Friday, March 27, 2009

Laying Down the Shoulds

    When I accepted His invitation for salvation I was immediately given a mandatory Christian “to do” list.   Being a striver it was easy to get right in the thick of it, living to fulfill the requirements, until He showed me a different way.

     Sometimes the old stuff creeps back in to taunt me.    Before I know it my mind is captured in a battle.  Why am I not doing what I should be doing?  I feel like a bad little girl who ought to know better.  

     I haven’t journaled in over a week.   I’ve not had a “quiet time”.  I’ve not even prayed much.  I’ve just not had many words.  Maybe it’s part of grief, maybe it’s exhaustion from not sleeping well, I don’t know.  Regardless something wants to tell me I’ve blown it.  I should feel guilty. I wondered what Jesus would say.  The dialogue began.

      “Jesus, I know you are not unhappy with me because you don’t base your love on my performance.   But sometimes it still feels like I’ve disappointed you with my lack of activity.”

      “Jewel, It’s OK that you don’t come every day.”  “I know that you love me.”   “I don’t grade your love based on your performance.”  “I see into your heart.”  “I know what’s there.”

       “I know it’s the “shoulds”... "I should be doing more.”

       “Jewel I came and took away the shoulds because the shoulds just leave things empty.”  “They are not from the heart.” 

       “I just love you, Jewel, that’s all, because you are mine.”  “I know you love me.”  “I’m OK with you just being with me.”  “You don’t have to say anything.  You don’t even have to read about me.  It’s OK for you to just dwell here with me.”  “There’s nothing to prove.”  

        “Respond when I call.”  “I know you will.”  “Yes, sometimes the distractions capture your attention but that does not diminish your love for me.”   “Your life belongs to me, Jewel, I know that.”  “It’s a comfortable love.”

     “What is asked of me?”


     “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.”  “Live in love, Jewel.”  “Respond to love.”  

        It’s all such a far cry from where I started.   I could have put Martha to shame.  My life was lived on my own, working out all my salvation, trying to be a good girl for God.  But it was a yoke that shackled me.  I became a performance driven, “should” woman.  Life was about me living the requirements.

       In that place that he says “be still and know I am God, my efforts and striving, the shoulds, cease.  He becomes God.  He invites me into the places He desires me to be with Him.  He gives me a chance to respond to His invitation.  The shoulds are laid to rest.  

      I know it’s true.  He burns within my soul.  I always know when He is inviting me to pray for someone, my heart aches for them.  When He’s drawing me to His Word, it beckons me. When I need to journal or just sit, my body longs for it.  

       In His gentleness He reminds me that it is up to Him in me.  He asks that I listen and follow where He invites me to be.  

      “Don’t live in the shoulds, Jewel.”  “I am not in the shoulds”.  “That is the law.”  “I abolished the law.”  “You are free to live in Me.”  “I will do all through you.”  “I am the life in you.”  “I am the invitation.”  “Respond to My invitation.”  “Don’t do unless I invite you to do.” “You will know.” “When I give you rest, rest, dear one.”  “It’s my gift to you.” “You have nothing to prove.”  “I know you love Me.” 

      Being still means entering rest.  Not just rest from a busy life, but rest from the striving and shoulds.  In that place life becomes about Him in me.  He is the work.  I am His workmanship, not my own.   He is the life, He is the breath.     

     This complicated life I have lived is no longer what He asks of me.  It’s quite simple, really, lay the “shoulds” to rest for Jesus abolished them.    Love the Lord your God by responding to His love.


     Today as I once again lay my shoulds down I breathe in the very breath of God while enfolded in His embrace. He knows how much I love Him for He has read my heart.

©copyrighted:  2009  Julie L. Todd

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Gift of Stillness

        It’s late.  Nothing is moving about in the house, except for my fingers upon the keyboard.  All work has shut down, bringing our house to a time of rest.   Noise of the busy household is silenced, shutting out distractions.  The senses are sharper at this time of night, allowing me to hear the softer noises of my home.  There’s something about the stillness of the night that invites me.

     It takes me back a few years.  The words were becoming so repetitive I knew He was trying to tell me something.  He kept saying to me, “Be still, my love and know I am God.”   I’d known this scripture for as long as I could remember, yet there was something about the way it kept coming to me that alerted me to His invitation.

      Truthfully, it wasn’t one of my favorite verses.  In fact it frightened me.  What was stillness any ways?  I had never been still a day in my life.  I was accustomed to putting forth my efforts for Him.  It made me feel good.  Wasn’t it what good Christians did.  Wasn't I supposed to be busy for Him?

      What did it mean to be still?  How do I get there?    Having been one who loved having an agenda I waited to get "the plan" so I could get busy.    Nothing came.

     I couldn’t reason my way in.  I couldn’t figure it out and quite frankly the more I tried the more I fell away weary and frustrated.   If I was going to find this place of stillness God would have to take me in.   Finally, exasperated, I gave up. 

      It’s quite the paradox.  As I gave up God began to move.  He swept me up into His arms and invited me into my rest.  

      I began to discover His life in me.   He began to show me the things that mattered to Him.  He removed my efforts and told me about His.  Distractions began to be removed revealing that still small voice.

      In I Kings 19: God told Elijah that His presence was going to pass by Him.  A great wind came and tore the mountain apart but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper. The voice of the Lord was in the whisper.  In the whisper He told Elijah what was next on his journey. 


     The stillness takes away the elements of life and reveals the whispers.  It becomes a place where I have no life of my own, my life becomes His.  I can't figure it all out.  Enter twined as one, He begins to live through me.

       He tells me what’s next on my journey.  He makes known the plans.  He even shows me the path and tells me whether I am to turn to the right or left.  He invites me to step out and follow where He wants my feet to be planted.  He is the cloud in the day, the fire in the night that leads me where He wants me to go.  I don’t have to figure it out.  He will reveal.  I can rest.

      Everything is initiated by God.  Everything.  It’s all so remarkable.

      This place of being still has become the most tender of places.  It’s the place where I am free to wait and be.  Even my tears become precious to Him, for they are the words of my heart.  All those years I had tried to form the right words to get Him to move on my behalf.  When there are no words, it’s enough.  He reads my tears and comes for me just because I need.

      I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I said yes to stillness.  I will never be the same.  The ceasing of my striving has brought the gift of knowing God.  As I rest from my efforts, life becomes about Him.   In stillness I come to know Him, for it is there that God becomes God in me.

     Late at night everything in the house shuts down... all work ceases, everyone and everything comes to a place of rest.  It’s so easy for me to see it now.  Being still is an invitation to enter into my rest.

     For anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.   Hebrews 4:10

©copyrighted:  2009  Julie L. Todd

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's Not My Mother's Voice

      Sometimes the regrets of my life, overwhelm me.  I wish I could go back to the beginning with what I now know.  I ache when I see how the enemy has used my actions to speak to those I love.  

       When I hear the words, “I feel”, from one of my daughters it’s usually not a good feeling.  Words have been distorted and though I’ve not spoken what they perceive, it’s what they believe.

      I have made mistakes, I have regrets.  I’ve lived a wounded life causing wounds.  It devastates me to think of it.  My words and actions have been used to hurt those I so dearly love.  But what they feel isn’t what I feel.  Messages have been spoken that were not true.  How can I convince them?


      It’s funny how you swap sides of the fence.  I was once in my daughters’ shoes.  I once believed things about my mom’s actions or lack of actions.  I once perceived and felt the same type of things.   

        She must have felt the same pain I feel when my daughters tell me of their misperceptions.  It’s unlike any other heartache.  If you could just get them to see the truth......  I ache in these moments, for myself, my daughters and yes, my mother.   


      In the movie “Two Weeks Notice” Sandra Bullock’s character says,  “For better or for worse, my mother is the voice in my head.”  For daughters, unfortunately that comes close to truth.  We allow our mothers actions to be a voice in our heads.  We allow our perceptions of their actions, instead of their hearts, to speak truth.  It is our downfall.  


      I want so desperately for my daughters to see into my heart and know.  They are my treasures, I love them with every fiber of my being.  I will always be pleased with them.  I delight in who they are.   Nothing is more important to me than them.  I ache for them to know.

        No matter how desperately I want them to see, my hands are tied.  Just as my mother was not able to free me, I cannot free them.  Only Jesus can set one free.  He is the  way, the TRUTH and the life.   It all comes down to truth.  What is the truth?  

        I started out my life looking to two people to give me something they were never made to give me; love and value.  God is the giver of love.  He is the bestower of value.  Man was made to be a conduit of love, not the source.  My parents were not made to be the source, they were made to bring me to the One who is.   I got it all mixed up.

        My parents became my source, instead of my conduit.  When they could not fully give me what I so desperately wanted I was deceived into allowing their actions speak to me of who I was or was not.  It was all a horrible mistake.  God was meant to give me those things, not my parents.

       I fell into the same trap with my children.  If I could just love them well and bestow their value on them, then my heart would rejoice.  I couldn’t.  I failed.   I wished I’d known.  I hurt them.

      I wonder what it’s like for God as He watches us turn to others to fill the needs He made for Himself.  He waits to tell us the truth.  He waits to love us and give us our value.    I wonder if He aches for us to know, believe and live, like I ache for my children....  He must.

     My aches become my cries.  His aches become His invitation.   “Let your feelings and pain bring you to me for the truth.”  “Don’t let them define you.”  “Don’t let them speak to your value.”  “Let me give you value.”  “Your mother is not the voice in your head... I AM.”  “Let it be so.”  

      The perceived voice of our mothers can no longer be the voice in our heads.  It’s distorted.  It will not give us the truth we long for.  Until we let the perceptions go, we will not hear His.

      He waits to tell us what He sees in us.  He waits to love us with a love that will never leave us empty and wondering.  HE is the truth.    

      As He aches for us to know, He invites.  “Come let me tell you who you are.”   “I will be the voice in your head.”  “Let it be so,  my love, let it be so.”

Submitted to April's Write-Away Contest at Scribbet, check it out here:

©copyrighted:  2009 Julie L. Todd

Friday, March 13, 2009

His Beauty, My Truth

     It never ceases to amaze me how movies portray a picture of real life truths.   I watched “Penelope” last night.  It’s now on my “all-time favorites list”.

     Penelope was born with a deformity as a result of a family curse.  Her parents confined her to the house to protect her from ridicule.  They believed the only way she would break free from the power of the curse was through marriage to one of her kind, someone of nobility.  They had to find a man who would want her.  Suitors were paraded in while she hid behind a secret window.  Once she revealed herself they would run.

     As the story unfolds, Penelope decides to run away.  She’s done with possible suitors and rejection.  She’s weary of her mother’s attempts to give her the life she’s always wanted for her. On her own, Penelope begins to discover who she is.  She learns to love herself, the curse is broken and her true beauty is restored.  I love the picture this movie gives.

     We all come into this world exposed to the curse of sin, a result of the fall.   While under sin’s influence people do things that hurt us.  We believe things about ourselves that are not true.  The result is, we live without seeing our true, God-given beauty.  


     We want desperately to find value.  We want to have some type of beauty and meaning to our lives.   We find ourselves turning to people, things and even good Godly activities, in hopes that the power of our curse will be broken.


      I turned to men.  If I could just have a husband then maybe I would feel wanted, loved, accepted.  I dated around until my husband was brought to me.  Pieces of my heart were left scattered.  By the time I married I was a broken woman, looking for someone to remove the curse of rejection.   It wasn’t possible.  No one could give me that.


      There was one scene in the movie that really hit me.  One man sees Penelope’s inner beauty, but saw himself as a failure because he could not give her what she wanted.  He says, “I didn’t have the power to break the curse.” 


      That was my husband.  No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t remove the curse of rejection from me.  He couldn’t give me the value I so longed for.   I almost killed him with my need. Though he tried, my husband could not give me what God asked me to give to myself, His truth of who I am.

     The best line in the movie is, “It’s not the power of the curse, it’s the power you give the curse.”  Sin cursed us.  It tainted our identity.  But the curse was broken.  Jesus broke every one, yet so often we keep them alive.

      We’ve been given the newly transplanted heart of Christ.  Our old man identity has been crucified with Him.  It’s a new day.  We can now choose what we will see and live.  The messages brought to us by our own sins and the sins of others are vanquished.  We have a new lens to see through.  He opens our eyes to His vision.  Will we give a look and see?

       We keep the power of the curse alive when we look through eyes that are not His.  He sees things differently from what we see.  If we saw what He saw, there would be nothing to be insecure about.  If we are going to see Him as He is, then we must see us as we are.  We must see through His eyes and give ourselves what He asks us to give, love and acceptance.

      Penelope broke the power the curse had over her when she accepted herself for who she was.  That’s my story.  No man could give me the value I so desperately wanted.  I received it from God and began to give it to myself.   


     Insecurities drop off when we choose to live in the truth of who God says we are.  Sins, mistakes, feelings, do not define us.  God does.   I am not who I thought I was.  I am more, so much more.  So are you.   Penelope had the power to break through and she didn’t know it, the power lay in loving herself.

       It is finished, Jesus said.  All curses are broken.  We are free to live as ones forgiven and loved deeply by our God.  He has loved you.  Will you now love yourself?  


1.  What do you see?  Whose eyes are you looking through?

2.  What do you say to yourself about you?  Is it what He would say?  If not, then why would you?

3.  Do you ask Him what He sees in you?


 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Galatians 5:1b

Also posted at the Internet Cafe

©copyrighted:  2009 Julie L. Todd

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Face to Face Encounters

      There's a small town that sits inside the Georgia/South Carolina border. It's a rural community.  Some would even call it country.   I was amazed as I watched them at work. 

      My father had just taken his last breath.  Within the hour the pastor, his wife, two deacons and a church member were at the door.  They stayed with us until we were settled.  The next day phone calls began.  A steady stream of visitors, food and phone calls came for days.  People wanted to see Mom, hug her, hear from her, know she was OK.  I have never been hugged and loved on by so many strangers in my life.  

     I got in my car to leave after my 6 day stay knowing my mother would not be living alone.  She would have people around her, not at a distance, but up close and personal.  Her community would make the effort to visit, call, ask her to dinner.  It makes a difference, especially at a time like this.

     I too live in a small rural Georgia town, but it's a different generation.   E-mails and Facebook messages, are often the chosen method of communication.  Technology often replaces face to face encounters.   I am guilty.

    I was born in 1957.  Though I do not consider myself old, I'm old enough to remember how things used to be.  There have been some remarkable improvements to life as we know it.  I remember rotary phones,  party lines, three television channels that shut down at midnight. 

       The first cell phone was invented when I was a sophomore in high school. It would be years before they entered households.  I didn't use my first computer until age 24 while working for a doctor.  Only the wealthy had them in their homes. There was no such thing as the internet.   

     Life was much simpler back then.  There was no such thing as electronic games.  Children played for hours outside, making up games, and inventions.  We were never at a loss for something to do.  

        We had each other, and childhood friends.  It was common to gather together with other families.  We didn't have relationships over the computer, we had them face to face.

    It all came to me as I watched this little community gather around our family.  They are the older generation. They are not hooked into technology. They live face to face. 

     I’ve often tried to find words to explain what I felt was missing for me, but couldn’t ever get it out right.  Watching what transpired that weekend, put the longings of my own heart into words.   I long for face to face relationships.  In the midst of all this improved technology something’s changed?  Life has taken over, people are busy. E-mailing and Facebooking is easier.  It doesn't require as much time or effort.   


      It makes me wonder what God thinks about it all.  After all, we were made in the image of the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit gathered together at creation.  The most important thing to Him is relationship.  He invites us to relate with Him.  He tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Can we really love that person in our community through an Email, alone?  Can we weep with those who weep through a text or Facebook message?

      My husband reminds me of a scene in “We Were Soldiers”.  A taxi would drive up to the house with a telegram and a stranger.  The stranger would deliver the news of the soldier’s death.  The Colonel’s wife got wind of it.  She wouldn’t leave the women alone in their grief.  She would deliver the messages.  She would mourn with the widow, hug her, take care of her children.  She would be the hands and feet of Jesus.

     What’s happened to us in this generation?  Things that were created to simplify our lives, have stolen life’s simplicity.   We wrestle with busyness and distractions while life lived in close relationships in the flesh, slips by.  

      As I sat at home, grieving the loss of my dad with my Email and Facebook messages, something was missing for me.  I missed the face to face encounters.   I missed the hugs.  I missed the eyes that showed they cared.  

     We can learn from the small community in Hartwell, GA.   I can learn from them.   They are the hands and feet of Jesus to one another.  It makes a difference in lives.  I know,  I experienced it.    As they embraced my mother, they embraced me.  It was love at it's finest.  Well done, Hartwell, Ga, well done!

    And the second is like it, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Matthew 22:39

***P.S.... Just wanted to say, I am SO grateful for my "cyberspace" friends... It amazes me that I have friends all over the world.. Though I cannot see you face to face, I see you heart to heart..a true gift!

©copyrighted:  2009 Julie L. Todd

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sorrow and Joy Mingled Together

      My father left this life on earth a week ago, yesterday.  I have never experienced anything like it.  I wonder if I will ever get over it?  They say you have to learn a “new normal”.  What is normal, any ways?  Unexpected turns take us to places we never dreamed we’d go.  

      I knew my father had an incurable lung disease, but he left us so quickly.  It was unexpected.  We thought he’d be around longer.  

      Last Tuesday a call came from my mom.  I could hear it in her voice.  It wasn’t good.  Was this it?  Should I go?  Is it time?  We watched and waited.  He improved.  By Wednesday morning it was evident he was spiraling down, again.  “It’s time to go, Babe”, he said to my mom early that morning.  He knew.

       I got to the house one hour before he left us.  He knew I was there.  I told him I loved him, and as he labored to breathe he told me he loved me too.  It will be the last time I will hear my daddy tell me he loves me.    My heart aches as I think about it.  There’s a void, a deep cavern in my soul.

      One of my brothers, my sister, my mother and I surrounded him and prayed.  It was a sacred moment as we released him to go be where eternal life awaited.  His once labored breathing began to slow down.  He began to breathe easier than he had in months.  My sister and I began to sing to him.  I reached for his hand... I wanted to hold onto him as he left me.  

      Slowly but surely he took in his last breath.  There was no labor, no struggle, just a tender, sweet end to a life.  Papa God removed his last breath on earth and took it to heaven.

      Sorrow and joy intermingled, life and death coincided.  We are left here to live, while he is where he was made to be.   My father’s physical experience is over.  He is fully restored and filling his place in heaven.  

       I on the other hand am still in the midst of this life on earth.  There is great loss to my heart, my body, my life.  I will never see my dad this side of heaven.  I will never feel his arms around me again.  Though I will dwell with him forever in heaven, I miss him in the here and now.

       Well meaning people try to offer me encouragement, “He’s in a better place.”  “He’s fully restored.”  The words don’t comfort me.   I grieve not for my dad, but for me.

     The phone calls that came  were beautiful.  The words repeated over and over.  “I loved your dad, he made me feel so special.”  “He was the best friend I ever had.”  “He was like a brother to me.”  “He had an impact on my life.”  “I’m going to miss him, greatly.”

      A somewhat quiet man who had only been walking with Jesus since the 1990’s, he had no idea that his life mattered so much.  Isn’t that how it is?   We see ourselves in our “mess”....but God.....  He reveals in spite of us.  We bear His heart, even when we don’t see.  


        It makes me want to ask more... seek more, listen....  I want to see what God sees. My Daddy’s life continues to speak to me even in death.

        We were created for life, to the full.  We are making an impact.  We are beacons of the Light of Life, even when we don’t know.

      As I grieve, Papa God gives me a picture to hold onto.  I see Daddy and Jesus arm and arm, strolling through the scenes of his life.  As they walk, the story is unfolding.  Daddy can now see what Jesus sees.  He now knows how deeply he was loved.  

       I have the hope of being reunited with my daddy again.  One day he will be running through the crowds of heaven to get to me.  He will sweep me up in his arms again and it will be as if..... time stood still.

       Thank you for your love, prayers, emails and comments.  They have blessed me tremendously!

      I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  John 16:19-21

©copyrighted:  2008, Julie L. Todd