Sunday, July 30, 2017

Bosom Buddies and the Gift of Grace

Colton's Steakhouse, comfort food at its finest.
"Meet me at Colton's for lunch. Get started on the peanuts, and I'll be there soon." This sweet invitation a few days ago from a dear friend, a bosom buddy, was honey to my soul.

She had no idea.
Even though we had spent time talking on the phone a few days prior to our lunch date, she had no idea how much I was really hurting. She had no idea that I hadn't really eaten much for days, and that even the thought of food made me nauseous. As I stared at the bucket of peanuts on the table, I tried so hard not to let the tears fall.
And then she walked up to the table.
My dear friend of 16 years who knows me so well smiled as she gave me the warmest hug ever, and it was all over. The tears came. My thoughts and fears came bubbling up out of my heart in words that I could only say to a friend who I knew accepted me. She allowed me to voice my doubts, fears and questions about my future without judgment. She offered no easy solutions, no "this is what I think you should do, Teresa." Nope. She just listened. With warmth, love, compassion, trust, and grace. Because that's what bosom buddies do . . . they believe in us no matter what, and extend to us unconditional love and grace. By the end of the meal, I felt so much better. I was renewed and strengthened once again in my faith. Sometimes a meal with those we love does as much to feed our soul as it does to nourish our body.
How incredibly thankful I am for the wonderful friends God has blessed me with over the years. Friends who have been with me through the highs and lows of life, the joys and sorrows, the blessings and the losses, the victories and the defeats. Close friends . . . bosom buddies. Those who continually point me to Jesus in every season of life. I am reminded over and over each day that we need one another.
We need to have friends.
And we need to be a friend.
We need friends who encourage us and extend grace to us during times of testing and questioning.
And we need to be the kind of friend who encourages others and extends grace also.
Because everyone has a story, a struggle, a burden that is too heavy to carry, and everyone needs grace.
The incredible gift of grace. Where would we be without it?

Grace is the free and unmerited favor of God and is demonstrated by forgiveness and salvation.
Grace is the love and kindness of God shown to all of us.
Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.
Grace is extravagant demonstrations of care and favor.
Grace is most needed and best understood in the midst of suffering and brokenness.
Grace transforms our desires, motivations and behavior.
Grace brings life and strengthens the heart.
Grace is unconditional love.
How thankful I am for the love and grace of God!
God's grace has been with me and my family every day and in every circumstance over the years. His grace has always been there in every time of need. His grace has restored and strengthened each one of us in unimaginable ways. We are a picture of God's healing power and His Amazing Grace. And even when things don't make sense, we have learned to rest in the grace of God.
When I began this blog journey 2 months ago, I really had no idea the direction it would take. I had topics and titles in mind that I wanted to explore. I wanted to tell the stories of God's grace and faithfulness in our family for my children and grandchildren to read and remember. I wanted to brag on God, and I wanted to have it written down for all to see. And my hope and prayer was that anyone reading about these "pearls" - these stories of pain becoming beauty - would be encouraged and inspired in their own life situations. I truly did not expect this to become a daily/weekly journal of my current life events. And I certainly never expected to be writing about the twists and turns and questions and confusion of the past couple of months. But you know what?
I think this is exactly what the Lord had in mind. Through each season of life, we all have unexpected opportunities to experience the gift of God's grace. And the gift of friendship. We need both.
So . . . kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, family, friends near and far/old and new, please be encouraged today with this post no matter your age. Please, be a friend - a true friend. The friends that God brings into your life are gifts - they need you and you need them. You will have a few bosom buddies in your life - treasure them.
Take them to lunch.
Have fun.
Listen with your heart.
Be the world's biggest encourager. Use words.
Care and stoop and rescue.
Be honest and loyal.
Love unconditionally.
Extravagantly demonstrate your care for them.
Pray with them and for them.
Accept the grace of God for yourself.
And then extend the gift of grace to all you meet.
And so, my precious friends, because of your love, acceptance, support and encouragement, I consider myself to be one very rich lady! You are my heart. Thank you once again for your prayers.
Much love,
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.
God's grace is enough, even in our weakness. Beautiful pearls are in the making.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Stuttering, Hiccups, and Swirling Waters

Yes, I believe every word of this scripture. It has been a lifeline of hope for me during my lifetime, especially in recent weeks.
Faith. The foundation of our walk with God begins with faith. And hope. And trust. Even when circumstances in life shake us to our very core . . . we cling to the Lord, trusting that He has everything under control.
Moses and I have become best buddies in the last couple of months. I feel like I understand him a little better than I did previously. Moses was a man who was selflessly devoted to the Lord, but he knew his weaknesses. He struggled with anger. He knew that God was going to use him to deliver the children of Israel out of bondage, but he didn't know how. He felt insecure and inadequate. He stuttered. He asked God to choose someone else.
How did Moses go from that to standing before Pharaoh and exclaiming boldly, 
"Let my people go!" No stuttering there!
And then to this at the parting of the Red Sea . . .   

"Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord which He will show you today."
Again, no stuttering. Moses, knowing himself all too well and understanding his weaknesses, took hold of the mighty hand of God and trusted Him. He took God at his word and realized that God was doing the delivering. Moses did not part the waters, God did. Moses was His servant. And God strengthened him and used him.
While I don't suffer with a speech impediment, I do realize that sometimes in life there are hiccups. And it's not the end of the world. Hiccups slow down our ability to talk and interfere with us being able to communicate clearly, but - not to worry - our full voice of clarity and confidence will return.
As I tried to explain in my last post, the past 4 years have been incredibly difficult for me. As I have struggled to know the will of God in my life, I have been "hiccupping" all over the place.
"God, I miss my kids and my grandbabies."
"God, should I move to Chicago?"
"God, should I stay in Springfield?"
"God, should I get a new job?"
"God, I don't know what to do."
"God, I'm so confused."
"God, please just tell me what to do and I'll do it."
And guess what? God was silent. God was never far, but He was silent.
And I just figured it out 2 weeks ago. God was asking me what I wanted to do.
I've always had a tender heart regarding the things of the Lord, and I just wanted Him to give me clear direction as to what I was to do. And all along, God was asking me. In the same way that I want my adult children to be happy, I can't tell them what to do in life anymore. They have to figure it out for themselves. They have to hear God's voice for themselves. And many times, God gives us choices.
I went to Chicago to be near some of my children and grandchildren as well as to help my son with his new church plant. Without going into much detail, the job that I took in Chicago did not turn out exactly as it was presented to me. Working long hours, working every weekend (every weekend), and not at all the pay that I expected. So, I would never see my kids. I would not be able to help with the church. And the most practical aspect of all, there is absolutely no way I would ever be able to live on the income I most likely would earn. This was quite a shock to say the least. So, on a very real level, I need to live. Also, I simply know that I don't belong in Chicago. Staying there longer will not change this simple fact. "Teresa, what do you want to do?" God knew all along.
I belong in Springfield. And I'm not stuttering or hiccupping anymore. My voice is clear and strong for the first time in years. This is where I want to birth the dreams and plans I believe are from God. These dreams are my Promised Land.
I've learned that our journey to the Promised Land is not simply a destination, a geographical location . . . it's a destiny, a calling. God wants to fulfill His purpose in our lives no matter what turns we take in life, and He will always put us back on track. And while it may look like we're at a dead end road, a Red Sea scenario, I do believe that God is swirling the waters. He wants to part the seas and do whatever miracles need to take place in our lives to bring about deliverance. For us individually, and for our families.
Probably one of the hardest things for me during this time is that I don't feel very "courageous" or full of faith. But I'm learning that this is exactly what faith looks like - sometimes spectacular and amazing, sometimes a little messy and confusing. It's a journey. It's the "confidence in what we hope for and the assurance of what we don't see." My theme song for the past 2 weeks has been an old song by Andrae Crouch, "Through It All."
I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
there's been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.
Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.
I've been to lots of places,
I've seen a lot of faces,
there's been times I felt so all alone.
But in my lonely hours,
yes, those precious lonely hours,
Jesus lets me know that I was His own.
Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.

I'm holding on tightly to the hand of God, keeping my eyes on Jesus, and simply saying, "God, through it all, I trust You." I know that one day all this will make sense.
And so, dear friends, this is the update on my life as God continues to make pearls in this very difficult, emotional, and humbling time of life. I pray that if any of you are also going through similar journeys, you will be encouraged that you're not alone. God is helping all of us in each stage of life - through the stuttering and hiccupping, the swirling waters, and the parting of each Red Sea. We're on our way to the Promised Land.
Thank you so much for reading and for the outpouring of love, support and encouragement. Your prayers and friendship mean the world to me. As always, you are my heart.
With much love and a heart of gratitude,
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.
One tiny, precious pearl among many-the product of pain. Conceived through irritation, born of adversity, nursed by adjustment.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Grandma Moses in Labor

Young Teresa 7 months pregnant with firstborn, Danny
Yes, dear friends, I'm alive. I apologize for my silence the past 3 weeks, but I've been in labor. 
I've been laboring to bring forth the new life, vision and purpose God has ordained for me. And it has been harder than hard.
Please journey with me as I take a little side road and tell you the story about my labor and birth of my firstborn son, Danny. Trust me, this will make sense - just stick with me for a moment.
When I first found out that I was pregnant with Danny, I cried. Not because I didn't want him - actually, quite the opposite! I dearly wanted a house full of children and I was thrilled that God had quickly answered one of the deepest desires of my heart. I cried because I was scared.  What does a 19 year old girl know about raising kids?

I soon got over my fear and began preparing for pregnancy, labor and delivery. I truly loved being pregnant. I was young, strong and healthy. As you can see from the photo above, I really only had a belly for about 2 months. Somehow I instinctively knew that I would love my child and care for him well, but I was super afraid of the actual delivery. Even back in the 1970's, there were so many birth options to consider that it made my head spin. All I knew was that I wanted the best possible start in life for my precious little baby. Long story short, we chose to have Danny in a birthing center with a midwife. No sterile environment, no bright lights, no epidural, no invasive/unnecessary procedures - just a gentle atmosphere to welcome Danny into my loving arms
But there was a hospital nearby . . . just in case.

I went into labor on a Friday night and we headed to the birthing center. After 24 hours of very hard labor with very little progress and a baby who was starting to show signs of stress, we went to the hospital. 7 hours later, with the help of Pitocin, forceps and skilled doctors and nurses, Danny was safely delivered into this world. What a joy! Danny was a tiny little baby weighing in at only 6 lbs. 12 oz. I learned then that my body did not have the ability to carry and deliver 10 pound babies. And there is no shame in that - it's how I'm built.

To save the life of my child (and myself), there was a necessary change in birth plans.
So now . . . back to me. 38 years later and I am laboring to bring forth new life again.
3 weeks ago I moved to Chicago to begin this next chapter of my life. "Grandma Moses stepping out" into the unknown, trusting God to part the waters for me and to lead, guide, and provide. Mama T wanting to be near my children, grandchildren, and to help with the launch of my son's new church plant, VIVE Church Chicago next September. Well, dear friends, I have been miserable.
That's right. Miserable.
The very hardest part of labor is transition, the time when a laboring mama wants to give up. And this transition in life for me has been unbearably, excruciatingly painful. Please, just hook me up to the epidural! I have cried more tears in the past 3 weeks than I have in the past 3 years. I have doubted everything.
What have I done?
Did I just make the biggest mistake of my life?
How am I going to make it?
Where's my faith?
God, what am I going to do?
My kids are watching; what will they think?
How do I tell my friends?
People will think I'm indecisive and crazy.
I'm so embarrassed.
I'm never, ever, ever, never going to fit in here.
I want to go home.
From day one I have felt out of place in Chicago. I came here for all the wonderful reasons stated above, but I also came here to find myself. What I want out of life. To birth the next chapter in the life of Teresa. Not just MamaT/GrandMama-T, but Teresa.
I think I've been in the throws of a pretty intense, pretty serious 4-year "Mid-Life/Empty Nest" crisis. For 4 years now, I have been agonizing over the loneliness I have felt being away from my 5 children, and now my 5 grandchildren. I have just wanted to be near them again. I have questioned daily, "Should I move to Chicago?" After all, it makes sense that if I'm in Chicago living near some of my children, and work together with them in ministry, then it'll be easy to go visit the other children and grandchildren during the year. Right? So, I made the jump. And even though I have been miserable and have questioned whether or not I hear God's voice at all, I'm glad I did it. And here's why.
Because I found Teresa.
Silly me.
I want to dance again.
For the health and safety of me and my future vision, there is a change in birth plans. While God allowed me to labor for a while, I won't be having my "baby" in Chicago.
I'm going back home to Springfield, MO.
I don't feel like I made a mistake in moving to Chicago, and I have no regrets. Because now I know.
Now I know that I don't belong in Chicago. I could stay there for 100 years, and I'll never fit in. I have wrestled with this for 4 years, and now it's settled. I belong in Springfield. I would never have known this had I not tried. I figured it out, and I have my answer. And I finally have peace regarding where "home" is for Teresa. It's Springfield.
And yes, I am still laboring over this new phase, this new child, in my life, and I have many questions. But I do know this: I am not designed to give birth to one 10 pound child - I am built to give life to several 6 and 7 pound children. And there's no shame in that. It's how I'm built. 
There is a grace on my life to continue to write. My prayer is that I will make many new friends and that this will grow and give me the ability to help many people in need. I still desire to birth ministries that will help provide shelter, food, clothing, and encouragement for families and single mamas - in Springfield, Chicago, and beyond. While I may not be involved in the capacity that I thought I would be with VIVE Church, I still desire to help in any and every way available. May God take my heart and vision and use them in ways I have never dreamed possible.
So, there it is. My heart splattered all over this post. More pearls in the making. Thank you for reading and for allowing me to share my journey openly and honestly. Thank you for your friendship. And mostly, thank your for your encouragement, support and prayers. You mean the world to me. My plan is to move back to Springfield within the next 2 weeks. I appreciate your prayers as I settle back into my home and begin searching for a new job. Please pray that God will order my steps and lead me to a job that is deeply rewarding and will use my heart, gifts and talents fully. I will keep you posted.
Once again, you are my heart.
Much love,
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.
One tiny, precious pearl among many-the product of pain. Conceived through irritation, born of adversity, nursed by adjustment.