What if…

What if the sun turned orange? What if the grass was suddenly the sea? What if cotton candy grew on trees, what if money was free?Three Rivers Deep (book series) "A two-souled girl begins a journey of self discovery..." http://threeriversdeep.wordpress.com/

So many questions, and an imagination of endless possibilities!

In many cases, the “what if” questions can be thought-provoking and helpful. For the inventors, the engineers, pioneers of science, technology, and new products, for the artists, dreamers, writers, a world of creativity and new inspiration can result from the “what if.”

See the existence of Microsoft, animation, live-streaming television and current events. Would the iPhone exist without someone asking, “what if?” How about Disney, or Pixar – would they be where they are without someone pushing the boundaries of art and film?

See the source imageSo yes, the “what if” can be a wonderful question to ask in terms of creativity and invention. However, in many cases, the question of “what if” can lead to anxiety, turmoil, and procrastination.

The flip side of “what if” is where anxiety reigns wild. It is the king of its kingdom, fear is the queen, and chaos and pandemonium are its citizens. Their national product is branded uncertainty, and its shipments are made of all the filaments called “causes and effects.”

Have you ever been part of this kingdom? Found yourself captured in the falsely alluring sensation of looking at something from every angle? Caught within the chains, dangling from your hands – placed in front of Anxiety and Fear like a relentless ping-pong match of millions of possibilities?

I know I have.

It can be very easy to get lost in the “what if” of life. What if I fail this test? What if I make the wrong decision? What if I mess it up? What if…what if…what if……

Oftentimes, I turn these “what ifs” towards God. I worry on whether or not I’m taking advantage of His grace, how to know whether He really wants me to do this – is the trial and error too much to risk? I find my mind wondering towards questions like does He really still give grace when I mess up time and again? Does it really never run out?

What if what I’m doing is incorrect? What if in my attempt to figure out the right thing, I go against His will? What if I’m doing this following God life all wrong? What if…what if…what if……

Recently, when talking with a friend about this, they gave me a piece of advice that I wanted to share with all of y’all. I was telling them about how I’m always worried about messing up, and how I struggle with the concept of God’s grace and unconditional love. We talked about the entire “what if” scenario and how anxiety loves to take hold of the reins in those situations and just go crazy.

They said that when my mind wants to say, “what if” about messing up, failure, grace, God’s love, I need to refute that with “even if.”

Even if…I make a mistake.

Even if…I sin.

Even if…I willingly go against what I know to be right.

Even if…I mess up what God wanted me to do.

Even if…

In whatever the circumstance, as long as we are truly saved and at the heart of it desire to follow and please the Lord, then the “WHAT IF” questions should not be allowed to have any power over us.

Because…even if the worst thing our mind’s can come up with or that we could do comes to pass, even if that happens, God’s love and grace remains.

Romans 8:38-39 says,

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Right here, God says that nothing can take His love away from us. Not our mistakes, not our failures, not our anxiety or what if questions.

Romans 11:6 states,

“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

And then later in Romans, we see grace being addressed. In this short verse, Jesus is saying that His grace is not contingent on our works. It is not determined by what we do, how we do it, or anything in between. God’s grace is purely an unconditional gift that He lavishes on His children. 

When anxiety and fear say “WHAT IF,” the Lord’s grace and love say even if. 

~ Southern Dreamer

Seen

 So I just came back from Passion on Friday and one of the sessions was about letting God have ALL of you, even the parts that are ugly or broken or that you don’t want to show Him. Let Him have 100%, not 99.9%. So basically be seen by God.

As we’re driving home from Passion, I see a huge billboard sign that says, “SEEN.” I was like hmmm ok, might be something *files it away for later.*

Then Friday night, the live action Cinderella was on and I was watching it.

At the very end of the movie, the narrator says, “Was who she was, who she really was, really enough? This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us can ever take, is to be seen as we truly are.”

And I was like LIGHTBULB.

Like that’s me. There’s the prince, who saw her when she was polished and beautiful and together.

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Now, she’s not. Her hair isn’t tidy, there are dirt stains on an old dress, her shoes are worn out. Will the prince still want her, even in this? When she is not put together, not sparkling, where she walks towards him in a dress that has been worn for too many years, mud and mire clinging to it. She doesn’t have ANYTHING to offer him. She has no parents, no dowry, no fancy background, no support. Even her name, has been changed and taken: Cinderella.

“- you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give,” ~ Isaiah 62:2

She has everything against her, and yet, HE came to find her. To seek her out. But now she’s worried, because yeah, sure he liked her before – she was together, beautiful, looking like everyone else he hangs out with, and now? Well, she’s untidy, dirty…locked in the attic of a home with mice for company. Will he still want her?

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Here is the prince’s answer: “Of course I will.”

“And they shall be called The Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken,” ~ Isaiah 62:12

No hesitation, no well, I don’t know. You really haven’t got much going for you. She offers him the only thing she can, her heart, and without a second lost, he accepts her.

That’s Jesus.

I know so many times when I mess up, I feel like I can’t go to God then or spend time with Him. I just really screwed up, why would God want me to spend time with Him? My first instinct is to try and “better” myself, to try and make myself look, in analogical terms, prettier.

light and shadow

Do you do this too?

The notion of thinking that if after we mess up, if we can only do some good things then we’ll be able to approach Him.

But that’s not how God works. He doesn’t act like humans and demand distance from us if we mess up, tell us to “go to our room” or slam a door in our face. He doesn’t tell us that we can only approach Him once we’ve done enough good to outweigh the bad.

“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” ~ Hebrews 4:13-16

Jesus already knows our sin. During Passion 2019, Matt Chandler said, it doesn’t surprise God when we sin. He knows we’re going to fall short – it’s not a matter of if, but when (paraphrasing here).

In Hebrews, it says several things that I think we should pay attention to. One, none of our sin is hidden – God sees everything, even the yucky parts that we want to hide from Him. He already knows. Further, the Scriptures say, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are.”

FaithI love that! After all, who wants to risk something for someone, who you cannot relate to? By experiencing humanity, Jesus truly is our Great Comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). And not only does He comfort us, but it says, he “sympathize(s) with our weaknesses.

Merriam-Webster defines sympathize as, “to share in suffering or grief, to react or respond in sympathy.”

In The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, the word used is sumpathéō, and this means, “to sympathize with, be compassionate, have compassion upon.” Something that I found interesting about this, was one of the synonyms for this word: sullupéomai, meaning “to experience sorrow with, console.”

I think it’s really fascinating how for both of these definitions, similar words like sorrow, grief, and suffering come into play. I don’t know about y’all, but when I think of someone sympathizing, that’s not the first thing that comes to mind.

And yet, this is the context that the Bible uses it in.

Next time we fall short – in whatever way that may be, I hope all of us, myself included, can remember the truth of God, instead of what our perfectionism/fear/performance-based self thinks: that Jesus wants us to come to Him, just as we are – whether that means we’re frustrated, tired, or just screwed up, He wants us to come.

~ Southern Dreamer

 

Lover’s Ballad

Several days ago, I was sitting in my bed at night and that ancient battle of whether or not to go with what my flesh was wanting, or what I knew my spirit needed commenced. I had not spent time with the Lord or read the Scriptures much that week, and realized I needed to, though a large part of me wanted to do other things then – looking on social media, reading, etc…All things that are not bad in and of themselves, but as believers, we’re supposed to keep the Lord first and foremost in our lives.

I’m not going to say that it was easy to do the right thing, because it wasn’t. However, I’m grateful that the Holy Spirit helped me to overcome that and do what needed to be done even if I didn’t “feel” like it.

The devotional I used was an app called “First 5.” If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically a short devotional that takes about five minutes of your time. The Proverbs 31 team put together the app and devotionals, and they usually go through different books of the Bible – at least, that’s what I’ve observed so far.

Anyway, right now, they are going through Hosea.

When I opened the app, the main verse out of chapter 11 of Hosea that they were focusing on was…

“I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst and I will not come in wrath,” ~ Hosea 11:9

At first glance, you might be like, ‘ok. so, what’s the significance here?’ The part that really stuck out to me was the very end of the passage: the Holy One in your midst and I will not come in wrath. 

I read this the day before Easter. And in my mind, I kept thinking how ridiculous it was that I was struggling with wanting to read the Bible, to spend time with God. He literally died for me – nails stabbed into his hands, thorns shoved onto his head, betrayed by his closest friends. 

Then, here I am, having a difficult time deciding whether or not to spend time with Him or go scrolling on my cellphone.

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So, when I read that passage – “I will not come in wrath” – my entire brain was kinda overwhelmed. Humans, imperfect as we are, are not forgiving creatures and when someone doesn’t respond correctly after we have sacrificed everything, well, I would say that the majority of us are probably going to be pretty mad.

God is perfect. He has not sinned at all. If anyone had the right to be angry after the sacrifice Jesus gave for us, it would be Him.

But that’s not how He responds. Instead, He makes several statements that I think we all need to remember. One, God is not man – sounds straightforward, yet many times, I know I think that He will react the same way that humans do. The Holy One in your midst, reminding us that He is here. Lastly, I will not come in wrath.

I especially love this verse, and really the entire passage, not only because of what it says, but where it is located…Hosea. The Old Testament. A lot of times, the Old Testament is categorized into the section where God’s power is shown and not His love and mercy. While there is some truth to that, I don’t think it’s the whole story.

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2
The more they were called,
the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals
and burning offerings to idols.
3
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up by their arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
4
I led them with cords of kindness,[a]
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.

Then verses five through seven cover the consequences of Israel’s actions. What will happen because they refused to come back to God.

8
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
9
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.[c]

I find this passage beautiful. It really shows the Lord’s heart, I think. It reminds me almost of a lover’s ballad – someone who knows what they need to do, and yet, the very thought of hurting their love is unbearable. The tone is definite, yet broken – resigned, nostalgic, adoring.

Reading this helped me to see a different side of God that I had not really thought of before, and I hope that some portion of this Scripture will touch your heart like it did mine.

~ Southern Dreamer

Victory in Jesus

Yesterday, as I was sitting in the car, my mind began to wonder. Sometimes when that happens it’s a good thing, a creative idea will come to me or I’ll remember something I had forgotten. Other times, when my thoughts drift off, they’ll jump onboard the “Fear/Anxiety Train.” Unfortunately, I was on my way to the plush cushioned seats of Worry.

So that’s where I was mentally.

As my eyes glanced at the radio, I noticed what song had started to play…”No Longer Slaves” by Bethel. Just to give you a quick preview, the chorus of this song says:

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

Yeah, pretty awesome. I started to sing the words and the Spirit reminded me of something really awesome. Are y’all ready?

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us! Like, WHAT. I think many times we gloss over this, or don’t understand the actual meaning. But y’all, the power that raised our Savior from the grave? That brought him back to life? LIVES IN US.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you,” ~ Romans 8:11

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” ~ Acts 1:8

It made me feel so empowered! And I could feel my fear being washed away as I meditated on this thought. Life can be really hard, and once in a while it’s wise to remind ourselves of whose we are. Children of the Most High. Princes and princesses of the King of kings. Creations of the Bright and Morning Star. Co-heirs with Christ (aka God of the universe). Friend of God.

And because of that, we have the privilege of being the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). God’s Spirit, to those who believe, resides in us. We can live in the victory of Jesus’ death and resurrection! We are truly free! In the life of Jesus, we have complete confidence of triumph. When we go through trials, struggles, pain, and suffering, let us remember that at the end of the day, in God, we are victorious! As Paul said, “perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Perhaps you fight battles that no one knows, save for yourself and our Lord. Maybe you’re struggling with something that you think no one can possibly understand. Or it could be that right now your life is going perfectly. Everything is coming together exactly as you thought it would, and you couldn’t be more excited! Whether or not you find yourself in a season of waiting or one of great joy, let us never forget that in our Savior, we are VICTORS. CONQUERS. OVERCOMERS. WARRIORS.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:57

As we celebrate this fourth of July, remember where the true freedom lies. Between biting into a juicy hamburger and dipping your glistening silver spoon into a bowl of cold, soft ice cream, do not forget the high price that Jesus paid. When you watch the fireworks explode in beautiful displays of red, blue, and white, thank God for saving us from a lifetime of misery and sin. He set us free, and His freedom is the most valuable kind. Because even if the world goes to hell, the government crumbles, and everyone is in a panic, as Christians, we can still stand tall and say with confidence that we are free.

We know the truth and we have been delivered. Let us never forget the priceless gift of being a Child of God. We are free.

~ Southern Dreamer

Resurrected King ~ Part 2 of an Easter Story

***Author note: similar to biblical fiction, I am writing portions of this as if it were a novel to be read. I have pieced together how it could have occurred to the best of my ability. As far as I have researched, nothing I have taken the artistic liberty with, contradicts Scripture but please understand, that some parts I have had to assume or think of how it might have happened, in order for the writing to flow better. Take it with what you will, but obviously my writing is not the Word of God, only something written by a daughter of the King, trying to do His sacrifice justice***

“And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it,” ~ Matthew 28:2

Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James (*there very likely could have been others, but these are the specific names given in Scripture, across the four Gospels*) went to the tomb of Jesus. Their hearts were heavy and weighted with sorrow at everything that had occurred. With them, they had spices in order to finish the burial preparations, which had to be left undone because of the Sabbath.

“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” questioned one, turning to look at her companions for an answer (Mark 16:3). However, they were as much at a loss for a solution as she. Even still, they continued on.

They walked towards the tomb, grieving and remembering all that Jesus said. Sweet-smelling flowers greeted them when they entered into the garden (John 19:41), bringing in an aroma of life and hope that was desperately needed. Since they had left before dawn (Luke 24:1), there was barely any light to guide their way, and as such, the women made sure to walk with caution. As they approached, an earthquake caused the ground to shake and tremor! (Matthew 28:2)

What can this mean? thought one of the women, wondering what a second earthquake in only three days could signify.

And as the earthquake occurred, an “angel of the Lord descended from heaven” and rolled back the stone! He had white clothing, shining brilliantly.

The guards were terrified, and in such a state of fear (surely, they thought, death is near!) that they, “became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4). An entire troop of Roman guards reduced to a lot of unconscious men!

Image result for women at the tomb of JesusEntering into the tomb, the women expected to see the body of Jesus. The small amount of light that was able to enter into the grave, allowed them to see something shocking. Linen cloths, used to wrap the body, were folded neatly – with the face cloth in a separate place from the others (John 20:6-7). His body was no longer there!

Outside the tomb, Mary Magdalene wept. And looking within the burial, she saw two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been.

“They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus,” ~ John 20:13-14

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” asked Jesus (John 20:15).

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Because of the early hour, it was difficult to see because the sun had not fully risen. Thinking him to be the gardener, because of the tomb’s location, Mary replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Saying this, she turned back towards the inside of the tomb, where an angel had begun to speak. Tears still splattered down her cheeks, grief very much real.

“Do not be afraid for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Why do you seek the living among the dead? Come, see the place where he lay. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise,” said the angel (*taken from both Luke 24:5-7 and Matthew 28:5-6*).

Then, a single word caught her attention. Her name. “Mary.”

Turning back around, Mary realized that it was Jesus. Alive! Right before her! The last time she had seen him, he had been brutally whipped, beaten, and nailed to a cross. Red had painted his skin in crimson. She had watched him die…and now, here he stood! “Rabboni!” (John 20:16)Image result for women at the tomb of Jesus

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17).

The other women came out of the tomb, minds racing with this information. Their hands shook in astonishment, bodies trembling from the magnitude of it all (Mark 16:8). In a mix of emotions, each woman was filled with both fear and great joy from all they had heard and experienced (Matthew 28:8).

As they came out, Jesus greeted them.

Eyes wide and some, if not all, filled with happy, overwhelming tears. They came closer, bowing and touching his feet in worship. Oh the joy! To see him again! How wonderful, how marvelous.

“Do not be afraid,” said Jesus, “go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

~~~

I love this. Out of anyone he could have chosen, Jesus picked women to be the first ones to see him risen from the dead, and as the designated messengers to his disciples. The true greatness of this can be more appreciated, when we realize that back then, the testimony of women as witnesses was not always believed. Yet, he still chose them.

As a young, Christian woman, I’m so thankful that portions like this are included in Scripture, because it shows one example of how Jesus saw men and women – equal. He treated their witness as concrete and sound as a male’s, and in that day and age, this was uncommon.

(and maybe a tiny part of it had to do with the fact that women love to talk and he knew they would spread the word) xD

 As I celebrate Easter, I remember everything that our Savior went through – the rejections, the beatings, the whippings, the guilt and shame though he was innocent…dying on a cross. It amazes me that someone would willingly choose to do that for me. Heck, I don’t think I would do that for me; it’s mind-blowing.

Literally, I cannot compute why Jesus would do that. His unconditional love is so unlike human relationships that I find myself unable to comprehend it, and yet, I am so, incredibly thankful for his sacrifice and grace.

Let us never forget the very real sacrifice that our Savior went through, and always celebrate the fact that on the third day, death was DEFEATED and Jesus Christ rose from the grave!

~ Southern Dreamer

Darkness Fell ~ Part 1 of an Easter Story

“Die he or justice must; unless for him some other able, and as willing, pay the rigid satisfaction, death for death. Say heav’nly Powers, where shall we find such love, which of ye will be mortal to redeem Man’s mortal crime, and just th’ unjust to save, dwells in all Heaven charity so dear?” ~ Paradise Lost, John Milton 

Who will step forward? Will someone sacrifice the glories and perfection of heaven for the broken and trying life on Earth?

“He asked, but all the heav’nly choir stood mute, and silence was in Heav’n; on man’s behalf patron or intercessor none appeared, much less that durst upon his own head draw the deadly forfeiture, and ransom set,” ~ Paradise Lost, John Milton

Silence. The golden streets and tree of life. Silence. The heralds of angels and beating wings. Silence. The majesty of the Creator and the magnificence of heaven’s shining buildings. Silence.

Silence can say so much more than words.

Would anyone step in? Would someone take man’s place?

“And now without redemption all mankind must have been lost, adjudged to death and Hell by doom severe, had not the Son of God, in whom the fullness dwells of love divine, his dearest mediation thus renewed.

‘Father, thy word is passed, man shall find grace; and shall grace not find means, that finds her way, the speediest of thy winged messengers, to visit all thy creatures, and to all comes unprevented, unimplored, unsought, happy for man, so coming; he her aid can never seek, once dead in sins and lost; atonement for himself or offering meet, indebted and undone, hath none to bring: Behold me then, me for him, life for life I offer, on me let thine anger fall; account me man; I for his sake will leave thy bosom, and this glory next to thee freely put off, and for him lastly die well pleased, on me let Death wreak all his rage; under his gloomy power I shall not long lie vanquished; thou hast giv’n me to possess life in myself forever, by thee I love, though now to Death I yield, and am his due,'” ~ Paradise Lost, John Milton

All heaven silent, until the Son of God spoke. All mankind lost, until this moment.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” ~ Luke 2:11

He, who had come from heaven: perfect, beautiful, joyful, now came to Earth – to be among his creation, to do what no one else could.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin,” ~ Hebrew 4:15

Instead of a throne, he sat on the dusty, dirty ground. Insects crawling beneath; an ant biting him. Instead of a crown and robes of splendor, he wore the simple clothing of a carpenter. Blisters on his hands from working with wood; a splinter finding its way into his skin. Instead of angels singing praises hour after hour, he endured the ridicule of bullies. Name-calling, excluding him from activities, causing a bleeding cheek or egg-sized knot on his head. Instead of perfection, he came to the broken world. Temptation rearing its ugly head and the battle not to give in.

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“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

He had friends, family. Perhaps, he had a particular pet growing up that he was fond of. Maybe a sheep that would sneak into the house when it was not supposed to, or a baby chick that cuddled up by his bedside. He celebrated holidays with feasts and great fun. He experienced the growing up pains of being a teenager; the temptation though he did not sin.

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33 years.

And then, came the end of an old world and the beginning of a marvelous grace-filled one where death is defeated.

Let’s back-track though.

The arrest of Jesus.

“Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples,” ~ John 18:2

This one sentence has so much information. We learn two key pieces of information about his arrest, that make it so much more painful. The obvious one is that Judas – someone he had taught, ate with, and spent many hours conversing about various things – betrayed him. Secondly, let’s go back to this…”for Jesus often met there with his disciples.”

Putting it in our terms, this was their “hang-out” place. The spot they went to when they wanted to talk, escape the crowds, just be friends. So I don’t think it is too overly assuming to say that this location probably had a special meaning.

“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground,” ~ Luke 22:41-44

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I’m not sure if it’s because only Luke records it, or if I’ve just never noticed it in the other Gospels before, but I find it so interesting that it says, “and there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.” I wonder what this entailed. Did the angel encourage him in words? Remind him of the good that would come after? Give him something to eat or drink?

I think it is noteworthy to point out, that though the angel strengthened him…his pain did not go away. Right after, it says, “and being in agony.”

Yes, Jesus was strengthened, but his “cup” was not taken away. The struggle, the apprehension of what was to come did not leave. As the verse concludes, it becomes clear that he is under a tremendous amount of anxiousness. There is an actual, medical condition where one is under so much stress and anxiety that sweat and blood mix, creating, as Luke wrote, “like great drops of blood.”

There would still be more to come. Trials. Betrayals. Beatings – horrible, gruesome whips that came upon him again and again. Thorns – a mockery by them, shoving a crown of nature’s needles onto his head…blood pooling out. Humiliation – casting lots for his clothing, doing everything to try and destroy his dignity. Pain.

The nails. The cross. Dying the worst and most degraded form of death that could be done. How amazing of a Savior we have! I cannot compute this kind of love – unconditional, perfect, encompassing. Even as I write this, it blows my mind that someone would willingly choose to go through the most undesirable form of suffering for me.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed,” ~ 1 Peter 2:24

Guilt. Though Jesus had done no wrong, he took the weight of our sins. Can you imagine? All of history. All of humanity. Every person that has and ever will live. That feeling, that sense of shame and guilt that comes with sin, he felt. Him, who knew no sin and lived a perfect life, experienced the ramifications of sin. The consequences, though he was innocent.

Imagine the worst crime you can think of – murder, rape. And then picture yourself having to feel the guilt and shame for doing that, though you did not.

Horrible.

In every way, the sacrifice of Jesus was brutal. It was emotionally taxing – friends betraying him, mentally draining – enduring the verbal assault, physically sapping – the most horrific, pain and death, and spiritually exhausting – when God turned his face.

Let’s go back to that place, that hour.

Easter Inspired by southern-dreams on Polyvore featuring art:

It is the middle of the day; there are three crosses. Because it is the Passover, travelers are passing by and witnessing this dismal sight. There are soldiers, who prolonged his suffering by giving him wine vinegar. There is his family, weeping and in anguish over what has been done to him.

12:00pm. Noon.

Instant darkness. The light from the day vanished and inky blackness took its place. There was no electricity, and no backup generators. Perhaps someone found a candle, though I doubt they had one close by. Who would have thought it would be needed at midday?

The hours ticked by, time moving slowly. Seconds turned into minutes, seeming to stretch into infinity. What had happened? Why was it pitch black at noon? Would the light return?

3pm.

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit,” ~ Matthew 27:50

The curtain of the temple stood sixty feet high and thirty feet wide. It separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, that only the high priest was allowed to enter once a year. At this moment, this instant it was torn in two. The separation between God and humanity had been breached.

The ground rumbled – an earthquake. Rocks were broken, split into pieces. The tombs opened up and the “bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matthew 27:52).

Jesus had died.

***will post second part tomorrow on Easter***

My Story

Slothilda Sloth ProcrastinationWell, this is probably waaaayyyyyy overdue.

XD A little procrastination gif for all my fellow procrastinators out there 😉 But, getting down to what this post is really about…my story. More of my testimony really. Feel free to grab a coffee or chocolate chip M&M cookies *coughnotthatI’vebeeneatinganycough* and read on.

Growing up in a Christian home, I’ve always believed in God. But it wasn’t until 2005 that my relationship with Jesus went to a completely different level. We were still living in Florence, Alabama then.

My parents had started to realize that something was wrong when I began to fall asleep at random times during the day, collapse during laughter or when experiencing excitement, and being unable to make it through school hours without going to sleep multiple times. My mom believed that I had narcolepsy, but I was six years old. Children “that young” did not get narcolepsy – or that is what everyone said.

When I went for my PSG, they said all I'd have to do was show up and sleep. Little did I know...: Yet, there were really only two choices: a brain tumor or narcolepsy. I went through multiple tests including blood tests, a MRI, EEGs, and an EKG. Once I was diagnosed, I had to go through additional sleep studies at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I spent a lot of time there during the next few years that included two more sleep studies. My world was suddenly changed and I had no control or understanding to stop it.

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder, falling into the hyper-immune system illnesses. It results when for unknown reasons, the body attacks the cells that create hypocretin, which is a chemical that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Unlike many other cells, it does not reproduce – when it is gone, it is gone. I could not sleep through the night – only an hour at a time at the most, during the day I would fall asleep numerous times, and could never again go into deep sleep.

Cataplexy is a common side-effect of narcolepsy, though depending on the severity of a person’s narcolepsy, they may or may not have it. I happen to have one of the more severe cases, and as such, have cataplexy. Everyone has this naturally. Normally, when people dream their body goes into a natural state of paralysis to keep them from acting out their dreams. Because my sleep-wake cycle is so disrupted, my body thinks that I am dreaming whenever I laugh or experience excitement. This means that when that happens, my body goes into a state of temporary paralysis or muscular weakness. It looks similar to a seizure, but is very different in that the person experiencing it is completely alert to what is happening, and it usually ends in seconds or a few minutes.

During the first three years, my cataplexy was extremely severe. If I just had the thought – ‘I want to run’ – and would get excited, I would instantly fall to the ground. If I laughed just a little, the same thing would happen. To me, the worst were the nightmares. Narcoleptics, because of how disrupted our sleep-wake cycle is, instantly drop into dream state. Our bodies do not have time to gradually enter into dream state; it is instant. And this causes horrible nightmares. I would wake up terrified to go back to sleep for fear of dreaming again. These were not ‘I lost my homework, my dog died, or I fell off a cliff’ dreams. Mine night terrors. I was often aware that I was dreaming in my dreams. I remember as young as eight years old repeating every name of Jesus I could possibly think, while dreaming. And when I finally said it verbally – spoke His name – I would wake up. It never failed. His name has power, and should not be underestimated.

My entire life and the life of my family changed when I was diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy. We all grew closer. I have a schedule for everything, every three to four hours I have to rest. My brother and I are best friends. I take medication during the day and at night. It’s better than when I first got diagnosed and as a seventeen-year-old I have learned to manage it the best I can. I have learned how to focus on the things I can do versus the things I do not have the energy to accomplish. I have grown to understand that having a medical challenge can be difficult for others to understand and embrace therefore I have concluded that the best way to reduce misperceptions is through communication and kindness.

Sometimes people do not realize the unseen disabilities or disorders. Often, it is not apparent of what I have to do just to do the normal things. Naps and rests are not always guaranteed to be fantastic, sometimes if I’ve been awake too long, I’ll immediately drop into dream state, have dreams, wake up, try to go back to sleep, and the cycle can continue. It can be frustrating to always have to take naps, not be able to do such and such things that others can do. The emotional and mental side can be difficult as well. Because narcolepsy is a sleep disorder, we do not get the sufficient amount of sleep needed. Sleep-deprivation can make anxiety or other stressful emotions feel stronger/worse.

Even though this disease can present many frustrations, I would not change it. Through narcolepsy and cataplexy, I was put into a place of forced trust with the Lord. I had to rely on Him. It was not an ‘if I want to’ or ‘when I will,’ I had to. One time my mom asked me, if they had a cure for narcolepsy would I take it, and honestly, I don’t know. I’m almost afraid of what my relationship with God would be like without it. Truthfully, I do not think that I would rely on Him as much. I wish I could say that without narcolepsy I would rely and trust the Lord just as much, but I don’t think I can.

Jesus has shown himself to me in ways that I would probably have not experienced without receiving this disease. He has met me at my weakest, even in my anger, and shown Himself to me in grace, love, and truth. There have been times when I have cried silently at night, or been terrified that I would have nightmares going to sleep. When you are put into a place where you have to rely on God to get through the day, have to seek Him out, it changes you. Through this disease, Jesus has strengthened my faith and trust in Him. While it definitely has it’s negatives, I believe that God has used what many people would see as something terrible – being diagnosed at six years old, not knowing anyone else with your disease until almost ten years later, having an incurable illness – and used it for good. Even though this probably sounds weird, I’m grateful to Jesus for how He has given this to me and walked with me through it.

Often, it can be hard for me to understand how people completely abandon their faith when hard times strike. I can understand and sympathize with being angry, frustrated, and utterly confused as to why something happens, yet, it’s difficult for me to grasp someone just…giving up on their faith. I guess it’s because no matter how furious, weary, and whatever else I may be feeling, the truth is, I need God too much to just say “screw it.”

I know a lot of people say that God can take the worst thing in your life, and make it something wonderful. And it can start sounding old, like, ok getting sick of the ‘church’ answer. But it’s true. Jesus can redeem anything to become something beautiful. You just have to be willing to stick with your faith, wrestle it out with God. Ask questions – Jesus isn’t afraid of them.

~ Southern Dreamer

P.S. March 11 is Narcolepsy Awareness Day, please spread the word so we can bring more awareness to this illness 🙂

 

Christmas

As Christmas ends in all of its bright lights, Santa 🎅🏻 wrapped gifts 🎁, and loudly playing carols 🎼, let us not forget the true joy behind this holiday: Jesus.

It really is amazing how Jesus humbled Himself not only to the point of death on a cross....but that  He also chose to be born as a babe.   Think about it.:

Jesus who left the golden glories of perfect heaven to come down where imperfection is sowed deeply. Jesus who traded comfort and ease for a world of sin, pain, and suffering. Jesus who set aside His rightly given crown and wore one of thorns. Jesus who put away His heavenly robes for those of this earthly life. Jesus who was tempted. Persecuted. Deserted. Made fun of. Beaten. Spit upon. Jeered at. Ridiculed. Anxious.

This same Jesus who told Moses, tell them I AM sent you.

Exodus 3 14:

I AM…LOVE. I AM…GRACE. I AM…COMPASSION. I AM…HOPE. I AM…PEACE. I AM came.

 

 

Merry Christmas.

 

Comfort Zone

Trust the One who created you to lead you to the places He has set aside for you, wherever that may be:

Well. You know the moment when the Holy Spirit is speaking to you and you’re just like why did I come here/walk this way/etc self?

That was me on Wednesday.

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Here’s the scenario: I was coming out of Walmart and was walking behind an older man who had several groceries in his cart. That’s when God was like, you need to ask him if he needs help putting his groceries away.

And then my brain was all like, maybe that’s not God. Except. Then you start getting that feeling where you “just know.”

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My mind then went into compromising territory. Maybe I can just ask to take his cart back for him. Yeah. That’s…good. Because as an introvert, the thought of just going up to a stranger is sort of *ahem* terrifying.

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So. You can see why this would be out of my comfort zone. I was totally planning to go with the whole just-ask-to-take-his-cart thing, except…his car was way before my car. And it would be sort of…creepy, I thought, if I just stood there…waiting while he was loading them up. #IpromiseI’mnotastalker xD

Well, that sort of made me have to make a decision. #YIKES

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I walked up to him and asked him if he needed any help unloading his groceries.

And he said no, even after I asked if he was sure. Then he told me to have a wonderful day.

The Lord is testing me

After that happened, I realized it was just a test. God was testing me to see if I was going to be willing to do something that scared me and was outside of my comfort zone for Him. And each time we do something hard for Jesus, our faith grows like a muscle that is being strengthened.

~ Southern Dreamer