I’m Such a Know-it-all.

I continually make the mistake of thinking I already know what a verse says when I read it’s location.

Take James 1:1-12, for example.

Hardships will happen, blah blah blah.

Have read it a zillion times. *slight exaggeration*

It popped up as my scripture to read this morning from A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People.

Greetings from James
1 This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad.

Greetings!

Faith and Endurance
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
9 Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. 11 The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.
12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

The version I read this morning is the New Living Translation.

Because I read it in the NLT, most likely for the first time, I believe that is why it spoke to me so. That and the fact that God is always trying to get my attention; pull me back in; hit me with a wake-up call.

Basically, I can sum up James 1:1-12 (NLT) in two words:

divided loyalty

Divided loyalty. Where does my loyalty lie? With God or with the world. And what is “the world” by my own definition?

Bottom line?

My loyalty truly is divided. I say one thing; do another. I say I love God and yet I am embracing the world I live in.

Particularly painful to me this morning was the recollection that just yesterday I had said to My Girl, “God calls us to be different from the world. When someone speaks to you or treats you unkindly, you are called not to respond in kind. You are to respond with a gentle word, no matter if it impacts them at that moment or ever.” *or something like that*

God calls us to be different from the world. Time I took my own advice.

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Ash Wednesday Thoughts from my Pastor

Psalm 51
1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent.
Lent is forty days of fasting, prayer, confession, repentance and reconciliation before Easter.

Ash Wednesday is prelude to the cross
When we consider the sacrifice of Christ and resolve to live sacrificially
When we ponder the service of Christ and commit to serve Him and others

The sign of the cross on your forehead
Reminds you and shows others that you are a person of the cross
The submission of the cross, the passion of the cross, the compassion of the cross, the mercy of the cross
Like baptism, the sign of the cross is an outer evidence of an inner transaction

Take Up Your Cross
On Ash Wednesday, these words of Jesus grip us
On Ash Wednesday, we illustrate what we are to do daily
Live according to the heart and mind of Christ
Surrender everything that keeps us from it
And receive everything that empowers us for it

What was I thinking…

I have been stuck in my house for 6 weeks days and desperately needed Mexican Food to get out.

So I made a plan. My Man, knowing I have been desperately wanting Mexican food still continued to insist I “just plan something and cook it.” So I set him up for dinner out. I made chili from scratch. I made apple pie from scratch.

Sure enough, in the door he came as I popped the pie in the oven and announced, “Flo wants Mexican Food so we’re going tonight.”

Flo is our 70 year old neighbor. Apparently, what Flo wants matters more than what The Man’s wife wants, but I’m okay with that because HELLO….Mexican Food…

So I called bff Lori and told her to meet us there with her boys at 5:00 (while we are old…we go that early because 1) we’re not the only ones who have been snowed in for six weeks and 2) we are old.)

Following an amazingly lovely dinner that included chips, salsa, fajitas and a margarita or two, we all piled into the Walgreen’s four doors down. Because that is what we always do following a meal at Austin Grill.

We didn’t “need” anything. We just love the Walgreen’s. It’s new. Relatively speaking.

My new fave color is pink. Real pink. I’ve been on the lookout for some pink nail polish. Light pink. Real serious pink.

I’m a purple and carnation girl myself, but I’ve been branching out and jumping on board with the entire pink craze.

I found the perfect shade: wet n’ wild’s Wild Shine Tickled Pink. Apparently it is a brand new color. It’s not even on their website yet.

This morning when I got to work, I pulled Tickled Pink out of my purse and put a coat on. And then another. And then one more thinking that would actually help.

I hate it.

Now I’m stuck at work with ugly nail polish on that is clumpy and streaky partly because I grew more and more frustrated and just lathered it on and partly because the finish is, well, clumpy and streaky.

What was I thinking doing this at the office…

Maybe just one more coat will help…

The Darkness.

In February 2009, I was happily going along taking life for granted. I was loving this Bible Study with an amazing group of women. Looking at this picture…brings so many conflicting thoughts. Three of these women are no longer here. One has moved to another church; one has moved to another continent thanks to the US Navy; one has moved into the presence of Jesus.

One month after this photo, my life was changed forever. Beth was diagnosed with a brain tumor. A melanoma recurrence. Six weeks later, Beth was gone.

I still can not believe it.

Life has continued.

Teens have graduated from high school. Friends have married. Children have been born. Elderly relatives have passed away. Jobs have been lost and gained.

I try not to sit and dwell on it. I try not to notice the pain in the eyes of Betth’s mother every time I see her. I try not grab Beth’s youngest son into my arms and hold onto him and cry each time he comes into our house. Which is every day since he is my youngest son’s best friend.

There are days that I am successful. There are weeks on end that I sit in the darkness and let it surround me; envelop me.

Lately, for months really, I have been embracing the darkness. Some days it is easier. Easier to turn inward and ignore the outside. Easier to climb into my bed and sleep. Easier to sit at my desk and stare at my computer screen for hours on end. Not knowing where or how to begin. Easier to let the laundry pile up, the dust bunnies multiply and get lost in NCIS. Or the Weather Channel.

This week, while snowed in with the Blizzard of 2010, I tried to welcome the darkness. I was just beginning to succeed when I was Interrupted.

Every place I looked, I saw reference to the darkness, especially every time I opened my bible or devotional or bible study materials.

This morning it finally hit me: He was reminding me that He is not about darkness. In fact He specifically reminded me by leading me to this verse

You are my lamp, O LORD;
the LORD turns my darkness into light

I haven’t been able to find my way out of the dark. I’m not supposed to. I need to let Him be my Lamp. When I turn to Him, reach out to Him, He will turn my darkness into Light.

I was really getting tired of the darkness, I have to admit.

Thank you for your patience as I’ve struggled to find my way Back.

Love you guys.

A random list of randomness. Numbered.

1. Snow is my new four letter curse word.
2. S**w is dead to me.
3. A sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies goes down very easily. And very quickly.
4. In the Smith household, bacon is it’s own food group.
5. White is my new least favorite color.
6. It is so easy for me to spot the pride in all of those around me. In myself? Not so much.
7. It’s official. I am NOT giving up coffee.
8. I missed having two dogs in the house. But not all of the fur.
9. I would really like to be pregnant again.
10. Must be cuz I’m on the downslide to 50.
11. Just re-read #10 and had heart palpitations.
12. Just re-read #9 and didn’t.
13. Totally floored by the awesome interwebbiness friends God has brought into my life who, in a mere two months, will be IN REAL LIFE FRIENDS that I get to hug and smooch on.
14. Secretly, I am enjoying the big Blizzard(s) of ’09 and ’10.

Love you guys.

An Update on My Girl.

Actually, it is a Susan Update, truth be told.

Haven’t decided how I am going to get this to you yet. Email? Facebook? My blog?

I’m actually feeling led to put it on my blog for the following reason(s): The name of my blog is Not That Girl…This Girl. You see, I used to be that girl…selfish, angry, spoiled…

Finding Him meant I had to become this girl…full of sin yet saved by Grace.

So, having felt led to begin a blog and to name it thus, shouldn’t I also be using it as a way to show people that I really am This Girl and no longer that girl, and show Who is responsible for that transformation? (At first I typed, “transportation” and after changing it realized He really did transport me, too…)

No matter how I share this update with you, I need to get started…

I think y’all pretty much know that Sarah, our 18 year old daughter, is living in a period of major rebellion. Repeatedly, I lose sight of the fact that it isn’t really Russell and I and her brothers and family that she is rebelling against…it is God. I never knew that while I was rebelling at her age…it was flat out rebellion against my parents, my family and the “establishment.” As if I knew who/what the “establishment” was!

So yes, my daughter is following right in the footsteps of her mother, except that Sarah knows and loves Jesus. I grew up in the church but didn’t know Him, and at one point, during my time as that girl, denied He even existed and if by some marginal chance He did exist, I denounced Him as unneeded and unnecessary in my life.

Thankfully, Sarah has not done that in word although by action I often presume she has. The only reason I haven’t totally gone over the edge is because I know for certain that she belongs to Him and is sealed by Him (thank You, Jesus; Praise You, Jesus).

Really, it has been ugly here at the Smith household. I have been consumed with grief over the loss of our daughter. And she is lost right now. I know that the real Sarah is in there, covered by darkness, probably embracing the darkness. I know I did. Embraced it. Relished it. Savored it. Owned it. That is why my grief is so strong…so consuming: I know what she is thinking because I thought it too.

And I have been oh. so. angry. at. God. over all of this. I did this! I was this! I tried so hard to ensure she would not. She had no clue I was ever like that. So…how did it come to pass that she is now doing the same thing I did? Genetics? I truly believe in some part genetics does come into play. The Hart side of the family (my mom’s side) has passed down from generation to generation the following sins that I had hoped I had broken…anger, anxiety, self-love.

Yes, I have been so very angry at God. To the point I have questioned my own faith, my own belief, my own salvation.

Patiently, He has remained with me. Speaking to me when I would listen, but only when I was open to hear.

It is not for me to know exactly why He has allowed this to happen to her. At least not for now. But in a way…don’t I know some of the reasons why? Because without that time of rebellion, I would not be who I am today. I would not be This Girl. Not perfect, by any means. Still struggling, every single day. But forgiven. Loved. Cherished by Him.

She has forgotten that. She has forgotten that she is forgiven. Loved. Cherished by Him.

And she has felt forgotten and unloved by her own mother.

In my grief and my anger I sinned mightily. Not intentionally. I thought that if I showed her and told her how much I loved her that it would make her think that her behavior was acceptable. That she could “get away with it.”

I forgot to look at the nature and character of the One True God. He is love. He IS love. Love is Who He Is.

Thankfully, he reminded me of that, in the darkest hour of my despair when I cried out to Him, literally, unable to get out of bed because I am so crippled by my grief, I told Him I just can’t do this anymore. Can’t live like this without my girl.

And He did. He said to me so very clearly, “You need to love her and she needs to know that You love her.”

(IMPOSSIBLE! She’ll think she’s getting away with this behavior and that it is acceptable! You are WRONG about this. I can’t do this.)

“You are pushing her further away from you and from Russell and you are pushing her away from Me.”

stunned silence

I have spent the last 18 years showing my daughter that You are the Way, the Truth and the Light and now You are telling me that I am pushing her away from You?

I had to process that for a long, long time. Still sobbing about it as I type this, even though I’ve begged for and received forgiveness. I mean…how do I make this up to Him?

By being obedient.

How do I know this? Because He put this right in front of my face in the midst of this struggle, in the midst of Sarah actually being in the house while I’m struggling with this, forcing me to make a decision right then and there on whether or not I would obey. Joanne made the choice to obey.

And I did, too. And I continue to. And I will continue to do so.

And I continue to covet your prayers. Without them, I am positive I would not have been open to any of this. But even more so, I now know that your prayers will open my daughter’s hardened heart to hear Him wooing her…

And I can’t WAIT to see it all come to pass.