Perception

I took mom out to Pensacola Beach to check out the waves that Tropical Storm Sally would be forming.

Once in Gulf Breeze, a rain band came through so hard of rain I had to pull over. It rained for another thirty minutes at least.

When we first arrived at the beach the sky in every direction was dark or gray and hazy.

Then a small area of blue began to appear.

Then the sky to the left of the pier was brilliant blue like there had never been a drop of rain to fall from the sky.

Yet to the right the sky remained ominous and dreary.

I tried to capture it the best my inexperienced self could.

Eventually all the gray storm clouds parted and the sky was just beautiful.

It is absolutely incredible how the coloring of the sky . . . or how our outlook . . . can change based on the direction one is looking.

As I watched the skies and took pictures I kept hearing the word perception.

It was amazing to me that I could stand in one place, look to the left and see glorious colors of blue and bright white clouds with crystal clear colors reflecting off the sea of waves crashing. And yet when I looked in the opposite direction there was gloom and oppression with dark waves that seem non-reflective and dirty.

I think in life we all bring our own unique perception to life’s circumstances to the table. Our perception is formed based on the experiences of our own unique, individual walk in life.

I’ve learned through the last twenty two years of sobriety and walking with the Lord that often times my perception is skewed. I learned I became quick to judge, quick to react, quick to be guarded and not so quick to trust – because of a distorted past.

But because of grace and a renewed hope in life . . . I was given a new perception towards life . . . one filled with trust, hope, and love.

I’ve learned in life just because a person’s perception is different than mine doesn’t always mean they are wrong or I am wrong – it just means we are looking at something through different eyes.

Each person brings something valuable to the table – experience.

I don’t know where the Lord is wanting me to go with this – maybe I’m just supposed to ramble and leave you hanging to come up with your own conclusion – I don’t know. I do know sometimes our perception can become distorted because of a tainted past, trauma, and just making bad decisions. But I also know the One who can help you gain new perspective, give your clarity, and make your path straight.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

Even When I Don’t See It . . .

A few days ago I received a fb message from a friend. She included these three images.

Her message read, “These have all “showed up” within the last month and of course I thought of you! I am leaving the one in my car as a reminder to pray for you and your sweet family! Every time I see a penny now it reminds me of you and prompts me to pray for you and your sweet family. I hope Kaitlyn is feeling better! Love you much my friend!”

To which I responded . . .

“Oh I have goosebumps. I was getting frustrated that the Lord hadn’t given me any pennies. I even asked Him for some and here He is answering the prayers in ways I didn’t even imagine! Praise the Lord!”

And again, the Lord reminds me . . .

His ways are not my ways.

And just because I can’t SEE those prayers being answered doesn’t mean He isn’t answering them.”

Don’t give up on those secret prayers.

He’s working.

Even when you don’t think He is.

Way Maker

But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” John 5:17

I love you,

Stacey

Anticipate Jesus

Over the last few day’s I have gotten some neat shots of the hummingbirds that have been visiting my front porch. They aren’t perfect and I’m no professional but each day I am getting better and less rushed in trying to get my shots.

A little patience goes a long way.

I was watching the hummingbird’s behavior and learned something.

They are afraid of wasps.

And while hummingbirds are small and super fast, they aren’t as small as a wasp.

I found it interesting that the hummingbird just didn’t claim the feeder and scoot the wasp out of the way.

So I did some research – here’s what I found:

. . . other insects, particularly bees and wasps, can sometimes out-maneuver and attack a hummingbird. A single sting may be fatal to a hummingbird, because there is so little body mass to absorb the venom, but there are few data to know the extent of this. https://www.hummingbirdsociety.org/predators/

And I started comparing a Christian’s arch enemy – Satan, to the believers life. And I started thinking how many times I’ve allowed Satan to rise above my foot level giving way to fear and anxiety or causing me to shift my focus . . . .

Drawing me away from my source of life . . . Jesus.

Scripture says in Romans 16:20 that the God of peace will crush Satan under my feet. So if he has such a lowly position why do I give him authority over my life?

When I was searching for scripture references on this I came across a short clip from one of my favorite preachers, Tony Evans. Listen to this short clip . . .

Satan is under your feet

Here are some other photos I took of the hummingbird in our Crepe Myrtle.

Then I sort of got caught up in this image here . . .

It’s actually included in the images above – but he had changed his position so I couldn’t find him as easily as when he was facing me with his colors showing.

Do you see how easy it is to miss the hummingbird because of its position?

It’s easy to recognize Satan’s tactics when he comes at us showing his true colors without a mask and not all prettied up – we can see some of his plan when he is at his boldest . . . but I’ve come to learn the last few months that it is when he changes things up a bit – when he makes himself look different that we can actually miss his tactic and confuse them for the Lords.

Especially when we aren’t in the Word and spending time with Jesus daily.

It’s easy for Satan to hide his deception in the beauty to bring confusion.

He’s cunning and conniving like that.

Creation testifies to God’s glory. I see references of scripture in nature and love how the Lord speaks to me and the visuals He gives me to teach me.

He’s all around us.

We just have to slow down and look for Him.

And anticipate Him.


See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Colossians 2:8

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. Matthew 7:14-15

I love you,

Stacey

The Goodness of God

Today, I want to focus on gratitude. In the past an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness would come easy, but these last few months, I’ve struggled to have a heart of thankfulness.

It’s hard to be thankful when one is focused on what ifs and filled with fear. In fact – its impossible.

It has affected my teaching, my outlook to life, my home life, my diet, my parenting, and much more.

But God . . .

He only lets His child hang over the pitty pot for so long.

Over the last few weeks the Lord has been honing in on my attitude, showing me grace as I work through various feelings ranging from anger, disappointment, and even doubt.

I even doubted if I was supposed to be teaching y’all. I had myself convinced I was the wrong person for “the job” and had talked myself into stepping down in the upcoming months.

But God . . .

Thankfully His voice is louder than mine or the enemy’s. He placed a very basic, simple devotional in my hands walking through the book of Romans (and Philippians but I’m not there yet). And it’s good. It’s basic – simple but the nuggets of truth are big – heart penetrating.

He is faithful y’all.

Since then He has shown me just how much I put my thoughts and my ways above His thoughts and His ways.

And I realized why He has had me studying humility these last few months.

And I realized why He is keeping me there . . .

I’m so thankful for grace.

And I am thankful for those who get me and know me best and I’m thankful for those the Lord brings into my life to encourage me along the way.

He is faithful y’all.

He really is.

Between the extended covid mess, Chris’ accident, my fall, and trying to decide the best avenue for the kids learning, I just couldn’t see through the haze and fear of the unknown.

But you know what God has done . . . –

He provided an attorney to help carry the load so I don’t have to keep up with and worry about bills getting paid or something being missed or someone taking advantage of two inexperienced people walking through the ins and outs of a bad traffic accident with injuries. He provided an attorney with integrity . . . and I never knew that existed. I am thankful.

He has continued to see that I see the specialist I need and testing to be done to try and figure out why I am still struggling with concussion symptoms. He has also shown me that He is the one in charge of the timing of the tests – not man. For that I’m thankful.

While Christopher’s core classes are online, one of his brick and mortar teachers loves Jesus. And I’m so thankful for that.

Then there are people along the way that have texted, emailed, or called just to check in – I’m so thankful for them.

And I can’t forget the way He provides for our day to day needs. My out of pocket from my fall has been outrageous.

But God . . .

This week I received a check reimbursement from BCBS for overpayment due to them receiving disbursements from the covid stimulus money. That same day I received a debit card with $300 on it to go towards medical copays for the remainder of the year. The amount reimbursed and extended for future needs is more than double our monthly tithes.

I’m thankful for a God that knows the future needs of His children.

And while my top two love languages are words of affirmation and quality time, I found out how much it means when someone sees something, thinks of me, and has to get it for me. I never appreciated that kind gesture as much as I do now . . . until walking through the struggles of 2020.

While I am guilty of seeing only the negative effects of covid this year, I am thankful God is allowing me time and breath to reflect on the good He’s taught me through this bad. I said in the very beginning that I knew good would come through this, I just didn’t see it coming in the form of a deeper, transformed heart.

And for that I’m thankful.

I know these thoughts are random. And maybe it doesn’t make much sense – but I just sensed I needed to write these thoughts down this morning. Maybe it’s just for me to remember His goodness when I face another hard season . . . or maybe someone else out there is struggling with their attitudes and finding His goodness through all this . . . You aren’t alone and I pray you see His goodness today.

I’ll close with this song. I love music. It ushers me into His presence and sweetens my time with Him. The Goodness of God

In case you haven’t heard it lately . . . I love you.

Cardinals

When I first started trying to take pictures of birds my least favorite to photograph was cardinals. Now, they are one of my favorites.

I think.

I’m still learning the various settings but I do enjoy watching the birds more than ever.

These are a hodgepodge over the last several months.

Just Another Eddie Memory

I picked up an old Bible a few weeks ago that I used early on in my recovery from alcohol. It is the Life Recovery Bible.

The Life Recovery Bible has countless devotionals throughout the pages of scripture. The devotionals are based on the Twelve Steps from Alcoholics Anonymous. They are similar steps to the Most Excellent Way, but not exactly in the same order as MEW. Regardless, AA has worked for thousands and thousands of individuals throughout the years. But when I follow the devotionals, I follow them in order of the Ten Steps of Victorious Living through the Beatitudes, which the Most Excellent Way is based on.

I used this Bible a lot in the early years of my sobriety but I didn’t write a lot of notes in it. However, I do have one memory that I treasure deep in my heart . . .

Eddie Echarri was so faithful at teaching and mentoring me in just day to day conversation. He worked Jesus into everything.

And I just loved that about him.

I was house sitting for a lady I met at church. I was telling Eddie how I couldn’t believe someone would actually trust me to leave me alone in their house. I mean let’s face it – I was new in my sobriety. I had been a thief. A liar. A hootchie.

Who in their right mind would even trust ME in their home?!

Alone?!?

And to stay overnight . . .

And swim in their pool . . .

And watch their television . . .

And sleep in their beds . . .

I just couldn’t believe it.

He took me to Daniel 4 – to the story of King Nebuchadnezzar. He told me about this man who thought so much of himself he put himself above God.

I was reminded of the time I stood in a bar and I had said I didn’t believe in God and THEN said, “IF there is a God then he is a male chauvinist pig and I will never bow to him.”

I thought a lot of myself.

Then he told me of how God humbled King Nebuchadnezzar.

God had to take me to a lonely place for me to realize I needed Him. He allowed me to see my anger and rage. He allowed me to see my ugly.

He took me to a place of surrender.

Then Eddie showed me how God not only restored everything to King Nebuchadnezzar but scripture says he was restored with even greater honor than before.

Humility was experienced and grace given when He showed me I needed a Savior – when I had to admit there was a God in Heaven and He actually loved me and wanted a relationship with me, in spite of my previous words and actions. And even through the mess I had made . . .God restored what I had burned and destroyed. Relationships were restored. Forgiveness was given and received on my part and the part of others. Grace and mercy has been shown and given . . .

As I read through Chapter 4, I couldn’t help but see the resemblance of the greatest sermon ever preached . . . The Sermon on the Mount – The Beatitudes. In fact, I see so much of scripture pointing back to the Sermon on the Mount time and time again.

Today, I am thankful for those who invest in me, encourage me, hold me accountable, and challenge me to be better. I want to encourage you to be that kind of person in another’s life. And I want to encourage you to ask the Lord to show you yourself in scripture. It’s a part of that sifting process I’ve been walking through. It will sure put things in perspective in comparison to the price Jesus paid on the cross.

House Sparrow

Just a little action in the feeders today . . .

What I believe are two young male house sparrows finding their place in the pecking order of life . . . or maybe claiming territory? Regardless it was exciting to watch and I’m thankful I was waiting for those hummingbirds and caught the action.

“I’m Molting . . .” (Said like the wicked witch of the west as she’s melting)

The Wicked Witch of the West

There was a time . . . in my much younger years . . . I hated fall and winter. My reasoning? Who wants to enjoy or be around everything dying?! But . . . as I’ve matured (cough-cough) . . . aged . . . I find that I yearn for these seasons.

The anticipation of what is yet to come each winter excites me knowing that spring will soon be coming bringing new growth and new life.

In the panhandle of Florida, like much of the state, as well as much of the south, the humidity and stickiness is stifling . . . It’s sticky (I despise feeling sticky), and heavy. During the summer months . . . even in the wee hours of the morning the humidity easily reaches 90%. Just walking outside to sit is miserable and takes my breath away.

Can you tell I am not a fan of summer heat and humidity?

And yet it is my husband’s favorite time of the year. He says anything below 70 is too cold.

I say, keep it below 70 and it’s just right. My favorite days are days where the morning temps begin in the upper 40’s and lower 50’s and peek at 69.

Those days are pure bliss for me.

While I know we are no where near the seasons of perfect temperatures for front porch Bible readings and quiet times, this morning and yesterday it seems like the good Lord is giving us a sweet taste of what I hope is to come.

There have been numerous birds out this morning already . . . dozens of cardinals, countless finches, several titmouse and chickadees, doves, Carolina wrens, a hummingbird, and a squirrel . . . 🤦‍♀️

There was a time I would have three or four blue jays visiting daily . . . now I’m down to just one. Had I not learned about molting in birds a few months ago I would be concerned . . . but this guy here is in what I call a refining state.

He’s losing the old, worn, damaged feathers to make room for new . . . strong feathers to see him through the tough days of winter.

Here’s what I’ve learned – molting hurts.

It’s painful y’all.

And it’s ugly.

But it’s necessary for them to survive what is yet to come.

In my mind I compared molting to tree pruning . . .

Did you know there is a right way and a wrong way to prune a tree? I had no idea. Here’s a couple diagrams I found . . .

Now I know this will seem silly, but any time I have to prune my flowers or small shrubs, or when my husband prunes the crepe myrtle tree . . . I always wonder if it hurts the tree.

I know . . . it’s silly. But I relate it to losing a part of itself. And even though I know the tree has to lose the dead twigs and even some of the fruit bearing branches, I know it is necessary to prune the trees and vines in order for them to flourish during the next season.

Sorta like when the Lord prunes me.

It’s painful.

Whether good or bad – whatever area He is sifting me in, it’s a part of my history.

Sometimes it’s a habit that needs to be broken, or a person that isn’t good for me to be around, or a possession I have taken too much pleasure in, or a priority that shouldn’t be a priority or sometimes . . . It involves being taken to a deeper surrender of self.

Ouch.

It’s painful.

But just like the seasons change and beautiful trees full of green leaves and blooming flowers lose their outward beauty . . . They still have their identity.

And just like the molting birds losing their feathers . . . they too . . . still have their identity.

They aren’t defined by their lack of branches or feathers. They are still Crepe Myrtles, tomato plants, or bluebirds. They are just being prepared . . . strengthened . . . for tough days . . . and maybe even tough seasons . . . ahead.

And just because the Lord prunes us . . . Sifts us . . . removes some things from us . . . doesn’t mean we aren’t still ourselves . . . He changes us though . . . From the inside out. Our identity is in Him not in the things He’s cleansing us from.

This Covid season has been hard on many of us . . . heck let’s face it . . . 2020 has been one long nightmare.

It has been a rough season.

I was reading in Psalm 37 recently and highlighted some of the actions words that help keep me focused (you know faith is an action verb) . . . Here’s what I found.

1. Do not fret -Yeap – blew that one.

2. Be not envious Yeap – blew that one too.

3. Trust – in the Lord. Not in myself or news media or politicians. Yeap. Blew that one too.

4. Dwell and cultivate – ugh.

5. Delight yourself in Him – didn’t do that enough – complained too much.

6. Commit your ways to Him . . . let’s just keep going.

7. Trust. In. Him not my plans or what I can see or touch.

8. Rest. In. The. Lord. Rest is an action verb y’all.

9. Do. Not. Fret. Ugh. Does this one have to be mentioned – AGAIN?!

10. Cease. From. Anger. That temper gets me every time. What happened to self control?

11. I don’t even want to type it again . . . Do. Not. Fret. There’s a reason it is mentioned so many times in the Bible. Scripture says it leads to evil doing.

12. Wait. For. The Lord.

13. Be humble . . .

And that’s just in the first eleven verses.

Wanna know what I see in those verses instead of all the things I have done wrong though?

I see two things – the characteristics of Jesus and the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount . . . The Beatitudes.

Wanna know what else I found in Psalm 37 that brings me hope amongst the myriad of ways I fail . . . two things.

1. The word but . . . Throughout scripture we see the word but used as turning points – new beginnings. Countless start overs – countless pick up the pieces and start again. And I see grace given. Lots of grace.

Oh how long suffering my Savior is with me.

2. Countless scenarios of ifs and thens. Through out scripture we see hundreds and hundreds of examples of natural consequences through the two words . . . If and then . . . as well as implied if and thens. The consequences to my choices are self imposed, natural consequences. No abuse is ever given from the Lord. None. But what is given from the Lord is as my Heavenly Father . . . ready and willing to help me get back up, embrace me right where I am, He helps me pick up the pieces and move forward.

While I know I personally blow it in many areas of my day to day life, He has shown me through the pruning process . . . the sifting process, which I have asked Him for this last year . . . His faithfulness, His strength, His grace, His mercy . . . His long-suffering. He has shown me first hand the sifting and shedding of self is meant for good to transform my old self, which includes my old way of thinking, into the image of Christ.

Just like trees are pruned and birds go through the molting process, we too go through our own “molting” and pruning.

He prunes us to make us into fruit bearers.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples

John 15:1-8

Divine Appointments

I’ve been craving some beach time, but I DON’T do the beach during the summer. My favorite time to visit the beach is the winter. Still, I just needed some down time. And since the dogs woke me up at 4:45 this morning dropping their balls on my face . . . well . . . today seemed the perfect escape time.

I arrived just as the sun appeared in full splendor over the horizon, but first God gave me this beautiful moment as I drove across the three mile bridge.

The last time I drove that early across the three mile bridge to Gulf Breeze was July 28, 2000. I was rushing to the hospital to get to my granny who was in the hospital. In the moment the Lord reminded me of Psalm 113:3, “I will praise you to the rising and the setting of the sun.” When I arrived at the hospital my granny was in the arms of Jesus.

Just weeks prior I had celebrated my second year of sobriety. That was my first loss sober. But my new found faith carried me through.

That same faith has carried me through many storms the last twenty-two years and there is no doubt it will continue until the Lord calls me home.

Through the last twenty – two years the Lord has given me moments in time that I call divine appointments. Sunday was one of those days.

I arrived at the beach, set up to take some pictures, read my Bible, and just relax. The sun’s reflection was like gold reflecting off the water and the white sand. It was incredible.

I intended to sit in silence . . . But God . . .

He had a divine appointment for me.

See that image of a person in the picture? She was there for me as much as I was there for her.

We started talking . . . she told me that she and her husband were staying in the 8th floor of the condo and they had watched a school of dolphins the morning before from their balcony. So we watched . . . and waited . . . hoping and anticipated some dolphin activity.

And God brought us a dolphin . . .

I sensed more than ever there was a reason God had put this woman in my path . . . She had stepped into my pictures and then something about her just drew me in . . .

Her name is written in the front of my Bible. She and her family are from Texas. She and her husband are retired. They are on vacation with their adult children and it’s their first time in Pensacola and she just loves the area.

We talked for quite a while . . . I learned her grandparents would travel from Mexico to a small town in Texas and worked. Her grandfather earned .50 a day working the vegetable fields. Her grandmother cleaned for an American woman and she earned .25 a day. The American woman was good to her grandmother and gave her milk, cheese, and breads. The grandparents would travel back to Mexico every weekend and return back to work the fields and clean houses. Eeceilia is named after one of the American woman’s daughters, she said. Erceilia’s grandfather built a large wooden box. The box had a coin slot on top. Every day they received their wages and every day they placed their .75 in earnings in the wooden box.

Ercelia has been blessed with that wooden box to pass down to her children and grandchildren one day.

Ercelia was born in Mexico. She later met and married her husband. He would travel to the states and work and return back to Mexico to spend the weekend with Erceilia only to return back to work for the following week. Erceilia learned to sew and worked odd jobs to include making homemade tamales with her own spices. She still makes them today. When Erceilia’s first child was one they made the move to the states.

Then the conversation changed and I knew why we were to meet.

Her heart is broken at the loss of a child.

Her pain broke my heart.

And the stress and depression she has experienced through covid has been more than she could carry . . .

And the tears fell.

“I need touch and I can’t have touch,” she said.

It was then I asked her name and wrote it in the front of my Bible. I gave her my name and told her I would be praying for her every time I see her name. I then told her I understood that I couldn’t hug her or touch her but what I could do is pray for her. And in that moment with the shine shining . . . we prayed together.

And with that – a friendship has formed.

Our visit was interrupted when her phone rang and her husband was wondering what was taking her so long on her walk. We said our goodbyes and exchanged numbers. I asked her to let me know when they come back so we can connect again. And she was off.

Fifteen minutes later my phone rang – she had something for me and wanted to make sure I was still there.

Shortly later she arrived with a bag of homemade tamales for me that she had made and brought with them on their trip. She also gave me a mask she had made. She makes a lot of masks and donates them to various agencies.

I thought I was there for her, but in essence we were both there for one another today.

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Psalm 37:23 (and George Mueller says, “and the stops too.”)

Thank you, Lord, for divine appointments, new relationships . . . friendships. Thank you for allowing mine and Erceilia’s path to cross . . . thank you for directing our coming and going . . . and the stops along the way. Amen.

The Butterfly

We have had more butterflies this year than ever before. I’ve enjoyed watching them flutter around. We also have a lot of Gulf Fritillary caterpillars on our passion vine. And while it drives me insane that they are eating my vine away . . . I have to admit I enjoy the butterflies more knowing they are coming from my flower bed.

The Butterfly

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole. Then it stopped, as if it couldn’t go further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bits of cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily but it had a swollen body and shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch it, expecting that any minute the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body, Neither happened! In fact the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around. It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand: The restricting cocoon and the struggle required by the butterfly to get through the opening was a way of forcing the fluid from the body into the wings so that it would be ready for flight once that was achieved.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Going through life with no obstacles would cripple us. We will not be as strong as we could have been and we would never fly.

**There are countless renditions of this story. It is not mine and I was not able to find the original author. Regardless what rendition you read it’s important to realize our struggles in life develop our strengths. Without struggles, we never grow and never get stronger.**

These are just a few of the butterfly pictures out of my flower garden.