Hit By a Ton of Bricks (of thankfulness)

Have you ever been hit by the overwhelming feeling of thankfulness?  It came at me like a ton of bricks the other day.  I am on my way to meet with a friend for Bible study and as I am pulling on the interstate I am listening to the song “How He Loves Us”…and it just hits me.  I found myself praising God and telling him how thankful I am.

When I started writing on this blog, I was in a VERY broken place.  My first marriage had failed (and I was coming to terms with what my part in the failure of that marriage was). I was in graduate school. I was working forty hours a week.  I was CONSTANTLY exhausted.  I was helping raise my younger siblings. I was trying to support my mother who was very sick at the time.  Every day was a constant battle. Everyday I woke up with a tight knot in my stomach, and every night I poured myself into bed so exhausted I couldn’t hardly stand, but too anxious to sleep.  From the time I woke up, to the time I went to sleep I was in a constant state of worry.  Where will our next meal come from? Will I have enough money to make sure my sister has lunch for the week? If I use this food card in public, how many stares will I get? When I get home, will my mom be there?  If I leave her, will she be alive when I come back?  How will I have enough energy to keep all of this together? What happens if I can’t keep this together? What if? What if? What if?… 

Sprinkle on top of that worry sundae a nice cup of “who will love me?” and you’ve got yourself the perfect concoction of “what’s my next bad decision?”.

And so that’s how it went for the better part of 18 months.  Bad decisions, grasping at anything, ANYONE to fill this HUGE, empty hole.  LOVE ME! SOMEONE PLEASE LOVE ME!  Someone please, take care of ME.  I sat and ate that pity sundae for a long time.  So long, in fact, that by the time I was finished I am positive I was drinking what was left of the runny, melted sorrow.


(An accurate depiction of what I actually looked like.)

Throughout many months of counseling, prayer and self-reflection, I found myself in a better place.  A place where I knew who I was again.  A place where I understood my self-worth.  A place where I comprehended the gift of life that had been given to me and WHO gave it to me.  When my life was put into eternal perspective, my choices started to change.  I required better of myself and the people I allowed into my life.

So yesterday, as I am pulling onto the interstate, I am over a year removed from the ugly places my life had taken me.  I am over a year removed from heaping piles of pity into my mouth and stomaching whatever decisions I made to make myself feel better.  And in this past 18 months, God has transformed my life.

I have a mother who is alive against all odds.  
I have sisters that I am still best friends with and talk to every day.
I have a man that I KNOW was handmade by God specifically for me.  
I have a job that I love that pays me what I deserve.  
I have a friend, a REAL friend who understands me and where I’ve been.  

The weight of God’s mercy, love, forgiveness, care, generosity, and sacrifice just poured over me.

I’ve heard a million times that on the other side of the darkest nights, the most beautiful sun rises.  I am here to tell you, it does.  The sun rises and you are left standing with your face turned to it, feeling the warmth and light that had been there all the time.

I never stopped loving Christ, even in my darkest days.  NEVER.  I never stopped trusting that He knew the plan even when I did not.   I was too weak to withstand every circumstance perfectly, but that is where I realized that there is grace at the feet of Jesus.  Time and time again I would fall at his feet and cry out for him to be with me…and EVERY time, he met me right where I was.

Looking back I can see all of the blessings God provided during the hardest times.  One Thanksgiving, a church I had attended since I was a little girl gifted us a Thanksgiving dinner.  AN ENTIRE Thanksgiving Dinner.  The shame I felt was unspeakable, but the thankfulness ran so deep.
One night, a friend texted me and wanted to buy my family and I pizza.  Again I felt this shame of not being able to provide, and God was showing me how much he was in control.  This friend called a local pizza place close to my house and had it delivered straight to my door…already paid for.
More than once I came up against a financial scare and God would open doors.  He provided friends and opportunities that I wouldn’t go homeless.

My thankfulness runs SO deep.  I am thankful for the beauty that was on the other side of my darkest places in life, but (and this is hard for me to say because I never want to live through anything like that again) I am also thankful for the dark places.  Because in those darkest moments the ONLY person I had was Jesus.  I can remember one night specifically that I lied in bed and the ONLY words I could pray were “peace and comfort”.  Over and over and over and over I just said “peace and comfort”.  Not any other words.  I lie in bed with what felt like an elephant on my chest and just BEGGED for peace and comfort.  Those places left me in a complete state of dependency on Christ and THAT has taught me a lot.  It’s taught me a lot about who I am and it’s taught me a lot about who Christ is.  Because of these moments, I can tell you with 100% certainty that when I turned to Christ, I felt moments of relief.  Moments of joy.  Moments of PEACE even in the midst of the most chaotic experiences.

If you are trudging along in the darkness right now, living every day in fear, anxious thoughts and pain…please know I’ve been there.  Please know that God is still right there with you.  Please know that even on the DARKEST nights, the sun will still rise.

If you happen to stumble on this post, and you need someone to talk to, I am going to extend the offer of my e-mail.  One of the hardest parts of the journey was the isolation I felt during this time in my life.  It is my goal that no one should feel the kind of isolation. (e-mail: martiwarner.mvnu@gmail.com)

Delightfully Disjointed and Full of God’s Love,
Marti

Advertisements

God Restores

God answers prayer. God restores. God gives us ABUNDANTLY more than we could ever ask.  “God has a plan, even when it doesn’t look like it.”

I know God has spoken to me and told me “It is Time”.  It is time to walk out of the past and declare what God has done for me–for my family.  This morning, I’ve been thinking a couple of things.

The first is:  We serve an ALMIGHTY, INFINITE, ALL KNOWING, MIRACLE WORKING, SOVEREIGN, God.  One who is alive today.  Why, then, are we so quick to denounce miracles?  Why are we so quick to think God doesn’t speak?  Why then are we so afraid of gifts of prophecy or gifts of healing?  If the God we serve today is the same God of biblical times (AND HE IS) our God should still move like he did.  AND HE DOES.

My second thought was this:  We all know the stories we are taught as children.  Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, King Nebachadnezzar and how selfish he was, The woman who touched Jesus’s robe and was healed, we know these stories, but do we know what happened to each of them AFTER the biggest parts of the story?

Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for refusing to praise only King Darius for 30 days.  He was caught praying to God asking for help, and when the king found out, he had him thrown in the Lion’s Den.  God shut the lions’ mouths, but then what?

Daniel was saved. Not only was Daniel saved, but the men who plotted against him were killed!  GOD WAS EXALTED and Daniel prospered.

Daniel 6:26-28  I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.  For he is the LIVING God, and he endures forever, his kingdom will not be destroyed his dominion will never end.  He rescues and he saves, he performs signs and wonders, in the heavens and on earth.  He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”  So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

I remember that God saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and that is VERY important!  However, we don’t read further than, they were saved.  You know what else happened? They were saved, Nebuchadnezzar announces that the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is to be praised, “for no other god can save in this way”.  Then, the king promoted the three men in Babylon.  Their story GAVE GOD ALL THE GLORY, and he blessed them for it.

Nebuchadnezzar had a HUGE ego.  He was prideful and didn’t give God the glory for all of the good that he had accomplished.  God made Nebuchadnezzar to eat grass like the cows, he grew long nails like claws on a bird and his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle. (HA! So weird, but so cool.)  God took everything from him, but do you know what happened after that??  Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes to heaven and his sanity was restored.

Daniel 4:36- At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom.  My advisers and nobles sought me out and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before.

Then, Nebuchadnezzar praised and exalted God.  God gave Nebuchadnezzar a story, to give him all the glory, THEN he RESTORED him even GREATER than before.

The bleeding woman.  For twelve years she bled. God has given me visions of this story for a little over a year now.  The woman who crawls to Jesus’ feet and KNEW that by touching the bottom of his robe that she would be healed. He showed her love, he showed her mercy, he called her DAUGHTER!  So, what happened after she was healed?

Mark 5:34- He said to her, “Daughter your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be FREED FROM YOUR SUFFERING.”

God took this woman’s story, and used it.  Her story gave him all the glory (her FAITH healed her), then he freed her.  Jesus FREED her from her suffering.

I know God is doing something big.  I know this is the beginning of freedom.  I know that God has restored me. He has restored my family.  He has given my mother back her sanity and soon she will also have her honor and splendor restored.  She is going to be restored even greater than she was before.  TO GIVE HIM ALL THE GLORY.  We made it.  Everything we have been through as a family was for his glory.

2Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Whispers In The Wind

Written October 13th, 2015:

As I’m enjoying the view from my back porch on a brisk fall day, the trees and their beautiful colors mesmerize me. I was talking to God, “God, I can’t make a connection yet to the fact that you’ve created this with your own hands.” But then I had another thought. I was reminded of the Holy Spirit by watching the breeze gently rustle the leaves on the trees. I’m not yet able to appreciate God in all of his magnificence (I doubt I’ll ever be able to), but I am able to make connections that will guide me on my journey. The journey on which I am constantly tripping and falling…but never stopping! I began to think about how similar the Holy Spirit is to the wind. We can’t physically SEE the Holy Spirit, but we absolutely feel it. We can also recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in the way that people move. The same way the trees react to the wind is the way that we react when we are in tune to the spirit. When the spirit whispers we move gently. When the spirit yells we move with immediate reverence. When the spirit is pressing, we respond accordingly.

Watching the trees gently sway, I can only imagine what the wind is saying to the trees. Be still and know that I am God. Isn’t this a beautiful place? How amazing is it to have the opportunity to blow in the gentle wind as people admire your beauty. I hate that I always have to fall farther than I’ve ever fallen in order to really appreciate who God is in my life and what He’s done. I hate that when I am caught up in my own mess, trying to meet my own needs that I miss the simple, yet magnificent beauty that is all around me and the messages that each of these simple things bring. I am thankful today that I have a God whose love never runs out, whose grace is sufficient for all and whose reminders are placed perfectly in the whispers of the wind.

The Story

I was seven years old the night I sat huddled with my sisters on a 1980’s brown felt couch.  My father was knelt in front of us preparing to drop the biggest bomb our family would ever endure.  He was a preacher, the leader of our family, the only Dad I ever knew.  He was loved, looked-up to, and cherished by his church members.  In the late hours of that night as I watched my mom dissolve into tears, and heard my Dad barely able to get his words out, I knew it was bad.  My sisters were crying, but none of us knew why.  I only knew that I needed to protect them.

I wrapped my arms around my sisters and we held on to each other.  I can still hear my mother’s voice in the background telling my father to look what he had done.  This incident would forever imprint our family and lead us down a path that no family should travel.

We left our small suburban neighborhood and headed north to a city where my Mom grew up and all of her family lived.  We rented a humble yellow house owned by my grandfather and my parents tried to save what was left of their shattered marriage.  I remember a couple of Christian retreats that my parents attended together, but when the end drew near, it was pretty clear that a divorce was her only option.  Lies, deception, and secrets riddled our family as long as he was around.

After a couple of years my parents began building their own house outside of the city limits.  It was a gorgeous two story house with an open floor plan, textured tiled floors and a full walk-out basement.  I had my own room for the very first time, one that was mine, mine and not rented or shared.  It had a long closet, with sliding cherry wood doors, that I would sometimes put a bean bag in the back of and read in the quiet space.   Some of my greatest memories were made at this house.  Big parties for 11th and 12th birthdays.  Laughter. Christmases where the house was so decorated you would think you visited the North Pole.  Five Christmas trees would adorn the house during the Christmas season.  (This is still true.)

I became a teenager in this house.  A teenager that was now scarred by an absent father and a mother who was at times emotionally from the exhaustion of taking on the role of mother and father. To compensate,  I sought attention from boys to fill the enormous void I had.  I needed to feel loved, cherished and cared about.  The ways I went about it were demeaning, vulgar and degrading.

Five years would pass in that new house before my mother finally made the decision to divorce.  The summer I was 15, my parent’s divorce was final.  This was the end of one hell and the beginning of another.  My mom was remarried by the time I turned 16 in March of 2006.  She was barely divorced for 7 months.  Initially it was this Brady Bunch type situation that we all embraced, but it pretty quickly turned into the biggest nightmare any of us could imagine. There were ups and downs, screaming fights.  There was an incident that would forever change extended family functions and create a rift so big that I often felt outcasted.  There were incidents of violence between me and step-siblings and my sisters and step-siblings.  We were a family divided.  There was a constant feeling of danger.

When I went to college in the fall of 2008, I met new friends at the coffee shop where I was working.  My manager had a brother who visited the coffee shop daily.  As we began to talk, numbers were exchanged and a relationship began.  I very quickly was staying Monday through Friday with him in his apartment and only returning to my house on the weekends.  By the spring of 2009, I was fully moved in after a blow out fight between my mom and step-dad that left me wondering if I would have a home to come back to.

The relationship I was in provided a sense of stability.  I was able to escape the constant feeling of anxiety and danger by living with him.  As our relationship continued, we got a different apartment together, lived there for a year and got married in June of 2011.  A couple of months after being married, we moved out of state. I entered a pretty low depression being far away from my family, and in an area that was difficult to make friends or find work.  Demons from my childhood would haunt me and I found it VERY difficult to be my own best friend.  The same coping mechanisms to find and feel love would revisit this time in my life and it would be some of the most unhappy times I’ve experienced.

After two years out of state, we moved home.  After only being home a few months, I asked for a divorce.  The process began in November of 2013 and was finalized two months later in January of 2014.  My divorce would send me down path of uncertainty and the lowest of all lows. During this time, I was living back in my mom’s home.  She and my step-dad had been separated for the better part of two years.  He had his own apartment in a nearby town and she continued to live in her home.

The house her and my father had built 12 years prior was never the same.  Rundown by the emotional turmoil and financial strain of two people being married with 8 children.  The stained carpet was torn up and new wooden floors laid.  The front door was missing its decorative glass pane and the framing around the door had chipped paint, exposing the wood that had been placed by family hands over a decade before.  The landscaping was non-existent and the grass was often touching your shins.  The roof had misplaced shingles. The house had broken faucets and a stove that only worked part of the time.  It was not the house my mother built and I knew it.

It would be in the spring of 2014 that my mother would try to escape all of this.  A night I will never forget.  My sister and I returned home, after picking up Chinese food, to an empty house.  It was eerily quiet, but it wouldn’t be until my youngest sister found my mom’s cell phones still at the house that we knew something was very wrong.  Panicked phone calls revealed that no one knew where she was and that no one had heard from her for several hours.  Hours later, my mom would be found driving in a town close by.  She had taken at least 100 pills that she counted out, and several others that she didn’t.

The next year would be the worst of my entire life.  I didn’t recognize my own mother.  We went weeks without speaking at all.  She was in and out of the hospital.  My sisters and I drew on each other for strength as my mom made one last attempt to escape her horrible reality, the day before Thanksgiving of 2014.  After this incident, my mom’s soon to be ex-husband would pick her up from the hospital, move back into the house and I would pack up all of my things in a matter of two days and be in my own apartment ten days before Christmas.

This was the start of my biggest downward spiral.  With my own space came my own freedom.  All the freedom in the world to mask the horrific pain I was in.  My dad had been estranged for the better part of 14 years, and my only parent–my rock, was someone I had never met before.  I began online dating, drinking more often that I ever had and making some of the poorest decisions I’ve ever made.  I would have bouts of clarity where I could admit that I didn’t know who I was anymore.  In these moments I would cry out to God.  After suffering for the better part of two years, I knew I had hit my all time low when my sister picked me, and a group of people I had just met, up at a bar at 2:00am.

I. Was. A. Mess.

It was this low that lead me to seek counseling and jump-started my journey to self-discovery.

It would seem that the 7 year old little girl was pretty much doomed from the start.  Her preacher-daddy destroyed a family bond with the demons of his own that he never overcame.  The 14 year old little girl began seeking love and affection from men because she didn’t have a father to give it to her.  The 21 year old adult was marrying out of pure stabilization instead of true, christian love.  The 25 year old adult was resorting to childhood coping mechanisms just to mask the pain.

Here’s the thing.

I am NOT doomed, nor was I ever. I am a child of GOD!  A child of the Most High. A child of a King.  A child of the Master of the Universe.  I am a child of the ultimate Healer, the All Mighty Comforter, the Miracle Worker.  A child of the Holy Deliverer.  A child to the one who knew my name before I was formed in my mother’s womb.  A child to a God who sent his only son to die so that I may live.

I am surrounded by the arms of a father, by songs of deliverance!! I’ve been liberated from my bondage!! I am the DAUGHTER of a KING! I will sing my song of freedom!

I am no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.

God gives us all a story,
So we can give him
All the GLORY!

What I’ve heard God say this morning is “It’s Time”.  It’s time that my story, my pain, my experiences give him the glory.  He gave me this story, so that I can give him ALL the GLORY!  When all things seemed lost, I clung to a God I knew would never fail me.  I don’t remember asking why, but I do remember begging God to make it end.  Just to make it all go away.  I never want to revisit the places I’ve been, but I can tell you standing on the other side that God did works in me that He wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

This morning, I am four months into my 26th year.  This is my year of freedom.  I feel happy for the first time maybe in my entire life.  The kind of happy where you catch yourself enjoying a moment so much that you don’t want it to end.  The kind of happy where you feel like the puzzle has been coming together and you are the last piece that completed it.  This is the kind of happy that only comes from a God who is the giver of all things, and the lover of his children.  This is the year that I will give God all the glory for loving me, giving me grace, protecting me, hearing the desires of my heart and guiding me through my story.

This is my story.

What’s yours?

Draw Near to Me

God never ceases to amaze me.  He talks to me even when I know I don’t deserve for him to even look my direction.  It is true what I’ve heard my entire life, God never moves, we move.

Sometimes it’s totally unintentional.  Other times it’s a blatant move, because we are trying to run form a God who knows our every thought.  This time, for me, it’s been unintentional.  Another familiar pattern (called I-can-control-my-own-life) that I’ve followed once again down into a path of anxious thoughts, self-pity and tears.

This morning as I sat down my my Bible, again I wasn’t sure what I needed to read. What I should read, what God wanted me to hear, what I wanted to say to him.  So, I picked up my favorite devotional and read.

This morning, God’s message: “You will never be in control of your life circumstances, but you can relax and trust in My control.  Instead of striving for a predictable, safe lifestyle, seek to know Me in great depth and breadth.  I long to make your life a glorious adventure, but you must stop clinging to old ways. (CAN I GET AN AMEN?!) I am always doing something new within My beloved ones.  Be on the lookout for all that I have prepared for you.”

There is always something to worry about.  There is always an issue at hand that leaves room for the unknown.  Recently I have been beyond worried about rejection.  I’ve been anxious about the thoughts of mistreatment from those I want to hold dear to me.  I’ve been anxious about what to say or do in the situation. How to “fix” it.  I know this is a lesson God helped me learn over the past couple of years. (Marti. You can’t FIX everything!) 

Psalm 56:3-4
When I am afraid I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust;
I will not be afraid,  What can moral men do to me?

This morning as I spend time in reflection, I am again reminded that I am not in control.  When I am in control, things don’t go well.  I am reminded that God knows what is best and that there is nothing that separates me from his love.  I am also reminded that fear, anxiety and worry are not of Christ.  I am reminded that mortal man has no grip on me because my heart and focus is on an eternal Jesus.

I am praying today that God gives me direction.  That I am open to his plan.  That I can feel his presence around me and know he is guiding my path.  I am praying that God is able to calm my spirit when it is anxious and that there is a positive, encouraging solution to circumstances out of my control.

I am praying that I continue to draw near to him.

Soul-Parched

Desert, dry, cotton-mouth, hardened, cracked.

This is the vision I got this morning as I was reading in Psalms.  We are called to bear fruit, but fruit doesn’t grow in the desert.  Fruit doesn’t grow out of the dried up cracks of the earth.

Soul-Parched.  

I’ve become Soul-Parched and it’s time that I get my rear-end in gear and start watering my soul!

As I was reading there were several scriptures that spoke to me.  This time in my life is one of peace, happiness and joy, but there are always uncertainties of the future.  When I first started this blog, the time in my life was the worst adversity I have ever had to face.  It seems that I have forgotten the God who brought me through trialling times.  How?  How do I forget such a magnificent God when I am reading verses like, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”?  It’s mind boggling when I realize that I’ve gotten “too busy” for God.  I’m too busy for the creator of the universe?  For the God who KNIT ME TOGETHER IN MY MOTHER’S WOMB?!  Oh no. No you are not.

This morning God gently reminded me who is in control.  As graduate school has ended and I spend my days thinking, searching and applying for jobs, a bit of anxiety creeps in.  What if I don’t find a job for next year?  Why hasn’t this school called me back?  How will I pay my bills if I don’t have a full-time position?  Maybe I should open a daycare/preschool and work from home.  No. I need to find a job because I’ve worked so hard for this Master’s degree. 

STOP!

I am thankful this morning.  Thankful for a God who wants me and loves me.  Thankful for a God who recognizes my spirit starting to stir and instead of leaving me in my Soul-Parched state to wander in the desert, he calls to me.  Psalm 138:8 The Lord will fulfill is purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever–do not abandon the works of your hands. He is the almighty comforter.  The defender of the weak.  The uplifter of the downtrodden.  The calmer of anxious spirits.  The assurance in the unknown.  He is unwavering, unchanging, never-ending.  He is the beginning and the end.   He goes before me and behind me.  There is nowhere I can hide from him.  (AND I’M SO GLAD!)

I may have allowed my soul to become parched, but God calls to his children.  I’ve been feeling him calling me back to him.  WHO DOES THAT?!  There is not a single other person who would call to me after I’ve walked away time after time after time.  Abandonment is a fear I’ve had to battle all of my adult life.  God calling to me this week talks to the deepest parts of my soul.  My readings this morning have brought hope.

So, as I ease back into my writing I know I am Soul-Parched.  It’s more difficult to write than it was last year.  I know God is speaking to me.  I know he wants me to hear his voice.  I know there is something big ahead.  I can feel it in my spirit.  So, I will obey.  I’m turning this Soul-Parched soul into grassy field filled with wild flowers.  Only by the grace of a God who loves his children unconditionally. 

This is my prayer for this week. Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of the everlasting.”

 

Psalm 143:6
I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

 

 

A Longing

For about a week now, I have felt this longing to read my Bible. It’s always interesting when that happens.  It’s generally when I know it’s been way too long.  This time, the realization is no different.  It has been way too long.  I can’t remember the last time I sat down with my Bible at all.

So, I sat down a few minutes ago and just opened the Bible.  It opened to Deuteronomy and the verses that I read were about giving the Lord the firstfruits of the land that was given to the people.  Really, for me it was a reminder that what I have is all because of who Christ is.  I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure what God wants me to read or what he wants me to write.  I just want to be sure I am documenting my feelings and experiences for future reference.

The second scripture I read was in Mark chapter 12, specifically when the Sadducees came to Jesus asking about marriage after death.  I went on to read about The Greatest Commandment.  These scriptures are something I will spend a lot of time on in the near future.  “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, The Lord, is one.  Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: Love you neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” 

 

Grace at His Feet

GOD IS AWESOME.

There are sometimes just not words. Those three words aren’t adequate enough.  He’s more than awesome.  He’s incredible. He’s consistant. He’s undeniable.

For the past few days I’ve been singing the song “It’s All About You, Jesus.”  I’ve realized for about the past week I’ve lost focus. I start to hold on to “my” life tighter than I should.  I start to think I can control how my life is going to go.  This morning, I sat down to relax, not even intending to do devotions honestly.  As I was sitting on my couch, that song came to mind again.  I looked it up on youtube and just started to worship.  I was brought to a place of repentance. It wasn’t harsh.  It wasn’t demeaning.  It was a gentle reminder.

For so long I’ve struggled with failure (I still do).  I don’t like to make mistakes.  I don’t like to do things wrong.  I don’t like to be a “failure”.  I hide my mistakes.  I run from failure.  This pours into my spiritual life as well.  When I make mistakes I’m afraid to go to God.  I sometimes don’t know how to initiate conversation with Him.  I am so thankful for a God who speaks in the ways we are able to listen.  He used music to draw me into repentance. It wasn’t demeaning.  It wasn’t shame.  It. Was. So. Cool.

I started to hear these questions:

Who is this life about?

Who are you living for?

What are you bringing me when you worship?

I just worshiped and repented.  I asked that God search my heart.  I told him that He is what is important to me and that if there was anything in my life that he didn’t want me to have, I would chose him.  It’s a relief when I go back and give it all to him.  I feel my grip on life loosen.  I don’t HAVE to be in control.  I don’t HAVE to worry about every second of every day.  When it’s God’s choice, I’m able to relax.

As I continued to ask for forgiveness, I asked that the Holy Spirit speak to me.

Immediately God gave me a vision.

Jesus was sitting in front of me as I was knelt at his feet.  He reached down to me, put his hands on either side of my face and kissed my forehead.  Then…you know what he did?! Just like he’s done for so many others that come to his feet, He said, “I love you.” (*CUE THE SOBBING*)  He’s gently reminding me.  “There is grace at my feet. Humble yourself. Meet me here.  I love you.  I’m always going to be here.  Come to my feet, Marti.  Let me love you, Marti. Let me kiss your fears away.”

He. Loves. Me. 

It’s not about me.  It’s all about Him. It’s all about Jesus.

I’m glad he brought me to his feet this morning. ❤

Maybe God Had A Flat Tire

Today I’ve spent time thinking about what happens when the feelings fade.  I know I’ve talked before about how feelings lie.  That concept was brought to my attention several months ago and I never understood what was meant by it.

Let me try to clear that up (Just as much for myself as for anyone else who randomly stumbles onto this post):

Let’s say you have a friend. (Most of us have at least A friend we can use for this scenario, so it seems a safe bet.) Anyway, you and this friend decide to go to dinner.  You sit down at the restaurant, you order drinks for the two of you and this friend never comes.  10 minutes pass, 15 minutes pass, 20 freakin’ minutes. If you are a friend like I am a friend, you’ve started to get frustrated. You’ve done called them. MORE TIMES THAN YOU SHOULD ADMIT!  You’ve gotten no answer.  You’ve texted and not gotten a response.  Now you’re starting to feel not just mad, but rejected.  You’re starting to feel like perhaps they forgot about you. You wait 30 minutes and FINALLY that stinkin’ friend of yours walks into dinner, hands covered in black grease and sweat dripping off their brow.  

A flat tire…. DANG GONE IT.

So, did the friend reject you? Did the friend forget about you? No.  The friend had a dead cell phone (because isn’t that just classic when you’re going to have car trouble!!) and a flat tire.

The same thing happens in our spiritual walks. (I mean false feelings, although I am sure there is such a think as a spiritual flat tire.)  God is always there. ALWAYS.  There are specific times when God makes himself incredibly known.  He needs you to feel his presence for specific reasons.  Sometimes you’re going through a rough time.  Sometimes you have a decision to make.  Sometimes he knows you need to specifically FEEL his love.  Other times, God is ever present, but we don’t necessarily FEEL things.  That is where faith kicks in.  I think those are specific moments where Christ is really asking us so step out in full faith and follow him not by sight.

He’s asking that we stop groping at the wall and using it as a “feel guide” through life.  For some reason, that vision is really powerful to me.  Rather than living a Christian walk where you are in the dark feeling your way cautiously down the hallway, dragging your feet on the ground to make sure you don’t trip over an unexpected bump, Jesus is begging that we grab his hand.  Step into the light.  And walk in faith.

That requires a lot.  Sometimes that means abandoning some of the truths you’ve believed for WAY TOO LONG.  It means embracing forgiveness and grace.  It means being in a constant state of repentance and reconsideration.  It means being in the word and taking in the things God wants to reveal to you.

Faith. 

Today I was reading Esther and a friend was talking to me about the Bible Study she is currently attending.  They are studying this chapter, and one of the things she’s learned is that this is the only book of the Bible where God is not specifically mentioned.  However, that doesn’t me he isn’t present! The presence of God is all throughout Esther’s life and Mordecai’s (Esther’s cousin) as well.  The importance of coincidences that are too big to be coincidences are ways that we know God is present.  This is true in the book of Esther.

One significant part that stood out to me is that Mordecai (Esther’s cousin who took her in as a child) was to be put to death by Haman, a royal official of King Xerxes.  The NIGHT before Haman is going to hang Mordecai, Xerxes couldn’t sleep. **This is where God starts to work.  Sometimes it’s something as small as not being able to sleep.** Because he couldn’t sleep, he asked that the chronicles, which documented special events of his reign, be brought to him and read out loud.  So, as Xerxes is suffering insomnia, he requests this book to be read (he could have chosen to do ANYTHING else with his time) and as the book is being read to him Mordecai’s name comes up. (You know, the same Mordecai that Haman wants to murder, yeah. Him.) Mordecai had earlier overheard a conversation between guards plotting the death of King Xerxes.  He then sent word to Esther and Esther sent word to the king so that it would be avoided.  This event was documented in the chronicles that are IN THAT MOMENT being read to Xerxes.  Xerxes asks if Mordecai has ever been thanked for his actions and the answer (OBVIOUSLY since Haman is trying to MURDER HIM!) is no.  So!–Literally HOURS before he is to be hanged, Xerxes instructs Haman to show Mordecai the recognition he deserves for saving his life.  (God’s irony is just so perfect sometimes. Literally the dude who was going to murder Mordecai now has to dress him in the best clothing and parade him around the city saying how awesome he is! HA!!)

Needless to say, Mordecai’s life is spared.  The story get’s even better. Xerxes get’s mad he murders Haman and the Jews start kicking some serious butt.  I would tell you the whole story, but maybe if I don’t, you’ll go get in the word yourself. 😉

I specifically share this story to show you that even though the “high” of God’s AWESOME grace has worn off, He is still an awesome God.  One that shows up and takes care of us through “coincidences” even when he is not specifically named.  One that presents himself to us when we actively seek him.  One that gives us gentle reminders as encouragement.  One that is there whether we “feel” him or not.

Sometimes it’s helpful to pull back and see the coincidences in our lives that are more than coincidences.

Sometimes it’s helpful to remind yourself that feelings lie.

*shrugs* Maybe God had a flat tire and a dead cell phone.

Spiritual Journey Planning Guide

Journey: The act of traveling from one place to another.

I wanted to take time to think about what taking a journey means.  When you go on a journey (or vacation) there are things you do in preparation for that journey.

First you plan it:
-Who am I going to bring?
-What kinds of clothing do I need to pack?
-What do I need to know about the place I will end up?
-How am I going to get there?
-Am I going to make any stops along the way?
-Specifically where should I refuel?
-What questions do I have about the place I am going?

This came to mind to me this morning, because I have had an AMAZING week with Jesus.  I blogged about it in the post He Calls Me Daughter.  I am still feeling the love and grace from my sweet moments with the Lord, but I started to have questions.  Then when I had questions I started to FEEL (remember, feelings will LIE) like maybe I wasn’t as close to God as I was even a couple of days ago.  So, I started thinking and reached out to my cousin and ask that she talk to me.  As I was talking to her, I started to think about the fact that everyone calls Christianity and the walk with the Lord a journey and how true that is!

Each of the questions I presented about an Earthly journey can be applied to a spiritual one. So, without further ado: The Spiritual Journey Planning Guide.

Spiritual Journey

-Who do you bring with you?Think about all of the people in your life who will support you, love you, speak truth to you and show you grace while you are on your journey. Who will REJOICE with you when God has broken you free from a stronghold?!  Then: INVITE THEM.  Stay in contact with them.  Talk to them.  Go to them when you have questions.  Build a Godly relationship with them.

-What kinds of clothing do I need to pack?This one is interesting, but I still feel like it was one that God placed on my heart.  During the week that Jesus really spoke to me, I read the book Every Woman’s Battle.  While there are still some things I am unsure of and wrestling with God over, there were some things I know he spoke to me about.  Specifically about how we present ourselves. Dressing in a way that doesn’t cause our brothers in Christ to stumble.  (I know!! I KNOW! Some of you are probably rolling your eyes. HEAR ME OUT!)  I started to think about it from a SPIRITUAL, SOUL type perspective.  Let’s think of everyone we meet at a soul.  If you go out wearing a shirt that is so low cut people can see a sliver of your nipple, just know that you are causing people to stare, which is ultimately the goal: Attention.  BUT think about it from a spiritual context.  Men are starting, but that turns to lust almost immediately.  Lust has the potential to lead to other things and ultimately distance from God.  How important is it that you wear that shirt now?  I do believe it is our freedom to dress how we please.  I’m not saying wear a burlap sack! PLEASE! Anyone who knows me, knows better!! I am saying, be mindful of the spiritual consequences. *shrugs* That’s all. Soooo, pack clothing for your spiritual journey that you would be comfortable standing in front of Christ in.

-What do I need to know about the place I will end up?How can you share with friends where you are going if you have no idea what that place is really like?  Even as I am typing this God is speaking to me.  How are we to answer friends’ questions about our journey and the destination, when we don’t know the truths ourselves?  Start searching the Bible.  Know what Heaven is promised to be like.  Know what God’s promises are and start answering questions with the excitement I know will come!

-How am I going to get there?On a “regular” journey we have the decision of a car, plane, train etc.  On a spiritual journey, things get a little more complicated.  When I think about how I am going to get to the “end” of my journey, I think less about a mode of transportation and more about the kinds of things my soul needs to run.  In a car, the car needs gas.  The same is true of a plane and a train.  All of the choices for transportation require the vehicle to be fueled in some way.  So, similar to knowing where you will end up, fill your soul with the truths of the Bible.  Other forms of fuel: Praying, TALK TO GOD OUT LOUD, singing worship songs, community with Godly friends, finding a support group, asking questions, reading a biblical story.  Constantly fill your soul with Godly fuel.

-Am I going to make any stops along the way?–What stops do you want to take along your journey?  Is there a forgiveness pit stop on your journey?  Is there a rejoicing pit stop?  Maybe God wants you to take a pit stop to learn how to read the Bible?  Maybe God wants you to take a few days of solitude to privately JUST. SEEK. HIM.  Pray (out loud, verbally) and ask God what stops he would have you take in your journey.  He has BEAUTIFUL things to show you!
-Specifically when should I refuel?–I remember taking vacations with my ex-husband and his family to Florida (if you didn’t know I had an ex-husband, I blogged about the grace God has shown me through this situation in this blog post).  Every trip they stopped at the same gas station to refuel the van.  I believe it was in West Virginia?  Either way, the reasoning was that this was the cheapest gas station along the trip and the further south we went, the more expensive the gas would be.  Even if the van still had half a tank or more, we still stopped there!  Be mindful of where you refuel in your spiritual journey. Don’t wait to refuel when you are completely empty and now you are so far south it is going to be so costly to fill all the way back up.  Keep a watchful eye on your spiritual tank and know that you can refuel even when you still have a lot of fuel left.  Our spiritual tanks are similar to car tanks.  As we take our stops along the journey, it will cost fuel.  What is different is that at every stop, we get filled up and our tanks are able to “runneth over”.  Don’t just fill your tank when it is going empty.  FILL IT WHEN IT’S ALREADY FULL! Let God make your tank so full it is bursting at the seams!
-What questions do I have about the place I am going?–First, know that it is ok to have questions.  It is OK to have doubts.  it is NORMAL.  What you do with these questions is way more important that the fact that you have them.  Know what your questions are and then take them to a reliable source.  If you had questions about a specific vacation, you wouldn’t ask someone who you didn’t trust to know the correct answer.  Gather your questions, and find a TRUSTED source.  Probably one of the people who you decided to take on the journey with you, that is always a good choice.  Also, GO TO GOD.  All day. Every day.  Take your questions to him. Remember to be honest and transparent.  He will bless you.

This entire post was stemmed because I had doubts and was feeling unsure about where to take my questions and through out the time it has taken me to write this blog, I feel like God has spoken directly to me through my writing.  He then has confirmed my thoughts through a Godly cousin and trusted friend.  The doubts I have now seem so far away, but God has also provided the answers that I needed to hear.  I took my questions to a trusted source and God has been faithful to show grace, but still give me the hard answers he requires of me so I may have the best experience on my Spiritual Journey.

Start your journey!  I promise it will be the best vacation you ever take!