Is God Really Perfect?

IMG_5141

I knew the tears were coming. As the church stood to sing, I heard the opening notes and recognized the tune immediately. We sang it at her funeral.

“You’re a good, good Father…”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung it since, and each time I think of my best friend Mary Ann and her recent death. I remember sitting at the edge of her bed less than 24 hours before she left this world and planning her funeral with her and our other best friend, Allison. Even typing the words “planning her funeral” slay me – like touching a bruise. Our whole lives the three of us have always done everything together. I just never imagined that would include funeral planning.

She picked that song, and Allison and I nodded our heads, tearful, knowing the truth of it all. The truth that she was about to look Jesus in the face. The truth of the song’s words – despite her cancer, He was and IS still a good, good Father.

But Sunday I didn’t expect the feeling that welled up in me. As we continued the song, we sang, “You are perfect in all of your ways.” And I had to stop singing. My heart skipped a beat, and I asked, “Are you? I prayed fervently for Mary Ann to be healed and you let her die. How can that be perfect?”

The question shocked even me. I thought I had reconciled with it. So I asked – is God perfect? Really perfect? Because the death of a best friend, a daughter, a young wife and mother of two doesn’t feel perfect.

My six-year-old daughter, Grace, recently accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. A week or so after her decision she asked me, “Mama, sometimes I can feel Jesus close to me, but other times I don’t feel Him there. Is Jesus still in my heart even when I can’t feel Him?”

I shook my head and wondered how many adults have thought the same. I explained to Grace how the Holy Spirit lives in your heart when you accept Christ and even when you don’t feel Him, He is still there.

And in the same way Grace doesn’t always “feel” Jesus, I don’t always “feel” that everything in God’s ways are perfect. But the only thing that isn’t perfect is me. I don’t understand why God chose to take Mary Ann.

But God says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) You see trusting means accepting something even when you can’t make sense of it all. That’s where faith steps in.

I’m sure I won’t understand until I get to Heaven and can ask Jesus myself. But Mary Ann’s cancer wasn’t sent from God. He IS perfect in all of His ways. But you know what? My heart still pains a little when I say it.

It hurts because “self” gets in the way of God. My selfish wishes were to keep Mary Ann here. So the pain I feel when I say God is perfect in all of His ways is actually because I’m admitting that I don’t understand it. I’m dying to self. And let’s be honest with each other – dying to self is a painful process.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

So when we die to our selfish desires, we are allowing Christ to live through us and then we live by faith – trusting He knows what is best. And while that is a mouthful to say, it’s still easier to say than to actually live it out. Because, let’s face it, life is hard. And some days really stink. Sometimes no matter how much we pray, God still doesn’t answer the way we think He should. So living by faith is a daily choice.
But it’s what I’m choosing today because my God is a good, good Father. And though sometimes my flesh forgets it, I do truly know He is perfect. Perfect in ALL of His ways.

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30

If you can’t see this video, click HERE.

Carol

You Can’t Hide From Jesus

mfVzK2Q

If I’m honest, I was pouting. I know I’m blessed beyond measure, but things hadn’t been going my way.

It was two weeks before Christmas, and I needed to buy stamps from the post office for my Christmas cards. The older two kids were with friends, so Grace and I headed out to check off some errands. I was completely engulfed in my thoughts.

We finally sold our home. After it being on the market all summer with not much action, we took it off to pray about it and re-listed it a month later. We got two offers within four days. The best was only $4,000 off our asking price. We were thrilled and relieved all at once. But unfortunately it wasn’t as simple as we’d hoped. The appraiser refused to use 2015 home sales in his competitive market analysis and was forced to look at sales over a year old.

While that may seem like no big deal, over a year ago the home prices were much lower. So the appraisal for our home was $24,000 lower than the contracted price. If you haven’t sold a home before, you may be confused by now – but just know the bottom line – we had to lower our home price – a lot!

Meanwhile, my best friend was in the hospital. When I say best friend, I could interchange that with sister. Our mothers were friends before we were born; we couldn’t remember a time without each other there. She had Stage 4 lung cancer (a non-smoker) and was having a hard time breathing. While we thought she just needed some extra oxygen or maybe a lung drain, the doctors told her there wasn’t anything else they could do and suggested hospice. She died two days later. And the morning after her death, I found out the home appraisal news.

Needless to say, I was a little miffed – frustrated that God hadn’t answered prayers like I wanted. I walked in the post office with Grace, took note of the line and sighed. Couldn’t you at least give me a short mail line, Lord?

I got at the end of the line, counting the people in front of me, while Grace walked to the card corral to touch every single card. “Mama, what does this one say?” She’d walk the two steps to my side and hold out a card for me to read. An older gentleman and his wife finished filling out the information for their package and got in line behind me.

In front of me, a thirty-something lady turned to look at me, then positioned her body so she could keep watching. I offered a weak smile, clutching the stack of Christmas cards needing postage and shifted my weight, uncomfortable under her gaze.

Normally, I pray for people to be drawn to me because they see Christ in me. It gives me a chance to start conversations about Jesus. But I wasn’t taking the bait today. Really, Lord? Don’t you see? I’m done. I’m mad. I’m beyond sad. And I don’t feel like talking.

I imagine God sighing and shaking His glorious head at me.

“Wow. You sure do have a lot of cards to mail.” The woman spoke up. Shaken from my thoughts, I nodded and smiled, taking notice – real notice this time – of the woman in front of me. She stood with a tattered coat and one single red envelope. One.

dMMEIf

My gaze shifted from her one to my 70-ish or so Christmas cards. “Carol, you are sending cards to the people who love you. People you call friend. People you could count on if you needed them. And you could have sent more. Do you realize how blessed you are?”

Before I could even respond to the Holy Spirit’s voice in my head, another woman finished mailing her package and started chatting with a friend she hadn’t seen in a while. You know those people who have really loud conversations so everyone in the room can hear them? Yeah. It was some of those people. And remember my mood? I was not amused, but couldn’t help but listen.

“Girl. I’ve never been better!”

“That’s great! You look so good. What’s different? How’s your job going?”

“Oh, it’s good. I don’t have to pay Daddy’s car payment anymore so that’s good. But I’ve been going to church up the street at the big white one on the hill. And I’m tellin’ you something. My life is changed. I poured out a full bottle of whiskey yesterday – right down the drain. I don’t need it. I’m a new person!”

I continued to listen to this woman right across the aisle from me share how God had changed her, when the man from behind bumped into my purse.

“Oh, excuse me,” he said.

“You’re fine,” I told him.

The women walked out continuing their chat outside.

“I got so excited listening to that woman talk, I wanted to get all up in that conversation. I went to raise my hand and bumped you,” the man explained.

I think he was the one who finally jolted me out of my gloomy mood. No matter how frustrated I was with my situation, Jesus was all around me. In front of me, reminding me how blessed I am. Beside me, showing me how He can change the unchangeable. And behind me, reminding me to give Him praise. I couldn’t hide and pout.

I turned to face the man behind me and look him in the face. “I know what you mean,” I told him. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Can I get a witness?”

“Oooooh, yesssss!” The man told me. His wife looked over his shoulder and said, “Hallelujah!”

You see, no matter what you are going through, God is with you.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah 43:2

Life isn’t easy. But God will carry you through the bad times – even when you try to hide. Friend, I don’t know what you are going through, but I’d love to pray for you. Leave me a comment or use my contact page to shoot me an email. You are not alone.

Carol

I Can’t Find Jesus ANYwhere!

Hey friends. It’s been a while since I’ve been here and typed out words for you to read. So much has happened while we’ve been apart – me and you.

I’ve had a heartbreak. My precious aunt passed away. I can’t even type those words without a tear or ten. But I also can’t think of her without smiling. I’m sure I’ll write about her more soon, but for now know that a beautiful woman of God has moved to her home in Heaven. Please pray for my family as we grieve the loss of one so great.

18-Summers-S2-300x89

 

Now to some happier news! I’ve been asked to write a column called Giggles and Grace for the new blog Just 18 Summers. I’m super excited about the blog. The idea is that as a parent you only have 18 summers to spend with your children. We need to make the most of the time. This website gives lots of great ideas for parents. It has devotions to share as a family, fun activities to do together, home ideas, family funnies (that’s me) and more!

So, once a month I’ll be posting at Just 18 Summers. But don’t wait for my posts to visit. Sign up at the blog to get their emails. You won’t want to miss anything.

Here is a snippet of today’s family funny:

In the south, funerals are a family affair. When my Memaw passed, we attended what is known as “receiving friends” at the funeral home – where our family accepted the condolences of all who came to pay their last repsects. We took all three children with us. My youngest, Grace, was three at the time. She was especially close to her great-grandmother.

For weeks before her death, we prepared Grace for the inevitable…

Join me HERE today to read the rest of my Giggles and Grace column. And if you are interested in reading the one from last month, click HERE.

I hope you are all having a great start to the year. I’m praying for God to bless each of you.

Carol

When the Pain Causes You to Shuffle

internet-cafe-devotions

“You okay?”

I watched the love of my life rub his knee and wince. Some seven weeks earlier, he was in surgery to repair his acl and torn meniscus. There was more damage on his knee than the doctor realized. The recovery was slow.

Letting out a slow and careful sigh he responded, “Yeah. I’m okay.” Only I knew he wasn’t. I knew he was in pain. I know when he’s mad. I know when he’s sad, and I know when he’s not telling the truth…

Join me today at The Internet Cafe. Click HERE to read the rest of my devotion.

**There are some strange things going on at the Cafe with the formatting on their site and the words look really tiny. But you should still be able to read it. Just bust out your magnifying glass. 😉

 

 

Carol

Why Didn’t God Answer?

nTxKUzW

She woke me in the dead of night and spoke the words a mother dreads.

“Mama, I don’t feel good.”

“What’s wrong?” I croaked, throwing back the covers to slide my feet to the floor. I walked my nine-year-old back to her room and listened as she told me how her head throbbed, and she was hot and then cold and then hot again.

Eleven years of mothering told me she had a fever even before I touched her. I got a cool cloth for her head and gave her some Tylenol. Feeling tired and weary, I knelt down by her bed, smoothed her covers and rubbed her back.

She rolled back to search for my eyes in the dark. “Mama?” My daughter asked. “Last night I prayed and asked God to help me have a good night and a good day tomorrow. Why do you think He would let me get sick when I prayed that?”

I took a deep breath, throwing up quick prayers asking God to give me the wisdom to answer this one. I looked at her in the dark, the seconds ticked on the clock echoing in the room.

“Faith, just because we ask God for something doesn’t mean He automatically grants it…” I began to explain something to my daughter that sometimes I don’t even understand myself.

My nine-year-old hit on a question probably uttered by hundreds of thousands of people daily – WHY?

Why, Lord, would you let a crazy man with guns in a school full of innocent children? Why didn’t you let a cop pull him over for speeding before he got there?

Why didn’t you distract the Boston bombers as they were creating explosive devices so the bombs wouldn’t detonate? Lives would still be intact. Families unbroken.

Why would you allow a girl at the beginning of her journey, just three years into marriage, have incurable cancer? Why, Lord?

Why would you allow a child to be taken and kept for ten years? Why didn’t you draw the neighbor’s attention to the house sooner?

Friends, I don’t claim to have the answers to all of life’s questions. I just don’t. I told my daughter the same.

mf0yMnm

I did explain how God gave us free will to choose our lives, and sometimes we choose to touch the germs that make us sick. Adam and Eve chose so long ago to bring sin into the world and because of that sin, we have sickness and cancer and bad people.

God didn’t want it. He doesn’t relish in allowing it to happen. It hurts Him. It brings Him great grief. But ultimately, He knows that in this fallen world, He can use those things – those horrible, sometimes unspoken things – to draw others to Him.

Because when they find Him, they can have eternal life in Heaven. Life without cancer, without bombers, without hunger, without sex trafficking, without heartbreak, without loneliness, without abandonment, without addiction and without death.

And although, I don’t understand why or how God chooses to intervene sometimes with miracles and sometimes not, I’m okay with that. As hard as it is to say, I accept it, because God knows more than me.

He knows the big picture. He knows when a death and “perfect healing” in Heaven brings more people to know Him than a miracle on earth.

So I choose to have faith. Faith doesn’t mean you understand everything because you’ve worked it all out in your head and it makes sense. Faith believes without completely seeing. It’s trusting.

And while I don’t always know the answers to the why, I do know God. And I trust Him. I know He is always with me.

I explained to Faith, “Even though I can’t automatically make you better, I am here to be with you. Does my presence make you feel a little better?”

She nodded her fevered head.

It’s the same way with God. While He may not grant your request the way you wish, He will be with you. He won’t leave your side.

Lord, I thank you for a daughter who prays to you and thinks about the hard questions. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk to her about a real situation in a way she can understand. God, I know there are people reading these words who are hurting with situations I cannot even begin to understand. But You do. I ask that You bring healing and peace to their lives. Lord, I pray You wrap your loving arms around them and bring comfort. Let them know You will never leave them or forsake them. Amen.

*Photo credit

Carol