Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Reflections...

There is one more day left in the year 2011. It's been quite a year! As I sit here remembering I hear the words to a song running through my mind. It really does sum up this year for my family and I. The words are from Laura Story's song "Faithful God".

Here are some of the words that ring true for 2011 in my life:

"For You are the love that never leaves
The friend that won't deceive
You're the one sure thing.

Faithful God, every promise kept
Every need You've met, Faithful God
All I am and all I'll ever be
Is all because You love faithfully
Faithful God."


He has been our one sure thing in the midst of a very uncertain year. He has kept all of His promises and met every need. He has faithfully loved us by keeping us in His perfect peace and never letting us forget for a second that we belong to Him. If I were to list the ways He has loved us so faithfully in 2011 I would be here until the end of 2012! I am not surprised as I look back because He has always proven Himself faithful in prior years, but I still sit here in awe of how personal He is about doing it. What I hope to carry into 2012 with me is His tender care, that the God of the Universe who speaks things into being cares about the things that concern little me. He doesn't just care He shows it in ways that He knows I can receive it and hold on to it. I am so grateful.


As I say goodbye soon to 2011, I want to welcome 2012 in with gratitude. I want to begin my days with thanks and end them with thanks. I want to faithfully recount God's faithfulness to my kids and whoever else will listen. Then with all that thankfulness I hope He will use me to help others see more easily His faithfulness in their lives. I look forward like everyone else to a New Year and a fresh start but I want to carry with me the important parts of 2011, the lessons learned at His feet. Will you join me in embracing the new without letting go of the eternal treasures from the old? Let's begin 2012 with thankful hearts for the trials of 2011 and the lessons we learned through them at His feet!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Unwrap It...

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined... For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:2, 6

Christ is the gift. He is the gift that keeps on giving. Once this gift is received the person receiving it never wants to let go of it or exchange it for anything else. Once this gift is opened all other gifts pale in comparison. Where would I be without Him? I would still be walking in the darkness and dwelling in the land of the shadow of death.

I received Him ages ago when I was four but it takes years to truly begin to understand the gift that He is. It took years before I understood what it meant to have Him as my Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. I have always known that He is Wonderful!

Here is the wonder...
When I need wisdom He is my Counselor. When I need strength in the midst of an up hill battle, I don't fight it on my own because He is my Mighty God. When I need comfort from life's hurts He is my Everlasting Father and all I need to do to curl up in His lap and have a good cry is to go to Him in prayer. When life is uncertain and everything is going wrong He is the my Prince of Peace, the calm in the storm. All I have to do is run to Him and leave it at His feet and receive the calm of His loving presence. I marvel that all of this gift was wrapped up in the form of a tiny baby so long ago.

A few more days and it will be Christmas. Yet Christmas has already come. What will you do with this marvelous gift of Christ? Will you receive it and leave it still wrapped up? Or will you take the time to unwrap it and discover all the layers to this incredible gift in the days, weeks, months, and years to come?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Adoration...

"O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!" These are the words that haunt me today. Year after year I have heard them sung at church and on the radio and have never given them a second thought. Today they chase me from one task to another.

They are there when I do the laundry. I heard them when I washed the dishes. As I cooked dinner they played over and over again in my mind. They have a pleading or beckoning sound to them. So I sit here thinking about what God is getting at with these words and the question that keeps coming to mind is this: When was the last time I really spent time adoring Him?

Christmas is such a busy time of year. Most of us spend our time juggling all the regular obligations along with purchasing gifts, going to parties, spending time with family, and holiday cooking. We miss Christmas if we don't stop and adore Him. We miss Christmas if we don't stop long enough to consider the greatest gift ever given, Christ. We miss Christmas if we forget the incredible love of our God who sent Christ to save us... Us who don't deserve such and extravagant gift!

I looked up the word adore. Adore means to regard with utmost esteem, love, respect, and honor. Adoration is fervent and devoted love. Let's take a moment to adore Him together. Let's use Psalm 103 to remind us of just a few reasons why we so fervently love this God who sent His Son as a babe laying in a manger, to save us from our sins!

"Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with loving kindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle." (verses 2-5)

" The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness.
He has not dealt with us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His loving kindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him." (verses 8 &10-13)

Don't let this simply be one small pause of adoration in the midst of a flurry of holiday activity. Make it a habit to dwell on who God is and what He has done for you. As your adoration for Him grows let it be contagious. Spread it to others that they may want to know this God who you so fervently love and adore. This is your gift to them!






Friday, December 2, 2011

God The Ultimate Washing Machine...

This week I have been doing a lot of research and a lot of praying. My washing machine broke and it costs too much to fix it. We would be better off buying a new machine than repairing the 11 year old one we have. I do a lot of laundry, so a broken machine sent a wave of panic through my being! It's been a long time since I have had to buy a new appliance and I had no idea what was available or what would be a quality purchase that fit our budget. So the "Give me wisdom" prayers began right along side of hours of research.

I quickly found out that technology has advanced quite a bit in the 11 years since my last washing machine purchase. I began to feel overwhelmed at the thought of not being able to find a washing machine without buttons like a cell phone has. I am a simple girl, I like knobs on my machine and I don't want to have to read a book in order to figure out how to wash my clothes! I had to learn about how many RPMs an energy efficient machine needed to have in order to spin the clothes enough to get rid of excess water. Then I had to learn what makes it energy efficient! As if that wasn't enough I found out that today's washing machines have sensors in the bottom that weigh your clothes so they only fill up with the necessary amount of water. That is part of the energy efficiency! Really? Do I really need to have my dirty clothing weighed? There are even machines that will not wash your clothes if you over load them. They will simply turn off! Do I really want my washing machine to tell me how many clothes I am allowed to wash at one time? It might as well talk for that matter. Maybe they could program it to say "Wow! You must not have a shred of clean clothing in the house if you're going to fill me up with this big of a load!"

I decided it was time to go to Lowes and find a washing machine. The laundry was piling up and I had a headache from all of the research in front of the computer screen. I told my husband I was going to pick whatever one that fit our budget and had knobs. He said that was fine. So off I went! Upon entering the store I prayed once more for wisdom. As I walked around looking at the washing machines I couldn't help but notice that half of them look like mini spaceships! In fact there was a front loading washing machine that I could probably fit in. Maybe in the next 11 years they will be the rocket ships of the future!

Intimidated by their many buttons, computerized screens, and size, I moved to the only section where I saw knobs. Then I saw the salesman approaching. It takes a special salesman to deal with me, so I prayed that God would help me to be kind and patient. Too much pressure to sell me a particular machine and no matter how badly I need to buy something I will leave. That's how I have always been. The salesman asked if he could help and I asked him some questions about the machine with the knobs. He had no idea that I really wanted the knobs when he said "It has the same computer board behind it as the others do. We just put the knobs on it for the old people. They like knobs!" So I replied, " I like knobs too" and he got quiet. In order to redeem myself I started asking him about how fast the drum spins and he looked up the RPMs for me. This lead us to a different set of washers now because the ones with the knobs don't last as long as the front loaders. Long story made a bit shorter, I ended up buying a front loading washing machine with buttons instead of knobs and it was on a really great sale! This provided me with the ability to buy a warranty in case those fancy buttons malfunction!

As I reflect on this experience I can't help but marvel at how complicated we make simple things like washing our clothes. We simply need clean clothes but now we have to decide what temperature the water is, load size, how fast the spin, and what amount of time to wash them using fancy buttons! It made me think about another kind of cleansing that we make complicated. How often do we go to God for forgiveness and complicate it by making promises to do better next time? We ask for forgiveness, promise to do better, and then walk around feeling guilty for days even thought God has forgiven us completely. God is not like a computerized washing machine. You have no idea after the research I have done this week, how thankful I am for that! There is no computerized malfunction with God, His drum doesn't stop spinning, He never forgets to rinse, He won't refuse to clean us because we have too big of a load, and He doesn't break down and leave us with no way to be clean! When we ask for forgiveness He forgives us and cleanses us completely. We don't have to keep feeling guilty or wonder if He still loves us. It's done. He is the ultimate washing machine with no malfunctions! We ask for forgiveness and come out so clean we look like brand new. I don't know about you but I am so thankful that it's that simple and my God is that wonderful and reliable!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giving A Season or A Lifestyle?

Christmas shopping season has begun. Many call this time of year the season of giving. I know from experience that giving gifts to the people I love gives me great joy. But why does giving have to be confined in our minds as just a season or a time between Thanksgiving and Christmas? If it is true that out of thanks comes giving then why can't giving be a way of life?

On the news this morning there was a story about a family on food stamps. There are more and more families on food stamps these days. Often we think of people on food stamps as not having jobs. This is not always the case. Right now there are more and more working families on food stamps. They barely make their bills and struggle to feed their families. There are people out there choosing between electricity and dinner or paying the water bill and getting needed medication.

It occurs to me that our society focuses on people in need of help especially during this time of year. I am thankful that they are not forgotten but why do we only see them at Thanksgiving and Christmas? We are surrounded by them regularly and yet our eyes only see them when it's a holiday. It can be overwhelming at this time of year with Salvation Army bell ringers on every corner, churches asking for money to help hungry children in Africa, Toys for Tots, Samaritans Purse, and the local food pantry. I find myself feeling overwhelmed with the needs out there wishing I could do more and feeling like I can never do enough. God and I have had quite a few conversations about this recently. The question always being " What is it you want me to to do?"

The Bible says this in 1 John 3:17-18 , " But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." We don't just see need at Christmas. I am convinced that we see need weekly and perhaps at times daily. Think about the people in your life chances are you know about some of their needs. What I believe this verse is saying is that if we see our brother or sister in need and we have what they need or are financially able to give them what they need, we ought to do it. If I know that my neighbor is lonely and has no family nearby to help her it does no good for me to say to her, "I am sorry you're all alone. I will pray that God brings you some friends". That is loving in word I am supposed to love in deed which requires action. That means I am to be my neighbor's friend so that she is no longer lonely. If I know of someone who is working hard but doesn't always make enough money to meet their needs and I have money I can use to help them, then I should do that.

There have been many times that I have thought I couldn't help the person in need that God kept bringing to mind because I needed to save money for a car repair, the orthodontist, or vacation. But what is more important? I can't take it with me when I die and I have never had a need myself that God didn't provide for. Often I think we hesitate to give because we are afraid we will need it for ourselves and not have it. This is not true because we can never out give God and He always takes care of us. I may not be able to give to every charity this Christmas season, but I can make giving a lifestyle by using what God has given me to help the people that He has placed right in front of me. I believe that if God makes us aware of a person's need it's so that He can show us how He wants to use us to meet that need.

I want to make giving a lifestyle. To do this it's important to ask God to make me sensitive daily to the needs of others and to open my eyes to every opportunity to meet a need. Finally, I need to ask Him to help me follow through in meeting the needs that He brings to my attention without hesitating. Will you do the same? Think about the opportunities that lie ahead of us to love others this way and in so doing introduce them to the One who gave the ultimate gift and has met the ultimate need of salvation!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Out of Thanks Comes Giving...

I have been thinking about how different life would be if everyone had a perpetual attitude of gratitude. What if Thanksgiving wasn't just one day a year? What if our lives oozed thankfulness? I know for myself that when I allow my heart and mind to dwell on all that I have to be thankful for as opposed to all that is wrong, I am a more contented and less anxious person. I also can't help but think about the melting together of the words thanks and giving. We often associate them with giving thanks for our blessings. But what if out of thanks comes giving? What if we allow thankfulness to reach down into the depths of our hearts to the point that it overflows and pours out into the lives of others and that is the giving?

What if the holiday of Thanksgiving wasn't merely a gluttonous pause before the Christmas shopping marathon? I believe that if we live a life actively attentive to being thankful for everything God gives us, giving thanks will become a way of living. It will be year round and it will overflow into Christmas in such away that we will not be stressed about what gifts to buy someone out of obligation. Rather, because we are so incredibly thankful for everything God has done in our lives we will be enthusiastically seizing opportunities to give to others not just at Christmas but year round.

Let's think about what that could look like for a moment... Thankfulness for everything that God has given running so deep that I don't want to buy anything else for me that I don't need, instead I want to bless others. Then by blessing others by feeding them, clothing them, loving them, helping them, they become so thankful that they pour out their gratitude into the lives of more people. If the cycle continued this way maybe even world hunger would end! What if thankfulness is the medicine to cure the materialism we are plagued by?

Maybe there are some of you who think you don't have much to be grateful for. Maybe this is your season of trial and sorrow and you can't think of a single blessing. Then thank God for the trials and the sorrows. I know from experience that the trials and the sorrows are the real blessings. I have seen the blessings in such trials as miscarriages, loved ones passing, and job loss. The blessing comes from letting God walk with you through them hand in hand and bring you through to the other side stronger and closer to Him. The blessing is nearly invisible during the trial but it is there. For those of us who are not enduring trials and sorrows right now it's time to show our gratitude by helping those who are.

As Thanksgiving day approaches will you join me in making thanks and giving a way of life? Take the time to thank God for EVERYTHING He has done in your life but not just on one day out of the year. Why not make it an every day habit? Then we can take our blessings and our gratitude and pour them into the lives of others!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Strangers...

I have had some unique experiences with strangers lately. They have occurred at the gas station and the store, usually in moments when I was in a hurry or wanted to be alone. These interactions with strangers have me wondering what God is trying to get at. I know that how I respond to people matters to Him. How I view people that I know and that I don't know matters to Him.

It started with a lady at Walmart a couple of weeks ago. I like to shop alone. I am with my kids all day doing cyber school. Sometimes the grocery store can be a good place to get lost in thought even though I am doing grocery shopping. I am usually not the most sociable person in the grocery store. I have in fact at times hidden from people I recognize because I coveted my alone time or because I was task oriented and wanted to get in and out of the store quickly with the groceries. This time I was in the aisle that has all of the dinner plates and mugs looking for a gift for a friend. Lost in which pattern I thought she would like best, I suddenly find myself being talked to by a stranger. She wants to know what I think about a set of plates she is looking at. I wonder why this matters because I could tell her anything and she doesn't know me well enough to know if I am being honest! I ended up having a nice conversation with her about dinner plates, Thanksgiving, and sales. Then we parted ways.

The next strange experience I had recently was at a gas station. I was in a hurry to get gas and pick up some family members for church. So I prepaid and went to the car to pump gas. A man comes toward me from the next pump over and tells me that his wife just won a small lottery and he wants to be a gentleman and pump my gas for me. I politely say, "No thanks" because he looks a little rough, his wife is no where in sight, and I have my husband's car. My husband is meticulous about his car. All I can think is that if that man scratches the car, I am in trouble! But the man says to me, "Please let me pump your gas. I just want to be a gentleman there aren't many of them around today." So I agree because it seems to matter to him. He pumps the gas and when he's done he thanks me several times for letting him do it and I ask his name and thank him for being so kind. I drove away thinking about what a blessing that was, that someone out there just wanted to be nice. What a shame it was that I let myself be a little scared about it at first. I could have missed the blessing of meeting Ray!

My most recent experience was yesterday. I was shopping for an area rug and couldn't decide between an off white or a slightly darker color. I was by myself and the rugs were on sale but not easy to lift and get into the cart. Just as I am standing there thinking about which one to get a voice from behind me says, "You'd have to be nuts to buy a light colored rug when you live in the Poconos!" I turn around and a man in his sixties points to a different rug and starts to tell me why that is a better rug and offers to put it in the cart for me. Then I get a crash course on pellet stoves from him before we part ways, even though I wasn't looking to buy one! I left the store with the rug he had directed me to. I brought it home and it was really the perfect rug. I couldn't help but think how nice it was that that man cared what rug I was going to buy and helped me.

What I have learned from these three separate experiences is that God seems to want me to make time even for strangers. To look them in the eye and to listen to them even if they look rough, sound crazy, or are interrupting my alone time. People matter to Him and how we respond to them matters to Him. I need to look at these strangers and listen to these strangers the way that I would one of my friends. This makes me think about my responses past and present to all different kinds of people. How did I treat them? What is the response I can give them that most reflects God's heart? When I see someone or am approached by someone who has nothing do I treat them as nothing? Or do I treat them the same as I would the guy living in the mansion on the hill, with the same respect? How do I respond to the person who approaches me and just wants to talk? Do I act like I only have a second because there are so many more important things I need to do? Or do I listen so intently that they feel like I have all the time in the world for them and they matter to me? The truth is that every single person matters to God. He doesn't want us to treat anyone better or worse based on their income, appearance, nationality, age, etc.! He wants us to respond to them the way that He responds to us. How is that? With love. God always makes time for us. He always listens.

I want to encourage you this week to respond to others the way that God has responded to you. Give them your time, your attention, and your listening ear. This is your witness. This is you reflecting Christ's love to others. You may be the only glimpse of Him that they get. Treat them the way He treats you. Remember that He loves you very much and love Him back by loving others.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wrinkles Have Value?

This past weekend we celebrated my father-in-law's birthday in spite of his protests! He insisted that he is an old man and didn't need to celebrate getting older. Why do so many people feel that way? Shouldn't we want to celebrate the fact that we lived another year? What about celebrating the good things that come with age instead of thinking about all the bad things?

I know, some of you are thinking that I don't understand because I am in my 30's. Maybe you are right. Maybe not! What if like everything else in life age is what you make of it? Think about it... Are wrinkles and gray hair really all that bad? Or are they a physical sign that the person with them has lived some and enjoyed some life? We associate old age with forgetfulness, disease, and not being able to do what we did when we are young. But what if we thought of it differently. What if we thought of it in terms of what an older person can contribute that a younger person could not? What if instead of thinking that the older generation at church are just sitting around, waiting to get to heaven instead of serving, we looked at them with fresh eyes? What if we looked beyond the walkers, wrinkles, and reservedness and saw that they may be serving in ways that have gone unnoticed by man, but not forgotten by God? What if they are your mentors and prayer warriors?

We miss so much when we get hung up on age. We miss it for ourselves and we miss seeing the value in others. We miss the way that God can use the wisdom gleaned from age in other lives, to shape our own. So this week let's see age differently. Why not see it as valuable? Even better why not see an aged person as a treasure worth celebrating?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Are You Swatting at the Air?

Fall is one of my favorite seasons. One of the things that I enjoy most about it is the beautiful colors of the leaves. I also enjoy the entertainment that they provide for my cat. Year after year he seems to think that he can catch the falling leaves outside our large living room window even though he is inside the house!

It happened again yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny day with a light breeze. The breeze blew some leaves off of the tree in the front yard. As the leaves fell the cat jumped up on his hind legs and started swatting at the window. When he couldn't get through the window to play with them he jumped higher and threw himself into the window. After a good five or ten minutes of this, he finally gave up. All of his good effort was futile.

This got me thinking about the times in my life when I am swatting at something, trying to make it go away and no matter how much I throw myself into solving the problem my efforts are futile. Sometimes it's not even my problem I am battling with, it's how to help someone else. I haven't met anyone yet who hasn't experienced this in one way or another. So how can I get through to the other side of the window so to speak? How do I keep my efforts to help others or solve my problems from being a senseless swatting at the air?

Prayer. Prayer is the answer. All necessary groundwork is laid with prayer. There is no point in tackling my problems on my own. My solutions will only be a temporary fix. God's power to solve a problem produces an eternal fix because He starts the fix where most problems begin, in the heart. He alone can change the heart and from there fix the problem. Because of this there is no point in me bothering to try and help someone else if I don't pray first. If I can't fix my own problems by myself then how can I help someone else with theirs? Prayer is what allows me to get to the other side of the window. Prayer is powerful and it is our direct line to God. When we go to Him in prayer He hears and moves on our behalf or on behalf of the person we pray for.

Unlike swatting at the air, prayer is not futile. The Bible says in James 5:16, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." So who do you need to be powerful and effective for this week? Who or what do you need to stop trying to fix on your own? Let's stop swatting at the air and wearing ourselves out. Lets hit our knees where we are at our most powerful and most effective, and lay the ground work with prayer. Then we will have broken through to the other side of the window where we can see God work face to face instead of through the glass!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

At His Feet...

I have been feeling overwhelmed lately. You know that feeling of being in a constant fast motion and unable to gasp for air? I go from the time I wake up in the morning until long after the kids are in bed. I don't remember last school year being this way. My weekends are full. I use them to catch up with friends and family. Life has been full. Even the moments for doing household chores have no quiet. These moments do double duty this week as I listen to others share their struggles with me on the phone. This too has made me feel overwhelmed and weary at times. I feel the responsibility of taking these phone conversations to God in prayer. So much to pray about broken hearts, depressed kids, financial struggles, and health problems.

In the middle of it all I hear the same song replaying in my mind. It seems to be calling me, answering the question I haven't spoken out loud but have wondered secretly. How am I going to do all that I have to do, and all that God has put in front of me to do, and do it well? The title of the song is "At Your Feet" it is written by Jason Ingram and Mark Hall. The group Casting Crowns sings it. Here are the words that answer my question:

Here at Your feet I lay this day down
Not in my strength but in Yours I've found
All I need, You're all I need

Jesus, Jesus, at Your feet
Oh, to dwell and never leave
Jesus, Jesus, at Your feet
There is nowhere else for me
There is nowhere else for me

If I really think about it I have to admit that the most peaceful, refreshing, and joyful moments have taken place at His feet. It's not that I haven't been spending time with Him. I have, but I haven't lingered. "Oh to dwell and never leave" I have simply stopped in for a while on my way to somewhere else. It's no wonder I feel overwhelmed! I am human, I can't do it all and do it well on my own. I need God's help and more importantly I simply need to be with Him. I need to linger. You know, like one lingers when they are spending time with their sweetheart. Savoring every last bit of time together and wishing the time didn't go by so fast. Sad when it's time to go and already excited about the next time spent together. Holding on tightly to the loving words that were spoken, so as not to forget them.

Will you join me in lingering at Christ's feet this week instead of stopping by on your way to somewhere else? Will you savor every moment with Him and hold on tightly to the words He speaks to you? If we do this I am certain that we will be able to do whatever He has put in front of us to do and do it well, without growing weary.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lord of the Flies!

I am not sure how encouraging this post will be but I am sure someone will get a good laugh out of it! So please bear with me as I describe my crazy morning and how God spoke to me by using the flies!

I woke up this morning at 6am spent some time with the Lord and then got ready for my morning work out. I haven't been very disciplined with the work out this week because I have a bad cold and am tired all the time so I was happy that I felt well enough to do one this morning and actually looked forward to it. Then I turned on the large ceiling fan light and it all changed....

Swarming all over the walls behind my bed and on the ceiling were fruit flies there had to be at least 50 to 75 of them! Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like bugs they are just plain gross! So I panicked turned out the light ran out of the bedroom and shut the door! As I stood in the hallway I prayed, what to do? How did they get in? What if we have an infestation? How can I sleep in there again? Were they in there all night? EEEEWWWW!!! I only had one choice, grab a fly swatter and a chair to stand on in order to reach the ceiling, so much for a morning work out!

Once back in the room God pointed me in direction of the air conditioner. That's where they had come in through the gaps in the window. It was pouring all night they must have been looking for a dry place. So I managed to lift the air conditioner out of the window and shut it. Then came the killing spree! It seemed that no matter how many I killed there were more. I had to hop from floor to chair to bed in order to reach them at the ceiling for a swat! The ordeal lasted about 30 minutes. The whole time I am complaining to God about how much I hate flies, the fact that it was hubby who just had to have an air conditioner in for the two nights that were hot this week, and that I wasn't going to be able to get my work out. Of course He reminded me that I was out of breath and sweaty from all the swatting and jumping up on the chair I was doing! And then it was over. Surrounded by dead bodies and guts on the wall I went to get my vacuum cleaner and a rag.

As I began cleaning up God began reminding me that I shouldn't complain so much. He reminded me of a former fly incident that had occurred several years ago with very large black flies. They were swarming around our basement area and I had gotten so frustrated with them that I lured them up the stairs by turning on the light. Then I got out a can of hornet spray because it shoots really far and sprayed them. I remember how happy I was as I watched them fall to the ground, and then it was over.... and I noticed what a mess Raid makes on walls and floors. In my moment of vengeance I had made the walls and stairs drip with Raid. Like a dummy I stood on the top stair to wipe the wall and slipped. I fell down the basement stairs. I can laugh now at that story but at the time I was sore! Anyway, God reminded me that I can be thankful that I learned my lesson the first time and didn't do a repeat by using Raid today. And that got me thinking...

The lessons we learn the best from our Lord are the ones we learn the hard way. Somehow they become such a part of us that we don't ever forget them. So instead of complaining maybe when the next fly incident comes around I will be more likely to choose to be thankful for whatever it is I may learn! Today I am thankful that He is Lord of the flies!

Friday, September 16, 2011

People Are Not Disposable...

I wasn't going to blog this week. It's been crazy here trying to juggle school with the girls and my regular responsibilities. But something on the news caught my attention last night and I can't let it go. It's been weighing on my mind. I normally don't like to get too involved in what I see on the news or comment on my blog about a public figure, but this time it hit too close to home and there is something that needs to be said about it. So here it goes... watch out Pat Robertson!

On his television show yesterday Pat Robertson said it was okay for a spouse to leave their wife/husband if they have alzheimer's disease because having alzheimer's is like you're already dead any way. The person is not the same person they once were with the disease , it's a long death. ( I am summarizing what Pat said. ) But what happened to the marriage vows? For better and for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part? Do we throw someone away because they are not mentally the same as they were when we married them? Are they any less valuable as a human being? Does God love them any less?

My grandmother had alhzeimer's disease. Sure there were moments when she didn't remember much, she may not even remember my grandfather's name, but you could tell by the way she lit up that she knew who he was! She recognized every family member even if she couldn't get their name straight. She was still able to enjoy her great grand children. She still brought us smiles and laughter just as much as her disease brought us tears. More importantly the disease never stole the memory of her Savior. She still sang hymns, she still loved her God, she still remembered Him. Yes, the disease steals a lot of memory and every day ability to function, but the person is still there inside that body. I am convinced there are certain things that even disease can't take.

Pat is right, alzheimer's is a long and drawn out death. That is all the more reason to love and care for your loved one who has it. They need you. The mind may be gone, but the feelings are still there and they still need to feel loved and not alone. My grandmother's last words to me were, "I love you, I love you, I love you!" Three times she said it. I cherish that because she didn't say it in response to me, she said it from her heart because she wanted to. She hadn't said it much at all the previous years during her disease. But I believe she knew this was our last visit and I needed to hear it. If I had dismissed her because she had the disease I would have missed that. We miss so much when we throw people away.

I bring all of this up because we live in a world that treats people like they are disposable and replaceable. If someone gets on our nerves because they are too bossy or talk too much we stop answering our phone for them. If a person doesn't look like us or act like us we don't hang out with them because they don't fit the mold. If we can't understand their English because of their thick accent we stop taking the time to listen and tune them out. Some of us are prejudice and only hang out with our own skin color. If someone is not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not rich enough, or doesn't dress in the latest trends we dismiss them. And now there are people who even want to get rid of someone because they have a disease. But this is not God's way.

God loves us and accepts us no matter what we look like, what we have, or what nationality we are. He loves us when we are in our right mind and He loves us when we are a few fries short of a happy meal! He loves us when we are pleasant to be around or when we are bossy and annoying. He never looks at us as replaceable or disposable. We need to follow His example.

Each one of us can probably remember a time when we felt like we were being treated as replaceable or disposable, when we felt like we could never be enough. Please join me this week in loving others the way God loves them. Let's see others as valuable simply because God made them, and love them for the unique treasure and creation they are. Let's follow God's example and not the world's. Remember you are loved and irreplaceable.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11th Reflections...

Tomorrow is September 11, 2011, ten years after the terrorist attacks on our Nation that killed so many innocent people. You can't turn on the television this week without seeing something about it, and if you linger long enough the sadness will reach out through the television screen and grab your heart right out of your chest! So after watching just a little bit, I have turned off the television and am quietly reflecting. The one continuous question that invades my mind is this :If the people who died on 9/11 could come back and tell us anything, what would it be?

I didn't know anyone personally who died on 9/11. But I am guessing that some of the things that they would say to us if they could come back and say anything at all, would be this: Life is fragile. You never know when your time is up. So be in the moment with your loved ones. Be present in every sense of the word, not just physically present with your to do list running through your mind. And by the way, the blackberry, the phone calls, the email, can all wait. Those things can always be answered later, but your kids will grow up before your very eyes, one blink and they are off to college. Leave no good, encouraging, or loving thing unsaid because you may never get a chance to tell that person how much you love them again. Don't be in such a hurry when you leave for work in the morning that you forget to kiss and hug your loved ones goodbye. It may be the last time you get to do that. Make your life count. Don't measure it by your pay check, job promotions, or possessions. Those things are meaningless and you can't take them with you when you go. What lasts is the legacy you have left behind in the lives you touched while living. Finally, there really is a God so keep short accounts with Him because you never know how quickly you will meet Him face to face!

There are many things that we can learn from 9/11. It seems like the things we hear about most involve always looking over our shoulder for the next attack, and not trusting a certain type of people. But I don't think we are meant to live our lives in fear always looking over our shoulder. I think we do those who lost their lives a disservice if we don't live the life we have well, moving forward.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gratitude...

I am sitting on the couch and enjoying the sunshine from the living room window, the breeze from the ceiling fan, and the sound of my girls playing together with a feeling of deep gratitude. There is nothing particularly special about today. It's just an ordinary day. But that's just it, it feels so good to have an uneventful, ordinary day!

In the past three or four weeks we have had job interviews for my husband, termites eating the wall in our house, a leaky chimney, and a broken oven. All things damaged and broken are now fixed. My husband did not get any of the jobs he interviewed for, but that is okay. God put him back in the school district that furloughed him. He was called back because one of the other teachers died from cancer. We don't understand God's ways and we wish he had received his job under better circumstances. But we know that God can help my husband to be a comfort and a blessing to those he now works with who have suffered such a tragic loss. We are thankful for God's provision for our family.

This weekend we hunkered down and waited for hurricane Irene to do her damage. Thankfully none of the many trees around our home fell and the winds, though they were strong, didn't send anything flying through our windows! The most we suffered was a three day power outage. Unfortunately for many others in Vermont, New Jersey, and North Carolina, it wasn't so easy. There are so many people who lost their homes or even loved ones in this storm. I am thankful that we are okay but continue to pray for those who aren't.

That seems to be my struggle lately... feeling so thankful for God's many blessings and at the same time so burdened for other people's losses. How about you? Have you ever experienced this? I am not sure what God is getting at with these things, but He is getting at something! For right now I am content to sit here and be thankful, ever mindful of the fact that it all comes from Him. And ready to freely be a blessing to others because everything in my life is a blessing from God. I can't claim anything as my own!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Where Are Your Eyes?

My mind keeps replaying the lyrics to a song that Bebo Norman sings. The song is called "I Will Lift My Eyes" and these are the words that continue to play in my mind; "I will lift my eyes to the Maker of the mountains I can't climb. I will lift my eyes to the cover of the oceans raging wild. I will lift my eyes to the Healer of the hurt I hold inside. I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You." I have heard this song before many times but these words impacted me in a different way this time around.

I felt challenged to keep my eyes focused on God rather than on what surrounds me. Life can be busy, chaotic, uncertain, frustrating, and scary sometimes. In the season of life that I find myself in right now, it is easy to lose my focus and let my eyes roam to the things going on around me. The problem is that when I do that I can't see God. All I can see is the challenges and uncertainties I face. Because that is all I can see, I become focused on them. Focusing on them causes me to forget that God is in control and He is bigger than whatever life throws at me.

The song states, "I will lift my eyes". This suggests a willful act, a decision to refocus, to lift one's gaze from whatever they were looking at before and willfully look up shifting their gaze to God. It's a decisive moment. But when the choice is made to lift your eyes upward and focus them on the God who loves you and made you suddenly everything else that once seemed so big now seems so small. What follows is peace.

So where are your eyes today? Are they focused on the troubles of life that surround you? Will you choose to lift your eyes and look up to see that God is so much bigger than the troubles? I don't know about you but I am determined not to let Him out of my sight!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Unseen...

God reminded me today of a prayer I prayed a week before everything started going wrong around here. I am reading a book called Soul Shift by Steve DeNeff and David Drury for a growth group I signed up for at church. In the chapter due to be discussed this past week were these words: " Faith's work is not to ignore the stark reality of our enemies lying in wait surrounding us. Rather faith's work is to remind us of another reality even greater than that of the enemy. Faith sees that our enemies have surrounded us. But it also sees that our God has surrounded our enemies, that ' those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' (2 Kings 6: 16) Faith sees the unseen, but the unseen is no less real just because it requires faith to see it." After reading those words I prayed that God would help me to see the unseen. A week later it hit the fan!!

It began with water damage and a rotted wall and floor. Then there were the termites and carpenter ants. After that a power surge fried the control panel on my oven. Add all this to the wait for God to provide a job for my husband and you end up with one really frustrated person, me! So I took a ride in the car to do what seemed best, let off some steam and let God know how I felt with the end destination being the ice cream isle at the super market!

I have learned through the years that God is the best listener. He never interrupts and He never lies to me. I can talk to Him loudly, have anger in my voice, or tears pouring down my face and He doesn't turn me away even though I am a mess! I may not like what He has to say after I am done pouring out my heart to Him, but He is always right and I always feel better if I listen and obey.

So during my ride to the store in the quiet that followed the pouring out of my frustrations and hurts, I heard Him say " Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. " (Hebrews 11:1) and "So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:7)

This was His response to my prayer to be able to see the unseen. I couldn't see past the termites, oven, rotted wall, job situation, and financial cost during my feelings of frustration. I felt surrounded. So what was the unseen that I was missing? I failed to see that God was still there in the midst of it all and had already provided for it. I failed to see that I was being tested and I forgot for a moment that my God is bigger than my circumstances. Hopefully next time I will ace the test!

How about you? What circumstances do you find yourself in that you can't see past? What enemies are you surrounded by? Don't be like me, pass the test. Remember that your God is bigger than the circumstances you find yourself in . Ask Him to be able to see the unseen, to be able to see that you are surrounded by, provided for, and tenderly loved buy your God.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

God's Abundant Goodness...

I have been pondering a verse that I came across the other day. It is Psalm 145:7 "They shall eagerly utter the memory of your abundant goodness." I have been in need of some good news lately and so have many people that I have recently spent time with. Our world is full of bad news. Our lives at any given moment can be full of bad news. So what can encourage us? What can we share with each other that would help us to hang on? We can eagerly share the memories we have of God's abundant goodness.

My grandfather was very good at doing this. I honestly cannot remember a story he told us that did not have mention of God's goodness in it. From the time I was a little girl I heard about how faithful God was in providing for grandpa's needs. God provided food, jobs, shelter, and many other things. He did this many times and in many different ways. Even in my grandfather's old age God provided him with a car from a friend who was a mechanic. This friend also took care of any repairs and maintenance. When my grandfather had a stroke and could not see to read his Bible without a very expensive, special machine, God provided. When Grammy suffered through althzeimer's disease and should have forgotten who grandpa was, God provided Grammy with a miracle for Grandpa's sake. Grammy never forgot who grandpa was, not even once. Grandpa was always eager to share his memories of God's abundant goodness.

This week I was spending time with a friend and we ended up sharing special memories of our families with each other. We were talking about grandparents and laughing about funny things we remembered. But as I shared with her some of my memories of grandpa and the stories he told we both ended up crying. To this day the stories of God's goodness in grandpa's life and how they touched my life continue to encourage others.

As I have spent time thinking about this verse and what it has meant in my own life to hear about God's goodness, I find myself challenged. I am challenged not to allow myself to be weighed down by what troubles me but to choose to remember God's abundant goodness. I am also challenged to eagerly take any and every opportunity to share my memories of God's abundant goodness with others so that they too can be encouraged.

How about you? Are you bogged down with all of the things that are going wrong ? Is your heart heavy with the things that you want to change but are beyond your control? Is there someone you know who needs some hope? Why not take a trip down memory lane and recount God's many blessings in your life? While you're at it eagerly recount them out loud with someone else so they can be encouraged too!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's The Little Things...

This morning I was turning my room upside down searching for some papers. I searched the inside of my Bible, any books I was reading, my night stand, and the dresser drawers. I couldn't find them anywhere and it was really bothering me. They weren't just any papers. They were scripture prayers that I had typed up three years ago to pray for my children. Although I still pray for my children, I hadn't used these particular scripture prayers in a while and felt God tugging on my heart to revisit them. But they were no where to be found. I could easily print another copy from the computer file I had saved, but it wouldn't be the same. So I asked God to help me find my original copy and then went on to make breakfast for the kids.

After breakfast I started to clean my room and decided to clean out my husband's night stand drawer. It seems to be a catch all for all sorts of things. I found old birthday cards, fathers day cards, and anniversary cards that he had stuck in there and decided to sit and reread them. Then I collected them and went to put them in a special box where I save our favorite ones. I opened the box and what did I find? My scripture prayers!!!!

This may seem small to someone else, but I was amused by the detour that God took me on to find them. And I was touched that He cared about a seemingly little thing. He knew I could easily print another copy. But He also knew that the one I had was special to me. It was worn with lots of use, tear stained with smudged ink from the difficulties I was praying through. It had been through the war and back with me and we had seen victory together. He is the lover of my soul and He has always known that for me it's the little things that touch my heart. This got me thinking...

There are so many people I know of right now who are going through BIG things. It's easy to feel alone and like God doesn't care when you are going through the big things. But please don't doubt for a moment that He is right there with you and you are not alone. If He cares enough about the little things like my scripture prayers and answers my small request to find them, then how much more does He care about your big things? Not one of your prayers escapes His ears, not one tear you shed escapes His sight. He loves you and He will see you through the big things! You are not alone.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Generosity...

This week I have found myself struggling with a couple of things I had been told through the years. They are "Don't be a door mat and let people walk all over you" and "Don't let people take advantage of you". These sayings mean the same thing. Know when people are just using you and don't let them do it. My question has always been when do you reach that point? How do you know when you are being taken advantage of and when you are simply being gracious and going the extra mile? And when you do reach that point what do you do?


God has used a child to teach me that these sayings are wrong. They go against what God teaches us. I thought that I was being taken advantage of this week. I thought that this child's mom was taking advantage of me by constantly sending her child over here to play. When my girls would ask to go play at the other child's house the answer was always no with some excuse attached to it. So it lead me to believe, since the child was here from late morning until bed time, that I was being used. Even though this child is one of the best behaved most wonderful kids you'd ever want to know, it bothered me to think I was being used. But I couldn't bring myself to say no. It didn't feel right.

Today I found out that there has been turmoil in this child's home. Coming to play at our house was an escape from it. I learned a very humbling and hard lesson. I need to be willing to be taken advantage of. I need to give freely, of whatever I have, and in this case it was my peaceful home for a refuge. This lesson was hard and humbling for me because I normally have no problem giving or being hospitable. It broke my heart that I had missed what was right in front of me, a child who needed a peaceful place to be. I normally don't miss things like that but God wanted to answer my questions. There is no being taken advantage of if what you are giving is given freely because God has freely given to you.

I share all of this because those sayings I mentioned earlier have been lies I unknowingly believed for years. It saddens me and I am sure there are others who have believed them as well. But the truth is that because we have been loved in the most lavish way and have received the most extravagant gift of salvation, we are to give to others with the same abandon and without hesitation. Matthew 10:8 says, "Freely you have received; freely give."

Will you join with me as I choose to live out what God's Word says and freely give? There are times when it will be tiring and if we give like He does, it will be costly. But it will always be worth it. I know because today there is a child playing in my house without a care in the world, enjoying being an honorary member of our family. And as this child watches our family interact, pray before meals, and live life together God's love will be evident and hopefully that same child will want a relationship with Him.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lemonade...

Have you ever heard of the saying "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." ? Chances are you have. I have always thought of it as a reference to an attitude adjustment like "In every cloud there is a silver lining" or "Looking at the glass as half full". Sometimes these little sayings can be annoying and not very practical. Other times they can be used to challenge us to think differently.

One lesson that I continue to learn is that I can choose how I react or respond to things in life. My family and I have had some difficult choices to make in response to my husband's last week of school. We could choose to be moody and sad, angry at the school board, frustrated, and even fearful. While we may have at times felt some of those emotions, we have chosen not to react or respond with them. Instead we threw a small party!

The girls and I went and got streamers, balloons, a card, and dessert at the store. Then we came home and decorated. They made a banner that I hung up that says "Celebrate New Beginnings". That is what we have chosen to do, celebrate. You can call it what you like, making lemonade, looking at the glass half full, or finding the silver lining. But I call it a teachable moment.

I want my girls to see that uncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing. If we trust God it is an adventure. I also want my girls to see how they can take advantage of a difficult time and use it as an opportunity to love and encourage someone, their daddy. Finally, I want my husband to know that we are proud of him and the many years that he taught the students at his school.

How about you? What are your lemons this week and what do you need to do in order to choose to make them into lemonade?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lesser vs. Lasting...

This is the last week of employment for my husband in our school district. After Friday we venture off into the great unknown of the world of unemployment. I am watching him in all of this and what I see is a little sadness, some questions about where he will work next, and a lot of graciousness. He takes things in stride he always has that's just him. I have always loved that about him, well except when we go shopping because it takes him longer than me to make decisions!

We have been talking a lot these past few days about the future. We are wondering what it is going to look like. Is this geographical area where God has planted us for good, or will searching for a job lead us to another state? Do we take the first job that is offered or do we hold out? What is God up to and what are we going to learn from this? So many questions and so much uncertainty! But still we are not experiencing any anxiety only supernatural peace. I have also had several family members and friends tell me that every time they pray for us they experience the same peace and a knowing that God will take care of us. Thank you God!

These past few days I have heard a song play on the radio several times that has touched my heart and caused my thoughts to wander back to the lyrics regularly. It's sung by Laura Story and the name of it is "Blessings" Here are some of the words that I keep pondering:

"We pray for blessings. We pray for peace. Comfort for family, protection while we sleep. We pray for healing, for prosperity. We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering. All the while, You hear each spoken need. Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things. Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights is what it takes to know You're near? What if the trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?"

I have never been one to welcome a trial have you? I already know from personal experience how hardships can end up being God's mercies in disguise so those lyrics didn't surprise me. What got me was the phrase "You love us way too much to give us lesser things." Those things that she calls lesser are not things that I necessarily have thought of as lesser. But I see that they are because they don't last. They are temporary. What is produced in our hearts and lives from the hardships of this life is lasting. The lessons learned have the ability to shape us and strengthen us for years to come. The closeness that we can experience as we cling dependently on God for provision, wisdom, comfort, and direction is priceless and enduring. Once we experience Him as faithful in our hardships it spurs us on to be more faithful to Him. All of these things are priceless and eternal.

While I sit here thinking about this I realize that even though it's not necessarily wrong to pray for good health, safety, and peace there are things I miss when I am focused on these "lesser" things. Perhaps my prayer should be not to miss what it is God wants to teach me and my family through this period of uncertainty, that He would do a complete and enduring work in us.

As I seek Him for the lasting and eternal things He wants to accomplish in my life and the lives of my family the "lesser" things will become just that, less of a concern. God knows our future and He has already provided for it in the mean time I think it's important to let Him work in our hearts and lives through the process of the wait. How about you? What are the "lesser" things that are keeping your focus from the lasting and eternal things?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Conversations With God...

When I started blogging the purpose was to encourage others by sharing how I find God in the every day stuff of life. What I have had to learn over the course of my relationship with Him is that He often speaks quietly, which requires me to be still enough to hear Him. It's like any other relationship, it requires give and take in conversation and consistency. I am a busy mom and so my conversations with God through the years happen in small spurts throughout the day. I may be doing dishes and something comes to mind that I need to tell Him, or I may be in the middle of a trying day with the kids and need to tell Him how much I need His help not to lose it! Maybe I need direction on a decision I am mulling over regarding a purchase in the store so I ask Him what He thinks. Sometimes I just need to empty the concerns on my heart before they build up and it doesn't matter where I am, I know He is listening. And so this brings me to a recent conversation I had with him at the Cracker Barrel gift shop this weekend!

Sometimes the way God speaks to me is by allowing me to be sensitive to my surroundings and to notice things that I may normally pass by, in order to send me a message. This was one of those days. My family and I were on our way home from the end of the year event at Hershey park held by the kids' cyber school. On the way home we were discussing my husband's recent job layoff. He has one more full week of the school year and then who knows what job God has for him! He had applied at the kids' cyber school and up until that day at Hershey Park it had sounded hopeful that there would be an opening and he would be a good fit. But while he was at the Park he spoke to the administrator and was informed that job openings in Phys Ed could go either way, it wasn't as sure as he thought it had been. This was a little disappointing! Although we still had peace, I struggled with my disappointment on the ride home.

We stopped at the Cracker Barrel for dinner and while I waited for my food to be served I decided I needed space so I went to walk around the gift shop. My intention was to quiet my frustrations by giving myself space away from the family, talk to God, and find a birthday gift for a friend. See what I mean by busy?! As I walked around and began leaving my questions and disappointments with God I was stopped by a beautiful beach picture that had the words "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10 written on it. I couldn't help but thank Him for reminding me in that way. I continued to walk around looking for that birthday gift when I came across a necklace in a box with the words to an old song printed on it. I remember singing this song often in church when I was a girl; "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living just because He lives."

God knew that not only did I need to be reminded to be still but I needed to be comforted with those familiar words from the song "Because He Lives". I would have missed it if I hadn't spent enough time in my relationship with Him to experience His voice in this way before. How about you? What do you miss in being able to find God in your every day? Perhaps there are ways in which He has tried to speak to you similar to this and you just didn't realize it? Will you join me in asking God for a consistent sensitivity to the many ways He tries to get our attention? I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss a thing He has to say!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Simple Things...

When was the last time you enjoyed the simple things? When was the last time you stopped trying to "save the world" or get ahead? When was the last time you slowed down enough to enjoy the people around you?

I am guilty of being too task oriented at times and losing sight of the bigger picture. I get caught up in keeping house, educating the kids, and entertaining friends and family for dinner. Sometimes I pack my schedule too full and go non stop from the time I wake up in the morning until the time I go to bed at night. I do this until I crash from exhaustion, I become too cranky with the people I love, or God steps in and gets my attention some other way. Someday I hope to be better at not doing this so that I don't need these wake up calls!

This week God used the electricity going out for a couple of days to grab my attention. I wish I could say that I graciously received this wake up call... but that would be lying. I was very upset. It went out as I was about to start the over stuffed dish washer! The kids were sticky and dirty from outside and I was about to bathe them as well. And did I mention it was 9:30pm? No amount of prayer got the electricity back on. No matter how many times I reminded God that I had a busy weekend ahead, dirty children, lots of dishes, and lots of laundry!

This changed the focus of the next few days. When the electricity was off our focus was to keep the food cold. Once it came back on the focus was catching up on the dishes and the laundry. Because of all of this and the lack of sleep on the hot and sticky nights without electricity, I was too tired to plan my usual Memorial Day cook out. This forced me to find some other fun for our family. Because I was tired and only planning something for my family I was able to keep things simple.

We took the kids to the park and had a picnic lunch. We ate some ice cream, had a water gun fight, watched a movie, and made smores. It was the water gun fight that made me think about the simple things...

When I am too busy doing I miss the most important things, the simple things. Because I was forced to slow down I had a blast strategically hiding in the yard waiting to ambush my children and my husband by soaking them with water! I was able to enjoy my youngest daughter's giggles as she tried so hard to be quiet and not give away our hiding spot when we were a team.

And I saw who exactly it is that I miss when I am too busy. I miss enjoying the people I love. Sure I still take care of them in my busyness and have conversations with them. But do I enjoy their laughter? Their smile? Do I really listen to them when they talk to me? And if I miss all of this, than how am I loving them well at all?

Will you join me this week in remembering that there will always be a world to save, a desire to get ahead, and a list of things to do? And will you also remember that the chance to love others well and enjoy them especially those closest to us, is gone when they are gone? We only have the moments we are given to enjoy the simple things with the people we love and those moments go by way too fast! Slow down this week and love and live well.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

God Sees What I Can't....

I take comfort in knowing that God sees what I can't. I wrote this sentence in an email to a friend yesterday. Funny thing is as I was typing it, the words came out in a very matter of fact kind of way. I was expressing a conclusion that I had come to after having struggled with some things. It wasn't until later on in the day that the words started to roll around in my mind sort of speaking to me beyond that matter of fact kind of way.

God sees what I can't...
I can only see what's in front of me right now. Sometimes that can be uncertain,disappointing, cause for concern, or scary. If I could see the end result, the future, how things will turn out I may feel better. Even if things don't turn out well, if I could see ahead at least I could see the way God would work in my heart and in my life through what is presently going on. But I can't see more than what is in front of me.

I take comfort in knowing...
God sees the future. God can see what is in front of me but He can also see what lies ahead. He can see the end from the beginning. He knows how it all works together and why it all works together. He sees the purpose He has in mind for everything that I go through in this life.

I take comfort in knowing that God sees what I can't...
Because God can see ahead and I can't I need to keep my eyes focused on Him. He needs to be in my sights as I look forward and step forward in faith. David puts it this way in Psalm 16: 8 "I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."

Many of us face uncertainties and hardships right now. For some its a serious health issue or a rebellious child. For others it's addiction, divorce, job loss, or the death of a loved one. Whatever it is please take comfort in knowing that God sees the future, He sees what you can't and He sees beyond the fog of this trial you are in right now. If you fix your eyes on Him and take comfort in knowing that He can see what you can't you too will not be shaken!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Things That Shape Us...

I have spent some time recently with some hurting people. In some cases they are being made anxious by their past. In others, people in their life have hurt them in such a way that they battle with negativity and trust regularly. Without minimizing the fact that some wounds are extremely deep and can take years to heal, I feel moved to share some of my wounds and how going to God with them has helped me, because I believe that He is the ultimate healer.

I was bullied off and on from the time I was in elementary school all the way through to Junior High School. The boys in my neighbor hood were particularly mean. They would play with me and the two other girls who lived nearby but when the other girls would leave to go home, the boys would bully me. They did things like push me into a pond and in the winter time one of them pushed me down a hill on my sled strategically aiming me at a large tree at a high speed. I was unable to stop, you can use your imagination for how well that one turned out! It was shortly after that when I stopped playing with the neighbors!

These circumstances caused me to go to God at a very young age and pour my heart out to Him. I would spend hours in my room playing alone with my toys all the while talking to God about my hurts. He became my constant friend. I always felt better after being with Him. I believe that being able to spend this time with Him helped me make it through Junior High and helped me to be compassionate toward others who were picked on.

In Junior High I was mostly bullied about my relationship with God. In eighth grade someone spread a rumor that I was gay. I didn't know, somehow the rumor hadn't gotten to me yet, until I sat down at the lunch table and everyone else moved to another table. This went on for a week and a half. It was as if I had some disease and no one wanted to be near me. I got so upset that I stopped eating lunch. My parents began to notice something was wrong and when they found out what it was they called the school. The guidance counselor's advice was "Tell your daughter to toughen up, it's a cruel world!" And so I have. I learned that there will always be someone who doesn't like you and will talk behind your back. So I decided that what mattered most to me was what God thought because I already knew from experience that He loved me no matter what and He would always be there for me.

This experience also moved me to befriend others who were being bullied and to stand up for them when they were being picked on. Sometimes standing up for others caused me to receive threats of physical harm. But God protected me. By the time High school came around I was no longer bullied. In fact I had friends from all different circumstances. I had friends who were foster kids, friends who did drugs, friends who were still being bullied, friends from vo-tech, friends from marching band, super smart friends from scholastic scrimmage, cheerleaders, and even three football players who used to bully me! God used those years of hurt to enable me to witness to these people during study hall and lunch time. Because He loved me so well I was able to love them.

I share all this because I am convinced that what we do with our hurts can determine what character we turn out to be. We can either let them shape us into skeptical, critical, bitter, and afraid people... or we can take them to God. When we spend the time pouring out our hearts before Him until they are empty of the hurt, it leaves room for Him to heal us. The time spent with Him produces a deeper love in us for Him and for the people around us.

On a final note... I actually wrote this blog yesterday but didn't post it. It wasn't something I wanted to write. It was something I felt God moving on my heart to write but I didn't want to do it because of the content of what he was asking me to share. So I wrote it and saved it. Then I reread it this morning and said, "Are you sure God? There are other things I could write about." After further discussion with Him about my hesitations, I flipped the page on a calendar at my desk and found this quote on today's date, " We are shaped and fashioned by what we love." The quote is from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Then I understood. I have been shaped and fashioned by WHO I love. God has taken my hurts and made me who I am and it's because of His love that it's important to encourage others who read this so they can know that He can do the same with your hurts because He loves you so incredibly much!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Matters?

This past week I have ended up spending time with or talking with people who are either not thrilled with the church or have been wounded by it at some point or another in their life. Let me be clear that when I say "the church" I am not referring to any one church, I am referring to the Body of Christ in general. These people come from many different denominational backgrounds and their experiences occurred in various denominational churches. So I have been contemplating why God put me in these clusters of conversations with these various people as well as what can a person learn from bad church experiences?

There is no perfect church. There is no perfect denomination. There are no perfect Pastors. There are no perfect church people. In fact the church is full of sinners saved by grace and that is why people get hurt. I have grown up in the church. I came to know Christ when I was 4 years old and I too carry scars from past church experiences. Here's the thing, people often leave the church they are in because of their hurts or the things they disagree with and go in search of another church they can attend that does not have those problems. What happens? They end up in another church with it's own set of problems! Then they get frustrated because they can't find the perfect church.

But there is NO perfect church! In every church there will be gossiping. In every church there will be immaturity. In every church there will be some leader along the way with their own hidden agenda. So what do we do? Where do we go? What really matters? This is what has captivated my thoughts most this week... what really matters? What is worth staying for?

These are the questions that I have been asking God. It's been three days of questioning and wrestling. When you have old scars from past church experiences it makes it easier to feel like giving up on church altogether when you come across something that angrily reminds you of what you have been through before. There have been times when I find myself wincing or recoiling at such reminders and struggle with wanting to run for the hills or throw in the towel! But I have had to learn that I can't allow myself to be focused on those things or those church people that make me want to do that, or I will miss the very things that God wants to use to shape me into the person He wants me to be! God wants us to focus on following Him as individuals. Our own personal relationships with Him matter. So in this sense it's not our job to concern ourselves with the rest. We must be concerned with following Him and His work in our lives so that we can be His hands and feet to others in the ways in which He has uniquely gifted us to do so.

The presence of God is worth staying for. As long as a person can continue to grow in their relationship with Christ, as long as God shows up in the services, as long as a person can continue to serve God with their gifts, and as long as the truth of the gospel is being preached from the pulpit... stay. All the other things that are not right, leave up up God to deal with. It's His job and even though it may seem to us that He takes His time in doing it, no one does it better than Him!

God is what really matters. As long as He is present and we are at church FOR HIM we will be okay. To be at church for any other reason is to set oneself up for hurt and disappointment. It goes back to what God seems to be drilling into me in this season in my life. So I leave you with this encouragement... don't forget who you belong to! He is the one sure thing when all others fail you and when you feel like you don't matter to the church, remember that you matter to Him!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Who Needs Prince Charming When You Have THE KING OF KINGS!

The world events of this past weekend and this week have me reflecting. They are opposites. The first event I am thinking of was the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. As I have mentioned before, I have two little girls. They don't watch the news, but this wedding was inescapable in the weeks leading up to it. It was everywhere. My girls begged me to get up at four in the morning to watch it. We compromised and got up at six in the morning instead. After all, what little girl doesn't like a wedding or have dreams of a real prince coming to get her one day! So there we sat glued to the television that morning waiting to see the beautiful bride marry her prince charming! The girls were spell bound. My husband came in the room briefly to say goodbye and leave for work and they were so mesmerized that as soon as he said, " good-" they shushed him!

The other world event that captures my mind is the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Quite a different event! I turned on the television that morning and saw people celebrating in the streets. I felt an instant wave of mixed emotions. I was relieved that he was no more. I was proud of our troops, I was saddened by the reminder of why we had to go after Osama in the first place. And I was confused. I understand who he is and what he did. But the question kept turning over in my mind, is it right to celebrate the death of another human being?

These two opposite events have me reflecting on two future events. Let me explain....
One day my King will come. " And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war." Revelation 19:11. Ever since I was a little girl I have been told that someday Christ would return for His bride the church. It became such a common thing that I heard growing up that it lost it's importance to me. But when I watched the royal wedding on television and saw the grandness of the cathedral and the incredible gown the bride wore, and the prince waiting at the end of the aisle I realized something. No matter how grand this earthly wedding was, it pales in comparison to the marriage of Christ and His Bride. "Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. " Revelation 19: 7-8. And so I find myself challenged to make myself ready, and anticipating with excitement the return of the King!

Now for the other event. I told you that I struggled with the question of whether or not it is right to celebrate the death of another human being. I am not sure of my answer, but it pointed my thoughts in the direction of remembering our greatest enemy, the devil. I don't know about you, but I am tired of the oppression I see in the lives of some of the people I care about because of him and I am tired of the evil in this world. Are you tired of hearing about broken marriages? Battered spouses? Sexual promiscuity? Murder? Racism? Child abuse? Rebellious teens? Broken homes? Drugs? Alcohol? Abortion? Gossip? Death? I am and I look forward to the day when all of that will be no more.

For many years we could not find our enemy Osama Bin Laden and did not know if he would ever be brought to justice or have to pay for what he did. But the Bible is clear on our enemy the devil and what will happen to him. " And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Revelation 20: 10. I can't help but think after seeing the joyous celebrations on television over the death of Osama that it's nothing compared to what we will feel, witness, and celebrate when the devil is done away with forever! And as if that isn't enough, Revelation 21:3-5 goes on to say " And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.' And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' "

Who besides me, needed to hear that this week? I know we all need to be reminded at times that our King is coming, our enemy is defeated, and as big and strong as our God is... He is still tender and loving enough to take His God sized hand and wipe away every tear from our eyes! Can you imagine being face to face with God and He wipes the tears from your eyes?! Can you imagine God dwelling among you?
Who needs a Prince Charming, when you have THE KING OF KINGS!!!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Relationships...

This week we celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. I normally don't blog about things like this. But it has me thinking about relationships. My relationship with my husband was prayed for. It happened because we were both asking God for the person He had for us, waiting on God to bring it about. As I look back over these past 13 years, I believe that I realize much better today than I did on my wedding day just how perfect we are for each other. I am not always easy to live with. In fact I was so strong willed at the time that we were about to get married that my dad warned my husband about how stubborn I can be! But God knew that He would use my husband to shape me and help me to be stubborn about the important things instead of being stubborn about most everything!

Funny enough one of the verses we chose to have read on our wedding day was Romans 11:33-36. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the LORD, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

We chose these verses because we marveled at His ways and the ways in which He had brought us to each other. But now we marvel at His wisdom in bringing us together. At 13 years we are just truly beginning to see how He has molded us and shaped us in our marriage and is bringing our individual talents and gifts together to be used for His purposes.

This causes me to reflect on many other relationships in my life, particularly friendships. It's easy to be friendly with anyone. Most people you can at least have a small conversation with about spouses, the weather, children, jobs, church, or common interests and hobbies. But if I really think about it the best friendships I have are deeper than that and like my marriage, came about because God brought us together. They are the most valuable to me because I am being challenged by them to be a better wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, and Christ follower. This is what Proverbs 27:17 means when it says " Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

Isn't this the way we should be? Shouldn't our relationships with others be real enough and deep enough that it produces growth in us and in them? After all, isn't that real fellowship?

So today I see God in my relationships. I am blessed by the ones that He orchestrated, especially the one with my husband. But I am challenged to keep myself continually open to new friendships so that I can be challenged and challenge someone else.

Finally, thank you to all of my friends. You know who you are and I am ever so thankful for all of the sharpening that has come my way because of you!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One Day...

I have been angry most of the day today. The local paper listed the names of the teachers being furloughed. At first we were told my husband's name wasn't listed there but later we found out it was because friends and family started calling. I was angry because it adds insult to injury for him and his coworkers, its completely unnecessary, and it upset the students and teachers at school so much that it made for a tough work day. I was angry because the more information I get the more I realize how unjust all of this is. Everyone is suffering but the people who caused this mess in the first place.

I am still at peace about the job loss but I have been angry today about the injustice of it all not just for us but for everyone else too. But here is the thing about being angry at injustice... if you let your mind go too far down that road you can begin to feel hopeless, and very grumpy. That is how I began to feel toward the end of the day. I longed for quiet but there was none to be found because I have two girls who like to talk and even when they weren't talking my brain wouldn't shut up! And on top of that I had to take one of them to dress rehearsal for Easter service.

As I sat and watched the rehearsal, two of the singers began to sing a song called One Day. I have heard this song before and sung it in church. But the last verse really snapped me out of the funk I was in. The verse was: " One day the trumpet will sound for His coming, One day the skies with His glories will shine; Wonderful day, my beloved ones bringing; Glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine!"

One day...
One day there will be no more injustices. One day there will be no more diseases. One day there will be no more goodbyes. One day all these things that matter so much to us now will be put in their proper perspective and we will wonder why we even concerned ourselves with them. One day our eyes will see His face and all will be more than well. But without Christ's death and resurrection there would be no "One Day" to look forward to! Because He conquered death we get to look forward to His second coming .

I have celebrated Easter for years. I have gone to Good Friday services and remembered the cross. I have rejoiced on Easter Sunday as we celebrated Christ conquering death. But this is the first Easter that I am reminded that those two things also allow me to celebrate His future return.

So as you celebrate this Easter be thankful for what Christ did and be thankful that there is a "One Day" to look forward to!

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Adventure...

Yesterday we received the official news that my husband is one of the 125 teachers being laid off at school. We had pretty much figured he would be so this was not a surprise to us. I truly am not upset and neither is my husband. We both feel very calm and peaceful. My husband even said he was excited to see what God would do next. That's what got me thinking...

It's odd that I am at peace because I am not a very adventurous person and I tend to not like change. Actually, that's putting it mildly. I tend to approach major changes that are like this one, kicking and screaming. When there is a change I put up a fight. So I asked God why this time it's different. He reminded me of a prayer that I prayed several years ago. It was a prayer I prayed because I didn't want to ever become a stuffy or complacent Christian. I wanted to be challenged and I didn't want to grow bored. I had been in a woman's Bible study at the time and we had just finished talking about having "peace like a river" versus having "peace like a pond". We learned that peace like a pond is complacency. It's not real peace because nothing tests the waters everything just stays still and stagnant. Peace like a river is real peace because it's hard to be at peace when you are in the rapids of the river or have a strong under current. If you can have peace when tested in these ways, then it is God's true and lasting peace. We were also asked to think about whether we wanted a stagnant walk with the Lord like the pond, or the adventure of a life time riding the river rapids. I wanted the river. I was sick of the pond. So I prayed the poem from the book we were using. The poem is called River of Delights and it's written by Beth Moore:

I want to drink from your river of delights.
I want to dance before Your throne.
I want to chase You to the depths and the heights.
I want to live all my way home.

I want my eyes to be open till they're closed,
and faith gives way to holy sight.
But while I've the dust of Earth between my toes,
I want to live with all Your might.

I want to shout hallelujah while I can,
living in the abundant and beyond.
Splashing in Your Spirit and lifting up my hands,
I want peace like a river, not a pond.

I want to drink from Your river of delights.
I want to dance before Your throne.
I want to chase You to the depths and to the heights.
I want to live all my way home.


I may not always be thrilled to be on the adventure depending what's going on. But I am secure in the love of the One I am on the adventure with and that is why I have peace. We have been in the rapids together many times since I prayed that prayer and I have never been disappointed at the outcome of those adventures. How about you? Do you want peace like a pond or peace like a river? Do you want a stuffy, boring Christian walk? Or would you like to take a chance on the adventure of a life time even if it means testing your faith?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Wait...

This week has been and continues to be all about the wait. I don't like waiting do you? I don't like to wait for possibly bad news and I don't like to wait for possibly good news. When I have to wait for something it just seems as though the time that use to pass by at lightning speed no longer does. In fact it passes so slow it can seem torturous! But this past week and the week that lies ahead of me is about the wait. So what am I waiting for?

I am waiting to find out if my father in law has cancer. If he does all of our lives will change in one way or another as we see him through it. I am waiting and watching to see what opportunities God gives me to be there for him during his wait.

I am waiting to find out if my husband will lose his job. We are supposed to know within the next week or two. I am waiting to see how God will provide for us and lead us in the future should this happen.

I am waiting for an answer from a Pastor who canidated at our church. I am waiting to know whether or not he will come and be our next Pastor. If he does I will be waiting to see how God uses him to continue us on our journey as a church.

I am waiting for Easter break. The kids and I REALLY REALLY need Easter break. I am waiting for Easter break and anticipating that after a few days of it my sanity may very well return and my girls will be nicer to each other!

We are all waiting for something. But what do we do during the wait? How do we take the torture out of the time that passes slowly? Where do we go with our minds that keep going at night long after our eyes have closed in the hopes of getting some sleep? We go to God.

I don't know whether my father in law will have cancer, my husband will lose his job, the pastoral canidate will agree to lead our church, or Easter break will restore my sanity. There is no point in taking up time and energy stewing over these things. When the wait is over I will have the answers.

I think the reason we hate the wait so much is because of the uncertainty it brings. That's why we need to to look to the One sure thing, Christ. I found a poem the other day that expresses this well. It's written by Beth Moore.
The title is I May Never Walk on Water.

I may never walk on water,
but I'll never drown.

God may never part the oceans,
but I'll stand my ground.

My faith is not in my beliefs
but in the One I've found.

His word is sure,
when I am not
His heart and mine are bound.

How about you? What are you waiting for? Are you waiting alone or have you gone to God with your wait?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Fever!

I have spring fever. It's the first time I have had it in years! I am one of those strange people who love the snow because my husband is a teacher and when it snows we all get to stay home together. But I am really and truly for the first time in years very tired of winter! It doesn't help me that a few weeks ago we had a nice stretch of spring weather... what a tease!

This week amid the cold winter days there was one day that was sunny and almost fifty degrees! I took advantage of that day and decided to plant four bags of flower bulbs that one of my truly crazy but well loved and well meaning friends gave me! (She is only crazy because she believes that something I plant in the ground will actually grow!) It started out as something that needed to get done and ended up being the most peaceful and relaxing part of my week. As I dug each little hole and planted each bulb, I began to talk to God.

My mind turned to the subject of prayer during my conversation with God. God was reminding me that prayer is like a seed planted. When we pray for someone we bury that seed or request with God. As we keep praying for that person the seed is watered, the sun shines on it and it begins to grow. Just like the bulbs I was planting, that seed of prayer has to wait to break through the ground and bear fruit. It has to wait for the perfect set of conditions. That's probably why we can pray for some people for a very short time and see results and others may take years to see an answer.

My bulbs will take a while to turn into flowers but when they do I will be so thrilled to see them because it was hard work digging and planting, and it's been a long winter and I long for spring! And so I need to understand that like the bulbs, when I pray for others it may take a while to see the answers. But I shouldn't be discouraged because just like spring after a long, cold winter, it will be indescribably beautiful and well worth the wait!

How about you? Have you been praying for a long time for a person you love? A difficult situation? Are you getting tired and discouraged? Don't give up, keep planting those seeds of prayer. Spring will come!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Child's Prayer....

I have been challenged and comforted by something one of my children said in a prayer. It has provided me with a couple of days worth of reflection. We were finished having our family devotions and it was her turn to pray. We have been asking God regularly to save my husband's job or to lead him to a new one. So it wasn't a surprise when our oldest asked God for this, but after the asking was done she said, "And help us to be okay because we have You." This last part of her prayer has kept me busy in my thoughts here lately.

Have you watched the news? Did you see the tsunami, earthquake, and the potential nuclear disaster in Japan? What about the uprisings in the Middle East and the U.S. getting involved in what is going on in Libya? Are you aware of the battles going on state by state and within in the federal government over finances? These things too have grabbed a hold of my thoughts lately because the decisions being made by those in power will effect our lives and the lives of our children years to come.

It seems that wherever I go I am plagued by people I don't know who want to share their opinion with me about world events as well as what is going on here in our area with the government budgets. These people I come in contact with are very opinionated about things and it's not easy to listen too. There are moments when I feel like nothing will change for the better in this world we live in, it will only get worse. But in those moments I hear my daughter's prayer, "And help us to be okay because we have You."

So I started to talk to God about these words. It's true, I know that we will be okay because we have God and He will see us through. It may not be easy but we will be okay. But what exactly does okay mean? I turned on my music today as I drove to the store and a certain song started to play in the middle of all of this thinking I was doing. It's by a group called Addison Road. Some of the words are: "If everything comes down to love then just what am I afraid of. When I call out your name something inside awakes in my soul. How quickly I forget I'm Yours. I'm not my own I've been carried by You all my life. Everything rides on hope now. Everything rides on faith somehow. When the world has broken me down. Your love sets me free." To be okay we must remember who we belong to.

We will not be alone or forgotten by our God. No matter what decisions are made by those in authority that directly effect our lives, God is our hope. He has promised to be with us always. (Matthew 28:20).

I encourage you to choose to remember with me that God loves you and has not left you alone in the middle of whatever you are going through right now. And to my precious daughter, we ARE okay BECAUSE we have God and thank you for making me think!