As this year comes to an end, I can’t help but reflect on events and ideas that shaped my 42 years of life up to now, especially in the last twelve months, that will carry me, changed, into the new year.
The take-away from this reflection? Jesus loves me. And not in a cute childrens song kind of packaged way, but in a, I’m blown clean out of the water, tears streaming, none of this has been easy but the lover of my soul has shown up and come alive in such a way, He’s busted the seams of the proper little box I have been keeping Him in, kind of way!
Here’s what I know…..
I wasn’t raised in a church that taught of the virgin birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and salvation through Jesus Christ. I heard this truth for the first time at a spring break baptist retreat on the beach in Florida when I was 18 years old and I asked Jesus into my heart right there, toes in the white sand, with my sister, as our friend Jeremy lead us through a prayer. Was I saved? I have no idea, but can tell you, I didn’t own a Bible and didn’t walk through the doors of a church for at least three years after that moment. And even when I did get my first Bible and began attending church off and on, the next twelve years were riddled with such sin, it would embarrass us both for me to recount it here. But then, in 2007, when the relationship with my husband began, we both realized nothing we were doing up to that point was working, and if we were really going to give it a go, we wanted to dedicate ourselves, our relationship, and our lives to Jesus. We plugged in, began praying together daily, joined a church and got baptized. We stopped drinking to get drunk, cussing like sailors, and worked on ways to selflessly care for the other. By God’s grace, our desires changed and so did our lives, and it occurred to me, that night on the beach, God claimed me for His own, and even after 12 years of running, He left the 99 to come after me (Matthew 18:12).
Following these changes in our lives and our wedding, the desire for children took over. You can read the blog from the beginning to follow our whole journey in this, but what it taught me, and the relevance to this blog post, is that God’s hand in the arrival of each child….His timing, His provision, His protection…with all five kids, from 2009 to present, took away any opportunity for us to take the credit. God was in control of every aspect, every time, and the glory was, and still is, all His. He made Himself known in a mighty way through each of our children.
Homeschooling our kids. I never wanted to do it. It was never something I aspired to, considered, or ever thought I’d do, but alas, God paved a way where there was no way, and….here we are….fourth year of Akin Academy is half over! The kids are smart, curious, aggravating and amazing. God teaches me daily about Himself through my children. Their stubbornness, their frustration with failure, their defiance, their joy…….in all these (and more) God shows me my own behavior and how He lovingly teaches and instructs me, guiding me in the way I should go, despite the fact that I fail daily. His patience with me is amazing and unmatched.
Africa….in two separate seventeen day mission trips, eight and a half months apart to Ghana, Africa, God met me. He revealed Himself in ways I didn’t even know to look for. He showed me that the same God we pray to for miracles on mission across the world, is the same God we pray to here in America in need of our own miracles. He showed me that Satan will distract us in ways that are prevalent to the society we live in. He revealed things about me, to me… some not so pretty, but all to bring about change in my heart, and draw me nearer to Him.
My Gram. Her health has been declining for the last three years and each time she has a set back we are sure she won’t bounce back from, I remind her that I have prayed that God will keep her here until she knows Jesus. She usually just smiles or scoffs at my telling her this, but after 93 years of a religion set in her ways, that did not include Jesus as God’s son, salvation through faith, or Jesus as the way, the truth and the life, my Gram has accepted that Jesus is who He says He is! This moment (December 26th, 2018, to be exact), this decision, this hope, has been prayed about by so many for at least a decade and in the midst of declining health, when there was really no way I thought she’d shift her thinking after all these years and all those talks, God opened the eyes of her heart. He softened her to the idea that she is loved by our heavenly Father and that this gift He offers of salvation through His son Jesus Christ, is just that….a gift, we simply receive. We don’t earn it, we don’t work for it, we aren’t ‘good enough’ for it…..we just say “Thank you” as we accept His Son who bled and died in our place. And, after fearing we had lost her, she said to me,
“I want you to know, I have accepted that Jesus is real because He is answering your prayers.”
Of all the moments, daily and life changing, that God has shown Himself to me, this….this not giving up on my Gram, this knowing it is never too late, this notion that all we really have to do is call on the name of Jesus….this moment has revealed His love to me in the most tender way. She didn’t pray a scripted prayer, she doesn’t know a scripture to quote, she likely will not say the ‘right’ things about salvation after 93 years of not believing, but I know, without a doubt, that Jesus saved my Gram that day.
Friends, God is not looking for our best angle or most flattering lighting. He’s not looking for you to ‘get it right’, or say the right thing. He’s not waiting on you to get the drinking thing under control, or the gossip thing, or the sexual sin, or for any of the things we look for before we ‘follow’ or ‘like’ someone. He is just looking for you. The YOU He created.
So what is the take-away from my recent reflections from 1976-2018? You are the you that He loves. Just that. And when you get that part…..when you decide to accept that love….the rest falls into place. God will work on the rest. That’s between you and Him. He’ll show you where you need to repent, and refocus, just as He continues to do for me daily.
As you move into 2019 (which is already here because this post I started before December 31st, is now finished the night of January 2nd… #reallife) I pray you will rest in His love and that if you have not received His gift, that you will do so. You’ve just spent an entire holiday giving and receiving gifts from people….. be willing to accept the One that will change your life.