Airplane: a simple story that changed my life

Credit: printablecolouringpages.co.uk
Credit: printablecolouringpages.co.uk

 

One of the interesting problems of growing up in a devoutly Christian home is that I am unable to remember a time in my life when I didn’t know about Jesus and who He was. You might not think this is a bad problem to have, and I suppose in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t … but somehow it did end up causing me years of worry. In the end it was a simple story about an airplane that helped me figure things out and make sense of my relationship with Jesus.

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From a very young I knew all the Bible stories, from Daniel in the lions’ den and David fighting Goliath to Jesus being born in a stable and dying on the cross. Once my mother told me that my paternal grandmother enjoyed asking me show her friends how I could sing Jesus Loves Me. I wasn’t even two years old at the time.

Knowing who Jesus was and all about His life was not a problem.

But for a long time, I didn’t know if I was really saved from my sins.

And I knew enough to know this was a huge problem.

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You see, I could go back in my childhood and remember a couple of specific events that led to my salvation experience.

When I was six or seven, an elderly lady who lived across the street passed away in her sleep. I remember feeling greatly concerned over her death for she had seemed well enough when she rode to church with us on the previous Sunday. I was further shocked when my parents remarked about dying in one’s sleep was such a peaceful way to go to be with the Lord. After this, I began to have trouble sleeping because I feared I might not wake up. Although deep down I wanted to go to be with Jesus, I was afraid of dying. 

Several months later, I remember talking to my parents about what it meant to be “saved” and getting baptized. Later my father took me to the preacher’s house for another conversation. I was a little bit scared of that pastor. I recall sitting on a chair, nervously swinging my legs back and forth. I remember reciting John 3:16 for him. Afterwards, I remember feeling as though I had passed some sort of test, though what sort of test I couldn’t exactly tell you.

What I cannot recall is a particular conversation I had with my mother the summer before my 8th birthday. According to my mom, one afternoon in our little garden the two of us had a conversation which ended with me praying to receive Christ as my Savior.

As much as I’ve tried over the past 30-something years, I cannot remember as single detail about that afternoon. My mother is not a habitual liar. I truly believe her recollections of that day.

I just wish I could remember for myself.

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By the time I was 13 years old, my lack of memory over my own salvation experience became a huge problem for me.

I had heard preachers say that those who were truly saved would remember the very day and hour that they accepted Christ. I heard other pastors talk of being able to tell of a person’s salvation by the evidence of a completely turned around life.

What did that say about me? I couldn’t remember anything about that afternoon in the garden. And how had my life changed after Jesus? I felt pretty much the same way I always had felt since childhood … a love for Him and His people, a desire to please Him and walk in His truths. I had never been addicted to anything or prone to big and terrible sins.

So I worried silently about my own salvation, ashamed to let anyone know that I was uncertain about the one thing I should know beyond a shadow of a doubt. And as the years went by, the fears grew to plague me more and more.

Until I heard the airplane story.

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Fall 2003, Gum Branch Baptist Church near Hinesville, GA.

My family had moved there the previous spring as my husband had been stationed at Ft. Stewart. Over the summer, I had given birth to a baby girl, making me the mother of three children ages three and under. It’s a wonder I ever went to church. But I did, and quite faithfully. Always hoping that I would find some sort of peace with my regarding my relationship with God.

That fall, I signed up for a Sunday night Bible study. I remember thinking that I must be crazy to try to get out at night with three tiny children and go to church. And yet I felt compelled to be a part.

That very first night the small group that had gathered in the sanctuary watched a video of Dr. Adrien Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. His topic: How to be Certain of Your Salvation.

 I don’t remember much of that particular sermon except for the airplane story … which goes like this:

Suppose you and I are both in Orlando, FL, and we are going to Atlanta, GA. You drive to Atlanta and I fly. I ask you to meet me in Atlanta and to pick me up at the airport. When you drive, you will know when you crossed the state line. It will be obvious because there will be a sign that says, Welcome to Georgia.  When I fly, I will cross the same state line, but I will not be aware of it. But I will land in Atlanta. We meet in the Atlanta airport, and we are both there. I came in an airplane and you came in an automobile. You give your testimony and say, “I remember exactly when I crossed the state line.” I give my testimony and say, “I don’t remember when I crossed the state line, but I know I did because I am in the Atlanta airport. The important thing is since I am in the Atlanta airport, I know I must be in Georgia and did cross that line.”

If you are trusting in Jesus, you did trust in Jesus. The real test is not whether you remember the time or the place, but that you are this moment putting your confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ.*

After the video ended, the pastor asked several people around the room if they would share their personal testimonies of salvation. Two or three people shared, and then the pastor said, “We have time for one more person. Paige … why don’t you share with us?”

With tears in my eyes and not a single doubt in my mind, I answered, “Pastor, I got there by airplane.”

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And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. ~1 John 5:11-13

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

*excerpt taken from What Every Christian Ought to Know: Essential Truths for Growing in Your Faith by Dr. Adrian Rogers

House for Sale

 The first time I saw it, I knew I was home.

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Don’t ask me how I knew … I just knew.

I felt it the moment I saw it in the realtor’s big binder of available houses. I felt it the moment I pulled my car into the driveway. I felt it the instant I walked through the front door to take a look around. And by the time I had peered into every closet and looked inside each cabinet, I knew this house was home.

I really think this is the one,” I told my realtor. “but I’m … well, I’m just not sure I’m ready to buy a house.

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As a single mom, I never set out to buy a home. I certainly didn’t feel financially ready for such a big purchase. Yet my hands were tied. If I didn’t do something quickly, my three children and I were going to be homeless.

The home that I had been renting from my parents had been sold, and I needed a new place to live before June 1st. Initially, I hoped to find another rental home, but the rural area where I was living had nothing to offer. I had been checking every listing every day for close to two months, as well as calling anyone I could think of who might have a lead on a home for rent. Nothing.

It was now early April. Time was running out. I needed to make a move … soon. But I had no idea of where to look. I was fresh out of ideas. The only option that seemed to be available was moving to a larger city, away from my job and the security of living near my parents. And I desperately didn’t want to do that.

And then my brother suggested buying a house. The very thought scared me, but with his encouragement I cautiously went to see his realtor. The realtor was friendly and warm, and took the time to share with me how even with my one-income budget I could afford to be a home owner.

Nervously, I finally said, “Well, there is no harm in looking around, is there? So let’s go see some houses.”

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Carefully, I chose three houses to go look at with the realtor … but there never was any other choice. One look at the photo of the little white house in her binder and I was in love.

Built in the early 1930’s, this home was full of character and charm, and I instantly felt at home from the very first moment I put my foot inside the door. The floors were hardwood. The ceilings were 10 feet tall, with original transoms over the doorways. The kitchen was outfitted with a Butler’s pantry. All over the house were pocket doors. In addition to the three large bedrooms, there was an office that had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a glassed-in sun porch.

I knew I wanted to buy the house, but I was nervous about making the final decision to go through with it.

Take your time. Think about it; pray about it. And when you are ready, give me a call.” The realtor gave me a warm smile as she shook my hand and we parted ways.

That was on Tuesday evening. Two days later, I brought my dad and mom by to see the house and get their opinion. After getting a brief tour, we stood in the yard under one of the large shade trees watching the children as they played nearby. My mom was the first to comment. “It’s really lovely, Paige. I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t buy it, but it needs to be your decision.

My father agreed. “After all,” he said, “You will be the one paying the mortgage.”

Part of me had hoped they would tell me what to do. Part of me was glad they didn’t. Even though decision-making has never been my strong suit (just choosing a restaurant can at times be a difficult task for me), this decision was still mine to make. And even I knew that I needed to make the final decision for myself.

Six weeks later, I was unpacking boxes.

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My  kids and I only lived there for a year and a half … but we did a lot of living in that time.

There were six birthday parties and two Christmases and a couple of rare Louisiana “sneaux” days.

Julia turns 7 years old!
Julia turns 7 years old!
Christmas 2009
Christmas 2009

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I bought a drill of my own, and learned to hang my own curtains.  Always before, someone had hung curtains for me, but in this home I proudly hung the curtains for myself.

(Some day, maybe tomorrow, I’ll share the story of how God told me I was not allowed to complain about my feelings of being unsettled when I wasn’t settled enough to even hang up a few curtains.)

Julia's girly butterfly room with the bright happy hideaway in the corner. I hung that in addition to the pink curtains ... there were 8 windows in her bedroom!
Julia’s girly butterfly room with the bright yellow hideaway in the corner. I hung that in addition to the pink curtains … there were 8 windows in her bedroom!

My new drill and I got along so well that I hung up a few hooks for backpacks …

The backpack nook ... about as organized as I ever got!
The backpack nook … about as organized as I ever got!

and added a shelf above my washer and dryer.

My new laundry area. Of all the places I've ever washed clothes, this one was my favorite.
My little laundry area. Of all the places I’ve ever washed clothes, this one was my favorite.

And then there are my two special memories from my little white house on the big corner lot.

The first one was the day I discovered the blueberry bushes. Oh, finding those blueberry bushes was like this enormous hug from God because I’ve always wanted to have a house with blueberry bushes in the back. When I bought the little white house, I didn’t pay any attention to three big bushes on the side of the house … but about two weeks after I moved in, I discovered them. Huge, enormous bushes, covered in the most delicious blueberries I’ve ever tasted. No doubt, it was God’s way of telling me He loved me. (Perhaps one day I will blog about my special love for blueberries, but that probably won’t happen tomorrow.)

Julia fills a bowl with blueberries from one our special blueberry bushes.
Julia fills a bowl with blueberries from one our special blueberry bushes.

And the second memory I love is how Jon and I shared our both our first kiss and our second first kiss in the living room of this house. (Now this is one story I’ve blogged about before. If you haven’t read it, you can get all the details here … but sorry, there is no photograph to go with that one.)

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I married Jon on the last day of 2010. Two weeks later a moving truck took all my belongings out of my little white home, and a renter took my place.

For four years, I’ve been renting my house. Mostly I’ve hated being a landlord, and that’s not at all because of the renters. Mostly God has granted me good ones. No, I hate renting out my house because I’m ultimately still the one responsible for the property.

My dad used to help us with the management of my house, serving as my property manager if you will. But after his death 3 months ago, Jon and I have had to take all of those tasks. And it quickly became clear to us that the house was like a millstone hanging around our necks. Instead of a pleasure to me, my sweet little house on the big corner lot has become a burden. It simply too much of a struggle for Jon and I to manage the upkeep of that property.

We discussed whether or not we should put the house on the market, but I didn’t want to run off my renter and end up trying to cover two mortgages. It was hard to know what to do, and honestly I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place.

This morning my current renter called. “I’m giving you my 30 days notice,” she said. “I’m moving somewhere else. I’ve loved it here, but it is time for me to move on.”

And I’m wondering if it is time for me to move on as well and let go of the house I love.  As much as I knew the first time I saw it that this house was meant to be my home, deep down I know that I’ll never live there again.

I’m ready … ready for whatever God wants, whether it is bringing me a buyer or finding me another renter. He knows and I can trust He has this under control.

But just in case you wonder which way I’m hoping God choosing to work in this situation, there is a nice white house on a big corner lot for sale in rural north Louisiana.

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If you’re interested, I’ll be happy to make you a great deal!

Driving Myself Crazy

Tomorrow my son has a doctor’s appoint in New Orleans, and I’m terrified.

I’m not scared because it likely my boy has a terrible disease. This appointment has nothing to do with anything of the sort. Yes, we could find out some potentially life-changing diagnosis, but chances are the geneticist is simply going to tell me I’ve got a very tall , very healthy young man on my hands. It’s what I’m expecting and even if things go a different why, my soul is already at peace with the appointment.

So what, you might wonder, has me in such a frantic state of mind. The answer is simple: driving.

 

driving crazy

I’ve never liked driving.

I much prefer riding, as long as I can ride in the front passenger’s seat. If I must sit in the back, then I need lots of cold air and a pillow, and maybe a dramamine, in order to keep myself happy. For as long as I can remember, I suffer from car sickness. Back seats, trying to read anything (including a map), being too hot or too warm or not having enough air movement … all of these things make it worse. Thankfully, I’m not the sort that vomits. I just get bad headaches and feel incredibly nauseous until the vehicle stops moving.

I never get car sick when I am the driver. Therefore you might expect I’d want to always drive. That’s not the case either. Insane as it might sound, I’d much rather ride than drive.

Why, you might wonder, is this the case?

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Perhaps it is because I grew up in a one-light town.

This light wasn’t even your standard stop light. No, it just blinked, a  slow cautionary yellow blinking light at the Y-intersection in the center of what most people would even hesitate to call a town.

When I left home for college, I didn’t have a car. I always caught a ride with friends, back and forth from home to school and back to home again. The campus was small enough to walk, and I was fortunate enough to have several friends with cars who could drive me off-campus on occasions when I needed a lift.

It wasn’t until I married that I had any real experience with big city driving. Over the years, I’ve driven in a lot of big cities:  Newport News, VA; Monterey, CA; Houston, TX; Austin, TX, and Savannah, Georgia (which, by the way, is the capitol of one-way streets going nowhere). I can handle driving in traffic. It’s not a huge problem.

So why, you might wonder, is traveling over to New Orleans freaking me out?

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Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m not a map girl.

Oh, I can read a map, but I cannot remember it in detail in my head and I certainly can’t read it as I travel down the road (either as the driver or a passenger). When I need to get to a place that I don’t already know how to find, I either get verbal directions (from another passenger or perhaps even beforehand if the area is one with which I am already familiar) or by paying close attention to the roads and visual markers as I ride around in new places.

I’ve been to New Orleans several times, but I’ve never been to where I am going and I’ve never driven the route I am about to take. While I’ve studied the map in preparation for this driving experience, I am scared I am not going to remember it as I attempt to navigate my way tomorrow morning.

My big fear is taking one wrong turn.  Then there I’ll be …  lost … with my son … in New Orleans … near the French Quarter. I literally feel as if I might be one terrible half-step from catastrophe.

Fortunately for me, I’ve got an ace up my sleeve.

Exactly what, you might wonder, could this possibly be?

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Have I mentioned the particular child going with me on this New Orleans adventure is a mapping genius?

I’m serious. This is the kid who asked for a road atlas for Christmas this past year. He already had one, but some of the pages were getting worn out and he desired to have the most recent edition in case there were any “minor changes to roadways.” (His words, not mine.) It’s actually the fifth road map I’ve bought him, not counting the two he stole borrowed from his grandfather’s house.

This boy of mine has been reading maps for as long as either of us can remember. Sometimes I wonder if he was born with a map in his hand, only I was there and I’m pretty sure he came out empty-handed. When he was a toddler, the TV show Dora the Explorer used to frustrated both of us. I was frustrated by the repetitive songs. He was frustrated because the maps were “always the same.” (Again, these are his words. I’m just reporting the facts of the story.)

When he was seven years old, this boy directed me from rural north Louisiana all the way to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I drove. He told me where to go. We made it … me behind the wheel, him riding shotgun with a map, and his two younger siblings sleeping and fighting in their carseats in the back of our packed minivan. I wondered at the time if he would someday be a trucker.

So what, you might wonder, is my big fear about this trip seeing as I am taking along an incredible navigator?

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Fear of failure?

Probably. I don’t like the idea of not succeeding. And in my mind, succeeding would be me backing out of my driveway with full confidence of knowing exactly where I am going, which turns to make, where to park, how to find the particular doctor’s office I need in a rather large and intimidating hospital, and knowing I’ll get us both safely home in time for dinner.

Fear of dependence on another person?

Definitely. It’s hard to depend on someone else for your safety.

Especially if that someone is quite a bit younger than you.

Especially if that someone is your child.

The older my children grow, the harder it is for me to let them actually grow up, especially in areas in which I have never really felt successful. Already my son is better than me when it comes to getting around new places, and he doesn’t even have a driver’s license … and won’t for another two years, at least.

Tonight as I am preparing for tomorrow’s journey, I realize in the morning I am going to depend upon this boy I birthed to get me to our final destination. How can this possibly be when I vividly recall changing his diapers and teaching him to use a spoon? I’m still instructing him on the finer points of good manners and praying that some of what I teach him regarding Algebra 1 sticks in his brain.

It feels so hard to swallow my pride and let him take the lead. And yet tomorrow he’s going to be in charge. I know I will actually be the one behind the wheel of the car, but I’m going to be relying on his judgement … whether I’m ready for it or not.

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I think there is another issue at heart here as well.

Trust in God.

Do I really believe God is always with me, as He has promised? If I did, would I really be so worried?

This is as much a test in trusting God as it is in learning to hand over trust to my son.  What I know deep inside is that I can either continue to drive myself crazy with the fears running around in my brain, or I can decide to take a deep breath and trust in God to lead both me and my amazing teen boy through the journey we must take tomorrow.

After all, each day is nothing more than a lesson in learning to trust. Some days are just harder than others.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 41:10

K is for …

Yesterday, I shared the story of how God introduced me to Jon before Jon ever introduced himself to me. I related how our friendship turned to love, and God, who had provided me with details several months in advance, orchestrated everything perfectly … well, at least perfectly as long as Jon and I didn’t get in the way. Today’s entry for the letter K is a continuation of our love story.

letterK

K is for “The Kiss.”

After six months of just being friends, Jon finally got around to asking me to date him in late October 2009. We were in agreement to proceed slowly in this new phase of our relationship, regarding all areas but especially with demonstrations of physical affection. As Christians, we felt it was important to practice purity before marriage. Furthermore, as single parents of children who had already suffered through one divorce, the last thing we wanted to do was rush headlong into another relationship, bringing further unnecessary emotional turmoil to our kids.

Jon was always the perfect gentleman, bringing me gifts of flowers and holding open doors. For several months, that was the extent of any romance. By late January, I was beginning to wonder if Jon would ever reach for my hand, put his arm around my shoulder, or ask me for that first kiss.

Valentine’s Day came and went. Soon a beautiful Louisiana spring had returned, heralded by flowers in full bloom … and on a beautiful sunny afternoon, Jon finally took my hand in his.  After nearly six months of dating, it was sweet and perfect.  It also left me wanting more for time had continued to show me that God’s list (which was written in my journal a full year earlier) was fulfilled in Jon. I found it hard not to fall head over heels for him as I waited anxiously for Jon to do the next thing God had told me to expect:  him to ask for my permission before giving me our first kiss. 

One evening in early April 2010, Jon called me out of the blue. He was driving up to north Louisiana on a work-related trip. His route was taking him within 20 miles of my house.  “You should take a short detour, and have a cup of coffee with me,” I suggested. To my surprise, an hour later Jon was standing on my doorstep.

I can’t remember what we talked about that night. Jon and I have always been like two chattering birds, conversation flowing easily between us. I recall he did stay long past the half hour or so he intended to visit. I also remember several times during the evening feeling as though Jon would likely kiss me before he left. Sure enough, he did … a gentle, sweet, absolutely perfect kiss.

Well, it would have been perfect except for one thing. Jon didn’t ask for my permission.  

At first, I was elated … love’s first kiss. It put me on cloud nine.

Then, as I recalled the God-given words written in my journal, I fell right down off that cloud with a hard thump. God had given me a list of  indicators I could trust to lead me to the man I should marry. One of the most specific ones related that he would ask permission to kiss me for the first time. So was this some sort of test? Up until now, Jon matched up perfectly with the man God had shown me. Maybe he wasn’t the one after all? If that were the case, then why did God allow me to fall in love with him? I wanted to feel happy because the man I loved had kissed me, but mostly I felt confused and hurt.

Meanwhile, unknown to me, after Jon left my home he began to feel anxious and uneasy about kissing me. In fact, he later told me that he had the most severe case of panic he had ever known, likening it to extreme cold feet about his own ability to have a healthy relationship with a woman based on his previous marriage. That made two of us feeling confused, all over a simple kiss. What a mess!

A couple of days later, Jon returned from his work trip, and gave me a telephone call. The moment I heard his voice, I could tell something was wrong.  I had spent the past two days debating with uncertainty whether or not I should talk about my feelings regarding the kiss, especially considering Jon knew nothing of my list. In the end, my own indecision didn’t matter, as Jon almost immediately began to talk about his emotions.

(JON)  I want you to know how much I enjoy spending time with you, Paige. But after I kissed you … well, now I just don’t know if I am really ready to move forward after all. I hope you understand because this is difficult for me to even talk about.

(PAIGE)  Can you explain more? What exactly are you trying to tell me? Are you saying you want us to break up?

No. No, that’s not what I am saying … but if that is what you want, then I understand.

Jon, I really don’t want to break up with you, but I guess I am feeling really confused. I’m not even sure what happened, but it seems we are both feeling uneasy and upset by the kiss.

I know. What I am trying to explain, though, is that I do want to continue to date you … but I don’t want to hold hands or kiss … or at least for right now. But the truth is, I don’t know if I ever will want to do those things.

Oh.

Wow … That sounded terrible, Paige. I’m sorry it came out like that. Trust me, I don’t want to hurt you because it isn’t about you at all. This has everything to do with me. I’m just terrified of messing up again. I don’t want to hurt you or our children. I understand this is a lot to ask, but if you are willing to go back to us simply seeing each other for dates and talking on the phone and praying with each other then that’s what I’d like for us to do for the time being. But if you can’t go back, then I will try to understand that too, because right now I can’t make any promises to you about when I might be emotionally ready to move forward.

 

Without a doubt, that conversation was one of the most difficult of my entire life. Jon’s honesty was incredibly hard to hear, yet at the same time I could tell he had no desire to hurt me. Even as we talked, I had a sense this conversation represented a turning point for each of us personally, as well as for our relationship.

I also recognized the whisperings of God, deep in my heart, low and gentle and peaceful, telling me it was okay. Taking a deep breath, I decided to trust God. And with that, I let Jon know I agreed to go back to the way things were before the kiss, to give our relationship another chance, with the understanding that in the end he may never want anything more than friendship after all.

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Obviously, Jon and I are now married. Any good guesser would assume giving Jon a second chance must have worked out to my advantage. It did. But the way it all came to pass is a story only God Himself could author.

After our difficult conversation, I wasn’t sure what to expect, wondering if there would be awkwardness or tension. But Jon was true to his word, continuing to ask me on regular date nights and calling me almost nightly. There were no feelings of uncomfortableness between us at all. In fact, there seemed to be an increase in the the trust level between us, just from  the willingness to talk candidly with each other over a difficult topic.

Three weeks passed.  One weekend,  I invited Jon to my house for dinner. He arrived, flowers in hand. Together we cooked our supper, white chicken enchiladas and a green salad. After the meal was over, we washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, chatting and laughing. To this day,  I recall standing in my kitchen, thinking about how natural it felt to do even mundane chores with Jon.

As I prepared a pot of coffee and plates with dessert, Jon excused himself to go to the restroom.  A few moments later, I walked into the living room to clear off a spot for us to set our cups. It was then that Jon came into the room. Walking directly over to me, he took my hands in his, smiled and asked, “Paige, would it be okay with you if I gave you a kiss?

I thought I might faint! Out of the blue came the question I’d been aching to hear for so long. All I was able to do was nod my head yes … and then he kissed me. It was the most simple kiss, and yet as soon as his lips touched mine, the room began to swirl as fireworks went off in my head and the air around me instantly dropped a full ten degrees.  (Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it was the most perfect kiss ever.)

Jon gazed at me and said, “You don’t know how much I’ve wanted to kiss you these last three weeks! Practically from the moment I said I wanted to go back to the way we were before, it’s all I could think about. But I was nervous about trying it again, too. So just now, when I stepped out of the room, I prayed. I told God how much I wanted to kiss you but that I was afraid it would go wrong like it did the last time. The crazy thing is God answered me. He said, ‘Jon, the last time you kissed Paige, you didn’t come to me for advise.  If you want to kiss her right, then all you have to do is ask her. She’ll say yes and everything will be fine.’  So that’s what I did.  You know, I think it worked out so well, I’d like to try it again.”

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To this day, Jon and I tease each other about our second first kiss. What I especially love about this story (besides the fact that it is part of my personal love story)  is the reminder of how God delights in giving second chances … and not just second chances, but third, fourth and fifth chances as well.

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Or, you may fall on your knees and pray—to God’s delight!
    You’ll see God’s smile and celebrate,
    finding yourself set right with God.
You’ll sing God’s praises to everyone you meet,
    testifying, ‘I messed up my life—
    and let me tell you, it wasn’t worth it.
But God stepped in and saved me from certain death.
    I’m alive again! Once more I see the light!’

This is the way God works.
    Over and over again
He pulls our souls back from certain destruction
    so we’ll see the light—and live in the light!

~ Job 33: 28-30 (The Message)

K is for the second first kiss, which reminds me of God who is generous in second chances.

What second chances have you been given?

More importantly, have you accepted the greatest second chance offer of all … the chance of a second, spiritual birth through Jesus Christ?

Defeating Defeat

For as long as I can remember, I have loved words. The sounds of words, like serendipity and fricasee. The meanings of words, like blessed  (Oh, how happy) and  Hallelujah (to boast in God). The process of stringing words together, creating alliterations and metaphors. I even think in words, not pictures. My dreams often consist of visual  words, like closed captioning in my sleep.

I don’t remember when I first began to write, for  I never really kept a journal or a diary with any sort of regularity. By adulthood, I wrote almost daily, and for a variety of reasons.  To remember … all the adorable things my children did and said, as if putting it down on paper would ensure that I would never forget a single moment. To clarify and organize my thoughts, especially when feelings didn’t match beliefs and I searched for the right perspective. My marriage felt apart, and I found writing helped me to grieve.  Somehow I realized through writing, I found myself … perhaps more importantly, I found God.

Along the way, through all this writing, God called me. He called me to write for His purposes instead of my own, for His glory instead of mine. I marveled at this plan for my life. I laughed with joy when, on my 40th birthday, God Himself gave me a verse, confirming what I already knew in my heart that in this next season of my life I would write for Him:  “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the King; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.” Psalm 45:1

And then I very promptly got the worst case of writer’s block ever.  Eight months of nothing … I couldn’t not write a single sentence, not even prayers in my journal.  At first, I felt annoyed. Soon, I was concerned, then anxious and finally devastated.

God had called me to write. I knew it as sure as I knew my name. Then why was I unable to pen words? Over and over I tried, I cried and I prayed.  Nothing changed. I felt completely defeated. One morning, out of my complete misery,  I wrote in my prayer journal, “Lord, I feel defeated. Why? And how can I find victory again?”

To my surprise, God’s response was instantaneous.  From the tips of my fingers came words, written in the form of an acrostic. Since I’m sure that I’m not the only one who experiences feelings of defeat, I’ll share what God showed me.

I will feel defeated when…

D: I am in DENIAL of the truth.

It goes without saying that what I believe and what is the truth are often completely different things. Satan is constantly whispering things in my ear, lies that he wants me to believe. But Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) When I am willing to listen to God and embrace His truths, I discover that I am free from feelings of defeat.

E: I hang onto my  EXPECTATIONS (which are often unrealistic).

Expectations are a problem for me. Often I realize that I’ve got assumed, but unspoken, expectations of myself and others (including God). Furthermore, it seems, more often than not,  my expectations are unrealistic. When I have an expectation that is unfulfilled, blocked, uncertain, lost or even fails, it opens the door for me to experience feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, and perhaps shame. Rarely are these emotions founded in the truths of God. Rather, most often, I’m listening again to the lies of Satan.

God has been showing me how to let go of my expectations for this life, and embrace His plans for me.  I love the words of Jeremiah 29:11.  ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for your welfare, not your destruction,  to give you a future and a hope.’ “

F: I  FOCUS  on my  FAILURES.

Just like I listen to lies and have unrealistic expectations, quite often I spend the majority of my time pondering my failures … failures which often exist only in my own mind, failures which often are only measured by the world’s successes.  I’ve been learning that I should focus instead on two wonderful truths.

The first is this:  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 12:2). God’s plans for my life will look a lot different than the world’s idea of success, therefore I cannot use worldly standards to measure my success.

And the second truth:  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)  If God has called me to do it, then He will give me the strength needed to succeed.  All I need to be is willing to follow Him.

E: I  EXTEND  myself in areas that God has not called me.

God has specific callings for my life. I am a wife, mother and writer.  These are my three most important roles. Too often, I allow other activities to get in the way of my responsibilities in these areas, and when I do that I am going to feel strained and stress.  Quite often I know when I am over-extending myself because I will begin to feel weary and worn down.  It’s a sign that something is out of balance.

Jesus told His followers, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mattthew 11:28-30)  I have to be careful to put up guard rails and protectors in order to keep myself centered in the path God has laid out for my life. When I am careful to do this, my life isn’t marked by feelings of defeat.

A: I  AVOID  dealing with my sin.

But sometimes I just do not want to give up whatever it is that is making me miserable.  I don’t know why sin works that way, but I’ve found this to be true time and time again. I get caught up in some sin, and even though it makes me moan and groan and whine about the state of my life, I refuse to confess it to God. I just don’t want to give it up.

Wise King Solomon wrote, “Whoever conceals his sin will not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)  If I want peace in my life, I’ve got to continually confess my sins and turn back to choosing to live God’s way.

T: I am unTEACHable.

Quite often, when I am stuck in a rut of defeat, I know that God is trying to teach me a new way of doing things.  He wants me to grow and mature so that I am living a faith-filled life.  I don’t know about you, but I can be ridiculously unteachable.  I just flat refuse to listen and learn.

In 1 Peter 2:2, it says, “Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so you may grow by it.”  There are many things I desire in this world:  a strong marriage, children who love the Lord, financial stability, my daily chocolate . More than these, my heart should desire God and His truth in my life.

It’s been more than two months since God shared with me the reasons behind my feelings of defeat.  It didn’t cure me instantly of my writer’s block.  However, God also shared with me how to find victory in my life, and as I began to implement those truths I found my ability to write returned more and more in the days and weeks that followed.

Isn’t it comforting to know deep within the soul that God does not want me (or you) to live in perpetual defeat?

How have you overcome feelings of defeat through Christ? I hope you’ll share your success stories with me!

Stay tuned for part 2, when I share how God showed me how to make a VICTORY PLAN for living my life according to His perfect will for me.

When Mountains Don’t Move

He (Jesus) told them, “For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  (Matt. 17:20)

But what if we pray, and the mountains don’t move.

          One of my children cannot swallow pills. We’ve tried every trick in the book, bought several cool gadgets and throat sprays, and have even spoken with a variety of doctors and pharmacists while seeking for a solution to this exasperating problem. Nothing works.  The pills will not go down. Perhaps it is only psychological, but it is creating big challenges for my young teen.

I cannot lose weight. No matter what I do, the number on the scale doesn’t budge. From diet programs like Weight Watchers to medically-supervised diets like Medifast to diligently watching carbs and sugar while incorporating 20+ minutes of exercise a day … I’ve tried it all and nothing works to take the weight off my body. Hormonal imbalances caused by a medical condition and genetics are both partly to blame.  As much as I hate to admit it, I’m sure that age must play a factor as well. (In this particular way, forty is definitely not the new thirty!)

This past week, my child and I have both felt overwhelmed by our problems. We are hopeless things will ever change, and so we react to our situations from that deep, dark place of defeat.  It’s as if we are standing at the foot of a looming mountain, trying to figure out a way to get to the other side. And from our vantage point, it feels like trying to scale up a vertical cliff without a harness, rope or anchor to help make the climb.

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Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

      Mountains are an expected part of this journey called life, and truthfully mountains aren’t necessarily a bad thing. When looked at from a distance, mountains create a lovely and picturesque landscape. Traveling a path that goes nearer a mountain still adds a certain scenic quality to the journey. And though climbing up a well-laid mountain path might be hard, everyone knows the journey is worth it. Standing at the very top, the weary traveler can look out with confidence, knowing the mountain challenge was conquered. Hard won victories give extra meaning to the traveling, and at some future date the traveler will have a tale to tell with those he meets along the journey.

But there are times when a mountain is right in the middle of the road you must take. There seems to be no path around it. There seems to be no path that leads over it.  All a traveler can do is work to forge a road that will get them to the other side.  It’s at times like this that believers begin to pray for the mountain to move.

My faith tells me that even with just the tiniest bit of faith, the mountains that block my path will move.  With all my heart I believe this is true. I’ve known mountains in my life that have miraculously moved out of the way with a single prayer. I can testify time and again how a little faith  in God, combined with prayer, have made the impossible happen.

But what about when the mountain doesn’t move? What does that mean? Is it because I lack faith?  Perhaps I’ve sinned?  My typical response is to fret and fume while trying to figure out why my prayers seem to just bounce off the ceiling.  As defeat sets in, anxiety and depression begin to control my thoughts and actions. A sense of hopelessness takes over and soon I no longer believe my mountain can be conquered.  Thankfully, God is teaching me a better way.

~I need to trust the heart of God more than the hand of God.~

     My faith is too often based on the evidence of God working in my life.  But what sort of faith is that? After all, the Apostle Paul reminded us to “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  A believing faith has to be more than a seeing faith.

~I need to remember that I am not ever alone.~

     When I pray and nothing happens, I begin to fear that God has abandoned me right there at the foot of the mountain.  Instead, I need to remember what Moses said to Joshua as he prepared to take the Israelites into the Promised Land,  “The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”  (Deuteronomy 31:8)  Not only does God not leave me at the foot of the mountain alone, He promises to go before me!

~I need to believe God’s plans for my life are good.~

     God is showing me that in spite of the problematic mountains I encounter in my life, He still has great plans for me. My husband’s favorite scripture is Jeremiah 29:11, a testament to that fact.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   A mountain I can’t cross yet does not mean God is through with me.

~I need to remember the power and the purpose in praying without ceasing.~

     My mountains definitely keep me praying, and this is a good thing.  One of my biggest tendencies is to neglect talking with God on a regular basis whenever my life is humming along without problems. However, in 1 Thessalonians 5:7, the Apostle Paul reminds believers to “pray constantly.” I believe if nothing else my problems serve a great purpose just by keeping me on my knees, talking to God and laying my burdens down at His feet.

     And this brings me right back to the beginning:  Sometimes mountains don’t move out of my way, no matter how much I pray. But when the mountain doesn’t move, this simply means there is an opportunity for me to move closer to God.