Has God done something wonderful in the lives of your kids? Can you see him at work in their hearts?
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Has God done something wonderful in the lives of your kids? Can you see him at work in their hearts?
at 11:15 PM
It has been many months since we planned our vacation, but it's finally here! Unfortunately my husband had some work to do early in the week and will not be coming until Wednesday, but this afternoon we safely arrived to the beautiful Ocean Isle Beach in NC. We came with my husband's family whom I adore, and we are excited about a relaxing week at the beach.
Just seeing the surf and smelling the salty air lifts my spirit in a way that only two other things can do - Christmas, and the mall! But seriously, I always have such wonderful quality conversations with God while I'm at the beach, it just soothes my soul and helps me feel more peace than I seem to be able to achieve at home, where all the hustle and bustle of every day life looms around every corner.
I know God is going to share some great things with me this week, I'll keep you posted!
PS Be on the lookout for my P31 devotion this week, running on Thursday July 3rd - this was a beach inspired devotion that God laid on my heart while jogging along the shore one early sunny morning this past spring.
If you are not signed up to receive the P31 daily devotions in email, visit www.proverbs31.org, and click on Encouragement For Today to either read the devotions or subscribe to them.
at 5:23 PM
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I had been feeling a little distant from my husband lately, and made sure to tell him how we had not spent anytime together lately and that I wanted our relationship to be a priority. I reviewed how many weeks it had been since we had had a date night or alone time, and his answer was simply this: "I've been right here."
My eyes were opened. At that moment, I realized he was right. I started thinking about the past few weeks and realized how busy I had been. I had spent a weekend in Virginia at a speaking event, had spent many hours and days over the past few weeks with my sister in the hospital, had been mommy to my own kids plus her two kids, and then spent five days at She Speaks. I had been absent a lot, without really even taking inventory of my absence.
Today I received an email from one of the ladies that was in my She Speaks speaker evaluation group. She sweetly wrote that God had laid me on her heart, and given her a bible verse to share with me. The verse was Galatians 6:9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
Although I felt so blessed that God had taken time to lay little 'ol me on someone else's heart, I found myself worrying about why He had given her that verse to share with me. I started thinking, "Lord, have I not been serving you enough lately? Don't you remember how hard I worked for you over the 5 days of She Speaks.... oh yeah, and what about all those speaking events I have had this year, spreading your love and encouraging women to draw closer to you? Have I had a negative attitude? Do I look or act weary in my service to you?"
I began fretting over my inabilities and insecurities, and wondering how I had let God down. Keeping in mind, that I knew there were plenty of examples that God could come up with! So I did the only thing I could do - pray! I asked God to let me know what it was He was trying to say to me through this precious new sister in Christ.
Then He laid the answer on my heart.....my first ministry is to my family. I need not get weary being the devoted wife and mom that He has called me to be. I need not get weary devoting my time to my sister who needs special care and attention right now after surgery. I need not grow weary doing double duty as a mom, loving on and caring for her two children while she is recovering. I need not grow emotionally weary, worrying about my loved ones and their future. I need not grow weary taxiing my kids from place to place, doing housework, etc., etc., etc. God called me to minister to my family, through my every day responsibilities, and honestly, I do consider them a privilege. God wants me to a light for Him in my home, not just for everyone else. LOVE being a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend - and I need to remember that every day - even when things make me feel a little weary!
at 1:46 PM
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Well, He did it again. I wasn't surprised, just enamored. I wasn't shocked, just blessed. I wasn't confused, just amazed. I wasn't worthy, just granted grace.
The Proverbs 31 annual She Speaks conference took place this past weekend, and once again, it was beyond amazing. Once again, God left me speechless.
Although I was missing my children and husband after five days of living at the hotel, part of me did not want to leave. I felt a sadness start coming over me as I packed my clothes and headed out to the car.
For you see, I had spent the entire weekend with my precious team of P31 sisters, and I knew it would be another year before we all got to be together again.
I had raised my arms in praise to my sweet Lord during all the amazing worship songs that we had sung.
I had watched with tears in my eyes, as women who were broken, discouraged, and desperate for redemption, kneeled at the foot of the big wooden cross, pouring out their burdens to Christ, and dropping the enemy's shackles to the floor that had kept them in bondage for many years.
I had been in the presence of beautiful, talented God-fearing women from 42 states and 3 countries, and was sure I had heard the sound of wings from the army of angels which hovered our ballroom.
I had been swimming in the sea of God's presence throughout the whole weekend, drinking in every single moment, and now that it was over, my heart longed to take that feeling home with me. I found myself wishing that I could bottle up that passion for Christ and save it for a rainy day. I was speechless, and I knew that no words would be sufficient to help other people feel or understand the spiritual high that I was on.
I sighed, and told myself that I would just have to accept that all good things must come to an end eventually..... or do they?
When I returned home today, things looked much the same. My husband was on the couch watching a golf tournament. My son was playing games on his Wii. My daughters were telling me about all the happenings of their weekend (one had been on mission trip in Virginia, and the other had been at She Speaks in the Next Generation track, so they had lots to tell me!). The sink was full of dishes. The laundry room was full of dirty clothes. My inbox was packed with emails. Bills were on the counter.
Heavy sigh. Reality check. Same ol, same ol... or was it?
Every year, God does an amazing work in my heart at She Speaks - through the powerful words and scriptures that our P31 speakers share in the sessions throughout the weekend; the wealth of knowledge that I gain about speaking and writing from our breakout sessions; the sweet, new friends that I make; the hearts that I have the privilege of praying for; the tears that I have the privilege of wiping; the lives that I see interrupted, of countless women who thought they came to learn about speaking and writing, but instead walked away with an incredibly new outlook on what God desires for them to do in in their life.
Things did look the same on the outside, but I was changed on the inside.
I considered how each year after She Speaks, I am left speechless. But then it hit me...God does not want me to be speechless - He wants me to shout to the mountaintops! God wants me to share with my husband the spiritual passion that I received over the weekend, even if he didn't run to the door welcoming me home with showers of hugs and kisses. God wants to change my heart so that I can be a more patient and loving mom and wife, even if the kids started having squabbling as soon as I walked in the door. God wants me to be compassionate even when I see dirty dishes and laundry. He wants me to share what He has done - despite reality.
Isaiah 41:5-11 (NIV)
Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it, "I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon. And those who dwell in darkness from the prison. I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images."Behold, the former things have come to pass, Now I declare new things; Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you."
Sing to the LORD a new song, Sing His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it ,You islands, and those who dwell on them. Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voices, The settlements where Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing aloud, Let them shout for joy from the tops of the mountains.
The Lord, once again, has given me a new song. His desire is to interrupt my normal, same 'ol, same 'ol, every day life, so that I can take advantage of the privilege He has given me to help build His kingdom. I want be used by Him, not be speechless. I want to share Him with others, not keep Him in a bottle.
Take time to remember who He is today, but don't be speechless.
I am ever so thankful that He did it again.
at 9:05 PM
Monday, June 16, 2008
The doctors completed the surgery in just over three hours, which was supposed to take 30 to 45 minutes. As my family and I waited in the waiting room for hours, anxiously searching the halls for any sign of a doctor to come and give us an update, all we could was pray. The doctor finally appeared, and said it was worse than what they had expected, in fact, it was the worst internal infection he had seen in all his years of practicing medicine. (Gee thanks for telling us that doc.) He explained that she would need at least two or three more weeks in the hospital, and that things would probably get worse before getting better. He made sure we understood that her road to recovery would be long, bumpy and hard. We all stood there crying, hearts filled with worry, not really knowing what to say.
It was a few hours later when she left recovery and I was just about to go and visit her in her room. I was sitting there with my head in my hands, rubbing my red eyes, trying to find an ounce of composure and strength to go stand by her bedside. Just then, another family entered the room, talking and making phone calls. I didn't pay them much attention. Then a few minutes later, I heard the word "Jesus" loud and clear. Just the sound of Jesus's name made my heart skip a beat, and felt like music to my ears. My eyes looked up and I saw a sweet, white haired older woman, with beautiful eyes, sitting in a wheelchair. Then I overheard her telling her family members how she just hoped that the Lord would allow her to keep her precious husband a little bit longer here on earth. But despite her worry, her face was glowing with joy.
Before I knew it, she was looking straight at me, and saying "Hey Honey! How are ya!". I quietly said I was fine and left it at that. But then, she proceeded to roll herself over to where I was sitting, and began talking to me about her husband, how he was the matriarch of their family and such a wonderful Godly man. She asked me some questions about why I was there, and began encouraging me, reminding me of beautiful truths from the Bible, and sharing God's love with me.
I recall her saying, in a soothing and gentle voice, "child - there is just no way to fathom how much God loves us, and it is so important for us to remember that truth in times like these". The more she talked, I found myself wishing I could pull out a piece of paper and write down her every word, but I just sat there and let her sweetness pour out on me. Then she said something I will never forget. She said, "honey - you are so sweet, and young, I just hope God blesses your sister. And if He can only save one person today, I hope it is her, because my husband is 85 years old, and has lived a long and fruitful life."
I was stunned at her selflessness. I was shocked that she would even consider the thought of putting a total stranger's life ahead of the life of her dear husband. I didn't even know how to respond to such a heartfelt and Godly expression of love. She took my hands, and my mother's hands who was sitting there with us, and she prayed for my sister out loud. Afterwards, she encouraged us some more and told us not to worry, and before we left, I told her I wanted to pray for her, and we all held hands again and prayed for her husband, Ernest.
Today my sister is still in a lot of pain and still has a long difficult journey to travel towards recovery, but she got two good reports today, and that is a praise. It was an answered prayer, and I am waiting in anticipation to see what prayers He answers next.
I found out what floor that Mrs. Sykes husband was in, and after visiting with my sister for a while, my daughter Kaitlyn and I went to look for her. I found her in the ICU waiting room, standing there with that same joyful glow on her face, happily talking with another stranger. I had brought her a small vase of fresh gardenias from my back yard, and as the smell permeated the room, her eyes grew wide. I asked if she remembered me, and she smiled and said yes. I thanked her for her kindness last night and gave her a hug, and her eyes welled up with tears, as she poured out more encouragement and compliments that lifted my spirits. She doted on my daughter, how pretty she was, how sweet she was, and how wonderful it was to know that she loved the Lord. Then she told my daughter something very profound - she said, with the way the world is today, many kids never hear God's Word or set foot in a church, and that Kaitlyn might be the only Bible that some kids ever get to read. Kaitlyn smiled and told her thank you, and it opened up an opportunity for me to talk to my daughter about the importance of being Jesus to others.
I can only hope to be just like Mrs. Sykes one day. To become such a strong woman of faith, such a lover of people, so selfless that I would put even strangers ahead of myself. To become a woman that despite hardships and pain, my face will radiate joy and God's love. To become someone that leaves other people feeling as if they have seen Jesus, through the light that shone through me.
PS Mrs. Sykes said her husband was doing much better today, so I know that God sees Ernest too, and has His angels hovering around him.
at 1:08 PM
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Well, I have survived the week so far. God did an amazing thing in my heart today. For some reason, everything I looked at or experienced, I counted a blessing. Now for someone who has felt stuck in a rut lately, wondering why everything goes wrong at once and what plans God has for life's challenges, this was a great accomplishment!
Last night we had horrific storms here in Charlotte, with clapping thunder and booming lightning. Huge trees were cut in half and fallend down in my neighborhood, just missing beautiful homes. But my house and my family were safe this morning, and I awoke to a beautiful ray of sunshine across my bed.
I had a house full of five kids this morning, between my 3 and my sister's 2 children. For some, that could sound like a nightmare, but I awoke to the sounds of laughter and playing. I was blessed to be able to provide a happy home for my kids, but also for my neice and nephew to stay while their mom was in the hospital.
I went jogging this morning in the beautiful warm sunshine, and thanked God for my health.
I had to take my daughter to the orthodontist because she lost her top retainer, which costs $120.00 to replace, but I was thankful I could afford to pay for it.
I drove up to visit my sister in the hospital, but was blessed by being the person who was able to brighten her day by bringing her children there to spend time with her. My spirits were lifted as we laughed and talked, and I realized that she was feeling a little better today.
I went to the doctor with my husband about his injured hand, and was reassured by the doctor that after four to six weeks, he should have full mobility of his hand again. He was bummed he can't play golf for a while, but I can live with that (smiles). I thanked God for the wonderful husband that He gave me and that his injury was no worse than it was.
I drove to church this evening in a raging wind, rain, lighting, and hail storm, to help out with a special children's program that my friend and fellow speaker (Van Walton) happened to be doing at our church. I was blessed by the smiles of the children and how Van touched their hearts with her special story of her dog Air and how Christ calls us all into His presence.
And last but not least, I was immensely blessed by the dozens and dozens of comments and emails from so many of you, letting me know that you were praying for me, my family, and all of my P31 sisters. I felt those prayers - thank you so much! I can't wait to meet many of you at She Speaks next week, and I know that the weekend will be so packed full of blessings, that my cup will be overflowing! I can hardly wait!
P.S. Winner!! The winner of my book Reinventing Your Rainbow is Kim Tifton, from Georgia! Congratulations Kim!
at 11:35 PM
Monday, June 9, 2008
I've been worried sick about my sister recently. She has had a progressive form of Multiple Schlerosis for about ten years, and struggles with her disease on a daily basis. Unfortunately, MS causes certain things not to work correctly within the body, as it damages nerve tissues around the organs. My sweet little sister, Christie, had to have intestinal surgery two weeks ago, and things are not healing up as planned. Even though she spent part of the weekend in the emergency room, she had to be rushed back to the hospital today for fear of a serious infection, and was admitted again. Her doctor has scheduled lots of test, and we should know something more tomorrow about the next course of action.
My sister has two children, ages 8 and 9, and my mom and I have been helping take care of them, in addition to helping care for Christie. But my sweet, selfless, giving mother, has now come down with a terrible cold - in June no less! She is still going full speed ahead as care giver and best grandmommy in the world, but bless her heart, she is worn out - physically and emotionally, because it is so hard to see someone you love suffer. She also has the weight of the world on her shoulders, as she continues to look for a job to support herself. She is single, and lost her job last week.
In addition, we had another hospital incident this morning. My husband incurred an injury at work, a serious laceration on his left hand, which sliced open a large gash across the top of his hand and severed some tendons. The doctors temporarily stitched up the wound pending surgery, and as of today he is scheduled for hand surgery on Wednesday to repair his hand. It will take at least six weeks for him to gain use of his hand again.
To make matters worse, Michael was scheduled to go on a week long mission trip, called World Changers, with Morgan, scheduled to leave this weekend. It is a very labor intensive trip, repairing homes, roofing, painting, etc., for people in need. He won't be doing much labor as a result of this, but he still wants to go and supervise a work crew of kids, if the pain is not too bad, especially since the youth minister unexpectedly can't go either, because his wife is having emergency surgery this week, leaving only a handful of chaperones to take 35 youth to Virginia for an extensive work trip for seven days.
Whew. The enemy is at work.
I caught myself questioning God's plans today. I don't understand why my husband would get hurt like this, right before he was going to serve needy people and share God's love with them. I don't understand why my mom lost her job, when she works so hard and endlessly gives all she can give to those she loves. I don't understand why my sister has to suffer. I want God to heal her disease, to ease her suffering, to minimize her pain. I want Him to make her well. I want her to be able to the mommy and wife that she so longs to be. I want her to be happy again.
God's Word reminded me today to focus on His promises; to focus on Jeremiah 29:11; to live out His truths that I shared to my sisters in Christ over the weekend, even when they are easier to say than do. I believe that He sees my loved ones. I believe He sheds a tear for their suffering. I believe that He can use it for good, somehow, someday. It is still hard. But I do believe.
at 7:42 PM
Sunday, June 1, 2008
What did God say, you ask? He simply said, "Tracie, Go... and share your story". Did I say, "sure God! When can I start?!" Nope. I quickly and adamantly said "No God. Forget It". In fact I got into a bit of an argument with God in my head, assuring Him that I could understand His mistake of thinking that I would actually share anything spiritual or private with anyone, much less my most private experiences in life. But of course, God does not make mistakes, and did not make a mistake here. He simply knew my future before I did.
That was about eight years ago, and every year about this time, I am reminded of that day, and the miraculous things He has done in my life since then. A few years after hearing God's voice, in June 2005, I finally took a little step of faith, and attended the Proverbs 31 Annual She Speaks Conference, which is an amazing three day conference that equips women to speak and write for God's kingdom. I had no idea why I was there or what God had planned for me, but it turned out to be a life changing, heart altering, experience. As a result, every June, I am reminded of this memorable day - the day when I truly knew it was well with my soul.
For years I had hidden deep hurts down in my heart, and had allowed the enemy to keep me in a constant state of belief that God could never forgive me or love me. But after spending 48 hours in the midst of God's presence at She Speaks, all that changed. After a powerful worship session, I walked up to a big wooden cross, with tears pouring down my face, and nailed a little notecard to that cross with a hammer.
On that notecard I had written the key to my self-condemnation; the sin that I had committed; the burden I had carried around my neck for years; the reason I believed that God could not love me. I covered it with my hand, so no one behind me could read my secret. But when I secured it to the cross, and heard the pounding sound of the hammer into the wood, I immediately felt like I was in the presence of angels.....and a miracle occurred - the pain and the shame instantly left my heart.
I had kneeled at the foot of that cross as a broken woman, but stood up with a new perspective about who God was, and who I was in His eyes. For the first time in many years, the pain was gone, the shame was gone, and the shackles crashed to the floor. I turned and walked away a new person - a cleansed and forgiven person - with a renewed internal presence of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I accepted God's forgiveness with all my heart, and for the first time ever, I was able to forgive myself. Suddenly a peace washed over my soul that I will never forget. I left my burdens on that cross, and walked away in freedom.
In that fragile moment of redemption, I heard God's voice again. He gently said, "it is now well with your soul". My heart skipped a beat, and I felt short of breath for a second. God had spoken once again, and I had felt His words in my heart.
The Monday after that conference, I resigned from my corporate position, and began a new life with a new boss - God himself. Since then, God has done unbelievable things ... things which I would have never dreamed of, much less believed were possible. For I'm just little 'ol me, but I know now, that my God is a big and powerful God.
If you are registered for this year's She Speaks Conference, I can't wait to meet you! The P31 speaker team is praying for God to open your heart and make His path known to you. He has called you for a purpose, and you are in for a great awakening of clarity and spiritual renewal. If you are not registered, consider attending next year!
But either way, I know God has done something amazing in your life that will encourage others. So.......Do you have a miracle to share? Have you ever had that ah-hah moment, when you suddenly knew that all was well with your soul? Have you ever heard God's voice so clearly about something, that you could not deny it was Him?
As a little motivator, post your brief story on my blog, and you will be entered into a drawing to win a free signed copy of my book, Reinventing Your Rainbow (please be sure not to comment as "anonymous" if you would like to be entered into the drawing).
If you prefer to go ahead and purchase a copy of the book, and read my whole story of how I discovered God's will, and be reassured that He can use all things to His glory, click below to be directed to the Proverbs 31 shopping website.
I can't wait to hear from you! Have a blessed week!
at 11:22 PM
Morgan's friend Maggie, came over to get ready with her.
Morgan was horrified that I went in and took some pictures, but I just had to see the banquet room and check out all the other kids! Here is one last picture I took before she scooted me out the door.
at 2:13 PM