Guard That Lying Heart!

guard your heart

Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Philippians 4:7 (NIV) “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I’ve been mulling these two scriptures today. The first one tells us to guard our own hearts. But the second one says that the peace of God will guard it for us.

But what about Jeremiah 17:9 that says, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” If our heart lies to us, why should we bother to guard it at all?

After some thought, I think I’ve figured out why ALL THE ABOVE are necessary for us to absorb. If we are reckless and freely give away love and emotions, no matter how awesome people seem to be, then God is going to allow us to follow our free will and we will face the consequences, good or bad.

But if we actively seek His guidance in relationships and situations, ask Him for wisdom along the way, and be willing to LISTEN to His urging, His Word says the Spirit will keep us in peace and emotionally safe. (Isaiah 26:3)

I haven’t been skilled in this, but I’m working on it. It’s an ongoing process, isn’t it? We love, we fall, we pick ourselves back up, and we learn.

And the reason why we should even bother to guard our deceitful hearts is because of this – If we don’t guard it properly, our heart will not only lie to us and lead us into bad situations, but then it condemns us after we fail! The guilt and condemnation can be enough to destroy an already vulnerable person. How well do some of us know this to be true???

But I’m so thankful I can read I John 3:20 and know, “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”

KNOW vs FEEL…we know things with our minds, and we feel things with our hearts. Feelings lie! But since God knows all things, He knows how much I want to please Him, even when I flub up! By believing His Word, I KNOW He will never leave nor forsake me, and I can lift my head again and keep going.

The need to guard your heart doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships. I have had my heart broken over family, friends, job-related situations, church-related matters, and crushed hopes – all because I ran headlong into situations with an open and trusting heart, and I didn’t bother to use wisdom or patience, or I didn’t pray about the situation first, or listen for an answer.

I pray that I learn to stop, think, and use caution and wisdom when it comes to matters that involve my heart!

I pray that God heals us of our broken hearts.

I pray that we learn to guard our hearts more effectively.

I pray that the journey is more peaceful for us in the future.

When Healing Came

I know I will struggle to write this blog. It is going to be difficult to put this experience into words because this subject is just so very personal in nature! But one area in my life that I’ve been working on for the last couple of years has been tearing down walls and sharing with others, so I will do my best to be transparent.

Two years ago I started having certain physical symptoms that told me something was not quite right. I ended up at a surgeon’s office to have biopsies, which showed abnormal lesions and tissue that had a moderate risk of turning into cancer, but also had a chance of going away on its own if my immune system was strong enough. My doctor gave me the cure-all option of having a major surgery that would require me to be off work for six weeks. I opted to wait and recheck in six months.

My next biopsy was essentially unchanged. She again offered the surgery, but also supported the decision to wait another six months to recheck. I decided to put my faith to the test, and I again opted to hold off and wait. I can’t explain why, but it just seemed like the right decision.

The next biopsy, now a full year after the first diagnosis, showed the tissue had advanced to high risk, and the lesions were now much larger. My doctor told me at my age it would be less likely that my immune system would beat it, and that surgery was very appropriate. I was devastated and fearful and against having the surgery, and being off work that long was going to be extremely difficult financially. I told my doctor I would let her know. I asked my closest friends and the ladies at church to pray with me. I fasted. In my moments of prayer and meditation, I had a peace about me that everything was going to be ok, but there were other times my anxiety was so elevated I would tremble. I just felt stuck! What was I supposed to do?

I phoned the surgeon and told her I needed another option. She told me about a minor surgery that would remove a lot of tissue and might take away the high risk tissue and allow more time for my immune system to defeat the lesions that were considered lower risk. I jumped on it!

After the procedure, my symptoms increased with a vengeance. It began to wear me down physically, mentally and emotionally. Another six months passed, and it was time for another biopsy. As soon as she entered the room, my surgeon looked at me and said, “You know if this one is abnormal, you really need to have everything taken out!”

When the results were in, we found our plan had worked, somewhat. The high risk tissue was gone, but the lower risk tissue was still there. I opted for one last biopsy in another six months.

A couple months passed, and I found myself having a really bad day dealing with the symptoms, as well as other emotionally challenging conflicts. Me and God had another talk. This time it was just Him and me…Him being the patient Father, and me, being a tired heap on my living room floor, like a crying child about to be punished. “God, I feel so alone! There’s nobody here to help me through this. How am I going to pay my bills if I’m off work for six weeks? Who will take me to the hospital, or back home after discharge? Who will help me get up and around at home? What if I die in surgery? Who will tell my daughter?”

Then the prayer got really pitiful. “Maybe my time is over. Maybe I’ve done everything I’m going to do in life, maybe I’m supposed to have cancer. Lord, give me strength to face this, because I don’t think I can do this anymore!”

Then, it was as if He gave me a little glimpse into what I looked like, saying all those things, with tears streaming down and hair stuck to my face. A quiet “shush” came over me, as I heard Kari Jobe in the background, singing on my playlist, “I Am Not Alone.” I started to tell God I was sorry for freaking out, for doubting that everything was going to be ok. I sat up and blew my nose, wiped my face, and just sat there, meditating. The very next song was, “Thy Will Be Done” by Hillary Scott. Right after that was “Trust In You” by Lauren Daigle. It was a perfect musical lineup for my faith to be increased and my prayer to take a different direction! I started feeling grateful for every good thing in my life, for God’s love, and for every person who had prayed for me. In this gratefulness came such a sweet atmosphere that tears of awe were flowing all over again, as I thanked God out loud for visiting with me that morning.

Then something else incredibly cool happened! As I finally got up and started going about my day, still listening to music and talking to God, a thought was spoken to me as I walked past where I had been praying on the floor earlier. A thought is the best that I can describe it, as it was silent like a thought, but seemed to transpire out of nowhere.

“You know, if you were married, you and I wouldn’t have many mornings together like this.”

I stopped and listened. The thought continued, “This is the first time in your whole life that I’ve had you to Myself.”

It was true. When I had a husband and daughter at home, my days off were always filled with errands and tasks that involved taking care of my family. But these days, I have so much alone time that a lot of my days are filled with inspirational reading and music, and talking to God. At this realization, I went from feeling incredibly sorry for myself, to feeling like the most loved and fortunate woman alive! At that moment, I was so grateful for all my blessings, including my singleness.

The story isn’t over! Later the same week, my symptoms abruptly stopped and I began to feel normal again. The funny thing is, when this happened I wasn’t even surprised! All those times I had prayed in desperation, reaching out to God with fear and anxiety, calling on my confidants to pray for me, I always kinda knew deep down that each of those biopsies was still going to be abnormal, though I had desperately hoped otherwise. Nothing had given me the calm and sense of wellness that I got this time.

Monday was my last biopsy. When the surgeon entered the room, once again she said, “Well, we will give this one last shot. It’s been two years now. If anything is abnormal, we gotta do the surgery.” I agreed.

Three days ago I got the phone call from her. “Christi, I took many samples, remember? I took twice as many as I usually do, and they were deep. I’m looking at the pathology report in front of me, and every single one of them is normal. You don’t have to worry about this anymore!” I was so elated!

I don’t know why everyone isn’t healed. I wish I knew. I don’t know why God didn’t heal me a year ago because I know that He heard each and every prayer. And I bet there are plenty of people who will read this and just shrug it off and claim that my body just overcame it on it’s own. That’s cool, but I know what I experienced that day in the quiet of my home. It was so much more than a physical touch. It was a spiritual connection created from me reaching out in fear, then a decision to trust, and allowing gratefulness to complete the connection.

The photo below hangs on the wall of my doctor’s office. It gave me a little peace every time I saw it. It’s pretty cool to know that no matter what the outcome is, if we put our faith in Him, we’re in His hands.

Thanks for reading my story!

When Healing Comes

Amazing???

I had a morning of wistfulness today. I was scrolling through social media and came across a post that said something along the lines of, “It’s SO AMAZING what I can accomplish since I found someone who believes in me!” For a short while, I got caught up in the mindset of wondering what all I could be capable of, if only I had a strong, supportive “significant other” by my side?

The feeling of melancholy did pass, but not until after I took about 20 minutes to write my feelings down. I know this is probably reminiscent of something Dr. Suess would have written, but still, it’s my blog and I’ll post what I want, even if it makes me feel like wearing a big red and white stripped top hat…

I hear that it’s amazing
what you can do
If you have someone
who believes in you!

I hear that it’s a comfort
(And you live longer too)
If you have someone
who can truly say, “I love you!”

Being an island
has its moments
But two minds with one heart
would go far beyond romance!

Flowers and pretty words
used to light me up inside
But now I’d rather hear silence
than hear lies till I die.

Still, I hear that it’s amazing
when it’s finally right
When love and purpose
is finally in sight.

Although it has been my choice to remain single, and I stand by my ideals of what I want in a soulmate, I confess these moments of sadness when I think about what I don’t have! How utterly human of me! God help me stay strong, remain open to possibilities, and above all else, CONTENT to be right where I am in life…Because sometimes, what I have is pretty amazing too!

(And by the way, this morning I also learned that the word “amazing” is in the top 20 most overused words in our language!)

A Resurrection In Me

Today is Easter Sunday! God’s eternal plan for our souls was unfolded that fateful weekend outside Jerusalem, just as the pages of our lives unfold, one event after another.

So perhaps today it’s appropriate for me to reflect on the timeline of my own life, and recognize that yet another page has been turned. One more step towards the life of love and freedom I should be living, and one more step away from the grave that is my past.

I never meant this blog to be a preacher’s platform, yet I can’t write about where my life is today without recognizing the obvious, loving hand of God Himself!

Love is amazing! True love, that is. It just keeps giving, forgiving, and above all, it is an unfailing strength and support to the one who is loved. It is constant, even when love is sometimes undeserved – unlike relationships based upon obligation, infatuation or lust.

I reflect today on instances when I know love has truly been unfailing. Obviously when Jesus was tortured and hung on the cross. When He traveled to Hell itself and squashed death under His foot. When the tomb was opened. And then when I was 10 years old and received His Spirit into my heart and shook like a leaf at how “big” His love felt to my tiny self!

I felt true love envelope me the moment my daughter was born, and it has only grown in her almost 20 years of life! The bond we share is unbreakable and unquestionable. When you’re a mom, giving of yourself doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice – you see a need and instinctively meet it.

I saw true love when my parents were remarried after six years of being divorced. They had quite a past to forgive of each other, but they did and they moved on. They celebrated their 53rd anniversary last year! I see true love in my dad as he faithfully protects my mom, especially after her traumatic brain injury, and I see it in my mom as she cares for him with his cancer diagnosis.

I know that I truly love someone when their welfare is a concern to me, when seeing them makes me light up inside, even if I’m met with a frown, when being there for them feels instinctive, and when failing them feels crushing. When their words of praise gives me a rush of joy, and when they’re still on my mind, even if they’ve been silent.

Today I’m hit with the parallel of this and to the love God shows to me! He loved me so much that night I was “born” again! He loved me when I was a teen who needed protection when I was hit by a train. (My car was totaled, but I walked away without a scratch). He loved me when I walked away from Him. He loved me when I’ve been sick in my soul and emotionally wounded. He instinctively knew just how I needed healed after the night I tried to take my own life. He loves me when I tell Him my needs and then I watch them be met, time after time. He loves me even when I am silent. According to His word, He is concerned for my welfare, and when I praise Him, it brings Him joy!

Today has been a day of realization for me, another page turned. I’ve known all of this in my mind, but today it just lit up in my heart. Today I know I cannot settle for a relationship that does not parallel God’s love for me, even though it may mean I stay single the rest of my life.

Single ladies and gentlemen, like me, have you ever asked yourself, “I wonder if this is really love?” I think true love will align with the Resurrection we celebrate today, in that it will perform some sort of resurrection in you. You see a purpose, you see a future, you see a hope that wasn’t there before, and you see it is always there when you reach out for it, even if you don’t deserve it. Through every dark chapter of my life, from childhood until today, true love just keeps pulling me out of the grave and resurrecting me!

And that’s what makes it love.

Single Moments

That’s all they are – just moments. Blips in time. They don’t have to culminate into an entire mindset if you know how to handle them. I’m getting better at it keeping these moments in perspective!

Hands down, the worst moment for me to be single in the wintertime is when I crawl into bed under the cold blankets. Ugh, I so dislike this time of day and season! The windows of my bedroom are drafty, and the midwestern winds howl right on in and put a chill over my covers. Brrr! I long to reach for a warm body lying next to me with the mutual understanding that our needs will be met with a warm embrace and hot kisses! But instead, my toes and heart grow numb from the isolation. Dramatic…I know!

But there is a flip side to this. The best moment for me to be single in the wintertime is just as poignant! It comes after I walk in the door after a long shift, kick off my shoes and peel off my scrubs. It’s when I put on those soft fleece pajamas and wool socks, and then my fuzzy robe over that! My hair comes down in messy waves as I stretch out on the sofa, prop up my feet, and hug my purring cat. No one is giving me “the look” for having an unsexy appearance, and nobody rolls their eyes if I need to shed a few tears about having a bad day. If I want a bowl of cereal for dinner, or decide it’s bedtime at 9 pm, it is my choice alone, with no feelings of guilt or inadequacy.

 

Single Moments of Being Single

There are moments of pure contentment in this girl’s single life, as well as moments of stabbing loneliness. But I have repeatedly decided that this is the life I choose over settling for anything less, just for the sake of having a partner.

Because the moments that make me smile greatly outweigh the moments that make me cry, and I know exactly what I could lose by settling!

Single ladies and men, if you haven’t experienced both the ups and downs of being alone AND being with someone who isn’t the right one, let me encourage you to focus on what you have right now more than what you want, when it comes to a future relationship. I think that’s the only way you can actually grow and then move forward. Appreciate where you are, make YOURSELF ready for the future you want, (what do YOU bring to the table?) and then live in peace knowing if you want it bad enough to work on yourself for it, everything else will work out the way it’s supposed to.

In the meantime, I’m buying an electric blanket!

It’s What’s In The Bag!

This will be a short one.

I stopped by McDonalds for breakfast on my way to work this morning. In their efforts to make their customers happy, I’ve noticed that they not only display your order back on the screen, they also verbally repeat it at the first window when you pay, and then again at the second window when they hand you the food. This way, you can drive away with assurance that you have exactly what you ordered in the bag.

Well I learned firsthand this morning that they can say whatever I want to hear, but if it doesn’t match the actions of putting the correct food in the bag, it’s just empty words! After three layers of “assurance”, imagine my surprise when I opened an Egg McMuffin when I actually ordered a biscuit with egg and cheese.

Hang with me…I’m going somewhere…

I sit at work holding this sandwich and think – You can have someone say they’re your friend and they can look you in the eye with a joke and a smile every day, but if they sit and lie about you behind your back, they’re not really a friend.

Someone else may call themselves a Christian, but have a longtime habit of prejudice attitudes against other people, especially with different culture or skin pigmentation. That’s not like Jesus!

When this so-called friend and this so-called Christian tell me about who they are, I hear them, but in my mind I know they’re really just a crusty Egg McMuffin.

Words don’t matter – it’s what’s in the bag that counts!

Listening….

Recently I faced what could be a life-altering decision. Actually two. On paper, the choices that I should make were obvious. But I felt a tugging towards other options, and peace did not come to me until after I made my decisions accordingly.

You might call that instinct. Some believe that intuition can guide you through life, if you’re quietly in tune with that inner voice.

I haven’t always been quiet enough to hear those warnings inside, telling me what to do, what and who to avoid, and decisions I should and shouldn’t make. In fact, I kinda sucked at it most of my life!

So in my relatively recent quest to learn who I am at the core of my being, I started to recognize and listen to that “voice.” I attribute this to having gained more control over my emotions and giving less response to people and situations, in listening more than I talk, spending increased time in prayer and meditation, and in searching for guidance in Scripture. But mostly, just listening.

listening
Something I’ve learned – If you keep having the same quiet thought that something might not be right, or it feels like your soul gets pinched when you’re about to make a certain decision – that might actually be God talking to you! You should listen, even if it’s against what you want. Because one day when you look back, you’ll see He knew best!

Isaiah 55:8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”

Jeremiah 1:5“Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you…”

Matthew 10:30“But the very hairs on your head are numbered.”

Isaiah 49:16“See, I have engraved your name on the palm of my hands.”

How awesome it is to know the Creator of the universe sees me, knows me, loves me, AND has my well-being at heart! He sees the whole spectrum of my life, from beginning to end, and knows what might seem okay to me now might not be good for me down the road.

So…instinct or God? I guess it’s hard to tell. As a believer who has lived in faith most of my life (but stepped out long enough to wreck my life), I lean towards trusting that my footsteps are ordered and He will guide me if I give Him my control of my heart and life…and if I listen!

It’s not easy though, and trusting in an unseen force is certainly against human nature. But through trial and error, I found that quiet trust in His guidance is the way to live in peace.

I can’t really explain why I made the decisions I did. But for once, I just know they were the right ones.

Not sure why I wrote this. Just thinking about how grateful I am for every door that’s been opened for me, AND for every closed one!