Favorable Change

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Stingy eyes evidence of the tears the day before as I tried to insert my contacts lenses I pondered to myself how in recent history I had gone through a record number of contact lenses evidence of multiple crying episodes. The day before, my friend had declared she was moving away. I’ve heard it said that major events and good things occur in threes. Like three pregnant women at the same time, three blind mice, the three little pigs, the three primary colors from which every other color can find its basic origins. The ships that carried Christopher Columbus’ to find The new World: The Nina, the Pinta, and The Santa Maria. The three cord strand that is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12): The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus’ resurrection after 3 Days. I could go on and on. Well maybe not me, but with help of an internet search engine I could.

So when the for the third time a sweet dear friend told me she was moving away all I could do was cry. It was a true answer to prayer for her and for her family, but for me, it was heartache. For the others whose lives she had invested in, it was sad. I’d watched her over the last several years, she had been the very words of Jesus that had come to life for me.

Jesus said in Matthew 25: 36-40:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

qag0vcte_600x600_a538b01aMy friend, she had fed me. She fed me on multiple occasions, but one of the most memorable was when we were moving, living out of boxes, and she called me and said, “Hey! I have a Beef Bonapart that I am bringing to you Martins right now.” There was no time to protest, no time to argue, she didn’t even give me the option to say no. She brought that delicious baked pasta right to my front door, handed it over, said, “Enjoy! I love you!” and she left.

That evening I was tired, I was stinky, I had worked all day in preparation of my new living quarters and I was hungry. I’d long ago resolved that dinner would come in the form of a grease stained paper bag, with some mediocre fast food option to sustain me through the night. Yet, there I was sitting at a makeshift table with my family, enjoying a homemade dinner on a paper plate, with a plastic fork, she’d brought so we could eat that pasta dish.

She’d invited me in countless times, even in the days when she barely knew me. I was in essence a stranger and she opened her home and welcomed my rowdy Martins and me. She told me once, regarding her Mama’s house, “Mimi’s house isn’t fancy but it is welcoming.” I knew exactly what she meant, for her house was the same. It wasn’t fancy, but is was warm and welcoming for sure.

clothes-hangers-coat-hangers-plastic-hanger-hang-39518She didn’t exactly clothe me, except she daily reminded me that Colossians 3:12 tells us to, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” She reminded me by being dressed that way herself. She challenged me to dress the same way, to exhibit compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

I can honestly say I’ve not been in prison physically, shackled up and sentenced to serve jail time by a judge, but I have been shackled up spiritually. I’ve been so fearful and anxious that it were as if my extremities were shackled to the wall. She knew I was in jail, that I couldn’t free myself from those things. She didn’t have a key to liberate me, but she knew the One who did, and she would intercede to Him on my behalf. Both in my hearing and not. She would pray for me and I can honestly say, there were times I never told a soul that I was wrestling yet that did not stop her, she would sit with me and she would pray.

I have been sick. She has prayed for vomit and pain, for test results and for strength. She has prayed for peace and for comfort. She has prayed without ceasing not just for me, but for countless others as well. Heaven alone knows that astounding number. She taught me the benefit of “Well, let’s just pray right now.” When she would be asked to pray for someone or some situation in particular, she demonstrated there truly was no time like the present. She’d say the aforementioned statement and then she’d get to it, petitioning the King for healing. I am, I was, one of the least of these.

When my friend announced her leaving, I cried because there are some kinds of change of which, I am not a fan. I cried because I know that she is so much like Jesus that I would miss the reminders of Him, (she would argue this point with me here, further demonstrating her humility and supporting my statement.) We prayed together that day, and she reminded me of a solid truth, “When you walk with the Lord, change is always in your favor.” As the time came for her to embark on the new phase of life and new adventure and ministry Jesus had already prepared for her, I was challenged. Unknowingly she has challenged me, and Jesus clarified that challenge.

Jesus speaks to me somewhat unconventionally. He essentially said to me, that I wouldn’t be missin’ her and the Jesus in her so much if I acted more like Him. If I would take the time to do for others the very things my friend taught me to do.

The King’s word says in Proverbs 7:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” I’ve not been trained in the metallurgic arts, but I know enough to know this is absolutely the truth, for I was a rusty, dull, piece of iron, heavy and laden with fear when along came my friend, who acts like Jesus and helped to sharpen this ol’ gal up.

iron-sharpens-iron

Superficial

As I studied and spent time with the Lord about what to write on – the word “superficial” kept speaking to my spirit. Let’s first see what this term means.

Superficial is “something occurring only at the surface; it appears to be true or real ONLY until examined more closely.” This very thing constantly happens through conversations, and friendships… relationships in general!

Why Is This???

Social media app icons on a smart phoneAs I reached out on social media to inquire about this question, these are some of the common answers I received:

“It’s ‘easier’ to pretend and not let people in…”
“Lack of accountability–Quantity versus Quality…”
“People can’t handle a ‘real’ one…”
“Too busy to invest…”
“Selfishness— doesn’t want to put that much time and work in…”
“Fear—Fear of getting hurt or being betrayed–past experiences…”
“In a comfortable circle–don’t feel that they need others…”

I can relate to every one of these answers as I look back on my journey of being a friend or needing a friend. I think we have allowed such busyness into our lives, we don’t stop for ourselves and others to truly allow genuine conversations to take place any longer. Due to past experiences and failed friendships, we would rather isolate ourselves completely or just keep it “easy” so we don’t have to get too deep either to or for someone else.

Let’s look at a few scriptures…

Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at ALL time, and a brother is born for adversity.” This takes friendships to a whole new level – good times and rough times!

Proverbs 16:28 “A dishonest man (woman) spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.”

friend-photThe good news is that His Word tells us in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” God has given us that same love so we can extend it to one another. We hold that very power! The power to walk amongst this world with all the things of this life swirling around us, including the struggles, and make time to SHOW love and BE love. You see, Jesus was intentional with his relationships during his time on this earth. Sure, he couldn’t share a deep devotion with many he came in contact with, but he shared his heart, his hurt, and his experiences among several friends. In reading the Word, it is very evident that John was a special friend as well as Lazarus. God appointed disciples around Jesus to walk with him, share with him, and learn from him. Who has God placed in your life? To share with, to live and learn with? Step out! Take a risk! Employ your faith! If we all dwelt on past hurt, how could God’s plan and purpose be accomplished in and through us?

Hebrews 10:22-25 reveals a challenge, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Time is running OUT!!!

Over this holiday season,open your eyes and hearts to who God has currently placed in your life and be intentional with your conversations. Engage in the relationship with more than just a “superficial” approach. Be deliberate in how you pierce beyond the layers of small talk to really being there for that person and allowIng them and you to be REAL about some things that are going on. Examine one another. Encourage one another through verbalizing struggles. Praise them for who they are. Motivate them in their purpose.

In your life, this may pertain to friends – it may even pertain to your close family. Don’t get caught up in the hustle and bustle of busyness. Be the friend God called you to be-Trust Him!

Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24

Spiritual Doulas

joy-and-sadie-newbornIf you’re like many, you may not have heard the word “doula” before. It’s a word that represents someone who helps a woman in childbirth.  Doulas have been around for thousands of years and are often described like a mid-wife, but they usually aren’t the ones actually delivering the baby.  Rather, the focus of the doula is on easing the mother’s laboring discomfort and encouraging and supporting her through the pain.

After delivering my son in a very traumatic birth experience, I decided any future births would be assisted by a doula. I just so happened to have two great friends who were doulas.  This worked out perfectly for my last two births. When my baby girls came into this world, I needed the support of someone other than my husband who, as loving and well-intentioned as he was, had no real clue as to how to help me through the absolute toughest physical moments of my life. These ladies took turns rubbing my back or my feet; speaking in soothing tones words of encouragement and affirmation; wiping my brow with a wet cloth; feeding me ice chips; dousing me in essential oils; and cheering me on until my babe was safely in my arms.

It occurred to me not long after my first doula-supported birth experience that we, as women, or really we, as human beings, need doulas for life… particularly in the hard times. One of the mental roadblocks I had to having a doula with me, specifically one who was my friend, was that I would not have any privacy. Childbirth is messy, gross, beautiful, and hard! They were going to be all up in my personal business and there would be no physical privacy. Any amount of crazy I experienced during the pains of childbirth would be fully exposed to people who knew me well.  I wouldn’t be able to hide anything.

We need that in life.  We need people who can be all up in our business, who see it all. We need people we can’t hide the crazy from.  If we can be real in front of people, then we can receive the support we need.  We need spiritual doulas who are willing to get in the mess and the pain and the hard and the beautiful of our lives.  In this way, we can be encouraged, spurred on, pushed toward the end goal, and be uplifted as we navigate this journey of life.

We need to be spiritual doulas for others.  We need to be willing to walk alongside other women in their darkest, hardest, messiest hours, so that something beautiful and blessed and sacred can come out on the other side.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” (Hebrews 10:24)

“But exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”  (Hebrews 3:13)

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Who in your life is a spiritual doula for you? Is there someone who needs you to become their spiritual doula? Ask the Lord to help you answer these questions and equip you with the gifts needed to minister to others around you.

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”  (Hebrews 6:10)

That’s me on the left and the rest of these gorgeous blondes are some of my Spiritual Doulas.

spiritual-doulas-2

Top photo of me with my 3rd child courtesy of Deidre Ruth Photography.