Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding? Job 12:12
Yesterday I turned the big 4-0! Still hard for me to believe, and I will confess I started out the day a bit grumpy.
In case you can't make out the sign in the photo, it says, "Christy Long - Made in 1970," - courtesy of my lovely daughter, Madison. Does that mean I'm an antique? It was posted on the fence in our front yard so that all the people who drive up and down our road would be sure to see it!
At first, I was tempted to pull the covers back over my head, but then I paused and remembered to count my blessings.
God has blessed me with 40 years of life. And I can't complain. Except for a couple of years at the beginning of the last decade, I've had a pretty good life overall. Oh I know that more trials are bound to come my way as long as I'm still here on this earth, but I choose to thank God for the good He brought out of the bad in my life. He has blessed me beyond measure and I am forever thankful for His amazing love and redeeming grace.
So instead, I decided my new motto would be, "40 and Fabulous!"
Funny though because even as I get older I still feel young on the inside. There are wrinkles on my face that didn't used to be there and I unfortunately don't wear the same size clothing I wore 15-20 years ago. However, in my heart, I'm still the same girl I've always been. An oldie goldie 80's tune will take me back and I can't help but sing along or sometimes even dance to my children's horror! But thank goodness I believe I have a little more wisdom than I did back in the day.
Of course, I am far from perfect and I still have much to learn. Certain that I will still be every bit as dependent on Him at 80 (Lord willing) as I am at 40, praise God that He is not finished with me yet. I stumble and mess up all too often, but His Word gives me hope... "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6
I'll close with two quotes from Mark Twain:
"Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been."
And, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."
Praising God for His blessings over the past 40 years and hoping my wrinkles show a lifetime of smiles! :)
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (KJV)
These poetic verses were read at my grandmother's funeral several years ago. They were some of her favorite Bible verses and they have become some of my favorites as well.
My daily Bible reading has taken me to the Book of Ecclesiastes the past couple of days and the timing was perfect to revisit some of those "trying to make sense of life" Scriptures.
This past weekend our community was shaken by a horrible tragedy. A 17-year-old girl was killed in a senseless incident. A young man threw a heavy brick through the windshield of a car; she was injured and died several hours later. I can not imagine what the girl's family is going through. She left behind a mom and dad and a little sister. The local high school has been mourning her loss as well and there will be a candlelight vigil in her memory tonight.
However, there is also another family involved here. The young man who threw the brick also has parents and siblings who love him very much and are also in disbelief over what has happened. He has been charged with murder. I can not fathom what his family is going through either.
I am sure that both families are hurting deeply and they need lots of prayer.
Another terrible incident happened over the weekend to a friend from church. He is an Alcohol Law Enforcement Officer and was working undercover at a local pub. When he attempted to arrest some young men for drinking underage, he was attacked and received a blow to the head. He suffered multiple blow out fractures and a deep laceration to the head. Praise the Lord he will be okay! He is married and has two small sons. Can you imagine what his wife felt when she got the phone call?
And then some of our friends and neighbors lost a loved one this weekend. An elderly man who was loved as a husband, a father, and a grandfather. He was the grandfather of one of my daughter's best friends and Madison and I visited the funeral home last evening. Grief is everywhere.
Life is precious. We lose loved ones, both young and old. But how do we make sense of the tragedies in life? Why do some live to be grandparents, even great-grandparents and others are taken way before their life even really gets started?
I certainly do not have the answer. It's a sobering thought, but eventually we will all die.
Ecclesiastes 9:12 says, "Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them."
It sounds so cliche but we don't know when our last day will be and we really should live each day like it could be our last. Kind of makes me want to hug my kids a little tighter and tell my mama and daddy that I love them.
The author of Ecclesiastes (thought to be Solomon) talks on and on about life being "Meaningless! Meaningless!, Everything is meaningless!" (Eccl. 12:8) Only to conclude in the end that it is the duty of man to fear God and keep his commandments. (See Eccl 12:13) "For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." Ecclesiastes 12:14
God knows everything. If you read Psalm 139 you will find that He knows everything that will happen in our life before we are ever born. "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:16
James 4:14 asks, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."
Again, I am not going to pretend to know or understand why bad things happen. Here's what I do know. We have a Savior who loves us and has made a way for us to spend eternity with Him. (See the following Salvation verses: John 3:16; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; 1 Peter 1:18-19)
Our life may be a mist and as someone who's turning 40 in just a few days, each year is starting to go by quicker and quicker. 40 used to sound really old!
Praise God this life is NOT all there is! If we have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, we can look forward to the day when we will live with Him forever and "He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain..." Revelation 21:4 This is the only true comfort I can find when life just doesn't make sense.
Only a life without Jesus is meaningless!
Praying for the hurting and the lost,
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5 (NIV)
My dad has the most beautifully manicured vineyard of anyone I have ever known. Each August, his grapes are a display of his hard work and meticulate care throughout the year. It is truly a beautiful sight to take in as you drive down the slower paced, rural road and even his neighbors are impressed with the astonishing view resulting from his labor.
Of course, if you live near my dad, you also know that it can be a bit noisy this time of year as well! You see, to protect all of that hard work my dad makes his rounds wearing a wide brimmed hat, and firing his shotgun in order to protect his delicious grapes from birds, squirrels, groundhogs, raccoons...anything that enjoys devouring his mouthwatering crop. It is quite a sight! "Everybody likes a grape!," he exclaims jokingly.
After taking a few pictures of some of the breathtaking clusters from this year's harvest, I was reminded of John 15 - Jesus: The true vine. The whole passage is so applicable and if you have time, please read the entire thing. But there are a couple of points that strike me after reading AND seeing.
In verses 4 anad 5, Jesus says, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
How many times have I felt spiritually dry...prayerless...powerless? More times that I would care to admit. But there is one common denominator that has occurred during those times - a lack of connection in my relationship with Jesus. Periods with less or no time spent reading His Word, no time sitting in quiet fellowship with Him, or simply not taking the time to talk with Him or saving room in my schedule for listening to His voice through Scripture or gentle nudging.
Communication is a two-way street. Sometimes I am guilty of simply reading the Bible and then rushing off to wake up the kids, make breakfast, or answer the phone and then never make it back to that quiet place I started from.
I have come to realize that I NEED Jesus every day. Most of us can attest to feeling too busy to spend time with Him and then later noticing a distance in our relationship. Honestly, I know there will be times that I'm taken off guard and I will not be able to meet with Him first thing - a sick child, an alarm clock didn't go off...things will come up.
There will always be distractions. My goal is to make sure I get right back on the wagon and make my time with Him a priority! After all, I don't think I ever forget to eat! Abiding with Him needs to be just as important to me as physically eating. His Word is clear. Apart from Him I can do NOTHING. (vs. 5) What a feeling of hopelessness!
Also, you may not have noticed in the picture, but my dad protects his grapes, the fruit of his labor, with a special netting. This is to make it harder for small animals to help themselves to the crop until it is time to pick the grapes. This reminds me that we have an enemy who desires to pick away at our hearts, our minds, and our souls. Anything he can use - doubt, fear, worry, busyness, all of life's little distractions that keep us from simply abiding in the True Vine.
We should always be on alert, just as my dad patrols his vineyard. Ephesians 6 is a well-known passage that describes the "Armor of God." Instead of a shotgun, our weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, or the Word of God. And in verse 18 we are told to, "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, 'be alert' and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Emphasis mine)
In other words, keep talking to Jesus all the time, about everything, and be alert!
Another reason it is important to remain in Him is found in verse 7. "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." This certainly does not imply a "genie in the bottle" idea of Jesus, giving us whatever we want. Rather, I believe it supports a verse found in James 5:16, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." An effective prayer life comes from staying connected to Jesus, remaining in Him.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, we should remain in Him and bear fruit to be a display of God's glory! "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." John 15:8 Oh, to be the grape cluster of His eye!
Father, your Word tells me that you love me and that I am to remain in you and obey your commands. This is so that Your joy may be in me and that my joy may be complete. (See John 15:9-11) Lord, it is my desire to be Your pride and joy, bearing much fruit, just as an exquisite cluster of grapes. Forgive me, Father when I have become distracted and neglected to abide in You. Help me to remain alert to the enemy's crafty tools he uses to take me away from time spent with You and Your Word, and help me simply to remain in You.
This summer is racing right on by! We celebrated all three children's birthdays in June. I have been away quite a bit and unfortunately I am one of the few people I know who does not own their own laptop. Hence, the number of recent posts! :)
I flew to San Diego with my husband the end of June and spent my time shopping and touring as he worked a conference there. In July, I vacationed with with family and friends for two weeks at Cherry Grove Beach, South Carolina. And this past weekend I attended the Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference in Charlotte.
It seems like only a few short weeks ago, I registered for this event on March 15th, the last day to receive a discount for early registration. How many times did I consider cancelling? Too many to count, I'm sure! And now, I am certain that it was the enemy who attempted to alter my course for a phenomenal weekend of receiving spiritual nourishment, attaining practical information, and simply having fun and making new friends from all over the country and even Canada!
The conference was amazing. I had prayed that God would give me clear direction and boy, did he ever! He most definitely met me there this weekend.
Before I start, let me say that my dad has supported me with the publishing of my book, but he has told me over and over the last couple of years, "Your children need you...I don't belive it's God's timing for your ministry to 'take off'...maybe later after your children are grown..."
Even leading a women's Bible study, my dad does not agree with my priorities. In fact, he just told me at the beach a few weeks ago, "this is a critical time in your children's life."
Still, I wanted to lead a Bible study. My flesh kept fighting. The morning we packed up to come home, I opened my Bible to Proverbs hoping to find a clear answer about facilitating a study and participating in women's ministry again at my church. I began reading through Proverbs 22 where I found the familiar verse, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (Prov. 22:6)
Hmmmmm. Was that an indication that I should be focusing on my children?
Just in case I misunderstood, I decided to keep reading.
Suddenly, there it was! Proverbs 23:22, "Listen to your father, who gave you life."
Okay God. I get it. My daddy was right. I guess I should listen, huh?
So, I decided leading a women's Bible study was not the right move for me at this time, and a week later I drove to Charlotte to She Speaks to learn more about pursuing my writing and speaking ministry.
It was profound.
There were over 600 women at the conference and I have no doubt that God spoke to each one in His own way.
So today, I wanted to share a few of my "take home" messages.
First, Lysa TerKeurst is a dynamic speaker! I have received Proverbs 31 daily devotionals for as long as I can remember and they bless me each day. However, I have never heard Lysa speak in person. Let me just say it was powerful.
She instructed that ministry is 24/7. That means at home, with your family. Ouch!
She also pointed out that our reaction determines our reach. Our reactions (good or bad) determine the potential of our reach in ministry. Something to meditate on as I head over to the DMV this week to renew my driver's license! Not looking forward to standing in that line. Again, ministry is 24/7. I shall smile and be patient. :)
Seriously, Lysa stated, "when we pause, the Holy Spirit has time to interrupt our natural flesh reaction." Please Jesus, help me remember to PAUSE!
Renee Swope explained that there are different seasons in a woman's life and ministry. Taking care of small children, the illness of a parent, empty nesters...you get the idea.
"GO" seasons are when we are speaking and writing regularly and are at a place where we are able to put a lot of time into our ministry. "SLOW" seasons are where maybe we can do some ministry work, but know that we need to be there for our families as well, and there are "NO" seasons when we realize we must tend to the needs of family only and put our ministry on hold.
Okay, so I am in a slow season. It has to be this way now. My daughter is 13, one son is 10, and the other son is 4. My children need me at home. My husband needs me at home. He is wonderful to support me in ministry and let me go do what I like to do, but I want to be sure I am not overdoing it.
Angela Thomas spoke on Saturday night. I LOVE THIS WOMAN! She was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina and she lives in Greensboro. She even has an accent like mine. And she said it's OKAY to sound this way! :)
She talked about the Sovereignty of God in our "calling." Simply put, "The Lord is the decider of who does what calling." When you see others doing things in ministry you would like to be doing, it's okay. Her response was, "Maybe it's not my turn yet." Our job is to become a woman who is ready while we are waiting for our turn.
Angela also instructed that we are to be seeking God first (Matthew 6:33). And very matter of factly said, "You can't 'bring it' if you haven't been somewhere to 'get it!'"
She was a treat to hear!
Karen Ehman gave the Sunday morning message based on Revelation 2, staying true to your first love. Good works are great, but they mean nothing if you have forgotten your first love...Jesus! She spoke to my heart about not allowing yourself to become distracted by all the things that tune out our time with Him (TV, facebook, whatever it is that are our time wasters). Keep Jesus our focus!
Finally, the most powerful message that I heard was from our surprise guest via video - Beth Moore! Her message was short, but packed full of Truth and practical advice. My eyes began to well up with tears as she spoke the very message my dad has been giving me for many months.
It was as if she said, "Christy Long, your Father wanted me to tell you..."
- "Never neglect your family for ministry."
- "Never go beyond where your husband is willing to bless what you are doing."
- "No amount of success in ministry makes up for failure with your family."
And the last one...here's the clincher...
- "Your speaking ministry will still be there after your children are grown!"
Was that why I was at the conference? To hear those words?
I needed new perspective. Unfortunately, it took Beth Moore saying it before it began to resonate with me.
My earthly father had spoken the same exact words to me countless times.
My Heavenly Father had whispered those words in my ear but why had I not listened? Still I pressed on to do what I wanted to do.
I am still available to speak, but I have determined that I am in a "SLOW" season and from now on I will listen to my Father about opportunities that are presented.
I will pour my life into my kids. In fact, I feel His "calling" in helping with the youth -to be more involved with my children and focused on their spiritual needs.
I will wait for my turn in ministry.
I will continue to write.
I will continue to seek the Lord.
I will work to become a real "Proverbs 31" woman who takes care of her husband, her children, and her home.
I will be content with my calling.
And one day...when my Father says, "Now, it is your turn."
I will "BRING IT!"
We traded a lot of cards this weekend at the conference and I would love to hear from other women. What was your "take home" message? Feel free to post any comments.
For His Glory,