Don’t Give Up the Race

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My junior year of high school was my last year on the swim team. It took everything out of me. I had a number of sinus infections that season and was having awful nose bleeds after practices. Most of my friends were no longer swimming. I only had a few friends on the team. By the time hell week, yes that’s what it was called, in preparation for sectionals rolled around I was ready to quit. But I didn’t. I continued through the season and placed in sectionals shaving my time significantly. I’m glad I didn’t quit. When the nosebleeds returned after my first week of practice my senior year I did leave the team. I didn’t want to go through being sick for so long again. There were other reasons, I had a better opportunity playing keyboard for marching band which was something I’m glad I didn’t pass up. 


I don’t quit things easily. It takes a lot of consideration and prayer. I often have a really hard time when things end unexpectedly. I’m one of those people who put my all into everything I do. Which is why I try to instill in my children that they shouldn’t give up. Even when it’s hard. If your in ministry, even a small ministry you will have challenges. You will have moments where it just doesn’t seem like it could possibly work. You have moments where you don’t think your goal will get accomplished. And you’ll feel like you want to give up. Call it warfare call it Satan meddling, call it just how life goes these things will happen. But if your doing it for God and He’s given you a vision and a calling for it. He has a way to make it happen no matter what happens in the meantime. In those moments He doesn’t call us to quit, He calls us to finish our race. 

“Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord (always doing your best and doing more than is needed,) being continually aware that your labor (even to the point of exhaustion) in the Lord is not futile nor wasted (it is never without purpose.) 1 Corinthians 15:58

Nothing you do for God is wasted, without purpose. Nothing you do for God is insignificant or forgotten. We were made to be bearers of His light. If you shine even for a moment in the darkness you create hope. You show love. You give mercy and kindness. Don’t pass up opportunities just because they seem “too hard” God will make a way.

“Indeed we felt within ourselves that we had received the sentence of death (and were convinced that we would die, but this happened) so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. He rescued us from so great a threat of death and will continue to rescue us. On Him we have set our hope. And He will again rescue us (from danger and draw us near.) 2 Corinthians 1:9-10.

The trials we face when trying to do good works. They are allowed by God so that we will put our trust in Him to accomplish our goal, not ourselves. If you’re facing something hard today. Let me pray for you. 

Dear Jesus, 

Help my friend to put their trust in you today. Allow them to trust, whatever the outcome of their situation, that it is your will. If you have instilled in them a calling and a purpose and there are obstacles in their way I pray in your name that no weapon form against them will prosper. I pray that they have help, peace, mercy and joy on their journey to fulfilling your purpose in them. Thank you for co-laboring with us to carry on your message. Allow my friend wisdom and strength as they continue to battle and bless them with the fruits of their labors. In your Holy name I pray, Amen.

It’s Time to Move into Your Destiny

When I was in a second grade a group of missionaries from our church came home. They threw a big party and invited us children to attend dressed like the African children. They talked about the village they had been serving in and told us about how the women would “wear” their babies as they worked in the fields all day. That’s all I really remember but I knew that after hearing their stories I wanted to be a missionary.

In fifth grade I went to Camp Allendale during the summer. There was a missionary there. He spent the week telling us about where he served in Africa. He showed us drums and taught us songs from Africa. When I came home I told my parents I wanted to be a missionary. That must have scared them because their answer was “will see.”

In high school I wanted to go to a Christian college. I wanted to study music and be a worship minister. My parents said that was too expensive and I went to a public college instead. My dreams of being a missionary or music minister left me there. It became aware to me that I needed a “real job.” So I pursued that. I majored in communication studies and minored in public relations. Met my wonderful husband, got married and  hoped I would be happy in a cubicle somewhere.

I was not, I was actually pretty miserable with my first two jobs out of college. I worked two years at a newspaper and ran myself ragged and then landed my “dream job” doing marketing for an anesthesia  company. I failed and lost that job. And then God began to move me where he wanted me to be. First I worked for three years at an accounting firm where I got my foundation to work in the medical field. I then spent two years working  for a foot doctor and almost 8 years working in a pediatric office. I enjoyed working in the medical field. I felt like I was helping people. I was serving and that  is where my heart had always been.

But I’ve never made it to Africa and although I was part of a praise band for many years it has been about 3 years since we have played together. I think about those dreams. I still want to go on a mission trip. I still want to sing and play piano in other places than my house. But there is a fear of putting myself out there and trying something new. I know that God does not want us to be comfortable but to stretch ourselves to the new thing He has for us. However, there’s a real fear there for me and maybe for others. Of what might happen if we try something new. Will our dreams be dashed again?

In the first chapter of Deuteronomy Moses addresses the Israelites after 40 years in the wilderness. “ You have stayed long enough on this mountain, Turn and resume your journey…”Deuteronomy 1:6-7. 

God does not want us to be afraid of going forward. He takes us to wilderness places but does not want us to stay in the wilderness. He wants us to go forward. The Israelites were given a bad report. They had sent spies to see the land who said that they were “Grasshoppers in comparison to the Nephilim people” (Numbers 13:33) Caleb and Joshua were the only two of the ten spies who said the Israelites could defeat the current inhabitants and take possession of the land.  So many times we get a bad report. Our dreams are defeated or don’t come true, the future looks bleak and scary. But God promises the desires of our heart. We need to move forward to claim them. 


But what if you’re like me and not sure how to make that dream a reality? Pray for doors to open and remember big things start with little things. When God puts a little thing on your heart, do it. It’s amazing what happens when you do. 

Grief is Painful but God can Heal

I lost a friend last Monday. She didn’t die of Covid but of other factors. But since her death I’ve had a lot of anxiety. She has a daughter my oldest age and I can’t imagine her life without her mom. I don’t feel hopeless and honestly the grief I’ve felt is much different that I’m used to. Its painful not sorrowful. I think about all the things she won’t experience. Her daughters graduation, wedding, babies…providing these things happen, all those things we as parents dread and look forward to in the same breath.

Death is hard. I truly believe it is so hard because originally when God created Adam and Eve death didn’t exist yet. I don’t think we are equip to deal with such loss, without him. We weren’t made to accept it. Coping and grieving is not the same as accepting. Only God can heal that kind of pain.

We are fragile. We don’t know when our last moments will be. But we can have peace that God knows and he will take care of us until then and beyond if we believe. My friend death was quick, unexpected and very hard. But God provided, even in this season of Covid, to have the hospital allow her family to be their in her passing. Family helped with the burial in an amazing way and even the funeral home supplied Diet Coke (my friends favorite drink) at her funeral in memory of her. God blesses us even in our grief because he is a gentle good God.

I pray for peace and comfort in the days ahead for my friend’s family. If your struggling with grief, I pray the same for you. Go to God. Try to see his hand in the situation. It will help you see His grace for everyone.

Glasses Change Perspective in Many Ways

Glasses

I didn’t think I needed them

Didn’t realized I squinted or held my paper far away to see

But when I put on my glasses everything became easier

Fine details I missed, paragraphs I would skip made sense

I no longer ignored the long writings of my friends facebook posts

Truth is like that

You don’t realize you need it 

Until someone shows you the lies though its lens

I didn’t realize I was squinting and stumbling in life

Wandering though decision after decision with my eyes closed

Your word put it back into focus

So priorities can shift like sand

The quietness of your truth stands above it all

How perfect is your laws.

The weigh and balance the universe

They keep our paths straight.

-written May 14.

I got glasses about a month ago and I am finally used to them. Its been an adjustment and most of the time at home I forget to put them on or I take them off and misplace them. I was very surprised I needed them. I’ve had good vision since middle school but the optometrist said it was my age and it was time to get them.

My new glasses

God has a lot to say about how we see. How we see each other and the situations we are in. Without wisdom and discernment that we can receive from reading God’s word, life is a lot like I was without glasses. If things got blurry I’d just stop reading, look somewhere else. I didn’t know how to deal with the uncomfortableness of not seeing clearly. God’s wisdom allows us to see a situation clearly so that we don’t have to be uncomfortable or afraid to deal with it.

God also says a lot about what we look at. “The eye is the lamp of the body, If your eyes are healthy your whole body will be full of light.” Matthew 6:22

When we look at unhealthy things it effects our body. I struggled a lot with anxiety and much of it had to do with the scary movies I had seen and scary books I had read. I was very paranoid and sometimes I couldn’t sleep when my husband was away on business because of what I had watched on T.V. I had to give up watching those kinds of shows to help control my anxiety. Many friends of mine have told me when they watch the news now days they get very anxious, honestly I do too. What we see affects how our body reacts. It effects our emotions and mood. This is just one example of how we need to be careful of what we watch.

Self care sometimes needs to be diligent and intentional. Sometimes we need to let go of things once we see that they are not beneficial to us. The Holy Spirit reveals these things to us the more time we spend in prayer, study and worship.

God’s Pruning Helps us Stand the Storms of Life

Yesterday there was a short but furious thunderstorm near our house. It started when I was in the grocery store, paused for a brief moment and then let loose beyond belief on my way home. It was one of those summer rain storms with lightning and thunder and downpour so thick your windshield wipers are on full blast and your still straining to see the car infront of you. I hate driving in storms and I was clutched to the wheel praying for protection all the way home. The storm caused an accident on the road a head of me so I had to turn around in a neighborhood and plan another way home. Taking back roads I was nearly there when my phone started ringing. There was no way I could answer it in that storm with my hands glued to the steering wheel so I let it ring until I got home. And found the tree in our front yard split in half.

The call was from my neighbor who witnessed the storms winds break the tree into two. My heart sank into my throat. The tree was a Bradford Pear about 14 years old. It was planted on Mother’s day as a gift for my oldest daughter. We have a second Bradford Pear planted near it that was planted on another Mother’s day for my middle daughter. So that each of my daughter’s had their own tree. My son, who is now 5 and we hadn’t planted a tree for him yet is always asking where his tree is. My husband who seeing and hearing the storm had brilliantly sent everyone downstairs did not hear the tree fall. So as I walked into the house I hunted him down and sent him outside. His heart broke too. “Kelly”, he said,” I don’t know what we do.” Well I knew what we needed to do I just didn’t want to do it. I called a tree service. The kind assessor was their within a half hour and plans were made to cut down the remainder of tree, trim my middle daughters tree and have a tree removed that had been growing out the side of the house for a few years we couldn’t get rid of.

This morning they came and completed all their tasks and well my yard looks so bare now. The birds were wandering around it wondering where their homes and big block of birdseed went. My oldest daughter seemed to be ok except she said, “I don’t like how everything is changing!” I agreed. But reflecting on this whole situation gave me some insights on pruning in general. We had planed on pruning this particular tree soon. We initially were going to do it in spring but with the stay inside orders and Covid 19 about we put it off till this fall. The tree was definitely overdue for pruning. Which is part of why it didn’t survive. God prunes us because he wants us to outlast the storms of life. Some storms are so big they just break you in two and their are people in this world that without God will never recover from those storms. They are just barely surviving, broken. God doesn’t want us in that state. That is why he lovingly prunes us.

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit he (repeatedly) prunes, so that it will bear more fruit, (even richer, finer fruit).” John 15:2 AMP Being pruned is hard. Its taking off old ways and putting on new ways. Do you want to bear fruit? I sure do. I look at the physical ailments I have had to wrestle with and see God using these things to prune me. Before I suffered I never really thought about those who were wheelchair bound or had a handicap placard. God gave me greater compassion for those by placing me temporarily in their shoes.

I recently had to give up drinking coffee and I love coffee. But it did not help me physically. That has been a pruning experience for me. I have been praying for a while about being more healthy. Well that was one thing that had to go. I am thankful for pruning. Storms in life are still hard. But I’ve learned to put my trust and joy in the Lord during them. Pruning teaches you that. It gives you an undying hope in the mist of trouble. When it becomes evident in your life that something is just not working, its time to let it go. It can be a thought process, a habit, a mindset. Don’t resist the pruning. you want to make it though the storm and bear good fruit.

Run Your Race for Jesus

IMG_2464What gets me is that for many of you, it probably would have been easy. You like my husband may have been a little tired after the uphill climb to Grotto falls in the Great Smokey Mountain park but you would have been fine. I had even done the 1.4 mile trek as a teenager without complaint. But for me with a right knee on the mend from a break right before Easter it was very hard and painful.

What surprised me the most was it wasn’t my right knee or my right foot that was giving me the pain. It was my whole left leg. Working extra hard to compensate for my right it kept cramping up the further we went. It was hard work and at one point I had to stop and sit and drink water and pray for strength. I wondered how I was going to make the trek back to the car when I could hardly get to the waterfall itself. Imagine my joy when I finally made it. The waterfall was pretty. My kids enjoyed themselves playing in the water, climbing and standing behind the falls. But I got to sit and rest for a moment which was what I desperately needed.

In Hebrews it reminds us that we are running a great race. Now mind you I walk slow and many people passed me up on my way up to the waterfall. I was in a race to stay up with my family who would go out of the sight of my vision from time to time. It says in Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witness (who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness), stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us (Looking away from all that will distract us and) focusing our eyes on Jesus who is the Author and Perfector of faith.”

When we started I had planned to carry the water for us all in a small backpack we had. My husband graciously took it instead. Could you imagine how much harder the bag of water bottles would have been? My husband also carried my 5 year-old son on his shoulder’s a few times. That weight would have made my walking impossible. I probably would not have finished the trail after even trying to lift him. Sin is like that it weighs us down and makes it hard to move, it easily and cleverly entangles us, stopping us from fulfilling our purpose.

I can be stubborn and I was determined to get to that waterfall. God wants us determined to get to the finish line but what I didn’t have was endurance. All those weeks in a brace left my muscles in my legs weak. I struggled because I lack endurance. How do we grow spiritual endurance? Well In my life God started with small things I had to endure and they got bigger and bigger overtime. It might be hard for you to have patience when you text someone and they don’t text you back right away or to wait for more than 15 minutes at a doctor’s office. God might build your endurance by causing you to have to endure those sorts of things over and over again until they don’t bother you anymore. In my case it was other employees where I worked that would put me down or talk about me behind my back. I dealt with it daily until I learned how to turn the other cheek and not let them get me so upset.

Patience is a type of endurance. Its a fruit of the spirit, which means as Joyce Meyers teaches when you have the Holy spirit in you have the ability to be patience. But like any muscle you must practice it to grow it. Waiting grows patience.  Working a muscle is painful. I’ve been though enough physical therapy to understand that concept. Just like waiting is no fun. Don’t be afraid to work your muscles. The more you do the less painful and sore it becomes.

Finally this verse talks about focusing on Jesus. It’s funny the shirt I was wearing yesterday is a sunny yellow shirt that says, “Focus on Jesus” that I got when I volunteered at Camp Allendale last year. He is the “Author and Perfector” of our faith. We need to keep our eyes focused on Him if we are going to finish are race. He’s the prize, the waterfall at the end. He is the reason we are running in the first place and He alone can help us finish our race. He alone helped me get to the top of that waterfall. It was something I couldn’t do in my own strength. He even let it rain a little to cool me off. He’s such a good Father!

 

Don’t Live a Fearless Life, Live a Faithful One

In her Lifeway Bible study “20/20 Seen, Chosen, Sent” Christine Caine touched on fear. She said, “Fear is the greatest killer of purpose and destiny.” I believe she is right on in this statement.

In the spring of 2016 I was wrecked with fear. I lost almost 20 pounds not eating because my stomach was in knots all the time. All of this happened right after I was baptized with the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know my purpose or who I was in Christ and Satan was having a hay day with me. It wasn’t until I ruptured a disk in my back in 2017 that I said no more, I am not living in fear any longer. Fear was killing me, literally. But the truth is. I still struggle with fear daily. Especially now when Covid 19 is a risk every time I get in the car to go to the store.  I pray all the time for protection, for peace but fear is still there. Maybe you feel like this. But you know we still have to go to the store to get food to eat. So you have to do it afraid. You have to have faith that God will take care of you.

Caine mentioned this very thing in the same study. She was speaking about the people God used in the Bible. Ordinary people that were put in extraordinary positions. Like the story of Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego in Daniel. They faced a fiery furnace as a result of not honoring King Nebuchadnezzar as a god. They most surly were afraid of dying in the fire, but they still refused to dishonor God. They, as Caine put it, were more Faithfull than fearless.

When we face situations that seem impossible, scary or just plain overwhelming we can still face them even with fear. We don’t have to be fearless just faithful. We have a God who lavishes love on us. And when we are in these situations we are encouraged to ask for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you, But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6.

Don’t let fear stop you from reaching your purpose. Satan doesn’t like to see us reach our purpose in life. He will throw everything he can at you, especially fear. Have faith that in the end God will get you where He wants you.

 

It’s Time to Change

“I heard a pastor say If you are more outraged right now with the looting and burning down of property than you are of a man suffocated and killed on video then your priorities are greatly misordered, ” Matt Tommey founder of The Thriving Christian Artist said this on a Facebook post on May 30. And it’s one of the many phrases that has haunted me in the past week.

I admit I haven’t watched the George Floyd video, I don’t think I could handle watching it. Reading my dear black friends post the morning after the video was released broke my heart so much I couldn’t go looking for it. As Facebook and the news has exploded over the week filled with viewpoints and news media on this story I’ve felt so many emotions but in the end my heart just hurts. There are people I love who are black, they are people I love who have black sons, there are people I love who are police man or have policeman husbands and my heart hurts for all of them.

I have struggled with this feeling of helplessness. I am a privileged white woman and I struggle with “what can I do.” I feel like I’m a drop in the bucket, and this bucket has holes in it.  Well I was reminded I can write so here I go.

There’s a very strange story in Judges about a Levite and his concubine in chapters 19-21. I never got it until now. The Levite traveled from Bethlehem to Judah and took his concubine with him. But she was “unfaithful” to him and left him and went to her father’s house in Bethlehem and stayed there for 4 months. The Levite went to Bethlehem to get his concubine. The Levite tried to leave the man’s home on the third and fourth day but the concubine’s father kept persuading him to stay another day.  Finally on the sixth day even though it was getting into evening time the Levite refused to stay the night again so he got up and with his concubine and servant started back home to Jerusalem.  When they neared Jebus the day was almost gone and they decided to travel to Gibeah a Benjaminite city and find lodging there. “The Levite went and sat down in the open square of the city because no man had invited him in to spend the night,” Judges 19:15. An old man saw the Levite and his concubine and servant in the square and after talking invited the Levite to his home.  It says in verse 22 “while they were celebrating, behold, men of the city, certain worthless and evil men, surrounded the house, pounding on the door and they spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came to your house so that we may have relations with him.” The old man of course refused and the Levite’s concubine was sent out of the house instead. The woman was gang raped and beaten all night and in the morning she collapsed and died. (verse 26) The Levite carried her body home to Jerusalem and then cut her body into twelve pieces and sent each piece to each tribe in Israel. This action caused Israel to meet and eventually attack and destroy the Benjaminite city of Gibeah. The only recorded civil war Israel had in the old testament.

So this story has been playing in the back of my mind all week. George Floyd to me is like that concubine. Only the problem isn’t one city. Its everywhere. The video is the viral version of the Levite sending the pieces of his dead concubine. It’s a wake up call. We cannot continue to allow this kind of brutality to anyone of any color. We cannot be passive about this any longer. And the sad thing is we’ve had these kind of wake up calls before and it’s done nothing. This time we have to make a change. We have to stand with our fellow black Americans and peacefully say, no more. Thing need to change like,  police man everywhere should have body camera’s available to them. It helps for safety on both sides. We should support black education and encourage kids to graduate, go to college. Support black businesses. Volunteer to help clean up after the riots, as my friends husband did. We need to really, truly love our neighbors no matter their color.

What happened to George Floyd was brutal, gruesome and painfully heartbreaking. American, bothers and sisters, we got to do better. We got to change. For my friends that I love that are black. I know I don’t understand but I see you and I love you and I want to do better, to change. My friends who have black boys, I pray for their protection and for wisdom. I pray this is a pivot in our nation, in our neighborhoods and in our minds.

 

God’s Always With You

Getting my temperature taken before I see the doctor for my broken knee

The struggle of breathing through a mask while I swing on my crutches into the waiting room. 

The weekly drives to physical therapy that disrupt the day, his work, my parenting

E-learning taught standing up because it hurt too much to sit in the kitchen chairs

All ended yesterday. Five weeks later.

I now can start the journey of walking without a brace or crutches again

But social distancing keeps me from journeying very far

My porch, backyard, the drive to the horse barn have become the distances I go to.

But 6 feet apart I know you are not. You have been right beside me the whole time

Protecting me from my enemies, providing for me 

This was only one of the struggles I have yet to face

You will continue to protect me. You have prepared for me a home, 

Where I will be undisturbed. Where I can breathe again. – A Quarantine poem May 2020

We’ve all had our own struggles through this quarantine time. My biggest one is that the day before Easter I fell and broke my knee cap. Last Thursday I was released to walk without my brace. It has been awesome to go to the bathroom and walk around without that bulky brace on my leg. However my knee is still a little wobbly and will need some TLC before It’s back to normal. God has provided for me every step of the way and I am so thankful to be almost back to normal.

This past weekend was Memorial Day weekend and we decided to go to Brown County State Park and let the kids ride the horses. My youngest is too little to do a trail ride so we let him ride the ponies while his older sisters took a trail ride. It was busy but not as crowded as It has been in the past. We got done letting my youngest ride before the girls came back and my husband agreed to watch him and let me do some exploring. There was a beautiful bridge with stairs going up behind the creek. I really didn’t want to climb the stairs but I could feel the Holy Spirit pointing me in that direction.

I went very slowly up the stairs and then slowly up the winding trail that seemed to keep going upward. I kept telling myself I’ll walk for a few more minutes then turn around. I saw a beautiful painted turtle right in the middle of the trail. IMG_2214A couple of feet further, right when I was about to turn around I cam across a beautiful stone theater. It was so cool. And perfect timing as I needed to sit at that point. I called my husband and told him to come up there as soon as the girls were done riding. I heard them moan and groan all the way up the hill but they were so excited to see the area as well. My middle child recited Hamilton on the top of her lungs from the “stage.” While the other two climbed the stops and explored. It was such a “God Kiss” as one of my friends says.

It made me think about how we walk are paths in life. If were walking with God he provides what we need. He knew after that hill I’d need to rest. I would have given myself a log. He gave me a beautiful limestone stage and a moment with my family, Something my heart needed too. It’s all about perspective and God sees a perspective we don’t. He’s always with you, behind and in front of you.

 

Karitos Hosts Virtual Showcase Contest

Karitos Christian Arts Association is hosting a virtual showcase on June 20. Submissions will be accepted from May 22 to June 5. Submissions will be posted on Facebook for public voting from June 8 through June 19 in the Karitos Virtual Showcase Event.  The posts most voted for will receive prizes and appear on the Virtual Showcase Event June 20. All ages are welcome to audition for this event.

In addition anyone appearing as part of the Virtual Showcase will be invited to participate in the Karitos Coffeehouse event taking place in July.

Kariots encourages all art forms including dance, film, literary, music, theater and visual art so If you enjoy one of these art forms and want to audition I encourage you to do so. Groups are encouraged to audition as well.

To audition you will submit a video of your piece as an Mp4 file, Facebook, YouTube or website link. In order to participate in the coffee house event in July you must be registered to attend the event by July 1.

this is an exciting way to showcase your talents and I encourage you to audition!