Intangible Gifts

“… and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.”  (Matthew 2:9-11)

At Christmastime, we remember God’s greatest gift to mankind – his Son. The wise men celebrated the birth of Jesus by giving him gifts fit for a king. And so began the tradition of gift giving as we know it today. Even with our poor, recession-like economy, this Christmas will witness the giving and receiving of many gifts. I’ve been guilty of giving gifts to my children – even when I knew that they were not mature enough to handle them – in the hopes that they would somehow rise to the occasion. Sometimes, blessedly, they do. But sometimes, I’m disappointed for my efforts. They ask, they get – without putting any real work or effort into earning these privileges. They don’t have a real appreciation for all I had to do to give them these things. And so I’ve learned to withhold gifts until they are mature enough to handle the responsibility. I just want to know they can handle it.

Then, the thought occurred to me: How many of US are ready to receive the gifts that God has for us? How many of us could truly be appreciative if he gave us all we asked for right now? Could we handle it? Would you recognize it when you saw it? Would you appreciate all that went into preparing that blessing? We ask and we wait – impatiently, most of us – for God to do his thing (and our bidding). But what if we’re not waiting on him – what if he is waiting on us to be able to fully appreciate what he has done? What if he is waiting to know we can be trusted to not abuse our gifts? Like our children, we may not yet be ready to handle our blessings responsibly. Of course, we don’t want to wait – waiting can be so discouraging. As we wait, we tend to lose hope and give up altogether. But waiting can also be a good thing – the person you are now is not the person that you will become. Hopefully, along the way, you will come to be mature enough to handle your blessings when they do materialize. The person that you will become is worth the wait.

Just like we understand how to give good gifts to our children, God does, too! (Matthew 7:11) I’m proud of the moments, as a parent, when I am able to look at my children and think, “Wow – they get it now!” More than giving the gift, I love having faith in their ability to handle the gift responsibly and appropriately. It’s one of my greatest joys as a mother; it validates and justifies the means that went into preparing them to receive the gift. God, too, reserves the right to give his best gifts when he knows we’ll be able to appreciate them. But sometimes, the best gift is intangible; it’s in the journey we make and the lessons we learn along the way.

Be blessed,


A Woman’s Worth

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Proverbs 31:10

“I know you have a little life in you; I know you have a lot of strength left.”  Maxwell, “A Woman’s Work”

I had a co-worker ask me once, “Are you a woman of excellence?” I didn’t know what that meant but I was pretty sure I could be included in that category. I was a good mother and a good wife. I tried as hard as I could to be a good example to others. Eventually, I came to use the woman revered in the 31st chapter of Proverbs as my measuring rod. I asked myself, did I do all the things that she did? I went through the check list and asked myself: Do gooder? Check! Hard worker? Check! Take care of home so that my husband did not have to worry? Check, check, check! I could answer “Yes!” to all of those questions. Woman of excellence? Two thumbs pointing back at me, BINGO! I visualized the title and a picture of myself in the dictionary! I did try so very hard to live up to that title, even before I knew what it meant.

So fast forward 20 years and now I am no longer the good wife (my ex-husband had a different opinion on how good a job I was doing with that, LOL) but, I maintain that I am still a woman of excellence. My mom was a woman of excellence before me and I drew on her strength. She set the example and now I strive to be the good example for my own daughter to follow. In an age where women are known to be capable of doing pretty much anything – sometimes for money, sometimes for fame and sometimes (shamefully) for free – I try to hold on to my integrity. To be the exception, rather than the norm. It’s not easy, not by a long shot. I fight to go against the grain because I want to raise up young women after me who will do the same – to be known as someone’s (or maybe just their own) woman of excellence.

When we were small my mother was mother to a blended family. My father’s first family resulted in 5 children (3 girls and 2 boys); while my mother brought her own two boys into the mix. Add us three (me, my sister and brother) and we had a real Brady Bunch. I grew up watching my mom love us all, even her non-biological children, with the same love. She loved us all, chastened us all, fed us all and we loved her, each of us, desperately. She is a woman bred in the country, not highly educated but you wouldn’t find a lady with more class. She never made a difference between us and them. And when my elder siblings own mother passed, she was a comfort to them. My sister was devastated at her loss and had said to herself, “Daddy’s gone and now Madear is gone – I’m an orphan!” And she wept. Until she saw my mother. Her face lit up and she grabbed us all up and hugged us and kissed us, realizing she was not alone. She still had a mother. She was not an orphan.

So I strive to be that woman, to leave that kind of legacy, to love and nurture children that are not mine as I do my own. Because of the example that was set before me, I am a strong woman among strong women. And I accept no less from the women I mentor. “You are a strong woman because you come from a line of strong women.” I let them know it is in their blood. It’s in the blood of every woman. We are all sisters. But being a woman of excellence is more than blood ties, it is a choice that we can make. We can choose to raise our children well and to be good examples. We can choose to live our lives purposely and consciously, always keeping in mind that others are following in our footsteps.

One day, right before my son’s senior year in high school, I said to my mom: “Madear, my kids are about to graduate high school. I made it! I did what I set out to do. I’ve raised my children. There was a time when I didn’t think I would make it and now it’s done! Can you believe it?” She looked at me and said “Did you ever doubt it? You came from me!” She knew what she put in me. She knew she had shown me what it was to be strong. She knew I could make it even when I questioned that myself. My circumstances revealed just how strong I could be for my children’s sake.

At this time of year, we remember Mary, the mother of Jesus – the epitome of a woman of noble character, despite the fact the she chose to bear a child out of wedlock. We know the story: an angel appeared and told her she had been selected for a great honor – to bear the Savior of the world. Hers was not an easy decision to make. Not only was there a stigma attached to unwed mothers but she rightfully could have been stoned for her actions. Joseph could have refused to marry her and left her alone in her shame. She accepted the will of God for her life, even though it meant that she would be shunned and ridiculed by others. We know, from the biblical accounts, many details of the birth of Jesus – how the wise men sought him, how there was no room at the inn so she gave birth to him in a manger. We know how Herod pursued the child to kill him to keep him from fulfilling his destiny. Not much is mentioned about his childhood other than a side trip to the temple at age twelve when he got separated from his earthly parents. When Mary scolded him for causing her to worry, he replied, “Didn’t you know I would be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49, paraphrase)

See, I think his response tells us a lot about the challenges she faced raising such a young man – headstrong, eager to get to the task at hand. But he was not ready. It wasn’t his time yet. He needed to be prepared. Mary had to find a way to chasten him, to teach him – he, who was born the son of the Almighty God. She had to raise her son in a harsh world. She taught him humanity, the good and the bad of it and what it was like to have and to not have. She taught him compassion. Because of her position in life, he likely had to learn some hard truths. I cannot help but see her influence in his teachings. I cannot help but see his love and concern for his own mother in how he responded to the needs of others. She bore many indignities to bring her son into this world and then, she watched him die. Jesus loved her so that he gave her a son, his disciple, to replace him. Mary was a woman of her time but she was no namby-pamby woman who was just an incubator for the great birth. She was more than a vessel – she was his first teacher. She was not just a woman with an insipid, Mona Lisa smile. Jesus loved her as a son would love his mother and they had a real relationship. God chose her for her qualities, for her excellent character, to take an active role in raising his son. But it began with her choice to be a woman of excellence.

Be blessed,


It’s in You!

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

When my children were small I wanted to put them in a private Christian school. It was a status symbol – most of my Christian friends put their kids in private schools. It was our way of turning our noses up at the public school system, which was in no way good enough for our precious children! It also served a practical purpose – I wanted my children to grow up knowing about God. So I set about finding this dream school, one that would keep my children safe, give them a quality education and most importantly, teach them about God. After visiting several schools with disastrous results, I quickly became discouraged – one school wanted permission to beat them, another wanted to hold them back a year! I was frustrated and finally complained to God one day while I was driving, “I wanted them to go to school and learn about You!” I threw my hands up, asking for help, “What am I supposed to do?” The Voice came back at me, answering me, quick as a wink – “You teach them.” I felt the quiet in the car all around me as I realized He had spoken to me. In the stillness I pondered that unforeseen scenario. Teach them myself? That had not even occurred to me.

I obeyed that voice and so began my journey to become a teacher. My own father had been a minister and I grew up in church. As a young lady I was a Sunday school teacher and later participated in various ministries, as I became the wife of a minister. What I didn’t realize then was that all of those things went into preparing me for my future role. As it turned out, I had a natural affinity for teaching. I taught my kids at every opportunity, never missing a chance to teach a lesson “…when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19) Sometimes, we sat around the dining room table for hours, talking until it was dark as my children begged, “Mama, tell us another God Story!” How they loved those stories. So I grew from being a Sunday school teacher and went on to become a Bible study leader and occasional guest speaker. As I taught my children, I found that I had everything I needed living inside me. All of that grew from that brief conversation I had with God. He used my predicament to reveal in me a talent, a gift that I didn’t even know I had. It had yet to be revealed. But it was in me, help was in me, all along.

The point I want to make is that the Holy Ghost (or some like to say intuition) is your teacher. He will reveal things to you – you just need to listen to that inner voice. That Counselor is in you – therefore, you are already equipped to do a lot of things you may think you are unable to do. Sometimes you are the answer to your own problem! He has empowered you. That means you are not as helpless as you think. I personally believe in my own power to change my life. I’m not one to lie down and let things happen. I am willing take my own life in my hands and make it better but even still, I need help. I need guidance. And I get it. I ask for it early and often! A friend once said to me, “You have such wisdom about you – where does that come from?” I could only answer, “From God.”

When I was going through my divorce, my mother was afraid for me. The newspapers were filled with reports of women who were found dead at the hands of their ex-husband or lover. My mother, even though she never knew my ex to be violent like that, believed him to be a jealous man. She thought my leaving him might trigger an episode of ”I’ll kill you before I let you leave me!” rage. At the time, I laughed at her fear. But emotions were running high – it had the potential to end badly. Still, things somehow worked out okay. Afterwards, my mom wondered how I ended things without violence. My explanation? I just knew. Can’t tell you how – there was just something in me, guiding me, telling me how to extricate myself. I trusted that voice and it made my path smooth. Not less painful, mind you. It was still painful. And the divorce was far from amicable – too many hard feelings. But it didn’t end in bloodshed and I count that as a major achievement.

I wanted to buy a house and so I did. Simple, right? Then my friends said to me, “How did you manage that?” Well, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be able to do it. My sister commented, “I don’t know anyone who gets a divorce and is better off!” While not grand, my present house is in a better neighborhood and bigger than my last home that I shared with my ex. I realized then that this, too, was nothing short of miraculous. Again, how did it happen? I can only say His presence was there with me every step of the way, guiding me. God wouldn’t let me fail. He’s good like that when I just trust him. I prayed and put it in his hands and watched things fall into place. That was easier said than done – it’s hard to let go of the control and leave it to him to work it out. I was a realtor and loan officer at the time but I had very little experience. Not to mention that, at the time, I should not have been able to afford said house! But God gave me wisdom that I shouldn’t have had and put all the right people in my path. The end result was I closed on my house so quickly that it left many people with their mouths gaping open!

Most recently, a friend of mine was feeling frustrated because she wasn’t getting the help and support that she felt was needed to make her venture successful. She had been there for her family and friends and hoped for the same support from them. She was understandably discouraged. I told my friend a truth I’ve learned; we often try to take people along for the ride who just aren’t meant to come. It’s nobody’s fault – it just is. You both may be in different stages in your lives. Frustration kicks in when they don’t share your vision or enthusiasm. We try to pull these people along when sometimes we’re meant to make the journey alone. They may even hamper our progress with their negative attitudes and resistance. So don’t be afraid to leave them behind and go alone. You can trust God to provide you with the very help you need to get the job, any job, done. Just know that if he has given you a task to complete, he has also given you the tools needed to take on the challenge. All the help you need is right here. It’s in you. You have the power.

Be blessed,


Childlike Faith

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 18:1-4, NIV)

This weekend I went to see New Moon (the sequel to Twilight) and I loved it! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the franchise (or have been living under a rock!), these movies are based on the books of the same name. It’s the love story of Edward (a sparkly vampire) and Bella (your average human) and the obstacles they encounter. He loves her but he also wants to drink her blood. She loves him and she actually wants to be bitten so she can be like him. Edward’s a good vampire, or at least he tries to be, not only for Bella’s sake but because he doesn’t want to be a monster. So, what does this have to do with faith, you ask? Well, I guess I could get all noble and say I really admire how Edward aspires to overcome what he has become. He actually goes against his natural predatory instincts to be a better man. The urge to be better, to overcome our natural tendencies, to triumph in spite of our circumstances, to just be more is something many of us can identify with. Edward tries to redeem himself for his past sins with good works. The message being that there is redemption in love, even for a monster. I could say all that.

But the truth of the matter is, I am and have always been a paranormal junkie! Even as a young girl, I fell in love with science fiction (Dune), fantasy/adventure (The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings) and romance novels. I love all kinds of fiction. I love Disney cartoons (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid). I’m a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed and lots of other supernatural themed TV series, books and movies. Witches, warlocks, vampires and werewolves – bring ’em on! Star Trek – time travel – ‘nuff said! And, although I don’t generally like horror movies, for a short time I even enjoyed the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Hey, don’t judge me – I thought Freddie Kruger was pretty funny! By themselves, these things seem to indicate tastes that are rather random. But I have found a common theme running throughout – I like escaping to a world where anything is possible.

At the heart of it all, I want to believe in magical things. I want to see them. Not surprisingly, I love to find God and parallels to the Bible in these stories. These stories are not at odds with my faith, although this was not always the case. For a time, I struggled with being drawn to these stories because they didn’t fit with what a “Christian” should read, or so I thought. I even weighed in on the Harry Potter debate and pronounced it evil because of the subject matter, without even reading it. Then I heard a Christian radio show that discussed how evil the Harry Potter books were but that The Lord of the Rings was really different because it was somehow Christian themed. I thought that was a silly argument since they were both pretty much the same genre. But this debate piqued my curiosity, provoking me to read the Harry Potter books. I loved them and pronounced them good to read and not evil. I found the last book to be especially Christian themed, complete with a resurrection scene! Now, I’ve made my peace with the seeming contradictions, choosing to view them as two sides of the same coin. In fact, I think it’s because of my faith that I find these stories so fascinating.

As a believer, childlike faith– a core belief that he is able to do anything and that all things are possible, is essential. Children don’t struggle with this concept – they completely get it. When my son was small, he loved Buzz Lightyear from Disney’s Toy Story. He kept showing me pictures because he wanted it for Christmas and he wanted me to know where to find it. He begged, “Just look at it Momma!” After he showed it to me, he said, “Right, Momma? God can do anything, right?” I said, “Yes, baby. He can do anything.” He said, “Right, Momma – he can even make my toys come to life!” I hesitated at that one. I didn’t want to mislead him. I tried to come up with a suitable, non-committal answer. “Yes, he could – but I don’t think he’s going to.” He persisted, “Yeah – but he could, right?” Again, I struggled. I didn’t want to give him false hope. Then the light bulb came on. “Yes, he could!” I was more certain now. “He could. Once he even made a donkey talk!” I told him the story of how God used the donkey to warn Balaam that he was in danger (Numbers 22). After that, we were both satisfied – me, because I had a sure answer for his question and him, because his belief was affirmed – God is able.

We can all cultivate more childlike faith in our lives but that doesn’t mean you’re simple or naive. It means you tend to look and believe that good things can and will happen. As a friend of mine once said, “When you look for good things to happen, they tend to happen.” What is faith but the ability to believe that God loves us and he wants good things for our lives? God said to Jeremiah (and thereby, to us):

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Some versions replace the last line with, “plans to give you an expected end.” I like that translation even better because I believe and trust God to give me the ending that I hope for and expect. I have faced trials and disappointments armed with the knowledge that no matter how bad things seem, he ultimately has good plans for me. And that gives me hope for right now.

Be blessed,


Give Thanks

“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  Luke 17:15-18

In this story from the bible, ten lepers cried out to Jesus for healing. They stood at a safe distance away from him because lepers were considered contagious and they were forbidden, by law, to come near the population as they were considered “unclean”. Jesus looked at the lepers, saw their need and told them to go and show themselves to the priests – as was the custom – to verify their cleansing. The lepers obeyed Jesus and they were soon healed of their disease along the way. But one man, when he saw that he was healed, returned to Jesus to thank him. One out of ten. Maybe the other nine were so consumed with thoughts of being returned to the general populace, regaining their lives or just giddiness over being healed. Jesus’ reaction to the one man who returned is significant. It shows that Jesus appreciated that this one man took the time to stop, acknowledge his blessing and give God praise.

You would think that we shouldn’t have to be reminded to say thank you. In a perfect world, I suppose that would be true. But we forget about it all the time – how many times have you had to remind your children: “Don’t forget to say thank you!” In our present day, we often get caught up in the pursuit of things, taking care of families and earning an income. Sometimes, we get so busy that we take our blessings for granted or we don’t even see them. Thanksgiving is the one day of the year when we are all reminded to be thankful for what we have, whatever it may be. God wants us to appreciate all that he does for us. I’ve found that the more grateful I am for his blessings, the more he does for me. He keeps me constantly in awe, thinking – “Wow! God did you just do that?” Or maybe it’s not that he’s doing more. Maybe I just finally see what he’s been doing all along and acknowledge his blessings.

Today I want to thank God for the many people in my life who support and encourage me. Thank you to the men in my life who stepped up to the plate – you have been father figures, mentors and good role models for my children. Thank you to the women who loved and cherished them and even chastened them, when needed. I know I did not raise them alone. Thank you to my children – you encouraged me and gave me strength. The seed I planted in you has returned to me multiplied many times over. Thank you to my friends and cronies who have been privy to the details of my most private pain and also witnessed my victories. You all have been my greatest cheerleaders – you helped me to believe in myself. Thank all of you for ministering to me. Most of all, I want to thank God for help. Sometimes, it comes in the form of miracles. And sometimes, he sends people.

Be blessed,


What will you do with Your Talent?

“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.”
Matthew 25:14 KJV

I was known in one of my previous occupations as the “what if?” girl – the one who always had a question. I earned that title during a CSR training session because I asked the instructors endless questions, trying to understand what my proper response should be during any given situation. My instructors were ok with my countless questions because they understood that was how I learned.

One day I was sitting at work, reflecting on the 25th chapter of Matthew and the Parable of the Talents. Something about it disturbed me; it was gnawing at me, bothering me. The story goes like this:

A man went to a far away country and entrusted three of his servants with talents of money. The first, he gave five talents; the second, two talents and the last he gave one talent. The first two men immediately took the money and invested it, eventually doubling their master’s money. The last man took his talent and buried it. Some time passed and eventually the master returned and required an accounting of the funds he had entrusted to his servants. The first two gave their reports with this result:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”  (Matthew 25:21 NIV)

Good news for them! The master was understandably pleased with their efforts. Then, the time came for the third servant’s reckoning. He had no profit to show because he had buried the money. The master was not pleased:

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.”
(Matthew 25:26 NIV)

Whoa! Wait a minute! I was lost – what had this man done to be considered “wicked and lazy”? As far as I could tell, he hadn’t done anything wrong. He just didn’t do anything. So I asked God the question. And the answer came back as a question, “Why would he bury the money?” Well, yeah – that was strange compared to the others. It is their actions that make him look bad. If they knew enough to invest the money for a return, why didn’t he? To bury the money was to blow off the responsibility and potential for growth that he had been given. What would make a person do that?

I thought back to my days of handling small children and their squabbles. When you give a child something (a toy, a drink, a cookie), they are fine with it until they look and see what you have given another child. They see what they don’t have. “He has more juice than me! Her toy is bigger than mine! They cry, they fight and they sulk. It occurred to me that burying the talent was the third servant’s version of sulking. After all, he got the least. Surely, there had to be some resentment about his portion. It equaled his master’s assessment of his abilities. That must have bothered him. So he showed the master just how he felt about the responsibility assigned to him. He did nothing with it.

But the day of reckoning came for him – as it must for all of us. And God, the master, will require an accounting of the talents (or gifts and responsibilities) that he has entrusted to us. He will say, “What have you done with what I have given you?” The greatest respect we can show for his gift is to be able to respond, “I have increased it.” Whatever our gifts may be, wherever our talent lies, it is our responsibility to give it back to God, multiplied. It is expected. This is how we honor his gifts. And this is how we grow.

This lesson translates to my daily life like this: every year I give an accounting for my life (as I must one day to Him!) and I expect to see growth in some area. I look back and see what goals I have set, whether I’ve reached them and measure my progress. It may be in the area of finances or my career, in my personal life, in my health, in my relationship with my children, in my ministries – every year it differs. I set goals and I expect to see growth. I expect to have bettered my situation. I expect to see change. Increase is work! I pursue it because I know one day he will hold me accountable. When we are responsible with what he has given shows him he can trust us with more.

Be blessed,


Yes, Jesus Loves Me

“I’ve given up trying to figure it out why he loves me like that. I just know that he does and I accept it now.”  Me, November 6th, 2009

“Yes, Jesus loves me, for the Bible tells me so.” Christian Children’s Hymn

Once, while reading the Gospel of John, I was struck by a phrase that was repeated several times: “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. This statement seemed strange to me because I was always told that God is not a “respecter” of person or station – he loves us all equally. So how could this guy be referred to as the one Jesus loved, as if he had a special place, a superior relationship and privileges above the other disciples? At least, that’s what it implied to me. It didn’t seem right that this disciple had more love than the others and, by extension, potentially more than me. So, I asked God why – how could this be? As a friend of mine always says, “Ask God a question and you’ll get an answer.” Sure enough, the clue came at the end of the book of John:

“This is that disciple who saw these events and recorded them here. And we all know that his account of these things is accurate.” (John 21:24)

The disciple whom Jesus loved and the writer of the book are one and the same. This is his personal testimony of his relationship with Jesus. He couldn’t speak for the other disciples but he knew that Jesus loved HIM! He claimed that love as his own, basked in it, reveled in it. Yes, Jesus loves me!

At the time of that revelation, I was just beginning to understand how much he loved me. I was going through yet another crisis – I won’t go into details (some things are too personal to share in a public forum) but I can tell you the experience left me a zombie. I was devastated, beyond comfort. I was numb. My very worst fear had been realized. I was in the valley, y’all – deep, way deep in the pit of despair. The pain was so great that I had suicidal thoughts but I wouldn’t give in. I couldn’t – my children needed me and self preservation had me clinging to the only hope I had. It was like Jesus threw me a life preserver and said “Hold on” – which I did, for all I was worth. I was unable to do much more than that but I knew, I hoped (I was too numb to pray) that if I just held on I could ride it out. I didn’t dare dream about what would be on the other side of the storm. I was just trying to make it there where things would just be better.

A voice came to me during my zombie state one day and said, “Do you know I love you?” And I, thinking I was talking to myself, replied “Yeah, yeah – I know. You love everybody. You love the whoooole world. For God so loved the world – blah, blah, blah.” And the voice said again, “I love you. I died for you.” The voice ceased after that and I really didn’t think any more of it. Daily life continued, more of just barely hanging on, more of merely existing. Until Sunday as I was on my way to church (that was part of hanging on, y’all!) I almost had a car accident. And then another one – two near misses in one morning! I went on to church and went through the motions, acting like everything was normal. My (then) husband stayed at church for the afternoon service while I took the kids to visit his mother. Before I knew it, time had flown and I was supposed to be back at church to pick up my husband. In a hurry now, I flew down the expressway trying to make up time.

It was drizzling. My tires were bad. I lost control of the car and hit the metal barrier. Hit my head –bleeding. Kids were crying. We’re all shook up and the front of my car is ruined. I don’t even have time to be dazed because there’s smoke coming out of my engine! In a panic, I grab the kids and get us all out of the car. Good Samaritans have pulled over to offer assistance (God bless you all!), a clean towel for my bleeding head and a cell phone to call my family and let them know what’s happened. The cars are roaring by – so much noise! I looked over at the mangled car and back to us huddled together on the shoulder of the expressway. Back over to the mangled mess, back over to me and my children – until I realized just how badly this could have ended. But there we were, virtually undamaged (except for my head) and whole. As the shock set in, the Voice returned to me, speaking quietly but heard above the roar: “I love you. I died for you.” I grabbed my mouth, gasping, crying as I tried to grasp the enormity of what God had just shown me. He loves me. Me. And he spoke to me! People populate the earth like grains of sand – I am a mere drop in a bucket but he loves me. Individually. Great BIG God – itty bitty me. WOW. That blew my mind and I was humbled beyond belief.

From that point on, I was able to claim his love just like that beloved disciple for I know he loves me. When I told my children that story, they said “Mama, he don’t just love you! He loves us, too!” I think they thought I was being kind of greedy to keep it all, claim it all for myself – something close to how I felt when I read about “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. But then they figured it out just like I did … and claimed it, too.
Be blessed,


Getting to Know Him

Anna sings “Getting to know you,” in a scene from one of my favorite musicals from my childhood, “The King and I”

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

After reading my first article, my daughter said, “I’m mad that you didn’t tell them how your life is better and how it’s changed.” I told her there would be plenty of time to cover that but then I thought – hey, that’s a good point. How do I measure how much my life has changed? Have you ever heard the song, “God has done so much, I cannot tell it all”? I don’t think I could make a list long enough to contain all the things that he’s done for me. It’s been a journey filled with laughter and tears (cliché, I know) and along the way, I’ve discovered the ability to overcome every obstacle within me. I have become my own hero. Pre-divorce, I didn’t know that about myself. To see the difference and measure the gap between Loria then and Loria now is to understand how much he has blessed me.

I guess the main difference between me then and me now is that I know that no matter what happens in life, even if it shakes my very foundations – I will not be destroyed. I can take it – whatever life dishes out. Of this, I am now certain. I feel sure I can’t fail now because I know He won’t let me. That’s a real confidence booster! God has shown me repeatedly that I can count on him. He is more than the whole world against me. (2 Kings 6:16) I don’t know why he loves me like that. I’ve given up trying to figure it out. I just know that he does and I accept it. I used to spend a lot of time worrying because I didn’t know the outcome of a situation. My A.D. incarnation (After Divorce) worries a lot less. I realized I already know the outcome of any given situation. God has promised to work things out for my good, no matter what it looks like right now. I trust in that.

Another difference is in how I know Him now. Loria PD (Pre-Divorce) used to pray to a God who seemed sometimes far removed from the concerns of my life. I had yet to know him as the one who would get right down there in the mud with me and help me to claw my way out. Now, I know what He will do because of what He has already done. He has shown himself to be dependable, so I trust Him. But don’t get me wrong – we (God and me, that is) had to go a few rounds before we got to where we are today.

Once, while I was talking to my girlfriend and feeling frustrated and fed up with the state of my life – I had one of those fist-shaking, rage-at-the-heavens moments. I mean, I was so tired of it all. I was like, “What is going on?” You know, having a real tantrum that was more child-like and not at all Christ-like. My girlfriend sat there in silence and finally said, “You notice I’m letting you say all that and I’m not adding anything to it.” She wanted to state for the record, just in case God was listening, that she had nothing bad to say about Him. We both laughed at her attempt to distance herself from what many view as blasphemy. She was understandably uncomfortable with the idea of me venting my anger and questioning God. But I gave her this example:

“Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.”  1 Chronicles 13:11

This incident occurred as David was bringing the recently liberated Ark of the Covenant to his headquarters in Jerusalem. Uzzah paid the supreme price with his life when he put out his hand to steady the ark. He touched what none but the priests had been authorized to touch. I’m not going there with the why of if right now, but you can imagine this bought the festivities to a screeching halt. God did WHAT? And David dared to be angry with God? God didn’t strike him down? Yet, despite this (and some other really notable sins) he is reckoned as “a man after God’s own heart”! No one could doubt that David’s relationship with God was real.

What child hasn’t questioned their parent? I say, it is a measure of our relationship that we feel we can question Him, talk to Him, even rage at Him sometimes as we seek to understand what is going on – just as you would your earthly parent. And that’s just fine by Him because Father is how He wants us to know Him. It restores us to our rightful place in the scheme of things, as His children. David’s anger was even followed by a question: “How then can I bring the ark of God home to me?” So I think it’s ok to ask God what’s going on. Questions generate answers. Sometimes these answers come from people, media, scripture and sometimes a voice inside. Each answer gives me another glimpse of him, so I question him less during troubling periods in my life. Over time, I’ve noticed that the fist-shaking sessions are getting fewer and far between – a sign (I feel) of maturing spiritually. I have fewer tantrums brought on by my need for attention and reassurance that he is watching and that he’s concerned about what’s going on in my life. I know he is. He has become more real to me. Not sitting on a throne far away but right here where I need Him to be.

Can anyone know God, truly? I’d like to think I do on a practical level. I don’t claim to have a deep, theological, seminary-trained bead on God. For me, that complicates matters when knowing him can actually be pretty simple. For instance, math is not my strongest area – I mean, I do ok when I have to but equations don’t hold much interest for me. They don’t make sense until I come across a need to use said equation and apply it to my everyday life. Then it has a practical use. My knowledge of God comes from real life applications, watching him come to my rescue and bail me out time and again. Once, when faced with yet another challenge, I just threw it up in the air and said to my daughter “God will just have to help us, like he always does.” My daughter laughed and replied, “And you know he will.” Even my children know that God will keep us. And you can know this, too.

Be blessed,


Casting All Your Cares Upon Him

“Casting all your cares upon him, for he careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

It’s been years since the Lord gave me that scripture to lean on. At the time, I really needed it, for then I only thought I was miserable. I was working as a CSR for a major utility making great money but I hated it. It kept me from spending time with my children and attending Sunday worship services. On the other hand, I wasn’t really feeling church lately – I went through the motions but I had some major problems with their doctrine. My husband seemed to be going through the motions, too – in our marriage, I mean. He had all but checked out mentally, leaving me to struggle with raising our children pretty much alone.

Years later, I realized that although this seemed like the beginning of my struggles, it was actually the beginning of my enlightenment. As I began to lean more on God and trust his good plan for my life, I found it harder to tolerate untruth in my life. I had some hard choices to make. My job had to go – making great money was not everything.

My children would only be small and dependent on me for so long. I hated coming home crabby to them at the end of the day. So I left the call center and then the company altogether. I bear them no ill will – I still have great memories and many wonderful friends there. It just wasn’t working for my life at the time.

Around that time I also left my church home of twelve years. Leaving was not an easy decision – change is hard. Left up to me, I would have blissfully hidden my head in the sand and stayed there until I died. But as awareness crept over me, I could not help but see the far reaching consequences of keeping my children in that environment much longer. I wanted them to love church and flourish and grow in their God-given talents. I wanted to foster in them a spirit of excellence, something I felt was lacking in our current environment. Everything seemed to be so slipshod and thrown together. I felt like that was an insult to God – to give him our leftovers: Present your diseased animals to your governor and see if he will like it! (To paraphrase Malachi 1:8) Simply put, God wants our best.

Last of all, I ended my marriage of 15 years. Of all the things I foresaw, that was the one that completely blindsided me. Leaving him was never an option I even considered. Job had to go – check! Church had to go – check! But husband? I mean, my marriage was flawed but wasn’t everyone’s? Wasn’t this marriage and how it was supposed to be? Apparently not, as I watched it unravel, too. This could not be happening.

You know how you get so mad at God sometimes, you stop praying? You just stop talking to him because you aint trying to hear it. “For God so loved the world …” (John 3:16) and all that feel good mess. You think – how does that help me? Well, maybe I’m the only one who thinks like that but I’m just keeping it real! I needed real help. I needed a real God. I needed “a very present help” (Psalm 46:1). Though I confess to shaking my fist at God in the past and railing against him, this was not one of those times.

Hurt beyond belief, mentally curled up in a fetal position, I went to Him – the only one who could save me. Did I blame Him? Not really. My life had been built on lies that had finally been uncovered. Only truth existed now, as painful as it was to behold. There was a measure of peace in that. Did I blame my husband? Most definitely.

But in the end, I had to accept my own portion of blame as I poured out my grief to God. Night after long night, saturated in my own tears, I lay prostrate before him. Not because I am just that spiritual but because, interestingly enough, it was the only position that eased my pain. He was with me during those long nights. He held me and comforted me. He shielded me from the harsh blows that the devil rained down on my head. Then he encouraged and let me know that cream always rises to the top. Always!

Yes, my life was in a pile of ashes all around me but I determined I would emerge from those ashes and be a better person for the experience. And I did. And I am. To quote my mother-in-law, “God holped me to do it!” I could not have done it without Him. He also gave me a great support system and a wealth of friends and family to see me through. He has shown me that He truly cares for me.

Be Blessed