I See You, But Do You See ME?

i-see-you-but-can-you-see-meHave you ever had life circumstances hit you hard? I have. A while back I was blindsided by some circumstances causing me to become emotionally unstable, stressed, and weary. My thoughts were confusing and irrational. The more I tried to think clearly, the more deeply I fell into despair. I prayed, journaled, spoke with others, cried, and exercised hoping for a reprieve. I believed Isaiah 26:3 to be true so I pressed in and rolled the words over and over in my mind, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” But instead, my thoughts were inconsistent. I felt like my world was falling apart.

Can you relate?

Have you ever been desperate for God to speak, “Peace, be still,” so that your circumstances would miraculously change for the better?

During one of those trying days, God used a simple penny and a song to speak peace into my soul. He may not have spoken audibly but I heard Him loud and clear.

I made a trip to the store and prayed before I got out of my car, “Lord, speak. Help me.” I had hoped to make it in and out of the store without anyone seeing or speaking to me. As I pushed my cart along the side of my car a penny on the ground caught my attention. (Side note: The inscription on pennies, “In God We Trust,” reminds me to trust God. I always keep them as a reminder.) As I looked at the penny it was as if God said, “I see you, but do you see ME? I did not want to be honest with God but I was and told Him “No.” I was blinded by my circumstances, emotions, and confusion. I asked Him to open my eyes and mind to be able to see Him. After loading my purchase in the car, I got in and the radio was playing, “Just Be Held,” by Casting Crowns. Here are a few of the lyrics that spoke to me:

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place…

If your eyes are on the storm

You’ll wonder if I love you still

But if your eyes are on the cross

You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted

In time, you’ll understand

I’m painting beauty with the ashes

Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes

In the storm is where you’ll find Me

And where you are, I’ll hold your heart

I’ll hold your heart

Come to Me, find your rest

In the arms of the God who won’t let go

This experience opened my eyes to see Him. To see that He was with me. To see He was in control. To see He was working my brokenness into something useful. To see He is holy and still on the throne. I began sobbing because I felt God’s love and His presence.

I was doing what had brought peace to me in the past: praying, journaling, seeking counsel and exercising. I was trying to trust God with words but not with heart.

When we completely trust in God with ALL our heart, He exchanges our unrest for peace. As I fully abandoned to God my self-reliance, expectations, control, and grip on my circumstances He graced me with peace; A peace that immediately calmed my storm. Though my circumstances did not change, I changed. And because I changed, I can now walk in Isaiah 26:3.

Because I trust in You God, You will keep my mind in perfect peace. (my paraphrase)

Do you see God? He sees you.

Ask God to speak, and then listen and look for Him in the simple things. He is there!

Can I Have A Little More Time God

woman-sitting-on-edge-of-rock

It was during a Sunday morning worship service that the Lord impressed upon me to do something I never dreamed I would do. For years, I had been praying for confidence, growth in knowledge, security, and to become what I was meant to be in God’s eyes… Y’all, God was calling me to attend college after twenty years of being out of High School – which I barely graduated due to bad grades – Truth!

I had so many questions as to why He would choose such an avenue to answer those prayers. I was reluctant to follow Him because I had gotten comfortable praying. Just being honest! I thought those prayers would never get answered. Fear and the unknown gripped me. At that moment, He instructed me to step to the altar as an act of my surrender to His will and an abandonment of mine. Yikes! I began arguing with God. I told Him all the reasons why His timing was off. For one, the service had just started and it was not time for the “altar call.” Tradition says those are meant for the end of service, right? In my stance of pride, I told God I would surrender when I got home, in private. Well, that did not set well with the Holy Spirit and as I felt His presence resend I could not get to that altar fast enough!

I feared God at that moment more than I feared the unknown and the people that would witness my actions.

Have you ever argued with God?

Have you ever questioned His calling in your life?

Have you ever postponed obedience?

In the book of Matthew and Luke, there is a discussion between a couple of disciples and Jesus regarding the call to follow Him. One of them wanted to bury his father first, but Jesus told him to let the dead bury their own. This can sound cruel, but biblical commentators speculate that his Father was not dead and could live many years to follow. This disciple was asking for more time before stepping into obedience to Jesus’ call on his life.

Perhaps he feared his family and others would not understand why he was following Jesus. Perhaps the sacrifice of leaving his family and community was too weighty. Nonetheless, his response was inadequate to Jesus. Delayed obedience to Jesus is disobedience.

In Matthew 9:23 we learn that Jesus got in the boat and the disciples followed Him. They chose to sacrifice relationships, what was comfortable, and their reputation to follow Him. Their allegiance to Christ surpassed their allegiance to everyone and anything else.

No matter what God is calling us to, even if it doesn’t make sense right now, our faith at that moment must become bigger than our fears. God’s purpose for His calling is bigger than us.

If they had not followed Christ, they would have missed out on life-changing events. For instance, immediately after they had gotten in the boat with Jesus a horrific storm arose (Jesus never promised life would be without trials as they followed Him). Jesus got up from His seated position in the boat and rebuked the winds and the sea bringing about a great calm. Then, when they reached the other side they witnessed Jesus commanding demons, with one word “go,” to flee from two possessed men into a herd of pigs that ran off into the sea drowning. To read the full story go to Matthew 8:23-34.

If I had not followed Jesus’ call that day, during worship, I would have sacrificed seeing Him work in my life. I would have missed experiencing God and Him answering prayers from years ago. I gained confidence, started a small business, and graduated with honors… Me? With honors? Only God could pull that off. The sacrifice was uncomfortable, and it was hard. But living in disobedience to a call you may not fully understand forges greater sacrifice and heartache.

Is God calling you to something bigger than yourself? Are you hesitating to follow Him?

If it is a clear call from God don’t argue.  Don’t question.  Trust Him. Choose to step into His boat and follow Him. He will calm the storms of life and He will protect you because you are His and He loves you with an everlasting love. He will never call you to anything that is not intended for your good and His glory. Romans 8:28-30

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” (Psalms 56:3 NIV)

 

 

 

 

It’s Okay To Be Perfectly Imperfect

fullsizerenderAre you familiar with the “mannequin challenge” shared throughout social media? When the word is said, everyone freezes in their position capturing the moment in mid-stream. This caused me to reflect on my challenge during a high school elective class where I had the opportunity to work as a real-life mannequin. During an open house event, I was challenged to mirror a department store mannequin marketing retail clothing. As I stepped onto the platform I stepped into someone I was not. Perfect. Flawless. Perfectly put together.  I took my place ready to appear fake, holding a plastic smile as if life was without trouble. Many attempted to break my polished pose by cracking jokes, poking me, or waiting to catch me blink. But, if my memory serves me, I fooled them all. (Insert smirking grin here.)

Have you ever tried being someone you’re not?

Is your exterior perfect, when inside you are undone?

Do you try and convince others you have everything together when you’re dying inside?

We protect ourselves from being real and raw, so we won’t get hurt. We convince ourselves that if people knew the real us, they would mock us, reject us, or condemningly judge us.

John 4:1-42 tells a story of a Samaritan woman, also known to us as the “woman at the well.” She too tried to avoid exposing her real self, but Jesus saw through her. On the outside, she was put together, strong, and confident. But on the inside she was a mess, lonely, broken, and lost.

As this woman engaged in conversation with Jesus he did not condemn her. He did not walk away. He did not discard her. He engaged with her because He could see through her mess, pain, and brokenness.  He saw potential, beauty, purpose, and a heart that longed to be loved; truly loved in a way only He could fulfill.

My favorite part of her story is what happened once she stopped trying to be someone she was not. God used her to win her town for Christ! She was so free from the bondage of her own making that her image of perfection on the outside was no longer needed. She now had everything she ever needed, Christ Himself.

The day I posed as a mannequin I learned a few life lessons:

  • Being fake does not invite people in, but pushes them away.
  • People know when you are fake.
  • It’s exhausting trying to be someone you’re not!
  • It bears no good fruit.
  • Loneliness becomes your only companion.

God designed us for relationship. Authentic relationship. We need friends that don’t have it all together and that share in similar life struggles. We need perfectly imperfect relationships, so we can be who we are. Flawed. Broken. Crazy. Dorky. Weepy. Funny. Scared. Needy. Perfection was only meant to be achieved by one person, Jesus. So, let’s authenticate our smile, breathe a little deeper, accept we need one another, and step off the platform into our perfectly imperfect selves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways To Help Your Man Be The Leader You Desire

I recently wrote an article for a friend of mine, Bobi Ann Allen. She is a Pastor’s wife and ministry leader that loves Jesus wholeheartedly. Her joy for the Lord is contagious and I am blessed to call her friend. I love her and you will too!

I am honored to share with her some of my experiences in life and marriage.

Check out the article, “5 Ways To Help Your Man Be The Leader You Desire,” on her site, BobiAnn.com.

Perspective — Contagious Joy

This is an article I wrote for my friend Diane Nix which appeared on her site yesterday! Thank you Diane for the opportunity. Enjoy! Jodi…

ornament

In 1995 I received a tree ornament from my oldest son that he made in daycare. This one has his handprint and a conversation recorded on the back about what he wanted for Christmas that year. It goes like this: Miss Lavran: “What is Santa Claus bringing you this year?” Dillon: “Something. Blue toys, I…

To read more of the story click below.

via Perspective — Contagious Joy

What To Do When You’re Falling Apart

anchor

I’ve known Christ as my Savior for thirty years and I’ve learned I’m not immune to falling apart, losing hope, and being trapped in my despair. I’ve also learned that God is patient and faithful to repair my brokenness. During my teenage years, I lost my mom to breast cancer. A year and a half before her death I asked God to save me and began a relationship with Him. However, I grew tremendously angry at God when she died. I was tossed around by my emotions and became battered by my unhealthy decisions. I began falling apart because I chose not to be anchored by God’s love, promises, or plans any longer. I was so blinded by my anger I kept drifting farther away from God. I simply did not believe Him nor trust Him for His promises. I desperately needed some sort of hope in the midst of my despair, but everything I attempted to anchor to let me down. God was patient with me for four years of my mess. It wasn’t until I gave up trying to live life without Him that He came rushing in to restore me. As I recognized He was willing to let me start over and put the pieces back together, I found He was gently covering me with His grace, mercy, and restored hope. Hope in a God I belonged to and could trust even when things did not feel good or make sense.

Have you found yourself falling apart lately?

Maybe you are losing your cool with your kids, husband, coworker…

Maybe you are receiving one bad diagnosis after another and you can’t handle another ounce of bad news.

Maybe your anxiety attacks are impacting your way of life like never before.

Maybe you have lost a loved one recently or long ago and you desperately miss them causing sleepless nights…

Whatever is causing you to fall apart I want you to know there is hope in your despair!

In Acts 27 the apostle Paul is a prisoner being transported by ship to Rome.  During the journey, they encounter a fierce storm causing fear and panic. On a couple of occasions, they lowered anchors which are meant to dig into the sea bottom to keep the vessel from drifting. To no avail, their ship was battered and falling apart by the raging waves and wind. However, Paul was encouraged and at peace in the midst of the storm. Verses 22-26 gives us insight as to why he was:

22 Now I urge you to take courage, because there will be no loss of any of your lives, but only of the ship. 23 For this night an angel of the God I belong to and serve stood by me, 24 and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. And, look! God has graciously given you all those who are sailing with you.’25 Therefore, take courage, men, because I believe God that it will be just the way it was told to me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island.”

Paul was anchored to believing God for His promises and plans even during this time of being battered by the waves, tossed around by the wind, and navigationally disoriented. If he had not been confident in God, he would have fallen apart like the other 276 on board and like us at times.

God had a plan and purpose in allowing Paul to travel in the midst of the storm. God used him to demonstrate faith and trust in the God he belonged to so that others may be saved and for God to be magnified. Paul showed them that they too could have hope in the midst of their despair if they would anchor themselves in God. Though their sails were torn, their ship was battered, and they had wandered off course, God had them completely in His grasp.

In whatever way you are falling apart, God just may be in the midst of it. Pause and see what you are anchored to. If it is anything other than God, His word, His promises, His ways, or His authority, pull up anchor and cast it onto Him. He is your stay. He will help you navigate through your brokenness and your storm.

If I had known as a teenager that God was indeed working out His promise and that I could trust Him, I would not have drifted so far from Him. But, because of that horrific storm in my life, I now know that I can believe God and trust Him for who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do. So when I fall apart and begin losing hope I know to evaluate where and what I am anchored to. God is gracious to allow you and me do-overs and second chances. Without that, I would have sunk a long time ago. Praise God for His longsuffering and permanent love for you and me.

I Was Not Honest With God

listening-to-music-relaxing-meadow

Can you recall a time you were ministered to through song? Maybe it led you into deeper intimacy with God, brought joy to a sad season, caused praise to be on your lips as opposed to grumbling, or reminded you that you’re not alone. Maybe only a phrase of it jumped into your heart causing an impact in your moment.

It is not uncommon for God to use songs to refine my walk with Him. On one particular day while driving around, running errands, Francesca Battistelli’s song, “If We’re Honest” came on the radio. One part of her song resonated with me, “Mercy is waiting on the other side if we are honest.” It was as if God was saying, “Jodi, you have not been completely honest with ME and that is why you are struggling to find MY peace.” I wanted to slam on the brakes! I had recently brought Him several weighty concerns. I wanted to defend myself before God and remind Him of my surrender of them. However, as I searched my heart and re-evaluated my actions it became clear. I managed to withhold just enough from Him so I could still have some control, some say so, and some influence on my outcome.

What was I thinking?

Why was I not trusting God with it all?

How about you? Do you struggle to surrender to God?

I am aware that for some the word surrender does not set well. I mean who wants to tap out and give up? But with the proper perspective, surrender is a worship word. When we are willing to let go of anything that hinders our relationship with God, allowing Him to be Lord of our lives, we are demonstrating God is God and we are not.

Jesus implores us to release our everything to Him. Consider the following scriptures:

“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NKJV)

We have permission to reassign responsibility on God for all the details, all our worries, and the outcome of it all.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NKJV)

When we fully surrender to Him we are grafted into His plans and His ways and can do anything through Him.

“…Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34 NKJV)

Why would we not want to deny ourselves of worry, anxiety, confusion, despair…? Perhaps we cannot see the mercy He will give us on the other side. Mercy that gently loves us, covers us and restores us to Himself. Or perhaps it is because we lack faith in a trustworthy God.

As I considered what God revealed to me about not being honest with Him, I repented seeking His forgiveness. Why, might you ask? Because I was indeed telling Him that I could not trust Him with my concerns and I was trying to be god and lord of my circumstances. Immediately upon my repentance, God provided a peace I cannot explain and the fruit of my obedience was more than I deserved. Over those next few days, God’s mercy and grace walked me through a trying time of medical test, surgery, and recovery that apart from Him I would have been a hot mess.

To be honest with you surrendering to God is easier said than done, and I fail at it way too often. However, it is a necessary action if we truly want to walk in obedience allowing Him to be Lord and authority in our lives. The next time you hear your favorite song played, ask God to allow it to fall afresh on your ears. He may use it to impact your moment like never before.

What do you need to be honest with God about today? Mercy is just on the other side!

For fun, I have broken the word surrender down so we can remember the blessing behind the action.

Submit

Unleash

Release                                     The Action of Surrender

Reassign

Emptying


Newness

Dependence                            The Promise of Surrender

Entering

Rest