Monday, December 31, 2012

2012

    I am not sad to see 2012 end. It has not been an easy year for us and I find myself looking forward to 2013 because it is a new beginning. No doubt it will have its own share of difficulties, every year does. I guess right now I am just thankful that I am not starting the new year the same way I have these past two years. I am not waiting for the school board to make its budget and decide whether my husband has a job. Seems like a good start to me!

   The end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 share something. I end 2012 with thankfulness and I begin 2013 the same way.  As I reflect on 2012 I notice that in the middle of our most challenging moments God was consistently with us. That is why I am so thankful.  Here are some of the challenges of our year...

1. My husband lost his job at the end of the school year. Every need we had was met. At the last possible minute he was hired at a Christian Retreat Center.
God was with us.
2. My father in law learns that he has a tumor that has to have a biopsy. It isn't cancer but he will have to be continually monitored.
God was with him.
 3. My Aunt almost died.  Notice I said almost?  She is still with us and it is truly a miracle.
God was with her.
4. My mom fell down a whole flight of stairs and narrowly missed hitting her head on a metal heater. She is still doing physical therapy but she is alive and here with us.
God was with her.
5. My daughter was in the hospital because a virus attacked her bone marrow.  Three days with two blood transfusions, lots of blood work, an ultrasound, a spinal tap, parents praying like their very lives depend on it, and she finally went home. She is as healthy as ever today!
God was with us!

   As you can see throughout 2012 God was always with us. He saw us through all of the hard times. This is why I am thankful. I am thankful that not once did He leave us to fend for ourselves. None of us can see into the future to know what this next year holds. We can make all the plans we want but ultimately we won't know until we get there how it will all turn out. I go into 2013 thankful because I know that at least one thing is for certain. Just as He was in 2012, God will be with us. As long as He is there I can look forward to it! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

O Come Emmanuel...

     O come, O come Emmanuel.... my heart aches this week and longs for His coming.  This week the world wrestles with the agony of children who left for school and never came home. Innocent lives cut short with gunfire. Our hearts break for parents whose arms are empty and aching for their children. Even the President of the United States cried. All this sadness hangs heavy as we wonder how much more depraved and evil this world can get. All of this sadness in the middle of a season when we celebrate Christ's first coming.

     In less than a week we will celebrate Christmas. What we celebrate is Christ's first coming.  It's a joyous time of year especially for those who have received Christ as their Savior because we are thankful that He came for us.  He came knowing that ultimately He would end up being crucified by the very people He came for. He didn't just come for His followers or for those of us who would easily receive Him. He came for the men who drove the nails through His hands. He came for the thieves hanging on the crosses next to Him. I tend to forget this when I think about Christmas. Do you?

     I wonder how remembering who Christ came for would effect how I interact with others.  Would I be more patient with difficult people if I remembered that Christ loved them and died for them too? Would I be more merciful toward those who have wronged me or hurt someone I loved, if I remembered that Christ loved and died for the man driving the nail through His hand? Can I see the shooter of these innocent lives taken as a lost soul who needed Christ?  I wonder if anyone cared enough to show Him the love of Christ while He was living. Do you think this world would be less depraved if those of us who rejoice in the birth of our Savior would share the gift that He is with others? Even the difficult and unlikeable others?

     We sing O come, O come Emmanuel.  Emmanuel means God with us. The song beckons for God to be with us and as His followers He truly is with us. Experts talk of more restrictive gun laws and others point toward putting Christ back in schools as the solution. We must show them what God with us means. He is the only solution for this depraved world. While our hearts cry out O come Emmanuel because we long for all wrongs to be made right and we want Him to return, right now we are still here. There is still time for us who know what it is to love Him and be loved by Him, to bring that gift to others. Let's go out into the world with God and introduce others to Him this Christmas. It's the only gift you can give to someone else that is certain to change the entire course of their life for the better.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Remember...

I have been reflecting on these words by Jean Baptiste Massieu ,"Gratitude is the memory of the heart".   It's so true. With our hearts we remember all that we are thankful for. Out of our hearts flow the words that pass our lips. I sit here praying that out of my lips will flow more gratitude than complaint.

Life seems to pass at lightning speed around here. Lists of things to do, places to go, and people to see have no end. In this fast pace that we keep it's easier to be quick to complain than to stop and give thanks. Giving thanks requires remembering. Remembering requires the ability to be still, and how often am I really still?

This has me thinking... How often is gratitude like a small pause for prayer before dinner?  A quick thanking God for food to eat as a ritual, instead of heartfelt gratitude that this day we have food on the table and we can eat? Has my thanks become nothing more than a quick acknowledgement of needs met or does it mean something to me that God has provided?

He has provided so much! Even if He didn't provide isn't God Himself enough? His love, His presence, His gift of salvation isn't it enough? Does He really need to give me anything ever again for me to have enough? These are the questions that I sit here pondering as I make time to remember all that He has done for me this year.

When I take the time to be still my heart overflows with thanks. It remembers Grandma's day long smile at her surprise 80th birthday party, the look on a little boy's face when he opened his Star Wars light saber, and the phone call from my brother telling me I will be an aunt! My heart also remembers with gratitude my husband's job loss and my daughter's hospitalization. I feel so full of thanks that God was there in the midst of all of that. I remember well how I was never alone. 

How about you? What does your heart remember? In a world where it seems nothing is ever enough, will you remember that God IS enough?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Impact...

The little one and I waited patiently to meet our new doctor.  My husband had heard that he was a good doctor so we thought we would give him a try.  Goodness knows we had been through several before him.  You know the type... the kind that make you feel stupid if you ask questions and get aggravated if your child doesn't want to be examined.

When he entered the room he smiled at my girl right away and asked her about her stuffed monkey.  She didn't answer.  Instead she buried her face in my shirt and began to cry.  The kind doctor didn't  give up so easily. He asked if he could give her stuffed monkey a check up.  She very cautiously placed her treasured friend on the table and he proceeded to listen to its heart beat with his stethoscope.  Once he proclaimed the monkey healthy he asked if he could listen to her heart beat. The tears were gone now and she let him listen.  I left the doctor's office that day assured that we were in good hands with him, feeling blessed that he cared so much about my girl to take the time to gain her trust. By doing so, he had gained my trust as well.

It has been almost seven years since our first visit.  He has cared for us through some scary times. We have had a  hospital stay with each child.  He always went the extra mile. Each time he called ahead and spoke to the pediatrician on staff. This last time he even gave us his cell phone number in case we didn't understand something and he could help.  He has been one of God's blessings in our lives and unfortunately he is moving...

His leaving has reminded me about how important it is to say what needs to be said before it is too late. Yes, even if it is a doctor, the postal worker, a waitress, a pastor, or anyone else who has cared for you well. They need the encouragement.  They need to know that it's not the big things that make the difference.  It is the little things.  I may not remember all of the medicines he prescribed through the years, the things he explained to me, or the questions he answered but I will never forget that first day and how he gave the stuffed monkey a check up!

I've already written my letter of thanks to him. I've already cried my tears. I never thought I would cry over a doctor,  but that is the impact that he has had on my life. He cared for those I love so well that it breaks my heart to see him go. He would probably say that he was just doing his job. I would say he cared for my children as if they were his own children. When you genuinely care for others you make an impact. Which brings me to another important point... the impact of one life on another.

Never underestimate the impact you have on another. It's easy to feel insignificant or that what we do is not meaningful. Whenever we come in contact with another human being we have the ability to make a lasting impression. We impact them for good or for bad. It doesn't take grand sweeping gestures to do this.  It is as simple as a kindness shown, a smile, a listening ear, or a helping hand.  You may be the only touch of God's love they receive that day.

 I want to encourage you to say thanks to those who have genuinely cared for you.  Just as you have been shown kindness, pass it along. Make an impact for Christ by spreading His love. Even if it's as simple as smiling at a stressed out grocery store cashier. It makes a difference!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Counting...

It is easy in the middle of trials to forget how much God loves us unless we count the trial as a gift.  What if we counted trials the way we count blessings?  We count blessings with joy thankful that God bestows them on us.  Shouldn't we do the same with trials?

If we looked at trials through the lens of gratitude for what God will work in us it may be easier to be thankful for them.  So often we just look at the trial as heavy, painful, frustrating, tiresome, and senseless. The reality is that we grow the most in relationship with God through trial. Trials have a way of bringing us swiftly to our knees, utterly dependent upon Him.   This dependence is a beautiful thing. When we are emptied of our selves and our self reliance we learn to wait for Him.  Waiting is hard because His time often seems so much slower than ours!

 Isaiah 40:31 says, "Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary".  If we are emptied of ourselves and waiting for Him we are promised new strength, the ability to soar, and energy for the duration of our trial. I wonder how often I have missed those blessings because I fought too hard to do things myself, to figure out a solution on my own, or to make my own way.  Maybe there have been times  I have missed those blessings because I forgot that God loves me and " God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28.

Sometimes when you are in the middle of a trial it gets so dark you can't see.  This is when counting will help the most.  When you are going through a trial counting it as a blessing is an act of faith.  I have been trying my best this year to put into practice being thankful for the trials and counting them as blessings. I have a journal that I keep them listed in.  I have found  that listing the trials as something I am thankful for has become a way to let go of control and trust God that indeed I will feel gratitude for having gone through them.

As long as we walk in this world there will be trials and blessings...  Will you join me in counting the trials as blessings?  We can work together to be thankful for what God will teach us and use to shape us. Before we know it we won't be able to differentiate between the two because when we go through our trials with gratitude for what God is teaching us, they become blessings too.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When You Can't Feel God...

Life's trials can pile up on us sometimes and be overwhelming.  When they collect like this life feels like quick sand sucking you into a dark pit with no way out.  Sometimes it doesn't even feel like God's hand is there ready to pull you out.  I have found myself in the quick sand quite a bit recently.

We are still without a full time job and benefits.  My husband had one interview this summer and he did not get that job.  Jobs are scarce. Then my girl ended up in the emergency room with dangerously low blood counts in need of a blood transfusion. That's when I began to wonder where God was and why He was allowing this.  I despise the why questions.  They never get me anywhere but frustrated! Yet somehow I can't help but ask them. 

The next few days at the hospital brought more uncertainty as to what was causing her low blood counts.  The concern was that her marrow was not producing red blood cells.  The question was why.  In the middle of trying to be strong for my girl and not let my fears play across my face, my mind raced.  What if she has some terrible blood disorder?  Are they consulting an oncologist because they think it's cancer or just to be safe? What if it is cancer?  What will we do? How will we care for her if it is? Our insurance ends in two weeks and we don't have another job lined up. Doesn't God know how tired we all are? Why can't I feel Him present when I know He is there?

On one day in particular I had to leave my husband at the hospital with her so I could be alone with those questions and fears.  I didn't taste my food when I ate, my stomach hurt constantly, tums were my new best friend, my back and neck ached from the tension.  Worse than that I could not sense God's presence in our circumstances and I felt abandoned.  My heart knew He had not abandoned me.  My heart knew that just because I couldn't feel His presence didn't mean He wasn't there.  Yet my mind and my emotions battled with the overwhelming feeling of being alone.  So I did what I knew to do.  I spent the hour long car ride from the hospital to my home crying out to God and letting Him know my fears, my hurt, and my feelings of abandonment. I  still couldn't sense that He was there.  Then I remembered reading about a woman who chose to sing praises in the midst of her most difficult times and how worship is sometimes an act of will.  So I tried.  I sang and I sobbed.  I didn't feel like worshiping Him because it felt like He wasn't there.  I chose to worship Him as an act of faith that He was there.  Soon the crushing weight of it all lifted and I felt peace.

As I sit here writing this, my girl is home and recovering.  It was a virus that attacked her bone marrow and caused all of this.  She is expected to make a full recovery.  I sit here on the other side of that part of my trial looking back .  As I look back I can't help but think that there was some battle going on that made worship an act of will and an act of faith.  I know I was consumed with fear that day in the car and faith is the opposite of fear.  I believe that worship was the break through.  I needed to praise God in one of my darkest times whether I felt Him there or not.  I needed to choose to continue loving Him, acknowledging who He is, and following Him regardless of what my daughter's diagnosis would be.  This sent a message to the author of those fears and lies of abandonment that I was choosing to trust God whether I felt Him or not because I don't need to feel Him to know He is there. That is when the peace of God was able to break through and the weight of it all was lifted.

Someone reading this is facing the same feelings and fears that I did.  I want you to know that God has not abandoned you.  Just because you can't feel Him or see the purpose in your trial, doesn't mean He isn't there.  He never left.  We choose to sink in the quick sand when we let fear consume us.  We choose the strength of His hand gripping ours to lift us out when we have faith that He is there even when we can't feel Him.  Grab a hold of His hand today and let Him lift you out.  Choose to trust Him no matter how much you feel like you are sinking in the quick sands of life.  Let go of fear and choose to have faith in the only One whose grip is strong enough to lift you out!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Open Heart, Open Home...

 If someone had told me four years ago that I would be sitting here today with an ache in my heart because in two weeks I have to say goodbye to my neighbor's daughter I wouldn't have believed them! Yet it's true.  We have enjoyed her summer visit very much and every time she walks through our back door my husband says, "There's my third daughter"! We now begin to feel that ache that comes from knowing she's not technically ours and we must say goodbye soon.  So how is it that one comes to feel so much love for a child that isn't technically hers?  I will tell you.

Four years ago I was content with my little slice of life.  I didn't mind that I didn't know my neighbors.  I enjoyed the quiet and I was happy to keep to myself.  God had other plans.  He brought the neighbors to me.  He sent them directly across my back yard. 

Our friendship began hesitantly on my part because I didn't want to get involved.  Before I knew it I had no choice.  She kept showing up on my doorstep.  Her mom kept stopping in for coffee.  Casual conversation turned into caring.  Caring about them turned into prayers for them.  Prayers turned into opportunities to share Christ.  Our friendship grew and the little girl was here so often we affectionately called her our third daughter.  I soon became her mom's only close friend.   We went through exhausting and dark times together.  I sowed the seeds God gave me to plant in their lives with tears. Then mother and daughter moved to Florida .

The girl is home for the summer with her dad.  He is trying to sell the house and find a job where she  and her mom live.  She has shown up on my back doorstep pretty regularly this summer and often stays overnight while her dad works night shift.  God is using her to speak truth into my oldest daughter's life.  She is able to say things that I have already said.  The difference is she gets away with it and God is using her words to change my oldest girl's heart.  This is the joy I am reaping so many years later...

God brought this child and her family into our lives.  What choice did we have but to love them, open our hearts to them, and open our home?  By doing this they felt safe and comfortable with us.  That security is what allows this child to fearlessly speak what needs to be spoken into my daughter's life.  She knows that at the end of the day she is loved no matter what, welcome always, and wanted.  My only regret is that God had to literally bring them to my doorstep because I didn't want to be bothered.  I thought my little slice of life was just fine, enjoyable, hassle free, neat and boxed up.  In a way it was.  It was somewhat risk free. If I didn't get involved then I wasn't taking a risk.  After all relationships with anyone can be messy and if you do grow to genuinely love them you risk hurt at some point. Yet I know it's worth it.

 I sit here on the couch thinking about how much I would have missed if God had left me be and not sent that little girl across my back yard.  Even though my heart aches with our visit drawing to a close, I welcome it. I welcome the ache because it is God's doing.  It's His handiwork. The ache is a product of the love and friendship He built between us as we shared life together.  I am no longer content to stay in my own little bubble.  I believe that we miss so much when we keep to ourselves.  We waste the blessings and the lessons learned that God wants us to share with others.  We were made to share life with others not to isolate ourselves from getting involved!

So who is God sending into your back yard?  What is your excuse for not opening your heart and home to them?  What do you have to lose?  Privacy? Peace?   Better yet, what do you have to gain?  Friendship? Love?  Take the risk.  Open your heart and your home to that person God keeps bringing your way.  You may find that a few years later you're sitting where I am... in awe of what God has done and how much you can love someone whose not technically your own! The ache is nothing compared to the joy of sharing life.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mom's Strength...

I packed up the car with meals for the week and drove to her home.  When she answered the door I noticed it.  It wasn't the first time. I have noticed it a lot lately...how fragile she is.  She is so tiny.  She was petite to begin with but these months of struggling with pain and then the fall down the stairs have really taken it's toll on her.  She looked a little better this time.  Her arm is no longer in a sling and she can walk a little better but she still moves slowly.  At times it seems as if it takes all of her energy to do so.

We got in the car and headed to her appointment for the last round of testing to figure out what keeps the pain going.  She tells me that the test will take an hour.  We make small talk until we get there.  I open the car door for her and offer to help her out and she doesn't need it.  She smiles and says, " I 'm getting better I can do that on my own".  As we wait for her name to be called she happily tells me about her progress.  It sounds like small steps to me but for her it's not.  For her it is healing and no step is too small because this struggle has lasted five months now.

When her testing is finished we get back in the car and head home.  I ask her how it was and she describes it.  She didn't know it would be painful in her current condition and wondered if she would be able to endure the whole thing.  Then she tells me, "I just kept saying it over and over again, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me' and I thought of all the people who told me they were praying".  Her words have captured me the whole day.

She has been through so many trials these past few years and within these past few months they have intensified.  I have not once heard her complain.  She always finds something to be thankful for.  Today she was thankful to get out of the car without help. Others would be tempted to cancel the test for fear of the pain getting worse after it. She chose to endure relying on God's strength. I went there to help her.  I look at her physical state and see her as fragile, but she is not.  She is strong.  She is strong because she is relying on God.  She has her moments of fear, of not understanding why this is all happening, but she still relies on Him.  She still has faith in Him.  She trusts in His goodness. 

I drive her home and get her settled before I leave.  She hugs me goodbye and thanks me for all that I've done to help. I walk away knowing that what I did was nothing. She was the one who helped.  The things I helped with were temporary.  There will be more meals to be made, more dirty clothes to wash, and more doctors appointments to drive to.  What she gave me is written in my heart and will help me for years to come and that is why I share it with you.  She gave me this treasure of watching her live her faith.   She showed me that no matter how long or hard the trial, no matter how physically fragile and tired you are, God is there in the midst.  He will strengthen you. He will not abandon you.   

For those of you who are reading this and don't know how much longer you can last in the trial you are in...don't lose heart.  Grab onto God's strength and trust Him even though you cannot see the end in sight.  He loves you and He will not leave you ever, especially in the midst of life's trials. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Moments...

She walked ever so slowly up the slate steps to the back yard.  Each step a reminder of her age.  The tiger lilies were in full bloom and there were daisies in mason jars on the tables.  The sun was shining brightly and there was a light breeze.  It was a gorgeous day but she didn't notice any of these things.  She quietly concentrated on not tripping, carefully putting one foot in front of the other with a grand daughter on each side to steady her.  She stopped to look up for a moment and that's when she saw them.  They were all standing, waving, and yelling SURPRISE!!!  Her family had gathered to celebrate her 80th birthday.  Four children, ten grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren had come to spend time with her! This was the gift that she spent the rest of the day opening and enjoying.  This is what she would remember.  Grandma has always understood what most people take for granted.  It's not a big event that makes a moment.  It is the time spent with the people you love.

Grandma lost both of her parents by the time she was thirteen years old.  Once they died she was passed from home to home until she reached her last home with a foster family.  She married my Grandfather at a young age and  they had four children.  My Grandfather died at the age of forty eight.  He was the love of her life.  I believe that because of these great and sudden losses in her life, Grandma doesn't take time spent with people for granted.  She is a good listener. She's not one for small talk. She gets right to the point. At the end of a visit she wants to know right away when you will be visiting again.   She doesn't part ways without saying "I love you".  It has always been time spent with the people she loves that matters to her.  

 Since Grandma's party I have been thinking about how often we look at life as a series of big events only to miss the moments in between.  Our society tells us that we need to make the most out of big occasions such as weddings, the birth of our children, and graduations.  We plan menus, buy decorations, and take pictures on these occasions because we want to make a memory to hold on to.  We know that we won't see that moment again so we do what we can to memorialize it in our hearts.  We soak it in not wanting to forget even the tiniest detail.  What if we treated all of life this way?  What if we were that attentive in every conversation?  What if we loved, appreciated, and wanted to remember every little detail about the people we converse with on a daily basis?  What if we remembered that not one of us is promised a tomorrow and that the times we share together may very well be the last?  Would it change the way we listen to each other, the things we talk about, and the way we love?  I am certain it would. 

 Let's stop for a minute and think about the people we take for granted.  Let's think about the time we don't spend with them because we think we have tomorrow.  What about the interruptions from our kids?  The chores and the computer will always be there but the kids will not.  I don't know about you, but I don't want to take the people in my life for granted and assume that there will always be a tomorrow.  Will you join me in enjoying every moment with the people we have in our lives right now?  Join me in being attentive in conversation, soaking in the time we have with them, and loving them well.  Let's be ever mindful that this moment with them could be the last. They are God's gifts, they are the big events that we don't want to miss!

 





Thursday, May 31, 2012

Every Day Graces...

Each day is filled with gifts from God that we seldom stop long enough to notice.  My heart is so full right now I think it might burst if I don't share what God has been doing.  I hope that you will be able to see how ordinary and how personal these gifts are yet they come from the God of the Universe.  That's what always gets me. He is so big but He cares about the little things.

My preteen was extremely chatty today and that is a gift.  Sometimes she's not and I miss it.  God has answered prayer and is giving her discernment in her friendships.  I may want the end result of making wiser choices to come quickly when I pray for her, but then I would miss the beauty of watching God work.  His work is lasting and for that I am grateful!

My little one has a new friend to play with.  She has been asking God to send her one for quite a few months now.  I have enjoyed watching them play dolls on the front porch many times these past few days.  What is more precious is that my little girl knows that God hears, He answers, and He loves her.

I have been in and out of the back door several times this week to work in the yard.  Yesterday I discovered that directly above the door is a hornet's nest.  I had walked under it many times and never once was stung.  I am so thankful for God's protection... no epi-pen needed !
 
I was able to spend some time with a special little boy tonight.  Pretty soon he will have a baby brother.  He greeted me with a hug and a kiss and this time he managed to say "Aunt Erica" .  Made my heart melt.  What a gift!

Some very dear people have had health issues that I have been praying about.  Praying is putting it mildly.  Making sure God knows how much I love them and couldn't bear the thought of something terrible going wrong with them would be more accurate!  I am very thankful that everyone's tests came back good!  I am also thankful for the opportunity to pray for them and be reminded of the precious they are. 

These are just a few of the gifts from this week.  Thank you for letting me share them with you. I could probably stand to be still and reflect on God's gifts more often instead of racing through life. There is something in the the reflecting that produces an even greater appreciation and love for Him.  How about you?  What ordinary gifts did He bless you with this week?  Why not share them with someone else so they can be encouraged too?



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When You Wonder What God is Doing...

Have you ever wondered what on earth God is doing?  Do you ever find yourself stuck in the same set of circumstances you were in this time last year?  Do you ever ask yourself what did I miss that I have to come back to this place?  Do you ever look up at God and say you're tired?  You are not alone.  This world is full of Christ followers who find themselves wrestling with those same feelings.  I know because I am one of them.

It amazes me how I can be so filled with peace about my circumstances and still have these questions.  They are not worrisome questions.  They are questions I ask when I feel I have missed something or I fail to see the purpose in being put through the same trials.  Sometimes they are spoken out of frustration and sometimes out of weariness.

It's difficult to understand why God continues to allow certain things in our lives.  Especially the things that we thought we handled pretty well the last time we went through them.  If you are like me, sometimes it seems inefficient to repeat the same struggles.  What do you do when you can't get an answer to the question why?  What about when you can't see the purpose in the testing because it seems identical to the things you have been tested with before?

These are the things that I find myself pondering lately.  I wish I could say that I know the exact answers but I don't.  Here is the conclusion I have come to concerning these wearisome repeat trials of life... as long as I can see God I am okay.  As long as His hand is evident and I can get some glimpse of Him at work no matter how small the glimpse, I am good.  If He is there in the midst then there is purpose.  It reminds me of the story of Peter who got out of the boat and walked on water to Christ.  As long as his eyes were fixed on Christ his feet stayed on top of the water and he could walk.  The moment his eyes looked away to the storm around him, he no longer walked.  He sank. (Matthew 14:22-32)

This time next week I will be doing the same thing that I did this time last year.  I will be celebrating my husband being laid off from his teaching job.  The girls and I will welcome him home on his last day with party decorations, his favorite pie, and a banner.  The only difference this year are the words on the banner.  Instead of saying, "Celebrate New Beginnings" it will say "Celebrate God's Plan".  That is why I can choose to celebrate these repeat trials.  I can celebrate God's plan and purpose in this even though I don't know yet what that is.  All I need to know is to keep my eyes fixed on Him and I won't sink! 

Each one of us have our own set of trials and some are repetitive.  We may never get all of the answers to the "Why?" questions.  We may not always be able to see the purpose in them. We have a choice to make.  Do we wallow in the weariness? Do we fix our eyes on the One we love and trust Him to keep us from sinking as the storms of life rage around us?  Will you join me as I choose not to sink?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Motherhood...

I have been thinking a lot lately about the joys and struggles of being a mother.  Believe it or not it has nothing to do with Mother's Day! It has everything to do with being a tired mom myself.  I have had many recent conversations with other weary moms.  It's not always that we are tired from the laundry, the cleaning, the driving the kids everywhere, or other necessary tasks of motherhood.  More often than not we are weary of the inward struggles.  Let me explain.

Children are an incredible gift.  They are a gift because of the joy they bring but an even greater gift because of the struggles they bring.  God uses our most heart breaking, discouraging, and difficult times with our kids to change us and to teach us.  I am convinced that without my oldest I would not have the prayer life I do.  I may not go as often to God seeking wisdom.  Without her I would not realize how ill equipped I am, or how the very same characteristics I long to see in her, need work in me too.  I am so incredibly thankful that God gave her to me for those reasons. I am also convinced that without my youngest I would not have the patience or sensitivity that God has used her to build on in my life.  It takes her a while to say what she is thinking and it takes me patience to listen especially when I am in the middle of something.  I am thankful that God is using her in my life to build up my patience because it's something I need on a regular basis.

At times those same things that I am thankful for are also the things that I grow weary of.  I don't always feel like praying or asking for wisdom.  Sometimes I am tired of God using them to get at what needs changing in me.  I struggle inwardly with the same doubts and fears that every mother from the beginning of time struggles with.  Am I doing the right thing?  How many opportunities have I missed to teach my girls about God and His ways?  Am I too strict?  Am I not strict enough?  How do I get through to them?  Did I choose the right type of schooling?  Why didn't God make me more like that mom over there who seems to have it all together?  Am I making the most of the time I have with them?  I know I am not alone.  I am not the only mom who has inward struggles, who doubts herself or compares herself to other moms.  I know because I have yet to meet another mom who doesn't have these same struggles.  So what can we do?

We need to encourage each other.  Whether you are a mother or not you can be an encouragement to one.  Moms can be pretty hard on themselves.  Sometimes all it takes is one kind word to strengthen a weary mother.  Sometimes us mothers are so focused on what we need to do or how we need to change that we fail to see the things we are doing right.  All it takes is one other person to point it out to us and it can give us a whole new perspective, a renewed strength.  I know this to be true because this weekend God used someone to encourage me at just the right moment.  It was at the end of a wedding reception when we were saying our goodbyes that this lovely woman came up to me and told me to keep being the strong mother I am.  Ironically it came at the end of a long week when I wasn't feeling strong. I was feeling tired.  In fact I had just been talking to God that morning and asking Him to show me what I needed to do differently.  God used her words to encourage me to be steadfast.

We know that words have power.  Will you join me this week in encouraging one of the many mothers you know with your  words?  Give a tired mom some renewed strength.  Tell her what you most appreciate about her, the wonderful qualities you see in her children, or what you admire most about her.  If you are a mother yourself then you know how difficult and precious a task God has entrusted mothers with. You also know the inward struggles I have written about.  Use this knowledge to habitually build up and encourage the women in your life who are mothers.  Finally, I want to say thank you to all of my beautiful friends who share their joys and struggles in mothering with me.  I am so blessed to be able to share life with such strong godly women.  Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

No Coincidence..

I don't believe in coincidences.  I believe that God has a purpose in everything that He allows in my life.  I also believe there is a purpose to every relationship He brings into my life.  Several years ago God connected my family and I with someone very special.  I didn't understand His purpose at the time but it has certainly grown more evident through the years.  In a few days this person will be celebrating another birthday. His birthday has me reflecting on the sweetness of serving an intentional God!

Eight years ago on May 4th my grandfather died.  I was grandpa's girl.  In fact those were his last words to me, "That's right, always be my girl ".  He hadn't spoken to anyone for a few days. He was very weak.  It was my turn to say good bye and as I struggled with how to say it,  I told him I would always be his girl.  He spoke for the first time in days. It was a gift God knew I needed.  His death was one of the hardest losses I have had.  He was a man who fervently loved God and was full of wisdom. He was never too busy to listen, pray, or talk with you.  His passing out of this life and into the presence of God left a giant empty sad spot inside of me.

Roughly a year later God brought me a friend who reminds me much of my grandfather.  I met him at church and he liked to golf with my husband.  He spent enough time with us that after a while I jokingly told him we would have to adopt him.  We did! We gave him the title of "Uncle" .  Like grandpa we share some wonderful conversations about God, pray for each other, and have a lot of laughs.  It wasn't long before I discovered that his birthday happens to be May 4th!  May 4th was typically a sad day for me.  Even if it were to sneak up on me it was still hard because the date was a reminder that grandpa wasn't here.  It has been years now of celebrating this special friend's birthday and I have to say that May 4th is not sad for me anymore.  It ends up being a regular gift.  It is a reminder that God is a God of detail and purpose.  God is intentional in the people He brings into our lives and for that I am thankful.

It's easy in the fast paced life we live to approach the people we come in contact with regularly with indifference.  What if we saw them as placed in our lives intentionally by God?  How would that change our interactions with them?  How would we change?  What would we learn?  I believe we miss so much by hurrying through life and not taking the time to be intentional in the way we connect with others.  God uses the people He places in our lives to comfort us, to encourage us, to guide us, to sharpen us, and to challenge us in our walks with Him.  He also places us in the lives of others intentionally.

Look around at the people God has connected you with.  There are no coincidences.  Each one was placed in your life for a purpose.  You were placed in their life for a purpose.  Make time for them,  enjoy them,  grow  with them, and love them.  Each one is a sweet reminder of an intentional God who loves you. 


 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Opportunity...


Life is full of opportunities to love, encourage, pray for, and support others.  A few months ago I brought  your attention to Save the Nuba through Media Change as an opportunity to be God's hands and feet.  Today I would like to share this post with you from Media Change about a Missionary couple in Mexico that need our support. Remember it only takes one person to make a difference!

Here’s A Simple Way to Reach an Unreached People Group!

Francis Chan tells an oft repeated story about a child who is told to go clean their room. The child leaves and comes back to say, “I memorized what you said…I can say it in Greek! In fact, some of my friends are going to come over tonight and do a little study on what it would look like for me to clean my room!”
The simplicity of carrying out the Great Commission can often get overlooked in the muddle, which is why this upcoming story is just plain refreshing! Please meet one of the sweetest missionary couples out there serving Jesus. It is with joy and simplicity they live out the gospel.
If you have a moment, grab your cup of coffee and see what I mean. It truly is worth your time:


There’s a bigger picture happening in this video—one I pray you’ll see. The day-by-day manner in which the Martinezs live, brings light. The gospel is preached through simple words and simple actions. Yet the impact of what they’re doing is so huge. Think of it –they’ve reached an unreached people group!
Not just any unreached people group—but a group of people who have access to five more unreached groups! And they led the chief and his wife to the Lord no less!
Here’s what Alfonso said when asked how much money he lacked to complete the well, and how much money he and his wife still needed to raise for financial support:
$600 was all he needed to complete the well, which Media Change has provided.
$300 a month was the amount he and his wife still needed to raise in order to continue their work.
Not only do they live simply, there needs are simple. If you’d like to support the Martinez family, tax deductible support can be sent to:

New Song Christian Fellowship
f.b.o. Alfonso Martinez
705 Heritage Court
Franklin, TN 37067

If you’d like to send a prayer or a word of encouragement to Alfonso and Erika, please write them at jcdministries@hotmail.com





















Friday, April 13, 2012

Do You Love A Good Story?

Do you enjoy a good story? Have you ever met anyone who enjoys a good story? I have been thinking about all of the valuable things a person can learn from a good story and how rare it is these days for anyone to sit still long enough to listen to one! Much of my life has been spent listening to people who love to tell stories. Their stories tend to be about things that happened in their lives many years ago. Sometimes younger generations wonder what the purpose is in listening to these types of stories. The stories themselves tend to be long and depending on the story teller, they may be exaggerated! I see God in the listening no matter how long the story.

Some of my favorite stories came from my grandfather. He was an excellent story teller because he was truthful and his stories had a message. Most of the time they were about the trouble he got into as a kid and the lessons he learned. I enjoyed his stories so much that I would request that he tell certain ones over and over again even as an adult! His stories were often tools used by God to increase my faith. Grandpa was good at sharing stories that began with personal struggles and ended with God's faithfulness. If we are willing to listen to the stories of others who have walked with our Lord faithfully we have the opportunity to come away challenged and encouraged in our own walks.

Even as an adult I love a good story. My father in law has certain friends and relatives who tell the same stories over and over again and it drives him nuts. He has noticed that I enjoy these stories and began seating those prone to story telling near me at holiday dinners. For the most part I don't mind. There are times when a certain friend of his seems to be hitting the rewind button a little too often. He is ninety years old so I do my best to listen as if I were hearing the story for the first time. There are some stories that I find hard to listen to and fail to see any other purpose in the listening other than to love the story teller. My recent experience with this ninety year old friend of my father in law's shed some new light on purpose for me.

There are a few people who tell stories because they like to hear the sound of their voice and they think they are magnificent. I have only met one or two so far and I find their stories hard to listen to. I always thought I should listen anyway because God always listens to me no matter how wrong or long winded I am. This ninety year old friend of my father in law's that I have struggled to listen to through the years now has an illness. As I sat and discussed this illness with the man's care taker , I was able to help him see some things that were important in dealing with my elderly friend as the illness progresses. I would not have had these insights into the man and his personality if I had not listened to the stories. More importantly, through this conversation I have discovered an avenue through which to tell him about Christ that I would have missed had I not listened. Stories are important no matter how hard it is to listen.

Listening to a person's story is a way of loving them. When you listen to a person's story you get a glimpse into their heart. I can't help but think of how much we miss in this fast pace world of ours because we don't want to sit still long enough to listen. I know I can think of times when I missed an opportunity to love someone by listening. I wonder how many times I have also missed an opportunity to share Christ with someone because I was only listening out of politeness instead of listening for an opportunity or listening to get a glimpse of the heart of the story teller. How about you? Who do you need to love by listening? Will you join me as I try to be more attentive while listening to others stories?

Monday, April 9, 2012

From One Clay Pot to Another...

I sit here with remnants of Easter worship playing in my mind. This is the first I have had to really reflect. It has been a busy weekend. This Easter has brought to light the resurrection in a different way for me and I want to hang on tightly to the lesson because I am certain I will need it in the future as much as I need it now.

I came to Easter service after a long and trying week. It was a week full of personal struggles and fighting hard to hear wisdom from God. It was a week of battles fought on my knees and I was weary. I also came to Easter service shortly after spending time with someone I love dearly who is suffering. This person is far more weary than I. She is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. She is fighting an intense battle. I came with the burden to fight for her, to intercede, but I also came tired. It wasn't the message of the cross that got me this time or the joy of the resurrection. It was the message in a song.

The words to the song Overcome written by Desperation Band, took me by surprise. I had sung them before and they hadn't grabbed a hold of me this way. "Savior, worthy of honor and glory, worthy of all our praise, You overcame. Jesus, awesome in power forever, awesome and great is Your name, You overcame. " The song had me at the word "overcame". All I could think about was how relieved I was that He overcame. These struggles and these battles we face in life He has overcome! I watched through the tears streaming down my face as those around me sang with smiles. I sang with tears of relief.

Not only did He save us He overcame! That same power that resurrected Christ from the dead lives in us who believe in Him. With that same power, no matter how weary we are we can overcome. 2 Corinthians 4: 6-8 says "We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves." (NLT)

Anyone else feel like a fragile clay pot sometimes? Ready to crack or break under the weight of what you are going through or the burdens on your heart? Anyone besides me forget about the part of the verse that says that our clay pot selves contain a great treasure? This treasure is that same power that resurrected Christ from the dead.

I have also been thinking about Romans 8:37 "But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us". Our Pastor read this verse at Easter service and it is not new to me, I just haven't given it much thought until now. If we believe that the Bible is the Word of God and what it says is true, than why do you and I often live like we are defeated? It says that "we overwhelmingly conquer through Him", yet often we live like we have overwhelmingly been defeated. I think this happens because we forget Who He is and what He did. I think it happens because we forget we belong to Him and that He has put that same power within us. We allow the enemy of our souls to convince us that all we are is a fragile clay pot. Once we feel fragile we forget about the treasure of Christ and His resurrection power stored inside that clay pot.

I want to walk in the power of Christ that He placed inside my clay pot. I don't want to forget that He overcame especially in the midst of life's battles and I don't want to live in defeat. How about you? Will you join me in living a life that testifies to the One who overcame?

Friday, April 6, 2012

You Do Not Battle Alone...

Are you battle weary and worn? Does it seem like you struggle with one thing, press on in prayer, finally come up for air, and then find yourself in yet another battle? Are you weary and discouraged? Do you feel like you don't have the energy to hit your knees one more time and pray for one more person or one more need? Is the devil dogging you with discouragement? Is he replaying the scenes from your past mistakes in such a way that it makes you feel like you are inadequate to fight this current battle you find yourself in? Do you feel like you know nothing? Are you afraid of where you find yourself? I want you to know that you are not alone, I have been there and I can tell you that all you need to do is cry out to God and He will give you wisdom. He will give you all you need for battle.

I found myself this week at a loss for how to handle some things. Years of knowing the Lord, the wisdom passed on to me from my parents' examples, excellent books I have read, and prior experience praying through similar struggles before all seemed useless. None of these things seemed like enough preparation for where I found myself. In my desire to do everything right and not make any mistakes that I would regret in the future, I opened the door for the devil to taunt me with mistakes from the past, feelings of inadequacy, and fear of the future. I am sharing all of this with you because I know I am not the only one who has been in this place and in case you haven't been here yet I want to expose his tactics so you can recognize them.

The only way to make it through all of the things that I just described to you is to have a running dialogue with God about what you are going through, what you are thinking, and what you are feeling. During my prayer time I asked God to speak to me about all of those things. I needed direction and I needed to know His thoughts. I awoke this morning with the words " He trains my hands for battle" on my mind. When I went to look up the verses this is what I found:
Psalm 18: 28-3o, 34-36:
"For You light my lamp; the LORD my God illumines my darkness. For by You I can run upon a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great. You enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped."

These were the words He knew I needed to hear from Him. He is equipping me with all that I need for this battle I find myself in. Each battle is unique in its own way. Sure you can draw on wisdom gleaned from past struggles, but only God can give you what you need for the new ones. More importantly I don't fight alone. Did you notice? He provides the light in the darkness, the shield, the ability to run and leap, training, and He keeps my feet from slipping.

In a few days we celebrate Christ's victory over sin and death . We celebrate His death on the cross and His resurrection. Who better to train our hands for the many battles we face in this life than the only One who has ever conquered them all! I find myself incredibly thankful this Easter that He did not grow weary of us and decide to skip dying on the cross for our sins. I am so very thankful that He is victorious and that He loved us enough to do what He did. I am thankful that because of what He did I am never alone in my battles and I am being trained by the ultimate Warrior. As Psalm 18: 46 puts it, "The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of my salvation." As you celebrate this weekend remember that because of His great love for you, you are not alone or ill equipped for this life's struggles and give Him thanks.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Do You Stink?

I have been doing some thinking lately about what a person leaves behind. I am not talking about the things they leave to their families after they die. I am talking about what lingers behind them when they walk out of the room or end a conversation. We all leave a lasting impression on those we come in contact with. It's much like a woman's perfume. Have you ever hugged someone and when they walk away their fragrance lingers long after they are gone? So it is with our words and our actions, they linger long after we are gone.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15 says it this way, " But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." Did you catch the part of the verse that says that God "manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place." ? This is the fragrance that should be lingering long after we leave a room or end a conversation. It is the fragrance of Christ.

Our contact with others leaves one of two impressions. We either leave the fragrance of Christ that lingers and causes those left wrapped in its scent to want more of Him, or we leave a stench. When we spend time loving others with our words and our actions and encouraging them we leave the fragrance of Christ. When we spend time criticizing, gossiping, complaining, nagging, or trying to fix them ourselves we leave a stench behind.

The world is full of awful smells. We don't need be part of the stench. We can choose to be the fragrance of Christ. When we seek to be an encouragement to others and to love them well we are His sweet perfume. His scent will linger and they will want to spend time with us because we will remind them of Him. Do your words and your actions leave a fragrance or a stench? When people have spent time with you do they walk away feeling like they have spent time with Him?
Will you join me this week in being mindful of what fragrance I am leaving to linger?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Change...

A month ago I was "mommy" to both girls. Now I hear "mom" coming from my oldest. Two months ago she was still playing with her Liv Dolls. Now she has packed them up and given them away to little sister. Gone are the Barbie Jet, the Cinderella Castle, the Liv Doll House, and the Littlest Pet Shops. Stuffed animals that once crowded her bed and book shelves have found a new home out of sight on the top closet shelf. She has even paired down her elephant collection! There are many empty shelves in her closet now due to lack of toys.

Today I went in to fill the empty shelves with clothing from her dresser. She no longer wants the dresser in her room. She wants to put an old vanity in its place for when she is old enough to sit and do her make up! MAKE UP!!!! (Can you hear my silent screams from where you are!?)Thank God we have time before that is allowed to happen! As I was in the closet a stuffed animal fell on me from the top shelf. It wasn't just any stuffed animal. It was Teddy! Teddy of all bears had been place out of sight! Can you believe it? Teddy with the well worn fur from 10 years worth of love ! So I paused and hugged Teddy tight. I just wanted a moment to remember the tea parties we had with him, the many out fits he wore, and the little girl who once slept with him every night. Then I prayed and thanked God for those moments and apologized for all the wasted ones when I was too busy doing to enjoy the girl and her bear.

Teddy is back up on the shelf now and the girl is in her room listening to music. I am sitting here thinking about what I can learn from all of this. I am not one to wallow in wishing the kids would be little forever and sit around boo-hooing about it. I only allow myself what I need and then I move on making a conscious decision to celebrate the inevitable changes. It's that word that has me right now..change.

Our world is full of changes. It is rare that anything or anyone stays the same. The seasons change, governments change, churches change, employment changes, health changes, our children grow and change, and we change. The only one who does not change is God. Psalm 55:19b says this, "God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change". I don't know about you but I find that comforting. Change can be uncertain sometimes. Our God does not change so this means that He is certain. He is steady, reliable, dependable, and secure. No matter what changes we are going through we can look to God and know that He isn't going anywhere.

As I sit here and let this soak in I am thankful. I am thankful that even though my girl is changing her God is not and He has her through these changes and the ones yet to come. I am also thankful that He isn't going anywhere. I will need Him for any future moments that may involve make up, boys, and Teddy falling out of the closet again! What about you? What changes are you trying to embrace? Need some help? Look no further than your unchanging God. He isn't going anywhere!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What You Feed Grows...

We have been enjoying some very nice spring weather here. The weather has brought out all kinds of creatures. There are plenty of bugs coming out from hiding. As long as they stay out of my house they won't meet the same fate as the giant spider the other day! (I am forever grateful to the inventor of fly swatters.) The trees are beginning to bud. I have even found some flowers in the back yard. There are signs of growth everywhere and it has me thinking about what I would like to see grow in my own life.

I want to be like the tree in Psalm 1:3 " He will be like a tree firmly planted by the streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and its leaf does not whither; and in whatever he does, he prospers." I want to be firmly planted and yield an abundance of fruit in my relationship with God. The kind of fruit I am looking to yield can be found in Galatians 5: 22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." In order to do this I need to have the proper nutrients just like any tree does. If I am properly nourished I will grow and be able to bear good fruit. You know that saying, what you feed grows? As I sit here thinking about what kind of fruit tree I would like to be, I have to consider what am I feeding on?

This life offers many opportunities to feed. We can feed on or fill our minds with, what we find on the internet. There is always something on the television we can feed on. We can fill our minds with lyrics to any number of songs that we hear on the radio. We can even allow our minds to feed on the words of other people. These things offer both good and bad ways of feeding. The internet, television, and radio offer televangelists, christian songs, and family movies. They also offer pornography, Rush Limbaugh, and reality television. The people we surround ourselves with can offer both positive and negative things to feed our thoughts. They have the opportunity to feed us encouragement, love, and wisdom. They also have the opportunity to feed us gossip, criticism, and judgement.

When I was a kid my mom would often say, "Input, output, what goes in is what comes out". It's true. What we allow into our thoughts is what will come out of us. If I want to be this tree and bear this fruit then I need to guard what I am feeding on. I need to guard what I am allowing into my thoughts. Philippians 4: 8 says this, " Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things". This verse describes what I need to be feeding on in addition to God's Word in order to be a firmly planted tree and bear good fruit.

The season of spring is a season of growth. What are you growing? Look at what you are feeding on and you will have your answer. Will you join me in making a conscious effort to be mindful of what I feed on? Perhaps we could use the verse from Philippians as a way to measure what we allow into our thoughts. If it doesn't line up it doesn't get in.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Who Are You Waiting For?

We are all waiting for something. We wait for answered prayer, a visit from a loved one, wisdom for the future,or a prodigal to return. Life is full of waiting. There is no getting around that. Some things we wait for with anticipation and others we wait for with fear and dread. Sometimes we wait on pins and needles hoping that we will get the answers we are looking for. Then we get them and find out that the waiting was actually easier than receiving the answers. Often times we feel as if we wait alone and our questions and frustrations during the wait fall on deaf ears.

Just as we are ready to cry out to God like the people did in Isaiah 64:1 "Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence.." God comes and our wait is over. We find ourselves in awe of what He did, how He did it, and who He is. Then we can proclaim as they did in Isaiah 64:4 "For from the days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him."

"The one who waits for Him", it's this last part of the verse that gets me. In my waiting am I waiting for Him? Am I waiting for Him to act? Am I looking to Him to do the impossible? Am I simply waiting for circumstances to change, another person to change, or a prayer to be answered a certain way? Waiting for all of those things can lead to disappointment. When I wait for Him I am never disappointed. His presence alone in any given circumstance is worth the wait.

I find myself in the wait again. I wait to know if my husband is on the list to be furloughed. I have been here before yet it is different each time. Last year I waited in dread to know the answer. This year I wait to know what God will do, how He will show up, and what it will look like. I wait with an odd sense of anticipation certain that I will see His faithfulness again no matter what the list says. I know that there truly is no other God besides Him, "who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him". The difference this time is that I wait for Him instead of waiting for my prayers to be answered or my circumstances to change. How about you? What matters more the answers or the Giver of the answers? Who are you waiting for?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Inspiration...

I have been thinking about the people who inspire me. Do you have someone who inspires you? Did you notice I didn't write inspired because that would be past tense? I am talking about someone in your life at this present moment who is an inspiration to you. My husband and I have been talking about the people in our lives who inspire us. Our recent conversations have brought me to the realization that it is important to have at least one person in your life who inspires you.

It's fairly easy to find someone from a history book, a person from the Bible, or a dead friend or relative to be inspired by. There is nothing wrong with this but it strikes me as the easy way out. These kind of people are no longer living and therefore there is no risk that they will let you down in the future. To be inspired by someone from the present is a gamble because they are still alive and have years left to make mistakes. Yet isn't the way a person lives their life and faces their set of difficulties and mistakes what often makes them so inspiring? Don't we learn the most from those around us who are currently living life? What kinds of people can we be inspired by?

I am not sure that there is a specific type of person that can be inspiring. There are people who are a regular inspiration to me and there are those who happened to have inspired me at a particular moment. What they have in common is that in one way or another they have been used by God to draw me closer to Him, challenge me to be a better person, or make me think about things differently than I normally would. Here are some examples...

I have a wonderful friend who is far more patient with her kids than I have ever been with mine. No matter how many times they interrupt her, ask her questions, or get into trouble, I have never once heard her raise her voice. God uses her to inspire me to be more patient, gentle, loving, and more easily interrupted with my own girls. Seeing her with her kids makes me want to be a better mom.

I have another friend who was recently given an extra day off from work. When I called her to see what she was doing, she said she had decided that she really needed to spend the day with God. She is the only person I have met who gets an extra day off and chooses to use it to spend time with God instead of going shopping or out to eat with friends. It made me ask myself, when was the last time I devoted a whole day to spending time with God? When was the last time I wanted to?

The elderly women at church inspire me. I sit behind them on Sundays. What I enjoy most about them and what inspires me is that they are not afraid to say it like it is. One of them turned around to talk to me before service this week. She wanted to know what I thought about a recent newspaper article. The article was about a person who is on trial for murder. She said that she was very concerned for this man and wondered if anyone ever goes to visit him in jail. She believes he needs encouragement if innocent, and someone to set him straight with God if guilty. Funny thing is I happened to know someone who is visiting him and offering him a listening ear and God's love and mercy. I was able to tell her that. She was very relieved. What inspired me was that she wasn't trying to figure out whether the man was guilty or innocent. She was genuinely concerned for this man's well being, for his soul. It challenged me to respond to these things the same way, to care about someone who may have done something horrible and to pray for them.

Finally, I was recently inspired by a former Jehovah's Witness. He spent hours pouring over recent articles on the Jehovah's Witnesses and pouring over his Bible. Why? He was going to talk to a man he had never met that was a Jehovah's Witness. He wanted to be prepared and to share how God had rescued him from that same belief. He knew what it meant to be a Jehovah's Witness. He knew the consequences of leaving that belief system and choosing to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. He saw someone else in the same spot he was once in. It didn't matter that the man was a stranger. He was ready to help him escape. This made me think of the many Jehovah's Witnesses who have come to my door through the years and how many times I have not answered. Why not? I have nothing to lose by answering and they have everything to gain if they come to Christ.

Our lives are full of people who can inspire us. We just need to take the time to do life with them in order to be inspired. Inspiration comes through sharing life experiences with one another and learning from them. I happened to be very blessed. God has given me wonderfully transparent friends. Each one of them continue to inspire me to love and to listen well. Who are you surrounding yourself with? Are you surrounding yourself with people who can be an inspiration to you and challenge you in your relationship with God? Who are YOU an inspiration to? Does your life and your relationship with God inspire others? Will you join me in being inspired by those we are doing life with? Will you join me in being an inspiration to others in the way we live ours?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Love Letter to the King...

My King,

I love you. It never seems like enough. Those three words sometimes seem so limited compared to what I feel inside. There has never been anyone in my life who knows me as well as you do and loves me anyway. You see it all. Nothing is hidden from you. Even in my ugliest most shame filled moments you still love me and unashamedly call me your own. No matter how many times I have wronged you, questioned your wisdom, or dared to be angry with you, you never send me packing! You always seize these moments as an opportunity to teach me and make me more like you. All of my bad you work for good. All things ugly you make beautiful. In my most fear filled moments you calm me with the treasure of your Word. Even when my doubts have hurt you, you prove yourself faithful. Whenever I have been burdened you carry my load. During times in my life when I experienced great sadness you let me cry. You didn't try to fix things like others have. You simply let me be broken until I was ready for your embrace and then you made me whole. You have never made fun of me. In fact sometimes I think my silliness may even make you smile. Every need I have you have provided for. Even when it isn't a physical need you have provided. So many times when I have needed a lift you sent one of your servants to encourage me at just the right moment. You are so incredibly thoughtful.
All of these things are just glimpses of how wonderful you are. They are only a few of the reasons why I love you. There are so many more but words fail me. Too often when I spend time with you I neglect to say these things. I get caught up in the every day and lose sight of loving you back with my worship. I just couldn't let Valentines' Day go by this year without writing you this love letter. You truly are the lover of my soul.

Erica

( Valentines' Day is almost here. Have you written your letter to the King yet?)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Every Tear...

Sometimes the seeing of God in our every day comes in the form of the ordinary and ends up reminding us of the extraordinary. I believe He sometimes uses the here and now to remind us of or give us a picture of what is to come and this sweetens the struggle of living in this present life. This is how it began...

I spent some time yesterday with a friend and her sweet little boy. They come to visit here once a week. She used to be a teacher before having the sweet little boy and now she helps teach my youngest some reading skills. While she is tutoring my little girl I enjoy playing with her little boy. Playing with little boys is so different from playing with little girls. The play is action packed and this little one likes to climb. While he was here he tried to climb onto the bench at the kitchen table that his mom was sitting on. Somehow he lost his balance and ended up sliding backward. He tried to hang on but ended up hitting his head and getting wedged between the bench and the wall. I have never seen the little guy cry so hard! In the whole 18 months I have known him I don't think I have ever seen him upset! Of course his mom scooped him up right away and kissed his sweet little face and the sore spot on the back of his head. He continued to cry and she said to him "Show me your owie so I can kiss it away." He buried his face in her shirt and she kissed his sore head some more and then she wiped the tears from his eyes. This is when the ordinary reminded me of something extraordinary.

I was reminded of our loving God. Someday He will wipe away all of our tears just like my friend lovingly and gently wiped away the tears from her little one's face. Only this little boy's mom could make him feel safe, loved, quieted, and whole again after being hurt. Our world is full of hurts like disease, addiction, injustice, heart ache, and death to name a few. The comfort we receive from others on this journey called life is like a band aid that eventually will fall off. It is good but temporary. If we lay bare our wounds before God just like the little one showed his mom the owie, then we open ourselves up to Him to be comforted. God has the power and tenderness to heal our hurts just like my friend's kisses healed her boy's hurt. Even better yet, some day there will be no more tears.

Isaiah 25:8-9 says this , " He will swallow up death for all time, and the LORD God will wipe away tears from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from the earth; For the LORD has spoken. And it will be said in that day, 'Behold this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.' "

Do some imagining with me for a moment... Can you see the mighty hand of God reaching to wipe away the tears from all faces? Think about it. This is the same God "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand" (Isaiah 40:12). This is the hand of the God who created the universe. This the hand of the God who conquers death. This same hand that is attached to the all powerful God is going to ever so tenderly wipe the tears from your face once and for all!

I hope that as you and I face the hurts and struggles of this life we can remember these verses and be encouraged by them. I don't want to forget this glimpse of the future that I was given in the ordinary. Remember there is no Comforter like God and let's look ahead with joy to the day when God's hand lovingly wipes away the tears from our faces!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Word for the Weary...

I have been pondering some words from Isaiah these past few days. Isaiah 40:28-31 says this:

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary."

I know of a lot of weary people right now. Parents with wayward children, friends whose family members have cancer, people waiting for test results, and my husband and I find ourselves once again expecting job loss. One hundred more teachers are to be laid off this school year. This means that I know a whole school district full of tired people! Yet God is not tired. How is that? I grow tired of coming to Him with so many burdens. "Hey God it's me again! Yeah that's right I was here two minutes ago but I have another one for you!" He never sends me away and He always encourages me to continue interceding until all is completed.

It amazes me that God doesn't grow weary. Think about it...no one is busier than God. God who daily listens to all of our cares, concerns, complaints, hurts, needs, wants, fears, and anxieties is NOT weary. We run to Him and our needs are endless. We are a needy people. Yet He never grows weary of the listening, the providing, the loving of us. What's more amazing is that these verses say that we can have the same strength and lack of weariness that He does. "Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength".

Somehow that word "wait" has a note of expectation to it. It is in the waiting for God to act, the waiting for God to answer, the continuous letting go of the burden into His hands that we find strength. Waiting for the Lord provides the strength we need in the struggles of every day life on this earth. Waiting for the Lord provides the strength that we need to continue to go to God and intercede for others. It is the expectant hope that our God hears us and will respond. It is the expectant hope that God will grant us the strength that we need to continue on in the things that He has called us to do.

I don't know about you but I could use a good dose of this "new strength" He is offering. Let's look to God when we are weary and remember the words of Isaiah. Remember that no matter how tired you are God is never tired and always has "new strength" to offer those who wait for Him. Join me in waiting for Him so that we can "run and not get tired, walk and not get weary" together!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What You Sow In Tears...

I was in the car traveling to meet with a friend last night. I really enjoy my car time. Sounds funny doesn't it? Let me explain. I enjoy those rare car times when I am alone in the car headed somewhere. It gives me an opportunity to listen and enjoy quiet, sing really loud to my favorite music, or talk to God out loud without anyone over hearing. Last night I began my car time by talking to God. I was telling Him about someone I have been praying for, how I am at a loss to know how to be there for this person,and at a loss as to how to pray about the circumstances they find themselves in. Sometimes just listening is the best and only way to be there for someone but sometimes it feels like it's not enough. This has been one of those times. I asked Him to show me how to be there for this person the way they need me to and how He wants me to pray. Then I put in a CD and enjoyed singing along with it. I got to this one verse in a particular song and it felt like God smacked me over the head with a brick! The verse was " Jesus, you are stronger more than any other."

I turned off the music and began to talk to Him again about the brick I felt He smacked me with! How quickly I forget how big, strong, and capable He is. How quickly I forget that there is no such thing as an impossible person or situation for Him. Sometimes the things in our lives or the lives of others that we pray for seem so dark, heavy, hopeless, and impossible that we are at a loss as to how to even pray about them anymore. God is never at a loss for anything. I had to ask Him to forgive me for forgetting that He is stronger and bigger than it all. As I sat in the quiet He reminded me of some verses that I have been holding on to for a while. They are Psalm 126: 5-6 " Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing forth his sheaves with him."

Just like a seed is planted and it takes months or even a whole year before it grows, so it is with prayer. Sometimes I am literally planting those seeds of prayer in tears on my knees. Sometimes the wait for the answers to prayer can be excruciating. It's easy to wonder in those moments if God sees the tears as we sow or hears the prayers we are praying. He sees and He hears. He has promised that what we sow in tears we will reap in joy.

I write this to remember it always for those long moments of waiting for the harvest and sowing in tears. I also write it for those of you who are sowing in tears right now. For the mothers and fathers who are praying for their wayward sons and daughters to return to God, the wives who are praying for their husbands to be freed from their addictions, the husbands who are praying for their marriages to be healed, the man or woman praying for their spouse's salvation, the singles who are waiting and praying for God to bring them a spouse, and the woman who prays that God will give her a child. No matter what prayer seed you are sowing God sees, He hears, and He keeps His promises. Don't be discouraged and don't forget how powerful and loving our God is. Keep on sowing...

Monday, January 2, 2012

His Hands and Feet...

I have recently been asking God to use this blog beyond what He already does in encouraging others. I am not entirely sure what all of that involves but a week after praying about it I received an email from a ministry that my husband and I support. In the email they mentioned that they were interested in using bloggers to spread the word about those who need help. I saw it as part of God's answer to my prayers, a way that He could use this blog to further help others. Occasionally you will be reading a blog post sent to me from Water Melon Ministries. As you read these posts please ask God how you can be His hands and feet in helping those you are reading about. It's a way to speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak up for themselves. Thank you for reading this and taking the time to allow your heart to be broken with what breaks His. Please join me in actively being His hands and feet in this year of 2012. Let's start with saving the Nuba.



Have you ever wondered what you would have done had you been alive in 1940 and was one of those who knew about the Holocaust?

Would you have been a person of action or a person of silence?

It is perhaps one of the most important issues to wrestle with. More than once in our lifetime we will find ourselves at a crossroad, one where the decision we make will reveal as much about our character as our convictions.

There is a genocide happening right now in Northern Sudan. The government is eradicating their own people. If we don’t speak up and help, no one else will. Each time North Sudan launches an attack to kill their own people, and we in the Western world remain silent, we give our permission to continue.

It is easier to overlook what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Sudan because the task feels overwhelming and thinking about it can make us feel helpless.

The truth of the matter is that one person alone cannot save the Nuba People. But a community of people acting in unison can.

One of the most extraordinary acts found in mankind is when a member of the human race deliberately goes out of his way to help another. It is love in action. It is loving your neighbor. It is doing unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

This month, The Persecution Project Foundation has launched a campaign called Save the Nuba. In order to prevent another genocide, they need the help that only a community can offer.

For those who can afford it, the need for food and medicine is desperate.

For those who have little to give, they’re asking for petitions signed, for awareness to

be spread through social media (Facebook, Twitter and blogs.)

For those who are passionate about this cause, they need your help raising awareness.

Will you join us in speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves?

Please visit www.SavetheNuba.com to learn ways you can help.