Monday, March 28, 2011

Sweet Freedom

I was given the rare opportunity to take a retrospective look at my life.  How many of us get to revisit where we have been in our lives?  I mean actually in person revisit it.  It is amazing for me when I think about what I have been through in my life and that I made it through it all.  God must have really kept a very close eye on me.  If you would have asked me 23 years ago if I would have guessed what was about to unfold, I would have said that would never happen.  There is NO WAY I would allow that to happen to me.  Boy was I wrong. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We now begin a mini history lesson of Michelle (Hawkins) Cooper.  24 years ago I saw, for the first time, a boy that I wanted to meet but never stepped out because a friend of mine really liked him.  Well they ended up dating and I was happy for her.  I listened to her every time she said how wonderful he was. She never knew that I thought he was super cute and wanted to get to know him better.  She had no idea as she told me things, I secretly was wishing she would not tell me anymore.  Well needless to say they didn’t last.  As he was breaking up with her, I actually stepped between them as they sat in a hallway.  Inside I was jumping with excitement because I could tell what was going on!  It was my time to step up before some other girl did.  So the very next chance I got I gave that boy a kiss on the cheek to thank him for handing me my bag as he unloaded the van.  That did it; his face turned to me and finally noticed me!!!!!!!  That very night, as we shared as a group some troubles in our lives, he took notice that we shared a common hardship in life.  We ended up talking for hours that night.  We shared things about our lives that we had NEVER shared with ANYONE.  As we talked I began to know and understand that he was the guy I was going to marry and he felt that very same way about me.  He accepted me for me and it was an amazing feeling.  Yep you guessed it, we got married.  What an amazing day!  I married my very best friend.  Nothing could ever break the happiness I felt. . . .  Now the next chapter. . . . . We had an interesting spiritual walk to say the least.  We were so hungry to love God that we wanted to please Him in EVERY way of our lives.  That hunger was abused and mistreated.  How can someone take such a thirst and hunger and abuse it in the way ours was.  We were never taught that God was a God of love; no we were taught that He was a vengeful, angry God.  I was assigned a “discipler” to teach me how to be a perfect Christian.  I was taught how to pray and read how they wanted me to.  I was personally told on more than one occasion that I was hard hearted and that I was going straight to hell.  Being a Christian was a very heavy thing.  I never did measure up to expectations.  It got to a point I cried for 3 years asking my husband, who I loved with every ounce that was in me, “Don’t make me go!   I don’t want to go!”  Every week I would cry and plead to NOT go to the house of God.  Now keep in mind what the scripture says about how you should feel when going to the house of God,   ‎"I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” ~ Psalm 122:1 (NLT).  I was far from feeling that way.  I was sad and lonely.  We eventually walked away from that mess and God lead us to a wonderful church.  This is how I felt that first Sunday going to a new church, I cried the entire service.  I was taught that the church we left was the ONLY church.  If you didn’t go to this church you were going to hell.  I just knew God was going to strike me down dead and I was going to hell.   It was at this new church that in the very same year my husband felt his call into the ministry.  I began to see my God as a compassionate, lovely, caring, and tender God.  I began to find a freedom in Christ that I had NEVER felt before.  God taught me that I was beautiful.  That He made me just as He wanted me to be.  I LOVE what He has made me into.  The freedom He has given me is AMAZING!!!!!
So I had the chance to revisit that place that I left so long ago.  See some faces that have long been put out of my mind.  It was VERY difficult for me to walk into this place knowing how these same people made me feel many years ago.  Those feelings of dark heaviness revisited me.  The loneliness and sadness I had for so long.  It wasn’t a good feeling but yet through this revisit, God reminded me of the freedom He gave me.  I no longer walk by man’s ruling but by the ruling of God.  So even though it was filled with some heavy reminders, I had such an inner peace that I cannot explain.  “Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” ~ Romans 6:14 (NLT).  So my challenge to you……. Did you forget where you came from?  What God took you out of?  I challenge you to stop and remember what He did for you and rejoice in the new life you have found.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pretty Awesome Daddy!

I was able to take a few days away last week and spend some much needed time with my parents.  I hadn’t seen them since Christmas and that is just way too long.  I usually go spend time with them once a month.  But different circumstances made it not happen for 3 months.  I have grown to love that time with them and I think they have too.  It has been a whole new learning process of a parent and child relationship.  I’ve learned that my parents are really human.  Growing up you never look at your parents as living, breathing, beings.  They are just the identity that makes your life unhappy because they won’t let you do what you want.  I didn’t think very highly of them.  But time has proven, many times over, that they are pretty amazing people.  I love them more than words could ever express.  They have been such a huge support for me and my family through some pretty rough times.  Unconditional support and love.  I am thankful not just for them being great parents but also for being Godly parents.  It’s nice to be able to talk to them and not just get parental advice but righteous advice as well.   I look up to them for the many things they have gone through in life and still kept faith in their God.  I find that when I go see them I want to do things to help them out.  Things like do dishes so mom can sit and relax after dinner.  Vacuum even if it makes my allergies act up and I look like a crying mess when I’m done.  I would have NEVER loved doing that when I was growing up.  Are you kidding me!  I was allergic to work!  But I find that I want to do it for them now to somehow repay them for the many things they have done for me and continue to do.  Have I painted a clear enough picture for you so that you can get a glimpse of how precious they are?

There is something else that I have learned over the years.  I have learned what my God means to me.  Sounds funny to hear a woman that has been a Christian for more years than I wasn’t, saying that.  But I believe that is what all the things that happen in your life can do if you allow them to.  God really does allow things to happen for a reason.  I’ve learned that He really does love me.  I’ve learned He cares what happens to me.  I’ve learned that He has time for me, no matter where or when.  I’ve learned that He listens to me, REALLY listens.  When I cry, when I laugh, when I sing, when I whisper, when I yell, and even when I can’t say a word.  I’ve learned that He is my daddy.  He holds me when I fall and hurt myself.  He dries the tears away from my cheeks as they fall.  He then, with His love, bandages the wounds and tells me to be careful next time.  I’ve learned that EVERYTHING matters to Him in my life.  Nothing is too small or too big.  I’ve learned that all He wants me to do is ask and that He was just waiting.  I’ve learned that my God is a big God but yet a very small personal God. 

We need to look at our God as our daddy and remember ALL the many things He cares for and does for us.  Just as our earthly parents tend to and care for us, our heavenly father does in a greater way.  “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:19(NLT) My challenge to you is, do you recognize Him as your father, provider, protector, and friend?  Just as we are to become as little children we must recognize Him as our daddy.  It is a two part thing.  Maybe you have become as a little child but you have not allowed Him to be your daddy.  Allow Him to take care of you! 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Like a Child

I was given the privilege of watching my 9 month old great nephew this weekend.  WOW I am sure beat.  I am so glad I had mine when I was young.  I was able to keep going with them.  I didn’t get tired so easily and having to get up in the middle of the night wasn’t so debilitating.  There sure is a lot to do with a little one around.  First of all you have to go around your house and find anything and everything that they might find interesting and tasty.  When your own baby is almost 18 years old you sure don’t have to think too often about stuff like that.  The entertainment is no longer simple and not up to me.  I had to figure out new and different ways to make him happy.  What worked 5 minutes ago no longer worked.  Oh yeah the attention span is about 2 minutes if you are lucky (I forgot that).  I couldn’t just say fend for yourself for food I had to make sure he had breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Plus we can’t forget those juice snacks and maybe toss a little dry cereal in there too.  Oh and they don’t go to the bathroom by themselves either, NOPE, and he went A LOT.  Oh and did I mention that he wasn’t feeling very good.  Poor little guy!  A usually happy little guy was distressed and generally not happy.  He was content but not his usual happy demeanor.  So he needed a little extra TLC!  WAIT there is more…… my husband and son decided that it was a good time to get sick as well.  So I was not just taking care of a baby but 2 guys throwing up!  FUN weekend at the Cooper home!  Much care was given this weekend and I was very much needed.  People depended on me this weekend and I couldn’t let them down, no matter how I was feeling.

This caused me to think a about the scriptures, “About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”   Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them.   Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.   So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.   “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.   But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.” – Matthew 18:1-6(NLT)   As I saw what Zander needed and how he looked to me to give everything to him it reminded me exactly how we need to look to our God.  He couldn’t change his own diaper yet it must get done.  He needed me to prepare his food, he couldn’t do that.  He even needed me to play with him, he got bored all on his own.  He trusted me to provide EVERYTHING that he required.  He didn’t give it a second thought.  He just knew it would happen.  Sometimes if it wasn’t fast enough he let me know that he wasn’t happy about that.  When he cried, he knew that I could comfort him and dry all the tears.  No matter what I was doing he just knew that when he needed me I would be there for him.  WOW that is what it looks like to have complete and total trust.  To give EVERY care over to someone, knowing full well that it would be taken care of.  That is EXACTLY what God calls us to do.  I think we forget that He tells us to rely on Him in such great lengths.  We tend to think that if we just say here it is God, that it is good enough.  What about the faith and trust that goes with it?  Knowing that when it is given over it WILL be taken care of.  It really is that simple.  Just as a little child looks to us as the adult for absolutely everything they need we must look to our God and Savior for the same exact things without wavering.  Once you see Christianity as a child and understand what it is to be as one, you will see how much God really loves you.  So this is my challenge this week, what in your life have you given to Him but not FULLY trusted that it would be done?  When was the last time you allowed him to “change your diaper”? (become extremely vulnerable to Him)  Or maybe you know you are a little child but maybe you are trying to wear big people clothes too much.  He is just waiting for you to come to Him and tell Him what you need!  So do it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Backspace, Delete, Easy

I have started many different times trying to write.  Great thing about technology, you can type all you want and instead of using an eraser or balling up the paper, you can just backspace or highlight and delete.  How many times have you wished you had a backspace button in your life?  Better yet a DELETE button!  Start all over anew.  We have all said words that as soon as they came out we wished we had a backspace button.  You know when someone is just at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Don’t they understand that you have had a terrible day?  They should know better than to bother you right now!  YEP, we have all been there.  Or when you have done something and wish with all that is in you that you could just delete that action all together?  Like when a child gets caught red handed with that cookie they were told they could not have. 

Life has a funny way of playing out.  Sometimes making us wish we had a backspace button.  “If only I did this different”, “If I would have listened better”, “If I had just one more chance”.  The list could go on.  Well I have been dealing with wanting more than just a backspace or delete button.  I am finding that I would like an easy button as well.  Computers don’t come with those, they should.  I think life should come with one as well.  Wouldn’t it be so much better to push that when something hard comes along and “click”, all better?  When pain gets too hard to bear, “click”, ahh that feels better.  When those complicated people are working our last nerve, “click”, they just disappear.  When you have been thrown every curve ball in life, “click”, you smack a homerun!  Yeah an easy button would make things so much easier to bear.  A lot easier!  . . . . . . . . . . .

Guess what?  We do have an easy button, GOD!  I think sometimes we just forget to push it or forget we have it.  We get caught up with how bad a situation is, how awful we feel, or feeling hurt.  So many times I have been in the middle of something and smack my head with my hand and think, “You idiot, why didn’t you remember from the very start to push your easy button?”  Or someone comes along and reminds us to use it.  Sometimes we think we can handle it and tough it out on our own.  So we don’t use it.  I don’t know about you, but for me, that NEVER is the case.  I always end up making a muddy mess of everything on my own.  “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.  Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”     1 Peter 5:6 & 7 (NLT)  He doesn’t tell us that we won’t have any worries or cares.  But he does tell us to give ALL of them to him.  WHY would he want to take every heavy thing on our hearts?  Because he really does care about us!  He LOVES us!  I have had a gentle reminder this week about how I need to not let everything around me be so heavy and bring me down.  Yes it is ok to have feelings but what you do with them is what makes them right or wrong (a VERY wise woman told me that once – thanks mom).  I needed to remember to call upon God and not to let self-pity suck me in.  I needed to push my easy button.  Don’t get me wrong, things are still trying to bury me.  Then I remember what he wants me to do, give them ALL to him and he promises to lift me up when the time is right, boy do I feel so much better!  So this is my challenge to you, what in your life are you needing to push the easy button for?  Did you forget that you have one?  Did you think you could do it all without pushing it?  Give it all over!  Let God show you how much he cares for you!