Joy in the journey!

Joy in the journey!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

It is Well......

As I sat in my prayer chair in the early morning this New Year’s Eve, I could hear her sweet voice singing as if she were right next to me. I could hear the stories she would tell me of her life and how Jesus never left her side. My precious Grandmother would always say “Lisa, it is well with my matter what." And one always knew, it truly was....always well with her soul. Until the day she died, no matter what she faced, her soul walked out peace with her Savior.

Jesus knew I needed to be reminded of this today. My heart was in pity party mode today, not New Year’s party mode. I am a planner, and my big plans for Christmas vacation were a bit altered. I found myself down the entire break with pneumonia. Not in the plan. I began to go down the “Why God?” road, until I played the song my sweet Grandma used to sing. “It is well with my soul”.

This song is about the testimony of a man who experienced a series of life-altering, tragic events. He lost his first son at the age of only four. Then without much of a moment to catch his breath, he also lost his financial livelihood and ability to properly care for his family. Subsequently then just two years later, as his wife and daughters traveled across the seas, the ship they were on sank and all four of his daughters died. His wife, the only survivor, sent the tragic news ahead to him and that she was the only one to make it home to him.

One would think that this man would have been crushed, quite possibly, for the rest of his life. And no doubt his heart grieved for the loss of his children. But the true testament of this man’s character is what his heart posture produced through the process of it all. Take a look at what flowed out from the heart of this man as he then traveled back by ship himself to meet his grieving wife, passing the very area where his daughters had died.

Horatio Spafford penned these words aboard the ship to meet his wife,

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

As I sat listening to the words of this song this morning, I was touched by the determination this man had in cultivating a lasting and intimate relationship with God. It was evident in how he lived his life and how he responded to even the darkest moments in his life. He did not allow his circumstances to dictate to him how he would behave and who he would become; rather, he found his anchor and true identity resting in His relationship with Jesus.

As this year nears its end and we reflect upon all that it has brought our way, may we rest in the peace of God’s embrace and sweetly declare, “It is well with my soul.” For whether it is peace like a river or sorrows like sea billows that we have encountered, even still, in relationship to Him, it is well because we know that God is passionately intentional about causing all things to work together for our good.

Now that’s cause for a celebration! It’s going to be a great 2012!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Santa Claus and the Finish Line.

I was on mile 3 of the run. I was looking around at the runners beside me thinking to myself, "Boy I love these runs!" Then all at once I felt my left foot begin to go numb. “Oh this is great Lord, please not today, not on this run...not now!” I then knew what would come leg would go. That’s when I’d get creative and hop until the feeling came back. I knew what to do, I had done it so many times before. It was the Jingle Bell Run, and everyone was dressed up in Christmas costumes. In fact I was delighted to have Santa, the Grinch, and a snowman running with me. But as my speed slowed and the hopping began, Santa asked me if I needed help. “Oh, it will pass...go on without me.” He was an elderly little Santa, (but man could he run!) He didn’t want to leave without helping. So I hopped, and he jogged slowly with me until the feeling came back and I was on my way again.....just minus the snowman and the Grinch.

We had a great talk Santa and I. We talked about the seasons of life. He had struggled with health issues this past year just as I had. We also talked about how God had been faithful through it all. He suffered with a disease called ankylosing spondylitis. I’d heard those words before as I sat on the doctors table being diagnosed with that long word over a year I couldn’t even pronounce. That’s why he stayed with me on this run. He knew what it was like to hop in races. He’d been there. And he didn’t leave my side. He told me he remembered a race that he literally hopped for a mile until the feeling came back. We laughed at the humorous things that we had gone through. It was so fun to laugh about it.

As we parted ways after the run, I was so thankful for the people God had strategically placed in my life to help me along the way. I also began thinking about this season of life that I am in. Yes there have been some hard blows, really hard blows, but as I sat on the curb catching my breath I realized that God was teaching me how to to to have faith like never before. This season was not going to be defined by the hard blows, but by the life changing things God was teaching me about trusting.....and resting in Him.

Someone once said to me that to rest meant I wasn’t trusting...I wasn’t moving. I needed to run this race! Hmmm. I agree that running the race is important...but rest is a part of the race sometimes. A very important part. Sometimes the most important part! Just as I was at a point where I physically could not run in the race today....I had to take a break, hop for awhile, even sit by the curb for a minute...and start back up when my body would let me again. If I hadn’t I would have been run over by the other runners.

The enemy would love to run me over in life. I have seen him try on many occasions this year. I realize that sometimes resting takes practice. I am not a good rester. Those of you who know me, know how true this is. God has had to help me on this one.

I did a study on resting in the presence of God. And I was amazed when I learned that rest can be a weapon! A weapon we use in the battles that the enemy throws in our path to defeat us. It is a sword in our hand. Resting never allows the opposition to dictate how we think or feel. Never. It brings all negativity to a standstill. It has the best jab ever. It has the confidence and the assurance to say “No, you are not coming in.” when the enemy comes knocking.

When we enter into the rest of God, we are at peace within His shadow. The Bible even serves to remind us in 1 Kings 5:4 that God will give rest to us on every side and that there will be no adversary or disaster that will be able to penetrate His great love. He goes before us in every situation to make the crooked paths straight.

So as I sit here thinking about this run today. I have to chuckle. I finished in record time (even with my resting in the middle). And wouldn’t you know, I ran through that finish line with Santa Claus. Does it get better than that? God knew I needed some help today.....and as He always does...He came through once again. Thank you God for rest. Your arms are big, your peace indescribable, and your healing complete.

My prayer is that whatever season you are facing, no matter how insurmountable the hurdles and race you are in may seem....that you find rest. Your miracle is waiting there. I will not only win the race will cross the finish line in record time! God won’t let you down.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Yes Lord, I'll serve you......even in a chicken suit!

She looked up at me with sparkling eyes and said “I love you chicken lady! And I sure love your dog!” She then leaned over and kissed my cheek, and Holly even got a kiss too! My heart was full and in a million years I never dreamed I’d be a chicken suit with my dog singing songs with a group of senior citizens. But I was not surprised....only amazed at how God answers prayer.

I cannot begin to tell you the countless stories of God’s provision in my life this year. But I honestly think the most profound of that provision came when I wanted to help others, and needed a financial miracle to help it happen. I have learned to never underestimate God’s answers. And never be surprised....His provision can come in the most unexpected ways. (Even in comical ways.....go figure!)

My precious friend and I had coffee one day and the tears were flowing. She was hurting and my heart was breaking with her. She had lost her job and was overwhelmed. We prayed together and as I hugged her tight.... under my breath I was saying to God, “Oh Lord, I wish I had some money to help her.” “I wish I could do something!” I didn’t feel a bolt of thunder roll or a mighty wind swoosh through with a miracle, but I can tell you.....God heard our hearts cry that day, and He began to answer both of our prayers. I remember driving home with a heart of continued prayer for my friend, and I heard the Lord just whisper to my heart, “are you willing Lisa?” Willing Lord? I am always willing to serve and help you Lord!” Little did I know what He had in answer my prayer.... to help my friend.

It all began with my chicken suit. That chicken suit I have in my closet that I love to wear in the winter because it is so warm and cozy. Do I look ridiculous? Yes. But I love my warm chicken suit. It somehow makes me smile on those "hard to smile" days. So why was I surprised a chicken suit would be involved in God’s answer to my prayer?

The phone rang one day and it was one of my friends who was laughing at a picture she saw of me on facebook wearing my chicken suit. She said to me “there is no way you would ever wear that thing out is there?” Are you kidding? Of course I would! She is involved in children’s ministry and is a precious friend. She said to me “Lisa, I will give you $100.00 if you wear that suit to Starbucks and have coffee!” “I said to her....”You know I will do this, why are you going to pay me?” And her reply was “Lisa, sometimes God works in mysterious ways.” I started to challenge her and was immediately stopped as the Lord reminded me of the prayer I prayed....” I wish I had money to bless my friend....” This was His answer for me to help! I could give that $100.00 to my friend to help her!

Well you can finish the rest of the story I am sure. That one visit to starbucks in my chicken suit was the open door to provision to help my friends. I had a precious lady ask me if I would ever come to a nursing home or a hospital in my chicken suit with my service dog. She knew I had Holly because she had seen me there before with her. Of course I would! God was opening doors out of the blue, as only He can open! This was amazing and hilarious at the same time! A chicken lady with a service dog....that most definitely is creative Lord. Well it turns out that this combination brings smiles to many hearts. How can one not laugh at the picture of it all? Isn’t God just so creative?

As I sit here today writing this blog, I have tears in my eyes as I think about how He provided the money for me to give to others. I was able to help some dear friends in ways I otherwise could not. I didn’t have the resources, but He did! And He knew the reward I would receive was not about the money I was blessed with to help others, but the heart blessing I received because of it. How can you put a price on the smiles I saw, the hugs I received, the laughs I laughed with people, and the prayers I got to pray with those hurting? You can’ price can be put on that.

I have learned to never put God in a box. He will far surpass the limitations I put on Him. He’s bigger, He’s more creative, He’s always one step ahead of me. Weather you are one in need, or one who wants to help, I challenge you to just ask. Just ask Him for help. Ask Him for the provision you need. He will help you in ways you never dreamed. And I promise will have fun on the journey. More fun than you ever imagined! Take it from the chicken lady with a service's a journey that will change your life!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Overwhelmed or decide.

As I was running very early this morning, what was usually a very quiet run, was filled with the sound of cars, and traffic. It was 6:30 am! Then the two words hit me. “Black Friday!” Wow. One neighbor was running frantically out of her house, yelling...”Hurry up, we are late!” Her coffee was spilling everywhere as she tried to open the car door. Her teenage son looked at her and said “Mom, this is so not fun.” His arms were folded and he was not about to have a good day. I waved as I went by and she said to me “Oh how I hate the holidays!”

I began thinking to myself about the holiday season. To many this holiday is a difficult one. What may be Christmas carols and Christmas baking to one person, may mean sitting at a hospital for another, or dealing with the death of a loved one, a marriage, or even feeling like a dream has died. To some it may bring great memories, to others....memories that bring raw feelings to the surface that are easily buried during the year, yet rise to the surface during the holiday season.

Then I began to think about my own stresses, and how God was dealing with me. If there is one thing God is showing me how to do more when I am completely overwhelmed, when every task is too daunting, and problems seem is to go to the deep place with Him. I don’t have to shout out “Lord, I am having a pity party now....a little help please?” He’s already at the party and knows exactly what I am doing. It is in that place that I hear Him remind me “Lisa when you are overwhelmed, are overshadowed!” I am under His wings! And as I rest in His presence, under those mighty wings, that peace that passes all understanding wraps around me like a warm blanket and fills me with the hope that I can make it through anything! Anything! And believe me, there have been many “anythings” this year. Those wings have been there as my comforter. And there were days I needed Him to be my helper, my healer, and my friend. He’s been them all.

My prayer for my friends and family this holiday season is that when that overwhelming feeling presses in.... remember that you are overshadowed! When we put on the garment of praise under His wings, heaviness disappears. In fact it is easy to forget what we were overwhelmed about in the first place when we are under those wings in an attitude of praise. I have seen it work this year in ways I can’t even describe. Through health situations I thought I could not even face.....He overshadowed me. Through journeys I faced with questions....He overshadowed me. He will do the same for you. Enjoy this holiday season knowing you are in a very safe place where His arms won’t let go. What a wonderful place to be, under the shadow of the almighty. Makes it easy to focus on the one who gave us life. That’s what it’s all about anyway.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Christmas lesson the checkout line.

“You are getting those? Are you kidding me? How can you do that? It’s way too early!” Yes, those were the words I received, with a look of distain to go with it, as I was standing in line to check out. I felt like I should be wearing a helmet in case objects were thrown at me. And what exactly did I have that was setting this dear lady into a rage? I had tinsel and ribbon for the Christmas tree. I not only had a lady who was mad at my purchase, but a line of 8 people ahead of me! This was going to be a very long wait. Would I live through it? Would I have any missing body parts after I got checked out?

I was a bit thrown back on this one, but now, I understand why I had a very long wait ahead of me. God knew exactly what He was doing. As I stood there, I looked around at the packed store and I saw sad faces everywhere. I saw people mad and angry at the crowd and the long wait. I even saw a couple in the next line over arguing about the fact that Christmas trees were up and it was a tragedy to start the holidays so early. I thought, “wow, if they see what’s in my cart, I will not make it out of here alive!” It made my heart sink. Should I run, hide, duck for cover?

I am one of those people, yes I will admit, that decorates my Christmas tree November 1st! Some years it’s decorated on Halloween! I can hear things being thrown at me now. I LOVE the holidays! I love putting that tree up every year. I am the one belting out Michael Buble’ Christmas tunes the first of November. And the one who has tinsel in my cart at the store while everyone else is buying their Halloween candy. Many have asked “what is wrong with you Lisa!” Good question!

As I was standing in line, the Lord took me down Memory Lane! I began the journey in my mind of all the Christmas seasons in my life. The seasons were filled with many memories! There were some years we faced many trials. Some years there was loss. There were the years I faced it as a single Mom, not by choice, and wondered how we would even have a Christmas. The years of my Mom’s fight with cancer, and my battle with my own health issues. But even through those trials, what a joy the Christmas season was! I began thinking about it all. What made those difficult Christmas seasons happy?

Growing up, no matter what, my Mom and Dad made it about Jesus. No matter what the circumstance, it was about family, giving, and love. I will never forget the Christmas they announced that we would be giving our Christmas to a family that could not have a Christmas of their own. I remember my reaction. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” I know, I wish I could say I danced around with glee at this news. I will say this though, when I saw that single Mother and those 4 children open their gifts that Christmas, and eat the meal we prepared, and help us decorate the tree we put up for life changed. My Christmas was redefined. I don’t think my Mom and Dad know how deeply that Christmas impacted my life. I was only in Jr. High during that Christmas, but it was then that it all made sense to me. This is what the Christmas season was all about. This was what it should be like all year long.

As I was driving home one day, my daughter and I began talking about the Christmas season. She was working on math, and she looked over at me and said “Mom, I think people need to learn about Christmas banking.” “I think that if they realized it was not about purchasing but investing, they would not think it had become so about money and purchasing gifts.” By george, I think she’s got it! We came to the conclusion that Christmas is only as materialized as we make it. I actually had tears rolling down my face by the time we had reached the house. It was about investing. Investing in the lives of others, investing in things that matter and are eternal. Those gifts may not fill the room with wrapping paper and boxes, they fill it with things that last an eternity, and are investments into the kingdom of heaven!

My husband and I made an announcement to the kids a few weeks ago that we decided to have a Christmas without purchases. It would be about investing this year, like the Christmas that changed my life when I was young. I thought I would get the same reaction I gave my parents years ago.....”ARE YOU KIDDING?” And quite frankly braced myself for their reaction. Boy was I surprised. I remember hearing, “Hey, let’s make new traditions! Let’s make a Christmas brunch together!....”Let’s make our gifts this year!”....and the ideas were flowing. (and I was running for the kleenex) Seeing the smiles, hearing the laughter that day on the 1st week of November, with the tree up and Christmas had been made, two months early.

I made it to the front of the line, and by this time had a smile on my face. For in that 20 minutes of waiting, I realized even more how thankful I was to be celebrating the one who invested His life for me. I left that store with not only tinsel for the Christmas tree but with a new perspective, and a new excitement for this season. And yes, I belted my Michael Buble’ tunes all the way to the car. And I even saw a little smile come over the face of the lady who was angry at me in line as I was leaving. Amazing what God can teach us, even in the checkout line at a store. He invests so much into my life everyday, now it’s my turn.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Today God sent a miracle my way. Her name was Emily.

I was so honored to be asked to help with a special needs gym class today with Holly (my service dog in training). These children are not disabled, that word just doesn’t describe these children. They are some of the most abled children I have ever met. There was one little girl named Emily who wanted to run around the track so badly with all the others, but went very slow because of her crutches and could never make it around. We found a way! Holly walked beside her and the little girl leaned on Holly the entire way for extra support. At times Emily would stop and just wrap her arms around Holly and kiss her on the head. Holly was in heaven, and the connection between these two had me wiping tears. Holly worked like she has never worked before. It was like she was one with this precious child. The smile on Emily’s face was as big as the smile on Holly’s face. It was the first time Emily ever made it around that track! When we finished, the little girl grabbed my hand and said “Mrs. Lisa, do you know that Holly loves Jesus?” Choked up I got out a “why yes she does!” Then she said, “Mrs. Lisa, you love Jesus too!, do you know how I know?” I replied....”How?” And those big blue eyes looked up at me and said, “because I see your hearts, and there’s sunshine in there....that’s where Jesus lives....isn’t that neat?” “Mrs. Lisa, I love Jesus too! He makes me happy everyday!” OK, so by now I am in one of those ugly know where you are gasping for air? I hugged that sweet little girl with everything I had, and Holly did too! She had no idea how deeply she had just blessed my heart. After a morning with these precious children....I honestly don’t think my heart could be any more full. And I honestly love Jesus with a more wild abandon love than ever because of what Emily taught me. How could one be around a child like Emily and not want to love Jesus more? I asked her teacher if she was always this happy. And her reply was “She’s the light of the classroom”. Her disability hinders her the most physically, but her spirit makes up for it all. I have never seen anyone more alive and happy and abled in my life. I have thought about Emily all day.

It is days like these that remind me of how much I want to run from negativity, drama and strife. I want to focus on what really matters and never waste a second of this life. It is but a vapor, so very short. As Emily said I want to live in the sunshine where Jesus lives, and I want to make the moments matter. On the way home I looked over at Holly, and she looked at me with that angelic grin that only Holly can give, and I knew she was feeling that same joy I was. It was definitely a day full of sunshine! We were both basking in it together......

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Can I do this Lord? The journey I faced as a single mom.

I remember the day like it was yesterday.....that drive from Texas to Tulsa almost 20 years ago....with 2 babies. My son just a few months old, and my daughter just 22 months old. It was just the three of us now. In her sweet little voice, my daughter whispered to me “Mommy, are we going bye bye?” My heart broke. As my parents drove the van, I sat in the back seat and hung onto my babies for dear life. My world had literally stopped. How could I raise them alone? They were babies! How could we have been left? Why? How could he leave us? My husband had chosen an affair over his family and now, I had to pick up the pieces...I had no choice. Of course my self esteem was shattered with all the feelings one has when an affair occurs. But I can only say that it was at that moment, when I passed the Oklahoma state line, that my world changed, forever. I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart....”I will carry you now Lisa. I will take you to new places with your children that you never dreamed possible, and I will open doors.....I will heal and I will guide and teach you things that will change your life forever....don’t let go of your dream.” Don’t let go of my dream? What? But Lord, my dream was shattered? He saw much further than I did, and He knew the dream He had placed in my heart all along. He wanted to bring it to pass. It was my job to let Him. It was my job to give Him the brushes and let Him paint the new picture on this blank canvas before me....with my babies. Little did I know it would be more than just a picture, it would be a masterpiece.

I remember those days like they were yesterday. Working two jobs, getting those babies up everyday and getting them to school. I remember being so tired that my toenails even hurt, and knowing I had to get the kids home, get homework done, get dinner on the table, and spend quality time with them. I remember the pressure of making it financially on my own. I remember the lonliness when the kids were all in bed and it was just me.

You know what is amazing though? When I look back on those years of single parenting now, and I see the picture God was painting all along, I stand in amazement. It was at that very moment of being left and alone and clutching onto Jesus with every fiber of my being that taught me the greatest lessons that I still lean on to this day. And what exactly can one learn from being left with 2 small babies to raise?

I learned that 2 Corinthians 12:9 is true. He pours out His grace in proportion to what we need. And I needed a truck load of grace. He cared so deeply for me and saw my extreme need for Him as His opportunity to provide. And He had more than enough grace to walk me through this journey. We were tucked safely under His wings. And He was not letting go.

I learned how to forgive. Oh this was a biggie for me. My children could pick up on the angry feelings I had and carried. I will go so far as to say I not only walked through anger, I walked through rage. I was mad! When I wanted to speak badly of their father, I knew I couldn’t. He was still their father. God literally took my hand on this one and step by step peeled away the layers of unforgiveness until I walked in freedom. I could not have done it without the Holy Spirit guiding me every step of the way. There is freedom in forgiveness. I knew the second that weight was lifted off of my shoulders, I had forgiven. I could breathe! I realized that forgiveness can be a daily journey though. When tempted to take that anger back on, God was there to take it for me.....daily. There were some days on that journey I literally had to say, Jesus, right now I can’t do this, can you? And He would take it from there. The Holy Spirit became real to me in ways that forever changed my life. When in my own strength I couldn’t, He could. 2 Corinthians 12:10

I learned how important getting involved in a great home church really is. Not only was it a place for healing for me but I realized that I could be used by God even in my broken state! We were in church when the doors opened, and we were involved. I developed friendships that were healthy and life long. My children were involved and loving it! Singing on the praise and worship team was instrumental in so much of my healing. We were surrounded with love and support, and this was literally a life line for us. God used that church to help us in more ways that I can even express.

I learned that there is laughter and joy, even in the hard times. One day, feeling overwhelmed, I started to cry. I cried one of those “ugly” cries where you can hardly breathe. I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror and how my face was all shriveled up like a prune, and how ridiculous I looked. It cracked me up! I went from uncontrollable tears to uncontrollable laughter! My kids came in and we just laughed! In fact I could not even remember why I was crying in the first place. It was at that moment that I realized that I could laugh! It was healing! And I could teach my children how to laugh! I remember funny dances we would make up together, silly songs we would sing, bible verses we would memorize with hand motions, cookies we would bake with silly faces.....and laughter filled the house. And you know what my kids remember to this day most? The laughter and the love in our home. And when we talk about that love and laughter during that season, it gets me every time. They remember it with detail.

Laughter is healing. And I learned that even when my heart was breaking, I could laugh, and the joy of the Lord really would be my strength. Many have asked me how I find laughter in tough journeys. I found it during this season of my life. It was what got me through. This kind of laughter comes from the soul, where Jesus has a grip. There really is no adjective to describe it. It carried us through the journey then, and it carries us through our journey now.

I think the biggest thing I learned through this journey was to not let go of my dream. Even though it seemed the dream was crushed, it was not. God was just going to find a different way to bring that dream into fruition. Trust me, He will blow your mind. Just don’t let go! Don’t listen to the lies of the enemy that you will never see that dream come to pass. As I gave the Lord those brushes to paint my masterpiece, He did! And what a masterpiece He painted! I have 4 children and a daughter in law now who are all passionate for Jesus, a husband who was sent from heaven, and 3 dogs who, yes, are also part of that beautiful picture! I look at that dream everyday in awe and wonder and thankfulness. I also remember those things I learned in the 10 years I walked through the journey of single parenting. I could not have made that journey without Jesus.

To all my dear friends walking through the journey of single parenting, I want to encourage you! There is hope! There is laughter! There is strength! There are miracles! There is a dream to be fulfilled! There is a masterpiece in the making! Just let go of the brushes and watch Him paint! I promise you, you will be amazed! Van Gogh and Divinci have nothing on what God is painting for you and your children.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Hug that started a life changing journey...

I remember the day so vividly. It was a few months ago, and I was leaving the doctor's office. It wasn't a fun visit, and quite frankly I was a bit low from all the tests that were being run. I got into the elevator and pushed the button for the lobby. Then I heard a faint whisper as we began to lower to the floors below. "Mommy, I think that lady needs a hug." I looked down and a precious little girl with big blue eyes was looking at me. She was probably in kindergarten. Her mother quickly said " shhh, don't bother the lady" in a stern voice. By the 3rd floor the little girl was pulling on her mother's skirt..."please Mommy, can I give the lady a hug?" And before her Mother answered, I said to her "Ya know, I'd love a hug!" A smile crept on the Mother's face. I knelt down to hug this precious little girl and she grabbed my neck so hard I could hardly breathe! She gave bear hugs a new meaning. This little girl knew.....she knew I needed this hug today, and by golly there was nothing that was going to stop her! Boldness! Oh for that childlike boldness and faith! God delights in that!

Well, not only did this little girl make my day that day, she made me realize even more the impact that just a hug, or a smile can make on somebody's day. I became more sensitive that day to look around at others. Doesn't it seem that so many people go throughout their day with no joy? People work hard, feel unappreciated, and sometimes wonder if they even have a purpose. So I did a little project this summer. Some call it "pay it forward" some call it "random acts of kindness", others may call it planting seeds. All I know is that I wanted to let others know they mattered.....just like that little girl in the elevator made me feel that day I was feeling low. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and I prayed God would show me those needing a "random act of kindness." I learned that He answers those prayers very quickly. God swung the doors wide open! And little did I know the healing that would come from it all would be mine.

It started with helping my elderly neighbor with her trash during the week. It grew to going to nursing homes....random nursing homes. I just went down the halls and gave hugs. I brought Holly with me and they adored her! The precious residents did the rest. I love to listen to life stories. What made these people who they are today? Boy did I hear wonderful stories! One dear man kept saying "Thank you for listening to me....nobody ever listens to me anymore.” His eyes brightened and he sparkled. I think he felt just like I felt the day I got that wonderful hug from the little girl. He mattered! And I was blessed beyond words by his story. I looked behind me as Holly and I left and about 7 residents were waving goodbye, saying “please come back!” Oh I will come back that’s for sure.

One day as I was driving in this 107 degree heat. I saw construction workers in this horrible heat working feverishly. I whispered out loud...."Thank you Lord, for the people who do this!" And I got the response...."Lisa, why don't you thank them yourself?" What? Wow. How Lord? Funny, I was parked right in front of a grocery store so I jumped out of my car, ran in and got cold waters and gatorade, and loaded up. I stopped at places throughout the day and handed out those waters and gatorades. The looks on the faces of these people will be etched in my mind forever. All I said was "thank you! what you do matters!" and off I went. I don’t know if those waters did for those people what they did for me even, but I just felt God’s presence in amazing ways through this journey. It was as if He was just guiding, directing, placing, and blessing each and every event in my day.....and indeed He was. This project was not just for others....He was doing a work in my heart as well. There was healing going on! Go figure :)

My daughter and I were in the store one day getting a desk for her room. The man helping us get the big box down was NOT happy. In fact my daughter said "Mom, I don't think we better bother him, he's not happy." But not only did we need help with our desk, but why not let this man know he was appreciated for the help he would give?" So I went over and he looked at me with a huge grimace. My daughter was right, he was NOT happy. He said "what do you want?" I asked if he could help us load up the box. He grumbled like Mr. Scrooge under his breath and got the cart. As he was rolling it down the isle for us I said...."Sir, thank you for what you do.....and thank you for helping us. I appreciate you" And he replied "You are the first person in months to thank to me Ma'am". And then he started talking....he talked about the lady who had just come in and screamed at him because they didn't have the lamp she wanted"...and before we knew it we were up at the front, laughing with all the other checkers around. Turns out this guy had a hilarious sense of humor!! He wasn't a scrooge after all! He walked the desk out to our car and loaded it up for us. Then he shook my hand and said “Miss, thank you for helping me remember I can laugh....and I really am a pretty funny guy!” I said, “Yes you are! and a very appreciated one at that!” I tried to look cool as I walked over to get into the car, because my lip was twitching all over the place and I knew the tears would follow. It was so touching to my heart, I could hardly hold it in. All he needed was a simple kind word. That’s all it took!

Was this journey easy everyday? No. The enemy loves to put things even negative people in our lives to trip us up. Oh he loves the art of distraction. There were days I woke up in so much physical pain from my journey with arthritis and celiacs that I thought, I won’t be able to do this today. I can’t even get out of bed! And you know what I found? I took the first step, and usually it was on those days the most miracles happened! And by the end of the day I was in no pain. I tell you heals! Encouraging heals! Getting out of one’s selfish comfort zone....heals! Staying in that happy place.....heals! Jesus......heals! And boy does He give the grace to walk it all out on those hard hard days.

What lessons I have learned this summer! The most life changing gifts one can give are free, they touch the recipient’s heart but they end up changing the giver’s heart as well, and they last a lifetime.....their echos are heard and felt for eternity. I have met more friends on this journey, and have never been more amazed at how many wonderful people are out there!

I recommend this to anyone and everyone. Give it a try! I wake up each morning excited for what people God will place in my life each day. What journeys He will take me on. My family is on this journey with me as well now....and I love hearing the stories at the end of each day. And I chuckle to myself as I write this because yesterday, I made a run for Starbucks. I realized I left my purse at home and was going through my change in the car. As I got up to the window, looking frantically for the money, I saw a big smile looking at me. Ma’am, your coffee has been paid for, by the man ahead of you. Are there words for that? If there are I can’t find them. Except......that’s just the way God does it.

I serve an amazing God! Even if you expect nothing in return....the blessing you will receive will amaze you. Get ready!

I hope I see that little girl again someday....I am going to give her the best hug ever. She has no idea what that hug started, and what the hug will continue for the rest of my life. See you on the journey....and when I do, I will give you a great big hug!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Choose Happy!

I gave her a big kiss as she was taken back for yet another test. Before she went in, we had the conversation that no matter what happened, what the results, she would be fine. She chose to remain in that “happy place” with Jesus, and not miss a second of what He had in store for her. My Mom lives in that “happy place” every day of her life.

As I sat in the waiting room, I began to think about my Mom, and the things she instilled in me. I began to thank God that I always saw her choose that place of happiness, no matter what. My Mom has been through so many trials these past 2 years in her battle with cancer, and if ever there was a time to go to the “pity party” place, it could have been these years. But she refused. And the result? Joy, peace, blessing, trust, grace, ministry, miracles.....and the list goes on.

I don’t think it was by accident that a precious 84 year old man came over to me in the waiting room and sat beside me. He was tall, and thin, and very frail. His hands trembled as he shook my hand and introduced himself. His name was Bob. Bob was one of the kindest men I have ever met. In the course of the 2 hour wait, we talked. He told me about his life, and my mouth was open in awe of all he had walked through. His full time job now? Taking care of his very ill wife who was in surgery while we were talking. With all the adversity Bob had gone through, he kept saying over and over....
“but you know? Life is a choice, you can be happy....or you can be miserable...I choose happy” He had a sparkle in his eyes, and it was very evident he chose “Happy.” He had been married to his wife 60 years, and adored her. The only time he teared up was when he talked of possibly losing her. But then he followed it with “But Miss Lisa, I will choose happy even then. And when I can’t humanly choose Happy because of a broken heart....God will choose happy for me.” OK, by then....I am going for the kleenex. Bob became my dear friend during this 2 hour wait. I pray for him everyday and his sweet wife, and am so thankful for our time together. When I left the hospital I passed his room and he was kneeling over the hospital bed where his wife was. He was kissing her hands and stroking the hair out of her face. Yes, he adored her, it was obvious. “Bob chose “Happy”, and love oozed out of that man to all he encountered.

I am glad he encountered me!

As I drove home that day, my heart was so full. I reflected upon the events of my summer.....some good, some not so good. And what I realized is that on those “not so good” times, when I chose “happy”, God gave me such strength, such favor, and such grace. It was like a gift He poured down for me. I felt His favor on me as I chose to go the high road, and delight in Him in the hardest of circumstances. It’s a simple thing to say and yet at times very difficult to do. But the reward is amazing! Life changes, things change, the future changes, God opens doors, and it’s astounding what happens!

No wonder the enemy tries to divert us with trivial things that trip us up from day to day! He wants us to miss this amazing gift God has waiting for us! He knows how powerful “happy” is and he wants us to miss it all!

Through Mom’s cancer, to my own health struggles.....perspectives change, priorities change. I have learned to savor every single second of life like never before and not waste a minute. There is no time to stay in a cloud of negativity. I want to run from it. I know what it does. It feeds like a cancer, and blocks what God wants to do in our lives. When I see friends or family there, my heart breaks because I know what they are missing. LIFE! HAPPINESS! MIRACLES! JESUS! Yes, even through the darkest of times.....there is a happy place. It was that happy place that saved my life when it was so dark I couldn’t see light.

I encourage you to find those arms of Jesus and snuggle in to that happy place that only He can give. No matter what you are going through.....that happy place leads to freedom and miracles you never dreamed possible. And when you can’t do it on your own....He can do it for you. He’s good at that.

One of my favorite quotes is “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. God, may we all see things through your eyes, and love with your heart. You delight in a life of cartwheels and fact I feel a cartwheel comin’ on now. See you in “the happy place!”

And for those wondering about Mom’s test results....benign! Tests came back great! Isn’t God good!!!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

China, Emergency Surgery......and Jesus.

As I stood there pouring my cup of coffee and going over the long list of things I had do get done that day, I heard that still small voice, not so still and quiet saying.....”Go now Lisa, Go NOW!” Go check on Kerrigan!” Kerrigan had been through what was supposed to be a routine tonsillectomy but it turned out to not be the case. After a week of struggling she finally was resting....I thought. I had only on a few occasions felt the prompting in my spirit to this degree. I dropped my coffee, literally, and ran. I found her on the couch in a pool of blood. It was coming out of her nose, out of her looked like a crime scene. I remember at that very moment just saying outloud “Oh Jesus, help me.” It was all I could get out. In a few hours after that moment she had been rushed through surgery and was in recovery. An artery had not been cauterized properly and opened up...the bleeding was horrendous. Seeing her frail body lying there so pale, was something I will never forget.

On this same day, I was to see my oldest daughter off for the rest of the summer, to Beijing, China. We had planned a time that afternoon to say our goodbyes and spend some time together. I literally in a 15 minute span of time was saying goodbye to my oldest as she left for her trip, and another goodbye to my youngest as she was wheeled into emergency surgery.

I can only tell you that this journey today took me once again to a place with Jesus that no words can describe. It was a deeper place of trust and rest. I remember many years ago, in a bible study, being told that during times like these I should stay strong, start quoting scripture, and have faith. I memorized mountains of scriptures, which I am so thankful I did, and was prepared. But as I stood there today seeing my daughter helpless, all I could say was “Oh me”. I couldn’t remember one of those scriptures. Just “Jesus!” And you know what? That was all I needed. I cannot begin to tell you the presence that filled that room as I cried out His name for help. He knew what was in my heart, He knew how desperately I needed Him. I truly believe the most elaborate of prayers is just the name of Jesus. I didn’t have to quote a long passage of scripture, I didn’t have to start praying a big worded prayer to be heard....all I needed was Jesus.

Was I strong? It depends on what you define as strong. I stayed strong throughout the whole ordeal, and then I let myself fall apart. I have a place in my closet that I reserve for “ugly cries”. You know, those cries where your soul just lets go and it comes from your belly? (Groanings to deep for words: Romans 8:26) Yep, one of those cries. Jesus always meets me there, and I never feel guilty for letting go. I have felt so close to Him in that prayer closet at times it is like I can feel His breath on my face.

I have had to release my children to God in a way like never before. From China to Emergency surgery....they are in His hands. It’s easy to say, hard to do. But as soon as I completely release them....there is a peace like never before. What greater hands could I place them in?

Kerrigan is resting peacefully, Laura made it to Beijing. I made it through another journey with Jesus realizing more than ever that there is such a freedom and peace in walking this journey with Him. There is no bondage in this walk, only freedom and miracles waiting. If I forget to quote some scriptures during a crisis, or if I fall apart and cry in His arms...He is there regardless. I have never felt His presence more strongly than when I just cry out His name. Oh the precious name of Jesus. No matter what journey awaits me today, tomorrow or the next. He will be enough..........

I can still hear my sweet Grandma’s voice singing as she sewed in her chair......

Jesus Jesus Jesus, there's just
something about that name.
Master, Saviour, Jesus, like the
fragrance after the rain
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all heaven and
earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will pass away
But there's something about that Name!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The day two father's came to my rescue

I will never forget the day, I was in the floor sobbing. I was a teenager and just feeling completely overwhelmed. Overwhelmed was an understatement. My self esteem was at an all time low, and I was angry. In all my anger and hurt, sitting there in the floor having a melt down.... the door opened and there he was, my precious Dad. He sat in the floor with me, scooped me up in his arms, and cried with me. He cried and he prayed. He didn’t know what to say in my fit of rage, so he just loved me and sat there with me asking Jesus to wrap His arms around me too. I remember he sat there for hours praying for me, and I will never forget how his lips quivered as He tried to stop the tears and hold back the hurt from his face so I couldn’t see just how deeply he was hurting, because I was hurting. That day was a turning point for me. I had two Father’s running to my rescue that day, and my earthly Father was there to exemplify my Heavenly Father’s love. My Dad’s arms were the extension of my Heavenly Father’s arms. Jesus knew I needed those arms so deeply on that day, and my earthly Father was there to cover.

From the day I was born, my Father has loved me with a love I really cannot describe. The older I get the more I realize how rare a Father’s love like his truly is. I have had many people ask me what it was that catapulted me into such a close relationship to Jesus. In fact I was asked this question a few days ago. I can quickly answer that question without hesitation whatsoever. It was because I had an earthly Father who adored Jesus, adored His family, and loved me so deeply, it made it so easy to see how much my heavenly Father could love me. The role my Father has played in my life goes so much further than just being a “Dad”. His example to me drew me to Jesus. His love and prayers throughout my life are the reason I know I adore my heavenly Father.

My Dad has been through the darkest of times with me. He never, and I mean never wavered in his love and support. When most Dad’s would have fled from the scene, He only loved deeper, and trusted God more. He is one of the most humble men I have ever met. Integrity defines every part of who he is. When I was left to face life alone as a single Mom years ago with a newborn baby and a 2 year old, my father stepped in and prayed and loved my kids and took on the role to guide them. To this day, my kids have the most precious relationship with Jesus and I know my Dad was key in that path of their lives. The same love and guidance I received....they received as well. They to this day remember so vividly memories of doing things together and how Dad would talk with them about the Lord. I remember seeing Dad hold my kids just like he held me when I was young. I am forever in awe of his love.

One of the most important gifts my dad has given me is his adoration for my mother. He utterly adores the ground she walks on. He has never spoken a cross word to her, and in all my life they have never argued. His affection for her to this day blesses me more than words can convey. I remember his hugs and love pats and sweet words of affection to her growing up. I remember the security I felt knowing they would always be together. Their love for each other really is undefinable. It’s so deep. Seeing this love for her helped me not give up when my dreams of marriage were shattered. He taught me to hang on! God had a beautiful plan for my life. God would not leave me and these kids alone and forsake the dream He had placed in my heart. And through his prayers and encouragement....I indeed met and married the man of my dreams. Almost 10 years now I can not believe I could love a man so deeply. He adores my children and together with our beautifully blended family....I once again, know I could not have reached this place without my father.

Dad, if you are reading this I cannot thank you enough. Because of you I didn’t give up. That day you held me in your arms when I wanted to give up....changed me in ways you never knew about. You have always thought I was beautiful, even when I didn’t. You have always believed in me, even when I didn’t. You have walked a very painful journey with me through Mom’s cancer the past 2 years, and we grew even closer. The harder life hits you, the closer you get to Jesus. Thank you. Thank you for giving me the most precious gift you could ever have given me. You gave me Jesus.

I have a Godly heritage, I have a wonderful legacy, I have Godly favor on my life because of the life you have led with Mom. The Godly choices you made, and the example you set have laid a path for me and my family that I am forever grateful for.

No matter how old I get I will always love hearing “Hellooo Sweeeeets” when I walk through the door! Oh, and the hilarious animal sounds you make every time you see any type of animal. If it’s a mooo or a bark or meow....or even a’s just such a great memory! (and you don’t even know you do it!) I bet you are doing it now reading this!

I love you Dad....thank you for making my life wonderful! Someone said to me the other day....You are so much like your Dad, Lisa. That was the hugest compliment I have ever received. Thank you.

Happy Father’s Day Dad.....I could not be more proud of who you are and to be your daughter!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wrestling With Worry.....God Wins!

“Mom, they took everything! They took all my computers, cameras, guitars, books....everything.” I remember the sound of silence and me gasping for a breath when he gave me the news. Jordan was about to go back to school in Nashville after his spring break. That is until he got the news from his roommate that they had been robbed. They took everything, even the vacuum cleaner. OK, this was not in my plan. I began to take on the worry of it all, and try and figure it all out on my own. My son had the right idea. He went upstairs and he prayed. I should be doing that! As I walked around the room, (pacing is more like it) just asking God what to do, I heard Him say as He always does in that still small voice, “Lisa, don’t worry.” Don’t worry? Me? Oh I wasn’t worrying! I was trying to figure out a plan! Really? Nope, I was smack dab in worry world. My husband and I prayed together, and I was determined I would walk in peace through this journey. I had walked through big things this year, hurdled some pretty big hurdles..... but what made this journey different is that it touched my child! I think as a Mom we can all agree, when it touches your child, it puts it on a whole new playing field you know? And boy was my trust in God put to the test! “Lisa, don’t worry.”

You know what I learned through this journey? That peace is faith resting. Faith in a God who does not make mistakes, and who has this whole world in His hands, including my worried world. It releases me to laugh in the darkness, and dance in rain. It makes a way when there doesn't seem to be one. Peace is faith resting in the fact that God will carry this worry for me. Faith counts on it. It is my soul saying “Jesus I will trust you and I will not be afraid” (Isaiah 22:2) Though the mountains fall down and my world disintegrates, I won’t fall down and disintegrate, for I am banking on a God who is my refuge and strength, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalms 46:1,2; 19:14)

Resting is hard for me. Anyone who knows me knows this. I want to be up and doing something all the time. But through many events this year, including my surgeries and health issues, God has taught me to rest. Not just physically but spiritually. It’s a mindset, and I had to learn how to walk in that mindset of rest. Walking in rest, wow! God’s work is to provide His serenity in the midst of the storm, my work is to stop trying to manufacture it myself and to be at rest!

I learned that prayer was the beginning of rest. Have you ever asked the question....“But how can I pray when I am worried?” I have! Prayer is simply verbalizing your worries to God. I have learned this year that instead of worrying...pray. Prayer combats worry by building trust. What I see in my life is that sometimes prayer changes things, but most times, prayer changes me. Many times God does not answer the prayers like I would like. He has a different plan, a much better plan. I have learned that prayer is much more than specific requests I make of the Lord, it’s just being with God, enjoying Him, and absorbing His will for me. It’s not just something I do, it’s somewhere I go to experience the presence of God. I have learned about that lesson this year more than ever. It’s always in that presence that my perspectives change and rest becomes so much easier in His arms. I stop the struggle, and I rest. It is at that point I can put even the hardest things for me to release, like my children, in His arms... knowing He will cover them far better than I ever could. It is my job to release them into those loving arms. He will not let me down.

Phil 4:6 talks about praying about our worries with thanksgiving; “In every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Now what does He mean by that? Thank God for worries? No. Thank God for who He is in the midst of the worries. Thank God for His strong eternal shoulders that are perfectly capable of carrying all the burdens of worry in the world.....mine and yours included!

It’s been 3 months since we got that bad news about Jordan’s apartment. And it has been 3 months of daily miracles. The enemy tried to steal, God restored. There were times we didn’t understand why, but we are seeing things more clearly. I know that as we look back years from now, we will see the whole picture even more clearly. God is bigger! I have learned so much through this journey with Jordan. I have learned to trust God with my children in a deeper way. It’s such a wonderful thing knowing that God not only carries us, but has our back! Though the enemy comes in like a flood.....God’s boat is bigger! It may be tempting to take a swim out there in the sea of worry, but I think I’ll stay in the boat, and enjoy the ride. Amazing what you will find in that boat! It’s a wonderful worry free ride! Let’s go!