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.