Monday, July 30, 2012

Jordyn Wieber: What Should Have Been

Oh, how I love the Olympics.  I love the competition and witnessing humans doing seemingly unhuman tasks.  I love the pageantry and beauty of it all.  I love how the world seems to come together for several days all watching the same event and getting to know other cultures and nations.  Mostly, I love the people- their faces, their stories and witnessing them experience emotions that have been building inside for months or years.  Dreams accomplished- dreams dashed.

Last night, I like many of you was watching the woman's gymnastics for the Olympics.  I watched as the full reality of Jordyn Wieber's dashed dreams hit her square in the face in front of the world.  When she bowed her head and began to weep, I wept with her.  Her broken heart took residence in my chest and I hurt.  This momma wanted nothing more than to go to her and give her some much needed comfort.  I can only imagine what her mother experienced.... after all she had witnessed the countless practices, blood, sweat, and tears that were part of the journey leading to "what should have been".

I think I was so drawn to Jordyn because I have felt loss and my dreams were dashed.  When what should have been becomes what may never be.  When I witness her tears, I think back to those moments in my life.   Her pain and loss is real and it was for me too. I have been in places when it was so hard to see life going on in front of me when I felt the floor had fallen out from under my feet.  Such loss will change us- I don't think it is possible to go through such a deep personal grief and walk away the same.  I have distance from my heartbreaking moments to be able to reflect and look back- a changed perspective.  Those moments that brought the deepest pain, also ushered the deepest growth in my relationship with God.  The eyes that stung from crying countless tears saw things from the scriptures that I had been blinded from before.  The heart, broken in grief, found healing in the love of the Father.  The pride and self-sufficiency that sustained me before gave way to total dependence on the Father.  My dream and purpose faded into what His dream and purpose was for me.  In reflection, I am better because of the loss....

I read this quote from Beth Moore on Saturday and God kept it pricking at my heart, "With hands freshly loosed, we find liberty to embrace the one who never changes, and courage to release those who will."  Life is full of change: jobs aren't secure, relationships end, diseases happen, injustices occur and the "what should have beens" seem endless.  Life isn't easy and often isn't fair.  If we choose to cling to earthly things or individuals, we will be disappointed.  If we, however, run to the Father and embrace Him- clinging to Him with all strength- He will give you healing, peace, love and unspeakable joy again.  He takes your loss and gives you life.

"May our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, who loved us and in his good favor gave us everlasting comforts and good hope, comfort your hearts and give you strength in every good thing you do and say." 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NLT

"I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world." John 16:33 NIV

"...Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders"  Deuteronomy 33:12 NIV

Friend, has the floor fallen out from under you?  Did Jordyn's tears hit close to home because of the loss you are walking through right now?  Take heart and cling to God.  He will carry you through this and give you the strength you need today to walk through the hurt.  Maybe, you remember that painful journey, but can reflect on all that God did for you through it.  If so, praise Him- He did a miracle in you and deserves your praise today.  We need not be bound by our past, but we must never forget to praise the Father for the works He did in freeing us from it.  Today, turn to Him and look for the life in the loss.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Burned Bread- Just Another Life Lesson

Okay, I have often teased my family that I have to be part Italian because I love Italian food!  Reagan took me to an Italian restaurant on our first date and that may have sealed the deal!!   Thankfully, all of the boys seem to have that same passion for marinara, alfredo, ricotta, pasta, and ......garlic bread.  I love garlic bread.

The problem is that lately, I have burned it.  Now, I may not be a chef in the making, but I am a pretty good cook.  I rarely have a meal that the family doesn't enjoy and fairly often friends request recipes from me.  So, it is pretty unusual for me to let something burn, but I think it has happened 3 times over the past couple of months.  So much so that Carson and Caleb have started to tease me about it.  I have become a proficient charcoal scraper to get the burn off the crusty delight. I have requested that they not bring it up at my funeral - maybe they will forget in time.

Last night we had a new pasta dish and ....(wait for it).... I did not burn the bread!  I was so excited!!!  It hit me later that I kept a closer watch on it this time.  In some of the previous attempts I had gotten distracted with the final meal preparations and just didn't keep an eye on the bread in the oven.  So, the bread began to resemble a piece of charcoal. 

You know I think we all have some areas in our life that we have to watch closely or we get burned.  Sometimes we are burned by others and sometimes it is because of our own decisions.  If we have a relationship that is difficult in our lives, we may have to set appropriate boundaries in that relationship in order to protect ourselves.  Beyond setting those boundaries, we have to watch the boundaries we have set to make sure that we are remaining true to them.  Sometimes, we get burned because we make decisions which are unhealthy and set ourselves up to fail.... we must stay alert to situations that are difficult for us to handle.  For example, I once had a single friend mention that she had learned to not go to certain places by herself as too often she would become depressed and would struggle with self-pity.  She learned that it was best to avoid certain "pitfall" situations in order to not get burned and lose her focus on what God had for her.  Another friend was going through a difficult financial period and decided for a short time to avoid unnecessary trips to the stores because seeing things that they could not purchase was upsetting.  In order to not get burned by a focus on worldly possessions, they had to watch themselves closely and make an effort to limit certain shopping trips. 
I know certain areas in my life that I have to keep a close watch on in order to protect myself from being burned.  It takes being focused, alert and on guard when dealing with those certain areas of struggle- just like the garlic bread. 

"Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands.  Obey my commands and live!  Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes.  Tie them on your fingers as a reminder.  Write them deep within your heart."  Proverbs 7:1-3  NLT

As Christians, we are to be on guard and watch ourselves as well as to love wisdom and discernment.  As disappointing as burned garlic bread is to taste, being burned in life has far more lasting consequences and  painful ones at that.  So, keep your oven mitts on and watch the oven- don't burn the bread!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Zaccheaus the Tree Climber (Part 2)

Yesterday, I began to share the study God put on my heart to re-visit about the tax collector Zaccheaus and his experience meeting Jesus.  I realized just how disliked tax collectors were at that time and how even his wealth couldn't buy him a good position when wanting to view Jesus and he was forced to climb a tree.  I still believe that he carried an internal desperation to want to see this miracle man Jesus that would drive him up a tree.  Surprisingly, Jesus knew Zaccheaus' name despite there being no introduction- Jesus who is God- knew Zaccheasus already.  He called him by name and stated that he, the Christ, would be going to Zaccheaus' house that very day.  What an honor!  We are continuing our study in Luke 19:1-10.

One thing I did note, however, was that Jesus didn't say, "Hey, go clean up your house before I come.... say how about I give you an hour?".  Jesus didn't give him that option because Zaccheaus didn't need it.  You see, Christ never asks us to clean up before He comes.  He says bring me your mess and mistakes- let me take them from you and give you a new hope and a new future that includes me. Sometimes we think we have to get our lives together before we invite Jesus into it.... Friend, do you ever think we can get that prepared?  Honestly, no, we can't, but God doesn't ask us to.  For Him, it isn't a burden for us to give Him all our "junk"- it is a joy because He sees that we trust Him to take it and make our lives beautiful. 

Immediately, there were murmurs from the crowd.  How could Christ go to the home of such a sinner- someone who has hurt so many?  Surely there were far more individuals worth His time instead of a tax collector.  My friend, there are two lessons here for us.  First, when we come to the saving knowledge of Christ there may be some murmurs.... some may not believe that you have changed.  Sadly, while God redeems our hearts and lives others may cling to our past.  I encourage you to stand firm in Christ- do not be discouraged.  Eventually, they will come to see the difference within and will see the miracle God did inside you.  Do not grow weary in trying to prove yourself to others- focus on what God calls you to do and live your life to please Him.  Secondly, as believers we must exercise caution when the temptation to judge another's motive arises.  Only God and that individual know if a true transformation has taken place and we need to do our best to support their growth and discipleship without casting judgement upon them.  Many new believers need time, patience and kindness to grow in their knowledge of Christ- downcast eyes will not build their faith.  Support, even in just prayer, will help them mature and grow stronger in their relationship with Christ.  We must be diligent to watch ourselves because it is so easy to lose focus of the big picture and fall to the temptation to gossip and judge.

When Zaccheaus- in the presence of His Savior- heard these murmurings, he immediately made retribution for the sins he had committed.  I think in the true presence of Christ, all of us become more aware of the sin in our lives- the light from His glory makes them more easily seen.  Zaccheaus didn't have to clean up his mess to come to Jesus, but in light of his transformed heart, he felt moved and compelled to make a mends to those he had hurt.  Christ accepts us "as is", but that doesn't mean that all our problems just disappear.  We will still have to deal with some of our past decisions, but we now do it with Christ- not alone.  Consequences from previous mistakes may remain, but now you will have the strength of Christ- through the Holy Spirit- within you to help you.  Zaccheaus still had to deal with the fact that he had hurt many people, but now he did it with the support, help and guidance of Christ.  He, as a result, paid individuals 4 times what he had cheated them out of and gave half of his wealth to the poor in need. The money that had been his entire world was holding him captive, but Christ in a matter of seconds had set him free!  Someone who loved money more than anything found that having freedom in Christ exceeded the storehouse of coins he held so dear.  When you truly find the freedom from the sin that has held you so captive through Christ; you will cling to Him with all your might, because all else pales in light of that love. 

Christ reminds us that He came for those of us that were lost in our sin; those of us searching for more in this life.  A lost people searching for significance and hope become His chosen.  In Him we find peace, joy, hope, a future, freedom, and love beyond all that we have ever experienced.  Never doubt that the message spoken in honor of a unworthy tax collector still rings true today.  The freedom Zaccheaus found is still available- just place your worn and tattered dreams, failures, insecurities, hurts, disappointments and longings at His feet.  He will lift your head and give you dignity, a future and a priceless hope- never again will you feel unwanted.   You are the chosen redeemed from a love that gave all to give you all.  Like Zaccheaus, just seek to see Him!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Zacchaeus the Tree Climber (Part 1)

Several years ago God led me to the passage of scriptures describing the events surrounding Zacchaeus and his meeting with Christ.  Many of us grew up singing the song..."Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.  He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see, for the Lord he wanted to see.  And as the Savior passed that way, he looked up in the tree... and he said, 'Zacchaeus, You come down- for I am going to your house today.  For I am going to your house today!'"  I bet some of you are singing it right now!  I grew up with the story of Zacchaeus- this poor height deprived man who had to climb a tree to see Jesus.  When I took the time to really study this passage, God helped me relate to it in a more personal way.  Recently, God pulled me to study this passage again.

I encourage you to read Luke 19:1-10 which describes when Zacchaeus had a life changing appointment with the Son of Man.  Zacchaeus was a tax collector- a very wealthy tax collector.  Jewish people during this time did not care for tax collectors because they often felt cheated by those in that profession.  In my NLT Life Application Bible, one reference to this passage states: "To finance their great world empire, the Romans levied heavy taxes on all nations under their control.  The Jews opposed these taxes because they supported a secular government and its pagan gods, but they were still forced to pay. Tax collectors were among the most unpopular people in Israel. Jews by birth, they choose to work for Rome and were considered traitors.  Besides, it was common knowledge that tax collectors were making themselves rich by gouging their fellow Jews." 

So, it is easy to understand that Zacchaeus was not a very popular person among his fellow citizens.  Due to his being named a chief tax collector, another resource indicates that he was in charge of a district and that he had other collectors under him.  I can just imagine that his extreme wealth was matched only by the extreme displeasure others had for him.  Can you relate?  Have you ever had to deal with someone that just seemed to take advantage every chance they could and yet, they always seemed to benefit?  They rarely seem to have consequences for their actions and yet others suffer for them?  I think we have all had to deal with some of that before and it seems to stir a justifiable anger within us.  It is important to understand that Zacchaeus was a man that others despised.  He was a traitor to his people and benefited from their sacrifice and suffering.

Zacchaeus heard all the excitement of Jesus Christ coming into town.  He was curious- maybe he had heard of all the miraculous things that Christ had done and wanted to see this miracle worker for himself.  Perhaps he- who loved money- wanted to see what would drive some men to abandon all to just follow this healer.  Maybe he had all the wealth that one could possibly need and yet there was still something missing.  Whatever the reason, Zacchaeus found himself on the road to Jericho that day wanting to see this God man Jesus. 

Zacchaeus was short.  This I can relate to!! I still struggle sometimes to see over tall people who sit in front of me at the movies and I have to get a chair to get down the dishes in my top kitchen cabinet.  I will soon look up to my sons and rarely find anyone over the age of 13 who is shorter than I am.  So, I can feel a little sympathetic to his need to see over the crowd.  I think as Jesus drew closer, his desperation to see Christ grew and grew until he climbed a tree- longing only to catch a glance of this man.  None in the crowd would give their position up- especially to such a tax collector.  He might have wealth and means, but even money couldn't buy a good position to see the Savior.  To be honest, I think God had stirred a longing- a desperate need- in Zaccheaus to see this Christ.  Have you ever been that desperate to see Christ?  To see Him working in a broken relationship or to see Him supply a need?  I have been at that place, when I just needed - as much as the air in my lungs- to see Jesus.  To cling to His promises and place my hope in His everlasting word.  I think that was what drove Zacchaeus up in a tree-  straining to see the man Jesus. 

As Jesus came to where Zacchaeus was, I can almost visualize as He stopped, paused and looked up at Zacchaeus.  Even if he didn't know much about Christ, I still can imagine that his heart stopped for a second and he held his breath as his eyes met the eyes of Christ.  What do you think he saw in those eyes- compassion?  love?  kindness?  Then Jesus spoke, "Zacchaeus!  Come down!  For I must be a guest at your house today."  First, recognize that despite no formal introduction, Christ knew Zacchaeus' name.  He knew his name just as he knows my name and he knows yours as well.  Friend, we serve such a loving gracious God that He takes the time to know our name.  Psalm 139 states that before we were born all our days were written in His knowledge.  He knows us that intimately and saw each of us being knit together in the womb of our mother.  I am sure that Zacchaeus had heard his name stated in many ways, but none more beautiful than when this man from Galilee spoke it. 

Beyond knowing him by name, Christ states that he wants to be a guest in Zacchaeus' home.  Can 
you imagine what an honor?  Immediately, our tree climber comes down in order to take Jesus to his house.  It is an honor to have anyone come to your house, but to have the Savior want to enter into your home and stay with you.  As a family, we try to "invite" Jesus into our home each day by spending time in His word and by praying to Him at various times during the day.  We also have scriptures throughout our home as well as reflecting Him and His character in our conversations through the day.  He also takes residence in our hearts for those who have asked Christ to forgive their sins and long to live their lives in obedience and gratitude of His sacrifice.  I think his asking to visit Zacchaeus' home merely reflected his true intention- which was to take residence in His heart. 

Tomorrow, if you will bear with me, we will finish looking at this passage.  I am praying that wherever you are today, that God whispers your name and that he makes your heart His home.  That you can take whatever desperate need you have and turn it over to the Savior who knows every detail of your life and loves you more than any other.  My friend, do you hear Him calling?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Transformed: A Story of a Butterfly

Yesterday, our pastor discussed the transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly and how we as Christians reflect that same transformation.  I have, like many of you, heard that analogy before and loved the beautiful picture it stirs in me.  Throughout my Sunday God just kept that picture in my mind and heart and I thought of it and the work God has done in me.  I am a transformed life.

As a typical girl, I do not creepy crawling things.... I still squeal at the sight of many bugs, snakes, and other varmints.  I also lump caterpillars in this group.  I know caterpillars are harmless, but to be honest they are not real attractive.   They seem rather large and bumbling due to their feasting on almost anything in their world in preparation for their change.  I think many of us feasted on the world in which we lived in our pre-Christ transformed lives.  Perhaps in an attempt of experiencing life to its fullest, seeking after happiness, longing for something more substantial, or looking for a thrill in our everyday normal monotony.  The things that our world offers leaving us longing for more despite never truly feeling fulfilled- living in a constant state of taking things to the next level to get the same high feeling we relished to only experience desperate emptiness and regret later.

The caterpillar goes into a cocoon.  A solitary place where only the caterpillar and God are there.  I think when we reach the end of all this world has to offer and we reach the end of ourselves, we hit that solitary place- just us and God.  Only we, and God, knows what happens in that place and the transformation that takes place.  It is a deeply personal time- words are often lacking when we try to express what has happened.  We, broken by the empty world, turn to God and let him heal and change us- we are never the same following a meeting with God.  The Almighty brings out something beautiful from the deadness within and births a new purpose and plan for our life.  This process takes time just as the caterpillar is locked inside his solitary home for some time to be transformed. 

When, by God's infinite and perfect timing, the cocoon opens and a new creature pushes out and flies for the first time as a butterfly! When, by God's timing, we come forth finally ready for the new purpose He has for us- we fly in a new freedom.  This freedom is only found in Christ - free to live despite disappointments, free to thrive despite heartaches and hurts, free to improve and bless our new world despite failures and shortcomings.  Freedom- a purpose- a future with promise.  How?  Through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Just as the butterfly was gifted its wings while in the transforming cocoon, we are gifted the Holy Spirit through our personal transformation. 

The new butterfly brings beauty to its world and serves the purpose of spreading life through pollen from flower to flower.  We, too, are to bring beauty to our world through the light of Christ within us and spread life to others around us.  As we live and work, others will take notice and long for the same internal transformation  and our purpose and fulfillment grows. 

"And so, dear Christian friends, I plead with you to give your bodies to God.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice- the kind he will accept.  When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?  Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is."  Romans 12:1-2 NLT

We are meant for so much more than feasting on this world- we are meant to fly!  Soaring freedom in our called purpose will always fulfill more than feasting on the world's greatest offerings because we are designed and called for a greater purpose.  Embrace it, my friend, and fly!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I Love a Rainstom

I love a rainstorm.  I love the coolness of the air following it and the clean scent that lingers after the downpour fades.  It is invigorating, exciting and I find a new spring in my step.  There is just something beautiful about it all....cleansing.

On such days, I love to curl up and read a good book or watch a classic movie- to just rest and relax while I hear the calming sounds of rain and thunder outside.  It is a chance to just focus on the things I love while safe and sheltered within the security of the house.

I think God wants the same from me when the rainstorms in life roll my way.  I think He wants me to just rest in His calming presence focusing on my love for Him and His love for me.  Remembering all that God has been faithful to do in the past as I walk through the current storm all the while sheltered by my Father.  There is a certain clarity when in the midst of a trial when you can truly see what is most important.  Following the storm, I too have been through a cleansing spiritually.  There is a new awareness of all that is good in my life and I have a new spring in my spiritual walk. 

Just as the world is never the same following the rain, I am never the same following my spiritual storms- I have grown, improved and I am more beautiful as a result. 

"He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.  What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into the harbor!  Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them."  Psalm 107:29-31 NLT

"The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth.  They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.  It is the same with my word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it."  Isaiah 55:10-11  NLT

Let the drops fall, the healing, growing beautiful rain drops....

Friday, July 20, 2012

Homesick for Heaven

I just love it when God steps in and confirms what my soul already knew.  This morning I was online reading about the sad events in Aurora, CO when I saw an article about a doctor who drowned and went to heaven.   Dr. Mary Neal was interviewed recently on a major network morning show and she shared her experience.  (Here is a link to that article: Dr. Mary Neal)  She describes seeing Jesus and how beautiful heaven is/was and how she really didn't want to leave it.  Her story is so similar to countless others who have had a similar experience.  My soul knows that heaven is real, but it encourages me so much when I read of these experiences.  It makes me excited for what is still yet to come for all of us who believe!!!

After reading that article, I read in my Jesus Calling devotional the following quote: "I made you in my image, and I hid heaven in your heart.  Your yearning for Me is a form of homesickness: longing for your true home in heaven."  Isn't that a beautiful thought.... my heart delights in that!  I love that a piece of heaven is in my heart calling me to my true homeland.  I think that is why such testimonies of heaven bring me such joy- my soul cries out, "It is real- my home- and so, too, is my God!!  Do not doubt! Believe and see!" 

Then, God led me to this scripture, "Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely."  1Corinthians 13:12 NLT     There is no coincidence with the Father- God wanted to remind me today that heaven is real and that my life- your life- has purpose.  We serve a real God.  We serve a real purpose.  Our future is secure.  We will spend eternity in a real heaven.  As a result we, as the living redeemed of Christ, should not fear things of this world.   Isaiah 43:1 says, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine." NKJV

I know that in the midst of this crazy world when our nation and all society seems to be so far away from where we should be.  When heartache, grief and trouble seems so pervasive and unending...we just need to know- truly know- He is real and our faith is secure.  Take shelter and rest in the knowledge that He is still in control even when the storm rages wildly around us.  Just trust in Jesus for today, tomorrow and eternity.... He WILL NOT FAIL YOU!!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

When I Wake in a Fog

Some mornings I tend to wake in a fog.  (Have I mentioned that I am not really a morning person?)  Today, was one of those mornings and I sat and read and sipped my creamed coffee.... the fog remained.  I found myself just "going through the motions" of having my time with Him.  I didn't want that- I wanted so much more!  I wanted to feel and savor His presence and to have a desperation for Him in a deeper way.... I longed for something more. 

God brought to mind Carson.  Carson is our second son and he is so passionate.  We often laugh because his face is such an honest representation of what he is feeling at any given time.  If he is happy, the joy is all over his expression and if he is upset- that too is all over his expression.  He experiences such a wide range of emotions as he is so tenderhearted and I have had to learn a different way of parenting him.  He often comes and expresses things that are on his mind and heart- in fact, I have teased that he is going through a confessional stage!  He has also come to me and expressed his thanksgiving to me, as his mother, for all that I do for him- laundry, dinner, and cleaning.  He will also come and ask me to hold and cuddle him- which I do gladly!  Every night- and I do mean every night- he asks me to come and tuck him in.  He wants moments with me throughout the day- times of confessing a wrongdoing, times of thanksgiving for what I have done, and times of just being with me and to feel my arms around him bringing security and love.  These moments draw us closer to each other... and we have a deeper connection as a result.

I  need to be more like Carson in my relationship with the Father.  I need to focus on being aware of Him throughout the day....  giving God praise when I see Him at work in my day.  When I see an area that I have failed my Father, I need to immediately confess it to Him so that it cannot become a stronghold in my life.   There are times when I just need to marvel at all that He is and does and just savor being with Him.  Moments like when the praise song on the radio expresses just what my heart was feeling and I just sing it out with joy over the love my Father has for me!  Throughout the day, these many various moments, draw me closer to the Father and my love and understanding is deeper.  It is an ongoing conversation in silence with the Lover of my soul through the day that keeps me focused on Him and all that He has done for me. 

"Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts.  Any you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Ephesians 5:19-20 NLT

"My heart has heard you say, 'Come and talk with me.' And my heart responds, 'Lord, I am coming.'"  Psalm 27:8 NLT

" Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor."  Proverbs 21:21 NLT

The fog that plagued me this morning lifts as I allow the Son to shine His love through me and into all aspects of my day.... moving me to moments of praise, confession, and thanksgiving over all that He has done and will do in my simple life.  Thank you, Father, for my precious Carson who has lived this lesson out before me.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sufficient In Weakness

On Wednesday evening, I began to feel the all too familiar twinges of a cold coming on.... I hate that feeling!  Those times when you don't feel normal, but you know that something is about to hit you.  By Thursday afternoon I was sick and by that evening Kendall was as well.  So, on Friday I slipped into survival mode..... fluids, kleenex, washing hands and the necessities of family care were all I could muster.  Thankfully, Kendall was much better by Saturday and normal by Sunday.  I (on the other hand) have not been so fortunate as mine turned into a sinus infection.   Today, is the first day that I can say I feel pretty good.  As a result, I have not been able to sit and write and share.  I have missed it.

A couple of mornings, I being so caught up in caring for sickness that I didn't spend some time with the Father.  I know that happens- it happens to all of us, but I deeply missed it.  It is on the days when I don't retreat to my room to spend some time with the Father that I realize how deep my need for Him daily is for my spiritual health.  I am a much better mom, wife and friend when I have been charged and prepared for the day by the giver of life.  (You can ask my family!) 

It hit me this morning how illness (of many kinds) can draw us away from the Father.  Illness like depression can leave us hurting so deeply- so lost in an endless pit of despair that His light seems to distant and far.  Illness like addiction can leave us feeling so helpless and unable to fight against the longing for something that is ultimately our demise.  Illness like loneliness can make us think that we are alone and the world is against us- no one cares what happens to us.  Physical illnesses that sap our strength and energy and rob us of the ability to do the things we long to do in our heart.  There are countless more I could add.....

We all battle an illness every now and then- that is a part of this fallen world we live in.  However, my friend, we are called to overcome!  We are called to overcome these illnesses that bind us and live a life of joy and strength!  I know some illnesses we may not recover from physically, but we can be over comers spiritually.  Have you ever witnessed someone who was so sick and knew their time to pass was nearing, but they kept the faith?  That, my friend, is how we are to live- strong influential lives that touch those around us so that even our death is a strong part of our fulfilled destiny.  We cannot overcome these things alone, but with the Father we can overcome all- all struggles, all illness, all hurts, all needs, all longings, all insecurities.... all needs become all sufficient in His hands. 

Even the apostle Paul struggled for years with a weakness that he pleaded with the Father to remove....."Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each times he said, 'My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.'  So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.  Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  2 Corinthians 12: 8-10 NLT

Paul overcame the weakness he battled by becoming sufficient through the Father.  He wasn't miraculously healed because the greater miracle was Paul striving and thriving despite the weakness.  There are many areas of weakness or illness that I have had to deal with either in my own body or in those that I love and care for..... I, too, have seen that sometimes the greater miracle was our learning to overcome them daily through the strength of the Father.  Friend, life is hard and we are all going to face illness, struggles and needs, but we are still called to overcome!  To become sufficient in the hands of the Father in order to strive in the midst of weakness.   I read a quote today by Hannah Whitall Smith which said, "Keep your face upturned to Christ as the flowers do to the sun.  Look, and your soul shall live and grow."  That is so beautiful to me.... friend, you may be hurting, but all you have to do is look up to the Father.  In your weakness, let His light of love fill you, heal you, and give you all that is needed to live and grow... and face today.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

When the Grass Grows

This morning I was getting some coffee and I happened to look outside the kitchen sink window and saw that our grass had grown quite a bit on that side of the house.  A few days ago, Reagan was a real trooper and he mowed the backyard.  This was a huge task as the grass had grown and our lawnmower has a broken wheel- yes, he mowed the entire backyard with only 3 wheels on the lawnmower.  After finishing 90% of the yard, the gas ran out and he was out of energy as well- the heat was unbearable that day.  So, he came in to cool off thinking that he would finish the last 10% later.  Life happens and days have passed, but Reagan just hasn't been able to get back to the yard.  As a result the grass had grown...

To be honest, that side of the house is not easy to remember because only one window looks out at that side and it is a high window.  Often, many days go by that I never look out at that side of the house.  When I thought of the whole situation I was hit that this was like my heart sometimes.  There are areas of sin that because they are not seen by public eyes or are well hidden that I want to just overlook them.  In the past few days I had felt a distance in my relationship with the Father.  While spending time with Him each day I would just feel a lack of intimacy.  This morning, as I looked at the shagginess of the lawn on the forgotten side of the house, I felt convicted about a decision I had made a few weeks ago.  I had not been completely honest and straight forward regarding a decision in an attempt to "fix" the situation and waves of conviction passed over me.  This was not a huge issue- rather it was a basic quick, daily decision that I often handle for our family.  I just realized that I had not handled it well...and I became so thankful for his sweet conviction.  I would rather delight in his conviction and repentance than to continue living feeling distant from Him- my precious Savior.

As no coincidence, I read this as part of my daily devotion digest.... " Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you?  Does this mean nothing to  you?  Can't you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?"  Romans 2:4 NLT   

I also read Acts 10:43 which says, "He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name." NLT 

Oh Glory!  His love is so sweet to me that I long for Him- I need it just as I need the oxygen that my lungs bring into my body countless times a day.... my soul needs Him like that.  I want to be so close to Him that any pulling away- by me- due to a wrong action or attitude will cause me to immediately fall at His feet.  Nothing in life can compare to the love He has for me!  Change and transformation starts in the still quietness of a heart that has been humbled through the love of the Father.

My day may be busy with many activities, but I may have to go after the shagginess on that hidden side of the house... I want it to reflect what God has done in my heart!  Thank you Father for loving me enough to point out the shagginess in my life and to draw me close to You despite it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Worship Wednesday: Jeremy Camp

Several years ago, a friend of mine went to a Jeremy Camp concert and she shared with me the following testimony.  God just reminded me of that this morning and led me to share it with you.  (Thanks Charity!)  I hope it is an encouragement to all of us and a reminder that in any situation we can praise and worship the Father.  He can carry us through anything.

" We know how much God loves us and we have put our trust in his love.  God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

"And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.  So we will not be afraid on the day of judgement, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world."

"Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.  If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows we have not fully experienced his perfect love.  We love each other because he first loved us."  1 John 4:16-19  NLT

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Where is my crown?

Oh my goodness!  Today, Kendall has been a little tornado.  He has spilled water on the carpet and milk on the kitchen table.  He has thrown fits and toys as well as hit his brothers with an arrow he found in one of their rooms.  On top of all that- he had a terrible diaper that..... well, let's just say made a BIG mess.  I have cleaned, disciplined and tried to not pull my hair out in frustration!  Can you relate?  Maybe you reflect and remember those days for yourself? 

Last night, Beth Moore in the Esther study talked about when you hit the realization that your princess life hasn't turned out like you expected.  Boy, could I identify with that this morning!  As a child I dreamed of being a princess-wearing a beautiful gown with a diamond tiara on my head.  This morning- uh, afternoon- I am still in my pajamas and I haven't even fixed my hair today..... when did I lose my princess status?  When did the beautiful gown turn into jeans and stained t-shirt and when did my crown turn into a ponytail and baseball cap?  Especially in my house of all males, there are times when I just want to scream, "I am a princess!!!  I AM a princess!!  My shoes and purses are suppose to match my outfit and my nails are suppose to be manicure perfect.  I just don't know what happened!"

The truth is I do know what happened.... I became a mother to three "princes" and that means I no longer focus on myself and having my entire outfit match picture perfect.  Instead, our day is a success when we arrive on time anywhere and everyone is clean and dressed appropriately.  Romantic candlelight meals  have been replaced with fast food restaurants where kids eat free.  Now, I am still a princess at heart and I do my best to balance out the testosterone in this house with a lot of pink (and estrogen).  I have come to see that my life is still a dream- I still have a wonderful husband and three great boys who truly love and dote on me.... I just have to realize that real life isn't gowns and tiaras.... real life is bear hugs, butterfly kisses and mud pies.  It's hearing the same joke 20 times and still laughing at it.  Life is savoring the toddler fingerprints on the glass pane because they disappear all too fast.  It is realizing that there is more important things I could be doing instead of planning my perfectly coordinated outfit like playing hide and go seek.  I love my life with all its messiness and craziness..... besides it's hard to hide in a tiara!

Monday, July 9, 2012

What is my portion?

To be honest- almost painfully so- I have sat here for several minutes waiting for the words to come.  Often, as I sit ready to share with you the words just seem to pour forth from a heart over brimming with all that God has taught and shared with me that day.  Today, I confess, that has not been the case.  I sit in the deafening silence of my room struggling within to express what it seems only the heart truly can understand.  This morning I have just needed to hear that my God is still God- that His words and promises are true and that His faithfulness is everlasting.  Have you ever been there?

There is nothing life shattering taking place in my world- I have a wonderful, loving husband and three good kids- not perfect, but good.  Our needs are met, and we have a little extra each month to enjoy freely, but I just need the reassurance that in the midst of living that God is my life and my portion.  I read a few days ago a devotion by Max Lucado where he talked with a man who had nothing- absolute nothing- but God in his life.  God was all he had and all he really needed.   The unnamed man said, "I have my faith.  It's all I have.  But it's all I need.  I have kept the faith." (When God Whispers Your Name)  In another reading the scripture from Lamentations 3: 22-24 drew my attention.... "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him".

These words have blessed and challenged me all at the same time..... what is my portion?  Have I kept the faith beyond all the things this world would offer and tempt me with?  Reagan and I felt God's leading several years ago for me to stay at home and homeschool our children.  While this is not a calling for everyone, it was the calling He put on our heart for our children.  Sometimes I struggle as I look at all the experiences and extras that other families lavish on their children and I become clouded in doubt and tempted to question the sacrifices we have made.  Have we given them enough?  We could have a larger house and travel more.... and my mind drifts to all the things I seem to "lack" in our current state.

Then God pursues me with this question, "Am I your portion?  Will you keep the faith?"  At the end of my life, when all the temporary has passed away- what will be left?  What jewels will be left after the the ashes have cleared?  I want it to be said that I kept the faith and that God was my portion.  I desire for God to grow and swell in me a desire for Him- that my heart couldn't help but long for the things of Him.  He in me is what will last beyond my days- if I can only pass on one thing to my children, let it be my faith!  Let it be my passionate love for the Savior.  Let my eyes and heart see and distinguish what is temporary from what will last beyond time. God, stir this longing and desire in me!  Let God be my portion and my cup- let that be my fulfillment in a world that would have me thirst for more of the temporary.

Psalm 16 speaks so directly to this and I encourage you to read the Psalm in its entirety, but let me share a few verses from it:
" The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance."  Psalm 16:5-6  ESV

" You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11  ESV

I do have a beautiful inheritance that will last beyond time and will not pass away.  Let me realize that in my portion, there is life and joy!  God, thank you for the reminder to focus on You and not all the things I am tempted to long for- they are but inadequate attempts by the evil one to lure me away from my true inheritance which is only found in You.

I hope you enjoy this song by Fee- it blessed me so much this morning!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fifteen Years

Today, my mind scans over countless memories that span a mere 15 years since Reagan and I faced each other in front of many friends and family members and committed to spend the rest of our lives as one.  So young were we- a mere 22 and 23- yet, so determined to make this thing work.  So, together we started on the greatest adventure of our lives- marriage!

I know it is only by God's grace do two people who are so different in many ways become one and feel so happy and fulfilled.  A big part of that, as well, is marrying someone who is truly a friend- your best friend and building a love that lasts on the Father of us both.  God in His infinite wisdom knew that it was not good for man to be alone and desired for us to have a partner to help us walk through this life.  I am so glad that He chose you for me and that we truly look forward to seeing each other every day.

Here are some things I have learned in 15 years:

I can make a peach cobbler.

Sometimes saying I'm sorry is better than winning the argument.

I have learned to trust you as the head of our house.

God does always provide!

We are stronger together and can face more than we would have thought.

You like to eat your food separately and I may always marvel at that.

You see things in black and white and I see many more shades, but we need both perspectives.

I do know how to mow the lawn after all!

You DO NOT like to be tickled...anywhere....anytime.

I will always tickle you.

Laughter brings much joy in our house and we laugh often.

You relax about life when I throw flour at you.

I am stronger and most loved when in your arms.

I still do not like morning breath.

You forgive quickly.

My love for you does grow stronger each year.

Thank you, Reagan, for all that you have done and given for me over the past years.  I truly look forward to all that God has for us as our life together continues.  You are my best friend and I love you.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Little "Queen Esther" in Us All

Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman - DVD Leader Kit

Over the past few weeks, the ladies of our small group have been doing the Bible study of Esther written by Beth Moore.  God has such a wonderful sense of humor as He made it very clear that we were to do the study by placing Esther in my lap several days in a row through my quiet times and other sources.  Sometimes we make searching for God's will too hard - when we are desparately seeking after Him, He will make our steps clear.  In this case, it had almost become humorous! 

So, this morning I was reviewing our lessons for the week and uncharacteristicly had the television on.  A show was on where women go to a particular store shopping for a wedding dress.  One of the featured ladies referred to herself as "Queen Esther" and she was shopping for her wedding dress.  I just had to laugh because we were studying Esther chapter 2 where Esther was chosen to be queen.... I had to imagine what the original Queen Esther thought when preparing for her wedding!  I think most of us, as women, have our own inner "Queen Esther" that longs for the romance of being chosen by a king.  To feel chosen, special, beautiful, honored... especially when we feel submerged in commonness.  Everyday normality leaves us thirsting after a little chosen royality in our life.  I am so thankful that God has chosen me and that I am so special to Him that He crucified His son for me.  He sees me as beautiful and honored as His precious sacrifice-bought child.  He fulfills that longing in our lives when "normal" just isn't enough.

God has blessed and challenged me as I have reflected on Esther.  She did not have the perfect background- she was an orphan and a Jew.  This means she had suffered great loss and heartache.  I think surviving that made her strong- stronger than most.  Have you ever been through such severe loss that you realized very little could hurt you more?  In a sense, it makes you stronger.  She was also a Jew living in a pagan world- Persia was not her homeland- I have to wonder if she thought, "What am I doing here?".  I can relate.  Sometimes, when I struggle in this world as a believer of Christ I wonder the same thing.  She chose to keep these two facts a secret- I have a feeling that most of us have a issues in our past that we would rather forget.  Esther, however, eventually was placed in a situation where these two facts were brought into the open because more was at stake than her reputation.  I love this Beth Moore quote, "You can never amputate your past from your future."  No matter what our past holds, it affects who we are in our future- often our future develops as a result of our past- sometimes those hard moments we would rather not experience become the defining moments in our life.

Esther was beautiful on the outside, but even more beautiful on the inside.  She won many people over by her love and character that lasted far and beyond her beauty.  She was strong and confident and willing to seek after the advice and wisdom of respected others.  That is a distinct quality in our world- the willingness to be cooperative, seek after wisdom and be teachable.  She was a lady whose words and actions reflected love and respect for those around her.  I think she would have been one of those friends that you always loved visiting with and admiring her- but for so much more than the designer jeans she was wearing.  She would be a friend that you never questioned her heart or thoughts towards you- she was genuine.

As I reflected on just the first two chapters of Esther, I have come to realize that she is someone who can teach me a lot about the kind of woman I want to be and the influence I hope to have.  I am looking forward to continuing this study, and continuing to bring out the inner "Queen Esther" in me!