.

I pray that God would reveal himself to so many of the people that surround me.  I see Him everywhere.  I see Him in the trees that reach their branches toward heaven.  I see Him in my husband and children.  My family and my friends.  I even see Him silly thing like coffee.  He is there to be my hope for whatever tomorrow holds.  He is there as my strength for whatever today holds.  He is there as the healer of my past transgressions.  He is everywhere!  I just need to open the eyes of my heart.

I pray that as we continue this journey of drawing closer to God, El Roi, that we take time to seek Him.  Let make a conscious effort to call upon Him every day.  Be Still and know He is there.

Questions to think about:

Has there ever been a time in your life where you couldn't "see" God? What happened during that time?  What did you learn if anything?

What are some ways you seek God? And how do you know that you found Him?

What is the next thing you feel that God is calling you to do?  And how do you think you are answering Him?

Have you ever failed to obey God and then felt like your "vision" was blocked?

Think about a time in your life when God was moving and doing something in your life and you couldn't see where He was taking you.  But later, in retrospect, you saw how he was working things out for you.

See you next week.

God bless you

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Looking for the treasures in the midst of the filth

See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands; your walls are ever before me.
 ~Isaiah 49:16

This past week felt like an uphill climb from the very beginning.  And as I prepared for this weeks trip up the hill I prayed that the Lord would give me enough gas to cover the mileage to get to where I needed to be; the top of the hill. I was pretty certain that when I arrived there things would plateau.  And here I am.  The top of the hill on my one day off this week.  And I am excited the share a piece of this day with you. I'd say God truly has bless me.

Greg has been at work all week so the house has been unusually quiet. I have been hanging with Piper, the dog, and Macy, the cat, every evening after work.  And trust me when I tell you it's easy to overthink and get lost in those over thought thoughts when you are home alone.  Over the past few years I have gained weight in places I am not comfortable with. When I look in the mirror all I see are the imperfections, rolls, wrinkles and strands of grey, my "crown of splendor". It seems pretty easy to rattle off the list of things I don't like about me when I put myself under my "microscope".   I magnify all that I dislike; the shape of my body, my teeth, my hair, my face, my fingernails, and even my duck feet. But when I look deeper I really am embarrassed about my past relationship with the Lord. There are parts of me that I wish God couldn't see and never had to see. These truths about me are a hard pill to swallow.  I have been a liar and I've had a unclean past.  And at the top of that list is that I cheated on my Heavenly Father.  My desires, at one point in my life, were for the things of this world.  I wanted the approval of people more than God's approval.  And didn't care about how my sins were effecting others and my relationship with my creator.  As I grew and learn more deeply about His love for me the more overwhelmed I began to feel.  I felt like a total disappointment.  You know that feeling when you hear a parent say, "I am disappointed in your actions.  This is NOT who I raised you to be." It can be a pretty gut wrenching and life altering moment.  However, God's love and grace are always overflowing.  I just needed to be open to receiving these precious gifts.  And I needed to learn to see myself the way He see me.

 Looking for the treasures in the midst of the filth isn't easy.  It's not as easy to answer the question;  "What do I like about me?".  In all reality this list wasn't nearly as fluid.  I had to dig deep and think.  I like my eyes, my ears, I love to read books that glorify God, I like that I am wife, mom, sister, daughter and friend. I like that I put everyone in front of myself and have a tendency of forgetting to count me in the number.  And if I had to pick one trait that I would love to have everyone recognize about me that would be that I am a Jesus Freak.  When I sit back and acknowledge that God, El Roi, sees me as perfect I am able to see the truth that He adores me and is a Kathleen Freak.  Yes, He is madly in love with me.  He would have to be in order to see me as He does.  Once I take hold of the truth that I am His perfect creation, and begin to look at myself through God's eyes, I can continue the uphill climb and discover who I am.  And who I am meant to be.

God is mindful of us.  He tenderly watches over us.  He knows every intricate detail and loves us nonetheless.  He sees our imperfections and makes them perfect.  Have you ever thought about your past and wondered how God has used those imperfect moments in your life to help better someone else in a difficult time?  I think of myself as a vessel.  I have a few cracks, holes and stains.  Some may look at me and think I am worthless and imperfect.  But God continues to pour His love and grace into me, a broken, full of holes, and stained vessel, daily.  Perhaps, at one point in my life His grace overflowed from the top.  But now?  No, now it flows from the cracks and the holes.  You see those stains make me more approachable.  I have seen how God has used my "microscope" moments and my unclean past, my hills and valleys, to help another vessel going through the refiners fire.  My cracks and holes allow for God's grace to flow from every angle.  He purposefully pours love and grace into me.  And faithfully reminds me that He will never leave me or forsake me.  I am engraved in the palm of His hand.

Last week I suggested that you write the name of someone on the palm of your hand.  I thought about a few people that I willingly wanted to put their names on my hand.  But when I grabbed the indelible marker another name came to mind.  So,out of obedience, I wrote this persons name on my hand.  And throughout the day I thought of this person every time I looked at my hand.  There were also few people that got a glimpse of the name I had on my hand.  And this again made me aware of this person. I found myself praying for this person, who's name was written on the palm of my hand, multiple time.  They were on my mind and heart all day.  And here is the funny thing.  I haven't thought about this person for a while.  And I honestly didn't pray for this person on a regular basis.  I have to say that I am praising God for putting this person on my heart and in my hand.  Eventually, as the day progressed the name began to fade (I did rewrite the name once.  I wash my hands too much).  And by the time I got home from work there was only a small trace of the name remaining.  And it made me think about Isaiah 49:16, "See, I have engraved you in the palm of My hand"  Did you hear that?  You are ENGRAVED in His hand.  Yes, your are permanently engraved in His perfect and adoring hand.  I love my husband, children and family so much.  But they are not engraved in my hand.  You see God really is a Kathleen Freak!  He thinks about me and is not embarrassed to have me engraved in His hand.  He carries me and when I need Him to hold me tight He folds His fingers around me, "your walls are ever before me".

So, I have to say that I may not have everyone's name engraved on my hand, but I have a better understanding of how God, El Roi, sees me and adores me. I may not be perfect.  My past has clearly helped to mold this vessel.  My sins have nicked me.  And I cracks and holes from the hurt and pain that I have caused and other have inflicted.  And I am forever stained by worldly rejection. But it is because of God's love and grace that this vessel is not now, nor will it ever be, shattered. He is the God of our past, present and future. He see us where we are and will be.  Remember this, "For I know the plans I have for you." He has big things planned.  And He can and will use every circumstance to work that plan out.   We need to embrace our self proclaimed imperfections and rejoice because He, the perfect God, understands us on a deeper level.  He made us in His image.  Yes the unseen God, the one who sees us, wants us to know that He made us in His image. I know that I need to think about that the next time I look in the mirror. I pray that instead of pulling myself apart that I keep my focus on God. After all He sees me as someone worth engraving on the palm of His hand. He knows me from the inside out. And I am enough for Him, broken and beautiful.

I pray that as you and I go through this upcoming week that we take a moment to look in the mirror and see the beauty that God sees.

Questions to ponder for next week:

What would you say is the most important epiphany of your life?

Have you ever experienced the miracle of a perspective change? To what extent did this shift your perspective of a gift from God? In what ways was your intentional choice involved?

What are some areas of your life you tend to be blind and in need of healing?

What are some basic beliefs you use to filter your experiences and help you see?  Do you think the idea of "believing is seeing" is dangerous or misused?

Where in your life do you tend to go to encounter God?

In what ways could a shifted perspective on God change your prayer life? The way you do your job? Your relationship with others?

Have a blessed week!