When I was very young I was a makeup artist for a major cosmetic brand. It paid the bills but it also introduced me to the world of luxury.
When I was 21 years old I had the great adventure of taking classes in an historic downtown Chicago hotel for the Chanel brand. The experience enveloped me in the sights and smells of luxury and the set the bar for the most posh experience I had ever been exposed to at that young age. I never forgot the experience, both for the products represented and for the way they made me feel.
Luxury has a way of doing that. The memories, the feelings that are elicited linger long after the experience is over.
Since stepping into my new life, no longer working in the church, my part time job has meant a return to the artistry business. It's not so much that I love retail (because I don't), but I do love people and I do appreciate the luxury brand I work for.
I have found that many of the feelings evoked surrounding the purchase and use of luxury brand cosmetics are simply echoes of the residual effects many have found in a relationship with God. Luxury brands want to make people feel truly special, important, worthy and valued. They want to give their customers the ability to look and feel their very best, but no matter how badly they try or how much they spend on celebrity endorsements and lovely gifts, it is no match for what the King of heaven can deliver. I do not blame them for trying. They are simply trying their best to deliver their interpretation of what they think human nature longs for. Human beings long for significance.
There is a high value placed on self worth when you finally comprehend that you belong and you are His very own. When you realize the price Jesus paid to set you free, the far reaches He was willing to go to find you, to redeem you and set you free, you begin to appreciate your own worth. You understand that there must be a high value on you, because He paid such an exhorbitant cost to come and get you and make you His.
We cannot possibly understand all there is to know about the love of God or why He would go to such great lengths to call us back to Himself. His love is so vast and far reaching, it would be impossible to comprehend were we given 10 lifetimes to do it.
Webster defines luxury as, "the state of great comfort and extravagant living". Is that definition not a piece of kingdom life? The luxury of being His cannot be matched anywhere on earth!
Being His means you no longer have to prove your worth because He already proved it when He died on the cross for you. You are safely nestled in His heart. Connected. Warm. Known. Totally loved. Totally planned for and cheered on. Being His is where everything begins and ends. There are no more questions once you know you belong. Just think about that.
Climb up in His lap and rest your weary striving heart. Lean back into the luxury of His grace. Lean back on His heart and let Him set things right with His whisper.
Psalm 23, TPT
1The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd.
I always have more than enough.
2He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love.
His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
3That’s where he restores and revives my life.
He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure
and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness
so that I can bring honor to his name.
4Lord, even when your path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.
Your authority is my strength and my peace.
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.
I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.
5You become my delicious feast
even when my enemies dare to fight.
You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit;
you give me all I can drink of you until my heart overflows.
6So why would I fear the future?
For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life.
Then afterward, when my life is through,
I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!
"Connie you will not be able to move on until you stop crying victim and hold yourself accountable for what you knew was going on. Family missionary trips to Africa, Europe, China, ect. A new outfit for Sunday mass from Macy's or Dillard's, the whole family on the church's payroll. Nothing but the best for the Friend family during the almost decade you were at Capital Christian. But you did not know what was going on (right)..Shame on you. As Dr. Phil would say, "You can't change what you don't acknowledge". The good thing is I am not your judge, juror or maker. The good Lord you so profess to is and he is watching you."
Unfortunately, since leaving Carson City I have received quite a few pieces of hate mail, however, this one caught me by surprise. Why would it catch me by surprise? First, it has been over 2 years since I left Carson City but most importantly, it is because I don't even know this person. If you have never been in my position, consider yourself blessed. It is an assault to the soul when moments like this happen. The devil is the accuser, and that's all this is. An all out firestorm assault from the accuser himself.
It's not that I need to stand up for myself, but that in the. process of healing, I want to. In the past, I would have just deleted it and held the pain inside. But I am outgrowing that type of response. So you really don't have to read this, and it may bring an onslaught of controversy but I will answer these accusations one by one.
#1: I am not crying victim. For me, writing is about me taking steps to be made whole. In fact, being silenced was what being a victim sounded like. I am not a victim. And I will not be silenced.
#2: Most of those trips the writer brings up were paid for by outside parties, and the Europe trip was paid for by me selling my car. Does the writer also not realize that I was in Carson City since the year 2000? That's a long time to take these trips.
#3: New clothes for "Sunday Mass"? I am not Catholic and I do not go to mass.
#4: Shame on me. Yes, shame has been all over me since this happened. Shame on me for protecting people, loving people, and trying to keep it all together. Shame on me for loving Carson City and dreaming for what could be and simply hanging on too long. Shame on me for losing my family and my marriage and my friends, not to mention my career and my home. Shame kept an ugly hold on me, until I realized that Jesus didn't just die for the unsaved person on the street, but He died for my sin and my shame so I have given my shame to Him. He reached out His nail scarred hand and He took it. He has removed it as far as the East is from the West. I don't need someone I've never met telling me I should feel shame.
#5: Dr. Phil is right. I have acknowledged much failure and tons of blame. Just because I choose not to write about private pain does not mean I haven't experienced it.
#6: The writer declares that she is not my judge or jury but by her writing this post, she has declared herself to be just that.
#7: "The Good Lord I so profess" is just that. He is good. Even when people are not. Even when I am not. He is good.
#8: "...is watching me." Thank God He is! He has been my protector, my sustainer, my ever present help in time of trouble. He is the Alpha and Omega, my beginning and my end. I would be lost without Him. In His eyes, I am forgiven, loved, valued and cherished, which is the same message I taught everyone in my care while I was in Carson City. And it is the same message I wish to share with "Sunni" and others like her.
I don't know this woman, but one thing this experience has taught me is that I shouldn't judge. People are like glaciers. There's only so much you can see on the surface and sometimes what's beneath the water line is bigger than you can imagine but God is big enough to deal with the seen and unseen. So I don't judge you, Sunni, but I have defended myself past your unkind words and accusations. I hope that's okay.
When the world seems against me and progress is very hard fought, I find that burying myself in the Word of God is the safest place to be. His private love notes console me and remind me that I am not alone.
Psalm 31 7-8 TPT
"In mercy you have seen my troubles and you have cared for me;
even during this crisis in my soul I will be radiant with joy,
filled with praise for your love and mercy.
You have kept me from being conquered by my enemy;
you broke open the way to bring me to freedom,
into a beautiful, broad place."
Maybe you too, have experienced the pain of failed dreams, of loss, rejection, or of people misunderstanding your intentions. This is not the end. If fact, it is just the beginning. So, take a deep breath with me and step into that broad beautiful place of freedom in Jesus, knowing you are loved. You are planned on. You are cared for. Even now, you are standing in a new place of freedom. I thank God that I am standing there too.
I made the move to Salem, Oregon a year ago this week. I knew I needed a new place to live with my two youngest kids, and I didn't have any idea where to go so I moved back to the place where I grew up. I thought I'd be close to my parents, where a safety net might be found, where a relationship might be built between my kids and their grandparents that they had never had before, growing up so far away. But very soon after we moved in, my dads health took a turn and he had to move to an assisted care facility.
The stress and turmoil upon my own nuclear family was echoed out into my parents and I felt completely tapped out. I had nothing to give to the caregiver or to the one who needed care.
Many people near my age group are going through the exact same thing with their parents and it is stressful at best and heartbreaking at it's worst.
Today I set aside time to go visit my dad. No kids, not mom, just me and him. For several hours. I bought him his favorite fried chicken to eat while we visited. We sat in silence most of the time, but occasionally I would ask him a question. Sometimes he could answer, sometimes he couldn't.
I asked him if he felt he had been a good father. He said, I don't know, but I tried really hard. The simple honesty brought tears to my eyes. I assured him that he had been a great dad, and I was so thankful.
We talked a bit about family genealogy, about my siblings, about how he was feeling, but mostly we just shared time. We did a lot of shuffling around from one spot to another, getting fresh air, returning for coffee, more fresh air, then as we were outside, he pointed to a small fruit-like thing hanging from a shrub. He said, "eat it."
I said, "I don't think that's fruit dad." He kept saying it was, so I threw it to him. He smelled it and scratched it, and nearly tasted it. I said, "no dad!" So he threw it back to me. I smiled and scrambled to catch it. I threw it back to him. We sat across from each other in the shady breezeway of the retirement home, smiling, playing catch and just being.
I'm learning more and more, it's not about the doing nearly as much as it is about the being. Being with someone, sharing the same air, a united understanding, a smile, a laugh or a hug. It's the being with someone that is a gift.