These writings are for the imperfect person searching for more of the Perfect God.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

You don't have to.



You dont have to. 
Did you know that? 

You don't have to say yes, when you long to say no.

You don't have to go, when you desire to stay.

You don't have to sign up, when you're eager to resign. 

You dont have to lead, when you need to receive.

You don't have to smile, when your heart is hurt.

You don't have to perform, when you crave to be real. 

You don't have to be perfect, when you're starved for grace.

You don't have to be fake, when you're parched for transparency. 

You don't have to control, when you're overwhelmed with fear.

You don't have to 'do,' when you yearn to 'be.'

You don't need to accomplish, when you're desperate for rest.

You don't need to.

You don't have to. 

But we do, don't we? 

I tend to do that which I desire not to.  Saying yes, when a genuine desire is to say no.  Performing and appearing perfect, when a passion to be authentically real haunts the soul.   

It's become an epidemic in our society, particularly amongst us women, would you agree?  There's this continual voice within the heart repeating I have to be all things to all people to be all approved by all those I want to like me.  Love me.  Approve of me. Want me.  See me.

Over two million copies of the book "Boundaries" have been sold since 2015, and yet, the inability to say no, to set boundaries, to know our limits, to set proper guard rails, to break free from perfectionism are often weak and/or non-existent.

The problem appears not to be in the wealth and over abundance of knowledge and understanding of boundaries, but in the making, setting, and implementing of them.  

But here's the thing, if there's even a hint of believing the tactfully, deceitfully and strategically placed lie from satan that I'm not worthy enough, not valuable enough, not lovable enough, not beautiful enough, not smart enough, not perfect enough, not precious enough, not enough.... than there's no level or amount of boundary knowledge that's sufficient or capable of taking root.  If I don't believe I'm of any value, big or small, the-head-knowledge-boundary will ultimately fizzle to nothing once the opportunity to actually use them presents itself.  

And the truth, I'm not enough. But the One in me, IS.  

I remember my first experience as a social worker, driving through neglected Detroit neighborhoods, regularly visiting homes which were unkept, uncared and often unlocked.  The owners had very little to no treasure inside the home, therefore no reason to lock the doors, care for its surrounding and place proper boundaries around its perimeter to prevent unwanted trespassers.  

We often duplicate this in our own hearts, don't we? Seeing ourselves as something not worth locking doors for, placing proper fences around and/or establishing functional and safe guard rails throughout. 

Or maybe we go the opposite extreme and place multiple bulletproof deadbolts and sky rise fences around the perimeter of the cautious heart; and not because we feel 'enough' but because we feel fear. Fear of future pain, fear of future heartache, fear of future let down.  

Neither boundary-xtreme is healthy, helpful or Gods design; and yet we often vacillate between the two gripping emotions of shame (resulting in lack of boundaries and performance/perfection-based mentalities) and fear (resulting in excessive boundaries.)

The answer, the secret, the remedy? It's simple, really.  Yet, it lies not within us alone, but within Him by:

The One who says you are whole and healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
The One who says you are forgiven. (1 John 1:9)
The One who says you are His masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)
The One who says you are firmly rooted. (Colossians 2:7)
The One who says you are redeemed. (Isaiah 43:1)
The One who says you are restored. (Jeremiah 30:17)
The One who says you are His workmanship (Eph. 2:10)
The One who says you are an overcomer. (Revelation 12:11)
The One who says you are His child. (1 Peter 1:23)
The One who says you are His joint-heir. (Romans 8:17)
The One who says He knows you by name. (John 10:3)
The One who says you are a conqueror. (Romans 8:27)
The One who says you are holy and blameless. (Col. 1:22)
The One who says you are complete in Him. (Col 2:10)
The One who says you have no lack. (Psalm 34:18)
The One who says you have the power of God. (Eph 1:19)
The One who says you have the spirit of wisdom. (Eph 1:17)
The One who says you have the righteousness of Christ. (Romans 3:22)
The One who says you have a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7)
The One who says you can do all things through Him. (Phil 4:13)
The One who says you are His vessel. (2 For 5:20)
The One who says He loves you. (Nehemiah 9:17)
The One who says He will never fail you. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
The One who says He can't forget you. (Isaiah 49:15
The One who says He will fight for you. (Exodus 14:14)
The One who says He will search for you. (Jeremiah 29:13)
The One who says He sings songs of victory over you. (Zep 3:17
The One who says He delights in you. (Zephaniah 3:17)
The One who says He will never abandon you. (Psalm 27:10)
The One who says He will strengthen you. (Colossians 1:11)
The One who says He will be with you. (Isaiah 43:2)

Soak that in.

Because they're for you. Not just her, not just him, not just someone else more deserving.... for you beautiful one.

It's here our yes will be yes, our no will be no and our identity, our purpose, our worth, our very calling will be something we work from and not for; enabling our anchored  heart to radiate authenticity and to confidently, yet lovingly respond, "I don't have to."


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Gina

It was one year ago, this past July 10th, when Gina private facebook messaged me.  

I remembered bubbly and full-of-life Gina from previous years of volunteer work Jamie and I did once a year at her place of work at Shelter of Flint. We became facebook friends simply to stay in touch for the annual Shelter of Flint back pack event.  

I remember often smiling at her posts on my news feed each week, barely knowing her, as she shared pictures of her handsome little toe-headed elementary aged boy and her three beautiful teenage blonde daughter's.  She was a proud mama, that I knew about Gina. 

Yet, this message on that July summer afternoon was unexpected. Was shocking. Not because we had never spoken outside of work related issues, or that we had never spoken through facebook or via phone before, but because of the devastating content.  The penetrating words. The paralyzing message. It went like this: 

"Hi Joy, 

God sent me to you today. I have never been guided by faith, but I do believe and I have given him struggles and seen
his work. I read your stories of miracles and it gave me hope. Last week or so I thought I was having a panic attack, which lead me to an emergency clinic. All of this happened while I was taking my friends to the airport. They missed their flights. Needless to say in the last week I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, that has gotten into my brain. You're the only person besides my husband who know's this. I know we don't know each other very well. But your heart appears to be so pure.  Will you
please pray for me.
I want a Miracle. Please pray
for
me.

Gina"
___________________________


You see, one year prior to this message from Gina, what I thought began as a simple blog of words God was giving me, posted on FB, led Gina my way; or should I say, led me to Gina.

The first text back to Gina involved praying over her sick body; praying for God to intervene radically.  All the while, God heavily implanting the visual of an anchor on my heart as we prayed, sharing with her that God is her anchor. Her hope. Her immovable steadfast and secured hand in this current horrible and awful physical storm. 

We remained in prayer and weekly dialogue for months; gifting me with one of the greatest honors of my life of witnessing her fall in love with God.  As she lost her hair, she gained a love.  She began posting, along with her continued sweet pics of her precious children, scripture verses.  Sermon teachings. Inspiring Holy Spirit infused messages, never sharing a word publicly about her illness; all while suffering with multiple stage 4 brain tumors and exhausting radiation and chemotherapy treatments.  Her posts were now feeding my own soul.

Gina would often leave a simple text in the middle of my day or on one of my blogs of one single anchor emoji. We both knew, without having to say a word, what it meant. 

What began for Gina as a search for a miracle, soon turned into a love relationship with the One  in which her heart had longed for.

But what God began to gently orchestrate was beyond my greatest imagination; He began to use Gina as a witness to me.  Her new found anchored faith, her new contagious Godly love, her new boldness to share Him with others demanded my attention to examine my own flame resistant faith.  My own cowardly evangilistic heart. My own stagnant walk.  Gina would proudly send me pics, as this one shown, with her confidently worn Jesus shirt, as she joyfully displayed the One who loved her completely.

Not once did I receive a call or text from Gina that wasn't fully coated, completely saturated, thoroughly immersed in hope. She poured her contagious encouragement over me each time we spoke, in spite of her own current storm.  Which is why when I pulled into my driveway yesterday afternoon to receive the news she had past away just hours before, the shock overtook every fiber in my being.  It just couldn't be. No, I screamed! I sat on the back chair of the outside deck and simply wept. Uncontrollably. I was caught between shock, denial, confusion and bullet-penetrating guilt, all balled into one.

Her sweet little toe-headed boy and those precious well-loved girls continually filling every corner of my thoughts. It just couldn't be.  But it was.  And it is. 

I walked around last night in a state of daze, eventually falling asleep and being divinely supplied with a dream.  In this dream I was at Gina's funeral, surrounded by multitudes of those her contagious smile and bubbly heart had delicately touched over her short 49 years of life. 

Yet, in this dream, Gina was there. I saw her and ran up to her and asked "Why Gina?" Why didn't our prayers of saving your life work? Why didn't God save your life?" I demanded.  She looked compassionately and piercingly into my eyes with her beautiful smile and said "Oh, He did save my life, Joy.  He did."  

I woke with tears this morning streaming down my face, with my heart repeating "Yes, He did."

This morning, while spending time with God, I began to share my desire with Him for something tangible that would be in memory of Gina. Something I could see each day and/or share the legacy of her sweet spirit with others.  Immediately, He imprinted a clear visual of an anchor on my heart. An anchor which comforted her.  An anchor which ministered to her.  An anchor which is holding her at this very moment.  

So, as God often does, within the hour, He supplied.  A dear friend arrived to my home with a bag this morning.  Not yet knowing anything regarding Gina's death, or even who Gina was, she says with an aloof sort of response "It's no big deal Joy. I happened to have seen it in the store the other day and something made me want to buy it for you."  As I placed my hand in the stiff crisp tissue paper, I recognized a shape which I was familiar with.  An anchor.  A wood anchor.  A plaque anchor for the wall. The very anchor God impressed on my heart just an hour before as a tangible reminder of the gift of Gina in my life.

You see, what I didn't share, is that I hadn't spoken to Gina in over two months.  I prayed for her, I thought of her, I assumed all was well, yet lost touch due to believing a strategically placed lie from the enemy that I potentially could be a grim reminder that she was once sick.  Gina often reached out with her weekly praise updates; so when the texts stopped in June, I presumed it meant she was getting back to her every day, healthy, cancer-free, loving-Jesus life.  The lie convincingly and repetitively whispered in my mind that I'd only be a bother and a reminder of the season in which she was once sick.  When in reality, it most likely was when she needed me most.  I'm now left with an active wrestling match of both conviction and regret within the core of the heart.  It's deep and it's penetratingly painful.  Yet, God wastes nothing.  This I do know.

My question I'm posing to both you and myself-- have you lost touch with someone you love? Someone who misses you, cherishes you?  One which you least expected God to use to fuel you, to inspire you, to encourage you, to motivate you?  All while being refined, strengthened and equipped for a destination much greater than what we can see, know or comprehend on this side of heaven?

Or, are you a Gina? One who vigorously fights the good fight while tightly clinging to the secured and immovable anchor of your soul.  Encouraging the frail, motivating the weak, inspiring the timed, even amongst your own relentless fear and the unknown outcome of your personal and intimately God-designed story?

Wether you're a Gina or you have a Gina in your life, God is using you dear one.  This life is fleeting and each day is a treasured gift; a gift to be lived and used for a destination and purpose much greater than the here and the now.  Thank you Gina.  I am a better person because of knowing you.  Because of loving you.  Because of watching you. 

 See you on the other side beautiful friend.