Rose-Colored Racism

In the beginning of a new year, one usually reflects on the outgoing year. If it was a bad year you are probably likely to say “good riddens” and if it was a good year you might linger on all the good moments with tinge of sadness to say goodbye.  For me 2015 was for the most part peaceful.  At least personally.  But out in the world, is another story.  The events of the year stirred me.  Stirred up feelings and emotions I hadn’t really explored before. It also stirred up memories.

And so this is the stirring.

In truth the race relation conversation (if you can call what we have seen in the media a conversation) have caused memories to well up within me and through these memories I see somewhat of a different world than the one I have seen in images and scenes splashed across our television and internet. I am at times perplexed by what I read and what I know to be true in my life.

When I look into the mirror the reflection does not always match what I feel inside. It is the same when I look at our world through the reflection of society.  It does not match up with what I know personally. My own understanding of world events, politics and culture come only through my experience and knowledge.

Any further understanding comes through the Lord.  It is almost as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13 when he says,

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

~ 1 Corinthians 13:12

foggy_mirror_

Throughout the chapter he is describing what love is and what love isn’t. He then says ‘it is time to grow up and put away childish things,’ he adds that even in the growing up we will never reach the place of full understanding until we stand before the Lord, Jesus, Himself. We see our reflection of who we were as children, who we are now, as adults, but when we stand before Him our reflection will be Him, in all His glory.

That is what we were made for, to reflect His glory!

I long for that day if only to escape the discouragement and ache I feel sometimes here on earth. But then I am undone and overwhelmed by the thought that I may not be ready to stand before Him.

And oh, I so want to be ready.

These days in which we live can be so disconcerting for people on many levels. For me, the events of the world stir my heart with so many emotions I can’t seem to sort them out. I want to talk about it but the words just sit there waiting to be organized into some sort of cohesive thought. I do not want to speak just to be speaking or add to the overabundance of voices. The internet and television are so full of the noise of opinions and social ramblings, it makes me want to scream!

However, my heart is a stirring.

The one certainty patiently holding fast within my heart and mind, is the God of the Bible, Elohim, still sits on the throne.

It is to Him I speak in prayer, “God give me wisdom and understanding in the days ahead, show me the reflection of my life. What it has been and what it is now.  Show me what it should be for You!”

Maybe that is the stirring.

This stirring goes back to what my life has been.  Back to when I was a child living in America where I was learning about people. Who they were, how they were and what they were.   I saw divisions but didn’t understand them.  What I saw and what I lived did not always match the narrative of the world around me. In my earliest memories my world was framed in a small family of four. White people living in a world trying to color itself. Psychedelic, that is. Tie dye, beads and hippies. I guess that is why I love all colors now! I remember there were important people trying to bring the colors of people together! But it is vague because I was very young.

One of the colors of people I learned about was black or “colored people” referred to by older folks in my day but today it is “African American” and sometimes I am at a loss as to which to say. We have to be PC but how do you know who to be PC with? Never in a million years would I want to hurt someone’s feelings so I guess the best way to go about it is to ask. Is it even PC to ask? It’s all so vexing because when I interact with a person of color (pick one) I often do not see the color.  I see a soul that God created. Some are sweet, some are soulful, some or joyful and then there are those that are just not nice.  I have no idea what is going on in their life or heart. And so in my heart I am praying for them, wanting them to find the joy and peace that God gives. For me it is about their soul not their skin color!

As a little girl the subject of ‘colored people’ came up in conversation among the adults but I seemed to not be interested in what they were talking about because they were not speaking ugly, they were just discussing, I suppose, about the events of those days, the news!

It is true that pictures are powerful.  Especially when it came to war, protest and riots.  It was all mixed together. The black and white thing. On a black and white television for the world to see. I think, as a child, I didn’t see the significance because I was too busy being a child doing childish things but now I think back I realize that many of the people on TV were white. It did not occur to me to consider what it meant for a black child watching TV and not seeing their color represented in the daily entertainment.

As I got older I was under the notion that America was growing up as I was growing up.   In my life I was in places where I did not see much hatred or discrimination among black and white people. Yes, I read books and saw movies about it and understood it existed but again what went on around me did not match what I saw.

Maybe I did see it firsthand but did not recognize it because of my lack of experience with such emotion as hatred. Which is a credit to my parents. I saw some in elementary school coming from both sides but not so much of it that I could draw any conclusions about superiority of one race over another. It just never crossed my mind that ‘we’ were better or ‘they’ were better.  I just know I longed for ‘unity’ in those situations and at the time I did not even fully understand that word.

I remember as a young girl, my mother worked at the General Electric Lamp Plant in St. Louis. It was a factory. She worked with several black women who became her friends. One of her friends had a little girl who was a little younger than I and a little older than my sister.  I remember playing with her at her house. She would come to our house and play in our room where our toys were.  We played with our fake stove by putting White Castle hamburgers inside pretending to cook them. 🙂

I remember laughing a lot. I remember that she liked to sing and say the abc’s all the time.  I don’t remember our conversations and I only have images that pop up now and then but they were happy memories.  I also remember her mother. She loved to laugh and had a great smile that lit up her whole face. When she and my mother got together they seemed to joke and laugh a lot.  I have no idea about what but what a great memory to have, a memory that colored my world with a precious friendship and mutual respect. *(see below for update)

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I was a part of the desegregation of the public schools in the district where I attended elementary school.  I believe God providentially prepared me for that. I went to an all white school from Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  Due to my parents divorce and my mother moving my sister and I to Virginia, I was then registered at a school that happen to be three-quarters black.  I don’t remember being afraid because of the color of the kids but being afraid because for the first time in my young life I was the ‘new student’ and I missed my home, the home I grew up in. I knew no one. I did make one friend who happen to be white and one non-friend who chased me home one day. She wanted to beat me up. Looking back I can not remember why she did not like me but I do remember her calling me, “teacher’s pet.” I didn’t feel like the teacher’s pet.  She was black. Her name was Angela.

A couple of years later I moved back to live with my father.  Back to the same elementary school.  Only now I was in the sixth grade. And that was the year they decided to desegregate. Many of the kids I knew were nervous about it.  I took it in stride.  I made a few friends that year of both colors.  I also made another non-friend.  She would give me dirty looks and threaten to kick my butt. She also chased me home after school one day.  I don’t remember all the things she said to me but she also called me something similar to “teacher’s pet.”  She was white.  Her name was Nancy.

I guess the lesson here in supposedly being “teacher’s pet” is the angst it causes others! Which knows no color!

rosecolored glasses

Before our 1st black President was elected, I felt like I lived in an America where people were for the most part getting along.  I was not completely naive to think that ‘racism’ did not exist any longer or that there were not divisions in places around our country. I just thought that many in our country had moved past the hatred and the vile disdain for others of a different color. Maybe I was wearing the so-called rose-colored glasses. But there is proof that no matter the color of your skin or where you come from you can be anything you make up your mind to be. There are people from practically every racial group in America serving in the highest offices of our land. In our military. In our education system. It is the way it should be.

Through my personal experience, I have met a few ‘angry, racist black people’ and a few ‘angry, racist white people’ but that has not changed my mind about how kind and helpful the majority of black and white Americans are toward one another.  The majority of people of all colors and nationalities, that I have met, were just people living life and getting along with one another and trying to give their children a better life.

Even so I knew there were still hurts that ran deep among some black people because of the sin of slavery.  I learned about it in school. I read books and watched movies about it. But no one talked about it out loud, especially white people. As a white person I would often feel a guilt or a shame for my color of skin when I would watch the stories or read accounts of families being ripped apart and abused by slave owners but the emotion I most often felt was and is anger.  That one human being could treat another human being so abominably is unconscionable to me.

Today, I cringe and have cried hearing stories from around the world of people of all color taken into slavery today. I often feel helpless to know what to do. So I pray. And what can be done, what can I do about something perhaps my ancestors did to another group of people years before I existed? Questions have come to my mind, “What part could I play in reconciliation of our country in the area of slavery?” Is there something white people should be or could be doing to rectify those past sins?

What is it, Lord?

As I said in the beginning, there is a stirring.

I remember the very evening in 2004, when Barak Obama was speaking at the National Democratic Convention as the keynote speaker.  As he spoke a chill ran down my spine.  I audibly said out loud to one my children, “He is going to President of the United States someday.” The chill was not because I was scared or repulsed. I believe a part of me had hope. That he might be someone to bridge the gulf between two races of people who still held grievances toward one another in some places.  At least start the conversation to move us in the direction of healing.

I am not a Democrat.  I am not so sure I am a Republican any longer.  I am a conservative and I believe in what this nation was founded on, faith and freedom.  I also believe that we have left our ‘first love,’ our faith, and because of that we are losing our freedoms.  But I digress. I did not vote for Obama because of research I had done on his background.  The reason was not the color of his skin, after all he is half white,  but the content of his character.  Even so I held out some hope.  I believed what the bible says that God can move the heart of the king. For ‘He setteth up kings,’ does He not?

“And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:

~ Daniel 2:21

Sadly, in my opinion, he has been one of the most divisive men to serve in public office in our country’s history.  There are many people, black and white, who agree with this assessment. I am sure, many who do not. I must make clear that it is not the color of his skin that makes him divisive.  It is by his actions, his fruit, if you will. While I can not judge his heart on the matter of salvation, which only God knows, I can judge his actions. And as citizens of this nation we all should be accountable for those, even a President of the United States of America.

In my world, I have friends of all colors and nationalities. Being in the military gave me the privilege of serving alongside many of whom came from different backgrounds, race and cultures.  I loved that about the military.  It was and is the same within all the churches I have been apart of.  I believed that God prepared me for those experiences from early childhood.  My mother always taught my sister and I not to be prejudice. She explained to us what being prejudice was and told us it was wrong, period.  So we believed her. And for the most part my family lived that out in their lives. We had an example of what not being prejudice looked like. Though throughout the years there were a few who came into my life who did not believe that and well, they did not stay too long.

From a young child to now I may have put on rose-colored glasses when it came to race.  I do not know what it is like to live as a black person nor do I pretend to come close to knowing.  For that matter I know nothing of living as an oriental person, a Hispanic nor a Polynesian. Just as they may not know what it is like to live in my ‘white’ skin.  I also do not want to make light of it.  For I know there has been much oppression and difficulties to overcome because of the color of one’s skin.

But the one thing I know about all people regardless of skin color is that into every persons life comes love, joy and pain.  We all have the same blood and we all come from Adam and Eve. The bible itself never speaks of race.  Only families, tribes and nations.  At one point we all spoke the same language, that is until the Tower of Babel.  Where God confounded the people by giving them different languages and then they could not understand one another. This again did not have anything to do with skin color. Only the sin that was in each of their hearts!

I believe the most wonderful thing about knowing people of different races is the variety of color and personalities.  Over the years I have made some wonderful friends ‘of color’ and I do not just mean skin color.  Some real characters.  They made me laugh and we bonded over whatever was going on in our lives at the time.  What they have added to my life is immeasurable. I have often thought if God is no respecter of persons than why should we be? Why does man care about the outward appearance? How does that matter a hill of beans when each of us is faced with living somewhere forever for eternity?

“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

~ Acts 10:34-35

When I heard about the Charleston shooting my heart literally fell.  My stomach felt like lead.  First, for the heartbreak of my brothers and sisters in Christ, for their loss.  And for it to have happened in their place of worship, incomprehensible.  Secondly, to find out this heinous crime was perpetrated by a white racist male.  Opening up wounds in our country.

No words. Just a stirring.

I hear a story, “White people will have to answer for this.” My heart races, emotions swell up and my mind tries to wrap around this statement.

Again no words, more stirring.

I hear another story, a man stands in a pulpit on the Lord’s day and says “The doors of the church are open, no evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God’s church.” ~ Rev. Norvel Goff, interim pastor at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Still no words but the stirring gets stronger.

And another man says, “What unites us is greater than what divides us,” he said. “To hatred, we say no way, not today. To racism, we say no way, not today. To division, we say no way, not today. To reconciliation, we say yes. To loss of hope, we say no way, not today. To a racial war, we say no way, not today. To racial fear, we say no way, not today. Charleston, together we say no way, not today.” ~ Jermaine Watkins, an African-American and the teaching pastor at Journey Church.

Silence. My heart is still.

Looking at the powerful photos of grief, I see past the tears to the celebration of faithful lives that have gone home to be with the Lord. Only those who believe in the Savior can fully understand how faith in Jesus and heaven can transcend a loss so great you can’t breathe. I have stood at the graves of tragic loss and now even as then, I am reminded that God is sovereign in all things.  As promised He is taking what was meant for evil and bringing good out of it. The nation witnessed faith, hope and love win through the people of Charleston.

As the story unfolded and the politics came out. I turned it off, it was and is shameful.

I see pictures of people praying. (Thank you. Lord)

Standing in a circle, holding hands with heads bowed. (I pray too)

Black, white, people of all colors coming together. (My heart holds hope)

Singing hymns. Hugging. Crying. (I cry too for God is there)

Journalist breaking down at the sight. (He has witnessed the Power of God)

People are dumbfounded. (Just wait, He has more)

They are seeing God but do not recognize Him. (God has more)

They are sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit moving in and around His children but they do not comprehend. (Every knee will bow and every tongue confess)

And the forgiveness they have extended!  (Thank you, Father of forgiveness!)

I have said in my own life, it is one thing to say you forgive someone but you have to walk in it daily.  You choose it and then you live it out each and every day for the rest of your life.  I took a lesson from Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of the Holocaust, she said, “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred.  It is the power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”   I had to do that in my own life.  Because of sinful actions against my children and myself I had to keep forgiving.

The consequences of those actions would show themselves throughout the years over and over again. And each time they showed themselves, instead of anger or bitterness, I would choose forgiveness.  Forgiving does not mean that there is no justice.  It just means that you let it go, you give it to God and there is peace.  It takes courage, faith and love to do that! I can attest to that in my life!!

The stirring has given me words and God has shown me just a little part I can play in the reconciliation of our country.  I own my sins and take responsibility for them. Confess them, repent of them and seek forgiveness from Jesus, my Savior.  I walk in His commandments and live them out daily in my life toward my neighbor.  Firstly by loving the Lord, my God, with all my heart, mind, soul and strength! And then loving my black, white, Hispanic, Chinese and all-others neighbor. Loving the hateful men, the mean women, those who do not agree with me, those who want to hurt me and finally those who hate me, my enemy. When I do that, when we all do that, there is healing.

The thing about healing is that it has to come through the love of Christ. He can heal and mend the racism in our country and around the world but He wants to do it through us.  And He can only do it if His people are surrendered to it. And there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the people of the church in Charleston and that community, are surrendered to Him. They are our example. They surrendered to His will.

And that is where His glory shines. Through our brokenness!! Through the darkness!! Through His people!!!

A great man once said…

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” 
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

You know, in reading that I believe his prayers were answered for so many he was marching for, bleeding for and praying for. I believe God gave him that vision, that task and that dream.  He never quit speaking truth or believing in the God of the bible. And we have witnessed the fruit of his faithfulness even to the end.

And that is what I choose to see. The good that has come from evil. The love that I have experienced from others of all colors. The success of many who in his time would not have had the opportunities they have today. I see the world in color! All colors! If that is what wearing rose-colored glasses mean then I will continue to wear them.

So in 2016 I want to walk in obedience to God’s direction for my life. I want to submit to His leading and stirring.  To not be afraid to speak out but to be sure to do it in love.

Grace to you,

Shell

“Holy, Father, stir our hearts together, as one people, who are called by your name to surrender our will to yours in bringing healing upon this country. Stir our hearts for repentance and reconciliation.  Stir our hearts for YOU!” – my prayer

*NOTE: My mom kept in touch with her friend over the years and she attended my first wedding in 1987 but life happens and they lost touch.  I always wondered what became of them. Just recently the daughter found me on FB. She actually messaged me back in December of 2014. But for some reason, which has happened before I did not get the message till a few weeks ago.  I immediately contacted her and we got to speak on the phone for several hours. It was a wonderful blessing to hear her voice, hear her stories about her life and that her mom had been trying to reconnect with my mom for many years. And in actuality it was an answer to an unspoken prayer I have had for over a year…..but since this post has been so long I will save it for another time!!!

Update to the update: Several weeks after writing this draft my mother suddenly had to have open heart surgery. I went home to be with her. I got to meet up with both her friend and her daughter and what a sweet reunion. We hugged necks and talked over lunch, sharing what God has done in our lives.  I can not even tell you what a blessing it was to see them after all these years. They prayed with me which was a comfort and an encouragement as my mom went through her surgery and difficulties in the hospital.

 

Breathing, In and Out

Today’s verse on the Thomas Kinkade flip calendar is 2 Corinthians 13:11  “The God of love and peace shall be with you.”  That is a GRRRRRRREAT reminder after posting on Monday, my prayers to God, about the anxiety I have been experiencing.

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It is the kind of anxiety that you feel in the pit of your stomach and in your throat.  It leaves you taking deep breaths and your heart is racing a mile a minute.  I believe it is what happens right before a panic attack.  Some have described cold sweats, dry heaving and unbelievable dizziness.  Thank God I am not there. Yet.

I am really not sure how much I should reveal as to the reason for these current physiological occurences other than if the weekend could be over today I would be in much relief. You ever hear the saying “One man’s pain is another man’s pleasure?”  Well that could somewhat apply here.

I have experienced these very, very uncomfortable feelings several times in my life and ironically one of those times indirectly relates to this time.  It was a nightmare then. But if I am being honest I did not completely face the thing that brought on the ‘anxiety & dread’ the first time.  I sort of let someone else handle it. So I believe I have no choice but to face it square on this time.

There are some huge differences between the two events.  Back then I did not have the faith in God that I have today.  I20150128_121050 was naive and lost. Today I know a whole heap of stuff, thanks to hind sight and experience. And thanks to Jesus Christ, I am found.  The other difference is back then life as I knew it was being ripped out of my hands and I was losing everything, or so I thought. Today God has given back to me what was taken from me and I have gained everything. Including a love for Him that I would probably not have otherwise.

I am not talking about material things.  I am talking about love, honor and commitment. Those things that are contained in wedding vows.  Back then it was a little girls dream of happily ever after dying before my eyes.  Today it is about true love never fails.  To face the fear and insecurity in my heart from long, long ago again is so overwhelming. I am trying to understand why after all I have learned about my Heavenly Father the feelings have come back.

It’s the age-old question why would God keep bringing something or someone back into your life that is hard to deal with?

In my reading today I realized that even in Paul’s day Christians had to be continually reminded that the Spirit of God lives in you when you accept Christ. It is that Spirit which helps you to intimately know God, the Father and the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is that Spirit who gives comfort, strength and daily wisdom. Through the Holy Spirit and God’s amazing grace we are able to cope with those things that are beyond our capabilities. Also through grace God reveals those things in you that need to be purged. Impurities such as unbelief, sinful thoughts and selfish desires.

Those things in my heart which were from long ago have remained because I chose not to fully deal with them and put them in their proper place.  I did not put them up to the light of truth. I left them alone because they were sort of comforting to me. I chose to forgive but I did not choose to work through the fear and insecurity from loss. I chose to hang on to it because it justified my superiority over those who hurt me.  So now every once in a while I can take it out and use it to excuse my ‘anxiety.’ “Oh, Lord how weak I am.”

God has been using messages throughout the weeks and months to bring me to this new level of understanding.  David and Goliath. Jesus asleep in the ship during a huge storm.  Jonah and the whale.  Joseph, what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good. God speaking to Moses in the burning bush. Just in listing these messages brings every past lesson I learned to my mind.

  • God is bigger than my anxiety
  • Trust Jesus no matter the circumstances around you
  • You can not outrun God
  • Every difficulty that comes into you life God will use it to glorify Himself and to conform you to the image of Jesus Christ
  • No matter how many excuses you have for God as to why you can’t He has one big one why you can, His power lives in you

Each one of the above lessons were learned by reading, studying and applying them in my life from the day I began my relationship with Jesus.  The journey to learn them was up and down, sometimes all over the place.  At times painful and other times extremely gratifying. But each one always came with a promise from God.  One He has always been faithful to keep.  One that He wrote deeply on my heart.

  • Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
  • “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
  • “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. Psalm 139:7-10
  • “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30
  • “He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

With all these promises in mind and in my heart, as I draw closer to the moment of inevitability I see what it could be through Christ.  I envision Him doing something spectacular, as He has done before.  I smile at the thought that many will witness the miraculous.  All will marvel at His handiwork, how He brings all the broken pieces together to form something new and usable.

Then again this might be something He does privately within my heart.  Through me.  Beyond me. The results will still be the same. Miraculous, I marveling at His handiwork and He forming something new and usable out of the broken pieces left inside me.

And so it could be the anxiety is merely a warning sign to beware the obstacles ahead. Keep your eyes on the road Christ has set before you. Follow His directions, obey the commandments He has given you.  Do not turn left nor right. Keep going forward walking in His steps. Focus on the destination He has given you. Trust in all you can not see yet. Know He has gone before and already cleared the path.

So heading into the unknown of tomorrow I am starting to feel the peace, the steady beat of my heart, the ease of breathing, in and out without thinking about it.

“Ahhhh, there it is ‘love and peace with me!”

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…That Both You and Your Descendants May Live!

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; ~ Deuteronomy 30:19

I have a new grand-daughter! Her name is Melody Adeline! She is beautiful, head to toe!  I do not just say that because she is my grand-daughter but she is a wonderful creation. Black hair and dark eyes.  Her name means music, song and it rolls off your tongue like a song. Her middle name, Adeline, means noble. In German it means of nobility and pleasant. How sweet!  She is our ‘noble song’.  She is the smallest of all babies born into our family, 6 lbs. 9 oz. Look at her sleeping like she is praying!  I love this picture!

Melody Adeline

Melody Adeline

Holding her yesterday she was so content, curled up in a little lump laying on Grammy’s chest.  I could have held her all night long. Her big sister Daniela Jade, our little “jewel,” came and went visiting with me.  It wasn’t but three and half years before I was holding her the same way. She is a big girl now with her funny way of talking to all of us. She is precocious at times but she is an innocent little girl with eyes wide to the world around her. She mimics the adults around her and wants to be seen.  There are moments I see her vulnerability to the harshness of the world. As we all are vulnerable. But she has a sweet heart. I pray God protects that! I pray for both of them the way a Grandmother’s heart does. First to see God in all things and know Him in their lives.  Melody is my 4th grandchild and just like the ones before her I have sung Psalm 103 over her so she could hear the words and they would cover her heart and soul.

 

Psalm 103:1-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I heard a message on this passage the other day.  And I loved how the preacher listed the benefits when we honor God.  I had read them, sang them and prayed them but I am not sure I really stopped to list them on paper as they applied to my life.

1) He forgives my sins (when I ask & repent)

2) He heals my diseases (mental as well as physical)

3) He redeems my life from destruction (many times over)

4) He crowns my life with love, kindness and tender mercies (His daily grace)

5) He satisfies me when I am hungry for something to fill my soul which in turn renews my strength & ability to serve Him (if and when I go to Him only for satisfaction)

All these benefits are mine daily if I do something first. Bless Him with my life. Honor Him. Walk in His ways. Give Him praise & worship.

And sometimes I am overwhelmed by these truths and the simple fact that God loves each and everyone of His creations in this way. So this is the prayer for each one of my grandchildren.  Brodie, Ann Marie, Daniela and Melody, that they would bless the Lord with their lives and would partake in the benefits He gives, so that they may LIVE well!

 

Ready or not….

road and sunsetI know it is late but I just wanted to share a thought and a prayer I been praying. I am still dreaming the dream, God knows what it is! (will share more later)  I have prayed and asked Him to stir my heart and awaken my soul.  To show me the next step in my walk with Him.  This season of my life has not been full of turmoil and stress as the past has been but it has been one of restlessness.  I believe God is wanting to make changes within me, to clean out the cobwebs of the past to make room for a new story in my future.

These past few years have been about transition.  The transition from a single mother to a married woman, to a married ‘couple’ again.  I had not really thought much about what that was going to look like when I embarked on remarrying my 1st husband.  I was very caught up in the story God had presented in the form of restoration and healing within our family.  So now I have had time to settle in, reflect and catch my breath.

The restlessness that has slipped into my heart and mind have left me at a loss of identity.  My husband travels sometimes for his job.  In being separated from him I find I am at a loss for direction and focus.  In discussing this with a close friend who has also remarried after having been a single mother for many years, we both have determined that in the two years we have been remarried our husbands have managed to untangle us from the  independent, self-sufficient, organized women-on-a-mission selves that we used to be.

How is that even possible? Make no mistake I am not complaining, it is a good thing.  A good thing to be a help-mate, one with another soul and a partner in all sorts of fun adventures.  God has given me the gift of loving another person completely and having that given back to me in return.  He has allowed me the privilege of watching my husband grow in the Lord.  Most importantly allowed me another chance of showing the love of Christ, through my marriage, to my children.  Even though three of the four are grown and living their adult lives, it is NEVER too late!!!

So imagine my concern when I can not seem to focus or find the direction I need to be going in with my Lord.  I know it is as simple as trusting in Him.  Seeking Him in prayer and waiting on Him.  And I am doing that albeit the restlessness.  So far I believe He wants me to make some changes starting in the month of November.

1) Finding balance in my thought life –  Romans 12:1-2 has always been one of my favorite verses and it often comes to my mind when I struggle with my thought life.   But balance?  What does that actually mean?  I believe it means that we can often place too much value or emphasis on what we are thinking.  For instance, there was a time when I first became a Christian that I was learning about the enemy and demonic activity. I was learning many scriptures and listening to many preachers who ‘specialized’ in the subject.  I found over time that I was beginning to see demons behind every rock, every conversation and every action of others.  I myself was becoming fearful and legalistic in my prayers and words. God had shown me at the time that while it is important to understand the enemy and how he works we are not focus on him.  We are to focus on Christ and be aware of our enemy.  We are to trust Christ and stand in faith and take Christ at His word.  People can believe in God but not believe Him.  Believing in God is just the first step to liberty.  True liberty is when we believe what God says is absolutely true and then walk in that truth.  When I realized my thought life was skewed I began seeking the truth in God’s word and godly counsel.  In a short time I was back in balance.  By bringing my focus back to Christ I, again was walking in peace and liberty with my Lord.

2) Seek God’s direction in the dream I am dreaming – Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” another verse that I have practically ate and slept with many times is Proverbs 3:5-6  “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”  I have always loved the fact that God put an ‘s’ on the word path, meaning He is multi-tasking on our behalf.  So yes, I am dreaming a dream. One I have had for many years but now is becoming more vivid.  I know it is in front of me but I also know that God has not given permission to move forward, so I wait on Him.  It is a matter of His time!

3) Surrender my body and will to God – wow, this is a big one.  You may think you know what this means by reading it but believe me it entails quite a bit of hard work.  Weight loss and health.  I know what I need to do but my legs and mind are not cooperating.  God convicts me and shows me where I must make the change.  I have made attempts but I have to admit they are half-hearted.  God will not stand for this long, I am sure.  He loves me too much to let me just ignore this.

So this is where I am.  Standing here with eyes looking up. “God you know I love you, I believe you and I really want your power on my life.” All the while I am thinking, I know what this is gonna mean.  More surrender, more trust and more lessons.  Those of you who have followed my journey on here know I have come a long way and have seen God do some great things.  I can not even begin to tell you how overwhelming it is to know the God of the universe has already given me soooo much!   This blog is where the dream started and as usual, I can not imagine what He has in store.  I can imagine it won’t be anything I am able to do without Him.  So here goes nothing….

“God, I am ready.”

Stay tuned!

grace to you,

shell

The Greatest Gift a Father Leaves a Child

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6

Putting into words the sum of a man’s life seems more daunting when you do not really know a man.  God is the only one who truly knows the man’s heart.  I do believe that a man who has faith, who lives and walks in faith, gives us glimpses into his heart.  Without spending time with him you can not know the details of his daily routine but it is in the conversations you can know the spirit of his heart.

My dad is a big man.  Stubborn and always offered his opinions whether you wanted them or not.  In my younger years I was often intimidated by him.  As a little girl looking up at him I was looking up at a giant.  And it never really mattered how tall I grew to be he was always taller and still a giant in my eyes.  As children we seek our parents approval and in our relationship it was no different.  I was as stubborn as he was in my teenage years and I am ashamed to admit I did not respect his authority very much in those days. I quickly found when my kids became teenagers that they too thought they were as smart as I thought I was talking back to my dad.  But he loved me in spite of those years, as he did all of his children.

Over the years bits and pieces of his life and heart would be revealed through difficult relationships he had.  It was not until I found my faith in Christ that I stopped to consider what he gave me as a father.  When I came face to face with God during a devastating time in my life I often went to God the way I went to my father.  Intimidated and craving relationship.  I began to talk with God and my father in a way that was more open and honest.  Asking real questions instead of hi, how are you  and whatcha’ doing? And he began to talk to me.

It was awkward at first but after time it became the very thing I often craved as a young girl.  Moments with dad.  Real conversations. Some were deep, some were hard and some were sweet.  As in all families each of his children had ups and downs that closed down communication altogether for a short time.  During those times it was the issues in our lives or his life that turned us inward, the way difficult times can sometimes do.  When dealing or coping with circumstances beyond our control our world shrinks. I depended on my faith but I am not so sure what my dad depended on during those times.

As in all relationships we go away from each other and we come back.  We pick up where we left off.  We forgive and move forward to a new level of relationship.  The one area that my father and I never connected was in the area of faith.  He had no peace. I had found it with Christ.  He was sometimes respectful of my beliefs but he did not like hearing the truths of what I had learned.  At first I tried to win him over with words but eventually I knew it would be God, himself who would crack the hardness of my father’s heart.  So I began to pray.  And pray. And pray. And walk by example.

Many years went by.  Many relationships in his life crumbled and made his heart harder for it.  He was searching out something to make him whole.  To give him peace.  To know love.  Even though he had not found any of it he never gave up. Then God finally broke through.  By God’s divine providence he brought several people into his life and took a daughter home to heaven.  First he brought,Marilyn.  He was a romantic and it was the first time in my life I saw him show it openly.  Secondly he brought, Michael. A man of faith.  A friend who could  meet him where he was in his life, who accepted him and most importantly showed  him the love of Christ.  The third thing was my sister’s death.  For the first time in his life he questioned eternity.  He began to ask questions and seek God.

When Marilyn called me and told me he had accepted the Lord and wanted to be baptized my heart just leapt with a joy. I had prayed for 20 years for my father to find peace and forgiveness.  To find the hope of heaven in Jesus Christ.  It says in God’s Word that He will give you the desires of your heart if you will commit your heart to Him.  He surely fulfilled that promise to me and to my father.  In the song by Bebo Norman called ‘I Know Now’ he says…

I could lay my burdens down
And I never knew
Redemption could be found
But I know now

And that is what my father told me.  He found rest from his burdens, his worries and his past mistakes.  And then he would say I want that for my boys.  For my grandchildren.  I want them to know what I know.  There is no perfect parent except God the Father.  He is our Daddy.  I have been told that we often view God the way we view our earthly father.  I know it is true.  For in the beginning of my relationship with God it was tentative at best.  I was seeking approval by checking my God box.  As I got to know the Lord I began to understand His unconditional love for me.  No matter how I messed up He always forgave me and His Word told me consistently that He loves me with an everlasting love.

Now the most wonderful gift that God has given to me, my brothers, our children and our children’s children is the example of a man who lived the best he knew how to live.  Found a relationship with God the father and peace for his soul. He Learned to forgive and not only learned to love unconditionally but to say it at the end of every conversation.  As in the beginning of our father/child relationship his children sought for our father’s love and approval.  And at the end we received it.  What better gift could a father leave his children?

Our father ended well.

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Larry Dale Leach

October 8,1942 – July 3, 2013

Online Obituary

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 2 Thessalonians 2:16

“It’s Uphill With a 75 lb Rucksack From Here” (dedicated to Esteban, my 1st born 3rd child) :)

This is it!

This is it!

Yesterday was the last day of my vacation and it is back to work on Monday. I am really wore out from all the planning, anticipation and the emotion of watching another child achieve a milestone, graduation. On reflection of this week the only thing that comes to mind is “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me!  Bless His Holy name!”

How do you thank God for the overwhelming goodness He shows us in our lives?  There are times in my walk with God where I have felt so very inadequate when saying thank you to Him.  This is one of those times.  Years ago, as a single mom, I did not know how I was going to take care of my kids, let alone get them through high school in tact. 🙂  I did not know how I was going to teach them everything they needed to know before going out on their own.  My head would spin having four of them to corral let alone imparting pearls of wisdom on each one.  I have found myself telling Esteban random things while driving him to school or taking him to the gym.  How to buy car insurance or making sure he understands how debit cards work.  LOL

But as each one has taken the step from being a student to adulthood it has reminded me of how much more God has had to do with it than I did.  I can say yes, I did not give up on them.  I can say yes, I faced each challenge that came with their transition while believing God would prevail in their lives.  But I could still see there were so many gaps. And I want to scream, “WAIT, I still have more to tell you!!”  And folks, that is where my belief kicks in.  God fills in the gaps or he leaves them to learn those things on their own. OH MY!

February 1995

February 1995

While two of my kids are grown, with kids of their own, Esteban is my third child and I have on occasion said that of all my children he is the ‘high maintenance’ one. I do not even have the words to describe what that entails just suffice to say, he has literally worn me out as a mom! I admit I have actually told him I could not wait till he was grown and on his own.  Yes, I have said that. And then immediately following I think I do not want those to be my last words.  So I would say, “I still love you!”  There is one exception, the day he was born.   He came out in distress and was not breathing.  It took them a minute or two but then I heard this little squeak. Air finally. I had a peace during those moments because I had felt him moving within me just before his birth.  I knew he was in God’s hands.  He certainly found his lungs by the third day.  After that he had a determination to do things his own way in his own time.

As mothers sometimes we have a tendency to overlook our children’s bad qualities.  I have often felt that I tend to focus too much on them.  I have prayed for the Lord to help me find the balance in observing the good and letting them know that I see it. I suppose I have focused on the bad instead of the good because of the many disappointments I have experienced throughout the years of being a single mother. Guilt is a huge hindrance in a single mother’s life.  And if one is not careful it can practically incapacitate you to the point of being too permissive or overindulgent.  I have to admit to being both at one time or another.  But thankfully God would snap me out of it quick enough.  Especially when they got into trouble.  OH MY!

The Graduate ~ 2013

The Graduate ~ 2013

I was reminded in watching Esteban march into the stadium last night that it wasn’t just Jesus and I raising him.  It was all the people who invested in him these past years of his life.  Friends from church, his family, the teachers and coaches.  Even when I was making the invitation list I was remembering those folks who had spent hours pouring into his life prayer, guidance, teaching or just loving on him.  Cheering him on. Showing up to his baseball or football games. Those who corrected him or praised him. Those who came into his life at an early age and those who just recently added to his quality of life.  Those who committed to support him.  There were even complete strangers, who at a very financially difficult time in our lives, invested into his life.

Marching in

Marching in

He marched along with his fellow students, smiling.  Smiling because he looked up to the right and saw his family sitting in the seats above.  All waving to him and yelling his name. He was genuinely happy.  And that made me well up with love.  He will be leaving in three months to go into the Army.  He wants to be an Airborne Ranger.  And I have no doubt he will do what he sets his mind to do and I truly believe God has saved him for something awesome!  Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. Proverbs 22:29  When he leaves I will be going through waves of emotion again. Saying goodbye, sending him off to serve our country knowing that life as we knew it all these years will be forever changed.  He will in every sense of the word, become a man!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.  Praise Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen!

PS. If you are curious about the title, it includes several remarks made to him about graduation! I added the 75 lb rucksack because his father was an Airborne Ranger and I would watch him pack his rucksack and could not believe the amount of stuff he would put in there and still have to carry his weapon and other gear.  So basically, yeah that is what he is looking forward to in the Army! 🙂

Peter Called Out, “Lord, save me.”

Friday began with a restlessness that I could not put into words.  All day I kept wondering why I could not be at ease.  You know the butterfly type queasiness you get when you think something bad is about to happen to change your world.  I prayed out loud to the Lord the scripture that always comes to my mind in those moments.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  ~  Philippians 4:6-7

I prayed it several times yet I could not shake the feeling but I had surrendered the worry to Jesus’ care.

I left work early to go to an ultrasound appointment with my son and daughter-in-law.  We were going to get a 3D/4D video and pictures of the baby.  I was excited to see the baby moving but was not fully prepared for the overwhelming feelings I had at seeing this sweet miracle of life.  We got to see the whole baby, from top to bottom.  Hands, fingers, feet, toes, ribs, arms, legs, bottom, gender, back, head, face and the tongue. Yes, babies, stuck its tongue out. 🙂 I say babies, because we are not revealing the gender until the baby shower, only I know what it is….tune in later for the news! Babies kept grabbing onto the umbilical cord to hug it or put it in its mouth.  At 26 weeks it is just the most precious proof of a sovereign creator.

tongue

tongue

prayers

prayers

There was a moment when the technician snapped a picture of babies with its hand up toward its face.  It looked to be praying.  It was at that moment the name of my grandchild popped into my head.  I believe it was the Holy Spirit giving me the name.  On my way home from the appointment I kept saying it out loud.  I loved it, O what a beautiful name! Of course I would have to live with whatever name the kids gave babies but in Grammy’s mind I already had a name. 🙂  Later in the evening our family watched the video we had purchased of the ultrasound on our television. When my son and I were alone I asked him what names they were thinking of for a boy and a girl.  He told me the list of names and guess what??? YES, the name the Lord had spoken to me was on their list.  I got goosebumps and said almost in tears, “Are you kidding me???”I told him what name came to me when I saw the picture and he was amazed!  (He found out the gender at the appointment because he could not wait any longer but promised not to tell)  We both had huge smiles on our face! And this Grammy had praise in her heart for a God so personal and intimate that He gives confirmation of His presence in a name.

Saturday came.  I had planned a Scrap-booking Crop for Saturday at our church.  Had 6 ladies come and it was a great day for fellowship and getting work done on some of my albums.  And it just happen to be National Scrapbook Day, Yeah!  I enjoyed being with friends and working through my creative outlet but I still had a nagging feeling something was wrong somewhere.  I called my kids to check on them.  Texted my husband a couple of times and just kept praying the prayer, trusting Him with all that may be ahead.

Sunday arrived. The morning service went well and the message was right on target as usual.  But it was a strange day for mishaps.  A few things misplaced and forgotten but thankfully the day ended well.  Early in the day I sorted through a box filled with notes, cards and letters given to me over the years.  As I opened them and read them the person writing them immediately came to mind.  Their face and their life flowed through my memory.  Their voice was in my head. I could hear them speaking to me, crying with me, laughing with me, praying with me or for me.   It is amazing to me that God gave us a memory that at any given moment a sight, a sound, a smell, a word or picture can take us to a moment in time as if no time had passed.

Later we attended the Sunday evening bible study.  There was a great discussion on pursuing after Jesus and also how we can miss out on what God has for us by losing confidence in our faith and giving up.  As Peter did in stepping out onto the water when he saw Jesus.  He pursued Jesus by asking first if it was really Him. Then he stepped out of the boat onto the water in faith.  When he took his eyes off the Lord and onto the raging waves he became afraid and began to sink.  It was then Peter cried out, “Save me, Lord.”  And of course Jesus did.

The observation was made that many interpret Peter to have lost his faith in Jesus by becoming afraid but he suggested that Peter had lost  confidence in his own faith, that it was not strong enough to keep him walking forward on the water.   That spoke to me about how we often think we are unworthy to serve God.  How we, continuously, are so consumed with our own failures that we give up and stop serving or pursuing Jesus.  We stop short of the blessings God has for us in our lives.

We know the story of how Peter denied the Lord when Jesus was arrested.  Jesus, himself foretold this to Peter and he did not want to believe he would ever deny his Lord.  But he had done the very thing the Lord said he would do.  Do you know, according to Scripture that Simon Peter is the first person Jesus appeared to after his resurrection?  Perhaps to reassure him that He was still loved and still chosen.  Can you imagine that meeting? Oh what love must have been in the Saviors eyes when Peter realized who it was appearing to him.  On the day of Pentecost the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and Peter was so overwhelmed  that he began to preach and 3,000 were saved that day.  And so began the church.  What if he had given up on his faith when Jesus had died on the cross?  What if he decided he could never serve Christ again because of his failure? Thankfully he did not give up and received Christ forgiveness and love.  He humbled himself under the Lord’s teaching and was built up in his faith.  He became one of the boldest preachers of the Gospel ever known this side of the Heaven.  Doesn’t that encourage you? It certainly encourages me!

When we fail the Lord, do we recognize Him when he comes after us? He pursues us each and every day through His Word, through others and through his creation.  He waits for us to fellowship with Him.  Do we run to him when we realize our mistakes? How much do we want Him in our lives?  How much are we willing to deny ourselves and run after Him?  Those were questions several asked in our group last night which are still on my mind today.

Well, here it is Monday morning.  The weekend has come and gone.  The feeling I had Friday is not nagging me any longer and as I awoke this morning I was glad that it had disappeared.  Though I am not sure it is related, I had some terrible news this morning when I logged onto Facebook.  A friend whom I have known for many years passed away on Saturday.  I did not know at first how she passed away.  I assumed it was her heart.  She struggled for many years, as my sister did, with a drug addiction.  It nearly destroyed her life.  But by God’s grace she overcame it and was married several years ago to a wonderful man.  She was attending school and making many positive changes in her life.  I had not seen her face to face in several years but we often chatted on Facebook. I was so very proud of her and so thrilled that she was living what seemed a vibrant and happy life.  When a short time passed after reading the news it was then I found out through a mutual friend that she took her life.  I am in shock.  I could not even imagine what was going through her mind at that moment.  And my heart breaks for her family.  Her dear family left to pick up the pieces.  Left to ask the age-old question, why? It is the second time in a year that I have heard the news of friend taking their life. in such a manner. While I have experienced despair and devastation I can not imagine what held them in such grip to make them want to end it all.   I am reminded again of Peter sinking into the water, looking at the raging waves instead of Jesus, the master and creator of the sea. Peter called out, “Lord, save me”

I find a familiar thread running through the past few days.

  • God is the creator of all things and He is sovereign over all. Psalm 135:6
  • God does not change because of our circumstances, it is our perspective that changes when we fail to keep our eyes on Him. Psalm 102:12, 25-28
  • God knows what lays ahead of us and will equip us to handle it if we consistently walk in obedience to His Word.  Jeremiah 29:11

Life is full of unexpected experiences,  a miracle of life one minute and the tragic loss of life in the next. There are moments when life clicks and everything falls into place and there are moments when it is all out of sync and everything falls apart.  I can not imagine living my life without God,  without the one who has numbered my days and knows the very number of hairs on my head.  He is so intimate and personal that  He  knows where to fill every ache in my soul with peace.

Lest you think walking with Christ is easy, it is not.  It is a life of endless discovery of the good and bad in our hearts, forsaking the bad and choosing the good.  It is a life of trying to do what is right every single time according to God’s Word.  It is a life often filled with our cries to God for mercy & grace, which He freely gives.  It is a life of continually dying to self for His glory.  It is a life of far greater reward than any earthly riches can buy.  And only if you choose to pursue Jesus will you discover this wonderful truth for yourself.  Because when you call out, “Lord, save me.”  He does!

Grace to you all,

Shell

Dedicated to my friends Marian S. & Michelle R. ~ may God use their circumstances in life and in death to reach someone for Jesus Christ.