Water to Wine

This is not a post about whether or not the water Jesus turned into wine was fermented or not. This is not about whether drinking wine is right or wrong. This is about how Jesus still turns water to wine in our lives. Bland to fully flavored. Clear to richly colored. Tasteless to sweet.

I love how His first miracle was at a celebration, a wedding reception. He didn’t shy away from celebrating with his friends and family. He didn’t shy away from grieving with them either. He entered in, and when asked, He changed things. Sometimes over time, sometimes in an instant.

When He touches the heart of a homeless person, He turns water (hopelessness) into wine (care). When He rescues and strengthens an abused woman, He turns water (shame, worthlessness) into wine (dignity). When He comforts a grieving parent, He turns water (despair) into wine (comfort). When He provides financially, He turns water (needs) into wine (provision). When He helps us forgive, He turns our water to wine. When He dusts us off and reminds us who we are, He serves us His best and welcomes us to the table.

We all know water is the best and healthiest beverage we can drink. When we need water, we thirst for what our bodies need most. Clean drinking water is a gift from God. Many don’t have it and I thank God for it. But, when Jesus takes our stories (water) and uses them for His Glory, He miraculously makes wine. He still turns our water to wine. He is still in the business. He was and is still able. Oh, how sweet and all-powerful He is.

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He Touched Me

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I believe God touches us so that we can touch others. My relationship with God has come more and more to the forefront of my life from the time I had my first daughter to now. He has moved to the top spot in my life because I’ve relied on Him so much. He’s been tender, patient, and authoritative in my life and I have been receptive. I needed to be. I knew I needed Him, there was no other way.

I am also so thankful I learned who God is to ME. It took a personal encounter with Him to change my heart forever. He touched me in the midst of my brokenness, literally. I felt Him wrap His presence around me lying in bed one night after silently crying out to Him. I asked Him to wrap His arms around me and He did. In that moment, no one else would or could. With His touch, He reaffirmed His love for me. I will never forget it and I will share it with anyone who will listen. He is real. He is with us. He hears us. He protects us. And, He speaks our personal love language.

I know, in my head, that He’s been with me my whole life. I just didn’t pay much attention. My relationship with Him didn’t alter or affect the choices that I made. It wasn’t until I had daughters of my own and the pain of a husband’s rejection that my eyes were opened to His relentless love. Now, my knowledge of Him has moved to my heart and I pray that He always stays right there. His touch changed me.

I would never want to go back to the “old me” who lived unaware, unobservant, and unappreciative of His love. The “new me” wants to comfort and encourage others, longs to be in His presence, and wants to conquer fear in His name. I just want to do what He wants me to do….and that brings me true joy. I want to because of what He’s done for me.

He didn’t just die for me, He touched me when I needed it the most.

 

 

Out With the Old…

out with the old

…..and in with the new. The new year is fast approaching and it always feels like a fresh slate. I’m so grateful for what I’ve learned this past year. Each experience and leap of faith has strengthened me and reined in my focus. The holidays this year were tough for me. Just emotional. I cried tears of joy, sadness, sentiment….all true. There is truth in tears. I came to the conclusion that the heaping dose of emotion was because Christmas highlights families. When our families are broken in any way and most of ours are either by death, divorce, or estrangement, the feelings associated with the brokenness are also highlighted. God’s design was for us all to be together in peace, harmony, and love. When this isn’t the case, our souls understandably grieve.

The more we love, the more we grieve the loss of love. I found myself leaning on the Everlasting Arms more than ever and asking for a real life squeeze. I also found myself relishing in my blessings more than I had before. Getting emotional over my girls getting older and their Christmas lists changing…I found myself in tears over the birth of Jesus and wondering what more I could give to Him and others because of His gift. I know Jesus rescued me. He’s been with me every day whether I’ve felt it or not. In the physical loneliness, He is still there. Protecting me. All this I know in my brain. At certain times, like the holidays, our hearts are harder to convince. And, He knows that. He’s still there.

I’ve spoken to several friends who were also struggling or know someone who is during this season. The compassion and stories we shared, felt like a special gift. Coming together, relating, listening, and welcoming honesty is so healing. Having a safe place to share our feelings is priceless. Because we all have them. Our feelings make us human, our actions show our strength.

Take your feelings to God first. Get them out and be honest with Him. I’m so thankful that He welcomes our neediness. He craves it. Needing Him is how He created us. He longs to comfort and fulfill us. This is also His design. Then, cherish the friends you can share and be honest with. Cherish the ones who love you on your worst days. Cherish the friends who pray for you, cry with you, send you scriptures, and point you to the Jesus. They truly love you and want to spend eternity with you. We usually can’t fix each other’s deepest issues, but we can point each other to the One who can.

Regardless of our relationship status, we all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only He can fill. OUT with the old ways of trying to fill it, mask it, cover it, or deny it. And IN with the only way to live and love in this broken world….and that is with the love and strength of Jesus. Living in His strength all things ARE possible. Family members can reunite, siblings can bury the hatchet, new families can form, and healing can take place. A fresh slate is a beautiful thing and heaven is on the horizon. In with the new…

Forgiveness….

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Forgiveness has weighed heavy on my mind the past couple days…The reason God asks us to forgive isn’t to excuse the hurtful acts done to us, it is to free us from them. It’s to put what was done to us back in His hands in order to move forward with our lives without the burden of constant bitterness and resentment. I think some people get so used to carrying the bitterness, they don’t even realize they carry it. It’s a painful poison.

“Forgiveness doesn’t make what the person did right, it just makes your heart right.” — Beth Moore

I wouldn’t have understood this quote until I had a doozy to forgive. The weight we carry by harboring unforgiveness can affect generations. It can also promote a cycle of bitterness, anger, and resentment that God does not intend for us to carry much less pass on. In my own situation, I couldn’t prevent the cycle of divorce no matter how hard I tried. But now, I want to do everything in God’s power to prevent bitterness, resentment,  and consistent conflict in our situation. This doesn’t excuse the behavior or erase the pain. It changes me. It humbles me over and over again as I seek His way to handle daily situations. Extending mercy and grace while handing over the need for revenge is one of the hardest things God asks us to do. But, just like everything else He asks us to do, it’s in our best interest. He is a loving and just God.

Forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation either. It depends on the relationship and the two involved. It comforts me to trust that God knows exactly what happened. He knows the hearts involved and He will deal with it. Forgiveness takes faith because we have to believe God in order to take this giant leap. Forgiveness is not “letting them off the hook”, it’s letting ourselves off the hook to go in peace by leaving the offense in God’s hands.

If there is someone you feel like you need to forgive on a daily basis and you can’t seem to avoid like a mean spirited coworker or a critical family member or spouse, pray for them and ask God how to respond to them. In these situations, I tend to get back in the doormat position by turning the other cheek over and over. God’s will is that we love others, but not that we forget to love ourselves as His children in the process. We all deserve respect. These people may be the sandpaper in our lives that God is using to refine and test us. Love them in the process of standing up for yourself. I know that’s also not easy….none of this comes naturally to us.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

His peace is priceless and His peace is worth handing our situation over. It is a process that He will help us with once we have the desire to forgive. He alone can soften and strengthen our hearts after what they’ve been through. Once our desire is to forgive, He will take the reins. Let Him have them…Forgiveness is the final act of love. Jesus proved that to be true.

But Why?

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The ultimate question when things go wrong…….but why? I have my fair share of the same question. There are so many whys in this world. Why did she get sick? Why didn’t I get that job? Why didn’t he love me? Why didn’t God save my marriage? Why didn’t that relationship work? Why did a tornado hit that neighborhood? Why did it hit mine? Why does that person have a problem with me? Why did that child have to die? Why???

These questions will boggle our minds and test our faith. They can make us turn TO God for comfort and refuge or AWAY from Him in anger and disgust. Consider the story of Job in the Bible. God allowed him to be tested above and beyond what most of us have ever had to experience. Job was a Godly man with a blessed and happy life. He was a better person than most of us and the Lord allowed him to be tested more than most of us. First, his livestock died therefore his income was gone, then his children died (all of them), then his body was covered in painful sores, then his wife and his friends turned on him in disgrace, and he was left to wonder WHY Lord?? His story will leave us scratching our heads as well. What on earth did he do to deserve this? Why on earth would God allow that? How much can one person take? It’s just not fair!

I love God’s response to Job’s questions: “Job, have you ever walked on the ocean floor? How large is the earth? Who carves out a path for thunderstorms? Do you control the stars or set in place the Big Dipper? When lions are hungry, do you help them hunt? Can you count the clouds or pour out their water on the soil?” These questions are all from Job 38 (CEV). Wow! I mean, touché.

These answers may come off as insensitive when we are grieving and craving only comfort and need relief. The truth lies in the fact that an explanation won’t comfort us, only the presence and love of  God will. Some of the questions we want so badly to know the answers to may actually cause us more pain. Do you REALLY want to know why he or she doesn’t love you? Do you REALLY want to know all the details? I mean….ouch. The pain is already bad enough. Take the pain and turn it over to a God who loves you unconditionally. Ask Him to carry it because it is just too heavy and hurts too much. When our hearts are broken, He wants in so badly.

I believe one of the ways God loves us in a crisis situation is by sheltering us from some of these answers. Instead of demanding answers, maybe we should ask different questions.  Questions like: How do I forgive him for that? How can I show her love when she treats me that way? How do I stand up to him the way You want me to? How do I respond to that? What do I do with this broken heart? How do I deal with this anger? What do I do with this pain? How do I move forward from this? I believe His response to these questions is always positive. First, He’s thankful we are turning TO Him no matter the reason. Second, He wants us to be honest with Him and get real. Tell Him how much it hurts and tell Him why. This is how a relationship is formed. Yes, He already knows, but He wants us to come to Him about it. He wants to have dialogue, even if it’s messy and angry. Any communication is better than none.

Questions and pain are something we all have in common. How we deal with them is what sets us apart. We need to make peace with the fact that only God may know why and that’s for the best right now. And, we need to RUN to His arms when we are hurt. Don’t run the other direction. Let Him hold you and comfort you when the pain runs deep.

When our children get hurt, they naturally crawl, limp, run, or cry out to us for help. We should be just as inclined to cry out to Him when we are hurt. Sometimes the pain is our fault, sometimes it’s an accident, sometimes it’s inflicted by someone else, and sometimes we’ll never get our answer this side of Heaven. What matters most is that we turn TO our Heavenly Father when it hurts. This will not only heal our hearts sooner but it will also prevent us from hurting others in the process.