Walking in the Dark

When I woke up this morning, it was dark. But knowing I had to get up and jump in the shower so I could get the kids ready for school and out the door, I put my feet to the floor.

I couldn’t see, but I made my way across the room to the bathroom. You see, in the bathroom, I knew there was a light switch. I didn’t bump into anything on the way because I walked slow, moving one foot in front of the other, feeling my way, looking for things that might trip me. I knew there was a shelf along my route.

How did I know? I knew because I’d seen the shelf. I’d placed things on the shelf. I’d had experience with the shelf. I knew Alan was still sleeping in the bed. I couldn’t see him either, but I could hear him – his deep steady breathing let me know he was there.

And after inching my way along, I finally felt my way to the light switch and turned it on. You know what happened when light hit the room? It only confirmed what I already knew in the dark. I could see the bed, the shelf and Alan asleep.

Walking in faith is just like walking in the dark. When we can’t see in front of us, we immediately head to the spot where we’ll find Light. We slow-foot shuffle, feeling our way little by little. We may not be able to see God, but we can stretch out our hands and feel His presence.

Are you struggling with a situation because you can’t see? Perhaps you are scared because you don’t know the outcome. You desperately want to hear from the Lord but you don’t see Him.

Friend, I am with you. I’m looking for Him, too. No one said walking by faith would ever be easy. Just remember to head towards the Light. Because when Light hits the circumstances in your life, it will only confirm what you already knew in the dark. God was there all along.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV

 

*Photo credit

Carol

Learning to Be a Mom

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I watched my daughter Grace on the swing set yesterday. Dinner was cooked and waiting on daddy to arrive, so I ventured to the back yard and pulled up a chair to watch my youngest girl. The other two were holed up in their rooms, probably glued to an electronic device.

“Mama!” she yelled, so excited to have my undivided attention. “Watch me!”

I sat back into one of our patio chairs and propped my feet on the tiny plastic picnic table in front of me and relaxed in the evening sun. I watched as Grace swung her legs to and fro, pumping herself higher and higher.

When did she get so good at swinging, I wondered. Just yesterday she was outgrowing the baby swing with the bar to keep her from falling out. I thought of those first few times putting her in the big girl swing and praying she didn’t fall out the back. I would stand with my hands out to catch her if she accidentally let go of the chains.

“Hold tight!” I’d tell her, barely pushing her high enough to catch wind in her hair.

I was thinking of how many times I’d stood in the yard behind the swing, pushing her when she jolted my thoughts. “Mama! Do you see me? I’m almost touching the sky! Woooooooo!”

Without warning, my eyes filled and blurred the carefree girl across the yard. When did she get so good at swinging? I wondered again.

Next year, she’ll be in kindergarten. She’ll be six on her birthday. It doesn’t seem that long ago when I stared in shock at that positive pregnancy test and walked out of the bathroom to tell Alan, “You’re not going to believe this.”

“Waaaaa-hooooooooo,” Grace called out. “Look at me now, Mama!”

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“Wow! You’re great at swinging, Grace! Be careful.” I cautioned her.

“Don’t worry. I just hold on tight to these chains. Really tight. Just like you told me, Mama,” Grace said.

And my hands, in tense fists in my lap, loosened a bit. This is the way of things for moms. We place them into swings when their tiny bodies aren’t big enough to do it alone. Then we stand behind them, coaching them on what to do, close enough to catch them if they fall. In time, we are across the yard, watching from afar as they practice what we’ve taught. We relish in their accomplishments.

Because soon – my breath catches a little – soon, they will leave the yard. God help me when that day comes.

I bit my lip a little, to keep from the ugly cry. “That’s great, Grace. I’m glad you remember. Just don’t ever let go.”

Carol

One Thing that Completely Changed my Walk with God

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Eight years ago, my life changed completely.

I hint about it in my story on my “About Me” page. But let me tell you more. I lived a good life – attended church, prayed when needed and was a Christian. But I had a suspicion that I was missing something. I loved God, knew Jesus died for my sins and had accepted that He was my salvation. But still. I wondered if there was more.

My Christian life was mundane to say the least. I made a decision to accept Christ at age 10. I sang all the songs, heard all the Bible stories and attended Vacation Bible School every summer. When I joined Facebook quite a few years ago, I reconnected with some high school friends. One of them had become a Christian after high school and was very vocal about it on Facebook. After I posted a Bible verse, she private messaged me and asked, “Did you become a Christian after high school, too?” She was super excited for me.

Only one problem. I was a Christian all through high school. Why is that a problem, you ask? Because she should have known it by the way I lived. I didn’t attend parties or drink alcohol with my friends, but my Christianity was so subtle that people didn’t know for sure.

I think I lived most of my life that way. I was a checkbox Christian.

Do you attend church? Check.
Are you a Christian? Check.
Do you know Christ as your Savior? Check.

But there wasn’t the passion to back it up. Honestly, I believe this is an issue with lots of people who grow up in church. You lose the spark. You somehow lose connection to the fact that someone allowed their only child to suffer and die for you. Your relationship with God has as much passion as an old couple watching TV on the couch – her snoring, him with his hand tucked in his waistband. Blah.

Wondering if there was more to my relationship with God, I became fascinated with the idea of seeking Him. The Bible tells us if we seek Him, we will find Him.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

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So I made it my quest to find God. I decided to start with reading the Bible. I grew up in church, so I could tell you the books of the Old and New Testament in order. I could quote passages. I had completed many a Bible study. But I had never read all of it – straight through. So that’s just what I did. I had tried it before but never made it past Leviticus.

But this time I was determined. I would read a few chapters each day and then ask myself what God was trying to teach me. Then I’d pray. I tied my boots tight, pulled up my socks and began the hike through those gilded-edged pages. Determined, I even marched through Leviticus.

And somewhere in the middle of the Old Testament, I started having “A-ha” moments. Pieces of the puzzle fit together in my brain. I had a new understanding of how things happened. All those stories I had heard and studied before made sense in a brand new way.

And I found God.

He was there all along. In the pages. In my prayers. In my praises.

And friends, He changed me. My close friends will tell you how different I am. I can’t help but bring God into my conversations. I look at the world through different eyes. My sister-in-law once told me I was like Moses after the burning bush experience. When you have been in the presence of God, YOU WILL BE CHANGED.

Reading the Bible through changed my life. It took me a while to complete it. I don’t remember exactly how long, but it was more than a year. When I finished, I flipped back to Genesis and started again. When I finished that time, I bought a chronological Bible and started the third time.

This week, I finished my chronological Bible. It took me two years and a month to do it. I tell you this not to brag but to encourage you to read the Bible from beginning to end. “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (2 Cor. 10:17) I challenge you to start with Genesis and work your way through.

If you feel stuck in life, if you are struggling with your marriage or finances or family issues or health problems, if you see God working in the lives of others and want Him to do the same with you, seek Him. Look for God in the pages of His Word.

I promise He will accomplish more than you can imagine. You will be changed. You can NOT encounter God and walk away the same. It’s just not possible.

Are you ready to see God up close and personal? Then get started.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… Gen. 1:1 NIV

Carol

All Lives Matter

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I woke with the rain this morning. And I was sad. I drug myself from bed and into the morning routine of waking, feeding and preparing three kids for school. But my heart was heavy.

I can’t get certain events off of my mind. A video I watched last night of men in Nepal digging a small child out of the ruble from the earthquake sticks with me. News stories of the rioting and hatred in Baltimore won’t leave my thoughts. And the knowledge of my best friend’s lung cancer is never far.

There is so much hurting and pain in this world. Last night, Alan and I spent some time discussing race relations in light of the events of Baltimore and Ferguson, among others. Just this weekend, we watched “42,” the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African American Major League Baseball player. He joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in April of 1947. My mother was born the same year. The prejudice and injustice he experienced happened not that long ago. Those of us who are white might like to think it’s a thing of the past, but I’m afraid we must pull our sandy heads upright and think again.

I remember clearly coming home in the second or third grade one day to tell my mom what I had learned about slavery. I was shocked and outraged. Teary, I asked my mom to explain how people could be so cruel. Friends, slavery wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things. And the hurt was real.

My mom once told me about a teacher friend of hers who was black. She and her family had gone out to dinner in a nice restaurant but had been treated like they didn’t belong. This was late 80’s – early 90’s. I’m ashamed to admit it but it still happens today. Just last week, the husband of a kind and sweet friend (who is also black) was pulled over on the way to CVS for driving suspiciously. What?!

It’s time we open our eyes. If you’re white, try to imagine how you would feel if you were treated with injustice just for your color. If you are black, don’t look for race in every situation – sometimes people are just mean because they are mean and color doesn’t play into it.

I’ve seen so much stuff on Facebook – everyone having an opinion.

Police Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter.

How about this? All lives matter. Hashtag that! #alllivesmatter

God created each of us in His image, and each and every one of us matter to Him. When you say “Purple Lives Matter” (we’ll just choose a random color) – while it’s true, it’s also insinuated that you are saying purple lives matter more than others.

All lives matter. People matter. You see God is looking at each one of us, and He loves us. He loves the mean people, the innocent people, the people steeped in sin – all of us. God doesn’t look at color. He is not white, nor black, nor yellow, nor red – He is GOD. And God looks deeper than color. He looks at the heart.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

All of this meanness in the world around us – the racial issues, the dishonesty in politics, human trafficking, ISIS – all of it is a heart matter. People need Jesus. To give a Sunday school reply to the aching question: What are we going to do about this world?

Jesus.

Jesus is the answer. Jesus can right all wrongs. Jesus can mend broken hearts. Jesus can lift people from poverty and a lifetime of injustice. Jesus can open the eyes and minds of self-centered individuals.

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Jesus.

You see, world change is not really that complex. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. Repeat.

It’s time we work towards reconciliation with our fellow man. Are you in?

*photo credit: screen shot, personal photo; cross

Carol

Dominican Mission Trip Day 1

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This is my second international mission trip. My second time to the Dominican, and I find it just as hard to put my experience into words this time as it was the last. So, I’ll just describe our day today.

Yesterday was a travel day. We arrived around 2 p.m. and had a two-hour drive from Santo Domingo to Santiago, which is the location of the new One Vision team apartment. After dinner at a restaurant close by, we all crashed. You see, our team had some issues just getting here.

First, there was a snowstorm in Knoxville, where half of our group lives. That half was not even able to make it out to meet us in Atlanta for our Thursday morning flight. So they had to re-book their tickets to fly in on Friday instead. Meanwhile, one of the five from Tennessee was sick enough she couldn’t travel. So that brought the Knoxville group down to four.

The four of us from Atlanta were also battling weather. On Wednesday when the Governor declared a state of emergency in many counties, the four of us decided it was best for us to get a hotel next to the airport. Alan and I got a room, but Joyce and Jack, the other couple, could not find one.

They decided to spend the night IN the airport instead. Around 10 p.m. as Alan and I were relaxing in our bed at the hotel watching television, Alan found a bedbug crawling right next to me on the bed! Needless to say, we dressed quickly and hightailed it out of there. We drove around for an hour in the freezing rain looking for another place. After calling more than twenty hotels near the airport, we finally found one. Long story short, it wasn’t much better than the bed bugs.

So, we obviously slept good our first night here. We were utterly exhausted! I just kept telling myself, “Greater is He that is in me than he that is in this world.” I knew we were under attack, and I was determined not to let satan win. (But I’ll be honest. In the hour drive through the freezing rain, I was ready to thrown in the white flag. But thankfully, I did not.)

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Friday morning, we headed to the children’s center and were greeted with a show! It was the Dominican Independence Day and the kids had prepared a cute dance with batons and a drum beat. Afterwards, we walked to the center where I prepared to take pictures of the kids who needed sponsors. Alan and Jack took a group of kids into the field behind the center (which by the way is actually the home of a sweet Christian lady named Matilde. Can you imagine sharing your home with 150 of the community children? That’s exactly what she does!)

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Many of the kids had made kites out of trash bags and sticks for Independence Day. I was shocked at how high those kites could fly! Alan and Jack let them fly the kites and directed them in some fun games. The little boys loved Alan and fought to hold his hand. Where ever he walked, there was a band of boys following. Joyce worked with some of the older girls. She talked about emotions and showed them how to go to God’s Word to help deal with those emotions.

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While I was waiting on Claudia to interview a few parents, I mingled with the kids. Maria, one of our interpreters, introduced me to a little girl. “She’s sick,” she told me. “Well, kind of. She has diabetes.”

My eyes widened. “Me, too!” I told Maria.

“She has Type 1,” Maria told me.

“Me, too!” I got excited.

Maria continued, “She doesn’t want to take her medicine.”

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Maria pulled the little girl aside with me and interpreted as I asked her questions about her diabetes and her insulin regimen. She told me she takes two shots a day. I asked her how often she tested her blood sugar, and she said she did it only when she went to the hospital ever so often. I shared with her that I tested ten times a day. And what I often consider a pain in the rear, suddenly became a blessing. Because I realized, I have great health insurance that affords me the ability to test ten times a day.

Maria helped me tell her that I have three children and a wonderful husband and life. “She is happy with her life,” Maria told her in Spanish.

I gave the girl a giant hug and told her to take care of herself. For the rest of the day, she continued to come to me and hug me.

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After taking pictures, Claudia asked me to share with some of the women who were there with their kids because they wouldn’t be able to come to the conference. She told me there would be five. At first I thought she wanted me to tell them about the conference in hopes that they would come, but she wanted me to give them a condensed version! No notes. No Bible in hand. Just what God had put in my heart.

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As I began to share with what turned out to be six women, a few more wandered up and what started as four, became six, then ten. Then a couple of men scooted in closer to listen to what I had to say. And noticing the adults had all congregating in one spot, some boys on bicycles rode over to hear.

I talked to them about prayer. Our conference is called A Woman of Prayer. I shared how God is available to all who call on Him. I gave them evidence of how God listens when we pray and how we can walk boldly into His throne room. I shared how God is powerful. I told my personal story of the doctors telling Alan they thought he had a tumor in his head, filling his sinus cavity and touching his brain. And I told of how God was faithful and pointed out that Alan was healthy and playing with their children as I spoke.

I told them to pray with purpose. That God listens when we pray. Then I gave the plan of salvation. I walked them through the steps in case anyone there had not accepted the gift of grace that Christ brings – all of this with the help of an interpreter.

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After we left the center, we stopped by the home of a sweet boy who needs a sponsor but wasn’t able to come to the community center to have his photo taken. Claudia, the One Vision missionary, explained how he has partial paralysis of the brain. His name is Gregory. At the Lord’s prompting, I asked if I could pray for Gregory with the family. They pulled up his mosquito net so I could sit on his bed and touch him as I prayed.

And here is what I have to share about that moment and that prayer: first – I am a mom. And because I’m a mom, my heart broke for this family. They had a very meager home with holes in the roof. But their love for their son was so evident. And second, I am an emotional person. I tell you that to say, if I was working in my own power, I could. Not. Have. Prayed.

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But God. God took over and the Holy Spirit certainly guided my words for this family. I was honored to be allowed to be a part of such a sweet moment. But you must know, I walked out the door swallowing back a sob.

Claudia and I returned to the bus, and we headed to lunch. My heart is full. I am overwhelmed at the ways God would allow me to be used today.

Please continue to pray for the team as we start the actual women’s conference tomorrow morning. Praise be to God! And if you would like to sponsor a child through One Vision International, please contact emily@onevisionintl.org

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Carol