Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

My Life as a Buckeye

One of the special joys I’ve come to revel in lately is hearing Jesus speak to me. I love to hear His voice. At times He speaks and I hear His giggle.

Like the times I’ve been walking and I’ll hear Him say, “Look down!” And there on the sidewalk at my feet is a nut. You know the kind that goes with a bolt. And I hear His sweet laughter as we share a joke about finding myself on the walk.

Or there is the time I was praying for Him to give me my own special shape. The day last March I walked home from the coffee shop, stopped to tie my shoes and found a nickel there on the sidewalk. I heard His voice as clear as a bell on that cold, frosty morning, “This is your shape!” (You can read more of that story here.)

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There have been times He has spoken things that weren’t funny but were necessary to my soul. He has talked of truth and lies, He has shown me lies I’ve believed. And He has blessedly spoken His wonderful Truth into those lies and I’ve felt them release their death grip on me.

He has, at times, spoken words of correction. At times I’ve heard Him shout to get my attention because I dead set on doing things my way.  He has spoken sternly to me, but always with an undercurrent of love.

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So yesterday when I heard Him speak to me as I left the office it wasn’t a surprise. As I walked towards my car, one foot lifted, ready to take the next step when He spoke:
“Look down!”
I set my foot back down and cast a glance at my feet, there I saw a nearly perfectly formed buckeye.

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One day I had asked a friend of mine what a buckeye was exactly. He told me “A worthless nut.” You can’t do anything with a buckeye, you can’t eat them or make nut butter. The only thing a buckeye is good for is planting to grow a nice shade tree.

I stooped down, picked up the buckeye, and rubbed my fingers over it’s smooth surface. And I felt the presence of my Jesus well-up in me as I heard Him say, “You are a worthless nut who has found her worth in Me.”

And I couldn’t breathe for the wonder and the glory of it.

I am just a worthless nut apart from Jesus. I’m totally and completely worthless. I am a complete waste of cells, breath, life. I’m a worthless human. I’m no good to anyone for anything.  Completely worthless.

And so are you.

But in Jesus! Because of Jesus we have great worth! We aren’t worthless we have value because He has value! My value doesn’t rest in my address, my job, my family, my man, my children, or my friends. My value, my worth is only found in Jesus. I can look for it in other things and people but I won’t find it. I will push and shove and try to force others to make me feel valuable and for a time they will. Maybe. But it’s always only for a short time. And then they get frustrated or I get frustrated and I’m back to searching for my next value fix as I’m left feeling more like this:

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Broken. Forced open. And cracked.

When I think I need to tell someone what they mean to me, I’m really looking for them to meet some need in my life, probably to make me feel valuable. I’m demanding them to meet my need for affirmation, affection, admiration, and acceptance. Because when I feel these I feel valued, but when I don’t feel it my value dips.

I need–we all need–to look first to Jesus to meet those needs. And then from an overflowing heart that is fully convinced of it’s value in Him and His life, we are free to express to others our great affection for them without strings.  Because expressing affection to get our own needs meet is selfishly using others. No one likes to be used.

When we see ourselves as we are in Jesus, just a worthless nut who finds her value in Him we will rock our world. He will take us,

“and we will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers”. (Psalm 1:3 nasb)

How do we find our value in Him? First we must realize that apart from Him we can do nothing. We are powerless. We have no control over anything, not even our next breath.

We also must realize as much as we can His great love for us. I struggle to think of anyone I would willingly lay aside my life for and die in their place. Especially not a stranger and an enemy. But that is exactly what Jesus did. Not because I’m worth it, or you’re worth it. Because we aren’t! But because of His love, He chose it.

We also must choose Him. And we must choose to believe Him. Take Him as His Word. Believe it. Even when the truth of it sounds like a lie, we choose to believe the Truth that sounds like a lie over the lie that sounds like the truth.

To do that we must spend time with Him. We must submit fully to Him, His Lordship and His authority.  Oh how it’s hard. And oh how it hurts. But it’s the only way. It’s the way of the cross.  Yes, it’s in Ann Voskamp‘s vernacular “the broken way.” The only way to live broken is to be broken and offer up our brokenness, our broken pieces to Him. Sometimes we get to choose our breaking and other times life just seems to smash and break us. But we always get to choose our response to our brokenness. We can fight it, blaming God. Or we can run to Him with it and in it and allow Him to work through it for His Life, Light and Glory.

So I will choose to revel in my position as a worthless nut because I know my worth and value are found in Him alone.

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Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

Trust

20170715_065750Lately Jesus has been talking to me about trust. In the words of Inigo Montoya, “I do not think it means what you think it means” has been what He has told me the most.

You see I always thought that trust was earned, easily broken, and nearly impossible to replace once broken. Trust was something you gave to only a select few and when your trusted persons quota was filled up you simply stopped trusting. There was no room for any more trust in people. If someone broke the trust you had in them, you were free to not trust anyone ever again.

Because it wasn’t worth the risk.

But then I met a woman who had written off people, mainly adults, as being completely untrustworthy by the age of 5. The age of 5! When she was in kindergarten she knew she couldn’t trust adults to care for her and had written them off, all of them. To say she had a chip on her shoulder in kindergarten would be an understatement.

The more I spent time with her the more I realized that she had much to teach me about trust. Something didn’t ring true about her feelings about trusting people. In her mind no one was to be trusted, not people and definitely not God.

Heaven forbid one should trust God. That was crazy.

Only it wasn’t. The more time I spent with this woman the more I realized the lies she was feeding me. Yes, to be sure there are people that can’t, or maybe even shouldn’t be trusted. But to think that no one can be trusted, and God can’t be trusted? What a sad, sad existence that would be.

I read on this on twitter the other day,

Maybe we can’t trust our whole lives to Him yet, but perhaps we can trust God with today & see what happens. Maybe we will be surprised. (Melissa Moore)

My thought and response then was, “I don’t know. If I don’t think I can trust Him with tomorrow will I really trust Him with today?”

So many of us have grown up thinking there is only so much love, so much trust to go around and when we’re out of it, we’re out of it. So we have to use it, give it a way wisely because you can never get it back.

Simply put, that is a lie. Especially for a believer.

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Back in the 1980’s, musician Steve Camp recorded a song that became very popular, “Love’s not a feeling”. We all applauded the new thought that love wasn’t a feeling, but a choice. It was a commitment. Then DC Talk appeared on the scene with their song, “Luv is a verb”. That showed us love is action, it’s what we do not just what we feel. And we applauded some more.

Love is a choice. It is active, but it isn’t what we do, it’s WHO we are. Because Love lives inside of us if we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Love is our nature. Love isn’t a feeling. Love isn’t a choice. Love isn’t a verb. Love is a Person.  Love is Jesus.

Plain and simple. It’s Jesus.

So what does love have to do with trust? Everything. Just as love is a choice so is trust. We choose to trust. We choose to see people as trustworthy. Even after our trust has been broken or violated.

Trust is a choice. And we can make it as many times as we need to. Or want to.

The choice to not trust is also always ours. We don’t have to trust anyone. But why would anyone choose to live in that misery?

Not this woman. And not the woman I mentioned earlier. You see, she’s had a change of heart, a Jesus-sized change of heart.

But how? How could she just change her mind, her heart on the issue of trust? I’ve heard her story and if anyone should get a pass on trusting people, it’s her. But she chooses to trust. Over and over again. It’s hard, I can tell that by looking into her eyes, but you know what else I see mirrored there? A steely determination, the kind that only comes from knowing and loving Jesus. The determination that says the enemy has taken enough years, he’s devoured enough of her and with Jesus to lead her, to guide her, she will trust.

Because people are trustworthy? In her eyes that is almost laughable. No. Because Jesus is.

She can trust others because she trusts Him. She doesn’t need to trust others to learn how to trust Jesus. She knows that if she can trust Him, if she entrusts her whole being to Him, she knows she can trust people.

The only blind trust she has is in Jesus. And even that isn’t all that blind. He has walked with her, talked with her, and taught her so much, she trusts His heart.

She knows people will fail. They will disappoint. But Jesus never will. There may be times it appears He is, but she knows, loves and trusts enough to know perceptions can be wrong and they can and will change.

But this fact remains, Jesus never changes. If He is trustworthy today, He was trustworthy yesterday, and He will be trustworthy tomorrow. And a forever’s worth of tomorrows.

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Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

All the Runners Run

Boy that is profound, isn’t it? All the runners run. Duh. That’s why they’re runners.

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I’ve long been a runner. Not always physically, but I’m a runner nonetheless. All of my life I kept running. Running from the boogey man, from pain, from fears, from people, from love, from Jesus.

Almost ten years ago I also started running physically. What great bringing together of the inside and outside of my life. Run away on the inside, run away on the outside.

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I recently spent a glorious week in beautiful Blue Springs, Missouri. We used to always joke that Missouri was really spelling M-I-S-E-R-Y. This week was anything but misery.  I was attending a rather intensive retreat and Jesus exploded all over this woman.

By all over, I really mean All. Over. Completely.

My prayer going into the retreat was that Jesus would ruin me for life as normal. That I would  have zero desire to ever back to what my life had been like. He completely undid me!

I will never, ever forget my time there. I will never forget what He told me there. I will never forget the pictures He gave me.

I am ruined. Forever ruined by Him and for Him.

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If you were to zoom in on my necklace in the picture above you would find the pendant is a stick figure of a runner. Very much indicative of my life to date. I wore it with happiness.

Happiness but not joy.

I had been home for a just a couple of days at the most when I was putting the necklace back on one morning when I heard Jesus speak to my soul.

That isn’t who you are any longer. Throw it away. 

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I held it in my hands, looking at it. And again I heard Him speak,

That isn’t who you are any longer. Throw it away. 

My soul reacted with joyful abandonment. And I threw the necklace in the trash. I have been completely set free from my running from everything.

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Everything.

I still run. It just looks different now. Instead of running from, I run to. I run to Him. I run to life. I run to love. I run to joy. I run to friendships. I run and when I run I feel His pleasure.

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Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

The Truth about Me.

But God demonstrates His own love toward Virginia, in that while she was yet a sinner, Christ died for Virginia. Much more than having now been justified by His blood, Virginia shall be save from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:8-9)

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Therefore, having been justified by faith, Virginia has peace with God through her Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also she has obtained her introduction by faith into this grace in which Virginia stands, and she exults in hope of the glory of God and not only this, but Virginia also exults in her tribulations. Knowing that tribulations brings about perseverance and perseverance proven character, and proven character hope. And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within Virginia’s heart through the Holy Spirit who was given to her. For while Virginia was still helpless – at the right time Christ died for ungodly Virginia. (Romans 5:1-6)

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When I fully realize that all of everything I do is because of His grace toward me – I fully realize I have nothing to prove and therefore I have nothing to defend. (Romans 6:1-3)

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Therefore Virginia has been buried with Jesus through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so she too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

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Jesus died in the flesh, so I could live in the Spirit. (Romans 6:8-9)

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Lord, here I am –  a weak, frail, fleshly girl – I present to You my body as one alive from the dead. I present my members to You as instruments of Your righteousness. I place myself under Your grace –  because sin shall not be my master. (Romans 6:12-14)

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But THANKS be to God that though Virginia was a slave of sin, she became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which she was committed, and having been freed from sin, Virginia became a slave of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)

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Slave of Sin = Dead to Righteousness.
Slave of Righteousness = Dead to sin.
Alive to sin and the law = Dead to Righteousness and God
Alive to Righteousness and God = Dead to sin and the law.

I was made to die to the law through the body of Christ that I might marry (be joined to) Christ – every time I serve sin I am committing adultery. (Romans 7)

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There is therefore now no condemnation for Virginia who is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

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But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in Virginia, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to her mortal body through His Spirit who indwells her. (Romans 8:11)

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For Virginia has not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again…
BUT Virginia has received a spirit of adoption as a daughter by which she can cry out, Abba! Father! (Romans 8:15)

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Suffer – then Glory.
Suffering brings glorification. (Romans 8:17)

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Predestined.
Called.
Justified.
Glorified. (Romans 8:30)

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What then shall I say to these things? If God is for Virginia, who is against her? (Romans 8:31)

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When I am in tribulation, distress, being persecuted, in a famine, and naked, peril or seeing a sword (instrument of death), I think I have been separated from the love of Christ but that isn’t the TRUTH! I overwhelmingly conquer through Jesus who loves me through them. (Romans 8:37-39)

(all verse from the New American Standard Bible)

Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

Love Suffers

Love. It’s what we all want. What we all need. It is what we crave.

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But what does Love mean? What does it mean to live loved? Is that even possible? Is it possible to live loved all the time, even when we feel loved less than?

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I’ve mentioned a teary time or two that I’m reading Ann Voskamp‘s book, The Broken Way. I’m currently in a love-hate relationship with it. And with Ann. I mean nothing bad about Ann at all. Don’t misunderstand. But it’s like she lives in my town, or at least in my head and is pointing out all the places I need to change to grow.

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It was through her book I started putting a red cross on my wrist. As a reminder to me every day to live cruciform. To live in the shape of a cross every day. To remember the best gift is to love others. To remind myself to Be The Gift…to Give It Fully Today.

When I choose to focus on someone else who is just as needy as I am, to focus on them and meeting their needs, trusting the Meeter of my needs to meet my very great needs. When I do this then the healing of my broken and shattered places begins.

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When my healing begins, my cup is no longer empty.

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It’s a little oxymoronic I think to have a blog about my FULL cup when it seems my cup lives empty.

But that is how I am to live. I am to live empty, poured out, given out in love to the One who loves me.

“‘Love will always make you suffer. Love only asks, ‘who am I willing to suffer for?'”

Those words leaped of the page of Ann’s book last night.  I underline it in green, and read it over a few times. Trying to grasp the meaning. Rejecting the statement as impossibly untrue. Love doesn’t make you suffer. Love erases suffering.

Then I read further.

“Love, before it is anything, to be love at all, it is first patient. …patience is nothing but a willingness to suffer. Patience and the word passion, they both come from the exact same root word, patior, to suffer. …Passion embraces suffering because there’s no other way to embrace love. Love isn’t about feeling good about others; love is ultimately being willing to suffer FOR others.” (from Ann’s book, The Broken Way, page 137. emphasis mine.

And I was stopped dead in my reading tracks.

Love is being willing to suffer for others…because Jesus (LOVE) was willing to suffer for me.

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When the words you read make you jot down your thoughts on the other side of the page and then you take a moment to read them. The realization of my own black-hearted self-centeredness washed over me like a waterfall.

I can not say I love anyone if I am not willing to suffer for them. I can not.

I’m rather reserved with my “I love Yous” I am. They don’t come easy for me.

This doesn’t come easy for me either. Every time I have said it thus far in my life has more than likely been a lie. A complete fabrication. A lie I’ve said to make myself feel good and to make you feel good.

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The man I promised myself to in marriage. If I am not willing to suffer for him, I am not willing to love him.

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Those children that I gave birth to, if I’m not willing to suffer for them. I do not love them.

Those precious souls I’ve been blessed to have befriend this broken pile of flesh, if I’m not willing to suffer for them, I’m not willing to love them.

As painful as all of that was to realize, I knew in the very deepest part of my soul, if I am not willing to suffer for Jesus, I am not willing to love Him.

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If I am not willing to take up my cross and follow Him in the path of His suffering, joining in His suffering for me, then I am not willing to love Him.

And if I am not willing to love Him, I am not willing or able to love anyone else.

So my prayer for myself and you this Christmas season is simply to be willing to be willing to love Him as He loves us. To be willing to suffer for Him because that is the path to wholeness, life and love.

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Posted in Go MAD Monday, Jesus, Life as it happens.

I have cancer.

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I have cancer. I have cells in my body that are growing and multiplying at an alarming rate, eating all the good cells that surround them.

Given enough time, this cancer will kill me. I’m being eaten alive from the inside. Parts of me are eating other parts of me. To my very destruction. At this point I don’t know very much more than this. How long? I have no clue. Stage? No clue. All I know is this:

I have cancer.

Be joyful, when you hear you have cancer? I’m sure it can be done but for now I just have a big gaping hole where my heart used to be.

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Psalm 116:7b says “…The Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” This is bountiful? I thought it was supposed to be a good thing, His dealing bountifully with me. I thought the place of His bounty was the place of His blessing. Yet, this feels like a curse. A curse of death.

Which is the very thing He wants. He bids me to come and DIE. While all the time promising me life.

Abundant life.

How can I,  in the love of all things good,come and die and yet have abundant life?

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Blast those cancer cells!

Cancer is defined as: the cells that only benefit themselves. Cancer cells don’t look to benefit any other cell. They look after themselves only. Eating whatever they desire. They take care of themselves and only themselves. Not just taking care of themselves first, as we are told to do now.

They take care of themselves only and only take care of themselves. Wreaking havoc and destruction, bring death everywhere they go.

Now, I’m not talking about physical cancer here, I’m fine. Well I’m not fine, not at all fine. But the cancer is not to my physical body, but is in my soul.

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You see, I have a tendency to care for myself. First. And sometimes only. I do what benefits me the most. Above benefiting you.

Is it any wonder I’m broken? I ask you, is it any wonder?

Even as I’m drawing crosses on my wrist to remind me of the greatest Love imaginable. I’m choking on the cancer that is killing me slowly.  Even as I’m trying to live cruciform, in the very shape of the cross, arms spread wide open, embracing.

Welcoming.

I’m looking out for myself, and I might love you, but only so far as I’m benefited. If I can benefit I’m all about loving you, but if not chances are I’ll skip it.

Cancer. Cancer cells are the only cells that take care of themselves.

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I read that line in The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. And I sobbed as I realized I have cancer of the soul.

It is no coincidence that I read this chapter today. On Monday. The first day of my renewed, “Go MAD Monday”.  The day I’m supposed to be looking for others’ needs to meet, I’ve been wrapped up in myself and my own struggles. My sense of not belonging, not being wanted, in the way, abandoned, neglected, abused.

This journey to healing is a difficult one. Most days it’s all I can do to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. I hope I’m moving forward and not backward, but really I haven’t a clue what I’m doing or if I’m doing it right or if anything is being done. Anything good being done.

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Today was a hard day. Full of tears.  Tears running silent rivers down my cheeks, and full of fully body-shaking sobs. Sobs that took my breath away and I wondered if I’d ever be able to stop and just breathe again.

And I have cancer of the soul.

In an attempt to salvage part of this hard day, this day of tears and sobs, to combat the cancer of my soul, I took the 14-year old for coffee after her dance class. I bought her coffee. And I bought the coffee for the man in the big white Chevy pick up behind me.

Maybe that was the right thing to do to fight this cancer that is eating my soul. Keeping my focus on myself and my own needs. Maybe, just maybe if I choose to take care of someone else’s needs when mine are so great, maybe, just maybe my healing, my needs will be met.

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Maybe that is how I will have peace. And healing. And my focus will be on the right things. And the cancer will be stopped.

Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens.

Psalm 23 Virginia Style

I am the Lord’s little lamb,
He meets all my needs.

He walks with me to rest in green pastures,
He meets my most basic needs.
He encourages and strengthens my mind,
Because of His greatness.
He leads me in the right way.

When my path leads me to walk in scary places,
I don’t have to be afraid.
Because He is with me still.
His direction and correction
Bring me comfort not pain.

He puts a feast before me
While the scary people stand by.
He blesses me over and over,
I can’t contain all of them.

I can rest assured that His goodness and love
will be with me as long as forever lasts.
And I will get to dwell with Him forever.

©VLG2016