Spiritual Bankruptcy

The Lord has been showing me just how much Scripture points to the Beatitudes. Most recently, He showed me a beatitude in Matthew 11:28-30.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.

Now let’s read Matthew 5:3 of the Beatitudes . . .

Blessed are the poor (humble) in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.

I love how He sprinkles the Beatitudes throughout scripture.

The world teaches us that our treasures are found in riches, in large bank accounts, in things of abundance, in vacations and destinations. Things we have to work for and can “puff” us up.

“Look what I did” statements.

When I have my priorities out of order – then my goals are distorted – I am working myself into spiritual bankruptcy . . . not rest.

We can have a permanent respite in Him and it isn’t done by works.

The rest He is speaking of eliminates spiritual bankruptcy.

He is in the stillness y’all.

I have to continually reel myself back in on the stillness thing.

And I have to continually reel myself back on trying to earn my approval and doing good – that’s not what God requires of us.

We don’t have to earn anything in Him.

He approves us.

Let me ask you a question.

When God opened the heavens and sent down a dove representing the Holy Spirit, He said these words . . .

This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

Tell me this – what had Jesus done when God the Father, showed He was pleased with His Son?

He believed.

That’s it.

No works.

No miracles performed.

Nothing.

Jesus didn’t have to earn His Father’s approval.

He already had it.

And the same goes for us.

Rest comes in different ways for each of us – but we will never find rest or have an attitude of humility if we are constantly trying to earn man’s approval or work our way to greater things.

. . . For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but we have the free gift of being accepted by God, even though we are guilty of many sins.” Romans 6:16

Hurricane Sally

I took some of these on the 13th and 14th before Sally was a hurricane. While on the pier on the 14th I received a text Sally was a hurricane. Christopher and I had just said the winds were increasing when I received that text. I wanted to get out there today, and IF I decide to get out later this afternoon will post those pictures here as well.

These are in no particular order but they are taken from various points of view.

Some were taken under the pier, some on top of the pier, and some from different sides and different angles of the pier.

Here’s what I have taken away from these images – depending how I am looking at the storms determines the way I perceive the severity of the storm.

When looking at the storm waves in a confined area looking directly in to the waves (under the pier) the waves were raging – making them look even bigger than they really were. Making it impossible to see anything except the storm.

When I went on the pier, It gave me the opportunity to see the waves forming from above, as well as from behind allowing me to see them from a new perspective. I was given a viewpoint I never could have expected. From on top of the pier looking directly down on top of the waves I saw beautiful images that looked like glass, and as the waves moved past me a mist that looked heavenly.

When I look at the storm waves from the side views of the pier – from the outside looking inward – I saw the vast ocean – the big scheme of things – and while the ocean and currents were strong – they weren’t nearly as catastrophic as it was under the pier – in directly line of fire of the raging storm.

Here’s my take away – no one can ever truly understand EXACTLY what you are experiencing while IN the storm – while the waves and currents are coming right at you, fierce and powerful . . . and one swift current can sweep your feet right out from under you. But one can empathize and walk with you through the storm because they’ve walked similar paths.

I also saw that the raging storm was worse when looking at it in a confined closed in space. Things often seem worse when walking through the storm, which is why we can’t allow the storm to be our focal point. We can’t lose sight of the One who is allowing the storm to come to pass and what His greater purpose will be.

Looking at the storm waves from outside the perimeters of the pier – I saw how vast the ocean is with only one small area around and under the pier taking such strong impact from the waves. I realized just because I’m walking through a storm doesn’t mean I have to let it impact my entire life or consume every fiber of my being. Even though the current and waves are strong doesn’t mean I don’t keep putting one foot in front of the other – and it’s okay if my steps might be a little a little slower – and it’s also okay to rest for a season alone the way – I just have to keep moving forward.

And finally, looking at the storm waves from on top of the pier – above the waves and after the waves had passed – I saw reflections of glass that shined so beautifully. The raging ocean – the storm – was evident all around – but watching the waves form from behind and from above . . . all I could see was a beautiful reflection of glass and white mist. I was in awe of how beautiful something so destructive could be. And I remembered some of the storms He has allowed me to walk through and I remembered the end result of what those storms brought forth. I saw how the Lord has carried me through those storms and that at the time they looked bigger than I could bear, and they shook me to the core . . . and they almost swept my feet out from under me . . . yet I saw a reflection of Christ from where He was the actual one walking with me and next to me . . . carrying me and it was Him that was going to make sure I came through that storm looking more and more like Him.

I don’t know what storm you are walking through today – maybe it’s a physical real storm with high winds and raging waters like we are on the gulf coast, or maybe it’s one that is personal and ripping you to the core – let Him walk with you. Let Him carry you. And let Him be your reflection through the storm.

I took in all my feeders and poles last night preparing for a big storm. The birds were looking everywhere for the feeders this morning so since Sally is now forecasted to be a tropical storm at landfall I brought out a couple feeders. Within fifteen minutes they are full of visitors.

Psalm 107:23-30 (The Lord Delivers Men from Manifold Troubles)
Those who go down to the sea in ships,
Who do business on great waters; They have seen the works of the Lord, And His wonders in the deep. For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, Which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
And He brought them out of their distresses.
He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet,
So He guided them to their desired haven.

Do you see the smile?

The Author and Perfecter

I was sitting on my porch one morning, feet propped up, sipping hot coffee, enjoying the cool breeze while hummingbirds flew all around me. It has been a rough week for the folks in the panhandle of Florida and south Alabama this last week.

I woke up not sticky for the first time in days.

I find that I do my best pondering . . . reflecting . . . on the front porch . . . in the stillness . . . of nature.

I enjoy my quiet times and reading of Scripture there more than any other place in my home.

As a mere human I can not know the mind of Christ, but I can trust His heart and plan . . . and KNOWING Him as my personal Lord and Savior . . . that means having MORE than just a Sunday relationship with Him . . . meaning I commune with Him and have learned to listen to Him . . .

I sensed Him speaking.

The conversation went sorta like this . . .

“Lord, WHAT is the DEAL with THIS year?!?” (I was grumbling, frustrated, and foul.) First you allow a pandemic and quarantines which brought isolation. Now this – a hurricane! I don’t get it. Why?”

“Remember that busyness problem you have? How you relished the stillness the first few weeks of quarantine? Remember how you didn’t realize just how busy you were? Look at your calendar again.”

Ugh.

I had picked up busy again.

I fell into that trap that Satan likes to keep me in.

I became diverted again.

Missing the mark of being still – slowing down – focusing on my relationship with Him and my home/family.

Even in taking a sabbatical from teaching for a few months, knowing I will be a caregiver through my husband’s upcoming surgeries – I STILL allowed other things to fill my mind and schedule.

Now I won’t nor would I ever sit here and tell you that is the ONLY reason the Lord allowed a natural disaster to rock the panhandle – for me personally . . . that is just ONE of the ways the Lord has brought good through disaster.

But I do believe God is sifting us. There is a reckoning coming to America. He is forcing us to turn to Him because we have ignored Him for so long.

Again and again through trauma and disaster He has brought Genesis 50:20 to life.

And I’m thankful.

I don’t know what your disaster is today that you are facing . . . maybe you are facing financial burdens or a wayward child, maybe you are facing health challenges or a failing business . . . maybe your heart is mourning the loss of a child or spouse . . . but I do know the One that puts boundaries for the seas, Who knows the number of grains of sand, Who knows the exact number of hairs on your head, Who knows the exact number of your days, and Who knows your innermost being . . .

Whatever the disaster is you are facing this very moment . . . He’s got you.

He will lift you up.

He will hold your hand.

He will gently lift your chin.

He will comfort you in your time or need.

He will sustain you.

He will help you catch your breath when you can’t breath.

He will carry you when you can’t put one foot in front of the other.

And I know this because of His own faithfulness to me through my own disasters.

He. Will. Sustain. You.

And in due season . . . Good will prevail.

Our Lord is not a God of disorder but of peace.

And as hard as it is today, you will see how He uses the bad – the heartache or trauma – for His good – even when it doesn’t make sense now.

Even when you want to ask “why?”

One day you will look back and say, “now I understand.”

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

Sixteen Years of Life

At 7:53 am central time you will be officially 16 years old.

I don’t know how it happened so quickly but it did.

I love you, Christopher.

Some of just the many things I love about you is how you love big. You love hard. And you have a big heart for those hurting or going without.

You have overcome and done what doctors or therapist said wouldn’t happen.

I love how you love our country and want to serve our country and follow in your grandfather’s footsteps. He would be so proud.

You are my miracle. I love you and am proud of you.

Happy 16th birthday – now let’s go find an open Waffle House today!

#autismrocks #youmakeautismlookgood #sixteenthbirthday

The Church

One thing I learned during the quarantine and isolating through Covid is the church is much more than the building. I knew it before – but I believed it during the height of the pandemic.

Another thing I also learned is I NEEEEED the connection with my faith family.

I need to worship the Lord with them.

I need to laugh with them.

I need to cry with them.

I need their accountability.

And I need to grow with them.

Chris and I took the kids to Buccees this afternoon to get them out of the house. On the way home we took a detour to see the church – the building.

And my heart hurts.

I know more than ever the building is nothing without the people but I also know lives are changed within these walls.

Hearts are encouraged in the confines of these walls.

Marriages are healed within these walls.

Men and women are called into ministry within these walls.

Men and women get clean in these walls.

Friendships are made within these walls.

And while I totally get she is just a building made of brick and mortar, she is my church that is made of brick and mortar – but held together by the people with love.

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.