Words have power. Written words provide proof. You can read them, and reread them whenever you want. They can speak life to someone who needs encouragement. They can speak death to someone who is being deceived. The choice lies within you. How is it that you want people to remember you? Encourager...that is the gift that God has laid on my heart. To use my written, spoken, and/or sung words to lift people up. To be one link in their road to healing, restoration, joy. I have been without those things, and I claim them to be mine again. If you want me to seek God on a prayer for a specific situation...that is why I am here. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to pray God's Word of Life over you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Love Language

To some it was just toast.  Bad toast at that.  To me...it was a young boy's effort to show that he cares.  To show kindness through his love language.  To serve the way that he knows how.  And I felt what was intended... even though everyone else seemed to miss it that morning.

There I sat, quickly eating cold cereal at church, on an early Sunday morning.  I had only a few minutes before we were to begin practicing the songs that we would lead during that morning's worship service.  My youngest son, Levi (7), sat across from me still working on his own bowl.

"Mommy, can you make me toast?" said my cute little 7-year old son.

I had not yet spoken...but my face must have shown that either I did not have the time or did not really want to.  (If I am being truthful...everyone in my house loves toast.  In the same breath, they also loathe making toast...which means it usually falls on me to do.)

"I'll make him toast!" said this little boy we had met only weeks ago, when he showed up at our church with a friend of ours.

I have come to know that this little boy has every reason to be destroyed.  He has endured much pain in these first years of his life.  He has seen and heard things that I can guarantee would make me cringe.  And yet...he remains sweet.  But how?  The day he walked into our church may have very well been his first experience with God and His followers, but I can assure you...someone in his life; a grandparent, an uncle, a friend of the family, a teacher...someone has been praying for this little boy.  And it is evident that Heaven heard every request for the safekeeping of his heart.

At his offer to make my son toast, I felt a slight twinge of guilt.  *Insert inner sigh here*  Just as I was about to tell him I would do it...he turned to me.

"I will make you toast too!  Would you like toast, Vanesa?"

As I told him that he did not have to do that for me; he responded, "I know, but I want to!"

"Sure, that would be great," I said Levi spoke up with his toast topping requests.

"Make mine with jelly and butter," my son said with a huge smile.

"Mine too!"

He seemed a little bit confused as to why someone would want both jelly and butter.  He even asked us both separately to be sure. I wasn't sure what was going through that mind of his...but I was about to find out.

A few minutes later he sat this plate in front of me at the table.  *Remember the order of the toast toppings....jelly AND butter.  Therein lies his confusion.  Who would put butter on TOP of jelly?  Hahahahaha!*

When the serving heart of a child, makes you toast with jelly and a cold chunk of margarine on top...I highly suggest you smile and say THANK YOU!  It was not his culinary skills that God was pleased with that morning...it was his sweet heart. (Let that sink in for a moment.  Those who doubt their ability to do what God is asking.  Your heart is what He sees!)

I sat and ate every last bite of my toast.  As I chewed...I was completely in awe of how good God has been to this boy who is just now getting to know and experience Him.  I thanked God for the display of His all-powerful protection over this little boy's heart, through this act of love.  

It was not about the toast.  It was a tactical lesson for me. (A cold chunk of margarine really sticks with a girl....both literally and figuratively! Hahaha!)  To me the toast served as a reminder that God truly is a good good Father.  It was a glimpse into the love language of one of God's infant warriors.  He was just learning how to love like God intended it...and he. was. killin'. it!

What about us church?  Are we seeing broken children(people) as damaged, beyond our ability to repair...or as opportunities for restoration.  We don't have to do the impossible.  We serve The One and ONLY TRUE GOD who does that.  We need only to be obedient in Love.

Can we strive to follow the example set by Jesus, Himself?

Can we pray without being asked?
Can we love without expectation?
Can we show grace for behavior that we deem 'unacceptable', according to our upbringing, with the realization that they too need to be taught right from wrong?
Can we gently guide with a soft answer of Truth?
Can we give without expecting even a thank you in return?

That last one can be a hang up for us.  Thank you.  It is simple.  Some would even say it is common sense.  And yet...when a thank you is not offered when it clearly was the appropriate response...it has even the most generous of Jesus followers want to throw in their apron and go home.  Who wins when we stop serving because of what WE did not receive?  Who is likely to have authored that thought anyway?

Jesus came, when He did not have to.  Jesus gave, right up until His time here was done.  Jesus finished the work that He began even when the world hated him.  The thank you's didn't come until the hearts of the lost could grasp the weight of what He had done for them.  The same concept applies.  We expect fruit from a tree that has not yet found living water.

Do not underestimate the power in your prayers for the least of these.  When God lays it on your heart to pray...for a child walking through Walmart with an adult that is yelling insults and cuss words...do not hesitate.  Heaven hears you.  Heaven wars with you.  That child needs someone to love them enough to intercede.  Let it be you!

Matthew 25:39When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ 40And the King will reply,‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Dear Dad

As I sit here at my desk, drinking my coffee and eating my grits, I am thinking of you.  I can't help but to think of you whenever I have grits (and sweet tea).  As I type it is clear to me that I have a mission field in mind this morning.  You.  I have been relentlessly praying for you these last couple of weeks.  Though I will admit, that some days I don't have much to say.  During those times I am just still before the Lord.  Quiet, as I just let Him see my heart's cry.  I keep asking Him..."What am I to do?"

God's response...tell him what I want him to know.  Speak my Heart through yours and let it be Me that takes if from there.

If I never see you face to face again...here is what I want you to know.  

You have value to me.  You are irreplaceable.  Your constant prayers are a vital part of why I am who I am today.  God heard every one and He has stayed close to me through every tear I have shed.  He has protected me and healed me over and over again.

You are a part of my story.  My faith.  My ministry.  My family.  We will carry on the legacy that Jesus began in and through you.

Your grandchildren love you.  They love to hear your voice.  (My daughter says you sound like a cowboy.  Haha!)  They think of you often.  They want desperately to make some memories with you.  Until then...they will continue to love you and pray for their Grandpa James.

Your mission field looks much different than most; BUT, it is still your mission field.  God continues to place you where He knows you are needed.  You speak of your Savior boldly and without an ounce of regret.  My grandpa was also like that...and I very much respect that passion in you both.  You are not done on this side of Heaven.  God's work through you has not yet been completed.  Your children and your grandchildren still need your fervent prayers when they rise to begin a day and while they sleep.  We need you to fight for us and with us.

Your days are numbered...and only God knows the beginning of your eternity.  There is a reason that He does not give that decision to us.  It's because we are not all-knowing.  We are not omni-present.  We can't see what is to come.  We can't think past our own perspective some days; to see how far the  ripple of ending our life would extend.   

I know that the enemy will not stop pursuing us because he fears our prayers.  He shudders at the sound of our voices.  He wants nothing more than to silence the loudest advocates for the cause of Christ.  We have an eternal mission in our days...and we courageously walk in our calling.  We are the worst type of Christian to satan.  Confident.  Bold.  Sassy.  And relentless....     Even when I am feeling weak I whisper, and the enemy hears it.  I keep saying these words over and over again...


I want the enemy to hear my voice.  I want satan to know that he will not dictate my future.  No matter what he throws at me, I will not bow to him.  I need you to fight, Dad.  My kids need you to fight, Dad.  God has spoken and He is not finished with you, Warrior.  I bow beside you in prayer, Mighty Warrior.  I place my hand on your back, scarred from battle.  I see the places where the arrows that were meant for me...pierced you.  I am thankful for your fight.  Beyond grateful.  

But now I need you to stand up with your armor on and your knees shaking...and tell the enemy Who your Daddy is.  I need you to boldly approach the Throne of Grace, for it is there that you will find rest and strength.  I need you to kneel at the foot of the cross and proclaim that you, a son of the King, will submit to His authority for the rest of your days.  You have a family to live for!

Until I see you again....
I love you so much Dad! 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Sacrificial Victim

I have come to truly hate that word.
Because a true victim does not have a choice.
And they never deserve what they receive.

Have you ever had to watch your child walk through a trial so completely and heart-wrenchingly devastating, that you found yourself pleading with God? Desperate. Like you would do anything, ANY. THING. to just take it away. To heal their brokenness. To rescue them. To restore them to what they once were; carefree, joyful, without a worry in the world.

For some of us, our children are dealing with constant torment from others. (Being bullied is no joke.  It truly brings out the worst in people.)  For other children it is a traumatic life event that haunts their days. Maybe it's a family separation for their safety. Maybe an array of varying types of (mental, sexual, physical, verbal) abuse.  Maybe divorce of their parents, or the death of someone they loved. Or maybe it is the devastating moral failure of someone they respect(ed).  Maybe it is a series of poor choices that come with heavy and irreversible consequences.

Although we are all walking our very own path; all while our kids are simultaneously walking theirs...I am guessing that we all ask the same question.
Why?  Why do I have to watch them suffer?  Why can't I fix this?  Why aren't YOU fixing this, God?  Why aren't You taking their pain away?  I AM PLEADING YOU!!!!

But what if we (moms, dads, caregivers) had a choice....
Would we choose...
1.) ...what was best not only for the molding of our child's character after that of Christ, but also for the future of their role in the ministry that He began...no matter what that looked like....
2.) ...what was easiest?

Ugh...gut punch.  That is a decision that I never want to make.  And, honestly, there is a good reason that God does not give us (parents) the option.  It's because we can not be trusted to choose what He Himself chose for His own son.  He chose what was best and never what was easiest.  And God's best plan for Jesus, has effectively changed the eternity of millions of lost and hurting people.  

To God, It. Was. Worth. The. Sacrifice.

It is something that we parents have to do often for our kids without a second thought.  We understand the role we are to play in their lives...and we give (more than we have some days) to ensure that their needs are met.  We take our cues from Christ and we give until we are exhausted and empty knowing, expecting, hoping, pleading that our Father will always fill us again.

What happens though, when the victim collides with sacrifice?  
What happens when the very act that made a person a victim...is what God uses to extend His heart's reach?  
And what happens to us, deep within our spirit, when God asks our child to be the sacrificial one?  
When He is using them to teach us just how faithful and omnipotent He is?  (Omnipotent defined: having unlimited power; able to do anything)
When His plans for their lives are more than we are imagining?  
When He is molding them through the pain of trial because only He has seen their life from beginning to end.  Only He knows who He has designed them to be, and what it will take to lead them there.  

Would we have ever have chosen for our child to sacrificially walk the road they are on...if that meant that God would use it for their future mission field?  If it meant that some day they would meet someone who IS where they WERE...and through their raw, messy, gut-honest testimony of God's faithfulness and goodness...they would BE LIVING PROOF that there is ALWAYS HOPE, for a future free of debilitating fear and heavy burden.  ALWAYS TRUTH, to cover and remove the weight behind the whispers of the enemy.  ALWAYS GRACE, to bring freedom from captivity of guilt and shame.  ALWAYS LOVE, after the trail of poor choice.

The sacrificial victim.  I know how impossible it seems to overcome.  I know how much it aches to watch.  I feel the sudden and uninvited flood of emotions that follow those 'past days' thought-patterns.  I am easily angered by the thought of the scheme that they enemy used to try to destroy my child.  

God has something that He has been desperately trying to teach me...and I have been so close to getting it.

There I sat, telling my wise counsel, of my recent Romans 8:28 moment.  I went into the conversation super excited to share how God had used my circumstance to speak life into another's story.  Romans 8:28 moments are those in which I help someone see what they are missing amidst their misery.  Because of where I am and what I've walked through...I have a credible word of encouragement to speak.  I am speaking as one who still flounders some days...but also one who is having way more strong days than weak ones.  (That was not always the case.  At one point, all I had was Sunday.  Sunday was my point of greatest strength...and every day after, was only barely above the point of drowning.) As I always say, these moments bring purpose to pain.  

I was genuinely happy to share my story, but within moments my smile quickly faded as my joy was syphoned out by sudden, crippling guilt.  God was speaking to my heart and my tears indicated that I was not there yet.  My brain wanted to be, but my heart was too afraid to let go and allow God's best plan to penetrate my pain.

If you have a few moments...please listen to The Unexpected Letter.  I could barely see the screen through my tears the first 4 times I watched it.  My favorite lines...

"I was not a victim of human plans
and I was certainly never a slave to you.

I am the victor." -Jesus

YES!!!!!  I am the victor.  I want to know, live, AND feel that...all of my days.  I want to scream it into the face of the devil and watch him cower away.  I know the God that I serve and I know that it is through the sacrifice of Jesus that my children will be victorious over every obstacle in their life.

God wants to know...do I trust HIM enough to say AND believe....that it was worth my child's sacrifice?  That God knew their hearts intimately and because of that He knew what they were capable of overcoming.  He knew that we would be struck down but not destroyed because of our collective faith in Him.  He knew that we would help each other through the low times where we felt as though the end of the torment was far off.  

Can I know that my child's ministry in his/her future will bring forth healing to the victims who are where they once were?

I can.

I do.

If my child reaches into the lives of the broken and offers them living water that forever changes their course of eternity...it is worth it.  The price was paid by a Savior that taught us how to sacrifice with eternal purpose.  And that is a heart I would love to teach my sons and daughter to imitate.