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Glancing Back

I hate the oncology office. It smells like chemotherapy and pain.

I’m currently waiting in the lobby of Texas Oncology, breathing through my mouth, so that I don’t smell the odor of illness. Okay, I’m not certain what illness smells like. Most likely I’m smelling a combination of hospital cleaners, hand sanitizers and latex gloves. Regardless, my mind associates the smell with all the crap that cancer brought. I’m taken back to chemo, nausea, muscle pain, soreness and radiation burns. I hate this smell. On rare occasion I’ll get a sniff of it while in the foyer of my apartment complex, or in the grocery store and immediately must move away from it. But right now, as I wait for the nurse to call me back, I must sit in it and flash back to the worst of the past year. I hate remembering.

Flashbacks are fickle.

These very same images that I hate to recall in the doctor’s office, are the very same images that come to mind during worship. I stretch my hands to the Father, close my eyes and meditate on the “red devil” coursing through my veins, and the days after where I lay in pain on the couch. I recall to memory sickle cell crisis’ in the hospital and crying from the mind numbing pain in the emergency room. I recall the smell again, and I smile, because I’m reminded of the healing that God has brought. I need to remember the bad that occurred in my life, so that I’m consistently aware of the good that is happening. I love remembering.

Where is the healthy balance between remembering and forgetting? How do we balance no longer living in the past and rejoicing in the present, while not forgetting just what the Lord has done?

And then I remembered our friends, the Israelites, and this particular scripture:

“Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” -Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

Now, I’ve heard this scripture before, understanding it as a call to put my past out of memory. I grew up thinking that there was something “healthy” about forgetting. We are told as children to forgive and FORGET. But as I wrestle with the memories of my cancer battle, I question this. So I look at this scripture a little closer and as I read it now, I’m noticing two important things. The first thing I noticed is the verses above this passage:

“This is what the Lord says—

he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:” -Isaiah 43:16-17 (NIV)

In the preface to telling us to forget the former things, the writer reminds us, pulls to memory, what the Lord has done in the past! The writer is saying, “Look, the dude who parted the red sea, who drew you out of the hands of your enemy- that guy has something to say.” He is defining God by what He has done for him in Israel’s past! This requires us to go back, and recall all of the mess we were in AND HOW the Lord delivered us from it. We look back to remember this, that we may remind ourselves of just who God is.

The second thing I noticed is the word “dwell” in vs 18. Remembering the past and dwelling in the past are two different things entirely. It’s not the casual glancing back that is dangerous, but the complete 180 turns we make to stare and meditate on our past. This is dwelling. The longer you stare in a direction, the more likely you are to walk in that direction. We move in the direction in which our feet and body are postured; surly if I’m facing towards an exit, I will walk in the direction of the exit. Surly if you position yourself to fixate on your past you will move toward it.

So, I encourage you to not turn around and dwell on your past. There is nothing in the past that is worth the repositioning of your body, and the slow backwards journey you will embark on. Your future, and the brightness and fullness thereof, is in front of you! Glance back. Occasionally turn only your head, ever so slightly over your shoulder that you may be reminded of the incredible road you have challenged. Do this only that you may remember what the Lord has done, and that it will propel you deeper into praise, worship and service. This is important, as Moses warned the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:12 of forgetting, saying,

“Then take care lest you forget the Lord,

who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

out of the house of slavery.” (ESV)

I’ve often wondered if this is why the Israelites complained so much, and had such little faith during their journey. Time and time again, the Lord showed His mighty hand, providing for them in miraculous ways! The Lord parted the Red Sea, allowing them to escape from slavery and the wrath of Pharaoh (Exodus 14); He rained down manna from heaven that they may eat (Exodus 16); He provided water for the Israelites to drink, from a rock in the desert (Exodus 17)! And yet every time they approached a trial, complaining and unbelief overcame them. Maybe they didn’t glance back. Maybe they allowed themselves to forget the previous wonders and miracles that the Lord had done. Maybe they no longer remembered the pain of slavery and their prayers for freedom.

I don’t want to forget. i wont forget. I shall not. I’ll be sure to glance back to the past on occasion while resisting the fleshly urge to dwell on in.

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An Atmosphere of Change

Change is on the horizon. I can feel it in my bones. It’s in the atmosphere, thick as molasses. Every decision I make could be the beginning of the pivoting moment I’m anticipating. It is looming over me like a thick and glorious cloud, causing me to question my tomorrow. If an elephant arrives at my doorstep today I would not be surprised! I know it’s coming- something unexpected, surprising, relieving, challenging and necessary for the forward progression of my destiny. It’s God ordained and Kingdom driven. It’s BIG.
It’s SCARY
It’s EXCITING.
What happens when your securities are stripped away from you, and you’re left with yourself and God? There are no plans or assumptions. You don’t know how you will pay rent next month, or where you will live. Where will your work and what will you do? Because you’re smack dab in the center of change.
Change: to make or become different.
I’m certain that this is stretching further than a change in my circumstances, but that the very center of my being is becoming different. He’s stretching me, molding me for a New Thing. New Wine.
New Wine must be placed into New Wine skins (Luke 5:38). New Wine as it ferments expands and needs fresh wine skins to allow for the stretching that will occur. Old wine skins would burst at the pressure caused by the new wine. So God prepares you for the stretching that’s to come- the stretching of your faith, finances, territory, business, heart, service- by replacing the old with the new. When replacement of the old wine skins happens surly we expect the old wine to be replaced with new wine as well- the New Thing.
I have no clue what the New Thing is or just how expansive it is. The Holy Spirit within you eludes  to the enormity of your destiny as your vision and dreams become more detailed, wild and vivid. You have an eternal knowing while not knowing anything at all. Your mind wrestled with your spirit because it can not comprehend. It knows nothing.
I HATE not knowing.
I’ve come to learn that not knowing is what’s best for me. In the past,  had I known the changes that were coming to me, I would have ran or made feeble attempts at trying to “fix” the situation, which would have ruined the blessings to come. I’ve noticed that every time change has come and I’m anticipating the New Thing, I’m placed in a position of blindness; I can’t see what’s ahead of me, I know nothing. I don’t know what to do.
But my Spirit knows and tugs me deeper into submission, obedience and faith in His instruction. He says, “Walk.”
So I’m required to walk in complete darkness into the New Thing, which will transform my being. For faith without works is dead (James 2:26). So, I work and it demands that I trust Him. It demands that I seek Him and Him only. For a blind man can attempt to find many things, but is only guaranteed to find the Lord. The blindness pulls me closer to Him. And for the change that is coming, I have a feeling that’s exactly what I need; to be closer to my Father who will guide me
So He strips me down as He prepares me for the New Thing that’s coming. And I’m simply left with this:
Him.
And then it occurs to me that He is quite enough.
Jewel
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I’m Perfect in Weakness

This chick is a hot mess.

I had nothing left to give (note the febel attempt at a smile). I traditionally have proven to be an expert at keeping it together for y’all. There is no amount of piss poor attitude, depression, anxiety or hardship that a good foundation, lipstick and extra curriculars can’t mask. Mom dies: get new boyfriend, smile often, don’t cry, experiment with false lashes. Boyfriend abuses you: continue smiling, get hair done, party often, Instagram, buy blush. Diagnosed with breast cancer: wear pink stuff, send photos to family of you smiling wearing pink stuff, go to work the next day, don’t cry, wear eyeliner. As odd as it sounds, these tricks have worked for 30 years of life! Y’all buy into the charades, compliment my strength and my ego remains intact. You leave inspired, I leave with my pride- nobody’s hurt. Boom! *mic drop.

But, nobody is healed either.

My spirit wrestlers with this scripture lately: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christʼs power may rest on me.” -2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We get to experience God’s omnipotence, His all encompassing power and ability to do anything, at our weakest moments. For we don’t recognize God’s power of deliverance until we are in the dark places that calls for it. Human nature doesn’t recognize help, unless there is a need. We don’t recognize solutions unless there is a problem. Therefore God’s power becomes undeniably clear when we are in the lowliest of places spiritually, mentally and physically. It is a power reserved for the imperfect, the messed up, the spiritually drained, the weak and the downcast, and therefore there is no one under the sun who doesn’t qualify for His power.

It’s at this very moment, at my lowliest place, when God is about to unleash His healing power, do I reach for concealer. I’m ashamed at my weakness and must hide behind bronzer. You must leave my presence believing that everything is alright- no mess resides here. I believe this is true for many of us.

Yet Paul says that he will boast about his weaknesses, speaking with pride and self assurance regarding his afflictions, because he is aware of the power that resides in the weakness and the mess. This is in stark contrast to what I attempt to do through Instagram filters and mascara. Boasting implies speaking and speaking requires vulnerability. Vulnerability. It sounds like a bad word. Like the word “moist”. I want to vomit.

Yet, I believe this is what Paul may be calling us to, for we will not experience the full weight of God’s power resting on us until we are vulnerable enough to speak on our weakness’, admitting our fragility. “But vulnerability gives way to judgment, which leads to rejection! This I can’t take again!” Yet the testimony covers it! Your vulnerability in showcasing your weakness allows others to witness the glory and power that falls upon you, even to those that wrongfully judged you. You will grant them access into the journey and ultimately into the victory of your deliverance. In our vulnerability we must know that although our weakness may be judged and shamed, God’s power rests on it and on us.

So when you share with me how craptastic your life is, I’m equally exposed to how God is moving and healing you, which allows me to grow and heal too! It blesses my soul to hear how our God delivered someone out of bondage, especially when we share the same chains! I’m grateful for the testimonies that reassure me of God’s power, grace, attentiveness and love. Over the past month, friends and strangers alike have shared with me their cancer diagnosis, chemo stories, IV and fertility journeys, and thoughts on strength and self love. These transparencies have blessed me beyond belief! This is where the the magic happens; this is the critical space of enlightenment- when I realize that I’m not alone in this large world, that I belong to a network of hurting souls, and that others have found coveted joy. To my friends, family, and village, to fleshly brothers and sisters, we must allow others to heal through our exposure. May we place our fears aside to become vulnerable enough to boast in the weakness’, allowing the power of God to reign over us.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your power which is made perfect in my imperfections (for there are many of them!). Help me to be vulnerable enough to boast and share my weakness and therefore my testimony with others, that you may be glorified. Amen.