Keeping Perspective

You stare in the mirror and see tired eyes and messy hair staring back at you.
Your baby looks at this same reflection and instead of sleep deprived eyes accessorized with under eye circles- they see their whole universe.

You look in the mirror, studying how many of the pre-baby pounds that piled on prior to birth decided to hang around after- creating a post-baby reminder that your body still seems foreign.
Your baby curls up on those same extra pounds and appreciates a little extra cushion to snuggle on, as they fall asleep on top of you. These pounds carried their weight, gave them nourishment, and symbolized a healthy environment for them to grow in. 

You glance around the house and notice that parts seem unrecognizable- a little less clean, a lot more piles of laundry and dishes than before.
Your baby looks around at those same areas and sees a place of comfort and solace, where their basic needs are being prioritized- put above undone chores and unrealistic expectations of order.

You observe your plate of cold food or cup of cold coffee and realize that it may be years before you enjoy certain comforts and preferences, again.
Your baby looks up at you and you realize that cultivating this little life is more significant than any comfort you could wish for. You won’t look back at this season and long for hot coffee, but you will reminisce on the baby snuggles that you chose, instead. 

You look at your husband and see the man who first made you realize what it is like to love someone unconditionally. When you walked down the aisle, you never imagined a greater love or more joyful moment. 
You both look down at your baby and realize that you love them more deeply than anything on this earth. 

Oh Mama- your perspective of the long days shift and the purpose becomes clearer, when you trade eyes with your baby. May God grant you new mercies and fresh perspective, continually. Eyes that see and a soul that has immense gratitude for how very special this calling is. 

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.

Sincerely,
Simone

For Daddy

Plans changed. We were scheduled for a joy-filled day of celebrating life, at my first baby shower. A day that I imagined would be filled with excited embraces from my closest friends and family, back home. Instead, we found ourselves on the front row church pew of a funeral- taking a final look at my daddy and bidding his earthly body farewell into eternity. We were embraced by grieving, memories, and empathy. I had also planned for a maternity photo shoot. But instead of standing behind a camera, I found myself standing behind a podium, delivering a personal story to honor my daddy’s life, as we laid him to rest. There we were- united as a family in a way that was different than we imagined, but monumental, nonetheless. 

It seemed as though the songs and prayers on the schedule moved swiftly and a head nod from my uncle signaled to my sister and I that our time to speak had arrived. With each step to the podium, anxiety followed me. But God went before me- giving me the strength and courage that I prayed desperately for, the night before. I hope that sharing the words that I shared during the funeral will be for someone else’s good and for His glory. Here is the gist:

As I pondered what to say about my dad’s life, I had a difficult time deciding what exactly to share. Initially, I considered sharing about some of the simple pleasures he enjoyed- the few, fond memories I have from the few years that we lived in the same household. But as I prayed for the right words, the Spirit lead me in a different direction. My mind and heart were directed towards focusing on his years of suffering, rather than his years of success. It is the emphasis on the years of suffering that provided some of my most valuable lessons and that this message of encouragement was derived for you.

I want to encourage you with a message about two things that my earthly father’s suffering taught me about my heavenly Father’s sufficiency.

God’s word tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:19, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

My father’s story exudes this and displays how powerless we as human beings are and how powerful our Almighty Creator is. 
The first thing I’ve learned from my earthly father’s suffering is: When an answered prayer does not look the way that we envisioned, we must trust that God is the one with 20/20 vision.

God’s 20/20 vision and ability to see far ahead into these days of suffering, began to reveal itself years ago. Around Christmas of 2013, I experienced a personal tragedy that changed my life and redirected the paths of my future. Simultaneously, I was interviewing for graduate school programs. My first offer of acceptance came from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Those who know daddy know that he attended UNC Chapel Hill for his undergraduate studies, was an avid Tar Heel fan, and took such pride in the charm of the small town of Chapel Hill. In fact, I chuckle at the fact that he waited until a few hours after the Duke vs. Carolina game to take his last breath.

As I opened that acceptance letter, I had renewed hope of a relationship with my dad. For years, we had been out of touch. There was a large gap of time where we’d hear from him every once in a blue moon, but his phone numbers and locations were never stable and his contact with us was inconsistent- essentially non-existent. In the midst of those years, I prayed fervently for him- for his health, his well-being, his safety, and his recovery from the pursuit things that meant him no good. Much of this grace and these prayers were inspired by my mama- who’s forgiving heart continued to wish him well, years beyond the hurt that she experienced from their divorce.

I anxiously anticipated starting my new life in North Carolina. While my parents were married, we grew up taking annual trips to High Point, North Carolina to visit my cousins, aunts, and uncles, on my dad’s side. We would laugh and joke, catch fireflies in the backyard, during North Carolina summers, and temporarily distract ourselves from the realities of life back home. And now, I would be moving not far from High Point to Chapel Hill, to continue a legacy and make memories where my daddy planted his academic roots. 

Some months after I transitioned to Chapel Hill, I got word that daddy had gone to a rehab center- finally seeking some professional help. Not long after, I got notified that he had a serious stroke, while in rehab- initiating the decline of his health and abilities. I was devastated for him and mourned the fact that my hopes for our new relationship might not look how I imagined. But even in that, God’s 20/20 vision was apparentHe knew that I needed a fresh start in Chapel Hill. He knew that my dad would need encouragement in the midst of his unexpected storm and final years of life. He knew that after four more years of declining health, my dad would pass away. He knew that the relationship that I had been praying for would develop-unfolding into its own, unique testimony.

My prayer was answered. The answer to my prayer didn’t look like fancy, daddy/daughter dates. It looked like bringing him Starbucks and sipping our coffee in the nursing home lobby- him unable to walk and not able to converse much, through his slurred speech. The answer to my prayer didn’t look like my daddy getting to walk me down the aisle, know my husband well and talk sports with him, or meet my baby boy. It looked like telling him about my engagement, my wedding, and my news of expecting through pictures, at his bedside in the nursing home. The answer to my prayer was not glamorous. It looked like hard visits that required feeding him and wiping his dripping mouth, when he couldn’t do it by himself. Nevertheless, my prayer was answered. And I saw the good that God was doing in both of our hearts, in the midst of it all.

The second thing that I’ve learned from my dad’s suffering is: Life changes quickly. Let me re-emphasize that. Our lives can change drastically, in the blink of an eye.
James 4:13-15 cautions us about thinking that we are in control of our lives, our plans, and our destinies:
“Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there for a year and trade and make a profit.Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 

My dad’s life changed in the blink of an eye, in ways he never planned for or imagined. His credentials and success as an attorney, judge, and man who gained the whole world are impressive. But the successful and intelligent, charismatic dad that I knew in my early years, found himself in low places and traveling down dark, winding roads. He lost jobs, people, and possessions. Eventually, he lost his intellectual abilities, his physical abilities, and his ability to live independently.

But there is good news, brothers and sisters. When life changes-quickly or slowly- and those earthly things are stripped away, GOD is still there.

“What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or nakedness, or danger or sword? …No- in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death or life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height or depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

Now that I have shared the two lessons that my earthly father’s suffering has revealed about my Heavenly Father’s sufficiency, I want to encourage you all to do two things (that I am also working on, myself):

  1. Ask yourself if you have postured your heart to receive God’s answer to your prayers in whatever way that He chooses to respond. He tells us in Scripture, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways. For as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We are blind people- each and every one of us. HE has the 20/20 vision. HE sees all and knows all. HE has ordered our steps. But we have to humble ourselves to follow his lead and accept his guidance, even if the path He leads us down looks differently than we imagined. Don’t allow an unmet expectation to blind you to the fact that He meets you where you are to answer your prayer- in the way that He, in all of His wisdom, knows is best.

  2. Because you know that life can change quickly, build your hopes on things eternal. Colossians 3:2 pleads with us, “Set your affections on things above, not on the things of the earth.”Everything is fleeting, brothers and sisters – our health, our families, our possessions, our good works, our control, our pleasures, and most importantly- life itself. We have to remember to build on the foundation that will never pass away. My dad was graced with extra time on this earth that presented opportunities for repentance and reconciliation, but how can we be sure that we will be graced with more time to make things right?

    I will leave you with the words to a hymn that sums up what this solid foundation is:


    My hope is built on nothing less
    Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness
    I dare not trust the sweetest frame
    But wholly lean on Jesus name

    His oath, his covenant, his blood
    Support me in the whelming flood
    When all around my soul gives way
    He then is all my hope and stay

    On Christ the solid rock I stand
    All other ground is sinking sand
    All other ground is sinking sand.

    Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.

    Sincerely,
    Simone G.

Dear Mamas

This post is dedicated to the mamas I’ve walked alongside- personally and professionally: The mamas who have sought my advice as a counselor, the mamas who I’ve prayed fiercely for and with, and the “mamas” in my life who do not have children, but have mothered me, just the same. My hands are locked with yours in prayer and my heart is bound to yours in hope. I stand in awe and admiration of you. 
Dear Mama who is with child  and enduring aches and pains as you carry your bundle– anxiously anticipating the day you meet your child face to face. You show the world that it is possible to fall in love with a person, before ever seeing their face. 

Dear Mama with the small, needy children- the mama whose days seem long and eternal with exhaustion, and likewise, short as your babies seem to grow with every blink. You remind the world to snuggle a little closer and love babies a little harder, because they will not stay small or depend on you forever.

Dear Mama who is toiling through the struggle to adopt or to foster – drowning in paperwork, fighting unique battles and power struggles, seeking desperately to love your children in the way they deserve to be loved. You show the world that true love perseveres. 

Dear Mama who feels the pain and pressure to cover the physical and mental scars of infant loss or infertility- the mama who celebrates other mamas well, but longs for the baby you desperately hope for and dream about. You show the world what it means to be resilient and remain hopeful.

Dear Mama who is caring for your children, while working, getting your degree, or pursuing other professional goals- the mama who experiences deep pangs of guilt each time you miss out on a milestone or hurt, have to do a daycare drop off, or feel unavailable. You show the world the art of balancing responsibilities and exude the beautiful reality that women are flexible beings and masters of multi-tasking.

Dear Mama who stays at home with your little ones- the mama who bidded your career, “Farewell”, in order to focus fully on your children, your family, and the needs of your household. You show the world what it looks like to lay down your life for the people you love.

Dear Mama who is single- working tirelessly to make ends meet, do drop-offs, put food on the table, be independent, and maintain normalcy for your children. You prove to the world that superheroes do exist.

Dear Mama who is sitting in the office of a principal, therapist, or doctor- humbly requesting help for your child’s mental or physical concern- the mother with the sick child, the child with a disability, the child with a mental illness, or the child whose behavior is hindering them from reaching their full potential. You show the world what it means to have an advocate and #1 fan. 

Dear Mama who is battling an illness of your own- wondering if you have the physical or mental capacity to care for your children and love them well- You show the world what “fighting the good fight” looks like and you demonstrate to your children what it means to be an overcomer.

Dear Mama with the teenage or young adult children who you imagined would have traveled down a more positive road, but their choices lead to dark, unpaved paths, twists, turns, and detours. The mama who quietly pursues those children through failed expectations and disappointments, greeting them with open arms when the rest of their circle has thrown in the towel. You show the world what it means to love unconditionally.

Dear Mama who buried their child, after an untimely, unexpected death- the mama with the heavy heart, whose wounds are reopened each time Mother’s Day or any holiday rolls around. The mama who will honor these holidays with grave site visits and sweet memories, rather than presents from and dinner with the children you’ve lost. You display that a mother’s love is infinite and does not cease or diminish with death or time.

Dear Mama with grown children- the mama who still cannot sleep until you get the call or text from your kids that says, “I’m safe.” The mama who still tidies the house, buys your children’s favorite things at the grocery store and cooks them a good meal, when you know your “kids” are coming home for a visit. You remind your children that mamas will always be mamas, no matter how old their children get.

Dear Aunt, Grandma, Godmother, or older sibling who is playing the role of a mama- the ones who have stepped up to the plate and accepted responsibility to help raise children who you didn’t birth. You show us that motherhood can look many different ways and that women without children are just as valuable, just as vital, just as influential in the lives of others. 

Each woman, each story is woven together into an ornate tapestry- a beautiful display of motherhood and womanhood. Thank you God, for creating such exquisite beings. I pray that each one has been reminded of their worth.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.

Sincerely,

A Healing Circle

From his sick bed, in his tiny corner of the room, he heard the cautious opening of the door. His eyes remained closed, until he heard the word “Daddy”, followed by someone calling his first name- two attempts to gently awaken him. His head lifted slightly, and through weak eyes, he peered at his visitors- his immediate family members who slowly faded into strangers. After his failed attempts at mumbling a few words, the visitors guessed that perhaps he was trying to get out of bed. The assistance of the nurse was requested and she quickly complied- helping to transfer him into a wheelchair and push him into a common area, inhabited by elderly peers, with a multitude of conditions. 

His body was frail- the once healthy weight, melting into skin and bones, with each passing day. He sat in his chair- just barely alert- staring straight ahead into the distance. As the visitors asked questions, he responded with an occasional head nodding gesture. Then before long, his eyes would close and his head would droop again- dozing off into a slumber, lightly drooling. 

His visitors watched quietly- unsure of what to do or say, ignorant of what he might be able to comprehend in his current state of mind. The cycle continued for quite some time- attempts to engage in conversation, followed by the harsh realization that he was unable to remain conscious. They decided it might be best to let him return to the tiny bed in the corner- his place of rest and solace. 

After the nurses tucked him carefully back into bed, his eyes closed, yet again. The visitors returned to his bedside- the woman he was married to for 19 years, the children they created together, and the grandchildren that he never truly became acquainted with. The nursing home was the only home that the grandchildren knew for him. Each person took their turn- holding his hand tightly, sharing words of encouragement, and praying prayers for his peace. 

One of the daughters kneeled by the bedside and surveyed his face- only 60 somethin’ years old, yet skeleton like…not the father that she knew growing up. The man who boasted several degrees and a prestigious career. The man who lit up the room in social settings- most times under the influence of the over-indulgence of an ungodly substance. The man who was full of intelligence. The man who drowned himself in sinful choices that lead to the destruction of his family. The man who she carried so much disdain for. The man who hurt her deeply. The man who caused her curses and burdens that she carried on her back from adolescence into adulthood. He was the same man, but her perspective of him was different-viewed through a heart of immeasurable hurt, but eyes of inexplicable empathy.

Although his eyes were closed tightly, he knew her presence at his bedside. She spoke forgiveness over him. Her heart poured out grace. And the pain and heartache stored up inside of her was met with a powerful dose of grace. She expressed these words:

“Everything in the past is forgiven. Just like God forgives you, we forgive you. We are blessed and everything ended up okay. When we talk about you in the future, we will not speak of it. We will speak of peace. Just peace. It’s all peace now.”

And the man – the same man who was unable to walk or talk or speak- began to cry. Tears streamed down both of his bony cheeks and his frail hands began to tremble. All who surrounded the bed began to cry. Tears of sadness over his condition. Tears of joy knowing that he understood that he had been forgiven. Tears of relief, knowing that he was kept alive long enough for this moment of healing and reconciliation. God had whispered something to this man’s soul in a way that only HE could communicate. 

On your sick bed, in your last days, these are the moments that matter. When you lose all physical and mental abilities, this is what remains- you, God, and the demons from your past that haunt and taunt you. Considering this truth might restructure the intentions of our days, the choices in our relationships, and the focus of our hearts, while we are still healthy and flourishing. So that in the end, we can say, “It is well with my soul” and depart in peace.

This is us– our family, our messy story, our personal picture of God’s redemption and the reconciliation that is only possible through His strength and example. A healing circle- long overdue, much needed, and warmly welcomed.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.

Sincerely,

​Simone

A Brief Thought About Time

Time is the most peculiar concept. 

It is time that makes one person feel as though they are seasons behind everyone else their age- anxiously yearning to catch up.
It is time that makes the person who is “ahead” feel as though life is unfolding too quickly and there is barely enough time to bid one season farewell, before another comes knocking at the door. 

It is time that makes a young mother feel as though the days caring for her baby are long, never-ending and impossible.
It is time that makes the older mom reminisce and say that the years flew by too quickly, her children grew too fast, and that those same children became grown ups in the blink of an eye.

It is time that makes the discontent child eager to grow up- counting down the years until they can gain certain rights and privileges. 
It is time that makes the weary adult reminisce the childhood years that came with less responsibilities and decision making.

It is time that sometimes finds us holding a new baby and celebrating life, in the same year that we hold the hand of a dying person, accepting their imminent death.

It is time that makes a day at work feel lengthy and exhausting, and likewise, seems like the day has not given us enough time to accomplish all of our to-do’s.

Time reminds us that we are powerless and small, in relation to the Universe. It reminds us to exert each precious moment to the things that have meaning. It reminds us to slow dance with changes, rather than play tug-of-war with them – resting, not resisting. 

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). 

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

Seeking “One”

I had a goal for this summer. Last summer, I decided I’d work the whole summer as a remedy for what I imagined would be boredom. Well, after long days of teaching hundreds of children in a YMCA camp, I began to yearn for rest and was sad that I hadn’t considered the preciousness of rest and recharge, before agreeing to summer work. So this summer, I decided, would be a summer dedicated to my personal hobbies – writing, blogging, and creating. 

“I’ll finally have some time to grow my blog,” I thought. Not the occasional, twice a week kind of blogging of a recipe or motivational thought. But rather, daily posts filled with intention and inspiring words. In preparation, I signed up for some free webinar courses about “picking up traffic through using Pinterest as a platform” and “growing a social media following.” I figured that if I’m ever going to write another book, I need to reach more people, have a bigger audience and more sales to make it a worthwhile investment. A few years ago, I created all new, private social media accounts to decrease accumulated numbers and make my social media experience more intimate. But now, I figured, my few followers might be growing weary with my long, wordy posts and I might need some fresh-eyed followers, who are looking to be encouraged.

An audience can be a blessing and a burden. God has been speaking this bittersweet truth into my heart, by several means- one being my humble-hearted husband. As we stood on the dirt of our future home, he urged me, “Let’s keep this kind of a private thing for us and our close friends and family to enjoy.” I was taken aback, at first. I had gotten so excited as I vividly pictured us taking walks in this neighborhood and I wanted to capture the beginning of it all with a photo or video. Then, I realized that he knows my heart better than anyone on this earth (in close running with my mama). He knows that I sometimes get overly eager to announce big things to people who may or may not care. So there I stood with my camera- snapping some pictures to share privately with our family group chat. Since then, with new progress on the house and even a new job, I am learning how to enjoy “big” things in a more simple and unannounced way. How to move silently in excitement and be affirmed with the simple,quiet joy of how God is answering prayers and working things together for good.

The next way God lead me to self-reflection was through His Word – for me, a tool for growth and heart checks in any situation. 

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thought. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139: 23-24).

Lately, I have been thinking of the parable where Jesus speaks of the importance of reaching one, and how that might relate to my life.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish”(Matthew 18:12-14).

If Jesus, the most well-known man of his day expressed more concerned with reaching one in the midst of a multitude, then I should too. In a generation that often measures success by numbers, it is refreshing to be humbled by the remembrance that reaching just one person is something to celebrate. 

Perhaps my message is meant for the multitudes, but maybe not. I’m trusting that whether my words get one like or one thousand likes, they will reach the person they were intended to touch. Instead of focusing on the multitudes, I am taking a closer look at who might be sitting in my immediate circle, waiting to be encouraged. “God, show me the one in my midst who needs my testimony. Show me the one who needs me to speak life into their situation. Show me the one whose spirits need to be lifted, whose load needs to be lightened.” This simple posture always leads me to a hurting person who needs to be met where they are. I’ll share a sweet text I received from a family friend, after a recent post on God’s timing:

“Your Facebook message was exactly the words I needed today. I have been praying for the right words to tell a friend of mine that is awaiting a transplant and hitting roadblocks. These words touched me and I copied them and sent them to her…”

Messages like this one make investing time into words worthwhile, when there is no other gain. So I will continue to enjoy my time for writing, blogging, sharing- because my words are for somebody. I will continue to try to share my messages with as many people as possible, but the expectation behind it will be different. If I write no more books, have no more readers for blog posts, or write no more scriptures or quotes in fancy script, my work will not be in vain- so long as I am always seeking the one I have been assigned to. For touching the heart of one still matters.

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:21).

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.

Sincerely,

Simone

Glimpses of Grace

I sat down with the two teenagers chosen for my counseling intervention. Unsure of me and one another, they fumbled awkwardly through their belongings. In an attempt to ease the tension and anxiety in our midst, I pulled out my question dice- always an easy icebreaker activity. We took turns rolling and answering questions, until the awkwardness returned with a hard question that landed face-up. “My dad is the best because…”. When we land on this question, I typically tell students not to feel obligated to answer, because not everyone has a dad who is present physically and/or emotionally, self included. One student joyfully shared an answer about her dad’s humor. Through clinched teeth and with her head down, the other student shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t really have a dad.” “It’s kind of the same for me”, I answered quickly, as to reassure her that she was not alone. Little did she know, I knew her background – knew she was adopted from another country and that she resides only with the sweet mother who decided that she would be the perfect fit for their family, long ago. Our situations were different, but I emphasized what we had in common: an absent father.

Later in the evening, my husband and I sat in the living room with tired eyes, watching a football game and struggling to make it to 10 pm without falling asleep. My phone began a heavy vibrating sound from the corner where it was charging, signaling a phone call. Phone calls at this time of night always lead me to think of either a worst case scenario emergency or an annoying beckoning from student loan harassers at an ungodly hour. I dragged myself up to answer the call and recognized the number as my uncle’s.

My uncle helps to care for my daddy- has been for the past few years that daddy has been confined to a nursing home for life. Because he is in close proximity to my daddy, this sweet uncle often calls with updates and information we might want to know. Although daddy is not too far away, I don’t make it down as often as I’d like to for a visit. In addition to a chaotic schedule, it is hard to go there and process his steady decline- a man in his early 60’s, surrounded by people much older, but equal in severity of ailment.

We sit and stare at one another, during visits- mustering up conversations about whatever comes to mind, in hopes that daddy can at least exchange a few words or an occassional head nod. We bring pictures and news of weddings, growing grand babies, funerals and try to catch him up on the progression of life that is moving quickly, outside of the lonely walls of his nursing home.

It’s hard to watch him unable to speak in a coherent sentence, when I remember how he would use his voice so boldly before. He would use it for good things like defending clients and advocating, in his days as an attorney. He would also use it for bad things like belligerent screaming at mama or us, especially when he was under the influence of substances. Either way, the stroke changed his ability to speak forever. It is hard to watch him unable to move, when I have memories of his able bodied self-always moving swiftly and demanding the attention of the room in social settings. It was hardest for me the last time we visited, when I had to spoon-feed him. In my mind, I reminisced about his excitement towards food, back when we were growing up. We’d frequent S&S Cafeteria on Sundays, and he’d complain to the workers when his food wasn’t just right. When any food happened to satisfy his palette, he’d smack loudly and often say “That’s fresh!”.

The voice of my uncle was genuine and kind over the phone, as he shared the usual mix of good and bad weekly news about daddy. Before he hung up, he expressed an apology for never knowing what we had to go through and what was really going on when my daddy lived with us, prior to the divorce. I reassured him not to be sorry, because number one- we can only see what people are willing to show us, number two- we all want to believe the best about our family members, and number three- daddy, like all of us, experienced brokenness that requires grace (even if it requires a little more grace than some of our situations).

Years ago, when daddy’s addiction lead to the stroke in rehab, I decided to recognize the situation for what it was. The pain that he brought our family was a direct result of the pain he inflicted on himself by feeding his addictions. All humans are walking stories. Even when life is “good” overall, our stories are still filled with various kinds of trauma, drama, addictions, brokenness, pains, losses, rejections and disappointments. How we deal with these broken pieces can and will directly impact our loved ones for generations. Daddy happened to make the wrong choices, leading to a once large ego spiraling down into humility and the dependence on help from others in order to survive. Even in the midst of it all, I see glimpses of goodness and grace- a chance to re-establish a relationship with his loved ones in a way that we would have never anticipated. Even greater- the inability to continue a cycle of addiction and live a lie that would continue to cause further destruction to himself and others.

My uncle and I ended our conversation in agreement that we hope my daddy asked for forgiveness and grace, while he was still able to think coherently and reflect on the past. But if not, we will continue to extend grace to him.

Today, I am considering the way that trauma has impacted my life and the lives of people I love. I am inviting you to do the same. Remember to be slow to judge the decisions of others, without being ready to extend the grace to them that we also need ourselves. Every behavior stems from something. Acknowledge what that something is, and make a conscious decision to not allow that something to lead to your hurt spilling over and hurting others. I am not always the best at this, but I am learning. Would you join me in wanting to learn and grow, too?

I’m realizing my need for grace and recognizing the need to pay it forward in order to build a healthy cycle of understanding and letting go, in attempt to break generational curses.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see

My chains are gone,
I’ve been set free
My God, My Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood, His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

My prayer is that this will more consistently be the posture of my heart- growing in empathy, better understanding my own pain and the pain of those who have hurt me and others. My prayer is that folks that I have hurt will also have this posture. (Let’s be honest, we all hurt people sometimes and will inevitably hurt people, as long as we are living). If you are a human being, you are in need of grace. Grace is like money: We are happy to receive it, slow to give it freely, and hesitant to believe it’s worth it when we don’t see a return on our investment. Growth has happened when you can have peace about giving grace freely, in the absence of tangible evidence of reciprocity.

​Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.

Sincerely,

Simone

When the Undone Leaves You Feeling Undone

With heavy eyes and tired bodies, we waited patiently for our flight to board. As blissful as Jamaica was- the days were long and our muscles were tense from travel and enjoyment. A delayed flight changed our clean cut plan of flying into Charlotte to an abrupt detour- a connecting flight to Philadelphia (the last thing two, tired Honeymooners desire to hear). As we sat in uncomfortable airport chairs, scoffing down a quick pre-flight snack, our names were called abruptly over the intercom. A thick Jamaican accent demanded us up front. We walked up, reluctantly, with an “Uh-oh. What now?” kind of demeanor. Turns out they needed us to board the plane early, due to a handicapped, neighboring passenger who needed to be lifted onto the plane and could not move after being seated. My husband reassured them that we were okay with this situation and suggested that the passenger have the window seat.

Minutes later, I saw her. As I approached the middle seat of our three-seated side of the plane, her eyes met mine. 90 somethin’ she must be, I thought. Her beautiful, dark skin almost matched the black dress she was wearing. By contrast, her weak blue eyes peered from beneath a black cap she wore neatly over the four, grey braids that were hanging to her shoulders. The wrinkles on her body were like the ripples I saw when a rock was thrown into the Jamaican waters; each one leading to another. I greeted her with an excited smile. “Hello ma’am! How are you!?” 

Her response was a mumbled jumbled sentence in a language I couldn’t understand. This would set the tone for the entire trip. She continued to speak to me in her language- making requests that were hard to comprehend. I nodded and obeyed as best I could – strapped her seatbelt on, let her tray down, reassured her that we would be leaving soon. Not knowing if any of these things were what she was asking for or needed, but trying anyway. My husband smiled and watched and interjected with ways I might be able to assist her. During the plane ride, I somehow ended up ordering her refreshments, helping her place her pretzels neatly on a napkin, put a straw in her drink, and helped her enjoy a quick snack. The flight attendant walked by and smirked, “You come into this world as a baby and leave this world as a baby, as well,” he said. I nodded in agreement and looked over at the woman who was grateful for help.

For the remainder of the ride, this pattern continued. She tapped me and spoke in a foreign language, signaling whatever she needed. And I tried my best- happy to serve and happy I was needed. “Stuff like this always happens to me,” I told my husband. And I accepted it as my God-given assignment for the day. I decided I couldn’t leave the flight without knowing her name, her story. “May I see your passport?” I asked as I reached for it. She nodded to give her approval. Myrtle was her name. 94 years old and born in Jamaica. I tried to inquire a little further about who she might be visiting in Philadelphia. I think she mentioned a daughter there- but only God knows. I let out a sigh of relief for the fact that I got to learn her name at the very least.

Myrtle. An example of how God can use us in unanticipated ways. I am certain she thought I was a personal assistant of some sort. She didn’t know I was an ordinary girl who was honeymoonin’ with her husband. And that was unimportant. I was called to just be present and to serve her in that moment.

“How long befur sumwon com fur me”, she mumbled as I departed from the plane- the first statement from her mouth that I could actually understand. “They will come shortly I hope. God bless you,” I said with a smile. And we parted ways.

It may not have been a comfy flight of rest. But it is a flight that I will remember for the rest of my life. Thank you, Myrtle, for blessing me with your wisdom without saying a word I could understand. I was forced to take my eyes off of me and to turn them to you – a stranger. 

“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew  20:28).

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.

Sincerely,

Simone

An Unanticipated Assignment

With heavy eyes and tired bodies, we waited patiently for our flight to board. As blissful as Jamaica was- the days were long and our muscles were tense from travel and enjoyment. A delayed flight changed our clean cut plan of flying into Charlotte to an abrupt detour- a connecting flight to Philadelphia (the last thing two, tired Honeymooners desire to hear). As we sat in uncomfortable airport chairs, scoffing down a quick pre-flight snack, our names were called abruptly over the intercom. A thick Jamaican accent demanded us up front. We walked up, reluctantly, with an “Uh-oh. What now?” kind of demeanor. Turns out they needed us to board the plane early, due to a handicapped, neighboring passenger who needed to be lifted onto the plane and could not move after being seated. My husband reassured them that we were okay with this situation and suggested that the passenger have the window seat.

Minutes later, I saw her. As I approached the middle seat of our three-seated side of the plane, her eyes met mine. 90 somethin’ she must be, I thought. Her beautiful, dark skin almost matched the black dress she was wearing. By contrast, her weak blue eyes peered from beneath a black cap she wore neatly over the four, grey braids that were hanging to her shoulders. The wrinkles on her body were like the ripples I saw when a rock was thrown into the Jamaican waters; each one leading to another. I greeted her with an excited smile. “Hello ma’am! How are you!?” 

Her response was a mumbled jumbled sentence in a language I couldn’t understand. This would set the tone for the entire trip. She continued to speak to me in her language- making requests that were hard to comprehend. I nodded and obeyed as best I could – strapped her seatbelt on, let her tray down, reassured her that we would be leaving soon. Not knowing if any of these things were what she was asking for or needed, but trying anyway. My husband smiled and watched and interjected with ways I might be able to assist her. During the plane ride, I somehow ended up ordering her refreshments, helping her place her pretzels neatly on a napkin, put a straw in her drink, and helped her enjoy a quick snack. The flight attendant walked by and smirked, “You come into this world as a baby and leave this world as a baby, as well,” he said. I nodded in agreement and looked over at the woman who was grateful for help.

For the remainder of the ride, this pattern continued. She tapped me and spoke in a foreign language, signaling whatever she needed. And I tried my best- happy to serve and happy I was needed. “Stuff like this always happens to me,” I told my husband. And I accepted it as my God-given assignment for the day. I decided I couldn’t leave the flight without knowing her name, her story. “May I see your passport?” I asked as I reached for it. She nodded to give her approval. Myrtle was her name. 94 years old and born in Jamaica. I tried to inquire a little further about who she might be visiting in Philadelphia. I think she mentioned a daughter there- but only God knows. I let out a sigh of relief for the fact that I got to learn her name at the very least.

Myrtle. An example of how God can use us in unanticipated ways. I am certain she thought I was a personal assistant of some sort. She didn’t know I was an ordinary girl who was honeymoonin’ with her husband. And that was unimportant. I was called to just be present and to serve her in that moment.

“How long befur sumwon com fur me”, she mumbled as I departed from the plane- the first statement from her mouth that I could actually understand. “They will come shortly I hope. God bless you,” I said with a smile. And we parted ways.

It may not have been a comfy flight of rest. But it is a flight that I will remember for the rest of my life. Thank you, Myrtle, for blessing me with your wisdom without saying a word I could understand. I was forced to take my eyes off of me and to turn them to you – a stranger. 

“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew  20:28).

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.

Sincerely,

Simone

Sizing Up My Idol

steps to a masterpiece

5/20/2018

0 Comments

Picture

The rain fell lightly- a soft accompaniment to the chatter of back and forth between birds. I was spending a stormy Saturday at home on the porch; non-reluctantly and appreciative of the chance to be still. A glance at the date on my phone screen brought awareness of what is to come in the week ahead- my birthday. This year, I barely remembered to notice. So many other important tasks to think on, so little time.

Birthdays are similar to New Year’s, in my book. They elicit thought and reflection about what has been and what is to come. But while they are a beautiful blessing to witness, birthdays can also carry heavier weights – self imposed or societal imposed expectations about what this new age “means” for the course of your life. 

The past year has been anything but slow or stagnant for me. Newly married, new transitions, and exciting things in the works, yet somehow, I still find myself growing restless in wonder about what is next. It’s time to truly “walk in my purpose”, I’ve decided. But if I am being honest, my expectations can look more like a frustrating race than a relaxing walk sometimes. Instead of easy-going baby steps, I want to sprint ahead to the finish line. With vision in mind and hope in heart, the waiting can be difficult. But what masterpiece can come to fruition without the small steps, the in-betweens, and the unknowns?

Visual artists have a full picture in mind that often begins with a sketch. There may be erasing, lack of symmetry, or the accidental splatter of paint in an unintended place. But they create until the vision comes together.

Writers have a theme in mind that often begins with an outline or a draft of sorts. There may be edited words or removal of chapters. But they create until the vision comes together. 

Musicians have a song in mind that often begins with a few words. There may be change of lyric or beat. But they adjust until there is impeccable cohesion.

I was brought to a scripture that reminded me that our lives mirror this very process. God is the Creator. And just because we cannot see the full picture of our lives does not mean that He, the artist, has stopped working. Rather, He is is perfecting. That perfecting process might appear to us as smudges, blank spaces, or pages that need to be crinkled up, thrown away, and replaced with a clean slate. 

“..being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

What does this truth mean, if we truly trust it? That we must continue to strive to bear fruit, even when it seems like nothing is growing. That we must continue to use our gifts, even when it seems that they are useless. That we must continue to pursue our calling, even if we are stuck in an in-between for a little while longer. 

A rejection does not mean you are not designed to do that thing your heart desires. A small following does not mean you are not touching and inspiring the people who you are meant to reach. And an unanswered prayer does not mean that you are unheard.

Do the best with what you can see and trust that the things you cannot see will be worth the wait. Let the Creator do what the Creator does best. 

“..let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”(Hebrews 12:1-2).

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.

Sincerely,

Simone

0 Comments

Don’t Stop Believin’

4/5/2018

1 Comment

Picture

To my knees is where He brings me, when I need to be reminded- reminded of what faith is and where it has carried me. This morning, I decided it was time for a “brain dump” – a time where I make a list of every area I want to pray over with great intention and full surrender. And so I transferred my burdens through the stroke of my pen onto fresh journal pages and prayed through each area- health, family, career, friends, miscellaneous.

“All to Jesus, I surrender, all to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live. I surrender all…”

These words from one of my favorite, classic hymns are given new life and meaning every time I put them into action. They become much more than just empty words. They help me inhale truth into my soul and exhale worry back into the pit of hopelessness that it belongs in. After all, worry is not a welcomed companion to faith. 

As I uttered my final prayers and supplications, I invited the Lord to speak peace into my heart. I felt lead to look back through my journals and prayer book  to consider the way that he has answered my prayers in His way and in His time. Considering His faithfulness in the past provides such a blessed assurance about the future. 

Tears cascaded lightly down my cheeks, as I flipped through the pages of a book from 2016. My heart had just been shattered into pieces from a break up. Seeking solace, I ordered a study titled, “You are Loved” – eight weeks of studies and reminders that we are seen, known, free and loved. One reflection question prompted me to list some lies that I was believing about myself at the time. Reluctantly, I listed three negative thoughts that wanted to disintegrate my joy and positivity:

​“You can’t have successful relationships.”
“You’re never going to find anyone to love you.”
“Marriage is not in the equation for you.”

Thoughts this strong are difficult to combat. After losing one significant other to suicide and another through an unexpected breakup, my heart was growing weary and discouraged. I turned my focus inwardly and began to question my worthiness of having a lasting relationship.The study reminded me with scripture after scripture, that God had a plan for my life. If that plan involved a relationship- great. If not- my worth would not change because God created me to be resilient and hopeful and intimacy with Him is sufficient.

A few weeks later, sitting in Barnes and Noble, I met my husband. I could go on for days about the testimonies in my life that were similar to this one. Testimonies of overcoming tragedy, destructive battles with mental health, seemingly irreversible diagnoses related to physical health, and the list goes on. The common thread in each of these stories has been “Don’t stop believing” – just like the words of the famous song.

Although I have witnessed so many prayers be answered in such an astonishing way, my heart is still susceptible to doubt. Faith is not the absence of doubt. It is persevering through those doubts, when you remind yourself of how things worked together in the past. It is remembering to hang on to hope and trust, even if you are hanging by a thread. It is being content with not having all of the answers, because we have a Father who does. I am thankful for a God who continues to pursue me and open my eyes to His truths, even when I doubt his ability to handle the details of my life.

Friend, I don’t know what lies you are believing about yourself today, but I promise you they are from a dark place. Do not entertain them. Your energy is much too precious and you must preserve it! 

I’ll end this testimony with some of the beautiful scriptures that served as reminders for me from that 8 week study in 2016:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
“For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you hope for the future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
“Then I will give them a heart to know Me that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7).

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.

Sincerely,

Simone

​ 


1 Comment

From My Seat

1/31/2018

0 Comments

Picture

Peaceful views caught my eye and the beauty of the universe whispered to my soul, as I peered out of the airplane window. Things were going smoothly and the journey ahead was a long one. “It’s okay to rest,” I assured myself. And I dozed off peacefully. I was awakened from my slumber when the plane began jolting relentlessly. Slightly on edge, I took out the headphones that had been playing light-hearted, alternative tunes in accompaniment to my light snores. Anxious to gain some control-but not having much- I opened the tiny window shade that was adjacent to my seat on the plane. Out of the tiny square of the window, the scene had taken a dramatic shift. The light, fluffy clouds that greeted me with ease, earlier, had disappeared. The only thing left visible was vast, dark sky-unfriendly nothingness.


​ 

Picture

I heard the stale voice of the pilot direct all passengers to “Clear the aisles and put on seatbelts” with not much more of an explanation. Although I’d had many plane rides prior to this one, a fear came over me. What if this is more than just normal turbulence? Why can’t I see anything out of the window? Why would the pilot not give us more information to comfort us? Is something bad gonna happen this time? Anxious thoughts did a “doom dance” with heavy feet, across my brain. I closed the window, said a prayer-unsure of exactly what to pray.

The jolting began to ease up and transition back into calmness. I consulted with my window, again, seeking answers through the tiny square. This time, an eerie, yet beautiful picture was beginning to form. As we grew closer to our destination, the clouds began parting and making way for visibility. A few clouds hung around, stubbornly, but slowly began to reveal the majesty below- still waters and a never-ending stretch of dark trees. Familiarity allowed my solitude to return.


Picture

This plane ride reminded me of life itself. I pondered how many times this ride called “life” has been smooth and easy, allowing me to ride along passively and peacefully. Then, in the most unanticipated moments of turbulence, rest became unrest, sure became shaky, and calm became chaos. I thought about the lack of control I had in those moments- like the lack of control I had on the plane. I thought of my frustration with the pilot- the expert- for giving us a few details to keep us safe but not letting us know what he was seeing or what was coming next. Oh what similar moments I have had with my Heavenly Father- wondering why He couldn’t give me more information about the suffering of myself, other people, or the hard circumstances that might await us. Wishing He- the expert- could lead us safely to rest, since this suffering was in His hands. Trusting and letting go like I had to do on that plane. And finding balance and understanding each time I grew closer to my purpose and saw the picture of my life fitting together with intention.

We are limited, human beings-one of many on this journey of life. From our tiny seat on the journey, we get an incomplete glimpse into the world around us- a tiny pixel of the full picture. We celebrate when the journey is peaceful and clear. We fear when the journey is dark and confusing. Our small perspective shows us that we do not have all of the answers. There is someone flying the plane who can see the things we can’t-what we left behind, what we are passing through, and what lies ahead. We are forced to stay in our seats, heed the guidance and direction, and trust that we will make it safely to our promised destination. We can comfort other passengers and encourage them to make the most of this ride- each one of us doing the best we can. I can do my part from my seat, but I do not have the power to manipulate the whole journey or the bigger narrative. So I will stay in my seat, trust while I can, and be content with the ride I cannot control. Because God is the pilot (and He is much better at navigating this complex universe than I could ever be).

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.

Sincerely,

Simone 


0 Comments

Expectations vs. Experiences

1/5/2018

0 Comments

Picture

Like a large majority of other folks, my husband and I talked of resolutions for the year ahead. We noted our goals in a place where we could see them. Research shows that writing your goals down increases the likelihood of reaching those goals- and so, we did. But something still felt incomplete about the words on our list. 

A few days into the new year, an unanticipated snow lead to some days of resting and reflection. In my moments of less distraction and more intentionality, the thing that I felt was missing came to me. The thought was: “Maybe I don’t need expectations as much as I need experiences, this year.” 

This thought did not lead me to obliterate the notes that inhabit our goals, aspirations, and hopes for this year. This thought did, however, lead me to look at these resolutions through a different lense. You see, the waters grow murky when we try to distinguish goals from expectations. In fact, sometimes it is inevitable for a goal not to turn into an expectation. When we set a goal, we naturally expect to meet that goal, right?

The problem arises when we don’t meet our goals and our expectations are shattered. The inability to perform at the level we expected can lead to guilt, shame, comparison and disappointment. Emphasizing the expectation rarely leads to fulfillment. Why? Because we are rarely content, unless things have the endings that our hearts desire. 

What if we tried focusing more on experiences and less on our expectations? An expectation is something you arrive at, while an experience is something you go through. Experiences help us evolve into the higher versions of ourselves. When we honor experiences over expectations, we can see the lesson in goals met and unmet, tasks done and undone, situations that turned out as we predicted and the ones that didn’t.

I’m inviting you to reflect with me for a moment. Most of our resolutions in the form of expectations arise from seeing other people reach those goals. We want to be healthier like “Person A”, or reach the financial stability that “Person B” has, gain some of the personal attributes that we see in “Person C”, or reach the success in our career that “Person D” has reached. Don’t get me wrong, there is no condemnation in admiration. However, these mindsets can quickly turn from admiration to social comparison when things don’t turn out for us the way that they turned out for that person.

When we focus on experiences, something different happens. We begin to honor every situation that we encounter, recognizing that each experience is uniquely designed for us. Whether we fail or succeed, we learn. Learning is the objective of experiencing. 

So yes, I will keep my note with resolutions listed as a roadmap of sorts. But my motivation will be the journey, rather than the end goal; the experiences over the expectations. My soul will be content with the way things turn out, because each experience has something to teach me. So I am (in a sense) taking my “resolutions” and turning them into “rest-olutions”.

I will rest in the fact that what is for me won’t pass me. I will rest my need to have full control over my circumstances. I will rest in trusting that with each of my experiences, God is weaving my story. And if each one of those experiences sprouted from an expectation that was met exactly the way that I intended, the story would be rather boring and I wouldn’t have much to learn. There is so much more freedom in experiencing than expecting. 

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refused to sink. 

Sincerely,

Simone

0 Comments

An Unanticipated Assignment

11/19/2017

4 Comments

Picture

With heavy eyes and tired bodies, we waited patiently for our flight to board. As blissful as Jamaica was- the days were long and our muscles were tense from travel and enjoyment. A delayed flight changed our clean cut plan of flying into Charlotte to an abrupt detour- a connecting flight to Philadelphia (the last thing two, tired Honeymooners desire to hear). As we sat in uncomfortable airport chairs, scoffing down a quick pre-flight snack, our names were called abruptly over the intercom. A thick Jamaican accent demanded us up front. We walked up, reluctantly, with an “Uh-oh. What now?” kind of demeanor. Turns out they needed us to board the plane early, due to a handicapped, neighboring passenger who needed to be lifted onto the plane and could not move after being seated. My husband reassured them that we were okay with this situation and suggested that the passenger have the window seat.

Minutes later, I saw her. As I approached the middle seat of our three-seated side of the plane, her eyes met mine. 90 somethin’ she must be, I thought. Her beautiful, dark skin almost matched the black dress she was wearing. By contrast, her weak blue eyes peered from beneath a black cap she wore neatly over the four, grey braids that were hanging to her shoulders. The wrinkles on her body were like the ripples I saw when a rock was thrown into the Jamaican waters; each one leading to another. I greeted her with an excited smile. “Hello ma’am! How are you!?” 

Her response was a mumbled jumbled sentence in a language I couldn’t understand. This would set the tone for the entire trip. She continued to speak to me in her language- making requests that were hard to comprehend. I nodded and obeyed as best I could – strapped her seatbelt on, let her tray down, reassured her that we would be leaving soon. Not knowing if any of these things were what she was asking for or needed, but trying anyway. My husband smiled and watched and interjected with ways I might be able to assist her. During the plane ride, I somehow ended up ordering her refreshments, helping her place her pretzels neatly on a napkin, put a straw in her drink, and helped her enjoy a quick snack. The flight attendant walked by and smirked, “You come into this world as a baby and leave this world as a baby, as well,” he said. I nodded in agreement and looked over at the woman who was grateful for help.

For the remainder of the ride, this pattern continued. She tapped me and spoke in a foreign language, signaling whatever she needed. And I tried my best- happy to serve and happy I was needed. “Stuff like this always happens to me,” I told my husband. And I accepted it as my God-given assignment for the day. I decided I couldn’t leave the flight without knowing her name, her story. “May I see your passport?” I asked as I reached for it. She nodded to give her approval. Myrtle was her name. 94 years old and born in Jamaica. I tried to inquire a little further about who she might be visiting in Philadelphia. I think she mentioned a daughter there- but only God knows. I let out a sigh of relief for the fact that I got to learn her name at the very least.

Myrtle. An example of how God can use us in unanticipated ways. I am certain she thought I was a personal assistant of some sort. She didn’t know I was an ordinary girl who was honeymoonin’ with her husband. And that was unimportant. I was called to just be present and to serve her in that moment.

“How long befur sumwon com fur me”, she mumbled as I departed from the plane- the first statement from her mouth that I could actually understand. “They will come shortly I hope. God bless you,” I said with a smile. And we parted ways.

It may not have been a comfy flight of rest. But it is a flight that I will remember for the rest of my life. Thank you, Myrtle, for blessing me with your wisdom without saying a word I could understand. I was forced to take my eyes off of me and to turn them to you – a stranger. 

“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew  20:28).

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink.

Sincerely,

Simone
4 Comments

Sizing Up My Idol

9/25/2017

0 Comments

Oh, how quickly we can turn a good thing into a God thing; distort a blessing and make it our being. I have a confession: my soul has been worshiping an idol. It is not an admirable person, this idol I speak of. My idol is named Wedding Planning. 

It was a Saturday afternoon when I felt a friendly nudge from the Spirit. Mentally exhausted, I considered the multiple tabs pulled up on my computer. Emails to vendors on some, Pinterest ideas on others. I looked down at my phone- also drowning in a sea of tabs with ideas and check lists and “just in case I forget” notes. A feeling of exhaustion set in and tears slowly formed in my eyes. I wondered what this planning obsessed time would be filled with were there no arrangements to be made. It dawned on me that many of my hours of quiet time with the Lord were being soaked up and replaced by fleeting plans for a day that he hasn’t even promised me.

My mind is pretty good at making up a list of excuses to justify this idol-

“I’m a type A planner and like to control details.”

​“I work all day, so I need to dedicate free, evening hours to planning.”

“It’s the biggest and most important day in my life.” 

“Premarital counseling and reading books on marriage is enough introspection. I don’t need to do much else for now.”

All those sound good and make my sin sound a little more acceptable. But the truth is, whatever is consuming your mind for most of the day can turn into what you’re worshiping. When I looked at my heart and my life that afternoon, I did not see Jesus on the throne. I saw lists, and emails, and pretty Pins, and ideas dancing around my head. I saw controlling thoughts of what could go right and what might go wrong and how I could manipulate the in between. I saw a jumble of plans prancing across my brain, during my hours awake and asleep. And I was confronted with this sad condition of my heart.

The good news is that Jesus was there to meet me where I was- He always is. He pricked my heart to show me that the day is not promised. He nudged me to show me that even if it comes to pass, it is HIS day, not mine. He lead me to reflect on how many hours I could have spent sending up more prayers for my future marriage, had I not added frantically to my checklist. He showed me grace to lead me to make a change in my heart and actions. And most importantly, He reminded me that meeting my husband at the altar and being fully his pales in comparison to the day I will meet Christ  face to face and be in His presence. The beauty of His glory far outweighs a wedding venue. His promises far exceed wedding vows. And the love my fiancee shows me is just an earthly reflection of the much greater love that Christ has for me.

What is sitting on the throne of your heart? What temporary things are you placing an eternal focus on? There’s nothing wrong with a hobby, until we begin to make it holy. Thankfully, our Savior doesn’t cast us out of His Kingdom when we de-throne Him with and put frivolous things in His place. He waits patiently and nudges us to size up our idols. My friend, if you have given some other person or thing the throne of your heart and the bulk of your time, I pray you will put Jesus back in His rightful place.

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:14-15

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

Remain hopeful. Stay anchored. Refuse to sink. 

Sincerely,

Simone