Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I want to remember . . . Journal prompt

Grand daughter, me and my mom, Oct 2014 at DaySpring FestiFall.
This was just 6 months after her disastrous knee surgery. And, no, she still does not color her hair!!!!

Today is my sweet mama's 81st birthday. There are so many things I have learned from her over the years. These are just a few that I always want to remember.

I want to remember . . . how she always put family before her own needs and desires. Even though Mama is in constant pain, she always manages to come through when any of us need her. Everything from cooking meals, doing laundry, babysitting her grandkids and great grandkids, picking up things from the grocery store, and thousands of other little things, she's always available.

I want to remember . . . the story of the terrible accident that she almost died from when she was only 18 years old, her miraculous recovery, and how that accident left her with chronic pain, that most people never knew about, for the rest of her life.

I want to remember . . . trying to learn to cook from her with no recipes and how that drove me nuts. Just put a little of this, a little of that, and you come out with perfect cornbread! That never worked for me.

I want to remember . . . that birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, graduations, may only exist as an excuse for a family dinner in which every one is invited and any friends who happen to show up are treated as family.

I want to remember . . . that dinner always begins with a prayer of thanksgiving before one bite is taken. And that forgetting that detail is cause for severe looks and possibly having your hand slapped before it reaches your mouth. (That hasn't happened in years but I still remember it like it was yesterday!)

I want to remember . . . the odd way she holds her cards when we play card games.

I want to remember . . . her long, slender fingers and beautiful fingernails that were always polished every Saturday night to match her outfit for Sunday morning, before arthritis twisted her knuckles and the nail polish was left to a younger generation.

I want to remember . . . how she and Daddy read their devotions together every night before they went to sleep when Daddy wasn't working night shift.

I want to remember . . . the million and one times she has come to my rescue for everything from restocking my pantry when there was more month than money, to demanding that I bring my laundry to her so she could wash it when my week was long and we were out of clean clothes.

I want to remember . . . the pure joy in her face the first time, and every time after that, when she held each of my children and grand children.

I want to remember . . . the compassionate sadness I saw in her eyes when one of my children had gone through a particular hard time and how she ached to rescue them.

I want to remember . . . how she drives me crazy with her OCD weird little habits . . . and how much I am like her.

I want to remember . . . the first time as a mom when I heard her voice come out of my mouth, and how much that both frightened me and made me proud to be her daughter.

I want to remember . . . her extensive knowledge of all things plant and flower related, and how much I have learned from her in that regard.

I want to remember . . . that the best tasting pot roast, pound cake, and lots of other foods came from Mama's kitchen.

I want to remember . . . her total devotion to my daddy that has never wavered in 60 years of marriage.

I want to remember . . . that as a small child she made it clear that church attendance was never optional, that 10% of everything I earned belonged to God, and that putting God first was the only way to live your life.

I want to remember . . . that in spite of my rebellion and stubborn heart, she has always loved me unconditionally, perfectly modeling for me the relationship she has with her heavenly Father year after year.

I want to remember . . . all the ways that she far surpasses me in grace and southern hospitality.

I want to remember . . . all of it, even the hard times. Because much of who my mom is has made me who I am today.

I want to remember . . . everything about her so I remember who I aspire to be.

Blessings,
Renea

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I want to be different . . . journal prompt

Last week I was an outside observer to an incident that I can't really give details of here due to it's confidential nature. But let me just tell you that it was something that any average citizen who was treated this way would have been appalled. But these weren't 'average' citizens. These were former prisoners. As I've gotten to know some of these people I've noticed something that has bothered me and made me take a closer examination of my own life. 

From their vantage point, they don't expect to be treated with respect. 
They don't expect people to be honest with them.
They don't expect you to like them.
And most of all, they certainly don't expect you to be their friend in the true sense of the word.

What they expect is to be lied to,
shunned by others,
looked down on,
and used and abused. 

In truth, part of that is because that's how many of them have treated other people. I get that. But the rest of the story is often that they have always been treated that way. Granted, some of these people come from great homes and they just screwed up. And now they can't see any way back to healthy relationships and a 'normal' life. I believe with all my heart that this can be changed for many of them. Don't get me wrong, I've been brutally honest with them. If they do something stupid, I'd be the first in line to call their parole officer if I thought they'd be safer in jail. And I realize that not everyone wants to be saved from a destructive lifestyle. I'm not naive about this. But that doesn't give me license to treat them with disrespect.

I am sort of a no compromise type of girl. This is right; that is wrong; what is it you don't understand? That's me. Life is pretty black and white to me. (No racial implications there at all.) I don't see many gray areas. I realize there are some fine lines in life that we all have to walk. And the older I get, the more those lines seem to blur. I'm not sure if that is my age or the culture, or perhaps a combination of the two. But I usually don't have a hard time seeing right from wrong. 

Some of these people honestly do.
Sometimes they act completely out of survival mode and just deal with consequences later.
Act, then think.
It's a terrible way to have to live. 
Sometimes they literally need someone to talk them step by step through the ordinary tasks that most of us take for granted. But if they want to change their lives, many of them can, with help!

Through the weeks leading up to Pentecost our church is reading a devotional on holiness that our pastor, Matt Friedeman wrote. Our memory verse this week is:

Jesus replied: 
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Matthew 22:37

If this is how I want to live my life, and it is, then people matter. All people. Not just the ones who fit in. Not just the ones who are socially acceptable. Several of these people have become my friends. The response I get over and over from them is that I'm something extraordinary just because I actually care about them and treat them with respect. Not true. There is nothing special about me. I'm just a sinner saved by grace. My past didn't involve a prison with metal bars, but I was just as much a prisoner as they were. I'm no better than anyone else. 

What I took away from this incident that happened, which was completely inappropriate and an emotional violatiion, and possibly a legal one, is that I NEVER want to be that person that they expect me to be. Pastor Matt often says we want to love like Jesus does at DaySpring Community Church. 

Jesus loved the socially unacceptable. 
Jesus loved the poor. 
Jesus loved the outcasts. 
Jesus had compassion for those who were caught in sin. 

I want that kind of love. 
I never want anyone to say that I looked down on them because of their social status. 
I want to love my God with everything that is in me. 
And I want to love people with that same kind of love. 

I want to be different from what is expected by those who are the 'least of these'. 

I want to be different from the world. 
I want to love like Jesus does. 
Always. 

Blessings,
Renea

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Journal prompt.

If I could tell my younger self . . .

If you aren't familiar with Celebrate Recovery, here is a quick overview of how a meeting goes. We open with worship, followed by either a lesson or a testimony. Then we break up into small groups followed by a meal together. In small groups we discuss what we heard in the large group and have a series of questions related to the evening's theme as discussion starters. We can answer one of those questions or discuss whatever we are struggling with. Or we can say pass if we don't want to talk. 

One of the questions on our list during group this past Friday was, "If you could go back and change anything what would you change?" Most of the ladies chose this question to answer. Some of their answers were simply heartbreaking. 

It is amazing to watch God working in these ladies lives. But I so wish that I could just miraculously convey the message to them that there is hope. That God loves them. That the pain and suffering they are experiencing now will one day by used for God's glory to help someone else who has been in their shoes. But first they have to allow Him to bring healing into their broken hearts. That is a hard sell when you are in the midst of said suffering, and you've never known unconditional love. 

For someone who is in survival mode, it's really hard to comprehend letting go of the little ounce of control that you feel you have, even if it is to give that control to the creator of the universe. For those of us who have walked with the Lord for years, sometimes we take for granted the trust and faith that we have, knowing that God really is working all things for our good. When you are a person who hasn't had much good in your life, or who hasn't had anything good for a really long time, GOOD seems like something that only happens to other people. Taking a chance on trusting an unseen God can seem pretty risky for a heart that has been broken, stomped on, and left on the streets to die. Some of these ladies have survived only by sheer willpower and street smarts. Trust, freedom, unconditional love, and GRACE, are completely foreign terms to many of them.

I chose not to answer the question of what I would go back and change. The list is too long, too painful, and way more information than I had time or the nerves to share. And since that isn't an option anyway, I chose to focus on where I am now. What my life is like after 26 years of sobriety and trusting God every day.
                    
                         For grace over my past, 
                                                  peace to find joy in the present, and 
                                                                           strength to face whatever the future holds. 

This isn't quite what I said to them, but here's a small portion of what I've learned over the years.

I've learned that I'm never going to have all the answers. 
I've learned that forgiveness is cleansing, both being forgiven and gifting that to others, even when they don't deserve it. 
I've learned that my heart can find joy, even when I'm not happy. 
I've learned that being transformed by a holy God doesn't take away my control, it gives me self-control.
I've learned that my God is truly everything He says He is. 

So, if I could go back and tell my younger self anything . . . 
I'd tell her to let go of her fear, quit worrying about what others think, and enjoy life.
I'd tell her that she is loved already and that no one on earth can fill that emptiness in her soul.
I'd tell her that beauty on the inside is so much more pleasing and lasts longer than what is on the outside. 
I'd tell her that acne does eventually go away.
I'd tell her to listen more and talk less
I'd tell her not to judge others harshly, because she has no idea what they are going through.
I'd tell her to read her bible every single day, even if she doesn't understand what she is reading.
I'd tell her that prayer is a conversation which requires listening as well as talking.
I'd tell her that there are going to be some really hard days, but Jesus is going to hold her through it all.
 And that after those hard days, she will see God's hand was at work through the pain.
I'd tell her that giving everything to God means getting everything of Him, 
and that is worth more than she could ever imagine.

And more than anything else,
if I could go back and tell my younger self only one thing . . .
I would tell her that God loves her.
HER.
Not just the whole world. But her.
Unconditionally.
Completely.
Beyond anything she can imagine.
As an individual.
As a child of the king of all kings.
As a chosen daughter.
As a precious child.
That's what I would want my younger self to know.
Because that is what has made all the difference in the world to me for the last 26 years.

He loves ME.
Period.

Blessings,
Renea

Monday, April 6, 2015

Today I am thankful for. . .

Journal prompt:
Today I am thankful for . . . 

This past week I've spent a lot of time contemplating the weight of Good Friday, the celebration of Easter, and Holy Week in general. It's still so hard for me to comprehend the love that Jesus showed on Good Friday. The beatings, the insults, being spat on, the utter cruelty of the cross. And he chose this - for me! How incredibly humbling!

If I were forced to defend my faith with my very life, or in the face of a brutal rapist as some of our sisters in other countries are, if I knew my head would be chopped off if I didn't deny my God, would I still admit to my belief? Or, would I even continue to believe at all? I hope I never have to answer that in reality. But I do wonder.


Jesus' words on the cross, "IT IS FINISHED!" marked a finality that rocked the world of those looking on, literally, with an earthquake, graves opening up, and the sky turning to darkness. But truly, it was not the end of the story! For us, it was the beginning of our freedom, the necessary debt paid for sin. I pray that you recognize the agony of Good Friday, but that you rejoice in the celebration of Easter where your redemption comes!

Today, I am thankful for living in a country where I have been privileged to learn about my Savior openly and in freedom.
I'm thankful for a church that constantly challenges me to a deeper walk.
I'm thankful for relationships with believers who accept me as I am but refuse to let me stay there, spurring me on to growth in my faith walk.
I'm thankful for my family who stood by me at my worst and loved me anyway.
I'm thankful for my husband who lifts me up with encouragement to use my gifts for His glory and loves me like I had never imagined possible.
And, most of all, I'm thankful for Jesus who unselfishly gave His own life to give me mine.

Blessings,
Renea