Live, Uncategorized

Jesus is Enough

Jesus is Enough

Today is the anniversary of my dad meeting Jesus face to face. What an impossibly glorious thought of what this past year must have been like for my dad as he worshipped his creator in his new and perfectly whole body, now living in paradise. My heart is overjoyed at the thought of my amazing earthly father residing with my all powerful and perfectly holy Heavenly Father. I find myself longing to be in such company, along with the angels and all those that have gone on before us to their eternal glory worshipping the one true Creator.

Life if full of ups and downs, highs and lows. It just is. Everyone will face moments of absolute joy, finding delight in beautiful moments gifted to us by God, but there will also be devastating set backs and heartache to endure.

I have experienced both. Joy and heartache, delight and devastation. Jesus is in them both. His presence should not be taken for granted, lost or forgotten in either circumstance, good or bad.

As I’ve wrestled with my faith the past couple of years I am profoundly strengthened and encouraged because of the wrestle. I’ve been embarrassed and felt ashamed when my reality was one of incredible doubt and endless questions. When I’ve wavered and asked God the tough questions, God was not mad at me. He did not get offended or flee from me. He showed me absolute mercy and grace when my foundation seemed to be crumbling.

In a purely miraculous way, my faith was being restored and strengthened, the struggle and wrestling forced me to deconstruct my faith and start the construction process back to my first love. Jesus has not changed, He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He’s not afraid of my struggle and insecurities, He’s right there…in life and in death.

I’ll never forget the moment I got the phone call about my dad’s passing. His death was expected and we had gathered with him for months just about everyday thinking it was the end. We actually joked about the fact that we had said our “good byes” numerous times, my poor dad was probably tired of hearing our “It’s ok to let go” speech. He had a fabulous sense of humor and I think that’s what I miss the most.

Those days we watched my dad slowly and painfully lose his battle with ALS were long and terrible, they were gut wrenching. But I have learned many lessons, I have grown in my relationship with my God and my family and the brave friends that stood beside our family when we could barely function. Most of all I learned that Jesus is enough.

My dad knew that Jesus was enough. He served him faithfully even to the end. I know it wasn’t easy for him, I know that he wanted to be strong for us. I also know that he chose God even when he may not have felt like it – the end of his life was heartbreaking. It just was. You can’t sugar coat the ugliness of disease and isolation of death. He wasn’t able to speak, but I know he would have proclaimed that Jesus is enough. I know this was not what he wanted the end of his life to look like, I’m sure he had disappointments. There were tears and there were times of uncertainty but… Jesus is enough.

If you are struggling with grief, if you are experiencing a terrible life altering circumstance please know that it’s ok. The struggle is ok. You will grow in the struggle. You will grow in the devastation. You will have questions and will struggle with your faith. Your faith will be strengthened. Please don’t feel guilty but know that God loves you and most importantly that Jesus is enough.

Advertisements
Live, Uncategorized

Peace.

Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

The word “Peace” spoken by Jesus to His Disciples was a common form of greeting one another, often a way of saying hello as well as goodbye to someone. Such a common everyday word of Jesus’ time, and yet when He said it, it seemed to mean something much more significant. It was in an attitude of love and encouragement, with a sense of hope that Christ gifted this precious promise to His followers. Jesus knew there were tough times ahead not only for Himself but also his Disciples, the road to the cross was getting shorter.

As parents we want so much for our children. What I want most for my boys as they navigate life is that they know true contentment and peace as they grow and become the men God intended for them to become. Unfortunately I can’t swing by Target and pick up a box of “contentment” or a bag of “peace” and gift it to them. That’s what makes this verse so mesmerizing and beautiful. Jesus is freely leaving us a beautifully packaged gift box with His perfect peace inside. All we have to do is unwrap it and accept it.  Peace is simply knowing Jesus.  It doesn’t mean that life will be easy and there will be no set backs or suffering to endure.  It means that during the tumultuous storms of life and crushing waves of pain, Jesus is in the boat with us.  He is peace.

Jesus must have sensed that His beloved Disciples were having a hard time understanding His mission and work on earth. They were afraid of what was to come. The words our Heavenly Father spoke to those so dear to Him must have been like a soothing salve to their troubled and fearful hearts. Much like the men that followed Christ during such troublesome times, many of us are facing circumstances beyond our control or understanding. We too need to cling to those precious words so lovingly gifted to us in this verse. Dive into God’s life giving Word everyday, read it, meditate on it and pray it. When we open ourselves up to the presence of God, we open ourselves up to His perfect peace.

Travel, Uncategorized

Day Trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina

To celebrate Mother’s Day with my husband and boys this past month, I decided I would like to take our first trip of the season to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It’s an easy 1 1/2 hour drive to the beautiful Outer Banks Islands from our home in Virginia. Along the way we pass fabulous Farmer’s Markets that are so much fun to stop and take a look around. One of them, Morris’, which I previously blogged about, is one of those places. You know spring has sprung when they open the doors for the season to the huge red building full of natures delicious bounty. There is plenty of great things to sample, cute sea inspired home decor items and a truly unique bathroom, (yes, I said bathroom) which makes it the perfect stop for a break along the way to the OBX. The bathrooms have a wonderful rustic, seaside charm. Each one is its own private sanctuary for the guest filled with antique pictures of the farm and surrounding area, but most importantly, is thoroughly cleaned after every patron and smell quite nice.

apple business fruit local
Photo by Erik Scheel on Pexels.com

The charming bathrooms run on donations and typically do have a little bit of a wait, however there are portable bathrooms available if you decide you can’t wait and don’t have a dollar or so to spare on gratuities. If you are lucky enough to visit Morris’ Farmer’s Market, PLEASE use their wonderful restroom facilities, it’s certainly not your typical bathroom break while traveling.

The excitement is palpable in the car as we cross over the Wright Memorial Bridge connecting the mainland of North Carolina to the OBX. The air seems more fresh and the vacation vibe is everywhere once on the island. It is time to relax and simply enjoy an afternoon escape with my family.

wood-wooden-number-home-decor-5733.jpg
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Our first stop is Trash to Treasure, a quaint antique shop on Croatan Hwy in Kill Devil Hills. The shop is open seven days a week and filled with eclectic treasures from days gone by. There are vintage pieces still in their original condition as well as fresh re purposed furniture ready to find a new home. There is a heavy nautical theme in the shop which makes it a perfect place to find that, “one of a kind” item for your beach cottage. I hope to visit some of the other antique stores that seem to be popping up along Croatan Hwy very soon!

We never go to the OBX without stopping at the Outer Banks Boarding Company. This is no “run of the mill” surf shop. It’s owned and operated by Lynn Shell, an internationally known surf board shaper and all around amazing guy. If you need a surf board or anything related to surfing or water sports, this is the place. Lynn’s vast knowledge of the sport and top of the line surf equipment make his shop the best of the best. It’s one of those home town places that we just want to always support, we wait until we can stop by the OBBC to make a purchase that we could easily buy back home. The place is jam packed with not only surfing equipment but apparel, shoes and all things “beachy”! Spending time talking with Lynn and browsing through his shop is definitely a must do!

After eating dinner and stopping for dessert at a frozen yogurt bar, we end the day with a relaxing walk along the beach in Nag’s Head. It’s really the perfect day in my opinion!!

Grief, Uncategorized

Birthdays in Heaven

img_5265Today is my dad’s 70th birthday. It’s a little different for our family now that he is celebrating birthdays in heaven. We celebrate his birthday by knowing that he is finally able to eat all the ice cream he desires and maybe even partaking in one of his favorite past times: playing a little baseball with some of the greats that have gone before him. If there are rocks to skip in heaven, that may be where you will find my dad. I would like to think that skipping rocks in heaven would be somewhere on a beautiful shoreline filled with he most perfectly shiny smooth pebbles. Just one easy flick of the wrist and that pebble would glide across the top of that majestic water finding it’s resting place at the bottom of the crystal blue shallows. Or perhaps he is blissfully waiting along the waters edge of some sort of heavenly tropical beach, with the bottoms of his jeans cuffed just perfectly so not to get them wet. “Meet me at the beach” is what he would tell my mom before he passed away. I guess he wanted my mom to know where to find him when she entered through the pearly gates, I can’t think of a better meeting place. If he were here, he would start the day by making a larger than life batch of pancakes for the grandkids… pancakes were about the only culinary delights he would attempt in the kitchen. Cooking was not his thing, but his “flapjacks” would make the grandkids come running and demanding more. The last several years, we ended his birthday by taking in a Tide’s game, it was his favorite past time. He was a darn good ball player in his younger days, but his last few birthdays spent at the ball field were a terrible struggle for him because of the ALS. I remember as a very young girl watching him play slow pitch with the ball the size of a grapefruit. I could never figure out how in the world you could ever catch that thing, it was ginormous! The last year that he was able to make it to Harbor Park Stadium proved to be an enormously challenging outing for his tired and withering body.
As we have just recently passed the 1 year mark of his passing and celebrate his birthday today, I have been reflecting so heavily on precious memories that are more valuable than any rare jewel. I’ve been reflecting on grief, trying to process his last seven years on this earth. And I’ve been reflecting on what it means to move on, to continue this life without someone you love so dearly.
Grief is a funny thing. I thought when my dad passed on that we would have a sense of relief, that we would start the process of living our lives again. Picking up where were left off so to speak. But it hasn’t been like that. I guess I thought we had grieved so much over the years and had faced so much loss that possibly those days of sadness were coming to an end. I was wrong. There is so much to process these days that my head spins much of the time. Now that my dad’s suffering has stopped, we are relieved…but now what? The sadness that blanketed our family during the first several months after his passing was brutal. There were glimpses of hope and happiness that surprised me and caught me off guard at times. I remember being so thankful for those moments that reminded me of that strange thing called “happiness”. On the other hand, some days brought much heaviness and sorrow; trying to wade through and process the many questions felt overwhelming. Why did we feel so isolated and alone for so much of those seven years? How long will we carry this heavy baggage of this terrible loss? There were many wrestling matches with God during the last couple years of my dad’s life. Trying to come to terms with the “whys” but realizing it’s really about the “why nots?” Now I wrestle to overcome bitterness and overwhelming sadness that come in terrible surges like the powerful but frightening waves of an angry ocean.
Oftentimes, while in the midst of our trial, I was embarrassed of my sadness and felt apologetic for my feelings. I don’t anymore. I would find myself in places where I should have felt loved, accepted and safe with my emotions. Instead, I would feel judged, misunderstood or even disregarded. People would look at me funny, or not look at me at all which was even more painful. I still feel that way much of the time, I really wish is didn’t. I tried to bury my grief after my dad passed away, wanting to magically move on and live a normal life again. I didn’t understand that although we’ve been through a never-ending tsunami of suffering, now there’s a different kind of grief period.
But today is my dad’s first birthday in heaven…. so what do I do now? I know that my dad would not want me to stay this way, so I won’t. I know that my dad would want me to love people, so I will. My relationship with God is much more vibrant and pure than it was just a few months/years ago. Somehow when God seemed silent and absent in our situation, He was somehow the most present. He was working His greatest, most refining work I could have ever imagined. I don’t fully understand the theology behind it, but I just know, “His ways are higher”. To go through something like this and not be changed for the better would be calamitous. Thankfully I feel that my senses are much more attuned to those struggling, when I look into someone’s eyes I want to know their story. I want to know their struggle, their pain, or how they overcame or how I can come alongside them in their journey to provide support. Although I have many setbacks as I try to traverse grief, bitterness and loss… I also know that a new day is coming when things will get easier, life will get sweeter and the world’s colors will come back in all their fullness. I also know that one day I will be sitting on the beach with my dad, or maybe watching him play slow pitch again… I will search for the perfect pebble on the heavenly shores of majestic rivers and partake of the calorie free / fat free deliciously fluffy pancakes. Until then, I will keep living, I will stay on my journey that Christ has set before me and I will go to Cracker Barrel on my dad’s birthday and order the highest stack of “flapjacks” they have on the menu.

Live, Uncategorized

Breakfast on the Beach with Jesus

4 As morning was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; however, the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish [to eat along with your bread]?” They answered, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find some.” So they cast [the net], and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great catch of fish. 7 Then that disciple (John) whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer tunic (for he was stripped for work) and threw himself into the sea [and swam ashore]. 8 But the other disciples came in the small boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.
9 So when they got out on the beach, they saw a charcoal fire set up and fish on it cooking, and bread.   John 21:4-9

Try to envision what that must have looked like to Peter that morning…seeing Jesus. His friend and Messiah who he had just watched be crucified and suffer a horrible death. Now Peter sees Jesus on the beach through the misty crisp morning air next to an inviting crackling fire. I think Peter must have rubbed his eyes a couple of times, squinting through the fog and his own disbelief. Could that really be Jesus? But Jesus was there on that miraculous morning. Not only was Jesus patiently waiting for His disciples on the beach that morning, but he was making them breakfast. That blows my mind! Jesus was making them breakfast on the beach… just take that in for a minute. I can’t imagine eating breakfast, (which happens to be my favorite meal), on the beach with Jesus, (which also happens to be one of my favorite places to be). The Creator of the Universe was serving them and meeting them right where they were. Breakfast on the beach with Jesus is absolutely one of he most beautiful visuals of Jesus’ love for us from the scriptures in my opinion.

Peter had walked beside Jesus and been a part of His amazing and oftentimes controversial ministry on earth, he was part of the original 12 disciples. Peter was the boisterous and zealous disciple, he was a fighter — maybe best known for cutting off the ear of one of the soldiers that had come to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Peter witnessed miracle upon miracle at the hands of Jesus and was always bold in his service for Him. He accompanied Jesus as they fed the thousands of people with the loaves and fishes, he watched in amazement at the beautiful healing work of the Messiah and even offered his services (as silly as it sounded) to provide shelter for Jesus, Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration. Peter believed with everything that he had within him that Jesus was the Messiah and was constantly trying to prove his love for his Master.

BUT – Peter STILL denied Jesus three times after Jesus’ death.

Peter must have felt so confused and horribly ashamed at his actions against his Savior. He may have even doubted everything he had just been through, all the miracles and teachings at Jesus’ feet. Was it all for nothing? Im sure in Peter’s desperation and fear he acted in haste, denying his relationship with his beloved.

It seemed Peter was at a desperate place after all the events that had just unfolded and he didn’t know what to do after Jesus’ death. So feeling defeated, he just went back to the only thing he knew…fishing on the Sea of Galilee.

Who was God to Peter?

Peter knew Christ well. He had experienced a heavenly encounter on earth with God’s Son, they had served together and walked the dusty roads spreading the message of Christ to the Jews and the Gentiles. This was not a casual relationship, it was a firmly rooted friendship and Peter truly loved Jesus. But, yet Peter was able to deny Him.

Jesus, filled with grace, goes on to give Peter three opportunities to profess his love for Him. After doing so, Jesus gives Peter a purpose and commissions him for ministry on that magnificent morning together on the beach. Peter obediently responds to the call and serves God faithfully the rest of His life.

This account of Peter and Jesus and the reality of their relationship prompts me to examine my own thoughts on who Jesus is, my relationship with Him and how I can better serve Him.  Here are three questions to ask yourself if you are wanting to know Jesus more intimately…

What tangible ways can you get to better acquainted with God?

List some characteristics of God based on the text.

Who is God to you?

Live, Uncategorized

What is a Successful church?

successful
[suh k-ses-fuh l]
Spell adjective
1. achieving or having achieved success.

2. having attained wealth, position, honors, or the like.

3. resulting in or attended with success.

I’m not exactly sure how to measure a successful church based on Webster’s Dictionary’s definition.  It just doesn’t seem to accurately articulate what the body of Christ is capable of through the power of the Holy Spirit and our obedience to His Word.  Webster’s definition captures what success looks like here on earth, but falls short of capturing an eternal perspective of what success should look like as we follow Christ and His commands as the church.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic recently as I’ve studied Paul and his missionary journeys and the development of the New Testament Church. The older I get the more I’m convinced it’s not about numbers or the latest and greatest in ideas or technology. I have a sense of the church being a back to the basics, grass roots ideology that we are here to point the lost in the right direction. It’s a simple concept, but it’s our mission. We, as believers. are the church.  There are many styles and formats to get people on our campus and in the building, but once they’ve entered the doors of our sanctuary, it is really time for the Holy Spirit to do the work.
I’ve been convicted and challenged as Ive been studying Acts and the purity of Paul’s heart as he bravely entered each town along his journey with a heavenly message. His fearless proclamation of Jesus’ love for all people, even as they hurled jagged stones at his body time and time again, is mind blowing. I’m so comfortable in my nice home and familiar surroundings, my life is scheduled and I rarely deviate from my daily routines. My fear is that I’m not being an effective Christian and using my time wisely on this earth. Paul never found comfort in his quest, but he always had joy. His joy was pointing the lost in the right direction…the direction of Jesus.
Paul’s success of spreading the gospel came with a lot of hardship and ultimately his death. Are we there as a church? Am I willing to be uncomfortable for Christ? Am I willing to put others needs before my own? What does it mean to be a true servant? Will I love someone enough to speak the truth into their life, even if they don’t want to hear it?
Do I have a faith as strong as my dad who once said he wouldn’t change anything about his life, not even his disease that slowly and tragically robbed him of just about every bodily function and ultimately took his life. He couldn’t sit around a table to enjoy a good steak and conversation with friends, he couldn’t speak to his grandchildren or tell his wife that he loved her. He couldn’t run and play ball with his grandsons anymore. On a bad day, he couldn’t even breath without assistance. He had an obnoxious hole in is throat and in the middle of his stomach that hurt and regularly became infected, causing him to have daily struggles. But he wouldn’t have wanted to change a thing?
He also wouldn’t have changed the over thirty years of ministry where he pointed people in the right direction, scrubbed toilets, comforted those who were grieving, opened his home to strangers, provided for those who couldn’t provide for themselves, visited those in jail and the list goes on. So many of the back to basics human needs we find Jesus and the disciples doing as they went from city to city, household to household and pointed people in the right direction. My dad’s life was not perfect but I think he found success because he had joy in the journey as he pointed people to Christ. He wouldn’t change a thing, good or bad.
What does this mean for the church? I think we have to have joy in the journey, even when faced with our own personal struggles, and still be able to put others’ needs first. I remind myself often that it’s “not about me” when I’m down and want to give up. I’m here to point that wayward teen or single mom that is at her wits end, the wiggly three year old that can’t sit still during a Sunday School lesson in the right direction. What do people do once pointed in the right direction? I don’t know…That’s personal, it is really up to them. What is our responsibility as the church? I think it’s simply to create an environment where the Holy Spirit can do the work and people will leave feeling something they’ve never felt before. We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus daily to a hurting and lost world.  We need to point people in the right direction then we have a responsibility to help keep them on track through discipleship and study of God’s amazing Word.
Something beautiful…
something life changing…
something real…
Maybe that’s success, maybe that’s just “back to the basics” Christianity. But whatever it is, it is essential and life giving and our responsibility as the church and as individuals to fulfill.