Mar 25, 2016

Seeing Jesus at The Dump....

I had no plans to write this story today. None. However, sometimes the words in your soul are palpitating against your skin and they must come out to breathe the cool air of release.

Words hold such power. If we truly could see the healing or damage they do, we would probably never utter another solitary word without deep consideration.

I pray these words bring healing to those hurting, grieving, and broken.

On February 6th of this year, Lem and I went furniture shopping at a place in Atlanta called The Dump. Sounds lovely, right?

It's a HUGE place. Furniture everywhere. I mean, everywhere.

A little overwhelming for this small town girl to be honest.

We were walking around for a few minutes when I noticed a sweet family sitting on some sectional couches. I had to do a double-take because they looked so familiar. Without trying to look stalky, I looked each face over intently. I could not place how I knew them. Something though, was beckoning me to keep watching them.

Really, I am not this strange usually. I promise.

As Lem and I kept looking over all of the furniture, I kept glancing over my shoulder at this family. What was it about them that was drawing my eyes to them? Why was I so fascinated with these people?

Lem dragged me by the arm and pulled me off into another direction. He's kinda used to my weirdness.

About 30 minutes later, I saw the mother of that family on a sectional by herself. It was the same one my husband and I were looking at. I went and sat next to her.

Who am I, and why am I acting so crazy? I don't usually go and sit next to a perfect stranger as they are testing out a couch. I promise.

We quickly started chatting, and chatting, and chatting. I was so drawn to talk to her, to listen to her, and to know about her precious family.

Honestly, I don't remember much about the entirety of our conversation, but I vividly remember the end of it.

As we got off of the couch and said goodbye to each other, I casually asked her how old her children were.

She told me their names and ages, and ended with, "And we have a 17 year old that passed away in December."

I thought maybe I misunderstood her for a moment. But, the look on her beautiful face told me otherwise.

She went on to tell me small details about what had happened to her son.

It was a tragedy. A crime. A murder.

With tears spilling down my face, I grabbed her and wrapped my helpless arms around her.

How in the world had she been able to casually talk to me on that couch? How as she able to get out of bed that day, or any day for that matter? How in the world could she look that peaceful and beautiful in the midst of such horror?

Immediately, I pulled back from her and looked at her face again.

"You are a believer, aren't you," I asked her.

I knew what her answer would be before I asked her.

"Yes, I am."

She went on to tell me how God had been so gracious to her and how her church family, family members and friends had been a life-line for her and her family. She said they could not make it through without them.

I just sat there slack-jawed. Taking in the sight of this providential moment.

After saying our final goodbyes and assuring her I would pray for her family, Lem and I got to the car and I cried my eyes out.

I had left a piece of my heart right there near that leather sectional we were sitting on.

I had just witnessed the Peace and Love of Christ like never before.  It was all over my new friend's face. In her mannerisms. In her voice. In her stillness.

I had just seen Jesus.

God had drawn my eyes to her from the moment we walked in and would not let me leave without talking to her. He knew I needed to know her story, and He knew what it would do to my soul.

As a mother, when we hear of these kinds of tragedies, our blood runs cold. We stop breathing for a moment and picture ourselves in their shoes.

Empathy sets in and we cannot shake it without drenching it with prayer.

She has been on my heart heavy ever since.

As I picture the scene in my mind of Jesus on the cross, I see my friend's teenage son. I see the injustice. I see the horror. I see the inhumane tragedy of a life cut too short.

As I picture Jesus's mother, Mary, at the foot of the cross, I picture my friend's face.

She has walked in Mary's shoes. She is walking in Mary's shoes.

Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute.

My friend has had to walk through her own child being taken by the hands of evil.

Yet, she is able to have Peace. To have Comfort. To have Assurance...

This is not the end.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. Revelation 21:4

And, just like Mary, she will see her boy again. It will be sweet and it will be eternal. And, in the meantime, the impact of her life and the story of her son will draw many to the Cross. Even at a place called the Dump.

Isn't God just like that.

Making a place called The Dump, a place of Holy Ground.


Sunday is coming,


jill











Mar 22, 2016

You're gonna miss this....

Last night I had a moment as I was tucking my daughter into her bed.

We had said our prayers, and I just sat there on the bed next to her as she drifted off to sleep. I looked around her soft pastel-colored room and took it all in. The things she had out on her little desk. The note she had left to herself on the mirror of her vanity with a dry erase marker. The clothes she had neatly laid out to wear the next day.

These small little things that made up the life of my baby girl.

The details in her life that often I miss because I am too busy preparing for the next moment.

As I sat there on her bed, I wondered how many times I would go back to this moment when she is grown and is out of our nest. How many times would I want to turn back the time and go back to this exact season of life.

I already know that I will miss this. In a weird way, I already do.

If I am not careful, I can focus on that part of it way too much though. I can cry myself into a heaping mess if I let my emotions go haywire. For my husband's sake and my sanity, I try not to ponder too much on this anymore. Really, I have to stay sane-for a little longer anyway.

As I was lying on her bed taking in the beauty of life, and all of God's blessings, I was reminded of something I saw on my morning walk.

My neighbor was home. I saw his car in the driveway. I wondered what he was doing. Did he have plans that day? Was he watching Fox news and wondering what in the world is happening in our world? Bombs exploding, people suffering, chaos ensuing. Or maybe he was still asleep. Or maybe jut eating breakfast.

My neighbor is elderly. And he is a widower.

He was on my heart because of a passage of James that had struck me like lightning strikes a hot Summer sky.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

This scripture has been popping up all over the place and I have been asking the Lord what He wants me to do about it.

God and I have had many long talks about the orphan part, but never about the widow part.

There's a lot of concern over orphans these days, as there should be. Too many orphans. Period.

However, I don't hear much talk about taking care of widows.

It's not something I hear about on the news, or in conversations around the dinner table.

Yet, James tells us that caring for widows is important to God. Not just important, but "pure" and "faultless".

As I walked by my neighbor's house, I heard a whisper in my soul, "He is important to Me, Jill."

I could have dropped to my knees right then and there and sobbed my blubbering eyes out. But, I didn't. I'm working on my sanity, remember?

The thought occurred to me that he had probably been tucking his kids into bed--and in his mind it probably seemed just like yesterday. 

Did he miss this?

Did he miss the noise of a full house?

Was he lonely?

Was he happy?

I needed to know.

Because if God allows me to live a long life, I will be in his shoes.

Hopefully my husband will be with me, but life will still be different. With no beckoning schedule, no demanding alarm clock, no other mouths to feed besides our own....

Will we be okay?

Or will we long for the years that have slipped away.

Will we pray that someone will stop by and see us to fill up the long gaps of time in our days?

All of these things were spinning in my mind as I lie still in my daughter's bed.

My thoughts circled around something my daughter said as we finished our prayers. I have not stopped thinking about it.

"Mommy, thank you for doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen after we eat every night. I know you are tired, but you do it anyway."

I told her that I loved to serve my family, and that I also consider it as serving Jesus Christ. It helps my attitude to change. A ton.

Maybe this is what she will remember when she is gone from this room and from the safety of our nest. Maybe it won't be the big things, the big toys, the big vacations...

But the ordinary things.

Like, doing her dishes.

It is quite possible that in that moment she had unlocked a treasure of wisdom in both of our hearts.

Something that maybe only an elderly person, and widower may know.

It is the small, mundane and ordinary that we may miss the most. So, cherish them. Be thankful for them. And do them often.

Lord, how can I cherish these days. Not letting the ticking of the clock distract me from where I am and who I am with. Not letting  the demands and allure of my IPhone take my eyes away from the eyes that have souls and not batteries. Help me to see these moments that are ordinary. That really, are extraordinary.

Keep my eyes wide open to orphans and widows in my very midst. Help me to not be self-focused, but other's focused, Lord.

embracing the ordinary,


jill

Mar 21, 2016

Be quiet....

It's been a bit since I have written. Sure feels good to sit down at my kitchen table, sunlight pouring in and splattering the hardwood floor. Sunshine makes everything look lovely.

Even this computer screen. Somehow it casts an angelic glow on the sterile, dusty, white screen, beckoning for words to be typed.

I hear you, computer screen. Sometimes we just need a little warmth to make us come alive again.

The last few months, I have been a little tormented of spirit. Nothing major. Just annoying, And confusing. Did I mention annoying?

Some things have come to a head regarding my prayer life. Meaning, a few  prayers have not been answered.

I've spent a lot of time talking to God about this. Pouring my heart out to him and not really getting the reply I desire. Crickets.

I'm tired of praying the same prayer. TIRED.

So, during these months I have been seeking Him fervently. Okay, really I was trying to twist God's arm and make Him answer my prayers.

I have quoted scripture to Him in my prayers. Believing every word. Really, believing and standing on the promises they held for my prayers.

Crickets. Still.

However, during these months, a revelation of sorts has finally fallen on my not-so-willing-to-listen heart. Something God has been trying to reveal to me all along, but I just would not shut-up long enough to hear Him.

He wants me to have a quiet heart.

When He first revealed this to me through scriptures and through books I was reading, I had it all wrong regarding what this meant.

I thought a quiet heart meant that I was supposed to drop everything and just seek Him until my prayer was answered.

I thought a quiet heart meant that I should be less talkative and lessen my relations to people. This is hard for a sanguine, relational gal.

I thought a quiet heart meant to spend every waking hour praying the prayer that was on my heart and believing He would answer perfectly in line with the script I had prepared.

A quiet heart is none of these things.

A quiet heart is content.

A quiet heart does not make demands to God, or anyone for that matter.

A quiet heart wakes up each day with a thankful heart not dependent on circumstances, but only on His Grace.

A quiet heart expects nothing, but receives everything because it all comes from God.

A quiet heart desires God more than it desires what God can give.

Clearly, my heart had not been quiet.

"Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength." Isaiah 30:15

My heart was not at rest, nor at peace.

Which, still takes me by surprise due to the amount of  time I had spent with Him.

Or had I been with Him? Perhaps, I had been just with my thoughts and my desires. Overlooking His will, His thoughts, His desires for me.

My time with Him consisted of a lot of me talking, and talking, and rationalizing why this prayer needed to be answered. I had not done much listening.

Had I trusted that each day was filtered through His hands and that He is "before all things, and in Him all things hold together?" Colossians 1:17

I did believe those things. However, I didn't trust in those things.

Surely, if I pray more, and more, and more, He will answer. These were my thoughts.

A heart of strife, not a heart of peace.

Please don't mistake this for giving up asking for something through prayer. This is not what I am saying. I am saying that in my case, I had somewhere along the way made this prayer an idol and it was interfering with my peace and the quietness of my heart. Contentment had vanished.

I came across a quote in one of my books by Elisabeth Elliot...it says, "The secret is Christ in me, not a different set of circumstances."

Somewhere along the way,  my contentment was tied into this desire that I prayed for, longed for, and grieved for.

My heart had forgotten that the Lord provides the daily bread, at His discretion, for His Glory. Not mine.

 The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised. Job 1:21

All along, through all these long days of longer than long prayers and striving....

He just wanted me to be content.

A quiet heart.

Content with what He gives.

Because, He knows it is what I really need.

LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. Psalm 16:5


finding my quiet,


jill