Cheering.

I don’t know about you, but I am my biggest critic. Worse than one of those cheeky food critics, like the one humorously portrayed in Ratatoullie. I scrutinize every single detail of every conversation, action, creation, thought. The list of possible targets to my scrutiny is endlessly exhausting. Perfection is the never-obtainable goal. So, it should come as no surprise, I often lay in bed at night, in the quiet, while shutting off my brain…wondering, did I do enough today for my kids?

Did I hug them enough? Give them enough attention? Ask enough questions? Did I give them enough love? Did I tell them I’m proud? Was I engaged? Was I kind? Was it all enough?

Is it ever enough? Enough to combat the offense. Did I execute an adequate defense?

For you see, tomorrow they will get up and journey back into a world that reverberates to them, they aren’t enough. That they don’t have what it takes. That they don’t measure up. A world that pushes them for more. To be more. Do more. Give more.

So, I lie there, faking sleep, asking… was it all enough?

Maybe I’m not the only mom, plagued by this vexing fret. I most assuredly doubt that I am. And since I am not, today, as a mom, I come as your personal cheerleader! I have my pompoms and my cute outfit on. A big obnoxious bow strapped to my head and the biggest, cheesiest smile you have ever seen, slapped on my face! I am shouting…You’re doing a great job! You’re are successfully keeping the little (or big) humans alive. Yay!

Today, let’s stop stressing and take a minute for a deep breath. Remember, there is no operation manual for this job, and whoever wrote What to “Expect When You’re Expecting”, forgot A LOT OF CRITICAL INFORMATION!

Focus.

Blog

Scrolling through Pinterest, as I attempt to create some resemblance of “me time” (what is that anyway?); I stumble across this witty pin. I am quite infatuated with these, often comical, black and white message boards, maybe because they really remind me of Sunday school felt boards- can I get an AMEN or because they say the most brilliant things, and I wish I could think them up! I took a quick screen shot, saved the pin to my ever-clever board “show me a sign”, snort/laughed sarcastically under my breath and drifted off to quick slumber. So much for my “me time”!

A few days later, in a caffeine deprived, sleepy eyed state, I opened my bible to get me some Jesus! Completely oblivious to the WOW moment about to strike straight from heaven!  The scripture that day was of Mary and Martha; sisters, most likely best friends and even better friendemies. This emphasis added truth became very apparent to me as I read the juicy documented “brawl” recanted in the book of Mark. You see, in my mind, Mary is type B personality. Absolutely nothing ruffles her feathers, no deadlines drain her peace, she is simply happy. Happy being alive and it would take an atomic bomb kinda of day to cause even the tiniest wake. I know this personality type well, because my daughter is a classic B. I… on the other hand, am NOT. I, like Martha, am A type personality. EVERYTHING ruffles our feathers. Deadlines define our days, as soon as, our eyes open.  We are driven by an eternal fear of failure chasing us down, so we try to outperform, outwit, out do, everyone. Including ourselves.

In this story, we see these personalities on stage, showing us exactly why they cannot live in harmony. Martha and Mary both know Jesus is coming over to visit. Jesus! Like the real Jesus! He is coming to have dinner at their house, to eat off their dinnerware, to sit on their furniture, to eat their food. While they are both ecstatic (who wouldn’t be, it’s Jesus!)- a dramatic variation of subject focus occurs. After Jesus’ arrival, Mary… stays fixed on the excitement of the guest. She is zoomed in on gleaning every ounce, of every word, He will speak. She sits crisscross applesauce, at His feet, transfixed as unbeknownst to her, Martha’s blood boils. Martha peers from the hot kitchen, her focus pointed, obviously, on ALL that must be done. An immediate “to do” list took precedence, the second she was informed He would be visiting. And now, she spotlights what must be cleaned, what must be cooked, what must be served and the fact that her sister, is NOT HELPING HER! She is no longer focused on the splendor of Jesus, no longer worried about the honorary guest. Rather, she has allowed her heart to target the wrong object. Staring down the barrel of what must be completed, missing the mark entirely.

As I trek through the passage, I am absolutely appalled! The nerve of this woman! How did she not realize the importance of this moment? How could she not see? Then just like that, like a fluorescent arrow at a road side stop, blinking, clicking, begging for me to stop, I remember the screen shot from the night before. While the simple sign is still quite hilarious, it offers a stinging blow. Magically, it had transformed and was now a mirror (like the ones in the Target dressing rooms, where you can see EVERYTHING, from EVERY angle) and I could clearly see, the reflection of Martha staring back at me.

Right on cue, in perfect timing, the sweet nudge of Holy Spirit, softly reminds me how often my focus is amiss. Like Martha, I too allow the distraction of “important” to drown the blessing of “most important.” The vexing tug of to-do lists, deadlines, perfection snatching my attention from what really matters. Then the words of Jesus, drop as a thud, into my heart, “Martha (Candace), Martha (Candace), you are worried and upset about many things. But only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, and I will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:41”

The Event.

Ever notice, how you struggle with a thing for a season, (maybe a much longer season than we’d like to admit) and so you work on it. I mean you put forth valiant effort. You pray about it, read all the self-help books, do the 101 steps to smashing your obstacle, and FINALLY… get to the point where you’re like yea, I got this thing u-n-d-e-r c-o-n-t-r-o-l and then BAM! Like your bathing suit on the first day of summer…it hits your square in the forehead…like NOPE…. I’MMMMM BAAACCCKKKK!

Yesterday, I was curled up in my favorite spot, reading my bible and feeling bona fide spiritual. Studying various scriptures about self-control, writing in my prayer journal, quite comfortable up on my spiritual unicorn, when “the event” occurred. I have cleverly chosen this title, due to the fact, that; in my imagination, when I hear the word “event”, I visualize the scene of a boxing match. Actually, I am envisioning the highlight reel flashed on ESPN, following the epic heavy weight battle. The clip where the final blows are delivered, and what in reality- took a few seconds, is now slowed down to such drastic proportions, the ripples in the opponents’ cheek shift like waves in an ocean. It is this slow-motion effect, that caused the selection of “event”, as it perfectly portrays yesterday’s incident.

As you recall, I am on my spiritual unicorn of self-righteous self-control now. I hear the faint click of the thermostat, triggering the air conditioner to come on, however; rather than the sound of the blissfully blowing cold air, I am met with an annoying hum and absolutely, no blissfully cold air…whatsoever. It is summer in Louisiana…and this humming sets in motion the next sequence of actions, labeled the event.  Not only do I dismount my unicorn of self-control, I spin into a panicked frenzy, coupled with rage and anger, that in a matter of seconds, transforms into mass hysteria. No joke. What was a simple, level 1 situation, took off like a rocket, into a level 26 emergency. In my mind, the ac issue escalated quickly as follows… 1. Needing an entire new unit that will cost $7,000 (I googled it and the internet does not lie), 2. Our family budget is mortally flawed, 3. I am a terrible money manager, 4. EVERYTHING happens when my husband is gone to work, 5. I am all alone, and finally the climax 6. Poor, poor pitiful me. Like a starving actress at her first audition, desperate to get noticed, I depleted the entire spectrum of emotions inside my body, in 7 seconds flat. Now galloping around on a unicorn of a different name…called flesh.

As I laid sleepless, in the heat, the Holy Spirit brought to my memory the apostle Paul. I like to imagine, he too, was in a moment of complete failure when he spoke this of himself, “Listen, I can’t explain my actions. Here’s why: I am not able to do the things I want; and at the same time, I do the things I despise. I know that in me, that is, in my fallen human nature, there is nothing good. I can will myself to do something good, but that does not help me carry it out. I can determine that I am going to do good, but I don’t do it; instead, I end up living out the evil that I decided not to do.” (Romans 7:15, 18-19) Whaaaaaaat???? The apostle Paul! He goes on to provide a prospect of hope by saying “I am thankful to God for the freedom that comes through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!” (Romans 7:25) Meaning, that, in myself alone, I ain’t got this… but in Him- I am free from the burden of having to try in my own strength, because I can fully rely on Him and His strength!

Maybe, just maybe, you have experienced an episode like mine once or twice in your life. And maybe, just maybe, the climax of your epic event, fostered the same feelings of failure, hopelessness and embarrassment. The crazy train to flesh, left you exhausted and disgusted. Amid the aftershock, I am here to announce, there is hope and it is Jesus Christ! He desires to be EVERYTHING you need, in EVERY circumstance of your life! Through every “event” no matter how giant or minuscule. He’s got this, if you will only trust Him.

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” Deuteronomy 31:6-8

Lantern.

A decade chock-full of atrocious decisions is where I will begin today. My poor decision making all stemmed from a failure to love myself, yet more importantly, my inability to grasp just how much God loved me. This emotional deprivation fueled a treacherous scavenger hunt of seeking love by those who could never provide it. My soul search broadcast like a daytime soap, granting everyone close to me viewing access. Bad decision plastered on top of bad decision, quickly modifying the trajectory of my once picturesque life. It is these dreadful decisions that bred consequence, that ultimately produced scars; and despite being forgiven, rapidly became the objects to smother and be ashamed of. Shame…it is a precarious foe. It has the power to torment and bind in captivity even the strongest victim. It took me several years to realize that shame was a hand-me-down from the enemy. An aftereffect of my past, but not one I was obligated to own. Once free from the snare of shame, I was capable of grasping what God had planned for my previous short comings.

Imagine if you can a dark so dark, you literally, cannot see your hand in front of your face. In 2016, our home and many of our neighbor’s homes flooded after days of torrential rain. Once the water began rising, the electric company came and shut off the power to the entire street. It was then, that I could truly comprehend, the meaning of the kind of darkness I asked you to imagine. The only light we were afforded, was what generated from the stars and moon. I remember, during this 11-day period of pilgrim-hood, my husband would light an old oil lantern at the end of every day, so that, we may maneuver our way throughout our home.  All 8 of us crowded around a minuscule, yet abundantly significant device, so that we could get where we needed to go.

A lantern. A device, that in the absence of darkness, sits on a shelf, in a closet, seemingly useless, until, suddenly… it becomes the most critical tool. The same holds true for our “past”. Our past decisions, our past short comings, our past failures. These pasts can serve as lanterns, to help lost souls find their way, when they are lost in the darkest of dark. If we will pull off the blanket of shame, guilt and defeat blinding us, God intends to do something miraculous and beautiful. The shadows and depths of travail you’ve suffered, that the enemy intended for destruction; isn’t to shackle; but is to be a guide for another struggling in the darkness of a similar battle.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16 MSG

Enough.

Stretched back, shades situated, sunscreen lathered, floating my cares away down the longest lazy river, I have ever chanced. The “Tasmanian devil” type whirlwind that perfectly depicts my previous 4 days at Disney World, now being drowned in numerous gallons of chlorine and who knows what else. The perfect climax to a memorable vacation.

As I begin my 3rd trip around the adult paradise, I suddenly noticed the vast amount of tropical foliage positioned robustly along both sides of the rivers edge. Three bouts around this route now awarded me an experts awareness to the lay of the land. Realizing in awe, no 2 plants were the same. Infinite shades of green and robust bursts of vibrant color splattered the vegetation like an artists paint brush set loose on a canvas. A closer look revealed detailed lines, angles and edges on leaves and stems. Colors were not singular, rather plural, as what was pastel pink at the base, streaked into the most elaborate electric orange you’ve ever seen. Vines and shrubs and flowering bushes, one after another. Many so close in proximity, without a closer inspection, you’d miss they were not one in the same.

A curious mind and split-second searching capability revealed that there are more than 13,000 species of plants at Disney World. (The state of Florida only has 4,700 native species.) Even more mind blowing than this is that worldwide, there are more than 391,000 different species of plants!

The beauty that snagged my attention this careless day on the lazy river, joyously reminded me of a brilliant truth. The same God, who on the 3rd day, spoke a word and created 391,000 varying species of plants. Plants that are not just intricate and beautiful to the eye, but serve to sustain life on this planet in complex methods. This is the same God, who on the 6th day, breathed his very breath into you and me. Not only did he create us, the bible says we were created in His image! That before we were formed in the womb, he knew us and set us apart. It says that we are uniquely and wonderfully made. What amazing truths!

Today, I challenge you to halt the lies that are on constant repeat in your mind. The ones that started when you were too young, whispering your short comings. The falsehood that you aren’t smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, good enough or just enough. The slander, tall tales, forgery, deceit, woven into the very fabric of your heart. Today, I challenge you to replace those distortions with the truth that the creator of heaven and earth has spoken about you! The truth of your exquisite beauty. The truth that He shaped you in His image with detailed craftsmanship. He made no mistake, no flaw, no defect. He made you perfect.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

Surprise.

Finally! Summer vacation time is here! We have waited all year, back breaking work, brain draining school work and finally it is time. Drum roll please.

Months of planning. Scrapping and saving for even more months. Watched countless tricks and tips videos. Read endless expert blogs. Packed and repacked our bags. And now, the kids are squeezed in the transportation and we are off. Headed to the most magical place on earth! A once in a lifetime trip…Disney, here we come! Yaaaaaay!!!
Last night, as we were preparing our departure, I was failing miserably to mute my excitement; my husband found it quite comical. In a sly grin, he chuckled and called me a “big kid”. In a snap, I replied, “I’m not excited about going to Disney for me, I am excited about telling our kids we are going to Disney. I can’t wait to watch them experience it!”
You see, as I write this, we are rolling south east, in the big white rented van and they still don’t know. They are oblivious. No clue! They believe we are going to the beach, again. We have worked months at this level of deceit…forgive us Lord.
It was in this possibility of ultimate surprise, as I spoke these words to my husband, God said to me…”that’s how I feel about the things I have in store for you!”
 Wow.
I was reminded in an instant. He has so many good things in store just for us. He is a good father! Just as I am so excited to see my kids experience what we have been storing up for them, God feels the same thing about us, His children.
All is not lost. He has not forgotten. He is waiting until the perfect time- for the big reveal. The wonderful Surprise!
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭KJV‬‬

THIS.

Standing in my bathroom this morning, wondering what I would share with you all. Thick, in the midst of my own struggles. Struggles so strenuous, at times, it feels they are winning. This morning, thinking…what could I possible write to encourage someone else, when I am fighting so hard? It was then, in that moment; I heard myself whispering the tune that have been nagging at me, like a fly buzzing in my ear.

Way maker,

Miracle worker,

Promise keeper,

Light in the darkness,

My God.

That is who you are.

For days, the lyrics of this song, have circled round like a carousel in my mind…

Over and over again. Echoed loudly.  Echoed softly. Recited like an anthem. If I am not singing it out loud, I am humming it. If not humming it, then it is on silent repeat internally. At moments, I catch myself stomping, with authority, as I declare the words. Affirming, with boldness their truth. Yet, this morning, while searching for the words to share, it was in the whisper.  As I quietly chanted under my breath, “way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness, my God, that is who you are”, His still small voice spoke, THIS. Share THIS.

Suddenly, I realized, THIS is not just the words of song. They are the declaration of a battle cry! They are a revelation of an intended purpose. THIS purpose packaged as a reminder. Reminded; not because God needs to be reminded of who He is, but because WE and every struggle mounted up as an obstacle; need to be reminded of WHO HE IS.

He is the way maker. Not just when there seems to be no way. When there is absolutely no way possible. Like EVER.

He is the creator, sustainer, authority of the miracle that you, your family, so desperately need.

 

Every promise He has given to you, He will keep. He knows no other way. He has never broken a promise. He will not start now.

 

He is the light in every corner of your darkness. There is no place that his light cannot reach.

 

He declares of himself “I am who I am” meaning He is EVERYTHING you need Him to be. And get his…when what you need Him to be today changes, He will be what you need tomorrow. And the day after that.

 

Play this anthem on repeat in your mind. Use THIS as your chant, when wading knee deep in your struggle. Declare THIS boldly.

Glue.

Glue is any variation of STRONG, ADHESIVE, SUBSTANCE. It is what binds together. 

In my house of 7 kids, (5 of which are still in elementary school), glue is a hot commodity. Actually…any type of adhesive material for that matter. There also, is no discrimination of these product types. Yesterday; as I was disassembling the remains (which is my nice way of saying cleaning up the mess) of my epic Mother’s Day party (a party thrown every year- planned and decorated by my youngest daughter and catered by my eldest), I noticed that the décor, was elegantly hung with none other than…blue painter’s tape. If it has any adhering properties, whatsoever; it is a viable solution to ANY present predicament.

For sure, glue (definitely duct tape lol) serves as the universal problem solver. Even as it morphs from the liquid substance we are familiar with, into a theoretical attribute of a person. AKA- a metaphor. (In some English class in 9th grade, undoubtedly, while suffering through one of Shakespeare’s many eclectic literature pieces; we were taught the idea of a metaphor. However; since most of us were most likely, haphazardly, paying attention during that space in time; let’s review. A metaphor is a noun, meaning something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else.) And a profound metaphor, dropped like a seedling, during an oh too brief, phone call with my mom, is the thought serving as the protagonist to this short tale.
I am positive what is true for me as a woman, almost assuredly, holds true for every one of you. During any given day, a woman can play the part of various complex roles. Roles portrayed with experience ranging from expert to novice. But portrayed nonetheless. Just yesterday, I served as a housekeeper, nurse, seamstress, judge, referee, coach, cook, techy, mechanic, repair man, and teacher. Your list is as endless as mine. For every role performed, there were probably 3 that we didn’t have the time or capacity to fill. Some days while preforming, we run out of daylight, others…energy.  When days seem to disappear like a vapor, what becomes our first concern? Which role is allotted more priority than the other?  Among exchanging Mother’s Day well wishes and recapping the events of our mom holiday; my mother inadvertently, sparked the thought, that has nagged at me for days. The thought I needed to share with you. A simple statement, posed as the sun set, in the last moments of our conversation, “You’re the glue that holds them together”.

In a society plagued with families broken beyond natural repair. Be the glue. Of all the roles presented to you, grant this role priority. Not in your strength alone but your strength, forged with the strength freely given by the Holy Spirit. For His strength is stronger than ANY other substance. It can bind what is shattered. Mend what is torn. Find what seems lost forever.

Colossians 1:16-17 New International Version (NIV)

16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Truth.

It was a beautiful, sunny, South Florida day. My aunt and cousins had come to visit from Georgia, and we were spending the time swimming in the backyard. Our pool was of modest size; above ground, circular, deck built around, and at its deepest, 4.5’ to bottom. Various pool games had been played that day; the famed Marco/Polo, fish out of water, ring diving and some sort of jaws reenactment (which, to children who have never been attacked by a shark, always seems like an appropriate game lol).

The sun had begun its daily bow into the distant horizon, and we, with our chlorinated eyes, sun kissed faces, scrambled to think of just one last game, as the grand finale to a perfect day. “I know! Let’s make a whirl pool!” shouted one cousin. The idea seemed perfect. With so many of us in the water, moving simultaneously, we were sure to create the ultimate vortex.  So, we began. Moving around and around, each of us driving the current. Each loop causing the spin to become faster and more powerful. Then, amid the laughter and excitement, my aunt, infant cousin in arm, lost her footing. In an instant, laughter turned to panic. With my cousin in tow, she began to sink, flailing her arms and dragging anyone under who attempted to get close. The vortex, which moments ago brought such joy, now served as the vice to her demise.

“Just stand up”, “It’s shallow Aunt Elaine”, “Put your feet down and stand”, “You are tall enough to just stand”!!!!!!! We could all see what was happening. We were standing on the outside of the vortex, looking in. The truths we were shouting made logical sense, yet she could not grasp them. Her perspective of the reality she currently faced drowned out all reason. It wasn’t until she grabbed a hold of the truth (that she could stand because the pool was only 4.5’ deep), that her perspective changed. When her perspective changed, her reality shifted. Eminent death became live another day. All by grabbing a hold of the truth.

Each of us have our own reality and we each cling to our perspective of it. Realities like, debt, failing marriages, lost children, singleness=loneliness, addictions, abuse are endless.  Just as endless are the perspectives birthed, when the absence of truth is evident. Perhaps, the reality wasn’t always so hopeless. All didn’t always seem lost. But somewhere, we lost our footing and in an instant, our vision became so muddied by the conditions of our present situation, that hopelessness and contempt ravage our souls. Oh! but there is hope in TRUTH, if we will only choose to see it. If, like my aunt, in the midst of drowning, we will but listen to the truth being shouted.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross so long ago, provides assurance that there is TRUTH. Truth that we can grasp tightly to when all else is crumbling to pieces around us. Truth that can be our rock, our resting place, our answer. Truth that is not just a word or a hope, but is manifest in a God who adores us. Jesus said, “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life…”. Clutching to Him and the truth He affords, breathes life into what was considered dead. What our perspective perceives as ruin, He can transform into restoration. Only if we will let Him.

Reach out and grab His truth. Let him clear the cloudy vision of this current situation and show you His reality.

Forgiveness. For an unlikely candidate.

For weeks I heard the nagging voice of my past, whispering accusations and memories in my ear. Reminding me so eagerly of all the things I longed to forget. After all, “Regret can be a hard taskmaster”. It was a whisper so quiet, no one else could possibly hear, yet for me, so incredibly loud, it was all I could seem to hear.

One early morning, in the quiet; sleep barely out of my eyes, I was desperate for relief. Fiercely seeking a word, a calm, a peace-be-still for the swells that ravaged my mind. Not knowing what else to do, I began reading.

“While I can’t change the past, I am left with clear choices going forward. I can feel bad and the sadness will stay with me, or I can flip my mistakes into lessons for others.

You see, once you own a mistake, it no longer owns you.

God is a redeemer, and His redemptive nature extends into the deep caverns of our regrets and failures. When we bring our failures and regrets into the light, we find God’s redemptive love brings something beautiful out of the ashes.”

As I read the final words of this passage, I heard the still, small voice I had been longing to hear. Spoken directly to the deep caverns of my regret and failure. A word so profound, but even more simple.

For years, I had been focusing on obtaining the forgiveness of others. Recompense for the after effects of my past and its foul decisions. And yes, while this step is very important to the healing process, it is not the only step. That fact, I had forgotten, perhaps, never been taught. That morning, over coffee, the Holy Spirit pulled up a chair and in an instant, drowned the boisterous whisper of condemnation in my mind. By simply asking a question- peace settled into my soul…”Daughter, have you forgiven yourself?”

Mic drop.

Ask God’s forgiveness. Seek forgiveness from others. Forgive yourself.

“Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you.”

EPHESIANS 4:32 AMP