Jackie Mize and throwing stars

Throwing starI’m sitting on Jaxon’s bed, and it is covered with knives, guns, throwing stars, and every other device of hunting, fishing, and general maiming of the animal kingdom. The bed is covered because Jaxon has been ordered to de-weaponize his room for pending houseguests, which include a one-year-old toddler with curious hands.

My mother-in-law went to Heaven last week and now I’m putting away throwing stars, listening to the Cowboys game in the other room, missing my Nana, and being so thankful to God who knows the intimate and unspeakable hurt that this kind of event leaves behind. He knows every word that’s in my head, He knows every tear that has fallen, and He knows the tears that have yet to fall.

God is so good in the midst of absolute hell. He is the One who does the special thing that you didn’t know you needed, but it was exactly what you needed. His faithfulness astounds me.

The next few days will be hard, no doubt. But without the Comforter, they would be unbearable.

Don’t let another moment pass without knowing Him.

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Let me eat cake

Let me eat cakeWhat a great week I’ve had in Branson. If you know me at all, you know I joke about being at a preacher convention and sitting in nonstop church until my tail hurts. I joke about wearing layers of makeup and using a half a can of hairspray. I lament the prices of food in the hotel and how all I really want is a pbj, not a $30 steak. Not that I don’t enjoy a good steak, but when you’re in a hotel for a week, you just want a piece of toast, or a bologna sandwich… Things from your own kitchen.

But this week was especially outstanding. I received so much good stuff from the sweet presence of God. I sat under anointed teaching and took notes until my hand hurt. I worshipped God with my hands in the air until my shoulders ached. I stood on hotel ballroom carpet in my bare feet, heels kicked off, basking in the Spirit of God until all hours of the night.

I drank gallons of coffee. I shook lots of hands and hugged lots of necks. I gave of myself and I received in kind. I made the most of it.

I didn’t have to do that. I could have slipped in and out unnoticed, I could have doodled and daydreamed my way through the meetings. I know all the tricks… I’ve had a lifetime of practice. But I wanted all that God was serving up. I wanted the biggest piece of cake with the most frosting. I wanted the coveted corner piece, and you can’t get that if you’re late to the party.

It may be a hassle or uncomfortable or a downright pain in the butt to get to the party, but if they’re serving up heart-lifting, soul-nurturing, life-sustaining cake, it is totally worth it.

Tap in or tap out

When MMA fighters know they’re pinned, they tap out. But I can imagine it takes an awful lot before they’ll tap out. They’ll fight like crazy until their limbs break before they’ll give up. I’m thankful I don’t have to fight that hard before I can get a break. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God are right there for me to tap into, and I don’t have to sacrifice my bones before I do it.

Psalm 46 reminds us that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. He’s always there. I can tap into Him, and tap out of my trouble. I can trust Him to work things out. He knows the beginning and the end, and His thoughts and plans are much higher than mine.

The key to this is believing He’s there and knowing His voice. We can’t tap into a power that we don’t really believe is there, and we can’t hear the still, small voice if we don’t recognize it’s Him. That belief and that recognition comes from time spent with God. We cannot expect to know His voice unless we’ve heard it before.

Oh, how I love to hear His voice. But I know that He loves to hear from me even more. He loves to hear from you, too.

Jaxon’s thorn in the flesh

For the last few months, my 10-year-old son has had a little knot on his right middle finger. We really had no idea what it was, but it bothered him enough that he wanted to go have a doctor check it out. Me being the mother who is either hyper-overprotective, or hyper-don’t-sweat-it, and never just a nice happy medium, was not concerned about it.

The doctor told us it was a ganglion cyst. NASTY! He assured us that it was no big deal, he could cut it out, put in a little stitch and a Band-Aid and we’d be on our way. Whew.

So we move along towards the procedure date and the night before when they call to schedule the time, I am made aware that they are going to put him out under general anesthesia. MINOR HEART ATTACK!

The procedure was as smooth as could be and as I was nervously tapping my feet and contemplating asking for a tranquilizer in the family waiting room at St. Francis Children’s Hospital, (gulp) the surgeon comes strolling into the (full) waiting room with a little cup and announces loudly, “Well, here’s the culprit! It was a big splinter!” I have never been more ashamed and relieved at the same time.

Upon closer examination, it was a thorn, probably from his last South Texas hunting trip nearly a year ago. Jaxon has a passion for annihilating any cactus that gets in the range of his Bowie knife. The thorn had gone deep into his finger, undetected by any of us, and his divinely designed, fearfully and wonderfully made little body had surrounded the thorn with protective tissue until it had become a cyst about the size of an eraser on the end of a pencil.

We proudly and sheepishly brought the treasure home in its little cup and celebrated with a milkshake and a new video game which he has happily been playing for about five hours.

So thank you Jesus for an inquisitive child, a steady-handed surgeon, sweet and gracious nurses, and your comforting Holy Spirit to hold my hand through the whole thing. I don’t know what I would do without you.

Stream of consciousness

I took 11,000 words today and whittled them down to 1,200. I know how to wield a red pen! But that’s the beauty of writing. You gush out everything in your head and then you read it again, cutting out the fluff and just leaving those meaty bites that really satisfy. It’s like the difference between eating an entire Hershey Bar or just one perfectly decadent Godiva chocolate truffle. One will take you longer, but the other is pure bliss.

I had this creative writing class in high school, I really enjoyed the class although it was uncomfortable for me at times. We had to get used to the process of stream of consciousness writing. Basically, we had to put the pen to paper and write whatever came to our minds, and I do mean whatever. We couldn’t pick up the pen to think or ponder or even stop ourselves from writing something ridiculously stupid. It was hard at first and I repeated words, even whole sentences. But once I got the hang of it, I was impressed how quickly my mind could work, and how interesting my thoughts were. (Albeit slightly disturbing.)

I do that same thing many times when I’m writing this blog. I don’t know what I want to    talk about so I just start typing and see what happens. Eventually I get around to making some sense, and then I go back and ferociously edit.

On special days, I have something already spilling out of my mind and heart and I sit down and type the entire thing out without stopping, my thoughts coming faster than I can get them down. I feel powerful on those days… granted, they are more infrequent than I’d like.

And all this round-about discussion of writing has brought me to my point, as it always does. And it’s a point I’ve made before…

I love praying in the Spirit… I love praying in tongues. I love praying in my prayer language. Whatever you want to call it, I love it.

I love it when I don’t know what to pray, I love it when I don’t know what to say, I love it when I’m mad and want to rant and rave about something or someone to God. I love it when I have tears flowing more freely than words. I love being able to communicate with God in a stream of consciousness kind of way. My natural mind can check out and my Spirit can get active. It doesn’t matter if I mess up, I’m not getting a grade, I’m just talking to my Father from the depths of my heart.

It works best for me when I get somewhere quiet, preferably alone because I get really aggravated at distractions… it’s a character flaw, I know. Then I close my eyes and I just let the words flow. Sometimes they are soft and sweet, they almost sound like worship. Other times they are loud and forceful and I can tell my spirit is doing serious business. Sometimes I feel the urge to sing a little, yes I realize this sounds strange, but hey, I bet I’m not alone.

The bottom line is, I let my spirit talk to the Lord and then my own words will start to come. I get peace, I get clarity, I get direction, I get answers. And let’s face it, we are all looking for some answers in this crazy life.

Get to praying in the Spirit. If you don’t know how, ask someone who does to show you how to start. I promise, you’ll love it too.

Don’t jump the gun

It was 95 degrees this afternoon. My three exits from work were down to two and each one about 6 cars deep. There was road construction everywhere. People were agitated, you could just feel it. I pulled up to a stoplight and the guy in the car next to me jumped out and started yelling at the guy behind him. The dude didn’t even acknowledge him. When I finally found a stretch of relatively open road and I unclenched my hands from the ten and two position, I sighed in relief, glad to be headed toward home.

All these people around me seriously needed to chill out. They needed to get out of the cycle of hitting the gas only to slam on the brake a moment later. The stop and go, herky-jerky phenomenon didn’t get anyone home any faster; it was pointless.

While this road rage was going on around me, I was lost in thought.

Why do we push so hard to make things happen in our lives? Why do we find it so hard to be patient and wait for God’s plans to be realized? We want it now, we want it fast, and we usually think our way is the best way.

We jump the gun.

How do we not jump the gun?

Jesus told the waves to be still. He took authority over negative circumstances.

Jesus continually told His disciples not to fear. He refused to allow fear around Him.

Jesus confounded them with His wisdom. He was full of the Word of God for each and every situation.

Jesus never jumped the gun. His timing was, is, and always will be perfect. We have to get on board with His timing. When we’re going through a storm, or when we’re searching out an answer, or when we’re seeking direction, we have to settle down, ask Him our questions, and then be quiet long enough for Him to give us the answers.

God doesn’t operate on our time-frame.

The Bible says to be still and know that He is God (Psalms 46:10). The Bible says that He has plans for me, to prosper me, to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). The Bible says God will show me His salvation (Psalms 91:16).

God’s answers are the right answers and they come at the right time. I know I will get where I need to be, I know I will learn what I need to learn and do what I need to do. I will fulfill His plans for my life and so will you, if we just don’t jump the gun.

Busted

I got sent to the principal’s office today. The scary office lady came and got me and I had to walk out of class in front of everyone and they were going, “Ooooo, you’re in troubleeee!” My heart was racing and my palms were sweating. My mind searched desperately to think of what I could have done to incur this horrible spotlight of fear and shame. I was clueless, I was speechless, I was dumbfounded.

Actually, my Dad just asked me to lunch, that was all. But I had you going, right?

He did get on my case though, and rightfully so. You see, he reads my blog and he understands me well. So he puts two and two together and presto, he knows something’s up and we need to have a little chat. My Dad is the best.

So we sit down and he says, “I read your blog this morning.” I knew at that precise moment what was coming. And in truth, it was absolutely what I needed to hear at that moment. The Holy Spirit is always right on time, and He knows what we need, even better than we do . . . much better than we do, actually. He knew I did not need to be coddled and hugged and told, “Oh, honey pie, I’m so sorry you’ve had a tough time, here, let me buy you a toy.” But I needed a, “Pull your head out! Nobody wants to hear your sad story. Decide to be happy, decide to rise above your circumstances, decide to win!”

You see, I’m a fighter by nature, and I had decided to curl up in a ball and let life beat me down for a while. And the Holy Spirit and my Dad were kind enough and loved me enough to point it out to me.

The Bible says He chastens those He loves. (Hebrews 12:6 and Proverbs 3:12) I was definitely chastened and I got my act together in a hurry.

God doesn’t deal with each of us the same way, we are unique individuals. But I know that if we earnestly seek Him in the midst of our struggles, He will be there to lift us up and help us through in the way that works for us. God gets it right every time; His perfect love never fails.

Joy comes in the morning

I had a kind of down day today. No particular reason, just felt yucky and heavy. It may have been hormones, it may have been my breakfast back-firing on me, who knows? By mid-morning I was really pretty down in the dumps.

I had already done what I knew to do, I had prayed and asked God to help me, I had asked Him to lift this heaviness off of me, I rebuked the devil, I prayed in tongues. I covered my bases.

On top of feeling crappy, I was struggling with the article I was writing; it wasn’t flowing as easily as I’d have liked, so I decided to take a break and go out for a little walk. Sometimes I take a “creativity walk” to clear my head of the fog and get the ideas flowing again; a trick I learned from my uber-editor, Michele Chiappetta. You can read her hilarious and sometimes-over-my-head blog here. My Lord, that woman is smart.

As I walked, I checked out Facebook on my phone and scrolled through the status updates. Would you believe that someone had posted a verse of scripture that absolutely touched my heart and gave me the boost I needed to get my tail back to my desk, pull my article together, and finish my day with a bang?

The scripture was Psalms 42:5 in the Message Bible: Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God-soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.

Can you believe that? It really made me chuckle. The  phrase down in the dumps actually had gone through my head all morning! God is so cool.

I read that verse several times, thought about it for a little while, and then I told the Lord, “I fix my eyes on you and soon I’ll be praising again!” And I thanked Him for always taking care of me, no matter how insignificant my issue may seem.

As I lay here in my bed with my child and my 90-pound lug of a dog, I am thankful for my life. I am thankful for my friends and family who love and support me, and I am thankful for my Lord who promises me that joy comes in the morning! (Psalms 30:5)

Obedience is a trip

The Holy Ghost has been on my case for weeks about printing out my best blogs and putting them in some kind of binder or something. He has told me to “be ready.”

Be ready for what, I’m not sure. Maybe to put together a book of my blogs, maybe to write something different. I was just told to be ready. I have been saying I’m going to do it for weeks and I’m ashamed to admit that I’m not there yet.

You see, I had complications. I didn’t have any paper. The printer was on my kitchen floor and I wanted a home office. I needed a binder. I needed a three-hole punch. I needed an uninterrupted afternoon. I needed to not be sick. I needed the house to be quiet. Do you see what I mean?

I got caught by all those sneaky little things that trip us up and make us not do what God has told us to do. Second thoughts, hangups, excuses, each one by itself innocuous, but compiled together, they kept me from obedience. My mind gave me plenty of room to procrastinate, but I know I have no excuse. I just messed up.

So, I repented, I got my tail in gear, had some friends help me get a little home office set up in my never-used dining room and I put my self and my pink laptop to work. I had a box of tissues and a bag of cough drops next to me, a brand new binder and hole-puncher, plenty of paper, and plenty of time. I got about 10 or 15 blogs printed out and guess what happened.

The printer ran out of ink.

This is getting comical. I just braved Wal-Mart on the Friday before Easter, fought traffic to get home, hustling to beat a thunderstorm. And here I am; twiddling my thumbs.

Obeying God isn’t always easy. But it’s always the right thing to do.

I am going to find ink and I am going to finish this project. I am going to take my little binder with me to Dallas next week, and I am going to obey God. I’m going to “be ready!”

Time for a fill-up

My family will converge upon Dallas next week for our annual ICFM convention. ICFM is a ministerial fellowship that my father-in-law helped found, and for which Lynn serves as Oklahoma director. We have gone every year since we’ve been married, with the exception of our Phoenix detour. (Long story.) Lynn and his brother and sisters literally grew up attending this conference. Mize’s and ICFM go way back.

I remember going to this conference as a new Mize and my biggest concern was did I have enough cute outfits to make it through the week. Fast forward 15 years and I’m quite concerned about the ratio of gray to brown in my hair. Right now, gray is winning.

I remember the year that I was pregnant at the conference. I was only about 8 or 9 weeks along, in the throes of morning sickness and suffering from a highly overactive nose. To this day, the smell of bleach in a hotel room turns my stomach.

I remember having a newborn at this conference and Lynn doing the Daddy-bouncy walk across the back of the room during the meetings, spit up on the shoulders of all his suits. I remember having a toddler with his crayons and paper and Hot Wheels at my feet. I remember when we were teaching him to sit still in church and listen and I had to sit on the front row while Fred Price was preaching. I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe that whole time. Jaxon was a champ. I was a sweaty mess.

I remember when he was finally old enough for children’s church and I snuck out of the service at least 10 times to make sure he was OK. Fast forward to 2011 and he has a cell phone, a room key and knows the convention venue like the back of his hand, knows more people there than I do, and has girlfriends running out his ears. The kid has got this gig wired.

It’s funny when you realize you can actually sit through an entire church service without having to leave for a diaper change, a potty-call, or a spanking. I can actually bring my bible and notebook and take coherent notes. I can enter into the worship with my eyes tightly shut and not have to worry that my child is mooning people. It’s amazing how far we’ve come.

Last year at this time, I had not yet started this blog but boy did I have things to say that were pent-up inside of me! Now they’ve been set free! Loose her and let her go! Can I get a witness? (Sorry about that.)

I look forward to this week because I get to hear good Word preached by people I respect and admire and I always walk away feeling refreshed and inspired to do more, to be better, to conquer obstacles, and to fulfill my calling. I know from experience that if I attend these meetings with an open heart, and a spirit ready to receive from the Lord, I will not be disappointed.

You see, it doesn’t matter how much or how little church you sit in, what matters is the readiness of your heart to receive from God. And it doesn’t matter all that much who you’re listening to, for that matter. God can speak to you through all kinds of different people. It’s a question of whether or not you’re open to hearing. The Bible calls it “ears to hear.” That used to confuse me because I would think, “Well, sure I have ears, can’t you see them?” But you can have the biggest ears in the world and not really hear from the Spirit of God. Just ask Oral Roberts.

Not that he didn’t hear from God, ha! He definitely did. I just mean that he had really big ears! Aren’t you glad I clarified that?

I know God’s got things to say to me and I intend to hear every Word. I will set my heart to receive and my ears to hear. I will ask God to reveal His Word to me, to correct me where I’m missing it, to hone my rough edges, to stretch me in my weaknesses and to put His soothing balm on my hurts.

I will be coming home filled-up and ready to rock!