Friday, December 14, 2012

God Is In the Schools

My heart is just as broken as everyone else's over the tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. However, I must address the charge from everyone that this is what happens when we take God out of the schools.

Fellow believers in Christ, I am talking to you.

We are the church.

We are the body of Christ.

 Bibles are allowed in school.

Praying at school is allowed if it is student led.

Faith based clubs are allowed to organize in public schools.

We can point fingers and hoot and holler that none of this would have happened if we didn't take God out of schools. As long as we keep showing up, God is in the school. And as long as God is sovereign, which, as far as I know,  has not changed, this still would have happened. He is not asleep at the wheel or standing on the front steps waiting to be buzzed in.

Nothing limits His ability to be present any place.Not school boards or government legislation.  I am 100% sure that God was in the midst of that tragedy, doing what He does. Bringing peace to the afflicted. Comforting those who mourn. Welcoming the least of these to the place we all long to be. And, hurting for the lost young man who did this.

Drawing lines in the sand and circling our Christian wagons, if you will pardon the overuse of metaphor, will not help anything. If we all huddle together, the only thing the world sees is our butts. This is the time to let our lights shine; the world needs hope in the face of such an unspeakable tragedy.

Now, when hearts are tender, is the time to point others toward the hope of Christ. No one can answer why God allowed such a horrid thing, but we can say with confidence that He is our Help and our Deliverer in times of trouble. He will somehow, even from this, create beauty from ashes. This is not a Christian do-gooder platitude. This is His promise to us.

This is also the time to remain firm and strong in your own faith. Do not fall into despair with the rest of the world. Do not mourn as unbelievers. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4-8-9). We need to remember that God is the Redeemer of all things.

I will continue to sing and praise my God because He alone is completely unmovable .He is our shelter and our strong tower, our ever present help in time of need. Believing this doesn't diminish the scope of this tragedy, but it does help me look toward a better day. He will lead us out of this darkness.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Giving Jesus

Every year I say I want to scale back Christmas. Not like celebrate less, but celebrate more for the right reasons. Then, just like the rest of the world, I get caught up in the western traditions of Christmas: the decorating, the shopping, the cooking...the wild frenzy of celebrating Jesus that really doesn't have much to do with Him at all.

I know the story of the Christmas tree; we light it up to show He is the Light of the World.

I know why we buy gifts: to mirror the generosity God has shown us through His gift of Jesus.

I know why I cook special recipes and bake cookies...because I like them. Ha!

Seriously, I get that many of our traditions are representative of the Nativity Story. But does anyone else feel like the Reason for the Season get swallowed up by the season itself?

I've had the privilege of sharing my story a few times lately and each time, I am humbled by the grace He has poured into my life. Just for one year, I would love to celebrate Christmas without gifts, decorations, and foods that make my pants tight anyway, and really reflect on the majesty of all He has done.

I pray that during this hallowed season, you find time to reflect on Who Jesus is to you, and communicate that to someone else. It might be the best gift you could ever give.

If you've stopped by after meeting me at iMoms this week, welcome! Check around some of my posts and if what you read resonates with you, consider subscribing by email. Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fire Starter

This is a picture of a magnifying glass.

All together now...duh. A magnifying glass is a useful tool. I used one to see the expiration dates on all the Box Tops For Education our school collected. Came in quite handy.

Tonight at church, though, singing My Soul Magnifies the Lord by Chris Tomlin, this is the picture that came into my head:

 On its own, a magnifying glass is just good for making things bigger. Let the sun shine through it, and things catch fire.

On my own, I'm just a magnifying glass. Kinda useful, I suppose, but nothing special. But to truly set the world on fire, I need the power of God shining through me. Tonight I realized that I have been trying to make a fire without God.

It's exhausting.

I forgot about grace. Instead of remembering who God is, I've been reminding myself who I'm not. I tell myself what I haven't been doing right lately. I've been feeling like it's up to me to get the fire started.

I've hit the back space so many times during this post because I just can't get the words right, but again, God can use my flawed attempt to share my heart with you to accomplish what He needs to. I'm the only one who thinks it's all up to me.

If you've found yourself overwhelmed and in this place lately, remember that we are only the magnifying glasses. Leave room for God to make the fire.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Visiting Babylon

Today in the NaNoWriMo process, I hitched a ride to Babylon. Ok, not exactly Bablyon, but in the neighborhood. If you are not catching the correlation right off the bat, Babylon was the place of imprisonment for the Israelites. One of my characters is in a dark place, and in order to write authentically, I had to hang out with her for a bit. For me, at least at this point of my writing journey, I cannot craft someone I don’t have a piece of inside me. As I created darkness for my character, I visited my own dark places.
For awhile I wshed I was writing a fluffy book about bunnies and butterflies, a place where no one gets hurt.
But sometimes, in order to lead others towards the light, you have to stand in the dark with them and take them by the hand. That’s what I’m doing in my novel, leading others. Their stories won’t be exactly my own, but they are borne of the same parent.
 As I struggled with the feelings that came back, I kept repeating the verse “The light shines into the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5)” Even as I write this, the darkness stands behind me, breathing down my neck. I have to remember I am just a visitor this time around. I already know how this story ends.
 Check out the link to the song Times by Tenth Avenue North . I listened to this on repeat about 900 times.

Monday, November 5, 2012


My bags have been packed for two years waiting for this road trip. My ticket's been punched and I'm on my way, and except for the fact that I'm not enjoying the scenery as much as I'd hoped, things are going great.
Really good.
I mean, alright.

This whole NaNoWriMo novel writing thing is hard. Day one was Awesome (Insert sing-songy voice here.) Day two was pretty good. Day three and I was a little bored with my own story, which is never a good sign. Day four, no writing at all. Today, Day five, I went to Barnes and  Noble and found myself wondering why I thought the world needed one more book.

 Then I went jeans shopping. Ugh. (Insert whatever you want here.) My overwhelming thought was that it's a good thing I'm probably not as ugly as I feel. Not exactly feeling creative or inspired, I ate lunch at a Chinese lunch buffet alone, which I know will not help the continuing search for jeans that fit. Whatever.

I trolled the internet for a bit and ended up on Facebook and saw a fellow NaNo warrior's post. I whined for encouragement and she delivered. That, and I remembered that I had purchased a Kindle book designed specifically for talking me off the NaNo-inspired ledge. It worked.

I got my butt in front of the computer and started pecking away. I like my story again. I can see my characters. We're all holding hands feeling warm and fuzzy. I will savor this feeling until I hate them again and wonder why I thought the world needed another book again.

Hopefully I will remember that I don't write because the world needs another book. I write because I'm a writer.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm Gonna Do It!

By the time you are done reading this, you will know just how neurotic and over-thinky I am. But maybe you will see a little bit of yourself and find the encouragment to take your next step.

In my previous post, Where's Your Bar?, I talked about my fears of having my bar set too low. I like a challenge, but only if I'm sure I can conquer it, which, by definition, probably means it isn't a challenge at all.

So what is all the hype about?

I am going to do the NaNoWriMo contest.

This has nothing to do with Mork from Ork, if you are old enough to remember that. It is a commitment to write 50,000 words in the month of November. The hard part is, they have to be different words, haha. Essentially, I will be writing a rough, rough draft of my novel.

I can hear the characters that live in the box in my head celebrating. They will be so relieved to see the light of day; they have been rolling around in there for a few years, my whole life actually. Each one is an extension of myself and my journey, so you may not like all of them. That's ok.

My angst has come from two different directions. One, do I have what it takes to complete this mission? 50,000 boils down to roughly 1,667 words per day. An average blog post is about 400 words, and I can't even manage a daily post.

Secondly, I try to live my life to serve and glorify God. This doesn't feel "tangible" to me. Locked away with my laptop for the majority of my time takes me out of the loop a bit. It almost feels selfish to do. (Are you starting to see my neurotic side?)

But here's the thing: it is not up to me. I feel 100% that this is where God wants me. It's scary because it's unlike anything I've ever done before, but to think I can do it on my own takes God out of the picture. I don't to be anywhere that He isn't. Scripture tells us that in our weakness He is strong. I bring plenty of weakness to the table, so He will be magnificent.

Each time I've started down the road of "NO", Ephesians 3:20 showed up in my in-box. He can do more than anything I can ask or imagine, but not if I don't take that first step. He's not going to do the writing for me without me sitting at the computer. I at least need to show up.

In processing through this, I've been chatting with others who have stepped up to a challenge. My sister has been adding to her nursing degree steadily over the last few years. Today she finishes her Bachelor's Degree in nursing and in a few months starts grad school, all while working full time. Scary, but she's doing it, one step at a time.

My friend Shelley has gone for her real estate license, muddling through the online course since April and passed her test a few days ago. She saw what she wanted and went for it.

My friend Melanie Dorsey is stepping out in a big way in Florida, video taping a Bible study that she wrote after losing her son to brain cancer. She does everything By His grace and for His glory. Words to live by.

We each have our thing that makes us quake and reconsider. Are you going to live in the land of What if...? Or, are you going to take the next step?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Where's Your Bar?

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo
Crunching through the leaves with my boys last night, one of them said that he would like to try all the sports there are. He asked what sports I played in high school and I was embarassed to tell him, "None. I was afraid I wouldn't be any good so I didn't try any."
I was concerned that my answer might deter him from trying, but instead, he felt sad for me. I felt sad for me too.

Fear of failure has kept me from trying many things, which sounds funny for someone who likes to be somewhat public. I am pondering doing something that I've never done before, and the fear of failure keeps wrapping itself around my feet. It's also forcing me to analyze what success and failure really mean.
Maybe you are hesitant to try new things for the same reason, so let's process this together. Here's what I've come up with:
     Success cannot be defined without knowing our motivation. If I am motivated by public recognition or attaining some sort of victory, then I may do my best and still not be a success. If I am motivated by something within me, like the joy of a challenge or an opportunity to use the gifts God has given me, then I am already a success, regardless of the outcome.
    Failure wears many faces. If I begin a project and treat everybody miserably while completing it, I should not consider myself successful. Sacrificing personal integrity and relationships doth not a success make. (I made that up...feel free to use it.) Only going for the low-hanging fruit does not necessarily make one a success either, as Michaelangelo's quote alludes to. Lack of tangible success doesn't mean we've failed, but that we've stretched ourselves, and that is always a win.
     Play to the right audience. Every arena has its own community to cheer you on, and my possible endeavor is no exception. It's easy to get caught up in the cliques and drama. When I trained for the triathlon in 2010, half the fun was talking shop with other "athletes" and feeling like I was part of something bigger. When I didn't do the triathlon I signed up for this past summer, I could have felt like a failure except that my audience was not the athletic community. It was God, and in His eyes, I know I chose wisely.
I think that is what it all boils down to....why do we want to do what we want to do. If I'm trying to feel like a big fish in a small pond, I need to seriously consider my next step. If I want to experience more of life and try something new, then I should march on. I don't want to wake up on my last day knowing that I shrunk back in fear of failure without ever really trying.
How about you? With this perspective of success and failure, what might you do that you haven't done before? Where have you set your bar?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An Acorn Philosophy

Sweat running into my eyes, I spied an acorn in my front yard and held it over my head, anticipating the coolness of shade. Finding no relief from the glaring sun, I quickly grew frustrated and threw the acorn aside, wondering what was the matter with it. Don't acorns come from oak trees? Shouldn't an oak tree provide shade on a sunny day? Apparently nobody told the acorn.
Ridiculous story, right? We all know an acorn doesn't provide shade for a good 25-30 years; they need room to grow, good soil, rain, sun, and even the barrenness of winter to reach their full potential. But, how many times does the acorn scenario play itself out in real life and we fail to see it?
My two youngest boys are trying my nerves lately. They wrestle. They talk back to me. They aren't always kind to each other. Basic daily grooming requires negotiation, and a meal without drama is a thing of the past. After they had gone to bed one Sunday night, my husband and I congratulated each other for making it through another weekend.
Wallowing in the dailiness of parenthood, God showed me the acorn analogy. I am expecting oak trees when what I have are saplings, barely done being acorns. It will be years before I have oak trees, but it will come.
Whatever your situation, whether it's raising kids, growing a strong marriage, training for a race, encouraged. Don't add stress to the situation by expecting an acorn to function as an oak tree. Give whatever it is time to grow and mature. "Do not grow weary in doing good, for in the end you will have a harvest of righteousness. (Galatians 6:9)"

Monday, October 1, 2012

In the Hush

One of the things I do to get "Mom Points" from my kids is take them to draw pictures of the sunset. We sit on a hill near our house with our colored pencils, crayons, and markers and just soak it in. We headed over there last night, enjoying the crisp air and the gorgeous sky.

To be honest, their sketching was soon abandoned in favor of riding their bikes down the hill. I, on the other hand, am a sky junkie; few things calm me like sitting outside watching the clouds. Every scripture testifying to the power of God comes alive. The weights lift off my shoulders and I am soothed by His faithfulness. Last night was no exception.

Colored pencils to paper, I stopped thinking about everything that distracts me and let the beauty of the evening envelop me. Happy kids, amazing skies...I was lost in the moment. Then the sun dipped below the horizon and for a moment it was difficult to see until...
Photo: The day is sealed with a fiery kiss...
Where darkness once was, fire consumed the sky. Even my kids stopped riding and just stared in awe. In the hush, the majesty and infinity of God displayed in its fiery brilliance spoke to my soul.
When it looks like God has faded from the scene, wait. 

Maybe you thought you were following God's plan for your life, and now you are knee deep in quicksand. Wait for Him...
Maybe your marriage has ended. You sit in the darkness left behind, trying to adjust to your new normal, and wonder what happened. Wait for Him...
Maybe there is a child you are aching to hold. The void left behind seems unfair and you wonder where God has gone. Wait for Him...
Maybe the thought of waking up one more day is just too much. Wait for Him...
Even when we can't see it, He is at work, piecing together something so amazing it will blow your mind.
"Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27:14)"
You can do this.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Nehemiah Summer

This summer I hosted a Bible study in my home on Nehemiah. If you aren't familiar with him, he was just a regular guy who realized something was not right in the state of Denmark.

Ok, wrong guy.

He heard that the wall around the city of Jerusalem was in shambles, which meant that God's city was an unprotected disgrace and laughingstock among other cities. Nehemiah felt called to bring glory and honor to God by rebuilding it.

During the course of the study, we were challenged to see what needs rebuilding in our lives. As I considered the many good activities and ministries I am involved in, God made it painfully clear to me that the rebuilding I was to focus on was in my own family.

Nehemiah needed to clear away debris and rubble to begin construction on the wall; I needed to take a close look at my commitments and clear some "rubble," too. As I did so, I realized that I had busied myself with things that felt more urgent, more important, than the nurturing of my own family. As long as there was no crisis to divert my attention, I was content to leave my family simmering on the back burner while I focused elsewhere. This is not what God has called me to do as a wife and mom.

Decisions had to be made, some that cost money and others that cost pride, but it was all part of clearing the rubble. I never did do the triathlon, because adding eight to ten workouts to a week just didn't feel right.

Truthfully, I can tell you that this "Nehemiah Summer", the summer I built into my family, was one of the most precious. As the school year gets underway, it is my desire to stay focused and engaged with my family, not just as a means to placate them so I can continue to do what I want, but as a means to strengthen the walls around our little city right here.

What is God calling you to rebuild in your own life? Is there rubble that needs to be cleared first? Perhaps forgiveness that needs to be offered or accepted? Priorities examined? A deeper evaluation of your relationship with God?

Challenge yourself to reconsider what roles "important" and "busy" play in your life. You may find that you define success in a whole new way.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How To Boil A Frog

If you were looking for cooking tips, you might be disappointed in this post. Not to leave you hanging, though, boiling frogs is easy. Put them in the pot with tepid water and slowly turn up the heat. By the time they realize they're in trouble, it's too late.

Girls, I don't want to see any of you getting boiled.

I considered whether or not to write this post for some time, but as a follower of Jesus, and someone who fell into the slimy pit of lust herself, I can't not say anything. As believers, we are called to speak the truth in love to one another.

Without mincing any words, or passing any judgment, Fifty Shades of Grey and Magic Mike are not just risque entertainment; they are an affront to our Holy God. I can hear the "yeah, but's" already, but here's my thought, one that Oswald Chambers echoed in his devotional My Utmost For His Highest: You pretty much know you are convicted of something when you start rationalizing. I know, I do it all the time. (Not claiming any perfection here. I am just a little sensitive to the slippery slope of lust.)
  • Yeah but, it puts me in the mood: Reading or watching soft porn, and that's what this is, does not strengthen your marriage. It is no more acceptable than your husband visiting certain websites to satisfy his need for arousal.
  • Yeah but, everyone else is doing it: what was that your mom always said . . .don't jump off this bridge.Seriously.
  • Yeah but, it's not hurting anyone: It's a fact that 20% of Christian women are addicted to porn, and 60% admit to significant struggles with lust. Check out this link for the effects of pornography on marriage.  
Let me tell you, firsthand, what happens when you enterain thoughts of other men. Your husband, your real life flawed husband, begins to pale in comparison to fictional characters. In your rational mind, you know he can't measure up, but keep feeding the comparison and watch your irritation level begin to grow. You might begin to notice the qualities your husband appears to be lacking in other men, men who don't belong to you. You start to think you are missing out on something. You find yourself looking forward to conversations with other guys. Your mind begins to wander to other topics . . .the ones you've been reading about. All of this might be taking place without you being consciously aware, but on some level, your brain is processing what you've filled it with. The water in your pot is beginning to bubble.

Choosing this sort of entertainment is getting into the pot.

As believers, God has set us apart to live a life that glorifies Him. He's given us a supernatural ability to make right choices through the Holy Spirit. Romans 12:1-2 reminds us not to be conformed to the patterns of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I know it seems like the whole world, or at least everyone I see sitting at the pool, is reading this book. I can't help but consider the way Satan tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit: he convinced her she was missing out on something big.

Don't fall for the cheap lies of the enemy. Be cognizant of what you are letting influence you. Proverbs 4:23 says to "guard your heart for it determines the course of your life." Casting Crowns had a hit a few years ago with Slow Fade; consider these lyrics as you decide how to entertain yourself.

Slow Fade

Be careful little eyes what you see
It's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it's the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade

Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day

The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you're thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

Oh be careful little eyes what see
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see

When you choose to live a life that glorifies God, you are never going to miss out. You have His word on it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Purposeful Planting

I am, admittedly, not much of a gardener. I do best with things that grow on their own, like weeds and perennials. However, one of my favorite sayings is "Do not confuse enthusiasm with talent", which I usually use to refer to my singing abilities. It applies to gardening as well.

Each spring, I survey the remnants of last year's garden, deciding what I should plant for the upcoming season. Last year, I planted peas, beans, lettuce, and peppers. Although I didn't plant it, I also had a bountiful crop of skunk leaves, those giant leaves that look sort of like rhubarb but aren't. My method for choosing what I will grow involves considering what my kids might eat, what is easiest, and what will fit together in the space allotted for it. If I was a real farmer, I would probably analyze the soil, deciding the acidity of it and whether it has lots of clay or whatever in it. (I almost had you thinking I knew what I was talking about, didn't I? Not a clue...)

Ready for a mental leap?

I'm looking at the garden of my life right now. All kinds of things are growing in it...varioius commitments and involvements, dreams and desires, hobbies and pastimes, and people and relationships. Lots going on in my little garden of life. The issue is that most of it just took up residence because there was open space. When the time comes to "plant" something purposefully and intentionally, there isn't a lot of room.

The answer? Weeding. Serious, prayerful weeding. Sometimes the easiest things to grow aren't producing the harvest you are looking for. Let me encourage you to take a good look at your garden...are the things that take up space providing a bountiful harvest? Is it something you even want to be growing?

Will you join me in seeking God this summer and ask Him what you should be cultivating in your life? Each of us only has so much garden space to work with, and only God knows how long our growing season will last. I don't want to grow the easy stuff, the good stuff even, because I can, and miss out on growing the best that God has in mind for me because I didn't make room for it.

"Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you.
Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you."
Psalm 143:8

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Holy Burden

You know the saying "You can't unknow something"? Ok, so that isn't a direct quote, but you get the idea. Once something has settled in your head, or even worse, on your heart, it is so hard to shake free, even though our lives would be easier if we could live like we never knew "said something" in the first place. The burden of the knowledge that you carry weighs on you, directs your thoughts and decisions, becomes the lens you view your life through.

In Christianese, we might describe that as a "call." When the Lord so thoroughly saturates your psyche with His vision of a situation, it is soul-consuming. Oswald Chambers puts it like this:
"It is easier to serve or work for God without a vision and without a call, because then you are not bothered by what He requires. Common  sense, covered with a layer of Christian emotion, becomes your guide. You may be more prosperous and successful from the world's perspective, and have more leisure time, if you never acknowledge the call of God. But once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God asks of you will always be there to prod you on to do His will."
God has a call on my life, to share the message of His Good News with those who think they are beyond His reach. There is so much pain, dysfunction, fear...utter this world. He has squeezed my heart for one particular section of our city, and given me a front row seat to see the need. I cannot walk away from the vision of what could be, neighborhoods transformed by the love of Christ.

I don't know what to do with this.

But, I know I can't "unknow" what I know. Follow me? I am trusting God to provide the next steps. He would not have put this burden here if He didn't have a plan for it, right?

How about you? What Kingdom need has He burdened you with? What breaks your heart? Where do you long to make a difference? God would not have settled this on you if He didn't plan to use it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

I hurried home from work yesterday, gathered my kids from their schools, fixed a meal for a new mama and dropped it off, raced by my mom's for a quick visit, dashed home to cook a decent dinner for my own family, then got ready to go to an important meeting at my son's school.

I am out of breath just typing this.

I waited for a friend to drop off her child to babysit mine. And waited some more. Finally, I texted her and got no reply. Quickly calling the neighbor kid over, I bought myself an interim sitter and left for the PTO meeting.

And found the door to the school locked. I checked in with the custodian and he said the meeting was on his calendar for today, not last night. I brought up the email on my phone and confirmed that nope, it was supposed to be happening right now. Since I was the only one there for the meeting, I assumed there was some sort of miscommunication.

Ultimately, my friend sincerely apologized for forgetting me in the midst of her own chaos of shuttling kids to various locations. The person in charge of the meeting felt awful for forgetting to tell me the date had changed due to her work schedule.

Technically, I would have been justified indulging in a little self-righteous snarkiness, don't'cha think?

Instead, I was able to see it as an opportunity to offer grace to two people. What are the odds that two things would get hosed up on the same night? I felt like it was too big a coincidence to spend time playing the victim. I also looked at it as evidence of God's mercy towards me. In a busy week, I got to spend an evening at home playing games with my kids.

Sometimes, everything is just a matter of perspective. If we could learn to view the events in our lives as opportunities to serve and glorify God instead of ourselves, this world would be a much better place.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Room Furnished and Ready

"Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water, follow him; wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says,"Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?" And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready." Mark 14:13-14

Reading the text, it is evident that Jesus knew what the plan was. The room was furnished and ready for Him and His disciples to celebrate the Passover, what we know today as the Last Supper.

How about the man who owned the house? Did this man, his name lost to history, know why he was making a room "furnished and ready?" I wonder if he had other plans for the room. We don't know if he was preparing for a bride or children, other guests, or if this was just the home of a man rich enough to have unused space. I can't help but wonder at his thoughts as the events of the next few months unfolded, from the arrest and crucifixion to the resurrection, and beyond. When Jesus was appearing to crowds in His resurrected body, did the man tell anyone who would listen "He ate His Passover at my place!" Whatever his plans for that room were, God used it for His glory.

I consider the "empty rooms" God has used in my life. Time set aside long in advance for one thing becomes exactly what I needed for some unforeseen event. Money often travels this way...a bonus or tax return is on the way and we anticipate all the ways we will spend it, only to have something major break. God knew why we would need the money or the time and already had it being prepared, but we are the last to know. "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but the Lord's purpose will prevail. (Proverbs 19:21)"

Sometimes we feel the urge to build in a certain direction, and we knock ourselves out trying to figure out what it all means. Reading this story of the "furnished and ready" room encourages me to keep going, listening to His voice, even if I'm not sure why. When the Lord shows up on my doorstep, asking for a place to show His glory, I want Him to find everything just as He needs it. The dark nights, the sunny days, the incomprehensible, and the routine... it all goes into  preparing the space that He will use. Perhaps every week that man made sure the room was clean and dusted, with no idea why.

How about you? We know that "God causes all things to be used for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)" Will God find your life, your space, furnished and ready to be used for His glory?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Gentle Reminder

Someone asked me the other day if I always knew I wanted to be a writer, and I wasn't sure how to answer. I like the creative process, starting something only to see it take on a life of its own. Some days I have felt like I would burst if I couldn't get my thoughts out, and some days feel like I've entered a season of drought. That's kind of where I'm at now. Not that I don't have a desire to write what God puts on my heart; I just can't seem to make it happen. Ever have days like that? Anyway, in an effort to relight the fire, I read some of my old blogs tonight. I think I saw a little smoke curling upwards in the distance as I read this one...

Stories To Tell (January 2011)

I'll be honest, I am really excited by the thought of new readers stopping by my blog. It is like having company over...I feel like I should be proofing, tweaking, and dusting all my previous posts so you'll want to come back. I want you to like me. Why do I feel like I just stepped back into a high school hallway as a freshman, hoping to find a friendly face, or at least not have my books knocked to the floor?

If you are here in my little cyber house, picture yourself sitting at my dining room table. It's big...used to be my grandma's. My kids have almost wrecked it already, and my dog has a taste for the knobby wood feet. We're sipping some tea, hot if you live in Wisconsin like me, sweet if you're visiting from the South, just chatting it up a little and getting to know each other. There's banana bread on the counter and if you don't eat any, I will probably finish off the loaf by myself this afternoon.

The conversation circles around to why I write, especially why I write the things I do. I have a story to tell, and so do you. God has done amazing things in our lives, with our lives, and it just wouldn't do to keep keep it to ourselves. My heart breaks for the woman who thinks God only wants her if she is perfect, following a set of rules that someone else made up. I want the whole world to know that Jesus saves, that He heals, that He transforms, and that He is the only one who can make that happen. I love the saying that God has called us to be His witness, not His reporters. The only way we can be a witness is to share what He has done in our lives, in our own messy places.

As we visit through my blog, I wonder if I'm sharing too much. I can be a bit of a Tigger sometimes. But then I remember, be His witness. My life has not always been pretty...some of it has been downright ugly, but it is this life that God has chosen to work through, to shine His light in some of the darkest places, and if I don't share His Truth, then the lies continue to live.

May I encourage you, no...too soft a word...challenge you, to let the world know how God has changed your life since you met Him? I know it's scary, to let others who know you now see where you have come from, but we are the walking, talking, living, breathing evidence of a god who transforms lives, one day at a time, from brokeness to wholeness.

Shine that light, girl. Shine that light.

Just an afterthought, if you are not a writer, but want to tell your story of how God has worked in your life, it would be my privilege to post it on my blog.

That was from last January, but the offer still stands. Have a story to tell?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Victory For Today

"I choose Jesus, I choose Jeeeesus...the One who first chose me..." the voice of my six year old warbled from the living room.

"Mom," he said, "I am going to try not to be a sinner anymore."

"Wow, ok buddy, that's great." Knowing his bent towards perfection, I wanted him to understand grace as well. "But, just so you know, Jesus loves you so much either way. He wants us to try not to sin because we love Him, but He still loves us."

There, I thought to myself. Let's start avoiding the ditch of legalism early. My next thought came quickly after...why am I not teaching him to live in victory, to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit? Why am I not encouraging his desire to avoid sin?

These are really deep thoughts for 8:00 in the morning I realize.

Romans 1:28 says that when the people stopped putting God and His statutes first, and insisted on following the lust in their hearts, He gave them over to their depraved minds, to do things that ought not be done. The converse of that is clear. When we acknowledge God and seek after His ways, He keeps us from falling into sin, so that we can be presented to Him without fault and with great joy (Jude 1:24).

I know, firsthand, that I serve a merciful God, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, but why do we focus more on that than on the rest...that He is able to keep us from sin when we follow Him? Why do we spend more time pleading for mercy instead of pleading for the strength and guidance that only He can provide?

Let's decide, today, for today, to live in the victory that is already ours through our rights as children of God. Sin only has the hold on us that we allow it to have; Jesus came to set us free. Galatians 5:1 says that "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, so stand firm and submit no more to a yoke of slavery." Submitting implies choice. I am making the choice not to submit to the yoke of sin today. I want the faith of a six year old who believes that he isn't going to be a sinner because he is chosen by Jesus.

And once again, to Him who is able to do more than we can ask or imagine, to Him be the glory. Amen.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Step in the Right Direction

Measure twice, cut once.

Assemble all of your ingredients before you begin cooking.

Don't count your chickens before they've hatched.

Wise words take up residence in my head, creating a practical, somewhat rule-following girl. I always say "I'm fine with spontaneity as long as I can plan for it." Sometimes though, when following hard after God, these rules don't apply. That's where faith comes in. And for someone like me, that's half the fun and half the battle.

Over a year ago, God firmly planted a vision in my head to reach the city of Waukesha with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Not the "Here's your ticket to Heaven" message, but the transformation that takes place in your heart when you truly invite Jesus in, the message that I have lived in my own life.

If we really want to change what happens in our cities and schools, we need to reach the hearts of the people with Christ. Satan has a stronghold on our future as long as we sit back and do nothing. Not our eternal future, I get that. But if we can change one heart, that reaches to their family, that reaches to their circle of can see how that will make a huge difference. Instead of doing nice things in the Name of Jesus, let's make the introduction. I often do nice things for others hoping they will see Jesus through me, and that is important and biblical, but we can't stop there. We have to be brave and bold.

I shared this vision with a few friends who cheered me on. I brought the vision to some who would be central to its administration, and when they asked questions I couldn't answer, I got overwhelmed. For someone who likes to have all the answers, not being able to answer the questions made me take a giant step back. Not that I ever stopped believing that this vision would become a reality, but a living example of "I believe; help my unbelief." I just didn't see how this was going to work out.

Yesterday at church we heard a message on faith, and my fire was rekindled. I was hesitant to share this dream with those in positions of influence because I still don't have the answers. If I refuse to take the next steps that God has put in front of me, however, the next steps won't be given. In a giant leap of faith, I contacted everyone I could think of last night that might be willing to help with this vision, and that step is already bearing fruit. I prayed this morning that God would take my small offering of time to send emails, and the large offering of believing Him for big things, and multiply that.

Is there something that you know God has called you to that you are trying to rationalize? God's call doesn't always make sense, but if you really look at it, you may find that it does. For me, I am a planner. I always seem to have a project in the works. I know firsthand how Jesus transformed my life. By putting this vision in my head, God is using all the gifts and experiences He has given me to help build His Kingdom; He will do the same with you. Remember, if you have Christ as your Savior already, and you woke up breathing today, He has a plan for you here on earth. I don't know what it is, or what tomorrow will bring, but faith tells me that I don't want to miss it, and that I don't need to have all the answers today.

"Now to Him who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, to Him be the glory." Ephesians 3:20

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Songs in the Darkness

We've probably all heard the saying "It's always darkest before the dawn", but those words are poor consolation to the ones sitting in the dark.

Laying awake way too early this morning, I listened as the birds sang away, oblivious to the cold and the darkness. Now that the sun is up, I realize I don't hear the birds. I would add to that saying of being darkest before the dawn with "The music is sweetest in the darkness."

In the times that confuse, crush, and break us, the Lord sings sweetly. Zephaniah 3:17 reminds that the Lord is with us and that He rejoices over us with singing. On this morning in the time between the cross and the resurrection, I imagine that the darkness was overwhelming for the disciples.

Fear...were they next...?

Confusion...what about his kingdom...? could He have let this happen...?

I wonder if they heard the singing as the glorious dawn was about to break.

Do you? Close your eyes and listen for it.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

10,000 Reasons

"If mommy doesn't get a little Jesus time this morning, none of us are going to have a good day."

These were the words I hurled into the living room as my boys were fighting over who got to use the computer I was currently using. I can't find my ipod so I was listening to 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman in the itunes on my computer, trying to fill up on peace and quiet that would carry me through this day.

Close your eyes and listen to this song; I pray that the worship of Him continues long after the music is over.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

My youngest son just turned six and has decided he is far too old and cool for his Spiderman bike helmet. When we took him to pick out a new one, this is how he explained it to me:

"When I was little, Spidahman and supah heroes were ok. Now I need one that looks oldah because I am oldah. (He has a little speech impediment...makes him sound like Ahnold Schwarzenegger.)  When I get to heaven, I won't need a helmet because God and Jesus will be my helmet."

Whoa....what did he say? He's actually right...we are to wear the helmet of salvation which comes through the blood of Jesus. I am waiting for him to tell me about the new belt he will be wearing one of these days.

The Armor of God
  10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Watching Paint Dry

Have you ever just stood and watched paint dry? Maybe the cable was out, maybe you needed to do other things in the room...but have you ever just watched? Besides being a little boring, watching a second coat dry is a little nerve-wracking. Paint does not dry uniformly; blotches show up as one section fades into the previous coat, while two inches down, the fresh paint stands out like a sore thumb. I have to resist the urge to keep going over it with the roller, trying to blend it in myself. If I leave the room and come back, as opposed to standing there glassy-eyed staring it down, I get to see the finished product and realize that it has worked itself out without my help.

Watching my husband grow in his faith with Jesus Christ is a little like watching paint dry. His accepting of Christ as His Savior was a bit of a process for Him. Recognizing that he couldn't reach heaven by being a pretty good guy was step one, so He walked across that bridge that Jesus offers. The layers and second coats have been going on for awhile, and seldom have I resisted an opportunity to get out my roller and try to hasten the process.

At some point, I stopped staring at his process. And His process, for that matter. I stopped trying to be his "holy spirit", and showed a little respect for the abilities of God to work in the hubby's life. This past week has been interesting...

Tuesday, the hubs says to me, "Did you know that the line Sean Hannity (Fox News Channel) says at the end of his show, 'Let not your hearts be troubled' actually comes from John 14?"

"Uh...yeah. I did. How do you know that?"

"It's in the reading we are supposed to be doing for church."

Yesterday he brought his Billy Graham "Gospel of John" with him to the doctor's office because the assignment was to read John 13-17. When I commented, he said "Don't go getting all excited now" with a goofy smile on his face. I can't help it...I'm all excited. It's been a long road.

I know there will be blotches and unevenness in this process and that I will have to resist the urge to step in and "fix" things, but I can see the promise of what lies ahead: a beautiful work of art infused with the breath of God that looks alot like my husband.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Busy for Jesus?

I came across some meeting notes from last year with prayer requests scrawled across the bottom. My request was for direction.

Huh. My request at the meeting the other day was for direction. And a few months ago. Am I really like a compass without a magnet, or have I just lost my way? I asked some friends the other day that I serve with if sometimes they just want to be "normal." Mind you, I know that normal is a loaded word. One person's normal is another person's worst nightmare.

What I was trying to say, without actually saying it, is don't you ever just want to be anonymous and without responsibilities. Sometimes I feel like God has saddled me down with dreams, hopes, and visions that I have no idea how to achieve. Saddled is not the most gracious word I realize, but that's how I was feel sometimes. Burdened. I am wrecked for the average normal, because I know there is so much more to life. I've seen the freedom that waits for the soul bound by failure, shame, and fear, and I have no idea what to do with it. I am burdened by the awareness of the lost that surround me.

"Just tell me what to do, God. Work on the book? Work on the event You've given me the vision for? Update my bio sheet? Just send me and I'll go."

Burdened. Tired. Weary. Out of sorts and cranky. Generally just a mess, with a smile and a laugh on most days.

Then I hear His voice offering the direction I long for..."Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Wait...isn't the rest for those who don't know You yet? Aren't I supposed to be leading them to You?

I think back to Mary and Martha, and my heart too is troubled about many things. I've made much ado about the tasks at hand, the opportunities yet to become realities, and let the relationship take a back seat.

Once again, I reach out, take His Hand, and slow down. Rest awhile in the sunshine with Him, and know this is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Glory Revealed

Powerless is not a word that sits well with me. The idea that I can't do something, or may need help with something, generally doesn't enter my thought process. This weekend at our women's retreat, that notion was stripped away.

I look forward to the retreat every year, knowing that I will hear from God in a fresh way. Friday night came and went, and truthfully, while I was enjoying myself, there was no great outpouring of insight or revelation. Saturday morning, I began to think it just wasn't my year. Good information from a delightful speaker, but nothing earth-shattering. Nothing to make me examine my life.

At the start of the evening session, the Holy Spirit gave me an image, and it shook me out of my doldrums. I'll spare you the details, but in that moment, I knew what was standing between me and God. Mercifully, it was something I could address right then and there, and was able to repent and return to full fellowship with the Lord. You see, it is not Him who was failing to deliver. It was my sin that was interfering with the connection. He does not expect perfection, that is what grace is for. He does expect me to do my best and bring the rest to Him. The author of Hebrews says that we have not resisted our sin to the point of shedding blood (Hebrews 12:4). I had not even resisted my sin to the point of personal inconvenience. Ouch.

At the point of repentence, the foot of the cross, the Lord met me hard. In my shame at failing again, I wanted to avoid Him, just hang around on the surface of "God is so good." He would have none of that. In the prayer room Sunday morning, Who He is became so clear. His Glory was revealed to me as never before. I thought I "got it" already, but this was different; I saw with the eyes of my heart Who He is.  Here is an excerpt from my journal, written with tears streaming and nose running, making loud snuffly noises in the corner. There was no turning back, no more hanging around on the surface.

"Final morning of the women's retreat. God, You have shown me my sin. Soemtimes I feel like I've got it all together, I don't need to be dependent on you.

Then I see my sin.

Father, I need you. On my own I am powerless. I am only looking for what satisfies me. Lord, thank you for the mercy that allows me to come to You. You overcame sin because I couldn't. Lord, help me to live in the freedom that is already mine. You are the Living Christ, Taker of my sin, Deliverer of my Freedom. I almost can't look at the throne, yet you still tell me to come to You. Oh my God, it is You.

Never forget this day, seeing His Holiness more clearly than ever before, listening to Jeremy Camp's Overcome. The weight and magnitude of His glory, barely a glimpse I realize, overpowers. Can't even fathom what eternity feels like."

He continued to bury me, drown me, overwhelm me with His Spirit for the rest of the retreat. Leaving to come home was bittersweet, but I KNOW that He goes with me wherever I go. I just need to keep looking at Him and stop living in my own strength. Stop living in my own power, but live in His Glory revealed.


Monday, February 27, 2012

A Call To All

Friends, those of you who know me in person or through my blog know I tend to get a little hepped up about Jesus. Truly, there is nothing the world can provide that will change your life like the power of the LIVING GOD. Nothing compares...He is Healer of the Broken...He gives sight to the blind...He raises the dead to life. I know, because He did it for me. Because I know, firsthand, the HOPE that HE IS, I want to tell the world.

The problem is that people don't always want to hear it, and I can't control that. What I can do, though, is live my life in a way that matters for eternity. I am blessed to have like-minded friends, and one of them wrote a letter that the world needs to read. Even if you don't live in my community, take this message to your own town. Live out loud for something bigger than yourself. You were created for it.

Here is my friend Karin's Letter. I hope it blesses, challenges, and encourages you.

"The year ahead holds both great promise as well as enormous challenge as our community stands at a crossroads; it could easily go in a number of directions. The very real possibility of a night time strip club coming to Waukesha in the guise of a day time “Spin Club” is in the works. Waukesha currently does not have a zoning code in place that would prevent such establishments from springing up. Please pray for several pressing issues concerning the City of Waukesha and Waukesha County. For unity among our churches, regardless of denomination to love one another, and for the members/attenders to effectively collaborate to minister to our children, families and community.
In the midst of all that, however, we see the glowing promise of what this city could become. The hugely successful “Friday Night Live” music venues have now become a staple in Waukesha County, growing our downtown businesses and bringing more families to our nationally award-winning library and parks. Our new “Gibson Guitar Town” is already drawing the attention of music-lovers around the region, some very vocal naysayers notwithstanding. A new state of the art Convention Center holds the potential to host internationally acclaimed speakers and artists, as well as conventions. Waukesha’s own Stuart and Jill Briscoe and their “Telling the Truth” ministry would be a huge draw right in the heart of our city. Talk of a new local K-Love Radio station in downtown Waukesha also affords great opportunity. Please pray for these.
I am witnessing the most wonderful things going on in our youth right now to the most horrifying of which I will only say have brought me to my knees. They need to know they are loved, that their lives matter and that there is hope. Our Waukesha County congregations have an opportunity to adopt local public schools through the new " Oneness School Initiative" ( to reach out and mentor our youth. Milwaukee Public Schools is starting this program in the fall; I pray we will have a more proactive approach in Waukesha.
In recent weeks, my heart has been deeply burdened with the strong sense that God is calling His people to come together in prayer in a way we have not yet experienced. This is our home. John 3:19-21 inspired me today to not let another day go by without asking, " What will you do? "
I will leave you with a few words sent to me by a friend. “Imagine a ragtag collection of surrendered and transformed people who love God and others. They are mesmerized by the idea that this is not about them, but all about Jesus.  They are transfixed by His story and His heart for their city.  They are seed-throwers and fire-starters, hope-peddlers and grace-givers, risk-takers and dreamers, young and old. They link arms with anyone who tells the story of Jesus.  They empower the poor, strengthen the weak, embrace the outcast, seek the lost. They serve together, pray together, worship together, live life together.  Their city will change because God sent them. They are us.”
So, anyone want to get together and see what we can do to change the face of our city? I have a few ideas...

The Finished Product

My son and I stared through the window in the oven door, waiting for the timer to go off. Finally, at the sound of the buzz, I opened the door and withdrew a piping hot, golden brown loaf of bread. Of course we didn't wait for it to cool, instead letting the butter melt all over as we sampled our creation.

"Mom, it's like we made bread," he said wide-eyed. "I didn't know people could do that."

I think he just assumed it falls from the sky in the red store wrapper and lands on the shelf, waiting for someone to buy it.

The following week, it was my husband's turn to stand wide-eyed in the kitchen, but it had nothing to do with my cooking. We are in the process of getting our kitchen remodeled; the contractor took out a wall, rebuilt part of it, patched up the holes left behind along with rewiring some electrical pathways, and is in the home stretch, watching drywall mud dry.  We are getting to the fun part now, adding a breakfast bar and choosing paint colors.

My husband looked around and said,"It's like he's building a room."

Again, because in our minds houses just fall out of the sky and land on their foundations.

In our society, we are used to seeing a finished product quickly, almost like instant gratification. We miss the process behind the product.

Young adults want the perks that come with maturity and financial stability, without going through the process, and wind up frustrated at best, and in a financial mess at worst.

We want our bodies to look a certain way, but are unwilling to commit to the process of working them out. Maybe that's just me...

I see a book cover with someone's name on it and wish it was mine, but right now I am not willing to commit the time to the project. I just want to skip to the finish line.

In the few projects I have done and completed, I can see the process as a gift. When I did get in shape once and complete a triathlon, the training I went through built strength, character, and endurance. I was definitely better for it.

I've taken cast-off furniture, stripped it down to bare wood, and done some different painting techniques. Each step taught me something different about the piece...what kind of wood it was, what else had been done to it in the past, and ultimately shaped the way I finished it myself.

I think we would do well not to not turn our noses up at the process that goes into a finished product. Do not become frustrated because you aren't there yet. Sometimes in life, the best part of reaching your destination is the journey it took to get you there.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Are You "Holy Available?"

"We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony." Revelation 12:11

What kind of life do you want to live? Seems like a silly question, because most of us don't feel like we have a choice. I'm not asking do you want to be an astronaut when you grow up, or what you want your material situation to be like, but seriously, what kind of life do you want to live?

The choice is yours.

Do you want to be a spectator or a player? Do you prefer to complain about your circumstances, or challenge them? Are you doing the best you can not to make waves, but stay status quo? Are you just trying to get to the end of your life without too much disruption?

Is that really enough? Not for me.

By the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony, I will overcome.

I choose today not to live by my own strength, but to tap into the power of the Living, Ascended Christ that is His blood and the word of my testimony, doors will open and hearts will change.

We have been set in a world that is desperately in need of hope. Everywhere we look, there is an opportunity to point people to the One who saves, empowers, and conquers, if only we will share what we know. Where are you today? Chances are there is someone who needs hope. Will you share the word of your testimony and the blood of the Lamb, introduce them to the King? Tell them what Jesus has done for you.

I took Holy Available by Gary Thomas off my bookshelf last night. In his intro chapter, he writes,
"Your body will be a living, breathing center of purposeful passion, pointing toward the risen and reigning Christ, who works so powerfully within us. You will become 'holy available' to Him."

That is what I'm talking about. Holy Available to a purpose so much greater than me alone. How about you? What kind of life do you want to live?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Recognizing Glory

"Lord let Your glory fall today." Matt Redman
"Show me Your glory." Third Day
"And the glory of the Lord shone around them." Luke by way of Lynus from Charlie Brown.

We sing songs and praises to God, crying out to see His glory, but do we really know what we are asking for? Glory is derived from the Latin for fame or renown, and means the manifestation of God in the Christian tradition. We ask God to reveal His glory to us, but never imagine what that might look like.

I have a friend who prayed not to be lukewarm in her faith. She wanted to be on fire for God, and prayed that He would shower her with His glory. A few months later, her son was diagnosed with leukemia. She had to depend on God like never before, and the result was that she was on fire for God, as she had prayed. God revealed His glory to her in a way that got her attention, but not necessarily in the way she had planned on.

Another friend has been praying for her husband to be the leader in their house. Recently a decision came up involving a cross-country move for a new job, and she had a choice to make. Badger him into not taking the job because she is happy here, or pray for him as the head of their household, for God to give Him wisdom as he made the decision. She chose to pray for Him, and he has decided to take the job. While she got what she prayed for, a husband ready to seek God for wisdom, this was definitely not the way she thought it would look.

I pray to see God's glory in my life, to be used by Him as He sees fit. If you have been following the saga of getting my son into the same school as his brother, you know that God has been answering my prayer to be used by Him, but this isn't what I asked for. I wanted a tidy warm feeling, a flooding of my spirit by His, a peaceful acknowledgement that He knows me. He knows me alright, and has orchestrated events that blow me away.  People I shouldn't have met in a place I'm not supposed to be touching lives I never meant to intersect with...amazing and glory filled. And I get to be a part of it.

I can't help but wonder if we realize what we are asking for when we invite God's glory into our lives, and if we always recognize it when He shows up. Don't stop praying for it, because it is through His glory poured into our lives that we grow in Him. He will challenge you, stretch your limitations, and push you to the edge.

And it is in that place that you will see His glory.

Friday, February 3, 2012

When Life Hurts

"OK, honey. I'm leaving. I'll be back in a bit."

The words hung in the air as he continued to look at his paper. Thinking he may not have heard, she repeated her words.

"Fine. I heard you the first time," came the biting reply.

Tears stinging her eyes, she wonders why he has to be like that. Would it be so hard to just say good-bye like a normal person?

In another home, a similar drama plays out, but this one cuts deeper. She reaches for him, needing affection that only a husband should provide, and he pulls away, claiming to have too much on his mind. She wonders what is wrong with her, trying to be understanding even though rejection cuts deep. Over their ten year marriage, this scene has played itself out too many times to count.

Hurt feelings. We all get them. How we react is up to us. I went through a little phase recently where I was constantly having my feelings hurt. Hormonal tailspin or justified reaction really doesn't matter. Here are a few questions I've learned to ask myself:
  • Is pride at the root of my hurt? Do I feel like I deserve better? This is a hard question to ask, because sometimes the other person is clearly in the wrong, but that doesn't give us the right to stew. Dwelling on the injustice leads to bitterness and gives the devil a foothold in our thoughts. Don't make it easy for him.
  • What does God want me to learn from this situation? In the case of feeling rejected by someone, even when they are sinning against you, God is allowing that. What does He want you to gain, because He only brings you what is best for you. He promises to work all things together for good, remember (Romans 8:28)? His purpose for us is to glorify Him, and His plan for us is that we grow to become more Christlike. Are you letting your situation lead you in that direction?
  • How can I offer grace to someone? I am not perfect (insert surprised look here) and need to remember that as God gives grace to me, I can offer it. That doesn't mean in a co-dependent, make excuses and coddle someone way, but to continue to love them through their snarkiness. Speak the truth in love, and call them out on their behavior if you feel lead, but not in a judmental self-serving way. Our first concern needs to be seeing someone right with God for their good and His glory, not just to make our lives better.
  • What role have I played? Nothing exists in a vacuum, and each day often carries the weight of all the days that preceded it. Are there on-going dramas that need to be resolved? I know I tend to put this little self-protective martyr bubble around me, and I need to really examine myself and my behavior that lead up to a situation. Often I find that my own thoughtless comments or disrespect have thrown fuel on a fire that I didn't know was burning. Like Jesus says, don't look for the mite in another's eye with a plank sticking out of our own.
Hurt feelings stink. No one likes to feel slighted, ignored, or outright rejected. Through those experiences, though, I have grown closer to God. He alone is my refuge. He will give me the strength I need to endure any situation gracefully. He is sufficient to meet all my needs. No matter what the day brings, these truths never change; I can depend on God to be my firm foundation.

I am praying that you feel the arms of God wrapping around you, providing peace and comfort, and that you hear the whisper that He has for you when life hurts.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Need Some Grace?

Snuggling on the couch tonight, the boys and I watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie, which was a first for all of us. I grew up in a sitcom watching family...Little House was not on the radar screen. Anyway, in this episode, Laura stole a music box from Nelly, the town brat. Nelly found out and bribed Laura. Finally, Laura had enough and confessed to her father.  At the end of the show, a boy was still using the knowledge against her, not realizing that she had already come clean. He smirked and said, "You know why you'll do what I say..." Laura smiled and said, "Not anymore."

If only it were that easy.

Sometimes we confess and the weight is lifted. Sometimes we come clean about something and even though we know it is done, we still let it drag us down. We continue to carry the burden of our mistakes, allowing them to dictate who we are and how we should act. We feel guilty, like that adds to our confession or something.

Can I just take a minute and encourage you, if you are still living under the weight of your sins, to stop giving an ear to that voice. The enemy will continue to taunt you as long as you let him. Tell him to get off your back in the name of Jesus, and he has to go. He will find someone easier to pick on.

My church has been doing a phenomenal series on grace. Need to leave some baggage behind? Click here and check out last week's message. It may just change your life.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Quarter Century of Parenting

You may have heard the saying that to become an expert in something, you must keep at it for 10,000 hours. I did the math and that comes out to a little over 416 days. I need to make a bold statement here: That saying does not apply to everything.

My oldest child turned 25 yesterday, and that amounts to 219,000 hours of parenting exactly. (Since each child has individual needs, I think we should get simultaneous credit for hours spent on other kids as well...) I still would never call myself an expert. I'm sure my kids would agree.

Here is some of what I've learned, though, in a quarter century of being a mom:

  • While there may be predictable events, such as walking, talking, and learning to ride a bike, no child is predictable. Get some guidance from the baby books, but keep in mind that your child hasn't read them.
  • You can do a lot of things wrong with your child as they are growing up, and they can still turn into decent people. To say there are things I wish I'd done differently is an understatement, but my daughter has grown into a compassionate, funny, intelligent, beautiful adult. She is the kind of person I would choose as a friend, even if she wasn't related to me.
  • You can do a lot of things right, and they will still do things differently than we had hoped they would. I remember the first time Jessi sat up straight and pulled away from me. She was about 3 months old, and up until then had kind of shaped her body against mine. But on this day, she pulled herself forward and there was a space between us. I felt something akin to panic stir within me as I realized I wasn't just holding a baby, but a real person who would make choices and pull away from me no matter how hard I tried to hold her still.
  • Time really does go quickly. I can remember well-meaning old women (45-ish) telling me to treasure these moments of childhood because they grow up so fast. I wanted to tell them to mind their own business and get on with my pity party of frustration. They were right. While hours and days might feel like they last forever, years fly by. I remember my own 25th birthday like it was yesterday, and can't believe my daughter is celebrating hers.
  • You will learn more about yourself parenting than about your kids. Sometimes we learn just how selfish we really are as our needs/wants are often put on hold during the child raising years. Sometimes we learn that we have an amazing capacity to love, a love that has the power to break our hearts at times.
  • I saw a t-shirt once that said "Parents of teenagers know why some animals eat their young." Yup. That's all I'm saying. Yup.
Being a parent, know matter how you get there, is a privilege. It's been my privilege to watch my daughter grow into someone I am proud to call my friend, and laugh with as she navigates these waters herself with her daughter, Sophie. The last lesson learned: that curse your mom puts on you... you know the Jessi knows it too now.

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Journey Continues...

Finally got my computer back; it's been on  a two week vacation at the Best Buy Computer Spa, and of course while I didn't have it I thought of a million bloggable things. Now it sits, refreshed and ready to go in my lap, and I can't think of a darn thing to say.

It is ironic that my last post was on hope. Tonight is the night before a conference that could change everything. Or nothing. For a little background, you can read the beginning of our journey here and the middle of it here. 

I keep saying that I know God has a purpose in all of this. Of course He does. He's God. He doesn't do things just to see how it will all play out. He already knows. I won't even pretend to know His whole purpose; I may not know that until I see Him face to face, but I know that He will redeem all situations and make them whole and beautiful, glorifying Him.

At first I thought I was just supposed to keep looking for the silver lining wherever He planted me, an annoying glass-half-full person, which I do actually believe to some extent. I can't glorify Him if I'm whining and complaining. But, and here's what clicked for me the other day, it is also not glorifying to Him to see injustice and do nothing.

There is a such thing as righteous anger and He has filled me with it. Self-righteous anger is all about getting what I want. Righteous anger is about righting a wrong. Sometimes those things get the opportunity to work together, and tomorrow that just might happen.

I always say that we shouldn't pray for an easy road, but to travel the road with God as our travelling companion. These last few months have been a serious road trip, with sights and experiences I wouldn't have had otherwise. But I am hoping that I just saw a sign for the next oasis just up the road apiece.

Monday, January 2, 2012

My Fierce Hope

A few years ago I heard of the concept of choosing a word for the New Year instead of a list of resolutions. In 2010 I chose the word endurance, partly because I was training for a triathlon, and partly because I know that I tend to start things with a bang and finish with a whimper. Truth be told, I don't remember the word I chose for 2011, and don't feel the need to look it up.

My word for 2012 is born from a place of deep longing, of waiting for promises to be fulfilled, of frustration. The word is hope.

Now, hope tends to be a wishy-washy word, heard with pleading, wheedling, and whining. Or pessimism...I hope but I don't believe.

Oh Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Hope was never intended to be a negative word. It is defined as waiting in joyful expectation. At least that is my summary of the definitions I have read. Fierce hope prowls, walking the parameters of its enclosure waiting...anticipating what is to come. Fierce hope is restless, knowing that the promise is around the corner, never doubting, just...waiting.

Hope and faith link arms, supporting one another on the journey, remembering that hope that is seen is not hope.

When I get tired, when I feel discouraged, my fierce Hope will growl, deep in my soul, reminding me love never fails. "Oh Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with Him is great love..."

When I am not sure of my next steps, my fierce Hope will encourage me that the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love.

When I just need to rest on this journey, my fierce Hope draws me closer, reminding me that He is my hiding place and my shield; I hope in His Word.

My fierce Hope has a face; it is the face of my Lord.  My Savior and my God, He alone is my Hope. Active, living, able. And I will live in joyful expectation with Him.

Hope. My word for life in 2012.

"May the God of HOPE fill you with
joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with HOPE
by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Romans 15:13