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.

Jesus Paid it All, All to Him I…?

If you’ve been in the church world for any amount of time, you may be able to finish the line from this song, if not, I’ll finish it for you…”Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.”

‘Owe’ is a strong word, a word that carries a certain weight to it. When I hear the word owe, I think of debt, I think of being in the red, not reconciled and unsettled. When we accept the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross, God accepts this as a payment for our sin. Paid in Full. Full…means everything, all paid up, good to go, free and and clear. Somewhere along the way in my journey this amazingly awesome FREE gift got twisted and I got confused. This song didn’t help much either. What do I owe Jesus?

When praying about working in ministry, God asked me why I ever got started in the first place. Why I thought a job in ministry was where I belonged.

My reply was immediate, I was so sure of it! “Because You saved me God! You rescued me from a self destructive pit of depression and despair. You gave me life when I thought mine was over. Why wouldn’t I want to work for you? I owe you my life because you gave me yours!” His response to me was one I wasn’t prepared for, and one I think about often now. “Baby, if  you owe me anything, then salvation isn’t free.” 

iou-note-i-owe-you-eggnob-wallpaper-size1680x1050-date15aug2010a

I’ve spent the better part of 6 months trying to let that one sink in. “If I owe Him anything, then salvation isn’t free.” Yikes…when the realization of how much of my 16 year walk with God has been trying to pay Him back for the gift He gave me, I feel so silly.

This explains so much. Why I work at all stems from the lie that I owe God. I work because I owe Him, I go to church because I owe Him at least that much. I try and do good things and be a ‘good’ Christian because I owe him. I have to get my crazy issues under control because I owe Him. But the truth is, I owe Him nothing. Not one cent, not one minute of my life, not one thought, good deed, perfect behavior or good choice.

The moment I began to align myself with this truth, the power of the free gift of salvation actually drew me closer to Him, not further away. It didn’t become a free pass to do whatever I wanted. It made me love and go crazy for the One who would do such a thing for me.

The ‘it’ I’m referring to is GRACE. Grace drew me in, GRACE sustains me, GRACE keeps me coming back for more. Because of His GRACE, I want to do good things and with His power, I am doing, can do and will do those very things. It’s the same ‘it’ referred to in this Bible passage…“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. IT teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” Titus 2:11 – 12. IT = GRACE.

If you are anything like me, you probably beat yourself up over your failures and have trouble letting them go. But can I ask you this? If God doesn’t hold them against you, why do you? God calls you a son/daughter (Galatians 4:5-7) we don’t need to worry about the things we’ve done and are doing. We can remember who we are and how much we are loved. If you don’t believe it, ask Him to show you and to help you believe! He will not disappoint.

My prayer for this post is for anyone who reads it to receive every bit of freedom He has for you through the gift of His Son Jesus. I pray you work WITH Him and not FOR Him. I pray you let yourself off the hook and let His GRACE wash over you. I pray you let Him in, let Him draw you in and stop pushing yourself so hard. I pray you align yourself with His truth as He reveals the beauty and depth of His gift of salvation. From this place I pray you live your life, do the work He has joyfully given you to do and discover more of who you are and were created to be in the journey. Blessings to you my blog reading friends!