Sowing and Reaping

“Sharing something that you’ve created is a vulnerable but essential part of engaged and Wholehearted living.” Brené Brown

Whenever I share something I’ve written with you, the unknown reader, I feel vulnerable. Naked. Like when I’m trying to exchange my wet swimsuit for dry shorts underneath my beach towel and the wind whips the towel out of my hands and… there I am, EXPOSED! (That only happened once, but it was really, really embarrassing!) Some of my recent guest bloggers have expressed similar sentiments. Some whom I’ve asked to share their stories have declined, understandably refusing to be “that vulnerable.” I get it! But I want to thank those who have had the courage and taken the time to write and share. I would dare to say we have all been blessed.

This week, a couple of exciting things happened, so I wanted to take this blog for myself, even though my last-chapter-deadline is breathing down my neck. First, I found an editor who was willing to take a red pen to the first 16 chapters! She’s a no-nonsense-detail-oriented person who likes to do it the “old fashioned” way, in her hammock with a hard copy in hand. So, I had the joy of taking my flash drive down to Staples and having all 299 pages printed and bound with a little black spiral. To feel the weight of that typed manuscript in my hands was sheer bliss!Manuscript

As I praised my Savior and thought of the agony that went into that writing, I remembered the verse, “The LORD has done great things for us, Wherof we are glad.” (Psalm 126:3 NKJV) And then, “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (verse 5)

Yes, Lord! I certainly sowed this work in tears, but I thank You for the joy I feel today as I hold it in my hands! Thank You for being with me on this journey. Amen.

I thought of sowing and reaping as I shared with my Honey what else had happened at Staples. After living under a cloud of shame for years about what my former spouse was doing (drugs) or not doing (loving me well), I rejoice at every opportunity to discover that I am now married to someone who makes me feel proud of who he is and what he’s doing, even when no one is watching. And they say kindness doesn’t pay…

“Thank you for being such a nice person!” I said as I burst through the door with my spiral-bound manuscript in hand. “You saved me thirty bucks!” I proceeded to tell my Honey that when I went to pay for my manuscripts (I’d decided to get two, one for me and one for the editor), my wallet fell open to expose our joyful engagement picture. I’d already swiped my Visa card to pay for the eyebrow-raising total when the clerk glanced at the photo and said, “Is that your husband?”

“Yes.”

“He gets a lot of work done here. He’s always so nice and courteous when he comes in. I’m sure he has a rewards account with us.”

With that, she asked a couple more questions, deleted my transaction, and re-rang my total. It came to about half of the original!

“Have a nice day!” she said as I nearly skipped out the door. I had just reaped what my godly husband had sown. It was a little redemption of things I had thought were forever lost back in the days when reaping what a husband had sown didn’t bring nearly as much joy.

God sees us. People see us. What are we writing about ourselves in this world? Whether we have a hard copy or not, we are being read! What does your manuscript look like?

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galations 6:7-9 NKJV)

P.S. Please pray for me and this ministry. Please follow my blog. Share my blog. Comment on my blog. All of those things will help me to be noticed by a publisher. Thank you!Business Card

Broken And Restored

It’s a privilege to introduce you to my friend Bridget Edwards, who writes this week’s guest post. Bridget is a private person, so I consider it an honor that she allows us into her afternoon reverie. Many of us may have asked ourselves a similar question, “What would I do differently in hindsight?” Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t pigeonhole us in our pasts. He offers us new identities as he takes the giant eraser of His love to our life histories. Thank you, Bridget, for this honest reflection. ~Juliet~

While sitting here on my patio enjoying a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the thought ran through my mind, “If I had life to live all over again what I would do differently?” The question was followed by a flood of memories, emotions, resentments and regrets. But I quickly push the thoughts out of my head. “You cannot live life over again, that’s foolish.” Unfortunately, I have to live with my bad decisions; I have to suffer the consequences of my behavior; I have to endure the shame of my sinful choices.

Image courtesy of Winter_can_wait

Image courtesy of Winter_can_wait

You see, the devil offered me an alternative life style to that which God offered. And NOT consciously choosing it, I took it – pushing aside all the sermons I had heard, all the bible studies attended, blocking out the many family worships and ignoring all the prayers prayed on my behalf. I sought to numb the pains of life with the pleasures of sin, not realizing at the time that this behavior would only cause more pain.

You see I wasn’t sure of what I was running from or what I was running to for that matter. It was years later that I even realized I was running. But then it was too late. Sin was so deeply embedded in my life that all felt hopelessly lost. Stains of sin started to alter my appearance, my judgment, my compassion and my will.

Every time I looked at myself, all I could see was a life of sin. The results of my sinful behavior appeared in my marriage, in my children, in my work and in my play, preventing me from having a relationship with God. After looking over my life and realizing that there was no escape from the clutches of Satan, I cried out to the Lord, “I am unworthy Lord, please save me.” It was my cry of desperation, but I was not desperate enough to totally surrender to God’s leading.

You see, I struggle with surrender, I struggle with giving up total control, and I struggle with trusting another person, being, and thing. Nevertheless, my awesome God knows this about me, and in His infinite wisdom He uses kid gloves to deal with me. Nudging me ever so gently, offering me forgiveness and reminding me of His promises.

I cling to the promise found in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I breathe the promise of Hebrews 13:5, “For He Himself has said, I will never leave nor forsake you” and Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;” I pray daily “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalms 51:10-12).

I wasted many years of my life doing foolish sinful things, but because of God’s goodness, those experiences are now testimonies of how God will leave the ninety-nine to go look for, retrieve and restore the one lost sheep. I am that lost sheep, safe at home in the fold with the Father. God redeems broken lives and restores identities that we thought were lost.

Bridget Edwards is a wife, mother, friend and born leader. Upon completing her Bachelor’s Degree she was called by God to work with children instead of pursuing her passion for law. B on beachObedient to God’s call, Bridget has changed the lives of young people in and outside of the classroom. When not working with children or assisting in church she enjoys camping, bike riding and avoiding cooking. Bridget is striving to have a Christ-like character. Her motto is “In God I Trust, live and breathe”.

Ghirardelli & Geography

I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend, and this week’s guest blogger, Sheri Wall. I’ve been dishing chapters of my manuscript off to a few friends and family members for initial editing and feedback. I’m so glad her review of Chapter 15 brought this insightful truth to light! (Thank you, Sheri, for this version of how God redeems the forgiveness we thought we lost.) Enjoy! Juliet

My email inbox is usually fairly predictable: 40% savings here; BOGO now; Here’s your school newsletter; Invitation to write for my blog as a guest. Wait. What? Better inspect that one more closely. Blogging isn’t completely foreign to me. I currently compile short entries for a successful photographer. But, you only have to dig so deep to pen phrases about hairstyles and various fru-fru subjects. No one’s soul is on the line. Even though I’m honored and horrified, I told my dear friend Juliet I’d give it a go. She told me not to worry, “The Holy Spirit will tell you what to say.” She was right.

As you dear readers know, Juliet is in the process of writing part of her life story. I’ve been privileged to proofread some chapters for her. It’s a powerful memoir that will touch many lives. I already know women that are asking tough questions and grasping at straws that Juliet, as a daughter of the King, has already answered and grabbed. I cannot wait to share her pages. One of the reasons my eyes have seen her raw words is that I lived alongside Juliet during a portion of the production, if you will. Endless nights, painful phone calls, tears, knowing glances and even vomiting – I had a front row seat for a good part of the show. And yet as I reaChoc-PBd the most recent chapter, my jaw, which while reading is usually busy with a spoon covered in peanut butter and rolled in Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips (it’s a bad snacking habit, don’t judge me), ever so slowly dropped. I honestly had completely forgotten that these particular events had even happened in her life. I mean, once I scanned the pages, it came back to me – a little. Some of the details were new to me, but the core of the story I should have retained.

Ugh! My head fell forward and the sadly still familiar voice began; “You are a horrible person! You should have remembered this happened to her. How can you call yourself a friend?”   Satan loves to berate me with guilt over my shortcomings toward the people I love. If I hadn’t already been eating chocolate, I would have sprung from my chair to grab some regret-soothing confections. But then Satan slipped up and said, “Who doesn’t recall such a significant, painful, even ugly time in a person’s life?” And my Lord answered, “Me”.

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Hebrews 8:12 (KJV)

Boom. Seems simple enough; pretty cut-and-dry. And yet here’s another verse:

“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us.”    Psalm 103:12 (GNB)East-West - Version 2

I’m ashamed to admit that during my high school World Geography class, I did not grasp the whole traveling east/west thing. It wasn’t until years later during a church sermon that a wonderful Texas pastor explained that there is never a finite distance between the east and the west. If you start to travel east, and keep traveling east around the world, 10 miles, 100, miles, 1000 miles – it doesn’t matter, you will never actually travel west. The same holds true if you start westward. So, our sins are infinitely being removed from us. Sins are going to keep happening and the forgetting never stops.

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25 (NIV)

The above tasty morsel was a gift from God and Google. While checking the verbiage of other Bible versions, I came across this article by Sam O’Neal, Does God Really Forget Our Sins?, showcasing the above verse that I had, umm, forgotten about. I love how the Lord says “for my own sake” in verse 25. He doesn’t “forgive and forget” just to help us feel better, he does it for Himself. Even with the ability to number stars, sort sand grains, and count hair follicles, the Lord decided he didn’t need to commit our sins to memory even though he obviously has the mental capacity to do so. Sweet!

You know what? After writing this, I’m not slouching in my seat anymore, and I don’t feel the need to reload my spoon. I am filled with gratitude and humbled that this exchange in my own mind was used to remind me, and now remind each of you, that our Maker loves us unconditionally and we should never forget the simplicity of His plan for salvation.

Sheri Wall has lived all but 6 months of her life in the great state of Texas. When she’s not Sherispinning or running to allow for more cooking and eating, she’s engaging in some type of largely masculine hobby that either her husband of 30 years, 23-year-old son, or 15 year-old-son enjoy. Sheri is also a part-time nanny, writer, and bargain hunter and is thankful for the blessings of a simple but full life.

Sweet Faith & Grapefruit

I’m so excited about the guest blog posts I’ll be sharing for the next few weeks as I complete my manuscript! This one is from my friend, Melissa Merritt. I’ve had the privilege of photographing her sweet miracle for the first year of life, anGrapefruitd have been so BLESSED to witness Melissa’s faith in action. After reading this, I know I will never eat a grapefruit without thinking of FAITH, maybe you won’t either. (Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your heart with us.) Enjoy! Juliet

 

It’s one of those “Christian” words that we throw around quite a bit. I was raised in the church, so the terms “Praise God,” “Hallelujah,” “Grace,” “Faith,” they just roll off my tongue naturally. And there is a familiar rhythm to hearing them used by others. One would assume, that a 25 year-old raised in the church would have a strong understanding of all of these terms, that she would be able to define in English, Hebrew, and Greek, a concept as fundamental as Faith.

In the spirit of recent posts on vulnerability, I am going to share a little of my journey with you. It is truly a humble journey. The truth is, my whole life, faith was something I dwelt on, but was too scared to truly reflect upon.

Here’s a little background on my “walk” with faith: When I a kid, there were adults in my home church who spoke about “faith” quite strongly, they prayed with expectation of God handing them exactly what they wanted because, “they had faith.” This was intriguing to my 9-year-old mind, because my parents taught me that we are subject to the divine will of God and that we should request and submit to His will in our lives.  I was taught that our Father God was not a Santa Claus. I was taught that however disappointing, I should actually give thanks for unanswered prayers. I am grateful that my parents taught me this, because, around that time, one of my relatives died. I prayed for her. My parents had prayed for her. But under the theory of the people in the church – her death could have been prevented if we had a little more faith. “Have faith” became a phrase I always cringed at a little for most of my life, because I was afraid of the great disappointment that follows the, “All you need is Faith” bandwagon.

Another area of discomfort for me was reading a particular verse in Matthew 17:20, where Jesus tells the disciples, “for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move and nothing will be impossible for you.” Don’t get me wrong, it was encouraging to me that God only required me to have small faith. In 26 years of church every weekend, community service, and mission trips, I felt comfortable that I had earned my mustard seed of faith. But doesn’t it sound like Jesus is telling the disciples to have some faith (even a little) and then anything you ask for you shall receive?

Then there are the miracles Jesus performed on earth – the centurion at whose faith Jesus “marveled.” In Matthew 8: 5, a Centurion comes to Jesus, and tells him of his servant paralyzed at home and Jesus offers to come heal him but the centurion refuses saying, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soliders under me. And I say go he goes and come or do this and they do it.” This was truly remarkable because the centurion was a Roman, a secular, not Jewish – not awaiting a Savior. Yet, he understood the dominion of God better than even the 12 disciples did! Jesus said, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” and He healed the servant.

He told the bleeding woman “by your faith you are healed.”

I read these words in the Bible, and they troubled me… were those “expectant Christians” from my childhood right? Was I praying all wrong?

It wasn’t until a recent season of my life, that I truly spent time reflecting on faith. As it turns out, this growth, came during a season of pain and tribulation. Which, for many of us “Christians,” (you know, the ones who make good decisions and are free from many of the “consequences of sin” that “worldly” people engage in) these seasons are supposed to be nonexistent. We save our money so we can buy nice homes, and drive nice cars. We spend our early adult years praying for Godly spouses we can marry so we can raise happy, Godly families. We eat healthy food so we can live long, healthy lives, and look back on our faithful, happy life and thank God for the counsel of His word. If we are truly honest with ourselves, the only part of the Word that bothers us are the prophecies that the end is coming – the world is ending, and we might not be able to live out our dream lives! We might actually have to go to the real heaven. In my walk, I have found that I have, in essence, traded in the promise of our heavenly mansion for perfecting my earthly home!

I was 25 years old, when my season of tribulation came. At that time, I had been gratefully reaping the benefits of good decisions sown. I had a great career (because I listened to my parents and went to school). I had a healthy marriage (because we abided by God’s design for marriage). And, before long, God was blessing us with a baby. I had no fear that anything bad would happen, because I was healthy and happy. I didn’t eat “unclean meat,” I didn’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. Oh, and of course, I had faith.

So, I had my baby. She was a gift from God. But, things were far from perfect. The sunshine-y bubble surrounding my life up until that time had popped.

She was sick, she needed healing. This season in my life was not a short one, there were weeks of mostly bad news. As with most times of trouble, there are some blessings. For me, I was blessed to have so many people petitioning God on our behalves. And there truly is power in prayer. I could literally feel the love and support of those praying for us. I’m so grateful for every prayer and every person who lifted us up at that time, but in the trenches of it all, there were times I could not help but slide into this idea that my lack of faith was failing my daughter.

Right in the midst of the painful confusion about our little girl’s future, people with very good hearts and kind intentions encouraged us not to worry but to “have faith.” In the craziness, I just started grabbing for faith like some sort of good luck charm – I claimed faith – I prayed for faith. If I could eat faith, I would have, and I repeatedly asked my husband if this was all somehow my fault.

He wisely directed me to what is now what I consider one of the dearest passages in the Bible. John 9 begins with a story of Jesus passing by a man who was blind from birth. The disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus responds (and this is my favorite part), “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”

See! I was completely seeing my situation with worldly eyes: do good things to get good things. This is not how God works! In fact, the disciple James wrote the exact opposite, he said, falling into various trials should be all joy! In fact, the testing of our faith produces patience!

News flash: We are not in heaven!

 Bad things are going to happen to us, we are subject to the harsh conditions of this sin-full world. But, as God strengthens us through trials we grow in faith – and according to James, we can ask in faith, for wisdom!

After my baby came home from the hospital, every morning I would eat a grapefruit. I developed a ritual, I would slice the fruit in half, carve around the fruit, then force myself to swallow some of the bitter juice. I would then generously cover the whole face of the fruit with a heaping tablespoon full of sugar! I loved watching the sugar form a sweet syrupy substance right there on the face of the grapefruit! Grapefruits are gorgeous; they look like giant oranges with the added bonus of being pink! But, it never ceases to amaze me how sour they are! But… if you sprinkle that sugar on, it’s not only edible, it’s tasty!Grapefruit2

As I sat at the table one morning, reflecting on the storm that had rocked my whole world, I just stared at the grapefruit covered in sugar, and said to myself, “That’s faith!

It’s like sugar on grapefruit!”

 Sugar does not change the grapefruit to an apple – it just makes it more bearable!

It’s scary to imagine the bad things all the bad things that could happen to us. It’s scary not knowing the trials and tribulations that may test us – the seasons of grapefruits in life we will have to endure. But, if every Christian had perfect lives free from any problems, would we really need faith?

God doesn’t want us to live in fear of harm, He wants us to live by faith. What does that look like? Hebrews 11 gives us the definition of faith: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

For me, faith is realizing that we don’t understand and can’t see everything – it means accepting that there is a divine design, that God has ultimate authority over everything. If we truly had a mustard seed of this type of faith we wouldn’t really go around re-choreographing the geography of earth by relocating mountains, but we would be about His work – and not even a mountain could stand in our way. We would live like the Bible heroes listed in Hebrews 11 who endured trials and tribulations not with the promises of earthly prosperity, but with the promise of a homeland, a God, and a heavenly city.

So, let us not be fair-weather Christians. Let us not turn to the magic faith umbrella, the one you want to pull out at the first sign of trouble. Let us be men and women of faith who praise Him, even in the midst of hurricanes which threaten everything we hold dear. Because, our faith, our promise in things unseen, our promise of a true and perfect heaven, makes even the bitterest trials bearable.

*Grapefruit images: Ami Novak, http://twenty20.com/winter_can_wait

Melissa Merrit ImageMelissa Merritt was a litigator with a heart for being at home.  The Lord granted her the desires of her heart, and today, she shares her heart and her home with her husband (a mighty man of God), her miracle baby, and a Golden Retriever.  Relying fully on God, Melissa was able to earn a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Florida, the same weekend she married her best friend.  Holding her husband’s hand, morning cuddles with her baby, and coming home from a great trip to a clean house are a few of her favorite things!