gratitude

No room for failure

Each morning, I spend time reading, praying, and meditating. This morning I started reading the book of Joshua in the Bible. I came across a line in verse five that resonated with me.

“I will not fail you or forsake you.”

I underlined that portion of the verse and meditated on it briefly before gathering cookies for Maggie’s classmates, my cup of coffee, car keys, and cell phone. I whisked Maggie out the door and cranked up the heat. It’s that time of year when I feel false hope about autumn coming until about 10 a.m. By noon, I’m sweating and shedding my sweater.

63910_552312649722_1189983164_nAfter dropping Maggie off at school, I returned home to a peaceful, quiet house. We live in the woods, and the sunlight strives to shine through the grove of trees on the eastern hill. The verse I selected came back to me as I stood staring at the sun.

“I will not fail you or forsake you.”

God isn’t failing or forsaking the leaves on those trees and has provided them with exactly the right amount of moisture since spring. God doesn’t fail the trees either; the only trees that fall are those ready to die, decaying at the core. I looked at the light reflecting off the dew on our grass and spider webs in the forest. He maintains the smallest bits of creation we overlook.

Of course he is not forsaking me either.

He provides me with just the right clients at the right time. Last week, one of my favorite clients notified me that this year, funding wasn’t available to hire me. My heart sank. A few hours later, a potential client called me and said he was ready to start working together. Maybe that timing was coincidental; I prefer to view it as providential. God always knows what I need when I need it, even if it’s just to confirm that He’s going before me and planning in love.

God is not failing or forsaking me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI worried off and on for a year about how my daughter would adjust to starting kindergarten. Each time these fears came to mind, I attempted to let go and trust God. Sometimes I felt relief. Other times I wasn’t sure God would come through for me, even though His track record is stellar. But of course He came through. She was placed in a classroom with the most caring, committed, and well-trained teacher I know. She’s thriving. I’ve seen huge leaps in her ability to write and communicate in just three weeks’ time. And almost every day when I pick her up from school, she yells with glee, “This was the best day EVER!”

God is not forsaking or failing my child. 

There is no space for fear when I focus on the ways God has come through for me in the past.

There is no room for fear when I focus on how God is providing for me today either.

 

gratitude

Change gonna come

*Thanks to Mary Agrusa, today’s guest contributor, for sharing this beautiful piece with everyone.*

summer_haze_by_purpledino92-d5b2qf6
Summer Haze by Purple Ino 92

This weekend I saw it. Looking out my living room window I got the distinct impression that fall had arrived. Perhaps the approaching storm played tricks with the refractions of the sun’s rays, but the world outside was glazed in a more muted, mellow glow.

Mid-July in the Deep South is vaporous, a steam bath. Humidity spikes and the air is thick and muggy. Clothes stick like second skin as I stop glistening and start sweating. The autumn hue was deceptive. One step outside and reality hit like a warm, damp wash cloth. Still – the hint was there. Fall’s on the way.

I’m cognizant of the subtle, seasonal changes in the sun’s light long before the calendar or temperature confirms my observation. In the depth of winter I’m encouraged that warmer days are in my future. When everything wilts under summer’s sweltering haze, I take heart. It won’t be long before the trees adorn themselves in shades of vibrant color, citron to deep burgundy, and stand out in brilliant contrast to the cloudless, cobalt blue sky. I enjoy spring and fall the most. I prefer their moderate climes to the penetrating cold of winter or summer’s stifling heat.

Life appears to emulate the cyclical rhythm of nature. We have new beginnings and periods of growth (spring); the out-growing and passing of the familiar and established (fall). Like winter, the cold, hard grip of loss: loved ones, jobs, health, finances and the like leave us buried. Entombed under an avalanche of adversity we wonder, “Will I ever see the light of day again?” Like the onslaught of a long, hot summer we find ourselves under intense, relentless pressure and cry, “Will someone PLEASE, turn off the heat!” Depending which season life finds me in determines how tightly I cling to it. At times I want to move in, unpack and stay forever; other times I’m running hard for the nearest exit – if I can find one.

I’m thankful that in life, just as in nature, God sends hints that change gonna come. I praise Him for those snippets of hope that remind me that this too will pass. Reinforced with fresh, clearer vision, I’m rejuvenated to continue my walk of faith, confident that He knows exactly where I’m at and He’s in control.

Outside my window the sun now blazes and the temperature matches its intensity. I’m not concerned – I’ve seen what’s coming and I’m prepared for change.

gratitude

Here’s your sign

*Today’s post is written by my friend and regular contributor, Debra Dickey. Thanks for sharing your insights with us, Debra!*

I agree with Moses.  “God, if You are not coming with me, don’t make me go!”  …but if have to, then please, please, please give me a sign!!   [Moses actually says, “If Your Presence will not go, do not carry us up from here.”  Exodus 33:15]

With each edict near or far, or for every crises, small or large, my dread-o-meter amps to warp-speed – what emotional expense, how much psychological toll, what mental, physical, or financial price am I looking at?    All the panic and fear of the unknown and my own very appreciable inabilities come crashing over me, landing with a thud in the pit of my stomach.  How will I ever be able to . . . . ?

Bowing #2In similar fashion to the conversation that God had with Moses regarding the arduous journey in front him, God has been having a long talk with me and the responsibilities He tasks me with also.  I truly believe in God with my whole being.  My continuing challenge is the part that gets me past the human need or desire to validate His power with my physical eyes!  But ‘might and power’ express human strength of every description – physical, mental, moral. (Biblestudytools.com)   What God tells us is:  “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.’  (Zach. 4:6)  Oh!  Wow.   ‘Let Your Presence go with us.’

Yet we are always looking for a sign, aren’t we?  Actually, God does provide signs for us. Granted, they aren’t like road signs, directional signs, billboards, or a writing in the sky, but when we walk with Him, they are all around us.  Interestingly, God never wrote Moses a message in the sky. He never laid a blueprint down.  Neither did He send a tweet or a text.   He did something better.  This was the better thing that God offered Moses –God promised Moses His presence.  [lifeway.com]

The certainty, the solid that I am being encouraged to learn from this very personal interaction is the deep-seated root of discipleship I so distinctly and unmistakably need to grasp, and that is:  He’s got this!

Each time I pray about a situation, a resolution, for a loved one, or for guidance, strength, and Providence, His Presence is all that is necessary to perform these miracles.  I know fully when I offer that prayer, that the Perfect outcome is in His Hands and already in motion!  (Do not be deceived, I’m frailly human.  Days and nights in ceaseless prayer, I still tend to fret and worry without end anyway!  How does one embrace such unconditional power??)  He even further promises, “. . .I will give you rest.” (33:14b)  Did I hear that right?   ‘A benefit of living in God’s presence is that we can snuggle up close to our Heavenly Father, knowing that we can rest confident, secure, and victorious.’ (lifeway.com)   Moses plainly, yet meaningfully, presented his heartfelt appeal, and God assured Moses, “I will do the very thing that you ask….” (33:17a)

I am slowly, not always surely yet, but bit by bit, investing faithful confidence, and asking God to “show me (His) Ways, so that I might find Favor in His Sight” (33:13), to trust God’s omnipotent capacity, then be rewarded with the beautiful, exquisite, and touching evidence that has been there all along.  It is most assuredly not a sign that I can see with my eyes.  It is better.  Described by Elijah in I Kings 19:12, it is the sheer Presence of God.  Just His Presence.   Not the wind, not the earthquake, not the fire.  God.  A palpable, cognitive, manifest Presence!  His essence being Divinely and lovingly written into every fiber of my life, day after day, concern after concern, prayer after prayer, miracle after miracle after miracle.  His Presence revealed in all that is.  It seems that my mistaken effort to equate earthly affirmations with heavenly confirmations is the very shortcoming standing between me and God’s Promises!

And finally Moses did something even more extraordinary!  He said to God, “Show me Your Glory, I pray.” (Exodus 33:18)  You know, I understand that part!  Probably not in the same parameters as offered there, but my take-away is almost the same.  After humbly approaching my Heavenly Father in prayer, presenting my appeal, seeking His Will, asking for Guidance and Help, then listening for His Assurance, there’s only one desire left: “Show me Your Glory, I pray!”  So with breathless expectance and a reverent flourish, I bow —–“You got this, God?” … “I’ve got this.” —–  then step back and watch His mighty Miracles to Perform!

For sure, I initially thought that my ‘word’ for this year should be strength (I SO need it!), but now I know that Presence encompasses that endangered sliver plus so much more:  strength, wisdom, ability, guidance, resources, help, protection, sustenance!  So I choose Presence as my word, because not only do I long for God’s Presence, His Presence shall be the path to all His mighty, mighty MIRACLES.

So…there it is.  That’s my sign!  The only one I ever have need of.  Stop looking . . . it’s already here.

gratitude

Untied shoelaces and lost gloves

Today’s post is written by my great friend, Debra Dickey. Thanks for the great reminder, Debra, that God is always faithful to me in the small things, too.

Glove #2I have had the honor of an unconventional amount of both during this past year.  At first, the phenomenon was a bit of a nuisance, but by allowing it to be so, soon it became a point of inter-communication, an inside joke if you will, an almost secret wink between me and the One Who watches over me, causing me to raise an eyebrow at the humor, as He reminded me to not be annoyed, but to be grateful and to take those moments to praise and thank Him.

Although I cannot begin to count how many times my shoelace has come untied, I can count how many times, at the moment when I needed to stop what I was doing, stoop down and bow my head to retie it, that I took that moment just to say ‘Praise God’… EVERY time.  Thank you. Simple, yet powerful.

I do know how many times I have lost that one glove from last winter to this one.  Three!!  Each time, I would get back to the house from walking Maddie, realize the glove was missing, and begin the back-tracking process in hopes that I would be able to locate it, in the snow, in the mud, or who knows wherever I had dropped it during the lengthy and meandering trek we had taken.  And every time, sooner or later, I was able to find it!  A glove?  Easily replaceable, you say.  Not a big deal, right.  But it was, to me anyway.  So I uttered hallelujahs and praises when I saw it, and gratefully said ‘THANK YOU!’

Oh but yes.  Someone is trying to get my attention.  In a comical way, huh?  So much the better!  Someone is trying to tell me that little things do matter.  “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much . . . . .” [Luke 16:10]  (‘He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much’ . . . . as spoken in the King James version.)

Although this parable from Luke was meant as a guideline for how God, and we, should try to identify a trustworthy approach to the world and its peoples, there is a converse maxim to that as well, a truism that Someone is trying to instill in me:  That He is faithful to me in the little things, therefore He will be faithful to me in the bigger ones.  In other words, if I can depend on Him to help me find a lost glove (and I do!!), He lovingly reminds me that I can surely trust Him in the “much” of my life too.  Ordainment and Promise of Perfect Comfort, Absolute and Supreme; I only need to own it.

With certainty I always ‘know’ this in my heart/ my spirit being:   “But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” [II Tim. 1:12]  It’s my human existence that struggles with the essence of that kind of power, strength and ability.  So for my benefit, He cares enough to take that precious moment to kindly remind me, in the smallest of ways, even with a lost glove or an untied shoestring, to acknowledge His Omnipotence, not only to myself, but to Him.  He is able.  And my faithfulness to Him is nothing compared to His faithfulness to me.   Simple, yet completely overwhelming.

‘Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us’ [I John 3:1] because we are His.

gratitude

Star-spangled moments

*Today’s post is by my friend Debra Dickey, a frequent contributor to this blog. I’m thankful for Debra’s courage to share her own journey in writing because each time she does, I learn and grow.*

 

1)  A weighty concern regarding the possibility of an expensive vehicle repair — gratefully, did not need to happen.

2)  Frozen, burst water pipes — managed by the appropriate people with no liability to us.  Another Alleluia moment!

3)  A friend’s frozen water issues — easily thawed with an inexpensive heater at minimal inconvenience.  Yay!

4)  My brother, rushed to the hospital with potentially life-threatening symptoms.  Five frightening days of waiting, watching, and wondering.  Again, through the Grace and Power of the Almighty, he was safely carried through the danger, and recovery is imminent.  Praise God!

5)  A dog . . . . a skunk  —  a 10-second imagination-run-wild episode that turned out to be quite comical!

6)  Add to that a treacherous 25-mile drive home on ice-slick roads that can only be described as ‘harrowing’, yet, in its finality, by the Grace of God and one hour later, concluding safely.

7)  And to top off this mere three-week time span, exhausting illness x 2, plus a major health concern of another sort, and a family situation en crises, presently in the hands of God:  starbursts of amethyst and gold — moments in waiting!

FireworksStar-spangled moments.  Decipherable moments of Exquisite Presence.  Moments of gratefulness.  Joyous moments.  Praise-filled moments.  Laughable moments.  Challenging moments.  Gut-wrenching, heart-numbing, fear-gripped  moments.  Humble moments.  Moments of fireworks and awe.  He is in them all.  He answers my prayers, thankfully sometimes even before I know to pray them.

I experience all these kinds of moments and more, almost on a daily basis.  So not only am I grateful for the blessings of things that do happen, I am most often even more grateful for the blessings of things that don’t happen.  Those particularly worrisome events that somehow seem to juuusst barely sideswipe my wee crotchety life as they eek past on their little slippery skates of uncertainty.  Yes, I hear God in the still.  I see God in the small.  And I feel God in each moment.  There is no possible way that I could deflect nor withstand even a fraction of everything that comes at me without Help – I’m not the victor in those wrestling matches – but God is, so it doesn’t matter if I am or not!

My word for 2013 was ‘miracles’, and there have been so many!  What I have come to know is that often before you get to the miracles, that there are a colossal amount of challenges, stumbling blocks, and hurdles — virtual tidal waves of worry, heartache, fear and concern — which require an enormous amount of personal strength, effort, fortitude, and prayer to be able to walk through all the scary situations, the soul-searching days and nights, and the miry swamps of the unknown, before you get to those star-spangled moments, those miracles!!  Those precursors are fiercely and incredibly draining, at times leaving me broken, battered, bruised, and bleeding in the dust.

But because I know that God is the Author of the miracles that I seek, then I also recognize that I must possess strength, courage, and endurance to travel the road that is before me, and to navigate the sometimes perilous journey that will lead to those miracles.  So I shall ever seek His Promises of strength and protection, always by my side in Perfect Love, so that I can get back up and keep going.

His Word assures me:  “He will shelter you with his wings….He will order His angels to protect you…they will hold you up with their hands…  The Lord says I will protect those who trust in My Name.”  Psalm 91:4-12

*I continually pray for God to build a hedge of protection around me and my loved ones, a sphere of God’s glory that carries a vibration of Heaven that will hide us and keep us safe when principalities and powers may threaten our spiritual realm.  Let us commit our lives to God and strive to stay in the center of His Will, so that the enemy will not have access to what has been given to us according to that promise.  Thank You for Your Divine Protection in Jesus’ Name.   Amen.   [missionariesofprayer.org]

I eternally acknowledge the Divine Intervention that is evidenced within the subsistence of my life throughout each moment of my being.  Moments of forever.  Moments of now.  Moments of Grace and Strength and Love.  Small moments, enormous moments, amazing moments, unexpected and surprising moments.  Moments without end.  So many star-spangled moments!

gratitude

My leap of faith, part one

*Today’s post is part one in a two-part series by my friend LaTresha Woodruff-Johnson. I’m thankful God places inspiring, compassionate women like her in my life. Stay tuned this week for part two.*

I love the LORD; I am not afraid to say it.  In fact, I’ll take any opportunity to tell people that I love the LORD.  But when you say that to some, they ask, “why?”  I say things like, “because HE first loved me,” or “HE gave his only son that we might have life.”  But more importantly “because HIS grace and mercy is new every day, and HE has done so many things in my life; HE’s made a way out of no way.” 

I have so many stories of what HE’s done for me, how HE’s changed my life, but there is one in particular that I find myself telling people over and over and over again.   You see, it’s a timely and timeless story about my “Leap of Faith.” 

I have always sought the LORD’s guidance before making decisions, so when I started feeling my soul moving in a new direction or yearning for new direction, I thought to myself, “It’s time to leave the news business, put down my microphone, step away from the camera, the people/fans I’ve met in my 14 years as a reporter.”

LaTresha's last day as a reporter for Fox 16.
LaTresha’s last day as a reporter for Fox 16.

So I did what I do? I got on my knees and prayed to my heavenly FATHER.  I asked for guidance, I wanted to hear a clear word from HIM on what I should do.  I felt he was leading me to find something, a job allowing me to be more available to my husband, my church and my community.  I waited and waited and waited but heard nothing!  To me that meant it just wasn’t the time to walk away.  With that, I threw myself back into work. I changed my attitude and tackled each day head on; I started it by telling myself to, “Expect Good things,” and not to allow others to determine how I am going to feel today.  I took back that power.  Soon that burning desire to leave news reporting went away.

But GOD wasn’t done with me on this issue.  Two years later I got that desire in my soul that I was not where I needed to be.  I wrestled with it for a few weeks saying to myself, “I’ve gone through this before–it’ll pass.”  Well it didn’t, and I found myself on my knees one night praying to my Heavenly FATHER again.  But this time when I got up, there was a strange feeling that came over me.  A feeling of peace–my soul seemed to be at ease.  So I talked to my husband, and he supported my decision to resign from my reporting job.  That was April of 2010, but I didn’t have a new job. All I knew is that I had heard from the LORD, and I was following his will.  I ended up staying four more months because the news department was so short-staffed. Yes, I prayed about that, too, and the LORD moved me to stay and help out.

August 27, 2010, was a bittersweet day, bitter because I was leaving what I considered in 7th grade as my dream job, what I was meant to be, thought I’d retire from a big reporting/anchoring gig from CNN.  But it was sweet because I had faith that my GOD would supply all of my needs.  It was one of the happiest days of my life.  I did a great story, a child who was kidnapped but returned home safely.  What a happy ending to a great career; for me it was one of the happiest days of my life!

I gladly tackled this strange life of not constantly going and going from one end of the state to the next in one day, writing stories behind the eight ball and constantly being on alert.  Yes, my days were filled with sleep and thoughts of learning to cook, but they were just thoughts!  This all lasted about three weeks, and I was ready to get going.  See, as a reporter, I was always tackling numerous things at once, never an idle moment.   I started to get a little uneasy, and the LORD started dealing with me again.  I believed HE was saying, “LaTresha your idle time has come and gone; it’s time to get to work.”  By work I believed he meant, find a job, one that lets you help people, find time to volunteer, and honor Me through your works.

I ramped up my volunteering with one agency and became “a Friend” of two other non-profits.  While I started getting that feeling of fulfillment, my tank wasn’t quite on “F” so I started with Big Brothers Big Sisters and became a friend of Habitat for Humanity and Conway Cradle Care.  While I enjoyed being involved with these organizations, there was still something missing.  I could hear that sweet still voice of the Lord saying, “I want more for you. I want you to do more.”  So my job search kicked into HIGH gear.  I attacked the search ferociously!  I set my sights on what are called “Public Information Officer” positions.  I can’t tell you how many times as a reporter I interviewed Public Information Officers from various agencies and thought, “I could do that job with my eyes closed.” 

I applied for about 20 PIO positions; I had 5 interviews where I felt I had “knocked it out of the park!”  Slowly I started getting word that the positions had been filled.  Soon there was just one position left, and I thought, “This is the one.”  After all I had made it to the 3rd round of interviews. I didn’t even know there were 3rd rounds.  I just knew I had this one in the bag, so much so that I didn’t bother God with it anymore.  I remember the day that I got the call about the position, I had decided not to get up early and search the internet for jobs because I was so sure I was about to get this job.  The phone rang. I fumbled for it, cleared my throat, looked at the caller ID, and sure enough it was the hiring manager for the agency.  My heart leapt. I thought, “Here goes, about to enter the working world again,”  and I was excited.

You cannot imagine the heartbreak and devastation I felt when I heard the words, “We have offered the position to a more qualified candidate.”  It was all I could do not to start sobbing right there on the phone.  He went on to say things like, “You possess all the qualifications and would have done an excellent job but…”  And that’s the point I stopped listening.  I can’t even recall saying goodbye and hanging up the phone.  My pity party went on for the rest of the day.  I didn’t even get out of bed. 

It was only the next morning when I forced myself into the shower that I started thinking clearly.  Sitting in the shower I realized that I got ahead of myself.  When things looked like they were going in my favor I didn’t ask God if getting this particular job was His will.  I left him out of the equation.  He’d been there leading and guiding me through it all, but I decided I could handle it from here. When I put my hands on it, God took his hands off.  It was as if He was saying, “If you think you can do better than your Heavenly Father, go ahead give it a try, you don’t need me.”  I asked my heavenly father’s forgiveness and gave in to what I already knew–that He would take care of me no matter what.  I knew He didn’t bring me this far to leave me! 

So my journey continued. 

gratitude

It’s all God

*Special thanks to my friend Debra Dickey for serving as today’s guest contributor!*

Every image, every application, every petition that is granted, every prayer that is answered, it’s all God.  Every beautiful flower, every new kitten, every cake that rises, it’s all God.  Every musical note, every laugh, every talent, every shade of color, every blade of grass, every surprise of wonder, it’s all God.  Every drop of rain, every new plant, every field that is plowed, it’s all God.

Every hug, every ounce of love, every tear that falls, every knowledge on earth, it’s all God.  Every child, every person, every gift, every joy, every challenge, it’s all God.  Every blessing, every harvest, every snowfall, every successful endeavor, every lesson learned, it’s all God.  Every thoughtful gesture, every kind word, every safe passing, every road traveled, every insight, it’s all God.  Everything that matters, every opportunity for good, everything that creates a miracle, everything that happens, it’s all God.  Everything is God.  Every communication, every prayer, every meditation, every devotion, it’s all God.

For a while now, my children and I have faced challenges that have been and continue to be initiated by situations in every way beyond our control.  I have been at the business of prayer for many, many months and many, many years seeking answers, guidance, healing, and miracles.  Just recently I sat in a doctor’s office praying lengthily for a definitive outcome regarding a test that my son was having.  That prayer was answered, positively, and with good care and advice for the next steps.  I was overjoyed, elated, and grateful, sending praise and hallelujahs to the One whom my faith is directed towards that makes miracles happen.   To myself I thought, “At last, finally, one burden that I can lay down.”  It is all God.

Just two days later my daughter called with a daunting, urgent issue that needed to be resolved, and requested my assistance in working through the questions, considering appropriate and advantageous options, navigating a process new to her but which I had experience and connections with regard to, and then making the arrangements and following up to help her successfully accomplish what needed to be done.

Well _2To my own discredit, my initial reaction when I received that call was, “Oh my word, I’ve just prayed for and received a monumental blessing and divine miracle for which I am SO eternally grateful — How many times can I keep coming back and dipping in this well????”  Seriously, God, just moments ago You answered my humble prayers and bestowed Your Mighty blessing upon us . . . . and here I am, AGAIN… making another petition, asking for another favor, seeking Your authorship and benevolence for yet another problem!!”   This surely can’t be real.  My heart melts like wax, my emotions swoon within me.  How much can I ask of you, O God?   I am fearful, but I hold up my shield of faith, approach His Throne of Grace, offer my prayer, ask for God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience, beseech Care, Guidance, and Wisdom from Jesus Christ my Lord, and call upon His Holy Spirit to fill the space with Presence.   He made it happen.  More praise and hallelujahs!!  My heart overflows because of His Goodness.  I am humbled by His Greatness, and my soul cannot comprehend the depths of His Love.  There are not enough words in any language to fully praise Him.  Another worry allayed.  Thank you!  It’s all God!

As per the seeming dictums of my life, yesterday my son came to me to discuss yet another genuine concern that might be heading his direction.  I will take it to God.  Always and inevitably more.  This is my life — apprehensive; embroiled and entrenched, seemingly without an endpoint…..continual hurdles, inveterate mountains – and so necessarily absolute with me, embedded in incomparable prayer without ceasing.  It’s not that I don’t believe that my God is big enough, it’s just that there appears to be much before me of inordinate measure, and I don’t ever want to use up all of my favors with Him – the Source of All Living Waters.

The comfort flows plentifully and constantly as a river; strong as a stream to bear down the opposition of doubts and fears. The Spirit dwelling and working in believers, is as a fountain of living, running water, out of which plentiful streams flow,”  [biblehub.com]  Amen.