Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Watch Out - A Meltdown Is Coming

Years ago I had a pressure cooker, I but never felt comfortable using it because you have to be careful opening it.  I didn’t want to have it explode.

This past Sunday, my pastor shared that if we didn’t shed tears, the tears would build up inside of us like a pressure cooker.  That statement hit me hard because I knew I was on emotional overload.  My mom had been hospitalized for a little over three weeks, my brother was recuperating from knee surgery, my sister and I had  bronchitis while our mom was hospitalized and couldn’t visit her, my childhood friend was in and out of the hospital and nursing homes fighting a serious illness (with bronchitis I couldn’t visit her either), another long-time friend was grieving the death of her brother, I served on a jury that was emotionally exhausting, and my first cousin was in intensive care following a major surgery.  There was other stuff happening, but need I say more? 

I felt as if at any moment I was going to explode.  The Friday evening before the pastor’s sermon, I thought I was going to have my moment.  I waited for my husband to come home from exercising.  When he arrived, I shared the latest thing that was sending me over the edge, but five minutes later, I could tell he wasn’t picking up on my emotional state.  I stuffed my feelings back inside.  Saturday morning, I tried to tell him how I felt, but I didn’t let on that I was about to crack.  We spent the day doing housework and then retreated to the “man lounge” for him, family room for me. 

On Sunday, as my Hubby was leaving for church he asks me if I was going to church.  I asked him why did he ask me that?  His response “with all you have going on, I thought you might be staying home.”  Hmmm, so he was picking up on my emotional state, BUT, he hadn’t discerned how fragile I was.  I told him I was coming and would see him there.

I sat through the Sunday service fighting back tears.  I stood at the altar for the closing prayer holding my husband’s hand fighting back tears.  After service, I quickly went to my car, called my mom, and asked her if she needs anything.  She said no, she was fine.  I said ok, I’ll see you tomorrow.  As I left the church parking lot, tears flowed down my face; the feeling that I was going to explode engulfed me.   While driving home, the Spirit began speaking to me.  “You’re blessed to have your mom.  You should go to her.  You can cry on her shoulder.”  I turned my car around and headed toward my mom’s apartment.  I made a pit stop to get her a sandwich because although she said she had something to eat, I wasn’t sure if she was being completely truthful with me.  She had only been home from the hospital for a little over a week, and I knew she didn’t want to be a burden.  I also know she likes Arby’s fish sandwiches!

When I got to my mom’s, she didn’t quite seem herself so I thought, “Nope, you can’t unload on her.”  I got up from her couch and sat across from her at her kitchen counter.  After a minute or so, she looked at me and said “What’s wrong?”  I started to say “nothing” and she pressed me to open up.  I began sobbing uncontrollably.  I told her all the stuff I had bottled up inside me, how concerned I was for my childhood friend and my cousin, how sad I was for what some folks are going through, my distress about the jury situation.  I cried, opened up some more, and cried some more.  My mama hugged me, told me she knew something was wrong.  I can’t explain how good it felt to unload, how glad I was that God has spared my mother’s life and that her mother’s intuition was still intact.  I didn’t want to burden my mama, but as a mother, I want my children to come and cry on my shoulder at any time if that will help lighten their load.  I learned this past Sunday that I was shortchanging my mama’s need to feel needed.  My mama is a walking miracle who questions why the Lord is keeping her here.  I told her the Lord is keeping her here because He knew I needed her (for such a time as this).  Both my sisters had also spoken to Mama over the weekend about some things going on in their lives.  When the Lord determines that Mama has fulfilled His purpose for her life, then He’ll call her home.  Until then, I won’t shortchange her again.

I’m glad I had my meltdown; it provided a life lesson.  None of the situations that burdened me have changed, but I’m better.  God gave us tears as a way to release the tension, stress, and emotional baggage that we carry.  Jesus wept.  Joy came in the morning!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

His Plans - No Coincidences With God

The other day as I was leaving the grocery store, I saw a woman pushing a grocery cart that had two baby carriers in it.  I rushed over and asked if I could see her twins.  I’ve had a fascination with twins since I was eight years old.  We moved and our new neighbors had nine children including identical twin girls.  My aunt and uncle has a set of twin girls with their nine children, too.  (As a side note, these cousins are my double relatives because their mom is my father’s sister and their dad is my mom’s first cousin!)

As a young girl, I decided that I would have THREE sets of twins, one set of boys, one set of girls, and a boy/girl set.  Well, over the years, I learned that God has a sense of humor.  I’m sure many times He, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit have a good chuckle from our plans, especially when they don’t align with His plans.  (Jeremiah 29:11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”)

Fortunately my desire for twins did not come true when I became pregnant for the first time, as I was not married.  Two months shy of my 19th birthday (September 10),  I gave birth to my son, Damian, on July 10, one week past his July 3 due date.  My grandmother wasn’t thrilled about me having a baby out of wedlock and had given me some grief about it, but because there are no coincidences with God, Damian was born on her 63rd birthday, which also happened to be the birthday of my aunt (the mother of my twin cousins).   

Seven years later, I got married.  Because we already had three sons between us, WE planned to have once child together and then I’d have a tubal ligation (no consultation with God about our plan!).  Two years after we were married, we were ready.  I got pregnant quickly and was given a May, 1983 due date.  Sadly, in November, 1982, I miscarried at three months.  My doctor didn’t instruct me to wait before getting pregnant again.  In January, 1983, I was ecstatic to learn I was pregnant.  We had a scare where I thought I was going to miscarry again, but God had a plan.  I gained so much weight that my doctor thought I could possibly be having twins!  I was excited and was hoping I was pregnant with twin girls (no way did I want twin boys!).  I eagerly went to the scheduled ultrasound only to get the disappointing news that I was not having twins.  I didn’t want to know my baby’s gender until the birth. 

Our baby was due September 25.  After enduring an extremely hot summer with ptyalism (production of excess saliva during pregnancy) and being two weeks overdue, I thought surely, only a boy would put his mother through all this.  My husband, who knew how desperately I wanted a girl,  teased me saying I was having boy – I did not get his sense of humor!

My doctor scheduled an induction for October 10.  On Sunday, October 9, I went into labor.   As I couldn’t progress past six centimeters, the doctor performed a cesarean, and our BABY GIRL, Deanna, was born on Monday, October 10!  Having had a child out of wedlock, a miscarriage, and an overdue pregnancy, this was the happiest day of my life, even though I didn’t have the twin girls I had hoped for.  Deanna now shared being born on the 10th with her brother and me.  She later had her first child, my granddaughter, in May (remember, I had miscarried in May prior to getting pregnant with Deanna).  Deanna had her second daughter in October at age 29, the same age I was when I had Deanna.  No coincidences with God. 

I had had a tubal ligation during my cesarean birth.   We didn’t seek God’s opinion on the matter.  We just did what WE thought was best.  About three years later, I had my second miscarriage.  Not totally unheard of as the cumulative 10-year probability of pregnancy following tubal ligation was 18.5 per 1000 procedures*.   I didn't seek God’s direction when I had the tubal ligation.  Instead of seeking God’s direction after this second miscarriage, I decided to have ANOTHER tubal ligation by a different doctor using a different method.  About 7 years later, I had severe abdominal pains while driving home on the expressway.  A trip to the hospital via ambulance landed me in intensive care following emergency surgery due to a ruptured fallopian tube.  Yes, after two tubal ligations, I had had a miscarriage AND an ectopic pregnancy. 

For someone who wanted six children (three sets of twins), my plans definitely did not come into fruition…somewhat from my own interventions.  I’ll never know if any of these pregnancies would have yielded the twins I had desired.  I do know there are no coincidences with Him because He works everything out according to HIS plan.  Ephesians 1:11 In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.  Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. 

I’ve learned during my Christian walk that God has had plans for me since the day He brought me into this world.  Thank You, Father, for Your plans for my life – they will always work out for MY good.  Amen!

*The efficacy of tubal ligation has been most extensively studied in the US Collaborative Review of Sterilization (CREST) study. This study followed 10,685 sterilized women for up to 14 years following their tubal ligation. The findings demonstrated that tubal ligation is highly effective, though effectiveness varies by the ligation method employed and by the patient’s age, race, and ethnicity. The cumulative 10-year probability of pregnancy following tubal ligation was 18.5 per 1000 procedures.  Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2492586/  )

Monday, April 22, 2013

He's Still God

Last week, on Monday two bombs filled with nails exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and wounding nearly 200; several had to have limbs amputated.  On Tuesday, letters addressed to President Obama and to a U.S. senator were found to contain traces of poisonous ricin.  On Wednesday, there was a massive explosion that leveled a Texas fertilizer plant, leaving at least 14 people dead and 200 injured. On Thursday,  Illinois’ governor declared 38 of the state's counties disaster areas from rain (up to 5 inches in just more than a day -- on the Windy City area). Thursday night, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology policeman was killed and another police officer was severely wounded, allegedly by the suspected Boston Marathon terrorists.  A massive search on Friday for the two suspected terrorists, who happened to be brothers, ensued with a lockdown of suburbs around Boston that had never before been experienced.  "All in all it's been a tough week," President Obama said during a press conference.   As if these national events weren’t enough to make one wonder what was going on in our country, five young people were shot to death ( four of them execution style in one location with multiple shots to their heads) in my hometown.

During the entire terrifying week, the Holy Spirit residing in me said that God is still God.  Psalm 46 verses 1-2 and 10, tells us God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea… He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

I searched youtube for a song to minister to my heart and found Toni L. Wortherly’s song of hope that she wrote in part, in memory of her late grandmother, and in part, because she was in shock at some of the violence she had seen in the news.  She said “Some people, in times like these, wonder if God is still in control, but I know for a fact that He is in control and He still cares.    Here are the lyrics to her song He’s Still God.

In my despair, He holds my hand. 

He’s still God even when I face the darkest hour.  He can still hear my cries.  He still holds all the power. 

He’s still there even when it seems too much to bear.  Although I know life can be hard, I also know that He’s still God. 

Seems I can’t turn on the news without a story of violence and slaughter. It seems like life is not even valued anymore, people are killing their own sons and daughters. 

They are so self consumed and they don’t think of the victims they leave behind.  Just senseless acts with tortuous costs and it truly blows my mind. 

Though it seems the enemy is too much to handle, though the devil may think he has won, I know in the end that my God wins, all these battles belong to the Lord. 

He’s still God even when we face the darkest hours.  He can still hear our cries.  He still holds all the power. 

He’s still there even when it seems too much to bear.  Although I know life can be hard, I also know that He’s still God.

For those who are letting satan use them, God is aware.  Psalm 11:4 The Lord is in his holy temple; the
Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth.  Jeremiah 17:9-10 I the Lord search the heart  and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct,  according to what their deeds deserve.” 

Yes, He is God, there no one like Him.  Isaiah 6:3 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” He’s still God.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

He’s Just A Prayer Away

Last night I watched the movie “Letters to God” which was inspired by a true story of an eight-year old boy with cancer.  In the movie Tyler Doherty's walk of faith takes the form of praying via letters he composes and mails.  Tyler’s letters find their way into the hands of Brady McDaniels, his temporary postman who’s dealing with his own personal issues. Brady is initially confused and conflicted over what to do with the letters, but eventually develops a friendship with the Doherty family.    

This was not a feel-good movie – it was an encouraging, uplifting story about the impact of praying to a loving God and the galvanizing effect it had on Tyler’s family, friends and community because of Tyler’s belief and strong faith.  To Tyler, God is a friend, a teacher, and the ultimate pen pal.  The movie showed that while God doesn’t always answer the way we want, He does what is best.  

This movie blessed my heart because I’ve been touched by cancer through deaths of loved ones and the long-term survival of others.  I’m well aware of how a cancer diagnosis brings fear and can devastate families.  My sister’s husband died from cancer.  My other sister’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law died from the effects of cancer.  My dad, my brother-in-law, my friend’s teenage grandson, and a childhood friend have completed or are in the midst of completing cancer-related treatments.  My paternal aunt, my sister’s sister-in-law, and my childhood Sunday School teacher are all long-term breast cancer survivors. I’ve attended the funerals of friends from church and my neighborhood who lost their cancer battles.  In my former job as a regional Human Resources Director, I and my staff assisted employees with cancer obtain their long-term disability benefits.  Several eventually succumbed from the effects of their illness.    

In numerous prayer journals over the years (my letters to God), I’ve written the names of those I mentioned above.  Like in the movie, God didn’t always respond the way I hoped.  Some lives He prolonged and others in His Sovereignty, He chose to end here.  We don’t always understand what He is doing (For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts Isaiah 55:9).  I know that He hears us whether we translate just our thoughts, speak out loud, write out our prayers, or allow the Holy Spirit to speak on our behalf.  So I say, thank You, Father, for giving us the privilege of bringing our burdens to you and for the eternal home that Jesus has prepared for those who confess Him as Lord.  Amen.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans   Romans 8:26

SPOILER ALERT Patrick Doherty, Tyler's real father, wrote "Letters to God" after his son lost his battle with cancer.  Doherty admits "Letters to God" was, at first, just a "cool title" for a movie. It wasn't until after the death of his son and a year-and-a-half after the screenplay was finished that he found Tyler's real letters to God.  For more information about the movie, access these links: http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2010/March/Letters-to-God-A-Movie-of-Hope/  http://www.letterstogodthemovie.com/

Friday, March 8, 2013

Why Am I Here?

Years ago I read Rick Warren’s book “Purpose Driven Life”, subtitled “What On Earth Am I Here For?” My pastor is conducting a bible study using this book, so I am re-reading it. In Chapter 3, Pastor Warren says “Living to create an earthly legacy is a short-sighted goal. A wiser use of time is to build an eternal legacy.” He reminds us that we “weren’t put on earth to be remembered.” We “were put on earth to prepare for eternity.” When I question why am I here, I have to acknowledge as Pastor Warren says, that one day I “will stand before God, and He will do an audit” of my life before I enter eternity. He says “God will ask two crucial questions: First, “What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?” and “Second, What did you do with what I gave you…all the gifts, talents, opportunities, energy, relationships, and resources?”

Yesterday, while reading my bible, I turned to 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 and read how Paul could answer these two questions. Paul said:

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (NIV)

In contrast, I have never been in prison, flogged, beaten, pelted with stones, nor shipwrecked. I haven’t been “constantly on the move,” in danger from rivers, bandits, Jews and Gentiles in the city, country, and sea, gone without sleep and food on my Christian journey. No, this won’t be my testimony when I stand before the Lord.

My testimony is that through my relationships as a wife, daughter, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend, neighbor, church and community volunteer I use every opportunity through His gift of teaching (Romans 12:7, Ephs. 4:11) to witness about Jesus Christ to everyone I encounter -- whether in person, over the phone, through written communication (cards, e-mail, blogging, Facebook), when driving my car, in the grocery checkout line, etc.  With His gift of helps (I Cor. 12:28), my husband and I use our financial resources to assist those in need and support His ministry.  With the energy He’s given me, I visit those in hospitals and convalescent homes and attend funerals to provide comfort. My life has not been and is not perfect.  Through my challenging tests, though different from Paul’s, I have learned beyond a shadow of a doubt who I am – a child of the Most High God; to whom I belong – to the Almighty God of the universe; and most importantly, why I am here – to fulfill my eternal legacy of serving Him until the day He calls me home.
Do you know why are you here? If your answer is yes, what are you doing with Jesus Christ? Are you using what God has given you for the purposes for which God made you? 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Some May Find It Strange

Since New Year’s Eve, I’m attended a funeral or calling hours for nine people with only one as my relative.  There’s a funeral tomorrow for a classmate of mine.  The prospect of death has always been very real to me helping me embrace the fact that one day I’m going to make the same transition.   Hebrews 9:27 says “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
I don’t know when I first wrote my own obituary.  I know it was years ago.  I’ve had to update it over time, most recently to add the name of my youngest grandchild who was born in October.   My immediate family is aware of this strange quirk of mine.  Or perhaps it’s not so strange considering my maternal grandmother wrote her obituary years before she passed, and my mom gave her obituary to me a few years ago!

As each day passes, I am one day closer to breathing my last breath on earth.  Yet, I’m not concerned about it because of a decision I made when I was a little girl.  I didn’t get to choose my skin color and gender, who my birth parents and siblings are, nor where I was born.  God chose these things for me.  Since He never makes a mistake, I fully accept and embrace who I am.  While I did make some decisions that brought consequences to my life, some that were very good and some filled with grief and disappointment, the biggest and best decision I made was choosing to give my life to and follow Jesus. 

I might be frightened about the prospect of my death if I was clueless about what will happen.  Jesus told me I don’t have to worry because He has gone ahead of me to prepare the way.    John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am , there ye may be also.  2 Corinthians 5 teaches me I'm going to receive a new body.  That sounds good to me because of the physical changes I'm experiencing as I age.  Until the day of my transition, I have the Holy Spirit helping me through whatever comes my way.  John 16:7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.   Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, my Advocate, to take up residence in my heart when I accepted Him in my childhood.  I’m so grateful that Jesus knew that I would need the Holy Spirit to teach, encourage, protect, and intercede for me.  With the Holy Spirit, I can handle this life until my transition comes.  As one of my now deceased friend used to say “I can’t lose.  While down here, Jesus is with me.  When I die, I get to go be with Him.”  Nope, I’m not concerned about dying.  It’s a win-win proposition and not strange at all!

He Knows Me Best

When I was born, I entered the world as the daughter of my parents and granddaughter of my grandparents.  I had a brother, making me a sister.  My parents had siblings making me a niece.  Their siblings had children making me a cousin.  On the day I was born, I was surrounded with people who automatically loved me, some of whom I became close with over the years. 

I eventually became a mother, a wife, stepmother, an aunt, and an in-law with a heap of relatives through my marriage and the marriages of my siblings and children. I have the wonderful title of being a grandmother!  The family circle of people who know me has grown by leaps and bounds. 

As much as I am known by all of these people to whatever degree, none know me like the One who created me.  When I was born, I entered the world as a female Negro, a black person, an African-American, not by choice but by design by the Most High God, the all-knowing Father, Creator God.   There was a choice I made as an adolescent – to follow the One who created me.  Living by the choice I made to the One who created me supersedes EVERYTHING in my life.

Psalm 139:13, 15-16 tells me that God “created my inmost being…“knit me together in my mother’s womb,” God’s “eyes saw my unformed body”, I was made in secret in my mother’s womb, and  all the days ordained for me were written in His book before one of them came to be.   

As a mom, I think I know my children fairly well.  But because they live in different cities from me, I’m clueless as to what’s going on in their lives unless we communicate via phone, e-mail or Facebook.    

How well does God know me?  He has searched me and knows me.  He knows when I sit (who besides God knows that I’m sitting in my family room as I write this), when I rise (often my husband is not aware that I’ve left the bedroom), when I go out and come in.  God knows my thoughts before I become aware of them.  (Psalm 139:1-3).  He doesn’t have to call or e-mail me to find out what’s going on with me.  He knows more about me than I could ever put on Facebook!

God is familiar with ALL my ways.  The Message Bible says God knows “everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.  I can’t reach His knowledge – it is too high for me.  I cannot get away from Him.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.  If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:6-12)  Oh, how wonderful it is to be known by my God!  He knows me best!