An Unexpected and Undeserving Gift
No one told me that when I turned 50, I needed to take out an extended warranty. I was the person who dove after balls, and lifted things without properly bending down. Yet, when I turned 50, I began to quickly deteriorate physically! It hasn’t been pretty, and I don’t appreciate what’s happening to me! Despite me seeming to be falling apart, I recently received an unexpected and very undeserving gift…kind of like grace. It was definitely God giving me a much needed wake up call.
I will admit, I have begun to lose track of what’s important, especially in my daily walk with the Lord. I have forgotten many of the common courtesies about how I should live my life. I should love generously, be happy, help others, be grateful, and above all…count my blessings.
On the other hand I say, “What you talking about? Life is hard!”
I know what I’m supposed to do, and yet I’ve been miscalculating, and missing the prize altogether. I’ve been literally, and figuratively, missing the mark of the high calling of Jesus Christ. I’ve been stuck on family things, monetary things, not feeling well, and just not believing in grace…period!
I have posted the definition of grace before, but apparently I still struggle with its meaning. I’m like the prodigal son who hasn’t returned, and hoping to be forgiven.
Grace, n.: undeserved, unmerited, unearned, favor.
Grace is something that I most desire, but often feel that I’m not deserving of it for many reasons from past to present. I tend to forget that the amazing thing about grace is that it is an undeserving gift.
I know about God’s grace. It’s hard for me to fathom it at times. My daughter, Erica, is good about reminding me of this. She often talks to me, giving me pep talks, about how God’s grace is for the undeserving. Although it came at a big price, it’s freely given by God. His unmerited favor is that He sent His Son to die so we could live. He loves us unconditionally!
The word “grace” is music to my ears. Erica often makes me gifts with the words from the song “Amazing Grace” on them. I love it!
Now let me rewind to me turning 50, falling apart physically, and how His amazing grace has begun playing music to my ears.
I have had a mass in my stomach, and also in need of a hernia repair for a couple of years. I had been putting off surgery for many reasons: 1) I don’t like them, 2) I teach learning disabled children and they don’t like when I miss school, and 3) monetary reasons. I feel our monies could be spent better elsewhere.
Well, last fall things took a drastic change. The mass began to grow bigger, and was becoming more and more painful. I began to gain weight quickly. Then things took a twist. In December, I began to bleed. I ended up in the emergency room. The concern was endometrial cancer, and that took priority over the mass and hernia. Doctors began testing, but due to the holidays, appointments were hard to make with them. Early January, the doctor suggested I get a total hysterectomy. I was willing to do this, because I felt so bad. They would take a biopsy during this time.
I went to schedule the surgery, but to my surprise my insurance coverage had changed. My family pays almost $1,200/month for the various insurances we have. Yet to perform this surgery (because of the new laws), I was going to have to pay $3,000 up front for the hospital co-payment alone. This wasn’t including the doctor, anesthesia, and the rest of the hospital payment.
Tearfully, I had to tell the scheduler to stop! At this time we could not afford it. We are already in debt due to other family medical bills, and this would just have to wait. Since I couldn’t have the hysterectomy, the doctor said we at least needed to do a biopsy to check for cancer. I had cancer insurance, and if that were the case, then I could have the surgery.
Thankfully, the biopsy came back benign. We were relieved! I decided I would put that surgery off until a later date. In the meantime, the mass in my stomach continued to grow bigger. I knew it needed to be taken out, but we really don’t have the monies for that. We are just teachers, and we have a kid that was about to graduate college, one about to go to college, and one more at home. I just couldn’t think about it.
On Mother’s day, my oldest daughter texted me, and said she had a gift for me. She was about to graduate from college, and we would be going up for her graduation the following weekend. NOTE:Traditionally we don’t celebrate certain holidays, giving each other gifts, just because we try to save money. We are very blessed, and don’t really need some things…but family time is always good.
I texted back, and said I couldn’t wait to see her graduate, and that seeing her was gift enough.
I had no idea what was coming on the upcoming college graduation visit!
We arrived on Friday night, the night before Erica was to graduate. I dropped my husband off at the hotel because he was tired. My youngest, Jess, and I went over to Erica’s apartment to pick her up. I thought we might go out to eat. As we drive up to her apartment, I see Erica and her friend Kelli walking up. Erica had borrowed her whole graduation gown to save money and was walking up with the borrowed sash. She nonchalantly said let’s go up and get your mother’s day gift before we go eat.
I said okay, and we all went up. She put up her borrowed sash. As she was doing this, I saw on a table with a plaque that had the words from “Amazing Grace”. I didn’t think too much about it because I just figured it was some of their apartment decor.
I noticed Kelli beginning to film, but that’s not unusual. These girls are quite the hoot posting many a funny video online, or on Instagram. But this was to be no ordinary film. I was about to receive an unexpected, and very undeserving gift.
Erica picked up the plaque. I was kind of being silly quietly singing “Amazing Grace”, when Erica began telling me something that I never could imagine.
She said, “Dearest Momma! This gift is to show you one thing. ‘God loves you!’ Even if the mass were not removed we know that God loves you perfectly, but He has generously provided a way for your surgery through the body of Christ. No, you did nothing to earn it and that’s what makes His grace so amazing! I love you very much, and I know my love for you cannot compare to the perfect, unconditional, passionate, and proud love that God has for you!”
While this was going on, Kelli was still filming, and affirming what Erica was saying. Kelli was also telling me that God loves me!
Finally, Erica handed me an envelope, and in that envelope was the exact amount I needed for the hospital co-payment. I was going to be able to have my surgery! After paying the initial fees, I would be able to pay monthly on the rest of the bills.
I can’t explain what came over me in those moments. I began backing up away from them. I was overwhelmed with so many emotions: thankfulness, feeling guilty because I didn’t deserve this, excited, tears of joy, etc. .
I mean what does one do with such a great and undeserving gift as this?
Oh, but the story gets better! Erica, and several of her college friends, prayed about needs and wants. She lifted me up in prayer with a need, and these beautiful students gathered up monies, among themselves, so I could have a surgery.
Mind you these are college students: some getting their masters, some about to graduate, and some returning to school next year. Most of these students have their own debts to pay off, and here they were graciously lifting me up in prayer, and giving me an undeserved gift.
I had the surgery almost two weeks ago. The mass was the size of a plum, and they fixed a hernia as well. As I lay here in bed, recovering from my surgery, I’m reminded of a Bible verse that I love so much!
“the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;” ~Numbers 6:25
The Lord has definitely shined down on me!
I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting most of the students who prayed for me, and who made it financially possible for me to have the surgery. I still can’t stop feeling a little guilty for this amazing gift. I have always had problems with asking for help, or accepting such gifts; but, I have been truly blessed. That said, I thank these students from the bottom of my heart. I can never repay you all except with the pleasure of you all knowing that I better understand that God loves me graciously despite my weaknesses. Thank you all for sharing, caring, and showing me through your actions that God loves me perfectly.
Thank you to Erica Hairston, Kelli Stenke, Kaitlin Daugherty, Paul Feghali, Jacob Imam, Jeremy Feghali, Drake Osborn, Allie Matherne, Joanna Calhoun, Katy Craft, Haley Barton, Madeline Sneed, and Carly Beckham.
These young Baylor University students have taken Acts 1:8 to heart. They are making a difference in the world, and furthering God’s kingdom. They are witnesses for Christ, and will go to the ends of the Earth. They each have many different gifts that God has given them, and I pray that you will continue to share those gifts wherever He sends you all. God bless each of you in your journey to love the Lord, and the freedom that you will bring to others spreading His word.
God is truly amazing! These young people help to restore faith within me. It’s been a distracting few years. The best way to deal with these distractions is to turn to God, read the Bible, and remember the common courtesies to live by. I’m so very thankful, and count my blessings…especially for God bringing these young students into my life. These students who love the Lord so much that they gave me an unexpected and undeserved gift.
P.S. If you would like to see the link to part of the video of this gracious gift being presented to me, please check it out: http://instagram.com/p/qwqcwTmQsk/?modal=true
Stop…in the Name of Love!
Domestic Violence is an abuse like no other. This type of abuse affects all involved. If there is violence in the home, the whole family is involved. In honor of those who have suffered from domestic violence, my plea is stop…in the name of love
There are many people who can’t deal with the reality of their behaviors. They distort the truth to serve their self. There are a few who have no concern for others well-being, and will do whatever it takes to manipulate the situation.
Some people tend to hide their problems very well. They live an emotionally empty life creating situations to serve their own needs. Some want to come across as “good” people, yet behind closed doors they may become hurtful to others. But those on the outside don’t always see what’s going on behind closed doors; thus, causing further problems leading to some confusion.
After a while it becomes hard to distinguish what is real from what’s being distorted. Those who suffer begin to doubt their reality and question whether or not they are crazy, or whether the other person is really right about what they say. Due to my past sexual abuse, I could also be one to distort reality…especially if I thought I might be abandoned, or become vulnerable.
The truth is…they, as well as myself, are not always right!
Some people don’t exhibit the volatile extreme emotions. They are calm and quiet for the most post part. They “seem” unmoved by the feelings of others…even if they really care about others. This also “seems” that they may not be fulfilled by the relationships within their lives. This may leave them with the feeling of being empty: thus, trying to fill their lives with behaviors that are not always acceptable. Others exude extreme emotions; wearing them on their sleeves when they are easily upset. I fall into the later category.
Most behaviors originate from an extreme emotion triggered by fear, or lack of confidence. I know that with my own fears of abandonment, I can easily hurt the very people I care about. I have periods of remorse, deep regret, and shame for my extreme behaviors. Most people, who hurt others, usually feel some type of remorse…of course there are those who do not seem to show any. Sometimes this period of remorse is called the “Honeymoon” period.
This period often has the feeling that there may be hope, and encouragement. Then during other periods, there may be extreme agitation, that is often intensified by the lack of self confidence, or fear of not having expectations met. Sometimes people come across as not being empathetic…especially toward another. The perception is that there is no real problem; thus, there is no need to work on any relationships.
Domestic violence is an often “smoothed over” in families today, and Christian families are not immune to its “flaming darts”. The warning signs can be hidden or disregarded.
In Proverbs 26 it says, “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!’…The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body…Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, … A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”
Many may regret hanging on, or trying to stay in a relationship, especially when it may be debilitating. The reality is that abuse hurts, no matter who you are, or how old you are. It destroys you from the inside out, and cuts away at how you believe in yourself…your very core. There is a realization that one may face that there is no escape from the abuse without giving up a huge part of one’s life. Some put up with attacks before retreating to safety. Alcohol/substance abuse can elevate attacks. There comes a time when too long is…way too long.
When a relationship gets really bad, they can drain us. And while we all want to be faithful within our relationships, we can really get ourselves in a bind by “sticking” with a harmful situation too long. We begin not to have enough strength left to help ourselves…much less our family. We may become ill, or very irritable from lack of sleep. Anxiety takes over eventually leading to despair if help is not received. When faced with domestic violence, many seek guidance and solace within their faith.
People have a desire to be faithful within relationships. But it is really important to be realistic about our own strength. The problem is that leaving is hard. The thought of the ending of a dream as a reality is painful. Being faithful can be tiring. In fact, one may not have enough strength to leave…if it comes down to it. Repeated “fight and flight” responses to self, or another, is tiring, and might need some extra reserves just to make it through the day. Decisions that are best made for the relationship can be quite painful and draining as well.
For the abused they often feel abandoned by God. Christians often feel compelled to stay in abusive relationships because they don’t understand the scripture where it talks about submissiveness. Sometimes a church leader may strongly encourage the victim not to give up on the abuser; thus, they feel the need to remain in the relationship for fear of breaking covenant. One seriously has to look ahead to the message that is trying to be conveyed.
The message is clear. The victim got into the situation because of desiring to be loved. Instead of looking for love from people; Love must be looked for in God–the One who loves us unconditionally. God is love! Put your trust and love in God. He will never fail!
“…the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God .” ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Love comforts us! The Lord sympathizes with us. He knows what it was like to suffer needlessly at the hands of others. Because of this, we are allowed to “…approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” ~ Hebrews 4:16
Abused people are usually able to find strength in their faith and/or community. If they are comfortable doing so, they may talk to their religious leaders about their situations. If asked by the victim, spiritual support should be given. Be encouraging to one another.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10:24-25
As a religious community, it is important to have some knowledge on domestic violence issues. Pastors could use the pulpit as a way to educate the congregation of such issues. It’s important not to offer poor advice for a member’s situation. Sometimes advising to stay with an abuser to keep the family intact at all costs may cause more, or unnecessary, damage to the relationship(s) and sometimes safety problems. It is good advice from religious community to suggest seeking couples counseling from a trained professional.
There is so much madness that goes on behind the scenes. Verbal and emotional abuse can cause much anxiety within the victim and possibly family members. There are many horror stories of physical and sexual abuse that tags along with the previous mentioned abuses. For some there is no way out…except by death: either being the victim of someone’s abuse, or suicide to get out. It’s important to become educated on signs of domestic violence, and what to do. I pray that the religious community will get involved, and that be one of the first things to do. Even if only praying, and acting as encouragement, is all the religious community can do…that would be a blessed start and most welcomed.
Stop in the name of Love! Stop the madness of abuse. Become educated. Learn of God’s unconditional love that He has for the brokenhearted. Learn how He will renew and restore broken hearts. He gives strength to the weak, and rest to the weary. Seek Him and He will open the door to healing.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” ~ 2Corinthians 4:16-18
Light at the End of the Tunnel
One afternoon I began to reflect about the circumstances that have happened to me over the last couple of years, and how I have come to place where I am now. I thought about the many ups and downs, and the many turns I have taken to get here. How I should be
Even in my darkest night, He has shown me His Light at the end of the tunnel.
Had Christ been trying to reveal His Light to my heart? Have I been blind to His attempts to shine on me? If I would slow down and take time to remember all of His gracious acts, my confidence in Him would be strengthened and my passion to know Him would be greater. I need to draw near to Him so that I can better understand Him and His amazing grace.
Because of my childhood abuse, I have often longed for an exclusive relationship with others. I want to be intimate– not like a sexual intimacy—but to share my thoughts, ideas, concerns, and to grow with others learning about the Kingdom of Christ.
With that being said, I understand that no human could ever fulfill the job description of being my exclusive other in a relationship. My expectations have been formed in my mind. It’s really no one’s privilege to be in an exclusive relationship…except for God.
Frankly after the sexual abuse that I experienced from my step father, I had no desire to have an exclusive relationship–especially with a Father whom I really did not know much about. What if He would be like my step father? I only imagined that His anger was much worse than my step father. I was frightened.
Then I thought about the love of God. I had never thought about being intimate with God. I began to look at Him in a different Light. When I began to think about the things that I recently learned, and had read, I found that God was quite stimulating.
I never really thought about God “wining and dining” me. That He truly considers me to be His bride. I knew that He would love me and protect me like no other. I never thought about God having exclusive rights of me. As an added learning bonus, I was excited to read about being given a special name on a white rock that only I will know that that it’s He who is calling me. How cool is that? Very intimate indeed!
In lots of ways I still behave like a child; for instance, I can be too needy for some—desiring more attention than deserved. I also believed in such a way as to have child-like faith. I thought there would be someone to love me unconditionally (here on Earth) and protect me from the evil–like I had experienced as a child. I passionately wanted this love to happen to “me”, and more importantly–for “me”.
I had not realized that my thoughts had become all about “me”…my own desires, selfishness, and of course – my pride. All these things had become my idols. I always thought that idols were people, or material things. I never really thought about my emotions as being idols.
Although I have been/felt betrayed, abandoned, and even mocked; I had not realized that I was letting the load of shame and guilt take control of me. They were becoming and being made my idols. I was in a whirlpool of idolatry. I know that others have alluded to this many times, but it is hard to get a stubborn person to look into the mirror to actually see them as they are—broken and scarred sinner.
I found out I had a lot of anger that had become deeply rooted inside of me. My anger varied from different things, to certain people, and even to my God. The poison that built up inside of me was festering and being shown as contempt for self, and others. It even brought me to the point of considering suicide as a choice rather than honestly facing my fears and anger.
Jesus does comfort all who mourn! He bared all of my sins and iniquities on the cross, so I could live. I have no right to take that away from Him. Only He decides when it is right for me to meet Him in Heaven.
I have learned that people are human, and I should not expect more from them; to be all “healing, loving, and protecting” to me. But, I do think God sends those that surround us as confidants, or “attendants” on His behalf. They are placed in my life to help me understand the wisdom that has been bestowed before me.
I have discovered that I have much insecurity. I do not always understand what is being taught. Not wanting to acknowledge that I really need help, I blow up in a fit of anger. In essence, I hurt those that I really care about, and really need. There is no excuse for my behavior. I can only ask for forgiveness.
Again, I have been thinking about the different pieces of the puzzle that others have been trying to teach me. They have patiently tried to help me piece it together. Once the puzzle is together, I should realize that Jesus is the best, or exclusive, gift I could ever dream of receiving. He is, and should be, my all! He is on the side of the brokenhearted! He is my champion–my knight in shining armor.
True brokenness will lead me to Him, and help me to break free from my idolatry of shame; the shame I have carried from my past into my present. I learn to be repentant, and not let my pride always get in my way. I shall have faith that He will lead me to the Light at the end of the tunnel. He passionately desires this for me…to learn to find my way toward Him.
Christ is my everlasting Light, and the darkness of my past shall be no more. I see the Light at the end of the tunnel.
As You Wish…Broken For You
I definitely seem to be in a battle of Spiritual warfare. It seems Satan is always trying to make me feel worthless; therefore, it’s important for me to surround myself with a “friend that loveth at all times.” Knowing that, I am far from being a good friend; I can definitely get wrapped up in “my own little world”.
I was thinking about this on a bit deeper level. There are people in my life who are more like acquaintances. They have really not touched the inner core of my personal being, and I seem to be able to carry on a nice casual conversation. I thought this funny that I could meet a stranger, whom I will never see again, and greet them with a certain nicety.
On the flip side, there are a few that I regard as trusted confidants; those that seem to “loveth me at all times”…even during my bad times. I am sure I catch them off guard with my “irrational” emotions. I can only imagine being my friend can be rather taxing at times. I definitely have a funny way of showing loving kindness on certain occasions. In the midst of trying to understand, or confront, my own emotions–I seemingly confront them emotionally & not always rationally.
One moment I can be positively nice, and in the next moment, I can confront them with some insidious remark. I will say this is not a normal practice of mine. Yes, I may say something totally ludicrous; but, not always hurtful. I make no excuses for this behavior when it occurs. I must be sincere in asking for forgiveness when this happens.
…Switching gears with my ADD thinking…
God tries to confront me with His goodness. Sometimes I consider Him to be “interrupting me”, and not think Him to be very important. I am not always thankful for His “interruption” in my life. Like my unwanted emotions on others, it “seems” as though God confronts me at unpredictable times.
On the other hand there seems to be times that I am encountering loneliness, heartache, and pain. During these instances in my life, it “seems” to me that God is not “interrupting” me at all. In fact, I feel as if He is ignoring me.
I have to realize that it’s not because God wants me to “suffer”; but, that He wants me to know that He has an “unimaginable” pleasure–for me. His grace and mercy covers me in these dark times. His arms are wrapped around me. I just have to keep that in mind, and not think that He is trying to “trick me”.
Satan tricks. GOD DOES NOT!
I am reminded of a quote that Westly tells Princess Buttercup in “The Princess Bride”,
“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Again, God really does love me! He is not trying to “sell” me something. He loves me unconditionally! In return, God desires for me to come to Him, and tell Him I love Him. He is filled with great joy and happiness when I do so. He is not out to “trick” me.
My husband, Sam, had me listen to a message by Jamie Lash one afternoon. It reminded me of how I sometimes think God is “interrupting” my day. That His will for me may be “interrupting” what I desire for myself.
After listening to one of Jamie’s messages, a lady stayed behind to ask him a question. She was obviously, like many, afraid to abandon herself to God’s will. She asked Jamie, “What might God want me to do with my life?” She was worried that He might want her to do something that she really did not want to do…or that was not her will for herself.
Jamie went on to ask her, “What if your child was to come up to you, and say that he/she really loved you with all of her/his heart. Would you, in turn, laugh an insidious laugh and say, ‘I got you now! From now on you will clean the toilet every day! I finally tricked you!”
The lady was offended and said, “What kind of mom do you think I am?”
Jamie’s response was, “What kind of Father do you think God is?”
WOW! Through my brokenness, God reveals His goodness to me…even when I think He is “interrupting” my will. This is great news!! “No matter what my experiences have been with my “earthly” parents, or as parents to our children, we are to give voice to the cry within us for the Father who nourishes us and protects us.” (Dan Allender, “The Cry of the Soul”)
I think it very ironic that my experiences of pain, fear, anger, & shame (of the world I live in) actually bring me closer to the joys and mercies of God. This is the way He intended for me to really live. God delights in me! He desires me to “dance with Him wildly”. He goes to great lengths to keep me from pursuing others before Him. He wants me to desire Him as if there were no other lover. I need to remember how intimate He is…with me. I am His bride like no other.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith,
who for joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame…”
~ Hebrews 12:2
Christ is not trying to “sell” me something, or even “trick” me. Above all things, Christ bared my shame, so I could live in joy! The least I could do is praise Him with adoration, and not confront Him with irrational emotions.
After all, He was nailed on the cross and He did not laugh an insidious laugh. Instead He said to me,
“As you wish, my Beloved! My will be done. I became Broken for you!”