Seasons of Suffering

A new season of Fall is well underway. The first “cold” front has hit and it seems relief from the 100 degree Texas heat is finally in sight. Some are saddened by another summer coming to a close. School is back in session, and the long lazy summer nights and mornings of sleeping in are over. As for me, I’m in more in a celebratory mood. The summer of 2016 has proven to be an especially hard one and I’m ready to close the door and kiss it goodbye! fall

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I’ve been pretty sick for the past four months. I also lost my precious grandmother in July. Relief from my health issue still hasn’t come, and getting over the death of my Grossemama still hurts, but I wanted to share some things I’ve learned form God along the way.

I’ve been lost, hurt and confused more in this last season of my life than any other time. And I thought I’d been through some hard things. The death of a loved one will rattle you like never before. It forces you to think about God, and Heaven in different ways. And if you’re anything like me, I was left with so many questions about God’s goodness and faithfulness, even in death. It’s kind of hard not to when you yourself are dealing with a physical ailment and the answers you’ve received aren’t enough and aren’t bringing relief.

But God promises peace in all occasions. John 16:33 says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” God’s promise here seemed like a big joke to me when I realized I was dealing with something an antibiotic wasn’t going to take away. Peace was far from me and I was drowning in depression, fear, anxiety and hopelessness. It wasn’t until recently I realized that I was pushing away the peace God was offering me by choosing to not believe the things He said when this first started to happen to me. God promised me that He was going to take care of me, that a full healing was going to come my way, that this was His plan for me to bring back life to my heart and to redeem things that have been lost. He said I had nothing to fear because He is trustworthy.

There’s that word. Something I’m not comfortable with and haven’t been in a while. Trust. Even though He’s proven Himself trustworthy before for so many other things in my life, this one I’ve wrestled with. It just seemed too good to be true…there has to be a catch somewhere right?

(Before I go any further, I want to clarify that this was God’s promise to me in my unique situation. God has something He wants to say to you in your unique situations too, and His promises for you may look different. The only way to know what His promises are for you, is to ask Him for yourself.) 

Trust is a tricky thing with me. And for anyone else out there who has been hurt and had their trust broken, I’m sure it’s a touchy topic for you too. It wasn’t until a great conversation with my sweet husband that I gained the revelation I’ve been looking for. God gave me everything I needed when He first spoke into my situation. “Trust me”. There  is peace in trusting Him! It’s been there the whole time. I realized that I’m not in alignment with Him when I’m not believing what He told me in the first place.

So I decided to repent and ask God, change the way I think. I want to believe He is who He says He is and He’ll do what He says He’ll do. Another thing my husband said to me, “Everyone in this life will have seasons of suffering. But what sets Christians apart is the ability to have joy and peace in the middle of them. God hides joy and peace in every situation and it’s through a relationship with Him that we find them and gain His strength to keep going.”

A prayer for any of you who might find yourself in a season of suffering like I’m in. I pray that God reveals His joy, hope, peace and love to you in it. I pray that you hold on tightly to the promise He has
for you in your situation and that you believe He is who He says He is, and He will do what He said He’ll do. I pray you’ll grow closer to Him and get to know Him in new ways as you walk this out with Him. I pray that you will know and believe in your heart that He never leads you into places where He doesn’t have great things planned for you and new freedoms to claim.  And most of all, I pray you know He is good and you can have peace because He has overcome the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Truly Grateful

Today is the day after Wes’ Gotcha Day. It was 10 years ago that Wes became an official Jackson. Matt and I both know that he was born a Jackson, but it’s been officially on paper since August 8, 2006.

As I looked back at pictures from tha1936413_1187888378175_7614033_nt awesome day, I can’t help but see God’s goodness and faithfulness through the whole process. Looking back, I also see that His goodness and faithfulness didn’t just start there. He began His good and perfect plan way before that day. And while I’m sure He’s still fully invested in this good and perfect plan, there are times when I’m certain He’s forgotten me.

I don’t have time to go into all of the details, but I’ve been struggling with some health issues for a while. It has kept me from driving and has forced me to rearrange my life. Matt has become the grocery shopper, chauffeur for both myself and the kids and housekeeper. I’ve had days where I feel like this thing is gone and before I get back into the swing of things, it comes back.

I’ve been struggling in a land of doubt for quite a while now, and my hopes in fixes for this problem have been smashed one by one. Today seems closer to an answer and an end than any other time, but it has been one crazy ride. I’ve begged God for relief and healing. His answer?…”Not yet.”

I’ve literally screamed out “Not yet?!” over and over again. With your standard “Why me?” and a bunch of other expletives I won’t mention. My walk, faith, security, value and identity have all come into question. I’ve asked Him the hard things like; “Do you hear me?”, “Are you really good?”, “Why won’t you talk to me?”, and “Why have you left me?”. I’ve come to really appreciate the writings of King David in the Psalms. I am just like him! In love with God one minute, and feeling completely angry and abandoned the next.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that I’ve received revelation or answers to all of my questions above, but I have realized, once again, He’s all I have. I no longer question his real-ness. Now I’m walking through His love for me and learning how to see it and receive it…even when it feels like He’s turned His back on me.

This morning as I was praying the Holy Spirit kept pulling my attention away from my words to God and lead me to some old pictures instead. As I was looking through them, my heart got smacked with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. And there it was…God’s faithfulness and love for me. It’s been there the whole time. Since before I could ever walk or talk. He’s been at work on my behalf even when I couldn’t see it. Even when I had Wes and didn’t know how things were going to work out. He had a plan when I thought He abandoned me. And just like He had a plan then, He has a plan now. I am sure that in another 10 years, I will be looking back at pictures from this time in my life and see how His plan was in the works.

I wouldn’t’ be totally honest with you if I didn’t share the thought that crept into my mind not even a split second after the flood of gratitude. Fear…fear that at any moment all of the things I am grateful for could be snatched away or fear of what my life would’ve been without Him. Satan seems to be pretty quick with his attacks these days.

That fear stopped me dead in my tracks and I began to recognize the attack from the enemy.  True gratefulness doesn’t come from the knowledge of what we could lose or what could’ve been. True gratefulness comes from the revelation of our Father’s love for us and receiving His grace. No, I don’t deserve what He has given me. I don’t deserve His good and perfect plan, but He loves me enough to give it to me. To work things out for me on my behalf. And it could have, but didn’t stop with a Ticket to Heaven. His plan was salvation AND some. Jesus so I could be with Him for eternity in Heaven, but also Jesus so I could have a relationship with Him and have a full and abundant life here on this Earth.

Today I pray that you experience true gratitude. I pray you aren’t grateful because of what could’ve been, or because of what you could someday lose, but simply because of what He has chosen to give you. And the fact that has been His plan all along. To love you and provide for you your whole life. Receive that!  Yes, it’s true things would be and could be so much worse without Him, but that’s not the point. He loves you, and that’s what I’m choosing to be grateful for.

And if you’re in the same place as me…flip flopping back and forth between remembering His goodness and feeling alone, I pray He reminds you of His faithfulness for your whole life, like He did for me this morning. I pray you are able to see past your current circumstances and stand firm on His goodness and faithfulness from before. Pray for me as I continue to walk this out and I will continue to pray for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Kid

Warning: Long post, but you have to see the guts to appreciate the glory.

As a little girl I never imagined I’d end up a single mother some day. Pregnant at 18, not knowing who the father was. I never sat down to play Barbies and imagined a car seat in the back of my Barbie Corvette while I pushed it down the sidewalk in front of my house. No, my plans were more typical, go to college, get an awesome job, change the world with my super awesome husband and have a bunch of cute kids.

Even though these were my dreams as a little girl, I wasn’t incredibly shocked that day in August of 1998 when I took a pregnancy test with my friend next to me.

Earlier that day I had been fired from my job and just a few weeks prior to that I had been kicked out of my house. Yep, things were really looking great for me (insert sarcasm here). I could back up and tell you my WHOLE life story, but that’s not necessary. Here’s a snapshot of my life up until I became a pregnant, jobless, homeless and a high school drop-out.

My parents divorced when I was 10, and then remarried when I was 13. We moved from the only town I’d ever called home (Austin, Tx.) and into the country. East Texas to be exact. Bitter isn’t harsh enough to describe how I felt about our move. My parents tried and failed to keep our family together under one roof for more than 3 years, and eventually ended up divorcing in a less than hospitable way. The aftermath was evident in our home.

I should also let you know that my parents are both great people, just not great at the being married to each other part. As with any divorce, deep wounds developed in all of us. On top of that I also carried a creepy burden with me that I could never quite identify. As a kid I referred to it as “the yucky feeling”. It had been with me as long as I could remember and it wasn’t until much later that I discovered its origins. (That will have to wait for a different blog.)

Trying to cope with these wounds and my nemesis “the yucky feeling”, I began to make some pretty bad and bold choices. Skipping school to hang out with my boyfriend(s) became a regular thing and I quickly fell behind in my classes. It wasn’t too long after my first real boyfriend and I broke up that I found myself not caring at all what my future looked like. I moved in with a “friend” of mine at the time and his roommate whom I had been on a couple of dates with.

After a ridiculous amount of alcohol and some other drugs one night, I ended up sleeping with both of them at different times. To say I was at my lowest is an absurd understatement. I’m not here to call their characters into question, but you can imagine the type of crowd I was hanging around with. The level of self respect I had for myself was non-existent.

So, needless to say that day in August when I realized I felt a bit funny, pregnancy wasn’t my first thought, but it wasn’t entirely shocking to me when the two little lines showed up on the test either.

Anyone’s initial response probably would’ve been “OH CRAP!”, but mine was different. My very first thought was, “Finally, someone who will have to love me.” Heartbreaking now when I look back at it, but it makes total sense. I was desperate for love and what my parents, friends and family could offer me wasn’t enough. I had screwed up too royally to ever be loved wholly again, and a baby was my chance at a fresh start. You maybe wondering if I got pregnant on purpose. I can see how someone could come to that conclusion, but the honest answer is, no. This wasn’t what I wanted. Especially for my baby.

The next chain of events seemed to happen as quickly as the news of my pregnancy spread. Both of my friends/roommates/possible baby daddies quickly bailed. My mom allowed me to move back in with her under the stipulation that I would go back and finish high school, and after the baby was born, go to college and or get a job.

As you can imagine, my family was less than thrilled. My mom and I screamed, cried and fought while driving around for hours the day I told her. Abortion came up, as well as adoption. Both of which I knew were not the right choices for me. I started to hear from anyone and everyone who thought it would do me some good to hear their advice. Things like… “This kid is going to ruin your life”, and “This kid is going to turn out to be a brat, and the both of you are going to amount to nothing.”

A quick word of advice for anyone who feels compelled to give their two-cents worth of unsolicited advice to a young pregnant girl…don’t. No, seriously. Don’t. I can guarantee you she’s already scared, and already shaming herself enough for the both of you. Don’t kick her while she’s down. Show her love. Tell her she can do it. God’s given her everything she needs in Him and He’s a good Father who redeems. Tell her nothing’s too bad or too big for Him to handle, and with Him it will all work out and be ok.

And now that “this kid” is officially a senior in high school, I can tell you what I said above is true. You have no idea how many years I’ve beaten myself up and lived in shame. How many years I lived in fear that “this kid” would grow up to be what everyone expected him to be. How the hurtful words of others proclaiming curses over him would keep me up at night worrying that he’d end up like me. Drop out of high school, have a terrible relationship with me and the man that became the only dad he’s ever known, and ended up adopting him and giving him his last name when he was in the 2nd grade.

To the lonely, scared momma who might be doing this alone, can I give you some hope? Ask the One who can love you like other people can’t. No, not even my sweet precious and amazing baby boy gave me the love that I so desperately needed. It didn’t even come from the most amazing husband that has ever walked this planet. I found it when I surrendered to God. When I invited Him in, He gave me a love like I’ve never known before. One that could never be filled by even the most perfect, loving human on Earth. I was created to be loved by Him. When I receive this love, all of the people in my life take their rightful place in my heart and I don’t have to worry about being hurt or unloved ever again. Yes, I will still feel those emotions, but His love will cover, heal and make me whole when I do.

And that’s my prayer for everyone who reads this post. I pray you find His love because it’s not like any other. I pray you surrender your life to Him and invite Him in to heal you and make you whole again. I pray that no matter how low you are or have been, you know that you’re never too far gone for God and He always has a solution and a plan for you. I pray that you have love and compassion when you see someone at their lowest and can see them with the heart of our good Father. I pray you grow closer to Him and that His grace, love and mercy become the words you speak and the actions you do. I pray you find His peace and you see how God can turn “this kid” into one of the best things that’s ever happened to you, just like He did for me.

God of Today

Graduation is right around the corner. Pictures of so many kids I have seen grow up right before my eyes are flooding Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. There’s a small ache in my heart because next year, my baby will be one of the many high school graduate pics flooding your news feeds and I can’t help but ask myself, “Where has the time gone”?

Time never apologizes for moving forward, whether you’re ready or not. It marches on and doesn’t wait for you to catch up. Lately I’ve felt like I’m waiting on pins and needles for something to happen. So much so, that ugly little parasite “anxiety” has started snooping around again. Maybe it’s all of the change that’s coming my way, or maybe not. In just a year, I’ll be one of those mommas posting pics of her baby in a cap and gown! Yikes!

There’s a nervousness lurking around. The kind where I feel like if anything out of the ordinary were to happen (good or bad), I’d throw up. I feel like I’m living on a ledge and I’ve been there a little too long now. That’s not peace, it’s uncertainty. It’s anxiety in pure form and totally exhausting. I don’t want to live there, so I’ve been praying.

This past season of my life, He’s been teaching me how to trust Him for the day. He’s trustworthy for all of my days; past, present and future. After all, He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8). But today He wants me to know Him as a present God. A God that has the future taken care of, and the past covered, and one who wants to meet with me now…today.

I tend to live in the past and the future, totally forgetting to live in the present. Let me explain. If I’m not worrying about tomorrow, I’m beating myself up for mistakes from yesterday. In doing so, I completely miss out on His goodness and faithfulness today. I struggle with believing He’s handled my past, and is handling my future. I can be sure of that though because His love and faithfulness covers ALL, and transcends ALL. Time included.

Because I struggle with trHourglassusting Him in those areas, I spend all of my time in the present fretting and not enjoying what He has for me today. Now it makes sense why time seems to go by so quickly. I’m not living in and enjoying it, I’m living somewhere else!

Today I am going to focus on Him in the here and now. I pray you will too.

I pray you enjoy every single precious minute He’s given you. I pray you receive that He is a God that transcends time. He’s trustworthy for your WHOLE life. I pray you will see His faithfulness in the past, trust His plans for you for the future and receive His provision, love and faithfulness for you today as you read this. I pray you enjoy a full life with Him. A full life that’s possible because He made a way for you before you ever knew you would need it, through His Son. I pray you find peace and rest in His plans for your future, peace and rest knowing He’s covered and redeemed your past. I pray you enjoy today, because He’s here with you…right now. 

More Than a Ticket to Heaven

What are you worth? If you were to be bought today for a price today, what do you think the price tag would read? $1000? $1 million? Maybe yours would say, “Damaged 50% off” or “$10,000 OBO” maybe even “Priceless”. I myself didn’t realize I had an internal measure of self-worth until my loving God pointed it out to me.

While listening to some music on a drive yesterday afternoon, He said to me “You are worthy to receive My glory.” I’ll repeat that again because it’s definitely worth repeating. YOU…(Carolyn Ann Jackson)…are WORTHY to receive MY glory.” As I let this sink in, He began to reveal more and more to me.

The greatest gift of all time, the gift of the death, burial and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ was a gift that I am worthy of. He didn’t send Jesus for garbage, He sent Jesus for treasure.

He didn’t send Jesus for garbage, He sent Jesus for treasure.

It’s not like He said “Ehhh, I guess I can make a way for her. I’ll just squeeze her in riiiiight here.”

No, TREASURE. More like “How can I make a way for this precious girl to spend all of eternity with me?! I know! I’ll send my son!” I’ve always been precious to Him, worthy of Him from the beginning. I am worth Jesus to Him.

If I’m worthy of the greatest gift of all, then why wouldn’t I be worthy of any other good gift He wants to give me? It began with Jesus, but it doesn’t stop there. He proved His goodness once and for all with the cross, but that’s not where it stops. He keeps giving because giving is His nature.

For the longest time, I saw salvation as a ticket to get into Heaven and all of the other good gifts He has for me are to be received there. My ticket to heaven was the best gift of all, how could I ask for more? What I didn’t realize was the ticket was redeemable for not only salvation, which is priceless in and of itself, but the ticket also includes a full life here on this earth. (John 10:10) Today.Admit One

Included in the ticket is rest, provision, and hope. A relationship with the one true God. Grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. It’s not just a pass to enter into the pearly gates, but also for a full life today.

Today I pray you will accept His good gifts along with me. I pray you see that you too are worthy to receive His glory. I pray a prayer of thankfulness for His greatest gift of all in Jesus and His promises for a full life in Him. I thank Him for His kindness, and for the works He is doing in me and in the lives of His people, and that He is faithful to complete them. I am thankful that He never quits, never stops. I am thankful He always provides, always loves, and always brings peace and hope into any and all circumstances. I pray for a fresh revelation of the COMPLETE gift of Jesus, not just a ticket to Heaven, but one that’s redeemable for a lifetime of his love and faithfulness.

 

Proud to be Seen With Me

I remember my first Mother’s Day well. I had a week old baby in my arms who could barely hold his head up and couldn’t say one single word yet. He had the softest skin, the sweetest little cheeks, toes and fingers. He had a hairline like and old man. Bald and appeared to be receding.

He couldn’t do a single thing for himself. He depended on me to feed him, change him, bathe him and keep him warm. Yet my heart was a million times fuller than it had been just a week and a day earlier. I was BEAMING with pride!

This baby, MY baby was the most incredible thing I had ever laid my eyes on. I got excited over the most ridiculous things like newborn diapers, onsies with dinosaurs on them and tiny little toe nails. He took my breath away.

As I sat down looking over every little detail of him, the doorbell rang. I ran to answer it with my bundle of joy in my arms and opened the door to a delivery lady with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in her hands from my dad wishing me a happy first Mother’s Day.

“What a precious baby you have!” She said. “He must be days old!”

“One week!” I said absolutely exploding with pride and holding him at a better angle for her to see what I saw. I’m sure in her line of work, she’d seen hundreds of newborn babies and new mommas. But that didn’t stop me! I wanted her to get a GOOD look at him and tell me that was the cutest newborn baby she’d ever seen!

I tell you this not because Mother’s Day is approaching and you needed a reminder to go buy your momma a card, but because I wanted you to know the pride I had for my newborn baby that day. He was mine, a piece of me, my legacy, my flesh and blood. Years later he grew into an adorable toddler, curious preschooler and big brother to a sister whom I was equally proud of and melted over. Now they are 16 and 12 and my pride for them has only increased. They resemble me, their mannerisms are like mine, and their personalities are awesome! I love the uniqueness of them both and how they are their own person, but I also love how they are similar to me and fit right into their rightful places in our family.

Everywhere we go I am proud to be seen with them. They bring me joy, laughter and make our family complete. When I think of the way my heart swells with pride for my children, I can’t help but think this is how my Heavenly Father thinks of me.

I fit in His family. I am uniquely me, and yet I still carry the characteristics of my Father. He’s proud of me not for my accomplishments or how well I behave, but simply because I am His. Before I ever began my relationship with Him, He was proud of me, just like I was proud of that little baby who couldn’t even hold his head up. And like I was proud to show that brand new baby off to the florist, He’s proud to be seen with me.

The revelation of this truth for me broke off some heavy chains of shame, self doubt and lack of confidence. If He’s proud to be seen with me, I can be proud to be seen with me! No more shame, feeling like I don’t belong or don’t fit in. No more fear of being me! He’s proud of me people! And He’s proud to be seen with you too. Not because of what you’ve done, or what you can offer, but just because you’re you. He adores your toenails, your hands and feet, your hairline…even those that are receding. He loves everything about you and you never have to do a thing to earn it. He’s proud of you. I know like me, someone needs to hear this.

My prayer for all who read this post is that you will receive His pride and love for you. I pray you will know that it’s not what you do, but it’s because He created you and because you simply exist. You belong to Him and you have a perfect place in His family (Psalm 68:6). I pray EVERYWHERE you go, and in EVERYTHING you do, you know that He is proud to be seen with you. Even in your darkest places. I pray when you’re struggling in those dark and hard places, you will remember that He is still with you, and He is STILL proud of you, so much so He sent His Son for you. You are His. I pray you look for Him in those places, look for Him in the everyday ordinary things and know you are loved and that He is BEAMING with pride for you.

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Click HERE to hear the song that inspired this post. Pieces by Bethel Music