Open Our Eyes, Lord

Back in March, I was in a pretty scary car accident. It shook me up badly enough that I never posted on social media about it. I didn’t take a selfie with the paramedics, police officers and firemen who all showed up. There were no passive aggressive tweets about people using their phones and running red lights. I was just thankful that all five of my children who were in the car with me came home that day. I have lived long enough to know that is not always how these things turn out.

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For quite a few weeks, I was really angry with the other person. I could still hear the sound of her hitting me at 45 mph and the screams of my children as our car was knocked sideways. I was furious that I was suddenly fearful every time I got in my car. But that isn’t the feeling that lingered.

I also felt extremely grateful that a witness stopped and waited for an officer to arrive. She confirmed that I had not done anything wrong. I knew, otherwise, it would be a he said / she said situation and those are never fun. Even that feeling, however, faded.

Then, as the days went by, I was anxious all the time. It suddenly occurred to me that I could do everything right… Now, I’m not speaking of moral perfection or anything of the sort. Only that I could do everything I was supposed to do at that moment. I could obey the traffic signals, stay in my own lane, be completely undistracted. Yet, even then, in the blink of an eye, things could go terribly wrong. Thankfully, the anxiety has also lessened.

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What I’m left with, ten weeks later, is the memory of one particular individual. And it’s not the person who hit me or the witness who lingered to help.

As I sat there, in the middle of a major intersection trying to get my wrecked vehicle out of the way with a crying 3-year-old and other scared children and trying to put the pieces together and figure out what exactly happened, someone sped past me and blew his horn. He blew his horn at me and waved his hands in frustration because I was in his way.

Because I was in. his. way.

As if, friends, I was lingering in the middle of the intersection and blocking oncoming traffic for fun. As if that was how I envisioned my day going.

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I couldn’t stop thinking about him and wondering, “How often do I do that?” How often do I come across someone who has experienced trauma and all I can see is how it may inconvenience me. Do I see people in bad situations and think they must want to be there?

That man did not see women and children who had just been in an accident and who were in shock. He saw a random car blocking his entrance into Starbucks and it annoyed him. He didn’t see the situation for what it truly was.

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In 2 Kings 6:16-20, there is a battle taking place. On two separate occasions, Elisha prays that the Lord would open the eyes of the people involved so that they may see the situation as it truly was.

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” 2 Kings 6:17

Elisha said, “O Lord, open the eyes of these men…” 2 Kings 6:20

This has been my prayer in recent days – that the Lord would open my eyes to the hurts and needs around me. That I would truly see the people.

That person who stops to talk to you as you’re leaving the church? Just maybe they’re more important than being first to the buffet.

The lady sitting alone at that group event? Perhaps, you should take your introverted self over and sit with her.

That guy who has found himself in the pit again? He’s not there for fun.

Open our eyes, Lord. Forgive me for the times I have passed someone in pain and threw my hands up in annoyance because I was more concerned with my latte than with loving my neighbor.

You are loved. ❤

 

 

 

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You’ll Never Regret Showing Up

I sat beside his hospital bed and held his hand; his voice was barely audible over the sound of the ventilator. He kept his eyes closed most of the time but, every so often, his hand would grip mine a little tighter as if to make sure I was still there.

I drove nine hours to be there but, I have to be honest, I’ve not always been the best at showing up. I always worried about saying the wrong thing, appearing awkward, and a host of other self-centered concerns. I went back and forth on whether I should make this particular trip. But, as I drove that entire day, I felt God whispering, “You’ll never regret showing up for someone.”

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At one point, he asked for me. Though we had interacted on Facebook, I hadn’t seen my uncle in ten years. Yet, as I waited outside of his room while others visited, he asked for me and said that he loved me.

I was in the room when the nurse commented on what a wonderful family he had and my uncle replied, “Hmph, they’re okay.” Then, he winked at me.

I was present when the nurse came in to remove the ventilator and he whispered, “I’m going to die, today.”

Then, as he lay unconscious, I ran my fingers through his hair, caressed his face and held his hands. It was, by far, the saddest and hardest thing I’ve ever done. But, as I drove home 72 hours later having never left the hospital and still wearing the same clothes I showed up in, I knew those moments were all gifts from the Lord.

You’ll never regret showing up for someone.

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Do the hard thing.

Show up.

Get your hands dirty.

Love people well.

Enter into someone else’s grief.

Be uncomfortable.

You won’t regret it.

You are loved. ❤

Stacy

 

 

How to Claim Your Community for Christ

It doesn’t matter what your community looks like. Perhaps you live in a gated community. Maybe it’s a farming community. You could have been born and raised there or you could be new in town. It could be that you love where you live or not.  None of that really matters.

When the children of Israel were in exile, God had a word for them on how they were to conduct themselves. Keep in mind that this was definitely not home for them and they didn’t want to be there.

Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper. (Jeremiah 29:7 HCSB)

We are to love our communities. We are to seek the welfare of the places God has placed us. Here are three ways we can claim our communities for Christ.

A – Accept that unbelievers are going to act like unbelievers.

Seriously, friends, can we stop acting appalled and clutching our pearls when those who don’t know Christ act unChristlike? It is not our job to play the Holy Spirit. We will never guilt someone into accepting God’s grace.

I live in a community filled to overflowing with people struggling with brokenness. Many of them cling to the very thing that brings them pain, not because it’s fun, but because it’s familiar. They are afraid to pursue something different because what if, in the end, this really is all that life has to offer? Let’s be honest; that’s a real possibility.

Claiming our communities for Christ may just mean engaging someone who uses language we wouldn’t use. It most likely means getting to know someone who looks, thinks or acts quite differently from us. We have to get to know them so that they can get to know Him.

B – Be present in your community.

Let me be clear. I am an introvert’s introvert. I could, quite happily, spend the vast majority of my time in my home. Crowds make me nervous and, quite honestly, strangers make me anxious. So, when we moved to a small community about a year ago, I was nervous. New people. New places. New opportunities for rejection.

I am surrounded by poverty, addiction and a multitude of things I can’t fix. It has caused a lot of frustration for me. I don’t always understand what I’m doing here. Then, a couple weeks ago, I felt the Lord calm my spirit and say, “You’re over thinking this. I just want you to be present.”

I had to ask myself, “If I were to leave this community tomorrow, will my presence have made a difference?” I’m choosing to be present. I have scheduled checking my mailbox around when I knew a certain person walked by my house so that I could meet her. I made chocolate covered strawberries and delivered them to some ladies in town. I plan my walks around the neighborhood to pass by those folks I know will be sitting on their porches or in their yards. I’ve had neighborhood children into my home and baked birthday cakes for their mamas.

They’re small things, but not really.

C – Casseroles, Cakes, and Cookies, oh my!

Scripture tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. I’m here to tell you that so does cream of chicken soup. You take love and a good casserole and you have an opening into almost anyone’s life.

Look around your community. Who haven’t you met? Who, ahem, have you purposely not met? There isn’t any judgment here, friends. I have a list of people and a list of recipes. I’m setting a goal to meet some of them and I’m bringing food with me. A chocolate chip cookie never offended anyone. If you don’t believe me, you need to make these.

 

They’re divine; don’t forget to take some to that person on your list. I’m convinced that food, fellowship, and friendship are essential to claiming our communities for Christ.

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What have you done in your community?

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You are loved. ❤

Stacy

 

Keep Your Hands and Feet inside the Ride at all Times

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I almost died last week. You might think that is an exaggeration but that’s only because you did not see the ring of death that I rode at the local Strawberry Festival. I don’t know if rides have gotten scarier or if I’ve just gotten older (okay, fine, I do know!), but there is no reason for an almost forty-year-old woman to be dangling upside down for a sweet forever.

My brother has always had this theory that you shouldn’t ride anything that can be put up and taken down in less than twenty-four hours. I used to think that was just fear speaking but, perhaps, it was wisdom at an early age. After all, as I was standing in line for the tilt-a-whirl, I did see the two workers have a pow wow in the corner. Then, one reached behind a curtain and pulled out a small bag of parts and proceeded to crawl under the ride. Were these the parts they had forgotten to put on? The “spares”, perhaps? Were they replacements for the parts that come off on the regular?

What would make a normally rational woman ride the ring of death fire? In my case, it was a little boy who rides the bus to our church on Wednesday nights. He came up to me as I was working a booth and begged me to ride this particular ride with him. He continued to check on me every thirty minutes to make sure I had not forgotten. So, at 6:00, I walked to my doom and rode the ride.

For the rest of the weekend, every time he saw me, he smiled and gave me a thumbs up. He would yell over the noise of the rides and crowd, “You did it!” He’s right; I did it. But, I’ll tell you, it was frightening and uncomfortable.

God often calls us to frightening and uncomfortable scenarios. If you commit yourself to following Him, you may just find yourself hanging upside down trying not to embarrass yourself by begging the workers to stop the ride when all you wanted was a funnel cake.

The Strawberry Festival draws you in with the cotton candy and bright lights. You’ve already bought the armband and gotten on the ride before you realize the cost. Christ, on the other hand, is quite upfront.

Pick up your cross.

The world will hate you like it hated me.

Everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted.

You can never say that you weren’t warned. But, one day, when it’s all said and done, we will lay eyes on Jesus Himself. On that day, over the noise of the angels singing and trumpets blasting, He will yell, “You did it!” And you can know that, yes, it was often frightening and uncomfortable, but you did it.

Just hold on tight and enjoy the ride.

 

 

Buddy Up, Buttercup!

The Buddy System

Whether we are walking to church, grocery shopping or playing at the park, our family has a hard and fast rule: always buddy up. This was a way of life even when we only had two children. If they were outside playing and one needed to use the restroom, then they both came in and used the restroom. If one wanted a drink, then they both got a drink. If one child was done playing outside, they were both done playing outside. You get the picture.

These days, we have five daughters; my husband and I are grossly outnumbered (and we love it.) It does present issues when out in public. Zoos, amusement parks and the like would be super stressful if I had to have a hand on each of them at all times. After all, I wouldn’t have a free hand to hold my frozen lemonade! The reality is that I could not physically protect all five at one time in the case of an emergency which is the whole point behind the Buddy System.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. (Ecclesiastes 4:9 NLT)

 

A child walking alone is a far greater target than two or three children together. A lone child is also much easier to overpower and carry away. A child without a buddy has no one to help him in a time of need or to hold her accountable in a time of temptation.

Women would benefit greatly from the Buddy System approach. The enemy is prowling around like a lion seeking someone to devour (2 Peter 5:8.) What better target than a woman attempting to make her way all alone! While social media has created true camaraderie among many people, it has also given the illusion of community to others. A woman can have thousands of “friends” and “followers”, yet have no one to buddy up with in real life.

 

Nobody Walks Alone

The main rule of the Buddy System is that nobody walks alone. This may seem obvious but, trust me, I’ve had more than one two-year-old who thought she could be her own buddy. Just the other day, my husband attempted to hold our youngest daughter’s hand to which she replied, “No, thanks. I’ll hold my own hand.” And she proceeded to do just that.

Chances are that we all know a woman who wants to just hold her own hand. Perhaps, at times, we are that woman. God never intended for us to walk alone (Genesis 1:18.) and a woman attempting to do life that way is much weaker than one with a buddy at her side. The fact is that it is foolish to think that we can go it alone or that we can hold our own hand.

Are you feeling weak? Look around and find a buddy!

Are you strong in your faith? Scripture says it is your obligatioto come alongside another woman and shoulder some of the burdens!

It’s time to get serious, ladies. The enemy is seeking weak women (2 Timothy 3:6). Let’s buddy up and make sure no woman is left behind.

You are loved.