Thursday, August 30, 2007
One of the faces of my struggle that I wrote about last week is clarity on my photography. One of the biggest issues there is equipment. Next week I will be shooting a women's conference for our church's women's magazine. Our auditorium holds 1,700 people, and last year it was packed. A wide-angle lens would be great for that. Add the lens hood I need for the head shots I have scheduled in two weeks and the lighting I will need this fall for the family portraits for our homeschool group, plus a "clicker" with a longer cord...It all adds up to not terribly cheap. Not enough to get a second mortgage, but there is more. Isn't there always?
Anna had to get new lenses this week for her glasses. Last year, the lenses alone were $200. Again, not a second mortgage, but not pocket change.
Then there is my favorite boy in the world. I won't go into the long story. The synopsis is that the Lord told me to buy sporting equipment for Robert and Anna and plan outtings two days a week. Along with our Friday skating and PE group, that makes three days of activity which Robert needs desperately (and I desperately need him to have it). I knew the list the Lord gave me for the equipment, and having been an athlete, I had a good idea of how much this little jaunt to the sporting section was going to cost.
Add the sporting goods, Anna's lesnes, and the photography equipment together, and I knew we were not talking about an easy month. To add to the mix, our annual weekend trip to the beach which not only serves as family bonding time but mental and emotionally therapy is scheduled this month. I played with numbers and asked, "Lord, how am I going to do this? How do I juggle this? How am I supposed to do all of this? What do I need to kick out?"
Like most moms I know, the answer seemed simple. Anna had to have new lenses. There was no option. I knew the Lord had spoken about Robert's sporting equipment. The family was looking forward to the beach. Surely the Lord would help me figure out how to tighten the budget elsewhere and somehow take excellent pictures with the lenses I have now.
Faith says, "I have big needs, but I serve a bigger God." Friends, I won't tell you I thought that. I thought I would do what had to be done and see how far down the "nice thought" list I could get before the road came to an end. I'm so thankful God is faithful when I am small-minded and faithless.
First of all, Anna's doctor's appointment was a praise in itself. I just haven't had time to write about it. Her lens prescription hasn't changed in three years (it was changing every three months for nearly four years), and her eye alignment is better than it has ever been! Her depth perception is perfect, and this is the best eye report we have EVER gotten concerning Anna's eyes. Anna told me last year that she believed her eyes were getting better. The exam didn't show that, but she said she knew she was right. I told her to pray that the healing manifest and be visible to the doctor, too. We saw that happen this week. The doctor was shocked. Anna's eye problems simply don't reverse according to medical experience, and yet, hers are.
So there is our first moment of God showing up to say, "Look how big I AM," this week.
An hour later, we sat with the tech ordering new lenses for Anna's glasses. "Can you give me an estimate of how much it will cost?" I asked wondering if we should have returned to a company covered by our insurance. If it was $200 last year with insurance, I wasn't sure if I wanted to know how much without, and yet, this was the company we had used every other year. They knew us, knew Anna's history, knew they had to have the perfect lens alignment or Anna would throw up from dizziness. They weren't, however, covered by our insurance. Still, this was "home", and I wanted to see if they could compete.
Susan, the tech we've known for years, said, "Oh, yeah. You came at the perfect time. We've got a sale on. All children's lenses are $50. That includes Anna's glare protection, her torque, everything. Will that compete with your insurance?" I just nodded and wondered how much of a scene it would make if I hit my knees in humble gratitude right there in the middle of the store.
And again, God shows up and says, "Look how big I AM."
Then today I took the children shopping for athletic equipment. I knew what I was supposed to buy, and I knew about how much it would cost. The children and I grabbed a buggy and headed to the sporting goods section. When we left, we had the following in our buggy:
2 baseball helmets--one in pink
2 aluminum baseball bats--one very pink one proclaiming "GIRL POWER"
2 nice leather gloves
1 batting practice gadget
2 soccer balls--one in pink and one very masculine red and black
4 mouth guards-two hot pink
1 basket for Anna's bicycle
If you have bought just the baseball supplies, you know that alone adds up really fast. Let me give you some quick God prices.
Helmets--$3 each, not $12 each
gloves--$2 and $3, not $11 and $14
Pink bat--$5, no $11
Softballs--50 cents, not $1.28
Batting practice gadget--$4.oo, not $14
My total for all of that was $75. We walked into sports clearance central, and I figure we saved at least $75.
Isn't God amazing?
And it doesn't stop there.
Another area where the Lord is stretching me is my marriage. I don't really talk about it, but the simple explanation is we went through a couple of life changing events, and we didn't transition well with them. When my dad passed on a few years ago, I had a really hard time. I had been a main care giver for years, and suddenly, I had no clue who I was. The identity crisis did not go well. On the tail end of that, Rob went from working extreme hours and being gone almost all week to a normal work week, and we haven't readjusted well to parenting roles and relationship changes.. Add the children and our desire to keep their life as "normal" as possible, and we have found ourselves more distant and different than we want.
I won't lie. This is a hard place, and the last 4-6 weeks have been incredibly hard. I cannot even express the emotional or mental pain or isolation that I have found myself working through, and as usual, the enemy's attacks are relentless.
I have lain on my bed and cried asking the Lord for a word to stand on because I was tired and couldn't see beyond the holes to the vision of what the Lord had in His heart. All I could see is the way we weren't what I had wanted my marriage to be. The only word I kept getting was, "I can restore anything. Do you believe me?"
In honesty, I said, "I want to. It just needs to be so different than what it is, and I don't see how we will get there."
He replied, "Trust me."
Today, I came home from our trip where God declared His lordship over the sporting goods department, and sitting near my front door was an amazingly beautiful vase of flowers. The card said simply, "I'll be there soon. Love, Maynard." (That is my nickname for Rob, btw.) I was stunned, so stunned that I had not even thought of him when I was trying to figure out who might have sent the flowers. Rob doesn't give me flowers, not because he's a jerk but because they simply aren't something I care for. I want something living and useful. Flowers in a vase die. Lot of money for very little. I just don't appreciate them as much as other things, so he has given me the things I appreciate, not flowers.
Today, though, I was greeted by a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and when I saw it was from Rob, my heart fluttered, and I thought, "Lord, you really are leading us into new territory where we've never been." And suddenly, I had glimpse of what I couldn't see. I kept looking at what we had and what we have wondering how God was going to fix it, and in this case, God isn't going to fix or repair. He is simply going to give us something new.
And did I mention the wide-angle lens is on sale this weekend at the camera shop we trust? Did I also mention the money I didn't have to pay in these other areas cover the cost of the lens and some of the other photography equipment?
And once again I declare by personal witness the unchanging, unalterable truth...
"For the word of the LORD (both written and spoken personally) is right and true; he is faithful in all he does."--Psalm 33
Lord, forgive me for still trying to see with my mind and not my spirit. Forgive me for too easily agreeing with the accusations of the enemy that says You won't--or can't--provide. Forgive me for standing frozen by fear of the unknown instead of walking in the faith of the only One I need to know. Thank You for Your faithfulness and love. Thank you for promises kept. Thank you for being I AM when I am so unsure. Despite the questions, You have lead me to an open place where I can declare: You are God. You are Provider. You are I AM, and You love me. Blessed be Your beautiful name.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
As some of you know, I have a few passions in life. My family is first, but “outside the home”, I have three things that I love. I love writing. I love photography, and I love teaching/speaking. The Lord has given me multiple prophetic words about my gifts in these three areas, and I am seeing growth in those areas.
However, in our last conversation, my husband had not seen enough growth to entertain the idea of buying equipment that would make life a lot easier for me and allow me freedom to experiment, especially in photography. This is a problem because I’ve been asked to do some photos that require a studio set up, and that requires certain equipment that is part of the unsure area for Rob.
I understand Rob’s concerns. The truth is traditional studio portraiture isn’t my heart. I don’t take pictures of poses. I reveal people. When I first start toying with the idea of doing photography as more than a family hobby, I asked the Lord what my niche is, and He said, “You have the gift of prophetic photography. Your pictures show my heart, and people will see themselves as I see them, and it will heal them and set them free to be the people I declare them to be.” I wept. I couldn’t believe the Lord would offer such an amazing gift and call to me, but I wanted it. The question then became how to pursue it.
I have been asking myself that question a lot lately. I feel as though the doors have flung open for me to use this gift, and I feel so inadequate. There are so many technical things I don’t know, and there is equipment I don’t have, and I want to do this with excellence. However, there is always the lure of acceptance and notoriety, and I can’t do it for that.
A few weeks ago, the Lord gave me the chance to shoot a wedding as a gift for the bride and groom. As I spent hours touching up photos that were taken in a city park with cars and pickups in every direction with the heat hitting 95+ degrees in North Texas and no good backdrop or “noise free” area, my heart that had wanted to do impressive pictures changed. It was no longer about a business card or booking another event. As I kept seeing the beaming bride and the twinkling eyes of the groom, I wanted those pictures to be perfect because I wanted them to see that all those people had put their day aside, stood in the heat and humidity, and joined together to celebrate that wonderful couple. I wanted the bride and groom to see they are worth celebrating, and the Lord celebrates with them.
Again, came the questions: how do I do this every time? What venues am I to do? Can I do this in a studio setting? How do I show who they are and not make the picture contrived?
Then came the “I” inventory: I’m not trained technically for this, and there is so much I don’t know. I don’t have a clue how to do this.
Photography isn’t the only thing leaving me with questions about me and my abilities.
Starting the Thursday after Labor Day, a group of ladies will be meeting at my house to learn identity in Christ and spiritual warfare. To be who one is in Christ is warfare because the enemy wants so much to steal who we are. I wonder what I am supposed to teach, how to teach it, and when. I’m not good at “hard” lesson plans. I’m much better at asking the Spirit to lead and hopefully following. These women think I have some wisdom that will impact their life, and all I see are the potholes in my life.
And that brings up writing.
My passion is simple. I want people to be free to embrace all the Lord declares them to be. I want people to learn who they are and be that person to the fullest. It is the only way to be happy, and people who do that will see the Kingdom of God explode in their lives. Over time, I’ve learned a lot about identity, key issues, tools for warfare, and how to be victorious. While I would gladly teach these principles in a weekend conference, there needs to be follow up afterward because it requires accountability, responsibility, and lots of encouragement. It’s hard, and it shouldn’t be done alone.
Is that one of the books I am to write? If so, how? What does it look like? What do I say? There is a whole slew of “I” questions and logistical things I’ve been trying to work out, and all it has done is give me a migraine.
So yesterday morning, I took all this to God, and He answered, but I was too wrapped up in “I, me, and my” that I missed it. When I sat down for my quiet time yesterday morning, I asked the Lord what He wanted to share, and immediately, He took me to Ezra 6. Verse 14 says, “So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo.”
This is what stuck with me, and even with that, I’m thinking, ‘This is nice, God, but can you please tell me what to do about how I am supposed to do all this stuff I believe You’ve called me to do?”
In a word, no. He can’t. Not because He doesn’t care but because the questions simply are too nonsensical for an answer. He was trying to help me, but I didn’t get it. I had to understand the question before I could understand the answer.
When I woke up this morning, I got still for my quiet time and asked, “Lord, what do you want to say today?”
“Same thing as yesterday. My answer hasn’t changed.”
Back I go to Ezra 6. I read it. I read it again. I ponder. I read it again.
“I don’t get it.”
“Then keep reading.”
I read on into chapter 7, and suddenly, I get it. The question isn’t about how I am going to make all this work. The question is whether I will simply obey.
This is what verses in chapter 7 say:
“6…this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked for the hand of the Lord his God was on him. 9. He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws to Israel. 11…Ezra the priest and teacher, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the Lord of Israel...”
The Lord spoke clearly, “Jerri, your passion has always been to teach Me to others. Your passion is for people to see me and know Me. That is all you have to do. Do you see that when Ezra did that, I gave him favor with the king? Everything he asked for was his because My hand was on him. His obedience and passion for Me made it possible for Me to pour out everything he needed. People prospered because of him. They built My kingdom and prospered because he took my vision and obeyed it. He didn’t question whether I’d supply what he needed. He simply assumed I would, and I did.
“There is nothing you need that I will not provide if you keep your focus on why you are doing it.
“The success and impact of your photography is not determined by the money you make from it. Your photography is powerful because of how I use it. It is powerful because it shows My heart, My vision. You show others how I see them. Your lens is a tool of healing and launching. If you focus on My heart, I’ll give you the pictures, and people will flock to you because they want to see who they really are. They long for their true identity. They long for the love they will see in your pictures.
“Yes, you are to publish a book, not so you can see your name on a shelf in a bookstore or impress people, but because I have revealed to you things people need to hear. You are to publish several books because I’ve given you lots to share. Your life has not been without cause. Everything you’ve learned is for you to pass on. You’ve spent your life learning My character and My heart. These are what My people need, and you are the one to tell them.
“Are you adequate to teach? Are you able to tell someone that I love them and My Word is the foundation for all they are and hope to become? Are you able to give testimony to My power and love in your life? Can you tell them without a doubt that I am the God who never abandons or forsakes, whose arm is not to short to reach into any pit, whose heart is for restoration, and whose love is greater than the hate the enemy pours on them? Those are the things people want to know, and you are adequate to tell them because you live that life before me day in and day out, and your heart is still Mine.
“Jerri, if I am your passion, everything you want to accomplish in this world-the great marriage, the godly children, the books, the speaking, the photographs, the impact-it will all happen because my hand is on you. Focus on me and trust me.”
I share all this with you because I can tell you without a doubt that God has declared things in your life, and you may be wondering about the how’s, when’s, and what’s. I don’t know specific answers for you. All I know is that God is everything you need. Your promises, your identity, your hopes, your salvation—everything you are and hope to be is the One Who made you, and He is the One who will bring to pass what He has declared. Your job isn’t to worry about whether you are adequate. Your job is to have faith that He is everything, and He is.
What makes me convinced of that? Well, after the Lord talked to me about favor with the king and having everything supplied, the king of my castle came home. You know the one that has been anti-studio because he simply didn’t have a vision of what God is doing with my photography. Well, he came home and said, “Do you have ideas for how we can set the studio up in the garage, and do you have ideas of how much the lighting will cost and how we can do the mobile studio so you can minister to the groups the Lord has told you to minister to? If you do, I’d like to hear them because I know this is what God has called you to, and I want to see you succeed.” I told him to wait a minute as I went to the study and picked up the photography magazine I had read just two days ago that had an entire article on home studios and lighting kits.
The king of my castle looked at the article and all I presented and asked, “Anything else? I want to make sure you have everything you need.”
Because God is faithful, I do.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Monday, August 20, 2007
While growing up, my mother was a United Kennel Club judge. My family bred, raised, and trained dogs. Less than a year of my life has been spent without a dog as a family member. To me, the world of dogfighting is too heinous to fathom, and the details that have surfaced about Mr. Vick’s specific dogfighting enterprise are nightmarish. I won’t hide the fact that when I first read the charges against Mr. Vick and his co-defendants and the details of the cruelty used, my first thought was, “God, if he did this, I hope they crucify him.”
Then the most powerful, humbling Truth resounded in my mind as God said simply, “I did. I put him on a cross and let him die there the same time I crucified you. Only at that time, they just called y’all Jesus.”
At that moment, I felt ashamed for my quick judgment and doling out punishment that was mine to have as well. I also felt excited.
It is easy to look at Michael Vick and read the stomach-turning details to which he is pleading guilty and see the obvious depravity of his heart, soul, and mind. It is easy to look at his NFL career and potential and get an idea of how far he has fallen. The worldly details and view are open for all to see. However, I am excited because my God is not bound by worldly details but rather acts despite them.
If you’ve ever read the Bible, you are familiar with some folks who have fallen and fallen hard. King David was given all Israel, the jewel of God, to reign, and David was fascinated by another man’s wife. Peter was a man who walked on the sea, and then denied the One who picked him up when he started to sink. There was a guy named Saul who had the perfect upbringing and training, a guy who knew the law and the requirements of God, and missed it so badly that he killed the followers of Christ. I could go on, but I don’t need to. I have a mirror. I know how far people can fall. I also know God’s arm is not too short to reach them.
Even after David’s adultery, God referred to him as a “man after My own heart.” Peter was restored and walked in so much power that people who were touched by his shadow were healed. Saul traded in his knowledge and name for revelation and relationship. We know him as Paul. Me? I have my own testimony to the greatness of God’s love and mercy.
I have read for several years now about Michael Vick’s potential, and it is great. Some say “was”. I would say those folks are looking at the world because potential is determined by divine plan, not man’s sin. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and yet, God says that His plans and purposes for us are good, full of hope, and offering a future. Obviously, God has not written off Michael Vick. Can he still be as great as he could have been? To suggest less is to call God a liar and a charlatan.
People who think Michael Vick cannot rise to that from which he has fallen does not understand God. God does not desire to raise Michael Vick to that platform again. Instead, He desires to raise him to greater levels of influence, power, and godliness. The power Michael Vick had was false power stemming from a false identity and sense of importance. Only someone who is insecure in their power could demean themselves into training and killing innocent animals. What kind of sense of power does one gain from training mindless creatures to respond to cruelty in such a way that they would kill? A person who is secure in their abilities, purpose, and power does not need to create an environment in which they are the all-powerful one. What is a quarterback? The leader. The one in charge. The head of the team. The decision maker. The one with the control.
Michael Vick came from a background of insecurity and instability, and he created environments that allowed him power and control. He became a god in his own world by using the potential God placed inside him. God Almighty will never allow people with great talent, purpose, and gifts to live in a world where they can use those things to destroy themselves without intervening as a loving Father who desires fullness for His creation.
Some may look at what has happened to Michael Vick as God’s judgment. Yes, it is. However, in the book of Romans, we are told that the law is there to show us our wrongs in order to point us in the other direction. This judgment is not for Michael Vick’s downfall and destruction. This is for his salvation, healing, and wholeness.
Right now, this judgment-the loss of NFL status, freedom, and reputation- seems harsh, but what is more harsh for one’s false sense of value to crash and deal with the temporary consequences in the natural or for God to turn His back and let a person go to hell?
I don’t know how this will ultimately play out. However, I do know God loves Michael Vick, and Michael Vick is not so far in the pit that God’s arm is too short to reach him. I know God has a great plan for Michael Vick, and I know the enemy has tried to steal that. So far, he has been successful, but the Lord has delivered a mighty blow, and we are seeing lies of the enemy fall.
It is heartbreaking. It is also exciting.
It is always heartbreaking to see someone in captivity, but oh, the joy when the walls begin to crumble and prison is shown for what it is because then, and only then, can freedom be seen and embraced in its fullness.
So, yes, there was a jolt in my world today. What I had dreaded as a day of gloom and despair has shone forth with glory, potential, and promise. The lie has been revealed by the Truth, and now great things can be built where only imaginations existed before. I love when God clears out the junk to make room for the treasure, and that is what happened today.
Michael Vick needs prayer. He needs to see the Truth. He needs to see himself as he was created to be. He needs to see the Ultimate Potential he was designed to show.
Yes, it is easy to point fingers and be sickened by the accounts given concerning the dogfighting business. We should be sickened by it, but we have to remember, one Man was crucified on one crss for all. It wasn’t just a dogfighting business that put Him there, and it isn’t just dogfighting that puts us in our own personal prisons. Thankfully, though, that One Man was enough for us all. Now all anyone has to do is walk out of the rubble of the lie and embrace the Truth, and that is the same for Michael Vick, me, or you.
Dear God, you have the freedom to destroy any prisons I have created, even when all I see is the destruction of the “life” I thought was real. Open my eyes to see the freedom You have set before me to live in all the Potential and Truth You have declared over me and into me. Thank you for crucifying me under the name “Jesus”, and thank you for loving me too much to let me live a lie. When the facades fall, give me vision to see the Truth, and when folks don’t understand, fingers of judgment point my way, and criticism comes forth, give me the boldness to keep my eyes on You. Do not let me settle for less than Your best. Thank You for Your infinite mercy and Your even greater love.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Okay, Danica said anyone who wanted to play could consider themselves tagged. I want to play, so…
Ten Things You’ll Never Hear Me Say
1. Oh, no, I don’t like chocolate.
2. White chocolate is my favorite.
3. I don’t like sweet tea.
4. No, honey, I don't need an RV. The tent is fine.
5. I’m sure there isn’t a verse in the Bible that covers that.
6. No, I don’t think you should waste your time praying about that either.
7. God couldn’t care less.
8. I hate the beach.
9. My hair is flat.
10. Of course you can drink your red Kool-Aid in the living room where there is tan carpet.
I’m with Danica. If you want to play, be tagged and let me know.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I also like my friend Jessica. I know that looks like a wild transition, but it isn’t. Jessica also likes fish sticks and macaroni and cheese, and I rarely have them without thinking of her. Right now, life makes it hard for us to get together. She doesn’t live too far away, but she works outside her home, and her extra time goes to her magnificent son Josh. Right now, life is just a bit too busy to drive over an hour for a lunch of fish sticks. She’s there, and I’m here, and when we need each other, we know where to look.
Before lunch, the children and I did some science. I love doing science with the children. Today’s experiments were ones they had done before, but they always add a new twist.
First, we mixed 1 cup rubbing alcohol with 1 cup water to show that alcohol fills up the space between the water molecules. In theory, we were supposed to add 1 and 1 and get less than 2. In reality, the children thought the 2 cups of liquid with the swirling blue food coloring looked way cool. I explained the molecule idea, and then we talked about what made the food coloring swirl.
Next, we used salt to make eggs float in water. We found out that sea salt and regular salt both make eggs float. Then Robert decided we needed to find out if it the eggs floated because of the air pockets in their shells, so we broke his egg and my egg, which was in plain water. Mine still sank, and his still floated. Cheers of excited exploration echoed in my kitchen.
Why do I share all this daily mundane stuff with you? Because it isn’t mundane to me. Yes, it is simple, but it puts a smile on my face, and life is always made better when we simply smile.
(Oh, Jessica, I ate your share of lunch. It was delicious. Just didn’t want you to think it went to waste.
Monday, August 13, 2007
I don’t have a clue what unearthed this little gem. All I know is one day last week the children and I were chattering as we do sometimes, and one of the children asked, “Do you know what I like?”
Our of nowhere, I answered, “When the bird of paradise flies up your nose?”
What I would give for a picture of their faces at that moment! “The bird of what?!”
“The bird of paradise. It flies up your nose. I don’t know why. I don’t know what it does there. Maybe it just acts snotty.” I managed to reply with a straight face.
As two children stared at me wondering whether to be shocked by the idea of a bird up their nose or disgusted by the snotty comment, I wondered, too, “Where did that come from?”
Well, it comes from a song by Neal Merritt. While other artists did the song, I recall it being done by Little Jimmy Dickens. It was recorded in 1965, before I was born. However, my father was a fan of classic country music, and I heard that song into my teens I think. However, it has never given me more joy than now, and I cannot even tell you why.
The chorus is superbly nonsensical:
May the bird of paradise fly up your nose.
May an elephant caress you with its toes.
May your wife be plagued by runner in her hose.
May the bird of paradise fly up your nose.
You can Google to fine the rest. It’s a clean song, and 99% of people won’t care, but for me, it is a good bit of happy. Know what I mean?
Know what else makes me happy? My father-in-law.
My father-in-law loves classic country as much as my dad, and periodically, Pop and I get time to talk, one of the good talks that last an hour or so. Inevitably, we get to chatting about the auctions he’s been to lately, and he tells me about the latest records he’s found. I love this more than I can tell you.
I love it because he takes time to tell me. Not many people I know can have a good conversation about George Jones, Hank Williams, Earnest Tubbs, and the like, and I like that we can talk.
I also love it because it reminds me of my dad. The last time Pop and I talked, he mentioned a record he’d found my George Jones, and I remember one my dad had that sounds like the same record. Pop and I talked about favorite singers and the songs they sang. We had a great time. At least I did, and I think he did.
Funny how things like that can make your heart tender and still make you so happy, isn’t it?
And isn’t it funny how a bird of paradise can tickle one’s nose just right to make for laughter and silliness decades after its last known sighting? And isn’t it wonderful how God puts people in our lives that share those special interests that fill a hole with joy that would otherwise be a place of pain?
May God always bless you with a bird of paradise and your very own special “Pop” to bring you joy…
(Pop, thank you. You are a joy. Love, Jerri)
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I want to see things God’s way, and I have yet to see where God says, “I will bless you with walls that prevent you from having vision.” I haven’t found where He says, “I will put you in a dark place that is simply a grave for the non-dead that is beyond escape and wears you down until all hope is gone.” That’s what a pit is, and it is not of God.
So, I’ve been asking God how I ended up in this pit in the first place, and the answer is complex. To some extent, others dug it and dumped me in. I’m not trying to blame. People are people, and that is what happened. To some extent, I pulled out a shovel and helped them. Pits don’t just happen. Some thing happens that creates them, and I have a good idea of what created mine.
Then I ask why I am still here. That answer is complex in its simplicity. The answer: I choose to be.
For some that is too simplistic, but really, that is it. I choose fear over courage. I choose negative over positive. I choose rejection over acceptance.
Let me give you an example. One of the things I love is photography. In fact, when I was in high school, I wanted to work for National Geographic or some magazine that would let me do photo essays. However, I heard a lot about how I would never be good enough to pay my bills that way, so I didn’t. Twenty years later, the Lord has renewed my passion for photography in journalistic form. I’ve been published, and I will be photographing a major women’s conference for a magazine in less than a month. I’m also doing weddings and various jobs that require capturing personal expression. I’m having a great time with this.
If we stop a moment, it is easy to see the acceptance that is pouring out on my photography right now.
I’ve been published.
I have been asked to do the photography for a magazine for a major women’s event.
People are choosing me to capture precious moments in their lives.
People trust me to capture their hearts, visions, and dreams.
And I was told the pictures that were recently published received more comments from readers than any thing else-including articles-in the magazines three years of publications.
Folks, that is a lot of acceptance and blessing.
Then, there was the email.
Someone I have spoken to three times in two years emailed me and asked if we could get together at the afore mentioned women’s conference, and I said I was doing the photography. Instead of a congratulations or excitement, her response was, “Well, your level of photography must have come up for them to think you were that good.”
The voice in my head asked, “Are you going to take the bait?”
I really wanted to write back and be ugly. I thought about sending my latest resume to prove how inappropriate her email was. I even thought about calling a friend to tell her about this email that I refused to acknowledge, but if I refused to acknowledge it, why would I call someone to tell them about it? What was I hoping for? Was I hoping my friend would tell me how wrong this person was? Was I hoping she’d tell me how good I am? More than all that, why was I letting ONE email put me in a tizzy and define me when I had clear and obvious proof of the quality of my work? Would I choose the one email questioning my ability of the list of people and situations that blessed and validated it?
I erased the email, and I bring it up now because the Lord said it was the perfect example of choice.
There are other choices to be made, such as which voices I choose to listen to. On one hand there is a lady who is in the realm of several ladies I know and is often part of our lunches out. Simply put, I never please that woman, but it isn’t just me. No one pleases her. None of us live up to her level of anything. We all know that. We all know it wouldn’t matter what we did, she will find something wrong with it. Surely, she wouldn’t lie, so there must be something there, and we all feel we must fix the source of her latest rejection in some fashion.
On the other hand, I am blessed with a magnificent group of women that I deeply admire. They are stunningly beautiful both inside and out, and these women have had some things to say to me, too.
I am talented.
I am beautiful.
I am interesting.
I am a good friend.
I am a good wife.
I am a good mother.
I am an inspiration.
Why is it that when this last group of amazing women says something life-giving to me I act sheepish and unworthy, but when the other woman blasts me, I feel I somehow deserve it? Are the women in this last group liars? I don’t think so. I think they are sincere and genuine, and I believe their words are heartfelt. So should I not embrace their words with the same conviction of truth that I would the other woman?
Yes, I think I should, and I choose to do just that. Now, I’m not suggesting we surround ourselves with “yes men”, or women in the case, but I believe it is a sin to choose to define ourselves by criticism alone when God calls us beautiful, worthwhile, chosen, gifted, blessed, delightful, lover, bride, and friend. What right do we have to call God a liar? Do we understand-do *I* understand that when I agree with only the negative, I call God a liar? God looked at all He had made and called it good. We refuse to agree we are good, but we’ll agree with everything else.
And thus, the pit.
The pit is where we live when we cannot see life as God declares it to be. The pit is a lie. The pit is darkness with limitations and no hope for escape. God is light so bright the sun doesn’t compare with power beyond our imaginations holding out hope everlasting.
Which do I choose?
Sound like lovely pie in the sky stuff? No, it’s God in Heaven stuff, and I’d rather believe in that and miss it some than live in a pit that offers nothing but excuses to sit on my derriere and be miserable. And besides, there is this book I’ve read with lots of stories of folks who could have camped out in their pits but instead took hold of Heaven and did things most of us only dream of. Honestly, it makes me hungry to do some of those things myself.
Granted, some of those folks in that book were in pits, too. There is a guy name Daniel that was in a pit with some hungry lions. There were three guys that got tossed into a pit with a fire so hot it killed the men that threw them in, and let’s not forget Jesus who was put in a pit, sealed up, and guarded. You know why God let them get in those pits? Because He planned to get them out and show His power.
That tells me whatever pit I’m in is only so God can get me out.
God was able to get the men and women of the Bible out of their pits because they chose to believe God and what He said about His character…His power…His plans…and them.
And I choose to believe, too.
I pray you believe you have the power to choose, and I pray you choose to believe…
Friday, August 3, 2007
In my last post, which was rather here and there because I was trying to keep it abbreviated and give the Cliff’s Notes version of life rather than the novelette, the overriding tone was depressed. I admit it. I have been battling a rather significant depression for several weeks, and I have done all the right things to work through it, but yesterday it became apparent that I was still struggling.
Yesterday morning I sat on my deck as I had my quiet time and poured my heart out to the Lord. I didn’t realize the depth of sadness and hurt over some things until I began to weep as I prayed. One of my honest prayers was simply, “Lord, I need out of this pit, and I am lost as to how to get out. Please reach in and get me.”
One area that has been hard lately is marriage. We are in a season of change and growth, which is great, and I know God is doing good things. Right now, though, there is uneven personal growth between Rob and me, and that is hard. We are also entering into a new season with our children as they reach a different level of independence, and all the changes often leave me feeling like I am on a boat in the middle of a lake in a huge storm wondering if the Guy sleeping in the bottom of the boat is aware of the situation or if He needs me to help Him grasp the reality of it all. While I know He isn’t sleeping and He does know, I have moments when the trip still makes me sea sick, and jumping ship seems to have some significant perks.
Lots of lovely imagery, eh? Well, let me put it simply: it seems that everything the Man of my Dreams has been doing lately is getting on my nerves. His very presence can be aggravating, and it isn’t just him. The children are the same way. Friends are the same way. Life is getting on my nerves, but it seems to be worst with Rob. Point blank prayer, “God, I’m tired of being annoyed. Help me find the joy in Rob.” Immediate thought: Get a journal and start writing every good point and all the things that make you thankful about Rob. Then do the same about the children. And do the same about your friends, and then write them notes telling them.
WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!
I thought about it, and I think I have journals that will work for that, and I was sure I had note cards, and I was excited. The Lord had answered my prayers, and IMMEDIATELY! How great is our God!!!
And I got up and went in the house where children were hungry, schedules had to be met, and life took over, and the journal was left where it was, and subsequently, so were my emotions, thoughts, and mood.
At the end of the day yesterday, I had a stress head ache that was trying to turn into a migraine. My muscles were so tight that moving at all was painful. If it hadn’t hurt so much, I would have cried. I replayed the day and sunk even deeper. I talked to Rob about the fact that emotionally I was whipped. Physically, I was stressed to extremes. Mentally, I was battered with feelings of failure since I couldn’t snap out of it. As I lay down, I again prayed, “God, help me. I can’t do this.”
First thing this morning, I did a morning no-no. I pulled out my computer and decided to visit some favorite blogs. I visited Paula’s first because I had seen that she posted a new entry yesterday, but I didn’t have time to read it last night. Let me say, God speaks through Paula. Her whole post was on joy, and one of the comments from SharonB said “Joy…it is a choice of obedience”.
And I sat there with tears feeling overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness. He had answered my question two mornings in a row, and not once did He roll His eyes or say, “If you’d just have listened yesterday…” No. He just said, “Let’s try again, Jer,” and this time, I got it. In fact, I am recording it as part of my testimony, and you can be my witnesses. God is faithful, and there is joy in the journey.
So keeping with the Fifteen Joyous Things in my Life:
- My family enjoying each other. I love hearing Rob and the children playing and laughing and being silly. It is great and wonderful joy.
- Walks on the beach at sunrise with the children. That started about three years ago for us. I was going to take a walk by myself, but my daughter wanted to come, and I was afraid she’d wake Rob up if she didn’t. The next morning my son wanted to come. At first, I was annoyed because I wanted my time. In retrospect, those walks are the highlight of the beach and treasured memories.
- Mornings. The first thing each child does is find me and hug or snuggle me and tell me how much they love me and how thankful they are. I tell them the same. That is pure gold.
- Doing dishes with Rob.
- The smell of fresh cut hay.
- Reaching over in the night and patting Rob. Missing him when he has to travel.
- Get the Thing. It’s perfectly clean dirty fun.
- Friends who see me as I want to be and courageous speak life into that desire even when I seem to be very different from that.
- My photography when I see God’s hand in it and the picture is just right.
- Receiving emails from our soldiers that we support.
- Naps with Fred on the big bed.
- Encouraging other people.
- My mom, step-dad, and brother, getting together with them and playing games.
- Talk time with the children.
- Knowing I have a purpose and the Lord will fulfill it for His glory. I didn’t always know that or trust that, so this is a source of great excitement and joy for me.
I considered putting the “right” answers such as breathing, having food, having a home. You know, I have those all the time, praise the Lord, and too often, I am not very joyful. I find more and more that my joy centers around a few areas: my relationship with the Lord, my relationship with people who are important to me, my faith in God to care of me and my needs, and my value in Him. How those things manifest are different from day to day. All in all, though, the things that make my heart stop, breathe deeply, and feel full remain the same, and often, they are always there. I just have to stop and cultivate them.
Now, I need to go find that journal and start making my list.
Praying you recognize and cultivate the joy of God in your life…
And while you are at it, leave a comment telling me what makes you joyful. And, Iona, beloved friend who always brings me joy, you are tagged.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
As I have watched this battle and experienced the personal blows, I have run the gamut of emotions from been heart sore to being ecstatic. I’ve also been ashamed and afraid, which the enemy wants because when we are ashamed or afraid, we cave up and close ourselves off. We become easy targets because while he is telling us all the lies, we have no one to counter with Truth. Well, my friends, I am here to tell you the Truth.
I have found that all warfare is mental. Sickness can be hard, but the big toll is on the mental state of a person. How well a person heals or not is directly related to positive mental health. If the enemy wants to take us out, he has to attack us mentally, and he does it in a myriad of ways. And he has a favorite time to attack you, too—when you are making progress.
At the beginning of the summer, a lot of wonderful things happened for me all at once. My pictures were published. I was asked to write an article for a women’s magazine. I had lunch with a group of talented, beautiful women who were the Lord’s voice of love and acceptance over me. I was preparing curriculum on identity to teach a women’s group this fall. My children were doing great, and I was feeling great about home school. I had even been given the “job” of photography a major women’s conference for our church’s magazine, and that was HUGE to me.
Wonderful things were happening, and the Lord was giving so much revelation for home school and the women’s group. I woke up waiting to see what gift I got to open that day knowing I was going to be lavished with something for the simple reason God loved me and loves to lavish His children with wonderful gifts.
Then, something happened. I started getting the hard gifts. Some of you know what I mean. They are the gifts that you love in retrospect, but cause deep heart ache when you are opening them. I got a series of those, and I did what I always do. I toughed it out.
I prayed in the morning. I prayed during the day. I remembered scripture. I remembered words the Lord had spoken to and over me. I knew what to do, except it didn’t work. Instead of coming up, I cratered.
Now, I’m not the first to crater. David cratered when he gazed at Bathsheba. Peter cratered when the rooster crowed. Thomas cratered when he dared someone to show him the holes in Jesus’ hands so he could stick his finger through them. I’m in good company.
One of the things all of them knew, though, was the gift of God’s Truth. It’s the gift that says God, not the crater, gets to define us.
David is the man after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Peter walked in so much power that people upon whom his shadow fell were healed (Acts 5:14-15). Thomas was undaunted when he declared Jesus as “my Lord and my God (John 20:28).
These men cratered, but that crater did not define them or determine their destinies. Those craters only make their testimonies more powerful and lend hope to those who come after them. These men had destinies of power because the Lord declared that over them. They had divine purpose, and as long as they receive that, they could not fail.
In the last few weeks, I have struggled with questions. I have struggled with failure, and I have struggled with shame. The enemy has brought up things from my childhood and my less than godly adolescence to throw at me and show me “who I am”. He has worked hard to kill my hopes, vision, dreams, faith, and identity because he wants to steal my destiny and destroy God’s power and glory in me.
One he other hand, there has been my Savior declaring that I am free, forgiven, and purposed. I have been deliberately chosen because of my strengths and weaknesses to accomplish great things for the kingdom, and He has blessed me with wonderful people who speak life into me daily.
Saturday was an amazing series of people and circumstances declaring God’s glory, love, and joy over me, and it was water to my soul. Talk about rivers in the desert. I danced and played in that river, and it was glorious.
Then today came.
One of the things about being in the company of folks like David, Peter, and Thomas is that you have to take the good with the bad. David is often remembered for his adultery more than his worship. Peter is known for sinking in the ocean more than walking on it. Thomas is know for being a doubter instead of a declarer. And today, I had my share of folks who obviously don’t think I am that special either.
I shared a personal prayer request with people I felt were safe, and one person blasted me and told me I wasn’t looking at it from God’s perspective and I didn’t have faith. I was too concerned about relationships and not enough about God’s view. I needed to pull it together and be a real Christian. Until then, I was a disappointment, and she had nothing to say.
Another person called to confirm our lunch Thursday. I am unable to meet for lunch near her home thirty minutes away, and then she told me what an inconvenience it was for her, and if she had known that, she would have come by yesterday when she was five minutes from my house anyway. There are two facts that I should mention: 1) I told her a week ago I couldn’t meet this week. 2) She has done this a number of times before. To me, it simply says she doesn’t think I am important enough to remember.
Then there were a few other significant people who did things that said I wasn’t important to them either.
Consciously, I don’t think any of them meant to convey that, but they didn’t consciously make effort not to convey it either. The enemy of course jumped right it with a great big, “See how unimportant you are. You aren’t valuable. People who claim to be your friend don’t care about you. You aren’t their effort. You aren’t worth remembering. You are worth the time. You are unimportant and worthless.”
And I won’t lie to you. The actions and words of those people hurt, and I spent way too much time stewing over them and giving my energy to these lies and acts of rejection. I wouldn’t be past the sting of one hit before another came. Then I was ashamed for letting these stupid things hurt me, and then fear hit me. Can I come out of this?
The answer is yes, but only with God’s Truth.
I received another response to the personal prayer request which started, “Thank you for trusting me with your heart.” She then shared about important people in her life and the lives of her sons who walked with them and carried them when her husband was killed in a car wreck two years ago.
I read a beautiful post written by Ben Powell whose son Ethan is a miracle of God’s healing power. You have to read the story to realize how truly miraculous Ethan’s life is. In this post, Ben talked about the people who had helped him and his wife walk through Ethan’s illness from the initial diagnosis in February to today. He shared the glorious blessing of relationships and how valuable support is.
Then there were phone calls and emails and God just loving on me in so many ways that said, “You ARE important. You ARE worth my time. You ARE mine.”
And as I write this incredibly lengthy post, that is where I am. That is WHO I am.
I am important.
I am worth God’s time.
I am forgiven.
I am loved.
I am chosen.
I am created with purpose.
I am beautiful.
I am free.
I am His.
He said so, and THAT, not what others say or how they treat me, is what defines me. What God says is the declaration of my value, my identity, and my destiny. You know why? Because God says, “I AM,” and therefore, I am.
Blessings on who you are according to I AM…
Copyright Jerri Phillips @ 2007