Friday, December 31, 2010

No Resolutions Here...

New Years Day is traditionally one of those natural dividing lines in life, a day that invites a fresh start, a chance to do something differently or better. We optimistically write out our list of resolutions, those things we hope to accomplish in the coming year that we were not able to do previously. I personally stopped making a list a long time ago, not because I'm already doing everything the way I want, but because a resolution, to me, invites failure. You really hope you are going to accomplish something, but a resolution without a plan is just a really good dream.

Last year I went with the One Word Revolution, and that seemed to work for me. I chose the word "endurance" and found so many places to apply it in my life. I let the word lead me and not give up on things because they got hard. The word "endurance" lead me through training for the Danskin Triathlon which lead to a healthier lifestyle in the process...never a bad thing. It took me through the whole event, even though the day didn't go as I had planned. The word "endurance" took me through some tricky days in my personal life, helping me to make godly decisions when it would have been easier not to. My favorite scripture that goes along with endurance has been Hebrews 12:1-2, which basically says to lay aside everything that slows us down, and run with ENDURANCE the race that has been set before us, looking to Jesus as we do it. I like to joke that the hard part is knowing which race is ours to run.

I am prayerfully considering another word for the upcoming year. Prayerfully, because my idea of what I need and God's idea of where I need to grow might not be the same. Once I settle on a word, I will find some scriptures to memorize. It is the process that takes God's Word from the level of information to transformation, which is His goal for be conformed to the image of His Son. (Romans 12:1-2).

As different words flash through my head, I find myself rejecting them outright based on my own perceptions and limitations. Or, I look at my past failures and decide already that I can't do something. Can I challenge you to come along with me on a journey of a fresh start? Looking to the Bible, God has a few things to say to all of us that I know I am finding helpful at this time of new beginnings:
  • "Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old." (Isaiah 43:18) God's plan for you is not limited by your past failures. Don't put that burden on yourself.
  • "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;" (Lamentations 3:22-23) Just because you screwed up today doesn't mean tomorrow can't be a fresh start. God's mercy (kindness to one undeserving) begins anew each day, so why don't we?
  •  "For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26) If God is bringing something to your attention, be it a dream or a life change, don't decide on your own strength what is possible. God is not limited by our strength or abilities. Check out this post for some serious encouragement on dreaming God's dream for yourself. 
I don't know yet what my new word will be, but I know that God has great things in store for me. Not because I am so cool or deserve them, but because I know that all of God's plans for me are good. Since I woke up breathing this morning, I know that He isn't through with me yet. I have an idea what I would like to work on, how I can continue to grow in the likeness of His son, but the list is long. I will be praying for God to lead me in the way He wants me to go. I'm sure 2011 will have a few surprises in store, maybe even some that I won't be grateful for at the time...who knows? But I know that with God, the best is always yet to come. What a way to start a new year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Shepherd's Invitation

I have taken time this Christmas season to imagine life from the perspective of a shepherd. Not everyday life...but the amazing gift they were given with the invitation to come to the manger. They were just minding their own business, hanging out in the fields, living a fairly solitary life taking care of the sheep. Even though we picture old guys with crooks and staffs, they had to be diligent and aware at all times, on the look out for anything in search of a midnight mutton snack, definitely not wimps. Anyway, imagine yourself right now, just doing whatever it is you do, making dinner, doing laundry, helping with homework, basically just living one day to the next.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, blinding light splits the night wide open, and angels...not cute little cherubs with robes and haloes, but biblical angels, messengers of the Lord on high, fiery fearsome creatures...come with an invitation,  an invitation to an event that has been prophesied about for two thousand years, but no one has really mentioned lately. It had seemed as though the party wasn't really going to happen...God had been eerily silent for the last seven hundred years. The shepherds, in all their humdrumness, have been invited to the gala to end all galas, to see the Messiah on the night of his long-promised arrival. Do you think the shepherds worried about what to wear, how their hair looked, or the fact that they probably hadn't bathed in some time?

The invitation we receive is maybe not quite as dramatic as angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus in the night sky, but it is a spectacular invitation all the same. We are invited to take part in the celebration that is Christ, the celebration of victory over sin and the grave. A celebration over death, to partake in the eternal promise that God promises through Christ. What are you going to do with it? Will you spend endless time worrying about what He sees when He looks at you, worried that you aren't properly dressed for entrance into such an event, wondering why He summoned you to come? 

Or will you go, just put everything on the back burner, and go? Accepting this invitation requires only one thing, and it isn't a big house, fancy clothes, or a big bank account. It requires a believing heart. The only thing you need to accept the most important invitation of your life is a heart that believes that Jesus is the Son of God. He is not waiting for you to clean yourself up first. We can never be good enough, clean enough, rich enough, nice enough,  anything enough, to gain entrance into Heaven on our own, so God sent His Son to lead us in. Like the shepherds invited the night of the first Christmas, Jesus is our Shepherd, protecting us from prey, watching over us, leading us in the direction of safety.

As this Christmas season winds down, will this be the year you don't pack up Jesus with the Santa Clauses and the Christmas ornaments? Will you make a place for Him in your heart, accept His offer to come and dwell forever? There is no fancy dress code, no gold ticket required, just an open and believing heart.

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."
John 1:12

This blog is being posted on Rachel Olsen's blog carnival. She has invited us to post who Jesus is to us, and He is my Shepherd. This was a difficult post, because He is my everything, and choosing one aspect hardly does Him justice, but it is my hope and prayer that your heart will be touched by Him, and that you may choose to seek Him, to find out for yourself who He is.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Gift of Time

I'm supposed to be playing in the backyard right now...I can see my son's little red face tucked into his hood through the window. We were delivering cookies to the older couple next store. They have boys my age and have enjoyed watching my boys grow up. It reminds them of when their kids were younger. As a matter of fact, my boys sleep under the comforters that my neighbor made for her sons...she always wanted them to go to another set of brother's. They sat, safely wrapped, for 30 years, waiting for the right little boys to cover up. Tonight one of my boys will be sleeping under a blanket made with love for someone who is no longer with us.

When my neighbor opened the door to accept our gift of treats, I learned that one of their sons passed away yesterday from cancer. They knew it was coming, but the grief and shock are evident. It was a mercifully quick journey through the disease, less than a year. He was a dad and a husband...his daughter is just a little older than Connor.

While my little boy is waiting for me to gather myself together, my heart breaks for a family planning a funeral instead of a holiday. Lord, help me to remember what really matters. Not how many presents or how good the tree looks, but to celebrate the relationships. We just never know how many more Christmas's we will have together.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Quick Thought

This week I allowed myself the treat of having a few friends over to watch the movie The Nativity. In the season where every second is accounted for, and there is never nothing that needs to be done, just taking the time to sit with friends is a luxury.

It is not the first time I've seen the movie, but each time something new hits me. This time it was the wisemen. They planned, plotted, and journeyed for a very long time, just to see the long prophesied King. While they had the resources to do so, it required the sacrifice of their time. It made me reflect on what I am willing to sacrifice to spend time with my King.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas "Surprises"

I remember the Christmas of 1979 like it was yesterday. I was twelve years old and had “discovered” where my mom was hiding the presents, “discovered” being used very loosely. Each day after school, I had about an hour on my own before my mom got home from work, which left me plenty of time for snooping. My diligence paid off as I found a pile of department store bags in the back of her closet, behind her dresses. I remember opening a bag and finding the most beautiful sweater, all the shades I would choose out of the crayon box to color a sunset. Surveying the wrapped gifts under the tree Christmas morning, I wondered which one contained the sweater.

I didn’t have to wait long until the box was opened.

By my sister.

Ugh! Positive a mistake had been made, I snuck a look at the tag to check the size. Nope, definitely not a mistake. It was my sister’s size, and it fit her like a glove. I would like to say that when I opened the sweater meant for me, because we always got the same stuff but in different colors, I was just as enamored, but I don’t remember. All I remember was the disappointment of wanting something so badly that I thought was supposed to be mine.

Every time I saw my sister wearing her sweater, I wanted it. I would try it on while she wasn’t looking, my arms hanging out of the sleeves, the bottom edge skimming my belly button. When we try to wear something that wasn’t meant for us, it rarely fits. I know. I tried to be something that I wasn’t for awhile, and it was really uncomfortable. You smile and pretend that you didn’t notice that something is wrong with the fit, until you can’t do it anymore. There is a relief that comes with wearing your own clothes, physically and metaphorically speaking.

Has that ever happened to you? If your whole life was wrapped up right now and sitting under a Christmas tree, are there “gifts” you’re pretty sure weren’t meant for you? You probably didn’t ask for cancer, but there it is. I’m sure you didn’t have a child with special needs on your wish list, but now you would not trade that gift for anything else. Some of us have experienced things that we are still coming to grips with, but we can see the goodness of God at work in the worst of situations.

Has someone else been given something you are sure had your name on it? Maybe you never married or had kids, but that is not the way you had planned your life. Maybe you had a career path all picked out and you are not doing the things you thought you would be. Did you get passed over for something that you were so sure was the perfect opportunity meant for you, and now you are watching someone else in your place? It’s just hard sometimes to be wherever you are when it is not the place you planned on being, if that makes any sense.

Maybe you are looking at the pile that is left, hoping beyond hope that the thing you want most in the world is in one of those packages. Time is running out, but you still hope to accomplish that one thing. Sometimes we call it a bucket list…those things we always wanted to do. I’m hoping that seeing the Northern Lights, learning to play the flute, and seeing my loved ones come to Christ is still in my pile of presents.

On the other hand, have you begun to open something, shake the box a little for a clue, and been amazed at what might be in that package? My favorite encouragement is knowing that God’s best present is still waiting to be opened. I don’t know what gift that will be, but I know that when He is done giving me the gifts He has for me in this life, He will call me home. At this point in my life, there is a box that is just beginning to open. I’ve been shaking it a little, trying to guess what it really is, but it is more like the Russian dolls…inside each beautiful work of art is another one. God is the best secret keeper ever, too, because as much as I want to see this gift in its entirety, I can’t. No amount of whining, cajoling, or pleading will make Him tip His Hand.

I wish I could say that I learned my lesson that Christmas, and stopped snooping. I honestly just became better at it, checking the sizes to avoid Christmas morning heartbreak. I suppose I am still a little like that, wanting to know what is coming next in life. I wish I could be content in today, with today’s gifts, and not be snooping around the corners.

I know three things, though, that make it easier to wait until all my gifts have been given:

• God is sovereign. That is a fancy word for totally, irrevocably in charge. Whatever comes my way, He already knows and has decided that I can handle it. Good or bad.

• God has a plan. As a matter a fact, a plan that has been set in place since before the beginning of time. (Ephesians 2:10) A random “gift” may be part of a larger picture, and we have no idea how it will all fit together in the end.

• God loves me. Period. In this season when we celebrate Jesus’ birth, it is easy to remember that the biggest gift of all has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with me, all at the same time. And when someone loves you that much, all gifts are the right size.

It is my prayer this Christmas season that all of the gifts that have found their way under your tree are truly received as gifts, gifts from the Father of Lights (James 1:17). And that you resist the urge to snoop.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Sliver in the Darkness

Standing outside this morning in the predawn chill, dressed in my robe, my winter coat, and my mukluk slippers, waiting for my dog to do her business, I looked up for a moment to see the moon. It is one of those slivery crescent moons right now, but with a planet or star shining just above to the upper left. It sort of looked like the Proctor and Gamble logo. That wasn’t what got me thinking though.

The moon, if you don’t know, produces no light of its own. The glow of the moon is reflecting the light of the sun. No matter what phase of the moon it is or where it is placed in the sky, it reflects the light of the sun. Even though we can’t see the sun, we know it is still there because we see its light reflected. As I looked at the tiny sliver, it made me think of the light we are supposed to reflect.

I began to imagine that I was the moon, called to reflect the glorious light of the Son. Am I just showing a sliver, little glimpses of light but mostly in the dark? Do I shine like a harvest moon, reflecting the full glory of all that is possible in the Son? Does how much light I shine changes with different phases in the month. (Ouch!)

I thought of places in the real world where the sun doesn’t shine for six months out of the year, and the only light seen is the light of the moon. They know the sun is still there, even though they can’t see it, because of the moon. There are people in our lives living in spiritual darkness. They can’t see the Son, but they can see His glory and beauty reflected through our lives, if we let them. We can give a glimpse of what is really out there to someone who otherwise wouldn’t know.

I bet the moon doesn’t hang there in the sky, being all proud of its bright shining light, either. If the moon could think, it would probably be so grateful for the sun, keeping it from living in eternal darkness. As I begin to shine for God, and things along my path are lit up, I sometimes get confused. I start to think that I am responsible for the light and goodness working in my life. I’m sure the moon doesn’t have an ego problem.

My prayer this morning is multi-faceted. Lord, please help me to remember to shine for You, to reflect Your light into the darkness that fills this world. Use me, Lord, to point the way to the True Source of Light, to be a beacon of hope in the night. And Lord, keep me humble. (Always a brave prayer, I know.) Help me to keep You at the forefront of my life, remember that it is only Your Light that I reflect, Your Spirit in me that is seen, that on my own I am nothing. It is Your grace in my life that gives me light for this journey.

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”


Listen to the words of this Matt Redman song. What can you do today to reflect the glory of God into your surroundings?

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Challenge to All Control Freaks

The other day, a good friend of mine told me that I remind her of her mother. Now, I don't know her mom personally, but when the conversation begins with "I've been wondering how to say this without offending you", you know it's gonna be interesting. And interesting it was...eye-opening too, because she made a very good point.

Like all people, I like things the way I like them. There is a small chance...teeny weeny...that I might take this to the extreme. I have nothing against spontaneity as long as we have planned for it and it was my idea in the first place...I tend to have a narrow scope of what elements are needed for an experience to be successful, and if the ingredients step out of those boundaries, I am more likely to give up the experience or opportunity all together. I don't think my friend had any idea how much I would take that conversation to heart.

In the last few days, I have found myself saying yes to things that I know will challenge the structured life I try to live. I know how awful this will sound, but I have even allowed myself to be inconvenienced. In my ever so meager defense, though, we as a people don't usually do what will inconvenience us. Because of that, however, I believe we miss out on some of the wonderful unplanned blessings that could be ours.

I am grateful for this conversation, even though it came up just as a chat in the course of a visit.

I think.

Anyway, this time of year brings out the best and the worst in me. I love, love, love all things Christmas. I am overwhelmed by the majesty of the Lord's birth. The other night, my husband and I took the kids to Christmas in the Country, the light display at Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee. We took them even though it was getting late and moving into what we fondly call stupor time, and we had a great time. At the end of the display, there is a building that houses a life-size Fontanini nativity scene. As I was reading the Christmas story from the Book of Luke aloud, I got so choked up I could hardly continue. I don't know if anyone else felt it, but the weight of glory and the truth of the words took my breath away. All I wanted to do was stand there in awe and contemplate the great thing God has done.

But, I was there with two little wound up boys and a husband who was way out of his comfort zone. It was dark out and he was not in his studio apartment (our bedroom) watching TV. The worst in me wanted to resent the intrusion on my adoration of my King, but....if we hadn't have come out in the first place I never would have seen the nativity or read the scroll with the Christmas story. I tried to convey my excitement to the kids, but they wanted to get to the next building with the electric train display. As we went to the next room, I reminded myself that for two kids up almost past bedtime, they were behaving remarkably well. They were excited, but it was an exciting place. We walked around the giant train display together, munching on decorated sugar cookies, took our picture in the old-fashioned sleigh, and headed home.

In the process of allowing the family to do something that was dangerously close to being out of bounds, we made a wonderful Christmas memory. My four year old said that it was the best part of the holiday weekend.

In the small challenge posed by the statement "You remind me of my mom", which was probably never intended to be a challenge, I have opened myself up to life. Blessings don't come accordingly to my schedule, when they are convenient and expected, but they come when I give up a little control, a little of the way I think things should be. I will be on the lookout this season to experience the majesty of Christmas not when I have created the right environment, but when the timing might not be perfect. I will try to just let life happen a little more often, looking for God to show up in the unexpected.

Will you join me this season in saying "Yes" when it would be easier or make more sense to say "No" and just see what God does with it? I would love to hear what happens.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Tension of Gratitude

I am taking part in Rachel Olsen's Devotional Carnival on gratitude, a natural topic for this time of year. But, I have to admit, this topic gives me a little tension. Not that I'm not grateful for the life I live. On the worldy side of things, I am extremely blessed. I am able to be a stay at home mom which I recognize is somewhat of a luxury these days. I am grateful that we have a warm house, food in the pantry, cars that run, one for each of us even, and our health. I have a lot to be grateful for, recognizing that God has blessed us richly. Just  watching the 6:00 news reminds me that I live in this little utopia.

Can you feel the tension rising? I read somewhere that the enemy to a great life is a good life. Living a life where we don't have to struggle much makes it very easy to grow complacent. Of course I realize that all good things come from above (James 1:17), but sometimes, it is easy to let a prayer of gratitude turn into the Pharisee's prayer of thanking God that you aren't like "them". Whoever "they" are...I don't want my recognition of the blessings God has bestowed on us to seem superior to the life He has set someone else into. Does that make any sense? For whatever reason, God, in His Sovereignty, has set me in this place, in this time, in this circumstance. If I had been born in the slums of Haiti, He would still want me to have a grateful heart.

While I'm busy being grateful for the life I have, the people I love, and the God who saved me, I want to remember that gratitude is a state of being, not a state of circumstance.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My First Thanksgiving

Hey there friends! I am also posting over at our Mom Time blog, and shared the story of my first time cooking Thanskgiving dinner. It brought back some funny memories...check it out!

I'll Take the Padded One, Thanks

When I was a preteen, what we would call a tween today, my mom bought me a bra. Not because I was anywhere near needing one, but because I had been whining for one for as long as I could remember. Bras hold such promise to a young girl. I can remember trying on my mom's bras while she was at work. They fit me almost perfectly because I would wear them backwards, ignoring the pouchy pockets hanging off my shoulder blades. Since my mom would buy the bras and bring them home, I just assumed that they were supposed to fit, never saying anything if they didn't. I remember the time she brought home a 34AA.
The bra was beautiful. Apparently I had graduated from the hookless mesh bras that snapped up to my chin whenever I raised my hand to the silky, fiberfill lined bra with the pretty blue flower in the middle. The only problem was that it didn't fit. At all. Even on the tightest clasp it hung around my body like a t-shirt that had been cut in half. Tightening the straps didn't help; it just pulled the cups up to my collar bone. It took some MacGyver-type action with a few safety pins, but I was able to wear the beautiful Teen Miss bra. I felt so grown-up despite the jabbing of the pins and the bunchiness under my clothes. I was desperately hoping that no one could tell that I didn't actually fit into the undergarment; being a flat-chested girl was tough. It seemed like everyone else was developing much faster than I was, and I just really wanted to fit in.
Growing in our faith is sometimes like the bra debacle. We become Christians, accepting Christ as our Savior, and then look around at what everyone else is doing. There seems to be external, unwritten time tables of faith. When you are a baby Christian, everything is new and exciting, and you gain a desire to learn everything all at once. At least that is how it was for me.
I signed up for Bible studies, feeling like I was finally sitting at the grown-up table on Thanksgiving. I sat through a couple of them not understanding a word anyone was saying. Frustration quickly set in. I was not familiar with the books of the Bible, so looking up passages was like brain surgery for me. I didn't understand much of the Old Testament symbolism or the "Christianese" that was going on around me. I sat with a polite smile, hoping to convey deep thoughtfulness instead of empty panic. I was in over my head…my new garment was not fitting.
I have since learned that our faith grows and God works in us on His timing. Romans 12:3 says that we should each think "according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." It is easy to look around and wonder why everyone else seems to "get it", and feel like you don't measure up in some respects. Nobody wants to be different, but there is a comfort in knowing that it isn't about me. It is about God and the gift of faith that He gives.
When I think back to the training bras my mom would buy for me, I remember the excitement of taking that first bra out of the bag, the disappointment when it didn't fit, and the shame as I kept that knowledge to myself. At some point, though, without my noticing any change, the beloved garment began to fit. I got rid of the safety pins and pulley systems and just wore my clothes the way I was supposed to.
Let me encourage you as you grow in your faith not to look around at how everyone else looks. You are only seeing what they want you to anyway. We can never look at anyone else and know for sure what they have going on under that "Sunday smile." Just be where you are today, knowing that God is taking you on a journey of His design with His timing. Be open to His leading and teaching, and He will finish the good work that He began in you on the day you first accepted Him as Savior, with a faith that is mature and compete. He will not leave you with "pouchy promises" hanging off your back.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Prayer 101

If I asked you how your prayer life was going, what would your very first reaction be? Would it be the same feeling you got when your teacher asked everyone to take out their homework and pass it to the person in front of you, but you knew most of your answers were wrong? Or, would it be a sigh of happy contentment, like when the phone rings and you see your oldest friend's phone number flash on the caller ID, the friend who knows what you are really like and still loves you? For most of us, prayer is one of those things that we know we are supposed to be doing, but we just aren't sure what we are doing.

We sometimes feel like we have to stick to certain topics, like world peace, missionaries, and salvation for the Pygmies. (It always comes back to the Pygmies, doesn't it?) We feel less than "spiritual" when we pray for tangible, worldly things, like jobs and houses, because we are supposed to know that God will always take care of us, right? It just feels sort of weird and crass to pray about "stuff."

Sometimes praying can feel like the awkward conversations we have with relatives that we don't see often. We hope they don't know what we are really like, and we stick to the safe approved topics of conversation. We only present our good side, keeping the less than flattering details safely under wraps. Stammering through the pleasantries, we count the minutes until the command performance is over.

Prayer is really nothing more than communicating with God in the way He designed for us to do so. On the other hand, prayer is nothing less than communicating with the Maker of Heaven and Earth and everything else in-between. It has the power to be comforting and intimidating at the same time. And here's the thing…He already knows your good, your bad, and your ugly, so the only one you are putting up a front for is yourself.

Psalm 139:7 says "Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your Presence." When I was first learning about God in middle school confirmation class, I used to find this really creepy, like the Big Brother predicted for the future was already here. This definitely is true, God knows all and sees all, but when it is balanced with the fact that He loves us, it loses its creepiness. I think of it in the same vein as I think of my kids…I want to know what they are up to, whether or not I approve. I care about them and love them regardless.

In John Ortberg's book "The ME I Want To Be", he says that it should be the goal of our lives to live everyday in the joyful awareness of God's presence. That is a heavy thought, depending on where your relationship with God is. There was a time that I consciously tried to put a lot of distance between me and God, so it was not exactly a joyful awareness that I was cultivating. These days, however, just knowing He is close makes all the difference in the world.

When we pray without ceasing (2 Thess. 5:17), we invite Him into our day. Now, I joke sometimes that if I spent the whole day in prayer, nothing would get done…and that I prayed for the dishes to wash themselves and it didn't work. But, that is fitting the act of prayer into a very small scope. There is the on your knees, pouring your heart out to God kind of prayer. It is wonderful and cleansing, but not much else can be done at the same time. It is a necessary sort…like the difference between a Twitter friendship and a deep soul-bearing conversation…but not the only sort. I pray throughout my day more as a running conversation. I talk to God as I go about my business, keeping Him in the loop and asking His advice on things that are coming up. Sometimes a scripture will immediately come to mind, and it confirms to me that I am not just talking to myself in my head. He is a part of the conversation.

Other times, though, I'll be trying to pray seriously about something, and my mind keeps wandering off. I feel guilty, like when Peter, James, and John kept falling asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Ortberg's book, he calls those intruding thoughts prayers waiting to be offered. If something is on your mind as a concern or a worry, bring it to God in prayer. We've all heard the saying that if you can worry, you can pray, so incorporate the wanderings of your mind into your prayer life.

Personally, I have some fabulous conversations with God while my feet are moving. If I put on my iPod and go for a walk or a run, it unleashes something deep inside. I feel this amazing connection to God during these times. I am a restless sort, unable to sit still at one task for very long, so taking Jesus with me is a good way for me to have that one on one time with Him. Instead of being distracted by what I am doing, I am so focused on Him that the time flies by. I feel refreshed both physically and spiritually.

The key to a satisfying prayer life is finding what works for you. There is no right or wrong way to pray. God is waiting to hear from you, to be invited into your day. He is our refuge, our safe harbor, our firm foundation. He has the right and ability to eavesdrop on our lives all day long, but wouldn't you rather just tell him about everything yourself?


I have a confession to make. I am afraid. Not of spiders and things, although there is a mouse at this very minute under a garbage can in my basement waiting for my husband to come home and clean up, but of bigger things. I know that God is leading me in certain areas, and it makes me nervous. What if I fail Him? What if I screw things up that He has planned? And sometimes, when life is cruising along at a pretty good clip, something comes up that knocks me back a few steps.

I like to think of myself as sort of a toughie, able to take one on the chin and keep going, but I was wrong. Someone was disappointed in a decision I made recently and confronted me about it. While the conversation lead to a new insight on my part and wasn't totally a bad thing, it completely undid me for the better part of the week. The discussion took place in the morning, and by the end of the day I was still moping, sure that I had nothing good to offer anyone, and cancelling opportunities to step further onto the path that God is leading me toward. While I was busy wallowing, I have to imagine that Satan was doing a happy dance.

There was a chink in my armor, and he was doing all he could to exploit it. I did learn a few things through this, though.
  • Spiritual warfare is very real. Any thought that is in your head that doesn't line up with God's Word isn't from Him and shouldn't be there. Learn to recognize it. As I sat at my writing table with my head in my hands, it became clear that the enemy was using this opportunity to make me doubt my call and God's ability to use me for anything. Wouldn't Satan just love it if I decided to shut my mouth for good?
  • We can't confuse a learning opportunity with worthlessness. I like to assume that because I am an adult I have nothing left to learn. That is dangerous ground to be on...when we stop learning we stop growing. God will use the people around us, to further develop us to be more like Him. Be open to the teachable moments that come up.
  • God's plan is His own for me, in His timing, on whatever path He directs. Sometimes a little course correction is exactly what we need to take the next step of the journey. I can't look at anything as a setback, because that puts me in charge of the timing and the path. 
After the conversation this weekend, I was sure that I had disappointed God and wrecked any chance I had to follow my dreams. I do tend toward the melodramatic occasionally. The Lord reminded me of two truths. We have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of self-discipline.(2 Timothy 1:7). My thoughts were spiraling out of fear. There is no place for that in a mind controlled by God. The second truth is that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves.(Hebrews 12:6). We can't let the first half of that scripture, being disciplined, outweigh the second part....being loved by God.

I don't know what the future holds for me, but I know that if I remain humble, in tune to the right voice, and seek to honor God in all my decisions and reactions, I will stay in His will. If I sit down in the middle of the road, dig my heels in, and have a giant pity party, I will miss what He offers. At the end, the goal is not to be successful or to be right, but to become more like Him. That would be true success.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just For Now

So here I sit in my sort of smelly basement on some sort of smelly old furniture that I got on, trying to capture a deep thought for the blog. Justin, 4, has assembled every cushion and floor mat into a fort, and my (sort of smelly) dog is sleeping on the floor next to me. I wait sometimes for God to pour out His plan and wisdom into my head, and when He does, I often miss it because I am looking the other direction. As I'm waiting for that deep thought to land, and the wisdom to be poured, Justin is asking me to play with him. I tell him, wait until I'm done working. His little voice says, from underneath his improvised cave, "You can do that after we play." He's right. Voice of God or Voice of Impatient 4 year old...I'm just not sure. But I probably could play with the little monkey for won't be too much longer before he is in school all day and I'll be missing his company.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Journey through Destruction

When we want to build muscle and tone up our bodies, the first step is to actually tear the muscle down. As the muscle generates new cells, it becomes stronger than it was before. It seems counter-intuitive, that the process of becoming better first includes destruction.
This is the process that Jesus went through. In His own words, the temple will be destroyed but in three days it will be rebuilt. The punishment he sustained before the actual crucifixion was barbaric, followed by his death on the cross. Three days later, He emerged victorious, conquering the grave, in a body that will never again taste illness or death. It is interesting to note that when He appeared in His resurrected form, He kept the scars in His hands and in His side. He did not try to hide what He had endured, but used it to confirm His identity. He allowed, even encouraged, His followers to touch His scars and see for themselves that it was really Him.
Following the example that God set through Jesus' journey, as He builds us up into stronger people, there usually comes a tearing down first, a period of destruction. I sat at my first women's retreat in 2007 and sobbed almost the entire time. I couldn't explain why; I just knew that there was something going on inside of me. It felt like a dam had burst. For years I had carried the shame of the adultery I had committed in my first marriage. The fullness of what I had done and the families I had affected was like a millstone around my neck. It was all I could think about, but I spoke of it to no one. I was too ashamed. Truthfully, I allowed my past of being abused to carry the weight for me. It gave me a legitimate outlet for the feelings of guilt and shame that I had. It wasn't until 2007 that I began to tell a few trusted people about the woman I used to be. I also began to tell the story of my abuse…the walls were beginning to crumble. The destruction of all that bound me was underway.
In 2008 I once again attended our church's women's retreat. The speaker taught about the woman at the well, and though Jesus knew all about her, still invited her into conversation. He promised that if she sought what He offered, she would never be thirsty again. I could feel the parched places in my soul beginning to come alive. He didn't need me to be perfect. As I listened to her message of hope, I sobbed once again, this time in wonder. I was beginning to understand that it isn't about me at all, that it is only Jesus that gives us new life. I knew that I was being rebuilt from the inside out, washed clean by Him.
It wasn't until 2010 at the women's retreat that I shared the work that had been going on in my soul. I still hid behind the cloak of safety being abused gave me. Only a few friends knew about the adulterous portion of my past. It is much easier to be seen as a strong survivor, which I was, than a woman who committed adultery. Both badges are mine, though, and to give more weight to one than the other does not give credit to Jesus and the redemptive work He has done in my life. It was as I shared my testimony of the pit I had willingly jumped into that my chains were finally broken. The chains that my abuser put on me had been broken long ago, but the shackles that I clamped on were still holding fast. As long as I didn't feel free to share my whole story, the enemy of my soul was still holding the key; I would be a captive until I spoke the words of truth.
When I stepped forward and announced to 250 women the things I had done, I truly thought I would pass out. But, as I began to speak of the forgiveness and the healing that is available only through Jesus Christ, I gained a boldness that I never knew I had. I heard myself speak the message that the Lord has given me to share for the first time. I had known for a few years that Jesus will transform your life when you invite Him in, but I was just beginning to see why that matters. It is so that we can be a voice of hope for those who believe they will never be welcomed by their Savior with open arms. It is so that as we help another see the Light, maybe for the first time, we can be known by the love that Jesus has shown us. And, it is so that as we begin to live by faith, we can lead others closer to Him.
Like the destruction of muscle and the destruction of the physical body of Jesus, I have undergone a change that has only made me stronger. It was only once I stopped hiding the scars, all of them, that I was able to truly see what the face of redemption looks like. It is being able to live out loud for Jesus, telling others of His grace and mercy, sharing your story…all of it, and leading others to the One who alone can heal them.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Including Peter

"When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”
Mark 16:5-7

This verse is such a clear picture of grace. Jesus is making sure that the disciples know to meet Him in Galilee. The messenger says to tell the disciples, including Peter.

Including Peter who, though he was forewarned, denied Christ three times just two nights previous. I can't help but wonder at the agony Peter was going through, all the self-recrimination he must have been filled with. Satan was probably having a field day with him.

Remember, this is Peter who, when Jesus said "Follow Me and I'll make you fishers of men", dropped everything and followed.

This is Peter who saw Jesus transformed on the Mount of Transfiguration as He had a holy meeting with Moses and Elijah.

This is Peter who, when Jesus asked "Who do you say that I am?" answered "You are the Messiah."

This is Peter who walked on water towards Jesus.

This is Peter who, when Jesus wanted to wash his feet, wouldn't let Him until Jesus explained the significance. Peter then requested for his hands and his head to be washed as well.

This is Peter, who when the hour of Christ's betrayal came, denied knowing Him three times before dawn. In a moment of fear and panic, Peter denied all that he knew to be true.

As I sit and wonder how he could do that, given all that he knew, I need to take a long look in the mirror. How many times have I denied Him by looking away from someone else's need, although He says that when we do something for the least of these, we have done it for Him? How many times have I chosen something to further my own cause, regardless of the price I'm asking others to pay? How many times have I acted solely out of fear, not trusting the Jesus that I know to be enough for any situation?

I am so encouraged by this verse. As the angel told Mary to gather the disciples, including Peter, I am included. I imagine Him saying, I've gone up ahead to wait for you there. Join me.

"Never will I leave you or forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Masterpiece in the Making

Have you ever wondered how all this God business fits into your real life? I know I have. I'll read a passage like Ephesians 2:10, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do" and wonder when does that start exactly? After all my kids are in school? After I am a much nicer, better person? Or maybe when I'm older and my nest is empty. That must be what He's talking about. And while I'm at it, how big of a work will I get to do? Can you see the pride creeping in...? Remember, this is me we're dealing with right now.

I am convinced though, that if we live out Colossians 3:17, doing ALL things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him, we will be hitting the mark of Ephesians 2:10 more often than not. When we are walking on the path that God sets before us, even when sometimes all we can manage is one blind step in front of another, we will accomplish His purpose for us.

Never underestimate the power of God. And friends, if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, YOU ARE GOD'S MASTERPIECE. There may need to be something chiseling done, kids, but only with grace, love, and mercy. Remember the definition of mercy? It's one of my favorites. Mercy is kindness shown to one undeserving. None are more undeserving than I.

If you haven't made that step, if you haven't accepted Christ into your heart, why are you waiting? If you don't feel worthy of being God's Masterpiece, know that none of us are. Lean on the mercy. Fall on His Grace. He loves us. Regardless. And will go to any means necessary to reclaim us.

So stand still, even if it hurts, and let Him shape you. Brings a whole new picture to Psalm 46:10...Be still, and know that I am God...doesn't it?

Originally posted 9/2009

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

30-Day Giving Challenge

Do you see the glass half-full or half-empty? I never like this question because I don't know how to answer. This question came up in a conversation today and the right answer, for me, popped into my head. The glass just is. I am fond of the saying "It is what it is", and that about sums it up. The glass just is. I am a realist. I have always felt that I had to choose optimist or pessimist as my only options.

As a realist, I can hope for something more, knowing that it may or may not happen. If I were a pessimist, I would just assume the worst case scenario. I totally don't want to live in a world like that. If I were an optimist, that leaves too much room for disappointment. I am happy to be a realist.

The 30-Day Giving Challenge is perfect for someone like me. I can do something to help change the world I live in, without being disappointed that it isn't enough. Each one of us can do something, but not one of us can do everything. And if we all do nothing, nothing changes. Sooo, I will do something.

I am looking forward to teaching my kids to look for the one thing they can do each day to make someone's life better. It could be a card to a teacher, raking leaves for someone, or offering to play with someone who looks lonely. Impacting the world for Jesus through small steps...totally realistic. If you really have no idea what to do, but know you want to do something, check out this link. There are also lots of money-free ways to impact your community through volunteer opportunities. Sometimes giving to someone is just going out of your way to make someone else's day better. You almost have to walk through the day with a blindfold to not see one of those chances.

Heading into the season of the gimmies, I had already decided to make my dollars count for actually improving another person's life. This challenge just gives me another way to show the world that Jesus makes a difference in the way I want to live my life.

Will you join me?

Monday, November 1, 2010


I wrote this yesterday during the announcements at church, in the briefest of respites over the last while.

Feel like I can't get a breath or a firm foot on where I want to be, like
the waves keep crashing over my head while I'm trying to breathe, to gain a foothold. I want a break, some time, to connect with you Lord, without needing
to rush or be distracted. Is it possible that I'm looking in the wrong place to
find you, trying to set conditions that you don't need to meet with me? Am I

Don't take this to be whining. Ok, maybe a little whining. This is mostly frustration. I want what God wants, but He doesn't arrange it like I think He should, so then I miss what He has been arranging. Does that make any sense? We get an idea of what spending time with Him should look like, and then circumstances beyond our control, or at least not entirely within our control, hose up our plans. Does this sound familiar? I get up early, fix my coffee, bring my Bible to my favorite room, just in time to hear kids who are supposed to be sleeping wrestling and fighting. Or, I get the perfect thought in my head just begging to be written out, and something comes up. I scribble the thought down, hoping to get back to it, hoping it doesn't fall in to one of the black holes in my brain, but when I do have time, it seems to have lost its intensity. I feel like I have lost control of my life.

This may be the very way the Lord wants to grow me. Just because I have lost control of my life doesn't mean He has. For me to assume I have control is just a farce anyway, right? Maybe this is all about learning to rest in His timing, and seeing His provision for what it is. He provides the experiences I need to become the woman He has in mind for me. Like different types of flowers, we don't all prosper and flourish under the same set of conditions. What would drown a cactus would starve a tropical flower.

I am finding this life to be like a game that I don't quite get the rules for, but even as I write this, I know I have the playbook in my hand. The bible promises that nothing, "neither height nor depth, not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus."

Since nothing can separate me from Him, I just need to tune my ear to hear Him differently. It's like when you hear the first note of a song, and you think it will be one song, but it turns out to be something entirely different, but you can't get the other one out of your head. You don't fully enjoy the one that is playing because you can't stop "hearing" the other one. A whacked Name That Tune, perhaps.

This is sort of like the Love Languages...I am waiting to be shown love in one way, and all the while missing the language you are speaking your love to me in. I could go a million different directions with this post, and if my life were my own, I would have the time to do it. But, the life He has chosen for me calls...and I must go now to meet Him there. "Seek Him now, while He may be found, call on Him while He is near." Isaiah 55:6.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tools of the Trade

If you are checking out my blog for the first time after attending Mom Time today, welcome! If you are a regular reader, welcome too, and stick around! We are going to be talking about the challenge of memorizing scripture, but more than that, why it matters. And what to do with it after you have memorized it. I was thinking about that aspect after Mom Time this morning. (I will confess to my MT ladies that Tuesday afternoons are spent thinking about what I should've said...) Anyway, I should have said that it doesn't matter how many scriptures you have tucked away in your head if you aren't using them to help you in your day.

I have a picture of Rosie the Riveter in my kitchen...she is the factory worker from the 1940's with the caption You Can Do It. She encouraged me through the summer to keep working towards the goal of the Danskin Triathlon. Recently though, I came across Zechariah 4:6, which says "Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, says the Lord." So, Rosie got a tattoo on her bicep with that scripture to remind me that that is how I will get things the Spirit of the Lord.

Having said that, I do need to point out our responsibility to be in the Bible, to be looking for Scriptures to apply, and to put forth the effort to memorize them. For me, writing a verse on an index card and posting it in more than one place seems to work well. I say it aloud a few times, but writing it, for me, is what makes it stick. I also find that if I actually write out a grocery list, then forget it on the kitchen table, I can still remember what was on it. We are all wired differently and writing seems to sear something into my brain. For you, reading it outloud or even recording it and listening to it repeatedly may work best. If you have an ipod, you have a feature to record a message. As weird as it might feel, give it a try.

I don't have a "fancy phone", but I did see that there are downloadable apps for scripture memory. Who knew?

Here are some links that I found while researching this week's lesson. Some of them even list verses for particular situations to get you started.

Even though I am not musical to the point of setting scriptures to music, there are plenty around who are...Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Third Day, Lincoln Brewster. I am always pleasantly surprised when I am reading my Bible and find song lyrics there. It is easy to sing a song knowing that you are quoting scripture, and it makes it that much easier to remember.

If you have tried some method that has worked for you, leave a comment and share with the rest of us...I am always open to a new idea.

God has given us an amazing tool of life transformation through His Word, but it won't work if we don't make it part of our lives. We have to abide in it (John 8:31-32), not just visit occasionally. To be fair though, the desire to abide begins with a visit, a gaining of trust and familiarity. You may not want to "abide" immediately, and that's ok. A journey of 1,000 steps starts with the first one, right?

Crack the binding on the Bible, say a prayer for God to direct you to what He has for you, and start reading. Make it a matter of little bites at first instead of a buffet. It's not about how long you read, but what you can take away from it. It might be one verse that really speaks to you, or it might be the whole book of Galatians.

Read expectantly, because the Word of God is living and active, (Hebrews 4:12). You may read a verse that you've seen a thousand times and it suddenly bonks you on the head in a whole new way. That is not random; that is the Spirit communicating something that God wants you to know.

Read it with a little cross referencing to get the full picture. There are a few sites that I regularly visit to give me insight into a verse or section that caught my eye.

Sometimes just reading a devotional type article presents a scripture in a way that speaks to me. I get the devo from Proverbs 31 delivered to my email everyday. It is all about life as a woman, whatever your status or season. There is a place at the top of the page to sign up for the email if you like this.

I could go on forever about this topic...helping women learn who they are in Christ is a passion of mine. I look forward to hearing what scriptures you found or what techniques you are trying as you grow in your faith.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Deceivers and Distracters

One of my favorite things to do is rearrange rooms and give new purpose to a space. As enjoyable as that is for me, it can sometimes be a trap. Since taking the step of giving voice to some of my writing dreams, I've been repurposing the craft room into an office. It was a process of moving all scrapbook, stamping, jewelry making, and sewing items into another room, and setting that room up as an "activity center." We turned it into a homework/art room. (That's the upside of having kids leave the get rooms back.) Then began the process of turning the room formerly known as the craft room into an office. I spent a good week standing in the middle of the room dreaming about what would inspire me when I walked in. Bright or calm? Beach themed or gerbera daisies? Blues and greens or yellows and oranges and pinks? I got so bogged down trying to plan what the room should look like that I was having trouble actually writing in it. I wanted it to be just "so" before I could use it.

Becoming a Christian is a little bit like that. We get excited about following Jesus, but then Satan steps in to tell us everything we do wrong, all the reasons we aren't qualified to come to Jesus, and we wait. We wait until we quit drinking, smoking, swearing, fighting with our kids. We wait until we feel like we can go and blend in with all the other "perfect people" at church, until pretty soon we've forgotten what we were waiting for. And the victory goes to the enemy.

Can I tell you that the deceiver will do everything he can to keep you away from Jesus? He is the father of lies, and any whispers you hear in your head, that you aren't worthy, that you should stay away, that you screwed up too much to come back, are not of God. If you have accepted Christ as your savior, Satan knows he can't take that away from you. Ever. But he also knows that through lies and deception, shame and defeat, he can keep you from living out the life that Jesus died to give you. The enemy can make you feel like your feet are so mired in sin and quicksand that you will never see the light of day, but that is why he is so good at being so bad. His name, Satan, means "one who separates." He will do everything possible to keep you separated from God, whether just in this life or through all eternity.

If you haven't accepted Jesus as your Savior because you are believing the lies that Satan pours into you, stop. There will not be one of us in Heaven who deserves to be there. We only get there because we are invited in by God, because of what Jesus did for us. Romans 3:23 tells us that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." All of us. Even the ones that don't look like it. Stop waiting until you feel perfect enough to answer His call.

My journey with the office has gone the same way. I didn't want to write in it because it wasn't set up...all I could see were details that had to be sorted out. The longer I spinned my wheels about how to decorate, the less I felt like writing. I began to question the call on my life to write. Maybe I don't really have anything to say...Then I just...did it. I sat down at my little kitchen table in here, fired up the computer, and started to write. For two hours early one morning, I wrote everything I felt like I had to. I didn't look around at what I wanted to change, or imagine different pictures or paint colors on the wall. I just wrote. Regardless of the state of my office, I can still write, because that is what I came to do.

And regardless of the state of your life, Jesus can save you, because that is what He came to do.

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."
Revelations 3:20

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thoughts on the Loose

He saw the "F" word on the bathroom wall at school the other day. While Connor doesn't know what it means, all kids know that that word is a heavy hitter, absolutely never allowed, a reeealllly bad one. After he and a buddy saw it, they went to tell the janitor about it who cleaned it off the wall. Like so much in life, out of sight does not mean out of mind.

Everyday presents teaching moments with our kids; we all know that. However, while I wish this particular opportunity hadn't come up quite so soon, the principle that Connor is learning applies to more than just this situation.

Connor has confessed to having trouble not thinking about the word, to which I promptly told him to try hard not to think about it. He said he couldn't not think about it. Then it hit me....this is a perfect opportunity to start teaching him about taking every thought captive.

Too often we assume that we have no control over where our minds wander to, which personally I think is a cop-out. It takes discipline and awareness, but it is possible to direct our thoughts in the direction we want them to go. It is more than just "not" thinking about something, it is choosing to focus our minds on other things. Have you ever tried not to think about the argument you had with someone, but spend all your mental energy rehashing and replaying and hoping you get a chance to fight again because this time you have all your come-backs ready? Or maybe you are trying really hard not to think about the Halloween candy, but it keeps calling your name. (That's why I buy stuff that I don't like to eat...)

2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we are to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. That means when something isn't lining up biblically, we capture it. We replace it with a truth of God, which is scripture. Find a scripture that speaks truth into whatever situation you are dealing with. Prayer is good...God please help me not to think ugly thoughts...but it is not the tool of choice. Andy Stanley says it is like trying to drill a hole with a hammer. A hammer is a wonderful tool, but it is not the tool for the job. To make our thoughts obedient, to make them go where we want them to, we need the Word of God.

Some great go-to verses for relationship difficulties are Philippians 4:6` and Ephesians 4:29 . Philippians teaches us how and where to focus our minds, and it isn't on the things that makes us nuts. Ephesians reminds us of how we are to use the power of our words. When an unwelcome thought comes into our head, instead of letting take control of our emotions and giving it room to grow, we take it captive by saying a verse that speaks to the situation. If I am afraid, I might recite Joshua 1:9 that says "Do not fear, for I am with you." It reminds me that God is always with me, whether or not I feel it.

If you don't know how to find a verse to cling to, check out ; you can enter key words to search by. It will bring up verses with that particular word in it. It takes discipline and awareness of what is going on in our heads to direct our thoughts. Diligence is required. It is a slippery slope from thinking an ugly thought to harboring ugly feelings to creating an environment of bitterness to out and out not liking someone anymore and deciding to do life without them anymore. This saying puts it pretty succinctly:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

For Connor, while I shared some scriptures with him, I started laying the groundwork that he is responsible for what he thinks, and that it starts with what he allows in his head. He couldn't help seeing what he saw, but he didn't need to keep coming back to it and talking about it with his friends. He gave one word room to grow and take up a lot of space in his thoughts. For practical advice, I told him to think about skateboarding and everything he loves about it. Focus him mind elsewhere and not give the other word room. Crowd it out with different words. It was working pretty well until he saw a cheerleader sweater with a giant red "F" on it...

If all this talk discourages you, let me encourage you with one of my favorites, Philippians 4:13, which says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." You can do this.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just Today

This is my favorite time of day, sitting between the boys watching what I fondly refer to as "stupor tv", dulling our minds before bed. Little Bear, Toot and Puddle, nothing loud, as we three sit shoulder to shoulder letting the day slip away. I'm blessed with the ability to ignore the call of housework at the end of the day, knowing that whatever didn't get done can wait until tomorrow. These are the days I love, being a mom to little boys who still love a good snuggle. I know they will be grown too soon.

I've been thinking a lot about what plans God might have for my future, particularly my writing and speaking future. I get anxious sometimes, feeling like life is passing me by. Then I look around at all I am blessed, family, a great husband, good friends, stability, and realize that the future really doesn't matter. I have dreams and hopes and plans, but right where I am at is my favorite. Whatever ministry God has planned for me will grow out of the life I live, and I am content to live it one day at a time.

This is the day the Lord has made;
I will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Freedom Run

Hearing much commotion and celebration in the dining room, I ran downstairs from where I was busily rearranging's sort of a hobby of mine. Anyway, Gracie, my adorable dog of unknown descent, had gotten her collar tangled in the neighbor's lilac bush. When she was able to pull herself free, she came scratching at the patio door instead of running the neighborhood. This was a monumental change in behavior from the dog who just two months earlier would wait by the door in anticipation of escaping.

I was thrilled to see her new response to freedom. Off her leash without any supervision, Gracie could have been anywhere before we even knew she was gone. Instead, she came right to the door. She knows we are her people; she knows this is where she belongs, and she was doing everything she could to get back inside to safety.

I've been off my leash for awhile now, so to speak. The triathlon that consumed every waking thought is over. Swimsuit season is over. The intense structure of my life is over, and I am floundering. I'm wanting to eat with reckless abandon...and not the healthy stuff anymore. Moderation is not really a word in my vocabulary; being a strong finisher is more my style. Whether it's a race or a pan of cheerio-peanut butter-marshmallow treats, it doesn't matter. (Just for the record, I was advised that they aren't any good after a day or two, and that they should be eaten quickly. Just doing my job, ma'am...)

As in all areas of life, the Bible has a word for me here. I even know what it is without looking.

"For freedom Christ has set me free. Stand firm, therefore, and submit no more to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

He did not set me free so that I could run wild through the neighborhood. Or my cupboards, for that matter. He did set me free from the things that seek to enslave me. No freedom actually exists in the "right" to eat everything I see. Freedom does not give us permission to act on our impulses, like a teenager with our parents out of town. Freedom is the gift Christ has given us. The snare of bondage tightens slowly, enslaving us while we think we are in charge of our lives.

Before I became a Christian, I was leery of the Bible and all of its rules. No one was telling me how to live my life. I was way off my leash and no one was taking that away from me. Instead, I found myself living a life of fear, shame, loneliness, and regret. Not exactly the freedom I'd been looking for.

I've been a little aimless during this transition to a new season, a little unfocused on how to handle this next phase in my life, a little undisciplined. One of my favorite scriptures is in Hebrews:

"Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with ENDURANCE the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith." Hebrews 12:1-2

It's time for me to scratch on Jesus's patio door and come back in the House where it's safe, pay attention to the slipknot around my ankle, and run with endurance the race set before me, in this time, in this place. Not the race I wish I was still running,or the one I feel like it is my right to run, but the new one that comes with this season. Being a strong finisher is a good gives me drive and determination. I just can't let it lead me in the wrong direction. And of course, keep my eyes on Jesus, the Author of all my days.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fish and Loaves

We call it being real, the way we downplay the dreams that God has buried in our hearts. As they begin to unfurl, like a bulb deep underground, starting it's trek toward the sun, we bury them. We tell ourselves that it makes no sense...there's no way I could ever__________, fill in your own blank....sing in front of anyone, adopt, stop drinking, share our story, write for real, speak in public. What do you do when you feel God leading you in a direction that shakes you to the core, rattles the deepest parts of you?

You know what you do?

You offer it back to Him.

Lay it at His feet, be willing to follow where He leads, and allow Him to use your dream as He wishes.

I was reminded of the fish and loaves this weekend during a prayer at the Women of Faith conference. Honestly, that is all I remember from the prayer because I was fixated on fish and loaves.

Crowds, at least 5000, needed to be fed. One little boy had one little lunch that someone packed for him. A few fish and some loaves of bread.

A few fish and some loaves of bread that fed the bodies of thousands, and the souls of countless millions who have heard the story of the miracle God brought from one child's offering.

I wonder sometimes why anyone would want to read what I write or hear what I have to say, then I remember the fish and loaves. I will offer God my fears...and allow Him to do as He wishes. This morning, as I taught in Mom Time, I alternated between being super excited and really wanting to hurl, but knowing at the same time that I was stepping into the dream that God has given me. Wherever He leads, I will follow, barf bag close by I'm sure.

As we head into the next series at church, and get on the path of becoming all that God has for us to become, I am excited as I think of all the dreams out there, waiting to break through the hard soil of realism, the healing that God wants to do in our generation, in our communities, that will only come when we stop telling ourselves why it isn't possible. I am excited to think of the people who never even knew they had a dream...were worthy of having one in the first place...start to imagine where God might be waiting to use them. Give God your little basket of hopes, and watch what He will do with it.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we could ask or imagine.”
Ephesians 3:20

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Laundry Soap and Jesus

After hearing all my friends raving about their homemade laundry soap, I decided to give it a try. A little Fels soap, a little borax, a little super washing soda, lots and lots of water, and voila', we have laundry soap. A whole lot of laundry soap, as a matter of fact. I've been sharing it with anyone who wants some. One friend asked if I had trouble finding the ingredients, and I said, "No, they are all right there in the grocery store. You just have to be looking for them to see them."


Right in the back of my head.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness." 2 Peter 1:3

"You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all of your heart." Jeremiah 29:13

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." John 14:6

God's Word, the Bible, truly has the answer to every situation you might find yourself in. We like to argue that times have changed in 3,000 years, but really, not so much. People don't change. The details may change, but situations generally remain the same. Jealousy, greed, anger, mixed up love, bitterness...alive and well today just like when they were addressed in Galatians.

Proverbs is a treasure trove of advice for real living, for real people. People who don't always say the right thing at the right time. I heard a great definition of nagging from Patsy Clairmont at the Women of Faith Conference. She said nagging begins with a brilliant idea of how to fix something. A brilliant idea that no one is listening to, so you keep repeating it. Over and over. Proverbs has lots to say about nagging and getting along with others.

Not that I know anything about that personally...

Just sayin'.

Philippians is one of my favorite destinations. Kind of puts my whole life in perspective and reminds me what is important. Here's a clue: it usually isn't what I think. Whenever I am in a complaining mood, I have a friend who always says "Go read Philippians." Yes ma'am.

When life hurts, I go to the Psalms. When I'm royally ticked off, I go to Psalms. When I am so full of joy I can't put it into words, I go to Psalms. When I have totally screwed up and don't know where to go, I go to Psalms. David lived a wild life, but through it all, he praised God; he is the author of most of the Psalms and has put my emotions to words many times.

It excites me to no end to share God's Word with you. More exciting than sharing laundry soap. They even have an ingredient in common: water. Lots and lots of Living Water. It will get the stains out of everything. Trust me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seven Steps to Obedience

Before you get all excited and think I'm going to tell you how, in seven simple steps, you can live an obedient lifestyle, I'm not. Besides, there is only one step anyway. Just do it. (Yeah, Nike had it first, I know.)

My son Connor was carrying the dog, something I've asked him repeatedly not to do. I told him to put her down, and it took him seven full steps across the living room to actually obey. I made him go back and recount his steps to illustrate just how long it took him to obey. We talked about the importance of doing what he is told when he is told to do it. If that had been a different situation, say, crossing a street, his disobedience could have had tragic consequences.

I know God teaches us through our kids, and this conversation has been rolling around in my brain for a week or so now. How many steps does it take us to walk in obedience to Him? More importantly, if we are not walking toward Him, we are walking away. How many steps in disobedience are you going to take?

In life there are often times that we think it is ok to take one step from where we know we are supposed to be. If you are dieting, just one snack size bag of chips...skipping the class just one time...just one extra bite when I'm done dishing everyone else up...before you know it you have taken a whole lot more than one step, but each one makes the successive step easier. And more justifiable...I've already screwed up.

Dieting is the easy example, but it covers everything. Fighting with your husband....the dad on the playground is kind of's just thing you know you are on a very slippery slope that you never intended to be on. Maybe not that quick or dramatic, but you see how one step in the wrong direction can lead to several more.

The world we live in makes it tricky to stay on that narrow path of obedience. You can hardly watch primetime tv without being hit in the face with so many things that are contrary to God's standard. But some things are just funny, so you laugh. Then you watch some more. And laugh some more. Soon it becomes funny to disrespect your husband and go for the easy laugh. Disobedient kids on sitcoms become the norm, and we wonder why our kids don't show us proper respect. We become culturally numb to all things biblical, and wonder what went wrong.

It takes discernment, courage, and character to live a life of obedience. It would be much easier to jump on the band wagon of what everyone else thinks and believes, but that is not what God has asked of us as believers. That is not why He gave His Son for us.

This is not meant to spur a debate on obedience vs. grace. None of us will ever measure up, and He has made provision for that. But, in the things that we know we are doing wrong, and justifying as acceptable, we need to do better. Not just shrug our shoulders and say "That's just the way I am", because it's not. God made you in His image. Challenge yourself, as I challenge myself, to confront disobedience on the first step. Don't wait until you find yourself in a pit to make some changes. The pit could be as few as seven steps away.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Walking the Talk

I have been challenged lately to live a little beyond myself, and my own circle of what works best for me. I have been reading a blog called Sit A Spell about a family who sold it all, put what was left in storage, and moved to Haiti for a year. The writing is raw but funny, truthfully painful but painfully truthful, not allowing the reader to glaze over what life is truly like in Haiti. Reading about two months worth of posts one night left me feeling like there really has to be something more to life, a way to live beyond myself right now, in this place.

It is easy to feel helpless, like whatever I do isn't enough, so I won't do anything at all. As one person, how much difference can I make? I changed my thoughts, though, to take the starfish approach. You've probably heard the story about the guy throwing starfish back into the water, one at a time, even though there are thousands of them on the beach. A man comes along and says "Really, what difference does it make to throw a few back into the ocean?" The guy throwing them back says "It matters to this one."

I, as one person, can make a difference in one other person's life. I can't change the world, but I can stop living just for myself. One simple thing that I have committed to change is how I spend money. We are going to try hard to have a "socially aware" Christmas. I checked out a local shop that features items made by craftsmen around the world, and found things that my kids would enjoy. I can live out God's command to love my neighbor by easy is that?

I have a friend that is using her gift of making jewelry to help a missionary she has never met. She is selling freshwater pearl necklaces to raise money for a plane ticket to a conference it would benefit him to attend. I bought a few as Christmas presents. I have this picture in my head of people wearing these necklaces someday meeting this man in Heaven, knowing that they helped him in sharing the gospel in Nepal where he lives. We are all connected in some way, little points of light all over the globe.

In the Haiti blog, the author highlights a ministry called Heartline Ministries that serves pregnant women until their babies reach six months of age, teaches them the gospel through weekly Bible study, and teaches them a trade. They make and sell purses with the money going back to the individual seamstress. I'll be co-hosting a purse party with a friend in October sometime. Think about the difference you could make in someone's life just by doing a little Christmas shopping.

Instead of living defeated in a world full of problems that are just too big for one person to solve, think about one thing you can do today to make someone's life just a little better. Just one thing. Of course your nice thing doesn't have to cost money, but I find that talk is cheap. Putting my money where my mouth is, and where I say my heart is, is the real challenge for me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Simple Pleasures...Multiplied

Simple pleasures...I can think of a number of them. An Angel Whispers scented candle by Glade. A good bargain at a rummage sale or thrift shop. I don't know about you, but I always feel compelled to tell people where I got it when I receive a compliment.

I love the simple pleasure of a good night sleep, my dog Gracie sleeping with her head on my pillow right next to me. I love the snuffling noises I can hear from my boys' room while they are sleeping.

I recently have discovered the simple pleasure of exercise. I know...that sounds like an oxymoron. But, I love the wind in my face as I ride my bike, feeling my legs actually working for a change, instead of just walking back and forth. I love swimming laps, feeling my body slice through the water, my mind free, the water cool on my face after I come up for a breath. I love, love, the simple pleasure of spin class. There is something so challenging but so simple about just not stopping, even though the sweat is running into my eyes and I really want to quit. I think that all boils down to the simple pleasure of a hard-earned's cleansing and validating all at the same time.

I love the simple pleasure of helping another see the relevance of God's Word in their lives. If that happens at my kitchen table over coffee and banana bread...even better. That first hesitant understanding is like the dawn of a new day in someone's heart, and to witness that is a beautiful thing.

The simple pleasure of writing something that touches another is beyond simple...beyond pleasure, to my passion. To know that God used me to deliver His message to someone is just hard to fathom sometimes, but it really is so simple. It's not about me or any abilities I might have, it's all about Him and the gift He allows me to share in.

When we live life enjoying what God has created for us, we are in His will. In these uncertain economic times, times of suffering for some, we almost feel guilty having simple pleasures. It starts to feel disrespectful to have pleasure, but nothing could be further from the truth.
1 Timothy 6:17 reminds us that we are to set our hopes on God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. It is when the pursuit of pleasure replaces the pursuit of God that we get into trouble.

Take some time today to make a short list of a few things that bring you pleasure, maybe even for free. Invite a few friends to do the same, and take a peek at their list. I enjoy the simple pleasure of surprising someone with a treat, one of the things on their list. A friend saw my new Angel Whisper Glade scented candle on the shelf and commented that it was her favorite scent too. I slipped it into her diaper bag before she left for her to find later. It multiplies my own pleasure to know I gave someone a bright spot in their day.

I have to confess that sometimes I miss the details when I get excited about a simple pleasure, like writing. I missed the part of Rachel's directions that gave us the topic of Simple Pleasures, and wrote a different devo for today. It does speak to my deepest pleasure, being a voice of hope, and I hope you will be encouraged by it. It is the post right before this one.

Happy Monday, new friends! Thank you Rachel for allowing us to connect and be encouraged through your blog!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

One Writer's Mission

Hey there, bloggy friend! Welcome to my 300th post! It was nice of Rachel Olsen to host a carnival in honor of that...ok, she didn't probably didn't do it just for me...

Anyway, I'm glad you stopped by. It's Sunday night as I'm writing this, and I have this picture of all of us bloggers sitting at our computers, shining up our best stuff, trying to think of something catchy and smart to say. The trouble with writing is sometimes the words just flow, and your fingers can't keep up with your brain, and other times, well, there's just lots of deleting and backspacing going on. It reminds me of the verse about God's mercies being fresh every morning. While we don't get a complete do-over, we get a fresh start. We get a chance to try again.

What will you do with it? Will you allow all the yesterday's to stack up against you and keep you frozen on the same path? Or, will you allow the freshness of God's mercy, His grace, to lead you in a new way? I woke up one day about four years ago, suddenly aware that I had a new path to walk on. I had been living in the shadow of the old path for years, letting it contaminate each new day with it's lingering darkness.

In Luke 22:32, Jesus tells Peter that He has prayed that his faith will not fail him, and once he has turned back, to strengthen his brothers. My faith failed for awhile, but now that I have turned back, I am here to strengthen my sisters. To strengthen you, my friends and readers. God has given me a story to tell, and through it, a chance to encourage you to seek Him and the new day He offers in your lives. There is nothing that could keep Him from you.

Every day He offers you a fresh start, a spiritual backspace button. How would your day be different if you didn't look back at yesterday's mistakes and failures before beginning this one? If, just once, you focused entirely on Christ's perfection instead of your own imperfection? He isn't waiting for us to get it right, He is waiting for us, for you, to take His hand each day. To make the choice each day for Him, for life.

When you do take His hand, is there someone else's hand you could grab along the way? Someone who is still standing, frozen in her yesterday's, that you could strengthen and lift up with you? I picture one of those paper doll chains, hands united, glowing with the power and strength and love that is only found in Christ, encircling the earth. Notice that each hand is only holding two others, one on each side.

Sisters, as writers, we have a chance to hold a lot of hands; we will never meet most of them this side of heaven. It is my privilege to serve with you, to be a voice of hope, to share God's truth that
  • We are a new creation in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • His Word will lead us in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:24)
  • His mercies are fresh every morning. (Lamentations 3:23)

Tell the stories, hold the hands, and let God shine His light through your words. Together we punch a hole in the darkness.

Is It Bedtime Yet...?

It's one of those days that makes me wish bedtime immediately followed breakfast. Mine or the kids, it really doesn't matter. We had our first time out exactly 11 minutes after getting out of bed. I can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of some of the conversations today, though.

After explaining to Connor that he hasn't been respectful, obedient, or really even nice, he looks at me and says "Can you buy me a toy at the store?"


I was serenaded by a chorus of "I hate my house. I hate this bathroom. I hate everything. But I don't hate God..."

At least they have their priorities in order. Sometimes you just have to laugh to drown out the screaming. And all of the mama's said...Amen.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I watched a little girl on the school playground playing tag on the slide with a group of kids, curls bouncing, cheeks flushed, screaming and laughing at the same time. She made her way down the slide, jumping over the side to avoid being tagged by her pursuer. With great anticipation on her face, she turned around to see where he went, only to see that he had decided to chase another little girl. I watched as her face changed from anticipation, to confusion as she couldn't see him, to sadness as she left the group when she realized she was no longer the object of his attention. My heart broke for her, wishing I could hold her and tell her how beautiful and precious she is in the Lord's eyes.

I sat with a young mom once, tears streaming down her face, as she told me that her husband no longer finds her desirable. He has chosen companionship through the internet and photos of young girls. He is addicted to porn. She said that she knows she is no Miss America but she's not that bad. My heart broke for her as I told her how beautiful she is in the eyes of Christ, that she is prized above all others because she knows her Lord and Savior. I told her to remember that He is her portion, that He is her Rock, that He is her Shelter. She is the apple of His eye.

I was a young girl once, so lonely and unsure of her value, that I took what the neighborhood child molester had to offer. I settled for things I didn't understand but wished I didn't know about as a substitute for what I really be noticed,to feel loved. I did not know that I was the apple of the Lord's eye, that I was precious and beautiful in His sight. God's heart broke for that little girl, but knew at the same time that she would find Him someday.

The common thread in these lives is that we all want to feel special, to be pursued, to be loved and cherished. To know that when we look at someone with love, they are looking back at us. Only us. Sisters, I want you to know that this is the way the Lord loves you. He stands at the door and knocks, but only you can open it. He will never stop pursuing you, and when you open the door, He will fill you with a love and a peace that surpasses all understanding, and you will know in an instant that you will never be the same again.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Travel Guide

Our family recently went to my husband's hometown to visit his family for the holiday weekend. His twin brother also came into town; so, in an effort to be a good wife, I encouraged my husband to go golfing with his brothers. I will keep the kids entertained, I said. No problem.

I sort of know how to get around in this town. The boys and I went to a park not too far from grandma's house, on a winding trek of a road that runs along the river. The temperature was warm, about 85 degrees and 85% humidity, so the sand that the boys started throwing at each other was able to really crust into their eyes and hair.

Ok. Enough of the park. Let's find our way to Dairy Queen. By following my gut instincts and the river road, we eventually found our way into town and to the DQ. Being really hot and sticky, I was ready to indulge in a small vanilla with chocolate dip. The boys had made their selections and we placed our order, the $4 in singles clutched in my gritty hands. It was then that I realized that $1.70 does not go into $4 three times. Since that was all the money I had on me and I couldn't justify putting an ice cream cone on the charge card, I cancelled my own order. So there we sat. Two sandy sticky boys eating their treats, all the while complaining that they really wanted what the other one ordered but not interested in switching, and one hot crabby mama without a treat wondering if she actually knew the way back. I was trying really hard to take the (figurative) high road, focusing on the scripture "I have learned to be content in all circumstances", with ice cream or without, hot and sweaty or cool and refreshed.

We eventually found our way back to Grandma's house. When my husband got back from his golf outing, I told him of our adventures. The trip to the park. My long-suffering trip to DQ. My eventual but questionable return trip to his mom's. I was one proud martyr, I tell you what.

He asked why I didn't use the money that he hides in the car for emergencies. I had forgotten about that.

He asked why I didn't use the GPS. I had forgotten about that, too.

He asked why I didn't just call him. I was trying not to bother him.

Everything I needed at my fingertips, and I was too wrapped up in the drama of the day to remember.

Life gets like that sometimes. We get so caught up in whatever drama is besetting us at the time that we forget that we have resources to fall back on. More than fall back be the first things we grab on to when the terrain gets rough.

God has not left us without means. "His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness." 2 Peter 1:3

God has not left us without direction. "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105

God is waiting for us to call on Him. "If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you." James 1:5

There is an independent streak in me that makes me want to do it myself, whatever it is, just to prove I can. But, there is a time and a place for that. The Bible reminds me that I will find rest when I come to Him. And that is way more refreshing than an ice cream cone, even on the hottest day.

"Come to me, all who are burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls."
Matthew 11:28-29

Monday, September 13, 2010

Whose Dream Is it?

How do you decide if you are worthy of your dream? Here's a little probably aren't. Not that you probably aren't extremely bright and capable, but a dream that God plants in your heart is based on His worthiness, not your own.

I have a new friend who happens to be single, never married. It wasn't until she got to know who she is in Christ that she really became ok with being single, instead of waiting for her real life to start. (Personally, I think the grass is always greener because I am waiting for my kids to grow up so my real life can start. I could probably learn something from this new friend...)Anyway, she likes to write and was feeling like she should start a blog to share what she is learning. In her words, though, she is hardly an authority on being single, so she is hesitating.

I was thinking about her comment this morning. None of us are really authorities on anything, unless you have a bunch of letters after your name and a sizable student loan to pay off. But, we do all have something in our journey that can be used to encourage someone else. 2 Corinthians 1:3 says to comfort (encourage) others through the things that God has comforted us through. It might be singleness. It might be dealing with a particular illness or experience. If God has brought you on a journey of any sort, He didn't do it so it could sit on your shelf and collect dust. He did it so you could be His witness.

Just because I have five kids does not make me an authority on parenting. But, during the closest thing we have had to a serious illness in one of the kids, as I stood praying over my son's crib, God held me close and whispered "Do you trust Me?" I knew it wasn't a promise of a good turn-out, but a chance to get to know Him better. During a season of intense teen-age drama, I walked into church to hear the worship team singing Trading My Sorrows For the Joy of the Lord and knew that God could carry me through, and He did. More than once. So, I write about these things. I am His witness to what He has done in my life as a mom.

Just because I have been married twice does not make me an authority on marriage. Indeed, in my first marriage I went outside the bounds of matrimony to find what I needed. But, after seven years of feeling ashamed, I came back to the Lord, and He was waiting for me. Scripture tells us that when one sinner turns back in repentance, the angels are rejoicing. Let's just say that I gave them a lot to cheer about. In this marriage, God has been faithful to grow me as a wife. It doesn't make me an expert by any means, just teachable and willing to share the struggles and celebrations.

I'm never sure who will read my blog, but I can't write in hopes of a massive group of followers. I can write in the hope that someone will see themselves reflected somehow in my words, and be willing to hear what God might have for them. If someone reading can be comforted or encouraged through something I have dealt with, then God gets the glory for that.

In the Bible, He tells us to let our light shine before man, so they can see our good works and praise our Father in Heaven. Psalm 40 says that many will see and fear(respect) and put their trust in the Lord. The great commission tells us to go forth and make disciples of the world. Not a lot of us get to go on mission trips to the four corners, but we can tell what He has done in our lives. Nothing speaks louder to the power of God than a life transformed.

So, to my friend, tell your story. Share your journey. Take the journey that God still has before you. Share the life that He is His witness. God will bring the readers who need to be encouraged. Remember, it's not about us, but Him.