I’ve traveled some lately, which has me at airports, rental-car agencies, and hotels. Such places lend themselves to people-watching. People watching is bittersweet, it can entertain me for hours, but when I am done, I’m often burdened for the people I watched. I will see certain people, who I’m so impacted by, I will find myself praying for them the rest of the day and into the night. Why aren’t people happy? I see such heaviness in people. I know, first hand, as do you, that life is hard. But if I didn’t have my joy, my life would have stopped a long time ago. Life is going to be chock full of hardship for some, and intermittent hardship for others. But in between those seasons, and IN them, we have to have joy. There has to be joy in our bellies, to get through life on Earth. I don’t want to raise this debbie-downer observation without a solution. So as I head out to the airport tomorrow, I challenge myself with this: wherever I go, leave joy behind, because there’s people there who need it. And because my joy comes from the Lord, I don’t have to worry about it ever running out. “so that I may come to you with joy, by Godʼs will, and in your company be refreshed.” Romans 15:32
I’m going through the book of Job, and my study-bible noted one of the life-lessons Job learned was this: knowing God is better than knowing answers …. WOW.
Throughout Job, he loses his money, children, friends, property, influence, and health. Although he does not curse God, he does wrestle, “God, why?” We all do. We all go through things and as it is approaching, as we go through it, and after it’s over, we wrestle, “God, why?” It is a legit question because we are not God and are limited to such finite explanation and reasoning. But that is why I have only deepened my relationship with God. I may not know “why,” but I know God does. Although God often doesn’t let us know, He’s still our God who knows. He’s still our God worth trusting because He holds the “why”…and He holds us. He holds us so close, that He loves us more than we love ourselves. One more thought: there are many times God has not answered “why,” but each time, I have known WHO. And if the WHO is the keeper of the “why” and He’s the WHO who took death on a cross for me in the most brutal, unconditionally loving way, then I’m sticking with Him.
It means so much to me that Raul looks out for our “outside-home,” making sure it’s decked with flowers. I love flowers. I’m not good at growing flowers, but I love them so much. When I see a flower bloom, I think of how much joy it must have brought Adam in the Garden to see ALL the perfect blooms all around him. Raul isn’t a good flower-grower either, nor does he share my affinity for flower-life. But he gets it that it means a lot to me. When we first moved to Coral Springs, we didn’t have an “outside home.” Raul worked hard with our flower guy to create one. Today, we have magnolias, bouganviellas, hibiscus and Frangipani’s all in bloom! I can’t wait for the gardenia to come in. So why flowers? Because they are the antithesis of the dark places my mind can live in. Alot of people see “lit-up Heather,” but only a few see “dark Heather.” On certain days, my mind can go to acutely dark places. I have *learned* to give it life! One way is to go to my backyard and look at life in the flowers. Flowers are small tokens of bright, approachable, pigmented, fragrant signs of life that God put so much thought into. For me, they’re some of the best antidotes to dark days! Just like the flowers have encouraged me, I hope this 1-minute post encourages you: on the days your mind struggles in ANY way, look at the flowers.
This is not a post about the major event that blows up our lives. This is not about a crisis that takes us by surprise. This is about those moments when a lot of little-bad things happen at once. Both are inevitable in life (FYI). In Mark 4, there are a group of guys who just have a lot of little-bad things happen: it had been a long day, it’s night, and it’s safe to assume they’re tired (Mark 4:1-35); their boss gives them one last task (Mark 4:35), unexpected horrible weather interferes (Mark 4:37); the effects of the unexpected storm cause damage (Mark 4:37b), their only source of help, Jesus, is sleeping (Mark 4:38) and the oh-so-common human emotions of fear, stress and frustration kick in (Mark 4:38). What’s funny, is I used to think it was only a “girl” problem, i.e. “drama.” But in this text, it’s all guys! So these “lots-of-little-bad-things” know no bias. So what do we do? Well, therein lies the problem. Because WE can’t do anything, all at once. WE didn’t know it was all gonna go down like this, WE don’t have all the resources and mental wherewithal to handle it, and in our humanness, WE doubt that we can! Enter, Jesus. In these kinds of moments, Jesus knew, knows and will know how it works out. He is the ONE BEST thing in those “lots of little bad things.” I had one of these days recently. And I found myself going to the bathroom several times to just pray, “Jesus, help me. Take control. Take over. Give me a deep breath to keep going.” Now I didn’t have a “POOF” moment where all the little-bad things vanished. But I did feel Jesus fill me up with deep, fresh air and give me peace in my belly to take it ALL on, WITH Him, ONE little bad thing at a time. I’ll end with what Jesus said in Mark 4, “‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” That same Jesus can calm you and your moment, too. You got this.
I was thinking about something while leaving Orange Theory Fitness. On the final leg of our 25-minute cardio circuit, we were challenged to go a “bonus” round. Now let me pause for a little background… I’ve never played an organized sport in my life. So I’ve never been athletically benched, disqualified or beat. Conversely, I’ve never experienced team-victory, triumph or comeback. (That’s why none of my posts are about my “athleticism.” LOL!) Back to today…For the bonus-challenge, I was gonna pass, figuring, “Who’d care anyway? It’s just me against myself.” When I heard on the mic, from across the gym, my name: “Good, Heather!” And with that, I kept going. All Nicole said was my name. That’s all it took to not quit. God knows your name. He’s in the stands with millions of angels and biblical giants, believing in you. And the lap in your life where you want to quit, you won’t, because you’ll hear God say your name in your soul: “Go [insert name, here]!!” In life, we don’t quit until we finish the race…the Bible tells us so! So keep going – keep running – keep your eyes on the finish line. And keep your ears attune to your biggest Fan (GOD!!) saying your name.
In the last two weeks, we’ve lost two great guys to drug addiction. It breaks my heart–I feel like my heart’s producing its own set of tears and shedding them. One addict lost is one too many. Addicts are not “at the end of the road,” they aren’t “at the point of no return.” They are on the same ground below the cross as me – in the same need of a Savior. I have not battled the addiction of drugs, but I battle. We all battle. Some of you understand the addiction temptation. It starts off like a worm of “want” inside of you, then grows into a small, untameable animal of temptation, eventually giving way to an all-consuming beast of addiction. Is there ANYTHING that can conquer the beast of addiction that starts off like a worm of temptation? Yes. But it’s not a thing. It’s a who. With Christ in my heart, I have a way out of my addiction. There are a few all-truth, God-breathed verses that validate this assertion: “I can do ALL things THROUGH Christ WHO strengthens me,” “because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world,” and “God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.” Porn, drugs, alcohol, infidelity, food, stealing, hording, spending, etc. are real temptations that can become real addictions that are really hard to fight. But if Jesus is in your heart, VICTORY is within your grasp. If you need help, email me at email@example.com I can recommend some places. Don’t give up. Do go on.
When I was 8 years old, I wrote a suicide note (of sorts) and mailed it to my grandma. Thus began my journey with the mental struggle. Depression, anxiety, bipolarity, OCD, and the like, are legit. They are struggles in the mind–not to be distinguished from struggles in other organs of a human. Through all these years, here’s two things I’ve learned: with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26); and apart from God, I can do nothing (John 15:5). These two verses are my foundation–holding up a life, well-lived, despite the mental struggle. God is sovereign, He doesn’t screw up. So when He created me, He knew what He was doing. He knew I would have what I have. We’re all born with a weakness, and God is aware of each of ours. He doesn’t give a life more than a life can bear with Him. Have a mental struggle? It’s tough. Have God? It’s still tough….but not impossible. Don’t give up–because God has not and will not give up on you. We ALL struggle. If this isn’t your particular struggle, reach out to someone whose it is, let’ em know you prayed for them today. We’re in this together!
Tomorrow evening, Hurricane Matthew will strike our state. On many levels, it’s stressful; and if you’ve ever been through a hurricane, laden with “what if’s.” For me, it presents a simple spiritual test with one question on the paper:
Heather, do you trust me? Circle one: yes no
The bible tells us, “The LORD is my strength and my defense,” “Come to me…my burden is light,” and “I am with you always.” Although I believe God can give us more than we can handle, I don’t think He leaves us hanging with it. I believe that when/if He gives us more than we can handle, WITH Him, we can handle it. Back in 2005, when Hurricane Wilma hit, I was a mom of a baby and a toddler. Raul was out of town. I had my blind mother-in-law and my little brother. I also had no provisions, no electricity, and no water. So if God called prior to Wilma coming, and itemized all the stress I’d endure, I woulda said, “Find someone else, this chic’s not capable.” But that’s why I’m not God. And that’s hurricane relief! We don’t have to measure out how much we can handle. We don’t have to worry about leaning on our own strength. We might think we can’t handle anymore…but that (thankfully!) isn’t our call. In every crisis, when WE think we can’t handle anymore, we just need to rest in God and let Him make the calls. I will never look forward to hurricanes, but this time, I look forward to resting in God. He’s in charge of my life, and the hurricanes. He’s in charge of the beginning and ending of every storm. He knows what lessons we need to learn in them. His hand is upon our lives and His handprint is upon our hearts. Trust Him in the hurricane.
On many famous accounts, God displayed his love in big things: parting a sea in half, ingesting a human in a whale, raising Jesus from a tomb. But is God’s love in small things? Yes. God’s love is often in insignificantly-small people: a deaf man, a paralyzed man, a girl in adultery, a virgin carrying His son. Have we ever realized the insignificance of these people? Rather, do we realize their significance to God? He didn’t pick Hollywood celebrities to perform these mighty miracles. He didn’t pick the ones with the most “likes” and “follows.” Out of 22 miracles Jesus performed, 20 came from insignificant backgrounds. In the world, we often have to be “somebody.” But in Christ, we already are EVERY. THING. You don’t need to beef up, clean up or puff up. You show up. And God loves you from there. I was never popular as a kid. I don’t know what it’s like to be “most likely to succeed” or nominated to prom court. But I do know what it’s like to be recklessly, unconditionally, emphatically loved by God. You may feel small in your corner of the world, but to God? You’re an heir He’s proud to show you off. If you were the only small, insignificant one on Earth, you would have been worth dying on the cross for. You may feel small in your eyes, but you are the biggest focus of His. I hope this encourages someone today.