A Gift for God

Preparing the Heart

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Growing up, my parents often invited people over for dinner the pastor’s family, people from our church, and missionaries traveling into town—sometimes they stayed for weeks. Looking back, I marvel how momma handled this with ease. I’ve lacked that talent for being hospitable. I become a stress case thinking about cooking dinner for anyone outside my family. What if I burn something or something gets cold while I’m making something else. How in the world do you time it all? What if…I poison someone! Welcome to my internal dialogue.

I’m embarrassed to admit the first dinner I made for my husband (we were dating at the time) was boiled chicken. It boiled up and over the pot and made the biggest mess. I plunked that flavorless white chunk of boiled-mess on the plate. Immediately, he ran out and purchased me an engagement ring in an attempt to save me from starvation. (Just kidding here, hmm…but possibly)

In my defense, I can set a beautiful table, but I suppose no one’s going to remember that beautiful table unless there’s something to eat on it.

This insecurity has allowed me to buy into the lie that I don’t have to cook dinner for anyone, and I’ve gone long periods of time without one dinner guest. It’s as if that southern culture my momma created fizzled out in me. I’ve bought into the lie that it’s not my talent therefore let other’s do the inviting and the feeding, but this has come at a cost. Throughout Christ’s ministry many times the personal relationships He developed were over a meal, think about it…the last supper, at Mary and Martha’s house, at the beach when He cooked fish for the disciples.

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L to R: Christian, Colin, Me, Nick, and little Bella

 

I read an article not too long ago that stated God wants us to be hospitable. The writer pointed out we must have a willing heart even if it’s something we are naturally not good at because first it’s a sign of our faith (walking forward in uncertainty) and secondly, an act of worship.

Throughout this Christmas season I’ve reflected on Mary’s willing heart. When the angel Gabriel visited her and told her she was to give birth to the Messiah, she asked one question, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” At first glance, one would think she was doubting what the angel Gabriel told her, but because of the angel’s response to her we know it wasn’t doubt in God’s power, but innocent curiosity. I love this because it shows God sees the heart of a person and knows us. He understood Mary’s limited experience in her mere thirteen years (or so) of life.

The opposite is true in Zechariah. When Gabriel told him he and Elizabeth would have a child and they were to name him John. Zechariah questioned how he could be sure this would happen since he and Elizabeth were so old. Zechariah wanted proof. This angered God because first—pointing out the obvious—God sent an angel to tell him the news. Wouldn’t that be proof enough? Secondly, Zechariah was a priest and knew the scriptures backwards and forwards. He knew God blessed Abraham and Sarah in their advanced years with their son Isaac. God held a higher expectation from an older priest than a young girl; causing God to take away Zechariah’s ability to speak until after John was born in response to his lack of faith.

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Once Mary heard the Holy Spirit would overcome her and impregnate her, she stated simply, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary was willing to carry the Christ child even though it was against the law for her to be with child and unmarried. She knew she could’ve been stoned to death, but she was willing.

Four years ago, I felt God impressing upon me I would be speaking. I journaled it as I do when I feel God is trying to tell me something. I can talk the cows to sleep, as my Momma so eloquently will tell you, but I hate speaking. Soon after, I journaled this, the leader from MOPS asked me to speak about Finding Joy in a Sorrowful Season. I had an hour to speak. I walked up to the podium gripping a barf bag. As soon as I began to speak God took over for me, and midway through I watched a tissue box being passed around between the young moms.

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Our tree in Orlando

Before opening Hallelujah House, I felt the Father impressing on me I would be making videos and speaking in them. This is way out of my comfort zone, so I’ve tried to negotiate my way out of it. One morning preparing for my next Bible study on The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer, somewhere in the middle of the workbook page I felt His nudging again.

“Why now? Why didn’t you call me in my thirties?” I prayed. “You don’t see 50- year old’s on You Tube!” Not only that—I’m losing my hair from my double mastectomy. I imagined the criticisms that would pour in. The enemy whispered in my ear and filled me with angst. I compromised I’d speak—but off camera, yet I knew in order for the watcher to feel a connection with you and your story they need to see who’s doing the talking. I told myself I imagined it all. God isn’t asking this of me, besides I’m a writer. He wouldn’t ask me to do something I’m not inclined to do. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.)

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Just then my computer screen flashed a tweet by the very person who wrote the study I was working on. Priscilla Shirer tweeted, “Just Obey.” The words hung suspended glaring at me and seared my heart.

I sank in my chair.

I penciled in the date my son and I would do the filming. I pinned my hair back so it wouldn’t flap around in the wind and I sat in front of the camera in a barn stall on a hot morning with a wool wrap on (sweating bullets) and told the message God put on my heart, The Best Gifts Come in Ugly Wrappings. You can see the video here: https://videopress.com/v/0WpWDM7z

In God’s word, the Christmas story not only illustrates a willing heart but a mind inclined to obedience. What if Joseph didn’t take Mary to be his wife after finding out she was pregnant? Or if he chose not to obey when the angel told him to get up and flee to Bethlehem? Or if the wisemen chose not to go home another way as God told them to? Without a heart that’s willing and a mind focused on obedience we could fall out of God’s protection and blessings over our lives.

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My good looking husband Jay and our kids.

Are we willing? Are we willing to do whatever it is God has called us to do no matter how uncomfortable, embarrassing, or risky it is? God blesses a willing heart and an obedient mindset. As we face the New Year the best gift we can give the Savior for His birthday is a willing heart and obedience to His call on our lives. Whatever He asks us to do it’s already bursting forth to bring a harvest. He’s gone ahead of us and paved the path to completion; we just need to relinquish our reluctant spirit.

Please note: We will have one more blog written by Lisa Sciacco  posted Monday on how to make an easy last minute homemade gift for your loved ones. After that, Hallelujah House will be taking a break through the Christmas holidays. In January our theme will be… drum roll….Spiritual Warfare, so get ready to get on your spiritual armor. We’ve got some great things planned.  I’ll catch you on the other side.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking the Muddy Route

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I’d taken a wrong turn on the way to the farm, and a storm was coming. My best friend KK (Kimberly Williams Standridge) and I were talking, and that overpass came up out of nowhere, I swerved my Discovery into the lane without reading the entire sign that stated this one was leading me in the opposite direction I needed to go. Further down, my gut was telling me I was heading in the wrong direction, but I didn’t listen to it until we were way off track.

I was born with a natural inclination to get lost. Take some advice…If I tell you to go right– just go left. Our trip was delayed, and the dirt roads leading to the farm become very precarious to maneuver after a hard summer rain.

“Sorry, KK.” I said.

“It’s okay Tam-Tam, we’ll get there eventually.”

“Don’t you dare tell Jay (my husband) about this. Oh Lord don’t let him call. He’ll never let me live this one down.”

She laughed. “Oh, I’ll never tell him about this one.”

Sure enough, the sky dropped out. It was a hard rain making it difficult to see. On top of it, MAPS sent us to a long dirt road that looked like it rarely been traveled called JimBob’s Cut Through. This is rural country folks. The mud was about 2 feet thick with deep ditches on both sides. We swerved and slid from one side of the road to the other, barely avoiding the ditch.

“Uh… I’m not liking this,” KK said.

“Trust me. I’m used to it.” I patted the dash of my SUV. “Thank you God for my truck! I’ve traveled these roads by myself in this type of weather to get home, and with cell service that goes in and out, imagine getting stuck out here. Everytime I thank God for this truck.”

“Maybe you should slow down,” KK said. “So you’re not swerving so much.”

“We’ll never get there.” I said. “Just stop talking, so I can concentrate.”

“There’s a car ahead.” KK pointed. I could hear the alarm in her voice.

I slowed down to not swerve into its path. As it passed, it slopped thick mud onto my windshield.

By dusk, we made it to the farmhouse and the rain stopped. By not heeding the signs and listening to my inner voice we’d lost precious time.

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As he entered the room, my oncologist glanced down at me, “Why do you look so scared?” he said.

I raised my chin a notch, faking courage. “I’m not scared.”

“You certainly look like you are.” He sat across from me and looked at the papers in his hands. “But I have to say looking over your results, somebody must really be looking out for you up there. You had an aggressive tumor.”

“Wait, but I was told it was slow-growing.” I leaned forward.

“We get such a small sample in the biopsy and in your case the biopsy was not correct. Looking at the whole tumor we could see it was an aggressive, fast-growing cancer, and you see here…,” he pointed to the paper he was holding. “Your tumor’s invasiveness was right at the cut off. If it would have been any larger you would be facing chemo today. Your surgery happened at the nick of time considering how fast it was growing. So, like I said, whoever’s on your team up there, I want him on mine. Now, let’s discuss how we are going to keep this cancer from coming back.”

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After my mastectomy, I’d been praying that I would not have to go on tamoxifen. It is a carcinogen that suppresses the hormones and basically would have thrown me into an overnight menopause. I had read about all the side effects, bone aches, depression, hair loss, premature aging, and it can cause uterine cancer- with which, it was suggested I would remove my uterus next year as a preventative measure. I found all this incredulous, and I didn’t want any of it. When the doctor entered the room, I was mentally going over how I was going to argue my points with him.

But, I didn’t have to.

As soon as the word tamoxifen came out of his mouth, I shook my head. “Nope, I don’t want to go on that. Can I be frank with you?”

He nodded.

“Look, I’m going to get spiritual with you.  God has been telling me to eat less meat, stop drinking wine with my evening meal, cut back on dairy, and exercise. Several times, I’d written this down, but I ignored His voice. I wanted what I wanted, so I got what I got. But, as soon as I heard my cancer diagnosis, I did cut those things out, and my breast deflated. The night before my surgery I could feel that huge tumor that I couldn’t feel beforehand because I was putting food in me that increased my estrogen levels and made my breast tissue dense. I had no idea those things increased the very thing that was feeding my cancer, and God tried to warn me.  So, moving forward, I’m going to exercise, cut way back the things that increase estrogen, and listen and that’s how I’m not going to have cancer again.”

He nodded. “Well, in your case, I think what you are proposing is viable.”

My mouth fell open. I was revved up for a battle. I had spit shined my sword, and he just laid over and played dead.

“Often,” he said. “we have to put patients on medication because they don’t want to do the work. You need to sweat. Get rid of your fat stores.”

Gulp. I hated to sweat.

“Look at wine like a Southern Baptist.”

Gulp. But I am a Southern Baptist.

“Your protein pyramid should be fish first, chicken second, meat last.”

Gulp. We need a fish farm.

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I’ve heard people say how unfair it is that I have breast cancer considering my past as if God is unfair and not good, so I want to set the record straight. If I’ve learned anything from breast cancer it’s this…how good God is. God’s a good Papa. He can be trusted with your life. He can be trusted with my future health.

With all of that said, God knows me. He knows I don’t listen and I’m stubborn. That I try to go my own way at times. He knew when He impressed upon me that these things were affecting my health, I’d think, but I’m drinking with self-control clearly within my freedom in Christ, I’m eating organic beef, I tore my rotator cuff when I was exercising. He knew I’d ignore the sign and take my own route. He also knew it would become a small part of my story, and my story would speak truth into someone else.

Is it?

Are you feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit? Does He want you to trust Him with your life? Does He want you to accept Him as your Heavenly Papa? Is He trying to pry something out of your hands? Food? Shopping? Gossiping? Fear? Guilt? Anger? Are you falling into disobedience by not listening? Are you heading into your own storm and long muddy roads by not heeding the signs?

Learn from my mistake…don’t lose precious time.

Good Good Father by Sarah Reeves. Enjoy!