Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013


      "And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.'" Revelation 21:5.  This is the verse that my 2013 began with.  I remember staring at it and wondering what exactly God would make new and what He meant by ALL things.  The word "new" often comes with excitement and change. For some of us, the thought of change can bring hesitation and anxiety.  I had mixed emotions.  Ultimately my curiosity won out and I wrote it on a note card and put it on the refrigerator.  I figured that by the time the year was over I would have my answers.

     This is my New Year tradition. At the start of each year  I ask God to give me a Scripture verse.  Once He lays one on my heart I write it down and put it on the refrigerator where I can see it each day. I find that the verse often ends up being a guide throughout the year as well as a glimpse of what is to come and what to expect. Perhaps, now you'll better understand my mixed emotions upon receiving this one!

      Did making all things new mean  a new job for my husband? When He says ALL things, would that mean a new job out of the area that would require us to move? Moving would certainly make many things new!  If we are going to move, where and why?  These were a few of my questions. Now let me tell you about some of the things that He made new.

     In January of 2013 my grandma died.  I was there with her the day she died. I didn't want to go but  I had the overwhelming  urge to do so. My aunt and cousin were taking care of her in her final hours and I felt strongly that I should check on them and see how they were doing. I fought against the urge because I knew I would see Grammy too. Selfishly I didn't want that to be my last memory of her. However, that urge was from God and I couldn't seem to make it go away. I went and I have no regrets. God used it in ways I could never have imagined. In my grief I was able to be His hands and feet and comfort my aunts, uncles, and cousins. He made my relationships with them new. Being there that day  continues to give me an open door for countless more opportunities to share His love with them in a tangible way.

     At the end of March my husband decided to only work his car detailing business instead of having another job on the side with steady income.  Up until that point, the business had always been a part time thing and never made enough to support us. He felt that God was directing him to do this and he stepped out in faith. Our needs have consistently been met and our bills have been paid on time.

     In May my friend Hank died and I was surprised to learn that he left me His jeep.  I didn't know that Hank cared that much for me. He wasn't good at expressing those things. God had used him to teach me how to love an ornery old man. Spending time with Hank helped me learn how to listen well. God's blessing of this new vehicle and instruction on giving freely has made some things new inside of me. I'm being made new in giving more freely because of how freely I have been given to.

     These are just a few examples of how God has  made things new this year.  We didn't move. My husband didn't get a new job. The ALL in making all things new, was us. Through grief, new direction for work, Hank's gift, and many other decisions that we've had to make God has made us new. We haven't been able to plan ahead or see more than one step in front of us the entire year. Often times we didn't know where God was leading us until we were right up on it in the journey.  It has taken the entire year for this to be okay with me! I am not wired for surprise or flying by the seat of my pants it frustrates me to no end. The biggest thing that has been made new this year is my heart, my trust in Him to lead me in the dark. Isn't that really what He is always after? The things I wondered about when I first received the verse were all external. God looks on the heart. We can face the external only when we let Him have His way in the internal workings of our heart.

     I will enter 2014 tomorrow with a new verse.  I don't know what the year will hold or how that verse will play out. What I do know is that even if I walk through the year never able to see more than one step in front of me, I am more than okay because He is my light and He holds my hand. How precious that God loves us so much that we don't travel into the unknown alone!  I pray that as you enter into this new year you will know the comfort and the power of His presence in every moment. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Wonders of His Love...

      He was one of the last few people to come through the line that night.  He came for food but left with more. Isn't that the way it always is with God, we come for one thing and we leave with so much more?  I came to pray with those who would come through the line for food and I left with so much more.

     I asked the man if I could pray with him. He began to tell me all of the things he wanted to pray about. Twice he repeated that he just wanted God to be pleased with the good things he was trying to do so that he might be considered worthy to be with God in heaven someday.  It broke my heart. So I did the only thing that I could. I interrupted him and I began to tell him the wonders of God's love.

     I told him about what Christ did on the cross and pointed him to the only Way to get to heaven. He replied, "I know all that. I've already prayed and received Him."  Then I asked him why he felt he needed to earn his way if he already received Christ as his Savior. He said, " I just want to make sure. It doesn't hurt to double check and pray for salvation again. I guess it's because of my childhood. I feel insecure."  Wow!

     I can't relate to feeling insecure about Christ's love for me or feeling insecure about my salvation. I committed my life to Him at four years old and I had parents and grandparents who loved me. I was secure in their love.  I was blessed to grow up with a church family that regularly demonstrated Christ's love and Pastors who preached it. Until I met this man at food pantry, I had no idea what a difference that makes in one's ability to feel secure in Christ's love.

     As our conversation continued God blessed me with the opportunity to share some Scriptures with my new friend.  God gave me the words to tell him that he belongs to Christ. He is loved, he is known by name, and he will never be forsaken. We talked about Isaiah 43:1b "Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!"  Then I told him about Isaiah 49:15-16a, " Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands."  He couldn't get over it. The God of the universe would not forget him because his name is written on God's hands...he is THAT loved!  When we were done talking and it was time to pray, I asked him again what I could pray about and he said, "That I remember all of this."

     Christmas, the holiday,  has come and gone since that night at food pantry. It occurs to me that Christmas is really every day when we have Christ. When we have Christ we have the wonders of His love. Love that won't leave us and love that knows us by name. Sharing the security of His love with others is a joy and a gift!  When we are convinced of His love for us...when we are secure in His love for us, we can't contain it. We must share it. We must share it because there is a world full of people just like my new friend at food pantry.  Sometimes we can get intimidated by the thought of trying to share these things with people. Praying with people I don't know at food pantry in recent months has taken me out of my comfort zone. However, it has quickly become the place where I have the most joy and the place where I regularly sense God's Presence. How about you? Do you have any idea how much God loves you? Then share it, be it, radiate it!  There is a world full of people who desperately need it!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Room...

      He came small. He came vulnerable. Jesus, the King of Kings made His grand entrance in a simple stable because there was no room in the inn. He came quietly, without red carpet fanfare. As I reflect on how He came, I must consider how I celebrate Him. Do I make room for Him?

      I have only ever thought of making room for Him in the context of making room in my schedule to spend time with Him.  Yet recently when I asked Him what it means to make room for Him I heard Him say, "You make room for me when you make room for others."  So I've been thinking about this a lot these last few days.  How is it that I make room for Him when I make room for others?  Then I was reminded of what it says in Matthew 25:35-40,  "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' "  

     When I make room for others I make room for Him. What I do for others I am actually doing for Him.This is a humbling thought especially during what tends to be one of the busiest times of the year. Is there any room? In the middle of Christmas shopping and Christmas baking, is there any room? When I am running from one Christmas  event to the next, is there any room?  Matthew twenty five makes it seem so simple but in the fast paced, activity filled world we live in it becomes complicated.  So how do we do it? How do we make room for Him by making room for others?

     I believe we can find the answer by looking at how He came. He didn't come with fanfare. Jesus came humbly and in the most vulnerable form...as a baby.  Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, came as a servant. This is how we must come and make room for others and by doing so make room for Him. We must make ourselves vulnerable and be willing to share of ourselves with others even though we chance getting hurt. We must be humble. Pride and ego will always get in the way of loving others well. We must be servants. Servants give sacrificially...and isn't that what Jesus did? He made the ultimate sacrifice and gave us the ultimate gift...His life. 

     There is plenty of opportunity to make room for others.  I suspect that these opportunities may be easier to spot if we truly looked at spending time with others as spending time with Jesus. What if I saw listening to someone share their joys and struggles with me, as spending time with Jesus? What if inviting someone into my home for dinner wasn't just making room for them at my table, but making room for Jesus at my table? ("I was hungry and you fed me.") What if making room in my schedule to visit someone who is sick, depressed, or lonely is really making room for Jesus? What about our children? What if choosing to play with them instead of checking facebook one more time, is making room for Jesus? 

     I am challenged by the thought that the best way to truly celebrate Christ is to make room for others and by doing so, make room for Him. If this is the best way to celebrate Him, then the celebration  lasts my whole life through and is no longer confined to Christmas. If this is how I choose to celebrate Him, then I can become a gift to others and this will be a gift to Him as well!



Monday, November 25, 2013

Glory...

     Saturday was a precious day spent with family. My home was full and so was my heart. We celebrated my youngest daughter's birthday surrounded by her grandparents, aunt, uncles, and new cousin. We ate food, watched football, did a puzzle, and played with the baby. I was an active participant and an onlooker at the same time. I was taking it in far too aware that life is short and at any time one of those dear ones may not be here for a birthday celebration. Far too aware because of the Bible that was placed in my hand when my brother arrived... grandpa's Bible.

     I asked him for it a month ago but he forgot. I have plenty of Bibles but none of them are grandpa's Bible. Grandpa's Bible is worn, duct taped, underlined, with notes scribbled inside. It's weathered all the storms that grandpa weathered before he died nine years ago.  In many ways it is a journal of his walk with God. I plan to use it for Advent with the kids. I want them to see the scribbles, the duct tape, and the underlining. I want them to know that he got up with the sunrise to kneel, to pray, and to read the Word. I want a visual illustration of a life long friendship. They have their own Bibles and they have their own time spent alone with God each day.  However, I want them to see the years and the mileage in these worn pages. I want them to see the beauty and the richness of a life lived for Christ that has affected generations.  As I attempt to live out my faith I want them to know of others who did too. I want them to see the life in the worn pages because that is what life has felt like for me this year...worn. Worn, weathered, full, and messy.

     They need to know that faith isn't wrapped up in some neat little package. Real faith wrestles with God. Real faith is messy... messy like duct taped Bibles. I can't give them that by simply showing them a Bible or teaching them how to read it. I have to let them see me living my messy life and wrestling with God through  the hard questions. I need to bring them alongside of me on my journey with God in the good times and in the trials. I need to recount His faithfulness to us. Grandpa was good at this. He had a story for every thing and every story lead back to God and how God had been faithful. Isn't this how God is glorified? Isn't it in our sharing His faithfulness and living out our messy faith rather than giving pat answers wrapped in neat packages?

     In the front flap of the Bible written in shaky handwriting are the words, "God's purpose for our lives is His own glory."  Isn't that what we long to see, God's glory? I want to see it like Moses saw it in Exodus thirty three when he was hidden in the cleft of a rock and covered by the hand of God as God passed by. Even then Moses only got to see His back. I wonder...do I need some extravagant event like Moses to see God's glory? Isn't it all around me? Do I miss it in the worn and the weary moments? Or are those the very  moments when I am hidden in the cleft of the rock and covered by His hand as He passes by?

     I've been pondering this for about a week now. I've picked up that passage in Exodus and put it down time and time again. I let it go and then there were the words about God's glory written in grandpa's Bible...they brought me right back to it. This is what I realized: I have seen His glory in a thousand little ways but I have seen it most in the worn and weary. I didn't know it at the time because I wanted Him to show up big and bright. He decided to cover me and pass by. It's in the worn and the weary when I am not operating in my own strength, that God is glorified. When less of me can be seen God's glory shines brighter.

     The things we wrestle with, our trials, and our pain... all these things are the very things that God can use to show us His glory. Even then it's only a glimpse of what's to come. It's just His back as He passes by while we are hidden and we are covered.

    




Monday, November 11, 2013

Stop and Love...

     "I look at the life of my Savior, who stopped for one. So I keep stopping and loving one person at a time." These words from Katie Davis in her book Kisses from Katie, have been at the forefront of my mind lately. I have been thinking about what it means to stop and love one person at a time. In today's busy world just stopping is difficult. Jesus was busier than I am, and yet there are countless examples in the Bible of Him stopping to love just one. He stopped for Zaccheus. He stopped for the woman about to be stoned. He stopped for the man lowered through the ceiling that needed to be healed. He stopped sleeping to calm a storm. He stopped to heal the lepers. He stopped to heal a blind man. These are only a few examples of times that He stopped there are many others!

     I think stopping is the hard part. Stopping requires me to cease what I was doing. It requires me to set my agenda aside. Stopping takes the focus off of me and requires me to focus on the one person in front of me. Then of course there is loving. Loving the person that you stopped for can mean many things. At the very least it is giving them your undivided attention...undivided attention in a world full of distractions!  What does that look like? Undivided attention requires listening with more than your ears. It's being fully engaged so that you are able to see past the surface and into the heart of the person in front of you.  This kind of attention means that regardless of who this one person is that I am stopping to love, I see them with God's eyes. I see them through the eyes of love because that is how God sees me.

     This is a tall order. God places people in front of us daily. Some of those people are "regulars" like our spouses, children, and co workers. Sometimes they are the ones that are hardest to stop for because we are so used to them being around that we take them for granted. How well are we loving them? Do we take the time to really hear what they have to say? Do we take an interest in what they are saying or are our minds elsewhere?  What about the people God sends our way who aren't "regulars"?  When we spend time with them do they walk away feeling loved?  When they are sharing their thoughts and feelings with us, do we make them feel that they are the only one in the room because we are so focused on stopping to love them that nothing can distract us?

   I am convicted by the thought that God who has to take care of a whole world full of people, is never too busy to make time for me. When I come to Him I have His undivided attention and His love. He never says He is too busy or asks me to come back later. I know He is this way with everyone and yet manages to make each one of us who know Him feel like the apple of His eye. Those words from Katie Davis have grabbed a hold of me and I am praying that God will help me to be like Him.  I want to stop as He does and love one person at a time.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

What Are You Missing?

     What are you missing? This question has been plaguing me since last night. It's not so much a question I am asking myself as it is a question God seems to be asking me. I believe the events of yesterday are what set the question in motion.

     Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on the end of my daughter's bed as she was getting ready for a youth event.  It had been a challenging week for her and I but God had brought us through it. I was thankful for the insights He gave me. I was thankful to see His hand in her life and how He is shaping her heart.  As I sat on the bed, she was asking a lot of questions about the event she was going to. I had some answers but not all of them and she was getting a little bit frustrated with me because she likes to know every detail ahead of time. She is a planner....like me. Her persistence was getting on my nerves but I didn't want to be short with her so I started talking to God about it. It went like this, "You know you have quite a sense of humor God, making her and I so much alike. I get so frustrated sometimes."  Then as I sat there quietly I heard Him say, "This is the child you prayed for. Do you remember how you pleaded with me during your pregnancy for her life? After the ultrasound showed both kidneys filled with cysts? Remember where you have been together and the work I am doing in her heart? What about last summer when you pleaded with me again for her as she lay in the hospital getting blood transfusions?"  I can be so focused sometimes on the progress yet to be made or the things that bug me now that I miss the beautiful person God is making her to be. I miss where we've been. Worst of all, I miss the gift of my girl right in front of me.

     Later we arrived at the church and I waited for the new youth director so that I could give him the permission slips. After giving him the permission slips I thanked him, shook his hand and said "It was nice to meet you." to which he replied, "Oh you've met me before."  I gave a quick apology and explained that I am terrible at remembering names. Honestly, that conversation bugged me the rest of the night! I kept replaying the few times last year that I brought my child to youth group and tried to remember any faces I saw. I tend to be a "drop and go" parent. It's not because I am anxious to get rid of my kids. I'm just not the social butterfly my husband is so I leave right away. Later that evening, I asked my husband if I had ever met the new youth director before and he confirmed that I in fact am not losing my mind! I truly had never met him before. I felt much better until God kept asking me what I was missing. I can miss people's faces. I may see them with my eyes but do I see them with my heart? Are they just another face in the crowd?  Evidently this new youth director had been a helper off and on for the past few years. True I was never introduced to him before, but he was probably there a few times when I went to pick my daughter up and I missed him because he was just another face in the crowd. Here's the thing...God never misses a face in the crowd. He sees each individual not only with His eyes but His heart. When I see only faces I am missing something. When I see only faces in a crowd, I miss seeing Christ in all faces!

     After leaving my daughter with the new youth director, I went inside the church to help out with the food pantry. My favorite part of helping with food pantry is praying with the people as they come in the door. There are usually two or three people who pray with those coming through the doors to receive food. Last night I was the only one. It is always a stretch for me to say, " Can I pray for you?" to people I have never met before. The more I do it the easier it becomes but it still takes me out of my comfort zone. Last night I got an unexpected answer to my question of "Can I pray for you?".  I asked the question and a tall, gray haired man, with big blue eyes and filthy clothes responded, "No, but I tell you what I could use. I could use a hug. I could use a hug because three months ago on this day my friend died. Then today I was reading the paper and found out that another of my friends died. I found out today."  He had no tears. He spoke calmly. I wasn't sure if he was telling the truth about his friends dying or he just wanted a hug, so I gave him a half hug. He thanked me and went on his way. As he walked away God spoke to the questions in my heart about the man's honesty and here is what He said, " What if he was telling the truth? Everyone mourns differently. No tears doesn't mean he isn't mourning. What if he was telling the truth...you know what it's like to lose someone...you only gave him a half hug."  I did the only thing I could.  I ran out to the parking lot to catch the man before he left and I asked him if I could give him another hug. What did I miss?  I missed freely giving a good hug away the first time because I questioned his honesty. I missed loving Him like Christ loves me...freely and unconditionally.

     When I fail to see Christ in all faces and in all circumstances, I miss the big picture.  When all I see are the frustrations or difficulties of the moment with my children, I miss the the work Christ is doing in them. I also miss how He is ever working on me through my children. I miss the gift that they are when I focus only on the work it requires to raise them. When I walk among groups of people whether it's dropping off my kids at a youth event or leaving a church service, if I don't look beyond just passing them in the hallway I miss seeing the people behind the faces in the crowd. I miss fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. When I am too busy trying to assess someone's motive behind their request, I miss the opportunity to freely love them the way Christ has loved me. I know I am not the only one. We live in a fast paced world. Our lives are filled... often to overflowing. I have to ask, what are you missing? When you look at your children do you see the gift that they are? When you are around people, do you see that they are created by a God who loves them and wants you to love them too?  Are they just faces that you pass by as you go about your day? Will you join me as I seek God's help not to miss anything else? John 10:10 says that He came that we might have life... not just any old life... life abundantly. An abundant life doesn't miss anything!







Saturday, October 12, 2013

Illumined...

    "For You light my lamp; The LORD my God illumines my darkness." Psalm18:28.  These words have grabbed a hold of me for some time now. I find myself regularly reflecting on the many ways God illumines my darkness. There are many ways that we can experience darkness in this life. We can experience darkness through sin, need of direction, uncertainty about the future, loneliness, the death of a loved one, and depression. 

    What is your darkness? Have you ever walked a dark path with only the beam of a small flashlight to illuminate one step at a time? Have you been at a place in life where you cannot see any more than where to place one foot in front of you to take that one next step? This is the darkness my husband and I find ourselves in.

    Our lives have been like this since my husband's job loss in 2012. I'm a planner and not being able to look ahead drives me nuts! I need to see an end in sight and to know exactly how to get there by planning each step carefully. Yet God has us in this spot of not being able to see an end. We know it's there but we don't know what it is or what exact steps we will need to take to get there. Right now we walk the dark path illumined by the tiny beam of a flashlight, only able to see one step at a time. I have grown tired of this in recent months. I have been eager to close this chapter of our lives move on and start new.  These last two weeks God has grabbed a hold of my heart with that verse from Psalm 18 as well as two others, " Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. He will bring me out to the light, and I will see His righteousness."  Micah 7: 8b & 9b. It's not that I have felt alone in this darkness of waiting and not seeing more than one step at a time. It's that I grow impatient. I want to learn what I need to learn and move on to what I hope will be easier more stable times. What I have failed to see is that the process of walking with only God to light my way through this, is precious no matter how long it takes. What I have failed to see is that there won't be a more easy or more stable time up ahead. This IS the easy and stable time BECAUSE I can't see what lies ahead and I HAVE to rely on God completely to light my way. 

    For my husband and I, walking this dark path has meant only taking the next step that God lights for us and not trying in our own strength. It's meant finishing things that were started instead of leaving them undone and getting side tracked with other things we think are more important.  It's meant praying for more work so we can pay our bills, completely dependent on God to supply for us. Oddly enough that is what I have found most comforting in the darkness. Can you believe it? The most comforting part of the darkness has been depending on God to supply our needs. It's been knowing that we don't have a steady pay check but we have Him. He is our stability and as long as we look to Him to light our way, we won't stumble in the darkness. 

   These past few weeks as I have pondered all these things and spoken to God about them, I have found comfort. I don't know when this chapter of our life will come to an end but I actually find myself sad at the thought of it. I no longer want to rush through the process because I am enjoying His presence so much.  I have experienced a closeness and dependency in this period of darkness that I don't want to lose or ever forget. I am thankful that God is our light. I am thankful that no matter what type of darkness we find ourselves in, He illumines it rather than leaving us to stumble along life's paths alone and clueless.

  How about you? What is your darkness? Is it illness, depression, loneliness, a need for direction?  It doesn't matter what it is He will be your light if you let Him.  You don't have to go it alone. You too can enjoy the light of His precious presence in the midst of the darkness!



   




 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

For Fathers of Daughters...

Dear Dads,

Do you remember the day she was born? The moment that shear panic gripped your soul because you held in your giant hands a tiny baby girl? What's a man to do with a girl? Doesn't raising boys come more naturally? Yet somehow that baby girl grabbed a hold of your heart with her tiny fingers, squeezed it real tight, and hasn't let go since!

Raising girls is a different kind of challenge. I know, I have two and I was a girl once myself! They can be emotional, dramatic, hormonal, and unpredictable. You're doing your best. You provide for her, comfort her, and protect her. Those are all important things but there's more...much more.

As a woman, I have met a lot of broken women. Not all of them, but quite a few of them have this in common...they lacked the presence of a father in their lives. In some situations the father wasn't around at all in others he was too busy or too focused on other things. Don't ever underestimate the importance of being a present active participant in your daughter's life. How she experiences love and acceptance from you, will shape her view of how she should experience love and acceptance from men when she is older.

Be the kind of husband to your wife that you want your daughter to marry some day. She's watching whether you realize it or not. How you treat her mother is how she will think she ought to be treated. Does she see you being affectionate, respectful, helpful, and encouraging with her mother? Are you the same way with her?

Do you build your daughter up the way you cheer on your son when he hits a home run? Does she know that she is smart, kind, beautiful, talented? In a world that regularly tells girls and women that they are not skinny enough, pretty enough, etc. does she know that she is more than enough in your eyes?

Love her like God our awesome Heavenly Father loves you. Extend her the same grace and forgiveness that you have received from Him especially when she disappoints you. If you do this then she will always know that no matter what she can come to you and find open arms instead of judgement. Loving her like God loves you invites her to learn from her mistakes, grow wiser from them, and receive forgiveness from her Heavenly Father as well.

I know it's a tall order. It's impossible without God's help but you can do it.  All of us women who were once Daddy's little girls know that you can. You look in the mirror and see a mere man. We look at our dads and see Superman... that's how confident we are in you.  So grab your cape and head out into the great unknown of raising a daughter, but go knowing that God's already given you all that you need to do the job.

Happy Father's Day to all of you wonderful Dad's out there. Thank you for your love, leadership, presence and the many sacrifices you make day in and day out! Your daughters love you!
Erica

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lessons From Hank...

My buddy Hank died two weeks ago. He was ninety one years old. Most would describe him as stubborn, grumpy, and self centered. Those were just symptoms. Hank was really lonely, misunderstood, and looking for love and acceptance...although he could truly be grumpy and stubborn at times!  I've learned a lot from Hank through the years.  Probably the biggest lesson I have learned is how to really hear someone.

Hank was a talker. He told stories non-stop. He was always the main character of the stories he told. He was the smart one, the strong one, the brave one, and the ambitious one. If you listen to a person long enough and really pay attention, you can hear the deeper plot.  You see, Hank really was all those things he portrayed himself to be, but he was also a lot more. In the listening I learned valuable lessons.

Hank's life stories reminded me that money doesn't buy friends. Money doesn't even guarantee your family will like you let alone love you. Money doesn't buy happiness.  In fact, no matter how generously you give of your money to help others or support a good cause, if you can't do it expecting nothing in return you might as well not do it at all. Hank was a very generous man who was often hurt because people seldom said thank you. He let the hurt make him bitter. So bitter at times that he wasn't able to see the people in front of him who loved him with no strings attached. You had to be able to let that go if you loved Hank. I did.

Loving Hank taught me that the world is full of ornery old men that no one wants to bother with. No one wants to bother with them because who knows what to do with them? What makes old men ornery any way? Is there a way to get the ornery out of the old man? The answer is love. The ornery is just the mask they wear to hide the hurt and the loneliness. Love them, listen to them, accept them as they are. Remember the ornery old man is someone's brother, father, or grandfather. Love them like you would love your own. This is the only way to get the ornery out of the old man!

Hank was my reminder to live a life of no regrets. Hank worked so hard and so late into life that he didn't marry until he was in his fifties. He once told me he wished he hadn't waited so long because then he would have had children. Don't spend your life chasing things and miss what is truly important.  Say your "I love you's" now, play with your kids now, spend time with your spouse now, go visit family now.  Things will always be there but people won't. Life is full of moments you can't get back. Don't miss them because you are too busy building your financial future or keeping up with the Jones'.

Finally, there is this.... Hank was wealthy by this world's standards but the poverty in his soul was incredible! Don't assume that someone who has everything wants for nothing more. Sometimes the richest people are actually the poorest. Love them like Jesus loves them so that you may have the opportunity to point them to Him. Once they find Him they will truly be rich!

I thank God for Hank. I am thankful for every story I sat through, every conversation, every Christmas, and every hug we shared. Though I miss him, I know I will see him again someday. 






Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Letter to Mothers...

Dear Moms,

God knows that having a child is like walking around with your heart beating on the outside of your chest...vulnerable. He was there during the night when it was all you could do to lift your weary body out of bed and feed the baby. He knows how many times you went back into the nursery just to make sure everything was alright, and smiled because your little one looked so angelic sleeping! He was there for the moments that you held your breath as your little super heroes ran into oncoming traffic, jumped off of cars, and climbed up the tallest trees. While you watched wide eyed, ran yelling with arms flailing ,to tell them that they would surely get hurt! He heard the prayer... the one of thanks that you exhaled the moment they were safely planted on the ground with all of their body parts in tact, and He smiled because He had it under control all along!

The many times you've spent on your knees haven't escaped Him either.  Battle worn, weary, broken, searching for wisdom, scared to death, and afraid of failing them. He was there, do you remember? Do you remember how peace washed over you when you were too exhausted to pray another prayer? You knew He was there and He would handle it because you had finally let go. Then came the break through. His wisdom guided you. All was well again and you were amazed!

He's seen every tear that you've cried.  He knows how often you feel like a failure. He's heard your greatest fear...you know the one. The one all of us have at some point.  The fear that grabs a hold of us in the midst of our biggest blow ups and says, "You've done it now! They will be the kids sitting in the shrink's office declaring 'It's all my mother's fault!' " Yup! That one!  Still He hasn't abandoned you or made your biggest fear a reality.  No, instead He's brought other moms alongside of you to encourage you and to remind you that no one is perfect.

Finally, there are the letting go moments... Kindergarten and beyond. Time has wings and it flies! It tears at your heart because as they grow, you have to let go more and more.  Beautiful and bittersweet all at once. Letting go isn't easy at all. Us moms can be pretty independent and stubborn! Letting go is necessary and perhaps that is one of the greatest lessons of motherhood...

Let go and let God. Take a deep breath and remember you are not alone. God has been with you all along. You don't have to be perfect because God already is. He is the only one who can hold that heart beating on the outside of your chest in the palm of His hand without crushing it, and shape it into something beautiful for His glory! Relax this Mother's Day, let go, remember God is with you and He loves you so much!

Erica



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Just As I Have Loved You"

   "Just as I have loved you".  These words have captured me for a few weeks now.  It began on a Sunday morning. The pastor told us when Jesus said "This is my commandment that you love one another, just as I have loved you" He was challenging us to go further than the previous "You shall love your neighbor as yourself".  I realized that I had never really thought about the differences between the two before. In my mind it was somehow all the same. Since then I have been sorting out the differences and see very clearly the deficiencies in the way I love others.

   It's easier to love your neighbor as yourself because we don't love ourselves well to begin with. Sometimes we don't take good care of ourselves or maybe we don't extend grace and mercy to ourselves, so why do this for others?  To love one another the way God loves us...now that seems impossible! He loves loves us unconditionally.  He provides for us. He comforts us. He ALWAYS forgives us. He is way more merciful to us than we are to ourselves. Finally, there is this...

   His love went to the cross for us and we didn't deserve that kind of love.  "Just as I have loved you" meant the cross. This most of all is what Christ meant when He said, "Love one another just as I have loved you".  This is the kind of love that costs something. The kind of love that doesn't discriminate but willingly lavishes itself on the unresponsive and the undeserving.  This love has no conditions.

   After thinking about all of this I have to ask myself  do I love just as He has loved me? Does the love I give to others cost me anything? Is it selfless or self seeking?  Is there any sacrifice in it? Even if it does cost me something, how much? Christ's love for us cost Him everything. It's a sobering thought.  All I can do is ask Him to make me like Him...selfless.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thirteen...

This post is for those of you who thought I would be sad or upset today because my daughter turned 13! You know who you are...  The good news is I am not! I think twelve nearly did me in so thirteen is now okay!  Twelve was the year that the stuffed animals went up on the shelf and I became "Mom" instead of "Mommy".  Thirteen has shown up today and I can't help but look at her in awe. Yes, the same awe and wonder that I gazed upon her with the day she was born.

I see God's hand on my girl and it's beautiful. My tears hold no sorrow. It's all joy, wonder, and gratitude.  The gift has been to see His hand shaping her heart. I see the prayers of a messed up, impatient, and anxious Mommy being answered. I see where we have been and stand in wonder at where He has brought the both of us.  I know it's all Him because I know my shortcomings. 

She devours her Bible. It's come alive for her and the Word is jumping off the pages and grabbing a hold of her heart!  She can't wait to tell her dad and I what she's learned and she is learning to apply it. Her heart is soft and she is choosing to love others well even when they don't love her well. She's learning to pray and freely shares with us what she has been talking to God about.  This...from the child who once said she didn't think He heard her. Now she is convinced!

She hugs me.  Last year the hugs disappeared quite a bit.  This year they are the kind that hold on tight.  The child who never was all that cuddly hugs me now. The girl who often had the answers, now asks her dad's advice. She soaks it in like a sponge and looks up to him like he is the one who hung the moon. It warms my heart to watch it.

Here I am pondering all these things on the day she has turned thirteen. I am holding them close and sharing just a glimpse of my treasures. I know that 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 are to follow and who knows what they hold!  Today  I  am pausing with a heart full of gratitude for what God is doing in my girl. Tomorrow I will hit my knees and pray it continues, convinced that prayer is powerful.  God has answered the many prayers that have brought us to where we are at 13!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Grandma...




    Grandma went to heaven on Tuesday. I was asked to write something to celebrate her life. Since I have often seen God in my Grandma I thought I would share what I wrote. The most influential people in our lives are the ones who are full of God's love and do not hesitate to share it with everyone.

   When I think of Grandma I think of love. She was full of love and life. She didn’t hesitate to express that love. She didn’t hold back. Her love for her family was fierce.  She didn’t just hug, she held on to you for dear life. She couldn’t just sit next to you she had to have her arm around you.  Every conversation ended with the words, “I love you”.  Some may have felt she was a little over the top with all of this affection.  I believe she was wise. She was wise enough to know that life is short and no one is guaranteed another tomorrow with the ones they love. So she chose to love everyone well every chance she got. 

   She loved sacrificially. Grandma held on to her possessions loosely. They did not hold on to her. If you needed something and she had it, it was yours. She always said, “I can’t take it with me when I’m gone so I might as well see the ones I love enjoy it while I’m here.”  She was always thinking of others and worrying about them.  She was also generous with her time. She had time for others.  It didn’t matter what she was doing she had time to listen and time to talk. 

  Grandma loved honestly. She was uncensored. She had no filter. You never knew what she was going to say or in whose presence she might say it.   This could be embarrassing at times.  But she was honest in this way. In a world where people seldom present themselves the way they really are, some might call Grandma refreshing.  I can’t help but wonder if this too was because she knew life is short. Why waste time pretending?   

  She loved God.  She always said she wouldn’t be here without Him.  Even though she had a hard life, she never held it against God.  She loved Him because He walked her through it. He made her stronger because of it. He comforted her and provided for her and she looked forward to seeing Him face to face in heaven along with Grandpa. 

  I don't want to just remember her and honor her on this one day at her funeral. I want to honor her with the way I love others.  I want to love like she loved. That’s the legacy she has left here, a legacy of love. Love for God, sacrificial love, honest love, and love for family. Please join me and love others well. We aren't here very long and neither are they. The way we love others may very well be the only glimpse of God's love that they get.



Monday, January 28, 2013

When the Every Day is Hard...

     I haven't written anything since New Years. I think it's because this blog is supposed to be uplifting and life has not been very uplifting lately. My initial reasons for starting to blog were to document how I find God in the every day and to be a source of encouragement to others. Right now I struggle to write because the ways that I see God in the every day have been very different from before. The places He and I have been lately have been hard. It's not that we haven't been to hard places before. We have. The difference this time is that the hard places have brought on some serious questions and things to think about that I hadn't considered before. To explain them in order to get to the good stuff, is not so encouraging. Yet I sit here typing because it's important to share that God is there in the hard places. He is there in the places where all of life's difficult soul searching questions are, the refining places and the suffering places. This is where I've been.

    It all began when someone close to me witnessed her friend go to trial for murder. Then her friend was found guilty. Only God knows whether the person really committed the crime. Over the course of the trial the person I love has suffered in discovering that most of what she knew and believed about her friend was not true. So many lies. As I listened to her hurt I struggled with my own anger toward the source of the pain she was suffering. There was someone I wanted to set straight, tell off, yell at. Anger is like poison. It rages within and eats away at all that is good. So I asked God to help me see the person I was angry with through His eyes. I kept asking and then the anger was gone. Yet this is not where I saw God the most in this situation. Where He showed up the biggest and brightest was in the realization that even the criminal needs God's love. Even the criminal needs forgiveness and mercy. To see the person who has caused someone I love so much suffering through God's eyes, is to realize that I am no better. My sins are just as ugly and just as grievous. God has walked me through this hard place and taught me about His love and His mercy and now I am praying for the person who caused such suffering. I am praying for them to go to God and receive forgiveness, mercy, and restoration.

     Another hard place God and I have been to a lot lately, is the hospital. My grandmother was there.  We have come so close to losing her and some have gone to great lengths to keep her here. Despite this we will lose her yet. Grandma lived for the eternal. She didn't hold on to the things of this life tightly. If you needed it and she had it, she gave it to you. She always says, "I can't take it with me when I go so I might as well see the ones I love enjoy it while I'm here."   I honestly can't remember a time when she hasn't talked about looking forward to heaven. Although I love her and am thankful for whatever time I have with her, it breaks my heart that she is still here and suffering.  In the midst of all the praying and decision making my family has had to do for grandma, I find myself contemplating the same question over and over again. Why do we hold on so tightly to this life?

     This life is a good life but it is a hard life. Why would anyone want to hold on to it if they have a relationship with Christ? Why would any of us want to hold our loved ones here if we know they will go on to heaven. Heaven...the place where God wipes away the tears from all faces and there is no sickness, sorrow, or death. As I think on these things I also realize that there are so many other ways that we hold on to this life. We shouldn't.  We need to be like Christ who lived for the eternal. He gave everything away freely. He gave His love without discrimination. He gave His time even to the unlovely. He didn't hold onto possessions or accumulate wealth. He took what little He had and multiplied it to feed the five thousand. He even gave His life.

     Grandma has lived eighty years. Eighty years seems like a long time to us. It's really a short time compared to eternity with Christ. Each of us only has a short time here. It could be short as in 20 years or short as in 100 years, but it's still not a long time. So why hang on to it? Why not race each other to the finish line and see who can let go of it the fastest?  Who can give it away without hesitation? Who can be the quickest to love without discrimination, share their blessings, and make time to love the unlovely?

     This is where I have been. I have been pondering the hard questions of every day life. Eventually they come for everyone. I am just thankful that God and I have been discussing them together. Sometimes we have to have our hearts broken so He can make them new. Sometimes we have to ask for His eyes to see others and gain His perspective for the circumstances of our lives. It's not always the most uplifting place to be but I would rather be there with Him than go it alone.  Maybe you are reading this and find yourself wrestling through life's difficulties. Don't do it alone. Ask God to answer the questions of your heart and give you His perspective. It makes a world of difference!