When you have been broken, knocked down, and had battle after battle, you tend to not think much of yourself. You tend to see the promises of God for everyone else, but not for you. Yes, you are forgiven and somewhat restored, but the complete promises of God are simply unattainable. This is something I struggle with daily.

Most people are familiar with the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Although, I fervently pursue all of these, the two I most desire are kindness and gentleness. Yes, I could easily use a dose (or ten) of patience, but being kind and gentle have always been (in my eyes) the unattainable ones.

If you know me, you know I am quite frank and often brass in my tone. I am loud and outgoing; always laughing and “putting on a show”. I believe I lack a filter (you could even say self-control) of some sort. I am not wallflower by any means. I like to stand out, speak up, be heard. Kind and gentle are not words I would use to describe me. Although I believed these characteristics to be unattainable, my God is bigger than what I believe and I trust Him more than I believe in myself. So, I pray.

Beginning early in 2012, I was praying to grow to be gentle and kind. On my birthday that year, I received a card that encouraged me in my pursuit; I knew I also had the intercession of my friends. Just when I thought I was headed in the right direction, I would have some sort of outburst or internal dialogue that was neither gentle nor kind. My prayer everyday was that I grow to be gentle and kind. It is still one of my greatest desires.

For several months now I have been volunteering at the Alpha Women’s Resource Center as their Post-Abortion Recovery Facilitator. In between groups, I go every Tuesday to pray for the ministry with the Client Advocate Director, Teresa. During our time of conversation and prayer, Teresa and I have grown extremely close. The comfort and safety I feel with her is indescribable. I share things with her I don’t share with my oldest, closest friends. Her love for me is authentic and when she prays on my behalf, I have a sense that God is truly listening. One day after our prayer time, I burst into tears. I explained through my tears, that although appreciative of her words, I was struggling with her description of me.

The two words that Teresa often used to describe me were kind and gentle. The two very words I believed to be unattainable. I told her my prayer and desire to be kind and gentle, but felt I was nowhere near that goal. I told her I knew God could make me kind and gentle if He chose to, but I just wasn’t there yet. She smiled in her motherly kind of way and said that she believed I am kind and gentle already. She described how she often sees how kind and gentle I really am. She reassured me that my meek and soft-spoken are not the only way kindness and gentleness are expressed. Although encouraging, her words have not fully penetrated my heart. I still see kind and gentle as being meek and soft-spoken. It is something that still pray for everyday but I now have hope that what once unattainable isn’t only attainable, but also not too far from my grasp.

The Gift

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

She laid in her bed, waiting for him to wake up. It had been years since she had this feeling. The first time in a long time she was anxious for Christmas morning to arrive. Would he like his presents? Would they fit? Would he get swept up in the material things and forget all they had learned the past few years? 

She couldn’t wait any longer. It was 7:30 a.m., plenty of “sleeping in” time. She ran into his room shouting “It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!” “Mother” he groaned.  While he slowly got up, dressed, brushed his teeth, she paced in the hall. Finally! He walked into the living room.

He gathered “the boys” (aka the cats) and opened their gift first. They were just as pleased with the wrapping paper than the actual gift. He then gave her the gifts he had gotten for her. She was with him when he purchased them, so it wasn’t a surprised, but that didn’t stop her from acting otherwise.

One by one he opened his gifts. His excitement filled her heart with joy and humility. There was no way she would be able to have done any of this if it wasn’t for her Heavenly Father prompting others to provide the means. It was simply overwhelming, yet her heart was still heavy.

As the last gift was opened and “the boys” played in their new playground of boxes and wrapping paper, she asked him to pray with her; he opened, she closed. His words were simple, but appreciative. Of course, he was grateful for the gifts, but he seemed more grateful for the many Blessings His Heavenly Father had showered them with, especially their precious Savior. On this glorious morn, filled with wanted, yet unnecessary material gifts, he had remembered to be thankful for the Giver not just the gifts.

She had taught him right, but why was her heart still heavy? There was still a deep longing for something more. Like the gifts she had received which could not be wrapped or placed under a tree, she longed for the one tangible gift her heart desired.  She was confident it was still yet to come for she had been showered with glimpses of a future filled with fulfillment, laughter, and love. Nevertheless this was not the year she would receive it.

As the day continued, the emotions of the gifts received (and those not yet received) had subsided, but the joy in their hearts remained. For the gifts unwrapped today, those of yesterday and even those yet to come could not compare to the gift that was given to them many years ago in the little town of Bethlehem when a King, their Savior, was born; The Greatest Gift of all!

Heart Against a Thorn

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (1 Corinthians 1:6-7)

Are there some people in your circle of friends to whom you naturally go to in times of trials and sorrow – people who always seem to say just the right words and who give you the very counsel you desire? If so, you may not realize the high cost they have paid to become so skilled at binding up your gaping wounds and drying your tears. Yet if you were to investigate their past, you would find they have suffered more than most other people.

They have watched the silver cord on which the lamp of life hung slowly unravel. They have seen the golden bowl of joy smashed at their feet, and its content spilled. They have experienced raging tides, withering crops, and darkness at high noon, but all this has been necessary to make them into nurses, physicians, and ministers of other.

Cartons containing spices from the Orient may be cumbersome to ship and slow in coming, but once they arrive the beautiful fragrances fill the air. In the same way, suffering is trying and difficult to bear, but hiding just below the surface is discipline, knowledge, and limitless possibilities. Each of these not only strengthens and matures us but also equips us to help others. So do not worry or clench your teeth, simply waiting with stubborn determination for the suffering to pass. Instead, be determined to get everything you can from it, both for yourself and fort he sake of those around you, according to the will of God. selected

Once I heard a song of sweetness,
As it filled the morning air,
Sounding in its blest completeness,
Like a tender, pleading prayer;
And I sought to find the singer,
Where the wondrous song was borne;
And I found a bird, quite wounded,
Pinned down by a cruel thorn.

I have seen a soul in sadness,
While its wings with pain were furled,
Giving hope, and cheer and gladness
That should bless a weeping world
And I knew that life of sweetness,
Was of pain and sorrow borne,
And a stricken soul was singing,
With its heart against a thorn.

You are told of One who loved you,
Of a Savior crucified,
You are told of nails that held Him,
And a spear that pierced His side;
You are told of cruel scourging,
Of a Savior bearing scorn,
And He died for your salvation,
With His brow against a thorn.

You “are not above the Master.”
Will you breathe a sweet refrain?
And His grace will be sufficient,
When your heart is pierced with pain.
Will you live to bless His loved ones,
Though your life be bruised and torn,
Like the bird that sang so sweetly,
With its heart against a thorn?

-Streams in the Desert

3 a.m. Friend

Do any of you have a 3 a.m. friend? You know the kind of friend who will be there for you at any time even if you call them hysterical at 3 a.m. I do. I have known JC for about 23 years and from the moment I met Him, He has always been there for me. Even if we hadn’t talked for months or even years, every time I called, He would be more willing to listen.

He is several years older than me and has experienced lots of the hardships I have experienced, so He never judged nor chastised me when I told him the latest mess I had gotten myself into. With His help, I have made some drastic leaps of faith in my life. I would like to share with you some of those leaps, how having a friend like JC has helped me and encourage you, if you don’t already have one, to find your 3 a.m. friend.

How did JC become my 3 a.m. friend? Well, He had always been there for me, but there was this one time, after I had been complaining about wanting to quit my job and “move on” that He called me in the middle of the night. JC called me out of a dead sleep and said “what is it that you want?” I told him I wanted to give a 6 week notice at my job. He said “then do it.”

There had been several times that JC has talked me out of quitting a job, but this time He was talking me into it. I hadn’t asked for His opinion, I was just venting, but I guess He felt I just needed someone to tell me that everything was going to be ok if I quit my job. Then to further encourage me, on my way to work the next morning, He had dedicated a song by Natasha Bedingfield to me. It said “Live your life with arms wide open. Today is where your book begins. The rest is still unwritten.” Then in a conversation, after I told him what I was interested in doing next, He contacted a mutual friend and I had my next job.

Not only does JC know about jobs, He is always all over the place. He moves around more than I do. I actually met Him when I lived in Boston. I remember when I was about to move to Florida, people would ask me what JC thought about the move. I was young and rebellious then, so I really didn’t care about what JC had to say about it. After several years of not talking to Him, I found out He had moved to Florida, too. Even though He was only a call away, I didn’t reach out to Him like I used to.

He apparently had been keeping tabs on me though because when I was thinking of going on mission trip, He suggested I go with Him to Guatemala. It was because of Him that I fell in love with Guatemala and have been back many times since. Then when I was thinking of moving here, He gave me some great advice which ultimately helped me decide to make the move.

Lastly, JC has taught me a lot about myself. He knew me “when” and knows how much better than I can be. JC exemplifies Proverbs 27:5-6, which says “An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” In love and without judgment, He helps me see what mistakes I have made, how I can learn from them, but most importantly how I can use them to reach my goals. My friend Kathy also knows JC very well and she says that He has an amazing way of creating beauty out of ashes.

In closing, I hope you can better understand what a great friend JC has been to me. Despite, many of my faults He has always stuck by me. He has helped me through some difficult situations, kept His distance when He knew I didn’t want to hear anything He had to say, and never allowed my stubbornness to affect our relationship when I did want to hear what He had to say. As an article in Psychology Today states “Time and distance do nothing to diminish the bond we have with these kinds of friends.”

I encourage you to find a friend like JC, better yet I recommend you ask JC to be your 3 a.m. friend. You won’t find Him in the phone book, but you will find Him in the Bible. His full name is Jesus Christ and I am certain if you ask Him to, He will be there for you like He has been for me.

Final speech of the semester. Thank You, Lord!