He loves me, oh how He loves me©

One of the words that is repeated throughout the Old Testament to the children of Israel is “remember”.  They were exhorted to remember their God, the care He had given, the love He had shown.  It would keep them going when the world around them tried to tell them that He had left them.

It’s an important factor in this world where we live.  For often circumstances try to tell us a different story than what we are choosing to believe.  Today, for me, it was a day to remember.  I find it ironic that at this moment as I sit here to write it all down the song playing in the background bellows “He loves us oh how He loves us”. It’s been 16 years now, but I can remember it, even now, like it happened yesterday.

It was one of the more difficult seasons in life.  It felt as if the world around us was taking over. David had his own business at the time where jobs were few and far between.  Our five children were ages 10 to 5 months.  Feeding a family of 7 and keeping a roof over our heads felt like an ominous task on the little income we had coming in.  Each penny became sacred as we trusted God to somehow stretch them like we had known Him to do with the loaves and fishes.

Out of nowhere it hit me.  It had been years since I had tasted it and even then I had only had it once.  I hadn’t thought of that honey baked turkey since.  Yet on this day out of nowhere the memory of its taste flooded my very being welling up the desire to have it once again.

I started the calculations in my mind.  If I scrimped here could I have enough to pay the $25.00 and buy a small one to satisfy my longing?  If I could just buy one of those turkeys…I could smell it, taste it.

The calculator in my brain started adding it all up. Maybe somewhere I would find some leftover change. I reasoned it all out that we could eat it for a several days.  After much deliberation it finally hit me.  The purchase to satisfy my longing was just too costly.  I set the desire aside, speaking of it to no one.

A day or two later a friend called to invite me to lunch.  She had been through tough financial times before.  She understood what a nice lunch would do to my soul.   She would bring her children over to babysit mine.  How fast could I say yes?

As we drove down the road she told me.  “I put dinner in your refrigerator while you were getting your children settled.”  Another oasis in the desert was offered.

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch where she listened, allowing me to reveal my weariness. She understood. Her husband had been in medical school for years, working odd jobs, to keep their family of 6 afloat. Having the opportunity to talk to someone who understood did wonders to me that day.  That in itself was a gift.  Little did I know it was only the tip of the iceberg.

Time passes too quickly in those getaway moments.  Before you knew it lunch was over and we were headed back home to my reality of small children and tight finances. She gathered up her teens, gave me a final hug and headed out the door. I headed to the refrigerator to see what we were having for dinner.

As I opened the door, there it sat.  My honey baked turkey breast.

The tears began to fall as I realized how deeply I was loved.  I had never spoken a word to anyone about my secret desire. There was only one who knew.  God, Himself.

Love came down and rescued me that day.  God placed a desire within me two days prior knowing He would bring it to pass.   While the walls of this world threatened to swallow me up, God came.  It wasn’t because I whispered some eloquent prayer.  Nor was it because I asked.  It was simply and only because He loves me.

He loves me, oh how He loves me.  I remember.

©Julie L. Todd; 2013

 

 

 

 

A Must Read: On My Worst Day!

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Rarely can I recommend a book more fully than this.  My friend, John has outdone himself. My only complaint is that it was over too quickly.  This book is now at the top of my “best ever read.”  John Lynch invites us to walk the journey with him through his good, bad and ugly days revealing the ever presence of God with him in every step of the path before him.  From his early childhood when God was but an acquaintance to his recent years John reveals the ongoing pursuit of God revealed as he looks back over his life.  This book breathes hope to those who find themselves walking difficult roads where life just doesn’t make sense.  It awakens the senses to a new dimension of the fierce love of a God who never leaves us or forsakes us even when the darkest hour seems to be upon us. The author reveals the very real, tender, endearing heart of God amidst life and it’s moments. Sometimes the road is treacherous.  Other times it is filled with pleasant surprises, but always it is filled with the presence of God.  What I love the most is the vulnerability and raw honesty in which John exposes his life for the world to know… and the beauty of how God shows up and reveals that even on his worst day… there is always a fierce, abounding, accepting love.  I loved this book, simply loved it.  Well done, my friend, well done!  You can order a copy here:  or  here:

The Awe of the Storm ©

As the breezes of fall sweep over me the music plays on Pandora.  There’s something about the words that hit a spot with me today, especially after finding this quote saved on my computer from October 14, 2012.  I don’t know who spoke it.  I only know it was saved for this day, 6 days shy of one year ago.

“If I do not experience awe in the center of a ferocious mountain storm, the storm is not lacking… my heart is lacking the ability to experience the awe. Something has happened over time that has caused me to protect myself from pain and unwittingly rob me of life.  In a moment, when I am ready, God can break through to release my heart and that same storm will open me up to a world that I’ve forgotten.”

They sing the words that speak of Jesus overcoming and I realize there’s something to them.  Like the breeze blowing past me revealing the promise of temperatures shifting, something has shifted in me.  Much of life still lies unsteady, the winds of the storms are still quite fierce here.  Therefore it’s not my circumstances.  In this collision of saved quotes and songs currently playing, my eyes are opening to see what’s awakening.  I am finding the world I had once forgotten.  

One year ago I knew there was something about that quote.  There was a sting about it, revealing something I was not yet ready to embrace.  I had no ability to see the “awe” of the storms that raged, therefore the words were saved for a later moment.  That moment was today.

Stormy seasons have often caused me to grade one of two things; my right standing with God or His with me.  So much of life was about working harder to fulfill the demands of being His. If things were going wrong it must be something I had brought on myself through sin or some lesson to be learned from Him.  Maybe if I could just get it right things would settle down.  Maybe somehow, God would have favor and stop the pelting of wind and waves.

I often heard the verse in my head that talked about how God loved to give good gifts to His children.  I struggled to find anything good being given.  I allowed the circumstances of this world to speak to me of God.  After all couldn’t He do something to stop the madness or at least lessen the winds?  It caused me to hide away from the pain, allowing the throes of life to rob me.

As I’ve watched my son battle this through his own storms of late it’s given me reason to consider it all.  The question that always comes to me is this.  How would I be with my own?  It led to a conversation which allowed me to see even more deeply the heart of the One who calls me His.

“Son, have you ever done the wrong thing?”  Yea.  “When you do something wrong, do you think I withdraw from you?” No “Do you think I would allow hard things just to teach you something valuable or to punish you for how you’ve been?” No “Do you realize that I am crazy about you because you are my son?” “Do you know I would do everything in my power to make your life better?”  Yea

The answers are easy to see when I think of my own.  Never would I allow hard things for the purpose to teach or punish.  I would do everything in my power to prevent them.  My love is not based on behavior or performance.  Never would I withdraw from him and leave him to himself to figure out what he’s not doing right.  I would give my life to save his.

God’s gotten a bad wrap you know.  Life has done that to many of us.  We expect God to stop the storms we face as a result of a world broken by sin.  When He doesn’t we wonder if it’s us or if we are honest, Him.

I can never relate to God by what I do right or what I do wrong.  Does He not love with a greater love than my own?  When I believe the right thing about the depths to which He saved me, peace settles my soul.  It’s easy to hear the message of salvation for sin, but what about love.  Didn’t He save me to love?  It is the awareness of the measures that love would go that is the “awe” in the storm.  It’s the “peace be still” of Jesus.

This is the release I’ve experienced in these last days that brings stillness while the winds and waves of difficulties continue.  While I was still a sinner, God sent Jesus to find me.  I did nothing, absolutely nothing..  He did everything.

Faith is being persuaded by that which is true.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God.  It is my “awe” in the storm.

©copyrighted:  2013; Julie L. Todd

The Bird’s Life ©

The saying goes something like this, “God is good all the time, all the time, God is good.” It’s easy to say when the stars align allowing everything to sync perfectly in place.  But in those moments when the brokenness of this world hits, how easily do the words escape my mouth?

I’ve often asked my children.  “Do you trust God is good because of what you see Him doing or because of who He is?”  It’s easy to ask the question.  It’s hard to answer sometimes.

When life falls apart, things break down, jobs get lost and money doesn’t come, where is God anyways? How does one see the goodness of God in the land of the living when the living just doesn’t appear too good?  It’s the question I’m faced with these days.

We heard the call of God calling us out of our wilderness.  We had been there 6 years. We found things harder than we had imagined they could be in that little town. Disappointment was a frequent visitor.  A job ended, a church closed it’s door, promised relationships didn’t turn out like we thought they would.  Tears flowed freely in the days and nights.  I was ready to move on after the first two years.  Yet God said, “wait”… so we waited until the day came.  We knew where we were headed.

We put our house on the market but no one called. It caused us to start looking for work. Jobs opened for both of us with ease in the same week.  We packed our house to move, renting a house here.  We left the sign in the yard in hopes that now vacant, it would surely go.  We said goodbye to the mountains of Georgia and entered the state of Tennessee.

It wasn’t long before the path took a different bent.  Suddenly David’s job opportunity fell through, leaving us unable to support one house, let alone two.  It wasn’t long before a level of doubt entered causing us to wonder if somewhere along the way we had missed something.

I’m reminded again of stories of old. The children of Israel had their times of questioning.

They were captive in a land called Egypt. They had their homes, friends and families but not their freedom.  After many times of confrontation the time came for Pharoah to let them go.  They filed out of Egypt one by one.  It wasn’t long after their feet hit the free ground that the questioning began.  Things were different from what they expected. They wanted to go back to captivity.  At least they knew what they had there.

Freedom often leads you into new territories where unexpected things come upon you. Wouldn’t it be easier to go back where you were?  Where is God in this anyways?

I don’t understand why things happen the way they do.  Why God allows a door to be opened and then slammed shut on you?  Why doesn’t it look like we are walking anywhere near where He is?  Not one person has looked at our house in almost 4 months, not one. It’s a nice house in a nice area of town, price dropped $30,000 from its appraisal. It just doesn’t make sense to the sensible mind.  One small income to support two houses? How does that happen?  Had we known that would we have left?

So is He good all the time… all the time He is good?  The temptations are there to doubt it all.  Fear tempts you to throw in the towel and run right back.  But somehow, someway His hand keeps you.

I watch the birds flying around me.  I’ve noticed them more since my friend encouraged me to.  Yesterday one came and perched itself right in front of me on the rail where I was sitting.  It twisted its head around to look at me as if to say, “do you see me here?” No matter how much I spoke to it,  it would not be startled.  I knew in that moment it was more than a happenstance.  It was a gift, a reminder.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

He is with us.  He is before us.  He is behind us.  It’s not seen in the things this world brings.  It’s simply the truth of His very nature.

I make the choice to stake my life on it all as the threat of losing our house becomes very real, and credit card debt rises from the need to pay our bills.  He must be good.  He cannot be otherwise.

The birds have no cares because they know.  I hear them singing in the night sky and am reminded once again to sing the song that lie dormant in my heart.  “God is so good, He’s so good to me.”

©copyrighted:  Julie L. Todd 2013

The Fountains of Life@

As we walked the downtown streets of my old hometown we promised her she would play in the water.  I’m not sure my grand girl understood, after all she’s not quite 2 years old.  But when we happened upon the small pools of water you could see it in her eyes.

As she was unbuckled from her stroller she began to make her way to tiny areas of water scattered in front of the aquarium.  She couldn’t get there fast enough.  First it was the one that held the rocks, next it was the one with the small tunnel.   The water began to lap the hem of her dress as she reached in to touch.  She was having the time of her life.

It was a slice of delight for her on that hot summer day.  But all too soon it ended.  It was time to move on.  Bigger things awaited, things she knew not of.

She didn’t want to leave.  She wasn’t happy with us.  Her protests were made known as we gathered her up, tears cascading down her cheeks.  We tried to tell her that we were going some place better, but she could not see.  Why were we taking her away?  She was having fun.  This was where she wanted to be.  Didn’t we understand?  As I took her hand I told her,  “we are going to the big fountains.”

She pulled and tugged to get away.  She wanted to go back where she had been.  My firm grasp pulled her forward away from the confining pools where she was finding such pleasure.  I knew what awaited her.  I knew it would be much more than what she had just seen.  She did not.

As we walked she began to settle, after all what other choice did she have?   We reached the bridge across the river, walking one step in front of the other.  Soon she began to run, becoming distracted with what was around her.  She didn’t know where she was headed, she walked simply because it was the path made for her.  She accepted the small pools as a faint memory.  It’s easy to happen with a small child.

As we turned the corner she saw them.  Fountains shooting up in the air, children running in and out.   She had hit the mother lode.  Laughter returned. Joy filled her eyes.  Moments before she couldn’t trust where we were leading her.  Now she stood in a place where all seemed right in the world around her.  What a difference perspective makes when our eyes see what the other has known.

As I sat there watching it all play out I knew this whole set-up was for me.

It’s hard to understand the ways of God.  Sometimes it feels as if He has taken me away from something I’ve longed for with no consideration to what I want.  After all He took me into this wilderness where longings have been left unfulfilled didn’t He?  I have pulled and tugged, lamenting as the tears have fallen.  It’s been hard not to give up and throw in the towel.  What good could He have for me here?

I am reminded of a group of people who waited a long time for deliverance.  When it finally came they were pushed along.  The path was the longer route around obstacles they had not had to endure before. The shorter route would have led them straight into the hands of an enemy they weren’t prepared to meet.  They had to go around.   They whined, complained,  pulled and tugged.  Maybe they could go back to Egypt.  At least they knew what to expect there.  But God’s hand wouldn’t let them go.  He knew.  

It wasn’t where they wanted to be.  It was where they were led.  A greater thing awaited them, Red Seas parting, enemies being removed and on further a promised land.

God’s ways are higher than mine… just as mine were higher than my grand girl’s.  I knew all along that she would hit the mother lode.  It’s why I took her away from the smaller ponds.

He knows things I know not of, things I have not yet seen.  Things await me in unseen places.

In that moment on that hot summer day I saw the twinkle in His eyes as He opened mine to remind me.  He sees the whole picture.  He knows…..

Greater things are yet to come…

@copyrighted: 2013; Julie L. Todd

Seasons of Silence©

I’ve never done very well with silence.  It seems to have its own language, one I’m not very fond of.  Things often get misinterpreted leaving too much room for the imagination.  Hidden insecurities often rise to the surface leaving me to doubt and wonder.  I’ve been known to read a face when words do not escape lips; after all the eyes are the window to the soul.  It’s difficult to do with an unseen God.  I can’t see His eyes to know that the silence might not be all that I believe it to be.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined life to take the twists and turns that have come in these last two years. Often with transformative change there is upheaval, mess and down right weariness.  I have been weary beyond words as the elements of what seemed a cold hard winter invaded my soul.

I knew the words of scripture “I will never leave you or forsake you” yet when the silence falls so hard you begin to wonder.  Where is God anyways?  I couldn’t see Him, I couldn’t feel Him and now He’s gone silent.  It has challenged me in ways I’ve not known.

I have been reminded of the 400 years at the end of the Old Testament, before the new. God never left but He sure was quiet.  In the silence much was going on behind the scenes.  Preparation was being made for the greatest gift that would ever be given, the rescue of the souls of man.  Maybe the silence was an indication that He was busy behind the scenes of my life, preparing the gifts.  One could hope.

As I sit by the window on this cool day in April I see the evidence of Spring creeping its way across these mountains. I ache with the hope that it too has come to me.  I long to feel the winds of the Spirit blowing through me again like the gentle breezes that flow through these trees.

The words came to me again as I contemplated it all. I dared to ask in hopes that this time the sound barrier might be broken.  Maybe this time I would hear the whispers that would make some sense of all this, setting my heart to bloom once again with hope.  “Why Jesus?”  “Why has it been so quiet?”  “Why have you been so absent?”

“I never left, Jewel.”

“Then where have you been?”

“Right beside you, holding you, tight.”  “It’s been a season of grief.”  “You needed to be held in this cold, hard winter.” “Words don’t mean much in the midst of grief and death.”  “It’s the holding close that makes a difference. “I wasn’t absent, Jewel.” “I held you while you wept.”  “As upheaval has come to your world, as you watched, ached, longed, and have fallen, I have held you.”  “I have kept you.” “When life threatened to throw you over the cliff, I grabbed you.” “I was the arms that held you.”

As the words washed over me the vision came. There I was agony on my face, the ache of grief hidden in the walls of my heart, the sobs of the deep, and the arms tightly wrapped around; immoveable, invisible, yet there, tightly swaddling.

“This was a season of being held while you suffered loss, so I held you tight, so very tight.”  “Grief has its season.”  “It feels like the bleakness of winter, the hardness of the ground where the plants hide away.”  “But even grief has its perfect work.”  “You have been hidden amidst the grief as life has been changing around you, and in you.”

“I would never leave you for you are too valuable to Me.”  “Don’t ever forget that.”

In the twinkling of an eye my heart was opened allowing the gentle breeze of His Spirit to find its way into the depths of my soul.  Suddenly I see what I have not known…..

I have been held by God.

©copyrighted: 2013: Julie L. Todd

 

 

The Compassion of God ©

The truck pulled into the driveway.  The gentleman that stepped out lived up the street.  I had seen him before but had never met him.  He went to the other side of his vehicle to gather my son gently up in his arms.  We walked to the door to greet him seeing his purpose for being there.  Josiah was scraped up pretty bad, abrasions on his face, arms, and legs.  His bicycle had crashed.

We thanked our neighbor, took our son inside and began to assess the damage.

Killer hill is just as it sounds, a steep hill with a long drop.  We’d told our son he could not take his bicycle there.  We knew its dangers.  He would not be able to handle it at his age.  He didn’t listen.

There’s something about being told you cannot do, that makes you want to do.  It was that way with my son that day.  He couldn’t anticipate the pain that awaited him if he crashed.  He wanted to be on his own running after that which he wanted.  It wasn’t until afterwards that the cost became evident to him, as he felt the sting of flesh torn abrasions multiplied on his little body.

As I watched him breathe in and out of the pain I ached.  I took him in my arms and tenderly washed his wounds applying the bandages to help them heal.  I could see the regret on his face as he received the love so freely offered.

I wonder what my son thought when he crashed down that hill?  Did he wonder if he would be in trouble?  Did he expect to be reprimanded?  After all he had done the wrong thing, that which he had been told not to do.  But I didn’t care that he had gone against what I had told him.  All I cared about was somehow, someway easing his pain to make it all better.

As this memory floods my being I am made aware of something that’s been there all along.  This has been the way of God with me.

I haven’t known that for most of my life.  For sin distorts everything I see.  I have felt the shame of my sin and believed He must too.   Oh he would never say that to me but somewhere deep inside at the core of my being, I knew I was a disappointment at best.

For you see, sin changed the way I saw; Me.  I believed what I saw, God saw too.  As I sit here I wonder what it did to His heart to watch me wait to be reprimanded and chastised, unaware of His true love.

I didn’t have eyes to see Him holding me close, cleaning my wounds, dressing them and making it all better.  I was convinced that He had to be disappointed in me.  After all I didn’t follow what I was told to follow.  In my limited understanding I was convinced that He had to be wishing I was something I was not.  It caused me to step on a gerbil wheel to try harder next time, to be better.  Somehow, someway I would strive to become that good little girl I was supposed to be.   The God I was told about saw my imperfections but  somehow found a way in his heart to love me in spite of them.

It’s not the God I’ve now come to know.

The first act of love in the Garden of Eden was to cover the attempts Adam and Eve had made to assuage their sin.  They were naked and ashamed of what they had done.  They gathered fig leaves to hide the rawness of their failures and then they hid. They were afraid of God and what He would do.

But God came after them for He desperately loved them.  He removed their self-imposed coverings and replaced it with His own…  From that day forward Adam and Eve were covered by God.  It’s stunning to realize it all. 

Everyday, on my worst day, I am covered by God with the righteousness of Christ.  On my ugliest days of making wrong choices I am loved with an everlasting love.  He sees me not in my sin but in the newness of who He knows me to be.

The more the religious bindings fall away the more clearly I see this mother heart that dwells within revealing this God I have loved for so long.  Sin distorts everything, yet love covers a multitude of sin.

This life with my own awakens me to the reality of His heart to me.  For my dear ones are loved beyond their wildest dreams.  The love does not change due to the mistakes they make.  They are mine and I am theirs, always and forever.

While I was yet a sinner Christ came for me.  He didn’t see the filth I was covered in.  He saw the one He created to love.

He saw …. Me

©copyrighted:  2012; Julie L. Todd