Where Were You?

Job. Not one of the most encouraging books in the Bible. In fact, at times, it’s just plain ole depressing. But now, this book found in the Old Testament is one of my absolute favorites. Not because of its relate-able suffering, but because of the sovereignty of God revealed within its pages.

My sweet family is finally coming out of one of the hardest seasons of our lives and I can say that Job and I had a lot in common through it all. Although we did not suffer in the exact same ways, the pain, confusion, frustration and desperation we felt mirrored each other almost perfectly. For the first time in my life I felt abandoned by God. Hopeless.

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In two years time, I left a job I loved, lost my beloved grandparents, had surgery, had a physical condition that was bizarre and took several doctors and months to diagnose, fell into a deep depression and suffered with debilitating anxiety and panic attacks that left me completely at the mercy of my family and friends. Just like Job, I found myself asking God “Where are you?!” Begging Him to heal me, give me peace and change my circumstances. I felt abandoned by the One who I thought I could always count on.

I wish I could say He gave me some great miraculous encounter that changed everything in an instant, but that’s not my story. He didn’t do what I wanted Him to do. He didn’t heal like I wanted Him to heal. He didn’t provide like I wanted Him to provide. He did not relieve my symptoms like I wanted Him to relieve them. He didn’t even speak to me the way I was used to hearing His voice. I was ready to throw in the towel, quit Him and this whole Christian thing for good. However, even in this difficult adversity I learned a lesson that will not soon be forgotten about the goodness of God.

Back to my friend Job. The only thing that brought any semblance of peace was remembering what little control I had over my circumstances. I know not being in control actually has the opposite effect on most people, but for me, this truth brought peace. Peace because of the words in Job 38-41. (Click the link for the complete text.) In this passage I was reminded of the power of God. His sovereignty. That no matter what I was going through, the one who laid the Earth’s foundation is the one who DOES have control. The one who tells the lightening where to strike, who set the stars in the sky and calls them each by name (Psalm 147:4). In reading this I was blown away by the power of God, the sheer weight of His glory and strength. The creator of the universe and all within it, is in control. He hasn’t left me, or abandoned me. Just because that’s the way I felt, didn’t mean it was the truth. In fact, He used that passage in Job to speak to me in a new way. I think Job and I got the same message. We didn’t understand the things that we were going through, or the reasons for it all, but God did…and does. And not only does He understand, He’s also patient and compassionate.

My husband and I have never been closer and I have never been more sure of my family’s love for me. In all of the junk that we experienced, we’ve come out stronger, closer to each other and closer to God. Life has seasons. Some good, some great, some bad, and some miserable. That’s part of being in this world. But one thing I know now for sure is that God is sovereign, never forgets and never leaves us alone. God doesn’t work on our time table, or do the things we think are the most important, but He’s still good.

I’m thankful that this season is finally coming to a close, but I’m even more thankful for my new revelation of God. If you are going through a rough season, please be comforted by the fact that you control nothing, but He controls everything. May you have peace knowing that He hears you, sees you and isn’t through with you or your circumstances yet. Remember this, the One who told the sun to split the night open is the same One who hears your cries, and know how many hairs are on your head.

This song brought me so much comfort. I hope you’ll take time to listen and maybe be comforted too. Where Were You? by Ghost Ship

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. 

A Prayer and Declaration for Today

God,

Today I pray and declare, I am blessed by You. Restored by You. Redeemed by You. Loved and treasured by You. Full of hope and authority from You and with You. I have great things coming my way because my Father promised me and because He is good. I have unlimited resources FOR ME readily available right now. I have everything I need to be a co-laborer with Christ and to do the good works that He has prepared in advance for me to do.

Today, I will focus on my good good Father and the love He has for me and His people. Today I will ask Him to set others free. Today I will pray for breakthrough for all of my family and friends. For those He puts in my path and in my heart. Today I will see the goodness of the Lord in my life and the lives of others. Today I will recognize those things, call them forth into the lives of others and declare His works are alive and active.

He is the same God of yesterday, today and tomorrow. I know His works well in my life and in the lives of His people in this age and from before. I am confident of His good works in the future and beyond my generation and my children’s generation. I will remember His good gifts to me and I will talk about them with love and thanksgiving.

I am thankful for You God. You are faithful, full of life and love. The life and love You have are for ME. Today, I take my portion and thank You for giving me double.

Today I say to the world “He is good. His mercy, love, faithfulness, hope and good gifts are for all of His people. Won’t you join me in receiving?”

Today I declare Your goodness to all of the nations. What You have done, what You are doing and what You still have yet to do. I am thankful. I am proud to be Your daughter and proud to be seen with YOU. God, fill my heart with more of Your hope. Fill my mouth with praises and fill my life with more of of You.

Be blessed by me today Lord, in all the ways that I can. I want to serve You. I am thankful You call me friend. In our friendship, we have dreamed great dreams together. In our relationship we have come to know each other and I have come to understand my earthly limitations and how You designed me to be mighty and powerful and live beyond them with You.

Today, I accept what You chose to give me and pray for the opportunity to use it and give it all away. I am thankful for You God.

In Jesus’ name…Amen.

Jackson Family Fall 2014_MG_0401-c

 

 

You Are Not a Robot

 

I was bathing my then 4 year old daughter one evening after dinner. Earlier that day she had been to preschool at our church where they were rehearsing some songs for the end of the year program. As she slid all over the bathtub, she belted out from the top of her lungs a song they were teaching her.

She sang “I am a friend of God, I am a friend of GOOOOOOOD…I am a friend of GOOOOD…He calls me NAMES!”

She kept singing, totally oblivious to the fact she had messed up the lyrics. The real lyrics are “I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God He calls me friend.” Not only did she add an extra UMPH to the word God, but she also said He calls her names. I tried not to hurt her feeling by bursting out loud with laughter, but it was too hard to keep it in.

She heard me laugh and said “Mommy, what’s so funny?”

“Nothing baby.” I replied with a big ole’ smile on my face. “I like the way you sing that song.”

The song in it’s original form reminded me of a prayer I had prayed to God earlier that same year. I attended my very first Bible study and for the first time I heard the video teacher say we can be friends with God. Friends with God? That was a weird and uncomfortable statement for me, but there it was in plain view. Right there in the Bible, James 2:23 “And the scripture was fulfilled that says “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend”

Wait, what? God as a friend? Up until that point, it had never even crossed my mind that God could be a friend. I always thought He was too big, too powerful, too boss/master like to be a friend. But I thought I’d ask Him if we could be friends anyway.  

Fast forward to now. My sweet little preschool baby girl is now in middle school and I am now fully receiving my friendship status with God.

A few months ago I wrote a post on depression. (Feelings Vs. Truth) I was in a pretty nasty slump and found myself sleeping all day, eating tons of junk food and getting little to no exercise.

I told him “Father, you’ve got to help me out of this. I have no structure in my life now that I’m not working. I need you to tell me what time I need to get up, what to eat and when, when to exercise. I need you to function. I don’t want to just sleep my days away anymore. I need rules to be a better me!”

protocol-robot-ms294-2He replied “You are not a robot and I am not your programmer.”

I instantly got it. Our relationship is much more personal than that! He’s not my boss, he’s my friend.  Over the years, we’ve grown into friendship with each other. My prayer had been answered and I didn’t even know it.

I realized how our relationship has progressed from the beginning to where we are today. I went from slave, to servant, to friend. A sermon from Bethel Church (God on Mute) illustrates this beautifully. I’ll try to paraphrase – “As a slave, we receive a list of to-do’s from our master. As a servant, we spend some time with the master and maybe even go into his house, but we still carry out the to-do’s. As friends…we hang out together, eat meals together. We dream up new things together, tell each other secrets and share a personal intimacy. There are still things to be done, but now we are co-laborers and we do it together. ”  

Friends don’t set rules for each other. Friends dream together. Friends plan for their future together. Friends become like each other.

Don’t get me wrong. God is still fully God. Still the creator of the universe, and I do submit to his authority, but our relationship has reached a whole new level. We dream together now. There are things I’ve wanted to do for a very long time with him that align with who he is. In fact, right now, in this very moment of our relationship, we’re dreaming up something HUGE together and I can’t wait to share it! It’s too early still, but when the time is right, you bet I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops! 

I dream and create with God because he is more than a master, he is my friend.

I realize he didn’t give me a list of rules on how to be a better me like I wanted him to, not because he was being cold or distant, but because he trusts me in our relationship. He knows I’ll listen to him if I’m getting off track. He knows I’ll come to him if I need help or guidance. He’s equipped me to make decisions and because we are in constant contact, my decisions will be influenced by him because we are friends.

I pray that you too receive your identity as a friend of God. I pray that you live in the freedom of knowing you’re a son or a daughter of not only the best Father in the world, but the best Friend in the world too. I pray you walk in confidence, a confidence that can only come from God. I pray you know he is your biggest fan and he will never leave you. I pray you dream BIG dreams with him! Dreams that impact your world and the people you know and love forever. I pray you spend lots of time at his table hanging out, remembering how he’s always been a faithful friend. I pray the two of you talk about your future and most importantly, grow in your friendship.