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Today I got to spend the day with a woman who has been used greatly in my family. Decades ago she became one of my grandmother’s very best friends. When my grandmother passed away, she was there, standing in the gap. She and my own mother grew closer and I knew she was like a surrogate mom for my mother. A godmother. Since my mom passed away, she has been faithful in sending me cards and pictures and other tokens of her affections. Always reverencing their love for me (my mother and grandmother), reminding me of what I struggle so often to remember.
That I am loved.
Today she spoke about her battle with breast cancer. She has in fact battled this disease three times. She was honest in her speech, sharing that yes, emotionally she struggled with this 3rd diagnosis.
“Lord, again? Haven’t I already been through this? Haven’t I already passed the test?”
This resonated with me greatly, as I thought about my own journey in waiting, and relationships, and surrender.
“Lord, haven’t I already passed this test?” I’ve wondered so often.
But His answer to her may not be the answer you hear in the pulpit, or online, or at a popular mega church, because it’s not a popular message.
It’s a message of the cross.
“Yes daughter,” He says to her. “But I got you! I got you!”
I am discovering that one can experience and overcome various tests, trials and tribulations. Even in the same area. They can have those experiences and keep going through them. Again, and again, and even again.
We see this in the Bible. What does God say to Paul when he asks to have the thorn removed from him three times?
“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:8)
And even with Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, crying out to the Father to remove His cup.
“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me. He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’ (Matt 26:36-39).
I can’t imagine the depth of sorrow Christ felt to ask to be removed from this experience of physical suffering. I can only imagine it must have been so great because He also knew all the world would be saved through it, and yet it was so painful that He still did not want to experience it.
And in both cases (Paul and Christ’s) God basically said, “My will is for you to suffer.”
We do not like suffering. Our flesh hates it. Whether it is physical, emotional or mental. When we are hungry we want food. When we are tired we want sleep. When we have to use the restroom we find the nearest toilet. We do not like being uncomfortable. And suffering is, in my opinion, the worst kind of uncomfortable.
But suffering in the kingdom, is highly regarded. We cannot get away from that fact, and any gospel that is preached without the teaching of suffering is erroneous.
2 Timothy 2: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…
One of my struggles in this season is not the teaching of suffering. I think I understood that early on in my faith, that I would need to do hard things for Him. That I would need to lay down my life. But I didn’t know about long suffering. I didn’t know about the lengths and depths that He could call one to. I didn’t know that He could call you over and over (and even over) again to experience difficult circumstances. And I didn’t know He could give you power to sustain you through it.
I got to speak with some women today who are related to my grandmother’s friend. They too are in seasons of recovery from loss, grief and trauma. They too are overcoming things they never imagined they would go through. And I can see the changes. I can see there is more humility, there is more kindness. Our hearts are tender now…
Suffering changes you. But if you know Him, it can change you for the good. He can work it for the good…
When Paul cries out to have his thorn removed, we find out why God said ‘no’.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure (2 Cor 12:7).
He was humbled through this thorn. He was sustained by His grace.
I realize the Father has been after something in me in this season. Something that I didn’t know was there. It was distrust.
I have known that the way I have related to the Father has always been intimate and passionate, zealous and possessive (on both sides). Yes, I have loved Him. But I have consistently struggled with trusting Him.
Looking back on my journey, I would trust Him to a certain extent. And with my singleness I would only trust Him up until a certain number of years (we have passed that number of years by the way). Of course, consciously I was not aware I was doing this. But He knew.
At the service today my friend Linda testified about her “thorn”. She testified that the Father would not remove it, but that He would keep her through it. She also testified that she would worship anyway.
Wow. To worship Him anyway. Even after the third time. That is the faith He is after. That is the call for His chosen.
I am grateful that even in my pain and grief and anger, He has never changed. His love and loyalty are steady and even though I don’t experience the high feelings of emotions I did all those years in my journey, I sense His love as strongly as I used to.
And for the first time, in such a long time, I trust Him.
I trust Him like I used to. I trust Him like I did as a babe. I trust Him like before the tests and trials. Before the losses and setbacks. Before the confusion over my identity. I trust Him. Because now I can see (as I have in the past but forgot) that He really is for me. That His choices really are in my best interest. Especially when it comes to relationships.
He protects me. Like a good father does His child.
I am His.
What I know now, that I didn’t know earlier in my faith, was that His way somehow feels/is harder and at the same time protects. I also did not know that His way does not negate (long) suffering. That though He is for me, pain is inevitable. And in life pain is inevitable. But at-least with Him it can be used for our good.
Because in order to reign with Him we must suffer.
That is the cross. That is being a disciple. That is being His.
ECCLESIASTES 4:9-10 AMP
“Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor; for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up.”
Over a year ago I watched my friend minister to her mother. She hovered over her hospital bed, fed her with spoonfulls and played sermons from her favorite preacher online. They prayed together and she tended to her every want and need. I watched from my side of the hospital room in awe, knowing their history, knowing God was teaching me something.
He was teaching me forgiveness.
I knew in my heart that at that point in my life, I could not do what she was doing. I could not tend to my own mother with such care and intimacy. I had too much pain in my heart. Little did I know, I would actually experience the loss of my mother before she would lose her own. While my friend was in a long-term care situation, my experience was sudden and unexpected. Yes, my mother had been sick for a long time, but that was nothing new. She had been around for the last 20 years with her illness, why would I expect her not to be around for 20 more?
This weekend was my friend’s first Mother’s Day without her mom. It was on my heart to spend the weekend with her. I really only had 8 months under my belt of walking this unique path before her, but that seemed to be enough for Holy Spirit. Indeed He had used me to walk with her last year through this experience, while I myself was still grieving.
I myself am still grieving.
But we made it through. We attended a women’s event that talked about friendship and sisterhood and God’s intent for both. We dialogued about our mothers and how we were continuing their legacies. I was in awe to see how many similarities we had with our journeys. In so many ways we were experiencing the exact same path.
She had a list of what she wanted to do and I strived to make those things happen. Good food, good movies, good company. I only had one thing on my heart and that was a 90’s R&B throwback concert from a group I grew up enjoying. I knew that if my mom were here, that’s what we would have done.
So that’s what we did.
I’ll be honest and say I cringed every time I heard those words, “Happy Mother’s Day!”. I was annoyed every time I saw others posting their pictures of their happy families that were so full and overflowing.
There was no way around it, their cups were overflowing in an area where mine ran dry.
We made the best of what we had. While at the concert the group we saw talked about family and having your family here with you. Well, my friend and I had unique situations with our families. I placed my hands on the women beside me. They were now my family.
This season has been eye opening on many levels. I have learned not to be presumptuous with God (a continuous lesson). I have learned that the borders to His way are much farther out then I would have dreamed. He does things in the way He chooses. Especially with His chosen.
While at the church service we went to yesterday a young mother and wife shared her heart about what God was teaching her in this season of motherhood. She had devastating events happen with her children and was wrestling with fears and insecurities and hurt. But in the midst of those circumstances she was learning joy in the journey. That was exactly what He has been teaching me.
Joy in the journey.
I realize He can teach His children the same lesson while walking through extremely different circumstances. We can feel the same pain, the same loss, even though we do not have the same journey. We are individually made and need different things to grow. My heart is now tender towards those who experience suffering and pain from whatever source of devastation in this world. Indeed, there seem to be so many sources.
While standing there yesterday at the church service, I marveled at God. He walked me to this place in my journey I never thought He would allow. My friend felt the same. He walked us to this place and we were in shock. Had we not been faithful? Had we not been promised to reap? But instead we were called to continue being pruned. To experience what some will never experience. At least in this area.
I worshipped at the service. My friend did too. We worshipped our way through the service celebrating mothers. And when the worship leader asked only the mothers to sing, I listened for my own. I know she is in the eternals, cheering me on. I know she is more alive than I am at this time, and I know she is singing over me, joining all the mothers, singing over their daughters. I had to believe that in that moment, because I did not have her to experience it in the natural.
I realize I am healing now. There is no way I could have raised my hands the way I did at the service a year ago or even a month ago. I would have been too afraid. How could I open my heart to surrender all when now I know more of what the cost entails? But I was able to. And it is because I am healing.
He did not do things at all the way I expected. He did things His way. He provided family His way. He gave provision His way.
My heart still longs for those promises He gave years ago. It still desires what I see so many around me receiving. But I am realizing what I have been being taught for so many years now.
I am an eternal being.
I am a citizen of heaven.
This is not my home.
But one day I will be home. One day I will experience the fulfillment of all I desire, all that He promised.
And that has to be enough.
He has to be enough.
I’ve been pretty vocal about my feelings in this season of “recovery”. I know the Father sees it as recovery though for me it has just felt sad. Lots of negative emotions have been my experience (loneliness, broken heartedness, anxiety) and that was precisely why I ran as hard as I could away from the pain, for fear it would overtake me.
Thankfully, it hasn’t.
Thankfully I met Tiffany.
Yesterday I was living my life in a very “normal” way, and while I felt a little lighter than I had in a while, I still had no anticipation that God was ordering my steps in any particular way. I only knew that I really needed my nails done. Spring is here and summer quickly approaching and a girl needs to make sure she is looking her best since she is seen even more in these seasons💁🏾♀️😏. So I headed to the mall and chose a nail salon I’ve never attended. At first I wasn’t even going to stay because there was a wait and I have never liked to wait (as God is very familiar with, and maybe you are too if you’ve read this blog for any significance of a time) but then I figured, “what’s 30 minutes?”
When you’ve waited years for something, 30 minutes is truly a drop in the bucket.
So finally it was my turn and I was really excited about the particular nail polish I had chosen (it is really the little things these days) and though the nail tech doing my nails was great at her craft, she wasn’t particularly conversational and I was actually uncharacteristically in the mood for a good conversation with a perfect stranger (you introverts out there know what an unusual occurrence that is). And so when she shared she wouldn’t be able to do my pedicure because she was clocking out soon I wasn’t too disappointed. I then followed a young woman to the pedicure station and received a really encouraging email regarding my new business (will share more on that at a later date) and was therefore consumed with following up on this new opportunity while the woman did my pedicure. Now I was the silent one. She made conversation and I politely responded but I was clearly distracted. So it wasn’t until she moved me to the manicure station and polished my nails (because the previous nail tech wasn’t able to) that we engaged more. I noticed how meticulous she was with her work and commented as such. She responded and shared she is an artist, and that in fact she is also a writer and a poet. I encouraged her in sharing her gifts and when she said she wanted to write books that told people’s stories to help encourage others in similar circumstances, well, I knew I had to share my own testimony of doing the same. We engaged in a beautiful conversation about difficult seasons, as she too was in a recovery season, and I gave her some resources that have helped me as well as those I have written. It touched my heart so much when she looked up to the ceiling and said, “OK, God, I hear you!” Wow. Look at God. Using me in an unlikely place at an unlikely time to encourage one of His own while I am still healing. Still recovering.
He does great things.
One of my encouragements to this woman (who told me her name was Tiffany) was to ask God, “What good can come from this season?” He works all things for the good so how can good come from such trauma and loss? She nodded her head in agreement taking in every word, even as sadness laced her eyes. I knew that sadness. I had it myself. But now I was feeling something new in the midst of it. Something I hadn’t felt in a while.
I felt hope.
Hope for the future. Speaking with Tiffany reminded me of purpose and it let me know (as I’m sure the Father intended) that He is using even my pain to help others. See, I could not have related to Tiffany before this season. I would have sympathized because I am an intercessor and my heart is sensitive to other’s pain naturally, but I would not have known for myself what devastation felt like. At least, not the kind of devastation she was dealing with. When one hard thing after another keeps happening and it gets hard to believe that good things can happen.
I left the mall yesterday smiling. It was the first time I had smiled and felt happy without any pain in so long.
As I walked to my car, I couldn’t stop smiling.
I am so encouraged by this experience and others that have happened the last few days. It has been an amazing week and it is only halfway through💕.
But its not even just the events themselves that have encouraged me, its the fact that I can feel joy as a response to them.
Joy in the midst of darkness.
Joy in the midst of pain.
Truly He is with us.
Here is the finished product of Tiffany’s handwork:
Thank you Tiffany.
There are memories now. They catch me off guard when they make their way from subconscious to consciousness. From the recesses and dark crevices of my mind. From back then to now as if now were just minutes from then, instead of years.
The memories consist of her and I, always alone. And though the situations and circumstances change, the thing that stays the same is my longing for more.
I remember we were at someone’s wedding reception. It was one of her friend’s kid’s. We had been to so many it’s hard for me to remember who’s what we went to. But I do remember we were there, and how much I wanted my own.
I was 27 then, around the age where elders told me I was an old maid, but when the average of my generation were just pairing up. Marrying off and settling down to have their children. Apparently millennials were waiting longer to get married.
Still, I’m pretty sure they didn’t wait this long.
At this particular gathering we had a good time. We put on those silly costumes and masks and dressed up for the photo booths so many people have at these parties. We were mother and daughter and this was a moment of bonding. It wasn’t easy back then, celebrating for others when my own desire nawed relentlessly from the inside, but I did it. Because I had hope.
I remember sitting by her side, at the park, discussing our future. Or rather my future. It was unsaid that mine was really hers and that she would be there when our dreams were fulfilled. My dreams were her dreams so I think it’s safe to say they were ours. We sat there and talked about my grandma and I felt the pain of there just being us 2. I thought nothing could be worse then there just being us 2.
I was wrong.
I read C.S Lewis’, “A Grief Observed” recently. I read it within 2 days. I highlighted every other page, text messaged my friends the parts that resonated and then gifted my pastor her own copy. She is grieving too.
I was so in awe of Lewis’ transparency. I couldn’t believe a theologian scholar could be so in touch with his emotions, and that he could adequately express exactly how I feel in this season. (To me) It’s like he’s swinging at God, taking punches. The religious mind would be horrified at such a picture but I think once a level of suffering is experienced, one understands that God Himself gets it, allows it, and just dodges the swings.
A flood of questions have come to my mind since I stopped running. They take turns pouring out like the memories that push themselves to the front of my mind. Mostly they start with, “Why”.
Why did You do it this way?
Why did you take Your presence away when I would need it most?
Why could you not have just said ‘yes’?
I’ve been on this journey long enough to know He is not entitled to us. He does not have to answer to us. But sometimes, He wants to. Sometimes (and in my case, most times) He responds because we are in relationship together. So I keep asking the questions even though I don’t have many answers. Still, I think apart of Him (and maybe all of Him) is happy I have made this step.
Now atleast we are talking and I am not running.
At least not as fast.
I’ve always known I would one day start my own business. I just didn’t know when or even what it would be but it was something that stayed in the back of my mind as a “one day” thing. Then “one day came”. After my fourth season of unemployment and about 9 months of waiting, it came.
I’d like to say I “waited well” but the truth is I dragged my feet. I kicked and screamed. During the course of applying and interviewing and resume-updating, I resisted His nudging to move forward in creating an LLC. Until finally all of my options were none and I could no longer resist His nudge.
I took the steps but still in my heart wondered if He could really be leading me to do this thing full time? Certainly not! Everyone knows entrepreneurship takes a while to reap a profit when getting started! Clearly God knows this as well! So of course I need to be trying to find something to supplement this vision? But circumstances said otherwise…
During the time of my unemployment (before I got my first client) a dear friend of mine lost her mother. I was the only friend who could be there for her physically because a work schedule was not an issue. It was of course significant for me to be the one walking with her through a difficult time because I myself am still in recovery of my own difficult time. I was with her when I found out my client had hired me. We stood in the middle of the craft store and I cried tears of joy as she embraced me in her arms. It wasn’t until I received that offer did other offers from other companies come through. They came flooding in.
For several months the doors were closed. Now they were swinging open.
Initially I took an offer but realized it would take away from building my own business. I would actually be getting paid more working for myself and logically it made no sense to reduce the hours for my client. By faith, I declined it. And by faith I started building for my client a system that I hoped would meet her needs.
The beauty in not only seeing the fruit from this step of faith to be a small business owner is that my first client came through a woman who has had so much purpose in my life. First a blog follower, then a roommate, then a friend, and now a sister. Working side by side with her shows me the Father’s love and care.
His provision is consistent in every area.
I have struggled so much in my career and yet never have I went without. Often I have felt the “downtimes” were too long. The seasons of unemployment. The constant feelings of rejection when hearing “no” and facing closed doors. Even when knowing it is for the best, it still hurts. Now I can look back and see HIs perfect timing. 9 months living with my friend/now sister. 9 months living with the woman who loved me more than life itself. And 9 months of “rest” and recovery before my business began.
And I’m honored to be continuing the legacy of the women who made me who I am today in a field that was once my weakness and is now His strength.
I am grateful for ABN Bookkeeping LLC.
Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
2 “How long will you say such things?
Your words are a blustering wind.
3 Does God pervert justice?
Does the Almighty pervert what is right?
4 When your children sinned against him,
he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
5 But if you will seek God earnestly
and plead with the Almighty,
6 if you are pure and upright,
even now he will rouse himself on your behalf
and restore you to your prosperous state.
7 Your beginnings will seem humble,
so prosperous will your future be…
In the above passage Job’s friend Bildad is responding to Job’s suffering in the only way he knows how. He is seeing through his lense. He is pulling on the information that he has thus far acquired in his life journey and offering that as a resolution. The only problem, is he is wrong.
Bildad had never been through anything Job was going through at the time, thus he was not qualified to offer advise or counsel or insight. Unfortunately he was not wise enough not to know this. And so he spoke out of his ignorance. He put the blame on Job. He made it seem like it was something Job had done to experience all of this loss. That is the deception in religion. It puts the burden on the person, instead of giving it back to Christ to carry for us…(Matthew 11:30).
In this difficult season I have been navigating I’m so grateful to have people around me, friends around me, who are nothing like Job’s friends. They do not speak on areas they are not familiar with. We have all had our difficulties, but none of us are the same. I have never been through a divorce or faced a physical life threatening illness or lost a child. And so it would be inappropriate for me to speak on these things. And even if I had gone through these things I would have had my own experience with them, so what may have helped me through those hardships may not help another person. My counselor told me something similar recently: we are all different and no two people respond the same to similar circumstances.
I remember the morning of her funeral, 5 women were in my home, waiting. They were silent. They were silent because they were sensitive to my needs. And really, what could be said? They sat in silence as we road in the limo. And I felt very much like none of this was happening. Like I was watching everything happen around me but I wasn’t really apart of it.
Job’s friends were silent initially. They were silent for 7 days and then they opened their mouths and spoke about things they knew nothing about. I’m glad that was not my experience. How painful is it to endure such difficult circumstances and then on top of that to feel condemned and accused and persecuted from your loved ones?
I have had some experiences where selfishness and judgement have been tossed my way and it has been hurtful. But even those experiences have been few and far between and never from my core circle. For that I am grateful.
I also know there have been times I have been the judge. I have been the one condemning and pointing the finger and saying the wrong thing. I’m grateful for a repentant heart and an increase in self awareness. I’m grateful for growth.
Pain is a delicate thing. And when faced with it hearts are tender and should be handled carefully.
I was told last night from a new friend that I am a safe place for him. He has been through lots of pain and I am honored to be a safe place for someone who has experienced that much pain.
But I know to be safe has to be learned. I learned it from the women around me and from Holy Spirit using them.
They are nothing like Job’s friends…