Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I once was blind but now I see

I took this picture today.
It is symbolic of the way I feel. The lamp posts in the photo are not turned on. The Bible says, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psalm 119:105) I have been reading the Word of God a lot and reading scriptures but I have not actually been letting it shine on my spiritual path so I can see better. The road is winding here and I cannot see where the road will lead me. I know where it takes me because I have driven on it many times, but symbolically it is like my life. I am navigating around some curvy roads in my life right now and I cannot always see where the road will lead me. This is when I am supposed to walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) The trees are bare and seem dead on the outside. No leaves are budding, but it is winter season so the trees are not supposed to have blossomed yet. The sky is overcast with threatening clouds of rain which did eventually start to fall on me.

So what does this mean for me? I will break it all apart so I can get a better understanding. This is the way God teaches me things. I have been praying for clarity and am in a very fragile state right now. Good friends have offered sound advice and my husband has been the rock I can lean on but I am still uneasy inside...unsure. So I think this is God's way of helping me see what is happening in my own life and hopefully if you are going through a difficult time in your life, it will help you, too.

So I want to talk about the sky first. The sky looks overcast and gray, looming clouds above threaten of rain because it is going to rain. Duh, Bridgett! I know but sometimes I miss the obvious. You know? Like instead of just saying it is a gloomy day, it really is a perfect day for rain. Right? The circumstances are great for a rainy day. I love sunshine and blue skies but I cannot forget the summer of 2012 and how important it is to have rainy days, too. So even if rainy days seem a little sad and dreary at times, it is necessary. Maybe the situation I am in seems bleak and obscure but it is also necessary. Without these times of "rain" in my life I wouldn't grow as much as a person. My faith might not be as strong if I didn't have to encounter difficult situations where relying on my faith is all that I have.

What about the trees? Well, I think the most profound statement I can make is that it is the season for bare trees. My life is made up of seasons. I go through times of rebirth, renewal, refreshing in my spring seasons. Sometimes I have reached a point of full maturity and growth in a particular area of my life and I am in my summer. I seem to enjoy the length of my days and the experiences I am having. Fall is my favorite season of all on the calendar but it is a great time in my spiritual life, too. I am able to harvest a lot of blessings from the planting season and the hard work of learning lessons and taking chances and believing God when I had no proof that it was going to be okay. But now is my winter. Winter is hard. Winter is about dying. Winter is about releasing things and letting them go. Winter is lonely at times and harsh at times and sometimes the cold rain comes. I am in my winter and it is okay that I am bare and empty because if I don't let go of some things in my life I cannot be free to enjoy my spring time.

So where is the road going? I don't really know and I think that is supposed to be the way it is. I think God wants me to have fun in the "not knowing" phase although He knows I hate this part. I like to know what is next. I want a list. I want steps. I want to follow a plan but being a Christian means that sometimes we have to just go where God leads because He loves us and knows what is best for us. He doesn't want me to worry about the traveling arrangements, He only wants me to enjoy the journey. You know when I was little we would take car trips to Florida to see my dad's family and I would get car sick so my mom would give me medicine to pretty much knock me out. I would wake up a few times on the long journey there and I would look at bright city lights, large bodies of water, or maybe a traffic jam we were stuck in and then I would just doze back off. I never remembered feeling stressed out or unsure we were going to get to the destination. After all, my dad was driving and he is a walking, talking Atlas! If I get stuck anywhere and call him, he just wants to know what mile marker I'm on and he can navigate me anywhere I need to be. I am just the opposite. I am directionally challenged and my close friends and family can attest to the fact that I get lost pretty easily. But I need to just sit back and relax right now in this winter time because God's got this! He is not surprised about anything going on in my life right now. He is walking beside me and He knows where we are going!

And now we get to the dark lamps. Sometimes there is not enough darkness around for those lights to come on. As Christians we avoid the darkness, right? We are to be children of the light. (Ephesians 5:8) For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: So why would I need to be surrounded by darkness if I am not "of the night, or darkness." I think it is because I need to get to the point in my life when all that is around me is God. When all I can see is the light of His love drawing me closer to Him and leading the way so I don't stumble. There is all kinds of light that we can surround ourselves in but if it isn't from God, it's just artificial and it is not good for us. It may seem okay and maybe have a purpose for our life in a small way but if we are so surrounded by this light that we can no longer tell the difference between the fake light and God's light, then we may need to go somewhere darker (away from the fake light...darkness is just an absence of light) so that all we can see is the true light...the light from God.

The Word of God is a wonderful light and if I apply the scriptures to my life and search for God's truth in them, not Bridgett's version, but the real truth found in the living Word of God, then the lamps will come on and I can start to see what I am supposed to do. It's kind of like I have God with me but I put Him in the back and off to the side...always knowing He is there but waiting until I have to rely on Him alone in order to reach for the Bible or really pray in earnest from my heart. His light is reaching out beyond me but it is so far from my direct path that it really isn't showing me a clear vision of where to go. That is why I have to have Him in the center of my life because He will show me the path that I am supposed to walk in. Have you ever held a flashlight out before you and let it illuminate a large area? You can see a lot of stuff but it's not as bright as if you shine the light closer to the area you are walking. Right? That is why most of us carry the flashlight in front of us and point towards the path we are walking we don't stumble and fall. 

Wow! I feel a lot better. I am really ashamed that I have not seen this before. I am sorry that I don't put God first and foremost in my life all of the time. But you know what? When I repent of this behavior and ask God to help me do better, He will. He is faithful and just to forgive us and He cleanses us and makes us righteous. (1 John 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I am not sad that the sky is darker and the rain has fallen, because now I know that I am where I am supposed to be. I will finish out this season with a better perspective on what God has planned for my life and I can start fresh with a new direction and purpose. I thank God that I have my vision back. You see we are not required to have sight, just a vision. (Proverbs 29:18) Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Our Arms Are Too Short

While watching television, surfing through the channels, I stopped on a Christian television program for a moment. They said something about reaching into the darkness. My five year old son looked at me and said, "Darkness?" He knows that darkness is not of God and was surprised to hear it mentioned on a program that was talking about being a Christian. I knew this would be a great time to teach him something but instead he reminded me of God's Word.

I explained to him that as Christians we must reach into the darkness to pull people into the light. I told him that if someone is not a Christian they are in darkness because Jesus is the light. "Oh." He said. He was thoughtful for a moment and then after having figured it all out in his little mind he said, "People's arms are too short to get them ALL out of the darkness."

"You're right," I told him, so proud that he understood.

"But you know who is big enough to get them all out of the darkness?" Javan asked me.

"Who?" I asked.

"JESUS!" He made grand gestures with his little arms as he explained. "Jesus's arms can reach all of them and pull them out."

He is absolutely right. The Bible says in Isaiah 59:1 "Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear:." That is great news for us! We may not be able to reach high enough up to touch God but He certainly can reach down far enough to touch us. I am so thankful that He wants to.

In church we often sing a chorus that goes like this:

When God reached down for me.
When He reached way down for me.
I was lost and undone,
without God or His Son.
When He reached way down for me.
I am so grateful that He saw fit to reach down and save me. He took away all of my sin and shame and nailed it to the cross so I could go free. The Bible says in Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD. You see we should have to pay the penalty for our sins with our life but God loves us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice because He was without sin. We read in I Peter 2:21, 22:
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us,
leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps:
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth:
I am thankful that God's hand stretched down and pulled me close to Him. He loves me. He saved me. He keeps me. I will serve Him until I die. If you find yourself needing to be rescued, ask God to reach down and pull you up. He is able to save you and give you a brand new start. God bless you!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Oh Baby

When I was younger I dreamed of having children. I planned my future when I was still a little girl. I made a wish on every star I saw, especially shooting stars and it all boiled down to one thing, well two. I wanted to be a wife and a mother. I was not satisfied with only one child for my future, either. I wished for eight children. This was before mothers were getting their own television shows for having big families, unless you count the Waltons. There were four of us children growing up and I was surrounded by a lot of cousins so a big family meant a happy family to me.

In junior high I started having some medical issues that continued throughout my high school years. None of the medical professionals I went to see were able to properly diagnose my condition. In my late teens and early twenties I was not sure what was wrong with me but it was so frustrating to not be taken seriously. Few believed that I had anything medically wrong with me. I was in constant pain, often so debilitating that it prevented me from being a normal kid and doing things most others my age were able to do. I finally saw a doctor who truly listened to me and what had been going on for so long. She thought I had endometriosis and she referred me to a surgeon. When I was 17 years old the doctor offered to perform a complete hysterectomy on me. My mother said no! She told me that they are not God and they do not have the final say. I was informed that my chances of bearing children were slim to none. If I was even able to conceive the doctor was not sure I could carry the baby because of the way things were positioned in my body.

I had a laproscopy in May 1999. The procedure took a lot longer than they originally thought because the endometriosis was everywhere! It had formed what was like a web around my major organs. It was no wonder I was in so much pain. I felt like I had been sawed in half when I woke up. The nurse got me up to use the restroom and I knew something was wrong. My blood pressure bottomed out and I felt like I would faint. My nurse was quick to get me positioned in bed and helped get my blood pressure stable again. I do not remember the ride home but I can remember laying on the couch. My mom changed my dressings and kept everything nice and dry. I will forever be grateful for the way she loved me through that time, caring for me and helping with everything.

I met the love of my life in March 2000. He said he had hoped to be a dad someday. I knew I had to tell him everything. It would have devastated me if he would have chosen not to marry me but he had a right to know that there was a possibility that I might not ever get the chance to give him children. September 23, 2000 one of my wishes came true. That is the day I married my best friend, Paul. He said he loved me so much that even if we could not have children he still wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. God surely blessed me with such a wonderful husband.

We did not try to get pregnant right away. I had been on birth control for years. It's funny because when I was prescribed birth control I was terrified someone would find out and think I was sleeping around. Growing up as a preacher's kid meant always being very aware of what others were thinking about me and doing everything I could to live my life in a way to please the LORD and everyone else. That is a tall order for anyone! I was scheduled to get more birth control but was not overly concerned with running out. The doctor told me I had a window of two years in which to get pregnant or I may have to endure another surgery. I did not allow myself to even consider the possibility of having children. God had other plans! April 22, 2000 on my mother-in-law's birthday we gave her the news that she was going to be a grandmother. She screamed! She was overjoyed!

I knew I was pregnant with a daughter. My aunt had told me that I would have a girl someday. She passed away before I could ever tell her she was right but it was a precious gift to me. My doctor said she believed me when I told her I knew the moment I had conceived. Some may think I am crazy but I definitely knew when I had conceived. There was something very different about that time and I knew in my heart. On December 27, 2001 God gave Paul and I the most beautiful daughter in the world. Her name is Kadesia which means sanctified and radiant.

Five and a half years later Paul and I brought our son into the world. August 17, 2007 Kadesia got a baby brother named Javan. His name comes from the Old Testament and is the name of one of Noah's grandsons. His middle name is Paul like my husband. I love that it is a biblical name. I certainly did not expect to go in for an ultrasound to rule out an ectopic pregnancy or cyst on my ovaries and find out neither was occuring but rather I was pregnant with Javan. God's time is definitely not our time but it is always right on time!

I am thankful for a mother who trusts God and does not rely on what the medical professionals say as the final word. We respect doctors and other healthcare providers. We know they have a job to do and we are thankful for the care and help they can provide. However, as Christians we also know that when medical science stops, our God can continue to work and perform miracles for us.

My heart breaks for women who want to be mothers but are unable to do so. Some have struggled with fertility treatments, painful procedures, slave to a calendar, clock, and cycles. There are those who have conceived but are unable to carry a baby to term. I hurt for those women and I understand the frustration and sadness when as a woman one feels like their body has rejected them and somehow they are "less than" just because they cannot bear children.

I cannot tell you that it is fair that some women are very fertile and have great ease at getting pregnant. I do not think it is right that someone will choose to abort a perfectly healthy baby growing inside them because their lifestyle would not support a child. I find it hard to hear of women who abuse drugs and alcohol while carrying a child. Some women choose to not bear children because they want a career, to travel, and experience things they may be unable to do with children and make great strides to assure they do not get pregnant while there are many others who would be thrilled to have the opportunity to bear a child. It is not fair and I wish it was different but it is not. I cannot give false hope to anyone who reads this. I cannot tell you to read three scriptures and quote a special prayer and you will be able to start a family. I wish I had an easy answer but I do not.

All I can offer is a little bit of encouragement and hope to you as you go through this journey. Please do not think it is easy for me to say this since I have my blessings already. It really is not easy for me to share advice but my heart goes out to you who are trying and not finding success.

Please do not alienate yourself from those you love. When I was told I would most likely never conceive I was very young. My sister had just found out she was going to have a baby. She was so excited and wanted to share that with me. She had no idea that I had just received such bad news. I did not want to tell her and ruin her moment to enjoy this special event in her life. I went shopping with her and remember breaking down in the baby section at Target. I tried to hide among the bibs and booties but she found me crying and asked me what was wrong. I had to tell her. She has always been the motherly big sister and I found myself pouring my heart out to her and I remember her just hugging me and telling me it would be okay. She even apologized for asking me to go with her. I assured her it was not her fault and got myself together. We had a good rest of the day but if I had distanced myself from her and became bitter that she was able to bring a baby into the world I would not have the relationship I have with her children today. I adore my niece and nephews as though they were my very own.

Do not blame God, yourself, or your spouse. If you are having a hard time conceiving do not automatically assume you are being punished for something. If your husband cannot give you a child, please do not become angry with him. If you are unable to bear children, do not blame yourself. Go to the doctor if you have not already done so. Find out all that you can about the situation and what all the options are including adoption and foster care. I know it is not the same thing but it might just be the plan God has for your life and for the life of a child that desperately needs to be loved. Look for solutions instead of someone to blame. I know it is easy to find fault with your spouse when things are not working out like you had hoped but this is the time you need to lean on one another for support and help each other through this time. Some men hurt just as much as women as they yearn to be a father. So please be kind to each other and helpful rather than play the blame game.

Shift your focus. Sometimes when you have been chained to a calendar to tell you when the best time to conceive is, you lose the intimacy that you and your husband shared. It is great to want something and plan for it, but if you hyperfocus on getting pregnant than sometimes you start to drive a wedge between you and your spouse. You must not lose sight of why you fell in love to begin with. Does he make you laugh? Are you still his encourager? When life seems hard and you might not find a lot of things to smile about, shift your focus for a moment and see what efforts your spouse is making to help you through this. Remember you are both in this together and when you see that your on the same team it will help to keep you from drifting apart.

Pray for God's will. I do not know why some women cannot ever have children. I know that sometimes you pray for something and God does not always say yes. Sometimes God says no. I cannot speculate as to any specific reasons why God would not want someone to have children, but I do know that any time in my life that I have ever asked for God's will to be done instead of Bridgett's will, it has always turned out better than I could have ever imagined. Sometimes when we give it all to God, He nods His approval and we can conceive. Have you talked to God in earnest about His will? I am sure you have told Him how you feel about things but be prepared for His will to be done.

Share the love you have. My last piece of advice is to share some of that love you are saving up for a baby of your own. Is there a way you can volunteer at a children's hospital or clinic? Maybe you could get involved with the local center for foster children. Start a support group for others in your area that are going through similar situations. Maybe you could go to your local nursing home or extended care facility and see if they have a children's ward. Sometimes children who are disabled or have special needs live in these facilities and rarely get any visitors.

I am no infertility expert by any means. I do not mean to dangle carrots or promise pie in the sky dreams for you that may never materialize. I just want to offer you some hope and encouragement if you find yourself facing this situation. I spent a lot of time in prayer, shed a lot of tears, made a lot of wishes and did a lot of begging to God to become a mother. I am thankful that I have had this opportunity to love and nurture the two biggest blessings of my life. I hope you will be able to do the same. I want you to be healthy and happy and content with God's will in your life and may you find some helpful ideas here to try. My goal is not to hurt or offend anyone. I hope nothing that I have shared today has been anything but positive and uplifting.

I will leave you with these scriptures that I hope bring joy and peace to your heart:
James 1:17
Every good gift and every perfect gift
is from above,
and cometh down from the Father of lights,
with whom is no variableness,
neither shadow of turning.
I Peter 5:7
Casting all your care upon Him for He careth for you.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Don't Stay Stuck

It is a New Year. In preparation for the big ball drop I made some "party food" for the festive occasion. One dish in particular I created was Taco Nacho Dip. It is a meaty cheese sauce that coats a spoon very well. After stirring the contents of my crock pot I turned on my faucet and watched as the hot water showered the spoon clean. As I watched the stubborn sauce cling to the spoon I began to think how much we as Christians are like that cheese that refuses to let go.

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone, or perhaps had a friendship with someone that you know is not good for you? Sometimes in life we tend to connect with the wrong people. We may recognize signs that the relationship is wrong for us, perhaps even toxic to us, but yet we cling to them as though we have no other choice. I have been in such a relationship. I am happily married now to a wonderful man that God chose for me but before I knew my husband I was in a relationship with a man who was not someone I needed to be with. Of course there were signs early on and I ignored them. It was easy to look past these flaws when I found other features to focus on. For some reason this person just mesmerized me and I followed after him like a puppy. Everyone around me could see that it was a bad situation. I made excuses or would simply smile and say nothing while deep down inside I knew they were right. My soul was vexed and I had no hope inside. Everything about who I was and what I truly believed in was shook to the core and I failed miserably when tempted with what to do.

Nearly a year later I was sick of the lies and the torment I had been through with this person. I had been faithful, kind, loving and loyal to someone who consistenly betrayed me, belittled me, used me and pretended to care. It turned my world upside down when I came to the realization that I had to end the relationship. For months I had built my life around this person. Instead of seeking what God wanted for me, I tried to earn this guy's approval. When I could never do that I tried harder and stopped seeking God for anything at all. I was miserable and hurting and I felt like I had no one to turn to. I had no hope and no peace. I really thought I was worth nothing at all. I remember I talked to my mom and sister who were so concerned for me. My sister was married and she knew I was unhappy in my relationship. She had met the man of her dreams... a man God had chosen for her and she wanted the same for me. I knew they were right. They told me I needed to make a decision.

I walked outside of the house and looked up at the big beautiful blue sky. It was as if my eyes were opened for the very first time. I could see clearly and with a very heavy heart I walked to a bright green grassy spot in the yard and fell to my knees. My head was bowed low and my shoulders slumped. I felt like I belonged under the earth. I felt hot tears form in my eyes and fall down my face as I prayed earnestly from my heart. I asked God what He wanted for me and that if He did not want me to be with this person I wanted Him to make a way. I said I knew what I wanted but not my will but His be done. I sat there alone for a little while. I felt the warmth of the sun on my arms and neck and I felt peace come upon me. A burden had been lifted and I knew I was set free.

I got into my car and drove over to his house. He met me at the door and when I tried to talk to him he was rude and angry. He hurled insults at me and said if I wanted to listen to my family then I should go home and be with them because he did not want to be with me anymore. He slammed the door in my face and I remember just standing there stunned that it was really over. I made my way back to my car knowing the dark days were over but not really sure what my next step would be.

That night was our church service. I grew up in the church and though I am ashamed that I did not always do the right things or make the best decisions, I knew ultimately that God is the only answer I will ever need. I felt as though a part of me had died and my heart was in a million pieces. I did not feel like going to church but that was the only place I truly longed to be in my soul. I remember sitting beside my grandmother through the service. She knew all about what had happened. I had sang in the church since I was two years old and she urged me to get up to sing. I told her I did not feel like it as tears filled my eyes threatening to spill down my cheeks. She said, "Please, Bridgett." Her gentle urging nudged me out of my comfort zone, out of my chair and I slowly walked to the piano. I know that God was fully aware of what effort it was for me as I took the microphone in my hand and stood by my mother at the piano. The music began to play and the Anointing fell on me as I sang the words to "When I Feel The Savior's Hand Holding Mine." I felt the healing begin and I can tell you that I sang every word from the depth of my soul. I meant every word and when I had finished I felt whole again.

My break up was a sad experience for me. The LORD had washed me clean and helped me that night at church and it was surely His hand holding mine through the coming months and even years that my heart was mending. If it had not been for God and my relationship with Jesus I would not have been able to trust Him to help me through that. So as the hot water ran over that cheese covered spoon, I began to think that we are a lot like that cheese sauce. Sometimes we cling to something we shouldn't and it takes a lot of heat and some uncomfortable pressure to pry our hands lose so we can be free. God has to allow us to get into circumstances that hurt us in order to help us sometimes. Sometimes the bad things that occur are only meant to bring us good.

My favorite scripture is Romans 8:28 and I believe it really sums it up for us. It says:
And we know that all things work together for good
to them that love God,
to them who are the called
according to His purpose.
I love when I read on it encourages me with:
34. Who is he that condemneth?
It is Christ that died, yea rather,
that is risen again, who is even at the
right hand of God, who also maketh
intercession for us.
I am so glad that He does that. Jesus helps us when we pray by being our advocate to the Father.
35. Who shall seperate us from the love of Christ?
shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36. As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed
all the day long: we are accounted as sheep
for the slaughter.
37. Nay, in ALL these things we are more than
conquerors through Him that loved us.
I love that! It brings healing to me to know that in all of those bad situations we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS through Jesus who loves us!
38. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,
nor things present, nor things to come.
39. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus our LORD.
So even if you feel like that cheese sauce clinging to the spoon, let me offer you some hope and encouragement. You can be free from the bondage holding you bound. You can be free and walk in the love and peace that only comes from knowing Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. Let this be your new year, your new beginning. This can be your year to be free.